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I have never learned to accept failure as an option. I grew up thinking that I would accomplish every task I set up for myself and every task which was given to me. Not only would I accomplish said task, but I would do it with the highest quality possible. There was no half-assing allowed in my reality. This created a perfectionistic nightmare for me later on. I could not face the idea of not being the best, of people thinking I was not intelligent, of being deemed stupid. This is my insecurity. I feel people look down on me for my major, for my way of life, because of my appearance, and for many other reasons. I do not know, yet, how to counteract these feelings. Perhaps they are in my head, but I can recall certain points in my life where I have felt marginalized for the reasons above.

I have confidence in myself; some might say too much confidence. People do not, however, see how frustrated and defensive I get about dance, theory, etc. I would very much like to be taken seriously in my fields of research, and I am tired of feeling like a second-class collegiate student because I’m a dance major. Why is it that when I say I’m planning on going to grad school for dance theory, that people ask me if I’m going to teach at a studio five minutes later? I just cannot get it through my head.

Maybe I am not meant to understand other people’s points of view on this subject. I, myself, have changed greatly in the last 5 years in reference to my own thoughts about dance, feminist, queer theory. I see the intersections, the importance, the problems, and I know where I would like to fit in. I will make my case and write, as it seems to be the only way in which the “educated” can communicate.

I don’t know perhaps the point of this blog, but I do know that I would like to stop being insecure about my intellect. I go to one of the top research institutions in the U.S.; I could be working with one of the greatest dance scholarly minds in the 21st century; I am training in several fields to further substantiate my arguments. I need support from my friends, from my family, from my peers if I am to make this happen.

Do I think I can change the world? I don’t know…I don’t know if I want to. Do I think I can enhance the opinions of many students, scholars, and dancers? I do hope so. We write from where we are, who we are, what we know. I am a queer, dancing, white male in the 21st century. This is my grounding. I will use theory to “objectively” analyze work, but I cannot escape myself, my body, what is at stake for me.

What is at stake for me? I am still figuring that out.

Yesterday I had a meeting with my dance mentor Ananya Chatterjea. We were winding down our meeting when I remembered an article by Brenda Dixon-Gottschild that I had read for Ananya’s class. In the article, “Some Thoughts on Choreographing History” which is found in the book Meaning in Motion: New Cultural Studies of Dance edited by Jane C. Desmond, Brenda talks about a white, female choreographer who complains to her saying that she is “sick and tired” of Brenda’s critique of irresponsible writing of dance historians. Brenda later goes on to point out that after having a conversation with this person, the writer was later able to open up and examine more thoroughly her own work. When I asked Ananya if she knew who this person was who Brenda described, she said that Brenda had never told her–Ananya was Brenda’s student and close friend.

What struck me was what Ananya said after. She said that Brenda had dealt with a great deal of hardships in writing about Balanchine, one of her main focuses. As a woman of color who was writing about the Africanus presence in Balanchines’ work, she found herself unable to even gain access to certain venues. Ananya made a strong point to me after this. She said that she is too old to work with bitches. What has the world of academia, specifically dance studies become encapsulated in? We MUST make friends in this business if we are to make a difference. Being catty, bitchy, or overly defensive about your work will get you no where, and will make the already prejudiced audience even more put off by the field.

We must must must work together, stop being defensive, and collaborate to create a web of powerful, critical writers. Critically looking at each other’s work will help us, but taking things personally will only arrest our development…haha, funny!

This is my CALL TO ACTION. Let’s stop being accusatory and combative and start being critical and nurturing. I’m only 23 and I’m already tired of the bitches.

I’m out

Yesterday was the last day of our University Dance Theater’s Dance Revolutions concert. It’s the big hooplala for the dance program. The pic is of the piece I’m in. I’m the one in the front left most downstage (which in this case is closest to the body). The piece is called “Impetus” and is choreographed by Nathan Trice, a budding New York choreographer.

For those of you who don’t know much about dance, let me just say I am going to try to enlighten the experience of the performer in this context…what goes into making a 2 hour dance show that runs for 3 days.

It’s the first week of school, which correlates exactly to the first week of September this year. The dance majors (and some non-majors) crowd into a small, dark studio which is overly-crowded and full of anxiety and nerves as practically no one has prepared well enough to jump right back into the rigourous 1.5 hour class 4 days a week schedule that is Modern 7/5. Today, and for the rest of the week, we audition for our placement into which level of modern we are placed. Modern 7 is advanced modern, while Modern 5 is intermediate. By the third day, we start to feel it. Our hamstrings are tighter, legs feel heavier, but we feel stronger. The first week back is always a bitch…nothing feels good and you can only remember how good you were last May when you left. Why didn’t I dance at Zenon more over the summer?!

The first Saturday is the worst. It’s UDT auditions…if I don’t make it, I have no worth as a dance major, right? Why would I even want to be a dancer if I can’t make it into UDT?! I hope at least one of the choreographers likes me. I should wear something that makes me stand out…but I should try to dress ooshy gooshy because Bebe Miller will be there….omg, is Trisha Brown going to be there? I’m so nervous. We all get to the audition and hear Carl Flink, our “fearless leader” tell us about the process. 4 artists, 4 studios, 4 hours…and callbacks after. Intensity is key.

First on to Nathan Trice, an African American choreographer from New York with a military history and Alvin Ailey training. He sounds like Uri, like last year. Intensely physical, technical movement. Counts to six, long legs pointed feet, lines, etc. Fluidity through hyperphysicality. Balletic? Hortonish… 45 minutes. I think he liked me. He looked at me, and said good when I did a leg thing. He had me do it again too…that’s a good sign. Good way to warm up for the day.

