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~ There’s no room for hurt feelings ~

Dad informs me daily that we are trillionaires. Punctuated with a raised fist in the air, he declares, “We are the richest family in the world!”

In addition to owning Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, Toyota and the blockbuster (and fictional) conglomerate Soup, Soup, Soup, among many other things, dad was also recently running for Secretary General of the United Nations. It was this looming Secretary gig that caused some friction after his last neurology appointment.

Dad had a great check-up. Medication – good; talking to imaginary friends – sometimes, but with no agitation; sleep – generally better; cognitive clarity and memory – improved from last appointment. As things were wrapping up, he asked his neurologist to diagnose his condition. She chatted with him about amyloid angiopathy and expressed how pleased she is with how well he’s doing. After she left the room, I was getting our things together and dad reminded me not to forget the “letter.”

“The letter?” I asked.

“Yes, the letter from the doctor,” he said.

“Oh daddy, she doesn’t give you a letter. She makes notes and keeps them in her file.”

“Honey, I need a letter from her saying that my condition is cleared, when I run for UN Secretary.”

This was the first time I’d heard of this impending job, but I’ve been through these “creative stories” enough to know how to navigate them. Usually. It’s a delicate balance between going with it and shutting it down, and timing is crucial. After some back and forth and back and forth with me madly trying to think of a “creative” solution that would satisfy him, his repetition and agitation escalated until he finally looked me dead in the eye and said, “Honey. I’m disappointed in you. I thought you were a smart girl.”

Aaaaand MARTINI!

This is the new normal we’ve been living with since dad’s stroke in 2012. That he’s surpassed statistics and doctors’ predictions that he’d be dead by now is no surprise to us, his family, since, as I’ve said before, he’s kind of a rock star. He lives at home with his wife and requires 24-hr care, so I have to give her props. Whoa. Trust me, my sister and I have a “complicated” relationship with dad’s wife, so that ain’t easy to say Sally. But it’s the truth as I see it, so there it is.

With a constant looming potential to lose my shit every day, I realized awhile back that I needed strategies to deal with dad, with his wife, with normal. To be clear, dad is usually in good spirits, funny, loving, cognitively balanced, right on the money. But there are some days, some moments when I really have to bite my tongue, temper a challenging situation, not take things personally. Because God willing, dad will forget an unpleasant episode tomorrow. Hopefully. But every so often, he’ll fixate on something and ruminate for days. That’s what martinis are for.

When it comes to bringing dad a bit of comfort and joy, I’ve decided to just go with it. Because really, why should I care if he wants to wear his beloved shearling lined leather mittens in the summer. Or belt out, with no warning at all, the Korean national anthem or any other song on Wheel-trans. My dad’s now eccentric. Deal.

I know why dad thinks we’re the richest family in the world. It’s because, as part of the first wave of Korean immigrants to Canada in the 1960s, he worked his ass off to be successful for himself and his family. It’s not an original story, but again, there it is. For him, success meant financial comfort. And at certain times in his life he had that. And then he didn’t.

We never talk about the incredible debt he was in when he had his stroke. When he brags about all his companies and homes and new business deals we congratulate him, while trying not to encourage the stories. It’s important to him that he’s providing for and taking care of his family. I don’t want to take that away from him. When he says things like, “Honey, just take money out of our account. Buy whatever you need,” those moments break my heart. It reminds me of when I was a teenager, and dad and I were on our own, my sister away at university. He’d call from work, saying, “I’ll be a bit late, order some food, there’s money on my dresser.”

Ever the doting dad. And now, Secretary General to boot.


~ Choose your Battles ~

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The other day, I got a bad review.

I was having a lovely lunch and catch-up with my friend/colleague, when she suddenly looked very serious and leaned in. Instantly my heart pounded harder, though I had no idea what she was about to say.

Apparently, a dancer whom I had “worked with” before (let’s call him Pepper), said that he “didn’t get anything out of that experience.” Ouch.

