But first, we dance…

My super experience is nearly underway! Eek!

Excited?

Yup.

Nervous?

Yup.

Worried I’ll be pirated-out three weeks from now?

A bit.

And yet… when I got an e-mail from BBS announcing a Le Corsaire master class for adults it sounded like the perfect way to kick off the rehearsal week.

I think the master class concept for the adults is a new-ish thing on the part of BBS (at least, I hadn’t heard of them doing it before this year). I attended one in the spring for last season’s Swan Lake. It was taught by a company member (corps member Corina Gill who has since been promoted to second soloist!) and in two hours we did a traditional barre followed by an opportunity to learn some choreography.

This master class was a bit different. Though it was advertised as a link-in to the fall production, the class itself was a traditional structure with no choreography elements. I was a bit disappointed by this, though I certainly understand the challenge of trying to teach repertoire to a large group with widely-varying technical background and odd male-female ratios. The fabulous part, though, was being taught by a BB principal dancer… none other than Lasha Khozashvili.

As a side note, one of my former coworkers and I had a running disagreement over the best male BB dancer. I was camp Jeffrey, she was camp Lasha. Of course that rat Jeffrey left us for ABT which left a gaping hole in my heart. But since that time I saw a few ballets with Lasha in the lead roles and I have to say that he definitely wormed his way into my heart. While he doesn’t have the youthful bounding or exude the pure joy of dance the way Jeffrey does he has a whole other aspect of technical brilliance and his characterization… oh man. Jeffrey could make me smile, but Lasha can make me sob and that’s a whole other level of wow.

Anyway, it turns out that Mr. Khozashvili is not only a talented dancer, but an excellent teacher, as well. I’m always a bit nervous about taking class from someone I haven’t studied with before, because no matter how excellent a dancer one is, teaching requires a whole other skill set. Some people can do, but just can’t explain. That was hardly the case here. The class wasn’t too terribly difficult (it was an open class intended for all abilities), but he didn’t shy away from giving corrections, particularly about musicality and accents and coordinating the head and arms. He spent time during each exercise to give feedback on things he was seeing and offer suggestions. But he also kept a sense of humor and light-heartedness which kept class from getting all scary.

The class was followed by a half-hour Q&A time. While I think the organizers intended that the questions would focus on Le Corsaire, it ended up being more questions about Mr. Khozashvili’s ballet experience as a whole. He talked about growing up in Georgia (the country, not the state) and how he got into ballet. People always seem to ask dancers about what they eat and how they exercise outside of the studio and I had to laugh at his answers because they were so… human! He’s like, “Well, if I want a burger, then I eat a burger!” and said something along the lines of, “I don’t lift weights because I get too bulky and I spend all day lifting women anyway, so it’s not like I really need to” (except when they did Mahler’s 3rd last fall… then he took up swimming because he needed to build the stamina to get through being on stage dancing for 90% of the entire ballet).

Overall I loved not only being able to take class with such a talented pro, but also the chance to see what a kind, caring human being he is. Great way to kick off my super week(s)!

ASDP16 – The Review

So… year 3 of BBS’s ASDP is in the books. It was kind of a tough year, both for the program and for me personally. Lots going on in my life that kind of distracted me from the task at hand and I’m not sure if I got as much out of it as I did in years past and lots of changes going on at BBS that made it a bit chaotic.

However… there were some great aspects.

First off was the optional enrichment session. This year we chose our enrichment option for each week. We had a choice between modern or the new conditioning program, so we could do all one or the other or one week of each. I chose conditioning the first week and, though tempted by modern, felt that I wanted to continue on the conditioning path. So I’m not sure how the modern program went (though it seemed well-attended), but I liked the cross-training aspect. It was designed by a trainer who has worked extensively with the company dancers and the pre-pro students, but has a pretty diverse clientele and background. A lot of what we did focused on dynamic stretching, core strengthening, and balance. It wasn’t quite as crippling as I expected and I did learn some exercises I could carry with me. The trainer has his own studio in the area and I’d love to learn more about what he does and continue training. Actually, what I’d really like to do is learn from him how to train other dancers. There are so many myths and misinformation passed around in dance (especially ballet) circles about how to train/stretch/work that need to be corrected and I’d love to be part of that. Food for thought.

