When the Body Answers Back

We know our stories are trapped in our bodies. We know we use our bodies to express personal perspectives within our stories. But what about when the body needs to do the speaking?

When I was living in NYC, one of my favorite classes was that of Alexandra Beller. She started each class with us laying on our backs, talking us through our bodies, giving us permission to let go of whatever we had been trudging through prior to class and to simply be before she invited us to move.

It never failed, each and every time I would get a lump in my throat, tears would stream from my eyes, and it seemed to come from nowhere. As I described in my post about David Howard’s class, here I was accepted as a person and then supported as a dancer. It was empowering, complex, surprising, and thought-provoking. Over ten years later, I am still thinking about it.

Over the years, I have had students go through similar experiences in my own class. This summer, I have finally had that feeling again in my practice of Bikram yoga.

Interestingly, this topic keeps coming up as I communicate with people from all over the dance map.

It makes me think the conversation needs to be opened.

In grad school, one area of my research was how organized movement curricula can help alleviate symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This, for me, was a brief and shallow advance into the world of research but the topic keeps cropping up in everything else I research and in all facets of my teaching- embodied learning for at-risk students, learning styles and methods for delivering information in a dance classroom, and more.

Without going into too much personal detail, I have experienced many traumas (death of a parent, being in NYC on 9/11, several robberies,….) and I have been conscious of how my body has felt and how my dancing has been impacted as a result of events. Things have helped and hindered along the way but nothing has had the profound effect for me as I have encountered this summer.

Through movement and possibly related to certain environmental conditions, I have felt the ‘baggage’ I have been carrying for years shift and eventually be left behind. Not all of it, but a substantial amount.

I have acknowledged the unevenness of sides of my body- in feeling like I am laying on an incline while in reality laying on flat ground, in sensing complete relaxation on the left side of my body while the right side is tense literally from the top of my head to the toes, even in wanting to cry but only on the right side of my face.

My head has flooded with thoughts that I have not allowed myself to entertain and in the next posture those thoughts flooded out.

I have felt the front of my body roar like a lion and I have cried, and cried, and cried- not in sadness but in release.

My body, mind, and spirit feel stronger than…..well, maybe ever.

In the reading I have done in recent weeks, I am suspecting that this breakthrough is, naturally, because I am ready. However, the environmental conditions of the yoga experience might also be important in my case. Namely, the heat.

Bikram as I understand, is the original hot yoga and all of this- the heat, the focus on my own practice and not that of my students, and the dedicated time to myself-  has returned me to when I was dancing intensely, in hot studios, sweating immensely, and so on. For me, living in NYC and dancing my way through the summer, all of this is relevant to conditions not directly relating to trauma but surrounding the trauma. It has taken me back to the time and not the event. And dance, the technical practice and focus on my progress and process, has been consistent in the time of all other traumas.

None of this has been easy, but it has been necessary. Due to the conversations I have had with others over the last few weeks, I feel prompted to share this in the spirit of “you are not alone”.

My experiences have been dependent upon my interactions with Alexandra Beller, Trent McEntire, and the instructors of Bikram Yoga Capital Area, as well as everyone else that has shaped my life’s path in movement and stillness.

For all those that have had similar experiences or may in the future- keep moving. May you find your own guides, maybe even in the most unexpected of people or situations. At any rate, I hope you find your release.

Mind the Gap(s)

Over the last few years I have realized that my role in dance is that of a mediator. This summer, however, I am realizing just how many realms in which this is true. In this, though, I am also more aware of my own biases and working on letting some of those go.

Here is a sample:

Academic – Studio Dance There seems to be a natural rift between those that have trained within the concert dance philosophy and those those training in the studio dance philosophy. Even as I type that I realize another- those that have trained and those currently training and perhaps that is part of the friction in academic and studio dance relationships. The process of evolution is different within those two worlds.

