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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: February 2012

Kind of like a snow day…

The week after the week after. The following items are related.

1. Midwinter production/performance week, check. Evaluation week (i.e. the week I apply to many jobs), check. Coppélia-rehearsals-begin week: in progress.

2. I didn’t intend to be writing many blogs this week after seeing our rehearsal schedule combined with the terrifying prospect of whipping my BSI paper into shape.

3. This winter has been extremely temperate. Last year, we had two snow days thanks to the ice storm which coated the campus and its environs. The “Icepocalypse,” we called it. This year, there are no snow days for us, which suits me just fine. I like warmer weather.

4. The reason I am writing now and not frantically finishing English homework?

All dance classes have been unexpected cancelled. Snow is not the reason. Instead, we must blame the Lilly Hall sewage system backup which flooded a basement mechanical room last night and resulted in all the water being shut off/bathrooms being closed.

Facebook has been rather amusing, with all the sewage jokes. You fill in the blanks — I’ve included one of the tamer examples below.

Still, I’m a bit conflicted. I enjoy being lazy, I promise! But I’m disappointed/waiting for the backlash of the missed day: I had over three hours of rehearsal scheduled, and learning new material is always exciting. Plus, I’m sure we’ll have to make up for lost time over the next few days.

One thing is for sure. This is probably the oddest reason classes have been cancelled.

Two Talks: Jennifer Homans and John Bohannon

In my last post, I didn’t mention the two talks I attended this week — one informal conversation with John Bohannon of “Dance Your Ph.D.” fame and a formal presentation from author of “Apollo’s Angels” Jennifer Homans.

1. John Bohannon

My roommate sent me a link about a month before the dance majors got the email. The link I’ll post below. The email said John Bohannon would be talking at 1 pm on Tuesday in LH 168. I went and listened to his story about dancing science, about collaborative efforts, and about the game of zero-gravity tag he wanted to play with the dance majors on Thursday. While I didn’t attend the game — fighting expedia for decent airfare took longer than anticipated — I walked past and saw dance majors slowly rotating a water bottle and a stool through the air. It was cool.

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2. Jennifer Homans

The Jennifer Homans talk was through the JCFA’s Leadership Through the Arts forum. Each other, Leadership Through the Arts brings in speakers across the range of JCFA disciplines to speak. In past years, Ralph Lemon, Joe Goode, Denise Jefferson, Alonso King, and even Jacques D’Amboise have come to Butler through this program!

Ms. Homans outlined early French ballet and Russian ballet under the Soviet during her talk, ending with a Q&A conversation about the necessity of bringing new relevance to the art form.

I really liked the talk, but I was sitting onstage with other dancers (I don’t know why they wanted us onstage, except that Ducky, the venue, was completely full, and they were even live-streaming the talk to more people in the reception room in the basement). I have a very hard time sitting still for longer than about 40 minutes, so the whole time I was trying not to fidget!

It’s funny that Ms. Homans came this year — my grandmother gave me her book as a Christmas gift this December. What perfect timing!

Evaluation Week — the last one!

I apologize for what turned into a rather lengthy hiatus. Even though most dance classes have been cancelled this week due to student evaluations in the Department of Dance, I’ve been keeping busy.

What are evaluations? The long answer is here. The quick answer: a fifteen minute meeting between each individual dance major and all the department faculty during which they discuss your progress, any areas of concern, injury/audition updates, etc… The faculty looks at the work we have done in the past year as well as the self-assessment we turn it at our ballet final at the end of the fall semester.

Besides being assessed, here’s what I’ve been doing this week:

  • Going to class — most dance academics and all academic-academics (my French and two English classes) still meet.
  • Cleaning — having production week usually means I fall behide on both homework and household chores.
  • Working on my senior English essay (i.e. BSI) — this includes meeting with my advisor a couple times, reading inflammatory speeches by old Welsh politicians, the usual…
  • Celebrating Mardi Gras at the Blue House with a dinner, then celebrating Ash Wednesday with Mass, reconciliation, and adoration. The BCC is really good about providing lots of programming for students and community members.
  • Preparing audition materials — see below.

From getting video from the Butler Ballet archives to burning DVDs to quadruple-checking my résumé to writing cover letters to scheduling plane flights… I feel like audition materials are coming out of my ears.

I had to wait until after Midwinter Dance Festival was over to send my video packages, since I wanted to include footage of last weekend’s performance of Por Vos Muero on my audition DVD. This morning I sent a bunch of email applications and snail-mailed materials to several other ballet companies. Next weekend, I am flying to audition for Kansas City Ballet, then I plan on visiting BalletMet, Tulsa Ballet, and Cincinnati Ballet over spring break.

I’m wishing all my fellow seniors luck on their job searches… and remembering what the college search feels like for you high school seniors… Do you have any particularly grueling/triumphant job/college search stories? Please share!

