Sunday, April 26, 2009

DanceMind: Dear Janie, All in a day ...

Experience teaches us the importance of being authentic as to who we are and knowing our subject matter, in your case - ballet.  

About 20 years ago when I first started speaking as a part of my work, I was invited to speak to a Mother Daughter's Brunch on Mother's Day. At first I freaked out and declined. (at the time too much trauma for me due to my mother's sudden death when I was a young teen) After much thought, I realized that this could be a part of my healing. I accepted the challenge.

I was told that the daughters would be teens and the Mom's  in their 40's and 50's. SO I prepared a 30 min talk about separation, growing pains, trust and memories and weaved together a nice discussion and a few exercises.

Preparing for the event was nerve wracking. I admit to being so afraid I would cry HUGE tears. Mother's Day was not my favorite day.

Mother's Day arrives and I show up all prepared. I walked in to the church basement and stopped dead i my tracks. I was speechless.  

The daughters were in their 40's and 50's and 60's and the Mom's in their 70's, 80's and 90's!

I was so programmed and glued to MY speech out of my own great fear, that I have to say it was probably one of the most difficult moments of my life. I had to ad lib the whole thing and it was not my best, I stuttered and stammered, yet I got thru it. I was so uncomfortable.

What I know now is that I prepare not only with words and WHAT my expert subject is, but also to for the audience, it is not about me. 

I could have told a moving story about my mother loss and tied it into how grateful they can be about having time together ... But I stood steadfast in my own drama of the moment.

My self-importance and inexperience got me in big trouble. My talk was for them - to move them, not about me ("OMG! I was given the wrong information, What can I do? I have nothing to say!) I could have made a joke and been more 'flexible.'

Being in dance (as in most positions) requires you to be in the moment and to shift away from what was and to what is called for now.  Controllables.  You know that things happen - injuries, life events, changes, etc ...

Many of us can say quite nicely what the controllables are and yet not want them to be so in the real world. 

All you can do, Janie, is the best you can do at any given moment.  The directors and instructors make decisions based on what they believe to be needed, not what you could be prepared for. 

Do you understand that? 

Being told the day before about being off time could have been a forgotten thought of yesterday.  They have so much on their minds.  I can venture with certainty  that thoughts race, especially before a performance.  When you discover that the performance is much bigger than you, that you are a part of a larger picture than you can truly be prepared to do the best you can.

Resistance of mind creates tension in the body.  That part of it is self imposed. It places you in a  position of being 'against' the company. Is that  who you are? (i do not think so)

Here is the good thing, Janie -- You have been there almost a year. You have realized some communication patterns in how they relate. Some good and some not so good.

Be ready. Just because someone says something to you does not make it true. This can be about your habits, weight, work ethic .........

How can you prepare yourself? How can you become more flexible in mind to become more adaptable in body?

Here is the question -- How does it serve you (to be resistive?)  

What if you could be more fluid, more adaptable, more open to change?  When things do change (and they do) you will be open to learning faster, being more present and even more 'presentable.' You just do it.

I know I rambled... however, I will read it over to make clarifications.

Controllables ...  YOU!

Sanna Carapellotti, MS CHT
Performance Specialist

Saturday, April 25, 2009

DanceMind: Dear Janie, It's all the same to you!

Your posts are very revealing once again about the challenges within dance companies, especially in the area of communication. Communication is often uncensored and emotionally driven. Often based on appearances. (you are studying and director views it as if you are not 'concerned about your piece.')

It is difficult to not take things personally, or to not feel badly. You have been working hard, are dancing with partners you are not familiar with and have been mentally rehearsing. How could he tell that?????

Some aspects of preparation are unseen and unnoticed. Placing your attention on other matters can actually strengthen your performance. It is virtually impossible to sustain ALL your attention on choreography ALL the time. Diverting attention to LEFT brain activites is actually a good thing. Also flipping through a magazine is a powerful relief too. Or listening to one of the audio programs you have of mine.


Back in the morning.

Dear Sanna - it was okay

So I worried and worried about the performance following my last post. I talked with a friend about it, who helped a little, saying I really look good in the piece and reminding me how the director gets crazy and says things in a really rude way. I felt a little better, but still nervous since I would maybe have one mark-through before the performance to fix it.

