Brief background info on me: I grew up in an urban school district in PA. I never feared for my life while at school, but things there were not good. The state, while I was a student, threatened to take over the district, due to low test scores. People were and still are poor, family life isn’t what it should be, fights aplenty (though I don’t think, at least then, they were gang-related), etc. I also was identified via an IQ test that I am considered gifted; the term “gifted” is poorly defined and gifted programs don’t necessarily contain the brightest students, due to the testing methods, parental involvement (I’ve seen very pushy, influential parents badger schools into letting non-gifted students into the gifted classes), teacher bias, etc. However, I’m not going to debate the issues of gifted education or whether it is important (I think it is, for what it’s worth). This is just explaining where I’m coming from.

We were assigned a book called “And Still We Rise” by Miles Corwin for one of my classes. It is truly an amazing book that documents the senior year of twelve gifted students, the coordinator of the program, and two teachers. This non-fiction book is very honest, and it reminded me of a much worse version of my high school/school district.

The book presents the complexity of the issues that the students face; it isn’t enough just be intelligent when it comes to succeeding in school. A lot has to do with outside factors, such as family, home life, etc. Most of the students in this program have had horrific childhoods and continue to have horrific daily lives. They are not just trying to survive but are trying rise above their circumstances and learn. The book also delves into the issues of affirmative action, what the teachers and administrators deal with on a daily basis, the race issues, the gang issues. There’s really too much information in there to really summarize well.

What was interesting to me, which was not my experience, was how many of the students were intellectually engaged people. They were not simply there to earn grades to go college to get a better job; these students were highly intelligent people who actually cared about learning. They didn’t take their educations or intellect for granted.

I recommend this book to really anyone who is interested in education and the issues students are facing. While these students were in exceptionally bad situations, these issues arise in other parts of the country and in districts not quite as bad. When people talk about why US students are not as competitive against the rest of the world, books like these show how many issues there are.

I’ve started taking Bharatanatyam again, a classical Indian dance. I’ve had on and off experience with Bharatanatyam starting in 2005. I switched to Odissi after a summer of Bhartanatyam. I studied Odissi for 2 years. Once I went to Chicago, I couldn’t find an Odissi teacher, which was remarkable to me; Chicago has a huge Indian population and even has a neighborhood/street filled with Indian businesses. I took the occasional Bharatanatyam lesson from Danielle, but I eventually stopped that (she didn’t think we had the room to really go where we should with dancing). Now that I’m more settled, I came back into Indian dance.

Why did I go to Bharatanatyam? Time suitability. I love Odissi and will probably end up studying it again someday, but for now, I’m happy learning Bharatanatyam. They are both beautiful dance forms. I’m lucky that muscle memory still exists and that the constant drilling of my past instructors has stuck with me. I’m not perfect, but it’s nice to see that I was trained well. I know people fear that switching teachers. There is the whole being in a new environment and just wondering if you are really in the right class. With Middle Eastern dance, there were quite a few holes in my education from not sticking with one teacher, since there are different standards of what constitutes an “intermediate” or who is really “professional-level.”One of the things I always liked about Indian dance is that it has been codified. Things are named. There are different schools/gurus that vary, but I had assumed there were things that were quite standard across the board.

On Friday, I learned that isn’t so much the case. I went back to a very beginner class of Bharatanatyam, because I thought I should learn from the ground up and regain the strength, etc. We go over the mudras (hand gestures) every week; the teacher gives us about 5 new ones to memorize. For the past two weeks, I have been perplexed, because the mudras are  named slightly differently than the names I was given from my other teachers; I always assumed mudra names were fairly standard, since I had heard the same set of names/been given the same charts from three others who do not know each other and from two different classical Indian dance styles. For instance, I memorized 2 forms of “kartarimukha” and pronounce it as “kar-tar-ee-mook-a.” My current class has only one form and we pronounce it “kar-tar-ee-mook.” It isn’t a different mudra, since it’s one of the 2 I know. I finally asked on Friday about this; I didn’t want to be “that student” who thinks s/he knows more than the teacher or assumes one of the teachers is wrong. I was curious, if it was a regional difference of pronunciation. It turns out that the texts are very vague about things and that while there are commonalities, it isn’t so cut and dry as I had originally assumed. I wasn’t taught incorrectly, just differently.

