Thursday, September 30, 2010

Recovery: Days 20-22 - Starting PT

Yesterday I started back up with physical therapy - my first appointment since the surgery. My therapist greeted me with open arms. We've been together since May. Going on six months of PT (well, that's counting September which was mostly spent on crutches, not in therapy). As he was writing my new evaluation to kick things off we agreed that this better be the last first-time he ever sees me!

Anyway he said things look really good. He removed the tape my doctor had put on the incision last week and the wound is pretty much healed. It still looks kind of gross, but it's way better than the past times I've had to look at it. The bruising is less and the nasty blood stains are gone (ewww). He did some handwork around it to start "molding the scar tissue" so that it doesn't make my ankle joint stiffen up. Then he dug into my calf a little to find that yes, it's still ridiculously tight even though I haven't been dancing. Guess I was just born with tight muscles, haha.

He tested my range of motion and was pleasantly surprised that it was "scarily good." (It probably doesn't help - or does? - that I've been semi-dancing/marking steps in the boot while teaching rehearsals this week...) He said I was only missing like 5 degrees of flexibility when I point or flex my foot. I was happy to hear that! Although, that's not saying much considering my good foot doesn't point like a pretty ballet arch to begin with, haha. Whatever.

For another week or two we'll continue just gentle stretching and working around the scar. After I see my doctor in October we'll finally begin strengthening so I can get back to dancing. He said best case would be that I can start taking basic barre 3 weeks after we start strengthening...but seriously, if I'm out of the boot 2 weeks from now and can stand and plie decent enough, I may try a little barre. There's no sense in pushing it because I have no auditions or anything officially scheduled til my official 3 months are up. But I really really really miss dancing...

It was cool though - as my therapist was poking around my heel there was NO pain! It was an odd feeling to see him pressing on the areas that used to feel excrutiating for 3 years and now to feel absolutely nothing. It was like I was numb or something because I'm so used to seeing that and associating it with the intense pain that used to be there. I hope it stays that way forever!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Interview w/ Janet Jackson Dancer Ellenore Scott from SYTYCD!

Photo by Lee Cherry
In a matter of months, Ellenore Scott has had the extensive, diverse, and popular dance career so many only dream of. After appearing as a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance?, the La Guardia High School for the Arts graduate has gone on to serious commercial success. She dances with Janet Jackson! (And before her fame we did an intensive with TAKE Dance together...she was fierce.)

Read my interview below with Ellenore about her recent gigs, the importance of finding an agent, and her struggle with injuries (we share the same doctor!).

You've had a whirlwind couple of years with amazing dance gigs! What have been some of the highlights for you?

My time on “So You Think You Can Dance?” was a magical and amazing experience. I had a blast and it let me to do so many different things! After SYTYCD, I had the pleasure of working with Adam Shankman on the 82nd Anuual Academy Awards, which was brilliant! Since then I worked on the soap opera “One Life to Live” as a principal dancer and am now dancing for Janet Jackson.

Let's talk Janet Jackson. What was that audition process like? How did you feel when you got the job?

The Janet Jackson audition was like no other audition I have done before. I reminded me of what auditions used to be like back in the day. Girls lining up out side the studio with full make-up and hair done, holding headshots and resumes in the rain for 3 hours just to be seen. It was very surreal. Once all the dancers were in we didn't even get to dance! First cut was appearance only...what a shocker! The next two rounds of callbacks consisted of learning a very girly routine as well as Rhythm Nation, which for me was amazing. I have been watching Janet Jackson music videos since I was 8! It was a pleasure just to learn four eight-counts from the choreography. Ms. Jackson came in at the last round to hand pick some dancers she wanted to see. When I got the phone call I got the job, I flipped out! I started to cry! I called my mom and told her and my dad and they were both so proud! I was a great moment in my dance career.

Ellenore, right, with Janet Jackson!
What was life on tour like with her? What was your typical schedule?

For about a month we work everyday [no days off!] for 8-10 hours a day learning all of the choreography. We were performing at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans and she had a set list of 36 songs, 30 dance songs. So we had to learn 30 of Ms. Jackson iconic singles in the month! Talk about crazy! We had to learn and perfect about 1-2 dances a day. I have never been pushed so far in a physical sense and mentally as well. Ms. Jackson was very kind to all the dancers, taking us all out to dinner or bowling for someones birthday, always being very gracious in rehearsals. It was an amazing experience. Next stop for me and the Janet Crew in Shanghai, China in 2011!

You were a hit on SYTYCD! How did that help your career?

Gosh, I'd have to say that show single-handedly jumpstarted my dance careers. Before the show I was dancing with small dance companies here and there, but wasn't getting anything big time. I sent my headshots and resumes to different talent agencies in the city but nobody responded to me. The minute I got off the show and headed back to the Big Apple, I had a agent and I was booking jobs. It was so different for me! And now anytime I go to an audition, at least one person will come up to me and say, “Are you Ellenore from SYTYCD?” It an awesome feeling that people watched the show and enjoyed what I did on that stage.

How did you signing with an agent come about? How is that beneficial to your career?

Yes, I am currently now with MSA Talent Agency and they are great! Lucille, the head of the Dance Department, contacted me directly after the show. Many of the Alums from SYTYCD work with MSA, but most of the dancers are in LA. Since being with MSA I have been working non-stop! I love being with an agency because they find auditions they I probably never even heard of! I've danced for a Japanese Chocolate commercial, Propel Water commercial, Macy's live event, you name it! At least with MSA they treat me like family, which is so great in this industry. They really have helped me since the show and I love them for that!

Have you struggled with any injuries in your dancing? How have you overcome them?

