Sunday, November 25, 2012

Response to Kaeshi & Brad—Part X: Brad's "Delusional, Revisionist History"

The day after I posted my critique of PURE's War & Peace performance in an Open Letter to Kaeshi Chai, she sent a response that I understand made significant rounds through the internet. Since it contains many false and hurtful statements about me and others, I feel compelled to respond.

What follows is the tenth part of that response, which addresses claims made by Kaeshi's husband Brad, in support of her claims. For further info, please see:

Thanks for sharing, K____! 
It's pretty awesome to see all of your support and I agree with Alura's point that it's best not to encourage Carol. Ignore her. She's looking for attention so don't take anything she says personally. That said, I care a great deal about Kaeshi so its [sic] hard to stay silent and I want to share some thoughts with all of you.
Similar to Kaeshi, Brad feels entitled to look inside my mind and presume that I'm "looking for attention." This is an especially cheap shot, and one I would have thought unworthy of him. And, like his wife, he offers no basis for this, but simply declares it as fact.

To say someone "wants attention" is a way to infantilize and therefore discredit them: They are a screaming child who should be shunned (though I must question a culture that decides the best way to handle a screaming child is to shun/berate/shame them... but that is a matter for another time). And by saying "she's looking for attention" Brad and Alura attempt to play the role of adults even as they behave very, very badly, themselves.

First: Anyone who writes in a blog or on any social media does so with the hope their work will garner attention. Second: Anyone who dances in the street in costume is also hoping for the attention of an audience. In both cases, attention may be warranted; but this is different from "looking for attention" which implies generic attention is the primary motive. Third: Nothing I said in my critique was personal to the dancers of PURE. Rather I pointed out how what I knew to be Kaeshi's personal conflict was negatively affecting her professional work.

In my writing, I did call attention to what appears to be an abusive situation, where an organization that continues to use my work and name to promote itself seeks volunteer support as well as tax-deductible donations on the promise of creating work that unambiguously supports healing and peace.

Indeed, one of the PURE chapter facilitators expressed concern at being unable to find a venue in which to perform the War & Peace choreography, because her town is "not as progressive as New York." But any work with an "inspiring" and peaceful message should not need to be couched and contained in a special venue for special audiences.

At least, that has never been my understanding of work consistent with the goals of PURE.
It's very hard for me to imagine that Carol will ever find a greater champion, or defender, than Kaeshi.
Then Brad should stop imagining and pay attention to reality.

Kaeshi is not and has never been my "champion." She has availed herself of my professional services as an actor, director, and comedienne, and while I appreciate those professional opportunities, her acknowledgement and use of my skills does not make her my "champion."

And it is insulting to claim I need a "defender." The only defense I have ever needed in Kaeshi's "circle" has been against the unfair and unkind image of me she herself has created—the very image which can lead a lazy, susceptible mind to hear words like, "I don't want to let this fail" and return with, "You're sabotaging PURE."
Carol was given numerous performing and leadership opportunities ultimately leading to her involvement in the Reflections show that took her around the globe. Just read Carol's bio on her blog to see, in her own words, some of the opportunities she was offered through her involvement with PURE.
To begin with, my work on PURE Reflections is what made it into a workshop/performance experience that was worth taking around the globe—something PURE had never done before. And while this would not have happened without Kaeshi, it certainly would not have been possible without me. The recent lackluster "teen" production is a testament to my essential value to this show.

It is also worth noting that the main reason Kaeshi "gave" me "leadership opportunities" was that I was the only one in the group who was willing and able to step up as a leader for PURE when Kaeshi was not present (apparently a source of continuing resentment for my former co-Facilitator Alura), as well as do the bulk of work required to bring PURE Reflections to Japan, Taiwan, and Florida.

Further, it seems likely that the true cause of her rift with me was simply that I wanted to be fully credited for the work I had been doing for years.

And she never "championed" or gave me any special opportunity as a dancer, even though she had been my primary dance teacher.
Throughout the production of the Reflections show I would sit at home, well into the AM hours, and watch Kaeshi take calls, almost nightly, from dancers who were leaving or wanted to leave PURE directly because of Carols involvement. To be sure, Carol is an incredibly intelligent and gifted artist. Unfortunately, she's also very difficult to work with.
Brad asserts I am "very difficult to work with" but—in spite of the fact that I have worked with him harmoniously for six years, in PURE as both a dancer and musician (I led the drummers in Japan and Taiwan), and as his drumming student—he must reach three years into the past to conversations he wasn't a party to, about events he did not witness, to support this ridiculous claim.

If I were so difficult to work with, shouldn't he have some better example from his own experience to offer? He doesn't, because one doesn't exist.

It is all part of Kaeshi's Grand Fictional Reality.

Part of this fiction revolves around the tensions that emerged in PURE while creating PURE Reflections in 2009. Kaeshi was way over her head in this process—which became apparent when, even after months of exercises and explorations on body image, we still had no viable show two weeks before curtain.

Kaeshi had never created a theater show with a cohesive narrative.

I was the only person in the group with experience in theater as an actor, director, and writer. Interesting that Brad credits her with having "given [me] ... leadership opportunities," yet in spite of my extensive theatrical experience, Kaeshi brought in—and paid!—a "director," Dixie, an actor who had no directing experience whatsoever!

If Kaeshi were inclined to give me "leadership opportunities," why did she not ask me to direct in the first place? After all, I was already part of the process for free.

While Dixie offered some useful acting exercises, she had no idea how to create a narrative an audience could follow. Nor did anyone else, so this job fell to me—and I rose to it. But even then Kaeshi did not acknowledge my work during the process. If she had simply told the dancers, "Carol has over a decade of experience as an actor and director, so please respect her opinions," that would have eased the process for everyone.

But she didn't. This created consternation in the group, as they became confused and frustrated, not understanding why I was speaking up centrally, and why Kaeshi herself often deferred to my judgment. This, I suspect, would have been the real content of Kaeshi's alleged late-night discussions with PURE members, though I doubt whether she "defended" the importance of my role in this process.

And yet Kaeshi herself acknowledged my role in creating the narrative in the first email blast promoting the PURE Reflections, where she credited the show as "written by" me. She did this without asking me or anyone else involved in the show.

When I saw the mailing, I wrote back that I appreciated the "sartorial" credit for "sewing it together"—which I did. But suggested that "written" was not the right word and asked it to be changed to "story by," which is how it has been credited since, although now Kaeshi claims half of that credit for herself.

Unfortunately, the damage of the "written by" credit had been done: Almost immediately other PURE members wrote angrily that I had been credited unfairly. I wrote to some of them privately to clarify my role in the process, but Kaeshi made no effort to clarify this misunderstanding to the group. And it festered.

And since the members had never been part of this kind of creation process which, like any birth, is as painful as it is rewarding, nothing had prepared them for its difficulty, and nothing gave them closure when it was finished.

Although I knew there was stress in the group, and dealt with it personally as best I could (which was tricky not being officially a "leader" of the project), I had no clue that members were as upset as it now appears they were.

For Brad to mention three years later that the group was so upset that even he was aware of it tells me that Kaeshi woefully mismanaged their feelings. Rather than address their emotions honestly and directly in a group setting where grievances could have been aired and acknowledged, and clarifications given, she allowed me to be the lightning rod for their discontent—a disservice to me, the group, and the project itself.

