Tag Archives: seattle

LadyPantsDance Part II–No standing, only dancing.

Standard
(
  Read Part One here.)

Late one night, not too long ago, I was slogging away in my office when I was struck with the inexplicable desire to dance.    Normally I would get up, stretch, eat chocolate, and sit my ass back down, because I’m serious and never frivolous.  But for some reason, today, I decided to listen.

I closed my door, put on my ear buds, played (yes) the Byrds’ Chimes of Freedom  and started dancing.  As you remember from Part One, I’m not an especially talented dancer.  But I wanted to dance, and dance I did, in my own spastic way.    I threw my hands up in the air,  jumped around, closed my eyes and whipped my hair around.   When the song was over, I lay on the ground, feeling a little cheesy, a touch crazy, and totally content and refreshed.   The space I was in felt renewed.   A new intention had sprouted…the intention to stop pretending, to live and sing and dance like no one was watching.

This much is for sure.  I am not first person to discover the power of dance.  Thousands of years before dancing was profane, it was sacred.

Across time and culture, dance has long been revered for its power to heal body, mind, and soul, strengthen the bonds of community, and to commune with spirit and nature allowing us to discover deeper aspects of who we are as human beings. Dance is also used as a form of worship, celebration, story-telling and myth-making, and to commemorate important rites of passage. We can glean some of the significance dance held in ancient tribal life, for next to hunting, it is the second most common activity shown in cave paintings. —Karen Berggren.

I did a quick Google search to see whether there were people that practiced sacred and ecstatic dancing today.   I found a website…Ecstatic Dance Seattle.   The site featured pictures of  people whirling around with their eyes closed and stories of healing and community and free-to-be-you-and me.  I started passing judgment immediately, but decided I would force myself to check it out anyway.

I showed up awkwardly early on a rainy Sunday and found a fairy-light decorated dance floor.  It was just like any other dance studio, with a springy wooden floor and mirrors and barre, but for this class there was a richly decorated altar and drums and tambourines and the lights were turned down low.   People started to arrive–older people, a young woman with two adorable little girls,  a few college-age women,  ladies in belly dancing hip scarves, couples of all ages and sexes,  a beautiful woman with cascading dreadlocks.  Women and men of all ages and sizes.

John, the facilitator, put us all in a circle and explained the rules.   You don’t have to dance with anyone else unless you want to. Don’t run over the little kids.  Have a beautiful experience.

And with that, the music started.  Slow, “earth beat” music.  People started moving.  Some swayed, alone or together, some took yoga poses or just moved on the floor.  I went to a corner and panicked.  I am an adult and I’m supposed to dance around with all these people watching me?  And I’m not even drunk or at the club?  I felt like an impostor. In no time everyone would figure out that I wasn’t really an open-hearted, free-spirited, new-age person;  I was a corporate hack in an overpriced yoga outfit who couldn’t even dance  in a dark nightclub after three long island ice teas much less  free form dance totally sober on Sunday Morning with a group of strangers!!!  I was convinced they would carry me out the door and throw me in to the icy gutter.

I lay down, closed my eyes, and decided to continue panicking  in the prone position as this seemed to be an acceptable pose to adopt.  The music surged on and little by little, my panic subsided.  Everyone seemed to be into their own dance.  No one was making fun of anyone, much less throwing them out.   I listened to the music a little longer,  realizing how beautiful it was when I didn’t judge it.   Slowly I stood up.

Still not ready to dance,  I knelt by the altar and picked a card out of a spirit animal tarot deck.  It was the otter.  A book on the altar explained that the otter symbolizes  playtime, primal feminine energy, joy, playfulness. I decided that making like an otter and being  playful and  joyful would be a lot better than leaving or spending the whole time in misery and shame.

The music had picked up a little bit and people were dancing more energetically.  Some were belly dancers or classically trained dancers, and they were doing that.  Some people were just jumping around.   Some were playing drums and tambourines.  The little girls were running back and forth giggling and occasionally tackling the lady that brought them.

I started swaying and stomping my feet.  The reverberation of the wooden floor felt fantastic on my chronically-injured achilles, so I kept jumping to the drumbeat.   A beautiful song started  playing, and a kind looking man came up to me.  We danced for a little bit, and that was fun.  He looked like he was having a great time, and after a little bit, so was I.   After a little bit, he folded his hands and bowed and thanked me before dancing away.   I did the same.

After that, I didn’t stop dancing.   I joined a group of women shimmying and twirling.  I joined a raucous conga line, which dissolved into flat out sprinting and laughing across the studio.  People danced together and separately in a million different ways,  with scarves and tambourines and big skirts, spinning, whirling, leaping, laughing, crying.   What I thought would have been embarrassingly awkward, I found  joyful and majestic.

