Framed in Five– way to go Little Framers and MultiGen Framers!

Performances/Screenings

 

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

The Framed in Five shows on Friday and Saturday were fantastic! All the hard work from the dancers really payed off, it was clear to anyone who saw the shows. It showcased work from the company as well as those participating in the Multi-Gen classes, new music, choreography and costume design.  Sign up for our summer workshops to get ready for next year! And in the fall we will have two Little Framers age groups and the Multi-Gen Classes.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

 

 

Just Keep Swimming

MFA Mondays

 

photo by  Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

Hi, I am a small dancing fish in a big dance pond. I am discovering that in order to create a healthy “ecosystem” for that dance pond (or community), that pond must value support over competition; this is a necessary characteristic of a healthy, thriving dance community. Some competition is normal; its natural for an iridescent blue angel fish to be a little envious of the willowy fins of the beta fish and vise versa, but there is enough room in the big dance sea for all of us.

We are all, emerging or established, experiencing a time with little to no funding available for the arts, but like I said in my last blog, “just keep swimming.” We as artists have an opportunity to band together and move towards a self-supportive dance community. Regardless of funds available, we can support one another in the pursuit to create top-notch work. The more dance produced here in Houston will bring attention, and thus bring additional funding in the long run.

As I’ve been thinking, a certain level of competition is healthy, and necessary; in many ways it helps us be our best self. On my own artistic path, I am continually competing with myself through each project and creation to make it better than the one before. On the flip side, competition is unhealthy when it creates negative feelings between dancers or choreographers. How can we reframe this way of thinking to be less destructive and more constructive? How can we mentor one another? How can we allow the success of strong talented dancers or established companies to inspire us and not defeat us? How can we be of service to each other instead of ego-driven? In the words of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, she reminds us “… there is more than enough to go around…” If we so choose, the one thing that there will never be a shortage of is love and support.

 

photo by  Salted Heart Photography
photo by Salted Heart Photography

My drive to help build a strong dance community, or pond, comes from who I am as a person. I am a team player and my philosophy boils down to this: If “Company X” has a fantastic show with a packed house, while it may not affect me directly (i.e. I was not a participating choreographer), it does affect me indirectly. “Company X” having a successful show highlights the Houston dance scene, and I am a part that scene. It also means that if an audience member attends this show and has a positive experience, the likelihood of them attending another dance concert in the future grows; this future show could be your show, or my show, or a collaborative evening of works. This philosophy drives me to encourage all Houston artists. I strongly feel that we all need to share each other’s successes as if they were our own.

So, in order to practice what I preach, I have created a checklist of things that I do in order to help grow and strengthen my role in this community, and hopefully the community as a whole.

Mini Self-Guide to being a Community Grower

 

  1. Volunteer your time for performances. Not only does it help the presenter in a big way and build connections, it also usually means a free ticket to see the show.
  2.  

    Share on Facebook, it takes two seconds! We live in a time where that is one of the most effective ways to promote. If you are excited to see a concert, tell us; if you enjoyed a concert, tell us; if you know of upcoming events, tell us. You never know whom it might reach.

  3. Set a goal to attend at least 1 dance concert/event/class a month, if not more. I know scheduling is sometimes difficult, but make it a priority.
  4. Set aside $20 a month to browse online funding campaigns and donate! I’m not always successful with this one, money is tighter some months than others, but I’ve discovered that even $5 can make a difference in a funding campaign, and I continually strive to do this.
  5. Celebrate art, not just your art.

     

    There are several programs currently happening in Houston that I believe share the goal to thrive through community and not competition, and I truly hope they continue to blossom. Find your own ways to be a community builder, or try some of the things listed above! Also, don’t be too proud to take the support of others; it is not a sign of weakness. We need each other. The more we allow ourselves to give and receive support, the more we create a cycle of good karma and growth towards a stronger and more unified dance pond.


 

Laura Harrell is currently an adjunct professor at Houston Community College, Lone Star College, and San Jacinto College. Laura has presented choreography at The Dance Gallery Festival (Texas and New York City), the Fringe Festival (Houston), and most recently, in the first ever, Art Saves Lives: A Cultural Conversation performance and educational outreach program in Nice, France. Additionally, she has set work at Sam Houston State University, the American College Dance Festival, Booker T. Washington High School, Lone Star College, San Jacinto College, and was assistant choreographer for Recked Productions site-specific project, Up For Air. This past February, Harrell was a featured emerging artist by NobleMotion Dance, where she presented “Stuck Between a Rug and a Hard Place” in the first ever Next Step Series: HOMEgrown.

