Nice — Cité de ma Jeuness et Cité Pour le Future

This wasn’t the first time I had been to Nice, France. When I was 16 my Richmond Hill, Ontario high school didn’t have OAC French. The course also nicknamed Grade 13 French was an Ontario Academic Credit course. Since I graduated with the whole of 49 students, there wasn’t a demand for the course, therefore it wasn’t offered. So I went to study for my OAC French in Nice, France in the summer of 1997. It was magical! The first time I had been away from home for an extended period of time without the parents, and the first time I was going to school with people I didn’t know. It was a place where I could let myself go and embrace my French heritage. There are countless stories of that time and since I was a high- school aged and had free rein, I’m not about to go into detail about the amount of fun and often ridiculousness that went on. I actually still have a printed photo album and no digital pictures from this time in my life. Oh how technology can make you feel old. One day I’ll digitize them!

Then in 2009, I was back in Nice. I danced for Holland America Line and when I found out we would be anchored off the coast of Monte Carlo, there was no doubt about it, I was going to take the train to Nice. It had changed, particularly Place Massena, but it still held such a strong pull. The time was too short! I knew as we rode the train back to Monte Carlo and tendered towards the MS Rotterdam, at some point, I would return and stay for a while. Now we’re in the digital world!

Me (Dans Le Carre)

In 2015, that dream of returning was made possible. I had been researching dance in the South of France for some time and came across Off Jazz Dance Center right in the Port area of Nice, France and I had to get there! The pull for me was that the Artistic Director, Gianin Loringett studied with Matt Mattox one of the founding Jazz Dance Fathers. So it was settled that somehow I would make it to their Stage D’éte.

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I began to research how I could fund the trip and applied for the Graduate and Professional Student Council Research and Project Grant at the University of Arizona. It was a long and hard road trying to get funding from a Grant that was not so keen on offering funding for practical work. But I met with the president of GPSC at the time who incidentally wrote the grant application. I also had a boatload of help from the Fine Arts Representative to which I am forever grateful. And in discussions, we came to realize that the grant wasn’t intentionally eliminating arts applicants with practical research but in its language had managed to do so. Cue Sam Cook signing, “A Change Gonna Come.” And with a long uphill battle it eventually sorted itself out and I was able to study at Off Jazz.

Let this be a lesson, if you find something that needs changing, I’m particularly passionate about arts legislature, take a deep breath and delve into the middle of it. With lots of hard work it may just pay off and it’s better than complaining and feeling negative about the situation. Mahatma Gandhi said, “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important… You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

And so I arrived in Nice with a serendipitous event. My friend that I was just staying with in Switzerland had also booked her vacation to Nice. So I got to spend an extra week with her and since she is a dancer we took class together a few times.

The heat in Nice and the fact that there was no air conditioning didn’t bother me one bit! First, I knew that at the end was a dip in the French Riviera and second I was doing what I loved so why complain. I would walk down 80 stairs in the morning from our flat in Vieux Nice, grab a croissant and coffee and make my way to three dance classes in a row from 12:30pm to 5:00pm, most of the time until 5:30pm, because who wouldn’t want to dance just a little longer.

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The classes were varied and incredible. All of the teachers were supportive but also commanded respect for the art. After all, we were there to learn and we were going to learn something. I remember being asked what the rhythm was from the previous day and needing to identify it’s name, “Gallop, African 6/8, Batucada.” This was for the rib isolation exercise. And then we were asked, “Qui était Martha Graham, Lester Horton, etc.” And another, “Le basin, on doit descendre le basin.” The teachers pushed musical knowledge, dance history, and alignment within the classroom so in the end I didn’t just take a class, I was cultured, I was dynamically aligned, and I was tested on musical knowledge. In my opinion, this is what dance class should be. We got through a lot of material each class and each week brought in some new teachers.

Artistic Director, Mr. Lonringett’s classes were a reminder of my undergraduate jazz classes at the University at Buffalo, particularly those classes taught by Tom Ralabate and Lynne Kurdziel-Formato. Both were my jazz teachers and both taught Luigi, Mattox, and Cole. What I had forgotten was the coordination “games” that were intertwined into the techniques. Asking that the head move to the right while the hip moved to the left, things like that, which I had learned and were somewhere in the body but hadn’t been used in such detail since my undergraduate days. I smiled at my body’s confusion and as soon as I realized that I should let muscle memory take over I sailed!

