St. Louis Bound

I haven’t wanted to write for awhile.

Every time I sat down to write a blog post, I didn’t know how to put into words some of the changes that have been occuring in my life lately. I didn’t know how open to be, how personal to get… I can barely synthesize what’s going on in my brain, so forget trying to get it into words.

Simply put, I am moving to St. Louis as soon as I can find a job. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I think it’s time for me to try and pursue dance in an area where there are more opportunities for me.

I’ve been in a rut in Columbia. I’m not creating enough, I’m uninspired, and I haven’t been able to find a full-time job here. I’m through living in stagnancy. I’m ready for a new challenge and the growth it brings.

However, my anticipation for change lies cheek to cheek with another concept that is a fundamental part of my personality — procrastination as a result of a fear of the unknown. This will be the first time I move for ME, and not for another person. I lived in a small town my whole childhood, went to college in a smaller town to be at the same school as my sister, and I moved to Columbia to be with my boyfriend and dance with a group in Columbia.

The other big change in my life is that I recently ended a long-term relationship with a really wonderful person who I grew apart from. I wish him the best, I truly do. He changed my life for the better and was a constant source of support. Unfortunately, sometimes life pulls two people in different directions. We both owe it to ourselves to walk our own paths.

This morning has been job interview craziness… I’m sitting at a coffee shop between my second and third interviews. Wish me luck!

New York Show and EPL Month II

Well, folks, it’s come and gone: This Saturday I performed in the sold-out New York premiere of Bellydance Evolution — over 600 people came out to support Jillina and the entire cast.

What an amazing, amazing experience.

I arrived at the theater at 1:30 PM after an hour ride on the subway– just enough time to snag a makeup mirror in the dressing room and get our costumes, makeup, and props out and ready to go. Around 2, we all meet onstage for a group warm-up and pep talk from Jillina. Almost right away we throw our costumes on and begin tech rehearsal on the stage. That’s right, before the show even starts, we were onstage running the entire show in costume! We have one chance to get it marked right onstage — every minute there’s a yell of, “Our line needs to start on the 2!” “This line is supposed to be on the center marley!” or “Flat line in the back!” I have four costume changes in the show, including several quick changes and a change where in less than three minutes, I get completely out of all my tribal gear and into a cabaret costume. Not to mention all my props…

If I can just make it through the show with my sanity intact…

After the show runthrough, we practice the preshow and then book it to grab some dinner. Thankfully, Jillina had some really healthy, light food catered to the theater — salad, bread, pasta, fish, and fruit. Completely ravenous, I inhale a plate in less than five minutes and immediately start on hair and makeup. Luckily we had practiced stage makeup earlier in the week, so I manage to paint myself up in a reasonable amount of time. Before I know it, I hear the stage manager announcing over the intercom, “15 minutes till preshow.”

And before I really even realized that I was in the middle of the thing that I had trained over 50 hours for, it was over! My props were ready for each piece, I didn’t go onstage naked, and pieces that I was stressing about went surprisingly well. I am really happy with how the performance went, and I think all the girls felt like it was overall a success. After the show, I crowd into a van with Sharon, Louchia, Vilia, Liz, and Faith and head to the afterparty in Chinatown.

The next day I was dead the world. I overslept and missed my first workshop, and then get so turned around on the subway that I miss my second one, too. Oh well. I head back to Brooklyn and end the trip with a huge piece of cheesecake from Junior’s — apparently some of the most famous cheesecake in New York. I think I deserve it 🙂

The show also ushered in the end of month II of the “Eat, Pray, Love” Experiment. This month’s goal was training. I wanted to work hard and see results. I have to say, I feel really successful in this month. Not only did I get some really valuable advice and training on creating art from Amy Sigil, but this show taught me a lot about how much putting your nose to grindstone can bring you. Every single day this month I feel like I was actively focusing on setting training goals and meeting them. I’m excited to say I’m in better shape than I have ever been in, and I lost some weight in New York. After this month, I am excited to try and maintain my health and my weight and continue my training regime — I hope that I can continue to practice the skills I have learned in month 2 throughout the rest of this year.

Month 3… I need a few days to synthesize what exactly I want out of month 3. I’ll be posting more on that later 🙂

I <3 New York!

I cannot believe a week has gone by so fast.

One week ago around this time, I was staring at the lights of the New York City as my plane slowly began its descent. As we got lower, the city looked like it was sparkling as the lights flickered through the buildings and trees. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Fast forward to today, where I am sitting with Marisa and Jesse, college friends who graciously offered to let me stay with them in Brooklyn, the night before the show after a solid 7 days (47 HOURS, to be exact, not including tomorrow!) of rehearsals.

