This Thanksgiving, I did not participate in a wondrous feast that causes a satisfying yet debilitating food coma.

Instead, I chose to stare at a simple glass of water.  It was time for an in-depth introspection of who and what I should be thanking.

 

Well, for starters, I can thank the fact that I have access to a glass cup and uncontaminated drinking water.

As the chilling winds settle against my wooden college dormitory, I thank these old, creaking walls for their ability to shield me from turning into a human popsicle.

Turning to a broken keyboard infested laptop, I thank the access given through this amazing piece of technology that allows me to surf a virtual world known as the internet.  I thank my slow and painful web connection for giving me the opportunity to Skype with loved ones from across the globe.  Oh yeah, I thank Skype for existing.

Looking around my dorm, I see piles of books and projects conspiring to create legions of mind bombs, readying for assault when least expected.  I see bottles of wine and protein shakes side by side, as if relevance no longer existed in the world.

I am thankful to be buried by books and projects.  Thankful to see a bottle of wine dancing next to a hunk of protein shake.  I am thankful to be at college, facing the pressures of real life while balancing work and study.

Reflecting on previous endeavors, I am thankful to have gone to so many countries.  I still remember Poland, having the finest vodka accompanied with a slice of bread and cooked lard.  I remember Israel, the mystical Jerusalem and modern Tel Aviv. I remember the wonderful experiences with professional dance companies and creators of beautiful artistic expressions.

 

Of course, who could forget London, with its distinguished pebble stone sidewalks and crimson red phone booths, or Beijing – my family’s home town.  Who could forget the delicious Peking Duck, unrivaled in taste and crunchiness.  I am thankful for all of these colorful experiences, the unbelievable privileges and opportunities bestowed upon me.  I am humbled.

However, I am going to take an even bigger step backwards.  I have always been jealous of astronauts.  They get to see a bigger part of the picture.  They get to see the world as a whole.  A beautiful spinning orb containing an unimaginable number of dynamic life.  Many come back and say that the world’s numerous social quarrels between countries become petty at such a distance.  At such a distance, we realize that this ball of molten mass is all we have.  So, on this Thanksgiving day, I am thankful for Earth, and all the natural processes of the universe that balanced out the equation of life. 

I give thanks to the aliens who may have decided to turn their anti particle shifting cannons away from planet Earth, and I give thanks to the other aliens who might have saved us from an imminent invasion of crab people.  I give thanks to an unstable and unpredictable universe that could potentially decide to end everything randomly and abruptly.

Finally, I am thankful for having a chance to experience the body of a human being, to live in a society filled with interesting nuances,  and for the ability to give thanks.

May we all live long and prosper.

P.S If we ever achieve intergalactic travel, we should remember well to bring a towel.

Improvising for life

May 24, 2011

So I have temporarily found a way to get past this great big firewall of China to gain entry into WordPress! I can finally write in my blog again!

I have been doing some movement improvisation workshops with high school students, and a lot of these techniques draw upon the normal movements that we engage in everyday. I believe that improvisation is important even for non dancers and movement specialists. It is a unique skill that allows one to move without thinking, to truly bring out emotions and thoughts through bodily language. Simply taking five to ten minutes out of your day and giving yourself completely to your body, letting your mind relax and letting the motions flow, will have amazing changes in your body and overall health. Not only does improvising improve your physical health, it also stimulates the growth of body awareness in the brain, vital for mental health.

Below is an exercise I did with the dancers, but it can be done by anyone.

Stand upright in a relaxed position, let your mind be at peace and take a couple deep inhales and exhales. Slowly melt yourself to the ground, take your time, make sure you are completely sprawled out on the ground at the end of the melt.

On the ground, let your eyes close softly, let your eyeballs relax in the back of your sockets. Now, while on the ground, choose one of the following scenarios to do:

1. You have suddenly gained superpowers. What kind of superpower? What kinds of movements are related to your superpower?

2. You are in the ocean swimming with fearsome sharks and beautiful schools of fish. How will your body move in response?

3. You are slowly entering a blissful lucid dream, everything about this dream is perfect. Notice how your body reacts to this and explore all the possible movements and poses.

Remember to take your time, and music is optional – in fact, I usually recommend against using music because it has such a powerful influence on the way we perceive movement.

Body movements are the purest forms of expression. When we talk to someone, actual words provide very little impact for the way others will interpret your communications. Body language and tone of voice provide the bulk of understanding. This is why I smile when people say they can’t dance or move. That’s impossible, because dance is a birthright possessed by every single human being. So please, enjoy this little improvising session. Take your time, be aware of your movements, and become fascinated and inspired by them. It is a journey.

By the way, I also recommend against using mirrors. Mirrors are great…..for intense technical classes. For improvising and free movement? More of a distraction.

If you tried this and enjoyed it, I will make a page specially for these kinds of improvising exercises that anyone can do.

