Monday, May 28, 2012

Jazzed and Motivated at the Ford - for FREE

There is some free fun coming to town.

 It's a chance to unleash your inner child, step on a stage and get Jazzed and Motivated.  Sponsored by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation, JAM (Jazzed and Motivated) Sessions are free events taking place on Monday evenings through out the summer at several locations throughout southern California, centered around movement, music and drumming. 

My friend Lisa, the princess of play, whom I've mentioned before, called me up last summer and told me about String Theory Productions, a unique music and dance company that she was going to see perform at the Ford Ampitheater.  She'd noticed that they were participating in a Monday night JAM and she thought it would be fun to go.

What will we do?

I have no idea, but they look amazing, so it will probably be cool.

I didn't have plans.  I liked the looks of the project, which was so much more than just playing music - these guys take performance to a meta level, creating huge acoustic instruments, utilizing the venue space where they perform, and moving through out the space dancing and playing while the audience sits within the instrument.

Maybe we would get to help build a giant harp or something.

My friend Lorena had a free evening so she came along, also having no idea what to expect.  We pulled into the pretty much empty parking lot at 6:45 and looked at each other.  Lorena said, "I should have brought a bottle of wine."  The place looked deserted, but we made our way into the theater and saw that the front rows were filled with a smattering of people, maybe 30 at the most.  On the stage, which was lit as if for performance, was a small group of musicians and some folding tables with art supplies on them.

It was a beautiful, warm summer evening and as we sat down and looked at all the others who'd come to be jazzed and motivated I appreciated the diversity of my city - because there were all kinds of people - aged 3 to 73.  It reminded me of stuff I used to do with my family when I was a kid.  Back in the 70s my dad had a membership to KPFK, the public radio station, and every weekend we'd head out to some random destination for free fun.

 I saw a teenage boy with the same look of tortured resignation that I used to wear when forced to have mandatory fun with my parents.

At 7:00pm a lithe and graceful young woman began to explain to us how this JAM was going to work.  We would begin by sitting at the tables and listening to the musicians play a piece of music.  As we listened we would draw.  Lorena muttered under her breath that she sucked at art in school and this was starting to give her feelings of anxiety.  At this point she wasn't having fun.  I grabbed three pieces of paper and my favorite colors and closed my eyes like an art school weirdo.  Even when I was a tortured teen I LOVED these kinds of activities.

The music started and it wound around in the night sky and onto my pages in purple and pink and green.  Ancient sounding and byzantine, the ensuing drawings shocked the shit out me because they were all so very different.  I'm sure a psychiatrist would have had a field day.  It really was an interesting exercise - anytime you put a group of strangers together and ask them to interpret something it's natural to see a variety of expression, but it's been a long time since I'd done something like this with a random sampling of humanity and without a bong.

Next we counted off to create 4 groups of people who did not know each other - yes, this was about going out of your comfort zone, not only creatively, but also socially - and then instructed to look at our drawings and create a dance of movements inspired by those drawings. 

My group all just kind of stood there looking at each other.  I cursed myself for suggesting the counting off method because Lisa had danced professionally and I would have really loved for her to take charge and tell me what to do.  But no, she was in another group using her dance expertise with strangers.  Lorena was having her own experience in the group with a pretty little girl who had the worst case of AD/HD I've ever witnessed.  Someone in my group hadn't used deoderant and the humid night air was marinating her BO to a point where I could not breathe through my nose.

The lovely, lithe dancer offered assistance and we eventually got to a place where we each contributed a movement and took turns leading as we moved around the stage.  After practicing for about 20 minutes each group then would perform their dance while the rest of us watched.  This felt very awkward and uncomfortable although everyone was nice and super supportive.  It was just my inner voice that was being all judgerella.  Drawing? - yes.  Dancing around without any choreography or clue or MUSIC in front of a whole bunch of people? - excruciating? As each group silently danced  the musicians would watch and then we would dance again and they would play music that was motivated by our movement.

The music that they played matched our movements perfectly - these guys are good - and each dance became a unique story.

All of the dances became beautiful and the people dancing them became beautiful.

And I wasn't even high.

I think that's why I loved it so much - I went it with very little expectation, I participated even though at times it made me uncomfortable, and at the end of it all everyone had a big smile on their faces.  We had all come together and co-created something that was lovely and that was really FUN.

Lisa was right - it was cool.

The JAM sessions for summer 2012 begin Monday June 4th with Taiko .Drumming and I think that will be a fun evening.  There will be a fun show on June 30th if you like Taiko Drumming - and if you don't know check out TAIKO Project.

Also check out the schedule and see if there's anything else that gets you jazzed and motivated (hip hop, african dance, hula and ukelele?), then get your friends and go have some free fun this summer.

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