Monday, August 9, 2010

Week 3 in Taiwan

This is our third week of this adventure here in Taiwan. The festival has started and we had our first show on Saturday.

It was great to get the show finished and present it to the public. A huge relief off everyone's shoulders. The first presentation was a little challenging because there was a typhoon and the stage had to be mopped and dried before we went on. Luckily the stage was covered so we didn't get drenched while performing. The audience however stood loyally under their umbrella's eager to see our show. It was exciting to perform for hundreds of people despite such a storm! The fire performing has been the highlight for most as I don't think they see that very often here.

We continue to work with the community tea
ms for their performance in the upcoming parade August 21st. My favorite experience was working with the professional dance team. It was a groupe of 30 girls between the ages of 9 and 12 years old. They are trained in traditional chinese dance so they were very easy to work with. They presented their choreography to me and then we took bits of a
nd pieces of it and transformed it into something that could be done while moving. They are trained to use ribbons (similar to rhythmic gymnastics). It was a new experience for me to work with such a large group of well trained dancers. This is something I would like to do again...even if communication was difficult at times (my chinese is still....ahh.....err in progress ;)

Now I am working with employees of city hall to create a choreography for the parade. There are 12 men and 12 women. Jeff has been working with the men to teach them very complexe staff moves, and I have been working on movement configurations with the 12 women using fire torches. Tomorrow we will integrate the two choreographies to make one.

At night time we perform one of four shows. On the weekends we perform our hour long 'main show' on the main stage, and throughout the week we do a more improvised street show on 'monkey street'. Lots of fire!!!!

On Monday we went to a beach 1 hour north of here to go surfing. I got stung by a jelly fish and am still recovering! The beach was beautiful though and it was great to get in the water. I am looking forward to coming back to Taiwan someday to explore.

Every day seems to be a new unpredictable day. The scenery is amazing and the people are so kind. It feels very safe here. I will have 1 or 2 days to travel before I go home so I am looking forward to exploring the North west coast of the island and also visiting Taipei. Through working with the community teams my chinese gets a little better every day.

Just learning people's names in challenging because of the tones, however I enjoy this challenge and hope to come back to Taiwan again someday for another project.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Adventure Continues

Life has gotten quite intense here in Taiwan. We are working 12 hour days and still have a lot to get done before performances begin August 2nd. Each day seems to be epic, and filled with highs and lows for the whole team. Our group choreography is coming along nicely. The theme of the piece is Monkeys, so we have been doing lots of monkey movement research from breakdancing to contact improv so that has been fun. We also got to create monkey masks. This was the first time I have every molded anything with clay. We started out with a big pile of clay and chiseled away, and molded to find our inner monkey. It was amazing to watch the transformation created with my own hands. I really enjoyed the experience of finding the monkey face in the clay.

I am very excited about my new hoop routine that I have choreographed to an original piece of music by Nick Meehan. It is a very dynamic piece filled with all my favorite hoop moves. It is both lyrical and circus, with a space for my playful (monkey) side to come through. I am excited to perform it for the show, and continue working with this piece at the hooping life premiere when I get back to Montreal.

I am directing a huge community project here in Luodong. We have 14 teams who range from trained dance teams, to the farmers association, to city hall. Each team has between 20 & 40 members. Along with 3 of the other circus artists we are creating choreographies using circus props for the parade that will happen August 21st. Yesterday I got to go to an Arts School where I worked with 30 dance students between the ages of 9-12yrs. With the help of their teacher we created a moving choreography using rhythmic gymnastics ribbons and hoops. None of them speak English so it was quite an experience! Luckily I had a translator there to help. I am learning how to count in mandarin and say up, down, right, left, slow, fast, bigger, smaller, from the beginning, all together now. By the end of the month hopefully I will have at least these words down!

This morning we were the rockstars of the Press Conference so we will probably be on Taiwan TV this week promoting the Parade. It is a pretty significant event in the whole country.

