Why you should go see the Barn Storm Dance Fest

Links We Like Performances/Screenings

Houston!  I am really pumped– lemme tell you why.

barn storm2

I just watched the second weekend of Barn Storm Dance Fest, and last weekend I was able to see Program 1.  Barn Storm Dance Fest is a three-weekend dance festival produced by Dance Source Houston– Houston’s dance service organization.  Dance Source Houston has exploded in the last couple of years.  They have taken over The Barn (formerly Barnevelder Performing Arts Complex), and worked to raise the funding to subsidize rentals for artists and arts organizations; They have started an Artist in Residency Program (AIR) for three artists each year to use the space to develop new work; They now offer Micro Grants for production costs (Frame Dance is eternally thankful!); and they produce the Barn Storm Dance Festival to showcase dance from Houston and other Texas cities.

What strikes me (as someone who is not participating as an artist in this festival) is the importance for dancers and choreographers to convene.   It has been special to watch pieces from veteran and emerging choreographers on the same show.  This is very valuable for the health of dance in our city.  The shows have been running flawlessly, and lit beautifully.  I imagine you’ll have your favorites, some that don’t touch you as poignantly, and others that will push you a little as a viewer.  That’s the beauty of the festival format– you get to see so much.  I walk away from the first two programs proud of our city and all of the dance in it!  Thank you, Dance Source Houston, for bringing these artists together and producing such an extensive festival, and thank you to the artists for making dance.  You have two more chances to see it this weekend and a full weekend for Program 3.  Tickets and info here.

Where’s the Easy Button?

MFA Mondays
photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

Shortly after the big event in November 2013, I began telling inquirers that I would be taking a personal time out to rejuvenate personally and creatively. Much to my surprise, this idea did not go over well with others. I was met with resistance and warnings. New phrases began racing toward me such as ‘you can’t stop now,’ ‘don’t lose momentum,’ and my favorite ‘it will be so much harder to start again.’

Knowing that my pattern of plowing through from one project or idea to the next was no longer an option, I had to begin again. Most importantly, I had to become okay with the idea that what came before was not WRONG and what comes next may not be RIGHT. The duh! stick had knocked me all the way back to my graduate school AHA moments. However, this time the focus was not on a composition class or a movement study, but rather on me as a person and an artist.

Lets take a moment to review my graduate school AHA moments.

  1. What is your intention? How do you make that as clear as possible? 
  1. There are no right or wrong answers; only clearer choices.  


In retrospect, I can clearly see a subconscious three-step process that began with re-flecting. When all the lights, costumes, and applause get stripped away and the audience goes home, what is the artist left with? Often times after an event would close, I was left with a great sense of dissatisfaction. (That is a whole other blog) This particular performance left me questioning what it was all for in the first place.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

Why do I enjoy creating thought provoking, emotionally stirring works by sharing my life experiences with a bunch of strangers? The short answer… we are all connected to a much larger community and I want to make that connection clear and relevant. However, I was constantly ‘sharing’ yet not really taking the time to understand if it was valid or effective. Was I really making the connection I desired? And the biggest question of all, does the audience even want what I am offering?

Step two… re-evaluate! After understanding the Why, I began to ask the How. How do I make it clear that I want a connection between myself, the art, and the audience? I do not feel this understanding comes from the work itself, but rather the relationships that we create with our audience. This happens before the concert, during the concert, after the concert and through additional programs that engage and invite our audience into the process itself.

 I must let you in on a little secret. I am making this sound so easy by giving you a synopsis of the process. Steps One and Two have taken a total of eighteen months and to be honest, I am still re-flecting and re-evaluating as I move forward into step Three… re-launch.

Was there a time in your life that you had to stop and take inventory? What was your journey to re-launch like?



MFA rightAmy Elizabeth, named one of Houston’s 100 Creatives and Top 10 Choreographer in 2013, is currently an adjunct dance professor and artistic director for Aimed Dance since receiving her M.F.A from Sam Houston State University. Her work has been presented at DanceHouston, Dance Gallery Festival Texas, Houston Fringe Fest and venues throughout Texas, Louisiana, and Arizona. Additionally, she has had the privilege of setting works at Lone Star College, Rice University, Lamar High School and will be working with San Jacinto College Dance Ensemble this fall. Stay in touch at www.amyelizabethdance.com.

Frame Dance Audition

Links We Like
photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane


Frame Dance Audition, men and women

hiring for company and apprentice positions

July 12 2-4pm, 2808 Caroline St.

