Totally not* nervous about ML&Co audition.
*okay maybe a little
Category Archives: modern
Suddenly, here it is almost May.
This happens to me every year, but it’s definitely worse without the structure of the ballet company schedule(1).
- How am I supposed to keep track of which month it is if the only major landmark is Nutcracker? Jeez.
Which, in turn, means that summer is barreling down on us at a staggering rate of *checks google* 1038ish miles per hour, give or take(2), replete with its array of Summer Intensives.
- circumference of the earth/24 (3)
- Wow, only a few sentences in and I’ve already included 2 notes and a note-on-a-note
I’ve already committed to LouBallet’s Adult Summer Intensive, which seems like a really good way to finish out my … seven??? years of training there—a way to spend some concentrated time with some of my favorite teachers and classmates while also, of course, keeping my ballet skills on point(e). Besides, it’s a great program, and we get to learn cool original choreography (some of which has made it to my video CV/audition reel, because I actually felt good about it after watching it).
It’s also fairly affordable, which is more important than usual, since I don’t yet have paid work lined up for, like, after this summer (fortunately, D does).
I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford to do basically anything else this summer that doesn’t at least offer me a full scholarship or the equivalent thereof, but there are several programs I’m flat-out dying to attend (DuCon!!!!! ADF! Pilobolus!) if finances magically allow. Likewise, I’m ever-curious about adult SI offerings, and I like to keep an ear to the wind about what’s available—so, from time to time, I go hunting.
And in the process of hunting, I’ve noticed something.
Adult SI Pricing Can Bring You To (Two?), Ahem, Tiers
Yeah, you’re right. That was terrible. Sorry.
In the growing world of adult summer intensives and workshops, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern: there are basically two pricing tiers.
- Tier One: programs that are actually less expensive per week than a lot of (perhaps even most) youth SIs
- Tier Two: programs that are either as expensive as or actually wildly more expensive per week than even top-notch youth SIs
Tuition for the second tier of adult SIs typically runs more than twice the weekly cost of tuition at the first tier, though the dance offerings are often comparable (or, in some cases, richer at the Tier One programs).
I’m curious about what drives the difference in price, and whether the organizers of the different programs (especially Tier Two programs) realize how deeply pricing might impact the makeup of the student body at any individual program.
Given that none of these programs, as far as I know, are restricted to local students only, and that the adult ballet community justly thirsts for quality SIs like hummingbirds thirst for nectar (though it’s fair to say we dancers are less likely to stab each-other in the pursuit of coveted spots around the feeder), “what the market will bear” clearly isn’t the only factor at play. Likewise, all of them have limited spaces, and the number of available spots doesn’t seem to have much to do with pricing models (if it did, we could expect both LouBallet’s and LexBallet’s SIs, which are limited to fairly small numbers, to command much higher prices).
Bringing Tiers To You: A Look At Prices
A brief survey of adult SI pricing reveals a pretty broad range, but it’s worth noting that many of the Tier One programs, though typically open to dancers at all levels, are designed in ways that allow them to serve serious dancers across the spectrum from fairly new beginners to emerging professionals.
Lexington Ballet’s adult SI (scroll to the bottom of the linked page for registration info), at $240 for five four-hour days, continues to be an absolute steal, and I’m not just saying that because LexBallet has been my company and my ballet home for the past few years. The quality of instruction is superb, and I don’t know of an adult SI that’s priced more affordably (unless we start breaking things down per hour, in which case it’s Mutual Dance Theater, hands down). Participants from this SI have found also their way into character roles and even company contracts, thanks to the close participation of LexBallet’s AD, School Director, and other artistic staff.
Mutual Dance Theater’s Modern SI–the one I took a few years ago, before Mam-Luft & Co merged with Mutual–runs $399 at most (late-bird tuition, for disorganized folks like me) for a packed week, with programming 9 AM to 5 PM every day. It’s not ballet-specific, and it’s not one I’d recommend to a true beginner in any dance idiom, but it’s a beast of an intensive (in a good way), and hella affordable. It’s also very much geared towards emerging professionals.
LouBallet, fairly typical of the first tier with its $550 tuition for a 5.5-day program, could almost certainly double its tuition and then some and still fill the spaces. Instead, they’ve chosen to keep the tuition right where it’s been (for which I am deeply grateful). Ashley Thursby-Kern, who runs the program, specifically considers its role in offering an intensive program for college dancers and emerging professionals who may have aged out of youth SIs, while continuing to foster an environment that supports new dancers as well.
Westside Ballet’s program, located in Santa Monica, is a bit shorter per session (3 hours/day over 4 days) but offers three sessions priced at $500 each. The faculty includes Martine Harley, who is the company’s AD, and Sven Toorvald, along with others representing some top-tier companies. The third week focuses on pas de deux and variations, and if I wasn’t teaching an SI that week, I’d find some way to get my behind out there for that.
ArtEmotion‘s offering– the most expensive I’ve included in this category–looks very comparable to LouBallet’s and, at $800, still seems pretty approachable to those of us in the “broke-ass dancer” category. This is one of the oldest ongoing adult intensives, held at Ballet West’s Salt Lake City studio, and has long been on my list of Intensives I’d Attend If They Weren’t The Same Week As Something Else I’m Already Doing.
- This is a fugly link, so if it doesn’t work, try this one: LouBallet MBB Landing Page
- Assume that this category includes both “lay” dancers with limited disposable income and those of us among the professional segment who usually have access to at least some summer programming for free, but who might have been impacted by pandmic-related closures and/or impending moves (hi) and, either way, still need to stay in shape until September.
These programs, and programs like them–my “First Tier” adult SIs–are largely affiliated with established ballet companies or schools. Access to existing studio space and, perhaps, a built-in supply of students and teachers explain at least some of their relatively affordable prices.
They also tend to be light on extracurriculars–those factors that might make things feel a bit more like a vacation, I guess. Not that you need them after, for example, eight straight hours of modern dance buttkickery.
