Category Archives: adventures

Not Dead Yet, Again

I’m a bit tardy in reporting that I made it home safely from Connecticut after a lovely weekend with my parents.

Since then, I’ve been muddling through the side-effects of the antibiotic I’m taking, which has caused me to feel like I’ve been run over by a truck or something. 

I’d forgotten how thoroughly this stuff hoses me up by the end of a course. This was not in any way improved by driving for 14 hours straight on Monday 😛

Fortunately, I took my last tablet last night. It’ll take a few days to get back to normal. The challenge with this stuff is that it causes fatigue, pain, tightness, and weakness in the muscles and can cause tendon ruptures, so one must be careful. 

I managed not to rupture anything at Pilobolus’ intensive, though—the side-effects were accumulating last week, but hadn’t peaked (and I forgot to take my dose a couple of times).

I went to class yesterday but skipped out after barre because everything in my body felt like it was about to snap. My grand battement was pathetic. I spent much of the rest of the day asleep (so I woke up at 5:30 this morning … Yay?). 

Not sorry at all to see the back of this prescription, though I’m glad it has sorted my sinuses.

I’ve got so, so many thoughts gleaned from my week in Connecticut. I’m slowly organizing them. I’ll try to report back soon-ish.

So It Was National Dance Day

Rather ironically, I celebrated by mostly not dancing.
Well, there was some dancing, in the morning, before I headed for Mom’s. And my friends carried me down the hall to the door when I left.

Pilobolus Summer Workshop was beyond words—or, well, beyond words that I can find when I’m happily exhausted because I spent the week dancing and creating feeling and spent Friday night singing and drinking and dancing and talking and talking and talking…

Went to bed at 7 AM on Saturday. Woke up at 10:50 AM. My body didn’t feel tired, but I could tell my brain was tired.

Anyway, I’m rolling all this stuff around in my head. You leave Pilobolus’ workshop ready to work, but in need of some time to think.

Anyway, instead of writing, today I’ve been taking pictures. Here’s a few from today and a couple from the week for your enjoyment or what have you.

Me, standing in front of a closed windier in my childhood bedroom.

I realized tonight that this room no longer really belongs me, and I no longer really belong to it. ATM though it’s hard to explain what that means. Also, I kind of can’t believe this is my body. That is not hard to explain.

A late ray of sun slanting down through the variegated leaves of a small tree, with a house in soft focus behind.

“Glory be to G-d for dappled things…” —Gerard Manley Hopkins

Students from Pilobolus' Summer Workshop Week 2, 2017.

This is us: the surprisingly-cohesive little commune that was Week 2 in 2017.

Asher sitting down with garden plants in the background.

There was a lovely cool breeze this evening. I sat on the bench near the house and drank it in and was glad to be alive and to be tired.

Asher lying on the floor of the dorms at the workshop with other students in the background.

This was a rough moment: knowing we were all about to part ways. Hard to describe how much you can come to love a group of people when you’ve just spent a week learning to trust them to hold you, guide you, and lift you high into the air.

A woven basket hangs on the outside wall of a garage flanked by mature plantings.

This basket has been hanging on the garage for a long time. I’ve photographed it before, in fact. The light was so beautiful that i couldn’t resist.

Some Boring, Practical Advice on Pursuing Your Wild, Impractical Dreams 

Recently I had a chat with a good friend of mine about goals and so forth, and later it occurred to me that I’d failed to say a few really important things—or, well, things that have been important in my own journey, anyway.

They’re things other people have said to me, mostly, though a couple are insights I gleaned by osmosis growing up. They’re things I need to hear too, from time to time, in order to help keep myself on track. I’m writing them down here, where I can always find them if I need them.

Here they are:

1.Identify your actual Wild, Impractical Dream.

This is harder than it sounds. It took me a long time (though it wouldn’t have taken anywhere near as long if I’d just listened to the voice inside me screaming, “GET BACK TO DANCING FFS”).

First, not everyone actually has a wild, impractical dream of this kind: and that’s okay. Honestly, there’s a lot to be said for practicality and reliability, neither of which which are associated with being the kind of lunatic who goes off in pursuit of a Wild, Impractical Dream.