Frame Dance calls for smart, musical dancers with an open mind, a sense of adventure and professionalism, a willing spirit and an embracing strength from both men and women to partner and support their fellow Framers.  Dancers must have a desire to work in non-traditional spaces, experiment with new ideas, and a willingness to  be involved in the creative process and in the community.


Please bring a CV, and RSVP to Lydia.Hance@framedance.org.

photo by Lynn Lane Frame Dance ranges from athletic, to suspended, to subtle.
photo by Lynn Lane
Frame Dance ranges from athletic, to suspended, to subtle.
photo by Lynn Lane Frame Dance works with adults and children
photo by Lynn Lane
Frame Dance works with adults and children










METRODances Frame Dance performs in alternative spaces
Frame Dance performs in alternative spaces














photo by David DeHoyos Frame Dance works with emerging composers and live music
photo by David DeHoyos
Frame Dance works with emerging composers and live music









Frame Dance explores audience connection and integration
Frame Dance explores audience connection and integration









Framed in Five– way to go Little Framers and MultiGen Framers!



photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

The Framed in Five shows on Friday and Saturday were fantastic! All the hard work from the dancers really payed off, it was clear to anyone who saw the shows. It showcased work from the company as well as those participating in the Multi-Gen classes, new music, choreography and costume design.  Sign up for our summer workshops to get ready for next year! And in the fall we will have two Little Framers age groups and the Multi-Gen Classes.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane



Just Keep Swimming

MFA Mondays


photo by  Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

Hi, I am a small dancing fish in a big dance pond. I am discovering that in order to create a healthy “ecosystem” for that dance pond (or community), that pond must value support over competition; this is a necessary characteristic of a healthy, thriving dance community. Some competition is normal; its natural for an iridescent blue angel fish to be a little envious of the willowy fins of the beta fish and vise versa, but there is enough room in the big dance sea for all of us.

We are all, emerging or established, experiencing a time with little to no funding available for the arts, but like I said in my last blog, “just keep swimming.” We as artists have an opportunity to band together and move towards a self-supportive dance community. Regardless of funds available, we can support one another in the pursuit to create top-notch work. The more dance produced here in Houston will bring attention, and thus bring additional funding in the long run.

As I’ve been thinking, a certain level of competition is healthy, and necessary; in many ways it helps us be our best self. On my own artistic path, I am continually competing with myself through each project and creation to make it better than the one before. On the flip side, competition is unhealthy when it creates negative feelings between dancers or choreographers. How can we reframe this way of thinking to be less destructive and more constructive? How can we mentor one another? How can we allow the success of strong talented dancers or established companies to inspire us and not defeat us? How can we be of service to each other instead of ego-driven? In the words of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, she reminds us “… there is more than enough to go around…” If we so choose, the one thing that there will never be a shortage of is love and support.


photo by  Salted Heart Photography
photo by Salted Heart Photography

My drive to help build a strong dance community, or pond, comes from who I am as a person. I am a team player and my philosophy boils down to this: If “Company X” has a fantastic show with a packed house, while it may not affect me directly (i.e. I was not a participating choreographer), it does affect me indirectly. “Company X” having a successful show highlights the Houston dance scene, and I am a part that scene. It also means that if an audience member attends this show and has a positive experience, the likelihood of them attending another dance concert in the future grows; this future show could be your show, or my show, or a collaborative evening of works. This philosophy drives me to encourage all Houston artists. I strongly feel that we all need to share each other’s successes as if they were our own.

So, in order to practice what I preach, I have created a checklist of things that I do in order to help grow and strengthen my role in this community, and hopefully the community as a whole.

Mini Self-Guide to being a Community Grower


  1. Volunteer your time for performances. Not only does it help the presenter in a big way and build connections, it also usually means a free ticket to see the show.

    Share on Facebook, it takes two seconds! We live in a time where that is one of the most effective ways to promote. If you are excited to see a concert, tell us; if you enjoyed a concert, tell us; if you know of upcoming events, tell us. You never know whom it might reach.

  3. Set a goal to attend at least 1 dance concert/event/class a month, if not more. I know scheduling is sometimes difficult, but make it a priority.
  4. Set aside $20 a month to browse online funding campaigns and donate! I’m not always successful with this one, money is tighter some months than others, but I’ve discovered that even $5 can make a difference in a funding campaign, and I continually strive to do this.
  5. Celebrate art, not just your art.


