Special Guest Bloggerina
Blog Post #11 (NEW!)
Tours are fun*. They can also be stressful**. Traveling in a huge group one tends to expect and accept a certain amount of chaos. Even within a German ballet company. The chaos may be already factored into the schedule, but it’s definitely still there. There are so many things to organize and so many people to keep track of, it’s nearly impossible for things to run seamlessly.
We definitely don't travel light. We have our director, his assistants, our ballet masters, our technicians, our "maske", a select few from the press department, our set, our costumes, make-up, and a ton of pointe shoes that all travel with us. Traveling together is part of the fun. We are such a wonderfully weird group of individuals, when put together we forget how to conduct ourselves in the real world. Walking down the aisle of the plane you'll see legs flying in the air, feet twirling in circular motions. Dancers congregating and stretching at the back of the plane, a free drink in hand (thank you Luftansa), and the stewardesses yelling at us to "Please return to your seats!"
Yes, tours are definitely fun. The second we all get to a new hotel and get our assigned rooms we get out our phones and take down each others room numbers. You know, because God forbid we should get separated from each other for a few hours! The hotels we stay in are usually pretty nice. Breakfast is a big deal, if the breakfast is good we love the hotel. If the breakfast is shit, we hate the hotel. If breakfast isn't included, just don't talk to me, I'm that upset about it and will continue to be for the rest of the tour.
It always takes a certain amount of time before you really settle into a place and get your head around things. It's like traveling anywhere, it takes time to get your bearings. Once one person in the company discovers a cool cafe or restaurant, suddenly everyone's all over it. "Did you hear? There's a really good sushi restaurant right around the corner from the hotel. It's so good, and cheap!" Suddenly that "really good sushi restaurant" becomes our canteen. It's funny because we all pretend like we don't want to be around each other all the time. We complain about being sick of each other, but I think deep down we know that we'd actually really hate to be completely separated and alone. Especially on tour. Correction: Especially on tours to Asia.
Asian tours are always the greatest, well, they make for the best stories anyways. "Lost in Translation" doesn't even begin to describe the looks that some people have on their faces the first time they get off the plane and arrive in China. It's definitely another world from the one we're used to. We've done class in some interesting studios. Some have been massive, so big we could fit three of our companies in one room. While others have been so teeny tiny that some can't even bend forward without hitting the person in front of them in the butt. The floors have been too hard, too slippery, too sticky. Some stages are tiny, others HUGE. The biggest thing about tour is learning how to suck it up and do your job regardless of the circumstances. Easier said than done.
Food poisoning is always a big scandal on tours. Sorry, "on tours to Asia". There's always someone that eats the mystery beef stew and suffers the consequences later. I've actually never gotten sick on tour, I think it's probably due to my iron stomach. It seems I can eat anything. Although I tend to steer clear of the mysterious and poorly translated dishes that you find on some menus. "Meat muscle stupid bean sprouts" or "Meat fried cat ear/the plate" or my personal favorite "Big dump in vegetable and fork".
This last tour we went on was awesome. In London not much can go too terribly wrong. Besides the fact that the stage was the size of a postage stamp, the floor was too hard, and we didn't have barres for our first class in the studio and had to use a prop horse instead, it was great! There weren't any complaints about the food, no need for suggestions on places to visit. People seemed happy. I think the fact that there wasn't a language barrier helped too. No having to mime the type of animal you'd like to eat to your waiter. "Chicken. Chicken? You know? Cluck! Cluck! (insert chicken dance here)".
* What a revolutionary sentence. I realize, I'm quite the genius aren't I? ...Maybe I should just stick to ballet.
**Ok, would anyone mind if I were to just end this blog entry right here, right now?
Blog Post #10
“Gimme the one!”
Backstage. Oh the drama of backstage. Combine uncomfortable costumes with bright lights, a bundle of nerves mixed with that weighing feeling of pressure, ballet dancers with a bad conductor, and you have a recipe for disaster. The audience has no idea what's actually going on backstage during a show. It's stressful! Timing is everything and everything is set on counts. If you miss an entrance you're screwed. There are quick changes, wardrobe malfunctions, set adjustments, musical cues and tons of other things to worry about.
