Sunday, May 21, 2006

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.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Competition Day

Date: May 19th
Location: Jacksonville, FL: Ritz Theatre
Time: ALL DAY

5:45 AM: Wake up time!

Wake up, stretch, do some exercises, wrap my brain around the fact that this is happening today.

7:00 AM: Quick swim

15 minutes in the pool to stretch and loosen up a bit. Violette recommended this to me. Grand Rond de Jambes en l'air in the pool works wonders for the hips.

7:20 AM: Room service (for the first time in my life!)

My mom ordered room service breakfast for us. I was so excited about having room service for the first time in my life, that we took a picture. I will try to bring it up. Went from the pool to her room, and we sat down to granola, yogurt, milk, juice, tea, and muffins. Then I took a quick shower and dressed for the competition.

8:15 AM: Meet in the lobby

We were supposed to head to the theatre at 8:30. There was some confusion because our headcount kept on coming up short. Then they realized that the girl from the local chapter would probably be driving the the theatre from home. I delayed us by 2 more minutes because, like an airhead, I had left my fan for the Kitri in my room. So after that little blip (I hoped that it would be my only blip for the day,) we headed out.

8:45-9:30 AM: Warmup onstage

We had 45 minutes onstage to mark through things and warm ourselves up. Everyone was very quiet. There were lots of iPods and CD players in use. We were given numbers to wear, and we staked out space in the dressing room and enjoyed complimentary water bottles.

9:30 AM-11:30 AM: Ballet, Modern, Jazz classes

1 hour ballet class followed by 30 minutes of modern and 30 minutes of jazz. All three portions were taught by the same person--the chair of the dance department and Jacksonville University. I will post his name when I find it tomorrow. The classes were alright. Some unusual barre exercises in the ballet class. All of the dancers were of a high level technically. Since it was an abbreviated class, we only did each exercise once.

For modern, we learned and performed one long combination. We only got one try at this. It seemed to be Horton-based, but not strictly so. I had fun doing it, but I wish I could have had another try. I think that everyone felt that way about it.

In jazz, we did an across-the-floor combination and then a center combination. Both exercises were ok. We had to do lots of jazz walks, some "kick ball change, pas de bourree" type things, isolations of the hip, and some big jazzy jumps.

By the time we were done with all of these classes, we were all pretty beat. We all thanked the teacher and the audience for watching so patiently. Then we trooped offstage to find our box-lunches and prepare for the solos.

Can I mention how amazing everyone in the Bloomington chapter of NSAL is? They found out that I am vegetarian and have been bringing me delicious food ever since. We weren't sure what kind of box lunch options I would have, so I also had trail mix, fruit, and two kinds of pasta salad from my chapter. It also happened that another person in my chapter had organized a vegetarian box lunch for me. So in my box I found fresh chopped fruit, a grilled vegetable croissant sandwich, and several cookies. Basically, I had enough food for two lunches. And I was quite anxious about my variations, so I could only eat about 1/2 of my lunch.

12:45 PM-4:00 PM: Presentation of solos

We did our ballet variations first, then the modern/jazz. We were not allowed to watch each other. As #1 performed, #2 was backstage waiting for her turn, and #3 waited on the other side of the door to backstage. When #1 was done, #3 went backstage and #4 was "on deck," and so on. Two ladies from NSAL visited with us as we waited and made sure that the next person was always ready to go. On top of this process, tension was added by the no-applause policy. The audience was not allowed to clap during any portion of the competition so that the judges would not be swayed. It was difficult to finish an exhausting piece and bow in silence. But that is what we did.

The Kitri variation went alright for me. I think that it has been better, but nothing catastrophic happened. I had lots of fun. It was great to do that piece onstage, and performing the fan variation is a great chance for attitude and spice without too many scary technical things to worry about. The modern solo went well, I think. I was not too nervous by then, so I was able to focus.

