Finally, I have had a chance to write this long-overdue post detailing last week’s adventure that was the YAGP semi-finals! I am happy to announce that after all the preparation, anticipation, frustration, maturation – after everything that went on these last two months – YAGP came and went and wow do I feel proud of myself! I gave a really good performance, and I feel so accomplished, which is the best part of it all, but in addition to that I also had the honor of scoring high enough to qualify for an invitation to the YAGP New York Intensive in April!
Here are two diary entries I wrote for the two main days of the competition:
Saturday: March 10, 2012
And I’m in SC! We left really early and I slept on the way. And when we got to the hotel, I slept some more. I hardly slept the night before, so I really needed to rest. And anyway, you’re supposed to sleep in the afternoon if you have a performance at night. The rest really helped me for tonight!
We went to the theater at around 3:00, registered, and went to scout a spot in the dressing rooms. By an awesome coincidence, I walked into the first dressing room that caught my eye and was immediately greeted by a girl, already in make up, who recognized me even before I had time to find my bearings around the room. Haha! What a cool coincidence!
You see, I met a girl named Abigail online prior to coming to SC. We were excited to meet each other (and we had quite a bit in common already because we BOTH just came back from major injuries, we were both competing in the same category, and we both had Talisman as one of our variations), but we never did exchange phone numbers or arrange a place to meet once we actually got to YAGP. I was thinking I would have to scout her out – and to make things harder, I had no idea what she looked like; fortunately she recognized me because she knew what I looked like from my pictures online and on this blog! And it just so happened that I walked into the same dressing room as she was in.
Needless to say we clicked immediately and started chatting and getting to know one another, and it made for a really calm and relaxed and friendly environment! Plus, she made these really awesome, healthy cookies! Maybe with her permission, I will post her recipe here… 🙂
I will say that I was not nervous at all, not even for a second, at one time during the entire competition! And I am REALLY impressed with myself for that. Because it’s something I’ve been working on very much this year. And finally it’s starting to show. I felt very good about myself and was especially amused and pleased with myself for being so absolutely calm and collected. I have to say, it made things even MORE fun than they are! And if you know how much I love what I do [ballet], then you will understand that it must, therefore, have been VERY FUN 😛
I arrived to the theater already in make up and with my hair done, so after settling in at the dressing rooms, I went upstairs into the theater lobby, where there was a lot of room, to warm up. It was really early – I started warming up at around 3:30, I think, and my open stage time was only at 6:30.
But my plan was based on this intention: I wanted to do my usual warm up early enough so that I could also give myself a full barre after the warm up AND stretch very thoroughly. Since I would leave plenty of time for that, I wouldn’t have to be stressed about getting to do everything. You see, my only real concern was that my body would not be ready, since that was what was plaguing me most in rehearsals (for example, on days I had rehearsal without a full class before, I never quite managed to get my body ready on my own). Since I KNEW that this would be a problem unless I did something about it actively, I specifically planned for it to prevent it.
So, anyway – I was done with warm up, barre, and stretching withing the hour, at which point Ms. Natalia called me to go over my corrections, offer some last-minute advice, and wish me luck! It was nice to talk with her because I felt good and not nervous at all, and so it only made me more confident.
At this point, I was already done with my first warm up, I had all my stuff organized, I was registered, I knew the running order, I had my encouraging pep talk with Ms. Natalia, and I had something like an hour and a half until open stage. The next part of my plan to make sure that I was absolutely ready was to do pointe work and jumps – I needed to catch my breath so that I would have strength to breath during my jumping variation, and I needed my feet and toes ready so that I could articulate them as best as possible for both of my variations. But I made sure to leave a lot of time – so that I could take a nice rest. I went back to the dressing room, touched up my make up, and put up my feet and just relaxed for a while, taking pictures, talking with the girls, just enjoying myself and letting my body rest.
Half an hour before open stage I pulled on my pointe shoes, got on my costume, and continued part two of my warm up – some pointe work, and some jumps, as well as more stretching because, well, why not?
Open stage came and went and I was happy to see that they had really good Marley set up on the stage (although people were using rosin on it which is strange)! I ran through my variations (only marking) just to set them out on the stage and see where I need to place myself, how much room I had, etc. Once I had done that, I was happy to realize I still had plenty of time to do whatever I needed to do on the stage, because only about 5 of our allotted 15 minutes had passed. I calmly did some sections from my variations – practicing my steps, my turns, some jumps – just really specific parts of my variations that I wanted to get a feel for on the stage, and to do so before hand; obviously it would be bad to not run through my variations, at least in sections, before doing them on stage for real! It all went well, my turns were great, and my left pointe shoe was not perfect which sucked since that’s the foot my turns are on, but I didn’t let that stress me out at all. I just told myself,
You know what, THIS is what we’ve been talking about this whole time. It won’t always be perfect but I’m old enough and advanced enough to be able to do a good job without having to rely on every variable being ideal! This is my chance to do what I’ve been trying to learn to do, and put it all out of my mind and focus on doing well and that’s THAT!
