Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

This is a very important discussion that has only recently been brought to my attention by a long thread on a Facebook group for Nia Teachers. Thanks go out to Vinajoy Duran for bringing it up.  I am one of the privileged white people who isn't negatively affected by this except that I am sensitive and empathetic so when I hear that someone is struggling with something I'm doing, I feel their pain and choose to acknowledge them, examine it, and do my best to make it right.

I have been teaching Nia for 21 years now and I appreciate how much it has changed in that time, just as the world is not the same place it was back in the 80's when it began, or in the 90's when I joined. As the world continues to change, I think it is incumbent upon us to embrace newfound awareness and adjust as needed.
There is no denying that we have entered an era of renewed attention to cultural oppression and bigotry, and it is my deep desire to be a voice and an example of compassion and tolerance in this environment. SO I want to start by admitting that this is real.
Continued ignorance of this issue considering all of the specific examples given in the thread is quite an amazing feat. The way I see it, it is something that is inherent in the work of Nia from the world music to the variety of movement forms to some of the specific moves themselves.
I love Nia and I know for a fact that no one intended to disrespect another being or culture, but it is also entirely possible that, in our privileged mindset, we have not seen what toes we could be stepping on.

I don't think the answer is to deny that it's happening, or to stop doing what we're doing, but instead to be open to and mindful of what exactly we are doing and what about it potentially hurts people and to figure out how we can frame it and present it to the public in a way that honors all cultures and continues to allow us to practice and offer what we do.

When I was first introduced to this concept just a few weeks ago, I was stymied. I'll admit, my first reaction was to push it aside and not face the discomfort. I had no point of reference for it, so in order to understand it and eventually deal with it, I had to create a point of reference for myself in my head. I am not a practicing Christian, but I was raised as one so I know enough about it. I imagined a world where someone from a different culture used symbols of Christianity in a secular way. I imagined the "Crucifixion" workout being popular in Japan, for example. They claim "It's good for the legs and the back to drag a heavy wooden cross across a cobble stone street. It also builds toughness to have people throwing things at you while you did." I imagined the participants wearing Crowns of Thorns as a fashion accessory, despite the fact that it was not part of their culture. They all thought it was fun to wear sandals and a white loin cloth, too. After class, it was traditional to eat some bread and drink some wine. All the while, they're laughing and playing music; having a fun time with absolutely no knowledge of the story they've appropriated and the weight it has in Christian culture.
I imagined a diet book called Ta'anit shooting to the top of the best seller charts. (Ta'anit is a sacred ritual of repentance or mourning in Judaism.) I could substitue a weight loss diet based on the sacred practices of Ramadan, Yom Kippur, or Lent, and start to get why people could be upset by it.

Then, I remembered that I've had the experience in Nia classes of wearing a bindi on my forehead. I've danced in complete naïveté to sacred pieces of music. I've seen sarongs and saris and harem pants worn in class by white people not connected to the roots or symbolism of such garb. And I've been party to an appropriation of a calendar and a method of measuring time that comes from a sacred culture I knew nothing about.
So, despite the fact that I meant no disrespect to Islam, Judaism, Maya, or Christianity, could this be offensive to them? What steps could I take to assuage the negative feelings spiritual people might feel from my turning their beliefs into a fitness practice or fashion accessory? If, in light of this new information I simply continued to do what I've always done, then I'm no longer innocent of crimes of ignorance, but now complicit in the offense.

These are the difficult questions I ask myself around this topic. I intend to take whatever answers I come up with and apply them to myself and infuse them into my practice. I would prefer to do this with the cooperation of my community, especially including those who are expressing outrage at these actions.

I'd love to hear from other people who are motivated to adjust what they're doing to new information as it comes to them. I invite people who are tempted to chime in with admonitions that this is fantastic and not a real problem and who have no desire to consider other cultures' reactions to us, to check themselves and investigate this further before saying something insensitive. This is real; supported simply by the fact that people are saying that it is how they feel. I cannot and will not tell anyone else that how they feel is not real or worthy of my consideration simply because it makes me uncomfortable or because I hadn't noticed it happening.
I step boldly into a new era of understanding with an open mind and an open heart. I am learning. I realize that simply because I've been doing something for over two decades is no reason to continue doing it, especially when I've been enlightened by having a new perspective brought to my attention.

