Tag Archives: deep thoughts

A time and place for dance with bodycity

End Trails. Image from the bodycity website

From the ethereal to the awkward, all movement has a place in the human psyche.  In Los Angeles, there is a troupe that’s not afraid to dance it all.

bodycity (all lowercase) is a democratic dance collective based in Los Angeles, dancing the in-between spaces of conceptual art, traditional performance, and social event. The group is democratic in that no dance is the brainchild of just one person, each dancer must both choreograph and perform every piece – becoming both teacher and student in an ongoing, collaborative cycle.

The level of dance training in bodycity varies from formal education, to none. And there is no ideal body type or style. Only when each dancer’s unique shape, size and movement pattern is expressed together, does the dissonant vision emerge as a singular piece of art.

The Summer Solstice Session. Image from the bodycity website

The themes of bodycity dances are time and site-specific. One example is Summer Solstice Session. Each member performed and chronicled a five-minute dance outside, at the exact time of the summer solstice. At that moment, the performers were spread out all over the world, from Belgium to Colorado. The videos were collected and shown at the California Film Festival in September.

Announcement of Overpassages. Image from Llano Del Rio Collective Guides and Speakers Bureau

An epic piece titled Overpassages, converged at one of the busiest transportation intersections in the United States: between the 110 highway, the 5 freeway, the LA River, and the Los Angeles railroad tracks. Each dancer stood throughout the odd wilderness, “in-between” spots, and communicated by relaying energy and movement – like a telephone game across great expanses of cars, trains, and life on the go. It literally brought traffic to a halt. A two-minute video of the performance may soon be viewable through the Los Angeles Metro Arts program.

Their latest piece End Trails was performed on October 16th, at the High Desert Test Sites of Joshua Tree. It explored the space between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, the journey into the desert, and the road back home again.

Image from the bodycity website

The origins of dance are tribal by nature, celebrating a time and place, celebrating a community, and celebrating ourselves. For whatever reason, dance fulfills a human need to creatively and physically, self-express.  bodycity reminds us dance is for everyone, at any time, and anywhere.

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2011: Embracing Stupidity

Albert couldn't tell his right from his left

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure.
– Mark Twain, Notebook, 1887

I overthink most things.  I brood; over plans, ideas and life in general. The dreamiest place i know is inside my head, and it can become so cluttered with thoughts I’m crippled by inaction. It’s kind of like living The Secret Life of Walter J. Mitty. Or, wait! Even better, like this line from the TS Eliot poem:

Do I dare disturb the Universe?/ In a minute there is time. /For revisions and decisions / which a minute will reverse.

Starting projects is not a problem, but completing them is, not because I don’t want to, but because my brain won’t let me. Yes, I’m placing the blame on my over-thinking brain.

How often do we wistfully say, “if only things were simpler.” My longing lately goes more like this, “If only I could be stupid”…by this I mean, less thinking, more action. It sounds wrong, but hear me out. As per usual, it’s all about a healthy balance.

There is a fine line between genius and stupidity; between the mad scientist and then just a really brilliant one. Getting ahead in life according to social mores and making gobs of money doesn’t necessarily make you a genius. Being scattered and unable to move forward in the ways that are deemed culturally correct doesn’t make you unintelligent. Defining what is dumb and smart, and how society accepts both has been contemplated time and again.

The first time I encountered this conceptual debate was in junior high while reading  Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. The story goes: A lab janitor yearns to be smarter. He attains it through a radical scientific experiment. The smarter he becomes, the more he ostracizes everything he’s loved. Slowly, the experiment fails and he slips back into a state of mental slowness and his life is better for it…kind of…no. not really. It’s a sad story, expressing the highs are too high, the lows are too low, and best to stick with what you got.

More recently I fortuitously found a more inspiring documentary by Benita Raphan called, Great Genius and Profound stupidity.

Raphan interviews various people, like Oliver Sacks, and tells the stories of others, like Hellen Keller, who throughout history were once considered dumb, and later, professed to be the great geniuses of humanity.

Advertisers too are diving into the sociological game of what makes you genius. Is it stupidity? Maybe it’s your jeans. At least Diesel thinks so. Based on my earlier self-musings, I tend to agree with them…on stupidity, not jeans…just in a less flashy advertisement kind of way.  Here is their latest ad campaign manifesto, “Be Stupid”.

We now know there are different types of intelligence. For several decades, Dr. Howard Gardner has researched how different brains have different, distinct “smarts”.  Even intelligence is relative. I’d like to think we are all endowed in one category or another.