It’s unbelievable how much jazz dance has evolved but it’s so interesting to go back to these fundamentals that made jazz dance what it is today. As Professor Clouser, at the University of Arizona teaches in his Looking at Dance Course, that Jazz Dance evolved from African Dance and that the some of fundamentals of African Dance include Polycentrism/Polyrhythms, High Affect Juxtaposition, and the Aesthetics of Cool. The evolution in Mr. Loringett’s class was palpable, apparent, and observable. I was happy to delve back into the early pioneers of jazz dance. Mr. Loringett was an incredible teacher really wanting everyone to get something out of class. It was also so wonderful to watch the progression of the other dancers in the room. One girl seemed to have very little jazz dance training and by the end of the three weeks, she looked like she could certainly hold her own and soaked everything in like a sponge.

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Huges Salas jazz classes were also encouraging and fun. His class utilized the basic jazz dance principles mixed with a more contemporary style and more advanced technique. The movements for his combinations were grand and expansive, taking up space, and really asking for equal parts technique and artistry. His demeanor was soft and kind. He always made sure, particularly on the hot days, to check in with us. I particularly liked talking to him about dancing in France and about the evolution of jazz dance. Was there too little technique nowadays? Where is the mixture of style and technical elements? Is jazz dance dying? Really great questions were pondered and in his dance class I think we were able to mix technique and artistry beautifully.

I also had the privilege of taking jazz class with Angelo Monaco. His classes were very inspiring because he really asked us to pull everything out and in return we were invigorated with the spirit of dance. He talked to us about why he had a tattoo of a Tiki Warrior. He quoted philosophers and dance greats. He wanted us to understand that in the end, “C’est vous!” It’s you. You have to desire to want to grow, change, and evolve, as a person and dancer. No one else will, or better yet, can do it for you. “C’est vous!” I loved his classes! I was able to take both his intermediate and advanced classes back to back. So for 6 days 3hours a day I was exposed to Mr. Monaco’s preaching and I couldn’t get enough! He was a bold teacher but not pompous or arrogant. I think what I liked most about his classes were that his warm-up prepared me exactly for what I was going to do in the center and in the combinations. He utilized the low center of gravity typically apparent in jazz dance and he loved the use of centrifugal isolations! So did I! I do hope that I can take class with him again someday. He told me about a dance festival in Chateaux Roux, France called DARC (Dance Art Rhythm and Culture). DARC in its 40th anniversary year seems to be a great training ground for students in Europe who wish for a more diverse plan of study. To find out more go to:

http://www.danses-darc.com/en/stage-international

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Martine Kaisserlian’s classes were wonderful too. Her contemporary classes bordered more on the American modern dance spectrum, which was something I noticed in other French contemporary classes. The cultural difference in the title of the dance classes was simply an observation and by no means impacted how I felt about taking her classes. She was a remarkable teacher. In fact, she reminded me a lot of Amy Ernst at the University of Arizona. The care she took in asking her students to not only pick up and learn choreography was equaled by her desire to have the students understand the movement impulse. The floor work at the beginning of class was a great way for us to understand if the toe, knee, hip, or whatever else was initiating the movement because it took gravity out of the picture. It also helped to create a more grounded quality for the remainder of the class. All in all, I truly enjoyed both Mme. Kaisserlian’s teaching style and movement.

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Jeff Bizieau taught another contemporary class I took. I was happy to find out that he was teaching for the full two weeks so I was able to really delve into the material of his class. Also, having Mr. Bizieau scheduled the week after Mme. Kaisserlian was helpful. I feel that their courses lent well to one another and the material taught in Mme. Kaisserlian’s class could be applied and further explored in Mr. Bizieau’s class. The class started on the floor with an exercise that was added to as the days progressed. This was a great way to introduce movement and then build upon, something that was really focused on in our Teaching Methods class at the University of Arizona. I really feel that this kept the necessity of remembering the combinations but also required us to be at our best mental capacity because of the nuance changes that occurred when the exercise evolved. His combinations at the end of the class were always a joy to perform. And his signature, “Allez, courage!” helped as well! He was caring and gentle and funny.

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No training would be complete without ballet class. And I did love the ballet classes I took. Lorella Doni’s class was full of dancing. The barre was standard but did have some tricky mind games; but from the center on, I felt that I was dancing not training. The grand allegro was by far my favorite. It felt good to move across the floor with sissonnes and grand saut de chats, precipités, and pirouettes. She also had an excellent way of preparing us at barre for what we would do in the center. Use of the feet into the floor paralleled with a nice use of length was exactly why I enjoyed the class so much.