I had my first surgery on my left knee. It was awful. I thought I'd never be able to walk again. With the help of Dr. Rose and the the physical therapists at Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, I had arthroscopic non-invasive surgery and was healed within five weeks after the surgery! My latest injury I have sustained was from SYTYCD. During the Machine Gun piece with fellow dancer Legacy, I feel on my right shoulder and almost dropped out of the competition. After taking one day off the rehearsals, one of the producers got me an appointment with a nearby doctor that treated my pain temporarily. Because of that I got to finish my run on the show. However, it did not fix the problem. My shoulder still hasn't gotten better and I've been having pain for about a year. I recently had another surgery on my right shoulder, again by Dr. Rose, and I am in recovery now. All I have to say is be preventative, exercise regularly outside of dancing and always eat right. And if you do get an injury that technically isn't your fault [like falling out of a chair!] then don't beat yourself up. It can be fixed through proper care and seeing a doctor.

Who have been the greatest influences on your dance career? How have they helped you?

I have had many mentors in my life, including Christian Von Howard, Earl Mosley and Nathan Trice. These extraordinary men took me under their wings and allowed me to grow as an individual while learning from them personally. I was in both Mr. Von Howards and Mr. Trice's companies when I was in high school and Earl Mosley selected me to help him set a dance piece on the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater by the time I was 17. These men helped me discover my dream and molded me into the dancer I am today. For them I am so grateful.

Any advice to young dancers looking to enter the commercial dance world?

The best advice I can give is try to get an agent. As crazy and hard as that sounds I bet if you send in a headshot and resume and a reel of you dancing with an interest in that particular agency, they will be more inclined to ask to meet with you. Also, take class with different people as much as you can. I know a lot of dancers that have gotten work from a teacher they took with at Broadway Dance Center or Steps. And when you are at an audition let your true personality shine through. In the commercial world choreographers and producers are looking for good dancers, but they are also looking for dancers that know how to perform and put on a show!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall for Dance Tonight!

The Fall for Dance season starts tonight at City Center!

I'm going this evening and really looking forward to seeing Miami City Ballet and Merce Cunningham's company...and really looking forward to seeing two other programs next week. (Oh and hey, if you haven't seen Miami City Ballet dancer Rebecca King's blog yet, you should check it out.)

If you weren't able to get tickets it sounds like there are still some partial view seats available (which aren't so bad in that theater) if you go to the box office...but I'd say go ASAP because these things go quick.

Dance on the High Line

This looks cool...all this week and this weekend there are free open-air performances on the High Line in NYC by choreographer Naomi Goldberg. Her piece "Autumn Crossing" celebrates community, the joy of dance, the arrival of fall in New York City.

Performances are in the Chelsea Market Passage, located on the High Line at West 16th Street:

• Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 6:00 PM

• Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 6:00 PM

• Friday, October 1, 2010, at 6:00 PM, and

• Saturday, October 2, 2010, at 2:00 PM

"Autumn Crossing" is commissioned by Friends of the High Line and presented in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. All performances are free and no RSVP required.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Recovery: Days 16-19

Not much happening on the recovery front these past few days. I'm so thrilled to be off the crutches, but the boot still makes traveling a hassle. I have to walk pretty slow (well, slow compared to my normal New York pace) and stairs are a pain. I can't do the subway stairs yet, so it still takes an hour or more to get most anywhere via bus(es). Not so fun.

At home I've started taking the boot off to walk around and that seems to be going okay, sort of. My ankle joint is super stiff and it starts to hurt if I fully roll through my foot as I walk.'s getting there. It's supposed to be at least another week before I try to go boot-less.

In the meantime I'm getting very restless. I want to dance SO badly! I've been sitting in on rehearsals for Nutcracker and for our November show at Ailey and I've been standing to do arms and mark the legs of choreography, but it's SO tempting to just dance! Saturday I accidentally sort of jumped on the bad foot - stupid - and that was the end of that. I think even when I'm out of the boot I may still have to wear it in rehearsals for a while to force me not to do things!

I start PT on Wednesday and depending on what he says, I may try to start back with my yoga as much as I can (maybe no standing poses...). I miss moving. My body feels sort of weird...I feel sort of loose and mushy from not working my muscles, but at the same time my back and hips ache as if I've had a tough class. Strange.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Interview with Hubbard Street 2 Dancer Alice Klock

Hubbard Street 2 Dancer Alice Klock is one ballet dancer who's made the move to modern. She trained at Interlochen Arts Academy before entering the BFA program at Alonzo King/LINES Ballet, with summers at prestigious ballet programs including Miami City Ballet (where we were roommates, once upon a time!). She joined Chicago's contemporary Hubbard Street 2 last year and was recently featured in Dance Spirit Magazine.

Read my interview with Alice about the switch from ballet to modern below.
What's it like dancing with Hubbard Street 2? What does your typical schedule look like?

Working at Hubbard is an
inspiration everyday. Just the energy in the building is enough to get me thrilled for the dancing that is to be done. Everyone is dedicated and excited about what goes on at HSDC and because of this there is a collective commitment and drive to do great work. This atmosphere encourages artists to fearlessly take dance to the next level. A typical day with HS2 includes a morning ballet class with the main company beginning at 10 and then rehearsals from 11:35 – 6 with a lunch break at 2. It’s a full day but the time flies as there is always much to be done.

How often and in what respect do you get to work with the main company? What is that like?

When we are not touring, the second company and the main company take class together everyday. These classes are wonderful learning experiences for me as each and
every Hubbard dancer is uniquely gifted. Each has their own way of preparing for a day of rehearsals. Observing this has helped me immensely, not only on a technical level but also with figuring out how to prepare my body through classical from to rehearse work that is often far from balletic.

Each year the second company performs with the main company during one of their home seasons. Last year's performance was
quite an experience as there is a certain artistic potency that only exists on stage and for the two companies to experience that together was a lovely thing. We also performed together in an event called Inside/Out, which is a yearly show composed of works that the dancer’s choreograph on each other.

What are some of your favorite things you've danced with HS2?

