Coming home <3

As I sit here in JFK, I can’t help but reminisce about the adventure that I got to call my summer. Exactly six months ago, I remember talking to my parents on the phone, while waiting to go onstage for a dance performance, about how I wanted nothing more than to escape Irvine and to see the world. I never thought it would happen, and if it did, I didn’t quite expect it to be anything more than a trip to London and back. I didn’t quite realize that I would actually be seeing the world.

Six months ago, I was struggling with some of the worst anxiety and stress I have ever felt in my life. School was overwhelming, my relationships felt forced, and ultimately I felt that I had lost my sense of self–I couldn’t discern between my truth from other people’s truth, and I really felt that I was aimlessly spiraling. I couldn’t trust in the resilience I know that I have, I couldn’t find the joy in my movement, and I had lost all sense of freedom [of choice].

What I didn’t realize that I understand now is that things always have a way of working themselves out. I am realizing that somehow planning a huge excursion that I just figured would be seeing the world turned into three of the most imperative months of my life.

In a span of 80 days, I have visited 12 different places and 10 different countries, and while I have been horrible about blogging, I have experienced some of the most historic establishments, improv-ed in some of the most beautiful landscapes, danced with some of the most brilliant artists, and have TRULY lived in the present.. and in that time, I truly mended my being, each place giving me back a piece of my old joyful self, or a piece of my newfound truth and freedom. After careful consideration, I figure that sharing my newfound truth with others might inspire people who feel the same way I had felt to do something.. to know that they aren’t stuck.

To start, here are some things that each country has taught me:

St. Lucia/Trinidad: 

THE PEOPLE here are a community, the truest example of being a support in another person’s life. I had many deep conversations with the people on both islands, especially with the St. Lucians, who offered me support by listening. If anything, this is where I have learned that I must dedicate my life to listening to others, it is one of the most selfless and most imperative ways of showing support, of establishing community, and of sharing life. Life, as you may know, is is meant to be shared. We cannot do it without others.

CISWOD6UcAASyNs

USA (East Coast Love):

Family. Boppa, if you are reading this, I just want to let you know how much I love you and how much I love visiting you. I like our car rides between Athol and Providence, and I like our visits to sunshine creamery, our long walks and our talks with spaniards. We always have fun and I cannot wait to see you at Christmas. But really, family comes first people. Always.

Italy:

Roots. Part of knowing who you are is knowing/seeing/witnessing where you come from. Italy is incredible. It answered my unknown questions about what makes my family tick, and also just made me love the traditions of my family all the more. It is oddly, home. I am very grateful to have seen Southern Italy. It will always be my favorite place and the most important place that I have visited.

England:

MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. I spent the majority of my time conducting research and dancing here, and I have gained a stronger perspective of the beauty of dance, and the beauty of it being open to ANYONE and everyone. While I have a couple of people I still need to interview, and a few more readings to do, it is quite amazing how the artists of the UK find ways to bring their art to the public, fight for funding, and obtain a warmth for bringing the joy of movement to those who need it. I am inspired to make things happen the way these artists do in my own career and in my life.

Switzerland:IMG_8710

Simplicity is life. Life does not have to be overcomplicated with possessions/materialistic consumption. One’s life does not need to be consumed in the truths of others. Life is not about money, about status. Life is about experiencing the here and now, investing in nature, in health/well-being, and in really really deep and profound relationships. I am very grateful for my time here. Everything was so expensive I had no choice but to literally experience simplicity (and often we are consumed in so much in America that I forget this). I need to spend more time in nature and less time in the grocery store :-).

Germany:

Find the good in every situation. If you read the Salex blog, we discussed how Germany was closed all day while we were there on our layover thing to get to Amsterdam. We were hoping to see the sights and to try on Birkenstocks and Lederhosen but everything was closed. We had to really dig down to find that positivity and acceptance of our timing and situation, and we did. We still experienced the culture, we found a way to interact and we saw things that we might not have seen, had things been open.

Holland:

DO NOT dehumanize the human experience. I loved Holland. It is a place for experimentation, a place to be open about every part of our humanity.. nothing gets swept under the rug. I never want to sweep things under the rug ever again. I shouldn’t have to feel bad about being imperfect, about my being, rather, as a community, we should be open about sexuality and education and art and all of the crazy things that are so much a part of us that we often degrade. No more of that. I have learned to accept my being for the curious me that I am. I love that about myself.

IMG_9632

France:

Love yourself. I spent a lot of money and time here because we spent our entire first day seeing literally all of the sights. and things are very expensive in Paris, but I realized that I am literally the most important person in my life. If I am not taking care of myself, showing love to myself, how can I love others (Ru Paul totally says this and he words it better and I love that show)?  I am going to disappoint a lot of people in my life, and a lot of people are not going to love me, but as long as I constantly take the time DAILY to love myself through meditation, prayer, and chocolate, I am going to be okay with living a really really fulfilled life that makes me happy, even if people don’t agree with it (whatever, the people who support me will stick by me through anything).IMG_9549I also visited Iceland, and I was only there for a layover, but I like that it was so cIMG_0765lean and organic. I want my well-being to be organic and clean. Yes.

