Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Performance This Weekend

This weekend is another Performing in NY Showcase!

I'm assistant director of the whole production, which means a LOT of work coordinating 230 dancers under 14 directors. Good thing I enjoy putting on a show because man, it's a lot of emails! Haha. This round I helped my teacher stage parts of Swan Lake Act II and will be dancing as well. Looking forward to it :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Sat Where Misty Copeland Sat

Awesome ABT soloist Misty Copeland was interviewed last week on Ashani Mfuko's The Kiner Hour - Let's Talk Dance and it's great to hear how her perspective has grown and changed as a professional dancer.

I personally think it's a super cool interview because I sat in the same chair as her a few months ago when I was interviewed on the show!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dance Moms - My New Guilty Pleasure

Confession: I have never watched a full episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Nor Dancing With the Stars. For some reason I just can't get into it...I know a lot of professional dancers (and former dancers) who say they don't like to go to the ballet because it's like a doctor watching a show about doctors - it's your job. I actually love going to the ballet, but haven't joined the dance on television craze until this:

It's hilarious.

Having been on an episode of a reality show about dance (MTV's MADE back at The Rock School) I can assure you a lot of this must be staged. They're certainly feeding into stereotypes (and sadly making the -super talented- kids into stereotypes too...the bored teenager, the perfect star...). But the point of the show is pretty real. My family owned a dance studio and no, to my knowledge, they didn't have screaming cat fights every other day with the mothers, but the basis for a lot of the drama is real. And the teacher is real - I've worked with teachers as harsh (or more) as her. Sometimes it's hard to decide who's right in all the arguing.

But besides the backstage drama it's a show of good dancing. The girls that it's focused around are young but very advanced and lovely performers. I watched the first 5 episodes in 3 nights - say what you will, I like it, haha.

My only other current regular show is Glee, but that's off for the summer. And everyone knows I'm a huge Friends and Sex & the City fan, but those are sadly gone for good. A little bad tv never hurt anyone :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

RIP Alex Espinal-Rodriguez, Dancer

I got news this morning that New York City area dancer Alexander Espinal-Rodriquez passed away. Alex was a guest with Exit 12 Dance Company for a show we did in Connecticut last June 2010, and though I didn't know him well besides that weekend away, it's very clear he was a talented young dancer and very well-liked in the NYC dance community.

It's sad to see any young life taken - another reminder to live every day to the fullest. Another reason to appreciate every single day I get to wake up and dance.

If you knew him, there is a Facebook page set up in his honor, here.

RIP Alex.

Alex, center in blue, with Exit 12 Dance Company June 2010. I'm second from left.

Photo Gallery: Venice Trip

After London and Paris on my first Eurotrip back in June, I spent a week exploring different places in Italy. First top: Venice, which quickly became one of my favorite places on Earth.

More Italian photos coming soon :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Cool Cause - Brewla Bars

My friend and fellow dancer Rebecca Dengrove is working on a new line of ice pops called Brewla Bars (they're yummy!), and she needs your support through Kickstarter. You get cool prizes for donating. They were featured in The New York Times last week and you can find them all over the city at different outdoor markets. Help 'em out.

"Brewla Bars: Daniel and Rebecca are a brother and sister team. Rebecca is a trained food scientist with experience innovating for some of the largest food corporations in the world. Daniel is an automation engineer with a background in philosophy and molecular biology. The two siblings founded Brewla Bars in 2010 in New York City, and are dedicated to making the ice pop a delicious, fun, and healthy part of your diet."

NYC's Summer Secrets

Summer used to be my busiest time for ballet - I'd run off to an intensive (or 2...or 3) and dance all day long, everyday. Now, as a freelance professional dancer my seasons are reversed. This spring I was going nonstop, performing something new every other week. This summer, things are *quiet* for once.

I shouldn't complain - during the busy season (and upcoming Nutcracker season...) I'd kill for a day off after going weeks without so much as a free Sunday afternoon. And I do admit I'm enjoying the extra sleep. But...I'm getting restless. I've been back to taking class a lot, which I haven't been able to do basically since before my surgery a year ago. After my recovery I jumped right into performance mode and only took warmup classes or lower level classes because they fit my schedule. But I'm really enjoying focusing on technique for a little bit and getting feedback from some of the wonderful, knowledgeable, fun teachers I trust whom I hardly ever have time to take from.

