Finding Simplicity in a World of Tech

Today is National Simplicity Day where we celebrate cutting out the unimportant things in life and become a state or quality of being simple or easy to understand. Henry David Thoreau said, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will become simpler.” 

Keep It Simple GIF by maddyshine

In a world of technology, there is constant communication and the need to feel “on” all the time. Most of the time it can make us feel complicated with what our wants and needs are. When we can practice simplicity, we can get back to our personal core desires, needs, and begin to become easier to understand within ourselves, and with others.

You can declutter the unnecessary things from your life to find clarity on what you need to celebrate National Simplicity Day (or any time), however, for many that are easier said than done. Below is a guided movement exercise to help you declutter, find clarity, and embark on the simplicity and beauty of movement.

Confused Twitch GIF by Hyper RPG

  • Find a comfortable position in a space that feels comfortable to you whether it be home or in nature. 
  • Close your eyes, inhale through your nose for five seconds, and exhale through your mouth for five seconds. Repeat two more times.
  • Take notice of how your body is feeling in this environment and position. Where do you feel pain or even mild discomfort?
  • If you have neck pain, perhaps you want to bring movement to that area.
  • Bring small, slow circular movements to the area of your body you chose. Explore clockwise and counterclockwise movements for about three minutes.
  • After ending your simple, circular movements, keep your eyes closed and return to the breathing series you began with. 

Reflect. Like simple circular movements, the art of decluttering and finding clarity is a small cyclical process. Identify something small you can do to declutter unnecessary things from your life. Perhaps it is avoiding screen time while you’re using the bathroom or getting ready without the tv on in the morning. How will this small decluttering motion give clarity?

Giving Tuesday: More Important Than Ever

Giving Tuesday is an incredible way for people to show their support for the things, people, and organizations they love. A lot of artists and organizations, especially small ones, rely heavily on donations, volunteers, and word-of-mouth marketing. As we approach Giving Tuesday, I would love to encourage you, if you have the time and/or the means, to consider giving to artists, non-profits, or local organizations that you believe in. You can give money, time, talent, PR, kindness, or even simply share a post to show your support. 

 

To give you an idea of how vital this kind of support is, I have broken down for you what a “micro” non-profit looks like and how money, time, and word-of-mouth power us. 

 

Dance Waterloo is generally made up of about 8-10 women and any collaborators we may be working with for specific projects, plus our awesome Board of Directors. We are a 501(c)(3) organization, and we are funded by grants, donations, admissions (that are donation-based), and commissioned works. Our classes and performances are almost exclusively pay-what-you-can, and the money we receive from these are either used to pay our hardworking team involved with that project or the money is donated to causes we believe in. All this to say, we’re a pretty small organization, or as our Artistic Director, Morgan, said to me one time, a micro non-profit. 

 

Giving Money — 

 

Let’s start with the admin team. We work all through the year, whether there is a project in the works or we’re between projects. Our admin team is currently made up of 5 people — Artistic Director (Morgan), Executive Director (me), Contract + Compliance Specialist (Jess), Community Engagement Coordinator (Elizabeth), and Communications Specialist (Lizzi). We meet regularly, usually once a week or bi-weekly all year to ensure DW is running smoothly, safely, and effectively.

 

We also have our insanely talented teaching artists. At present, we have 3 teaching artists and a teaching assistant. These people bring DW to life. Depending on the season, we may have more or less teaching artists at any given time, but we almost always offer some type of class no matter the time of year. (Even some of our admin are teaching artists!) 

 

When we do have an in-person season, like VITAL (2019), we usually have about 5 dancers and 3 choreographers. During VITAL, almost every dancer was also an admin, a teaching artist, a choreographer, and sometimes 2 or 3 of these roles at once. Not only are the people that make up DW people that believe in our mission and vision, but they are multi-faceted artists ready to take on anything. 

 

Along with all of these amazing humans, we also work regularly with extraordinary collaborators, including graphic designers, composers, musicians, artists, and videographers. These people join the team for specific projects or ongoing work, and we are so lucky to be able to work with them, sometimes even for more than one project or season. 

 

These are all the people contracted with Dance Waterloo. We are able to pay them for their talents because of grants, donations, and admissions. Money from donations means pay raises for our contractors, more meaningful collaborations with other artists, and more impactful programming for our community at large. 

 

Giving Time —

 

If you made it to a Dance Waterloo performance or class before COVID-19, I am positive you saw more people repping DW than just the people I’ve mentioned thus far. You most likely met some of our volunteers. These people simply love the people of Dance Waterloo or our mission and they come out just to help us. They do everything from receiving donations, registering people for classes, to ushering guests and explaining who we are to passers-by. When our contractors are running around as choreographer, dancer, and artistic director trying to prepare to start the performance, the volunteers are there to be the friendly face, the point of contact, and really, the people who make the show go on.  

