Category Archives: cirque

PlayThink 2017!!!

I just got notification that we’re in for PlayThink’s performance showcase this year! 

It’s official!

I have a couple of months to teach D our choreography and work any kinks, which should be plenty of time.  

My inspiration! 😀

For this act, I’m putting together an acro/ballet/physical theater piece to Charles Trenet’s classic, “La Mer.” I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. The piece is built around a couple of bumbling tourists at the seashore. Since its 100% mine, I’ll post rehearsal clips once we start working on it.
You guys, I’m so excited! This will be our second year teaching, but our first year performing at PlayThink.

I can’t wait!

Remember That Audition Where I Fell Off The Trapeze? 

The most interesting man in the world doesn’t always fall off the trapeze, but when he does, it’s during an audition … and lands him a callback!(1)

  1. Okay, so falling off the trapeze may have had exactly nothing to do with it. But still! I got a callback!!! YASSSSSSS!

Pretty much a perfect depiction of how I’m feeling right now 😀

Work Song: Adjustments 

So, I’m writing this at 3 AM, but scheduling it for Actual Morning. 

We’ve had a late casting change for Work Song. My other boy wound up with a bounty of work projects, and he’s swamped. I’m fine with that; in the gig economy that feeds so many artists, you have to strike while the iron is hot. I love his work, so I’m excited about seeing more of it down the line, even though it means losing him for this piece. 

Last night I asked GM, a fellow aerialist, if he’d like to try jumping in. His formal training in dance is pretty minimal, but he’s a very good mover. I think he’ll be able to roll with it. AM, AS, and I will be able to coach him on technique.

Interestingly, bringing in a less-experienced dancer has helped me to streamline my choreography a bit. I had about five different ideas for the third phrase, and only one of them is something I’d feel confident handing to someone with limited dance vocabulary.

It’s good to work with limitations. They make decision-making easier and help to shape the finished work. Just as the stone tells the sculptor what figure lies within, sometimes the dancers shape the vision of the choreographer. 

We should be able to start rehearsing next week or the first week of January.

 Ultimately, this piece is only about 3.5 minutes long. The rehearsal process will be less about learning the choreography, which shouldn’t be too hard, and more about making it really sing. There’s a lot of partnering in this piece, though it’s largely not of the classical-ballet bent. GM takes acro with me, so I suspect he can handle it. Timing and musicality are the open questions, one everyone learns the choreography. 

I guess, really, this is my first professional project as a choreographer-director. I’m learning on the fly how to cast dancers, schedule rehearsals, teach choreography to four busy performers with very different backgrounds, make costuming decisions, and so on and so forth.

Having done it once,  I feel like doing it again won’t be so difficult. The biggest ongoing challenge will be finding rehearsal spaces on a budget of $Zip.ZilchNada. The nice part in this case  is that rehearsal space is built in. I teach with AS, and this performance is part of the Instructors’ Showcase, so we will be rehearsing at the studio.

Finding dancers isn’t incredibly difficult. I’ve managed to connect with a decent handful of adult ballet students who want to perform, including a fairly advanced core group. My aerials family is made up mostly of very game performers, a few of whom have reasonable dance training.

I might have to learn how to do fundraising stuff. The internets should make that easier.

I’m pretty excited about all of this. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is the cat-herding involved in scheduling rehearsals 😛 

That might not be as bad as it could be, though, because we’re all attached to the aerials studio, and we all spend a lot of time there. 

More to come. It’s weird how far 2016 (the Year of the Dumpster Fire) has taken me as a dancer. No matter what I’ve said, one year ago I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be staging a piece (for four dancers!) with so much confidence.

Gives me something to look forward to in 2017 (which, hilariously, is the Year of the Cock).

Lyra Photos! 

Trapeze Thingy

This afternoon, things went well. “And So It Goes” (got the title wrong before) sets really nicely for an adagio dance trapeze piece. I roped Denis into doing some acro for the opening, though it was awkward because our portable crash mat is mas squishy — not particularly stable.

The performance piece was very much a work in progress. I forgot to do a couple of things I meant to do, which meant there was more improv than I intended, but the improv resulted in some nice moments, so I really can’t complain.

Our friendly photog, Kevin, shot pictures, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them. After I finished, essentially everyone wandered up to em and said, “I wish I had your back flexibility.”

I am learning to basically just say, “Thanks!” without launching into a long and boring explanation of how one achieves that kind of thing.

