Just a Thought: A Different Perspective
March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
Our society tends to be very linear these days. There seems to be a regulation or procedure for everything. Social media is overflowing with people constantly arguing about which side is “right” or “wrong.” Why does there always only have to be just one answer? The beauty in this world comes from the differences. Some of the best things in life came about because first, someone had a little originality.
That’s one of the many things I love about the Arts – they often make you look at things from a different perspective.
The motto at Skidmore College is “Creative Thought Matters.” How true in so many ways! Most of the time there isn’t just one way to do things. There isn’t just one clear answer. And, how you come to your own answer really all depends on how you approach it.
There is not a clear-cut category for every little thing (Thank goodness!). Perhaps that is why a group like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra became so huge over the last several years. From the name, it sounds like they’re just your standard orchestra, but have you ever been to one of their shows? There is nothing “standard” about them! Go to one of their concerts and you’ll see that their audience includes children right up to senior citizens. Not too many groups can pull that one off!
The below video has been making the rounds on social media lately and does the same type of thing. You are set up with an expectation – 2 cellos, old-fashioned attire. But then you are shocked with a rock & roll sound – looking at things from a different perspective. And what a wonderful, magical, awesome outcome!
That’s how we should approach life – look at things from a different perspective. Use creative thought. Keep everyone around you on their toes and your brain fresh. Always look for another way. Don’t fall into “the standard” trap of doing or thinking about everything in the “usual” way. Have an open mind. Step out. Step up. Make your mark in your own personal world. You’d be surprised how much magic can creep into your life!
Just a thought.
Suddenly I’m Flying
June 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
I know I’ve said it before – Dance is magic. Theater is magic.
Blah Blah Blah
If you’ve never felt that feeling – that electric feeling – then I truly feel sorry for you. It is a feeling like no other that I have ever experienced. Nothing can compare to that natural high, that freedom you feel. Even a chemically induced high is just not the same.
I was lucky enough to see Billy Elliot the Musical this past weekend. There were many wonderful things about that show – I could do a whole post just on that. But I’m not going to go into the impressive transitions, the kids, the story, the symbolism of the choreography, or the general choreography of the whole show (the workings of the show was like a ballet itself!). But I do have to talk about the Swan Lake scene where Billy is dancing with his older self.
What a beautiful moment for live theater! The hair on both my arms stood on end the entire scene. I’m not even sure if I breathed until it was over. There was electricity in the whole room. I could hear and feel the reactions of the audience. I could feel the presence of the actors. But at the same time, everything was blocked out as I was transported into this dream world of Billy as he was able, for just those few minutes, to be free. Everything in his life – literally and figuratively – faded into black and he was just dancing. As he lost himself more and more into the song, his dance literally took off – sending him soaring into the sky – free as the highest bird.
I sat and I watched this thinking – wow, that’s exactly what dance, any dance, feels like – like you’re flying. Like you’re free. Nothing else matters. It’s your release. Your escape. Pure freedom. What a wonderful physical representation of a feeling that is so hard to describe. I remember the first time I was able to let go while dancing and first experienced that feeling of flying. It was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve experienced and a memory I will never forget. I’ve always believed that dancing is the purest form of communication because you don’t have to talk. And that scene in Billy Elliot was a beautiful example of that.
Thinking that scene was my big moment for the show, I sat back feeling like the entire price of my ticket was worth that one scene alone. Then, later in the show, the “Electricity” song came on. The interviewer asks Billy what it feels like to dance. And through the combined power of music and dance, he explains it once again:
“I can’t really explain it,
I haven’t got the words
It’s a feeling that you can’t control
I suppose it’s like forgetting, losing who you are
And at the same time something makes you whole
It’s like that there’s a music playing in your ear
And I’m listening, and I’m listening, and then I disappear.
And then I feel a change
Like a fire deep inside
Something bursting me wide open, impossible to hide
And suddenly I’m flying, flying like a bird
Like electricity, electricity
Sparks inside of me
And I’m free, I’m free….”
Have you ever had that feeling?
That feeling like you’re suddenly flying? I think that’s a very simple and precise way of describing the Arts. What a wonderful feeling. What a way to round out not only the human experience but of humanity itself!
I can’t imagine this world without the Arts. What a sad, boring, and miserable experience it would be. I am sickened every time I hear of yet another Arts venue or program closing. I hate to think that I may someday live in a world where I might not be able to expose my own daughter to these wonderful things.
If you’ve never experienced the power of the Arts – that electricity – try it. You’ll never forget it.
If you have a chance to support an Arts program or institution, please do. Bring your children. Enroll them in a class or group. It’s important that these programs stay around. It’s critical that we have a world that allows our children to experience the full range of the human existence (and not just the bubble sheet tests they’re subjected to at school – Don’t even get me started there).
