The World is My Stage

In the past two weeks I’ve been a part of 2 performances. One behind the scenes as the choreographer and the other front and center as a performer before an audience. As I contemplated both experiences it hit me just how important performance is to the learning process. Of course not all art is performance based, some art is created and is then interpreted by the person viewing it or reading the words on the page. The artist themself has completed the work and they don’t necessarily perform it. But that’s what I love about the performing arts, the variance in the skill sets of songwriter/singer, screenwriter/actor, choreographer/dancer.

My greatest strength has always been in performing. I love to choreograph and bring out the best in others and I love being a student of dance in general but it’s in taking on the task of trying to convey something to an audience where I’m most at home. I’ve always loved dancing in front of people but I as I got older I also focused on my performance out of necessity. My body type, lack of flexibility and decent but not outstanding technique were all working against me but I knew that despite all of that I could always be a commanding presence on the stage. My kicks may not be as high, my feet may not be pointed as beautifully but damn it when I take that stage you will take notice and look at me.

My students that I set choreography for absolutely killed it last week. They commanded the stage and made people look. No one in the audience knew that their trio started as a group of 6, or that they had never twerked on stage before or that the shorts they ordered to perform in weren’t quite what they had in mind. During the show I went backstage to congratulate them and a dancer in another piece was in tears, mascara running and all. I’m not quite sure why but usually if a dancer is crying backstage it’s because they feel they’ve made a blunder onstage. All I know is that in the 2 minutes it took me to get back to my chair she was onstage in another routine and crushing it! I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. After the show I  was compelled to tell her that I had seen how upset she was just moments before and how proud and full of respect I was after seeing her pull her shit together and give the audience life!

This is what it’s about. How do you show up in your life?

We all deal with so many behind the scenes things that happen day-to-day that can impact how we take the proverbial stage of life but we can decide if we allow them to affect our performance or not. It’s not about impressing other people or wearing a mask, it’s about deciding to show up every day as an active participant in your life. As the  saying goes “Life is not a dress rehearsal”. While I agree with that in a sense, I feel like it’s a little disrespectful to the concept of dress rehearsals. Dress rehearsal is where you figure it all out. Where you tweak, adjust and get comfortable with all of the variables . I was always taught to go full out in the dress rehearsal as the only difference between that and the performance was the addition of an audience. The beautiful thing about life is that if you’re lucky you get another day to take stage.  Another chance to show up for your life and the people in it the way you want to.

Image Credit: Earl McGehee

Err on the side of NO

Ahhh, November. Cooler temperatures, shorter days, foliage if you’re lucky and an increase in obligations. The end of the year is approaching and many of us feel the pull to reach goals, complete tasks and accomplish things we had on our to do list for 2018. We need to figure out travel plans for the holidays and start making arrangements. What’s on the menu? Who’s making the mac n cheese? Are we doing Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Small Business Saturday? Speaking of Christmas, we need decorations, a tree, an outfit to wear to the holiday party, teacher gifts and we probably should meal prep because we know how fast these holiday pounds can creep up! It’s the season for giving so yes we’ll go to that charity function and sure we probably should get the kids together before folks leave for Thanksgiving and yes we’ll come out and support your art, music, market, class, event etc…..The list goes on and on if we let it.

My plan for this November is to err on the side of NO. NO-vember, cute right?!

Last month I found myself over booked, over scheduled and committed to projects that if I was honest with myself, I wasn’t that enthused about. As women we are natural care givers and it is entrenched in our socialization that we need to make life easier for other people so we err on the side of yes. It’s not that we don’t ever say no but if we can squeeze it in, if we know it would help someone else out, if we have nothing else planned at that very moment then by golly we’ll do it. I’m done with that shit. I read something in The book of SHE: Your heroines journey into the Heart of Feminine Power that really resonated with me.

“If it’s not a full body hell yes! Then its a no.”

