by Lauren Warnecke
Some say, “If you’ve been to one conference, you’ve been to them all,” but having attended four conferences this year I’m not so sure I agree. 2014 was “the year of the conference” for me, mostly because I’ve been excited to share some of my survey research on dance injuries and cross-training. Plus, as a first year PhD student (you knew that, right?), it seemed like a great way to insert myself into the academic community. My work was presented three times: in Bowling Green, Ohio last February at the Midwest Sport and Exercise Psychology Symposium (MSEPS), in October at the Annual Meeting for the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) held in Basel, Switzerland, and again last weekend at the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO)’s annual conference in Chicago. I also attended Dance/USA’s conference in June, sans my science-y hat. I presented twice with my research assistant Molly, and each was slightly different in length, but on the whole each presentation was roughly the same.
Why give the same information at three conferences? Three reasons: practice, pointers, and pageantry.
Let me explain.
When you’re involved in research, it’s really easy to get lost in your work. It’s big. It’s overwhelming. Sometimes, you forget the point. Continually putting myself into situations that force me to articulate and defend my work is a really important part of the process. Otherwise, I might get in front of my committee, years from now, when it really counts, and totally bomb it. So, in my view, the more times I can talk about what I’m doing, the better (practice).
Practicing in front of audiences full of draconian observers from all different fields is better still. In the three conferences at which I presented, I yielded opinions and observations from exercise psychologists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, body conditioning specialists, medical doctors, and dance educators. I can say quite confidently that the dance educators were the toughest crowd. It is vital to the success and longevity of researcher that we communicate with individuals working in the field – those putting our ideas into practice. I consider the feedback I received from guests at my NDEO presentation to be critical information that can inform the future directions of my research (pointers).
Finally, conferences are awesome. Though often overwhelming and exhausting, there’s quite a pomp and circumstance surrounding the coming together of like-minded individuals. I mean, I went to Switzerland (Switzerland!) for a 10-minute presentation. Plus, the schmoozing, the fancy parties and catering (pageantry)….
Though the format, the networking, the light appetizers and harsh scrutiny are par for the course at any conference, I found each conference I attended this year to be a unique experience. The exercise psychologists we spoke to in February had no idea about dancers, and helped me draw connections between dance companies and athletic teams. IADMS opened me eyes to a rich pool of dance researchers that I hardly knew existed. As the sole dance researcher at a university with no dance program, I often feel like I’m on an island. IADMS assured me that there are many dedicated individuals in the world who have similar passions and goals. NDEO allowed me to interact with the educators who may actually benefit from this research. And without application, research is pretty much pointless.
One thing is clear: dancers, researchers and educators are passionately committed to dance. We have different skills, experiences, and approaches, but ultimately we all want the same things: inspired performances, health and wellbeing among dancers, longevity of the dancer’s career, and intelligent training practices. By working my way through the conference circuit this year I have never been more certain of that.
Contributor Lauren Warnecke is a Chicago-based dance writer/researcher and educator. She holds degrees in Dance (BA, ’03) and Kinesiology (MS, ’09), and is currently a full-time faculty member and doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Lauren researches trends in dance injuries, cross-training, and performance, and created the dance blog Art Intercepts in 2009. She is a dance critic for SeeChicagoDance, columnist at Windy City Times, a Huffington Post blogger, and a contributor to the websites Dance Advantage and 4dancers. Lauren has freelanced as a production/stage manager, curator, choreographer, and grant writer, doing nearly every job in the dance world at some point. She is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM) and Functional Training Specialist (ACE), enjoys coffee and vintage apparel, and believes in the Oxford comma. Follow Lauren on Twitter @artintercepts.
by Cara Marie Gary
Over the past twenty-three years I have gathered many memories around Christmas time, but the one that stands out amongst the others starts with a magical event that has forever made an impact on my life and has left me with new found feelings of eagerness and desire.
The time had finally come, the chilly December air made the girls run quickly through the green backstage door of the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. It was the night of The Nutcracker performance and I, along with other aspiring young dancers, were waiting for the curtain to go up.