So, not only did she undermine my leading participation during the creation process, when she finally acknowledged it, she did so in a way that caused enduring resentment towards me, and negative feelings on the whole.
It's been fascinating to see her spin a delusional, revisionist history where she is the martyr and Kaeshi is the inflexible tyrant.
It has been fascinating to see a thoughtful, intelligent, rational man capitulate entirely, sacrificing the reality of his own experience—indeed a reality available in the black-and-white text of Kaeshi's own emails—to support his wife's mendacious, self-serving narrative.

What is most fascinating is that the history I presented in my critique is not disputed even by Kaeshi herself!

She does not deny ejecting Liz and me from PURE with no recourse; she does not even deny that her behavior in Florida was inappropriate (she simply blames me for it). The only aspect in dispute is why she ejected us. And her version of events is easily refuted by her own emails to me and Liz.

And at no point do I refer to Kaeshi as a "tyrant," or even suggest her behavior was tyrannical. A tyrant imposes his or her will without qualm. Kaeshi shifts blame, lies, and makes excuses. So clearly she has qualms with her own behavior or she would not struggle so frantically to deny or deflect it.

She is less like a tyrant and more like a brat.
In my long history as a professional artist I can honestly say Kaeshi is one of the most compassionate and ego-free leaders I have ever collaborated with. 
Ummm... OK. Remember he is talking about his wife here. And what exactly does "ego-free" mean, anyway? Further, Kaeshi was most certainly not compassionate to me, Liz or, subsequently, the erstwhile PURE Orlando chapter leader Rita and her husband Robert, nor to the PURE Orlando chapter itself, which is still needlessly on "hiatus."

She was senselessly brutal to all of us.
She will offer another dancer the spotlight or give someone the opportunity to express themselves rather than impose her creative will and she is completely comfortable letting others choreograph when she is not present. Does Kaeshi want input as the Creative Director of PURE. Sure. Does she expect she'll be listened to when she's offering an idea. Understandably, yes, but she's also willing to listen if the other person is able to have a normal conversation. Does she expect to be people to bow at her feet and submit their will to her dictatorial desires. Of course not.
This is an even more fascinating paragraph, as nothing in it addresses anything I wrote. (Brad does, however, manage to take one nasty shot at me by suggesting I am not "able to have a normal conversation"—really, Brad, shame on you. This is so beneath you.)

Instead, out of nowhere, he goes on about Kaeshi's ego and "dictatorial desires."

Generally, when a person defends against statements that have not been made, they are in fact revealing their own opinions and perceptions. For example, if I say, "Do you like the color of this dress?" and you answer, "It's great! It doesn't make you look fat at all!" What you're really saying is: "Put the dress back, and put down the Doritos."

As it happens, Kaeshi does have a reputation of being controlling and dictatorial.

I have always considered this reputation to be unfair as in my personal experience she has been a very good collaborator, which is why PURE Reflections came out as well as it did. She challenged my perceptions and decisions just as I challenged hers. In many cases I deferred to her judgment, and in many others she deferred to mine; and in yet more, we met in the middle to create the best work possible. (An excellent example of this is the "Relapse" scene from PURE Reflections, which I will at some point write about as an example of the collaborative process at its best).

So not only did I not say or imply those things; my personal opinion is the complete opposite. Her ability to collaborate has nothing to do with her bizarre and irrationally cruel behavior during and subsequent to the Florida PURE Reflections project.

And Brad actually knows this, so it is even more strange and telling that he would go on at length to deny it here.
I'm sure you probably all know this already but be cautious of a forced or unsolicited opinion because there's usually unseen baggage attached. You're all smart, creative, vital folks and I trust you to seek the full story then make up your minds. And if you don't need the full story that's fine. Trust your heart. 
Although I don't appreciate the implication that I am inclined to force my opinion on others (generally, I'm not, though I suppose the initial post to the PURE thread on Facebook qualifies as an applicable exception, so touché, Brad), he is correct here that this situation does have quite a lot of baggage attached.

It has been an awful burden to carry around these many months and I am glad for the ability to set it down and sort it out here.

And I have appreciated the support and feedback of the many, many people who have followed me through this process, who have have found it in their hearts to seek the "full story," even when that story contains elements that are difficult to hear and that contradicts what they've wanted to believe.

I have especially been heartened to learn about the many friends who have been emboldened to stand up for themselves, to hold onto what they know to be true, even when that truth is inconvenient and may cause bristling discomfort to others.

There is more to be said on this in the final entry, but for now—on this weekend of Thanksgiving—once again, let me say THANK YOU!

To be concluded in Part XI: Final Thoughts (or If Lenny Bruce Had a Blog)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Response to Kaeshi & Brad—Part IX: The Inner-Warrior

The day after I posted my critique of PURE's War & Peace performance in an Open Letter to Kaeshi Chai, she sent a response that I understand made significant rounds through the internet. Since it contains many false and hurtful statements about me and others, I feel compelled to respond.

What follows is the ninth part of that response. For further info, please see:
(Kaeshi's letter, continued)
I believe that Carol's motivation with writing her public essay dissecting our 10 minute choreography is she wants to prove to the world that we are lost at sea without her "superior intelligence" as our compass to stay true to the message of PURE.
My motivation was stated directly in the introduction to the critique: I sought to demonstrate that the War & Peace performance "was [Kaeshi's] effort to come to terms with the conflict she felt towards me, but sadly it was ineffectual in its intended message of peace and reconciliation. While the presentation itself is enjoyable and entertaining ... it is senselessly violent and sadly off-the-rails from the message of PURE that I and others have embraced these many years."

I parsed the action of the piece and offered truthful and, where possible, unequivocally substantiated evidence to support my opinion.

Kaeshi does not offer any quote of mine to support her conclusion, yet blithely presumes to look inside my mind for motives regarding "superior intelligence" and PURE's "compass."

But applying a discerning eye to an art has far less to do with intelligence than it does with knowledge of that art, as well as uncompromising honesty and integrity. It is a skill I have taken decades to develop and have encouraged her and others in PURE to do the same.

That is all that is needed as a "compass to stay true to the message of PURE." And indeed, she herself proclaimed the piece would "explore the conflict between two sides escalating into war and the subsequent consequences, loss of life and eventual evolution to forgiveness, healing, peace and celebration..." which is very much in line with PURE's mission, proving the compass is intact and functioning.

Kaeshi is just not looking at it.
With very little time, we created an engaging and powerful dance piece that was wonderful to perform and witness.
Totally true. And I said so myself:  "[T]he choreography is indeed impressive and exciting; it is clear everyone worked very hard on it to a stunning effect." And Rita said so too. There was never any problem with the choreography; the only problem was with the narrative and whether the message was appropriate to PURE.
It allowed women who have suffered greatly in their lives to access their inner warrior and to have the courage to come out share that with others. It was a refreshing change of pace from the regular Foundation choreography (which has already been performed over and over for the last 8 years).
This may be, and it's a wonderful development—and as a student of martial arts myself I can attest that combative posturing is excellent to help women connect with "warrior energy." But since we don't walk through our lives with swords and staves at a ready stance, let me ask:

How does "[accessing the] inner warrior... [help those] who have suffered greatly in their lives ... to have ... courage"?

