Category Archives: Dance and the other arts

Use stillness – or movement- to meditate?

I choose “move.”

Told by a shrink that I really really need to find a meditation class, I dabbled in various mindfulness techniques but never found one I could stick with. First, because I am Christian, and when they start talking about chakras, I get an uncomfortable feeling about polytheistic religions. I am fine with however anybody else wants to worship their God or gods, but I need to keep my own wandering and curious spirit reined in.

I choose “move.”

Second, I don’t do “Same.” Routines are supposed to be calming, I’ve been told, because you don’t have to make those minute by minute decisions. (Decision making is another of my weaknesses.)

Third, most meditation techniques emphasize quiet stillness. Since for all my 80 years I have probably had undiagnosed ADD, I have trouble sitting still.

Nevertheless, while I yearned to hear the still small voice of God, to experience the “still point of the turning world,” I remained mired in a “place of disaffection…distracted from distraction by distraction” [Burnt Norton, T.S. Eliot.]

Seven weeks ago, I found my answer. On weekdays at 7 AM and on Saturdays at 8 AM I zoomed for Wake-Up Meditations led by — amazingly — a member of my United Methodist church, who had been tapped to be the lay leader of the Adult Education Ministry Team. Claudio Lamsa Da Silva has studied a wide variety of meditation techniques.

 “In my twenties,” he says, “I explored different ways of practicing monasticism through the lens of various religions…. I explored Hinduism in ashrams in India, Buddhism in Nepal, Zen temples in Japan, and Sikhism through my wife.” In 2005, he served as a monk in Zen monasteries in Japan and after that walked the 900-mile Ohenro pilgrimage alone in complete silence. ” DaSilva employs all these concepts, and his ecumenical vocabulary accommodates all religions, but I can be personally comfortable praying to God the Parent, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

As for the formerly despised Routine, I am a changed woman. No longer a night owl with disrupted sleep patterns, I conk early, awakening at 6:15 (or 6:30) to stumble into the kitchen for the prescribed lemon water and lukewarm tea. After tuning in from 7 to 7:30, I am able to be, as we say, “present in my life” and have set my intention to govern the day. This IS what I need to do to age well.

Most valuable to me, the fidgety dancer, is the chance to emphasize a particular thought with movement and touch. Some is the same and some is different every day, Monday to Friday, because each day has a different focus. The movement is easier to do than describe. Anyone interested, I encourage you to take advantage of the free trial for Daily Wakeup Meditation, currently May 31 to Jun3 4 at 7 AM Eastern Standard Time. The daily classes are ordinarily $10 but half that price if you go by the month. Email Claudio@reconcilewithlife.com for information and the link.

If you do, you will join me and people from around the world without having to leave your house. In Da Silva’s words:  We explore together the dimensions of our being (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) and of our living (relationships with others and with life) through breathing exercises, contemplative meditation and adjusting movements. 

Photos from Reconcile With Life web page and Facebook page.

.

Wassail Memories

My family in 1954. I’m on the right.

Wassail – the drink and the song – evokes pungent memories. At Christmas my Senior Girl Scout troop went caroling to the Baltimore County jail. Singing our way, “Here we come a wassailing.. Love and joy come to you…” through the cell blocks, we tried not to be daunted by what we didn’t want to see.

Yet wassail, as a festive drink, is a jubilant memory. My parents made it by the gallon jugs for our four-hour Christmas open house.  Creating the base required simmering spices and sugar; later they added squeezed-by-hand juice and cider. I still have my father’s aluminum citrus squeezer.

Our house was small, so the nearly 100 guests came in waves – medical school colleagues from 1 to 3, friends of my sister and me from 2 to 4, and everybody else from 3 to 5.

Because the hot wassail was such a spicily unusual drink, the teen boys judged it “spiked” and claimed the bowl, ignoring the (delicately flavored with very good whisky) eggnog. Everyone looked forward to our Smithfield ham (an annual gift from a former med student) and cocktail shrimp (in the early ‘50s shrimp was not yet standard party fare).  

At these parties I learned to love to entertain.

When my parents brought wassail to me at college, I learned how much parents will do to help their children. They brought not just one jug of wassail, but enough for more than a hundred people. With the modern dance group at Duke University, I had produced the first-ever multi-art Yule Fest. We danced to Christmas carols, accompanied by a medieval combo plus recitations by drama students. After the applause, dancers came down the aisles of the ‘theater in the round’ with glass cups of hot wassail for all.

