The Ferryman (play on Broadway)

Post-show reflection.

I am so absolutely in love with this piece of work. It tackles familial compassion like I’ve never seen before. This group of unlucky Irish people fight against so much and still have time to spare a drink, a bite or a dance with each other. I admire the characters’ energy levels even though most of them never seem to sleep. Caitlyn Carney, the widow, has her duties for the family and always gets them done. She fights the urge to follow her heart and in return, she is tragically at a loss at the end of the play.

I feel a connection to the 20-something men who drink while spitting insults at each other playfully. They remind me to enjoy the friends who end up taking care of you when you are too drunk to exist. Also, Fra Fee is my new crush. Damn.

The relationship of Quinn and Mary has such a sour taste to it that I find myself wanting them to stay a part in the future. Of course, they would never break up their incredible family of 7 kids, but how did they manage to fall in love? Their compatibility is very low even if it’s true that opposites attract. I don’t see them continuing as husband and wife if this play were to go on past the curtain call.

And, speaking of the curtain call. 2 encores and a standing O? Only musicals usually bring that much excitement to an audience. I am so grateful I got to stand there with the other theatre-lovers and applaud the cast’s effort. It gives me great joy to congratulate something that deserves it.

All in all, this show is true contender for a Tony. It has the heart and blood that dignifies what a new play should bring to Broadway. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t win.

On the Importance of a Greek Chorus

As a performance begins, the audience rests quietly while a group of people in front of them hold up a mirror. The performer strives to grab the audience by the heartstrings, and builds a strong connection between the stage and the seating area. Throughout history, the world of theatre has helped humans make elaborate changes to social and political issues, including certain decisions that pertain to morality and religion. This impact is the reason humans seek the cathartic experience of theatre, specifically the classic Greek plays that have lasted for so long. What is it about Aeschylus’ ​Agamemnon​ or Euripides’ ​Medea​ that still rings true to an audience of modern humans? The text and music are certainly crucial to the telling of a story; however, without physical movement there is not enough context for the audience to relate to. Especially if the performance is set in a different language, the audience can only hold onto the visual picture for guidance. This is where the chorus, primarily meaning “the dance” in Greek language, comes in handy (Hamilton 144). The group of performers who comment on the action of the play and usually move in unison is the essential element for a performance to be successful. Without the chorus and their body language, the audience loses touch with the humanity of a performance, especially during a play written many centuries ago.

In terms of the history of Greek movement, there was a time when chorus work was limited to singing and text-work. Although this was still a valid opportunity for objective narration and commentary, it was not effective enough to aid the audience in understanding the play (Wiles 110). It was not until 467 B.C. when a legendary dancer by the name of Telestes was performing in Aeschylus’s ​Seven against Thebes​ and decided to break off from the chorus group. Telestes was the first recorded pantomime actor in Greece to use gestures and fancy footwork as a way to interpret the text of the chorus (Lust 20). This sudden change led to expand the way the audience hears a phrase of words, and it shaped the harmony of choreography and text. As a word is being recited, the movement correlated with it defines the rhythm of pitch and volume so as to widen the understanding of the definition (David 93). The marriage of text and movement creates more depth to a play, causing the audience to feel more deeply. The famous author Homer states that the Greek mime’s art is “noble and divine”, while Seneca, the Roman philosopher, describes it as a mute language well “spoken” (Lust 23). While words and music have so much to give, the articulation of movement has the ability to take over in the most fruitful way. Another example of how movement explores the human condition is shown in the complicated play ​Medea​ by Euripides. During one scene, Medea announces that she will murder her children, and the chorus distances themselves from her into a tight circle to demonstrate the effects of exclusion (Wiles 107). Visually, the audience can label Medea as an outcast, who is making a self-assertive decision by herself. If the chorus orients themselves closer to her, the effect of her choice to kill her offspring would be illustrated in a tame manner. Working with the strengths of the chorus can heighten the stakes for the main character and bring more emotional complexity to the play.

