Saturday, June 30, 2012

Isa in a Humvee


Just thought you'd find that amusing.  Every day is different around here...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Totem artist profile - Shandien Larance

Shandien is one of our two Native American hoop dancers.  She joined the cast of Totem in summer 2010, as a backup for her brother, Nakotah Larance.  Nakotah was the original hoop dancer for Totem.  When Shandien came in, she was trained to replace Nakotah's first act in case of illness or emergency, and she was also integrated into his second appearance in the show (the act simply known as Hoop Dancer 2).  When Nakotah left Totem this spring, and was replaced by Eric Hernandez, Shandien kept her position in the show.  She is now backup for Eric in Hoop Dancer 1, and they do Hoop Dancer 2 as a duet.

20 years old, Shandien grew up in a close-knit family on a Hopi reservation near Flagstaff, Arizona.  Her older brother Nakotah started hoop dancing at age 4, on a pow wow trail with older family members.  When he was around 10 years old, he taught Shandien, and their younger brother Cree, to dance, and they began performing & competing with him at pow wows.

By the time Shandien was a teenager, Nakotah was making a name for himself in hoop dancing, winning major competitions year after year, and Shandien stepped back from it.  But when he signed on with Cirque du Soleil, Shandien rekindled her interest in the art form, and started practicing, on her own.  It wasn't long before Cirque tapped her for the role.

The Native American performers in Totem have a delicate and important role to fill.  As representatives of their traditional culture and religion, they try to showcase the unique beauty of their music and dance, without cheapening it or misrepresenting it.

Shandien, in the meantime, says she loves being on the Totem tour.  The best parts: meeting new people, having new experiences, traveling, seeing the world.  She does miss her home, family, and pets (4 dogs and a cat!) and she plans to start working towards a college degree online, with art school as an eventual destination.

This past week I got to watch Shandien perform as a soloist in Hoop Dancer 1 - she is now in rotation to do this once or twice a week - and she's shining out there!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Family and Boston sights

The past couple of weeks have been so filled with fun experiences, I haven't been able to keep up on my blog.  So here, at least, is a photo montage, showing some of the highlights.  The picture above was taken on a Boston Harbor cruise to George's Island.  I am quite amazed to be able to sail around Boston Harbor and enjoy the islands, because when I was growing up, Boston Harbor was a polluted toxic mess.  It's beautiful now... people even swim in it!

Here we are - me and the kids, bike-commuting home from school in downtown Boston.  Thanks Scott for being on the bike behind us and taking the picture!

My sister Erin took me, Baz, and Ayla to Roller Derby!  Our first experience with this, and we all had a lot of fun.

Ah, suburban life.  Grandpa Ron is now using a push-mower for his small lawn (which has become smaller over the years, as Mom has added more flower and vegetable gardens).  Baz, Ayla and Isa love getting outside and doing things like cutting grass, pulling weeds, stacking wood, washing cars.  Is this a lifestyle we're wrongly depriving them of, or are they just enjoying the novelty of it?  

My Dad is doing this cool volunteer project where he helps decipher the handwritten U.S. Census documents from 1940.  Dad is usually involved in odd intellectual pursuits, and his latest projects have been in the category of citizen science

Isa and Ilya at the playground.  

Since arriving here, I've been envying the people sprawled out on Boston Common on sunny days, sunbathing and reading.  My parents took Baz, Ayla, and Isa camping for two days, and I finally got to try it out myself!  It was all that it was cracked up to be.

Greg and I also took the kid-free opportunity for an all-day date - hiking in the Blue Hills, followed by a leisurely and delicious meal at La Famiglia Giorgio in the North End.  

Here they are, happy as three clams in Mom & Dad's new camper.

And finally, in case you were wondering, this is what you do with kids in the city when the temperature suddenly climbs to 100 degrees.  

The school play

A video of the school play the kids presented last week.  It's kind of fascinating to see what such a mixed group can come up with - all different ages, abilities and languages.  The entire production was about 20 minutes long, I've excerpted just a few minutes of Baz & Ayla's best bits.  They had help with this performance from Totem's Native Americans and Native Canadians, who taught the kids the songs and dances, and various parents and tour members who coached drama, made costumes and supplied props. All the kids were very nervous before the show, and very proud afterwards.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Two years

Today marks two years since we left Philadelphia to join the Totem tour.  What have I learned in this second year?

- I no longer get as excited, or as worried, about each new apartment that we stay in.  In two years and 14 apartments, there were some places I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven, and others I thought I couldn't live through.  In the end, none of them mattered all that much.  No matter where we are, it's only for a few more weeks.

- I have mastered the system for getting library cards in each new city.  Each place requires a simple proof of residence - so as soon as possible (sometimes before we even arrive) I make sure something is sent in the mail to our new address. Postcard, package, it doesn't matter what it is - the library will accept it.  Cards for city libraries are great, opening the doors to extensive collections and usually 50-100 checkouts at one time.

