This week, I did some stuff well, some stuff really badly, and a lot of stuff somewhere in between. I nailed the overhead press lift. I didn’t fall over, drop anyone, or knock anyone else over, nor did I kick the audience in our show last night (it was in our building’s performance space, which is more like a ballroom kind of thing, so the audience sits in chairs along the wall).
To be fair, I would have to have REALLY messed up to kick the audience, as I’m mostly in the back in the stuff I’m in right now.
I’ve made a deal with myself. I’m a trainee, really; a company apprentice. So I’m here to learn, and I have a LOT to learn. Every time I’m tempted to make an excuse, then, I stop and ask myself, “Okay, so X is a thing that’s getting in the way. How can I solve that problem?”
I am still shy in person: like many introverts, I have trouble getting to know new people most of the time, and especially when most of them already know each-other. I’ve been letting that get in my way a little. This week, I decided it’s time to step up and ask about the choreography when I haven’t caught something or don’t remember something. So far, nobody has rolled their eyes and gone “O FFS HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT?”
I have trouble processing spoken language, especially when I’m doing something, and especially especially in a big, echoey room. It’s just a function of how my brain works. There’s a bit more of a delay for me than for most people between when someone says something and when my brain works out what it was they said.
In class, I can deal with the echoey room part by standing closer to Mr D when he’s giving us a combination. In rehearsal, sometimes he tosses choreography at us from across the room while we’re standing where we finished the last bit, so I’ll have to work out a different strategy for that. I think just asking my fellow dancers is a good way to go; often, they have similar questions. Sometimes we just all look at each-other and shrug.
I’m … erm … moderate at remembering choreography.
I’ve realized that I’m worse at remembering choreography in group pieces than I am in other situations because you can’t not look at people (when there are 20 of you in a circle, you have to use your eyes if you’re going to avoidd kicking each-other in the face). When I’m looking at my fellow dancers, I tend to automatically follow them, and things don’t always make it into my long-term memory for some reason.
This means that I need to review like crazy on my own either in the studio or at home. Fortunately, I have video of the main thing I’m working on remembering.
Steps-wise, for some reason, it’s still the petite Sissones that do my head in. And, of course, knowing that makes me nervous, which prevents me from picking up the petite Sissone combinations correctly. Feck.
So obviously I need to practice the hecking heck out of petite-allegro stylie Sissones on my own. Ditto brisées. Other stuff is mostly coming together on its own, including fancy grand allegro things that I don’t know I can do until I’m throw into the deep and and just do them.
I need to come up with a strategy for sticking a pin in parts of dances that I don’t have when I’m reviewing and I don’t have video. Historically, I’ve dealt with those bits by getting stuck, which only trains you to get stuck. I queried one of my fb ballet communities for suggestions, and one of the best was coming up with some kind shorthand and writing down the choreography as soon we learn it (or at any rate as soon as possible). I think that will help, and it will also hep me understand where I’m missing bits.
Double tours are progressing, though I sometimes get frustrated and start doing them like I’m angry and then Mr D says, “Easy …. easy.” But I’m remembering to spot them more reliably (it occurred to me that it’s impossible to count your revolutions if you don’t spot!) and to go Full Pencil most of the time.
I’m also remembering to jump from the ground up, which is a function of working on snapping into Pencil Mode. In case you’re wondering, attempting to disconnect your upper body from your lower body and toss it into the air under its own power doesn’t actually improve your jumps.
Repeat to yourself, “THE LEGS LIFT THE BODY.”
Like all jumps, double tours begin with pliés. Everything squinches down to load the sproings, and then the reaction of the loaded sproings launches the jump from the ground up. You let the legs lift the hips (this was a David Reuille thing). Then you let the hips lift the body, in part by keeping everything attached and not turning into a slinky.
I’m going to have to get with someone who is relatively fearless about partnering and work on assisted turns, because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING.I would not have expected to be like, “Yah, the lifts are the easy part,” but actually they kind of are? I mean, as long as your partner doesn’t turn into a sack of potatoes. Lifting even 120 pounds of potatoes is about a billion times harder than lifting even 150 pounds of dancer.
