Poetry: Untitled

All undressed and everywhere to go…
Was that me or you at the shit show?
This ain’t my piss coming out of me.
I shut my mouth for the soliloquy!

You came from way back in my future –
Gave my blood to tourniquet and suture.
Known should have been better you by now,
A long time home for the milk drained cow.

Without a lesson we all regress,
I talk too much so I digress.
Just wise down so you don’t fall up,
Always half filling the half empty cup.

These fantasies I make believe –
Cakewalk down the steps of grief.
Always missed from a loveless kiss,
Breaking point recess dismissed.

Worthless screams with which you utter,
The over the top it pulls me under…

Breaking the Mold

While I usually stray from any sort of recommendations in regards to television, music, and films due to my snobbish tastes, every so often a person who knows me well enough will push something my way that makes a surprising impact on my entertainment regime. My dearest friend in Berlin suggested that I take a look at “Dance Moms” and my life will never be the same.

I started viewing it last week and immediately thought to myself there was no way in hell I could ever stop, but I had to. While I love a good reality show (usually of the artistic competition variety) I shied away from “Dance Moms” after seeing a preview or three cross my way over the past few years on account of its gratuitously sensational nature; to me it looked something a lot less like something that could hold dance teaching in a positive light.

But after the first, “Those legs look about as straight as Elton John,” something hit a nerve in me in a good way. While the “characters” of the show are expertly edited in that typical reality television sort of way in order to highlight their flaws and weaknesses, there are many aspects that hit a chord with me.

My first teaching job was at a dance school for kids, and I was deemed a teddy bear in comparison to many of the other teachers. Mind you, I did not start my dance (ballet) training until I was in university, so the rigorous and somewhat heinous methods of teaching came at a later age though I grew up as an athlete (soccer, track & field, tennis) so I was familiar with the boot camp-like training that children are prone to endure.

I taught kids from 3 years-old to 17 years-old in a variety of classes and during my review, the head of staff explained to me that many of the parents were complaining that I was “too nice” to the kids. I started to hone my more strict pedagogies after this counseling despite my desire to stray away from some of the more psychologically damaging methods I had witnessed in my own experiences.

(Mostly) girls start at a very early age with dance. They wear skin tight clothing and stand in front of a mirror for hours on end where there are disciplined in the harshest of ways. The body is stunted in a way to exceed expectations of the demands of variable dance forms, and the self-inflicted abuse sometimes matches and/or surpasses that of the teacher. Working through tears and injuries are a part of the craft, and while it hurts sometimes to think of how I suffered through many bouts of unthinkable pain both emotional and physical, I do not regret one single ache – for it has made me the consummate artist that I am today. When I think back to the building blocks of my success, it is always the hardest teachers that I thank the most.

california-kisses-and-dance-moms-gallery

 

I was inspired to write a post about the second episode of the very first season of “Dance Moms” because it touched on a very serious issue of controversy that actually made me take a long break from watching it – and I’ve been pondering it nonstop for over a week now.

The girls that are highlighted in the show range in age from 6 to 13. There is a glaring issue of sexuality that is touched upon in regards to costuming, make-up and choreography of a certain performance composed for a competition called “Electricity”. All drama and banter from the dance moms themselves aside, I was harkening back to my time as a dance teacher where the kids did wear skimpy outfits and loved to dance like they were twice their age and it was never an issue broached by any of the staff or parents. While the age-appropriateness issue I believe is in the eye of the beholder, the technique of jazz and the outer laying spectacle of show business remains the same and will evolve according to industry standards. What makes this a special issue for me is that this is a highly satirized show that appears on television, so this in turn builds a slippery slope for the participants and audience members alike.

First of all, Abbey Miller is just as crazy as any good dance teacher out there – and this is why she and her dancers are so successful. She is genius in articulating her method of teaching in those rare moments that you get to see this in the show (buried between outlandish moments of drama) and has no qualms about never feeling as though she has to defend herself.

