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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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Olivia

Goodbye, Butler!

August — new students arriving on campus. I’m way overdue to stop blogging, haha. Time to bid a fond farewell to the school I’ve loved so much for the past four years. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts here, and I hope I’ve helped illuminate some of college life at Butler University. I’m miss it for sure. There’s only one thing to say beside thank you, and that is…

Go Dawgs!

Dance majors of 2012 -- photo by Anna Peters

Butler Best Memories: Senior Year

This brings us to senior year, and to the end of my time at Butler. Senior year wasn’t always easy, but I finally felt like I could put all the pieces together. I felt more aware of what I did not know and what I had learned; I started to look outwards, toward life outside of a structured school environment. Senior year was both incredibly busy and extremely reflective. In short, I became a sap. Good memories and great friends will do that to you.

Well, before senior year technically started, I stayed in Indy for nine weeks of Butler Summer Institute, researching Anglo-Celtic literature. This is probably the most ambitious/difficult thing I’ve attempted in academics — and while I didn’t wholly succeed, I learned so much from the process. I’m extremely grateful to my mentor, the English Department, and the BSI program for the opportunity. I reference my experience constantly in conversations. If you have the scholarly inspiration and the time, I would highly recommend applying to participate in BSI.

So began my last year at Butler with the first of many lasts — my final Block Party. I worked at the Butler Catholic Community table, greeting friends as they passed by, thinking about the year to come. (Also, whether it was going to rain or not. If I remember correctly, it did, and we had to seek shelter in the student union.)

Sigma Rho Delta (as well as many non-Sigma Rho dance majors) went to the Indianapolis Gala performance again in the fall. I had mixed opinions about the bill, and being able to discuss artistic choices (read: argue about them) with other dancers was lovely. It’s like the old stereotype of college you find in slightly dated books: people sitting in a tiny room, talking late into the night about philosophy and artistic ethics and what causes they plan to march for over the summer. Okay, it didn’t go quite like that, but when I’m seventy, I bet I’ll remember it through these sepia lens of nostalgia!

Then came the last Freshman Retreat with the BCC. Here the leadership team shows its true colors. I began to realize how important I found the BCC about halfway through my four years at Butler, and if the last three months are any indication, it will continue to grow in importance as I look back at my time in Indy. (Same with character classes, dance history, piano classes, and modern classes, actually — and I’m sure many others will appear as the years wear on).

Halloween came, and I finally got it together enough to make a real costume. So far, I’d considered my most successful costume to be the Boy Scout uniform borrowed from my dad my sophomore year. However, I didn’t actually make it, so it probably shouldn’t count as much as my bird costume this year. I think I had as much fun making it as I did wearing it. Ahoy, maties! (Also, I never would have finished it in time if my boyfriend had not helped — thank you!)

In the spring… the Super Bowl came to Indianapolis. It was madness, kind of like March madness, except colder.

And I continued the fine tradition of knitting during the Super Bowl and finally FINALLY finished my lace circle which is large and beautiful and the most finicky thing I’ve ever knit. Cue awkward picture — notice the eyes, blurred from weaving in the million ends of lace-weight wool.

All January to March, I flew and drove and scuttled every which way to auditions. It was exhausting, but having gone through it once makes it not nearly as intimidating. (Ish.) It was a beautiful spring day in Tulsa went I traveled to audition for Tulsa Ballet II, and the weather matched my mood and relief when I got a contract with their second company. Advice for auditioning: Be respectful but be confident. You are a human being and deserve to be treated with dignity. Treat your fellow dancers with the same respect and kindness you would like to receive.

Our last performance with Butler Ballet was bittersweet indeed — as particularly emotional friends were quick to make known. You can see the traces of tears in our smiles. My senior year of dancing was full of ups and downs: injuring my foot during Nutcracker rehearsals in October, rehearsing for Por Vos Muero which is much harder than it seems at first, learning Swanhilda in Coppélia... All these opportunities taught me more than I realized at the time. Even just in the first two weeks at Tulsa, I’ve thought about that last year of dancing at Butler and made little choices throughout my days based on what I learned. I’M SO SAPPY, I’m sorry. But it’s true.

Also, my experience with Coppélia was so much fun, I still find it a bit surreal. There were about four days of actual freaking out in the two months of rehearsals, but the rest… I was oddly calm. I think it’s because I was allowed to act outraged or mischievous or in love or uncertain. Also, I gained a heck of a lot more stamina.