When the Dollar and Dream Don’t Match

MFA Mondays
photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

As I was sitting in my first interview for an adjunct dance position my potential boss warned me that this would never, ever become a full-time position. He said the “higher-ups” did not believe that dance was an actual career. I proceeded to argue the opposite, enlightening him on the several ways one could have a career in and around dance. He thanked me for educating him throughout the interview and told me to “not be surprised if one day he asks me to repeat my argument in front of others.” I am still awaiting that day…

If you are anything like me, then you have probably found yourself in a situation where you are faced with the decision to either work for free, or turn down an opportunity. As an undergrad I did anything and everything for free in hopes of building my resume and networking. When I finished grad school, I found myself with the complete opposite work ethic; I wanted to be paid. I spent an entire year questioning whether I would be a hypocrite if I chose to work for free while fighting for funding for the arts and defending the importance of dance in higher education. This ultimately led to a year of simply teaching classes at community colleges and local studios, but never entering the studio wearing my choreographer hat. For those of you who know me, choreography primarily defines me. I found myself feeling like a teacher only, and not like an artist; my ideal setting is one that I can be both. Looking back I did not create choreographically, partly of fear and transitioning out of the safety net of grad school and because of my determined decision to not work for free; because choreographing and being creative didn’t provide a paycheck, I simply didn’t do it.

It wasn’t that I disliked any part of the work I was doing, I just knew I needed to establish a better balance before I found myself resenting my MFA rightcareer choice later down the road. About this time, I reconnected with a fellow artist I had met a little while back but had lost touch with over the course of that “non-creative” year (go figure!). She asked me if I would like to collaborate on a new arts exchange project she was working on- you might remember me talking about it on my last blog! At first I was hesitant to give up time where I could potentially be making money, but I trusted my gut and took a leap of faith and began getting involved. In a nutshell, this project was an artistic exchange in Nice, France, a sister city to Houston, sharing through outreaches and performances the message that art saves lives. She was very honest and upfront with the fact that she was not sure if I would be compensated for my time or even get to travel to France, but what she could promise was that my choreography would be shown in Nice. I respected her honesty and happily moved forward with setting my work and helping out where it was needed. I am very fortunate that funds were raised in order for me to travel to France and participate first-hand. Not only was the trip paid for, but I also got a small check for the administrative work I had done. Was every minute I spent on this project compensated for? No, but it instilled hope that I could get paid to be creative, and also reminded me that experience, opportunity, and changing lives through art is also an important form of payment. It felt like I had hit the jackpot, ha! In fact, some days I still ask myself, “Did I really get paid to go to France and work as an artist?”

After this first experience of opening myself up to opportunities that were not payment driven, I began craving more creative outlets. It was then

photo by Salted Hart
photo by Salted Hart

that I was approached to be a guinea pig for a program that supports emerging choreographers. This opportunity marked the first time I created something new since graduation. I was terrified and procrastinated until I absolutely had to begin creating, simply out of fear… but that’s besides the point of this blog! The support of this program covered the production and publicity costs; so essentially, I did not make money, but I did not lose any either, which is huge at this point in my career path. While I had begun to feel more confident with where I stood on whether or not to work free, I felt very unsure about asking professional dancers to do the same. I felt an immense amount of pressure to find money to pay them for their time. Luckily I was blessed to work with seven of the most amazing, gifted, and beautiful human beings who also recognized that sometimes the experience of something new, or a particular opportunity can be a form of payment. I am not sure what I did to deserve this opportunity and the pleasure of working with these amazing artists, but they will always hold a special place in my heart.

I am really fortunate that these decisions to work without monetary concern have paid off in such a positive, life changing way, and am also aware that every opportunity might not have the same outcome. In hopes of avoiding this and knowing when to say yes, and when to say no, I ask myself questions like:

  • What do I want out of this opportunity?
  • What are the gains? (money, positively affecting others, artistic/therapeutic experience, professional growth, networking, creative expression, etc.)
  • Does my schedule allow me to confidently commit to this opportunity and the work involved, while still carrying out my day-to-day work and being financially responsible?