Second, the kind of Wild, Impractical Dream I’m writing about rarely involves the word “and.” It’s an all-in kind of gig: I want to dance for a regional ballet company, not I want to dance for a regional ballet company and ride my way to the top of the FEI stadium jumping circuit. 

Occasionally, someone manages a spectacular “and.” Usually, if you look into it, it owes either to truly extraordinary circumstances or happens largely by chance and involves related dreams (dance and musical theater, for example, or visual arts and fashion, or architecture and mathematics).

Usually, though, pursuing a Wild, Impractical Dream requires singularity of focus (not least because tunnel vision helps you ignore naysayers).

Basically, when you discover the thing that makes you willing to put everything else aside, you’ve probably found it.

If the thing is coding or massage therapy, congratulations: you’ve got a Wild, Practical dream. You can still read the rest of this if you want, though. I’m pretty sure that, when it comes down to it, the same basic advice applies.

2. If the phrase “…be (a) famous…” is part of your dream, consider reassessing your goals. 

I say this not because any one individual is wildly unlikely to become famous, but because if being famous is part of the motivation, you might actually be barking up the wrong tree.

The passion for the thing, whatever it is—dancing, writing, rotary engines, differential calculus—has to come first.

Otherwise, you’re very probably not going to be motivated enough to stand a snowball’s chance of sticking with it long enough to become mediocre, let alone famous. Wild, Impractical Dreams are harsh mistresses.

If, on the other hand, fame itself is the real Wild, Impractical Dream, own that.

The history of the world is rich with the stories of people who thought, “Man, I’m really not good at anything, but I want to be famous.” The ones who succeed are the ones who acknowledge that fact and dedicate themselves to taking any and every path that might lead to fame until, eventually, one does.
Oddly enough, that’s essentially the same approach that one takes in pursuing  any Wild, Impractical Dream.

3. Take Any and Every Path As Long As You Do So With Focus  

Maybe ballet is your One True Dream, but in the course of pursuing your Wild, Impractical Ballet Dream, you get an offer from a modern company.

If that’s the thing that’s going to let you keep dancing, take it. Be a good Buddhist and avoid clinging to perceptions and phenomena. Maybe ballet feels like the only thing, but sometimes serendipity leads us via scenic byways. Sometimes modern is the way to ballet—and sometimes, on the way to ballet via modern, you discover you were born for the weird and wonderful world of contemporary ballet.

Just learn to discern between scenic byways and “shortcuts” that leave you in Poughkeepsie. And know that sometimes you might get stuck in traffic for a bit.

4. Stand Up for Your Dream 

This might be the hardest one.

A Wild, Impractical Dream is Wild and Impractical at least in part because people don’t “get it.” It might be ahead of its time. It might be way outside of the predominant cultural framework where (and/or when) you are. People might think you’re too young, too old, too black, too white, too poor, too mentally ill, too fat, too skinny, too disabled, too whatever.

Any good Wild, Impractical dream is one you’ll probably have to defend at least once. This requires you to believe not only in your dream, but in yourself—or at least to act like you do.

The funny thing is that by acting as if we believe, we tend to come to believe: we stick around until things start to get real; so real that even we can’t deny it.

5. Accept Change Gracefully (if not Immediately)  

Sometimes, in the midst of pursuing your Wild, Impractical Dream, life will intervene in profound and unexpected ways.

It’s okay to be upset when that happens. Feel the feelings. Have the meltdown, if a meltdown comes along.

The death of a dream is a very hard thing. Even the temporary side-lining or minor refitting of a dream can be hard.

But change is inevitable, and sometimes change knocks is off one course and puts us on another.

Fight with conviction for your Wild, Impractical Dream, knowing that in the end you might not get there. It’s worth doing anyway.

A Relative Dose Of Success Followed By, You Know, Life

Leading up to PlayThink this year, I was bulldozed by a swift and nasty bout of your bog-standard “depressolepsy”—that fierce, crushing, exhausting depression that rocks up out of nowhere and smashes everything in its path. Thanks, Rapid Cycling Type I Bipolar, or whatever the hell is going on with my brain.

