Lighting up 2018 with Dance

A new year, a new….what?

I obviously didn’t take this picture. My friend- with a much better camera- did

Guess what the most searched phrase is on this site. I’ll give you the top three of today…

  1. Should I quit dance
  2. I hate dance
  3. How to tell your dance teacher you’re quitting

I never thought this site would be a place where people look for tips on getting out of the dance world. This, I thought, was a place to share extra consideration, knowledge of shows and artists, and to share how the inclusion of dance in my life has given it shape, meaning, trials, humor.

However, the dance world, like the real world, is transient. People come and go. A lot of the most promising, successful dancers that I knew in high school, in college, in professional companies have decided to stop and found fulfillment in other things.

We are often told in every walk of life that we aren’t our jobs. Then we’re simultaneously told that who we are is defined by our actions. For me, dance is in so much of what I choose to do, constantly filling my brain and heart, that I do think it defines me. Perhaps that’s why I can’t seem to quit.

So for me, new year means new dance-related obsessions. Right now, it’s making these dancer-image candles, or DANDLES. (Worst name ever? Don’t answer that)

jess ruhlin dandles dancer candles

I like lighting up my room with them the way they light up the stage, a studio, the world.

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Front/ Back view

This one is my grad school friend, the fantastic and brilliant Jessica Lawrence in Washington Square Park. Jess and I have

and it’s been a pleasure getting to know her. You can find her on Instagram with her partner, Emily. Look up the Queer Ballerinas, awesomeness!

This one is another grad school pal from NYU- Kaitlyn Yiu. From

and to her role as my MUSE in the ‘balloon-ballet’ I choreographed for our Master’s Concert, this girl is a bright spot in my life. Makes perfect sense to turn that perfect sissone into a candle, right? Very normal action.

And this one is Jessica Brown of Ballet Met. Mentioned….

many times on this site before.

My friend from Regional Dance America, the honors company performing at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, to Boston Ballet, to my bacon-brunch buddy, this is a truly special friend whose passion and artistry is a constant inspiration.

*You know,maybe I should do a ‘Dancing Jessica’s’ series. There seem to be a lot of us.

jess ruhlin dandles dancer candlesAnd this one is Hee Seo, of ABT in that amazing red dress from Onegin, which was my favorite ballet I saw/ reviewed this past year.

I made a few extra for the holiday season. Each are hand illustrated and then heat-transferred onto each candle. They burn down the middle so it looks like the dancer is increasingly illuminated the further it burns.

jess ruhlin dandles dancer candles

Girl on Fire

Each candle is: 3 by 3′ unscented White pillar candle, made in India  custom image/text available upon request. Email me! I love drawing my/your favorite dancers and making them. In stock items= $10

2018- Let your heart be light.

 

 

BalletMet; Twisted 2

Last weekend, BalletMet shared the stage with two other Columbus-based arts organizations for their second presentation of ‘Twisted’ at the Ohio Theater.

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First presented in 2014, ‘Twisted’ was a collaborative venture between three art forms; classical dance, music, and opera. The show brought together the talents of BalletMet, the Columbus Symphony, and Opera Columbus. The goal in this was to attract new audiences.

“When you break out of the box and you’re using artists from different art forms all together, you’re creating a situation where audiences have a lot more opportunity to enjoy and understand and be part of the performing-arts world,” said Bill Conner, president and CEO of CAPA

Now in 2016, the season-opening performance for all three companies incorporates new elements such as modern classical and commercial composers such as George Gershwin and movement for the musicians through either walking or moving platforms. The choreography was done by BalletMet director, Edward Liang, and visiting choreographers Val Caniparoli (Oh him again, and again), Alex Ketley, and Matthew Neenan.

Here are some photos of Twisted; 2 from their performances last weekend, recently posted on the BalletMet facebook page. Don’t you LIKE them? I do.

j4j2jennifer-zmuda-linsi-mccallj3j6j7j5All photos by Jennifer Zmuda and Linsi McCall

It looks pretty amazing. However, does anyone else think the collaboration of dance, opera, and music isn’t that ground breaking? I wish more companies did it, but these are art forms that inspire, pair easily with, and enhance each other.

I propose a ‘Twisted’ show with dance and something that would isn’t naturally conducive to dance, something truly opposite. Dance has components of movement, and pattern, and change, and non-verbal communication. So what has none of those elements that the BalletMet dancers should have to work with? What doesn’t communicate, doesn’t change, doesn’t move?

