Bodies…

Bodies… women’s bodies… used to be pretty scary.

Let’s take the Victorian era – women were tied into their corsets, buttoned into their boots, skirts down to their ankles. Covered up. Repressed.

The 20’s were better, weren’t they? Shorter skirts, boots and corsetry gone. Such improvement… Yet, in 1923 in Boston, when Isadora Duncan was dancing on stage in a silk tunic and her breast fell out of her tunic when dancing (no leotards at that time), the U.S. was in an uproar. “The outcome… was a degree of bodily revelation unbecoming to a middle-aged woman…” “Audience is disgusted!” “Her costume was exceedingly scant… and the upper part persisted in slipping down,” stated newspaper articles all over the country. People were not just shocked. They were disgusted. (1)

Well, it is better now, isn’t it? We see scantily clad women in bikini bathing suits cavorting on the beach. Women’s bodies and sexually stimulated advertisements hit us in the face multiple times every day. Certainly we are inured to the visual stimulation of a female in 2017. Or are we?

We live in an era where women’s bodies are still expected to be perfect. Young, thin, fit. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but there is something wrong if that is the expectation that we are all supposed to fulfill.  We live in a society where eating disorders are rampant (2), where models wearing a size 6 (that is my size) are cast as PLUS-size models (3) and (4), where girls are sent home from school for ridiculous standards of dress (5), and where women are still regularly slut-shamed (6) and blamed for inciting rape (7). Furthermore, new studies show that millennials are not attracted to large breasts. (8)

To me that says that women’s bodies are still frightening. Our own bodies are frightening. And the sexuality of those bodies – the most frightening of all. Some of my most recent students identify as asexual. I understand that asexuality is a legitimate gender identity, and I do not intend to diminish or even question it. Nevertheless, it seems to me that completely foregoing sexuality entirely, denying it even exists, is a reasonable response to the strange and confusing combination of sexual obsession and sexual repression. Sometimes, I feel like it would be just so much easier to give it up entirely. Our bodies are relentlessly defined as sexual, and at the same time we are condemned and judged for having sexual bodies. Who wouldn’t want to give it all up?

I recently performed burlesque at an Isadora Duncan dance symposium. The presentation (performance demonstration and discussion) was on the use of burlesque in Duncan dance. I told the audience that I would be stripping down to pasties and a g-string and if they could not handle it, they should leave now. No one left then. Some left later. Because mentally, it sounds okay. But, then when you see it, it is a little raw. A little revealing. Seeing a naked women dancing, storytelling with her body, and stripping, are way more emotional than you thought it would be. Because it is a real situation; a real act; a real female body on a real stage, not an air-brushed photo in a magazine. And this female body was doing things that were happy, flirty, loving, sexy. It was powerful. It was emotional. And for many, it was – is – still scary.

I knew I would be dealing with historical purists. People who worship Isadora Duncan or think they do. People who think the Victorian way of dress should never have gone away.  One person asked, essentially, if taking off my clothes was required or part of the artistic expression of the dance. Another person asked if I was (paraphrased) debasing Isadora’s high art by doing it in bars. And people questioned whether taking my clothes off was really feminism, at which I patiently reminded them that sexuality is actually a part of being a woman.

Not all reactions were negative. One person said it made her really uncomfortable, but then she realized that what Isadora Duncan had done made people really uncomfortable, too. And maybe we should feel uncomfortable more often. Some people wanted to do burlesque. Because once they saw it, they could see the fun, see the empowerment, see the strength in the dance, in the movement, in the freedom. A freedom to be what we want on the stage, regardless of our sexuality.

But we are still taught that our women’s bodies are somehow wrong. At the same event, one of the showings after mine featured a group of serious modern dancers portraying a “cabaret” style modern dance in their underwear. To me, it was a formal dancer response to woman’s sexuality. They called it Air in a G-String, but Air in a Boy Short would have been way more appropriate.

The dancers were all stereotypical modern dancers – all very fit, thin dancers with small chests and slim hips. They all wore plain utilitarian black underwear. All of them wore boy shorts – some that I would even consider bike shorts. (I wear less on my ass when go-go dancing at shows.) I talked with the creator after the showing and she said that the ladies all picked “what they were comfortable wearing.”   In the performance, the dancers would occasionally hold both hands behind their head in what I consider a traditional burlesque sexy power pose. They giggled or looked embarrassed. Not just the dancers, but furtive audience giggles could also be heard. Not hilarious giggles. Embarrassed giggles.