That’s been the case the past three years running, so I think it has to do with timing: the time of year; the timing of the onset of Summer Intensives and my inability to figure out how much GoGoGo I can take before I need to take my brain out and put it on ice for a couple of days; the timing of the stressful bit of my non-dance job; the timing of always effectively losing my husband to The Great Wave of Planning that precedes his standing summer plans (PlayThink and the Big Burn) just when I most need someone to help me stay afloat[1].

  1. This bit isn’t really his fault, btw. It’s more that I have a hard time broaching the divide between myself and other people, including D, when I’m struggling, and it gets even harder when he seems preoccupied. It’s something we both need to work on, together, and we’re doing it, but it takes time.

None of this was improved by my lack of security about our performance piece for the Friday-night “FlowCase,” which we hadn’t rehearsed anywhere near enough.

D offered time and again to cancel, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be better to get out there and do the show than to back out. This is, for all its friendly down-home atmosphere, a professional gig—and the first rule in the performing arts is and always will be: “The Show Must Go On.”

  1. Corollary[3]: if your name is printed on the official marketing materials, you’re part of the show.
  2. I consistently misspell this word, even though if I stop and think about it for a sec I actually do know how to spell it. Seriously, self: “Corolarry?” Really? Is that, like the cousin of Corojessica, or…? SMH.

Basically, getting out there and screwing up sometimes is part of the business—even Nureyev fell flat on his arse from time to time—but you don’t want to get a reputation for backing out of your commitments.

So I gritted my teeth and accepted that we might totally bomb; that the whole thing might go right off the rails. That life is, after all, pretty much an exercise in walking a tightrope in a maelstrom, for all our delusions of control. That the even inclusion of a twirling beach umbrella and faux 20s-era men’s swimwear might not pull my carefully-crafted little acro-clowning-ballet back from the edge of disaster[3].

  1. I had thought of also including fake moustaches, but forgot about them, so even they could not have saved us if things went south.

So we wrestled our way through a couple more hours of rehearsal rendered incredibly awkward by the lack of so much as a single properly-flat spot in which to rehearse, which in turn made the apex of the whole number—the candlestick-to-diver transition that we basically invented for this show—literally impossible.

And then we went on.

And you know that thing that happens when you get on stage and the whole world falls away and suddenly you’re ON and even if you literally put a foot wrong, you can’t put a foot wrong?

So, that happened.

~

Our performance wasn’t perfect in the literal sense. Because we hadn’t been able to nail the diver transition, we left it out (though we didn’t actually program in something else, just in case it magically came off: I simply sort of rolled out to the side, pulling D up with me).

We had already scuttled the bluebird lift at the end because we need more practice with it before we put it in a show. Right now, its hit rate at home is only about 25%; the rest of the time, I wind up hitting it for about .5 seconds while D struggles to figure out the balance point, then we fall out of it and I yell at him and then apologize for yelling at him.

And, yet, in another way, our performance was a million times better than I could have imagined.

D lit up in a way I’ve never seen him light up on stage (evidently, all you have to do is give him a beach umbrella and let him twirl it[4]).

  1. I actually rather suspected this would be the case, which is why he got to twirl the beach umbrella (okay, so also it fit his character better than it fit mine). D has a lot of natural clown in him. I formulated this thing to play to that strength, and I think it paid off. Choregraphy Rule Number One: when you’re creating a piece on a group of dancers, create it on the dancers you have.

The piece filled up the music exactly (I was incredibly worried that we’d get ahead, finish early, and have to stand there grinning like eejits for 30 seconds or what have you).

Perhaps most importantly, the audience rippled with genuine laughter at all the right moments. It wasn’t that weird, “Uh … is this supposed to be funny?” laughter that we all secretly dread. All the jokes (physical jokes, not verbal ones) hit the mark.

When it was over, they cheered. Lustily. Thrillingly. Authentically. It was awesome.

So, score one for team Dawson/Taylor-Dawson. Not bad at all for a pretty complex bit of physical theater that had a sum total of maybe four or five hours of real rehearsal time and literally no full run-through with music.

Throughout the rest of the festival, we constantly heard how much people had loved the piece.

