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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 “dance department”

Q&A: Dance Department

Last week I got a series of great questions from a high school senior looking into Butler’s dance major. I thought I would answer them here on the blog so other prospective students can see and comment!

Q: Is Butler’s dance program based in classical ballet? Most programs seem to be modern emphasis.

A: Yes, the dance department is grounded in classical ballet. I was struck by the scarcity of options for a serious classical ballet, liberal arts program when I was looking for schools four years ago. I take a ballet technique class five days a week, plus pointe, classical variations, and classical partnering.

Snow Corps, The Nutcracker, 2010, choreography by Cynthia Pratt

Q: What other techniques are you learning at Butler?

A: The semester counts here are out of seven, since I am taking my seventh of eight semesters. I have studied jazz (4 semesters), modern (7), contemporary partnering (1), Slavic character (1), Spanish character (1), and improvisation (1).

In less technical-movement-based classes, I’ve studied: Laban Movement Analysis, Teaching Analysis of Classical Ballet (of Jazz and of Modern are also offered), Body Placement (a sort of Pilates-nutrition-anatomy mishmash), and Choreography.

On the purely academic front, the Dance Department offers/requires: Masterworks of Dance, a history of music class, Music Theory for Dance, Design and Construction of Dance Costumes, Dance History, and Theory and Philosophy of Dance. Other related requirements include an acting class, piano, and voice.

Midwinter Dance Festival 2010, 1st of 3 in 17, choreography by Cynthia Pratt

Q: Anything you think would be helpful…

A: This senior mentioned double majoring, which I am doing with great difficulty. If you want to double major, my advice is to be realistic and to become intimate with the requirements of both departments and with the colleges of each department. The trouble I’ve run into personally is the language requirement demanded by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (for my English Literature major) — though it’s not required by the Jordan College of Fine Arts (the college of my primary major in Dance Performance). Look carefully at all your requirements and do the credit-hour math beforehand. You might, as this senior wisely mentioned, have to stay an extra summer or semester to finish.

Q: I live in Georgia, so scheduling a visit is tough. Can you give me some pointers?

A: Here are some questions you might want to consider before flying/driving to Indianapolis if you are from out of state or looking at the dance major:

- Do you want a liberal arts environment (versus a conservatory)?
- Do you want a program based in classical ballet?
- Are you open to learning all sorts of other techniques?
- Does Butler offer the classes you want, both in and outside the dance major? (Which you can check here…)
- Could you live in Indianapolis? Could you fly/drive a substantial distance for the holidays?

As I told this senior, if you have any other questions you want answered about Butler University, don’t hesitate to ask! If I don’t know the answer, I can find someone who does and get that information to you as you begin your college decision process. You might also like to peruse the departmental requirements or the Jordan College of Fine Arts Facebook page.

The Nutcracker awakens from its dormant state

We left The Nutcracker safely laired last winter, curled up to dream of sugarplums dancing and mice gnawing for the long spring and summer. Unlike most hibernating creatures, The Nutcracker drowses through the warm weather and awakens for the cold. Being September, the Department of Dance at Butler has begun preparations for The Nutcracker.

The Butler Ballet in The Nutcracker, 2010

Each year, the Department of Dance mounts two full-length classical ballets as well as a full evening of short pieces (Midwinter Dance Festival). Past years have included, in reverse chronological order, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Cinderella, and Giselle. And The Nutcracker, always The Nutcracker. Like most ballet companies, the Butler Ballet relies on the traditional Nutcracker productions to keep afloat. This means most dancers have performed the ballet approximately way too many times.

No, I actually like The Nutcracker, though I also like to complain about The Nutcracker. It’s nostalgic, for sure, extremely familiar, a sign of the winter holidays and family and many years spent with ballet friends and colleagues. As much as I’m nervous for this year’s performance — I am one of the two Sugar Plum Fairies — I am excited to get into the full swing of rehearsals.

Will I see you at Clowes Hall this year on December 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th?