Knowing counts helps a lot with entrances. It's really obvious if a dancer comes on stage way too early or too late. The "Oh Shit!" expression on their face says it all. It's such a bad feeling. One dancer was so paranoid that she would miss her entrance, she asked everyone around her to count out loud backstage. "Gimme the one ok? GIMME THE ONE!" I'm sure even the technicians backstage knew the counts by the end of run of shows, but she still needed the "ONE". Stress makes people crazy. There's a lot of yelling and cursing behind the scenes. A lot of which is directed at the conductor. If the music is too slow or too fast it can really screw you up as a dancer. I think its more mental because I remember once complaining about how "slow the music was" one night, only to have another dancer point out that we were dancing to a CD for this specific production. So yea. That was awkward. But other times it IS actually the conductors fault and it's infuriating. Sometimes if the music is really off, mid variation the ballerina might turn her back to the audience for a second and let out a little, "Seriously?!". We all know what she's talking about, and we all feel her pain.
It's really important for a dancer to be musical. Music and dance goes hand in hand. But sometimes we need little "cheats" that help us to hear the counts of the music. If a big group of dancers are dancing together and have to be in perfect unison, there might be one or more dancers in the group that are in charge of quietly singing out the number of the counts for everyone else to follow. It usually sounds like, "One.....four.........seven!". The more people aren't following, the more aggressive the numbers sound. "FIVE!......EIGHT!.....TWO!....UGH!". Hey, we've all fallen victim to counts, sometimes the music can be really tricky and hard to hear. For me, I don't actually like dancing with counts, I prefer to just listen to the music. "Feel the music". Usually I can hear it, but then sometimes I can be completely tone deaf. Actually, you know, you should probably just gimme the 'one' just in case.
Blog Post #9
Spit, Shit, and Break a leg.
There's a lot of preparation that goes into putting on a show that the audience has no idea about. The hours of rehearsal, the costume fittings, the hair and makeup. Not to mention the emotional breakdowns, the tears, the sweat, the drama of someone getting injured a day before the show and their second cast freaking out because they have to jump in for them after only two rehearsals. All details that when added up together, should make a pretty seamless show. There are not only these standard types of routines to prepare for a show, but also some other less "traditional" ones. Its funny how I never thought any of these things were weird until I took a step back and looked at them through an outsiders eyes.
1. Don't wish me good luck. In Germany I learned that you say "Toi Toi Toi". Its usually said really quickly and incomprehensibly, as to add some dramatic flair and ultimate confusion to anyone from the outside world. The response is then "Vielen Vielen". Pretty straight forward if you speak German. If not then it just sounds like you have some kind of weird stutter. One of the ballet mistresses will combine a "Toi Toi Toi" with a hug and a little spit over the dancers shoulder. It's a special moment which has only happened to me once, but it's one that I'll treasure always.
2. Mierda. Merde. Basically just means "Shit" in Spanish or French. If someone says "Mucho Mierda" or just plain "Merde" your not allowed to say anything back. Or else.
3. The chocolates. Usually if you have a big premier, its customary to bring your partner or your fellow dancers good luck chocolates or sweets. These are also called "Toi Toi Toi's". There is a fine line, however, between a nice gesture and an obvious sabotage. Giving out too many Toi Toi Toi chocolates and you start to look like the witch from Snow White trying to poison everyone with empty calories and fat. The best Toi Toi Toi I ever got was a beer that I drank right before going on stage for good luck*.
4. Praying to... God? I honestly don't even know how many dancers actually believe in God. As a group we generally don't tend to be very conservative (flamboyant, whimsical, flaming are all words that come to mind before conservative). I think a lot of us are agnostic or athiest until about 5 minutes before the show. Then suddenly we all believe in God. Or something.
5. Good luck kiss on a pointe shoe. Yep, I saw it happen. It was one dancers own personal tradition. She would kiss each one of her pointe shoes right before going on stage. Now that's love. Or something.
6. Another guy before every show would touch the stage and then touch his forehead. I don't really know what else to say about this.
