Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I live!

Just barely.

One foot injury and subsequent trip to the hospital, two Chem exams, one Bio exam, one enormous final project and final choreography later, I return! (Come on, I'm a Smithie; it's my job to complain about how much I have to do.) Don't know if I mentioned, but I injured my foot in some mysterious way that kept me from dancing for the last two weeks of ballet... and it's still not better! This is infuriating particularly because I was (indirectly) accused of faking it. Clearly you don't know dancers if you think a dancer would fake an injury to miss out on a performance.

Physical damage aside, I've had a rough finals period. Yesterday I took my Chem final, and this morning was the Bio exam. Now I'm completely done, and I have a day and a half in which to pack and hang out with Alice before she embarks on her fabulous adventures abroad. After the exam I had so much pent-up anxiety and stress and exhaustion (seriously, I haven't had a decent night's sleep in a good week and a half. Too many stress dreams about oversleeping and not studying enough and missing my exams, plus my window faces east so I wake up with the sunrise.) that I climbed up the many flights of stairs and collapsed facedown on the bed without even taking off my glasses.

Today my friends and I had a picnic to celebrate the end of the year and the good ol' summertime. Unfortunately, none of us checked the weather before picking a date, so we had our picnic on the Baldwin porch, sheltering ourselves from the rain. It was still really fun, and between the five of us we assembled quite a spread. Alice and I made my mother's summer salad: avocado, corn, tomato, and lime juice (we also added cumin, though I'm pretty sure my mother doesn't use it). Squeezing the limes was fun, specifically the part where my hands were covered in lime juice so I licked it all off. Mmm, delicious limes. We ate the salad as a salsa, scooping it with blue corn chips. Erika and Steve each contributed pasta salad, although Erika bought hers. Now that I think about it, I consumed three different pasta salads today. It is a warm weather favorite. Steve also made fried zucchini, and Adriane made chocolate chip cookies. We sat on the porch, drinking sparkling pomegranate flavored juice beverage, munching, and goofing around. I love my friends so much. That picnic was really great, rain, ants and all.

This evening, I packed all the things. Life lesson: never trust storage material found in the free box. I have a kind of staggering amount of stuff, exacerbated by the fact that I'm not storing anything in Baldwin. I've given a lot of stuff away, but it still looks like moving out on Friday will feature a pretty hardcore game of Tetris.

I'm still kind of wound up, but I'm looking at my almost completely packed-up room and listening to She & Him's new album, and it feels like I'm coming down from a very bad trip. (Not that I would know what that feels like.) I'm going to miss my friends a lot, but I'm ready to go home. I'm ready for Farmer's Market Saturdays with dogs and that awesome fiddle player, Mum's homemade yogurt, reading the paper in the backyard, big bikes with Dad, biking to Allentown by myself to browse in Rust Belt Books, Buffalo Pride, Thursdays on the Waterfront, family beach trips and birthday parties, Mass at St. Joe's, Anouk and the kittens and the allergic reactions they give me, weeding in the backyard, Garden Walk, volunteering at Buffalo ReUse, picking every kind of fruit, helping Aunt Grace make jam, long evenings with my parents watching movies, making dinner, goofing around with Marty and Joe, dance classes at Miss Lisa's, milkshakes from Louie's, picking basil from the backyard, Alison Krauss and the Allentown Arts Festival. There's so much to love about Buffalo in the summer, and these are the happy thoughts that have been keeping me going through all this mayhem.

Monday, April 15, 2013

This Week's Lineup

I'm still alive! Here's the breakdown. This is mostly so I can organize my thoughts; I apologize for the dull format and will post like a normal blogger (if such a thing exists) after the show.

Class from 8am to 10pm. There's technically rehearsal this evening, but I won't be there because making up labs is really complicated and it has to happen the same week you missed your own lab section. Way more hassle than it's worth, especially since I need all of my spare afternoons for studying. This week's lab is business as usual, nothing too exciting.

Pretty sure we have a lec/dem but I don't know where exactly.
I had a Bio paper due last week, but when we turned them in, our professor let us peer review one other paper for extra credit. This Tuesday, I'll get my revised paper back and have the afternoon to write it over. I did my best but I'm sure I'll have to do a lot of it over again. No matter what, I will never meet anyone's standards, and I need to just accept that.
In the evening, there's a tech rehearsal! Costumes, props, lights, and sound: the whole enchilada.

