understudying

Understudying or covering, is an essential part of dancing that kind of sucks. I have been understudying recently and it isn’t always the most exciting thing to do. I have understudied parts since the age of ten and even though it isn’t thrilling, it is so important. This post will be all about understudying; why it matters, my experience with it, and how to be great at it.

Ok so why it matters isn’t that difficult to realize. Understudying is done so that in case the worst happens someone is able to step in for someone else in a piece. That may be one reason it matters, but there is another. Understudying is important because it is a chance to prove yourself to your director and show that you are up to the challenge.

I have had a lot of experience with understudying. Since ten I have understudied roles and since ten I have gone in for people who were injured, sick, etc. because I understudied. I know it can be rough at times to understudy when you don’t typically get to run the choreography and you’re just expected to know what is going on. Understudying can either be exciting because you may be given an opportunity you weren’t expecting or it can feel frustrating if you thought you would be cast. That’s when you need to change your mind set because being an understudy is being cast.

With that being said here are a few tips for being an understudy.

  1. Write it or record it– write or record choreography even if you don’t usually. You are at a disadvantage with less practice time meaning you won’t be able to rely on muscle memory as much as you typically would. To really succeed as an understudy you should have the choreography somewhere else whether it be in words or imagery, so you can review the material.
  2. Pay attention to detail– this is incredibly important, the more nuances and little bits you know exactly about what you are a cover for the better. Yes it is good to know the choreography and counts, but if you pay attention to corrections on a head movement or some other detail then apply it you will be highly valued.
  3. Do more– always go the extra mile in practicing and marking as a cover or understudy. Work harder than you think is necessary because it will leave you better off and show in your dancing. It may be hard to focus when you have to just practice in the back or on the side, but the more effort you put in, the better the results you will be left with.

All I want to get across is give covering and understudying your best. It may seem like a waste of time or frustrating, but take it from me, covering well can only further your dancing. The work ethic you put into covering can prove to your director you are a hard worker and you just might have to go in. The chances may seem slim or unlikely, but I know that I have had to go in for someone somewhat last minute and it was good to feel prepared.

Covering can be a test of determination, focus, and learning ability for a ballet dancer, so give it your all and do the best you can. Understudying is a chance to prove yourself even if you don’t make it to the stage, so make it count. At the very least you’ll improve your ability to learn choreography and show that you are a reliable dancer.

Discharged

I’m done! I finally finished up physical therapy and can say I’m injury free. It definitely took longer than I expected, nearly three months, to nip this back pain in the butt. With that being said, I thought I would talk about some of the things used to relieve pain in case you wonder what they are like.

Cupping- Ok so most people reading this either know what cupping is or what it is like, but for those who don’t, I’ll discuss. They type of cupping I would have is just suction, no heat. A glass is suctioned to your area of tightness and is pulled around to release and relax the muscles. It feels like suction of course, but not painful. While the glass is moved around, it might be slightly uncomfortable while the muscles start to release. Depending on where your being cupped it may feel like it it is rubbing against bones a little bit. Overall there really isn’t pain, pretty similar to a massage, but instead of pressing down into your muscles, your muscles are being lifted up.

Dry Needling- Dry needling was something I was very curious about before trying it. I am not great with needles, so I was a little nervous. The needle is poked in and doesn’t hurt at all going in, until it hits a knot. Once a knot is hit, it feels like a pressure point deep down inside of you has been struck. Not the best feeling, the needle is usually poked into it and moved around causing the muscle to “jump”. It is similar to a spasm. Dry needling can sometimes be needle in and out or the needle will be left in for awhile. After dry needling you will probably sore, kind of like after getting a vaccine or shot.

Pulse Stimulation- This wasn’t for my back, but I did have pulse stimulation done on my quads to help them relax. The feeling of pulse stimulation is like when your body part is asleep and you move it. Similar to the little shock you feel then, you feel during pulse stimulation, but much more controlled. It’s a strange and funny feeling at first, but not at all painful.

All of these treatments are great for relaxing your body. If you ever find yourself injured and needing to do one of them, I hope this post is helpful. Of course I can only do my best explaining what they are like, so ask your physician any additional questions. See you next week!

audition time

It’s that time of year again, audition season. I’ve written about auditions twice before on this blog, but I think it is a nice topic to revisit each year, since they can be so different.

