movement

Boulder Startup Week

Well good golly gee, lovely lurkers—looks like I’m presenting at Boulder Startup Week again this year. They’re doing a virtual thing again this year, and again, my workshop is focused on body language in business. This year, though, my talk will be more hands-on (more like a workshop), and I’ll be focusing more on subtext and first impressions. I’m super-psyched!

Here’s the description:

“Tell Us What You REALLY Feel”

It’s been said that honesty is the first component to cultivating healthy relationships. But do you know what you’re sharing in your interpersonal communications that isn’t being said aloud? Is your body betraying you? What sort of a first impression do you give potential clients, partners, or investors? How do you know? Do you know how to read a room? In this hands-on workshop, join body language expert Jenn Zuko as we explore the multiple ways in which we read and transmit messages under and alongside the words we say. Breakout room exercises will include: basic body language vocabulary; what is subtext and how can we clarify it; how we can (literally) position ourselves to maintain the best relationships possible, in business and beyond.

Here’s the link to the event. It’s free, and it should be a heckuva lot of fun: https://emamo.com/event/boulder-startup-week-2021-1/s/tell-us-how-you-really-feel-oG3ljo

Sign up for Stage Movement, 3rd & final plea: Clowning Around

What do you call a pile of clowns? A giggle? A clowder?

The semester is creeping up upon us quickly, lovely lurkers, and I have attempted to save my break and my sanity by not checking on my Metro class rosters every 5 minutes, to ascertain whether or not I’ll have a job the next couple months. Spoiler alert: I need 12 students minimum in each class or they’ll be cancelled. I’ll be checking up on everything on Monday, so I’ll let you know then if these pleas have helped or not.

As it is, allow me to put forth a third compelling reason why Stage Movement is such a fun and important piece of education that you must experience: Clowning.

That’s right, clowning: the once sacred art of creating worlds using physicality, of exaggerating your own personality into larger than life antics, exploring the long long journey from problem to (ridiculous) solution, and of course hats. (Clown hats: it’s what we do in lieu of elaborate costumes & makeup.)

In Metro’s Stage Movement class, we learn the basics of mime & gag creation, then we do a rollicking assignment called Clownlympics, in which our new-forged clowns present sporting events. The other fun thing about this event is that I break out my kid’s-dance-class instruments, and the audience clowns then provide musical accompaniment to each event. It. Is. A. Blast.

So sign up for class! I promise it’ll be incredibly fun, and you’ll learn a lot about movement techniques, styles, and how your body works in space (and on stage).

Yoga For Misanthropes

My new movement guide, Yoga For Misanthropes, is now live on YouTube. I was asked to go online and be my brand of snarky yoga teacher for those who want to start a habit of health and happiness, but hate people enough that they don’t want to go to a class. No, really: I was literally asked this, on Twitter. And how could I refuse?

I will be posting videos of yoga and Pilates sequences and other combinations thereof, that you can follow at home, of all levels, starting with the first vid that’s up today.

https://youtu.be/rLQuGLd7vv0

This first vid is a long gooey stretch sequence, and the sound may be a little iffy, as I recorded it in stage combat class during warmups. I’m planning on putting up more starting today.

Enjoy!

Don’t Read My Lips—Read the Rest of My Body

Back in my twenties, my main day-job was as a full time worker in a place not unlike Kinko’s: we made copies, did some graphic design, but mainly made good looking hard copies of things (brochures, booklets, presentations, etc.) for the professionals of Boulder. I worked in the bindery—a big warehousey area in the back where we had one of those huge industrial blades you had to operate with both hands, comb binders, wire spiral binders, two folding machines that always did their job crookedly and with mild electric shocks to the laborer that wasn’t paying attention.

But the biggest, oldest, most intimidating monster of a machine we had back in the bindery was something called the Perfect Binder. This was a brand name, though those of us unfortunate enough to have to use it (pretty much only me and the manager), adopted the moniker Perfect for this thing as a decidedly ironic descriptor.

The Perfect Binder was the size of three clothes washers lined up side by side—basically, a huge solid steel behemoth that took up an entire side of the room. Its job was to create “real” looking book-style bindings: it would roughly trim one side of a stack of paper, apply piping hot glue, and affix a cardstock cover to same. Thing is, this machine was a relic of the Industrial Revolution, and thereby needed a human (with ear protection, of course) watching it at all times to supervise the process—why, it’s hard to say: if one got anywhere near the thing as it ran, there was real danger of injury. But if you didn’t attend to it, it’d spew out glue-encrusted abominations that looked nowhere near Perfect.

