Walk in the Park

More like the horseshoe…you know, that familiar stretch of green on USC campus, but I like to imagine I am in Central Park again, and I can wander for miles…

That is something I need for myself – alone time, introspection time, to think, ponder and write to process things. It usually leads to prayer. I wish my prayer life was better. Monday night was so good for my soul, just praying for Columbia and USC students. God is doing something big here, and it needs to begin with us. I prayed for revival, but in my heart first. God, forgive my hypocrisy and pride that says I have to get my life right first before you can use me. I have to trust that you can use me how I am now, still broken and messed up.

Last Sunday I wrote a lot. It had been awhile and I had a lot bottled up inside.  I still do. I need to get it out. I let my busy life drown me and don’t take time for myself to process things. I am realizing I have to say no to some things. I can’t please everyone.  It’s not selfish to take time for myself. It’s necessary.

I stopped to read some engravings on the signs by the McKissop Museum. Incredible history, right here, under our noses! I must learn to embrace South Carolina, It is hard for me though, because I never wanted to be here, to stay here long. I never guessed I would be going to school here. I can already reflect on the last 2 years and see the reasons God brought me here, for maturity, spiritual growth; there’s got to be a reason! There is more than one. It is still hard to understand why God would allow me to lose my motivation for my love. I need change that can only happen in this secluded place, it seems. I like to think that God brought me here for more than all that, for a greater purpose than this. I’m not very patient; I want adventure, action, excitement! But I feel stagnant and useless. I know that is not true, I have accomplished many things here, but I feel like I’m still going nowhere. The scary thing is, what if I leave, and I end up finding out how much I liked it here?

Here I am, finding my adventure in the pages of British literature that I read the night before class after I get off work. I like having Chad in my class because he’s another nontraditional classmate, one that has done so many great feats and remains humble, former guitarist for BAUMER. I am slightly jealous of him and his band – they got their fill of performing and decided to break it off while they were still going strong. I feel like mine was a matter of circumstances, and it was definitely cut short. I love it still. It is part of me I cannot get rid of, I am sure I have said this before, that I do not want to lose it, yet I find myself doing the opposite. Because of pain and difficulty, I try to starve out the dancer in me. It’s easier. I feel it would be best to. But I cannot. I am unfulfilled. That is why I cannot leave it completely yet and I vainly hope it can be returned to me.

I am going at this all wrong. I will always be a dancer. If I perform again, I want it to be at my best, not just thrown away, as I feel it would be now if I performed, because I am not focused. Also, my performing career would look differently than what I imagined. I need to be more flexible and reasonable. I think a hindrance in the past was how closed-minded I was. Ballet only, I would tell people that. It took breaking down my world of dance through trial and reluctance before I could begin to appreciate and consider other types of dance. As a trained ballet dancer though, my technique will remain based in classical ballet but I would expand on it. I should not be afraid to do something else for the sake of losing the quality, then, because the quality is there, and can be renewed and refreshed. Ahh, there is so much more out there than this! I want to jump out of the box! Wait. That’s interesting. I guess I don’t need to be box-shaped then first, do I?

Alarm

This may alarm some of you, but seeing as I don’t have a great following anyway, I am not worried. It just needs to get out there, in the open. I am not strong enough at present to tell any more. I have a problem. It has to do with self-control. I can make explanations all day long about the reasons I do things think the way I do, shifting the blames, making excuses, giving up and giving in rather than trying to change and being conscientious of it. I idolize things I shouldn’t. My family life and career ambitions put undue stress on me. Blah blah blah if they don’t help me change Enough self-understanding! Enough therapy! Enough rules, doctors, counselors, guidelines, tricks! I need to change! And no one is going to do it for me, unfortunately. Not even God will change me for me.

At this time when I want to seek God earnestly for revival of the church at USC and in Columbia, it begins with us, with me. It’s not that I have to “get everything right” before I can come before God or before He can use me, but I need to live my life in order to honor him. I cannot be a witness if I have a big wall up in my own heart still. It was being torn down at one point, but I began stacking up the bricks again recently, for no particular reason. This thing, this burden, this sin that has developed from so much hurt and wrong and crested so much bondage and withdrawal in my life is a hindrance to not only my health but my spiritual life. I cry out for God to take it away from me, but how willing am I to change? He will not take it away, will he? I believed I was healed and set free earlier, but I took it back again. I must be the one to put it away and ask God for strength not to pick it back up again. It is hard. Gosh darn it! Why can’t it be easier? Can you make it easier, Lord? God I need your help! Again! Every day!

