The Showcase Piece IS DONE!!!
…And I really like it. Next week we workshop the partnering bits and clean the piece. Pretty exciting stuff.
…Or, well. If you can call getting tipsy enough on two beers that you feel that driving is perhaps unwise “drunken excess.”
Weeds went pretty well. I felt very solid about the first show, even with a series of last-minute notes. During the second show, the fact that I’d only slept for four hours (for reasons having nothing to do with the show) caught up with me, and I felt mentally somewhat glitchy, though evidently I did a solid job not telegraphing my glitches, including the one very near the end during which I rolled over and completely blanked out not only on what the next move was, but which part of the dance in question we were even on o___o’
I was onstage for basically a solid hour and a half for both shows, with only brief breaks, and didn’t really rehydrate adequately after the second show. End result, when we headed down to the nearby gastrobrewpub for a post-show libation, I downed my first beer too fast (I failed to realize that this is one of the places where you have to ask for water), and subsequently found myself remarkably woobly after only two beers. Oops.
Needless to say, I asked Denis to drive me home, which was interesting since we’d arrived in separate vehicles and I had to drunkenly transfer all the things so my car could sit on a corner downtown overnight without looking like too tempting a target (I mean … if a Subaru that’s old enough to be a rising sophomore at university is ever all that tempting a target?).
Anyway, I did my penance in class this morning. I’ve really, really missed my usual ballet routine, so it was good to be back in the studio.
For the most part I felt reasonably good about class today. I was somewhat less coordinated than usual … Like, we did an exercise that was nothing but chassée-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-chassée-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-chassée-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-tombé-pas de bourrée-tendu, repeat left, repeat right, repeat left in which I could not for the life of me convince both legs to plié and chassée at the same time.
Likewise, my extensions were meh. Not bad, just passable by professional standards. Which, I guess, should tell me that I’ve made a heck of a lot of progress in the past couple of years, because honestly, “passable by professional standards” is still pretty good. But they lacked a certain je ne sais quois. My arabesque in particular was, erm, workmanlike, but nothing more … to be honest, I don’t think I would even have counted it as “passable” until we made it to centre.
On the other hand, there were some good moments in the petit/medium allegro (be still my heart) in which Killer B and I got into the spirit of things and executed these lovely bounding passes with assemblés battus. We jump well together … at least, we do when I’m not a shambling mess of legs, confusion, and despair.
The long and short of it is that I thought, overall, that I looked pretty good today. Some of this, of course, might have to do with the fact that I set the bar pretty low this morning (as opposed the barre—we were a small class in the big studio downtown, so we just used the one fixed to the wall). But I think even my standard for bad days has improved immensely over the past year: even when I’m a terrible dancer, I’m a much better terrible dancer than I used to be.
Likewise, I managed somehow to have a Good Body Image day. Or at least a Good Body Image morning … I mean, the day’s not over yet. My reflection looked like a strong, graceful, compact dancer, rather than a shetland pony with delusions of grandeur.
I’m not entirely sure how or why this happened, but I’ll take it.
Anyway, tonight CL is opening for Kentucky Shakespeare. I’ll be doing a ball solo (NOT THAT KIND OF BALL SOLO GET YOUR MINDS OUT OF THE GUTTER). Still haven’t decided what I’m wearing or which shoes I want (character shoes? ballet shoes? probably ballet shoes), but it should be fun, and will be a nice way to either close out this week or start next week, depending on how you look at it. I tend to regard Sunday as the first day of the week for scheduling purposes, but because I had a show last night and rehearsals all week, it just really feels like the end of a week that was about ten days long 😛
So that’s it for now. More soon, one hopes.
Aaaaaaaaand, we’re back!
This year’s PlayThink proved, without a doubt, to be the best yet for me—the best by leaps and bounds, in fact (pun not originally intended, but retained for effect ;D).
Part of that was simply the result of the stuff I’ve been working on as a human being for the past year: accepting my social difficulties and learning to socialize within my own limits; growing more confident in my basic worth as a human being; listening with presence and patience; and feeling more confident in my body.
Part of it was the result of very conscious choices that I made before and during the event. I’mma talk about those a little now, k? Cool. Here we go:
Decide Not To Feel Obligated To Take A Million Classes … Or Any At All.
