Archive | dance RSS feed for this section

file under “didn’t make the fridge”

12 Jan

Oh the shame of wanting so badly to be good at something and being so…. badly at it.  See?  See what I mean?

As I’m sure you know (since, let’s face it, you’re here and are tracking the minutiae of my life in this season for whatever reason), I’m a student in the writing program at The Second City.  Big whup, right?  Right.  I completely agree – as I have made clear previously, I have no delusions of grandeur.  Oh, er, in case The Secret is reading, I’M AWESOME!  I CAN DO IT!  I’M VISUALIZING SO MUCH SWEET STUFF!  I’M WEARING GOLD UNDERPANTS  (unfortunately yes, that is the first idea my brain generated from the prompt “life of luxury and success.”  I think we’re finding some clues here, guys).  So, with that out of the way, do you want to see what I made at my first class?  I thought so.

I’m not sure how proprietary the teaching techniques are in this course, so I’m not going to go into detail about how our instructor got us to this point.  But know that it was AWESOME.  It kind-of blew my mind.  Based on week 1 alone, I recommend that if you have some disposable income/a sugar-daddy, you should definitely take a class.  Anyway, I’m sure I can share that using two different but similar writing exercises, we created two characters and then took 5 minutes to write a 6 line dialogue between the two of them.

This is what I wrote:

Celia:  I guess more than anything, I just don’t understand why you care so much about me saying “thank you” every time the server refreshes my water.

Shannon:  Celia, it’s because I’m trying very hard to help you become a more palatable person.

Celia:  You’re saying “palatable” to me, at La Senorita.

Shannon:  Honey, if you say “thank you” at La Senorita, I promise I won’t say another goddamn word.

Celia:  Nice, mom.

Shannon:  Celia, please.  Just do this for me and stop being so awful.

Good?  Nope.  Something I’m proud of?  Not especially (other than that I did, in fact, sit there and write it despite the fact that I could feel it sucking as it happened).  But I’m starting something.  I’m learning.  And goddamnit, I’m going to get better.  I’ve been trying to write dialogue all week during snatches of free time and let me tell you, it’s hard, yo!  Another way to say that is “I’m bad at it!” but I’m trying hard to be optimistic and positive – suppressing all of my instincts is another new years resolution that I’m half-heartedly working on.

I also engaged in this dialogue today with Jack, an internet troll who likes to terrorize my friend’s (very excellent) blog.  As loyal readers may recall, Jack and I go way back.  My pal is a badass journalist, and an all-around swell human being, so I feel a sense of duty to try and irritate Jack, since he’s such a prolific dick.  I usually have a rule against meanness in my writing/jokes (I like how this implies that I write enough to necessitate policies), but Jack provides a justified exception. Again, probably not my finest work, but you know what?  They can’t all be winners.  Or productive.

If you want, any of y’all that are in Chicago (or have road-trip fever) can come see me dance to a text that I wrote that I actually do think is kind-of a winner here.

Advertisements

Rehearsal Today

5 Jan

This morning, Ida accompanied me to rehearsal.  I am working on a piece that I presented for the first time a few months ago called Best Wishes.  It will be presented in a couple of weeks as part of Rhino Fest in the Food and Performance Cabaret.  I get to do it on 4 consecutive Mondays in January and February.  As I planned my rehearsal schedule for this show, I decided that it would be loads easier if I just took Ida with me.  I like to work early in the mornings, often, and for short periods of time, so coordinating childcare is nightmarish.  I also decided that Ida would probably enjoy these outings, and would probably be a very nicely behaved companion.  I congratulated myself on making a well-reasoned decision, and for not putting off the planning until the last possible minute.  Being organized feels so satisfying.

We woke, I gave Ida breakfast and got her ready, and then I rushed around trying to get myself ready (abandoning breakfast and a semi-urgent shower in the fray) and gathering our supplies.  I was feeling harried and irritated that I hadn’t just arranged for someone to look after her.  I felt the injustice of living with a two-year-old’s sense of time and urgency.