What I do know about myself and my practice, is that I do not wholly adopt any one culture or set of beliefs. I am aware of the world and what it offers and I choose to adopt things based on how they feel to me. I think it comes down to a matter of where our actions lie on the spectrum of reverence. On one extreme end, there is mocking and disrespectful. Somewhere in the middle would be ignorance and frivolity. And at the other end, total devotion and belief. And I believe that when aspects of a foreign culture are adopted, motivations that sit toward the latter end of the spectrum are acceptable. The further our motivations veer toward the mocking end, the more harmful our actions are. In our modern, interconnected world, we have the luxury of being exposed to many different cultures and the opportunity to fashion a unique self-culture by mixing a potpourri of influences. Living multiculturally can be a great homage to the cultures from which it takes inspiration.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 Bookings and Drive Times - PART TWO

SAT - SEPT 16
drive: Amarillo to Farmington (7 hrs)

SUN - SEPT 17
visit: Four Corners

MON - SEPT 18
teach: Nia in Durango @ 9:00 am - Evonne
visit: Mesa Verde

TUES - SEPT 19
teach: Nia in Durango ?? Maggie, Sharon, Ashley, Lori, Kim ??

WED - SEPT 20
drive: Farmington to Albuquerque (3 hrs)
teach: Nia in Albuquerque @ 4:30 - Erin
drive: Albuquerque to Santa Fe (1 hr)

THUR - SEPT 21 through MON - SEPT 25
teach: Nia in Santa Fe

TUES - SEPT 26
drive: Santa Fe to Flagstaff (6 hrs)

WED - SEPT 27
teach: Nia in Sedona ?? Alba ??

THUR - SEPT 28
teach: Nia in Flagstaff ?? Stephanie ??
drive: Flagstaff to Carlsbad (7.5 hrs)

FRI - SEPT 29
teach: Nia in Carlsbad ?? Lisa-Anne ??

