by Emily Kate Long
January brings the end of a four-week layoff and the start of new rehearsals and a new school semester. In other words, chaos to boredom and back again! It was a busy fall, and will be a busy spring, so I really welcomed the opportunity to take a few steps back from the studio to re-focus, reflect, and plan over my time off. Refreshed and inspired, I feel excited to tackle any challenges ahead.
Holiday travel and a Nutcracker guesting meant a considerable amount of time in the car. My ever-reliable Toyota (his name is Franklin Thomas Camry) and I covered nearly two thousand miles in two weeks. Admittedly, driving is one of my least favorite activities, but it gave me the chance to sit back and listen, really listen, to a lot of great classical music, as well as some really interesting podcasts I hadn’t previously been able to find time for. One of my favorites is called the “Piano Puzzler,” produced by American Public Media (Get it here: http://performancetoday.publicradio.org/podcast/piano_puzzler/). In it, a well-known tune is disguised within a piece of classical music (for example, the “Toreador Song” from Carmen hidden inside one of Eric Satie’s Gymnopedies), and a caller has to guess both the tune and composer. It’s a cool way for me to learn, bit by bit, what some hallmarks of various composers’ styles are, and a little music history, too. Some compositions end up funny, some poignant, and some end up as both once composer and tune have been identified.
I’ve also been reading a book of choreographic analysis, Frederick Ashton’s Ballets: Style, Performance, and Choreography (http://www.amazon.com/Frederick-Ashtons-Ballets-Performance-Choreography/dp/1852731591). As the “Piano Puzzler” is a lighthearted exploration of musical composition, this book is a serious look at dance composition and an investigation of what can be considered stylistic hallmarks. Ashton frequently quoted well-known works (including, sometimes, his own) for serious and humorous effect. Both podcast and book suggest to me that a big part of the creative process involves the use of irony and unexpected comparisons.
In the spirit of comparison, I got to watch and study several new dance DVDs (look for reviews of them soon here on 4dancers). Generally when, I have time to watch each video only once, gather just a little background information, and a week or more passes before I watch the next one. Time off meant I could let my brain gobble up each of these gems as many times as I wanted, research them, and think about them in relationship and contrast to one another. What fun!
I took the theme of comparison and analysis into the studio with me, too. Making my own schedule has meant I can spend as much time as I need planning classes for the second semester and, most importantly, actually being able to do them before I give them. That’s given me a chance to examine the layers of complexity (in some ways, layers of irony) I can eventually add as my students advance, the many ways this new material relates to what the class already knows, and the various ways to communicate those relationships.
I’ll close this post with New Year’s wishes to you, readers. May 2013 bring you new discoveries and inspiration!
Assistant Editor Emily Kate Long began her dance education in South Bend, Indiana, with Kimmary Williams and Jacob Rice, and graduated in 2007 from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Schenley Program. She has spent summers studying at Ballet Chicago, Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, Miami City Ballet, and Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive/Vail Valley Dance Intensive, where she served as Program Assistant. Ms Long attended Milwaukee Ballet School’s Summer Intensive on scholarship before being invited to join Milwaukee Ballet II in 2007.
Ms Long has been a member of Ballet Quad Cities since 2009. She has danced featured roles in Deanna Carter’s Ash to Glass and Dracula, participated in the company’s 2010 tour to New York City, and most recently performed principal roles in Courtney Lyon’s Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and Cinderella. She is also on the faculty of Ballet Quad Cities School of Dance, where she teaches ballet, pointe, and repertoire classes.