  • Use toilet:  5 minutes
  • Put on shoes, coat, gloves, hat:  2 minutes
  • Negotiate and broker willing participation in the above activities:  45 + minutes

We got out the back door, me having just eaten a fist-full of cold spaghetti for fortification, and briskly hustled down the alley and to the train.  I swiped my transit card, ushered Ida through the turnstile, yanked on the stroller-handle to fold it up, and dragged us and our baggage up the two flights of stairs to the platform.  We just made it onto the train that pulled in as we rushed up the last few steps and instantly knew who in that train car has done this before (look of solidarity) and who has/will not (irritation upon getting banged in the shin with stroller – not that I really blame them, but what exactly do they suggest I do?).  We sat.  We exhaled.  We watched as neighborhoods came and went.  Ida and I both love riding the train.

We arrived and walked to the rehearsal space.  More stairs.  More schlep.  I tried to focus my attention on being grateful that my strong body could move and haul with relative ease.  It helped.

Ida was nervous to enter the rehearsal space.  She’d been there before to see me perform, but something about it made her scared this morning.  She took my hand and was, like always, very brave.  We set up our stuff.  I explained again what we were doing here.  “Mama is going to do some dance work now.  We can share this space for the next hour – you can play with your toys, eat your snacks, or you can do some dance work if you want to.  Please don’t touch the stereo or my laptop.  And please don’t yell.  There are going to be sometimes this morning when I won’t answer you if you ask me a question or need help – I’ll be able to do it in a few minutes, but sometimes I am going to be busy even though I’m right here.”

I started warming up.  Ida watched for a few minutes and then joined me – walking around the room, rolling her head, moving her arms.  It was beautiful and so much fun.  For the rest of the rehearsal, she would alternate between snacking/playing in a spot in the folding chairs set up in the back, and dancing with/near me.  It was peaceful, and easy, and even better than I imagined it.  It worked.  More than that, I loved it.  I really like being alone, but sometimes being alone in rehearsal feels endless in the bad way – empty and cold.  Ida provided warmth and accountability.  She would know if I just sat there staring off into space rather than dancing like I said I would.

Later in the hour, it was time for me to do a run-through of the piece I’m working on.  I explained this to Ida and asked if she might like to draw.  She said yes.  I started and had a (predictably) rough and frustrating go of it – this piece has been sitting unattended for a long time and I knew it would be tough to get back in, having had this same experience the last time I worked on it.  “This is why I’m rehearsing” I reminded myself.  Although, that makes having to perform shitty run-throughs only marginally more palatable.  Improvisation is no joke – the idea of “making it up as you go” seems so care-free and easy, and it can be, but, in my experience, it only becomes easy and fun after you’ve worked really hard at it – turning the possibilities inside and out, tearing out seams, adjusting, calibrating feelings/presence – basically just being tenaciously bad at it until you start being good.  Showing up.  Laying your self out for it.

Anyway, I’m thinking about all of these things, and slogging through this run-through that just will not end, and doesn’t seem to ever be going well, and suddenly Ida is standing in front of me.  She’s holding up a granola bar and she says “Please open this Mama.”  I know what I said, and I’m a big believer in consistency, but it was exactly what I needed, so I did it selfishly.  My own recorded voice was reading this overly emotional thing about baking bread and then my daughter was right there and I was already so far tangled in the weeds, so I reached out and opened the granola bar.  I did it improvisationally.  I did it with my full attention.  Ida took a bite and then offered me some.  I took it and the moment deepened and became even more perfect.  And I finished the run-through – breezed through it – coming to the end feeling grateful to have been in it rather than grateful that it was over.  More than anything, I finished feeling grateful for Ida.

In a minute after I finished, and before I needed to start hustling Ida into her winter gear and out the door so that the next artist could get into the space on time, I wrote this about our morning:

1/4

Ida with me at rehearsal.  She walks in circles, rolling her head – just like i walk in circles, rolling my head.  We’re warming up.  This is a huge success.  She is engaged, interested, and free – sometimes participating as a mover with me, sometimes as a watcher.  She claps.  I realize, at one point, that I’m sick of working on this, and she offers me a peeled clementine – the first time she’s done this without help.  I start the run-through – the thing we – I – came here to do.  She watches for a while, and then I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.  She’s entered the dance space, left her folding chair surrounded with notebook, pencils, charlie brown and her dustpan and broom.  She is bringing me a granola bar as I hear my own voice recite a slick/sweet thing about baking bread.  And all of a sudden, a shift -we share the granola bar, performing, eating, blurring even more the lines between us, our work, our roles.  Wednesday morning.  We are learning.