Being a part of this show has been nothing short of spectacular. The choreography is brilliant and challenging, the girls (and 2 guys!) are all exceptionally hard workers, the costumes are beautiful, the story is great… and dancing onstage alongside artists like Jillina, Sharon Kihara, Elizabeth Strong, Kaeshi Chai and Bellyqueen (among others) makes me want to pinch myself every rehearsal and ask myself, “Is this really happening?”

I think the best thing so far has just been seeing firsthand how much WORK goes into putting a show like this up. I’ve been in a few small shows before where there were several months to prepare, but working on a professional production is a completely different animal. We get there around 11 and we are on our feet until 6 with maybe 20 minutes or so to eat. Not only is there a lot of choreography to learn, but Jillina’s choreography also has tons of formation changes. On top of that there are costumes changes, tons of props, and completely different makeup than I am used to (we all look like drag queens).

I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been here. I never really studied a lot of cabaret – I kinda jumped right into tribal fusion. In this show, I dance with feather fans, candles, and canes, none of which I’ve really danced with before. I’ve really gained a new appreciation for cabaret, and it’s helped me with posture, lines, and extension. I’ve also learned a ton about dancing with other people. This contest took girls from all over the world (Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine) with all different styles and somehow after a week together, we’re all starting to look like we’ve danced together for years.

While I was here in New York, I’ve also got to do some things other than the show. On Wednesday, I danced at Djam Under Je’Bon, a local experimental belly dance every Wednesday in Manhattan. I got to meet the Beatbox Guitar guys, whose music I’ve been following for awhile, which was pretty exciting. It was really great to let off some steam, dance, drink sake, and eat some pretty awesome pineapple-cashew fried rice.

On Thursday, I went out with my roommate for the week, Marisa, to volunteer at the Coalition for the Homeless food drive. We took a van and stopped to hand out soup, milk, oranges, and bagels at ten stops all around uptown Manhattan. Afterward, Marisa and I walked to Times Square and Grand Central Station, ending at Sardi’s for hot chocolate. It was a great night.

I’ve been really appreciating the subway system in New York. I bought a week-long pass for $27 bucks, and it allows me to take any subway or bus in New York. I’ve also appreciated that New York streets are based off a grid – it makes it a lot easier to get around.

Well, off to bed – I’ll be posting soon with an update on how the show went!

New Website/Tattoo/Travels!

A few updates in my life:

— My new website is up and running! A big thank you to Nichelle Lawrence for her beautiful images. Columbians, if you’re looking for someone to help out with your website or show you the ropes of Dreamweaver, I believe she’s expanding her business here to include web design.

— I got a tattoo in Sacramento on my rib cage. Thank you to Amy, Raven, Julie, and Mr. Todd for sandwiches and distractions 🙂 It’s a modernized Bastet (an Egyptian goddess associated with music, drama, joy, and dance), some flowers native to Sacramento, and some hidden symbols;) Those in California: I had a very postive experience getting tattooed by SteveO of Something Wicked Tattoo. SteveO took a bunch of my random ideas and wove them together in something better than I could have ever come up with. Thank you, SteveO!

— NEW YORK! I am gearing up to spend a week in New York to dance in Bellydance Evolution with Jillina, Kaeshi Chai, Sharon Kihara, Elizabeth Strong, Heather Aued, and more! I’m really excited to be working with such talented artists. I am learning the choreographies now — get ready for drum solos, veil pieces, cane dances, tribal fusion pieces, and a whole lot of theater. While I’m there, I will also be dancing at “D’jam Under Je’Bon,” hosted by Kaeshi Chai of Bellyqueen! I am so grateful for Stephens College for letting me use their dance studios to prepare for both these shows.

Keep checking back — I still have more to blog about Sacramento and I will be posting while I’m in New York 🙂

EPL and Sacramento

Here’s a blog I wrote a few days ago when I was still in Cali and never posted:

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations.

I went into this trip trying not to have any. But the longer I’m here, the more I realize I did have some preconceived ideas about this trip.

After the first month of EPL, I remember having this feeling that the goal I had at the beginning of the month and the result I had at the end were so different from one another. I remember thinking, “Well, in Month 2, there’s no way I’ll be doing anything but training hard. I’m going to California and New York to dance, and I’ll only have 8 days in January when I’m even in Columbia.”

But this trip, while I have danced a LOT and I still have a few days at Shoebox and a day at the mothership with Suhaila, the most important things I have learned so far have been outside of the dance studio. I’ve learned so much about hard work from these women and men. I’ve learned what a healthy, functional dance community looks and operates like. Amy sets the bar REALLY high for these dancers choreographically and interpersonally, and it shows.

