Holly and Farima after the Jewish Nutcracker production at ODC Theatre San Francisco
Today I had the pleasure of working with San Francisco Bay Area dancer and ethnologist, Farima Berenji. Farima and I met while we were both doing the run for my friend Katy’s production The Jewish Nutcracker . Farima made a most exquisite Persian Sufganiyot Fairy as you can see from the picture. Farima has been working on this Poetry in Motion project using Persian poetry for over a year now. She thought it might be interesting to collaborate with me as a flamenco dancer. As she was describing this project it reminded me of my piece from last summer, Describe Yourself As A Work of Art. For one section of that presentation, I had audience members do a writing exercise where they described themselves as a work of art and then also explored what they were resisting in that moment. Then, in the dance performance with the girls, I read one of the audience members’ prose and the dancer interpreted it. This was a truly powerful experience for both the dancer, but also the woman whose writing was danced. She was about 40 years old and came up to me later and expressed how moved she was to have something so close to her heart interpreted by this teenage dancer. Farima was thrilled to hear about this experience and we decided to also include this exercise in the upcoming performance. So if you come to the Salon just know we may be asking you to write a little something for our dance inspiration;)
This is just a taste from today’s rehearsal. The “music” is Persian poetry. I can’t tell you what its about cause its a secret;) Come to the salon and find out the answer! We are performing this as an improvisation at my event the Sunday Salon coming up January 27th at the Garden Gate Creativity Center in Berkeley.
Finally I got a good video of this piece! And I ask you, what flamenco dancer doesn’t want to dance in front of flames? This piece, Effort and The Triumph of Being debuted at the LEVYdance Salon on June 2nd earlier this year. I am still working it and refining it. This was an interesting performance because it was challenging to perform something like this for an intimate audience. It forced me to be brave and play with the audience. Genius. Just what I needed.
For the past 11 and a half years of my life I have worked as the Accounting Manager for a San Francisco law firm. That means I have not had a break for longer than two weeks in eleven years. Ok, save for when I had Aleister. That was four months. Damn, sounded much better eleven years straight. . . but even still! That was almost ten years ago when I had Aleister! Eleven years. When was the last time you did the same thing for eleven years? The only thing I can compare it to was public school grades 1-12. And we all know how that transforms us. And so it is with a joyful heart that I announce that I am leaving this job and beginning the new business of me. Yep, I won’t go into all the ornery details about how or why, just suffice to say I have been calling for this opportunity for a number of years now and the nice easy push has finally manifested.
I’d like to think it has something to do with this last year. We are always expanding, growing, and changing every day. Whether we want to or not. Spend 365 days leaning into what you love and it is like leaning your foot onto the gas pedal – you speed up and something is bound to happen. And so as I come around the curve into the final stretch of this project, I wanted to dramatize a little part of me that I’m leaving behind. So, please enjoy a Farewell To A Pity Party. It is the end of an era.
Today I went to go watch my friend, Kathryn Rhone, belly-dance at the Carnival of Stars belly-dance festival in Richmond. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a huge turnout in audience at that hour on a Sunday, but Kathryn was vibrant in her shimmying and filling up the room with her performance anyhow. Afterwards, she brought her beaming smile over to where I sat and said lightly, “oh, the dancer who is supposed to go next is injured so she just left. . . wanna go on?” “Oh! Really?” I inquire coyly, “well, of course! ha hahahah. . . I mean, I don’t have a costume or anything.” With a twinkle in her eye, Kathryn grabs my hands and pulls me to the stage (and you know me. . she really had to twist my arm;) throwing a hip scarf over my skinny jeans. So. Then. This. Happened.
All I remember is the feeling of there being no expectations and having tremendous fun. And later when I watched the video just now I thought: wow, this is proof that spontaneity and joy really are fun to watch.
Ahhhhhhhh, says the woman with a night at home by herself for the first time in a very looong time.
Soo you see I haven’t had as much time to myself lately as I would like. Oh I get to technique class a couple times a week, teach my own classes, you know, but as far as having that mental and real-time physical space to actually create new stuff. . . well, it’s been rough. I was bound and determined to create something “good” today. I got up and forced my 4 year old nephew and 9 year old son into the mist soaked woods near our house in order to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN when, after an hour of them sword fighting in the living room whilst I tried to dance had driven me almost over the edge. The video of the woods is still in the editing room. In fact, it may never come out. After an hour of trying to make something decent with, of course, awesomely perfect lighting, but ornery children I finally gave up and trudged the kids two miles onward to the park where I fumed on a park bench and they gleefully flung mud on each other and the jungle gym. Ah, parenthood. Ah auntie-hood.
So, but finally later that night, after watching and laughing at the woods video, Aleister and I got inspired and decided to make an impromptu lip-synch video. This is what you do when you NEED to dance and you are a mum. Sometimes this is what it looks like and WELL it isn’t art maybe, but to me – it was dancin’.
More and more I use movement as a resource to shift myself from where I am to where I would like to be. You know when there is something you’ve wanted for a long time, but do not have it yet? Yeah, it sorta blows. And you can keep yourself there by continuing feeling the lack of it. Today I was feeling the lack, but in the middle of it was able to find this little sliver of what I was wanting when I listened to this song and so I decided to stay with it and move with it and see if I could move myself closer to it. I didn’t make a fuss over it. Just stopped off in an alley mid-run and spent five minutes dancing towards it. (you know, like anyone would do;) This is me feeling for it with a light touch.
Tonight was our first night on-site and I think we all really enjoyed it. We met at the parking lot and hiked in all together and I felt everyone’s energy sort of shift as we walked through the meadows with the sun setting on them and the dark, thickly forrested picnic areas. Everyone’s voices became more hushed and there was an unspoken reverence for the majestic redwood rooms we walked through and the sounds of birds and insects singing their final set of the day. I look forward to the rest of this workshop. I look forward to creating movement in the studio and bringing it into the woods, and I especially look forward to watching the girls create their own movement as they allow the woods to move them.
So I just started teaching a summer performance workshop for teens. The awesome part is that we will be working in both the woods and the studio, alternating between Redwood Heights Recreation Center and the Redwood Regional Park in order to create a site-specific collaborative work between myself and the teens. Today I began a little hip-hop choreography on this fun piece of music. Here’s a short video of me working on it in the studio prior to class.
One of the things that has delighted me most over the past year is people’s willingness to play with me on this project. As you can tell from the photos, we spent a good deal of our afternoons swimming in the river. It gets so hot in Three Rivers in the summertime that there is no other alternative really. Jalene and I had about twenty minutes this morning to create a little final dance and so we immersed ourselves in the incredibly revitalizing cold water and came up with this. I can’t think of a better closing ritual for my time here in Three Rivers. It was the perfect punctuation for the whole magical week.