Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Journey Though Photography (Artistic Collaborations with Rachel Estrada)

On my first photographic adventure, Rachel, Stephanie, and I experimented with the dystrophy and random arrangement of a construction site and the clean lines and contrast of black and gold dress items.  We used the surrounding elements as inspiration for our poses and a free standing lamp as our source of lighting.  Looking back, there is a lot that I would change and utilize, especially as far as lighting is concerned, but the naive experimentation produced photos that I could not replicate now if I tried.  When I look at these pictures, I feel as sense of misunderstanding that is derived from our intentional use of contrast. 

Another shoot Rachel and I did together was during a day of unpredictable weather in Malibu.  I was obsessing over the fantasy of the ocean, and though I did not plan it, the placement of these pictures indicates a forlorn nature of two girls exposing a beach of infinite, soft waves and foam and a developing storm.  I see a world where we become our surrounding elements, and in the first few pictures, I feel I am being lured by the seduction of the waves to a new world where I release my body and become the water.  Rachel demonstrates the vast mystery of the ocean while reflecting the combination of soft and sharp angles that can be found in the waves, shoreline, and horizon.  To remedy all of this artsy talk, I suggest you just enjoy the scenery in these pictures :)

Sleeps With ButterfliesOn another collaborative photo shoot Rachel and I used the symmetry, colors, and beauty of butterflies as our inspiration.  I wanted myself and the viewer to feel that they stumbled upon something intimate and private, yet ordinary and often overlooked.  While many people appreciate the aesthetic of nature, it is very rare that they stop to think of all of the activity that may be too small to see.  While an ant scurrying is very common, its task is its own and it is an individual amongst trillions.  However, every small movement effects our entire ecological system and we often forget to appreciate the beauty of the most ordinary of landscapes...

... I also feel like I've come across a mythical creature, something that only lives in the existence of our imaginations...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Master Class with Feldenkrais Somatic Methods

"The Feldenkrais Method is a form of somatic education that uses gentle movement and directed attention to improve movement and enhance human functioning. Through this Method, you can increase your ease and range of motion, improve your flexibility and coordination, and rediscover your innate capacity for graceful, efficient movement. These improvements will often generalize to enhance functioning in other aspects of your life." - Feldenkrais Website
Today I had a master class taught by a woman Ami who is training in the Feldenkrais Method and I thought it would be interesting to share my experience and observations.  I have only briefly been exposed to the ideas of Feldenkrais but I find them interesting even at their most basic level.  The idea behind Feldenkrais is to do as much as possible by using as little effort as possible by using the ideas of visualization, a deep understanding of one's own body, and exposure to ways of more effective movement.  Testimonials from people of all ages who have undergone Feldenkrais sessions are astounding if not unbelievable at times; it can help anyone from a young and fit athlete who is striving to excellence to an elderly person suffering from chronic pain.  In the instance of dance, both the visualization and effective movement techniques save one's body from injury and exhaustion.

One of the most interesting concepts is using the Feldenkrais technique in movement.  The idea of "core-distal" movement, or the idea that our limbs and head are connected to and extend from our center like a starfish, has helped me visualize and feel my center more accurately.  Understanding how our bodies are connected through tissues, joints, and bones makes movement more efficient.  For example, the pathway from standing to sitting can occur in many ways.  If we think of our pelvis simply dropping to the floor instead of using our thighs and squatting into a sit we are moving more efficiently.  The energy it takes to drop is more efficient than the body making a diagonal downwards.  

For a dancer trained in classical ballet and jazz, it has been a humbling experience to feel my body move in "simpler" ways by ridding of old movement habits and revealing a new range of moving.  While effective, the class I had today was exhausting.  My hips and legs used entirely new muscles as we worked our movement through visualizing our sit and pubic bones.  By continuously releasing the tension from my leg muscles, I found a deeper plie, or bend, and therefore a greater, more stable balance.  The most interesting thing Ami told us today was to think of our balance as a state of suspension instead of a stop or freeze where our muscles tighten and squeeze to hold a position.  Instead she encouraged us to envision an endless movement where we were constantly stabilized due to our deep plie and bodily alignment.   For the first time ever, I found I was confident in a position derived from a movement that originally felt chaotic; I found my center of balance without tensing my abdominal muscles, (in fact we didn't use our abs at all!)

