Dance & Text

In preparing students in the K-12 Dance Education program here at UTM (University of Tennessee Martin) I love exploring with them other ways of reaching students in the class. One way is the use of poetry or some form of writing. By applying their knowledge of either dance techniques or use of choreography with the addition to text then provides the learner with yet another way of thinking about dance as an art.

The idea of text in dance is an ancient one. Many cultures including Ancient Greece would have in their dramas text combined with dance or pantomime. This idea then would go to Europe in the beginning of ballet most early ballets and I am referring to 16th and 17th century, where the form is not what we know of today, explored movement that always included some form of narration or as Opera evolved singing. It really wasn’t until the 18th century that ballet which often was referred to ballet d’action with elements of pantomime became the ballet we know of today and it wasn’t until the 19th century that such classics as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker were created.

The Hula is a form which has a complex relationship with poetry and movement as does the Bharatanatyam.

I got a bit off subject here but I wanted to give some context that using text and movement is not new. It is new though in a generation which has experienced for many years the separation of language to the arts or even science to the arts. Leonardo would have something to say about this! So this semester I was so pleased to see dance education student teachers create and develop lesson plans that provided all learners with the chance to explore text and movement.

1 student wanted her 5th and 7th graders to create a group work inspired by a poem using movements they learned in class. The 2nd student taught 5th graders a way to arrange a sentence to solve the problem of what they were going to dance about. In each it showed that dance is a complex set of thinking problems at the same time the learners showed how focused and creative they could be in creating, collaborating in a group, solving a problem, performing, and finally responding on their ideas! Loved seeing young educators in realizing the potential in integrating different disciplines to what most people think as just either a simple excersice activity or a form of entertainment.

European modern dance still will use narrative or text in dance. America not so much, though, Bill T Jones still accesses text and movement as a way in which to keep the idea of Dance Theatre alive and well in America. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see So You Think You Can Dance have a series of dance and poetry?…,yah I know not going to happen, but I can dream can’t I?


Tea & Writing 2

Well this morning I am drinking my Indian Spice tea. And again my tastes begin to translate the story in my head. So from the last blog entry I gave you all a snippet from my new story it continues like this:

“Clara! Are you home? It’s Akiko”

Akiko was now my guardian. My mother adored her and she became my second mom. Actually, she will be my guardian until I come of age. I am now 17 and will not be fully allowed to own the house or anything until I turn 18. I mean, seriously, what will one year do to make it seem that I am older or wiser? But I love Akiko and do not mind that she is my legal guardian. As a matter of fact I feel more than ever I am in need of my mother.

Opening up the door there was Akiko with all types of goodies. I barely could see her face as boxes and boxes were covering almost half her small body.

“I got you things you might need. Cakes to imagehonor your mother who image imageloved sweet things. Sausages to honor your father who loved spicy things. You know your family really had a yin and yang thing goin’ on.” Akiko whose smile lifted anyone’s sad spirits was drenched from head to foot as it was raining non stop now for days.

“I swear if it doesn’t stop raining we will soon be flooded. Do you know about 15 miles from here the town of Henderson was flooded? Anyhow, try the sweet dumplings, they are really good,” Akiko brightly and cheerily said.

“Akiko, can you tell me anything about the Calligraphy pen and rice paper you gave me?”

Akiko stopped what she was doing and for the first time in my life I saw her look intensely serious. Her face I thought only had two expressions: happy and happily happy. Even when my mother died, she tried to make me feel as though everything was going to be ok.

“Didn’t I tell you to wait to open it until Naoki arrived?”

“Yes, but well, it was strange, I felt the urge to hold the pen and the funny thing was it seemed as though the pen was drawing itself. I know, crazy huh?!”

Akiko smiled, “Yah, crazy! Well, don’t worry Naoki is coming by tomorrow. Do you have his room ready?”

“Yes, it was dad’s old study, his old typewriter is still on the desk.”

“Good. That is a nice room. It always feels good entering that room, don’t you think?”

