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Crossing Boundaries

Posted September 14th, 2012

Prarthana Jayaram is a Philly-based writer and regular Festival Blog contributor.

“Limitations in our minds are connected to those in our bodies,” says Michal Waldfogel, a Philadelphia native and local musician.

These self-imposed limitations are the subject of her new Fringe show, Crossing Imaginary Lines, in which she combines yogic practices with music to engage audiences. With eight years of yoga experience under her belt (three of which she has spent teaching), Michal is excited to combine her work in understanding and stretching physical limitations with the theme of overcoming boundaries in her compositions. She observes that both yoga and music are healing arts, and it is this inherent connection that she works to bring out in her performances.

“So much of my philosophy around education is about empowerment. I want to teach people to imagine new possibilities from their limitations,” she says.

After the jump: travel, boundaries, and yogic touring.

Opening her own mind to new opportunities and possibilities has fuelled Michal’s journey as a performer. Though she has played guitar for years, she only completed her first original composition last fall. The song, “Crossing Imaginary Lines” (the Fringe show’s namesake), provided the framework for her future pieces, ultimately manifesting as the unifying theme for her first album.

The idea of imaginary lines first crossed Michal’s mind as she returned to Philadelphia after a year of traveling.

“Imaginary lines become manifest reality,” she explains. Borders between countries are abstract concepts, but their implications are concrete. For instance, Michal was unable to work while she was traveling in Canada, and her friends in Mexico could not visit her in the U.S.

Her reflections on the borders she encountered abroad led her to speculate on other lines and boundaries in her life. While traveling, she began to feel that her frame of mind was altered; she felt more open to things and more trusting. Slowly, she realized it was simply a matter of incorporating travel experiences into her everyday life to dissolve the barrier between her two states of mind. At first, she assumed she would write or blog about her journeys, but instead, she was compelled to pick up her guitar and begin composing.

“I needed to leave space to integrate all that had been happening,” she says, “After I wrote my first song, I realized it just needed to come out; this was an opportunity to reflect on that [traveling] part of my life.”

Though she originally began composing as a means of organizing her thoughts after her adventures, her focus gradually shifted to sharing her findings and musings with others. In just a few short months, Michal has composed ten original songs. In March, she hosted a show at Studio 34 in West Philadelphia to introduce her work. At this debut concert, she announced her slow-release album, coming out song by song online.

“My work, I think, has become about giving people the tools to challenge limitations,” she says.

Travel inspired her first thoughts on the borders in her life, but her journey as a composer has led her to cross other boundaries as well— labels, for example, proved difficult to overcome. Since her return to Philadelphia, Michal has struggled with formally calling herself an artist or a musician. As soon as she began to embrace and even move past these labels, she found herself connecting with a whole community from which she had been inadvertently shielding herself. Now she is grateful that she overcame the self-imposed boundary, as she looks forward to working with other musicians and recording a collaborative piece in the future.

As she has embraced the local artistic community, she has also seen many connections that all composers and artists struggle with. The processes and themes around Crossing Imaginary Lines concern artists fundamentally. Michal points out that artists are often dealing with being “stuck” or feeling as though their energy is not flowing. The concepts she presents in her show have been helpful to her as she struggles with creating and managing her art; her hope is that these concepts will speak to fellow artists in the audience.

After the Fringe Festival, Michal has plans to take her show on the road, ideally touring yoga studios in various cities.

“I like the setting of the yoga studio because people can interact with the music in a physical way,” she explains.

The show itself is meant to make the attendees comfortable. With the integrated yoga and musical performance, Michal explains that her goal is not to lecture, but to communicate. She sets up the space with comfortable cushions where the audience can sit and be at ease, and her performance contains hints of yoga practice, with reminders to breathe deeply and notice posture and positioning. Fostering engagement with the audience, Crossing Imaginary Lines is like a guiding hand, helping us to let go of the limits we have imagined for ourselves.

Crossing Imaginary Lines runs for two more performances. Tonight at Studio 34, 4522 Baltimore Avenue, West Philly, 7:30 pm, $15. And on September 22 at Blue Banyan, 7153 Sprague Street, Mount Airy, 7:00 pm, $15.

–Prarthana Jayaram

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