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"My Thanksgiving Day love letter to Movement Research"
originally posted at
by Margaret Sunghe Paek
November 24, 2011

So I’ve been meaning to blog for a while…
Last week, I went to Movement Research’s Town Hall meeting. The topic was “sustainability as a performer”, and various things were touched on over the course of the discussion. Questions came up like: What does it mean to be a performer? How can we sustain ourselves economically? How do you gain experience as a young performing artist?

I spent the meeting wandering past and around the circled chairs, listening in patches from differing distances as I followed my one-year old daughter toddling in and out of the room. Trying to occupy her enough for us not to be too distracting, I also knew she would eventually fall asleep if I let her roam. During the last ten to fifteen minutes of the town hall, I stood at the edges of the space holding her warm, sleeping body, eager to soak in the conversation and anticipating the end when everyone would clap. (and I would have to zoom out to avoid her waking up – I wasn’t fast enough.) The two of us were engaged in our own dance. The whole time I was thinking about what sustainability means to me.

I have found there are certain places where babies (and therefore mothers with babies) aren’t welcome, and I am always aware of our presence as a duo. She demands attention. She knows really well how to take the spotlight. She is a baby after all, so she hasn’t yet unlearned that skill. I am always on edge, trying to notice as we dance the line between cute and annoying distraction. Though this dance of awareness can be exhausting for me and heartbreaking when we are excluded or asked to leave, I bring her with me many places for several reasons. I think it is important for her – to be involved and to practice being in different situations. I believe it is valuable for us as artists and humans and New Yorkers – to remember that many ages/types are included in “we.” I know it is imperative for me – as a continually practicing, researching, and collaborative dancer, as I endeavor to be the kind of mother/artist I want to be, and as a social being in context. Before I enter a space, I am aware that we might disturb some people, and I measure carefully each situation we engage in. But connecting with other live beings is also how I sustain myself (in performance, in creation, in the classroom, in the subway, in the kitchen.) Art and life are inseparable to me, and this has been made especially clear in my first year as a mother.

My friend, Emily Moore, and I left the town hall together. We had a secondary discussion. How do we sustain ourselves in this art form? – with exactly these kinds of exchanges. We attend Town Hall meetings. We spend time in each other’s presence. We talk. We share experiences. We practice; we organize, teach, take class, perform, create. We find ways to remember to see the abundance in our lives/art and not linger in the perspective of lack. Or we attempt linger there only long enough to stimulate change. We find ways to see our lives as our practice. We find community where we practice.

Movement Research provides a cornucopia (I couldn’t resist. It’s Thanksgiving after all.) of possibility, community, and exchange. I don’t know how I would have survived the past year with out this organization. It is an amorphous, pulsing, encompassing thing that I find supporting me through the growth of my artistic research and practice. It is mind-boggling how many ways one can be involved. I feel like my interactions with MR are limited compared with the possibilities. Even so, in this year, I have: taught on-going class, taken Shelley Senter’s Alexander Technique class, enjoyed Barbara Dilley’s workshop, joined the Artistic Advisory Council, moderated Open Performance, attended faculty meetings and the town hall, will be performing in the Festival next week, and am blogging this month. I missed the Studies Project about dancing and parenthood; I was out of town. However, I have since joined the google group that came out of that discussion and have participated in dancing-mother-and-child-studio-time. At all these different activities, my daughter is sometimes in tow and completely involved, sometimes at home, and sometimes dancing on the periphery of these events. Movement Research’s flexibility and openness has not only made being a new mother easier, it has also allowed me to find ways to integrate motherhood into my artistic practice.

I vehemently oppose the idea that an artist must be starving, lonely, unswervingly ambitious, blindly focused, on the verge of mental illness, or unhealthy. I need family, communion, to do other things (like baking granola bars, to use Michelle Boule’s example from the town hall) in order to feed my art, provide space (in the dance that is my life), make me a broader person, and give me connection in other ways. I could not call myself an artist if I thought this meant that I had to be exclusively and unceasingly dedicated to creating dances on stage. I strive to live a sane, fertile, abundant, interactive, well-nourished, dancing life. Movement Research keeps me growing, connected, and practicing. I am sustained.

Thank you.

~Margaret Paek,
Movement Research faculty and Artistic Advisory Council member

Movement Research Blog
"My Thanksgiving Love Letter to Movement Research"
by Margaret Paek
November 24, 2011