Light at the End of the Tunnel

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I have had so many wonderful things happen this last semester, but too little time to blog. When I’m not writing stories and papers to finish up this English degree, I’m dancing or choreographing…

I have had the privilege to perform a lot with USC Dance Company my last semester: in Thaddeus Davis’ It’s Getting Heavy and in Helen Pickett’s February 14, 2012, both original works created on us for Breaking Ground concert in February. Then in the Ballet Stars of NY gala and performance which I also helped Susan and the Board of USC Dance behind the scenes fundraising, George Balanchine’s Faust form Walpurgisnacht and Who Cares?  This last performance was bittersweet, as I don’t know when I’ll ever perform Balanchine rep again, or on pointe again, for that matter. Two weeks ago we took fellow senior Caitlin McCormack’s Four to ACDFA Southeastern Conference in Albany, GA, where it placed in the gala. Also, we took a clipped version of Thaddeus’ piece. Next weekend we’ll perform a selection of student choreography for Embodied, USC Dance’s Student Choreography Showcase. Caitlin’s piece Four will again be featured as will be my third piece of choreography at USC, Asylum, a collaboration with five other dancers set to music by Apocalyptica. I couldn’t have done it without them; we all shared equally in the choreographic process, which is what I wanted to happen. I’m so proud of them, and am so glad to be able to work with such talented young artists.

Video clips and photos coming soon – soon after I graduate and have some thinking time! Does anyone have a job for me involving writing and dancing/choreographing? I’m getting a little antsy about that…

Maria Kowroski and Amar Ramascar graced our stage in Apollo.


6th Annual NYCB Gala performance with USC Dance Company

Sara Mearns rehearsing "Western Symphony" with USC Dance Co. March 18, 2011

It’s been two weeks from the show and I am just now getting time to settle down and write my reflection…

Sara Mearns was exceptional and outshone all the dancers on stage. She has just been promoted to principle dancer with NYCB after all. She deserves all sorts of recognition – she is a master mistress at her craft; fully, 110% dedicated to it, something I never seemed to be able to maintain…and she is stunning. gorgeous. real and tangible, not ethereal, which makes her that much more likable and enjoyable to watch on stage, and she is thin, strong and embodies ballet dancer to the very tips of her fingernails and eyelashes. She danced out of every inch of her body. Nothing is forgotten. Music is made by her – or her movement made by it, I’m not certain which. I could rave about her on and on, and I am not even one who knows her personally or can claim any tie to her growing up in Columbia, SC or beginning her ballet roots here and attending the university’s dance conservatory as the dance department at USC likes to boast, but I appreciate her nonetheless. I say “appreciate” because I am trying to distinguish for myself my new mentality of appreciating ballet stars at somewhat of a safe distance rather than idolize them as I did when I was a striving dancer. That dangerous line I am drawing for myself distances me even further from ever pursuing a dance career again; regardless of how impossible it seems. I like to remind myself that if I found it in myself to emotionally, physically and financially commit to my craft 100% again, I could be back in the running for a professional career. It would take me losing weight finally and for good, and really committing – which I can’t do now because I am in school trying to finish my degree, I work 3 or 4 part time jobs, and I live in the deep South…. after all that, I have to remind myself of what I have come to accept as taking responsibility of my own foiled dance career – that I do not want and cannot sustain that lifestyle – and perhaps the reality that I never fully wanted it. But I was young and naive then… So enough of this somber reflection and regret. I am still dancing, and that’s what matters. I will never be Sara Mearns, and my body is far from the shape she is in now, but I have had other valuable life experiences outside of the narrow ballet world that she will never have that I treasure and would not trade, not even for an illustrious career with NYCB… Well…

It amazes me the power a desire so strong can have over me — that from the age of 9 or 10 when I decided I seriously wanted to pursue dance as a career, it took over me — and it may take just as many years to undo its power. I would not undo its influence and passion; just its obsessive control and lack thereof and the pain it has caused me. but no more of this sentimental vague reflection. I praise God He has given me back my dancing and I pray He continues to give it back tri-fold as I seek to honor Him with the ways He has given it back to me, even if it’s not the way I imagined it. Success does not make one happy always. God’s plans are better than our plans. Recognition does not supply fulfillment.

Psalms Project Beginnings

The last few weeks have between ruthlessly busy, but I manage to spend my spare moments (or nights up late) finding music to the Psalms. God has once again immensely blessed me in this process (and the other big “g”, Google has helped a lot too!).  Last blog post I talked about the Sons of Korah, whose song Psalm 117 I have decided to use for my piece for the USC Dance student choreography showcase next month.