Then the dancers did the crotch covering move. Covering their crotch – which was fully covered already – with one or two hands. As if to protect it. No self-respectable cabaret or burlesque performer does that unless it is tongue-in-cheek,. This was not. This was a whitewashed, asexualized version of women’s sexuality. It was fascinating how dance intellectuals view women’s bodies, their own bodies, and women’s sexuality. It was sad. Why can’t we embrace who we are? Or do we really think women have no sex, should claim no sex, that we really only do it for men? Have we forgotten that we too have sexual organs, have sexual needs, have orgasms? Have we forgotten that enjoying our sexuality is an inherent benefit of being human? Of being alive?

I teach burlesque a lot. One of the scariest things we do in burlesque is taking off our clothes for other people. Showing our bodies. Showing our vulnerabilities. Showing our sexuality. It is eventually empowering. But there is still a scariness in that vulnerability. Because in this culture, we are often not allowed to celebrate our bodies or our sexuality, as part of our celebration of feminist culture. As part of our celebration of ourselves and what we can achieve, we seem to forget – or are told to leave at the door – our innate sexuality.

Where in the known female stereotype is the hot sexy woman? Is she in the maiden, the mother, the crone? With the maiden we associate innocence and virginity, the mother a certain pious caring, and the crone we certainly consider too decrepit to want or need sex. Actually, the sex is in all three – we are just very good at distancing it from our “respectable” views of what a woman should be.

The superwoman who has a home, family, and a job is never revered for her sexuality. It fades into the background. Tits at work are scary. Men can’t control themselves (9) and it is all our fault.   Look nice, but not too nice. Look like a woman, but not too much like a woman. Be feminine, but not too feminine. And not too masculine either. We have a very small crosswalk of acceptability. If we step outside of those lines, we are liable to get run over. What does getting run over look like? Anything from slut-shaming, to less pay, to no promotion, to disdain, to date rape. Because it is another excuse to belittle us, to demean us, and most importantly, to control us. Stop letting society limit and control us. Stop letting society tell us that our bodies are bad and that our sexuality is bad.

Let’s accept our bodies, accept our sexuality, and support other women doing the same. We are fucking amazing. Let’s be who we are meant be in this world.

 

 

Yes, these are footnote and links:

(1) Kurth, Peter. Isadora: A Sensational Life, December 2002.

(2) http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

(3) http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2015/08/13/the-model-redefining-high-fashion/?utm_term=.a78f35d2eb06

(4)http://www.bistromd.com/womens-health/why-is-size-six-the-new-plus-size

(5) http://ijr.com/2015/04/290270-school-sends-girl-home-calling-outfit-inappropriate-whats-wrong/

(6) http://www.latimes.com/local/education/lausd/la-me-edu-slut-shaming-20160218-story.html

(7) http://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/sexual-assault-blame

(8) https://www.maxim.com/maxim-man/millennials-dont-care-about-boobs-2017-8

(9) http://www.scarymommy.com/laurah-lukin-runner-responds-to-rape-comment/

 

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Proverb for the Day Archives – August 2017

Neither life nor massages always come with happy endings.

I know I am not a parent.  But I still judge you.

Never be afraid to be yourself. Unless you are a fucking asshole.

I have faith that science is the answer.

Most people don’t want the truth, they just want to believe that what they believe is the truth.

You can’t save anyone else if you don’t save yourself.

When you pick someone apart you should be prepared to put them back together.

If your version of peace is at the cost of other people’s human rights, I vote to keep fighting.

I would rather not throw up unless it is absolutely necessary.

Sometimes the best learned lessons are the ones we teach ourselves.

Stop apologizing for yourself.

You will never improve if the only work you do is to build obstacles for everyone else.

It is sad that you hate yourself so much that you have to denigrate people of color to feel good about yourselves.                                                 Addendum: Now fucking stop it.

My brain is a lot like my computer.  I know that I have the thing I want but I don’t know where it is or what it is called.

Take a fucking stand.

No rain, no rainbow.

I don’t distrust everyone.   Just you.

