Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who's that Nine(teen?) Year Old Graduating College?

Exactly 4 months from today I will be a college graduate! Time flies when you're...working hard.

Got the proofs back today from the graduation pictures they took at school last week...not only am I 3 years younger than the other seniors, but it really doesn't help that I look like I'm young enough to be graduating from MIDDLE SCHOOL or high school! Haha.

Have a laugh:




Wednesday, September 26, 2007

a very long post on very big changes

Life would be boring without change - especially MY life. Lately almost every single day brings something new or unexpected, and I’ve come to really appreciate that quality of my life after years of monotony (school, ballet, sleep, school, ballet, sleep). However in the past few days there have been some really significant changes going on, so I’ll share some details:

(editor's warning: this is very long post. If you want a quicker update just look for the bolded stuff)


The first change is a pretty last minute and important one. For those of you who don’t know, I had been planning to become a trainee with the international (based in NYC) ballet company Ajkun Ballet Theater beginning in October. Now, the plan is off.

The back story is that I auditioned for them back in March during the spring audition season and was accepted as a full time trainee. They supposedly rehearsed at a big facility here in the city and toured both locally and a lot internationally. I took the position immediately because it gave me the opportunity to be in a company while still staying here in NYC to finish up college. I didn’t do many other auditions at the time because I was pretty much set on staying here, but I was desperate for some semblance of a plan. I have this incessant need to be in control, and leaving my last year of ballet school with no sense of where I would be dancing in the fall was terrifying. I signed on as a trainee.

The problem with the situation was that I actually had to pay them to be a trainee. In most apprentice/trainee situations the company pays a dancer little to nothing but they receive training for free and transportation costs (etc) when requested on tour. This company is different - it’s actually more of a school-type scenario, and honestly, I’ve been in ballet “school” for far too long for my liking. I’ve gotten everything I can from a strict pre-professional setting, and it is really time for me to move on one way or another.

I stuck with the plan of attending all through the summer, convincing myself that it was what I was working towards while just taking open class for a few months. Since the fall semester started, though, I’ve been growing more and more fond of the freedom that “freelancing” has given me, meaning: 1) I like not feeling as though I HAVE to go to class (though I still go 3 times a day, it’s different when it’s my choice rather than being expected or forced to) 2) I’m able to take advantage of spur of the moment opportunities (and sooo many have cropped up just in the past 3 weeks!) 3) Being my final semester of college, I feel like I owe it to myself to have some sort of flexibility before I graduate and “the rest of my life” starts.

The other problem was that Ajkun Ballet Theater didn’t put up a schedule of rehearsals or performances until just last week, and we’re supposed to start Oct. 9. That was cutting it too close for me, and when I emailed them a couple of times asking if they at least had a performance schedule (because I had other things planned that I didn’t want to conflict) they didn’t answer me! When they finally put up the schedule on the website it was somewhat disappointing. There are very few performances, and most are just with a school upstate. They also have 2 residencies with that school, and I wouldn’t be able to go anyway due to MY schedule at school.

So after a lot of contemplation (and stress, and sleepless nights, and fear of the unknown) I decided it was best if I drop it. It seems like the best thing to do, and I am fully confident in my decision. At this point I’m not sure if I’ll get a refund or how all that will work, but whatever happens I know that what lies ahead will be well worth the choice. For self-justification: I am not a quitter.


What I AM, fortunately and unfortunately, is an overachiever. So in place of dancing with that company I am doing many many many other things.

First off, I am set to do Nutcracker with the Albano Ballet Company in Hartford, CT. Though it’s a heck of a commute (3 hours each way!) it’s a really wonderful performing opportunity at Mohegan Sun, a huge theater in CT. I only go out there to rehearse on Sundays, and so far the choreography is nice and it’s going well. The director is a bit difficult (perhaps an understatement) but I’ve somehow managed to get on his good side. And the best part about it: I get paid. Granted it’s very little compared to the travel time and energy I’m expending, but it’s something. I’m officially a professional dancer. And it’s not even an apprenticeship.

