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Ballet Talk for Dancers

ADC Second session diary


2 Left Feet

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Okay. I wasn't going to to it this year, but here it goes:

 

Funny. I don’t remember Tuesday morning being this stiff before. I don’t hurt, I mean, it’s not like every bone in my body aches. I feel very “used” already. I lucked out and had Pedro for my placement class teacher. While I know the class he taught was far from the hardest thing he could have given us it was still a bit of a challenge for the first class. At least I came out with the confidence I was a solid level three (there are five levels this time) and the belief I could have handled level four had I not hurt myself a month and a half ago. As is, I’m still avoiding petit allegro in centre, using the barre to get me through. But, after two days of intense dancing, I’m pleased my foot is not bothering me other than a little stiffness. And, since everything else in my body is stiff this morning, I guess that means I’m doing better.

 

Ah, the wonders of Advil.

 

Saturday evenings welcome dinner was enjoyable if not loud. We were supposed to go to Havana 59 this coming Saturday night but a screw up in the reservations had us there to open the week instead. A surprisingly large number of people came in early this year. Food was great, company enjoyable, humidity was oppressive. I was good and went to bed early and slept in late,

 

Sunday morning was just one of those days. I found it hard to motivate myself to do anything, lounging in bed long after I awoke. This is not something I do at home much so I went with it and relaxed. There’ve been lots of thunderstorms here so far this week. Being from southern California it’s nice just to listen to the sound of rain hitting the window and watching the occasional flash of lightning. Constant thunderstorms means humidity. In a large studio complex where the air conditioning automatically turns off on weekends, it means the first class and lecture were really, really close. Being stupid, I bundled up for the first class thinking I’d get nice and warm to stretch myself out a bit. Ha! Mistake. One woman was positively soaked. The heat and humidity made it difficult to focus in class and I felt way off the mark after class was over. I held my own but could have done much better. I know I was not alone.

 

The level three class was positively huge. Must have been nearly 30 people in it making any attempt at centre a challenge to say the least. I’m the only guy in three and I was trying to work big and kept bumping into people. By the end of class I noticed a hi-lighted list of names. I took it to mean those people should stay in three and others should be shifted around to classes more appropriate for their level. There were a lot of people being shifted around. That’s what the first class is for, after all. I do think they were suggesting to more people they change levels this year than on previous years. Then again, there are close to 60 full time students this year and yet more day students. They have to be careful who goes where this year because it’s a big group. Even after people were shifted around level three is still huge, well over a third of the students are still in it.

 

“Sex and the City” and “Project Greenlight” and I’m in bed. Another glorious 8 hours of sleep makes me wake up late, but, since I rarely sleep that long at home I choose to revel in my lateness instead of rushing.

 

Monday morning start began with a dance camp group photo. We’re in the large, upstairs studio for the shot. A good ice-breaker this early in the schedule. Everyone is chatty and happy. Most everyone looks like they gotten a good nights sleep. I have a little apprehension in my head after Pedro, in passing, asks how my partnering is these days. I give him a look that at once says, “What have you got up your sleeve (when he wears them)” and “Please don’t kill me.” He grins and goes back to stretching.

 

Tristi teaches my first class of the week. I like Tristi and she gives a class very similar in style to my regular class at home. I stand at the barre in petit allegro wishing like crazy I could try it because its really pretty and not terribly challenging. I’ve grown out of my fear of petit allegro in the past year finding it is actually one of my strong points. But I take my recovering foot back to the barre and do what I can from there. Class is a solid level three/intermediate class. Again, had it not been for the injury I’m now confident I could handle the level four. Class is smaller, today. There are so many level threes they’ve split us into two groups, level three A and level three B. B is a bit tougher. To accommodate this, they’ve combined level one and two and made it more of an advanced beginning class.

 

Surprisingly, I find myself a bit nervous as class starts making me totally screw up the first few combinations. After four dance camps and having had Tristi before one would think I’d be comfortable. It took my awhile to get back into the rhythm of class but the nerves faded. The humidity faded too. Outside, a brutal wall of oppressive air awaits us at the end of the day, but the studios are comfortable and free of humid air. I can at least think clearly, but its still hot enough I’m completely drenched by the end of class. I don’t mind as I’ve come to enjoy that feeling after class. Makes me feel like I got a good work out. I think we’re all a lot less nervous now.

 

The hallway between classes is always an obstacle course of stretching bodies, people exchanging notes on moves, others grabbing a quick snack or a much needed cup of coffee. Getting from one end of the hall to the other can take a few moments. The refrigerator brims with ice packs, some of which are already in use. Knees, ankles and one foot benefit from a quick jolt of ice. There’s a general sense of relief in the kitchen area as those of use sharing the quiet pleasure of an ice-pack relax for a moment.

 

Not that there are injuries here yet. Rather, I think people are being very smart about taking care of themselves.