If you are going to be closed minded you should also be closed mouthed.

I can’t produce a masterpiece every day.  But if I work every day I may produce a masterpiece.

The only thing that is really unprofessional about my appearance are my tits.

If I dress for the promotion I want, I will have to develop really bad taste.

Sometimes I have to be a caterpillar just so I can be excited about becoming a butterfly again.

Scars remind us of where we have been but don’t limit where we are going.

I don’t know what you want and I probably don’t want to know what you want.

If by “elder” you mean “crazy-ass bitch” I totally agree with you.

It is hard to retain your diplomacy when you are dealing with the insane.

Stop trying to push others down to feel better about yourself.

Every day is another opportunity to fuck everything up.

 

 

Proverb for the Day Archives: July 2017

When all else fails, hide in the closet.

 

Friendship is when people know all about you and like you anyway.

 

It doesn’t really matter what I think about you – it matters what you think I think about you.

 

When you are in power you don’t need logic.

 

You can have your own opinions but not your own facts.

 

Some people are like clouds.  When they disappear it’s a beautiful day.

 

Being able to keep your mouth shut is one of the brain’s survival mechanisms.

 

You can try to put me in my place but you should know that my place is with either my foot on your face or up your ass.

 

So many lessons have to be relearned 100 times.

 

Never trust a professional liar.

 

Whatever has happened in the past, do the right thing now.

 

The secret of luck is never to trust it.

 

When you ask a question – be prepared to get an answer.

 

Kind words never die.

 

Decisions can be improved with the use of facts.

 

Just because it happened once does not mean it always will.

 

You can bitch and whine or you can wine more and bitch less.

 

If you think there is something wrong with the way you look, you need to change the way you see.

 

You say manipulation like its a bad thing.

 

I was spontaneous once…  It didn’t go as planned.

 
When there are two hundred things to do, you still need to start with accomplishing the first one.

 

Forget the mistake, remember the lesson.

 

Humans are an invasive species.

 

People with no empathy should not be given power.

 

Please continue to tell me all the obvious things I already know.

Corollary: PLEASE CONTINUE TO TELL ME EVERYTHING I HAVE ALREADY FORGOTTEN!

 

If you can’t win, when all the odds are in your favor, you may need to reconsider your strategy.

 

Social media is like talking to your pet – even if they don’t understand what you are saying, it feels like they do.

 

I’m as well adjusted as I’m going to get.

 

I’m Tired….

I am tired of airbrushed images bombarding me daily

Of women made thinner, younger, more muscular

Of the lack of veins, splotches, wrinkles, cellulite, and stretch marks.

Of airbrushed tans and airbrushed abs.

I am tired of faux perfection sold to us as reality.

 

I am tired of the constant spate of advertising – and others – including ourselves

Telling us we are not thin enough, not young enough, not hot enough.

But if we buy X product, wear Y clothes, or hire Z as our personal trainer, we might – just might – make ourselves worthy enough for someone to love us. My value lies in not what I produce, but in how much money I spend in beauty products, diet aids, and self-help books.

 

I am tired of being valued more for my tits than for my knowledge. More for my ass than for my insight.

I am tired of being wooed on my insecurities instead of loved on my strengths.

I am tired of being an image first and a brain second.

I am tired of being a maiden, a mother, or a crone.

Can’t I just be a woman? Why can’t, someday, a man just be a man?

Why are we so defined by societal views of sex, even when we supposedly aren’t?

 

I am tired of constantly dieting to maintain a weight that is below normal to still be considered “heavy” by some because I have an ass, a belly, or my thighs have the audacity to rub together when I walk.

I am tired of women succumbing to anorexia or bulimia because we can’t otherwise control our surroundings or, we think, ourselves.

I am tired of women exercising constantly because we ate a scoop of ice cream after dinner and if we don’t burn off those calories – well, that is a sign of a weak, awful person, isn’t it?

 

I am tired of living in a society where it is a sin to wear an extra pound.

Where it is a sin to dress too provocatively or too saintly or too different.

Where it is not a sin to have sex, but where it is a sin to be a sexual being.

Where it is not as much of a sin to give it, as it is a sin to want it.

If we want it – we are whores, sluts, we have no self control.

 

That is really what it all comes down to, isn’t it? If you can’t control us, we must control ourselves. And that control comes under the guise of freedom.