Throughout this journey, I have made a small list of rules for how I want to live my life. I also wanted to share these wi
th you because I think they have truth for anyone and everyone. I feel like it is really easy for me to want to share this information in hopes of trying to get it in people’s heads that PEOPLE are different, that people need to live their lives differently, etc… I just want you guys to know how I choose to live from here on out. Here is a list:

  1. Love defies all odds.
  2. Fight for things. You will win.
  3. You can never be too cautious, too compassionate, too curious, too excited in life.
  4. You need to give. But you need to know yourself before you give yourself.
  5. There is not a right way.
  6. Everything is perspective. Mindset. =the power of the mind.
  7. Making decisions is an adventure, not a life- threatening event..lol.
  8. All will be well, All is well.
  9. Happiness is a decision.
  10. The body is not an object, it is a situation.
  11. Resilience is knowing stress and choosing to appreciate that mode of survival. Appreciate the stress.
  12. Your happiness, my happiness, is imperative.
  13. You are stronger and more resilient than you know.
  14. Sense of self is important.. no.. imperative.
  15. Meditation is important.
  16. Nothing ever needs to be forced in life, follow your intuition.
  17. DONT BE AFRAID TO JUST GET REALLY DIRTY.
  18. Live in the spaces between your inhalation and exhalation.

So that’s it! The last one is probably the most important. So important that I got a tattoo in reminder of breath, and knowing that it is the first and last thing we do. When all else fails, we cannot forget to breathe.

I am so excited to be returning home to see my family and my friends. I am full of life!!!!!!! But really, I really am, and I am really excited about what I’ve learned, and have already done things to change my life so that I am not wallowing in my pity, but am grabbing the edge of the cliff, pulling myself up by the fingernails. Life is really really good. I am very very excited. I am very very grateful. I love you all.

So what’s my next step? I am going to follow my newfound convictions– Find some new ones, live in love and BE JOYFUL 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 and… maybe a trip to Cuba and back to Panama next summer 😉 We will see.

For now, I might be very poor financially because of this adventure, I may have spent a day or two eating very little… but as Gene Kelly once said, “I will never starve.”

For now, I am full.

sratat

Love to you all,

Sara

“How wonderful it is that no one has to wait, but can start right now to gradually change the world.” -Anne Frank

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An 11:48p Resolution

Welp, my last week at the Laban intensive has come and gone in the blink of an eye, and while I will sadly miss dancing in the colorful studios where I didn’t have to worry about lines and technique, but rather creativity, critical perspective, and relationships, I have learned an immense amount about dance here in London, as an art form, a means of social unity, and its value in my own life.

To start, this past week I realized that understanding the value of dance in London is very different for an outsider such as myself than it is for artists and members within the community, and so I realized that I needed to start having conversations. I had the privilege of having critical discussions about the dance community with two incredible artists and human beings, Marie Forbes and Kate Johnson. Marie holds a degree in dance from Middlesex University, is a freelance performer and a coordinator for the CAT Outreach program at both Trinity Laban and Loop Dance Company. Kate is a choreographer and artist who works collaboratively across media, and is also a professor at the Trinity Laban School where she teaches choreography and performance to BA candidates.  These two beautiful artists have challenged my thoughts and have allowed me to gain a better perspective for the value of dance and its function  within the community of London.

It is actually really difficult for me to verbalize what I have learned as my discussions with the two were really complex and somewhat personal, but to simplify, the dance community functions as a sort of circular-triangle of perspective (I know that is contradicting, but imagine a triangle with rounded edges instead of points, a sort of three-pronged cycle that does not stop, but continuously flows): the artist’s perspective, the community’s perspective, and the teacher’s perspective:

From the perspective of the artist: 

Marie and Kate discussed the importance of funding. Just as it is in America, artists are constantly fighting for funding of projects and performances. In the UK, most artists take the opportunity to write to a section of the art government called the Arts Council in hopes of receiving support. As the Arts Council is primarily concerned with the community, it is imperative to an artist’s success that they propose their project/company in a way that suggests that their vision WILL help the community in some stance. They have to give back to the community to receive funding, whether that means holding master classes, opening up free showings for the public, or putting their work in some space where the community can be exposed to the experience, is primarily what the Arts Council is looking for in granting funds. For this reason, most artists are often immersed in the community of London, teaching, performing, working in schools, etc. While this is incredible(!!), the Arts Council does know dancers to be motivated, determined individuals who find a way to have their projects supported, and so funding does become scarce and used in other ways. Regardless, artists are receiving support from the government because they are attempting to keep dance relevant within the community. Dance becomes a shared art form open to anybody and everybody to understand, not just for dancers who are well-educated on the subject.

Marie and Kate also discussed their own projects. I was really interested to hear what they had to say about performance and community, as not many ordinary individuals can comprehend the sophisticated nature of critical levels of movement/choreography in performance. My question to them: how do artists keep dance performance open for people to witness? In short, Kate discussed that she often displays her choreography in venues in which people feel most comfortable and with which people can easily connect and engage. We discussed that the stage and the theatre are not always comfortable places for people of the community to engage with dance, and not everyone has the opportunity to get to the theatre, and so why not take the work and place it in a setting where it will thrive? Bars and pubs are huge, museums are free of charge and tourists visit everyday, and so these works act as installations. The work is brought out of a sterile and traditional environment and into the community–into humanity itself. I love these efforts, and while many will argue that this is not something that every artist upholds here in the UK, it is at least interesting to hear that these experiments do exist within the community

From the perspective of the community:

