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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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Posts Tagged “ballet”

Dance Department Basics: Butler Ballet

Butler Ballet is the name of the Department of Dance’s “performance component” (as it says on the official website), the title of company putting on productions in Clowes Memorial Hall and soon the Howard L. Schrott Center. For instance, I danced in the Butler Ballet’s performance of Coppélia this past spring. It is also the name of a class the dance majors take most or all of their semesters at Butler University: I have “Butler Ballet” as a class on my transcript each semester.

As a class, Butler Ballet has a class code, credit hours, and ultimately a grade. Currently, it meets:

  • Monday 4:40 – 5:30
  • Tuesday 3:40 – 6
  • Thursday 3:40 – 6
  • Saturday 8 – 5

This is not to say that we are in Lilly Hall from 8 am to 5 pm every Saturday… only sometimes! Butler Ballet, though scheduled as a class, is more of a potential class — you may be called at any (or all) of these times throughout the semester.

If I had to generalize, I would say I had several hours on Saturday, full Tuesday and Thursdays with maybe an hour or half hour gap in the rehearsals, and Monday rehearsals some of the time. However, it really just depends on the role. Dancing Swanhilda in Coppélia, I not only had full Butler Ballet times, but also extra rehearsals on Wednesday afternoons. When Kevin Irving visited Butler to set Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero, we danced from 3:30 – 6 on Monday, 2:10 – 6 Tuesday/Thursday, and 3:30 -5:30 on Wednesday, plus Saturdays. However, rehearsal periods in normal circumstances are limited to the periods set forth by the Butler Ballet class schedules.

And that’s how Butler Ballet rehearsal periods work.

My homemade tutu lasted for about two years — and now is completely dead, falling apart and saggy, the tulle torn. Oh well.

Getting a BFA

How useful is a college degree in dance?

It depends. It depends on your professional goals, your personal work ethic, and your degree plan.

Getting a college degree and then having a successful career in professional ballet/dance used to be an oddity — once upon a time, getting a college degree would indicate the opposite of employability. No more. Things are slowly shifting in the dance world; just as higher education is becoming more widespread in general, so too in the field of professional dance.

Where do you want to dance? Some companies and directors still dislike the idea of employing a college graduate. However, I think this tide is turning, and others embrace a more thoroughly educated dancer.

A college degree is not a certificate saying one has jumped through all the necessary hoops. A college degree is not a piece of paper representing four more years of training. Instead, it is an opportunity for a broad education, the possibility of learning not just technique, but technique in a variety of areas, history, acting, music, costuming, production elements, theory, choreography, improvisation… A college degree means you are exposed to a huge vault of knowledge sometimes unavailable to dancers who immediately jump to the professional world. Which brings us to the next point.

If you have ambitions of being a professional dancer, then you must have tremendous work ethic to make your time at college an asset. You can coast through college, just as you can coast through any other life experience — it is absolutely up to you to synthesize all the information you receive.  Attending college does mean taking yourself off the job market for four years. In a professional dance career, your youthful years are precious… since as we all know those ankles won’t hold up forever…

If you do go to college, you have to be committed. You have to inhale everything that is offered to you. If you do this, I absolutely think getting a college degree before dancing professionally is worth it. (I mean, this sort of attitude applies toward most things… But especially toward a college education in preparation for a career as a professional dancer!)

So when you think about whether or not you want a college degree as you pursue your goal of dancing professionally, consider your own skills, your work ethic, your commitment to a broad knowledge base (which, after all, is one of the biggest advantages of going to college), and the degree plan in question.

Do you want a program based in classical ballet? (Like Butler?) Do you want a program that also offers other techniques? (Which, in my humble opinion, and in the opinions of many other directors, is a very good idea.) Do you want a program with a focus on choreography? on pedagogy? on arts administration? A program that loads on as many elective classes as possible?