It is in this:

Our inner-warrior is the grounded, discerning part of ourselves that enables us to form and defend our own perceptions and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. It is not afraid to stand up against conflicting perceptions, nor is it afraid to seek further information that might newly inform those perceptions or beliefs.

It contains our strength and integrity; it honors our most trenchant observations and most powerful feelings. It can hold the inner world up to the outer, recognizing both, invalidating neither—giving voice to the inner, while fully hearing the outer—balancing, negotiating, defending, receiving with skillful equanimity.

Above all, the blade of the inner-warrior seeks truth; it can discern and cut away that which is false, whether that falseness comes from within or without. And when it comes from without, the inner-warrior will proudly face rejection from another in favor of its own hard-won integrity.

As War & Peace was being created, many dancers realized it was going off the rails. And some stood up and spoke truth to power.

It's a painful situation, and one in which I have not always fared so well myself. Rejection, ostracism, disconnection—for women in particular who are taught to please and comfort—these can be devastating consequences which persistently compel us to undermine ourselves, our own perception of reality, in favor of another's perception.

As women, we allow ourselves to be defined far too readily by the perceptions of others ... which gives others tremendous power over us. Powerlessness is the chief aspect of suffering, so our inner-warrior can indeed transform our suffering as we connect to its authentic power.

But just as Brené Brown warns that you can't selectively numb emotion, so too you can't selectively dull your warrior blade.

If you make a choice to accept another's version of reality above your own perceptions, above your own duty to learn the facts that might inform a truthful perception—for the sake of living in that person's world, playing in their playground, and availing yourself of their playthings—then your inner-warrior will become no more than a toy soldier with a paper blade that will crumple to a wad when you most need its strength.
I am proud of everyone and am incredibly thank you [sic] for the leap of faith and investment of energy and time to helping bring my vision to life.
The words "my vision" indicate that it was not a group creation, developed through months of exploration of the theme, but rather the enactment of her personal agenda.
I'm really sorry to drag you guys into this conflict. 
She says's she's "really sorry" but some odd 1,300 words later, this rings somewhat hollow.

Recall, again, most people receiving this email had no idea what she was talking about, some predictably responding, "I was just made aware of what's been happening from Kaeshi's email and this shocks me."

Kaeshi's first words describe an "attack" and so her most devoted friends understandably leapt to her defense—with no clue as to what they were defending against—lavishing effusive praise on Kaeshi, which strikes me as a highly manipulative exploitation of their affection.

Inasmuch as she needed to respond, she should have done so in a professional, respectful form that addressed the actual points I made in a forum in which I could respond if need be, rather than undertaking a semi-secretive, falsehood-laden wholesale assassination of  Liz's and my character.
My sincere hope is that Carol will heal from this, move on with her life and take her boundless energy and talent and start up her own group or project instead of channeling it into negativity toward me and PURE. 
Thank you in advance for listening to my perspective,
Given the overwhelming number of outright lies and savage accusations in this letter, the words "sincere," "hope," and "heal" seem a bit out of place.

I have been alternately irritated and amused by Kaeshi's repeated "hope" that I "heal" from injuries she, herself, remorselessly caused (but takes no responsibility for having caused), and then her dovetailing praise ("boundless energy and talent") with recrimination ("negativity toward me and PURE").

And in this, the compliment becomes an insult, as she implies I am misusing my "energy and talent" by shining a light on her abusive and unethical behavior, characterizing my focus on justice as "negativity."

And then there is the lying.

Even here she manages to slip in one final untruth with her "hope...that [I]...start up [my] own group or project," when she knows full well that I have a self-written full-length touring solo theater show, dance frequently in solo and group performances, am active in musical improv, perform Shakespeare with an acclaimed theater company, have my own non-profit arts company, and teach!

Further, it is precisely because my creative and professional world is larger than PURE, Bellyqueen or even the bellydance community that I am able to speak up at all; everyone else who has been similarly mistreated has been cowed into silence for fear of harming their status in the dance community.

Once again, she paints a self-serving, derisive image of me to fit her wholly delusional version of reality.

Response to Kaeshi & Brad—Part VIII: Transgressions

The day after I posted my critique of PURE's War & Peace performance in an Open Letter to Kaeshi Chai, she sent a response that I understand made significant rounds through the internet. Since it contains many false and hurtful statements about me and others, I feel compelled to respond.

What follows is the eighth part of that response. For further info, please see:
(Kaeshi's letter, continued)
Regarding the issue of the ex-treasurer of PURE, Liz Free who she is also publicly accusing me of unfairly casting out, I will let the facts speak for themselves. Keep in mind that this is something I would prefer not to share, mostly for the Liz's [sic] reputation, but Carol continues to bring it up publicly so unfortunately, I can no longer remain silent. ... 
Once again, Kaeshi lies.

I had not ever, directly or indirectly,  in any public or semi-public forum, brought up any aspect regarding Kaeshi's allegations towards or treatment of Liz. Her false accusation that I "[continue] to bring it up publicly" seems intended to cast blame on me (again) for "forcing" Kaeshi's hand in disclosing the details of the matter.

But I have not, and I will not do this. I will, however, discuss Kaeshi's actions towards Liz and her shifting perspective on these allegations.

Since, therefore, this section of the letter contains Kaeshi's claims against Liz—which range from exaggerated to outright fabricated—I am redacting this portion.

Let it suffice to say that, yes, Liz transgressed. The degree of transgression is debatable, but let me offer these facts which, speaking for themselves, tell the story of a minor transgression and a questionably delayed yet vicious overreaction by Kaeshi:

(1) Liz did something that she knew Kaeshi had done many times.

(2) Kaeshi had never been clear with Liz or anyone else as to whether or not this act was permitted.

(3) Kaeshi discovered Liz's actions when Kaeshi, herself, undertook that very same action in early September.

(4) Kaeshi deemed Liz's actions to be a transgression and confronted her about it on Tuesday, September 13, 2011. Liz acknowledged her actions without defensiveness, denial or equivocation, further agreed to Kaeshi's definition of those actions as a transgression, and agreed to make restitution.

(5) Per Kaeshi's request, I and another member of PURE who specializes in these matters met with Liz in October to determine how best to repair the situation. Liz made partial restitution within a week of this meeting, with a promise of completion by the end of the year as her resources allowed (which, incidentally, she did).

(6) I discussed this situation with Kaeshi several times in September and October, and she agreed that Liz had merely made an error in judgment and, as such, Liz remained in her position as an Officer of PURE for three months.

(7) During the two weeks after her return from Florida's PURE Reflections, Kaeshi contacted me over a half-dozen times by email, voice, and text/Facebook messaging. Due to the abusive tone of these messages, I did not respond to them. The last of these messages arrived via Facebook on Tuesday, December 12 at 11:35pm.

