Intoxication on the dancefloor

Last night at the friday-night-free dance I was pondering intoxication.  This dance jam has a ‘no drugs’ guideline, and a few nights back in a meeting a community member reacted strongly against it.  What if someone smokes before they come to play to calm their anxiety? It only affects their experience, right? The dance goes great and is full of connection, right?

Well… not always.  While a few puffs may make a dancer feel like they are connecting with their co-dancers, and responding to the space, that’s not always the external reality.  It’s easy to FEEL like you’re connecting with the group, but to the group, the individual is having an isolated, solo, non-responsive dance.

I’m not talking about someone high as a kite, just that the drug gives the sense of connection, so that we don’t need to make an effort.  It gives a cloak of bravery so that we feel less vulnerable, but the vulnerability is what allows us to connect.

Of course, some dancers can still connect thru the perceptual fog.  We’re in a green-heavy town so it’s hard to say how many people make it part of their daily routine. And of course, some people have no interest in connecting with others on the dancefloor, they came to close their eyes and hear the music. That’s fine.

The community member reacting to this guideline is someone who uses to help calm their nerves in public settings, and considers it akin to taking a medication.  In this way, they may be using it to get to a more ‘sober’ state, one that is normal for them, one that is present.  That’s where they’re at.  Maybe they’ll keep coming and one day they’ll go without for a week or two. Maybe the reason they’re coming will shift and they’ll seek out a mutual connection that’s now only a solo perception.

Last night I was thinking more broadly about intoxication on the dance floor.  There was a regular dancer who has a new beau, and they were dancing the ‘new love’ dance.  Ooh lala! Gushing googly eyes!  They were unaware of the rest of the room.  It’s sweet, I’m happy for them, but that kind of internal connection clogs up the dancefloor, just as isolated drug-altered dances do.

On a crowded dancefloor, if a few people are in an intoxicated state, whether by herb or love or anger, it’s easy to navigate around.  A strong dance floor ecosystem can support it’s members to have these isolated dances. Sometimes that’s what we need, a place to be ourselves while being supported by community.  We also need to remember to give back energy when we’re able to, to not get into a routine of intoxication, so that we can contribute to keeping our dancefloor ecosystem vibrant, connected, and creative.

 

Super Squash

Last weekend I cooked up a red kaboucha squash and ate it three ways… mashed, as a top for shepard’s pie, and as cookies.
I roast squash whole, without a plan. I stab a dozen holes and throw it in the baking station until I can smell it, and it’s squishy.  I separate the seeds after it’s cooked. This cooking time allows me to plan what I’m going to do with the squash.  Sometimes a plan doesn’t take shape until the next day. This time, it all came together on the same day …

  • Mashed squash – for a quick meal – with steamed local tatsoi and canned salmon
  •  Shepard’s Pieshepards pie
    • In a cast-iron pan, cook the base:
      • saute 1 sweet onion, diced… when it’s halfway cooked,
      • add 1 lb ground lamb… when it’s halfway cooked,
      • add 3 portobellos, chopped.  I also shepard's baseadded a bit of water because my mushrooms were fridge-dehydrated
      • whenever you can, add a handful of basil (from the freezer!) and salt
    • mash the squash, add almond milk to make it spreadable, add chili pepper and salt to savory it up. Spread the squash over the top of the base
    • Stick the whole pan in the oven and bake until you’re hungry, broil the top if you want crisping

 

 

 

  1. Power cookies!power cookies
    • starting with ~1c of mashed squash, add
      • handfull almond flour
      • handfull oats (more or less as needed to make it dough-texture)
      • sprinkle of cacoa nibs
      • few teaspoons of cinnamon
      • splash of vanilla, pinch salt
      • 5 dates, chopped
    • smash into discs and bake at 350 until they come off of parchment paper on their own

Walking in my footsteps

A few weeks back we had a big, fast snowfall.  More than 30 cm fell overnight.  While many rushed up to the hill for the much-anticipated first powder day, I strapped on my new snow boots and walked to work.

