Monthly Archives: August 2013

Bunheads goodbye video

http://www.buzzfeed.com/kateaurthur/bunheads-goodbye-dance-video

Yeah, I admit, I watched.

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Male dancer etiquette lesson No. 2: Killing critters

Rule: If there is an insect that frightens your female classmates, it’s your job to kill it, even if you are wearing your new canvas shoes for the first time.

Yup, there it was, a small bug. It made the 16-year-old company girl next to me scream. being in the middle of the back of the room, there was no other option to squash the little critter with. And while there were two other guys in class, and a male teacher, they were scattered across the room.

I was the only one close. Weapon of choice: A new canvas Capezio shoe.

The bug did not survive. And I earned praise from Mr. O. and thanks from my young classmate, the best dancer in the room.

This isn’t the only time I’ve played ballet pest control. I’ve killed spiders before in Mrs. O and Susan K.’s classes before when I was the only guy (who happens to be a little arachnaphobic after being bit by a poisonous brown recluse).

Maybe I can use the bug guts as an excuse for why my pirouettes weren’t up to par.

Probably not, though.

They haven’t been up to par for the last few classes.

And this was one of my best classes otherwise.

I earned praise during a difficult grande allegro combination (they were multiple, which makes me happy!) And while sloppy, my petite allegro was much better during this morning’s class.

And as is going to be the case on most Mondays, it was not the only class of the day.

I had Dawn C’s class tonight. I’ll be honest, her class maybe the biggest company class challenge I’ve had.

It’s not a cardio, kick you in the pants kind of class like Mr. O’s. It is far more formal than any other class I’ve had.

And we work on things we don’t do a lot in Mr. or Mrs. O, or Susan K.’s classes.

But I’m okay with that. We worked more on saute basque turns in class tonight. That’s a step that guys do, but one I don’t do enough to really become halfway good at.

It’s not the only step I haven’t normally done that we do in her class.

But I have no complaints. I think getting used to a new teacher and doing steps more and more than I’m not as familiar with will make me a better dancer.


I dance to heal

There are days when I want to dance.

Then, there are days I have to dance.

I didn’t mention it during yesterday’s post about Nutcracker audition, but Saturday was one of the days I needed to dance.

It kept my mind of what has been a difficult anniversary. Eleven years ago yesterday, my sister died of cancer.

I thought a lot last week about the days leading up to her death. The reason? It was not only the anniversary, but also the same days in the week.

It gets better each year, I think, but I was glad to be around life yesterday. It is the one major perk of having the majority of your classmates be teenage company members.

They are full of life. They are full of dreams.

And I needed to be around that yesterday.

I’ve said before that dance, especially ballet, has a spiritual quality for me.

No matter how stressed I am, no matter how depressed or sad I am, the moment I step into class and take my place at the barre, my spirits, my soul are lifted.

I’m not saying I leave those feelings at the door. Some days I dance distracted, and it shows. But even a day I struggle in ballet, I always leave class feeling much better than I how I felt when I enter the studio.

I’m able to lose myself and focus on something graceful and beautiful when I’m at the barre doing exercises, stretching and warming up.

And adagio, trying to stay balanced on one leg doing a developpe’ or doing an arabesque turn has a calming effect on me. Even as a male dancer, I’ll confess that I enjoy feeling graceful during the turns if I’m able to keep from wobbling. It picks me up when I’m sad. It lifts my spirits

And petite allegro, once the hardest part of class for me, can really pick me up if the music is peppy and I’m spot on with the steps (even if I’m sloppy).

And grande allegro, my favorite part of class, allows my soul to soar. Tour jetes, my favorite move, makes me feel like I’m flying. I feel the same way when I get elevation with my saute chats and grande jetes when I get elevation and my legs are straight. And I feel a certain satisfaction when I’m turning in the right direction without thinking during a balance’ turn in a tricky combination.

And pirouettes … the my constant struggle … I know of no cooler feeling when you’re turning, you’re spot on on demi-pointe, well balanced, it feels smooth and you do multiples like they’re nothing.

