Costumes!

Performances/Screenings
Fab Ashley in character for our piece Dinner/Dance19.
Fab Ashley in character for our piece Dinner/Dance19.

I would like to take some time to really acknowledge Ashley Horn for her impactful Frame Dance collaborations over the past five years (and more to come!)  She has been my most consistent collaborator, and has had an indelible stamp on Frame Dance aesthetics.  She is so talented and unwaveringly creative.  She understands my interest in color, shape, and style.  This performance of Framed in Five is requiring her to make 34 (or something) costumes!  Here are a few photos of the costumes in progress…

 



 

Do You Fear Failure?

MFA Mondays

MFA rightI remember one of the last conversations I had with my mom. I was rushing from one job to another, having only thirty minutes to get from point A to point B in Houston traffic, and also needing to somehow prepare myself to teach the group of expectant adult beginners that would be waiting for me at my destination. The phone rang, and my mom, in a weepy and distressed state was on the other end. I rushed her off the phone, explaining that I had a limited amount of time to ground myself for the task ahead. I told her that I would call her back after class, and when I did, she didn’t answer. We never addressed what she had originally called about. She died less than a month later, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I had simply taken the time to listen to her, but I was too busy living the dream.

            I remember that nearing the end of my grad school journey, one of my mentors told me that I should treat the next few years like a PhD in Dance and life.

It was good advice. I made mistakes, I learned from them, and I constantly altered my choices to adjust to whatever new normal I faced. But there were some lessons that I just did not see coming. There was no way for me to prepare for the death of my mom. There was no way for me to prepare for not having her here in case I get lost again. Now, the advice and encouragement that I felt was just biased, motherly beliefs, invaluable to me.

I now hold a full time position as the program coordinator of the dance program at San Jacinto College.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

What started out as a single class is now forty plus hours a week with an office and health insurance. I am still actively performing with independent artists in the area, and I am regularly creating and submitting work. I am at a new level of success, in my book, and I honestly cannot tell you how I got here or how I’m doing it, but I can tell you what has changed.

 

  • There is a new normal – this new normal exists as a result of loss; a loss so great that it changes the very core of my identity. I am being redefined by this new normal, and it is inevitable.
  • I do not fear failure – while it is true that I have a whole new abundance of fears, a fear of failure is not one of them. And, while I believe that fear is generally stifling and destructive, I now fear things like not accomplishing all that I want to in life. This fear acts as a protagonist calling me to take risks that I otherwise might not.
  • I am more patient with myself – life is full of all kinds of hardships for which we cannot possible prepare ourselves. These hardships are capable of changing our reality. They linger and they sting making it difficult to face each day in the way that we did before. It will take time to adjust to this new normal, and patience is required.
  • I am more compassionate and understanding – I have come to recognize this quality, especially with my students. Do I want my students to make their education and career in dance a priority in their lives? Yes, of course. Do I want them to make it their top priority above all other things? No, of course not. As I told one of my students who approached me with the news that her mother had just been diagnosed with cancer, “It’s just dance… it will be here for you when you get back.”
  • Surrender is essential – giving into the moment is vital; whether it means surrendering to humor and allowing laughter to overtake the moment, or surrendering to a new idea in dance class that will eventually mold itself into a great learning experience. Sometimes giving in is more effective than activating.
  • I’ve decided that humanity is professional – on several occasions I have been overcome with emotion in the middle of a rehearsal or class. We use phrases like “I lost it” or “I fell apart” to describe allowing our emotions to be seen and felt. This gives these moments a negative connotation; like the release of emotion is something to be ashamed of and to only be practiced in private. Well, no more of this. I am a human above all other things that I am, and I am not ashamed or afraid of allowing my emotions to be felt by others.
  • I accept that I am exactly where I need to be – I heard it in class every Wednesday and Friday for three years. I didn’t always believe it, but now I accept it.

I am grateful for the time I had in grad school. It taught me quite a bit while I was there, but I think I learned even more from the absence of grad school. Grief is a process, and the process of grieving the loss of grad school has prepared me for much more in life. I am also grateful for the time I had with my mom while she was here on earth, and I think, I am currently learning who I am without her here. There is still a lot to learn, and I am constantly evolving. Hopefully, one day, I will look back on this chapter of my life and discover more than I thought was there.