Best Wishes – Advice About Food

26 Oct

I was recently invited to participate in one of the Chicago dance community’s very coolest events, Poonie’s Cabaret.  Poonie’s is a dance and performance variety show curated by the truly hip Jyl Ferhenkamp and held at one of my favorite venues for dance, Links Hall.  As an audience member, I love Poonie’s because I get to see lots of really great artists in an evening, often showing new works, works in progress and pieces that are amazing, but that don’t fit within the rigid format of an evening-length dance concert.  I also get to see up and coming artists who might not otherwise have the resources to produce their own work.   Jyl is up-to-the-minute on top of what’s happening in the dance scene and is a really gifted curator.  And all of this is in addition to saying the word “Poonie’s” over and over again.

I have been attending Poonie’s performances since before I lived in Chicago and remember very distinctly thinking to myself “Man.  If I ever got invited to participate in Poonie’s, I’d really feel like I was part of things here (cue cloying day-dreamy look).”

Anyway, here’s what I made.  The piece is called Best Wishes – it’s improvised movement (me), improvised music (Matthew Joynt and Nathan Sandberg), and a text I wrote that is advice about food culled from my considerable musings on the subject.  All of the advice is directly related to things I have witnessed/experienced/imagined.  Nathan generously donated his time and skillz to record my god-awful voice reading the “advice” and I sometimes spoke them aloud live along with the pre-recorded audio.  I hope I get the chance to re-work this piece and perform it again sometime as I had a really great time working on it and performing it.

A Mother’s Day?

18 May

Sometimes I feel invisible.  Most of the time I think it’s fantastic.  I feel like a superhero with my awesome power.  Ida provides a nearly foolproof deterrent to semi-strangers asking me about my accomplishments or current undertakings (let’s just set aside for a moment the fact that this shield is equal parts Ida and rampant sexism that assumes that since I’m a mother of course my kid is my only concern and that money just somehow magically appears in my bank account).

Sometimes though, it feels like junk.  Sometimes I want someone(s) to see how hard I’m working.  Sometimes I want someone who can talk and wipe their own butt to witness my work, the way that they used to when I was running a business or going to school.  Since many of my current endeavors have to do with mothering and homemaking/homesteading, I’m often the only one who knows just what exactly is the work that I’m doing all day.  Since the other things are modern dance………. that joke pretty much makes itself, no?

Anyway, maybe this is a result of too much internet-half-life-site time and my constant impulse to frame my experiences in terms of status updates (just a sec, I barfed in my mouth), but I thought I’d share what my actual days are like, given that it’s mother’s day (or at least it was when I started writing this little ditty).  So here we go: allow me to present a glimpse into this mother’s day.

I have two types of days:  Days when I am teaching and days when I am not teaching.

They all start the same:

I wake up at 6AM without an alarm clock.  I will forever be unable to sleep-in due to my college years working as a barista and always working the opening shift.  I turn on the coffee pot which Nathan or I prepped the night before.  While the coffee is brewing, I check my email (read: diddle around on aforementioned time-waste-vortex).  Once the coffee is ready, I pour myself a cup and settle back into bed with a book which I read until 6:50.  I read everyday – a variety of fiction and non-fiction, reputable and disreputable.  This is one of my favorite parts of the day.  I semi-ferberized Ida in order to get this time.  I don’t feel even sort-of guilty about it.  At 6:50 I take a 5 minute shower followed by 5 more minutes of beautification efforts.  They are half-assed at best and usually come to a conclusion with some kind of encouraging words to myself  like “not great.”

Ida is up by 7AM and I go into her room.  She is usually naked as the day she was born and jumping up and down in her crib singing or screaming depending on her mood.  I get her ready for the day and ask her if she’d like to use the toilet.  Then we go visit our dog Maude who has gone back to sleep in our bed.  I often worry that Maude hates this ritual as it usually involves lots of mauling on Ida’s part.  Ida and I retreat to the kitchen and I fix her some breakfast while she sits in her high chair.  We listen to the radio and discuss our plans for the day.  I usually load and start the dishwasher and sort-of clean the kitchen (excluding the microwave, which is the site of a very important research project entitled “what will happen?”) while she eats breakfast.

