Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dear Sanna - what a mess

We have a slew of important performances coming up VERY soon *squeal of excitement/nerves* and yesterday's rehearsal was a mess. First of all, a few people were out sick, which complicates corps and makes it difficult to correct things or see what is wrong, since there are either gaps or people filling in who don't necessarily know what they are doing.

Then, before rehearsal for the part I talk about all the time - the musical casting - the artistic director decided to tell the pseudo-anorexic girl (i think she is more generally sick in the head than anorexic) that she needs to keep her weight under control because she is too up and down all the time. The director didn't necessarily say loose weight, but any conversation with this dancer other than "you are too skinny" results in an explosion.

So she was crying in the dressing room during rehearsal. She is part of the other cast. My other half was sick. The remaining girl and myself do the same part (for the most part, since my other half changed everything around so we are sometimes like the other group, sometimes opposite, and sometimes so different you can't even call it opposite). So we couldn't even really rehearse together. So frustrating. I need these rehearsals, because this is one of the hardest things I've ever done stamina-wise, and I need to run it every day so I will have the stamina to get through. Also, I really don't know all the little acting parts, so it would be really nice if I could have a rehearsal to figure out what I'm doing. Grrr.

Anyway after the rehearsal I went in the small studio and sort of did the variation myself for stamina, and I plan to watch some videos today to try to get an idea of how the acting should be. This is what I can control, so I will do what I can, and hope everything out of my control falls into place. Hopefully everyone recovers over the weekend and we can really utilize our last week to prepare!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Janie, Being instructed.

Your last post was very clear.

It speaks about how you respond to instruction and direction. Your confidence when performing is dependent on how well rehearsed you feel (that varies from one to another). Letting go of the training mind (Learning) comes when you trust that your body mind are 'intelligent' of the choreography. You do not THINK while dancing.

You describe a very dynamic director who is knowledgeable and sensitive to the needs of HOW a dancer learns choreography.
From what I hear from other performers, it is so exciting to be taught by such individuals as they are true professionals. They realize that teaching the choreography comes with responsibility of guidance with 'personality' out of the way. It is truly the duty of an instructor to 'study' how they can be more effective as instructors.

Dancing and teaching are different, aren't they? There is an art to both.

AGAIN, Janie, ask yourself, "What do I have control over?" Role changes are political and practical based on the subjective needs of the instructor, the company, directors and the choreography. NEVER CLING or hold on to a part. You have experienced and witnessed how sweeping changes can occur from one day to the next.

How does one do that? First and foremost, you have to agree, that what you have now may change in some way. Agreeing allows you to be present with your current status, even in the face of a change.

Practice being flexible in mind and body. Is it fair? No,probably not, yet that is the nature of the beast whether you are on stage or corporate.

1. Visualize. (I have a new program coming out to help with this. I recorded yesterday)
2. Stay calm in the midst of change. Use breath.
3. DO NOT engage in drama. Use this blog or a journal and let it go. When you have your company, then you WILL be more sensitive and apply what you have learned.
4. Talk to the teachers about what works. (How is it that instructors are unapproachable? What is the fear? There are clear boundaries after a certain level and age, when no one is 'allowed' to address teaching/studio issues. You know it could help and offer food for thought.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dear Sanna - Direction at last!!

The ballet master I spoke of finally returned!!! I was anxiously awaiting this, but I was also nervous about the reaction to how we have improved (or not) over the last few months. Also with our current ballet, I was almost embarrassed to show it to this ballet master, having worked on it only with much less strict teachers.

But the second the ballet master returned I was immediately happier. Finally, the rehearsals for the part that stresses me out most now have meaning. We stop when something is bad or not together and actually work out why it's bad and how to fix it, rather than the rehearsal director just screaming while we dance and try to think and miss half of the corrections. And we also work on stamina, because we stop and start and work, but also repeat and redo and go again from the beginning, which is much more useful in order to improve, and ends up building even more stamina than just a straight run.

Not that everything is puppies and rainbows. Today after rehearsal there was a really long discussion between the director and all the ballet masters in the front of the studio while us dancers stood around like nervous auditioners. Nobody had any idea what they were talking about, and then one of the ballet masters started speaking to my opposite in a language I don't understand. She sounded annoyed with a "so-what?" answer and then told me she thinks we're done rehearsing and left. The rest of us were completely bewildered.

Later I heard a rumor that my opposite possibly will dance another part (it's actually better), so if she does then somebody else will have to replace her and dance with me. What I don't understand is why second cast won't go in while my partner does the other part, and we will dance together as planned. The whole thing sounds fishy to me, and I am worried that I will suffer in the end, since I now do the part the way my opposite does, which has many small but important differences to second cast. I am not getting worked up about it just yet, but I hope they will tell us what's going on soon.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Janie, Your face.

Pieces have moods and story lines. Your intuition can be your guide. Or maybe you can read up on the ballet. Or better yet, ask the director.  

It would be very respectful to watch the performing dancer, unless there is something else going on in the piece. 

Things I have witnessed are: being disengaged, yawning, frowns, HUGe smiles when someone comes on stage, eyes down cast, laughing with neighbor, shaking feet. AND connectedness, engagement, expression changes that integrated with what was happening, eye contact with dancer and /or audience, excitement, beautiful form and position.

If you do not have a resource to ask, get a discussion going among your peers.

Watch other performances. You'll connect with what feels in sync. Just notice with out judgement or comment.

Janie : I agree

I hope instructors recognize this finishing piece. With all they have to do and manage, I can understand how it could be overlooked. Yet it makes a difference. that connectedness and cohesiveness brings us back for more.

Thank you, Nichelle for your kind responses. it is always good to get great Dance Minds on board. 


