Last night was a magical experience, so let me try and explain why. There was a benefit concert held at my college for Dancers Responding to Aids. This concert featured dance pieces, musical performances and collaborations of the different arts; all created specifically for the concert, and to raise money for this cause. Overall, the concert and online fundraising prior to the show raised almost $3,000 for the organization! It is a pretty amazing thing when you realize that you can use your art for a good cause, and help to make a difference. That is one of the many reasons I love what I do.
I had the privilege of performing in a piece alongside my entire Senior dance class of 2016 (which consists of 32 dancers). We realized that it was the first time (and also the last since graduation is in 2 weeks) that we had all actually been able to perform together in the same piece. Although we always have technique classes together throughout the week, performing is just such a different and invigorating experience.
The greatest aspect of it, was that we all felt an incredible supportive and loving energy that was spread across that stage as we performed alongside each other. Every single one of us was smiling at one another and really connecting on stage. That is 32 authentic smiles all in one space at the same time. Now I call that powerful. The energy that was in the theater I can only define as the feeling of magic crackling through the air, into our muscles, and our hearts. I hope the audience was able to feel the magic, but I know that 32 unique and amazing dancers sure did.
I just thought I would share this experience while it is still fresh in my memory.
Maybe you like it, maybe you hate it, maybe you prefer to swim in it rather than drink it… However you feel about water, there is no denying its importance to your health and your body. Especially a super active body that is constantly bending into all different shapes and moving in every direction. We have all heard the phrase “you should drink eight glasses of water a day”, but have you actually tried to track how much water you consume in one day? Sometimes it is difficult to track, if you’re on the run all the time, or alternating between a refillable bottle of water, and glasses of water when you are home. It’s easy to believe that you are drinking plenty of water just by going through a normal day, but if you really focus on it, you will find that it is actually easy to go through a day depriving your body of the water it needs.
So, you most likely already knew that you should drink a good amount of water, but do you really know why? Here are some important reasons below:
1.You, yes you, just sitting there as a human being are made up of 55%-70% water. Kind of hard to believe, right? How do we not just turn into a puddle all the time? (Maybe the Wicked Witch of the West melting away wasn’t such an exaggeration after all…) Anything that has a majority percentage contributing to its makeup, obviously needs that very thing to keep existing. Take a house for example. Say a house is made up of roughly 60% wood on top of the original foundation. Well, if you take away even just 5% of that wood, the house will not be able to stand and will end up collapsing. The same thing would happen to your body if it becomes dehydrated.
2. By drinking your fair share of water, you avoid dehydration (and therefore the collapse of your house). If your body does become dehydrated, you will start to feel many different symptoms such as: fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, and dry skin. All of which are not helpful when dancing and certainly do not allow you to perform at your best.
3. Your brain also needs to stay hydrated! To stay focused and sharp in order to remember choreography and movement, your brain needs to be clear and at its best all the time. With even just a small depletion of water in the body, your brain will start to lose cognitive function and therefore your memory, your ability to think on your feet, and your dancing will be effected.
4. Your heart has to put in a lot of work from the constant cardiovascular needs of dancing. You wouldn’t want to make its job harder, would you? Without enough water, your blood viscosity increases therefore making your heart have to pump harder in order for blood to flow through the vessels and oxygen to travel to the organs and tissues of your body.
These are only a few major reasons why we must drink plenty of water! You cannot be physically active all the time, and not replenish your body with the amount of hydration it needs to function at its best. So if you are not currently drinking a glass of water, please get up and go get one. Your body will thank you!
For my Senior composition project, I created a piece based off of those wonderful but horrible, pesky but invigorating, butterflies that you feel whenever you are around someone that you like or are attracted to. My piece evolved and made a journey from this original concept to the final product, incorporating the idea of staying true to yourself while also encompassing the different worlds of dream and reality along the way.
It took a good amount of time for this work to morph into the final product, and up until the day of the performance there were still changes that I was debating whether or not I should make. However, it is a work that I am proud of- which is unusual for me. I normally am extremely critical of my own choreography and do not always feel positively about the end result, but in this case I did. It also didn’t hurt that I had the best cast of dancers to work with. So, here it is below. I hope you enjoy!
The top ten things that I have learned, journeying through the past four years in a college dance conservatory.
1: Be YOURSELF:
I know it’s cliche, and everyone gives that advice, and you don’t believe it and you do not want to believe it cause you may think you are a little weird or different and you think you won’t fit in if you don’t act like “everyone else”- but that is a journey down a spiraling, yellow slide with bumps and corners that you don’t expect to find, and then don’t know how to handle if you are trying to be like someone else. Guaranteed, it will become easier to find friends and feel comfortable if you stay true to yourself. Pretending or convincing yourself otherwise is only fun for oh so long. Even if you are a naturally quiet person (like me) you can still find your own way more easily if you just embrace that is how you are. You are you. Stay true to yourself and don’t let others waver your beliefs. College is a place to learn and grow into the adult you will be. Become someone that you are proud of.
