happy one year anny

So ummmm, well….HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!!

I cannot believe it’s been an entire year since This is Major started filling your inbox, cray-zay!!! Thank you all for reading my posts every week, thank you for all of your honest feedback, and thank you all for joining the Dyva-army!

I feel like now’s an appropriate time to share a little insight into why I started this blog in the first place…a year in, I guess it’s about time I put out

Note: most of this has nothing to do with dance…some of it does…uhmmm enjoy!

So it was around this time last year that I became obsessed with reading blogs, my favorite blog was The Life & Lessons of Rachel Wilkerson (now inactive), a fellow Spartan that I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts. I found such a home in her random stories, as they felt so familiar to life I was living in Brockport (…my version was just a little more G-rated…), and in my weakest moments, I found solace in knowing that my path wasn’t necessarily unique—I wasn’t actually alone.

Similar to Rachel, I struggled with my weight for most of my life; when I graduated high school and then again from Michigan State University, I weighed close to 200 pounds, and I could fluctuate up or down 30 pounds any given year…not healthy…

hey me.

hey me.

As we’ve talked about before, my days as a dancer are spent standing in front of a full-length mirror just trying to get better; with this being said, most of my life was also spent under the bribe that if I lost ten pounds (when I actually had 60 to lose), some desired dance-reward would follow.

If you lose ten pounds, you could win a platinum medal at the next dance competition.
If you lose ten pounds, you could even place first overall.
If you lose ten pounds, you could be accepted at x-university.
If you lose ten pounds, awesome-choreographer will cast you in their next piece.
If you lose ten pounds, you’ll get a job with x-company.

Holy hell…why couldn’t I just lose those frickin ten pounds!?!?!??

Well I’ve lost about 50 pounds in total thus far, but so much more than the size of my dance pants has transformed; I finally found my voice.

Hey me, again!

Hey me, again!

Ok, yay for me…let’s bring things full circle, shall we?

I was spending hours of my life reading Rachel’s blog, feeling like we were meant to be best friends…but in reality, this chick didn’t actually know I exist ( and still doesn’t), yet I was changing my life because of her words (…initially…). I started thinking, if this girl could have such an impact on my life, why couldn’t I do the same for some stranger that I would never meet?

We’ve already established that I’m an attention whore…I WANT TO CHANGE SOMEBODY’S LIFE!!!

I wanted to create a blog that was written for my people, people who were experiencing the same things I was experiencing on a daily basis. I wanted to form a network where people from the dance community could not only connect with one another, but with outsiders as well; I aspire(d) to serve as the liaison between our world of concert dance and everyone else. I believe in dance advocacy (I know, I just blew your mind), and I love knowing that my dad can relate to what I’m talking about without actually knowing what I’m talking about (“I’m a modern dancer…I’m a kumquat!”) But seriously, how cool would it be if my review of Jonah Bokaer’s show inspires Ordinary Person to purchase tickets for his next performance at the Joyce?

That would be pretty cool.

So in conclusion, I’ve spent this past year writing posts that are based on real events from my dance life, hoping that something (anything) resonates with your life…even if it’s just the title. I love connecting with people and I hope that at some point you’ve realized through reading my blog that even when you feel the most alone, you’re never actually. Again, I appreciate your support throughout these past 365 days—through the ups and the downs (…sorry about last week…), and I’m ecstatic to see where we go in the next 365!

Happy Holidays! (we survived the apocalypse!!!)

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10 things you should be doing right now…

…instead of studying for finals

  1. Bake. Duh.
  2. Figure out how many layers you can actually wear at one time. It’s cold outside…what?
  3. Start rehearsing a project for next semester.
  4. Brush your cat…and trim her nails…and then pretend to brush her teeth.
  5. Blog… (oh heyyyy)
  6. Stalk Pinterest to figure out what holiday gifts you’re making this year…because you’re a *BAD* (broke-ass dyva)
  7. Lay in your bed and stare at the ceiling…because…well…I’m exhausted, okay?!?
  8. Workout and then paint your nails. (you can’t do ANYTHING while your nails are drying)
  9. Make home videos with your Flipcam. (dance documentation, duh)
  10. And as a last resort…you could always shower   (I know…that was a silly suggestion)

 **Bonus 11.: Fly to Atlanta to visit your bestie whom you haven’t seen in about a year…

just prioritizing...in Atlanta...

just prioritizing…in Atlanta…

Hope this helps! Happy Finals!!!