I was invited to dinner with Mme. Kaisserlian and Mr. Loringett at Paradis du Fruit along with other English speakers studying at the school. I met a woman who owns a large studio in Isreal, we exchanged stories about our students. I also met a former student who studied at Off Jazz and danced on cruise ships, we delighted in our times on the ships but were happy to be on dry land. And I met a student auditioning for the Off Jazz Year Program, I wished him the best and we swapped stories about the origins of “merde” and “break a leg” when wishing someone good luck. It was sheer delight to meet people from all over and seem so connected. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience!

My three weeks in Nice were unforgettable. I loved every minute of being in the city that really made me fall in love with France so many years ago. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to revisit and I cross my fingers that someday I can head back! Merci milles fois! Merci! And if you have the chance to study at Off Jazz check them out: http://www.offjazz.com

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Primäre Ballet ein Bad in der Aare und einige Graham

Switzerland made me appreciate my primary dance training without ever having much thought of the black leotard, white socks, and pink full-leather soled ballet slippers I wore for my primary ballet exams with the Royal Academy of Dancing. Although this past summer, Pina Bausch’s show brought back the memory of picture day, this time I was brought back to the actual steps and little details. The syllabus has changed tremendously since the birdcage dance and even the character shoes are different. But watching my friend’s daughter use a soccer net as a ballet barre and running through the grade three syllabus, she was just examined on, I was transported to the basic ballet steps that I learned at her age. I got a free show and a plethora of memories! It was delightful and of course her favorite were the big moving jumps and the dances where she told stories. It was wonderful to watch! She even worked on the perfect bun on my own hair, not at all bad I’d say!


I met her mom at the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in 2013 and she stayed with me for the following year’s training. In 2013, after many many years of no ballet exams, here I was being tested on material that I had once learned but from a different perspective and source. It was frightening to go alone in front of ballet greats crossing my fingers that I would pass. See not everyone does! I managed however to pass the Pre-Primary-Level 3 in 2013 and Levels 4-5 in 2014. This summer I would have attended Levels 6-7 and Partnering but I decided instead to come to Europe for 95days and immerse myself in the European dance scene. And I was able to make Switzerland one of my stops because I met my friend at the intensive and she’s from Switzerland! It’s amazing to me how dancers from across the world can meet one day and manage to spend the next two summers together again. This is one of the best parts of our profession!

On this stop I visited Musingen, Bern, and Thun and was able to take a few dips in the Aare River. The water was cool and the current strong, but you barely had to do anything other than float if you were travelling downstream.


Of course the trip was not without dancing. I took a 5 day workshop with Mario Camacho, former Martha Graham dancer and now professor at Codarts University for the Arts in Rotterdam, Netherlands. It was fantastic! I have never studied Graham from someone who had the opportunity to work with her directly and it was amazing how the technique could be delivered in simple yet poignant metaphors. Accessing my pelvis was easier than it had ever been and understanding the proper way of pleading… was as if I could always perform this motion without any pain in my neck. The stories of how Martha Graham came up with the pleading motion from La Pieta, Italian for pity or mercy, were so visceral, that it was beyond anatomical understanding. Instead an emotional intuition took over and the movement created itself. His hands on approach and care for each student in the studio was appreciated because it felt as though he really cared about what he was teaching and cared that the students understood the movement and the intention. He was an excellent teacher and I would happily go back to any of his classes!

The painting below exhibits La Pieta by Michalangelo. Although I’m not sure which specific painting Martha Graham got her inspiration from, I think it is a good example of the pleading position and the intention behind the exercise.

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That’s one of the things that I’ve noticed since dancing in Europe this past summer. There is perhaps a bit more emphasis on the emotional intention of the movement rather than anatomy that we are often exposed to in the United States. I’m of the opinion that both are important but I also believe that too much of one is not a good thing. So it’s important for dancers to seek out both intention and anatomy to create artists and longevity.

Le Courage de Créer Malgré les Autres

I’ve been blessed with some of the most amazing friends in the world and while planning this study abroad they decided to join me for a week in Paris. I can’t believe that this is my life! Erica and Alex, I miss you already and I’m so so so thankful for the two of you!

During their stay I again was able to take class with Nina Dipla at Menagerie de Verre. I was and am so thankful for her generosity and spirit! The class was incredible and the choreography in the last portion of class expressed a push and pull so intrinsic and visceral it has stayed with me since. There was also a heat wave in Paris so it obviously followed us to Lyon but that didn’t stop me from taking class. Nina gave us plenty of breaks for water and while the skylights may have contributed to a small burn on the bottom of my right foot the class was worth it! Thank you again for your passion in teaching and beautiful dancing! I do hope, as you said, I can make it to Greece next summer!