Do you have a grad school story you’d like to share? Have questions or advice that you gleaned from grad school? Was it all that you dreamed of?  Or maybe not?  Contact us, we’d love to hear from you.

Jamie Zahradnik is from Wharton, Texas.  She attained her BFA in Dance from SHSU graduating Summa Cum Laude in May 2008, and her MFA in Dance in 2011.  She is also a certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst.  Jamie has performed with Rednerrus Feil Dance Company, and Psophonia Dance Company, and has most recently performed for local independent artists Laura Gutierrez, Brittany Theford-Deveau, and Rebekah Chappell. Jamie currently serves as a dance professor and the dance program coordinator for San Jacinto College. She loves sharing herself with others through performing, teaching, and creating.

Cultured Cocktails Tonight!

Free Events Thursday

cc

 

When: Tonight!  March 26 from 5-7pm

Who: This is an open event, bring a crowd and have a drink while supporting Houston Arts.

Where: Boheme Cafe and Wine Bar.  At the intersection of Fairview and Taft in Montrose/Midtown.

What: happy hour where a portion of drink sales goes to support Frame Dance.

Want to write for Frame Dance?

Blog

Are you a Frame Dance blog reader?  Have you ever wanted to write something to be published and shared with the Frame Dance audience?  Are you an MFA who would like to contribute to the MFA Monday column, or a health and wellness person who would like to share some tips on Wellness Wednesday?  Or maybe a music professional who can share on Tuesday Tunes?  Or maybe you have a wild idea that doesn’t already fit?  We’d love to hear it!

 

We are accepting Frame Dance blog submissions now.  All of these beautiful people are blog writers past and present! Be a part of the Frame Dance Blog community.

Tuesday Tunes

Frame Dance and Composers Tuesday Tunes

musiccLast week for submissions to the Frame Dance Music Composition Competition!

We’re calling all composers to submit to our annual music competition to find a collaborator for one of our live dances, and/or one of our dance films. We’ll be using the winner’s music in one of our pieces for the Spring season.

We do not accept works previously licensed to third-party publishing companies.  This requirement, of course, does not limit works that are self-published where the composer has not entered into a licensing relationship with a third party.music3

The entry fee is $15.00. Composers may submit one, two, or three pieces for the single entry fee.

Submission Guidelines
Works may be written for solo, duet, trio, quartet, or quintet.
Acoustic works that utilize electronic playback are also acceptable.
Electronic music is accepted and encouraged.

Deadline is January 9, 2015

Winner will be announced January 30, 2015 

SUBMIT HERE.

Is the MFA the new MBA?

MFA Mondays

MFA right

“COMPANIES ALL ACROSS AMERICA ARE STARTING TO SEE A CRITICAL TALENT GAP AS OLDER EMPLOYEES RETIRE. ARTS STUDENTS MAY NOT HAVE ALL THE TRADITIONAL SKILLS, BUT THEY HAVE THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE: CREATIVITY.”

You may have seen this article floating around on social media.  Here are some key points, but I encourage you to read the full article!  What a perfect response to anyone who sees art as a hobby.  Use this article as a way to explain why the skills of an artist go beyond  the art form and are key to the growth of business in our time.  It’s always great to have language on hand when our value is questioned time and time again.

“Consider this: Today’s contingent economy has people moving constantly from one job to another, one type of work to another, one industry to a different industry. In fact, on average, a person between the ages of 25 and 45 will hold 11 different jobs in their lifetime. Thirty percent of us will work in more than 15 different jobs over the course of our careers.

Organizations far and wide—perhaps even yours—will compete intensely for workers who are adaptable, resourceful, and can quickly learn and apply new skills to a variety of challenges. Where can you find such workers?

One answer runs counter to much conventional wisdom: Ask an artist.”

“Is art school the next B-school? Hardly, though artists often possess the skills and temperament that business leaders regularly say are in short supply: creativity, resiliency, flexibility, high tolerance for risk and ambiguity, as well as the courage to fail.”