7. Carbing up. I've heard many different theories on diets and foods that help provide energy before a big show or rehearsal. One dancer swears by sandwiches. For her that's all she would eat before. Another dancer would eat an entire bowl of pasta "for energy". Rice seems to be a pretty popular choice. So trying to follow this kind of theory, as an apprentice, I made the rookie mistake of eating a burrito before a show. What? It's like a wrap! ... No its not. Not at all. Such an epic fail. The costume department had to bring me a bigger dress for the first act of 'Sleeping Beauty' because I was so bloated and full I couldn't fit into mine! True story bro. To this day, I've never eaten a burrito since**.
I guess in a way I can also be a bit superstitious. Not like the "don't walk under a ladder" or "don't open an umbrella inside" kind (I even HAVE a black cat at home that crosses my path all the time and I'm totally fine. Knock on wood). But I also have little things that I have to do before a show just in case. You never know what can happen with live theater. It's better to have these little weird traditions or rituals that help ease some nerves or stress. I mean who knows what could happen if forehead guy doesn't touch the stage before curtain.
*That totally didn't happen. I drank it right after the show and got pretty drunk from being so thirsty and dehydrated. Like I said, Best. Toi Toi Toi. Ever!
**Also not true. Burritos are like my third favorite food of all time.
Blog Post #8
As mentioned before, I have a certain amount of “white girl problems” or “strugs” as I like to call them nowadays, that I just can’t seem to shake no matter how ridiculously shallow or unimportant I try to tell myself they are. These strugs could also be partially, if not directly, correlated to the fact that it’s the end of the season and myself and everyone else around me at work seem to be dealing with a lethal case of “endoftheseasonitis”.
I wasn’t intending on using this blog as a sort of outlet to release some inner stress I may or may not have bundled up deep down inside. You know what I mean, like how therapists tell their patients to write in a journal to get all of their thoughts out on paper so that they don’t one day wake up and decide to shoot up their school. Sorry. Too soon? Anyways, I never thought about writing as a way of expressing myself because, until now, dance was pretty much the only form of expression I knew. Which is ironic seeing as it’s a form of expression solely based on movement and no words, whereas writing is purely about the art of words. Oh the irony. It's killing you isn't it? So as a way of combining these two interests of mine I sort of ended up writing about what I know. Which happens to be a lot about ballet. Its funny how looking back on some of the posts one might assume that either A. I’m this weird ballet girl that one day just decided to write down all the random thoughts that seem to be running around in her head. Which probably means that therapy could also be a good option. Or B. I just got a lotta strugs that I wanna share because ultimately I find my world to be really funny, in a “glass-in-the-pointe-shoe-if-you-ever-cross-me-bitch” kinda way.
Originally for this entry I wanted to make a list of cleaver and witty ballet and/or just plain white girl strugs that I have. But then I kind of went off into this random tangent about why I started writing, and about how I may or may not need therapy. So I think I’m just going to leave it on that note for now, and save my OCD listing thing for another time. Ain't nobody got time for that!
Blog Post #7
Fuck you chocolate.
I don't understand how some people can be so disciplined when it comes to chocolate, or alcohol for that matter. But right now I want to talk about chocolate because I feel like this needs discussing. Chocolate for me is like a guy that promises to call you or text you but then never does. It's a lying, cheating, son of a b****! Chocolate's all, "No worries baby. All will be well. You are a strong, amazing, and confident person. You deserve to eat me AND my friends!". Then Boom! That bitch turns around and gives you cellulite! I mean, what the fuck? You're supposed to comfort and console me in my time of need and then piss off before you turn into fat on my ass and take like two whole months at the gym to burn off! It's so deceiving. Pretending to be all "healthy" these days. Oh yea, apparently dark chocolate is now "filled with antioxidants that are actually good for you". So now every girl is just pretending to like dark chocolate when we all secretly are craving the milk and white chocolate caramel hot fudge brownie nougat cellulite amazingness. How is that fair? All I was looking for was a little pick me up from my stressful life. Nothing crazy. I didn't pull out a deep fried snickers ice cream to go with my coffee. It was just a normal sized bar of "healthy" dark chocolate. I didn't mean to eat the entire thing and then a bag of Kinder Schoko-Bons. It just happened! I swear it's like crack! Once you start you can't stop no matter how much you tell yourself "this shit ain't good!". IT'S SO GOOD!