Also, a quick and entertaining video explaining Ash Wednesday if you’re confused/interested. (Also, lots of /slashes/)

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Post-Midwinter Ramblings

Wow. This Midwinter Dance Festival has been amazing — the perfect way to say goodbye to a dance department tradition. As you probably know, I had the good fortune to perform Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero, set by guest Kevin Irving and rehearsal-managed by Butler professor Derek Reid. Dancing such a brilliantly inventive and detailed work was amazing. It feels weird to know I won’t be performing it again tonight or tomorrow.

Even in the studio, once we progressed further into the rehearsal process, dancing the piece became very emotional. I don’t mean emotional in the sense of getting choked up or anything terribly sappy, but each run required a complete commitment of focus and intention — and finally it stemmed from someplace authentic, rather than existing as superimposition. My goal now is to inject this type of artistic expression into the movement much, much earlier. Ideally, it happens right away. That’s what maturing as an artist is all about, I suppose.

Onstage, dancing for an audience? What a thrill. The audience, the lights… (The lighting throughout the show came courtesy of the talented Laura Glover.) After we finished, we shared a group hug. (Well, we has group hugs before each show as well.) Then we went down to the dressing rooms to change into street clothes and go home. How odd it was — I felt like surely I should be doing something else — perhaps still walking extremely slowly with a downcast focus or stepping in a stately back-driven pattern.

Then I saw my family, many of whom had come long distances to see me before I graduated. My grandparents, my parents, aunts, a sister, an uncle, cousin-in-law, cousins… We went to my apartment and sat and talked for about an hour after the show, just catching up. I love to hear others’ impressions of all the different pieces in the performance — and this program was supremely diverse, which was wonderful — but more than that, I relished the chance to leave performing mode gently, rather than in an abrupt see-ya-later-it’s-been-great departure.

I went to bed late (because it takes me a while to wind down after being onstage) and very, very happy.

Snow for Midwinter

The snow was falling in the extra large, soft flakes Tuesday morning, just in time to set the scene for Butler Ballet’s Midwinter Dance Festival. The Dance Department planned this on purpose, of course.

This marks production week for the Butler Ballet. Monday was a full run through in the dance studios, and Tuesday afternoon/Wednesday morning was spacing in costume onstage. Wednesday afternoon: Tech rehearsal. Thursday: Dress. Then opening night comes Friday, February 17 at 8 pm in Clowes Memorial Hall.

With each show I perform here, I feel more confident — not so much in the technical sense (though the hope is to improve there as well!), but because I feel more relaxed, more able to project an emotion, whether that be horror at the curse cast on baby Aurora or the regal poof! of the snow queen sweeping away the snowflakes, or simply the happiness of a peasant-type character. (There are aproximately five million peasants in Coppélia. I’m getting ready!)

Por Vos Muero‘s beginning section is rather emo in a way, and I love to watch the duets the most. To dance, though, my favorite is the middle group dance and three girls’ dance. The group dance is supposed to be a sort of social dance, and the three girls’ dance is quick and (when I jump in the air, shaking my head as wildly as I dare during my little solo) saturated with such gleeful abandon.

The moment before the music starts, I breath out and think about something silly my boyfriend told me about analytic chemistry, and I can’t stop the beginnings of a smile. Then the music starts and I’m swept away in the movement.

And… Just like an elementary school book report, I won’t tell you how the story ends. There’s also:

  • Bournonville’s Flower Festival staged by Marek Cholewa — a demonstration of technically brilliant footwork. Bournonville offers one of the most playful permutations of classical ballet; I had to smile while watching it.
  • A piece by visiting assistant professor Michael Johnson — with live music. Every time I see this piece, my brain starts firing away different memories or emotions. You’ll want to watch it more than once.
  • A brand new, large-scale piece by professor Cynthia Pratt, with music by The Black Keys, detailing an argument between two lovers. The piece is narrative, funny, visually engaging, and a bit mischievous. My friend is the principle dancer, and I think she’s just the bee’s knees.
  • Stephan Laurent’s Enigma Variations offers an object lesson in theme and variation choreography. With supremely inventive partnering and lifts, along with creative use of gesture, the piece leaves one still wondering at the end… *cue dramatic music* …perfectly fulfilling the implied promise of the title.

You’ll have to come see it for yourself!

Louisville is much closer to Butler than Chicago is

And the above fact made my Sunday so much more pleasant. Two hours in the car in light traffic during the day seems like nothing compared to three hours in the car in crazy traffic at night. In the fog.

I auditioned for Louisville Ballet this past Sunday. This was my first real, ballet company audition, since the ones I did previously turned out to be more school-based. It actually went better than I expected. I was nervous until we started dancing, probably because we arrived early and had a fairly long time to warm up (though the hall was so crowded, there wasn’t overmuch space).

The artistic director gave a little speech before barre began, introducing everyone and basically telling us not to freak, which was nice of him. I enjoyed the class itself, taught by the ballet master. I even made a friend: I helped her with a barre combination, and she complimented my leotard. I love dancer camaraderie.

