In the spirit of the holidays - 2013 edition

I am in the middle of Nutcracker craziness and am having trouble finding time to do my normal everyday activities between rehearsals, shows, and traveling. With that said, I am currently sitting in a laundromat and still want to share some joy with my viewers. During this time last year, I made a festive list of my favorite moments while freelancing throughout the year. I am going to continue this time-honored tradition by presenting my 13 favorite moments of the year 2013 for all of my readers to enjoy.

Elizel & me rehearsing Seiwert's Monuments(Photo: Marco Gutierrez)
1. As I have said in the past, the most valuable experiences in my career, aside from a few specific moments, have been making connections with people. At the beginning of the year, I had the chance to dance with Elizel Long, former Rambert Dance Company member, for three months in Alaska. While we knew each other from the season prior, we had relatively no interaction due to visa problems that sent her home to South Africa after the first few days of the season. This year was quite different. At first, we were tentatively nice to each other, but within weeks we had become regular dance partners and great friends. It is not often that you bond with somebody as strongly and quickly as we did, but it was a magical three months that we got to spend and dance together. Book ending the year, I got to revisit Jessie Tretter, an old friend and partner from last year. I returned to Rochester City Ballet to dance as the Cavalier in the company's The Nutcracker. Having the comfort of our previous friendship and getting to build on a new comfort we had in our partnering made this experience wonderful. Although it had been a year since we had seen each other and danced together, it felt as if we had spent the entire year developing our partnership. While these were the two strongest connections I made, there were many others that made this season memorable.

2. I have really gotten a chance to delve into my teaching this year. My partner and I have dreams of, one day, starting our own ballet academy. While I have taught master classes and substituted when I am available, this was the first year that I had the opportunity to work with students regularly for a period of time. While dancing with Alaska Dance Theatre, I taught regularly in the school. It was so fulfilling to see the explosion of growth these students had under my direction. After that, I took a job teaching regular open classes in Koresh Dance Company's school. I, even, stepped out of my comfort zone and started teaching contemporary classes.

3. Host familes - This year I had the opportunity to revisit two host families from last year. I spent 7 weeks with my Anchorage family and 3 weeks with my Providence family. There is nothing better than getting to revisit these connections and building on what was left before. Not only that, it is so much easier entering into a familiar home. There is less need for tip-toeing and adjustment. They both treated me great and I look fondly on these repeated experiences.

4. Auditioning for the Broadway workshop of Christopher Wheeldon's American in Paris and Starz's upcoming TV show, Flesh and Bone, have the potential to be life-changing experiences for me. I have always wanted to try out for Broadway productions, but I didn't know where to begin. When a friend called to tell me I should audition for the American in Paris workshop, I jumped at it. This chance opportunity forced me to dive into an unknown world and stretched my breadth as an artist. Although I wasn't selected in the end, I felt honored to receive a call back for something that I had never done before. A few weeks after this audition, that same friend (thank you Allison Walsh) had suggested a casting company contact me to audition for the upcoming television show, Flesh and Bone, on Starz. Again, I didn't get the part, but these two auditions have inspired me to start preparing for what may be a new career transition for me. We'll have to see what 2014 brings us!

5. I spend a lot of my time writing for this blog about my personal experiences and the knowledge that I have gained throughout my time freelancing. Aside from having this blog reach over 30,000 views in it's short 1 1/2 years of life, I have had my blogs posted in other online publications, received commissions to write articles for both Dance/USA and the American Guild of Musical Artists, and been asked to contribute to an article that will be published in the January edition of Dance Magazine.

6. Turning 30 was kind of a big deal for me. It was such a big deal that I wrote a blog about it. As I stated in that post, I set a goal to dance until I was at least 30 years old. Well, I'm very proud to say that I reached that goal and have exceeded it. Cheers to dancing well into my thirties!

7. Whenever I take class in New York City, I take from Nancy Bielski at Steps on Broadway. I've mentioned in previous blogs how she takes great care of me when I'm in her class. While spending two weeks working on a workshop that could potentially go to Broadway, I took Nancy's class each day to stay in shape and warm up for my day. In one of those classes, Nancy exclaimed that I had beautiful feet while giving me a correction. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but for me it was huge. Spending 7 years dancing in Pacific Northwest Ballet, the company of feet and legs, I always felt like I had the worst feet in the company. I've spent the last few years working on the way that I use my feet, and being away from the speed of Balanchine classes (although I do miss them) has given me time to focus on the articulation of the foot a bit more. Hearing this from somebody that I really respect meant a great much to me. I will take that compliment, put it in my pocket, and carry it with me wherever I dance.

