Category Archives: work

(Don’t) Give Up

I often write as if I believe in myself, as if I believe that what I’m doing in the world right now makes some kind of sense.

I don’t.

It was really, really hard when I came back to dancing after my surgery last summer. Day after day, I would literally look at myself in the mirror and be unable to stop the words, “You have no idea what you’re doing. You’re out of your mind,” from coming out of my mouth. I literally said to myself, out loud, over and over, “Give up. Give up, give up, give up.”

For a couple of months my interior life was one long bout of who do you think you are? I turned on that wild insecurity the only weapon I had: stubbornness.

My Dad was stubborn. My Mom is stubborn. My sister, holy cow, is she ever stubborn. In my family, we mostly live a long time, and the whole time we vex the world with stubbornness.

Every day I would wake up and look at myself in the mirror and say, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

And every day, the answer was pretty much a shrug, the gritting of my teeth, and the decision to do it anyway.

I write this to remind myself: not very long ago, less than six months ago, I was back to thinking that my singular aspiration in life was completely mad and that I should possibly think about going back for a master’s in something boring but profitable.

Thank G-d for stubbornness. I can’t take any credit for that. It appears to be entirely temperamental. Something in my nature is deeply, deeply perverse. If you tell me I can’t, I’m not capable, I’ll never be capable … well, really, there’s no better way to get me to prove to you that I can.

Apparently it works pretty well when I tell myself that, too.

I mentioned my recent successes in a facebag group made up of my dance peeps (mostly because several of them were involved in creating those successes and I wanted to thank them), and one of them described those successess as “much deserved.”

That meant the world to me, because there’ s still something inside me that says, now and then (especially when I have a not-so-great class), You’re crazy. You’re out of your mind. You have no right to do any of this.

And today I realized that sheer cussedness isn’t the only weapon in my arsenal anymore. Now I can wave my contracts and my gigs and the fact that I somehow get paid actual money to actually dance??? at that voice like a banner and say to it, STFU, Imposter Syndrome. I’ve got work to do.



Today I started setting my piece for CL’s upcoming collaboration with University of Louisville.

I tapped my friend L, who was my reader for Death Defying Acts and who I’ve had as a student in the Dance for Aerialists class that I co-taught for a while. I don’t remember exactly where the initial impulse came from, but it was a good one. She has time right now, and I think we work well together.

L doesn’t have a lot of dance training, but she’s an aerialist and she practices yoga, so she has the kind of “educated body” that dancers have.

I had two goals for today’s rehearsal: first, teach her how to Tall Ladies (the easy part!); second, set the first phrase of the dance. Both goals were achieved, and it turned out that L and I make really good collaborators. I put in, among other things, fish lift to fondu arabesque (ganked from BG’s piece :D); she added a sub-phrase developed from triangle pose that played really nicely with my instinctive “next thing.”


This is a variation on triangle pose, I think? But it’s also a really beautiful guy on a really beautiful beach, so it’s possible that I got a little distracted while I was looking for a shot of triangle pose. (Via Pexels.)

Choreographing this dance is going to be an interesting challenge. Since the musicians will be working within an improvisational framework (you’re right, that kinda sounds like an oxymoron), I’m programming a series of phrases that can either be used in a set sequence or mixed and remixed in an ongoing improvisation.

I came into this rehearsal with only the most basic sketch of an idea: start with Tall Ladies, set L down facing the audience, rise, work through a series of smooth, circular movements in which we appear to be working together to manipulate the ball (in fact, she’s doing all the ball work at the beginning of this phrase).

The lift grew organically out of the initial ball path: that was a cool discovery. L’s triangle sequence also came about on its own. She was experimenting to see where her body wanted to go from the arabesque (the ball passes from her hand to mine as she transitions out of the arabesque), and I liked what came out.

This is the first time I’ve actually set a dance that’s explicitly a partnered piece, as opposed to one in which bits of partnering occur incidentally to the greater momentum of the piece. I think I’m going to enjoy this particular challenge.

Coincidentally, this is also the first time I’ve partnered a girl who is significantly smaller than I am. L is legitimately tiny, which is both awesome and complicated. It’s awesome because she weighs next to nothing and is super easy to balance (she’s also great at engaging through her body, which really helps). It’s complicated because, in trying to be a good partner, I’m finding that I have to adjust a lot.


I need to drop my shoulder a little. OTOH, we make nice lines together!

That’s actually really good for me, as a guy who enjoys partnering and wants to do more of it. The first three rules of ballet partnering for guys might be, “Don’t Drop The Girl[A],” but the fourth rule is Pay Attention to What She Needs.

Does she feel like she can get her leg under her coming out of Fish? No? Maybe you need a deeper fondu, then, doofus.


Such fondu. Many lunge. Wow.

