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!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


This week there was an article in the Sophian that (in the typical manner of the Sophian) had one main idea and spent about half a page rehashing and rephrasing it. (I know they have a lot of space to fill and rarely much material to work with, but it's the literary equivalent of processing emotions, which is an unfortunate motif for a newspaper. I like the Sophian, and it makes me sad that such high-quality writers are reduced to this.) This article was processing the notion of winter burnout and how the cold and dark makes fools of us all, so to beat the winter blues, one must vary one's routine. Any other time, this notion would be abhorrent to me, as I love routine more than any other abstract concept, but I could use a little variation right about now. Joining an org was my first big step outside my comfort zone (and it was one of the best decisions I've made all year), and this weekend, I took a few more steps in a different direction.

Every weekend, the Smith Events Committee screens recently released films, and they're often pretty good, but I've never been to one. On Friday nights, my friends and I usually stay in and hibernate, but recently, Friday night has turned into date night. Erika and Steve went out (separately, thank goodness; there's a layer of drama safely avoided) and Alice and I went to Weinstein Auditorium to see Moonrise Kingdom.

My dad likes to rant about how the students in his "Lawyers in Movies" class always watch the movies on their computers and thus miss out on an integral experience of film, and I'm going to make his day by saying he's absolutely right. I've watched many a movie huddled around a computer and many more movies on a TV, and there's no comparison: watching on a TV is better, and watching on a big screen is best of all. There's nothing about Moonrise Kingdom that I don't love, and watching it in a chair (rather than on the floor) without having to squint was a really nice experience. It was also interesting because I laughed out loud at a lot of parts I previously didn't find funny, because everyone else was laughing and that made my interpretation of the movie become more relaxed. I usually take everything as seriously as the characters, and it was a totally different viewing experience when I took that step back.

The article specifically stressed the importance of studying in a different place as a good way to keep it fresh, and I've been doing just that. My usual study spot is a soundproof room in Josten library, but since Valentine's Day I've spent a lot of time studying in the Campus Center Cafe. The booths are really comfy and I usually get a lot done when I'm there, plus my new location has given me the chance for another new experience. Yesterday I went to Smith To-Do! There are crafts offered every Saturday evening, and I've never been, despite the fact that the crafts are usually kind of awesome (making lava lamps, Chinese fans, and decorating wooden animals are some examples). Yesterday the craft was decorating T-shirts, and I took the opportunity to make part of my costume for Spelling Bee. My shirt was bright orange, and I added a green leaf decorated with puffy paint and a bear face with enormous paws. It was so much fun! I've missed crafting.

Hibernation is over. It's time for me to come outside all skinny and chilly with tousled bed-fur to experience the world. So far it's been pretty good.