I must say that the duet "I can see myself in your Pupil" choreographed by Andrea Miller is particularly fun for me to dance as it is very physical, rather crazy, and character driven. I like dancing things that require me to use all that I have, that demand 100% and nothing less. Those pieces are always an adventure.
Alice, top, with members of Hubbard Street 2 last year

You came from a ballet background - how has that helped (or not helped) the adjustment to more modern/contemporary work?

Interesting question, for I must admit that when I first arrived here I was
very frustrated with certain aspects of my balletic training that were getting in the way of the choreography. Honestly though, without my ballet training I may never have been hired by Hubbard. I was not an impressive modern dancer, so ballet and repertoire were the vehicles through which I showed my character, my work ethic, and my personal artistry. Working here I have had to focus on reprogramming myself to respond to movement in a more grounded fashion, to be stronger, more powerful and more honest. This is a continuing project of mine, one I am enjoying exploring.

What are some of your dance goals for the future? Do you hope to stay with Hubbard Street?

I find I have a difficult time setting goals as far as my future is concerned for both the dance world and I as an artist are ever shifting entities. To be vague but truthful my goal is to continue to dance professionally, to do good work, and to feel fulfilled and happy about my contributions to the planet. I would be thrilled if that meant staying at Hubbard Street. If it does not, then I shall take whatever step seems most appropriate and continue to enjoy life.
Alice, left, and I, right, at Miami City Ballet summer intensive 2004 (?!)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cheap Seats for Ailey

Tomorrow starting at 9am you can buy cheap seats at City Center's box office to see Ailey perform in December! More details here. That's a pretty good deal considering even the back of the mezzanine seats are usually more than that - and the company is totally worth seeing! Unfortunately they're not doing web or phone orders, though.

The program that night features Matthew Rushing's "Uptown," Ronald K. Brown's "Dancing Spirit" (see clip below), and Ailey's ever-popular "Revelations," which I enjoy more and more each time I see it.

Recovery: Day 15 - Goodbye Crutches!

Yesterday was my first day without the crutches!

It was a momentous occasion :) Those things have been slowly killing me, one day at a time, making life in this city miserable. 3 days after the doctor said I could slowly wean myself off of them, they're long gone! I'm happy.

I'm still in the giant, heavy boot and I still walk super slow and can't really do stairs well, but it's so much better than before. I have to wear a really high shoe on my right foot though to balance out the giant-ness of the boot. It's kind of awkward to walk least I can. I was a little afraid I'd go one day and be like, uh oh, still need them. The foot doesn't really hurt without them, but my calf is a little twingy and if I go far I start to feel it. It's better than the serious arm and back pain I was having earlier this week!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Writing Class - Start of a Memoir Excerpt

The past two nights I took writing classes for free as part of Gotham Writers' Workshop Fall Open House - and they were fantastic!

Tuesday I took a fiction class, and last night was memoir writing. I LOVED it and really want to write a memoir of some of my dancing in New York City experiences - although I'm not sure anyone will want to read it, haha. She emphasized that you don't have to be famous to write a memoir. But, um, you sort of have to be famous to sell books about yourself, haha. Oh well - while I have less time dancing and more time for writing during my recovery I may try to start something for the fun of it.

In the class we had to make a list of five firsts. They could be anything. Then we later chose one and wrote about it. Since it's been on my mind lately, I wrote about my first major paycheck for dancing. And I actually volunteer to read it to the class - which I don't think I've EVER done in my educational life, haha. I figured I should get as much as I could out of the 1 hour free class, since I won't be able to take the full 6-week course like I want to. I know I'm the most gigantic dork ever, but I desperately miss being in school. I love learning and discussing and hearing other people's points of views about things. Especially in a writing class, it's fascinating to me to see how 10 different people can take the same assignment and come up with such drastically different and interesting things.

Anyway, I thought I'd share mine here...

It came in a purple-speckled envelope marked "MSG." B. handed it to me and I saw my name and new upper-west side address peeking through the plastic window. I couldn't tear it open fast enough. There were bumpy perforated edges on 3 sides but I ripped just one (not neatly) and peeked inside. Everyone around me was doing the same.

$000! Oh my God! I hadn't made that much money in my entire 20-year life combined to that point. Here I was dancing in rehearsals for The Radio City Christmas Spectacular for just half a week and I got my first professional union pay check. As if the music, the Broadway roster of co-workers, the gigantic stage, and the joy of dancing weren't enough.

The muscles in my cheeks twitched as I tried not to beam. They were all used to this kind of thing. Chatter about lunch and 4-show days and physical therapy trips went uninterrupted by pay day.

I sat in a split on the crunchy rug of our (less-than-glamorous) dressing room. The floot was hard, in the basement of a church, and uncomfortable to be on. my little green tennis ball smooshed the meat of my aching left calf to the sides as it massaged the muscle. With one hand I took a bite of my salad - the other dug into my right arch where the nail in my pointe shoe had scraped raw. The stench of overpowered the room.

"Oh honey," J. said, dumping Aleve into his mouth straight from the bottle. "They don't pay us enough for this."

I stifled a laugh. Was he kidding?!

"I know! This is only 1/2 a week we started with," complained one of the pretty blonde dancers whose name I couldn't remember.

"Don't worry - it doesn't include bear-head pay, sheep pay, overtime, holidays..." J. explained. "Once we get into shows you'll get more."

More? This was more than I could ever ask for.

2 Years Ago Today, Life Became Amazing

Two years ago today I got the best phone call in the world.

"Hey Taylor it's C. calling from Radio City Music Hall. How are you? Please give me a call back as soon as humanly possible about the show..."

To this day I have the peppy voicemail saved on my phone. Completely out of the blue, after they had already told me they didn't have a job for me, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular called to hire me as an ensemble dancer in the New York show.

I will never forget that feeling - the rush of just "ahhh!" running through me as I sat at my internship desk at Sterling Publishing. I literally had to keep re-checking my phone's recent calls to make sure it really did happen.