A few years ago, a dancer (let’s call him Salt), asked me to give him some feedback for a solo he was doing for an audition. Though always flattered to be asked, I find these types of requests tricky, primarily because of the timing. Usually, I work with dance artists throughout their entire creative process, as an advisor to the choreographer and or dancer(s). I try to provide an informed and objective perspective, which ideally encourages more clarity and propels the work forward. There’s much more to it, but that’s the gist.

So, when dancers ask me to come in to see a work that is already created and about to be presented, I need to be clear on what they really want from me. Because I’m not going to address the same things in a one-off rehearsal as I would in a series of rehearsals, over a longer period. So, we chat, and I try to be frank about what I think I can realistically offer, which in this particular 90-minute rehearsal, might be in the way of performing, staging and costume considerations. Salt was game.

At some point before our rehearsal, Salt mentioned that Pepper was also going to the same audition, and would I mind looking at his solo too? Since we already had limited time, I was surprised that Salt was willing to share it (thought that speaks volumes about him), especially considering Salt approached me, booked the rehearsal studio and, as far as I know, was paying for it and for me. But, I agreed.

Long story short, I’m not surprised by Pepper’s assessment, and what a shame that Salt didn’t get all my time and attention. Salt was extremely open, considerate and responsive to my questions and suggestions. This is the reason why I agreed to work with him in the first place. Pepper, on the other hand was, how should I put this, the OPPOSITE. I always encourage dancers to have a voice, to question, even to challenge, not merely for the sake of doing so, but to always be in constructive dialogue with regards to the work. I remember giving Pepper a specific note that I thought was right on the money. He even tried the solo with that suggestion in mind, and I thought it was stronger. Evidently, he didn’t. He wanted my feedback, but came into rehearsal with such a resistant attitude, that I wondered why he even bothered. There are reasons why dancers are resistant, but this was not the appropriate place or time to dissect it. So, Pepper “didn’t get anything out of that experience.” I, on the other hand, learned something about him, and about me, as it turns out.

Back at lunch, I gave my friend this background story and said, “What am I going to do? I’m sure there are other people out there saying things like this about me all the time.”

“No way!” she insisted, “they’re not!” I love her for her belief in me and for her loyalty, but it made me start to think about experiences, perspectives, reputation, rumors, etc. It also made me think about self-assessment, which let’s face it, is tough to do. It’s not easy to hear that someone is saying unpleasant things about me or had a bad impression, or to consider how my actions contributed to their assessment. I’m getting a bit better at not taking it personally or dwelling on it (cut to me now writing about it!). It’s a delicate dance, working with dance artists – negotiating egos, temperaments, inexperience, much experience, sensitive personalities, anxiety, when to push, when to back off, etc. Plus, newsflash: I’M ALSO A DANCE ARTIST!

I always say to choreographers and dancers I work with, “You have to choose your battles.” How much is anything worth in terms of time, attention, money and energy? I’m referring to the creative process, but I also employ this in my life, or at least try to, so I should expect some fallout from it.

I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to write about this because in the dance world, we’re all sort of friends with our colleagues, we sometimes compete for the same few gigs, we want to have good reputations so that we can get more work, and we’re all sensitive as fuck. But it’s important to remind ourselves that the things we do and say have impact, we’re usually not the only person in the room and sometimes, despite our sincere efforts, we may get bad reviews.


~ The Most Wonderful Time of the Year ~

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For almost 6 weeks every year, a sacred veil falls upon our home. It’s a period of reflection and sacrifice, a welcome reprieve from angry crumbs and greasy butter knives left abandoned, indiscriminately, on the kitchen counter.


M is Catholic. His mom was very religious, his dad, not so much. Though M doesn’t attend church or claim to be especially religious, it’s clear that aspects of the faith have made their way in. This, I learned, before we got married, when we were planning the ceremony. Suddenly, he was talking about a priest and a church and rites. These rites mean something to him, having gone through baptism, confirmation, confession. Marriage is another one of these rites, and to be recognized as a marriage in the eyes of the Catholic church, the ceremony must be performed by a priest in a church. Or something like that. Frankly, I’m a bit unclear on the official protocol, not to mention how rites and sacraments differ or if they’re the same thing. M isn’t much help clarifying. His most vivid memories around religion are of walking miles to church with his mom on sweaty summer days, wearing an itchy wool suit and covertly listening to his transistor radio during services.