    There are several programs currently happening in Houston that I believe share the goal to thrive through community and not competition, and I truly hope they continue to blossom. Find your own ways to be a community builder, or try some of the things listed above! Also, don’t be too proud to take the support of others; it is not a sign of weakness. We need each other. The more we allow ourselves to give and receive support, the more we create a cycle of good karma and growth towards a stronger and more unified dance pond.


Laura Harrell is currently an adjunct professor at Houston Community College, Lone Star College, and San Jacinto College. Laura has presented choreography at The Dance Gallery Festival (Texas and New York City), the Fringe Festival (Houston), and most recently, in the first ever, Art Saves Lives: A Cultural Conversation performance and educational outreach program in Nice, France. Additionally, she has set work at Sam Houston State University, the American College Dance Festival, Booker T. Washington High School, Lone Star College, San Jacinto College, and was assistant choreographer for Recked Productions site-specific project, Up For Air. This past February, Harrell was a featured emerging artist by NobleMotion Dance, where she presented “Stuck Between a Rug and a Hard Place” in the first ever Next Step Series: HOMEgrown.

When the Dollar and Dream Don’t Match

MFA Mondays
photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

As I was sitting in my first interview for an adjunct dance position my potential boss warned me that this would never, ever become a full-time position. He said the “higher-ups” did not believe that dance was an actual career. I proceeded to argue the opposite, enlightening him on the several ways one could have a career in and around dance. He thanked me for educating him throughout the interview and told me to “not be surprised if one day he asks me to repeat my argument in front of others.” I am still awaiting that day…

If you are anything like me, then you have probably found yourself in a situation where you are faced with the decision to either work for free, or turn down an opportunity. As an undergrad I did anything and everything for free in hopes of building my resume and networking. When I finished grad school, I found myself with the complete opposite work ethic; I wanted to be paid. I spent an entire year questioning whether I would be a hypocrite if I chose to work for free while fighting for funding for the arts and defending the importance of dance in higher education. This ultimately led to a year of simply teaching classes at community colleges and local studios, but never entering the studio wearing my choreographer hat. For those of you who know me, choreography primarily defines me. I found myself feeling like a teacher only, and not like an artist; my ideal setting is one that I can be both. Looking back I did not create choreographically, partly of fear and transitioning out of the safety net of grad school and because of my determined decision to not work for free; because choreographing and being creative didn’t provide a paycheck, I simply didn’t do it.

It wasn’t that I disliked any part of the work I was doing, I just knew I needed to establish a better balance before I found myself resenting my MFA rightcareer choice later down the road. About this time, I reconnected with a fellow artist I had met a little while back but had lost touch with over the course of that “non-creative” year (go figure!). She asked me if I would like to collaborate on a new arts exchange project she was working on- you might remember me talking about it on my last blog! At first I was hesitant to give up time where I could potentially be making money, but I trusted my gut and took a leap of faith and began getting involved. In a nutshell, this project was an artistic exchange in Nice, France, a sister city to Houston, sharing through outreaches and performances the message that art saves lives. She was very honest and upfront with the fact that she was not sure if I would be compensated for my time or even get to travel to France, but what she could promise was that my choreography would be shown in Nice. I respected her honesty and happily moved forward with setting my work and helping out where it was needed. I am very fortunate that funds were raised in order for me to travel to France and participate first-hand. Not only was the trip paid for, but I also got a small check for the administrative work I had done. Was every minute I spent on this project compensated for? No, but it instilled hope that I could get paid to be creative, and also reminded me that experience, opportunity, and changing lives through art is also an important form of payment. It felt like I had hit the jackpot, ha! In fact, some days I still ask myself, “Did I really get paid to go to France and work as an artist?”

After this first experience of opening myself up to opportunities that were not payment driven, I began craving more creative outlets. It was then

photo by Salted Hart
photo by Salted Hart

that I was approached to be a guinea pig for a program that supports emerging choreographers. This opportunity marked the first time I created something new since graduation. I was terrified and procrastinated until I absolutely had to begin creating, simply out of fear… but that’s besides the point of this blog! The support of this program covered the production and publicity costs; so essentially, I did not make money, but I did not lose any either, which is huge at this point in my career path. While I had begun to feel more confident with where I stood on whether or not to work free, I felt very unsure about asking professional dancers to do the same. I felt an immense amount of pressure to find money to pay them for their time. Luckily I was blessed to work with seven of the most amazing, gifted, and beautiful human beings who also recognized that sometimes the experience of something new, or a particular opportunity can be a form of payment. I am not sure what I did to deserve this opportunity and the pleasure of working with these amazing artists, but they will always hold a special place in my heart.

