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A PSA on a MLE (major life event)

I know these don’t come along very often, so it’s important to talk about them when they do. This last weekend at ACDFA (the American College Dance Festival Association) was a major life event for me. I can’t speak to the honor, pride, and sheer bewilderment that I felt as my cast and I performed my senior project for the dance students and faculty in our region. Compiled with that was the enormous amount of brilliant work that was brought to the conference. There was so much incredible beauty, passion, love and integrity. I’m floored that I even got to be a part of it. 

Throughout this experience of seeing amazing work, sharing work, taking classes and just being surrounded by movers, I came to the realization that I need to go to graduate school for dance. I have an unspeakable passion for sharing stories through movement, and I’m no where near ready to stop studying the craft (spoiler alert: I won’t ever be). I can honestly say that every major installment in my life has worked towards pointing me in this direction. From when I first discovered theatre at the Masque Youth Theatre and School in Rochester, MN, to all of my years of high school drama and speech at Park Rapids, to choosing Hamline and stumbling into the dance ensemble under the wing of my advisor, Kaori Kenmotsu, and even my trip across Europe this January, taking in Pina Bausch’s company and the Stuttgarter Ballet. 

From this point forth, my number one goal is to find an appropriate dance program and do what it takes to get in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about getting into grad school for the sake of getting grad school. But I feel that a graduate program will best prepare me for and/or provide the best venue for really investigating and exploring the potential possibilities of dance as way of connecting with people. 

My mom recently shared with me that when I was younger, she aspired for me to become the next Science Friday (on NPR). She felt like I had the potential to use my creative skill set to help explain the world to those who couldn’t understand it in a similar way. Oddly enough, that’s exactly why I love dance, and precisely why I want to pursue graduate studies in the field.

And so, I leave with these questions:

What do you love? How do you love it? Why? 

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A sound from the abyss

So I’ve been petty quiet on here lately. Obviously, I stopped traveling and busied myself back up with studying and planning out my near future. But! I am now at ACDFA, the America College Dance Festival Association, where tomorrow the piece I have been developing since this fall, and had majorly revised while traveling across Europe, will be performed in front of dancers and faculty from dozens of schools across the region, and be adjudicated by three highly respected and influential artists in the national dance scene. I quite honestly have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. But I do know this: I have had a wonderful cast of movers, players and investigators to work with, and an exceptionally supportive ensemble and department who have supported my artistic endeavors thus far. When you take that and add to it a phenomenal mentor and professor, you get the ability to grow and discover in leaps and bounds, and the ingredients to cultivate and create some truly amazing work (whether or not that has actually happened, I can only hope).

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious, or daunted by the honor of representing the Hamline Dance Ensemble. But I’m also incredibly excited to put such a project up in front of such an attentive audience and in such a venue. I speak from experience having performed in pieces before, it’s a terrifically thrilling experience.

What I mean to say is I have a lot of feelings: pride both for the work my cast, and the ability to represent my ensemble; fear - just enough to keep me on my toes; curiosity for what will happen, what people will take away from the work, finding out what I missed; love for the craft and my fellow movers, to name a few.

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These three things sum up how I understand human life:

This letter: http://www.carrothers.com/rilke8.htm

This song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7iaGSYk1hk&feature=kp

This performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEQGYs3d5Ys

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an (un)fortunate predicament,

have I encountered. I’ve been settled in, returned from my travels for a few weeks now. And quite frankly, after the habitual residue has settled and I’m back in the swing of things, I find myself pushing forward ever more. I think the most dramatic change in myself since my travels is that I’m now relentlessly hungry for the next story to tell. I’m continuously asked about my plans after graduation - what are my short-term or long-term career goals, and quite frankly, I don’t have any. My career goal is to do what I love, because I can do nothing else. The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman (referring to acting) once said, “this is a drug.” And he’s right. 

The depths of emotion are uncharted waters and I’ll take any chance I have to go exploring. It’s not about escaping from one’s self to be another character, or about losing one’s self in the story. It’s about telling that story in it’s fullest integrity so that the full potential of it’s truth may be realized. 