4:00 PM Bows and good news

We all entered and bowed together so that the audience could, at last, clap. We were told (YAY!) that there wouldn't be call-backs. So we were done! I went and gave hugs to all of the nice folks from Bloomington and my mom in the lobby. We took the bus back to our hotel (there had been a bomb threat in the next door building during the day and the hotel had had to evacuate. Things were back to normal when we returned, but there were complimentary strawberries and champagne from the hotel as an apology for inconveniences. What a festive welcome back!)

7:30 PM Barbecue and Pool party!

Delicious barbecue by the pool for the contestants. We sat and enjoyed grilled vegetables, baked beans, cornbread, biscuits, ribs, chicken, pecan pie, and peach cobbler. The pool was much to cold to swim in, but it felt great to dangle our tired feet in the water. The party broke up around 9:45, and a bunch of people came back to our room to watch Rent and chill.

It's time for me to get to bed...9 AM master class with Daniel Lewis tomorrow!

Catch-up post: Filling in the pre-competition day gap

Date: May 18th
Pre-competition day events...

I apologize, dear blog readers, for the gaps in my blogging lately. I have been very, very busy. Today was the NSAL competition. I will get to that shortly, but first I wanted to catch you up on yesterday's amazing events.

7:00 AM

I did go to the swimming pool. It was cold--but not too cold. Kind of refreshing-cold. When I got back home, it was time for a shower and some breakfast. I went downstairs to officially register. The ladies at the check-in table were very helpful. I got my nametag, a nice "NSAL 2006" canvas totebag, lots of Jacksonville maps and informational booklets, and my schedule. There was a big posterboard set up with all of the dancers' headshots on it. Seeing my picture there, it finally hit me that this was actually happening!

A nice surprise: there was a continental breakfast--not on the schedule--set up near the registration table. I wandered in to grab a muffin. I was very underdressed for this breakfast. All of the NSAL people were in pantsuits and dresses. And there I was, fresh out of the after-pool shower, in my jeans, t-shirt, and sweatshirt. Oops. So I said hi to some Bloomingtong people and crept back to my room.

9:00 AM

JoAnn, my wonderful competition sponsor (she's a member of the Bloomington chapter,) had gotten in late on Wednesday. I stopped by her room to plot our course of action for the morning. Being the wonder-woman that she is, we had a terrific game plan within minutes: we would try to find a place for me to give myself class, and maybe take a peek at the theatre stage where the competition would be held. After she had a bite to eat, she started calling Jacksonville studios and the Ritz theatre. The theatre agreed to let us poke around a bit, and a very nice lady at one studio offered to drive us from her studio back to the hotel, so we hopped in a cab and headed to the Ritz.

Well, ok. "Hopped in a cab" is too casual. We told the bellhop that we needed a taxi, and he pointed to a black car that was waiting for us. The driver held the door for us, and in we climbed to a black leather interior. Our driver was very nice--he waited at the theatre while we went inside. My roommate, Kelly, and Michelle (the one from PBT) came with me. We all walked through our solos. Then we got back in the car and headed to the studio, where we all gave ourselves good 45 minute workouts.

12:30 PM

President's Luncheon! They seated all of the dancers at the same table. I met several more girls, but there were still some who hadn't shown up yet. We had some good talk of mutual friends over salad, rolls, and chicken (well, no chicken for me,) and cake. After the meal, it was time for the society to get down to business. They made general announcements, inducted their new officers, had a chapter winner pianist perform, and there was an excellent speaker.

2:30 PM

Competition Orientation. Now things got a little bit real and intense. All of the competitors met in a tiny room so that we could learn the rules, regulations, and protocol for the next few days. Dress code, solo length, master class expectations, and other opportunities were reviewed. We were told that the announcement of awards wouldn't be made until Saturday evening at the Awards Banquet. Then we drew numbers, gave the sound people our music, and ate cookies and punch. I drew #11 out of 18. My roommate would be #12, and Michelle would be #10. I felt very lucky to know that I would be surrounded by people I knew :).