I can’t really think of anything.  Old caves? Rock quarries? Maybe have a pas de deux between BalletMet dancer Jessica Brown and a grumpy stone mason next time. Now that would be twisted.

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Jessica Brown backstage with her little ‘Blue’ bird. Is that your good luck charm JB? You’re so twisted.

I love hearing about the things that ballet, dance, and all arts companies are doing to create new, exciting, wonderful work. Especially when those three descriptive words get all twisted up in one show. Congratulations to the communities involved. Read more about it.

 

Artist Challenge; Best of the Web

I have probably mentioned that I keep up this blog and attempt writing about dance because of two real reasons;

  1.  to raise public awareness of the greatness of dance and dancers
  2. To share my great love of getting to know the story of an artist- the who, what, when, where, why that forms how they came to be this person of talent of passion- and fulfill the desire to help tell these stories

It is a pleasure to get to share in the success of others. As Wordsworth once wrote,

“Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime;

and departing, leave behind us

pictures on facebook”

We’ve all heard about the ‘Artist Challenge’ on facebook, right? A call to performers to post pictures of themselves  over their diverse, challenging, thrilling careers and years of study for five consecutive days and challenge fellow artists to follow suit.

Over the past week, I’ve been dazzled by some photos posted by friends and have loved the chance to see them in proud moments and hear meaningful stories from their lives. In keeping with both goals of this site I just had to lump a few favorites together to share. Aren’t they fabulous!?

Artist Challenge; Best of the Web March 20, 2015

artist challenge carousel wheeldon

artist challenge pam vouri artist challenge sharon artist challenge makensie artist challenge jun tanabe diane and action grand prix artist challenge dustin crumbaugh houston met dance co
artist challenge brandon val nut artist challenge wade schaaf ron de jesus artist challenge jacqulyn buglisi artist challenge wendy 30 years artist challenge jen welch cidnickDancers pictured:

1. Jessica Brown of Ballet Met rehearsing ‘Carousel’ with Christopher Wheeldon More Jessica! 

2.Pam Vouri as Juliet in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – I still remember Pam in this performance

3.One of my greatest teachers, Sharon Randolph‘s choreography on Interlochen Dance Ensemble

4.Makensie Howe of Saint Louis Ballet in Alexandra Ballet’s production of Giselle- I made a rather spot-on prediction of her promise back in 2010

5.Jun Tanabe of Eugene Ballet Company performing at the 2007 Gala of the YAGP New York Final

6. Dustin Crumbaugh of The Big Muddy Dance Company pictured with Houston Metropolitan Dance Company

6.Brandon Ragland of Louisville Ballet in Val Caniparoli’s Nutcracker (I think that’s Kateryna Sellars with him) more Brandon!

7.Wade Schaaf of Chicago Repertory Ballet in Ron de Jesus choreography

8.Jacqulyn Buglisi in ‘Serinata Morisca’, choreographed by Ted Shawn for Martha Graham more on Jacqulyn

9.Wendy Whelan couldn’t pick just one, so 30 years of incredible work!

10. I had to save this one for last- my friend and co-teacher, Jennifer Welch Cudnick, former star of Pennsylvania Ballet and St. Louis Ballet, at School of American Ballet. You know the header photo of this site.

Ok ok, Wordsworth didn’t say that about facebook. The last line is ‘footprints in the sands of time’. Eh, footprint, facebook pic…they’re really one in the same aren’t they?

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Best Dance of the Web

Do you ever have one of those moments during adagio while executing a developpe a la second when you realize that your leg is nowhere near a true side? Thank heavens no one is snapping instagram pictures of me during class. I’m not sure an angle exists to make that look good in a photo.

Nobody is picture perfect- well, except perhaps these dancers…

Favorite captured moments of dance and dancers in photography- September 2014

wendy j brown jennifer leah zmuda wendy jen zmuda wendy kenny johnson photography wendy brenna wendy cheyenne phillips gerry love wendy and craig hall

  1. Jessica Brown, dancer with Ballet Met- shot by Jennifer ZmudaI love the bright color of that blue wall against her fair skin
  2. Ballet Met Columbus– shot by Jennifer ZmudaWonderfully composed shot, and I like how the dancers remind me of a flock of birds
  3. Jessica Brown (I’m not obsessed) shot by Kenny Johnsonballet angles are hard to get right and this is just perfect
  4. Cheyenne Phillips shot by Gerry Lovethe movement, the hair, the lighting, and her face is so serene.
  5. Esoteric Dance Project preparing for a fundraiser performance in Chicago- the space looks fascinating, kind of like a runway.
  6. Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall performing at Lincoln Center- because, come on…

Such amazing talent in front of and behind the camera. If I were going to do a photohoot anytime soon, I’d have to ask one of these incredible photographers. Though even they might not be THAT good…

 

Poster Girl

Look at my famous friend! What a poser.