Look, I don't think its that much to ask that chocolate have the same nutritional value as spinach. If it did, the entire world would be a much healthier place. I think we'd all benefit from that. In fact, if I had a magic lamp and had only three wishes I'd make that my number 1. You know, for the greater good of all mankind... Ok, I'll admit chocolate is not the healthiest thing in the world and it probably never will be. But is it so much to ask for something comforting, warm and rich without sounding like a goldigger lookin' for her man? Isn't that what every hard working girl wants? Just something to look forward to at the end of the day (or at the end of every meal) that's not going to have so many unwanted consequences? I feel like God hated girls and was like "Yea, let's make all of them crave chocolate once a month and then make chocolate the most fattening and addictive thing EVER!". Good lookin' out dude. Are you happy now? You get to hear us bitch and complain all day long about how fat we think we are. All it would take would be one wave of your magic wand and suddenly chocolate is good and broccoli is a no go. That's all I'm asking for! Oh, but while you're at it, just make french fries healthy too ok? Just for the sake of all mankind. Or just for America. Or just for me.
Blog Post #6
Snap, Crackle, Pop!
Warming up is a big part of our daily routine. Every morning as I walk through the studio I see dancers sprawled in the splits stretching or throwing their legs around the air violently, all anticipating that huge pop! That hip release, that means they're ready for class to start. As I walk to my usual spot at the barre, I hear a symphony of different body parts cracking away. You have The Staccato Ankle Cracks that are usually light, rhythmic, and quite whimsical. Then you have The Deep Hip-Pops (which are usually followed by a slightly sexual "Oh yea!" and maybe a "Nice one" comment from a fellow dancer). You can achieve the same type of deep crack with The Tailbone Roll. The Tailbone Roll is the best one ever. Sometimes if you roll your tailbone on the hardwood floor you get a nice, deep spinal crack that's just orgasmic. You also have The Twisting Back Crack, which for me, starts at the top of the spine and makes a beautiful domino affect of cracks all the way down to the lower back. A spinoff of The Twisting Back Crack is The Neck Snap. Not as violent as it sounds, this crack entails simply rolling your head around in a circular motion a couple of times. Or simply taking your two hands and physically yanking your head to one side, bringing it up slowly and and then yanking it to the other. Totally normal. Totally fine. I think.
I wish I could say that the cracking symphony only happens in the mornings but we have to warm ourselves up several times a day! In fact, if I'm sitting in one position for more than 15 minutes I start to get stiff and feel the urge to twist my back and crack my neck. The hip-pop happens once, maybe twice a day if I'm lucky. The Tailbone Roll even more rare than a solar eclipse. But the Staccato Ankle Cracks are non-stop. All day everyday. It's almost like a tick, I don't even notice that I'm doing it until someone (usually a non-dancer) points it out.
I love seeing people's reactions to the cracking. Non-dancers are always so grossed out! I love it. That probably makes me really weird and creepy but I just find it hilarious to see people freak out at the cracking sounds. Once I get a tiny reaction from my ankle twisting cracks that's it. I take it and run. I'm like, "Oh that's nothing. Listen to this..." and then I go through the whole series of cracks, each one getting more and more intense and more gross until the person is screaming at me to make it stop! …Love it. I know, even just typing it out now I sound like a total psycho with some freaky body cracking fetishes, but I promise I have it under control. I totally do.
Blog Post #5
The Mysterious Slippery Floor
I think one of the biggest mysteries of our company, or at least as long as I've been here, has been the mystery of the slippery floor. Since I have joined the company they have completely changed the floor two or possibly three times. Each time trying a different brand or a different style of floor or something. I honestly have no idea what the actual difference is between the floors seeing as I'm not a floor expert. Or floorist? Floorologist? Anyways, there are many different conspiracy theories as to why the floor gets these slippery patches that many find to be absolutely infuriating while I find it to be mildly hilarious!
Reason A. Socks. For some reason, someone decided, that wearing socks on the marley floor made it especially slippery. So now those dancers that used to wear socks at barre have been banned, or should I say shunned, from wearing anything other than ballet flats or pointe shoes. If the bitch stares that say, "It's all YOUR fault!" weren't terrifying enough to make you never want to wear socks again, I think a few dancers were actually asked to refrain from wearing them due to floor slipperage. Yes, slipperage. What?
