Student Life & News

“Some Brand of Crazy” – Katie Florez

“Some Brand of Crazy”

By the lovely Katie Florez (year-round program)


Auditions. Auditions!

What feels like an out of body experience becomes real when I wake to a line-up of texts from friends, dancers and non-dancers. A techy barrage of good lucks, merdes, and kick some ass from at least 3 different time zones. And I spring out of bed and say, “Time to make dreams come true!” And then I immediately get a job and everyone cheers and I’m amazing all the time.


The texts are real. Everything else is just the juicy sweetness of ‘success’ that I’ve imagined the taste of a million times. I don’t really feel like talking about auditions straight so I’m going to talk around them and toss them a coy look over my shoulder. And bring you two positive insights that I’ve wrested from the entire process thus far.

For me, dance is a very social endeavor. It’s why I jumped the tracks on a professional piano career. Being locked up in a practice room for 8 hours a day would quite literally drive me mad. Unfortunately (fortunately?), going on auditions and being on planes alone, and getting lost without Google Maps has made me equally as insane. Audition season brings on a whole new brand of crazy.

This brings me to my first audition insight: hanging out with yourself. Being alone is such an incredibly scary and important skill to develop. A wise mentor explained the importance of feeding your passion and making sure that how you stoke your fire isn’t dependent on the environment that you are in. I know what feeling the butterflies of learning a phrase in 60 seconds is and being called by a number and forgetting that my name is Kathryn, not Katie, during important formal events. Over the past year of travel in and out of the states, I’ve realized that I have a lot more practice dealing with being a dancer than I do dealing with being by myself. And how beautiful is it when we can learn to be ourselves by being by ourselves?

As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy the social aspects of dance and life. I could sit down on a bus, train, sidewalk, plane, bench, or barstool and talk to just about anyone. I’ve found that being alone is a rare experience for me, mostly by choice. But, as my wise mentor explained, you have to figure out how to maintain what you are regardless of what or who is around you. My increased comfort in being alone, although I have a long way to go, has brought me much satisfaction. The frame that it provides for ‘dancer me’ as it grows stronger, undoubtedly enhances my ability to present myself in any studio in the company of both familiar and unfamiliar dancers.

With my penchant for sociability and passion for moving, the question has never been why do I dance. That has a long, obvious, universally understood answer. And if you’re reading this blog post you probably are a dancer or know a dancer, and you ‘get it’ to some extent. The question is how do I keep dancing. I’ve heard rejection via poorly written emails with generic greetings, firmly spoken ‘no thank you’s’, and even snail mail ‘we hope you find your ways.’ I also get thumbs up emojis, let me know how it goes, and you’re gonna kill it texts before an audition and it’s like bread and water in a desert. There’s something so sweet and pure and untainted in people’s well wishes for you from outside of the war zone. Their words seep in through your eyes and ears and turn into a chanting audience surrounding a passion that you continue to feed and hold internally ever closer.

My other insight: support. When I step into an audition I know that what I am doing alone was crafted and enabled by so many others. I always feel such a sense of generosity when I can share my dancing. It fascinates me how bottomless that reservoir can feel. The support that I receive from people outside of the ring encourages me to be fearless about diving deeper and deeper. There’s something about this art form that feels dangerous as if we’re living on the edge of ecstasy and suffocation and it’s truly immense. And you kind of just keep going because you know that you have this fan section in the back of your head that will always save you if you need saving.

What I’m realizing is that auditions haven’t taught me much about dancing. I rarely take away any revelations from being in a stressed out room of men and women who are grasping for that juicy bite of success. However, I often feel a sense of personal achievement when I return home. Don’t underestimate the feat of being happy being alone and risking yourself out into the universe as a dancer and more importantly, a person. Auditions are practice for the extreme times in your life when you are expected to be amazing in unrealistic situations and you are alone. And after all of that if you can come out on top, I am convinced that your potential to be magnificent is limitless.


Reflecting on Change

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I know that time flies when you’re having fun – but y’all, time has soared by me in the past few months!

To say that there have been some major adjustments made to my life recently would be a blatant understatement.  There has been a ton of change.  I graduated in May from the University of Texas with my BFA in Dance (Hook ‘Em!), packed up my life, moved to San Francisco, and am now attempting to redefine what “home” means to me.  I keep busy.  I am rehearsing  with The Foundry directed by Alex Ketley, coaching gymnastics, doing administrative work for Liss Fain Dance Company, and attending the SFCD’s year-round program.  I have always managed to over-commit myself, and obviously that has not changed in the least.  But I’ll be honest with you; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As this fall semester at the Conservatory rolls to a close, I realize that I have learned more about myself through all this change than I could have ever expected.  I’ve learned that distance actually can make the heart grow fonder, but it can also amplify small doubts into echoing aches.  I’ve always known that I love to travel, but didn’t know that it could fill your soul up in a way that nothing else can.  I’ve learned that home really is a constantly shifting concept.  I’ve learned that there is bravery in discovering how to trust your own instinct.  I’ve learned that the fear in loneliness can be quieted by a simple nod of acknowledgement.  I’ve learned that people change at searing speeds, and also that I’m changing just as rapidly.  I’ve learned that there are beautifully inspiring people everywhere and if you’re open to them, they can kick your happiness level up a few good notches.

I’ve come to know and appreciate the unique joy of being independent, hopeful, young, experienced, and comfortably lost all the while.  It has all been quite humbling.

If I had to pick one thing that has been most helpful and difficult at the same time, it would be the idea of balance.  Finding the balance among various aspects of my life has proved to be the hardest and most rewarding challenge that I’ve faced.  From a balanced diet to a balanced relationship between my work time commitments and my personal downtime… it’s not easy.  But it’s a type of stamina that I am happy to develop.  To consistently remember to equally stimulate all corners of my own private universe requires strategy and dedication.  Personally it helps me to read at least one thing a day that is positive, motivating, or purely for fun.  It doesn’t have to be an entire novel, but a simple article in the paper or a quote from a peer can really turn my day around.  The balance between being a student and a working professional is demanding physically and mentally, but staggeringly worthwhile.  I have been working on how the two branches of my dancing can inform each other, how I can be better in both situations; and I feel like I’ve grown tremendously from both commitments.

Earlier on in this semester, Summer Lee Rhatigan said something along the lines of: “extreme energy has never been beaten out by extreme chaos.”  First of all, whoa.  Secondly, I think that idea has been beneficial and relevant not only in the way that I go about taking dance classes, but also in the way that I tackle all kinds of life’s obstacles.  I’ve never regretted vigor or perseverance… I’ve only ever regretted letting my effort yield to my turmoil.

Graduating college and leaving home was complex and intimidating, but since then I feel like I have lived more lifetimes than what is normally allotted for 5 months of life.  I can cheerfully say that I trust in the thought that my hard work will carry me onward, and I am grateful to the Conservatory and my Bay Area friends for being so welcoming and inspiring.  Now that I am on my own, navigating my way through the world – I feel small, bright, and humming with possibilities.

Best Wishes and Happy Holidays!

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

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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.

Students at Work

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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.