So I didn’t lend a second thought to my pointe shoes or whatever else and I continued on like usual.
During open stage, one of the stage tech guys called out all our names in order for each variation to ask us whether we start on or off stage, and from which side. And soon after that, open stage was over, and it was time for our category to compete.
I had some time before my first variation, so now I just sat with my feet up again and relaxed some more. A few pieces before my first variation I got up and did the final part of my warm up. I jumped more, got a feel for my pointe shoes, really just did some last-minute stuff to get ready.
And then – it was MY time to shine!
Of course they had no idea how to say my last name! Which is hilarious. I laughed to myself as they jumbled up my last name ridiculously. The smile stayed on my face and the laughter in my eyes as I threw myself out on stage with the first chassé at the start of my music and quite literally imagined myself exploding out on to the stage, both in my expression and in my movements. I wanted to overwhelmingly saturate the stage with energy, to bring it all the way out to the audience and especially at the judges; to absolutely immerse myself in my character and in my movements and make it real and from the heart; to throw myself out there and make something happen; and I felt like I really did!
I even held my arabesque suspended at the end! I was also able to mark another success off my checklist of what I’ve been working on, because I was able to think AHEAD during my variation instead of analyze what I had just done! So, YAY! I came off stage and I didn’t even care that my chest was burning because I was so happy and impressed with myself! I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and by the time I had gotten around from behind the stage and out on my way to the dressing rooms, my mom was waiting for me in the hallway and before either of us even said anything we just KNEW what each of us was thinking!!We hugged because we were so excited and my mom said it was amazing! I got so excited because, even though I know it was far from perfect, I felt like a success, I felt like I did what I came to do and I accomplished a lot! But there was no time to get too excited just yet! I held in tears of excitement (see? I did it! I didn’t let my emotions, good or bad, get to me!) and rushed downstairs to change into my next variation: TALISMAN!
I had a bit of a scare when it seemed to us that they had changed the numbers around and we found ourselves thinking I was supposed to go on in a couple numbers, which was a bit frightening as I was in the middle of changing tights, costume, and pointe shoes when we thought this. I have never changed or put on my pointe shoes so quickly before in my life!! I would have been ready on time, had I really been called so soon after, but luckily they hadn’t changed the order after all and I still had several pieces before mine. So I sat down again for while, and then got ready again a few pieces before mine.
Talisman went well! I stumbled a bit at one point – not so much stumbled as just didn’t do it as cleanly as I could have – and I didn’t get my triple pirouettes, which was a little disappointing as I HAD been getting them at rehearsals! However I was really impressed with myself for most of how I did the variation! I held my balances in the steps at the beginning, my clean double pirouettes were at least there, I ‘rested’ (ie. held my balances) in the last diagonal, and I ended it cleanly, but BEST of all, I was PLAYFUL! And this was really important for me to do well – it’s what this whole variation is about. So I was really happy with that, as well. And then it was over!
The awards ceremony followed, in between which I had an hour’s break to eat, change clothes, and wash up, and call Ms. Natalia to tell her how it went. I felt so good about my pieces, although I knew I wasn’t expecting to get Top 12!
The awards ceremony was fun but not so comfortable for the first half of it, because basically we were all standing on stage for the longest time as they called out everyone’s schools, and the last thing any of us felt like doing was stand on stage for forever, our feet swollen and hardly fitting into our heels! But it was still fun because I met another girl that came by herself then, her name is Sam Sole and she’s amazing and really sweet and we became friends immediately! 🙂
Finally we got to sit down in the auditorium for the remainder of the awards ceremony as they called out the winners that placed in Top 12, etc. And THEN, at 10:30, we finally got to go back to the hotel and rest up! Although I will admit – my performance left me beyond excited, and I was hungry by the time we got to the hotel; as it turned out, the hotel was leaving their restaurant open from 10 PM – 2 AM, which is beyond cool, so we ate a late-night dinner and I enjoyed my little indulgence thoroughly! (It helped that I hardly ate all day!)
Sunday: March 11, 2012
After shows, it’s hard to sleep. Your brain and body are excited, adrenaline takes over and keeps you awake, and your mind is preoccupied with thoughts about how you did, analyzing your performance endlessly and thinking about the details of what went well, what could have gone better, what you need to do next time, how you feel about it overall.
Despite this, my eyes shut and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow – which was a good thing for sure, because today I had to wake up early for workshops!
Actually, my mom wouldn’t let me get up as early as I wanted. I was eager to make sure I had time to do a proper warm up, because I have to do my warm up exactly as I like it always 😉 But I went to sleep late on Saturday, and I had a day full of workshops, so my mom told me to sleep more so that I would be as less sleep-deprived as possible. It was somewhat difficult, then, in the morning, because I was worried that I wouldn’t be at my best for the workshops due to not being warmed up, and it was really important for me to show the best side of myself at the workshops (the teachers who give the workshops are the judges). It didn’t really help that I had a headache that left me feeling less than ideal. I won’t lie, in the entire time that I was pulling on my clothes, doing my hair, and getting ready to head out the door, there were a few seconds here and there when I found myself imagining, what if I just skipped the workshops?
