Grounded, but lifted

These are my musings about dance, memories, love, life, and Jesus... 

weighing in


Hey girl! I love your blog. Here are some dances and dancers who have bodies different, for various reasons, than the “existing ideal” (“long limbs, slender, athletic, small head, little to no curves”)

Rennie Harris Puremovement

Hilary Clark (here she is in Tere O’Connor’s “Baby,” full length and excerpts)

Axis Dance Company (here’s a recent work sample). I’m excited about the new dance that Joe Goode will choreograph, “to go again, a dance theater work that brings to light issues facing our nation’s veterans and addresses their resilience following sever life changes.” 

Larry Goldhuber/BIGMANARTS, he danced for for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

Suzanne Richard 

Hi there! And thank you, I appreciate it. From what it looks like, I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up crossing dance world paths at some point. 

Thanks so much for your response and the references, I’m always glad to hear of people and work I should keep on my radar :) It was refreshing to see a variety of dancers featured in the excerpts you shared.

I’ve only seen Rennie’s concert work a couple of times, but I’m definitely keen on what he does. Also-seeing Genome was probably one of my most memorable audience experiences. It was in 2008 and it was the first time I saw DX in performance. I’ll have to look more into Suzanne’s projects.



I biked about 70 miles total this week and I feel great. Monday thru Friday I bike around 50 miles. I know I’ve mentioned this within the past few posts, but biking really is changing my life and I feel very different than I did a month ago. I’m convinced that everyone in the city would be happier and healthier if they all biked.

Bikes are very affordable to maintain, they’re time efficient and more direct compared to bus and subway routes, it’s great exercise, and they are zero emission vehicles. I keep inviting my friends to bike places with me. Bike shops are really good for the community, too. Young men and women are put to work, children and teenagers learn practical and valuable skills as part of after school and volunteer programs, and it easily becomes a shared community pastime. So the economic, environmental, social, and health benefits are unbeatable.

The downside is that biking is difficult and uncomfortable if it’s your primary method of commuting. There are plenty of great bike lanes in the city, but in some neighborhoods I’m competing for space against impatient drivers and their vehicles. Sometimes the wind blows against me and it feels impossible to pedal forward. My bike frame is old, heavy and ever so creaky (but that’s what gives it its character), so it’s not as effortless to ride as a light, sleek aluminum bike. I nearly die of exhaustion on some uphill roads. I feel the direct impact of every cobblestone street, bump, crack, and pothole in the road, I arrive already sweaty to most destinations on an average summer day, and my backside doesn’t mind so much anymore, but the seats just aren’t built for comfort.

Biking is absolutely worth it, but it’s not glamorous by any means. But more often than not, doing something that’s good for you is gritty and strenuous.

Side note: Half of the problems we have today are because of how quickly convenient options became the standard. Suburbs were built for cars and it’s impossible to maintain the average suburban lifestyle without them. I might dwell on the politics of twentieth century city planning and its environmental impact some other time.

Biking during the day is the most challenging, but then riding home during the sunset or at dusk or at night is one of the most pleasant and thrilling sensations I’ve consistently experienced all summer. I get a natural high from biking home on a cool summer night. I feel like Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower when he says, “I feel infinite.”

All seems well with the world and I feel full of peace when coasting through quiet streets at sunset or dusk, downhill through Fairmount Park with the fresh air filling my lungs, or when I’m racing to and from a destination with a friend or two. Personally, I think overcoming all the challenges is what I have found to be rewarding because I’ve become stronger through it. So the discomfort is a price I’m willing to pay. And I have this newfound gratitude for all that my body allows me do.

Here’s to summer, and eventually learning how to bike in fall and winter seasons.

Meet the “Hipsters of Philadelphia” | News | Philadelphia Magazine

This is actually a thing though.

post grad lessons cont’d

It’s so important to not compromise and to really know who you are as a dancer and person with your job search. The thing about teaching dance is that it doesn’t feel like “work” in the drudgery sense. It satisfies my extrovert needs to interact with people and the energy to do it comes naturally because I love dance so much. It feels like and it is real time artistic development, except I’m the one that’s demonstrating, facilitating, and passing on information. Which is pretty much where I’m always trying to be for my 9-5, right? Out of all the odd jobs I’m doing right now, teaching dance definitely is definitely a highlight and a way to keep my performance and compositional skills in check. I finally have an embodied understanding of teaching as an extension of choreography/performance.

A moment from class this past week

Love this studio, love me some Jess!


The other day after class, I got really interested in circles because of how the dancers defaulted to a circular formation during a spontaneous jam.