I’ve known Jessica Brown for a long long time. We were both members of the Regional Dance America Midwest Honors Company that performed at the International Ballet Competition in Jacksonville and we studied at Boston Ballet together. She’s been with Ballet Met since graduating high school in 2004.

One of my favorite memories of her is from about 2003: her lovely parents and I went out to breakfast and we for whatever reason had an extra large order of bacon, some of which we brought back to rehearsal to share with other dancers. “Hi ballerina! Want some bacon?”

JB and JR doing some duck-ified version of Swan Lake in Boston

BalletMet looks like they’re set up for a fantastic season. If you are near the Columbus area do yourself a favor and get a ticket for their production of ‘Dracula’. The pas de deux between Dracula and Mina- set to the music of Arvo Part- is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen onstage. I would love to travel there to see it again, and to buy a poster with my friend’s glorious image on it. Do you think she could autograph it in bacon grease for me? Congrats on all of your well-deserved success JB!

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Masterclass: Paul Taylor

Last week, Robert Kleinendorst, dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, taught a master class at NYU.

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Taylor 2008 performance program- I save everything!

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This was part of my Modern Technique & Pedagogy class taught by the incredible Deborah Damast. In this class, we are learning both the conceptual, experiential, and pedagogic knowledge of five dance education traditions: Graham, Hawkins, Dunham, Horton (yay, my favorite!), and Taylor.

I studied Taylor at Butler University with Susan McGuire, former Taylor and Graham dancer, my faculty advisor, and a great friend and influence as seen on my ‘circles of influence’ doodle and in this oh-so-accurate drawing of her.

As was discussed in Rob’s masterclass, Taylor did not create a codified technique, or series of exercises to be done in ‘his style’. There are however, certain concepts that are usually incorporated in classes that prepare dancers to do his work. Some of these include spiral, unnatural use of physics applied to direction of the body, or moving off-center to then quickly re-find balance. I remember thinking of Taylor warm-ups as ballet on the bottom (rond de jambe, tedus, fondus, degages)  with a spiraling, contracting upper body on top, and finding the combination of these seemingly separate aspects particularly difficult in college.

One of Susan’s exercises that we often did was:

a degage en Croix to a lung off-center, using either contraction or high release, to push back to a balanced degage, finishing with a plie in 1rst or 5th. (kind of like this video, but to the front and back as well.)

I always loved that first initial push to the degage, reaching far out with the leg and curving the spine in the lung, and HATED the moment of return to a balanced position on one leg. It would give me so much anxiety if I couldn’t hold it, and would then make me want to restrict the freedom or push of the ‘fun parts’ so that I could be ‘correct’ in the balanced part. I’m afraid that if I release something, I might not be able to get it back.  This might be a theme of my life, as well as hindrance in my dancing.

There were a lot of great things about Rob’s class that I could bring up; the teaching method of scaffolding within class, the emotional and physical encouragement of risk. For now, I want to share one bit of imagery he used that I found particularly helpful.

When approaching a difficult balanced movement (plie, sousou, extend one leg a la second with flexed foot, pull back in to passe while on releve, add batterie, close behind in plie 5th) Rob suggested we imagine ourselves as one of those old G.I.O. dolls where you could stretch the top half and bottom half apart to reveal the inner wire holding them together. He then joked that most kids don’t understand that reference, but hey, I’m old enough that this image makes perfect sense.

I think as dancers, we consider opposition a lot. Down to go up, think lift when approaching low-level movement. Even in balance, we know a held pose isn’t static and has continual movement. I at least, have not really considered that the body can expand energy in both directions at the same time in something other than an arabesque where the limbs are obviously reaching both front and back.

And guess what, it actually worked for me. As it turns out, balance and freedom can be found through the separating of the upper and lower half that I so hated in college. IT doesn’t help my balance to try to hold on for dear life, or to only send all of my energy along one course or path. At least in dance, moving in a lot of directions at once keeps it all together.

robrob-kleinendorst-classrob-kleinendorst

In considering Taylor’s work, we examined his ability to showcase humanity in its most terrifying and contrasting joyful, wonderful dimensions.

