Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rehearsal Mistress

I am a rehearsal mistress for Provo Civic Ballet's "Nutcracker". (I can't say that without my non-dance friends making rather dirty jokes. And they're never that funny, honestly.) I enjoy the role, but it's not easy for me. This is only my second year, so I am still training my eye to take in the whole group. In case you, too, are new to running a rehearsal for choreography you didn't create, here are some things I've learned:

  • fix the spacing immediately. Don't wait until you have everything learned--fix it right now.
  • there is no such thing as being too familiar with the choreography. Some of the hardest hours of my career have been when I was pulled in last-minute to rehearse/clean something I'd never seen before.
  • when rehearsing young dancers, remember that they are learning how to learn choreography. It's a whole new ballgame for them so be patient. Lie if you must.
  • I try to alternate which cast I start with each week. Otherwise cast A gets the lion's share of attention and they end up looking much better. This doesn't seem fair to the equally hard-working other cast(s).
  • You will get better at this. Just like learning to dance or learning to teach, you can learn how to rehearse. Learn from your mistakes but don't beat yourself up about them or make them part of your identity.
I am lucky to work for an artistic director who, if asked, will give genuinely constructive criticism. She worked with me last year on some elements that I had overlooked and this year is already going so much better. Tonight was our first buffoon rehearsal and it was so good! I am practically giddy.

Of course, I can't take all the credit. All 21 of those dancers (who are all eight and nine years old) brought their A-game. I am so proud of all of them!

Monday, September 23, 2013


What is my posture doing in this picture? Why is my butt sticking out?
I have a love-hate thing with glissades. Well, actually, I don't love them at all but I do think that a series of glissades changée is one of the flirty-est steps there is. And a well-done glissade is simply beautiful. Oh, and they are one of the most common connecting steps in all of ballet so learning to do a good glissade is pretty important.

Unfortunately the difference between a crappy glissade and a beautiful one is about seven years of dedication. And I get to be the teacher during those years.

(Note: I love my job. I really do. It is a privilege and a joy. And involves a lot of glissades.)

My students are too young and inexperienced to recognize the difference between the glissades they are doing and the beautiful, amazing steps they could be doing in the future. That's okay--I will help them. Every single week. But that means we do glissades. Every single week. 

I think the kids are bored. They want to do fun, fancy things. They probably wonder why it seems like there is a glissade in every allegro. (Because there practically is.) I don't doubt that tonight at least one of them was thinking, "We know, Miss Chelsea. We've done this before." And it probably seems a little unreasonable of me to make them work on connecting steps instead of letting them run-run-run-LEAP to their little hearts' content. But they've gotten to the age where it's time to get serious. For those who really want to be ballerinas, we've got to put in the work. 

Tonight was a tough-love night. I'm lousy at tough love. Happy, sparkly, butterfly love? Totally my wheelhouse. But no one gets better without someone pushing them to do the hard stuff. And I care about my students, so I'm going to push them. This is just a dip. So yes, the next lesson plan contains more glissades.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Feel Free to Laugh

The shorts in question. Oh, and my awesome tricep muscle. Who knew I had that?!
I had the weirdest thing happen to me today. I took Wilson's class this morning and his class is always hard. Good, artistic, enjoyable, challenging, well-planned, fun and insightful--but also hard. And he likes to end his classes with a series of small jumps.

(Side note: I feel like calling them "small jumps" is misleading. They don't travel anywhere, but the expectation is that I'll somehow manage to get really high off the ground.)

Lately Wilson has been having us do Italian changements as part of the small jumps. In general, I have a very high opinion of the Italians. I could even see myself happily living in southern Italy. But these changements and I don't get a long so well. I'm more of a legato body, myself, so the power needed for this jump really doesn't come easily to me. But whatever. Wilson believes in working on your weaknesses. He's so nice to give me lots of chances.

So there I was, jumping like my life depended on it. I finished the combination and felt something weird on the back of my legs. I absent-midedly brushed my hand across my leg, expecting to find a hair or thread, only to find my shorts. I don't know how, but I managed to literally jump out of my shorts.

This was a completely new experience for me. I've never seen or even heard of this happening before. I wasn't quite sure how I felt. On the one hand, I was super-proud of myself. I mean, people say, "I worked my butt off!" all the time--but I sort of actually did. That's pretty awesome.

On the other hand, my clothes fell off. In a room full of mirrors. And there were other people around. I felt the same kind of embarrassment that I feel on behalf of those 19-year-old guys walking around with their pants half-way down their legs. I never thought I'd be feeling that for myself. I'm generally pretty good about keeping clothes on.

In case you're wondering, no, the elastic in the shorts did not snap. They did not simply bite the dust and wear out. They are perfectly fine. I know because I spent some time walking around my house in them today to make sure. I just managed to jump out of them.

I hope my toes were pointed.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Salt Lake ComiCon

Clearly, she had a much better costume than I did
On Friday my family and I went to the first ever Salt Lake ComiCon. It was also my first con and I had so much fun!! I am totally excited to go next year!

I really don't have much more to say about it except that I loved the guy in the Dr. Horrible costume and forgot to get his picture. Oh, and you can't tell from the picture above, but I went in fishnets and high-heeled boots (because, duh, original series Star Trek). My feet were killing me by the end of the day--and I'm used to some pretty brutal stuff.

But it was totally worth it. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Fun Idea

You may remember that last spring I went to Center Stage's production of "The Wizard of Oz." It was a great production and I really enjoyed it. But that's not what I want to write about tonight.

I happened to be at Center Stage a couple of weeks before the production and I saw that their ballet director, the very talented Melissa Staheli, was hosting a "Wizard of Oz" party. The dancers brought pillows (and treats, I'm assuming) and all watched the movie together. I thought this was a really fun idea.

  • It was a great way to re-energize and inspire the dancers towards the end of rehearsals. Let's face it, the 900th time you've rehearsed something is not the most fun thing in the world. Incredibly important, but not all that fun. A movie party is fun.
  • It was a great way to remind the cast that, for the most part, they liked each other. After what feels like a million hours together, it's pretty easy to forget the good things about people and remember their mildly annoying habits.
  • It was a great way to make sure all the kids fully understood the story they were acting out. You think everyone totally knows the story? Think again. My kids have never seen the movie. (My little sister loved "The Wizard of Oz" growing up and watched it at least once a week. When we moved, I "accidentally" lost it. She's still mad at me about it. We moved 16 years ago.) 

Melissa is a very talented teacher and choreographer. I like to borrow ideas from her whenever I can. This one I'm sharing with everyone.