But for 40 days every year, M observes Lent and gives up something. This something is supposed to represent, among other things, the sacrifices Jesus endured, so your something better be, you know, a sacrifice. M usually chooses bread.

Trust me, eliminating bread is a big deal for M and, by association, for me and, by further association, for our kitchen and our entire home! Those morning slices of toast slathered with butter or butter substitute (and sometimes STICKY JAM!) are my pet peeve, my Achilles heel. Appearing in the role of Hansel, M leaves a trail of crumbs all over the condo, each barefooted step collecting and redistributing the tiny irritating particles. If only he had the gene that enabled him to see (and FEEL) the mess. If only I didn’t.

During Lent, I am liberated and so is our vacuum. Except on pizza night. M doesn’t consider pizza to be a bread product. Well, he does, he just doesn’t include it in his sacrifice. He’ll forgo his beloved hamburgers and will even eat bun-less hotdogs, but pizza is off the list. According to my Lent research, it’s inappropriate to judge the piety of another’s practice, since it’s a very personal choice and not a competition. Even with the pizza, I’m impressed that M can abstain from eating bread for 40 days.

I’m not sure how spiritual Lent is for him, but I no longer question his wanting to do it. Religion is a curious thing. We may take it, we may leave it and, at different points in our lives, may find our way back to it. If we filter our spiritual practice to suit our needs and beliefs, and perhaps turn to it only periodically, so be it. It’s tempting to get all judgey when it comes to religion, especially when folks get too preachy, but that applies to anything doesn’t it? If observing Lent means that M loses a few pounds and gains some peace of mind, I say, “Huzzah!”

I’ve been both fascinated and suspicious of (and a little freaked out by), religion my entire life. I can’t think of many other things that can impact a person the way religion can. I think that’s the part that scares me, the degree of power and influence. Plus, the Damian-Excorsisty movies I watched as a kid haven’t helped (talk about being scarred for life).

At the same time, I’m captivated by the pomp and protocol and reverence. I love churches – from small village rooms to grand and ornate cathedrals. I’ve also been in several synagogues and am curious about other places of worship. There’s something so mesmerizing about watching people in prayer – the kneeling and whispering and crossing – and everyone knowing exactly what to do and when to do it. All these different aged and shaped bodies moving and speaking in “choreographed” synchronicity together. It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest.

40 blissful days have passed for another year. I only wish there were more occasions to sacrifice other kinds of things, like dirty socks balled up by the man-chair or splatters of teeth-brushing residue on the bathroom mirror.

Clearly, Jesus has more influence on M than his nagging wife.


~ The Big One! ~

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I’m not going to pretend that turning 50 isn’t a bit freaky. Even saying 50 feels weird. 50, 50, fiftyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!

The anticipation leading up to a new decade is always daunting. But now that I’m here, 50 doesn’t feel the way I imagined it would. 50 always seemed to be the entryway to “old.” My impression of 50-somethings were frumpy older characters on TV shows or the schleppy older neighbour down the street; basically, anyone who is frumpy, old and schleppy. But when I look at my almost 50-year-old friends and famous folks who are turning 50, I see fit, vibrant, and very hot guys and gals!

Among many others, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Lisa Bonet, Jason Statham, Jamie Foxx and Liev Schreiber are all 1967 babies. Not bad company at all. True, I’m no Nicole Kidman (though M would counter, “She’s no Bonnie Kim!” Yup, M’s good like that). Besides getting some help from great makeup artists and lighting directors, Nicole clearly has exceptional genes on her side. I mean, have you seen her in the HBO series Big Little Lies? Gorgeous!

Sure, there are moments when I feel a bit creakier and crepier than before but, for the most part, 50 isn’t looking or feeling that crappy at all.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the best and worst things about turning The Big 5-0!