Some of the best experiences I have had here have been outside of Hot Pot, even! On Sunday, we went to a Japanese bath house in downtown San Francisco called Kabuki. The first thing you see when you walk in are these beautiful shower stations. Everyone sits down and bathes, and then you enter the main room.  There was a hot pool, a cool dip pool, a wet sauna, and a dry sauna. You’re not allowed to talk loudly and you just slowly drift between the different pools and saunas for as long as you want. When I got out, I felt so cleansed and restored. It was absolutely beautiful. After we got sushi, some sort of crepe-ice cream sundae and walked Haight-Asbury in San Francisco.

Sacramento: The First Few Days

Sacramento is amazing. I’ve been having such a rad time the past few days living here at Hot Pot Studio and getting to meet the community and family here.

The trip started a little rocky. Mark and I drag ourselves out of bed at 5 AM so I could catch my 6:40 AM flight. I get to the airport – and the check-in line, just by eyeballing it, is at least an hour wait. There is a line outside that looks shorter… but damn, it’s St. Louis at 5:30 in the morning, so it’s COLD. I opt to wait outside, barely get checked in the mandatory 30 minutes early. I go toward the security line… and it’s even longer.

I manage to find a shorter security line and get through it in 25 minutes. I grab my bag, computer, and jacket off the X-Ray machine and SPRINT toward my gate. I arrive ONE MINUTE late. I see my plane, still connected to the building. “Am I too late?” I ask despairingly. The security guy nods curtly.

Shit.

I go up to the ticket counter. “You might have to go on a flight tomorrow, everything is booked,” the ticket lady says. “The best I can do is put you on standby.” I get put on standby on a flight 20 minutes later. I miraculously manage to get the only seat available. When I arrive in Las Vegas for my connection, I am put on a flight leaving 10 minutes later. I end up arriving in Sacramento an hour before I was supposed to arrive!

So that worked out well.

My first few days here have just been… amazing. Exactly what I needed. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of really amazing people that dance at Hot Pot, I’ve eaten some of the best food I’ve ever had… yesterday morning I took an amazing yoga class here at the studio, and it just felt so good to stretch after flying and working so hard the few days on getting my website up (which I’ve been having issues with, but it WILL be up soon!).

I’ve taken a lot of classes already. There are several weekly choreography classes, and I also got my first taste of group improv, which is really fascinating. Yesterday I took a long walk around Sacramento after breakfast, and I’m in love with this town. It’s absolutely beautiful.

I am going to stay here for the rest of the week and then spend some time at Shoebox Studio closer to the Bay next week.

Packin’ My Bags…

… I’ve just finished (over)packing for my trip to Sacramento.

This trip really snuck up on me. I have been holed up in Nichelle Lawrence’s studio the past few days, getting new pictures and images together. Today I realized I that I am driving down TONIGHT to St. Louis so I can get up early enough to catch my flight at an ungodly 6:40 AM.

Looking back, though, I’m kind of glad I’ve been distracted with other projects and I haven’t been thinking about this trip in the past few days as I usually do. I’ve identified that I have a bad habit of building up really high expectations. I constantly end up building my expectations so high that I am caught completely unaware for what life is actually throwing my way.

So my only expectations for this trip are:

1) I’m going to work my ass off.

2) I’m going to keep an open mind and live in the present moment.

I’m planning on blogging while in California, so check back. I’ve also got some big announcements and a new website about to be released, so stay tuned!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes.

I was with some friends a few weeks back, and we all decided to read our tarot cards. Believe what you want about tarot — you can believe that the cards truly feed off your energy, or you can believe someone just wrote some universally applicable statements on some cardboard. No matter how you feel, some level of self-reflection is almost unavoidable when reading tarot cards, which I feel is never a bad thing. All I know is I enjoy taking a few minutes to appraise and analyze where I’m at in life.

When it came to my turn, I drew the Death card.

The Death card has a bit of an undeserved bad rap. It seems pretty scary and ominous, but read this description from a tarot site I like:

“In the Tarot, as in reality, Death is nothing more than a transition to the next level of life… Nothing is destroyed, because nothing can be destroyed – there can be only transformation…When the Death card appears, big changes are heading your way. Usually this change refers to something in your lifestyle; an old attitude or perspective is no longer useful and you have to let go of it. Death is not simply destruction; it is destruction followed by renewal. Even though one door may have closed, another is opening. Will you have the courage to step through?”

And wouldn’t you know it… here I am, a few weeks later, and I am appreciating how accurate this card was.

