Open: 3 Things Changing My Life

This year has been about opening my perspectives to new ways of thinking and doing. This has been occurring in my teaching- by examining the “truths” within our heritage of dance training, as well as personally- by taking risks and celebrating what I have come to learn about myself.

A few things in particular have been worth noting:

The love you take is equal to the love you make.

My immediate family, and our joys and successes, are dependent upon my marriage. My husband and I are celebrating our 10th year of marriage all year. We are taking care of ourselves as individuals but also paying attention to the functions and joys of our relationship.

Don’t box me in.

Professionally and artistically, I think I finally understand that very little is pure anymore and it is ok. I have previously acknowledged that I need balance to push me forward- we all do- but I am now understanding in a more complex way that dance is not an island. While I have been teaching in an integrated style for some time (integrating subject areas, fusing ideas, class structures, styles, etc.) I feel “freed” enough to really talk about what I do in broader terms. Dance has filtered my life experiences, not just my movement or academic experiences, and it is ok- even great- to acknowledge this. And with this recent push to study “creativity” in all fields, it might even now be marketable to do so. We’ll see how that goes.

Frankly, I need to leave some dance traditions behind. The more places I explore, the more people I meet, the more problems I try solving lead me to new methods, new applications, and new outcomes. My standard approach for many years was to reteach much of the material I received in ways similar to the ways I had been taught. I thought that since I had good training, it would be good enough for my students. And it isn’t that that training isn’t good enough- but it doesn’t prepare students for their future, it prepares them for my current place. It doesn’t add up. So now I am more closely examining the rules and choosing which to follow and which to set aside.

 Retooling the old model.

With help from Ann, Jessica, and Dana at Bikram Yoga Capital Area, I am reconnecting with my old self- the self dedicated to movement and moving with dedication; the self that leaves the studio sopping wet and standing taller with a calm mind, calm pulse, calm perspective; the self with new body goals, new technical goals, new strategies for achieving goals, and new focus.

Much of my understanding of the world stems from my experiences “in the body”. Having this time and experience of reconnecting with my body in an intense, yet supportive way- one that celebrates wellness of mind and body, and where the awareness of where one’s limitations are an observation and not an insult- has been rejuvenating, even emotional. It has been a much needed release, to say the least. I feel prepared mentally, physically, and emotionally to be moving again- as an artist and not just a teacher. I am so thankful for the renewal of that inspiration.

So, let’s dance.



Today is my birthday. I am thirty-six years old. I still feel “more experienced” than my years suggest. This has always been true.

Within this year of being thirty-five, there have been things have gone well and things that have not. As Kurt Vonnegut plainly stated, “So it goes.” But it has been a remarkable year of personal growth, change of perspectives, and even some surprises.

It has been busy.
In recent months, I have been taking two classes at Michigan State University in an effort to renew my teaching certification before it expires this June. On one hand, this has been daunting due to the schedule demands of working full-time, serving on various committees, and raising a family. On the other, my soul has been fed in a way that parenting, wife-ying, dancing, writing, and teaching simply don’t nourish in spite of their own richly satisfying offerings.

It has been validating.
I always appreciate knowing that I know what I am doing because life is a serious of experiments and negotiations. So when I read the words of others that validate my own thoughts and experiences, I feel encouraged and inspired to delve deeper. This is happening in my teaching. And, well, in my living.

It has been re-engaging.
I have what I lovingly refer to as a “tribe of women” that have helped me through life. This is not to say that men haven’t had profound roles in shaping my course, but I have found the kinship of women to be important to how I navigate. Some have been actual teachers, others supporters, mentors, friends, colleagues and so on. Some would easily identify themselves and others would have no idea how influential they’ve been to me. Or how inspiring. But this year I have found great friendships again or anew that have made this year special.

It has been conscious.
I have lost a significant amount of weight. What everyone says is true,….I have more energy, I feel better about myself, blah blah. Being a dancer, I have a whole subset of issues with weight that have presented along the way but ultimately, it has been about me. I am re-identifying with myself and less so, it seems, to my roles. Now that my youngest is about to be 20 months, I am ready to shed the “baby fat”. And I am ready to do that. I won’t ever really be “a dancer” in the way I once defined it, or as my technique class and rehearsal/performance schedule demanded it, but I embrace that dancing is still at my root. I am letting go of some of the demands the profession of dance has imposed upon me, or that I imposed upon myself in response to the profession, and returning to why I started doing this in the first place. Simply, I can’t NOT do it. Ironically, I feel more interested in and eager to dance than I have in a very long time.

