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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 “choreography”

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!

 

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...

Senior Productions

Senior Productions

I saw the Senior Production showcase the Thursday before spring break began. Those senior dance majors who go on to take a third semester of choreography (I took only Choreography I and II) can opt into the Senior Production showcase in the spring.

The show is run much like Student Choreography Showcase in the fall — there are two nights of shows in the studio-theater in Lilly Hall, all run by, choreographed by, and performed by students of Butler’s Department of Dance (except Master Electrician Cathy Sipe, who is stage manager). This year, five senior dance majors participated, each choreographing, rehearsing, and producing one large-group and one small-group piece.

Lilly Hall

I thoroughly enjoyed the show: One of my friend’s pieces was titled R.E.M. and showcased wispy port de bras motifs that I adored. The following piece, by the same choreographer, sent the dream scuttling for cover as two girls tormented a third in what seemed more like a nightmare. Both were very, very well done.

(Also, a girl in another piece took sick at the last minute, and the male choreographer stepped into her place. Instead of two men partnering a girl en pointe, there were two men partnering a third. I think it turned out really well — it made for a more dynamic commentary on gender roles, for sure. Kudos to everyone in that piece for pulling off a great performance.)

While this show doesn’t present as wide a variety of choreographers as the Student Showcase, the pieces are generally more polished, since the choreographers are coming from the rather rigorous Choreography III class. With this plus the Student Choreography showing in the fall, there are plenty of opportunities for budding choreographers to display their creations — and lots of demand for dancers who want to work on projects outside Butler Ballet or Butler Chamber Dance.

Fun Fact: I learned on Thursday that 2012 is the 62nd Senior Production — that’s every year since 1950, even longer than the oldest Butler Ballet tradition of Midwinter Dance Festival!

The Final Steps

Of this particular dance, of course… We did our first full run-through of Por Vos Muero today! Butler Ballet will be performing a shortened version of the work, which I think a school in Europe also performed?? I’m not exactly sure and should probably find out the truth before spreading rumors on the internet, but anyway…

I had whiplash the day after I and two others got the choreography for the three girls dance after our large group dance. Also, a huge bruise in my armpit from trying to get a certain lift over and over. The choreography is very intricate, so I just have to continue to review the steps over and over until they are engrained in my muscles.

This process has been so much fun. It’s probably one of my favorite pieces I’ve had the opportunity to learn. I only hope that I will be able to find a place in the professional dance world where I can dance wonderful choreography like this. Dreams… Everything seems to lead back to audition season, doesn’t it?

Clowes Memorial Hall

This is possibly wisdom

Things I have learned:

There is an inversely proportional relationship between closeness to production week/the end of the semester and my attention span.

There is a proportional relationship between Facebook use and attempts at writing papers.

There is a exponential relationship between production week and the average amount of Febreze used.

Cookie dough cupcakes from The Flying Cupcake are very good.

Maguy Marin‘s choreography is extremely difficult to find online or in a library close to Butler’s campus if you are looking for a complete, uncut piece.

Bites of cupcake times three equal failed attempts at finding extant and unabridged choreographic works by Marin.

My dance history paper is not going so well at the moment.

Cinderella, with doll heads

Does anyone know where I can view complete works of Marin? I would love to watch Cendrillon, but at this point, I am not picky.

Choreography

I do not have a magic skill with choreography. I’m constantly amazed and inspired upon viewing my classmates’ choreographic work in class, but I just don’t have a natural gift with cranking out phrases. Who knows, maybe my classmates spend hours working on their movement in their kitchens as well. I’m taking a lunch break, but as soon as I’ve finished this post, it’s back to hopping around. I’m so close to finishing, too!

Dance performance BFA majors at Butler must take Choreography I and Choreography II. Choreography III is an elective course for those who chose to take it. Last semester’s Choreography I concentrated on producing and manipulating movement, with interesting results:

The project I will soon finish is for Choreography II; I am choreographing a solo to a short track of music–my second full work. (The first was Student Choreography.) I’m using the second section of Stravinsky’s “Three Pieces,” which starts at about 50 seconds in the video below.

YouTube Preview Image

And that’s how I’m ending my spring break. Better get back to work! [UPDATE: I’m done! I’ve been working on this project all week, and now it’s finished! Yaaay!]

P.S. If you don’t know XKCD, you lead a sad existence.

P.P.S. For the record, I drew stick figure comics BEFORE I started reading XKCD.  Just want to put that out there.

Midwinter Dance Festival program

Come to Midwinter Dance Festival! The Butler Ballet is performing this Friday and Saturday, Feb 25 and 26 at 8 pm at Clowes Memorial Hall. Buy tickets here or at the box office up to two hours before the show starts.

What will you see?

1. La Bayadère, staged by professor Marek Cholewa. My roommate from last year is the soloist–very neat! Also very much a classical ballet piece–it shows the importance of corps work to great effect.

2. Church Song, choreographed by professor Susan McGuire. When I saw this the first few times, I did not know what it was about; having heard it was intended to be a tribute to the victims of the tsunami in Indonesia, I watched it again with a more focused eye. Tears, I tell you.

The soloists all offer something slightly different in this modern piece. Professor McGuire did a wonderful job displaying the dancers’ best qualities, and the whole piece reads–to me, at least–as being very sincere. Brilliant.

3. 1st of 3 in 17, choreographed by professor Cynthia Pratt and revived for this performance. Set to classical Mozart, the dancers in bare feet and quirky red costumes (see picture above) begin by shaking their hips. The piece is lighthearted, offering a great sense of humor without sacrificing any integrity.