I am someone who has a very hard time dealing with changes and transitioning. I think one of the most important lessons I need to take from this card is that I need to have courage, strength and energy to step through new doors. I have been finding myself asking the universe a lot, “What should I be doing now? What should I be focusing on?” I keep putting off decisions because I’m terrified I’m going to move in the wrong direction. But I am trying to turn that fear into excitement. I am at a point where there are a multitude of paths lying in front of me — I just need to have faith in my instincts that whatever path I choose is the one I’m meant to be on. I need to roll with whatever happens. I’m starting to come to the realization that I waste a lot of time wondering what I should be doing, as opposed to just DOING something. I read in a book once the line, “Understanding is a delaying tactic.” I feel like in my life sometimes I spend too much time and energy analyzing what has happened and trying to understand it, when I could be putting that energy toward dance. Nike got it right — Just do it, Megan.

So I’m just doing it. I finally committed to pursuing a really amazing opportunity that was presented to me. Yesterday, I bought my plane tickets to travel to Sacramento for two weeks in January to study with Amy Sigil of Unmata. I recently posted a review of Amy’s workshop, and to recap, this woman’s approach to choreography and teaching has truly inspired me on a deep level. My mindset going into this trip is that I will be going on an artistic pilgramage (I’m a fusion dancer, so of course California is my mecca!). I want to study with as many teachers in the area as possible while there (Suhaila, Mira Betz, Ariellah, Fat Chance). I feel that right now I’m in a huge transitional phase, and two weeks to focus on what I love, to journal/blog, to contemplate, to plan, to receive inspiration and good energy, and to start to look ahead is exactly what I need.

Back at home, I’m pursuing as many forms of training as possible. I still am taking 6 hours of free ballet and modern dance classes every week through my job at Stephens College, which has been a huge gift from the universe. I have also been studying Odissi (a Indian dance style), which if I had to describe it, I would call it “danced sign language.” Studying the different mudras (hand gestures), what they represent, and how they can be connected together to tell a story has been absolutely fascinating. I just took my first hula hooping workshop this weekend, and I am definitely going to try and attend more regular classes for that, as well. I am always looking for more training and new dance groups to work with.

There are some other really exciting opportunities on the horizon. I performed my latest piece, “Love and Loss in One Act,” at a fundraiser last weekend for Artica, and art festival in St. Louis (visit Artica’s website for more information on the event!). The night was absolutely wonderful — I love meeting new people, and it’s so inspiring to talk with people who are creating really powerful art. I will be performing this 17-minute dance piece again alongside Nichelle Lawrence’s photography show, “Unrequited Love,” at Artica, which will take place on December 19 on the St. Louis riverfront. My piece includes music by Etta James, The Flaming Lips, Cat Power, Keren Ann, Damien Rice, and Janis Joplin (covered by Melissa Etheridge). This piece is one of my tentative forays into what I have been labeling “contemporary belly dance fusion” — a combination of belly dance, modernized interpretations of classic belly dance props like finger cymbals and veils, modern dance, theater, and other contemporary dance styles.

While there has been a lot of excitement, some recent events have unfortunately left me contemplating the more literal interpretation of this card, as well. My grandfather was diagnosed recently with a very rare form of hip cancer — so rare, in fact, that he doesn’t even qualify for any experimental trials. He has undergone chemotherapy, I will be flying with my family to visit him this weekend. I can’t even really say how I feel about it… it’s an odd feeling. I am usually pretty good at understanding and expressing what I’m feeling, but on this issue… I just feel jumbled. I’m trying to focus on the fact that I am very fortunate to have three days to spend with my grandfather, who I do not get to see often since he lives far away.

I am gearing up for more changes in my life, and I am getting ready to put my energy into working toward new goals and exploring new opportunities. On that end, I am no longer dancing with the Dragonflies Dance Company. I, however, will cherish my Moon Belly memories dearly, for through this amazing community I have learned a lot about myself and the strength and power of women — I sincerely thank each and every woman I had the opportunity to train with. If you are in the area, do make a point to see their upcoming show on December 12, 8PM at the Blue Note: “100,000 Feet Deep: Mary Magdalene,” a theatrical/modern/belly dance interpretation of the life of Mary Magdalene. These women have been working exceptionally hard, and it’s amazing to see what this community is creating together. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at http://www.thebluenote.com.

I’d like to end with another excerpt from the tarot website:

“Take a look at the Rider-Waite version of the Death card, and note the bishop on the right side of the image. He is actually welcoming Death, because he knows of the great spiritual transformation it brings. Almost all versions of the Death card show a symbol of resurrection or re-birth.”

Bring it, Death. I’m ready for change.