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Monday, April 27, 2009

In loving memory

Frankie "Musclehead" Manning, Lindy Hop legend and inspiration to swing dancers around the world since the 1930s, passed away this morning at the age of 94. Here's an obituary from the NY Daily News, and one from the Los Angeles Times.

There is so much to say about Frankie... He danced at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, one of the first integrated ballrooms back in the day... He created the first swing aerial step... He danced in a troupe called Whitey's Lindy Hoppers and performed with them in movies and all over the world... He got to meet the Queen of England on one of these world tours... He was friends with jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway... so much to say, so much to credit...

He choreographed the infamous dance scene in the 1941 film Hellzapoppin', which Lindy Hoppers purchase and watch only for this dance scene. None of us care about the movie! Attempts to re-create it verbatim have been made, but its not yet been done successfully (that I know of). It is absolutely incredible how fast it is. I'm still blown away each time I see it! Frankie is the man in the overalls, the one with the HUGE, glowing smile.

As my BFF put it today in an email, its the "ultimate swing dancing clip of all time." WORD.

The best way to sum up how he inspired me personally is the absolute joy and love he had for the dance. Not the technique, not acquiring a huge list of accolades... just the dance. You can see it that smile of his. The joy, the passion... its at the soul level, y'all. When its at that level, you have no choice. You must dance. The music plays and your soul tells you to move. It is not something easily described through words, but those of us who have it understand. Frankie had it and he inspired me to let mine shine, too. He is an inspiration to all my dancing.

I am so, SO grateful that I have had opportunities to perform for Frankie over the years. He used to travel across the nation to workshops that were put on in his honor and to celebrate his birthday. I got to dance with my swing troupe, the Jumpin' JiveCats, at several of these workshops when he came through Denver. Can I tell you what an honor that was?!? Two years ago, the last time he was in Denver, he came for another workshop as well as to give a lecture and book signing for his recently-published memoir, Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. I attended that lecture and am so glad that I did. He was funny and full of life, and it warmed my heart to hear his story.

Frankie, we love you so, so much. You inspired so many of us over the years, and even though you're now in heaven teaching the saints how to Lindy Hop, you will continue to inspire us down here. Your spirit and legacy and JOY for the Lindy Hop will live on in us. Heavenzapoppin' now, Frankie!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Love Notes

Dear Izze Beverages, Inc.,

Thank you for creating a delicious, refreshing grapefruit beverage. I crave them and am more than satisfied each time I pop open a bottle and taste the tangy goodness. Thank you for bottling and selling nectar from heaven.

A lifelong loyal customer,

Dear Sun,

Thank you for being so vibrant and prominent here in Colorado, showing your lovely face 300-plus days a year. Thank you for warming me up after a cold winter, both in my heart and on my skin. I look forward to spending many days together this spring and summer, as I traipse around in my hiking boots, dresses and my bikini (but not necessarily all at once).

With affection from a HUGE fan,

Dear Disney,

Thank you for making a movie showcasing the animals that share this planet with me and my species. When I first saw the preview last fall, I was incredibly excited and I am ecstatic that opening day for "Earth" is finally here!

Impatient to find time to go to the theatre,

Dear Earth,

Happy, happy day to you!! I appreciate the beauty that abounds in all of nature and I am grateful for the home you provide for all of us, human, animal and plant alike. I do apologize for the parasitic tendencies us humans have, and I'm even more sorry for the narrow-minded, self-centered, superiority-complexed people who take you for granted, thinking you will be around forever and forever. "Being Green" may be a trendy catch phrase today, but who cares?! That means more people are on board to do you good. Those of us who love and appreciate you dedicate this day to you!

Gratefully yours,

Monday, April 20, 2009

What pants are you wearing??

My crabby pants.

[Warning: this post is a whiny rant. No apologies.]

I just spent 12-plus hours at the studio. Good times. It would have been 13-plus were it not for the quick errand I had to run after ballet to buy something for my haz-mat costume for tech rehearsal tonight, since I forgot to do it yesterday. Oh yeah, tech rehearsal. Je deteste tech rehearsal. I hate it, I hate it! Lots of dance-for-30-seconds-now-stand-for-20-minutes. And repeat. Fifty times. SO much fun. Okay, I exaggerate. Sort of.

My poor body needs some TLC. I haven't had a day off from dancing for over a week now... and I won't until next Tuesday. I'm t-i-r-e-d. I'm that level of tired where you're too tired to even sleep well. You know this tired, right?!? I don't think my body or mind ever relax enough to get into that deep, restful, repairing stage of sleep. I dream all night and I wake up, on schedule, at some point between 3 and 5 a.m. for no good reason. I lay there wide awake. No idea why, but its been a normal part of my night for over a week now. Good times.