 

But we are liberated, men say. But look how good you have it. In the U.S. we let you drive and vote and it is illegal to beat you and rape you. At least technically. So why are you whining?

 

Because someday, we need to be considered better than what we think we are.  Not better than we actually are – just better than we think we are.  Because indulgence is not a sin. Self-care is not optional. We are not awful people for taking care of ourselves. Because someone will still love us if we have cellulite or splotchy skin or weigh more than we think we should.

 

Hell, someday we might even be good enough that we love ourselves.

Proverbs for the Day Archives – June 2017

A bad day does not make a bad life.
Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think about what could go right. 
After you give someone something to do, get out of the way and let them do it.
We all do better when we think we can. 
 I am all parts of myself. 
If everyone were queens we would have a lot more beheadings. 
Sometimes yawning is a defense mechanism so that we don’t scream. 
Broken crayons still color.
Sometimes we have to remember to be grateful for what we have instead of miserable for what we don’t.
In your case, I think a penny for your thoughts is a little pricey. 
I am sure we would get along better if I was drunk and incoherent, too. 
Everyone is annoying sometimes. 
 If you have never made a mistake you have never tried anything new. 
It is easy to stand with the crowd. It takes courage to stand alone. 
The first requirement for participation is showing up. 
Everything is not about you. Or your hair. 
If you don’t try, you never really fail, but you never succeed either. 
Anyone can make a mistake. Only a fool perseveres with the error. 
Everybody lies sometimes. 
If you don’t look for it, you won’t find it. 
Logic does not always work in real time. 
If you don’t like yourself you will never be happy.
Give people the opportunity to fail before you fix things for them. 
When all else fails, hide in the closet. 
Don’t always make yourself the hero of your own stories.  

Triumph over Failure

Well, I made it through the month. One month, four trips, four different time zones. Crazy times. It was great, it was okay, it was hectic, it was exhausting. [It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…] And at the beginning of June I am wondering what I am supposed to be doing the rest of the summer. I have the “normal” local shows, Heavy Rebel Weekender at the end of June, vacation to Hawaii in July, the Ohio Burlesque Festival and Isadora Duncan Symposium in August. That should be enough shouldn’t it?

As a burlesque performer, choreographer, creator, sometimes it feels like I am seeking constant approval from others. Am I that needy? Do I have that little faith in what I do? On one hand, no, but on the other hand, as a performance artist it does seem like we need to hear that we are valued and relevant. Performance art is ephemeral. Yes, there is video – but even video does not capture the performance moment, the performance experience (for the performer or the audience) in the same way as the live event. A book, a painting, a sculpture – those items live on. Yes, they may change slightly over the decades, fade, decay. But the object is still there to be observed, reflected upon, thought about. As a performer, a part of me doesn’t care if you “like” what I do. But on the other hand, I want what I do to have value, to be respected. I want to feel that I have worth as an artist and as a performer.

Art is meant to be consumed. Obviously, I can create art for myself. Keep it locked away – hidden. But it is the sharing of your art with others that really gives it meaning and life. Not that people have to gush over the art – but it is disappointing when they don’t even get to experience it.   As a performance artist, there are always many triumphs and failures. Unlike someone completing a stagnant work, there are always moments that happen in live theater that may be unexpected that you have to manage. Even though you rehearse and rehearse, things can happen. Mistakes are made. You don’t have a proof or video editor to correct things before final publication.

Sometimes those moments make things better. In London, at one point the audience was applauding so loudly that I couldn’t hear the quiet section of my music and the timing of my ending was slightly off – so I kept moving and had a slightly different ending. Did anyone know? Nope. Did the audience like it better that what I would have done otherwise? Probably. Will I change it and do it that way again in the future? Maybe. It is certainly another option. Other issues are just wrong… In doing a cancan on a roof with uneven Mexican tiles (yes, we did that). I lost my balance twice getting into my heel stretch to do a hopping turn in that position. Part of me wanted to give up and the other part of me just thought – well, I will just treat this like the side show ploy of screwing up a few times to make it look really really hard. Mr. Velvet said being a good performer doesn’t mean you are perfect – because no one ever is – it just means that you do a good job of managing when things aren’t perfect so people don’t notice it. Good point.

