Barefootblogger: thoughts on dance

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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am a dancer with Minneapolis based James Sewell Ballet, a small, contemporary ballet company. I also choreograph independently.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Touching Paul

As I sit amongst the rubble of the half-unpacked suitcases that litter my apartment floor since my return from Portland last night, I find that I am caught in a time-warp, or perhaps, a wrinkle.

It’s always a little disorienting, returning from a big trip (I was gone 5 weeks) and feeling the need to reintegrate yet still savor what’s been left behind. It’s probably no coincidence that yesterday (I just realized) also marks exactly two years since J and I split. Sad. Still.

And then today, as I was routinely checking email, I found out that Taylor is having another audition. I can’t be there. Sad. Still. But good. Right. Crazy.

Three days after J and I split I flew to NYC to audition for Paul Taylor. Out of 450 women, I made it down to the final 4. I didn’t get the gig. That two-day period changed the course of my life.

After that, I spent the next nine months (an interestingly apt period of time) thinking that I was going to move back to NY after my season w/ JSB ended. So that next February I spent a week at Taylor during a JSB layoff. I took class then watched the company rehearse for Paul. I took copious notes (that someday will take a shape slightly more public than my shelf). Suffice it to say that that company, those specific dancers, as of Feb. 2007, are some of the finest dancers (and I mean that word in the broadest, biggest most generous way possible) in the world.

At the end of the week I talked to Paul. He told me no one was leaving and that he did not have a spot for me. He did not tell me to hang around. He told me to not put all my eggs in one basket, and after telling him I was contemplating moving back to NY, he sent me home with the words, “Oh no, you MUST be performing!”

As I sat there, touching knees with Paul Taylor, telling him about my life here in Minneapolis, about my situation with JSB, how great it is and how blessed I’ve been by the company’s generous resources, I talked myself back into my life here.

Since then the rewards, the proof of my good decision, have been so blatantly obvious that even a child could see it. I recovered my, for lack of a better word, womanhood, for one; and the professional, for lack of a better word, opportunities, for many, many others.

Yep, it was all of two years ago when, at the end of the first day of that 2-day audition for Paul he called me over to him. He held my hand and said, “I just want to tell you, no matter what happens tomorrow, I think you’re a very special dancer, and I’d love to work with you someday.”

THAT was my reward, the justification for my half-crazed trip to NY three days after J and I split. Somehow it took events that dramatic to set into motion all my actions since then relative to love, my career; relative to life.

So today as I responded to my good friend Steve’s email about next week’s Taylor audition, I hit “reply” and said that I’m not going. For one thing, Jack and I will be in Europe. For another, well, Jack and I will be in Europe.

Yes, I feel ten thousand pangs right now and probably will forever though possibly less acute. I rifle through memories of life since then and am so proud and happy and SURE that I made the right choice and am on the right path.

Instead of dancing for Paul, how about if I resolve to become Paul? Yes, let me channel my dancing and choreography right into his cosmic path and become him instead.

I touched hands and then knees with Paul Taylor, and now I’m going to Europe and best, I get to spend hours on a plane with Jack.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I saw Scapino Ballet Rotterdam tonight and I find that I am restless, frustrated, and generally not at my ease. (Funny how neurotic I can be. Old patterns are hard to break, and a general sense of restlessness has a history of following me around, ready to strike, when I am vulnerable.)

Why am I vulnerable? Perhaps because this “Aida” project is winding down. Perhaps that, coupled with the fact that despite Monday’s rockin Limon class I feel profoundly out of shape. Ok, so I’ll get myself to class tomorrow. (There’s a reasonably timed one at 12:30 that I’ll check out.)

Why do I still battle that one, getting to class? I love class. It makes me so happy. And yet there’s this perverse part of me that resents having to go when I’m “off”. Ah, there’s the rub: a dancer is never “off”. Nope, no dice. (Though I did manage to steal many weeks last summer when working on other projects.) But here’s the thing: I do not feel good, or “myself” if I don’t take class. There’s something in me that just can’t forgive myself the luxury of time off. And yet I’ll grab at it anyway, like a kid stubbornly refusing to do something (or not) just because.

So I know all this about myself. That’s progress. I’ve been here and back a time or ten, and I will see this through. Anyway, what does this have to do with the ballet tonight?

Because I am not quite “myself”, because I feel mostly out of shape, I cannot freely watch, absorb, honestly take in. Nevertheless, here’s what I can honestly say about tonight: I am frustrated because the fabulous, gorgeous dancers made the choreography look better than it was. The audience ate it up, and that just slays me. Yes, it was virtuosic. Yes, there were some amazing images. But! the choreography repeated itself such that by the last piece it was rendered ineffective. All four pieces on the program (by 2 different choreograpgers) featured the gesture of a spastic, flapping hand motion. Potentially brilliant if used sparingly, but in all four pieces!? Nope, I just can’t buy it. And truly, the movement vocabulary in general simply wasn’t “all that”. Again, it was virtuosic, with masterful falling and recovering into and out of the floor, but the intersection of ballet and modern (for lack of something more poetic), was not as thrilling as it could have been. And I guess I mean to say, as it should have been, given this company’s reception and reputation.

And so I write. I wring out my frustrations on my keypad. I look forward to class tomorrow and to discussing the show with folks who’ll get me. I ramp up to brave class at Oregon Ballet Theatre with my friend Christopher who has kindly welcomed me. I wrestle my demons even as my sweet piece in Dance Magazine hits the newsstand. (More on that later; a mighty thrill it is…)