I am really fortunate that these decisions to work without monetary concern have paid off in such a positive, life changing way, and am also aware that every opportunity might not have the same outcome. In hopes of avoiding this and knowing when to say yes, and when to say no, I ask myself questions like:

  • What do I want out of this opportunity?
  • What are the gains? (money, positively affecting others, artistic/therapeutic experience, professional growth, networking, creative expression, etc.)
  • Does my schedule allow me to confidently commit to this opportunity and the work involved, while still carrying out my day-to-day work and being financially responsible?

Right now, after these experiences, I can say that I am willing to choreograph for free for the rest of my life. I would definitely work hard to pay the dancers, but for me, the chance to share my choreographic voice and move the audience is more than enough. I know that is a bold statement and I may not always feel that way, but for today, it’s true.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

I will always defend the importance of dance in schools, higher education, and in life, and will never stop fighting for artists to be paid for what they do. The way I see it is this: I can argue all day long the importance of dance to the administrative “higher-ups” by stating cold hard facts to support that you can “pay the bills” with a career in dance. I can equally stress the importance, validity, and power of dance by sharing my experiences in France, the profound comments of audience members who were moved to tears, or how dance has truly saved my life, and so many, many others. Dance is multi-faceted; therefore the ways in which it is important are endless and monetary gain is only one of them. We don’t live in a perfect world where every profession gets paid what it deserves, but it doesn’t mean that we give up, or shut ourselves off to opportunities like I did during that “non-creative” year. If we do, then we will find ourselves in a world void of art, zero chance of dance ever getting the funding it deserves, and most likely little personal fulfillment as an artist.

I realize not everyone feels the same way that I do, but if you find yourself in similar situations and at a loss of what choice to make, try asking yourself the questions above and establishing boundaries. Don’t become a money-driven robot like I was in danger of becoming; remember at your essence, you are an artist. The experience, impact, and change that you can bring to your own life, and to others through dance is permanent.

Laura Harrell is currently an adjunct professor at Houston Community College, Lone Star College, and San Jacinto College. Laura has presented choreography at The Dance Gallery Festival (Texas and New York City), the Fringe Festival (Houston), the American College Dance Conference (adjudicated and gala), and most recently, in the first ever, Art Saves Lives: A Cultural Conversation performance and educational outreach program in Nice, France. Additionally, she has set work at Sam Houston State University, Booker T. Washington High School, Lone Star College, San Jacinto College, and was assistant choreographer for Recked Productions site-specific project, Up For Air. Most recently, Laura presented choreography in the first ever Next Step Series by NobleMotion Dance.


Fab Ashley in character for our piece Dinner/Dance19.
Fab Ashley in character for our piece Dinner/Dance19.

I would like to take some time to really acknowledge Ashley Horn for her impactful Frame Dance collaborations over the past five years (and more to come!)  She has been my most consistent collaborator, and has had an indelible stamp on Frame Dance aesthetics.  She is so talented and unwaveringly creative.  She understands my interest in color, shape, and style.  This performance of Framed in Five is requiring her to make 34 (or something) costumes!  Here are a few photos of the costumes in progress…



Music for Veterans

Tuesday Tunes

“The arts and creative arts therapies were characterized by Captain Moira McGuire, at Walter Reed as a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have.'”



Here in Houston, Jane Weiner and Hope Stone are working with vets, offering an 8 week DRUMMING workshop (with the amazing Chris Howard) for veterans…FREE!! If you are a vet? or know a service man or woman please let them know about our workshop.

Classes are Monday, starting March 30-May 18
8-9 p.m. (no drum needed, we will supply, but if you have one bring to the circle!)
The Barn-2201 Preston @ Hutchins.

Info@hopestoneinc.org if interested or want more details.

Music has been implemented more and more in therapy and treatment. Check out this recent article posted on the American Music Therapy Association’s website describes music therapy’s impact on working with the military.

Read the full article here!

Do You Fear Failure?

MFA Mondays

MFA rightI remember one of the last conversations I had with my mom. I was rushing from one job to another, having only thirty minutes to get from point A to point B in Houston traffic, and also needing to somehow prepare myself to teach the group of expectant adult beginners that would be waiting for me at my destination. The phone rang, and my mom, in a weepy and distressed state was on the other end. I rushed her off the phone, explaining that I had a limited amount of time to ground myself for the task ahead. I told her that I would call her back after class, and when I did, she didn’t answer. We never addressed what she had originally called about. She died less than a month later, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I had simply taken the time to listen to her, but I was too busy living the dream.

