My Lines Ballet Summer Intensive Audition

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This past Sunday, I made the trek down to Tucson, AZ with my good friend Ashley to Audition for the Alonzo King Line Ballet Summer Intensive! I’ve wanted to audition for a bit over a year, but this time around I actually had time and felt a bit prepared to do so. Little did I know that there was almost no preparing for this thing called Contemporary-Ballet

The class started off with me having a higher bit of confidence because I felt like my barre work was solid, and my musicality was on. The instructor of the class gave us the task of finding a more creative way to showing musicality at the barre, and through the rest of class really, and not become robots with our connection to the music. She said, “the pianist is giving you so much texture and quality to play with and emphasize so fill the space with that in mind but through your body, and don’t forget to still dance”.

My Lucky number for the Audition

My Lucky number for the Audition

We tried this task out on the tendu phrase and by the end I felt like I was getting the hang of it…. Nope. The instructor told us we were not achieving what she was asking of us and then spoke directly to by saying, “I need YOU to dance! Because, I know once I tell you to improvise across the floor you’ll be a completely different dancer. So show me that dancer at the barre.”

GAH! I loved and hated her for the publicly isolated feedback/encouragement, but it definitely inspired me to take more risks at the barre. I tried feeling the music, losing myself in the phrases, adding some more torso action, and letting my skin feel the texture of the space around me. Even though it felt awkward.

Through the rest of center and class I struggled where I struggled and focused on applying feedback whenever she gave it, even if I flopped in everything else in the phrase. But it wasn’t until improvisation across the floor that I felt fully confident.

She asked that we let go of the ballet, trick, extensions, and control because she had seen enough of it at that time and to show us something different. I immediately ripped off my ballet shoes, tossed them into my bag and let my bare feet kiss the cold marley below.

I was sixth to go across the floor, and besides my friend Ashley, who was second, no one took her suggestions to heart really. And you could tell when she lost interest in someone’s performance by whether or not she waited for the dancer to finish their improvisation or not before queing in the next dancer. She waited for my friend Ashley.

When I was called in, I turned on all of my sense and crumpled into the floor. I live for the ground. When I’m down so low I feel like I could safely fly, and flip, contort with ease and finesse. So, I brought out everything I could muster at that moment. I tried playing with timing, purposefully focusing with my eyes, different textures of movements, using angles and shapes in the most unorthodox way all before ending flipping off if the ground with a one armed back cartwheel from a sitting position. Everyone before me that had finished had wide-eyes.

After class, I thanked the woman and asked for her name (forgot it like a dunce). But, when I asked for clarification on some of her feedback she to explained and added that she believed I have great technique and to keep working on what I’m doing… “great technique” rang in my ears. I have never heard that honestly spoke from someone’s mouth at that level of professionalism and I am still in awe by it.

Hard work pays off! I’m crossing my fingers that I get that acceptance letter, because I know this will be a great fit for me. Why must I wait 2 weeks!? UGH!

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Letter to Future Self

Dear J.,

            Hey dude what’s up? How have the ballet classes and training been? I really hope by the time your read this you’re some kind of ballet dancing divo! If not, you’re dead to me… just joking, I’m sure you’ve made much improvement and it is evident in what you do. I put us in a lot of ballet classes this semester, four to be exact and that’s 10 classes a week, and my goal for you is to be able to apply that ballet technique to contemporary dance. So make it happen, Chop-Chop!

            Right now I can tell we really get this whole contemporary/modern dance technique by having a grounded presence and efficiency in movement. We’ve grown from hating floor movement to being able literally fly and tumble on the floor as if we were under water. Took us a few years to get here and many goals we’ve set for ourselves when entering college has been met. My new goals for you, future J., is to get your movement to incorporate the ballet-esque contemporary dance style that Danny Tidwell is flawless at, while also adding aesthetic of an Ailey Dancer such as Anthony Douthit-Boyd. You can do it! These ballet/contemporary classes will do wonders for you and by adding these things will get you to out dance that amazingly talented dancer in our heads.

