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Making my own fireworks on the 4th of July with my new camera and lenses… Happy 4th everyone!
Apologies, this isn’t very dance related, but it’s a blog that I started that just sort of came out of no where and now that it’s done, there’s only one thing left to do. Hit publish. I hope you all can enjoy it anyway.
I have recently become aware that happiness is a state of being. I get it now. No one can tell you how to get there, for the journey will be different for each of us. I just know that when you get there it is like a wave sweeping over you and in spite of all the crappiness around you, you just seem to float above it, seemingly unaffected, waiting for it to sort itself out and go back to sea.
I was born someone who was way a head of the curve in so many ways and yet equally behind in so many others. From the age of three or four I new that I was an artist. It’s one of my earliest memories. I remember being completely enraged when my nursery school teacher got really excited and happy that a girl next to me was drawing precisely and in the lines of a coloring book. I remember looking at what I had drawn, a picture that wasn’t in the lines or even of the lines and being really angry that what I had done wasn’t as worthy of praise as well. I thought what I had drawn was pretty cool.
I didn’t truly understand this memory until college when a professor of mine recanted a story in which he realized that his calling was to photography when he himself became enraged when someone called the class he was taking on the side a “hobby”. He knew a that instant, that “hobby” was far more important to him then he had ever allowed himself to think past and it took this visceral rage to release these thoughts into his conscious mind. Once they were there, they couldn’t be removed, the idea took hold and he followed his new path.
With out articulation or the higher mind to process my own experience, the raw emotion of it clearly steered my path right into the 6th grade art class where I developed a portfolio of work to get into the arts high school and from there to two colleges specializing in the arts to a full time job that has lasted my entire career (and with a little luck the rest of it, for a long time).
How many people can boast such drive from such an early age? Not many, my guess. But being that driven and that single minded had it’s price. Despite having to draw a self portrait everyday in high school (something now I wish I had the time to do) I never looked at what I looked like. Meaning I had no real idea of what I was putting together and how it reflected on me in the real world. (A strange gesso covered collage of red hair, oil paints, baggy pants, over sized teeshirts and flannel.) When one so young is aspiring to be an artist it is rare that they take the time to look at what is worn on their skin. There is no time to take in their own beauty when it is the mission to assess and reproduce the ascetic around them. In layman’s terms, I was completely defunct in the how to be a woman, in the woman department.
It’s something I still struggle with even after going through the gauntlet of what is beauty and glamor in dance (Belly, Ballet and Ballroom) and being under the harsh light of just being someone who lives in Los Angeles. I’ve come to the conclusion that the aesthetics of dance suit me in those worlds because I have so completely amerced myself into those worlds that I have acclimated to such a level of comfort that I can truly play the part. The part about living in Los Angeles, not so much. I’m just too curvy and just too tall. But still, I think I’ve come pretty far when I try to define my personal style, even though, far too often just when I think I’ve nailed it and I think, “This is the person that I want to present myself to the world as! I’m new and different and still me and still awesome!” and the next day I catch a glimpse of what I put together and just think, “That is some sad and confused shit right there. Oh crap, it’s me.”.
The now noticeable crows feet around my eyes, yelling back at me, “SOMETHING AGE APPROPRIATE PLEASE!” (Side bar: Being in your upper 30’s and trying to find something that doesn’t make you look like a wanna-be teenager, a hipster or something out of Anne Klein’s grandmother’s closet is REALLY HARD!) I think, “You can’t fight it, you just can’t.” with a giggle. And that’s when I knew that I was in a new state of being. Because for the first time I thought back, “Well. You can only be healthy and being healthy is super healthy.” with a sense of humor as opposed to the all too familiar feelings of shame and failure.
I went on a Hawaii vacation over Christmas with a dear friend. My dear friend who happens to be studying to be a Rabi. Circumstances worked out that I wouldn’t be seeing family this year so I called up my buddy and was like, “Hey. So you’re totally cool with being out of town during the big old birth of Christ thing right?” We booked the tickets the next day.
While in Hawaii on Christmas Eve, we went to one of those “Pick-A-Pearl” vendors. They let you pick an oyster out of a bin, they crack it open in front of you and you see what kind of pearl was in it. They then charge you an arm and a leg for a setting, but I didn’t care, it was so worth it for the experience. Shelly, my African-American-blue-eye-shadowed-leopard-Santa-hat-wearing-pearl-helper, thank you for the experience! I never once flinched at the $371.48 price tag that accompanied this experience. I’ve paid more for way waa-aay worse. Yeah I’m talking about you Green Day tickets.
I picked 4 oysters. Each one popped open to reveal it’s special and unique gift; a cream one, a big gold and pink one, a white one and the last oyster came out a light silver pearl with a blue tinge. (I now call it my blueberry.) It is the most rare pearl to pop out of an oyster. Only something like 5 out of 100 will have one like this. Apparently it’s supposed to represent wisdom and some wisdom dropped on me.
