Saturday, May 29, 2010

Foot Update

So... Last Saturday I was upstate and decided to go running that beautiful sunny morning.

About five minutes in, I realize I've gone the wrong way and make a sharp turn on my right heel. And then I feel -- and hear -- a sharp POP in my right heel. For a brief crazy moment I consider "running it off." And then the pain starts.

I limp back.

Fast foward a few days of clinc, ER and podiatrist visits and I learn that I have a heel spur -- a little "hook" of bone which can form at the bottom of the heel, where it connects to the plantar fascia, a tough tendon which helps maintain the arch of the foot.

The spur tore through the plantar fascia, which most likely was the "pop" I heard. Fortunatetly, the foot was not very discolored or swollen when I first saw a doctor later that evening, so it he concluded that the rupture was not disabling. But it was painful.

(Interestingly, the deep-tissue tear caused a pool of blood (hematoma) to well close to the ball of my foot a few days later, even though the injury itself is on the heel.)

Since the doctor I saw on Saturday evening at the Brooklyn DOCS clinic could not take an X-Ray, he advised me to return on Monday.

But, as I learned Monday morning, it turned out that the only DOCS radiologist who took my insurance was on vacation for the week. So that left the Brooklyn Hospital Emergency Room.

Six hours and a minor melt-down later, an X-ray revealed the offending spur.

The treating physician gave me crutches and stronger pain meds and set me up to see a podiatrist in their clinic the following morning (Tuesday)

I arrived a few minutes early to the clinic (a major achievement for me, especially in my state of limp-dom) to find an extremely long, slow registration line and an absent attendant.

Fortunately, I looked pathetic enough to get the attention of one of the medical staff. I showed her my discharge papers and gave her my insurance card. She led me to an administrator's office where he called my insurance company and, after a ridiculously long succession of voice mail prompts, learned the clinic didn't take my insurance anyway.

I had to go to a network podiatrist, but the one my primary care physician referred didn't even answer the phone.

I called another doctor friend who referred me to a pod in midtown -- who, thankfully gave me an appointment on Thursday.

And this doctor gave me good news and bad news.

The good news: Pain notwithstanding, he injury is not serious and should heal with rest -- AND I don't need crutches.

The bad news: Since the injury is on my heel, I need to keep pressure off that part of the foot. Which means wearing this ridiculous weight-distributing Stormtrooper boot for four weeks.

Ah well. Life could definitely be worse.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yet More Thoughts About Body Image: Getting Lost in the Mirror

When we first produced PURE Reflections, I had learned about a site called The Belly Project, which seeks to create some perspective about that most preoccupying body part -- the belly.

"Our bellies," the site creators, Karen Rayne and Midwife Christy Tashjian, observe in the blog's "About" blurb, "are intimately related our sexuality and to our reproductive lives. ... So, with that in mind, this blog is a place to come and put our bellies in perspective and to share them anonymously with the great wide Internetz."

I contacted Dr. Rayne and told her about PURE Reflections, and she very kindly posted an article, Dancing Through Body Image, on her personal blog.

In it, she quotes Dr. Rita Freedman, whose book Bodylove had provided a cornerstone for the show's development: "A mirror can be a friend or a foe, a source of bodylove or shame, depending on how you view your image."

A few days later, a comment appeared: "Thinking about that quote... Maybe we’d be a little healthier if we didn’t pay so much attention to ourselves, negative or positive?"

This got me thinking about our culture of self-help, self-image and self-obsession. Is the "mirror" more harm than good? And does it serve us to resist it's pull on our consiciousness?

Many months later, I posted the following response:

Alice, your comment reminds me of the old joke about the guy who tells his doctor, "It hurts when I raise my arm." And the doctor says, "Then don't raise your arm."

Ideally, it would be great if we (meaning young women, in particular) were not so preoccupied with body-image. But the fact is that we are -- because our development of a healthy self-image is severely impaired in adolescence.

During the very time of life when our sense of identity should be most flexible, most adventurous, we are bombarded by over-sexualized, unrealistic and rigid images of what a female body should look like in order to be valued and loved.

While some of us are lucky enough to have friends and/or family to sufficiently "mirror" our essential selves as our personalities boil, seethe and ultimately solidify into an internally-based, healthy sense of identity, many of us do not.

Without an authentic, internal self-image, many of us are left forever searching the world around us to tell us who we are and what we should be, and forever condemning ourselves for not living up to impossible images.

