July 30, 2012

I was going to write about purging. We've been planning (for almost 4 months) to move to a larger living space with more work-at-home space, and moving day is tomorrow. The house is over the river in a strange place they call...St. Paul?

The best part of moving is the sorting and ridding of clutter. This week we cleaned, threw out, and sent a whole carload of things over to Savers. You know, that shirt that I always think I will wear, but never want to. Dishes that don't get used. Knickknacks that someone gifted me, but which have never been my taste. It turns out that I don't need many things. I'd be happy to wear a Laura uniform each day (with 32 pieces of flair, of course), and drink out of the same mug. I just want the things I love on the wall, like the photos my friend Avye took and framed as a wedding gift.

So, it was a house cleanse. And, I breathed easier after I gave away boxes and boxes of things.

But, then we got some bad news. Our moving process is...changing. We have a sick family member. He'll be ok, but this news is delaying our moving process by at least a month. So, tomorrow when we move out of our sweet little apartment (the cutest apartment), we're moving to the suburbs. No joke: The far north 'burbs- in with my in-laws for the month.

We're trying to look at this like an adventure. It could be undercover research for a post-modern dance piece! I mean, I've never lived in the suburbs.

In reality, it's a challenging change-of-plans, and we're worried about our sick family member.

BUT, it's proving to be a beautiful little lesson: you can plan the shit out of life, and life will still surprise you. And, sometimes this is good. I think it calls us to be more present- to drop out obsessive plans and just let.go. There is only so much that you can control, and this is true for artistic process, your business plans, and your daily existence. You can show up and do your work every day, but there is a piece that is still totally outside of you and those plans. And, this is both the bitch of being human, and the total beauty of it.

Why 'NO' is a freaking awesome word

July 24, 2012

Say 'no' and take yourself to coffee.

As the middle child of 5, I perfectly fit the stereotype: eager to please, anxious to keep everyone happy-- and an over-achiever to boot!

And, as the daughter of another middle child yes-sayer, I’m more than aware of how this behavior makes you feel in the long-term: overextended, tired, and with little time to consider what kinds of things you actually want at the top of your priority list.

When I first graduated from college, yes-ing was a must, and it helped me gather a lot of valuable experiences. If someone needed a person who would work on their performance project with late nights and long hours (and little pay), I was their gal. I combined teaching dance in the 'burbs with working full-time at a restaurant, making my own choreography, and dancing in other people’s work. Understandably, I was a little tired, but I had youth and enthusiasm on my side.

Fast-forward eight years later, and I made a magical realization: I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything anymore. And, when I’m overwhelmed from too much yes-ing, I have no one to blame but myself. Further more, saying yes to everything prevents me from being great at anything. Half-assing six things feels awful. Why not pick the one you really like and do it well?

It turns out that saying 'no' (or negotiating better hours- or better pay) is totally doable and totally awesome. It turns out that no one is going to shake their finger at you for turning them down. And, usually people have mad respect for your boundary setting and personal standards.

So, when I recently was offered a project that I wanted to take- but which required more hours than I was comfortable with- I had a serious sit-down. I got quiet and I did some channeling of my hippie upbringing. I took some time to visualize what I want my day-to-day life to look like (if I could have it any way I like)- right now. I got REALLY specific and REALLY honest with myself. It helped me figure out what terms I needed to ask for.

When I interviewed her, Jen Scott said that there are 3 reasons to do something: you like it, it pays well, or it gets you where you want to go. I couldn't agree more. The key thing for me has been re-evaluating where I want to go. And then, honestly asking, is this experience going to help me get there? Here's the tricky thing: you can't have ALL THE THINGS at once. And, you can't be good at ALL THE THINGS (unless you're a superhero). You are a limited resource!

And, when denying others gets tricky, you can use my friend Ashley’s method. In England, they use the phrase ‘I couldn’t possibly’. She taught this to me when I lived with her, and it works like a charm. When you say ‘I couldn’t possibly’, no one even knows what to say. It’s non-negotiable: You. Can’t. Do it.

So, go say 'no'. And then start get excited for all of the 'yes' things you chose to make space for.

Lessons In Artistic Process

July 23, 2012

Yesterday we submitted our film for Dances Made To Order. The two weeks sped by!

Overall, the process was smooth. Our performers were incredible to work with, and Ben has been a camera rockstar (my jobs during the shoot were specifying movement, offering opinions, and fetching equipment).

Like any artistic process, this experience has been full of valuable learning opportunities. So, I thought I'd share some of these.