2: You don’t always have to follow the rules:
As a wee little Freshman, I was still caught up in being a good student. Never missing a class even if I was feeling really sick, always on time, staying up all night to finish an assignment to the nearest level of perfection if need be, and not questioning what my teachers told me. –But now, four years later, I realize that all of these things were not all that was important. I’m not saying that I no longer do my homework or go to class, because I certainly do. I still care about good grades and learning because that is just ingrained in me, however sometimes your health or state of mind and taking care of your body is more important. Especially as dancers, if we abuse our bodies and don’t get enough rest eventually they will retaliate and become injured. So, taking care of yourself is important, even if that means missing a class. It is not the end of the world and in the end only you know how much you can handle and how to best take care of yourself.
3: It is not a CrImE to have fun:
Over the years I have realized that you’ve got to make some time for fun. Otherwise, life is just stress + work + classes+ stress… and everything piles up onto you until you suddenly combust (a.k.a. bursting into tears). Going out on the weekend is not actually a crime, nor will it turn you into a careless or irresponsible person. Hanging out with friends and meeting new people is all part of the college experience and environment that you won’t easily find the same way later in life. You have to appreciate the network of students that surrounds you while you are immersed within it.
4:Being injured is not (really) the end of the world:
Towards the beginning of my Senior year I ended up dislocating me knee in Graham class and sitting out of classes for four weeks. At first hearing the words “no dancing” literally felt like the end of the world, and during the process of no dancing I became super antsy watching my classmates working each day and not being able to join them. However, I did come to realize that there is quite a learning opportunity to take away from observing in technique classes. I can only recall one prior time that I had observed one of my classes due to feeling ill, so I never really experienced how great a tool observation in class was. In addition, I became so inspired watching my classmates dance that when I was able to participate again, I was super motivated and eager to utilize the elements I had observed.
5: Smile at everyone:
A simple smile can make a person’s day. Whether you have ever met the person before or interacted with them, smiling at them will never cause any harm. It shows how negative the world is in general when people respond to a smile by giving me a strange look, as if nobody has ever randomly smiled at them before. I think that is pretty sad. However, when people do respond back with a smile, it is a beautiful thing and will make both parties involved feel joy in the moment. When in doubt, smile it out!
6: Everybody is struggling:
Sometimes things get crazy, and the struggle bus comes to town. There can get to be so much on your plate-too many papers, assignments, group projects, choreography, etc. to do that everything feels like it is imploding. But, that also means that you can get fairly absorbed in your own dilemmas and get tunnel vision of sorts. There have been points during finals week or around the time that a big project is due that I feel like I haven’t looked another person in the eye or therefore communicated fully with anyone for a while. -That’s crazy! So somehow you have to remind yourself that everyone else around you is struggling too. This would be a good time to put #5 ↑ to good use. 🙂
7: Alone time is good time:
Freshman year and even Sophomore year I thought that when I had to eat alone or attend an event alone, or if I was just spending time alone in my room that I was missing out, and that people would judge me and think that I was a loser with no friends or something along those lines. It was a bit of an accurate worry, as I was still finding my way and trying to make social connections, but I realize it really was not a big deal. Now, sometimes I crave alone time and need it to refresh and organize my thoughts. When I am alone nowadays, I never worry that I am a loser, and later find that the time spent with friends and classmates is much more enjoyable after having that time by myself.
8: Be a “real” person occasionally:
As dancers, we are used to going everywhere with warm up clothes worn over our leotards and tights, hair thrown up in a bun, and always ready to move. Sometimes you just feel like you always look kind of crappy. So, I have found that it is important to take even just one day on the weekend to put some jeans on, maybe get off campus and remember that there is a real world out there full of all kinds of opportunities, and that your label of “dancer” does not always have to be visible.
9: Pleasing that one teacher who “doesn’t like you”:
I think we all can relate to the feeling of having a teacher or professor who we feel just does not like us. We can work our butts off, get good grades, do extra credit, spend extra time in the studio going over corrections, etc. and they still just give off a vibe of dislike. I certainly have felt this, and tried everything I could to turn it around. And do you know what I have discovered? Their opinion does NOT matter!!! If you tried your best, that is all you can do. Maybe you remind them of someone else they have known in their life, maybe they don’t like your personality, but that is on them. Don’t waste time where it will not be of any use. Not everyone has to like you, and not everyone will.
