A look back at November 2019…

Thoughtful and committed decisions instead of feelings by which I am overwhelmed.

Beautiful Anonymous Podcast Caller

This is another quote from the Beautiful Anonymous Podcast. The caller talked about how our vices and addictions can overbear our minds and make us decide on bad choices. When I heard this I realized it has a lot to do with anxiety. If I can help it, my thought processes should come from a relaxed place rather than a place of worry. The best thoughts are the ones that make me feel good.

Spring has been awakened

I hope that is the correct grammar for awaken… At the beginning of this month, I began choreographic rehearsals for a May 2020 production of “Spring Awakening”. This musical is being produced by Precipice Productions, directed by William Flood, and being presented at Dancemakers in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto. I am the choreographer and already, I feel so attached to the process. I leave each rehearsal with a sense of accomplishment while also having more questions that need answering. The cast is impeccably chosen and I truly enjoy watching the choices they make for their characters. It’s a playground. ALL PLAY.

Ryerson Dances 2019

Back in September, we started rehearsals for our first semester show and we finally got to present our work to the Toronto community. I was lucky enough to be in “Changing Steps” choreographed by the legendary Merce Cunningham (and staged for our cast by the equally incredible Dylan Crossman). As well, I performed in an original work by Alysa Pires called “Not with a bang, but with a whimper”. Both pieces came with their respective challenges and performing them back-to-back on some nights was tough. In the end, I learned that meditating before a show is the best thing I can do for my mental health onstage. I felt much more present onstage than I usually am and I am grateful for the opportunity to practice that. I was never perfect or close to it, but I felt that I gave my best. Having my family in the audience was the highlight for sure.

No days off…

Looking back at my calendar for this month, my phone displayed to me a month full of dots. I couldn’t believe I had let this month get so crazy especially because I like to give myself at least one day off if I can… It was not a healthy decision to take on so much and I’ll admit that my work lacked in quality because of it. I have learned that saying no to some opportunities, while can be disappointing, is crucial.

Bangs

SO I HAVE BANGS NOW! I got my hair cut immediately after Ryerson Dances ended and I decided on the spot to cut my usual bob into a bob with bangs! I’m not sure I will keep it this way forever, but I am excited to try a new style. Growing up, I had to keep my hair bang-less for competition dance routines and so now, I wanted to take advantage of my freedom. It’s funny how our hair can say so much about us.

A look back at September/October 2019…

“Knowledge is power but powerless if you got it and you do not acknowledge it.”

-Royce Da 5’9” on Eminem’s track “Not Alike”

I often come back to this line from Royce Da 5’9” because he was able to sneakily insert a very philosophical concept into his verse that is so abundant with insults. It shows his abilities as a rapper are backed up by reason and thought rather than just spitting verbal abuse for the whole song. I tried to implement this recognition of knowledge into my lifestyle over the past two months to help me remember my own worth. It seems that most times in my training, I singularly work to obtain knowledge but when it comes down to proving my intake of information, my throat closes up. I am bad at showing my work. Which is weird because in high school math, I was always the one to show each step…

Getting better at self-discipline

I realize I have not released a monthly reflection in awhile, but it is because I have been focusing a lot of my energy on my studies at Ryerson. I am proud of myself for showing up to class even on my bad days and in doing so, I have noticed that my self-discipline is much better than it was a year ago. Treating my training with a balance of seriousness and amusement has rewarded me with a greater love for movement these days. I love to be physically exhausted again. It is orgasmic in some ways to be so full-out. In the dance world we have a saying that dancing “full-out” is the only way to go, but I never realized until now why that is so important for the audience and my own physical health. I am lucky enough to be cast in two pieces for our upcoming show in November: a piece from Merce Cunningham and a piece choreographed by Alysa Pires. Each rehearsal process has been different but they balance each other out. Learning fast, precise and legendary modern phrases from Cunningham is perfectly the opposite of Alysa’s collaborative, emotionally-driven, contemporary piece. I make sure to switch my brain when I leave one rehearsal to go into the other and it is really enjoyable to have both. All in all, by spending time on myself, I have found a selfishness that doesn’t feel like I’m being a bitch to other people.

