Friday, December 30, 2016

Spotify and Instagram

I have recently joined both Spotify and Instagram.

I'm not what you'd call an early adopter. In fact, I'm quite the opposite. Instead of suffering from FOMO, I relish being on the fringe of society. I resist joining things and adopting trends; not exclusively having to do with electronics, either.  I am an introvert; I march to my own beat and gravitate toward a 'granola' mentality.

Back in the 90s, I procrastinated getting a computer for as long as possible. Even though I owned my own business and had heard about computers and knew that people were transitioning into 'email' and 'websites', but to me it seemed like a superfluous fad. It took me several years to join the crowd. It was 1998, before I finally got a computer; mainly so that I could see what all the fuss was about this "Internet" I kept hearing about. Once I took the leap, I was hooked. I became addicted to AOL chat rooms for a while and now I like the interaction of Facebook. I've probably been online daily since I started unless I make an effort to take a break from it.

And it was a similar story with the iPhone. I heard about it and I thought it was a pretty neat idea, but I didn't see the point in actually getting one for myself. I'm pretty simple and don't like to unnecessarily complicate my life. It wasn't until I was caught, with some fellow actors, in a blizzard in Provincetown, MA. It was white out conditions as we were driving three hours back to New York. If it weren't for the GPS feature of my friend's iPhone, we would have been hopelessly lost all night, since the snow was obscuring the roads and the signs. I got my own iPhone soon after and I love it, for the most part. I haven't had a land line since 2008.

I had long been pining for a way to discover new music and I had heard about Spotify and Apple Music and Amazon Play, etc. True to form, I resisted exploring them. Or when I did explore them, I ended up with more questions than answers, didn't know how they worked, and wasn't sure if I was going to go over my data limits every month if I was constantly streaming music. And I know that my music tastes don't tend to be normal, so I wasn't sure if 'my kind' of music would even show up. Feeling overwhelmed, I walked away.

It wasn't until two months ago, when I got trained as a Nia FreeDance DJ that I took the dive into Spotify.  Part of the training was a mini tutorial about navigating around and using Spotify for teaching my classes. Adelle and Joanie completely demystified it for me, so I jumped in.

My first jump was a misstep, though. I noticed that all of my iTunes playlists were visible to everyone. There were a lot of them and I didn't want them shared. One option was to go through and individually mark each playlist as Private, but I wasn't eager to take the time to hide each one. (It took mouse navigation and several clicks to hide each playlist.) I couldn't figure out how to remove or hide my Local Files in any other way except for option two, which was to close that account and open a new one, being careful NOT to click the button that connects iTunes to Spotify. The first time I joined, I used Facebook to open my account, but since I closed that account, they wouldn't let me use Facebook to open another one. I had to open my second account manually. I had to come up with a user name rather than use my name as I do on Facebook.  Sadly, I think this makes it hard for my friends to find me.  Since I joined Spotify originally to DJ Nia FreeDance classes, and I'm a First Degree Black Belt Nia Teacher, I chose a username based on being JAG, the First Degree DJ.

My username: jagfirstdegreedj

I don't know if caps matter in the world of Spotify, but I used all lowercase and it's all one word.

Whenever I'm on Spotify, I see a feed that shows what my friends are listening to, but I don't know who, if anyone, sees an update on what I'm listening to. And so far I don't see any way to interact with each other, so it feels a bit isolated and voyeuristic.

I have been finding some pretty cool new-to-me music, though, and I'm building some playlists for Nia FreeDance and Nia choreography as well as some just for my listening pleasure and for working out to. One of the projects I'm developing is inspired by classic Nia routines from the 90s. I'm going for the world-music-pop-music blend they used to embrace before they began leaning more towards dance music. I'm entering a list of the classic Nia songs and Spotify makes recommendations for other songs... I could do it all day.

And now, just yesterday, I don't know why Instagram sought me out or how they found me. But I got an email to join Instagram. I suspect it has something to do with either my active Facebook account, or my YouTube channel or maybe my activity here on Blogger.

I have mainly used my YouTube channel to post videos of my workouts, and I post most of my pictures on my Facebook page, where I also give voice to some of my thoughts. And I've been posting my photos and sometimes short videos on Blogger when I log road trips or have random thoughts to share. So I don't really see the need for Instagram. I do know my history, though, so I wonder what I'm not getting yet. I suppose I could join now and eventually I'll fall in love with it. I did click on the invitation and I confirmed my email so I have an open account. And I've been told I already have 15 followers but have yet to post a photo or even write my bio. At this point I don't have plans to do either. I'm not convinced it's something I would use.