Thus we skipped our way through the four years. I met beautiful people, danced in amazing pieces, learned the difference between major and minor scales. I realized I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was, which probably made me a bit wiser. I gained immeasurable confidence, and though I still lack some necessary restraint, I think I’ve learned the trick of being happy most situations. Like I said in the beginning of this sappy post, senior year was the year of putting together the pieces. Maybe that is the liberal arts are supposed to do.

I hope you gather from this that going to college as a dance major was absolutely worth it in my opinion. I think it was the right choice for me, and I’m so happy I ended up at Butler for the experience.

Butler Best Memories: Junior Year

Sorry for the hiatus — just finished my first week in Tulsa Ballet’s second company! (And I’m already grateful for the broad training I received both in Richmond and at Butler. All those character classes and modern classes make the challenges I’m meeting here fun rather than overwhelming.)

But junior year awaits:

I loved living in the Apartment Village. As much as I learned living with roommates for my first two years at Butler, having my own bedroom in AV instantly made me much happier. To have a private place to de-stress and soak up the quiet was a marvel. Also — the kitchen. Getting off the meal plan and making my own odd food creations was great. I highly recommend soup. It’s really hard to mess up soup.

The same cannot be said of risotto. This risotto I made with my friend over Fall Break was crunchy. This is because you cannot use brown rice instead of arborio. Also over Fall Break, I stayed and worked on my long paper for my Contemporary Irish Literature class, which I thought at the time would be my senior English essay. Thus began that long saga. : )

To further define junior year, I could not omit physics class. When I wasn’t writing my Irish Lit paper or working on choreography or dancing, I was doing physics homework. This is noteworthy not only because just yesterday I used my understanding of angular momentum (no joke — it helped my assemblé en tournant in the Raymonda variation I’m learning), but also because I fell in l.o.v.e. with my homework buddy who even now patiently explains science to me.

And then it was winter and my roommates decorated the apartment and we all generally reveled in the having of a living room again after two years in the dorms.

In the beginning of the new year, it was freezing. My homework buddy/now boyfriend and I bundled up to brave the Icepocalypse. And I wrote my proposal for Butler Summer Institute for hours when I got home after rehearsal for Balanchine’s Walpurgisnacht each night. I remember these few months were busy and full of blessings — and bitterly cold.

Spring finally showed up shivering on the doorstep, and it brought another round of March Madness. Again, Butler’s basketball team made it to the championship game. Again, the campus went wild with spirit events and communal viewings.

In the end, I presented my first paper at Butler’s Undergraduate Research Conference, performed my first solo as Fairy Miettes-Qui-Tombant in The Sleeping Beauty, prepared for a summer of research with BSI, made it through my first ever teaching-assistantship, and even found time to make a couple loaves of bread.

Butler Best Memories: Sophomore Year

Sophomore year was tough. Tuesdays and Thursdays were full dancing days and began with music theory at 8 am! However, I had some of most memorable experiences during sophomore year. The photo journey through four years as a dance/English major continues:

I lived down the hall from the girls who would become my apartment-mates for the following two years… and to start the year off with a bang, we walked to the French Festival near campus (after going in the wrong direction for several summer streets and having to call for directions).

Sophomore year also marked the beginning of my more dedicated involvement with the Butler Catholic Community, an organization still near and dear to my heart. The priest on campus, Fr. Jeff was an integral part of my time at Butler. This picture is from the Freshman Retreat, where I helped play with play-dough and do the dishes, among other things.

Who could forget Y, Ball, Eiffel Tower? The Laban Movement Choir, part of the University’s Mahler Project, was in the autumn of my sophomore year, and I was immensely proud of the fact that I attained my goal of convincing (forcing) at least ten people to participate in the mass movement performance with all the dance majors. Here are some very good friends indeed demonstrating some of the poses from the piece.

I became a Butler Blogger my sophomore year and was full of grand ideas to make a video about Butler’s squirrels. So apart from the relentless dance schedule and my obsessive photographing of Butler’s dorms, food, and events, I hunted squirrels. Sometimes I filmed them. Occasionally I interviewed my friends about them — no joke! I still have the footage. (I also still have footage of my explanations of good study places — next to the little waterfall and in the laundry room, and that was as far as I got). Sometimes I stopped my bike and pulled out my phone to take a picture of a squirrel. I was crazy. Also…

I was obsessed with my bike, which I received as a birthday present early in the school year. I rode it everywhere. It was great.

And I dressed up as a boy scout for Halloween to go raid the school function’s candy and walk through a fraternity’s very creepy haunted house. Note the penknife. Then at midnight… I started NaNoWriMo.

Blogger Cathryn and I both participated in NaNoWriMo this year, which was the last time I tried to write a novel in November. Maybe I’ll revive the tradition this year?