My generous grandfather

In the beginning of October, my grandfather sadly passed away. Our relationship had been flourishing in the past few years and I am grateful to have had the time I did with him. He had many skills simultaneously and I never comprehended how. He was a maestro, an astronomer, a grump when he needed to be and a saint when it mattered, a husband of 50+ years, a lover of theatre, and a generous human. My entire family came together to celebrate his life, and his generosity came up countless times as we remembered his legacy. He always supported me in my dancing, and understood the value of education. I would have never been able to visit Greece, North Carolina or New York without his financial help and I can’t come up with a better word for gratitude towards him. I was just starting to get back into my piano practice when he died and my new goal is to play as well as he did by the time I’m 80. I’ll have to really work on sight-reading because he had that skill down pat! Love you always, Grandpa.

Barely making it through

While my academic mind-set has been growing, my mental health is a bit f u z z y… Both in September and October, my anxiety levels continue to ride up and down based on the busy schedule I create for myself. I am noticing that the more opportunities and tasks I take on, I need to also allow time for rest, reflection and removal. I tend to say yes too much and that causes my productivity to decrease in quality. I will get the job done but it won’t be my best work. Then, I get upset and label myself as a failure. I still believe it is crucial to never let any opportunity pass you by, but without a proper mind-set my achievements happen because I barely made it through. I don’t want to create art or make pasta or ride an elevator or laugh at a friend’s joke if it means that I am half-committed. Especially in my creative practice as an artist, my worst work occurs when I am rushing to get it done. To be present and uni-tasking is a constant battle for me as someone who likes to multi-task my way through life. I want to be alive in the world. Anxiety ceases that from happening.

Reading

Getting back to my love for reading physical texts has been extremely successful to my overall well-being. I can actually expand my attention-span and I can actually take in words on a page again. Yes, I am reading 5 books right now and that is completely counter-productive to the previous paragraph, but I am happy to have literature as my main pass-time.

To finish

To finish off, I want to congratulate myself for staying strong these past two months. I am in a much better place than I used to be but I know that I still have work to do. I want to open my heart to others because I feel more like myself these days. Let’s see how that goes in November.

Instead of a photo to capture these two months, I leave you with a poem my grandfather had on his fridge:

Salutation to the Dawn

Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth
The glory of action
The splendour of beauty
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore to this day!
Such is the salutation to the dawn.

-Kalidasa, Indian Poet

A look back at August 2019…

“Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, life goes on.”

This Beatles quote has been getting me through this month. Even made a little cover of it here. Having more time for myself, I was frequently in my head and over-analyzing decisions. I planned to spend time working out and feeling physically settled, however, on August 31, I hated the results. BUT, life goes on and I have chosen to stay along with it. 

Friends! I love my friends!

A wonderful thing about summer is the opportunity for outside hangouts. And my friends were too good to me this summer. I felt so loved and attempted to give as much love back. It really is important, as an adult, to feed your friendships the healthiest energy you can. They are the life supports when times are tough. They know who they are.

Teaching at new spaces

I was invited into a bevy of different studio space this month, either as an individual teacher or on faculty with Fresh Dance Intensive. Each space had its specific architecture, colours, and ambiance. My goal was to adapt into the new surroundings so that I could present myself in the best way. It was crucial that I stayed present and focused on the students in front of me. I definitely was not perfect and each day was a challenge but I am glad I can be more present nowadays. Teaching will always remind to be aware of others and that is something I forget most days.

My demon, Depression.

Although there was sunshine and laughter, this month brought on a real presence of my demon, Depression. I feel very connected to the character of BoJack Horseman, not because I am a middle-aged has-been celebrity, but because I search for love in the wrong places. I expect others to give me anything I want and then put myself down about my greediness. I want to be neutralized in my emotions without becoming a phony robot. Can’t I have a perfect life?!?! Time to let go of that. Time to work hard with kindness and gratitude.

Body Image

As I mentioned above, my body was a main focus for me this month and even though I was proud to set that goal, I am still not satisfied with how I look. I seem to spend a lot of time looking at Instagram for models and role-models that I want to look like, and I realized that maybe I really DO care about how I look. I don’t want to become too shallow though. It can be a little bit selfish to only care about your appearance but maybe I am just THAT selfish?? I hope I can find a way to enjoy my body image without losing touch of reality. Been hoping since I was 13, but what’s one more year? Hahahahahahahahahhahaahahahha.,,..

A look back at July 2019…

Doing things means doing things.

Either sung or not, this quote sums up exactly how my July went. I heard it from the dream duo themselves, Susan Blackwell and Laura Camien, during their SparkFile workshop at The Performing Arts Project. I immediately thought, yeah it does! It’s simple but effective when you are in the process of something creative. Just do it!