Secretly, inside, I’m like, “BALLET, Y’ALLS.”

Well, okay, ballet and genetics.

But mostly ballet: ballet will make the most of whatever genetics you’ve got. The secret isn’t so much flexibility — it’s strength. Nothing teaches you to use your back like ballet. If you want to be able to draw your body up into an arc while dangling from one knee, do a billion arabesques (but they have to be good ones).

Anyway, after I did my thing on the trapeze, we also got to play on the lyra and do some crowd-pleasing acro. We had extra time because we all kept forgetting that we had 10-minute time slots 😛

That’s it for tonight. I’m itching to see the pictures, but also completely exhausted.

The Most Terrifying Arabesque 

Audition-Day Hijinks!

In an effort to keep myself from sitting at home and obsessing about today’s audition, I decided to haul my hiney out of bed and go to acro class.

half-highs

And this goofiness happened 😀

It started out as graceful half-highs with port de bras, then turned into the Creation of Adam, then turned into two guys going PULL MY FINGER!!!

Top, L-R: Jesse, Me

Bottom, L-R: Starr, Denis

Totally worth it. Hanging out with my acro peeps always puts me in a great frame of mind.

Now I only have an hour to obsess before I can go check in and warm up. Maybe I should take myself out for lunch…

Advanced Class: Don’t Leave Your Body Behind

Today’s class was pretty good.

EF taught, which meant long and complicated combinations at barre, some of which were VERY fast.

After we had all sort of traded a moue of despair after flailing our way through something that I’ll call a degagé combination (with the understanding that it was SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT), he pointed out to us that we shouldn’t feel disheartened and give up mid-combo if we’re not fast enough yet.

Even if we flail through and don’t quite make it, even if the combination is so freaking fast that 75% of the advanced class can’t actually get their feet either to point fully or to relax fully, by trying, we’re developing the strength and the speed that will eventually allow us to execute these insanely-fast combinations correctly.

riddikulus

Us at barre today(1, by PhantomMoon, via Pinterest).

I was awfully glad to hear that, because that’s exactly what I keep telling myself: even if you’re just flailing away like a wind-sock, keep going, because it is through flailing that we reach transcendence.

Or something like that.

Even if you’re just flailing away like a wind-sock, keep going, because it is through flailing that we reach transcendence.

Or something like that.

(I felt like that could use some fancy formatting.)

This is how EF teachers, and one of the reasons that I lurve his classes(2). As I have probably mentioned before, he teaches to the most advanced dancer in the room (in this case: a home-town boy on a brief vacation from American freaking Ballet Theater, apparently) and allows everyone else to rise to that level.

Curiously, it generally works.

Anyway, adagio went well, once I stopped being a spaz and forgetting to actually use the muscles that make my supporting leg, like, support me (yeah, totally fumbled in a tour lent today … but I jumped right back into it and fixed it on the second side).

Turns and terre-a-terre also went well: we got music from Swan Lake today, and my insides went SQUEEE! because I ❤ Swan Lake so hard. My outside, on the other hand, went, “I’m not sure I have this! I’m still not sure I have this! Oh, wait — I’ve got this!”

 

Basically, I was having some trouble remembering where this one failli went, and also trouble remembering that my new dancing policy is supposed to be:

Look like you know what you’re doing.

…Even when you don’t.

Which, this week, has been frequently.

Anyway. Petit allegro was a moderate disaster, but only because for some reason on the first pass my brain couldn’t contain the combination, and on the second pass my body kept executing the incorrect version.

It began:

assemblé
jeté
assemblé
jeté

and then made with the glissades, but I somehow thought it began with glissade – jeté and thus kept doing it backwards and getting horribly lost.

EF tried to sort me, but my legs refused to comply until the very. last. repeat. Thus, I wound up working it alone, as everyone packed up.

EF called me over and gave me a note on my brush-jumps (the ones like jeté, assemblé, and so forth). I’ve been leaving my body behind, which has been forcing me to make extra weight-changes in petit allegro and putting me behind the count.

Evidently, my jumps aren’t actually slow anymore (EF said they’re actually quicker than a lot of my classmates’); it’s the extra weight-changes doing me in at this point.

So in addition to continuing to work on solidifying my supporting leg, this week I’ll be concentrating on bringing my body with me when I jump (something I need to think about in general, really; I do this on grand jeté and saut de chat as well).

