Category Archives: Art

Twyla Tharp’s Creative Habit

There are plenty of opportunities to see great dance and theater performances in San Diego. I miss a lot due to inattention and lack of planning, but I managed to get tickets for Come Fly Away, the Broadway musical choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp. A live big band performs onstage with one vocalist and the voice of Frank Sinatra while a cast of dancers tell the story through the choreography. Sounds like heaven to me.

I’ve long admired Tharp’s work and I loved Movin’ Out, the 2003 Tony winner for Best Choreography, also directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp. Movin’ Out was a similar format, with a singer/pianist and a band performing the music of Billy Joel on a raised platform while dancers performed onstage.

Tharp also wrote one of my favorite books on creativity, The Creative Habit.

There are twelve chapters densely packed with practical advice based on her more than forty years of creative productivity. She shares what she’s learned, how she figured it out, and offers thirty-two exercises to help artists of every genre build their own creative rituals and habits.

Two of my favorite chapters are Spine, about finding the central idea, the meaning behind your story; and Skill, the reminder that talent does exist, but that hard work, study and practicing to build the skills we lack give us the foundation for our creativity.

Tharp says that “the best creativity is a result of good work habits.” I’ve found that I’m happiest with my work when I stick with the habits I’ve built for myself. I’m so grateful for what I’ve learned from her book and delighted that I’ll have another chance to see the result of her creative habits when I watch Come Fly Away.


Filed under Art, Books, Creativity, Dance, Writing

Trolley Dances Update

The concert was as amazing as I had hoped.  We saw six unique dances in unusual spaces. I can’t choose a favorite.

Between dances, the audience was entertained by Circle Circle dot dot, a collaborative community-based theatre company. They performed whimsical vignettes at trolley stops and even on the trolley car.

You can read Janice Steinberg’s review of Trolley Dances, Get Moving with Trolley Dances in SignonSanDiego. There’s also a piece written by one of the dancers and choreographers, John Diaz.  If you’re interested in seeing photos of the dances, visit Rotepix.

There’s still one more weekend to see Trolley Dances.

Performances are scheduled for Saturday, October 1 (Saturday tours leave on the hour at 10, 11, 12, 1, 2 and 3) and Sunday, October 2 (Sunday tours leave every half hour at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3 and 3:30). Each tour lasts about 3 hours.

Tickets are $30 for general admission, $20 for seniors and $15 for students and they are available online and on the ground level at Grantville Station on performance days. An all-day trolley pass is included with price of admission.


Filed under Art, Dance

Trolley Dances

Dance makes me happier than almost anything else.  Ballet, modern, tap, ballroom… when music plays, it’s hard to keep still. I love how it feels to move, to let my body respond to a melody.

Watching a dance performance gives me another kind of thrill. No matter how many classes I’ve taken or how many concerts I’ve seen, I’m always amazed at the things a dancer’s body can do. Choreographers tell stories using the infinite possibilities of movement in the same way that authors build worlds with words.

One of my favorite San Diego dance performances is the annual Trolley Dances, a site-specific concert that takes place the last weekend in September and the first weekend in October every year. This year is San Diego Dance Theater’s 13th Annual Trolley Dances.

In site-specific dance, the location is as much a part of the choreography as the movement in the same way that setting can become a character in certain novels and stories. The dance might be adapted for another place, but it could never be the same when performed somewhere other than its original site.

The audience of Trolley Dances rides the trolley along the line where they find dancers waiting to perform for them at locations near certain stops. I’m very excited to be a tour guide this year. My job will be to show audience members when to get on and off the trolley and to lead the audience to each performance site.

Yesterday, I went on a dry run with other tour guides to see the places that have been chosen for this year’s dances and we even got to watch a few rehearsals.  Now I can hardly wait to watch the performance when it’s my turn to guide a tour.

This year, Trolley Dances begins at Grantville Station and the audience will ride the Green Line out to Santee with dances performed at several stops along the way.  Choreographers include Jean Isaacs, Minerva Tapia, John Diaz, Allyson Green and Paz Tanjuaquio.

If you’re interested in watching a unique dance performance and love an adventure, give Trolley Dances a try. Just don’t forget to wear walking shoes, a hat and sunscreen.

Performances are scheduled for Saturdays, September 24 and October 1 (Saturday tours leave on the hour at 10, 11, 12, 1, 2 and 3) and Sundays, September 25 and October 2 (Sunday tours leave every half hour at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3 and 3:30). Each tour lasts about 3 hours.

Tickets are $30 for general admission, $20 for seniors and $15 for students and they are available online and on the ground level at Grantville Station on performance days. An all-day trolley pass is included with price of admission.


Filed under Art, Creativity, Dance, Story

When I’m Not at My Desk

I’m in the Garden

When I was a little girl, my parents had a vegetable garden at the bottom of the yard. Every summer, they would harvest and can what they grew, so we had home-grown vegetables all winter long. We stored the glass jars in a cupboard in the basement and even though I hated to go downstairs alone, it was a treat to choose the vegetable for dinner.

I remember sitting on the back steps with my sister, a bowl and a brown paper sack of green beans between us. My fingers always got tired, but I never minded snapping beans. The ends went back into the bag for the compost pile and the short pieces went into the bowl for Mom to can, except for the ones that made their way into our mouths. I still love the crunch of raw beans.

Eventually, Mom and Dad gave up the vegetable garden and that was the end of those steamy summer afternoons spent canning in our small midwestern kitchen.

My first house was a rental, but I couldn’t stop myself from planting a few blooms in the beds next to the front door. Every time we moved, what made the new place feel like home was working in the garden, editing out plants I didn’t like and putting in my favorites: lavender and roses, rosemary and sage. I still plant those, but now I like to try new plants, too, especially natives and drought tolerant varieties like California Lilac and sun drops.

This year, I made small raised bed for vegetables. Over the winter I grew radishes and lettuce; in the spring, carrots, onions and peas. What fun to check on the progress of my seedlings every morning, to stain my fingers pink harvesting radishes, to nibble on pea pods out in the yard.

I love the time I spend outdoors getting dirt under my fingernails, even if I’m only pulling weeds. It’s mostly mindless work. My eyes find the unwanted plants and my fingers ease them out of the ground while my brain is busy working out plot problems and imagining scenes. I can’t draw or paint to save my life, but planting a new bed lets me play with shape and color.  Perhaps even more importantly, I rest my eyes on green plants and work out the kinks in my muscles after too many hours spent staring at a computer screen.

Gardening gets me outdoors, keeps me moving and is cheaper than a gym membership. It’s the perfect complement to my writing life.


Filed under Art, Gardening, Plot, Writing