(8) On Tuesday, December 12, 2011 at 11:50pm—fifteen minutes after her final message to me, and having not contacted Liz about the matter for three months—Kaeshi sent the following email to Liz:
We can approach this two ways, either we can be quiet and civil about it or I will press charges and share what you did with the rest of the community. What you did was a criminal act and there are consequences to your actions. 
I suggest you respond promptly to this e-mail or pick up the phone when I call you tomorrow...
Aside from the inappropriate abrasiveness of the tone, as well as the threat of defamation (which she has now made good on, blaming me in the process), note the implication that Liz had been ignoring her when, in fact, Liz had been responsive and proactive.

It was me who had been ignoring Kaeshi, not Liz. Yet her words suggest she had conflated us in her mind to be one person who did not "respond promptly."

The following morning, Kaeshi sent Liz two more similarly abrasive emails in quick succession claiming her actions "[qualify] as a felony."

(9) On Wednesday, December 13, 2011 at 1:36pm, Liz replied to Kaeshi, detailing the meeting with me and the other PURE member, what our assessment had been, and what Liz had to do to make amends. She pointed out that she had already done the agreed upon portion in October, and said explicitly when and how she would complete the work, and further added, "Yes I transgressed and I am sorry... However I am making restitution."

Liz also begged some compassion regarding the sudden deaths of her boss and of JeniViva, who had been her teacher, friend, and main influence in dance at that time, writing: "[A]s you can imagine the office is in a tailspin and today even more so ... between my Boss passing, the memorial and the grief I am still experiencing over the loss of Jeniviva I am very very distracted."

(10) Kaeshi replied with the following:
I was not present at the meeting with [Carol and the other PURE member] and am not in agreement [as to your full restitution]. 
First I need to embark on my own investigation and ... then I will come up with my own [assessment]. ... 
You have engaged in criminal activity, have broken my trust and friendship and betrayed the moral code of PURE. You are no longer welcome in my circle. If I hear from others about you speaking negatively of me, Jebon, PURE or Bellyqueen, I will not hesitate to share with them the truth of what happened.
Now, I reiterate, Kaeshi sent these threatening emails a full three months after the situation came to light, during which time Kaeshi let Liz believe that her apology and restitution were accepted, and that all was forgiven.

This cannot be stressed too strongly:  Kaeshi has claimed that she did not deal fully with the matter in September, October, and November because of her "overloaded schedule," but shouldn't something that warrants threats of arrest and public condemnation be dealt with quickly, fully, and finallly? If it were so serious, why did Liz remain an Officer of PURE during that entire time!?

And in the first two weeks of December, Kaeshi had had plenty of time to badger me with emails, etc. but did not contact Liz once about this purportedly serious infraction. It was only after she was not able to reach me that she directed her attention to Liz, a much more vulnerable member of the dance community from whom she knew she could compel a prompt response.

And so, by the whim of her own unchecked fury, Kaeshi reversed on Liz without warning and ripped her to shreds with silencing, blackmailing threats of arrest, defamation, and ostracism, should she dare to express her own perspective on the situation (or even a critical word about Je'Bon?!?).

I ask you: what kind of person does this??

And she continues ignoring or rebuffing Liz's most earnest pleas for kindness: "Kaeshi, I know you can be compassionate and you have a Good Heart. I Never [sic] meant to hurt you or PURE. I got stupid and I am very very sorry!!!"

I chose the more humane route of not pressing charges if she promised to [repair the damage]. ...[A transgression like this] is not OK, especially [in] a peaceful organization like PURE... She is a grown adult woman who has free choice over her own behavior. I do not want "friends" that take advantage of my trust in my circle and Yes [sic], I did ban her from the Bellyqueen School, PURE and Djam events because of her actions.
This content is addressed above, although notice the word "humane," which she also used in her private email to me of May 30, 2012:
I also confronted her multiple times and she simply ignored me. She only responded after I told her I would go to the police. I could have pressed charges and had her arrested but I chose the more humane course of action and decided to settle it ourselves. 
A word like "compassionate" or "merciful" would have sufficed, yet Kaeshi chose "humane"—most often associated with animals and executions—which indicates bestowing mercy worthy of a human on one who is not, or is undeserving of same.

In short, Kaeshi dehumanized Liz in order to abuse and shun her.

Note also in this paragraph Kaeshi's lie that "[Liz] ignored [her and ]... only responded...after [Kaeshi] told her [she] would go to the police."

Truth is a very flexible commodity in Kaeshi's world.

To be continued in Part IX: The Inner-Warrior

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Response to Kaeshi & Brad—Part VII: The Gangrened and Diseased Limb

The day after I posted my critique of PURE's War & Peace performance in an Open Letter to Kaeshi Chai, she sent a response that I understand made significant rounds through the internet. Since it contains many false and hurtful statements about me and others, I feel compelled to respond.

What follows is the seventh (!!!) part of that response. For further info, please see:
(Kaeshi's letter, continued)
The truth is, I also simply no longer wanted her in my circle at all. Period. I am much happier without her in my life and I liked who I was as a person much better without her presence. 
Again, this seems disingenuous, given her multiple requests to meet with me—which she rejected only when I requested a mediator who might challenge her world view. Then consider her subsequent conciliatory email, once again asking to meet—only this time with a mediator of her choosing—which I then rejected.

Now: This decision to improve one's happiness by removing another from one's life is something that should be looked at closely.

One of the great benefits of the New Age/Self-Help movement has been in providing a framework of autonomy: We learn that we choose much of our experience and therefore have the power to change it for the better.

But the key to choosing is taking responsibility for what we have already chosen. If we do not recognize what elements in ourselves have attracted unhealthy/hurtful relationships or patterns of experience then we are powerless to permanently change them.

And while excluding or removing ourselves from that which grieves us may create a powerful illusion of "choosing," we are much better served by remaining in relationship with the Other, and looking at ourselves squarely to grasp what compels us to reject them. Without out such humble, honest self-examination, then—even though expelling the unwanted person or situation may create an ego-boosting sense of happiness—the underlying cause is not cured. The internal pattern that attracted the experience in the first place is still operating and will likely attract a similar experience again.

Worse, if our decision to unfairly reject/exclude another then harms that person, our conscience should compel an added burden of guilt and shame. Further, if we attempt to suppress such negative emotions, we inevitably diminish our ability to experience positive emotions.

As Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who We Think We Should Be and Embracing Who We Are, wisely advised in her signature TED Talk "The Power of Vulnerability": "You cannot selectively numb emotion...shame...fear...disappointment. ...You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing the other...emotions. ... So when we numb...we numb joy...gratitude...happiness."

In other words, the very attempt to secure happiness by unjustly and remorselessly walling off another—defining that person as a thing to be shunned—in itself potently hinders our ability to feel the very happiness we sought!

Now, admittedly, there are hurtful, exploitative, callous people who perhaps can justifiably be shunned. Further, it is reasonable to have two fine, decent people who are simply better off apart.

But Kaeshi's own behavior proves that neither was the case because she needed to vilify me in order to excuse her unilateral rejection of me. It is not the act of dissolving ties that should weigh most on her conscience here, but the intent and manner in which it was done.

It hurt me terribly to learn she had defined me in this horrific way. But as I came to understand her view, I began to look at how I had defined her, how I had viewed her and what I had needed from her—and how that affected my ability to relate to her; I resolved that healing and reconnection might be possible if we could come to see one another clearly.