Tier Two, meanwhile, is a bit more of a mixed bag: one of the programs in question features one of my favorite master teachers and looks like an absolute banger of a program for focused advanced dancers; others seem a bit more like relaxing ballet-themed getaways.
I realize that this perception is very much colored by my experience as one of the aforementioned Emerging Professionals, with its attendant feature of being both chronically broke and accustomed to dancing 30+ hours per week. As my friend Tony (who looks like a tall Steven McRae) says, “Hi Ho, the theatrical life.”
So what kind of programs, you might ask, are in Tier Two?
First, of course: SunKing, the granddaddy of adult SIs. At the time of this writing, SunKing doesn’t have a website up, and I’m not clear on whether or not it’s actually happening this year (links to SK’s Facebarge), but it was always out of my price range anyway. It was one of the few that had enough draw to offer a partnering class, which would’ve been awesome to take before I embarked on Ballet Company Lyfe (y’all, learning partnering piecemeal while rehearsing actual ballets isn’t ideal, is what I’m saying), but not quite awesome enough to warrant launching an OnlyFans or something at this point in my career. Still, I’ve always had the impression that the actual instruction overall was quite good.
Given the serious, focused programs and excellent instruction available in Tier One, there’s only one Tier Two program that leaves me feeling butthurt about being, well, semi-broke, and that’s Runqiao Du’s inaugural DuCon–which I’d leap to attend, if I could afford it (but I can’t, unless I figure out how to make a few thosand dollars PRONTO). DuCon falls at the, well, less-inaccessible end of my second tier: tuition runs $1499 for one week or $2799 for both weeks, and the program offers an excellent teaching staff (Mr. Du himself, plus others), a 6-day week, and programming that runs from 9:30 AM ’til 8:00 PM Monday through Friday. Moreover, Du’s youth SI (which also runs for two weeks) is priced exactly the same, so we (would-be) adult participants aren’t left feeling like cash cows.
At the far end of Tier 2 is another brand-new event: International Adult Ballet Festival. Not gonna lie—I was intrigued when I heard about this one on the Broche Ballet podcast: the program offers a workshop, showcase, and a competition (not a selling point for me, but certainly a unique offering). However, at only 4 days long, IABF comes with a staggering $2950 price tag. To be fair, that does include hotel room, breakfast, lunch, and a couple other meals–but broke-ass dancers are pretty good at finding cheap housing and food, and if I’ma drop $3k on tuition, it’s going to be at DuCon or ADF.
Don’t get me wrong, IABF sounds like a really fun event–but it’s pretty clear that I’m not really their target audience (this isn’t a program that believes adult dancers can’t build careers in dance, but I don’t think it’s really intended for those of us who are already doing so). Likewise, the website’s vibe is more Awesome Ballet Vacation than Come Get Your Ass Handed To You For A Week Or Two. There’s value in both those approaches, of course. Likewise, the event does bill itself as a festival, rather than as a Summer Intensive: more, “Come celebrate ballet!” than “Come suffer with us!” And it’s good that such a thing can exist.
But still. $2950 for 4 days. Wow.
Do Different Tiers Reflect Different Audiences?
As an autistic person, I am perhaps more inclined than most to sort of forget that people can be interested in the same things I’m interested in, but experience those interests very differently(6).
- Some people can apparently like things without tending to rebuild their entire lives around those things! Who knew?!
It doesn’t automatically occur to me that someone else might want to take a summer intensive for different reasons than I do, or maybe, for the same reasons, but perhaps prioritized differently.
Life, for me, the drivers (at least, the ones I can think of right now), ordered by priority, might look like this:
- Refine and improve technique for upcoming season and/or auditions
- Dance AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
- Learn new steps and/or new partnering skills
- Learn repertoire
- Maintain at least the bare minimum fitness level that will prevent me dying on Day 1 of new company class, assuming successful auditions
- Ideally, add a useful piece to my audition reel
- Hang out with my peeps, new and existing
Explicitly not in my list are the following:
- Take a break from my regular job (because ballet is my regular job)
- Find out what it’s like to be able to dance full-time (again, bc that’s basically already my life)
This makes it difficult to imagine choosing a 4-day intensive at any price when there are so many available that run 5 or 6 days or longer: my primary goal is to immerse myself in a demanding curriculum for as long as possible.
Likewise, I find it difficult to imagine being a dancer, but also being satisfied living a life in which a four-day ballet immersion would feel that much different from, like, normal life, because my experience of being a dancer has basically been, “Holy heck, drop everything else, this is the thing
i MUST do.”
And yet, rationally, I am aware that I know people in that exact target market—people who have very demanding careers that they love outside of dance, not to mention family lives that don’t basically also revolve around ballet, but who also passionately love dancing.
Quite a few of them could easily afford a few thousand dollars for a short, almost-all-inclusive ballet intensive. Time is probably in shorter supply for them than it is for me, and the sheer convenience of having almost everything planned out might mean saying, “Hey, I can do this!” instead of “Wow, yeah, I don’t have the time/mental bandwidth/whatever for all this planning.”
Likewise, the fact that I straight up forgot to put “have fun” on my list of priorities says a LOT … though mostly what it’s saying is that, even during the roughest parts of my first year with LexBallet, I still had fun, and I still wanted to be there more than I wanted to be anywhere else in the world.
So it doesn’t occur to me to put “have fun” on the list, because, even if the atmosphere somewhere turns out to be awful, I’m going to enjoy dancing anyway. Especially if I know I’m only there for, at best, a few weeks.
For someone who’s returning to work in another field after their summer program, on the other hand, fun and relaxation might be much higher priorities. There’s something to be said for options existing that fit the needs of people in that situation, too.
Conclusion: I Which I Leave You In Tiers
(Or not, depending on if adult summer intensives are of any interest to you at all.)
Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t the Most Important Thing In The World.