            Here are some things I’m going to need you to focus on the journey to complete these goals is are:

  • Fix your arms/port de bras! – There is so much that your movement can become when there is more intention and specificity in your arms.
  • Flexibility – You don’t need to be a contortionist, but a solid tilt and full split leap will serve you well
  • Applicable Strength – Now, flexibility is great but being able to hold your legs in positions, and sustain balances well would be pretty advisable.

         So, by the time you read this, Future J., I hope you have accomplished these goals and are looking back at videos of me like, “Ugh! My Lanta, I looked like that!?” because that would make me oh so proud! Keep being amazing and never forget your worth!

 

Sincerely,

Present J. (Jan. 2014)

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Dance Like A Man?

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When I first began dancing in ballet based styles, I was never really told to “Dance Like A Man”. It might have been because I have a larger and more muscular build from my background playing football and running track. Yet, I’ve heard dancers, teachers, choreographers, and viewers alike yell “Dance Like A Man!” to male dancers, and I find it to be a very destructive phrase to aspiring male dancers.

My first question is what does a man dance like? Better yet, what does masculinity in dance look like (since that is the main insinuated factor)? What most people argue when saying this phrase or agreeing with the statement is that male dancers should move in a stronger and more percussive way than female dancers should, as well as eliminating certain stances like a hand on the hip or the oh so feminine hair flip; because men never stand with a hand on their hip or flips their hair out of their face in real life. And those characteristics solely for the purpose of femininity. Some could also argue that the intent behind a boy/man dancing should be masculine because if it is meant to be sassy or feminine it will read and men should try to be masculine. That’s such a complex thing to get male dancers to do because we can hardly differentiate between feminism and masculinity.

Some dancers strive to perform in the entertainment industry, and there is a clear divide between male and female dancers in that world. For example, male backup dancers normally do hip-hop or urban based dance styles, have a completely view-able six pack and a chiseled chest minus a shirt. While female dancers have whip their hair, wear tight fitting clothes and do lots of sultry hip focused movement that call on jazz and ballet dance a bit more than the choreography set for male dancers. So, because these roles in this community dancers I can see why this phrase would have a bit of validity from a teacher’s point of view so that he or she prepares their male dancers to succeed in this industry; yet I argue that we should change the worlds selected.

A lot of my current awareness of this phenomenon was sparked by this video trailer for the film The Mask You Live In

Instead of “Dance Like A Man” or insinuating to dance more masculine, try using world like “heavy”, “percussive/sharp”, show more physical “strength” in movement. In this way the young male dancers would have a better chance of understanding what it is that is asked of them as well as not making them feel bad for not being seen as masculine in your eyes. It’s already hard enough to be a male dancer in the eyes of many men, brothers, and fathers who wouldn’t dare put their sons in a ballet class, we should make it easier for them once they’ve stepped up to the barre.

This idea is just a start and a bit of a rant from a place of frustration with the term. When engaging in conversation about this with people who would normally say “Dance Like A Man” or agree with the term, I find it hard to have my viewpoint heard. Well I guess this is why I made a blog.

The Rehearsal Process

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More than performing live on stage or seeing what I created on stage, I love the rehearsal process in making a dance. Now, I’m not thinking so hunkered down in really intellectual and profound meanings and concepts when I speak about the rehearsal process, I just mean being in the studio and communicating with the dancers as a choreographer or vice-versa. The dialogue that takes place during that time is so rich if the process is similar to how Azure Barton’s was for LIFT.

The video explains so well what I love about being a dancer that I thought I’d help share this little gem of how rehearsal processes can take place, because there are many ways a dance can be created but this intent to converse with the dancers to create something authentic to them is my favorite to be a part of.

I’m In Scotland! Fringe Festival Day 6! (I SAW 2 SHOWS TODAY!)

