Category Archives: work
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.
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.
The variation felt good tonight, except the bit when I came in too hot right at the beginning.
Note to self: tombé is not a leap.
Not usually, anyway.
The girls, meanwhile, look amazing. The thing that impresses me most is that they’re all so beautifully synchronized.
Tomorrow we ride.
Tonight, though, I’m exhausted and I need to roll my legs, so that’s it for now.
Tuesday, after a fairly hard conditioning class and a not-difficult-but-demanding technique class, we began learning variations.
Wednesday, after a very restorative conditioning class and a lovely technique class, we continued with them.
The girls are doing the Swans’ entrance scene. There are only four of them, so they have a lot of ground to cover, but they already looked pretty great at Tuesday night’s brief “show ‘n’ tell” session.
Meanwhile, my variation (one of the many versions of Seigfried’s) is a challenge in the small studio even though there’s only one of me—it’s packed with big leapy bits, all of which seem to land me precariously close to the walls when I do them full-speed. Thus, I wind up doing a lot of marking and semi-marking. There seem to be a lot of walls in that studio.
Still, I was quite happy with the sauté arabesque-balancé-tombé coupé jeté sequence last night (it varies from the video we’re using as a model, which involves a bunch of revoltades, which I still am not sure how to do on purpose). Also feeling better about Bournonville jeté, although I still tend to jump through my arms. We worked on that a lot last night.
I couldn’t remember about 20 seconds of the version that C taught me (which doesn’t have tours in it), and since I was working with J last night, we subbed in some tours just because. They feel a lot better this year—I’m figuring out how to use a relaxed plié in grand allegro instead of hanging onto tension, which makes a huge difference.
To be honest, though, just having another year under my belt also makes a huge difference. I don’t have to think about choreography anywhere near as much: I’m better at remembering chains of steps, instead of individual steps. That makes a huge difference.
Likewise, even though we don’t get to do grand allegro anywhere near as often as I would like at home (especially since BW is in Europe for the summer), there are a lot more steps I can do without having to think about them at this point.
The most invaluable corrections this far have been as follows:
- In saut de chat, focus on travel rather than on elevation (the elevation takes care of itself)
- In Bournonville jeté, imagine leaping over a hurdle. This imparts the graceful ballon that makes it such a nice leap.
- Also in Bournonville jeté, think about reaching forward with the arms, then opening them. This both looks better and prevents me from hyperextending my back and shoulders, which screws up the momentum of the jump and looks weird (though probably okay in modern contexts?).
The central thing I’m taking away from this intensive is that I need to focus on one idea:
I used to ride a horse with whom the same basic principle applied. You had to ride him forward, or he would just slope lazily around and pretend he didn’t know from dressage.
The highlight of last night was when I came in way too hot on the first tombé-coupé and instead of the standard jeté, it turned into something spinny and impressive whose name I don’t know. It’s definitely a thing—I’ve seen it in other variations—I’m just not sure which thing. I’ll have to see if I can find it in Tarasov when I get home.
Anyway, J said, “Ooh, that was fancy!” Sadly, since I’m not actually sure how to do that particular thing on purpose, I’ll just have to file it away for now (with revoltades) and save it for some future date.
Last year, I think I was a bit wary of speed and power. I was forever doing Albrecht’s variation as if I had a check-rein on: behind the motion, without abandon. I was too busy thinking about the steps and trying to be precise, and I was definitely a little afraid of running myself over.
This year, I feel like I’ve made friends with speed and power, and when I get out of my own way, I can harness them. Confidence goes a long way!
In other news, my adductors are pretty sore, which is okay, since they’re one of the bits that need to be stronger. My beats look better for it, though in class yesterday I kept doing jeté battu on the wrong foot (wtf?) and decided to just do plain jeté like everyone else. I should try breaking out the entrechats sixes today. Quatres were nice yesterday.
Anyway, I should go do my laundry. I’m not going to walk down there this time; it’s 3 miles round-trip.
Tonight we polish up the variations; tomorrow we get to show them off.
…A giant registration system SNAFU almost scuttled the whole thing! But! A bunch of us showed up anyway, and N, the director of the school, called us in for a huddle after class and said, “We can still make this happen!”
So we’re back on.
Tonight, whilst everything was up in the air, we just did the Intermediate/Advanced Open Class. It was a really good class, though!
After a tough morning in class at home which I couldn’t keep brain and body together (seriously, we did an awesome manège which I managed to screw up by losing track of which cycle I was on–did an extra on the first side, left one out on the second), it was a relief in to not go full Baby Giraffe tonight.
Tonight I apparently mostly remembered how to dance. W00t. There was one combination I didn’t pick up right, but I got it on the second run.
Also, heckin grand jetés across the floor. Evidently, I haven’t forgotten how to fly.
Tomorrow it’s back to the regular intensive schedule. We have, in essence, three days to learn variations o_O’
I have no idea what we’re doing, but Friday night we’re showing them, G-d help us!
Honestly, though, if I can dance like I danced most of tonight’s class, I’ll be fine.