Reason B. The cleaning ladies are out to get us. Every morning there's a team of cleaning women that come in early to clean the theater. They clean it all from dressing rooms, to toilets, to studios. That's were the trouble starts. No one knows what product they use to clean the floors with, but many are convinced that its hydro-slipperage enhancer. It has to be! How else would you explain all the slipping and falling off our legs? Hydro-slipperage. Obviously!
Reason C. For those that might be a bit skeptical about the cleaning lady hydro-slipperage conspiracy theory, I have one more for you that you are not going to believe. Weather! Yep, I remember it was after one girl slipped and fell to the ground exceptionally hard and dramatically, that someone actually suggested that it was all because of the weather and the humidity. Apparently the floor "absorbs the moisture from the air" and becomes an ice skating rink-like death zone! It's a dangerous job, but someone's gotta do it. Ballerinas and Ballerinos, putting our lives on the line everyday for the sake of the arts. No big deal.
Blog Post #4
Just blame it on the weather
Coming from California where the weather is always beautiful and sunny, I never thought twice about how much it can affect your mood. I think it was my second or third winter in Germany that someone told me about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I remember thinking, "Oh my god! That's a thing? That explains everything!". So ever since then I decided to blame all of my white girl problems on the weather. "The weather makes me tired". Its not because I went out partying this weekend that I'm exhausted. No, its the rain. "It's too cold to work, my feet are frozen and my muscles aren't getting warm today". It has nothing to do with the fact that I overslept and missed class this morning, its the snows fault. "I wanted to go for a jog today, but then it started raining". Oh well, I guess I'll make some pancakes instead. "The rain is making my hair frizzy!". I should just go back to bed, my day is ruined.
Not only do I blame the weather for my problems in winter, but summer can also be a bitch! "The heat makes my feet swollen which makes it impossible to squeeze them into pointe shoes". Im-poss-ible. "I've had a headache for the entire class, it must be from the heat. I'm obviously dehydrated". I'm obviously dehydrated, yet too lazy to go to the canteen to buy a bottle of water. "I'm not fat, I'm just really swollen today because of the weather". It has nothing to do with the pizza and bottle of wine I had last night. "It's too sunny today, its making the studios unbearably hot". Life can be so hard sometimes. "It sucks that there's nice weather today, because I kind of feel like staying home and watching a movie. But now I have to go out and make the most of it". I think I've actually said something along those lines.
Another thing I blame the weather for is my eye color. Once someone asked me what color my eyes were and I said that they change colors depending on the weather. If its grey and raining they're usually blue but if its sunny and warm they're green. Is that even physically possible?! I think I just made it up and kept telling people that that's what happens and eventually I started to genuinely believe it! It wasn't until someone pointed out to me that I blame a lot of shit on the weather that I realized, I guess I'm just really lazy. Which I also blame on the weather.
Blog Post #3
That awkward moment when... (the ballet version)
That awkward moment when...
-you know your ballet shoes smell really bad but there is nothing you can do so you blame it on someone else.
-your partners sweat gets all over you and you have to pretend like your totally fine with it when deep down you're DYING for a shower.
-someone catches you "smell checking" the pits of your warm up t-shirt before you put it on.
-the principal ballerina has lipstick on her teeth but no one has the balls to tell her.
-you run into one of your ballet masters outside of the theater and you realize you have nothing to talk about so you make awkward chit chat about asparagus and how excited you are that its back in season.
-you thought rehearsal was in the upstairs studio so you waited there for half an hour before realizing no one else was showing up because they were all in the downstairs studio.
-someone has nipple sweat stains.
-someone is wearing your leotard but you don't remember lending it to them.
-people think that "casted" is a word. It's "cast".
-you hear that someone got the stomach flu and lost a bunch of weight and you're kinda jealous!
-the new girl doesn't wear deodorant.
-the fact that I just had to look up how to spell "deodorant" because "deodorent" just didn't look right.
-you accidentally glue your eye lashes together while trying to put on fake eye lashes.
-you have to ask the person sitting next to you in the changing room who's teaching class every single morning.