Nutcracker came, as it always does, and I had to spray-dye my hair black to dance the Chinese soloist. For some reason, I was convinced my hair would fall out or turn brittle and break and I’d have an unwanted page-boy after the performance. (My hair is very thin and fine and breaks easily.) So I remember standing in the tiny ResCo shower stall, conditioning my hair for the third time, leaving in a smattering of the formula for bedtime, despite the fact that it was not leave-in conditioner. Whether due to the non-hair-breaking nature of the spray dye or due to my tender ministrations, I emerged from the performances with a full head of hair.

In the spring, I made icosahedrons with the rest of my Laban Movement Analysis class and tried to learn to play the castanets for Spanish Character. Sophomore year was full of discovery, shall we say.

Come March, basketball fever swept the campus as Butler’s basketball team played its way to the championship games… which were actually held in Indianapolis that year! We even got the morning/early afternoon excused to go to a pep rally downtown (though it was back to barre immediately afterwards). This was the first time I really paid any attention to sports, and participating in all the merriment with the rest of my friends was exciting! However, I remain a fair-weather fan, mustering the energy to watch the games only when everyone else around me is doing the same. (SHAME)

I still count Swan Lake as one of the hardest things I’ve done. Rehearsing for Little Swans, I had a serious case of the nerves (see post). A fire alarm went off in my building the night before opening night — glory. Still, I had a blast. And my tendonitis went away as soon as the performances were over.

So that was sophomore year, the year of bunked beds and falling out onto the floor each morning, of the giant Sigma Rho Delta binder for my pledge trainer duties, of knitting and GHS classes, of castanets and improv, of working all the time and learning more than I actually realized I was learning at the time.

Butler Best Memories: Freshman Year

Commence my last few posts for this blog before I officially graduate in August… and commence trips down memory lane. Freshman year was an emotional roller coaster as I gradually adjusted to college life.

Move-in was stifling. Students from the Greek houses (I think) and orientation guides helped my parents and I shuttle boxes and boxes from the car. The best part about move-in? The sense of camaraderie. The worst? The heat and lack of AC in the freshman girls’ dorm.

I bonded first with the girls in my dorm unit, some of whom I saw periodically over the next three years, some of whom I didn’t. Regardless, we were all fabulous dancers, as you can see from our impromptu hallway dance party.

And I voted in my first election ever, having turned eighteen just in time. Don’t forget to fill out your absentee ballot request!!

Freshman year, there was basically a lot of merriment. For instance, we dressed up as spies for our unit picture.

We even got a snow day when Mother Nature decided to dump a good three feet of snow onto the campus. This snow day was much more pleasant than the snow days when I was a junior: I worked at least seven hours a day on my BSI application when I was a junior. Also, that was an ice storm, and people broke bones. The freshman snowfall was just snow — perfect for frolicking.

And finally, how could I forget my dance class? I don’t have any pictures of Nutcracker, Midwinter, or Cinderella to show (got to keep things profesh!), but we all went to the Flying Cupcake (these cupcakes are the Butler student gift of choice) after our spring ballet technique final. So much fun!

Freshman year, explore the city and the campus. Take full advantage of opportunities to do silly things (safely and legally, of course). Make friends in a variety of social circles. And don’t forget to study!

If only I’d known

This is one of those horribly sappy “letters to myself” posts. Please excuse me, but I really want to tell myself:

Freshman year

  • Yes, you can sleep through that noise in your room, in the adjacent room, in the hall.
  • No, you cannot be so uptight. Be kind and sincere and considerate.
  • Be a better roommate.
  • No, you don’t need to bring your entire tea set to college. Or so many shoes.
  • No, you don’t need to ask so many questions after every jazz class. You’re a dancer. Use your body to figure it out.
  • You shouldn’t try to jump a pas de bourrée. You’ll only end up breaking your toe.
  • Please, please don’t wear those shoes with that skirt. You look like a clown.

Sophomore year

  • Yes, you can sleep through that noise.
  • Yes, you will eventually figure out how to roll the castanets.
  • Yes, you really can do homework/talk/sleep/ponder theories of the world while every other sophomore dance major is also trying to roll the castanets.
  • No, your hair will not fall out when you have to spray it black for Nutcracker performances.
  • That’s not how you rond de jambe en l’air.
  • Yes, your bottom leg will still be functional after Swan Lake, Act II. Yes, that’s tendonitis.
  • Yes, you will finish a double major. Stop stressing.
  • However, you should check with the head of department about requirement confusion.
  • Yes, your stick figure cartoons are amusing in your Music Theory, Choreography, and Global and Historical Studies classes. Now pay attention!
  • Please, please use your knitting savvy and make a tutu base that actually fits your torso instead of bunching up all the fabric on a too-big pattern.
  • On that subject, don’t use pastel, variegated, mohair yarn for your very first lace project.