Anyway, he spent several minutes working with me in on this, and (of course) I thanked him profusely. He takes a lot of time with me: fixing my arm at barre (which needs doing with alarming frequency; it’s better than it was, but it still likes to drift too far back and lose its shape and so forth), tweaking my jumps and turns, and so forth. I really appreciate that, as a great deal of the ground I’ve gained has been the direct result of these fine-point corrections from my instructors.

It’s also nice to know that I’m not invisible in a gigantic advanced class — there were a billion of us today (even adagio required two groups).

After, I went to juggling class, in which I managed a new-record-for-me 27 cascades, then worked my choreography a bit in Open Fly. I think I’ve solved the last of the timing problems (added a sissone to arabesque; not 100% sure it works with the music).

And now I’m at home, writing this, contemplating lunch, and preparing to undertake a cleaning binge as a way to keep myself from just obsessing about tomorrow’s audition.


Notes, References, and Asides

  1. Sadly, I can’t find a proper source for this; if it’s from etsy, I want one! OMG I FOUND IT!
  2. Sadly, after next Saturday, we won’t have him again for a while, because the regular season and so forth take off again next week, and he has So Many Responsibilities.

Initial Review:WearMoi Dance Belt

I’m an idiot, and didn’t keep the packaging for the WearMoi belt that I picked up on Wednesday. That’s a shame, because it makes it hard to conclusively recommend the right model (it’s definitely a thong-back in the unfortunately-named “nude” colorway with a 3″ waistband).

I can at least say it’s one of the newer-style models, that it really kinda blows my old Capezio warhorses out of the water*, and that it’s a close contender with the Body Wrappers models.

*While it will keep one’s eggs unscrambled, however, I am sadly forced to admit that it will not keep one’s metaphors unmixed. So if you want metaphors as clear as a wide blue window and pure as driven angels’ kisses, perhaps I am not the ideal source.

Design

In design, the WM belt most closely resembles the BodyWrappers M006/M007: pouch affixed below a solid elastic waistband. The pouch is better on the BW models, but the waistband on the WM is … well, plush. It has that sort of fuzzy interior surface like the waistbands on some kinds of underpants.

The WM belts available at Ye Olde Local Dance Shoppe all have 3″ waistbands, but WM’s website allows for customization of the width (perhaps only if you live in Europe or the UK, though: Hi, Yorksranter!), offering 1″, 2″, and 3″ options (Will dance belts ever go metric? Who knows?).

However, after a few hours, the real test of a dance belt’s comfort isn’t so much whether you can handle the waistband, but whether or not the thong is actively sawing you in half.

This is where the WM, like the BW M006 and M007, excels.

One of the chief problems with Capezio’s N5930 is that, when you take a break and sit down for a minute, you quickly realize that the thong is basically a steel** cable wrapped in cotton, soaked in brine, and crammed right up against your tailbone.

**Okay, so it’s not really steel, but it certainly feels like it at times.

That’s about as comfortable as it sounds, and frequently leads to adjustments, which give way to more adjustments when you have to get back in the studio.

Let me tell you from experience: there is nothing as fun as realizing too late that you need to adjust your dance belt and desperately trying to figure out how to do it on the down-low in front of like 40 girls. (Good times, good times.)

The WM and the two BW models share a feature that prevents this particular cascade of humiliation: a wide, flat fabric thong with bound edges.

The BW models have a slight edge in this regard, as far as I’m concerned: the bindings are super-smooth, and the fabric wicks sweat a little better and dries a little faster than the WM’s (however, the BW pouch dries more slowly). I’ve also had one experience of the WM’s thong rolling itself into a cable as I got dressed, but that A) may be because my WM dance belt is slightly bigger than it could be and B) was easily fixed.

Most importantly, neither of them is uncomfortable during breaks: both hold up well to ridiculous schedules like mine that basically involve wearing your dance belt all freaking day because there’s no point in taking it off for like two hours in the middle.

The BW pouch is absolutely the best in terms of modesty and, in my opinion, comfort (it appears to be made from pillows and the happy dreams of adorable kittens or something), so that’s a point in BW’s favor.

That said, the BW pouch also takes foreeeeeeeevar to air-dry when you hand-wash it and a comparably long time to dry when you’ve been sweating your brains out in it for three hours or what have you.