I know... whine, whine, whine.

I know long hours are a normal part of a performer's life, so I need to just suck it up and deal. But I also need to vent and whine every so often, as I'm only human and I do have a threshold. Today left my threshold in the dust.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The lowdown on the Lockdown

I think I'm way overdue in filling you all in about why my piece was not selected for the Spring Dance Concert, so here's the scoop...

In a nutshell, the faculty selected the pieces they did because the two choreographers will graduate in the fall, and neither have ever had their piece in a spring or fall concert, so the faculty wanted to give them that opportunity before they leave CSU. I have mixed feelings about this, but am too tired to delve into them all right now.

It was a big relief to find out that the basis upon which they didn't choose mine had nothing to do with the song. This may sound strange to some, so here's the scoop on that: certain faculty are not cool with students using music or songs with lyrics because they don't want movement created to literally match the lyrics. Okay, I understand this sentiment to a point, but I don't think that its impossible to choreograph to a lyrical song without being dictated by the words, so I'm not 100% on board with their opinion.

Also, if a song moves a choreographer, than that's the song she or he should use; lyrics or no lyrics are irrelevant. The song I used for my piece was Love Lockdown by Kanye West. I chose it because the rhythm and drumbeats move me. The main beat throughout sounds like a heartbeat - this was key to my choreography and theme. [The embed link on YouTube is disabled, so go here to see and hear the song.]

We're encouraged in our choreography classes to find our own "unique choreographic voice"... so if that voice sings to the tune of a modern, mainstream song, then how can they tell us no? I don't think they can. I'm learning about all these American modern dance "pioneers" in my dance history class who claimed to choreograph to the times they lived in, using the composers and music of their day. If they did it, so can I. An Aerosmith song is in the queue for a future student concert. I have nothing against classical or instrumental music, and I'm sure I will use some in future pieces. But I'm not going to select instrumental music just because it's pretty. If pretty doesn't evoke emotion in me, the choreographer, than how will it touch the audience???

I may post further thoughts on all of this and about my piece, but what I wrote above is much more than I intended when I sat down at my computer, so that's all I have in me for now. I'm hella tired, so its time to think about sleep...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I use Google mail, or "Gmail", for my email. It tries to be smart and post ads and links to sponsors' sites that relate to the topics you recently included in emails. I never pay attention to them, but tonight I happened to glance at one at the top of the screen after sending my BFF an email that was one big rant about something. And it totally cracked me up! It said, "Why so angry? Holding on to anger holds YOU back. will help you let it go."

Okay, thank you Gmail for looking out for my emotional well-being, and thank you for the spontaneous, random laugh. I needed that!

Monday, April 13, 2009

I get to wear a haz-mat suit

I made the piece! But I can't toot my horn too loudly - so did everyone else who auditioned. She was looking for 14 people and 17 auditioned, and she decided to use us all in the piece.

Haz-mat suit?

Yes. The piece we'll do is part of 3rd Law's repertory, called The Clean Room. Here's the scoop. [The pic on the main page is from the piece. For details on the piece, click "Works" at the top, then "The Clean Room" at the right. NOTE: those girls in the bottom pic are wearing tutus made of DVDs - isn't that sweet?!]

And while I'd love to fill you in on more details, I'm exhausted and hurting. My back needs a heating pad, my floor burns need bandaids, and I discovered a freshly-ripped-open blister on the bottom of my big toe in the shower that needs some TLC. So I will say adieu and goodnight... More news on the dance front tomorrow...

Monday madness!

Its madness today, y'all!

Adding to the typical Monday/Wednesday madness, this semester's artist-in-residency is holding an audition this afternoon for the piece she will set on us dance students for the Spring Dance Concert. This semester we have Katie Elliot of 3rd Law Dance Theater out of Boulder.

I knew she was coming and I knew about the audition, but I wasn't going to do it. I haven't been getting the number of work hours that I need lately, and her rehearsal schedule this week conflicts with when I usually work in the afternoons (assuming I make it).

But I was talked into it this morning in class - it would be great for the resume, portfolio, blah blah blah. AND, she taught a master class this morning and I LOVED her. So, I've decided to go for it and I will just be a dancin'-and-workin' machine this week. I will come back to work in the evenings after rehearsals. Or work from home. My bosses are cool like that.

This is all assuming I make it. Which I am. I'm thinking positive and assuming I'm going to make it. I really liked Katie and would love to work with her. And it really is good for my resume/portfolio.

