Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SEA-MOVES in SEATTLE (Last Day/Last Picture)

Directors of Choreography and Music.
(I always have to chuckle when I see this photo because, there I am gleaming and beaming!-a product of that "special Thai soup" I ate all Conference long. For more background on the "special soup", please see the Thai restaurant blogs.)

Thank you for all the excellent teaching I received! I will always be grateful for 2 things:
1) The "Details": this includes all those technical issues we studied. Inversion, retrograde, site-specific performances, countless choreographic exercises-my notebooks are filled with your comments and teachings...indeed the "craft" of choreography.
2) The "Big Picture": this includes what it means to be a creative artist and how to keep "what will "they" think?" or "will "they" get it?" in perspective.

While I incorporated "the Details" into my choreography, I probably draw most on those talks about the "Big Picture". I remember towards the last days of the Conference, when we all sat in a circle and (led by you), we pondered how a choreographer knows if a piece they did is successful. Sure feedback from others is important, but how does one really know? Also, how does each choreographer answer the questions: "what will they think" and "will they get it"?

To define "they":
anybody coming under the category of friends, family, colleagues (both those friendly and those "not so much"), critics, grant facilitators, dance aficionados, teachers, balletomanes, audience members, fellow choreographers, fellow dancers, dance historians, arts administrators, mentors, collaborators, dance partners, artistic directors, ballet mistresses, lighting/set designers and anyone else who might see your work.

After putting out your best effort and incorporating feedback from all the above, it was decided that at the end of the day, each of us is a creative artist, and must do the work we feel we must do, in the way we must do it...When you are settling down to sleep at night, there is one fool-proof way to answer the question "was my work good"? ....(drum roll)....
Simple: the work will tell you so.
You told us that we know a piece of work was good if it "winks back" at us. :)
It means: you know and I know, and in fact WE know it was good, despite all the praise or negative feedback, as the case may be.

I know that as I review my work while I am drifting off to sleep at night, I see a LOT of "winking", and I fall asleep as fast as possible in the hopes of meeting new dance ideas in my dreams!

P.S. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have attended this Choreographic Conference. I incorporated both "the Details" and the "Big Picture" ideas into my work and have received this amazing feedback (for a few of the works I completed in the year following the Conference).

In essence, here is some of what "they" told me:

Asked to perform a non-dance work! A last minute injury to my fellow actor meant my director asked me to re-choreograph it (8 hours before we performed) to practically become a 1-Woman, 1 ACT play. On a dark theme...I used the music I received in Seattle at the Conference, (for one of our assignments there), as background music in the Play, as that gave me confidence because it reminded me of all the support I received there.
described as "magnificent" by another director, my director told me I moved her and much of the audience to tears and that is when I knew I could handle the dark subject matter in the Tell-Tale Heart that I would do 6 months later. I had already picked out the Poe before doing this theatre work, but having this success gave me the confidence to do it.

My condensed 1-Hour version of the 3-hour Operetta, (performed with 6 New England Light Opera singers and dance collaborators).
described as "a feast for the senses, so many textures/feelings, each more gorgeous than the last", "fascinating", "one-of-a-kind", an "extraordinary, extraordinary dancer-better now than before her injury-puts on shows/does things that no one else does", "wonderful to sit so close and watch so much talent", a "complete package", "star presence", "wonderful-great" and "such a good performer/dancer".

ARIAS AND ARABESQUES, the Carmen Suite at the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA):
My popular combination of live opera singing and beautiful dancing in a concert setting. Performed with artists from New England Conservatory.
I was described as "Isadora Duncan in a drawing -room", "impressive", "spectacular", "amazing", "beautiful choreography" and
a "powerful,1-Woman tour-de-force".
My format, combining singers and dance, was described as "flippin' awesome".

The TELL-TALE HEART Ballet at the BCA (a truly Poe-etic Ballet)
My dance version of Edgar Allan Poe's famous short story. I had the story narrated live during the performance. It also included a commissioned score by composers from Berklee College of Music and was conducted live with 5 musicians and their instruments onstage! Lighting and set design completed the look and gave a truly "Poe-etic" effect!
the concept/choreography was described as "Phenomenal", gave "goosebumps", "totally believable", "sheer genius", "mind boggling" and many "loved it".
I was described as "awesome", "captivating", "powerful", "strong acting", "knows music so well" and "good on all levels".