All I really like to do is chat and connect with people to exchange ideas.  And I also like to post videos of myself working out. I do work out in my underwear so that I don't have as much laundry to do each week. This has been largely misinterpreted as some sort of sexualizing of my fitness regimen, but to me it is not sexual; it's just what I wear. I'm completely comfortable with casual nudity, however, I don't consider being in underpants as nudity. I get comments along those lines and let them roll off my back.

Maybe I'll think of a purpose for Instagram, or maybe it'll end up like Pinterest and Wordpress and LinkedIn, where I open accounts and maybe upload a few things but then lose interest. Or it could end up being like my own website, which I hired someone to build for me and then basically ignored it.  Now it's terribly out of date and I don't know how to make changes on it. People seem to think I'm technologically literate, but that's just simply not the case.

If I were, I would have put together a whole online fitness program by now. I would love to make videos and live streams of workouts for people to purchase and enjoy, but I don't have the capacity.

By the way, I've also never Tweeted nor Vined.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Nia with JAG Returns to Seattle

Starting January 8, 2017, JAG will be teaching Nia classes in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Classes will be held at

Velocity Dance Center
1621 12th Ave  (between Pine and Olive)
8:45 am - 9:45 am

Classes at Velocity Dance Center cost $15 each for drop ins, or you could purchase a VIP card and get classes for only $12.

This series of classic Nia classes will include some routines from the vault, like Miracle, Yulunga, Fantasia and Moodfood as well as the latest routines like Sacred, Dragon, Deep Dive and Bring It! JAG will also be presenting his original work; old routines like Goldfinger, Orchestra, Amazing and Frankie Say Nia and routines yet to be created but sure to be lots of fun. There is an all disco routine in the works and a new routine using world and pop music inspired by the old routines of Nia co-creator Carlos Rosas.

In early 1996, there was no Nia going on in Seattle until Jason Alan Griffin (a practicing massage therapist / aerobics/step instructor / personal trainer) went to Portland and got his Nia White Belt. The training ended on a Friday, and on Saturday morning, the next day, JAG asked his aerobics class students to trust him and remove their shoes for the last half of class. This was Seattle's first taste of Nia and as JAG likes to say, "We never put our shoes back on."

In 2000, JAG left Seattle to pursue an acting and modeling career in NYC, leaving behind some his passionate Nia students. Some of them became teachers themselves and carried the Nia torch in JAG's absence.  Upon his return to Seattle in 2011, JAG was delighted to find a flourishing Nia community with several teachers, a couple of trainers and classes offered on every day in every neighborhood.

Rather than actually settling down in Seattle, at this time, JAG took to the road and spend the next five years as a vagabond Nia teacher. He created his own original routines and took them around to share with all of the USA.

And now, in 2017, JAG made the choice to stay home and to get a Nia class going in Seattle. It took a while to find the right venue, but through patience and persistence, found a great room in a great time slot.

This series of classes is scheduled for the spring semester at Velocity Dance Center. Classes begin Jan 8 and continue until June. At that time, we will assess the popularity of the class and from there we will either keep it going, add more classes or end the class.

Here are some peeks at some of the routines that JAG has taken on tour in the past.







So we hope you can join Seattle's first Nia teacher and only male Nia teacher, First Degree Black Belt, JAG, in this exciting new offering.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Chaotic Covert Creations

I have temporarily abandoned working on re-creating my version of David Merritt's awesome "Celebrate" routine. Not being a disco fan, I couldn't really take all the time it was requiring me to spend with those songs. Yeah, it's great to hear them in a class once in awhile, and they're fun to dance to, but not to hear over and over again as I'm figuring out the right moves. I had to put the project on hold for my own sanity, but I'm sure I'll be back at it.

In the meantime, Spotify was getting the wrong impression about my musical tastes. I was starting to get nothing but disco songs as suggestions, and I wanted to nip that in the bud right away, so I started listening to music just for fun!  This is something I stopped doing in the early 90's when I became a dance fitness teacher and used music as a tool in my profession. So my musical maturity was stunted in the late eighties. I'm really enjoying exploring everything I've missed in the past twenty plus years.

I've also found inspiration for working on another new project. I have lamented the retirement of my mentor, Carlos Rosas from the world of Nia. His unique shamanic ways and the style of music and movement he brought to the table are no longer to be found in modern day Nia. I had long had the desire to create a playlist that sounded like a Carlos Nia routine, but I didn't have access to the mountains of music I'd have to dig through to find songs that would fit the myriad criteria for making a great Nia song.

Now that I'm using Spotify, and have access to such a vast music library, I have begun the project. It took me a while to figure out the lay of the land, but I think I have learned how to get good, inspirational suggestions from Spotify's algorithms and I've put together several rough drafts of what I'm calling the Perfect Carlos Routine. It's very exciting.