The embarrassment and stiffness didn’t leave me, but they didn’t keep me from dancing.   Shame, awkwardness, and inability to dance, I realized, didn’t live in my body.  They lived in my mind.   My body has always known how to dance.

******

As of this writing, Ecstatic Dance Seattle holds dances @ Dance Underground Studio (downstairs), 340 15th Ave East, Seattle, WA, one block north of Group Health Hospital on Capitol Hill, between East Thomas Street and East Harrison Street 98112.  Every SUNDAY morning from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.  Every WEDNESDAY evening from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm & The Final FRIDAY evening of every month from 8:30 pm to 11:00 pm.  I’ll be going back & hope you will too.

What I learned at Occupy Seattle

Standard

The Occupy movement in the United States  has been the subject of lavish praise and the most severe criticism, yet it’s everywhere.

A couple of weeks ago, as I weeble-wobbled to my yoga class near Westlake,  Seattle, I inadvertently walked right through what a few moments later be billed as one of the most iconic movements in the Occupy movement.   Just a few minutes after I walked past a small group of people huddled in the middle the Pike and 5th intersection and surrounded by bike cops,  a priest, an 84-year old woman and  a pregnant teen would be famously pepper sprayed by the Seattle Police.   Images would be seen around the world.   In the meantime, I was curled up in my first child’s pose of my practice in the warmth and comfort of my slightly upscale yoga studio.

Sure, I flung around opinions about the movement in little sound bytes and plagiarized mainstream-medial catchphrases, but I really hadn’t done too much homework on it.  So last weekend, I decided to do some real homework.   I went down to the Occupy camp at Seattle Central Community College and, encouraged  and accompanied by  Nick,  to talk to people and take some pics.

The camp was surprisingly well organized and clean.   No noxious smells or obvious grime reported in other cities.  No druggies or used condoms.  The tent city boasted a makeshift library and activity center with an organized itinerary of community activities.    As we walked through, we noticed a small group of around 20-30 people circling up.   A man was explaining a plan to march to an abandoned house and then “occupy”  the space.  As they set off down the street, yelling “Get out of your tents and onto the streets,” we decided to walk in their general direction and learn more.

Contrary to what many cities reported, the Occupy Seattle participants looked like a group of ordinary, concerned citizens…not drug addicts, hoodlams, and drifters portrayed as participants in other cities.   Some of them carried homemade signs, others professionally printed signs.   They went through a number of different chants,  “______, we don’t need em’! all we want is! total freedom,”  “whose streets? OUR STREETS!”    “We! Are! The 99%”  “Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!”   “Revolution has to come!  Everything for Everyone!” Sometimes, they just chatted among themselves.

The march collected people as it went along, and only a few blocks in,  a Seattle Police car started tailing a hundred feet or so away from the marchers, headlights on,  effectively preventing the marchers from getting run over, whatever else their purpose.  The group erupted into a chant of “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Police Brutality’s Gotta Go!” and occasionally an individual lobbed an insult at the police car.  (“Hey!  You’re a tool!”)   The tensions, just a few days after the famous Westlake confrontation, were understandable.   But whatever SPD’s reasons for tailing the protesters, at no time on that day did  I see SPD interfere or do anything but shield the marchers from oncoming traffic, effectively protecting their right to effectively protest.

As we marched, an occasional marcher would stop and lyrically chant bit of history, or policy.  One man explained that the term “skid row” originated from the working classes skidding logs down Yesler Way.    One woman encouraged people to think of the youths (this precipitated a detour to a youth detention center and chanting “Our Passion! For Freedom!  Is stronger than your prison!”  until the youths started pounding on the windows.)

On the road we talked to a retired  older man who lived with family members and wished his food stamps would buy him a pizza and that he could have a cell phone to call his brother, who lived and worked nearby.   One bright, articulate young woman railed against the inability of privileged white men to understand the plight of minorities.  Two older women whispered amongst themselves about what their big-law employers would think about their participation.   A few well dressed young people stood at the outskirts of the march, looking on in approval.

On the road, we  talked to a gorgeous elderly woman who watched the march from an intersection, and in very broken English asked what the ruckus was about.   We tried to explain in a dozen different ways.  Finally, her face lit up and she said “they want make better government?”  We said yes, and she left, looking hopeful.   Another woman came out of her home and told us that after her husband’s death, she discovered that they had had an adjustable-rate mortgage and was stuck with an exorbitant monthly mortgage payment.  A foreclosure soon followed, and she was left  valiantly adjusting to widowhood and raising two grandchildren in transitional housing.