Whatever your intelligence/s might be, they are hard to tap into without a little focused action. It’s easy to read this,  get inspired for 30 seconds and move on. It’s easy to live in our heads or on a screen, and as our senses become overwhelmed by the multi-media encompassing life, it becomes harder to “do”.  So, I lift my coffee mug in a toast and a call to action: Here’s to a little more doing and a little less thinking in 2011. Here’s to balance. Here’s to embracing both the uniqueness of our genius and the wonder of our stupidity. Cheers.

You can do it!


My brother Scott is inspiration for the notion: if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

I had always been a “gifted” student, able to walk through classes and get A’s in my sleep, which later in life proved to be a challenge for my work ethic. My brother Scott was not particularly gifted in athletics or in education, but he worked hard and believed in himself. Eventually Scott made varsity basketball, received stellar grades, was senior class president and homecoming king. My other siblings and I  joke Scott is the “Golden Child” who can do no wrong. In truth, Scott has always fought to accomplish his goals. There is no luck involved.

This past weekend he qualified for the Boston Marathon.

Motivation and determination are big factors in realizing your dreams. The funny thing is, we often assume if we don’t have it figured out in our 20 and 30s, it will never happen. There is nothing further from the truth. The biggest component of the population is aging, and living longer. Older adults, like Olga Kotelko, recently featured in the New York Times, have only taken up new ambitions and athletics in their retirement and are soaring to new heights.

We are all capable of much more than we might believe. Whether you are 20, 40, or 80, the choices are still your own, and with determination you, can do it!

Feeling Good

I consider myself moderately attractive. Some parts are better than others. I’ve been known to get a compliment or two on my backside,  in a lesser Kim Kardashian way, much to my dismay, because it is one of my least favorite attributes. I much prefer my eyebrows, which rarely get the credit they deserve.

The Womanly Ideal in 1910s according to Encyclopedia of Physical Culture

There is no perfect ideal that crosses all cultural boundaries and personal opinions, not even Angelina Jolie. In the African countryside of Mauritania, Jolie would be considered ugly. Large women are the ideal that the Mauritanian society finds appealing. Skinny is considered poor and weak. Young girls are often forced-fed to grow fat, mirroring Western culture’s less direct food deprivation through eating disorders and quick weight loss diets. Big or small, it’s all in the name of beauty.

Mauritania Woman

We are shaped, pun intended, not only by what we eat and do, but by our thoughts and actions. I’d bet you can think of at least one well-toned person who is unattractive based on their attitudes or deeds.

Comparing ourselves to the world around us can make us feel pretty low. I like to think we are works in progress, never quite finished, each with unique variations. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The scale and the mirror are shallow friends when it comes to support. In most cases, your body and mind themselves are your best friends. Who gets up with you every morning to start the day?

If you are about to undertake an ambitious health overhaul or wanting to improve yourself, keep in mind…it’s relative. Go slow. How you feel is most important. Sure, it’s a canned self-help answer, but it was canned well. If you feel good, keep going. If not, stop. Rethink the approach.

Celebrating the perfect, imperfect you is liberating, whatever your size, attributes, best and worst features. There’s no one else quite like you…that’s a pretty cool thought. Take care of what you have and stay moderately healthy.

Ending this post with the song of the same name. A little inspiration for your day from Nina Simone. Ms. Simone herself a strong woman, perfect in her imperfections.

Something for everyone…to buy

From mom-on-the-go to indie rocker…don’t worry! As long as you can be stereotyped into a marketable corner, there will always be someone out there willing to sell you more of that boxed persona.

Being slow on the uptake, a word of advice to the fitness industry: Don’t name your next video the “hipster” workout…it’s not a nice word. Although I am waiting for the emo workout where you stand and sway for 45 minutes while making painfully thoughtful facial expressions.

I hate to exercise. Now what…

Look. You get it…you are supposed to do something more than move between desk and couch. But “exercise” isn’t fun…at least in your opinion.  You can continue sporadically riding the treadmill to nowhere, but maybe the time has come to try another approach. It’s actually possible to sneak fitness in like vegetables into a kid’s dinner…just hide it really well.

Here are your general options:

#1. Go standard: Do the gym

Ho-hum. Exercise and health, blah blah blah. Who hasn’t tried this? We sign up for a gym membership in a moment of inspiration, usually in January and then it languishes into one extra payment on the ol’ checking account. Some people thrive on routine. If you can psyche yourself into being accountable at the gym 3 -4 days a week, for 2 or 3 weeks, then this might be the option for you. Gyms offer convenience for fitness and a great fall back when all else fails, but little else that can often be exciting.

#2. Go Group: Join the team…or start your own.