(rehearsal for New Dance Group Teacher's Showcase...I'm on the far right)
Also happening is the New Dance Group Teacher’s Showcase. I think I mentioned this once before, but I’m performing in that on October 5 in a piece by Irene Kent, a teacher at NDG. We’ve been rehearsing for the past few weeks and the piece is coming along nicely. I’m looking forward to that. We may be doing that piece for a benefit show on Oct. 24 (more on that to come).


Outside of dance, my life is just as crazy. School itself is going well, but as the semester moves forward the workload is definitely increasing. On top of that, this week we are closing our second issue of the year of The Monitor, our school paper. Since I’m the Features Editor I have a ton of work ahead of me, editing and proofing stories from my team of about 10 writers, and finishing up my own story about a student who appeared in Seventeen Magazine. I’ll put up links to the issue when it’s available online next week.

More importantly than school is that I’ve been working on getting another internship. As some of you know, I’ve interned with Pointe Magazine and Shelter Interiors Magazine, as well as in 2 public relations places. I really enjoy working at internships (besides the unpaid, free labor aspect) because the experience is so practical: I get to put my education to use and actually see real-life results. I believe internships are the best opportunity anyone can get in college, and to this point with my insane schedule I’ve been limited by time. Now that I’m out of the Ajkun Ballet thing and have my days somewhat free I am able to search for positions more freely and will be able to have significantly more responsibility because I can devote more time to companies.

With that in mind, I sent out a batch of resumes last week while I was contemplating leaving Ajkun. I was very lucky (maybe it’s not all luck…I HAVE worked super hard…) to receive 2 interview requests from the 2 biggest magazine publishers: Conde Nast and Hearst Corporation. Just getting the chance to interview at each was enough validation for me.
I went to both interviews today, and they went really well. Quick & Simple Magazine at Hearst offered me an internship right on the spot. It’s kind of an editorial position in the home department and sounds like a lot of fun. Brides Magazine at Conde Nast emailed me immediately after the interview asking for references, so I’m taking that as a good sign. I’m really excited about both and will be making yet another important decision when I hear from Brides.

Also of interest in the Taylor-as-intern segment of my life is that I spent the past 2 days volunteering at the Folio Show, the magazine industry’s biggest annual conference/seminar. Through the graduate program I’m doing, I got the opportunity to volunteer as a room monitor and be able to sit in on all kinds of lectures and panels regarding the magazine industry. It was sooooo interesting to me, and I can’t even tell you how much I learned in just 2 days! I was surrounded by some of the most important people in the business and the atmosphere was just amazing…keynote speaker lunches, networking…I felt so professional! It was such a wonderful opportunity and I was so glad I was able to take advantage of it at the last minute (an example of why I’m not taking the Ajkun Ballet position).

So in a nutshell (or, not so much) that’s how my life has completely shifted in the past few days. I’ve always been one for planning and goal-setting and everything, but I have since learned that you have to be flexible with your life. It’s been really difficult for me to accept “not knowing” what the future brings, both in dance and in life, but I’ve almost come to terms with that vulnerability. I’m discovering that not having a plan is the best plan of all because I can do what I want, when I want, and in a city like New York with such a fast pace, there is no better way to seize opportunity. I’m finding myself overwhelmed by possibility, but I love that I have choices to make and opportunity abounding.
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If you’ve made it this far down in my post I applaud you…I tend to ramble, but I had to include it all just for my own sake. As you can tell, this blog is going to be changing a bit. My life has been so compartmentalized to this point, with a clear distinction between school and dance. As I’m nearing a turning point, though, everything is meshing into a very gray area and I think it’s important that I find ways to integrate all aspects of my life, and therefore I’ll be incorporating more of my school/work experiences in this blog on top of the ballet-related writing.

This has been a very long-winded post, and I do apologize, but if you have any comments on anything…my decisions, my perspective, (my insanity), I welcome and encourage blog comments! It’s been a hectic couple of weeks and I appreciate any input on anything!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Ballet Birthday (this time, not mine :)

This post is kind of irrelevant, but I couldn't resist sharing these pictures.

Good times out for Kat's birthday :)



Sunday, September 23, 2007

dance and academia in NY Times

I know I'm kind of outsourcing some reading lately, but there have been some good articles going on...

