Fitness Journal 9.12.17

Workout Area? Not today...More Like Library

Our little workout area, doused in the chaos of my second-to-last trip of this recent move.

 

My happy little place has been turned upside down yet again, this time by the second-to-last trip (pictured above) of this move.

Still remaining is my coat-rack, my couch and my shoe-stand, but this…this is the bunk of it. My primary collection of books is back in my immediate possession, though I’ll need to buy new ones, and am still deciding what to buy exactly. Pictured just beyond the boxes in the foreground is my group of my favorites, the rest are off-stage (obviously). Couple of collections of Jack Gilbert, a few study Bibles, a regular Bible, the Alexander Hamilton bio by Ron Chernow, Etc.

But all that, dear Reader, is not why you opened this writing. Nor do you perhaps particularly care about how I took the weekend off from fitness, but got in 35 pushups and 40 sit-ups yesterday.

Alas, here’s what I did today:

Fitness Journal 9.12.2017

– 35 pushups
– 40 sit-ups
– 50 bicep curls with 5lb weight with right hand
– 60 bicep curls with 5lb weight with left hand
— (*Sidenote: Did each set with the other arm holding its allocated weight in Ballet 1st position arms. See this link but imagine that instead of out front with empty hands, you’re holding a 5lb weight between thumb and index finger. Trust me, you feel it).

– 30 Overhead presses with 5lb weights

Stretched my achilles’ in the shower, but felt soreness afterward (as I have a lot lately). So I’m going to start back up on a steady, rigorous ice regimen like when I first injured myself: ice applied via ice-cup to each, 10 minutes at a time, three times a day. That felt great this morning. We’ll see if I can use that to heal up a bit more and build back into stretching. In the meantime, we’ll start finding some core and butt workouts to start sliming down that way and building muscle to support running again once I’m ready.

Have a great day everyone.

First Trip To See The Kansas City Ballet!

Seldom have I looked so forward to a Friday as I do toward this one.

Today, some of us have been given the chance to see the Kansas City Ballet perform! They’ll be doing their show “New Moves.”

I’m overjoyed at the opportunity.

I’ve never in my own memory been to a professional ballet performance. It’s always been one of those things I imagined; one of those things I saw in small clips shown from YouTube for old VHS tapes, which were shown in dance classes to reveal what we must aim for in the movements we were about to learn.

Until now I’ve only ever actually been to collegiate-level dance performances. Even those have blown my mind. I can never forget what it was like to be in a room with some of the amazing ballerinas and dancers I’ve been around here in college. Their influences, both as dancers and as people, have engraved their imprints permanently onto my memories so every time I think back upon them, I find the strength to keep aspiring to be more. To aspire to one day be like them: As a dancer. As an artist. As a person.

I can’t imagine anyone better, either as people, or even just as performers. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to see something somehow better, in some way, than what I already can’t stop remembering.

Yet tonight, some of us get to.

Completely Not Ready

I have known this day would come, and I confess I am completely unready for it.

Today, those of us in the Kansas State University Tap Dance Ensemble, as well as the other dancers cast in Spring Dance 2017, take the floors in Nichols Hall for intensives to prepare us for our shows in March.

For me personally, it’s the last first time that I’ll step on the floor in Studio 026 as a student, and I confess that no matter how excited I am to graduate this coming May, the emotional weight of the steps I’m about to take weigh on me heavier than anything I’ve ever done.

I’ll of course try and be an adult and keep it together as much as possible, but the fact is seeing my teammates will bring me a joy only matchable perhaps by the sadness of a final new beginning.

It’ll take everything I am, every ounce of strength I’ve never showed the world, to focus on what I need to, which is how amazingly blessed I get to be as we start the new semester, and, what is more…

As we all get to dance our way into it.

 

Have a great day everyone :).

The Dance Over Words?