  
Of all the activities we did on this trip back to Paris, there were a few that stood out. One of my favorite places in Paris is Montmartre and while incredibly touristy I love that you can still feel the palpable artistic fever. At the turn of the century, the impressionists sat and discussed their feelings about L’Academie des Beaux Arts. Le Chat Noir, Le Moulin de la Gallette, Le Lapin Agile, and Le Moulin Rouge were bustling nightspots where the French Can Can was born. Writers wrote and composers composed. It had such a vibrant scene and for me it is still nestled in the hills and the cobblestones. We ended up at the Musée de Montmartre where I had actually never been. It is also the spot where Renoir painted and where a few artists of the time had their studios. I loved walking though the gardens and old house. For me it was a step back in time where the images of the past still hung like the paintings on the walls.

   
 Another favorite from this trip was the Centre Pompidou. I had never been there either despite my many times being in Paris and I loved the two visiting exhibits. Le Corbusier: Mesures de L’homme was fascinating! I never knew that he was an urban planner, architect, painter, furniture-maker, and studied Delcroze Eurhythmics. A jack-of-all trades or post Renaissance man because the Renaissance had since long ended, Le Corbusier was a man of many talents and cared about ergonomics before they were ever a thing. The other exhibit was Mona Hatoum, a performance and visual artist whose career has spanned from the 1970s until now. Her work was interactive and evocative. Her medium not singular; but instead multifaceted, with marbles, human hair, paint, metal, video, audio, and light bulbs to name a few. This was the most comprehensive exhibit of her work to date and the result was absolutely immersing. I found myself resisting the urge to break out into movement phrases amidst her work. Note to self for future reference I’ve been inspired to perhaps create a few things of my own!

   
   
And the Yves St Laurent exhibit La Collection du Scandal was a great find! I had no idea that at the height of his career Yves St Laurent would go against all fashion forward thinking and create a collection rooted in the garments from the 1940s. But he did and he did it in 1971. Some saw it as a huge step back from the Women’s Liberation movement and others were unforgiving calling the collection, “Vraiment hideuse.” But having been inspired by Paloma Picasso the famous painter’s daughter he sought to shift his collection and his vision. I stood in the small exhibit and marveled at the courage it would have taken to completely change a path and do it without worry of consequences or attention to the negative press. It was an uplifting moment for me. I stood thinking, “At some point, we all relinquish to failure but what if that failure is actually a success? What if the world simply wasn’t ready but is now fully on board? What courage it takes to showcase your art without regard for success.” And then the words of Doug Nielsen rang in my head, “Just make a dance. Don’t mind if it’s good or bad. Just make a dance.” Thanks for illuminating the path even from way over there!

  
And still another performance (that makes 9 performances so far) was in order being that the season for dance pauses for the summer in Paris. So while Erica and Alex were able to see Crazy Horse, which they raved about and I’m now jealous that I myself did not attend, Alex and I saw L’Anatomie de la Sensation choreographed by Wayne McGregor. It was performed at the Opéra Bastille where I had taken class a little over a month ago so I was happy to have the chance to see a performance on the stage. It was incredible! I think it was even more so because I had recently attended the back stage tour of the Palais Garnier where Nathalie mentioned that while the Paris Opera Ballet has its classical repertoire they also have their contemporary one. We also learned that if the show is set to perform on a raked stage the dancers rehearse in a raked studio and when they perform on a flat stage they rehearse in a flat studio. We also learned that guest choreographers do not necessarily have to adhere to the rankings of the ballerinas when casting their shows. Instead, they are allowed to hold auditions. It has happened where a choreographer chooses a corps de ballet member over a soloist or étoile. This I found so interesting. There is something to be said about seniority and the rankings but there is also something about witnessing a spirit, an essence that may not have the best technique or may simply not have been promoted. I liked that concept and I fully support it! 

I enjoyed having the privilege of seeing the Paris Opera Ballet perform a classical ballet and a contemporary one. I was impressed with their ability to mold themselves and articulate their spines when performing contemporary ballet and was equally impressed by the traditional bravura steps that come with classical ballet. My favorite movement was Elegy for Andy performed by Aurélie Dupont and Alexandre Gasse although each movement really pushed the contemporary ballet vocabulary and forced the dancers to adopt a new way of moving. I thoroughly enjoyed the chameleon-like quality of the Paris Opera Ballet dancers and would return in a heartbeat to see either a classical or contemporary performance.

