|Hiking up Bird Ridge - Indian, AK|
For the past few weeks, I had what I would consider my best experience in Alaska. Now, most of my time in the Last Frontier has been incredible. But this time around things were a bit different. First off, I got to do things on my terms. I wasn't being brought up to work for a company. I chose my housing. I created my own program. I brought my partner along for the whole ride. I even took a vacation at the end. All in all, it was a spectacular trip and I came home feeling invigorated, inspired, and ready to keep pushing forward with my Core-ography project, teaching, and the development of my art.
So, what have I been up to these past few weeks? When I left Alaska in December, I promised my students that I would return to Anchorage this summer. What I didn't foresee was that the terms expected to bring me back to this northern state would change and I would have to fulfill this vow on my own. When this became apparent to me, I sought out a way to make my own summer intensive a reality. Luckily, I found an amazing advocate for dance in the state's biggest city, Pulse Dance Company director Stephanie Wonchala, who graciously offered her studio space to hold the first (hopefully annual) AK-BK Contemporary Ballet Workshop.
Now, I have taught for many organizations. From teaching company class for Eugene Ballet to working as a guest instructor for Peridance Capezio Center, to teaching master classes at Los Angeles Ballet Academy and beyond, I have become quite comfortable with my teaching skills. But to undertake my own program was quite nerve-racking. Not only did I have to find my own studio space, I had to worry about marketing, enrollment, curriculum development, tuition payments, travel, accommodations, and legal aspects of running a program for students. I was lucky to have two helpful ladies in Alaska assisting me with a handful of these items. While I knew that this would be quite the undertaking for a one-man show, I felt responsible to follow through for these amazing teens and young adults who have limited local opportunities when it comes to training options. I always tell my students that it is not my responsibility to inspire them, but instead their responsibility to inspire me to want to push them further. And as a testament to these students and how they have inspired me in the past, I created a program just for them.
|Classical Technique (Photo: Pamela Montgomery)|
|Contemporary Technique (Photo: Pamela Montgomery)|
Following morning technique, we either held pointe class, learned classical or contemporary variations, or explored improvisation techniques. After a short lunch, we spent our afternoons expanding our movement into the contemporary realm. In these classes, we worked through a progressive warm up, honed our classical work into a more stylized movement quality, and used choreographic techniques to develop a collaborative piece of choreography.
At the end of the two weeks, it was quite exciting to see the physical and emotional progress my students had made in this short period of time. In my classes, we don't only work on perfecting technique. I make sure that class is a conversation between my students and myself, where we discuss the reasoning for why things are taught a certain way and the emotional implications of tough pre-professional training. Also, I strongly believe that the studio is a place where it is perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) to fail. Without failure, we can not figure out how to succeed. My students were preparing to attend summer intensives at schools including Ballet Met, Kansas City Ballet, Ailey, Ballet Arizona, and Walnut Hill (to name a few), and my goal was to make sure that each student was wholly prepared to show themselves at their strongest for these programs.
|Students of AK-BK Contemporary Ballet Workshop (minus 3 students)|
|Working w/ Pulse Dance Company|
Usually, at the end of gigs I've been brought in for, I head home or onto the next job. But like my time in New Orleans, I chose to tag a few more days onto my trip in Alaska. While this was my 4th extended period of time in this great state, I was astounded by the numerous activities available that I still hadn't explored.
|One of the brown bears we made friends with (about 10 feet away)|
|Beautiful glacial blue of Surprise glacier|
After our glacier tour, we headed across the Kenai Peninsula to the stunning town of Homer. I love this place and have fond memories of my 31st birthday here. I received a surprise from our friend who had secretly convinced my partner to cancel our accommodations. Instead, she had us stay with her at the top of the hill in Homer with a glorious view. For the next two days, I essentially rested my AK-BK exhausted mind while taking in the culture of this fishing town and sitting on the couch of our house staring at the incredible view.
|Panoramic of our home and view while staying in Homer, AK|
I never expected to visit Alaska in my lifetime. When my partner and I decided to leave Seattle, we made a bucket list for our time left in the state. One item on our list was to visit Alaska since it was so close to Seattle. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and we wrote off visiting since it wasn't an easy possibility. Little did I know that only a few short years later, I would proudly call Alaska my 2nd home. I can't wait to return to this magical state, whether it be before or during my next AK-BK Contemporary Ballet Workshop!
|Cheers to a successful trip to Alaska!!!!!|