This may be the smartest thing I’ve done for myself in years. In the past, I selected at least one class each day that I just couldn’t miss, and the more I missed, the more frustrated and cranky I got.
This year, I decided to take a different tack: to take a page from the Burning Man playbook and regard the experience as The Thing, and the classes as optional sprinkles.
In the end, the only class I went to was my own (because obvs). That’s fine: I opted, instead, to spend a lot of time relaxing, hanging out with friends new and old, and dancing my tuchas off in the evenings.
It turns out that that’s a great way to do PlayThink, too. I gained just as much from simply sharing time with my fellow beings as I would from taking classes, without the stress of staying on top of the schedule or forcing myself to be out among the masses when I needed to be alone for a while.
Accept The Whims Of The Universe.
PlayThink is usually the only place where I can realistically expect D to join me in a dance performance.
This year, his rotator cuff surgery meant I wasn’t sure until a few weeks before the event that he’d even be able to participate … but I wanted him in my piece, regardless.
Of course, this year I’m also juggling the busiest schedule I’ve ever seen, and was sick for two of the 3-or-so weeks that I had to rehearse with him.
In short, I got almost no rehearsal time in with D. I wound up teaching him the basics of weight-sharing in a 20-minute window a few hours before we were scheduled to hit the stage, then trusting that the Demiurge of Improvisation would visit us and bless the final 40 seconds or so of our piece.
On top of all this, I forgot my push broom and had to borrow one, which was a fantastic broom, but had a very different balance point than mine and thus handled rather differently.
The end result was that a bunch of the stuff I had intended to include got left out, and some spontaneous bits magically appeared. Oh, and I threw D right into his personal nightmare of being asked to perform dance improv with an audience.
The funny thing is that everyone loved the piece anyway.
For PlayThink, I like to make pieces that tell simple, funny stories, and the story still came through.
I also like to take familiar materials (in this case, rather literally) and do unexpected things with them. PlayThinkers are a uniquely receptive crowd for that kind of thing!
The best part, though, was that D revealed an unexpected facility for character acting. Apparently, he was completely terrified while he was on stage … but he projected such an air of confidence and radiant joy that even I had no idea he was feeling anything else.
When your dance partner who’s also your life partner can’t tell that you’re actually terrified and not having the time of your life, you’re officially Doin’ It Rite.
Do Scary Things, Knowing That Everything Might Go Completely Wrong.
I fully intended to test-drive my workshop before PlayThink.
You know how these things go, of course. The road to hell, &c.
Anyway, I was actually quite nervous about teaching, and quite convinced that I had No Srs Bizness Doin So.
Turns out, though, that the good folks who participated* didn’t feel that way at all. My workshop went well and was well-received, and I think the participants actually felt like they learned some stuff, which is great.
I decided up front that everything might go wrong, and that I was going to have to be okay with that, but it was, in fact not terribly likely that everything would go wrong**.
I also decided that I would frame the workshop as one in which we were there to learn together, instead of one in which I was Thuh Authoritah and my students wouldn’t Respekt Mah Authoritah unless I demonstrated complete mastery of the subject matter.
The best moment for me, by the way, happened much later. The next evening on the dance floor, I saw a couple of the students from my workshop using some of the stuff I taught. They were experimenting together with weight sharing, and they laughing, and clearly having a good time. That was a cool and unexpected outgrowth!
*Did I mention that I was also afraid nobody would come to my weird little workshop? No? Well, I was.
**This is an approach that’s sometimes used in treating anxiety disorders and specific phobias. You learn to have this little conversation with yourself: “What am I afraid will happen if I [don’t go back and check the stove again/leave the house/talk to a stranger at this well-attended festival full of thoughtful people/etc]? I could [burn the house down/die/be abducted by a ring of human traffickers]. Could that really happen? Yes. Of course it could. Will it happen? Probably not. How likely is it to happen? Not very.”
As you can probably tell, this approach has been really helpful for me. By naming the thing you’re afraid of and acknowledging that is, in fact, actually possible, then examining the statistical probability of the thing, you remove some of its power without dehumanizing yourself (or whoever it is that’s struggling with anxiety). Obviously, it’s part of a larger process, but for me it’s a really important part.