The audition is at 4:00, and those who make it will rehearse immediately after the audition until 7:30. If I'm in, that will make for 6 1/2 hours of dancing today!! Ooooo-weee, I'm going to feel it tomorrow.

This madness is good. I'll take the madness over the blues or the mean reds any day. The mean reds can suck on it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Easter weekend of highs and lows

The blues started returning at the end of the week. They hit full throttle yesterday. I would say yesterday was a "mean reds" day (no idea what I'm referring to? check out this post). I spent the day crying off and on. I had terrible dreams last night, too, so I slept like total crap. Crying all day + sleeping like crap + forgetting to take my allergy meds = waking up this morning with very puffy, red, itchy eyes - again. I felt SO pretty today for Easter :( , ugh. They're a little better now, but I still look like I got into a brawl last night. LOVE my allergies.


I watched Independence Day on TV yesterday. Cheesy movie, maybe, but Will Smith makes me laugh. I get such a kick out of him. I got to see my mom and her signif other today. They went to church with me and then we visited over lunch at my apartment. I made quiche and Mom brought strawberries and kiwi. She also brought me dark chocolate. After Mom and K left I called my dad and BFF to wish them Happy Easter and catch up a bit. Hip hop was canceled today so I decided to fight back against the mean reds and get some things accomplished. Getting things accomplished always makes me feel better. I dusted and vacuumed - very overdue! - cleaned up the kitchen, seriously organized and cleaned my room, did a load of laundry, ran a couple errands, got rid of a few things... all this while rockin' out to my feel-better iTunes mix (one of the songs is below). Now I will sew my new ballet shoes, stretch and massage my leg/hip (still not 100% healed), keep eating the dark chocolate, and who-knows-what-else until bedtime. My roommate gets back tonight, too. It will be nice to have her here again. I've had enough quiet time.

[Oh and P.S., I did find out on Friday why my dance piece was not selected for the Spring Dance Concert. I'll write about that soon. And don't worry, its not the source of the mean reds...]

This is my theme song on those mean red days...

(Whoever made this vid cut part of the song, but you get the point.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Well, my bloggy friends, my piece may not have been selected for the Spring Dance Concert, but I made Tour Dance Company!!!!

I don't have all the details yet, but I made it as an "apprentice". I don't know exactly what this means yet, but I made it and that's what I'm VERY excited about!!

So, apparently my audition on Monday wasn't as terrible as I thought at the time, lol. [*sheepish grin*]

And I think I'm worn out from riding high all day, because it is BED TIME, y'all. Nighty nite!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A few thoughts on a quiet evening

I didn't have to be at any rehearsals tonight and my roommate is gone until Sunday, so I've had a quiet, restful evening at home. Some reflective alone-time is very much appreciated - and needed! - every so often.

I found out yesterday afternoon that my piece did not make it into the Spring Dance Concert. I'm quite disappointed by this. I don't know the reasoning behind the faculty's choices, but I plan to ask tomorrow. One of my dancers thinks I'm brave to question their decisions, but I don't think bravery has anything to do with it. My "why" is not disrespectful or indignant - I just want to know. Based upon the positive feedback that I'm still getting, I'm curious to see how their decision compares. I shall find out soon enough.

On the bright side, the piece that I danced in for Student Concert (choreographed by someone else) made it, so I will get to dance in the Spring Concert regardless. At least I get to dance.

I haven't heard any audition results for Tour Company yet, but hopefully I'll find that out tomorrow, too.

Even though I have plenty of work I could be doing, I allowed myself time to do whatever moved me in the moment tonight. So far I've cleaned up the apartment, made and ate dinner, watched a little TV, washed dishes - a never-ending task in a dishwasher-less apartment that deserves it's own separate mention - and now I think I'll read until its time for bed. I don't get to do this very often, so I'm looking forward to it!

Now, do I read the Glamour magazine that arrived yesterday or the book that's been sitting next to my bed for months?? Decisions, decisions...

Monday, April 6, 2009

A rant: my nerves

My nerves will be the death of me. Or more accurately, the cause of my inability to find employment with a dance company in my future.

Let me back up.

This afternoon I auditioned for CSU Tour Dance Company. This pre-professional company travels around Northern Colorado doing mostly dance education outreach to schools. They also travel to large events like festivals in Aspen, Colorado; the American College Dance Festival, which was in Tennessee this year; and a modern dance festival in Mexico. Learning the repertory, traveling and performing are all great things to have on the resume, and many professional dance companies ask that auditioning dancers have touring experience. So, it's kind of a big deal.