As my goal since I was a teenager was to only be known as a "good dancer", I have FAR exceeded my wildest dreams and am totally satisfied and fulfilled by this huge amount of feedback. These are a partial list of some of the comments I wrote down in a copy of each concert's program, directly after each performance. (so I would be able to remember the feedback even years later).

I could never have received all this feedback without your teaching. Thank you!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

SEA-MOVES in SEATTLE (The Floating Cloud)

ALL RIGHT! How did I get up there and What am I doing, anyway?!

Ah, the story of the "Floating Cloud" will be told in 6 Parts.

Firstly, we had done an exercise designed to build trust and spatial awareness onstage. It called for us to all mill about and then WITHOUT talking or eye contact with each other, we would "as a collective" FEEL which person would be lifted up above everyone's head and lowered back down again. This was quite something to experience. In the morning sessions, we practiced this exercise. I was never chosen to be the one lifted up, something I had absolutely no problem with!...

Secondly, we had been doing yet another exercise that involved us having a conversation with another choreographer and using that conversation as the basis of a dance segment. I told my choreographer partner that I slept so well at the La Quinta-my bed being so soft and in fact, so AWESOME, that it felt like I was floating on a cloud....Then, the Music Director also was going to "randomly" add music from his IPOD to score our dance segment. We were exploring how juxtaposing unusual elements can create an awesome dance...doing things that you would never think about using for dance ideas.

Thirdly, my choreographic partner and I "performed" my Floating Cloud dance during our morning session. The Music Director "scored it" by adding Beethoven's Symphony #6(Pastoral) to it. (1st.mvt) I LOVE Pastoral Sym., so I "really went to town" floating around here and there as a beautiful "cumulus", "fair weather" cloud.
Everyone loved it...I was invited to give an encore performance during that night's Showing....Floated around some more-here and there-Beethoven's Pastoral blasting.

Fourthly, during our choreographers' end-of-conference dance (where we sought to try to touch on all important and notable happenings from the fortnight), it was discussed that we should incorporate one of our "trust-pick up a person and hold them over our heads-exercises" into the dance.

Fifthly, in reviewing each choreographer's "signature move" of the conference, it was decided by my fellow choreographers that my "floating cloud" best defined me.

Sixthly, someone (I don't know who) "somehow" put these 2 ideas together and felt that by choosing me to be the one lifted up (depicting the trust exercise), I'd be in a PERFECT position to wave around "Floating Cloud" style from up there and kill 2 birds with one stone. Great! Thanks for that thought! Once uttered-it took on a life of its own, no one would brook any deferral by me, and up I went. LOL :)

Still, it was an enjoyable way to end the conference. Feeling carefree and having fun-floating my way to the finish.

SEA-MOVES in SEATTLE (Choreographers and Studios)

Fellow Choreographers, Friends, Countrymen!
There were 15 Choreographers at the 2 week Conference.
5 were Project Tier Choreographers.
5 were Emerging Choreographers.
5 were Guest Choreographers. (I was one of these.)
From what I understand, the Project Tier and Emerging Choreographers were the adjudicated winners of Regional Festivals held across the US. (I believe there are 5 Regional Festivals, dividing the US into 5 regions.) The Guest Choreographers, like myself, were selected from a nationwide pool of applicants, possibly trying to also have 1 Guest Choreographer from each of the 5 regions that the other choreographers came from. I was in great company as not only did these choreographers come from the strongest regional dance companies, but there were dancer/choreographers from top ballet companies like Pacific Northwest Ballet and San Francisco Ballet there as well.

We had morning ballet barre and morning choreography lessons. We did a lot of musical training as well. Afternoons saw us do a 2 hour rehearsal each-choreographing the assignment to be shown that night. Showings were held in the evenings, making for a very long and exhausting day! However, this was meant to be a Choreographic Intensive and none of us would have been wanting to be any place else!

We were allowed to film our Showings at night and I've posted a couple of my assignments on Youtube! Check out my "Taking the Fifth" and "Magic Worm" on my Kira Seamon channel on Youtube!