As for our technique classes… well, each year I’ve waffled about whether to take class at the intermediate or advanced level. The past two years I stuck with intermediate and signed up for it again this year. The first day one of the dancers I know from prior years saw me in the hall beforehand and we chatted a bit about levels. She had also signed up for intermediate but was considering advanced and we had a lot of similar thoughts on the topic. After our technique class that day she came up to me and said that she was ready for a change and thought that I should bump up, too. And to be honest I was feeling like it was time, myself. So after our allegro and pirouettes workshop (with the advanced level) that evening I asked the teacher whether it would be appropriate to switch. He not only agreed but said that the current enrollment in advanced was pretty puny, so it would help to even out the numbers a bit. A few of us ended up moving up, actually, though it was still a fairly small class… around 12 people most days.

I didn’t feel like the advanced level was particularly more challenging than intermediate, though I suppose there was more of an expectation that students had a familiarity with the material. I felt like I was pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of ability, which was good. Overall some good classes, though I felt that we were lacking in the amount of hands-on instruction that I’d been accustomed to in the past. This might be related to the particular teachers we had this year. Some do more of the walking around and poking, others prefer to give a combination and stay at the front of the room watching. I know which method I generally prefer, so I missed getting the in-depth instruction, but maybe that’s part of being in the advanced level… the assumption that you know what you need to work on? Not sure. No major revelations to report from technique class, but of course it’s always great to get daily classes in.

For the last part of the evening (other than that first day with the workshop I mentioned above) we generally had rep or variations, both of which were from Giselle, Act I. We only did the variation two days and we did not present this at the end as we had last year. I didn’t mind terribly, since it was a variation that involved a lot of use of the stage and those are always hard to perform en masse, but I did feel like we blasted through the choreography and I never really got it. I should’ve studied Natalia Osipova a bit more, I suppose:

Our rep was the friends piece. Since the intermediate and advanced levels were combined we did end up having to split into two casts to perform this piece. It was slightly less exhausting than the endless ballonés from last year’s Sleeping Beauty rep, with the biggest challenge coming from trying to stay in neat lines and formations. The performance at the end went off better than expected, even if the prep work did resemble an attempt at herding cats!

Our one “special” event was a Q&A with Corina Gill and Sarah Wroth which went over great. It was very informal, with Sarah kind of leading the event, but there were some great questions and I enjoyed hearing from both of them.

My overall impressions of the two weeks were… well, that I certainly hope they have plans to name a new Head of Adult Programming, because I was feeling the lack of anyone being in charge. There was no constant reassuring presence as in previous years and I think everyone’s experience would have been enhanced by someone taking charge. Even the faculty seemed frazzled and it left me wondering whether I’ll bother to spend the money next year or look to find something else. But I’m glad I went back and got to dance with so many amazing people. The students there really are a friendly and encouraging bunch. I don’t know that I would have stepped up to the next level if it weren’t for a classmate’s prodding and that support goes a long way to making or breaking an experience. With another person passionate about teaching adults I have the confidence that the program can return and surpass its past successes.

BBS-ASDP Round 3!

Signed up kind of last minute to do the Boston Ballet School’s adult summer program again this year.

The cost keeps creeping up and with an emergency HVAC system replacement in my condo earlier this year I was questioning whether it was fiscally responsible to do it, but… it was a great experience the last two years and I appreciate the opportunity to escape the routine of my regular dance existence, so I entered my credit card number and clicked submit before I could talk myself out of it for the 4,000th time.

Program starts Monday. I’d been stalking the website to see when they were going to post the day-by-day schedule. It finally went up this week and… hm. Not nearly the variety of teachers I’ve seen in the past. Actually the entire schedule looks a bit… paltry.