Suffice to say, the Perfect Binder was slow, painstaking, and LOUD when it was working correctly. One day, I had a sizeable order that needed to be Perfect Bound, and the machine wasn’t working right—it was getting paper stuck in its craw, and basically it wasn’t doing its thing. I got the manager, one Jamie, to come in and help me assess the issue, so he came in and put on his ear protection. We put a sample into the Perfect Binder, and turned it on. Only a couple seconds into its faulty process, the whole room-sized thing JUMPED and jammed, making an even louder, sharper, and more alarming roar than its usual, before it conked out, secreting hot glue.

Once it had turned itself off, I sort of came to and looked at Jamie and myself. I had taken a quick step back away from the machine, and I was standing there rigidly, my arms up over my chest, forearms covering my breasts, fists positioned just under my ear coverings. I looked over at Jamie, who had been standing next to me as we had flipped the On switch. He, too, had taken a big step back in a natural flight response, but he, though standing just as stiffly as me, had both his hands crossed in front of himself, covering his groin.

I looked at Jamie, and at myself, and started laughing. He asked me what, and I indicated how we had both reacted (we were both still frozen in our respective defensive positions). Once we relaxed enough to take our big headphones off and realize the Perfect Binder wasn’t going to come back to life and kill us, we marveled at the gestures and movements both of us had made, completely without thinking, in the face of danger. I was amazed at the gendered reactions—I had covered my chest, his protective hands went right to his groin—and he was more amazed at the very big, clear poses we had adopted, entirely without consciously doing so.

Now, I’ve been in theatre since I was a very small child (my mother was a dance education major at SIU when she became pregnant with me and so I always joke that I’ve been appearing onstage since *before* I was born), and professionally so since my teens. I’ve also been presiding over classrooms full of people for the past 25 years or so. I say this because, unlike most humans, speaking onstage in front of an audience is not one of my greatest fears. In fact, I’m not afraid of it at all anymore—it’s completely second nature and I do it pretty much every day.

But most people are just as afraid of getting up in front of other people and speaking, as Jamie and I were of that malfunctioning Perfect Binder. It’s terrifying for most, and for most, even if you’re a business pro that’s somewhat used to it, it will still fill you with life or death, fight or flight terror. And the big defensive postures most people will perform while onstage? They won’t have any idea they’re doing them, no more than did Jamie and I. But imagine: you’re a male executive, doing an important presentation in front of something just as scary and intimidating as the jamming Perfect Binder; say, a panel of Fortune 500 C-suites? What impression are you going to give, standing stiffly in front of them, both hands clasped over your groin?

If you don’t have the kind of training I do (and why would you, unless you happen to have undergone a rigorous training background in theatre), no matter how smoothly your rehearsed speech might be in your voice, no matter how awesome your PowerPoint slides are, your body will belie all of that. Your body tells your real story, and it doesn’t lie. It can’t.

This is why I’m bringing my wide movement expertise into the world of business—I know how to get your body to tell the story you want it to, to align the story your body is telling your audience in that lizard-brain, primal way, that no number of words can correct if it’s not right there with it. Thing is, I don’t do a one-size-fits-all boilerplate for this. Sure, there are certain physical techniques I like to share with all of my clients, but I don’t go in and “correct” people’s “wrong” postures; I work with each person’s particular strengths to align their physical storytelling with their verbal message. And it’s kind of a bonus that some of the breathing techniques I work with do in fact soothe stage fright quite a bit.

I’m an English and a Theatre professor and have been a stunt coordinator for 25 years. I’ve survived the Perfect Binder. I know how movement connects to message.

How can I help you?

Punching Through a Crystal Wall

Remember that Doctor Who episode, where he was trapped in the nightmare loop? The way he escaped was, each time he got to the end/his death, he punched a thick glass (or rock crystal?) wall, just once, with his bare fist. Turns out that he ends up going through that time loop so many times, that he eventually punches through the thick crystal wall completely. Think of how many millions of times you’d have to punch with a bare fist, to get through a rock wall several feet thick. But he succeeds, and it sets him free.

My life lately has run up against that thick layer of crystal, or so it feels: beautiful, but holding me in a loop. I’m punching it with my bare fist, though, over and over, and will persist until it gives way. Problem is, I also have to rely on others to add their punches to mine, and so am also being forced to wait. I spent a long while musing about this last night: I’m stalled, and it’s frustrating, as I am powerless to move these other people into action. And so I wait.

