The timing of critique.

by Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Recently on an instructor discussion group, a fellow teacher asked a question about giving feedback to a student after a show

"I was recently at a student show put on by another instructor where one of my students performed in a group choreography. At the break she asked me what I thought. I told her that she was doing well with the choreography, obviously knew it, but she needed to get her eyes off the floor and look at the audience some.
She then told two of my other students that were there as spectators (when they all went out for a smoke) that I was criticizing her.
Seriously, I didn't think I said anything that would be taken wrong but obviously I did.
I repeatedly tell my students when we start learning about performing in front of an audience not to stare at the ceiling for divine guidance or constantly look at the floor, so this is something that she has heard before, over and over and over.......

What should I have said or not said? If I wasn't asked I would have kept my mouth shut."

"Shay says:
I want to start by saying that I felt your feedback was perfectly appropriate and not at all overly critical. But I think the timing of it was what caused the issue.

I make it my policy to not allow critique AT a show--only general encouragement and positive commentary at the venue, and save the critical discussion for later. We are very vulnerable when we perform, and when we're done it is common for our brains to immediately jump to the negative. I encourage dancers to believe the performance space is a very positive and safe space, free from self-talk and negativity. The rehearsal space is where we get down to the real work. To be clear, I don't think you were being "negative"--teachers understand that critique is neither positive nor negative, but all of it is tools to become better and stronger. But not all students understand this, and even we as professionals have a hard time taking in critique when what we would most like to hear is glowing praise, yes?

You may not have the opportunity to see her in a "rehearsal space", but perhaps saving any critical feedback for another time would have been of help in this case. Give her a few "'atta girl" comments, and then tell her that if she would like to hear a more detailed assessment, you would be happy to talk to her later in the week (or e-mail her or whatever she likes). Then the ball is in her court as to whether she wants to receive more guidance from you, she can prepare herself to best receive the feedback you are offering, and you have set the tone that the performance space is a safe and happy coccoon.

Just some food for thought!"

And don't forget the "feedback sandwich" technique when delivering any feedback! It may not seem important that it was two nice things and then a critical thing. Just changing the order of the feedback to nice-critique-nice can change the perception of the interaction for the student from "she criticized me" to "she complimented me and gave me a good tip". Always end on a positive!

For a really great article on instructor critique, check out this page:

And this short blog entry has some good tips for artists on how to accept critique, and learn to continue to be open to it. Maybe this could inspire a handout for some teachers to give their students when they advance to performance level?

Question for today...

by Tuesday, June 29, 2010
What was the last thing you did/accomplished which made you truly proud?


by Thursday, June 24, 2010
Mom Moore has always loved Neruda, and instilled a love of it in her son, who found the sonnet below today. He hopes to include it in her memorial somehow, and I think it is simply perfect.

Rest in the care of Your Father's arms, Mom. We love you so dearly. Thank you for the inspiring example of selfless love and giving you demonstrated in every aspect of your life in the time I have known you. You gave more of yourself in your time on earth than many could muster in three lifetimes. You were truly a gift in this life, and will surely continue to be so in the life you now go to. Thank you for raising such an amazing son, who has become my best friend and true partner in life. Your unconditional love lives on in his sweet heart, and I feel so honored to be a part of your family.

"When I die, I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands
To pass their freshness over me once more:
I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep,
I want your ears still to hear the wind, I want you
to sniff the sea's aroma that we loved together,
to continue to walk on the sand we walked on.

I want what I love to continue to live,
And you whom I love and sang above everything else
To continue to flourish, full flowered:

So that you can reach everything my love directs you to,
So that my shadow can travel along in your hair,
So that everything can learn the reason for my song!"

Sonnet 89
Pablo Neruda

The longest day of the year...

by Monday, June 21, 2010
**Please note: If you are reading this on Facebook, I am on a FB cleanse right now and I am not participating much. If you want to comment on this post, please visit my blog at**

Today is supposed to be the longest day of the year. But I think yesterday was bucking for first place. Stephanie called early in the morning and told us to come over right away. We didn't get that message for three hours. Pat had woken up and was not responsive. Just staring. She refused food and water and pain meds all day long. She was still responding one-word answers to some things, and even put together short sentences in the morning, but by afternoon and evening wasn't speaking much at all.