Also luckily rehearsals start tonight for our Performing in NY Showcase at Ailey at the end of the month (which also means lots of admin work, since I'm assistant director of the whole shabang), but besides that I've been trying to find ways to enjoy the city in the heat.

I've seemed to discover 2 hidden NYC summer spots in the past two weeks that have been great fun without the crazy crowds I would've expected: Randalls Island, and Rockaway Beach.

I spent my birthday last Sunday playing mini golf at Randalls Island. It was a piece of cake to get there: a 10 minute shuttle van ride with no traffic. At $11 round trip leaving on the half hour most of the day, it was super convenient. And when we got there we didn't have to wait or anything. Being one of the few mini golf places around NYC (and only $7/game), I expected it to be packed on a sunny Sunday. Wrong! Why doesn't anybody know about this place? In addition to the mini golf with a fun waterfall, they have a driving range, batting cages, a ping pong table, old school board games (I won at Parchisi :), and a yummy restaurant/bar with comfy chairs that make you feel like you're enjoying your own private backyard. It was a great place to spend the day - so if you're bored in the city, go!

Then yesterday I spent a Groupon I had bought a while ago: roundtrip ferry tickets to Rockaway Beach in Queens. American Princess Cruises offers a 75-minute boat trip around Brooklyn on the weekends leaving from Wall Street. We took the 11:45am ferry out and there were not even 10 people on the entire boat. Amazing! And it's not a small boat, either (a little bigger than the water taxi). It was so nice to enjoy the sunshine and water with great views of the city. They have a cheap snack bar, too.

After passing the majestic Verrazano Bridge and cool Coney Island, we arrived in Rockaway. Because I was totally unprepared with directions, we ended up walking way out of our way before finding the beach, but good thing it was a nice day! There's not a whole lot around, though the beach itself is beautiful with big waves. It was my first (and probably only) trip to the beach this summer and even though I'm not a sit-in-the-sun person, I really enjoyed walking through the water. There's not so much as a hot dog cart for what seems like miles and miles, but if you pack a picnic it's great trip!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cool Class: Jeremy McQueen at BDC

If you're in NYC this summer you know that the opportunities for master classes with exciting teachers are nearly endless. A good one you should hit? Jeremy McQueen at Broadway Dance Center this week.

Jeremy was one of my partners at Radio City and has an extensive theater dance resume (and check out my review of his choreography here).

Jeremy will teach Intermediate Level Contemporary Jazz Dance on Tuesday, August 9th and Thursday, August 11th from 1:30-3:00pm in Studio 5 at BDC.

Broadway Dance Center is located at
322 West 45th Street, 3rd Floor
(between 8th & 9th Avenues)
New York, NY 10036

$18 per class (*$15 per class for Union Members).

If I weren't working I'd be there!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Photo Gallery: Paris Opera House

One of the highlights of my entire trip was visiting the Paris Opera House. The history! The elegance! Though the theater itself was beautiful of course, it was the lobby that was most thrilling. There's a long hallway of gorgeous chandeliers and gold everywhere. So amazing. In terms of the house, the Met still has my heart won - but the stage looked really deep and the seats went way up high. Here are a few snapshots.

And this was random - as I was roaming the Parisian streets I did a double take and saw Nureyev's house!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Andy Blankenbeuhler Intensive

Stage Door Connections is offering a weekend intensive with the ever-awesome Andy Blankenbeuhler!

WHO: Andy Blankenbuehler

WHAT: 2ND ANNUAL! Andy Blankenbuehler Theatre Dance Intensive - 2 Day Workshop!

WHEN: Saturday & Sunday, Aug 27th & 28th, 10:00am-4:00pm

WHERE: Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), 450 West 37th Street, 4th Floor

WHY: Understand the way in which our technique can be used to create stunning detail. Dance many diverse pieces of choreography. Get to know and connect with a Tony Award winning Director/Choreographer. Receive 12 hours of classes over 2 days for only $150!

I took one of their master classes with him last year and WOW! Such fun and so much to learn. This is a great opportunity to work with Broadway's big talent. I have performances this same weekend otherwise I'd be there in a heart beat. Go!