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auditions ain’t a thang

Auditions. Some dancers love them, some (most) dancers hate them, either way, we all face them.

It goes without saying…or at least it should, that RABs are always lurking around the corner, but that aside, how do Dyva’s survive the audition process?

Look no further, I will tell you…

The Dyva’s Survival Guide for Auditions:

The first step is home preparation. You know that any audition is going to conjure up some nervous energy, so spend the night before preparing anything and everything you may need for the big day: snacks, water, your resume, a pen, clothes you feel good dancing in, a change of clothes, shoes (tap, jazz, pointe, sneakers), DO for your B.O, your IPod and headphones…and of course, bright lipstick. **I forgot lipstick at my last audition earlier this week actually…and I definitely didn’t perform at my best…I’m just saying….

I’d rather be over-prepared than seizing in the corner with anxiety because I forgot my ballet shoes on my bedroom floor under the pile of dirty clothes (…true story for 17 year-old Nicole…) Put in the necessary time to make sure you’ve checked your bag for all of the essentials before you even go to bed.

Dyvas on Dyvas on Dyvas

Dyvas on Dyvas on Dyvas

So let’s say it’s the day of the audition, do yourself a favor and eat something…quality food please. Keep it clean so you don’t feel weighed down. Keep it substantial so you don’t feel famished by the time you hear “5-6-7-8”. Just keep it classy…I mean nourished…keep it nourished.

Breakfast: oatmeal with half a banana, almond butter, chopped dates, butterscotch chips, a shimmy of cinnamon, and brown sugar.
Lunch: Egg salad with avocado (wholly guacamole 100 cal packets instead of mayo) on two pieces of whole wheat bread, and some crunchy veggies.
Snack: Small apple with a handful of almonds or roasted chickpeas.
Dinner: Salmon with pesto and Parmesan cheese, and a side of steamed green beans.

There…now no matter what time of day you’re auditioning, you have no excuse not to eat healthy.

An hour before the audition:
Stop freaking out. Clap your hands in front of your face three times, and realize that in that particular moment, you have absolutely NO control over what will happen 60 minutes in the future. Make sure to give yourself ample time to warm up and physically prepare for whatever might be thrown at you. If you’re a yogi, see you in downward dog…if you’re a bunhead, see you at the barre…if you’re a RAB, go to hell. Trust your facility, and know that whatever happens…it’s going to be great!!! (…my motto for 2012…)

AUDITION TIME!!!
Take everything in stride, and do your best to stay focused. I find that the less time I spend glancing around worrying about what everybody else looks like, the more time I can invest in just picking up the information as fast as possible. Keep breathing, and never be afraid to stand out. **Try to use your context clues if you’re unsure about something: there’s never any harm in asking questions, but if it’s something you can figure out by observing others (…not judging), do that instead. It’s always better to stand out for your dancing (and lipstick), rather than your laundry list of questions and insecurities.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now, what do I look for when I’m on the other side of the audition looking to cast dancers?

  1. Confidence: Don’t be afraid to stand in the front row. It’s important to make your face seen, but don’t be too pushy; there’s a fine line between throwing elbows for the front row and being noticed because of your incredible skill and unique presence.
  2. Stylistic Compatibility: Will your dancing fit the needs of my choreography for this specific project? I’m not going to cast a dancer with an affinity for lightness and free-flow if I’m looking to make a grounded hip-hop piece with bound flow…  (…wait…picture Balanchine tutting…you’re welcome…)
  3. Your Reputation. Never forget how small the dance community is; we all talk. Be a professional: show up on time, show up prepared, and keep the talking to a minimum. Don’t make me blackball you… (I WOULD NEVER!…)
  4. Our relationship. Have we met? Have we worked together before? Do we have matching friendship bracelets?
  5. Scheduling: Sometimes timing just isn’t right. Nothing personal and no hard feelings.