After anxiously skipping up and down the long hallway filled with dressing rooms, the moment had finally arrived where the burgundy curtain was lifted and Tchaikovsky’s music filled the theater. I wore a red and black solider costume adorned with strings of gold and stood backstage between two tall curtains. The joy of the holidays filled the air and crept back to the small spot where I was standing. I experienced a feeling of awe as I observed the older girls dancing before me. The tall girl with a radiant smile and a blue dress, who had the role of Clara, stood out to me. She moved with elegance as she danced across the stage; I longed to dance just like her one day.
As I executed my role during the battle scene I attempted to keep the graceful vision of Clara in mind. Staring out at the anonymous silhouettes of the strangers in the audience, I felt as if everything was perfect. The feeling of wonder bubbled inside of me as I took that final bow. I knew from this December night that I wanted to pursue dance, and learn how to leap and twirl like the tall girl in the blue dress. For me this memory combines the joy of Christmas and the motivation I had discovered to pursue a new found passion.
Kelsey Middleton dances with the contemporary dance company Visceral Dance Chicago
1. How did you first become involved with dance?
I started dancing at the Academy of Movement in Music in Oak Park, IL at the age of 12. Both of my younger sisters were enrolled in ballet classes and I thought it looked like something I would enjoy.
2. What are you currently doing in the dance field?
I’m currently in my second season with Visceral Dance Chicago. We are busy preparing for our fall engagement at the Harris. When I’m not rehearsing with Visceral I also like to find time to collaborate on small projects with other dancers in the Chicago community.
3. What is the best advice you have received about dance?
The best piece of advice I’ve received about dance is to stay focused on myself and trust in my own journey. It’s so easy to compare your progress with your peers or covet the careers of dancers you admire. While it’s only natural to compare yourself to the other artists, the only way you’re going to grow and achieve your goals is by focusing on your own unique strengths and weaknesses.
4.What do you find most challenging about dance?
I’ve always been a highly self-critical person. This definitely presents its challenges as dance classes and rehearsals are largely centered around receiving corrections. I’m working to find some levity in my dancing and to simply not be so hard on myself. I also try to remember to hone in on my strengths just as much as I work to improve on my weaknesses.
5. What dance achievement are you most proud of so far?
Becoming a member of Visceral Dance Chicago has been my proudest dance achievement thus far. It was a dream come true.
6. What advice would you give to students who are considering majoring in dance in college?0
by Ashley Ellis
Nutcracker season is upon us, which means many things; the holiday season is upon us, temperatures are dropping, and for us dancers, hearing the lovely Sugar Plum and Russian music as we walk through the stores to do our holiday shopping.
And many more times as we head back into the theater.
Here in Boston seeing this ballet is a holiday tradition for so many people in and around the city. And to make sure that everyone has a chance to see this holiday classic, Boston Ballet offers a total of 44 shows this year. It is a daunting number to say the least—for everyone involved in the production. However, besides the obvious fatigue that accompanies such a rigorous schedule, there are benefits that come with performing everyday—and it can be up to ten shows a week. Needless to say, one tends to become quite comfortable on the stage and strength is gained without even realizing it.
This combination of comfort and strength provides wonderful opportunities for growth as an artist. Dancers have a chance to explore their approach to the technique being executed, musicality and more. On top of this, it is a time when many of the principals and soloists travel to appear as guest artists in other places. This gives even more opportunity for company members to perform some of the more demanding or spotlighted roles.
These opportunities can be exciting, but it is always important to remember that with this strenuous schedule and colder weather, everyone has to take extra care in staying healthy. Injuries and sick days do creep their way into the picture, but we do our best to avoid them by frequent visits to our wonderful physical therapists, resting when possible, and nourishing our bodies.
In Mikko Nissinen’s production of the Nutcracker I alternate between the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, Dew Drop, and Arabian. I would say that dancing the Grand Pas de Deux of the Sugar Plum is my favorite role, and I truly enjoy the time onstage with my partner in this classy and regal pas de deux.
Apart from these shows I will make a few trips through the Nutcracker season to perform in different places. It can be a wonderful change of scenery during such a long stretch of one production, and when I come back things usually feel a bit more fresh. In addition, sometimes I will do these guest appearances with an old friend who I haven’t seen in a long time, so these trips have an extra bonus!