People (or maybe it is just me, but I don’t think so) tend to gloss over the triumphs (or fail to recognize them as triumphs) and emphasis the failures (or make them into failures when they actually were not.) People ask me “How was London?” and the first thing I say is – “I fell down a flight of stairs.” This is totally true. But, was that the defining moment of my trip? No. But it is, somehow the most memorable. I also had a great performance, met some amazing people, saw some great acts, had a lovely high tea, and did a lot of fun sightseeing. I would like to go back to London and take Mr. Velvet with me.

London:

Triumphs – great performance – wonderful people – fun shows – cool tourist experiences

Failures – got a migraine and fell down a flight of stairs

Triumphs from my failures – my migraine went away pretty quickly and I fell really well because I only had soreness and bruising – no strains, sprains, or breakage (yay me!)

Hollywood:

Triumphs – act went well, I had fun on stage and got lots of compliments from amazing performers

Failures – My corset strings got caught in my boa cat tail and it was that way the remainder of the act, making me feel a bit distracted.

Triumphs from my failures – I didn’t let my distraction show beyond normal cat distraction. I did a little kitty stamping to get myself uncaught from the strings which I think went over well, and I managed the whole thing without any disruption to my act choreography. We will see how it looks when I get video. But no one even mentioned it, so I am not sure how noticeable it was…

Fishnet Follies:

Triumphs – My newest act – which has a lot of emotion and is risky, went over really well , particularly despite having to rehearse in teeny hotel rooms with no costume until the day before the show. Plus my puss-tie stayed on during my jump splits

Failures – It could have been better, strong, more rehearsed and what if I can’t do it that well again?

Triumphs from my Failures – Get over myself.

EXIT fundraiser:

Triumphs – I did one of my newer numbers and it went really well even though it was in a living room surrounded by people in total daylight (just feels different). A burlesque legend at the event cried during my number, blew me kisses and hugged, praised, and petted me and how much she loved my number.

Failures – The act didn’t get accepted into a festival I applied to, therefore, I suck.

Triumphs from my Failures – Get over myself.

The Year so Far:

Triumphs – I have created three great new acts that I really like, I have performed at the Great Burlesque Expo, the Mile High Burlesque Festival, London Burlesque Festival, Hollywood Burlesque Festival and I have been accepted to perform at the Wiggle Room at the Heavy Rebel Weekender and the Ohio Burlesque Festival.

Failures – I didn’t get accepted into all the festivals I applied to and therefore I must suck.

Triumphs from my failure – Get over myself.

It is amazing how one bad thing can wipe out all the amazing accomplishments. Or how we can take a second of imperfection to mentally reduce an experience to a failure. Or maybe it is just me. I don’t know. I don’t think so, though. So, I don’t really know how to fix this other than to encourage myself and all of you to cherish our accomplishments, our successes, our TRIUMPHS more – to see every positive moment as truly that. I think failures are harder, too, because we often feel that they are “unshareable.” (Or maybe that is just me, too.) We can share our triumphs and accomplishments with others, but it is harder (but sometimes more necessary) to share the things that went wrong. Sometimes I get this amazing feeling of “not good enough – why do I even bother?” Which sucks. Because part of me knows I am good. But another part of me thinks I suck and when I feel rejected it makes that part of me very strong. As a teacher I also often feel like I am supposed to mentor others and that it is not okay for me to show signs of weakness. Because how do I make others feel good about themselves when I am having a day when I feel like shit about myself.   But if we can’t share the bad moments, we can’t get support, we can’t get reality checks, we can’t effectively move through that moment.  And I (and maybe you, too) need to stop taking every negative as an utter and complete failure, as a testament to our lack of value.

So, let’s have more TRIUMPHS and fewer failures.   So, TRIUMPH for today: I got this written.  FAILURE: None…

 

 

 

 

Proverb for the Day Archives – May 2017

Just because you do feel bad does not mean that you should feel bad.  

Nothing annoys your enemies so much as forgiving them.  

Yes. You rock. Now leave me alone before I throw one at you. 

Don’t stop being yourself. 

Self care is not self indulgence. 

I don’t hate you, but I will gleefully dance on your grave when you die. 

 I trust you to be completely untrustworthy. 

Why, I DO say so myself.

It is great to be the king until you are dethroned. 