 

Dance Waterloo would not be possible without our volunteers. And this includes our Board of Directors. These people donate their time to help us operate Dance Waterloo. Along with 2 of our admin, there are 6 people on our Board that give their time, knowledge, and support at no cost to us. They are professionals and experts in their fields, and they want to help us succeed, whether that is helping us understand business operations, creating websites, or simply overseeing our projects and financials to make sure we are on the right path. They are our support system. 

 

Giving Word-of-Mouth Marketing — 

 

And the final ingredient of Dance Waterloo’s successful operation is word-of-mouth marketing. This comes from those who share our posts, invite a friend to class, or bring their family to a performance. When you share Dance Waterloo and our mission with others, our community grows and more people can see what we’re all about, and maybe, that is someone else who is in a position to donate money, time, or simply tell a friend about DW. 

 

So in this giving season, if you are able, please consider donating your money, time, or social media posts to an organization you love. Our donors and sponsors are the fuel that propel us forward, and we are beyond grateful. You keep us going and you make it possible for us to give back to our artists and our community. 

 

We love moving with you. Thank you.

 

Noelle Billings

Executive Director

Dance Waterloo

The Making of Cardio Dance Kickbox On Demand

We have been hard at work finding new ways to bring our community exciting movement classes while in the midst of a pandemic. Our top priority is keeping everyone safe, and in an effort to do that, we have begun creating virtual classes with our incredible team. I reached out to one of our teaching artists, Natasha, one of our teaching assistants, Lily, and our videographer, Taylor, to hear about their experiences creating our Cardio Dance/Kickboxing class. 

Tell me a bit about your background.

Natasha: I began taking recreational dance classes when I was young, and I loved taking my mom’s cardio fitness classes at the YMCA. I was a certified Zumba instructor for three years and graduated with a BA in Dance Studies from Appalachian State University in 2014. After moving to Austin in 2015, I started taking classes in the community and danced for a few local companies. I have since co-founded my own dance company, ZATERO Dance, and have recently begun to explore teaching movement based classes again.  

Lily: I have been dancing and performing since the age of seven. In short, movement and dance have been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. My dance background includes Mexican folkloric dancing, drill team, hip hop, contemporary, lyrical, jazz, ballet, modern, and improv. 

Taylor: I’m originally from Memphis and moved out to Austin a little over a year ago. I knew Austin is a very artistic town full of very talented people so I was really excited about the opportunities the city had to offer. 

Natasha, how did you get into kickboxing?

Natasha: My mom used to teach cardio kickboxing classes at the YMCA, so I would take them when I went to work with her. Remembering how much I loved those classes, I decided I wanted to try kickboxing on the bag when I moved to Austin. I was a member at ilovekickboxing on South Lamar for about three years, and have continued to train with various boxing and kickboxing coaches since. Kickboxing and dance both require rhythm. Kickboxing feels like dance to me because when you settle into a rhythm and grind it out, it feels so good! There are so many ways to combine the kickboxing combos so that you feel like you’re dancing once you get the hang of it. 

Lily, have you ever done kickboxing or taken a kickboxing class before? 

Lily: Yes, but not a ton of experience. Previous to being Natasha’s teaching assistant, I had only taken 3 classes.

Did you face any challenges while filming?

Natasha: No major challenges other than missing the people. One of the best things about live cardio kickbox or dance classes is the energy that feeds the room and encourages everyone to keep on moving. That energy was different in a virtual setting.  

Lily: Overall things ran pretty smoothly. I think the biggest challenge was that I didn’t know what was happening next; meaning I was learning all of the patterns in real-time. I had a few hiccups, but it was also cool because I got to have the experience of everyone who will be taking the class for the first time.

Taylor: Not many challenges filming the class. I think the main challenge was having to deal with the Texas heat since this class was filmed outside and adjusting the lighting to the sun setting. 

Natasha and Lily, what was it like teaching and assisting this class virtually as opposed to live in-person?

Natasha: In-person cardio classes are awesome because you can read the energy of the room and tailor the workout based on who is there. If you see that people need more time to catch up, you can take it slower. If you see that they need a challenge, you can pump it up. It’s difficult to create a virtual class that caters to your audience if you don’t know exactly who is in your audience. One of the benefits of teaching virtually is the ability to stop and start again if you mess up.   

Lily: Virtually assisting is interesting because I didn’t realize how much of a difference it is to assist in an in person class versus pre-recorded. In person you can feed off of the energy of those around you and you can see everyone in the class. But when pre-recording classes, the only person in front of you is the cameraman. It’s silly but I found myself not knowing where to look. But I will have to say being able to pause or start over was really nice!

Taylor, what was it like using your videography skills to help create a virtual dance class? 

