What Now?! Project Time…

Ok, so the semester is over and my Fulbright award is no longer, yet I’m still in Israel. Why? When am I coming back to The States? First one is easier to answer…

I’m still in Israel because I want to finish my video project. My Fulbright award was for teaching AND research (my video project – MOVING PORTRAITS). However instead of splitting my time 50/50, the percentage was more of a 70/30, maybe even 80/20 split, with teaching dominating. Why did so much of my time and energy go towards teaching? Because I taught 3 courses, 2 of which were new curriculum, and I had a total of 70 students. When you have that many papers to read and grades to submit, turns out to be a full time job. New found respect for all my teachers and an added grimace for ever thinking “why haven’t I got that grade back for that assignment I just turned in yesterday!?” Side note: Teachers out there work WAY more hours then what they are paid for AND should be paid way more then they are…it has been said before, but I am feeling closer to this truth than ever.

So the semester ended with a final performance at Warehouse 2 at Jaffa Port. Seeing many of my students perform was a great way to end things and after not seeing them for the week between last classes and the performance, I was surprised by how much I already miss them.

But KADIMA (Hebrew for forward).

Now I am taking time to focus on this video project – MOVING PORTRAITS; a collection of edited film sessions with people I interact with during this adventure. Having always loved portraiture, I am funneling this love into creating an installation of short video portraits, which will manifest as a gallery exhibit.

The people I’ve captured on film make me want to do this work my whole life…it could go on forever as a sort of digital scrapbook full with interesting characters. Thankfully, I have a deadline. My friend Inbar Shalev is Asst. Producer for a new dance festival in the desert outside of Eilat at the end of March. The festival is providing me with a gallery space (an entire room to myself) in which to mount MOVING PORTRAITS and it will be open to the public throughout the three-day festival! Hooray for deadlines.

Alright, now the more challenging question to answer…when am I coming back? Most honest response – I don’t know. I have to extend my visa in order to be here at the end of March and these visa issues are not easily over-come. I’m actually a bit nervous about it…

Besides the end of March opportunity, the Academy (JAMD), is interested in continuing my curriculum. Does that mean me teaching? Not sure yet. I have some meetings over the next two weeks and will let you know. Bottom line, would I stay in Israel to continue teaching? I’m thinking on it. Also don’t want to get ahead of myself. Which for those of you who know me, is a hard HARD task. For the first time in a long time I don’t have a “Michelle’s future” itinerary and admittedly it is making me nuts. But, I’m learning to breathe, and wait…to see.

End of Semester…Our Studio to Life Lessons

My Modern Level Three class presented material from our class to other Academy students and faculty yesterday. The presentation provided a forum to reflect on all the lessons from this semester. Here are the BIG lessons we shared and I hope continue to resonate after I’ve gone:

1. Beginnings and Endings – I think of a quote written on the wall of the school where my mother was a teacher, “begin with the end in mind”. I worked hard to impress upon my students how important beginnings and endings are… beginnings – a chance to start fresh, to be present, to be clear with your intention…and endings – a chance to reflect, to ground yourself, to learn from your past.

2. Eat Space – Dan Wagoner comes to mind. He used to say, “Michelle, if I come to eat at your home, are you going to feed me a lot or just a little?” I adamantly replied, “A lot of course Dan!” Then he surprised me by saying, “So you are a generous person…then why not be generous with your movement? – stop holding back in space.” So now I share the same studio to life advice. I pose the question my students – if you are falling in love, will you do it with all your heart or just half?….let me love you! Now they are moving bigger, more bravely, eating space. I remind them to be hungry tigers, loving but hungry…eat, eat!

3. Seeing vs. just looking – How important is it for you to feel heard and to be seen?…as dancer, person, human creature – are you just looking at someone or are you really seeing who is in front of you? We did a lot of work this semester on focus, pairing together and dancing combinations facing each other. The glazed over look in their eyes or the retreat of focus inward due to over-thinking still comes and goes – but they are working on it…so am I.

4. Thinking AND feeling – I pretty much explain this one in the video below, filmed during one of my classes. Please over-look the sound of my seven-year-old voice (it is a wonder that my students took me seriously at all, getting instruction from this chipmunk). Now I understand why Lynda Davis gave me a hard time in this aspect – I’ll never forget how her voice booms from across the room right into your eardrum – powerful.

Lom sha ne (never mind in Hebrew)…I think the lessons still got across.

I’ve seen the group shift and their awareness grow. Teaching has been full of lessons for me and I’ve also discovered how much I really love it. I will miss my level 3’s. Not sure what the immediate future holds for me…but

Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings.
- Laozi (Lao Tzu)

Studio Work With Students

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It has been a while since my last post – not for lack of experiences worth sharing, but I’ve been so “in it” that pulling out for a moment to reflect only now feels right.