But it’s a valuable insight for me (as someone who is fully behind the idea that different people have different wants and needs but who is also sometimes an absolute bonehead at imagining them), and I hope it might be helpful to others considering adult summer programs—especially, maybe, those considering their first adult summer program.
For me, for example, Mam-Luft (now Mutual) was in many ways a great first summer program—but it was also extremely demanding, often emotionally challenging, sometimes lonely, and just plain physically exhausting. I definitely had some major breakthro moments, but I also failed A LOTTTTT in front of 50 people, with no hope of fading into anonymity, since I was the ONLY guy that year. Oh, and I shredded my foot.
If I hadn’t, by then, already been a pretty experienced student, quietly putting in the foundations for a career in dance; if I was of a less stubborn constitution; maybe especially if I’d taken that SI knowing I had to go back to stressful job, I might’ve felt very differently about exactly the same experience. It might even have made me conclude that SIs weren’t for me, which would’ve been a shame.
So maybe the real TL;DR for this post goes like this:
- There are a lot of adult summer programs now! That’s awesome!
- The programs can be roughly divided into two pricing tiers
- The price of a program doesn’t directly reflect the quality of instruction—most of them look pretty solid!
- The less-expensive programs seem more likely to attract a mixed student body of both amateur and professional dancers
- The more expensive programs are more likely to include things like meals and extracurricular events
- Before you choose a program, it’s a good idea to hash out your needs, goals, and priorities (Will you be going straight back to work in a busy emergency room? Consider a shorter or more relaxed program—you’ll still learn a lot, but you won’t return to work exhausted)
- If you choose a shorter or more relaxed program this year and discover that you want to go harder, you’ll have gained valuable insight for next time
- On the other hand, if you choose a challenging program send find it’s a little too much right now, you can either try again next year or try an easier one next year
- If you get to go to DuCon, please tell me whether it’s as awesome as it sounds so i can figure out whether i need $3000 extra next year 😅
A Final Note: American Dance Festival & Pilobolus
Although I could arguably include American Dance Festival’s Summer Dance Institute in either one of my tiers, and would love to attend the full program, I’m setting it off to one side for now. In short, although full-time tuition runs $2,275, it’s comparable in length to a full-scale youth SI, and offers a staggering array of programming geared towards developing professional dancers. Likewise, you can actually Choose-Your-Own-Adventure your way through it by taking individual classes at $750/4-week class.
Likewise, although the cost-per-session of Pilobolus’ excellent program has increased to around $1000, its generous scholarship program makes it relatively accessible, though you can still rack up $3000 in tuition if you go for all three sessions at full cost. It’s also kind of in its own category because, honestly, a lot of ballet people probably wouldn’t be super interested, which is fine.
But, first: Good Pesach, y’all!
…Assuming that it is in fact still Saturday. Honestly, being off sick has really screwed up my internal calendar. (I dare not even contemplate what it’s probably doing to my internal- and external rotators .__.,)
Dear Northern Hemisphere,
I’ve officially switched to my springtime header, so if winter decides to repeat its coda* yet again, sorry about that.
You may lodge any complaints with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration**, which is clearly losing its battle with the capricious demiurges of weather, who in turn don’t want any snot-nosed dance blogger*** telling them what to do.
Your Humble Danseur
*Prolly the Nutcracker Prince, amirite? Because obvs. Winter. Always showboating. SMH
**These are the folks who run the US weather machines, yesno?
***Who hopes to be slightly less snot-nosed soon, through the miracle of modern medicine?
Yesterday I checked in with my GP, who is awesome on numerous levels (not every doctor closes out an appointment with, “When’s your next show?! You have to tell me so I can get tickets!”). She confirmed my sinus infection and sent me off with a ton of prescriptions—specifically, levofloxacin and pseudoephedrine, plus the usual generic Adderall—which I proceeded to fill at the usual CVS.
I’m sure my local band of intrepid pharmacists think I’m basically a crank addict or running a meth lab or whatevs. (Crank is speed, right? Yesno? Why, of course there’s an answer for that question on the internet.) I can see why they might think that, given my prescriptions and the fact that this end of town is sort of known for that sort of thing.
Really, though, I just want to be able to breathe through my nose and adult.
At the same time, even.
And, sadly, while psuedoephedrine marginally improves my adulting abilities, it doesn’t do so effectively enough that I could, say, skip the Adderall for now. Adderall, meanwhile, does exactly nothing for my congestion, as best I can tell.
So, there you have it.
Normally, the combination of psuedoephedrine and Adderall doesn’t actually make me feel like anything other than a person who can both breathe and efficiently accomplish important goal-directed behaviors pertaining to daily life. Apparently, however:
(psuedoephedrine + Adderall + coffee) * feververtigo resulting from inner-ear wonkiness
= high AF
>_____> o_____O’ <_____<
At least, to be honest, I assume that’s what being high AF feels like. My illicit substance-use history comprises, in short, the occasional glass of wine and a few beers (and never more than two in one day) prior to age 21. At one time, it was because I was that annoying judgmental straightedge kid; at other times, it was a function of fear of addiction; now it’s just basically force of habit. Which just goes to show that anything can become a habit.
- I did get very tipsy at my Mom’s New Year’s Eve party when I was 17, which involved exactly one flute of champagne. I then went upstairs and proceeded to watch Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, because OMFG I was so embarrassingly Serious and Earnest in high school, and senior year was peak Serious & Earnest territory.
- Not that all straightedge kids are annoying and judgmental. Some are awesome and humble and all that. I just wasn’t one of them. Ugh. Can you tell I’ve been watching The Mortified Guide…?
Anyway, I’m just not sure how else to describe the weird state of consciousness in which one is both somehow very, very like awake but also … floaty. Spacey.
Not, like, Kevin Spacey. More like this kind of spacey:
Admittedly, I probably could’ve skipped the coffee … but I decided, as one does, that since I was officially not contagious I should peel myself out of bed and go to rehearsal, and that involved driving, which involved staying awake.