In other news, C opted out this year, so I’m the Onliest Boy again. I guess it wouldn’t be right to make it through a summer without that?
I was having an awkward kind of morning: got a little tipsy last night, stayed up too late, slept badly, woke up early (whichever one of us taught my cat that it’s possible to awaken humans by tap-dancing on their bladders needs a swift kick in the tuchas), started reading, lost track of time, failed to eat, etc.
This translated to a wonky start at barre. I couldn’t figure out where my pelvis was or find my lateral obliques or keep my arm from wandering off to do its own thing. My head kept getting ahead of my arm. I tendued to second, then went, “Hmm, no,” and adjusted (which drives both JB and BW crazy).
Midway through one combination, during a sus-sous balance, JB sauntered over, grabbed me by the back of the neck, reset my head and neck, and then used both hands to physically move my entire ribcage.
I tried not to do the weird thing where I respond to someone touching me much in the way that a sea anemone responds to the touch of a potential predator, though it took a little doing.
Anyway, I had mostly sorted myself out by the time we got around to going across the floor and doing jumps, though I was momentarily distressed by this bizarre phenomenon in which, during a mark, my brain went, “assemblé!” and my legs went, “CABRIOLE, MUTHA****A!”
On the other hand (foot?), there were some nice cabrioles in there, so…?
Since this entire combination was assemblés changing direction and leg until none of us could remember which leg was which, that obviously would’ve been a problem.
Anyway, tomorrow should be better. Today the plan is (in no particular order, except for the “early to bed, Nyquil if necessary…” bit):
- catch up the finances
- mow the lawn
- make dinner
- early to bed, Nyquil if necessary because insomnia and insane allergies are making my life difficult
Oh: I’m considering Schumann’s A minor ‘cello concerto for the third act of Simon Crane. I haven’t listened all the way through it yet, but the first movement sounds promising.
For all that, though, I’m still not at all sure that I want to do away with “Isle of the Dead.”
I thought I’d nailed down the score for Simon Crane, but once I gave it a listen it turned out that the first act was, erm.
It was very Satie.
Don’t take me wrong—I more or less love Eric Satie’s entire oeuvre. But as the score for a ballet, it turns out that “All Satie, All The Time” isn’t really all that effective.
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.
- 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.”
- Corollary: if your name is printed on the official marketing materials, you’re part of the show.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
Here’s a shot by the talented Jesse Miller, who photographed a lot of the festival.
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.
- 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.
Woke up in a terrible mood again today. At this juncture, though, I recognize that it is what it is, and it will pass. We’ve been around this block before. It’s easier to cope if you can say, “Just hold on for a minute; this, too, will pass.”
I did, however, actually get some sleep last night (better living through chemistry, heh), which should help.
At any rate, something spurred me to get back to work on Simon Crane, so I’ve been gathering a possible selection of music and stringing it all together in a playlist in order to determine whether or not it’s musically coherent. I don’t think I’m ever going to be the kind of choreographer who goes in for an incoherent score, as much as I suppose that could be a useful theatrical device.
This whole process makes me very grateful both for the exposure my parents gave me to good music (literally from before I was born) and for my formal musical training. It helps to know about things like relative keys, and so forth, and to possess at least a basic understanding of stylistic epochs within classical music.
At the moment, the score for Simon Crane begins with piano works by Satie, then transitions in the second act to orchestral works by Ravel (the famous “Bolero,” with a bit of choreographic homage to Béjart, because I think it would be an insult not to acknowledge his “Bolero”) possibly followed by either Saint-Saëns (‘Cello Concerto No. 1) or Vaughan Williams (Oboe Concerto).
The Saint-Saëns is quite difficult to play, evidently, which might be problematic, but a listen-through last night suggested some real choreographic possibilities. The overall arc of the piece rather nicely fits the part of the story that I’m trying to set.
I haven’t listened to the whole of the Vaughan Williams yet, so I have no idea if it’ll really work at all. I just happen to love Vaughan Williams, and the feeling of a lot of his music would fit the overall mood of the ballet pretty well, I think—though, ironically, Vaughan Williams might not be a good fit for the second act. Act II is distinctly urban in tone, while Vaughan Williams frequently evokes the English countryside. We’ll see how it goes.
Regardless, I haven’t listened to “Bolero” with either of the other two pieces yet, so that’s on my agenda for today while I’m finishing up some really boring yard work. It’s possible that neither will actually be a good fit and that I’ll have to find something else. Thank goodness for the sheer profligacy with which the Romantic and Impressionistic composers as a whole deployed their musical gifts!
The final act begins with Rachmaninoff’s “Isle of the Dead;” I think it may, in fact, stick with Rachmaninoff all the way through the final act, though that may or may not make every dancer who ever gets saddled with this thing hate me. I don’t know. I quite like dancing to Rachmaninoff, to be honest.
I’m debating whether or not some of this plan entirely works: not so much the use of the two long transitional pieces (“Bolero” and “Isle of the Dead,” both of which practically constitute entire acts in themselves from a storytelling perspective) as whether I’ve worked out an effective transition from Satie’s spare piano works to the lush Romantic orchestral works that follow. Right now, Act I ends with Satie, and Act II begins with “Bolero,” the opening of which is very far-off and spare.