“This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” ~ Alan Watts

My work in the studio with the level 3 dance majors at The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance presents challenges, revelation and revolution each session. I am learning so much from them. I notice I need to take more time to communicate, slow down and speak clearly – this forces me to constantly check in with the intention behind each directive. Language – Hebrew vs. English is a hurdle and the ideas I crave to share with them are big.

This week (thanks to Megan Wright and Tere O’Connor) I shared the following quote with my level 3s at the beginning of class:

“The intense complexity of living on earth right now finds a good friend in dance. Spending some time with an information system that does not hope to deliver messages but rather acts as a container for multiple individual responses might prove to be an antidote to the polarizing dogma that holds our world in its grip.” ~ Tere O’Connor

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This quote feels timely – there have been stabbings, suicide car assaults, etc. in Israel the past couple of weeks and though I feel completely in this Israel environment, I feel also the reverberations of turmoil in the States.

So in my classes I oscillate between the micro (focusing on technique, standing on one leg, good alignment, comprehension of movement vocabulary) and the macro (seeing each other, acknowledging our solidarity within our studio endeavors, diving into intention, sensation, and how it applies beyond our studio work).

As you might guess my skills in empathy, sensitivity, anticipation, flexibility, and adaptation are constantly developing and I am grateful.

Side Note: I’ve moved to Tel Aviv, VERY close to the beach. Having grown up on an Island, water is the most peaceful, centering environment.

“If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.”   ~ Leonard Cohen

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Jaffa to Palestine: A Full FUN Week

 

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Wow, this week was a full one. I started with faculty meetings at The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance…6 hours worth in one day, almost entirely in Hebrew. Ooof. What is amazing to learn again and again is how much communication is body language. So even though I could not understand most of what was being said in the meetings, I did leave with a better understanding of who I am working with at JAMD this semester. I felt welcomed and challenged at the same time. The challenge comes in the length of process; one small task that you would think could be accomplished in minutes quickly turns into many more tasks and days related to the original small thing. For example, the equipment I brought with me (that many of you contributed to acquiring), needs to live in a safe locked place. A locker closet had been identified by JAMD Dean of Dance Neta Pulvemacher. We were handed a set of keys, not one…well after trying a series of five keys in five different locker closets, only one fit. Okay, great, done right? No. We need copies. I was quoted a week turn-around for the key copies. Smile. Lom sha ne – never mind in Hebrew. All is coming together and I start the semester tomorrow!

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Tuesday/Wednesday of this week I was in Tel Aviv for the Fulbright orientation. There were many meetings kicked-off by Ambassador Daniel Shapiro (man pictured on the right above).  After the many meetings we toured around Jaffa – which was really yofi – Hebrew for beautiful.

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Jaffa is one of the most charming places I’ve been in Israel so far (pictured above). I was there in June this summer and slept on the roof of the Old Jaffa Hostel with my gypsy brother Andrew Chapman. Magic. The group Fulbright trip to Jaffa included a tour of Ilana Goor’s museum – a huge home filled with art and oddities. Go there! I saw a series of Canaanite jugs from 3,000 B.C. and they were not behind glass.

Only downside this week came Wednesday. The cough I’ve been fighting since the multi-plane ride here finally won. As I write this, its Saturday and I’m still coughing. I’m trying all sorts of things to get rid of it – ginger, lemon, tea, honey, apple cider vinegar, fluids, meds…what else is there? Yuck, it is more annoying than anything.

Well this cough didn’t stop me from attending a Christian-Arab wedding in Bethlehem last night!

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Wow, it was so fun. They really know how to party – all 300 of them – yeah, it was a small wedding. The live band was killing it and so everyone danced till 2am. I shot some video of the bride and groom dancing and you can see the dance is communal, everyone dances together circling the bride and groom.

 

The food was amazing and the whiskey was flowing. Yalla!!!

On the way home at 2am, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, we had to pass through a check point. We had no trouble and it was quick, but I was clutching my passport, ready to flash it if called-upon. Just as we rounded the corner in the car, cheeks rosy from drinking and dancing, I glimpsed the Banksy piece below – a poetic reminder of where I am… It is all a balance right? The necessary merry distractions and the poignant moments of reality.

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First Day Back In Jerusalem

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I’m here, safe and sound. Travel was ok. I was very concerned both my over-sized carry-ons would be seized from me for checking, but I got lucky and evaded all gate attendants (except for one, whom I ended up crying in front of and eventually won over). I couldn’t let those carry-ons get away from me because they held one of each crucial piece of equipment I need for my Dance Technology courses and my own camera – so whatever it took, had to be done…no regrets!

Naturally upon arrival in Tel Aviv, I picked the wrong passport control line and got stuck behind some people who required extra questioning – still haven’t learned how to profile. Good.