He says, “From the beginning my dances have been both dark and light-positive and negative- with grays in between” (from Masters of Movement which I’ve mentioned in ‘the Fallen Idol’, ‘Shouting with a Bullhorn’,  and even here when I lived in New York in 2010, p. 174).

As I am discovering, even in approach to the technique of dance, a little more gray helps me find the fullest of physical and non-physical capabilities.

Many thanks to Rob, Deborah, and my classmates for a fantastic Taylor experience. (That’s a lie, but I printed it- watch to 0:45. Haha, Paul…)

RFbtT ‘Best of St. Louis’ Audience Choice Awards

The Riverfront Times just put out their list of reader’s choice awards and dance was sadly, left backstage.IMG_9290

So here are the RiverFront behind-the Times Audience Awards to honor the great achievements of a few dancers/ creators this past year:

(Orange font indicates a link to read/see pictures further from one lucky writer trying to take it all in)

  • Best Entrance by a dancer: Hannahbeth Fischer emerging from underneath a pile of white ‘snowflakes’ in Nejla Yatkin’s choreography for the Dance St. Louis festival, ‘New Dance Horizons’
  • Best Dance performance set to mixed media (music + spoken word) MADCO in Jennifer Archibald’s ‘Seven’ /tied with Leverage Dance Theater for their St. What’s-its Cathedral performance this past spring set to music, silence, and random folks’ prayers
  • Best Singing Dancer: Greg Tyndall of St. Louis Ballet
  • St. Louis’ favorite Spring to Dance representative: I sadly didn’t get to see it but I am still hearing fantastic things about The Big Muddy Dance Company
  • Best rain dance: Audrey Simes, Paige Walden, Arica Brown, and Jessica Ruhlin in Hannabeth Fisher’s choreography during Dawn Karlovsky’s, ‘Dine on Dance Festival’ where it poured. Extra points since the musicians and audience abandoned us and we kept going.
  • Best air-bound performance: Claire Hilleren of MADCO in ‘Spiraling Downward’
  • Best St. Louis guest artist: Alvin Ailey Dance Company courtesy of Dance St. Louis
  • Biggest surprise thrill: Trajectoire from Dance St. Louis guest artists, LA-based Diavolo
  • Best costume: Vintage wedding dress Sugar Plum Fairy Tutu by Barbara Craig for Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company (I swear I’m not biased!)
  • Sad Farewells: Elyse Anderson of MADCO, Caitlin Helton Scherer of Missouri Ballet Theatre, Tara W.F. Cacciotore of Common Thread Dance Company. You will be missed
  • Worst Dancers: the mosh-pit ballerinas at the pageant for The Urge concert. No thank you.

I’m sure that I am missing moments that delighted, inspired, or horrified others out there in the dance-going audience. What was a favorite moment of yours? Written with deep appreciation for everyone who supports and participates in the dance community here and everyone. Not written with the slightest bit of St. Louis dancers cast list mockery at all.

 

 

 

Review: Spring to Dance 2013

May 23, 24, 25 saw the 6th return of the annual Spring to Dance Festival. What began as ‘best of the midwest’ has steadily grown each year to include increasingly  prestigious companies and celebrated stars from across North America. As described by Dance St. Louis Artistic Director Michael Uthoff, the 2013 series intended to encourage creativity and the unusual. The Festival serves as an introduction to new artists, concepts, and boundaries from the top of the current dance world.

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There is something comforting about the familiar, something that makes art strike a chord when there is a mental, physical, or emotional connection to any given presentation. The Festival this year seemed to feature pieces that attempted to form this bond from various angles, some to more or less success.