“Yes, come to think about it…yah, I always do feel good in there. I sometimes sit down at the desk and do some work. As a matter of fact that is where I opened mom’s box.”

“Well, then it is also a safe room,” Akiko said with a firm nod of the head.

“What do you mean by that?”

“That you felt safe after your travels into the Land of Tomorrow” quipped Akiko

“What? Huh? Say that again?” Her answer took me a bit by surprise.

“Clara Mai. Tomorrow all will make sense. But tonight let us enjoy some good tea and sweets.”

The Land of Tomorrow? What is she kidding? Then again maybe I wasn’t dreaming? Maybe the place I went to was real? But how? Oh, my head is spinning, but I will trust Akiko whose smile conquers all and will enjoy tea, sweets, and sitting on the sofa watching old movies with Akiko.

While Clara Mai fell asleep on the sofa, Akiko saw the box on the table. Carefully opening it and taking the rice paper out. She unrolled the paper softly and gently until the voice of Tomoe, an onna-bugeisha was heard.

“Do you think she is ready?” said Tomoe whose long white hair came popping out of the rice paper along with her naginata.

“She is of age. She is 17 and both Brenainn and Amaterasu have passed through the winding waters of Tazawa. They soon will need her to help them fully pass to the other side.”

“She has no idea, though, of her lineage and of her purpose. Brenainn and Amaterasu loved her and nurtured her but never prepared her for what she is meant to perform.” Said Tomoe

“Sometimes things do not go as planned, you of all people should know this.” Said Akiko.

Tomoe looked at Akiko very carefully and then said, “Be aware Akiko, you are in this world to not only take care of Mai’s life, but to make sure you along with Naoki train her to become the Senshi, and not just any ordinary Senshi, but one’s whose life is touched by the sun. Just make sure that when Naoki arrives he also knows his place to teach Mai the meaning of the ink.”

“Yes, my lady, I will obey. When do we present her to you? And what of teaching her the dance?”

“The dance comes last. As for when you present her to me it shall be under the full moon of the eighth month during Tzukimi. Now can you give me a dumpling or 2 before I go back. They are so good.” Tomoe soon took the dumplings and munched on them with rigor and delight. “Mmm, so good” And then she went into the rice paper, but before she was fully immersed, you could see her finger pierce through the paper pointing at Akiko, “Do not let me down Akiko. I am counting on you and on Mai!” Her finger then vanished like liquid on the paper.

This morning I chose Indian Spice and the new member of our family “Rocky,” a kitten that we saved on Friday is resting on the sofa while I write. Yah yah I am sucker for sick animals… This one so far is doing great!

Hope you all enjoy the continuation of my fairytale Ashita no ji: Land of Tomorrow

Stream of consciousness

Stream of Consciousness created after my father’s passing— when creating this I also thought of my time as a choreographer and what happens to the brain during the creative process– for me so much goes on and I wanted to do something that brought a sense of mystery and whimsy.

when writing this new story of a girl who needs to be trained to pass 4 tests so that she can release her father and mother to become the sun and the moon–I think of this work and what it entails to muddle through your stream of consciousness to get to the actual work.

Tomorrow I will add more of the story with my Tea and Writing time…until then hope you find this dance work interesting

Tea and writing

Now, John and Lorcan enjoy coffee while writing. I used to until I got into teas. My favorite of the day is Cardamom tea. Add between 4-5 cardamom seeds, stick of cinnamon, some fresh ginger, 4-5 pepper corns, and 4-5 cloves. This alone will taste great but I like to add a black tea bag such as Earl Grey. Pour about 2 1/2 cups of water and steep for 30 minutes. I have done this so often that I kind of improvise now how much of each ingredient I put in. I have tried it with dry ingrients when I didn’t have fresh ginger or cinnamon stick and well it was ok but fresh ginger really makes it!

