Dream Journal: Martha Graham and Carly Rae Jepsen

I sat backstage at our dance studio’s end of the year recital, but rather than lots of little kids on stage, there were older teenagers performing. Through sheer curtains that lined the wings, I watched them expertly perform choreography by modern dance icon Martha Graham. Though Ms. Graham passed in 1991, the studio had brought in an instructor from New York to teach her repertoire to the students. I was surprised that the studio had spent so much money to hire the instructor and that there were enough older, professional level students to perform.

I left the performance and returned to the studio, where I had to teach my Monday night jazz class. That night, Kirsten, the owner of the studio, was evaluating me as a teacher. For some reason, Lucas, a coworker from my full-time job, dropped by. We both thought it might be fun if he guest instructed my class. The students and I did several dance combinations across the floor as Lucas supervised. The music stopped playing, so Lucas checked the connection between his iPhone and the sound system. He then realized that he had an app open on his phone, which was interfering with the music. He closed the app, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” began.

The students lined up to do more combinations across the floor, and as the first student began, Lucas let out a shout of disgust. “UGH!” he yelled at the student. “UGH! I don’t care for it.” Kirsten walked by and told Lucas, “I’m sorry, you need to find something else to say.” Confused as to what was going on and why this man was teaching the class, she dismissed everyone in the studio except for a few students who needed to rehearse for an upcoming performance. I had a feeling that I was going to be in trouble, because I was supposed to be teaching and instead allowed someone who insulted the students to teach instead. I would not do well on my evaluation and would probably lose my job at the dance studio.

As Lucas left the studio, he called out, “You owe me a slushie tomorrow!” Outraged, I stomped across the studio and yelled at Lucas. “I don’t owe you a slushie. You ruined EVERYTHING, and you’re going to spend the rest of the week making up for it.” I walked away crying and shouted through tears, “PLEASE LEAVE.”

I watched through the window as Lucas left, and our other coworker, Lance, met him outside. They had driven to the studio together, and Lance went to get dinner while Lucas taught class. As they left the parking lot, Kirsten asked me and another teacher, Lindsey, to get ready for rehearsal. We would be performing at a new church, Epicenter, for its grand opening celebration. This church would be the “epicenter” of the arts. We would rehearse and perform there before any of the congregation would enter or even see the building.

As we prepared to rehearse, I was responsible for starting up the music, which I couldn’t find. I was now even more nervous that I would be in trouble, because on top of the teaching fiasco, I had lost the CDs for our performance. I soon found them in a yellow folder by the window. We began rehearsal with a series of plies, releves, and turns. Kirsten mentioned that part of the performance would be a leaf dance, but we wouldn’t use real leaves until later.

[When Lucas walked into the office this morning, he had a container of Rice Krispie treats and chocolate-covered pretzels. I told him he had been redeemed from ruining my life.]


Halav Lav & Project Dance Orlando on Kickstarter

Halav Lav Ballet Company of Mechanicsburg, PA, has been invited to participate in Project Dance this April (13th-15th) in Orlando, Florida. As part of Project Dance, “a movement of dancers seeking to positively impact culture through artistic integrity,” Halav Lav will perform original works as part of a day-long free outdoor dance concert. Halav Lav has also been asked to assist the leadership team throughout the weekend.

In order to attend Project Dance, Halav Lav needs to raise $2000 to cover Project Dance performance fees and master classes, food, and transportation to and lodging in Orlando.

Please visit Halav Lav’s Kickstarter project page to contribute!


Wishlist Update: #35 – Chris Cendana


I’ll be honest. Until I saw this tweet from AJ Rafael, I hadn’t heard of Chris Cendaña or his music. I didn’t even realize the two of them would be performing at my alma mater, which is 15 minutes away from my apartment. But then I checked out Chris’ YouTube channel, heard his voice, and thought, “No, he needs to get back onto the lineup.” I wasn’t about to miss out on experiencing that talent in person. I started emailing my multicultural contacts at Messiah College to see if I could change anything. While I didn’t have any influence on the final decision, I was happy to see Chris eventually return to the evening lineup at the Asian Students Association’s API (Asian/Pacific Islander) Night.