Kicking off the entire Festival on Thursday in the Lee Theatre was Dance Theatre of Tennessee in ‘Points of Interest’. The piece, with a male solo, then female, then duet, then two group sections, was far too long and disjointed. They should have done away with the entire first group section which was only awkward running in point shoes for the ladies and heavy stag leaps for the men. The choreography improved with the faster group section and displayed the nice extension of the females but overall ‘Points of Interest’ seemed to have too many gimmicks- a spotlight here, a ‘contemporary’ hairstyle matched with Grecian dresses there– and not enough clarity in either message or technique. The show didn’t improve much with Joselyn Renae Simms piece, ‘Standards’ which was supposed to tune into the choreographic elements of Pina Bausch while making a statement on gender roles, and expectations of elders, and every other pretentious thing that can be conceived. What it instead looked like was a barely-danced fight on top of a rickety stool between parent and child. The on-again off-again of a dress for the female was reminiscent of a toddler that doesn’t want to get dressed to the frustrated parent’s aggravation. The two looked in sparing moments like talented dancers; if only they had used those talents, perhaps more than frustration would have been communicated. Changing the pace was Kameron N. Saunders’, ‘Treading Thin’. This piece requires no gimmicks; with a simple, explorative concept of Hypnagogia, intricate dynamic choreography and flawless dancing from the five performers.It looked less like drifting to and from sleep and more like the mental and physical sensation of being ‘spread too thin’ but that may be a hang-up from the title and because of the repetitive clasping at the body, which looked thematic. The connection was more towards the physical than the mental in that the capabilities of these dancers in aggressive yet hypnotic choreography was the most engaging factor, and perhaps that is exactly what the piece set out to do.  Offering a different kind of connection was Leverage Dance Theater in Kim Epifano’s, ‘Were They Allies?’ The four dancers simultaneously conveyed reliance and relationships in a piece that was humorous, full of imagery, and well-danced. Last in the Lee was Damagedance in Jessica Taylor’s ‘Finding Flight’. The idea wasn’t too much of a stretch but it offered a cheerful, cute closer, well-danced in choreography that was imaginative and probably a lot harder (especially with all of the falls) than these dancers made it appear.

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Thursday continued in the Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall with The Big Muddy Dance Company in ‘Three for Four’, another piece from Saunders. While mimicking the dynamics of classical music, the dancers looked like manic, brilliant composers. This piece perfectly matched concept with choreography, blended the familiar music with fresh movement and was danced superbly.As poet W. H. Auden wrote, ‘ The ear tends to be lazy, craves the familiar and is shocked by the unexpected; the eye on the other hand, tends to be impatient craves the novel and is bored by repetition’. This piece satisfies both the need for the familiar and the new. It was playful and technical with many impressive moments of partnering. The only improvement would be if the one male wearing the red jacket in the opening would lose the coat and just have the white sleeved shirt like the other three.

Next came the highly-anticipated rendition of David Parsons, ‘The Envelope’ danced by Grand Rapids Ballet. This was a dance that made fun of itself, of dance and work and egos all at once in the most athletic, creative, and quirky way. Both maverick and genius at once, the piece employed dance movement such as challenging jumps mixed in with quirkier movement to merely create  narrative and characters perfectly brought to life by these talented dancers. Equally, but differently successful was ‘Tales from the Book of Longing’ from Stuart Pimsler Dance Theater. With the addition of scenic elements that looked like large-scale opened books, rich a capella vocals from one dancer, and sinewy dancing the piece was pleasing for both the eye and ear. While noticeable feats occurred within the stunning choreography and strong, sensual dancing (for instance, a triple attitude turn finished with delicate suspension from the female dancer with the short brown hair) the piece was communicative on a more soulful level than feats of technique. Closing the first half was an equally resonant piece, ‘Push Past Break’, from Chicago Human Rhythm Project. Each of the five tappers brought a unique personality to their performance, synced perfectly in group work and dazzling in moments of solo. Dancer Starinah Dixon was particularly memorable- tough, sexy, powerful, and fun- and completely lived up to her name. In choreography from Michelle Dorrance, these artists called forth a spirit of both resiliency and joy that one can only hope is familiar to us all.

Dancer Kristen Banocy

Dancer Kristen Banocy

Travelling all the way from San Francisco was ODC/Dance in KT Nelson’s ‘Cut-Out Guy’. The piece was obviously intended to be a little uncomfortable, confrontational and succeeded greatly in that pursuit. It was undoubtedly the most challenging piece for the audience on the evening’s program without any of the familiar comforts most people have with dance- pretty girls, pretty costumes, pretty music. Nothing about this piece was pretty, it was raw and courageous (the jump from one dancer over two fellow dancers) and beautiful even if the music was jarring and sounded more like static fuzz. It is human nature to feel uncomfortable in the face of the unknown, hence the propensity to distrust, misunderstand, or dislike the innovators.

An easier piece on the ears was Jennifer Muller’s, ‘Hymn for Her’ danced exquisitely by Rosie Lani Fieldman and Duane Gosa. The opening image, with the man held aloft on a trapeze over the solo female, was quite stunning and it was an easy piece to appreciate and connect with. I admire a high leg, a dramatic head toss, and an emotional reach just as much as the next person but it became a little repetitive.The Big Muddy Dance Company closed the show with ‘The 40’s’ which was stylish, cool, and cleanly danced. The energy level was a bit uneven from the dancers, some seeming to genuinely enjoy themselves more than others. Overall, it was a charming high-note to end the evening.

