Performing

Imperial Circus of China

I sometimes have some difficulty deciding whether I prefer being in an audience or on the stage. There is a certain kind of pleasant, exciting but almost lazy charm to just sitting back and watching others entertain. On the other hand, being on stage and in front of an audience also has its upsides. I count myself lucky to have been on both sides of the performing “relationship” (audience/entertainer) in these last few years. Cultural Lion Dancing with Bergen Chinese Dragon & Lion Dance Troupe for countless performances everywhere from restaurants and parades to Continental Arena and the IZOD center; hip-hop choreography with Verse|One Dance Troupe at Rutgers for cultural shows to cotillions; even informally during previous Chinese School years, acting out “The New Year Dinner of the Gods” with my old and very amusing classmates in front of the Chinese School during Chinese New Year (good times hahaha.) Ohh, that old Chinese School class. As one of us said a while back–a sentence that struck me as quite fitting–“We’re all performers” (or something to that effect.)  Surely, we are, since even back then most of us were learning Lion Dancing or Chinese cultural dancing, and in college we gravitated towards certain dancing niches…I’m still amused whenever people are surprised to hear that I dance.

Seeing two variations of the famous Beijing acrobatic shows in the past week makes me think about the interesting features of audience members who are performers themselves. As I watched the male and female acrobats performing feats of amazing dexterity, coordination, and general bodily strength, I caught myself really appreciating the show more because I can understand parts of how difficult it is to do some of what they do–one-armed handstands, all sorts of flips, climbing up poles with just upper body strength–I guess the thought I had has something to do with how knowing a bit about a skill gives one a healthy appreciation when seeing people at the top of their craft.

Having performed on stage, one appreciates all the more when one sees good showmanship, in the form of constant smiles (or at least appropriate expressions) or some kind of stage presence. This past Wednesday, I saw the Imperial Circus of China perform at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and this past Saturday I watched the Peking Acrobats perform at Bergen PAC in NJ. I had a few distinct impressions of both: while I was very impressed with the acts and overall skill level of the performers in CT, perhaps my one issue with their show (also noted by the friend who had invited me) was that the music stopped in-between acts, which seems like an easily remedied fault. In the grand scheme of things, a small gap between acts of such a caliber is perhaps negligible, but I think that because the acts are so interesting, the show itself would have been almost flawless if all the separate acts were woven together into a flowing narrative. Silence between acts, in my opinion, breaks the semblance of cohesion and interrupts what had otherwise been a captivating show. So when I watched the Peking Acrobats in NJ, I couldn’t help but to pay close attention between acts, and my thought is that whoever was in charge of organizing their acts understood what I was talking about above about uninterrupted narratives–the song from one act blended quite well into the next.

Comparing the two different but similar acts, I was happy to see that each featured stunts and acts that I had never seen before–the Imperial Circus had an act with hat juggling, for example, and the Peking Acrobats had two (very acrobatic) children as part of their acts. Watching acrobatic shows always makes me wonder what kind of training the acrobats undertake in order to become so fit, flexible, and nimble.

All things considered, I think I usually prefer to be on the stage, because of the very process it takes to get there. I love practicing and training to improve, and the bonding that comes with spending so much time with a team of committed (ideally, anyway) individuals, and the sense of unity and cohesion once we’re approaching a goal, and the almost palpable excitement–crossed with a degree of nervousness–on the seconds before we step on-stage. And once the music begins (proverbially or literally), time flies away and as performers, we’re in the zone, and seemingly seconds later we’re done and out. Hours and hours of work for our seconds of fame, hahaha. That isn’t a complaint by any means–anyone who’s had to practice should be able to appreciate true mastery all the more.

At the same time, being a performer, leaner and teacher, I like how my focus is drawn to different aspects of the show when I watch performances now. I pay close attention to how the performers move, I note when people are out of sync/formation, when they lose their stage presence–I note these things, and sympathize, because having been ‘there’ in a way, we know that it could happen to us, and that’s why it’s all the more important that we practice, train, remain diligent and focused when necessary.

From the unofficial teaching standpoint, I love seeing my students improve, whether it’s in lion dancing or hip-hop dancing. This past visit to Rutgers, I was able to sit in on a V|1 practice while they were doing critiquing of 2 pieces that they’re auditioning for…today, I think, and seeing that most of them had improved in some ways, I was so proud hahaha, even though their improvement wasn’t necessarily due to any influence of mine; it was a mother/father-bear-like pride born of seeing improvement from those who love what they do, and that’s always gratifying to me.

Oh, dance. We’ve had this funny relationship, you and I. I knew I was always interested, but didn’t know how to start; you were cool with that, you taught me the importance of what it means to throw yourself into what you’re doing, and now here I am marveling at how you’ve helped me grow.

