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Archive for August, 2012

Before the Rain

We’ve had some rain here and there, and it’s cooled things off quite a bit. The temperature on our patio topped out at 90°, which is refreshingly crisp for a Texas August. I’ve been outside off and on all day, because the air outside is just addicting. It smells sweet and clean and there’s a cool breeze in the air.

A large, heavy cloud has been hanging just to the east of us. It gets darker as it gets closer, and I can see rain coming down on the other side of the creek. A few hundred yards away, to my right, the sky is still bright with sunset.

It’s a beautiful moment, and I’m thankful for it.

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The Houston arts community suffered a horrible tragedy last Sunday, when lighting designer and gentle spirit Jeremy Choate was killed in a traffic accident. He was an amazingly talented lighting designer, and just about every dancer in Houston has been lit by him at some point (he lit a piece of mine, Building Nothing, in 2008). He had such a peaceful spirit, too– many dancers have spoken of how he remained calm in even the most tense tech-week situations, and how his calm was contagious.

He was at a traffic light on his motorcycle, on his way to a cast party, when a drunk driver plowed into him (extra-cruel irony: the cast party was for Hope Stone’s WRECK-WE-UMMM). He was 33, with two young daughters. Hearts are very heavy, and the city is mourning (well, the arts portion of the city…which is really the only one I pay attention to). This whole thing feels like a cruel prank by a heartless God. The loss of this man, this light, is felt so deeply by so many.

***

On Monday night I went to an audition for a staging of Jill Alexander Essbaum’s Necropolis. It’s a dark work, about death and grief, and it felt very appropriate. Everyone was in a somber mode, and we talked a bit about Jeremy (and how the sadness and loss related to the material). It was cathartic in a way.

***

When someone wonderful passes, I usually invoke the Bill Hicks* line “Have a spiffy eternity.” While it might seem trite by now, nobody deserves a spiffier eternity than the late, great Jeremy Choate.

Rest in peace.

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Back in the saddle

I start my new job today.

I’m a little nervous, though I’m not sure why (It’s not like I did this for eight straight years or anything). Maybe it’s because I’m a new teacher at this studio, and will be meeting new kids– a position I haven’t been in since 2006.

I have three classes today– all ballet, all little ones. Wish me luck!

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Sharing Dance

A while back I volunteered to be a dance teacher for JCC Cares Day, a part of the Maccabi games/Arts Fest that Houston hosted this year. It was a big, neat learning experience.

First, the dance teachers took a training workshop with the National Dance Institute artists from New York City. Even though almost all of us had previous teaching experience, we had to learn the NDI pedagogy, which is quite different from your standard dance training. Since NDI reaches school children who have had no formal dance training, their methods have to be accessible to everyone– ages 5 to 75. It was definitely very different from the way I teach, but I learned so much! I came away with several pages of notes (and quotes), and what I took away from the workshop will be helpful with the studio classes I’ll be teaching this year. One of the most helpful things I learned was to not “talk” too much– rather than spending time explaining what we’re working now and what we’ll be working on next, it’s best just to get the kiddos moving and following you. Another neat method of NDI is to keep re-orienting the space (“turning the room around”) and changing the “front” of the room. This keeps some kids from hiding in the back row while others hog the front row; and it keeps all the kids from getting bored. 🙂

JCC Cares Day itself was today. The Maccabi athletes and dance teachers were spread out at different YMCAs all over Houston. The Maccabi athletes came and met the local kiddos (YMCA campers) and spent time doing crafts and discussion; then both campers and athletes alike came to the dance class. There was one session in the morning and another in the afternoon.

The morning session I was at a YMCA in my old neighborhood, just blocks away from my last condo (and an hour away from my current one). There were four of us teachers and about one hundred kids. We were in the basketball gym, which presented a challenge because every sound echoed (echoed) (echoed). And believe me, there were a LOT of sounds! But in the end, all hundred-plus kids learned the dance and had a fun time.

For the afternoon session, my teaching partner and I moved to another YMCA on the northwest side of town. This time we were in a lovely little dance studio(!) and had an accompanist instead of recorded music (!!). We also had 160 kids instead of 100 (!!!) in a much smaller room (!!!!).

Before the afternoon class started, I got to chat with some of the other Maccabi volunteers (several of whom were housing athletes) and with the (sharp as a tack) 92-year-old woman who joyfully worked in the Y’s child care center.  I know she was 92, because she told me. 🙂 She also told me, “Even if I wake up in the morning and I feel terrible, I think to myself ‘Those sweet little faces need me.'” Bless her!
Anyway, back to the afternoon class. One hundred sixty kids– one hundred and fifty boys— two teachers, one accompanist, in one room. It was chaotic, of course– trying to keep all those kids (all those teenage boys) on task and focused, and trying to be seen and heard in such a crowded room presented a challenge (I had to modify some of the warm-up exercises to keep kids from hitting each other). But at the end of the hour, all 160 kids had learned their ten counts of eight, and some of them could really dance!

All in all, JCC Cares Day went very well. As chaotic as some of the classes may have been, at the end of the day everybody was happy, and everybody– kids, athletes, and artists alike– had learned something new.

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