Friday, December 31, 2010

14 years. The dog days are over.

There are so many auspicious things happening at this turn of the year.

For starters, I am 14 years sober this week. It is an unbelievable blessing and I become more grateful every year for the gifts that consciousness has brought me.

But since I am really and truly not certain about how 2011 will play out for me, sometimes I need a little boost of confidence to move forward into the next day of not knowing. I have chosen this song as the soundtrack to enter into this new year. Thanks to Heather Britt, there is even a dance number to go with it! Join us at R&M this year at the Cincinnati Ballet to find out what all the fuss is about.

So as the curtain rises on 2011, I hope you can hear the music too. It sounds very hopeful to me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Meet some super talented young people.

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of watching Samantha Pille and David Donnelly rehearse with choreographer Heather Britt. They are preparing for the YAGP (Youth American Grand Prix) semi-finals in Chicago in January. YAGP is the world's largest student ballet competition and incredible young people from all over the world compete by performing short classical and contemporary works.

Heather is working with Sammy and David on their contemporary piece, with an original score by Peter Adams.

It was incredible to watch. They have amazing technique already memorized in their bodies and are now on the journey of a lifetime to showcase their skills in Chicago. If they win there, they will move on to NY.

I will update you after Chicago!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I want to feel as happy as you dance.

A long time ago, I wanted to look like other people. I wanted that girl's skinny legs or that girl's olive skin or that girl's blond hair.

Now I aspire for a movement quality. I want to learn to turn like Ron. I want to learn to leap like Heather. I want to learn to free up my spine like Alena.

I don't wish to be younger or skinnier or prettier. I just want to move with confidence, purpose and joy. I want to be as happy as Alena is here, at the Rhythm and Motion 10-year anniversary party, every single day.

It is hard to imagine anything more beautiful than this, right?

That's why I went to class last night. That's why I am off to class today. (9:30 a.m Tuesday at the Cincinnati Ballet at the corner of Central and Liberty.)

Join me!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What is the rhythm of your life?

Do you work to a rhythm? Can you find the tempo today?

Check this out. Be inspired.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

True Body Project goes global in 2011. Donate NOW to help us help girls in the U.S. and abroad.

I am thrilled to report that the True Body Project has had an amazing year.

I started the True Body Project in 2005 and it became a non-profit a couple years later. We are a small organization doing a whole lot of work. In 2010, we earned 14K via individual donations, ticket sales, residency honoraria, and licensing fees for our Curriculum Guide.

And in 2010, we accomplished the following:

* New York collaborators Cameron Anderson and Liza Zapol did an intensive, multi-week residency with GEMS, learning first-hand from survivors about sex trafficking in Harlem. They are finishing work on a short, animated film that was inspired by this work.

* True Body Project and Women Writing for (a) Change collaborated on a weekly class for teens. The girls created a performance work that was performed in November. Look forward to another teen class in January and a class for women in February!

* True Body Project enjoyed a third year with CincyFringe with its WALK IN OUR SHOES project. More than 100 people donated shoes and personal stories. We exhibited the shoes and stories at SWITCH on Vine Street and crafted the stories into a sold-out performance work for CincyFringe. We were nominated for Best Alternative Show by City Beat's CEA awards and reprised the show at the Museum Center and the Clifton Cultural Arts Center.

* I was in residence with EngAGE seniors and students in Los Angeles for the month of October and we created two performance works on the WALK IN OUR SHOES theme. We also created blogs to commemorate our time together and our stories. You can see stories of the Piedmont seniors and students here and the Burbank seniors and students here.

* Our Curriculum Guide was licensed in Canada, Tennessee, Vermont and more so that the True Body work is being done by girls and women in more and more places.

* We served as fiscal agent for a theatrical project and raised more than $3000 on Kickstarter to workshop a musical entitled THE VIVIAN GIRLS, which explores what happens to orphaned, adolescent girls.

* And, thanks to a generous donation from Lisa Stegman, I am able to fly to Phnom Penh in January to conduct True Body workshops with Transitions Global girls and their clinical staff. Transitions Global participated with our WALK IN OUR SHOES exhibit and performance by providing us the shoes and stories of three teens who survived sex trafficking. We still need help to fund expenses for this trip beyond air travel.

So we need your help to do our work. We operate with virtually no overhead and all of our funds go directly to putting on programs.

EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS. Please visit the True Body Project website where you can make a donation via PayPal with one click.

Finally, if you want to experience what we do, join Rachel Roberts and me at the Yoga Bar on January 2nd for a three-hour True Body, New Year workshop. I assure you a meaningful experience.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Maybe it isn't so puzzling after all.

Last night I went to Rachel's Yin yoga class at the Yoga Bar because I wanted to do something special to call in the solstice and the eclipse.

I have written before about her dreamy class and last night's version did not disappoint. I don't know when it happened or what Rachel was saying that prompted my thoughts to coalesce in this manner, but I had the most beautiful vision/thought/idea.

Bear with me for a moment while I try to create a linear tale to this non-linear yoga epiphany.

This past year, I spent a lot of time with Kristin in LA. She is going into her 6th year of cancer. She survived breast cancer in her 30's only to get leukemia as a by-product of her chemo/radiation treatments. Kristin and her family LOVE puzzles and this one, this map of the solar system, was one of the ones they did this past year. It has 1500 pieces and a good portion of them depict the black field of space. It is HARD.

Kristin is kind of a puzzle genius. She spends hours at her dining room table fitting them together. I made it my job to turn the pieces over so they are all image side up and to organize them into piles of "like" pieces. Kristin took over the more nuanced job of figuring how everything goes together.

In my yoga moment, I understood how it all works: my universe. I understood that it makes sense that Kristin would be the one working so hard to put the pieces together. I understood how it makes sense that I am the one turning the puzzle pieces right-side up so they can be easily categorized: this is a planet, these are all stars, and so on.

I could also see that even though I can't know yet where all the pieces go, they all have a place. And ultimately, with enough time and patience, everything fits together exactly right.

Most important, last night, lying on my mat with my tears falling in the dark, I understood that only three things really matter this year.

Kristin has a bone marrow donor.

My parents are turning 75.

My son is in love.

Today, in the light of day, I woke up worrying about more than that. But then I thought of Kristin leaning over the puzzle and I had clarity once again.

Kristin has a bone marrow donor, my parents are turning 75, and my son is in love.

If that is all that 2011 has to offer, it is enough.

Solstice Dance!! Thanks Ian.

Ian Forsgren sent this to me. It is as joyous as he is.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chronos and Tropos, Grace and Nepenthe

I am trying, trying to be mindful today. I am taking time this week to reflect on the changes that are possible with this big-deal configuration of the Winter Solstice, a full Lunar Eclipse, the turn of the year and for me, soon, the turn of a half century. Not to mention, Mercury is in Retrograde.

All those words (Solstice, Eclipse, Lunar, Retrograde) seemed so potent and eternal and poetic that I was drawn to the big guns in my book shelf. Greek mythology, quantum physics, Buddha. Which put me directly in front of Kim Krause's work, where I found the inspiration I really needed. I have one of his beautiful prints to the right of my bookshelf. Kim is an incredible and literate painter who does a new body of work every couple of years and asks friends to write in response to the work. In 2007, I wrote to his Chronos+Tropos series. This year, painter and poet Ruth Wartman wrote to Grace+Nepenthe. I love all of her poems but I think this is my favorite:

House lights are up.

The play is over.
Roses, scattered.
The cast has left
its stage; soft and quiet.

Only your breathing acts

as the filler of time and space
before the theater's next
big O. Behind the curtain,
in its lush meantime

you wait, humming.


What I understand about this cosmic moment in time is that it is time to leave behind that which no longer serves us so that we can transform into our fuller, best selves. It is going to be revealed to us. In fact, it is happening to us, which might be why we, say, nearly wept while some happy man sang a sad song at a holiday party. Yikes.

We just need to be still and quiet and open and authentic.

We just need to wait, behind the curtain, humming.

In the lush meantime, I wait.


(Thanks Ruth. Thanks Kim!)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy Hippocampal Neurons, To You!

This is your happy, merry brain, after dance. Or really any kind of movement.

There is a nice web page dedicated to a simple explanation of how important movement is to the brain's ability to function. Here is a short bit from that page:

When acetylcholine is released at a neuromuscular junction, it crosses the tiny space (synapse) that separates the nerve from the muscle. It then binds to acetylcholine receptor molecules on the muscle fiber's surface. This initiates a chain of events that lead to muscle contraction.