Anyway, I think the resulting piece is going to be pretty cool. L and I work well together, and I think we also look good together. That doesn’t hurt, either.



A. Appendix 1: The First Three Rules of Partnering

  1. Don’t drop the girl.
  2. DON’T drop the girl!


Werk Werk Werk Werk

So here’s how we’re doing on the work front so far this year:

  • Culture of Poverty: I got B Cast, which is great. Last year, I don’t think I would’ve made the cut. I think I might’ve mentioned this already. We start rehearsals Sunday, basically as soon as I get back from BDSI’s SI audition.
  • Collabo show: my piece got a green light, and I’ve got a partner to work with, so that’s rolling forward. We start reheasals on Thursday.
  • Suspend company: I’ve got a company spot, and we’re on to callbacks for specific casting next.
  • PlayThink: this year, I’m both performing and teaching. I’m pretty excited about that, y’all! …Speaking of which:


    Ohai! It me!

  • And, of course, I’ll continue with CirqueLouis.

It’ll be interesting to see how rehearsal schedules shake out for all of this stuff.

This weekend, I’ll be jetting over to Lexington for the Ballet Detroit Summer Intensive audition. I have no idea, honestly, if I’ll make the cut, but I can say that last year I wouldn’t have been brave enough to go. A friend of mine from LexBallet SI is also going, so that’s pretty exciting!

I’m trying to go into it with the mindset that, regardless of the outcome, I can learn a lot from the audition process, and in many ways it’ll be a lot like taking a masterclass (only presumably with a number pinned to your shirt :P).

The weird part is that it’s hard to imagine that my first successful audition was last year, and that before then I felt pretty unsure about auditioning for things in general.

One of the general goals I set down for this year was to reduce my impostor syndrome about working in dance. I think that part of that is going out and auditioning for things—taking risks; seeing how things work out—and another part is choosing atleast  some of my auditions strategically, based on my own strengths as a dancer and what kinds of dancers are needed in different markets.

Though I am making money as a dancer now, I’ve come to regard what I’m doing this year as a kind of apprenticeship. Not to say that my command of technique is finished—nobody’s ever done learning technique—but I’m learning the elements of artistry; how to approach roles; how to take direction and use it effectively (I try to be biddable, so to speak, but I don’t know if I always apply direction as well as I could).

I’m lucky to have good mentors in the midst of all this stuff. Señor BeastMode, in particular, has given me a lot to think about for our Showcase piece this year. I think last year he was kind of feeling us out; figuring out how much technique he could throw at us, given the compressed rehearsal schedule.

This year, he’s giving me very specific directions about approaching the role I’m playing in this piece—what kind of movement quality he’s looking for, how to use my eyes, etc. I’m learning how to ask questions to clarify points I don’t quite get in ways that get the answer I’m actually looking for (all too often, I’ll ask, “What was the thing at the end of that phrase?” in a way that sounds like, “What was the beginning of that phrase?”).

This is all stuff I can carry into the other jobs I’ll be doing this year—and into every job I land going forward. To some extent, these are also the points that determine what kinds of jobs you land as a dancer. Being able to ask a clarifying question intelligently at an audition isn’t a bad thing and, of course, reputation matters in a community as small as the dance community.

I’ll also, obviously, be spending this year learning to juggle the insane schedule that seems to be pretty much the hallmark of #dancerlife always and everywhere 😛 It may sound trivial (it may not: you guys know me pretty well by now :D), but part of me is like, “Holy crap, I’m going to have to figure out how to cook and eat food in here somewhere.”

So, basically, I’m doing the stuff you do as a company trainee, only I’m working for 2 different companies as a non-trainee ^-^

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about the coming year, busy though it’s likely to be.


Ballet Lessons: On Sacrifice

Yesterday, D and I met up with some of my ballet girls at a showing of the Norwegian documentary Ballet Boys, which follows three teenage dancers at a critical period in their training—the point at which they’re deciding whether to continue training and possibly to pursue careers as dancers.

One of the three is absolutely all-in. The other two aren’t as certain. One of them mentions the reality that one faces as a dancer in training: that there’s no time for a typical adolescent social life. He walks away, briefly, from dance—but he literally can’t stop dancing, and ultimately he returns.

I was reminded of a conversation I had not long ago with my friend RH: I said something about how working in dance involves a lot of sacrifice, but it’s willing sacrifice, joyfully given. He said something to the effect that he didn’t see how sacrifice came into it.

For a second, I honestly felt kind of angry. I almost responded with anger.

Then I realized that my anger was the knee-jerk response that dancers evolve as a defense against the fact that people who don’t dance haven’t the faintest hint of a clue about how hard it is; how much it demands. They often seem to legitimately believe that we spend all our time riding unicorns and eating cotton candy and swimming in the fountains of money we get paid for it, when in fact our lives are more akin to monastic vocations—we work grindingly hard, often for peanuts, because we’re called to the Work.

