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bio

Page history last edited by Jakey Toor 10 years, 8 months ago

 

  

About me: 

 

The 5 second version:

I am an educator, performer, and writer.

 

The 30 second version:

I am an educator, performer, and writer. My pieces fuse original texts and gesture based movement. I hold a BA in Theatre & Dance and a Master of Education from UC San Diego and am interested in the different ways people learn and create meaning. Additionally, I explore the ways in which technology and art can be incorporated into classroom teaching. Through education and the arts, I hope to help create a world in which all people are respected and nurtured.

 

The more extensive and personal version:

 

The beginning: 

I was born and have spent a majority of my life in San Diego, California. My Mom is from Switzerland and my Dad is from India. They met at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. Both of them expected to go back to their respective countries after finishing their studies in the US but fate insisted otherwise and to the dismay (and later acceptance) of my Dad's family who were trying to arrange a marriage for him back in India, they eventually settled in San Diego, California where my Dad got his first engineering job out of college.

 

I grew up essentially sandwiched between three very distinct cultures: Swiss, Indian, and American. I have a very large Indian family in San Diego. My cousins who are all about a generation older than I am, migrated over with their parents in the late 70's following my Dad's lead and sponsorship and settled in San Diego. On the other side of the world, in Biel, Switzerland, live my Aunt and my Uncle who I have been seeing on a regular basis (about every 1-2 years) since I was born. In fact I saw them so regularly as a child that at the age of six I was speaking fluent Swiss German. Unfortunately I have lost most of the language, not using it as frequently anymore, and have to downgrade my ability level to "working knowledge" but I can make myself understood if need be. I never learned Punjabi because my parents common language was English and that's what was always used in our house. However I have picked up some key words from my wider family which enable me to at least understand part of what they are saying when they forget that I don't speak Punjabi. I think that being raised in the midst of such varied languages and cultures helped cultivate my love of words and travel.

 

 

Movement.

I am always moving. Whether it be physical or mental movement, there is always some part of me that is in motion. I think that my predisposition toward movement and space exploration surfaced and was cultivated when my Mom put me in a ballet class and later bought me my first pair of ice skates. I started skating at the age of eight, first as a single figure skater, and later as a member of a precision team. Precision skating (now referred to as synchronized skating), basically consists of anywhere from 20-30 skaters who skate together and perform a routine in which they create circles, lines, blocks, wheels, and intersections. At a traditional competition there is usually a short program, which is more technical in nature, and a long program which gives a team the opportunity to showcase not only their technical and athletic ability but expression, emotion, and interpretation of music as well. The team that I was a part of, Team del Sol, competed at both the regional and national level and so skating presented me with the opportunity to explore the US at a very young age as a competitive skater. Between the ages of 8 - 18 I competed at the national level in Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, Providence, San Diego, Seattle, and Syracuse.

 

Our team practiced at 4:00 AM on Saturday (and many Sunday) mornings. For those who aren't familiar with the world of figure skating, figure skaters often end up practicing at absurd hours because ice time is so expensive and difficult to get ones hands on. At most arenas regular working hours are reserved for money making public sessions, classes, and all things hockey related. Figure skaters must often make do with the least desireable time to skate for these reasons. So for eight years of my life I got up every weekend at 3:00 AM. This was challenging but totally worth it. I have very vivid memories of walking out of the arena, exhausted from practice, and watching the sun rise as a group of us got into a car to drive to Denny's for their $1.99 Grandslam breakfast. Every. Saturday. Morning.

 

 

I really value my time as a precision skater because it taught me invaluable lessons about teamwork, compromise, dedication, athleticism, and performance. Also, I feel that it instilled a general stick-with-it-even-if-it-gets-difficult-ness that has helped me overcome many challenges and continues to inform my work ethic to this day. It was a truly tremendous experience. And then. One day. I was finished. So I quit skating. The decision to stop coincided with me starting college - I didn't want to have to get up at 3:00 AM every Saturday anymore but I also think that I was just done. It was time to move on. When I graduated high school I left precision skating and my career as a varsity volleyball player, never to return to either. Instead I started dancing and my heart started singing!

 

I began taking Contemporary dance classes as a freshman in the Theatre & Dance Department at UC San Diego. For me, it provided all of the benefits of ice skating, just without the ice and crazy practice schedule. Later, after I graduated from college and returned from working abroad, I began dancing more seriously and regularly, realizing not only that I very much enjoy dancing, but that it is a non-negotiable aspect of my life. I must have that outlet on some level. I must be involved in movement, spatial exploration and creative expression. If I'm not, it is a signal to me that I need to realign. I feel truly alive and Present when I dance. It is most certainly a form of meditation in that it requires you to be in the here and the now absolutely. There is no room for that ceaseless flow of though that can so easily prevent you from really being where you are. It is my outlet and balm.

 

My life as a performer:

I studied to be an actor in college. However I had become so frustrated with many aspects of the world of acting (mainly because I couldn't really fit into a particular type) that I decided I needed a break. And so instead of moving to Los Angeles after graduating (as many of my classmates did) I bought two tickets: one to Lisbon, Portugal, and the other to a Radiohead concert taking place there. It was the post-college-wandering phase of my life and I learned more in those 6 months away than I ever have in any educational institution. I ended up working in Rome as a tour guide at St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican, utilizing my skills as an actor and nurturing my love of art by giving guided tours. When I returned to San Diego, I acted in a few plays and did some television work but never really felt like that whole scene / world / profession / craft was a perfect fit for me. I think I was just doing what I thought I should I be doing, having studied theatre in high school and college. I also realized that many of the reasons that I was still pursuing acting were purely egotistical and I was transitioning into a part of my life where doing things for those reasons didn't feel satisfying anymore. So slowly I began auditioning and acting less and focused my energies on dance instead.