Please read this article in the Times today (9/23).

I have many many many comments, but one quote sums it up:

“There is a real tension between dance — at even a department like mine, which is very well established — and an academic context,” said Lynn Garafola, a dance scholar who is a professor in Barnard College’s dance department. “Most of the people teaching technique classes have been longtime professionals. They’ve never been to a liberal arts college. There really is a deep anti-intellectualism, but in some ways it’s almost a na├»ve anti-intellectualism. It’s just not a part of their world.”

Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Winger in NY Times

See mention of The Winger (the other dance community/blog site that I contribute to) in today's New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/21/arts/dance/21revo.html?_r=1&ref=dance&oref=slogin

Very interesting arguements about the relationship between television and dance. I personally never got into watching "So You Think You Can Dance" but I think it's really important that the dance world be exposed in popular culture in any way that it can. With dance journalism on the decline in national papers and magazines, we have to find another outlet in today's media to reach audiences that normally wouldn't be in touch with dancing.

"That perception hints at the gulf separating classical dance, often characterized as elitist and old-fashioned, and popular culture," says the article. While maintaining the classical traditions, I think ballet and the culture of the dance world need to find some way of updating to the 21st century...in terms of repertoire, education, and outlook.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Praise

Go read this article from New York Magazine about praise and children.

I can relate to this in many, many different ways - but more than that, I think the findings can (and should) be applied to children (and teens..and adults) in ballet school as well as normal school. If you don't have time, just get through the first 2 pages. But read it.

Some quotes that stuck out to me:

“Randomly divided into groups, some [kids] were praised for their intelligence. They were told, ‘You must be smart at this.’ Other students were praised for their effort: ‘You must have worked really hard.’ Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success.”

“Since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem, in which Nathaniel Branden opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person, the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem has become a movement with broad societal effects. Anything potentially damaging to kids’ self-esteem was axed.”

“Sincerity of praise is also crucial. Just as we can sniff out the true meaning of a backhanded compliment or a disingenuous apology, children, too, scrutinize praise for hidden agendas.”
“Teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all—that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude.”

“But it turns out that the ability to repeatedly respond to failure by exerting more effort—instead of simply giving up—is a trait well studied in psychology. People with this trait, persistence, rebound well and can sustain their motivation through long periods of delayed gratification.”
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There's a whole lot more to the article, but basically it's saying that in school it's been proven to be better if children are praised for their effort rather than their intelligence.

What would happen if we did that in ballet school? Praise a student for effort rather than physical talent?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Update on this Crazy Life - Ballet and otherwise

Soooo many things are going on right now, which is why I haven't been posting often. Even if just for my own personal organization, I'm going to list them below. Many things are also up in the air still, and plans are changing constantly (an aspect of my life I both love and hate). Anyways, between school and ballet I'm ridiculously busy, so here's the lowdown:

-Sunday 9/23
Another rehearsal for Nutcracker in Connecticut. 6 hours of my Sunday on a Greyhound bus = the payoff for a performing opportunity.
Fair trade?
Hmm...

-9/24 - 9/25
Volunteering for the Folio Show, the magazine industry's annual expo/seminar. Working from 7:30am-5:30pm for no money = the payoff for networking and lecture attendence.
Fair trade?
Better deal than the bus ride...

-end of September
Deadline for our school paper issue 2 to get out, meaning lots of last minute work with writers (I'm managing a team of about 10 for features section...) and layout stuff.

(dance article I did last year for The Monitor [school paper])

Good deal, because that's what I want to do in real life post-dance career (if there even is one).

-10/5
New Dance Group Teachers Showcase. I'm in a piece by Irene Kent. $5 tickets. Come see us!

-10/9
Official start date of Ajkun Ballet Theater. Fall calendar here. My schedule will depend on casting of course, since I'm just a trainee...

-10/24
Benefit show at John Jay for the Tyler Dunne Foundation. I believe we're doing Irene's piece for this as well. Come see us! Tickets for a good cause!

-middle of October
MIDTERMS!