 

Mens technique with Pedro about knocks me out. I’m tired anyway from more exertion than I’m used to, but he really pounded us. I’m in the upper level mens class which means he’s not holding back. Its mostly turns from second which I never get at home, some of which end up in a plie and arabesque. I’m sure they’re called something but I can’t even guess. I’m dead when class is over.

 

I skip Jazz after lunch and make business calls.

 

Then we have repertory. The levels threes have their own piece this year and the extra bonus of it being an original choreographed by Pedro. It must sound like he teaches everything but I assure you, there are lots of other equally talented instructors here. My schedule just seems to have Pedro for every other class. It’s a Stauss waltz. He tells me not to bother too much with what they’re learning today as he has something else in mind for me for tomorrows class. Lucky me!

 

Stretch is well needed. I skip the lecture and head to the hotel.

 

It’s now late Tuesday afternoon. I’m sitting in my hotel nervous and in serious pain. I wore a new pair of leather shoes in technique class this morning. They felt pretty comfortable and I forgot I was wearing them. About three hours later my foot started hurting right across the top. No swelling and advil doesn’t help much, but feeling around there’s a large bump just under the skin. I do not want this to screw up the rest of the week. Guess I’ll have to have Heidi or Pedro look at it this afternoon to see what’s up. I think it’s a stone bruise. Had one before. Ice may not be the way to treat this. My last stone bruise responded to heat (per a doctors orders), so I may try that instead. Not happy!

 

Busy day of learning lots of stuff. Partnering as always is nerves and fun. Lots of women who never get the chance to partner and one or two who’ve done it once or twice and try telling us what to do. One actually got upset that I had my hands on her. I didn’t say this but I was thinking, “That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?” Instead I told her it was to make sure she stayed balanced and to help her complete turns. She nodded that she understood but gravitated toward a junior company member who was helping with the class. Oddly, his hands were always on her and she didn’t complain. Funny how that works.

 

Learned the first third of the upper level mens variation. It’s a solo from Agon. The count is absolutely bizarre, sixes with weird music. I learn real quick to ignore the music and to count in my head. I want to turn it into an eight count and screw up each pass half way through. Tough piece, contemporary and not classical, hand movements in angles and feet flexed and not pointed. Goes opposite everything we’re taught every day. Still it’s an interesting piece and I feel I can really enjoy it when I feel comfortable with it. Pedro tells me he learned it as a junior company member in one afternoon. Yikes. I couldn’t imagine.

 

Rep is more interesting today. I sat with my foot iced for most of it because it was just then beginning to bother me. I’m partnering a woman named Kelly while the corps performs behind us. It’s a very rewarding experience and the first time I truly feel like I’m partnering someone. We carefully discuss how we’re working with each other as Pedro rehearses the corps behind us. We discuss lifts, timing, the steps we keep forgetting, etc. I find out what works best for her. When I’m lifting her she’s light as a feather because her technique is really strong. And for those older dancers out there, she’s my senior by many years. But her technique is great and that’s why she’s doing the solo over other women there because she’s better able to handle it. So if you think you’re too old for partnering, think again. We’re both enjoying it tremendously.

 

Partnering class is fun but a lot of work. There were only three guys today and about 25 women. I’m always nervous about grabbing a woman too hard and hurting her. I don’t let it get in my way anymore. It used to make me not hold them too well, but I had no complaints today, which was nice. I always enjoy this class because the women appreciate it so much. Some of them were quite good in fact. I remember others from last year and saw improvement in them as well.

 

So, now I’m back at the hotel. The bump in my foot has gone down but it still hurts to flex my toes. I’ll try heat and keep off it.

 

Funny, I will complain at the drop of a hat about any ailment at home but here I will take about anything and keep going. We sure are gluttons for punishment.

 

 

Anders, you are missed. Theres a lonely man in the restaurant desperate to give out free oatmeal. :o

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Wednesday.

 

I thought Tuesday was bad, today I can hardly get my bearings straight. Kathy teaches our tech class this morning. She’s from Louisville, a charming presence with a very strong RAD style class. She’s sensitive to the fact we’re all on a downswing in our energy levels. I feel bad because I cannot focus to save my soul. My energy reserves are already depleted.

 

Richmond would not be complete if I didn’t have one rant and today I went off like a firecracker while Kathy was demonstrating a move. Someones cell phone went off and I was pretty darned upset. It was the third time in a technique class a cell phone had broken the silence. I couldn’t help myself and I made a very vocal, pointed comment about turning them off before class. I apologized to Kathy later, but it was just plain rude to all of us that they were on in the first place. We all paid good money and traveled long distances. If you need your cell phone on while you’re in a class here, I invite you to consider the concept that your life may be telling you not to be here in the first place.

