Month: January 2013

Words to Work By

sfcd showcase kelvin

A significant part of training at the Conservatory is not just working hard but, more importantly, improving how to work so that development and breakthroughs are simply the byproducts of a self-sustaining artistic practice.  At times, this meta-working process is quite heady and overwhelming.  When I feel neck deep, I find wisdom in these words to work by:

First, advice from poet Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day to the answer.”

Second, John Cage’s “10 Rules for Students and Teachers”

RULE 1: Find a place you trust, and then, try trusting it for a while.
RULE 2: (General duties as a student) Pull everything out of your teacher.  Pull everything out of your fellow students.
RULE 3: (General duties as a teacher) Pull everything out of your students.
RULE 4: Consider everything an experiment.
RULE 5: Be self-disciplined.  This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them.  To be disciplined is to follow in a good way.  To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
RULE 6: Follow the leader.  Nothing is a mistake.  There is no win and no fail.  There is only make.
RULE 7: The only rule is work.  If you work it will lead to something.  It is the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch onto things.  You can fool the fans–but not the players.
RULE 8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time.  They are different processes.
RULE 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it.  Enjoy yourself.  It is lighter than you think.
RULE 10: We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules and how do we do that?  By leaving plenty of room for ‘x’ qualities.

Always be around.
Come or go to everything.
Always go to classes.
Read everything you can get your hands on.
Look at movies carefully and often.
SAVE EVERYTHING.  It may come in handy later.

Adventures Abroad: Andrea Thompson

Good friend and Conservatory alumna Andrea Thompson reports from her travels abroad, which started on a Birthright trip to Israel and continues this spring with a string of auditions.  Here, she writes about her experience after Batsheva Dance Company’s winter Gaga intensive and the first round of auditions for the Ensemble.

DAY BEFORE AUDITIONS: I got to experience a Batsheva ballet class! Claire, the Ensemble director, taught the class which was mainly for the Ensemble but overrun by people from the main company. Bobbi took ballet 🙂

It felt much like the Conservatory in terms of environment: safe to go for things, push pirouettes and beats and things you don’t get to do there on a daily basis. I’m really glad I got to see what the once-a-month ballet there is like. I must admit that during the intensive and in fact my whole month-plus in Israel I have not really missed ballet because Gaga and Batsheva’s rep have felt so full and complete on their own. Though in the four ballet classes I have taken since November I can definitely tell that it’s been a while…

After ballet, Faith [another Conservatory alum] and I stayed to watch the Ensemble rehearse “Tabula Rasa,” a piece to gorgeous Arvo Part music that Ohad made in the 80s, pre-Gaga. In structure, the piece is closer to classical organization than his more recent works: lots of formations and duets and patterns and some unisons. I loved it. If there were a part of me that would miss classicism, this piece satisfies that appetite. The music alone holds enough “beauty” in a traditional sense–as opposed to the “finding beauty in things that are grotesque, extreme, or exaggerated” category–that I was immediately and unquestioningly hooked into watching. It is exactly what I want to dance: inventive and surprising movement accompanying fantastic music that picks you up and sweeps you off your feet.

Faith and me after the winter Gaga intensive, looking BEAT!

Faith and me after the winter Gaga intensive, looking BEAT!

AUDITION, DAY 1: There were three sessions of auditions throughout the day, each with about 60 people. I was in the earliest group from 9-12:30. We started with a Gaga class taught by a girl in the Ensemble–obviously, no one watched. Then we learned a bit of rep from  one of the company members, a tiny firecracker in the main company. She didn’t tell us what it was except that it was a solo she does in some piece. I liked it a lot. She taught us the material and the co-associate director of the main company and rehearsal director for the Ensemble chimed in with more information about qualities and dynamics to get us juicing everything there was out of the movement.

We did the phrase in groups of 11, and being that my number was 5, I was in the first group for everything. We spent probably an hour and a half learning and then doing the phrase in groups, then each group got 2-3 minutes for improvisation. No interacting, just improvising in your own box of space.

And that was the end! We went upstairs and half an hour later Claire came up and read the list of numbers for the people who they wanted to see the next day. The good thing about being #5 out of 60 was that I had very little suspense! I was called, so Saturday I returned.

DAY 2: There were 34 of us; my French friend who also did the Gaga intensive and I were the only non-Israelis there. A former company member of 10 years taught Gaga. It was perfect because my nerves were a bit higher that day, and with him I got to bomb around and get some jitters out–sweaty time! Then another company member taught something from Humus! I had learned it from Bobbi at SFCD summer 2009 and good thing, because I was #2, in the first group for everything and had to look sharp. We worked for about an hour and a half on it and they made a cut.  Then the last 20 of us did that together with the phrase from yesterday. Ohad came for the last hour or so, and he saw both phrases and then a three-minute improv (four people at a time: “Show us what kind of creature you are,” he said).

They made another cut sort of–15 out of those 20 people were invited to the February audition, including my friend and myself. They said that some of us don’t have to go if we can’t make it because they know us now.

So excited to return and keep putting myself out there!

Suzanne Dellal Center

A view into the Suzanne Dellal courtyard from Varda, Batsheva’s biggest studio and the one we used for the intensive

View from the other side of Varda on a cloudier day- overlooking the Neve Tsedek neighborhood and beyond the street lights and palm trees, the Mediterranean Sea!

View from the other side of Varda on a cloudier day- overlooking the Neve Tsedek neighborhood and beyond the street lights and palm trees, the Mediterranean Sea!

Students at Work

sarah flies 3

In 2012, we had the great pleasure of seeing a number of recent Conservatory students and alumni join the ranks of other alumni already working with a wide variety of companies and choreographers. We’re proud of their work and delighted to see them taking on the professional realm.

  • Josianne Fleming and Sarah Woods joined San Francisco’s LEVYdance, directed by Benjamin Levy. You can catch a glimpse of their recent work in this video.
  • Sarah Lyman joined Ate9, directed by Danielle Agami, for the company’s residency in Los Angeles.
  • Madison Hoke and Andrea Thompson performed as members of Zhukov Dance Theatre for the world premiere of Yuri Zhukov’s Coin/c/dance. You can see excerpts of the piece here.
  • Maggie Stack joined San Francisco’s ODC/Dance, directed by Brenda Way, KT Nelson, and Kimi Okada.
  • Shannon Leypoldt joined San Francisco’s FACT/SF, directed by Charles Slender.
  • Andrea Thompson, Josianne Fleming, and Sarah Woods performed in Low Down, an Izzie Award-nominated collaboration between The Foundry and LEVYdance. You can see excerpts here.
  • Deanna Gooding performed in The Nutcracker with Oakland Ballet, directed by Graham Lustig.

Students and alumni also participated in work with the Conservatory’s four resident companiesThe Foundry, Project Thrust, burns-work, and Sharp & Fine. In 2012, SFCD dancers collaborated on three world premieres created by these companies.

  • Sarah Woods performed with The Foundry in Alex Ketley’s No Hero. Excerpts from the video projection used in the piece here.
  • Carson Stein, Josianne Fleming, Kelvin Vu, and Sarah Lyman performed with Sharp & Fine in A Thousand Natural Shocks by Megan and Shannon Kurashige. You can see an excerpt from the piece here.
  • Emmaly Wiederholt, Joy Prendergast, Julia Hollas, and Madelyn Biven performed with Project Thrust in Malinda LaVelle’s Urge. Video excerpts from the piece here.