Here is the Figge family wassail recipe in the small quantity (with medium and largest quantities in parentheses). My father’s notes say the largest quantity will be enough for 50 people (if you also have 3 gallons of eggnog!)

Boil 2 cups sugar (8 cups or 5 lbs.) in 2-cups water (8 cups or about 1½ gallons water) for 10 minutes. Add

6 cloves (24 or48)

1 stick cinnamon (4 or 8)

6 allspice or ¼ t ground (or 24- 48 allspice

1 T grated lemon rind (or 4 or 8 T)

1 T grated orange rind (or 4 or-8 T)

1 T chopped ginger (use your judgment for larger amounts)

Cover, stand 2 hours. Put in gallon jug, preferably glass. (At this point you can store the base, outside if it’s cold).

On the day of the party, strain it into a large kettle and add

 1 1/2 cups orange juice (6 or 12 c) preferably fresh squeezed

3/4 cups lemon juice (3 or 6) preferably fresh squeezed

2 cups sweet cider (or 8 or 16)

Before you reheat and serve this, dilute with 2 quarts cider or water, by taste.

Social Media Mavens

Preservation New Jersey’s Zoom Webinar on Social Media on October 8, 2020

At the Preservation New Jersey Webinar, I picked up some excellent tips to use in my work with Princeton United Methodist Church (where, in our historic building, we have some amazing stained glass windows, including one by Louis Comfort Tiffany) and with the New Jersey State Button Society.

I met three women, leaders in their fields.

Melissa Ziobro of the Ocean County Historical Society and Monmouth University and author of American Heiresses of the Gilded Age, an Audible book.

Tara Maharjan of the Rutgers University Libraries

Emily R Manz of Preservation New Jersey, and also of EMI Strategy and Have You Met Newark.

And I learned so much!

Dancing at 20, 50 — and now 80

1990 group birthdayIn six months I’ll be 80.

I’m dependent for my health and strength on Pilates, as taught in the Anthony Rabara studio, and I’m learning new strengthening moves at Princeton Fitness and Wellness, but nothing beats actual DANCE.

Dancing (modern dance) used to be my life. I danced a lot, in college.  Some, in my 30s. Less, in my 50s. (The image* is of my 50th birthday party, led by my then dance teacher,Esther Arnhold Seligmann.  Even less in my ’60s, though with Alma Concepcion I did try to learn flamenco, until I realized what it was doing to my knees.

Absolutely no dance in my 70s.

Now, on the cusp of 80, I have rediscovered the joy of moving through space.

SPACE.

You don’t get it in Pilates, you don’t get to move through space in a gym, you can move through space only in a dance studio, and dance studios are notoriously unfriendly to old bones.

mary pat robertsonSo I am beyond thrilled to find a dance class geared for seniors, one that satisfies my desire (yea, my need) to move through space but honors my arthritis. Mary Pat Robertson,who had extensive experience in Merce Cunningham technique as well as being a master teacher of ballet, has begun a class for mature dancers of 50 plus years (that’s me), ranging from beginners to former professionals (I’m in between), to”retain flexibility, balance, and core strength.”

It’s at the new Martin Center for Dance, established by Douglas Martin and Mary Barton martin center logoupon their untimely exit from American Repertory Ballet. (This article in U.S. 1 explains some of the details and here is an earlier Town Topics article by Anne Levin).

I had studied Humphrey/Weidman technique and ‘experienced’ Graham technique, and I’m finding that Cunningham technique is kinder to old bones. Robertson merges what she learned at the Cunningham studio with what she experienced at a special “over 50” class in London.

It’s good for me. It’s fun. It has me moving (safely) through space.

Intrigued? Come and see! Robertson teaches the “over 50” class on Mondays and Thursdays, 11 AM to 12:30 p.m. at the Martin Center for Dance11 Princess Road, Suite 5. What used to be a warehouse is now a stylish space for two dance studios and a black box theater.

*Recognizable faces in the 50th birthday picture: top row, Mary Hultse, Sandy Goettinger, Barbara Palfy, ?, Ann Yasuhara, ?, Pat Hatton, Joan Crespi.  First row, Esther Seligmann, ?, ?, Barbara Figge Fox, Anna Rosa Kohn, Brenda Fallon, Nicole Plett. (Additional IDs welcome. With little provocation I will show you the video. It reflects Esther’s amazingly free spirit.) 