The best thing about turning 50 is the fun party M is throwing me. Food, drinky poos, ping pong, and a bunch of people I enjoy eating, drinking and ping ponging with, gathering together to celebrate MEEEEE!!!!!!!!! Playing ping pong (is it “playing ping pong” or “ping ponging?”), brings out the kid in me, and triggers fits of laughter and other curious vocalizations. At the end of the night, my face will have an imprint of every joyfully expressive moment. That’s the ironic pay-off for having fun – looking old when I’m feeling young.

The worst thing about turning 50 is when I tell people I’m turning 50, and their reaction is something like, “Wow! Happy Birthday!” and not something more appropriate like, “What?! Get the fuck out?! You don’t look a day over 35!” Throw a gal a bone people!

The best thing about turning 50 is, aside from falling asleep on the couch before 9pm, getting tipsier than usual after just two cocktails, and how ridiculously easy it is to throw my back out (opening the cheese drawer in the fridge anyone?!), I don’t physically feel the way I thought 50 would/should feel. I can basically do everything I ever did, I’m just more selective. I mean, there’s no point in both of us getting up and crossing the room to close the door, turn out the light or get my vodka martini with extra olives, etc.

Seriously, if I don’t continue to demonstrate the combinations in my dance classes full-out, I’ll be just a few pas-de-bourrées away from parking my 50-year-old ass in a chair, from which I’ll end up teaching the entire class, banging a stick to keep tempo, shawl draped across the chip on my shoulder, cigarette dangling between my snarling lips, nursing a diet coke and reminiscing about my glory days as a “dahncer.” That’s right, I’ll adopt a nondescript European accent and I’ll be bitter.

The worst thing about turning 50 is I’m often the oldest person in the room.

The best thing about turning 50 is I don’t always look like the oldest person in the room.

The worst thing about turning 50 is it’s sometimes hard to watch those who are older than me, getting older.

The best thing about turning 50 is I say what I mean more often (which can also be the worst thing).

The worst thing about turning 50 is I’ve lived more than half my life.

The best thing about turning 50 is my priorities have become crystal clear.

The worst thing about turning 50 is I have less patience, so I can get bitchy on a dime.

The best thing about turning 50 is I can still turn a head or two!

The worst thing about turning 50 is how invisible I feel in the world sometimes.

As 50 approaches, I don’t have all the answers. I’m kinder to myself. I’m a good person. I have faults. I value good health more than ever before. I don’t forgive easily, if at all. I’m usually self-aware and sometimes a ding-dong. I believe we get what we give. I believe we get in our own way most of the time. I hate complainers, especially when the complainer is me. I think a lot about the world, people, stuff. I’m protective. I have love in my life. I wish I was as generous as my dad.

Happy birthday to all you ‘67 babies!

~ “Movement never lies.” ~ Martha Graham

Her arm rose with bewitching ease. It was as if she were playfully tossing a brightly coloured ball to her lover … The instant she turned, smiled and waved … she was unaware of her age. The essence of her charm, independent of time, revealed itself for a second in that gesture and dazzled me. I was strangely moved. And then the word Agnes entered my mind. Agnes. I had never known a woman by that name.

And so begins Milan Kundera’s Immortality. A woman named Agnes and the impact of her gesture. I’ve always loved the word “gesture.” There’s a kind of elegance in the way it sounds and in the way it’s described, like this particularly poignant version: The thing to remember about gesture, whether you’re using it as a verb or a noun, is that not only is it a movement of the hands or body, but it’s also a movement that has some meaning, intention or emotion behind it. When you use gesture, you are entering into a whole history of human communication, because there is no language that exists entirely without gesture. People can’t communicate without gesture. It’s so connected to intention that there is a phrase “empty gesture,” used to mean an action or movement that is without genuine feeling.

My long career as a dance artist has revolved around gesture and intention. The foundation of my training, performing, teaching and directing is based on expressing and recognizing authentic gesture. Are your actions expressing what you want to convey? Are your actions belying what you want to convey?

