On Being a Teacher

When I began instructing, I wasn’t quite sure how I would channel the knowledge I had accumulated as a lifelong student of the arts and performer into something useful and beneficial to my students.  I didn’t know if I was ready, or if I would be good at it or could make it safe…..you know, the usual self doubt.  I knew I had something to contribute, but would anyone even listen to me?  It’s still there from time to time, I just know how to put it in it’s place for the most part.  Well I kept at it, and like anything, my methods evolved as I went along.  Now I search for ways to break out of my methods and keep it fresh and new, which sometimes can be hard when you find something that works.

Any instructor will tell you that some classes can be extremely challenging.  You love what you do, but like any job, it is definitely more work some days than others.  Different students need different things.  It’s learning how to recognize this and being able to say or show something 10 different ways until something sticks.  Sometimes (even within a single class) you are the cheerleader, the counselor, the big sister, the disciplinarian, the guinea pig, the technical wench (my favorite), etc.  Sometimes people are just for the photos; you end up in a hundred facebook pictures as the person lifting their butt over their head (hey, that was me too!).  You have to teach a lot of these classes to eventually find your core group of students, and when you do, it can be magical.  Little did I know a group (or two) would evolve that would not only share the same intense passion and commitment to the art as I do, but would become some of my closest friends as well.   When I’m in class with them, it doesn’t feel like work at all, it feels like we are hanging out at an awesome playground together, egging each other on.  They’ve been there with me through a lot; we’ve shared each other’s ups and downs, celebrated life events together, been an ear to listen.  There have been multiple times when I have learned something about life from them.  Whatever I’ve given, I feel like I’ve gotten back one hundred fold.  Then they go and do something awesome like this:

= heart full of gratitude! I love you guys!

 

The Irish Spiral

Is officially being fabricated as of today! Graciously commissioned by the folks at Fidget Feet Aerial Dance Theater in County Donegal, Ireland for the Irish Aerial Dance Fest 2012, where I will be a featured performer along with Madame Rex, miss Rachel Strickland. Our unofficial super awesome european tour starts June 2 at the IADF. More on that later!

The original spiral, measuring 9’4″ and weighing in at 115 lbs. was quite the endeavor to get made. I spoke with no less than eleven fabricators around three different states before finding someone who would take it on. Most of them thought I was nuts, I’m sure (“Yeah, and I’m going to be hanging off of it too!”). Since then, it’s been a hit with crowds around Seattle and will be featured at the 2012 Moisture Festival if you’d like to see it in action on this side of the pond.

I’ve always been fascinated by sacred geometry; how the simplest things like the eye of a sunflower, a pleasing musical chord, or the ratios of a human body have a natural and beautiful order that seem to prove the universe knows what it is doing. There is an instinctual gut reaction of attraction to something within the means of the Golden Ratio. When I’m choreographing, or navigating traffic, or trying to solve day to day challenges, I find myself thinking in shapes and patterns rather than separate parts. Half minded little napkin doodles end up more closely resembling dinergetic diagrams than, well, napkin doodles. Furthermore, a body’s lines are so important. You can be doing the simplest thing onstage, but if you make a beautiful shape or motion there is that natural “ahhhh” from the audience. You’ve touched that primordial nerve that recognizes geometry without knowing it. On the other end of the spectrum, well, we won’t go there…..remember your lines! Building on this principle, linking choreography together in a way that is beautiful and logical is always at the forefront of my aerial tinkering. Creating the spiral just seemed like a natural extension of the internal shapes I see in daily life.

 

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was what many consider one of the greatest poets of the English language, and expressed a lifelong interest in mysticism and spiritualism. The spiral figured prominently in his thinking. From yeatsvision.com: “The mind, whether expressed in history or in the individual life, has a precise movement, which can be quickened or slackened but cannot be fundamentally altered, and this movement can be expressed by a mathematical form’ and this form is the gyre.” He often used imagery of intersecting spirals to illustrate his beliefs on the opposing nature of things: “As in the representation of the Yin-Yang polarity, the maximum of one gyre contains the minimum of its opposite at its centre, so that, even as this minimum briefly touches zero, it is still inherent within the whole.”

The gyre is one of Yeats’ favorite motifs, the idea that history occurs in cycles, specifically cycles “twenty centuries” in length (Yeats, “The Second Coming” ln. 19). From secretdoors.com: the spiral representing “the mind’s evolution as a process of circling toward the wide end of an idealistic cone until…..”the center cannot hold” (Ellmann, A Commentary 239-40). At that point a revelation occurs, and the mind shifts to a new center, the narrow end of a cone of opposing idealism, inverted and superimposed on the first, with its narrow end at the center of the wide end of the first (240). This model, explained Yeats in his note, could also be used to describe human history; the world’s gyre is shifted by a revelation every two thousand years…..”.  Making this creation especially appropriate in this anticipated year of 2012…..

In short, the spiral is more than just a pretty shape.