Ways to engage artists in the workplace:

  •  Ask them to explicitly think about puzzles using their artistic hat/lens. Invite a local theater group to work with employees on improvisation exercises to free up their creative juices. Research has shown that when people engage in improv they later generate more creative ideas to a range of issues and challenges.
  • Figure out how to incorporate critical feedback into an ongoing process of improvement and innovation. Ask an artist to come in and run a “critical feedback” workshop for employees.
  • Have an artist facilitate a workshop where a creative task is emergent, shifting, and where new information requires adjustments and negotiation.

“Many people see artists as shamans, dreamers, outsiders, and rebels. In reality, the artist is a builder, an engineer, a research analyst, a human relations expert, a project manager, a communications specialist, and a salesman. The artist is all of those and more—combined with the imagination of an inventor and the courage of an explorer. Not a bad set of talents for any business challenged to innovate in a world of volatility, uncertainty, and change.”

The full article, “Is an MFA and new MBA?” by Steven Tepper can be found here.

MFA Monday: Megan Yankee

MFA Mondays

MFA rightAfter the Master: Only More Questions

 

In the last of my articles, I’d like to highlight some of the ideas and articles that have helped me maintain focus in regards to my professional dance career after graduation. After finishing my studies, I was overwhelmed by the challenge of finding, paying for and sustaining three important aspects of a dance career:

  • a regular challenging movement practice or class,
  • a large and diverse dancing community, and
  • a place to rehearse and present my work.

During graduate school, I often reminded myself that the resources available to me at the time wouldn’t last… that I would miss them when they were gone. That wasn’t even the half of it.

I don’t just miss them. At times those things feel completely elusive. At times I feel entirely confounded by how to find or create opportunities that would grant access to these integral parts of a dance career. And in those times of confusion, I end up questioning my decision to build a professional dance career in the first place. After much soul-searching, I settle on more practical questions like the following:

  • What is the role of the independent dancemaker in our country?
  • How can dancemakers contribute to the wellbeing of a city, state or county?
  • What, if any, education should be involved?
  • How do you pay for dancemaking?
  • How do you nurture a local community through movement?
  • How reliable is croundfunding for projects vs. government funding?

I haven’t come to any concrete answers, but, as I said, I have a direction.

I want to convince the city of Columbus that my and others’ dancemaking is a valuable part of a thriving city.

Amy Querin, Dance Artistwww.amyquerin.comMy direction is likely different from yours, but, for my last blog, I thought I’d share and summarize the articles that have influenced my perspective on the current and potential states of contemporary concert dance in our country. The following are continual sources of comfort and guidance for me. They help me regain a sense of national context for dance that can be elusive when making dance in cities with smaller or non-existence dance communities.

If I can no longer make dance at a university or college… If my last resort is creating my own dance community in a city that is new to me, then I’ve found the best way to start is to develop my ability to describe the value and benefits of my dancemaking for the city. These articles provide assistance in doing just that.

The View from Here: A report from The Brooklyn Commune Project on the state of the performing arts from the perspective artists (Abridged) was published in January of this year. I stumbled across it in an article in the Huffington Post by dance artist Nora Younkin which I describe lower down in the list. The BCP, now practically over, continues along as a Facebook group. This report details the nature of funding for the performing arts based both on the authors’ experiences and research from the National Foundation for the Arts. Most importantly, it introduced to me the possibility of considering the performing arts a “public good” due to the many benefits they can provide. Also, here’s a shortened TL;DR version: BKCP Artist Action Flyer

The next link is a summary of a summary. Found on the Rand Corporation’s website, Reframing the Debate About the Value of the Arts is a short article describing the corporation’s new report entitled Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts. The summary and research (available on Amazon) both provide me with the language to describe in detail the many benefits of the arts. What is especially helpful is the delineation between instrumental and intrinsic benefits as well as guidance in developing “language for discussing intrinsic benefits that is clear and compelling and reflects the importance of qualitative as well as quantitative issues.”

