by Gigi Berardi
Stunning, breathtakingly beautiful, and unparalleled in programing and performance, PNB’s November program, Kylian + Pite, was one not to be missed. It is easily the most memorable (non-full-length ballet) program in the almost 20 years that I have been viewing and reviewing the company.
Huge kudos to Peter Boal, ballet masters all, and the generous supporters that made the PNB premieres possible – Forgotten Land (Kylian) and Emergence (Pite). Both ballets were utterly unforgettable, not to mention the gorgeous music of the PNB Orchestra.
In terms of performance, here are just a few highlights –
Foster and Mullin as the insect creatures emerging from the depths in Crystal Pite’s Emergence
- Orza, Porretta, Bold, Gaines, and Bartee, as well as every single principal female — in anything
- Samuelson breaking out and through in everything
- Actually, all the petite mort dancers, who lived and breathed the ballet’s roles
- In Sechs Tänze, the Imler, Merchant, Foster, Kitchens crew – mesmerizing
- Forgotten Land – every single dancer made that piece come alive – haunting with a capital “H,” the dancers were aided in their other-worldliness by the literal and exquisite East Anglia backdrop
- Week 2, virtually all the corps dancers (there were a few that needed a bit more confidence, if not rehearsal) in first-time roles – Bravo, Brava, Bravi, Brave!!!!!
This program, quite simply, will live in PNB’s history as one of its finest. Of course, there’s always 2014-2015.
Gigi Berardi holds a MA in dance from UCLA. Her academic background and performing experience allow her to combine her interests in the natural and social sciences with her passion for dance, as both critic and writer. Over 150 articles and reviews by Ms. Berardi have appeared in Dance Magazine, Dance International, the Los Angeles Times, the Anchorage Daily News, The Olympian, The Bellingham Herald, and scientific journals such as BioScience, Human Organization, and Ethics, Place, and Environment. Her total work numbers over 400 print and media pieces.
Her public radio features (for KSKA, Anchorage) have been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Dance Critics Association, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, as well as Book Review editor for The Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. A professor at Western Washington University, she received the university’s Diversity Achievement Award in 2004. Her fifth book, Finding Balance: Fitness and Training for a Lifetime in Dance, is in its second printing. Her current book project is titled A Cultivated Life.
by Christopher Duggan
He photographs dancers in the studio and in performance, for promotional materials, portraits and press, and he often collaborates with his wife, Nel Shelby, and her Manhattan-based dance film and video editing company Nel Shelby Productions (nelshelby.com). Together, they have documented dance at performances from New York City to Vail International Dance Festival.
Christopher Duggan Photography also covers the finest wedding venues in the Metropolitan and Tri-State areas, in Massachusetts and the Berkshires, and frequently travels to destination weddings.
His photographs appear in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Knot, Destination I Do, Photo District News, Boston Globe, Financial Times, Dance Magazine, and Munaluchi Bridal, among other esteemed publications and popular dance and wedding blogs. One of his images of Bruce Springsteen was added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and his dance photography has been exhibited at The National Museum of Dance and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
His Natural Light Studio (http://www.christopherduggan.com/portfolio/natural-light-studio-jacobs-pillow-photography/) at Jacob’s Pillow is his most ambitious photography project to date – check out his blog to see more portraits of dance artists in his pop-up photo studio on the Pillow grounds.
Today we have a guest post. Please join me in welcoming Stephanie Wolf to 4dancers. Stephanie and I met on Twitter when we were talking about a particular quote. I asked if she would expand on it a bit from her perspective, and she kindly agreed to make the time..
“Talent is cheap; dedication is expensive. It will cost you your life.” – Irving Stone
At the age of 14, I knew I wanted to be a dancer. From that moment forward, my life changed forever.
Stone speaks of art as a calling, not as a choice in life. In his novel The Agony and the Ecstasy, he fictionalizes the trials and tribulations of the great sculptor and painter Michelangelo, using him as a vessel to convey this very sentiment. People possessing an artist’s soul and not simply an aptitude for art, will pour everything he or she has into it.
Passion is a beautiful thing, but be careful of its power. It can become all consuming. Driven by my own passion for dance, it was impossible to separate the professional from the personal. It was all intertwined, unclear where one ended and the other began.
For over twenty years, my dedication to ballet cost me many aspects of my life. Long rehearsals, runs of performances, and hours on the tour bus sometimes left me crabby and too tired to be social. Most often, those closest to me were also in the profession, and we could commiserate together about our aches and professional heartaches. I had many close and wonderful friends, but my romantic ventures were often tempered by my obsession with ballet.2
by Emily Kate Long
My last Finding Balance post discussed balance and alignment in the physical sense. I talked about how misalignments in the body can bring about sensory dissonance. In this post, I’ll look a different kind of alignment and dissonance: when our expectations of ourselves don’t line up with our work. Today I want to share some items that are not dance-specific, but very readily apply to the setting, meeting, and letting go of our expectations.