SAT - SEPT 30
~~~Yom Kippur~~~

SUN - OCT 1
drive: Carlsbad to Gardena (2 hrs)
teach: Nia in North Hollywood - Paula

MON - OCT 2
teach: Nia in North Hollywood - Paula

TUES - OCT 3
teach : Nia in Santa Monica @ 9:30am - Cheryl
drive: Gardena to Santa Barbara (2.5 hrs)

WED - OCT 4
teach: Nia in Santa Barbara ?? Ken / Cleo ??
drive: Santa Barbara to Vacaville (6 hrs)

THURS - OCT 5
teach: Nia in Walnut Creek @ 10:00am - Danielle
teach: Nia in Calistoga ?? Jill ??

FRI - OCT 6
drive: Vacaville to Nevada City (1.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Nevada City - Aimee
drive: Nevada City to Eureka (5.5 hrs)

SAT - OCT 7
teach: Nia in Eureka - Rose
drive: Eureka to Springfield (5.5 hrs)

SUN - OCT 8
teach: Nia in Eugene @ 11:00  Kellie/Amy/Janet
drive: Eugene to Portland (2 hrs)

MON - OCT 9
teach: Nia in Portland ?? Allison/Siere/Laurie/Anita ??
drive: Portland to Seattle (3 hrs)

Monday, May 22, 2017

2017 Bookings and Drive Times

MON - AUG 14
drive: Seattle to Leavenworth (2.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Leavenworth  ?? Gayle ??
drive: Leavenworth to Moses Lake (2 hrs)

TUES - AUG 15
drive: Moses Lake to Hayden (2.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Hayden @ 10:30 - Jamie
drive: Hayden to Butte (4.5 hrs)

WED - AUG 16
drive: Butte to Helena (1 hr)
teach: Nia in Helena @ 2:00pm - Kathryn
drive: Helena to Billings (3.75 hrs)

THURS - AUG 17
teach: Nia in Billings ?? Sue/Aimee ??
drive: Billings to Riverton (4.5 hrs)

FRI - AUG 18
drive: Riverton to Evanston (3.75 hrs)
teach: Nia in Lyman ?? Lisa ??

SAT - AUG 19
drive: Evanston to Fort Collins (5.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Boulder ?? Jackie ??

SUN - AUG 20
teach: Nia in Lyons @ 10:15 - Jasmine

MON - AUG 21
drive: Fort Collins to Omaha (7.5 hrs)
***SOLAR ECLIPSE***

TUES - AUG 22
teach: Nia in Lincoln @ 8:30 am - Holly

WED - AUG 23
drive: Omaha to Rochester (5.5 hrs)

THUR - AUG 24
drive: Rochester to Minnetonka (2 hrs)
teach: Nia in Minnetonka ?? Beth ??
teach: Nia in Minneapolis ?? Amy ??
drive: Minnetonka to Cedar Rapids (4.5 hrs)

FRI - AUG 25
teach: Nia in Coralville @ 6:00 pm - Beth

SAT - AUG 26
teach: Nia in Coralville ??Beth??

SUN - AUG 27
drive: Cedar Rapids to Hazelwood (4.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Edwardsville - Sally

MON - AUG 28
teach: Nia in Edwardsville - Sally

TUES - AUG 29
drive: Hazelwood to Jeffersonville (4.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Louiseville ?? Maria ??

WED - AUG 30
teach: Nia in Louiseville ?? Maria ??
drive: Jeffersonville to Indianapolis (2 hrs)
teach: Nia in Indy ?? Robin ??
teach: Nia in Bloomington ?? Angela ??
drive: Indianapolis to Grove City (3 hrs)

THUR - AUG 31
teach: Nia in Columbus @ pm -Trish

FRI - SEPT 1
drive: Grove City to Richmond (7 hrs)

SAT - SEPT 2
teach: Nia in Richmond ?? Felicia ??

SUN - SEPT 3
drive: Richmond to Durham (2.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Durham ?? Kate / Haven ??
drive: Durham to Charlotte (2.25 hrs)

MON - SEPT 4
teach: Nia in Charlotte @ 9:30am - Sherrie
drive: Charlotte to Myrtle Beach (4 hrs)
teach: Nia in Myrtle Beach ?? Mary ??
drive: Myrtle Beach to Florence (1.5 hrs)

TUES - SEPT 5
drive: Florence to Norcross (4.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Decatur ?? Sandy ??

WED - SEPT 6
drive: Norcross to Bessemer (3 hrs)
teach: Nia in Cullman ?? Ann ??

THUR - SEPT 7
drive: Bessemer to Ocean Springs

SAT - SEPT 9
drive: Ocean Springs to Houston (7 hrs)

SUN - SEPT 10
teach: Nia in Houston @ 9:15am - Angela

MON - SEPT 11
drive: Houston to Corpus Christi (3.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Rockport @ 5:30 - Diane / Dorene

TUES - SEPT 12
drive: Corpus Christi to San Antonio (2.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in San Antonio - Adelle

WED - SEPT 13
teach: Nia in San Antonio @ 9:15 - Adelle

THUR - SEPT 14
drive: San Antonio to Irving (4.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Dallas ?? Shannon ??

FRI - SEPT 15
teach: Nia in Dallas @ 9:45 am - Jule
drive: Irving to Amarillo (5.5 hrs)

...to be continued

Thursday, May 18, 2017

2017 Offerings

Here's what's on the menu for JAG TOUR 2017
Studio Nia, Santa Fe, 2016

This year, I've created two new Nia routines.  Both of them are adaptations of older routines.

Fantastic
Inspired by the movements from the classic Carlos Rosas routine, "Fantasia,"  Fantastic is a JAG original routine that is almost a song for song adaptation of the original. Some of the featured artists in this routine are Goldfrapp, Macy Gray, Talking Heads, Basement Jaxx and others. It also contains a three-song tribute to the career of David Bowie, from Space Oddity through Heroes to Blackstar.

Profound
Another adaptation, this time of Winalee Zeeb's recent routine, Deep Dive.  Profound sets her wonderful liquid choreography to new music from Xavier Rudd, Imogen Heap, Propellerhead, Beats Antique and others.

Both adaptation routines use mostly modern, popular music from this millennium, with an ear toward ethnic eclecticism.

I am also willing to teach any of my original routines that I've brought around in the past, including:
Rockin
Goldfinger
Woodstock Experience
Frankie Say Nia
Orchestra
Amazing
JAG's FloorPlay
Corpus Christi, TX

I'd really love to stay a few hours and teach a full playshop, too. I'm open to suggestions on subject matter, but I'm prepared with a few idea as well:

Finding Balance with Yin and Yang
I originally put this playshop together by request for last year's Men of Nia event in Santa Fe. It was a hit and it was suggested that I expand on the work and continue to present it. So that's what this is. It is an exploration of what exactly we mean when we say "Yin" and "Yang". We'll discover why we want to seek a balance between them and how to do so in the context of a Nia class and beyond, into life.

Honing the Martial Arts in Nia 
In this one, we'll get clear on the architecture, science, art, and craft of the three martial arts that influence and inform the Nia technique; specifically AiKiDo, Tae Kwon Do and Tai Chi.  We'll spend time embodying each movement form and also have an experience of them in the context of a routine. I could easily teach a workshop on any of the three "arts", but this is the one where I felt there was the most need for practice and clarity based on what I've seen across the country.

The Joy of FreeDance