A few even commented on exactly the thing I’d hoped to bring to the table: the fact that the piece had characters and a storyline, which isn’t something I’ve seen in FlowCase in previous years. Our good friend reported that she was so proud she found herself tearing up. Someone even commented that my ballet (all three-ish steps that actually made it into the final piece!) was beautiful.

Needless to say, the success of the piece and the instantaneous lifting of the pressure of it off of our collective shoulders helped immensely. So did being done, and thus able to go retire to the camper and just read (I did stay for most of the rest of the show, though, until the mosquitoes emerged and began eating me alive).

I also discovered a technique that really helps D and me: right before we went on, we simply talked our way through the piece, back and forth, each of us simply stating the short-hand name for our moves[5].

  1. Except for the ballet part: since I do that by myself, and I sometimes find it quicker not to actually attempt to get the language bit of my brain firing, I just visualized and went, “Balletballetballet, maybe some other ballet” there.

We each went on feeling like the other knew not just the skills required, but the sequence in which they needed to be called up, and it let us both relax. Handy!

~

Anyway, there’s video of the whole FlowCase, but it won’t be ready for a couple of weeks. I’ll watch it, even though I’m not sure I want to (the performance felt really good, but when I watch video, I tend to get hung up in my flaws).

This week, I’m taking two days off to get things back to normal as much as I can before diving back into class and so forth. I am vaguely regretting not signing up for our AD’s master class, because I know a couple of people who are taking it and it sounds cool, but I also recognize that I need a breather.

I need a couple of days to just do day-to-day life stuff. Mentally speaking, I already feel like the summer is more or less over: I’m away for two weeks of July on dance intensives (LexBallet and Pilobolus), then possibly again for much of August and the first week of September (depending on a handful of circumstances) for Burning Man. Because I struggle with time, the idea of those giant pre-planned blocks makes it hard to understand that the rest of the summer, the windows between those bricks, exists.

Inevitably, when I take a couple of days off, there’s a part of my brain that remembers how nice it is to have the whole day to do the things that need doing (or, if possible, to do nothing, or do only things that don’t need doing). Occasionally, a very quiet voice in the back of my head whispers, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to do this than to pursue your insane visions?”

I remind it, of course, that “it makes more sense” hasn’t really worked out for us in the past—that I’m not actually great at predicting what makes sense; that (perhaps more importantly) the pursuit of impractical dreams, Quixotic though it may appear, keeps the wind in my sails.

Someday, I’m sure, it probably will make sense to ease off the accelerator a bit; to drop out of the big ring. Right now, though, I’m riding to ride the hills; I’m dancing to feel the sensation of soaring at the top of the grand assemblé porté.

And, yet, I think it’s good for me, having a life in which something as powerfully thrilling as Friday night’s performance is followed by something as entirely mundane as getting out in the backyard to chop up the branches that are still waiting there for me.

To misapply Jack Kornfield’s magnificent summary of Zen practice: “After the ecstasy, the laundry.”

So there we are. Back to class tomorrow, though I am sure I’ll sorely (ha!) regret jumping back in with Killer Class instead of something gentler.

Choose Your Own Intensive: Day 1

I was, in fact, on the nervous side this morning when I left home.

Surprisingly, by the time I reached Clifton Cultural Arts Center, that nervousness had evaporated. Instead, I simply felt delighted to be returning to a place where I had a really great experience last year.

I picked up my number and the little program for the intensive and parked myself in the main studio, where a bunch of the students were watching Rosas Danst Rosas. Even that was pleasantly familiar: Rosas is one of the seminal works of progressive modern choreography that almost every dancer who’s worked in the discipline knows, and Mam-Luft & Co’s 2016 intensive  was the first place I saw it.

41

“I’m #41! I’m #41!” shouted nobody ever, except me, probably.

Improv class went well. I really actually rather love improv, though my body took a bit to wake up today. The drive up to Cincinnati is nearly 2 hours, which is a long time to sit still. Tomorrow, my class starts a little later, but I’m still going to leave at the same time.

I am not, I’m happy to report, the Onliest Boy this time. There’s another guy, and he’s quite good. He’s auditioning as well. We’re very similar in size, but quite different in build and movement style, so I’m actually kind of hoping I’ll get to work with him in the partnering classes at least a bit.