And then I realized that, okay, from his perspective, the commitment and sacrifice required probably aren’t visible, let alone obvious.

RH doesn’t dance, but he knows that I love dancing. He knows that dancing makes me unbelievably happy.

He works in technology, and he loves tech—but he doesn’t love his work in the all-consuming way that I love dancing. The work that he does in the tech sector isn’t the work he’d choose to do if money was no object, and it doesn’t always really work for him. Dancing is absolutely the work I would choose to do if money was no object, and it works for me in a way that nothing else ever has.

Perhaps a bit ironically, I’m working in dance in part because, at the moment, money is an object: to dance at the level I want to, I need to make dance pay for itself. But it’s still what I’d be doing if we suddenly received a windfall that would set us up for life.

That doesn’t, however, mean there’s no sacrifice involved.

Great! Only 10,000,000 more repetitions and you’ll almost have it!


Every now and then, someone will say to me, “I wish I could do what you’re doing.”

I try to listen and respond with kindness; with an openness to the nuances of meaning that underpin what they’re saying. I try to factor in things like financial challenges and family commitments (kids change everything).

But what I want to say, most of the time, is this: You could.

Part of what people are saying, when they say that, is this: I wish I was talented enough.

Sometimes, the people saying it are more talented than I am. They may not have as much training, but in terms of raw aptitude, they have the goods. They just need the training to use their aptitude.

I have pretty strong aptitude for dance, don’t get me wrong—but talent isn’t really the deciding factor.

Sometimes they mean, “I wish I’d danced as a kid.” There’s an assumption that it’s essential to start before your bones stop growing—especially in ballet.

Early training does exert some influence—but it’s not the deciding factor, either. My bones are constructed in a way that allows for 180-degree turnout; my feet were definitely shaped by my early training. But there are much, much better dancers than I—professionals at major companies with a lifetime of training and still have less turnout and mediocre feet; but also late-starters without great turnout or awesome feet who have gone on to forge careers out of nothing.

Early training isn’t the deciding factor, either.

The deciding factor, at the end of the day, is sacrifice.

Welcome to Dancerlife. By continuing, you agree to commit every waking moment for pretty much the rest of forever.


So what, then, do I sacrifice to work in dance?

First and foremost, time.

To work in dance, you have to dance. Dancing eats up oceans of time.

It’s not like training to race bikes as a serious amateur. That you can do around a life that allows some time for other pursuits. You work to develop fitness and riding skills and racing know-how—but a lot it you can do (and ultimately do do) alone, in the interstitial hours around the job that pays for the bike and the racing license and the entry fees.

Dancing requires technique, fitness, and artistry. All of these things, in turn, require a time-commitment that will eat your life. You can potentially fit your training in around another job (and make no mistake, your training is a job), but in so doing you must acknowledge the fact that you will literally have time for nothing else.

I don’t race bikes anymore. I barely ride anymore. I don’t play video games that can’t be squeezed into a few minutes here or there. I’m never up to date on TV shows. I rarely manage to swing a night out, and when I do, it’s almost always with other dancers from the class or rehearsal that ends right before said night out.

I thought this was a choreography still, but actually it could totally be a depiction of dancers trying to have a social life (via the amazing NYC Dance Project, via…erm…Instagram?).

I schedule my “life” around dancing. Even my occasional bouts of paid non-dance work are subject to the demands of class and rehearsal schedules. I give up weeks of the summer, when sane people are enjoying cookouts or canoeing, to sweat my ass off with other dancers in the interest of professional development (but also because I love dancing more than anything else).

SI: not, “Are you going?” but “Where are you going?”

I rarely manage to snag an evening alone with my husband. Fortunately, he’s okay with that. We make the most of whatever time we can grab.

If he wasn’t okay with that? To be honest, I’d still choose dance.

My time belongs to dance, and it will for the foreseeable future.

As a function of time, I’m also sacrificing money. I could land a job tomorrow that would pay thirty times or more the amount I made as a dancer last year. It might even allow me time to dance as a hobby. It would, in one fell swoop, make us very secure, financially-speaking.

It would also mean giving up the career, such as it is, that I’m building now.

Dance is a demanding muse.

I have back-burnered every other interest except circus arts, and circus arts make the cut only insofar as they allow me to function within them as a dancer and don’t interfere with actually dancing.

I still write, but I do my writing in shreds of time snatched at the ends and beginnings of my days. I often fall asleep while writing in bed.

I know it’ll take me longer to finish the projects I’m working on, but I don’t care.

These are a handful of the things that I’ve cast into the fire in the name of dance.

I don’t mind. They’re joyfully given. I would do all of it again in a heartbeat. If you forced me to live my life over, I’d even do it sooner.