But here’s the stuff I am indeed actively doing–these things may be interesting to you, lovely lurkers, so here goes:

Wisdom From Everything was a remarkable production, and my scenes of violence were carried out beautifully. This production closes on the 26th, so those of you lurkers who are local, don’t miss it.

My initial writings on the topic of Problematic Female Badasses in lit and pop culture are slowly, painfully, becoming a book. Page 23, the academic branch of Denver Comic Con, has accepted it as part of their panel presentations, and so I will be talking about this project and my 7 Tropes live in front of a roomful of geeks this June. Will I be the catalyst for Gamergate 2.0? Time will tell…

Also this summer, I’ll be trekking back to Longmont to teach the teenaged ballerinas how to fake punch each other in the face, drag each other around by their hairpinned buns, and etc. One of the highlights of that is when they learn the face slam. The initial teaching of it is slamming the face into the floor, but some tutued girl always gets the idea to slam her partner’s face into the ballet barre, which is just such a delightful thing to witness.

Sooner than that, though: Blue Dime Cabaret is having our first show at Full Cycle on April 7th. It’s a bike shop, coffee shop, and bar over on Pearl Street where Penny Lane used to be. This is going to be a really fun show: we’ve got comedians, burlesque, burlesque on roller skates, and an opera singer. I’ll be jiggling my sparkles in a 1920s Charleston inspired burlesque bit that I actually need to finish choreographing… anyway, we’ve also been picked to perform in this summer’s Boulder Fringe Fest, too, so this’ll be a fun way to see how these variety shows will turn out. If you’re local, do come see us, and tip generously. I need the money.

I’ll let you know how Goth Prom goes, too. I have a rather ’80s inspired outfit to honor my early days of gothiness. But anyway.

These are the punches I’m throwing these days. What punches are you throwing into your walls? Add them in the comments, if you’d like to share. Of course, there’s a reason I call you all “lovely lurkers…”

Stage Movement Class: sign up please pt. 2

Yes, lovely lurkers, I have taken to begging for students to take the Stage Movement course over at MSU Denver. Well, yanno, it has been cancelled due to underenrollment enough that I feel I need to explain what makes this class such an essential part of a student’s experience at Metro, especially in the Theatre Department.

Here’s the thing: the skills learned in this class don’t only apply to

Don't make this sad clown even sadder. Sign up for Stage Movement.

Don’t make this sad clown even sadder. Sign up for Stage Movement.

the performing arts student. Not at all–actually I’ve had the following diverse folks take this course (beyond the theatre majors, for whom this class is required):

  • a major in accounting
  • a 75-year-old auditing the course for fun
  • an 8th grader interested in the clowning arts
  • a poli-sci major
  • a couple English majors
  • someone who was undecided, who wanted to be able to have good presence in front of a crowd

Recently I have received some advice from an intimate friend in the career reboot department, and I am realizing that these skills are all excellent ones for building my corporate consulting practice. All of these things (body language, vocal work, social status manipulation, presentation skills, etc.) are the difference between a corporate drudgery and a successful businessperson.

 

I Miss My MTV already…

The backdrop as it looked in Fort Collins’ Bas Bleu Theatre, made by talented tattoo artist Sal Tino.

 

I Miss My MTV version 2.1 has come and gone, and it was a helluva ride. The reboot held many of the same core pieces as v.1.0 (the 2014 Boulder Fringe Fest), with some revisions and recastings all with a positive result, IMO. I’m glad in this reworking that I got to dance in an el-wire suit, and got to join the complex Cut Copy piece (the one with the suits and briefcases and plentiful bits of paper).

My favorite bits in this show overall were the Depeche Mode piece which took place at the bar at the end of the world, the opening dance medley filled with classics from ’80s vids (Pat Benatar shoulder action, anyone?), and, weirdly enough, the quietly sublime David Bowie Glitter Portrait bit. That last mainly from the consistently wonderful audience reaction to the reveal.

My favorite tweaks from v.2.0 (DCPA) to 2.1 (Bas Bleu Theatre) were the new band members, and the casting of James as The Norwegian in the A-Ha video sequel.

And if you missed it, you have no idea what I’m talking about, but no doubt really wish you did. Farewell, I Miss My MTV. “Don’t you / forget about me / I’ll be alone / dancing, you know it baby…”

Don’t You…