For those of you unfamiliar with Chris, he is a Filipino singer/songwriter currently living in Pittsburgh, PA. He started playing music at a young age, beginning with the piano and going on to include percussion, guitar, and turntables. On his YouTube channel, he explains, “I started playing guitar when I was in college at Marshall University around 20 years old, and started singing about a year later when my sister Janelle (who was on scholarship for show choir) was diagnosed with an aggressive case of Multiple Sclerosis.” His online bio goes into a bit more detail:

During Christmas vacation at the age of 20, Chris found his mother’s classical guitar stowed away in a closet. He took it back to college with him and learned to play it by ear.  His friends (who were seasoned musical veterans) told Chris his natural talent with music gave him an edge over many artists.  They urged him to play in public.  Unfortunately, Chris didn’t see a future in this. He decided to compromise this dream and play drums at his church. […]

He ventured onto YouTube, a public video sharing website, as an outlet for his music.  He started by posting videos of his favorite originals and covers.  It didn’t take long to starting making waves on the World Wide Web. On Feb. 29, 2008, his video “Velvet Fingertips” was featured on YouTube’s home page.

The first Chris Cendana song I ever heard (I think):

It is thanks to his videos on YouTube that I developed a love for his music. His soulful voice and musicality come together to turn ordinary covers into renditions as original as his own songs. His covers of “Landslide” and “At Last” have a place on my playlist of favorites and test the limits of YouTube’s replay button. His original songs demonstrate his talent as a versatile musician and producer with a range of styles that transport you to both a dimly lit, bluesy night club and a bustling acoustic coffeehouse. He is a talented lyricist whose words connect with the emotions and experiences of his listeners. One track may break your heart while the next can make you fall in love (sorry, ladies – he’s married!).

me and Chris
With Chris Cendana at Messiah College

In the months following his performance at Messiah College, I watched for new videos on his YouTube channel. While he released some originals and covers, Chris’ online presence was fading. Once again, he had to compromise his dream of music, because his 24/7 on-call job made performing and recording incredibly difficult. In the past couple weeks, Chris began his comeback to music by posting his cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and performing on BlogTV for online viewers (even at 2 am, Chris sounds great).

His comeback grows even stronger with news that Chris now has a manager so he can pursue music full-time! He announced on Facebook, “After much discussion over the last few weeks, I’m happy to announce that I am now under the management of Andre Carter of JAMS Avenue Music Group with the goal of transistioning to music FULL-TIME!” Fans everywhere are so excited for Chris and this opportunity to spend more time doing what he loves. A street team is forming to support Chris and get him more exposure (send an email to andre (at) jamsavenue (dot) com for more details). There is no word when Chris will be able to quit his on-call job and devote his time to being a musician, but we all look forward to the day when he goes full-time. For now, I’ll half-cross this off my wishlist!

Support Chris Cendana
Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/chris.cendana
Twitter: https://twitter.com/chriscendana
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/ccendana

Bring Chris Cendana to your city!

“Velvet Fingertips” (Original Song by Chris Cendaña)

“Landslide” (Cover by Chris Cendaña)

The Turning Pointe

turning point – noun
1. a point at which a decisive change takes place; critical point; crisis.

One foot shown en pointe.
Image via Wikipedia

During the past two summers, I worked as a residential counselor for the Boston Ballet‘s Summer Dance Program. I was like a camp counselor/resident assistant/mom/older sister to teenage girls who had traveled from across the country and the globe to study for five weeks with the Boston Ballet. These are dedicated students, many of whom have dreams of becoming a prima ballerina in a company. During the program, they dance for 5-6 hours every day, five days a week for five weeks. Because of the intense schedule, several students are sent home over the course of the summer to nurse injuries, both old and new, aggravated or caused by hours of dancing or unfortunate falls.

Yesterday, one of the students I got to know during those two summers had hip surgery. Just a few years out of high school, and she’s having hip surgery. Soon after setting the date with her surgeon, she shared on Facebook that the procedure would fix her constant pain, but in exchange she would probably have to give up dancing. Her doctor said others have been able to return to dancing after surgery before, but he cannot say for certain that she won’t need surgery again. “I’m pretty sure the door is closing on a professional career,” she said. Though terribly disappointed, she fortunately has the willingness to consider other options and form a Plan B. Other students I’ve seen are so blinded by the chance at a role or a career that they become determined to dance through pain and injury at the risk of further damage to their bodies. Every summer, I’ve posed this question to my students: if you couldn’t dance, what would you do? For some students, I think it may have been the first time they ever thought about it.

In A Chorus Line, a musical about a group of dancers auditioning for a new stage production, the characters face the same question. (SPOILER ALERT!) After one of the dancers falls and is taken to the hospital, the director Zach (played by a young Michael Douglas in the ’80s movie version) asks, “Do you ever think about what you’re going to do if you stop dancing?” In the movie, Connie says she’ll go off her diet. Sheila talks about how she and Zach appeared in the chorus together many years ago (“You were a rotten dancer” – “Why do you think I became a choreographer?”) and how she now has a 9-year-old daughter.