Photo Gallery: Paris Trip

The second leg of my dream trip to Europe was in Paris. I'm breaking my photos into two separate posts - one for the normal tourist stuff, and one for the bunhead tourist stuff :)

Again I only had two days in this beautiful city, so I crammed in all the sightseeing I possibly could. I must have 800 pictures of the Eiffel Tower alone - what a site! It was quite unbelieveable to be standing in front of it in real life.

I did visit the Louvre but sadly I didn't get to the Musee d'Orsay as I really wanted to see the Degas sculptures :(

Many more photos to come! Next Gallery: Paris Opera House!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Latin Choreographers Festival This Weekend

This weekend is the 4th annual Latin Choreographers Festival. I performed in it last year with Exit 12 Dance Company and it's great to see how it's growing. See 13 different choreographers at this year's program, including SYTYCD's Ellenore Scott (read my interview with her here), Donna Salgado, and Azure Barton/STEPS Repertory Ensemble.

Baruch Performing Arts Center
East 25th Street between Lexington & 3rd Ave
Thursday August 4 at 8pm
Friday August 5 at 8pm
Saturday August 6 at 3pm
Tickets and info here.

Photo Gallery: London Trip

Earlier this summer I made another dream come true - my first trip to Europe! I've been trying to go for several years now and for one reason or another things fell apart last minute. In June I finally had both time and money (at the same time) and treated myself to a two week trip. It was amazing!

I had very little time to hit all the places at the top of my list, so I only got a day or two in each place. I started in London. Here are a few photos from my dance sightseeing :)

Even though we have Freed of London in New York (now 2 locations!) and I stopped wearing Freeds post-surgery, I still had to visit the main store while I was there! It's small and not unlike any NYC dance retailer know...

When I went to try on a leotard there, I saw that their fitting rooms had autographed photos from famous ballerinas who had been there. This was Eva Evdokimova, who passed away not too long ago.

And Carla Fracci.

I really badly wanted to tour the Royal Opera House but didn't plan in advance (even though that was my #1 thing I wanted to do in London...stupid...) so the tour was sold out for both days I was in the city. Sad.

I did go to Buckingham Palace though.

And saw a billboard for Wheeldon's recent new production of Alice in Wonderland at the ROH.

My first day brought serious jetlag, but the second day I took class at Pineapple Dance Studios. Decent class - nothing special.

The West End had mostly all shows that are currently running in New York, but I went to see "Love Never Dies," the sequel to "Phantom of the Opera" that hits Broadway soon.

And then yes, there was the normal tourist sites. Here's the London Eye, though I didn't get to go on it.

And beautiful Big Ben.

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker poster outside Sadler's Wells.

I saw a very avant-garde performance at Sadler's Wells. I mostly bought the ticket to see the theater :)

It's a cool space!

London reminded me very much of New York - a very walkable city with lots to see and do. I roamed the streets and got caught in the rain and did some shopping. It was smart to have my first stop be an English speaking place.

Photos from Paris and Italy coming soon!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

DTW Studio Series With Oren Barnoy

(Since I'm about 8 months backed up on blogging (oops) I'm going to slowly post about dance stuff from this past spring - starting with an opportunity out of my usual bunhead realm...)

The only constant of the creative process is uniqueness – it’s always a one of a kind experience of time meeting artistry meeting innovation. But in today’s busy world creativity is often stifled by lack of funding, space, and opportunity. One of the most luxurious gigs I had this spring was working with contemporary choreographer Oren Barnoy in Dance Theater Workshop’s Studio Series – luxurious not in fancy costumes and great stages, but in prolific freedom to explore movement itself.

The Studio Series offers selected downtown artists a 100-hour residency and commission, culminating in a studio showing and wine discussion. Oren was chosen after presenting a successful solo at The Kitchen last fall, and numerous earlier works after graduating from CalArts.

Last year I received an email from him after my NY Times article came out, asking if I might be interested in working with him. When we met for a brief rehearsal at Joyce Soho we immediately connected over our love of dance. We spoke of arts writing, our vastly different backgrounds, and the NY dance scene. I was on my way to surgery and unable to continue at the time, but towards the end of December I got another email. A residency at DTW? I’m in!