10: Don’t play the comparison game:
The dance world is no doubt competitive, as you are constantly under pressure to be good enough for a certain role, or the right look for a company position or dance style. It is super easy to compare yourself to your peers around you and set standards that way. However, that mindset will not get you very far, is in no way beneficial, and will only result in negative feelings and disappointment. It is super hard to break from this comparison impulse when you are so constantly side by side, but you have to try. Instead, you have got to focus on the fact that you are an individual dancer and can direct your attention towards how to be better than yourself. That is the only way to truly improve and move forward.
So there you have it. Just some things it has practically taken all four years to fully learn, discover, and comprehend in my own way. Hopefully you can take a snippet with you.
This past weekend I had the privilege of doing what I love once again-dancing on stage. Performing in front of a large audience just brings such vivacity into life in a way that other things cannot, although nerves, doubtful thoughts, inner turmoil, and exhaustion like to tag along. Double the fun too, if it includes a fairly large cast of dancers that you get to share the experience with up on the stage (which it did). So all in all, this weekend was a fun one. It was my dance conservatory’s Spring Concert, and I had the privilege of performing in George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, which originally premiered in 1946. If you don’t know anything about this particular ballet of good ol’ George’s, here’s a little info.
The Four Temperaments begins with three separate themes. Each takes the form of a duet, with one woman and one man. I had the honor of performing the woman’s role (for obvious reasons), in the second theme. The ballet then goes on to portray four different temperaments, as the title alludes to. These temperaments being: melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic, and choleric. Lastly, all of the dancers appear back on stage for the finale, which incorporates movement vocabulary from each of the four temperaments previously portrayed.
Additionally, The Four Temperaments is one of Balanchine’s Black and White ballets- meaning that the costume worn by the dancers is only a black leotard and pink tights for the ladies, and a white shirt and black tights for the gentlemen. This basic costume, which mimics everyday practice clothing, allows for visible clean lines, and doesn’t hide anything (almost not hiding what it needs to hide).
Part of this whole performance experience involved wearing the actual black leotards and pink tights worn by the New York City Ballet dancers. So for one, these costumes were very old. The black belts worn around our waists were fraying by the minute and we had to be extremely gentle in order not to poke holes in the delicate leotard fabric. For two, these costumes were also quite small. The tights no longer had stretch in them, so they were constantly falling down, but the leotard was the best part. That moment when you are in the wings preparing yourself to look just right as you take your first step on stage (where you would normally just adjust a strap, tweak a bobby pin, or just take a deep breath) I would pull the leotard up. But nope, that wouldn’t do, so I’d pull it down, but then pull it up again, but nope back down it goes- there just wasn’t enough fabric to cover everything necessary. However, when performing, you’ve got to pretend none of this is happening. Even if a wardrobe malfunction does occur while on stage, you can’t exactly stop, turn around and tell your partner to hold up a minute, and fix it. That’s just not how live performances work.
Here is a picture of my wonderful partner (seriously though he is the best partner ever) and I backstage before the performance. As you can see, the leotard is quite small.
Anyway… I hope the audience enjoyed seeing a decent amount of my booty on stage this weekend (I chose to pull the leotard up). Despite the tiny costume and surrounding difficulties, I had so much fun performing this piece, and I would love to have the chance to dance it again in the future.
Some of the best dance pieces that resonate with audiences, hold an emotional issue at their core. Dancing that has emotion behind it is honest, direct, and endearing. Often, these pieces are inspired by a true story, and allow for a certain story or journey to be recounted without words, in pure movement and expression. Because of this element of honesty and heart-pulling emotional content, an impression is often left for a lengthy period of time. One piece that randomly pops into my head at points over the years since I first saw it, is “Calling You” choreographed by Mia Michaels and danced by Travis Wall and Heidi Groskreutz. The simplicity of the movement, yet intricate work involving the bench made it very memorable and powerful. So here is a little Flashback Friday to the year 2006. Check out the piece below:
Such a beautiful yet sad expression of a relationship. The beautiful thing about emotional dance pieces is that every individual who watches the piece will take something different away from it, in how they are able to relate it to their own personal life experiences and feelings. Some audience members get confused by dance pieces if they feel they do not understand what the choreographer is trying to portray, but on the contrary, dance pieces actually leave an open realm for your imagination to wander and observe the work in your own way. So don’t let any dance choreography baffle you. If you think a piece is about astronauts exploring the deep sea, but it was actually inspired by giraffes, don’t feel bad. If that is your interpretation of the work, then it is not wrong! Enjoy the beauty of artistic freedom.