Stupid people need to be trained more. 

Some people don’t intend to be assholes – they are just socially inept. 

Take a deep breath, calm down, and focus. 

My brain is a lot like my computer. I know that I have the thing I want but I don’t know where it is or what it is called. 

If I had any respect for you I might actually care about your opinion.  

Money may not buy happiness but it will pay for a lot of drugs and therapy. 

Of course size matters. No one wants a small glass of wine. 

Don’t make unsubstantiated assumptions about me and I will do the same for you. 

Don’t defeat your victories.

Having a dirty mind makes ordinary conversations much more interesting. 

Don’t cry because it is over. Smile because it happened. 

Sometimes I pretend to be normal, but it gets boring, so I go back to being me. 

Before Alice got to Wonderland she had to fall. 

Don’t be easily led by powerful men.

Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn. 

You can’t love the real me if you never take time to know the real me. 

It will take more than flowers to get between my lips. 

Compliments…compliments… compliments

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I don’t take compliments well. That is a problem. I should appreciate and accept compliments more than I do. I know, I know. It IS a personal issue. But, I usually write about pretty personal stuff, so I have decided to write about compliments and the giving and the receiving of same.

I know it isn’t just me. I know that there are other people out there that have a hard time accepting compliments, too. It is so much easier to remember the slights from others and the bad things that you think you did than the compliments that you received. This is not something I made up – it is a valid psychological thing. (Here is an article if you want to read more on the topic.) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html

As such, I have starting trying to write down the compliments that I receive – particularly in relation to performing- so that I put more attention and focus on the good things.   (I usually already focus sufficiently on the bad things. Even if they aren’t really that bad. More discussion on that to follow.) Writing down the compliments I receive draws my attention to positive things about what I have done instead of focusing so intently on the negative (which I still do more than enough anyway….)

Compliments are pretty interesting and can often say more about the one giving the compliment rather than the one receiving the compliment. I had a friend recently who stated something to the effect that if you give a compliment such as “I really liked your act,” then it is all about the one giving the compliment versus, “That was a great act.” Really, they say pretty much the same thing, which is “In my opinion, your act was great.” Whether I overtly state the ME in the compliment, as the compliment giver, I am making a statement about my personal opinion. Now, I CAN, as a compliment giver, keep compliments to statements of fact; however, I find that most people don’t do that. Statements of fact include: “Your toes were pointed through the whole act,” or “your kicks were above your head.” Note: even statements that may seem factual are often not. Example: “Your kicks are really high.” That is an opinion. High as in comparison to what? “Your gaze in that act was very compelling.” What gaze, where particularly, and compelling to who? I know this is being really specific, but I recently judged a burlesque competition. I made a comment about a particular performer whose act I really enjoyed – it was polished as well as very emotionally charged (in my opinion). Someone else stated that the act “Didn’t do it for them,” and they “didn’t feel connected to the performer.” (their opinion) These were responses of different observers with different opinions – the act was the same. So remember that the comments and compliments you receive (or don’t) are also a reflection of the person giving them – not just a reflection of you.

With all of that said, I often don’t trust other people’s opinions. I mean – why should I? Do I even know you? Well, maybe I know some of you – But, hey! I don’t know all of you… But, even for those of you I do know, my personal biases tell me that other people’s judgment is often clouded or in some way “not” to be trusted.   Even my own compliments to others have many different meanings. Does that mean that the person is lying – not necessarily – they could be perfectly honest and just filtering it through a different set of lenses than someone else.

For example, my husband will tell me things like “You are so pretty.” I do not believe him. I do not think I am pretty. I think he says that because he loves me. Because he loves me, I am, therefore, pretty. He is insulted. I suck. Yes, this happens.

Another example: I have a brand new burlesque student. They get on stage for the first time. I tell them that they did a “great job!!” Did they? Well, yes – as a first time performer on stage, they did a great job. I did not lie. But, they are not a world class performer (at least not yet.) If they did the same quality in three years would I still tell them “great job?”   Probably not. If they are really good, then I will give them more feedback and, perhaps, even ask them to be in my non-student show. I tell my dance students all the time: “When you are first learning I am going to encourage you more. When you start getting good, I am going to encourage less and criticize more. Know that it is a good thing because it means you are improving and have the capacity to improve more.” In my mind, feedback and criticism are a gift -a gift a lot of people don’t spend the time to give or perhaps even have the capacity to give.