Junior year

  • No, you really can’t juggle.
  • No, you won’t die if the apartment is slightly messy.
  • No, you shouldn’t use fifteen people in your very first choreographed piece.
  • Yes, that girl really is going to ride on the wrong side of the road. Wait just one minute and the two of you won’t collide.
  • No, fifteen minutes is not three-quarters of an hour. Yes, that boy in your physics class really does like you.
  • Your Irish Lit paper is too convoluted.
  • Yes, you really will get through Choreography II. No, you shouldn’t try to make a piece that’s entirely petit allegro.
  • You don’t actually have to learn the proof of standard deviation.
  • Please, please don’t be so ambitious about your BSI project. You can’t prove that thesis, no matter how hard you try.

Senior year

  • Don’t fouetté like that! You are going to sprain your toe, then inflame your tendon, then miss your chance to dance the Sugarplum Fairy. Just back away slowly…
  • No, it’s not the end of the world when that does happen.
  • Yes, you should ask for help with the Por Vos Muero music before rehearsal starts in January.
  • Your French teacher speaks Welsh. Ask her about it before the final exam.
  • Talk to your family more often.
  • Everything will work itself out in the end.
  • That leotard is on inside out.

Turning points in my life always turn me sappily reflective. It happened with high school, too. What interesting things have you learned throughout the course of high school/college/your young adult years that you wish you’d known beforehand?

** Oh, and one more: Don’t put potato peels down the kitchen sink. It will clog. **

What to do during your summer

Whether you are a high school junior/senior thinking about college, a college student in-between semesters, or someone just out of school, summer offers precious time to study and to play. The Butler Admissions guest blog wrote about some great suggestions for spending your summer, and of course I have to add my two cents! ;)

I’ve done things a bit differently every summer since I graduated from high school. Let’s recap, shall we?

  • Summer after I graduated from high school: I was lucky enough to travel the world with both my grandparents and my nuclear family, then to dance for a good chunk of the rest of the summer at home.
  • After freshman year: I was a nanny three-four days a week and danced on my off days.
  • After sophomore: I attended a summer dance intensive.
  • After junior year: I participated in Butler Summer Institute doing English research… and danced.
  • After senior year: So far I’ve finished that last French class required to graduate, danced in the Southern Illinois Music Festival, and am currently teaching movement classes to children. Soon I will move to Tulsa, OK!

In the process of doing each of these different activities I’ve come to appreciate the importance of two things: work and play.

Those two about cover the gamut of options, n’est-ce pas? But really, working, whether it be as a nanny, researcher, dancer, or teacher truly drove home the lessons I learned in class. Even if I didn’t quite understand everything said in my Teaching Analysis of Classical Dance class last semester, I am now remembering little details, seeing them played out in front of me. Even if I didn’t always realize the lessons in professionalism and technique my dance classes at Butler imparted, I found myself drawing on them for reference while dancing in southern Illinois.

However, as a type-A all the way, I was surprised to realize the equal importance of playing. After my summer of BSI and English classes and the stress of trying to keep in ballet-shape while conducting a huge research project, I entered senior year a bit tired. No worries, right? However, by the second semester, I think I had burned out a little with my English studies. Dancing, no problem. (Which is good news, since that’s what I’ll be doing full time next year!) Writing another English paper? The thought kind of made me gag. Already with a few weeks break, I’m back on my reading diet of Dylan Thomas… but I want to hold off on that paper for a few more months at least.

So take a risk this summer, be it structured (a job, a class, an internship, a research project, a volunteer position) or not. But don’t forget to veg a bit! Butler (or any other institution, I imagine), will have you hopping for the full academic year, and it really is vital to take those lazy days to rest and read and bake cookies in your pajamas. Personally, I like cleaning my room with a book on tape. Whatever floats your boat.

Playing in the park!

Professionalism

As of last week, I am a grown-up dancer, earning my living in the most improbable of ways… the arts. After this week, I will also be able to add “teacher” to my life experiences list, since Monday was my first day helping with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir day camp. This makes me profesh, correct?

As ones enters college, it behooves him/her to think about beginning to practice the professional attitudes that will demonstrate maturity and help get the job done. Though you will be student in college, there is no reason you cannot act like a professional. If there’s one thing I learned during this most recent year’s audition season, it’s that you command more respect if you act in a professional manner which indicates you feel you deserve said respect. Basically, act mature, and people will treat you as such.