My walk is partially rural and sometimes it’s easier to walk in the snowbank than in the middle of the lane.   On this day I was the first to walk the path that connects town to the hitching spot.  The first!!  Someone before me had tried, and after a few steps had gone back to the road.  With super-high snow boots and snow pants I plowed through the deep snow, re-creating the worn path that clings to the side of the steep bank.

walkinginmyfootstepsOver the next week, many steps followed the craters my feet created.  It’s natural to aim for the places where the snow has been smashed;  even when the stride is not quite right, it takes less resistance to walk in the holes, and one can be sure that there is going to be solid ground in the spots that another has followed.  Sometimes those steps are a little off from the original, to allow for personal balance, stride and direction. The path dissolved from defined dance steps into a  fluid wave, a wiggle through the snow.

After a week of thawing and freezing, this is what it looks like

 

Halt! halter tops!

A few years ago I gave up on halter tops for the sake of my posture.  I found they were putting too much pressure on my neck (adding to the ongoing disagreement between too-mobile c6/c7 and not-mobile enough upper thoracic).  Last night I wore one for a very special occasion, Halloween!
actionpotential
I was an Action Potential Hero!  Very few people got it, but I had a blast on the dance floor! I controlled the electrical impulses through my limbs, and my super power is to control the impulses in other bodies too!  You see, non-anatomy-nerds, an action potential is the electrical discharge the flows along neurons which allows cells to communicate with each other.  As you read this, action potentials from your retina travel to neurons in your visual cortex, then around your brain to process the words, and some action potentials travel back out to your eye to trigger muscles to move your eye one letter over.  Our bodies do so much work even when we’re not trying! Action potentials are one sign of our innate super powers.

Back to the halter top! Ouch!  After a few hours of dancing, even with little/no tension on the neck piece, my shoulders and neck were aching.  Today I woke up to stiffness through my traps and I feel like I have a triangle neck of a weightlifter.

So I have an idea for next year’s costume… to be the Halter Top Halter! I’ll go around and massage people’s shoulders, and remind them that there are other options in clothing.

The year of honesty

In 2013 I set the intention of honesty.  As intentions usually go, I had one idea going in and came out with a different one.

Last january, I was seeking honesty in communication. In ever-digital communication (hello, blog) I found that emotions often get unsaid, hazily implied, and miscommunicated in (edited!) textual conversation.  At the beginning of this year I was feeling these omissions were dishonest. To converse only in text, only the data, only what can be written in short bits between the tasks we’re supposed to be doing leaves out the meat of an exchange.

Sometimes, yeah, I’m happy to not have an acquaintance dump on me.

In face-to-face, there’s much more that can be understood, much more honesty possible. Tone and tilt and facial expressions say more than 26 characters.  I find that dance releases another level of honesty – you can’t lie in dance (or…maybe just enough to fool an audience).  The subtle gestures, the habitual movements, these say so much about where a person is at, without having to spell it out.  When I moved to nelson I met many of my now-friends through dance. Months went by before we spoke to each other, yet from dancing together every week I could feel what fellow dancers were going through.  I didn’t need to know (or even want to know) the why or the what or the who.  They didn’t want to tell the story, they just wanted to be accepted for who they are, in this moment, flaws and all. Open and honest.

Over the year I’ve found the hardest part of honesty is being honest with myself. I suspected this would be the case. I knew this would have to come out, because that seems to be a crucial part of the burnout-recovery process.  Am I really this person? How can I be myself in a way that’s healthy for myself? Do I want this life that everyone else is so excited for me to have?

I’ve found that self-honesty requires     time    . To stop and think.  Luckily I’ve had a year of Saturdays to make this happen. I’ve also worked on being forgiving of myself .  It is easy to look back on a decision and think I was being shortsighted or untrue.  Really, I was doing the best with the info, the experience, the space I had available.  Time to let that one go and learn from it!

I just listened to a podcast on human’s tendency to be self-dishonest, to be overconfident on our own abilities and to not know what we don’t know.  Fool’s Dilemma by Ideas/CBC http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/ideas_20131212_23190.mp3

So it’s not just me… it’s a human thing.

alanis and five fingers

I learned a little bit more about what it means to be Canadian yesterday.