I am playing with them in the studio and mostly free dancing and doing my highly developed style of calisthenics and a strange thing is happening; randomly, a new song starts up and my body starts moving in a way that perfectly fits. It mysteriously feels as if I had heard the song a hundred times before and know exactly what the movements are, and they feel perfect.

Fortunately, it has been a long time practice of mine to video all of my workouts, so I have a record of some of those inspired movement clicks.  So far, I'm not setting an agenda to create anything, I'm just creating from a place of passion and beginner's mind and keeping track of what develops.

I am aware of a long-running mindset that I am preparing this routine for presentation in a Nia class or even to take it on the road and present it across the USA. It runs by habit in the background of my psyche and motivates me to continue exploring and creating. But at this time, I am not planning to start up any classes or make any plans to travel, and I may not do so this year. At this point, I'm totally digging the agenda-less creative process. I'm enjoying my strong propensity to explore more athleticism and especially more FloorPlay.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Dark December

As we roll into December, I'm still decompressing from my highly eventful year.

It started with a triumphant return to the boards after a five-year hiatus, I found an audition listing just by chance, for a role that sounded perfect for me. Soon afterward, I found myself playing in a slapstick farce and losing about fifteen pounds in the process. I took daily baths to combat the aches and pains inherent in doing pratfalls and stunts every night. To exacerbate the issue, my character was a nervous mess. The stress that the character goes through is something I literally feel and my body really reacts to. My body doesn't know it isn't real, so I actually got sick from the pretend stress.

The play was a riot, and I had a great time. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, but I was glad when it was over so I could recover. It didn't take me long to return to my normal weight, but it took a little bit longer to heal some of the more serious injuries. My ribs, my shoulders and my fingers were all injured at one point, but I was fully recovered before it was time for my next big thing.

That next big thing for me was to take a little five month drive. It was super exciting and indescribable. I blogged about it, so you may have read all about it. If not, you can search through my blog and read my almost daily entries between April 30 and October 6.

And then I began another recovery. But this time, instead of being sick and underweight from stress, I was overweight by about 15 pounds from eating junk food and doing no exercise but Nia.

So, I've been diligent about returning to my healthy eating habits and exercise formats. It took me about six weeks to get it back, but now I'm just a few pounds off from being at my desired weight.

As I do each year when the clocks change back and the days get increasingly shorter, I hibernate and reflect on my past, present and future. I allow myself to let go of things I no longer need and enjoy and I ask myself to either become remotivated by the things I love or to change my focus and direction if my passion has shifted.

This year, I am still not yet sure of what I'm called to do. I am still in the quiet, inquisitive phase.

So I'm still toying with the idea of road tripping some more in 2017, but certainly, I'd need to revisit the idea with a beginner's mind. A lot needs tweaking. I have to figure out what I want to do about the food situation. River is a constant concern. And I still fantasize about doing it in an RV instead of the car/motel thing.

In the meantime, I do find that I'm called to create more. I'm scouring music and building playlists. I was inspired by David Merritt, a Nia teacher I met at the last Men of Nia in Santa Fe. He did an all disco Nia routine and I had so much fun in his class, that I made a commitment to go home and try to recreate it as best I could. David helped by sending me his playlist and some choreography notes, so I've been playing with that. In a delightful melange of his choreography and mine where I'm not able to figure out his notes, I feel like I'm sort of collaborating with David on the routine that he named "Celebrate".

I'm also in the very beginning stages of putting together a continuation of the Rock & Roll Nia series of routines that I've been putting out there, from Woodstock to 70's rock to 80's New Wave. I recently joined Spotify and am starting to accumulate songs from the 90's for one playlist and from the "aughts" (00's). That work is slow going, and I don't find myself too pumped up by what I'm finding.

I have become a certified Nia Free Dance DJ, and am considering starting up a Nia FreeDance class locally. I've been having a blast collecting music for those classes. Finding an appropriate available venue, though is proving difficult and a major deterrent. So I find myself easily deterred from the task. I'm also juggling around the idea of starting up a regular Classic Nia class. And then I get excited and I also want to include classes in JAG Energy Flow, which is my own workout program. I'm not sure at this time where my loyalties or where my priorities lie. In the meantime, I'm in the midst of this weird period of doing nothing. Dark December.

I've never believed that Nia was enough for me as a fitness program. So, as usual, I'm spending a lot of my time in my studio doing my own workouts for myself. Today I sort of found myself creating as I was working on a movement sequence while music was playing. This is the result:

I have been looking at the local audition call boards to see if anything interesting is coming up in Seattle that I can audition for over the winter. I haven't been auditioning in general, but I did go on two auditions recently. I was offered positions from both auditions, but only accepted the one to join an improv and sketch comedy group in Seattle called Turbo Turkey.  We've been having rehearsals to practice our improv technique and get comfortable with each other and we're planning their next (my first) show in a couple of weeks. I'm excited about that.