Scientists have shown that muscle fiber contains a scaffold made of special proteins that hold these acetylcholine receptors in place. Research led by Jeff W. Lichtman, M.D., Ph.D., at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, indicates that a loss of nerve signals – due to inactivity – actually disassembles this scaffold and causes a loss of acetylcholine receptors. When the muscle becomes active again, however, the scaffold tightens its grip and catches any receptors that come by.

"So muscle activity is a cue to keep a synapse stable, and synaptic inactivity is a cue to disassemble a synapse," says Lichtman, a professor of neurobiology. "So if you lose activity, you lose receptors. But if you regain activity, you get those receptors back."

And while we are a body-obsessed culture, we are also inclined to believe that "making it" means we have the ability to do nothing. Thomas Hanna writes of this in his fantastic 1928 book called SOMATICS. He writes, "A body in a bathing suit by a swimming pool, lying motionless on a chaise lounge, is the American image of 'having made it.' We should not forget, however, that this is also the image of a dead body.'"

He goes on to say that we gain important momentum for these synapses in childhood. Learning to walk, then run, then jump, (and not to mention skipping and laughing and twisting and rolling around on the ground, just for the heck of it) - that these are critical functions to mental and physical wellness. When we stop using these functions, we lose them. Hanna says, "If certain actions are no longer part of our behavioral inventory, our brain crosses them off. In a word, it forgets. The practical, everyday awareness of how these actions feel and how they are performed fades away and Sensory Motor Amnesia is the result."

So think about it. What are you doing today to keep your scaffolding intact? I am pretty sure that we all want a sharp mind and a whole bunch of joy as we age. Right?

Condition yourself for wellness. The body is so darn amazing and if we just invest a little time in understanding the science of it, I think we can change the world, one happy body at a time.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The metaphor of the body.

There are days when I need something to help organize my thoughts and lift my spirits. I need an intention. I need direction. I need a little beauty. Some days, I even need help knowing how to feel. Today is one of those days.

We are moving toward the darkest day of the year, literally, and I can feel the narrowing of my own soul. So I turned to Mary Oliver, my favorite poet in the whole world, for some inspiration.

Poem (the spirit likes to dress up)

The spirit
likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers,
ten toes,

shoulders, and all the rest
at night
in the black branches,
in the morning

in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather

plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
it needs
the metaphor of the body,

lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body's world,

and imagination
and the dark hug of time,
and tangibility,

to be understood,
to be more than pure light
that burns
where no one is --

so it enters us --
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;

and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.

Mary Oliver

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Black Swan-like dedication to my craft.

Short the self-mutilation and the psychosis, a few friends and I showed our Black Swan-like dedication to dance today as we braved the elements to attend the Thursday morning Rhythm & Motion class at the Cincinnati Ballet.

I hiked the eight blocks from Orchard to the Ballet when I realized that if I didn't get up and move this morning, it might be a completely isolated, sedentary day. And in truth, that is what leads me to the dark place for sure.

My fellow dancers slid their way from as far away as Wilmington to get to class. In the end, Julie, Danielle, Nicole, Nicole, Meg, Laura and I BROUGHT IT for extra cardio Thursday.

Thanks, Julie, for being there for us and thanks to the rest of the corps for moving with me on a snow day so I can keep my black swan in check.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Are you paying attention? Check out Matt Luck. And file this moment away until you go, "Oh I saw this guy when he was like 15."

So I am not dancing today. Break day.

( And shit it is cold.)

I was thinking about whether or not to post and so I killed some time on Facebook (really? what a surprise!) and "liked" one of Matt Luck's funny status updates and then VOILA! my post came to me.

Introduce them to Matt Luck!!

I met Matt through Jodie Linver when we needed a Britt Spitler understudy for our True Body Fringe show in 2009. She showed me this video and I cried.

I think Matt was like 14 or 15 when this was performed. He is this awesome kid with this incredibly unique look and an authentic, jaw-dropping talent. I have to imagine there have been times when it hasn't been easy to be Matt, hanging in the suburbs of Cincinnati.

But good things are coming to him. They already have. He is much-recognized by all the right people on the national dance scene.

So check it out. And try to remember when (or if) you have moved this organically, this authentically.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What if we are this beautiful already?