As I see it right now, dance academics have evolved away from their commercial or recreational dance roots and have forgotten how -or forgotten their interest- in connecting with the tan-tight, sequined, or booty shorted youth newly entering their space. Likewise, the evolution of the studio dancer seems to depend on the athleticism and current movement trends. It is an evolution of the body that sometimes excludes the mind and spirit other than adrenaline and satisfaction that comes with performance and all that comes with that- positive and negative.

I think some of the hesitation of getting theoretical with teen dancers has been an issue of wanting to engage through entertainment (keeping up with the Joneses) and not expecting them to be capable of thinking through big ideas.

It isn’t true.Even early elementary kids are capable if their educational guide is patient and most importantly, willing.

I think our best strategy would be to stop setting expectations and simply start from wherever we are- as people, dancers, citizens, thinkers, doers, beings.

Recently, I had the realization that most of what we view as being in poor taste is really just an inheritance of limited information. Take studio dance fashion, for instance, and the comparison to what is worn in an academic dance setting. Both are wearing “booty” shorts these days but because one might have some sequined detailing or tan tights underneath, the “evolved” feel the discomfort of the depth of conversations that have NOT been had with that student and the tendency is to joke. I am so guilty.

In reality, though, the wardrobe is just an extension of the intention of training and a reflection of the evolution to be expected. In my day, it was French-cut leotards. With a belt run under the leg holes in back and on the outside in front. Classy. But I was serious. I was committed. I evolved into a deep thinking dancer concerned about Dance as an art form, a way of being and knowing, a method to finding embodied learning and able to talk shop with the best of them.

Some of the other gaps:

Dance as Entertainment – Dance as an Intellectual Pursuit This one is particularly painful for me, I admit. I have been surprised at how often in recent years, I have had to defend why I teach dance the way I do. I have been met with great supporters but also a segment of families/students that don’t know why I “refuse” to use pop music, moves found in music videos, and so on.

Artists – Educators In some ways, this is the inspiration for my blog. This site started as a means to communicate with fellow “underdogs” and share my real world experiences as new graduates (or old) entered their own journeys. I was continually frustrated with artists not explaining their struggles experienced when they first started their professional paths.

Think about it- most biographies go from the family, upbringing, and early training of an artist- touch on their artistically formative years (beyond training)- and suddenly jump in to the history of their tours or projects. Little discussion is offered about the obstacles of becoming dance-makers and thinkers. We jump to when they were recognized as brilliant. Or so it seems to me. And the same seemed to happen when I was able to ask artists about this.

So, my mission became to chronicle one dancer’s journey- tangential and all- within and around the field of dance. Along the way, this has turned into a site that explores teaching experiences more than life experiences. Though, like everything else, those two things can’t be separated. I just choose to talk less about my children than my classroom- maintaining somewhat of a gap based on comfort level and respect for my home. 😉

There are more gaps than this but I will stop here for today.

Moral of the story: We are all just doing the best we can with what we have. My job is to meet people where they are and hope they have an interest in moving further along their path. If not, maybe we can have a good time moving.

Which gaps are you mindful of these days?

Renewal: Controlling the Minutiae

Each summer seems to have a theme, beyond that of our television viewing. (See For the Love of the TARDIS)

“Dr. Who Summer” continues in all gloriousness. I sobbed over David Tennant but am warming up to Matt Smith.

Past years have included “the summer of awakenings”, “the summer of reflection”. This year? The summer of renewal.

  • I am back “in” my body.
  • My body is back in contact with my mind and my spirit.
  • Some old relationships feel rekindled.
  • I am back into the guest teaching and project planning that was common for me pre-kids or at least pre- 2 kids.

I am clearer on who I am, what my strengths are, where I would like to see myself in the next 5 years and I am starting to take the steps to get there.

The last 5 years have been full of learning and loving; taking in new teaching situations, content, environment, professional expectations, and methods for delivering information. I have learned and processed a lot.