Ballet is very emotional for me.

It helps bring my sadness to joy.


No pressure Nutcracker audition

Studio 4 is normally a wide open studio at our school.

Not today. Normally around 20 of us will be in there on Saturday mornings for Mrs. O’s company class.

It was double that today. The reason? Nutcracker auditions.

Every dancer junior company and above was in class today. It was a day of somewhat examination by our teachers, and measuring by our wardrobe people.

A good class might mean a breakout role for a few. But really and truly, a bad class probably wouldn’t entirely mean a bad role. And it was actually a bit more relaxed than last year.

I think most of us went into the audition with an idea of what roles we’ll be cast as. I had no grand illusions of being cast as a cavalier. Unless there is some disturbance in the Force, I truly expect to play the same roles I did last year: Party dad, bed boy (rolling the bed from underneath during the battle scene) and the Lion in the Chinese dance in Act II.

I probably will not be the only dancer doing the same roles as last year. I would say almost the majority of the dancers in the room today will be doing the same roles (senior company girls dance Snow and Flowers for example). I’ve worked with some of the same girls in Chinese for two or three years since I’ve been doing the Lion role.

One thing I don’t think parents understand when they get upset their child is performing the same role they did in previous years is often they’re cast not as much because of their ability (well that does have something to do with it), but in a mass production like the Nutcracker, it is a lot easier on the teachers during rehearsals if they don’t have to re-teach the roles to everybody … that is especially the case if your company has a fall performance in addition to the Nutcracker like ours do.

I really don’t mind doing the parts that I do. I have been among the few who have roles in just about most of the major parts of the program. And party dad and Chines Lion are fun roles. Besides, in our production, the male roles are somewhat limited, especially in the second act. Cavalier, lead Russian, lead Spanish, Spanish corps. Our two young professionals will alternate between cavalier and the lead roles. And Spanish corps is usually reserved for young company guys (of course, there are not that many this year).

As for the audition itself, I thought I did OK. Struggled with my pirouettes. Petite allegro could have been better, but it was a lot better than my previous two classes. I thought I did well during grande allegro, and my tours en’lair I thought were OK.

Could have done better. But have done worse. I’m still shooting for that breakout class.

*****

Dancewear buying “fun”: Quotation marks are there for the sarcasm. Purchasing dancewear is always the one task as a male dancer I dread the most. Because of the epic fails with online ordering, I go to the reliable dancewear shop around the corner from the school.

My leather shoes have holes in them. My Sansha tights have holes in the same place. Got tired of seeing toenails appear through my shoes, so I retired them after three wonderful years of service (one perk of being a guy, we can wear our shoes until they fall apart).

Unfortunately for me, they didn’t have leather shoes that fit. So I am back with a pair of canvas split soles. I’ve worn a pair before. They were OK, but not nearly as durable as the leather shoes I’ve worn (I am keeping them as spares just in case).

The salesgirl also handed me three pairs of tights to try on. Here is where it is awkward for me in a dancewear shop. This place is really frilly, frou frou. And on Saturday morning, it is overrun with little girls and their parents (mostly moms, but a couple of dads were there) looking for dancewear for the various schools in the area.

I took one look at the dressing rooms (if they can be called that), and thought, I’m not trying the tights on. The dressing rooms didn’t have doors, but hot pink curtains that did not drop to the floor.

So I told the salesgirl I’ll take the Capezios. They look opaque enough, so I took the chance and bought them. I’ll find out later if it was worth the risk. If not, there’s always the Sansha tights with holes in the toes.

I’ve always been fascinated by the talk of ballet fashion among the women ballet bloggers that I follow, but for me, fashion boils down to this: I want shoes and tights that fit, that are durable, and for tights to cover areas that need to be covered. And trust me, I’m a one color guy unless I need a different color for a performance.

Just give me black.


The need to live a healthier lifestyle

I am healthier because I take ballet.

That’s a fact that I realize both physically and mentally.

