Take That Back, Performance WAS Heinous!

DVDs from the school of the March performance just came out and I saw myself dance. Ewwwwwwwwww! I look like a spaghetti. Seriously. My arms are flapping madly about; I look like I have no skeleton whatsoever. And I was so scared, I had this look on my face like I’d just received shock therapy and my shoulders were hunched straight up to my ears throughout the entire three minutes. And I looked truly horrified whenever I looked out into the audience – -and blinded; now I do remember the lights being so bright, I got really distracted looking out. I’m never ever ever looking at the audience again; if Pasha makes me face front, I’ll still crock my head and focus my gaze on him — I am dancing with him after all. And in our little Romeo and Juliet pose I look like I’m casting a spell on him not looking down adoringly.
A co-worker friend wanted to see the tape, since he couldn’t make the performance (thankfully), but no way is anyone seeing this. I agreed to show him the the still pictures, which somehow didn’t turn out quite as horrid. But when he saw the carryoff lift I told him I took from the Lavery R&J, he said, “Oh yeah, this is after you’re dead, right.”

“No,” I said. “Romeo predeceases Juliet. She takes drugs at one point and he does a quite beautiful dance with her looking like a rag doll, but this isn’t that scene. This is from the balcony scene and I’m being swept off my feet. Are you sure it doesn’t look like I’m being swept off my feet?”

He scrutinized the picture again. “Nah, you look dead.”


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Very excited! I just received an email from one of the Blackpool B&Bs I’d queried weeks ago asking if they still had a room available for the dance festival in late May / early June, and the last one just responded with a “yes!” So, I quickly called the Winter Gardens and confirmed that they still have standing room season tickets available, made a plane reservation to Manchester, and, except for the train tickets between Manchester and Blackpool, I’m all set! Now I can’t get that “Manchester England England” song from “Hair” out of my head… I’m so excited — my first year there! I can’t wait to see the beautiful flowing ballgowns encompass the entire floor during the Standard comp — especially the Quickstep when the dancers are just flying — ah, such a fairytale…

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I Can Never Be a Ballerina Because…

… not because they can do about 3,645 fouettés in a row or chaîné all the way across a football field-sized floor or balance their entire weight on a point about the width of a dime on their big toe. I can never be a real ballet dancer because I can’t sew. Seriously and sadly. Not that I could ever do the other abovementioned things of course, but you’d think sewing would be pretty basic. Not for me. The clerks at Bloch’s honestly laughed at me when they sold me the shoes and sewing kit and elastics and I insisted I’m a lawyer and will never be able to do it myself and please just tell me where I can find a good ballet shoe sewer, assuring me it would be no problem, they had faith, everyone can do it, children can do it for gods’ sakes… I was up all last night with the damn things. The supposedly handy dandy little Bunheads kit did not explain how to thread the needle, make knots, make the closure, and stitch through the tough tough TOUGH leather. It took me hours, and though I did it, I don’t at all trust my work. I’m sure tonight in class my elastics will go shooting and hit some poor student or teacher in the eye or something.

When I called my mom to enlist her help, I could hear her eyes rolling. She’s long given up telling me that my lack of traditional female skills are at least partly responsible for you know what. Nope, I have none and never have. For the past six months Con Ed has been sending me warning notices that my meter may not be properly connected since it shows no gas usage whatsoever. And I remember in grad school my boyfriend was always expressing disgust with the sloppy apartments maintained by both me and my best friend and fellow female grad student. Many of my current female friends – most of whom are lawyers or other professionals – are just as hideously lacking. Yet, the single men I know, not so much. Not at all really. Do we just not have the time for such trifles, or are subconsciously acting out against a stereotype that’s really pretty much defunct now anyway.

And, now that I think of it, at one ballet studio I go to, most of whose patrons I think I can assume are professional women, I regularly see shoes with only one side of the elastic sewn, the other dangling, causing the foot to lift out of the shoe and the student obviously to lose balance, or one side of the elastic sewn horrendously crookedly, one end attached mid-foot, the other at, like, the heel, etc. You definitely don’t see such things at, for example, Broadway Dance Center. And, one of the reasons I like the first studio is that the students are like me – i.e.: not professional dancers, unlike those who, for example, take Ballet for Absolute Beginners at Steps, either for practice, or to freak out people like me. But, as I’ve always been told from the time I first began applying to college, it’s largely your fellow students who will make your education.