On the other hand, I have rather a lot of experience lifting other humans and absolutely none spinning girls in pointe shoes around with my hands. I’m afraid I’m going to knock someone over. On the other, other hand, Mr D announced after Friday’s parade of all the boys spinning various girls in pointe shoes that we’ll be working on that a lot more. Also, I think I’ll be ordering the other half of the set of books on partnering of which I for some reason only have volume 2, which very reasonably assumes you already know how to do the basic stuff.
Also, I suck at the promenade version of the same, for the same reasons.
But I guess that means I can’t actually get worse at it, so there’s that?
If I was less shy, I would just ask S or C or L, all of whom know more about this whole partnering thing than I do, having actually been formally trained in it instead of just experiencing the patchwork of, “Here, do this,” and occasionally, “Oh, and you do it like this!” that makes up my partnering background ^-^’
I’m also working on solving problems like: I have sound upper-back flexibility, so why does my cambré derriere suck a lot of the time? Mr D demonstrated to me that I can basically fold myself like a napkin if someone just runs a hand up the underside of my arm, so … huh. I think the problem is that I get tense and wind up working against myself, so I’m going to have to figure that out.
Also, I need to get my head coordinated with everything. It’s still a bit intermittent, whereas it needs to be automatic. I need to train it so I don’t have to go, “Oh, yeah, use your head” (in the ballet sense ^-^’). Ditto my arms, which are getting better but still sometimes forget to do anything.
So there you go. All I have to do is learn the rest of how to be a professional dancer by the middle of December. No pressure ^-^’
…And I say this because I want to do a thing, and I’m completely in the dark about how to make it happen.
On numerous occasions, I’m sure, I’ve kvetched about the lack of performance opportunities for adult dance students around here. Likewise, I’ve kvetched about the relative lack of body diversity in dance.
After class on Saturday, I mentioned to B. that I’d like to put together a performance for local adult dance students — and that, ideally, I’d really like to see that performance reflect the diversity of body types and abilities out there.
B. said, “Oh, you know, this could be a great fundraiser!”
I think that’s a great idea — to create not just a chance for adult dance students to perform, but a chance for us to work together to do something for the community at large.
Later, I thought, Wouldn’t it be cool to use that performance to raise funds for either for an organization that harnesses the power of dance in a therapeutic way, or for an organization that works to help people with disabilities gain access to dance classes (or maybe even to the arts in general)?
…And thus was the germ of an idea born.
When I asked him if we had any existing organizations that do that kind of thing around here, Denis pointed out that Metro Parks Louisville has an Adapted Leisure program that both offers recreational opportunities (including social dancing) for people with disabilities and that helps make Metro Parks’ other recreation and leisure activities accessible.
That seems like a great place to start.
Beyond that, though, I have absolutely no idea how to proceed.
Hence the quote above: I’m sure it’s a line that’s cropped up in a bazillion places, but I always remember as spoken by The Childlike Empress in the film version of The Neverending Story, which I probably watched 14,000,000 times as a little kid (and, for that matter, as a not-so-little kid: yes, I have totally been guilty of feeling my bike sink into swampy terrain during a gravel race and shouting, “ARRRRRRRRRTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAX!”).
So, basically, yeah. Thinking about this again, today, I realized that everyone begins by having no idea how to do things — and they manage to make it happen anyway.
And, yet, things happen. Wheels get invented (and re-invented); people organize events; history rolls forward.
A year ago, I didn’t know how to do a lot of the stuff I know how to do now. What I did know is that, when something looks difficult, the best thing to do is just try it anyway (hello, promenade en dehors in écarté devant; hello, remembering long combinations; hello temps de fleche — okay, don’t really entirely have that one down yet, because coordination, but it’s coming).
When you attempt something difficult and fail at first, you’re still closer to having it down than you are if you just don’t try.
So, anyway, in recognition of that vision of harnessing the potential of every kind of body, every kind of person, in dance, I’m kicking around the idea of calling this thing EveryBody’s Dance Theater.
The rest I’ll have to figure out as I go along. It seems like probably a good idea to connect with some local people who have experience doing things like this.
So there you have it.
I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, you guys.