It has been fulfilling.
My husband and kids are truly remarkable. Period.

It has been unpredictable.
On Thanksgiving, I participated in my first 5K. This really surprised me. Even while I was driving to the race, pinning on my number, running, and eating a banana, I couldn’t believe it was real. I couldn’t believe that I, in fact, was doing any of these things. In fact, if you had asked me on Wednesday if I had plans to run one, I would have said no. Even though I have been casually running on and off for over a year, this was a little impulsive. It was also necessary. I learned a lot about myself on Thursday; the best being that I don’t know everything about myself yet.

Here’s to thirty-six.

“I’ve got legs!”- My take on collaboration


The good thing about marriage is the assembling of worlds, the meshing of experiences, tastes, and perspectives. The best thing of marriage is finding the infallible support system created upon that foundation. To the former, my other half introduced me to the comedy of Eddie Izzard. Life has not been the same since. There is not a day goes by that I don’t think of an Eddie Izzard quote from one of his stand up routines, and I’ve been a fan for 10 years now. In one of his skits, (Dressed to Kill, I believe) Eddie tells of a playground romance in which he was so dumbstruck that he failed to utter anything more impressive than, “I’ve got legs!” To the latter, in many respects, I could credit my other half as “my legs.” He’s my base, he’s my navigation system, he’s my foundation from which I can do much of what I like and certainly what I need.

Looking at this term from another view, a post-pregnant one, hey- “I’ve got legs!” And I can see them. Wow. It has been a while. I even put them to use the other day as we trekked through a nearby zoo that is more like a nature walk than a concrete pathway for animals on parade. Hello, hamstrings, I’ve missed you. I am glad I’ve found my legs again and C A N N O T wait to put them to use once cleared for rigorous exercise. I think the recovery period is worse than pregnancy in this sense. Sigh….I miss dancing.

Finally, the dance perspective: And no, I am not going to talk about extension or rotation. For years I have recognized that I’ve needed an anchor of support in the varying spheres of dance in which I participate. I’ve tended to collect mentors along my journey and I’ve reveled in the fact that my “teachers” often become even better resources of information/inspiration/perspective once my formal training with them has been “completed”. The older I get, I see that these “mentors” come in all kinds of shapes and sizes- which can be translated as ages and specialties. Considering myself as one with something to learn by these relationships, I continue to think of these artists as “mentors” when perhaps “colleagues” would be more fitting. As I’ve eased into dance education full time, I have found that having a sounding board in the form of a colleague (actually, a community of colleagues) has been essential, particularly since I keep finding myself in one-person program positions!

What is a lonely educator to do?

1. Find someone with a shared aesthetic, different strengths, and a perspective that compliments but does not copy your own.
2. Avoid a “yes man”: someone who will tell you all of your ideas are great (they aren’t always). You need an honest response or even better- someone that can ask the right questions in order to get you to dig deeper in your own view/work/intent.
3. Keep it fresh. Be social. Engage in a community together and compare notes. The more regions- geographical, intellectual, organizationally- you experience, all the better.
4. Stop, Collaborate, and Listen. (heeeheehee….) Share the listening responsibility and create collaborative projects that relate to your daily teaching life without being part of your daily life- projects if you will.
5. Filter. Know what is worth the expending of energy and what is not (this is a lot like choosing battles). Recognize when you need help or when your partner does. Do not assume your collaborator understands what you mean simply because you’ve been working together a long time. Communicate often and effectively.
6. Keep the humor. C’mon, we work in dance. Don’t get me wrong, I take Dance
V E R Y seriously. But, c’mon, we work in dance. No one will die if we don’t complete the weight shift or spiral. Find a way to remember why you enjoyed dance in the beginning and do whatever it takes to keep it. All work and no play makes Martha a very dry experience.

From that list, you can see good partnerships take work as well as a daily decision to engage. Just as in marriage, the “I do” has to occur every day, not just the wedding day.  Maybe I should send a link to William and Kate?

The secret to a good marriage was whispered to me by a very sweet little Spanish woman named Olga, living in L.A.’s Koreatown, while her husband, Jorge, watered the begonias. She was delightful and he always kissed me on the lips (less delightful). And no, the secret does not appear on this list. And no, it does not revolve around activities in the bedroom. And yes, she was right.

Thanks to my current colleagues: EFP, AW, and especially SB. Thanks to my other half: SDS. And thanks to my past mentors and colleagues, of which there are too many to mention by name.