I must give a special shout-out to the members of the corps de ballet. Many, if not most of them, are on stage every day without even a single show off. So, while performing from the day after Thanksgiving straight through New Years Eve, how does one have time to enjoy this joyous season without going mad? Well, between holiday shopping and performing it is tricky, but we do find ways to create a festive atmosphere and keep the atmosphere light.
If someone has a chance to pass through the dressing rooms at the Boston Opera House they would most likely find music playing, Secret Santa gifts, sweets (yes, even us ballerinas treat ourselves), and lots of supportive talk. We all get grumpy at one point or another, but the dancers are so supportive of one another—rooting each other on as someone does a role for the first, or even the 40th time!
Even though most dancers have a tendency to cringe when they hear the music of the Russian dance for the umpteenth time in Macy’s, there is always a magical feeling when hearing it along with the rest of Tchaikovsky’s score. Especially when it’s being played live by an orchestra—along with the telling of this classic story.
In the end we all come together and we survive the season as a family. Ringing in the New Year is even more exciting because it means we have made it through another “Nut” Season!
Boston Ballet presents Mikko Nissinen’s Nutcracker through December 31st. You can get tickets through their website.
Contributing writer Ashley Ellis is a principal dancer at Boston Ballet. Ellis hails from Torrance, California and she received her dance training at the South Bay Ballet under the direction of Diane Lauridsen. Other instruction included Alicia Head, Mario Nugara, Charles Maple, and Kimberly Olmos.
She began her professional career with American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company and later joined American Ballet Theatre as a company dancer. In 1999, Ellis won the first prize at the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award, and went on to become the recipient of the Coca Cola scholarship award in 2000 and 2001. She has performed in Spain with Angel Corella’s touring group and joined Corella Ballet in 2008 as a soloist. In 2011, Ellis joined Boston Ballet as a second soloist. She was promoted to soloist in 2012 and principal dancer in 2013.
Her repertoire includes Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker; Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadère; Marius Petipa’s Swan Lake; Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse, VIII and Polyphonia; Harald Lander’s Études; Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides; Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote; Christopher Bruce’s Rooster; George Balanchine’s Serenade, Coppélia, Symphony in Three Movements, Symphony in C, and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux; Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto; Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room; Stanton Welch’s Clear; Angel Corella’s String Sextet; Wayne McGregor’s Chroma; Jorma Elo’s Awake Only; Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free; Jiří Kylián’s Wings of Wax, Symphony of Psalms, and Petite Mort.0
Assistant Editor Rachel Hellwig interviews Michelle Kranicke from Zephyr – a Chicago-area experimental dance company that has been around for over 20 years…
What inspired you to start Zephyr?
I was very young when I started Zephyr so the reasons behind why I founded the company don’t really resonate with Zephyr’s current aesthetic and mission. What is more important to me right now is what inspires me to continue. And that is my continued fascination with creating work, dance specifically, and trying to push beyond known ideas and preconceptions about what the art form can be.
What’s it like to be artistic director, choreographer, and performer all at once?
I have been all three for so long I guess I am not sure what it is like to not be artistic director, choreographer and performer all at once. I think the roles of director, choreographer, and performer are linked, each having their own specific requirements and priorities. For example, in my role as director I try to make sure that both Zephyr’s productions and its education work are an extension of the company’s mission. To that end I try to make sure company class is structured so that dancers are not only learning technique, but also developing an innate understanding of Zephyr’s aesthetic so that when I am working as a choreographer the performers I am working with have all the tools they need. Regarding Zephyr’s long history of arts integrated education programming, working with schools and students using movement and the creative process to access knowledge and understanding, Zephyr trains its teaching artists in the same clear detailed manner with which its aesthetic is presented. As far as my performer self, that is often the most straightforward role, and one where I am deeply connected.
by Andrea Thompson
I am now in my second year with Hubbard Street 2 (HS2), and it has been quite the season so far. We’ve already created two new works through the International Commissioning Project (IC Project) which we just premiered on tour at Broward College, and we’re working on our third right now, which will debut at the Harris Theater as part of Eat + Drink to the Beat on December 16. Not to mention HS2 also collaborated with Hubbard Street’s main company and The Second City on the world premiere of The Art of Falling back in October. Here’s how all of that action has gone down in the studio:0