On the VERY FIRST Day of the full schedule of classes and rehearsals, I had a near accident that I thought was going to make it my first and last day of the Conference!
I had been assigned 3 boys and 1 girl for that day's Showing. I was really happy, as I had just come off of 2 years of intense partnering myself (and doing choreography for pas de deux)...Basically, I was incorporating one of my newest (and I thought coolest) new moves that I had just premiered with my own partner a couple of months earlier...It involved the boy holding the girl's waist and turning her around. No big deal, you say? Yes, but mine had a twist. I wanted Boy "A" to turn the girl 3/4 of the way and then Boy "B" would catch her and turn her back the other way (3/4 around)...I also had envisioned additional complexities and wanted to experiment with "multiple partners and pirouettes", as these boys seemed to have had partnering before and the girl was up for this and a joy to work with.

So. To show everybody what I wanted, I danced the role of the girl myself (having the girl try out each new chunk as I completed the choreography). For close to half an hour (with a rest period whenever the guys would tire) the boys were turning me this way and that, and I built out the choreography. I thought everything was fine and we were doing great.

Suddenly, instead of enough power for 3/4 a turn, one boy gave enough power to turn me easily 2 and 3/4 turns!!!) I was completely unprepared for that and was tilted like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to boot! Everyone had been reliably giving power for 3/4 turn, so this came completely out of left field. As I spun, I mentally calculated that it would be best to break a wrist and try to avoid hurting my knee again, if at all possible. I already could practically feel the cast on my left wrist and already imagined everyone's signature on it. Just as I prepared to hit the floor, I was caught by the wrist and yanked upwards! UNBELIEVABLE!! I ended up sitting on the ground and half-dangling by one of the boy's hands (Boy "C", who had not been dancing, but was watching) wrapped around my left wrist. I was soooooooooooo relieved. No cast! No signatures on the cast! WHEW!!

I was so grateful to him that I bought him a thank you card the next day. As his entire hand had left a bruise on my forearm (that would last nearly the entire 2 weeks of the Conference), I also included a joke in my card. (It said: You made a big impression on me yesterday!) Incredible! The exact outline of long slender fingers and a thumb impresssion, which was the last to fade. It all turned dark, then sort of green, then a sort of a lovely yellowish color, as bruises are wont to do as they go through the healing process.

He was VERRRRRY modest about the whole thing. His attitude seemed to be-I did the right thing, no big deal, let's move on.

Well, we did move on. I was privileged to have had the opportunity to choreograph on him again a couple more times. He seemed to encourage me to treat him like everyone else and felt at his best when I settled into doing just that.

But I will always be grateful that I didn't have to include "broken wrist" on the list of body parts I've injured throughout my dance career. I am certain that at the angle and speed I was at, that was probably a certainty...and even though the bruise has long since faded away, he still did make a Big Impression on me with his lightning-fast reflexes and selfless attitude. Thank you.


The Conference participants stayed at this beautiful La Quinta hotel.

SEA-MOVES in SEATTLE (Space Needle!! #3)

SEA-MOVES in SEATTLE (Space Needle!! #2)

SEA-MOVES in SEATTLE (Space Needle!!)

SEA-MOVES in SEATTLE (Duck Boat Tour #2)

SEA-MOVES in SEATTLE (Duck Boat Tour)

Friday, March 4, 2011

SEA-MOVES in SEATTLE (Thai restaurant )

Everyday at the Choreographic Conference we had to hold a 2 hour rehearsal where we would choreograph on assigned dancers. Sometimes it was 3 girls. Sometimes 4 girls. Once it was 3 boys and a girl! I told them: sometimes it can take 3 to 4 towns to find 3 boys, and to have them all in one room and choreograph on them-that was a treat! I know that one girl (who got to dance with 3 guys at once) loved the dance too!

I was super lucky in that my rehearsal was always scheduled for 2pm. This meant that I had a break between our morning session and the afternoon rehearsal. I decided that I would go exploring and find somewhere to eat lunch daily. I found this AWESOME Thai restaurant and it seemed the perfect place to relax and let my mind choreograph that day's assignment.

The owner came over on the first day and inquired where I am from, etc...I told her that I was there for 2 weeks and we had a VERY demanding schedule and I loved Thai food and wanted to fuel up for the rest of the day. She told me that she has a "special soup" that she can make for me and if I eat it everyday, I wouldn't get sick. She said that eating well is important with the hard work I had and she would make the soup for me.