In the days that followed it occurred to me that I was currently in some of the healthiest female and (just friend) male relationships that I’d ever had in my life. On the beach, while rubbing the sunscreen in, thinking, “This is it, this is how I’ll protect my skin so I won’t have more noticeable crows feet!” and giggling at the absurdity of that statement, I thought about my life ten years ago and all the mistakes that I made then and now recognizing those same mistakes happening in some others, and I realized just how important second chances really are.
Sure I’m in my late 30’s, have no prospects of finding a proper husband and could end up alone. Sure I’m constantly waiting to get fired from my job because of the economy. Sure I have not yet figured out my true fashion self yet (Although I know it now has something to do with pearls!) and sure, I have a back injury that might cripple me at any moment, but that is all somethings that could be. In my current state of being, there is no reason to be troubled with it now, even knowing that I could loose this state of being at anytime. I’m not going to cling to it, I’m just going to ride this one out. So here I sit typing my musing over my blog, eating kale chips and drinking coffee, and I’m still happy, just being happy.
I know I’ve gone radio silent for a bit but the truth is, I’ve been working my butt off and this past weekend it all culminated in a three routines at a winter show case and playing Clara’s Mom in the Nutcracker (pictured below greeting my party guests).
I’m so tired here: I took a bunch of pictures, enjoy – http://rubytangospike.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/the-cracken/
Then there’s this other thing, yes I did amazing at the winter showcases, in fact I’m so happy with what I did I’m gonna share:
There, now I’m gonna say thank you to all my teachers for having such faith in me and I’m gonna go to sleep for a long winters nap. =)
Confession time, Alice in Wonderland has always, hands down, been my favorite tale. Adult, child you name it, it’s my favorite. Look, I’m weird and to those who haven’t met me, trust me, I am. I’ve always been weird and for most of my sentient life, quite aware of this. It has led to feelings of estrangement in and isolation. Alice gave me two things, comfort that others have felt this way and hope that someday I’d find my place in wonderland. With those caveats, here’s my review of Alice in Wonderland, performed by the Canadian National Ballet.
Alice in Wonderland, performed by the Canadian National Ballet.
Let me start off by saying, there have only been a few times in my life where I have gone into a situation in which I had preexisting expectations and upon experiencing the event have the expectations not only lived up to but then exceeded. This was one of those times and I can’t handle it.
Here I am at half time trying to contain myself, only succeeding in looking like the March Hare at the Hatter’s Tea Party.
I knew this was something special the second that the March Hare grabbed Alice and pulled her head first down the giant party cake. A full stage sized screen dropped and a projected Vertigo-esq tunnel took us traveling with a puppet of Alice in the center of the screen through her tumble-down the rabbit hole. When she landed the real dancer of Alice took the puppets place and she was surrounded by a wall of black doors. After many attempts at finding a door on the wall to open a floating small door appeared and “floated” around her, landing center stage (with the aid of a member of the stage crew dressed all in black). Alice burst through the door, the lights were lifted, the orchestra started playing wildly, confetti was dropped on the audience and the flower dancers burst out the side doors and danced in the audience. Unable to get all the way through the door Alice was forced to go back and my face already started to hurt from smiling.
As evidenced by the below picture, Miss Eyana, Miss Sophie and I had incredible seats to see this production so nothing could get by us.
Yeah we splurged. Soooooo worth it.
The costumes, the sets, the props were amazing. Designs consistent and colorful but most of all right. Nothing ever felt like a one-off or out-of-place, Everything was cohesive and meshed to perfection.
Some are going to say that the dancing wasn’t up to the level that it should have been and to that I say, “Ummm, hello! It’s a children’s ballet.” What this production did was make ballet accessible, digestible and enjoyable to the populous and getting young children’s imaginations to later become possible dancers or worse patrons of the arts. Terrible. I saw Swan Lake when the Bolshoi when it came to Los Angeles and it was a yawn fest. I’m sorry but in spite of all the costumes the attempt to disguise the technical perfection as the art of dance was a fail. The Prima tried her hardest but I just felt as if I was watching someone doing fouettes in class. I was so happy to see love on that stage. The cast was a family and it was so evident. Even the players that were stuck wheeling around in the perfect cone bushes took a bow and rightfully so. What a production.
The National Ballet of Canada is in town to perform their Alice in Wonderland masterpiece and who’s got premier orchestra tickets in her greedy little hand? THIS GIRL! With costumes and sets like this can you blame me for being totally excited?
and I get to go with two of my most amazing ballet buddies. I don’t think the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion can handle it. I guess we will all find out tomorrow night!
Zombie Ballet – Click on any of the images below to see images in larger size.
Winter show case. The yearly prom of the ballroom do-er. The one the students prepare for months in advance and get their friends to come to. The event that you bust out the “good shoes” and the “sparkles” for. Often this is a dress rehearsal for a showcase piece or an open routine for competition to see how it all flows and stacks up to. A lot is riding on it, be it pride or the acid test, the Winter Show Case has everyone invested and it’s going to be a spectacle, for that is the point right? How many have I done and to what extent they have meant things to me at various points along the ballroom path has varied and this year is no exception.
