Saturday, March 27, 2010

Doing stuff that scares me

There is this song that I listen to, that isn't really a song as much as a speech set to music, whenever I feel the need to hear some good life advice. One piece of advice is this... "Do one thing everyday that scares you!"

I never follow this advice. I do things that scare me even less often than I floss (which is another piece of advice from the song). I suffer from a chronic case of playing it safe, but the last 2 weeks I've been doing pretty good with the scary stuff. Read on...

1. I went to a meeting of the Young Republicans - which doesn't sound that scary, but I'm so very much a Democrat I was positively sure they would sniff me out as the imposter and eat me alive. (They didn't - they were actually very nice and I don't think anyone even noticed my frequent grimaces of disagreement.)

2. I booked my flight to Uganda. The excitement that comes with a new big and unfamiliar trip is always accompanied by some fear. I think that's a lot of what makes it exciting. Uganda is a country that has been ravaged by a terrible civil war and copes with extreme poverty on a daily basis. I don't think I'm being unreasonable when I say I'm a little scared of going (and crazy excited!).

3. I shook my booty in a crowded bar in very little clothing while I dance battled it out for Samba Queen. Yeah... you'd think dancing in front of a crowd would be old news for me by now... but it's amazing how much your courage is boosted when you are on stage and can't actually see the audience until the bow... and by then they already love you - haha. I'm used to being much further from my audience, surrounded by at least a couple other dancers, and in much more clothing. Oh yeah... and did I mention the 4 inch heels? Yet another obstacle. Man, I was only a little terrified going into that thing... but had such a blast I'm already trying to plan what costume I could make for next year!

4. I hiked to Delicate Arch. Ok... laugh away. The last time I went on that hike I was about 7 years old and completely one hundred per cent freaked by that steep drop on the last leg of the hike... I'm terrified of heights. This is something I've been trying to get over (I walked across the rainforest canopy rope bridge in Ghana, walked out onto the skydeck of Sears Tower and looked about a hundred floors straight down... I'm making progress.) So... some 16 years later I not only made it through the hike, I sat on the steep ledge. Progress.

Most of these things I actually really enjoy once I get the courage to do them. So from now on, I'll be trying my best to do one thing each day that scares me!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oh... Politicos...

What an interesting foray into politics the last few days have been! I'm currently in a medical anthropology class where I'm conducting a research project on people's views on healthcare and its reform. As a part of my research, I ventured over to a meeting of the Young Republicans "Meet the Candidates" night. I am very much a Democrat. The night began with speeches from those running in Utah for the Republican party. I listened to a speech from a lady who prides herself as a conservative woman who hates those evil feminists in government that have scared those good men into a corner (even though the feminist movement began with the women's suffragists who fought for a woman's right to vote which eventually led to a woman even being able to run for office...) I listened to references to those "global warming nuts," which gave me such warm fuzzies inside- all those world class scientist just MUST be nutty. I also listened to an entire speech devoted to the importance of gold... because that's right up there with healthcare, the economy, the war.... (insert sarcasm here). And finally... I heard references to healthcare - my purpose for the night, but very few. Healthcare is not a worry - and it is not something Republicans choose to address unless forced to by the Democrats.

In talking with people afterwards this is what I found out... People are against healthcare reform because we have "the best healthcare system in the world." (Actually, according the the World Health Organization we are ranked 37th... just behind Costa Rica.) And ultimately no one is going to die because they don't have insurance- there aren't piles of people dying outside emergency rooms (even though it is estimated that around 45,000 people die each year because they can't be covered - which is drastically higher than the amount of people who died on September 11, 2001). Also, we don't have the money to reform healthcare... even though it is estimated that the current healthcare bill will REDUCE the deficit - unlike the Bush Tax cuts which increased the deficit by TRILLIONS. There is a fear of what the picking order would be if healthcare were nationalized - not everyone can get treated... so a 22 year old will be treated long before a 60 year old would be... which is fine until the 60 year old is your mother. Ok... so yeah, it would suck if your mom couldn't get healthcare... but currently the poor don't have healthcare - so really... what's the difference? Other than being unable to use your riches to guarantee stellar care? Also, 90% of people in Utah are insured and happy with their care, so any type of reform would be hurting the majority who are already getting just what they need. To that I say... just hope you don't get a chronic disease. Yeah... I'm insured... and I love it when I get strep throat... but diagnose me with a chronic disease that could be termed "pre-existing" and my chances of switching or keeping my insurance goes down dramatically... and that's not cool. Oh yeah... and there's also that whole thing about how the government can't control anything efficiently (even the the US postal service, fire department, and police are pretty wicked awesome...)

So yeah... I don't have a solution to the problem... maybe you do... but something does need to change. Believing that US healthcare is awesome just means you've been ignorant and happy... and healthy.

I didn't outright disagree with people while talking with them (the purpose of the research is to get THEIR opinion- not start a debate, even though it was tempting...). But when asked outright, I did have to admit (with caution, for fear of being pounced on) that I was FOR reform. They wanted a specific example of why. (I shared the mother dear story about the brain surgery turned Epilepsy turned pre-existing condition and my parents' 10-year age difference that has my dad working well into the time he was planning on retiring so my mom can be covered...) This example actually led to someone admitting that my family's situation really did suck *gasp*. Maybe all you need to be convinced that we need reform is to talk to someone who has worked hard their whole lives, done everything right, then gotten sick and been screwed over by the system. Open up your ears politcos because my mother's story is a mild one...

Friday, March 5, 2010

"I feel sexier in the dark..."

