Sunday, February 04, 2007

ballet is like marching band


Like my new photo? No bosom to speak of. Nor is there an ass, but it sure makes the lines cleaner, so I can't complain. I've got enough of a gut to make the die-hard dancer scream bloody hell. This, I am proud of.

Anyway, I am admittedly a little frustrated with the ballet director these days.

The kids in the group are getting pushed beyond their limits. She wants nothing but perfection and yet, this is a youth company. I suspect she forgets that the majority of the dancers are between 12 and 20. They've got homework, projects, after school AP labs...other extracurricular activities. They've got parents who hang out in the lobby, anxiously tapping their feet wondering why everyone is getting held over an hour.

At the moment she is frantically rearranging the "weaker" dancers out of the formations. Frankly, if the audition was handled correctly and folks were properly cast, this wouldn't have been much of an issue. However, that's my take. Whenever the dancers are in the studio, if anything goes wrong, it always seems to be the dancer's fault. She doesn't say it blatantly, but more in a condescending "hint" sort of way. For example, one of the gals has curly hair with bangs and often the front section falls out of her bun. This annoyed the director. Instead of telling her outright that her hair needs to be properly pinned in place she goes "You're just trying to draw attention to yourself aren't you?" or something to that effect. When her bangs were still unpinned in the next class, Madame's remark was "did you not get the memo about your hair?" So condescending and so unnecessary.

I don't think she notices the kids practicing in hallways trying to get a piece of movement right or the ones cutting lunch so that they have the time to memorize a section of music or review choreography on the DVD player. I'm not convinced she is appreciative of the parents who rearrange their schedules to bring their children to rehearsals and classes or the mothers who sit inside of the cramped storage closets fluffing tutus and beautifully piecing together new costumes from old components.

I'm one of the old farts, so it's easy for me to say "fuck it" if things get to be too much. However, I can still remember what it was like to be a kid and to blindly listen to authority. For many of the company members, they're so willing to please and impress that they're terrified of making her angry. They don't want to be cut out of a performance because they thoroughly believe the distinction of being a member of this group is worth its weight in gold...but let me tell ya: this little ballerinas don't weigh much!

This reminds me of marching band when I was a kiddo. I went to a prestigious school called Clements High in Sugar Land, TX and not only were the academic units top notch, the extra curricular groups were insanely competitive.

The band director ran his group of students like a military unit, forcing us to repeat drills and routines over and over again until they were perfect. I still recall hot August summers weeks before classes even started with us sweating like mad in the awful humidity. The teacher's parking lot served as the rehearsal grounds, so any heat that rained down on us also reflected back up into our faces. We'd be denied water breaks because someone was out of step, or a horn missed an F# or whatever the fuck. Sometime we'd have to set out instruments down and do push ups if the section leader deemed it necessary.

Some parents argue that these kids learned discipline, pride and the value of hard work. That's true to an extent, however, I think many of us learned more to be terrified of losing instead of striving to win. We were taught to be afraid of authority instead of respecting it. We internalized that mistakes were marks of a failure instead of areas of growth.

So, seeing all of this again, 12 years after graduating from high school is sort of a sore spot for me. I find myself telling these girls back stage "Who gives a shit what she says? You gave it your best shot and you're an amazing dancer... Now go eat a burger."

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2 Comments:

Blogger Monica said...

I understand exactly what you mean - it's so hard for those kids, and there's nothing you can do to change that director - some are just like that. She probably doesn't have children. I can't believe you were denied water in band. that sucks big time.

I love your portrait!!!!

Thursday, February 08, 2007  
Blogger cchang said...

That's the crazy thing...She's got 3 kids. All of them dance too.

Sunday, February 11, 2007  

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