The Terminal

May 17, 2011

So after 12 heart wrenching hours filled with bad plane food and cheesy movies, I arrived at the Beijing airport ready to begin my REAL summer vacation. Then, as if a baseball bat had struck me across the head, I realized that my visa for China was basically nonexistent. What happened next was a series of questions by Chinese policemen, a night’s stay at the airport, and a transfer flight to Hong Kong to get my visa renewed. This is entirely my fault, as I was so excited for the summer that I had forgotten the most basic of traveling needs.

This kind of reminds me of that one movie The Terminal, where this guy gets stuck for a really long time at this one airport and slowly gets a job and even falls in love, in the same airport. It’s a pretty heart warming movie, and probably makes my little airport road bump seem like child’s play. However, this is a good experience, and I hope to never suffer from a visa malfunction again.

Also, if you have not seen The Terminal, do yourself a favor and go watch it now.

“Crossing the bridge noodles” is one of the best dishes a person could ever come across in China. Quite a few of my family members come from the Yunnan province in China, and the province is well known for their style of cooking which come with an extremely strong flavor and very hot spices.

This dish is kind of like a cross between a hot pot and a noodle soup. The bowl of broth is served to you boiling hot, while other assortments of raw rice noodles, veggies, and meats are served on a separate platter. What you do next is take the raw servings of rice noodles and other tasty additions that you want in your noodle soup, and pour it all into the boiling broth.

Everything will be cooked extremely rapidly and ready to eat in no time.
You may choose to add spices if your taste buds desire it.

Summer time

May 13, 2011

My year as a college freshman has just gone. The dorm room looks pretty empty now, just piles of boxes here and there waiting to be shipped away for storage. I’m flying back to China on Sunday, and it’s definitely going to feel weird walking around on the streets of Beijing after spending such a long time in New York. To Times square, Broadway Dance Center, Joyce Theator, MOMA, and all the other awesome places, I will miss you dearly and hope to see you again in the future.

Summer is a time to either become focused and productive, or become a couch potato and waste another couple months doing absolutely nothing. I have found several dance companies to take classes with, and hopefully by the end of this vacation my body will have grown both physically, technically, and intellectually. I’ve also discovered a club in Beijing that meets every Sunday to engage in some intense parkour training. Parkour is the art of free running, and seems to be the perfect candidate to supplement my dance practices.

Of course, summer also means more time for my blog. I will have more interesting things to write about because there won’t be the constant nagging of assignments and essays parading about in my mind. I might go scout out random restaurants and take pictures of hilarious translation in menus and signs, etc. There will be a lot of topics to write about in Beijing.

All in all, I have my goals set. I have written them down in a journal and will be constantly keeping myself in check. This summer is a time of transformation as I strive to become a better dancer and individual. I encourage you all to write down the goals you want to achieve for the summer. Physically writing down achievements that you would like to accomplish will put your brain in a state of increased awareness. It is much more effective than just thinking about your goals.

I hope you all had a wonderful year, and I am sure that everybody will have a very fruitful summer filled with adventures, hardships, and surprises.

Stress is suppose to be part of our primal defensive mechanism. When we were attacked by predators, our bodies would pump stress hormones throughout our systems in order to wake us up. Adrenaline would cause your heart to surge and pump more blood, your lungs would also work in overtime to take in more oxygen to support this new level of awareness.

It is healthy to have short little bursts of stress, and it’s vital for keeping our bodies healthy. The funny thing is that in today’s hectic lifestyles, we no longer have the option of turning off this constant stress releasing. What use to be a healthy way of alerting your body has turned into a silent assassin. We are pressured by school, work, relationships, jobs, and other lemons that life throws at us. When we receive constant stress throughout the day, it not only affects our abilities to sleep, but it can also affect our motor skills, our memory capabilities, and the health of our brains and hearts.

Stress is not this “abstract” concept that just involves the feeling of annoyance, helplessness, and dread. Stress is a very real chemical reaction in your body that releases hormones which in the long run can cause significant damage to your body. Therefore, it is very important that we find ways of dealing with stress, so that we may enjoy a longer, healthier, and happier life.

Here are some random ways that you can deal with stress.

1. Get lost in a good book.

2. Meditate under a tree.

3. Do a 10 minute movement improvisation with your eyes closed.

4. Make smiley faces at every one you see

5. Listen to music by Philip Glass

6. Watch those outrageous Japanese reality TV shows

7. Discover a new movie in your favorite genre.

8. Take a deep breath, let it out slowly, then start making weird faces.

9. Try to say “I’m thankful for…..” as many times as you can throughout the day in your head or out loud.

10. Go look at some Lolcat pictures.

11. Go to lamebook.com

12. Go to fmylife.com

13. Look at yourself in the mirror, and give yourself a pep talk, Yoda style.

14. After every task you accomplish, do a couple fist pumps in the air and jump around for 2 minutes.

15. Give your shoulders nice little squeezes, do the same for your feet and legs.

16. Lie on the ground and break out in laughter.

17. Treat yourself to some ice cream.

18. Tell yourself that the road bumps you face are actually good hints that you are on the right path.

19. Sing as loud as you can and with all the emotions you were keeping back, if you start crying, cry like you’ve never cried before. Then, start singing again.

20. Give compliments to everyone you meet. As you shine, you give others the power to shine as well.