experiences

Overcoming Aesthetic Differences: It’s All about Attitude

Happy 2016! I know it’s rather late in the game for me to be saying that, but this is my first post of 2016, and absolutely not to be the last.  I have been telling some of my latest followers that it is my goal this year to establish a more regular blogging schedule.  I am really learning so much in my life right now, and I want to share this journey with all of you.  So, please help me stay accountable and be on the look out for a post from me bi-weekly (every 2 weeks)!  I’ve made it a goal for this semester to be more regular and intentional about private and public self reflection, and my blog is a huge part of my public reflection.  I’m so excited to continue in this process with you.

Now, to the meat of this post —

Over the last five and half months, I have been working with one of our graduate students, Kristina D’onofrio, on her Masters of Fine Arts thesis project.  She had this amazing idea of incorporating the Psalms into dance, and when she told me about it in Fall 2014, I thought it was an amazing idea and definitely wanted to be a part of the work.  When Fall finally came, I was still committed to working with her.  However, it became really evident soon into the project that we have some really major aesthetic differences.  She’s an extremely talented ballet dancer, and I have never ever wanted to be a “‘trina” and have become really steeped in modern dance since I’ve been in this department.  I found myself feeling way out of my comfort zone and struggling to master the choreography as quickly the others were.

Then, we started having rehearsals with dancers from BalletMet’s trainee program — girls that were hard core ballerinas aiming to make real, professional careers out of ballet. I was so intimidated.  I had a scheduling conflict that caused me to be late to rehearsals, and so I would always be a little confused about what was happening.  This compounded with the insecurities I felt about being around these girls who were dancing in pointe and left me doubting myself.  I came into every rehearsal thinking, “These BalletMet dancers must think that I am a fat, lardo, trainwreck of a dancer.” (So many of my insecurities are still body centered, but I’m working on it.) I started dreading those two hours twice a week, and I saw myself as really insignificant to the overall success of the piece.  I spent a lot of time thinking, “How late is too late to drop out?  If I had known I would feel this way back in October, I would have definitely quit then.”  I carried this with me right into tech week.

But then, I had an amazing speaker come in and talk to my Buckeye Leadership Fellows cohort.  His name was Dwight Smith, and he founded a program called My Special Word, which goes out and talks to young people about their values and then helps them to come up with a word or group of words that they feel encompasses who they are or who they want to become.  He led my group through a similar activity.  The word I came up with is creator.  I want to create a better world for girls like me, especially in dance.  This has long been my goal.  I’m a dancer and a writer; I create movement, stories, and worlds with my body and with my words.  There — that’s who I am.  This reminder was so focusing and clarifying.

Here I was on the night of dress rehearsal suddenly realizing that I had been approaching this entire experience the wrong way.  I got to perform this past week.  That’s what I want to do with my life.  Not everybody has that opportunity, and I am so blessed to have even held a small part in making Kristina’s vision into reality.  Beyond that, I learned what it’s like to reconcile aesthetic differences; the challenge of this work will be in my heart and mind in the future, because I know that I’m not going to always like every dance that I’m a part of.  I also walk away from this experience with new friends — it’s so great to have bonded with dancers in a different field, and I hate that it took me so long to open up and let them in.  I found out that many of them were feeling the same way that I was about the choreography, and it was really cool to learn about their unique lives.

My mom always told me that your attitude can make a world of a difference in your situation.  She’s so right.  My performance was so much better because I finally brought an attitude of thankfulness and joy to my work.

Thank you so much, Kristina, for not giving up on me and letting me be a part of this.  I’m truly forever grateful.

Blessings and Light. 

Enjoy some pics of me and my cast! 

    
    
   

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Watching. Learning. Generating.

As a dancer, I see movement in very different ways than other people may. I watch how people walk – whether they are wing-footed or pigeon toed, how people stand – sway-backed or pulled up, how people react to music in dance – rhythmically or non-rhythmically. In my Laban Movement Analysis course this semester, we have been learning how to analyze dance and movement. In one of our assignments, we were asked to reflect on how we as individuals attend to movement – the things that we notice when watching, learning, and generating movement, and even the things that we ignore. Below, I will share with you some of my findings.