Moral of the story: go in and do the job to the best of your ability. If you have a genuine interest in the project and are a good fit for the choreography, you can rest assured that if it’s meant to happen…it’ll happen.

May the odds be ever in your favor, Dyva!

MERDE ALERT!!!!

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i thought it was spelled “warewolf”…

I’m currently a teaching assistant for our new dancers’ modern technique class; most of the students are freshman, and a giant handful of them come from studio-based backgrounds…like me…

I recently sat in (…and painfully facilitated) a few of their mid-semester evaluation conferences (we split the semester in half, so each section of modern technique has two teachers/semester…so technically, this is quarter semester, but who’s really paying attention…), where we discussed both their strengths and weaknesses…in a very candid way.

There was something about those meetings that really struck a chord with me; these students, mostly all new to dance in higher education, were in that confusing period of phasing out of what they’ve known for years at their studios, and into this world of postmodern dance through Bartenieff fundamentals and release technique…a phasing period I know all too well.

I’ll justify the following analogy with a little open disclosure: I’ve recently (re)binged on the Twilight Saga…at home, in theaters, even paperback form…I’m not sorry…

That being said…the transition period between competition-studio dance (where technique class is code for “competition choreography”, and where your sole goal is to make it on Hall of Fame’s website so that people can jack your style for next season) into modern dance at the university level (where you finally learn how to plie efficiently…F-off external rotators, my knees were working just fine…) is a lot like phasing for werewolves. (I said it.)

You’re not really sure why life has to change all of a sudden, especially when you were doing just fine, but all of a sudden EVERYTHING has changed.

You start to realize that dance, that thing you’ve done for years every day after school for fun (!!!), was a lot harder and smarter than you ever imagined—and there are days when you worry it may even be smarter than you

i’ve been known to snarl/growl/bear my teeth

Amidst the self-doubt and various degrees of resentment and resistance, a flicker of hope shows its face when you least expect it. As a new werewolf (I mean, modern dancer…) you start to realize what your current patterns of movement are and how they either support or oppose this new information; there’s no set timeline, but eventually you begin to make adjustments that fit your body’s needs. Before you know it, you’re alpha, teaching a modern technique class to other dance majors, claiming that your understanding of release technique is enough to feed theirs.

That shit cray.

Even after you’ve settled into this new way of life, self-discovery becomes your new BFF…or maybe sometimes, that person you actually can’t stand who never seems to go away. A lot of that transition requires you to go back to the basics, and realize that technique class isn’t a performance; it’s your lab to experiment and make crazy shit that may blow up in your face and everyone else’s around you. That’s okay.

You’ve claimed to have been making art your entire life, and don’t get me wrong, you have! Think of studio-dance as shading with crayons, whereas dance in the university is finally outlining those pictures in marker; it’s all the same picture (at least that’s what I’m arguing).

I encourage you to join our pack…we really are nice people.

Duncan, Graham, St. Dennis, Laban, Dunham

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flecks of thanks!

I was told a few weeks ago that through good times and bad, life should be experienced through a “Thankful Heart”.

This got me thinking, I’ve thought/talked about things I’ve wanted/needed/aspired to become/hated, but I’ve never shared what I’m thankful for within our glitterific community of dance and awesomeness…

Since it’s the day before Thanksgiving, and I’m sure plenty (most) of you are thinking less about undercurves and more about how much food your stomach can hold in 24 hours, I thought I’d share my Thankful Heart with all of you:

1. I’m thankful for the people who believe in me even when I stutter, spell incorrectly, fall on my face (literally…improv is hard), and awkwardly blog about them.

2. I’m thankful for people like this (Introducing: Kendra Portier) who inspire me to find my own voice and then love it for what it is.

3. I’m thankful for the opportunities and experiences that I’m not always certain I deserve…like being allowed to teach my version of head/shoulders/knees/toes to some of the most amazing dancers (and getting paid for it…)

4. I’m thankful for Britney Spears, the woman who taught me how to be unapologetically fierce (circa 2002…obviously).

5. I’m thankful that this guy decided to give me the permission to just say yes! (…and to BDF for accepting me into their program so that I could meet this guy…)

6. I’m thankful for sports bras.

7. I’m thankful that in a world full of “aesthetics” and “ideals”, every single one of us has a place if we choose to own it.

