Tag Archives: dancing

Ballet Shoes

I was recently reminded that female professional ballet dancers go through at least two pairs of ballet shoes a week!

Behind Ballet, the Australian Ballet’s blog have posted a photo gallery of dancer Laura Tong preparing a pair of shoes. I didn’t realise how much work goes into the customisation of each shoe – and to think they have to do it so often!


“How dancers prepare their pointe shoes”
Photography by Jasmin Tulk
(Including the photo I have used for a link!)

High Culture

Within the last week, Matt and I have done three particularly cultured things:
1. We saw Bell Sharkespear’s performance of Twelfth Night at the Opera House.
2. We visited Sculpture by the Sea.
3. We went to the Opera House again to see the Australian Ballet’s Edge of Night.

Sculpture by the sea was alright, but the events at the Opera House really took the cake. Twelfth Night made me laugh until I cried, multiple times. And, amazingly, so did the ballet! The final piece, Molto Vivace, was a hilarious parody of traditional ballet set to some of Handel’s most beautiful and upbeat string music. I was in stitches as an extremely tall ballerina entered the stage in the middle of the piece (obviously sitting on another person’s shoulders, who was hidden under her enormous skirt) and demanded to be romanced by her male partner. I nearly fell off my chair laughing when she slipped away leaving her partner dancing with her torso-less skirt.

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Thoughts on High Culture

Music

Two very different pieces of music I highly recommend:

I love the version of Route 66 that Natalie Cole sang. Our tap class danced to it last night and it was the most amazing tap dancing I have done since I started classes at SDC. The tempo was up and we clipped and scuffed and struggled until we could do it without mistakes, dancing along to a fantastic electric guitar jazz solo.

I am terrified of Saturn by Gustav Holst. I was listening to it at work today, and towards the end of the track I actually had to turn it off and take a break, because it was giving me the kind of adrenalin rush I get when I am afraid. I was actually feeling sick in my stomach. My music teacher at high school once mentioned that as a child he was terrified of Mars. I get that. That one is scary in a “we are fighting in a war and everyone is dying” kind of way. But I think Saturn is even more scary. It is more like “I am an old man and I am eating children to fight back my fears of my own mortality”. Argh!

Dancing

It was my first time at the more challenging Sydney Dance Company tap class today and I had a fantastic time. It was pretty hard to keep up and I got badly lost in the middle of the class, but it is so enjoyable to be challenged like this. Maybe one day this class will make me good enough to dance like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain.

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However the best part of the class wasn’t the complicated dance moves or the wonderful jazz music we dance to. It was one of our warm ups. We stood in a circle and took it in turns to do times steps (a times step is very short 8 beat routine that is rhythmically simple but looks pretty complicated and awesome). As we started I thought this sounded like a pretty ordinary activity. But as the times step jumped from person to person I realised how amazing it was to hear the unique tones of everyone’s dancing. Each person’s sound was shaped by so many things: how new their shoes were, their brand of shoes, their weight, how much they jumped around, their ankle strength, their sense of rhythym, and ultimately the way that they interpreted the music. Even though we all performed an indentical step (aside from the few that did some fantastic improvising) every person performed it differently.

This realisation was ground breaking for me, because up until now my attitude towards others in the class has been shaped by jealousy and insecurity – how do I compare to them and how can I dance to look better than them? Today it hit home that everyone dances differently and I actually took pleasure watching the talents of the people around me, instead of feeling threatened by them. This new way of thinking is so much better!

Saturday saw my sister’s very last performance in the School Spectacular, a showcase of the best performing artists from NSW public schools.

Thousands of children perform. There is a massive choir full of singing students of all ages from schools over over the state. There is an orchestra and a stage band made up of the best musicians. There are at least a thousand dancers from school dance groups and specially selected dance troupes made up of students from around NSW (my sister is in one ^__^). And there are the most talented teenage soloist singers I have ever heard singing throughout the night. It really is a spectacle, with its flashing lights and brilliant costumes. The choreographers are amazing, somehow managing to organise all those dancers into coherent routines. Admittedly, it gets a bit repetitive going every year, but its great to watch every now and then. It’s a celebration of public education, trying to show the rest of the state that the public schooling system actually is awesome, and it can deliver just as well as wealthy private schools.