Today she is aware/alert, but not saying anything. She is allowing water to keep her mouth wet, but still refusing to eat or drink. She can't really swallow anything right now anyway... Stephanie, Nathan, and Gina have been nonstop in their caring for her, even sleeping on the floor in her room last night to make sure she had someone nearby whenever she needed them.

Pat is surrounded by a lot of love right now. Friends and family coming by all day long, dropping off flowers and food and cards. We sat with her all day and night. We are back today by her bedside, trying to keep her comfortable, and saying the things we need to say.

It's understandably somber and quiet here. There isn't much to be done, so it's just *being here* that we can offer. And that is what we are doing...minute by minute, hour by hour, day by blessed day.

Friday, there you are...

by Friday, June 18, 2010
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It's Friday, and I am not sure where the week went. Time is flowing strangely right now. Some days fly by, and some hours seem to drag on forever. The sunshine is most welcome today. Started cleaning up the area where Chris' "outdoor kitchen" will live. Piles of leaves from past seasons, branches from the recent hedge-hacking, a bag of god-knows-what, trash, old did this all GET here?! UGH! Already it looks pretty good, but a long way to go yet. I have to pull up all the old cement pavers, pull up the rotten plastic the original owner put down, cut out all the shooters from the lilac bushes, re-level, then a new weed barrier, sand, and new pavers. Whew! Hoepfully I will get some more work done on that this weekend, if the weather holds.

Went for my visit with Mom Moore today. She says she was feeling a bit better today still. Every day she feels a little better. But she still can't get around well at all, sit up or lay down on her own, that sort of thing. The drugs really do a number on her, but she is talking more and even laughing a bit. I hope she is feeling significantly better by the time her birthday rolls around, on July 5th.

Today...and tomorrow and so on...

by Thursday, June 17, 2010
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Today began as an adventure in entrelac knitting (see example to right, NOT my work, but a fine example). I have long wanted to try this technique, and since I wanted a little break from my lace shawl I am working on, it seemed a good time to take on some new techniques for kicks. Not only is this a chance to try the new effect, but it also gave me an excuse to try to learn reverse knitting. That is, learning to purl from the right side, eliminating the need to turn your work as frequently on a project such as this one which would require it constantly. So far so good, pics coming of my own work soon.

This afternoon was my first afternoon getting to take care of Pat, my Mother In Law. Chris' boss has graciously allowed him to take some personal time as needed to care for his Mom, so today he got to come with me while I started to learn some of the routines for Pat's comfort. My heart is breaking for everyone in Chris' family right now, and the prospect of volunteering for this heavy task was freaking me out, but I am truly honored to be trusted to be a part of the care of this amazing woman. As I told Pat today, my father didn't ask for help when he needed it most, so I didn't have a choice in caring for him in any way. In this I have a choice, and while it is hard on everyone to figure out the ins and outs (of course MOST of all Pat herself!!), it is a circle of trust and love and caring I am blessed to be a part of. I am thankful for being asked.

Stephanie, Chris' sister, possesses such a gentle soul and practical mind-a perfect combination in such circumstances. She is preserving her mother's dignity and frankly taking care of f*cking BUSINESS for her family in a way we can all only pray for should we find for ourselves in such need. Not only with daily health and comfort issues, but also taking over Pat's home business on the side of her own multiple jobs, Stephanie is a rock star. And I have decided her husband Nathan is just an angel, no question. This clearly is his family, too, deeply and without question, and all the ways he is devoting his time and energy to doing everything he can to support Pat and Stephanie on all levels is yet another miracle of time and place and people that Pat finds herself surrounded by.