I've been SO fortunate to dance 2 seasons with the show. It was the best time of my life, dancing up to 17 shows a week in a 6,000-seat theater with incredible cast members. I am grateful more than I can say for every day I spent there.

A part of me still secretly hopes they'll call me in the next month asking me to dance this year (despite, you know, the boot). :(

Here's my blog post from the day I got the call.
Here's my blog post from my very first day of rehearsals.
Here's my blog archive of all things RC.

Fund for Freelance Dancers?

So my brain has been spinning this past week with ideas of how to make this injury/recovery process easier. Then last night a friend from class told me there were a few people who wanted to help me but didn't know what I needed - she said maybe we can find someone with a car near me...or start a fund for a car service on days I have to work early, or something.

That sparked me.

Why isn't there such a fund for injured dancers? I did some quick research this morning and found that yes, the big unions (Equity, AGMA) have some sort of emergency relief fund supposedly available to members, and there is a more recent Emergency Fund for Student Dancers that covers full-time students at a few New York City dance schools. And there's NYCB's Dancers Emergency Fund and a similar thing at ABT. And there are a whole slew of foundations for other art forms: music, literature, fine arts...

But for the loads of freelance dancers today - who are not provided with worker's compensation or health insurance - there are no resources. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think so. I'm not really looking for my own benefit at this point - the crutches are almost gone and life is getting easier (even though I won't be able to dance/make money from dancing for at least another 2 months). But isn't there a way to help other dancers who may go through major injuries and surgery like me?

I'm not sure how to go about this - in the past I've researched the process of starting a non-profit and it seems complicated and really time consuming. Time is NOT one of the things going for me at this point. I need to focus on work and getting back to dancing.

But injured dancers struggle. Especially in New York City, it's nearly impossible to get around without being forced to splurge on a taxi now and then. A trip to stay with family costs money (I'm fortunate to have family only a bus ride away in Boston, but others may need expensive plane fare). For those without health insurance it's an even worse financial struggle (again, I am fortunate. I'm still covered under my dad's insurance for a little bit longer). There has to be a way to help?

This is mostly a brainstorm at this point, but any ideas/advice are welcome!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

If you haven't visited Stage Door Connections yet...

you MUST check it out if you're a dancer in New York City!

They have so many one-of-a-kind learning opportunities that are great to take advantage of if you're an auditioning dancer. One that I really badly want to do while I'm injured is their 6 week course "The Dancer's Voice," which gives dancers with little vocal training (ahem, myself...) the guidance they need to prepare for the singing part of dance auditions. I desperately need this kind of preparation if I want to get back to big auditions in January...I've always avoided auditions that say "you may be asked to stay in sing" because I am so shy and unprepared. But I have no more time to waste...

It's sort of expensive, so I may not get to do it this round...

But they DO have tons of affordable master classes that are EXCELLENT! I took a class with awesome Broadway choreographer Andy Blankenbeuhler a few months ago (wow, he's intense! And amazing.) and this summer I took a Tharp class with a cast member from "Come Fly Away," which was sooo fun!

Check out their upcoming seminars here. There's one for "A Chorus Line" (one of my favorite Broadway shows ever!) and a new Fosse class! OH how badly I want to go...they better do these ones again when I am healthy!

Exercise at Work?

In addition to dancing, I've been working a desk job in PR since February to make ends meet - and though I'm in a second field I'm actually semi-interested in, I can't tell you how hard it is to just sit at a desk all day when you'd rather be in the studio!

Obviously I'm in for a whole lot more of that than dancing these next few months while I'm in recovery...but sometimes between answering phones a thousand times a day I daydream about how I could be productive physically while sitting at the reception desk. I find myself twisting in the spinning chair to crack my back and stretch my obliques. I do arch curls with my feet flat under the desk. I cross my leg over my other knee to stretch my turnout muscles.

Don't laugh at me :)

Ha anyways, just came across this seminar that seems fitting:

Sunday 9/26 5:30-7:30pm

"Bring your yoga practice into your everyday life at your desk! Sitting at a desk with a computer all day often leads to us sitting hunched over and feeling exhausted. At this event, we'll have a full yoga class at Yogaworks with renowned instructor Anya Porter with an added focus on how to do yoga at your desk (without taking conference calls in downward-facing dog). We'll also have nutritionist Elissa Silver speaking after the class about keeping your energy up throughout the day without loading up on caffeine!"

I'm curious to see their desk strategies...I do ashtanga yoga all the time but I'm not sure I could get away with that if my boss walked by and saw me in chattaronga...
(Amusing image from here.)

Recovery: Day 13 & 14 - 2 Weeks Later

Yesterday was the 2 week anniversary of my surgery and I celebrated by taking quite a few steps without the crutches. I was at work most of the day and it's terribly hard to carry important things around while using both crutches, so finally I gave them up just to hobble around the not-so-big office. It's really awkward to walk without them because the boot is so much higher than my normal right shoe, but it's more fun than crutching!

After work I went to help at Nutcracker rehearsal and actually sort of "danced" a little. By "danced" I mean I stood on the bad foot (yes, still in the boot...) and made passe' and that kind of thing, haha. I can't exactly move around swiftly (or quickly) but I can pose :) It felt good to do something resembling ballet, even if just briefly.

Later I was in a really inconvenient place to any bus I needed to take home to Queens, so I actually took the subway for the first time on the crutches. There was an elevator at the stop I was near, so that meant I'd just have to go down stairs only once when I arrive home to Queens. It wasn't so bad - and seemed lightning fast compared to the stupid buses I've been taking. But I'm not ready to do that all the time just yet. I'm so slow and I feel bad holding everybody else up in foot traffic. Plus the stairs sort of hurt and I already have to do 3 flights just to get up to my apartment. more than necessary, please.