This is an astonishingly beautiful piece of art. It is simple: a piece of red fabric dancing to the forces created by a circle of fans. AMERICAN BEAUTY captured it too. But this is more precisely created to stand on its own narrative.

What if this is what we really look like as we succumb to the conflicting forces around us and within us? We get pulled this way by desire and then retreat that way in fear. We ascend and then we drop. We are in constant motion.

What if the dance is the thing? What if this is enlightenment?

I have been talking a bit the last couple of days about my friend Julianna's discovery this past year. She realized, as an actor, she was always one intellectual step removed from her instincts, as though being herself had to be dressed up a bit. She spent a few painful weeks breaking down these habits in order to trust that being just Julianna is good enough. That magic lives right there.

I watched her work a month ago when she joined our True Body ensemble and it was palpable ... her open heart and her soft knowing. Watching the real Julianna was as beautiful as this video.

And to my other beautiful friend (you know who you are), you are also this perfect, as is. And as beautiful as they come.


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Evolution of a Secured Feminine

The Evolution Of A Secured Feminine from AlvinAileyAmericanDanceTheater on Vimeo.

Well this is exactly what I hope to do this year. I want to evolve securely, femininely. And dude, I want to dance just like this.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How To Have Fun With Dancing.

I have had the great fortune of spending a ton of time with the Chambers/Dollinger family while in LA. And I am a huge fan of their son Simon. He goes to Sequoyah, an innovative school in Pasadena.

Part outdoor magical playground, part school, Seqouyah features an "Options" program. What this means is that a couple times a year, parents or students can create their own class and as long as they get enough people to sign up, they get to teach. And since there are a lot of talented parents and kids at the school, the students get to learn cooking, filmmaking, etc. from master teachers and/or enthusiastic students.

According to Simon's mom, his first offering, "How To Draw A Mango," didn't get enough takers to go forward with the class. But this year, his "How To Have Fun With Dancing" class, is a go. Thursday is the final performance. Simon has divided the class into groups and they will perform various numbers they created. Simon will perform the finale.

Here, in preview, is a bit of Simon's Mix-Hop dance style. I think you will agree that Simon knows how to have fun with dancing. And what more do you need besides passion, talent and drive to be a great teacher?

Go, Simon!

simon dancing from stacy sims on Vimeo.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Cincinnati Rhythm & Motion!

Happy Birthday, Cincinnati Rhythm & Motion!

Tonight lucky Cincinnatians will celebrate 10 years of R&M and 10 years of the inimitable Heather Britt ... an amazing dancer, teacher, mother, choreographer, business woman, and friend.

Everyone who knows me has heard my praise a thousand times. Here are a few variations on the theme:

"Oh my God, really, you should see Heather in class."
"Seriously, it is the best class ever."
"You think she is good? You should see Heather dance."
"Heather can do that."

I remember when I first started hearing about Heather and the class. For some insane reason, I resisted it at first. Finally, a few years back, I started going on Wednesday nights. I thought I was going to faint or vomit after about four songs. It was that challenging to my non-cardio'ed system. And instead of running for the door, I told my friend Katie "I love this!"

For a few months, I was a Wednesday night regular. And then I added Monday. And then I added Saturday. And then I added in Susan's class. And Elena's class. And then Julie's class. And then Rachel's class. And then Britt's class. I was hooked.

The point of R&M is to dance because it is a joyful and healthful practice. Along the way, we try to get better at it. Sometimes we imagine that we are almost as good at this wiggle or that leap as Heather. And then she busts out a new variation on something and we literally stop in our tracks. What. The. Hell?

The most amazing thing though about Heather and the other R&M teachers is not their stellar talent, but their kindness and openness and joyous energy, each and every class. I know that each of them has endured some very difficult times since I have met them, but I have never seen any of these teachers let anything effect their class.

So do yourself a favor. Go to a class. Or come to the Cincinnati Ballet tonight at 8 p.m. to take part in the fun. Just don't take my spot. I'm coming back soon! :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pilates is for beasts ... and a little ramble about connectedness.

Oh. My. God.

So I got invited to a pro-class in Santa Monica by Libby Bideau of Libby Pilates. The class was held at Winston Pilates on Ocean, literally across from the ocean. In this beautiful location, a lovely instructor named Brianna led Veronica, Libby and me through the HARDEST class I have ever taken. And since I cannot or will not let myself "fail" (read competitive to a fault) I tried every single tricked-out advanced move she threw at me. First of all, Libby is a beast. With a probably broken foot ("Oh, I dropped half a Reformer on it") and a messed up neck, she whipped through every single amazing piece of choreography.