So I did some googling and found this. BBS’s head of adult programming took off for sunnier skies, it seems. Not surprising, but definitely disappointing. I think he was supposed to have taken a job in San Fran last fall and somehow ended up not, but clearly the writing was on the wall that he was on his way out. It’ll be a tough loss for the school on the whole, but I’m particularly nervous about what this spells for BBS’s adult program.

I guess the next couple weeks will give some insight to that. Cautiously optimistic. Sigh.

A couple things I noted on the schedule…

Lots of familiar teachers. I felt like there was a pretty big variety last year, especially in the Intermediate level, but this year it seems to be just a small handful of BBS faculty regulars. I’ve taken class with all of them except one and it’s a great group, but bummed to be missing out on some of the teachers we got to experience last year.

Intermediate and Advanced are combined again this year for Rep/Variations. That’s how it was my first year and it was kind of a shit-show. I think they did it because originally there weren’t enough people signed up for those two levels to justify having separate rep/variation classes, though they must have gotten a bunch of last-minute registrations, because there ended up being close to 50 people between the two. Last year they kept the levels separate and I thought everything went much more smoothly. But this year we’re combined again. Whether this is due to low registration or a lack of interested faculty… hard to say.

As for the “extras” (lectures, etc.) there appears to be only one this year: the company dancer Q&A which I assume will consist of Sarah Wroth and Corina Gill since they’re both on the schedule to teach that day. Sarah spoke two years ago and I took a Swan Lake master class from Corina this winter. They’re both great ladies, so I’m looking forward to hearing from them, but I’m kind of disappointed that’s the only “special” thing on the docket. No PT lecture (which generally devolved into people just asking advice on their own aches and pains, but did have some good info), no history lecture, no opportunity to attend company class.

Lest you think I’m all doom and gloom, there are things I’m quite excited about.

First off is a new conditioning program that they’re offering in the enrichment session. This replaces the Pilates option from prior years. I really liked Pilates, but am psyched for a more comprehensive training program. The guy teaching it works with the company dancers and school year-round, so should be a great experience and hopefully will offer some insights I can take into my regular life for cross-training, etc.

Also, the other option during the enrichment session is (still) modern, but there will be two teachers this year. I liked the one who taught previously (and who is still there), but am looking forward to another perspective since modern isn’t something I get to do as often as I’d like.

And then there’s the rep/variations which will be from Giselle. Though it’s one of the classics I’m sadly completely unacquainted with it, so I’m glad to getting to know it a bit!

Will try to post updates as I go. Clearly this blog has not been at the forefront of my priority list lately, but I’ll try to consciously move it up a bit!

ASDP 2015 – Week One

Blogapathy is still reigning here, I suppose.

Either that or I’ve become too cool for school now that I’m an ASDP veteran.

Not sure whether my readers (are you still here?) will be rejoicing or lamenting my lack of minute-to-minute chronicles of the ASDP experience, but I do want to keep some sort of record here. And now that week one has wrapped up, this is the perfect time…

This year I’ve got peeps with me, which is pretty cool. Although I really enjoyed my anonymity last year (I didn’t know any of the teachers or students in the program and it was kind of nice to dance on a clean slate), it’s also nice to share the experience with people you have an established relationship with. I’d mentioned that one of the kids (well, technically an adult now) was joining me for the core program this year. Well, a few weeks ago I brought up the ASDP in conversation with someone at work and was surprised a few days later when she started asking me questions about it. I was all… “Wait a minute, do you… dance?!” It turns out she had danced as a kid and was thinking of getting into it again. I mentioned that they had beginner and elementary levels and between the two she should find a good space to dip her toe back in the water. So she bit the bullet and signed up, too.

The program is set up pretty much the same as last year. The core program generally includes an hour and a half technique class followed by an hour of something else. Most often the “something else” is repertoire, but can also be a technique workshop, variations class, or a lecture of some sort. Then there is an optional enrichment session that takes place for an hour before the core program. Last year it alternated between modern and Pilates. This year students got to choose which of the two to take (though we could pick between the two and alternate if we wanted to).