It is now time for me to push myself in sharing what I have come to know. It is time I follow through in the academic writing, and publishing, that I have put off in exchange for curriculum writing, program development, freelance writing, and choreographing you know, 20 plus dances a year for a K-8 program.

In reality, though, there have been other obstacles. I think of it is as the minutiae- these small, accumulating tasks or inconveniences that add up to block the path or tire you out with detours.

Reading Shawn Lent’s  “Am I A Dancer Who Gave Up: A Follow Up” helped me identify some of the areas of conflict I have been experiencing between the dance world and the non-dance world (I resist the urge to type “real” world there).

The Chatter
Like Shawn, I get frustrated with the dance conversation. I, too, love dance people but I have really strong feelings about needing a vision in or through dance. So many dance people I have interacted with seem to have lost theirs, if ever they had one, and I find myself having difficulty connecting with them let alone collaborating. Or maybe it isn’t the dance thing, it is the personality thing- the people that do want more from their art and those that don’t. Or worse, those that think they do and have no idea the work they produce (in their teaching or their choreography or their community relationships) really isn’t accomplishing much.

Or maybe there is more that I am not seeing and the problem lies with me. At any rate, withdrawing from some portions of the conversation doesn’t really help any one. I better get back in there.

The Current
Several years ago, again when I was teaching at a small liberal arts college in a rural town in Michigan, a guest artist asked me how I stay current. I have been thinking about this for years.

At the time, I said that I learn new things and immerse myself in new situations. My example was knitting. (He must have thought I was NUTS. Okay, maybe I am).

But I felt it was important to have the urge to make, tangible things in addition to ephemeral, to remember what it is like to learn a series of steps and put them in specific patterns, to analyze small scale movement as well as large, to return to a place of wrong and right methods with direct outcomes, and to just recall what it is like to learn new things- the frustration, the excitement, the pride). The process of learning and making has, I think, been invaluable in keeping up with the world, even in the world of dance.

Thanks to the internet and friends doing great things in all facets of dance, I feel that I have been able to stay up to date if not “current” in spite of not having the budget to travel, attend national conferences, and living in a place where I have to wait to see world-class companies on their next tour instead of their next season. Time has even prevented me from taking part in more local dialogue (Much of the dance events in my state seem to be scheduled for the same weekends!) Well, time and a little chatter.

But I do know what he meant. As a choreographer, and an artist- how do I thrive. I think the usual stance on this is to see what work is being made and then how does one recreate it with a personal stamp. I get that. I even value that. But it isn’t exactly for me. Not to say I don’t need some fresh ideas and could benefit from new visual experiences- I do, I could!. But the process has led the creative work for me- the relationships, the perspectives to a topic by all in the room, the democracy of art making with people beyond physical pictures. That has led to my work feeling current. I continue to think about this, though, and hope I always will.

All of my work- curriculum writing, program development, freelance writing, and choreographing you know, 20 plus dances a year for a K-8 program- will continue, naturally, but I admit my priorities are shifting a little. I am opening myself to new things, new methods, new attitudes, and new realities.

I am hoping to perform, to publish, to respond, and to revise.

Somehow I hope that if I write it here, I might actually follow through. Help me keep on track, won’t you?

Beyond the Body

Recently, I wrote about the struggle of explaining to new people what it is I do in a way that speaks the breadth and depth of my experiences and the field of dance. This morning via Facebook, this article by Shawn Lent came across my phone and my wheels have been turning ever since.

I have before written about the “Underdogs”- those that find the unconventional paths in dance and how we can rally and support each other. Now, though, my mind further turns to education- the environments that teach about dance but often short change the potential for dance in terms broader than stage and studio.

I realize much of one’s purpose in life isn’t taught or directed in a classroom. In theory, it is the content, the experiences, and the interactions that lead to what my grandmother would call, “all part of life’s rich pattern”. But there are threads and stitches that can be at the very least, made visible for those ready to admire or those not ready to at least know they exist.