I was even more surprised to hear that members in the community are not just being reached out to by artists who are hoping to receive some sort of funding, but rather the three major dance institutions of London that are known for producing fabulous artists are quite active within the community. Trinity Laban, Northern Contemporary School of Dance, and London Contemporary are three institutions that make it a focus in their practice/existence that people have opportunities to know dance. Laban obtains a program called CAT (Centre for Advanced Training), where teachers of the program (who are also highly regarded artists) go into secondary schools and teach dance classes to older students in hopes of finding students who have the potential to make dance a part of their regular daily practice. After one class that acts sort of like a secret audition, the instructors will deliberate and pick out students that seem to have potential in hopes of inviting them to train for free at Laban every weekend until they graduate. FOR FREE. INCREDIBLE. This was really surprising for me to hear because I just knew Laban for its established undergrad/post grad programs and summer schools, so to hear that all ages have some sort of opportunity to train in the facilities proves that the institution is upholding Rudolf Laban’s traditional motive in keeping dance open to anyone within the surrounding community. Laban isn’t the only institution involved in these outreach acts, as London Contemporary and Northern Contemporary do have intensives and open classes where all ages are welcome to train as well as connect with members of highly established companies of London.

Marie and Kate explained that it does become a problem when the kids are preparing to graduate and enter the audition realm in hopes of furthering their career and education, and the pool of applicants to get into the three major institutions is quite large, where only 100 people are accepted into each institution for the upcoming year. This is when students seek dance in Universities. So yes, people are getting educations in dance, and it is open for all, but the UK does have the same problem as just about anywhere: Competition.

From the teacher’s perspective:

Kate and Marie are inspiring individuals as they want nothing more than to understand and give back to others. As I mentioned previously, Kate is a professor at Laban, and so when I asked her how she brings Laban’s principles of community into her teaching practice, her answer was not surprising, but rather comforting. She explained that she has made it her intention and her job to give each student equal experience regardless of their technique: it is about the students. Education and teaching is about extending debate and  having critical conversation, and the role of the instructor is to set up a dynamic where people can truly understand that they have a role in the community and classroom, that their value within the community is important, and that the students must realize and accept this to be true. This is something that I have always known, but have never really quite understood or appreciated, as I personally feel that in America, there is not equality of the student. Perhaps in some universities, yes, as we are paying for education and we expect it, but within the community of dance and especially in really rigorous programs, students forget their value because they do not have an established artist reminding them, nor is it the natural trend to be reminded they they must think for themselves (that it is okay to be an individual and not just a technical robot of sorts). I have had a very personal experience of this multiple times throughout my 16 year career as a training professional, and without mentioning names, I must say that having an instructor fail to know your name or value your presence, or notice your worth can be really obstructive to a student’s experience and education, and this is definitely something that we need to think about in our country. We need to be creating environments of equality,we need to be knowing our value, and we NEED to have an inclusive and diverse education system so that people can feel open to sharing.

Marie, while not a professor, does teach at Laban and the Place, and  will be teaching a modern technique class for 60 year olds at The Place’s summer intensive this August. She told me that for her, it is important that she challenges people to think about their creativity and not just their age. As a society, we naturally devalue (for lack of a better term)  individuals based on age, and while we do value the wisdom of the older generation, we forget that they are just as imperative to our society as the generation that is leading our country… they aren’t delusional. and WHY is this important? Marie inspires me because she teaches value and worth, she teaches dance and challenges movement, she doesn’t just teach simple exercises. In America, we need to think about this as well. We can simplify in teaching beginners or really young or really old crowds, but we should shouldn’t degrade our movement in a way that obstructs the integrity of its history. I can’t really explain that, just think about it.

So while the role of dance is very complex but very open to the community, I was reminded that of course, there will always be an element of cut-throat competition to get into projects, companies and schools. Many artists are still looking at technique as the primary motive when hiring (yes it is important, I agree, this is where the controversy with the three choreographers of London comes into play—link about this at the end of the blog). The institutions and artists who are reaching out to communities are teaching individuality and well-being in dance, not just the technical aspect, so there is a little division as to what is most imperative. If you were to ask me, individuality is the glue that holds the dancer together, keeps the dancer sane, active and with opportunity/purpose for success. Though I know it is different for each individual within this community, I think what I am hoping to relay to you all is that the dance community in the UK carries this motive: “It is not about me, it is about us.” We need to think about this in America…less about the individual, more about each other.. and not just in dance education.. in everything. Politics, economics, art, relationships, everyday life.. basically everything, really. There is value in learning from each other regardless of level, training and technique– regardless of humility or pride, and regardless of our differences.

These past two weeks at Laban have been about us. Not about me or my new friends. More than anything, I have learned about dance in a setting where dance is appreciated for its foundations in community and its nature in saving people,  and where we were not bogged down by competitive and sterile, man-made and societal constructs. I don’t even care anymore about getting into top institutions of study, or highly regarded company intensives. Rather, I care about us, and I have the freedom to care regardless of my setting (America still has many strong facets to its arts culture and educational opportunities). There is nothing more beautiful than that, in knowing that I have shared my value, I have experienced the value of others, and that I have brought dance back to its natural habitat: community. I care about community because I know that dance in the community will continue to save people’s lives.

And.. now I’m off with my best friend to backpack through Europe and experience movement from the perspective of the tourist, which involves connecting with people 🙂 I have a newfound sense of freedom knowing that I will no longer allow myself to be validated by competition, but rather, have found value in myself and in my interests.. More to come on this….

Please excuse the typos at this ungodly hour and much love always,

Sara

“It’s in the nature of dance that there is a necessity to the relationship to being alive, to humanity” -Rudolf Laban (1924)

Link to article about UK dance training: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-32236406

Rudolf Laban Movement Psychology:

http://www.movementpsy.com

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La Vita Bella

Greetings from London!