Which was a problem, because awake was the one thing my body absolutely, positively did not want to be. (Actually, there are a whole host of other things it didn’t want to be, but they’re all basically subsets of awake.)
Honestly, the single most alarming thing about this particular sinus infection has been the absolutely crushing fatigue.
Like, driving home from my doc’s office, I was constantly fighting the urge to just close my eyes and go to sleep. Not, mind you, just thinking, “Gosh, I’m really sleepy, *yawn*” but actively having to tell myself:
DO NOT CLOSE YOUR EFFING EYES, MORON. NO. NO. OPEN THEM BACK UP. IT IS NOT OKAY TO BLINK FOR 5 SECONDS AT A TIME.WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
This, remember, is me: the Boy Who Stayed Awake. I do the driving on all our road trips because I can stay awake more or less indefinitely as long as I’m sitting upright (read: I can only sleep sitting up with assistance from modern pharmacology, and have been like that my entire life).
The same person for whom achieving a night’s rest typically involves less “going to sleep“ than “lying there in hope that sleep will eventually trip over me on its way to meet someone in the Pacific Time Zone.”
Like, literally, I only realized last year that people can actually, you know, actually go to sleep.
ON PURPOSE!!! (You guys! I’m serious! What even is that?!)
So having to fight to stay awake … WHILE DRIVING, no less … is something of a novelty.
One that I addressed by drinking WAY THE HECK TOO MUCH COFFEE.
Anyway, basically I floated my way through rehearsal in a state that resembled somehow experiencing that hypnagogic sense of falling through space whilst remaining upright and alert (well … more or less).
Fortunately, the part of the show that we worked last night mostly takes place sitting at a group of tables, and I was able to mark it without actually having to fall on the floor (technically called for at various points, but not necessary when marking). Which is good, because had I made it to the floor it’s highly unlikely that I would then have made it back off the floor.
Then I ate a bunch of chicken-flavored crackers, recopied my choreography notes (you guys, I have never done a piece that involves this much writing: this thing is complicated), and went back to bed. Exciting, right?
Amazingly, I’m pretty sure I actually learned the choreography I needed to learn. See all those letters in circles at the bottom of the right-hand column? Those are 4-count phrases. There are six of them, continuously mixed and re-mixed throughout the piece, comme Rosas Danst Rosas (speaking of which: if you haven’t seen Rosas yet, you can watch the whole thing there … and then, if you’re feeling inspired, you can create your own take on it as part of a worldwide project).
The longer I spend in the rarified climes of the dance world, the more I realize that I am the kind of dancer who learns modern choreography best by, in short, brute force.
Show me a phrase once, and I’ll feck it right up. If I’m lucky, I’ll have shot a good mental video so I run over it again and again in my head and have learned it by the time I’m halfway home.
Show me a phrase, then walk me through it three times, and I’ll start to give it back to you accurately. Let me run it around six times, and I’ll start adding musicality and nuance.
- I pick up ballet choreography much, much faster: usually I need one demonstration, and I’m good. That doesn’t mean I’ll do it correctly after seeing it once, but it does mean I know what I’m supposed to be doing and can hypothetically fix my own errors.
This means, in short, that I struggle at modern auditions, but I quickly become an asset in rehearsal.
The downside is that it makes me very hesitant to rehearse modern choreography on my own, because I’m afraid I’ll misunderstand part of the demo and train myself into a step that isn’t there, or that goes somewhere else, or whatever. I develop pretty strong motor patterns, and fixing them can be a challenge.
I also managed to come up with my own special shorthand notation for the set phrases that are remixed and sequenced throughout the piece:
That felt like rather a stroke of genius, to be honest.
I’m not primarily a verbal learner, but in ballet contexts I use the names of steps (or, well, sometimes the nicknames I’ve privately given them) synchronized to the rhythm of the music (or the counts) as a backup system for when I’m missing a piece of my visual and kinaesthetic maps. This little cheat-sheet of four-counts represents a surprisingly successful attempt to create that same kind of backup system in a modern-dance context.
The sort of tablature of notes further up evolved over the course of the first day of rehearsals, though I’ve refined it a bit since the first iteration. It acts as a framework; kind of a score, if you will, to keep track of what happens when.
At the beginning, for my group, so much of this piece is counting like crazy, then throwing in some small-but-important gesture. Even “PAUSE” has a specific meaning entirely disparate from “HOLD.”
Because evidently time and I have a tenuous relationship at best, I realized yesterday that I was beginning, rather than ending, the third week since my surgery, and as such I still face four weeks before I can resume my usual workload. Oops.
On the other hand, that does mean I’m healing very, very well. I’ve been
obsessing over reading other people’s accounts of healing from this kind of survey—initially to figure out what to expect, what was normal, and what was cause to panic, and but now because they’re just plain interesting—and it seems that a lot of folks still have a fair amount of discomfort and so forth at this stage. I’m chalking my relatively easy recovery up to a really awesome surgeon and above-average physical fitness.
Anyway, Golden Retriever Timescales not withstanding, I’m starting to make plans for next year.
- I’ve probably used this analogy before: while my sense of immediate time is pretty decent, once I venture beyond that, my perception of time flakes into two distinct categories—the ones you might imagine a not-very-bright Golden Retriever understanding, which is to say say, Now and Not-Now. Anything further than two weeks out, meanwhile, exists in the realm of absurd fantasy. Evidently, this also applies retroactively 😛
I auditioned for more things this year than last year. I expect to continue that trend next year. I’m looking at dance companies (ballet and modern, but mostly ballet), cirque companies, and cruise-line dance-and-cirque companies right now, as well as the usual gig-based auditions.