Everyone should have a chance to spread their wings and Fly….
Photo Credit: torbakhopper via photopin cc
How Do the Performing Arts Serve the Larger Community?
March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment
A while back I posted on here about an interview I participated in for a student’s senior project. I happened upon this again recently and thought I would continue to post a couple of the questions since they are still very relevant today.
2. How do you think dance/teaching/performance/the Performing Arts in general serves the larger community?
I thought this was a great question. It may seem like an insignificant reason, but I think first and foremost, it gives people a reason to smile. Things are tough all around these days, and in a harried, hurried world, having those couple of hours to allow yourself to forget about life for a while, and lose yourself in something else entirely is priceless these days. The performing arts allow people to have a different life experience and/or to learn something new. It helps keep kids off the street and provides a constructive activity for them to learn and grow. It allows a safe outlet for expression, repression, emotion. The arts force us to look at our lives and experience the world in a different way. They allow our children to grow. They give us a voice when very often we may otherwise feel powerless. The arts allow us to share an experience with other human beings.
Performing Arts can tap into our inner souls and remind us that we are alive and we do have a say in our own lives. Sitting in that audience, we remember that it is ok to cry, laugh, boo, cheer, and live.
The Performing Arts give us a reason to smile.
Interview Question 1 – Advice for Entering the Arts
Deep Breath – The convergence of the 3 worlds of the theater
Live and In Living Color – Removing the touch screen and experiencing live theater
Just a Thought: Live Arts misses the boat with writing
February 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
New York Live Arts (NYLA), the movement arts group led by renowned choreographer Bill T. Jones, recently announced that it would begin hosting an annual festival dedicated to exploring the interplay of art and ideas. Dubbed “Live Arts,” the festival will explore a different sub-theme each year. The first annual festival, which will run from April 17-21 in New York City, is tentatively titled “The World of Oliver Sacks” and will commemorate the great body of work Sacks has contributed to the world of neurology and, more specifically, the understanding of the connection between creative expression and the body. Outside of the medical world, Sacks is best known for his memoir Awakenings, which inspired the 1990 film starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams.
The schedule for the five-day festival has already been released, and for anyone interested in the world of artistic expression, or the world of science, there’s much to be excited about. Highlights include:
- Jones and Sacks will participate in a keynote conversation about the overlaps in the world of neurology and the world of choreography
- Bill Morrison will premiere his new film, RE:Awakenings, which is based on original footage shot by Sacks
- Many of the neurologist’s former patients will sit on panels to discuss the impact of Sack’s creative inclinations on their healing and coping processes
- Philosophers, writers, and doctors will host discussions dedicated to the doctor’s many critically-acclaimed books
Though not all the events are free, ticket prices are low enough to make them accessible to the general community. Overall, the new festival promises to be engaging, enlightening, and educational.
In perusing the events schedule, however, I’ve found what seems to me a disappointing oversight in the content. As the festival is hosted by NYLA, the emphasis on music and dance-related material makes sense and I’d happily attend any of the advertised panels, performances, or discussions. But I can’t help but yearn for an event—just one—dedicated to the exploring the relationship between writing and health. Sacks is a prolific writer who, if my experience is any benchmark, has had a profound influence on writers everywhere. Through his many medically inclined but exceptionally readable books, Sacks has proven that reflective personal narrative and detailed, informative scientific prose are not mutually exclusive.
Yet, based on the information made available so far, only one of the festival’s events will deal directly with Sacks the writer, but not from the perspective of the mind-body connection. The moderated panel “Sacks the Writer: Process and Influence,” will feature two of the doctor’s editors and two fellow writers discussing the lasting impact of Sacks’ twelve books and countless articles on the writing world. But Sacks himself, it seems, will not speak and the connection between the writing process and mental and physical health won’t necessarily be explored.
As someone who began writing at a very young age, I believe quite strongly in the cathartic power of the written word, of journaling, of crafting a pro-con list before making a difficult decision. Research has confirmed the positive effects of writing (both creative writing like poetry and autobiographical writing) on patients in both mental and physical distress, and therapeutic writing workshops are interestingly beginning to gain popularity even as talk therapy is on the decline.
If the first Live Arts festival is going to explore Sacks’ contribution to our understanding of the connection between art and health, I think it would be incredibly enlightening to hear the doctor speak about the impact writing has had on his well-being. I imagine Sacks’ day-to-day life must often be excessively stressful. A large portion of his medical career has been spent working with patients in the direst circumstances—patients with debilitating disabilities and little will to live. Sacks chronicles these interactions beautifully in his essays and books but rarely directly confronts his own emotional state, and this reader can’t help but wonder if the doctor turner author has ever reflected on the role writing has played in his ability to sustain himself in such an emotionally and mentally straining field of work.
