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About Me:

My name is Olivia and I am a senior at Butler University. I spend most of my time in Lilly Hall as a BFA Dance Performance major. When not in rehearsal or ballet class, I write papers for my English Literature second major. In my super-abundant, never-lacking, this-is-highly-sarcastic spare time, I attempt to cook in my apartment kitchen, watch Youtube videos of ballet, knit sweaters that never seem to come to an end, and read books both silly and serious. If I could take any class at Butler just for kicks, I'd go for DiffyQ.

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Archive: December 2011

New Year, New School

Happy New Year’s Eve! For high school seniors, this is especially poignant, since the year will mark your graduation and subsequent first months in college.

I ran into a high school senior at the Jewish Community Center yesterday, where we were both taking a ballet class. She asked me about Butler, and we spent the better part of an hour talking about colleges. As a college senior, I was surprised by how I could look back over four years and see the large sweep of events — how this aspect of the liberal arts was wonderful (physics class), how this part was really obnoxious (mixed-up degree plans). Thinking about colleges inspired me to create this list.

List of 6 Qualities You Should Consider When Deciding Where to Go For College and How Butler Relates to the Aforementioned Attributes:

1. Degree Plan

We attend college in the hopes of learning more about our areas of interest in the hopes of getting a job in the hopes of attaining some personal goal, whether it be personal fulfillment or world-changing innovation. So make sure the college you pick will let you take the classes you want.

Also, make sure the college is up to your caliber. You want to major in pharmacy or dance? Butler provides a challenging environment for both areas of study. I considered attending another college when I was a senior, but the brochure for their English Department contained typos and I was not overly impressed by the professionalism or talent of the dance department. Butler was different — it offered a solid English program in a liberal arts setting where I could concentrate on a high level of classical ballet.

2. The Food

Do you have dietary restrictions? Are you vegetarian? The first two years of study at Butler mandate your participation in a meal plan, and Butler isn’t the easiest place to be vegetarian. There are always options — but having visited my sister’s college, I must say that Butler really could not be considered a leader in environmental issues. This means vegetarians at Butler will be able to find something to eat, but they’ll have to work a lot harder than if they went to a place like Dickinson.

However, Butler is revamping its main dining hall in Atherton Union over this winter break. I also haven’t been on a meal plan for two years, so things might have changed. I know several people who are vegetarian, and they did just fine. Now, if you are vegan… not sure. I know the university has concentrated on this aspect of campus life, and they are trying to improve. Talk to the dining services if you have concerns.

3. Cost

These aren’t always the most fun aspects of a college to consider. Who wants to calculate how far into debt one will have slipped by the end of four-ish years? Cost should not be prohibitive, especially in terms of applying for college. After that acceptance letter, you can always discuss financial options with the Office of Admission and Financial Aid. Money sometimes equates reality, however, and a college decision might come down to cost. Sad but true.

4. Location

Always dreamed of living in the Midwest, where the corn fields stretch across a very flat plain and one may spot windmills? (Windmills! I say. We don’t have those on the East Coast!) College offers the chance to see a new place, to live with snow or alligators or windmills. (Note: I’m exaggerating here. I don’t know of any windmills directly in the Indianapolis area, but the drive to Chicago has certainly/clearly left a great impression on me.)

A word on location: You should factor the cost of travel when looking at quality number three…

5. Teaching Style

This becomes extremely important for a dance major, though I’m not sure how much it applies to other disciplines. I’m sure there are connections, but I’m too lazy at the moment to seek them out.

Do you want to focus on classical ballet? Balanchine? Modern? A balance of the above? Butler’s first focus rests squarely on classical ballet, but the curriculum is wide enough with jazz, contemporary pas, theater dance, modern (no straight style, but taught by a former member of both Paul Taylor and Martha Graham’s company) (this professor is truly one of the gems of the dance department, corny as that may sound), and so on to create a versatile dancer.

6. Breadth of Study

Perhaps this is just my liberal arts background talking, but I think one of the pillars of higher learning is breadth of study. Concentration on a major all but guarantees depth, but the liberal arts mindset — a real liberal arts which both requires and inspires students to do more than brush past outside fields of study — provides context for the primary interest.

For example. The liberal arts requirements mandated I take a science course. A trick of the university scheduling offered PH 201 as a course which would fulfill that requirement. The opportunity to take a higher level science course and the requirement that I take at least five hours of science let me explore something completely different. If the class had not been mandated, I would never have taken it. If the classes that fulfilled the science requirement were not rigorous, I would never have gotten so much value out of those five credit hours. I acquired a deeper appreciation for the elegance and complexity of the world and rekindled my high school love of math as well as my long-time love of science.