Friday had a mix of high and low notes in the Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall. The Joffrey Ballet in ‘Bells’ was one such high. With music by Rachmaninov and beautiful partnering that displayed the unmatched beauty of dancers Victoria Jaiani (interview by Jess Ruhlin with Victoria) and Temur Suluashvili the piece offered an emotional connection relatable to all through elevated and elegant physicality. Local group MADCO in Lindsay Hawkins’, ‘Conversations and Fits’ brought a reverse effect, having fun with themselves, each other, and the audience. Choreography that is both funny and smart is a tricky blend to achieve as is a mix of technique and being silly and MADCO did not disappoint. Camille A. Brown in ‘The Real Cool’ fell somewhere between the two, with a unique movement vocabulary, facial expressions, and movement that looked almost mime-like yet retained the elegance and beauty like that of the Joffrey dancers. Closing the show, Thodos Dance Chicago provided both challenge and wonder in director Melissa Thodos’, ‘Subtle Passages’. It is rare for a non-cheerful piece to close a show but the piece brought so much drama and power that it didn’t to be ‘happy’ to make the audience feel just that for seeing it. Every element was well thought-out; from the costumes to the surprising use of lighting. Watching the tireless athleticism of these dancers, especially during the moment when the men lifted the women horizontally, spinning them like helicopter blades, feels something like what I’d imagine sky-diving to be; exhilarating, a little dangerous, a free-fall from angelic elevation into an earth-bound plunge.

I can comfortably say..that the Festival provided a good array of the familiar and the new to challenge, delight, and speak to everyone in some way. One can only wonder and look forward to the new faces, concepts, and creations will join the tradition next year.

‘Familiar acts are made beautiful with love” – Percy Bisshe Shelley

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Dance (or Vote) for me

Help me win a free book and name a published collection of dance photography! Click this link and vote for ‘MANifestations: Speaking in Movement’ (Jessica R.)

Would you buy a book entitled, ‘Dancer Among Us..Dancers Feet and a Photographers Beat!’ ? No, neither would I.

"Oh waitress, I'll have another beverage and your legs please" dancer: Michelle Joy (All photos by Jordan Matter)

My best friend works at Workman Publishing in New York and her company is holding a contest to create or vote on the title of a new collection of Dance Photography by artist Jordan Matter featuring professional dancers in everyday situations from all across America. You can read all about his initial inspiration (his 6 year old son,, a toy bus, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and the dancers of New York) here.  Also please check out the ‘behind the scenes’ footage where some dancers from Sarsota Ballet are attacked by seagulls.

Ballet version of Hitchcock's, 'THe Birds" (just kidding!) Dancer: Danielle Brown

Point blank; I WANT THIS BOOK! I would also like an autographed copy. I’d be willing to pay for it but if I win the naming contest- the prize is a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY! MOstly, I just do not want this stunning collection to go under the moniker ‘Population Dancity; Dancers around the world’  (No darling, that’s incorrect! It’s dancers in the US, not around the world) or ‘ClassYcal Ballet Shoes’. Dreadful.

After reading the mission statement myself, I was inspired to try an think up a title that seemed fitting. One line that stood out to me was, ‘They bring to life what we feel but are unable to express physically’. I loved how Mr. Matter described the creativity, communication, athleticism, and beauty of dance. I think I personally love the human connection of anatomy with dancer and spectator, and the emotions that stir under the skin, but the way that dancers use their arms, legs, faces, torso to express these commonalities in challenging, beautiful, quirky, unique ways that not everyone who simply possesses arms and legs can master. After seeing the shots of dancers in sort of everyday situations, doing amazing things with their bodies yet expressing some kind of emotion, I was reminded of this Isadora Duncan quote:

“The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of his soul…This is the truly creative dancer, natural but not imitative, speaking in movement out of himself and out of something greater than all selves

skinnydipping in chicago. Dancer: Marissa Horton

I like the word manifestations because it is an outward, visible sign– representing the physicality of dancers and the communication of music and energy and emotion through something tangible. I capitalized the first three letters (MAN) in my submission because it emphasizes the human quality of these gorgeous dancers, rather than the superhuman qualities found in their anatomy.