Here’s an excerpt from L’Anatomie de la Sensation, performed by the Paris Opera Ballet:

And Paquita, also performed by the Paris Opera Ballet:

The War to End All Wars

I’m now in Lyon, France and the weather has been, “très chaud!” There’s a heat wave and it’s been pretty difficult to withstand the increasing temperatures. But who can complain really? I’m going on about a month and a week left of this study abroad before I head back in Tucson, AZ to finish the last year of my MFA. I’m so thankful for the experiences that have happened and will continue to happen and I’m so excited to get back and teach by experience. I’ll be teaching Intermediate Modern for non-majors and Improvisation for majors. I’ve been finalizing my syllabi and it’s got me thinking of the amazing journey that I’m assigned and prepared to lead.

There has truly been so much that has happened and falling ill really took its toll on this blog. But I am hoping to be back in action really really soon! So many things have inspired me and although a part of this study abroad was spent accompanying my fiancé on his research of WW1 battlefields of Belgium and Northern France and not dancing, I feel that my depth as an artist has grown tremendously. I’ve been thinking a lot about living history lessons since our trips to Verdun, Ypres, Somme, Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge, and Arras. To stand on the spot where the Christmas Truce occurred and then to stand in no man’s land. To see the devastation of war in the ruins and to witness the depraved conditions soldiers were forced to endure has sent me into a whirlwind of thankfulness and amplified the cries for freedom in our world. I am dismayed but hopeful, tired but inspired, proud but ashamed. All these feelings brought about by the physical act of standing on the ground where it all happened and seeing that life has moved on, that people have returned and that crops grow unaware of the fact that 100 years ago the ground laid barren unable to produce and harvest crops. My heart is heavy with the deeper understanding outside my history classes and it’s an image that I continue to ponder.

It has made me aware of a certain element of teaching as well. If you want to truly inspire your students, the lesson must hold weight, there must be value to what they are learning, and the best way to have them learn is to have them physically be a part of it. I once took a very short lived course in learner centered teaching and while I valued the course work, the experience of standing in the WW1 battlefields taught me more about teaching in one minute than the entire course did. Get the students up and moving. Get them physically involved and have them really delve into the material. If the lesson requires a specific place, bring the students there, if that’s not possible, bring it to them. Use imagination because frankly that’s the way we all first learned as children and it clearly made us capable enough then. I once had a conversation with my fiancé about a lesson he was teaching in his English 101 class. He had the students walk about the room and look at images he posted on the walls. The idea was to get the students up and out of their seats to really look at an image and to then discuss them terms of rhetoric. The result was a success. The students understood the task and were able to deliver.

So despite there being little dancing in the past week I have been emotionally and intellectually inspired by the research. I feel more present in my choices as both an artist and a teacher and while I’ve missed dancing I’ve also managed to gain perspective on things I never knew I needed. I’ve learned that inspiration is that eureka moment, waiting for the muse to come. However, having gained this experience I’ve learned that it’s not so much about waiting and more about being receptive.

  

  

Ogen Wijd Open met Vriendschap , Beweging , en Woede

I’ve been a little sick so keeping up with the blog has been somewhat difficult nonetheless it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying every waking minute of this research and study abroad. Since Germany I’ve traveled to Rotterdam, a place I had visited before during my dancing days for Holland America Line. It’s changed but it’s also remained the same.

  
The last time I was there I was with my friend Stacie, who’s now a mom and living in Alaska! Yes we are still incredible friends! We were roommates on board the MS Rotterdam in 2008-2009. We ended up visiting our friend Michel, from our very first contract together on board the MS Staatendam in 2004. He showed us, really briefly, around the city. See the only curse with working on board is that you’ve sometimes only got a few hours on shore then you have to be back on board to travel to the next destination.

In any case, I had been back to the Netherlands in 2010 to visit Michel again but this time in Amsterdam. We had a great time but didn’t spend very much time in Rotterdam. So this time, 2015, was a great way to see the city and travel to another city, Den Haag where I participated in the Open Studio Workshop with Nederlands Dans Theatre and saw their Up and Coming Choreographers show at the Korzo Theater with NDT2.

        
I’m still in awe of how friendships can last through time and space and manage to keep on keepin’ on. I love that connections can withstand millions of miles and still hold steadfast. I’m happy to say that it felt like not a second had passed and not a moment was lost.

