michael j. morris

Sources of insight and inspiration

I feel as if a new post is dreadfully overdue, but I’ll be honest: I am absorbing a lot of information right now; it hasn’t really had time to synthesize into my own thoughts. So I thought I might just offer a list of what I am taking in right now as inspirations and source materials:

Ballet technique classes with Karen Eliot three days per week. It is amazing to have been practicing this technique for almost ten years now and still have moments of total tidal shifts in my understanding of what it is that I’m doing. Karen is an exceptional teacher.

Reading The Splendor of Recognition: And Exploration of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, a Text on the Ancient Science of the Soul by Swami Shantananda. I’m swimming in thoughts of Consciousness (citi) as the creator and substance of the entire universe, the creative pulsation (spanda) of creation, sustainment, and dissolution, the nature of subject and object, knowledge, and the mind. One quote for today (and understand that several terms in this quote are specialized; most importantly, identification of Siva as a specific deity is symbolic, and in fact refers to the Supreme Consciousness out of which all Reality emerges):

“Wherever the ind goes, whether toward the exterior or toward the interior, everywhere there is the state of Siva. Since Siva is omnipresent, where can the mind go to avoid him?”

Reading The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy, and Practice by Georg Feuerstein. I am only a chapter into this, but it is an exhaustively precise description of the historic evolution of this complex system of thought/practice.

Reading Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude by Amy Bloom. This is Bloom’s only non-fiction, and it is lovely. It is truly queer in that it is completely undermining my concepts of normality, gender, sexuality, social roles, relationships, etc. It is written in an easy fashion on subjects that are less easy to contemplate. For all my support of transsexuals, it is not easy to read about phalloplasty and metoidioplasty female-to-male surgeries. These are complicated, invasive and painful surgeries that are offered as part of an FTM transition. It isn’t easy to read about the tension in relationships between heterosexual male crossdressers and their wives. Etc. And yet I think it is contributing positively to broaden my perspective of identity and society and self-perception/presentation/performance.

Reading Matt Morris’ genius writings on Aeqai: A Journal for Writing on the Visual Arts in the Greater Cincinnati Region. Matt (who is my twin brother) is writing an excellent series concerned with sculpture in public spaces. In them he has touched on concepts of the private/public dichotomy, the relationship between social, psychological, energetic, and geographic space, the relationship between art and identity, etc. They are truly brilliant and worth your time to read.
First installment.
Second installment.

Watching HBO’s In Treatment. This series is GENIUS. I am completely addicted. It follows a psychoanalyst and his progress through the cases of five patients and himself week by week. The episodes are short, generally limited to the content of his sessions. The acting is superb, the writing even better, the filming excellent, etc. Everything I want in a television show.

Listening to Jay Brannan‘s new cd In Living Cover. Jay Brannan is probably best known for his role in the John Cameron Mitchell film Shortbus, but makes beautiful music as well. I loved his first album, and this week he released an album of covers, including Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want” and the Cranberries “Zombies,” among others. Great listening for this week.

Dancing in a new project with CoCo Loupe, Eric Falck, and Jeff Fouch tentatively titled “3 Boys and an Old Prophetess.” No idea where this project is going, but you can read more about it on CoCo’s blog here.

finishing my Elementary Labanotation Certification exam

I have a lengthy to-do list for the summer and I am slowly making my way through it, absorbing and continuing to move and thrive and live. These are pieces of that process.

All come highly recommended.

More Inspiration

Yesterday was the last day of my Labanotation Teacher Certification Course. As soon as I turn in my final project, I will be certified through the Dance Notation Bureau to teach Elementary Labanotation. My head is swimming with symbols and theory and integrated class/course designs. My final project is a course that I developing entitled “Choreographic Knowledge: Integrated Repertory, Composition and Movement Notation.” I am fairly excited about it, but also just exhausted.

Today starts my summer quarter, which will be mainly a mix of ballet and yoga in varying degrees. Ballet three days a week with Karen Eliot. Then a larger research investigation of yoga history, theory, philosophy, and practice that will involve a survey of literature (reading list below) that either describes the history/theory/philosophy of yoga or was/is an important philosophical/sacred text that was responsible for an evolution in the system. This study will then be integrated into my own yoga practice (five day a week asana practice, meditation, pranayama, etc.). This research is intended to deepen my own understanding of this system/practice, both for my own personal development and growth, but also as a preparation for teaching yoga in the fall. I am also finding some of the readings relevant to my larger research interests of the integration of life/art, the relationship of the bodily experience to identity, and the choreography of identity.