Sometimes after this we do some errands (usually groceries or Target).  Other times we just hang out in the living room  – I eat breakfast and Ida plays or creates unsanctioned murals on the entryway wall that is obscured from my post on the couch.  Sometimes we go for a walk or bike ride to the coffee shop and get coffee and a treat.  Sometimes we go to the park, or out to the yard to garden.  On Wednesdays we sometimes go to children’s story time at Women and Children First (you know, the feminist bookstore just up the street.  I heart my neighborhood).

Ida usually takes a nap around 9AM and sleeps until 11 or 12.  Sometimes if I have to teach a morning class, she (a champion of flexibility) skips this nap and goes to one of the wonderful friends that comprise our ramshackle childcare network.  If she is napping I usually clean, cook, do laundry or occasionally do some writing or dancemaking work.  I was in the habit of doing self-led yoga during her nap, but I’ve fallen off that wagon of late.  I’m now doing a self-led cookie eating thing that I find equally fulfilling.

My favorite household work is cooking.  I like to make a giant batch of something and put meal-sized portions in the freezer, or I like to prep all of the stuff for dinner that night.  I also sometimes put together a meal for one of the lovely folks who take care of Ida while I’m at work, or bake bread or make other staples like stock or yogurt.  I’d say on average, I spend at least 3 hours of every day doing some aspect of food work (shopping, gardening, preparing, cooking, cleaning up).  My other favorite is laundry.  I don’t actually like doing the laundry, but I eat candy and watch television on the internet while I fold it, creating an irresistible bribe for myself.  It’s gotten to the point where I feel a modicum of excitement when the dryer buzzer goes off.  Yikes.   Have you recovered from the sadness of that?  Do you need a moment?  Take a moment.

Every monday I clean the whole apartment (I say “whole” because this undertaking is impressive to me.  I used to triage cleaning, employing a “disaster management” philosophy, but of late, I’ve been more proactive.  I feel that this deserves special recognition).  It takes 3-4 hours and I mostly dislike it.  I try to make it as pleasant as possible and to find pleasure in the aspects I can, but for the most part, I just face my drudgery and try to get it over with.  I should say here that Nathan is more than willing to do this – he would gladly be in charge of the cleaning, but his filth tolerance is much higher than mine (see note below re: living in a van) and I find his work to be unsatisfactory in this department.  Since I can’t seem to make a dollar to save my life, this 1950s style arrangement seems (in our circumstance) to be an equitable trade.  I know how it looks, and if you’d have told me this is how it would all shake out I’d have smacked you in the jowls, but here we are.  Truth be told I usually feel like I got the good end of the deal.  I like my life.  I’m not trapped, unfulfilled or lonely or any of those other things Betty Friedan talked about.  I have a number of theories about this, which I will save for another time.  The only thing I will say here is this: if one more badass feminist pal questions the fact that Nathan doesn’t do much by way of cooking or cleaning and assumes that this means something about me or him and our respective views on women, I’m going to blow a gasket.  You’re telling me I’m a woman and I’m doing it wrong?  That’s suspiciously familiar…

When Ida wakes up from her nap, our day goes one of two routes:  If I’m working, we usually pack up our stuff (my teaching supplies and her diaper bag with lunch, snacks, milk, etc.), get in the car and drive to wherever I’m teaching, dropping Ida off along the way at a kind friend’s house (as a side note, working for a few hours in the middle of each day is anathema to finding professional childcare and basically ensures that you will become a major pain in the ass to your friends and family as you try to get someone to watch your beloved kid).  A few days a week, a friend comes over to my place and watches her while I’m gone.  I’m gone for 2-4 hours on teaching days depending on commute and if I have more than one class.  I am almost always astounded by how challenging it is to get where I need to be on time, teach well, and be a good parent to Ida all at the same time.  I can usually do two of these things at once.  I often don’t eat lunch because adding one more thing to the list just isn’t possible.  Correction, I often eat Wendy’s chicken nuggets for lunch and semi-try to hide what I’m doing from Ida (in the back seat).  Should you feel moved to nominate me for a parenting award, remember that my last name is SAND (like a sand beach) BERG (like iceberg lettuce).