This year I’ve decided to audition for three places; Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Oregon Ballet Theater, and The Washington Ballet. I’m sending a video to Oregon and Washington because it is just much easier for me. This last weekend I filmed my video and it was a very easy experience. For me personally filming an audition, if the circumstances are right is just much better. A main reason for this is because I have to drive at least an hour to nearly every audition I want to go to. It is exhausting and time consuming, so that is why I rarely go to in person auditions.

Anyways, I’ll be going to one in person audition this Saturday, so you’ll be sure to hear how it goes and any results I get by then. With that being said here are a few tips I have for in person auditions that you probably don’t hear very often.

  1. Wear What You Like- I highly recommend wearing a leotard that you feel really good in. By that I mean, wear something that makes you feel good because it will affect your dancing. I feel like most people think they need to wear something that will make them stand out, but I simply don’t agree. When you feel good and comfortable about how you look it makes it easier for you to focus on your dancing.
  2. Eat Something- Ok this might sound stupid, but just try it. Eat something, not a whole meal, but something small like a bit of chocolate or some fruit a bit before your audition. It will give you some extra energy so that you can really shine while you dance.
  3. Don’t Compare- I feel like no one ever says this about auditions, but DO NOT compare yourself to the people around you. You should focus on yourself and your dancing instead of stressing about those around you. No one ever says it, but go into your audition with you in mind and no one else (that being said, don’t be rude to people either).
  4. Enjoy the Class- Obviously you should be working hard and giving it your all at an audition, but at the same time appreciate the class. An audition is a time to experience a new teacher and get new corrections. Even if you don’t get accepted into the summer intensive or year round program, hopefully you got a good class out of it.

Those are my tips, hopefully it is some new information and not the same old “smile” or “perform”. Those are helpful tips too, but I tried to share some little tricks that will help you do your best, while also making sure you get the most out of the audition. At the very least you can hope to get a good class out of an audition and enjoy a new teacher. As you go through your auditions for summer intensives I wish you the best of luck!

2019

Happy New Year! The first half of the season went by way faster than I was expecting it to. This last half of the season is definitely going to be busy with many different shows and rehearsals. As I gear up for classes beginning again this week I’ve decided to share some goals. Not the most creative blog post, but I find that making goals helps me a lot to focus and hone in on my objectives.

  1. Relax and enjoy. I never just enjoy things as they are happening and I always stress. To finish off this season I want to appreciate things while they are happening instead of just missing them once they’re gone. I said it to some people on the last day of Nutcracker, but I should listen to it myself “Enjoy how it is now because it might not ever be like that again”.
  2. Put myself out there. I’m told over and over again to go beyond what I need to, so it is my personal goal to do just that. I think everyone gets comfortable and I’ve hit the point in my training where if I don’t challenging myself a bit more I won’t keep improving.
  3. No more off days. Of course we always have our off days during class and won’t be able to dance quite as well as most days. That being said I don’t want to let it be my excuse anymore. Sometimes I’d have an “off day” and let that be a reason for me to stop trying during that class. No more of that, obviously I won’t will myself out of a funk, but I’m not going to let it damper my dancing for the rest of class.

So that’s it three goals, not too bad. It’s not the typical I want consistent triples or I want higher extensions because that doesn’t work for me. I’ve made some goals that will change how I approach my dancing and my mindset with my dancing. Hopefully these goals are helpful to you too and I hope your 2019 started off well. Until next week!

that’s a wrap

Another year has come and gone, with it another run of Nutcracker. It is a long and draining experience, but I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I hadn’t been doing Nutcracker these last nine years. Now that this run of shows is over, it feels so bittersweet. I’m grateful to get some rest, but I wasn’t ready for it to be over.

sensory friendly performance

We got right back into the swing of things last Thursday with a sensory friendly matinee. It was a pretty regular show until sadly our Dew Drop got injured and caused a slight panic. The understudy was already injured too, so before the evening show there was a bit of a casting shuffle. Everyone managed to work through it though and it became a small hiccup that was quickly overcome. The evening show entailed a new quick change for me due to the change up of spots. I was now doing Chinese and flowers for B cast shows. It was a new challenge I was happy to take on.