Recently I discovered the Band Trinity from the Netherlands, whose music is an eclectic mix of new world and old world feel, with Latin American influence since three of the four band members grew up in Peru before returning to their homeland. They have trained in Celtic music as well, specifically Irish, and play numerous different sorts of whistles, flutes, and other instruments I will not attempt to list, but am impressed by nonetheless.  They sing in Spanish, English, as well as Dutch.  Similar to the Sons of Korah in their world music tone and passion to worship God in their cultures, I can more closely ally with Trinity because they are close to my age.  I know it sounds silly to say that, but I have been in contact with one of the band members who was exceedingly generous with me sending me back the information I asked for in a  timely manner over email.  Their songs are due to be out on iTunes in April 2011.  In the meantime, he sent me two of their MP3s – I was ecstatic!  Another link I discovered between my now two new favorite bands, he told me, was that Trinity has covered the Sons of Korah in a tour throughout the Netherlands!  What a small world, to use a cliche phrase, and a wonderful world enabled by internet and social networking -these things wouldn’t have been possible back in the Gilded Age…

A third group I recently discovered, The Psalms Project, has taken up the commission to “dress historical treasures in 21st century sounds,”as their website states.  Psalters set to Genevian melodies from the 16th century tunes in the Genevan Psalter of 1562, produced under the leadership of John Calvin, already exist in many other languages, but they needed recreating in English, and in modern voice. This group of professional musicians, under the guidance of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, have contributed to the making the Psalms Unplugged which is now available to order off their website (I should be paid to advertise).

I am really excited about all these developments, and am ready to get in the studio!  Must make more time to do that this week, because my audition for dancers is this Thursday for Psalm 117!

My next step is to research Latin dance moves that be incorporated into my piece.  I regret not having learned Flamenco  from my dance  instructors in New Mexico while I was growing up.  While in Spain last spring, the most powerful dance experience I have had watching dancer perform happened late one night in the streets of Barcelona where a man captivated a large audience of passers-by with his intense, hot and sweaty Flamenco dance to the beats of a drum his comrade made come from a simple box.  This dance I am creating can also be a tribute to my Spanish ballet teacher and master Luis Fuentes who taught me from ages 11 to 14 in Albuquerque, and then private lessons while I was at Boston Ballet School in 2005.  In addition to Flamenco, I am also drawing on sign and ‘worship arts’  but I am determined that my dances will not in any way be liturgical, but my personal excellence.

Pink Tights Success!

Last week on Wednesday I had to put on the pink tights for the first time in, um, YEARS. But we were already at the theater so my self-consciousness didn’t have much of an effect on my ability to perform. The performances Thursday and Friday went extremely well, I thought, for myself as well as the rest of the company. I was just pleased with myself to be performing onstage again. Being backstage of the Koger Center felt completely familiar and normal, as if not a month had passed since I last performed in it. The last time I performed was spring 2009. It goes to show I feel at home onstage dancing. Every time I stood in the wings before I went onstage this weekend though, I was reminded of God’s goodness to me and thanked Him for the opportunity to be performing again. He truly knows the desires of my heart and saw that they were a good thing and was pleased to give it back to me. I would love to continue performing for as long as God will allow me to, but I think I can say now that it no longer has such a grip on me that it is what I live for, and my primary goal in lie. My primary passion is for the Lord, and in Him I can order my other passions. That is the difference between me and the other dancers. I know that I was made to worship God, and that is what I am doing in my heart whenever I dance or perform. It’s an attitude of the heart, and it’s taken me a long time to figure that out. God willing, it is not too late to get back into performing. I don’t think it is. He has been gracious to me, so gracious and so good!

pink tutu


Oh, need I mention I was so worried about my weight before the performance ans how I hadn’t lost any before the performance? I let it go as est I could, and surprise surprise! I had dropped 5lb over the weekend. I guess I just need to repeat that weekend more often: eating mostly just chocolate, coffee and performing!

As if it weren’t enough to have to wear pink tights for my first performance back after a couple years, I had to wear a very PINK romantic tutu for Raymonda variations and a pink and nude unitard/pants suit with attached skirt for Great Galloping Gottschalk. The latter, choreographed by Lynn Taylor-Corbett, was my favorite of the two because it was so much fun to dance. I was one of the four souvenir girls. It was a treat to have Lynn come set the piece on us at the beginning and just before the performances as well. But the best part of this weekend was that my Mom came to see me!She hadn’t seen me perform in 3 years, and that time was in Koger Center with Columbia City Ballet. It was a special treat to spend time with her all weekend, especially since I will not be home again for Thanksgiving. Someday I would like to be home again for Thanksgiving. The last time was 6 years ago.

Well, next I will look forward to performing in our student choreography showcase Nov. 29-Dec. 3 at Drayton Hall, then finishing up all my work (quite a bit of catch up work and papers to write. ugh) the semester and going home for Christmas.  Happy holidays!

