Tag Archives: Modern

why i love to dance…again…

I feel like you should first know that about six months (or so) ago, I had a little chat with Dumbledore about my decision to eventually (sooner than later, actually) transition away from dancing into purely dance scholarship. I can remember thinking that dancing was no longer satisfying, but rather an added source of anxiety; I also knew that I love(d) to write, so maybe I was just meant to be the next incredible dance historian…maybe I still will be…but because of this show however, I now love to dance again.

Let's dance...forever!

Let’s dance…forever!

I feel like (still) not having experienced life outside of an academic setting, I was tired of feeling like I needed to perform for a grade, and that my curiosities had become complacent because I was purely dancing to fulfill a list of expectations as listed out on some class syllabus.

And then Mr. Oklahoma, the Artistic Director of Red Dirt Dance asked me (without actually asking me) to dance in his show, and then surprisingly, things started to quickly turn themselves around. I remember feeling so nervous at our first rehearsal back in November …even though I had spent (and continue to spend) a fair amount of my day, every day with this man. It was essentially my first time out as a not-student working as a professional alongside a professional (a professional who has David Dorfman on speed dial) for a professional gig…

As we continued to rehearse two pieces together, a trio and a solo, I found myself rediscovering why I ever loved to dance way back when I was five.

  1. I sort of get to do the “lyrical-face”…yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about—and we all know po-mo dance rarely leaves room for “facials”.
  2. I was involved in a process that demanded my full attention and creativity on the spot. I was finally being treated like a professional…because, well let’s face it…I’ll be 25 in two weeks, and I sort of am a professional.

So once I adjusted to this new role, I decided to wear my hat as a working dancer with pride and enthusiasm. This process has been challenging, but so so fulfilling.

And guess what Dyvas and Dyva’men? I’ve redecided that I want to dance for the rest of my life!

P.S. Come see this show this weekend, it’s incredible!
P.P.S. The flashmobs were also incredible…and incredibly rewarding! A grand total of five…count them, FIVE not-mobs took over campus yesterday, and it was glitterific to the max!


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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.

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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company stalking

So as I sat and adored Doug Varone’s dancers last weekend, I found myself crying inside at the overwhelming thought of graduating in a year, and then having to find a job of my own.

So I work incredibly hard to get this degree, and then what? How do you become the offspring of a reputable choreographer? (offspring = company member) How do you become the offspring of Varone?!?!

When holding an open audition, there can be any number of dancers there with the same talent as you, ready to take the spot you’re positive has your name on it. So how do you stand apart and have a foot in the door before you’ve even left your couch? You show up to anything and everything available that could possibly get your face in theirs. Almost every success-story I’ve ever heard hasn’t come from match.com for dance, rather it comes from dancer-stalks-company (.com?)

We’ve talked about the importance of networking, and with enough visits to a summer intensive, technique class, or even at pre/post-performance discussion with desired choreographer, your face will become less anonymous when the time to shine against your no-name competition presents itself.

One of my professors, a former Trisha Brown ensemble dancer, said that before she joined the company, the dancers had a joke about how crazy she was because of her ability to be EVERYWHERE they were ALL THE TIME. Well guess what happened when a spot opened up in the company? Ms. Weight Sensing got it of course, and became a featured soloist. Not too shabby huh?

Now I’m literally just regurgitating what I’ve been told, I’m still sitting comfortably in my overworked-grad school environment, but in a year when I’m trying to put these words into action, I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune.

For my friends and dance family that’s graduating in just a few short weeks however, now’s the time to get your ducks in somewhat of a row; when it’s time to switch the tassel on your cap over to the adult-side, you’ll be a little more ready to start “making it work”.

Now I can only assume that like everything else in life, in order to be successful, you’ve got to really know what you want, and even more importantly, what you have to offer.