Friday brought another two shows, nothing too strange happened. All I can say is that I was impressed with the resilience of the female dancers taking on extra roles and working their butts off. I started to feel comfortable in flowers and my stamina was much better. Everyone was happy to get another double show day out of the way.

Saturday, the final double show day. I was back to doing Chinese and flowers, filled with excitement and exhaustion. Between shows senior company had their annual Secret Santa reveal. I was very happy to receive some face masks, a calendar, a coloring book, and pens for my final gift from Emily. From the thrill of giving and receiving gifts everybody was slightly energized for the second show. During the first act plenty of people watched backstage very nervously. Somehow (it was never made explicitly clear how), the stage had become as slick as ice. Dancers were slipping and sliding all over. Luckily for the second act there is another set of marley to use, but that was definitely the most intense run of snow I had watched. All in all it was a successful double show day.

Then it was Sunday, the last day. I was doing flowers for all of my family and for the first time since opening night was feeling a little nervous. Warm up class was done on the very slick marley and you can bet that your girl wiped out during grand allegro. Hey better to fall warming up then onstage. They ended up not even using the first act marley due to it being one giant danger zone. The show began at 2:30 and the whole experience was over by 5:00. It went just as well as I could have hoped and to top it all off when the curtain came down the cast was “snowed” on one last time.

I know I already said it, but it all was very bittersweet. I can honestly say this was probably the best year of Nutcracker yet and saying good bye to it was hard. I almost always struggle with saying good bye to a show because even though you feel beaten down and stripped of all energy, it was worth it. You are surrounded by applause, love, and support then in a blink of an eye it is gone. Sadly all good things come to an end, so until next year Nutcracker.

nutcracker!

As I write this I am ready to just curl up and sleep. Saying I’m tired is an understatement. This last weekend was our fist set of shows and it was a time.

Thursday we were still wrapping up tech rehearsals and did a run through with the second cast in the afternoon. It was kind of a mess, I missed a call and my prop was falling and it was just overall bad. I was not looking forward to dress rehearsal that followed a couple hours later. Considering how the tech rehearsal was a flop dress actually went very well. With rehearsals all finished a bit before ten o’clock, I headed home to do schoolwork. I was up LATE. I had to practice two projects for school and then get to school earlier than usual.

Friday it was opening night at last, BUT I had to get through school first. Luckily both projects went very well and a good amount of weight I didn’t even realize I had felt was lifted. I felt fresh to go to the theater for our first official show. The first show went suitably, I felt good about it, but wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. It was a flowers show and I felt like my spacing could have been better. The audience was fantastic and at the end of the night I knew it wouldn’t be my best show, but it got me on the right track to kick Nutcracker off.

Saturday meant I could blissfully sleep in and I did, all the way to 9:40. I know, so crazy. Saturday got off to a rocky start with a full class on stage at 12:15. I get to the stage and there is a huge puddle (and I mean huge) about two feet from where I stand for barre. To add to the already sticky situation our pianist wasn’t there for about the first half hour. So it is twelve something on Saturday with a leak in the ceiling dripping on my bun as we dance in silence, not quite how you want to begin a double show day. Never the less everyone prevailed, our pianist came through, the leak from above was stopped, and the matinee went rather well. There was a minor freak accident of a long (about eight foot) ribbon getting caught on a costume leaving a ribbon and it’s stick laying on the stage waiting to trip someone during the second act. Thanks to one of the darling and smart little lambies in marzipan the broken prop was brought of stage with crisis averted. All of that and it wasn’t even 5 o’clock! After dinner the second show went much smoother and it was two successful runs of Chinese complete by the end of Saturday.

The single show on Sunday was welcome after a rather long Saturday. It was back to theater for class again, no puddle this time, and another run of flowers. Once again the audience was pretty incredible. I felt better about Sunday’s flowers, I was more in my skin and was happier with the way things went. The day felt very fast compared to the previous one. When the show was over everyone headed to the little cast party held primarily for the younger cast to get signatures and photos with the company. It felt different this year, with so many new company members and a very different senior company the party was a little strange for me. Two company members I had taken a picture with every year since my very first Nutcracker had retired and the faint bitterness of change was stinging. I got home by 5:30 and hit the books. 

