Olivia ’12 RSS feed

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.

Check us out on Facebook Follow us on Twitter! Butler's YouTube Channel Chat with a Student

Posts Tagged “dance major”

Spring Break: The Audition Tour

Spring Break. Lounging on the beach, in the hammock, by the pool, in a tree. All valid and envy-worthy activities.

I shall be traveling the country, looking for a job. Besides visiting BalletMet, Tulsa Ballet, and Cincinnati Ballet, I’ll be rewriting my BSI paper, getting a haircut… and seeing my family! I know lots of other senior dance majors will be doing the audition tour as well.

It’s weird to think this will be my last spring break ever. Though I might complain about being busy all the time, I still have academic calendar breaks. These disappear once I graduate and abruptly begin my tenure as a grown up. I guess I should enjoy the perks of not-quite-adulthood while they last. What has happened to the time?

I’m excited about graduating; I find myself more and more wanting to join what I call “the real world.” At the same time, I know that my grandfather at least thinks college is as good as it gets. I’m sure he’s right. I’m very spoiled here, living with all my friends in a very nice housing unit, doing what I love in a safe environment, etc, etc. Still, I want to hold onto that excitement; if I grow too nostalgic, I think graduating could quickly turn into a dreaded date. I want to look forward to graduating, so I’ll focus on the positive.

Anyway. That last paragraph got away from me. What are you doing for spring break? Butler’s Alternative Spring Break sounds extremely cool, and I just learned that my priest is going to Hawaii.

Spring Break 2011: My family rides the jitney -- I can only hope my three days at home this year are as epic.

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.

Kind of like a snow day…

The week after the week after. The following items are related.

1. Midwinter production/performance week, check. Evaluation week (i.e. the week I apply to many jobs), check. Coppélia-rehearsals-begin week: in progress.

2. I didn’t intend to be writing many blogs this week after seeing our rehearsal schedule combined with the terrifying prospect of whipping my BSI paper into shape.

3. This winter has been extremely temperate. Last year, we had two snow days thanks to the ice storm which coated the campus and its environs. The “Icepocalypse,” we called it. This year, there are no snow days for us, which suits me just fine. I like warmer weather.

4. The reason I am writing now and not frantically finishing English homework?

All dance classes have been unexpected cancelled. Snow is not the reason. Instead, we must blame the Lilly Hall sewage system backup which flooded a basement mechanical room last night and resulted in all the water being shut off/bathrooms being closed.

Facebook has been rather amusing, with all the sewage jokes. You fill in the blanks — I’ve included one of the tamer examples below.

Still, I’m a bit conflicted. I enjoy being lazy, I promise! But I’m disappointed/waiting for the backlash of the missed day: I had over three hours of rehearsal scheduled, and learning new material is always exciting. Plus, I’m sure we’ll have to make up for lost time over the next few days.

One thing is for sure. This is probably the oddest reason classes have been cancelled.

Evaluation Week — the last one!

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/)

YouTube Preview Image

Time for another Studio Dress

That’s right, this Saturday marked the ever-popular Studio Dress rehearsal, wherein the entirety of Butler Ballet gathers to run the show in order, with costumes, in the largest dance studio in Lilly Hall.

Studio Dress generally lasts much longer for The Nutcracker than for Midwinter Dance Festival or the spring story ballet because usually only The Nutcracker is double cast, necessitating two full runs. This year, we split The Nutcracker studio dress rehearsal into two days, because President Danko’s inauguration cut into the rehearsal slot. An oddity, if you recall.

Studio Dress, step-by-step:

  • Up at 8:30 to clean the kitchen and eat breakfast, in that order
  • English homework until 10:30
  • Prep for rehearsal (make lunch, do hair, get dressed, warm up) until 11:30
  • Walk to dance studios
  • Warm-up at 12:15
  • Gather costume, do hair again after warmup, 1 pm ish
  • Run the program!
  • Film classwork for audition videos…
  • Church!
  • Chinese food outing!
  • Prep for audition tomorrow
  • Sleep (forthcoming)

And that’s my rather uninteresting schedule of events. Notice I did not include laundry, which means I’ll be washing a few things in the sink before the week is out… I don’t need nice tights for the shows, though, since our beautiful costumes lack leg coverings.

Come see Midwinter!

New Year, New School

Happy New Year’s Eve! For high school seniors, this is especially poignant, since the year will mark your graduation and subsequent first months in college.

I ran into a high school senior at the Jewish Community Center yesterday, where we were both taking a ballet class. She asked me about Butler, and we spent the better part of an hour talking about colleges. As a college senior, I was surprised by how I could look back over four years and see the large sweep of events — how this aspect of the liberal arts was wonderful (physics class), how this part was really obnoxious (mixed-up degree plans). Thinking about colleges inspired me to create this list.

List of 6 Qualities You Should Consider When Deciding Where to Go For College and How Butler Relates to the Aforementioned Attributes:

1. Degree Plan

We attend college in the hopes of learning more about our areas of interest in the hopes of getting a job in the hopes of attaining some personal goal, whether it be personal fulfillment or world-changing innovation. So make sure the college you pick will let you take the classes you want.