Ideally, I would love to work in ballet, but I realize that my particular skill-set makes me a good candidate for progressive circus companies. Likewise, while many classically-trained dancers turn their noses up at working for cruise lines, I like the idea of living and working on a self-contained floating city, and cruise-line companies value versatile performers. I suspect that my strong classical dance background and existing aerial skills will place me well (I’m also a pretty good singer, which doesn’t hurt).
That said, my best asset is simply the ability (and willingness) to up stakes and go wherever the work is.
It seems like a good idea, when you’re trying to work in a ridiculously competitive industry, to identify all of your strengths (not just the obvious ones) and seek opportunities where they’ll be useful. Given that I’ve taken a really, really atypical path to working in dance, I plan to use the heck out of that strategy. My goal is to audition as often as possible for jobs that will find my collection of both skill- and non-skill assets highly desirable: in short, to target companies that need people with strong classical (and progressive) dance training, strong aerial arts training, a background in gymnastics, fearlessness, willingness/desire to travel, and flexibility (both physical and mental). Being a ballet-and-trapeze boy who also performs on lyra and fabrics shouldn’t hurt, either.
I’m not operating under the illusion that, should I work for a cruise line or a touring company, I’ll get to see a great deal of the places we visit—but opportunities do arise, and I’m not seeing much of the world from where I am now, either 😛
Anyway, the primary goal next year is to continue training and gain as much professional experience as I can—basically, either to work with a company that rehearses and performs across a regular season for much or all of the year, or to continue to work with a company like CirqueLouis and take every additional gig that I can.
I’m not defining my ballet goals quite yet: I think I’m going to buttonhole Killer B, BG, and BW about those first. I still don’t have an intentional double tour, so I’ll be working on that through the end of the year once I’m cleared.
Yesterday, I had nothing before ballet, so I was properly fed and rested and so forth.
As a result, BW’s class went very well.
After, I went and played at Suspend, where we did all kinds of lifty things in Acro 2.
After that, my car decided to throw a fit and D had to come rescue me (fortunately, I noticed that it sounded weird and didn’t get on the expressway). As result, an already late night got later, and I was too tired to pack lunch.
This morning, D came home early and sent me to Cinci with his truck, which was really sweet of him. I had eaten two hot dogs for lunch, with the intention of grabbing some real food when I got back into Louisville.
In Cinci, partnering class was half really frustrating: I couldn’t hear because my allergies were trolling me, and we were learning partnering phrases, so I kept not quite understanding what was going on. As a result, I kept frustrating my partner, which made me nervous, which makes my brain not work too well.
- Also, my body wanted all the fouettés to be tour jetés. WTF, body?
Anyway, we got there eventually.
During the second half, we did group lifts, and that bit went really well. Didn’t hurt that Acro 2 last night was all about the dynamic group lifts :p
Anyway, after Partnering, my plans for food were scuttled by a traffic jam. I resorted to buying Chex mix at a gas station when I refueled the truck. I would be surprised if that even brought me back up to baseline.
Anyway, BW’s final class was more challenging than it should have been, since I basically ran out of juice. I got all the way through anyway, but my grand pirouettes weren’t really all that grand. They started out nice going right, then fizzled, going left, I just worked fourth-passé-second-plié-relevé-plié-relevé, etc, without the actual turns.
On the other hand, I cracked out some nice grand allegro: it was kind of my way of saying, “I value your class and, dammit, I’mma try as hard as I can!”
That backfired, of course, when we proceeded to follow the second grand allegro combo with even moar petit allegro.
Oh, I can now check entrechats six off my goals list. Or, at any rate, I can mark them as done with baseline success but in need of werk, werk, werk, werk. They’re not pretty, but they’re there.
We did 36 of them.
Also, after that, so many Royales, which are my least favorite jump. I mean, seriously, in France there’s a hamburger named after them.
- I may be employing artistic license here. Who knows?
Anyway, my legs felt weak and resentful (I suspect that, if you’re a dancer or a cyclist, you understand what I mean), and I resented their resentful attitude (note to self: I need to draw a resentful attitude 😁) until I realized that it wasn’t fair to resent them when it was my own fault for not feeding them.
Evidently, it takes a lot of calories to run this body at peak performance, or at any rate more than the ≈600 I have it before tonight’s ballet class.
At any rate, I’m pleased with myself for not giving up. There were a few times in class tonight that my dark side whispered,”You could just say your foot is unhappy!”
But I didn’t.
So there’s that.
Anyway, I’m going to go have a wee soak in some Epsom salts. Tomorrow, I have to leave at 7 AM for Cinci because evidently I’m insane, so after that I’m off to bed.
At ML&Co, it was partnering day. I paired up with a girl who was frankly awesome at partnering. She made us both look good!
I landed hardish a couple of times on my healing foot, but still made it through everything in BW’s masterclass except grand pirouettes going left. My foot complained about those, so I decided to play it safe and only do a couple.
Even grand allegro went reasonably well. Still can’t get out of my own way doing brisées in medium allegro, though
Or, well. I managed a couple going right, but literally got off on the wrong foot going left and failed to actually recover.
I guess that’s going to be a goal this week.
The combo is:
Glissade, jeté, jeté jeté; balloté x4; coupé-balloné; brisée, brisée; temps de cuisse, entrechat quatre x2.
I think I’m going to have to mark that at home.
On the other hand, some of the stength-y things and some of the balance-y things felt easier today, as did the crazy petit allegro brainteaser that BW has us running (the one from last Thursday with the incredibly confusing assemblés).
So that was today. No ML&Co class tomorrow, so I plan to catch up on housework, make friends with the foam roller, and review the crap out of that medium allegro.
Totally not* nervous about ML&Co audition.
At the moment, my car smells like the inside of someone’s dance bag.
In fact, it smells like the inside of a dance bag belonging to someone who shoves his sopping-wet warm-ups into said bag after class and then forgets about them and goes home and the next day is like wtf did I do with my warmp-ups and then finds them when he goes to get his shoes out in ballet class the next day and shoves them back in his bag and forgets about them again until he finally remembers to bring the freaking bag in so he can wash them, which might take like an entire week[1, 3]. Ewww.
