Monday, September 28, 2015

Peer Pressure

We all know that peer pressure is awesome for sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, but apparently it can be pretty good in ballet too.  Ever since the summer schedule ended at my studio, I've been a bit in a quandary.  My regular teacher no longer will be teaching a one level up class, so I've been struggling with figuring out what to take.  As I've mentioned, I now have a couple of ballet friends, and they've all been yelling at me for not leveling up consistently.  They think I should only be taking class one level up, and I of course am completely insecure.  Well, this weekend one friend somehow convinced me to take the barre of a class that is labelled TWO levels up with a teacher I've never had before.  PEER PRESSURE.  And also I think she tricked me with pastries.

I felt really weird gate crashing this class, so I had my friend talk to the teacher before to ask if I could do this.  And the teacher was totally nice about it!  And it was totally doable!  And she gave me a great hands on correction!  And my friend said I looked good (she was next to me at the barre)!  This teacher also has a class one level up during the week and I am totally going to take it.  She is very exacting and technical, which I love (hello new teacher crush!).

After the barre of the class two levels up, I took class one level up with another teacher new to me, and again it was totally fine.  I didn't love this class, as it wasn't super technical and he didn't really correct, but it was good practice doing things like pirouettes and slightly faster and more complex combinations.

I think I have to come up with a new way of describing my classes, as it seems I will be leveling up on a more permanent basis!

I really had my fears that having friends in ballet would be weird and awkward.  I thought it might be competitive, but actually they are wonderfully supportive and genuinely nice people.  I guess not everyone is neurotic and strange like me (thank god).

Friday, September 25, 2015

Some Thoughts on Performing

Apologies for the radio silence.  It was rather busy during the show's run, but we're done now so I have more time to take ballet and blog about it again!  I feel like I learned so much from doing this show.  I started performing (in Other Movement) over a year ago, and it is amazing how much I've grown since then.  One of course always strives to be technically better, but this time around I feel like I've improved as a performer.

This show and my character were very abstract and had a fair amount of improvisational movement, which was a bit of a challenge.  One of the notes we got from the director's friend who is a professional dancer was to explore what this abstract character meant to us, because some of the movements that felt random would make sense if we did that character work.

Coincidentally, the Royal Ballet did a live stream of a Romeo and Juliet rehearsal around the same time.  The ballet master gave an interesting note to the person dancing Mercutio for his death scene.  In that scene, Mercutio points his finger at two different people.  The ballet master said that the two finger pointing actions had to feel different, that they were motivated by two different things.  That really made an impression on me, because it was such a small moment, but it was so specific.

It reminded me of something I had read on a ballet forum.  I am going to copy and paste it here (credit Drew on Ballet Alert!).  "The choreographer Antony Tudor tells a story about creating the lead role of Shadowplay on Anthony Dowell.  He instructed Dowell to turn upstage and look up towards a tree (not literally there of course in the studio!)--he then asked Dowell what kind of tree it was. Dowell, understandably, had no idea and was evidently waiting for Tudor to tell him. But Tudor stopped the rehearsal because, as he remarked, if Dowell didn't know what kind of tree it was, there was no point in continuing ... The next day on the way into the studio Tudor saw a gorgeous mango in a market and bought it. When the same moment in rehearsal came and he told Dowell to turn around and look up at the tree, then had Dowell put his hands behind his back and handed him the mango. Dowell then looked at the fruit quite amazed and delighted and asked Tudor what it was--Tudor told him (a mango) and then when they did the 'tree' moment and Tudor asked him about the tree, Dowell volunteered "it's a mango tree"-- Tudor felt that in this way, at last the tree was "real" to Dowell."

I've always been a very character driven performer, but this made me realize that I had been approaching the characterization of my movement in a rather broad and general way.  It was almost more of a stylization.  Like, my character has X and Y traits, so my movements will have X and Y traits.  My approach to the show shifted with this realization.  I told myself to "think in my body" as my character, to have each movement to be motivated in a very immediate and specific fashion by who my character was and the narrative.

I also started connecting the movements to my own life and experiences more. For example, there was a moment in our choreography where all of us had to draw together in a tight huddle.  Earlier during rehearsals, one of our cast members received some really bad news, and we all circled around her to comfort her.  I realized that the moments were very relatable, and it wasn't just about doing the motion. As the show developed, there were more and more of these moments that made the characters, narrative and emotional content more "real" and concrete, and the show was much richer and better for it.

I don't know if and when I'll be able to perform in such a production again.  I am slowly shifting away from Other Movement to ballet and other movement things in which I probably won't have a lot of the same opportunities.  But all I can do is follow my interest.  I didn't get into Other Movement thinking I would perform (in a real theater festival moreover!).  I was fortunate to have supportive people give me opportunities along the way.  This may or may not happen again in the future, but I am content with what I have achieved for now.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Labor Day Ballet

I feel like I could have made a punny title for this post, but I'm too tired to be clever.  I went to ballet every day between Friday and Monday.  (I started this post then, but haven't had time to finish it).

My normal studio was closed on Monday, but there were classes to be had elsewhere in the city, and I wound up going with two new ballet friends!  The first class we went to was a bit intense.  The barre wasn't technically too hard for me, but the teacher didn't really demo and I couldn't really hear him (the studio was big and echo-y) so I had some trouble following.  I think I might add this class to my regular rotation, and I think it will get easier if I do it again.  I had planned to take notes but that fell by the wayside.

My new ballet crew and I also took class that evening.  The class itself was on the easier side, but it was nice to work on basics.  One of said friends is a boy and so he got lots of attention in this class (he always gets lots of attention).  The teacher asked him to stay after class to work on partnering, and my other friend and I got to tag along!  We worked on very basic things like finger turns and spotted shoulder sits.  I actually do a lot more advanced partnering skills in Other Movement, but it was cool to see the ballet way.

We now have a dilemma.  The teacher said we can come again and do the after class bonus partnering.  My normal Monday class is better (for me), but learning ballet partnering is SO rare.  Which to choose?  I feel weirdly disloyal even considering it!

I feel a bit strange having ballet friends.  I worry that they will judge me for being bad in ballet, or that they won't like me and then I'll have to see them in the studio.  My social anxiety makes me just want to be alone, but it is amazing to have people to geek out over ballet with.

The rest of the week has been rehearsals and shows so I am exhausted.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ballet Withdrawal

I haven't had a lot of time to go to ballet class lately.  There has been rehearsal for the show pretty much every day.  I do get to dance and move in that, but I miss ballet!  I've been coping by watching lots of ballet videos and doing Kathryn Morgan's easy barre at home when I have time.  I especially like doing that barre as a warm-up before rehearsal.  It's basic, but I feel like I can focus on my technique a lot doing it.  I felt FBT's lessons about turnout really clicking this week.

On the plus side, I feel very dance-y lately.  In fact I took a new ballet class last week, and the teacher at one point said, "Wow, you can really dance!  Some people have technique but they can't dance." She might have just said it to be nice because I was new to her, but it was good because it made me feel more confident about performing in the show.  I didn't like the class though...really not technical enough for me.  But it did make me realize I feel a lot more comfortable dancing now.

I do have some anxiety about losing what I've learned.  When I do have time to take class, I take the lowest level.  I really can't afford to get injured right now, and I just want to work slowly and cleanly.  But I worry about being able to take class one level up again.  Even though its an open non-syllabus class, the teacher does like to add on to what was done previously so that regulars can get a sense of improvement.  So now I'm anxious that I will be behind and won't be able to do anything.

Taking class tonight, which I'm sure will make me feel better.  I almost always feel better in general after ballet.