P.S. If you want a great performance, you gotta sleep. Stepping to Sleep audio recommended by Dance Magazine. (Buy it here)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dear Sanna - Missing "unconsciousness"

Your last post describes exactly what our company is missing. Nobody tells the corps de ballet exactly how each step should be, with specific arms, heads, feet, let alone how we should look or feel in certain moments. Especially since our strongest ballet mistress has been out of town for the last 3 months. Thank goodness she is finally returning next week. We all noticed this lack of direction and chaos among the corps while she is not here. Even when she is, the company is such a mess of free-spirits, it's still hard for all these different cultures to come together to look like one cohesive group.

I saw an amazing performance last night of a dance theater group. It was more contemporary dance with a lot of acting in the movements. There was so much personality and care put into each step. I loved the way they used their faces, and it really made me wish I knew what to do with my face when I dance. It is not a natural thing for me, and I either find myself naturally making ugly or expressionless faces, or I am self-conscious about it and just looking awkward. This is my biggest challenge, I think.

Today in rehearsal I exploded. Did I mention in the part my friend was taken out of, I actually had to switch sides because the other girl used to do my part, and since she is higher up of course she gets whatever she wants, so I have to change. This is normal for me, I believe in respect for seniority, but it is still annoying. It is also uncomfortable now for a little while I get used to my new spot. There are also a lot of things my opposite is very stubborn about that she does differently than we learned, which I need to change. But she is not that clear about it and gets confused or annoyed or just has to turn it into a big deal every time I ask for clarification. And sometimes while we're dancing I notice different things than what she said or she screams at me, along with the ballet mistress in a language I am not exactly fluent in.

So today I was trying so hard to remember all the corrections, dance nicely, not look like I want to kill someone, and listen to 3 different people around me screaming different things. And the artistic director was watching. When we got to the end I was dying (as usual because it is a very difficult variation) and the ballet mistress was screaming head and I thought I was using my head and I didn't know how to change it and my opposite was screaming at me about spacing and my partner was screaming something else about spacing and I was trying to just finish and I just could not continue with about 8 counts left I was so mad and tired and frustrated. It was so embarrassing and I was on the verge of tears while I had my partner translate to the teacher that I just can't listen to everyone's corrections and try to remember the previous ones and dance all at once and I am so tired and I'm trying my best. So she said "well it's too late for corrections now" and walked away. I don't even know what that means. She can't correct me after the variation? Or I blew it when I stopped? I have no idea but it was horrible. I need to figure out how to work with this woman.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

From the Audience Eyes!

As a member of the audience, dance mom and energy therapist,  when I attend a performance I am looking around and taking in all I can from the production, not merely focusing on what's happening up front and center. I feel the color of the costumes, the props and backdrops.
To me, there is a symphony of events on stage that create a complete experience and feel that we as audience members demand.  

And then something shifts ...

Oft times dancers are posed in the background or sitting beautifully as 'people props.' They may be sitting, standing, in a position and there is very little movement as the soloist/leads dance. When  core is posed, you/I can feel if they are in sync with each other and what is happening up front, or disconnected. I am referring to a sense of togetherness, not just in movement and rhythm, but in spirit.  This is often referred to as 'being unconscious.' Inseparable. One.

Core is positioned to support an aspect of the story line that may not always be apparent, especially if there is incongruency among individual facial expressions, meaning, one is smiling because they are friendly with a certain soloist and then another  enters that they know less and they look away. Or they are distant and moody, or flirty and playful with the dancer beside them.  How they are 'being' is out of sync with what needs to happen  within the piece.

Their purpose becomes lost really and does not offer the support to the movement, the choreographer, the music, the dancer, and so on. 

Here is what I would liken it to ... Congruency is when everyone is one the same page. There is a natural movement, a cohesiveness, a energetic bubble among all. It would be like having coffee with a group of your best friends and you all talk and chat together without interruption. You feel connected. You have felt that.

Incongruent is scattered and chaotic. Moods and personalities rule. Affections are selective, maybe. Like this - You are having coffee with  a group of folks and conversation is disjointed, on and off, awkward. You could care less. You have felt this.

Informing core dancers to assume a certain facial expression, posture (not the actual position) and emotional energy, to emotionally move with, or maybe it must be against, the soloist/lead, ignites the performance. Everyone is truly one and everybody feels it. It's beautiful.

It's why I go to performances and you dance.

Tell core members how to 'BE'  as supporting cast. 

Janie: All in a day

As a non dancer I am looking in from the outside. (Remember me the accordian player from a long line of Italian musicians. ) 

It is  game like, isn't it. I don't know why casting plays out as you describe, yet it seems to be common from what I hear in conversations with teachers who are frustrated, from dancers who feel uncertain and from parents who need to know. 

One might imagine that higher ups would want you to be as prepared and ready to perform. Knowing your piece, responsibilities can create certainty and uplift a performance. 

Understandably people's capabilities change and one can certainly change their mind, however, it may be a symptom of something else.

Everyone knows. I am sure the creative director and owners know of this confusion. (as they may have experienced it first hand). Yet it continues.

Of course it is difficult for your friend, especially when one holds the firm expectation of dancing THAT part. Given the common approach to role assignments, you may want to revisit how you emotionally move through casting. Flexible and looser?

If you were in her pointe shoes you would not see or feel about you as you believed she thought about you. (Huh?) In these touchy situations jump shoes and look from another's perspective it can help you 1. know how to respond. 2. get a clearer picture to stop the emotional rush, 3. resolve it.

Get used to these shuffles. You'll feel less stressed since it appears to be a part of the beasty side of dance.  

The question might be: Who dareth to tell the artistic director to be more decisive?


P.S. THANK YOU anonymous! I love hearing from you! I really appreciate your feedback.