And so in May I wrote a letter to her saying:
For my own part, I have had my share of needs and insecurities as well, and you too have “a special way of getting to me.” As we have discussed, I do my best to deal with my challenges in this regard, but I am a human being with my own history of feeling neglected, wanting attention, lacking confidence, etc. And, as my teacher and artistic director, some of these more difficult aspects have been cast on you, giving you an inordinate amount of power over me—which I understand has been uncomfortable for you to deal with. ...
Truly, it breaks my brain to even attempt to comprehend the image you seem to have of me. ... Because whomever it it is, it is not me.
It is, in fact, yourself. 
There are many qualities that you ascribe to me which you, yourself, possess. But you can’t or won’t see them in yourself, and so you put them on me. ... May I suggest you write down a list of those qualities, both good and bad ... and meditate on that list. ... [Because] it is wholeness, being able to humbly see oneself as one truly is'warts and all' and accepting the difficulty and discomfort of thatwhich allows the ego to relax making compassion and compromise possible.
She wrote back:

Wow, this is quite an essay. I probably won't read it through because I'm really busy but I'm touched that you spent that much time writing it. 
At a glance I can see that you feel depressed, bitter and angry. 
I am saddened by it but I see it from a completely different point of view. It clear [sic] to me that you don't really know me at all and what motivates me to action. ... Even though your words are dripping with vehemence and hate toward me, I am still going to send you positive energy tonight.

This does not mean that I expected the same of others. I did not think less of mutual friends who stayed in communication with her. My decision for a break was mine alone.
She claims the "break was [hers] alone," yet she speaks of her "circle"—implying her decision would, in fact, affect the feelings and attitudes of others. And, indeed, it did as many felt forced to choose sides, either subtly distancing themselves from me, or supporting her in decisions and attitudes they knew would be professionally and personally damaging to me.
She has since twisted my words into untruths...
I quoted her verbatim and in context.
No, of course I do not blame my arm dislocation which happened last September on her... that's just ridiculous. I believe it was a physical manifestation of how overextended my schedule was last year. It was a major wake up call from the universe. Yes, I probably could have ended things better with her, I just felt like one of my limbs (connected to PURE) was so gangrened and diseased, it was much simpler to chop the whole thing off with a clean break from each other than start the slow and painful process of more mediation when we both did not both have the distance of time to cool our emotions and to establish a healthier perspective.
This is the strangest, most self-contradictory paragraph in the letter. Curious that it starts with the remark about "twisted words," because what follows twists itself into the most mindbending contortions.

First, she says she does not blame her arm dislocation on me. Yet three sentences later, she blames me!

Follow:  From this: "I just felt like one of my limbs (connected to PURE) was so gangrened and diseased..." I conclude that I, in fact, am the "gangrened and diseased [limb]...connected to PURE." (And let me tell you, you have not lived until you have been compared publicly to a gangrened and diseased limb!) And the universe's "major wake-up call" to Kaeshi is to "[end] things with [me]," which is conveyed somewhat dramtically via the dislocation of her shoulder.

So... If I am not around, the universe does not need to deliver any limb-rending messages, and her rotator cuff stays intact. Correct?

Ergo: I am to blame for the dislocation of her shoulder. (!!!)


So she dutifully heeded the universe's call to eject me, but did not seem to do much about her "overextended...schedule" which is more full than ever and caused her to miss many of PURE's War & Peace workshops exploring conflict cause and resolution.

Further, if her schedule were such a concern to her, would it make sense to cast out the very person who had been doing the lion's share of work for PURE? Had it not been for my high-level involvement, no production of PURE Reflections would have occurred in 2011.

Lastly, she speaks of a the need to "[chop] the whole thing off with a clean break", but inconsistently goes on about having "the distance of time to cool our emotions and establish a healthier perspective." At face, it makes little sense, but it is in fact consistent with what actually happened: She reached out once her emotions had cooled, but she showed no respect or concern for me or my emotions...

And how could I, with any self-respect, then reconnect with her?

To be continued in Part VIII: Transgressions

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Response to Kaeshi & Brad—Part VI: Violent Communications

The day after I posted my critique of PURE's War & Peace performance in an Open Letter to Kaeshi Chai, she sent a response that I understand made significant rounds through the internet. Since it contains many false and hurtful statements about me and others, I feel compelled to respond.

What follows is the sixth part of that response. For further info, please see:
(Kaeshi's letter, continued)
Anyhow, in Orlando last November, we remounted the PURE Reflections show where my own relationship with her was rapidly disintegrating, and unfortunately, it effected [sic] my ability to lead and be present for the rest of the team.
This is a big, fat, honking lie.

Kaeshi's "ability to lead and be present" was affected by her desire to visit Orlando's theme parks with her mother and two dancers from Taiwan.

In late October, she wrote the following to me in a Google chat:
My Mom is going to come to Orlando....She wants to see Disneyworld. I just booked her ticket ...  I would like to hang out with her at least two days, Thur and Fri... so I am happy to take a smaller role in the show. What do you think? Am I throwing a spanner in the works or is this doable? I don't even have to dance. I'm happy to help out.
Now this was a bit troubling because she always played a lead role—the "Relapse" Demon—plus Friday was the day before performance and always required a lengthy and rigorous rehearsal. But I assured her we would figure it out.

There was some consternation, however, with the Florida PURE Facilitators, who were upset by Kaeshi's request they pay her airfare even though her participation would be reduced. One wrote a panicked email to me, "Please call. We need to discuss an urgent matter regarding travel expenses."

I supported their position that they should not have to cover Kaeshi's airfare and, to my knowledge, she finally paid her own way.

There was another matter that "[affected her] ability to lead and be present for the rest of the team":  Bellyqueen had received negative feedback from its October tour, so she spent a good deal of our rehearsal time on her laptop or phone, preparing and promoting Bellyqueen's December performance.

Now, this placed extra burden on Pacita and me, but we understood her responsibilities to Bellyqueen. Also,  we understood that, since her mother had lived far away for many years, quality time was important to their relationship. So I never faulted her decision and agreed to let her arrive late to or leave early from rehearsals, as well as miss some rehearsals altogether.

And Kaeshi seemed to be all right with the lesser role herself... at first. But over the week, her resentment became palpable, not merely in her treatment of me, but in huffy comments about "only playing an Ocean Spirit."
After we returned, I requested a break from her, some time apart to reflect and heal.
This is largely false.

Two days after we returned, Kaeshi emailed me saying that the other PURE Facilitators might be "taking a hiaitus." She wrote, "[T]hen that leaves you, me and Liz Free. If this is the case, perhaps I will close PURE NYC down."

I didn't know what to make of this and guessed she was feeling guilty and angry about Florida, so I figured it would be best to give her some time to cool down. But the following week, she wrote again:
The Reflections show is larger than both of us and deserves to be seen by the world although after repeated efforts to work together it is clear that we are not suited to be in partnership with each other. When are you available to talk about next steps?
This was shocking.

First: "The Reflections show is larger than both of us..."

She got that from me. Yes, there were tensions during the Florida PURE Reflections project, but I repeatedly assured the group: "This show is bigger than all of us," and its power could help us process, transform, and grow as artists and people. Indeed, the group forged ahead with remarkable emotional courage and transcended difficulties to create an beautiful, uplifting show.