But a sacrifice is a sacrifice, willing or not. That’s the one and only thing that separates me from my friends who would like to do what I’m doing[1].

  1. Except the ones who have kids. Denis is a consenting adult who can walk away if he gets sick of playing second fiddle to a career that pays poverty wages. When you have kids, you’re responsible for them in ways that force you to make different decisions. It can be impossible to do what I’m doing and keep the kids fed and housed. In short, kids change everything.


Sometimes, the same people who say they wish they could do what I’m doing are the ones who skip class to just chill, or who opt not to take rep class because it would conflict with game night, or what have you.

I restrain myself from saying, “You could do what I’m doing if you chose dance over everything else.”

I can’t play this lute! I have rehearsal!

Most of the time, I don’t say it.

I recognize that I wouldn’t have understood, back before I started dancing again and realized, finally, that dancing was the only thing I had ever really wanted to do. Either you step into the studio one day and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would and will shove everything else off the table to keep dancing, or you don’t.

Both ways of being are valid, good, and necessary—but only one usually leads to working in dance.


As humans, we are great at wanting to want things.

I want to want to paint more often.

I just actually want to dance.

This doesn’t need a caption, does it?

As dancers, we face the generally unconsidered, usually unspoken, and often unconscious assumption that a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice if you do it to achieve something that gives you joy; that helps you to be a whole.

And yet we recognize the sacrifices of medical students, many of whom pursue their calling for exactly same reason that dancers pursue dance.

As dancers, our calling places tremendous strictures on our time and finances; on our relationships and our personal lives. Just because we’re making art, rather than medicine, that doesn’t make our sacrifice less worthwhile.

Doctors, when they’re skilful and lucky, save lives by cracking open chests to work on hearts.

Dancers, when we’re skilful and lucky, save lives by cracking open hearts.

Sometimes, those lives are our own. Sometimes, they’re other lives.

Regardless, at the end of the day day, the life of a dancer—like any other dedicated life—is one of sacrifice.

Because of that, however, it is also one of transcendence.

Or, well … close enough.

Saturday: Back in Class

L’Ancien is away this week, so HD made a guest appearance in Advanced Class.

I let her know early on that I wasn’t 100% sure I’d make it through class, but I would probably at least get through barre.

In fact, I hung in there until it was time for jumps, when I chose to call it a day. I’m much, much better, but I’d say that I’m really at about 60% of my typical capacity, and with the BDSI audition and the start of rehearsals for the Culture of Poverty piece looming next weekend, it made sense to start getting tuned in again but also not to risk injury.

Speaking of the Culture of Poverty, I made B cast, which is great. I don’t think I would’ve made the cut for this piece last year: stylistically, AS is a very different kind of dancer than I am, and while I’m confident that I’ll absorb the movement style and vocabulary over the course of the rehearsal process, I know that in auditions I still have a tough time setting aside the mantle of ballet.

Anyway, back to class notes. At barre I found myself reflecting on a thing.

Background info: I’m a little taller than Killer B (when I stand up straight 🤔) and a few inches shorter than TM, who stands behind (and then in front of, and then behind…) me at barre.

My legs, meanwhile, are about as long as TM’s, so he’s quite a bit longer in the torso than I am. Killer B’s proportions are much like mine. Both that said, both Killer B and I have higher extensions than TM (who is quite a beautiful dancer and doesn’t actually need to be able to scratch his ear with his toes; he’s naturally princely and looks a lot like Steven MacRae).

Steven MacR—I mean, TM (2nd from left) and me. Also R, who often dances with us and makes us look like total n00bs. PS: yes, I’m watching myself in the mirror because I’m a bad boy and should be punished.

I think it harkens back to something L’Ancien said a few weeks ago: you work with the body you have, and every body has different strengths. Like L’Ancien, TM has deep hip sockets[1], which means that high extensions and the quick, fluttering beats that make petit allegro sparkle don’t come as readily to him.

  1. In fact, they have almost exactly the same build.

Meanwhile, I—with my irrefutably square shoulders and profoundly elastic back—will have to think harder about how to create a lovely, unbroken line through my upper body and arms. Oh, and will spend the rest of my natural life quietly muttering, “Pull up your suspenders,” since that analogy makes me stop swaybacking like a retired dairy cow.

Which is a round-about way of saying this: in ballet, almost everything can be a blessing or a curse.

My feet are what EMM (who has finally joined advanced class!) calls “roundy feet,” which means that both my feet and my ankles are extremely mobile. They can do profoundly beautiful things to the lines of my legs, and ultimately they’re really good for banging out solid balances … once I’ve managed to stack all those piddly little bones correctly, and if the muscles agree to do their job.

