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.
This past Tuesday, I took the Department of Dance’s comprehensive exam to qualify for high honors in my dance BFA major. (Ugh, the honors system is kind of confusing, is never fully articulated, and — for Latin honors — makes me really mad. Let’s not go there.) With a handful of other brave souls, I sat down to four hours and thirty-one pages of a test on all the required classes for the BFA major.
Required classes include:
- Ballet Technique
- Modern Technique
- Jazz Technique
- Body Placement
- Masterworks of Dance
- Music Theory for Dance
- Choreography 1
- Choreography 2
- Spanish Character
- Slavic Character
- Butler Ballet
- Teaching Analysis of Classical Technique 1 & 2 (2 may be substituted for a different Teaching Analysis class)
- Dance History 1 & 2
All the above had sections on the test. I was writing for the full four hours.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, actually. I know I messed up a few sections — for example, I totally had “B flat” as the answer to a key signature question, but I erased it and put “B minor.” Circle of fifths, you deceived me!
The section on Butler Ballet was last, and I (as well as many of the others) got rather nostalgic answering those questions. It was good to review everything I’ve learned over the past four years; studying for and taking the test brought all the pieces together, gave me a real sense of the breath and depth of what I’ve learned in my major.
And I finally saw Trip!
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.
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/)
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.
This past Tuesday marked the last day Butler’s Department of Dance hosted guest repetiteur and teacher Kevin Irving, who set Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero for the Butler Ballet’s Midwinter Dance Festival.
After two solid weeks of rehearsals, we bid farewell to Mr. Irving and now continue to rehearse under dance professor Derek Reid. There’s a lot to work on — naturally, since we can always improve always in perpetuum — but I look back and see that everyone involved in the piece has come a long way.
Musicality, musicality, musicality.
The intricacy of the choreography requires a most exact sense of the music and makes working on the piece a rather delightful challenge. As our department chair said in another article, “The Butler Ballet is excited and humbled to have been selected as the only American College Dance program to perform a Nacho Duato work.”
We are all honored, and I for one am very excited… if my relentless posts on the subject haven’t convinced you, check out this article from the Butler Collegian, where I rave yet more (and more incoherently, probably) about the Midwinter Dance Festival this year.
As absorbed as I’ve been in the rehearsal process for Por Vos Muero, I haven’t seen too much of the other works in the show. I caught my first glimpse of Bournonville’s Flower Festival yesterday, which was exciting. I love the airiness of Bournonville choreography, and it offers a different view of classical ballet than the usual Petipa story ballet.
I highly recommend the Midwinter Dance Festival to anyone who has not been exposed to a lot of dance. Because the pieces come from a wide variety of genres and aren’t as lengthy, it makes for a good introduction. Make sure you buy your tickets for the shows on February 17 and 18 at 8pm!
If you’re in Indianapolis for the Superbowl… you should probably stick around for another two weeks so you can see Midwinter. : )
Can you tell which dancer is me?
Kevin Irving -- click through for source.
The big happenings in my life revolve around the dance department for the moment. We’ve been rehearsing, rehearsing for our Midwinter Dance Festival. As I’m sure you know by now — since I keep talking about it — this year’s commissioned piece is Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero, being set by guest artist Kevin Irving.
So far we’ve learned a group dance and various duets. The piece is actually mostly a series of duets. I had a rehearsal on Friday morning and learned my section, third “naked” pas at the beginning of the piece. (Explanation for the epithet: We’re wearing flesh-colored leotards.)
This Saturday, I worked with Mr. Irving for two hours on the duet. I ate half a sandwich while he worked with the first two duets, then we tried to string the first section together into the group dance. The group dance came next, then one of the pas from the end of the piece — and then a costume fitting! The costumes are beautiful, and mine actually fit. This might be the first time in a very long time I haven’t required a zillion alterations.
I simply must include a plug for Mr. Irving. I love working with him. He is demanding but clear, and he goes at just about the perfect pace for my learning preferences. Also, one of my best friends is the principal dancer in one of the other Midwinter pieces as well as understudying three parts in Por Vos Muero. So as much as I feel busy… She’s like a superwoman.
This is the first year I have not been part of the Student Choreography Showcase. Since I’ve been dealing with a foot injury, this was probably the right choice. Still, the show last night was great — once we got in.
When we arrived, they had just closed the doors because the Studio Theater in Lilly Hall was packed to the gills. I saw the stage manager leave and asked if we could enter if two people left the show early. Sure enough, after the second piece two audience members trickled out, and we got a seat at the very side of the theater.
I’m going back tonight to see the beginning of the show, obviously.
I thought the program this year was very strong. There were no pieces I disliked (and in years past there have always been one or two) and many that I loved. The music was overall predictable, but that uniformity did help to make a cohesive program. There were a bunch of good moments, and this year I saw more choreographic technique than ever before, if that makes sense.
Anyway, the JCFA is on Facebook, and you should follow them for updates — like this advisory about the Showcase seating:
Also, the Butler Ballet on Facebook, and Butler University and the Office of Admission.
Sunday night, the dance majors received a very exciting email from the director of the Department of Dance:
“I am very pleased to announce that this year’s Mid-Winter guest choreographer piece will be “Por vos Muero” by Nacho Duato. Mr. Kevin Irving, assistant to Mr. Duato will be coming to cast the piece this semester and he will then return to set the work at the beginning of the spring semester. This is very exciting for us all and continues the legacy of the masterworks that have been presented by the Butler Ballet over the past several years.”
Por Vos Muero:
The past four years I have been at Butler, our Midwinter Dance Festivals have showcased pieces from the best choreographers.
- 2012 Nacho Duato, “Por Vos Muero”
- 2011 George Balanchine, “Walpurgisnacht”
- 2010 Anthony Tudor, “Dark Elegies“
- 2009 George Balanchine, “Serenade”
I had the good fortune to participate in last year’s commissioned piece, and working with Deborah Wingert was absolutely amazing. (All dance students enrolled in Butler Ballet — i.e. almost all of them — are in the Midwinter show. The commissioned piece is not the only piece. Faculty members choreograph the rest of the program.) We don’t get to pick casting, obviously, and I’ll enjoy any piece I’m in, but I would love to learn Nacho Duato’s choreography, since we are learning the duets from Na Floresta in our Contemporary Partnering class and it is awesome. Video of Na Floresta:
So much excitement!