I think I am getting used to being here, however every day seems to be a new adventure, and sometimes I have to pinch myself because it all feels so surreal. Most people ride scooters here, and pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way. Aside from the Czech Artists, we are the only foreigners here. Most of us are vegetarian and the locals think that is really strange. The average meal here goes for about $$1.50-$2. We get a food allowance of $5/day so I am trying to curb my coffee habit, because coffee costs about the same as food.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 1 with the Circus

Today is my first full day of work here in Taiwan. I arrived in Taipei on Thursday afternoon after an epic journey from Vancouver to Shanghai, where I spent the night in a hotel. And then a quick flight from Shanghai to Montreal.

Shanghai was interesting and I would like to go back, but I am happy to be in Taiwan, where life seems to be a little more open, and colorful.

Taiwan people are very happy, and I feel like I am in a cartoon. Everything is brightly colored, and miniature... even the cargo trucks. We are staying in Luodong which is on the North East tip of Taiwan. It is a bustling city and we are staying in a temple.

I really feel as though I am traveling with the circus. We are 8 circus artists from all over the world, working intensely together. The work has been divided among us in order to create several numbers for 2 weeks of performing in the street, on the stage, and as the central focus of a parade. The theme is monkeys and there is a whole team of sculptural artists here from the czech republic creating giant monkey characters for the parade.

I am very happy and enjoying every moment of this. It is an honor to work with such talented artists. We had a showing and sharing today of talents, it was one great act after another: contact juggling, clowning, contorsion, poi, hooping, breakdancing, fire dancing and on and on it went.

We will be working with 14 teams 25 people from the local community, developing choreography with them and creating props for them to use. It is wonderful to be able to connect with the local culture.

Last night Michele and I performed at the Dream Community in Taipei. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be welcomed into this local community to perform with fire for a very enthusiastic audience. At the end of the evening they had all the children on stage, with Michele and I performing with our LED Hoops just in front with a Jazz Band playing live in the back. I looked around and thought to myself, WOW, I am so lucky to be here!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

recent adventures

me as a 1920's hula hooper! all gussied up for my cirque du soleil gig yesterday!

Guilty Gunn played an awesome set at PEX Summer Festival. Michele and I got to perform with them. We are hoping to get Nick (right) to come play at the Hooping Life Hoop Jam in August.

Mr. Sparkles, flexin' his pipes!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Centrifugal Bodies

I am taking a contemporary dance workshop this week with Dana Gingras of The Holy Body Tattoo Dance Company. She has been dancing and choreographing for over twenty years and has developed a whole repetoire based upon the concept of the body flying through space using the centrifugal force. I really enjoy studying with her because like me she is very tall. Sometimes it is said in dance that it is difficult for tall people to move quickly with our long limbs. Dana proves this theory wrong as she flies through the air with such grace only inches from the floor.

So far this is what I understand from her methodology:
Her movement is very fast and near to the ground. One would imagine that in order to execute a sequence of fast movements the most logical method would be to move the body in straight lines (the shortest route) directly from point A to point B. Rather than moving directly from point A to point B, Dana has us move in curbs, circular, and spirals in order to make use of the centrifugal force the help to get from point A to point B using either gravity or anti-gravity (centrufugal/centri-petal). Moving in this circular manner generates momentum, and allows for 'rides' as she calls them. Her choreography is quite complex but once you get it and are able to 'play' within it it is a lot of fun. She also uses fatigue and soreness as a tool. Her theory is that once your body is bruised and sore, you have to come up with ways to move so that you don't agrevate these sensitive areas. You become 'smarter' learning to use your body in a more economical way, releasing more and saving energy for times when it is really needed. The speed of the floorwork sequences also force us to use our feet, performing push/pull actions in order to get the body where it needs to go. These push/pull actions are derived from BMC/developmental patterning. Dana is also big on flow. Today she made a reference to hula hooping, saying that you never want to stop have to reach each part of the circle to keep the energy going.