Ugh, so I guess if well-sewn shoe equates with real dancer, I will have to overcome my probable subconscious-reaction-against-a-now-defunct-stereotype. There’s a time for learning everything…

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Wait, Melanie LaPatin Was on What Show!

After sending out an email about my not completely horrible performance in Long Island and my excitement over being able to wear Melanie LaPatin’s dress, one of my smart-ass former West Coast Swing teammates wrote back that she was on some show called “What Not to Wear” where they criticize your wardrobe? I don’t have cable since if I gave myself any more reason to watch t.v. I’d get even less done than I do now, so I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked him what they criticized her for and he said he didn’t remember but thought it was for wearing too much black. Which is of course the color of the dress I wore… Well, hey, I mean, this is New York! If we wore any other color, it’d turn black anyway from taxi and bus exhaust and newspaper ink left on subway seats, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Anyway, I’m standing up for my sweet, short, sexy, ruffly-bottomed champion-worn borrowed dress!

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Performance Was Not Heinous!

Yes – I did it. I performed in front of three people and I didn’t fall! No, seriously, there were more than three people there and I did lose my balance a bit at the beginning, on a completely easy step, though I didn’t fall. I think it was because of the lights – they were so bright. It always looks like performers are looking at you – how do they do that? Even though we had a dress rehearsal with the lights, I was still a bit disoriented, and I lost my footing on a step that required me to face toward the audience, rather than Pasha. Thankfully, he was holding on to me. And it was at the beginning, before all of our lifts and tricks, so hopefully people didn’t remember :) After that, I just tried to focus on Pasha, even when I was to face front. Everything went okay; it wasn’t my best run-through of the routine, but wasn’t my worst. And I think my nerves about performing were overtaken with nerves about the dress working out. But very very cool thing: because the studio co-owner felt badly for me because of my costume fiasco, she ended up letting me wear one of her old costumes. So, I got to wear a dress formerly worn by the 1995 national Latin champion! Sweet end to a screwed-up ordeal!

Oh, and I realized the coach was right when he reminded me that the audience is largely comprised of regular people, not professional dancers. We got applause for all of our lifts – even the ones where I couldn’t hoist myself up as far as I wanted to or forgot to point my toe or didn’t get my back leg into a perfect attitude position – basically had a problem with each one, but still cheers… And, we got applause for my dip / spin / lift thingy that I worked so hard to do properly and wanted in the routine so badly – well, dancer Karina Smirnoff’s dip / spin / lift thingy. And many many many thanks to Pasha for letting me practice it over and over, seeing as how it’s hard not to knee the guy on your way toward him and into the trick. Anyway, this whole thing taught me that maybe I have a choreographic sense of what audiences like – even if said audience is just being nice to the dancer me by applauding my screw-ups. I wanna be a choreographer now! Although since I wasn’t a real dancer first, maybe that wouldn’t work too well… I’d be asking dancers to do things that were physically impossible or something…

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I May Be a Latin Dancer But I am Not a D Cup!!!

Yikes. My showcase is in two days and my dressmaker is just now making the dress. I had wanted a ballet-style dress, much in the style of the gown Alessandra wears in the balcony pas de deux in Romeo and Juliet. But the fabric she chose, while beautiful, does not seem to be conducive to that style – or else she’s not sure exactly how to make it, being a Latin dressmaker. But the weirdest thing is that she seems to want to put these humongous bra cups into it. I told her they were too big – I’m a petite person and a definite B cup and I’ll look like Pamela Anderson. But she insisted they are Latin cups, and are what are used in Latin. The Pamela Anderson look might work if the dancer was staying on the ground and remaining upright, but I’m doing theater arts stuff – I’m going to go shooting right out of that bra during my fish dive. A guy who saw her fitting me said, “Don’t worry, the guys will love it.” Yeah, right. But seriously, she would not put a smaller cup into the bra, said she didn’t have any, this was the smallest a Latin cup came. Then, she said, “And besides, Latin women are proud of their bodies.” What? I’m not not proud – I’m just not a D. She finally said if I found other cups she’d be amenable.