8. One thing that most ballet dancers despise is improv-ing. We like to be told what to do. The moment that most of us are told to make things up as we go, we freak out. After a few years experiencing more improv than I did dancing in a big ballet company, I feel like I really got a hang of it this year. Starting with taking the former artistic director of Alaska Dance Theatre's Gaga-esque warmups, which were based in improv, I started receiving compliments for my work. Upon my return home, I auditioned for the renowned, improv-based production of Sleep No More. A majority of the 30 minute audition was improv. Although I didn't get a call back, the director of the audition pulled me aside afterwards and told me that he was really impressed with me and enjoyed watching me. Lastly, in the audition for the workshop that I was a part of in #7 of this post, we had to do a long improv section. My experience and performance helped me land the gig.

Working w/Fidel Orrillo in Rochester (Photo: Josephine Cardin)
9. Getting the opportunity to return to Rochester City Ballet for Nutcracker a few weeks ago was really special for me. I got to revisit my partnership with my Sugar Plum from last year. Old friendships grew stronger and new friendships were forged. I loved getting the chance to again work with the company's fabulous ballet master, Fidel Orrillo. Fellow ballet mistress, Beth Bartholomew, and artistic director, Jamey Leverett were also greatly helpful and kind. Performing with a live orchestra, sharing the stage with great dancers, and feeling like I was a part of a community made this a very special experience for me.

10. During my time dancing with Barak Ballet, we took our warmup classes at the Westside School of Ballet. While the classes were great, it was the wild cast of characters that really made this a memorable experience. First and foremost, Patricia Neary. This lady is a former Balanchine Ballerina, Balanchine repetiteur, and former director of Geneva Ballet, Zurich Ballet, and La Scala. Patricia takes class nearly every morning. She stands at barre with a heater to warm her 71 year old bones. Once center comes, she puts on her pointe shoes and continues to execute combinations with flair and style. Beyond a few drop-ins from ballet companies, former So You Think You Can Dance finalists, and younger students, the cast of characters continues. There was an Asian lady who is getting up there and still wearing her pointe shoes. She performs each combination in every other group, even if there are well over 10 tries across the floor. There was another woman who won't come down off of releve...ever. She told me she has to wear heels because she is short. There are people that arrive late in flip flop high heels. Dancers who perform wild pirouettes at barre in between combinations while using the piano as their barre. Foundation dripping off of a face that was nowhere close to the color of it's applier. More plastic surgery than you could ever imagine (it is Los Angeles). And my lovely host mother. Throw in about 17 of us professional dancers for the creation of a new ballet company and you have a wild zoo of characters. Ill be revisiting this zoo next week when I perform with the Ventura County Ballet Company.

11. A milestone in my year took place over a few days in October. Patricia Neary, Nader Hamed, and a well-known dance critic (and good friend) told me that it is time for me to rejoin the world of company life, all within days of each other. The universe couldn't have screamed any louder. And the validation that I have not only been able to maintain my technique, but continue to improve mostly on my own, means more to me than imaginable.

12. Watching the students of the Draper Center for Dance Education perform in Rochester City Ballet's run of The Nutcracker. I don't know what is in the water at this school, but the students are wildly impressive. Not only do they have beautiful bodies, steely technique, and personality that shines. They are so well trained and rehearsed that they move as one. The synchronization of the students of this school could kick the asses of nearly every company's corps de ballet in the country.

In the studio creating with Amy Seiwert
13. Lucky number 13. Perhaps, my favorite experience while freelancing over the past year was having a work created on us by Amy Seiwert for a program with Alaska Dance Theatre. Before this experience, I had danced one of her works when I first left Pacific Northwest Ballet. Although I had danced her choreography, I never actually got to work with her. Not only was her process interesting and her choreography challengingly stellar, she was so kind to us as dancers. As I have grown into an experienced dancer, nothing is more important than being respected in a studio, whether in a stressful situation or not. Ms. Seiwert only had 2 weeks to meet us, show us her style, create a 20 minute, piece, and clean it. At no point did she ever place the stress of this time crunch upon us dancers. Amy lived up to and exceeded all of my wishes and expectations in working with her.

What was your favorite moment of the 2013 dance season, personal or as an audience member?

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