What followed was 6 months of intensely physical rehearsals. We spent hours getting grounded in deep lunges, challenging movement intentions, toying with qualities, and freeing inhibition.

Being the bunhead that I am, I was tentative as to why a modern choreographer would want to create on me. He kept saying that I “have something honest” and though that was enough in theory, I pushed extremely hard to adapt to new ways of moving. Ballet comes on autopilot for my body, and I know from years of doing it how to improve, how to prepare, and how to play. With Oren’s movement I had to re-learn how to just stand up. I had no experience with truly feeling the floor or not making positions.

It was a long process.

The best part of the Studio Series is that we had that time to take. Oren would come in with a brief phrase – largely gestural – and we’d spend 2 hours growing the movement from marking to falling down in defeat. We’d do the same thing over and over again. He’d offer different ideas of qualities – bring awareness to certain body parts, intentionally feeling certain emotions, or simply thinking about my to-do list while moving.

Artistically speaking, this was the most intriguing and challenging part of it for me. I’d be given an abstract direction verbally and within seconds I had to manifest it through my body. I’m a thinker, but the way we worked through things I had to just do what was asked and see what happened instead of analyzing too much. The results were sometimes fascinating, always amusing.

Oren also developed a really keen sense of reading me. I guess that happens when you spend so much time one on one in a studio. He said once that I have a very strong mind and that as I’m dancing if I shift my attention or focus even slightly it’s very evident through the movement. When I’m in rehearsal I’m constantly only focused on the moment – so I thought. But after he said that I worked on finding new ways of redirecting my energy and intentions, something I had never been asked to do before. I found it to be almost a form of acting without physically changing anything necessarily. I would talk to myself, reminding myself to “let go” or “keep pushing” whatever the movement called for. It’s a hard process to explain in words, to myself and to others.

Oren was so wonderful to work with. He had unending patience for me and my multiple efforts to shake off ballet-land, and he always let me work where my body was at (ie. when we first started my foot was still not 100% strong post-surgery). And yet he pushed me to a new artistic level and challenged my endurance. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to learn from him.

To make a long story short, 6 months of sore hips culminated in a 15-minute marathon “work-in-progress” that was shown in June at DTW. A 15-minute non-stop solo that builds, and builds…and builds in energy. As we got down to the wire rehearsals were much more about running the piece several times in a row to build up the stamina and to determine exactly how much warm up was enough without killing me dead before the real run. These rehearsals = exhausting. With ballet, I know my limits. I know how to pace myself. I know what I need to eat to have the right energy. I know how to draw from inside to fake it if I didn’t sleep enough the night before (Lord knows I’ve done that a million times.)

With this foreign movement and way of working, it had to be a new effort of trial and error.

In the week leading up to the final showing we did 3 runs a day every single day, PLUS I was rehearsing for another show the same weekend, working my regular 30 hours at my desk job, and planning my escape to Europe the following week. By the time Friday came, I was r-e-a-d-y. I got to the studio way early as they were setting up the chairs for the audience. Oren and I worked through the piece lightly a few times to get ready and then cleared the room so people could come in.

I gave everything.

Every time I finish a full-out 100% run of the piece I want to throw up at the end. Seriously. It’s the most physically grueling dance I’ve ever had to push through – only comparable to dancing mega cardio in a huge Santa fat suit at Radio City. My face burns and my throat feels clogged. My legs might give out at any second. I have to mentally force myself to breathe and to cling to consciousness. The applause came as I literally hit the wall to end the piece, and it sounds hazy after the blasting base. I bow, hyper-aware of my balance so I don’t tumble to the floor. It’s over!

Once that moment of sickness passed it was such a delight to see the audience with their wine waiting for the post-show discussion. And what a feeling of accomplishment – that must be the rush marathon runners experience. That wasn’t the first time I had gotten through the work like that, but it was the first with others watching.

In the conversations afterward we spoke about the rehearsal process, of Oren’s ideas and intentions, and of what the audience experienced. The only feedback I had gotten for 6 months was from the choreographer himself, so it was interesting for both of us to hear how others interpreted it. It was nice to see some important faces from downtown dance whom I had never met before.