You don’t need to be a dancer to understand gesture and intention. Over the course of our lives, we’ve learned to trust our instincts, our spidey senses. For the most part, we know when we’re witnessing acts of kindness or assholy-ness, when we’re buying something or calling bullshit. Of course, being wonderfully complex people, our perceptions are coloured by everything that makes us us. Our environment, age, sex, where we have/haven’t been, who we do/don’t interact with etc., all influence how we interpret and absorb gestures and intentions. But I’d like to believe, from a purely people-are-more-good-than-bad standpoint, we’re often on the same page.

Years ago, I saw a video of a young Japanese girl (she was around 3 years-old), trying to cross two concrete steps separated by a gap. Her older brother (around 5 years-old) had already crossed and was reaching out to help her. So afraid was his sister that he lay down, creating a bridge with his body, on which his sister crawled across. And… bawl! Brother, love, protection, sister. This little boy’s spontaneous gesture broke my heart.

Most of us would watch this video and be moved, to varying degrees perhaps, but in my mind, there’s simply no other way to respond. We witness all kinds of gestures each day. And, though they may not be quite as dramatic as this one, I think we learn a lot about people from these seemingly benign gestures, these momentary glimpses into their soul. Alright, now I’m being dramatic. But then again, not really. I mean, sometimes you get a pretty good snapshot of someone from a simple gesture. Like the gal who didn’t hold the elevator door open, knowing you were almost there; the guy who gave you his seat on the bus; the momentary eye contact and smile with a neighbor in the hallway, etc. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been that gal in the elevator before. I’m not proud of it and I certainly don’t make a habit of it, but I’m sure the person I didn’t wait for thought I was an asshole. And I mean who are we kidding? I totally was! I like to think that somewhere in the Karmic universe, my good gestures override my bad. That in the end, I’m more often a good person with good intentions. But I have bad moments, we all do. The good news is, we get plenty of chances to try again, to be better.

One of my favourite quotes, and one I’ve mentioned before in my blog, is by Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Now, in the case of a negative first impression, I’m usually willing to give a person more than one chance to show me they’re better than that. But if a person continually shows a deficiency in their character, an absence of decency and empathy, then my ongoing engagement with them is just fucking stupid.

It may come as a surprise to some that at age 49, in 2017, in my beloved Toronto Canada, where I was born and raised, I still encounter racism. An ignorant or outright racist remark now and again always comes out of nowhere, like a sucker punch, and lands squarely on my heart. Yes folks, this happens.

Considering the escalating volatility in the world, and unimaginable displays of arrogance, deception and cruelty, I can’t help thinking, “Have we completely lost our fucking minds?! Is this really who we are? Is this really who we want to be?” Like our reaction to the Japanese brother and sister, how can we NOT be on the same page about this shit show?!

Some days, I’m completely  overwhelmed by all the noise and despicable gestures that show humanity at its very worst. It’s caused me to take a good look at myself, how I am in the world, how I want to be. My gestures and intentions matter, and so do yours.

We can all do better.

~ This album and everything after… ~

Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white.

And in between the moon and you, the angels get a better view of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.

I walk in the air between the rain, through myself and back again, where, I don’t know.

Maria says she’s dying, through the door I hear her crying, why, I don’t know.

There’s an episode of Seinfeld, where Elaine is dating a guy who instantly falls into a trance-like state whenever he hears the song Desperado by The Eagles. So moved by this song, so instantly transported to another time and place, for him in that moment, nothing else mattered.

There’s just something about music, about certain songs that get under our skin, get right in there and bring us back to a very specific period in our lives. And no matter where we are, what we’re doing or whom we’re with, we hear it and boom, we’re back. For me, it’s almost every track on the album August and Everything After by the Counting Crows.

When I first heard the song Round Here, I thought Oh my God, these lyrics! Who the hell wrote these lyrics? Then I saw the video with Adam Duritz in his dreadlocked, combat-booted glory, an alt-rock poet wandering along train tracks, offering up his fucking soul with these words that just shattered me.

Yes, I’m being dramatic. Yes, this song is, without question, one of those songs that will always prompt me to declare, “OH MY GOD! I LOVE THIS SONG!!!” and writhe around in tortured bliss. This is my Desperado.