Unfortunately, all that great memorization of mudras that I retained will have to change in accordance to my current teacher. As I’ve said in the past, unlearning something is harder than learning it the first time.

In addition to my adjunct work, I’m going to have a small part-time job (about 5 hours/week) where I engage middle schoolers in math after school. I think it should be fun. Challenging but fun. I worked as a middle school camp counselor for a week in my junior and senior years of high school. I remember how funny middle school kids are. They’re part-child, part-teenager. Although my interest in education isn’t really at the middle/high school level, I do look forward to this. After all, college students were once middle and high school students, and I think it’s important to understand where they’re coming from.

I start tomorrow. Wish me luck!

2009 was a rough year for me, no doubt. The entire last decade (feels funny saying that, no?) was a rollercoaster of events, both good and bad. I feel like 2009 did end semi-decently (job, settling back into Boston), signs that things may pick up for 2010. All I know for this year coming up is that I want to really pursue my goals and ultimately, my own happiness. With the economy and life itself, I got more into surviving than pursuing those things; hopefully, I manage to stay fairly secure and can have the luxury of not just focusing on surviving.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year’s Celebration. I stayed in with my significant other and watched Christmas on Mars (a Flaming Lips movie) and made chocolate chip cookies. There is something nice to the simple things in life.

More important, on topic things will be posted sometime in the future 🙂

I’ve decided over my school break that I’m going to make a website. All I have to do is figure out a URL.

Why am I going to create a website? Because I want to. Nothing special. I used to make websites back when people first could (I taught myself how to type by making websites). This was during the days of Geocities with the neighborhoods and many people used MIDI files and animated GIFs. I quit sometime in 1999/2000. I think I could do a decent job with designing and coding my website. I figure that it’ll be a good skill to have under my belt and maybe it’ll even further kick my butt into doing more performances, collaborating, etc. Goals I always have but time or money (or both) have gotten in the way.

What will be on this future website? I’m still working that out. On Bhuz, there is ample advice on websites and business marketing. I don’t want multiple websites, but some people think it’s a good idea to separate your more “personal” stuff from your dance stuff if you’re marketing your dancing. I’m not 100% convinced, but still, decisions are being made.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Here’s the highlights of what I’m thankful for from this past year:

  1. Friends who came through for me when my father died and in general when my life crashed down. Even the little gestures like a phone call or message from someone I hadn’t talked to in awhile meant so much.
  2. My job. Being unemployed is rotten for a myriad of reasons. Even if my job is challenging I am thankful that I have it.
  3. Old professors. I keep in touch with them, and they mean so much to me. Though they can’t always help, their support is truly astounding.
  4. My coworkers. My job is difficult but at least I have supportive coworkers who will at least commiserate with the challenges.

I guess what I’m most thankful for are the people I’ve had in my life this year who’ve helped make things easier on me.

To a completely different apartment than the last one I had described. This one was simply a better deal. The apartment has more than enough space for me and three cats. I have a room I intend on using for a dance/yoga studio, which is nice. It’s plenty of room for veil. I’m also on ground floor, so if I resume to louder forms of dance (Flamenco, Odissi), noise won’t be much of a concern.

It is weird having my own space and having to maintain it after literally living out of a suitcase for the past 2 months or so. It is strange to be alone and only surrounded by cats. I don’t mind it necessarily, this is just s change. I feel like I’m slowly getting myself into a routine. I’m a fairly habitual person. I’m not so stuck in my ways that I won’t ever change, but I do appreciate consistency to some degree.

I will resume blogging more once I have better internet. I am currently using the town’s wireless internet (no contract, first month only 1 dollar), but it’s spotty.