When observing dance in a performance atmosphere, one thing that always stands out to me is the emotional response that I have to the movement. I think the reason for this is that when I am performing, I always strive to move my audience in some way, whether small or large. I find that I pay attention to the small things such as hands and focus as well. When I am watching my classmates’ choreography in Composition class, I am very attentive to the hands – their placement and energy are of specific interest to me. Focus is of equal importance to me because it can completely transform the energy and impact of a piece.

The way that I approach movement that I have to learn usually depends on the style. I think that I learn ballet combinations fairly quickly because I am familiar with the vocabulary of ballet as it is very codified, and I’ve had a good deal of experience with it. With contemporary movement, which is very individually stylized, I think that I try to build the material from base up. I gain a general comfort with the basics of the movement, and then add on the details and flairs from there.

When I am generating movement, I typically tend to go with an idea or image that I have in my head. I do not actively sit and imagine choreography before attempting to set something, but rather, I will have an idea and then explore it until I find it to be unsuccessful or it leads to something else. While I notice hands and focus in other’s material, I have come to find that it is usually not something that I pay particular attention to until after I am finished creating and have begun the cleaning/clarifying process.

I don’t know if there is anything that I consciously ignore, but I do favor moving at a moderate pace. Fast movement is hard for me to generate and to maintain for more than short bursts of time. I am working on a piece for my final project in my composition class, and I am struggling to develop choreography that moves for more than a few steps and then dissolves into stillness. When I am dancing my own choreography to silence, I rarely think in terms of counts. My internal timing directs the piece, and I have a difficult time setting counts to material such as that. However, when I choreograph to music, I struggle to separate the timing of my choreography from the beat of the music. I think very much in terms of rhythm even without music, and it is something that is always subconsciously present to me when music is playing, even with I am not actively listening for the rhythm.

I am learning to better analyze the intent behind my movement. If something is supposed to be light and airy, do I achieve that goal? I think a great deal about the quality of the movement itself as well. Qualitatively, do I want my audience to perceive heaviness from my movement, a staccato phrasing, etc.? I make sure that I am on beat when there is an audible one, and I try to find ways to make my internalization of rhythm interesting and dynamic. My composition class has really challenged me to reach beyond the normal parameters of movement that I have set for myself and create movement that breaks my mold.

In conclusion, this assignment has really caused me to stop and tune in to things that I normally do not notice. It is important to know our own styles and habits as it keeps us aware of our potential biases. Once we are aware of these, I think that we have gained access to another level of honesty in our art form.

My Midwestern Experiences

Photo Credit: Gabriella WiltzMy Ohio State experience so far has been incredible.  Everyday, I am thankful that God provided and made the way for me to be able to attend this school.  I miss my family and home tremendously, but I know that this is the place that I was meant to be.  Ohio State is literally the school that I always dreamed of attending, and as I began to really begin my college search/application process, I didn’t think existed for me as a dance major.

One of the things that I love most about OSU is the fact that it affords its students so many unique opportunities.  From the involvement fair that they held to the first Sunday of the school year to all the amazing guest speakers and organizations that they bring to campus.  The president of Somalia is coming to speak soon, and I desperately wish I could be in attendance.  Unfortunately, the session is already full, and I have class during the time at which he will be here.  Hopefully, there will be more prominent world leaders that will be here during the year who’s speeches will fit into my schedule.

Also, I am completely overwhelmed and swept up in the fantasitic sense of school spirit that we have here at OSU.  It is truly a Buckeye Nation.  If you have nothing else in common with someone else, it will almost always be that incredible “Buckeye Pride.”  I am also delighted by the fact that we have a really good reason to be proud of our athletic department — our teams are pretty darn good!

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I am anxiously awaiting the complete arrival of fall.  As a South Carolina girl (the best in the world!), I am sure I will miss these warm, summery days, but as a resident of a non-air conditioned residence hall, I relish the moments that I get to spend anywhere that’s cool!  However, I am certainly enjoying my first semester as a college student and couldn’t be happier to be experiencing it here at THE Ohio State University.