I really hate taking the bus in the morning, though. I often work at 8:30am in midtown. So yesterday for my first shot at rush hour on crutches from Queens I gave myself a ton of time, leaving the house at 6:55am (ugh). I ended up arriving 45 minutes early with nothing to do. So today I left at 7:15am. Bad idea. I was actually LATE for work by 15 minutes. Between normal traffic and the UN being in town, it was not fun. Plus the bus was overloaded with people and we had to stop to check the air pressure, haha. Great. Guess I'll have to keep getting up too early to get ahead of traffic.

In the meantime I set up my first PT session (well, first for this round) for next Wednesday afternoon. They have to go through the whole inital evaluation all over again, even though I'd been going there for over 3 months before the surgery. Whatever it takes - I just want to be back dancing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Preview: Indelible Dance

This looks cool - and the company is run by Robin Cantrell, a dancer I worked with at Rebecca Kelly Ballet. They have shows this weekend, September 24th and 25th at Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn.

And look how cool the costumes are! There's an interview with more info on them here.

Tickets are only $10, but they're trying to raise money through Kickstarter. So if you pledge the $10 there you get a free ticket (ie. normal $10 price) PLUS a digital copy of the music score. So...I'd say that's the way to go.

Perceptions Contemporary Dance Showcase

"Contemporary dance" is a vague term. Is it ballet mixed with modern? Is it what we see on television nowadays? Is it classier than lyrical?

At Perceptions Contemporary Dance Festival last Saturday, "contemporary" seemed to mean distraught intentions, audible breath, a pounding relationship with the floor, and loose, almost improvisational movements across the board. The program at Manhattan Movement Arts Center included 10 works by mostly emerging chorographers and concluded with a piece by Perceptions Contemporary Dance Company, the evening's host. As would be expected for this kind of mish-mash program, some were good and some...not so much.

Amidst a bit of what I call selfish dancing (overly long works that seem to be only for the benefit of the performers) a standout of the evening was "Hindered Souls" by Jeremy McQueen (disclosure: Jeremy was briefly one of my partners at Radio City). The pas de deux for he and Alexis Covento is loosely based on one of the most gorgeous scenes in classical ballet: the balcony pas de deux from "Romeo & Juliet." But, with the woman's arms bound tight in rope for most of it, there are few obvious visual connections.

The two begin with their backs to each to each other, McQueen still and Covento convulsing in attempt to free herself from the rope. In her efforts she falls forward hitting the floor. He turns. They dance together in grounded yet free movement, complementing each other well. She struggles with wrists connected. On the other hand, he can use his long arms to express emotion. In distress he clenches his fingers and holds his head. She has no such luxury but still manages to convey her feelings.

At the end she throws her tangled arms over his head in a strong embrace. A second later she's released with hands free. The rope lands on the floor. Love frees.

The final image is of him walking away rather abruptly, taking the rope with him as she reaches after him longingly. The literal representation of "Juliet's" bindings (be they cultural, ancestral, what have you) is highly effective even though it must restrict the dancing somewhat. McQueen has created an emotional pas de deux that makes you want to see more.

Other works on the program I'd like to see more of include Natalie Teichmann/ANAHATA Dance, TrioDance Collective, and LeeRoc Dance Project.

(Top Photo by Nick Verzilli)

A Ballet Birthday

Happy Birthday to my best ballet teacher...KAT WILDISH!

My Article on Injuries

Last night I was going through some things and happened to come across the first big article I ever had published in print - and ironically it was about dancers and serious injuries:

from Movmnt Magazine Spring 2008

I remember sitting through these interviews at the time, both in awe of the wonderful people I was speaking to and in strong sympathy for their stories of pain and recovery. Only now that I'm going through it all myself does my own writing take on new meaning. Hmm...

My last paragraph:

"Despite their temporary loss of ability for creative expression, the injured try to stay positive. “To get back from an injury is like getting ready for the next show,” says (ABT soloist Carlos) Lopez. “At the end of the day you’re investing in your body. That’s what you have. This career is not that long as a performer. I think if I can invest as much as I can right now, then I have time later to recover from the damage that we’re doing all these years.” Dancers face these inherent problems daily, but like life, the show must go on."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Recovery: Day 12 - First Doctor Follow-up

This morning I had my first post-surgery follow-up appointment with my doctor – and it brought good news!

It was sort of a rough morning before that. It was my first day battling rush hour with the crutches and the buses…I didn’t realize JUST how slow things move. I was all stressed out because I was 15 minutes late (though this doctor notoriously runs at least 45 minutes behind schedule…) and then when I got there the receptionist didn’t have my appointment listed for some reason. I was like, um, I’m here…luckily there was no problem and I was actually seen pretty quickly.

The doctor removed the boot and the dressing and took a look. He said it seemed okay and he felt around a little bit. There was no pain where he used to push and I’d cringe – so that’s good! Then he removed the 3 stitches (ew) and taped up the wound a bit.

After that he sent me down the hall for an x-ray. He put my old x-ray with the Haglund’s Deformity and the new one from today up side by side and there’s a big difference in my heel bone. It no longer comes to a sharp point. It’s long and flat like it should be, so it won’t dig into my tendon anymore.

He told me I was doing great for just 2 weeks later, and said that I can start bearing full weight on the foot (which means a little break for my aching arms!). I said, “Still with the crutches?” and he said I could slowly wean myself off of them (hurrah!!!). I’m not entirely sure how slow “slowly” is…but he said if I’m up to it then I can remove the boot in another 2 weeks! Oh that will be amazing

He gave me a prescription to start physical therapy again just to stretch it. Even the few times I took the boot off myself these 2 weeks I haven’t actually moved the ankle joint. Today he pointed my foot (success…though sadly it still not a pretty ballerina arch, haha) and then went to flex it. Eek. It wasn’t really painful, but it was super stiff. My knee was bent and I could barely get to a 90 degree angle comfortably, which means standing on it flat won’t really work just yet. PT will help I hope.

Anyways I left there with an appointment for a follow up in another 4 weeks, when he’ll start to add strengthening work to my physical therapy plan. That puts me at mid-October.