Ultimately, PlayThink is about sharing and learning … and even though I didn’t spend a lot of time in the formal learning space this year, I feel like I learned more than I’ve learned at any other PlayThink.
If I had to crystallize the lessons I learned into soundbytes, they’d go something like this:
That last one is pretty groundbreaking for me. The circumstances of my childhood and adolescence taught me that to reveal vulnerability was to have that vulnerability exploited: to show fear was to be given reason to be even more afraid; to show weakness was to be hurt.
I think there’s still a lot of the world that operates on those principles, so I’m not going to say that it’s always safe to say, “This scares the #$%! out of me.” Sometimes it’s really, really not.
But it’s good to know that sometimes, it really, really is.
Somehow, I had become convinced that the LexBallet intensive was in June (even though it has always been in July) and that PlayThink was in July (even though it has always been in June—my sister’s birthday coincides with it every year), and EVEN, even though I made widgets for this very blorg that list the dates.
Needless to say, knowing that The Time Is Almost Upon Us has me, as they say, a little shook.
Mostly because, for the first time, I’m teaching a workshop, and I haven’t even given said workshop a test drive like I meant to (because Golden Retriever Time, y’all).
Anyway. I think it’ll be okay, but my Imposter Syndrome is off the charts with regard to teaching. I’m like, HOW CAN I TEACH, I DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW ANYTHING??!11
I’m sure everything will go just fine and nobody will die. And if anybody does die it will probably because Kentucky is ridiculously hot and humid in June and not because I’m a horrible, incompetent danseur and should never be allowed to teach anything, ever. But I hope nobody dies even then because that would really probably put me off teaching for a while (because I’m horribly superstitious deep in the cockles of my heart).
Regardless, I have a Plan (and not just a Goal) for the workshop and a 2-hour window in which to accomplish that plan, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to be okay. I’ll just, as Señor Beastmode likes to say, Stick To The Plan. Unless the Plan proves completely useless, in which case I’ll throw it out the window.
In case you’re wondering, the exercises I’m planning to use will be sequenced as follows:
A lot of this is stuff I’ve learned from Pilobolus—stuff that I feel very comfortable doing, but possibly not like I have the earned authority to teach it. …Which is hilarious, because I’ve taught all of this at various points, with the exception of 5-Minute Dances, which is something you more facilitate than teach.
Ironically, I feel least qualified to teach in the dance idiom I practice the most (ballet) and most qualified to teach in the one I practice the least (modern partnering improv).
I would say that I’m not sure what that says about my faith in my practice, only I am: what it says is that ballet is a highly-technical, rigorously codified idiom, and teaching it incorrectly can really screw someone up. When I talk about the technical aspects of ballet, people routinely tell me I should teach—but I think it’ll take a few more years of learning, performing, and choreography…ing before I feel qualified to teach ballet.
I also need to start rehearsing “…Lover Boy” in earnest, because I haven’t really given that enough time.
Lastly, I need to NOT TAKE ON ANY MORE PROJECTS RIGHT NOW. I’m booked to the gills all summer, which came as something of a surprise even though in retrospect it seems fairly obvious that that’s what happens when you take two contracts and then load freelance gigs on top of them 😛
Not to say I won’t take a ballet job if someone hands it to me, because, you know, ballet.
I mean, like, literally.
I’m talking about weight-sharing, here.
When you weight-in, you pour your weight into your partner, who pours their weight into you. Ideally, you should find equilibrium: you’re not pushing Terry* over, and Terry’s not pushing you over.
*Our gender-neutral partner du jour
When you weight-out, it works the same way, except instead of pushing, you’re pulling.
This is the lovely thing about weight-sharing: it’s a style of partnering that depends on both partners carrying their share of the weight. If you’re distributing the load equally, you can do all kinds of crazy things that way.
The piece I’m setting to Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” (I’m kicking around the idea of calling it “Tenebrae”) combines traditional ballet partnering and weight-sharing, which makes for some interesting transitions: early in the piece, we fold from a shared arabesque en fondu through a moment of weight-sharing into a ballet-standard supported arabeqsue.
The challenge for K, as a ballet dancer who hasn’t worked in a weight-sharing modality before, is surrendering her weight into me at moments that it feels really counter-intuitive. She has the hard part of that move: basically, all I have to do is reach back with my free leg, set the foot on the floor, and get my arms to the right place at the right time so she can use them for leverage at one point in her end of things.