Right now, after these experiences, I can say that I am willing to choreograph for free for the rest of my life. I would definitely work hard to pay the dancers, but for me, the chance to share my choreographic voice and move the audience is more than enough. I know that is a bold statement and I may not always feel that way, but for today, it’s true.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

I will always defend the importance of dance in schools, higher education, and in life, and will never stop fighting for artists to be paid for what they do. The way I see it is this: I can argue all day long the importance of dance to the administrative “higher-ups” by stating cold hard facts to support that you can “pay the bills” with a career in dance. I can equally stress the importance, validity, and power of dance by sharing my experiences in France, the profound comments of audience members who were moved to tears, or how dance has truly saved my life, and so many, many others. Dance is multi-faceted; therefore the ways in which it is important are endless and monetary gain is only one of them. We don’t live in a perfect world where every profession gets paid what it deserves, but it doesn’t mean that we give up, or shut ourselves off to opportunities like I did during that “non-creative” year. If we do, then we will find ourselves in a world void of art, zero chance of dance ever getting the funding it deserves, and most likely little personal fulfillment as an artist.

I realize not everyone feels the same way that I do, but if you find yourself in similar situations and at a loss of what choice to make, try asking yourself the questions above and establishing boundaries. Don’t become a money-driven robot like I was in danger of becoming; remember at your essence, you are an artist. The experience, impact, and change that you can bring to your own life, and to others through dance is permanent.


Laura Harrell is currently an adjunct professor at Houston Community College, Lone Star College, and San Jacinto College. Laura has presented choreography at The Dance Gallery Festival (Texas and New York City), the Fringe Festival (Houston), the American College Dance Conference (adjudicated and gala), and most recently, in the first ever, Art Saves Lives: A Cultural Conversation performance and educational outreach program in Nice, France. Additionally, she has set work at Sam Houston State University, Booker T. Washington High School, Lone Star College, San Jacinto College, and was assistant choreographer for Recked Productions site-specific project, Up For Air. Most recently, Laura presented choreography in the first ever Next Step Series by NobleMotion Dance.

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…

 



 

Music for Veterans

Tuesday Tunes

“The arts and creative arts therapies were characterized by Captain Moira McGuire, at Walter Reed as a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have.'”

DAVIS-concert-image

 

Here in Houston, Jane Weiner and Hope Stone are working with vets, offering an 8 week DRUMMING workshop (with the amazing Chris Howard) for veterans…FREE!! If you are a vet? or know a service man or woman please let them know about our workshop.

Classes are Monday, starting March 30-May 18
8-9 p.m. (no drum needed, we will supply, but if you have one bring to the circle!)
The Barn-2201 Preston @ Hutchins.

Info@hopestoneinc.org if interested or want more details.

Music has been implemented more and more in therapy and treatment. Check out this recent article posted on the American Music Therapy Association’s website describes music therapy’s impact on working with the military.

Read the full article here!

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.

Uncategorized

Did you know the Bayou Greenways 2020 project from @Houston Parks Board – Parks by You will create a continuous parks system along Houston’s major waterways? Come celebrate the progress and our city at #BayouGreenwayDay April 4! www.BayouGreenwayDay.org

The free, family-friendly event will take place on Brays Bayou in the East End and will feature fun activities like biking, kayaking, a fun run, Zumba, music and more! www.BayouGreenwayDay.org

The Framers are performing at noon, embarking from Mason Park.  Meet us there!

HPB_bdg_logo_neIMG_0986

Navigating the Rut of Dissatisfaction

MFA Mondays

You are Here

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

If you are a dancer in Houston and you have ever taken a dance class with Jane Weiner of Hope Stone Dance, you are familiar with the classic manner in which she ends each class. She says something like, “Take a moment to find yourself in the mirror and thank body, mind, and soul for where you were today. It takes all three of these to be the artist/dancer/human that you are, and you are exactly where you need to be on your journey.” One day after a particularly invigorating and mind opening class, I thought in response, “Where am I?”

