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.
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...
Oh my goodness, this past weekend’s performances of Coppélia were completely overwhelming — in the best of ways. Putting the experience into words is so difficult. Of course things didn’t go perfectly. The last night, when I finally got all the fouetté turns at the end of the ballet, I almost ate it on the pull in. It’s never perfect.
But while I am not satisfied with the performances (if I were satisfied, I don’t think I would be trying to produce art), I am overjoyed and overwhelmed and (though sad it is over) still riding on an incredible high. It might not be perfect, but oh my goodness, it’s so much fun.
Seniors on the ladder!
Class on Monday was painful for sure! When the adrenaline from performing was gone, the fatigue/soreness it masked definitely remained. The life of a dancer… We are busy preparing for dance finals. Academic classes are winding down too in a flurry of projects and tests and papers. This is the last final season I will have at Butler.
Somehow everything seems less real for a few days after we leave the theater. I’m getting ready for finals, of course, but part of me is still on that stage, smiling or crying or clenching my fists or falling in love or prancing around, full of mischief. Dancing Swanhilda was a tremendous blessing, and I know I will miss it so much. The only remedy? On to the next performance!
I know I’m dancing in the Spotlight gala at Clowes and then in Carbondale for the Southern Illinois Music Festival… and then who knows what adventures wait for me in Tulsa? It’s scary and exciting, and I feel much more prepared to meet that challenge after the whirlwind that was Coppélia.
Now you have to buy tickets for Coppélia — it’s an Indianapolis Groupon deal, so you get a discount and everything! My roommate showed me the link. You get two tickets for $32, which is even less than I would pay as a student for two tickets with my student rate! At the time of this post, there are about thirteen hours left for the deal. Yes, I am shamelessly advertising now.
In any case, I’m glad to see Butler Ballet on big websites like Groupon. The shows are always more exciting when there is a sizable audience. After all, ballet is a performing art. The audience plays an integral role in what I see as the magic of the stage. Now I’m getting a bit sappy — probably because I’m writing this rather quickly because production week is crazy — please do not judge me too harshly.
The synopsis the Groupon website has for Coppélia is fairly amusing. I suppose this is a comic ballet, so it is only fitting that this version of the libretto is comedic as well.
I went to see Bela Fleck and the Flecktones right here on campus last night at Clowes Memorial Hall. I didn’t know what to expect, since I didn’t know much about the group — and since I haven’t been to a bigger concert like this before. It. was. so. cool.
I went with my boyfriend, who plays the bass, and I think he about passed out when the bassist Victor Wooten did his crazy solo — playing up and down the neck of the bass like a piano, crisscross his hands, coaxing out sounds I’ve never heard a bass make before.
I really liked that the whole band was on an equal plane. Sometimes it bugs when when the melodic instruments (including vocals) take the musical lead all the time. Why does the guitarist/lead singer/etc get to be the star? Why not the percussionist or bassist? Or pianist/harmonic player or banjo player, in the Flecktones’ case. Each band member had a chance to solo, and even within the tunes they definitely took turns. For someone not great at differentiating sounds, this was wonderful because it helped me really listen to each individual part.
Overall, great show, great experience, great night. I highly recommend seeing them if you have a chance. Butler students often get discounted tickets for shows at Clowes, too, so while you are a student here, you should seize the chance to see top-tier artists without killing your budget!
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.
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!
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.
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.
I am writing from the basement of Clowes, preparing myself for the last two shows of The Nutcracker — I perform tonight and tomorrow afternoon! Last night was my first show, since we only have six shows this year. I thought the run on Friday went really well — at the very least, I had a great time. I took some time before we went onstage to remind myself how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do what I love.
On a related note, I haven’t been able to focus on homework for a week. I’m taking a break from composing an argument about socialism as a natural force in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. I’m three acts of a play behind in my Shakespeare class (sorry, Dr. Walsh), and I’m really glad I choreographed my ballet class for Teaching Analysis over Thanksgiving Break.
Oh dear. Sunday night is going to be fuuuun with all the academic work I haven’t finished, but I still love the craziness The Nutcracker brings each year. My family came to Indianapolis to see the shows, and I am so grateful everyone was able to travel so far. We had a delicious breakfast this morning.
Also, I am addicted to adding avocado to my sandwiches.
Also, Nutcracker proximity is proportional to the randomness of this posts, and for that I apologize.