by Jessika Anspach McEliece
The brisk fall air accosts my face as I push through the Phelps Center doors, home of Pacific Northwest Ballet. I scurry down the steps toward Mercer Street. I only have an hour. I only have a month, and some change…
An hour for lunch; a month till I have to say goodbye.
Today we have Drew Vamosi with us to talk about dance competitions. Drew is one of the people behind Leap! National Dance Competition, and we asked him to share some thoughts on what Leap! judges look for, as well as his tips for preparing to compete…
How important do you feel overall appearance is in terms of competition? Does what the dancer is wearing matter, or is a nice, neat presentation enough?
The dancer needs to wear a costume that fits the piece and the dancer’s body type. Often we see costumes that are not flattering on the dancer especially when weight is a factor. The dancer needs to feel confident and a costume that fits helps immensely!
What is the biggest mistake you see dancers making at your competitions?
Today we are thrilled to welcome Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s Jessika Anspach McEliece to the site officially as a contributing writer. She’ll be writing about a variety of topics for us, starting with this post about George Balanchine’s “Jewels”, which the company will be performing, starting September 26th in Seattle.
by Jessika Anspach McEliece
It’s Tuesday but it feels like, um, I don’t know… not Tuesday. Coming back to work after a break always gives me that jet-lag feeling, no matter what time zone I’ve been in. PNB dancers are doing pirouettes across the grey marley floor of Studio C and between thinking about getting my foot immediately to passé and keeping my standing leg engaged, my rehearsal schedule for the day runs through the ticker tape of my brain. Confusion. Then holes. Then blanks.
I turn to the blonde girl with hyper-extension for days who’s patiently waiting her turn and ask, “Emma, do we have Rubies first or is it Emeralds?”
“I’m pretty sure we have Rubies 12-1 and Emeralds 1-2 but with the principal couple…” she replies. And yet I can tell that her ticker tape is following a similar pattern by her perplexed eyes.
“Oh yeah. That’s right… But I’m pretty sure Emeralds is only a half hour. I thought we had a break from 1:30 to 4, and finished with Diamonds. Is that just demi women or corps women too?” I reply.
“It’s demi and corps men and women. I think we’re piecing together the finale. Are you sure Emeralds is only a half hour?”
“Ha. I’m not sure of anything.”
Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds – juggling these ballets can be a bit of a handful at first. Yes, Jewels is a full-length ballet. Yes, it has the same choreographer – the genius George Balanchine. All the costumes are designed by the same woman – the fabulous Karinska, and thankfully there’s not a single hair change during the performance… I think. But that’s about it when it comes to continuity.
No two stones are alike, and that is most definitely true of Jewels. Like any beautiful gem, we see the many facets of Mr. Balanchine’s choreographic prowess.
In Emeralds, set to the very French and very impressionistic music of Gabriel Faure, the movement is soft, yet sweeping. The curtain opens to a sea of emerald green: a principal couple dancing amid ten corps ladies who bourrée from one formation to the next, rarely coming off pointe. The effect: a floating, almost shimmering quality–like lily pads glistening on a glassy pond in one of Monet’s landscapes.0
The lovely Yumelia Garcia is leaving Joffrey this month and shared a few thoughts about her time there with us at 4dancers. We wish her all the best! Take a look at some of her memorable moments through the years…
I can’t believe it, but I have made the decision to say good bye to The Joffrey Ballet. A place I never imagined I would be. Dancing for this company has been my own Cinderella story. As a little girl from Venezuela, I only dreamed of having the opportunity to dance professionally in the United States. I never imagined I would end up dancing for a world class company. I have lived out my dream better than I ever thought was possible.
I have many unforgettable memories with the roles I have danced and the friends I have made. I hold these memories close to my heart and will cherish them forever. My time at the Joffrey has played a pivotal role not only in my dancing career, but it has helped shape my path for the future. For that, I am forever grateful.
by Nel Shelby
Emily Schoen is a real up-and-coming star in the dance world. A dancer with Keigwin + Company, Emily was named Top 25 to Watch by Dance Magazine. She’s danced in a couple operas at the Met (with Mark Morris and Doug Varone) and even performed in the Rolling Stones 50 and Counting Tour last year. She received Gibney Dance’s bookoo grant to create and present work in Gibney Dance Center, and she was just selected as one of five emerging choreographers nationwide to create work for Met Dance in Houston, TX next summer.
