Thursday, February 12, 2015

I Love Dancing!

I have a confession to make... I love dancing! (Okay, this isn't really a confession, I will literally tell anyone who listens... I get a bit evangelical about stuff I love!).

I've always loved shakin’ it, but it wasn't until I started Zumba in my 4th year of university that I really realized how much I love dance. I have tried to like exercise so many times in my life, and it just never works. Outside of team sports (which require a lot of commitment and time) I have never enjoyed any form of exercise. I'm your classic, goes to the gym for 3 weeks and then quits kinda gal.

Photo from: City Dance Corps Website

That was until I found dance! After I started Zumba it was like I had found my exercise match. My one true form of fitness! Each time I went I got slightly less awkward, and a little more committed to the moves.

Now, after a short hiatus (due to location), I am at a different studio trying out a whole variety of dances. I am currently taking drop in classes for Hip-hop, Afrofusion, and Dancehall. - Oh man, are these fun… I'm talking laugh and smile through the whole class kind of fun.

Each class I get a little more comfortable in my moves, a little less worried about how I look, and a lot more confident that dance is an absolute must in my life. It’s such a good feeling when you get your body to move in sync with the music.

Best of all I'm getting exercise, but I don’t even think about that. It is so much more about wellness, joy, and fun than anything else, and I love that!

If you are in Toronto, check out the drop in classes at CityDance Corps (located at Spadina and Queen), I can’t say enough good thinks about their teachers, facilities and classes. 

(As a bonus, I now think I am BeyoncĂ© when I go out dancing at a bar. Let’s just pretend I look as good as I feel!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Art Focus for 2015: Inequality

I love following someone who is doing a daily goal... it's so amazing to see the dedication and follow through that is possible. I have often thought about it, but I know (for me) the goal would end up causing me more stress then fun.

I had considered doing a Once-a-Week art project for this year, but have since decided to just leave it as an "Art Focus for 2015". (I am already committed to doing weekly dance, which I am loving so far!)

I came across the idea for my Art Focus recently when I was reading about the murder of yet another aboriginal women in Canada. It might seems like a strange place for someone to get their creativity, but to me it makes sense... I passionately read and inform myself of social issues in society. My twitter feed is filled to the brim with activists and not for profits doing amazing work in Canada, America, and the world. I constantly seek out more information when cases of social inequality show up in the news, and I challenge myself to be as open as I can to each individual's journey.

I take all of this in, but beyond some tweets and discussions with friends and family, I don't do anything with the knowledge I have. The amount of injustice in the world can feel like a weight on my shoulders, and I just sit here doing nothing about it.

This is where the Art Focus comes in. I have decided that my Art Focus for this year will be to create works inspired by the pain of injustice and inequality. I am aware that artists have been creating works about this forever... but it's new for me. I have always just made art when I wanted to, not really processing why (or sometimes choosing not to process the why).

I am looking forward to making art with specific ideas in mind, and hopefully I will share some of it here, along with information about the case or issue that has inspired the piece.

To start, I will share a bit about the piece above. I painted it after the Oscar nominations were announced this year. As some of you may already know, the nominations were a huge fail... The nominations went almost exclusively a list of white men. With 118/127 nominations going to white people, and 102/127 going to men. NO women or people of colour were nominated for best director, screen play, cinematography, or visual effects among other categories. This is especially disappointing considering the Director of Selma, Ava DuVernay, could have been the first African-America woman nominated for Best Director (and so deserved to be!).

I didn't know what I could do... what can I do? I'm not on the Academy, I'm not even that interested in film.. so I painted. And I'm sharing here. Hopefully this process of painting and sharing will help a few people learn about the issues of representation in the media. If you are curious, click here to read a great article about the Oscar nominations this year. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hip-hop & Feminism

This is something I have thought about for a looooong time. Something that comes up - often when I'm trying to make my friends listen to a new song I've become obsessed with. After they listen, they are generally horrified by the lyrics, and ask me "how can you listen to this, you are such a feminist?!"

