Festivals and Fabulouness

I was quickly flipping through Dance or Pointe magazine, I don’t even remember which, but suddenly Manuel Legris’ name popped out at me in a small paragraph in the lower right hand corner. Manuel Legris was or is going to be in Houston, Texas. My mind sort of fizzled a bit – wait, what??? Houston??? When??? Did I miss this??? I’m about to assume that I missed something that I really needed in my life and I was on the verge of screaming. One should always read an article before screaming so I read it carefully – there was something called The Dance Salad occurring in Houston, Texas and Manuel Legris was going to be dancing in it and I had NOT missed it. So you know exactly what I did, I opened up a  window on my computer and began looking for tickets and airfare! There really was no other choice.

So what I discovered is that there is an annual festival in Houston and it’s called The Dance Salad because it is by design a mixture of various kinds of dance, a salade composée of a generous variety of dancers and dance styles. I get it but it’s still a weird name. And, no offence to Texas because I really like Texas as a general rule, but what in the heck could interest someone of the caliber of Manuel Legris to Houston I wondered? Well, first off, the rest of the line up is pretty darn impressive and looking at past programs it becomes clear that this is no backwoods hoedown! Past Salads have included Semperoper Ballett, Stuttgart Ballet, Estonian National, Royal of Flanders, English National, Vladimir Malakov, and many, many others!

I like galas and festivals. I realize that there is a whole not-cool stigma attached to galas but I don’t really have the time and energy to be snobby, I’ve got stuff to get really excited about!  I don’t really think I missed much by not sitting at the cool kids table all this time and I’m not about to start to worry about it now. For me, the gala or festival is like a tapas bar – a smattering of little plates with wonderful yummy bites of things you’ve never seen before and you get to taste a bunch of different things and walk away satisfied. I enjoy knowing that at a gala or festival, I will almost always see a dancer or company that I was unaware of prior and works by choreographers that I’d never heard of before. Perhaps it is a bit “introduction to dance” but if you aren’t an expert in every form of dance and everything that’s out there then maybe it’s a good place to be. And I am not an expert. At any rate, I find the whole gala/festival bit a lot of fun and I enjoy them without reservation and without apology.

So, yeah, I bought tickets and booked a trip to Houston. The programming is done in such a way that if you attend any two of the three performances, you’ll see everything. I think that’s very cool. I bought tickets for all three nights though as Manuel was dancing every performance. The performances were held in downtown Houston, which is very similar to other large metropolises with a beautiful performing arts complex called The Wortham Center. The festival was held in a nice sized theater called the Cullen. I did think the stage was a tad small but the rake was good and the place filled up to the brim! I’m not sure if Houston is altogether a dance town or not because I met lots of people like myself who came from out-of-town or even out-of-state to attend but I will tell you that this group was  full of hooting and hollering energy.

If you will allow me, I’m going to indulge myself a bit and make a short series about the festival because I think that The Dance Salad is a somewhat hidden gem. There is so much to share, I don’t want to cheat you on information but I also don’t want to throw the entire kitchen as well as the sink into one post either. I’ve already decided to make it an annual event to attend. Who knows, maybe next year you can join me in Houston or find some sort of hidden fabulousness where ever you are!

Here are some particulars:

Looking back at prior programs, The Dance Salad seems to always be held in April of each year. It is held at The Wortham Center in downtown Houston. The official hotel is the Double Tree by Hilton Houston Downtown. It’s where all the dancers stay. I stayed here as well – lots of dancer and choreographer sightings, which is always fun. It’s a nice hotel with a free shuttle to the Wortham. Downtown is just that – there are the theaters, an aquarium, a couple of shopping malls, and The Bayou Place, which is where all restaurants and clubs and whatnot are located. You can get to the Museum District, which is where I went, and to other sites by bus or metro rail. The metro rail isn’t much to speak of, it is only one line, but it is inexpensive and easy to navigate. Hobby airport is closer to downtown but I flew into George Bush International, it was about a 45 minute taxi (expensive) or a much longer multiple stop trip by shuttle (much cheaper). Tickets for the festival run between $20 and $50 per ticket, which is really very reasonable. If you buy multiple tickets, you can get a discount. The festival runs for three performances, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. On the prior Wednesday there always seems to be a live interview or a film showing or something.  Each performance runs for about three hours. A single program gives a lot of great information about the dancers and the choreographers and it’s free but it’s not very fancy.

Manuel Legris & Laetitia Pujol, Paris Opera Ballet Photo performing at The Dance Salad by: Ursula Kaufmann

Manuel Legris & Laetitia Pujol, Paris Opera Ballet performing at The Dance Salad Photo by: Ursula Kaufmann

 

So sit back in your center orchestra seat, the lights are going down, the curtain is coming up, it’s time to see and hear and feel some dance in Houston, Texas, USA!!!

