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Saturday, 30 September 2017

On Success

It occurs to me that to be successful is to get what I want and for that I would need to clearly define what it is I want. Is it to be the best dancer in the world? Is it to have a successful school with lots of students? Is it to be self-supporting as a dancer? Also if the criteria of success is based on comparison with others then I will likely always be unhappy, because I have no clue where others are actually at. The comparison would never be objective and exact. It would only be a reflection of how I felt at the time about myself, and might have more to do with how much sleep I had, what phase of menstrual cycle I was at, and how much people tokens I had left etc. So I should try to give more thought to defining that goal.

Except some days when I'm not so into assessment I just plug away at what I'm doing. Like when I'm walking up a hill and instead of looking at where I'm going, I'm looking at where each foot step falls and enjoying every little forward movement. Those days feel even better though I suppose it's important to have a little bit of both. Or I might end up on the top of the wrong hill at the end of the hike. But is there a right hill? 

Mae West by Edward Field

She comes on drenched in a perfume called Self-Satisfaction
from feather boa to silver pumps.
She does not need to be loved by you
though she'll give you credit for good taste.
Just because you say you love her
she's not throwing herself at your feet in gratitude.
Every other star reveals how worthless she feels
by crying when the hero says he loves her,
or how unhoped-for the approval is
when the audience applauds her big number--
but Mae West takes it as her due:
she knows she's good.
She expects the best for herself
and knows she's worth what she costs
and she costs plenty-
she's not giving anything away.
She enjoys her admirers, fat daddy or muscleman,
and doesn't confuse vanity and sex,
though she never turns down pleasure,
lapping it up.
Above all she enjoys her self,
swinging her body that says, Me, me, me, me,
Why not have a good time?
As long as you amuse me, go on,
I like you slobbering over my hand, big boy--
I have a right to.
Most convincing, we know all this
not by her preaching
but by her presence-it's no act.
Every word and look and movement
spells Independence:
she likes being herself.
And we who don't
can only look on, astonished.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

heart's desires

This afternoon I had a dream that I was a part in a simulation in the mind of someone I love. We stood side by side in a landscape of his imagining - his childhood hometown. He was embarrassed to find himself there, as if missing home were some kind of weakness. I walked down the paved road explaining to him that things can shift at any moment. Maybe the ground will open up beneath his feet. Maybe he will meet people he had loved and lost, or the children he could have would have should have had. Turning around I found that he had gone. Though I knew he is simply standing right behind me, just slightly out of my field of vision. "Maybe you'll never see me again", I said. And as I said those words a wind lifted me off my feet and my sense of being airborne transformed into descent until I woke up on my sofa, already missing him intensely, this someone I do not know. 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Progress Report

Last weekend we had our workshop with Nathan. It all worked out really good and I feel quite... accomplished? One of my goals was to run 3 workshops this year and I managed two of them, which is not too bad. I'm also pleased with how low-key and low-stress it was in the end. I feel like the right people joined for the right reasons and did things that worked for them - so I managed the workshops and Naughty Swing did the party and we collaborated on the competition. The Back Beaters were great and the performance was stunning. Sometimes I feel like maybe I should be more ambitious. Maybe I should perform with the next visiting teacher? I don't know. It's an idea.

I also signed up for Welbourne Jazz Camp and it's so expensive! I hope that it'll end up being a good experience... 

Monday, 25 September 2017

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

BY WILLIAM E. STAFFORD

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the
world
and following the wrong god home we may miss
our star.


For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of
childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each
elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the
park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something
shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should
consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the
dark.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

On pride (and the acquisition of skills)

Does anything come naturally to anyone?

Throughout most of my education I was the top of my class. Most things that were taught in school came to me "naturally". I'm not sure what that means exactly except to say that I picked up the concepts fairly easily, could usually make further educated guess based on what was taught to me, and had no trouble applying concepts to solving/analyzing hypothetical problems. For most of that time struggling to learn was something that I watched other people do - not something I had intimate personal experience with. On occasion when I "struggled" to come to grips with something complex, I usually did it in isolation and privacy, with my head stuck in a book in my room late at night, or at the library (Derrida comes to mind). But these were the exceptions rather than the rule. What I specifically do not remember much is other people getting things while I struggled to understand them. Until I went to Oxford, that is. Then there was a lot of people who seemed to get things as quickly if not more so, which was really kind of scary.

Learning rhythm and dancing has kind of been the opposite experience and I really struggle with my pride. I hate struggling with a move in a class. I hate it when other people pick up rhythms or hear them in a song more quickly than I do. I hate it because I don't know how to deal with being the second person to understand something. I hate it because it seems to call into doubt something that I've always been.

There are two aspects to dancing, in my mind - one is about physical agility and coordination and the other about the relationship to music which is in part analytical. To some people I observe these abilities seem much more innate. I'm not sure if I'm physically agile - I think I'm slightly above average but definitely not close to the top. As for musicality I started out a total dunce. Quite honestly in my first performance when I was asked to raise my hat on 5 I didn't know what that meant, and couldn't understand it when they tried to explain.