Imagine the horror of seeing my very words spat back at me as an excuse to oust me from my dearest project. I could not grasp what "next steps" she wanted to talk about. She had removed me from the PURE site ... the damage was done. I didn't respond.

Starting around 10:30pm on December 12, as I headed home from a late class, Kaeshi left several voice and text messages telling me it was "time for our talk."

I felt bullied and was exhausted after a long day, so I didn't answer.

A few days later, I spoke to another facilitator, Kierra, who assured me that Kaeshi did in fact care about me and about our friendship; she just felt she couldn't work with me anymore. This was heartbreaking because PURE Reflections was so important to me. But I agreed to find the right words to respond.

So on Friday, December 16, I wrote this:
I'm sorry I haven't responded sooner. I took both of your emails very hard... they hurt me a lot, because I read them to mean that you wanted me out of your life permanently. 
I spoke to Kierra yesterday, and she mentioned that she had spoken to you and that you did sincerely want to preserve our friendship. 
I want to, as well. 
You have been a tremendous friend and teacher, and I have been inconsolably sad to learn that you have hard feelings towards me.  I would like to talk, but I am kind of scared to... which is why I did not call you back. There are a lot of volatile emotions happening here ... and I am thinking a mediated discussion would be best.
I recommended a mediator, a spiritual teacher we had both worked with in PURE, and whose integrity and wisdom she respected.

She answered on Friday, December 30, with this:
I'm sorry to hear that you have taken my e-mails very hard. It has not been easy for me too. 
I am open to meeting with you and [the mediator you recommended] although I have noticed that we seem to be in a constant state of mediation... where others are either mediating for you and I, or I am mediating between you and others. Our relationship takes such enormous effort to maintain that it does end up draining a lot of my energy. 
My schedule has been so incredibly booked this year that I have not had the time necessary to devote to any of my projects to give them the focus they deserve and as a result, there has been an increase in miscommunication as well as physical and emotional stress. When my right shoulder got dislocated it was a huge wake up call. As a result, I am making huge efforts to simplify my life radically in 2012 and to be extremely selective with how (and whom) I choose to occupy my time. 
I really do appreciate the amount of effort and passion you have dedicated to PURE and PURE Reflections however your unstable emotions and strong personality are a huge challenge for me. One day, I am really wonderful, the next, I make you "suffer so much you want to leave". As leaders, we cannot afford to have this sort of relationship with each other where we are constantly fighting with one another. It's not fair to PURE or the rest of the team. I don't like who I become when I am trying to share the leadership role with you, so for now, I would prefer if we took a hiatus from one another.  
Let's put the PURE Reflections project on ice until we let some time pass. Time is an incredible healer. 
Thank you for your understanding,
I wish you the best,
I was stunned—dumbfounded—by the casual cruelty of this letter, the multiple blaming insults, the inability to accept any responsibility whatsoever for her own overbooked schedule, the dislocation of her shoulder, her emotional stress, her drained energy—and the complete detachment from any perception resembling a shared reality.

I thought she had gone insane.

There are so many insulting and horrifying statements in this letter, but I will focus on three:

First: We were not in a "constant state of mediation." We had never had ANY mediated discussion. EVER.

Second: As evidence of my "unstable emotions" she says, "One day, I am really wonderful, the next, I make you 'suffer so much you want to leave'." But I never said that.

The only exchange that even remotely resembles her account was when I wanted resign from PURE because I felt disrespected by my co-Facilitators. But even then, I did not say that she or they "[made me] suffer so much [I wanted] to leave" or anything like it. And I rarely told her she was "really wonderful."

Third: That we were "constantly fighting with each other." We weren't. She took subtle and not-so-subtle hits at me in Florida (and at other times, but Florida was the worst). A few times I rebuffed her quietly, but mostly I absorbed them.

I never answered this letter.

Six weeks later, she wrote:
I hope you are doing well. I've been hearing good things about your show. :-) 
Anyhow, it's now February, and I would like to meet up to talk before I leave for Germany in mid March. I agree that it should be mediated.  I'm not sure if [the mediator you suggested] is the most neutral person though. Maybe it should be someone who is trained in NVC. What do you think?
I was taken aback by this, first by the cheery tone, and then by her complete lack of acknowledgement of having said many vicious things to me and having unfairly ousted me from a project and community that had been my creative home for years.

I also did not know what to make of NVC (Non-Violent Communication). I was first put off by the implication that violence existed to the degree a "non-violent" solution must be sought; this seemed a perpetuation of her delusion that we were "constantly fighting."

Further, I'd heard PURE had a new member or consultant who was an NVC counselor, so I was guessing Kaeshi wanted this person—who would likely be partial to her—to mediate, and that made me further skeptical.

But this sealed it:  Their site says, "We will no longer need to use the language of blame, judgment or domination. We can experience the deep pleasure of contributing to each others' well being." And this is all to the good, but it seemed insincere given Kaeshi's incessant blame and criticism of me, and her lack of contrition or sincere concern for my well being:

You cannot kick a person in the head and slam a door in their face and then, at your leisure, greet them with a cheery howdy-do.

It is just not human.

To be continued in Part VII: The Gangrened and Diseased Limb

Monday, November 12, 2012

Response to Kaeshi & Brad—Part V: Kaeshi's "Red Zone"

The day after I posted my critique of PURE's War & Peace performance in an Open Letter to Kaeshi Chai, she sent a response that I understand made significant rounds through the internet. Since it contains many false and hurtful statements about me and others, I feel compelled to respond.

What follows is the fifth part of that response. For further info, please see:
(Kaeshi's letter, continued)
It was also during this mediation when I realized she finally hit my "red zone" with the sheer amount of anger pouring out of her (this time it was not directed at me, it directed [sic] at someone else). 
Once again, Kaeshi insinuates something terrible happened here, but gives no detail whatsoever of what that might have been.

Because it is a lie.

First, I do not even know what "sheer amount of anger pouring out of her" means.

Was I yelling and screaming? Did I jump on a table? Did I spit seething invective at this "someone else"? Did my head spin around?

Of course not.

It is all a fabrication. Interesting that she mentions "someone else," but doesn't name Pacita, most likely because she does not want Pacita to be put in the position of lying for her.

So. What did happen? Well, there were hurt feelings and miscommunications to be discussed, but this was to be expected. Indeed, Kaeshi acknowledged the value of such emotions in her letter to us: "If there are some heightened emotions it's because I know it stems from caring about PURE and wanting it to be it's [sic] best."

But in all, emotions notwithstanding, I recall the tone being respectful and moderate.

I believe Kaeshi's "red zone" was not an outburst of mine, but this:

Since the argument over the Halloween Parade was caused by leadership confusion, I asked, "Well, why don't you just make me the Lead Facilitator of PURE NYC? You are still the Artistic Director, but I am already doing this job—it's a lot of work but I'm happy to do it because I believe in PURE—plus others are looking to me to do it. So let's just make it official and end the confusion."

And she answered—I kid you not—she said, "I can't make you the Lead Facilitator. Your personality is too unstable."

I was shocked ... speechless for maybe a minute.

