This is the fifth or sixth version of Wobble. As a poem it pretty well rots. And it keeps getting shorter with each revision…  I think because I have found no real connection between the lines I like and the central feeling I am trying to express.  Along those lines: I was editing Mad Rush this morning (the piece I wrote about in the last post.)  I auditioned it for the Clarice Smith/ PG Parks Showcase last week.  Though I didn’t get in, I recommend that event.  Always a good show.  I’ll be performing Mad Rush at next week’s Dinner Party event at the Warehouse Theater.  Please come check it out, and let me know what you think.

Dancers will be able to relate to this poem: it describes my sore feet when I get up in the middle of the night. One of my favorite things about the poem was writing that I get up and wobble like a penguin. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, the foot soreness, and being a penguin all of a sudden always makes me smile.


When I wake in the middle of the night you are with me, until I leave,

wobbling like a penguin.

At night we park. At night I dream, wake mad and drive off.

Forget me not maybe is to remember you,

forget the wobble.

Morning music and light I am grace for you.

I wobble.

Copyrighted, aight !??!

On and on, and on and on (race, gender and the arts revisited)

In the last printed issue of Bourgeon, I commissioned a young woman (Heather Risley) to write an article on gender in dance. The article was based on a study that DanceUSA produced in 2003, which found that 86 percent of the countrys 43 ballet companies with budgets of $2 million or more are run by men. In a world so dominated by women, this seemed data worth investigating. Heather contacted a number of local artistic directors, and got a few responses. Here is an excerpt from Heathers piece:

“Gender disparity in leadership is noticed by female artistic directors working in the D.C. area. Gesel Mason, Artistic Director of Gesel Mason Performance Projects, observed the intensity of male-female inequity in the dance world. Ms. Mason stated that in a female dominated industry the existence of a small minority having significant power over the majority resembles “a kind of apartheid.”

Another female artistic director (who asked to remain anonymous) said she has regularly faced challenges because of her gender. She believes that men get preferential treatment when it comes to bookings, grants, and publicity. “I think female directors have to work much harder and be much better than a man to achieve the same respect and admiration,” she wrote.”

Simply considering the data, it’s clear that however it is explained the phenomena experienced by those two artistic directors is real. This business is wickedly tough. And tougher for women.

This has been on my mind – again – because of several articles I read recently. I am a fan of a UK dance magazine named Article 19. They are independently funded, and produce really great work. Love em. I got an update on facebook from them regarding an article on a UK-based funder, which is clearly giving opportunities to women over men. This from the article:

During the week we, here in TheLabâ„¢, received a brochure from Dance East listing their up and coming programmes one of which stemmed from the Rural Retreats project. The grandiosely titled “International Placements for Artistic Leaders of the Future” places seven dance makers with dance companies/organisations around the world so they can learn about running an organisation.

Of those seven placements just one, Tamara Rojo, is a woman, the rest, predictably, are all men. When asked why there was such a disparity in the numbers considering women outnumber men in dance by a considerable percentage (80% estimated by DanceUK) Assis Carreiro, Dance East’s Artistic Director/CEO told us;

“Because only two women applied for the placements, so we took one of those two women. We couldn’t take both because we had to go on the strength of the applications and we had concerns too but we can’t, for the retreats we had seventy five people apply and very few were women from around the globe to attend the retreat and for the placements only two of the twenty seven who took part in the retreat applied so we took one of them.”

According to Dance East’s own report of the 2008 retreat, which took place in January this year, just 8 of the participants were women compared to 19 men. Applications to the retreats are not open, you have to be invited to apply by the NDA.

When asked why Dance East could not open the leadership programme to more people Ms Carreiro responded;

“… that was the criteria for which we put it out and we had the funding for it. We can’t just open it up to everyone and these are the people we thought would be appropriate because they attended the retreat and there was quite a rigorous selection process to attend the retreat so it wouldn’t be appropriate to open it up around the world. The people who attended the retreat and we thought had the potential to go on so from them we selected the ones going on [to the leadership programme].”

When Article19 stated that the retreats were heavily focused on Ballet (nearly all ballet companies are run by male directors), Ms Carreiro responded bluntly;

“No they are not!”

Clearly that program director is lying. The only question is whether or not she knows it.

I was just reading on ArtsJournal (another personal favorite) and saw this recent piece from the New York Times, by Patricia Cohen, about women in theater. Here is an excerpt:

Frustrated by what they describe as difficulty in getting their work produced, enough female playwrights to make a standing-room-only crowd are planning to attend a town hall meeting on Monday night to air their grievances with representatives of New Yorks leading Off Broadway and nonprofit theaters……

Its harder for women playwrights and directors,” said Oskar Eustis, artistic director at the nonprofit Public Theater, because “its harder for professional women in the United States.”

