Tag Archives: year of the rat

Mash-up: A dance version of Glee?

21 Oct

On Monday I started doing pilates again, and it was rough.  I had been doing them every day for a long time, progressed to more advanced exercises, and then after a vacation just couldn’t get back into it.  So there I was, almost eleven months later, starting all over from scratch with the beginner exercises.  It was sad…I’m so weak, so out of shape, and I was annoyed with myself.  But it’s one of those things where you just have to start again and stick with it, because if you obsess over where you used to be, you’re not going to want to try.  At least it was better than the very first time I did pilates, when I REALLY couldn’t do anything.  Things will come back faster, and interestingly enough I think parts of my core that were dormant have been reawakened.  I tried pirouettes just for funsies, and managed okay triples on both sides.  Given, I was wearing socks on a shiny hardwood floor, but I’ll take it!  There was one 3.5 that even stayed on relevé, so I think this is my body’s way of telling me to work out before it deteriorates completely.  Little gifts like triple pirouettes are only a taste of what’s to come, it promises.

Anyway, today is Wednesday, which for me, is ALL about Glee.  It’s no secret that I am completely obsessed with this show, and to a potentially unhealthy degree.  I guess in some ways it’s what I wish my high school experience was like.  Although I was (and never will be) no singer, I was involved in the geekier stuff like band and theatre that attracted bullying and teasing like a cows to an alien tractor beam.  I don’t know if this show will have any lasting effect on that, but it is my greatest hope that someday, something will change the minds of young people who think it’s acceptable to make fun of others based on what they’re passionate about.  I didn’t choose my talents and it was difficult for me to understand why people were so intent on being merciless towards me.  My senior year I was one of the best flute players in the school, and I was constantly mocked for that and many other reasons (being a minority, effeminate, skinny and unathletic…I was the TRIPLE bullseye).  I know what it’s like to be a Rachel or a Kurt (Kurchel?)…to have talents and a personality that few seemed to appreciate and although I never had a slushie thrown in my face I had plenty of cruelties tossed my way.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me…on the one hand, putting up with all that crap made me headstrong (maaaaaybe stubborn), but I still have plenty of insecurities.  But this can also be attributed to my zodiacs…the Aries in me always says “GO FOR IT!” but those who are born in the Year of the Rat with wood as their element are incredibly insecure people.  It’s a strange dynamic that I have to go through just to make decisions.

It wasn’t until I started dancing (and this was towards the end of university mind you!) that the repair process even began.  It was through dance that I finally started to appreciate the person I am, regardless of whether other people did or not.  This is why I love dance more than life itself and Glee almost as much as I love dance.  However, as much as I love both, I can’t see them mixing very well.  I don’t think a dance version of Glee would work out, for a couple of reasons.  First, being on the dance team doesn’t qualify as geeky.  Second, and the most important, is that people who sing can come from many different backgrounds, which is the same in dance, but with singing, the uniting force is language, and the spoken (er…sung?) word.  We’re trained as soon as we can make any kind of sound from our mouths to speak a language.  However, the common element between all the different dance forms is movement, which despite being the realm of exploration for modern, is much more obscure because most of us aren’t taught to “speak movement” so intensively.  This is why I feel an appreciation for dance is so necessary for a healthy, balanced life.  Just as one should know how to read, so should they know how to observe communication through dance.  It’s no wonder people often show up to their first dance class, a completely insecure wreck, because they’re so out of touch with their bodies.  Dance/movement training should be incorporated a lot more into schools methinks…I went to public school and we never had anything like that.  But dance education is a completely different beast, for another day.

Listen to what the cast of Glee had to say about their first dance experiences:

This begs the question though of why is dance so invisible in mainstream media?  Why is it reduced to the occasional, poorly done stereotype?  It was interesting to me that ballet and New York are kind of synonymous, and yet Veronika Part’s appearance on Letterman just a few months ago was the FIRST time they’ve ever had a ballet dancer.  WHAT?!?  Really??  We get a few movies here and there, most of them being terrible…why is it so difficult to have a compelling plot involving dance in a movie?  Or why aren’t there any television shows where characters are dancers?  And if there are, why are they always portrayed a certain way?  You know what I mean, there are exaggerated stereotypes, as if being a dancer prevents you from being a socially adjusted human being…like this one episode of Will and Grace where Will was dating a dancer, who said something like “I did a rond de jambe when I meant to grand jeté it was so embarrassing.”  First of all, there is no possible way to make that mistake, and there’s no way a dancer would say that to someone who had no idea what those terms meant.  Boo on you writers, for crossing your fingers and hoping the technical jargon would suffice.  Or how about when that character shows up at Will’s apartment decked in full Nutcracker makeup, jumping up and down at the door, and later on balancés down the sidewalk to catch snowflakes on his tongue.  Professional dancers don’t do that (unless they intend to)!  I do that!  And only because I’m trying to be funny, not because I’m crazy.

It’s about time dance got some decent exposure on television, for what it truly is.  Not as background for music videos, “reality” shows or B-movies.  I wish there was a talk show that invited dancers, choreographers, artistic directors etc. to be interviewed and  allowed audiences to get to know them as people as well as find out more about their upcoming projects.  Kind of like Actor’s Studio, or even better, something laid back like Ellen DeGeneres’ show…and the host should be me because I could use a job.  I’m interested in everything dance, so why not?  Except butoh…sorry, won’t do that again.

