Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tour costs

So, here I am in Target, buying a new baking tray.  Which is probably the 6th time I've done this during our years on tour.

Baking trays are just one of those items we can't seem to keep hold of.  Sometimes, we buy one, and carry it around to a few cities.  Sometimes we don't need it, the apartment has one, and we leave it in a suitcase.  Other times, we forget that we purchased it, and we leave it behind.  On at least one international transfer, it got tossed aside in the things-we-can't-fit-in-the-suitcase pile, and at least one other time, we shipped a baking tray home to Philadelphia, thinking we no longer needed it.

Frying pans have suffered a similar fate.  And let's not even talk about the waterproof mattress covers I keep on the kids' beds, which seem impossible to remember to remove on move-out days.  (back to Target again...)

Greg and I refer to these situations as tour costs - the expenses that we incur by sheer nature of the travel, frustrating outlays of money that we would never have if we lived at home.  A lot of "mistakes" fall into this category - fees paid for errors, mixups, lost items.  Shipping costs also come into play here, with all of the things we send back and forth to our families and storage units.

Sometimes we just can't fathom where we put something.  For example, Greg cannot find any of his summer shorts - he has probably 8 pairs of shorts, because at least once, we replaced all of them when we couldn't find them.  Now they're lost again.  Did we send them in a box to storage?  Are they in a suitcase somewhere?  We think we've looked everywhere.  There is no way of knowing, and it's unlikely we'll let Greg spend the next several months in a beach city without a pair of shorts.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wow, Santa Monica!

I don't think any of us knew what was in store for us here in Santa Monica, despite my friends' posting photos like this ---> 
on their Facebook pages.  Eh, I've seen a lot of pretty places on this tour.  But the sunshine and beauty of this one has kind of bowled me over.  Maybe it's the contrast, after spending a few weeks on the wintry East Coast?  All I know is, it's glorious here, and we're going to have a great couple of months.
The kids are swimming again.
School recess, and phys ed, are on the beach next to the tent. 
The bike paths stretch along the beach and inland for miles in every direction.
The school kids are loving it here - that's Sophia in the middle, with the 9 smaller ones.
And this is just our first week!  There has been rollerskating in the hallways, shopping at fresh organic food stores, and time in the beautiful gym downstairs.  It's going to be a memorable chapter.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival

The first-ever American circus festival was launched this past week by a hardworking team in Chicago.  For those of you who are not sure what a circus festival entails - it was a collection of cutting-edge circus-theatre shows, brought in from all over North America and Europe.  During the days, there were master classes, workshops, panel discussions and open forums.  People came from all over the United States and Canada, and it was a truly excellent time.

I knew almost nothing about the Chicago circus scene (or the city itself) before arriving, and I was very impressed by everything they have there.  A good variety of teaching and performing companies, affordable and walkable neighborhoods, and the stellar facilities of the Aloft Loft and the Athenaeum.  (I did not have the opportunity to see the other facilities in Chicago, like the Actors Gymnasium or the Links Hall theater space - hopefully on a future trip)

Having said all this - the first couple of days of the festival were, for me, not as enjoyable.  Festival events had nominally started on Tuesday.  There was even a group of instructors who met the previous weekend for a teachers' gathering, and it was a shame that this couldn't overlap with the rest of the festival at all (though a few people just stuck it out for the 10 days or so, encompassing both).  I decided to come into town on Wednesday.  But on Wednesday and Thursday, festival offerings were sparse - only a couple of workshops, and a couple of evening performances on Thursday.  There were more master classes held at Aloft, so it's possible I just should have planned my time better (or included some Chicago sightseeing).  Regardless, by the end of Thursday evening I was feeling concerned.

BUT things picked up quickly on Friday.  On Friday and Saturday, workshops and panel discussions started early, and ran all day.  More people arrived in town, creating a critical mass for networking.  The AYCO Board retreat (scheduled for all-day Thursday and Friday) wrapped up, allowing me some face time with the directors and organizers that I had been seeking.  And the experience became much more rich.

The workshops / panels I attended:
Circus Intersections / Emerging Thought in the Academy
Lighting 101 for Circus Performers
Fail Better: Recent Developments in Contemporary Clowning
Creation to Presentation: Building Circus Work
Anatomy Basics for Circus Performers
Chicago Circus
Making the Jump (on transitioning from amateur to professional) - I was actually on this panel
US Circus Town Hall
Techniques for Circus Audition Preparation
Circus Now Brainstorming session

And these were just some of the excellent programs that were organized by Circus Now, our fledgling circus-advocacy organization. 