Indeed, when a performer chooses a movement to display on a stage, the audience finds relatable qualities in the performer’s vulnerabilities. The everyday human walks, claps, shakes, and freezes without realizing how much movement is created. Many theatre-goers are uneducated in the study of movement, but use the experience of live performance to assess emotional situations. Bryan Doerries writes in his book, ​The Theater of War​, that “certain plays seemed as if they might have something important to say to people working in professions that brought them into close, daily contact with suffering and death, but who had no outlet for acknowledging the moral and emotional stress of their jobs” (Doerries 153). Considering this, it is clear why performance continues to be so impactful in the life of the working human. Going to a stressful job that requires many relentless tasks can take a toll on the emotional response of a human and can cause the creative soul to deteriorate. This terrible consequence must be met with means of outward expression, and by attending a live performance with other people looking to release their own stress, the working human can return to their most instinctual self. Furthermore, the audience members form a natural community with each other during a performance due to the simple fact that they all decided to sit down, and face the same direction for a period of time. Being a part of a group sends a feeling of belonging to each audience member, and this experience is unique to the magic of live theatre: “Sometimes during powerful moments, when actors are able to convey the truth of an experience, audience members begin breathing together, inhaling and exhaling at once. Whenever this happens, the quality of the silence in the theater deepens, and the audience listens with a level of attention that is rarely achieved in today’s fast-paced world” (Doerries 209). Here, Doerries describes the atmosphere through the involuntary movements of theatre-goers. Even as the audience sits still, there is a ceaseless physicality in their position, causing the audience to feel united. In some ways, the audience assembles into its own choral group, staying put for the duration of the performance (Wiles 110). If the main characters of a play function to solve the problem of the plot, then the chorus represents the through-line between performer and audience member. Just as the chorus comments on the action of the play (Hamilton 144), the audience watches in a state of intense pensivity and emphasizes for the main characters. Thus, the working human, who spends many hours moving around to accomplish tasks for the sake of their job, finds solace in the profound experience of being an audience member of live performance.

Not only is a Greek chorus important for the use of movement, but it can also help reach audience members sitting at the back rows of an enormous Greek theatre. The elaborate structure of ancient Greek theatres forces performers to project their voice outwards. When discussing movement, the human eye is better equipped to focus on a group of performers in unison, predominantly if an audience member is sitting far from the stage (Wiles 110). The scaling of movement in regards to a large theatre can only be executed when the members of the chorus are being used properly. Consequently, this created a division between the actor and the chorus when ancient Greek companies were touring:

“The surviving theatres of the Greek world have stages on which the ‘actors’ performed, whilst the chorus danced in the orchestra below… It was not feasible for a team of fifteen dancers to tour the world, and if the local community was able to provide choral dancers, those dancers would not have a chance to rehearse with the actors, so the physical separation of actors and chorus became an inevitability” (Wiles 104).

Moreover, when an actor stands alone on the stage, they can use their singular voice to express the character’s pain and suffering, aiding in the display of vulnerability. On the other hand, when a chorus erupts into using voice and movement as a group, the audience hears and sees more clearly into where the plot is going and why the main character is troubled. Trying to broaden the storytelling to a theatre of over 700 people is quite difficult with one performer. In the example of Aeschylus’ ​Agamemnon,​ the character Clytemnestra positions herself upstage for most of the play, making small movements on the spot. Although this blocking decision causes her to dominate as the magnificent element of the play (Hamilton 154), she pales in comparison to the choral work of the men spread out in front of the stage who, as a group, move with grace and speak with gusto. The eye falls towards the chorus who fill up the theatre “as the extension of a particular character with whom it expresses solidarity” (Wiles 110). For this reason, Clytemnestra would seem too small in front of such a large audience if it were not for the juxtaposition of the chorus members. An audience member that views the performance from a substantial distance must be able to experience the show in a similar way to another spectator, sitting in the front row. Therefore, the relationship between actor and chorus has a significant role in the effectiveness of a play that is staged in an ancient Greek theatre.

In conclusion, the members of the chorus have a remarkably important job to do in order for a play to successfully attain the attention of the audience. Within its movement and spatial patterning, the chorus is crucial in guiding the audience towards the most touching elements of a live performance. Dance gestures that speak to the text and the song of a play enhance the way an audience connects to the main characters and the problems that they work through. Simply put, if the chorus is not involved enough in a performance, the audience would feel left out to a certain extent. Ancient Greek theatres, and the ones that are still active to this day, challenge the performer to cast out their expressiveness to the theatre-goers sitting in the back row, and this can only be done well with the extraordinary role of the chorus.


Works Cited

David, A. P. ​The Dance of the Muses: Choral Theory and Ancient Greek Poetics. O​ xford University Press, 2006.

Doerries, Bryan. ​The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies can Teach Us Today. Alfred

A. Knopf, 2015.

Hamilton, Edith. ​Three Greek Plays. ​Norton, 1965.

Lust, Annette. ​From the Greek Mimes to Marcel Marceau and Beyond: Mimes, Actors, Pierrots, and Clowns : A Chronicle of the Many Visages of Mime in the Theatre. ​Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Wiles, David. ​Greek Theatre Performance: An Introduction. C​ ambridge University Press, 2000.