So let’s start with the enrichment session. I got there the first day and the girl behind the desk asked which I was taking and I told her I wanted to do both. “So which days are you going to do which?” she asked me. Um… I thought YOU were supposed to give ME that information, not vice versa. I dunno! Isn’t there a plan?

Well, I ended up doing modern on day one, dragging coworker with me. Helena Froelich is teaching this class again this year and I enjoy her technique… as I mentioned last year, it’s very similar to the technique one of my modern professors in college taught, so it gives me a sense of happy nostalgia. The following day, I did Pilates (coworker in tow, once again). Same teacher as last year there, too. I hadn’t done Pilates since then, so it took some remembering, but it came back to me. Coworker decided that she was going to stick with Pilates from here on out since she was worried that modern might be a bit much based on the length of her dance hiatus and she figured something more fitness-based was a bit less intimidating. I returned to modern on Wednesday, but this was when I realized that the whole “choose-your-own-adventure/enrichment” method was not really as well thought-out as I expected. The people who were in modern on Tuesday had started learning a combination and Wednesday they were adding on to that combination… and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. So at that point I decided that it would be Pilates from here on out. I’m bummed to miss out on modern, but I just find it too frustrating to spend that much of a class lost and confused. And yes, I could ask for more of a breakdown of the combination, but it doesn’t seem fair to those who are doing modern every day to have to slow down to accommodate those who are switchers, so… rawr.

On to technique classes… first up, the levels: first day we had an abbreviated class since we had a welcome meeting that cut into class time. During the meeting they mentioned that the first technique class should be thought of as a placement class and that if the teacher felt we would fit better in another level that they would sort things out there. Which is good. It’s kind of hard sometimes to tell from a description which class will fit you best. I had told my coworker to sign up for elementary initially since she did have pretty extensive ballet background as a kid, so she might be fine there and, if not, she could always go to beginner, but better to try the more advanced level and see how it went. She reported back after class that she had, in fact, been demoted. She felt like the teacher worried she might be offended by this news, to which she was all, “Um, no, that’s fine!” She knew that elementary was a bit ambitious and I think was kind of relieved to be given the go-ahead to drop down to something more manageable. My collegiate friend and I, though… well, our experience was a bit different. After day one we were feeling a bit frustrated for the opposite reason… we were bored. But no one said boo to us. And we were left wondering whether we should say anything to anyone or hope that it would get more challenging or… something? After day two my friend ended up switching to the advanced level. And I… well, I just stayed in intermediate.

Why? I’m still questioning myself about that. Part of it, I guess, is knowing that my friend is, in fact, a more advanced dancer than me. She was always one of the best dancers at our studio and, weird as it may be, I’ve looked up to her since I started there, despite being nearly old enough to be her… uh, big sister… because she is talented and has such focus and meticulous attention to detail. So I can see that she should be in the advanced class. But… I’m not sure that the same applies to me. I’ve joked that she is my sister from another mister, but I don’t really want people to think I’m comparing myself to her when she is clearly far more talented than I am. So… that’s thing one. Thing two is that, while intermediate class can be a bit slow at times the upside is that I feel competent in there! Not perfect, mind you. I screw up plenty. As one of our instructors reminded us, #thestruggleisreal and boy, is it ever, but at the same time that feeling of competence gives me more confidence and I feel like I can get out there and actually dance full out. I worry that I would completely lose that in the advanced class, that I would retreat back to the shadows and hope that no one will see me. Then there’s thing three: mysterious injury to inner thigh (don’t want to aggravate it further) and thing four: I mapped out all the teachers for both intermediate and advanced and there are a bunch of teachers that I wouldn’t get to experience if I was in the advanced level and that would make me sad.

