Tag Archives: Sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh


15 Aug

I took a facebook quiz, “Which dance choreographer are you?” and got Petipa, which I’m ok with.  Based on the questions, I’m guessing Petipa and Balanchine were the two ballet choreographers, and I always thought I identified a little more with Balanchine because he was so musical, was ok with plotless ballets, and every time I hear a good classical song and wonder if a ballet was done to it, it always turns out that Balanchine been there, done that (Gottschalk’s Grand Tarantelle, some Tchaikovsky symphonies among others).  In theory (since I’ve never actually choreographed a dance before) I figured I’d be somewhere in the middle, with Balanchine’s musicality and Petipa’s use of classical lines.  Although the quiz result read (and I paraphrase): “You (Petipa) are fussy.  You also make epic ballets.”  I never pictured myself ever being able to choreograph something epic, but then again how much trust can we put in a quiz that couldn’t spell “plié” correctly?  Although, I’m not one to talk because I was leafing through Gail Grant’s Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet (you’ll read why later) and much to my horror I found out that “the death wish” is actually “rivoltade” not “revoltade.”  FOR SHAME!  To the stocks with me!

Anyway, during barre yesterday, I kept hearing some kind of technologized music, and figured someone forgot to turn off their phone.  It kept going on throughout barre and it turned out it was mine; except it wasn’t my phone, it was my iPod.  I don’t have noise cancelling headphones, which are either too clunky or they’re the ear bud kind and I hate those, so I have cheapie headphones that allow pretty much anyone to hear what I’m listening to.  Which doesn’t bother me, even if it does bother other people but there I was, trying to pay attention to the frappé combination Karen was giving us, and I could make out in the distance Shostakovich’s Romance from the Gadfly Suite, when it occurred to me I was the imbecile who forgot to turn of all electronic devices before entering the studio.  The icing on the cake was the fact that I even forgot to silence my phone too, although luckily that one didn’t sound the alarm mid-barre.

Meanwhile, we got this petite allegro from the other side of the mirror in Wonderland, which might be one of the most awkward allegros in the history of mankind…or rather that I’ve personally encountered (minus anything and everything Bournonville).  It went entrechat quatre-entrechat quatre-entrechat trois-petit assemblé, entrechat quatre-entrechat quatre-entrechat trois DEVANT (who even knew there was such a thing?!?)-petit assemblé, glissade devant-assemblé dessous-jeté dessous-jeté dessous-coupé-assemblé dessus-royale.  I am seriously not kidding when I say that it took me about half an hour to write that out, because like most people, I’m used to the default glissade, assemblé and jeté, whatever they are…I’m not willing to spend another half an hour trying to figure it out, as much fun as sifting through Gail Grant’s Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet can be.  It actually is fun though, because you can happen upon a random page and learn that the “pas de sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh,” known as the “gargouillade” to normal folk means “gurgling” or “rumbling.”  And you can also go cross-eyed trying to figure out some of more obscure steps, like the “gargouillade volé” which we could refer to as the “flying sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.”  How zesty!  But the point is, a little over a year ago I made a conscious decision to not hate petite allegro, and once I changed my mentality I improved rapidly; however, today was like a throwback to ye olden days when I would cross my fingers and hope for the best (literally…screw the port de bras!) and the first time in a while when I couldn’t at least complete it to one side.  But that’s the kind of kick in the pants one needs every now and then (and ballet is more than happy to oblige) to remind us that no matter how far we come, there’s always more to learn.

In other news, I was having trouble just holding an arabesque and the most bizarre image came to me when it was time to promenade.  Now I’m about to reveal to what extent a geek I am, but in fourth grade I watched Return of the Jedi virtually every day of my life, and a few things I picked up from the movie and internalized for eternity were some words in the Ewok language, such as “atcha!” and “yub yub.”  My favorite however, is the battle cry they do which goes a little something like “AIYEEEE HAAAAA!!!” and if you can get some saliva going and rattle the dangly thingie in the back of your mouth during the “HAAAAA!!!” you’re pushing for 100% accuracy.  Anyway, for whatever reason, it occurred to me that Ewoks were about the right height  if I ever needed someone to hold up my leg, and I kept picturing a team of Ewoks bursting onto the scene, screaming “AIYEEEE HAAAAA!!!” and hoisting my leg up for me as I went into the promenade.  I think it worked, because I stopped wobbling so much, and if an Ewok battle cry doesn’t get your adrenaline going, maybe nothing will.  Imagery works!