Enough said…

 

I now know I did not have a stone bruise the other day. I now vividly remember whacking my foot on the barre in technique class Tuesday morning. I didn’t think anything of it at the time and continued on with class. By mid day today it had become a major issue, requiring constant icing between classes. There’s no bruising but it remains swollen even after ice. Keeping my fingers crossed its okay and popping more Advil.

 

The men’s variation for the upper level guys is pretty tough. I struggle to wrap my mind around it. It’s the men’s solo after the pas de deux in Agon, very jazzy, a strange 6 count. There is no way possible to dance it if you listen to Stravinsky’s score. You simply can’t count the music, you have to keep the count in your head. Add to this there are retards in several places, its easy to lose yourself and get off time. I’ve very frustrated because contemporary ballet is just outside my frame of reference. I like to watch it, but counting classical comes so easily to me. But this? Lord, I can’t figure it out. Arms and feet are opposite everything we’re taught every day, and there’s lots of little steps and dragging your feet. Then there’s the manage (spelling?). It has a step, jette to seconde, step through and swivel into another turn with your foot dragging behind in coup. The direction constantly changes meaning you really have to know where to spot to get the next step right. Lose your spot and you lose the step. You do this move 4 times, really fast, facing back, then front, then side, then back again. It’s not easy. I leave this class pretty discouraged. I’m used to being able to get a combination or routine quickly. This one feels like it’s just going to be beyond me as I walk out. I have serious reservations abut being able to do it on Saturday.

 

The level three repertory piece is coming along well. I’m partnering a woman named Kelly. She’s very strong on her technique which makes it much easier. I feel like I’m truly getting the partnering experience this time. We’re not doing any fancy lifts or anything, but we have a lengthy piece together, probably three minutes or more, and there’s lots of turns, saute jumps, etc. There is one lift that’s pretty straight forward, but we repeat it four times with a turn in the middle of each. The direction is constantly changing and we’re not used to having to look for each others hands. Thank goodness Kelly is a trouper. While the class rehearses behind us, we talk though moves, find out what works for her, what will help me hold her correctly so I lift her in time, really break it down to what makes each step work. It’s a true partnering experience. After much discussion and many attempts we convince Pedro to drop one turn that consistently makes us off tempo. It helps, then I surprise myself and Kelly when she forgets another turn and I go ahead and do it for her. She wasn’t upset. In fact, we realized it made it easier if she just relied on me to do this particular turn. I was taken off guard that I was comfortable enough to do it for her in the first place. Usually partnering makes me a little nervous and I hold back. Kelly has made it very easy for me to step in and help her along. This is going to be fun. My spirits lift a bit after this class.

 

Today is a short day. I skip stretch and head to the hotel to ice my foot and check in with work. A group of us head to Bakers Crust for dinner. Afterward, we stop by the hospitality suite only to find about 20 women from the level three classes crammed in the room running Pedro’s piece. It was very raucous and pretty darned amusing as Carole sat in the back playing ballet mistress. Nice light way to end the day. I try to get to bed early but can’t sleep. Yuck.

 

Thursday.

 

Okay. I thought yesterday was supposed to be the low energy day. Today I’m dragging myself to the studio with every shred of my existence saying stay in bed. I get to the studio with plenty of time to stretch hoping to find some lone corner I can sit in and be left alone. I really am in a foul mood, tired, cranky and my foot hurts. But the universe conspires against me as several ladies spend a half hour working very hard to cheer me up. I works somewhat, but I’m a Taurus, sometimes I just want to brood.

 

Technique is taught by Danielle this morning. I am amazed by her feet. I have not seen many people with such articulated toes and metatarsals. Kind of fun just to watch her tendu. I have a terrible time finding my centre this morning. Just when I think I have it it slips away on me. I move from a portable barre to a solid one on the wall. Balance improves. I’m feeling better, less grouchy and more focused when we move into centre. I was feeling pretty good until we got to turns. A quick turn to the left made my foot pop again. The pain was pretty intense. I immediately backed off. Turning is the only thing that really bothers it so I wrap it and head back into class. I’m able to finish pretty well with the foot wrapped but I still skip petite allegro and turns still bother it. I’m beginning to have serious reservations about my ability to perform on Saturday.

 

After class I have a brief discussion with Pedro and Heidi. I’m really not sure what to do about the foot and may need to see someone. I decide to go to the men’s variation class and mark the piece from Agon and see how it goes. I won’t do it all out. I’m actually enjoying the piece and seem to have a grasp on most everything except the manage, but I’m also only marking it. The count as I said before is everything. Even concentrating my hardest I end up behind the others. The manage is coming along but its closer to hopeless than it is perfection. It’s that tricky spot in the turns. Some turns are a turn and a half, others are only three quarters. I get it right only one time.