And believe me, I've had to think about that. But I think I've come to some conclusions about why I am comfortable with this.

There were three main things I considered when thinking this over: Is this music something I need in my life? Is hip-hop actually sexist? and Am I comfortable listening to it, if in fact, it is sexist?

Is this music something I need in my life?
Yes. Bottom line, no other music makes me feel what hip hop does. There is something in those deep base beats that gets into my soul. I literally can not stop myself from dancing (or at least bouncing!) when I hear a good song. (Check out the drop about 15 seconds into m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar). At different points along the way I have tried to just stop listening to it and cut out all sexist music, but it never works. I eventually find myself back online searching out some kind of basey tunes.

Is hip-hop actually sexist?
First, I think it's important for me to recognize that hip hop comes from a culture I have never been a part of. Hip-hop started as a movement and a culture as much as a musical genre. Starting in the late 70s, 80s and early 90s lyrics mostly focused on social issues, and bringing to light the realities of life in the projects (Check out The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, as a prime example). It wasn't until the mid 90s that "gangster rap" really became a thing (and along with it came much more violent and misogynistic lyrics). But there are a lot of complicated and varying theory's as to why hip-hop took this turn (shitty white label execs being one of the potential reasons).

A lot of artist (even current ones) have really great songs calling out racism, police brutality, and economic inequality in marginalized areas. In the next breath they might talk about selling dope, and slaying b*itches.... does this make their songs about social issues irrelevant? I don't think so. I think there are a lot of complex reasons why someone might wish for "different hoes every night" because it's proof of their masculinity, among so many other things. And why they feel the need to prove their masculinity is another complex topic in itself.

Basically what I'm saying is context is everything. A lot of hip-hop artists have had a different past to myself, and different levels of exposure to feminist ideas (maybe none at all!). And although I do think they have some responsibility to educate themselves as they gain fame, I also need to respect the fact that I don't come from a hip-hop culture.

I think you might be surprised when you listen to other genres of music, to find that hip-hop is not alone in this problem. Sexist lyrics are alive and well in almost every genre of music (um.. country music much?) and I do think hip-hop gets the most flak for it. I am willing to guess this is because as a society we are far more willing to call out and condemn men of colour (especially "thuggish" ones) than we are "pretty" white boys.

Am I comfortable listening to it, if in fact, it is sexist?
I am. The context I explain above is the majority of the reason why I am okay with it. I love the music, and I feel I can enjoying it - knowing that I don't agree with everything thing they say.

That being said, I try my best to avoid artist or songs that explicitly encourage rape, or domestic violence. Everyone should know that this is not okay, and to sing about it in some fun way is unacceptable.

So this turned into a way longer post than I expected. But I really enjoyed thinking through this idea, and I wanted to share my thought process. I really do hope to see the genre grow to become less sexist (and less homophobic for that matter). Fingers crossed. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

2015 Resolutions & Goals

As I mentioned before, I was unusually busy over new years this year. I didn't have a chance to write as many 2014 wrap up posts as I would have liked, but I'm determined to set my resolutions. I might be a month late, but I'm excited to set out some long term goals for 2015.

After some thought and reflection, I've come up with the following Big Goals for 2015!
  1. Dance one day per week (2 is even better!)
  2. Make one video per month (even if just a round up of what I did that month)
  3. Sell at a Craft Fair in the spring
  4. Write more about activism, and equality
  5. Be direct and clear in the way I communicate
  6. Less mindless scrolling, more active living!
Nothing too crazy, but just enough to keep me moving this year. I am excited to say that I have kept up with my dance goal already this year. I started taking drop in classes at the City Dance Corps (in Toronto) the first week of January, and I am loving it!

Goals 1-4 are a lot more tangible than 5 and 6. There is no easy way that I will be able to say for sure I've "done" 5 and 6. I normally don't like to set such open ended goals, but I do want to work on these items, so I figured I could put them in and see how it goes. 

My next project is to set up a spot in my room to post these goals, and my rotating monthly goals.... any display ideas are welcome!