So, next day at work, I called the ballroom dress store LeNique. An Australian guy answered. Embarrassed, I asked him if they sold bra cups. He said no, they had their own supply for their own dresses but didn’t sell them individually, although he thought some place in the Garment District did. I asked him if he knew where that place was, and he began thumbing through a phone book. Very nice guy. I felt badly about asking him to recommend another retailer, so I mumbled, “I’m sorry, it’s just that it’s kind of an emergency.” My office-mate started cracking up, and cried, “Help, I have a blind date tonight and he thinks I’m a double D; I need stuffing fast.” I shushed her, but LeNique guy overheard and started laughing. Anyway, he did end up finding a place for me in the Garment District – so thank you LeNique guy! I went on my lunch hour, and they had every cup size imaginable. Their cups actually looked a bit small. So I bought one B and one C. I mean, one pair of each, of course… I brought them to my dressmaker, and she rolled her eyes, and said they were not the right shape – too circular, instead of demi, and repeated that they weren’t Latin. She finally said she’d use whatever I wanted at this point.

I don’t think the dress is going to work out because the material’s just not right. But I still don’t get the Latin versus ballet thing – every Latin dancer is the same cup size? Stacey Keibler’s cups were smallish, weren’t they?

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Be Careful Whom You're Rude to in New York, Or, Do Not Try to Pick Up a Woman Engrossed in Marcelo Gomes's Butt

During intermission at the New York City Ballet a few nights ago, I was browsing through their gift shop and spotted this large colorful book filled with juicy photos and bios of several ABT and NYCB dancers. Looked enticing, especially for a huge ballet fan. But it was expensive, and with all the money I spend on Ballroom, I’m forced to be a total cheapskate in all of my other leisure spending. So, I figured the next time I had nothing to do, I’d go to Barnes & Noble, camp out on the floor and flip through it.

When my plans for Saturday night were cancelled, that’s just what I did. Whilst sitting cross-legged on the floor (since of course there’s never a free Café chair) contemplating a glossy photo of Marcelo Gomes’s naked backside, I heard this voice above me say, “what ya readin’?” I looked up at the guy to see if he was someone I might know from dance (since I see people from my studio from time to time in the dance section), but he wasn’t; he was this weirdly nerdy guy with a cowlick at his crown and horrible posture. I said it was a book about ballet and he barked, “Ballet? Why?” making me feel defensive. I wasn’t interested in talking to him, so I just kind of hunched further down into the book. He continued looking at me for several seconds, then picked up a music score and plopped down next to me. But I could see him looking at me out of the corner of my eye and felt a bit uncomfortable, especially given the story of poor Imette St. Gillen. You really can’t be too careful right now, you know.

I bent my head down deeply into the mesh screen covering Marcelo, only to sense now another guy on my opposite side, peering down at me. “How do you like that book?,” this one said. Okay, has B&N become the new pickup scene? Or is it just the dance section, because I never get this kind of attention in fiction… I shrugged and mumbled, “Dunno, I just picked it up,” poking my head further into the protective haven that Marcelo’s butt was becoming. But this one chuckled and said, “Well, it’s my book, that’s why I was asking, just wanted to know what you thought.” I looked up at him, not knowing whether to take him for real, and he laughed, seeming to pick up my vibe, then was gone. I flipped to the book’s credits page with pictures of the contributors – a dance critic, the photographer Roy Round, and the publisher who put it all together – and sure enough, he was the latter. Guess he was checking out the stock. His bio looked interesting — he’s actually a lawyer with a keen interest in dance and publishing — hmmm, sounds familiar. He was much older, but he would have been interesting to talk to. Damn, missed my chance. Guess it pays to look and think before making yourself unapproachable — you never know whom you’re going to meet in New York! While exercising due caution, of course.

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Uptown Women Have No Bodies

Very annoyed. Many of my friends and family are crazed Dancing With the Stars watchers. So, I figured I’d let them know about the PBS special America’s Ballroom Challenge, a televised event that occurred at the Ohio Star Ball in November last year, in Columbus Ohio, which I attended and in which my teachers competed (and made the finals!). Anyway, the first half of it aired a few days ago. I asked everyone what they thought. One person exclaimed that obviously Dancing With the Stars must have unearthed the best-looking dancers and it was really hard to watch such homely people, even if their costumes were lovely. Another remarked that the beautiful ballroom gowns often conflicted with the dancers’ not so beautiful faces. Another said she couldn’t believe how fat most of the Latin dancers were and she’d never wear such a tiny costume. Another said she thought when the Latin dancers “squoze” their back muscles, the fat protruded, and she wouldn’t do that so much if she was them. (Because Latin dancing isn’t about really moving your body or anything…) I honestly have yet to hear one person tell me what they thought of the DANCING.

