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.


Fundraising Gala, Flamenco, Future Prospects

Our annual fundraiser was on April 30, and this was the first time I was involved in putting it on- more than I ever intended to be. The first USC Dance gala I experienced was when the program was 3 years old, in 2008 when I performed as a guest shortly after leaving Columbia City Ballet – we had the third annual fund-raising gala on the Koger Center stage after the NYCB performance. The next year, 2009, I was actually enrolled in the university, and the gala and performance were in celebration of opening a new building, a huge accomplishment for the program and Susan Anderson.  In 2010 I missed the gala and the NYCB performance because I was studying abroad, which was well-worth it.  I had become tired of the program and frustrated by my seemingly futile persistence to keep dancing in college.  This year I was ready to be back in the throng of things, yet was not expecting to be one of the organizers of the whole shebang – my work study job in dance department director’s office had already proved to be a far bigger job than the title entailed.

Nonetheless, I was glad to have work. I will refrain from all the details, but putting on a gala to impress and draw wealthy donors is one hell-of- a-lot of work! And exhausting! It would have helped if we were a bit more organized… After seeing all the background, I really learned to appreciate all that Susan has done for the program. In the end, Come Dance With US(C) turned out better than I expected, and we raised a lot of scholarship money for the department.

Unfortunately working at the Dance Department does not necessarily equal dancing more, although I am always “present” and in their view. But that is no one’s fault but my own either…I just can’t do everything! I still would rather be dancing than working in the office…but I have to pay the rent somehow, and at least I am surrounded by it all… I take that back. I’d rather not be surrounded by it all. Detachment from all the drama and stress surrounding the dance world has always been my safe haven. Thaddeus told me in evaluations I distance myself too much from the other dancers and need be more a part of the “group”  – although that context is in technique class, where I try to escape from the monotony of the day. It’s nice to have something familiar I can return to and ground myself in, and take ballet or modern class with respected staff while getting my degree – I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that after I graduate.  I need to not force myself into a desk job or something I think would be a “good decision” after college, because I will hate it if I cannot be dancing. Again, I would rather be dancing…

The best part of the night was the flamenco dancers, Jose de Guadalupe and Rina Menosky. Jose has formed his own flamenco dance performing company, Flamenco Arts, consisting of himself and his partner. His pianist, Richard A. Smith, came with them from Greenville, SC.  As part of my job with Susan, I was responsible for getting many of the guest performers and musicians to come, and I was already excited about seeing real flamenco dancers after my research project on Flamenco dance.

I stood gripping poor Lauren’s arm during their performance.  Both of them were stunning, captivating, fierce, sexy, thrilling, shocking, seductive and powerful artists on that stage.  Their performance fueled the fire in me to learn this newly discovered dance passion. I regret not learning flamenco from my ballet instructors and contacts in Albuquerque growing up, but it’s never to late. And if  I want to find a new challenge in a dance form other than ballet for the future of my dancing life, flamenco holds that challenge.

I have been rolling this over in my head for a few weeks now, and from both the project on flamenco in Dr. Parrish’s class, to watching and talking to Jose and Rina, to my research into Spanish guitar and interviews with guitar professor Christopher Berg, my visit to Spain, background in New Mexican culture, and inclination to use my analytical skills in combination with writing and the physicality of movement, I have decided to gear my Fulbright proposal for grad school in Dance Anthropology. At University Roehampton London in the UK, I could study Flamenco and Spanish cultural dance specifically, as just one branch of my degree. I find various cultures fascinating, but mostly what role dance plays in that. I would love find a job that allows me to dig up culturally rich dance forms, learn to dance it, master to the art form, travel, and write about dance in my adventures. I think I am slowly coming closer to my ideal job… all hypothetical. I wonder who I could find to pay me to write a dancing version of the Lonely Planet? When you see it on bookshelves (or in Kindle websites or whatever) you better believe it was me!

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.

Back in the South, Baby!

Sunday, August 15

God has blessed me immensely just in the few short days I have been back. I never thought I would miss South Carolina so much.  It’s really the people more than anything else that I miss. I could do without the muggy, hot-and-sticky weather that makes you pour sweat when you take even a few steps outside. I will be looking forward to it cooling down. Thankfully, this humid climate doesn’t ever get too cold for me to bike in, or I don’t know how I would get around in such a small city without a car. I am really excited about riding my new bike! It’s not really mine, but on loan from a friend who is doing her residency for med school two hours away. I couldn’t have asked for a better bike – a white and black Specialized. This bike, Ruth is its name, has already gone on quite a few adventures with me, and it’s about to live up to its name, ‘Where you go, I will go.’

God answered my prayers and provided me three part-time jobs in the matter of a few days, both within biking distance from our house. See? God pays attention to detail too. Living at Queen St again with a familiar place, and the boys next door, and a lovely new roommate who is a sweet girl in Christ,  are just a few of the many answers to frantic prayers I gave up to the Lord, and He heard me and answered me! I got the job at the Academic Enrichment Center tutoring student athletes, a babysitting job at least once a week, and I am waiting to hear from Jon at Cycle Center when he wants me to show up and be a pretty face up front and sell things.  I think I am most excited about working at the bike shop. I can’t wait to learn all about bikes and how to fix them so that when I break down in the middle of somewhere, I can be a bicycle-tire-fixing machine!