I’m happy. I was starting to really be afraid of getting around the city on the crutches and in the heavy boot…it’s really really hard. But to know that it’s only a week or so more with crutches and 2 with the boot is really encouraging! Even if I won’t be back to dancing for a while still, just being able to walk is something I miss dearly! We take it for granted but…

When I left I tried to bear weight as he told me and walk semi-normally with the crutches. It was so awkward. The back of my heel sort of feels numb or something because I haven’t used it in 2 weeks. And the boot has a gigantic platform, so if I step on a straight leg as I normally would I have to walk on high releve with my good foot, haha. Weird. I’m sure I’ll get used to it. My right foot sure is glad to have a break though!

It’s progress, anyway…

Interview with Ballet West Apprentice Katie Meeusen

Good friend and fierce ballerina Katie Meeusen is no stranger to new beginnings: after graduating from The Rock School (where we were bestest friends ;) she spent a year at Butler University before joining Tulsa Ballet II. Unsatisfied there after a season, she moved to NYC (where we reunited ;) to enter the trainee division at Joffrey. This month her dream of a professional contract came true: she started as an apprentice with Ballet West in Salt Lake City.

Read my interview with Katie about her first few weeks with the company below...Katie, we miss you in NYC!
How have your first few weeks at Ballet West been? What has the process of settling into a new company been like?

My first few weeks here at Ballet West have been absolutely amazing, and I am so blessed to be dancing for such a fantastic company. I was pretty nervous about starting work, especially coming from a school environment, but the entire company has been so supportive and very welcoming. Like starting anything new, it’s been a huge adjustment. There have definitely been days that I felt completely overwhelmed, but I’m really just trying to absorb everything, find my stride, and take it one day at a time. The company has definitely been busy these first few weeks. I am just starting to get a taste of what life as a professional ballet dancer is like…and I love it!

What is your typical schedule like? How is it different from when you were training at Joffrey?

Here at Ballet West our day starts at 10am with company class. After class we have a 15-minute break before rehearsals start. Rehearsals then run for six hours from 11:45-2:45 and 3:45-6:45 with a lunch break in between. My personal schedule depends entirely on what we are working on that week. Some days I’ll work 5 or 6 hours while others I won’t have any rehearsals at all. While in New York my day was filled with class after class. I took a technique and pointe (or pas) class in the morning followed by another technique class in the afternoon. Then I would usually take yet another technique class later in the evening.

Katie with a group from Ballet West (she's 3rd from the right, standing)

So far, how is this better or worse than when you started at Tulsa Ballet? Is it difficult to keep starting in new environments, or exciting?

My year in Tulsa Ballet’s second company was a big learning experience. However, starting here has been a vastly more positive experience. I believe it is so important to find a company that is a good fit for you and your dancing, and I felt right away that Ballet West was that place for me. It seems like a great place for me to grow as an artist and I really hope to be dancing here for many seasons.

What ballets are you performing or covering this season? What are you most looking forward to?

This season at Ballet West is full of fantastic ballets. We performed Balanchine’s Serenade in mid August in Chicago at the Chicago Dancing Festival, and I honestly could not have asked for a more amazing first show with the company! The season here in Salt Lake opens with a John Butler’s Carmina Burana and George Balanchine’s Four Temperaments. I am involved in both works and while Carmina is definitely an exciting ballet I have absolutely loved working on 4Ts. I am dancing Melancholic corps and covering Phlegmatic, and I adore both. Next in the season is the Nutcracker, which we are performing the entire month of December. I have always loved the Christmas season, and as a new company member I am beyond excited for the chance to dance so many performances. Following the Nutcracker we will be dancing The Sleeping Beauty. Then comes a triple bell with George Balanchine’s Chaconne, Jiri Kylian’s Sinfonietta, and Nicolo Fonte’s Bolero. We actually just started setting Sinfonietta this past week and I was surprised with how much fun I have had starting to learn the piece. Our season ends with an the Innovations program, which includes a mix of pieces from various choreographers as well as company members from Ballet West.

Katie with Ballet West at Chicago Dance Festival
You're an apprentice. How is that different from Ballet West II and the main company?

Apprentices are considered and are under contract as artists of the company just as corps members are. There are two apprentices this season and we work entirely with the main company and dance in all of the productions. Of course, we are at the bottom of the seniority totem pole. Ballet West II, while they perform with us for larger productions and pieces, also performs on their own. They actually are on their first official tour in Iowa right now.

What are your goals for this year?

It is interesting how my personal goals have evolved since starting here at Ballet West. In the past I always strived to train as hard as I could and eventually get a job in a professional ballet company. Now that I have crossed over into the professional world I have really had to consider what my aspirations are. This year I hope to establish myself and really find my stride in the company. I want to continue to push myself to work as hard as I can to continue to improve technically but as an apprentice I am also working to improve on the skills needed to be successful in a corps situation. I also hope to really dig into the work here and start to find myself as a professional dancer…as an artist. Eventually I hope to
rise through the ranks and have a successful and fulfilling career dancing here.

Do you miss NYC and why?

I of course miss NYC! It truly is a city like no other and I have had nights that I miss it so much it hurts! As much as I am loving every minute of my new life here in Salt Lake City, I miss my friends in the city and the teachers at Joffrey more than I can say. There was nothing like being able to hop on the train and watch ABT or NYCB perform any night I choose or wonder through the village down to the Hudson River and then back up to Washington Square to listen to the musicians by the fountain.
I miss those little things…the people, the noise, the life and excitement immeasurably. Still, we as dancers work for years with the goal of finding a job in the professional company. I never imagined I would have a career dancing in New York, so in retrospect I am just so glad I had the opportunity to live there for a time!

Katie and I (and Victoria :) in our Rock School days (circa 2005) on a trip to Central Park, NYC!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Recovery: Day 11 - Arms Are Burning

Yesterday was my first full day back to my life in the city, and I jumped right in. I have no time to waste and this foot can't slow me down...or so I thought...