Let's talk about the performances!  I managed to see 5 shows:
Acrobatic Conundrum's The Way Out
Ilmatila's Mualla/Elsewhere
Ricochet's Smoke and Mirrors 
Flip FabriQue's Attrape-Moi
Of these, the two biggest standouts were Ricochet and Flip Fabrique.  Both of these shows had the audiences falling out of their seats, standing ovations, three curtain calls, etc.  Ilmatila was also a real gem, though a shorter production at around 20 minutes.  

Ricochet (Cohdi Harrell and Laura Stokes) became the darlings of the festival this weekend, because not only is their show exquisite, but they are Americans, not trained by any professional school, and doing truly original work.  Flip Fabrique is a group of 6 young French-Canadians, and I loved their show especially because it's terrifically fun, and the skill level is extremely high.  

Seeing these shows was a great way to wrap up the festival for me.  I was sorry not to be able to stick around for Sunday's AYCO Showcase and Closing Party.  But my hope is that this becomes an annual event!  I will definitely be there if so, and I think the rest of the American circus universe will gravitate to Chicago as well.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

In Chicago!

I'm in Chicago!  All by myself!

This week is the first-ever-in-America contemporary circus festival, and I wanted to be here to support it.  I left Greg and the kids in Massachusetts, and got on a plane all by myself, and checked into a hotel all by myself, and here I am.

That alone is the most astonishing experience I've had so far this week.

It feels terrifically freeing and indulgent, being accountable to no-one.  I can run around the city on frivolous errands if I want, or I can lie in my hotel room and watch TV all day if I want.  (I'm doing neither of these things.  But the idea that I could!!)  The schedule of time does not matter to anyone but me.  No one else's needs have to be considered.


I have to admit though, it's my second night here and I'm starting to feel a little weird.  I've been talking to myself a lot.  And if feels a bit lonely, knowing there is no one to come home to in the evening.  I thought I would be completely busy with the festival, all day and eve, but that hasn't turned out to be the case.

I'll post more about the festival itself soon.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Totem artist profiles - Annette Bauer

 Annette Bauer, age 36, is originally from Freiburg, Germany.  Annette is a recorder player with Totem.  Like most of our musicians, her musical career began very early - she began studying music at the age of 5.  Her parents were not musicians, but she has two younger brothers, who both play music (one professionally).  Recorder was Annette's first instrument, and it has been a constant throughout her life.  During those early school years, she also sang in the choir, played piano and bassoon, played wind instruments for different amateur orchestras, and even performed in competitions.

By her final year of highschool, Annette was serious enough about music study to being taking lessons at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, which is a part of the Music-Academy in Basel, Switzerland.  After highschool, she moved to Basel to become a full-time student there, and found her specialty in "early music", historical performance practice, focusing on the medieval time period.  In this process, she explored medieval improvisation, which led her to a teacher of Indian classical music (Ali Akbar Khan), and study of an instrument called a sarode.  I remember her flying with her sarode on our charter flight to Ottawa.  It got its own seat.

Annette came to California for the first time in 1998, to study Indian classical music with Ali Akbar Khan in San Rafael.  She started coming every summer, and in 2001 decided to make California her home.  She went to UC Santa Cruz to get a master's degree in music, and from 2004 onwards made her living as a freelance musician in the San Francisco Bay area.  She traveled around the world for gigs.  She studied music education, and taught students of all ages.  She formed early-music ensembles, and found a love of Brazilian music and percussion to add to her repertoire.

In 2009 Annette heard of Racheal Cogan.  Racheal was Totem's original recorder player, and she had also produced a couple of her own albums, which Annette bought and appreciated.  They had common ground, blending different musical cultures.  Annette had sent her materials to Cirque, and was under consideration for other possible positions, but nothing was quite the right fit until Racheal decided to leave Totem.  This was in early 2012, and came with some serendipitous circumstances - in late 2011 Annette had seen Totem for the first time, as an audience member, and loved the show.  Her personal life had suffered some tumult, and she was feeling less tied to her San Francisco home than ever before. The time was right, the position was right, and Annette joined the Totem tour in San Diego, in March 2012.

Costumes: Kym Barrett, ©2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. photo by Eva Geisler

Annette says that in general, she does well living in a community, and Totem is a kind of village.  As a freelancer, she didn't have this.  And there are so many other differences for her, as a performer, that she notices - her previous work included a lot of acoustic performances and chamber music, and Cirque du Soleil, with the makeup and character work and need for increased vocal capacity, has challenged her and helped her to grow.

Annette volunteers as the Totem school's music teacher, and this one hour per week is a highlight for all of them.  The children adore her, and leave her lessons singing and dancing and playing their little recorders.  And for Annette, this work helps her to feel grounded, and connected to the tour, while she also gets to soak up the playfulness, creativity, and joy that the children bring to the classroom.