When I found the next article, I distinctly remember my resulting internal sigh of relief. After a full year of not having produced any work myself (only performing in others’ works), it was comforting to read another dancer’s perspective on the difficulty of sustaining a company or career in dancemaking. Dance and Capitalism: A Love-Hate Relationship was written by dance artist, Nora Younkin and published by the Huffington Post in January of this year. It touches on similar topics as the first article I listed. At times understandably defensive, Younkin both describes her frustration with and details her concerns about the dwindling funding available to contemporary dancemakers. Much like myself and some of the resources I’ve listed, her writing ends in a question: Dance “is asking for validation that [it] has a place in our culture and society worth preserving. So the question is: Does it?”

The next article is a rebuttal to Younkin’s. I found it when reading the comments below her article, which are still available for you to read as well. Who Should Pay for the Arts?: Private support beats public subsidies was written by Jared Meyer for City Journal, a publication that calls itself “the nation’s premier urban-policy magazine.” Because I have lived and worked in North Texas, a part of the country with few funding sources that are available to independent performing artists, I’ve always tried to understand the perspective described by the author in this article. I find it helpful to consider this perspective, as it is those with similar perspectives that I will have the toughest time convincing to help fund my projects.

The final report was produced for the National Endowment for the Arts in 2008 by Jennifer L. Novack-Leonard and Alan S. Brown. Beyond attendance: A multi-modal understanding of arts participation is a summary of survey results conducted in order to better understand the ways in which audiences engage with the arts. It is similar to the first article I listed in that it provides a way of languaging the value of arts, but it’s also helpful to simply provide statistics therein when trying to convince of someone the worth of your projects.

 

It is my hope that in providing these articles I might incite one reaction from my fellow dancemakers: consider and question your role of the dancemaker in society.

If non-academic resources for dancers dry up, then I worry that it may lead to some form of unintentional creative homogenization in this country. American dancers will have to continue to venture to the coasts to find challenging, inspiring dancemaking communities, leaving the rest of the country in drought. If those who want to make dance are only able to do so in a college setting, then what happens to those dancemakers who can’t go to college? What happens to the dancers that can’t get a job in a college? They may simply become lost artistic voices. Are we willing to let that go as a society?

 

In the final article in this series next week, we will hear from Amanda McCorkle. Amanda and I graduated together in the spring of last year. Since then, she has taken multiple positions as an adjunct professor in the North Texas area teaching various courses including dance appreciation and hip hop and a few in between. Let us know if you have any questions or comments by emailing me at meganyankeedance@gmail.com.

 


Megan Yankee (interviewer, writer, curator on MFA Monday) is an indie dance artist that seeks opportunities to make and present dances in alternative spaces in order to expand the reach of concert dance. She is committed to presenting work and curating concerts in houses, busy street corners, warehouses, dance for film, online and in visual art galleries. She has performed and presented work nationally and internationally at the Nomad Express Multi Arts Festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso produced by Olivier, the Sonic Arts Research Center in Belfast, Northern Ireland, American Dance Festival, American College Dance Festival, Texas Dance Improvisation Festival, Movement Intensive in Composition and Improvisation in Lancaster, PA, Emerge and Exchange Dance Festivals in Tulsa, OK, {254} Festival in Waco, Texas, Out of Loop Festival in Addison, TX, and the Rogue Festival in Fresno, CA. She has had the honor of performing in works by Christie Nelson, Amie LeGendre, Larry Keigwin, Michael Foley, Jordan Fuchs, Sandy Mathern-Smith and Sarah Gamblin.

Megan holds (and runs with) an MFA in Dance from Texas Woman’s University and currently lives in Columbus, OH with her partner, John Osburn and their two dogs, Weecho and Lucy.

MFA Monday: Erin Law

MFA Mondays
MFA rightGood Morning!  Framers, I am so pleased to bring you Megan Yankee’s next installment of MFA Monday, a rich interview her with colleague and friend Erin Law.  Enjoy!

 

After the Master: Interview with Erin Law, M.F.A.

I am happy to present my interview with Erin Law this week. Erin and I met at Denison University where she was teaching as a visiting assistant professor in the 2012-2013 school year. We have since traveled to Burkina Faso (West Africa) together to perform a work by Sandra Mathern-Smith. Her warmth and expertise is something I greatly admire and I cherish her friendship and mentorship. If you have any questions for her, please email me at meganyankeedance@gmail.com and I will happily forward them to her. Enjoy!