Before “Jagged Little Pill”, Alanis Morissette was a teen pop star...complete with choreographed dance moves and too-tight shirts. As she is canadian, her music was played as part of the 30% can-con media requirement. This song was played over and over and it’s likely that kids-my-days think of this first when they think of Alanis.

huh.

So the album that was deliciously angsty, soothing to my teenage suffering… was hard for my canadian peers to take seriously.  Would I have been so healed by the jagged vocals if it had been Brittney’s album? Probably not.

Ah ha! The frustration and weariness of JLP comes from recovering from being a teen pop star! Ah ha! That’s why jagged little pill was everywhere – she already had a following, a team, and the stage experience to sustain during major tours.

This reminds me of the Vibram Five Fingers …ya know… toe shoes.  They launched from “what’s on your feet?” to being everywhere in just a few years.  I thought this was because it was such a great idea that they zipped from rags to riches – great idea gone viral! The under-dog takes on the big corporations!

But this isn’t true, Vibram is/was an established sole maker. They make soles for hiking boots and work boots, but consumers pay attention to the shoe brand, not the soles. Looking more into it, they go waaaaay back. The founder is credited with making the first rubber sole for shoes (by partnering with a Pirelli tires).  The first successful assent of K2 was with Vibram soles.

When this well-established company had an idea for a shoe with toes, they were able to push it forward because they already had the manufacturing relationships, the distribution channels, the business minds, the ad experience.  They had a team and a stable business, and from this they were able to grow a new branch quickly.

Like Alanis – had JLP been her first album, it wouldn’t have made it out of Ottawa.  But because she had the team, it was able to infiltrate alternative rocks stations across the world and sell 33 million copies!

We all love to root for the little guy, the new kid on the block, the up-and-comer… even when they’re an established player.

(Side note… Isn’t it ironic? Vibram made rubber soles that replaced leather soles…and now they’re making ‘barefoot’ soles that mimic the ground-feel of leather.)

cheezy

Thinking today about what makes something cheezy… aside from being covered in melted, aged milkfat.

Ya know…those EZ-rock songs with a predictable, simple theme, the kind that you can sing along during the first listen.  Dance pieces that are pretty and light and of joy.  Paintings of flowers and sunsets. Ya know, the stuff that’s easy to swallow, with a strange lack of aftertaste.

A friend mentioned that when a cheezy song came up at dance church today, she wrestled with it – to go along with the sugary-sweet sentiment or to resist it because life is more complicated.  Do I feel this overly-simplified version of joy right now – and do I want to? What if I don’t feel like lifting my hands in the air?

I think what makes a creation cheezy is when it’s made entertaining and obvious, and lacks honesty.  Yes, those are beautiful flowers, but who cares? Give me a story, provoke unfamiliar feelings and questions I haven’t asked before.

Of course context and dose play a factor – repetition kills honesty. The simple, passionate, true song heard in a moment of heartbreak can morph into a boring, fake, undeveloped song after hearing it again and again in the grocery store.

A few years ago I embraced cheezy – it’s easy! This song is meant to be sung along to.  It’s a caricature of a feeling that I once had, and I enjoy the boost of positivity.  It’s easy to ignore as well – my mind doesn’t bring up questions of motives or futures. It’s easy to win an audience over while performing a cheezy number – everyone knows how to react, and when to clap!

I think now is a time to reconnect and reevaluate my relationship to these simple art pieces.  I appreciate the questions and complexity that complex, less approachable forms bring me, and I’d like to give the same back to an audience.

…balance…

 

Bike – Why am I going so slow?

Some days when I jump on my bike, it seems  s o  s l o w.  Am I out of shape? Is there an imperceptible headwind? What’s going on?

Here’s the checklist to make sure that I’m riding as quick and smoothly as I can…

Fill up the tires!  Tires with low air pressure mean more friction with the road, which translates to a sluggy feel. When tires are fully filled they are HARD, and you should feel every bump in the road. Squeeze your tires, and if there’s give, then they probably need air — keep an eye out for the next bike shop or gas station or skinny-jeans with a U-lock under the belt

Check for rubbing!  With all the leaning and locking and hauling up and down stairs, sometimes bits of the bike get pushed into the wheel and will rub until they’re noticed.  Prime suspects – fenders and brakes!  Check for this by lifting your bike off the ground and spinning your wheel – it should spin freely, seems like forever.  If it comes to a sudden stop, then there’s something slowing it down.  Look and listen for the spot!