A couple of the girls from last year are also there this year, which is awesome. Regardless, I don’t feel so weird and shy and isolated this time. Like, I kind of feel like I know what I’m doing this time, and like I have some business being there.

After class, I dashed away almost immediately (partly so I could stop at United Dairy Farmers and get a milkshake, which turned into the greater part of my ultra-healthy lunch[1]).

  1. A milkshake and a banana. Don’t judge. We don’t have UDF in Louisville, so it was 100% worth it.
    • In fact, this worked out surprisingly well, really. The milkshake provided enough fuel to get me through ballet without turning into a brick in my belly.

Back in Louisville, I took a break to read things on my phone, then headed over to the ballet. We’re in the main studio downtown, which is really nice. There are only 10 or so of us in the master class, so we have a ton of room to move … which is good, because BW likes to make us travel.

Class went well. I got through everything, jumps and all, though I couldn’t convince my body to brisé during combinations, only during marks. I do, however, have my entrelacé back. I got to do grand allegro, and it was pretty good.

I took a couple of technical notes, but I left my notebook in my car and I can’t remember what they were. That’s fine, though: if I don’t remember at least some of them by the end of this week, I am probably beyond hope and should consider a career in Couch Potato Cultivation rather than in dance.

I am, in fact, the Onliest Boy in the masterclass series this week, but I’m okay with that. It’s a much smaller group than ML&Co was last year.

Anyway, I’m really tired, so I’m going to close here. I think I intended to say something more interesting, but I’ve been busily doing a billion other things whilst writing this post, and I can’t remember what they were.

~

PS: You know you’ve worked hard when you drop in at your aerial studio to say “Hi” to your friends, and the first thing someone says is, “Did you get caught in the rain?” 😀

 

All Forward Motion Counts?

Today’s class was a … you know what, the French do have a term for it: a melange. A mixed bag. Tutti frutti, perhaps.

Barre was good. Then bad. Then good. Then bad. I’ve mostly recovered my strength, anyway. There were some very nice balances, some very nice fondus … and some balances that weren’t, and some fondus that were really very much fondon’ts.

Adagio started out awkwardly and progressed into beauty (thank freaking G-d). The waltzy terre-a-terre thing was actually fairly nice going right (musicality! literally effortless triples! literally acceptable chaînés!) and terre-a-terrible going left. I mean, so bad that on my second run left (when I inserted myself back into the last group for a remedial run), my badness became contagious and BG, who was taking class with us, blanked on the second half of the combination[1].

  1. Okay, so I’m not actually sure that was really my fault, but it was funny. What I think really did us in was this: as we prepped our run, BWK said, “Really travel on those waltz turns, gentlemen!” and then we put everything into traveling through the waltz turns and promptly forgot what the heck was supposed to follow them. For once, I remembered first, and stage-whispered, “Piqué arabesque! Turn!

I then tweaked my mostly-healed toe and bailed out mid-run going left on the next thing, a very similar-but-rather faster terre-a-terre. I couldn’t get it taped fast enough to make it back in for the warm-up jumps, so at that point I was done. Meh.

So, basically, several points in the “progress” column and several in, depending on who you ask, either the “regress” or the “congress” column[2,3].

“If pro is the opposite of con, then the opposite of progress must be Congress.”
—Attributed to Mark Twain, anyway

  1. Yes, that was a cheap joke.
  2. No, I’m not sorry.

After, I joined AMS for swimming and roller-coasters (and inventing fake rides for an imaginary theme park of our own[4]), which may have been completely irresponsible, but which was also completely worth it. I now have a season pass to an amusement park that’s located barely more than a stone’s throw from my house and actually literally on the way home from ballet.

Since there’s a water park there where I can swim my brains out in a wave pool, I intend to use the bejeezus out of said season pass.

As is the way of these things, the season pass is less expensive than paying regular admission twice. It’s also comparable to or less expensive than a membership to various local swimming pools that don’t have waves and gigantic waterslides (or rollercoasters).

This solves my “How can I do cardio without overworking my quads?” problem quite nicely. I can now go swimming a few times each week … and if the occasional roller-coaster or two sneaks into the deal, that’s probably okay.