Re: The Stories We Tell by Jack Harries

I’ve been following (also in love with) Jack Harries since he started posting Youtube videos seven years ago. At first, I saw him as the ideal Brit with a fantastic accent and funny views on living. His twin brother Finn also caught my eye and from then on, these brothers were the British Zack and Cody for me. However, as I grew up, as they grew up, and as their video content started to change, I found different qualities in them that I respected. It wasn’t just that they were easy to look at, but they had real talent and intelligence about the world. I stayed close.

I’m going to only talk about Jack for right now, because he is the one who continues the channel. Finn, I see you. I see you.

When Jack posted the video I linked above that discusses the up and downs of his life, I immediately connected with his honesty. His perspective on social media and mental health inspired me to reflect on why our internet appearance can ruin our real-life experience. Key-word is “can” here, because I don’t think this happens to every person with an Instagram account; it only applies to the group of users that have trouble functioning with the on-going rise of online interactions. I think I am a part of this group.

Jack speaks in the video about how when we click that post button, we are telling a story. Not necessarily the most truthful story but a story nonetheless. He recognizes that as each of us build an online profile for the public to analyze, our perception of close friends, family members or other people we interact with changes. They are not separate worlds. Our reality in society and the reality on the internet have direct links to one another now that so many people use social media. I often feel weirdly grateful for the times that I meet someone who I haven’t yet met on Instagram. It’s almost as if that never happens anymore. If I didn’t rely on social media for research on other people’s lives, how different would my friends group be? Would I know less information about them? Shouldn’t that scare me? My brain is combining all the stories from the accounts I follow with the encounters I’ve had in real-life to construct opinions on other people. So, we’ve added a second variable to the equation of how I perceive a person. While this could potentially augment our personal relationships, I am weary of the fact that it could also destroy the potential of a strong relationship. Stories can now be told through posts and updates rather than sitting down and hearing/reading a story.

Another incredible point to Jack’s talk is that he opens up about his mental health and how working too much on our online appearance can be exhausting. He admits to needing to take time off of his YouTube channel and neighbouring film company. While this is of course very honest of him, I can’t help but wonder why something you love to do can tire you out. I can see that Jack is passionate about capturing stories and visiting places that are new to him and so, I find it so sad that he felt overwhelmed by it all. The pressure of constantly creating is terrifying. Perhaps we all need a break, even from activities we find most enjoyable. Perhaps there could be a happy medium. This is something every human has to figure out during their life.

Another thought that popped into my head after watching this video was that maybe the like button is the villain rather than social media itself. We press a button and our judgement is publicized. Anyone can see the posts you like and the ones that didn’t get your approval. And I think it’s true that when you don’t redden the heart on a post, people will think you don’t actually like the post. This small action of pushing a heart creates another story within itself. I’m curious about why there is no dislike button on Instagram but there is on YouTube, Facebook (the mad and sad emoji’s are very similar to disliking a post), and Reddit. Are we not allowed to dislike something? Does everyone need to love and be loved? Twitter has an interesting take on the dislike button by making your downvote a private matter. It won’t directly show up that you don’t like a tweet but it will cater your timeline to what it thinks you would like instead. That way, it is your business if you want to see something pop up on your timeline. I think this is very smart. You go, Twitter.

Jack’s creativity continues to inspire me and encourage me to tell stories. Whether that be through a picture of my cottage or filming myself exploring dance, my social presence will create another version of me. Let’s see in the next 10 years where it goes from there. There is so much more to discuss about social media’s influence on our everyday lives and so I want to extend my gratitude to Jack for filming this chat he gave as a part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Thank you, Jack!

Self-destruction, schedule overload, silence

This is a short phrase I conceptualized in my Creative Performance Studies class on Sept. 24, 2018. Our professor, Kate Hilliard asked us to determine if we are using narrative, abstract or task-based processes. I used all three.

I gave myself the task to try and reach my left hand to my right hand while my right hand is stuck behind my back. From there, my narrative instincts created a plot with a clear beginning, interesting middle and emotional ending. Lastly, I analyzed my movement to be abstract in the sense that it mimics what my depression feels like.

Clip located here.

How do we approach a master class? (A 3-Part Exposition)

Part 1: The teacher

For Part 2, click here. For Part 3, click here.

For a class to be considered “masterful”, there must be an element that furthers the learning for the students. A teacher must be experienced in the certain subject they are teaching and are able to offer information unique to their career path. For example, a juggling coach would be perfect to teach a juggling class because they are able to demonstrate the action and work with the students to achieve the goal of 3 balls in the air. A juggling coach would not be perfect to teach a class on Thermodynamics because it is not in their field. It makes logical sense.