- I can neither confirm nor deny that this has actually happened to me.
- Possibly more than once.
- For the record, this problem is pretty specific to commuting by automobile, since taking public transit or riding a bike rather prevents leaving your dance bag in the car all week, doesn’t it? Though I did once leave legwarmers in my bike’s trunk bag ._. Good times, good times.
So I’m planning on going after my car with some carpet foam tonight. Possibly also mowing the lawn (completely unrelated, but still something I should probably do), but we’ll see.
Anyway, fairly good day in Modern today.
I am still madly in love with floorwork.
Perhaps I always will be? The lights (which are on sensors) clicked off about a quarter of the way through our floorwork combination, and we were just like, “Ahhhh.”
Modern dance naptime, you guys. For real. It’s as refreshing as a nap without all that annoying napping.
Meanwhile, I’m back to being able to withstand light pressure on the outside of my right foot, so it’s now possible to safety-release into various rolls from an upright position. It’s still iffy about turns, but TB (who has been in class with us a few times now—yay!) suggested a different way of taping it that might help, so I’m going to try that tomorrow and Thursday.
I’m also continuing to work on knowing where UP is, which is remarkably hard (TB finds this unsurprising about me; I suspect it’s part of the “ridiculously hypermobile dancer” package).
I’m also also continuing to work on not being so freaking terrible at scheduling myself. As such, I created a dance-specific calendar, and because I figured, “Why not?” I’ve posted it as a page. That way D can find it easily and figure out where in hell I’ve gone, which can be a problem when you’re married to a dancer who won’t stand still for 5 minutes.
Turns out that it loads desperately slowly (read: about the same level of urgency as an unhurried sloth), but whatevs. It’s a start. I thought about making a separate calendar page for intensives, but that seems excessive. Instead, I made two separate calendars with joint output. The intensives show up in a red font; everything else shows up in blue.
crazy awesome. Or something like that.
That said, it turns out that I’ve YET AGAIN double-booked myself on so many levels it isn’t even funny, so now I’m trying to finagle my way out of the Cultural Dance workshop I can’t take because I’m in Lexington during half of it. That sort of forces me to take our AD’s masterclass, though, which I’ve been semi-dreading because, like, he’s our AD and therefore inherently terrifying.
In other news, I guess it’s time to Order All The Dance Belts before I jet off to Lexington and then Connecticut. I have three that I like well enough; I would really like to have five so I never, ever have to worry about whether or not they’ll dry on time.
I need to make up my mind whether to order another pair of Yumikos or to order some M. Stevens tights, also, mainly because there’s some lead time involved in acquiring another pair of Yumikos.
Though, come to think of it, my Very Own Personal Yumiko Rep is about to jet off to a tropical paradise for an intensive because he is, in fact, awesome (no, really; last year he got invited to dance at Jacob’s Pillow), so that might sort that for me. I’ll have to find out when he comes back from Ballet Paradise.
Today in modern class we did a neat little combination that involved a kind of hunchy, quasi-parallel barrel turn. My first thought (after, “I probably really shouldn’t do that,” which I promptly ignored) was “I haven’t done a barrel turn in a while—I wonder if I still have it.”
- That is to say, one of the stylized Modern-flavored ones, launching and landing in parallel, but moving by necessity through turnout, since you sort of have to rotate your knees out to do a barrel turn in the first place.
So I tried and discovered that I did still have it, and that it was comparatively easy to do.
In fact, I managed to do it in such a way that landing in either direction it didn’t make my foot hurt: lightly, softly, with just a little loft.
It’s weird to think that the barrel turn was one of last year’s Ballet Goals, and that it probably seemed like something really quite difficult, because otherwise it wouldn’t have been one of last year’s explicit goals. In essence, there are always a million things to learn where ballet is concerned, and if you make all of them explicit goals, your head will explode, so you have to come up with some way to decide which goals will be explicit (and hope, of course, that the rest will just happen along the way, I guess). My lists of explicit goals are apparently driven by Persnickety Details and Grand Allegro Pyrotechnics, with a universal criterion of “oh, that sounds hard.”
So, anyway, the barrel turn is still there, in the same way that I discovered my tour jeté and assemblé battu and entrechat quatre still waiting in a dusty corner of my somatosensory memory like so many disused bicycles when I started dancing again.
I couldn’t begin to tell you in words how to execute the barrel turn, by the way. I have absolutely no conscious notion of how I do it. I know that there’s a plié at either end and in the middle both your knees are sailing through space, but if we’re honest that could be a description of almost any jump in which both legs are bent.
If I worked through it about seventeen times right now, capturing mental “video” of the things I do and see and feel in the midst of a barrel turn, I could learn to describe it … maybe. But right now I can’t (because my foot is still healing).
Anyway, I just know that the barrel turn is still there, because as long as I don’t try to think about how to do a barrel turn, I can do one. It’s a bit of a centipede’s dilemma.
I was going to put a picture of an innocuous-looking centipede here,
but then it occurred to me that no matter which one I chose,
it would probably creep someone out. So I didn’t.
Anyway, I think a lot of learning to dance—and, indeed, to do almost anything physical—is like that. You don’t have to accumulate the ability to explain how you do what you do any more than a toddler has to be able to explain how she runs in order to make off with your keys so she can drop them in the toilet. How do you use chopsticks? How about a fork? A zipper? Try describing how you skip.
It’s not impossible to describe any of these things, of course—if we think about them carefully, we can describe them, though any student in a Physiotherapy or Kineseology program will tell you that it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds.
It’s not impossible to describe them, it’s just hard—and it’s hard because, in general, we don’t learn these things by thinking about them verbally, but by mucking about in our bodies until we get them down.
The best exception I can think of to the rule that physical learning tends to be, you know, physical is horsemanship: but I think, really, that’s because as a riding student, you’re learning how to give instructions to the horse as to how he should use his body as an instrument as much as, if not more than, you’re learning to use your own body as an instrument.
