As you all know, last summer I quit my day job to try to make a go of doing dance, writing, and random freelance jobs full-time. It's not quite a living yet, though I'm getting closer, but not having a day job and the resulting restrictions on time off means that I'm free to take exciting gigs as they come along. "Exciting" can actually get really exciting. I thought after my big New Zealand/Australia celebration-of-freedom trip last summer that I would be out of luck on interesting travel due to extreme poverty. But that doesn't seem to be quite the case.
Here are the three most exciting gigs I have coming up this year, one of which has been announced for months and two of which I've been keeping quiet until the details were confirmed:
1. The one which had already been announced is that I will be teaching from June 26-30 on the Queen Mary, a 1930s cruise ship permanently docked as floating hotel in Long Beach, California (Los Angeles area). The event is the San Diego Vintage Dance Week, run by the wonderful vintage dance community in Southern California, two of whose previous weeks (in San Diego and at Claremont College) I've attended as a student. The other faculty are Richard Powers, Joan Walton, and Joel Plys, all of whom are absolutely top teachers. It's quite an honor to be teaching with them! I'll be doing two classes a day plus one lecture during the week and possibly precepting a ball.
2. Last year I attended the amazing three-event combination of Dance Weekend/Historic Dance Week/Waltz Weekend at Stanford University in late June and had planned to attend this year's two events, Waltz Weekend and Historic Dance Week. Unfortunately, back in February, Stanford suddenly developed a problem with these events, and at the beginning of April, they were cancelled entirely. I came in early in the process, when we were trying to keep the weeks at Stanford, and when that became no longer an option, teamed up with one of my dance-biz partners to try to salvage the events. We weren't able to pull off the Week on such short notice, but we have pulled together a new Waltz Weekend in the Bay Area, which will be held at Santa Clara University, near San Jose, on June 17-19. So I find myself co-director of (though not teaching at) a Waltz Weekend which is the successor to the long series of summer dance events run by Richard Powers at Stanford. Those are some big shoes to fill, but I'm excited by the opportunity and honored to be given the chance to work with an amazing faculty (Richard Powers & Angela Amarillas, Joan Walton, Ari Levitt, Campbell Miller & Chris Mayer) and the fabulous Bay Area dance community. Hopefully this will be the start of a new series of successful events!
3. Last but far from least, I am absolutely delighted to announce that this fall I will be teaching for the first time in Europe. Specifically, I will be doing a weekend of nineteenth century dance from October 7-9 in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the organization Anno Domini, which has been presenting major dance workshop weekends for about ten years (click the "OS-11" link on the left on that website for the autumn event) with a spectacular array of European faculty. I'm enormously excited by the chance to teach material I love to what I understand to be a very skilled dance community as well as by the opportunity to visit St. Petersburg and see magnificence of the city and the famous Hermitage for myself.
I had champagne with my students at my last Monday night dance class of the semester earlier this evening to celebrate all this.
Oddly enough, I suspect that I have my blogging to thank for this latter opportunity, at least in part. I have a number of readers and commenters in Eastern Europe who know me entirely through Kickery, and I think all that writing for free and giving away of knowledge (which has sometimes made me a bit nervous, wondering whether I was undercutting myself) has really paid off. I should give thanks here to Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who told a very skeptical me almost four years ago that a dance-history-specific blog would definitely draw readers, and to Cory Doctorow for succinctly expressing the philosophy behind giving away work as advertising:
"Tim O'Reilly says ‘The problem with writers isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.’ It may be hard to monetize fame, but it is impossible to monetize obscurity.”
That wasn't the first time he'd quoted O'Reilly (it's just the one that came up on a quick search), and Cory's not the only one to have made that point, but he makes it effectively and often. I wasn't sure whether it would work for dance history, since what I am monetizing is my physical presence and teaching, rather than having any kind of product like a writer does, but I decided it was worth taking a gamble. And three years of fairly industrious dance history blogging have in fact produced sufficient fame to jump-start the monetizing bit.
How cool is that?
I should also thank everyone who's read and commented here and on Kickery, since the feedback is what inspires me to keep on blogging, even as irregularly as I've been doing it lately. Thanks, everyone!!!
ObSf, some weird coincidences:
I have danced once already on the Queen Mary, at a ball held during the Claremont Dance Week several years ago, and was struck at the time by a bizarre sense of déjà vu. Even though I'd never seen the ship before, I had just finished reading The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy by Martha Wells (a spectacularly original fantasist -- I recommend all her books highly). The second book, The Ships of Air, is set on the Queen Ravenna, which is a fantasy cognate of the Queen Mary, so close in appearance and so effectively described by Wells that I shivered through my tour of the ship as I recognized rooms I'd never seen and details I'd only read about. I'll probably reread it again before my trip just to orient myself to the ship. This time I get to stay on board!
And that's not all.
Less than a week before I was invited to teach in St. Petersburg, I attended the New York City launch party for Catherynne Valente's latest major novel*, Deathless, which I read back in the fall via Advance Reading Copy and liked enormously, though it's just as dizzyingly complex as everything else she writes, drifting across the borders of fantasy and reality until your head sort of explodes (in a good way). Deathless just happens to be set in a fantasy version of St. Petersburg. Having the book fresh in my mind that week, it was extremely surreal to suddenly get email asking me if I'd be willing to come there to teach.
This is making me look very thoughtfully at my bookshelves, wondering what else I have around that's set in/on a very close cognate of a real-world location...
* Whether it's really her latest novel or not is not a straightforward question: since that launch party, her YA novel The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has come out as well, though that was originally written a while back and published serially online. I recommend Fairyland as well, though it's even more amusing if you've already read her distinctly non-YA novel Palimpsest, since its first appearance was as an imaginary novel referenced by one of the characters in that book, which may be succinctly described as the story of a sexually transmitted city. See what I mean about dizzying complexity?