This is the psychological equivalent of missing huge chunks of skin or musculature which, on the physical level, provides our viscera containment and definition; it is organ through which to relate to the world.

Without a sense of identity, we are helpless and in pain.

And denial of pain -- as you suggest -- does not heal the injury; it merely covers the wound to leave it fester.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More Thoughts About Body Image: Wallace & Gromit-Style

Here's a really cute video I came across recently which animates real-life interviews with Wallace & Gromit-style claymation.

Note, in particular, the difference between how the men view and feel about their bodies and how the women do (especially in interviews where men are not present).

This eyebrow-raising exchange between a mother and daughter starts around 3:20:

Interviewer: What do you think her best feature is?
Mother: Her ... best physical feature?
Interviewer: Yeah.
Daughter: Oh, oh no! I just cringe! I just don't know what she's going to say and it's freaking me out!
Mother: I don't even know what I'm gonna to say...
Daughter: See! Yes, my mother! This is my mother!
Mother: Her best physical feature ... is ...
Daughter: Oh!
Mother: ... the shape of her body. Her long waist...
Daughter: (snorting) That's what you alway--
Mother: ...and her big boobs.
Daughter: Mother!!
Mother: The shape of her body. You know she's ... she has ...
Daughter: Underneath the fat...
Mother: Yeah...
Daughter: Right.....

And then, of course, there is the issue of how the women view the men (as opposed to how the men view themselves), which comes up with the Sean Connery comment at the beginning ... and the "fig leaf" comment at the end ... Ouch ...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thinking About Body Image, Form and Movement

Halfway through Tuesday, I'm still riding the dizzying high of this past weekend's adventures with PURE, at the gorgeous Dragon's Egg in Connecticut. (I highly recommend this space, by the way, for workshops, performances, and all around meditative-feeling-goodness.)

We remounted PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined, and conducted a workshop in Body Love, leading participants through exercises exploring both positive and negative voices that affect body image -- and inspiring laughter, tears and lots of joyful, unselfconscious dancing.

Towards the end of the workshop, one of the New England dancers remarked that it took a few years of bellydancing -- of seeing women in all shapes, ages and sizes moving beautifully and joyfully -- for her to "get it":

Beauty is not about form, it's about feeling. It's the joy we feel as we dance, or as we watch a dancer embodying and expressing music through movement.

Archetypally, the feminine IS movement.

Think of the waxing and waning moon, never the same from day to day, but still recognized as itself in spite of (or perhaps because of) its mutability.

The feminine knows that the truest image never appears discretely in any static moment; rather the unseen whole emerges over time. If we do not have a developed feminine sensibility, we tend to focus on the moment-to-moment expression of ourselves or others, judging it against a static image of "what should be."

During those moments when we seem to match our ideal image, we may inflate with rapture; but during those moments when we fail, we can just as easily collapse in despair.

If, on the other hand, we can perceive the varying and often contradictory expressions of ourselves and others as parts of a larger whole which we have gleaned over time, then we are less likely to condemn or inflate severely, allowing us to feel whole, healthy and stable as varying images of ourselves are reflected back to us.

But true to its nature, this elusive sensibility can't be taught directly. Words can point the way, and dance classes workshops can provide the forum, but it can only be experienced and developed over days, months and years.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!!

When I was 21 I wrote a silly little poem as a Mother's Day gift.

I don't remember the name of it, or if it even had a title other than "To Mom" or "For Mom," but I recall the text very well as, even years later, I continue to be astonished at how much moms put up with.

So, with love and admiration for my my wonderful Mom, and for moms everywhere:


Labor pains
And diaper stains,
Loud, endless crying fits.

Potty training,
More complaining --
It must have been the pits!

Though years of caring
Seemed quite wearing
When I was only five

You held the chore
For sixteen more --
Ma, how did you survive!?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Everybody's Got One: How to Review the Reviewer

"Never read the reviews!" was a frequent warning around my old theater company.

Whether an ego-boost or sucker-punch, a review can severely distort an artist's perception of both self and work.

If, however, a critique is honest, perceptive and thoughtful, even the most damning review can provide useful feedback.

How, then, does the tender artist separate the wise (if unpleasant) expert opinion from the clueless praise or petty ravings of the unqualified opinionista? (Note, incidentally, that indiscriminate praise can be just as damaging as criticism.)

While it goes without saying that a reviewer should be a decent writer and have some knowledge of the art form being reviewed, a good critic must have enough self-awareness to discern and account for his/her own prejudices and expectations of an art form, and the influence those factors may have on his/her subjective experience of a work.