 

M: How are you using the knowledge and experiences you gained in grad school now (outside of work)?

 

E: I think mainly the knowledge and experiences I gained serve as a reminder to stay true to myself no matter what. In school I had the opportunity to delve in deep, to explore and discover my aesthetic voice. I think that in this world that often devalues art as a valid form of work, it is important to stay connected to self and to have integrity in the face of adversity.

 

M: Do you have a regular movement practice (even if it’s atypical)?

 

E: I am sure to move (consciously) every day in some way, even if it’s not exactly how I desire. I have enjoyed walking a lot recently. I like to connect with the environment that way. Sometimes I do small dances while making cowe are animalspies, others I stray from the path that leads directly from point A to point B…

 

M: What was your focus in grad school?

 

E: I focused on improvisation as performance. Through collaboration and experimentation I discovered many modalities through which to become more specific and rigorous in improvising as a soloist, part of a group, and as a contact dancer. I also focused equally on developing my skills as a sound artist. I did this so to face my fears and self-judgment and also to be able to make things that I could post online without worrying about how copyright laws apply to the presentation of my work (live or online). Although it was my last semester I discovered film through a composition class we took and I fell in love with it. So while it wasn’t a constant focus when I was there, I have continued to explore it in my independent professional work.

 

M: How/did your employment status shift after grad school? What was the job search and application process like for your current position?

 

E: Each school year following graduate school, my employment status has shifted. After graduate school where I was a Teaching Fellow, I moved back to Tennessee and did some adjunct work at Middle Tennessee State University. This was a huge turning point for me as a dance educator because I was asked to teach Dance Appreciation as a general education course. I had to learn quickly how to shift from depending largely on my body as a teaching tool to becoming an engaging lecturer. I found that the vast array of things I had been exposed to in graduate school combined with my training from Integrated Movement Studies (Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis) served me here, because it prepared me with the skills to create meaningful hands-on activities for very diverse groups of students. I then became a Visiting Assistant Professor at Denison University as a sabbatical replacement the following school year. This was my first opportunity to work full time teaching both theory and technique courses, creating choreography, and advising students. This gave me the chance to expand on things I had been developing over the last several years of my teaching career in a very supported and focused manner.

This year has been the most challenging in terms of finding meaningful work. I have experienced a lot of potential opportunities, rejections, and a great sense of humbling. I am proud of myself for my perseverance.

I feel, despite the lack of fruitful employment after a year of searching, a freedom to imagine new and different pathways for myself in the near future. I am still applying for academic positions but I am also interested in freelancing and collaborating with dance artists with whom I really want to work.

 

M: What is your opinion regarding the state of adjunct positions in the US?

 

E: I preface my personal commentary by saying I have not researched the state of adjunct positions here, so I am coming from my own frame of reference as well as hearsay from fellow adjuncts. First, I believe it must be a very different experience depending on which school and region one works. I think there is a double edged sword with adjunct work: there is less institutional responsibility, freeing me as an artist to do other things with my time but then there are no health benefits, the pay is very poor and the teaching load can still be incredibly demanding. I have enjoyed having less institutional responsibilities this year, it has allowed me to do other things with my time. Then again, as someone who enjoys investing in my students, I find myself naturally inclined to advise and mentor students; it provides me great fulfillment. This is where boundaries are fuzzy because it is not part of my job description, I am not getting paid for it, but there I am doing it anyway. I think adjunct positions—specifically in dance—only exacerbate our masochistic cultural tendency to work (or in some cases, toil) for free “all for the love of dance.” It can create in me a sense of resentment and devaluing of my own skills. It is certainly not a sustainable source of employment, but I can see how it could be useful for some.

The thing I struggle with is that adjuncts and tenured professors could be providing the same level of quality teaching but are not receiving the same benefits for their work.

Adjuncts are left out in the cold when it comes to issues of health insurance, travel benefits, and general accessibility to the perks an institution can offer. We all need to be compensated fairly for our work and that is not happening.