This season the Public is putting on six new plays by men and one by a woman. Since Mr. Eustis arrived in 2005, the count of new plays has been 19 plays by men and 9 by women (with one by a male/female team). It is a record that Mr. Eustis labeled as “pretty good but not great.”

“The issue is best dealt with by consistent consciousness-raising rather than a specific program,” he added, saying the same approach applies to minority playwrights.

Now, Im a guy, but not a jerk. So I don’t want unfair advantages. I believe in open competition. Perhaps thats cause Im arrogant. Perhaps its something nobler. But for whatever reason, I know it’s just not cricket to pick leaders from only a certain sect of people.

Interesting how our society – how we, how I – change our minds about these things over time. I grew up with Affirmative Action, which is now looking more and more dubious. Is it? When I was growing up I was totally convinced that because of all the unfair practices today and in the past, if we are really interested in fairness for people of all colors, we need to do extra things to ‘encourage’ their success (which was affirmative action.)

I reallllly need support. For making dances, and for editing/writing (Bourgeon.) Bourgeon stopped being printed for lack of funding, and I’m wondering how long I’ll be able to keep investing in it online. Anyway — I want the support, and I’m a guy. So why bring this stuff up? My experience is only a tiny sliver of the experience had by thousands across this country. I believe that process (in art and politics) is as important as product.

I hope that we’re about to elect a black president. Somehow that didn’t hit me as a big thing until someone pointed it out to me recently – how important examples are. I really appreciate what Mr. Eustis said in the Times piece. That the issue is best dealt with by consistent consciousness-raising rather than a specific program.” Whether it’s support of a ‘leadership program’, funding, awards, fellowships, contracts, or jobs, these issues are so complex, and so personal that the only good way to deal with them may be as individuals. Which is what the whole fight is about anyway.

And by the way – if you like this kind of thing being available: do feel free to hop on over to the day eight website and donate. It would be deeply appreciated.

Holy Body, Holy Earth

I submitted this piece to the magazine Parabola. It remains unpublished.

The very real question must be asked – how can we sanctify the earth when we live so very far from it? As the Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Our concern is not how to worship in the catacombs, but how to remain human in the skyscrapers.” When we imagine the Earth, many people imagine a rain forest, or a lake. This conceptualization, however, keeps the earth at a distance. Two levels of distance exist there: nature to humanity, and humanity to the body.

The capacity to separate nature from humanity is what has enabled our exceptional control of nature, and similarly our exceptional disregard for our place within it. Bill McKibben noted in The End of Nature that, “[Natures] separation from human society” is what has defined nature for us in modern times. Nevertheless, humanity, and each human body, is a part of the earth.

In our construction of humanity, we have displaced that part of nature that is human – our bodies. The Environmental philosopher Michael Zimmerman considers this central to our relationship to the earth: “Perhaps the most profound aspect of our alienation from nature is being alienated from our bodies.” We can trace this understanding of humanity to Science but we can also trace it to older and newer philosophies. However it is traced, we must understand some of the framing that contributes to the physical distancing of humanity from our physique.

For various reasons, Judeo-Christianity has a troubled relationship to the body that has translated through to our science. Consider Darwins reference in The Descent of Man that “Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” This comment must be considered in the context of a note he wrote in his “M” notebook: “Our descent then, is the origin of our evil passions!! – the devil under form of baboon is our grandfather.” This devil in the from of our body can be connected to – amongst other sources – Pauls Corinthian letter which, as explained by Peter Brown in The Body and Society, places the body between man and his god.

In order to reconnect the body to humanity, and so to the earth, we must learn to acknowledge its presence. David Orr certainly did not have this in mind when he wrote that, “A good way to start thinking about nature is to talk about it. A better way is to talk to it.” Nevertheless, body centered practices can be central to reconnecting to the part of the earth that is humanity, and to the body as part of that earth. We can learn to both talk and listen to our bodies. In so doing, we are conversing with the earth.

If we do not accept our organic humanity amongst the earth, we accept the terms that have led to our life in the sky. If we treat the holy earth as separate from our humanity, and our bodies, we are rebuilding the very world that has produced the skyscraper. These assumptions are quite tenable. Modern science and modern medicine have wrought extraordinary benefits. But in connecting to the purpose of life, and the science of the holy, we must expand our understanding.

The body is more than an engine, or carrier of the soul. As David Abram wrote in the seminal The Spell of the Sensuous, “Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds, and shapes of an animate earth – our eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other eyes, as our ears have attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves, and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices, to continue by our lifestyles to condemn these other sensibilities to the oblivion of extinction, is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherenece. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.” At the same time, we are also holy only in contact, and conviviality with what is human.