Chris is making time in his very hectic life to be there for his Mom, and for his grandfather who also needs extra support right now, especially in the absence of his daughter who has been his caretaker for many years. I love Chris so much for his deep love for his family, and admire the way he is trying to balance stresses in impossible circumstances, while managing to keep a (mostly) even keel and offer so much love and support to those around him. His boss is being amazingly accommodating of him right now, and I can't thank them enough for freeing up Chris as much as they are able during a time when they could be pressuring him harder to meet some critical deadlines they are up against this week. I thank God for the very loving, human support they are offering my husband in the way of time and understanding.

I also have to give a shout-out to my friend Michelle, who has been an incredible resource of information, strength, encouragement, wisdom, and support. Michelle was the primary caretaker for her mother during her battle with pancreatic cancer, and thus has a lot of experience with all stages of the process, and has taken a lot of personal time to write generously informative and supportive mails to me, answering so many questions, easing fears, and letting me rant it out when I needed an ear. Pat and her family have no idea how much positive energy and caring is flowing from this woman they have never met.

Aside from the medical/daily health stuff, being there is mostly getting to hang out with Pat, knit or crochet, watch TV, chat, and Which, frankly, is what both of us need right now, and thus is yet again the Universe arranging for everyone to get what they need. Thanks, Universe. I'm listening.

If you are reading this, and have some prayers or energy to offer on behalf of my MIL, it would be most welcome. It may be the case that she stops chemo altogether, pending some further testing. We would love to see her having more energy and improving her comfort and quality of life, whatever the decision, and that is our prayer. If you would add it to yours, thanks in advance.

Road trip roundup

by Tuesday, June 15, 2010
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The trip to Bend was just what the doctor ordered. Being surrounded by love and laughter at a time when we need it most=happy, relaxed Shay and Chris. And despite Gretchen's complete inability to chill on the entire 6+ hour drive (she was very very stressed, panting, pacing the WHOLE TIME), once there she was a gem of a pup and it was awesome to have them both there to cuddle and be near. It relieves our stress to have their fur to run our fingers through, puppy kisses to collect, and general cuddles.

Our Gypsy Fire family is just an incredible bunch of women, and now we can include their hubbies and children in our glowing review. What a joy it was to meet them and get to know them a little. Quinn was a wonderful host, as we knew she would be, giving us time and space to find our groove, and being completely accommodating.

Bend itself is beautiful, and the weather turned incredibly sunny the day after we arrived. This allowed for dog park time, walks along the Deschutes river, delicious local organic food enjoyed on the deck, seeing Gypsy and Sister Fire perform at an outdoor bazaar, drinking local beers on the bar patio, and hot tub time under the awe-inspiring canopy of stars. Got some color on my skin, and some joy in my heart. We truly didn't want to leave.

Even the drive home held its delights. Quinn recommended a state park stopover on the trip home, which took us to a stunning view of red rock mesas and canyons--a popular rock-climbing area. After a short "hike" in the intense sunshine, our visit was topped off with fresh huckleberry ice cream in the shade of an accommodating tree.

We are already looking forward to a return trip, to spend time with our loved ones and to take in more of the outdoor activities we didn't have time and energy for on this trip.

Road Trip

by Thursday, June 10, 2010
Today, we're gettin' the hell outta Dodge. That's right, it's Road Trip Time.

We're heading down to Bend to spend some time with friends, get away from the everyday reality/life/crap, and just try and relax. Chris and I haven't taken a road trip in a shockingly long time, though I have taken many with other girlfriends over the years. I am looking forward to taking one with my best friend starting this afternoon. :)

This will be the first road trip for our dogs, however! We would always have Chris' Mom doggie-sit for us when we went anyplace, and that not being an option for this trip, it's an opportunity to give them an adventure and see how they do. It will be 6+ hours in the car each way, plus staying in a strange house, with two other dogs to boot. I am confident Loki will be the gem he always is--he is St. Loki, I swear. But Gretchen...she is a Bitch. And fancies herself Alpha much of the time. So going to another house with another Alpha Bitch...let's just say she may spend much of her day in a crate and on a leash. Which is fine by me. She could use a little extra socialization and humbling. ;)

It's also nice to think that we will have them with us when we go to bed at night. That is always one of the hardest things when we travel. When the action of the day is through, and we're crawling into bed, we almost without fail make some comments about how we wish our dogs were there to cuddle. It's just not "good night" without our fingers running through black fur and scritching pink bellies, and receiving the requisite puppy kisses. So having that on this trip is a joy.