The context and perceived veracity of a compliment has a big impact to me on how much I accept that compliment. One of my teachers and mentors told me after a performance that I did a “great job.” I said “thanks.” Then someone else – a long-time performer – came and told me that I did a “great job.” I was thrilled. I was so thankful and talked to the person about my act. My mentor said “I told you that you did a great job, why didn’t you get excited about my comment?” My response: “You tell everyone they do a great job.” While she may have had a different perception of what that comment meant for me versus a beginner student, as the receiver of the comment, they read the same to me.

Compliments mean more to me when they are specific.   To me that shows that the commenter has taken the time to process my act, maybe even has specific standards that they are addressing. For example, “that act was great.” That is nice. Thank you. But much more meaningful: “That act was great. I really liked your fan work – it was very graceful. Your choreography went really well with the music and you had so much energy on stage.” Again – still opinions, but much more specific. I don’t go away with the feeling that “they say that to everyone.” No – those thoughts and opinions were developed just for me, just for that act. It was more than an overall, big picture, cheerleader perspective. It was specific and thought out and intentional.

Do I need to do a better job of just accepting and relishing in comments I am given? Yes, yes I do. I am very bad at that and need to be more accepting of others praise to me. However, I also have to filter my own judgment into the compliment lens because I do not want to get self-satisfied and smug listening to other people’s compliments of me. I want to go further and do more.

It is important to note that criticisms are also potential fodder along with the compliments. Be careful to accept those with a grain of salt, too. Again, opinions are expressed – tat is the nature of criticism. “I hate that act.” Well, that may be because you hate green and I wear all green in that act. The more specific the criticism, the more you can decide whether or not you want to do something about it. Sometimes people just make statements “You had a hard time with that zipper.” Well, yes. Yes, I did. It took me longer than normal. But, so what? Did it ruin the act? Will it happen again? Maybe – live theater happens. It is what it is. It is not a reflection of you or your skill.

With that in mind, be kind to yourself. A lot of people are overly harsh to themselves. Put on your kind audience filter. I am often surprised that mistakes I know happened don’t actually show up when I take off the Red Velvet filter that knows exactly what I planned to do and what the choreography was. When I put on the general audience filter, I don’t even notice the mistake happened. Being professional doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes – we all make mistakes. It just means that you handle it much better – sometimes to the point others don’t even notice the mistake.

So, this is a lot of all over the place. But so are the comments we receive from others AND constantly give to ourselves. Be mindful when you are giving or receiving comments – be they compliments or criticisms – to assess their impact and usefulness on the receiver (Note: that includes YOU the receiver and YOU the giver – why ARE you beating yourself up like that? – I mean it isn’t doing you any good or making you better just to be negative all the time…)

 

 

 

Proverb for the Day Archives – April 2017

I don’t hate you. I don’t particularly like you, but I certainly don’t hate you. 
Some of our best lessons are learned from our worst mistakes. 
Don’t try to use your passive-aggressive bitchiness on me. You couldn’t possibly do it as well as my mother.
When you don’t know, shut up and listen to someone who does. 
There are some things best left unsaid in a job application. Confessing to a murder would be one. 
More is not always more. 
I don’t care if you take the high road or the low road. I just don’t want to be on the same fucking road. 
You can never change yourself if you don’t try.
The best relationships are with those people who comfort you when you need it and push you to grow when you don’t. 
If we never do new things we never find out we can.  
It is good to be old and wise. Some people are just old. 
Don’t piss off the people who hold your secrets.  
Bullies are feared by many, respected by some, and liked by no-one. 
Stop fucking with me. 
You don’t have to suffer to make a difference. 
You can at least say ‘thank you’ after you take credit for all of my good ideas. 
If you don’t understand both sides of the argument you don’t understand the argument.  
Stories are all we have to make us immortal.
Sometimes all you can do is try. 
Pain is your body’s way of saying “Fuck You!” 
No airlines are great. Some just suck less than others. 
The biggest love/hate relationship we have is with our bodies. 
Some people are so busy feeling bad for what other people have that they forget to feel good about what they have themselves.  
Just because you do not choose to look upon the world does not mean that the world cannot see you. 
Don’t just be human. Be humane. 