WM’s pouch isn’t quite as modesty-enhanced or silky-sleek, but it does dry more quickly, so point to side WM there. It’s also quite comfortable; the fabric has a nice hand, and the center seam (presumably there more for support than for anything) doesn’t turn into a tourniquet halfway through class.

One last bit on design: WM’s pouch is slightly narrower than BW’s. For me, this is great; I’m not very wide between the hipbones, nor am I, um, (ab.so.freaking.lutely NSFW AT ALL EVERRudolf Nureyev (/ab.so.freaking.lutely NSFW AT ALL EVER) or a ridonculous pr0n star, so to speak. However, BW’s pouch might be a better option for some.

Fit

Here’s the part where I make with the measurements, which I guess I should have actually done before I ordered all my new dance kit yesterday, because holy hairballs, I have shrunk (as you do).

Here’s my current stats (conversions are rounded to the nearest whole unit for simplicity’s sake, except pounds to stone, because the difference is too big):

Waist: 28″/71cm***
Biggest part of my tuchas (right around the gluteus medius): 37″/94cm***
Inseam: 32″/81cm
Height: 68″(5’8″)/173cm
Weight: 149 pounds/68kg/10.6 stone

***This ratio is why it is so freaking hard for me to find trousers that fit right.

I purchased a Large.

It turns out that I split the difference between Large and Medium in BW’s sizes. My waist measurement falls squarely into the Medium camp and my hip/tuchas measurement falls squarely into the Large camp because I am, in short, a “Dually.”

2006_-_Dodge_Ram_3500_-_Mega_Cab_-_Dually_4x4_-_Laramie_-_RR

You know what to do with that big, fat butt. (Source) (PS: Big butts are frequently an, ahem, asset in aerials, not to mention being apparently prized among male ballet dancers, for whom the ideal butt shape is apparently “square.” Regarding which: huh.)

This is consistent with the way the elastic fits: the top is rather looser than it should be, but the bottom is snug enough to do its job really, really well.

Sizing, then, is more comparable to Capezio’s dance belts, in which I would probably wear a Medium (even though their size chart thinks I’m a Small) if I were to buy another one, than to BodyWrappers, in which I am still a large, but a pretty comfortable large.

Fortunately, my magnificent glutei medii (and also my iliac crests, which are like freaking knives these days, y’all) give sufficient purchase to the bottom 1.5″ or so of elastic.

I mention this for two reasons.

  • First, the WM dance belt is not only performing admirably, but is doing so under less-than-ideal circumstances.
  • Second, when sizing your own dance belt (and every other thing), it’s worth considering things like the measurement of your hip right around your gluteus medius, which tends to be extremely well-developed in male dancers, especially male ballet dancers (thanks, grand battement!).

Gray1211

This guy is SO not a dancer. (Circle added for clarity. Source: Illustration by Henry Vandyke Carter from Gray’s Anatomy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Anyway.

So the fit, I think, skews very close to true, with a small caveat for those of us who are pretty freaking lean and yet possessed of ridiculous butt muscles.

It’s probably worth noting that the rise is a bit lower than the BW’s rise. That works just fine for me because of the way I’m put together, but if you have a really long torso (or if you’re just plain tall), the BW belts might be a better fit. For me, though — a smallish person with a moderate torso — the rise is about perfect.

As for the pouch: it’s probably adequate for all but the most ridonculous of pr0n stars.

Function

Holy cats, Batman, this thing FREAKING WORKS.

For a long time, I seriously thought my Capezios were fine. Sure, occasional adjustments were required (note: this may well be a sizing issue; I am more than 4″ smaller waist-wise than I was when I started dancing again) — but, on the whole, I felt like things were, you know, staying put well enough.

Then I got my BW M006, which was revelatory. When it was sitting where it wanted to, NOTHING MOVED. Nothing could move. Which is, in fact, the whole idea: “set it and forget it.”

The only problem was that the M006’s rise meant that it sat at a spot that wasn’t (at the time) terribly comfortable, so I kept adjusting it downward, which compromised its effectiveness. Curiously, losing another inch or so off my waist seems to have made the height of the rise matter a whole heck of a lot less, so go figure.

Enter the WM dance belt: the rise is perfect, and the fit is secure — so secure that “set it and forget it” works just as well in lyra class (IMO, the ultimate test of a dance belt) as it does in ballet (okay, so all those freaking échappés are a close second … no pun intended, but I’ll take credit if it’s on offer).