She’s tasked with the bizarre challenge of yielding her weight to me as I recover from the arabesque, rolling into my lap without bringing her working leg down, then fouettéing back into an arabesque.
She pretty much got it from the word go, which blows my mind. At first she wasn’t quite getting enough of her her weight down into me in the middle of all this, but it’s getting better and better. The fact that she springs right back into the traditional ballet mode with no difficulty is amazing.
Regardless, the more she pours her weight into me as we sit back together, the easier the transition is for both of us.
Anyway, the piece is going well. We’re well into the third minute of the dance. I’m not sure about the exact time because the last run we were behind the count and I left out a phrase that I’m pretty sure I want to keep. Regardless, given that we’ve put in about 2.5 hours, I’m very happy with how much we’ve built.
There will, of course, be some rebuilding involved once I start setting this with a larger cast—not least because right now we have the entire stage, and we use the heck out of it.
We’ve started taking video of basically everything, because I have this habit of finishing the part we’ve already worked and starting right into the next section, and it can be hard to remember what, exactly, I did sometimes. Most of the piece is pretty clear in my head, but where it’s vague, I tend to just let the music drive and I, like, forget to remember.
Couple more for posterity 😉
This week I have one more rehearsal for this piece, plus one for Thursday’s show (ArtWorks) and about a million for Weeds, in addition to the usual class schedule.
Class, overall, is going well: I’m working on relying more on my inner thighs, working from my back down through the floor, and trusting my balances.
Oh, and also not doing dumb things with my hands or letting my shoulders creep into my ears when things get complicated. That, too.
So it’s been, heck, like seven months or whatevs, and I haven’t updated the Topless Boys Live series in a bit.
Anyway, here’s where things are, with the new glasses as well (no special reason, just hadn’t put my contacts in yet).
I am also finally getting some definition back after several months of feeling podgy.
The most interesting thing about these scars is that the scars themselves are now thin, whitish lines–healing of some kind is still going on simultaneously alongside them, so my skin is a little pinkish there, especially when I’m cold.
I’m used to the way my body feels, but maybe not to liking the way I look. It still surprises me how much I do like how I look most of the time.
Long day tomorrow: class, rehearsal, different rehearsal, performance, different performance. Class starts at 9 AM; second performance ends at 11:30 PM.
Tonight, though, I’m going to go review choreo for an hour or so, then come home and crash.
Totally failed to write about my own show, as you do. 😆
It went well—not perfect, but well enough that the audience thought it was. I got a nice word from our director, BG: “Your musicality was perfect.” As a dancer, that’s not a word you hear often.
Also quite a few nice words from folks in the audience—friends and perfect strangers both. E’s husband told me: “You stole the show—I mean that as a compliment!” That was a lovely thing to hear, but I think the best thing was K’s friends, who described my dancing to her as “powerful,” among other lovely words I wish I remembered right now.
K, meanwhile—my friend-turned-ballet partner who made me take myself seriously as a dancer some while back by telling me that I reminded her of Nureyev— described my attitude turn as beautiful, floating, and apparently effortless, with the free leg raised to 90 degrees.
I was glad to hear that, because in both the tech run and the full dress run I didn’t account for how remarkably grippy this particular batch of Marley was and wound up with 3/4s of an attitude turn and the world’s tiniest promenade 😅 During the actual show, it felt great, but that’s not always the most accurate barometer!
In the end, I think everyone was pretty happy with things.
There’s an immense peace that comes over me when I’m on stage. It’s like being immersed entirely in the stream of the present. Time is at once infinite and fleeting. Choreography appears like a divine gift. I don’t have to think about it: it’s just there.
There was a weird moment right at the beginning when I realized, with surprise, not only could I actually see part of the audience quite clearly, but was sharing a moment of eye contact with a woman out in the seats. That was really, really cool—also a crystal-clear visual memory that I’ll carry forever.
There’s something special about realizing that, hey, there are actual people out there, and they’re connected with what you’re doing, and it means something to them. For some performers, that’s kind of a nightmare, but I loved it—especially for this piece, which was full of emotion and human connections (both literal and metaphorical).