And just for fun, Kurt…because we love Kurt.

Happy 50th! Thank You Remanso

26 Sep

This is the fiftieth post I’ve written since youdancefunny’s sacred inception.  Fifty is a pretty monumental number, so I shall write about a dance that was monumental to me.  I was actually thinking about saving this for entry one hundred, but after realizing that would take a few more months, I chacked the idea.  The thought of having this thought linger in my brain for a few more months was not one I was fond of, because when I get a good idea I tend to become pretty impatient about it.  After all, the only way to get another good idea is to get rid of the one you’re holding.  It’s all thanks to a combination of the impatience of an Aries and a lust for living in the present moment that comes from being born in the Year of the Rat.  My birthright has thus rendered me virtually incapable of dealing with the long term stuff, in either direction, past or future.  Too much information?  Maybe.

So in honor of post cincuenta, today’s entry is dedicated to first dance that ever inspired me, Remanso, choreographed by Nacho Duato, to music by composer Enrique Granados’ Valses Poéticos.  I was first introduced to this dance by ballet teacher Yen Fang, ages ago.  Well, more like less than two years, but remember that I am indeed one who lives in the present so two years is like half of eternity.  I think I’ve mentioned her a couple times before, as the teacher who swears like a sailor and would beat me in class.  She would also tell me to carry out the center barres because that’s what the boys should do…or rather boy, since I was the only boy in the class.  Despite her abusive ways, I’ll always remember her class because it was one of my first ballet classes ever, where I first heard the mazurka to Coppelia, and where I was introduced to Remanso.  I started taking dance classes at my university, so the approach was always a little more academic rather than just dancing all the time, so teachers would often show videos and have us write papers and the like.  The one Yen Fang showed was American Ballet Theatre Now – Variety and Virtuosity, which one can purchase brand new at amazon.com for a monstrous $97.89.  HOLY BILLY ELLIOT.  Back up, $100?  Seriously?!?  This is not a drill people…although if you own an artifact called a “VCR,” you can purchase a VHS for a much kinder six dollars.

Sticker shock aside, I found that Remanso appealed to many of my tastes.  The first being the music.  I have a strange affinity for waltzes and time signatures in threes, for which I have no explanation.  Anyway, sometimes a solo piano piece is really all it takes to satisfy the soul, and Valses Poéticos does just that.  In fact, I was so in love with the music I rekindled this idea that I could teach myself how to play piano.  I go through this phase every now and then, with varying degrees of success, ranging from purchasing music and never playing it, to learning the first page of a piece before getting overwhelmed.  Quite frankly, piano (or any classical instrument for that matter), like ballet is not something you can teach yourself, but I decided to buy the music anyway.  What should have been a simple purchase turned into an ordeal when I ordered the music in July, got a call from the store that it had arrived, and had plans to go but somehow got distracted and it slipped my mind.  After that initial day, again, as someone who lives in the present, of course I also forgot all about it (plus going downtown is a pain and I always get lost), until a couple months later when the store lady called again, not leaving a message the first time and then leaving a message the day after.  I rushed to the store and picked it up, with a different store clerk helping me, but the one who had ordered it and made the phone calls was also there and she was giving me the evil eye the whole time.  “I’m sorry!  I forgot!  It was an honest mistake!” I pleaded with my eyes, but she would not relent, and I left feeling dirty and ashamed.

Anyway, back to the dance, it is a modern ballet, and Duato’s choreography is so whimsical and charming, and the lightness of his style really fits the buoyancy of the music itself.  Designed for a male pas de trois (plus a mysterious hand of a fourth human holding a rose), the costumes are simple, leotards in solid dark tones paired with black shorts, which allows for a real sense of the dynamism of the male body.  The set and lighting too are minimal, with just a white square on a black stage, which would illuminate with different colors matching the dancer’s outfits.  It’s such a simple, perfect idea, and the minimized production elements really force your eyes to watch the dancing only.  There’s nothing harsh; it’s sweet, chocolate covered and easy to digest thanks to wonderful symmetry, motifs, repetitions and echoing.  No one dancer overpowers another, and they are playful without it being exaggerated.  It’s also pleasing because I believe it is comprised of all seven movements of Valses Poéticos, so you get a variety of tempi so it never settles into one mood for too long, each one on the verge ephemerality.  I think in many ways, this dance felt like “me.”  After watching it, THAT was the moment when I realized I wished I was a dancer, and it was at that moment I realized I needed to have dance be a significant part of my life or else I wouldn’t truly be human without it.  So I immersed myself, and the rest they say is history…a history that is fading into the recesses of my memory.  Luckily, Remanso never will.

So here it is, for your enjoyment, Remanso, danced by Parrish Maynard, (green…and I want his arabesque), Keith Roberts (gray) and Vladimir Malakhov (blue)…thank Billy nobody has to pay a ridiculous $100 for the DVD and Variety and Virtuosity in its entirety is available on YouTube.  You can also catch a glimpse of Julie Kent at the end, who is featured in the next dance.  Now, I hadn’t seen Center Stage at the time, and only knew of it because friend Mama J-bear (with whom I had my adventures in China with) said it was worth watching because Sascha Radetsky is hot, but I’ll never forget the girl in my class who asked “Is that the girl from Center Stage?  I didn’t like her…she was a bitch.”