Taking classes in physics might not be appealing if your only interest seems to be ballet. You might want only to dance, not to sit in a classroom memorizing names from dance history or singing solfege in a piano studio. The same applies to other areas of study at Butler. But Butler’s great strength does lie, I believe, in the liberal arts, and in the range of study it affords its students. Go for the liberal arts institutions. You’ll come out of four years knowing things you never expected to learn.

Who wants to receive exactly what one bargained for?

Looking for a Job

This winter break has been characterized, colored, and otherwise influenced by the one large event looming in my life: audition season.

Dance jobs are not like normal jobs. Companies hold large “cattle call” auditions from January-May, and you might not be notified until the late spring (and beyond) of any job offers. They are unstable and do not pay well. Contracts generally run between 25-40 weeks of the year — dancers must seek other work (often guesting so as to stay in shape) during the summer layoff.

I really want a dancing job.

As a graduating senior, I will travel to auditions (mostly in Chicago, but likely some as far as San Francisco)  every weekend, probably on Sundays. As soon as I’ve finished editing performance video, I’ll send my resumé/photos/DVD to other companies not offering auditions close to me or requesting materials.

Oh, yeah, I’ll take twenty credit-hours, complete my senior English essay, work with visiting repetiteur Kevin Irving to learn Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero, and bake at least one loaf of bread. (My sister gave me a World Breads cookbook for Christmas. I can’t let her down.)

Senior English Essay

Thinking about becoming an English major at Butler? You’ll need a senior essay to graduate, whether you are a English Literature, English Creative Writing, or even an English-concentration education major.

What is the senior essay? It’s a long paper on a topic of your choice. These are usually written in a 400-level seminar class and honed in the “Senior Essay” class, which will soon be known by the much cooler name of “Advanced Academic Writing.” I will take this course, along with a class taught by the head of the department and her colleague on Midrash. I am so excited for the Midrash class, and I’m sure I’ll plague you with details once that gets underway.

Back to the Senior Essay. Having taken quite a few upper-level English courses by this late stage in my college game, I had a variety of papers to chose to polish into senior essay readiness.

I went with BSI. Since I put so much effort into the project this summer, I’d like to finish it. Novel idea, huh? Wales and Ireland, I shall presently make my great return!

 

Dance Photos

I’ve been trying not to think too too much about dance auditions this coming spring, since the whole process seems quite daunting. But I’ve finally gotten my dance photos taken which will go in my resumé. A fellow dance major was kind enough to take me to his home in Cleveland and help with the four-hour photo session. If that isn’t friendship, I don’t know what is!

The process wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, although I was surprisingly sore afterwards. I did not realize that taking a photo of, say, a brisé, would require me to brisé fifty times in a row without stopping. The photographer was brilliant, talented, and exceedingly patient, as was his apprentice/assistant. As was the friend who stayed the entire time to help.

Intimidating at first glance...

I took my headshot first because I tried some with my hair down (pre-bun). That took longer than I thought it would, and I felt pretty awkward sitting on a chair smiling for ages and ages. The dance photos were more as expected. Seeing pictures of oneself can be helpfully revealing. I did not realize my arm was practically vertical in what I termed “the ninja jump.” Whoops. Body awareness.

Anyhow, I can’t wait to see the pictures. I hope from these I can pick a few really strong ones to give out with my resumé come spring… and the audition season. Much as I’m dreading auditioning (nerves, nerves) (also, I despise scheduling, and auditioning is more scheduling than anything else, at least at this point), I feel anxious for the process to begin. Let’s find a job!

Wish me luck. (And congratulations to Steph with her wonderful news!)

Home Sweet Home

I’ve finally home! After Nutcracker, then dance finals, then academic finals (aka writing papers till I drop), then a lovely weekend at Butler, then taking dance resumé photos in Cleveland (story for later), then a flight through Atlanta to Richmond (as per usual), and I finally made it home to my sisters and parents and rabbits and so on. And my comfy bed. Cannot forget about that, no no no.

More and more I envy those students who can drive home. Airlines don’t offer direct flights from Indianapolis to Richmond, so I’m always connecting through Atlanta, Cleveland, Charlotte, Chicago. Next thing you know, I’ll be going through a really out-of-the-way city like Santa Fe.

This is the first time in over a year I haven’t been in school. I entered junior year, with the personal decision to prep for my TA position over winter break by reading the first half of The Sound and the Fury. I came out of the class loving the book, but that first attempt at understanding William Faulkner’s take on “a tale told by an idiot” stands in my memory as one of the more frustrating things I’ve done.