Feeling adventurous, I acquiesced. It had noodles and a fierce broth and came with brown rice. She and her family (who worked in the restaurant) would always be a source of friendliness and welcomed me warmly each day. I looked forward to lunch a great deal as it meant being seated in a quiet part of the restaurant and given a "special soup" that was made with kindness and friendship. I would choreograph up a storm and trot happily back to the Conference refreshed in mind, body and spirit. And people noticed! My cheerful demeanor and spark of energy were remarked on to me almost daily. "You are always so happy!" (This was one remark I heard often.)
One of the Conference's dancers said to me as he was leaving his rehearsal: "Really tough assignment you choreographers have today! Everyone has told me they are dying, but I'm sure you'll be fine". I told him "It will probably be tough for me, too!" He said "I doubt it-you always handle everything with a smile"!....I'm sure this rest stop at the restaurant with food made with kindness and friendship had a lot to do with how well I could handle the Conference! I actually did feel "on top of my game" the whole time I was there.

I was sad to leave after 2 weeks, because I knew I wouldn't see my favorite Thai restaurant and staff again. The owner told me: "If you go away, we'll be sad! You must come back again."

We decided a picture would remind us both of the happy times, good friendship and health-inducing food that was the Summer of 2009 in Seattle!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

A "White Flower" for the Hair

Here's another memory from those Summer Intensives I did as a teenager with Dame Sonia Arova. (For more background on the Summer Intensives-please see the blog entitled "Swan Lake variations)

At the end of each Summer Intensive we had our recital. These were brutal Intensives which started early in the morning and ran through the evening with evening rehearsals for the recital. (more solos to learn and corps work as well). We did La Bayadere as the theme for the recital.

The night before, Dame Sonia Arova (or Madame as we all called her), said "bring a "white flower" for your hair tomorrow". I was feeling rreeeeeeally confident about things as I couldn't believe she had said she always felt I would be a strong Odette/Odile. (more background about this comment to me is in the Swan Lake blog)

So. Feeling impish and in a joking mood, I decided to play a little joke on her. I very innocently inquired with my friends about the SIZE of the "white flower". Did she mean a rose or carnation size, I asked, or would baby's breath be okay? Which SIZE did she mean? No one knew. Madame had already left, no one could confirm. PERFECT, I thought. Wishing everyone a good night, it was all I could do not to rub my hands together in glee.

I had been TRANSFIXED by the ENORMOUS white magnolia flowers that grew all over Mobile, Alabama. There were some choice magnolia trees right by the entrance of the college where the Summer Intensive was held. These were irresistible for me. With a HUGE grin, I plucked one of these dinner-plate-sized "white flowers" and stashed it in my bag on the morning of the recital.

I could scarcely contain myself as I overly-innocently jeted over to Madame and inquired how she was. I then said:
"I know you wanted us to bring a white flower for our hair, but this was the only one I could find. And you didn't mention which SIZE white flower you wanted, so here it is: a "White Flower".
And then I kept a straight face. (which was a MIRACLE as I could never resist giving away the punchline of jokes by smiling or laughing too early)
Shock, horror and disbelief chased themselves across her face as she said: "But that is far too big!" (and she eyed me as I held up the dinner-plate-sized flower to my head, dwarfing it.)

I said: "Just kidding!! Here is the flower! (I whipped out the modestly sized white rose I had bought from the florist and also had stashed in my bag.)

And then she gave me "THE LOOK". What is "THE LOOK" you ask? Anyone who was around her for any length of time knew "THE LOOK". It could freeze grown men to the spot. Reduce you to tears. Any number of things. Thankfully, my earnestness and dance virtuosity had never made her throw "THE LOOK" my way before.

In the face of a full concentration of "THE LOOK", I hastily explained that it was just a joke-see no harm done-nice rose here-see fits nicely next to my bun-SEE? The enormity of what I had done hit me. All my friends (whom I showed the magnolia flower to and told them what I planned to do) tried to talk me out of it. Too needlessly risky they said. Why risk it? (Madame was a fierce supporter and upholder of the highest ballet traditions and she took her art and teaching very seriously. We all were grateful to be under her direction and revered her. However, she was strict and most people didn't play jokes on her. (esp. on the day of a recital!?!)

And then she gave a very, very, very, very small smile and then that was that. On with the recital. WHEW!!!

I noticed her giving me a couple of curious looks during the rest of that afternoon, but her hug before I left to go back home was warmer than ever. I think she felt that having enough strength and spunk to joke with her was healthy and made her feel right about her Odette/Odile comment to me. After all, don't those two roles require strength and spunk? I think so.