What makes a story a story is this: when a man stops to tie his shoe on the street, his entire history caresses the small of his back as he bends over. An endless amount of circumstances have fallen into place to make this moment possible, and what this moment can tell us reaches beyond the depth of anyone’s imagination. That’s reality. A story is the projection of this moment, focused in such away that only a few specific circumstances are relevant. Suddenly, we can begin to understand his humanity because it has been made tangible, because we don’t have to think about the weight of the entire universe compounding on this moment in time in order to understand it. 

As an actor, it’s that specific simplicity which becomes addicting. Like a complicated algorithm, humanity lies sprawled out across these stories, these characters. And one by one, from a first hand experience, we get to begin to dissect it. Once you’ve started, how can you stop?

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Return(ed)

I have returned. To the United States, Minnesota. My house. There are plenty of things I wrote which I have not shared, and a surplus of photos which will be popping up as time passes. But the scars from this trip are deep, cutting through skin and bone, leaving lacerations in the tissues of habit.

The icy burn likened to holding a frozen steak directly on your forehead is met with every open door, trip across the street, shovel full of snow. But there’s a fantasy, a distant echo shouting into the deteriorating European pillow as my journey is put to rest.

I might argue that my lens has shifted into focus, racking backward and forward until I’ve seen it all, but in such a hollow depth of field I see how far away things have become. We must use a telescope to reach the stars, but even then it’s only seeing. 

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One day left

Tomorrow is my last day. I’m sitting in a cafe in Cologne. The chatter is loud, it rises and falls like the wind. I’ve done a lot of walking around, a ton of sitting on trains, a bunch of reading things, writing things, thinking things - and all of it resolves tomorrow. This seems peculiar - such a grandios experience I’ve had, but what am I going to do with it now? Put it in my pocket, I suppose. Take it out in stories and photos, general retrospective awareness; share it with my friends, but mostly I think, keep it to myself. Not selfishly, but it’s been a fairly personal experience and aside from the occasional longing to eat Currywurst, or nostalgia for the endless waiting at train stations, what do I really have to say about it? I saw the Iffle Tower, it was very much there and pretty large. All the fountains in Paris were dry. It’s a bit like reading a book - eventually you finish and it leaves a mark on you, but it’s not an experience you can share with anyone, and when ever you try to, you just end up floundering because your not able to give them the same experience you had.

And so life moves on. We fill our pockets day in and day out. Sometimes we have to sew on new ones, or replace the buttons, or stop off at the bank to exchange the heavy pocket change. But for now, I’ll let my thoughts depreciate in value, knowing that every now and then I can fondle them in my pocket and let the world carry on.

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Notes from the train

And just like that, with as much momentum as I brought flying into Berlin, I hop on a train out of it. The evening was thunderous, so to speak. Just after 8:00pm, I announced my decision to Amma that I was planning leave for Copenhagen tonight. We had a few hours to spare. I got online and ordered my reservation on the sleeper car. Then we had to trek across the street to a seedy late-night drugstore/Internet cafe/casino to print it off. Wedged intbetween a twenty something blowing smoke rings at his girlfriend on the web cam and two leather jackets who, according to previous descriptions of the place, we’re probably looking up porn, I plugged in the thumb drive and got to work. Back through the hallway and stock room to the cashiers desk where we paid for the printing and had a lovely chat with the west-side of Berlin, English taught clerk, and we headed to the U-Bahn. First stop: a book club buffet dinner. We figured we were too late for much food, but there were cheap drinks and English speakers to be had. For 4 Euros total, we each got a beer and headed downstairs. The conversation happening at the table we sat down on evolved from the tendency of smoking mothers to result in lesbian daughters t name changing legalities in various countries and finally marriage and citizenship in Isreal and England. The conversation was primarily between a British Catholic Isreali Jewish pregnant mother and a gay American who was once married to a German and kept his name. Then we left and had Currywurst one last time before hopping the U Bahn to what was supposed to be a 1920s dance party with a live brass band. However, by the time the train stopped extra long at both stations and finally forced everyone to exit and board the following train due to technical difficulties, there wasn’t exactly enough time for this. So instead we headed straight for the Hauptbonhof. After waiting for a bit int the cold and running down to get a couple crisaunts from the only open shop in the entire station, the train arrived, 15 minutes late due to technical difficulties. Oh dear, these German trains. In a blink of an eye I said goodbye to Amma and found myself squeezed into a tiny compartment with no less than five other people in bunks that make a two person tent look luxurious. Before we could second guess our decision, the train was moving and a conductor was checking our tickets. It is now dark, everyone is settled in and I’ve been typing since we set off. I guess I’m the only person who has the sense to put there head near the window instead of the door, but the light is at the other end. Tomorrow morning, Copenhagen it is.