6:30ish PM

Paddleboat up the St. John's River to a country club for dinner. Beautiful 45 minute ride on the Annabelle Lee. We had to pass a bridge that had just come "down," blocking our way. We had to wait for a train to cross, so we were late leaving, which ultimately meant a late evening . The country club was BEAUTIFUL. We had a southern-style feast: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and salad, with pecan pie for dessert. I sat with the people from my chapter. Lila Huse, who funded my travel award and was in IUBT years ago (and married to David Higgens for over 20 years,) had arrived for the luncheon. I got to sit next to her at the dinner and hear about the department's history. It was quite interesting. I had no idea that Anton Dolin worked there for some time!

10:30 PM

Visit to Mama in her hotel room. She had arrived as we were leaving for our paddleboat cruise. We chatted a bit, and then I headed to bed. I couldn't believe that the competition was approaching so quickly!

11:30 PM

Bedtime!

Catch-up post: Filling in the pre-competition day gap

Date: May 18th
Pre-competition day events...

I apologize, dear blog readers, for the gaps in my blogging lately. I have been very, very busy. Today was the NSAL competition. I will get to that shortly, but first I wanted to catch you up on yesterday's amazing events.

7:00 AM

I did go to the swimming pool. It was cold--but not too cold. Kind of refreshing-cold. When I got back home, it was time for a shower and some breakfast. I went downstairs to officially register. The ladies at the check-in table were very helpful. I got my nametag, a nice "NSAL 2006" canvas totebag, lots of Jacksonville maps and informational booklets, and my schedule. There was a big posterboard set up with all of the dancers' headshots on it. Seeing my picture there, it finally hit me that this was actually happening!

A nice surprise: there was a continental breakfast--not on the schedule--set up near the registration table. I wandered in to grab a muffin. I was very underdressed for this breakfast. All of the NSAL people were in pantsuits and dresses. And there I was, fresh out of the after-pool shower, in my jeans, t-shirt, and sweatshirt. Oops. So I said hi to some Bloomingtong people and skedatled back to my room.

9:00 AM

JoAnn, my wonderful competition sponsor (she's a member of the Bloomington chapter,) had gotten in late on Wednesday. I stopped by her room to plot our course of action for the morning. Being the wonder-woman that she is, we had a terrific game plan within minutes: we would try to find a place for me to give myself class, and maybe take a peek at the theatre stage where the competition would be held. After she had a bite to eat, she started calling Jacksonville studios and the Ritz theatre. The theatre agreed to let us poke around a bit, and a very nice lady at one studio offered to drive us from her studio back to the hotel, so we hopped in a cab and headed to the Ritz.

Well, ok. "Hopped in a cab" is too casual. We told the bellhop that we needed a taxi, and he pointed to a black car that was waiting for us. The driver held the door for us, and in we climbed to a black leather interior. Our driver was very nice--he waited at the theatre while we went inside. My roommate, Kelly, and Michelle (the one from PBT) came with me. We all walked through our solos. Then we got back in the car and headed to the studio, where we all gave ourselves good 45 minute workouts.

12:30 PM

President's Luncheon! They seated all of the dancers at the same table. I met several more girls, but there were still some who hadn't shown up yet. We had some good talk of mutual friends over salad, rolls, and chicken (well, no chicken for me,) and cake. After the meal, it was time for the society to get down to business. They made general announcements, inducted their new officers, had a chapter winner pianest perform, and there was an excellent speaker.

2:30 PM

Competition Orientation. Now things got a little bit real and intense. All of the competitors met in a tiny room so that we could learn the rules, regulations, and protocol for the next few days. Dress code, solo length, master class expectations, and other opportunities were reviewed. We were told that the announcement of awards wouldn't be made until Saturday evening at the Awards Banquet. Then we drew numbers, gave the sound people our music, and ate cookies and punch. I drew #11 out of 18. My roommate would be #12, and Michelle would be #10. I felt very lucky to know that I would be surrounded by people I knew :).

6:30ish PM

Paddleboat up the St. John's River to a country club for dinner. Beautiful 45 minute ride on the Annabelle Lee. We had to pass a bridge that had just come "down," blocking our way. We had to wait for a train to cross, so we were late leaving, which ultimately meant a late evening . The country club was BEAUTIFUL. We had a southern-style feast: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and salad, with pecan pie for dessert. I sat with the people from my chapter. Lila Huse, who funded my travel award and was in IUBT years ago (and married to David Higgens for over 20 years,) had arrived for the luncheon. I got to sit next to her at the dinner and hear about the department's history. It was quite interesting. I had no idea that Anton Dolin worked there for some time!