I was super excited to start helping at Nutcracker rehearsals with the group I would've danced with. I missed everyone and have really missed being around ballet in general these 2 weeks. It was my first time trying to travel on crutches on the MTA, and of course hardly any subway stops are handicap accessible. So until I'm off crutches, I'm only really able to take buses.

There are 2 buses at the end of our block here in Queens, but they don't really go to super convenient places in Manhattan. I got on the one that was supposed to stop just 4 blocks away from the studio where I was headed, but it ended up actually stopping 6 blocks and an avenue away. That sounds like nothing, but on crutches that takes like an hour, haha.

Not to mention the fact that this is in tourist-central. I tried to crutch in the lane closest to the buildings so people could get around me easily (when I'm healthy my biggest pet peeve is slow walkers taking up the entire sidewalk!) but people are just rude and not paying attention around there.

Dodging foot traffic was the least of my problems though. I seriously could barely make it a full block before needing a break. My upper back and arms were burning so badly with every step. I had to make a pit stop at Starbucks just to sit down for a minute. Ugh. I'm hoping it'll get easier as I continue (and I'm going to do all I can not to hike quite that far again...).

Eventually I made it to rehearsal, which I'll blog about separately soon.

After that I had to head uptown to class to pick up some paperwork from my teacher (and to say hi :). Another bus ride and crutching an avenue block (do those get longer and longer every time I try it?!) and I made it. I meant to just stop in and leave, but I needed a rest again. I watched pointe class for 10 minutes and was bombarded with ballerina stickers on my boot :)

After all that, which is maybe about 1/3 of my normal NYC day, I was dead tired and my body was all cramped up. But I was supposed to go see a performance that a few friends were in, and I was already not far so...I went. Of course I still had to crutch a few blocks - and uphill at that - but I got there.

I enjoyed the show but dreaded the prospect of the trip home. It took more than an hour and 2 buses (which always seem to leave right as I'm hobbling across the street to catch them...why do I have the worst luck? Haha). The last 3 flights of stairs were torture.

This morning my back and arms and hips are sore as if I had a 4-show day at Radio City. Ouch.

If I can get through 2 more weeks (or more) on crutches in NYC I think I can do just about anything. The foot CAN slow me down. can't stop me!

Recovery: Days 10 - The Trip Back

I was so mentally ready to be back in New York after 10 days at home - but I couldn't really anticipate just how challenging it would be to get around on my own...

Friday morning my parents drove me into Boston to catch the bus. My mom had to come in and bring my bags to the actual bus since I can't carry anything beyond a backpack with the crutches. Luckily they let me board early and I took the front seat on the aisle so my big boot could be in the aisle. But the bus was sold out of course, so I spent the entire 4 1/2 hour ride trying not to let the crutches hit the girl beside me. Not fun.

My foot hasn't really been hurting much at all now, but the boot makes me so uncomfortable and the rest of my body is ache-y. Sitting in one position unable to move much at all for that long was tough. My hip and back were killing. Then the bus driver stopped at a rest stop but wouldn't let anyone off...weird. At least I got to stand for a sec.

Eventually we made it to the city where a friend met me to carry my bags back to Queens. I tried to time the whole trip to avoid rush hour because I can't do subway stairs, so I had to either take the bus or a cab over the bridge. Oy traffic. There's a bus that goes right to my block from nearby the Boston bus, but we couldn't find where it left from. I stood (on one leg) for 45 minutes waiting for my friend to try to find it...but no luck. While I was waiting I had to sit on my bags finally. Some lady walked by and tried to hand me a bouquet of flowers thinking I was homeless or something. Gee, thanks. Haha.

Anyways eventually we took a cab and 45 minutes and $30 later I was home. The timing of this whole endeavor is just awful - just 2 weeks ago I moved from an (extra expensive) elevator building on the upper west side. Now I'm struggling to crutch all the way to my (cheaper) 3rd floor walkup apartment all the way in Queens. Bad. Timing. Anyway, the first time going up these 3 flights of stairs felt like I was climbing Mount Everest. I guess it didn't help that I was carrying an overstuffed backpack. It took me forever, but I made it home!

Parsons in the Park

Photo from courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu

As part of the Bryant Park Fall Festival, Parsons Dance will perform at 6pm. They're doing their rock opera "Remember Me," which I reviewed when it premiered last year.

It's a nice day and a good it's worth going if you're around!

Gaga Classes with Batsheva!

Ohhh to be healthy!

This is super exciting, so if you're not injured like I am, you should GO.

DANY Studios, which is connected to The Joyce, is holding a new master class series this fall/winter with different groups who are performing at The Joyce. First up: Batsheva Dance Company.

Ohad Naharin himself will be teaching on October 1! Other classes are with company members.

I took a Gaga class a few summers ago and it's a very interesting technique that is not offered here all the time (although it looks like Peridance has started offering it regularly...). It's very freeing and feels good on the body. I'd love to take class with the master himself...

September 24
September 27
October 1


DANY Studios
305 West 38th Street, NY, NY
(the old New Dance Group studios)
$15/class, open level

Later in the season they have master classes with Cedar Lake, the Trocks, Garth Fagan, and more. I'm SO jealous of all you healthy dancers who can go! More details here.

Also it looks like Peridance has added regular Gaga classes. Info here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ballerina Boot

Tonight I stopped by class briefly to pick up some paperwork for our next show (their next show...since I can't dance...) and I was bombarded by ballerina stickers on my boot :)

It was fun to see everyone!

Watching 5 minutes of pointe class and all of Nutcracker rehearsal today made me want to dance SO bad. I cannot wait until I have fully recovered...

Back to the City = Back to Insanity

Day 2 in the city and I'm exhausted.

Still haven't had time to blog about the trip back, and now I'm too dead tired to write about my insane day today. Tomorrow I'm not leaving this 3rd floor walkup apartment for a good long time - to get blogging done and, mostly, to rest my arms and foot. Crutches are...not fun in this city.