 

Half way through class it become obvious the wrapping alone it not going to do the trick. It may be time to see someone about the foot because it’s only getting worse. After much hesitation, much more discussion and a phone call to a local physical therapist, I decide I should get an X-Ray to make sure there’s no damage. Instinctively I feel it’s not that bad, but it’s not improving so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

I’d been feeling pretty badly today anyway, low energy, my mind elsewhere, my foot; the entire week was beginning to feel like one big waste. I’m not finishing tech classes, only marking the men’s variation and icing my foot every five minutes – not what I’d hoped to achieve this week. At lunch I wanted to find a corner and sulk. Instead, I headed to a local urgent care. I took a chance going during the day. I risked missing the level three repertory run through. Under no circumstances will I think about dropping out of this piece. I want to do it and, as the only guy, I have an obligation to the choreographer and my partner. For once in my life I truly feel like a dancer, willing to face real pain to make the performance.

 

The wonders of HMO’s become obvious within the first five minutes at the urgent care. They don’t take my insurance and it’s not urgent enough to go the en emergency room, so I have to pay out of pocket and get reimbursed. A minor inconvenience, but inconvenient nonetheless. At least they’re fast. I’m seeing a doctor within ten minutes of walking in. Several X-Rays later, they tell me it’s not broken. Major relief. It is likely a deep bruise but not on a joint. Normal prescription would be a week off the foot and wrapping with a physical therapist. That’s not really an option so they teach me to how to wrap it, tell me to moderate the activity and to take serious amounts of Advil. I’m actually back to the studio about 15 minutes before the run through of the repertory piece.

 

I feel like somewhat of a heel that I had to see a doctor about this, but it’s probably best. There are in fact lots of minor injuries and a few near misses at camp this time. Mine appears to be the only one that happened here. Most seem to be older injuries that recurred because of the amount of work we’re doing. Everyone is pretty quick to ice and take care of themselves. That’s good. This is a really well balanced group this year, lots of interesting and nice people. I’m glad to see them taking care of themselves throughout. The teachers here make repeated points that you need to pace yourself and take care of yourself. This group has taken it to heart. While the hallway is full of ice packs between classes and there’s a brick trade in Arnica and Advil, everyone is doing pretty well. No major problems this year.

 

Kelly and I mark the repertory piece. We laugh at our mistakes and keep trying to tweak it. Kind of strange to be in something with 20 or more other people and have absolutely no idea what they’re doing behind me. Not that I think about it much. I’ve got my hands full with what I’m doing up there.

 

I take the stretch class at the end of the day and stand in the window of the large studio watching rain fall so hard you can’t see more than a half mile. I love watching rain. Maybe tomorrow my foot will feel better.

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Friday

 

I finally had a good nights sleep last night. I woke up feeling my energy rebounding and my foot swollen around the toes. Breakfast included a handful of Advil as a chaser and off to the studio I went. By the time I was stretched the foot was no longer bothering me. I’d also decided that I came here to do one thing and one thing only: dance. I chose to ignore my foot as much as possible and give it my all. I mean, heck, it’s already hurt anyway, right? There’s no tears or bone damages so I’ll take the week off when I get home.

 

Tristi teaches technique class his morning. She comments many times on my leg when working to the back. I don’t straighten it out enough though it feels stretched to me. She works with me to feel it really stretch out completely. As she’s doing this I recall hearing the same comment from her last year. Obviously this is something I need to work on. I make a mental note to go talk to my teacher at home about it so I don’t make it a habit. She also notes my turns to the left are weak. That’s my bad foot so it makes sense. Overall a good class with some nice pirouette combinations. I note a frappe combination to take home to my class, fast and tricky.

 

I’ve actually got an hour off, so I ice my foot which is doing pretty well considering, and mark the mens variation. I still haven’t decided if I’m doing it or not. I want to see how my foot feels on Saturday before I commit. Perhaps this is a cop-out because the piece is so difficult to me, perhaps its prudence.

 

Pedro won’t let us do the mens variation all out. We mark it several times to get comfortable with the count. Again, you can’t rely on the music so keeping time and the count is important. I want to resist the 6 count and turn it into a 4 or 8 count. When I do this I completely lose my place and miss steps and screw up the timing. Since some of the steps occur on odd counts and others on even, its easy to get lost. This 1 1/2 minute piece feel longer than all get out as I repeatedly screw it up. Once its because the person in front of me is too fast. Though I’m on tempo, I think something is wrong because he’s ahead of me and I stop. Another time I turn too far in the manege and find myself facing the wrong direction for the next step. I find, however, that I can do this piece and try letting myself loosen up and reach in the steps and brushes. In an odd way it’s a fun piece because it breaks so many rules. I leave the class feeling optimistic. Perhaps it won’t be so bad.

 

At lunch I met with the Director of Development for the Richmond Ballet to discuss the company I now work with and fundraising questions. Gretchen is a great resource and comfortable sharing ideas with me. It’s a huge help and I get the idea we’re instinctively taking our company in the right direction after talking to her.