After a long uphill climb, the marchers reached an abandoned, half-built home.  (Presumably, the house had been foreclosed on before construction was complete.)  Some of the younger marchers rushed into the abandoned house, ran up the stairs, and clambered out the windows and  onto the roof,  cheering and chanting.

After the marchers had settled into the property,  some crowding on the sidewalk outside (avoiding the potential crime of trespassing), and some sitting on the eaves and the roof or hanging out the windows,  a lull settled.   Some made spoke about occupying the house and using it as a youth center or homeless shelter.   A young man wrote “OCCUPY IS HERE” on a piece of cardboard,  put it on the old, derelict, long-fallen  for-sale signpost, and secured it outside where it  could be seen from the road.   The police shift changed, with a seamless swap from one patrol car parked half a block away to another.

It got darker and colder, and eventually, we walked away, leaving a group of shushed, cold people huddled in a wooden frame of a house.

I learned a lot from my day tailing the Occupy Seattle movement.  Here were my takeaways:

1) There is nothing more American than the 1st Amendment.   The rights of Americans to assemble & speak freely should be treasured and protected as one of our most important national values.   Having lived in not-as-free countries,  scenes like Occupy Seattle, whatever its flaws, are especially moving to me.

2) Understanding some of the movement participants’ aversion to hierarchy, it’s clear that a lack of strong leadership and a unified message in the movement prevents a clear, strong message from reaching those that need to hear it, and an inability to ensure that all participants demonstrate in a peaceful and respectful manner.   The result of these factors is reduced credibility for the movement.  Contrast with the strong leadership of Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement, who was able to encourage the majority to adopt a strong, simple message and embrace peaceful, meaningful, relevant, demonstration and  civil disobedience in the face of circumstances that would have otherwise provoked widespread violence.   Leadership and a message would probably dispel the myth that only “hippies, the chronically unemployed, druggies and anarchists wish for positive change in society and would encourage more people from more strata of society to get on board with producing change.

3) Based on the many economic and social ills affecting people in the U.S. & around the world today,  I am shocked that more people aren’t on board with the Occupy movement.   But then again, see #2, above.

Did I miss anything?  Have you been part of an Occupy movement?

* All photos mine & Nick’s 

Everything I needed to know in life I learned from improv class.

Standard

Jollity Theatre

This fall I signed up for Improv 100, one of the classes available from the Seattle improv group Unexpected Productions.   It was one of the most enriching and entertaining things I’ve ever done.   Every Tuesday night, I could count on bonding with complete strangers, laughing till I cried (I think I got abs from laughing so hard at this class), and having at least  three Oprah-style “aha moments” about art and story and life.   Improv class is both a playground for adults and a high-velocity lab where you can see truths about life and creativity unfolding and developing before your eyes.

Danielle LaPorte once said that taking an improv class “could teach you more about innovation, relationships, success, and sexuality than any therapist or self help book.”  After having duly experimented, I conclude that she’s right.  Everything you need to know in life you can learn from an improv class:

Be present. If you listen, you don’t have to think so hard.   Never underestimate instinct.  But you do have to be totally present, grounded, and ready for that  killer instinct to kick in.

It’s always better to be told to scale it down than scale it up.  Start by giving  things 100% energy & enthusiasm, the best, boldest, brightest you have.   You can always chill the eff out later.

Say yes, and…to other people’s ideas. Don’t block them.  One of the fundamental rules in improv is to say yes…and!  If someone in a scene says, “hey, let’s steal this car!,” you’re not supposed to say,  “No, you idiot, that’s a terrible idea.  Let’s go to the movies instead.”  That makes for a boring & negative scene.  What you’re supposed to say is “YES!  And let’s break all the windows and hot-wire it!”

Your life experience is an incredibly rich source of imagination rocket fuel.  Nobody has a boring life.  I thought I did, then I realized how based on the little I’ve seen and experienced, I had a bottomless source of off the cuff ideas.   And so did my classmates.   I realized I never have to be afraid of running out of ideas.

You don’t always have to be the star of the show.   Sometimes, you need to be a supporting character.  Sometimes, you need to be a tree. 

Learn all the rules first, then break them.   But just because you’re gonna break the rules doesn’t mean you don’t have to learn them first.  How are you going to know what rules to break (or why, or how) if you don’t know them?

Have you taken an improv class before?   If you haven’t  what are you waiting for?   If you have, I’d love to know what you thought of it & what you learned.