So then, why are there teachers, that are currently working right now, who show up unprepared and uneducated in their respective skills? If they are not a master of their craft, then they cannot offer a master class. They are free to explain to the students that possibly they are still in training or almost finished a degree of some kind, but it is vital that that information is being communicated to the students. Afterall, most teachers nowadays balance teaching jobs as they continue to study their respective subjects. Whether or not that is the case, a teacher cannot stand in front of a class of eager students and pretend to carry the appropriate education on their back. It will show very quickly if a teacher is under-qualified. In addition, the students are most likely paying for this service, making it immorally wrong.

Now, there are instances where a teacher may be asked a question by their student that the teacher cannot answer. This is maybe due to the fact that a student has taken the information they learned from their teacher and expanded upon it. This is a teacher’s ideal goal for a master class because it shows that the student is at a point in their learning process where they feel comfortable and able to create their own hypotheses. The old saying of “The student becomes the teacher” is, in all forms of pedagogy, exactly what a teacher wants for their students. While it might frighten the teacher, the students are supposed to transition out of being beginners. That is why a master class is a great opportunity.

Let’s gravitate to a more specific example: a dance teacher who offers a class in popping and locking. Whether or not the students are starting from scratch or are already well-versed in this style, the teacher should choose to promote this as a master class. This style is a strand of hip-hop that requires profound coordinating of usual body parts. Some teachers would even say that it is more difficult to learn than ballet. So, there must be some way that the teacher is setting the students up for being interested in the style. If the teacher is qualified, they are welcome to market themselves as a master of popping and locking and the students will then be able to have a better respect for their teacher.

It begs the question if all dance classes should be labelled with “master” in the marketing. Shouldn’t all dance teachers be masters if they are old enough to teach? Sadly, this is not a sound argument because there are instances where a dancer thinks they have automatically graduated to the status of teacher. It is agreeable to say that all dance teachers can dance, but it is inaccurate to say that all dancers can teach. Whether or not, a dancer has had impressive training in a countless number of styles, there is a different perspective when teaching dance. Ultimately, the dancer must switch their brain into a less egotistical frame of mind. This is not to say that dancers are selfish. Dance is a very community-based genre of art. However, dancers must be able to let go of trying to show off their capabilities so that the students are actually learning rather than just watching. A master class is not for a teacher to dance their own choreography or exercises and abandon the proper values of teaching. It is for students to take their skill level to new heights. If a dancer wants to choreograph a combination and have another person provide the teaching of it, that is perfectly fine too.

So, to aptly call a dance class “master”, the teacher must be educated in the style they are teaching as well as focused solely on the students’ growth throughout the class.

To conclude this section, a teacher’s role in a master class rests on their history of training and their ability to communicate how a student will get to be at that skill-level. Any wavering of this perspective will send the students down a reverse path of development. Similarly, if a teacher wants to sleep at night and feel like they are a great teacher, they must remember to put the students first. Teaching is not an easy task to do, but when done correctly, it has the potential to be very significant in a student’s life.

How do we approach a master class? (A 3-Part Exposition)

Part 2: The students

For Part 1, click here. For Part 3, click here.

Now, to move onto the other humans in the room. It is crucial to understand that there will be an immense variety of students in a master class, whatever the subject. Due to the natural developments of the human brain, every student learns differently and at a different pace. Therefore, if the student is having trouble understanding the teacher or the concepts at play, then it may not be their fault. Students should use this obstacle as a way to further understand what helps them to learn. Here’s an example: a student is taking a course on Data Management and the teacher asks them to read the next chapter out of their textbook. For some students, this technique caters towards independent learning which can be beneficial for shy students. According to this website, this is referred to as Solitary or Intrapersonal Learning. However, for other students, they would rather learn with the teacher’s voice as the whole group of students participate in discussion because it offers a sense of communal trust. This is called Social or Interpersonal Learning. Of course, there are many more ways to learn and these are what make humans special. Thus, blaming the student for their difficulties is absurd because it may be a simple change of trying a different teaching method.

Let’s switch gears here. Not to be negative, but what if the student really is the problem? It is an appropriate question to consider because when a teacher outputs all the information they can in a manner that is helpful for the specific student, it is up to the student to take it and run with it. Unfortunately, there can be students (mostly young) who take the opportunity of a master class for granted. They might see it as a normal thing that they get ever week or so and might never see the great privilege they are getting. They might pretend they are bored and try to mess around with the teacher in hopes of getting a laugh out of the other students. Even still, a teacher cannot be directly blamed if a student is acting out in class or disrespecting the environment. The goal for the teacher is that the students are mastering their skills, but this cannot proceed if the student has no discipline or curiosity for learning. Indeed, this may come as they mature. If the students really take into consideration how powerful class time really is, maybe they will stop wasting it with silliness. After all, they are probably not the ones paying the high fees for a master class.

