2018 marks my first full year in Los Angeles as a former member of the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company. It is also the first full year in practice as Bodies in Play. In the last month of the year, I would like to use this reflection to take a look back at some of my highlights and explore some of the great lessons they came with.
While no longer a performing member with LA Contemporary Dance Company, my year began, as many years prior, choreographing the annual collaboration between LACDC and Loyola Marymount University’s Music Department. Each year they come together to put on a performance for young audiences, utilizing dance and storytelling to introduce children to classical music. For the past four years, I have had the great pleasure of choreographing these performances. This year, I created a fun new take on Goldie Locks and the Three Bears.
What a great reminder that Bodies in Play isn’t just a brand I’ve adopted, but a practice I’ve cultivated throughout my career.
Around the same time, I began teaching company class for Corina Kinnear’s Art Happening called Naked. Such a thrill to not only be leading warm up for amazingly skilled professional dancers, but also for a company which included former Bella Lewitzky dancers, in Lewitzky’s home studio. After one class, one of these former dancers mentioned “Bella would have loved this.”
My heart melted and I was reminded of the importance and beauty of lineage in the sharing of tradition.
In February, DTLA Proud hosted a stage at the Bringing Back Broadway Block Party. Singer/Songwriter and artistic collaborator The Hound asked me to choreograph and perform for his set. As someone who began dancing specifically for this moment - to back up dance for a singer I admire - this was a great way to taste my middle school fantasy.
It was also a great opportunity to respectfully put these fantasies to rest. My career trajectory didn’t go in the direction my thirteen year old self had planned on - and that’s totally okay.
Soon after, I joined the faculty at AMDA. Not only has it been wonderful to have a sort of “home base” here in LA again (after the departure from LACDC), but I’m also consistently inspired by my colleagues and students.
I’ve also realized how much more fruitful my teaching practice can be with a consistent group of students over a concentrated period.
By March I was in Chicago, presenting my solo show this is a blank page, and teaching company class for Giordano Dance Chicago and a guest class at Visceral Dance Center. My best friend has lived in Chicago for several years, and I’ve been actively searching for opportunities to bring my work to her. This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without the many connections I had made during my visits to Chicago to see my friend.
A strong reminder in the power of a network, as well as the power of having a strong product and sales pitch.
In April I participated in Rosanna Gamson’s Terra Nova residency with five other amazing artists. We met weekly to show works in progress and give observations and feedback. Any success of my last production can be directly attributed to this experience.
Community is important. Don’t make work in a vacuum.
Throughout April I was also in rehearsal in Santa Fe with a group of young locals curated by the Stagecoach Foundation. We created an opening movement performance for the New Mexico Art Foundation’s Centennial Gala the first weekend of May. This was the first performance opportunity for many of these young performers and they were wonderful. After the performance, the gala continued with dinner. I noticed our young performers sitting aside without plates and immediately led them to the kitchen where I spoke with the catering manager about feeding our young artists. It’s not uncommon for dancers to be forgotten or neglected and I think because I’m still performing regularly myself I remain sensitively attuned to it.
I aim to never let go of this sensitivity and make it a point to recognize and prioritize the needs of my collaborating artists.
May brought me to the Director’s Lab - a week long conference with other theater makers to discuss, debate, create, learn, and connect. I was one of the only choreographer-first (rather than director-first) participants. This made me a little nervous when it came time to collaborate on scene work, but I dove in head first and to my surprise my ideas weren’t just heard, they were respected and even praised.
An important affirmation to never doubt my voice.
Shortly following the Director’s Lab, I attended DanceUSA - another conference, now dance specific, with people from all over the country working in a variety of roles in the making of, supporting of, and promoting of dance.
We are all so distinct, yet all so the same.
June brought with it my first international presentation as a choreographer at the Gdansk Dance Festival in Poland. Not only did I perform part of my solo show, but for one week I lived with, ate with, and toured with other like-minded artists from all corners of the globe. We took classes together and supportively watched each other’s performances.
This trip was not only extremely validating for me as a dance maker, but also extremely humbling, to recognize how far I’ve come, while also recognize how far I have to go through watching the many other amazing performers.
In July, I presented this is a blank page in its entirety for the fourth time within the year. I had a 3-show weekend at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theater and the opportunity to dig in to this piece another time was illuminating.
Mostly, it taught me to just keep digging. There’s always more.
An annual tradition at this point, in August I returned to join some awesome teachers at the LA Contemporary Dance Company Summer Intensive. Though this was the first time teaching as a “guest” rather than company member, this week showed me:
once family, always family.
September was a big month for me. VoyageLA published a feature on Bodies in Play.
Reminding me there are people out there who value what I’m doing.
I also took on a full semester teaching movement at Art of Acting Studio.
If these classes taught me one thing, it’s to respond to what is in the room - what is actually being given to you - rather than react to what you think should be happening, or to what is happening within yourself.
And finally, I wrapped up September with my newest evening length production Dearly Beloved: A Union, Out of Wedlock. This was a beast of a production for one person to pull off, but -
I have an amazing support network. I’m capable of more than I sometimes allow. And I confirmed the adage that a directors first job is to hire people who are better than they are.
Throughout the end of the year I choreographed ensemble pieces for Irvine Valley College and the Santa Barbara City College Dance Company.
After so much solo work, it was great to exercise my ensemble skill sets.
I was also unexpectedly offered to take over the Open Fitness program for AMDA at the beginning of the Fall Semester.
You can never predict when opportunity will strike.
In November, I returned to the stage with the LA Philharmonic’s New Music Group once again under the direction of Yuval Sharon. We took on a John Cage opera, chance operations and all. For 3 weeks, our process was to just play.
“Play” and “high art” are not mutually exclusive.
I’m now currently enjoying my first ever paid holiday vacation, thanks to my new position as Los Angeles Program Coordinator for LEAP. I am so grateful this job found me. I feel so aligned with the work I’m doing and to have a position that won’t take a way, but instead will most likely add to my life as an artist is a true gift.
I believe landing here is thanks to trusting my personal mission and strategically saying “no” to projects or opportunities based on the clarity of that personal mission - a great observation to carry forward into 2019.