Suddenly the train has stopped. Someone is snoring, someone is moaning in their sleep. A walkie-talkie is heard. And a high-pitched ringing, like an alarm telling the engineer that someone’s door is open. We’re not at a station. Urgent voices. A look outside shows a flash light trace from the front of this carriage (the front most of the train) through the snow to the engine. People are beginning to stir. More walkies. The engine is running a again. We’re moving. The great German train mystery travels elsewhere.

False. Having arrived in Copenhagen now, I can tell you that after sitting on the tracks for several minutes at a time and finally for a stint of at least an hour, it was offered to the passengers, that since the engine wasn’t working, we could cross the platform and hop the regional rail to Copenhagen. Complimentary coffee’s were offered. 2 1/2 hours late.

On the other side of things, I’m entranced in Denmark. All them Danes could (and probably do) fill a magazine for all of the things they built and design themselves. And John Legend is playing.

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Tuesday

Snowfall in Berlin. It’s a bit of a relief I think. Tomorrow my plans are to go for a run at the near by ex-airport turned city park, check out some museums and maybe do a bit of shopping. So far I’ve had a royal time, it’s really been lovely. The question of debate now is whether to stay in Berlin for the weekend and catch some theatre shows (they’re mostly dark until Friday) or skip town early and go somewhere unplanned - Denmark, I think I could maybe even get to Norway, or Hamburg, really anywhere - hmm… We shall see.

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on being an artist

On some level, you have to play to your audience. For instance, don’t send a case of beer as a thank you gift to a predominantly muslim institution (I recently heard about this happening). However, that theory doesn’t elicit change, growth, or challenge perspective. 

Which is one of the great functions of Art.

But it only works if it comes from a place of astute honesty to one’s self. The Hamline Dance Ensemble is sending a dance/theatre piece I’m working on to a regional college dance festival. A big reason my piece is going is so that I, as a choreographer, can get feedback on my work from the highly respected adjudicators. However, at the same time, I feel in order to really put together a piece that commits fully to to what I’m asking of it, it’s necessary for me to completely disregard any consideration of the adjudicators, or of what my peers at the festival might think. Of whether or not my piece will be good, or absolutely terrible. I have to put up this piece for completely selfish reasons - because I have something I want to say, and because I cannot care what anyone thinks about it, even what I think about it. Otherwise it becomes about what I think other people want to see, not what I’m trying to say. Then I just have to trust that if it’s completely honest with itself, it’ll be interesting enough to grab the attention at least of one person in the audience. Hopefully, it’s not me. 

I need to make that clear and really commit to that creative license. 

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now

So, today I take on Wuppertal. It’s fair to say I’m a bit tired and looking forward to a day of no plans. Maybe a cafe and some photography, little bit of walking around. From what I say last night, it is a very cool city. I’m also excited to sit down and think for a bit. 

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just as much for my memory as for your pleasure:

Pina Bausch’s “For the Children of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

It’s a very strange experience, going to the opera house solo. There’s no one to talk to at intermission. I don’t like talking much during shows anyway, but I think there’s a bit of telepathic communication that goes on, knowing you’re sharing an experience with someone. Should you get a drink at the bar as is custom? There’s someone else who appears to be alone, or are they just waiting for someone. 

Huge doorways that open and close. White. Giant moving walls that are white. White floor. Sliding glass. 80’s fitting clothing, often sheer. They took off shoes a lot. Abrupt musical transitions, slow increase and in general volume throughout act followed by bouts of silence. 

Like listening to an entire work by Beethoven. By the middle you forget there’s the rest of the world outside, you’ve become entranced in this one. No longer paying attention, tracking linear narrative, building a mental notepad; just receiving, experiencing, accepting. I wonder why I like dance so much? He always has his eye closed, curious. Tomorrow: plans… 

Solos: often similar styles, scale, attack. Varying genre, rhythm, circumstance. 

Clever clever clever movement: quick and to the point, captures the nonverbal, unseen gestural communication of life’s interactions. Often gets to the point of something more effectively than the common gesture. (instead of a kiss, she assertively sniffs up his torso with her body and sucks lightly on his chin momentarily). 