Artists and musicians reveal racism

bainbridge exhibit

An architect/artist and a composer/musicologist offer revealing insights into how white people appropriated African-American labor and African-American culture.

“Creation Myths,” a new installation by Hugh Hayden at the Princeton University’ Art Museum’s new Artt@Bainbridge gallery on the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer, “evokes themes of cuisine, leisure and education and explores the intersections of these themes with slavery’s bainbridge-housecomplex legacy.”  It will be discussed Thursday, Feb. 20, at 5:30 p.m. in 50 McCosh Hall, followed by a reception at the Museum and is on view now through June 7.

In the “I’m sorry I missed it but at least i now know about it” department was a three-day musicology conference sponsored by the university’s music department: Within and Without: Les Six at 100, les six imagewhere Harvard’s Uri Schreter presented a paper, “‘Snobs
in Search of Exotic Color’: Blackness and Transgression in the Music of Les Six.” With in depth technical analysis of musical scores, he aims to prove that despite enduring beliefs in French “color-blindness,” French notions about blackness were articulated in nuanced ways that perpetuated long-standing, exoticized representations of the black Other.”

Schreter:  In the years after World War One, Les Six rose to fame as the enfants terribles of the French avant-garde. Much of their rebellious image hinged on their appropriation of African American music, which has often been claimed to transgress racial and social boundaries. But were they actually inspired by the so-called “black jazz”? In this paper, I demonstrate that at least in some works, the composers drew on a French, diluted form of “white jazz,” while presenting it as an exotic symbol of blackness. By doing so, they pushed black jazz to the periphery of French culture and reinforced the “sonic color line.”

By comparing the French music-hall with compositions by Les Six and recordings of contemporaneous African American musicians, I demonstrate that several works touted as being influenced by jazz, such as Milhaud’s Caramel mou (1921) and Auric’s Adieu, New-York! (1919), actually drew on French popular music. This study of the reception of jazz in Paris provides a unique vantage point for understanding the crystallization of French perspectives on race. The risqué and modern character of jazz appealed to many audiences, but it also sparked turbulent debates about race, class, and national identity that reflected postwar anxieties.

The political and economic systems that have enabled white supremacy to flourish are relatively easy to trace. But to excavate the cultural systems that spawned white supremacy requires artistic scholarship (Schreter) and creativity (Hayden). To those who try to cut funds from the art and music studies that are part of a liberal education, TAKE NOTE. 

 

e. e. cummings on ‘who is an artist?’

eecummings_amiscellanyrevised9
“a dog in the manger….Aesop knew” by e.e. cummings

“An Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself;

and the agony of the Artist, far from being the result of the world’s failure to discover and appreciate him,

arises from his own personal struggle to discover, to appreciate and finally to express himself.”

…e. e. cummings in The Agony of the Artist (with a capital A)
as quoted in BrainPickings.org,
a 14-year-old blog by Maria Popova.

Artist as Serene Warrior: Makoto Fujimura

MakotoFujimura_August2016_Photoby_AndrewHKim_resized-400x400
Makoto Fujimura. Photo by Andrew Kim

“Art helps you put your guard down. Artists are amazing warriors, says Kate Shin, owner of Waterfall Mansion and Gallery, in a video about Makoto Fujimura, an artist and an evangelical Christian who has a studio in Princeton. “The Holy Spirit was speaking through this painting.”

I was alerted to his work — why had I not heard of it before? — by an article in Pasadena Now that previewed a talk by Fujimura in a church setting. It had special meaning because June is when the Christian Church celebrates the Holy Spirit with Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday. It’s exciting to me that a Japanese artist links the message of Christ to a many-layered art form, Nihonga.

Nihonga involves pulverizing minerals to turn them into pigments, used in many layers, each taking a long time to dry. It is a slow process, and a spiritual one. In this inspiring video, Fujimura says:  “All of us are pulverized in some way as we are made beautiful…in experiences that challenge us. Beauty through brokenness that is captured in the surface of Nihonga.

Fujimura’s book, Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for our Common Lifeissues “a call to cultural stewardship, in which we become generative and feed our culture’s soul with beauty, creativity, and generosity.” In 2017 he illustrated the Four Holy Gospels, honoring the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. Follow him on Facebook here. Read excerpts from his book Silence and Beauty here.