When I returned to ballet at 39, I lost 45 pounds in a year. It was the first form of exercise I was able to consistently do in my adult life.

My sugar, my heart rate, my cholesterol are all at pretty good levels for man my age.

Being a non-smoker also contributes.

But I’ve also come to realize another important fact: Ballet is not enough.

I eventually gained about 15-20 of the pounds back. And even at my lowest weight, I was still a few pounds heavier than I wanted to be, and just couldn’t go any further.

There are a couple of reasons for that.

I may dance anywhere from 3 to 6 days a week, but I don’t eat like a dancer.

I don’t mean the anorexic, I only eat grass kind of dancer.

I eat like the sports writer I once was. I eat like the stressed-out single parent I’ve been most of my adult life. I eat like the late-night copy editor-page designer I’ve become. And the once-again college student pursuing a second degree in me hasn’t helped.

Fast-food, restaurant food, sports bar food, sodas, snack machines, microwave food, they have been the comfort foods, the convenience foods in my life that have been hard to give up.

I have friends who are into all of those “miracle” lose weight plans: ACE, Advocare …ect. I know that works for them. But that’s not me.

I need someone with nutritional knowledge who can help me plan affordable, healthier meals to help me live a more healthier life.

I also need an exercise routine to complement the ballet. I’ll be honest, I am not a self-motivator. Group exercise has always been something easier for me to do. That’s why ballet has worked when other things haven’t. I have someone who leads me, and others who are working toward the same things with me.

And a gym membership probably isn’t the answer. When your schedule revolves around kids, work, school and ballet, I feel I’ll get in a habit of paying for a gym membership I don’t really use. If I can find a place that allows you to pay as you go, that would be ideal.

Trying to come up with that healthier meal plan and coming up with that second form of exercise right now are two of my goals. Neither are that easy.

And they are just as tangible of goals as my dance goals: Being more consistent with my double pirouettes that I move on to triples, dance in a more complicated piece, perform another pas de deux and be a much technically cleaner, more fundamentally sound dancer than I am.


Two-a-day Mondays

Today marked the beginning of the season, and the school year.

And my year got off to a physically and mentally demanding start. My Monday dance schedule? 9:30 a.m. Open Intermediate with Mr. O, and company level with Dawn C, whom I’ve had as a substitute, but never a regular teacher. They go along with Open advance with Mr. O on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., and company level with Mrs. O on Saturday mornings at 10.

To be honest, I really can’t tell a big difference between Mr. O’s intermediate and advanced level open classes. Usually, the intermediate class has another adult or two, while the advanced are usually me and company kids, along with a couple of teachers who dance, and our two new male dancers hired to perform with the company.

Mr. O’s first few classes of the year are always of the “boot camp,” get you into shape variety. Today, he started off a little slow and basic, I was beginning to think “what gives?”

But then, it was like someone push the hyper-drive button. I think I was gasping for air the last 20 minutes or so, but man it was fun. I think I danced better during the most physically exhausting parts of class. My performance during grande allegro was about as good as its been.

As for Ms. Dawn’s class? Not as physically demanding, but a little more complicated with the combinations. I’ll be honest, it may have been more complicated because I’m not used to having her classes. I’m geared for how Mr.O, Mrs. O and Susan K teach. I’m sure I’ll catch on with her class, but it may take me some time.

Overall, I thought I had two pretty good classes. Technique could have been better. And the progress I’ve made with petite allegro didn’t show today. And my pirouettes, well, they sucked. But I’m still trying.

And today was my first class with the new company guys, not counting their tryout in a free class at the end of last school year (I believe I mentioned that in a previous post). They’re pretty good, but I believe they struggled a little trying to get used to new teachers (who doesn’t? right?).

And I’ll be honest, I loved having them there. I love dancing with the company girls, but I’ll be honest, having a couple of guys who are pretty good in class really push me to a higher level. Hope they love the competition from the old guy. I missed that over the summer.


Our performance of Billy the Kid

Our performance of Billy the Kid

From last spring. I’m standing to the far left in the back.