With the growing number of programs which offer a degree in dance, it’s slowly becoming easier to find a college program which will help, not hinder, your dreams of dancing professionally. I can say with certainty that I was not ready for the professional world straight out of high school. Now, with the diverse classes I’ve received in dance history, music, pedagogy, and so on, and with experiences performing a role like Swanhilda or a work like Por Vos Muero, I feel more ready than ever to start next season with Tulsa Ballet II, to try to produce the highest quality work I can, to perform as an artist, not as a tentative dancer holding her breath in hopes the piece will be okay.

Deciding to go to college before dancing used to be an unusual and not always helpful decision — but no more. Consider your situation very carefully when deciding if (and with what program) you want to study. But I can say I’m so happy I went to Butler for my BFA in dance performance!

The new dance BFA, BA, and BS degree-holders!

Sorry if this post sounds a bit admissions-pamphlet-y… I just like to think it’s my natural enthusiasm shining through!

 

Senior Ballet Final

I mentioned before that the senior ladies and men each do something silly at their last ballet final. I was busy helping organize ours all last week, hence the silence on the blog front. All our hard work paid off — it was EPIC.

To review: The seniors usually play some sort of prank during their senior final. Senior men are in a men’s technique class with all the men; most of the senior ladies are in the Level 4 class with a certain percentage of non-seniors. Anyway, this means there are two different senior final performances/pranks/silly events.

Through the years: My freshman year, I think the graduating seniors dressed up as animals for their senior final. My sophomore year (the year of the Olympics), the senior class assigned each professor as country and had a “Team Cholewa” or “Team Reid.” Last year, the seniors convinced some of the basketball players to come in with tutus, and they did a few basketball-related things, dribbled the balls, drew a game plan on the chalkboard, etc…

Through the years again: After much deliberation, we decided to do a “through the years” skit, chronicling events from our four years in Butler’s Dance Department! By chance, the curtains happened to be up in Studio 310, since Butler Chamber Dance was performing in the Studio Theater later that night. We unfurled one of the curtains to make a backstage area; we met for three consecutive nights to brainstorm, write the script, and practice. We even made t-shirts with nicknames on them so we would all match!

The skit went over really well, I think. The faculty (plus a good number of other dance majors) came to watch. We were a little nervous that people would not be able to follow, or that it wouldn’t be funny, but as soon as one girl walked out, dressed like one of our old teachers, Tong Wang, everyone was on the same page.

The events we chronicled:

  • Our first placement class, taught by Tong Wang
  • Our first Nutcracker with the Butler Ballet — including the tour to Marion and the campus Norovirus plague
  • The fact that we lost 12 members from our freshman class — but gained one more from a transfer! (some of the former dance majors were kind enough to return to take part in this beginning of the skit!) (this was also Hunger Games – themed)
  • An “injury-runway,” notably including a reenactment of a girl hitting a door whilst in a wheely chair and another getting her jaw stuck open.
  • Our sophomore year Laban Movement Choir
  • Our summer discovery of a video of two of the faculty participating in a public service announcement — complete with a rap which I practiced for a very long time.
  • Our junior year Glee Flashmob in downtown Indianapolis
  • The Ice-pocalypse
  • Our senior year’s new teacher’s entrance. He kindly agreed to participate and really hammed it up to music from Grease.
  • Audition season
  • And a sappy speech at the end

It was great fun! If you ever have a chance to do a “looking back over the years” skit, it’s a lot of work but well worth the effort. I will miss everyone in my ballet class dearly!

We made senior T-shirts!