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Today I saw two very wonderful and uniquely different dance shows today as well as performing once again in our show. The first show I will talk about is Be Captivated by Ballet Central (http://www.balletcentral.co.uk/) which is based out of the UK. … Continue reading

I’ve Been Gone WAY Too Long.. Sorry!

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Ok, I’ve obviously been away form this too long! I’ve been wanting to write on this for so long and post so many updates, but nothing had happened and I was really ambivalent about every thing. I was out of a job, unhappy with what I was dancing and creating, and generally just in a very grey area in terms of emotions. But, I’m back to feeling like me! I realized (again) that I feel like crap when I have too much time on my hands. Being out of school on summer break and jobless just made me very… ugh, to say the least.

So, I just accidentally posted this by pressing the stupid Publish button (I Know), so let me sum this up. I have a job now, full time. I am working with my dance group in AZ (Scorpius Dance Theatre, Google us!) to get ready to go to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh Scotland,  which I will update daily about that experience because it Will Be nothing short of amazing and beautiful and inspirational and everything else. I have decided to do my final dance project at ASU about L.O.V.E. and a lot of what that entails (more info in another post) since I am graduating SPRING 2014! And I am really excited and scared about the subject of this project to say the least! And lastly, I am working on the 3rd Annual Arizona’s Got Dance National Dance Day Showcase and Workshop that I artistically direct for my friend’s non-profit Dancer’s and Health Together (check us out!) which will be on July 20th (showcase) and July 17th, national dance day (workshop, I am teaching!)

I am BACK AND HAVE A SOUND MIND!

Jealousy or Inspiration (Daily Prompt: Green-Eyed Monster)

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In response to the Daily Prompt: Green Eyed Monster http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/daily-prompt-green-eyed-monster/

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Whenever I go out and take a dance class, there is always a great dance Juggernaut in that has  great flexibility, amazing performance quality, perfect timing, and/or impeccable technique in the style. Quite often, you can immediately tell who it is (sometimes, who They are) before the class even begins. They are normally somewhere off in a corner or the back of the room, warming up and stretching on their own about thirty minutes before the class starts. Off in their own world, getting in the zone. Whatever ritual they are doing at that moment pays off nine times out of nine because once they begin to move, all eyes in the class dart to that dancer.

Most of the time, everyone’s eyes are green with envy and you can begin to hear whispers of, “oh my gosh, who is he?” “look at those legs!” “I could never dance like that” or even “show off”. Unfortunately, dance class is not always a loving community, and the whispers caused by jealousy could be very harsh. But, instead of whispering, I have a different approach.

Often in a dance class where there is a Juggernaut, I initially have those envious thoughts of “wow, I could never do that”, but I’ve worked really hard to change my thought process so that I quickly restate “I’m going to be able to dance like that soon!” so that I am not putting myself down. I am naturally inspired by the people and talent immediately around me, if I do not let jealousy get in the way. So, whenever there is a time for my to stand or sit still and watch that dance, I study that person like he or she is the textbook for the course. I watch how they prepare to jump or turn, how they land, where their focus is, how they emphasize certain movements, what they are embellishing, how they interpret the music, and even what they do before and after they “perform” the phrase. Then, when it is my turn I do the same thing internally for myself, and see where I could fit in some of those qualities the other dancer is doing or how I can enhance some of own characteristics to make them more potent.

I try not to emulate other dancers because I do not want to look like another dancer in a class, I want to stand out for being so unique like the Juggernaut, so that one day I can be the Juggernaut of a class.

One of the best things I try to do after I am initially envious of another dancer in class is compliment them after the class is over. That person worked hard to get to where they are and I know I like to be complimented for my hard work, so I try to pass that good mojo on. And if there is something I want to learn from them specifically, I ask. I want to grow as a dancer, so I just ask specific questions that can and should help me in the future. Obviously that person knows things that I do not because I was at least once envious of them, but now inspired.