Friday, August 29, 2014

No Reason for Words

Copy and paste this link into your browser!!! Really! Do it.

Brilliant. Amazing. You'll get to go around the world.

In the next almost five minutes you get - Life-changing perspective on the universal, joyful, silly, beautiful, dance transcends culture and boundaries and laughter is the shortest distance between two people, but so is dancing - moments.

That's all. Go ahead. Make your day.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dance Teachers/World Peace and The Ballerina Exception

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Well, that's the best reason to dance, ever.

It seems impossible to start a war while in the middle of a jitterbug. Or a complicated time step. Any "danc-i-pline" really, except ballet. It does seem that a war could break out among any ballerina in any class or any production from The Nutcracker to La Esmeralda. Ballerinas are the toughest people on earth. Not only are they exhausted, but they're in pain and pissed off because they have shin splints, toenails hanging by a corner, and they have never had enough to eat. Not their fault. But, ballerina's may not be the best ambassadors for world peace. However, they might be the perfect people to enforce it.

Revolutionary, Civil, I, II, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, post offices, schools, across the street, in the living room, on the freeway, in our heads - Armageddon could be avoided if we all just learned to dance well. Moliere implies that if we are skilled at dancing, there is less desire to annihilate another person. Learning to dance requires letting go of who you think you are, to become who you want to be. Anyone who has ever achieved a perfect double pirouette knows that one single achievement alone can change your outlook from forever doubtful to forever confident.

Yes, dancing can change the world. Dancing communicates ideas through movement.  Peace treaties negotiated only through interpretative dance may be the wave of the future. Or just a heartfelt laugh. Either way, a good thing.

But, someone needs to teach mankind to dance. We can't dance well without teachers.

Dance teachers!!! It's time to rise up and show the world how to find their center!  You have the chance to save the world every day you step into a studio. Every time you take the hand of a 3-year-old hopeful dancer you have the chance to stop tragic misfortunes. 

As dance teachers it is our obligation to raise world leaders who can confidently leap and turn and dance with a partner. I, personally, vow to look at every one of my students from here on out as having the potential to stop a war. 

I think I'll call Obama to see if he is interested in a jazz class. He looks like he could use some well placed jazz hands in his approach. And if he refuses a dance lesson, I'm calling in a ballet company to change his mind.

Shown here is curriculum creator and Principal of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School,
Franco De Vita and a happy student.
Just to be clear, I love and revere ballerinas. I teach ballet. I am not serious about ballerina's being the only exception in the chance for dance to save the world. One good tutu might even be enough to calm down a raging dictator. The dictator would just need to become "tutu worthy" first. And that alone, would mean that 800 hours had already been spent at the barre to earn such "worthy" status and therefore enough skill at dancing had been achieved. And time spent learning to dance has to be a better use of time, than time spent practicing tyranny.

Are you a teacher? Please let me know if you have had any success in stopping wars - small or large - or any change you saw for the better as the result of teaching any part of the world to dance. And please be encouraged! You are the hope of mankind!

Hang on to the hope.

(And again, I'm only kidding about ballerinas. They are the rock stars of anything beautifully athletic.)

Amazing teachers!:

Love what they're doing here:

Always good:

Good stuff:

I just think this next link is cool, it appears to have already passed by, but maybe they'll do it again. A day for peace and dancing. Which, coincidentally, is what all of us dance teachers do every day.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Once a Rockette

I sold my soul. Once. For cherrywood cabinets. Well, there may have been a few other times, but that's another story. When I was four years old I stepped into a ballet class at Charlotte Crowley's Dancette Studio. It was the first time I'd stepped anywhere without leg braces. And the first time I felt beautiful. A moment to be defined by grace, instead of a walking mistake. Beauty. It's hard to resist.

life through cracks
Even at four years old it's transforming to glimpse who you might be. When I took off the black and white, metal reinforced saddle shoes and put on beautiful, soft, pink ballet slippers, I exchanged "special" for a remarkable life of rapture, pain, unrest, confidence, self-doubt, strength and music. A life waiting silently, but not patiently, in the loud souls of hard, unforgiving saddles.