Another long day ending in the last tech rehearsal.

Prospie weekend! I'm not hosting but my friends are.
Another lec/dem, maybe? I'm not really clear on our schedule.
Final draft of the case study paper due today!

In the afternoon, I'm doing some baking for the show (bake sale during intermission). I think I'm going to make homemade oreos and cupcakes decorated with words from the show and bees. There's another show in the evening, after which I plan to sleep, possibly before I even get home. I might just curl up on one of the benches on set.

Collaborations! There's a picnic lunch on Chapin lawn and people do presentations of research projects. I have to attend two lectures relating to Biology for some more extra credit and if I have time, there's an interesting-looking presentation on gender in choreography that I'd like to attend. I doubt I'll get to that, but it looks good.
My mom is swinging by NoHo from Boston on her way home, and she's stopping by to see the show! I'm so excited, it'll be great to see her. After the Saturday show, we have strike, then the cast party, which I haven't heard anything about but I'm sure it'll be nice.

Much as I would like to sleep for the entire day, I will get up early to see my mother off and shut myself in a very public part of Neilson (the more people are around, the more work I get done because my shirking is obvious. Nothing like shame for a motivator!) to study all day long. I will get everything and then some finished so I can land on my feet on Monday.

As it was written, so it shall be.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


What with stress and hormones, I had a rough day today and kept crying at the drop of a hat. This is a seriously annoying habit of mine that dates back to my birth; I cry so often that when I was little, my teachers would send me home with notes that said, "No tears today!" because those were pretty momentous occasions. It was especially frustrating because it always looked like I was trying to get attention, but I really was as sensitive as an orchid petal and virtually anything made me burst into tears. Now as an adult-in-training, I know just how inappropriate it is to frequently cry, but I can't control it any better than I could as a kid; the difference being that an adult crying looks manipulative rather than simply attention-seeking. I'm honestly not trying for some kind of effect here! Today I left Biology and after trying to call both of my sisters, I sat on Chapin lawn and cried with my face in my hands because I'm sure I'm going to fail Bio, won't get into graduate school due to mediocre grades, and never become a physical therapist. I thought about how my dream was going to die and it's not like a B.A. in dance makes me qualified for anything! Luckily, this was late afternoon/early evening, so there weren't many people around and I could have a cry in peace, but the worst part about hormonal stress tears is that you feel just as bad afterwards as you did before your crying jag.

I don't want to alarm anybody here; I really am okay and my problems are not nearly as serious as I'm making them sound. Even the part about a degree in dance isn't true; there are tons of (not particularly well-paying) jobs I could get with my future degree. Today everything felt horrible and I was depressed all day and cried in front of my professor AGAIN so now he probably thinks I have some sort of chemical imbalance, but I can fix it. Things will be okay, I will make it work, and if all else fails I can always become a Rolfer or a masseuse. I mostly just wrote this post to put this anecdote in perspective:

Today was a terrible day, but as I was taking a shower I noticed how shapely my calves have become. It's a testament to my incredible vanity that I actually thought, Mediocrity won't be so bad if my legs look hot. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Venturing into the belly of the beast

A few weeks ago, I went to the Lazarus Center (Bringing your career back from the dead since March 2012!), also known as the Career Development Office. (It's named after an alum, not the Biblical Lazarus, but I still can't hear the name without thinking of one or two snarky quips.) The Lazarus Center sends hella emails that nobody actually reads about how to ace an interview/score an internship/arise from the mailroom, and since I have a keen desire to succeed, I made an appointment with an advisor to discuss my Future. He turned out to be unbelievably kind and supportive, gave me a ton of really valuable advice, and directed me to some very helpful people. It was a really great experience!

Today, I went to another super-helpful resource that I had not previously given much thought: the Jacobson Center. The Jacobson Center helps with writing assignments: you make an appointment, upload your essay a few days in advance, then go in to get feedback from someone other than your professor. I admit, I didn't go of my own accord; my Bio professor assigned us a case study paper and one of the essay requirements was a visit to the Jacobson Center. There's a person who specializes in science writing, but she was swamped, so I just made an appointment with someone who was available when I was. He was a very pleasant man; though he admitted to being out of his element, he gave me some very helpful advice. I know how to properly use footnotes now! (My high school insisted on MLA and parenthetical citations regardless of the subject, so I'm shaky on other citation styles.) Because my paper was only a page long, our appointment was pretty snappy, but I feel good knowing that my argument is logical and coherent and that the joke I made at the end is amusing.