  
Dancing at the workshop I met people from all over, in fact I met a graduate of Point Park University who danced with Pilobolus before moving to the Netherlands to further his dancing. The workshop was incredibly small. About 12 of us learned an excerpt from the Rat Dance in John Doe choreographed by Imre and Marne van Opstal, and premiering that very same evening. Imre van Opstal lead the workshop. No warm-up was given as previously advertised so it was 2 hours of non-stop dancing and attempting, in the choreographer-admitted short time, to get at the nitty gritty of what is female, what makes us sensual and what makes us unique. Why do we choose one way or the other? I felt privileged to be learning movement that had not yet premiered, movement that had just recently been created and fresh in the choreographers mind, oozing from the source. The outpouring of generosity from Imre van Opstal was exceptionally kind and she really asked in the last half hour that we give ourselves to the movement free ourselves from the structure and not worry about correctness, exactness, or preciseness. Instead we were to dance what we had been given with our unique movement styles as the driving force. For me, it was animalistic, with a sense of haughty rapture contrasted with affection and sensuality. I loved the movement and I craved to learn more, to understand how movement can come from such a dichotomy. It brought out in me a something I had never really actualized and I am forever grateful for the experience.

Seeing the show I was ever more grateful! The NDT2 dancers were incredible and I was flabbergasted by their sense of abandon contrasted with their directed strength and power. It was my first time seeing a live performance by the company and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience of seeing them in their hometown. I really love the concept of the Up and Coming Choreographers show having the first company members choreograph on the second company. In my opinion it adds to the community of dance creating a sense of family and support. In fact, the van Opstal family takes up 3 spots with NDT and NDT2, Imre van Opstal was recently promoted to NDT, Merne van Opstal is a current NDT dancer and Xanthe van Opstal is in NDT2. John Doe wasn’t the only performance that evening, Aliza, choreographed by former NDT company member, Idan Sharabi, also premiered.

John Doe impressed me from the onset, the man in blue speaks ever so calmly about physics and interchanges of connections, with formulas and mathematics somehow inter-related which go far beyond the capacity of understanding for the circular talking. But he does this all while moving, occasionally slow and steady with very little physicality but then with vigor and floor work that would have even the best of dancers panting. He did this without any sense of effort or tribulation. Should he move forward or back and what would those consequences be? The entire performance was anticipatory for me because I awaited the section that we learned only hours before. Still I was never distracted so as not to focus on both the movement and the story happening. I liked that the dance led itself to the audiences’ own conclusion and that force feeding wasn’t the choreographers’ goal. When the woman in red did appear she danced the choreography with her own choices of movement and her own style and in that instant I was thankful for Imre’s direction to hold true to ones own movement and individuality. The dancer was stunning and her choices were direct and powerful and that is what drove her performance.

Aliza on the other hand, elicited a question I have been asking myself for quite sometime. Am I not angry enough? Do I not have more forceful and aggressive things to say as a choreographer? I have noticed since being in Europe and seeing performances with some sort of rage that I am not entirely sure if I am as angry as I should be. Have I ever had a Picasso blue period? Am I passed my Picasso blue period? Am I living La Vie en Rose? Is that a bad thing? Is it a thing at all? I really enjoyed Aliza because it elicited these questions and more. I understand that we live in a world of oppression, anxiety, and real conflict and yet I choose to reflect the brighter things in life. That is not to say that I consciously avoid anything that has to do with rage but I’m not entirely sure I’ve tapped into that and I question whether or not this is a cultural thing or a self-preservation thing. I don’t have the answer and I’m not entirely sure its plausible to find one in the time frame of this blog nevertheless I appreciate the impact Aliza had on me and I wonder where the thoughts will take me. Dark place or not I feel that my eyes have been opened to whatever lies beneath.

If you’re interested in seeing snippets of these pieces here is the links:

Aliza:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcLrJhjizNk

John Doe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVnaaaeiczY

  
  

Träume, Zerstörung und Kunst

As I write this blog, I’m sitting by the window in a Paris rented apartment with a wrought iron ledge. If you had told me three years ago, when I began my adventure towards pursuing an MFA, that I would be writing a blog about dancing abroad in Europe, I would have probably told you, “Ok… get off the train to crazy town and hop right back on the bus to reality.” But if I’ve learned anything from my 50 days abroad with still plenty more to come it’s that you should dream… and dream big!