I know it has been a while since my last blog post, and I apologize for that. I tend to gather information, think about it for a very long time, and then when I feel compelled to write, I write. If there’s anything that I’ve learned about communicating my experiences in any form of art, it is that I cannot force my thoughts.

So an update, perhaps?

On July 11th, I got on a plane with my sister and my mother en route through Iceland and  Paris (7 hour layover filled with macaroons, croissants and french wine in the airport), to Napoli.

Italy. is. beautiful. I cannot say that enough. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I fell in love. Perhaps it is because I grew up embracing my Italian roots, but being in Italy felt sort of like being at home. I felt like I was living out everything I had ever dreamed about Italy, and everything, though I barely speak the language, felt familiar. What I most appreciated about Italy, was  of course, the people. An ever-embracing, ever-sharing, always smiling, greeting, and laughing people; you enter the country and join the family.

my adopted cousins :)

my adopted cousins 🙂

I spent my week in the Sorrento area, the Amalfi Coast, and Rome; reunited with great friends and family, and enjoyed the country’s beautiful terrain. Not to mention, I am sure that I gained a solid ten pounds from the various breads, pastas, pizzas and pastries that I could not keep my hands off of (worth it). Italy is poetry: the country’s secrets are locked in the green countryside, curious caves and refreshing water. Perhaps that is why I feel as if I’m still there.. I can’t get Italy out of my head. I can’t explain this, but the familiar feeling of home in the completely different setting that Italy is explained a huge part of who I am. As I mentioned, my family deeply embraces our Italian roots, but having never been to Italy and never knowing my great grandparents, it has always been difficult to understand. I know I was just a tourist for a week, but now looking back,  the experience has explained a lot. I get my stubbornness, and my need to love and to embrace. I get my need to be around people, my craving for chaos and adventure, and my love for music, art, spirituality and food, Italy did my soul some good. Mended it, revived it, while also deepening my understanding of my roots.

Then I went to Paris for a day and literally saw Paris in a day. (Hence why Paris is a short reflection because I didn’t have time to reflect in Paris.. I came I saw I conquered). One really fun thing that happened was that I was in Paris and I ate my breakfast of cheese and croissant and cappuccino and fruit on the balcony of my hotel after rainfall and I felt like a painting. I still like Italy more.. but I’ll be back in Paris for more fun in a couple of weeks so I am sure that things will make more sense soon.

IMG_9688Now I am in London. I LOVE LONDON!
For the past week, I have been studying at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and have been taking four classes a day for six hours a day, learning everything from codified modern techniques to world-renown repertoire, to Laban principles of choreogr
aphy (and also sight-seeing.. but you could have guessed).

Laban is everything I thought it would be, and I am so excited that I am doing research at this program. After my experience in the beautiful dance community in Panama, I felt that I needed to experience dance in various settings so as to not only have a global understanding/develop relationships with the global dance community, but also in hope that I might find methods in the creation of a friendlier dance community in America . I just want everyone who wants to know movement, to have the opportunity to feel challenged by it, to experience one of the most powerful, most natural forms of communication known to human kind. And everyone should be able to know dance at every level. Which I appreciate about Laban.

First of all, it is truly an honor to be at Laban. The students and staff are incredible. Invested, not because they want to dance professionally, but because they just want to dance. People are here to improve, but also to be a part of a greater community. To not only dance but to connect. It is really beautiful. I am enrolled in four classes: Advanced Graham Technique, Advanced Release Technique, Repertoire with the Hofesh Shechter Company, and Choreographical Studies.It would be easy and probably boring for me to walk you through a typical day, but all you really need to know is that we wake up and start dancing early in the morning, dance for about 6 hours a day straight and then go exploring/rest and get ready for the next day. People travel from every part of the world to come to this intensive, and so far I have made friends with dancers from Iceland, Italy, Germany, Japan, India, Argentina, France and London… though there are many others from many other countries. Not only do people come from all walks of life, but people are literally every age. I am dancing with 60 year olds!!!!!! I am dancing with 16 year olds!! I am dancing WITH PEOPLE WHO LOVE TO DANCE!!! IT IS SO INSPIRING. I think the best part of all of this is that, regardless of technical ability, the dancers are training with established professionals who are incredibly relevant in the dance community of London (esp. London, but definitely around the world) and who want to teach dancers regardless of their training background. Laban does a wonderful job of creating a community where there is very little judgment and fear and ALOT of discussion and sharing and risk taking between dancers. I appreciate this.

As an advanced dancer, I can see how this intensive might be difficult for highly advanced dancers who hope to make dance their career, as in all honesty, people are dancing at extremely different levels. Advanced is such a relative  term for placement, and since students get to pick their classes, there are a lot of different perceptions of what ‘advanced’ means from a global perspective. It might be frustrating for some, as this is definitely an intensive that is less telling and more self-searching. A dancer really has to be heavily invested in seeking out relationships, corrections, etc, on their own because the intensive isn’t catered to one degree or level of student.