Though brief, my experience with Feldenkrais has been refreshing and enlightening and I encourage all to look into the benefits and practices of the method.

"Find your true weakness and surrender to it. Therein lies the path to genius. Most people spend their lives using their strengths to overcome or cover up their weaknesses. Those few who use their strengths to incorporate their weaknesses, who don't divide themselves, those people are very rare. In any generation there are a few and they lead their generation."
- Moshe Feldenkrais

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Art and Adventure of Improv Dance

"I mean the idea that we have to be taught to dance is one of the minor insanities of this culture, I think. I think you might have to learn technique and you might have to learn to notice that you improvise and then at a certain point it's your responsibility both for the result but also for the process that gets you that result."
-Steve Paxton

This blog was written after my first improv performance as part of UCSD's WinterWorks 2010 Performance directed by Patricia Rincon. The piece was titled "Between May and Be" by Liam Clancey and was inspired by the post-modern dancer Steve Paxton's signature piece "Flat."

Improv Show #1

I have just gotten off stage from our first audience viewed structured improv; this performance has lead me to believe that I came to be a part of Liam's piece because I needed to learn, I needed to discover the process that could help me answer "how to let go." Each performance, or dance, or practice, was never the same. We started our process with a myriad of structure that consisted of walking in circles. I hated walking in circles. I would get bored and start singing to myself or even concoct a story or two. This idea of a structure sustains me, though, it stabilizes me in my everyday life. As a child, I loved rules. Rules allowed for a system of merit, judgement, and order. I understood the importance of law as a necessity from an extremely early age. In our piece, however, I found that having structure prevented me from doing anything. I would try to find my place in our pattern only to discover that I was lost. The rules that I once loved started to turn against me, I could no longer find stability that usually comforted me. As our ten weeks progressed, we started to strip away the structure- ten circle patterns became 6 which then became 2 and then finally only half. As the layers came off, I oddly started to make some sense of what we were doing. Initially, we started our understanding of the dance by asking a book of questions: how can you practice something that has no finite answer, or even a direction? do we need to do something in particular? how can we make a dance by not doing anything or doing something? if doing something is too much and doing nothing is too little, but only sometimes, how do we judge? However, we found no answer or solace in asking these questions and far less in the lack of answers. Time progressed and the questions lessened because we started to take an interest in the present. Our new focus became less about what we were supposed to do. Instead, we concentrated on what we were doing at every moment in time and allowing ourselves to be freed by what once seemed like an overwhelming plethora of choices. The significance in what we were doing immediately grew. Every option opened millions of doors but we as performers had the power to choose what door we entered; thus, we ruled our present. In this constant exploration, I truly realized and relished in this freedom from lack of constraint. Tonight, I was empowered on stage. I exerted control, but was also susceptible to the never ending stimuli and infinite environment. Tonight, I found freedom, and I also found part of myself. I fought through what I once wished to give up and found connections to others and the environment that I never knew existed. In my experience I found trust, the power of vulnerability, the limitations of rules, the sometimes murky result of clarification and specificity, confidence, fear, the imminent results of choice, and, at the risk of sounding tacky, myself. I found an experience that has defined my quarter and, begrudgingly yet humbly, my view on dance. I realized that I do not have to give up on my preferences to be a part of something different, and that practicing the art of letting go will help me detect future limitations that may prohibit my creative spirit. My journey, which continues after the performance on stage, has been shaped by ten other wonderful dancers/artists/explorers. It has truly been an honor to work with Christine, Paul, Johnny, Sharon, Lauren, Brooks, Marcos, Ilenia, Calvin, and Liam and to venture into the complex and terrifying art of improv. Thank you for an experience I almost didn't allow myself to take and one that I will never forget.