If my mother hadn't taken me inside that little pink studio with the gold "spotting" stars, I wonder if I would have had a lifetime of waiting on the outside of beauty? But, she took a chance, a risk, and did take me inside, and so the legs that were broken to begin with, straightened out and grew up and gave me a chance.

I was able to dance long enough to wear out my crooked legs. I danced in movies, on TV, and on some spectacular stages. For a moment, I was a Rockette. When that moment ended, I got married, had two daughters and moved to the desert. Which seemed like a good idea at the time. I want that sentence engraved on my headstone "Well, it seemed like a good the time."

We moved to Chandler, Arizona to raise our beautiful girls in a nice neighborhood we could almost afford. We couldn't afford an insecure house in any neighborhood in Los Angeles where we were currently living and working and acting and dancing very little. One day, house shopping in neighborhoods that were identical on the outside, we came upon a home that had the-most-beautiful-cherrywood-cabinets on the inside. I could not resist their beauty. So, we bought it.

Apparently, cherrywood cabinets also make me feel beautiful. I've been keeping my soul in those cabinets. Right next to the giant coffee mugs. And the memory of the soul freeing first day at Charlotte Crowley's Dancette Studio. 

I just never planned to be a wife, or a mother, or live in a suburb. I was under the misguided impression that I was special. I mean, dancers are at least, pretty. I thought I would always have somewhere exciting to go. Chandler, Arizona was not the first place that came to mind, but here I am. A wife. A mother. Living in a sea of stucco.

We have lived in this suburb for 15 years now. The once beautiful cabinets are starting to show their wear and tear. They creak. They don't shut all the way. They used to be shiny with a deep rich hue. Just like us. They need to be refinished. Just like us. When the objects we traded in our souls for start to lose their value, what happens to us? Do we have the same chance for refinishing? I was refinished once when I was four years old. Ballet gave me a chance to change my story. Does refinishing truly mean- finishing again? To make beautiful - again? At the end of the story, can we still change our ending? Can ballet still save the day?

I made an important decision that lifetime ago to leave the comfort of Charlotte Crowley's Dancette Studio and become a dancer in New York City, and another to marry my husband, and to become a mother. I can't say that I made any of these decisions with intelligent forethought. But, if I hadn’t first made the decision to follow the intense tugging in my soul to dance – I know absolutely that I would suck at the life I now lead. And I do still dance, although stiffly and sometimes while sitting.

If my mother hadn't taken me out of my corrective shoes and allowed me the freedom to dance, I truly feel I would never have known…anything. I know very little, but I know I lived a dream.  I know I searched beyond the dream to find someone who loves me no matter who I am or who I will become, and who loves saying he's married to someone who was once a Rockette.

And all of it sounded like a good idea at the time.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Universal Language of Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson

Puppet hands and other fun stuff in Kenscoff.
On our last day in Kenscoff, a small town in the mountains of Haiti, it rained. Not until the afternoon though. 

In the morning, the toddlers came to the community center with the staff and volunteers from the World Wide Orphans Foundation. The director asked me to stretch and dance with the kids a little at the beginning. We spread mats along a covered stairway with landings, because the stone was wet from last nights torrential rain. All the little guys were plopped on top of mats. With Freddy by my side to interpret, we reached toward toes, and up to the sky and jumped and twisted. When I stretched too far, Freddy stopped me. Most of these kids don't get out of their beds usually. They have no gross motor skills. This was the first time any of them had done anything like this. Moved. To music. It was just about the first time this week I didn't feel like a useless waste of space.

My husband and I were delighted to be invited to work with the World Wide Orphans Foundation in Haiti. Well, my husband was delighted. I was a little nervous. I wasn't sure I had anything to offer. I was mostly right.

Little guys plopped on mats!
We went to share with the staff and volunteers of the WWO in Kenscoff, Lespinasse and Port au Prince some theatre games, storytelling and puppetry, in the hope of providing additional resources for the work already being done to offer joy in this earthquake leveled country. Amy Poehler, who I've now decided I worship and adore, supports this organization and the programming we went to help. Melissa, the director, is going to go down in history next to some of the great philanthropists as a gentle guiding light through all disasters during her lifetime. I am humbled by her.