Paint Dancing

Standard

As part of my ongoing exploration of all things daring & dancy,  I decided to check out Seattle’s monthly paint dancing party.

Paint Dancing is a painting party that devolves into a dance party.   Paint dancing parties rock 13 different cities, but the original was started by abstract artist Matt Jones at Gasworks Gallery in Seattle.  For $15 you get tempera paints, brushes, paper & snacks. For an extra $5, you get wine (but don’t let people dip dirty brushes into your wine.)  Proceeds go to MashedPotatoes.org, a non-profit that gives potatoes & other easily stored food items to food banks around Washington.

There are a lot of primary colors,  party songs everybody knows, and friendly people of all ages.    People make everything from finger-paintings to masterpieces, and everybody dances!  There are paint-brush-armed conga lines,  people decorating each other’s faces and clothes, and even limbo (scroll down) Verdict:  Highly Recommended! 

Here are some shots from my paint dancing experience.

December’s Paint Dancing Party is December 9th from 8-10pm at Gasworks Gallery.  It’s  Crazy Hat Night.

Long Weekend Madness

Standard

t

If you’re lucky you’re in the middle of a long weekend, which is phenomenal!!!

What will you do with this one wild and precious weekend?

Head over to Unicorns for Socialism & reinvent yourself with a sweet new title & mission statement.   I am inspired to put “justice crusader/ wonder & wisdom curator” on my business cards.   No seriously.

Fall hikes!  Fall Hikes!  Even if it is raining and cold.    If it rains, make like Reinvented in Seattle & jump in puddles. 

Figure out why you hold on to clutter & then get rid of it. 

Make a sweet DIY-dolly lantern.

Take a look at the Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions: Vintage Arsenal of Masonic Pranksters (name says it all) 

Seattleites: Learn how to celebrate a local-foods Thanksgiving at the U-District farmer’s market (Saturday 11:00).  When you’re done, indulge in food-blogger baked delights at Will Bake for Food. ( Proceeds to go The Emergency Feeding Project.)

If you can’t get enough philanthropic gluttony, you can check out the annual Goodwill Glitter Sale: 

Held every year since 1983, this famous two-day sale features racks, rows and cases of glitzy and glamorous formalwear, gowns, jewelry, handbags, shoes and more, at fantastic prices! It has become Goodwill’s most popular and well-attended sale—people from across the region and even other states make it a point to attend.

What makes the sale truly remarkable is that all proceeds—every penny our customers spend—go to support Goodwill’s free job training programs. Every day, we help low-income people with barriers to employment get the skills and support they need to find work and support themselves.Because jobs change lives.

What will you do with this rollicking roller-coaster weekend?

Saturday Night Madness…Halloween Edition

Standard

Creepy Tree in Fog
I hope you have some delectable plans this Halloween.   Just in case, though,  here are some last-minute ideas.

Check out the world’s creepiest recordings on Listverse, where you can also find such oddball delights as  unusual ways to die throughout the ages, famous elephants and their bizarre deaths, and great zombie depictions.    You could also browse the world’s creepiest wikipedia articles.

Make hot apple cider (rum optional).

Turn off all the lights and watch terrifying movies!  Pair with drinking games.  With jello shots,  which are my all-time favorite Halloween treat, but you can also make some of those fancy, sexy halloween drinks (or disgusting ones.)  Halloween pajamas are encouraged.

Make some feather lanterns to cast an eerie glow across your living room.

Go to a haunted house.  Here are a ton in the Seattle area.

Sign up for your city’s scariest ghost tour.  I’m *dying* (har) to go to Spooked in Seattle  or take the Pike’s Market famed ghost tour.

Check out the Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore (a weird, one room museum filled with slightly creepy stuff–wax heads, UFO stuff, Bruce Lee Memorabilia)

Try to book a last minute weekend at a haunted bed & breakfast. 

Make adorable food:  wicked witch lemon lollipops.

I love this Dia de Los Muertos makeup.  It’s La Catrina.

What are your Halloween plans?

 

Strange & Wonderful Things, or Ghostly Seattle

Standard

A couple of nights ago, I decided to walk down First Avenue from downtown to the Seattle Center.    It’s normally bustling, but tonight it was cold and clear and quiet.   I looked around and saw incredible things, things that most people never get to see. I love those lonely, beautiful things that can only be seen when you open your eyes and choose to see the city as if time is standing still and you’re the only one in it.

Pike Market, totally empty.

Under the bridge street art:



A desolate storefront with weird mannequin heads…
Blazing Western sunset.

Ghost Space needle:

Ghostlier fountain at the Intiman Theater

What strange & wonderful things have you found on your regular routes?