Thursday, August 2, 2012

No Pain, No Gain

My world has been a little crazy lately, so I apologize for the delay in posting. I have a feeling this is what it's going to be like throughout my contract with D2. I've been spending 7-8 hours a day commuting to and dancing with Philadanco while also working in the mornings. Situations like this stress the importance of enough sleep, stamina, and a healthy diet. I drink a lot of water while I dance, and if I don't drink enough, usually my body will let me know by giving me a headache or fatigue. I've also been experimenting with what kinds of snacks and how much works best for a long night of dancing.

Basically, since I've last posted we've had 2 weeks of ballet and are currently in our Horton week. Last Wednesday we had our first performance (which is the reason why this post is titled "No Pain, No Gain"). But first, let's talk about ballet. It's interesting how 2 people could be teaching the same exact style of dance, but their classes are so different. That's what happened when we had 2 teachers for ballet 2 weeks in a row. The first teacher spent a lot of time at the barre and a lot of time talking about the objective and the anatomy of what we were doing. His barre exercises would switch back and forth from one side to the other without stopping, whereas with the other teacher we would do one side and then pause before the other side. The teacher for the second week didn't talk as much as the first; He would give corrections here and there, but it was mainly about enhancing our technique by doing.

Some tidbits I learned in ballet the past 2 weeks:
  • Everything at the barre prepares you for the center.
  • Keep breathing (I tend to forget this a lot).
  • Ballet is not a tense, held, statue-like position. It is a living, breathing thing.
  • The center of gravity in ballet is your solar plexus (the center part at the top of your ribs).
  • Turn out even more when you let go of the barre for a balance.
  • Where you are in space is part of the step; It's not only how it's executed, but where it travels.

I talked about "Concerto" in my last post, and that was the dance that I performed at City Hall last Wednesday. "Concerto" is the hardest dance I've ever done. It feels like I'm having an asthma attack by the end of it. I am in every section of the piece and I'm constantly going on and off stage. But every time I rehearsed it full out, I felt my stamina growing a tiny bit. Donald always reminded us to breathe in rehearsal. I think it's funny that we have to be reminded of that, but when you're focused on getting through a piece and doing it well, you forget about breathing! He also told us to pace ourselves, which was great advice. Most of us were trying to go all out and give it our all throughout the whole piece because that's what we're taught, but then by the 3rd section we're so tired that we can barely get through it and that's visible to the audience. Since we want the whole dance to look good, he told us to conserve our energy and find places where we could hold back a little bit. I think that's good for any strenuous dance. Also, the stage we performed on was outdoors and it didn't have wings, so we had to look presentable while we were waiting for our cue and running backstage, despite the fact that we were dripping with sweat and couldn't catch our breath.

You would think that being outdoors would cause less than perfect conditions for dancing, but it couldn't have been more perfect! The stage was set up in the center of City Hall and it was huge with brand new marley floor. The weather was beautiful, we were in the shade, and the turn out was amazing (pun intended). The bleachers were filled as soon as we started rehearsing an hour before the show! We had great support and a wonderful reaction from the audience members. They even clapped for us after we marked through the dances during rehearsal. Donald is very hard on us during rehearsal; The movement and the spacing always has to be perfect. So performing for the first time was very, very nerve-racking. Not only do I want to live up to the high standards, but I had just been thrown into this piece less than a week before. At one point when I was off stage I almost forgot where I had to go next, but everything went off without a hitch.

Here are all of the photos that my mom took of the rehearsal and performance:

No pain, no gain is like the motto of dancing for many reasons. It refers to physical pain as well as mental and emotional challenges. There was physical pain at the performance because of the texture of the brand new floor. Since we dance with bare feet, by the end of our rehearsal I had bubbles and blisters all of the bottom of my feet. One girl even had a blister that split open and started bleeding. When we performed, every time I went off stage and came back to reality for a second, I realized that my feet felt like they were on fire. The floor was beautiful and we're so grateful that we had an amazing stage like that, but the point is, the show must go on no matter what happens. I already mentioned the emotional challenge of being nervous and trying to dance up to high standards. Your stomach might be in knots before a performance, but all you can do is try your best and if you truly believe everything will go well, it will. A mental challenge that I constantly have as a "newbie" in the company is remembering so much choreography. Since our performance we've been working on 3 other pieces for future shows; 2 of them were performed last Wednesday, and the newbies are just getting caught up because Donald wants to add us to them. The third piece is called "Bound" and we had to learn that one off of a tape. This seemed like a daunting task at first because you can't slow down a tape and you have to reverse everything. But, I found out that I am really good at picking up choreography quickly that way :)

As I said earlier, we are currently taking Horton with the one and only, Milton Myers. Milton is a resident teacher and choreographer at Philadanco, and a master of the Horton technique. Horton is probably my favorite style of modern, and I think it's because I like the challenge. I always leave a Horton class sweating and tired, not to mention extremely sore the next day. We do something called laterals where you take your entire torso from side to side, so my abs and sides are killing me! This technique has a lot to do with the torso either bending forward in a flat back, to the side in laterals, or twisting in a spiral. During all of these exercises your legs and pelvis stay stationary and your torso is isolated. That's why a Horton class is such a good workout. The Horton technique is very strong, sharp, and linear, although it may have some other qualities in choreography. It is the foundational technique for modern companies such as Philadanco and Alvin Ailey (Philadanco's sister company). I look forward to building upon what I already know and growing even more in the next 2 classes.

Next week we have modern/contemporary, then Dunham. D2 also has another performance coming up on August 17th, so stay tuned!

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