Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ode to Martha Graham

And special thanks to Katy Pomelov for turning me on to this quote and special thanks to Jenny Bold in Chicago for having it at just the right time during our workshop in February.

There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time this expression is unique. and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it! It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
~ Martha Graham

Meanwhile, about the typo -- while putting the makeup on, I messed up the second "t" and after cleaning up the stem, I forgot to put the cross on it. People kept asking me what it said and I thought, "I really need to work on the contrast in colors more!" Of course, that was before Laurel pointed out my spell checker let me out of the house with vitalily, not vitality.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You've got to have...

When I got back to town, Aaron and I were hanging out discussing religion. He comes from a bi-cultural household (Lutheran and Jewish). As we were discussing the idea of God and religion, he suggested that people don't necessarily believe in God -- they just have Faith and that religion was about having Faith. I got to thinking about the idea of agnostics and atheists and wondered about what they might have faith in. I imagine it is science, evolution and/or the unknown.

For my part, I like the idea of "the force" and I experience it in tangible ways as flow in my life -- not just in my poi practice, but in my life practice.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Squished in a Middle Seat

3 out of 4 people I encountered on the streets of San Francisco commented on the butterfly. 4 people in all of the Dallas, Salt Lake City and Oakland airports and airplane rides commented on it. One was a woman in Dallas who was really impacted by it and acknowledged it twice. One was a flight attendant in a rest room in SLC. One was the little girl sitting next to me on the plane. She was in her rather large grandmother's lap. The poor woman was squished in a middle seat with her beautiful but somewhat vocal granddaughter. When the child's shoe fell on me and woke me -- the third time something fell on me -- I thought back to my word on May 25th. It was a challenging experience and I was grateful to call to mind, "WWJD?"

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Don't go for Second Best Baby -- Express Your Self!

While I was in Dallas at the Texas Flagger Weekend, I taught a highly emotional and deeply meaningful class which was scheduled to be 2 hours but ran 1.5 hours over because we of the depth of the artists in the class. The session was a performance workshop geared toward helping the performers develop their own unique sense of Self Expression. I painted my head that morning with the founding principals of Temple of Poi in mind:

  • Express yourself fully and completely until and unless you take away someone else's ability to express themselves fully and completely.

  • Thanks to Christopher Fish for the photos.

    Friday, May 26, 2006

    How would you react?

    When my brother's wife Judy was diagnosed with cancer years ago, I considered what it might be like to be a woman going through chemotherapy. I wondered what it might be like to lose my hair. For years I associated a bald headed woman with sickness/chemo/cancer.

    I wondered what other's might think when they saw me bald -- especially traveling from Oakland to Dallas with a layover in Salt Lake City. I figured I'd be interacting with hundreds of people, at least on some level. I also though it was clever to replace a well put together hair style with a simple word, "Vanity," and just assumed people would react to it.

    When I got on my second flight I sat next to a lovely couple who were probably in their 50s from Dallas just returning from a 7 day cruise in Alaska. While they had seen me in the airport, they hadn't the time to notice my head because they were too busy trying to get on the plane or get to their gate and manage their own travel process. So while I thought the airport would be a fun place to play with people's ideas of right/wrong/good/bad/sick/healthy/vanity/self-image, I think perhaps a mall would have been a better choice.

    Thursday, May 25, 2006


    I first saw a WWJD button on the playa in 2003 and I had no idea what it meant. Someone more educated than I informed me it was asking the question, "What would Jesus do?" I believe Jesus was a bodhitsattva which I understand to be an enlightened individual who chooses to postpone entry into the Buddhist equivalent of Heaven (nirvana) -- despite their deserving it -- and instead choosing to serve here on Earth to help all others find similar enlightenment.

    I often consider the story of Jesus being hit in the face and turning the other cheek to the person who hit him. When I first considered that I thought, "That's stupid! Why would you let someone hit you?" Through time I've considered this story and come to think of how compassionate Jesus must have been to offer his cheek to this individual. I imagine how someone would come to the place of striking Jesus on the face and consider that was the best they were capable of communicating in the moment.

    Then I imagine what Jesus was experiencing. I think Jesus must have been enlightened enough to understand he was not the body that was being hit (just as I am not my hair) and in that moment, by offering the person his other cheek, he was truly offering love to the person who hit him.

    I do not think this means one should always turn the other cheek. But the idea that one can be enlightened enough to serve another from a place of compassion -- the idea that someone can be capable of offering themselves freely from a place of choice inspires me to embody compassion more fully each day.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2006


    After the mishap of people reading the "H" in hope yesterday at an "N," Annika and Kristine suggested in class that I put "Yup" on my head the next day. So, Annika and Kristine, this "Yup!" is for you!

    Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    That Tiny Spec of Hope...

    Continuing with the style of glitter on lip crayon, today's word, "Hope," came out slightly more visible. However, because writing letters in the mirror was a bit of a challenge to me when creating the word, the "h" didn't have a long enough line and, unfortunately, appeared to be "nope" instead of the much more uplifting choice, "Hope."

    Have you ever been around someone who used glitter frequently? If you have, undoubtedly you're aware that it can sometimes stick to other things -- even after extensive cleaning -- and often, specs of it will show up when least expected. Simply by shifting the perspective from which light is shining on the object, the glitter will appear. I think of it often as holding a solid black piece of construction paper. Nothing is there -- no images or symbols or messages or meaning. Then, as if by magic, when I move the paper a tiny bit of light will appear out of nowhere -- reflecting off that spec of glitter that seemed to show up in a place where it wasn't before.

    This is the nature of glitter. In the sea of darkness where nothing seems possible, it is that tiny spec of hope which when all else fails. Again and again I notice, all I have to do is shift my perspective to see it...