This is my self talk: Rebecca, you have a problem. Only you can make the decisions to change it. Only you can choose to remember God’s help in the midst of those troubling times. Only you can accept God’s grace when you fail and stop, pick up and go again not looking back and not dwelling on your mistakes. Only you can praise God for those things you know he has done in your life. Only you can chose to share and who to share with. Only you can help someone who needs your help at sometime in the future. Only you can choose to live in that freedom which Christ give us freely.

Proverbs 25:28

1 Corinthians 9

Galatians 5 The Fruits of the Spirit

Dance: Pretty vs Ugly

What first spurred this discussion was what Thaddeus mentioned in Improvisation is that most college educated dance students in 2009 America (in this case at University of SC) are not familiar with American choreographers. Why? Partly because they’re not interested and don’t research it, partly because ballet is the focus, and anything not classical ballet seems foreign. The thing that dancers need to know is that even mainstream ballet companies are looking for dancers who can expand on the vocabulary of classical ballet.

What is it that makes dance pretty or ugly? For a classically trained eye, I appreciate the technical excellencies of dancers and cringe at the mediocre. Where does the line lie with contemporary and modern dance then, that is revolutionizing dance in America? That in itself is a discussion to be had: How can American choreographers revolutionize and revive dance in America? What does choreographer mean? A choreographer is more than someone who puts movements and steps together to music. In my opinion, the term choreographer should be retained for those that bring something new to dance. In Thaddeus’s words, “A choreographer makes NEW dance, something that has not been done yet ”

Classical ballet has strengths that surpass other dance forms. Its carefully developed techniques have evolved across Russia, Europe and America. We need to be careful that as dance companies try to bridge the gap between classical and contemporary, old fashioned and creative, that we do not lose the purity of classical dance and classical form. Without classical ballet, there is little structure to go off of. Contemporary and modern dance classes both stem off the traditional ballet barre warm-up to prepare the body for the rigors of the dance. Will ballet be lost? I think not. It will remain a solid basis for dance. Dance schools must present ballet in its truest form and training for students from a young age, and begin to expose them to the more elaborative styles after they have a the base.

What William Forsythe did was take ballet and deconstruct it, looking at the movements in their most basic form and then expand on them; he developed the improvisational guidelines for the ballet dancers. Forsythe’s Improvisation Technologies give the dancers freedom to exaggerate the movement, dig deeper, interpret, and exaggerate the movement within bounds.

Jirí Kylian is a renowned contemporary Dutch choreographer. He took ballet and did a lot of what Forsythe has done, taking ballet and maintaining the purity and the line of the classically trained dancers, expands on their capabilities. I like to think of the dancers being challenged above and beyond rote memorization of steps, poses, and variations that make up classical ballets. The classics are to be admired, but anyone who has seen five seasons of Giselle come and go, the classics can provide the creative dancers no creative outlet. And that’s what most dancers are: artists and creators. I have a conviction the artist gets starved out of many ballet dancers in big ballet companies.

The neatest thing for me to see at my time in Boston Ballet was the dancers given works by Kylian and Forsythe as well as choreographer-in-residence Jorma Elo. The smart dancers soared. It may have taken them awhile to get out of the rut of muscle memory and mind-block, but the creative dancers soon stood out because of their willingness to step out of their comfort zone and experiment with movement and their body’s limitations. It was incredible to see an entire classical ballet company challenged in that way. Each of the dancers grew by leaps and bounds when they had to work with a new choreographer rather than learning the steps of Don Quixote from four years ago.

That is where I want to be. If I failed somehow back then that is the reason I have lost the devotion and spark that made me willing to spend 12 hours of every day living and breathing dance, it is what it is. I cannot change the past now. I can, however, take the opportunities given me here and find inspiration in everything I observe and feel and transpire it into movement: the basis of improvisation. Think. Smart dancers think. Perhaps the smart dancer in me that has been inhibited, subjected, restricted, can come out in improvisation, in words, expression through writing that can enhance or promote dance moving forward in our society. Thinking may be my downfall, but it may also end up being my way back into dance. Dance is my heartache. I want it to be my freedom.

So, what defines pretty or ugly in dance? For me it has been before the classical line, the elegance, the embodiment of the ephemeral, the impossible perfection. It is the finite details of the flourish of the pinkie toe pointed upwards at the end of a stretched arabesque leg. That is wonderful. But it can only last so long. People want something tangible, something they can begin to understand, not grasp completely, or it would lose its appeal, but something more human and earthy. So it is with dance. If the audience can feel the struggle, see the effort, they will lean in, not out. What is he or she trying to do with his or her body? What is she trying to say? It is alright for dancers and choreographers to make their dance more human without lessening it. Perhaps becoming more human means becoming more ugly, more rigid, unstructured, unsure at times. Perhaps it means becoming more intellectual, prodding the mind for answers, raising questions, and begging to be analyzed. The choreographers that thrive are the ones that give their dancers something to create and build, and their audience something to think about and interpret. The only way dance will survive in America is if choreographers rise to give dancers nourishment for mind and body and audiences something to chew over rather than simply entertain.