A few weeks ago, I attended a panel discussion on representations of the body in contemporary dance at the Dance Theater Workshop in Chelsea. All of the panelists, who were either choreographers or dance scholars, were total theory heads and I understood about a half of one percent of what they were saying. But one female scholar, was all too clear when she snidely remarked, “Well, up until recently dancers didn’t even have bodies, not to mention brains, and uptown they still don’t. Instead they have anorexia and bunions and nicotine addictions, since there’s no way you can remain 108 pounds without one.” Of course she was talking about ballet, and I don’t think she was talking about Jose or Marcelo or Angel. It was hard not to laugh at the way she said it, but the comment stung since I’m such a ballet lover, not to mention a petite woman. I assume the audience was filled with modern dancers, DTW being a modern dance theater, and I felt like everyone was looking at me as the representative of bodiless, brainless, male-dominated women – none of which I am just because I’m thin.

After thinking about it, I remembered that this scholar was tiny herself – couldn’t have possibly weighed over 108, if even that. And many of the critics of my fellow Latin dancers are large themselves. I guess it’s a form of female self-criticism to be most harsh on other women who seem to embody the physical problems we find in ourselves. Still, it bothers me that a female dancer’s worth seems to revolve around her body. It makes me feel like, what’s the point of working so hard on contracting and expanding my pelvis in Samba and my upper back and hips Rhumba if I’m just going to be the little spidery-limbed Balanchine girl.

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My Duty to Perform

Okay, just received about the biggest back-handed compliment ever. Last night at my studio, we had a party, and my Cha Cha teacher wanted the class to perform the routine we’ve been working on. There are several “students” in the class who are professional jazz and ballet dancers who are learning ballroom so that they can eventually teach it. I was really nervous, especially given that I’m the worst in the class, but figured it would be good experience for my upcoming theater showcase in March, and there didn’t seem to be that many people there, so I thought I’d try. But, while I was resting in the lounge between class and party, another student apparently thought I was trying to calm my nerves, and sat down next to me. “Hey,” she said, “you must be really nervous. I know, we’re the only non-professionals in the class. But, really, I think it’s very good for other students to see someone who’s obviously not a professional trying hard and yet not giving up. Shows them how hard it is to be a real dancer…” Ugh. Can’t wait to get on that stage in Long Island now!

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Jonathan Roberts stole my song!

Ugh, the nerve of him. Just kidding:) I’m set to perform my very first student / teacher showcase on March 11th and I worked so hard to find the perfect Rhumba song and help my coach and teacher to choreograph a very cool routine, only to turn on Dancing With the Stars last night and see Jonathan and Giselle have already had their way with Jessica Simpson’s remake of Take My Breath Away! Which is a problem for me of course because anyone who will be in my audience likely will be a ballroom fan and thus have religiously watched DWTS, and because Giselle is so gorgeous and such a wonderful dancer – especially for having studied it for like, two days… ugh, they will know how it’s really supposed to look! This is my first time performing on a real stage (albeit a small one) before a real audience (albeit a very small one) since I was about 9 years old and was in a school production of Swan Lake at Phoenix Symphony Hall. My adult stage fright seems to be about 300 times what it was then.

Oh well. Our routine will be different, to be sure, because, in my quest to fulfill my goofy dream of pretending to be ballet goddess Alessandra Ferri, I managed to coax the studio-owner coach (who does the choreography) and my poor teacher (who does the dancing) into putting several pretty lifts into ours – which the DWTS contestants were forbidden from doing. Why was that? Because they’re significantly harder for the male amateurs than the females, or because of age differences in the contestants? That’s my favorite part, man.

Anyway, I have to laugh at myself because over the past several months that I’ve been so immersed in the world of dance, I’ve heard ad nauseam complainants like, so and so stole my costume design, so and so stole my choreography… And, I’m always like, jeez, calm down. At work, we have a brief bank and continuing legal education meetings; we constantly borrow argumentative strategies and ideas from each other. And now, my first reaction upon seeing J & G’s routine is to have a nervous breakdown over the song!

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