She just so happens to also be Nel Shelby Productions’ awesome Project Manager for all our dance films and video editing services. We met and bonded when I was filming Nejla Y. Yatkin’s Central American tour and Emily was dancing with Nejla. It clicked that Emily could really help me with organizing my business and communicating with my growing clientele, and we’ve worked together ever since.
We just had the pleasure of filming her choreography at Gibney Dance and I thought it would be great to get her thoughts on working with us from the other side of things!
Contributor Nel Shelby, Founder and Principal of Nel Shelby Productions, is deeply dedicated to the preservation and promotion of dance through documentation of live performances, fully edited marketing reels, live-stream capture, and documentaries and films that encapsulate the essence of nonprofit organizations.
Her New York City-based video production company has grown to encompass a diverse list of dance clients including American Ballet Theater II, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Gallim Dance, Gotham Arts, Kate Weare and Company, Keigwin + Company, Monica Bill Barnes Company, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Shen Wei Dance Arts, Wendy Whelan and many more. She has filmed performances at venues throughout the greater New York area including The Joyce Theater, New York Live Arts, Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, St. Mark’s Church and Judson Church, to name a few.
For nearly a decade, Nel has served as Festival Videographer for the internationally celebrated Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires. Each season at the Pillow, Nel’s responsibilities include documenting aspects of festival culture in addition to its 20 mainstage dance performances, filming and overseeing documentation of more than 100 free performances and events, managing two dance videography interns and an apprentice, and educating students about the technical and philosophical aspects of filming dance.
She also serves as Resident Videographer at the Vail International Dance Festival where she spent her first summer creating five short dance documentary films about the festival in addition to documenting its events and performances. Her longer-form, half-hour documentary on Vail’s festival, The Altitude of Dance, debuted on Rocky Mountain PBS in May 2013.
She has created four short films for Wendy Whelan’s Restless Creature, and she collaborated with Adam Barruch Dance to create a short film titled “Folie a Deux,” which was selected and screened at the Dance on Camera Festival in New York City and the San Francisco Dance Film Festival. She is making a dance documentary featuring Nejla Y. Yatkin, called Where Women Don’t Dance.
Nel has a long personal history with movement – she has a B.A. in dance and is a certified Pilates instructor. She continues to train with world-renowned Master Teachers Romana Krysnowska and Sari Pace, original students of Joseph Pilates. In addition to her dance degree, Nel holds a B.S. in broadcast video. She often collaborates with her wonderful husband, dance photographer (and fellow 4dancers contributor) Christopher Duggan on creative projects with dancers in New York City and beyond. They live with their beautiful daughter Gracie and son Jack in Manhattan.0
by Lizzie Leopold
Ask five people to define dance and you’ll probably get five different answers. Each dancemaker has a personal opinion (or opinions) about how to make steps, what those steps should look like, who should perform those steps, where those steps should be performed, and so on. And there are even those choreographers (Paul Taylor, most famously) who would tell you that you don’t need any steps at all; stillness is dancing too. So then, I’m back at the beginning. What is dance?
One of the common grounds that I keep returning to when trying to tackle this impossible question is audience. All of the disparate genres, venues, styles, and approaches share the act of watching. Sometimes the audience is also the dancer, starring back at herself in the mirror as she simultaneously moves and monitors. Sometimes the audience is 4,000 deep in an opera house. Of course there are exceptions (the private pajama-clad, living room jam session for one); but for this dancemaker there is always an audience.
