A Day in the Life, One Keek at a Time

Keek – verb (used without object) Scot. and North England. To peep; look furtively.

Follow me on Keek as I share microvideos of my life as a ballerina, one keek at a time!
(Still not sure what exactly Keek is all about? Think Twitter + YouTube rolled into one!)
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‘Behind the Scenes’ from Yesterday’s Photo Shoot

All pictures were taken on my dad’s phone. The actual photos from the shoot will take some time to be edited and developed, but of course I will post them as soon as I myself have my hands on them! … Continue reading

3 Weeks and a Reflection

Yesterday evening I performed as a guest artist with Susan Chambers Dance Company in their concert. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to test out my variations on stage prior to performing them at YAGP!

Backstage with my coach in between variations

Stage make up!

For the most part, it went well – I made no major errors in my dancing, and I did thoroughly enjoy it, which was very important for me (and I therefore feel it was a success in at least one way!) Technically, my performance was not where it should have been – or, not where it needs to be for YAGP! While of course I could – and should – have done better, I think it was far from a failed performance! In fact, I feel that it was successful in another way, too. If you look back through some of my other posts, you will come across several mentions of the mentality I must have behind my dancing; one area of big focus recently has been learning not to be nervous [and then everything that goes along with, and is related to, this skill]. I am really happy to announce that I’m starting to really develop this skill! Yesterday I was not nervous, I was no excited – no, I was very calm, cool, and collected, and this is exactly as it should be! After all, this is my life! Just an ordinary day, an ordinary performance, no big deal at all 🙂

Still, there is no denying that I have a lot of work yet to be done!

I have 3 weeks now to really push myself to my limits, and I assure you I intend to do nothing less than my best! And when I have the intentions of doing something, I DO IT, no matter what!

In thinking about what exactly went wrong that made my performance anything less than perfect yesterday, and in an effort to do all I can to fix my faults and do it perfectly at YAGP (and from here on forward), I was able to gather a few ‘key points’ which I can now use to make some plans for how I will best put these next 3 weeks to good use. 3 weeks is a lot of time – if I use my time wisely and efficientlly!

Problem 1: I have been treating rehearsals and stage performances differently, taking a different approach to them and going in with a different frame of mind – and it should not be so! To further expand, I have been doing this in two ways: the first is that when I am dancing during rehearsal, the thought running through my head is, “It’s only rehearsal – if I mess up I can do it again – so I will take this ‘risk’ and push myself to do a triple pirouette and go above and beyond each time,” which is not a bad way to think in and of itself; however, the problem presents itself when this frame of mind is contrasted with the one running through my head while on stage, in which I find myself thinking, “Oh! It’s the real thing now, I’m on stage, and so I must do it well, I must not mess up, or else!” This translates into self-doubt, which results in me being cautious and careful – and I end up not doing nearly as well, both because I am doing, for example, less rotations in my turns, and also because any self-doubt peaks out under all that makeup and shows itself in my performance (and that’s very bad indeed)!

The second way in which Problem 1 comes about is my laziness. Wait, what?! Yep, I said it – laziness. Now, ‘lazy’ is the last adjective anyone, including myself, would use to describe me, but I feel that there is no better word to explain what is going on here. You see, I get tired – exhausted, actually! – during rehearsals…understandably so, considering I usually have rehearsals after classes and it’s late at night. But  understandable is not excusable! I tend to let any fatigue get the best of me, and I submit to [incredibly false] self-reassurances that, “Oh, it’s alright – I’ll do it better on stage, I’ll have enough energy and adrenaline then to  really do it full out!” Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! In fact, it’s completely the opposite – I need to KILL myself in rehearsal so that when I get to the stage I don’t need to give a second thought to have enough energy and adrenaline to get through the variation full out. Common sense – but it seems to escape me when I am aching and tired! Not anymore, though.

Solution 1:

  1. Treat rehearsals and performance the same exact way. They are the same exact anyway! Each rehearsal must be done as if I am on stage, and each performance will in turn be done the same as if I were in rehearsal. Not only will that result in a better performance (and overall better strength and stamina), but emotionally I will also be much improved. Technically and energy-wise, I will be stronger because of having practiced it  completely full out each and every time at rehearsal; and artistically, and emotionally, I will be stronger because of me going in with the same attitude on stage as I take with me into rehearsals – so there is no need to fear the stage any more than there is a need to fear rehearsals. Makes sense, don’t you think?
  2. Record myself during rehearsals. This will allow me to see my mistakes – and the good aspects of my dancing!! – for myself, and to better develop my performance. Seeing it for myself will also teach me more about self-correction and applying any corrections, as well as giving myself a better idea of how I actually dance [it’s funny, but now I think about it, I only have a vague “intrinsic” idea of what my dancing is like!] In addition to this, another benefit that goes along with recording myself is that it makes it more ‘equal’ to performances, which just goes back to helping me succeed in treating rehearsals and performances the same exact way, as I wrote about above.
Problem 2: One of my biggest corrections during my variations is my knees – I have trouble controlling them. They are hyperextended, but I tend not to straighten them all the way like they should be in some movements while I’m dancing. So I always need to focus on pulling my knees up and straightening them hard. I would like to do what I can to make this come more easily to me, so that I have to think about it less and that it’s just something that involves more muscle memory than…memory memory 😛 Luckily, there is an easy solution to this!
Solution 2:
  1. Do specific exercises to help strengthen and gain control of my knees.
  2. Be more mindful of my knees during class, and learn to use them properly then so that I can better apply it during rehearsal.
And honestly, I can [and should, and will] apply this same thing to my upper body and my arches, as well.
In these 3 weeks, I also will continue with my weight loss and body goals.
What else am I going to accomplish in these 3 weeks?
I’m going to focus like I have never focused before. This is the real thing, and it’s a very serious thing. There is no room for games, and no room for half-hearted attempts or any hint of hesitation. I’m taking a new approach to my dancing and it does not involve any childish behaviors or jokes.
I’m going to be calm and playful and artistic with my variations, and do them well each time. And I will look like a professional ballerina, not like a shy girl who wants to be a ballerina but is unsure of herself. NO, I am sure of myself and I will show it.
And I have a plan for how I will accomplish all of that! I intend to use every ounce of strength in me and every second of time I have to dedicate myself to this mission of sorts. I am going to try to get access to the studio some mornings so that I can go in by myself and work on everything from my exercises to my variations.
I have 4 days off now from ballet, which for once I am actually happy about and am very grateful to have. I am glad I have this time off because I hope that by resting for four days my body will heal all its injuries, namely my right hamstring. Perhaps my toe will feel better, too. I’m going to do everything I can to rest my body and help it heal – epsom salt baths, sauna, Finalgon…anything and everything to promote healing so that when I come back I can get down to things and work to my bare bones!

And so, the next three weeks are bound to be busy, but also incredibly growth-promoting and I am very much looking forward to perfecting my variations for YAGP!! I know I can do it because I HAVE done it!

I will finish this post with one last snippet of my recent epiphanies: my thought process during the actual variation is skewed from what it should be. I realized this yesterday. I realized that I was thinking about any mistakes I had made when really I needed to be thinking ahead instead! For example, instead of lingering on something that already happened [“my foot was supposed to be higher up in passe in that jump”], I need to forget about everything that I already did and go on to focus on whatever is coming next [“now I’m about to go into the hops in attitude turning around myself, so I have to remember to cross over”]. It’s something that seems like a little detail, but it will make all the difference in the world when I learn how to think ahead correctly instead of leaving my thoughts behind with things that really don’t matter any more! 

With that, I end my post-performance reflections, and I end it feeling much more clear about where I am, what I have to work on, and how I’m going to go about working on it. And I know now that I will be able to give as excellent of a performance as I wish to give by working harder, smarter, and better. Here’s to progress and success! I feel, metaphorically, like I’m plunging head-first into an unfamiliar side of the pool, much deeper. But its deepness only means that there is THAT much more to explore, that much more opportunity, that much more distance I can go further. I DO have the chance now to push myself further than ever and I am taking that chance with more enthusiasm than I’ve ever done anything else with before! And that feels great 🙂

Barre Bars

Today’s giveaway on Dance Advantage is a 12-pack of these cool and relatively new ‘real food bars’ by Barre .

I heard about these before and wanted to try them, but wasn’t really up to ordering them online or hunting them down in a store around me – I know, that screams “LAZY!” Actually, no, I do have my reasons…

However, I do want to try them if I ever get the chance! So maybe by winning this giveaway I might get to try them finally!

They sound good, and healthy. I’m definitely a proponent of eating actual food, but once in a while it’s satisfying to indulge in a treat like this. Even better is that the bars themselves are “made with whole food ingredients, contains no animal products and is free of common allergens such as soy and wheat. In addition to being vegan, Barre is also high in Omega-3s with balanced energy and no refined sugar. Its natural electrolyte replacement comes from the electrolytes, the sodium, potassium and other trace minerals, which are naturally present in many of the ingredients…”

I’m hungry now!

Dance Advantage Strikes Again!

Remember the Top Dance Blogs 2011 contest I was a finalist in a couple months back? Dance Advantage, the brilliant blog that is the brainchild of Nichelle, was the host of the contest. Now, DA is shaking things up again and making some fun for February by holding an entire week’s worth of giveaways!

Today’s giveaway? A Cynthia King Cruelty Free package, the highlight of which [in my opinion, at least] is the pair of vegan ballet slippers!

I’m not vegan – I’m not even a vegetarian, and have no plans to become one – but I’m all for supporting the preservation and protection of the environment! And, I don’t know about you, but I really need a new pair of ballet slippers…

So enter away and maybe you’ll be the lucky winner! Although I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m rooting for myself to win the giveaway 😉

Go Pro Workouts – A Neat New Concept Worth Checking Out

I recently came across a neat new concept for workouts that I thought seemed interesting and worth sharing with all of you!