Water!  Hydration keeps joints and muscles working to their full potential.  Even if you don’t feel thirsty now – drink up before jumping on the saddle for a smoother ride!

Theme song!  Sing a pop song, make up a super here theme, or craft a new techno track backed by that car alarm in the distance. A little back-up music goes a long way!

Ride on….swiftly…

Eye contact – avoiding it and attracting it

My last trip to Toronto was much more comfortable for me because I’ve learned to avoid eye contact.  I think it’s being in a small town that I’ve seen great models of politely avoiding eye contact while standing tall and proud.  I’ve seen people fix their gaze on their goal, on the horizon far ahead, for those times when on a mission and don’t have time to stop and talk to every-other person on the street.  You’ll see them again in a few days, so it’s not a big deal to miss out on this connection.

It’s not personal, I just have to get some eggs and get home!

I’ve learned some ways to protect myself from unwanted eye contact. I keep my eyes up and use my peripheral vision to avoid stepping on kids and tiny old ladies.  I’ve learned to close my eyes when I smile to myself so it won’t be mistaken for the initiation of a sales pitch.  I’ve learned to not carry unusual objects unless I’m ready to be stared at.  I still wear bright clothes and dance thru crosswalks, but now I keep my eyes fixed on where I want to go.

I DO have times when I’m wanting to connect – whether looking for conversation at the coffee shop or an invitation to dance – but now I’m able to decide if I have the energy to connect or not and adjust my behaviour to match.

When I was last in Toronto I had a few conversations with a good friend about how much eye contact ‘people’ (aka strangers) make out in the wilds of the urban jungle. She says, she wants more eye contact and that she’s been seeking it, but Torontonians don’t make eye contact.

I’ve heard this before and disagree!  I pointed out how in the first 30 seconds of entering our chosen lunch-spot, without trying, I had made eye contact with a handful of people.  That couple on the patio, the attractive-yet-lonely-seeming man at the bar, the hostess who sat us, the three ladies in the corner who looked up when we walked in the room, the server.   She insisted that these don’t count, but I think they do. Any of these we could (oneday) become friends with, or in the moment we could share a real, real-time human moment. If nothing else, we could practice for the real, real-time moment that’s going to happen tomorrow.

For someone wanting more eye contact, or more meaningful connection with strangers, it’s important to be open and available to it.  I’ve thought of a few ways to attract and retain these fleeting moments….

  • Take off the face-blocking sunglasses. It’s difficult and uncomfortable to ‘make eye contact’ when you can’t see the eyes, and when you can’t see the expression to know whether eye contact is happening, wanted or unwanted.
  • Put away the phone. I see pattern of phone users in anonymous places that could be a social places (ie bus stop, coffee shop). They look up for an instant to see if there’s someone wanting to connect and go right back into their phone as if saying “Data from meat world? No? No one’s been waiting to connect with me? Back to digital.” Connection is much slower than this, it takes place over… seconds…and isn’t waiting for you the way that e-updates are. Being on your phone says “I’m busy” and shields you from connecting – If you’re focused on your phone the first 2 times I try to make eye contact with you, I’m not going to try again.  If you want to connect and want something to do, try doodling, crafting, reading a magzine. All of these are easy to casually (slowly) look up from, and give information about what you’re into.  “What are you making?” or “I’m so excited for ski season!” is a much easier way to start a conversation than “What are you looking at on your phone?”
  • Preemptively smile.  If you want to connect, then be conscious to put on a face that says so. When someone looks your way, their first impression happens before you notice they are looking, and if you want to have meaningful connections, make the first impression match this intent.  Think about it – if you’re hanging out and meet the gaze of someone who’s gently smiling, aren’t you more likely to gaze back (and maybe reflect the smile) than if the person has a grumpy face?  If you’ve been on a screen all day, your face muscles have gotten lazy and you’ve probably got a bitchy resting face, and need to do some warm-ups to reactivate your muscles to communicate what you’re thinking!

