Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Cultural Differences Between England and America

My posts seem to be getting progressively deeper and more intense, so I thought I'd lighten the tone a little with some funny gifs, in an attempt to show the cultural differences I have found while studying abroad.

Humour: when I make a sarcastic joke, no one finds it funny here.

British love of tea: Americans don't fix their problems with cups of tea

Portions of food: everything I know about how the size of meals and courses in England is irrelevant here.
Ordering a 'light salad' and being presented with a bucket size bowl of infinity can be quite a surprise

Money: rather than the Chip&Pin system we have in Europe, America uses a Swipe&Sign system instead. In addition, dollar bills and American coins all look too similar to me. I still embarassingly have to ask the cashier to help me go through my purse, because "I still haven't learnt the money".

When people ask you "how you doin'?", they don't actually want you to tell them how you're doing. Which incidentally is uncannily similar to the London "Alright?"
The correct way of responding to "How you doin'?" would be: "Hey. How you doin'?"

American's don't binge drink from 6pm on Friday evening until 4am on Sunday morning.

Binge drinking is for alcoholics and the homeless, not for 18 year olds and university students.

 The sheer size of everything here: shops, roads, cars, houses, malls, highways, cities... everything
You can go to a shop and buy bananas and bikes under the same roof if you want to here!

I get strange looks when I ask where the "toilet" is.
The correct term here would be "restroom" or "bathroom"
Perceptions of distance and time. At home in England, an old building is around 1,000 years old, in America an old building can be around 100 years old. Furthermore, driving 100 miles in England is an exceptionally long way to drive, whereas in America 100 miles is relatively close.

Hearing words like 'bangs', 'bleachers', 'cell phone', 'co-ed', 'eggplant', 'chips', 'sidewalk'
Momentary confusion before sudden realisation

Pants vs Trousers: no one says trousers in America and pants don't mean underwear
The confusion and horror when someone mentions my "pants"

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Monday, 24 March 2014

Half Way Through

Tomorrow is the 24th March, which means that Eszter and I are half way through our study abroad experiences at Goucher College. The past couple of months have flown by, as everyone told us it would.

Spring Break is over, which means that we only have six weeks left of classes before we finish for the summer. Of course I'm excited to come home, to see my family and friends and return to the familiarity of life in England, but I have grown fond of College and the American 'way' of things here.

Neither Eszter nor I want these last precious weeks to slip away, as the last eight weeks have. I rarely feel so happy dancing as I do here. I can't work out whether it's the novelty of being in a foreign country or the standard of dance here that has makes us so happy. Naturally we want time to slow down, so we can enjoy every moment as much as possible.

So why is it that the greatest things in life are always so ephemeral and fleeting?

Why does it feel like time is slipping like sand through my fingers?

The days, weeks, months and years seem to be rushing past me faster than I keep up. I will be graduating from university next year, another milestone will have come quicker than I expected and I will probably write another deep post on this blog about time and fear. As cliché as it sounds, I want to stay young and foolish and naive for as long as possible, because it means I still have time to grow, in search of this happiness, before I lose it in the repetitive chaos of life.

Outside the Capitol with Eszter, Washington DC
The only (semi) warm day we had in a month.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Suppressed anger and other unnameable emotions

The choreographic project I am currently working on in my Dance Composition class at Goucher explores the notion of suppressed anger. We are exploring the tension and resistance suppressed anger can cause, the animalistic and instinctual nature of the emotion, and finally the sudden eruption of frustration, hatred and rage that follows the suppression.

There is something fundamentally unhealthy and dark about suppressing memories and feelings. We can push down memories that upset, or frighten, or anger us, but we can't escape them. We can crush  them in the darkest corners of our minds, underneath the time and routine and repetition of our daily lives. But they don't disappear: instead they rot and decay and darken. They fester and grow, clawing their way back to the surface, to surge through all we buried them under, in an explosion of fury and rage.

We all know the sensation of rising anger. Hot, sweaty palms, rapid heart beat, tense muscles, tapping foot. The surge and volcanic eruption of red fury, as it fills your mind and body is often too familiar. The urge to let loose, like a wild animal, to scream and shriek and kick and shout can be overwhelmingly powerful.

It seems that for a lot of people, suppressing anger in particular, starts from a young age. I remember my sister and I being told not to have tantrums by our mother (especially in the supermarket and in shoe shops), but we were never told to not express ourselves. So were we subconsciously conditioned by the society we live in not to express certain emotions? Or is it a personal choice, based on our own experiences and individual characters to suppress our memories and emotions?

Composition rehearsal. Dancers: Lindsey Hahn, Cami Del Mar, Eryn Simons and Raven Nee. Music: James Blake - I Only Know (What I Know Now)

Monday, 3 March 2014

Meet The Artist: Alex & Xan (the Median Movement) #JACK

Brooklyn based choreographers and couple Alex Springer and Xan Burley recently came to Goucher College to do a modern dance residency with Goucher dance students. They led modern dance master classes in some intermediate and advanced level dance classes and attended seminar to conduct a question and answer session with students. At the end of the week, Friday 28th February 2014, the couple presented excerpts from their latest work in progress at an informal Meet The Artist Event in one of Goucher's dance studios.

The Median Movement, Alex & Xan's artistic collaboration is, as Alex described, based on the meeting place or mid-point where people share commonalities. With an emphasis on creating work for both stage and film, the Median Movement appears to draw inspiration from improvisation techniques and has clear roots in release, graham and limón modern dance techniques. Having graduated from University of Michigan with liberal arts degrees and continued to work together as performers with Doug Varone and Dancers and within their own company, both artists have learnt to think conceptually about their choreographic projects.

Excerpts of JACK, their current work-in-progress, were performed by twelve goucher dance students, whom auditioned the previous weekend. The idea of a movement alphabet was explored and manipulated by the dancers. Each letter of the alphabet was given a particular movement and then each dancer altered these letters- using varied dynamics, spatial orientation and size, to represent the alphabet in capitals and italics. Using this variation, Alex & Xan layered the choreography by instructing the dancers to use different rhythms, patterns, directions, movements, dynamic qualities and relationships to each other. Duets and trios arose randomly as one dancer's movement accidently matched or complemented another dancer's.

The couple presented another exercept that discussed the idea of accumulation and the power of group mentality, which also used the idea of layering. Set to Tread On The Trail by Terry Riley, a single dancer stamps her feet and repeats the word 'Jack', then another dancer joins her and copies, then another and another, until a tight semi circle around the original dancer forms. The gradual build up of bodies, vocal repetitions of the word 'Jack', combined with the increased speed of the stamping establishes an overwhelming and crushing sense of choas. The group suddenly break out of the repetition and all lean forward, glaring into the eyes of a single dancer that faces them, alone. She runs to escape and suddenly the group has fixated on another dancer, who falls to the ground as they quickly switch direction and lean towards her in unison. The notion of power in numbers, and of a group's tipping point to destruction, as Xan explained, is evident in this excerpt. The incorporation of vernacular movement; running, walking, falling, leaning, allows the uninformed spectator to successfully find a narrative within the movement that reflects the chaos, turmoil and destruction of the excerpt.

As Artists in Residence the couple were hugely inspiring. Their organic and natural approach to choreography and incorporation of improvisation, variation in rhythm and group relationships were intriguing. In addition, as teachers both Alex and Xan were exciting and dynamic to work with. I really tried not to get cheesey or deep in this post, but it wouldn't be a successful post without a bit of cheese: as one of my friends in the residency said, it is these experiences that remind us that we are on the right track.