Taylor: It was an interesting experience being behind the camera during a virtual dance class. It’s something I’ve never had the opportunity to film so it was exciting having a new perspective. My favorite part about being a videographer is the ability to enhance the quality of a scene. You can totally transform something ordinary into extraordinary.

What was it like working with your collaborators? 

Natasha: The team was fun to work with! Once we got settled in and decided how we were going to film, everyone jumped right in and it went smoothly. I could not have asked for a better team to work with for this series. 

Lily: It was great! Natasha came very prepared and was willing to go over a few things before we started shooting, and Taylor was patient and easy to work with. We had a discussion of how the shoot was going to go and we were able to jump right on in!

Taylor: It was great working with Natasha and Lily. They are both so friendly and easy to work with. They are both very talented at what they do so it’s always nice to see people in their element and being able to capture it. 

What are you most excited about this season with Dance Waterloo? 

Natasha: I am excited about the variety of activities that Dance Waterloo is offering this season. The company has done a lot of work to plan a diverse curriculum and is offering safe platforms for teachers and students to continue their creative exploration. I particularly love the Low Impact for High Impact series because I think it’s important to support local BIPOC communities, and I enjoy the different classes that are being offered through that program. 

Lily: I am most excited about all the collaborations that Dance Waterloo is fostering. In times where we can feel very disconnected from each other because we are unable to have normal in person activities, it is nice to be a part of a collaboration that is trying to reach several different audiences while committing to different causes.

Taylor: I think I’m most excited about the transition and ability to do more virtual experiences. I think it’s great that we are able to still portray the craft in these crazy times through the use of today’s technology.  

Final thoughts —

Lily: I love the different styles of classes and I love that I can sign up for one or a series. The flexibility of being able to take live or get a recording to do on my own time is great. Thanks, Dance Waterloo!

Thank you, Natasha, Lily, and Taylor for sharing your experiences, and shoutout to everyone involved who helped bring this class to life!

To learn more about this class, you can email us at info@dancewaterloo.org or message us on social media @dancewaterloo, and be sure to check out our Alexander Technique and Low Impact for High Impact series!

Noelle Billings

Executive Director

Dance Waterloo

Encourage Young Artists

I have worked with kids in almost all of my jobs since I was 15. I have seen, heard, and even said, “Wow, you could be a painter!” or “Wow, you could grow up and be an actress!” But oftentimes, we stop saying this by the time kids turn into teenagers. Parents or teachers will privately say, “Well, they’re not going to make it,” meaning either their kid won’t become famous or “successful,” or “they just won’t survive being a poor starving artist.” Here’s the thing though, in fear for the future success of a generation, have we stifled their dreams, talents, and happiness? 

 

As a very young millennial, I find myself surrounded by people who did not have anyone around them normalizing art as a career. Once they could understand what a “job” or “career” was, being a painter or actress was off the table. It wasn’t normal. Only the best of the best do that. You have to suffer for it. Why be a poor starving artist when you can have stability and a good career? Anyone can be an artist, just like anyone can be an accountant. Yes, you’ll have to learn and grow and work extremely hard, but everyone does that for the things they love or want or believe in. Being an artist can be raw sometimes, making you feel as if you’re suffering, but that is the beauty of it. And, you absolutely do not have to be “poor and starving” to be an artist. 

 

A job or career in the field of the arts is just as valid and essential as every other job or career. It should be an option for anyone and everyone who wishes to pursue it. I can’t believe we aren’t encouraging more people to be artists — it’s so fulfilling and offers so much to yourself, your community, and the world at large. 

 

After graduating from college, I joined Dance Waterloo as a performer and teaching artist. The next year, I was performing and choreographing. And now, along with performing and choreographing, I am the Executive Director. It feels like a real career ascension to me. I feel like I am moving up. I am working my way into a “real” career … as an artist. There are so many paths to take within arts that extend even beyond the first thing you may think of. There are actors, yeah, but there are also stage managers, costume designers, composers, administrators, and on and on. There is a whole world here waiting for anyone who wants to make a living doing what they love and creating art. It is baffling to me that not everyone knows they can do it. I am sure we have made gains in the way that no one generally outright discourages someone from being an artist, but comments can really change what someone believes about themselves. Telling someone it’s hard to make it in their industry will 100% influence their decision in some way. Making people fear the grind of working hard for their passion might dishearten them and lead them to choose a path that brings them less joy, a path that will still take a lot of working hard but won’t be as fulfilling. 

 

We have proven time and again that artists are essential, and we have proven that you can, in fact, have a career in the arts. 

 

So I say …

 

Let’s encourage our little humans to continue their creativity and curiosity into adulthood. Let’s encourage our overwhelmed teenagers to not lose faith in the things they love and are passionate about. Let’s encourage young adults to pursue their passions in the way they see fit. Let’s encourage everyone to celebrate life and make art.