I can't believe how much is going on just until the point of midterm. Wow...I didn't think things could get busier than they were last year, but apparently I was wrong. As those of you who see me regularly can attest to, I'm going a little crazy trying to keep on my feet with everything.

However, I live by these words: Test your limits and keep going.

(some pictures that keep me going through the busy times)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

a rant on...i don't even know

You'd think after all this time I'd understand the the ballet world and its people. Oh no - they never fail to amaze and amuse me. And annoy me.

I don't want to post details on here at the moment, but I'm a little overwhelmed with opportunity and my lack of ability to say no. And I don't even know if I want to say no; that's the problem.

I'll have to explain more at a later date when I sort some things out in my mind and don't come off so frustrated and confused.

See my post titled "Talent?" for some more words about what's going through my busy brain.

Another pointless blog entry...sorry.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

This Day in History - Dancing With the Stars

(picture of a picture...Sept. 12 2006, Dancing With the Stars Promo in Lincoln Center)





(our group of "stars")

Okay, so actually it was a year and two days ago that this happened, but you get the idea. This Day in History...September 12, 2006: I was in a city-wide promotion for ABC's tv show Dancing With the Stars.




They were promoting the new season for the fall, so they had about 75 dancers (girls in black dresses, boys in gold "star" costumes...so attractive) go to various places throughout New York City and just dance while people gave out magnets to advertise the show.


We were in groups of 4 dancers (2 girls 2 boys) plus 2 others to give our ABC stuff. It was an all day affair: our group was first sent to some big subway station in Queens (sadly I don't even remember where it was...) in which we received many a strange look from commuters. Who's doing a tango in heels with a huge star at 8am? Yeah, that was us.


Later we got to dance on the balcony of this nice restaurant in east midtown. Again, many a strange look (and honks) from cars, busses, and people on the street. We had music blasting the whole time of course, and it was so much fun to just let loose and dance! So out of my realm (nooo ballet here...) but it was the most fun couple hundred bucks I ever made for a few hours of dancing!





At the end of the day they gathered all the dancers and "stars" near the fountain in Lincoln Center (in our fabulous outfits we walked all the way from First Ave across town!) for a big group shot (see above). They also filmed a quick little number where we all formed a big star on the plaza (which was supposed to be used in a commercial, but I never actually saw it...)

Anyways, it was quite an amusing experience. I was just reminscing and thought I'd share the memory on here...another new season of Dancing With the Stars starts September 24.



(a folded up star costume)


Friday, September 14, 2007

How Long Have YOU Been Dancing?

(how long have I been dancing? let's put it this way, that's me on the far right before tendus)


[Let me preview this post with a bit of background...it's my last undergraduate semester, I'm taking 2 graduate level courses in Publishing, taking an overload course schedule in general, and doing a zillion other things dance-wise, etc. So one break I gave myself in my schedule is that I'm taking "Intro to Dance" at Marymount for credit.

Below, you'll see my reasoning and also various annoyances with the college/dance relationship. I apologize in advance for the rather venting-like tone. Bear with me: the past 2 weeks getting into the fall schedule have been hectic!]

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In intro to dance class tonight, people asked me this question about 10 times: How long have you been dancing?
(me as a Polichinelle in Boston Ballet's Nutcracker 1998)

For our second class session, tonight we had an actual full hour and a half ballet class. It was really simple, of course, but I found ways to work the easy stuff for myself. The teacher came up during plies and told me not to force my turnout (hah) so, I didn't. But then I realized I had to. Because it's a bad habit. Nevermind about that...

The amusing part was that she had this one girl who I think is a jazz dancer demonstrate a whole bunch of combinations at barre and stuff...then in center she asked if others wanted to volunteer and I kept quiet because it appears slightly ridiculous that I'm in that class (although I beg to differ)...then finally we get to grande allegro (big jumps across the floor...my favorite, but also a pain after not being totally warm from the rest of class) and she kind of made eye contact with me when she asked for a demonstrator so I stepped forward.