Once I’m done teaching I head home (picking up Ida on the way if she was staying with a friend).  Ida used to take another nap at this point in the day, and I’m mourning this loss.  Now she mostly yells, demands impossible snacks that haven’t been invented, and passionately wants the legos to be both in and out of the basket SIMULTANEOUSLY.

If I’m not teaching, Ida and I usually do something fun in the afternoon.  Sometimes we take a bike ride or walk.  Sometimes we do an art project at home.  Sometimes we go visit a friend or go somewhere cool in the city like a museum or a park.  We like to get out of the house and find that just hanging out at home all day results in double-whammy mother-daughter meltdowns.

Nate usually gets home from work at 4:15.  At this point, if Nate isn’t on deadline for a music project, I sometimes leave for a couple of hours to work/make dances or run errands while he plays with Ida.  Every monday a friend and I go out for coffee and do our self-led Heretics’ Bible Study.  This is exactly like it sounds.  Sometimes Nate, Ida and I do something together.  If Nate is on deadline for a music project, he spends a little time with Ida and then heads back to his studio to crank out the tunes.  I have never met a person as productive as Nathan is when it comes to writing music.  I attribute this largely to his having had to complete his graduate degree in writing film music while working and taking care of a newborn.  His threshold for sleep deprivation and chaos are off-the-charts high.  This coupled with his humongous talent means that he is creating a pretty fat composition roster of late.  Which is great, but at some point, he’s going to need to start recreating for at least a couple of hours a week.  And sleeping for more than 4 hours a night.  I worry about him…

Ida begins eating dinner around 5:30 in her high chair in the kitchen.  We’re working on a plan to regularly have dinner together as a family, but we’re sad at the prospect of losing that time alone together (Nate and me).  Nate often does the dinner and bath evening routine while I cook.  I kind-of hate the dinner-bath rigmarole so this suits me just fine.  I don’t know why.  There isn’t really anything unpleasant about doing these things with Ida.  Maybe it’s just that at the end of the day, it’s nice to have a little break from wiping/picking up/dressing/etc.  She also sometimes tries to bite me when I brush her teeth, so there’s that too.

After her dinner and bath Ida plays a little, we read approximately 90 books and she goes to bed at 7.  I finish making dinner and we usually eat around 7:30.  If I’m rehearsing that evening, I usually leave around this time, leaving something for dinner in the fridge, which Nate heats up right before I’m scheduled to get home.  On nights that I’m rehearsing we usually eat around 9:30 or 10.  Nate has absolutely no time-oriented feelings of hunger, which I attribute/blame on the fact that he lived in a van with 8 guys for a while subsisting mainly on gas station foodstuffs (he was in a band that toured quite a lot).  This is convenient.  And messed up.

I’m not totally sure what happens to the remaining few hours of the day.  Reading?  Television?  Conversation?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Sometimes I craft.  Occasionally I go see dance performances.  The time just seems to elapse.  Maybe I’m relaxing?  Unclear.  I go to sleep around 10 or 11 after reading or watching something Stewart/Colbert/Fey/Poehler on the computer, and usually have blissfully dreamless and uninterrupted sleep.  I’m grateful for this – from what I hear, it’s pretty uncommon for the parents of small children to have a 12-on, 12-off work schedule in parenting.  Ida, if you’re reading this, please don’t mess around with this aspect of our lives.

So there you have it, this mother’s day.  Here’s to you having a great one today!

Easter Inspirations

21 Apr

Remember college?  Man, I sure do.  I loved college.  College was my favorite (except for right now, which is also my favorite).  I found out that I wasn’t stupid!  Readers who spent their youths perfecting dazzling jazz dance routines and singing soprano can understand what this revelation meant to me, and why it came as such a surprise.  Well, a more accurate description might be that I discovered that I was arm’s length from this particular kind of smart with the ability to generate pensive looks and a tolerance for silence that made up the difference.  In other words, I am one hell of a faker, which is almost better if you want to know the truth (turns out that jazz dancing and singing soprano have paid off after all).  Less burdensome.   I quit singing seriously.  I underlined.  I highlighted.  I spent a lot of time sitting still and wondering if anyone was looking at me.  I wrote furiously scribbled essays on both Old and New Testaments of The Holy Bible in cursive (because one of my religion profs. was apparently a member of The Church of Cursive Penmanship – seriously, I’ve not experienced such zeal since).  Speaking of religion and college, I remembered a college story while I was making dinner tonight and since it made me laugh out loud and splash daal on my shirt, I thought you might enjoy it too.