Remembering Merce Cunningham

27 Jul

The dance world is having a rough summer after Pina Bausch, MJ, and now Merce Cunningham.  Although, I do feel like his death is a little easier to absorb because he had such an incredible life filled with many years of dance, whereas Pina and MJ went so suddenly.  Karen Eliot, who I’ve mentioned danced for his company many years ago said it was a gift, in that he finished his last work, called the dancers to thank them, and then went peacefully in his sleep.  She said it was very much something he would do, to decide that now was the time to go and to do so.  She had known that he was not in good health for a little while now, but the poor thing is still heartbroken.  Bravely, she foraged on in class this morning, trying to be her usual self and even had us try entrechat six, which made my brain go “sha-duh-duh-duh-what?”  Anyway, there were some tears after class, and she told us a little about how much he meant to her, especially as her teacher and what he imparted onto her, so my sympathies are with her and others who were friends, family and lovers of Merce.

I studied a little bit of his work and ideas through a dance and theatre history class, and truthfully they weren’t easy for me to fully comprehend because I’m one of those crotchety grumpy bears that likes dance and music to be woven together in a harmonious relationship.  My brain is wired to take delight in classical lines, classical music, classical dance, and classical methods of presenting such.  If you like Daoism as much as I do, then you know going against one’s nature is a no-no, and Cunningham is practically on the opposite end of the spectrum.  He didn’t see music as a necessity and didn’t mind randomizing choreography and having a piece look completely different for each performance.  Reminds me of his partner John Cage as well, who felt the same about music and went as far as writing a “piece” where someone would sit at a piano for a few minutes and the music was whatever noise there was.  Some audience members were annoyed, but I think that’s just evidence that some people take life waaay too seriously.  Anyway, back on topic, to me the pursuit of chance is radical and on the verge of madness, but Cunningham was so halcyon in his approach (I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use that word!) that it’s impossible to associate it with insanity.  It’s all very perplexing, but somehow he made it work, and even I was able to appreciate his choreography.

One of his works that I really liked was Biped (which for whatever reason I always want to mistakenly call Bipedal).  It employed innovations in the use of technology with dance, another aspect of Cunningham’s work that makes my brain work overtime, resulting in lasers and abstract 3-D holographic figures walking and running, while human dancers moved with them.  The effect was really neat, and it’s just one of those pieces that is interesting to look at.  In the same way sitting in a park and staring at some trees or riding a train and looking out the window is something interesting to look at.  We don’t necessarily stare at things because we derive a great amount of pleasure from doing so, but visually there’s always something compelling that makes it so we can’t avert our gazes.  For me, this is the essence of many of Cunningham’s works…whatever “it” is that keeps us staring at things, that “it” is something valid and worth exploring.  And more importantly, that “it” is different for every person.  I loved the way Biped didn’t make me feel stupid, and that I could indeed appreciate modern dance.

Another one of his pieces that I vividly remember is Beach Birds for Camera, which I found to be incredibly charming.  The goal of the piece wasn’t to be a bird or even move like a bird, but somehow it recreated for me that same fascination one gets when observing animals at the zoo.  To me, the piece seemed to capture the essence of how birds relate to and communicate with each other and what their language would look like if it were made into movement.  It’s really quirky, almost silly in a sense, as seagulls themselves are rather vacuous creatures (Finding Nemo anyone?  Which reminds me of a funny story in ballet class when every time we did echappé sauté, someone in the class would say “esssscah-pey!” a la Dory, and the teacher seemed really confused.  I think she was one of three people on Earth at the time that hadn’t seen Finding Nemo).  I found myself horribly amused, and wishing I was a bird too.  There is a short excerpt here (I saw the original black and white group version):