It is evident how a student approaches a master class when they make a blunt mistake. For example, if a dance student falls while executing a pirouette turn, they may laugh about it, cry about it, brush it off, slap themselves for it, ask the teacher for more guidance, hide from the teacher… the list goes on. Mistakes are the most natural thing to happen in a master class, yet they are often seen as failure or weakness. Due to pressure from the others, the student may feel they cannot make a mistake because their peers would look down on them. This student dynamic will ruin the opportunity for growth, and make the students feel like they have to be perfect. So, whether it comes from the teacher, a parent, or the student themselves, making a mistake should be expected in a master class. Then the student can let go of any anxiety that’s stopping their development and strive to be better with each day. Nobody wants to feel like they are incapable of something great.

So, for a student to really “master” their skills and perform to the best of their abilities, they must honour the gift of class and set free any worry that they are going to look bad. This is easier said than done for some students, but if each and every student in the group is supporting one another, everyone can learn in the style that suits them best.

To conclude this section, here is a video of a young Brianna taking her first Stomp The Yard class with Dahlia Caro at Leeming Danceworks in 2012. Notice the fear in my face. I was the youngest of the group and definitely the least experienced with the style, but I remember feeling safe enough to try. Dahlia was always a very comforting teacher who wanted to see the best out of her students. Go check her out on Instagram here. This video documents an extremely scary moment in my life, however, I like to look back on it as a successful one too.

 

How do we approach a master class? (A 3-Part Exposition)

Part 3: Social media

For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here.

Another huge part of how we approach a master class that has taken off in recent years is social media. It has mostly taken off in the dance world, so this section will be geared towards the society of dance in North America.

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Whether or not a teacher or student uses it in a class, social media has changed the way we approach a master class. There are now countless videos online that display a combination of moves from the end of a dance class. If you are unaware, go check out Tricia Miranda’s YouTube channel here, and you’ll see exactly how popular these videos can be for viewers. It’s as accessible as ever to watch what the teacher and dancers worked on. So, it begs the question if it is changing the dance world for the better or for the worst.

Starting off with the pros, social media allows dancers/teachers to share their experience within a master class for the purposes of archival material. The teacher may want to develop a portfolio for future work or to reference for a later project. This is an admirable desire because it shows that the teacher is proud of their work and thinks that others can be inspired by it. Likewise, the dancer may want to show off (in an un-diva way) the movements and concepts they worked on because they were satisfied with their improvement during the class. This is also an admirable desire because it shows that a dancer is not afraid to expose their mistakes and achievements. The dancer is putting themselves up for critique and again, building a portfolio for future jobs/opportunities. Posting a video for everyone to see not only helps promote the teacher/dancer, but also the space they are dancing in. Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles has built a reputation upon posting dance videos, and it has grown as a popular studio ever since. More people gravitate toward it because they know it will provide a platform for pursuing a career in dance. Wonderful! Everyone can grow!

Another benefit to social media is that audiences can decide if they would like to try a certain master class and what dance styles appeal to them from viewing a video posted on a teacher’s/dancer’s account. This creates a community of openness for dancers who feel they are new to a certain style, as well as an opportunity for advanced dancers to try other styles/teachers. Again, another wonderful situation for growth!

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However, when looking at the cons of social media’s role in the dance world, there are many destructive habits that are constantly being used. One of these being the idea that if you do not post about a master class, it is considered that you were not there. There is a certain amount of pressure that comes with posting because the audience may forget about you if you do not show them what exactly what you do with your time. This pressure can be so toxic and negative for everyone. It can turn us into self-centered people whose only ambition is to get attention from others. In addition, we may feel like we missed out on a master class if a certain post gets tons of likes or comments, even though the class is completely separate from the video that is posted. FOMO is real.

Not only does social media create more pressure to post about every class, it also can ruin the incredible experience of a master class for a dancer/teacher. A dancer might end up spending the whole class worried about getting picked for the video that they will lose all sight of what a master class if for: learning. Let’s say a teacher has a high following on social media and the master class they are teaching gathers a crowd of over 100 students. It is almost certain that this teacher will end out the class by finding a group(s) of dancers that they feel did the best and video taping the combo/routine for posting. That is so much extra pressure on the students!! They may end up feeling like they cannot actually attempt new concepts because then the video may not be “post-worthy”. In my own experience, I have taken many classes where the teacher does not even seem interested in how the students are progressing because they are more fixated on how good their video will look. What a waste of time!!

If a teacher is spending the whole hour and a half thinking about which dancers look good together and which dancers do not deserve to be in the video, they are putting up a wall between them and the students. A class cannot be deemed “master” if the teacher prioritizes the end result of a class rather than the journey it takes to get there.