But I appreciate this. This past year of dance training has been incredibly difficult for me. I have lost a lot of joy for dancing because I feel as if I was constantly in this state of proving myself and of establishing myself,  expecting my professors to just tell me what I would need to hear and do in hopes of being better. In all reality, I had just failed to seek things out on my own, to really push myself in modern and ballet, and to TRULY FIGHT for everything that movement means to me (I am exaggerating a little because I am naturally a soul searcher, but I am hard on myself). I had just lost sight IMG_9632of its truth because I was consumed in life. Being at Laban is beautiful; Besides Panama, of course, I have never felt more inspired and more motivated by my peers and my teachers. Yes, I can tell I have good technique and training (thanks to RAD and VDA and UCI for this), but the passion and the community are really driving me. I have nothing to prove to anyone, and no one needs to validate me, and I know that others in the program feel that same, because why else would they be here and not at some crazy stressful company intensive? It is a beautiful establishment filled with beautiful open minds, and I know that this is how dance was meant to be celebrated.

As a quick side note. In my travels, so far one of the most important things that I have learned to value is my self, or my being. Yes people, I do love who I am, but I have always truly allowed external forces to act as a guidance and a measurement/validation for who I am and what I am doing right/wrong, how I need to  improve my life, etc. I have been meditating quite a lot, as to put it frank, I am trying to separate my self from everything that I have ever been taught about how to perceive the world. I feel that I  have been spoon- fed my spirituality, my perception, my mentality, and my beliefs my entire life– it is time that actually establish my being/convictions/beliefs. I am very grateful for the people in my life that have acted as mentors but being told how to live life is just exhausting. Therefore, this summer has been a lot about getting back in touch with who I am, but at a deeper level.  Thank god for travel. You just learn that people of all walks of life are always going to tell you how to live life, but what it most important is that you find your own roots and you stick with them. You are you. Believe nothing. No matter where you read it or who has said it unless it agrees with your own reasoning and your own common sense.  I am trying to truly take control of my life and my happiness, which means making decisions that might disappoint some people.I am not sure if this is something that all people can understand, but I know I am not the only one going through this, and it is time that people start to listen and stop giving so much advice. Listen, it’s the best form of advice (there’s some advice for you hehe).

I have one more week of intensive and one more month of soul searching and community/dance learning, and I am so excited. I miss home. Traveling is so hard. I haven’t had any moment to myself in literally 1.5 months.I am crammed in one small room with three people. I have been living out of a suitcase. I am out of my good body wash.  I miss in n out and my cat and my best friends any my Andy, but this has become one of the most important summers of my so-far-existence, and I am excited to learn about how I might be able to give myself to this world and bring movement to others.. more to come on that.. I promise I will blog more often now that I have real wifi.

Be well,

Sara

“your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.”

-Bukowski

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An Honest Reflection

It has been a while since my last post on this blog, and for that, I apologize. I have had a wonderful time so far in my traveling adventures, where I have discovered many things, learned new concepts and ideas, and met people whose lives and methods of living have truly changed my perspective as a whole. Upon my return to the States (St. Lucia –> Trinidad –> Florida –> New England.. presently), I have spent more time in deep thought than I have spent talking, which is actually saying a lot because if you know me, you know that I love to just make ridiculous amounts of noise (hi mom).

First of all, I’ve realized that I have done a poor job of explaining to you all for WHY  I have chosen to travel to fourteen different countries to research and study dance this summer. So here it goes:

While most of my research will be conducted at Trinity Laban’s Summer Dance Intensive in London, I feel really compelled to experience dance from the community perspective. I have spent the last 16 years of my life intensively studying dance from a very personal level. I know myself and my aesthetic well, I know my strengths and my weakness, and while of course I know there is always something new to discover, I feel that I have missed out on an incredibly vital aspect that makes dance such a deeply rooted expression of humanity: community. As mentioned previously in the last two blog entries, yes, I will be studying the value of dance in London and its impact on the greater community, where at this intensive, all people from any level of dance experience have the opportunity to train with highly established artists (such as Hofesh Shechter Company).  I find it so beautiful and so vital to the existence of dance that Trinity Laban has maintained Rudolf Laban’s vision in creating a highly esteemed environment where the community is welcome to learn about dance from various perspectives/ truly experience the freedom that movement offers to people. I want to take this research further, and will quite literally be going into the communities of these various countries to learn about the lives of the people that very much have influenced both art and more specifically, the present dance culture. In other words, I desire to know dance from more than a personal, sterile, and isolated environment, where messiness and communication, where celebration of LIFE, is encouraged, and where movement unites people of differences and encourages compassion. My ultimate goal: How can I bring my experiences back to the USA, where I might have the ability to create a space where movement actually unites us, brings the dance community together, strengthens our country’s visions and dreams, and ultimately aids in the building up of each other?

Besides the new marriage laws in America (WHICH IDC I AM VERY HAPPY AND RELIEVED, so sue me), I am constantly listening to news reports where killings, poverty, debates and arguments, and disunity is discussed. And let me be frank here: I AM SO TIRED OF IT. I get it, we need to hear about these events and these conversations, yet I feel that the media does a really wonderful job of covering all of the bad and all of the controversy, and I almost feel that we are a country that has exhausted itself in this way. We need the good to propel us: we need to speak and to act with compassion, and we need to use this as a motive that will aid us in dealing with all of the policies and pain and poverty. Yes, I am aware of the boldness of this statement. Yes, I am aware that this is nearly impossible, but then again, it isn’t impossible. Here’s what I think:

After being immersed in St. Lucian culture for about ten days, I have come to realize (and have previously communicated this) that the St. Lucians are a people who openly and willingly converse. They share every aspect of their being because THEY WANT AND NEED TO CONNECT WITH EACH OTHER IN HOPES OF JUST LIVING. This HELPS their small island community to be both productive and ever-growing. And while I am aware that their population is about 30 times smaller (wait I’m not a math major so don’t actually count that against me) than USA’s population, this is a really smart method of being.