So what's on the agenda for the weekend? Eating, drinking, hot tubbing, laughing, dog-cuddling, sleeping, repeat.

Knitting lace and learning charts (and kicking ass, and taking names)

by Wednesday, June 09, 2010
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I am working on my first knit lace project this week, which also happens to be my first attempt at learning to read knitting charts. For those who don't know what that means, it is basically a visual representation of written knitting instructions. It can turn:

R 31: k3, yo, k5, sk2p, k4, yo, k1, *(yo, k2, sk2p, k4, yo, k1)*, yo, k2, sk2p, k4, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, K1, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, k4, k3tog, k2, yo, *(k1, yo, k4, k3tog, k2, yo)*, k1, yo, k4, k3tog, k5, yo, k3 (79, 119, 159, 199, 239…..)
R 32 K3, Purl to last three stitches, K3
R 33: k3, yo, k6, sk2p, k5, yo, *(k1, yo, k1, sk2p, k5, yo)*, k1, yo, k1, sk2p, k5, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, K1, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, k5, k3tog, k1, yo, k1 *(yo, k5, k3tog, k1, yo, k1)*, yo, k5, k3tog, k6, yo, k3 (83, 123, 163, 203, 243….)


(click to see full size)

This is a snippet of the pattern I am working on, the Luna Moth shawl by Elann (must log in to view/download pattern, but here is a blog post with pics of someone's completed work). These are rows 31-33. Imagine what it looks like all written out for all the rows of this shawl!

Charts are done on a graph paper "framework" as seen here, and does a great job of parsing long sentences of instructions down to a simpler, cleaner readout, which also happens to help one envision better the pattern as it is supposed to appear in real life. On larger, complex projects, the descriptions of what you are supposed to do can get quite long and involved, and as you can see can take up three or four lines of text to describe one line of stitching. It can be hard on more complex patterns to keep your place as you're reading ("Wait, was I on the K1 YO K1 in the first sentence or the second...") Charts are pretty much line-by-line representations, with minimal written directions on how to use the chart (a key), and any special instructions for repeats (say, when making a triangular shawl like this one, which gets larger as it goes along and thus repeats the pattern more as it grows). This also makes them a bit more portable, and in my opinion easier to chat and knit simultaneously, as I can track my progress and keep my place much more easily than if I were reading the longhand instructions. Why didn't I try charts earlier? I coulda' had a V8! *thunk*

Being that this was my first time, I was bound to make some mistakes. And I did! Good for me! Essentially, when knitting flat, you are going back and forth, right? You knit to the end of the work, turn around and knit back the other way, and so on. So naturally the CHARTS do the same thing. Every other row is read right-to-left. I hadn't quite grokked this, and as a result, began my work as if I were reading the written instructions. Natural, no? Read left-to-right on every line. I can see now how foolish that was, and perhaps a more complex pattern would have knocked me upside the head much earlier on to help me realize my mistake. But this pattern is a mirror image pattern--that is to say, each side is identical to the other, just in reverse. So it wasn't immediately apparent that I was doing every other line backwards from its intended design. Not until I had gotten a good 6 hours of knitting into the project. Oops!

So I frogged it out (frogged=rippit in knitspeak) and began over again yesterday afternoon. I am about halfway back to where I was with the incorrect interpretation, but far wiser in the ways of lace knitting from a chart. It's a good thing I am a "process knitter". That is to say, I enjoy the process of knitting, and learning new techniques and seeing new patterns unfold, and am not as invested in the outcome. So while I indeed hope to finish this shawl, and gift it to someone special, for now I am enjoying just keeping busy with my hands and my mind while I wait for this new stage of my life to unfold.