A few men in the class started grooving in a circle while the director of the company started dancing in the center. Class ended, but the room was still vibrating with high energy and excitement and creative enthusiasm. That sweet spot where all the energy is spent and you can’t help but continue moving because the euphoric sensation is right there.

Several of dancers in the room caught on and joined the circular pathway and intuitively took turns dancing in the center without verbal explanation. Everyone moved rhythmically through the beat of the music.

Capoeira class also ends with a circle. They call the roda a “game”, and basically 2 players at a time challenge/fight/dance with each other. I’m also really interested right now in the crossover between the roda and contact improvisation, but I’ll post on that some other time. Basically I’m convinced capoeira is useful and vital for contact improv/modern dancers.

Come to think of it, I utilize a circle formation in the classes I teach this summer because it’s a good pedagogical strategy to engage my students, demonstrate, and learn/experience movement together.

And plenty of modern classes tend to begin and end in circles. A circle to start tuning into the breath and body and guided improv structure and a circle to cool down and tune into the body’s kinesthetic state based on the journey it went through (I’m such a pomo dancer though). I even learned about Qigong circles based in Asian somatic practice.

Something about the circle is profound and effective. By participating in a circle formation there is an inherent understanding of unity and continuity and oneness and the fact that circles happen so often across dance genres tells me there’s something deeply universal about it. Dances in circles seem to never end, and the sense of time that a circle creates has been in use since ancient times.

I need to find out whether or not some dance academic has written about the circle as a performative. Now I’m really keen to do some further research about the spiritual origins of the mandala because there really is something about it. Like mandala is not just a spiritual symbol but also a timeless performative ritual of sorts.

weighing in



Is it just me, or are those a couple of dancers’ most commonly used buzzwords? And am I the only one who notices this, but are some companies/studios/choreographers more “diverse” than others?

I love the dancers and choreographers I’ve worked with so far this summer, but some just aren’t as inclusive as they claim and sometimes I wish they would be publicly upfront about the “type” that they look for. There’s no problem in admitting that certain work demands a particular facility. After all, the ballet world is designed to weed dancers out until they get the best of the best.

I’m proud to be a dancer grounded and proficient in ballet and modern technique, but I have to be honest with myself about the fact that there are very few women who look like me in most major companies. And that I have to work that much harder on my technique to prove myself.

Discrimination/sizeism in the dance world is a funny thing-rather than openly putting a dancer down, they are quietly and politely overlooked in casting and hiring decisions and it’s pretty easy to tell what was missing based on who made the cut.

When I go take house, I get mistaken for company member by some even though it’s still pretty new to me but when I take class at another studio, I get preoccupied with my size/shape/weight because the women that the artistic director hires are only getting thinner and thinner. Supposedly he’s “open minded” but he basically goes for the Balanchine body type: long limbs, slender, athletic, small head, little to no curves, and clear affect of technique that demands turnout and pulling up.

It really bothered me the other day when one of the company dancers said, “I think he just likes pretty bodies,” as if other body types weren’t beautiful and powerful. As if long limbs, slender, athletic, small head, little to no curves, was the only body type in dance that gets to be thoughts of as “pretty.” And honestly, there is another institution in particular where non-black students aren’t considered as favorably and that’s just what works for them so that’s just how it is. 

In one day I can go from being really self conscious of my curves (and hoping that I appear a little thinner than a few months ago) to forgetting about the (healthy and normal) number on the scale because the movement is about how it feels to move and connect with those around me-more focused the energetic projection rather than visual linearity. 

So yes, we all like to love community and diversity and being inclusive, but I can’t help but notice that more often than not, whoever gets to be included resembles an already existing ideal. It’s truly novel to find a group that is diverse based on the gender, ethnic, and physical body representations.

Just things I notice as I attempt to find my niche, and an ongoing issue that has plagued my mind, having always had a non Eurocentric dancing body type.

I think the strongest prayer I’ve ever prayed is a single phrase I declared with complete honesty: God, I have no idea what you’re doing, but I trust you.

Thought about my drive home last night. (via churchjanitor)

(via yesdarlingido)

Whether we are writing fiction or nonfiction, journaling or writing for publication, writing itself is an inherently therapeutic activity. Simply to line up words one after another upon a page is to create some order where it did not exist, to give a recognizable shape to the sadness and chaos of our lives.

Lee Smith (via yesdarlingido)

(via yesdarlingido)

la vie est belle

In my pursuit of what inspires me

I find that my heart is often

p u l l e d

in many, many, many directions

And it can often feel so effortless to fall in love with everyone and everything around me.