“Meaning necessarily entails words, symbols. They point to something other than themselves. Good music doesn’t point anywhere. It just is. Likewise, only unhappiness has meaning. That’s why we feel compelled to talk about it and have so many words to draw upon. Happiness doesn’t require words.” -Eric Weiner, “The Geography of Bliss.”

For that very reason, I wonder if my idea of trying to translate poetry into dance is a futile exercise. Good dance should convey an emotion, and not one capable of extrication by words.

I suppose I thus imply that the dancer is superior to the wordsmith of equal stature. Does dance, in my eyes, transcend the essence of writing because writing requires words while dance can simply symbolize?

This question of the heart merits further introspection. Is there added virtue, based on the quote above, in how writing (outside of forms that self-analyze, such as the ars poetica in poetry) points to something else? Does dance always point to itself, or can it point elsewhere as well? 

Please leave your thoughts below :).

A Sick Beat To Start Your Sunday :)

Hey Everyone!

Something I’m going to work on doing more on this site from now on is sharing neat dance videos when I find them (and I usually find lots of them). I haven’t done that a lot, but I want to. This site is, and always will be, primarily about the beauty of life, and dance :).

Here’s a little bit of both! This deserves to be the first offering toward that commitment :). This is the type of sick beat that Taylor Swift said we should be getting down to :P. Enjoy!

Proclamation.

On the morning of the opening performance of Springdance 2016, I woke up with a horrifyingly sad, exciting, terrifying realization. The date: April 1st, 2016.

The realization: I can’t let this end.

This camaraderie. This teamwork. This rush you get from it all.

Forget the performing. Every true performer feels that. The way you feel when the lights are off but the curtain comes up with you holding your shape like a statue, eyes burning with energy in the darkness while the audience waits eagerly to see you and your teammates, your peers, your fellow goddesses, illuminated by the lights from the wings of the stage. Forget the performing. Forget the way you wait on the lights to rise, to ignite the fuse of desire that runs from them straight into your soul, causing it to leave your body and transpose itself on the stage through your movements.

Forget that. Everyone feels that.

The rush I’m talking about is very different, it’s the rush of the process. Of auditioning, of making it, of struggling through choreography that you’re determined to get but that you never really nail until the final two dress-rehearsals; as if your mind possesses the same blazing hot competitive fire the best professional athletes are known for. The fire that dictates that, when the moment is crucial and everything they’ve ever worked for falls upon their shoulders and a single, solitary moment, they come through seemingly effortlessly.

I’m talking about the rush of casual, sweet conversations with the beautiful dancers backstage. The casual jokes about the week or the way the assistant stage-manager looks “adorable” running across the stage. The joy of dancing with people. Of doing something that at times can be so solitary but is inherently social, even to the point that you know you never actually dance alone, even if you have a solo, because people in the wings and people around you love what you do because you do it.

In such a competitive world, that’s a beautifully dissonant concept. And it’s one I’ve been so blessed, to the point of being spoiled, to be a part of.

On April 1st, I woke up and realized how bitterly sad it was that I only had these two, and next year’s two, Springdance performances left. I woke up and realized that, ok fine, these things have to end eventually. Time, after all, waits for no one. But damn it if that means I have to stop performing, or at least stop trying to.

Because here’s the thing: Such sadness, matched with the joy of making so many friends through rehearsals and short conversations, can overwhelm the heart. It can do so to the extent that you realize you need to change how you live because of how special it all is.

Even if it changes, even if what we feel is just the naiveté of college dance and in the real world it changes to the point of being totally unrecognizable, the very fact that it existed at all makes it worth seeking for all eternity. Makes it worth fighting for for all eternity.

Makes it worth creating anew in the case it has gone extinct or been forgotten.

In a way, I suppose that’s what Love is, isn’t it?

I guess what I mean to say is simply this: I want to dance for the rest of my life. Not just as something that supports my running-life, but maybe even professionally.