Dana uses gyrokinesis as a way to train for her method of dancing. She says that open hips are very important for floor work and allow you to roll through the joints more easily and hence quickly. Gyrokinesis is a great way to cross-train for hooping. All the movements are based on circles and spirals initiated from the spine. If you have ever done chi gong, you may find similarities in the approach to the energetic body. Here is a quote from the gyrotonic website with reference to gyrokinesis 'Fluidity is the key. Postures are not held for long periods of time. Instead, postures are smoothly and harmoniously connected through the use of breath, making exercises appear and feel more like a dance and swimming than like traditional yoga.'

I find all of this extremely interesting and directly applicable to hoopdancing. As hoopers we are used to working with the centrifugal force in order guide the hoop both up and down in space. It is interesting to think about propelling both the body and the hoop through space using the centrifugal force. I am working with these principles in my hoop rehearsals this week and it is really blowing my mind! I am going to have to find some creative ways to economize my energy tomorrow as i am covered in holy body tattoos (aka bruises) from all this floorwork. It is definitely worth it though!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Centrifugal Force

Water streaming into a shallow dish creates a large whirlpool. As the water drains, intricate surface waves spiral in and out of the center and the entire vortex begins to slowly oscillate, revolving around the drain. The oscillations grow with each revolution until the vortex is so unstable that it breaks away from the drain and a new vortex immediately forms.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Holiday Hoop Flow Fusion! Cultivating a multidimensional Hoop Practice

For me the holiday season represents a time of rest, renewal and preparation for the new year. I have taken this time to take a break from my intense training regimen of the fall of acrobatics, hoopdance and iyengar yoga to shift my focus towards deepening my yoga practice through vinyasa flow yoga (Shiva Rae Style) in preparation for my new job as a flow yoga teacher at Studio Bliss. I have also been reading and writing a lot about yoga, fitness and hooping in preparation for the upcoming ihoopu Teacher Training Program.

I am fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a holiday season filled with abundance, from colorful meals to warm family celebrations and travels from coast to coast. I am starting 2010 feeling strong and fully inspired for all the exciting projects that lie ahead of me. I am grateful for my friends & family, my city and of course my students.

I love the energy and feeling of renewal of each new year. My focus this year is presence and embodiment. My intention is to carry these words into every task, project and interaction that I embark on. It starts with every day tasks however, I hope to carry these principles into my dance, into my teaching, and most of all into my practice of hooping, yoga, and acrobatics.

This has been an extremely enriching process and has made me reflect on the element of fusion. From a young age I have always participated in many forms of dance such as ballet, jazz & tap, played several instruments including piano, violin, stand-up bass & clarinet and played competitive team sports. This combination of arts, rhythm and physical embodiment has given me the strength, flexibility & agility to do almost anything in my life

It is always important to have a teacher or guide when learning something new.
Not having a hoop teacher to guide me in my hooping practice, I sought out mentors in other physical fields to guide me. The main discipline being contemporary dance, followed closely by yoga gyrotonics and pilates.

In the fall my physical practice involved a combination of iyengar yoga, acrobatics, and hooping. In enjoyed this fusion because the acrobatics enabled me to push my limits and boundaries to observe my physical limitations, the hooping allowed me to find flow practice my choreographic skills, and the iyengar yoga created a space for me to replace my body into a healthy alignment, reconnect to the earth and respect my body.

Over the holidays I played with the fusion of hooping, hot yoga and vinysasa flow yoga. I often feel sluggish during the holidays but I found this combination helped open me up and keep me warm and liberated for the coming year. Hot yoga heats the body from the outside and vinyasa flow heats the body from the inside. It is extremely important to cultivate heat in these winter months in order to keep the joints lubricated an maintain our flow as hoopers. I wonder if anyone has ever tried 'hot room hooping'? I imagine it would be slippery, maybe we should stick to generating heat from the inside out!

Looking forward to the first hoopdance class of the session this coming Monday!

Happy hooping!!