Choreographers in college programs are often encouraged to work in liberation of how dance has been made in the past but this usually deals with form and structure, maybe content, not usually function, purpose, and social potential.  We are always asking for innovation in choreographic terms, but what about in dance theory courses. And does it really make for these experiences to be taught in isolation of each other anyway?

When do we put the “how” down for a while and get back to the “why” of art-making?

A few years ago, while directing the dance minor program at a liberal arts college, I taught at a festival for high school students. An MFA candidate from my alma mater was also there and asked if I wished I was teaching dance majors. My response was easy- no. I explained my philosophy of dance and how I feel compelled to educate everyone on how dance serves their lives, their studies, and their relationships. I liked that dance minors weren’t all “dancers” but committed to applying dance to their other areas of studies and were taking risks in the studio and in the community through dance. The MFA candidate’s response was that he thought that was very “responsible” of me.


But where should the responsibility be placed to bring new pathways to dance students?

And what is the responsibility of art in the first place?

Maybe it is because of the guest teaching I have been doing this summer and the fact I have been blurring lines between coaching performance, teaching technique, and introducing composition to teen dancers. We are working in sophisticated ways out of the typical teen-dance norm. And they have been brilliant.

But it leads me to think…..

  • Why are most guest artists technicians or choreographers….why not include more dance theorists, experts in pedagogy, community engagement (for real), thinkers, do-ers, writers,…..practitioners.
  • Or, instead of having these people come in and talk or lecture, put them into practice. Give practical examples of what their work is like.
  • Why not partner with other departments? Treat arts departments like humanities and explore communication and human experience through artistic disciplines. Collaborate with non-arts departments to examine how the same problem could be solved or examined through two or more lenses. Compare and contrast the outcomes.

There are so many possibilities beyond and including the stage and studio. I am bored with the labels, the singular visions, the bottom line to determining value being how to neatly describe something in a couple words, so that the funding will come and the product can be showcased.

I don’t know….

Let’s just go blur some more lines.

Time: slow, steady, rich, lasting

This weekend has felt absolutely indulgent. All due to time, or rather, our attitudes about time.

In reality, our schedule has been relatively consistent to other weekends. The change has come in our activities and our decision to ignore the clock.

  • My husband and I had precious conversations much after our usual bedtime.
  • We frolicked at Lake Michigan for as long as we liked. We left our phones in the car and took time as it came and went, just like the waves.
  • And I husband and I each had solo time in the water to swim, bob, flow, and watch our happy kids from a distance- enjoying the sand, the sun, the water, and each other.
  • We stopped worrying about every thing being even and focused on it being fair. Each child had time with each parent in the water until they, and we, were satisfied. There wasn’t a clock to track equal minutes yet we all survived.

So, of course, I am thinking of how this relates to how dance has conditioned me to approach time.

  • Time is to be played with to make movement more compelling.
  • Time is to be considered in making my body stronger, more efficient, more expressive.
  • Time “off” hasn’t really been encouraged. In fact, the answer to most any dance problem has been dance more. Although, that is not exclusive to dance-isn’t this basically how Americans define “professionalism”?

I realized yesterday that we, as a family, need to schedule breaks to “train” our children to take time for rest when they are adults. To know it is ok to relax. It is necessary and it is good. To be able to recognize they need it and should give themselves permission to take it.

When I shared this thought with my friend she said, “Beach your children well.” I love that.

Rest allows for isolation of thought and applied focus.

When we stop moving and thinking simultaneously we can allow the connection of our minds and bodies to continue the conversation in perhaps a renewing way. It works the other way, too. Sometimes we just need to move and enjoy where we are rather than constantly striving for better.

This dedication to time makes me think of artists like Merce- taking time to investigate the potential for movement, for each part of the body. Allowing time for trial, deciding, crafting, creating.

What a concept.


Something in the way she moves…..

There is something in the way my daughter moves that elicits strong physical memories of my childhood.