10:30 PM

Visit to Mama in her hotel room. She had arrived as we were leaving for our paddleboat cruise. We chatted a bit, and then I headed to bed. I couldn't believe that the competition was approaching so quickly!

11:30 PM

Bedtime!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pre-competition evening

Date: May 17th
Location: Jacksonville, FL (hotel room)
Time: 11:49 PM

Wonderful day, so much to talk about. Details later. We meet to board the bus to the theatre at 8:15 tomorrow, so I will be brief.

I drew #11 out of 18, so I will have to wait around for awhile tomorrow. Kelly is 12, so that's kind of nice. We won't find out the results of the competition until Saturday night, but we will get to meet and chat with the judges for advice, etc, on Saturday afternoon, and we get a master class with Daniel Lewis on Saturday morning.

Tomorrow's competition: warm-up time, 1 hr ballet class, 30 minutes modern, 30 minutes jazz, lunch break, ballet variations, break, modern/jazz variations. They might call-back people to do their solos again if they so desire. So it's going to be a long one. My mama got here safe and sound. She brought me lots of protein-rich snacks, which will help me get through the day.

Game plan for pre-competition time tomorrow morning: up at 5:45, exercises/strengthening for 20 minutes or so, walk to starbucks to clear my head and get some coffee, quick warm-up in the pool at 7, meet mama for breakfast and invade her hotel room to prepare at 7:20.

It's hard to believe this is all finally happening...

Pre-competition day

Date: May 18th
Location: Jacksonville, FL (Hotel room)
Time: 6:35 AM

I finally got to meet some of the other dancers at the reception yesterday afternoon. They are all very nice! My roommate is named Kelly. She is from the University of Cincinnati, and will be apprenticing with Cincinnati Ballet next year. Others include: Christine from El Paso (about to graduate high school!,) Texas, Michelle from Pittsburgh (corps at PBT next year-trainee this year,) Rachel from Florida, and Molly from Kansas City (university student, but knows lots of the company dancers.) So for those of you following along from home who are immersed in the ballet world, let me know if I need to say "hi" to anyone. The rest of the dancers arrive between 8 and 11 this morning.

Last night I met lots of donors and chapter members at the NSAL reception. I and the other competitors who were there were shuffled from one group of people to another and introduced. There are some pretty cool people who work as part of this organization! I had a 20 minute conversation with three people about the merits of traveling to Alaska in the summer, including cruises vs. train travel, big vs. small cruises, and the location of good museums in the state.

After the reception, Kelly had decided to go to the fancy dinner at the museum, but the rest of us hadn't signed up. I knew that I wouldn't be able to eat fancy, rich meals every day this weekend. Oh, did I mention that the airport lost Kelly's bags? It was terrible! She had to go find and purchase an outfit for the dinner with her chapter sponsor. Luckily she found this amazing store and got a gorgeous gold-goddess type dress for $10. Her luggage got here last night. Luckily she had packed her dance things in her carry-on, so she would have managed if she would have had to. But SEE? SEE DELTA? You shouldn't have made me check my bag. It was only 1 inch too big. Clearly you're capable of losing bags, as I suspected. I won't hold it against you too much since you didn't lose mine and you gave me food for free. But still.

Right. Last night. So after the reception we (the remaining competitors) stood around talking while everyone else left for their museum dinner. Finally, we decided to go get some dinner. Based on Jacksonville's lovely location, we decided that seafood would probably be pretty good here. So Christine, Rachel and I went to a Sushi place on The Jacksonville Landing, which is an outdoor food and entertainment complex literally across the street from us. (We are also next to the Performing Arts Center. We are in the center of downtown.) We sat outside next to the river and watched the bridges slowly light up as the sun set. The smoked salmon sushi I had was cheap and great. On our way back we got creme frappuccinos at Starbucks. We had wanted ice cream, but couldn't find any. At least now I know where the Starbucks is.

