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

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

Finding Work/Life Balance as an Artist

I was supposed to write this post a month ago. I gave myself a deadline of April 9th, 2018. I am late because I am juggling a lot. As Artistic Director, I manage communications, grant writing, artistic projects, internship program and the dance education programming. I also work full-time in the College of Fine Arts at UT-Austin and part-time at Dancers Shape. I am also President of Emerging Arts Leaders of Austin. To top the cake, I begin obtaining my MFA in Dance in less than two months at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In between all of that, I fly home to Florida every two months to hug my family, volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas once a week, and try to maintain a social life. I love bubble baths while binge watching Forensic Files, working out, cooking, baking, hammocking, hiking and basically staying outside 24/7 when the temps are 75 degrees plus.

In the past month, I forgot to pick up thank you cards for Amplify Austin donors and I obviously have delayed writing this blog post. I have bailed on a couple of professional development events I should have been at but decided to take a nap instead. I have a load of laundry sitting on my bedroom floor that needs to be folded and put away but instead it is blending into the dirty clothes pile and I am starting to be unsure of which is which. I don’t have it all together all the time – or rather, any of the time but I do think I have set guidelines for myself to find work/life balance as a practicing artist and arts administrator that have worked well for me. Why is this a priority to me? I want to set myself up for a sustainable arts career and thriving life – one free of burn out in both areas.

If you are looking to find better ways to juggle work and life and/or avoid burnout, I hope you can find the guidelines I use helpful.

People over projects

I strongly offer this advice: Make time for people over your projects. Your projects will come and go but the people in your life will be with you forever. I am not saying all people – your stylist, cashier, or girl scout cookie dealer. I am saying YOUR people – the people that you need quality time or communication with in order to thrive as a person and as an arts professional. For me, that is my immediate family and about three close friends. I can promise you that you will feel more fulfilled and energized in your creative work when you make quality time for your people. Your relationships will feel richer as well.

Prioritize

Know how your personal needs affect your professional needs. Your personal needs will be entirely different than mine and they may even affect your creative practice differently than me. I will share mine as an example.

  1. I need to communicate with and/or see my closest family and friends frequently. I find myself more focused in my artistic work when I am able to flush out my day and ask for advice when needed from my closest family and friends.
  2. I need time outdoors (hiking, hammocking, being at the pool, etc.). I am able to approach my artistic work rejuvenated when I have been under the sun.
  3. I need drive time. I have always found that I am able to think, process, reflect, and create better when I am behind the wheel than anywhere else. I purposefully live about 25 minutes away from work so I can have this time.
  4. I need to cook/bake. It’s therapeutic to me. I also feel healthier. I also save money by cooking myself and therefore, can outsource expenses elsewhere for things that I do not have time to do.

If I am lacking in any of these areas, I find my artistic work suffers for it. I am less creative, less motivated, and actually feel more drained. Either way, we both need to acknowledge our personal needs and the effect they can have on our creative practice.

Say no

We often think that people are going to get hurt if we say no to them, but I find more often people are actually understanding and appreciate your honesty – in fact, they might even look up to you for it.

If you feel you need to say no to a potential obligation, that is enough of a reason. You do not have to reserve “no’s” for when you have other commitments solely. Saying no to an obligation can mean yes to yourself, your relationships, or your personal creative practice if you have been spending your time elsewhere.

Set boundaries

  1. Unless it is an emergency, I generally do not respond to emails after 5 PM (from any of my works) OR I read them but respond the next day. I also try to refrain from responding on the weekends if possible.
  2. If I have company in town or if I am planning a trip, I notify everyone that I am “out-of-office” – even if I plan on working a bit so that no one is expecting anything from me.
  3.     Have many hats but only wear one at a time. I am the daughter of two real estate owners. I grew up around dinners of not just casual “here’s how my day went” talk, but actual work meetings. If boundaries are not set and met, at least within moderation, it can lead to burnout of either work or relationships – sometimes even both. When hanging socially with Dance Waterloo colleagues, I generally try to not bring up business. Small talk about DW is bound to happen, but if any of us needs to start pulling out a notepad and pen, that’s when it is time to save it for a meeting.

I hope you find these guidelines helpful in your quest to practice work/life balance in the arts. If you are an arts leader, I hope you will also encourage your employees to implement modes of work/life balance. We are not art making machines. We are humans with souls, desires, and goals both within our craft and out – both must be fostered. Dance Waterloo experiences a higher retention rate among hired artists when they are free and encouraged to communicate and implement modes of work/life balance.

Most importantly, keep in mind that your work/life balance will not always be a true equal balance of all your time – and it shouldn’t be! But setting boundaries, saying no when needed, prioritizing personal needs, and remembering to make time for your people over your projects can help you determine where your time should be spent and when.

 

morgan modern dance event austin

Morgan Teel

Artistic Director & Founder

Dance Waterloo

New Girl On The Block: An Interview with Heather Meeboer

 

Heather Meeboer is our newest company member this year. She hails from Atlanta, Georgia and received her BFA in Dance from Radford University. We recently sat down with Heather so you could learn more about this dance and teaching artist.

 

How did you get into dance and what is the path you have taken up to this point?
I told my mother I wanted to take dance lessons at age two. She enrolled me at a local studio and I never stopped after that! I danced throughout school, went to university and completed a BFA in Dance with an emphasis in Classical Ballet, and began dancing and choreographing professionally after graduation. In addition to Dance Waterloo, I also perform with Austin Metamorphosis Dance, where I am Assistant Artistic Director. I consider myself a dancer first, even though I’ve gotten more and more into choreography in the last few years. I’ve also begun teaching dance classes more recently and have really enjoyed exploring and learning from that new challenge.

 

Heather in Dance Waterloo’s Modern In Mueller class.

 

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? 
Advice I would give to my younger self is – be bold! I was terrified for many years that no one would think I was talented enough to dance professionally and it stunted my technical development. I have since learned that directors and choreographers are looking for confidence and performance ability, not technical perfection. Do your best and be confident in your abilities!

 

What is your favorite thing about dancing with Dance Waterloo? 
With Dance Waterloo, I love getting to dance and create movement in unique spaces! It stretches my creativity and I feel that it makes me a more well-rounded artist.

 

What is your favorite memory of dance through all these years? 
One of my favorite dance memories was dancing the role of Alice in a ballet production of Alice in Wonderland. It wasn’t my first principal role, but it was the first time I had danced a “title” role that was onstage for almost the whole length of the ballet and it was gratifying to earn that honor.

 

Has your family been encouraging and supportive of your dance career? 
My parents have always been very supportive of me dancing. They want me to be happy, whatever path that takes me. They did insist that I get a college degree first, though!

 

Does Pilates training influence how you participate in site-specific dance? 
I think Pilates has helped keep me strong and injury-free throughout my career. Especially performing on uneven surfaces, I’m always thankful that I have the core strength to stay upright! I also feel like Pilates helps provide my body the freedom to move the way I need it to and that allows me less things to worry about when I’m dancing.

Heather in Dance Waterloo’s Modern In Mueller class.

 

You can find Heather in the premiere of therefore May 17-20, 2018 at Epoch Coffee on Anderson.

 

morgan modern dance event austin Morgan Teel
Artistic Director & Founder