Dancing with Baba – An Artist in Residency Apprenticeship

arthur-hall-dance-apprenticeshipIn the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share the story of my apprenticeship with master dancer and choreographer Arthur Hall. Arthur was one of the pioneers of Afro-American dance. I met him in 1996 and joined his International Dance Company. This community organization performed in my hometown region of midcoast Maine.

Dancing with Arthur was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I’d never danced so hard or with so much intensity. I remember holding my wrists under the running tap water (a futile attempt to lower my body temperature…)

Dancing with Arthur was exhilarating and set the bar well beyond any of the classes that I took in my first year of college as a dance major. I took a leave of absence and moved back to Maine.

mbm-yanvalluAt that point the International Dance Company was starting to dissolve. Many of the older dancers felt that their bodies weren’t holding up. So Arthur offered me an apprenticeship position with his African Festivals in American Schools residency program. A quote from his Obituary speaks to his teaching ability:

As captivating a dancer and as unique a choreographer as Arthur was, he is perhaps most widely loved and remembered as a master teacher. He has taught classes for thousands upon thousands of people over the past half century, from the most strenuous technique classes for professional dancers to the gentlest call-and-response classes for kindergartners, Arthur was gifted with an ability to read his students and tailor his classes to individual needs. His therapy classes for the physically or mentally disabled were always joyful, and frequently produced near-miraculous results.

Arthur spent forty years developing his residency program. I spent three years traveling with him throughout Maine, Arizona and New Hampshire. We worked with thousands of people, primarily elementary and middle school students.

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My responsibilities included assisting Arthur with large (50+ student) classes, co-leading warm ups, directing group exercises, and working with individuals and small groups of students. I performed solos from the International Dance Company’s repertoire and coordinated student dance performances.

It was a life-changing experience. I have a distinct memory of standing on a playground with Arthur surrounded by a sea of children. They were trying to hug us all at once so we couldn’t move. This was the kind of effect that he had on people.

arthur-teachingArthur was like a grandfather (Baba) to me. We spent countless hours together at restaurants and bars. To get me in the door he’d tell the bouncer that I was his daughter. It was a blessing and an honor to spend time with him.

I assisted Arthur throughout his battle with colon cancer. He was hospitalized at the end of a stretch of Arizona residencies. I substituted for that last week. It was essentially my final exam.

Arthur passed away in July of 2000. I attended four memorials in Maine, New Hampshire, Philadelphia and Arizona. It was heartbreaking but I am so very grateful for his influence in my life.

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Mr. Wande Abimbole, Awise Awo ni Agbaye (Spokesperson of Ifa in the Whole World)

I tried to continue Arthur’s work with the New Hampshire Arts Council but they informed me that I needed forty years of experience or a college degree. So I went back to college to become a dance teacher. My life took some interesting turns which led me to become a yoga teacher.

Coming Full Circle

Dance is my first love and I’ve been searching for a way to begin to teaching dance again. I’m very happy to announce that I have found a way to do so. Stay tuned for more details…

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ILE IFE: House of Love from Ile Ife Films on Vimeo.

Home Rituals – Bone Broth

 

Bone broth beef noodle soup

The cold weather is here! The temperature drop and shorter days can make us feel like flying south or hibernating. Depending on our perspective winter can be a harsh trial to endure or it can be an invitation to increase our resiliency.  

I’ve fled the cold weather at various times in my life, mainly because I didn’t know how to adjust my diet and lifestyle. After learning some basic rules of thumb my whole perspective of winter has changed. Taking care of my body allows me to feel more in tune with nature. So now instead of viewing winter as a harsh obstacle I see it as an opportunity to slow down and increase my energy reserves.

Yoga helped me begin the process of tuning into my body at this time of year. Some of my lifestyle practices include:

  1. Minimizing my exposure to artificial light at night
  2. Using candles and LED bulbs
  3. Resting when I’m tired
  4. Waking up with the sun
  5. Drinking lots of hot fluids
  6. Keeping my body well-insulated
  7. Building immunity through my diet
  8. I never get a flu shot (elderberry syrup for the win)

Food is my medicine.

Bone broth is a fairly recent addition to my culinary arsenal. I learned about bone broth when I was working in New York City. I loved going to Chinatown and one of my favorite places to eat was a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that makes hand-pulled noodle soups. I’ve been hooked on that flavorful and nutrient-rich broth ever since.

This article provides a good overview of the health benefits of bone broth from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective: How Bone Broths Support Your Adrenals, Bones and Teeth

It’s very easy to make bone broth.

Save leftover bones (I use organic chicken bones), place them in a pot with filtered water and add a splash of vinegar to aid in mineral extraction. You can also add a bay leaf or some vegetable scraps for flavor. Onion peels give bone broth a warm yellow color.

Bring the broth to a boil and then simmer for a minimum of 4 hours (or up to 24 hours). The longer you simmer the more nutrient dense it will be so add water as needed. You can use a crock pot or cook it on low on the stove. Either way your house will smell fantastic!

Some people try to keep their broth clear but it’s okay if it turns cloudy. Strain the cooled broth through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the particulate. Store the strained broth in glass mason jars in the fridge where it will keep for about a week. Bone broth is a great addition to soups, stews and any recipe that calls for stock. You could also try making your own version of the latest health trend in NYC – a steaming cup of bone broth.

What’s your favorite way to use bone broth? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Homemade bone broth soup

 

Self Teacher Study – Find Your Yoga

So I thought I’d share the story of when I first started practicing yoga. I didn’t like it AT ALL and left my first class thinking that yoga just wasn’t for me. This was back before yoga became popular and I was living in my small hometown in Maine. One day I was walking down main street and saw a sign advertising ‘Free Yoga.’

I decided to give it a try… 

I was completely at a loss. The teachers were chanting the whole time and didn’t offer any kind of introduction or provide any printed lyrics to read from. I sat there breathing the heavy incense smoke and feeling totally awkward until it was time to leave. Now I know that I’d stumbled upon a Kirtan, but without any idea of why we were doing this practice it was a pretty tough way to start out.

I left that class thinking that yoga was not for me. 

It took a few years before I tried taking another class. This time it was with a different teacher at another studio. The format was much closer to something that I could wrap my mind around. It was like a gentle dance class and the final meditation was simply wonderful. The teacher was a sweetheart who would always greet her students with a hug. The gems of wisdom that she taught made a lasting impression on me.

After a few classes I was hooked and it became my mid-week ritual. I wanted to share the experience but couldn’t find anyone to go with me. I remember stopping by the town bar before class and trying to rally a few friends to go with me (yeah, no luck there). People were either too tired or just not interested. So I kept going by myself every week.

I recently met a woman who told me point blank that she doesn’t like yoga. She’d only been to one class and said that was enough for her. She coaches a high school girls basketball team and believes that she’s too competitive for yoga. She also admitted that she didn’t like being singled out by the teacher who was giving corrections during class.

I completely understand where she’s coming from, but I still hope that she can find her way to another class someday. She could probably benefit from one-on-one training, where she wouldn’t have to worry about feeling competitive or embarrassed. Ultimately she is the only person who is going to change her mind.

This is a common issue with group yoga classes, where first timers decide to try a class with no idea of what to expect and get burned out from the experience. If you’re new to yoga I encourage you to try a few different styles. You might find this flow chart handy as it could give you an idea of what kind of yoga class would be right for you.

What was your first yoga class like? Was it enjoyable or was there something about it that didn’t suit you? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below:

Flow Chart Yoga