We seem to have a problem (which bothers me beyond belief) with opening up with each other here in The States. There is always some political, religious, personal moral or belief that prevents us from just living in harmony, or from openly  communicating and respecting each other. Instead, we converse at a surface level so as not to offend others, or if we are communicating deeper than surface level, get ready for some sort of controversy. Again, I am tired of it. And since my return, I have noticed it more than ever, and I truly believe that our lack of compassion, our unwillingness to share, our NEED to live in privacy, well it’s just preventing us from actually creating change.

I was discussing with Andy how I am constantly scrolling through social media forums, noticing that people, more specifically, artists (I will get to that in a second), have a tendency (this will not be surprising to you all) to post in a way that solely highlights the BEST parts about their lives. We all tend to highlight the best parts of our careers, our families, our bodies, our experiences. THIS IS ALL GOOD, but I also think we have, as a result, created a very very very surface level platform for conversation. There is very little critical conversation, there is very little opportunity for others to share, understand and acknowledge compassion and to connect with each other. We are sharing a very small portion of our being, because life isn’t all that pretty. It’s intense. So why aren’t we critically acknowledging and accepting this, and why aren’t we attempting to create communities and forums (whether that is on social media or not) where we discuss not only our successes, but also our failures(in positive and healthy ways) from both the personal, community, national, and international platforms?

And I want to take a moment to speak to my artist friends: You all inspire me with your passion and talent, successes, and determination, know that. But I think that the beauty of art is the turmoil and the failure…the struggle, the rising above, the success, the continual upward to downward to upward-again trend. We tend to share our successes because, of course, we want to highlight ourselves. But I think that there is a way where both on and off social media we can extend our art past our successes so that we can communicate our art with all people…

…An example in my own life: I have been really struggling with the idea of perfect performance. What is dance besides perfect performance, and why is my school giving me very little opportunity to understand dance outside of the concert and commercial, perfect performance dance realm? I GO TO A GREAT SCHOOL, I LOVE MY PROFESSORS, AND I LOVE WHAT I AM LEARNING, but no school is perfect, obviously, and I am a thinker. I constantly question my being, I constantly question my surroundings, and it is so frustrating, but in my struggles and in my questioning, my need for critical conversation and advice, I have had opportunities to connect with professors from various departments that have taught me from their own experiences about various topics of my interest, including  spirituality and art, art and outreach, policies in universities, psychology and art, community and art, learning how to LISTEN, etc. AND NONE OF THESE ARE SPECIALIZATIONS within my school, but my questioning has offered me more opportunities that just accepting, just highlighting, and just being successful (or solely acknowledging my successes). I am not saying that I am the role-model here, I am nowhere near role-model material, but I do believe that we are responsible in communicating and connecting with others, and ultimately for getting our audience members to think critically. I don’t have the answers, but it is an important thought of mine.

As for my artistic journey, I believe in honesty. And I believe that as a people of the world, we are responsible for being honest. Honesty is compassion, it is critical conversation, it is strength, and it is hope. We have to believe in hope, we have no other choice.

I’ve quite rambled in this post and I apologize for grammatical errors, but here is what I know: What is life without honesty, what is art without extremity, what are we without compassion and what is our world without communication? People will never be able to connect or to unite or to hope without these things and so I guess, I am proposing honesty. We might fail, or be poor, or perhaps we will be successful and wealthy- who knows- but we can NEVER starve in a life filled with each other.

I know that I will never starve.

Thanks for reading, I love you all and I care,

Sara

one love, one heart, one destiny”

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Sa nou menm

After 24 hours of exhausting trekking across oceans and  through rainforests (okay it wasn’t that bad but still), on Tuesday My family and I arrived in St. Lucia! First impression upon arrival: SHEER BEAUTY. The island is incredible. St. Lucia is about 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, and beauty literally covers every part of this island. The plants are incredible: such vibrancy and colors that I had deemed only possible via photoshop. The animals are actually really interesting and aren’t afraid of humans like they are in America, and the PEOPLE! Wow-let’s talk about the people: perhaps some of the most kind-hearted, good in nature people that I have ever met. 22814_1641034452807726_357486014477546546_n

I thought about it: perhaps these people are only nice because I am staying in a pretty upscale resort, but  I realized that St. Lucians are incredibly invested in getting to know tourists and each other. In other words, they are invested in each other, the truest form of community.

And while I have spent the majority of my week practicing water sports (I have bruises that prove that I tipped a sailboat over and then somehow managed to get it back upright to continue sailing), laying out, and exploring the island, the people are most intriguing. Upon arrival on Tuesday, I had the opportunity to drive across the island and witnessed the simplicity in which St. Lucians live. Because the island only inhabits about 185,000 people (smaller than Claremont), everyone knows practically everyone, thus the tight-knit community. It seems as though, regardless of the run down or unfinished buildings, the St. Lucians value relationships over rituals, luxurious living, and most importantly,  over themselves. I have made many random friends on this island, and their kindness has very much inspired me to spread my own form of joy and kindness with others. I feel that in America (and I know this might be repetitive), we as a people forget that we exist as equals,and our survival depends on the help of others. So why do we live so separately from each other? Why don’t we share and celebrate and live for each other? just a thought.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia

So by now I suppose I should tell you a little bit about what I have experienced activity-wise on this island:

  • I visited the Pitons: yes,they are remarkable. Green, tall, pointy, confusing for how they evolved to be this way, and incredibly majestic.
  •  I visited a waterfall outside of Sufriere. It was my first waterfall 😉 I went underneath the water and everyone else thought the pressure was too intense but for some reason, it was exactly what my muscles needed, so that was nice.
  • I visited the VOLCANO! actually, I didn’t really go up to the volcano but instead hung out a bit below it and took a mud bath in the sulfuric mud stuff because good for skin and cool because natural hot springs.
  • As mentioned previously, I have done about all the water sports you could think of (for calm water), including sailing, paddle-boarding, kayaking, water skiing, and on Monday, I am going to learn how to wind surf! I have also done a bit of snorkeling, and the coral reefs are awesome. I have seen sunken boats/ships, beautiful fire corals, exotic colored fish, lots of underwater greens, and really gorgeous waters.