Anyway, we followed our terpsichorean triumph with one heck of a party, then hauled our heineys outta bed for class (my calf was iffy, so I opted not to jump—Memorial is a beautiful house, but the floor is pretty hard, and we did a bunch of jumps in our warm-up class before the show). Followed that with an hour of contact improv and 3 hour rehearsal: #dancerlife never stops 😛
This morning I opted to stay home and rest the legs a little, even though I’m adding Monday AM to the rotation. Back to class as usual tonight.
Possibly the best news: BG asked us at our party how we’d feel about performing more often. He has plans in the works. Obviously, I’m so there.
In the meanwhile, though, the next blip on my radar is another gala thing, this time with an excerpt from the Culture of Poverty, on April 30th.
Four years ago, when I stepped back into the studio, I never would have imagined living this life.
Honestly, if you’d described it to me, with all its chaos and exceedingly complicated scheduling, I would have, like, fainted (though it was wouldn’t have changed much, if anything).
In the end, though, this is what happens when we stumble into a driving passion: it, like, you know, drives.
And now, back to our regularly-scheduled laundry day.
My schedule has officially gone plaid again, so I’ll probably be brief for the next couple of weeks.
We’re in the theater next week, and with a little good grace from the Powers That Be, our piece will be lovely.
Here’s my epic developpé near the end:
… And here’s what happens when I wind up too close to the column right next to BG:
In other news, I thought I would hate having to wear jazz pants, but actually I kinda like these ones?
The Showcase Piece IS DONE!!!
…And I really like it. Next week we workshop the partnering bits and clean the piece. Pretty exciting stuff.
So! Our AD emeritus, who once gave me an extremely memorable correction about my supporting leg, will be teaching Advanced Class going forward o.O’
I don’t know why I find him intimidating (possibly because he’s been dancing longer than I’ve been alive?), but I do. As such, I’ll be working on relaxing and keeping my head together. Which I’m working on anyway: I don’t get nervous on stage, but I do get very charged up, and sometimes that translates to doing things faster than I should. Learning to dial things back will help in either situation.
Anyway, Le Directeur Ancien takes over next Saturday.
I’m hoping he’ll take us to task on port de bras. Yesterday, I finally remembered to ask Señor BeastMode for input on this year’s ballet goals, and his answer was, “Get the whole body working together—that coordination will take you to the next level. You’ve got the legs and the feet.”
That’s strikingly similar to BW’s input. Also a pretty nice vote of confidence from the BG (AKA Señor BeastMode).
I haven’t checked in with Killer B and J yet, but I’ll try to do that this week. I should see both of them tonight at J’s Monday night class.
Saturday class this week was edifying, except for the moment in this very simple balancé x2 — soutenu — balancé combination when I was thinking so hard about refining my balancé that I forgot to soutenu. Erm. Oops?
It didn’t really screw anything up, though, since that was the option for newer students anyway. There were 15 of us all jammed into the tiny studio, so BG came up with a waltz combination we could all do at center without killing each-other (we also did a nice terre-a-terre waltz). The only time I’ve ever seen more people in Studio 5 was the time Paul Taylor Company showed up en masse.
My piece for the show on the 28th is essentially done and dusted. I ran it about 10 times today with Denis reading for me (the whole show is set to poetry), then I took a break and danced with my scarf (which is definitely going to become a thing in my flow repertoire).
I also got to chat with my actual reader, L, about prosody. Next Saturday, we’ll run the piece together a couple of times, and I think we’ll be set. The show is the final weekend of January. It’ll be a nice way to launch this year in terms of performing.
Tonight I’m finalizing my application to perform at PlayThink, even though I really have no idea what I’m going to do, since I don’t have an acro partner. Basically, I need to decide whether to choreograph a solo piece or recruit a partner. I’d really like to work with a partner, but I’ll have to poke around and see who’s going.
I’m really excited about the beginning of rep class and our upcoming piece for Spring Collection. It’s looking like we’ll have more of us than I expected, which is nice (though it would’ve been cool in its own way if there were only three of us).
This week we have two Cirque workshops as well as the normal array of classes and so forth. It should be an awesome week, but also heckin’ busy—as will be the rest of the first half of the year.
So that’s it for now.