The next day I tried to approach the show with a good attitude, since I knew being negative would not help matters. But it's hard to be positive when you are so stressed out! After class I sat stretching and studying (did I mention I am trying to learn the language?) with some friends while they worked on a ballet I am not involved in on stage. The director walked in and made an annoying comment about how "orthodox I am with my studying," but what I should be thinking about is the performance because it was "not bad yesterday, it was terrible." Great way to boost my confidence before a show. And as if I had not spent the entire evening and morning going over the piece in my head. As if I didn't care how I danced. As if the rest of the corps and the music and my partners were not important in my dancing with the group and it would be perfect if only I would stop studying and think only about the dance. Very annoying.

During the mark-through on stage, I did as much as I could full-out, without making my overworked partners do too too much. I felt bad, since most of them are principles with a lot to do, only dancing with me because my partner is away. But I tried very hard to do what I think the director wanted (not that I'm ever told exactly what is so terrible about my dancing).

But the show went okay, I thought. And the next day we actually got notes all together as a company after class (which is another rare occasion for us), and the ballet master who corrected me the day before the show specifically said I was much better. I felt silly, since not many people were singled out, and I think it might have something to do with the way I reacted to the correction. I was upset and frustrated and I said that I felt like nobody would work with me either, so that's why it wasn't together. I hate to talk back to teachers when I am corrected, but I just couldn't help it.

I suppose all's well that ends well. My partner will be back in a few weeks, so I guess we'll see if it will be hard to adjust to him or if it will be comfortable like he never left. Hopefully the latter!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dear Sanna - helpless

Today we had dress rehearsal on stage (a very rare thing for this company) including the piece where my partner is missing. I was under the impression that I would not have to perform this piece before my partner returned, but he is not back yet and there is a show tomorrow. Great.

And today after the rehearsal, one of the ballet masters told me I was not together with everyone else, which when I think about it is somewhat true, but this information would have been much more valuable if I knew a little sooner than the day before the show. AFTER rehearsal - I couldn't even try to fix it today! At least if I had known I could've tried to fix this in the studio when we rehearsed the past few weeks. It is also frustrating, because I know there are many instances where I am the only one on the music, or at least doing the steps on the counts we originally established. When I reflect on my dancing, I realize that I think I am a little subconsciously stubborn, so I am aware that we are not together, but I am also determined to do the steps on the "right" counts. Tomorrow I will just have to try to let the music and counts go and be with the group, but it is very difficult to try to fix this overnight without any rehearsals.

...not to mention the fact that I also dance with partners who also need to be together with the group. It cannot be completely my fault we are off the music. And it's hard to track down all these partners and work out problems, especially when the problems are with timing, which requires both music and the rest of the dancers. It is way too complicated!

But I am much less angry than I was earlier today so I will just do my best tomorrow to be with the group and have an open mind and good attitude, because staying angry will definitely not improve my performace. I'll let you know how it goes.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

DanceMind:Dear Janie, Nerves ...


What if you woke up tomorrow morning and THAT feeling is gone - Poof!

No nerves. No upset. Dream come true? Maybe not.

Look at what happens here - You dance beautifully until 'he' comes in. Your power is reduced/drained because you started 'thinking' about his impression, how you may not like him, how you were not cast .... Mind rant drains your power. It activates frontal lobes of the brain (used for thinking, inner dialogue) and your body can't dance as well. The brain communicates to muscles and CNS.

Training is not the same story, it can feel a little awkward - is that the case here ? As you mentioned? You were learning? Even so, splitting your mind on what HE OBSERVES (which you really do not know what he is experiencing) takes you concentration away.

Janie, you realize from many past posts that you cannot control who is in the room, who is allowed to watch. This can be unnerving, which can be a good thing.

I am going to ask YOU TO TELL ME how THAT nerve feeling can be a good thing.

Sanna Carapellotti, MS CHT.

PS - The Stepping to Sleep PAYPAL buttons now work. What a challenge ....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dear Sanna - oookay

So the dreaded choreographer showed up a few days ago at the end of class. Of course he missed barre and the beginning of center, my best part of the class, and I noticed his presence just as we were doing a particularly unflattering combination. I felt awkward dancing and glanced up to see him. Perfect. But I really tried my best not to focus on him, either constantly looking or really avoiding where he stood. I think I am getting better at this, because I was able to somewhat retain my composure and still be a ballerina.