Work, play…dance? 😀

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good busy

early v-day dinner!

Friday: drive down to RU, drive to Menlo Mall, walk around and accidentally eat too much of a late lunch, drive to Princeton area for dinner at Sushi Palace (sushi buffet), searching for parking at Princeton University, watched Triple 888 Dance Troupe’s Awakening show, chilled with old friends past midnight, drove back to RU, dropped by friend’s apartment, got food from White Castle.

Saturday: attempt waking earlier, drive to Parsippany, perform lion dance, perform dragon dance, drive back to RU, light grocery shopping, shower, dinner at Rai Rai Ramen, more grocery shopping

Sunday: drag self out of bed, drive back upstate to Chinese School, jump into monk/teaser outfit and a stage performance, walk around school looking for principal, eat a bit of dinner, sit through raffle, drive home, revise resume, send emails, more work-related research and revisions.

This past weekend has been quite busy, but looking back at it now, I realize that I like being busy, and most especially prefer it to not having anything on my schedule. Even tonight, being focused on doing things to tweak the resume, researching online for work-related things, I’m beginning to feel more involved and actually into what I’m doing, which is the kind of attitude I’ve been waiting for.

February is actually looking fairly busy for a bunch of reasons, with some amount of events during most weekends.  With luck and planning, work will soon become part of that busyness! Such is the plan.

Aha. I think I realized why I’m liking this. I think this is because I’m feeling the growth that can come with change that one hasn’t experienced. I’m eager to learn, eager to perform, and eager to excel.

this could be

a beginning. an end. a somewhere in-between.

sunrise, sunset. so it goes.

The plan to sleep earlier and wake earlier has so far been defying popular expectation in being partially successful. I’ve been sleeping relatively earlier, yet I’m still getting up until around noontime. I wonder if the warmth of the bed and the coldness of the season has anything to do with that.

Sunday’s visit back to Chinese School, and Tuesday night’s visit to judo class at Ridgewood’s YW/YMCA both took me back in time a bit, given that I hadn’t been to either in a while.  I’m beginning to get a sense of the importance of the connections and friendships built through the past years; I start catching glimpses of the depths of bonds and the ties of friendship; I notice, too, hints of where the limits to such bonds might stretch.

I would like to think that a switch of some sort has flipped, but maybe the change is just an acceptance of some sort that’s needed to happen. Whatever the case, I would like to keep up the upward trend, the forward momentum, because it’s surely better than standing still.

Endings. Beginnings. If this were a story, I would hope for many more chapters to go before the conclusion. But more important than the length, I suppose, is the quality of the story. I guess that’s where I’m at, where the difficulty’s always been at, and where one of the bigger challenges dwells.

Learn as if you were to live forever, mm?

ticking of the metronome

what, exactly, is ticking away?

The USR Library, Best Buy, then Barnes & Noble.  It’s been a while since I went on that familiar circuit, and I think I made the best discoveries at the library and B&N.   Not to leave Best Buy completely out of the equation, but on the rare occasions I go to any Best Buy nowadays, I find myself less than impressed with the prices of certain items, many of which could be found online for less money.  Of course, being in the store itself is an experience, and nothing to my knowledge yet replaces the way one could test out certain pieces of hardware (in my case playing around delightedly with a Canon PowerShot G12).

At the library, I followed the usual routine of browsing the new book displays, as well as searching for a few books I’d meant to read, and I left the library fairly pleased with the acquisitions of Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Karen Berger’s Backpacking & Hiking (part of the Eyewitness Companions series, I think), and Alejandro Junger, M.D.’s Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself.  At Best Buy, I browsed and spent most of my time looking at the above-mentioned G12 and glancing at the small (and either highly-priced or in need of updated labeling–possibly both) computer game display.  Most of my time was spent at B&N, where I played around with a Nook Color and then spent the next few hours reading and browsing.  All in all, a fairly calm day.

I’ve heard about The Five People You Meet In Heaven (hereafter abbreviated as Five People) before, but it wasn’t until yesterday night, reading the first few chapters on the small screen of an iPod Touch, that I really felt moved to get the book and finish it.  I don’t usually seek out books like this–historically, I’ve preferred fantasy or self-improvement/psychology-style non-fiction–but this one in particular seems to have its fair share of lessons that sound comforting to me.  I found that after finishing the book and setting it down, a few minutes ago, that my mind kept drawing back to the five people the book’s protagonist Eddie met in heaven (don’t worry, no spoilers, I dislike them too), and the lessons he was to learn from each of them.  Five People reminds me in some ways of Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, maybe in the way that both of them resonate with me, and one of the ways in which they both do that is because they present in their own ways the idea of living life as fully as possible, and that in doing so is its own kind of fulfillment.