For example, a good critic might say, "This wasn't my cup of tea, but it was very well done," or could admit, "I enjoyed this, although it was artistically mediocre", and then be able to offer objective, specific, informed explanations both for his/her reaction and artistic appraisal.

But too often even the most experienced reviewers are so consumed with an idea of what they think a work should be, or with their own unconscious predilections, that they cannot accurately perceive it in the first place.

Scottish author A.L. Kennedy observes of book reviews that they "... end up being about the reviewer's idea of the author ... or even some kind of personal issue the reviewer is working through."

Such was the case with the Columbia Spectator's recent review of PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined.

Although our program and promotional literature clearly describe the show as a "theatrical dance drama" this misbegotten scribbling was titled: "Show Promises Bellydance but Focuses More on Story than Movement".

Worse, its subtitle read, "Although 'PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined' passed itself off as a belly dance show, it was not much of a dance performance at all."

As if this weren't enough, the writer, Columbia undergraduate Diane Wang, digs the hoe of her disappointed expectations deeper in the opening line, "Students who attended last night's 'PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined' solely to experience the art of belly dancing may have been sorely disappointed."

After this initial sucker-punch, the article proceeds with an indifferent account of the show's action.

Her one debatably positive statement describes "a moving progression of women's birth to maturity...." yet it is not clear whether "moving" applies to the show's progression or its emotional effect on her.

Indeed her opinion dully returns again and again to her singular disappointment at not seeing enough dance, even though she acknowledges that when the climactic drama is resolved we celebrate by "dancing through the end of the performance" (which was about one-third of the show).

She criticizes our use of props -- claiming that their use, as well as "pantomime, music, and the background montage ... distracted the audience." Yet music is integral to any dance show, and pantomime is integral to non-verbal theater.

And while the background montage was admittedly intense, we only used one prop -- a mirror for each of the four "Self" characters depicted.

Indeed, in one scene we did not use the mirror at all, employing dance entirely to suggest its presence. Of course her review did not mention this scene at all, concluding merely that, "The show overall lacked an emphasis on dance."

Now, while we would love to express the story's complex psychological narrative entirely in dance, the fact is that the kind of bodily expression such a performance would entail eludes even highly skilled professional companies.

And PURE is not that.

As is stated in all or our literature, and reiterated at the beginning of the show by our director, Dixie Fernandez, and even acknowledged by Ms. Wang immediately after her initial criticism: "PURE is not a conventional belly dance troupe. It is a troupe made up of real women—attorneys, professionals, interpreters, and even school vice principals—who care about and support each other and express themselves through belly dancing."

And while of course we continually develop our dance skill, our chief offering is not deftly dazzling dance, but rather real-life, raw, emotional honesty expressed through dance.

The message of "PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined" -- and indeed the message of PURE itself -- is that dance is a transformative, beautiful art. And it is for everyone.

This must be the starting point for any useful critique of our work, from which its execution and effectiveness can then be judged.

But to simply say that there should have been better or more "expressive" bellydance is useless, irresponsible and ultimately hurtful -- both to the members of PURE as well as potential audience members who may now be negatively influenced by her words.

And it makes me wonder if Ms. Wang would have simply preferred to see a different show altogether.

Or, rather, it makes me wonder if her own prejudices caused her to perceive a different show from the one we presented that night.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

March-April 2010 Events Archive

Friday, March 19th @9pm
Co-Hosting Akim Funk Buddha's Soul Cabaret "Funk Raiser"
The House of Yes
242 Maujer Street, Williamsburg (L to Grand Street)
$10 cover
No minimum

Friday, March 26th @7pm
Dancing and Emceeing in the Diana Tarkhan Gala
Lafayette Grill & Bar
54 Franklin Street (3 block south of Canal), NYC
$15 cover
$15 table minimum

Thursday, April 8th @ 6:30pm
Performing Stand-Up Comedy at the Broadway Comedy Club
In the Downstairs Room
318 West 53rd Street (btw 8th & 9th Aves), NYC
Reservations: 212-714-4513
(Note: this reservation line is for this show only.)
$12 cover/2-drink minimum

Sunday, April 25th @ 7pm & 9pm
Dancing in PURE's Groundbreaking Dance-Theater Work
PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined
Lerner Hall, Columbia University
2920 Broadway @ 114th St
$20 at the door
$15 advance