When I was a child I was so imaginative, I had invisible friends, magic blankets, and made a game out of a box of tissues when the opportunity presented itself. I had dreams. Big ones! I watched the Bolshoi Ballet perform Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House in London. I saw 42nd Street on Broadway in New York City. My parents drove countless hours to countless rehearsals for limited thank yous. And still, they understood my dream and helped me every way they could! Thank you now and for the times I never said thank you!

And speaking of imagination, I feel lucky to have grown up just before the major technical revolution. I didn’t have a cell phone ‘til I was a junior in college. I didn’t have a family plan and wasn’t able to text at will for fear of the monstrous bill that awaited. I called friends when I wanted to talk to them. I wrote letters when I wanted a deeper connection. Yet here I sit in the midst of children with iPhones and iPads, gadgets and gizmos and I’m writing a blog on a MacBook in the middle of Paris keeping in touch with friends and family. So I supposed imagination is exercised like a muscle. There are many muscles and therefore many ways of increasing its tone and definition. The key however is in the variety of the exercises.

And on that note variety could certainly be the word used to describe my studies here in Europe. So far I’ve danced in three countries and seen shows in a variety of idioms. The last show I saw was called Paradiso with choreography by Jorg Mannes and performed by the Staatsballett of Hannover. In fact, I saw the world premier with an after party on the roof of the Staatsoper.

  

The ballet was an interpretation of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Jorg Mannes asked some interesting questions with the choreography including whether or not we could indeed find heaven on earth or if we had to wait until the afterlife. He is quoted to have said, “There is no paradise without hell.” World famous cellist Giovanni Sollima was the composer and we had the rare treat of hearing him play that night. He was incredible! At the end of the ballet he came on stage and the company reprised the finale while he played for all to see. It was a truly joyous and celebratory moment! I loved seeing the camaraderie and infectious spirit of dance and music in tandem without the separation of the orchestra pit and performance space.

The ballet itself was interesting and had some intriguing and intricate partner work. The snake choreography utilized aerialist silks and there was even some reference to German patriotism in the beach scene with black, red, and yellow towels. It was quirky and I liked the sweet and endearing nature of this section. One particular section however lacked ability and took me out of the performance. This section was a farce and intended to be humorous but because of the lack of technical ability in my opinion it fell short of the mark. The dancers, came out with hand held mics and began and melodic, operatic, religious song. But because of their lack of vocal training I ended up feeling sorry for the dancers instead of laughing at the intended farce.

What did strike me was the beautiful dancing and celebration of body type variety. Some short, some tall, there was no “one look” the company was going for. Instead, as I have been saying a lot this summer, they were people dancing and not molds or carbon copies of one another. This is truly what made the performance for me.

One of the aspects of the ballet that has since stayed with me is the quote by Jorg Mannes, “There is no paradise without hell.” The ballet, as stated above, was performed in Hannover, a city that was completely leveled during WW2. I wondered about the decision to have the world premier of this ballet in Hannover and releasing this quote to the press. The horror that the citizens of Hannover faced during that time of war must have felt like hell and the bustling city that it has now turned into must, for those who remember the war, must feel like some sort of paradise.

Taking a walk around the city we came to the ruins of the Aegidien Church. A church completely destroyed by 88 aerial bombing raids that occurred during WW2 where 90% of Hannover was destroyed. The decision not to rebuild the house of worship stands as a testament to the citizens of Hannover about the devastation of war and a reminder of its gravity. A lone church bell sits in the vestibule dedicated by its sister city Hiroshima. The establishment of the sister cities occurred on May 27th, 1983 with the signing of the Sister City Agreement. It states, “Both of our cities and citizens have experienced the horrors of war in their histories. In view of the fact that they have both been revived as major cities in their respective countries, we recognize the necessity of contributing together for the establishment of world peace and will work for the promotion of mutual exchanges in a broad range of areas in order to further increase mutual respect, trust and understanding.”


  
And further along the walk we came to the Rathaus. In this case, the city hall was rebuilt after the war but not without a statement of remembrance. In the foyer, models of Hannover prior to and after the war are showcased. This offers a clear picture of what 90% of destruction looks like.


Behind the Rathaus we found a pond for a little contemplation. The peaceful atmosphere pierced through like a long awaited ray of sunlight. I was thankful for the living history lesson particularly because I learned that despite the destruction and pain that this city has suffered, art continues to be a driving force. With the purchase of our tickets to the ballet we were able to commute fare-free from Nienburg to Hannover. I was utterly impressed that this was offered as an incentive and it confirmed my belief that art can be a great healer and mirror to life an idea, which Hannover upholds.