I decided to audition just last week. I've been going back and forth about it for weeks and weeks, but last week I finally thought that the benefits of auditioning far outweigh my insecurities ("I'm not good enough", "I'm not experienced enough", blah blah blah...). The worst they can say is no, which is no different than me not trying out at all. And I get auditioning experience to boot.

After today I decided today that I need much more auditioning experience so I can figure out how to use my nerves to my advantage.

I was SO nervous. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a tendency to get nervous, even for things I shouldn't be nervous for. Like swing dancing - I have danced long enough that I could do it in my sleep. It's just how I roll. And for the most part, the adrenaline I get from my nerves help me perform better once I get going. But there are times that my nerves are so bad that they sabotage me.

Like today.

This tends to happen with things that I really care about and want to do well with. I wanted so much to have a great audition, but I left fighting back tears because I was very unhappy with how I did. I didn't feel like I presented a true representation of what I can do, my passion and my potential...All because of my stupid nerves!!! And I'm so mad at myself about it.

I need to figure out a way to get a handle on my nerves instead of letting them control me, or I'm not going to do well with future auditions (and those will be so much more important).

The optimist in me is trying to retaliate, though... I know I'm my own harshest critic. And there are spots in the company for "apprentices", which I'd be just as happy with. So, we'll see.

But I'm still mad at myself. Hmph.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

And now back to our regularly scheduled program...

Student Dance Concert went great! I got very good feedback about my piece from family, friends, school peers and people I didn't know. People keep telling me it was an audience favorite! Wow, I'm very flattered. And excited!

I'm also getting feedback on the more profound side of things, too, which I'm eating up. I really appreciate people who engage themselves and let themselves really think and feel as they watch. One friend totally understood my message (see my previous post), which is always exciting for an artist. My hip hop teacher, who I gave props to in the program notes, told me that he really appreciated the dynamic qualities of the movement, the costumes and the story told through my choreography. He felt this was lacking in the majority of the other pieces as well as a lot of other pieces he's seen recently at other universities and dance concerts. Wow. Again, I'm completely flattered.

I'm sure there were people who didn't like it, as I can't please everyone. And that's okay. But I'm really hoping and crossing my fingers that the faculty are not included in this group, as tomorrow I will find out which student pieces they are choosing to include in the Spring Dance Concert in just a couple weeks. Having your piece selected is kind of a big deal, and great for the portfolio. [Keep your fingers crossed!!] Dare I say that I think I might actually have a decent shot at being one of the selected??? I hope the good feedback is reaching the faculty... I'm trying not to dwell on being picked, though, because its not a guarantee... but I really want to be picked!!

In the meantime, now that the concert is over and I can think about other things, I can return to all the things I ignored last week. I have my theater research design project due on Tuesday (my prof moved the due date from last Thursday to Tuesday - he's the man!). I have an audition tomorrow for which I need to prepare a short solo for (I'll fill you in on that later). And good lord my apartment is a mess! And I need to do laundry. And buy groceries.


Back to it!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Its the day of the show, y'all!

Student Dance Concert opens tonight and I am SO. EXCITED.

A handful of friends and family will be there tonight, which makes me feel good knowing I have my crew there to support me. I'm proud of my dancers and all the hard work they have put into learning my choreography and dancing their hearts out. And, yes, I am proud of my piece.

Let me qualify that statement because I want to make sure you all know that this doesn't come from a conceited place... I know my choreography is not the most amazing thing on stage. I know I'm still learning and growing as a choreographer and artist. But this piece came from my heart. I did not choreograph simply because I have to or because I wanted to impress anyone. Yes, I hope people like it. Yes, I wanted to bring a bit of vernacular flavor to the CSU Dance Department's stage to mix things up, but there's a bigger reason why its important to me. Creating this piece was one of many steps of healing from something I'm working through in my personal life. One of my dancers, the only guy in my piece, represents a part of me that I tried to keep alive, but forces bigger than myself (represented by the other eight gals in my piece) were too much and I lost. But then there's a little surprise at the end to show that you can't keep me down for long - I will fight.

At one of our last rehearsals, I shared all of this with my dancers. I told them that if they don't get all the moves perfect or if they make mistakes, its okay - the most important thing to me is that they dance from their hearts. I asked them to dance their hearts out for me.

[Good grief, I'm getting choked up just writing this. I can't cry, I'm at work! Deep breath...]

SO. I am proud of my dancers for dancing their hearts out. I am proud of how the entire piece came together, choreography, costumes, and all. And I am proud of me for taking the risk to create something personal and put it on stage.