1. Simplify-- figure out what you really need.

Our original plan was to shoot in four locations: a library, a grocery store, a house, and a train station. The film is just 5-6 minutes long. As soon as we started navigating the world of release forms and company permissions, I knew we were in over our heads. Because we wanted to pay our performers, Ben and I could only afford to have each of them for two half-days (4 hrs) of shooting. To get our shooting into just twelve hours, we needed to plan carefully, and we needed to have a controlled environment (i.e. not public) for at least part of the shoot.

It came down to asking ourselves this: What are we trying to communicate? Can we say this in a simpler way and make life easier for ourselves without compromising the film? Do I really need those additional 8 props?

We didn't.

2. Set parameters.

I believe firmly that a lot of artistic magic happens when we set boundaries in our project. Usually I get better ideas when there are fewer options. For instance, when we decided on shooting in just two locations, I could really think about the possibilities those locations presented us with.

3. If always takes longer than you think. Prepare accordingly.

Well...yes. I always think "we can shoot that easily in an hour." Or, four hours.

3.) Be flexible when collaborating- you aren't the only artist in the room.

'Dance film' and 'dance' are two very different beasts. Not all dance makes for a good film. There were things I wanted in the film that I had to cut out. There were also opinions that Ben brought to the table that changed our way of working-- because it was a collaboration.

4.) Leave a certain amount up to chance.

I carefully prepare for every rehearsal and shoot, but a certain amount of unpredictability always enters the picture. I actually love this, even though thinking on my feet can be scary when we have a very short amount of time to work in. An hour before one of our shoots, we got a UPS delivery! Our dear friend, Betsy, made us a 1 year anniversary present-- a quilt! Looking at all of its bright colors and intricate patterns, we decided we should probably shoot Megan doing her movement on the bed, rather than next to the bed. This last minute addition added so much color to our shots. But, I couldn't have predicted the quilt's arrival. Similarly, parts of the concept came from our first brainstorming rehearsal. I had no idea what Charles and Megan were going to do/say in that rehearsal. I just had to let go and trust that it would all work out.

[The Minneapolis edition of Dances Made To Order premieres on their website on Wednesday. You can purchase online viewing for all 3 films for $10!]

Starting: Dances Made To Order

July 9, 2012

Remember Dances Made To Order? Well, the Minneapolis edition has started!  Specifically, it started Friday morning, when Ben and I received the results of the voting from audience members. We discovered that we have to somehow incorporate the following words/ideas into our dance film:
  • wabi-sabi

  • real/false

  • left behind

We have 2 weeks to shoot and edit our 5-6 minute film.

Well, where do you start?

All we really knew in the beginning was that we had two great performers lined up: Charles Campbell and Megan Mayer.  We needed locations to shoot in (most public locations require permission and specific planning), a script, music that we could get rights to, movement, incorporate the ideas that were voted on.

So we started with a rehearsal where we talked and wrote a lot, and did strange movement improvisations.

And, we played with objects that may or may not end up being a part of the film.

We finally have a working structure to the piece, and I'm creating a script and movement for when we start shooting tomorrow.

I confess: In the more-or-less year long break that I've taken from making things, I haven't had to think on my feet the way that I do in rehearsal situations.  I had a brief moment of panic as I walked into the space for our first meeting Friday night. I thought oh my god I might faaaaaail, which is such a self-defeating way of beginning things, because it totally freezes your brain.

Also, when you're collaborating, you have to come to some kind of agreement with your collaborator. When you're collaborating with your partner/husband/spouse person, if raises those stakes. There's nothing so sexy as going over your shot list for a rehearsal late at night, and reminding your partner about the list of obscure props he needs to somehow locate while you're at work. we go. And I think it promises to be fun-- or at least scary in the best way.

{You can see the trailer for the Minneapolis edition here. It appears that a fake-sexy wink is not something I should keep in my acting repertoire.}

keep on moving

July 5, 2012

I read these words from creative entrepreneur Andrea Scher yesterday, and I loved them.

Go on, read away.

I count myself among a huge number of creative folks who get in their own way. I over-think decisions, and wait for perfection before moving ahead.

What Andrea is suggesting is that we act now, and adjust our course later if we need to. She's suggesting that we trust that even if we get it wrong the first time, it's ok. It's more important that we do something than that we do the perfect thing.

The other awesome thing? Action makes you act more. It feels good to move- and it feels awful to find yourself in a holding pattern.

So, here's to Andrea's advice: Ready. Fire. Aim.

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