When you establish a mind-body connection you can detect reactions in your body easily before your mind goes to work. Butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, increased heart rate, changes in breathing, clenching of the jaw, an inadvertent smile, a furrowed brow, feeling like a weight has been lifted off your chest. All of these are your body’s gut reactions. Derived from instinct and experience and made without thought. For me, this November, that’s how I’m going to make my choices. I’m going to err on the side of no unless my full body gives me a hell yes. I will master the art of the graceful decline. I will not agree to things based on what I feel I “should” do. I will not be afraid to disappoint. I will prioritize having space and time to just be and remind myself that allowing for that time enables me to be a better, more relaxed partner, mother, daughter, sister and friend. We’ll see how it goes.

Happy NO-vember!

Rituals and Routines: So Necessary

Life out in the real word doesn’t come with trigger warnings. At any time life could present us with a disturbing set of circumstances so it’s important that we arm ourselves with the necessary tools to ensure that we can maintain our balance when shit gets real. That’s where rituals and routines come in. Having something that you do every day regardless of your situation or environment serves as an anchor. It gives you stability in uncertain times and provides you an opportunity to reflect in gratitude in calmer, happier times.

For me, having a ritual allows me to be in observance of myself. To see myself not as someone just in the wind, blowing wherever the circumstances dictate but as a person with the ability to stay rooted and to honor the commitments I make to myself no matter what. That’s gone a long way in building my confidence and self-reliance. When I first moved to Austin I started taking walks in my neighborhood park every morning. I had no job, I was unsure of how my daughter would adjust to life in a new city and nothing was stable. It made me feel good that although I didn’t yet have a favorite breakfast place, didn’t know where to get my hair done, and had no established hangouts, I had my walk.  The seasons changed and I had my walk. A few suitors came and left and I was still walking. I saw the older lady I usually greeted along the path who was always alone begin to pop up holding hands with a gentleman and gazing lovingly at him as they walked. Park lady had found a boo and I was still walking!

By creating this every day routine I was able to feel connected even though everything around me was changing. At different times in my life the ritual was different. In high school I would wake up and do 50 crunches, for a spell of my time in Vegas it was a cup of coffee and listening to James Brown. In Austin it’s been the walk. These days I don’t go to the park every morning but I do make it a priority to adhere to a daily ritual. Whether  it’s simply listening to uplifting music, doing breathing exercises, practicing yoga or going for a run, any positive habit you can put into practice on an everyday basis is a step towards self accountability and the strength you need to be able to weather any storm.





Dance Life ain’t just for Dancers

If only I had a dollar for every time someone told me “I would love to come to your classes but I can’t dance”. I’d like to clear up the misconception that dance class is only for those who have dance experience. There is something powerful and healing about moving in time to music, moving in unison with other people and learning how to control your body in ways you never thought you could. You don’t need experience in a class setting to enjoy that.

I get that social media has changed how we view dance classes. We only see the very end of class where people are killin’ it. The “For the Gram” version where the lighting is perfect, the angles are poppin’ and everyone has full command of the choreography. What we are really seeing on our news feeds and timelines is a performance in a class setting. We see nothing about the actual learning process. Now don’t get me wrong I can get into to that. At the end of my Twerk N Burn class I usually record a version “For the Gram” and want it to be as live and on point as possible. It feels good to slay the choreo and have those “Yassss Bitch!” moments. As an instructor it’s good promotion for what I’m offering. However, I’ve come to realize that as a teacher, while I love seeing students fully absorb the movement and show out, it gives me more joy to see something click for the person who just came to support their friend, the woman who walked in shy and unsure or the person who doesn’t give a damn about the steps and is just basking in the good energy!

I’ve been a student of dance for 33 years and I know what it’s like to not get it. To not be in the “good group”, to fumble across the floor and be completely lost. When you are training at a certain level those moments are bound to happen. But many people who come to adult dance classes aren’t necessarily training. They just want to have fun and improve. I’ve started to create more class spaces that are rooted in that vibe because I’ve realized how important it is to make dance more accessible to people regardless of their level of experience. I don’t think my gift is taking trained dancers and elevating them to an elite level, it’s bringing out the best in people who just want to move.

Dance has been such an outlet for me my whole life. It strengthens the body, sharpens the mind and helps keep me youthful. There is an abundance of quality adult classes in Austin to experience. Find the instructors you vibe with and take a few classes. Everyone ought to experience the stress release, mind-body connection and enormous confidence boost that comes with taking a dance class. You don’t have to be a dancer to live the dance life!