- It is actually possible to be bored with watching a Cirque du Soleil show.  In my case, I joined this tour with a lifetime of groupie / Cirque passion behind me, so it took a good long time.  At about 18 months - after seeing Totem perhaps 50-75 times - I finally thought, OK, enough. (!!!) ...full disclosure, I still go to watch the show... just not quite as often as I did at the beginning.

- I am needier than I realized before... for professional relationships.  for personal friendships.  for urgency and importance and external motivations.  I'm having a harder time than ever controlling my ego.

- Yoga makes everything better.

- Tour friendships are fragile and circumstantial.  In every city it changes, who I see most often, and how much we talk.  The key seems to be always staying open to new connections, and forgiving the ones that drift away.

- In the end, no matter who else comes and goes in our lives, Greg, Baz, Ayla, Isa and I have each other.  This is the constant, the fivesome that we nurture.  The tour families who have been doing this the longest seem the most settled in this way - quite self-reliant and accustomed to their together time.

- It might be apparent from this blog entry - I am less starry-eyed than I was two years ago, or even one year ago.  Greg and I have both settled into this lifestyle and it does not feel glamorous anymore.  But time has not changed the things we most appreciate being here .... the travel, the adventure, the steady work, and the creature comforts.  There are times that I look out at the city skyline, or see the light striking the blue-and-yellow chapiteau, that my sense of wonder at all of it comes back to me.  Most days, though, we are just here, living our lives in odd circumstances, trying to provide for our children as best we can, and stumbling along.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Today's adventures

Some things were planned....
5k Run / 2k Walk for Hope, down on the Esplanade with the Totem team

And others unplanned.....
Pride Parade! Around the corner from our apartment.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Our new apartment in Boston is one of the best that we've stayed in.  It's on the 26th floor, and, as you can see, the view is marvelous.  It's right in the middle of downtown Boston, around the corner from Faneuil Hall; a hop, skip and a jump from all kinds of Boston icons like the Aquarium, Boston Common, South Station, the Children's Museum.  What's more, the apartment itself is spacious and comfortable: three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and more closets and cabinets than we know what to do with. It's a posh place: there are suited attendants downstairs who act as doormen and concierges, and a display screen that shows you when you have packages waiting, and a top floor health club with pool and sauna. It all just feels like a big treat, being in a place like this.

It's great just being in Boston.  Though I never lived in Boston proper - I grew up in the suburb of Natick - I haunted the city as a teenager whenever I could.  And there is something about a Massachusetts state of mind that is just innately familiar to me.  Being able to regularly visit with my parents and sister, and a variety of old friends, is the icing on the cake!

We have filled our first days here, despite persistent rainy weather.  We took the kids to the Museum of Science and Faneuil Hall.  Taught them about Paul Revere's ride, and the Freedom Trail.  Watched the harbor seals playing outside the Aquarium, and street performers outside Quincy Market.

Today, we got out of the city, to an area of the Blue Hills called Houghton's Pond, where we went for a bike ride!  This is a new configuration of bikes for us, which I'm very excited about (we are hoping to use the bikes to commute to work and school every day here).  Isa outgrew her baby seat last year, and I'd been wanting to get her on a Trail-A-Bike.  Our old one had been in storage for a while, and when we pulled it out, it was missing a key connector piece.  After searching bike stores and the Internet for awhile, we finally gave up and went on Craigslist - and picked up a new (used) Trail-A-Bike for $50.  Now we have a happy fivesome that is able to bike together!

Our schedule here in Boston is the weirdest we've experienced.  For some reason, the artists have Dress Rehearsal on Saturday, a regular show on Sunday, and then an official Premiere on Wednesday. It is quite confusing, as we have become accustomed to the usual schedule of Dress Rehearsal on a Wednesday, followed by Premiere on a Thursday, and the rhythms of school and social activities coordinate with that.

I am, however, taking a break from my English classes this city.  I've declared it to be summer vacation - to give me a bit of a breather, and to have more time with my family.  I will still teach occasional private lessons, but the organization and prep of the group classes can have a couple of months off.

There are plenty of other things to do.  I'm still teaching circus classes to the children three mornings / week, and this Saturday I'm chaperoning the school kids to run a 5k race.  The school year will wrap up in mid-July, and then I am taking my 3 out to a summer day camp near Natick for two weeks.

I can't end this post without mentioning again that I have found a Bikram Yoga studio here.  And it's excellent.  And it's a 10-minute walk from my apartment, with early-morning classes three days / week.  I am planning to go as often as I possibly can.  After giving Bikram up last fall in Toronto, I've missed it terribly .... but in all of the cities since then it's been impossible to get to a studio.  Now I have two months to dig in!  I am thrilled.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Changing coasts

We zoomed across the country (3150 miles ... drove for 4 days from San Diego to Philadelphia, spent 1 day in Philly, then drove to Boston).  And now I've just been so dazzled with love being back on the East Coast that I haven't made time to blog.  Plenty of stories and photos to come shortly, I promise.
For now, I'm having a great time with my family, Bikram Yoga, and enjoying the gorgeous view out my 26th-story window.....