This beautiful island needs so much help and a do-over would be nice. Staggering amounts of financial resources and back-breaking reconstruction would only scratch the surface. And my husband and I came to Haiti to play. Play! Not re-build, not solve any sanitation problems, feed anyone or save a soul. Play. Connect. 

Well, now I know for certain what I only knew in theory. "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." (Victor Borge)  And playing is worthy. A Melissa lesson.

I was expecting to see pain and suffering. I wasn't expecting strong, resilient spirits and warm, beautiful smiles. I wasn't expecting to dance with anybody.

That last afternoon in Kenscoff we walked to an intact cement slab in the center of a locked school yard. Rain was threatening. The morning session seemed to go well with the toddlers, so my husband wanted me to do the same thing this afternoon, put on music and have the kids stretch and dance. These are older kids, though, from the tent camps and orphanages and some have never moved any muscle at all. Again, no gross motor skills. I'm used to teaching dancers who've spent their lives carefully honing their muscles.

There seemed to be droves of kids and volunteers that day. My husband just said "Go." Which he says to me all the darn time. "You'll be fine. What song do you want?"

Me: "I could seriously injure someone! I don't see you jumping out to do this."

HIM: "Just start." (HIM is capitalized because I'm annoyed with HIM all over again.)

Me: "I don't know what to do."

HIM:"Yes, you do."

Now they're all standing there in rows staring at me.

Me: "Play Fergie's A Little Party Never Killed Nobody. There's a some language, but I don't think they'll know that. I guess that's better than Blurred Lines."

HIM: "Definitely." HIM pressed play.

I didn't hurt anyone. Maybe confused a few, but not permanently. They were fantastic. Followed along, stretched legs, smiled. Laughed. Relief. The volunteers were an absolute kick in the pants. Soooo good. I think they had fun. There were boys too - which always worries me that dancing seems girly. But, the boys were cool. HIM was thrilled. "You should have seen the expression on the older girls faces! They loved it. They could've gone on longer. Why did you stop?"

"Well, it's starting to rain, and they don't seem to like the rain. Which is kind of amusing, since it rains here all the time. But, mostly I don't want to hurt them."

We split up by ages to play "Kitty wants a corner" the most popular game of our week there when it started to pour in literal sheets of rain. Within seconds all of us were underneath an awning along the walkway outside of the classroom doors. 40 people ranging in age from 4-ish to me, 55-ish.

My husband put the large speaker thing on his shoulder, and said "Play something. Quick."

I was searching for something currently on the pop charts when I accidentally played "Jam" by Michael Jackson. I didn't even know I had that on there.

"Michael Jackson!" shouted it's way through the crowd. And Bam! We had a party. A little party never killed nobody.
A volunteer bustin a move.

Dancing! Good dancing. Really good dancing from a few of the volunteers. The kids were a little hesitant at first. But, turns were taken to dance in the very crowded center. Lots of smiling and clapping. A boy came to stand next to me. He looked to be about 11, but Haitian kids are older than they look, so he may have been in his teens. He was killin' it when nobody was watching. I mean, a studied, worked on, skilled set of movements. Whenever I called him to come in the center though, he stopped dancing and tried to disappear. After about an hour we played the music a little softer and spread out.

Which was when the boy who was really killin' it earlier came up to me and quietly and very haltingly said in what were extremely hard syllables to pronounce, "Justin Bieber."

Thank God I have teenage children, I have about ten Beiber songs on my iPod. So, a 55 year old woman from a world away, a tender boy, and three teenage girls who joined us, danced and sang together while hiding from the rain. A moment seared into my soul.

Even a child that doesn't speak english, living on an island three worlds away, with no electrical power, sleeping on the ground, learning to live in a world he was handed without a formal education and often without much food, knows every lyric by Justin Bieber and can pretty much dance to any song by Michael Jackson.

I just really like this guy. 
Music. Dancing. Universal languages. Which is almost enough said. Almost.

Whatever their personal demons, Justin and Michael have created music that has united worlds and generations. Two separate lives that gave, at least me, an unforgettable moment. Just a moment to stop and dance out of the rain.

Anybody else been alive somewhere you didn't think you belonged and music and/or dancing changed your last moment? Or changed your story from a waste of space to something unexpectedly good?

Smiling's my favorite.
Bye for now.