In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Sacks told a reporter, “It infuriates me not to be able to write something that has popped into my mind.” To me, this indicates that Sacks does see writing as a calming activity, as I like to think most writers do. Adding a conversation about this connection, about the role of writing in the pursuance of greater overall well-being, to the Live Arts lineup could encourage continued conversation and awareness around the phenomenal impact writing can have on a person’s emotional, mental and physical health. Like dancing, playing an instrument, or composing a song, writing is an inherently creative and active process that can offer emotional relief and foster greater self-awareness. Taking a little time out of each day to reflect, in writing, on your emotional state can help you heal after a traumatic event, serve as an outlet for working out minor frustrations without falling victim to needless stressors, or allow you to celebrate and preserve positive experiences. And while I’m sure Oliver Sacks would agree, I nevertheless think the greater Live Arts audience could benefit from hearing the doctor’s experiences with writing as a form of catharsis.
Just a thought.
– Jean-Ann Kubler
Extended Deadline for Film Entries!
May 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
Due to an influx of films, the Ballston Spa International Film Festival has extended their entry deadline to May 15, 2012. Get those short films in ASAP to be considered in this fantastic film festival this summer!
See Seeking Short Films! for all the info.
Live & In Living Color
May 1, 2012 § 1 Comment
I might have said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again – We are living in an increasingly isolated society. With all the lightning speed advances in technology, we’re used to having everything at our fingertips. And adding to whatever amount of ADD we all have, we can have several things at our fingertips at once – chat on Facebook, “Tweet”, watch a favorite TV show, play a game, share videos on YouTube, send an email, do work, download new music, the list goes on and on. We may be more easily “connected,” but everything we do involves a screen in front of our face – whether it’s a large computer at a desk, or a mobile version. I think we’re starting to forget what it feels like to be an actual living part of something – live, in real flesh & blood. No screens involved!
I consider myself a fairly tech-savy person. I can pick most of it up pretty quickly, despite being part of the generation that did not grow up with a cell phone attached to our hip. If we had a computer at all, it was only for the occasional word processing. (Final school papers were still being hand printed!) And I still think that many of these technological advances are, for the most part, pretty cool. They allow me to do a job I love and to still feel like I have some clue as to what’s going on in my friends’ lives despite now living many miles away. But I’m an “Arts” person at heart. Nothing can beat a good story on the page, a beautiful painting, an awe-inspiring dance, a tranquil sunset, or a live action stage show. And yet, even I seem to be forgetting what it’s like to see things “live and in living color.”
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing two Broadway shows for the first time in a long time. The first was Newsies, actually on Broadway. I have a lot of memories that swirl around that show so I was ready for my day of nostalgia. Plus, I have not been to NYC in years, so I was super excited to hop a train and head down to meet one of my oldest friends. Being a writer, I’ve always enjoyed people watching, but this day seemed even more amusing than usual. The day flew by much too quickly and I was back home so fast that the whole thing almost felt like a dream.
Luckily, the following weekend I was privileged to see the touring production of Memphis at Proctor’s Theater. Obviously, this didn’t involve a whole big day trip, and I knew basically nothing about the show so I had no expectations attached to it, but the excitement was still in the air. There was a buzz all around me and I could feel it down to my fingertips.
We had incredible seats for both shows. Only a couple of rows back, we were close enough to see the spit flying out of the actors’ mouths. The singing, dancing, and acting were fantastic. Sometimes being involved in theater myself kind of takes away from the magic of a performance because I know the stage tricks, and what it’s like to be onstage in a production. But this time, I was completely swept up in the story. I felt like I was part of the world. The colors were vibrant all around me. I could feel the rhythms of the music and dancing in my soul. The scent of the makeup mingled with the old lady perfume and drifted up my nose. The smoke on the stage enveloped me. I could feel the spit. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t get the stupid grin off my face. My eyes were glued open like a toddler seeing bubbles for the first time – that innocent wonder when everything around you is magical.
And then it hit me.
This is actual real life – live and in living color. No touch screen to manipulate and zoom in. No volume control. No options to click over to something else. No doing 50 things at once. For 2 1/2 hours, I got to sit and concentrate on one thing. One thing that activated all my senses. I could hear audience reactions during the show – gasps of surprise, laughter, tapping feet, applause, cheers. It was a community banded together. My friend that went with me to Memphis had never sat so close before, so I delighted in watching her reactions and realization of how different it is to sit up front. I could actually talk to the lead actor after the show. I could reach out and touch him and feel actual flesh as I congratulated him on a spectacular performance. I didn’t have to just post a message on a stranger’s “wall.” There was a human, face-to-face exchange and it made me feel 16 again.