Coppélia Memories

I can’t seem to make coherent statements about Coppélia except that it was a wonderful, terrifying, and amazing experience that I already miss. I never expected this time last year to think of myself as an emotional dancer, but somehow the story and the emotion of the character became the top priority in the course of these performances. Could this be artistic maturation I’m experiencing? I can only hope…

In lieu of a complete statement or story, here are some moments from Coppélia:

  • Those times when you just nail the balances when they matter, and they take you by surprise? Yeah, I had a few of those. : ) It’s a great feeling, like you’re totally in control of yourself and the audience and the conductor is kind enough to draw out the phrase until you have finished your arabesque… Victory!
  • Those times when your headpiece, which has never come loose before, falls out during the Spanish variation during Act II. Oh well.
  • Those times when Franz tries to pluck the trick flower from your bouquet but manages to get only the head of the flower, leaving the stem still in your hands? That’s when you switch the mime from “breaking” to “plucking.” Twice.
  • Those times when your friend, when doing her variation about disliking her dress, actually rips her skirt and has a dangling piece for much of Act I.
  • Those time when  you know you have to go to bed but you can only lie there thinking of the music and of things you did and will do differently perhaps next time because you are still too excited to sleep even though the show ended two hours ago.

Now Sigma Rho Delta is choreographing a seven minute Coppélia to show at the MLK Center. I did Act II in two minutes. Impressive, huh?

Before the last show...

Coppélia Performances

Oh my goodness, this past weekend’s performances of Coppélia were completely overwhelming — in the best of ways. Putting the experience into words is so difficult. Of course things didn’t go perfectly. The last night, when I finally got all the fouetté turns at the end of the ballet, I almost ate it on the pull in. It’s never perfect.

But while I am not satisfied with the performances (if I were satisfied, I don’t think I would be trying to produce art), I am overjoyed and overwhelmed and (though sad it is over) still riding on an incredible high. It might not be perfect, but oh my goodness, it’s so much fun.

Seniors on the ladder!

Class on Monday was painful for sure! When the adrenaline from performing was gone, the fatigue/soreness it masked definitely remained. The life of a dancer… We are busy preparing for dance finals. Academic classes are winding down too in a flurry of projects and tests and papers. This is the last final season I will have at Butler.

Somehow everything seems less real for a few days after we leave the theater. I’m getting ready for finals, of course, but part of me is still on that stage, smiling or crying or clenching my fists or falling in love or prancing around, full of mischief. Dancing Swanhilda was a tremendous blessing, and I know I will miss it so much. The only remedy? On to the next performance!

I know I’m dancing in the Spotlight gala at Clowes and then in Carbondale for the Southern Illinois Music Festival… and then who knows what adventures wait for me in Tulsa? It’s scary and exciting, and I feel much more prepared to meet that challenge after the whirlwind that was Coppélia.

Coppélia Tickets

Now you have to buy tickets for Coppélia — it’s an Indianapolis Groupon deal, so you get a discount and everything! My roommate showed me the link. You get two tickets for $32, which is even less than I would pay as a student for two tickets with my student rate! At the time of this post, there are about thirteen hours left for the deal. Yes, I am shamelessly advertising now.

In any case, I’m glad to see Butler Ballet on big websites like Groupon. The shows are always more exciting when there is a sizable audience. After all, ballet is a performing art. The audience plays an integral role in what I see as the magic of the stage. Now I’m getting  a bit sappy — probably because I’m writing this rather quickly because production week is crazy — please do not judge me too harshly.

The synopsis the Groupon website has for Coppélia is fairly amusing. I suppose this is a comic ballet, so it is only fitting that this version of the libretto is comedic as well.

Production Week!

Studio Dress was this Saturday –the first time we’ve run Coppélia in order, in costumes. I was anxious for the event, since I had been rehearsing the hardest part — Act III, with the wedding pas — at the beginning of the rehearsal periods, then following with Act I then Act II in descending order of stress. Yesterday we went straight through, with everyone in place, with costumes.

Before we started, I just listened to the overture with my eyes closed, soaking the fact that, yes, this is happening. I know I was still a little nervous because I was rushing the music in the beginning, but overall? Actual fun. I realize this is all I’ve been talking about for the last few weeks, but this is such a revelation for me, the nervous ninny.