One Week In: Dance Department

One week into my last fall semester, and I’ve done a fair amount of dancing, homework completing, cooking, talking… not so much blogging in there. Highlights from the dance department in the first week of classes:

  • Everyone suffers for about three days from post-vacation soreness. I don’t care how much you danced during the summer — if you took off four days to move in (the weekend, then Monday and Tuesday before classes began on Wednesday), you will be sore. And holy cannoli, was I sore! But — apart from a mildly strained hamstring that’s almost completely gone now — that soreness was short-lived, only two or three days.
  • Department meeting on Thursday. We introduced all the new students (or rather, they introduced themselves). We welcomed old and new faculty members, including a guest teacher for the semester… the former Boston Ballet member, Michael Johnson. I have had two classes from him this year, both extremely enjoyable.
  • Also as the department meeting, we met the new Dean of the JCFA, Ronald Caltabiano. I actually met and enjoyed conversation with Dean Caltabiano at a lunch during Butler Summer Institute. This should be an exciting year in Lilly Hall with all the new people!
  • Monday we conducted our annual height line meeting for Butler Ballet. Every student participating in Butler Ballet (the performing aspect of the dance department) filed into a long (very long) line according to height. The department records the line to aid with casting. Speaking of which…
  • Tuesday marked the first of Nutcracker auditions! Level 3 and 4 women performed several sequences of movement different faculty members prepared; the men had the next slot of time. Then 3 and 4 women joined forces with the men as faculty members watched a short partnering sequence performed by dozens of different pairings. Auditions for underclassmen continue later this week (as well as call backs, if needed).

And there seems to be the big news from the dance department. What can you look forward to during your first week as a dance major at Butler? You will be sore. So will everyone else, to some degree — use this as a bonding experience. You will attend various meetings with introductions, waivers, interest forms, and other non-dancing activities. You will line up by height and the truth will come out. (Or not.) You will dance and dance and meet dozens of people. Friendship, lactic acid, tutus and pointe shoes… Sounds good to me.

Snapshot: Still sleeping

Sleeping Beauty! It happened my last full weekend at Butler! I enjoyed myself immensely! Exclamation points!! My parents came to see it–and my grandparents and my boyfriend’s family and an aunt-uncle pair. I’ve never had so many people in the audience, and I am so thankful to all who went out of their way to attend the performances.

For the Honors Ceremony after the Saturday night show, my family all wore white. This was unintentional, but made for a funny picture. White and cream, white and khaki, white and grey. With my heeled shoes, we all became exactly the same height as well.

The Honors Ceremony’s timing is less than perfect: It’s after the night show, which means it starts well after 10 pm. We were finished just before midnight, but it was past pumpkin hour by the time I got back to my dorm room.

The event honors students in the dance department for achievements in performance, work ethic, leadership, spirit, and academic work throughout the year. There are a variety of awards, including many moments of recognizing the graduating class.

There are also little ham sandwiches there, with fresh fruit. I love strawberries.

One of the most beautiful flower arrangements I've received

Tutu!

The Joffrey in Indy

Joffrey Ballet Chicago performed to a refreshingly full house at Clowes Memorial Hall this past Saturday night. The review here does not quite do the show justice. Dance majors taking Dance History II had to write a review of the performance, and I feel like the conversations we had about the pieces on the program more closely examined the program than the review I found online.

Ashley Wheater

Before the performance, however, the artistic director gave a master class on Friday afternoon. Since I am in the Level 4 ballet class this semester, I was lucky enough to take class from Mr. Ashley Wheater. His class was challenging but fun. I was particularly taken with his porte de bras–all very logical, without requiring a conscious effort to remember odd pathways.

He stressed stability stemming from the supporting leg’s rotation. We believed him: His turnout and technique showed though he demonstrated in street clothes and tennis shoes. Graceful, articulate, and clever, Mr. Wheater left a good impression.

The company presented the romantic Jerome Robbins ballet In the Night, Balanchine’s Tarentella, Gerald Arpino’s Round of Angels, and Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence. We dancers disagreed (some of us bitterly) over several aspects of the last piece. Art wars. As long as people still get upset over differing viewpoints of choreography, I feel like the arts are in good shape. You can see an exceprt from Liang’s piece below:

YouTube Preview Image

Did you see the show? Did you like the last piece? Maybe if I talk to some of my friends, they would allow me to quote part of their reviews. I’d like to lay out the different viewpoints side by side.

Assessment Week #3

Every year, dance department students complete a self evaluation in the fall semester. This provides us with a chance to reflect on our progress, to put into words what we are trying to do with our movement, to identify areas we would like to improve. It is more important, perhaps, in that we are supposed to write how we are trying to improve specific things.

Topics we are asked to write on (in a few sentences for each section) include: technique, musicality, strength, flexibility, professionalism, and long-/short-term goals. (There are more… it’s fairly comprehensive.) I would not say that anyone particularly enjoys writing her self-assessment, but as a tool to focus our training, it is superb. I like to write mine early in the year: That way it is more of a plan of attack than a reflection on what areas I have concentrated my efforts. We turn our self-assessments in during our ballet technique final exam in the fall.