Two full days of human contact, and it was glorious! I had a complete “high” after I left the theater that was almost as good as the high you get from actually being in a show. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a high after using the computer.
I’ve always loved the theater. I will be the first person to tell you that nothing compares to a live show. But even I forgot to some degree just how amazing the whole experience is. I’ve known for a while now how isolating technology can be, but this mini Broadway adventure proved to me even more than I expected just how bad it has become. When that isolation sneaks up even on a person like me who thrives on these “live” experiences, I can’t imagine how detached other people are. We need to make a point every now and then to turn off the electronics and go out and experience the real world. Live and in living color. HD just can’t even begin to compare!
Seeking Short Films!
April 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
The Ballston Spa International Film Festival (BSFF) is now seeking short film entries for the 5th annual festival presented on August 3rd & 4th, 2012. All genres will be accepted for independent films ranging from 5-15 minutes (or 3-10 minutes for the student division).
Awards will be presented in 11 categories (with separate categories for High School/College students), including prizes in animation, documentary, local interest and narrative. Previous years’ entries have been received from all around the world, the Capital District, and Hollywood by both amateurs and professionals.
Films are judged by a panel of Hollywood professionals. Past judges include the people behind such films as Silence of the Lambs, Manchurian Candidate, Doc Hollywood, Any Given Sunday, True Lies, Rudy, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Previous winners have gone on to receive many other honors including 2009’s best animated short winner, “French Roast,” by Fabrice Joubert, nominated for a 2009 Academy Award.
Film entries must be submitted on DVD and play in a standard DVD player. DVDs must be mailed in with a completed application and the entry fee ($5 for students, $25 for non-students) by 4/30/12. To download the application or to learn more about the BSFF, go to http://www.bspafilm.org. For exclusive details and updates on the festival as well as other BSFF events, sign up for the email list and “Like” the Facebook page.
The BSFF is presented by the Ballston Spa Business and Professional Association, a non-profit community organization committed to making the Village of Ballston Spa a better place to live and work, and to bringing quality arts and entertainment events for all ages to the community. Funded in part by the Saratoga Program for Arts Funding (SPAF), part of the Decentralization Program, a regional Program of the NYS Council on the Arts administered by Saratoga Arts. All proceeds go toward future festivals and other community events presented by the Ballston Spa Business & Professional Association. For more information on events, the 2012 film festival, or sponsorship, go to http://www.bspafilm.org.
What Happened to Capital Region Theater?
March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
Times are tough. We all know that. Belts have been tightened, budgets slashed, many places are forced to close up shop.
People deal with tough times in many different ways. In the past, the arts have been a primary coping outlet. Some of our best literature, theater, and films have been born out of a difficult era or an individual’s own hard times. Granted, there are a few other outlets in this day in age, but still, when people need an escape from reality, they turn to a good book, a night at the theater, a favorite movie, or mindless television.
The Capital Region has always been a hotspot for the theater arts. We have some wonderful professional theaters as well as numerous community theater venues. Several of our local colleges have highly regarded theater and arts programs (with many graduates going on to “make it” in Hollywood or on Broadway). But in less than 2 years, The New York State Theater Institute closed, SUNY shut down its theater department, Proctors took over Capital Rep’s administration, and Schenectady Community College just announced they’re closing their theater department as well. Despite this turmoil, other areas of the Capital Region’s theater scene are thriving. Excellent shows are being produced each weekend on stages throughout the area. Yet, many of these shows are not visible on local news coverage. And more specifically, in the Metroland, which was recently voted as the “Best in the 2012 Poll for Arts Coverage.” What?? How does the “Best Arts Coverage” magazine not actually have any reviews or listings of some of the most wonderful shows recently produced in the area?
Despite the growing challenges, our local arts venues are persevering and doing their best with more and more limited resources. Think about what our world would be like without the arts. I know there are some out there that would say, No Big Deal (That’s a debate for another posting!). But let’s say it IS a big deal. If there are no arts outlets left, will there ever be another Hemingway, Miller, Spielberg, or gasp, dare I say Shakespeare? What about us common folk that just need a cheap, entertaining night out? Please don’t tell me that the only “entertainment” that we’ll be forced to endure is Jersey Shore!
I know that unfortunately there are a lot of things our hands are tied on. However, there is one thing we can do to make our voices heard. There’s a petition going around urging the Metroland to support Capital Region theater by providing comprehensive coverage of the local theater scene, and to truly live up to its title of “Best Arts Coverage.”
Please help by signing the petition at: http://www.change.org/petitions/metroland-editor-publisher-cover-capital-region-theater
Let’s make an effort to keep the Arts here in the Capital Region!