Case in (ahem) point: technically, I’m *still* not fully pointed through my toes, here.

But I will be challenged for my entire life to keep them strong enough to counter their natural elasticity, and the beauty of my arches is a completely moot point if I’m not quicker in petit allegro than my friends with less “roundy” feet.

A half-baked point is a half-baked point, and getting feet and legs like mine fully straight and pointed is actually rather a lot of work.

Technically, I am *still* not all the way over the ball of my foot here—you could get in there and shove my calcaneus forward a few more degrees. If you wanted to get kicked in the head, anyway.

TM’s feet are nice, if not quite as fancy as mine, and he consistently makes them look good. At the end of the day, that’s really what matters.

It’s not about having the perfect body for ballet: there’s probably not a single asset that comes without a price (my thighs, y’all—they might make my grand allegro pop, but they also make my 5th position suck sometimes).

It’s about making the most of what you have.

True, there are some traits that seem to be perpetual winners in the ballet world (TM’s incredibly graceful shoulders; my “roundy feet”). But for every working dancer with an aristocratic neck and feet like bananas, there’s a stocky little dude with biscuits who has learned to make the most of what he’s got.

In fact, probably ten, because ballet ultimately belongs to those who work the hardest, and often those who work the hardest are the ones who feel that they have something to overcome.


One last thing. Today, it occurred to me to think about why we move slowly, painfully through fondus even though we still have to get there and show the world that moment of breathing stillness (the “picture,” as it were).

What we’re doing is building strength and endurance.

Yes, you can piggyback on momentum and flash-developpé your leg to the level of your eyebrow—but that doesn’t matter in that moment when you emerge from a soutenu through a graceful, elastic fondu developpé into a balance effacé devant and must then hooollllddddd for a rubato breath before you dive into tombé-pas de bourré-etc.

If you try to throw your leg there—that is, to simply harness momentum—you will find it difficult to muster control, and either you’ll fall out of the balance or you’ll fall into the tombé and make yourself late.

I can’t say I didn’t already know this, exactly? I mean, I know we’re not supposed to just throw our legs—even a jeté requires connection and control.

But somehow today it occurred to me that I need to remember the feeling of the balance between control and momentum; that I am eternally training my body to do things it would probably rather not do with muscles that would probably rather do something else (regardless of the fact that my body is both very biddable and highly suitable for ballet, ballet insists on using muscles and joints and bones in rather creative ways).

L’Ancien often makes us do grand battement with slow counts on the down: half a count to hit the apex and show the free leg, then a full count down—controlled all the way, through tendu. It’s the classic, “And ONE! And two. And THREE!…” in which the entire action of the upstroke happens in the blink of an eye. You could, in fact, count it faster and make it, “And ONE! two, three, four and TWO! two, three, four and THREE!…” but almost nobody counts like that in ballet because it would make our heads explode and screw up the phrasing•.

  • This is a challenge when I dance to a piece I’ve played, sometimes—often, for ballet purposes, we count at half the time signature, transforming 6/8 into 3/4 or 4/4 into 2/2, then divide everything by instinct into phases of 8 or 6 counts.

Anyway, back to ballet-standard counts. So in this slow-descent exercise, the first “And” is just a breath. The free leg shows at its apex a split second later. The rest of the count is spent carrying the free leg back down, rotating the supporting leg against it the entire way.

The descent is infinitely important: it strengthens all the things; it teaches us to counter one leg with the other. It allows us to really figure out how to lift out of our hips so we can close in a clean fifth.

It also looks really cool. There’s something superhuman about an entire ballet class snapping their feet up to face level, then thoughtfully returning them to the ground.

In aerials, when we’re not yet strong enough to overcome gravity doing a skill going up, we practice the reverse skill—that is, the same skill coming down.

Can’t do a smooth pullover mount on trapeze? No problem. Drape yourself over the bar, fight your way into a handstand, and roll down as far as you can before you just drop. Each day, you’ll get a little further. Soon, you’ll find that when you try your pullover mount, you’ve nailed it.

Barre is basically the same kind of thing. Every time you close with control or choose a slower, smoother (and possibly lower) developpé, you’re making yourself stronger.

Full disclosure: sometimes it’ll hurt more when you’re doing it, and sometimes it’ll hurt a lot the next day.

But that’s ballet for you.

It takes a lot of grueling work to become a magical bluebird that flits weightlessly through the air, y’all.

Marching On (In February)

I … think? … I’m done with auditions for the rest of the month, at this point.

Yesterday’s was actually rather a soaring success, except for my usual habit of forgetting some bit of the modern combination and faking my way through that part so I could get to the next bit, then remembering it right after … but there are two thoughts that cheer me up.

First, nobody had the combo down cold. We all missed bits and pieces.