Finally, last night I went to the Gros Islet Street party. Every Friday evening, the St. Lucians gather to legitimately celebrate life together. Regardless of the weather (which is always perfect), the street closes down and on the both sides of the street, various booths are set up with foods and art and lots of alcohol (they like alcohol). At the top of the street, a HUGE sound system is set up and a DJ (which I must admit, is much better than any DJ I have witnessed in America) plays all types of music, from reggae to 80s pop. The food is incredible. Fresh fish and creole-style rice. Probably the best fish I have ever had which is saying a lot because I like fish. I also got to talk to local artists about their work, and ultimately learned that people follow their passions on this island. I suppose because that was such a blunt statement I should explain: The artists make it a priority to spend their days painting, regardless of their socio-economic status, and one painter had about 500 of his paintings on display for the party (incredible, vibrant, and critical pieces might I add– they were not stiff and over my head. Very down to earth, intentional pieces). I also met a woman named Tina who was selling beverages, and talked about America and we both shared some stories, so that was also really awesome. She treated Laura and I sort of like her daughters, even after only an hour of getting to know her, which goes to show that these people are incredible: hearts of gold, minds of wisdom, bodies of experience.

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Tina and Sara!

It was really really incredible to see the dancing at the street party. Yes, there were a bunch of tourists, but the St.Lucians know how to just dance. I witnessed a man dancing on the balcony and the music was literally speaking to him. I have learned from Professor Wray of the important of allowing one’s self to respond naturally to the present and to the present music, and this man was quite literally doing just that. It was inspiring for me to see how he entered a completely different state, much less aware of his current surrounding, but present all the while, and how he allowed his body to respond to the music in a way where he was making music. What I learned:  always say yes, always be open to new experiences of the body, and stop doing what is solely comfortable. This guy was evidently not repeating that which comes naturally, but was allowing for his body to press the balance.

Ultimately, the street party was impactful because I not only saw individuals dance, but also saw how people live. People are kind, yes, but most importantly, share share share. They share their thoughts, their feelings, their joy, they live in unity. And while I felt that the street party was the St. Lucian’s form of entertainment, it was incredible to see how simplicity is a form of entertainment itself: where celebrating every part of life is present in their festivities and in their daily walk, and that in itself, is all a person really needs to thrive!

Finally, Sa nou menm, my title for this blog, is a creole phrase that means “it is ours.” I witnessed this phrase on the bus stops advertising the local beer, PITON, but it is a remarkable phrase that I feel that we should all ponder. It is ours- this world is ours, this life is ours… we mustn’tIMG_8214 be bogged down by the society that we have created, but we must practice living in a way where we take control and responsibility and ownership for our lives, our actions, our thoughts, our beliefs, and our hearts. We need to live in kindness, in community, in celebration and in joy. We need to value each other and our relationships more, and value money, material etc, a little bit less. It is ours.. I intend to learn from the St. Lucians in this way. It is ours.. is it yours?

mwen renmen ou (I love you),

Sara

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HERE WE GO! SUMMER 2015

Well, it has been a while since I have last posted in this travel blog, but as I sit on my bedroom floor waiting for the shuttle to pick me up (in 30 min.. yes I am rushing this entry, sorry) for my next travel adventure, I thought it would be fun to start this up again.

THIS SUMMER will be crazy. I will be traveling to about 14 countries around the Caribbean, United Kingdom and Northern Europe to experience community, art, food, and friends. While it has always been a dream of mine to spend months abroad doing what backpackers do, I am incredibly excited for what I might uncover abroad.

After my trip with Movement Exchange to Panama, I promised myself that I was going to experience dance in as many different perspectives as possible. I had learned that the American dance realm is motivated by self, by politics and by money.. and while it is an incredible opportunity to dance in the Western World, I have realized that I have been missing out on dance from the perspective of the community. This summer, I plan to delve right into the community, and will be dancing at Trinity Laban’s Conservatoire of Music and Dance for two weeks in July. At Trinity Laban, I will have the opportunity to network with not only established artists, but dancers and other artists from around the world. I plan to research (and actually just received funding from UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program to do so) the value of dance in London, and to network with professionals to uncover the ways in which I can bring dance back to the community here in America.