 

I missed a big event at lunch. Jim Bob Beam’s birthday is next week so Heidi ordered a massive cake. Everyone sang Happy Birthday to him. He was surprised and pleased. Jim is one of the many people who make coming to Richmond so worthwhile. Not only is he a fascinating man full of great stories, he’s a delightful and charming southern gentlemen as well. The ladies all love him and it’s easy to see why. There are so many other people here that make this week unique, all adding their own charm and fun. This is a great element that no program director can build into a week, it either comes to it or it doesn’t. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to sharing this time with my ballet friends. I think on some level we all know we’d go nuts if we didn’t have this week reserved every year just for us. Waiters at restaurants all over town must think we’re insane talking ballet talk and jargon nonstop during dinners out. As exhausted as I was when I got here, despite the arduous schedule we put in, this week and the people I’ve come to I’ve grown to consider friends always recharge my batteries.

 

After lunch we go into partnering. Now this is a tough class to discuss. I love working with the ladies, go out of my way to make it a good experience, and I consider myself a good partner, but truth be told there needs to be an even more rudimentary level of partnering available. Many women are so nervous the first thing they forget it proper technique. The second is to trust your partner. This results in a lot of unintended push and pull that could be avoided with some truly basic instruction. I know this is hard. As I said before, this is the only opportunity most of these ladies have to experience partnering. Because of this the temptation is to give them some fun stuff to work with. But I think one class early in the week on basics, not turns per se, but true basics, like how to hold yourself up in a pique arabesque with a partner, could go a long way toward making it better for everyone. In the rush to get every step memorized, a basic placement issue like holding your back straight falls through the cracks. I know this is because the ladies are not used to relying on a guy to hold them.

 

I try to talk my partners though each step, tell them what will make it easier, how to make themselves look better for the audience; simple things like holding the leg steady in arabesque, keeping the shoulders square in a promenade, going up in a pique instead of forward. Most of the ladies are grateful for these reminders and some aren’t. I don’t know if my comments are well received because most struggle so hard to do the move I can’t tell if I’m annoying them or helping them. So I check in, make sure I’m holding them comfortably, see what I can do to make things better. Most are happy to talk about it and appreciate the benefit of my limited experience.

 

The class is fun but the piece is involved. There’s one turn that catches us all by surprise. The ladies pique toward us into arabesque and we promenade them quickly in a circle. At the end of the promenade they need to push on our hands and do a single pirouette. This is a tough move for all of us, tougher because most don’t push down on my hands first. I don’t know when they’re ready to turn. I suddenly find them turning on me and I try to rush in to support them in the pirouette. It’s clunky at best. Few people get it right. But it fits Bizet’s score and promises some interesting moments tomorrow. A few of us try the turn several times on our own. Some ladies decide to only do a half turn from the promenade. I know we’re changing the choreographers intent, but the ladies feel more at ease as do I.

 

It gets better with practice but it’s still going to be interesting. After class, Heidi lines the ladies up and tells them who they will partner at the performance. I choose not to stick around. I’d rather be surprised. I later learn that I will only partner one person I rehearsed with. I find it funny to learn some were disappointed and others were asking for me. Good for the ego yet intimidating. Who knew I had such a reputation? Moi?

 

The level III repertory rehearsal is another challenge. Pedro has us in the smallest studio and has marked out the rough sides of the stage. It’s cramped. We mark it several times. Kelly and I get along flawlessly by now. We’re extremely comfortable with each other and all but one piece of the choreography, a series of repeated lifts in a sauté arabesque where she steps to my right, turns and I grab her under her arm and lift her to the side. She steps in front of me and we repeat the left to the opposite side. She then steps back in front of me and goes into a pique, passé arms in 4th while I promenade her around one time. At the end of the promenade, she steps into sousou then I spin her around once. She brushes back into a pique arabesque and we repeat the entire series of move three more times. We usually get the first two times perfect. The third one poses the same problem each time, she get tired and I have a hard time holding her balanced through the promenade. Much discussion about this one step ends up with us both realizing there is no way to simplify it and get her in position for the fourth pass at the lift. We simply have to go for it. We pull ourselves together and give it a go. The last rehearsal is clunky but better. We hope that a bad rehearsal makes for a good performance. In fact, the rest of our piece is coming along really well. I can’t believe how much progress we’ve made in such a short time. The tow of us spent perhaps one hour out of three rehearsals working on this portion of the piece. Not bad for people who aren’t professionals.

 

The day ends early. People stay around and use the studios to rehearse pieces for tomorrow. I try to walk through the men’s piece. The manege seems just out of reach. I give up and head back to the hotel. Everyone scatters to the wind that night. Some stay in to eat and mark pieces in the hospitality suite, others head for Carrytown, others walk to local restaurants. We opt for a local brewhouse that turns out to be a really bad choice. No one’s meal is exactly as ordered but we loudly make the most of the time spent together outside the studio, laughing at each others mistakes and swapping funny stories from classes. Funny, everyone mentions their children but few talk long about them. There’s even less talk about our real world jobs. Everyone’s here for ballet and that’s mostly what we talk about 24/7.