I’ve watched the “Electricity” number about 30 times since I first watched it – and while the choreography is a little risque for little girls, it is inherently great, but it fails in execution due to the dancer’s abilities. It is edgy and modern and impressive, and incorporates voguing, so I loved it. I pin-pointed all the mistakes, most of which could not be seen due to the editing and the cutting short of the full number itself. “Electricity” did not win at this competition that was aired on this episode. I did some research and found out that the winning team was another midriff clad little girl group that danced to “Shake Your Groove Thing.”

There is the inside and the outside point of view in regards to what is right and wrong, and what is to be condemned and condoned.

I’ve taken a lot of time to consider this but I have to say, never before until it was brought to my attention did I think that a young dancer who is subjected to an appropriate amount of brutality in the ways of discipline and teaching, who learns to age faster than her peers, and is sent through rigorous amounts of psychological torture – did I think anything was wrong with it. But this is not to say that even now am I against it in any sort of way. Taken out of context, it is easy to translate this performance as inappropriate, but the context is dance, and furthermore art, and all that should be looked at is the form for which it was intended.

 

 

Prose: Conversation Part 3

One of the most memorable and frequented places in Berlin where I make my stay is in a small café called Reza. It is discreetly nestled at the tip of Nollendorfplatz in quaint/slutty Schöneberg, on the bustling Maaßenstraße where you can find a variety of shops, restaurants and watering holes that cater to a seen-and-be-seen clientele, with much of the attractions there assembling areas of alfresco opportunity.

It was the place of my first “date” – just three years ago when I met a nice (enough) German a few blocks away at a bar whose tag-line boasts, “Heterofriendly”. That time was before I was jaded by so many more sleazy destinations in the heavily gay populated locale. My friend brought me to this off the beaten path place and explained to me it was where he had his recent birthday celebration.

Reza encapsulates all that is necessary and desirable for me in a home away from home; the place is a beaming sentiment for a writer who craves a dwelling fit for autonomy in some sort of vicariously voyeuristic point of view of society. There, you can smoke, drink, have a strong coffee, meet friends (and actually hear their conversations), use the free WiFi, cruise, relax, and work. The service is above par, and the prices are mid-range. It is frequented by locals who run the gamut in age, class and ethnicity, though if you had to pigeonhole a median demographic, I’d go with middle-aged, veteran expats from Mediterranean areas.

The place is adorned with vintage and modern photography – the likes of some sort of Helmut Newton aesthetic, bold and controversial fashion and journalistic photography all in black and white, hung in various unorthodox positions and varying in framing and sizes. I’d say most of the photographs were taken between the late 60s and early 90s, and every time I go there I notice something new.

There is a certain Parisian feel to the place (many times you will walk in and hear music sung only in French), and this expounds itself in the decor as well. Bistro tables and chairs of brown and beige wicker, red “leather” interior juxtaposed with hard black marble and weathered wood chairs, and mirrors that exploit the contrasting antiquity of the always new Berlin, a reflection of publicity and privacy.

I was captivated (yes, I’m being dramatic) in 2009 by the taper candles. The simplicity and elegance of these poignant, poniard looking things was something I missed most when I sojourned back to the USA. Nowadays they serve as this symbolic metaphor for my staying here, in so many ways – but to put it simply, when I see them it brings a certain sense of calm and a desire to burn at only one end.

Since that first “date”, I have introduced many of my friends to it. Having not known that the place existed but knowing full well the infamy of Maaßenstraße, I’ve been afforded the cheap thrill of seeing the look on their virgin faces as they took the place in. Now deemed “our place” by my dearest, best girlfriend, it only takes a few words for us to schedule our rendezvous point; this bar noir that serves as a purposeful and pithy backdrop for our meetings.

I met her there just this past Friday, a necessary filler for the chasms that go too long between us seeing each other. It was sort of a reunion with the place because we have spent much of our meeting times outside with the abrasive yet welcoming warmer weather, something uncommon in the cold state of Berlin.

