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.

EPL: Surrounding Yourself With Inspiration

My Christmas last year was spent circling over Chicago in a plane, unable to land because of fog, and ultimately flying back directly where I came from — Memphis (Columbia Regional Airport flies to the Memphis hub).

While I was grumpily eating Burger King in the Memphis airport, I missed a very cool family moment — my sister (who managed to make it home) and my mom ended up making vision boards. Vision boards are essentially collages with visual representations — pictures of yourself where you’re healthy and happy, magazine cut-outs of places you want to visit, a snapshot of a person who  possesses attributes you admire — of goals you want to accomplish and things you want to be reminded of year-round.

I was talking to my sister recently about her vision board, and she told me that most of the things she had put on her vision board had actually had come to pass. And it got me thinking:

The longer I live, the more I see that we have the power to manifest what we want in life. If we work hard, put positive energy out into the universe and trust that our lives are unfolding exactly as they should, there is no way we can be defeated, even if seemingly bad things happen to us. I don’t spend enough time appreciating the present. I have spent too much of my life brooding about the past or worrying about the future, and I refuse to do it anymore. I’ll be the first to admit it — I have played the victim card before. And it really doesn’t change anything or make me feel better. So new strategy: Anytime I want to feel sorry for myself or play victim to what is happening to me, I am now trying to see the positive in it, roll with it, and keep my eyes focused on enjoying life NOW. As a good friend said to me recently, “You could die TOMORRROW. Do you really want to spend your last days on Earth worrying?”

I can’t tell you how much happier I have been lately, just living in the present. It was incredibly hard for me to do at first — bad habits are hard to kick — but the more I try to practice this every day, the better I feel and the more natural it becomes.

I feel like a vision board might really help me not distract myself with the past or future — it will manifest positive energy while still forcing me to live in the present. Think about it– what if I created a visual representation of all that I want to accomplish, place it somewhere where I see it constantly, and every time I see it, I visualize it happening and put good energy in the universe? I see it as a very powerful tool.

So, in the next few days, I am going to create a vision board, and I am going to make sure to include elements that relate to the project I am working on. Every day I am going to remind myself what my goals are and where I want to end up… and I am going to live every day in the present, focusing on making those goals happen.

The other goal that I am starting this week and continuing through my month of creativity expands off of the idea of the vision board. This month, I am surrounding myself with inspiration. I plan on seeing as many plays, exhibits, and concerts as possible. I am going to read as many books as I can. I am finally going to put something on the walls of my house that have been empty for a year.

I’m off to a good start — I saw a Japanese dance exhibition today, and right now I’m off to see “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” which is the musical that we have been designing costumes for for the past few weeks at work (I work in a costume shop at a performing arts college).

I think one of the best ways to tackle a new goal is (as others on the message board have mentioned) to set small, managable goals that you can slowly turn into positive habits. So my mini-goal is this: surround yourself with inspiration. Anyone taking part in the experiment can do the same — invest in a fruit bowl and some new cookbooks, check out some books on meditation, or buy a new piece for your altar. I challenge you to think of a way to surround yourself with positive inspiration for whatever goal you’re tackling.

EPL: Day 1 and 2

The very first day of the Eat, Pray, Love experiment, I drank barely no water, I didn’t eat breakfast, and I capped off my evening with a gas station muffin and a ton of Pepsi.

… whoops.

Yeah, I basically displayed flagrant disregard for what I put in my body, which directly contradicts what I have been promoting this entire time. But, in keeping with the experiment’s code, I am not beating myself up or calling myself a failure.

I wondered why the first day was so rocky, and I remembered the rules I set for myself about modifying your experiment is things seem to be heading south. After some thought, I came to these conclusions:

1) I am still very much excited to work on my goals, and I like to eat healthy. But I realized that right now, I am not excited about food. I want to tackle it, but not first. I need to focus on another of my goals first.

2) I have been given some extra time off from my job, so I have lots of time. I want to use this time pursuing creative endeavors.

So two days in, I am switching up the order of my goals. I believe that this is the month that I have to finally get this big project I’ve been contemplating off the ground. I am a huge procrastinator, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ll create distractions for myself instead of actually tackling what I need to be tackling. So this is the month — no more excuses, no more distractions. I am creating this month.

I also created a tribe for all of us experimenters. A link to the tribe can also be found under the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Experimenters” menu to the right on my blog. This is a message board where we can share as a community our goals and progress. It is free — all you have to do is create an account (I have never had a problem with spam or anything — the site is legit). Posting on the message board is completely optional but strongly encouraged. Occasionally there are problems with the site being down, but I prefer this type of message board to google groups or yahoo groups.

If you are keeping track of your journey on a personal blog, I’d love to link to you! Comment on this post and respond with your blog’s url.

The EPL Experiment: Getting Started

I’m flying high — literally and figuratively.