A little something every day...

by Wednesday, June 09, 2010
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In the past year, I have been taking some workshops in book writing, as I have a couple books in my head waiting to get out. And one of the top things I run into everywhere I go is "Start a blog, write something EVERY day." Which inspires me to ponder, as I am sure anyone faced with this challenge rightfully would, "What the hell am I going to write about every day that anyone is going to want to read?" I do a pretty good job on a bi-monthly writing regimen, and have even been known to write some gems weekly for a stretch. But daily?!

So I suppose this is a word of warning to my regular readers: things might be a bit mundane at times, trite, brief, and even meaningless...but you will see me writing every day* regardless of whether any sort of inspiration has struck yours truly.

Luckily, my blog is already set up to be easily filtered by topic. So if you come here just to read about dance, or just about costume and make-up tips, or something of that nature, you can click on one of the links at the top of the page and see if there is anything new tagged with those topics. But if you're a glutton for punishment, and just want to read whatever drivel happens to turn up on the front page, you're in luck! There will be a lot more drivel!

I have even created a tag for it. When I am not writing about anything in particular, I will tag it "daily drivel". There. All set, eh?

*There will be days when I will not be near a computer for whatever reason, and we can just give me a pass those days, shall we?

I'm not fine...but I will be!

by Monday, June 07, 2010
**Please note: If you are reading this on Facebook, I am on a FB cleanse right now and I am not participating much. If you want to comment on this post, please visit my blog at**

My friend Arya has a wonderful blog that I pop over to read now and again. Today, I caught up on a past post where she mused about the word "fine". What struck me was this portion of it:

"Fred: "Oh, hello, Alma. I haven't seen you in so long. How are you?"

Alma: "Hi Fred. I'm fine. How 'bout yourself?"


Does the above greeting sound familiar? Have you been Fred or Alma - either on the receiving or giving end of a "fine"?
The truly sad thing about the overused "fine" is that it is usually a lie. A flat-out lie (just read the links above to read various definitions). Usually, everything about the person saying they're fine tells us otherwise. Alma looks disheveled. Her skin is waxy and her eyes have dark rings. She seems to sag, as if drained. And yet, when asked by a friend how she's doing, she tells him "fine". She could simply say, "Oh, Fred. I'm having a tough time right now. I appreciate you asking how I'm doing, but I don't feel like talking about it." She could be honest without going into details, "I'm not well, but I'll be okay." Somehow we, as a culture, have all become "fine" even when we're not."

My thoughts after the jump...
Talk about synergy! I had this very conversation with my husband this weekend. As you all know by now, my family is struggling with a beloved family member who is very ill. At a gathering this weekend, when I asked my SIL how she was doing, she told me "Fine", and smiled half-heartedly, knowing full well I knew she wasn't, and communicating with her face, and a hand squeeze, that she was not at all fine. But it was as if she had to go through that motion, even with me, because she was practicing it so much lately.

I, too, have been doing my best lately to not lie about how I am, without inviting too much inquiry or bringing others down. Fact is, 99% of the people who ask how you are doing are only interested in hearing something offhanded and ideally positive, and don't want to be drawn into any greater recitation of difficulty or drama. They aren't *really* asking how you are. It is simply just a common greeting, not really a question. So when people ask, I have a stock answer that sounds upbeat, but also isn't a lie. Right now my response is "Keepin' busy!" And I am. What they don't need to know is that I am undertaking a lot of busy-ness to distract myself from a miserable set of circumstances in my personal life. That videos and soundtracks of regrets and fears are playing endlessly in my mind, and weighing on my spirit, and that I have very few people I can even talk to about it. That is not what they are asking, and so I am being polite and offering a return greeting on par with their desire for shallow cordial exchange.

It's not a lie. I'm not fine, but I'm keeping busy. Or as Arya put it so beautifully, "I'm not well, but I'll be okay."


On this blog I share my personal posts about cooking and knitting, travel and other musings; while I will blog about dance-specific topics over on the Deep Roots Dance blog:

I hope you will enjoy both my sites. Thanks for visiting!
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