WHIMSICAL I : GRACE

Hello Birds + Human Beings,

I am writing to wish you all a wonderful new year. Perhaps it is the best of times and the worst of times, this 2017. With that in mind, this "blog" is here to inspire, make funny and inform. On top of random drawings and witticisms, this small space of the world is to be used in the coming months to feature and celebrate multi-ferocious individuals: the whimsicals. It shall be a magical sampling of beings with integrity and commitment to process. There is much to learn from the whimsicals and our neighbors alike. This space shall be a disclosure of their beliefs and practices of art, intimacy, self-love, and femininity. It is a time to speak the unspoken and ask questions. Through the exploration of these topics, we can all invite new ideas, celebrate our quirks and soar a little higher both individually and collectively. It is my belief that we are all magical and you can create the world you want to live in, we can create the world we want to live in, through small gestures and stronger connections. We can’t change everything, but “a kiss can make a difference.”

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 I will be kicking this series off by celebrating Grace E Courvoisier. She's a real gem ladies and gents!

Grace is a choreographer and dancer raised in Sin City. We became friends in the dance trenches of NYC in our early twenties. Her choreography does not always reflect her jovial disposition, but it is always reflects her refined, sensuous and cinematic presence. Plus, there is this fine focus on the feminine that always pulls my attention. Like a jewel aflame, my memory is stained with the sight of her red locks and emerald costume flipping upward after some guttural movement in a solo piece a few years back. To see her perform is to witness the elegance of ravishing being.

The last time we met in person, a few months ago it seems, we grabbed tea at the cafe in the back of a SoHo bookstore. It was a scene from Beauty and the Beast. Weathered and new books alike lined the walls of a dimly lit, two story interior. Her classiness and intellect was the Beauty while our gripe and gossip was the Beast. The questions of the time concerned our choreographic process, boys (oh boys), and whether to live or not to live in New York City as artists with undying love for the art of dance. Although the conversation continues today, we no longer meet in the dingy and romantic cityscape where our friendship was forged. Since Grace has recently moved to the West Coast, we now must gather over video chat. 

The Story of Gathering 

It was nearing our scheduled meeting. It was afternoon time in the desert, where Grace has moved, and 7 PM in my new apartment above the Chinese Restaurant. I quickly set up my laptop for note taking and positioned my phone for the FaceTime call. When it seemed like my background was clean enough to share with Grace through the small window of my phone, I called her up. I was greeted with the giggling smile of Grace. She’s intoxicating. The talk was intended to last an hour.  Three hours later, I was prying myself off the phone so that she could make dinner with her sisters and Natalie could move on to her bedtime rituals. (That’s me in third person).

Below are the treasures from the conversation. These insights have become a portrait and doodling of Grace. 

Let’s Celebrate!

"curtain open in 5!" . . . "thank you 5!"

PERFORMANCE : Grace does not like to display the female form in a typical way. It is common for more skin to be visible in the expression and exhibition of the body, but Grace believes the audience “sees more if one is clothed more.” She finds provocation in her Victorian aesthetic. Her women tend to be dressed up to the neck, noting that it is more poignant to unbutton the collar of a shirt than to rip off the entire shirt. There is seduction in simply taking down one’s hair. She is decisive about the pacing and portions of the body exposed in performance, wielding such suspense and romance. “Vulgarity and vulnerability, women possess both and women only want to express one of them at a time, but we are both.” Subtlety and sex are just two traits that Grace crafts. Many of her works highlight multi-dimensional women and concepts of sisterhood. 

It is not Grace’s aim to be known as a feminist choreographer despite her female narratives. The emphasis comes naturally to her since she grew up in an estrogen-heavy family and walks this life as a female. Plus, as she says, “the female body is gorgeous, so why not?”  She went to a performing arts high school on top of growing up with two sisters and having only aunts. The boy perspective was never around outside of a strong father figure that she says might as well be Jesus. She admires how he has never parented through yelling, serves the under-privileged through volunteer work, goes beyond being a voice over talent as an author on the artistry in the field, and spotlights the lives of foster children through his TV special Wednesday’s Child. “I’m definitely a daddy’s girl, minus the credit card,” she giggles. The closeness and strength of devotion she feels towards her familial and chosen sisters, the impressions and values of both womanhood and sisterhood from her upbringing, flow directly into her work. “The celebration of these sisterhood bonds have been muted. I want to un-mute them.” These are significant bonds between girls that are “more important than any romance.” Her girlfriends are everything. She never lets these friendships go by the wayside. “They can’t,” she exclaims, “especially as friends are getting married and serious with men, starting families.” She describes being heavily impacted by overhearing her mom confide over the phone with what was clearly a lifelong girlfriend, affirming to her how important these bonds of sisterhood are to a woman’s wellbeing through the years. The sense of trust and longevity found in these bonds provides strength of heart and dignity to the female spirit. 