Anyway I can't say I was thrilled by the end of class, because it's still frustrating to even have these nerves when somebody important watches, and I am already bitter towards this particular choreographer for not casting me. I was trying to decide whether or not to stay for the rehearsals, when one of the ballet masters approached me and asked if I was an understudy. I told him not officially, although I was looking at everyone and trying to learn the steps. He told me the choreographer asked if I was an understudy and that I should stay, since one of the understudies left the company. I was so happy just to be told what to do! It is so stupid thinking I want to learn something and the artistic director telling the entire company to stay, but not really being cast and not having enough room and not having a partner to work with.

So this tiny little incident improved my entire week, even though nothing at all was different after this little chat with the ballet master. Funny how something so small can change your whole attitude.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dear Sanna - Ughhh

Today I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. It was the first day back after 3 and a half days off, which is more of a break than I think we've had since October, and I wasn't even expecting it! I never do well with time off, because for one thing I find it hard to maintain my weight. Especially when there is a holiday and I am invited to big family meals it is difficult, but even regular breaks are hard because when I am not dancing I get bored and think I'm hungry. Or I get together with friends and often times we get together to eat. Sometimes it seems like there's nothing else to do when you meet certain people! Anyway, I think I did a decent job this time of not going too crazy, although I can't say I didn't put on any weight at all. I think it's important to relax a little and allow myself to have some treats, so I am not completely regretful, but sometimes I need to stop a little sooner. I am more worried for the long chunk of time I will have off (hopefully) for summer vacation.

Anyway aside from the weight issue, I also really find that my dancing is affected by even a few days' rest. I get out of shape so quickly! Things don't feel quite right and I can't do everything. I must say, though, that I think I might be getting better with time off. I don't know if it is because I'm getting older or more experienced, or maybe even that I have less classes than I used to each week, so my body is used to more time between classes anyway. Whatever the case, I am relieved that breaks are getting easier, but I still feel it, and I fear tomorrow I will really feel it (being sore from today).

But I still want to work. I love dancing and I like to have a full day, so today when the company was rehearsing a piece I am not cast to even understudy, I was torn about what to do. I usually go to the rehearsal anyway, because I like the choreography and I like to learn it, and also the artistic director did tell me to learn it. This isn't such a big deal since the artistic director tells everybody to learn anything, but still the reasons together are usually enough to make me at least stick around for the rehearsals. But soon the choreographer is returning and I know there will be many very long rehearsals with him, and I don't know what to do. On the one hand I hate feeling left out, and I do like learning it, but on the other hand he did not choose me and there is not much room and I am a little embarrassed to show up to rehearsals in which I am not cast. I really don't know what to do.

But today this rehearsal was moved to our horrible third studio, because our scary ballet mistress was teaching a mini course for younger students, so she wanted the big studio. It wasn't hard for me to decide not to go to the rehearsal in the gross studio where there would be even less room, but I hated the thought of doing absolutely nothing for a whole 2 hours of work. So I took barre of this teacher's class, even though I had already done class today and I know her school class is a killer. And I was wearing pointe shoes. The shoes were dying too, so I didn't go on pointe for a few things that were supposed to be on releve, and the teacher yelled at me! So I suffered through en pointe or demi pointe, and then the artistic director came in and started telling me to lift my leg, when I was taking it easy with one side because I have a sore hamstring. It is so annoying! Give me a break - I am taking an extra class to work for myself and improve, and I don't need people nagging me all the time!


Thursday, April 9, 2009

DanceMind: Dear Janie, There are words -

When I have to work, I have a routine. I know what to eat, how to dress, what state of mind to be when I am at my most clear and intuitive. (Keep in mind that you throw away what you learn and then apply artistically. I am assuming ballet after a certain point is the simliar.)

Everyone has a different view of how the body can move and then when it is infused with emotion and style - you have choreography. Now know it is not that simple, cut and dry, yet choreography is about the individual who is creating. ( projection, love, an expression, a vision, an emotion) You as 'a ballerina' must strive toward excellence and be flexible along the way. Because you dance the choreography of so many different 'visions.'