My itinerary is as follows:

June 16th- 25th: St. Lucia

June 25th-June 30th: South Florida

July 1st-11th: Boston/Rhode Island/Massachusetts

** will be seeing various companies perform at Jacob’s Pillow

July 12th-17th: Naples, Sorrento, Rome, Italy

July 19th-Aug 3rd: London, England

**Trinity Laban Summer Intensive and connected with others for additional research

Aug 5th-8th: Switzerland (Fribourg, Lausanne)

Aug 8th-10th: Munich, Germany

Aug. 10th-14th: Amsterdam & The Hague

Aug. 16th-Aug 28th: London, Oxford, Whales, Scottland

Aug 28th-Sept. 2nd: NYC–>LA

I think what is most exciting (besides the fact that I am about to have the craziest summer of my life thus far) is that I am literally pursuing my dreams. It suddenly occurred to me on a Target run that last summer I had promised myself that I would see the world, and I am, and I had promised myself that I would find dance and find community and find methods to use dance as a means of social activism/change, and I AM, and I cannot thank you all enough for your support (and ‘Just-Do-It-mentalities).

Equipped with one carryphoto-2-on, a backpack, one Go-Pro (thank you Andy ILY), my dance gear, and my favorite pair of shoes, I am off for 80 days!

Move to Change,

SaraIMG_2349

We let our lives mix with our dreams like two coloured paints, until we didn’t know which is what and we didn’t care”

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I am overwhelmed

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I guess one would think that after two weeks of being back in America after an incredible, life-changing trip to Panama, things would go back to normal… Well, nothing is back to normal. Everything is very uncomfortable and I am constantly brought back to the memories of gleaming children, glistening streets, honking horns, stray cats, rich pizza, Kuna Yala and a community who knows more about life than any scientist or mathematician or technology that exists today. Today, in modern, our spiraling exercise was EXACTLY like the one that we performed in a flying low class in Casco Viejo, and all I could do was look at Janine (and she looked at me at the same time) and smile and LONG to go back RIGHT NOW (and then the rest of class was just wonderful because I was inspired). I mean, the lessons that the children and the culture of Panama taught me have truly changed everything about me, and I feel it in my being, in my interactions, in my solitude, in my studies- everywhere. I’ve been listening often to a recording that Blair sent me of the rain in Casco- the sounds of horns and yells, the construction, the drops of rain falling onto the glistening red brick of the narrow streets– The stench of thick moisture and of heat and of ocean and of LIFE. Jason Shinder wrote a poem before his death, Untitled, and in that poem, he writes, “Let me- let me keep describing things to be sure they happened.” Hence, the need for the sound of
Panamanian rain.

I didn’t cry in Panama even though there were so many emotions. Two weeks later, I am feeling more than I ever have in my life. I am embracing this in every way that I am able, and I am keeping it/remembering it because it drives me. Today I was sitting in the Contemporary Arts Center at school waiting for class, eating my almond butter sandwich and drinking my “Mayan Mocha” and then suddenly a rush of “OMG. PANAMA BECAUSE I AM EATING A SANDWICH AND BECAUSE I HAVE SO MUCH AND I MISS MY CHORILLO SISTERS AND BROTHERS” rushed into my head- and then I just couldn’t not feel for the next two hours before ballet. I don’t know.

I guess that I thought that I would use this blog solely for travel, but I am realizing that it just cannot stop there… I need to keep this going, people just need to know. It is so important to be passionate about something- about anything, and to talk about it. Act in it, live it out. This is how the world turns: people are passionate and they find a way to exclaim it to the universe. The smallest gestures of passion create the most responsive answers to our purpose in life, and those who are around passionate people learn how to live (and live passionately). This is what I’ve learned, this is what I must yell out to the universe, this is what our society needs to understand (so society: stop telling me to be safe, comfortable, practical and logical- because life is very much none of these things.. life is just ridiculous which is why we need to stop setting rules and regulations that people just can’t live up to!!!). We are a beautiful race. We were born with joy in our hearts and spring in our steps and while life throws us curveballs, we must not forget our passions, our community, our humanity, or ourselves, and we must remember to live with joy streaming through our blood.

So I wrote two poems. Disclaimer: I am not a poet by any means (like literally, not at all), but I definitely think that it is the only way that I have truly been able to express vivid pictures in my head as well as my stirred heart(and since Jazley has the words perfectly placed in a blog of her own, and since we are creating a dance piece as well, poems will just have to work.) I thought I would share them, or at least write them down and put them out in the Universe, mostly for myself:

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1. Sunshine

She beams.
“Cómo tu te llamas?” I ask,
and she reveals the Milky-Way in her pupils.

Like a hurricane, she permits the temple of her being to be carried away while I continue to grip onto the edges of the earth.

“¿Cómo tu te llamas?
She shrugs–
–As the chains of a childhood of emptiness drop to the soil
And she clutches my hand and I enter an unsheltered galaxy–

Where the sycamores twist
and the grasses fly
and the ground is a trodden red mush, staining my limited edition Nikes.

I feel uprooted.
I squeal for shelter— But she just clutches me harder…
And so I feel my back catching drops of space.

“¿Niña, Cómo tu te llamas?”
I need to know.
Or at least I think I do.

I thought I did.
And as she chokes my fingers,
I get a little wetter–
I walk a little further–
I breathe a little deeper–
I clutch a little tighter–

My “¿Cómo tu te llamas?” left my universe as we whirled like wind-blown dandelions in the rain.

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2. Untitled

A static that comes from stickiness
A stench that is my sweat–
Bare feet cling to her center
and shouting whispers buzz around the structure of her ruins.
Painted porches of faded forest
As they chip away at the spirits of pirates running on Firestone.
Rubber squeals–
Honk
Bang
Slip
Splash
“Don’t move, don’t move”

The saltiness, the messiness, the thickness of their being–
without protection,
sans support,
Their lives, a glittering hope in a shower under the sun.

This was needed.
Besos,
Sara

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