Second, that’s one of the skills they’re looking for at dance auditions. What happens when you fall off the script (because it happens even to top-tier dancers)? Do you freeze like a deer in the headlights, or do you roll on just as if you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to? (Bonus points if you can fake your way through well enough to make it look like everyone else was wrong. I don’t think I accomplished that, yesterday, but I didn’t freeze, either.)

The dance improv bit was, of course, a blast, because I love improv.

The trapeze bit went pretty well despite the fact that apparently whatever demiurge manages music for trapeze auditions believes it’s great fun to mess with mine. I recovered from that and had to improvise a fair bit, but it turned out rather well. And, of course, I didn’t fall off the trapeze this time[1].

  1. Last year’s audition for “Orpheus” is still the one and only time I’ve fallen off a trapeze. It’s also my number-one go-to story to tell when, inevitably, groups of people start reminiscing about stupid moments in their lives. There’s something special about making what seemed, in the moment, a very logical decision to drop myself off a trapeze from ten feet in the air rather than risk breaking my arms. Dancers get it; circus people get it; athletes get it. That said, there are entire hosts of people who think I’m crazy, and they’re probably right—but I’d still do it again in a heartbeat.

Once again, at this audition, they’re not necessarily looking for a polished cirque-style act: they’re looking for expression, musicality, and the ability to command the audience’s attention (and also sound technical elements, obviously). The piece that I showed is one I’m slowly working on set to the Indigo Girls’ “Kid Fears,” and it’s intentionally struggly, so it probably didn’t really hurt anything that I was, in fact, wrestling with my own choreography (much of which I didn’t apparently remember).

The acting part was flat-out awesome, and reminded me how much I actually really like acting, my anxiety about struggling to memorize scripts notwithstanding. Maybe what I really like is cold reading. Who knows? Anyway. I really liked the part they handed me, and ran with it.

Today’s audition was also lovely. Almost nobody showed up, so it was really just three of us mostly doing some improv stuff. I already know that our AD likes the way I improvise, so that was just pure fun. I showed the bits of my piece that I could, given my lack of a partner, and described the idea as a whole. Both our AD and the guy from U of L whose group we’re collaborating with liked it, so it looks like it’s a green light there.

My next audition is a couple of weeks away, and I’m happy to have a bit of a breather. The stretch from the past couple of gigs through now has been pretty intense.

Not that I’m complaining. The other night I was kvetching about some company-related annoyance and suddenly though something like, “Oh, hey. I’m complaining about work because that’s what we do. If it wasn’t a pain in the *** sometimes, it wouldn’t be work.”

And that actually felt, in its own way, rather lovely: like, this is my work, and it’s work that I love. And I think I’m becoming rather good at it. Maybe not world-beatingly good or anything but, you know, serviceable. Which has, to be honest, always been the goal. As a ballet boy I’m smallish and muscly and I bounce like a rubber ball, which puts me squarely in the demi-character camp, and I’m fine with that. Not everyone always has to be the prince (and, honestly, there are a lot of ballets in which the prince never gets to do anything cool outside of the pas de deux). As a circus artist, I’m reliable, adaptable, and versatile: not a specialist, but a generalist, and the kind of generalist who can pinch-hit almost anywhere.

I feel like that’s a good thing to be. I’m not here for glory: I’m here because I love to move; because I can’t not move.

And if sometimes that means I’m stressed out and hounded from pillar to post … well, that’s part of it. That and Auditioning for Poverty are pretty much hallmarks life as a dancer, or indeed as any kind of performing artist, or indeed possibly as any kind of artist.

You do the Work because the Work is what moves you … sometimes more literally than other times.

Simon Crane, Revisited

After Pilobolus intensive, I semi-intentionally put Simon Crane on a back burner for quite a while. I had discussed it with a couple of people whose insights made a lot of sense, and I wanted to let their wisdom percolate for a while.

I meant to get back to work on it in a month or two, but life being life, I kept feeling that it wasn’t time yet.

Anyway, today it resurfaced on its own, with a very clear thought about Acts I and III.

Specifically, there’s a very explicit transition in Act I from the world of the marsh, which follows one set of (magical) “rules” to that of the city, where the “rules” at least seem more prosaic (I think cities have their own magic, but that might be a different ballet). This is part of what allows the arrival of The Flock, with its wild magic, to be threatening in Act II, even though The Flock believes it is acting in the best interests of its own lost member (that is, Simon).

The connection I had failed to make, though, was that the reverse should also be true. The journey of the Naturalist in search of his lost/stolen beloved must explicitly be one that involves the transition from the Naturalist’s world, in which he feels that he understands the “rules,” to that of the Marsh, where he does not.