I did the combination (basically an even easier form of the "favorite leap" tombe pas de bourree glissade jete) and the whole class literally just stared at me when I got to the other side of the studio. She said, "and come back" so I did it going back to the side where I came from with the class...it was just an amusing little moment. She complimented me and they all kind of just laughed. I made it a point not to draw any more attention to myself (isn't that the essence of my personality - the good, and the bad? What annoys me most?).

Anyways after "class" finished we had a little break before the rest of "class class" meaning the "school" part of it (getting a list of ballet vocab words) and many of the girls came over and asked "how long have you been dancing?" I said forever and briefly gave details to a few, but more important to me was the actual question...instead of asking "where do you dance?" or something like that, it was "how long?" Very interesting, no? Time is such a key element in a dancer's life, and it seems to be the part that rules other aspects of my life as well (hello graduation in 3 months?)

They were also surprised that I'm not a dance major. Not getting into Marymount's dance program was the best thing (well, one of the best) that ever happened. Though now if people ask why I'm not a dance major, obviously I don't play up the fact that I didn't get in (though now, by writing this, everyone knows...). Depending on who I'm talking to, my reasons vary:

-wanted to focus on ballet and not modern

-wanted to be able to audition for things

-wanted to pursue other interests (writing)

-my personal biggest reason: I personally can't find a reason to justify a degree in dance. The only thing it's really necessary for is to teach things like "intro to dance" in colleges. Ironic.

Anyways just found that a bit amusing. Apologies for my bluntness...
----

Below is what I wrote after the first intro to dance class last week.


DOES EVERYONE KNOW WHAT A LEOTARD IS?

9/6/07

Just thought I'd share my experience in Marymount's 'intro to dance' class tonight.

She literally asked the question in the subject line: "Does everyone know what a leotard is?"

Easy as it was, I approached it from 2 perspectives (neither of which are the intention of the course, obviously). First, I was going to focus on what the actual "basics" are when TEACHING beginners because some day I might have to do that and it's good to see the way in which they take their first dance class. Second, working that slowly physically forces me to work super super small muscles that I haven't used in years because, although they are the correct ones to use, I have to force everything with my body when working faster.

So I went into the class with a positive open mind. It actually was enjoyable, and I made it a point not to appear too "bunhead"-ish and seem like I'm a professional dancer or anything. There was one girl who must be a jazz dancer...she sat in a full split and tried to use big dance words, like "I saw a glissade in the video. I don't know if everyone here knows that word." hah.

Anyways the point of all this leads somewhere....when she was introducing the course she said we have a paper at the end and gave a list of topics like history of ballet, etc....fluff topics that I could write a book on (and might do just that someday) but she said if we have another topic in mind that she is "very open minded about what interests the students" so speak to her afterwards.

So at the end I went up and asked if I could do it on dance criticism (I already did a 12 pg paper on it for dance history last spring and will be incorporating it into my 'senior thesis' for one of my communications classes....and have a bit of experience?) and in a rather condescending tone she goes, "Well what are you going to do with that?" and I explained very quickly how I've written some criticism myself and interned at Pointe and blah blah blah and she goes "well do you think you can write 5 pages on it?"

I was slightly frustrated. I don't really want to go into more detail on here, because I'm over it now....so perhaps this vent was pointless. She did, however, agree to let me do my topic, and as remembered above, this week's class was much better.


(yes, I was a jazz-erina at one point as well :)

Friday, September 7, 2007

(Computer's Back) Moving Story Class - And an Update

(my emotional map for Moving Story class w/ Chris d'Amboise)

I’ve been without a computer for the past 2 weeks because my laptop crashed, so I apologize for not posting lately. You don’t realize HOW much you depend on technology until you are forced to be without it (I’ve been lost without it…I spend hours on end online!). Anyways I wanted to write about an article I saw in the newest issue of Dance Teacher Magazine (no I’m not a teacher but I read it anyway) and then give you a quick update because I have a lot of new stuff going on.


Moving Story Class

In the September issue of Dance Teacher there’s an interview with choreographer Christopher d’Amboise, a former NYCB Principal dancer and son of ballet legend Jacques d’Amboise (and sister of Broadway star Charlotte D’Amboise). In the interview he discusses his unique concept of choreography and “making steps your own” through is workshop class, “The Moving Story.”