 

I head back to the hotel and giggle as Arnold tries to make his semi-intelligible bid for governor on CNN. Only in California could we dream up a boon-doggle like this. Makes me wish I was home. I’d take out papers and make myself a candidate just so I could say I did it.

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Saturday

 

I woke up this morning at 5 AM, combinations running through my head. Today is performance day. I’m a little nervous, especially about the men’s variation. The manege eludes me. The more I count out the combination the more my timing is off. Despite waking early I linger in bed until 7:30. Now I have to rush to get everything done this morning. I shower, get my things together and head for breakfast.

 

My dance bag is overflowing. I’ve got a set of clothes for class and my performance clothes. Add to that water, tape, the requisite bottle of Advil, a digital camera and a disposable film camera, it’s a bit heavy today. I shove breakfast down while talking to Jim Bob. I need to run to the grocery store before stretching. Kelly is very nervous about our repertory piece. I plan on surprising her with flowers on stage when it’s done. I choose the closest market instead of the big one I’d like to go to. They have a dismal selection of flowers, but I cobble together the best of the bunch, grab a muffin to munch on at the theater and head back to the studio. I’m back in plenty of time to change and stretch.

 

As always on performance day the hallway is already crowded. Cameras are everywhere and a half hour of stretch becomes a handful of minutes grabbed between photos. The mood is generally up though everyone seems to have woken early mentally pacing combinations. And everyone is a bit nervous, even the experienced campers, and the level threes all share their apprehension about the partnering piece we learned in about 20 minutes yesterday. I joke with all the ladies I’m to partner that I had hoped they’d remember it for me. I get a momentary shocked, helpless look before they all figure out I’m kidding. It helps break the tension.

 

Heidi teaches my technique class. The teachers do not do a full class today, barre and a center focusing on placement and balance, getting us ready for the rehearsal and performance, but no real petite allegro or grand allegro. Heidi gives a really good class and a nice pirouette combination to help the ladies get ready for the repertory piece. I like the combination and make a note for my teacher back home. I wish she could give a full hour and forty-five minute class instead of the hour we have this morning. I’m glad I wore different clothes for class because I push myself and really stretch out, working up a sweat in the process.

 

My foot holds up well. I feel like a long distance runner who tolerates then ignores the pain after awhile. Bandaged it works pretty well, though I still can’t flex my toes backward. I imagine my foot pointed must look like a duck foot but I won’t look at it in the mirror. I don’t want to see it. But I am glad it’s doing all right this morning. It was very stiff when I woke up, one of those feelings where a good stretch and some heat is likely the thing it needs to get going. I work carefully but thoroughly at barre to exercise it. I’m aware of it after class but it doesn’t really hurt much. Street shoes are the only thing that really bothers it now.

 

I change into my performance clothes, gather up all my things and join everyone as we head down to the bus for the short ride to the theater.

 

The Grace street theater is the performance space for the VCU dance department. It’s an intimate space used strictly for dance. Essentially a black box, it has a comfortable performance floor. I quickly hide the flowers off stage. I remember all too well one of the dancers hurting themselves in rehearsal here last year so I’m constantly stretching and stay bundled up to keep my muscles warn and ready. The rehearsal on stage is the worst part. It takes along time to get everyone organized and walk through each piece. Teachers give notes back stage after each run through. Despite all the pieces and all the performers, it goes pretty smoothly. There’s one near miss as a dancer stumbles at the beginning of a piece but she’s all right and they start over. Everything goes smoothly the second time.

 

The level three repertory piece feels very crowded on stage. The first thing I think is that Kelly and I will have to adjust our last three steps as we exit at the end of the piece. In the studio we’d been doing a fairly large sauté, glissade, pas de chat into sousou, then walking off stage. Here we only have a few feet we can travel so it gets smaller and tighter to accommodate. We run the piece once.

 

I’m really amazed. I had always heard men can feel everything going on with their partners through their hands but I’d never experienced it myself. Today, Kelly is quite nervous. I can feel her muscles shaking as I lift and turn her. I pick up on it and start to get even more nervous myself. This really catches me off guard how her energy radiates through my hands into me as we start into the series of lifts that had given us so much trouble all week. Then we get a real shock.

 

Unknown to us, many of the ladies behind us start singing a ditty Pedro sang in a class a few days earlier. In retrospect it’s truly very funny. At the time it totally scared the daylights out of Kelly and I. We completely lost it as we tried to grasp what was happening as the girls on stage and the audience laughed. Remember, Kelly and I have little idea what is happening behind us all week. We manage to get it back together to finish the piece but we totally lost the opportunity to work on the four lifts that we found so difficult. While this was indeed funny, my first reaction was to be horrified. If I had had Kelly in an overhead lift when this happened it could have been disastrous. I thought it was extremely ignorant not to let us know this was coming. Partnering is full of potential dangers. Having your attention diverted by the corps should not be one of them. Kelly and I are good sports and laugh it off but I still was bothered that no one warned us.