SWAN LAKE variations

I'm excited to teach the Swan Lake Theme Dance Workshop in April! In preparing for it, I have recalled some beautiful memories of when I first learned these famous solos and variations.

I was privileged to have been coached by Dame Sonia Arova during Summer Intensives as a teenager. She approached my parents and said she would like to give me daily pointe/variations private lessons, in addition to the heavy workload of the Summer Intensive. For 2 years, each Summer, I traveled to Mobile, Alabama and had a fantastic time immersed in ballet. After each Intensive ended, she offered me to attend an Alabama School of Fine Arts, where she was influential,in Birmingham Alabama. As this was going to mean that I would have to move across the country, I was honored by her invitation but didn't move there.

She concentrated on Odette/Odile in my private classes as she once told me something I always treasured and will never forget: after one particularly exhausting private class, she came up to my parents afterwards and said I would benefit from more upper body strength because I would be doing a lot of partnering in the future. She said she always felt I would be a strong Odette/Odile......

Well, I literally jeted around the rest of that day as I could not believe my ears!! To have Dame Sonia Arova (or Madame, as we all called her) have that kind of opinion about me was breathtaking!

Alas, a torn hamstring took me away from dance for a long time-I never got to dance Odette/Odile. (yet)... (Hey, in dance, you "never know" and you can "never say never"). However, even if I never do get to dance it, the power and confidence of her words and her faith in me is something that has buoyed me throughout my career and gave me an unshakable sense of myself as a dancer. I'm forever grateful to her.

P.S. At that time, like my friends, I was always more interested in Odile than Odette-for one reason-FOUETTES, FOUETTES and more FOUETTES! Back in my day, I was a TURNER, with a capital "T"!
I could reliably do double attitude turns, double arabesque turns, double ala seconde turns, Italian Fouettes, double pique turns, double "lame ducks" right and left, en pointe, any day of the week. I routinely did multiple (triples, quadruples) pirouettes en dedans and en dehors, en pointe, to the left and right. I basically conquered the turn repetoire-in fact my teacher came over to my Mom when I was 13 and told her so. I'm forever grateful to him for his outstanding bravura technique teaching he did with me.

My ALL TIME record is 10 pirouettes en dehors to the right and 19 partnered pirouettes to the right,(from one take off), with my partner in 2008. En pointe. (We tried for hours to get to 20, but alas, we could do 17 and 18 frequently with 19 standing as our record.)...I did the 10 pirouettes in NYC at age 14 en pointe. I supplemented my year-round training with special training each Summer. Age 14 was in NYC. Ages 15 and 16 were with Dame Sonia Arova. Age 17 was in Europe. Age 18 was at the Joffrey Ballet School's Trainee Progam, after which I moved to NYC. (and contrary to how it may appear, my parents aren't wealthy. They, like thousands and thousands of other parents, sacrificed whatever they could in order to give their child the best education in sports, music, dance or whatever their child's passion is. I'm forever grateful to them!!)

From age 11-20, I tried (space permitting) to fit in at least 32 fouettes per day at the studio.
Frequently, I fit in 32 fouettes right AND left (as I was an awesome "lefty" TURNER as well) or 2 sets of 32 fouettes to the right. En Pointe. (Yes this included those at age age 11, I was taking 10 classes and 2 private lessons per week...that's (in essence), 12 classes a week for an eleven year old.) My mind boggles-but I loved it (would have taken 12 more classes per week if I could!) and it "turned" me into a TURNER!

From my early teens on, I managed 32 fouttes (doubles on every 4th one), ending with a triple! Day in/Day out. Consistently. As I am a taller dancer, I simply couldn't manage triple fouettes, but my output was still awesome.

As a 12 and 13 year-old, I would frequently "warm-up" for my pointe private classes with a set or 2 of fouettes with the bells and whistles...Stone cold...straight from sitting in school...en pointe. There was a running joke in my studio: The older adult dancers (who had morning class while I was in school) would say to me when I arrived at the studio after school: "He's in a bad mood today-go in and do some fouettes so his mood picks up". LOL :)
I was happy to oblige.

So OF COURSE I liked the Odile part better-she was the one who got the fouettes.
I have since deepened as an artist and look beyond the fouettes to the differences in characterization of Odette/Odile and find endless facets to enjoy. (But part of me will always remain that TURNER and when I hear the stirring music for Odile's fouettes, my ears will perk up and I'll be transported back to the girl who would rescue the studio from a teacher's bad mood.) :)