Next on to Karen Sherman and Morgan Thorsen. Karen’s a New York choreographer and Morgan’s a Twin Cities choreographer. They’re life partners doing their first time collaboration. We start the audition with some theatrical improv. Much more comfortable audition. Then on to a hyper crazy phrase. Very physical, but different from Nathan’s phrase: more disjointed, more separated, more fragmented. They looked at me this time too. Good UDT thus far. Maybe I’ll get called back for this one too.

Next on to Bebe Miller’s piece. Erin Thompson, famous modern dancer and our teacher, is running the audition. We learn the phrases. Do them…I’m not as good at this one and I can tell. More monkey, and my legs were tired and sore and I couldn’t find my monkey…it was hard for me. It always is. Very beg, luscious movement. Beautiful even. Not sure about making this one.

Last audition with Trisha Brown. Will and Katrina, two former company members, are doing the audition. The piece is Set and Reset. We learn a phrase and start going. We get to do it twice in the 45 minutes. It’s hard to get into. Much less energy than the other pieces. Hard to do last after all the nerves. Trying to empty the body. We started with a great and fun movement improv, though. Very fun and ineresting.

Everyone’s done and now on to the callbacks. I made 2! Nathan’s and Karen and Morgan’s. Dance big and hard and show how well you can do it. Make them remember you. We don’t have time to review the phrases and must just jump in and do them again. I feel good about it. Wait til tuesday to see the cast list.

Tuesday is here, and I’m in Nathan’s piece! There are four guys, 3 seniors and a freshman…hooray, this piece seems the most diverse agewise. We don’t start rehearsals until end of October. I’ll jump ahead now to our rehearsals.

We show up on the first day, scared. We don’t know who the understudies are. This is still and audition. We learn a phrase. The final phrase of the piece. It takes over 2 hours. Nathan is a drill sergeant, to say the very least. Everything must be precise, the way he wants it. It’s intense. The next three weeks are much like this…hearing “no, no, no, again, no, no, no, again.” It never really feels good enough. We learn most of the material in the first week, then we find out who’s in the piece. It’s intense. I’m in! All the guys are in. We start setting it on Saturday. Finally, it seems less stressful. We don’t have to dance constantly. That first week was as sore as I’ve been in my life. I literally felt like a walking corpse. No energy and completely sore. I needed a massage every night just to fall asleep. I was a little pathetic.

The second week and third week were cleaning. Cleaning with Nathan equals running it and stopping every few seconds. Nothing is good enough. We can always do better, but we should not try to master it. We need to keep exploring. The final day is here and we have our showing! Finally, people get to see our hard work. it feels good. We wear our costumes, which makes the dance harder. The costume pulls on my hip hiker muscles causing my pelvis to tilt, which hurts my back and stomach. I have to compensate by flexing my abdominals constantly. Here we come six-pack.

After the showing, we have a few runs and rehearsals with Toni Pierce-Sands, but Nathan is gone. We leave for Winter break for a break. We come back and have rehearsal right away. It does not feel as good and easy as it did before. But we will get it back. The second run felt better. It just kept getting better.

Tech rehearsal times. Every night we’d have a run. We’re the last piece so we have to stay late each time. We have one 9-11 p.m. rehearsal on a Friday, which we find they’ve lost all the data on it the next day. The computer had an error and we had to re-record. A Friday night lost…which resulted in a Saturday sitting at the Rarig center for about 6 hours with nothing to do. Dress rehearsals went pretty well, but one of our dancers was sick. She got better for the show, though. Preview, opening night, kids show, saturday night, and sunday matinee and we’re done. Such a long process for such a short run. It’s sad and terrible to be over.

In conclusion, we rehearse, practice, audition, work hard for you to see 20-30 mintues of a piece. I hope you all appreciate it because it is truly what we love to do. I hope that shows also. The piece is killer, and I want to vomit each time I finish, but it’s worth it for the feeling of pure energy while doing it. Some pieces started rehearsing right away and their processes have been even longer. Just remember that a dancer’s process is so long and you should really appreciate a concert next time you go…if you’d never thought of it that way before.

I must first apologize for my brief hiatus from the blogging community. I was incredibly busy with my crazy schedule for the University Dance Theatre’s production Dance Revolutions. My focus of this blog today is the youth’s obsession with being “trashy”. I have spoken many times with my friends about what defines trashy. I suppose in order to define such a concept, we must decide what its opposite would be. I, for this purpose, would say “classy” is the opposite of “trashy”.

Where I see a large growth of the “trashy” type is in the gay community, specifically because I belong to it, am surrounded by it, and attempt to critically analyze it as much as possible. Where does the line fall between the two? I do not pretend to say that I have not acted trashily; I have, myself, danced on the blocks at the saloon, made out with a stranger, etc. I do feel, however, that the attitude we each, as individuals, feel toward the trashy attitude is becoming lax. I once thought that gay men were the epitome of class. Wearing expensive clothes, shopping at good stores, eating good food, drinking good wine…but this was all for show, and perhaps the trashy side was hidden.

It is not more than acceptable to portray the trashy side to the public. Myspace nudey photos, hypertannedsuperthin bodies fill clubs, myspace and facebook profile pics. What troubles me is that it all seems a game. Whoever can attain the trashiest, fakest, bitchiest, sluttiest, easiest image wins some sort of game, for which the winner obtains a certain reputation. Again, I do not pretend to think that I do not have a reputation, but I know that it is not always warranted. Bitchy, jealous queens spread rumors, which, I suppose, should be a compliment. I do not know how to react, though.

It’s scary how fast the gay male is becoming what the “stupid girl” of the high school experience was. Look pretty and act dumb. Look young and stay thin. Where did this all come from? Why does it really matter? I’m tired, annoyed, and over all you overtanned menaces in the clubs. Really, I am. It looks as fake as your cropped, retouched, posed facebook/myspace pic.