26 February 2013

Explosion Of Creativity

This past weekend has been a roller coaster. Possibilities, excitement, doubt, a sense of being utterly stupefied. My future is at a huge, huge crossroads right now, and I'm still kind of on the fence about which path I'm taking... I've almost decided, but not quite...

Given this huge rush of excitement and the swirl of thoughts racing in my mind since Friday, I was pretty much rendered useless (just ask my mom). Until yesterday...

Since National Choreography Month, I've been slowly working on choreographing a ballet for White Heart's Montana Sky (very slowly), but I hadn't worked on it in a good week, or maybe more. Yesterday I decided I really should put in some effort on that thing already so I can move on to something else.

So I got my clipboard with my work-in-progress and notes and my pencil and eraser and sat down with my iPod. I didn't really want to do choreography yet, so I thought I'd relax and listen to a couple of other songs first.

So I listened to some Undercover, and then I started on my Daniel Amos collection, all three songs of it (don't freak out, I haven't converted to country -- these are Alarma Chronicles tracks. Good, decent rock). The first song on the list was The Double, from Doppelganger.

As I listened, my mind, as it almost always does when I hear music, started to picture a stage with dancers on it, trying out concepts and moods and disciplines and movement/formation ideas. As the song went on, I began to notice that some of the stuff in my head was really quite good and began to pay more attention to what my brain was coming up with so I could write it down later.

But as the song drew to a close, I realised I had to go back and write it down now, or else I would forget everything -- and it was too good to risk forgetting over the course of the upcoming song. I paused the iPod, grabbed a fistful of blank paper off my desk, sat down, restarted the song and began to write.

One idea led to another led to another led to another as I connected the dots of the pieces I'd come up with on the first listen, and three hours later I had completed the dance. Start-to-finish. Four minutes' worth. For either three or six people (it would work either way; I haven't committed to either one yet).

And get this -- in tap.

Until yesterday, I could barely choreograph more than sixteen consecutive tap counts for a song before stalling out. And here I just sort of poured out an entire four-minute piece in three hours. It was surreal watching my own writing devour the blank pages so quickly -- one... four... six... seven...

I'm thinking the co-existing heights and depths of excitement and terror surrounding and consuming me since Friday had something to do with this explosion of creativity... No matter, I'll take it. And here's to many more tap dances.

23 February 2013

Music Day

I'll just get this out of the way right now... this falls in the 'awesomely eighties' category. You have been warned.

It's not the stereotypical '80s (or at least not what I think of as stereotypical, which is a big brassy sound laden with sax solos *cough* Kim Boyce *cough*). But the bass groove is definitely '80s awesomeness. One and two and one and two and... (yes, I measure awesomeness in dance counts now. Call it an occupational hazard). Also, the drums have that mid-eighties 'big,' arena-filling sound.

And holy crap, I love how they did the chorus -- that steady, dragging, almost monotone against the the bass groove. It's the best in the second chorus because it leads right into the bridge -- a fiery, passionate, no-holds-barred cry against those who will not stand up and stop the madness, though they say they disagree with it.

Most of the time, the fadeout is my least favourite part of a song (exceptions being Sing Your Freedom and almost anything by David Meece). If not done well, it gets repetitive, plus it's a bugger to choreograph. Every one of my good choreographic pieces that 'runs off the rails,' so to speak, does so during the fadeout. It rarely adds anything to the song that the dance can build on, so my dancers on the staves just wind up randomly jumping around and essentially wasting music until the music gets soft enough that I can run them off the stage (which in itself is a pain in the neck to choreograph).

However, the fadeout on this one is fantastic (from a music fan's perspective -- this is subject to change should I ever choreograph this). The chorus, in its eerie monotone, keeps repeating over the bass and the drums (have I mentioned I love the bass line and the drums in this song?), meanwhile the lead singer keeps crying out for mercy over it. The sharp passion in his voice is such a beautiful opposite to the steady chorus.

Title: The Promise
Artist: The Front
Album: The Front
Year: 1985
Label: Mep/royal Music
iTunes here; YouTube here.