Barre was rather crowded — there were loads of people in the audition, but they broke the center work into smaller groups. I didn’t expect there would be so much standing around, but the studio was warm and sunny, and there were about a million people from Butler at the audition, so I enjoyed watching everyone dance. I do wish we had switched lines in for the center work, but the audition was otherwise much as I expected.

The consensus? Maybe finding a job won’t be as stressful as I’ve made it out to be. After all, the application process simply consists of doing what I love to do. Even my audition video, the making of which seemed one of the most arduous pieces of the pie, is coming together. Wish us all luck!

Headshot, courtesy of the incredible Dale Dong.

Time for another Studio Dress

That’s right, this Saturday marked the ever-popular Studio Dress rehearsal, wherein the entirety of Butler Ballet gathers to run the show in order, with costumes, in the largest dance studio in Lilly Hall.

Studio Dress generally lasts much longer for The Nutcracker than for Midwinter Dance Festival or the spring story ballet because usually only The Nutcracker is double cast, necessitating two full runs. This year, we split The Nutcracker studio dress rehearsal into two days, because President Danko’s inauguration cut into the rehearsal slot. An oddity, if you recall.

Studio Dress, step-by-step:

  • Up at 8:30 to clean the kitchen and eat breakfast, in that order
  • English homework until 10:30
  • Prep for rehearsal (make lunch, do hair, get dressed, warm up) until 11:30
  • Walk to dance studios
  • Warm-up at 12:15
  • Gather costume, do hair again after warmup, 1 pm ish
  • Run the program!
  • Film classwork for audition videos…
  • Church!
  • Chinese food outing!
  • Prep for audition tomorrow
  • Sleep (forthcoming)

And that’s my rather uninteresting schedule of events. Notice I did not include laundry, which means I’ll be washing a few things in the sink before the week is out… I don’t need nice tights for the shows, though, since our beautiful costumes lack leg coverings.

Come see Midwinter!

Leek Soup: tastier than it sounds

My College Cooking series is back! If only for a brief time.

I had all the ingredients for a wonderful lentil soup — with some random things left over. I dunked the leftovers in a pot and made a simple leek soup that turned out to be surprisingly delicious.

Simple Leek Soup

  1. Heat 3 cups veggie or chicken stock in a pot on the stove.
  2. Chop some carrots and celery. (I used half a stalk of celery and 2 carrots, though I’d add another carrot next time.) Dump in pot.
  3. Wash your leek well! Chop it up. Dump in pot. My leek was fairly large so I only used one, but you could add another for good measure.
  4. Add 1 cup pre-cooked rice to the pot OR add 1 cup un-cooked instant rice to the pot and cover.
  5. The contents of the pot should be boiling by now… Add some parsley, basil, and rosemary, ect… I used a pinch of “Italian spice blend” in addition to the parsley.
  6. Let it go for as long as you like. The rice will soak up the liquid, so add a squirt of water from the faucet into your bowl just before serving to make it soupier if desired.

You could change types of stocks, add more veggies, change rice quantities, change the spices… If you wanted to be traditional, I suppose you might add potato. All my recipes sort of sound the same, I realize. Also, you might have noticed that I eat a lot of soup. Oh well.

#betterthanamealplan

A quick plug for I-Dance

Having worked with guest repetiteur Kevin Irving for the past two weeks in preparation for the Butler Ballet’s Midwinter Dance Festival, I wanted to put in a quick plug for I-Dance, the non-profit organization Mr. Irving founded in 2010.

With the intriguing mission of choreographic exchange between the U.S. and countries in Latin America, the organization strives to bring high quality dance teachers and choreographers into contact with some of the poorer or less-exposed regions of Latin America. The mission statement expounds on the need for an international community of dance and the important of broad exposure to global artistic trends.

Even though I-Dance is not affiliated with Butler University, I can’t help but feel a sympathy between the organization and a liberal arts mindset. I know I often wax sentimental (or wane, depending on your perspective) about the liberal arts, but I can’t begin to describe the importance of having a broad worldview, especially as an artist. We cannot make art in a vacuum, and just as all text draws its meaning from other pieces of text, so all art is, even if unwittingly, a reaction to other aspects of life (sorry, I guess I’m waning deconstructionist as well). Like literary scholarship, art functions as part of a wider and longer dialogue. I-Dance, committed to opening that dialogue with places which have been somewhat isolated from the artistic conversation, deserves some sort of liberal arts gold star.

Okay, I’m done mooning over inter- and intra-disciplinary conversation. You can watch this video now.

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Downtown Indy: The Dance Party Version

Being a good blogger, I took some footage of my friends enjoying the festivities in downtown Indianapolis. When we went, it was all decorated for the Super Bowl. The giant Roman numeral XLVI apparently served as the backdrop for a light show… though the music far outranked the images in terms of excitement. Watch the video below for a taste of Super Bowl Indianapolis!

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Don’t forget about the other Souper Bowl this weekend!