Here is how she “breaks” down her choreographic and performance interests . . . 

“Owning the sensuality, owning the sexuality, finding a balance between them, and then putting it on a china plate, and then watching it break.” 

When asked to comment about the unspoken intimidation and shaming that occurs between girls and the insecurities of being a female . . . 

Women communicate approval and disapproval to one another tacitly. It shocks Grace to witness women pitted against one another in this fashion. Due to perpetual shaming, many women are eager to alter their bodies at great length for ever shifting beauty standards. Women are both aggressors and victims in this cycle. Grace does not seem to be caught in this loop having overcome her insecurities in face of the extreme body standards of the ballet world. Like so many dancers, it took time for her to love her full figure. With self-love and sisterhood in her blood, it is not her nature to slander or be slandered by other women. “If a woman walked into a restaurant and I thought she was beautiful, obviously this has to do with her confidence. Would I ever want or crave what she is? Never. I would’t let myself be demeaned by another person. She’s celebrating, and so am I.” It’s a healthy attitude. Now, more than ever, we need to celebrate our individual and shared sense of female pride. We are not to be threatened or be made less by one another. We should only make each other stronger. Energy is wasted on the insecure sparks of woman on woman warfare at a time when our energy should be used to support one another in the midst of a threatening atmosphere at large.

Alright, so Grace holds her sisters close, isn’t afraid to shine, and is a complete fashionista. “My mom told me I could never be too dressed up. If you are over dressed, you’re just more fabulous.” This one is easy. Grace tends to be more fabulous. 

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A KISS COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE : The kiss is everything. You can be like, i don’t know about this person. You kiss them . . . I’m going to marry you!!!  It can be that small intimate lip touch that could change the whole world. How does it do that?!”

A kiss is a powerful gesture of connection, love and healing. I’m a fan of a good smooch, of course, and Grace seemed to know exactly what keeps a girl on the edge of her seat during the suspense of dating. “Girls live for the kiss at the end of the night. We want our minds to change. If you kiss and there is nothing there, there is an end.” It’s all so tragic, but true. Kisses are chemistry fortune tellers and emotional glue. 

Grace pointed out that it isn’t just about the drama of whether or not our minds will change.“Kissing is the best part of being intimate. It is more intimate than sex. In Pretty Woman, she can’t kiss. Why? It is too sacred. You get too attached.” She’s absolutely right. A kiss is not just a silly or empty gesture. “Julia Roberts taught us a long time ago that kissing is the most important part of being with another human being.” Cheers to such intimacy.

 

AFFECTION : Everyone has their own love language. Grace communicates through gift giving. She shows affection through physical objects that are purchased or made with personal intent. “It can be confused with materialism, but it could honestly be a photograph. Enlarge it. Frame it. Wrap it and you can open it.” She loves giving gifts and loves being surprised with these signs of affection as well. The consideration of thought and sense of surprise light her up. If she sees something that a loved one might like, then she is inspired to bring the item to her beloved. 

INTIMACY : Grace recalls back to a contact improvisation class at the University of Illinois where she studied dance. Her professor Kirstie Simpson left a strong impression on her when she said that, “pressure is food for the bones.” Contact improvisation is all about the sensitivity and trust between two bodies. So much can be learned about the self and human relationships from this practice. Grace started experiencing hugs and touch completely differently after taking class with Simpson and hearing such a profound insight. “If I hug somebody, it will go deeper into their skeleton. I feel like I”m giving them nutrients.” I hope we all give each other a little more nutrients moving onward.

Touch is a normal experience for dancers, however, where as it can be more intense for the common Jane or Joe.  “I wish touch was more apparent in social norms. I wish it wasn’t so weighted.” As someone comfortable with tactile intimacy, she knows that if someone she doesn’t know so well decides to hug her she will feel much more at ease. Aside from the intimacy of skin, whether platonic or romantic, she says there is also intimacy in small acts like braiding a girl’s hair. She says that girls love having their hair braided or brushed because it always feels good. “If you’re not close with a girl, you’re about to be!” However, she shares that it can be a tricky situation because not everyone is comfortable with this form of proximity. Especially in America, where touch and displays of affection are not as widespread social practices, navigating intimacy can be tough. However, we all wish for love even if we speak different languages and have different comfort levels with the expression of those needs. 