15 February 2013

Music Day

Just when I'm starting to run out of music to buy on my wish list, I find this:

Pretty sure my iTunes wish list alone has doubled in the past twenty-four hours. Music Day is about to become insanely awesome (pending another iTunes card).

Today's is kind of thrown together (I type this at 10.48 pm and have yet to pick a song), so said awesomeness will probably be starting next Friday.

So... *scrolls through iTunes madly* ... how have you all been? Any cool stuff going on in life? Any moments that just made your day? Any life-altering realisations?

Okay, found a song.

This is, I think, one of this man's finest vocals, both solo and with Petra. It's one of my favourite performances from him, at any rate. (The guitar work is pretty good too.)

Title: Can't Get Away
Artist: John Schlitt
Album: Unfit For Swine
Year: 1996
Label: Word
iTunes here; YouTube here.
Support the artist -- CD available on his store here. (Full lyrics, production credits, and album preview also available on this page.) I personally have purchased several items from this store at different times, and the service has always been excellent. The CDs are top quality too... no namby-pamby Staples-special blank discs with a cheesy single-sheet track listing in a cheap case. These things are store-quality.

So there you go. Tune in next week (assuming I happen to remember what day it is on Friday) for music that's new and exciting in my world...

11 February 2013

The Problem With My Church

I've ranted before about the church -- both the specific church I attend and the church in general. I've gone on and on about the apathy, the cliques, the exclusion, the frustration of disorganised people and (the worst) people who say they'll do something and don't follow through, often texting me at the absolute last possible second -- oh sorry can't make it, can you fill in for me?

Sure -- except I'm also filling in for about six other people right now. Get off your lazy butt and keep your word.

Yesterday though, two things happened.

One: Yesterday was the official farewell service for our associate pastor and his family. Two: The White Heart Facebook page (you just knew they'd show up in here sooner or later) posted a status asking what is one thing we'd like to change about our churches.

I have to set up the first one a bit. The previous associate pastor had been phenomenal. He pretty much single-handedly introduced me to the real God -- not the sadistic white-bearded 'God' of popular imagination, the real, holy, beautiful God. It's thanks to that pastor's work that I still attend church at all.

So when he left and the next associate pastor came in, naturally our standards were very, very high. Perhaps too high, especially since this one was fresh out of Bible school. Of course, it took him some time to get a handle on the job and it took me even less time than to dismiss him as sub-par (it sounds so horrible when I write it out now, but it didn't seem so bad in my head).

For two years I mostly just tolerated him. Looking back, he implemented some really great stuff that I personally am genuinely thankful for, but I didn't see that. All I saw were the times when he would cancel something and tell everyone involved but me. The times where he would be leading the song service and I would be on PowerPoint and he would randomly change the order of service on the fly, leaving me scrambling and the congregation completely lost.

But today, at the farewell service, several very different people got up and talked about their memories with him and his wife. All of these people had nothing but gratitude in their hearts and in their words. And it wasn't just because the pastor was leaving and they wanted to make it look good -- no, they meant what they said. Every one of those people confirmed each other's statements in their own previously prepared speeches. Every one of them saw his creativity, his passion, his desire to help people.

And I got to thinking: if they all saw the same thing... then I'm the one in the wrong.

Here I had been all high-and-mighty. At least I tell everyone when plans change. At least I arrive at meetings on time. At least I know what I'm doing.

What I failed to realise until this farewell service was that it wasn't that he didn't know what he was doing -- he was just doing it differently than I would have. Different, but not necessarily wrong. After all, he accomplished a lot of stuff in two and a half years -- far more than I would have in his position, that's for sure.

Suddenly I began to realise what I had missed, simply because I was too busy picking apart his flaws to see his strengths. I was ashamed -- for the words I've spoken behind his back, for the thoughts of fury in my mind when his spontaneity clashed with my 'perfect' PowerPoint presentation and made me look like an idiot in front of 175 people. Note the use of the word 'me' in that sentence. It was all about me. He was making me look stupid. He wasn't up to my standards. He was more of a relational person, rather than the theology nerd I wanted.