    Sunday, May 21, 2006


    I emailed my good friend Mark Lewis the pictures of the makeup from the Fire Arts Exposition from yesterday and we got into a great discussion about using this experience as a way to market my ideas. He asked me to consider how I might represent my work in symbols on my head.

    At the same time I've been working on a portfolio of makeup I've done for myself because Tamale suggested I start tracking that. In addition, I've been looking for a new non-flowtoy related creative activity to play around with. Top that all off with Mark's other suggestion for me to consider journaling, and voila! This blog was born.

    While this first image on my head doesn't show up particularly well in the makeup style that I used here -- lip crayon with light glitter on top -- it was a learning experience (information for course correction, as it were) from which I have moved forward to create more visible art on my head. The word itself -- Flowology™ -- has to be credited to my former coach and dear friend, Jason McClain who said it one day when I was describing what I do with my students which is far more powerful than the actual moves we teach at Temple of Poi.

    Saturday, May 20, 2006

    What's the bravest way to go?

    May 20, 2006 was the night of the Black Rock Arts Foundation's Fire Arts Exposition at which the original crew from mN8Fx were getting together to perform again. I had originally planned to shave my head after teaching at the Texas Flagger Weekend in Dallas put together by my good friend Phillip Bryan and have him shave my head. I hadn't actually told many people I would be shaving my head at all -- Phillip, Lacy, Vladlen and Spencer knew about it.

    Then I washed my hair and I had run out of conditioner and I thought, "What am I waiting for? It isn't going to get any easier!" So I cut if off that night, knowing it would go on the video tape being created for the event and that it would be memorialized in style. I thought it would take a particular kind of bravery to just do it without anyone knowing it was happening and show up at a performance all decked out as I did.

    I was received so well by people. Lots of people, especially women, mentioned how brave and/or bold they thought it was. I had been super nervous about how I would feel meeting people. The first person I saw was Crimson Rose, one of the organizers of the event, an executive officer of Burning Man (BRAF is part of the Burning Man organization) and a woman I feel honored to call a friend. Crimson, for those of you who don't know, has this amazingly majestic long white hair (not dyed I don't believe) that I have always looked at with awe. It's really beautiful.

    Her first comment to me was one of support and her saying, "I've always wanted to do that." Throughout the night, people stopped me and congratulated me and said it was a bold look. I got stopped by several folks for photos as well -- but then, that could have been the makeup. I also realized when people stopped me I had been uncomfortable being looked at -- an odd thing for a performer to say, I'm sure, and true all the same.

    During my performance with Hunter, I got to run the fire over my skull -- it's hot! And my skull is sensitive. I wonder if it is that sensitive when you're actually bald rather than shaved...?

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    I used to have hair.

    In the early 1990s, at 5'2.75" in height,my weight peaked at a truly unhealthy 298 pounds. The combination of the impending threat of breaking the 300 pound mark and an incredibly depressing shopping trip to buy clothing for interviews after graduating college in November of 1991 sparked a change. In the moment when I walked up the single flight of stairs to my home and was out of breath, huffing and puffing at the top of the stairs. I was certain then if I didn't change, I'd be dead by 30. At that point, I decided to grow my hair out and that my hair growth would be the symbol of change and I would -- as Sampson and Deliliah might -- use my hair as my power center.

    Change. It was the only thing that would save me and I knew it and my hair became my talisman. As time passed, I began to define myself in terms of my hair -- my sense of self, feminity, grace and anything related to my vanity. It was the only part of my body I paid attention to. All the mirrors in my home showed me from the waist up -- or even less of me, mostly centered on my face. As a matter of fact, despite the fact that I had already begun losing weight by the end of 1991 when I was 22, I did not have a full length mirror until nearly a decade later in 2000.

    In the years between 1992 and 2006, I lost a full human size individual worth of weight -- about 120 pounds in total. And while I had changed my ideas about my hair -- in large part because it was a lot of work to wash it all the time when I began teaching fire dancing classes and the smell of kerosine in it was, to say the least, gross -- it still was the only part of my physical form into which I put my vanity. And my identity.

    Recently I’ve come into awareness of my own fears around being thin/thinner –- partly the whole thing about not being able to take care of myself and handle my personal safety; partly being afraid of having guys come on to me. I realized recently in a conversation with one of my best friends that I’m afraid to be fully expressed as a woman sexually. The combination of my desire to feel confident in taking care of myself as well as desiring to be comfortable as a sexually expressed woman lead me to the strong urge to change my self perception.

    Meanwhile, a few months ago, when the back of my hair (which I had shaved for Burning Man in 2005 for comfort reasons) was short and growing back, it became a major pain for me to manage while I was hooping because I kept burning it at fire practice and I was spending a really long time trying to tie it up.

    I jokingly said, "I should just shave it off." after about 4 times of saying that, I started to really think about it and noticed my attachment to my hair and how it is that my hair has been the only part of my body I've ever been vain about. I have had this crazy idea that all vanity is bad. But that is about as true as saying all ego is bad. There is healthy ego -- know thy self... And there is unhealthy ego -- narcissism. Same with vanity. I don't have healthy vanity yet, so I'm really working on that and I thought if I redirected the energy from my hair (the ONLY part of me I've ever been vain about) that I'd learn some healthy vanity.

    I begin my journey of having a a shaved head because:
    - I am not my hair (or body or job or blog or web site or car or...)
    - I wanted to know what men felt like when they went bald -- all the men in my family are bald or partially bald
    - I thought it would be one of the hardest things I could do to and for myself aesthetically
    - I wanted to see myself differently
    - I wanted to see how the world interacts with bald women
    - I wanted to develop healthy vanity
    - I was afraid to do it
    - I know I will grow from it

    The world feels different. I didn't know how much sensation was possible on the top of the head.