If you don’t like mine, feel free to come up with your own. Just please don’t let it be called some of these awful suggestions. I don’t even like Dancers Among Us. It makes us sound like space aliens.

Jess Phone Hoooome. Just call me the Jesstra terrestrial. How’s THAT for a title?

The truth is out there....Dancer: Louise Layman

Callbacks and Superbowl Sunday

The call backs for ‘The Muny’ are today- and I’m sitting in bed in my PJ’s with a cup of coffee. Needless to say, I did not get one. Here’s what happened:

The registration time was listed for 2pm, so I got there at 1:30, and I was the third to last person (number 228). Once you turned in your registration form, resume, and headshot, they asked ‘And have you ever been a Muny Kid or Teen before?” To which I can proudly boast, “Yes I have, I was in the chorus and part of the select touring group!” (Lot of good that did me, hey I was faaaabulous when I was 12!)

Jesus Christ Superstar -at the Muny- only 6 kids picked for that one: Me, Billy, Destiny, Jamie, Omar, and Dannica (I'm reeeeally excited about that yellow robe, clearly)

The auditions were on the Webster University Campus, a beautiful facility, and about five minutes from my house, so that was nice. While sitting and obsessively reading ‘The Hunger Games’ stretching/warming-up in the lobby (for about two hours) I met some people who had flown in from Florida and Texas, driven from Cincinnati, some New Yorkers, I count myself lucky that my journey consisted of about 30 cents in the gas tank and nothing more, compared to the people who booked plane and hotel reservations only to be cut after five minutes of dancing.

While in the lobby, the boys that had auditioned earlier in the day that were given singing callbacks came filing back in. I must say, that every one of them looked so dapper! Why is that boys get to wear black trouser pants, button downs and vests, ties, etc. while girls all wore either tan tights or fishnets and leotards of varying horrifying color, gobs of makeup and hairspray, and a big fake smile plastered on at every second? Boys look like they’re coming off the MAd Men Set and girls look work-out video demonstrators from the 80’s. (Myself included, I did go for the obnoxious pink leo. Most people were either in pink, red, or bright blue. ) The next time I go to a theatre audition, I’m donning menswear. It looks way more comfortable.

The junk from my bag: 1. ankle warmers 2. nail file with woodland creatures 3. Clinique ‘beauty’ lipstick 4. Mac Eyeshadow palette – the right-hand upper corner ‘Satin taupe’ is my go-to 5. Shiseido Eyelash Curler (I think the Mac one is better, though) 6. Blistex (I’md eathly afraid of chapped lips) 7. bare Escentuals Buxom Mascara (I think the Lancome ‘defincils’ is better though) 8. Sephora Roll-on perfume (Versace Bright Crystal) 9. Sansha Ballet Shoes 10.Danskin Fishnets 11. Target zip-up track jacket 12. Ben and Sally dance footwear tap shoes (they were my Mom’s!) 13. Capezio character shoes 14. folder containing headshot, resume, and sheet music 15. Capezio jazz shoes 16. Theraband 17. One-touch ultra blood sugar meter 18. Novalog insulin pen 19. Planner from Barnes and Noble 20. ‘The Hunger Games- you know you’re a dancer when you use a bandaid as a bookmark 21. Low blood sugar pick me up (Strawberry Creme Savers) 22. ipod shuffle 23.pens 24. Capezio booty shorts 25. extra leotard- bloch zip-up 26. trident sugar-free gum  

So anyways, finally we were called to assemble and brought from the lobby, travelled underground to a separate building following a piece of blue tape (follow the turquoise tape road!) to the ‘holding area’– which was a freezing studio next to the one we would audition in. Then my group (group 4) gathered our piles of junk and headed into the studio to learn the first combination:  jazz.

It was set in the style of of ‘1970’s discotech’ which is appropriate for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. There were about 16 counts of ‘improvisation’ where pretty much everyone did some kind of annoying ‘pony’ or ‘step touch’ or flipped their hair around while making sass-eyes at the audition panel. We learned this lightening speed combo in about 5 minutes facing the mirror, then turned around, and oh hi judges, didn’t see you there! There was also a camera crew. Great. Capture my fail, please.