White. 

Giant sand castle on a persian rug is pulled out. 10/15 minutes of watching ensemble members slowly trickle out and diligently adding mounds of sand to the castle. Intermission. They continue, slowly trickle away. Stage hands clear and set the stage. 

(in no order)

"This is a hug" (draws an O) "This is a kiss" (draws and X). "Hug," "Kiss." Repeats, now drawing on the white stage floor with white chalk. Lots of hugs, lots of kisses, every where. No pattern. "These are hugs and kisses… Imagine" (leaves the stage). 

More to come later. 

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sense of direction

So yesterday, I looked at a google map of Wuppertal, Germany for a hot minute - didn’t look at any street names or addresses, just the general spatial relationship of where my train got in, where the Opernhaus Wuppertal is, and where my hotel is. 

Today, without doing any more research, I walked off the train, out of the train station, down a couple random streets, mostly going off my whim’s desire for a bit until I was tired of walking (this is generally how I like to take in a new city) and/or found a cafe with internet so I could look up my hotel’s address. 15 minutes later, I was at my hotel. According to google maps, it’s a 20 minute walk. Now, Wuppertal isn’t the biggest town in Germany, but this still seems a bit unusual. I mean, I know I’ve always been fairly directionally gifted, but sometimes I’m weirded out by how much I can rely on my intuition. 

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A few thoughts before it’s Thursday.

It seems I’m over halfway through my travels now. I’ve explored London and a bit of the English countryside, I’ve been to Paris, I’ve seen Lake Konstanz (pictured, with trees), enjoyed chatting with Univerisität students in an Irish pub, gone skiing in the Austrian Alps, seen three castles (and counting), gone to the ballet, seen an American movie (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), and am currently sleeping in the basement of a house across from a German cemetery which is the cause of full-time employment for at least two different flower companies. 

With just one full day left in Stuttgart, I look forward to being on the move again. The physical act of traveling, actually moving from one place to the next for an extended period of time, allows for a sort of aloof perspective. It’s the pizza dough inches away from hitting the ceiling, the frisbee kicked up by a dust of wind moments before it reaches your hands, the freedom we envy of birds, the peak of a melody notes before it crescendos and wraps your heart inside a delectable burrito for your ears. 

It is that moment in which I am most free to dig deep inside myself like the inner-workings of a pocket watch and set to work on finding the clarity and understanding which tics the time away so effortlessly. 

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1.8.14 (a bit late)

Well, I’m done with Paris now. I don’t have too much to say for it. I stayed with a lovely host but other than that I didn’t really have time to dig into the city, particularly since I hardly know any french. Saw the sights of course, Notre Dam, La Tower Iffle, Montmarte, and did a bit of walking around. But now I’m in Germany. How nice it is to at least know a bit of the language. I write from the train to Konstanz, passing through the hills of the schwartzwald; they’re growing bigger as it grows darker. Thinking about the few weeks ahead of me, I’m interested to see what sort of events turn up. 

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London

This is less about saying what I’ve been doing, and more about writing whist traveling. Naturally, there will be a bit of both.

First: let me say this: this trip plays a really key role in my life. I’m about to segue from years of schooling into proper life. Over the past four years, I’ve learned a lot, about the world, about my craft, about myself, about others, and cheese too. Naturally, I need to step away and take a breath from it all before taking the plunge. I can hear a train coming down the station - soon it’ll pull up to the platform and the doors will open. The car is nearly full, one maybe two open seats. As I look down the yellow line the wind tussles my hair aggressively. 

It’s exciting, this training business. We’re all going somewhere, but you never no where anyone else is going. Flower shops sell flowers, cafes sell coffees and cakes, and train stations take you down the track. It’s good that train stations are huge, open spaces. It’d be difficult to stretch out and gather your soul for a journey beneath a crowded ceiling. 

I’ve now spent ten days in London, traveling with a friend. I noticed the first several days, I was somewhat vacant. It’s not that I wasn’t present, but I didn’t feel as complete as I usually do. Then one day, like a switch was turned, I was here. When you fly, I think it takes a while for your soul to catch up. 

Anyway, time to hop on board to Paris. 

Cheers, mate.