I wonder what my next adventure will be. Maybe I'll go to the Center for Work & Life. I'm not 100% sure what they do, but I could explore.... still, that might have to be an adventure for next semester. The year is rapidly coming to a close (why yes, that is extraordinarily nerve-wracking! Thank you for asking!) and I'm trying to crack down and focus on what's right in front of me.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Year of Personal Growth

I'm easily guilted, and it's a real problem. There are times when people have made announcements asking about, say, a broken computer, and I immediately wonder, Did I do that? Sure, I've never seen that computer, but what if I stepped on it in the dark the other night? I could have broken it while sleepwalking... It's a little too easy for me to accept blame and assume that something was all my fault.

On the other hand, it's easy to assume that something had nothing to do with me. I try to avoid this mentality because it's a mark of maturity to accept blame, but when a situation gets messy, sometimes you just want to tell yourself, "I've been nothing but kind and considerate, so why is everyone blaming me?"

My aunt has dubbed this the year of personal growth, and what that really means is that this is going to be a tough year. Personal growth is a response to trauma at least 50% of the time, so I haven't really been looking forward to growing. Growing and changing is hard, much harder than getting a strong pointe position or learning how to do a cartwheel. I expected to start growing right away, but like developing a strong pointe position, the changes are gradual and it's not until you look back that you realize how far you've come.

I've thought for a long time that taking the blame is a mark of maturity, but a really mature person knows when and to what extent they are at fault. I'm trying to reconcile my happy-go-lucky side with my guilt-ridden side, and trying to see myself from several points of view. I'm not perfect, but my flaws don't make it acceptable to assume the worst of myself. This isn't an easy attitude to adopt, because it means I have to come to terms with some uncomfortable things, often while people are telling me I am not at fault or I did everything wrong. I think it's worthwhile, though. I'm working hard, and though my perspective will never be perfect, it will get easier to maintain this point of view.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lists on lists on lists

Things to do this weekend
  1. Go to JoAnn Fabrics to get materials for my Spelling Bee costume. (I have to get fabric suitable for a cape and some felt for making finger puppets. I want to make a panda puppet and an alligator sock puppet.) 
  2. Write two one-page papers for Dance in the New Millennium. One is about Wayne MacGregor's development process, one is a cultural "text" helping a viewer to discern the cultural elements in a piece of choreography. 
  3. Write out Biology notes
  4. Draw data maps for Biology
  5. See Carmina Burana performed by the Glee Club and Chorus; I'm working as an usher so I get to go for free!
  6. Spelling Bee rehearsal on Sunday, 1-5
  7. Biology tutoring session on Sunday evening; quiz #5. 

Things for the train

  1. Overachievers book from Forbes (About high school students who have to push themselves to the breaking point to get into college.)
  2. iPod. I don't usually use it, but the wifi on Amtrak is patchy, so Alice gave me a ton of new songs to listen to. 
  3. Study for Biology and Chemistry! Wooo.....
  4. Work on finger puppet. I doubt it'll take long so I might make something else with the extra fabric. 

Things I want to do over spring break
  1. Play with kittens! (For the record, this includes Anouk, our older cat. All cats are kittens, didn't you know that?) 
  2. Cook delicious Sicilian food for St. Joseph's Table
  3. Scout around for a summer job. I have some connections that I'm hoping to use so I can get a job as a cook somewhere. 
  4. Make my Spelling Bee costume
  5. Make pretzels with my dad.
  6. Go to yoga with my mom. (I'll do it, I give in!) 
  7. Take lots of walks. 

Things I have to do over spring break
  1. Write a paper for Dance in the New Millennium on one piece of 21st century choreography
  2. Start choreographing an experimental work
  3. Research plantar fasciitis on a cellular level and organize data
  4. Make data maps for Biology
  5. Chemistry problem set (hasn't been assigned yet but I'm just assuming, based on the fact that we have assignments every day.)
  6. Lab report for Chemistry

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Baby's first LecDem

Today was Dance in the Community's first community performance!! We danced for half of the 5th and 6th graders at the campus school. We technically had a gig on Sunday, but we didn't do our full program and the goal was just to entertain rather than entertain and educate, so I don't think it really counts. I have a lot of experience with community performances; I joined my studio's performance group when I was 10 and we performed on a semi-frequent basis. The most elaborate gig we ever had (in my seven years of performing) was pretty simple. It's a toss-up between the day we performed Peter and the Wolf three times in one day and the day we did two completely different ballets for one school. The latter was more fun, because it was one of the only times we danced at a city school, the kids were hella smart and asked really intelligent questions, the program was more varied than usual, and they bought us pizza. Actually, the triple show was at a city school, too; interesting coincidence.

