Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Solstice in Steamboat Springs

We returned to Steamboat Springs five days ago just in time to experience the beauty of winter. Experiencing snow here is different. The lighting at this time of the year enhances the shadows and provides contrast of the whites and grays. Sometimes I find myself just sitting at the window, watching the patterns the snow has made on the pine trees.

Saturday Murray and I enjoyed a brief walk outdoors near our home. Despite the fact that the temperature was in the teens, we weren't cold. At one point I went to make a snow ball, but the snow was so powdery it just fell apart.

We suffered through a Steelers (Wrecklessberger) debacle on Sunday after which we worked out at the Health Club. For a grand finale, we went outdoors (17 degrees F) and into the Hot Springs (103 degrees). It is an amazing experience to soak in the hot sulfur water with lots of steam, surrounded by the snowy landscape.

Steamboat's economy depends on tourism and skiers enjoying the slopes. The city plows the roads efficiently and at least the locals know to drive slowly and respect the conditions. We live on a hill 900 feet above the valley. The road has lots of curves but is plowed regularly. And people celebrate snow falls because that means fresh powder! We are not skiers but our snowshoes are in our mud room and we have a trail right across the street that is calling us for a excursion before we fly off to celebrate the holiday with our family in Atlanta.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Life is just a bowl of Tai Chi

(It appears that in yesterday's post the text did not consistently appear with the picture. We haven't figured out why and are instead reposting the text that should have accompanied the picture.)

My mother-in-law, Janet Klineman, will be 88 in February. You wouldn't believe it to look at her, nor would you think that a lady of her young years could do so much. This diminutive four foot ten ball of fire paints, plays bridge and mah-jongg, drives everywhere, shops and takes care of her minimal health care needs. But above all, she is a Tai Ci devotee.

Starting three years ago, she took the beginning class of three months, three times. Now in her third session of the "continuing" class, she thinks she has progressed to her apex. Who knows?

She feels that continuing to perfect the 108 movements is a challenge in itself. Probably the most difficult part of Tai Chi for those her age (and much younger) is the movements requiring balance. But balance is one of the reasons Janet started on this journey. "Lift your leg like a dog finding its favorite hydrant!" What a mental picture.

Beyond the physical challenge, Janet loves the diversity of working in groups with people her daughter's, granddaughter's and great-granddaughter's ages. Besides age, the group varies size, sex and culture.

Her daughter, JoAnne wishes she will be able to remain as active as her mother when she achieves this age.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Celebrating the Avodah Dance Ensemble

In August 2004 I retired as founding artistic director of The Avodah Dance Ensemble.  It was a wonderful thirty years and I had pretty much reached a point where the dance muse was no longer a burning passion.  I knew it was time to move on.  Luckily at the same time a delightful and enthusiastic young woman expressed interest in Avodah and I was thrilled with the possibility that Avodah might have a future.  

This past Friday we had an Avodah board meeting where I participated via phone.  It was quite special for me to see that Avodah is  alive and growing in wonderful new directions under the guidance of Julie Gayer Kris.  For the first few years I was actively mentoring Julie.  I am still there for her when she wants it, but it is less often now.  It is exciting to see how Julie is developing her own voice and operation.  The Board composition is beginning to change to reflect the new perspective.  This year three new Board members became involved, bringing new ideas to the company.

 Avodah began as a modern dance company rooted in the Jewish tradition.  During the first fifteen years the program emphasis was in interpreting Biblical text and liturgy.  In 1989, Avodah created a piece called "Let My People Go" with Louis Johnson, outstanding Africian American choreographer, to explore the Exodus text from both a Jewish and African American point of view.  This piece successfully toured for over 10 years creating an new emphasis in Avodah and building bridges between communities.  Collaborations with Linda Kent introduced pieces presented at both Hebrew Union College and Union Theological Seminary.

In 2002 Avodah did a residency at York Correctional Institution, Connecticut's only  facility for women.  It was an amazing experience for those of us involved. The program has grown to where Avodah is active in three different prisons.  

At the Board meeting on Friday Julie discussed the different programs that are on-going or being developed.  It is clear Avodah is growing.  The prison program is taking on new dimensions having added a performance with inmates for their families.  A collaboration with a new Board member/rabbinic student is being developed looking at Jewish text and body image especially for bat mitzvah age girls. A collaboration with the Mark Lamb Dance Company is in the works.  In a discussion of our mission statement there was a clear consensus on keeping the idea of Avodah working with diverse communities and building community energy, an important part of Avodah programming.   

After I got off the phone, I felt a wonderful sense of fulfillment and gratitude to see something that I began in 1972 continuing to have an exciting future.  I am grateful to the many dancers and collaborators who over the years gave so much of themselves.  And I am especially thankful to Julie Gayer Kris, the current dancers, collaborators and Board members who continue to give Avodah new vitality!!

Check out Avodah's website at:  Avodah welcomes bookings and volunteers.  If you are interested in being involved please email me and I will pass the information along to Julie.    

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Out for a drive with my granddaughter

My granddaughter Jessica will be 16 the end of December.  Living in Georgia, she was able to get a learner's permit at 15.  Last week when we gathered for Thanksgiving I had the thrill of being the licensed driver with her as she drove from our restaurant back to her other grandma's house.  She is a confident, responsible driver and it is quite wonderful to see her so grown up.  Time does indeed fly.  Both my husband and I remember a great picture of Jess when she was three with a cute purple hat pretending to drive our Dodge minivan. We still have that minivan and love to tease Jessica that we have kept the car just for her.  

Certainly feels like a "coming of age" for us grandparents as Jessica can now chauffeur us around.