 

M: How are you using the knowledge and experiences you gained in grad school in your current position?

 

E: I have several jobs right now so this question has different answers depending on which job I am discussing…I will start with my day job. I support a high school English teacher who is blind. This was her very first year teaching and she had a lot to learn. Although it was not part of my job description I found myself having philosophical discussions with her all year about how to approach teaching …I think I served her as a type of pedagogical advisor. I have helped her to consider how learning can be a hands on activity and a kinesthetic experience. I have been able to bring the analytic skills I acquired in graduate school to my job evaluating her work as well as the students’ work.

In my adjunct work, the connections are much more straightforward. As I discussed before the exposure to so many different contemporary artists helped prepare me to teach Dance Appreciation. I also feel that getting to teach and take several semester length technique courses in graduate school allowed me to understand the flow of a semester and how I wanted it to progress for my students.                                                                                                                                     

 I think one of the most instrumental or significant/sentimental ways in which my experiences in grad school affect my current work is in my independent choreography.

I feel much more adequately prepared to take on big projects and take really big risks. I am not as attached to my work and don’t treat as this precious thing that is an appendage of my own body anymore and I owe that to the critique process I experienced in grad school.

I seek out critical feedback which is something I never did before in Nashville.

 

M: Roughly how many times have you performed or presented your work since you graduated. How does this compare to the amount of times you did so during and before graduate school?

 

E: I have presented work about nine times over the last three years since I graduated. This includes the production of three dance films, two of which were presented as part of live performances. During graduate school I performed or presented work one to two times per semester over a total of four semesters. I was definitely making work and/or involved in others’ work during graduate school more intensely than when I left. A marked difference in the timeline of producing work is that I now seek my own opportunities to present work and thus decide (within reason) my own deadlines/show dates, whereas in graduate school, these things were essentially determined for me. In this way it feels equal. Before graduate school I presented work as part of annual or semesters’ end dance concerts more frequently than seeking alternative or site-specific performance spaces. I adhered more to a studio’s schedule than my own desire to make work. I enjoy that I am liberated from that now!

 

M: Is there a project you’re itching to get started on?

 

E: I am very excited to start on a project that I will present at the end of July. Earlier this year I had an anxiety dream related to work and it featured me digging through bags of underwear and markers. My friend (and collaborator) suggested I shed the anxiety aspect of the dream and explore the specific images of underwear and markers in a dance. That resonated with me immediately so I started dreaming up ideas. I am looking forward to working with a few improvisers to develop a performance score with these items and mainly the freedom they represent to me.


Erin Law is a movement educator, improviser, choreographer, and performance artist based in Nashville, Tennessee who is determined to both challenge and bring harmony to her community through dance. Recently she has completed a yearlong Visiting Assistant Professorship at Denison University where she restaged a choreographic work and taught Somatics, Understanding Dance, Laban Movement Analysis, Contact Improvisation, Senior Research, and Cultural Studies as sabbatical replacement for Dr. Gill Wright Miller. Previous engagements include an adjunct professorship at Middle Tennessee State University and Assistant Director of the co-curricular Vanderbilt Dance Program.

Originally from Massachusetts, Law attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY from which she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. and high honors in dance. She went on to the Integrated Movement Studies program to certify in Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis (LMA) through the University of Utah and in the spring of 2011, Erin graduated from the Master of Fine Arts program in dance at Smith College (Massachusetts) with her MFA in choreography and performance.

In her independent work Erin is currently pursuing the integration of site-specific improvisations in movement, identity theory, sound, and film under the project heading salt_space. She is collaborating with fellow dance artists Janelle Bonfour-Mikes and Travis Cooper in a performance piece exploring both the repression and unleashing of humans’ animal nature with the working title “Underwear and Markers (We Are Animals)” which will be shown in late July 2014. Erin is delighted to have just returned from Burkina Faso, Africa where she had the honor of performing with Sandra Mathern, John Osburn, and Megan Yankee in Mathern’s multi-media work “I Am Relative to You” as part of Olivier Tarpaga’s 2014 Nomad Express Festival.

Megan Yankee’s MFA Monday arc began last week and continues next week!