Brianna "retrograded" our class which means that we did the class in reverse, saving footwork and hundreds to the end, when we were (I was) a shaking mess of muscle and bone.

It was awesome. It reminded me where I came from, movement-wise, and where I can still go. It reminded me of how hard I have worked to synchronize mind to body to be able to execute complex moves at will.

It also made me think of connectedness. Especially because my entire day was a sweet montage of it.

It started with a visit to the Burbank Senior Artists Colony to see the seniors and students I had worked with in October. It was fantastic to observe how close they have all become. We sang holiday songs together plus sang Happy Birthday to the now 17 year-old George.

Next, I went to Pilates. I met Libby via email, through Tracy Conner, who was in the True Body "Shoe" show AND who saw the piece the seniors and students created in Burbank AND who just happened to be on my plane on my way out to LA this trip. I met Tracy during CincyFringe 2009.

After Pilates, I drove through insane traffic for about a decade (two hours) to watch Sam Anderson's acting class at the Road, where my play was produced a year ago. It was Sam who introduced me to the folks at EngAGE who hired me to work with the Burbank seniors and students. In class, Albie (I met Albie through Sam and when we are in NY, we try to catch a play) and Mark worked on a scene from the new Neil LaBute play, starring David Duchovny. Duchovny is closely connected to my friend Nancy whom I lived with in the 80s. Nancy and I also lived with Nadine, who is off shooting a pilot, so she offered me her apartment and car in LA, which is exactly where I am, right this second, as I ponder whether or not to submit a play to CincyFringe 2011.

I could go on and on about how this entire trip has blurred past, present, and I hope, future.

Bell's Theorem, a quantum physics milestone, proves that once two objects are connected, they are always connected. And regardless of time and distance, these objects continue to influence each other.

Thanks to each and everyone of you who continue to influence me because we have had the good fortune of connecting in the past. I will do my very best to hold up my end of the quantum bargain and do whatever I can, whenever I can, to do good for you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.

This is the title of Alice Walker's new book of poetry. In the preface, Walker writes

Once a person of periodic deep depressions, a sign of mental suffering in my family that affected each sibling differently, I have matured into someone I never dreamed I would become: an unbridled optimist who sees the glass as always full of something. It may be half full of water, precious in itself, but in the other half there's a rainbow that could exist only in the vacant space.

I have learned to dance.

And in case that image of the rainbow in the vacant space of the glass half full isn't enough, here is a short little bit of lovely from the book.

who knows how?
the body & the soul
come back
the hand
holding the pen
not advertising

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The cure to an impatient spine.


I have arrived in LA. I am here to try to connect with new collaborators. And since I don't know who they are or what that really looks like (aka I'm winging it a bit), it is easy to get nervous. And impatient.

That got me to thinking about impatience. My friend Lisa had a dream recently in which a friend chastised her for her "impatient spine." I was pondering this as I watched Jasmine Albuquerque, my dance teacher, in the Beginner Jazz Fusion class at the Sweat Spot on Sunset yesterday morning.

I can tell you this. Jasmine does not have an impatient spine. She has a joyous, confident and irreverent spine. And she took us through one of the most joyous, confident and irreverent classes I have ever been in. I will return for sure and take her advice to check out the Heartbeat House in Atwater too.

So on the days when my brain gets impatient and demands to know "What are we doing? What are we doing? What are we doing?" I can remember how my spine felt in Jasmine's class. Because if my spine had a voice yesterday it was shouting, "Ha ha! Watch this! I can do anything!"

And if you want to know more about all the cool stuff Jasmine is up to, you can follow her here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who inspired you today?

I have to say, I was not feeling it this morning. The dance studio was cold. My hair was bugging me. I was hungry.

But the inimitable Susan Autran (super cute photo of her, to the right) believed so much in my hibernating energy that she drew it out of me. By about song #3, I was in it to win it.

Who inspired you today? Or who do you count on to inspire you later?

It is our job as students to show up and try to get out of our own way to learn. It is the teacher's job to see our best self before we even get there. And Susan Autran delivers, every single R&M class.

Thanks for today, Susan!