-you have to dance with someone that you don't really like as a partner but you have to pretend to be excited about it when the cast comes out.
-you're around 2 partners that are getting frustrated with each other and therefor start to dance really aggressively while still having to act like they are in love.
-you completely lose your balance and fall out of a turn onto the floor and people clap for you because you were so spastic.
-you realize that coming to class 15 minutes before the class begins is really late.
-you had a shitty class because you didn't like your leotard.
-you had an amazing class because you liked your leotard, and you probably felt skinny.
Blog Post #2
It's all about the bran.
As ballet dancers we tend to be very open with one another. We pretty much call it as we see it, and we aren't afraid to say whats on our minds, at all times. Makes sense seeing as we spend so much time together, and the amount of body contact we have with each other makes us feel very comfortable with one another (See previous post titled "Vagina Lifts"). But where is the line, one might ask? It's hard to know. There are a few moments that are definitely in that grey area. For example, a very common topic of discussion on tour, and especially tours to Asia, seems to be the topic of bowel movements. It is completely normal for a group of dancers to be sitting together at breakfast discussing when was the last time they all shat, what they ate to aid in the shitting process, and how they hoped the bran cereal and black coffee combination will work its magic soon. You can always tell who is having troubles by their breakfast selection at the hotel buffet. While some swear by the black coffee and cigarette combination, non smokers will generally load up on fibrous cereals, dried prunes and Activia. After asking how a person is doing, a common, and totally normal, follow up question may be "Did you shit yet?". Then depending on the persons response you are either happy for them, or very very sorry. If someone stands up abruptly from the breakfast table and says, "I gotta go", we all know exactly what they mean and we wish them well.
Not only are the discussions between dancers very detailed and often times overly personal, they are also very animated. We wont just tell you what's going on, we'll probably get up and mime the entire thing. Like the time I accidentally touched my best friend's boyfriend's penis. Ok I didn't really touch it, I just thought that would be a funny way of starting a story. What actually happened was that I was trying to explain to him where exactly I had torn the psoas muscle in my hip. Forgetting that he isn't a dancer and isn't used to being touched around that area by someone that isn't his girlfriend, I went in to show him the exact spot where my injury was on his body. Which just so happened to be a bit East of his crown jewels. As I was going in for the touch, saying "It hurts right here...", he immediately jumps back in total shock before I could even register what the problem was! Oh yea, I guess it is kind of inappropriate to touch your best friend's boyfriend's penis isn't it? Sorry I'm a dancer, we don't really understand boundaries.
Blog Post #1
Sometimes I like telling people that I'm a ballet dancer. It's definitely an instant conversation starter. People always want to know your story. "So did you start when you were a baby? Do you really dance around on your toes? Are all the girls total bitches?" Yes, yes, and hell yes! My favorite question lately has been, "So is your life like Natalie Portman's in Black Swan?" Umm... Seriously? I feel like saying, "Why yes, in fact it is! Before shows I usually warm up, put on my costume and make up, stab myself with a piece of glass, have minor hallucinations and then turn into a giant bird and die! Just another day in the office. There's always two types of reactions you get after telling someone you are a dancer. The girl reaction: "Aww I used to do ballet when I was a little girl!" Yep, I did too. I'm just still doing it for some fucking reason. Then there's the guy reaction: "Woah cool! You must be really flexible. Can you do the splits?" Yes I can you pervert. I also sometimes get lifted into the air by my vagina if that turns you on even more! ...It usually doesn't. If I really don't feel like starting a conversation with the person I'll just say I'm a student. Sometimes it works but then other times it backfires because when asked what I study, I freeze. I haven't been a student since I was 16! College wasn't even a consideration for this ballet bunhead. I don't know the first thing about majors, or minors, or bachelor degrees or whatever. So I usually just say that I'm studying History, which should end the conversation right then and there. With History no one ever wants to know when you started studying History, or if you spend most of your time in the library studying History, or if your fellow Historian colleagues are total bitches. History just sounds like the most boring subject on earth that not even your Turkish taxi driver taking you to the airport is going to bother you with a follow up question on your great academic research of the past. That conversation, is History. Ba-dum-bum Ching!