 

I created my first original theatre / dance piece in October of 2006 for the premier of Sushi Performance and Visual Art's 4x4 Series. Liam Clancy teamed up with Sushi to start a monthly event for artists to show work in progress and give the public an opportunity to see dance and performance art in a casual setting. Every month a slate of 10 or so artists were given 10 minutes on a 4-foot-by-4-foot stage at the Bluefoot Bar and Lounge in San Diego. The idea was to foster inventive dance and performance art, and have artists experiment with confined space. It was also created to give emerging artists an opportunity to perform along side more experienced artists and receive feedback from an audience comprised of a wide range of people: fellow artists, dance enthusiasts and random people who happened to be in the bar drinking a beer while the performance was going on. I LOVED it because 1) before being asked to create a piece for this event I had no idea that I actually had all of these pieces inside me, waiting to come out, 2) it enabled me to get up on a stage and express my own words and thoughts, not someone else's and 3) it gave me an opportunity to receive feedback from people that didn't necessarily have a background in dance or theatre and I found that incredibly refreshing. I performed my work there for two years and was later featured in Sushi's New Wave Showcase, a yearly project that funds, mentors, and presents emerging regional artists from the San Diego and Tijuana region.

 

 

In general, my pieces are narrative explorations of my past that fuse together spoken word and gesture based movement, however I have choreographed some straight-up dances as well. I tend to feel more comfortable expressing myself with a synthesis of words and movement. If there are no audible words in the performance, the dance, surely, is the translation of an interior monologue. So far I have explored ideas of pacing, space, immediacy, pride, forgiveness, hesitation, sexuality, love, transition, teaching, learning, mentorship, and metaphor in my work.

 

Grad school, teaching, writing, and academia:

In 2006 I decided to go back to school to pursue a Master of Education and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. I entered the Education Studies Program at UC San Diego knowing that I wanted to improved my analytical skills and explore the different ways people learn and create meaning, however I was not entirely sure about my place in the world of institutionalized education. I have always felt somewhat uneasy with the socialization of students that is inherent in K-12 settings. I understand the role of schools as socializing agents and transmitters of culture and while those functions are essential, I think it vital to teach students to challenge and question all that is being transmitted. I am continually thinking about this paradox and trying to find my place in the big picture.

 

However, in general, my educational interests lie in exploring:

 

• the social inequalities and cultural dimensions of institutionalized education.

• the effects of teacher expectations on student performance and the effects of student expectations on teacher performance.

• how language and culture intersect in the classroom.

• the socialization of students that takes place in educational settings.

• the benefits of incorporating the arts (specifically dance and movement) into curriculum.

• the benefits of incorporating technology into the classroom.

 

To help pay my way through graduate school I applied to be a Teaching Assistant for an interdisciplinary writing program. A good friend, Tricia Wang, was starting grad school at UC San Diego at the same time and was working at the Culture Art and Technology Program at Sixth College.  She encouraged me to apply and we ended up working together to create engaging lesson plans for our sections. She was a major inspiration to me in terms of incorporating technology into the curriculum and classroom. Together we experimented with class wikis and student blogging. During this time I found out that 1) I very much enjoy working with adults and 2) I very much like teaching writing and 3) whenever possible technology should be incorporated into the classroom, not for its novelty or own sake, but because if used in the right way, it has the potential to greatly increase student engagement on many levels. I continued to experiment with these tools while I TA-ed for my department, the Department of Sociology, and the Dimensions of Culture Program at UC San Diego.

 

While in graduate school I was an Artsbridge scholar and volunteer dance teacher for the Arc of San Diego, an agency that provides services for people with physical and developmental challenges. In addition to student-teaching, I spent a fair amount of time researching and thinking about the role that the arts play in elementary education. My thesis was written on the effects of dance in Kindergarten curriculum and was based on a mixed methods study of two Kindergarten classes at the school in which I was student-teaching. Additionally I created a dance piece for my Arts Methods class, Apertura, about my experiences as a learner, my developing teaching philosophy, and Gardener’s 8 Intelligences. The professor of that class, Caren Holtzman, was a major inspiration to me as both an innovative educator who encouraged her students to share their knowledge in unique ways, and as an arts advocate. Having the opportunity to perform a dance piece for the final of a methods class reaffirmed my belief that assessments can be fun, open, imaginative and meaningful to the student.

 

Moving to San Francisco:

I have heard some people say that your inner voice will either gently lead you (if you let it) or drag you kicking and screaming (if you don't), but either way, you are going. I really feel like that was the case with me and moving to San Francisco. Having lived in San Diego my entire life, I had always known that moving to a totally new city, away from everything familiar, was the next logical step in my development as a person and that it was only a matter of time before the urge actualized.

 

I now live in San Francisco where I am pursuing performance opportunities for independent artists and working as a Theatre and Dance teacher for the Visual and Performing Arts Department of the San Francisco Unified School District.

 

 

I hope to help create a world in which all people are respected and nurtured.

 

Random yet significant tidbits:

I love walking. I dabble in photography. I document street art. I like being in the presence of written words. I collect quotes that speak to me.

 

 

 

 

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