Today, Tuesday, and Wednesday are all days off for me and it is school consumed. I’m studying and prepping what seems to be nonstop. Despite much review I did my first exam didn’t go as well as I’d hoped it would. Tomorrow I have an exam for English and History, the first of which starts at 8:00 am. I’m going to do my best to power through these last two days of school then it will be diving right back in to Nutcracker for three double show days in a row and then one last matinee. 

Who knows maybe with the craziness that has been ensuing I’ll write an extra post? Until next time, I wish all of you abundant sleep, good grades, and extra long applauses.

crunch time

One of the most stressful weeks of the year is upon me. It is not only tech week for Nutcracker, but also the week before exams for school along with end of semester projects needing to be complete. There are about ten different things going on all at once it seems.

As for injury, I’m hanging in there. Class itself is the worst part, when I’m not very warm and it hurts to do cambres forward or back. Last Friday, filled with guilt I sat out of center, frustrated. After physical therapy last Wednesday I had felt good during class and on Thursday not as good, but still felt capable. Sitting out on Friday felt horrible, I knew I should take it easy since the weekend would be crazy, but it was so defeating. Limiting what I do feels crappy even when it is for my well being. I need to keep my eye on the bigger picture and focus on progress. Newly needled, it’s time to get my mind in the right place to nip this injury in the butt.

This last weekend went relatively well all things considered, I naturally block out any pain while dancing my actual parts. It was two in-studio run thrus each on Saturday and Sunday. I was overall happy with my dancing, so it felt good to get through that.

Now it is stress city. I haven’t talked about school in a while, but it is a bit overwhelming at the moment. Two teachers through on some last minute big projects and studying for exams is also taking over. It is going to be notes and textbooks backstage or in the dressing room as I go through this weekend. To all my fellow dancer students in the midst of Nutcracker and finals, we got this.

I guess that is really all I have to share for now, but I might write again this week with tech week beginning and opening night on Friday!

christmas time

Well it has been a long week. Since I last wrote, things got a little scary for a time with my injury. I was told that my imaging tests had shown bone erosion in my hip and that the ligament could be pulling away. I had to go get an MRI and wouldn’t know the results for a couple days. It was nerve wracking. Depending on what they saw I may have had to drop out of Nutcracker and surgery could have even been a possibility. I was terrified, I went to the doctor for back pain and now I may need surgery?

Luckily, that wasn’t the case.  I got my results very quickly and was told I could do Nutcracker, this was such a relief. Though, I still don’t know what is going on with my hip. It was very frustrating though, not being allowed to dance at the possibility of there being a more severe injury and I sympathize for anyone who has to wait awhile for any sort of medical answers.

After that scare I began to gradually get back into classes, while it felt great, my back is still hurting. I powered through Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then happily welcomed my physical therapy appointment today. It seems as if my back is doing all the work, all the time, so I began some strengthening today then ended with some needling and cupping.

I’m on the road to recovery, that is what matters. I have a follow up appointment for my hip next week and will be going to PT for my back in the meantime. 

As for Nutcracker, it is exciting to think we will be performing in less than two weeks. We may not perform as much as other companies do, but it is a lot of fun none the less. I’m very excited to be doing Chinese again in addition to flowers! With December here I’m starting to feel the Christmas spirit and I’ll be sure to update about Nutcracker, injury, and more. Happy Holidays!

injury and some casting

Hello! So I made the conscious decision to not write last week because I felt it would leave to many unanswered questions. I had once again gone to rehearsals and awaited casting, so there wasn’t much point in sharing that, since it was business as usual. In addition to that I had some injury stuff come up that I thought I would wait to write about until I had a few more answers.

I’ll start with my injury. Since late October my lower back had been bothering me, so I decided to roll it out and see what happens. I have a tendency to get a tight lower back and thought little of it. In addition to that a pinching I feel in my upper back had been getting worse. About two weeks ago the lower back pain had yet to subside and had worsen (so had the pinching). At that point I decided to go to the sports clinic for a prescription for physical therapy. I had talked to my physical therapist already and it seemed like that was all I needed.