Did you say… Relax…?

So, most of you probably have heard the song Relax, right? By Frankie Goes to Hollywood? Well, if not, you can listen to it here: https://youtu.be/oh4tHpUflDA

If you know the lyrics to the song, you will probably think, like I do, that this song ‘s title is rather an oxymoron. Let me give you a sample of the lyrics:

“Relax don’t do it
When you want to go to it
Relax don’t do it
When you want to come”

So the title is Relax, but then the lyrics say – don’t do it. And the musical rhythm is pounding and regular and not what I would put in the “relaxing” mode. I would say that my typical rules for relaxation have been – perhaps subconsciously – impacted by the song. Because, usually, Relax? I pretty much don’t do it. What did you do to relax? I cut out a new costume and danced. Yep. My “relaxing.” Or, if I am being really relaxing, going for a long walk. Because it doesn’t actually accomplish anything…

But, I am learning – it may still be a bit of a journey – the benefits of relaxing….

For the past month or so I have been exhausted. Not wanting to do anything, falling asleep early, being lethargic, slow, just lacking the usual energy I have. I had tons to do and was getting nothing done. And that made me feel cranky and no more energetic. Plus my body wasn’t healing and my muscles weren’t relaxing/releasing. They were tight and painful and just pretty much pissing me off. I was frustrated because I was “catching up” on sleep. I felt like I was having more than enough sleep, actually. I figured that maybe I was lethargic because my life wasn’t stressful enough at the time and so I lacked surges of adrenaline to keep myself going. That may be true – however, the problem with that is that you don’t really want to rely on your adrenaline full time. Because it actually wears your body down and makes your body more stressed out. Bummer. Because, apparently as a general rule my body really loves adrenaline.

So, I was wondering if there was something terribly and horribly wrong with me – I mean, more than the normal things I already know are wrong with me.   I am getting older. Was this it? Had I finally reached the point of no return? Was life all downhill from here? I was going to quickly become my grandmother, sleeping the bulk of the day on the sofa telling people that I was way too perky to actually take a nap in bed. (I already tell Mr. Velvet I am fine and then fall asleep on him when we watch movies on the sofa.) Nooooo! (Note: I am not worried about becoming my grandmother. I am much more likely to become my mother. On the other hand,, I am way too similar to my father to really become like my mother….)

Anyway, feeling like garbage – physically and mentally (because I wasn’t getting enough DONE and that makes me pretty much a loser…) I took a few days off from work with Mr. Velvet. We went on a trip to Mendocino. If you have not been to the Mendocino area, there is not a whole lot up there, and yet there is. There are old Victorians, the forest, the ocean, some cute shops and state parks with hiking nearby. We stayed in a cute hotel, did a lot of walking and hiking, a little shopping, sufficient eating, and some driving around. I brought stuff to “do” like sewing and choreography and ended up doing NONE of it. We slept when we felt like it. I even took an actual nap one day. We pretty much relaxed… (I also made the decision that I don’t know if I can ever totally and entirely “retire.” I will probably have to do something like teach dance classes or do consulting or some such thing like that.”)

And guess what? When we got home I actually started feeling like myself again. I was productive again. It wasn’t necessarily the stuff that I was chastising myself for not doing for month, but it was still stuff. I started spring cleaning the house, finished three choreographic dances in process, started getting little things done and just feeling like I had energy again to do things. I don’t know. Maybe my body and brain were bored with relaxing and needed to do something again. Maybe they got some rest finally instead of pseudo rest where I was chastising myself all the time I was “resting” for not being productive and pretty much stressing myself out for it. Whatever reason, I felt better. And I am still feeling better. And I am trying to keep busy – within reason when I can. Some nights I am busy, and then, some nights I am not. One night last week I came home from work, ran an errand, cooked a decent dinner, and then relaxed and read a book and watched a movie with Mr. Velvet. That was all. And a couple of times guilt started to creep in and I said to myself – “Stop it.” Because – even though I am apparently a workaholic, I, too, need to actually relax once in awhile.

So, maybe I need to rewrite the words of the song “Relax” and create a more reasonable version for myself – and maybe others who need to hear it too…

“Relax, just do it

When you need rest get to it it

Relax just do it

Rest when you need some….”