More tomorrow on my first day helping with Nutcracker rehearsals, a quick visit to class, and seeing an interesting performance. Now = sleep, if the insomnia will let me...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Recovery: Day 10 - Back in NYC!

Made it back to the city today - and I'm exhausted!

I'll blog more about the long trip tomorrow...but I'm very glad to be back ;)

The three flights of stairs to my apartment are a SERIOUS challenge - but I'm hoping it'll get easier as I do it more? Either that or I'll have some seriously strong arm and shoulder muscles from the crutches...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Recovery: Day 9

Eew, tonight we had to change the dressing on my foot under the boot. Not pretty. I bear a strong resemblance to Frankenstein. Hah!

Seriously though, it looks sort of gross. My heel is all black and blue, and the incision (which actually is quite small) is all stitched up. I guess it's just gross to me. Anyway we wrapped it back up in gauze and cotton and an ace bandage and it's back in the boot. I've started taking the boot off to sleep sometimes because I just can't take it and I can't sleep with it - it's so heavy! I'm hoping when I go back to the doctor on Monday he may change me into a walking boot...but I doubt it. Too soon.

Anyways last night I tried to get back into doing some floor barre things but it killed me. I was exhausted after 10 minutes and by the end of half an hour or so I got really nauseous and the foot started to ache. Ugh - no fun. I guess it's too soon to really start moving around like that. I get restless though. And my back and hips feel so crunched up. Oh well...after I see the doctor next week maybe I'll start to get back to moving.

I'm heading back to the city tomorrow morning! I'm definitely ready to be back to life even though I still feel like I need a lot of rest and getting around New York is gonna be much harder than home. I was hesitant to come home after the operation but I'm really glad I did - it's been a gigantic help having my parents and grandparents around to get things, help me carry things, and hold the door for me! Hah don't know what I'd do without them.

I return tomorrow afternoon and then have a full weekend ahead. Saturday I start as ballet mistress for the Nutcracker I would've danced in, and that night I'm reviewing a friend's performance. Next week in addition to seeing the doctor I'm working a full-time week - which is good and bad. Definitely can use the money after being out of work for 2 weeks, but I'm also a little afraid of jumping back in so busily. I've been getting exhausted by midday and napping lately - which I sure can't do at work! Guess I'll figure it out...

Anyway, NYC here I come :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fall Downtown = Cheap Dance @ DNA

The Lower Manhattan Arts League is hosting it's 2nd annual Fall Downtown Festival. That means dance institutions like Battery Dance Company and Dance New Amsterdam are offering cheap dance events and classes next week!

To celebrate and inaugurate the Fall Downtown 2010 season, each of the 11 participating cultural organizations will host a kick-off event at its venue(s) on Tuesday, September 21. Launch events include surprise performances, world premieres, workshops, happy hours, gallery openings, free giveaways, discounted tickets, and more.  The detailed launch events are listed here.
Some highlights I hope to get to:
Next Tuesday Sept. 21 is the kickoff! An excuse to schmooze...

*Looks like Battery Dance is co-hosting a launch event at Access Theater at 8pm, with free drinks and performance by company dancers.

*Dance New Amsterdam is offering $12 classes all day on Sept. 21 with promotional code FALL10. DNA offers a variety of techniques and styles, including Modern, Contemporary, Ballet, Tap, Hip Hop, Flamenco, Pilates, Thai Massage and more.

*Later on October 7-8 DNA presents RAW Material - a juried performance series that encourages burgeoning artists to bring new work to a live audience, experimenting with new ways of crafting their work. Mentored by Artistic Advisor Gus Solomons, Jr., this season¹s artists include Randy Burd; Sumi Clements/Summation Dance; Moriah Evans and Sarah Beth Percival; Gorgas/PoMoMojo; Joanna Kotze; and Dawn Robinson.

*And on October 9...FREE CLASSES! DNA welcomes dance lovers from all over to take part in the organization's second annual FREE Class Day!, which provides a spectacular array of technique and wellness classes at a range of levels, from amateur to professional, for an entire day, free. Culminating the day of free classes, DNA will present a one-of-a-kind performance event showcasing the diversity of DNA's faculty.
A whole bunch more events and performances are happening downtown throughout the season as part of the festival. Check out their website (which doesn't seem to be updated yet...)

DancePulp: Breaking Into Broadway

If you haven't seen the DancePulp series of interviews from fierce freelance dancer Drew Jacoby, check it out! I really enjoyed the ones featuring ABT's David Hallberg and Daniil Simkin.

This one above features a dancer from The Lion King on Broadway. Jealous!

Recovery: Days 7 & 8

I can't believe it's already been a week since the surgery!

In some ways it's flown by. At the same time it's like, yep, it's only been a week. 3 months to go...

I'm officially off the painkillers, which is good. I still have pain (and stupid insomnia...) at night, but it's definitely getting better. I'm officially booked to head back to the city this Friday afternoon, and I can't wait! There are lots of exciting performances coming up that I want to see, plus I have to get back to work. I go back to the doctor on Monday morning and then the following week I guess I'll have the stitches taken out. After that I should be able to start PT!

I'm looking forward to at least being able to walk with the boot and not have to use the crutches. They're such a pain! It takes me forever to go up or down stairs. And if we're out at a store or something I get exhausted after 15 minutes of walking/standing. My opposite hip is killing me from compensating for the bad foot, and my back feels all torqued. I'm hoping PT will help with all that once I get started...

In the meantime I've just been taking it easy. The day after the surgery (before which I had taken a full barre...haha) I tried to get right into doing some floor barre and stretches and abs to keep myself in as good a shape as possible. But after that the pain got worse and I got sick and so on and so on, so I've been taking a break from everything. Now that I'm not really hurting (where it would be hurting...) I'm trying today to restart the process of staying in shape.

Here goes!