He actually brought this workshop to us back in June at Ballet Academy East and so I thought I’d share my personal experience learning with him. We had worked with him back in the winter, when he choreographed an original piece, “On the Edge” for our Studio Showing. For most of us it was our first time working with truly contemporary choreographing and it was definitely a challenge to move in different ways while still maintain our ballet technique. One of the major things Chris emphasized while working with us then was that we had a freedom within the choreography to individualize it. At the time, it was confusing and a bit intimidating to have that task: To this point, I had always been taught to conform to a choreographer’s wishes and do things exactly as I was told. Here he wanted us to take his movements and manipulate them, however slightly, to make them comfortable in our bodies and personalities.

It wasn’t until he came back to teach the Moving Story class that I was fully able to grasp this concept. He began the first session without speaking a word. He demonstrated a series of steps and we automatically imitated them. After a while he began to repeat the steps one at a time while saying what appeared to be random words. Soon the connection was clear. Each step was supposed to look like the object or action he was saying. For example, “fly swatter” was a loud clap as if you were literally swinging at a bug. “Jump over the fence” was a Jerry Robbins inspired jump (think the opening number in West Side Story) where you pretended to be going over something.

Over the following sessions we developed a “movement language” as a group. Every step we did had a name that we established together. Similar to the ballet vocabulary, every step led to something else and the connections and in between steps were important as well. The hardest part of all this was that not only did we have to work our way through the foreign choreography but, as we danced it, we had to speak the names of the steps out loud! It was truly a challenge, especially for me because I am quiet. I remember he actually made me dance and speak alone the very first lesson. He pointed to me and made me go first, and all I remember was that my mind went blank. I did the steps and said the words without even thinking about it, and all of a sudden it came so naturally. It was a very odd feeling - dancing and speaking without thinking. I don’t know if that was the intention, or even if I did the sequence correctly, but from that moment I knew this technique was something I wanted to explore and incorporate in my dancing.

As the workshop progressed we learned how to convey different emotions through movement and eventually how to create short stories through dance. It was very specifically not an acting workshop - the point was to create feelings through our bodies. For example, if you do something sharp and strong it might mean you’re angry, whereas a slower, legato movement might convey exhaustion. He had us create “emotional maps” and use them in his choreography to make the combination “our own.” The result was 15 very different interpretations of the same movement and a clear example of the point of the workshop.



He also spoke a lot about back phrasing and front phrasing, namely playing with the music to decide which particular steps are “important” or emphasized. Already I did a bit of this naturally, but after hearing his explanation of this I found myself considering new ways to hear things, even just in ballet class. I can honestly say that since taking the Moving Story workshop I have implemented some of the concepts I learned about movement analysis and it has added a whole other dimension to interpreting choreography and even basic steps in class.


On another Note…
An Update

September is always exciting and full of new beginnings, but this years seems to be exceptionally busy. Here’s a few things that I’ve been up to and that are coming up soon:

-Last Semester of College!
This week I started my final semester at Marymount Manhattan. I really can’t believe I graduate in just a few short months. It went by too fast (only 2 years!) and in some ways I don’t feel like I’ve even had the college experience. I’m taking an overload schedule to finish all my required courses. I’m also working as the Features Editor of our school paper, The Monitor, so we’re getting set up for a new issue.

-Starting Grad School!
My school has this special program where you can take graduate courses in your last semester that will count for credit as both undergrad and grad school, so I’m also taking courses in Magazine Publishing at Pace University. We had orientation the other day and I’m really excited about the program. It lets me really focus in on what I want to do after dancing.


-Benefit Performance
Details for this are still in the works, so I’ll post more later…but on October 24 I’ll be dancing in a benefit performance for the Tyler Dunne Foundation. More on that soon…

-Nutcracker, already?
Next weekend I start rehearsals for Nutcracker with the Albano Ballet Company in Connecticut. Performances are in December at Mohegan Sun, one of the biggest arenas in the northeast!

-Ajkun Ballet Theater
I also officially start as a Trainee with the international company Ajkun Ballet Theater in a few weeks. Not sure what that will bring, but it’s an exciting new beginning!