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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”

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.

Snow for Midwinter

The snow was falling in the extra large, soft flakes Tuesday morning, just in time to set the scene for Butler Ballet’s Midwinter Dance Festival. The Dance Department planned this on purpose, of course.

This marks production week for the Butler Ballet. Monday was a full run through in the dance studios, and Tuesday afternoon/Wednesday morning was spacing in costume onstage. Wednesday afternoon: Tech rehearsal. Thursday: Dress. Then opening night comes Friday, February 17 at 8 pm in Clowes Memorial Hall.

With each show I perform here, I feel more confident — not so much in the technical sense (though the hope is to improve there as well!), but because I feel more relaxed, more able to project an emotion, whether that be horror at the curse cast on baby Aurora or the regal poof! of the snow queen sweeping away the snowflakes, or simply the happiness of a peasant-type character. (There are aproximately five million peasants in Coppélia. I’m getting ready!)

Por Vos Muero‘s beginning section is rather emo in a way, and I love to watch the duets the most. To dance, though, my favorite is the middle group dance and three girls’ dance. The group dance is supposed to be a sort of social dance, and the three girls’ dance is quick and (when I jump in the air, shaking my head as wildly as I dare during my little solo) saturated with such gleeful abandon.

The moment before the music starts, I breath out and think about something silly my boyfriend told me about analytic chemistry, and I can’t stop the beginnings of a smile. Then the music starts and I’m swept away in the movement.

And… Just like an elementary school book report, I won’t tell you how the story ends. There’s also:

  • Bournonville’s Flower Festival staged by Marek Cholewa — a demonstration of technically brilliant footwork. Bournonville offers one of the most playful permutations of classical ballet; I had to smile while watching it.
  • A piece by visiting assistant professor Michael Johnson — with live music. Every time I see this piece, my brain starts firing away different memories or emotions. You’ll want to watch it more than once.
  • A brand new, large-scale piece by professor Cynthia Pratt, with music by The Black Keys, detailing an argument between two lovers. The piece is narrative, funny, visually engaging, and a bit mischievous. My friend is the principle dancer, and I think she’s just the bee’s knees.
  • Stephan Laurent’s Enigma Variations offers an object lesson in theme and variation choreography. With supremely inventive partnering and lifts, along with creative use of gesture, the piece leaves one still wondering at the end… *cue dramatic music* …perfectly fulfilling the implied promise of the title.

You’ll have to come see it for yourself!

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!

Downtown Indy: Dance and Football

On Friday night, I went with a group of dance majors who belong to Sigma Rho Delta (honorary dance service fraternity) to see Dance Kaleidoscope‘s show at the Indianapolis Repertory Theater. The title was Super Soul: Motown and More, and each of the pieces were choreographed to music by artists like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. I know I’m biased, but my favorite piece was Quiet Storm, choreographed by Butler dance professor Cynthia Pratt. The piece remained witty and playful without resorting to tricks — an easy trap when you dance to such a catchy tune as “ABC” by Jackson 5…

After the show we waited to congratulate the two Butler alumni who dance with the company. They looked fabulous! After seeing them off, we decided to walk around downtown Indy, since we’d already paid $20 for parking. Circle Center was lit up for the Superbowl and it seemed like everyone was out and about — the sidewalks bristled with pedestrians. We made a hot chocolate stop. There might have been some impromptu improv in front of the Superbowl letters.

All in all, it made for a thoroughly exciting night.

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

The First Audition

It was a long drive home from Chicago through the blinding mist, odd lightening flashes, and occasional splatterings of rain. This Sunday marked the first of what I intend to be many auditions. Yes — the job search begins.

I went to the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago audition with a carful of other Butler students… and ran into about eight others, as well as two alums. I made some friends, did some ballet, learned some rep. It was fun.

The drive back, however, was slightly terrifying since the fog became so thick on the road, and sections of the highway back do not have reflectors in the lane divisions. Thank the heavens, we had a pro driver and made it back safely. After midnight.

Getting up for French was not fun this morning… I can think this semester will be awfully busy! Who else has travel stories coming from or going to auditions? Please share!

Working with Kevin Irving

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.

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.)