Speaking of teachers, so far we’ve had Hird, Jeffries, Beckwith, Leeth, and Kelley (any BBS regulars will probably recognize at least a few of those names). Jeffries was the only one I’d never had class with before, but this year we have worked with him nearly every day. First day he did our workshop (pirouettes & allegro) and he’s also working with the intermediates on our repertoire piece (see below). Both he and C. Hird are very technically-focused with clean combinations and clear corrections. Beckwith teaches a very beautiful, flowy class, emphasizing the “dance” part of it. Her classes freaked me out last year because I never felt like I quite got what she was looking for, but this year I enjoyed her class very much. And Kelley is like the best of all worlds: very technical, but also very focused on port de bras and épaulment and where the eyes should be focused… he’s great at explaining the coordination of all those elements, which a lot of teachers gloss over or just expect you to figure it out yourself.

We had three nights of repertoire last week. We’re all learning pieces from Sleeping Beauty this year and the intermediates are doing the nymph dance from… is it Act II? I’m not sure. I heard it’s on YouTube, but I could find nothing resembling the dance we’re doing, so don’t quote me on that. I guess it’s where Aurora meets the Lilac Fairy and all her friends. It’s rather aerobic, that’s for sure. Lots of ballotés which occasionally makes us look more like a band of deranged leprechauns than adorable nymphs flitting around, but it’s getting there. Mr. Jeffries set it and worked with us the first two days, but then Gene Murray (who I talked about here) worked with us on the third day to “clean” it. I thought we were going to give the poor man a stroke… it was pretty abominable. But it got… better? (Still time to work on it this week, thank goodness!)

One night was variations with C. Hird. The men from elementary and advanced were pulled in to worked on the Bluebird variation while the intermediate ladies learned the Aurora variation from Act III. I was able to find the choreo for this one on YouTube. Not only that, but it’s Boston Ballet’s version with Misa Kuranaga!

After the variations class we also had a physical therapy lecture with one of the PTs who works with BB company dancers. Most of the time was spent with people asking questions about their own injuries and the info was pretty much the same as what she gave to last year’s group, but I liked having this as part of the intensive. She also gave us the name of a dance medicine doc that I am planning to call about this nagging hip issue I’ve been dealing with for the past two months. Bonus is that they’re located at Boston Children’s Hospital which is just a couple blocks from the hospital where I work.

Overall, a great week. It’s tiring (especially after putting in a full day at the office), but I’m getting different things out of it the second time around and it’s nice to see some of my own growth from last year.

The adventure continues this week… stay tuned!

Whatever helps…

Was in a cute gourmet grocery chain this weekend (the kind with classical music and dim lighting that makes you want to linger and lull you into buying overpriced goodies) and spied this among the teas:

IMG_20150803_152801600

Hmmm… as I recall from last year’s ASDP the first couple days did render me a bit stiff. Decided I should add this to my office tea stash (I have a huge stash of tea despite hardly ever drinking the stuff… I think I like the ritual of making tea more than the actual drinking of it).

Haven’t brewed any yet, so can’t say whether it works or not. Mostly bought it as a gag gift for myself, but who knows, maybe it’ll turn me into Gumby. Worth a shot especially since I managed to tweak one of my inner hip flexors a couple months ago and it’s taking forever to recover. I’ll take any assistance I can get!

T-minus two hours until the start of ASDP 2015… woot woot!!!

It’s coming around again…

ASDP time!

(That’s the Boston Ballet School Adult Summer Dance Program for the uninitiated out there.)

While I’m a bit disappointed that my home company isn’t doing a summer ballet this year, I am extremely thrilled to be able to take advantage of this awesome opportunity for a second consecutive year!

And, even better, a fellow dancer from the home studio goes to college in the greater Boston area and stayed on campus this summer to do an internship and I just found out that she is going to be joining me! It was nice to be kind of anonymous last year, but I’m looking forward to sharing this with her since I’m sure she’ll appreciate it as much as I did!

I chronicled the ins and outs of my time there last year, but if you missed it or want a refresher here’s my (sort of) quick and dirty recap. Hoping to renew my writing inspiration by blogging along again this year, though might not be QUITE as in depth since it won’t have quite the same level of novelty. Stay tuned!