We danced for an arts festival, terrible community theater productions (that's right, Towne Players, I'm looking at you), a few nursing homes, for fundraisers, and a girl scout precinct meeting (I don't think that's the right word, but it was all the troops in a hefty chunk of suburb, so there were a ton of people there), but my favorite venue was always the schools. Fun fact: Suburban schools in the Western New York area all have the exact same floor plan, and by my third year, I had it memorized. The campus school is laid out in much the same way, and when I walked in, I almost swooned from nostalgia. It was so familiar! The only thing that was missing was the super-elaborate movable set from Peter and the Wolf (which included a house frame to which a gate attached, a wall that several dancers had to stand on/dance on at the same time, a wooden tree, a fake potted ficus, and a pond) and the costumes made of spandex, feathers, and faux fur.

Our lec-dem was much less elaborate than Peter and the Wolf. Every dance has to be explained, and we had to sort of...stall at times where the program wasn't as well-developed or thoroughly rehearsed. First we had to introduce ourselves, then we started with an African dance called "Funga Alafia." (Coincidentally, I learned the song in elementary school when a group did a lecture-demonstration for us! I don't remember if they did the dance though.) Chelsea, a lovely girl who taught us the dance originally, talked the kids through the song and told them about African dance, and we had them sing while we danced and Marilyn (our professor) drummed. It got a little awkward when their clapping didn't exactly line up with the drumming, but they fixed it rather than give up completely, which was impressive.

From there, we went into "Steam Heat" from The Pajama Game. That was my baby, so I got to talk about it. I'm really proud of my speech, but it requires some backstory. When we did Peter and the Wolf in schools, my teacher Lisa had a speech that she'd go into beforehand, breaking down every character and the distinctive way they moved that made them look like whatever they were supposed to be. (For example, the bird had feathers that she fluttered, but the duck held her feathers in a different way because she swam.) I knew this speech by heart by the time I graduated, and it really was well-made. It was designed to engage the kids (who were often just shy of babies, like 3 or 4 years old) at the time and to keep them engaged throughout the dance. Children tend to get bored if they spend a long time watching something without words or anything specifically designed to get their attention. When Lisa showed them the movements, even with the narration to tell them what was going on, they could think, "That must be the bird! Look at the feathers! I bet that's what birds do when they're scared. I hope she doesn't get eaten!" and feel like they were a part of the story. I wanted to do the same thing, so I told the kids about Bob Fosse having a kind of weird body, and told them to look for round shoulders and turned-in feet while we were showing them the dance. I think it worked! They definitely seemed really interested, and a bunch of them were already familiar with the dance, so they got super charged up.

After jazz, another girl from the class demonstrated some ballet. She had never rehearsed this and didn't have any music, so she was really nervous. We were all there with her and we called up some students (several of whom were dancers. You can always tell from their gait and hair.), and all things considered it went really well. She did the positions of the feet and I did the positions of the arms in French and English, getting the kids to repeat the names back to me. Thank goodness for the Grade Four exam. I have a feeling that CCA exam theory is going to come in handy in this line of work. I think I've mentioned before that I get sort of wise-crack-y around children, and that happened again today. Dry humor, a sort of "let's be frank" attitude...I think it worked, though. I definitely got a few laughs and everyone was paying attention, so I call it a winning technique. I was sort of amazed that everyone was so excited about ballet--even the boys!

Next on the program was cheerleading. Lisa is a mover, not a trained dancer, but she was a cheerleader for three years and we all wanted her to show off her stuff, so she taught the kids a routine and showed them some jumps. That was also not very rehearsed, but she works with those kids so she knows them well, and came across really well. To close out, we did a hip-hop dance to "Baby" by Justin Beiber. I feel really stupid doing that dance, but it is really fun. Everybody loved it! They all wanted to come up and dance, and Jaritza did an amazing job getting everyone excited and energized.

This was just our first gig and I loved every second of it. The people in my class are so talented and chill, and in a few weeks we'll be really outstanding. No wonder Marilyn does this for a living--I'd love to do this every day!