As such, a riding instructor teaching a student (especially in dressage) will often offer a correction that might seem ludicrously specific to a non-rider: “…More weight in your left sitz bone, and apply your left ankle at the girth and the right one a little behind the girth,” or what have you.
- This isn’t, by the way, a complete set of instructions for any specific thing. It could mean a lot of things in a lot of contexts: maybe you’re asking for a lateral bend; maybe you’re light in the left sitz bone and it’s confusing your horse; maybe your riding instructor needs glasses or to lay off the sauce. The last horse I rode regularly would, if you did this basic set of things at the halt while collecting him between seat and hand, give you a nice turn on the forehand, which was really handy for opening and immediately closing gates. On the other hand, at the walk in the ring, he would toss his head like a teenage girl at a parent-teacher conference unless you collected the frack out of him all. the. time. Retired field hunters, amirite?
This isn’t to say that dance can’t be analyzed using the literate part of the mind. It can; the works of Vaganova and Tarasov demonstrate that it can (though trying to read a description of a step that’s well above your “pay grade” can be a real headache).
As a student, D really benefits from a very thorough verbal description of what he’s supposed to do with his body when it comes to dance or aerials. I find that difficult to grok. Then, he’s such a verbal thinker and I’m such a non-verbal thinker (with good translation software that sometimes crashes) that we actually find it really hard to imagine each-other’s modes of thought.
- This would be less difficult for me if it weren’t for the fact that D is pretty capable of mentally manipulating objects in space, even though he can’t picture them in his head. I’m great at that, too, but that’s because I can picture them, and rotate them, and toss them around, and shuffle them, and assign various qualities of mass and so forth by feel in my head. 3D sensurround is my native mode. He, meanwhile, apparently keeps some kind of giant spreadsheet of more-or-less verbal data in his head—a kind of tabular reference, if you will. Basically, in short: the human brain, WTF.
Anyway, I can’t help but think that this is part of the difficulty of teaching dance—especially to beginners, and perhaps especially ballet.
Beyond a certain level, as a teacher, you’re probably mostly dealing either with students who are strongly kinetic-spatial-visual thinkers and/or students who have developed really good compensatory mechanisms for not having strong mental visuo-spatialization ability. Beginners, on the other hand, are likely to be a mixed bag of all kinds of thinkers, and so you have to figure out how things are done and, even more dauntingly, how to convey that information to your students.
Later, as your students accumulate their own competencies, you’ll be able to say things like, “Then you just do this [insert visual demonstration]” or “Yes, but don’t rond the leg” and they’ll get it.
In the beginning, though, it seems like there’s a lot more explaining, and that it has to be done incrementally.
This Sunday, M, one of my friends from Trapeze, finally found her way into our dance class. AM very soundly and rightly gave her only one or two corrections to work on, and later checked me when I wanted to funnel too much information her way. I constrained myself and ultimately only asked her to reduce the rotation of her ankles a little bit in turnout so her knees would track over her toes.
Anyway, being prevented from drowning a new student in information was a good thing: I’m still very much learning how to teach.
I suspect that, for me, learning to teach will be harder than just plain learning. One involves the simple accumulation of competence; the other involves the intelligible description of the elements of competence.
One last anecdote from Sunday’s class: AM give the class an exercise with a sauté fouetté in the mix. Interestingly, only M did it right the first time.
The other two did something else entirely. I was sitting on the sidelines, watching and offering what guidance I could, and noticed that our other two students were doing something that wasn’t sauté fouetté, but was somehow familiar.
The third time I saw it, I realized what it was: they were executing rather nice révoltades, presumably because nobody had bothered to tell them that they—as dancers with very little ballet background, and definitely no men’s technique—couldn’t possibly know how to do nice révoltades.
So, there you have it. The human body is a mysterious thing, and apparently a révoltade is just a sauté fouetté executed, um, more or less inside-out.
Not that I could possibly begin to explain what I mean by that.
- This is probably sufficiently obscure to require some explanation. Basically, it’s a play on a translation of the motto on the Great Seal of the State of Connecticut, which translates literally to “He who transplanted sustains,” but “endures” is close enough).
- Maimonides didn’t write this, but maybe he should have.
I started a post about last night’s class, well, last night, and then I got too tired to finish it, so it’s currently a draft on my tablet and I don’t feel like going to get my tablet.
Last night turned into another Private Men’s Technique Class, during which I summarily discovered that one does not, in fact, have to do grand allegro to be completely exhausted at the end of Men’s Tech. BW’s gloriously murderous barre is quite demanding enough to do the job.
In a nutshell, classical men’s technique is essentially about two things: power and endurance. It can be summed up via the famous equation:
…What do you mean that isn’t a famous equation?
Power allows you to do the grand allegro pyrotechnics that pretty much define the vast majority of men’s variations in the classical repertoire. Your grand jeté entrelacé isn’t going to look anywhere near as impressive if it doesn’t get off the ground, and as for double tours, you can’t even do them if you don’t basically launch yourself into space. You won’t have time. Disaster (or at least an ungraceful exit) will ensue.
Endurance allows you to get though demanding variations without A) dying or B) flopping around like a distressed fish wrapped in a damp rag (you guys, this is NOT a valid way even to do fish jump). It allows you to still
not drop lift your partner in the next bit of the grand pas de deux and to not collapse under your combined weight.
Power requires strength. BG mentioned to us today that we’re sort of designed around gravity, so even though the idea in classical ballet is to look like you’re defying gravity, you do it by employing gravity. Still, if you’re going to launch yourself off the floor, you need power to do it.
Your plié is all about giving yourself to gravity; loading the springs. Your launch is all about pushing down through the floor, right to the center of the earth, fir(ing) all of your guns at once (to) explode into spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace.