~

  1. For your amusement, here are some of our imaginary theme park rides:
  • The Wheel of Poor Decisions: Located close to our Unlimited Drinks Buffet, but at the furthest possible point from all restrooms, our giant Ferris wheel will cause you to question your life-choices.
  • The River of Punishment (AKA Time-Out River): There is no splashing on this contemplative lazy river-style tube float. Also, no talking, no smiling, and absolutely no horseplay or fun of any kind. You should use this time to sit in your tube and think about what you’ve done.
  • Hangry River: Located at maximum distance from all food service venues, Hangry River offers a ride on doughnut-themed inner tubes through a veritable degistive tract of slow, sinuous curves. Fear not: as you exit the ride, you will pass through our otherwise-inaccessible Hangry Valley Food Court, where you can stuff yourself on pizza, doughnuts, and ice cream to your heart’s content.

You Guys! We Got Reviewed! 

Or, erm, pre-reviewed? 

Anyway, you can read it here

This has been a rough week for the show in a few ways (a serious illness, injuries, automotive shenanigans), so it’s heartening to see such a thoughtful and positive first look from of our local theater critics!

Good News 

I got cast! (And not the broken-bone kind 😁)

Next audition on my radar is ballet-related, but I’m not sure when it is. Dates haven’t been posted yet. 

Callbacks ‘n’ Sech

Today was a long day: class at 10:30 (with a smidgen of rehearsal afterwards); teaching at 1 PM; suspended meditation at 2; callback at 3:30 (ended a little past 6:30).

Class was … erm. Like, barre was great? And the rest of it was … yeaaah. Erm. I had issues. On the other hand, I did manage one not-very-good triple, and except for the points at which I actually screwed up, things looked okay.

All three members of my Ballet Girl Posse were in class, and two of them stayed after, so we ran through our choreography … and I actually learned all their names. YAY! So at least I’ve accomplished something today. BG was still around, so he ran us through our bit a couple of times, and we decided that we like fourth arabesque better for my bit of the first partnering piece (a series of supported fouettés).

I begged off the last ten minutes of the modern dance portion of the apprentice-teaching class because my legs were a bit angry at me and I was going to need them for the audition. I used the time to foam-roll the crap out of them.

During meditation, I fell asleep. Given that I am the world’s worst napper (seriously, I can normally only nap when I’ve been awake for at least 48 hours straight), that’s saying something. Evidently, I was pretty tired.

The callback turned out to be the highlight of the day. It was more like a dance-and-theater workshop than an audition—we did some partnering stuff, then learned a dance and performed it in groups, then played theater games and ran some sides. Honestly, it was a hell of a lot of fun with a great group of people (both judges and fellow auditionees), and if every audition was that much fun, I’d audition for everything.

It turns out that I know the guy who’s directing the production. I met him at a party (which happened to be at his house) and felt instantly very, very comfortable with him, which speaks very highly of him. Also: proof that my world is incredibly tiny, heh.

We’ll hear back in a week or so about roles and such. Fortunately, I have too much going on to have much time to chew my nails about it, though I don’t have class with BW on Thursday this week.

Regardless, BW gave me homework—jumping rope to improve my cardio as well as the usual Turns Homework and … erm. I’m supposed to be doing something else, too, I think? Fehhhhcccckkkk. I can’t remember. It’s in my notes somewhere.

Anyway. I will miss BW’s class this week, but I suspect my body will welcome the extra rest. The fitness is returning, but my body hates me so much right now.

Just A Quickie Before Rep

Two things: first, I’ve had plentiful occasion this week to reflect upon how radically dancing has altered my life.

Three years ago, I had a tiny handful of local friends and didn’t really really feel connected to anything or have any overarching vision guiding me. 

Now I’m increasingly knitted into this strange, tiny, amazing world of dance and aerials people as my life furiously churns (ohai, unintentional modern dance pun) towards some kind of future in which dance and aerials are central.

I am stunned and awed and grateful every time I think it. 

Second … Well, crap, I’ve forgotten what the second thing was. Honestly, it was probably about class this morning and still feeling like a space cadet whilst struggling against allergies. 

So that’s me: an allergic spaceman. 

If I was Matthew Bourne, I’d almost certainly write a ballet about it. 

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