Also, make sure the college is up to your caliber. You want to major in pharmacy or dance? Butler provides a challenging environment for both areas of study. I considered attending another college when I was a senior, but the brochure for their English Department contained typos and I was not overly impressed by the professionalism or talent of the dance department. Butler was different — it offered a solid English program in a liberal arts setting where I could concentrate on a high level of classical ballet.

2. The Food

Do you have dietary restrictions? Are you vegetarian? The first two years of study at Butler mandate your participation in a meal plan, and Butler isn’t the easiest place to be vegetarian. There are always options — but having visited my sister’s college, I must say that Butler really could not be considered a leader in environmental issues. This means vegetarians at Butler will be able to find something to eat, but they’ll have to work a lot harder than if they went to a place like Dickinson.

However, Butler is revamping its main dining hall in Atherton Union over this winter break. I also haven’t been on a meal plan for two years, so things might have changed. I know several people who are vegetarian, and they did just fine. Now, if you are vegan… not sure. I know the university has concentrated on this aspect of campus life, and they are trying to improve. Talk to the dining services if you have concerns.

3. Cost

These aren’t always the most fun aspects of a college to consider. Who wants to calculate how far into debt one will have slipped by the end of four-ish years? Cost should not be prohibitive, especially in terms of applying for college. After that acceptance letter, you can always discuss financial options with the Office of Admission and Financial Aid. Money sometimes equates reality, however, and a college decision might come down to cost. Sad but true.

4. Location

Always dreamed of living in the Midwest, where the corn fields stretch across a very flat plain and one may spot windmills? (Windmills! I say. We don’t have those on the East Coast!) College offers the chance to see a new place, to live with snow or alligators or windmills. (Note: I’m exaggerating here. I don’t know of any windmills directly in the Indianapolis area, but the drive to Chicago has certainly/clearly left a great impression on me.)

A word on location: You should factor the cost of travel when looking at quality number three…

5. Teaching Style

This becomes extremely important for a dance major, though I’m not sure how much it applies to other disciplines. I’m sure there are connections, but I’m too lazy at the moment to seek them out.

Do you want to focus on classical ballet? Balanchine? Modern? A balance of the above? Butler’s first focus rests squarely on classical ballet, but the curriculum is wide enough with jazz, contemporary pas, theater dance, modern (no straight style, but taught by a former member of both Paul Taylor and Martha Graham’s company) (this professor is truly one of the gems of the dance department, corny as that may sound), and so on to create a versatile dancer.

6. Breadth of Study

Perhaps this is just my liberal arts background talking, but I think one of the pillars of higher learning is breadth of study. Concentration on a major all but guarantees depth, but the liberal arts mindset — a real liberal arts which both requires and inspires students to do more than brush past outside fields of study — provides context for the primary interest.

For example. The liberal arts requirements mandated I take a science course. A trick of the university scheduling offered PH 201 as a course which would fulfill that requirement. The opportunity to take a higher level science course and the requirement that I take at least five hours of science let me explore something completely different. If the class had not been mandated, I would never have taken it. If the classes that fulfilled the science requirement were not rigorous, I would never have gotten so much value out of those five credit hours. I acquired a deeper appreciation for the elegance and complexity of the world and rekindled my high school love of math as well as my long-time love of science.

Taking classes in physics might not be appealing if your only interest seems to be ballet. You might want only to dance, not to sit in a classroom memorizing names from dance history or singing solfege in a piano studio. The same applies to other areas of study at Butler. But Butler’s great strength does lie, I believe, in the liberal arts, and in the range of study it affords its students. Go for the liberal arts institutions. You’ll come out of four years knowing things you never expected to learn.

Who wants to receive exactly what one bargained for?

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.)

Dance Photos

I’ve been trying not to think too too much about dance auditions this coming spring, since the whole process seems quite daunting. But I’ve finally gotten my dance photos taken which will go in my resumé. A fellow dance major was kind enough to take me to his home in Cleveland and help with the four-hour photo session. If that isn’t friendship, I don’t know what is!

The process wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, although I was surprisingly sore afterwards. I did not realize that taking a photo of, say, a brisé, would require me to brisé fifty times in a row without stopping. The photographer was brilliant, talented, and exceedingly patient, as was his apprentice/assistant. As was the friend who stayed the entire time to help.

Intimidating at first glance...

I took my headshot first because I tried some with my hair down (pre-bun). That took longer than I thought it would, and I felt pretty awkward sitting on a chair smiling for ages and ages. The dance photos were more as expected. Seeing pictures of oneself can be helpfully revealing. I did not realize my arm was practically vertical in what I termed “the ninja jump.” Whoops. Body awareness.

Anyhow, I can’t wait to see the pictures. I hope from these I can pick a few really strong ones to give out with my resumé come spring… and the audition season. Much as I’m dreading auditioning (nerves, nerves) (also, I despise scheduling, and auditioning is more scheduling than anything else, at least at this point), I feel anxious for the process to begin. Let’s find a job!

Wish me luck. (And congratulations to Steph with her wonderful news!)

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.