When I got home, I rested and read for a bit. Kelly got home and we talked about mutual acquaintances, etc. She danced at Chautaqua, so she knows Violette and Glenda. I went to bed pretty early. Now I'm up to go enjoy the swimming pool and do some exercises. I have to check in to get my name tag and schedule this morning, but the actual events of the day don't start until the President's luncheon at 12:00.

More as the day progresses...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Arrived!

Date: May 17th
Place: Jacksonville, FL (My room at the OMNI hotel)
Time: 4:08 PM

A short cab ride from the airport, I have arrived at my destination.

The flight was a good one: has anyone ever heard of Song Airlines? I hadn't. They broke off of Delta and have just been reabsorbed. It certainly was an experience. The plane's chairs and walls have a creative, soothing color scheme: dark orange, blue, green, yellow. Sounds ugly, but it actually works. The flight attendents wore designer uniforms. There were consoles on the back of each seat: you could watch 24 satellite TV channels, listen to music (good advertising for new albums!,) keep track of your flight's progress, play a trivia game with other passengers...crazy! Also, when it was time for the safety information, they played this clip of a woman dancing to irish music and telling you about the safety information with a thick irish accent. (Not a video clip. Just audio.) Everybody was pretty happy and content for the entire trip. Also, on both flights: FOOD! Not much, but something. On the first: biscotti cookies (I saved those.) On the second: peanuts! Just like the good ol' days. So a very pleasant flying experience.

The cherry on top was that my luggage not only arrived with me, but was the 5th bag out on the carousel. I found a taxi kiosk, and I was sitting in a taxi within 3 minutes. My taxi driver was very nice, but a little bit shaken up. One of the taxi drivers died yesterday of a heart attack. He zipped in and out of traffic (80 mph in a 55 mph zone, but he seemed fine about it so I didn't get too worried.)

Checked in to the hotel. The final count is 18 dancers in all. There isn't much going on tonight: just a reception. I am faring for myself for dinner. I haven't met my roommate yet, but I did wave to a couple of (I think they were...) dancers downstairs. Our orientation is tomorrow, so I will get to meet everyone then.

Alright, time to relax a little bit before changing into reception clothes and heading back downstairs. I'm so glad to have finally arrived!

Still Enroute

Date: May 17th
Location: Atlanta, GA Gate T1
Time: 1:01 PM

Just a quick note. They should start boarding this flight in 10 minutes or so.

In Indianapolis they made me check my wheeled bag. I REALLY hope it doesn't get lost. All I have dance-wise in my other bag is a pair of pointe shoes. So I would be sunk without that other bag. Then again, it would probably take at most one day to catch up with me, so it would still be ok. I just don't want to deal with that :)

The Atlanta airport is interesting. I had to walk a long ways to get to my gate-it is, as luck would have it, at the end of a long, small terminal. To travel between terminals, you go underground and either take a train (subway-esque) or walk. I walked, and I am glad that I did! There was an exhibit on Zimbabwe up. Very cool. There were huge, blown up prints of Zimbabwe scenes: landscapes, animals, people, towns. But the really cool thing was a series of stone sculptures by Zimbabwean artists. This things were GORGEOUS. Some of families, some of animals, some about faith, some about humans, some about Africa. All very, very cool. It felt like I was walking through a museum!

The only unusual thing about this airport is that there are smoking lounges. I have seen those in London, but not in the US! Especially with the number of states further north now restricting smoking in restaurants, bars, and public places, this came as something of a shock. Luckily, the ventilation is excellent, and the smoke seems to stay in the designated areas. What a country this is! That one state won't let people smoke in bars, but that another state lets people smoke in airports.

I had one of those "tuna to go" things for lunch. Very tasty and good for you, but hugely wasteful packaging wise. Next time I will just make my own tuna salad and put it in some tupperware.

Alright, enough of these random thoughts from my brain. They are starting the boarding. Onward to Florida!