I was so focused on how he was 'ruining' my plans that I didn't bother to look at him.

Exhibit two: the Facebook status.

I re-read the status after I posted my (severely self-censored but still lengthy) rant on it and noticed it said one thing you like about your church and one thing you wish would change. I had put down two things and three, respectively. Oops.

First up was the clique issue. There's a lot of venom behind this one. I spent five years wasting my time and energy and my parents' gas money attending youth group only to go completely unnoticed. Eventually one of them finally told me I was stupid and annoying. I stopped attending youth group and began plotting my own demise in earnest. If the Christians couldn't love me, nobody could.

Next up -- the 'college and career' group they just started. Oh wait, did I say 'college and career'? How quaint! How stupid one must be to think 'college and career' actually means 'college and career.' Hah! What a joke! What a laugh! And you thought you would actually be with likeminded people. Oh, you poor sap, Kate. How innocent you are!

Welcome to the 'college and career and junior high and senior high and whoever the freak else wants to join because you 18-and-over people aren't actually that important to us -- it's much more fun with the young people there too. You know, the ones who aren't yet being bullied by their relatives into making more money right freaking now and moving out when you're not yet self-sufficient and are still perfectly content with you finishing your education before they cram all that you're-an-adult-now crap down your throat' group.

The third rant I already mentioned at the beginning of this post (the one about people volunteering and then un-volunteering at the absolute last possible millisecond).

I posted the comment, but as I reread it, I started to feel doubly ashamed of myself.

For starters, my first two rants are embarrassingly polar opposite. I hate the cliques -- yet I'm angry that this group doesn't get to be clique-ish. Put another way, I hate the cliques... except when they include me. Then I will whine and argue and fight to the bitter end to keep it exclusive. Way to be all-or-nothing, kid.

So what's the problem with my church?

The problem is me.

I'm a selfish brat. Everything that I see as being wrong with the church stems from how much it inconveniences me. Are there issues with the church? Definitely. Do they need to be worked on? Absolutely. But maybe before I start demanding they fix everything that inconveniences me, I should let Jesus fix me first. How can I expect others to be open and loving and perfect if I'm not? I mean, I already knew I wasn't perfect, but somehow I was still expecting everyone to do everything my way. How can I sit and whine about everyone else expecting everyone to pander to their tastes when I'm expecting them to do the same thing for me?

Is this the church of Kate or the church of God?

08 February 2013

Music Day

I haven't posted anything in over a week. Can you tell I'm coming off a creative-deadline month? Right now I'm at that crash point where I don't want to do anything creative -- no writing, no choreography, no photography, no nothing, just sit and... I don't even know what. Listen to music and daydream about the next fantastic piece of choreography, mostly.

I re-discovered this song a couple weeks ago when it was played on classicchristian247.com. I didn't really pay attention to the lyrics at the time, but I remembered the tune from my childhood. That soaring vocal in the chorus...

So I went to iTunes and holy crap, they actually have it available!

Before I buy a song, I Google the lyrics -- even if it's a 'Christian' song. Labeling your song a 'Christian' song is a really fantastic way to indoctrinate Christian music fans with all sorts of hackneyed and questionable-at-best theology. Most Christians won't pay attention to the content, and even if they did, most of us don't read our Bibles enough to have a hope of spotting the errors (at best) or blatant lies about the Lord (at worst). You can never be too careful.

So anyway, I Googled the lyrics and as I'm reading them I'm silently screaming, 'Yes! Yes! Yes!'

This is exactly the song we should make our anthem, especially here in Canada. Because despite what our national anthem says, we are no longer truly free. And we are just sitting here on our lazy butts and taking it!

Now, I'm not really a fan of this band. I can only take the lead singer's voice for about ten minutes before I go find something else (*cough* Rick Florian). But this song is spot-on. These guys got it.

And it would do this planet a world of good of a lot more people got it too.

Title: For Future Generations
Artist: 4Him
Album: The Ride
Year: 1994
Label: Benson Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

I won't bend and I won't break
I won't water down my faith
I won't compromise
In a world of desperation
What has been I cannot change
But for tomorrow and today
I must be a light
For future generations...