And here’s a little song for you…sung to the tune of ‘Sing Out’ by Cat Stevens….
If you wanna connect – connect! If you wanna hide out – hide out. ‘Cause there’s a lot to think about, you know that there is you know that there is you know that there is

🙂

 

Why so loud? Also, get off my lawn!

I love music and I love dancing. I love music that I haven’t heard before and I love hearing how someone else puts tracks together.  Therefore, I’m a big fan of going out dancing while someone else plays music.

There’s something special that happens on dancefloors – a flow, a vibe, a groove. A feeling of connectedness, without having to speak or directly communicate.  A kinship I find with other weirdo dancers. I learn movements from mimicking others’ sway and bounce, learning more deeply about emotions and bodies with every step-touch.

Often the best place for connecting with other dancers is right in front. This is partially because The Crowd is nervous about standing in ‘the front row’. I love this effect and am happy to bounce to the front and dance hard for the opening dj, without waiting for friends or inebriation…while sending gratitude to my past self for overcoming these fears.

The dancing crew also forms in the front because it’s too loud to attempt conversation.  Right in front of the speakers, you’re not going to get wandering couples talking about ever-important matters like ‘why do you always get that beer?’ or ‘what time is that thing tomorrow?’.  You don’t get lines of spectators, speaking approval or disapproval of others’ actions, outfits, and primping skills.

At the front, in the blast of sound, there’s just dancers.

The only trouble is… the blast of sound.  After an adolescence in front of speakers, and a few years of working with bang-bang-bang MRI machines, my ears hurt.  When I was young, I remember thinking that hearing loss wouldn’t be so bad, I’d just hear less, so then I’ll just turn up the volume!  (Plus.. THIS music is the best ever, why would I want to listen to anything other than emo?)

Now I know – it’s not hearing loss I’m experiencing, but hearing change.  Loud sounds are painful now.  I hear 3 tones ringing in my ears.

I wear my custom-made earplugs to every event with music – dj nights, dance classes.  I also wear them when biking on urban streets, cause car horns are nauseatingly painful. The earplugs dampen the sound 15-25dB, which helps, but if the volume is super loud (aka ‘good’ in sound-tech terms) then it’s painful even with earplugs.

When a place is too loud, I feel unsafe and I leave. By the time I think “is this night worth having another tone, for the rest of my life?” I’m already looking for my coat.

So … why does it need to be so loud? (Also, kids these days!)

I have some theories why it gets so loud…
– Sound techs, dj’s, club managers, have accepted loudness as their fate, so they may not even notice.  They often have more speakers pointed away from them than towards.
– Loudness gets old folks (like me) to go home and leave the partying to the drunk 20-somethings who spend lots of money at the bar.
– DJ’s crank up the volume as a way to build energy without needing skill or creative mixing… 1-234 2-234 3-234 4-234 LOUDER-234…
– The volume increases when djs/techs can see people talking.  So the people talk louder, music gets louder to cover it, people shout, music gets louder, people stop trying to talk and sadie goes home.

Of course, I have a plan. I keep the dance vibes high so there’s less need to crank up the volume; when the dance floors going strong, no one wants to talk about yesterday or tomorrow.  With quick feet and confident arms I stir up the space to keep the dance floor moving and flowing, so that chatterbugs feel more comfortable at the perimeter.  I check myself before speaking in someone’s ear – is this something that needs to be said…or would it be better expressed in movement? I’ve come up with moves that allow me to cover my ears without breaking my flow. I don’t play it cool anymore, when a sound is too loud, I react physically – jumping in surprise, falling to the ground – in the most honest way I can.   And when I can, I retreat to the space waaaaay in the back where there’s space to dance in my protective hoop-bubble.

Next time you see me out on the dancefloor, come dance with me! Spread the love of movement, non-verbal communication, and sweaty good times. I’ll make room for you.  Have something you want to say? Let’s go outside and talk, we both could use some fresh air.