So, basically, if there’s any wiggle room, the lyra will find it and will adjust your junk for you and your better half will sit there laughing maniacally and saying, “You’re not supposed to use that to hang on to the hoop!”

Or, you know, you’ll just pinch your junk or something, which is at least as unpleasant.

Oh, and then you’ll have to (ONCE AGAIN) adjust yourself in front of 40 girls, even if there are only like 16 people in the studio at that moment and three of them are guys.

WM’s dance belt puts an end to that particular scenario (as long as you remember to sort of shimmy around the family jewels, as one does in such situations — there’s a reason that there are fewer guys than girls in lyra).

Meanwhile, in ballet class, WM’s dance belt eliminates all need for mid-class adjustments. There’s no jeté-ing out the studio door at the end of a grand allegro phrase; no OMFG moments in the middle of warm-up jumps.

Obviously, I can’t speak to durability yet, but at around $25 US, WearMoi’s dance belt doesn’t have to last until you retire to be worth the cost of admission.

TL;DR:

  • Fits true to size, with a low rise and moderate pouch width.
  • Construction and materials are excellent. Plush elastic is freaking amazing. Dries faster than BW M006/M007, but the pouch and thong aren’t quite as nice.
  • Comfort is excellent. M007 may have a slight advantage due to its sleek, smooth fabric and pouch, but the WM belt is still exceptionally nice.
  • Functionality is stellar. Set it and forget it, indeed.

8/10: Very Highly Recommended. (Compare 5/10 for Capezio N5930; ~8.5/10 for BW’s M006/M007)

 


Dually Image:
By user:JDOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6883513

Choreography: Iterations

On Sunday, I banged out what turned out to be a kind of very rough first draft of the choreography for an upcoming Lyra performance that opens with a bunch of ballet.

I video-ed the initial draft choreography and discovered that, at least for me, video is a really useful tool for the choreographic process. It let me analyze my own dance from an audience perspective (only one: the person sitting at the corner of audience R, heh), which in turn helped me figure out what worked and what needed to change.

Today, I worked the ballet part again, and I think I’ve resolved some of the problems I ran into with the first draft — particularly the excessive repetition and the fact that I’d boringly choreographed everything down the same diagonal and back.

I didn’t record video today, but instead wrote the choreo down by hand. This is progress; I used to have trouble doing that because I couldn’t always figure out what to call intermediate things.

Now I just write “step through in coupé” (or short-hand “step thru coupé) or whatever best describes the action if it doesn’t have a really discrete name.

Also, I no longer get my Eighty-Seven Cardinal Directions of Ballet confused (thanks to Company B), which makes it soooooo much easier to write out the instructions.

I just realized, though, that for some reason I dropped one of my favorite sequences (your traditional:

pique arabesque – chassée – tour jeté – something else

…So maybe I’ll put it back in on the next iteration, with or without the interesting little pivot that kept appending itself to the landing of the tour jeté.

That said, I also addedtombé – pas de bourrée – glissade – Pas de Chat Italien into a balance à la seconde.

~

This iterative process feels very comfortable, which surprises me.

As a choreographer, I’m apparently quite happy to just bang out a very rough initial draft.

By contrast, as a writer, my initial drafts tend to feel pretty finished because I work into the diction and sound and feeling and imagery of the writing so much.

This means that my initial drafts as a writer take foreeeeeeeeevar, while an initial choreographic draft can be accomplished in a few minutes for a short piece (obviously, you’re not going to choreograph a 3-act ballet in 10 minutes, unless each act is like one minute long).

I think we have another Open Fly session tonight, so I might shoot some video of the second draft of my choreography, and possibly also the lyra choreography, if I’m feeling up to it.

Maybe this time I’ll remember to bring an external speaker so I can have video and sound AT THE SAME TIME!!! O.O

I think I will, in time, post my various iterative videos here. I haven’t ported the first two (both first-draft videos, but recorded in two separate phrases) over to the YouTubes yet, though.

~

In other news, yesterday’s rest day went well, and I learned that one of my favorite dancers and instructors is also an incredibly good cook. Like, somehow, in the midst of teaching and rehearsing and generally being amazing, he also found time to make two really good pie crusts from scratch and fill them with amazing savory pies also from scratch.

I already knew that he was a really lovely human being … only, now I’m not so sure that’s accurate.

Specifically I am not entirely sure he’s actually a human being; he might really be a unicorn in elaborate biped drag.

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