8. I’m thankful for this tiny community of dance. In an environment where you don’t know a soul, you quickly realize that it’s a lie, and that you’re actually back home with old friends.

9. I’m thankful for my Grandpa-Kaplan who claims to have taught me all of my “cool moves”…apparently without him, I wouldn’t be here…

10. And finally, I’m thankful that you people find me interesting enough to read my blog about sports bras and tendus week after week. THANK YOU!

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did we just become best friends?

Dancers work in an environment where feedback is delivered in one of two ways: oral or tactile.  I feel like it’s assumed that I’ll be touched at some point when I take a technique class, but after engaging in several conversations over the past few weeks, it’s been brought to my attention that not everyone wants to, or is okay with physical contact. Further, I feel like because we are so open in the studio, interpersonal conversations also tend to be full-disclosure; to some degree, I feel like any creative process begs for not only a certain level of vulnerability, but also a willingness to openly discuss it, regardless of how personal it may have been at the time.

But wait, you mean that dancers are entitled to personal boundaries?

So…did you not want to do a massage train?…

I find that when you encounter someone who doesn’t necessarily wear their heart on their sleeve in general conversation or even in technique class, that you’re instantly confronted with your own tendencies. I’ve started to become extremely self-aware as a student, and even more so as a teacher. How much of myself am I willing to share with the room, and then from there, how is my experience effected by my level of engagement? Do I apologize if I’m not feeling especially open to discussion or touch, or just pretend that I’m not feeling sort of stand off’ish that day—is that actually me being stand-off’ish? I’ve had to reassess my personal values and general attitudes regarding how much of myself needs to be made public so that I can still feel connected–what’s absolutely necessary?

What do you mean you don’t want to tell me what you ate for dinner last night?—and why don’t you want to hug me for five minutes before class starts???

Real-life application: I’ve been seeing a neuromuscular therapist for the past few months, where basically I lay on a table under a sheet wearing only my undies; doctor then comes in and moves the sheet around based on where he needs to work on my body. I’m totally exposed and almost totally indifferent to that stranger’s hands; I’ve become almost completely desensitized to human touch. After x amount of somatic classes, touch has become just, well…normal. Is that normal? I’m now used to being handled by others, and am also totally fine with following someone else’s touch without imposing any of my own impulses. This would probably be really weird for normal people, and even new dancers; so I guess yeah, maybe it should be addressed a little more often.

Now it’s your turn to reflect: Should it be assumed that we’ve all left our boundaries at the door? How do you communicate that it’s a no-touch day? How does that then translate to a face-to-face meeting? Does it mean we’re automatically besties sharing our deepest and darkest just because I rotated your femur in your hip socket (in either direction) for 20 minutes?

Well first I should ask, can I rotate your femur, or what?

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i think i’m supposed to be embarrassed..

So…a few things…

  1. I’m a super geek and have serious crushes on a few of the faculty members at Brockport…not hard to figure out by now…
  2. I’m still so amazed at their willingness to socialize with me on a regular basis outside of the classroom. (…hence super geek…)

just waiting for Dance Research to start…

I realize that power is assigned and that it’s all relative, and I also realize that I’ve assigned a pretty decent share to the people whom I look up to—but I still find it fascinating that the same people who can text David Dorfman or even Trisha Brown (…I’m not sure Ms. Trish texts…I don’t know, maybe she does…) on a regular basis, also text me (…sometimes)—and we sit across the table from one another fairly regularly over coffee and a bagel.

I definitely don’t do that with Britney Spears, and it’s sort of on the same level…

Sorry if you’re one of those people I’m referring to and it’s now awkward. Actually, sorry I’m not sorry. I kind of really like you….sign my yearbook?