In my recollections music was never in beats in my head in those days. It reminds me of the argument that the word blue didn't exist because it wasn't a thing until humans could reliably reproduce that colour. I feel that way about music. When I hear the rhythms in music it's not because of some innate connection with it, but because I'm trained my mind to detect patterns and apply some kind of analytical tool that lets me distinguish where it's at. Now when I listen to music, the counts literally sings itself to me in some part of my brain. Which is why it's very challenging and scary sometimes when I find a song that confuses me, because my rhythm detection is thrown off by half a beat or by two beats. At times like this I do what I've always done. Ask someone who knows, and then take it home as homework. I sit in front of the computer listening to these tunes over and over, counting them out to myself, waiting for the correct information to overwrite the incorrect information. I feel like I'm trying to grow instincts - or at least, to train myself until it becomes instinctive.

The asking someone though, costs me pride. I don't know if I was always this bad in school (heck it was a long time ago) but I just feel really negative when I don't get something - especially if I have to resort to asking a peer rather than a teacher. That was just never me. I was the one who others went to ask, not the one who did the asking.

The thing is I don't really like this aspect of myself. What is wrong with not understanding something? Surely where we begin is immaterial - the important thing is where we end up. If we don't start where we want to end up (most of us don't, I assume), then we have to do whatever it takes to get there. And once we do - does it matter where we started? I keep trying to tell myself that whatever it is I am not, I am not yet, because I'm in the process of becoming.

Perhaps it is also to do with insecurity. Just as I hate asking people to come out and dance when I DJ because I hate the feeling of needing to ask for something. I hate being disempowered whether it is needing their help in terms of coming to my events or in terms of teaching me some move or anything else. I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels this way though, and I would very much like to come to terms with being someone who has needs. I'd like to be able to express my needs and my regard for the people who bring things to my life (friends who teach me, who come support my events, who practice with me etc.), without a ridiculous sense of disempowerment - because I think it isn't disempowering. We just need people. That's all there is to it. It's no shame and no weakness. One day hopefully I can just ask for whatever it is I need without feeling my my pride is in the way, and if I don't get whatever it is I ask for, I can take it in context and not let it affect me in a personal way.

Also it just occurred to me that the toughest thing is to refrain from drawing any conclusions from the fact that someone can do/can understand something which doesn't come naturally to you. How I feel is "whoa this person is such a natural I bet I'll never be as good of a dancer as him/her" when in fact I have no clear conception of the circumstances which may have gone into making of this situation. Perhaps he/she is innately awesome (in which case, yay, good for this person), but perhaps he/she has just had a lot more practice or some kind of formal training. I think back now to all the kids that I watched struggle in calculus class. No doubt some of them simply came to the conclusion that I was "smart" and they were perhaps less so. I always felt at the time that there was something erroneous about this conclusion (because I see them being smart at other things, and most of them were def. more socially adept than I was at the time). Now I think I know that part of the error is not seeing why I performed well in calculus (because I was tutored in maths from an early age quite separately and additional to my formal education, and because I had no social life and devoted free time to solving whatever extra physics and calculus problems I could lay my hands on in order to feel extra prepared for exams because otherwise I'd freak out because I'm a control freak and couldn't ever just try to 'wing it'). So yeah, there's always so much that we don't see.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Good enough

Sometimes I get very anxious about not being good enough. Since I came back from holidays there's been a sharp decline in class attendance. There could be any variety of reasons (one week it was Chinese Valentines Day; I'm teaching Al & Leon which is not my own choreo so ppl can just easy easy learn it online; I no longer run the Thursday practice groups or the monthly social so there's less promotion; I have been away from the core scene too long so people don't know me as well etc.) but of course I immediately take that as a sure sign that I'm not good.

When I stop and compare I always look at those people who I perceive to be doing better than me and a sense of dread comes over me and I feel like an imposter. I forget though that there are also those who don't do as well as me. There are also those who don't even try because they think they wouldn't get anywhere - and up until I decided to give myself this year of doing everything I wanted to do in dancing, I was one of those people.

I never tried to make it my thing because I feared that I wouldn't be good enough. But how would I know if I've not tried. I told myself I would just try and try for a year, and not evaluate myself until the end, because sometimes, when I'm not something, it just means I'm in the process of becoming something, and it's pointless to beat myself up during that process.

And also when I compare myself to others I must remember that many people devoted themselves to their thing for much longer than I have. My year isn't even out yet, and really how could a year of working hard at something be long enough to really make a difference?

As ever I have more questions than I have answers.

Recently I started DJing at Roxy J. The first two times dancers came out. The third time no dancers came. I wonder if I should interpret that as a personal failure on my part. I used to imagine "what if no one came to my classes"? And then I'd think - that's ok, I'll just use that time to practice. Then I'd imagine "what if no one came when I DJ?" I guess that's happened already. Except, um, the place was actually quite busy they just weren't dancers so I'm not sure what I want or if that counts as a fail. But the point is maybe this is a good time to think about what these things (DJing/Teaching) really mean to me, and what the minimum return would have to be in order for me to be content.

Again that's something I don't have an answer for at the moment.

But here's something I saw the other day which I like:


Living means taking chances and coping with the fear and possibility of failure. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So when the fear really gets to me I just tell myself to grow some balls (or something like that).

Good morning world. Today I can't sleep for being anxious.