Barefootblogger: thoughts on dance

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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am a dancer with Minneapolis based James Sewell Ballet, a small, contemporary ballet company. I also choreograph independently.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


JSB performed in Fergus Falls this Friday night, and I am reminded that it is a wonderful thing to connect with a community that’s different from one’s own.

We’ve been to Fergus many times over the years now. The downtown strip exudes small-town charm. The theater is on one side of the street and the dance school is on the other, ½ a block away and across the intersection.

The stage is a sort of subtle trapezoid shape, a former movie house I think, that still fulfills that use occasionally. We enter and exit through doorways instead of wings; upstage doorways also have stairs, a challenge in the dark.

But it is a pleasure to perform there, to engage with a community by doing what we do best. We also teach master classes (ballet, pointe, modern and jazz). James and I even made it to a party, a monthly potluck gathering of artists. In the warm and sturdy 1913 bungalow of metal sculptor Jeff, I felt as though I was in the right place at the right time. Warmed by wine and chili, I sat by the fire and communed.

My experience in Fergus goes deper still, as it was where I spent the last 2 weeks of August working on the magnificent original musical “Songs from the Tall Grass”. Because of my past connection to the place, I was hired to choreograph this newest installment of the show. I bonded so thoroughly with director/songwriter/co-author Randy that I became co-director. That buffalo of a man still resides in my heart, part of the permanent collection.

So Fergus goes deep. After the show there was a party across the street at a former hotel turned artist live/work residence. Such a valuable reuse of precious architecture. There I communed again as I caught up with “Songs” colleagues as well as Rebecca, Ramona and Mary, the folks who make it possible for us to be there.

We premiered a ballet, engaging with the community on yet another level as we required eight extras to fill out our cast. They did a superb job, especially after only three hours of rehearsal. I love seeing folks step up to the plate.

The next day I taught the last master class and headed home with Jack, his new painting freshly wet in the back. I love how we can simultaneously do our art then come together at the end of the day, (you guessed it) commune, then go for Dairy Queen. (MN must be the only state where at 35 degrees it feels like spring enough to want ice cream!)

Despite my ankle stress that occurred at some point on Friday night, I am thankful for all of it. The new scrape on my knee keeps me childlike. Hopefully it’ll heal in time for Rochester in two weeks. No matter, the battle wounds mean that I am doing battle.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


It’s almost a guarantee that in any given dance studio one can find a stray bobby pin. I love that this is the case. One never knows when one may need an extra, especially when one is growing one’s hair out like I am. (At least partially. It is a weird in-between length now, which is where my whole self has been since my last blog entry. I’ve been in a weird, in-between place.) But now I’m back.

I’ve missed this blog like a person. Indeed, the person I’ve missed is myself, my writing self, this self that got me through my divorce and then some. I’ve been so crazy busy there hasn’t been time to process, much less reflect upon it all. I can’t begin to catch up, so I will settle with starting from now, catching my own hand mid-air and guiding it gently down to earth where it belongs.

I’m reflecting these days on the concept of “career”, how I’ve managed to build one out of a ton of tiny parts, like a collage or a mural, tiny parts that add up to a big, beautiful thing. So many transitions are happening that it’s hard to keep track. Like how I am now Artistic Associate of JSB and am in a constant state of attempting to capture what that means exactly and how best to apply my energies. Like how I am now a published writer, writing the dance column for METRO Magazine, a newish Twin Cities publication that’s glossy and urban and where I have to assume my readership doesn’t know squat about dance so I have to be very clear and not very poetic. (Oh I know there’s a way to be both; it’s just not always apparent to me, and certainly not on a deadline.) Like how Justin is leaving the company after this season. Justin, who has been the subject of my fall, my partner in crime as we tumbled our way through Firebird with MN Orchestra and The Nutcracker in his Maryland hometown. I am not ready to face all the missing that’s going to happen there. And then there’s the departure of Gary Peterson, our Executive Director of almost 13 years, my lucky number. Again, a departure I am not ready to face, though it occurs next week.

That’s the thing about the collage-style career, it contains so many parts it’s hard to keep track. So many people and places and ballets coming and going that one wonders where the gib is, the steadfast force that keeps it all glued down.

It’s important, therefore, for me to blog, to string words together by way of record keeping if nothing else. These words tie me back to myself so that I can lean into the wind.

I determine to write more and to be less precious and precise. I will run-on a lot and I will forgive myself that. The point now is to just do it so that I can move on and not be stuck in this weird, in-between place. (Who know what I’ll end up doing with my hair? It really doesn’t matter… much.) It’s more like, what are all the strays doing at this moment? I don’t really want to pin them all down