So, it is a bit of a mixed bag when looking at social media and master classes. Do we continue to share what we did in hopes that others will be inspired? Do we continue to share what we did in hopes that others will like us? It’s up to us to use our knowledge as dancers and teachers to make a decision about social media. Or else, it could lead us to spoil the great blessing that is a master class.

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Re: Reading a Book a Week… by John Fish

Before writing this, I watched the above video by John Fish in which he explains the horrific truth about our educational system. I instantly felt inspired to write about my experience with reading. I highly recommend watching it. He’s a Canadian too!

Remember those dreadful days of high school when your English teacher presented the class books for the semester and no one was allowed to complain? No one could suggest a different book, because it had to be a part of the curriculum list that hasn’t been updated since Shakespeare was alive. The teacher would sometimes even hate the book she/he had to discuss with us. What’s wrong with this picture?

When I was a young child, reading was my escape. Morgan le Fay would wisk Annie, Jack and I away on an adventure in the Magic Tree House series. I still recall how excited I was when my mom bought me a new Geronimo Stilton book for Christmas. Authors like Beverley Cleary, Laura Dower, Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen, Cornelia Funke, Jeff Kinney, I could go on…. So many books were dog-eared and bent out of form because of my obsession with reading. It was like words could transfer me to a new environment even though it was just black and white on the page. So then, how come when I got to high school and suddenly my favourite thing to do was being graded, I fell out of love?

My bookshelves got dustier, my brain got cloudier, and I felt forced into reading classic novels. As well, my classmates and I had to agree on specific opinions about a book or else we would get a bad grade. I probably would have eaten up these literary gems if it had not been required by my school board to like them. Due to the fact that we knew our book studies ended with us writing an essay, I started to develop demonic strategies when I read. I became less interested in absorbing the lessons in a certain book, and more worried about making sure I could find sources for my argument. Suddenly, I had to read on a deadline, and my comprehension suffered in some ways. I read faster, but more messy. Constantly having to memorize page numbers so that the teacher knew I had actually read the book. What’s silly now is that I can’t let go of these habits when I try and read for fun. I shudder to think of how messed up my brain is from the intensities of my high school learning. I am not even going to talk about the redundancies of MLA citing.

Without getting too dramatic, there were benefits to reading in the way my high school asked us to. I am able to back up an argument by laying out clear examples from primary sources. I am confident in reading out loud with added character traits if needed. I am capable of reading multiple books at one time. Finally, I know the context of the famous Hamlet quote “To be or not to be”. So, not everything about high school English was bad. My Gr. 12 English teacher was one of my favourite educators ever. She taught me to be creative in my writing and take chances outside of the typical essay format. I could even tell that she, herself, didn’t agree with some of the curriculum standards.

If I am going to reflect on the impact of reading, I need to look at a timeline of my obsession with books, starting with the younger part of my childhood. My mom says I started reading chapter books at age 4. That means that before I was instructed to read, I loved books. This is of course due to the fact that my parents scheduled reading time before every goodnight. It is embedded in my brain as a positive and relaxing activity for my mind.

As I mentioned above, the Magic Tree House books were so special to me, and they probably were the first series I ever grew a crush on. I think I must have read at least 25 of the books in a line-up of 58. They were like medicine to me. Mary Pope Osbourne, I owe it to you to begin a reading addiction that would last my whole lifetime. Then, I believe I moved onto wittier books like Elisabetta’s Geronimo Stilton, Dav Pikey’s Captain Underpants, and Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody. Unlike anything I had ever seen, these three series gave me more colour and imagination. The words could suddenly be painted onto the page rather than typed. My expansive mind was taken to new worlds and I got to laugh more along the way. This period of ages 4-6 is what I like to call “The Simpler Years”.

When I turned 7, I knew that I wasn’t just a child anymore. I was a REAL person. So naturally, my interests shifted to books about history, philosophy, and boys. I remember taking trips to Chapters and leaving the children’s section behind. I wanted to read what my mom was reading, but she guided me to fiction novels that would suit my maturity more sufficiently. Dear Canada is a series of very educational books that showed me the saddest historical events through the eyes of a child. It was written by use of fictionalized diary entries from children who lived during times of war and poverty. Although the topics were deeply profound, I was able to learn about Canada’s history in an honest way. As well, I found solace in a book called Chicken Soup for the Pre-Teen Soul. Written by real-life pre-teens, Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen compile an master list of anecdotes that prepared me for growing up. I read this book from a pre-mature philosophical standpoint and the whole series was my first self-help books. Then, my friends, came a HUGE obsession with a series titled From the Files of Madison Finn. These books held me captive while I learned about Madison stumbling through middle school. Funny enough, she has a sort of “blog” where she uses her laptop as a diary. I started my own diary on my sister’s old laptop, and I had to make it a private folder (to which I lost the password for). I wonder what sort of crazy stuff is lost in cyber-space now! Laura Dower’s series also gave me a chance to read about the confusing stages of having a crush. Madison’s crush is on her classmate Hart Jones. He is a mystical creature that still gives me butterflies. I mean his name is HART! Let’s call this period of ages 7-9 “The Mature for My Age Years”.