Then spring semester of junior year. Then the first few weeks of summer, where I tried desperately to catch up on the BSI reading I knew I had to finish before starting BSI. Then BSI. Then early work for an English independent study. Then this fall began.

Where did all that time go? Into writing papers, suggests the list above, but also into dancing and learning what constitutes stereochemistry and cutting out paper snowflakes with my roommates and baking banana bread…

Good memories, good memories (BCC at Block Party)

The last year and a half were exceedingly busy, but I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences. Well, maybe a foot injury here or there, yet events have an uncanny way of sorting themselves out in the end.

It’s so so good to be home. Also, to write in sentence fragments because this won’t be graded.

The Coffee Saga: French Press

Remember my post about starting to like coffee this past summer? This fall, I took over my roommate’s coffee machine precisely the same week she moved on to bigger and better things (i.e. French press). And so I had the means to make coffee myself. I picked out a tin of medium roast coffee at Trader Joe’s with my boyfriend, learned (thankfully not the hard way) that you do indeed need a coffee filter, and took to making my own mochas.

Mocha Recipe:

  • A spoonful of cocoa powder
  • A spoonful of sugar
  • Coffee
  • Milk
  • Hot water if desired
  • Coffeemate, carmel sauce, or chocolate chips to make it fancy

So there I was at Hubbard and Cravens with Boyfriend, finishing exam stuff before the end of the semester. We’d done the tea thing when we first arrived, chai for him and white tangerine for me. Paper writing… Time passed… Coffee smells… (sentence fragments, and not even parallel ones…)

[Side note: If you want to run into a bunch of Butler people, drive/bike/walk to this coffee shop. On this particular day, I saw my roommate and her friend, a former member of the dance faculty, and my English advisor.]

My roommate also loves Hubbard and Cravens and had been raving about the homework-increasing powers of a French press she ordered the day earlier while writing the “What is dance?” Theory and Philosophy paper. I went for it — I ordered a French press. When asked what kind of coffee I wanted, I hemmed and hawed. I was new to coffee-drinking, I told the barista, and I had a medium roast I liked. All their flavors were rather bold, he said. Well, I said, I tried one that was supposed to be “delicate” and didn’t much like it. I loved mochas. Could I have something with chocolate overtones?

Boyfriend ordered a mocha. Smart lad.

When my French press came, it was in a tricked-out Bodum container — at least a Level 5, I decided. The flavor was quite bold, reminiscent of honeysuckle, with the faintest aftertaste of sunshine mingled with the crisp and raw punch of cherries. Basically, it was just sour to my n00b coffee-taste-buds. The French press might have been a Level 5, but I had only recently attained Level 2.

Those sips of mocha which I stole were awfully good. And adding different combinations of cream and sugar to the coffee made for a wonderful diversion from Shakespeare.

Family Shout-Out

I have to backtrack a little to The Nutcracker. I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing about it… but I want to acknowledge all the family members who traveled (some so far!) to see and support me. I’m so grateful I was able to see you! Also, Grandma, those cake pops were delicious — especially the peppermint one. I cannot wait to see everyone next week during my winter break.

Cake pops!

A note about traveling: Looking at out-of-state schools? When I was in high school, making decisions about college, I knew I wanted to go to Butler. It has a serious, classical-ballet based dance program with a good English department in a liberal arts setting — and this is not a common combination. Just keep in mind, though, that travel will increase the cost of an out-of-state school, especially depending on how often you go home. Friends who live in California might spend a shorter break with family/friends closer to Indianapolis; I’ve traveled home to Virginia for Fall Break only once. Distance did not alter my admissions decision, but it is still an important factor to consider… especially since those acceptance letters should be arriving soon for Early Decision admissions!

This is a super dramatic metaphor about marathons

The three weeks after Thanksgiving break seem like a marathon. Here is how this comparison would go: The first third, we’re feeling good, getting water at the water stops, waving at the people lining the street holding hand-made glitter signs and ringing obnoxious cowbells. This is The Nutcracker.

The second week has those blisters those start to burn, long stretches without any cheering fans, the cramp in my left calf, the knowledge that even though it hurts now, there are still 10.2 miles to go. This is the week of dance finals, memorizing classes and finishing self-assessment papers; this is the week before academic finals, when my life is in a disorganized pile after The Nutcracker but I still have a ton of papers to write.