Finally at baggage claim, all three giant checked bags full of the other equipment (padded in bubble wrap, then in their various cases, padded again and wrapped in my clothes) were all there! I heaved them all onto a cart – with a busted front wheel of course and screeched my arrival to all awaiting in receiving area. I was so happy to see a familiar face, my friend Ravid. He took over the cart, we loaded the car quickly and drove to Tel Aviv.

After a nice night of veggie burger delivery and Goldstar beer, I awoke at 6am to drive into Jerusalem with neshama Nitzan. I took Kolben Dance company warmup class (until they started going upside down and I had to just foam roll the jet lag out). After class I dropped Nitzan off at KDC performance venue and drove her car to my new digs. I lugged all 3 big suitcases and 2 carry-ons up the stairs by myself (earning the tub of humus I’m now devouring.) My land lady Anat is an angel because she greeted me with cookies and beer and a tour of my art gallery apartment. Pics below display various art installed in the studio – amazing.

 

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Anat promptly left for Haifa after giving me wifi and extra towel. I un-packed everything, stocked up at health food store then napped. The pic of the wall is original Arab wall. Anat/ land lady’s family is from Berkeley and they recently found out the original Arab owners of the home live in Berkeley and so she will meet them on her next trip. Wild.

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Tomorrow I must hunker down and organize myself to begin teaching. The semester at The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance begins October 26th. I will teach three days a week, three courses: Contemporary Technique andDance Technology x 2 (two different class groups). People have been asking me if I’m excited – I am with a side of performance anxiety. However, I know this is always how it is, once I meet the students and get going the groove will take over…

More soon.

Xoxoxox from The Holy Land

BACK HOME

“I feel related to the country, to this country, and yet I don’t know exactly where I fit in. And the same thing applies to the theater. I don’t know exactly how well I fit into the scheme of things. Maybe that’s good, you know, that I’m not in a niche. But there’s always this kind of nostalgia for a place, a place where you can reckon with yourself. Now I’ve found that what’s most valuable about that place is not the place itself but the other people; that through other people you can find a recognition of each other. I think that’s where the real home is.”

- SAM SHEPARD

A 12-hour flight from Tel Aviv to NYC, customs, 3-hour layover, and 6-hour flight from NYC to San Francisco and BAM – I’m home!!

I’m home, full of inspiration and motivation.  With news that the film we made last summer, Dan’s House will be part of Dance on Camera NYC, Feb. 2014 and time spent on ancient ground (Israel); I’m ready to dive into…

A new film project, working title Moving Portraits is in the works. After shooting with dancers and friends in Israel, I have great footage to sort through and edit.  Traveling has helped me break out of my routine, appreciate my environment and specifically people.  After the death of my father, I’ve wanted to encapsulate the poetics of people, to capture an essence of them, because my memory hasn’t been enough. Portraiture draws me in but isn’t dynamic in the ways I crave. Moving Portraits is a film project series – my research in capturing the individuality of the people I am drawn to, their complexities, poetics, unspoken stories and strange beauty.

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(A still shot from footage for Moving Portraits captured in Israel)

When will some of the films be ready? I’m hoping the first one will be ready in a month.

How many films will be made? I want to keep making them forever. Or as long as people inspire me/ I’m open to be inspired – so I hope forever. The process of working one-on-one with the individual who’s moving portrait I am shooting is a special time. We talk about their life, figure out a perfect/ meaningful filming location, pick out an outfit, improvise, eat and drink together…create together.  The special dates make me want to make a hundred individual films.

What will I do with the Moving Portraits? Ultimately, I want to publicly present them as a collection. A few I will post online, for those interested in how the process is shifting/evolving.

I’m thrilled to see what this project will reveal to me. Will there be a live performance component? I hope so…

 

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(A still shot from footage for Moving Portraits captured in Israel)

From Florida to NYC to Israel

After Dan’s House premiered last weekend, I traveled on to New York City. Andrew Chapman (who is featured in Dan’s House and resides in NYC) was unable to join us for the screenings in Tallahassee, so I went to him. Kit McDaniel, Andrew and I celebrated the success of the film by walking in Astoria Park and eating NY bagels together. It has been a year since I’ve been with them – my favorites…

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The last night of my visit, during our family dinner, we received BIG news. Dan’s House has been selected to screen in the special shorts program as part of NYC’s Dance On Camera film festival (Jan. 31-Feb. 4, 2014). What an amazing email to receive while in NYC and amongst the cast of the film! Giddy and glee ensued.

A 10-hour plane ride later and I am in Jerusalem, Israel. On the first day here I swam in a cave, rode on a motorbike, helped prepare flowers for Shabbat and ate family dinner with my Jerusalem friends.