Last fall, I got certified as a Nia FreeDance DJ, and for the past several years, I've taught an informative playshop on the Nuts and Bolts of FreeDance. So this year, I'd love to combine them into a full Nia FreeDance playshop and class experience. The Nuts and Bolts playshop is intended for people who are paralyzed with fear and uncertainty around FreeDance, but who want to break through their own limitations.  It is not the eight stages of FreeDance and it is not anything that we've covered in any of the intensives. The playshop is my work. I put it together to help people who say they don't know what to do when it comes time to FreeDance. I can teach anyone exactly how to FreeDance by breaking down and spelling out what goes on inside the mind of someone who is FreeDancing.  After participating in this playshop, students will never again wonder what to do, movement wise. They will no longer run and sip their water to wait for the choreography to return. We can cap off the playshop with a full Nia FreeDance Class experience.

Choreography 
If you're unaware of the 2015 CNS project that became the community co-created routine called "Amazing" which I presented in 2016, you can read about it here. This year, I am putting it out there again. I'm not sure what will come of it, but any community that wants to play with co-creating choreography for possible inclusion in a new JAG Nia routine, let's do it. Basically, we choose a song and play with it for a few hours until we find the choreography together. It is an incredibly satisfying, enriching and inspiring experience to co-create with friends and classmates.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Skin Cancer Redux

If you want to catch up, click and read:
When I discovered the first occurrence back in 2010.

Some follow ups from surgery to remove cancer.

Further education and experience.

Using topical chemotherapy

The experience motivated me to seek out good brands of sunscreen, so you can read and enjoy the fruits of those labors here. 

When all of this was going on, the doctor told me that I was at a very high risk for a return visit from this type of cancer. And I was going along fine for several years.  I would diligently point out any marks, bumps or dis-colorization on my skin to a doctor and, until recently, was always told it's nothing to worry about.

But a few months ago, the doctor examining a suspicious spot on my neck said, "Hmmm. I'd like the lab to take a closer look at this to be sure." I agreed and let her take a punch biopsy to send in for testing.

The results came back positive. As in, I had cancer again. Once again, I was reassured that the type that I have is very slow-growing and benign, but the suggestion was to have it removed along with a margin of healthy surrounding tissue to ensure we removed it all.

I didn't take a picture of the offender, since it looked literally like a fat freckle or a pale mole. Now, I really wish I had. It didn't look alarming to me; not as much as some of the other spots I'm sporting. And I have plenty of those that are friendly. It just goes to show I need a trained eye to spot the bad stuff.

This is a picture of the same area after the punch biopsy was taken.

 Looks harmless, right?

This looks ten times more gory than the original 'mole' did.


I was scheduled to have it removed but had to delay the surgery because I was in a play and didn't want to deal with hiding the bandage during the run.  But once the show closed, I was able to go in and have it removed finally.

BEFORE
 I was a little bit nervous, even though i had been through it before.  I just didn't enjoy the idea of someone taking a chunk of flesh out of my neck.

By the time I was in the doctor's office, the wound you saw above had completely healed and she couldn't find the spot in question. Fortunately, I had these pictures in my phone, so I pulled them up and showed them to her, which helped her locate the tiny biopsy scar.

I explained at this time that I taught exercise and was very active in general. I mentioned this because it was an issue the time before. My first doctor cautioned me that I couldn't exercise for about ten days or risk interfering with the formation of a nice scar.  I told her I was less concerned about a 'pretty scar' and more concerned about giving up my livelihood for almost two weeks.  So she gave me another option which was a large gaping hole left without sutures. She wasn't happy that I was opting for an ugly scar, but I honestly didn't mind.

So this time, I brought up the same question.  In this case, since the punch biopsy seemed to remove a healthy margin already, we could opt today for a smaller margin, which I agreed to. It would mean that she'd dig less deep and the healing would be much quicker and more forgiving of my lifestyle.

She will send the tissue to the lab again and they will verify that we did indeed remove a margin of healthy tissue all around the cancer. And even if we didn't, her suggestion was that we wait and see if it grows and materializes as a cancerous 'tumor' again before going back to re-remove it.

We were all happy because this procedure took half the time of what we had planned so my doctor and her nurse were both able to take a long coffee break and enjoy this beautiful sunny day.

They sent me off with a bandage and a smile and a little kit for caring for my wound.
AFTER

My understanding is that it is typical for people like me, who had abused the sun in their youth but got wise as an adult, to have an average of 1 - 5 occurrences of this type of carcinoma. I've had two so far, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for numbers 3, 4 and 5.

UPDATE: Day 2 post surgery --

Once I'm dry, after my shower, I remove the bandage and wash it using a sterile cotton swab and hot soapy water. Then I use another to apply a layer of petroleum jelly and a big bandage. It seems to be healing fine. I have another seven days of doing this and then I go back to have the sutures removed.

UPDATE: Day 4 post surgery --

I just got a message from the doctor. The lab was going to look at the biopsy of flesh they removed to ensure we got enough margin of healthy tissue surrounding the cancer or if we'd have to go back in someday.  The result...

"I am happy to let you know that the pathology showed that your skin cancer was completely removed. Nothing else has to be done at that site. I hope it is healing well. Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns. Let the dancing continue!"  YAY!!