I love watching pretty dance. I could watch Romeo and Juliet by ABT every Saturday for weeks. I did that summer I spent in New York! Ahh, the Met… But a dancer whose work is always changing, shifting and growing, would keep me coming back to see what they are going to do, what they want to say, even if not every part of the process is pretty. The emotion and the intent become the part that keeps me intrigued. A ballet dancer can do that in her role, but it is very difficult. It is easier to do that in dance forms that provide some room for improvisation.

I could go on comparing one to the other, but both art forms are valuable. Contemporary dance and rising choreographers are harder to define than the classics; but isn’t that what art is? Not easily put in a box? I want art that makes me think and learn about myself, other people, and my environment, about life. Sometimes it is nice to take break and live momentarily in the surreal, but don’t we have enough of that in 21st century America already? Art is contrasts our lifestyles to keep us sane. It is changing. It is essential. It is sometimes ugly rather than pretty.

Rumba and International Waltz

It feels like months since I wrote last. and it almost is one. I have gotten swept up in school this semester and trying to continue working enough that I am already behind.

My idea to cut myself off from ballet hasn’t exactly worked out.  I never couldcompletely quit, although I have felt it would be best. I am grateful for Tanya and Thaddeus; they have been a great source of encouragement. Have I been ungrateful to them by refusing to be involved in Tanya’s choreography for the October show? I had made my decision to not perform this semester, to distance myself from ballet, for reasons of my own, in perhaps vain hope that my passion would be returned to me. If my life were under different terms right now, if I had time to devote to it as well, I hope it would be different. It is something that means so much to me I don’t want to be only half in. I must be all in or all out. right? I question myself. This is a time of searching. Yet I cannot revive my passion for dance outside of dance, can I? The passion, the love, the desire, yes, from absence can grow stronger. But what of the feeling, the physical and the essence of dance? That loss from even the shortest absence is difficult to regain.

In my recent imposed distance from performing, rather than all together absence from ballet, I have begun to noticed a growing change in how I view other types of dance. I have been explorng  swing dancing, shagging, Lindy hop, some break dancing with my new friends Lavell and DW. I made good friends with belly dancer Ashley Bennett who works near me and is dating a friend of mine. She is awesome, but I don’t understand them…I don’t think I could ever date a dancer–we’re all too crazy.

I started ballroom dance in the USC dance sport club. There’s something about it that I can relax into. The women’s size does not make her less of a person or a dancer. Beautiful ambition. Beautiful movement. Beautiful finesse. I love ballroom. There is so much great dance out here that isn’t so strict as ballet, but maybe just as fulfilling. Tonight we did Rumba and International Waltz. I felt like I had my right from my left confused. The rumba is a different way of moving that I am not use to. It’s sexy, sultry, luscious.It’s not easy. You have to remain calm, and attentive to your partner’s movement  Maybe I’ll find my niche with ballroom.

I haven’t had the time to journal about everything I wanted to recently, and all the reviews or article ideas I have had came and gone with no documentation. So I will try to catch up…

Ned gets after me. He brought me the article on Columbia contemporary Dance’s upcoming performance earlier this week and pointed to the author’s name, “Why isn’t that your name yet?”. It was a big insert with Miriam Barbosa and one of her dancers; I know them so I could have easily gotten access to interview them, if I had been thinking and prepared ahead of time. I ‘m thankful for people like Ned in my life. He believes in me,without really ahving seen anything that I am capable of. He says my voice needs to be heard, but I have to get it ou there. My excuse is I’m too busy. I don’t want to be that way, it’s just the honest truth. I suppose I could always fit one more thing in, but I remeber how hectic last year was for me and I don’t want to repeat that. It was all good, just exhausting.  I never get my fill of sleep. Labor Day weekend I think I ended up going to work, coming home and sleeping, going to wotk, coming home and sleeping some more. If you can catch up on sleep, that’s what my body was trying to do. Enough about sleep. We all need it. Thank God I work at a coffee shop. Although my goal this school year is to not get overly dependent on it.

Work is going well and I have had the luxury of keeping in contact with friends and regulars who come into my store, otherwise I might never see them! I have also made some new aquaintances as well, among these a young, hip professor named Jonathon Merick who gave me the name of the director of the Arts Institute on camus. I met with her and she immediately offered me an internshio there. I am so excited to get started! I will be in the middle of the arts and helping plan events to support funding projects and increasing interdiscplinary opportunities and ideas among the arts on campus and in Columbia. I will be able to be connected to an environment that is the community I want to be involved in, just not just solely ballet.