Over the week that I am here in Israel, I will spend time with friends, visit the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance (where I may teach next year if granted a Fulbright – fingers crossed), plant seeds for the next budding dance for camera project. I will also administratively facilitate the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company collaboration with Jerusalem based Kolben Dance Company (to premier as part of the MJDC’s 40th Anniversary season April 3-6, 2014 at Yerba Buena, SF, CA – save the date, it is going to be an epic evening of dance).

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More soon…

Dan’s House Premier at Florida State University

I just woke up in NYC. The past 3 days feel like a dream….come true! Our weekend at Florida State University celebrating the Dance Department’s 50th year anniversary was a homecoming I feel honored and inspired to have participated in. The weekend started of with Michelle Kinny and I teaching modern technique to the freshmen dance majors. It has been a while since I’ve been in the academic setting and as soon as Michelle and I walked in the dance building a flood of nostalgia rushed us.  It was surreal and AWESOME! The students were very receptive, diving right into the class material. After class, we had a short break to meander around. It struck us…what a beautiful campus, with its big brick buildings and low hanging trees.  How had we not reveled in that more while we were students here ourselves? Because we were in the grind – just as we tend to do in most settings were we are pushing ourselves and packing it all in…

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The film we made last summer on Dan Wagoner’s property – Dan’s House, screened Thursday-Saturday night as part of Florida State University Dance Department’s Evening of Dance.  What a thrill to share the film with such an eager, warm and receptive audience.  Each night the theater buzzed with a supportive energy.  After each performance enthusiastic audience members approached Michelle Kinny and Kit McDaniel (dancer stars of the film and BFA graduates of FSU) wanting pictures with them.

 

Other major highlights of the weekend were spending time with Dan Wagoner; reminiscing of how much fun we had during the filming process last summer. Also an unexpected treat was seeing Dan’s sister Hannah and niece Catherine. Other members of Dan’s family came for the event as well, excited to see Dan and his 18th century film featured on the big screen.  My mom and grandma drove up from Orlando to support me. I only see them once a year, so sharing this success from them was extra special for me.

 

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So now here I am basking in the glow of this past weekend. I feel so grateful to Patty Phillips and Russell Sandifer, co-chairs of the FSU dance department for choosing to include our film in the talent filled concert. What a gift they gave us – the opportunity to return to the place where we grew with confidence into the art makers we are now and share our success with all those who invested in our artistic growth. Plain truth – we love you and can’t thank you enough.

Now, onto the next adventures – three days in NYC followed by two weeks in Israel…will report more soon.

Oh and those of you who asked about if you could still donate to support the film – YES! Here is the link for making a tax-deductible donation, just be sure to select Here Now Dance Collective from the drop down menu.  THANK YOU!

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New Dancer Profile – Caitlin Hafer

I’m having such a fun time working with everyone in HNDC.  It’s such a collaborative process and everyone is so open and willing to share not only their dancing but their personalities and interests as well.  Rehearsals often feel more like getting together with friends than working, and we still get a ton of work done every time.  Recreating BURST into a new piece BURSTNOW has also been a great way to work into being an “adult” after leaving school, as BURST was the first dance show that I saw in San Francisco, while I was doing summer study in SF.  Having BURSTNOW be my first big dance project out of school is a way to come both full circle and jump off into the “real world.”

Dancers tell what its like from the inside

O. C says….

The Apology Project’s San Francisco debut at Unspeakable Projects last week was an exercise in sharing our work. Not just showing it, but making eye contact while we did it. Shimmying our way between audience members, blowing them kisses, laughing with them and staring them down was a delight for me because of how willing the audience was to enjoy our work. I worried that dancing so close to the audience would make it easier for us as dancers to perceive their judgment, but they were all bright sources of enthusiasm in the room, providing a supported opportunity for the dancers, at least in my experience, to get louder, weirder, bigger and less and less sorry.

M. K. says….

Performing The Apology Project at Unspeakable Gallery was exciting! Exposing ourselves to friends and strangers, we were honest and open. Finding a balance, that gray area where there’s structure, but no set plan, left things negotiable and up to “in the moment” decisions. I hope (I think) our vulnerability allowed the audience to relax and feel comfortable. I liked how the audience moved to different places in the gallery and wasn’t afraid to stand close. I usually get uncomfortable when I’m stuck around a lot of people, but I was surprised that I felt comfortable and at ease by the tightness. The audience’s participation fueled my emotions and energy creating a continuous exchange between the dancers and audience, an equal give and take. I’m excited to continue with this process next week at the Garage and see how things unfold.

S. P. says…

It was really interesting to see how the piece changed when it was performed with an audience, especially one that was standing so close to us. The energy felt charged and enthusiastic. It was great to hear and see their reactions to the choices we made. For us, it was a challenge to have so many extra bodies in a space that had previously been open. We had to make many quick decisions to adjust spacing and traveling paths. Coming up with solutions in the moment kept things fresh.