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.


“Dancer Within”

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

I picked up the book I had sitting on my coffee table for over a month now, “Dancer Within” by Rose Eichenbaum. That book caught my eye on the library shelf earlier this summer when I was eager to begin searching for a “way in” to the dance world again. What seemed to have been a coincidence is not one at all.  This book is a physical example of combining writing with a love for dance and the dancers.

What is so intriguing to me about this author is that although her desire to dance and perform was never filled, she found away back, to revive her passion, even at age of fourty-four. Her story reminds me of another artist, a courageous and fiery ambitious woman- my mom, who, after marriage and children,  is finding her way back to her passion: painting. Both these women are multi-talented and have many accomplishments, including artistic skill, but not their art. The artist within them will not be silenced. It is how God made them.

I know for my mom, she is completely content to be by herself for hours painting or sketching either outdoors or in her studio in silence or listening to classical music pulsing out of that old 1980’s radio-cassette player. My Mom is an artist in all true sense, that is where I got it from, but during the 20 plus years of raising kids she had to lay her career laid aside. She found many other avenues to use her skills, from teaching history, ceramics, drawing, leather craft and gen ed to both home school kids and in public schools, in addition to being producer of our ballet company, lighting designer, sewing costumes and painting stage sets, but those were all side roads from what she was created to do best – paint.

That is why, with so much angst and sacrifice, my mom did all she could to enable me to follow my passion; my brother and sister also, but I am the one who knew what I wanted to do all along. My parents did all they could, considering they didn’t know much about the world of dance and the financial cost attributed with 6 or 7-day a week training, then gone every summer.  They were constantly questioning it themselves, whether this was something they should let their daughter pursue at expense of social interaction, friends, family vacations, a college education. But there was no stopping me. I fought every last grain of dust that identified my family as a rural conservative Christian family. I remember driving to ballet in a snow-topped truck in wintertime, loaded up with hay in the summertime. I am sure we were the only people to ever pull a horse trailer into the ballet studio’s parking lot. My brother and sister went more for the 4-H and rodeo life, and the occasional sports teams. my sister is actually a very talented dancer also, but I am glad for her sake she has no desire to pursue it as I did for a career.  At the time I was extremely embarrassed of my family. Looking back, I know how indebted I am to them for their sacrifices.

A lot of pressure was placed on me inadvertently to prove that dance was not a waste of time and that I myself  was worthy of it.  Of course I blame myself for letting down people who had high expectations and hopes for me by letting my dream crumble, although it was really circumstantial. Christmas Joy is what finally changed my Dad’s mind about dance. Karen Alwin would fly Lynn in from California every August to set new piece on us girls (and Jason), a pre-professional troupe about 40 more or less, each year. It was an exciting time! When other students were returning from summer vacation, those of us who were serious were returning from summer intensives and beginning rehearsals even before  classes started. The highlight of our year was revealing the cast list, preparing us for disappointments in the “real world”.  By age 13, when I began to win competitions, I began to get  noticed.  I caught Lynn’s eye, then Karen’s and was cast in many roles. Lynn’s choreography poured out of her heart, and every movement, no matter how stylized or repetitive, managed to express emotion deeper than words. I try to remember only the good, and not all the drama and jealousy it caused among the girls, and more so betwixt the parents. The show in itself told the gospel story, from birth of Christ to its celebratory finale “Worship the King”. It was the most powerful ministry of dancing I have had the privilege to be involved in.

What a wonderful foundation I have from my high school days to be reminded that dance can be Christ-honoring! My experiences with Boston Ballet  were magnificent and illuminating, but not heart-wrenching or soul-searching.  Pittsburgh Ballet was too transparent-all the problems were exposed.  Columbia City Ballet was the farthest from anything I wanted to be doing with my dance career., and it ended there,before I had really begun…People will tell me since I obviously won’t be dancing professionally again that I should take up choreography, after all it used to be natural for me. Dad used to suggest I create a work centering around the Easter message. If that is something I am suppose to do, my heart has a lot of growing before I get to that point.

Right now I am drawn to writing about dance: my experiences with and questions about that elusive world.  It may be only for my gratification, to work through where I am in my life right now. I am too rational. I want to explain everything, have  a reason, a purpose, a plan, yet the artist within cries to be “free”! The rules and plans sometimes  hold me back, and I am afraid that too much freedom will destroy what I have just barely holding together with glue. Perhaps through words I can come to understand myself in terms to better relate to others and see this conquest of a dancers spirit come to fruition. Although I respect her work, I would like to move beyond living through other artists, as Rose did through her writing.That is not the way I want to fulfill that longing. That piece of my heart that longs to dance and be “free” cannot ever be explained utterly in words. Neither can every stroke of the brush on the canvas be given a word to describe the painting.

Donna McKechnie, the all-singing, all-dancing Broadway star, is quoted to have said:

“Dance is something that you do – not something you talk about. It’s abstract and emotional. Art comes from a private, hidden, never fully understood place…To talk about it is to trespass in a restricted zone.”

Rose Echenbaum interviews famous and not-so-famous dancers and choreographers in her book “Dancer Within”. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the essays and confessional interviews of the artists and reading some more of Rose’s books. google book:Dancer Within

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibitions pays tribute to Eichenbaum’s works: Smithsonian Institute:The Dancer Within

online gallery of some of her photos displayed in the SI: Exhibit Images