I still have no idea how one, having conceived an entire ballet on this particular scale, goes about trying it out on actual dancers and eventually setting it if one doesn’t already happen to have access to an entire ballet company.
I do think I should be able to set bits of it, however. In particular, the opening scene from Act II, in particular, seems like it’s pretty amenable to performance as a standalone piece, perhaps with some small modifications.
Regardless, I sometimes find myself wishing that I had the slightest sense of how to compose for ballet, or at least for this ballet. Part of it is that I don’t feel like I compose well enough to create an original score for Simon Crane—if there’s one thing that drives me crazy about a lot of the great classical ballets, it’s that their scores are at best trite and at worst practically unlistenable. One accepts them because the dances that go with them are sublimely beautiful, but finds them irritating in the absence of dancers.
- I could see setting dances to some of the music I’ve written, but not this ballet.
I don’t want to beget yet another such score. I’d rather borrow music written by people who knew what they were about and be done with it.
Besides, Simon Crane began with a small piece set to one of Satie’s “Gymnopedies,” and I kind of think that you have to honor your muses. Apparently Terpsichore didn’t see fit to issue me a ballet with original music.
That’s fine. If she had, knowing me, I would probably never actually finish the damned thing.
Update: Having just listened through the Ravel-Vaughan Williams-Rachmaninoff option, I’m pretty sure that the Vaughan Williams is probably not “it.” The transition from “Bolero” to the Oboe Concerto is really quite nice, but I’m not sure that the Oboe Concerto A) fits the moon and B) won’t be a complete nightmare to choreograph, set, learn, and/or dance.
Going to listen to the Ravel-Saint Saëns-Rachmaninoff option now…
Further update: I’m listening to Grieg’s A Minor ‘Cello Sonata, and while it steps back from the complex orchestration of Ravel’s “Bolero,” as it’s written for ‘cello and piano, it might actually be a good fit, as well. Even if I don’t use it for Act II, I should keep it in mind for Act III, assuming that the rest of it fits. I’m only halfway through the first movement.
Yesterday, I had nothing before ballet, so I was properly fed and rested and so forth.
As a result, BW’s class went very well.
After, I went and played at Suspend, where we did all kinds of lifty things in Acro 2.
After that, my car decided to throw a fit and D had to come rescue me (fortunately, I noticed that it sounded weird and didn’t get on the expressway). As result, an already late night got later, and I was too tired to pack lunch.
This morning, D came home early and sent me to Cinci with his truck, which was really sweet of him. I had eaten two hot dogs for lunch, with the intention of grabbing some real food when I got back into Louisville.
In Cinci, partnering class was half really frustrating: I couldn’t hear because my allergies were trolling me, and we were learning partnering phrases, so I kept not quite understanding what was going on. As a result, I kept frustrating my partner, which made me nervous, which makes my brain not work too well.
- Also, my body wanted all the fouettés to be tour jetés. WTF, body?
Anyway, we got there eventually.
During the second half, we did group lifts, and that bit went really well. Didn’t hurt that Acro 2 last night was all about the dynamic group lifts :p
Anyway, after Partnering, my plans for food were scuttled by a traffic jam. I resorted to buying Chex mix at a gas station when I refueled the truck. I would be surprised if that even brought me back up to baseline.
Anyway, BW’s final class was more challenging than it should have been, since I basically ran out of juice. I got all the way through anyway, but my grand pirouettes weren’t really all that grand. They started out nice going right, then fizzled, going left, I just worked fourth-passé-second-plié-relevé-plié-relevé, etc, without the actual turns.
On the other hand, I cracked out some nice grand allegro: it was kind of my way of saying, “I value your class and, dammit, I’mma try as hard as I can!”
That backfired, of course, when we proceeded to follow the second grand allegro combo with even moar petit allegro.
Oh, I can now check entrechats six off my goals list. Or, at any rate, I can mark them as done with baseline success but in need of werk, werk, werk, werk. They’re not pretty, but they’re there.
We did 36 of them.
Also, after that, so many Royales, which are my least favorite jump. I mean, seriously, in France there’s a hamburger named after them.
- I may be employing artistic license here. Who knows?
Anyway, my legs felt weak and resentful (I suspect that, if you’re a dancer or a cyclist, you understand what I mean), and I resented their resentful attitude (note to self: I need to draw a resentful attitude 😁) until I realized that it wasn’t fair to resent them when it was my own fault for not feeding them.
Evidently, it takes a lot of calories to run this body at peak performance, or at any rate more than the ≈600 I have it before tonight’s ballet class.
At any rate, I’m pleased with myself for not giving up. There were a few times in class tonight that my dark side whispered,”You could just say your foot is unhappy!”
But I didn’t.
So there’s that.
Anyway, I’m going to go have a wee soak in some Epsom salts. Tomorrow, I have to leave at 7 AM for Cinci because evidently I’m insane, so after that I’m off to bed.