Adventure #2 Begins: NSAL

Date: May 17th
Location: Indianapolis International Airport, gate B5
Time: 9AM

I'm waiting at the Indianapolis airport for my first flight to Atlanta. I'm attempting to carry everything on with me. I don't want to deal with the possibility of lost luggage. John was wonderful and woke up early to drive me here at 7:30. No trouble with check-in, no trouble with security. I'm flying Delta for the first time in years. I'm hoping to have a more positive experience than Northwest has provided lately. I'm tired of choosing between: a) $1 for a pack of peanuts b)$3 for a "snack box" (most of which have meat in them,) c) pack a day's worth of my own food. On top of that, NW has started charging a fee for letting you take "choice" seats, like windows or aisles, before the day of the flight! It's a ridiculous ploy to get more money. I am sad because NW used to provide such good service! So today, I am hopeful that there will be a snack for free on this plane or the next. I have a window seat that was booked months ago. I did bring my own food, just in case, though.

From Atlanta I will fly to Jacksonville, the site of the NSAL (National Society of Arts and Letters) variations competition. I am being sent by the Bloomington chapter of NSAL, so all of the fees and travel arrangements have been taken care of by the nice folks at Bloomington's NSAL group. Right now I am feeling lots of different things-not too nervous, but definitely a bit excited and a tiny bit of trepidation. I want to do my best, but I have no idea what kind of a situation I am going in to. What will the class be like? (We are also judged on class work.) What will the teacher be like? How will the stage be? How will the stage floor be? Will there be lots of vegetarian protein options? What will the hotel be like? Where will the other dancers be from? (There are 12 of us.) We have a busy schedule ahead of us. Tonight and tomorrow morning are pretty laid back, but then starting at lunchtime tomorrow I am solidly booked through Saturday. I'm hoping to take advantage of tonight to do some ballet and other exercises and relax a little bit. We (JoAnn, my chapter sponsor, and I,) are hoping to get a look at the stage for spacing tomorrow morning.

I am so glad my mom will be there with me! This whole experience to come will be so much easier with her there for support.


Well, the plane should be boarding soon...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Long drive home

Location: Mostly M-131 and I-69 between Interlochen and Bloomington

Date: May 11th

I was on the road for a total of 11 hours today. It was windy and rainy for most of the time. That was sort of good, as I didn't want to stop to get out of the car, so I made pretty good time. I left at 5:30, before the sun was up. It was a drizzly morning, and the sky was a deep purplish blue. There was a foggy mist hanging over every thing. This made all of the fields, farm houses, and christmas tree farms seem even more vibrant and magical than usual. Of course, once I got on to M-131, everything was just gray and kind of sad. But it was a beautiful start to the day.

I stopped four times. Once for coffee, once for gas, once for lunch, once to pick up some pointe shoes in Indianapolis. When I got back in to Bloomington, I had to leave within 30 minutes of arriving so that I would get to Nashville (35 minute drive) on time to teach. When I finally got home last night, I collapsed in to bed.

All in all, a pretty good trip. Definitely worth the gas money and the drive to see an interesting company, old friends, and some beautiful terrain.

Revisiting the Academy

Location: Interlochen
Date: May 10th

What a wonderful visit to IAA!

7:30 AM: Shower and breakfast at the Kamischkes'

9:00 AM: Drove to the Interlochen campus, by way of the gas station. That gas station is awesome. Not only do they serve amazing ice cream in the summer. Real ice cream. In bins that they scoop and mound on to waffle cones. They also have an unbelievable coffee bar. Flavor shots, creamers, cappuccinos, coffee, you name it. But I'm getting off topic. Clearly, I stopped on the way to campus for a hot cup of coffee.

9:15 AM: Stopped by human resources to fill out some housing forms for the summer that I have neglected. Catch up with the administrative staff. They're all so nice! I had a great conversation with Doug Long about how life is treating me, and James Perez wanted to know about how the SOM was doing since that terrible tragedy. It's amazing how quickly news travels in the arts world!