In the literal sense — my flight is coming back from Fort Meyers, where my grandpa lives, and it has internet access. It is the first time I have ever connected to the internet whilst 32,000 feet in the air!

Figuratively, I have been in a great mood the past few days. These last few weeks of November, I have been doing a lot of reflection on what I want to get out of my Eat, Pray, Love experiment, and what I feel are some good ideas for those participating to operate under.

1) This experiment is not a chore. If it becomes a chore, modify it. I feel like I could approach this experiment two ways. My first month goal could be, “I’m not going to eat any crappy food, I’m only going to eat raw vegetables, and I am going to lose 10 pounds.” But… that sounds really boring and not fun at all. And they practically know me by name at the Taco Bell down the street from my house, so I have a feeling it might be difficult — it’s hard to stick with something you’re not super excited about it. So my goal is not going to fight my nature. If I am craving chocolate, I am going to eat chocolate. But I am going to buy the best dark chocolate I can find, cut a reasonable portion, and then sit down with no distractions and enjoy that piece of chocolate — as opposed to, say, eating half of a chocolate cake with my eyes glued to an episode of 30 Rock (… don’t judge me, but I’ve actually done that before in a chocolate craving gone desperately wrong). My first goal is that I am going to spend a month exploring new foods and experimenting with what will make my body feel optimal. And let me tell you — I absolutely cannot wait to start.

2) There is no failure, there is only learning. Who knows, three days into my food experiment I could find myself laughing through a chocolate-frosting-encrusted mouth at Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin — old habits die hard. I’m not going to call the experiment off just because I had one crappy day. I WILL, however, take note of how that decision affected how I felt, I will try to learn something from the experience, and I will try harder the next day.

3) Keep track  of your experiment. Believe it or not, I only recently got into journaling and keeping a written account of what’s happening in my life. Looking back and reading the few things I have written has reminded me what an important tool it can be, especially when embarking on a quest of self-exploration. I am currently looking into getting a message board or online group started, so anyone that wants to take part can stay connected with others. Stay tuned!

4) Build a supportive community. I am asking anyone and everyone who might be interested if they would like to take part in the project, and I hope you all do, too.  It’s always nice to have buddies when tackling a large undertaking.

5) Read the book! “Eat, Pray, Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert is the book that inspired this whole project. I am in the middle of reading it now, and it is inspiring me and getting me psyched to tackle this project.

The “Eat, Pray, Love” Experiment

I’m not sure if anyone else feels this way, but every time change comes in to my life, I try to read a really life-changing book (I know, I know… I take nerd-dom to a new level). I have had a few people recommend the book “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert to me, so I picked it up the other day from the library. In this autiobiographical account, Elizabeth details her year-long quest for true spiritual enlightment. — 4 months in Italy, eating good food, learning the language, and seeking pleasure in life; 4 months in India, studying yoga and spirituality at a yoga Ashram with a guru; and 4 months learning life lessons from a Balinese medicine man in Indonesia.

Well, I definitely picked a life-changing book to read.  It’s honest, really well-written, and dripping with wisdom.

It got me thinking… I think people do not take nearly enough time in our culture to work on their own happiness and spirit. Wouldn’t it be cool, I thought, if I went on my own journey pursuing three things I wanted to develop or experience to make me a better, more enlightened person? And what if I could work on my passion, dancing, like Elizabeth pursued a relationship with God? I think it’s safe to say that I am a preacher of the dance gospel — maybe that makes it my religion (“Please open your Bibles to the gospel of Martha Graham, please…” ).

So I’m doing it! Starting in December, I am going to spend one month focusing on eating, nutrition, and keeping my body at optimum health. I am going to try to make meals for myself more, try new food, and learning as much as I can about taking care of my body. I will be traveling to Chicago during this time for Christmas — resisting my mom’s fudge will be an interesting challenge. I’m hoping to explore the city with this new mindset.

Come January, my focus turns to training. I’m hoping for bootcamp-style, constant dancing and studying as many dance styles with as many dance teachers as possible (even as a kid I always loved the montage where the dancer is training feverishly). I will be in Sacramento to study with Amy Sigil and other belly dance teachers in the area for the first half of January, and I’m planning to continue studying Indian dance, modern, ballet, and explore some new dance styles.

February is going to be the month where I am going to focus on creating. I am surrounding myself with as much inspiration as possible, collaborating with other artists to achieve my goals, and work on some pieces. I am hopefully going to be traveling to Atlanta for Tribal Con during this period, which I am really looking forward to for a lot of inspiration.

And I think you should do it to!

