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A Thing I’m Slowly Figuring Out

I tend to try maintain an aura of ebullient optimism.

I’m aware that I lead a relatively charmed life, in which I’m permitted by circumstance to pursue a fairly impractical set of goals, and to mention that I still struggle seems a bit like spitting right into the face of good fortune.

But I do still struggle, and I’m beginning to understand something, which is this: living a life in which I’m not forced to do work that grinds my soul to powder, in which the work I do is work that I enjoy, doesn’t alter the fact that my mental health is a little fragile and that history and genetics have conspired to place me on a narrow bridge that spans a yawning chasm.

Rather, the life I’m living acts as a kind of safety harness, so that when–not if–I go plummeting off my bridge, I can eventually climb back up, or at any rate be hauled back up by people who love me.

I am capable of periods of immense creative productivity, but they’re interspersed with periods in which merely surviving is still all I can do. Those periods of mere survival are made easier to bear by the knowledge that I won’t have to return, as soon as I’m barely able, to work that will inevitably accelerate the arrival of the next plunge off the bridge.

Because D carries the vast majority of the weight of the financial responsibility of keeping us afloat, I’m able to get up and walk along my bridge for long periods, when in the past I rarely made it beyond the clinging-and-crawling-along-the-edges phase before I slipped again.

I don’t make much money doing what I do, but I usually have enough energy left over to keep our house comfortable to live in and to cook good food.

~

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Break (Almost) Week; Reflections on Renversés and Choreography as a Process

Saturday, I spent four hours teaching, several more hours scraping paint, and two hours composing choreography before we went to a party that was actually very fun. Sunday, after acro and Acro Brunch, I spent an hour running choreography, then another hour teaching, and then untold æons (with, so really an hour and change, maybe two) standing on a ladder and painting the house while my hands froze in a chill wind in spite of my gloves(1).

  1. Note to self: wear winter cycling gloves next time. They’re wind-resistant.

As such, I opted to stay in this morning, do housework, and take evening class instead) even though I should really get back to doing Modern Mondays). 

The piece I was working on Saturday evening and a Sunday is essentially a 5-minute long comedic story ballet set to the 2nd movement (adagio cantabile) of Beethoven’s Pathétique. I programmed in a few renversés, and I realized while I worked the piece that not so long ago I wouldn’t have even thought of them. They just wouldn’t have occurred to me. 

BW and JP have really tuned up our renversés this semester, and as such they seem perfectly natural now. I put them in more or less by instinct where the music calls for them and the movement leads to them.

This is, in fact, true of a lot of movements in the classical vocabulary. Many things feel perfectly natural now that wouldn’t have a year ago. 

I think I’ve discussed my tendency to get get to the studio and instantly forget every step I’ve ever learned, then devolve upon programming a bunch of piqué turns and ronds-de-jambe (sometimes while thinking, “How do I get to the jumps?! Ack!”).  I also used to open every adagio piece with essentially the same sequence of développés and adagio turns that open Simon Crane.

Somewhere along the line, that seems to have changed.

This surprised me. Ballet is funny like that. It creeps up on you, and one day you discover that you are far more fluent in its language than you thought.

As a caveat, I must admit that I don’t know if it works this way for people who are genuinely new to dance. I think it might take a little longer in the situation, possibly. For me, the vocabulary was there but largely dormant; I could picture a dance, but when I tried to essentially run dance.exe to execute the dance, it was as if I couldn’t access the necessary files and code.

Taking class again for the better part of three years has apparently done a great deal of hard disk repair, kicking out the bad sectors and improving the connections between the good ones. The dynamic link libraries are once again accessible; the modules of code that create renversés  and cabrioles are no longer in the land of File Not Found (double cabs continue to elude me: goal one for 2017, I guess; double tours are probably goal two). 

When I go to create a piece that’s floating around in my head, I rarely lose the piece anymore. The vision and the finished dance usually match pretty well. I still mostly work phrase by phrase — visualizing, iterating, visualizing, iterating, then moving to the next phrase when the current one one seems solid, then eventually stringing them together into parts and finally stringing the parts together into a dance — but that may simply be my work style.

It also really helps to be able to remember the names of things. Makes writing them down much easier. The downside, though, is that I can now stay up till 1:30 AM listening to music and writing out choreography, knowing that in the morning it will still make sense. Or maybe that’s another upside, because it’s not like choreography didn’t keep me awake before. It just rarely turned out to be particularly intelligible in the cold light of day(2).

  1. Seriously, while working with BB, I have actually said things like: Why did I just write “effacé” there?! Éffacé what?! How? What does that mean? …Did I even mean éffacé? … Wait, I don’t think I meant éffacé.

So I’m pleased to say that this current piece, which I’ll be performing on 9th December if I can convince a couple of people to join me (there’s a second, far less technical dancing part and one brief non-dancing part), is not just a sequence of RDJs and random turns (it has arabesques, penchés, faillis, renversés, double turns, sautés arabesques, tours lent, and some other stuff, not to mention a grand allegro chase scene in the middle). Progress!

In other news, this week will largely be a break week, which means I’ll have time to catch up on household minutiae and start rehearsing “Work Song,” possibly, if everyone is available. After tonight, both dance team and ballet are off until next week. This will be a good week for reconditioning. You guys, I am weak. Between vacation and being sick, I have lost a lot of strength and stamina. 

So it’s back to eating for performance (with, of course, occasional digressions into the realm of pure pleasure) and training for … Erm,  also for performance.

And housework, because adulting never ends. 
Edit: PS – Señor BeastMode would probably like me to remind you that:

Renversé is not a turn.

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