            I remember that nearing the end of my grad school journey, one of my mentors told me that I should treat the next few years like a PhD in Dance and life.

It was good advice. I made mistakes, I learned from them, and I constantly altered my choices to adjust to whatever new normal I faced. But there were some lessons that I just did not see coming. There was no way for me to prepare for the death of my mom. There was no way for me to prepare for not having her here in case I get lost again. Now, the advice and encouragement that I felt was just biased, motherly beliefs, invaluable to me.

I now hold a full time position as the program coordinator of the dance program at San Jacinto College.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

What started out as a single class is now forty plus hours a week with an office and health insurance. I am still actively performing with independent artists in the area, and I am regularly creating and submitting work. I am at a new level of success, in my book, and I honestly cannot tell you how I got here or how I’m doing it, but I can tell you what has changed.


  • There is a new normal – this new normal exists as a result of loss; a loss so great that it changes the very core of my identity. I am being redefined by this new normal, and it is inevitable.
  • I do not fear failure – while it is true that I have a whole new abundance of fears, a fear of failure is not one of them. And, while I believe that fear is generally stifling and destructive, I now fear things like not accomplishing all that I want to in life. This fear acts as a protagonist calling me to take risks that I otherwise might not.
  • I am more patient with myself – life is full of all kinds of hardships for which we cannot possible prepare ourselves. These hardships are capable of changing our reality. They linger and they sting making it difficult to face each day in the way that we did before. It will take time to adjust to this new normal, and patience is required.
  • I am more compassionate and understanding – I have come to recognize this quality, especially with my students. Do I want my students to make their education and career in dance a priority in their lives? Yes, of course. Do I want them to make it their top priority above all other things? No, of course not. As I told one of my students who approached me with the news that her mother had just been diagnosed with cancer, “It’s just dance… it will be here for you when you get back.”
  • Surrender is essential – giving into the moment is vital; whether it means surrendering to humor and allowing laughter to overtake the moment, or surrendering to a new idea in dance class that will eventually mold itself into a great learning experience. Sometimes giving in is more effective than activating.
  • I’ve decided that humanity is professional – on several occasions I have been overcome with emotion in the middle of a rehearsal or class. We use phrases like “I lost it” or “I fell apart” to describe allowing our emotions to be seen and felt. This gives these moments a negative connotation; like the release of emotion is something to be ashamed of and to only be practiced in private. Well, no more of this. I am a human above all other things that I am, and I am not ashamed or afraid of allowing my emotions to be felt by others.
  • I accept that I am exactly where I need to be – I heard it in class every Wednesday and Friday for three years. I didn’t always believe it, but now I accept it.

I am grateful for the time I had in grad school. It taught me quite a bit while I was there, but I think I learned even more from the absence of grad school. Grief is a process, and the process of grieving the loss of grad school has prepared me for much more in life. I am also grateful for the time I had with my mom while she was here on earth, and I think, I am currently learning who I am without her here. There is still a lot to learn, and I am constantly evolving. Hopefully, one day, I will look back on this chapter of my life and discover more than I thought was there.

Do you have a grad school story you’d like to share? Have questions or advice that you gleaned from grad school? Was it all that you dreamed of?  Or maybe not?  Contact us, we’d love to hear from you.

Jamie Zahradnik is from Wharton, Texas.  She attained her BFA in Dance from SHSU graduating Summa Cum Laude in May 2008, and her MFA in Dance in 2011.  She is also a certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst.  Jamie has performed with Rednerrus Feil Dance Company, and Psophonia Dance Company, and has most recently performed for local independent artists Laura Gutierrez, Brittany Theford-Deveau, and Rebekah Chappell. Jamie currently serves as a dance professor and the dance program coordinator for San Jacinto College. She loves sharing herself with others through performing, teaching, and creating.

Cultured Cocktails Tonight!

Free Events Thursday



When: Tonight!  March 26 from 5-7pm

Who: This is an open event, bring a crowd and have a drink while supporting Houston Arts.

Where: Boheme Cafe and Wine Bar.  At the intersection of Fairview and Taft in Montrose/Midtown.

What: happy hour where a portion of drink sales goes to support Frame Dance.