David Brooks, in a New York Times column, compares Nihonga to Kairos time, qualitative rather than quantitative. “When you’re with beauty, in art or in nature, you tend to move at Kairos time — slowly, serenely but thickly.” Slow and serene? That’s not how I am, it’s how I yearn to be.

 

Waking up to racism at reunions

 

James-Johnson-1881-circa-table-of-goods_AC057_SP1_41_horiz_d_1

Beyond the beer bracelets and the colorful jackets, the organizers of Princeton Alumni Reunions have included some displays and events that explain the history of white supremacy — the political, economic, and cultural system that manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.

On view today at the Frist Campus Center is the photographic story of James Johnson.  This is a somewhat positive story about a formerly enslaved man who worked at the university, in various capacities including as an entrepreneur selling snacks, from 1843 to 1902. A Princeton woman paid to keep from having him returned to his former owner. (He repaid the debt).

PTI

Until 5 p.m. today, on the south lawn of East Pyne Hall,  experience a solitary confinement cell in an exhibit organized by the New Jim Crow of Trenton and Princeton. This exhibit, also, has a positive spin. It is co-sponsored by the Class of 1994 and the admirable Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI).  PTI offers a panel on Friday, May 31, at 2:30 p.m. in the Andlinger Center. 

PUAMOSE_30941In the Art Museum, now and until July 7, resonate with the problems of immigrants at the border in an exhibit: Miracles at the Border, 

 

walkingtours_stickers_d

You may have noticed odd stones in the sidewalk on campus. They are part of the (In)Visible Princeton Walking Tours, five self-guided tours on your cell phone covering the experience of minorities (African-Americans, Women, and Asian-Americans) as well as standard Tiger traditions. Download and take any tour anytime.

Back by popular demand are the “performance theater” Race and Protest tours. When I took one last year there was some confusion, among those who signed up, about the format. The theater artists tell location-based stories. If you read this TODAY, May 31, meet at the Art Museum for an hour-long tour at 10:30 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. It’s well worth going. Or read about my experience here. 

And – if you are a townie – join Not in Our Town Princeton at the Princeton Public Library on Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m. for Continuing Conversations on Racism. At these monthly sessions you can learn about – through discussion with others — what white supremacy really means.

 

Einstein Ever Fascinates

einstein house
Einstein lived at 110 Mercer Street, now a private home with no house number.

While on duty to give tours of the Tiffany window at Princeton United Methodist Church, I encountered a visitor who wanted to take an historical tour, shorter than the ones offered by the Historical Society of Princeton.

Princeton Tour Company is your answer, I said, but you will still have to hoof it.

Vainly I looked in online files to find one of my 20 minute driving tours, titled “Gossips’ Guide to Princeton,” but I did find this “Einstein Tour,” written in 2005. It’s longer than 20 minutes if you get out at each stop. I’ve updated it a little. It begins:

Einstein has always been Princeton’s most sought-after celebrity. Visitors from Europe who are visibly unimpressed by “old” buildings like Nassau Hall, and those from other continents who turn a deaf ear to stories of the town’s role in the Revolutionary War – they all know about Albert Einstein and are eager to view any signs of the great man’s legacy.

Continue on the Einstein journey

The newest addition to the Einstein tour might be the sculpture that intends to represent Einstein’s brain, pictured in this article on the Arts Council of Princeton website. 

sculpture of einstein's brain

“God will be there for you”

arms up IMG_2546 - edited steveMy current delight is the children’s musical directed (and co-authored) by Tom Shelton and “preached” to Princeton United Methodist Church on February 24. The musical theme is God will be there for you,” and to hear it from these young voices is very meaningful to me.

A couple of these children have significant talent, and all of them are expertly trained by a real expert. They are a joy to see and hear. Here is a picture album for “Lost Then Found” by Camilla Pruitt and Tom Shelton.

Here is the video from when the children reprised  the musical on Monday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Bristol Chapel on the Westminster Choir College campus.

Part 1 https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fprincetonumc%2Fvideos%2F2350427265172381%2F&show_text=0&width=560“>

The second part The https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fprincetonumc%2Fvideos%2F2607272262633589%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Third part.

Then they take it to Stonebridge at Montgomery on Wednesday, March 16 at 4:30. Anyone is welcome to come to either.  Like a groupie, I’ll be there both times!