I asked how she could possibly think this. I asked if she could give some concrete example that led her to believe this... she had none. I pointed out that I had already been a Facilitator for quite a while, and had been acting as Lead Facilitator because people were coming to me for minor decisions, organization, and to keep projects on track. And, indeed, that perception was behind the very conflict that we were discussing.

So if I was "stable" enough to actually do the job, why would I not be "stable" enough to be given the title officially?

She had no answer.

Then, I said, "Well... If you really think this... then I probably should not continue in PURE."

She began to backpedal, to argue for me to stay, saying how much she appreciated my work and my dedication to PURE. But she held fast to this absurd conviction that "[my] personality [was] too unstable."

Now. This is upsetting for so many, many reasons:

First, to say such a thing in that way is personally and professionally insensitive, if not downright insulting.

Second, it is untrue—she even admitted being unable to substantiate it—yet she stated it as though it were an absolute, unquestionable fact.

Third, not only is it untrue, she has no reasonable basis and certainly no qualification for making such an assertion.

Fourth: Even if she did have this qualification, and if it were true, to say such a thing in a public setting completely and utterly lacks class, tact, compassion, integrity, and basic human decency.

It is the act of a beast.

And yet what is most upsetting of all is that she said it so casually, almost blithely—as though it were completely obvious to me and everyone else. It was as though she expected me to say, "Oh riiiggghhtt! Of course!! I'm unstable! Duh! How silly of me to have forgotten that..."

But instead I challenged her, asked for explanation, asked for detail.

And there was none.

So I believe her "red zone" was that I did not uncritically accept her very damning and unfair view of me—a view which she had used to justify her unwillingness to appropriately credit the considerable amount of work I had done for PURE—and that I stood up for the recognition I deserved.

And this was unacceptable to her.
I had a very lucid moment of realization where it was crystal clear that I no longer wanted her to be a regular part of my life, that to continue working with her would mean continual stress and more many more mediations into the future, plus less time with others that I wanted to spend time with.
It is difficult to speak to this. Personalities mesh and clash in inscrutable ways, but there are two points to remember here:

(1) Kaeshi and I had worked together closely and productively for seven years. If we were so wholly incompatible, wouldn't that have surfaced much earlier?

Granted, there are long relationships where small grievances build up for many years, and finally become intolerable. But, again, in keeping with PURE's mission of healing and peace, shouldn't Kaeshi have sought to deal directly and honestly with whatever negative feelings she had towards me before those feelings erupted in such a destructive way?

Rather she exaggerated or outright fabricated a negative image of me to justify her uncomfortable feelings. And she has tried to convince others of that defamatory view.

(2) If she felt "continual stress" in my presence, but could offer no concrete evidence of any action of mine that caused it, shouldn't she look inside herself for the source of that stress? Is that not the better course to peace and reconciliation?

Lastly, she mentions "many more mediations into the future" implying that we had had mediations beforehand. We did not. When we returned from Florida she sent several insulting messages demanding to meet with me. I finally agreed, but asked for a mediator. Then she refused. (More on this later.)

This is when she became fixated on the idea of "mediations." It had never come up before that.

To be continued in Part VI: Violent Communications

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Response to Kaeshi & Brad—Part IV: Sabotage

The day after I posted my critique of PURE's War & Peace performance in an Open Letter to Kaeshi Chai, she sent a response that I understand made significant rounds through the internet. Since it contains many false and hurtful statements about me and others, I feel compelled to respond.

What follows is the fourth part of that response. For further info, please see:
(Kaeshi's letter, continued)
...I continued to defend her and gave her many opportunities to shine such as MCing at Djam NYC and Bellyqueen events (2008 anniversary, Tough Love Valentine event with Rachel Brice) and eventually she rose to the position of director and co-creator for the PURE Reflections show.
OK, so once again, note the blatant contradiction:  She claims I was causing, from her description, quite severe problems in the group (Carol Bad!). But rather than bring this to my attention, or make any effort to resolve it, she "continued to defend [me]" (Kaeshi Good!), purportedly sacrificing membership in the process. Is this the act of a good leader?

Also note: She does not scrimp on factual details when they exist.

And, lastly, regarding the "opportunities to shine," please note that everything she lists involves my work as a stand-up comic, emcee, theatrical writer, director, and actor—skills which I had developed to a professional level years before I'd met Kaeshi.

While I appreciated sharing a stage with Rachel Brice, I did so as a fellow professional, not an aspirant being given a chance at the big time. It is also worth noting that while Kaeshi occasionally offered payment for my services, she rarely got around to paying me—and I never pursued payment, as I supported her work wholeheartedly.

Further: she never gave me a single opportunity to shine as a dancer—which, one would hope, one's dance teacher would do. In fact, she tended to be very discouraging towards my desire to dance professionally, citing my age, weight and lack of significant ballet training as obstacles.

Once, by way of explaining why I should not expect to get much dance work, she showed me a request for a dancer she'd received, saying, "You see here? It says, 'The dancer must be young and very attractive!'"
Last year, I was completely overwhelmed with 3 full length theater shows, (Bellydance Evolution, Bellyqueen's Silk Road show, PURE's Reflections show), Bellyqueen's full length touring show with Djinn and Beatbox Guitar, my solo career, weekly Djam NYC events and increased classes at the Bellyqueen school, so against my better judgement, I delegated and handed over the reins to Carol to run PURE NYC as a facilitator along with some others.
Once again, she gives lots of details where they factually exist—but when it comes to describing what happened with me, she ominously states, "so against my better judgement, I delegated and handed over the reins to Carol..." (Carol Bad!) Now, this implies something terrible happened during the time I "[ran] PURE NYC as a facilitator along with some others..." but she gives no hint at what this may have been.

Because nothing bad happened. It's just a big, fat lie.

I put together workshops and brought in some excellent guest instructors. And while attendance was moderate, feedback on my work was good—which Kaeshi herself acknowledged.
I realized shortly after the death of Jeniviva, a vivacious and vibrant young dancer in the NYC community who was killed in a car accident last November, that life is short and you must surround yourself with those you love and bring joy into your life.
While Jeni's death was an incomprehensible tragedy that woke us all up as to the value of life and love, should not such an awakening inspire one to mend one's relationships with others, rather than be used as a wedge to drive an unwanted few away? Is the former not more in accordance with PURE's mission of healing and peace? Isn't the latter nothing more than a justification of bullying and ostracism?

Granted, I have ended relationships that were harmful, and it is appropriate to do so when one is overtly abused and/or exploited. But I did not treat Kaeshi or anyone else this way; if anything, she behaved this way towards me, and I tolerated it because the good in our relationship outweighed the bad, plus my work in PURE Reflections was important to me.

For example, in Japan, she ridiculed publicly me as a "typical loud American tourist," and made many petty criticisms about things like my throwing floss in the toilet. In one shocking moment, when I corrected her about a choreography sequence, she barked, "Don't f*ck with me! I am a very strong person." I asked her to check the video of the choreography, and she returned, "Why? So you can prove I'm wrong?"