The tea right next to me I am ready to write. Though this blog is generally about John’s work I have begun a fairy tale. Not sure yet if it is going to be YA or more adult but it is inspired by my love of Anime! As I sip my cardamom tea the taste helps me with developing the scenes—like how whiskey or bourbon has helped many a writer for me it is tea. Though whiskey sometimes, especially at night, is kind of nice. So here is how my story, which I am titling Ashita No Ji: Land of Tomorrow

Temporarily mystified Clara stood still to gather her senses. What she just experienced could not have happened? At least, so she thought. No, absoluteimagely not! Clara took a deep breath and said, “That’s it.” She then gathered the ancient Japanese Ink Calligraphy pen and the sheets of rice paper that were given to her from her mother’s best friend, Akiko Matzuki, and put them neatly into the box. Clara then put the box back on her father’s desk. Her father, Brenainn McCoul, died over a year ago, and now her mother Amaterasu, died 6 weeks ago. She loved her parents very much and her mother always had high hopes for Clara. She would say, “Clara Mai McCoul, you will soon find out why you are so special.” Clara, though, never felt special until the moment she fell into the rice paper.

Hope you all like how I begin my tale…And now I sip more tea for inspiration perhaps next blog I will share more. Remember to check out teas! There are a great variety of teas that help in all different ways from metabolism to skin care to helping digestive system.

Till next tea time have a nice day.

Aahh Summer….


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Over the Summer John is working on “The Parting Glass” is a P.I. Story set in Boston 1980’s

Detective plot stories have always fit John’s style of writing. Though I haven’t read it yet I am sure it is made up of fast and snappy dialogue and since it is set in the town he grew up in the language will have a real sense to it. Meaning the rhythm and nuance of people, place, situation, and/or even energy will be genuine. I love his detective stories as a matter of fact The Bene Lumen Chronicles was a bit of a departure for John, but even in the story there lies mystery and intrigue reminiscent of his detective stories. He does love to bring in supernatural occurrences as they intensify the plot as well as gives the reader a great way to emotionally involve themselves with fantastic characters who are powerful, fearless, and magical and at the same time vulnerable, skeptical, and sensitive.

One last thing I hope to put on Kindle soon is a story he had written a while back but is revising set in the gilded age New York—this is action pact with supernatural scenes, hallucinations set by drinking absinthe, secret societies, and the backdrop of New York City in the 1880’s.

Both John and Lorcan (our son) are keeping themselves busy with writing this summer! And even I just completed revisions for my dance textbook. Now if I can only lose 10 more pounds I will have had a Summer success!

Writing, Hah, what is it good for?…..

Ok, so I begin by saying it has been quite a while since I last blogged. Honestly, The Bene Lumen Chronicles ain’t doin’ so well. Very discouraged. But, John always pops up and decides to move on and develop another story. He is currently working on a story set in Boston in the 80’s. He is heading back to his roots, as he was born and raised in Southie and knows the feel, smells, and way of talking that is so part of his skin. Hope to get some pages of this new work to you all in a few months.

Our son Lorcan is working on a screenplay. He too is a writer (God help him), and John and Lorcan spend countless hours discussing the art of the word. Both have a lyrical style. Lorcan’s mind drifts to how the work should be filmed – – definitely want to be a filmaker, but begins with screenplays as a way to grasp the art.

So, I have 2 writers in the household! One could say it is a very emotional household at times. Both stay up late and talk, while I am long ago sleeping into my dancing dreams. As I see these 2 discuss, struggle with getting the right word, John’s feeling of rejection, loneliness, I ask: What is writing good for? How have writers dealt with constant rejection or not being able to write their next novel? Melville’s Moby Dick was a disaster, rejected by readers, until in 1911 he was marked as ” genius”, though he never got a chance to reap the rewards, as he was long gone. Henry Roth who wrote “Call it Sleep” didn’t have his 2nd book published till he was, I believe 90? or at least in this late 80’s – – Writing is not an easy art. I dance, it too, is not easy, BUT unlike dance where often the body tells you if you are going to succeed or not, writers can truly be all shapes, sizes, and ages to realize their full potential. And yet, it is one of the loneliest art forms that I have observed. My father was a writer. He would stay in his room for days. John gets into his quiet moods, as does Lorcan. When you accidentally ask, “Hey, how is it going?” I get either a scowl or a very eerie smile suggesting, “do not ask me at this time, step away, slowly step away…” And so I slowly step away and wait patiently till they share with me their work.