With that idea settled, or at least settling, I can begin to ask myself more pressing questions about this common denominator. Questions like: What does the role of the audience entail? Is there a responsibility innate to the act of watching? What are the different kinds of watching? There is watching to judge and to criticize. And there is watching that works to examine and understand. There is watching without thinking and there is watching with deep, critical engagement. Is there such a thing as gendered, racialized, or sexualized watching? Dance scholars like Susan Manning would tell you yes. They would tell you that who you are, both how you see yourself and how you are seen by society at large, determines how you watch and what you see. They would tell you that the historical moment you inhabit colors your vision. They would tell you that like visual art, there is such a thing as the ‘period eye’ for dance spectators. We are conditioned to watch in a certain way and to see certain things.
So how would I characterize a 21st century dance audience? What kind of spectators are we? I believe that today’s audience, first and foremost, wants speed and efficiency. These are qualities that we have come to expect from our world. Technology has rendered us impatient; if a webpage takes more than four seconds to load it is refreshed or abandoned, and if the Lean Cuisine calls for a seven-minute cook time we are annoyed by the wait. So, what is dance’s role in either catering to or subverting this need for speed? I cannot answer that question for you. I can only offer my opinion, as one dancemaker, in one moment. And of course, as my world changes so will my answer. But for now, here is a proposal:
Stage the act of watching. Put the audience on the stage with the dancers so that they watch each other as much as they watch the dancing. Ask your dancers to be better audience members throughout dance work. Identify watching as an act of responsibility, witnessing as an act of humanity. Try to blur the lines between dancing and watching; strive for a place where the differences between the two actions are imperceptible and the similarities are many. Have dancers stare back. Write a to-the-point program note explaining your intentions and your questions, thus feeding the need for efficiency. Now your audience will spend less time ‘re-loading the page,’ having already understood its message. And, all the while, recognize your complicity in this 21st century pacing. Then end the dance slowly and, like the inertia that throws your head forward at the end of the roller coaster, imagine that the globe stutters on its axis momentarily.
This is just one answer, for one moment. It is the answer that I will stage on March 28-30 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. In this instance, as you can tell, I have given into speed and spectacle and I cannot wait to share the results. In the past I have staged slow dances, long dances, dances with closed eyes (of course, a nod to Yvonne Rainer’s pioneering subversion here), and dances without explanation. I watch all of my dances aware that there is no such thing as a neutral spectator or a passive spectator (with the possible exception of my father sleeping through childhood dance recitals).
And so I humbly ask, next time you enter a theater ask yourself what kind of spectator you are, and what kind of spectator you want to be. What do you see and how do you see it? After all, you, the witness, are a defining factor in the practice of dance and you hold its history in your remembrance.
Contributor Lizzie Leopold is a dancer, dance maker and dance scholar. She holds a BFA in dance from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Performance Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, with thesis work titled Choreography and Commerce: Tracking the Business of Dance Through the Rite(s) of Spring . In fall 2011 she will begin work on an Interdisciplinary PhD in Theater and Drama Studies at Northwestern University, continuing to focus on the intersection of dance and business, both historically and theoretically. Her writing has been presented at the Congress on Research in Dance 2011 Special Topics Conference, Dance and American Studies, and the Cultural Studies Association Conference 2011. She is also a contributor to the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University blog writing about their dance performance series.
Lizzie is the founder and Artistic Director for the Leopold Group, a Chicago based not-for-profit modern dance company. She was awarded Best Choreography for Green Eyes, a new kind of musical in the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival and has been in residence at the Workspace for Choreographers’ Artists Retreat in Sperryville, Virigina and at the Chicago Cultural Center through DanceBridge. In addition to choreographing, Leopold has danced with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She also works for Audience Architects (www.audiencearchitects.com, www.seechicagodance.com) , a service organization working to build audiences for dance in Chicago, and is working to launch the New Books Network Dance Channel podcast. She currently serves on the Alumni Board of Governors at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater and Dance.0
We just had to share these amazing photos of dancer Todd Fox at Miami Marine Stadium, which has become somewhat of a haven for artists of all kinds.
Be sure to visit their Facebook page for more of these…they’re beautiful!
Hopefully they will raise the funds to do some work there and be able to continue supporting dance and the arts!0