 

Noelle Billings

Executive Director

Dance Waterloo

All About Alexander Technique: An Interview with Rebekah Chappell

Happy Fall! 

Our bodies change just like the seasons, and amidst a global pandemic, it seems especially important to care for and listen to what our bodies need. One great way to do this is through our upcoming Alexander Technique workshops with the incredible Rebekah Chappell.

We could not be more thrilled to have Rebekah join Dance Waterloo as a Teaching Artist this season. To get you feeling just as hype as us, we did an interview with Rebekah about Alexander Technique. Enjoy, and we’ll see you at the first (social distanced and masked up) workshop on Saturday, November 7, 2020. 

Tell me a little bit about yourself, Rebekah.

My name is Rebekah Chappell and I am a white, cis-gender female. I use she / her pronouns. I am a performer, teaching artist, and dance maker. I hold a MFA in Dance from The University of Iowa. I studied the Alexander Technique at Chesapeake Bay Alexander Studies and completed their 1,200-hour teacher training program over a four year period. 

How did you get involved with Dance Waterloo?

I recently moved to Buda, Texas from Virginia with my husband, Nick. I was super eager to become involved with the Greater Austin community but moving during the pandemic really shifted how, when, and where that would be possible. Dance Waterloo has a wonderful Instagram feed and after engaging with their posts, I reached out about possible ways to get connected. At that time, they were searching for Teaching Artists and I am so excited by their invitation to teach the Alexander Technique.

What is Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is an educational method created by F.M. Alexander at the turn of the twentieth century. He was an Australian actor who began to consistently lose his voice during performances. With doctors unable to locate a medical cause, F.M. Alexander reasoned that there must be something about the way he was using his voice that was causing his predicament. He noticed that a conditioned performance posture seemed to be at the heart of the issue. He observed that he was interfering with his overall coordination, specifically the relationship between the head and the spine. Over many years, he developed a process to become aware of, interrupt, and undo habitual patterns of use that may be detrimental to one’s overall functioning.  

What are the benefits of practicing Alexander Technique?

What I love about the Alexander Technique is the ability to apply it to everything that I do. For example, I may be washing dishes and start to notice tension in my shoulders. As I continue to wash my dishes, I can apply the Alexander Technique process to organize my whole self in a way that is free from unnecessary tension. I came to the Alexander Technique because I was experiencing shin pain that no doctors had the answers to. With time this pain has disappeared. That was not the goal of the Alexander Technique and the educational method is not designed to be therapeutic or medicinal. However, because my pain was directly connected to how I was standing and walking, as I addressed these ways of being, I had a different experience of myself and my pain disappeared. 

Who is Alexander Technique for?

I encourage anyone who is curious about learning to inhabit every day or skilled activities with more mindfulness to come to the workshop series. I will introduce the Alexander Technique process and we will spend time exploring the concepts in relation to activities that are individually meaningful. If you play an instrument, feel free to bring it with you! If you want to explore how you stir the batter while baking, bring a bowl and spoon! If you are struggling through hours on Zoom, bring your computer! I will support you in applying the principles to your life. As a part of the educational method, the Alexander Technique often utilizes a specialized hands-on skill in teaching. As we are in the midst of a global pandemic, we will explore together if or how the use of touch may be appropriate. Our primary way of learning will be through verbal cues and simple movement explorations. 

Do you have any advice for those apprehensive about Alexander Technique?

I am excited to work with folx from all backgrounds during the workshop. I approach this work by honoring the wisdom and intelligence of the body. You are the expert of your embodied experience. While I will certainly provide directions, students’ passions and curiosities will guide the process. This will be a participatory experience. For example, we may explore different ways of directing our attention while walking. There will be no “right” or “wrong” way of participating; there is no posture or movement to perform in a “correct” way. After experimenting with ideas, we will share our observations. There is joy in hearing the diverse noticing of the “same” process. Our experience is deepened by the knowledge each participant brings to the table! In this way, I hope that the workshop will be a space where we can form a community of support. 

What are you most looking forward to in joining Dance Waterloo this season?

I am grateful to Dance Waterloo for organizing this series. Their presence in my life has helped make Greater Austin feel like home! At this moment, connecting with others is so affirming and renewing. I applaud their creative efforts to offer exciting classes this Fall. If you have any questions about the Alexander Technique workshop, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me: rebekahannchappell@gmail.com or Dance Waterloo. I hope to meet you soon!

Alexander Technique Series Dates: 

November 7, 14, 21 and December 12, 19 from 1:30-3:00pm

This series is limited to 12 participants. Social distancing and masks are required. 

Register here or at dancewaterloo.org.

Noelle Billings

Executive Director

Dance Waterloo