01 February 2013

National Choreography Month Recap

So what was my first-ever official National Choreography Month like?

Pretty amazing. I (just barely) completed eighteen minutes and thirty-six seconds of choreography. That's roughly half my output over the previous ten months all over again. In thirty-one days.

It was kind of stressful at times, and I certainly wouldn't demand four full dances of myself every single month (not at this point), but I'm really surprised what kind of gold my brain churned out even under such pressure.


Climb The Hill (White Heart) (choreographed in five days) -- Once I adjusted to the idea of the weird rhythm phrasing, I had a lot of fun with this one. It turned out very well, I think, except in the last minute or so (it kind of fell apart after Rick's verse). Still, once that minute gets an overhaul, it should be nearly stage-worthy...

Unchain (White Heart) (choreographed in ten days) -- Oh. My. Goodness. And I thought I liked this song before. Listening to it pretty much every waking moment for a full week, catching all the nuances of the instruments and the vocal track as they were repeatedly poured into my brain through the headphones... oh my goodness. It's like floating on a cloud, it really is. And the lyrics themselves are breathtaking -- so honest, so real. How are these phenomenal people not still creating stuff together? Seriously.
Oh, the dance? Well, that turned out pretty well too. I'm very excited about it. It was kind of a departure from my usual style -- less balletic (I refuse to say the word 'contemporary') (and anyway, there's no floor work in it, so it's not contemporary). But it turned out so emotional, so delicate. Three people -- one leading most of the dance and two moving softly, echoing in the background, all working off each other... on the right threesome, this would be a stunning, stunning piece to watch.
Creatively speaking, I grew a lot in this piece -- in my style, my voice, my ability to feel the song. It's not a pure technical showcase, like my earlier stuff was (Sing Your Freedom, anybody?). Certainly, technique is a requirement, but it's not pure straight-up technique this time. There's room for the dancers to put a little soul into it.

Fly Eagle Fly (White Heart) (choreographed in seven days) -- This one was pretty personal for me. It's a dance for two, and the faces I see are my own and that of a close friend. Last year was really cruel to her, and it took a lot of time and love for her to get back on her feet again. She's doing much better now, and you see that at the end of the dance -- both of them are dancing together, but the first dancer, while still at the second dancer's side, is slowly giving her a little more space, watching as she grows in confidence and begins to soar on her own again.
Creatively speaking, a lot of the let-it-breathe-don't-micromanage lessons I learnt with Unchain are still apparent. Make no mistake, this is a classical ballet dance, but feeling the vocal dynamic was very present here as well. Emotion factors heavily into this one too (perhaps even more so than in Unchain) because of the personal story behind it. Again, performed by the right people, this will be a really good piece to watch.

The Dance (Servant) (choreographed in nine days) -- Probably the closest thing to pure jazz I've written to date. And apparently my jazz knowledge can be summed up in the following list: jazz hands, skip-change-of-step (and I'm not even sure that's jazz), turned-in stuff, lindy, and ball change. So guess what the dance is chock-full of. I'm not as proud of it as I am of, say, Unchain, but this is also a completely different song. It should be fairly easy to teach, anyway -- after all, it pretty much consists of jazz turns, lindy-ball-changes and skip-change-of-step. Having more people in it makes it look like there's more to the dance than that, though (there's my pro-tip of the week. You're welcome).

Now to pick another song upon which to bestow my newfound depths of soul-baring emotion (or so I hope). I have a shortlist of about twenty songs that were in the running for National Choreography Month to choose from... The other day I was considering Raging Of The Moon (White Heart), because it's a dance for a large group and I haven't done a big epic group dance like that since Speechless back in September-October. However, I also have a neat little solo in my head for Eighth Wonder (take a guess), and as I just scrolled through the list of candidates, Michael Card's Chorus Of Faith jumped out at me, so we'll see...

In the meantime, I have two solos and a trio to memorise for the purpose of auditioning (this Sunday... who, me? Procrastinate?) and a pointe combination and my role in a piece at dance team to practice.