As I packed up to leave later, former Village Voice dance critic Elizabeth Zimmer thanked me for my performance and said she enjoyed it. Wow! I appreciated her acknowledgement. She left me with these words: “It will be interesting to see where this goes…”

TALK BACK: What was your most phsyically exhausting dance experience? How did you prepare?

Audition Lines - No Fun

Waiting for an audition for a fitness video.

Result: cut after type-out of walking in place. Fail.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Still Kicking, 4 Years Later

Well, despite not writing for nearly 4 months this blog just celebrated it's 4 year anniversary! In July of 2007 I started this old thing for my ramblings, and here and there I've actually said something worthwhile. Though I've made sad attempts to revive regular posts, I really am going to make an effort this summer to get back in gear.

I have SO much to write about backed up in my brain from this past spring. It was my busiest dance season yet, and I had a lot of great opportunities working with over 5 *different* companies and performing almost every other weekend in various things.

On top of dancing, I've finished my Pilates mat certification and am teaching regularly as I continue with my equipment certification. I took my first trip to Europe (which was amazing), I had a major dance article published, and I've been working a whole lot.

I'll write in more detail on past things first, and then get back to the future with the next project...our August Performing in NY Showcase at Ailey. I've been co-directing these now for 3 years and we keep growing and growing. It's a lot of work to prep a show of 150+ dancers, but it's always fun.

Anyway, expect more posts soon :) Happy Summer!

Friday, April 1, 2011

An Update!

It's April. That's insane. So much is going on but I'm really going to try to get back to regular blogging...for real this time.

Next week marks 7 months since my ankle surgery, and it's only within the past few weeks that I've FINALLY felt back to 100%. PT started using iontopheresis on my foot, which is like being hooked up to a battery in order to force medication into the body. It sounds scary (and it sort of was the first time, being hooked up to electricity) but it is the first thing in 4 years of pain that has finally helped! Hooray!

Thanks to that I had my first major performance weekend post-surgery last weekend and it went well! It was our semiannual Performing in NY Showcase at Ailey, which I'm assistant director of. Not only was it a TON of work getting everything together (somehow these things continue to grow - which is wonderful! - but the work multiplies fast) but this was the first one of these that I was dancing as much as I was directing. I danced in the usual 2 ballet pieces my teacher puts together (excerpts from Raymonda and Sylvia this time), but I also did a new piece with Exit 12 Dance Company. AND I got the artistic pleasure of working on a piece with Australian aboriginal choreographer Ian Colless. What an interesting process! More on that in another post to come...

Now that that big show is done I'm onto the next big projects...

Next week I'm taking my Pilates mat certification exam! Providing I pass, I'll officially be certified this time next week :) I'm excited about that and have a few things up my sleeve to that end...I've also been teaching a regular floor barre class at Gold's Gym and have been subbing Pilates classes there. Teaching is growing on me more and more...

And the next big thing is my first lead role in a full-length story ballet! I'm super excited about this's just with a small company called Ballet for Young Audiences - and obviously it's for kids - but the rehearsal process has really given me an opportunity to explore things I've never had the chance to. Also more on that in a post to come...the shows are the week of April 11-16, so it's getting close! Also in May I'm doing a new ballet with them also based on a poem about a water goblin :o

April 11-13, 2011
Queens Theater in the Park
10am and 11:30am

April 14, 2011
92nd Street Y

April 16, 2011
Secret Theater

I'm also rehearsing with a modern choreographer as part of the Dance Theater Workshop studio series, which is also a fascinating process. It's not only physically challenging because I'm used to strict ballet, but it's an artistic challenge in the way we explore movement qualities. He's creating a solo on me that shows in June.

Also in June I'll be performing with a company I worked with last year - New American Youth Ballet - with live orchestra. And Exit 12 is working on performing on The Intrepid during Fleet Week. And I'm starting my reformer certification. And I'm trying for real to travel to Europe this spring/summer at some point. And I'm still working and doing workstudy. And I have a big article I wrote coming out this month in M Life Magazine, the custom publication of the MGM Hotels in Las Vegas.

There are even more things I've failed to mention I post more I'll get into that more! Happy Back to Blogging :)