Year One 2009 :
(Lindy Hop World on a String, Sinatra) :
I love this picture because I love Tina’s expression. I know this look, it was not only did you nail it, but you did exactly what I thought you could do, and maybe a little more. Ok, that last little part is what I like to think.
Emotion Level Before : Tina made the argument that the best way to get better is by doing a routine for something like a winter show case and I couldn’t really argue. She also waved a Lindy in front of me and approved Sinatra’s “World on a String.” tune I picked out. She toiled with it to make it work but she was committed and in her tenacious and ambitious manner pushed me to do something I’d never done before. After all, I was a bit lost, didn’t really have a direction or goals for dancing, just knew I liked it and had this itch, finally, to go somewhere with it. But right before we went out on the floor in spite of all my pontificating about how I’d finally come to a place where I felt that I was capable of giving people finally something to look at, there was nothing but panic, pain and sheer terror running through me.
Emotion Level After : Elated, I really think the picture says it all. The routine was something truly special, the dance and the music just worked. When that song comes on, people just start to smile and Tina’s choreography is always catered to the students strengths. It was so special we never forgot it and three years later reinvented to win top solo at Desert Classic :
After (2012) Can you smell the confidence change? :
Year Two 2010 :
( WC Swing Singing in the Rain / Umbrella mash-up Glee ) :
Emotion Level Before : I had a thought in my head that being in front of strangers would help actually help with my nerves. Whoops. The thought was that if they were people that I didn’t know, I wouldn’t feel the need to live up to anyones expectations. Yeah… sigh… Amazingly, the strangers only added to the terror and vomit feelings. So when I went out and they played the music off the CD at the wrong speed. (It was I think 6 or 7% slower.) I sort of shut down, astro-projected out of my body and watched from the disco ball. I’ll never forget that exchange of looks between me and Tina when we both realized that there was something a miss. It was a completely humbling moment and I surrendered to someone who just knows how to handle it better. Tina gave me her jedi mind trick, locking eyes, her head up and then slowly down controlling my foot to go down at the right moment.
Looking back at the tape it, actually worked out better then we had originally planned it. We performed it again the next day at the right speed and it just wasn’t as good. That was also the year I tried really hard to be a West Coast Swinger. Boy, that was a mistake. I should have not fought my inner Lindy Hopper. Doing West Coast, I’m like the princess and the pea, I’m on a butt load of mattresses but I can still feel something not right underneath me. Oh well, it was still a SUPER fun routine and it once again pushed me. This was also the year I learned to spot. I did three turns, that’s right three turns, in a row and it was a spontaneous applause moment from strangers. That felt good.
Emotion Level After : I knew that it was a really good learning moment. I was happy. I finished and finished well. I learned that what you think and what it turns out to be are two different things and that the one it turns out to be might actually be better if you can let go of what you thought it would be and look objectively. :
Year Three 2011 :
(Quick Step / Lindy The Trouble With Me Is You Red Mckenzie ) :
I love this picture because again it’s the dynamic duo. While I’m sort of always going to feel like Tina’s wing man, I love the fact that she never sees me as that. To her I am just me and the friendship that has crossed the fourth wall has been strengthened with trust and sprinkled over our dancing to give us, what someone said at April Follies, “a very special connection.”.
Emotion Level Before : Completely Mixed. I’d never tried Quick Step before this and I was excited to try but really sort of upset at myself for agreeing to try it this way. I remember thinking, even though I love the song and I thought it was completely charming, I’d picked a song that was just too “vintage-y” and obscure and that no one knowing the song would get what we were doing. Yet, in spite of my fears, there were three spontaneous applause moments.
I also had the break through after looking at the tape, I LOOKED like I was having a good time. Prior to this I had tells when I screwed up, a giant smile would grow and grow in between a long bats of a very sullen face or I just looked like I was concentrating way to much. But in this dance, I stuck the character through. Nahh, I was just having a good time.
Emotion Level After : This showcase came after a storm of uncertainty of where to go and what I was going to do with dance. It solidified my new commitment to ballroom competition. It was go time. :
Year Four 2012 :
( A Fox Trot. A Super Special Waltz and The Reinvented Lindy Hop. ) :
Here’s what I know, it will take place in the picture above filled with strangers and with the lights low, and it must be a Lindy Leap year in my calendar. Because Tina and I, we are going back to the Lindy hop in its new and reinvented state and I kinda can’t wait. It’s also the first year that I will be working with Youriy AND not doing one but two routines with him… for a grand total of three routines!!!! AND one of the routines will be done to a song that is not, in any way, rat pack related. WHAT? I know.
What about you, dear readers, anyone have a good Christmas show case yarn to tell? Anyone getting ready? Share… go on share…