 

The men’s variation is another disaster for me. I completely loose the manege, overturning and spotting the wrong direction. I head backstage to mark it alone. Thankfully, it seems the other three people doing the piece with me also feel the need to mark it. I talk about the manege with one of them. My real problem is the count. The piece is in a six count and I want to convert it to a four count half way through. After talking it through, we realize it makes no difference if I switch the count at all. Where I want to make the switch lends itself to a natural transition to a four count anyway. Instead of looking for the five, three and one count in the manege, I can now do the turns on the one count each time. There’s a retard in the music after the manege. Immediately after that begins a whole new series of six counts, so I can easily get my bearings again. We mark the piece and I get every step the first time including all the turns in the manege. Instead of worrying about the count, I can now think about my spot instead. It works wonders.

 

From backstage I watch most of the performances as they unfold. One leads quickly into the other with only a break for bows and applause between each. The level three repertory is second. As I enter and put my hands on Kelly’s hips I again feel her nerves, but she’s strong and she’s putting it all into the piece. We move smoothly into the lifts we both dread. The first and second pass goes remarkably well, quite nicely in fact. The third one where we have our usual problem is clunky but not too bad. I’m a little too close to her and adjust as we come out of the turn. All in all it goes really well. I’m extremely pleased as we head off stage and the corps finishes. I rush to the other side for bows, grabbing the flowers as I run backstage. As we come out for bows Kelly is caught by surprise by the flowers. It has the desired effect and she positively beams. I hand them to her on stage and she smiles wide, The audience loves the moment. Backstage we hug tightly. We made it through.

 

Now for the men’s variation.

 

I have lots of time before I go on. Backstage I mark the piece again and again. When it’s time to go on I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I’ve nailed the manege each time since we worked on the count earlier. The music starts and off we go. At the end of the first 6 counts I blank on the next step. It’s like a deer in the headlights moment as I wrack my brain to remember. Luckily all the rehearsals kick in and I pick it up about two counts later and jump back in. Everything is smooth from there and I try to relax and do the variation. Peter Martins would never have anything to worry about from me, but I’m fairly pleased when it ends a minute and a half later. I can breathe now. Even though there’s still partnering, I feel as though the worst is over.

 

Partnering goes well. The ladies I partner tell me before we go on if they’re going to try a full or half turn in the supported pirouette from arabesque. Three of the four I partner go for it, though one didn’t intend to. It was pretty funny as we both planned on a half turn. She was so well balanced en pointe into the pirouette she just kept going. She ended up facing me again as she was supposed to. We both just looked at each other surprised and smiled. It was kind of funny. She should be very pleased. It’s a tough move especially for two adults with little partnering experience.

 

All at once it’s done. The performance is over and the week is officially ended. It’s a relief this year because the week was so difficult for me, but it’s a sad awakening as always. It seems to take forever to get from Sunday to Wednesday. Then by Thursday you’re learning so much choreography and rehearsing so many new steps that it’s Saturday morning before you know it. The week goes by all too quickly.

 

Heidi thanks the teachers on stage. They were a great bunch this year and their caliber seems only to improve as the program progresses. Afterward the students have the chance to show their gratitude. A carefully orchestrated plot was hatched earlier in the week and donations had been rounded up to buy each of the teachers a gift certificate for a massage. They are all terribly pleased as we hand out the certificates.

 

Back at the studio we grab lunch, talk amongst ourselves, some of finally talking for the first time. Others have booked time with a photographer for posed dance photos. It’s relaxed and lasts long into the afternoon. Some students drift out headed for home already, others back to the hotel to pack or grab a nap. There will be a dinner at a local restaurant tonight where I’m sure a good time will be had by those who remain. Around 5:30 I finally drag myself out of the studios for the final time and head to the hotel.

 

Saturday night everyone literally let their hair down. The evening was relaxed and a good time was had by all. When Edwin showed up the ladies go crazy because they know he’ll be teaching Latin Dancing after dinner. I’d love to join them but opt out to give my foot a rest. It’s had a tough week. Time to begin treating it right again.

 

At the request of several of the ladies I do my best to recreate my impromptu roast of Pedro from last year. It’s a condensed version, rather off the cuff, yet it is equally well received. Pedro is such a good sport and takes it all with a smile. Lets face it, he loves it when we pick on him. Around 11:30 I walk back to the hotel with a group a dancers. The others are still going strong and want to continue the party late into the night, but I’m ready to call it an evening. The adrenaline rush thats carried me through the last two days is tapped out and I’m ready to collapse. But it doesn’t stop others from making a valiant attempt to party all night in the hospitality suite. I’m sure I missed some fun but I’ll wait for the stories. I need my sleep.

