Category Archives: Dance and the other arts

Embodied Faith: experience spirituality in a new way

I’m excited about this. You knew I would be. Annalise Hume begins a four-session “Embodied Faith” workshop on Monday, September 26 at 7:30 p.m. I’m inviting all my friends and movement buddies to attend — by zoom or in person. Here’s how Annalise describes what we’ll do.

Our bodies hold memories and store our stories. By paying attention to how we feel or want to move, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and God. Each week we will experience a passage of scripture or theological theme through a combination of prayer, movement, play, and journaling. If you yearn for a fresh way to experience God this year, come and play. No previous dance, yoga, or movement experience necessary.

ANYBODY can do this. “While the sessions are movement based, our brain-body connection is so strong that you are welcome to do the entire class in your imagination without moving at all. All abilities and disabilities are welcome.”
These four sessions are sponsored by Princeton United Methodist Church and any reader of Princeton Comment will be my guest. The sessions are every other Monday from 7:30-8:45pm by ZOOM or in person in the church’s Fellowship Hall at 7 Vandeventer in Princeton. Register here:

https://princetonumc.breezechms.com/form/1353a5

Buttons, buttons- did you ever see such buttons as these?

When a friend finds out I collect buttons, it’s hard for them to imagine what KINDS of buttons I collect. Here are two ways to be beDAZzled by buttons.

One. Page through the offerings of a button auction to benefit a nonprofit button group here . These enamel buttons and the glass buttons above (courtesy of Armchair Auctions) will give you a taste of the gorgeous buttons available.

Two. Drop by the New Jersey State Button Society‘s show on the Saturday after Labor Day, September 10, 10 to 3 p.m. If you get there a little before 1 p.m. you can hear the talk, “Buttons Go to Work” featuring uniform and work buttons, as below. The show is in Titusville, just south of Lambertville, so make a day of it!

Buttons About Horses!

Yes, vintage and antique buttons can have horse themes. On Saturday, before you pour those mint juleps, help me celebrate “Derby Day” at the New Jersey State Button Society show and competition. On May 7, from 9 to 3. door prizes and displays will have a horse-racing theme, and admission is free.

It’s at Union Fire Company, 3926 River Road (minutes south of Lambertville). More than a dozen dealers and artists will offer buttons made from enamel, china, metal, and ivory — plus modern and vintage buttons made from fruit pits, rubber, and glass. At 11 am we will distribute favor ornaments, made by button artist Nancy DuBois. Exhibits on how buttons can embellish quilts and how to use buttons with children will be presented by Mary Jane Pozarycki and Susan Infosino. Helene Plank’s display shows how buttons can paint pictures.

See you there!

Dance again — at home!

Gabriella (Profitt) Cunha

If you love to dance.

If you like dance class but don’t like people watching you.

If you wish you could dance but don’t have time to get to a studio.

If you worry about getting hurt.

If you can’t find ‘the right teacher.’

If you yearn to dance but – to put it kindly – are ‘past your prime.’

Then you are like me.

For decades, I’ve been an eager but not technically proficient amateur dancer. In 1960, for one fabulous summer, I studied the Limon technique at the American Dance Festival. Over the years I studied dance whenever I could, wherever I could.

Two years ago I discovered Gabriella Cunha’s virtual “in home” Dance Workout class, offered by Martin Center for Dance on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 12:30 p.m.

Of ALL the techniques I’ve studied, I like Gabriella’s the best. Though she does not know Limon’s movement, hers is uncannily like his — organic, swinging, satisfying.

You may know that I am a former dance critic. Critics, of course, aren’t supposed to be promoters. But hey! I am retired. And at my age I get to do and say what I please.

Using modern dance concepts that beginning dancers can follow, Gabriella suggests modifications so that elder dancers (like me) can safely move. Her studio is a small room, so anyone can take the class in a small room.

I could go on and on — but here are some clips so you can see what I mean:

Here is a sample of the upper body warmup.

The shoulder warmup.

The foot warmup.

After the 45-minute class, Gabriella offers 15 minutes of stretching. I’m always intrigued by her insights on how the human body is put together. In addition to her expertise in music, ballet, modern dance, Reiki, and yoga, she is working towards a degree in naturopathic medicine. In her class, I feel safe.

Without the eyes of anyone on us, in our own spaces — I and the other students can feel like a dancer again. If you are a young beginner or an older person who used to “take class,” I invite you to join us. The classes are “a la carte,” come when you can.

For information, DouglasMartinArts@gmail.com or 609-937-8878.

Smart Connection

I had never heard of Christopher Smart, though as an English major I should have. My passion was Renaissance and 20th century poetry, and I kissed off the 18th century with one semester.

At the Poetry Circle at my elder residence, Stonebridge at Montgomery, curated by my new friend Hope, some read selections and some listen. Yesterday the coincidental links were giving me, as a wanna-be English teacher, delight. Perhaps “time present and time past” lurks in lots of poems, but every poem read that day — by Joyce, by Len, by Lois and by me — seemed to connect to that subject. Len’s contribution, a poem that he wrote to go with one of his collages, was even called ‘Connections.’

My contribution was potentially daunting: ‘Burnt Norton,’ the first of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I had lived into these lines in college and choreographed a dance about them:

….Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
….

Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always presen
t.

but since I’d handed out copies and distributed the reading, everyone happily dived in to share Eliot memories and favorite lines. So satisfying.

Then Nancy came up with a long but wryly amusing selection written by 18th century poet Christopher Smart. Drat, I thought, that’s the only poem read today that doesn’t have something to do with time. It doesn’t have a connection to the others.

I like connections. Sometimes I allow myself the belief that they are arranged by a higher power.

This morning I reached for my daily devotional guide, couldn’t find it, and absentmindedly opened a book that I hadn’t allowed myself the time to read, Lawrence Block’s’ The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, given me by button friend Ann Wilson, who promises that ‘buttons’ are featured in the plot. Fast skimming to page 19 and, lo, there is Christopher Smart, explained as a contemporary of Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith. Says the first person narrator: He was unquestionably talented, but he was also mad as a hatter, and given to fits of religious mania that led him to implore his fellows to join him in public prayer. “I’d as soon pray in the street with Kit Smart as anyone else in London,” Johnson allowed, but others were less tolerant, and Smart spent the better part of his mature years clapped in a cell in Bedlam, where he wrote a line of poetry every day.

I choose to believe that it was not a coincidence that I picked up that book, read to page 19, and found the connection to what Nancy read the previous day.

You may believe what you will. And I won’t ask you to pray in the street.

M

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.