10:00 AM: Took barre with the general dance class. Rachel gave the class. She is two weeks until her due date. I asked her why she is still teaching. She said she felt obligated. It was a great warm-up.

10:30-11:30 AM: Worked on the Don Quixote and modern variations for NSAL. Mark, Wendy, and Rachel all watched the ballet and gave me some tips. Mark also had a recording at a better tempo. Yay! No more spastic hops en pointe! No more lumbering developpé écarté! At the end of the hour I was very sweaty and happy to have gotten so much done.

11:30AM-12:30 PM: Lunch in Stone Cafeteria. Interlochen may build new buildings and design new libraries. But some things never change. Stone Cafeteria is exactly the same as it has always been. I brought my own food (it's safer that way,) and sat with the dance faculty. Then I walked around to other faculty tables. I would sit down and smile at them until they figured out who I was. I startled quite a few. Very fun.

1:00PM-3:30PM: Modern and ballet classes with the dance majors. These kids can MOVE! They are so focused in class, and they work so hard! It was really fun dancing with them. The modern guest taught an awesome class. Unfortunately, everyone else already knew most of the combinations. Good practice for me, trying to pick up steps through osmosis and still maintain some quality of movement.

3:30-5:00 PM: Watched rehearsals for the students' spring show. They are doing Concerto Borocco. That is one difficult ballet. They are doing well with it, though. An understudy jumped in for an injured classmate. She did very well. The other pieces are great: Wendy's involves skateboards, Mark's is a modern pas de deux with dynamite focus and strength, and Diego's is just fun. During all of this, Wendy was recording a copy of Sleeping Beauty for the incoming ballet faculty. I watched myself dancing--it is so rewarding to feel and see the improvement that I have managed in the last 3 years!

5:00PM-11:00PM: Drove Mrs. K home, helped make quiche (with Muenster cheese. Delicious,) then packed up and showered. We worked on a tricky Sudoku for awhile before I headed to bed.

It was an amazing day. I feel refreshed and focused for the NSAL variations competition next week. Class by the lake will do that to you.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I heart Michigan

Location: Interlochen, MI


Class with Grand Rapids Ballet today at 11 AM. I was all over the place-probably a combination of not having a complete class for two weeks and driving for three hours beforehand. Considering the circumstances, I guess I did ok. I had good focus, just lousy control. Somehow, it was still quite fun.

It wasn't an official audition--they've already made hiring decisions, and it was really more about me checking out the company than them checking out my dancing. The associate artistic director taught an awesome class. Very aerobic barre: we would do exercises to one side, turn immediately to the other, then turn immediately back to repeat on relevé. Nothing too tricky at the barre. Center was difficult: lots of turning and grand pirouette exercises. (We did attitude front turns, a la seconde en dedans turns, and arabesque turns!) Only a little bit of jumping. I would definitely keep improving if I took that kind of class every day as a company class. They didn't talk to me afterwards, but since it wasn't an official audition, there wasn't really anyone there to talk to me. The associate artistic director gave me some attention during class, then rushed off. I hope that it was because of their short (30 minute) lunch break before rehearsals, and not my dancing that made her rush off, but who knows? I enjoyed her class--it was definitely worth the drive. Made me realize how out of shape I am for NSAL. I have a lot of work to do this week. But back to Grand Rapids

The studio space is beautiful, in an ugly part of town. It's a renovated industrial building. The studio we took class in was being converted into a blackbox for their next show. It was an excellent floor and a pretty big square footage. There was at least one other big studio. I didn't poke around too much-I arrived 15 minutes before class started. Everyone was very professional inside and outside of class. Nobody was terribly friendly to me, but nobody was cold either. They all seemed to be focusing on preparations for this show.

This company is definitely on my list for auditions next year. They do lots of performing, and they have a relatively long season. The dancers seem to be respected by the artistic staff, and the teacher today was definitely respected by the dancers. I'm not sure if it's a place I would like to have my whole career with, but it would be an amazing first job. I just hope that I perform better in class next time, when it's an official audition!