Maybe you need a team effort to get moving. Lots of local sporting leagues exist: softball, basketball, bowling, kickball, dodgeball, you name it. Join in. Finding a buddy to join could make the move easier. No groups you like? Start your own action adventure team.

#3. Go to school: Please grade my fitness

Maybe teams aren’t you thing, but personal exploration and trying new things are. Sign up for a class.  Try something totally new. All kinds of sports, movement arts and activities are offered through local colleges. Community, state and/or private universities usually have offerings for the public. Since collegiate classes go in semesters, it is a doable committment for those of us who get bored. This option keeps your brain supple too.

#4. Go Big:  Spend a lot and do as little as possible

Invest in the most expensive home gym out there that touts the fastest way to perfect fitness…4 minutes a day. Afterall, if you pay $14,615.00, it must really work. Although, who we kidding, eventually it will languish in the basement and become the worlds most expensive laundry drying rack…ever.

#5. Go Bizarre: Extracurricular odyssey

If you are like me, you need to be entertained. A stationary bike sounds worse than the dentist. Maybe it’s time to give up the Dungeons and Dragons game in the back room of the comic book shop and take up jousting outdoors instead. There are an endless array of activities that classify as fitness. Gym is not required and creativity is by all means allowed. Possibilities are endless!

Find something that inspires you. Even if it’s a dvd or book, a self created 10 minute workout at home, reading my blog for fabulous ideas…whatever. Try to do a little more. I’m still working on the ultimate ab pulverizing couch and desk workout.  I’ll let you know when it comes out.

Food for thought

We could talk specific foods ingested, numbers of times a day, eat this-not that, caloric intake, etc.  Sure. Dissecting nutrition makes a difference. Knowledge is power, but over-think it, and you might end up neurotic about food. The Puritanical roots of our all or nothing culture places food into good and bad categories, fostering patterns of emotional eating, binging, guilt complexes, eating disorders, etc.  It’s no way to live and eventually we all crash and burn.

Truth is lots of things lend to well-being. It’s not just calorie counting on a plate and minutes counted at the gym. We need activity (unplug more often), natural nutrition (processed foods sparingly), stress regulation, and an understanding of societal ideals on daily life.

BUT…

If you are looking for one big universal answer on how to best handle food and nutrition, I have it. Going back thousands of years, when it comes to food, it’s the real secret to a healthy, fitter you, in mind and body:

Relax. Take pleasure in your food.

Love food and all the ceremony and community that goes with it. Adore wine, meat, bread, chocolate, avocados, whatever. It’s fine. Heck, it’s healthy!  Relax already about calories. And please! Stop forcing down quick bars with everything you need…you don’t really need it. Invest time into real food as much as possible. Use mealtime to celebrate seasonal delights. The appreciation comes from the same place, whether it be the perfect granny smith in October or the perfect bite of a dark chocolate. Taking pleasure in food creates a magical experience where flavor rules over quantity. The need for more diminishes.

This is not to say it is necessarily an easy switch. It’s a lifestyle change. Mealtime, food, and even community must be given more space in our daily routines. To encourage such dietary shifts, there’s a growing movement building awareness around food called mindful eating. I reserve a certain amount of reticence with regards to the introduction of new diets and food rules.  With the best of intent, such guidelines can paradoxically create more anxiousness over food and, ultimately, failure. It’s a strange conundrum, but just letting go and trusting our own instincts often makes the biggest difference. If you do require more reading on this topic,  here is an essay on tuning into your own eating instincts. Humans are social creatures, where community and food have played a role throughout time. The learning curve should be small.


The most used cultural food case study, looks at the French.  A Guardian article from 1994 quotes stats from the French government’s Committee for Health Education (CFES) which found that eating is still very closely linked to a national heritage of consuming good food for pleasure. In France, (in 1994) 76 per cent ate meals prepared at home, with 75 per cent eating at the family table.  The French typically spend two hours over lunch and they don’t eat in front of the television. The French eat slowly, enjoying both the food and the company.

In fact, most Countries have some cultural heritage in and social connection to their diet. Notable places include Japan, China, Greece, and Italy.

Food is not ingested for energy alone, but a source of personal and national pride, with time and care taken to prepare meals.  Rich or poor, this pride is for everyone. Due to seasonal ingredients limited quantities and time available the focus of meals is on little plates with big flavor, encouraging one to savor every bite.

Now here’s your food for thought:

Why not create your own personal culture and traditions around food. Be creative and enjoy all the pleasures it offers year round. Food should be fun. Your waist might respond in kind, so go ahead and feel free to play with your food.

Cheers