Labors of love come with high expectations, and high expectations demand a high workload. Dancers know this. Anyone who pursues art for a living knows this. The rewards can be huge, so the work is not easy. The first treasure I have to share is a list of ten rules for students, teachers, and life by Sister Mary Corita Kent, an artist and educator who gained reknown in the 1960s and 1970s. Merce Cunningham kept a copy of these rules in his studio. They are well worth hanging. Here’s the full list, from Kent’s Learning by Heart:
- Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while
- General duties of a student: pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students
- General duties of a teacher: pull everything out of your students
- Consider everything an experiment
- Be self-disciplined—this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
- Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail, only make
- The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all f the time who eventually catch on to things.
- Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.
- Be happy whenever you can manage it. It’s lighter than you think.
- “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” John Cage
Hints: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything—it might come in handy later.
This list sums up just about everything needed to pursue excellence. What I really love about it is the emphasis on allowing room for errors and questions, and leaving no stone unturned.
As a complement to Kent’s list, and to illustrate a challenge I and many other dancers face, I also want to share Sheri LeBlanc’s essay, “The Perfectionist Dilemma.” In it, LeBlanc sensitively teases apart excellence pursuit and perfectionism, which, as she puts it, are similar only as far as the results each can produce. One gives us a healthy relationship with our efforts and achievements, while the other sets up for feelings of failure and inadequacy, no matter what we achieve. Expecting perfection from ourselves or from anyone around us automatically misaligns expectation with outcome.
What we have so far are guidelines for the pursuit of excellence, and thoughts on the damaging effects of perfectionism. My third offering is a tool to help us let go of our attachments to any unreasonable expectations we may have of ourselves. If our creative work is inherently experimental, as Sister Corita’s list suggests, it requires us to throw out unsuccessful outcomes continually. If it is to be enjoyable, it requires us to experience our successes as fully as we can. A talk by Matthew Brensilver on clinging and letting go from Zencast gives a ton of insight on letting go of beliefs, identities, and the need to be right. It’s a forty-minute, free podcast that I highly recommend. To summarize wouldn’t do it justice, but the angle he takes is the Buddhist teaching that all things and states of being are impermanent, so all can be let go when they don’t align with the present moment. I feel that approach is apt for dance, a living art.
The final item I want to share is an episode of Radiolab (another podcast) that provides a thoughtful and humorous look at misalignment of expectations in history. “Musical Language” takes a look at what happens between the ears and the brain when we hear unfamiliar or dissonant noises. I’m including it here because it features, at around 26 minutes in, the legendary riot at the premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The whole episode has to do with how the brain orders unfamiliar sounds and looks for patterns. I think there’s a parallel here for the way we try to make sense of our bodies and physical capabilities each day, or seek patterns to learn new movement. It’s also pretty funny to listen to, if you need a short science break to liven up your day.
Readers, I hope these four treats provide some new perspective on the subject of measuring up to expectations. They are thoughtful, entertaining, playful, stark, challenging—words that also describe the artist’s work.
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.0
Four years ago, I was invited by choreographer Nejla Y. Yatkin to follow her dance company NY2 Dance on tour in Central America. Our daughter Gracie was only 15 months old, and I was ready to say no – that I couldn’t take this on right now, but something told me there was something too special about this opportunity to pass up.So I packed my bags and left Gracie home with Christopher. I filmed hours and hours of performances, workshops, site-specific works and personal interviews during the tour, and the more I filmed, the more I realized that this story we were telling was bigger than we ever imagined. It wasn’t documenting performance or experience on tour – it was documenting Nejla’s personal story of strength and perseverance in her culture and career. We’ve held on to the footage for far too long, and it’s time to make this film. Where Women Don’t Dance is a truly inspiring story. It translates beyond the personal, beyond the dances performed on stage. In many ways, this documentary is a contribution to a more serious conversation about the ways women face restrictions in full expression near and far.In a time when politicians, business leaders, news outlets and more and more women are openly discussing how to deal with glass ceilings, achieve equal pay for equal work and find balance professionally, spiritually and personally at work and at home, we need to finish this film and add to the discourse. So we’re working on it!!
In our film, Nejla opens up about her personal passion for dance and the conflicts it has posed within her family and community. Born to Turkish parents in Berlin, Nejla and her family were expected to honor their roots and culture through their everyday actions. Encouraged by her parents, she studied Turkish folk dance at a very young age. Folk dance was a way for her to connect to her heritage. They didn’t realize it was also an entryway into the wider dance world – a realm where she learned to truly express herself. At the age of 14, Nejla started studying with two dance teachers from New York City. They changed her life as they introduced her to new ways of moving. (How many of us have had dance teachers that have changed our lives? I’m pretty sure we all relate to this part!!) But contemporary styles of dance would not be received well by her parents, and performance was out of the question. It is considered a sin in her culture for women to dance in public. So Nejla continued to study but was forced to hide this part of her training and her life from everyone she knew.
I invite you to watch our trailer and learn more about how we’re raising the money to make this film a reality. Please help us spread the word about this beautiful film. We can’t wait to share it with you!
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 promotional films.
Her New York City-based video production company has grown to encompass a diverse list of dance clients, and she works with an ever-wider variety of dance artists each year in her role as the Festival Videographer at Jacob’s Pillow and as Resident Videographer at the Vail International Dance Festival. Her half-hour documentary on Vail’s festival, The Altitude of Dance, debuted on Rocky Mountain PBS in May 2013. 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.