Grades 5, 6 and 7 were a different story, pun intended, because the thickness of the books got WAY bigger. Now, I was double digits and ready to tackle the big guns. I want to call this period “The Twilight Years” for the obvious reasons… Stephanie Meyer had my full attention. Suddenly, I was reading about sexual vampires with lust and confusing emotions. I read all four books, plus the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, and saw all the movies at least twice. Team Edward all the way!!….. yeah, it’s so stupid when I think about it now…. But, I cannot lie when I say I don’t remember reading much else when I was ages 10-13, except for maybe The Hunger Games or The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. These years set me up for hardships of relationships.

Here is where it gets depressing. During the years of 2011-2016, I barely read for fun. Generally, if you saw me reading, it was because I had to read it for school assignments. Shakespeare, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Arthur Miller and others became the only authors on my radar for a long time. Additionally, I had less time to sit down and read because my schedule with competitive dance heated up and the internet grew as a cultural phenomenon. During the summer, I focused on dance training more, but I would never take that back. I just feel so sad that most of my teenage years did not involve leisure reading. To be truly honest, I am wondering if maybe my mental state of mind collapsed because I let go of meditative reading sessions that clear my thoughts and sooth my psyche. This period is unfortunately called “The Lost Years”.

In conclusion, I want to renew myself. I can see that reading has been a positive part of my well-being and I am hoping that the school boards across the globe will take a different approach to literature so that more young adults will be inclined to read instead of reluctant to read. If I take the time to close my laptop and phone, I believe it will send me towards a genuine path to happiness.

For some fun, please enjoy Carrie Hope Fletcher’s song that I love. Click here.

Hydra, Greece

Lightning round of thoughts, heavenly skies, donkey sh*t, real-life green screen.

I think I am reluctant to call this place “real” because back home, nothing is this beautiful. I don’t trust it. It will probably take a few days to sink in to believe that people actually live and thrive here. With the houses of white and blue or red, the colours of nature are accented more. Everything around me is clearer. I can see the details in flower petals and I notice fish more easily in the water. Our tour guide has been so welcoming as we arrived and I am thankful that strangers can offer a place to stay. Our hostesses have the most interesting quirks and I am intrigued by their lifestyle. Arabella says she had to struggle to be baptized under that name. It reminds me to be grateful for the upbringing I had. On the other hand, I feel so pleased to be learning about the hardships of others and to be accepting that their culture is just different. Not bad. Different. I think that is the best part of this trip. We get to experience a difference (or a change) from our regular lifestyles. Many people live their lives in the exact same way. But having a change is a blessing, for sure. I wonder how Fatsa, the local dog, feels knowing only this place her whole life. This island is truly one of a kind. It reminds me of the island in Lost. As we boated to the shore, I looked for a personality in the hills and mountains. From afar it seemed so flat and lifeless. How wrong was I to think that! The community of Hydriots have so much character to them. It is so amazing to be able to talk with new faces.

What is the most memorable part of this trip?

For me, the celebration of the Greek Revolution was the most memorable part because I felt so welcomed. The announcer spoke in English as well as Greek, making us understand the history and importance of this day. While I was sitting and looking out onto the water, I couldn’t help but want to cry. The atmosphere had such a depth to it that I’ve never felt before. I feel so lucky to have this experience in my life. I started to videotape the ceremonial burning of the ship so that I could remember it forever but then I realized I wasn’t being present in the moment. The fact that I was watching the event from a camera screen made me cringe. So, I put down my phone just in time for the fireworks and truly felt like I belonged somewhere special. I knew that where I was, was exactly where I was meant to be. The coordination of the explosions in time with the music was breathtaking. The most spectacular thing I have ever seen. It flowed so smoothly and effortlessly that my jaw stayed open the entire time. My favourite sequence was when the music had a run in it and about 6 fireworks blasted in a glorious canon. Perfection. Quite possibly, it was the most memorable part of my life, but I know this trip is just getting started.

What do you hope to learn about yourself?

On this trip, I hope to learn about if I can truly take care of myself. There have been instances when I travel where I’ve made things worse for myself or forgotten to give TLC to my body. I hope to learn about proper mindfulness and practice positive thinking whenever I can. The change in setting will hopefully help with this. Also this trip sort of feels like a fresh start. I hope that I can use the island as an environment to try to be a different person. Obviously, I don’t want to completely abandon my morals, but I want to try putting on new hats. New personality, new way of dressing, or even new everything. Just to see what it would be like.

