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Obligatory Gratitude Post 2018

Obligatory Gratitude Post, 2018 😀

It’s Thanksgiving (Almost)!

You know.

That time of year when Americans come together to do battle with the groaning board, avoid discussing politics, and … oh yeah … give thanks.

I mean, it’s right there in the name!

And even though today was a Bad Ballet Day, I have a lot to be grateful for this year.

I’m not going to enumerate all the things. That would take forevvvverrrr. Instead, I’m going to focus on the weirdest thing I’m grateful for. So here it is:

I’m grateful for being totally out of my depth.

Struggle Is How We Grow

When we’re out of our depth, we struggle.

In the moment, that sometimes feels awful. In fact, it frequently feels awful. Especially when you’ve taken a huge leap from being a big fish in a small pond to being the smallest (and most incompetent) fish in a big pond.

And yet, in this context, struggle means opportunity. When you’re at the bottom of the climb, there’s nowhere to go but up. The challenge is figuring out how to do that.

Stairway shot from above with a blurry dancer passing by below.
You could take the stairs!

It’s too facile to say that struggle means growth. Sometimes, struggle means that either someone or something is impeding your progress (you might even be impeding it yourself).

But I think it’s pretty fair to say that growth means struggle. Not all of the time, but at least some of the time.

We grow stronger physically by making a zillion infinitesimal tears in our muscles. We grow stronger emotionally by making a zillion infinitesimal tears in our hearts.

We improve our skills not by working on the things we’ve already mastered (though that’s important, too), but by cracking away at the things we haven’t mastered yet.

Struggle and Arise

Our roughest spots are where we can improve the most (and, sometimes, the fastest). It just so happens that working on them is often frustrating AF.

So the next time I’m in the studio feeling frustrated and like I should just pack it in and consider a career in, like, anything other than dance, I will try to remind myself that I’m frustrated because I’m struggling, and I’m struggling because I’m growing and learning.

And I’ll try to be grateful for the struggle, because it means I’ve been granted an amazing opportunity.

I’m learning how to be a dancer at a new level. Mr D chose to roll the dice on me, and I’m immensely grateful for that, and for all the guidance of my many teachers and friends who helped me reach this point.

A still image from the ballet "Tenebrae"of three dancers in an embrace.

Danseur Ignoble: Choreography Again, Again

It’s weird how you can be in the middle of something else entirely and find that your brain has been patiently working on an unrelated problem.

In the middle of reading a book (An actual, physical book, you guys! Can you believe it?!!!11!1one), I suddenly figured out how to resolve the most enormous problem with the choreography for “Shadowlands.”

Initially, I envisioned it with a chair at one end of the stage; a mirror at the other. Both play critical roles in the dance itself; in the story, as it were, that the dance is telling.

Unfortunately, that creates a situation in which the dancer basically wanders back and forth along one straight line between them, which looks boring (which I realized while watching Denis’ video). Instead of being a dance about anguish, grief, internal conflict, or what have you, it appears to be an addle-pated person in tights staggering back and forth incomprehensibly between a chair and a mirror and occasionally jumping for no apparent reason.

Oh, and alternately wrestling with and folding a bathrobe. Seriously, I need to learn how to work the straightening-out of that particular prop into the dance, because there’s this horrible moment in Denis’ video in which I stand on a chair, stare into space, and fold a freaking bathrobe for like 20 seconds, which feels like an hour.  Booooooooooring.

I suppose that could work if I were trying to make a dance about the way I felt the last time I had a concussion, or about trying to get ready for bed after the last time I went to a bar with Denis and Kelly … but I’m not.

There are two easy ways to solve this problem:
1. Simply add a mark at the back of the stage; the dance can then begin halfway between mirror and chair and use diagonal lines between the two. The advantage, here, is that no further set pieces are needed (and, thus, no schlepping or setup of additional set-pieces).

2. Add a third set-piece. The piece as I choreographed it assumed a proscenium with wings into which the dancer walks at the end; the performance space in question doesn’t have wings, so it doesn’t quite work as it should. I could add a third set-piece — specifically a door — and neatly kill two birds with one stone.  One, the triangular structure of the stage would then be formally defined; two, the lack of wings would no longer be an issue.

For what it’s worth, I envisioned this dance, originally, with a door (or, well, I came up with that idea after I gave up on leaping offstage from the top of the chair; that seems a little melodramatic and like a good way to really break a leg). I didn’t have time to work out the logistics before the audition of building or borrowing such a set-piece, though, and I forgot all about it.

Personally, I’m leaning towards the door, simply because of the lack of wings.

Of course, all this assumes that my piece is selected for this performance.   If it isn’t, though, it still makes sense to hone it with the assumption that there might not be any wings wherever it someday sees the light of day.

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