Both of my kids are highly kinesthetic. My son, perpetually fighting imagined villains, never stops darting, kicking, rolling, falling, and slicing- much to my annoyance (grungey floors in public places) and sometimes embarrassment (totally wrong moment as deemed by socially acceptable behavior).

G is incredibly silly but also incredibly intense. He is a thinker. A deep thinker. Yet, he enters and exits movement without much of a plan and with a total sense of confidence in the process of moving. Whatever happens- it will be good. Moving allows G to free himself in a way his mind won’t always let him do. And as such, sometimes he enters a “state” while moving that can make it hard for him to hear or process the world around him (hence the annoyance of falling, crawling, or rolling on disgusting surfaces in public places). He isn’t naughty, he is committed. He is living. In fact, if he thought he was doing anything wrong, he would be sad and maybe even a little worried. So when we talk about it before it happens, on our way into a store or whatever, he often says, “But I am sorry. I will try to remember but what if I can’t help it.” And then the sound effects resume, I sigh, and then say, “keep trying, kiddo”.

I also know that he doesn’t do this all of the time. He does this when he feels safe- emotionally, physically- like when he is with my husband or me, or a few others. He doesn’t do this in his classroom; he waits until the right time- recess or after school.

H on the other hand, is aware of everything in her environment when she is moving. She uses movement for problem-solving and for interpreting the world around her. She doesn’t trace new objects with her hands- she does it with her feet and sometimes her whole body. She is a climber, and her movement is controlled, precise, owned. She, in spite of being 2, knows her body well. She makes me hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me, with a sigh, to “put your legs down-it isn’t lady-like.” I now realize, given the tone of her voice and the presence of the sigh, talking to me must have been a lot like talking to G, even if the movement was different.

While I understand G’s relationship to movement, H’s relationship very much mirrors my own. Movement heightens her awareness. I was the dancer that noticed when the light cues were called at different times in spite of complex movement phrases and other performance stimuli. I was the dancer that could process outside of rehearsal hiccups that were interfering with the dance, even if the problem wasn’t near me spatially or obvious to me visually. When I sensed my way through the dance outside of rehearsal, the answers would come to me. Movement truly is how I interact with the world.

Beyond the front door……
I realize movement, and body, also determine much of how I relate to others and consequently how they relate to me. It isn’t a golden rule by any means, but I think I am noticing that even though the person I am with and I have a common verbal language, if we have drastically different movement/body experiences we have a hard time connecting. It goes beyond topics and moves into how we understand the world in addition to how we perceive it. I am often left feeling like I have no idea what to “say”.

It makes me watchful of how my kids interact with others and how people interact with them. It also makes me wonder about the social norms and how much movement impacts personal impressions beyond mere body language (posturing and facial expression) and levels of energy. I think about the labels that are often doled out and how sometimes it seems to be a matter of relationship to movement. No new revelations there, of course, but I feel for the kids (people) that don’t have an adult or someone in their life that understands and can advocate.

In my teaching, I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about learning styles so that all learners feel welcomed and can access the material I want them to adopt. While I have understood, intellectually, that there are different kinds of kinesthetic learners this summer time with my kids has been especially enlightening.

Hope you are enjoying the movement of summer, too.

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.

Here is the link to a review of two new excellent reads. Check them out! Prepping for the Common Core with Two Informational Dance Texts | Dance Advantage


History Moves: Using the Creative Process to Explore Dance History

Here is my December article for Dance Advantage.

Four Confessions and a Concern

Recently, dance educator Sheena Jeffers wrote the blog post, “Teaching Dancers: Non-serious v. Serious” to which I contributed a few brief thoughts as did our highly esteemed friends, Nichelle at Dance Advantage and Dance_Reader. Sheena is an inspired teacher with a clear perspective and serious motivation. Her post was started as a conversation on Twitter that has had my wheels turning for some time. Here’s where I am right now.