I must say that the University of Utah's modern dance program is the shit. There is a reason they are ranked among the top in the country. The dancers/student/faculty are all AMAZINGLY talented, and I feel privileged everyday to have been a part of such an amazing program.

What has me on such a U of U pride kick? ...2 performances I've seen over the last week. First, the Spring Performing Dance Company (which I was lucky enough to be a part of for many years) and Juan and Molly's independent show The Grey Area. (Both of them are U of U alums, and both people I'm lucky enough to think of as friends.)

Performing dance company left me in awe. Dancers do things now that you wouldn't have thought possible years back. They have such control over their bodies. They move with such speed and accuracy that only a fellow dancer could truly appreciate the years of training and skill that goes into such a performance. Works were choreographed by U professors Donna White, Eric Handman, Juan Carlos Claudio, Movement Forum (a dance organization formed by U of U alums), and Steve Koester.

Donna's piece left the most lasting impression on me. Her piece explored the juxtaposition of modern day Italy next to its ancient ruins entitled "Dust and Ruins." This has been something I experienced. Italy is still on my places to visit, but I HAVE been to Greece twice. Part of the magic of Athens is that you can hop off the modern subway and on the walk to your typical delicious Greek restaurant in the Plaka you stroll by old grave sites, glance up at the Parthenon, and can eat lunch with a view of the Roman Agora. It was an experience that left an impression on me and I'm so glad a dance was made that so perfectly conveys my thoughts. Eric Handman's piece, "Organism," was another Eric Handman piece, and those that have seen works by Eric Handman know what I mean when I say this. His movement never fails to amaze me with its magical ease and precision. Juan Carlos Claudio created a work that revolved around a light hanging from the center of the stage called, "Night Moths in an Open Field." "The Surreal World" was a structured improvisation created by Movement Forum. It takes courage and determination to perform a piece on stage where you, the performer, doesn't know what will happen. Stephen Koester's piece, "Storm Passing" was awesome as always.

What I've loved most was a work choreographed by Molly Beardmore-Heller and Juan Adalpe set on U of U faculty member Stephen Koester. It is a rare treat to see our professors perform; they are truly magical. The sound score for his performance was an interview conducted by Molly where she asked Steve to fill in statements like..."I'm proud of..." "I've failed at..." "In my life I've had this many friends..." "In my life I've had this many enemies..." "I feel sexy when..." "Do you fear growing old?' etc. What I love most about the U professors is that they are magical when they move, but they are also incredibly insightful when they speak. What I love most about art is that it allows you to relate to people and have a certain amount of insight into who they are. Steve Koester is a man I greatly respect. He has been referred to as a "genius" when he choreographs and I've always learned so much from his classes while being ridiculously challenged. In some ways he can be a little intimidating... in this piece it was easy to see him as just another person with fears and discomforts but also respect his amazing artistry. He feels sexier in the dark, uncomfortable in the public spotlight, and what he fears most about growing old isn't the growing old part as much as losing the promise of what comes with being young... I'm not sure if those were his exact words, but whatever the exact words were, they were eloquent. Congrats to Molly and Juan on an amazing piece and show... and to Steve for an awesome, revealing, and courageous performance... I love dance.

One of the things I love about no longer being in the dance program is no longer being required to see shows and write reviews on them... Now that I'm "free" I find myself going to shows and writing blogs on them... Oh man.

From the Village to the Stage

First and foremost... the title of this blog post is taken from the research of the wonderful Dr. Zelma Badu-Younge. She gave a wonderful talk on this topic while I was in Ghana and has done extensive research on it.

I've started thinking about this talk a lot lately because I found it so interesting. I have been trained in dance, so I know how to choreograph a piece that is meant for the stage. I've even performed in African dance pieces. The difference? The focus... Taking west African (and lately for me, Brazilian) dance classes as well as performing these works, the focus is toward the audience. But, when you really get into these cultural dances, and if you are lucky enough to learn about it from locals, the dance (while it may be called the same) looks different and has a different intention behind it.

In Ghana, the dance we learned from the national company was something I was familiar with. It was like many other West African classes I had taken while in the US. What made West African dance magical was when we got to travel to a village and learn the dances from the community. The whole community worked to teach us the movement, rather than one teacher. And they didn't break down the steps in the way a dance teacher would... they just invited you to dance and you followed along. There was no focus on the audience, no concern for who was watching, it was a community, often in a circle, enjoying their culture, heritage and tradition.

I had a similar experience last week. I took a master class with Dance Brazil. I was very impressed. All of these dancers were crazy strong (and fit - I thought I might pass out when class ended...). After the class... we formed a circle and dancers entered to dance and do some Capoeira. Me, being a classic dancer, was struggling to dance without someone giving me the steps... sooooo wishing I wasn't like that. Basically, it turned into one big Brazilian party. SUCH fun! The next night we went to see the performance. It was totally different - still beautiful, but completely Americanized from what we had experienced the night before. I was in a modern dance show, that happened to include some more movement of the torso and a few capoeirsta moves... I missed the Brazilian party from the night before.

Dances change a lot when prepared for the stage. I understand why it is necessary to do this, but I do think a little bit of the magic gets lost. The American influence on cultural dances goes far and wide... from West Africa to Brazil.

Color Me Happy

Check out my awesome shoes! They tell me I am awesome each time I wear them... which makes me happy. Lately, it has been something I need to hear. What makes them more awesome? I got them for Christmas from my mother dear (who I love, who also has a pair) and they were picked out by my sister (who also got some for Christmas) and they were recently e-bayed by my dear friend April (who now also has a pair).

Beyond them being awesome, they are now owned and worn by all of my favorite people. Friendship kicks? Perhaps...