I’m on mile 24 now. I pushed through the cramps and blisters and opened a few more. I drank my Gu (this is real, I promise). There are people lining the street, holding small children who have insisted on displaying those enthusiastic signs, though they have them crooked so the message becomes obscured. (It doesn’t matter, we know they contain words of encouragement and love.) That cramp is killing me, and I know there are still 2.2 miles left. But I’m so close, and all my friends are running beside me.

Some of us will cross the finish line sooner, some later. Some of us have huge hampers of laundry to wash when we’ve finished the run. (Me.) Some of us have been done for a few days and have come back to stand on the sidelines to cheer the runners onto the finish line.

This is super dramatic.

On Monday, I finished a thirteen-page research paper for my Financial Fictions class in effectively three/four days. (Sorry, Dr. Swenson.) After I turned it in at 6 pm on Monday, I finished my Teaching Analysis of Classical Ballet project. Then I studied for an hour, went to bed, studied for another hour in the morning, then took the final. (Sorry, Professor Bryam.) Then I started to write my Theory and Philosophy paper, which I turned in eight minutes before it was due at 5 pm. (Sorry, Professor Laurent.)

Now I’m writing my short Shakespeare paper and studying/preparing for that final on Thursday. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit how close to the wire I came with some of those assignments… But I’m ready to finish off my last fall semester of college!

Good luck to everyone studying for final exams and writing final papers, to everyone preparing applications to grad school, to all you high school seniors finalizing/prepping college applications! We are almost there!

I’ve never run a marathon, by the way. I’m sure it shows.

Yes, we participated in the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot volunteering crew this year as per family tradition!

Nutcracker Review

I did not write much about The Nutcracker. It seems like I never do, usually since I’m too busy to do so when it’s actually happening, and the weeks after The Nutcracker are filled with dance finals and then academic finals. I just finished the marathon that was Monday and Tuesday. I’ll have to write about that sometime soon…

But I’m taking a study break to ask you this question: What happens when you put six girls in one small dressing room?

Some of the roles in The Nutcracker are double cast: Sugar Plum, Snow Queen, Dewdrop, Mirliton cast, sometimes the Snow Princesses, once even (rather bizarrely) the Flowers corps. So when I and five of my friends were assigned to one of the smaller dressing rooms, we knew it would not be a problem, since only three of us were dancing in a given show.

What happens when you put six girls in one small dressing room? We go in and out, talk to our friends in the green room, put on our shoes in the middle of the hallway, trip over bags, find make-up sponges in every imaginable place. Secret Santa people come in, wanting to know where so-and-so’s chair is, and I point to a vague area on the counter, saying, “Somewhere on that end.” It was great fun, as The Nutcracker always is.

I love performing, being onstage a bit breathless and wondering as the lights slowly brighten into life. I also love the camaraderie backstage, the words of encouragement we give one another, helping button costumes and locate arms puffs. Navigating a dressing room crowded to capacity. Smiling, smiling.

This picture should sum it up.

More Dance Finals? Duh

I only discussed the format for the modern, jazz, and ballet technique dance finals last post. We have some sort of final in each class we take. This year, I also had pointe, classical partnering, and contemporary pas.

My pointe class meets twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursdays. (That doesn’t sound like a lot of pointe, I know, but you wear your shoes for rehearsals, partnering, variations, sometimes ballet technique…) During finals weeks, pointe class meets at its normal times. Since we have two teachers, we have two finals. We don’t memorize these finals like we do for ballet and modern — basically it is an ordinary class, except the professors take notes in a sinister, wide-ruled, spiral notebook.

~sinister music~

The classical partnering class meets on Wednesdays, and we had our final the week before the week of Nutcracker runthroughs, which was the week before Thanksgiving Break, which is the week before the show. In the dance department, November and December are dictated by the performance schedule.

Our pas final is usually half of a pas de deux we’ve been practicing for the last two or three class periods. I’ve done the first and second halves of Diana and Acteon, the first part of Don Q (up until 3 min in the video below), and the first half of The Sleeping Beauty wedding pas. We go in groups of two pairs, and we’re graded on our performances.

YouTube Preview Image

For contemporary partnering, we learned six short pas from Nacho Duato’s Na Floresta. The last two classes, the professor assigned each couple one pas at random and taped us performing the entire chunk, couple by couple. I love Duato’s choreography. It feels so organic; it’s detailed, yet free, restrained at the same time it gives itself in abandon. This sounds super cheesy, but it’s the best way I can describe it. I’m so excited we are performing his Por Vos Muero during this year’s Midwinter Dance Festival.

And those were some of my dance finals.