My encounter with this song, this album, coincided with an amazing dance gig that turned out to be an unforgettable highlight in my career. In 1994, three Canadian companies – Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, Toronto’s Dancemakers and Montreal’s Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault – joined forces to perform and tour choreographer Jean-Pierre Perreault’s signature work JOE. In a nutshell, JOE is an epic production that explores the human condition, conformity and individuality. Comprised of 32 dancers dressed in overcoats, fedoras and steel-toed army boots, and a steep, amplified ramp that spans the entire length of the stage, we average JOEs shuffled, jumped, danced, climbed, launched our bodies and ran our out-of-breath asses off for 75 minutes. Without music. It was the largest and most ambitious version of JOE to date.

Jean-Pierre Perreault was a brilliant and, at times, intimidating, presence. The energy of the room noticeably changed when he entered – eyes darted, muscles tensed, volume lowered. From the first day of rehearsal, we always dressed in our full JOE costumes, costumes that Jean-Pierre meticulously fine-tuned and approved. After weeks of donning these clothes, it struck me that I’d never looked at myself in the mirror with my full outfit on. I kind of liked that it added to my anonymity, my average JOE-ness. Jean-Pierre’s vision for every single aspect of the work was astonishing. And just when I thought he couldn’t possibly know my name or even notice me among the 32 dancers, he’d address me directly with specific notes. The best notes of my life!

For me, JOE was more than an artistic highlight. With a gobsmacking collection of some of this country’s best dancers; exhausting rehearsals; almost nightly 5 à 7 (happy hour); a boisterous and blurry national tour; multiple curtain calls that I’d never experienced before (or since); and a film shoot of the entire work in steamy summery Montreal, JOE was a fucking party man!

August and Everything After was my soundtrack during that time. I was 27; I was working in glorious Montreal on a piece that impacted me; I made a tough decision to leave my company job in Winnipeg for an indie career in Toronto; I liked a couple of boys; I was pining for another boy in New York; and I was having the time of my life.

This coming November, I’ll be dancing in JOE again, 20 years after my last time performing it. It’s a project between Moonhorse Dance Theatre and Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault, giving amateurs the unique opportunity to experience this quintessential Canadian work, alongside a few of us professional JOEs. Sadly, Jean-Pierre passed away in 2002, but his presence will undoubtedly be felt. I will be assisting in the re-mount of the work, a tremendous honour indeed. Thankfully for my 49 year-old body and lungs, it’ll just be a 15-minute excerpt. It will also be the first time I’ve been on stage in a long time, but I’ve been itching to get back so huzzah for me!

And how’s this for timing: several months ago I saw that the Counting Crows were coming to Toronto this summer, 22 years after I first saw them in concert. I hemmed and hawed for a minute then thought, What the fuck? I passed on seeing Prince earlier this year, and he died suddenly weeks later. I mean, chances go as quickly as they come and sure, seeing a concert may not be a life-changing event, but it sort of can be, can’t it? Because what’s better than gathering with tens of thousands of people on a hot summer night, and belting out the killer lyrics to songs that mean something to us, that get under our skin, that instantly remind us of our stories and crushes and heartaches and who we were then and big decisions that changed us and the time of our lives.

Funny how things happen.

~ And you are? ~

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When I tell people I’m a dancer, the general reaction is something like, “Wow! Really? That’s cool!” Followed by something along the lines of, “Must be nice doing what you love for a living!” Followed by something like, “I love Dancing with the Stars/So You Think You Can Dance!” Then there are those who immediately picture a G-string and a pole, like border crossing agents, M (when we first met), and other guys, in general.

It is cool being a dancer. I mean, how many dancers does the average person know? And how many of those dancers are contemporary dancers? To put things in perspective, if I draw a Dancer Pyramid based on income, it typically goes ballet dancers at the top, then commercial dancers (commercials, music videos), then contemporary dancers, then dirt. Broad generalizations, but you get the picture.