Cottage Time

I spent my first week of this hot month at my cottage, soaking in the sunshine and swimming with my little sister. We had so many laughs and moments, the two of us, and she truly is the light of my life. I spent nights by myself at the smaller cabin on my family’s property and one night I even sat with fireflies buzzing around me. It was the most magical thing I’d ever seen. I kind of always thought they weren’t real creatures but the bioluminescence was a-brewing! My family were wonderful to be around and it served as a great break after working a lot in June.

TPAP is a magical place

I then spent three weeks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for a musical theatre program called TPAP. It was days of non-stop singing, dancing, acting and I couldn’t be more proud to have been there. Only finding out about it through Instagram, I didn’t know what to expect before I went there, but I am so pleased to have been a part of such a talented and hard-working group of artists. Every day, I would try something new and fail and try again. It was so scary but so worthwhile. The faculty were incredibly knowledgable and able to pass along information to us in such smooth and effective ways. One of the highlights for me was working closely with Gavin Creel whom I’ve looked up to since I first heard him on the soundtrack for Millie. He is a genuine soul with too much talent; it blows my mind. I also got to take class from Krysta Rodriguez and other Broadway veterans. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to process everything I learned there but I’m going to try. 🙂

The Zone has been breached

During a ping pong match at TPAP, I figured out something very vital about how to be present and in the moment. Weird to say, but I figured out how to access my “game face” or “the zone” as they call it. Nothing matters except this moment. Before a show or before I’m about to face off a player in ping pong, I need to find the feeling where my body, mind and heart co-exist on one plane of energy. It’s a very subtle difference but it works wonders for my artistic abilities. If I can pin-point exactly where my body is in space, I am able to remove myself from the idea of being “onstage” and just exist. It’s cool for anxiety too.

Photo by Ali Gutierrez

A look back at June 2019…

“There’s a reason we are called human beings and not human doings.”

This came from a caller on the Beautiful Anonymous podcast. When I heard it, I stopped in my tracks on the street. I had been walking all day, moving from one errand to the next, and basically just doing doing doing. I was reminded of the power of “to be”. It’s so simple but something I forget often because the things we accomplish are usually the only things we are celebrated for. I highly recommend this podcast if you want to hear genuine conversation with people all over the world. 

My first play!!

I was lucky enough to land a role in an original play called “Impromptu”, directed by Hassan El-Amin. It was shown as a part of the Parados Festival in the middle of June. I really enjoyed the experience of not relying only on my body for performance. Getting the chance to use my voice for storytelling and singing was really uplifting for my spirit and it taught me to be honest on stage. My cast mates were incredibly welcoming and I finally felt comfortable in a group again. A bunch of us even watched the Tony’s together and it was so special to me to have a safe circle to be in. One of my cast mates even called me an actor by the end of it and I got so blushy. Truly a proud moment for me. I hope this isn’t the end of my acting career.

Home for appointment fest

I went home to Ottawa for a few days, literally 1.75, and most of it was spent doing appointments. Gotta take care of the ol bod. However, there was a super precious and nostalgic moment where I went back to my old elementary school. My mom and I picked my little sister up after school and we ended up playing Four Square for a little bit. So many memories flooded in of my elementary friends playing with me… The boys making me feel incompetent to play with them, me still trying to get on their level and being all feminist and stuff before it was cool. It was so fun to revisit that game and see how the school yard had changed over the years. Same basketball tripod thing on the gravel but now the portable was replaced with a nice play structure. Things evolve and it was nice to see how I’ve changed too. Still like to do cherry bombs though. 🙂

Scheduling a day off

I realized that I hadn’t had a day off in a month so I actually scheduled a day where I would do nothing but what ever I wanted to at the time. I stayed in bed, played video games, ate whatever came across my hunger, and got high as a kite. It was perfect. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to feel guilty for it and that really helped me to accept it as a valuable thing for my health. The old me would have hated myself for awhile after but I decided to try the opposite. I’m very proud of myself. 

Anxiety, the SO that won’t go away

As much as it was a healthy choice to take a day off, that meant that I added a bit more stress on other days. I had to get things done and I expected too much of myself. My anxiety was really bad the other days. It was kind of like an annoying significant other who never gets divorced, and even when you try to move on, it stays in your house. Like a fly on the wall that attaches to your body. I really have to look it in the face and acknowledge it when it gets bad because if not, I’ll start to have mini attacks in public. Deep breaths, calm thinking and lots of water.