 

Sunday

 

This is perhaps the worst day of all. It was a very challenging week for me personally, but it is still hard to leave, even after my fourth camp. There’s a magic that happens as we all reach to be near a dream. It’s not often people get such an opportunity to connect and I guess we’re lucky that we have this chance once a year, more for others. I keeps us young, keeps us dreaming.

 

The hardest part about Sunday is the goodbyes. They seem to take all morning as you run into one person after another as they scatter across the country. I hadn’t said goodbye to many of my friends last night because I didn’t want to spoil the fun with the reality of leaving. But I get the chance this morning as I run into some in the lobby and still more in the hotel restaurant. None of us really wants to say the words. And though we promise to write and email more often we know life intervenes, things happen and we will not be as diligent about maintaining contact as we’d like. In the privacy of my rental car I shed a few tears then head for the airport.

 

I find myself relieved as I board the plane in Atlanta headed for Los Angeles. I think I’m finally free of that awful feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you tell someone goodbye. As I’m settling into my seat a familiar voice asks if I want a pillow. I turn around and find one of the ladies from camp is a working my section as a stewardess for the flight home. We laugh as we recognize each other. Instead of making me feel bad all over again I find myself smiling inwardly. I know that no matter how far apart we are or where our travels take us, there is a remarkable group of people out there with whom I had the privilege to share something special. And we’re always as close as walking into our local studio.

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Thank you 2Left - as always you write so expressively and leave all of us who can't go feeling a liitle jealous :D ..... OK, very jealous :wub:

 

Tracey

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2LeftFeet,

Thanks for the journal--you so accurately describe the ups and downs of dance camp. I took a few notes myself last week, so I'll try to add my level IV perspective once I get caught up at work.

Luna

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THANKS

 

2LF

 

 

I think sharing the week at camp is good for all of us, even those that have been before.

 

Sorry about your foot........

 

I have photos to post from JUNE RICHMOND? are we allowed to post those still on the new site.?

 

PRINCEROB

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Guest karenfixe

Thanks 2LeftFeet...

 

Your writing is as expressive as your dancing. I found myself near tears while reading about your experience (and mine) at camp this year. I feel privileged to not only have finally met you, but to have shared a few jokes, a few aches and pains, and tips on partnering. Even though you and I didn't partner (I'm waaaaay too tall on pointe) I hope we're at the same session again next year.

 

I'll try and put my notes together as well... this was my first camp experience, and as I sit here at work, I'm listening to Carmen. :wub:

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ED,

It was a very fun time this year, the Humidity was opressive. Your rep peice was great.

 

 

I think the scool will be an excellent addition to the city of Angels. I can Imagine an "Nutcracker: LA" in a few years.......

 

Act I In a Movie Executive's cliffside house

Battle Scene: Surfers Vs. Stuntmen

Dream sequence on the Freeway

Snow? get real, how about Smog

The land of (corporate) Suites

*Various Ethnic Divertisments

-Hispanic

-Chinese, Russian, Arabian, Scottish

 

 

 

Why run for Governor when you can run for President next year! Iowa and NH are wonderful in February!, the cold, the sleet, and the lack of sunshine is invigorating!

 

MJ

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Guest nadapatz

:) Thanx, 2 Left Feets (Pedroism) for suggesting that I go to dance camp this year. My toes are still sore, but my spirit soars... I found myself inexplicably moved during the performance...seeing so many of us living our dreams, and now I know old dancers never die, they just go to Richmond ADC.

I loved it and what a great group of dancers. I hope that next year I am less apprehensive about Placement class, but I know I picked the right level. My dream for next year is to partner and hope that my toes cooperate. Thanks to everyone at ADC that made it so memorable and fun.

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MJ:

 

I like your Nutcracker ideas. Perhaps we can do a Swan Lake where the LAPD Rampart division is the evil Rothbart. :)

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PrinceRob, you are welcome to post some photos of the summer school on this thread. If you have any problems, you can e-mail them to me and I can post them on your behalf :)

PM me for my e-mail address if you need to.

 

Jeanette x

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Xena,

I'd love to post photos from the June session too--may I? If so, how? I'm not seeing an attachments icon in the new format.

 

 

MJ,

your Nutcracker ideas are so funny! Ed, your Swan Lake idea too:)

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Top ten "downers" upon returning from Richmond:

 

10) No 20% discount at the local dancewear store

9) Putting on makeup every day and styling my hair instead of pulling it back

8) driving/traffic with Floridiots (I can say that because I used to be one myself)

7) Having to prepare my own lunch instead of having it magically appear

6) no room service oatmeal for breakfast with friendly Hungarian waiter Lazlo

5) dancing on wooden floors with dips instead of marley

4) no air conditioning

3) not as much red wine

2) housework

1) not having everyone around me talking dance non-stop!

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