Her behavior towards me in Florida was even more outrageous when, for example, I stepped forward to lead the "tall" line in our mid-week Foundation rehearsal—as I had the Sunday before—she railed at me in front of the group, "Oh, are you going to lead Foundation now? I mean, just because I am the Artistic Director of PURE and created the choreography is no reason why I should lead it!!"

The dancers were stunned.
I booked Jeniviva to perform for Halloween last October but I could not attend because I was busy playing mediator in a conflict Carol was having with some the [sic] other PURE facilitators on the same night. 
This is an extremely low blow.

Apparently I am to blame for her missing Jeni's last performance. (Carol Bad!) That Jeni was my friend too, and I was devastated by her death, does not seem to enter Kaeshi's mind.

Plus:  It is only half-true.

There was a meeting with Pacita, Kaeshi, and me, but Kaeshi was not "playing mediator." Rather, she attended because she herself had caused the conflict and was appropriately claiming responsibility.

The conflict was this:

Since I had been effectively leading PURE NYC while Kaeshi traveled, and had organized and directed PURE Reflections in NY and Taiwan, as well as coordinated our participation in September Concerts, Kaeshi asked me to take a back seat—to let Pacita and Alura step up for the Halloween Parade while I focused on preparing PURE Reflections for Florida.

But by October 19th, no rehearsals had been scheduled, no studio space booked, no email had even been sent to the group asking who wanted to dance in the parade just twelve days away! I spoke to Liz Free, wondering if I should say something.

The next day, I wrote to Alura and Pacita asking if they would email the group. Alura wrote back asking for information; I responded that she had the same information that I had, and to "please send a reminder to the usual group."

And the argument began.

Alura insisted she had been taking action, but wasn't sure who was in charge; Pacita insisted that she had never been told she was in charge, adding: "if it is not your project and it fails, then let it fail."

I responded that I had spoken to Liz about "letting it fail" but could not do so because I had "a personal and professional commitment to PURE."

Alura shot back: "By the way, Carol, it's very un-PURE to talk about sabotaging an event with another dancer in the group.  I find it very offensive that you decided to portray myself and Pacita as not picking up the slack, when there was clearly a communication problem."

Kaeshi herself finally weighed in:  "I will claim full responsibility for the miscommunication. Sorry for not being clearer. Alura texted me when I was overseas and I answered some but not all of my e-mails."

So. Pacita says "let it fail" and that gets turned into, "you're sabotaging PURE." And nobody is stepping up to do the work. So I gave up. I wrote to Kaeshi saying I would not participate in the parade and was considering resigning from PURE altogether.

Kaeshi was very concerned about this and asked to have lunch with me to convince me to stay in PURE as the work I'd done had kept the group together while her obligations to Bellyqueen and Bellydance Evolution kept her travelling.

We had a warm and encouraging discussion, and she asked if I would meet with Pacita and Alura to smooth things out with them. Pacita and I agreed, though Alura bailed on the meeting at the last minute (Pacita and I met with her a few days later, without Kaeshi).

So, contrary to her claim of a "deteriorating relationship" with me, this meeting was intended to affirm her appreciation of me and my work for PURE, and I expressed sincere thanks to her for it. And even though we met at a restaurant near Je'Bon and could have caught the tail end of Jeni's show—we were tired and agreed to blow it off.

A regrettable decision.

To be continued in Part V: Kaeshi's "Red Zone"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Response to Kaeshi & Brad—Part III: Anger Management

The day after I posted my critique of PURE's War & Peace performance in an Open Letter to Kaeshi Chai, she sent a response that I understand made significant rounds through the internet. Since it contains many false and hurtful statements about me and others, I feel compelled to respond.

What follows is the third part of that response. For further info, please see:
(Kaeshi's letter, continued)
When Carol Henning came into my life as a student 6 years ago, I found her to be highly intelligent, extremely hard working, generous with both her time and money, and funny. She seemed to really care about me as well as Bellyqueen and loved to brainstorm about how things can be improved and made more successful. 
While this is nice of her to say, I find an acknowledgement of my positive qualities to be disingenuous given the evisceration to follow. It seems more geared to make Kaeshi look fair and kind (Kaeshi Good!) than offer any real equanimity as it is so out of synch with the rest of the letter. I also do not recall brainstorming about improving things for Bellyqueen, although I often offered my services as an unpaid editor for Bellyqueen/PURE promotional material.

And I began with the Bellyqueen school in 2004, eight years ago, and joined PURE in 2006.
I also noticed that she was also prone getting into personality conflicts with others and had some anger management issues.
And here the evisceration begins.

First, she accuses me of "getting into personality conflicts" (Carol Bad!) but offers no example of this. In fact, I was not prone to such conflicts, although I have learned others felt discord with me. It is true that I am outspoken and will not tolerate mean or clique-ish behavior. For example, one PURE member spread a nasty rumor about a friend and I confronted her. This upset her, but ultimately she apologized to my friend thereby resolving the conflict she had caused.

Kaeshi, on the other hand, made no effort to directly address any conflict—towards me or anyone else—and seemed to turn a blind eye to any bad behavior.

Claiming I have "anger management issues" crosses a very serious line towards outright defamation as it questions my character, behavior, and mental health.

It is a therapeutic term referring to people with "excessive or uncontrollable anger or aggression." I do not, nor have I ever, behaved in this way. Rather my expression of anger, indeed any emotion, is healthy and normal.

Per the American Psychological Association, "Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. ... Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive—not aggressive—manner is the healthiest way to express anger. [Without healthy expression,] unexpressed anger ... can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior."

A healthy expression of anger guards our boundaries: if I step on your foot, you say "Ow!" which lets me know I've harmed you; then I apologize and all is forgiven. This is what I do and I encourage others to do the same.
 I don't think anyone is perfect and was willing to overlook her flaws and focus more on her positive traits, and over time, I developed a strong bond and friendship with her.
Once again: Kaeshi Good! Carol Bad!
She joined PURE and despite the fact that many left or threatened to leave because they got into disagreement with her...
This is a fabrication.

If "many left or threatened to leave" she never said a thing to me about it for years. Indeed, if this had been remotely the case, why would I have been a Facilitator of the NY chapter and Director of PURE Reflections for years? Only the most irresponsible leader would give power to a subordinate who had shown behavioral problems.

In 2011, as I became more central to the group, however, she began to hint that I had alienated members. That October she told me someone said, "Never again!" after a 2009 event. But when I asked if she was sure that was about me, since the event had other problems, she didn't answer.

So I wondered if these claims were real; and if so, why didn't she say so the time? After all, wouldn't it have been her duty to resolve such conflicts before members felt the need to leave?

The fact is:  Save for the gossip confrontation above, and a disagreement over a misplaced bag which I and those involved resolved shortly thereafter, I did not have any argument with any PURE member in the course of my five years with the group.

I am aware of only one member who has claimed to have left "because of me"—but  this person then followed me into my improv group and stage combat classes. So go figure.

There are many, however, who left PURE due to Kaeshi's behavior.

In particular, many felt snubbed when we brought PURE Reflections to Japan because Kaeshi did not make it clear that all members were welcome to join if they could pay their airfare and lodging.

There are many others who left when she increased the dues, complaining in an email to the membership that "not all the dancers are paying after rehearsal each week.... you know who you are..."

Continued in Part IV: Sabotage