The Butler Department of Dance has a Professional Practices class you must take as a new student. I know there is a pharmacy equivalent, and the Intro to the Discipline class acts as a sort of professionalism class for the English Lit and Creative Writing Majors. And of course, it’s only way after the fact that I appreciate the class…

  • Maturity means stifling small complaints. If you see error, point it out respectfully and only to effect some sort of necessary change, then stop. Don’t complain for the sake of complaining.
  • Maturity means remaining calmer, more focused, and more eager to learn than you actually want to be or than those around you are. Maturity means getting it right quickly and consistently. Maturity means occasionally taking on extra tasks with a smile.
  • Maturity means showing respect for the job at hand, whether it seems too daunting or too little. No work of art lacks worth, and the more of yourself as an artist you can pour into a project, the more fulfilling it will be, both for you and for those around you.

This summer, I’m plunging headfirst into the real world, and old, tired sayings are gaining reality and importance the more I shed that snakeskin of student. More than ever, I wish I had internalized the gravity of a positive attitude sooner.

College will be challenging, with its incredibly multi-faceted demands on time and energy. However, a positive attitude manifested in mature professionalism really does make a difference, providing the biggest returns on the effort you give to your college (or professional) activities.

So life, bring on the next challenge!

Ugh, sorry to sound so preachy. But with all the earnestness I can muster, this really is true.

Dance Department Basics: Butler Ballet

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.

Getting a BFA

How useful is a college degree in dance?

It depends. It depends on your professional goals, your personal work ethic, and your degree plan.

Getting a college degree and then having a successful career in professional ballet/dance used to be an oddity — once upon a time, getting a college degree would indicate the opposite of employability. No more. Things are slowly shifting in the dance world; just as higher education is becoming more widespread in general, so too in the field of professional dance.

Where do you want to dance? Some companies and directors still dislike the idea of employing a college graduate. However, I think this tide is turning, and others embrace a more thoroughly educated dancer.

A college degree is not a certificate saying one has jumped through all the necessary hoops. A college degree is not a piece of paper representing four more years of training. Instead, it is an opportunity for a broad education, the possibility of learning not just technique, but technique in a variety of areas, history, acting, music, costuming, production elements, theory, choreography, improvisation… A college degree means you are exposed to a huge vault of knowledge sometimes unavailable to dancers who immediately jump to the professional world. Which brings us to the next point.

If you have ambitions of being a professional dancer, then you must have tremendous work ethic to make your time at college an asset. You can coast through college, just as you can coast through any other life experience — it is absolutely up to you to synthesize all the information you receive.  Attending college does mean taking yourself off the job market for four years. In a professional dance career, your youthful years are precious… since as we all know those ankles won’t hold up forever…

If you do go to college, you have to be committed. You have to inhale everything that is offered to you. If you do this, I absolutely think getting a college degree before dancing professionally is worth it. (I mean, this sort of attitude applies toward most things… But especially toward a college education in preparation for a career as a professional dancer!)

So when you think about whether or not you want a college degree as you pursue your goal of dancing professionally, consider your own skills, your work ethic, your commitment to a broad knowledge base (which, after all, is one of the biggest advantages of going to college), and the degree plan in question.

Do you want a program based in classical ballet? (Like Butler?) Do you want a program that also offers other techniques? (Which, in my humble opinion, and in the opinions of many other directors, is a very good idea.) Do you want a program with a focus on choreography? on pedagogy? on arts administration? A program that loads on as many elective classes as possible?

With the growing number of programs which offer a degree in dance, it’s slowly becoming easier to find a college program which will help, not hinder, your dreams of dancing professionally. I can say with certainty that I was not ready for the professional world straight out of high school. Now, with the diverse classes I’ve received in dance history, music, pedagogy, and so on, and with experiences performing a role like Swanhilda or a work like Por Vos Muero, I feel more ready than ever to start next season with Tulsa Ballet II, to try to produce the highest quality work I can, to perform as an artist, not as a tentative dancer holding her breath in hopes the piece will be okay.

Deciding to go to college before dancing used to be an unusual and not always helpful decision — but no more. Consider your situation very carefully when deciding if (and with what program) you want to study. But I can say I’m so happy I went to Butler for my BFA in dance performance!

The new dance BFA, BA, and BS degree-holders!

Sorry if this post sounds a bit admissions-pamphlet-y… I just like to think it’s my natural enthusiasm shining through!