Why Bloom You?

The short answer is because I wish something similar existed when I moved to Austin three years ago. Blogs are great for giving you a little taste of the city from the perspective of those who are there. When I was looking up Austin lifestyle blogs I was inundated with photos of very thin blonde women eating tacos, doing yoga and attending music festivals. While I have no problem with any of these things , nothing I saw resonated with me. I had a hard time mentally inserting myself into the culture here.

Here I was, a woman of color, single mom, hip hop head and twerk enthusiast entering a world of skinny white women, extreme dog lovers, dresses worn with flip-flops, hipsters and food trucks. Honestly, I’ve embraced all of it. I can’t do flip-flops with a dress but I have worn flats which before moving here was unheard of. I even do hipster stuff like drink craft beers and order avocado toast (which I was doing way before it was a thing I might add) and wear plaid shirts.  Dogs in restaurants and bars…? Haven’t quite gotten used to that yet.

My point is I love Austin and the wide range of things it has to offer but I had to do A LOT of asking around, social media scrolling and google searching to find the events that spoke to my soul, places I could hang out without feeling like an “other” and social groups I felt comfortable in. Through my work as a dancer/choreographer and fitness instructor I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many women who have felt the same way. I want to share my personal experiences with people so there is a more colorful, flavorful representation of the city I have grown to love.

Bloom You isn’t just about Austin. It”s about blooming where you are planted and living fully on your own terms. It’s acknowledging yourself as a unique and layered individual and doing what you need to do to remain physically and mentally healthy, at peace and fulfilled. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s a practice. One that I am passionate about and 100% committed to. It’s about making the time and putting forth the energy do the things that have us feeling in love with life. That water us and nurture us as we continue to blossom. I share these thoughts and experiences in the hopes that others will also be inspired to Bloom You!

Oh you fancy huh?

I’m a passionate food lover who loves fine dining. There’s not much I love more than a five star meal and top-notch service. The problem is sometimes that level of quality comes with a bit of pretentiousness and snobbery. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I feel grandiose and high falutin’. Every now and then I like white-gloved service and the crumbs scraped from my table. I enjoy listening as the sommelier explains that the nose of the wine I’ve selected screams black currants, opening up to a taste of grilled cherries and has the nice earthy tones of melted licorice. I may give a side eye but I still enjoy the description. But seriously, while it can be fun to get into being bad and boujee , that’s not the experience I’m looking to have 90% of the time I choose to eat at a restaurant.

I’m all about the food and none of the ‘tude. Fortunately for me Austin being the laid back city that it is , I’ve been able to have that experience pretty often. For me ambience and vibe, both of the staff and of the other people dining play a role in whether or not I choose to return for another dining experience. Don’t frown up at me when I ask for hot sauce on an already “heavily spiced” dish, we all have our own heat index. Don’t try to up sell my date by saying “I’m sure the lady would like______”, it’s sexist and you don’t know me like that. And please do not look appalled when I ask you to refill the bread basket, we’re not ALL carb-phobic Sharon!

Here are a few of the places where I’ve had a fancy meal sans pretentiousness.

  • Uchi I never get a weird look when I just point to what I want on the menu rather than butcher the Japanese pronunciation, in fact I’ve gotten help with proper pronunciation from the wait staff. There is always a chill vibe even when you show up without reservations and have to wait an hour for a table and the food is top-notch.
  • Hudson’s Hill Country – The food is delectable and the menu is creative with a focus on wild game. Chicken fried antelope or Wild Boar lollipops anyone? There is plenty to choose from for less adventurous eaters and the vibe is rustic and mellow.
  • Cafe`Josie– All you can eat chef’s tasting menu. That’s all I’m sayin’. $25 for brunch and $45 for dinner allows you to experience the chefs finely curated selection of small plates. The vibe is relaxed and elegant and the service is friendly.
  • Odd Duck– My personal favorite. The menu changes often, the food is always incredibly fresh and the dishes are unique. The wait staff has a great knowledge of the menu and can be trusted to make recommendations. The food always leaves my taste buds joyful and the experience is pleasant every time.