I think it’s again, one of those things that set dancers apart from other fields in higher education. Sure, there’s theory and conceptual thinking involved while sitting behind desks, but so much more of what we do is instant turnaround and application. 99.9% of the faculty are still active and contributing members within the larger community of dance, and people literally apply to work here just because of the names…but when I’m not improv’ing alongside those names in the studio, I get to sit in their offices and talk about hip-hop, glitter, and why/how the Magic 8 Ball really does provide the essential answers to life. That’s crazy talk.

…is the world going to end?

I just know that when I majored in Communications at MSU, I didn’t necessary know or even care who any of my professors were. It’s definitely all relative to the value one assigns to a particular field and their VIP’s, but I just have to say that it has yet to wear on me that I exist in an environment where I learn dance history from the people who are literally in the midst of making and recording the dance history of today.

On one hand, I find that the expectations I’ve set for myself (as a student, and in life) are directly correlated to the faculty’s level of success. I want to be one of those people working at a reputable school like Brockport, so that means I’ve got to work extra hard to stand firmly through the natural selection process that comes shortly after graduating; I will not work (…as in, refuse…) at the coffee shop I once dined at with said faculty.  I think it’s valid to set goals and aspirations above and beyond what’s simply passable; I want to be great at what I do, and I want to make a lasting difference before I kick it for good. I’ve realized that in a few short months, I’ll technically be able to apply for a job alongside these people who I so admire, but that doesn’t necessarily make me a competitive applicant just by default; I’ve got to account for the time in between where I gain the experience that makes me not only competitive, but a momentous force that can easefully roll with the BIG DOGS on a level playing field. What’s most important however is setting a realistic timeline, which I’ve demonstrated can be a little difficult when you’re a perfectionist that wants IT ALL RIGHT NOW.  I just wish that when faculty and I were having coffee, their successes (…and impressive vocabulary…acetabulum, for example) would just rub off on me free of charge…

On the other hand, these people who I look up to so much, give me the time of day because they see the potential for growth in what I have to offer right now in this very moment; they’re less worried about what I’ll be doing five years from now, and more interested in how my work is evolving today. My foundation has been set…THEY laid it over these past three’ish years—so at this point, their major objective is guiding my path in the way of self-assurance, it’s about time I own it. Nine times out of ten, I get a verbal slap on the wrist for expecting the world of myself over night; they say/imply that I need to chill out or something (…as if they know me…wait, THEY KNOW ME!) They totally know that I want their jobs one day, but they also know that I have a genuine interest in learning and improving—and that even though I’m a little star struck from time to time, way back when they were once in my shoes…

 We all have a Dumbledore…even Dumbledore has a Dumbledore…

So call me groupie, I don’t care—there’s literally no shame in my game!

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bucket list alert

1. Strut down a catwalk with lots of people watching (don’t lie…you want that too)

don’t be jealous of my boogie

2. Be in a music video

3. Learn how to vogue

4. Serve as a guest artist at a summer dance festival

5. Frame a snapshot of a grande plie in second position (…is there anything sexier?)

6. Be a YouTube sensation

7. Get paid to make a dance with my hubby (Mr. Spears)

8. Teach in higher education

9. Dance in a high(ish) profile company (…I know, I know…it’s all relative… whatever…)

10. Be a published author/dance critic

(11. I sort of want someone to call me a RAB behind my back…psych someone out with my sass)

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sharing is caring

So this past weekend (Oct. 18-20) was the moment of truth, time for my thesis Mapping to hit the big stage. We’ve been rehearsing since mid-August, and I’ve probably seen the piece at various stages at least 70 times; it’s safe to say at this point, there are very few performative surprises. Having worked together so closely for so many weeks, I could argue that things between the eight dancers have become sort of predictable (predictable = consistent)…consistent that is, until a new set of eyes exists in the same room as our dance…

…then all is fair in thesis and war…

As the choreographer, I tense up and sort of break out in hives…ok not sort of, I get a rash sometimes. I become so protective of our work together, that I almost can’t watch if other people are in the same room also paying attention. It’s like I’m being forced to give something special of mine away that I’m not yet ready to part with. Having that new set of eyes makes my perception of the dance completely shift. What was once predictable and consistent is now something I’ve never seen before in my life. Woof Daddy.