Here is the reading list, if you’re interested:

Shantananda, Swami. Splendor of Recognition: An Exploration of the ‘Pratyabhijna-hrdayam’, A Text on the Ancient Science of the Soul.

Feuerstein, Georg. The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy, and Practice.

Iyengar, BKS. Light on Yoga.

Iyengar, BKS. Light on Pranayama.

Muler-Ortega, Paul Eduardo. The Triadic Heart of Siva: Kaula Tantricism of Abhinavagupta in the Non-Dual Shaivism of Kashmir.

Singh, Jaideva. Spanda-Karikas: The Divine Creative Pulsation.

Kirk, Martin. Hatha Yoga Illustrated.

Friend, John. Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual.

Only a little daunting . . . I have until the end of August to read/synthesize that information into my practice.

I also wanted to share some scattered inspirations right now. I am contemplating my making, what comes next, what to create (too many ideas in too many directions), whether to continue work on “Red Monster” or leave it for a while. My creative activity might take on the form of notating my piece About. I am interested in that, and also how preservation is a creative activity. But other than those interests, here are things that are “sticking” with me, for various reasons. Mostly they are fun, but all have deeper points of interest as well:

Photographs by SARAH AINSLIE of Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens’ Blue Wedding:






Columbus Pride 2009 (photos various from Flickr):










Ethan is an artist working out of Cincinnati. I think his projects are sort of amazing for lots of reasons, not the least of which being that they take dance into public, into uncontrolled spaces, inserting a trangressive body into society/culture/architecture/etc. The dancing body is one which moves outside the boundaries of the social strictures for bodies. It is safe and sanitized when it is removed or remote on a stage space, or on dance floors (which can function as in-between spaces, where rules are subverted, and bodies explore alternative roles/identities), but on sidewalks and parking lots and city streets, it is in violation. That is exciting to me.

Ethan did this amazing project exploring perception of the gendered body. The video is above. The post describing it can be viewed here. Ethan wrote in a January post on his blog, “The thrill of transgressing normal in public space is like a drug. It’s much clearer to me now how oppressive normal can be sometimes.” I feel that way when I am viewing the work. I hope you do too.

So, carrying with me Lady Gaga, Love Art Lab, Columbus Pride 2009, and Ethan Philbrick, I am off to ballet, yoga, reading reading reading, then likely going out tonight. Boys night at Wallstreet.

nowhere near sleeping

It seems as if Barack Obama is the new president elect, and this is a victory to celebrate. It makes me think of a line from Queer as Folk years ago: “Mourn the losses for they are many; but celebrate the victories because they are few.” This is a victory I can celebrate.

At the same time, as of 12:09am ET, three more states are projected to ban same-sex marriage, and one state is projected to ban same-sex adoption.

I’m looking at my tag and category clouds. GRAD SCHOOL. DANCE. ELECTION. MEREDITH MONK. PAULINE OLIVEROS. RESEARCH. What is arising from all these seeming disparate thoughts bunched up together in this online creative space? What lies in between these ideas, these subjects, and what do they reveal about one another?

Today there is an election. The course of our nation is being decided, as it always is. As I look at it, I think about listening, and research, and emergent perspectives. As I write, how am I listening, what am I observing? As Karen Eliot said today, we have made such progress. There are still battles to be won, liberties and equalities that this nation seems unprepared to afford all of its citizens. And yet we have elected the first biracial president of the United States. The world and nation continue to change.

And the question arises, as it always does for those both inside and outside of this art form: why dance? Why dance now? Of what value are our dances, our practices, our study of this art form? Equally, why blog? What is the point of any of this? I am reminded again of a quote by Meredith Monk, who once said [regarding the autobiographical qualities of her work] that she is convinced that the more personal we are, the more universal we become. And as this nation, this world, continues to evolve, I believe it does so through human encounters, relationships, and new understandings of one another and who we are as a human race, and how we fit into the Whole of this universe. And dance is part of that. It can be part of how we connect with one another, artist to artist, artist to audience, audience as general public, in relationships through the work that re-contextualize one’s experience of the world in which we live. And it is my hope that as we experience more of those connections in more articulate fashions that we will come to a higher way of being, existing, governing.
That is surely not the only answer to the question “Why dance?”, but it is an important one on today of all days.


In honor of hope and love, I reference you to one of my links, the Love Art Lab:
Love Art Lab Green Wedding #4 

Drawing nearer to sleep.