If someone asks: “Can you do a cartwheel?”

…make sure you know why they are asking the question before admitting ANYTHING!

So, Nutcracker casting this year…

I was chosen to be a Snowflake and a Rosebud. I’ve been a Snowflake every year. It’s an honor to be in it, so I was relieved to be chosen for that again. Rosebuds are typically new people each year, but they recast the two of us from last year. Which is fine. It’s an easy role, but I love the music and being part of that scene.

But… okay, I was a TEENSY bit disappointed not to have something else. Usually we average three roles apiece and I couldn’t help feeling like I had really bombed the audition and was getting a subtle hint from the adjudicators that it was time to consider a new hobby.

Of course, it’s doubtful there was anything personal about it. We’ve got some stellar young dancers who were given a ton of roles, as it should be. I’m one of the middle-of-the-road dancers and am happy to be given the opportunity to play the roles I do. So I sulked in the privacy of my own home, got over it, and moved on.

But… I’ve been to this rodeo enough times to know that there was probably something else in store.

A couple weeks into rehearsals we were chatting in class and one of the party moms mentioned that she needed to get character shoes. Since I’ve given her some pointe shoes that haven’t worked for me, I knew we’re around the same size and piped up, “Gee, you should have told me, you could have borrowed mine so you didn’t have to spend the money!”

The director looked over at me and said, “Well, actually, you may want to keep your character shoes. I was planning to talk to you… one of the maids dropped out and…”

“And you need me to be a maid,” I filled in.

“Well, yeah, maybe, I mean, I can ask so-and-so, too, but…” she trailed off.

Maid Rori, reporting for duty!

Maids don’t really dance, but we do get some fun acting stuff. I am the stern, no-nonsense maid. It suits me, really. I’m finally finding a purpose for all that Downton Abbey binge-watching!

So there we go, three roles.

A couple days later I was in class on a Saturday and the director looks up at me and says, “Can you stay late to understudy for Hot Chocolate?” We don’t often have formal understudies, but one of the girls cast in the dance was temporarily banned from pointe work due to a sports injury (stop playing sports, kids!) and another one is pregnant (I should specify that the pregnant one is a woman, NOT a girl… it’s all on the up-and-up!) so there was some anxiety that would be allayed by having an extra person know the dance. Which I was cool with learning; while I’d been in Hot Chocolate twice, they were changing the choreography this year and I figured it would be fun to learn the new piece.

So that was all well and good.

Then a couple Saturdays later I was getting ready for class and saw that the two choreographers were having a hurried conference. Through the closed French doors I caught the eye of the director who pointed and mouthed something to me. “What?” I said, puzzled.

I cracked open the door and poked my head in.

“I said, can you do a cartwheel?”

“Um, yeah, I can, but…”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I knew I had made a grave error. The other choreographer said, “Good, we need you to learn Candy Canes.” Butbutbut…. Candy Canes is danced by CHILDREN!!! Adults don’t do Candy Canes (see: cartwheel)! “Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “Many of them are taller than you, you’ll fit right in.” Phooey.

Thankfully another child was found who wanted to learn the dance. But the choreographer asked me to learn it anyway. Just in case. It’s always good to have extra people who know the part, you know. So there I was, like the one old candy cane you find at the bottom of the container of Christmas ornaments, left over from last year, ready to crumble into bits the moment you touch it next to a package of brand new, fresh candy canes. I muddled through well enough. Things only got vaguely hairy when I had to jump through my own candy cane hoop like a jump rope and then try to cartwheel (on my bad side, of course) to the knee. And, of course, all my fellow adults thought this was thoroughly entertaining.

It was fun to learn, but I was thoroughly relieved to learn that the original Candy Cane appeared to have recovered from her illness and will be able to continue on as planned. Whew.

So… lesson learned. Bemoan nothing, even in your head, lest you be appointed chief cook and bottle washer!

And… don’t admit to any proficiency in tumbling skills without knowing why you’re being queried!😉