Yes, to be a spouse and mother of a writer you have to be very patient and just support them lovingly. Which reminds me…I have to finish the fettuccine!

Again, hope to provide some chapters of John’s latest work perhaps in July? – –

Until then, wishing all writers to stick with it, be yourselves, enjoy putting words together, and most of all relish every moment you have in writing your stories be it imaginary or real.

From Prologue of “Bene Lumen Chronicles”

Below is taken from the prologue where we read of Siobhan’s sacrifice for her children to live. Being a mother I can understand where Siobhan was coming from. Yes she was fighting evil, yes she made a bargain with evil, but all to save her children from being devoured. This is an old tale that we have read in many legends, myths, and children’s books from Grimm’s fairy tales to Harry Potter. The tale that the mother dies or the mother and father die, but to sacrifice themselves to help their children. And then the child or children are left to live without their mother or father or both. What happens to them? Do they become stronger human beings? Do they, too, have courage? It has been a year since my father passed. He lived, though, a good long life, he was not beaten by the devil, though, he had many demons. He was beaten by age and by his mind that remembered too many things. When I saw my dad pass I saw that he was ready. He was in such pain. I sometimes think that my hubby wrote this to help him understand the passing of his own mother whom he did not have a chance to see before she left this world and went onto the next. The idea of sacrifice is so strong an emotion. John has sacrificed so much for his love of writing, and all his tales have some sort of homage to either his mother or father. So, when you read the passage below consider the idea of sacrifice and how best you can go become a better person:

Since Siobhan had concentrated most of her attention on Baal, Orochi finally defeated the whirlwind but was tired and Baal looked as if he had expended a great amount of energy fighting Siobhan. He stopped the snake demon that wanted to rush recklessly forward after her. Baal stared Orochi down calming him and regaining control of him and the situation.

“Siobhan, let the snake kill you painlessly and I give you my word that I will not kill your children once we are done here,” Baal said in a soothing, charming voice.

“How can I trust you, Baal,” she desperately asked as she slowly got up.

“You can’t trust me. But you have weakened both of us and I am willing to bet that your children are protected by the best Ardal Cathal you have left in this area, though not the best you have,” he said. “If we continue this battle in the end Orochi and I will prevail and you will die. Yes, you will cause us more trouble, more pain, which will in turn make both of us even more angry than we are now. If this occurs I will gladly help Orochi do away with your children’s protection then watch him devour them whole. But if this was up to him…”

Siobhan faced turned white at the thought of her children being devoured by Orochi. Baal noticed this. He returned himself to his human form in order to present a normal face to her then continued speaking: “let me kill you then and we will both leave this place and be on our way to where we must go. Your children will not be harmed.”

Siobhan was completely exhausted now beyond putting up a good fight. She stood up and for a moment thought of continuing the battle, but she knew she couldn’t win. She could feel her body weakened and shaking; the energy to even summon another lightening bolt was way beyond her now. Her children, though, she couldn’t let them down, but could she trust Baal to keep his word? She looked at him. He nodded his head, as if he was responding to the thoughts in her mind. She nodded back at him, thought of her children whom she loved, then of her husband who she hoped would not allow her death to change him then let Baal know that she was trusting him with another more pronounced nod in his direction.

“It is a deal then, Siobhan. You have made the right choice. I’ll do this myself,” he said then unleashed a bolt of blue negative energy hitting her squarely on the chest and sending her off the promontory and into the rough water below.

“Let us kill her children as revenge for her attack on us. I’m hungry; I want to eat them,” hissed Orochi.

“No, I gave her my word,” Baal said.

“But she is Bene Lumen and we are Illuminatii,” hissed Orochi.

“That doesn’t make a difference to me. I may be evil but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep my word now and again.”