I was fortunate enough to take lots of fun and interesting classes while I was diddling around in the world of higher education, but a stand out is definitely a religion class I took on the topic of Adam and Eve.  This class was taught by a very cool and hip professor and was populated by several of my friends, two ex-boyfriends (Hey!  I was a GIRL in the philosophy department!  What do you want from me?), and my future spouse.  Good times all around.  Plus, you know, lots of interesting discussions and assignments and stuff.

One member of our class was a stalwart college archetype – the stoner/thinker/bathrobe-as-outerwear-trendsetter.  Sam.  I had a few classes with Sam and always found him to be a delight.  He made some particularly show-stopping/train-wreck arguments during a small seminar of the works of David Hume.  I seem to remember something about zombies…  Sam had a strict “no reading, no writing” policy when it came to his college education.  He also had a flexible understanding of “attendance.”

Like marshmallow peeps, or light red kidney beans – nobody was ever clear on Sam’s function or purpose, but that didn’t seem like the point anyway.  One day we were discussing the origins of the names “Adam” and “Eve” and we were asked to speculate (after some instruction on the language, history, and yada yada) as to what significance these names might suggest.  No doubt hyped up on talk of linguistic origins and the deep meaning of it all (and, I’m pretty sure, aided by some fantastic substances), Sam suggested that the name “Adam” was probably a reference to – and I remember this so precisely – “man’s infinite smallness.  Like, you know, atoms?”  Sam was so pleased.  His mind working at a mean clip, he was putting all of the pieces together.

I’m sure you’ve had this opportunity at least once, but I’m here to recommend that you should always relish it when it comes along.  It’s not often that you get to see a professional person deal with madness on this level, and it’s especially rare to get this sort of action in a public forum (such as a large class).  I find that I can learn almost everything I care to know about a person if I’m lucky enough to witness them in confrontation with bat-shit-craziness like this.  So many things to say.  Like, maybe that the words “Adam” and “atom” probably aren’t as similar sounding in hebrew.  Or that atoms weren’t so much understood in the author’s time and so the relationship, even just conceptually, is probably a non-starter.  Or that you’re wearing a bathrobe to a planned engagement for christsakes.

I don’t respect a person who talks right away.  If they have a plan in place to deal with this sort of thing, I feel uneasy about what else they might be incubating upstairs.  I like what my professor did.  He waited for a respectful time – letting the class enjoy the possibility of this radical and hilarious idea – letting Sam experience the flawless feeling of having an idea and knowing that it is awesome.  Then he just said, without any meanness or despair, “I don’t…………… no/know.”  And then he shut it down and took Sam to school utilizing a satisfying combination of the socratic method and naked sarcasm.

I always wondered what he was thinking in the space between “don’t” and “no/know.”  I still think and wonder about which no/know he meant.  Sam, as you may have suspected, was completely undeterred by this lack of confirmation for his theory, and made it clear that he was pretty sure he was right about all of this.  Sam’s chops were bust-resistant and the more he thought about it, the more evidence he discovered to support his theory.  We were not privy to this information, but that was largely irrelevant as it had become clear that we were participating only insofar as witnesses.

While this story cracks me up, it also inspires me.  What must it feel like to go through life like Sam did/does?  Sure at the instant you form a thought that it’s right – that it’s perfect – so perfect in fact that no amount of reasoned criticism can remind you that you’re not an expert.  Free from the feeling that you have no right to trust your ideas.  In my life as a dance improviser, this is always the lofty (and sometimes seemingly impossible) goal that I aspire to.  The ability to always say “yes.”  The suspension of judgement.  The willingness to go, totally alone, into new space.  It’s more than just saying “who cares?”  It’s the forgetting that there is even a “who” in the first place.  It’s ordering something that’s not on the menu with full confidence that it will arrive steaming hot before you.  It’s very Easter-y in a way.

So here’s to Sam, and Adam and Eve, and to the luxury of a deeply pleasurable education followed by a degenerate life in the arts.  Cheers.