What grand adventures do you hope to go on?

In my life, I hope to go on adventures such as marriage, natural childbirth and death by old age.

Marriage is something very sacred in my family and I have learned from watching my parents and grandparents as they stay together for 25 years and 53 years, respectively. It is very inspiring to me.

Natural childbirth has always intrigued me since I was the only sibling to be birthed in a natural way. Although it may be painful and difficult on the body, I believe that all women should go through it and show the world how powerful their bodies can be.

Death by old age has fascinated me ever since my great-grandmother died at the age of 104 years. As I spent time with her up until she died, I saw how fragile but strong she was. Her mind was still full of wisdom even though her body had begun to rot. I want to do her the honour of dying in the same way rather than by illness or accident. Hopefully I will get that choice.

What do you hope to take time for on this trip?

I want to take time for reading and writing above all else. I never get the opportunity to have free time and I think it is important to get off my phone whenever I can. I used to love reading and writing when I was younger and I think because I have more responsibilities now, I have let that part of me go. Being on this island will help me to connect with words again, and bring out my best thoughts. I brought the final book of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series and it has helped me remember that Greece is magical. It can change you. I have 2 other books that I want to finish as well. I will be so proud of myself if I even get through one 🙂

Ελλάδα σ ‘αγαπώ

NBC’s The Dreamers Ever Leave You

The National Ballet of Canada’s staging of The Dreamers Ever Leave You incorporated live piano accompaniment performed by the composer of the score. He ran through four sections of continuous trills and chord progressions while the dancers exchanged between solo and duet formations. When the pianist would stop to move onto a new section, the dancers sporadically stomped their feet. I also detected that the dancers never seemed to move the exact same way as one another, but they phrased their movements along with the different accents in the music. Although repetition was avoided, I saw many lifts between the men and women where their limbs were extended and their bodies were intertwined. At times during the performance, dancers would be motionless on the floor, lying in the shadows of a big curtain that hung from the ceiling. This backdrop was either hung low in the middle of the stage or a small portion would peek out from the ceiling. It was white, deformed, and bunched up at various places, giving a greater depth to the stage. In terms of lighting, I saw pale tones of beige, pink, orange, or turquoise, depending on the unique musical sections. Spotlights followed the movements, but not always shone on the featured dancer(s). There were distinct prototypes of costumes using either baggy shirts and pants or tight fitting shorts and tank tops. The women slicked their hair into a tight bun and finished their legs with pointe shoes. As the women floated on their toes, the men referred to intense turning jumps as their main trademark.

This performance reminded me of a group of people living in a dark cave. The hanging curtain was so visually impressive that it completely drew me into a decomposing cave after an apocalypse. While the dancers would leave the cave and be in the sunlight, the moments when the dancers would lie on their backs brought an image of sleep deprivation. It made me think that they could be trying to fall asleep, but ultimately, they must return to dancing out of a desire to see the sun again. As well, the piano sounds mimicked a hummingbird, in my opinion. I started to visualize a singular hummingbird flying around the dancers that would bring a beacon of hope during the aftermath of destruction. Thus, the music and movement were so well connected to the overall storyline.

My general feelings about the piece were that it was about ten minutes too long. Due to the fact that the musical accompaniment was inevitably the same quality throughout, I did get to a point where I wished for a dramatic change of tone so that the audience would be caught off guard. I liked the odd times when the pianist would take a small break in between sections because it helped me, as an audience member, to catch up on what I just witnessed. It progressively got frantic, and I started to feel anxious that I could not keep up. Not only were the silent moments a nice recess for the audience, but the dancers could prolong the ambiance as they stomped their feet.

A question that came to my mind after watching was if there were too many notes for the musical score. The hummingbird flaps its wings so fast that maybe there is not enough time to experience its beauty. I wondered if the piano sounds got too muffled and overlapped for the audience to really listen to it. Another question in my brain was if when Robert Binet was in the process of choreographing, if he focused a lot on the limbs of the body because the intention seemed to be coming from the dancers’ arms and legs rather than the pelvis or chest. The lifts that the men and women executed highlighted the extension of the arms and legs; therefore, I pondered about where Binet wanted the audience’s eyes to be drawn to.

From this performance, I inferred that there is a blurry line between being asleep and being awake. Although the music began to feel panic-stricken, the general tone of the piece gave the impression that the dancers were conflicted between resting in darkness or being free to dance in the sunlight outside of the cave. If there was a meaning for this piece, I believe it was that in times of sadness and distress, the influence of a fluttery hummingbird can bring optimism to our lives.