For a young boy/man/fill-in-the-blank barely out of college and with little idea of where he should be headed–basically, me–Five People presents ideas that I’ve come across and grown to accept or at least appreciate, especially the idea of the interrelatedness of life, of how all of our stories intersect, overlap at points.  The idea of a heaven where we find solace through understanding is a fascinating one to me and no doubt to many others because I, at least, can recall many minutes spent wondering about the purpose of life, my own or in the general sense.  If I find anything like the events of Five People waiting for me after I die, I imagine I’d be pleasantly surprised, though naturally I wouldn’t be able to share the revelation of Mitch Albom’s then-possibly-divinely-inspired-genius with anyone aside from possible companions in the “afterlife.”  But let me veer away from thoughts of death, which I suppose are interesting enough in their own way but don’t seem to help much in the search for meaning and inspiration.

Speaking of the search for meaning and inspiration, I wonder at how the many hours I’ve spent playing various games might impact my life, aside from conveniently keeping me from too much thought.  I suspect, though, that I already know that the kinds of answers I want won’t be found while I’m dungeon-crawling or blasting away some monster or other.  I won’t deny that I’ve had some degrees of fun while conjuring elements in Magicka, or while uncovering events of dire importance in Neverwinter Nights 2, but somewhere in my mind, lurking but not quite covered by the desire for instant gratification, is the truth of the matter–that I want more to life than these games.  I think it little coincidence that my screensaver is one that shows pictures of some of my favorite moments, because so far in my life, living in, working toward, chasing, and creating moments have been some of the high points.  It’s not chance that most of the best experiences in my life–and in the lives of plenty others, I’d assume–are ones spent in the company of friends, ones who are comfortable to be around.  That’s really why Verse|One of the past two semesters has been so enjoyable–more than just our dancing, more than just our late night outings, most of us became in many ways the family that our captain has titled us.

Ah, Verse|One.  You were the family I wanted so much to find in my college years, the one I sought but couldn’t exactly find and wasn’t sure how to make in badminton.  Groups of people of varying loyalties come and go through each organization, to be sure, but I like to think that the new members of the Fall 2009 group, having survived to the next semester, played no small part in the group’s re-imagining and subsequent bonding–like our dances, maintaining the group was and is a team effort.  Those who prefer more visual stimulation, see the Fall 2010 montage, my Christmas and parting gift to the people who’re one of the best parts of my college years.  Despite having to watch and re-watch the video so many times while putting it together, I haven’t tired of watching it.  I suppose it’s because those memories don’t get old.  Much respect for the true dancers of our group, because I think I understand, or at least can see, the difference between the people who love to dance and the people who are “just” well-coordinated (which always brings to mind this quotation: “Technique is what you fall back on when you run out of inspiration”  -Rudolf Nureyev).  Alas, I don’t think I found my inspiration for dance, though I had a handle on the technique, and life inspiration?  I do not know.

I appreciate the idea that all actions and occurrences happen for certain reasons.  Such a belief, true or not, gives every situation significance, if not in immediately apparent reasons, then in the belief that gains can always be found in the shadow of losses, that opportunities not only follow in the wake of trouble, but merely wait to be tried.  It is in certain lessons of how to deal with aspects of life, then, that I think are the most important ones I take away from the years at college.  If I were to think back now, I cannot remember every important lesson I’ve been given in classes.  The lessons that stood out the most no doubt blended themselves into the basic framework of my mind, and I would hope that I can only put those lessons to use when I need them.

In the end–maybe it would be more appropriate to say, “in the middle”, or just “at this point”–I’m still unsure of what I ought to do.  I don’t fear that my actions won’t have their impacts.  Perhaps that’s just the problem–that action and inaction both have consequences, and that knowing the consequences of inaction ought to spur me to take action.

But–and I welcome serious suggestions–where to start, where to aim for, and why?

ticking of the metronome

The USR Library, Best Buy, then Barnes & Noble.  It’s been a while since I went on that familiar circuit, and I think I made the best discoveries at the library and B&N.   Not to leave Best Buy completely out of the equation, but on the rare occasions I go to any Best Buy nowadays, I find myself less than impressed with the prices of certain items, many of which could be found online for less money.  Of course, being in the store itself is an experience, and nothing to my knowledge yet replaces the way one could test out certain pieces of hardware (in my case playing around delightedly with a Canon PowerShot G12).

At the library, I followed the usual routine of browsing the new book displays, as well as searching for a few books I’d meant to read, and I left the library fairly pleased with the acquisitions of Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Karen Berger’s Backpacking & Hiking (part of the Eyewitness Companions series, I think), and Alejandro Junger, M.D.’s Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself.  At Best Buy, I browsed and spent most of my time looking at the above-mentioned G12 and glancing at the small (and either highly-priced or in need of updated labeling–possibly both) computer game display.  Most of my time was spent at B&N, where I played around with a Nook Color and then spent the next few hours reading and browsing.  All in all, a fairly calm day.