Mapping
photo: Rebecca Puretz

It’s so weird, but it happens ALL THE TIME, even with composition assignments for class. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen my own work, the minute there’s an audience, my body literally trembles…

Let’s not even get started on what my nervous energy does to the dancers when they can see me foaming from the mouth with anxiety.

I do think there’s something to be said for having people watch your piece while it’s in the developmental stages; I value feedback thats honest and respectful of the work in progress—and really, the only people I’m comfortable letting in are those whom I know give (my version) of constructive feedback. Let’s just say I work well under a compliment-sandwich situation. The minute the feedback portion is removed however, and people become just spectators viewing my work, I automatically go on the defense…maybe because I’m no longer in a position to defend my choices, as the piece in fruition is finally no longer mine.

Another thing I’ve grappled with throughout this process was not being able to share the narrative that the dancers and I developed. Trying to be a POMO choreographer of the concert world of dance, I left it all up for interpretation…but not really…I mean, absolutely have an opinion, but it’s probably wrong…just kidding…not really…sort of

pure dyvalicious glitter
photo: Emma Scholl

I know what you’re thinking, why do I feel the need to defend myself? Well, for this piece in particular, so much of ME is in it…how could I NOT go on the defense?? Everyone is entitled to their opinion, yes (I mean it this time!), but to sit anonymously within a crowd of people who are busy formulating opinions about the work you’ve devoted hours of your life to without being able to claim any part of it…it’s sort of isolating and an extremely frustrating challenge (especially for me, an attention whore/control-freak).

Those are MY ideas on stage that YOU are watching–and you have NO idea that while you’re whispering to the person on your right, I’m the person sitting to your left…the same person responsible for the tutu-spectacle that’s been assaulting your face for the past 18 minutes.

Not to the same extent, but I sort of feel the same way when I watch people I care about performing. I’m not confrontational (AT ALL), but I become a pitbull, open-mouth growling at people who make side-comments under their breath while people I love dyva-stomp on stage.

Am I alone? What’s the “normal” way to negotiate that point when the dance is no longer yours? Being a firm believer that the process is never-ending, and knowing very well that ready or not, at some point there will be an audience, what are some tactics for that painfully vulnerable stage when it’s finally time to share your work?

you can look but you cant touch

I mean, remember, sharing is caring!!

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my milkshake…yours too

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking (again) about body image–but less about what I look like and more about how I feel in the studio.

As dancers, we spend our days standing in front of mirrors just trying to GET BETTER for hours at a time. There’s always room to improve as an artist, new styles, better efficiency, etc. etc. etc, but what other profession do you know promotes such a vain mission statement? I propose an addendum, I think there’s a second part missing that needs to plastered on the walls of every dance studio in the world:

GET BETTER within the potential of your own facility…nobody else’s.

I feel like a lot of us grow up with this image of what a dancer should be, but the thing is, that dancer doesn’t actually exist. The posters that lined the walls of my room as a little girl, (and probably yours too) were posed bodies that may or may not be stunning dancers when they’re not sitting in a pile of rose petals pointing their beautifully arched feet. It was my own thoughts that made her the dancer I strived to become for so many years.

what I think I look like (…not really…sort of…)

In real life I’m normal sized, in the studio however I’m a little bit thicker than what you’d probably imagine a ‘dancer’ should look like, mostly because I have curves…

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…but no, you can’t touch my humps.

…I said it…

I will never be that dancer wearing pointe shoes in a rose petal extravaganza, I will however be the dancer athletically moving in and out of the floor faster than you can say “unrealistic ideals”. It took me a while to realize that I still win.

me in real life…winning.
photo: Rebecca Puretz

We assign importance to certain ideas or images based on our own personal value sets, and devalue others without giving much thought to where our own bodies fit into that spectrum of extremes. If we work to create an environment where our individual quirks are looked at as positive idiosyncrasies rather than stepping-stones that take us further away from perfection, then we no longer have to hate ourselves for failing.

Being healthy is more than just eating by the guidelines of the food pyramid; you have to think healthily before the rest can follow.

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