Sheila: God help her, she wants to be a dancer.
Diana: What’s so wrong about that? How can anybody in their right minds want to be anything else?

In the stage version, Diana answers with “What I Did for Love,” singing about how she wouldn’t regret the sacrifice she made for dancing, but at the same time is ready to move forward.

Look my eyes are dry
The gift was ours to borrow
It’s as if we always knew
And I won’t forget what I did for love
What I did for love

When I see these dancers go home from the summer program or into the operating room, I wonder what things would have been like had I continued dancing. I was 3 when I took my first dance class, but my family moved to a new state the next year; I didn’t take class again until 2nd grade. At first I took the ballet/tap/jazz combination class that introduced kids to the different styles of dance. When I got older, I focused solely on ballet. At the end of 6th grade, I felt like I wasn’t growing as a dancer. That fall I was at a new studio learning terminology and the importance of turnout and pointing my toes, things I didn’t realize until then were fundamental to ballet. After a boot camp of a year, I was able to move to the advanced class. I shared a barre with the school’s best dancers – the girls on pointe who took home trophies from competitions. I hoped to be one of them someday. To my excitement, my teacher had me fitted for pointe shoes at the end of the year, and she gave me exercises to do over the summer to prepare for class in the fall. As the end of the summer approached, I received the usual class registration forms in the mail. I was excited to see I had been invited to join the new repertory company my studio director was forming – until I saw all the requirements: weekend company rehearsals, regular class during the week, and extra classes for company members. It was a bit much, especially during my first year of high school. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle it all and hoped my director would let me take class without joining the company. All or nothing, she told me. I went with nothing. “Are you sure?” she asked. I was feeling pretty confident in my decision to focus on my academic success, but she told me that somewhere “down the road” (I remember her using that specific phrase) I would regret it.

I was 14 years old – the same age as the youngest dancers in the Boston program. Looking back on my high school experience, I probably could have handled the academics as well as the dance training and membership in the company. What if I had chosen all instead of nothing? Could that decision have changed the course of my life? Would I have attended summer intensive programs around the country? Would I have had dreams of a professional career in ballet? Would I be having surgery in my early 20s?

Would I have ended up where I am today if I had continued dancing?

Though I stopped training at that point, I never stopped loving dance. After 5 years without ballet, I joined the dance ministry at my college, took a year of ballet, and even performed in the year-end recital. Last year I started taking ballet and jazz classes at a local studio, where some of the other students in my class were also in their 20s – or older! Over the summer, I talked with my teacher about dancing en pointe, and this fall I dug my pointe shoes out of the closet. Now almost 10 years old, they still were not broken in or worn out. (Hopefully it’s okay to be using shoes that are so old, though my feet haven’t grown since then…) I’m excited to be on pointe – finally! – but at the same time somewhat terrified. It’s been a while since I seriously studied dance; I am not in my physical prime. Since then I’ve lost stamina and flexibility; I’ve gained weight. Sometimes I think I’m too old to be starting pointe – I might break something! But now that I’m “down the road” I think I can say I don’t regret leaving dance for all those years. Though I may wonder where life may have taken me had I continued dancing, I enjoy where it has taken me so far. I love the place dance has in my life right now, as something to appreciate and enjoy doing, not demanding my perfection. So while I don’t regret leaving dance before, I’m glad I had the option to return.

Do you have a turning point, a moment or decision that possibly changed the course of your life?

Artist Talk

And this is what I had to say, more in depth…

Often times when I consider ideas of identity, it is easier to say who I am not rather than who I am. When others try to put me into a box, it is easier to point out why I do not belong there than to offer an alternative categorization. The concept for my exhibit evolved from this idea of discrepancy in identity and the desire to express how I differ from societal expectations.

In art classes, we tend to joke about the poor math skills of artists, but over the past four years I have noticed how bothered I get by this practice. Throughout my years in school, my parents placed great emphasis on academics, and I was able to experience success, particularly in math. I cannot say with much certainty if I have maintained the same mathematical abilities as I had in high school. However, I can say that I am frustrated with the idea that some people will underestimate my abilities simply because I am an artist. When I first began coming up with concepts for senior show, this frustration was on my mind. Originally, I wanted to use this work to prove that while I am an artist, I am not bad at math. I considered exploring the forms and typographical qualities of calculus equations to demonstrate the integration of the arts and academics. However, after speaking with Professor Prescott about the “artist personality,” I realized that there are many assumptions about artists other than those regarding our math abilities.