(gentle) MEN : Grace has such a gracious and loving perspective on men. “Exquisite mountains,” she tells me. “I love them in bed, out of bed, at the movies,” and the list goes on. In her experience, men want to help so much, rarely know how to start, and just have to know how to fix it. “What can I do?” they ask, needing action for the ailments of womenkind. “I don’t want you to do anything. I just want you to listen. You can’t fix it.” She takes them as they are. It’s an honest appreciation for their existence. When a man makes a gesture to be of service, pull out a chair, or something chivalrous like opening a door, it is this “glimpse” into his consideration that makes her head over heels. “It’s the thought that counts,” she glows. These moments fascinate because they give her insight into how and where a man was raised, how he aspires to treat women, and the kind of women that were around him in his life. She reports only having one fight with a man ever, to which she says “he was completely lovely.”  Grace identifies certain pain and difficulty that comes with her relationships with men, but warmly accepts these experiences because men also balance and bring light to her feminine energy. In this way, she acknowledges that she needs them and finds absolute adoration for their contribution to her sense of self. 

Romanticism is Grace’s language, so she really enjoys what she calls “the preparation of falling in love.” She loves the bridal, dating, and birthing process and the roles of both women and partners in those rituals. “Falling in love is a deep and important process. Becoming a bride takes like a whole year.”

When I asked her about her dream man, she quickly brought up what would be a younger version of Carry Grant from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In actuality, however, she falls for “homeless Jesus.” He is all hair, sarcasm and smarts. Beards and intelligence are her weakness. Despite a differences of looks between her dreams and her pursuits, she admits that there is still an old hollywood feel to the gentlemen, they just happen to be contemporary in their humor and dishevelment. “Broken men, they are my weakness. I always go for them. Broken Boys are dangerous, but they are also a lot of fun.” There is a pull towards these fellas that are magical in their destruction. It’s all so poetic. “We want to go in and help them. It’s subconscious.” It feels so mysterious why one would put themselves in that situation. Yet, Grace finds the adventure is also a form of procrastination and comfort. By focusing on the broken spirit, one is distracted from personal tragedy. “It’s a smarter idea to choose the guy who isn’t broken, who isn’t a total asshole. Smarter, but not safer. So stunning, I can’t even look away. They will always let you down, but sometimes the angel glow is too much!” We giggle, commiserate and celebrate these lads, realizing how hard it is to turn away or turn around. Somehow, even with all the havoc that can possible ensue, perhaps the pleasure of the plot is too much to eradicate the broken boy habit, although we know it could be a helpful one to conquer . . . eventually. 

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PERFUME : Grace first went perfume shopping at the age of 13 or 14 with her mom. It was a coming of age ritual of sorts. “I was old enough to have a signature sent, to carry myself on my own.” It is a belief that one “should be remembered by smell,” remarking on how powerful scent is for sparking nostalgia. Her dad bought her Channel #5 for Valentines when she was younger. “Very Romantic,” she commented. When discussing the perfume shopping process, she said that “it should be a day.” Grace means this with delight and not labor, of course. Although, she adds, “not all florals and oils mix with everyone’s body oils,” so “it should take whole day to find.” Apparently perfume shopping is a very serious thing, to which I had no idea. One should “keep a scent for as long as possible.” But, considering she just moved, “new city, new scent.” The joy for her on this topic is palpable, as is my curiosity. She likes to leave a mist of spray on the pillow of a lover so that “when they come from a whole day of work, they miss you already.” You use perfume “to remind people that you are still living, still around.” For a girl that seems unforgettable, she still has tricks up her sleeves . . . or the essence of florals and wisely chosen aroma. 

TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR DAD'S SHOW. 

Yes, to clarify my dad's television spot. It's called Wednesday's Child - and for 30 minutes they feature a foster child in the Southwest region (I actually forget all the southwest states/cities involved but...it expands outside of Nevada). Wednesday's Child brings awareness to how hard foster kids have it! Being passed around to multiple parents can be even worse than having no parent at all. Usually after being featured, the kid is adopted permanently!

http://www.lasvegasnow.com/community/wednesdays-child

WHAT DO YOU CELEBRATE?

“We hold landscape in our body. We hold earth history in our bodies. The only thing you need to have a magical afternoon is environment. I had the privilege of growing up around a lot of different landscape. All the dreamy, all the whimsical, all the wonderful that life is in the land, is in the silence of the land. The quiet sounds of Earth, that is where everything that magical is. That’s Neverland for us! it’s right outside. If one could quiet themselves long enough, one would hear more than they’ve heard in their life time. That is my celebration. Oh, and feeling like you are human, in it is important, too. You are a part of it, but different from it as well. That’s what makes you special

POSTAGE + LETTER WRITING

Who doesn’t love getting letters? Everybody loves it. If you get a letter in the mail, you feel so loved, every single time. Everyone wants a letter. Everyone wants a package.

Receiving and writing letters is very important. I still love fountain pens. Letter writing is more true or real because you can’t just back up and delete it. I love the process of writing a letter. First you put down your phone, turn off external devices. Then you think about what you are going to write. Sign, seal, deliver. It’s a whole thing. It reminds you of who you are. It’s a romantic gesture, even if it isn’t a romantic letter. I still love buying stamps. Collecting stamps is a precious American thing to do. 