So, dearest Merce…thank you for introducing new ideas about dance and art; that not everything has to have a story, and that dance is indeed its own independent art form.  Even though I could never dance that way (improv freaks me out enough as it is), I feel like you are the kind of person I could have had interesting conversations with, proof that even people with vastly differing natures don’t have to get up in arms when they don’t agree on something.  Although, I did read a beautiful quote by you, and it would seem that we do share something in common:

“You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”

-Merce Cunningham


5 Jun

As “13 Feats” is ongoing, a little insider info:  According to Magelas, the costumes for the piece she’s in are wedgie city, or as I like to say “won’t you take me to…doododo…wedgie toooooowwwwn!”  (front and back if you know what I’m sayin) Turns out dance costumes aren’t always the most practical for comfortable movement. 

Now that the quarter is over, I almost forgot to mention that *I* performed(ish).  I took a class, learning a ballet piece entitled “Vivaldiana,” choreographed by Jon Rodriguez of Dayton Ballet.  Several graduate students (among them, the celebrated Jelena Danyushka Baraksanova) learned the piece via labanotation score (aka migraine inducing dance hieroglyphics…seriously, it’s like looking at a bunch of crop circles and Nazca drawings to the untrained eye), and as part of their academic development, taught it to us unsuspecting victims.  I say victims, solely because of this heinous faux pas de bouree step with Fosse inspired arms that tangles your feet and ends in tears.  I nearly wiped out on it many times, and the panic was always written all over my face when I knew it was coming up.

Set to Antonio Vivaldi’s Double Violin Concerto in A minor, but with a different third movement, I was initially unimpressed by the epically snail paced tempo.  As an orchestra snob, I like things brisk and lively, even if they aren’t supposed to be.  I found recordings of the same concerto that were at least a minute faster in each of the three movements, and from a listener’s perspective prefer them.  However, due to the sadistic, twitchy pas de bourees, I have reevaluated and accepted the purpose of the slower tempi.  Mr. Rodriguez, you win…for now.

This was probably what I would call my first experience in really learning a dance.  I’ve performed in OSU informances (informal performances), in various pieces choreographed by the graduate students teaching the classes I took, but it’s not like I had to be good.  This time, I had to be a little more intense with my approach, which was a new and appreciated change of pace.  It makes me want to do more with dance (even if I am a spazzy, smiley, entertainer at heart.  Did I mention I get terrible stage fright?).

Classes culminated in an open rehearsal where we ran what we knew of the piece (the first movement we were unable to complete) and what a thrill that was.  A couple of friends, including Totos came to watch, and she totally gave me the best compliment ever when she asked me when did I “become so fierce?”  Cloud 9!  Once upon a time we took classes together, and then the little princess went away to do an internship at Disney World, and her current schedule is way too messed up to have any time to dance.  During the spring of many moons ago,  I was BAD (Totos however, is gorgeous).  It was my first advanced ballet class, and I was a train wreck.  I remember actually kicking Totos in the face when we were doing a penchee at barre, and lifting my eyebrow in utter confusion when it came to petite allegros.  So for her to recognize how far I’ve come was like getting a free Der Dutchman chocolate chip cookie (only those who have partasted would know such pleasure).

So muchos thanks to you, Totos, my love for your support and awesomeness.

And I conclude today’s entry with my new favorite sound effect for life, “sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.”  It is universal in meaning, and applies to all forms of dance. 

Shimmying in jazz?  Sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh. 

Shaking your booty in hip hop? Sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.

The beginning of the first movement of Vivaldiana? SHA-DUH-sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.  

And what exactly is a gargoulliade in ballet?  Why it’s simply a pas de chat where midair your legs go “sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.” 

A 3-toed sloth wiggling his fingers at you?  Sha-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.

Take it, don’t leave it, enjoy and spread like peanut butter.