Thankfully I would never seriously consider not going to class! And in a moment of clarity I also realized that, here again, was another opportunity to test my ability to handle myself as an adult and as a professional ballerina would, to put into practice all of the lessons my teacher had been drilling into my head all year! That inspired me like nothing else, so I pulled myself together, ignored my negative emotions, muffled completely that little voice in my head that was responsible for any self-doubt I might have had, and took this as a chance to prove to myself that I can do this!
There will be days, after all, when I don’t feel well, or when I’m tired, or when I’m injured, or when not everything is perfect; actually, it’s probably more reasonable to say that most days will be like this! And I realize now that, should I have any hope of transitioning to a professional career in ballet, it’s as important to understand this and to learn how to cope with it (and go beyond coping – to flourish despite this) as it is to learn to execute a tendu with proper technique!
It was with this realization that I was able to put complete faith in my abilities, and by the time we were in the car I was beginning to get excited for the workshops instead!
We drove to a near-by Starbucks (which, by the way, was one of the nicest Starbucks I had ever seen!) where we got some breakfast, after which I was feeling even more like myself, and then we went to the venue at which the classes were held.
As it turned out, I did just fine without my warm up! That would be because we had contemporary first, and we spent a large part of the class doing floor exercises and stretches which were really nice and got me warmed up just fine. I actually enjoyed contemporary very very much, and the teacher was great, and the dance she taught us was really neat! I did well!
In between contemporary and classical, Sam and I ran to the bathroom to try and beat the crowd and get back into the studio before everyone stole all the good spots, but even though we tried to be quick we still got back to a SUPER CROWDED studio!! But eventually we managed to work ourselves in and both of us managed to find pretty good spots. Actually, I got a spot right at the front of the room! Classical was good, the teacher was amusing, and he used a lot of imagery and playful words to describe what he wanted to see from us.
For example, he told us to put our “burritos” in! Burritos are the back of our thighs and when he said that then it meant to turn them out. But it got us thinking about turning out by rotating the back of our tights toward each other which seemed like a neat way to encourage us to turn out using the right muscles and from our hips rather than from our knees and ankles or by using the wrong muscle or over-tightening them. And he said all kinds of other things like that! He showed us how to *frame* our head or our body with our arms (depending on if we were holding them in prep. or 3rd, etc.) and he made us all laugh by showing one guy that he was holding his arms like a frame from Target, and that he needs to have a Neiman Marcus frame instead! “Target” *he holds his arms not too nicely*, “Neiman Marcus” *and he changed his arms to be nicer*. “Target, Neiman Marcus, Target, Neiman Marcus…see?” It was fun to get some different corrections and from a different perspective. I didn’t like all of his combinations and I felt like my foot work was so lacking, but overall I did well. Except for fouettes – oh my! I need to work on THOSE! Yikes…hahaha.
After classical we had lunch and then we had variations which was my FAVORITE part of the day! It was taught by Anna-Marie Holmes, and she taught us Laurencia. I was feeling really good by variations, and I really just gave it my all. I felt like I did really excellent, and I guess Anna-Marie Holmes thought so too, because she gave me some personal corrections and spent some time coaching me privately with everyone else watching, and having me do it by myself a few times! THAT was AWESOME. It was a difficult variation but I liked the jumps in it and I made an effort to dance like an artist and not like a student. I wanted to stand out from everyone else and I have no doubt I did, because obviously she paid attention to me and I saw her eyes on me for quite a lot of the class 😉 My pirouettes rocked, too. I was just messing around on the side while another group was dancing and I easily got some triples in various pirouettes.
I’m coming back from YAGP on a whole different level than I was before! I’m a much-improved dancer. I feel like an adult instead of a child and I’m excited about that!
By the way, go figure! Anna-Marie Holmes gave me the HIGHEST score out of all the judges. I got a 92 from her, which is amazing, because I think even not everyone in Top 12 got as high as 95. So I feel excellent!
And I got invited to go to NYC! I DID IT 😀
Looking Back on This Weekend:
While being invited to New York is the best part of it all, I won’t lie – I am quite excited about all the goodies I acquired this weekend at YAGP!
And actually, even being invited to New York isn’t the best part of it all. The best part of it all is how much I’ve grown through all the preparations, how much more of an artist I am now than I was coming into this, how proud I feel of myself for accomplishing all of this, and how much closer I am now to reaching my biggest goals. And the text I received from my ballet teacher on the way home after I told her about being invited to NYC was the cherry on top of it all! “Very good, Noa!!!” It made me very excited, incredibly emotional, I actually had tears in my eyes reading that. After all these years, I finally made the person I admire so much proud of me, I finally proved myself as a success, and I finally have tangible evidence to show that all my hard work is paying off. It was truly a moment and a feeling to remember forever – it feels good to be proud of myself, and to make others proud of me.
I did it guys, yay!!