  • What kind of movement feels good to you?
  • What kind of movement do you look good doing?
  • Who are the choreographers you’d be interested in working for?
  • What are the peak times throughout the day that you function well? (Not all companies have rehearsal from 8-10am, which is ironically when I’d rather eat a foot than do anything remotely dance related—on the other side of the coin however, some companies don’t actually care…get your ass out of bed!)
  • Where do you see yourself living?
  • What kind of work (what hours) will you have to do to make money when you’re not dancing? Or rather, when you’re not doing whatever job makes the money, will you have the time to dance?
  • What is your timeline? They say (They = Monica Bill Barnes) that most companies won’t take you too seriously unless you’ve been living in The City for at least two years; nobody wants to hire a dancer that’s about to pack up and move in 12 minutes because they can’t take city-life.
  • What’s your definition of success? Anybody can go to NYC and call themselves a dance company, maybe working for anybody is all you need to decide that you’ve “made it”—and that’s okay with me if it’s okay with you.

Again, I haven’t (yet) had the opportunity to be a struggling artist out there in the real world, so all I can really offer is moral support and the advice from my highly successful professors that’s been offered to me. Conclusive evidence suggests that you should never ever underestimate the power of company-stalking, and that there’s no shame in aggressively going after what you want.

**While you’re still living on student loans and your parents’ health insurance, stock up on lots of extra glitter, it sounds like you’re going to need it**

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Doug Varone for President

Doug Varone’s company may actually be the most grounded and full-bodied company ever in existence. The dancers moved so quickly and so swift with such control, it was…ridiculous. The movement NEVER STOPPED, and it was quick, like “I need an inhaler, ASAP” quick, and you would never know that the dancers were even breathing. What the hell?!?!? I would have keeled over 5 minutes in…

The evening consisted of four pieces. The first piece Lux, a group ensemble, was the most dynamic performance of the evening as far as I’m concerned. The moon—turned sun—turned moon was projected onto the scrim behind the dancers, rising from low to high, as the light reflected the days in passing. The performance started with Eddie Taketa running about the stage, quickly moving in and out of the floor; he would drop his weight down just as quickly as he would throw it back up through space. As the lights dimmed to night, the dancers became a little more patient with their phrasing, morphing between brief solos, duets and trios, once daylight hit however, a frantic celebration of bodies in contact filled the space. Arms and legs soared, as assisted lifts and inversions decorated the stage. About 20ish minutes later, the dancers stood for their bow, hardly breathing at all; ridiculous. So good…it was oh so good.

The next two pieces, part of Varone’s “Arts in Healthcare Initiative” (started in 2008) were funded in part by The Center for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  The dancers worked alongside patients from the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo (WCHOB) and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) to generate new movement that was shared in two excerpts that evening. Both pieces will eventually fit into a 20-30 minute group ensemble piece that is still a work in progress.

The first excerpt, a duet between Erin Owen and Alex Springer, started off super slow, the longer it grew however, the more I enjoyed it…I definitely didn’t see that coming. According to the program notes, Able to Leap Tall Buildings  “…was based in part on a young patient at WCHOB’s beloved collection of superhero action figures, though the movement has been abstracted”. I definitely saw shapes that were reminiscent of superheroes, as the dancers interacted and morphed in and out of pedestrian structures in an illuminated box of light projected down on the stage. They would touch and mold one another, with moments of static and bound flow (the superhero shapes), and eventually as the dynamic quality grew, they began to share weight and completely release into one another. The very end of the piece was probably the highlight of the dance for me; Ms. Owen began to crawl up Mr. Springer’s body as he just stood there facing her, it was like watching a monkey climb a tree.

Holy Donkey Kong, Batman!!!

The next piece in the series, Aperitif was a trio between Natalie Desch, Colin Stilwell and Netta Yerushalmy, and was short and sweet. This piece had a similar flow to Lux, super grounded and super continuous, and while each dancer claimed their independence, there were definitely clear and brief moments of unity. This piece was over far too soon for my taste…great work so far, Mr. Varone, but keep it going!!