I’ve heard about The Five People You Meet In Heaven (hereafter abbreviated as Five People) before, but it wasn’t until yesterday night, reading the first few chapters on the small screen of an iPod Touch, that I really felt moved to get the book and finish it.  I don’t usually seek out books like this–historically, I’ve preferred fantasy or self-improvement/psychology-style non-fiction–but this one in particular seems to have its fair share of lessons that sound comforting to me.  I found that after finishing the book and setting it down, a few minutes ago, that my mind kept drawing back to the five people the book’s protagonist Eddie met in heaven (don’t worry, no spoilers, I dislike them too), and the lessons he was to learn from each of them.  Five People reminds me in some ways of Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, maybe in the way that both of them resonate with me, and one of the ways in which they both do that is because they present in their own ways the idea of living life as fully as possible, and that in doing so is its own kind of fulfillment.

For a young boy/man/fill-in-the-blank barely out of college and with little idea of where he should be headed–basically, me–Five People presents ideas that I’ve come across and grown to accept or at least appreciate, especially the idea of the interrelatedness of life, of how all of our stories intersect, overlap at points.  The idea of a heaven where we find solace through understanding is a fascinating one to me and no doubt to many others because I, at least, can recall many minutes spent wondering about the purpose of life, my own or in the general sense.  If I find anything like the events of Five People waiting for me after I die, I imagine I’d be pleasantly surprised, though naturally I wouldn’t be able to share the revelation of Mitch Albom’s then-possibly-divinely-inspired-genius with anyone aside from possible companions in the “afterlife.”  But let me veer away from thoughts of death, which I suppose are interesting enough in their own way but don’t seem to help much in the search for meaning and inspiration.

Speaking of the search for meaning and inspiration, I wonder at how the many hours I’ve spent playing various games might impact my life, aside from conveniently keeping me from too much thought.  I suspect, though, that I already know that the kinds of answers I want won’t be found while I’m dungeon-crawling or blasting away some monster or other.  I won’t deny that I’ve had some degrees of fun while conjuring elements in Magicka, or while uncovering events of dire importance in Neverwinter Nights 2, but somewhere in my mind, lurking but not quite covered by the desire for instant gratification, is the truth of the matter–that I want more to life than these games.  I think it little coincidence that my screensaver is one that shows pictures of some of my favorite moments, because so far in my life, living in, working toward, chasing, and creating moments have been some of the high points.  It’s not chance that most of the best experiences in my life–and in the lives of plenty others, I’d assume–are ones spent in the company of friends, ones who are comfortable to be around.  That’s really why Verse|One of the past two semesters has been so enjoyable–more than just our dancing, more than just our late night outings, most of us became in many ways the family that our captain has titled us.

Ah, Verse|One.  You were the family I wanted so much to find in my college years, the one I sought but couldn’t exactly find and wasn’t sure how to make in badminton.  Groups of people of varying loyalties come and go through each organization, to be sure, but I like to think that the new members of the Fall 2009 group, having survived to the next semester, played no small part in the group’s re-imagining and subsequent bonding–like our dances, maintaining the group was and is a team effort.  Those who prefer more visual stimulation, see the Fall 2010 montage, my Christmas and parting gift to the people who’re one of the best parts of my college years.  Despite having to watch and re-watch the video so many times while putting it together, I haven’t tired of watching it.  I suppose it’s because those memories don’t get old.  Much respect for the true dancers of our group, because I think I understand, or at least can see, the difference between the people who love to dance and the people who are “just” well-coordinated (which always brings to mind this quotation: “Technique is what you fall back on when you run out of inspiration”  -Rudolf Nureyev).  Alas, I don’t think I found my inspiration for dance, though I had a handle on the technique, and life inspiration?  I do not know.

I appreciate the idea that all actions and occurrences happen for certain reasons.  Such a belief, true or not, gives every situation significance, if not in immediately apparent reasons, then in the belief that gains can always be found in the shadow of losses, that opportunities not only follow in the wake of trouble, but merely wait to be tried.  It is in certain lessons of how to deal with aspects of life, then, that I think are the most important ones I take away from the years at college.  If I were to think back now, I cannot remember every important lesson I’ve been given in classes.  The lessons that stood out the most no doubt blended themselves into the basic framework of my mind, and I would hope that I can only put those lessons to use when I need them.

In the end–maybe it would be more appropriate to say, “in the middle”, or just “at this point”–I’m still unsure of what I ought to do.  I don’t fear that my actions won’t have their impacts.  Perhaps that’s just the problem–that action and inaction both have consequences, and that knowing the consequences of inaction ought to spur me to take action.

But–and I welcome serious suggestions–where to start, where to aim for, and why?