Pink Tights Count Down, Day 5

My efforts are futile. I am frustrated by my failures. I don’t have the good things to report I wished I did; and somehow this doesn’t surprise me… In my consideration why I tend to fall back on bad behavior patterns rather than persevere and utilize self-discipline, I like to pretend I don’t know. But I do know. I can’t do it in my own strength, Never have been able to, and if I can, then it doesn’t last for long. I tell myself God wouldn’t care about this my problem or my goal, but He does, and He wants to hear about it from me. He wants to help me, but I have to give it to Him. When will I learn?!! God wouldn’t give me back my dancing if He didn’t want me to do my best and dance my fullest and discipline my  body in order to perform my best. But what is my motivation? People’s recognition or His? He gave me back my dancing so I can worship Him, not so that I can say, “look at me! I’m back! Look what I did!” God, forgive me. God, take the reins!

Pink Tights Countdown, Day 12

I have let the last week or so slide by without much incentive to watch my diet for my pink tights… Still the same weight, although I know I am more toned than 3 months ago, when I started back after 9 months off. I can brag about my efforts to practice more Pilates each day I’m at the studio, and I substituted for Kyra(one of our fabulous ballet faculty member)’s Pilates classes twice last week while she was gone. It felt good to be teaching Pilates again, especially at a university level, and to many of my peers, but I am out of practice teaching too. It’s been a year and a half since the gym I taught at closed. It is my goal to get started on my teacher training and get certified in Pilates mat before I graduate from USC, so I can teach at other fitness centers while I’m looking for a more permanent job, rather than continuing to work these minimum wage jobs.  Not that I haven’t enjoyed the variety of minimum-wage jobs I’ve had thus far – coffee shop, bike shop, babysitting, tutoring – but I know I am much more highly qualified in the dance world and Pilates industry.

The Classics to Contemporary performances are in a week and a half. I am ready rehearsal-wise, and pointe shoe-wise, but not body-wise. There’s not much I can do in a week other than continue to try to eat less, and that shouldn’t be hard seeing as I am utterly broke and have no money or time to get groceries…still, I manage to eat. It’s strange. The most exciting news is, my mom is coming to see me perform! She had been talking about it ever since I told her my joy/predicament over performing in a pink tights ballet again, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Dad has to stay  home in New Mexico with the animals and horses, but mom is coming just for the weekend. She’ll fly into Charlotte and rent a car to drive down to Columbia. Apparently she has a high school friend from Colorado who lives in Columbia now, and I am sure she can find the little art galleries around here and various other things to amuse herself. It will be much different this time from the last time my parents came to visit me in Columbia during my season with Columbia City Ballet. Columbia is such a different place for me now: lighter, happier, friendlier, more comfortable. I live only 2 minutes away from that first apartment I had, and I drive by it everyday, and we perform in the same theater as CCB, as well as many other things that could and sometimes do remind me of it, but I choose not to remember that season of life if at all possible.

Pink Tights Count Down Day 37

I’m thinking, “Gosh, I hope no one reads this…” Now that I have incriminated myself however, I will continue to give a description of a boring day and very unuseful information. 😉 My count-down is already winding down faster than I would like to admit. Today is the first day of my fall break weekend! It’s really just two extra days off, but it is a welcome and much needed break in the semester! I am planning on catching up on my reading and papers for my classes, and resting. Now, the latter I’ve already managed, but the prior is yet to happen. One paper is due Tuesday, so I really can’t slack off.

Relaxing for me includes sleeping and sitting outside in the sun, but it also includes getting exercise and spending time outdoors, preferably both at the same time. Add talking to the Lord and meditating on His Word to the Mix, and I’ve got a complete rejuvenation package! This morning I biked down to the river walk, locked up my bike, and went for an 8-mile run, then biked back. This is the perfect weather, even during the middle of the day; I think my favorite month in Columbia is October, because it’s still pleasant outside, but just beginning to cool down. The smells of the trees and flowers or whatever is making that pumpkin-spice-smell so reminiscent of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes is heavenly, and the array of leaves changing colors and falling to the ground adds such a crisp and golden touch after a long Columbia summer. Running 8 miles is not my norm, but I find that if I can get past 5, it’s easy after that, and today I had the energy since I didn’t have to save it for school or work or dance. Stopped by the bike shop on my way back to check in on my hours and John gave me the rest of the day off and said to come in tomorrow.

In the last three years, my body has come to look more like a biker-girl than a ballerina-girl, although I’m almost certain “biker-girls” aren’t quite as hyper-aware of their bodies as dancers. I have been living the biker-girl mentality for way too long, and feel much more comfortable in a saddle than in tights. Let me rephrase that: I feel less self-conscience in a saddle than in tights. Dance absolutely comes second nature to me.

Tonight I cooked up the black beans I had been soaking, along with some rice (rice and beans= a complete protein), 2 pans of corn bread, peas and carrots and invited a couple neighbors and friends over to eat it. I find that if I eat with people, I eat less, as well as being the hostess, because I’m concerned about my guest’s welfare. Also, my roommate is out of town, and it’s just nice to have company. I enjoy cooking, but I often just won’t bother if it’s just for me. I know I should, but it’s easier just to microwave a veggie burger or make a pb &j sandwich. Anyway, now I have leftover bean soup to eat tomorrow, and lots of cornbread to feel guilty about eating.