So, after class was over, I was positively drenched in sweat, and my car had been sitting in the sun, so I gobbled up a quick lunch before turning on the A/C and heading out: I had packed a balance bar and some trail mix. After that class/workout this wasn't going to cut it. I drove for 20 miles on 131, and I found a "Ruby's Diner." I decided to stop for a second lunch, like the hobbits would.

It was a very cool former railroad cars-turned-restaurant. I got a delicious veggie wrap and drank lots and lots of water. Too much water, unfortunately. I must have been dehydrated (I shall not forget my water bottle again next trip...) and I got a terrible stomacheache. So I stopped another 20 miles down the road and had some Pepto Bismol and a nap. Feeling much better again, I drove the rest of the way to Interlochen.

It was a pretty entertaining drive. I passed three (yes, three) trucks with entire houses on their beds. Two of them were traveling together, but the third, I am quite sure, was unrelated. I also found out that there's a place called "Big Rapids, MI." Also, did you know that there is a James Dean museum in Northern Indiana? I was tempted to stop just to see what it was, but I was already a bit behind schedule for getting to class.

I got in to Interlochen Arts Academy around 4:30. After finding Mrs. K (my former math teacher-she is so kind and is putting me up for two nights,) I went to the dance building. Surprisingly, I know quite a few of the students. Mostly from camp. There were also a couple of dance majors who danced with me (freshmen when I was a senior.) I watched a couple of rehearsals and was very impressed by everything and everyone.

After talking to Mark and Wendy, I have come up with a nice little schedule for myself tomorrow: barre with the general dance class at 10, rehearsals for my NSAL solos on my own at 10:30 or so, class with the majors at 1:00 and 2:20 (modern then ballet,) then watching some rehearsals and maybe (hopefully!) a coaching session with Mark for the variations. I might go to the gym in the morning too. But I have to figure out where it is now. They have converted JVS into a beautiful library...so what did they do with all of the gym equipment? Ah, the mysteries of life and Interlochen.

Into the sunrise

And I'm off at 7:20. Class at 11 in Grand Rapids. I had some delicious canteloupe and toast for breakfast. I am going to have to stop for gas. I might get (more) coffee then...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Welcome

Location: Fort Wayne, IN

Welcome to this blog experiment. The idea is to keep a journal of the crazy travels, trials, traumas, and (hopefully) triumphs I encounter while dancing here and there and everywhere. This summer I have several trips planned to dance, take classes, and teach, and next year of course I will be doing many, many auditions.

I am sitting on my dear friend Marty's bed in Fort Wayne, IN. His family has been very kind to me. I can't belive they're putting me up for the night, even though Marty is in New Orleans! Marty's mom is a wonderful caretaker (she's a nurse. ) Her first comment to me was that I "certainly have the ballet physique." Ever since then, she has been offering me lots of different food and drink options in every available moment. I've also enjoyed Marty's cats, Zoe and Ophelia, and his excellent neighborhood. The cool thing about this neighborhood is that it is one of those developments of all new, beautiful houses with standard streetlights and street signs, but it is slightly...quirky. The roads have names like Hawk's Nest and Blackhawk, even though I certainly can't imagine a bird of prey hanging out on one of these perfectly-manicured lawns. It's called Cherry Hill. The sign at the entrance had huge cherries on it. Very cool.

Tomorrow, I am taking class at Grand Rapids Ballet. I don't know much about the company, but Guoping had very positive things to say about it. They do lots of performances every year, and lots of story ballets. I'm excited to see what their dancers are like, but I'm ESPECIALLY excited to get a class. I've been giving myself class, but somehow it's just not the same.

It was a nice drive to Ft. Wayne-just 3.5 hours. The worst part was going around Indy. I do not like 465. People drive too fast and there are too many trucks and on/off ramps for my liking. I-69 was quite nice though. I enjoyed a mellow sunset and there wasn't too much traffic. I've packed excellent snacks/lunches/breakfasts for this trip: protein drinks, balance bars, bran cereal bars, apples, and trail mix. Mmmm. Good food makes traveling much better.

OK, time for sleeping. I leave at 7 tomorrow for an 11 AM class in G. Rapids...