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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”

Coppélia Begins

In a dance studio not terribly far away, Coppélia begins.

*cue Star Wars rolling theme credits/music*

Since one of our heavy rehearsal days last week was cancelled due to plumbing issues in Lilly Hall and I was traveling to Kansas City on Saturday, this week feels like the first real chunk of rehearsals. I have the good fortune to dance Swanhilda in Butler Ballet’s Coppélia. I am having so. much. fun.

In the last three days, I’ve learned, in addition to some Act I stuff/a variation from the previous week:

  • Most of the end of Variations on a Slavic Theme with the Friends
  • The wheat pas (a pas de dix in this version… though I’m not sure how it’s dix because a normal pas de deux has one couple, two people. So with a corps of eight couples, shouldn’t this be a pas de dix-huit? Or even a pas de neuf? My boyfriend tells me it’s like polypeptides: Once you get past a certain number, the peptides just become “many.”)
  • The wedding adagio
  • Some of the Swanhilda/Franz Act I mime/acting
  • Part of the Act III Ribbon Dance (where I literally become a human Maypole, holding all the ribbons in a shoulder sit that rotates.)

Have I mentioned that I’m having a blast? I’ve never danced such a large part before — well, thanks to the foot injury that switched me from Sugarplum to Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, I’ve never performed an entire classical pas either — but Swanhilda is the perfect role.

I think I would be more nervous if I were dancing a princess or something — I had scary dreams about doing (and forgetting) the wedding pas from The Sleeping Beauty when I was understudying Aurora — but Swanhilda is a real girl, a normal girl, a girl in love who gets angry and hits her rather flighty fiancé over the head with flowers, who laughs with her friends and sneaks into Dr. Coppélius’ house and can be rather nasty but in the end understands a father’s love can be just like her own marital love. She’s much more human to me than a princess, and I’m so excited I have the chance to dance her.

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.

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.)

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.

Dance Finals

Dance class finals consist of a juried exam, wherein the students learn a specific class from one of the teachers and dance it in front of a table of faculty members. The main challenges of the juried class? Memorization and endurance.

It’s actually not as hard as one might think, memorizing the various ballet exercises. The faculty does a pretty good job of helping each class prepare, and the class generally reviews together on its own. The trouble comes in all the little details: I’m in the first line of three for the first exercise, and I run in from and exit toward stage left, and this exercise has four counts in between groups, and we begin in B+… And so on.

Endurance becomes a factor because, having memorized the combinations, there is very little time between exercises. This is how the juried ballet, modern, and jazz classes are condensed from an hour and a half (or an hour for jazz) to forty-five minutes. The only juried final I remember where endurance really became an issue was freshman year’s spring semester. It was stifling in the room, and I’d forgotten my water bottle. Gazillion degrees + nonstop ballet - water = not the easiest of classes. I prevailed, however, and even survived sophomore and junior years to boot!

My second to last dance technique final is this Friday, and I have such clogged sinuses I can’t breath when we cambré back. This was a big issue toward the beginning of my modern final yesterday afternoon, when we do overcurves, undercurves, and turns in tilts… But as per usual, if we push through, a dance class ends up being fun. When I dance, I feel better — even physically, odd as that might sound.

I suppose I should channel some of this enthusiasm into English paper writing as well.

Lilly Hall, where the dance studios live

Story from the vault: During my sophomore year, spring final, I had a lot of momentum after a burst of chaîné turns. I started to clear the center, going in the direction I had been traveling. Of course, I was supposed to leave the other way. I realized this, ran the tightest arc of my life, banking into the turn furiously, and ran off in the correct direction. I could hear one professor laughing out loud, and I had to laugh with him. After that, any lingering nerves were gone, natch.

Under the mountain

I am writing from under a veritable mountain of homework (unlike Steph, who actually climbed a mountain!). Reasons for mountain formation:

1. The Nutcracker: Our last show was this past Sunday, and we took lots of senior pictures, and I did not get as emotional as I thought I would, but I cried after our modern final today because the modern teacher is going on sabbatical. I feel good about the performances I gave — I’m never quite satisfied, since there always seem to be areas to improve — but the faculty had some good things to say. I felt calmer and more in control on stage this run than ever before… and I had a lot of fun as well. But I’m horribly behind on homework now.

2. Finals week: I’m also under a mountain of work because academic finals are next week. I have two English classes and two dance academics… I’m most concerned about the big English paper I have due this coming Monday, where I’ll be talking about Edenic metaphors in Frank Norris’ The Pit. Key phrase: “I’ll be.” As in, “I have not yet.” As in, my paper is thus far just a bullet-pointed version of my project proposal.

Oh dear.

One of my doodles from freshman year... It still speaks to me.

Dance finals are this week, too, and I’ve finished half of my pointe final and my modern final. We did contemporary pas and classical partnering before The Nutcracker, so I just have one more pointe class and my ballet technique final to go! More about dance finals later, I suppose.

From the basement of Clowes…

I am writing from the basement of Clowes, preparing myself for the last two shows of The Nutcracker — I perform tonight and tomorrow afternoon! Last night was my first show, since we only have six shows this year. I thought the run on Friday went really well — at the very least, I had a great time. I took some time before we went onstage to remind myself how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do what I love.

On a related note, I haven’t been able to focus on homework for a week. I’m taking a break from composing an argument about socialism as a natural force in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. I’m three acts of a play behind in my Shakespeare class (sorry, Dr. Walsh), and I’m really glad I choreographed my ballet class for Teaching Analysis over Thanksgiving Break.

Oh dear. Sunday night is going to be fuuuun with all the academic work I haven’t finished, but I still love the craziness The Nutcracker brings each year. My family came to Indianapolis to see the shows, and I am so grateful everyone was able to travel so far. We had a delicious breakfast this morning.

Also, I am addicted to adding avocado to my sandwiches.

Also, Nutcracker proximity is proportional to the randomness of this posts, and for that I apologize.

Opening Night Tomorrow!

The Nutcracker opens tomorrow at Clowes Hall, 7:30 pm! I’m currently watching the dancers in Act II perform one last dress rehearsal in preparation for Butler Ballet‘s show tomorrow, and everyone looks great. I love watching the process of a program coming together, knowing all the individual struggles and seeing my friends overcome problem areas and grow ever more exacting. Press lifts which might not have worked in October sail into the air without a hitch now, and we are no longer satisfied with what seemed a good run a month ago.

Basically, I’m very proud of everybody, and you should come see the performances this weekend. Show times are:

  • Thursday, Dec 1, 7:30 pm
  • Friday, Dec 2, 8 pm
  • Saturday, Dec 3, 2 pm
  • Saturday, Dec 3, 8 pm
  • Sunday, Dec 4, 2 pm

It’s not too late to buy tickets! (Especially if you didn’t win one at the Apartment Village’s Bingo Night.)

"The Nutcracker" by Butler Ballet at Clowes Hall.

Nutcracker: One More Time

This will be my last Nutcracker at Butler, and I’m not nostalgic quite yet. I have all year for that, right? So far, we’ve run through the ballet in the studio and spaced in the theater. Tomorrow comes tech rehearsals — dancing in fake snow — and a costume/orchestra rehearsal, both in the theater.

It’s always strange jumping right in after Thanksgiving Break. I recommend lots of Pilates.

I am drinking lots of water and listening to music. Also, reading Richard II for my Shakespeare class. I think I got food poisoning from Mongolian Grill and am quite grateful that grossness was over quickly; on a sadder note, my roommate has ushered in the Nutcracker cold/sickness. Tis the season.

My posts grow more scattered as I grow busier.

CLOWES!

Come see the show!