However the thing with the School Spectacular is that it isn’t really an accurate representation of public schools. The kids are all still middle class and mostly white (you know – the kids whose parents can afford dancing/music/singing lessongs – kids like me and my sister!). The audience of doting parents and grandparents at Schools Spec could in fact be an audience of private school parents. There are a few attempts to show the world that there are public school students who don’t fit the mould. Every year there are a couple of token performances by a deaf signing choir, an Aboriginal dance group doing a welcome to country dance and a handful of kids in wheelchairs who roll around on the egde of the dance floor while other kids dance, but those kids make up a tiny fraction of the total number of performers. It all ends up looking like a giant show for NSW Public Schools to put their best middle-class-foot forward so they can pretend to be like private schools.

This year was a little bit different. There is a man called Peter Cook, who has been heavily involved in the dancing component of the show ever since Georgia (my sister) started dancing with the state group in year 7. He has been really big on trying to get more boys dancing. Each year he would try to showcase the male dancers in the dance group to encourage boys to get involved. He wasn’t overly succesful. The quality of the boys’ dancing imrpoved dramatically but the numbers never increased. In each of Peter Cook’s dance groups there would be 20 to 30 people, but only 3 or 4 boys. It all changed this year with the launch of a couple of new groups, as Peter Cook finally realised that the best way to get boys dancing was to let them dance in a way that they wanted to.

The Boys Vocal Ensemble and Boys Dance troupe stole the show this year. I’m going to estimate that all up there were 200-300 boys involved in the two groups. They sang songs that they were actually interested in, and the dance style of choice was Hip Hop. They weren’t white middle class kids. They were first and second generation migrants: Islanders, Africans, Asians, Lebanese kids… I only noticed three white boys. The kind of dancing they were doing was the kind of dancing that you pick up from watching music videos. These kids didn’t need their parents to fork out hundreds of dollars for dancing classes. They had taught themselves and honed their skills with the teachers at their schools and the public schools performing arts unit. Their parents didn’t need to fork out hundreds of dollars for dancing costumes. No one was wearing any lycra. They were just wearing their own clothes. It was the most authentic part of the night – these boys who had previously been excluded from the School Spectacular finally got a chance to perform in a way that was meaningful to them, and they were great.

10 points for the Schools Spectacular being more inclusive. The next stage will involve including the Aboriginal dancers in items aside from welcome to country. How novel would that be? Imaging the the Aboriginal dance troupe being included in a ‘normal’ dance. And then maybe they can include the students in wheelchairs in a way that doesn’t degrade them so much. Maybe next year they could actually go on the stage rather than beside it.

On a side note, Georgia danced beautifully (she is fantastic). She was very sad at the end, thinking about how she will never get this experience again. That is the sad thing about finishing school, losing the unique opportunities you get to learn new skills and perform and be a part of something big and exiciting. Maybe she will find another way to keep performing that suits the kind of dancing she likes.

S’wonderful

Saturday was brilliant! I did three new things.

Firstly, I went to my very first craft group with some girls from my church. In fact, it was the first craft group that we have ever held. That sounds very old-lady-like, but it was actually very fun. Everyone had a different project going: knitting, patchwork quilting, card making, beading, embroidery, crochet. It was all so pretty.

Secondly, I went to my very first tap dance class at the Sydney Dance Company. I know that pretty much no one who reads this tap dances, so you may not know the absolutely awesome feeling it is to make music with your feet (to quote George from Play School). Well, it is an awesome feeling, and it had been almost five years since feeling it! I’m looking forward to going again.

Thirdly, I went to my very first football match. It was the Socceroos vs the Nederlands, and no one scored any goals. So pretty much we watched a game for a couple of hours and at the end, nothing had actually changed. It was kind of like watching an episode of the Simpsons, except a tiny bit less interesting. But still fun.

I was asleep this morning and the phone rang just after 9. I’d left the phone next to my bed after talking to Jon yesterday, so I answered it straight away, and it was Kim, from dancing, of all people. She’d organised for a few of us from dancing to get together at Burwood, so I had to get out of bed and go out to meet Kim, Tess and Jess.

I haven’t seen them since I stopped dancing at least 4 months ago. Maybe 5. I don’t know. Either way, it was good to see them again. Kim and Jess are still dancing, but I guess that figures, cause they were the more talented ones out of our group. Seeing them has made me want to start dancing again, and we’ve promised (again) to go to classes with the Sydney Dance Company. Only this time it will actually eventuate, because we all desperately want to go.

Mum and siblings got home today. Our house feels full – I was used to the emptiness. Now I can’t call Jon at one in the morning or anything else cool like that. 😦 Oh well. Mum likes the painted laundry, and everyone is in a good mood.

Here comes mum telling me that early nights are good for me. 😛 Maybe I’ll try it out again one day.