The faculty members, bless their hearts, read every single self-assessment. I think there are over one hundred students in the dance department this year. That’s a heck of a lot of assessing. This week, every student gets a fifteen minute appointment to meet with all the faculty at once. Faculty members provide feedback on our self-assessments, our classwork, and our performances. Even though the experience is slightly terrifying — have you ever been the focus of an entire department’s faculty all at once? — it’s good to get feedback.

I thought this year’s meeting was the most helpful one I’ve received: They talked about my classwork, performance, and what I wrote on my assessment, but they also introduced  a topic in a way I had not thought of before.

The other plus side of assessment week? The first four days see almost all our dance classes canceled. (Since the faculty meets with students all day, every day. It’s a grueling schedule.) I have much more free time than usual this week.

Of course, I just came from production/performance week for Midwinter Dance Festival, which means I have not done any meaningful amount of homework or housework or general life-organizing in a while. This week is shaping up to be busier than I thought it would be. (Though I should have know better.)

On the plus side again, I’m almost done with Moby Dick!

The White Whale...

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.

All the small things

Loads of little things have been happening. And I promise there will be neither weather nor cooking/baking represented in this post.

1. I was in an advertisement in Dance Magazine with some other students from the Dance Department. (Come to Midwinter!)

The piece depicted is Professor Cynthia Pratt’s work “1st of 3 in 17,” which is set to Mozart and very cool, in my opinion.

2. My Interlibrary loan books came. So much Welshness! Butler students have access to the extremely cool WorldCat Union database that lets you search for books worldwide. So many libraries! So many books! I get really excited!

3. Midwinter Studio Dress is this Saturday. I have no photos to show you… I suppose you will simply have to watch a performance February 25 or 26 at 8 pm in Clowes Memorial Hall.

4. In pas de deux class on Wednesday, my dance professor lifted me above his head. Never having done a Bluebird lift before, I listened to his explanation. Then, without completely understanding the process, I was balanced on his shoulder, suddenly much, much taller than normal. Just a day the life, etcetera etcetera.

It just surprised me, since I did not at the time realize quite how I had gotten there.

A Midwinter plug, plus food pictures

What does one do after a long day of dancing? This week, our rehearsal schedule was relatively light, but last week was fairly typical. The dance department is in the thick of preparations for our Midwinter Dance Festival.

If you are in the area, please come and support us! Not only will you see a piece by one of the biggest names in American choreography (though Balanchine was Russian, true), but you will also find new works choreographed by Butler’s faculty. The Clowes box office is open from 10-5 on weekdays, 10-2 on Saturday, and 2 hours before ticketed events begin… hint hint.

Tickets you will buy aside, what does one do after a long day of dancing? One embarks on a spice adventure!

  • Gather most every spice in the apartment’s kitchen.
  • Add lemongrass, olive oil, and onion to fish.
  • Add spices at will. Mix and match
  • Bake in a foil packet for 20 minutes.
  • Eat.
  • Consider the spice adventure a success, but wish you had not added quite so much paprika.

Afterwards, I fried a banana in cinnamon sugar. My friend kindly arranged it for me to optimize the photo shoot.

Come to Midwinter!

Working all the time

This title is a phrase one of the dance professors likes to use, and this week, it has been very true. (This post is also the final section of the story of my first day back, horribly dragged out into infinite blog posts. Sorry.)

The Dance Department is honored to welcome Ms. Deborah Wingert from the Balanchine Trust. Ms. Wingert watched our ballet class (the first after break… ofgh!) and chose twenty-five women and one man for her staging of Walpurgisnacht. Meanwhile, we had a pointe class. Then those of us in the piece had rehearsal. For a very long time.

Ooof, I’m so terribly sore, and my toes might fall off, but I’m really excited to be working with Ms. Wingert. She is tall, graceful, and horribly kind, and she intersperses teaching choreography with little anecdotes about the people and events surrounding New York City Ballet. “My friend Wendy,” she says causally, of famed dancer Wendy Wheldon. Ms. Wingert worked with George Balanchine, and her insight on his choreography is invaluable. She even spoke up in favor of my hair color after one of the professors asked me if I had dyed it.

(Only a little bit…)

In all seriousness, I cannot speak highly enough of her, and I’m glad we get the opportunity to work with her as we rehearse for our Midwinter Dance Festival in February.

You might say my first day back was a bit of a whirlwind. I’m glad I read a biography of Balanchine earlier this year! I love (most of) his choreography. Serenade: Still my favorite.