At the clinic I underwent a physical exam, had some x-rays done, and was prescribed physical therapy as well as a bone scan. The bone scan was a safety precaution to ensure there was no stress fracture in my lower back pain. I was also told no ballet outside of Nutcracker warm up classes and rehearsals until bone scan results were back.

I went and did the bone scan over Thanksgiving break. I was injected with a radioactive tracker and then images were taken a few hours later. It all went well, I got to see my spine, and my images were taken to the doctor. Due to how my bone scan went, they wanted to do a CT scan as well. I’m honestly unsure of what the CT scan was for and I don’t know my test results yet. Hopefully I’ll be in the know of everything by Wednesday.

In the meantime, I’ve begun physical therapy. I have had two appointments and both have been to relieve tension and get things back in place, since I don’t know the results of all the imaging done over Thanksgiving break yet. I’ve had cupping and dry needling done for the crazy tightness that is my upper back. It seems that my SI joint may be inflamed. In addition to that my ribs were out of place and so was my left hip.

To put simply my whole back was janky. That has kind of been a lot and I’ll write more soon with more answers. For now I’ll wrap up with the exciting news that I was cast in flowers! We find out Chinese and Russian casting later this week. I’ll do my best to fill in by next Monday.

snow and flowers

It began. The tiring and long process of snow and flowers began this last weekend. Going into it I felt ready, maybe not physically, but mentally. Last year I didn’t do snow and flowers, as a freshman I just wasn’t quite ready for it. This year I’m just focused on learning and improving. As I go into rehearsals with no guarantees of casting I’m determined to prevent any expectations from deterring my concentration.

I know I should be optimistic, but this year I’m trying to have a healthy dose of reality too. It can be pretty difficult going into something having role expectations and to not have them fulfilled. I know that is especially the case during Nutcracker. Everyone around me and myself start to get really high hopes and it is more toxic than anything else. I begin to put more weight into it than I should. My mission this year is to just take it as it comes.

Anyways I’m off track, I’m writing to talk about rehearsal. The way it works is nearly everyone or everyone in senior company learns both snow and flowers, but casting comes a few weeks later. It is exciting, fun, and very honestly challenging. It is probably some of the most advanced choreography we have to live up to here. It is fast, continuous, and technically tricky at times. I find myself taking deep breaths as I wait to re-enter stage in hopes it will make breathing on stage either. Yet, I love it. I don’t know what will happen with casting and I will work hard with whatever I get, but these rehearsals are thrilling. I’m so glad I get the chance to run this corps work and learn it even if I don’t do it. It is definitely one of the perks of a smaller company.

Ok, I kind of got off track again, so left me realign. I got to the studios at 9:45 for a 10:00 warm up. Then we got right into flowers at 11:15, by the end of rehearsal at 1:30 I was red-faced, sweaty, and alive. It felt like Nutcracker had come full swing and I certainly wasn’t mad about it. After lunch we picked up with snow, this time sans pointe shoes because our artistic director is very good to us. We finished up by 4:15 and day one was complete. I felt good about it, but was also determined to not get any hopes up.

Day two was a little bit rougher. Sunday morning I was up at 7:00 to get ready and got to the studios at the same time. A bit more tired and a bit stressed about homework I was a bit more worn going into rehearsal that day. It went along the same schedule and I felt pretty good, but definitely had a few slip ups. I straight up fell during snow, but hey I’m not ashamed of it. All in all it was a good introductory weekend to snow and flowers. I am ready to keep working hard because Nutcracker is home. Yes us ballerinas do it every year and it may seem to get a bit old, but it is home to me. Nutcracker is what I know and love, so to come back to it each year feels great.

A little PSA for those other ballerinas out there doing Nutcracker. No matter where you are in the process; about to perform, just receiving casting, etc. keep your head up. It gets crazy, exhausting, and maybe even a little repetitive, but go into it with a fresh, open mind each day. We’ll all got through the Nutcracker madness (even if we fall).