Some of you may have asked yourself this question at least once or twice in your life, but I really felt like it was the first time I had ever asked myself this question. I had made a lot of decisions regarding my life and career in the last few years, and it seemed that I had simply said yes to everything, hoping that it would pay off in some huge way. The reality hit that nothing had really launched me to the success I had wanted quite like I had hoped. Small progresses had been made, but I was still doing the adjunct hustle, still teaching in studios until 9:00 pm every night, still just making ends meet the only way I had figured out how.

I wanted and had expected more from myself in every area of my dance career. I wanted more performance opportunities. I wanted a full time teaching position at the college level. I wanted to create. Some of the grief came back… in grad school I had all this time, and free space, and free dancers to create and recreate. Without the convenience of all these gifts right at my fingertips, I had stopped creating and I was feeling it.

It instantly seemed apparent to me that nothing I had accomplished for myself within the last few years was enough for me. It was fine… but it could be so much better. I felt myself spiraling down into a deep dissatisfaction with myself. As a consequence, I also knew that another identity crisis would soon ensue. I did what I always did when I felt inadequate… I called my mother. There is something about the idea that your mother’s womb is your first home that makes you want go back to it each time you feel lost. We’ve all seen that cute little Pinterest quote that says something like, “you’re the only one who knows what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside.” You know the one I’m talking about? Well it’s true; no matter where I live, my mother’s lap will perpetually be my true home.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

Mom said what she always said. She told me that she loved me. She told me I was not a failure, even though it was okay to fail sometimes, because that’s how we learn. She reminded me of all I had accomplished since my graduation, and to be grateful for all that I have. She reminded me that no one ever succeeded by giving up. And then she told me to look at the areas of my life that I was unhappy with, understand what it was that made me unhappy, and change it if possible. Mom was also convinced that one day I would dance for Hope Stone, so Jane, if you’re reading this, I’m ready when you are.

Now, I love my mom, but she’s a little biased. The woman was my biggest fan, truest supporter, and my hero, but at the time, I didn’t believe a word she said. But I did take her advice, and I did make changes. I said no to opportunities that I felt would not be fulfilling. I went after the opportunities I really wanted. I let go of positions that were not helping me to achieve my goals. All of this was good for me, and I felt progress, but I still had this overwhelming dissatisfaction with my life. I compared myself to others, and I just didn’t add up. I was in a rut.

Then one day, as I was surfing Facebook and looking at how successful and happy all my friends seemed to be at all times, I came across an article on the Huffington Post titled Why Generation Y Yuppies are so Unhappy written by Tim Urban. So remember that generation I was telling you about? The one that has it in their heads that they can do anything they want, like be an astronaut or the president? This generation believes that they are special and have special gifts to offer the world, and apparently they have outrageous expectations for themselves about who they will be and what they will accomplish. Sound familiar?

In fourth grade when my teachers and parents told me I could do “anything” I want to do, what I heard was I can do “everything” I want to do. I have lived life with this idea in mind, and it has served me in several instances, but at this moment, in the current economy, and in my current profession, it was not serving me at all.

So what did I do? I made a dance, and I made this the subject matter. I explored through movement and design this idea of inadequacy. I questioned all the different parts of me that seemed to be a priority. There is a part that just wants to dance; this is the part that craves spontaneity and a little bit of the spotlight. There is part that wants to teach and really make a difference in the lives of students; this is the part that needs the stability of a full time position in order to feel successful. Then there is the part that loves to create – to simply express ideas through movement, boldly accepting judgment, hoping that just one person might truly get it.

I ultimately found that each part of me was fighting for attention, and in order for one part to shine, the other two needed to take the back seat. What I concluded was that I was really craving wholeness instead of this compartmentalized, competitive, existence.

Knowledge can be a tricky thing, but I think what I now know is that we all have responsibilities and priorities, and, more importantly, we all have limits. See, I didn’t think that I had any limits. Sometimes we do have to choose, because it is simply not possible for us to have all that we want all at once. And maybe Jane’s right… maybe where we are, is exactly where we need to be at any given point in time. And maybe my mom is right too… that if we aren’t necessarily where we want to be in life, we have the power to change that. And maybe it’s time for me to trust both of these concepts and allow them to work together.


photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

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.

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.