This is the closest looking thing to my bike, except it is mostly black and has turned-under handlebars. I feel so cool when I ride it (minus dripping sweat from every pore because of the humidity)!

Wednesday, August 18

Miracle and a Monsoon

Praise God! He is incredibly faithful and good! Despite my doubt and my unbelief, He answered my prayers. I was desperate, at my wits end about how to pay my tuition this fall; I was $2,000 short after I took out all the federal loans I was eligible for, and my parents were not going to be able to help me this year since my younger brother and sister are both going to college too. All I could do was pray. I can’t say that I have unwaivering faith, but I did feel peace about the situation when I gave it up to the Lord. I even wondered why God would want to answer my prayer. I am pretty fortunate, a privileged American, an oldest child whose parents encouraged me to make the best use of my talents that they could afford. But He promises He will care for us and will provide all our needs if we ask in faith; He makes no distinction between us as worldly poor or wealthy. My prayer this last month has been not only to provide, but ‘Lord, increase my faith’. And through this miracle, He had increased my faith, let me tell you! I kept fighting back the doubt, knowing I had nothing else to hold onto, that I have exhausted all my resources, and could do nothing at this point but rely on God, and He came through!

I wrote to a prestigious woman I knew who was a customer of mine at Starbucks,because I knew she like me and donated lots of money to charities and foundations for the arts. Her name came to my mind while I was walking and praying several weeks ago, and I wrote her a letter, an email actually. I was taking a chance, but I had to try anything, I was so financially desolate! Well, after two weeks of her not responding I nearly gave up hope. I didn’t know who else to go to for the money I needed to stay enrolled in school. Just over a week ago she emailed me back, and to make a long story short, has pledged to give me the $2,000. I heard today, and my tuition has to paid in less than two days from now! Hopefully it make it into the Bursar’s office’s hands in time; I guess if God has been faithful this far, He will see it through! The cool thing is, I had a dream last night that the $2,000 were put on VIP. That’s all I remember, and I seldom ever remember anything from dreams. Well, it came true today! Isn’t that incredible?! Now that’s a blatant miracle if I have to call it one! I am afraid I have missed miracles in the past because I wasn’t looking for one. Know I know for sure God still works miracles. I wonder how He feels that He has to do such big things to get my attention…

In addition to that,I have been asking Him that if it is His will I go back to dancing, He would provide me with a job that would make flexible enough demands on my time that I could attend the dance company’s rehearsals several hours a day, along with my school schedule. Again, He has made it possible! He knew my heart, that I miss and long to be dancing again, and I can honestly say that now I am realistic about where I am and am not preoccupied with making ballet my profession again, but at this time I just want to take advantage of this terrific dance program we have at USC and perform for the next year or two I have left to graduate. Again, I had to be humbled before I could accept that this is my opportunity to dance, and I must take it now, wherever I am. As part of this gift of money, I have to do work study for the Dance Dept. This will be a good way to spend more time in the department,  this could turn out to be a blessing, if I can manage it and work enough to pay my rent. Better start praying about that too! At least I live in one of the cheapest states to live in.

My motivation and my drive and my passion for dance are back. They are different, more tame than when was training and living it as a professional career, but the love for dancing is what is still alive, and has rekindled, and that is what I am glad to feed in the fire now. May God be glorified in every move I make, in my dancing and my worship, and maybe the two combined. Praise Him, f’or I am fearfully and wonderfully made!’ (the Psalmist)

USC Dance Company 2010-11 Season Click for Information! ;

Now  for the monsoon: Tonight after my orientation for my tutoring job, I felt the first drops of rain from the looming clouds overhead as I jumped on my bike. In ten minutes, I could beat the rain home, I thought. I was wrong. Suddenly the drops became heavier, then faster, and before I knew it, there was a torrential downpour like nothing my friend the English would know. No, this turned into blinding rain – and it was blinding, literally. At one point I was going down the Harden St hill with my eyes half shut because the rain was coming right at them. I hoped for the best with the cars around me, because the streets were soon filled with water. Thankfully I made it home just in time to see one of my neighbor boys across the street standing out in it lathering himself up with soap to the delight of his frat house  mates who were sitting safely under the porch. At that point the water was rushing down the streets like a river. I got my bike in, and since I was soaking wet, decided why not enjoy it some more? I knocked on Matt’s door since I knew he would appreciate frolicking in the rain too – which he did. The water pouring off the roof of our house was like two giant showers, so we ducked our heads under to ‘wash’ our hair. I think I won’t have to take a shower for a week! Well… just kidding.

Off to bed; first day of university classes tomorrow. I am looking forward to all the different classes I get to take, but most of all dancing.