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Festival has changed me…

As pictured below, wearing two things I normally resist:

Pants…

…and a pair of what I refer to as “Napoleon Dynamite boots.”

To be fair, A: our company dancers are required to wear warm-up pants between classes (and the convention center *is* chilly), and B: my feet were getting cold during breaks and I hadn’t packed any of my signature fuzzy socks (I must admit, though, that rhose ridiculous-looking booties are actually quite comfortable).

We’re on day 3 of classes, and I’m really loving the experience and learning a lot. Posting blogs on my phone is both time-consuming and annoying, but I’ve been keeping a notebook of what classes I’ve taken, who taught and what corrections I’ve gotten, and combinations that I like. I really enjoy the variety of teachers and styles; my only complaint is that since the festival is only 5 days, many of them I  only get to work with once (I’m sure i could better remember combinations for future reference if I took the class more than once).We have 3-4 classes each day, and every evening everyone (I mean EVERYONE) goes to the Phoenix Symphony Hall to watch performances by the 75 companies from 4 different regions (our company performs on Saturday).

Today is an “easy” day– morning class, decently-long break (giving me a chance to write this); after lunch I have a nutrition seminar and ballet class from the man who set ‘Firebird’/did our adjudication. Tomorrow I will spend all day in a Progressing Ballet Technique teacher training workshop. I’m really enjoying rhis time of dancing, learning, and spending quality time with some of the company students and their parents. 

And now my hands are cramping, so I gotta blast.

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Tomorrow morning– at 7am– myself and several other company members/parents will be flying off to a National Dance Festival in Phoenix, AZ.

I’m excited– 4 classes a day, plus a teacher certification seminar, and performances every night (culminating in a gala on the final night). It’s going to be a great experience and I’m going to learn a lot. Plus, I haven’t been to Phoenix since I was fleeing the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008– Arizona is a mighty gorgeous place.

I’m also a little nervous. Sure, I’ve been to summer intensives before; but this Festival is a whole new ball game. It’s a pretty big deal– something like 70 companies, goodnessknowshowmany people, very strict rules. New experiences always make me a little apprehensive.

In a few minutes I’ll be leaving to stay the night with a nearby family, and willl ride to the airport with them in the (early) morning (Thank you, D Family!!). My day was pretty busy:

  • Ran errands, packed things, double-checked that those things were packed.
  • Baked cookies for the family that is putting me up and for my husband– can’t leave the man alone for a week without giving him some sweets as a consolation prize.
  • Realized suitcase was heavy, tried to eliminate what I could. Going against my nature of being crazy-prepared, this time I went for just necessities; even now the thing is still heavy.
  • Ran more errands.
  • Realized some things were packed in the wrong bag (suitcase vs carry-on/dance bag), rearranged accordingly.
  • Did some yoga to unwind and then took a long, luxurious shower.

Now it’s time to go load up my car and get moving. I’ll try to update as I can, but since I’m not bringing my laptop it may be difficult on a phone.

Wish me luck!

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And That’s A Wrap

On Sunday– exactly 8 months from the day that I started at the summer intensive– I wrapped up my first season with the new dance company.

I’ll admit; I had been nervous as heck all week about the show. When we did some marking/spacing on stage the morning of, I felt even more nervous because of how much my body was hurting (my left ankle had been giving me trouble for a while; and I seemed to have pulled something in my right quad). But when we circled up for our pre-performance ritual, our directors gave us a talk along the lines of “Just relax and have fun. It’s just dance, not brain surgery. This is going to be a great show.” After that, I went to my dressing room, grabbed my prayer beads, and gave myself the following pep talk:

“You know these dances. You’ve been practicing like crazy even outside of rehearsals. Just smile and do what you have to do. Trust your brain, trust your body, trust YOURSELF. You got this.”

Amazingly enough, that WORKED. I had so much anxiety due to medical issues I’d been having  (which I still haven’t blogged about; honestly I don’t think I even want to), but I relaxed and had lots of fun with the modern piece. I was a little more apprehensive about the 16-minute neoclassical ballet, but it went much better than I expected (except for one small mishap near the very end, but other than that I was happy).

Then it was time for Firebird. After I changed from pointe shoes to flats and put my dress on, it was time for The Headpiece. After spending some time getting the crown just right and pinning into place, I got to work on the braid– three or four safety pins holding the fall to my own hair, then I jammed some safety pins sideways through the bobby pins. That thing wasn’t going anywhere. Then I helped some of the other princesses with their crowns and hairpieces.

I was confident in my princess dance, so I just went out there and enjoyed myself. It was over before I knew it, and I watched the Kotschei scene– between the lighting and the creepy costumes, it looked amazingly spooky.