And I know my dancing peers would say that might be a bit “ambitious,” maybe outright “insane.” I get that, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against me. All I’ve got is passion, the desire to work hard, and some of the best friends and teachers on the planet who are willing to put up with my inexperience and help me mosey along.

Yet so many have told me they disagree that I’m “wasting my time.” So many have told me to go for it, from those I have known closely to those that I haven’t known at all but who I have still bounced questions off of randomly (like I did to one former professional-ballerina who lives in the Boston area). I get it; I’m not a great dancer yet. I started old (at age 24). I’m a dude in a girls’ sport. Hell, I’m a straight dude in a predominantly girls’ sport, which can make things even more complicated. There’s a lot to navigate both socially and physically (as an athlete). I have so far to go to get to any professionally-respectable level.

But when I woke up that morning, I realized that what we’ve done, and what we were doing, and what we did, were all I wanted from life.

So I’ve spent the last few days contemplating. Now, I’m ready to say it:

I’m going to get good.

Not only will I keep dancing, I’m going to push myself athletically and make that my focus so that maybe one day, I’ll be good, or, even crazier, “great.” And, by “great,” I mean good enough that I can land a low-level gig performing. Certainly teaching, but maybe even performing.

If nothing else though, I’ll never stop auditioning. My love and passion for it, my unquenchable craving for it that I can’t restrain, won’t allow it.

Athletically, I’ve always been a long-distance runner first. Today, I’m announcing that I’m going to change that up and become a dancer first, and a runner second. Not because I don’t like running, and not because I don’t love runners, because I love both.

But my soul burns with icy desire to be a better dancer, to help those dancers around me, to inspire the world that way.

I was put on this earth to tell stories. I can serenade everyday citizens with my poetry and can seduce poets into reading long writing segments with my prose.

Now though, I want to learn to do it with movement as well. I always did, but the other day, I learned that this is inescapable, and, because it is, I need to give it absolutely all priority outside of my writing, even to the point of sacrificing my emphasis in something I’m good at, like running.

So perhaps I should reintroduce myself. I am Shelton Matthew Burch. I am a Writer, and I am an aspiring Tap Dancer.

I train to be the best storyteller and athlete possible, both through writing and dance. Athletically, I choose to be a dancer first. To support and thrive at running, but to use it to support the endurance needed to dance so that I might inspire the world not just with my words but with my movements. I strive to become as flexible and strong as an olympic-level athlete, but with the endurance of a competitive half-marathoner.

And, above all, I seek to glorify God through my excellence in both. This is what I chase. This is how I serve, and this is who I will be. 🙂

Have a great day everyone. 🙂

The Essence Of Delicacy

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The raindrops fall outside my basement apartment Saturday morning, March 26, 2016. (Photo by Shelton Burch | Poet598.Wordpress.com)

What a beautiful day!

That *click, click, click* sound of the raindrops on the pavement is a bit how I imagine soft-shoe tap should be, or like good choir music: soft, but not “weak.” Not even necessarily “restrained.” Delicacy is an art, and the rain is delicate. It does not restrain itself, but rather it gives only what it needs to give to make its point then stops. There’s tremendous beauty in controlled strength. Why else would non-dancers watch dance. 🙂

I realize I’ve just given you a lot with that one, so I’ll stop. Have a good day everyone :).

Poetry And The Dance; My Manifesto On Poetry

Poetry And The Dance

What are we to say about the idea of Poetry? What are we to say about the essence of a poem? Would we constrain it to the realm of mere words? Of mere sounds? Would we say that all Poetry is either sense or semantic?

I dare say we wouldn’t, I dare say we shouldn’t, I dare say we can’t. Poetry, like Dance, is an entirely different entity, and a Poem, as the embodiment of Poetry, is to the Poet as the Dance is to Dance and as Dance is to the Dancer.