Endurance requires … erm … endurance. Right. Just pretend I wrote something more intelligent than “x = x.” Move along. Nothing to see here.
What I mean, really, by “endurance requires endurance” is that endurance itself is a pretty complex entity.
First, there’s cardiovascular endurance: no point in being strong enough to do all the things in the Slave variation (or Albrecht’s, or Bluebird, or…) if your heart literally explodes halfway through, or if you can’t get through it without puking because you can’t breathe.
Next, there’s muscular endurance, which I’m sure has some fancy technical name that I can’t recall right now. Basically, that’s the kind of endurance that surrounds the question, “How many times can you launch and catch your own weight (multiplied, as needed, by whatever forces apply at various points) before you have to lie down for a while?”
This is the kind of endurance that you can think of in terms of “reps to exhaustion” or “reps to failure.”
This second kind of endurance depends quite a bit on power: like, really, you need to be flat-out strong enough that the variation you’re doing doesn’t lead to failure—indeed, you may very well need to be strong enough to manage it in the context of an entire ballet.
This is, in a way, kind of like riding a mountain stage in the Tour de France. Mountains have this annoying way of being multiple kilometers in height, and involving multiple climbs, and you don’t get to stop at the top of a given climb.
The race keeps going, and so do you, until you get to the end of the stage (or until you spectacularly crash your bike and are summarily scraped into the team car). Until you get to the end of the stage, you have to keep stomping those pedals, or at any rate turning the cranks.
Most full-length classical ballets are only 2 to 3 hours long, and not a Tour-stage-esque 6 hours long (though nobody ever suggested a mere 6-hour cap to the Sun King). On the other hand, ballet never lets you sit in the peloton and just turn the cranks and recover. Not even when you’re in the corps.
Power alone will get you through a single run of a variation in isolation, but add the rest of a 2-hour ballet, and unless you have some serious endurance, you’re seriously fecked.
Last night was more about endurance than about power, though it was also about power, because holy fondu, Batman. Mostly, it was about the “reps to exhaustion” kind of endurance and the “attitude devant for a million counts” kind of endurance.
(It was also about TOES, because BW’s class is always about my toes.)
It was a “stretch your leg up to your ear, hold, fondu the supporting leg, hold, stretch, hold, drop your arm and see if you can maintain the extension for an additional million counts” kind of day(3).
- Regarding which, you guys: this was an exercise in “well, hey, THERE’S a thing I need to fix.” Because, seriously, I haven’t figured out how to do antigravity above about 100 degrees a côte, even though my range of motion theoretically allows for it.
My foot got achy before we made it to jumps, so we called it a night and did a stretch-n-kvetch session in which I learned that, like me, BW really can’t use cycling to cross-train for cardio. Like mine, his quads go crazy too easily.
I know I’ve said this before, but this is one of the reasons he’s such an effective teacher for me: we share some of the same Ballet Problems. One of them is being the elusive kind of unicorn that actually does pile on the muscle rather too easily.
Today, I managed to haul my hinder out of bed and make it to BG’s 10 AM class, where I found my body surprisingly willing to do things, possibly because last night we skipped jumps and stretched instead.
Because BW’s barre is usually even harder than Killer B’s barre, barre didn’t feel difficult(4). Last night we did circular port de bras in sus-sous, so when I opted to do a straight forward-then-back port de bras in sus-sous, it really didn’t feel like much of a challenge.
- Except for the part where I failed to acquire a significant portion of one combination because I was busy reflecting on body mechanics, and then the whole class had to start over. Sorry, guys.
This time, possibly because I didn’t take modern class in the morning first, my foot agreed to make it through the little jumps to a very nice grand allegro. That makes twice in one week, which is great.
That said, I found myself overthinking one of the transitions and, as such, screwed things up completely going left.
I did it three times to the left, though, and eventually got it more or less sorted.
Regardless, it was very much a case of, “What do I do with all these legs? Aaaaaugh!”
In fact, though, I think the combination I liked best today was a weird little petit-allegro brain-teaser that went something like:
coupé to slidey thing avant
…and continued around the points of the compass counter-clockwise, though the slidey thing never traveled backwards (so I guess it skipped “south,” and just went “north-east-west-north”). The main challenge is remembering which way you did the slidey thing most recently, so you don’t do the slidey thing in the same direction twice and cause a traffic accident.
I’m sure there’s a name for the “slidey thing” somewhere in the great lexicon of ballet, as it’s a thing that occurs in choreography, but I don’t know what to call it, so my apologies there. It’s sort of a coupé-tombé to second or fourth with the trailing toe gliding across the floor. Hard to describe, easy to do(5), and really quite pretty.
- YMMV. I also think renversé is easy, and apparently people disagree in droves about that. That said, I didn’t always think reversé was easy, but once I got it, I got it.
Anyway, that was class today. Very-nice-but-perplexing grand allegro; unusual and satisfying petit allegro.
Oh, also, I keep forgetting to post this video. I think I keep looking a little lost (which is terrible, given that it’s my own freaking choreography >_<), but given that I had a fever, it could have been a lot worse.
Also, that weird sort of attitude balance near the end? That is HELLA HARD on crash mats, y'all.
You guys! We have graphics (stolen from the Facebook event) and everything!
…Here’s a plain text linky, too:
In other news, D and I started working on our PlayThink piece this weekend. I might have forgotten that he’s not accustomed to basing fish-hooks with danseurs who got dat grand allegro booty. I kept discombobulating him and, as such, he kept dropping me :O
Regardless, we got the first two verses sketched out. I just need to resurrect the ballet choreography from whatever room corner of my mental Dance Attic it’s crammed into.
I promise that this act is all kinds of silly and definitely not knock-you-on-the-head-political like “Fade to White.” Instead, it’s fun and light-hearted, and if you’re in the area you should to PlayThink and see it.
But mostly you should to PlayThink because it’s like everything you secretly hoped adulthood be like when you were 5, and that’s amazing.