Go Pro Workouts, in their own words, “lets you access your favorite athlete’s real off-season workout program online…” 

Ok, why am I sharing this? Well, here is the neat thing: one of the athletes featured on the website is NBA dancer Morgan Laskey!

The other neat thing? I am excited to share a promo code with you that gives you 10% off the price of the workout! How much more fun can it get than supporting two dancers at the same time? 🙂

The promo code is: MLPRNOA1

Not only am I always in support of leading an active lifestyle and a firm advocate of being proactive in keeping oneself fit and healthy, but I always love seeing dance being featured in all kinds of areas outside of the theater – after all, the more exposure dance gets publicly, the more support for the arts we get in the theaters! And this in turn benefits the dance world in more ways than one, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Basically, the idea behind this program is to cater to the requirements of different people based on the sport they are involved in. Now, I emphasize that ballet is not a sport! But I will say that anyone who doubts the athleticism required for ballet has no idea just how physically demanding ballet is! I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you this…

Morgan Laskey is, of course, not a ballet dancer. But any dancer’s methods of keeping fit are worth checking out, in my opinion! It’s no secret that we’re always trying to look our best and as thin as we can be – if you’re looking to refresh your workout routine or to lose some extra weight, you might consider giving this program a try! It is targeted toward dancers, after all. And please, if you do try it, don’t hesitate to share here what you thought about it!

Morgan Laskey, NBA Dancer

To read more about Morgan, visit her workout page here.

And don’t forget! At checkout, use the following promotion code to get 10% off your order: MLPRNOA1

Everything is Starting to Come Together!

I can’t believe It’s already mid-February! Well, almost.

This coming Friday, February 17th, I’ll be performing as a guest artist with the Susan Chambers Dance Company – I’ll be performing the two variations I’ve been preparing for YAGP (Talisman and Medora). I would take this opportunity to invite whoever lives in my area to come see what is sure to be an exciting show, but tickets are completely sold out! I even had trouble finding tickets for my own family to come. Alas, I was able to find them tickets, and I very much look forward to performing to a full house!

A bit of stage make up experimentation and pinning my costume for a better fit

I spent some time this week practicing stage make up and fixing up my costumes (which, thanks to a combination of not enough time and my own fault of not efficiently using what time I do have, still need some alterations done to them…)

As well, rehearsals have been in full swing, and as a result my variations are really coming along! Each and every rehearsal I can see and feel an improvement, and it feels wonderful! I even had the pleasure of having a small audience during rehearsal on Wednesday – ok, it was only my parents; but honestly, there are no two people in the world that I would want to come watch me work more than my parents! Not only do they deserve to see what all of their support goes toward, but also I spend so much time at the studio and so little time at home with my family that  it was great to spend some time together. What could be more fulfilling than having the people I love most supporting me in doing the thing I love to do most?!

All in all, things are really starting to come together! I am still dealing with several minor injuries, but what dancer isn’t always nursing some malady or another? I’m trying to do what I can to let it all heal, because I really need to be in top shape for my competition – and even more so for my auditions – but there is only so much I can do! In total, I’m dealing with a stubborn pulled hamstring that refuses to heal; a swollen and painful little toe that is obviously injured but remains a mystery as to what the injury actually is (my guess is that it’s broken; it’s only because I chose to be ignorant and not see a doctor that it hasn’t been confirmed – I know, shame on me!); a sore ankle that is, as far as I am concerned, just residual discomfort as a result of being immobilized in a cast when I fractured my foot several months ago; and an aching lower back, which I believe to be the result of being on my feet all day at my new job. I sure do sound like an elderly lady! But I’m managing with it all fairly well – lots of Finalgon has been involved…

Amazing for my hamstring, but terribly painful when overused and when wearing 'sauna pants' at the same time - I can tell you personally from a most painful experience last Thursday!

To top off all the recent excitement, I’ve finally managed to book my flights to and from Israel for this summer! It’s only one step of the process of making my travel plans – but it at least gives me a frame to know when to plan all my other stuff for! I’m leaving Atlanta on June 15, connecting in New York, and Landing in Israel; then I’m making the reverse trip back to Atlanta on August 11. But I’ve yet to book all my travel arrangements for in between then – after about 3 weeks in Israel, I’ll be flying into Salzburg, and then returning to Israel after Salzburg before ultimately coming back to Atlanta. But to make it even more complex, I’m hoping to visit Vienna on the way from Salzburg to Israel! So I’ve still got quite a bit of planning to do 🙂 But it feels good to at least have finalized the ‘framework’ of the entire trip.

Now the trip itself – it’s all so exciting! I’ve been invited by David Dvir to train at Thelma Yellin while in Israel for 3 weeks; then all 4 weeks in Salzburg I will be training at SIBA. And while in Vienna, assuming I am able to go, I hope to be able to take some classes at the theater there.

Everything is really starting to come together!