We made peace with the ills around us, together, and gabbed on and on about what was right and wrong with the world. I myself had fallen victim (again) to the terrible plague that is Berliner Fever (something I wish to pen about separately), and per usual needed support as much as I wanted to give it to my dear friend.

There is always something new and something old with her – and we beckon ourselves immaculately as to never succumb to the confines of social media and technology – tangible keeping in touch with touching is a necessity of our auspicious relationship. I cannot live without her.

And then, a funny thing happened.

 

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During my visits downtown (I now reside uptown in a keiz called Wedding whose namesake is a pun in itself as it seems as though this is the place where romance goes to die), I try to overload myself with all of the things I need to do that involve some sort of action including society which includes meeting with friends.

First, before my dearest girlfriend left, we met the acquaintance of another friend of mine – whom I’ve known longer than most in this transient town. I was happy to introduce him to her and we cackled over this and that, him with his beer, her with her Red Bull and I with my barely touched kaffee.

As the ashtray filled up with over-sucked butts, it was a monumental moment for me, for her, for him, for us – it was that divine opportunity to experience life outside of the death of Berlin. This city holds so many close called never to be seen again moments of serendipity, where a sudden and almost coerced closeness is melded, only to melt away not only through the hands of time, but also through the poverty and hedonism that constantly thwarts any meaningful connection here. This was not so in this case and each of my old friends became new to each other; I was pleased.

My dearest girlfriend left, and one of my oldest friends stayed and therein began a constant conversation that played itself out in the most uncanny way. Another friend – an American compatriot, was walking along Maaßenstraße with a perpetual antagonist of his, and I called out his name (in an outwardly obnoxious American fashion) and I noticed that he  too had a conversation for me for it had been months since we sat in a café or bar and poured our souls out to each other. He had to go, steadfastly towards a story he would tell me later.

After one of my oldest friends left, and the American disappeared back out into the real-ish world, one of my newest friends stopped by and the whole situation was starting to resemble some semblance of speed-dating but with friends that I adore rather than strangers I would hope to.

After the conversation with the dearest friend, and then the longest friend, and then the newest friend – the American friend returned and the whole experience came full circle. I could recite verbatim the repetitiveness of what was said by each and every one of them. The similarities were chilling in a way in their identical nature. The subject was that ever elusive Topic A. That thing that can never stop being talked about. And I witnessed it in my active listening mode, not saying much, allowing their hearts to flow with the wonderful atrocity, asking questions and getting meaningful answers, being there for them and only them, there in that moment. The common theme was fear – and passion and so many other things. There were raised voices and tears and big gulps of beverages to refuel their content, as they went on and on in sometimes monologue form, and I thought that I could not and would not get inspired, but I was because this is the dialog that all art is made of. The syntax was jarring and cathartic in a way – and I wondered for just a moment if we were reading from the same script – all of us. Her, him, him, him, me – I sat there from the time the hazy sky began to flood with darker hued clouds and the sun fell under us as the moon sat above. That wretched beast, Love: was all they could talk about.

 

Poetry: Week End

Week End

The weekend, where the strong lose their way –
Down slippery slopes towards headache and tooth decay
Slick with the greasy necessity of social lubricant
And the want of mindless sweat and pant
Like dogs they sniff at the ordinate places
The gonad targets hid way behind the allure of faces

On Sunday I see more crosses than any other day
But in truth they do not come in the pious way
At the start and end of the week the blue light dances
Accompanied by the jarring sound of ambulances
It is the mass of the masses found unholy with pills
Transported from leather beds to stale hospitals

The big business of the idle mind carried out in dismay
It comes and goes from Thursday through Tuesday
Red eyes leave the dealers and blues salesmen in the black
No peace piecemeal makes its deadly attack
There is no sleep for the unconscious conscience
At once with riches and then to count pence