Poetry, and by extension the Poem and, parallel to this Dance and by extension the Dance, is something bigger. Marvin Bell once said “What we say ‘there are no words for’—that’s what poetry is for.’” But with all due respect to Mr. Bell, that is not the full case.

Dance and Poetry go beyond words. They are above the law of the physics of language, beyond, up. A poem uses words the same way as a Dance uses movement; each art has its mechanism but neither can be constrained to it. The Dance and the Poem are both inherently artistic, but they are not “art” as we would think of it. Our modern vernacular tells us “art” is something you paint, or draw, or write, then you hang it up on a wall and never come back to it. The concept of “art” as we know it would tell the Dancer that once they know the movements of the Dance, there is nothing left to achieve. Once the Poet is happy with how they have conveyed their meaning via the lines, “art” would tell us that the Poem has nothing left to reveal to the poet.

This is exactly false. A Poem is never complete, any more than the Dance is. The Poem should always leave its key on the keychain of the writer’s conscience so that if the right number of circumstances come together at once, the Poet may come back and revise it, changing the meaning for either themselves or the Poem’s sake. This is what T.S. Eliot mentioned in “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” To quote him: “The poet’s mind is in fact a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feeling, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together.” This is a fundamental truth of a Poem. It is never finished. The writer may choose not to see it again for up to an extended period of time, but like the Dance, once it is created, the Poet must always be able to come back to it and enhance it.

Thus, a Poem is never complete. It must never be allowed to be only words. It must add something to existence of its topic. If a Poem is describing a waterfall, it must contain something that causes the reader to either see something physical they had not seen before or see some metaphorical meaning that they might not have ever seen or considered. In other words, the Poem should never simply describe something without adding to it or simplifying it (thus adding to it in a sense). Poetry that adds nothing is called “poor journalism,” just as one might call poor Dancing “walking.” Poetry demands better from the Poem and the Poet, and justifiably so. Poetry without added meaning is simply extra noise in a world with far too much extra noise already.

Therefore it is my belief that the following is true about Poetry, and a Poem: A) It must, above all, never be complete. It must always be capable of growing into more and B) It must never be used simply to describe and nothing more. It must always add meaning or significance to something, whether by adding new perspective or by simplifying something in a way that causes the reader to see something significant that they wouldn’t otherwise. It may be used to describe, but in doing so, it should either add significance for the reader or add some sort of otherwise valuable appreciation. It must always, absolutely always, invoke some sort of change in the reader’s, or the Poet’s, perspective about something, be it physical or abstract. This is my perspective on Poetry. I am a Poet. Even when I try not to, I cannot be otherwise. So I will love it, and learn to be great at it. It is both my greatest blessing and greatest curse.

Key Points:

  • A poem must always:
    • be artistic, but should never be considered just “art.”
    • be open to revision and/or enhancement
    • add some significance to what it describes, relates, or conveys, be that to the reader or the Poet.
  • A Poem never:
    • should be expected or asked to please everyone
    • describes something without enhancing what it describes, be that a tangible or intangible item.

A Perspective-Changing Quote By A Guest Artist

Yesterday, choreographer Jessica Lang of Jessica Lang Dance, said something interesting to start our dance class.

She said the best way to get better at being creative was to practice creativity daily.

What an idea, what a thought, what a truth. Lombardi once said “We are what we repeatedly do.” He said “Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” Yet so too is creativity. So too is elegance, eloquence, power and beauty (both in the masculine and the feminine sense, as applicable in your case). 

So is love. So is openness. So is vulnerability and thus so is growth. And all of these, from loving someone well, which requires an absolute passionate dedication to self-improvement (whether as a friend or as a lover), to dancing, to writing, to just existing as a good person, all of these start with creativity which requires growth which thus requires a certain level of absolute vulnerability.

Marianne Williamson once wrote that “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

That takes practice. It takes creativity. And, like Jessica Lang said: the best way to get better at being creative, is to practice it daily.

Have a good day everyone. Send me your thoughts as they come to you.