I’m always surprised when someone shows no reaction to, or interest in, the fact that I’m a dancer, which, in my opinion, reveals more about them than me. Humph, I think to myself, one of those! Or I’ll get the hairy-eyeball, and quickly add, “Oh, I don’t perform anymore,” to somehow justify my non-dancer physique. Sometimes I’ll also get a whiff of sarcastic resentment like, “Must be nice doing what you love for a living.” To which I want to reply, “You don’t have to judge me. I’m a dancer. I can judge myself!”

About this judgement thing…

I really envy people who manage to do things – without embarrassment, excuses or apologies – because they want to or need to, or simply because they’re curious. Whether it’s transitioning to another career, going back to school, travelling, adding a part-time job, taking time off, getting help, trying something new or making the most of what they have.

A year ago, I started filling my downtime with catering gigs. I can talk about my curiosities in event planning, the food and beverage industry, running my own business, etc., but mostly it was a convenient way to bump up my income, while accommodating my dance schedule and taking care of my dad.

I consider myself lucky to have begun my dance career in the late 80s, when contemporary dance was thriving in Canada. I’ve travelled across the country, toured the States and Scotland, danced in grand and not-so-grand theatres, and had profound experiences performing with, and for, some of the country’s most prolific dance makers and artists. Some people think I was a damn fine dancer! I’m also lucky, because I was able to sustain a performing career without relying on other jobs. Most contemporary dancers can no longer do that, nor can those of us working freelance in non-performing dance activities – like teaching, choreographing or rehearsal directing – especially if we also want/need dedicated time with family and life, in general.

It’s been an interesting journey into the food/event service industry where, for the most part, my experiences with clients, chefs, co-workers and guests have been pleasant. There have been some incidents but certainly nothing crazier than what I’ve experienced in the dance world. Egos, entitlement and unpleasantness exist in all industries, and I definitely learn a lot about people in this one. I did have a couple of encounters recently that inspired me to write this post.

I was at a catering gig, standing in the lobby awaiting guests. Suddenly, a guy and gal I went to grade school and junior-high with walked through the door. They weren’t together, they just randomly walked in at the same time! What are the odds? I’d always wondered what it would feel like if I had to serve people I knew, and I was about to find out. I approached the gal, who immediately lit up and called out my name as we gave each other a hug. She asked me how I was doing, if I was still dancing and writing. I asked her what she was doing these days etc. – all good, nothing weird at all. The guy had disappeared and when I saw him again, I was standing in front of him with a tray of appetizers. He went in for a double air kiss and after an initial, “Oh my God! How are you?” and some blah, blah, blah, we were done.

Afterwards, I was a little jarred from the encounters, wondering what my former schoolmates were thinking of me, serving them food at a reception all these decades later. But then I realized I was the one who was judging me. But why? After a lifetime of trying to explain what I do for a living, I know full well how impossible it is to encapsulate it all in the span of a double air kiss and a few niceties. And if someone thinks they know me, based only on an apron and a platter of sliders, again, doesn’t that say more about them than me? Why should I sweat it? I’m still me doing all of the things I do – some I love, some I want and some I need to do.

So, it really wasn’t the worse thing that could happen. A worse thing would be the experience of the 80-something year-old gentleman I met at a Bar Mitzvah on the weekend, who was imprisoned in an Auschwitz death camp at age 11. He somehow survived that horror and, following the liberation, moved to Israel and then to Toronto, where he’s lived for more than 45 years raising children and grand-children, and eventually writing a book about his story.

As we stood in the middle of the boisterous and extravagantly decorated hall, he easily welled up and told me his name and the title of his book, before being whisked away by the mother of the Bar Mitzvah boy. He made such an impact on me that I googled him when I got home, and ever since then I’ve been thinking about the people we meet, and how we meet, and our stories, our victories and failures, our encounters, the stuff we endure, the stuff we can’t even imagine and on and on.

I suppose I could have met this man under different circumstances, but as it was there we were, at a coming of age celebration, a Holocaust survivor and a dancer/writer/server, chatting by the salads and cold cuts, on an otherwise uneventful Saturday afternoon.

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