The last scene was the wedding, then it was time for bows. When the curtain fell, there was much hugging, cheering, and congratulating. Our associate director got our attention to give us instructions for strike, then added some exciting news:

In the hallway by the dressing rooms, the walls are painted with shows that have been performed there, with signatures of the cast members. She told us that our company had been invited to sign the wall! So after we packed up all the costumes, one of the dads (a talented professional artist), drew our company’s logo, and we passed around sharpies and took turns signing our names (my handwriting is still terrible; even on walls). Then we all departed, most of us to a post-show celebration in “The Marketplace”– which I thought was some kind of street fair, but I was told no; it’s like that every weekend. Oh, San Antonio; you’re a neat city.

It was the perfect way to cap off my very first season with the company.

Here’s to many more.

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We had our in- studio dress rehearsal last night. I felt pretty good about it (I was most worried about Terpsichorus—  a 16-minute ballet, en pointe, pretty difficult– but it went well last night, so hopefully it will continue going well).

The choreographer for Adiemus is in town, so the trainees and apprentices danced it for him for the first time last night. They were nervous, but they all did REALLY well– after they finished the piece, one of the youngest dancers ran up to me and said “[Butterfly]! We did it!” and gave me a hug. Cuteness!

In act 1, I’m only in the first and the last piece, so I spent the in-between helping with costume changes. Firebird is act two; so I spent the “intermission” time helping the other princesses with their fake braids

Mama Butterfly is here to see me dance. We’re about to leave for the theater for dress rehearsal on the stage, so I have to cut this short. Will update later. Wish me luck, internet.

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Mondays are a hectic day for me. I go to ballet class in the morning, come home and go into a flurry of housework (today’s agenda: laundry, dishes, sweeping/mopping, dusting, gardening, and tossing some food into a crock pot… all in two and a half hours), then I grab a quick shower and it’s back to the ballet studio to teach.

(Weirdly, that’s how my Mondays were in Clear Lake last year: class in the morning, housework and cooking, then back to the studio to teach for three hours.)

This Monday comes with a cute story:

Background: Our spring performance is this weekend, so our rehearsal schedule has been getting more intense. We did some rehearsing in costume yesterday, so I decided to do my “performance hair”– a high bun. Now, since my hair isn’t terribly long and thus my bun isn’t very big, I’ve decided to wear a “fake bun”– think a scrunchie of hair curlicues. I make a regular bun, put that fake bun around it, then add the hairnet and hairpins and viola! I suddenly have more hair.

Which brings us to our story: In my intermediate class this afternoon, I was explaining to a student the importance a bun for ballet class (she had a long braid which had whipped her in the face when she did a quick detourne). Another student, who is a Junior Trainee in the company,  interjected with “Your bun looked so pretty yesterday!”

Me: Really my fake hair?

Her: It was fake?!

Me: Yup ( then explained the reason for it).

Her: It was so pretty!

… Well, at least I know now that it looks believable.

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My last dance company had their spring performances this past weekend.

They used to rent out one of the University of Houston theaters for their shows, but lately they’ve been hosting their performances right in the studio.

So: If I had stayed in Houston, I would have spent the weekend performing Burlesque in a small studio in middle-of-nowhere Clear Lake.

Instead, I spent it rehearsing for Firebird; to be performed in one of the largest/fanciest theaters in this city.

Life comes at you fast.

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“Small- Girl Haul”

….that’s a term I coined at this weekends’ rehearsals. It refers to when one of the smallest dancers has to travel the farthest across the stage (usually in a short amount of time). I am doing the small-girl haul in three different ballets!

One of the ballets is called Adiemus, choreographed by the same guy who set Firebird on us. The music is by Karl Jenkins, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s mostly for the trainees and apprentices; but they needed a twelfth person who is small enough to blend in with the younger ones. I’m glad they asked me to be in it!

Last night we finished learning Terpsichorus, a 16-minute neoclassical ballet to music by Mozart. It’s a bit tricky, but I’m starting to feel better about it. There are some spots where my brain goes “ahhh, crap, what comes next?” but now that the choreography is starting to get into my body, I’m not as worried about it as I once was. Today I tried it en pointe (in this company, we learn things first in our flat shoes, then transition to pointe once we know the choreography) and it went pretty well. I still need to work on it more, but I’ve got a little over a month until the performance.

Today we got to try on our costumes for Firebird. They are the original costumes from the Paris Opera Ballet’s production in the 60s, and they are magnificent. I might have been a little too jazzed about my princess costume– I spent a good deal of time twirling around in it with a big stupid grin on my face! It’s a sheer, one-shoulder dress over a unitard, with a headpiece and a long, braided hairpiece (which is called a “fall,” I’ve learned). I couldn’t stop smiling.

Last week we had an adjudication for a dance festival. The adjudicator observed a set class taught by our associate director, then we presented three pieces. I was in the second one, a modern piece. Even though I felt very nervous going into it, I felt really good about my performance. That piece wasn’t chosen for the festival, but it will be performed in our spring concert.

So, that’s an update on my dance life. There have been some stressful things happening in my personal/medical life, but that’s another story for another blog post– I’m in a good mood after some good rehearsals, and I don’t want to drag it down.

Have a good evening and keep doing the small-girl haul, everybody.

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