4. Karelia Suite, choreographed by professor Stephan Laurent and revived. Originally choreographed about Finland’s gaining independence from Russia (I THINK. I’m not entirely certain on this one.), the dance has been newly dedicated to the protestors in Egypt, making this dance both traditional and timely.

5. Hong, or Swan Goose, choreographed by professor Tong Wang. This piece is about birds, so I am bound to love it. The narrative that runs through it is quite sad; the music, costumes, and choreography make the piece stunningly beautiful.

6. Walpurgisnacht, staged by Deborah Wingert, a former NYCB soloist. I’m rather partial to Balanchine, and I am dancing in the piece, so my perception will naturally be skewed… but I very much enjoy it. Like I said, you should come.

Clowes. Feb 25 and 26. 8 pm. Be there.

Student Choreography: It never ends

Actually, Student Choreography is over, so my title may not be entirely accurate. I feel like I have so much more time now that it’s over. Of course, I should be writing my long Irish Lit paper. But, you know. I needed one weekend to chill out, right? That’s what I’m telling myself.

Back to the Student Choreography report. I’ve told you what Student Choreography is and a bit about the music I used. Now to the dancing:

I’m not completely happy with the final result. I learned quite a bit in the process of choreographing this first piece, and I think certain choices were successful. But. If I had to do it over again:

  • I would maybe chose different music. The Art Pepper Quartet’s version of “You Go To My Head” proved to be an ambitious choice for someone with not the greatest musical acuity.
  • I would try to work more efficiently. I called so much rehearsal, and I really am grateful for my fifteen dancers for putting up with me. They were all very cooperative, so I definitely owe them a big thank you!
  • I would not be so stiff. I realized half-way through that my choreography tended to be walk-to-a-place. Dance-in-one-place. Walk-elsewhere. Repeat. I needed more moving phrases and more formational shifts that were not so arbitrary.
  • More dynamics. There were moments with different moods, but it tended towards doalotofmovements,oneoneachcount and hold. Repeat.
  • I just didn’t like some of it. There was no time to revise, however, so onto the stage it went.

Despite all that, I’m really glad I participated in Student Choreography. The very fact that I can pick apart my dance ’til the cows come home proves that I got a lot out of the experience, right?

My piece was called “All the Stars’ Eyelids,” by the way, which is the literal translation of the first few words of the Welsh song “Ar Hyd Y Nos.” The Welsh title actually translates to “All Through the Night,” but the first few words start, “Holl amrantau’r sêr ddywedan,” which is “All the stars’ eyelids say.” My piece was an ode to odd people, and I thought the title was fitting.

And that was the story of my first choreographed work in the Student Choreography showcase. It was not entirely successful, but I learned a lot from the experience.

Dancers from my piece on the Student Choreography flyers!

Student Choreography: My Frankenstein

The Student Choreography report continues…

I used music by Art Pepper called You Go to My Head. I have been trying to choreograph something for an embarrassingly long time, and this music is actually a vestige from another idea I had involving the ideal of femininity right after World War II, since there seem to be some contradictions in there. The music is part of the cool jazz genre right around that time.

(At least, it’s cool jazz as far as I know–I suppose I should ask some of my jazz musician friends for an analysis. I already got a wonderfully entertaining analysis of the chord progressions…. There was something about a dejected E-flat finally finding resolution just when he had given up. If you think you have a musical ear, why don’t you listen to the music and tell me if you agree?)

YouTube Preview Image

If you can’t see the video above–because I can’t, and I wonder if I’m going about embedding it the wrong way–follow this link to the Youtube page. [Edit: I think I’ve got it.]

So that was the music I used. I had three soloists and twelve corps members, and though I would have loved to have colorful costumes, there were so many people that for cost reasons I could not make or buy anything. They all wore white t-shirts and black tights, and the marvelous lighting designer made the white look pretty darn good in purples and greens.

Because the music is so evocative of a certain period and mood, I had to be really careful not to slip into that style. Much of the movement ignores the melody and tries to work off the baseline, though I honestly had a pretty hard time picking this piece apart. I’m not incredibly knowledgeable about music, and jazz compositions tend to be very complex. I think so, at least.

So I tried not to Mickey Mouse the music.

Click the picture for source.

More later?

Halfway to Tipperary

For the context of the title of this post, pretend Tipperary means “finishing my Student Choreography Showcase piece” instead of “an town in Ireland’s Muster province.”

When I was a freshman, I ran the lighting board during the shows. When I was a sophomore, I performed in one of my classmates’ pieces. This year, I’m in two pieces and choreographing my own. The tech rehearsal is in a week. I am only halfway finished.

Student Choreography is a student-run, student-choreographed, and student-danced performance in October. All dance major can choreograph and/or dance in the show. A few stipulations:

  • Students may dance in no more than three pieces.
  • Works must remain under five minutes.
  • Choreographers cannot dance in their own pieces.

Apart from that, we are pretty much given free rein. I have not successfully choreographed a dance before, and it’s terrifying. The choreographers all met on Thursday to discuss dates and times… And I am far behind.

To be fair, I have an ambitious project: over four minutes with fifteen dancers. Fifteen! That’s a lot.

And… I should get back to working on choreography. The music I’m using:


Annnnd it’s not working. You can go here if the video is a sad red square for you, too. It’s Art Pepper‘s You Go to My Head.