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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Focus and trust

I've learned a lot from Diavolo in the past week, and I didn't even dance with them! But their presence really impacted me as far as re-evaluating and thinking about what I want to do with my dancing, what it will take to get there, short and long-term goals, my attitudes, etc.

First off, watching rehearsals with the dancers that did make it into Diavolo's piece made me realize how much focus is involved with a company of that caliber. They do some incredibly high-energy, acrobatic, borderline dangerous stuff, and if you aren't focused 100% all the time, you could cause an injury to yourself and the other dancers. Everyone in the piece talked about how intense rehearsals were, and they had the bruises and very sore muscles to prove it.

At the end of class one day, our pedagogy teacher commented on everyone's focus at these rehearsals. In a nutshell she was saying how our focus is something to access when necessary, but she doesn't believe in always "living in the moment" and constantly being engaged in that way. Turn the focus on when in class, at rehearsal, choreographing, off when doing the everyday things like driving to work, cleaning the house, doing laundry. Shifting to autopilot for the everyday tasks reserves our focus for what feeds us. I thought this perspective was incredibly insightful. And helpful. Why expend energy on things that don't matter that much? I only have so much energy and focus to use in the first place, so why not use it efficiently?

The other little nugget of wisdom I took from Diavolo was the idea of trust. After the performance last night, the cast did a Q&A with the audience. Several people asked Diavolo about how they are mentally able to dance and turn and jump off of the huge structures they use in their pieces (check out the huge boat in their "Trajectoire" piece - One girl said it comes down to trusting yourself. She said that when she got on the boat for the very first time, her reaction was to stiffen up. But then she remembered that her body will instinctually know what to do, and she relaxed and was fine. She trusted herself. She trusted her body.

Wow, that really hit home for me. I thought about things I struggle with and get so frustrated about - balancing on my left foot, maintaining correct posture when turning, just to name a couple - and a huge light-bulb flashed! All of my struggles are related to trust. I struggle with things because I don't trust my body like I should. I clench, tense, hold my breath... no good. I think "I can't do this", which just manifests itself in my body. If I think that, then, well, I'm not going to do it. I just set myself up for failure.

These little epiphanies have renewed my dedication to busting my ass and getting things done. No more fretting, no more destructive self-talk, no more excuses. Trust your body. Focus your energy on what's important. "Just fucking do it" Jacques kept saying to the dancers all week. Oui, Jacques, I will just fucking do it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Two days ago I auditioned with Diavolo Dance Theater, who are the guest artists performing at CSU's University Center for the Arts Grand Opening next week.

Before we started dancing, Jacques Heim, Diavolo's artistic director, gave us a little pep talk. Essentially, he talked about sacrifice and what it means to make sacrifices as an artist. Or rather, an artist who makes their art their career.

I listened with rapt attention. What he said resonated in me. He articulated what I feel inside my heart when I think about my life and future as a dancer.

He told us that as artists, we will make all kinds of sacrifices for our craft. These sacrifices may center around money, time, relationships and a slew of other things. We will struggle with money, as most artistic careers are not accompanied by tons of cash, except for the lucky few. Weekends or days off become non-existent. We may put certain relationships on hold (I think of marriage here) in order to pursue our art. And while those around us may think us crazy, self-centered, delusional, etc., for making such sacrifices, he said that any sacrifices we make are worth the world and more to those of us called by art. We need our art to live, to breathe, to experience life at its fullest.

I wanted to yell out "amen!", but held back in order to not draw attention to myself.

I'm no exception to making sacrifices to pursue this life. I sacrifice money (see my previous "Money Matters" posts). I sacrifice time to myself, time with friends and family, time to sleep, cook, shop, read, watch TV, write, etc. I've sacrificed forging ahead to Married-Land so I can focus on school and my career.

(Sidenote: I used to be the typical late-twenties gal who would freak out about meeting Mr. Right, settling down, and having kiddos. Since I've embarked on this dance career adventure, I've since tossed those ridiculous fears out the window. And honestly? I'd rather do what I'm doing and wait a little longer to have a hubby and kids. I LOVE my life.)

So yes, I make sacrifices everyday, and based on what Jacques said, I will continue to do so as long as I decide to keep riding the train that I'm on. I might as well get comfortable because my stop won't arrive for awhile yet.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The countdown begins

Forget March Madness. What about October Madness?!? October is not typically nutso, but this one is crazy! I have midterm exams, a solo to choreograph, papers to write, a grand opening at our new performing arts building, performances to go see, master classes to take... all this squeezed into an already crammed schedule of regular classes, rehearsals and work.

When I get home from work in the evenings, usually around 6 o'clock or so, I have about an hour to two hours to kill before I have to head off to some rehearsal. I can't tell you how much I want to join my roommate on the couch to catch all the new fall shows. Or cook dinner! I miss cooking. Cooking these days doesn't go much beyond grilled cheese, instant soup, or bulls-eye toast (the toast with a hole cut out of the middle where you fry an egg). No time for TV or cooking shenanigans, no ma'am! I fry up my egg or heat my soup and march myself to my bedroom to scarf dinner while working on some paper or assigned reading. What a good li'l student I am, eh?

Ah well. The song and dance of a college student. At least I love what I'm doing in school! (That's probably what gets me in front of my computer or in the studio in the first place, instead of parking it on the couch.)

Oh! On top of it all, its HALLOWEEN!! I have 30 days to figure out what I'm going to be and get a costume together. This is serious business, folks. Halloween is in the top 5 of my fave holidays, and it just might trump Christmas. One friend sent me a link to an Olive Oyl costume (from Popeye). Not sure about that one, unless I had someone to be Popeye. But JBF doesn't do dress-up. (I love JBF, but c'mon, where's his sense of fun and adventure and make-believe?? So lame.) I can't be a zombie a la "Thriller" because I've been there, done that. I've also been and done an angel, a gypsy and a pirate. Think, think...!

Anyone have any cool, fun, easy and cheap suggestions?? We're working with a small budget, very little time and very few sewing/crafting skills here, but there's got to be something cool despite the limitations.