It is the same with food, music, therapy (had to throw that in there) and even shoes. When you dance within a company the choreography is not within your control. You just have to do it ...

Yes, Janie, you are a ballerina.

Sanna Carapellotti, MS CHT
recommended by Dance Magazine. Get Real Sleep!

Monday, April 6, 2009

DanceMind:Dear Janie, Infuse it with Passion

Of course you are right, Janie. When you infuse ordinary moments (the grinding moments) with your love of dance, your whole body responds. It is truly about perception.

Consider this statement. "I make my meaning."

Your beauty transforms each and every piece. Your energy, your artistry, your grace, your poise, your commitment ...

Your attitudes, beliefs create the experience.

When you carry your best possible self to the studio every day for 'the grind,' then those 'best' moments accumulate and define you. It all moves you forward in a way that is very authentic and powerful. You have that choice in everything you do, not just dance.

Step into who you really are ... or aspire to become by acting like it today.

Sanna Carapellotti, MS CHT

Dear Sanna - being a ballerina

Sometimes I am amazed at the way our ballet mistress can take a piece of horrible choreography and give us corrections and actually make something out of it. If it were me, I wouldn't even know where to start cleaning some of the crappy ballets we do. It's really amazing the way she can make the ballet look completely different without really changing the steps.

...which brings me to the simple little epiphany I had today: dance like a ballerina. I know. Incredible breakthrough. But really, when I pictured myself dancing the choreography as if I were the ballet mistress, it felt completely different. The artistic director (and many others) have told me many times I look as if I'm not trying or not enjoying the dancing, even though they know I care a lot and really love it. So I just need to think about how much I love it, or pretend I love it if it happens to be choreography I don't love. Simple as that and my face changes and I don't look like I want to crawl out of my skin. Hopefully. Of course it's not magic, but makes a big difference.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dear Sanna - being flexible

That is so cool we were featured in Notes From Upstage Left! I'm glad our blog is interesting and helping people.

A boy in the company took a 3-week leave starting yesterday, and the company really took it hard even though we knew ahead of time he would be leaving. I, personally, just realized how much we actually dance together. Nearly all of my partnering is with him. Luckily, we have few performances the next 3 weeks, and none with pieces where we partner a lot. However, today we had a special studio exposure to determine which pieces we will be touring with next year, and we had to show a piece I dance almost entirely with this boy. And we found out about it yesterday. Perfect.

So I assumed I would be dancing with the official understudy of the piece, who actually dances the finale with me. He's not the greatest partner ever but I am at least comfortable with him. But I should've known that wouldn't be, since understudies are so rarely used in small ballet companies like ours. They just make the poor saps who aren't in a piece hover around the back of the studio for all eternity, never going in, so that when they are actually needed somebody else goes in instead. When I first heard of my possible partner prospects, I had an instant stomach ache.

I was sure I had mentioned him before, so I looked back to older posts. I said this "more experienced dancer" made me shy. Well that was an understatement. It's moments like this that make me appreciate that this blog is anonymous, because the truth is I have a huge crush on this guy. It's just a crush and nothing more, because he is married, besides the fact that we can barely communicate with a spoken language and I can barely look at him. I know it's completely stupid, but I can't help it, and I find myself spotting him in the room all the time. Anyway, partnering any dancer with seniority over me always makes me uncomfortable, and the replacements for my partner all dance principle roles. And if it's not enough to have to teach a new partner and get used to dancing together and embarrass myself with only one day to prepare, I ended up dancing with 3 different partners (4 if you count the finale where my partner did not change, and 5 if you count my old partner who I only stopped working with yesterday).

My stomach was in knots, for my own mind, and also because I knew the artistic director would be especially critical of me. The girl is always blamed for partnering malfunctions here. But it was surprisingly not that bad. The director even said I looked good (with my crush! hehe just kidding that part doesn't matter...) but I just needed a little more punch.

Anyway we'll see what happens during rehearsals for the next few weeks until my partner returns. I hope it's not a whole new nightmare if he is really out of shape when he comes back.


DanceMind: Dear Janie, Back on Track

Hello there,
I will be address a few issues tomorrow. Stay well. 

Sanna Carapellotti, MS CHT