I’m calling it the “Eat, Pray, Love” experiment. Who would be interested in focusing on three passions, three things-you-always-wanted-to-do, three do-your-soul-some-good things; spending some time pursuing each one (it could be a day, a week, several months — however long you want your experiment to last); and sharing our experiences as a community? When going through huge changes, sometimes it can really be great to have a community of people supporting you doing something good for yourself. It’s also great to hear about one another, and it will keep us all motivated to keep with the experiment. If you’re interested, post a response to this blog.

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.

Love and Loss in One Act: A Contemporary Belly Dance Fusion

I have been MIA for quite some time, and I have not been updating this blog as much as I would like. A lot has been happening in my life — I’m trying to focus on some new projects. I am very excited for my next project, which is this Saturday.

In conjunction with nationally recognized photographer Nichelle Lawrence’s show, “Unrequited Love,” I will be showing “Love and Loss in One Act: A Contemporary Belly Dance Fusion” at the fundraiser for an event I will be participating in in December called Artica. What is Artica, you ask? From Artica.org: “Artica is an outdoor multi-disciplinary art festival, parade and workshop series developed to provide the people of the St. Louis metropolitan area with the opportunity to come together as a community through creative self-expression.”

FUNDRAISER DEETS!

WHERE: St. Louis’ Greenest Building, William A. Kerr Foundation, 21 O’Fallon Street, St. Louis MO 63102

WHEN: This fundraiser will go from 7:00 to midnight, but my piece will be from 8:10-8:30

WHAT: A  fusion of belly dance, modern dance, other contemporary dance styles paired with a story of unrequited love.

COST: $8 in advance/$10 at the door

Suhaila-style classes in Jefferson City, MO

I am now teaching weekly classes in Jefferson City. If you’re in the area, stop on by!

WHERE: Dancenter, 2507 Industrial Dr., Jefferson City, MO 65109
WHEN: 9:45 AM – 10:45 AM, Saturday mornings
CONTACT: 573-636-4528
PRICE: $10 drop-in, first class free!

MeganHartmann.com

Amy Sigil Workshop/Lola van Ella’s Showcase

The past two weekends, I have had a rare opportunity to really indulge in two great, amazing, dance-filled intense weekends. I learned a lot, and I am hugely inspired by the two women who made these events possible: Amy Sigil and Lola van Ella.

AMY SIGIL REVIEW:

I got to take this workshop with three amazing girls that dance at Moon Belly: Emily, Nicole, and Michele. We all agreed that this workshop was one of our favorites of all time. It is true that I have never had a negative review on my website, and I know I can be very complimentary. But I am genuine in my compliments, and I speak the truth when I say that if you have not had the opportunity to study with Unmata or Amy and they are coming to a town nearby, I would highly recommend making a point to go study with her, regardless of whether you are a tribal fusion dancer or not. The workshop was a combination of completely original, innovative choreography; intense, high-energy cardio dance drills designed to help you learn the combinations; dance games to help you think outside the box… but best of all, you are working every second you’re there. There is no time for people to ask long, involved questions and delay the workshop — but that being said, she explains things and breaks things down in such a way that if you are participating, you don’t NEED to ask questions. The Saturday night show was very fun, low-key, and relaxed, which I appreciated since my weekend was absolutely insane (lots of traveling, roaches in the hotel, a lot of sleep-deprived/slap-happy girls all together in one room). Amy and Kari’s performance was so high-energy that I genuinely felt fatigued watching them. Their performance had it all: good choreography, high energy, onstage chemistry, and lots of connection with the audience. I left this weekend with a completely new outlook on how I choreograph, how I teach, and the elements I want to present to my audience as a performer. This workshop is by far one of the best I have ever taken. Much gratitude goes to Lois “Salwa” Marshall and her husband Ken, who made this event happen. Every event I go to of Lois’ is always worth the trip to STL.

LOLA VAN ELLA REVIEW:

I took my good friend Sierra with me to see Lola van Ella and her burlesque showcase. This was my first time seeing a complete burlesque show, and I was beyond impressed by how well Lola had trained her dancers and how diverse the acts were. Lola’s girls each had their own character onstage, and I honestly did not see a girl look embarrassed, uncomfortable, scared, nervous, etc. at ANY point during the show — and some of these girls were performing their first burlesque piece EVER. I was the first set closer, and I had an absolutely wonderful time. The audience was extremely receptive and the venue (Off Broadway in St. Louis) had a great vibe to it (part bar, part speakeasy). Lola graciously let me crash at her place and introduced me to a great diner downtown. We had a great talk about business, marketing, and how to make money doing what you love (the woman revolutionized the burlesque scene in St. Louis and was second runner-up for Queen of Burlesque in New Orleans this year — to say I was thrilled to pick her brain is a bit of an understatement!). I would work again with Lola anytime — she sure knows how to put together a hell of a good show!

Already I am craving more dance opportunities and dance intensive weekends. I have a few things lined up that I hope will work out… more traveling on the horizon, perhaps?