This thought makes it easier to structure Act III: before, I wasn’t entirely sure how to frame to Naturalist’s journey, or to explain his trepidation even to myself. I don’t want him to be a swashbuckling hero (as much as I love a good swashbuckling hero/ine)! I want him to be a very human man caught up in something he doesn’t understand, doing his best to cope because that’s what you do when you love someone.

The other thing I’m contemplating is “Bolero.” I love the dance in my head, and I’m going to set it sooner or later either way—but E at PSW pointed out that the music already has a powerful life of its own, both as music-qua-music and as a famous ballet. It wouldn’t be wrong to use it, but it might overshadow the rest of the work.

I’m still thinking about that: I might be standing too close to the problem; it might also be that the “Bolero” section of Simon Crane really is strong enough to work.

Lastly, I think I’m going to revisit the score. I’m very unsure about Satie for the opening dances. I’ll have to listen to it again, and see what’s what. Act III might also need to be reset.

Class today was sound, given that I’m tired and sore from a very long Saturday. It took me til centre to really wake up, but once I did some decent work happened.

A Good/Bad Weekend

No class Thursday night because BW had a show, and Friday is currently my day off, though in this case I spent it driving D around.

On Saturday, my second class with L’Ancien was profoundly mixed. I got a “Good!” at barre once, which was really nice, but I was a total disaster at jumps. Like, all the jumps.

L’Ancien gave us a warm-up jump combo that went:

first, fifth, changement, entrechats quartre, trois, cinq

Only, for some reason, what I kept actually doing was:

first, entrechat quatre, changement, wtf, oh no, where even am I, jeté battu?

L’Ancien came over after and stood directly in front of me and made me mark through the steps by myself while he talked me through them. I still had trouble with it, but didn’t figure out til I left class that part of the problem was not knowing where I was supposed to close fifth the first time.

I knew the trois was supposed to finish in back, and was constantly doing mental math to try to make that happen. I thought about it in the car, I thought about it whilst making dinner, and I’m still thinking about it.

L’Ancien did preface that exercise with, “This one’s for your brain.” Which it was.

I think I’m going to ask BW to let us do that exercise on Thursday this week. Also to review odd-counted entrechats, which I’ve had to do twice in the past week-and-change, but haven’t done prior to that in more than a year, if memory serves.

I also flailed through grand allegro. It started with chassée, and I realize now that I was doing tombé instead. At one point I even tried to add the chassée, but didn’t subtract the tombé. You guys, what the actual?

I realize now that it may simply have been the opening salvo of whatever illness has knocked me onto the ropes. I am definitely thinking with far less clarity than usual right now.

That said, Saturday’s show, “Death Defying Acts,” was really very good.

DDA was based on a book of poetry, and the author came for the second show. Fortunately, our intrepid director chose not to tell us that the author was in the house the until the show was over.

Even I would’ve found it a bit nerve-wracking to, in the closing performance, interpret a poet’s character knowing that the poet was right there! (It would be totally different if the poet/author was involved in the rehearsal process, of course—the challenge in this context is that of not knowing if you’re fitting their vision, or at least interpreting in a way that they find satisfying.)

After, the poet told me she was in awe of my Zorada, which meant the world to me. I also got a couple of nice mentions in facebag reviews, one of which described me as a “graceful dementor”—which is rather exactly what I was going for.

Here I am, gracefully dementing with my friend AM, who played a very leonine lion.

I also literally didn’t drop the ball (except when I was supposed to) and while I think I’ve actually done the piece better in rehearsal a couple of times, I think my performance was entirely acceptable even by my standards.

Yesterday, I woke up with a sore throat, a headache, and a fever. I opted out of class, but did go to see “Chicago” (a friend of mine gave tickets) which was awesome even with a really terrible headache. We did hightail it out of there after the first curtain call, though, even though the orchestra plays a fun little set after. My head was ready to explode, and I just wanted to buy some DayQuil and lie down.

After that I went home, ate a chicken pot pie, went to sleep, and, excepting a brief period in which I woke up and read for a little while, I stayed asleep until this morning, when I had to get up to take Denis to work. I would probably still be asleep if still being asleep was an option.

D kindly let me sleep until about 15 minutes before we had to leave, which I appreciate. It takes me basically no time to throw on some warm-ups and make a cup of coffee, and that gave me about 45 more minutes of shut-eye while he showered, shaved, and so forth.

I’m skipping class tonight so I won’t give whatever I have to everyone else (and also because I’ll probably be asleep). I’m hoping that my intensive rest plan will have this licked before tomorrow evening’s modern class, or before Wednesday’s evening class and rehearsal at the outside.

The Piece Evolves; I Also Evolve

We added a new segment tonight. It’s got a really cool bit of partnering-by-eyeball. Hard to explain it: my partner and I don’t touch here, so the connection is all in the eyes. It’s super cool when it works! (Which it did, beautifully, once the pieces were in place).