Photo by Tavia Christina

A look back at May 2019…

What if you chose your second instinct?

This month, there were moments I chose to run away from my problems instead of facing them head-on. It came to be that “flight” was constantly my first instinct when dealing with a challenge or even just a cup of coffee. With the help of some very inspirational mentors, I tried to ask myself: If my first instinct is to chicken out, what would be my second instinct?

Blooming physicality

As this year’s May came into my life, I was taking a two-week long workshop called Metamorphosis Method, under the direction of Iratxe Ansa and Igor Bacovich. This training was very military-induced, meaning that we would drill intense exercises each morning to a point where I was hallucinating by the end of it. It was one of the most rigorous programs I’ve ever attempted and it showed me the importance of reaching your full potential. I was determined to impress the teachers but also my own expectations of what I could do with my body. I am proud to have gotten through it and hope to continue at this rate of physicality in my dancing from now on. It is amazing what your body can do when you give it the push it needs.

Marathon for creativity

Another unique program I participated in this month was The Choreographic Marathon, under the direction of Maxine Heppner. I collaborated with two artists, Tavia Christina and Rachel Facchini, for this opportunity where we stayed in a studio process for more than 27 hours over the course of 3 days. We even spent a night at Pia Bouman’s School for this concentrated process, and interestingly enough this was one of the last programs being offered at this studio as it is being closed down soon. Maxine’s wisdom along with the thoughts of the other mentors showed me the power of vocabulary. The words that you use when you say something to someone has more influence than the context. I found myself really thinking about exactly what I wanted to say before speaking it. I am very grateful to Rachel and Tavia for offering me another opportunity to work with them.

Rays of sunshine

Because I am on summer break from school, I’ve had more chances to hang with friends that I haven’t be able to give time to. It makes me so happy to see my two best friends because they have been life-rafts for me since second year of university. Their jokes, great ideas and overall presences help me see the sunshine in life and guide me to positivity rather than negativity. They are so special to my life right now.

Pilates is the BEESSSTTT!

I never thought I would fall in love with Pilates because it can be very boring to people who like to move. I am one of those people. I can’t sit still most of the time. However, when I focus my mind on internal muscles that need to be strengthened, I leave a class feeling taller and more confident. It’s weird. It feels like I’ve cracked the code on how my body should feel. I feel sexier and more in control and all it takes is a few mat or reformer classes each week. I can do that!

Pushing past anxiety

Every day this month, I would have moments of anxiety. It is just something I have to deal with. Two exercises have helped me push past these attacks: finding all the colours of the rainbow in my surroundings and acknowledging the 5 senses that I have in my body. These both work really well and help me stay mindful. THANKFUL.

A look back at April 2019…

Connect your thoughts to your voice.

This month has taught me, in a very heightened way, the value of communicating exactly what you mean. There is no point in beating around the bush sometimes. I found this when dealing with professional situations but also when I am speaking to the ones I care about. I think I am the type of person who likes to speak in metaphor sometimes, and while that is creatively interesting, it can get confusing for the people around me.

Finishing third year.

I wrote my last exam, danced my last tendu, and said goodbye to third year with a huge sigh of relief. This year was definitely a rollercoaster of emotions, but I feel so lucky to have my classmates, my teachers, and THE BEAT to get me through. I am ready to tackle my final year of my BFA with the same expectations that it’s gonna be rough, but it’s gonna be magical. Most interesting classes: Improvisation with Kate Hilliard, Modern with Arsenio Andrade, and Production with Michael Bergmann.

Full circle moment.

I was given the opportunity to judge two dance competitions this month with the competition DanceFest. Being on the other side of the theatre and watching young artists give their all, really made it surreal. I had worked so hard during my early training to perform and choreograph to my best, and being able to share my knowledge with the dancers now is a true gift. It felt like a dream, and I hope I get the opportunity again.

The clouds have cleared.

April may bring showers to our sky, but I felt like the sun had come out during this month. My depression was very much gone and I am not sure why. I won’t question it because I feel very relieved to be lifted of it, but it definitely feels like it may come back. No matter, I must be present and not worry about what my feelings will be in the future. I am grateful for the sun shining down on me and the deep breaths that have gotten me through this month.