There were a few bumps along the way… I messed up the sequence of some of the choreography in Act II; I couldn’t get the Scottish hat to stay on before the Scottish variation; some of the wedding pas was bumpy — probably because this was literally the first time either of us had done it in costume, and my tutu had more friction than usual and his sleeves kept getting in my face. But these are kinds of things that make great stories, n’est-ce pas?

Production Week starts tomorrow. Tech rehearsals, spacing, orchestra rehearsals, dress rehearsals, ACH the real performances!! I’m going to be so sad when it’s all over, but for now I’m totally, completely enjoying the ride.

Giuseppina Bozzacchi as the first Swanhilde in 1870.

Swanhilda: Battle Swan

When I learned I would dance the role of Swanhilda in the Butler Ballet’s upcoming production of Coppélia, one of the first things I did (after freaking out and then getting my hands to stop shaking) was to look up the meaning of Swanhilda’s name.

Alternate spellings are “Swanilda” or “Swanhilde,” but the cast list released to us had “Swanhilda,” so Swanhilda I am! Battle Swan.

There’s a balancing act here. I think Swanhilda can easily slip into all battle and no swan: She is sassy and wholly forthcoming, wrecking havoc in Dr. Coppélius’ toyshop, destroying his dream of a daughter-doll come to life.

I have to remember the small moments. I am shy but give in gratefully when Franz offers me a stalk of wheat; I look at Dr. Coppélius after I break the real Coppélia doll, accepting responsibility for my action, though maintaining its necessity with a look toward my confused fiancé; I bubble over with excitement upon encountering 1. dance 2. my friends 3. flowers.

Swanhilda likes to cause mischief, but I hope the impulse comes from frustration with Franz’ infatuation with Coppélia and a gleeful, prankster nature rather than from real hatred. I have no idea whether I’m succeeding in avoiding the overtly malicious. Swanhilda is a touch supercilious, perhaps, but only because she is young and in love and brimming over the edges with life.

Right, I sincerely hope this is an accurate assessment of Swanhilda’s character. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone wanted to contest the validity of the above, I am nonetheless having the time of my life.

Okay, now buy your tickets for Coppélia.

Coppélia Act III

Saturday was a rehearsal whirlwind, with the day beginning at nine with the wedding pas from Act III of Coppélia. We used a new recording, which was about five times faster than the old one. I did one attitude promenade about fifty times. Start the day off with a bang!

Got my tote bag of shoes/leg warmers, my water bottle, and my tutu. Ready for rehearsal!

I like the Act III classical work. Swanhilda is so sassy in Act II and so emotional (angry/frustrated/happy) in Act I. Doing the wedding pas feels like drifting in a dream world. She is so gently happy to be with her rather flighty beau. She finally demonstrates and maintains a sensitivity and delicacy that comes and goes in the other acts.

She still gets her say, though — the variation is extremely playful, and that famous music provides the power that makes her so down-to-earth. Above all, she is just happy like one in a dream — happy to be with Franz, happy to be with her friends, and happy to be dancing. As one of the choreographers put it, “Franz is addicted to the bottle. You’re addicted to dancing.” More on Swanhilda’s obsession with dance later!

Coppélia Rehearsals

I lost my contact today during rehearsal. We were learning part of the Act II scene when Swanhilda pretends to be the Coppélia doll and generally wrecks havoc with Dr. Coppélius. Blink, blink, blinkblinkblinkblinkblink, goes the choreography, so blinkblinkblink I go. Then I try not to move my eyes at all afterwards, at least until Dr. Coppélius turns to consult his book of spells.

As I tried to stare as innocently as possible straight ahead, my eyes grew drier, drier. Then my contact fell out, and I had to stop the doll imitations to pop it back in. Besides losing my contacts, Coppélia rehearsals are going smoothly. I am having the time of my life with all the acting. My feet, however, have told me I am not to wear anything but Danskos or tennis shoes. The weather is beautiful outside, so you end up with an odd outfit like this:

Oh well. Whatever keeps my feet happy! They aren’t too bad right now.