So on a side note, it’s official, Netta and Natalie are my two new girl-crushes and I don’t care who knows it. Natalie Desch is a insane and should never stop dancing, ever. Her lines are…PERFECT. Her feet are…PERFECT. Her dynamic quality is…perfect. Natalie in general is just…PERFECT. Perfect to the point that it almost hurts my feelings. Netta is so compact and fierce, there’s really no other way to describe her other than the tiniest-fiercest boss ever known to mankind. Dang.

The last piece of the evening, Oratorio brought us back to the group dynamic with brief solos, duets and trios mingled within work of the full ensemble. Various projections claimed the backdrop, and at times it distracted my eye from the beautiful dancing on stage. (My attention span isn’t much to brag about however, so I wouldn’t read too deep into that if you’re reading this, Doug.) The architecture of this piece brought really inspired phrase work and ever-changing landscape to life. Standing, sitting, belly flat down on the ground, the movement was never static, and the efficiency of the bodies never ceased to amaze me.

Ms. Julia Burrer was definitely a standout for this last piece. Her height was extreme and couldn’t go unnoticed, but what was even more extreme was her efficiency. This woman had such control and speed for having limbs as long as my entire body, it sucked every excuse I’ve ever had for not sensing my weight right out of my head.

I’ve decided that in order to be a Varone dancer, you need to really claim your weight, claim your space, and have a severe sense of self. These dancers move with their entire body, arms come from the back, pelvises get crazy low, and momentum is the driving force behind every movement. You do not mess around with Doug Varone and Dancers.

I want to squeeze Mr. Varone for being so incredible (and for having the best bows ever).

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choreographic humps

As I may have mentioned before, I USED to be a choreographic Dyva. I would set a dance in three hours, love it, and patiently wait for the next opportunity. Here’s a little gem I choreographed at age 19, We Insist.

Nowadays, the ‘ol system isn’t working so swiftly. I still have the ability to generate complex structures on stage, but it’s the movement (the meat, the sprinkles, the…dance) that I really struggle to produce. My CD (Choreography Dysfunction) became an issue simultaneously when I started grad school…they haven’t yet made a pill for me to take every time I need to get it up for choreography, so I’ve been at a loss ever since, and nobody’s really all that satisfied.

I think it’s a combination of knowing that everyone else around me is talented and making great work, that I’m one of the youngest in my class and felt like the underdog at one point, and that I knew my platinum winning dances back home weren’t necessarily what the stages here were interested in seeing.

It’s that last point where things really get hazy and confusing for me. I grew up loving commercial dance and so that’s what I made, and now I see, appreciate and long to make concert dance…except that I don’t ALWAYS long to make concert dance! I’ve been playing this flip flop game in my head ever since I got here a little under two years ago, and in the midst of this identity crisis, I’ve lost my sense of self in all choreography.

Dumbledore approached me the other day and asked me to stop making work that I wasn’t satisfied with; the question was posed as if duh was the answer, and as I thought there thinking of a different answer, I just couldn’t…the pressure of what I thought was a burden to make concert dance was relieved, but I still couldn’t get it up.

Now don’t get me wrong, the work that I’ve been creating here at Brockport hasn’t necessarily been bad; it’s been selected to perform in our shows each semester and has gotten great feedback. It’s not that I’ve been creating uninspired work because I like the feeling of not being satisfied on a personal level, what it boils down to is a lack of confidence…? I pose that as a kind-of question because I more than love my time here, and have been thriving and exponentially growing as a person since I unpacked my bags, I just don’t feel like my confidence deserves to hold me back at this point in my life.

So now what??? I’ve got a thesis staring me in the face in just a few short months; I suppose it’s time to get over this CD.

It’s time to put my big girl pants on and make some dance! I’ve set a personal goal for the rest of this semester; I must take any and all opportunities (create them if they don’t already exist) to make as much dance as I possibly can. The only way to get over this issue is to face it head on, and get over it. If I need to throw myself into a wall for five minutes and call it dance, then at least I can hope that some confidence gets knocked into me…

I BEG you to share some ideas for getting over this CD? What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?

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