Master class, Awards banquet
Date: May 20th
Location: Jacksonville, FL
We had a master class with Daniel Lewis this morning at 9:00 AM. It was fun and very interesting. The class was set up to serve as an informational lecture of sorts for any interested members of the society, and to be a valuable experience for us. It was a very strange setup. Marley was taped down over carpet in one of the conference rooms at the hotel, and seats were stuffed in around that space.
For non-dancers out there, a little bit of background: Daniel Lewis, or Danny Lewis, was a dancer for and assistant to José Limon. Limon was an excellent modern dancer and prolific choreographer. The Limon technique, a form of modern dance, is widely studied and performed today. After he finished his dancing career, Daniel Lewis was the founding Dean of Dance at the New World School of the Arts. He teaches, sets Limon pieces, and wrote the definitive text on Limon technique.
Mr. Lewis started out by showing some personal photos that he had of José Limon. Then he talked about Limon's life and choreography. We watched clips of some of Limon's most famous pieces, including The Moor's Pavone, The Unsung, The Traitor, The Winged, and several others.
Lewis then taught us a 1 hour introduction to Limon technique. He is an excellent teacher. The things we did included work on allowing the weight to drop, feeling points of opposition, and "letting the head pull the body into relevé like a helium balloon." We also did part of "the orchestra of the body," in which different simple movements are done by different parts of the body, and all of the parts are "conducted" at once in an overall complex movement. For instance, the legs were the timpani, with a sense of attack and weight, the arms were the violins, the upper body was the bassoon, and so on. There are seven instruments in all. I think we did four of them.
After the master class, we had a lunch break. Several of the dancers went to "The Burrito Gallery" together. This was a neat place. Art was displayed on the walls, and delicious Mexican food was served up. I had a Mahi Taco and some beans and rice.
After lunch, it was time for meetings with judges. This took a LONG time. We all went in as a group at 1:30. Some general overall comments were made, and then we trooped into the hall to wait. They called us in one at a time (in numerical order,) to give us criticisms on our performances on Friday. This was much more helpful than if we had just received the judges' comments in the mail or something, because we could ask for clarification, etc. We had to wait after our individual conferences to go back in as a group. We all sprawled out in the hallway with DVD players, books, puzzle books, snacks, and CD players while we waited. The whole process didn't finish until 4:15 or so.
Several of my comments were things that I had heard before, and there were some new things. It was very useful, but there was so much information that it is going to take some time to digest. There were some unexpected things that made me realize that despite the fact that I had done my best on Friday, I hadn't danced in a way that exactly matched what they wanted. In particular, I didn't "perform" my classwork enough (they told me that none of them had written down many comments on my classwork. Which means that I didn't stand out.) This is certainly something for me to work on, as I had been concentrating on performance quality in class. So I think that it must be a question of magnitude of effort, not focus of effort. Very valuable information as I get ready for a season of auditions! So although I left the competition day itself feeling very positive about how I did, after the meeting with the judges I understood that I shouldn't have terribly many expectations for the awards banquet.
And what a banquet it was! The food was incredible: salad, rolls, grouper and/or chicken marsala, vegetables, and double-layer chocolate cake. Everybody looked gorgeous: many of the men were in tuxedos . Women were in beautiful gowns. It was in the ballroom, so there were huge chandeliers and soft lighting. The dancers and judges sat at tables immediately in front of the head table, so we had a great view of the proceedings.
Maria Bujones was there to accept a lifetime achievement award for Fernando Bujones posthumously. Fernando, a world-famous ballet dancer of his generation, was supposed to be a judge in the competition, but passed away rather abruptly this year. We watched clips of Fernando dancing seemingly every major prince role in existence. What a treat to see such an exquisite talent in such varied repertoire! Maria hadn't done anything related to dance since she lost her husband, and her acceptance speech was very moving. She got two standing ovations.
And then it was time for the awards. After my meeting with the judges (see above,) I was unsurprised when I didn't win anything. I was very happy, though, that my roommate, Kelly got a prize! First place went to Krista Ettlinger, who will be dancing with Boston Ballet II next year, Second place went to John Mark Girogosian, who is at Maryland Youth Ballet (he is still in high school,) and third place went to a girl named Nicole who is a trainee at Milwaukee ballet. There were three other smaller awards given, including the one to my roommate. Since I didn't get to see any of the other dancers perform their variations, any further analysis of why the prizes went the way they did is unhelpful and heresay. I did get to see videos of the top three dancers' performances, and they did an excellent job. All of the dancers performed well in class. It was a strong group of dancers, and a very nice group of people too! We are all planning to stay in touch.
I was disappointed, of course, to not receive a prize. It is hard to put so much effort into something and to not come away with an award, especially when there are so many people who have supported and believed in you. In some ways, I feel like a disappointment to all of those wonderful folks at the competition and at home who helped me out. Then again, it is those people who believed in me that made the whole experience so amazing. To have people work with me towards this goal meant a chance for me to re-affirm my love for dance and to say "hey, maybe I can do this after all. I have always wanted to make this my career, and here are some people who are telling me that they think I can do it." It was particularly inspiring that everybody's support for me continued unabashed after awards were announced. Such a support network is a true blessing.
In retrospect, I am pleased that I felt that I danced well. I cannot blame my lack of success on a "bad turning day" or being "off." I just wasn't what they were looking for. It's kind of like that book "He's just not that into you." Yeah, when someone doesn't like you it sucks. But what can you do? Luckily in this case I can do something: I can take the comments that the judges gave me home to my teachers, and let these ideas give me a fresh impetus for my training this year.
As you look back on this blog, I am sure that you will see what an amazing depth of experience I have received from this trip. The trip itself was a gift from my chapter for which I am so grateful. We were treated like royalty at the convention. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thank you, everybody, for your words of encouragement and support as I have gone through this crazy, stressful week.
I'm writing this on the airplane on my way back to Bloomington. From there, I will drive to New York to help my parents pack up their house as they prepare for a big move to Nebraska. So this is me signing off for now, as it is several weeks before I will be traveling for ballet-related purposes again. I hope that everybody enjoys safe travels, happy dancing experiences, and lots of fun in the weeks ahead.