So then they began calling us six at a time to come out and do the combo twice. I figured, hey I’m number 228, I have a second to think about what to do for my ‘improv’ and the steps and….did they just call Jessica Ruhlin? They did. I was, for whatever reason, in the first group. Unfair. Mostly annoying because there was a tricky moment coming out of a triple pirouette where the feet did , I still don’t know what before a cross-ball-change travelling to the back that I wanted to work out in my head before having to face the music. So I did not get that. To be honest, i did  not see one person do it cleanly so I don’t think I was alone in the confusion. Also annoying: I noticed one girl while we learning the combination and immediately thought, ‘ok she’s in’. She had a perfect body, gorgeous, sharp clean technique, and awesome extension. I noticed all of this in the chaos of everyone together. And of course, she was in my group of six.

So we did it twice and I felt..ok about it. I did a pretty good triple which was surprising for me, but my axle jump wasn’t very good and i did a lot of slower, smooth movement during the improv section. I also think I had my eyes down too much. There were a lot of really talented dancers there as well, I’m happy to say. If I’m going to be beaten, I want it to be by someone good.

Should have done moves I use in coffeehouses (the Grind) "I whip my hair back and forth!"

So then we went back to the ‘holding’ area where they announced who they wanted to see for tap. I did hear someone named Jessica Bu-something called, and for a second I was paranoid that they did call me and maybe my writing wasn’t clear, but honestly, Jessica is a common name and it’s not such a shocker that I wasn’t invited. Surprising, the girl that I thought ‘Yes, hired!’ was also not called. Most of the people who I saw strapping on the tap shoes were the ones that during improv I thought ‘wow, they are really going for it/ how many redbulls did they drink/ they are going to have serious whip-lash after that’. owell.

I saw a few people who I knew; the first person I ran into was an old friend from my Muny Kid days, Erin Moore. I asked what she was up to these days, her reply, ‘Well, I just finished the tour of Follies and I’ve been in New York.” Oh great, so that’s what I’m going up against? She is really amazing anyways though, my bets are now on her. So if you go and see ‘Erin Moore’ in the program, you can tell me how right I was. I also saw two friends from Missouri Ballet theatre, they weren’t in my group so I don’t know how they did, as well as one girl from um…the company that collectively seems to hate me because of that one review, who even though the cluster of us were standing and talking together at one point, did not seem to address or look at me. Oddly enough, I hear she’s also interning at the Magazine that I write reviews for- small world. Maybe i am imagining said snub- I don’t really know this girl individually so I can’t make a character assessment.

So there you go- there’s my tale of humiliating ‘didn’t last the first cut’ auditioning experience. I’m just not good at that spazzy movement that is necessary for ‘Joseph’. I remember doing that one in theatre dance class, and our instructor used to say ‘it should look like you’re having a party and your smile and energy should invite everyone in’. Then he would go around the room and say , ‘i’d go to your party, I wouldn’t go to your party, I’d come fifteen minutes late to your party’…i will never forget one of my friends boldly retorting ‘you wouldn’t be invited to my party!” haha. I guess i didn’t extend an invite to my party, and therefore was not extended an invite to embarrass myself further in the tap portion. Too bad the ballet was third. owell,There are other things to do, other parties to go to, on this glorious Sunday.

In all honesty, I care about the Superbowl happening today as much as  I do about celebrity tweets, any new books coming out from author Dan Brown, or any new versions of i-puddings coming out, mostly in the last case, because I won’t understand it anyways.

I actually like football and think I understand it pretty well. I used to watch games with my Dad. We had something in my family called ‘the Ruhlin Family Football poll’ where we kept track of who was playing who throughout the season and placed bets on winners. Whoever got the most right at the end of the season got ten bucks and bragging rights. I won pretty consistently by going off which mascot would win in a fight. A Panther would eat a Dolphin. A Viking would slaughter a Cowboy and a Ram…would bleat pathetically at the opponent “please don’t take my pigskin!”  we just can’t beat anyone it seems.

Poor St. Louis football fans. So I’m going to take this moment to remind everyone that St. Louis houses the 2011 World Series Champs, the Cardinals….as well as a giant stupid big-bird wannabe mascot named FredBird.

And because I am an artist and terrible at pretty much every sport, I bring you some cardinals or baseball related artwork.

This pen gives me St. Louis pride. (Anthropologie )

These neat pieces of art, created by Sharon Horvath, feature interesting representations of a baseball diamond. Check out her website for more here- she also shows closer looks at small sections of her work to see the detail.

Balcony

In A Mirror

 

So if you’re a St. Louisan feeling down about our sports stars, just remember that we have Baseball, which is as George Carlin so eloquently points out, so much better than Football. You can bet on that!