We have another boy, though he’s tentative about being in the Piece. He’s a ballroom dancer, though, so I think he’ll be fine. It’s very tango-influenced, and BG is really good at fitting his choreography to the strengths of his dancers.

In other news, I’ve now registered for a couple of auditions, and I’m looking into a third. The third is for a ballet SI, so it’ll depend on timing and cost. My schedule is about to go plaid through the middle of June, more or less, when I’ll catch my breath for a week or so before summer things really get started.

I’m really rather floored, now and then, by the knowledge that somewhere along the line I somehow became someone who dances professionally. I mean, that was always a goal, but honestly one that seemed distant and possibly unattainable and maybe a little pie-in-the-sky.

And then, boom, I’m confronted with the evidence: people pay me actual money to dance; I audition for dance things more or less as a matter of course, more and more often without asking whether I’m really good enough to be thinking about it. I find myself having to consult my planner thingy to figure out whether I can commit to a dance thing because I might be committed to some other dance thing.

I simultaneously do and don’t understand how this all happened. This I grok: I had good early training; I continue to train with excellent teachers; I have devoted myself to the study of dance; I have been given a body that is suitable for the discipline. That it has all come together like this still seems strange and dreamlike (merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…).

Perhaps most importantly, though, I feel more and more capable as a dancer. There’s a kind of joy that I first tasted as a wee little kid that comes with trusting your body. When I dance, I feel whole and strong and capable for minutes at a time, but in a way that’s un-self conscious. To dance, sometimes, is to enter the stream of being a little more fully.

I feel perplexed and grateful about all this, which I suppose is as good a way as any to feel.

A Planner For Dancers

(With ADHD. Who Like To Write.)

You guys, I am terrible at using planners.

Every year, I buy one … okay, or more than one … and I try to make it work with my insane schedule, my ADHD, and my apparent allergy to anything that resembles a journal but not a blog.

The thing is, most planners aren’t designed for people who might work from 1000 – 1130, then again from 2100 – 2330. Most planners use sensible hourly formats designed for sensible people who sensibly work from 9 – 5 or, at the outer limit, 6. Everything later than that gets, like, two tiny lines labeled ‘Evening’ or what have you.

Enter Ink & Volt. I discovered them via Insta, then poked their website. I immediately vowed out loud that I wouldn’t buy their planner because their UI had serious problems, and in my darkest and most cynical heart-of-hearts I’m a cranky UI design crank.

And then, after fighting with the UI for a while and poking around and discovering that there wasn’t actually another goal-oriented planner on the market that suited my needs and that, G-d help me, I actually loved their product design, I sent them $40 (which is the most I have ever spent on a planner, but it seemed like a good idea now that I have gigs to keep track of and stuff).

Basic black for a basic b*tch.

Yeah, yeah. I know.

The thing is, I’ve actually consistently used this thing every day since it arrived, which is saying something.

It has catchy little guided-journal pages, like this:

“Bring Your Year Into Focus”

… And this:

“January Goals”

…And this:

First week of January

In addition to weekly scheduling pages, like this:

“Weekly Outlook, January 1-7” … Obviously not the busiest week.

I like the simple schedule blocks. I like the lack of space-wasting hourly breakdowns. I like the paper that doesn’t bleed through.

I like the fact that this thing has some heft to it. It’s like a literal anchor for my day—I could probably tie it to a canoe and toss it overboard and expect to stay put for a bit, though then I would have to buy another planner. I like being able to sit down in the morning and fumble though it with my bumbly morning thumbs.

I like that it’s there, a solid and visible object that I can pick up when I’m bored, and that it has little ribbon markers so I can turn right to the monthly overview page or this week’s schedule (which is how I choose to employ them). Sure, a lot of the info in here is also in my phone and in The Cloud … but I can pick this up without getting distracted by Dots & Co or Google Now’s next suggested article about time-management (ironic, amirite?).

I like that there’s a little structure, but not so much my head wants to explode. Just enough.

I don’t think this is the perfect planner for everybody, because I don’t think that planner exists. It’s probably not even perfect for me—but it’s closer than anything else I’ve tried.

Will I stick with it? We’ll see. The $40 price tag is certainly an incentive—and I’m doing better than I’ve done with any planner since the free one I used to get at IUS, which had the advantage of also acting as an assignment book.

Sure—there are things I don’t love. My handwriting is sufficiently terrible that a spiral binding that really, really opens out F L A T T T would help. On the other hand, it wouldn’t feel as nice, and I secretly quite like the heft and permanence of the hard binding.

So there you have it.

If you, too, think you might like to go be pissed off by an irritating UI but still wind up buying a darned good planner, you can find both here.

Full disclosure: Ink & Volt doesn’t know me from Adam, and I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for this review, which they don’t even (yet) know I’ve written.

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