TOTE BAG . . . WHAT GOES IN IT? 

Perfume. (DUH) You should have a little bottle of your bigger bottle version. Travel size perfume, not body spray. A Bottle of water, a fountain pen, my wallet (because, unfortunately, I might want to buy a gift if I come across it), jewelry - at least two spare rings in case one breaks or I feel like changing them, and red lipstick.

TELL ME YOUR TAKE ON NESTING. 

Life is happier when you nest!" First thing I do is paint. Tone coordination is important.  I do one room at a time. You have to understand the architecture of room and it has to understand you back. More is more. Less is not more. Never enough hangers or candles . . . ever! Always more. I want everything framed or in shadow boxes, the little trinkets of life. Those are the cool little memorabilia of how awesome life is. I save movie tickets, parking tickets, lip prints. Frame them, put them up. Everything is very precious. Everything is in frames and displayed. I’ll take it down and replace it with something else. The room breathes this way. Nesting is not about attachment. I collect and display to remind me how lucky I am. I appreciate minimalism, that chic atmosphere, but my environment at home is not chic or sleek. It’s Victorian Mexico, bright colors and patterns, but formal.”

WHAT ELSE DO YOU COLLECT?

I like taking fine dining napkins and doing a lip print. Then I take the whole napkin home with me and write down where I was - Santa Monica or restaurant name August 2016 - and cut out a square piece. I’ve been keeping these for months and months now. I have about 12 or 13 lip prints from different places i’ve been. It’s very feminine to leave a lip print. It feels so old Hollywood. 

TEA OR DRINK OF PREFERENCE?

Earl Grey. Afternoon only, never morning or night. One sugar lump and always with milk. Earl grey should be with milk. I’m also a huge believer in alcohol whenever you want it. It should be after twelve, but if you want a glass of wine at twelve you should do it!

WHAT'S YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO GRIEF?

People think i’m naive, that I’ve never had dilemmas or problems. I don’t showcase it. I would rather people assume everything is fine. So much of the time I’m not. A lot of girls do that. All about hiding. People think that i’m fine all the time, and warm. But we all know that usually the people like that all the time, there has to be something else going on. People who are comedians, if they do get to portray dramatic, serious rolls, they are usually the bomb at it because the basis of comedy is tragedy.

FAVORITE COLOR?  

deep blood plum red and turquoise. 

FAVORITE BIRD?

The cardinal because I lived in Missouri. Also, if you see a cardinal in the winter, it’s good luck. I always loved searching for them when it snowed. 

FAVORITE DESSERT?

There are so many desserts! Banana pudding? I’m a decadent girl, never going to choose something light. We order pizza and champagne. Eat Pray Love, no carb left behind.

FAVORITE FLOWER?

“Lilies. ‘We are really beautiful and going to die like everything else.’ They are the most morbid, oracle flowers. They are used in death ceremonies.”

FAVORITE DANCE STYLE(S)? 

National dance in Belize. It’s sexual. Everyone is doing it all the time. Kids, teens, grownups. Also, Vaganova Ballet technique. I don’t practice every day. I do a blending of modern contemporary performance. But, I never turn down a Vaganova Ballet performance. It’s my weakness.

FAVORITE HOLIDAY?

Halloween! I love the that we celebrate the dead versus the living, that we really believe that we can communicate with afterlife on this one day. It’s the coolest concept. I’m really into the celebration of the dead. I love everything revolving around the death process. It comes from my mom. She works for Hospice, a big organization of nurses that help one die more comfortably.  People that have lost someone close to them, there is a huge difference. It’s significant when you lose someone close to you. It’s an important moment and it will happen to everybody at some point. I do love celebrating death. Don’t know how else to say it.  Have you ever been to the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn? It’s a little small, but still big. I don’t think death is talked about enough in this country, or miscarriages, which is a form of death. 

AFTERTHOUGHTS . . . 

It is difficult for women to forget the last century of social norms because it is in our anatomy, so fighting for social change and thinking differently can combat with the history of the feminine. Grace shared her concern for the issue of girls faking orgasm. She wonders if girls fake it and it works. She knows it boosts men's egos. The sex talk came on earlier for her than with her friends. This stems from growing up in Sin City where sex, drugs and rock and roll are the norm. She understood very young how powerful a woman’s image is to getting what she wants. She has always been skeptical about women in the porn industry, but admires Jenna Jameson for being unapologetic about her career. It took awhile for her to love her boobs, but found that sex allowed her to love her body in a way that ballet never did. 

. . . and she is priceless! That's the majestic Grace for you all! Cheers to her West Coast dreams and calling of sisterhood!

Keep on celebrating, shining and hugging bone deep. 

- Lady Deryn of whimsy(nest)