Confession Number 1

I don’t think we necessarily need a million more professional dancers but we do need smarter people and an arts literate culture. Dance can do both.

Dance training takes on many different looks and often there is a primary focus: to produce professional dancers.  Anyone else encountered on the road is met with polite interest and tolerance if they manage to hold their own. If they don’t, or they decide to follow a different path, then they simply didn’t have “what it takes”. In this sense, the objective becomes subjective; the business becomes personal. The person that left is dismissed; the one that remained is lauded.

The hierarchy in dance education somehow remains- those that “do” are often more valued than those that “practiced” as if somehow those that watch, fund, discuss, teach, and advocate are lesser than those that perform and create.

Confession Number 2

Once upon a time, that was my view. I felt my “success” was mainly due not necessarily to talent or skill, but desire and passion. I suppose I still do, but in very different terms than when I started teaching.

When I was a student in a college dance pedagogy course, we were instructed to write a paper “teaching” something that we felt we did better than others- something that we felt set us apart from the rest. Expecting turns, leaps, or petite allegro, I suspect my professor was taken aback when I submitted my paper topic as “passion”. After a brief conversation, she directed to another professor (the grand lioness of the department) to talk over my point of view.

We eventually agreed that passion could be inspired but not taught.

That said, I still felt if one was majoring in dance, or pursuing a life as a professional dancer, one needed to “put up or shut up”, “go big or go home”, “go balls to the walls” …you get the idea.  When it came to being cast in a piece or dancing in technique class, it wasn’t that I was competitive with my peers. I was competitive with myself.

But I imagined the life of a dancer to be one of privilege due to sacrifice. I didn’t feel everyone deserved to be a dancer simply because they wanted to be, but because they earned the right to be. I suppose I still do, but in very different terms than when I started teaching.

When I set out to finally accomplish what I’d been dreaming about for years, I was stunned to find it wasn’t my dance experiences that shaped my happiness- it was the rest of me that had gone unacknowledged, unnoticed, undeveloped in the years I focused so sharply on preparing for professional dance. I remembered that I liked to read books, write, spend time with friends, watch movies, take walks in parks, learn, teach, laugh,…..  And it didn’t all have to be connected to dance in order for me to still be a dancer (even professional), and for me to be serious about my craft.

It took years, but I finally understand that I am not a lesser dancer. I am a better person.

These experiences have made me a better teacher. Teaching has made me a better parent and vice versa.

Confession Number 3

Here’s the thing: I hope there comes a time, a turning point in a dancer/dance educator’s life, when that view changes- not just intellectually, but sincerely. When it shifts from being something that we acknowledge could be true (in a very politically correct way) to something we believe. When we truly and honestly push forward with an understanding that each of us wears many different hats, and we each have a role to play in the enhancement of our aesthetics and our communities. When we put aside what separates us from them as a category and instead use it as a tool to push dialogue, boundaries, and forge collaboration.

Confession Number 4

I used to think I wanted to only teach “serious” dancers. For me, this meant dancers that were as dedicated and committed as I was. This meant dancers that saw themselves dancing professionally and would not stop until they “made it”.

Now, I want to teach.

I used to think that I needed to bring students to my level of commitment, understanding, and eventually mastery.

Now, I meet them where they are.

I used to think my favorite students would be the “best”. That probably meant technically/artistically/behaviorally.

Now, they are sometimes the ones that learned the most, those that make me laugh the most, or those that I’ve spent the most time with (which may include detention!). They are always the ones that trust me enough- or will risk enough- to share a meaningful moment, idea, or laugh.

A Concern

I hope this post doesn’t seem critical of the views Sheena and others shared in her original post. My intention is quite the opposite- to highlight that teaching is just as much of a journey as learning. We each have our individual styles, needs, motivations, and goals.

The important thing is that there is thought, care, and a willingness to discuss. Thanks to Sheena, Nichelle, Dance_Readers and others for these three things and so many more.