Author: Kelvin

Words to Work By, Part 2

UT Austin senior and Conservatory summer program alumna Courtney Mazeika brings us this week’s words to work by.

When I get caught up in the whirlwind of life, this prose poem helps me to find the ground.

By: Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in
silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the
ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare
yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be
greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career,
however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let
this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and
everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in
the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress
yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the
universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever
your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be

Strive to be happy.


Stop. Listen. Be Carried. (Guest post: Virginia Reinert)

Current Conservatory student Virginia Reinert reflects on Malinda Lavelle’s Jam class, which opens each week on Monday morning.


Simple wisdom: we arrive where we are because of where we have been, and we go forward from where we are.

We all have things that we would rather forget. Things that we wish weren’t part of our story, part of where we have been. However, our bodies know. Our bodies remember. They remember fear. They remember joy. They remember laughing-tears, dancing-stillness, screaming-quiet. Our challenge is to listen.

When we listen, we are carried, held. We are transported to our brightest corners, our darkest clearings, and our quirkiest realities. We live.

When we block our “ears,” we almost cease to exist.

When I was twenty years, three months, and ten days old, my world was irrevocably altered. The initial event, and all those surrounding it, shut my ears to everything.  There was no sorrow; there was no joy. I functioned, compartmentalized. I survived, even appeared to thrive, until finally, hindered by nagging physical injury, I was forced to stop.

Stop. Listen. Be Carried.

I came to the Conservatory in the summer of 2012. Almost exactly two years after I stopped listening, I experienced my first Jam class with Malinda Lavelle. I cried.

For the first time in two years, I felt—and welcomed—joy. When she challenged the class to “imagine going home—that your body can feel like home” and reminded us “the things, the memories, that come to you can feel good,” I wept for overwhelming happiness. I had forgotten that I had the power to feel good, that being in my body could bring that sensation.

A few classes later, I wept again. This time, though, my tears were for the past. “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron and Wine opened class. I hadn’t heard it since destroying a CD I had been given two years earlier, the one I had called simply “Please, remember me,” on which “The Trapeze Singer” was the first song. The tears came unbidden: grief for loss, pain endured, grief for where I had come from, and for lost joy. I could not grieve until I felt joy; I could not feel joy until I stopped to listen.

Joy and Sorrow are the same.

I am now a student in the Conservatory’s year-round program. I already hold a degree in dance, but this journey, this process, this learning, this exploration is about so much more than physical movement. It is about listening. It is about trust. It is about my voice, who I am. It is about speaking.

Every Monday, we have Jam. I begin every week with a journey through my memories. I am carried through the worst moments of my life—and the best—by my joy. Sometimes, there are still tears; healing and reawakening are slow. Always, Malinda’s voice is there, reminding me “it’s ok to feel joy;” “your body can feel like home;” “trust that your body can feel experienced, old, and young at the same time;” “let your freak out;” and “let your two-year-old out!”—reminding me that the full spectrum of my being exists and is present in each moment. Reminding me that I have arrived where I am because of where I have been. All of the pieces are there; I am not a broken puzzle. I can speak because I can listen.

To Jam is to live Joy – in all its forms.

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!