Ein Tanzkurs und Transformation einer Stadt

Since leaving Paris, I’ve now travelled to Berlin. I met up with my fiancé Marc who was presenting his research in Turku, Finland. So great to exchange what we individually learned and be back on the same continent. We count our blessings every day!

We stayed in a great new boutique hotel, i31 in the Mitte District. Despite having to change rooms because of the jackhammer at 6:00am, the hotel was completely accommodating and had a chaise lounge in our new room. A great way to snuggle up with the books Marc brought for my research this summer. Currently I am reading, An Introduction to a Visualizing Dance Form Contact Improvisation by Cheryl Pallant.

I digress.

The Mitte area of Berlin contains parts of former East Berlin and many historical landmarks including Museum Island, and the Reichstag. The translation of Mitte to English is middle and is relatively located in the center of Berlin.

We found some great Thai food and I was also able to find a place to take classes only 20 minutes away by foot called Dock 11 Eden. There are two locations actually, Dock 11 and Eden that offer classes, intensives, and workshops. The studios also present a number of performances and films. Down the small alley off of Kastanienallee, Dock 11 was the perfect place to take class. They offer profittraining, usually a contemporary masters series class Monday-Friday from 10:00am-11:30am and ballet from 12:00pm-1:30pm. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend these classes but I did take an open modern dance class with Katrin Pohlmann.

    

It was an interesting change for me to take class in a foreign language. All the while my fellow students in Paris were mustering up their courage to face the language barrier and here I was coasting because I spoke the language. The last time I took class in a foreign language I was on tour in Korea and took a ballet class. That being said it was ballet so most of the language was the same. I noticed being slightly overwhelmed when I first walked into the studio but as we began to move the fear of not understanding subsided and dancing began.

Katrin’s class began first with the feet in contact with the floor, eyes closed in German and English, she asked us to feel the weight of our bodies into our feet and then into the floor. Soon after she asked that we shift our weight side to side, then front to back, eventually allowing the knees to move, then hips, then the ribs, then the limbs, moving first in place, then around the room. At some point, I can’t remember when she asked us to open our eyes and the rest of the class was taught in German. We found a partner and were asked to move with our partner without actually touching but simply feeling the essence of the other dancer. Then we were asked to make contact with only the forehead leaning into one another. I loved the opening of this class because I never knew when one task was over and the next began. We had ample time to investigate each one and never did they feel rushed or tedious. Her understanding of time in each exercise was incredible. After the improvisation-based warm-up we were lead through a short yoga-esque stretch with downward dog and long lunges. Again I can’t tell you how the atmosphere of each exercise flowed so seamlessly into the next. Shortly after the above series we began the more formal part of a modern dance class, using over curves and under curves to travel across the floor, shifting weight and allowing for the weight of the pelvis to dictate our movements. I loved her combination at the end. It consisted of full and rich movements that utilized space and time, levels and dynamics that encouraged dancers of all levels.

Seeing shows in Berlin proved to be difficult because we were only there Monday and Tuesday night and all the shows at Dock 11 Eden were finished. We wanted to see if we could get tickets to the Staatsballett Berlin but found out through calling that the dancers were on strike. Since Marc speaks German we tried reading the newspaper to see why the dancers were on strike and talking with other box office workers but we couldn’t find any information except for the three sentence notice on the Staatsballett website:

“Due to a strike by the dancers, today’s performance of “Sleeping Beauty” at 7:30pm at Deutsche Oper Berlin will be cancelled. The Staatsballett Berlin regrets the cancellation of the performance. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the cancellation.”

There were of course other shows that we could have seen but instead we decided on a Spree River Boat tour crossing under 63 bridges and learning about the reunification and future plans of Berlin as well as a visit to the Check Point Charlie Museum. I was enamored with how much Berlin and the museum has changed even since 2009, when I last visited. I toured Germany in 2004 and the changes in 2009 were plenty. But even now from 2009 to 2015, the changes are immense! The rebuilding and the forward progression seems to be moving faster than I could ever imagine. The rate of change was like being on Space Mountain and the rumble of transformation in the air was thick and intense. I imagined dancers running across the stage with task based choreography, picking up a block, moving a stone, replacing a stone, and moving the old block back to where it came from without ever having an end in sight. Moving to sheer exhaustion had some meaning for me while I was in Berlin and I’ve been mulling over this for a few days now. I certainly feel some movement creation happening!