I then began considering using typography to represent a statistical analysis of the behaviors and personalities of Messiah College’s artists. I planned to survey the art faculty and students about various artist stereotypes, hoping to discover that such stereotypes were not true. Statistically, do artists have troubled childhoods and substance abuse issues? Are artists more introverted or extroverted? Liberal or conservative? I hoped to find out what was true. Stereotypes about artists were things I never really thought about before. Discussions about stereotypes and identity usually required me to talk about my race and what it is like being Asian-American. It was an interesting process talking about something other than race in a discussion of stereotypes. However, as much as I may get tired of talking about race or racism, I realized that it is an integral part of my identity. I realized that if I were to do a project that explored stereotypes, race could not be ignored. My concept then expanded to the exploration of stereotypes about artists, Asians, Christians, and women – and also narrowed its focus on me as an individual and the various ways I think I break these stereotypes. I chose to use movie stills to represent the stereotypes, because media are often the ones responsible for perpetuating generalizations about various people groups. I decided to use digital photography to explore self-perception because I consider myself an artist when I am behind a camera more so than when I am in front of a computer. The layout of my piece was influenced by these images by Robert Rauschenberg and April Greiman. Each row focuses on a particular stereotype, and when arranged in a grid creates two fragmented full-body portraits that integrate the various aspects of my identity.The portrait on the left expresses what I should look like according to society’s expectations while the column on the right acts as a self-portrait. I used the middle column to connect and contrast the two portraits both visually and conceptually through the use of type. The first row focuses on the artist aspect of my identity. For this stereotype, I chose to use a movie still from “Benny and Joon,” in which one of the main characters is an artist with a diagnosed mental disorder. Johnny Depp plays Sam, another highly creative character with mental issues of his own. This semester I have had the pleasure of taking Abnormal Psychology and learned that research has shown a correlation between creativity and psychosis. This perhaps may serve as a basis for the “crazy artist” image and the stereotypical inner turmoil that drives and inspires the art and creative process. Art has never really been an act of catharsis for me, or an outlet to express the emotional struggles that I am experiencing. The closest I have gotten to this is carrying my camera along with me when I feel like taking a walk during times of stress. I do not sit waiting for divine inspiration, either. I take a much more logical or analytic approach to my work, making lists and jotting down ideas as I brainstorm or look up ideas and imagery online.The second row represents ideas of what it means to be a Christian. Media representations of Christianity are often in a negative light, showing us to be hypocritical like Mandy Moore’s character in the movie Saved! or judgmental like the members of Westboro Baptist Church, founders of GodHatesFags.com. We see that congregation on the news picketing funerals and blaming homosexuals for 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The media image used for this aspect of identity is from Footloose, a film that depicts the citizens of the small Christian town of Bomont to be close-minded and suspicious of music, books, and dancing – and new people in general. I fear that people have this image of judgmental Christians in mind without understanding that Christ lived with an open door of love and compassion.The third row depicts my perception of being Asian. This was a particularly difficult set of images to create, because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to communicate. My parents had lived in the States for about 20 years before I was born, and they raised me in suburban white America. This made it difficult to think about what it means to be Asian, because I generally do not think of myself as Asian, but as culturally white. I chose, then, to explore the assumption that being Asian in appearance means being Asian in culture. The movie still from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” features what seems to be traditional dress, something that we would consider exotic and foreign. The placement of the hands is somewhat structured and suggests someone subdued, a trait we generally associate with Asians. I decided to counter this with blue jeans, attire that is culturally generic with no connotations of foreignness. My posture is informal and not submissive, but perhaps suggests a sense of defiance.I used the final row to explore issues of womanhood and femininity. In the movie “In Her Shoes,” from which I got the movie still, shoes were the common ground between two sisters who were polar opposites. Shoes and womanhood were among the very few things that the two women shared. This image of the stiletto heel represents the societal expectation that femininity is synonymous with being a woman. Dolls, dresses, high heels – all women are expected to enjoy these things; those who don’t are somehow less feminine and perhaps even less of a woman. I contrasted the image of the high heels with an image of my Chuck Taylors, well-worn and well-loved, and not typically feminine. As I consider my personality, I find that I am not particularly feminine either. When I am in a group of guys, I tend to become one of the guys rather than stick out as the only girl. I have learned that even the way I handle stress is typical of males rather than females. Some may say that all these differences make me atypical, or less than what they were expecting me to be. Those who hold such views or expectations have probably allowed the label to become the identity, and therefore expect something unrealistic. These differences do not make me any less of a person, but rather they make me more of an individual and more of myself.