Pointe Til You Drop’s Wonderful 10 Questions, 10 Answers

If you are an adult ballet dancer and not a regular reader of Johanna’s Pointe Til You Drop’s blog, I encourage you, I entreat you, head on over there! PTYD is good, good ballet dancer stuff! In a recent blog post, Johanna asked and answered ten ballet questions. You can use the link here to check out that post and see what she has to say.

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 Here are my responses to the Pointe Til You Drop Ten Questions, Ten Answers:

1. What is your favorite time for ballet class? 

I like evening classes. I am not a morning person by a long shot. Even though I am at work in the early morning hours – I don’t like it. If I didn’t work and only had dancing to think about, I’d probably be really happy with class around 10:30 or 11:00 am in the morning when everything is just starting to warm up and the sunlight is still pale yellow. I think I’d like to wake up to ballet class even more than coffee, and that’s saying something because I LOVE coffee. Unfortunately I am at work until around 4pm or 5pm so class at 8pm or 8:30pm is nice because I can eat, shower, change, maybe even take a quick nap before class.

2. How many classes do you take on a weekly basis?

Right now I take class Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. But that changes with my working/teaching schedule. I try to take no less than four classes per week.

3. What do you eat before class?

I try not to eat anything heavy before class but I’m not always successful. I also try not to eat any dairy products because sometimes my tummy is sensitive to dairy and we don’t want that before class. Bananas are the best. Apples, peanut butter, coffee, cookies – snickerdoodles or madeleines are my favorites. If I have the time, a peanut butter sandwich, a banana, and coffee makes the perfect pre-ballet class meal for me.

4. What’s inside your ballet bag?

Everything in the world. I’m that girl who likes being prepared. I’ve got an shorts, tights, dance skirt, socks, two pairs of flatties, leg warmers, ankle warmers, a t-shirt or two, a warmie sweater, a couple of hand towels, face wipes, hand wipes, hairpins, hair elastics, hair brush, bobby pins, hair band, sewing kit, nail clipper, nail file, aspirin, band aids, compeed, lip balm, iPod and headphones, mints, kleenex, foot rollers, tennis ball, class journal and pen, change for the parking meter, water… and there is probably more. I’m amazed that I can fit it all in one bag! If I know I’ll be able to get into the studio early to warm up, I also take a mat, my small yoga blanket, and a foam roller but that’s kind of rare these days. 

5. How do you prepare for class?

I give myself an hour to drive to my ballet studio. It’s not that far but if there is just one traffic snarl, it could take an hour or even longer to get across town. So I have commute time before class and I listen to ballet class music or a great piece of classical music. Even when it’s warm, I put the heater on my legs for a little while. It helps warm my feet and legs up. I have to try to roll my feet – at least my damaged foot otherwise my foot will cramp. Once at the barre, I just try to move around a bit to get everything warm but I count on barre itself to really get my muscles ready for dancing. I also try to spend a moment in meditation to clear my mind and get ready to think ballet!

6. What’s your favorite part of class?

I still really love barre. My teacher likes to give really slow, torturous barre exercises that are designed to strengthen both body and technique. I adore it. I am usually sweated through before we even get to center. I have decided to really enjoy center and across the floor exercises are my favorite. If I get a couple of pique turns and some big arms movements, I’m a really happy dancer. 

7. What’s your biggest challenge in class?

I’m just not a natural dancer. I am not built to dance. Even just dealing with my own body’s proclivities can be a challenge – try being busty in ballet!!! Sometimes my brain tries to resist and sometimes my body just can’t accomplish what I want it to. Sometimes it’s tough to be in class with people who have crazy hyper extension or super archy feet or whose legs just magically swivel around to incredible turn out. My biggest challenge in class is to not get discouraged for being who I am and to not compare, which I know is a death-blow. When I can stay positive in class – that’s the key to coming out with a smile and good progress. 

8. What is your level? I am a solid advanced beginner. I think I can push toward a more intermediate level as long as I keep going and keep working. 

9. Describe a “moment” you had in class.

I have moments in almost every class. I am always striving to learn something and I’m paired with a teacher who is always striving to teach me something. We are on a mission. And that’s pretty awesome! 

10. What is it that you love about taking ballet class? 

Oh… what a question! We could be here all day but…

I love ballet class for what it is – a difficult and challenging task driven class, aimed at teaching/learning a very specific and classical technique. But I also love ballet class for all the magic that it holds. There is so much history, so many incredible people involved and attached, so much beauty and mystery and extraordinary magic! I love the grandeur of the music, the dichotomy of filmy skirts and the knitted leg warmers, the coolness of the barre under my fingers; I love being aware of a little bounciness in the floor. I love that I can disappear into a world of sound and movement, that I can be in my head yet working through my body at the same time. I love that even when I’m not in ballet class, dance has changed my life and now permeates through me completely. I love how ballet class has become my obsession while setting me free. I love that incredible friendships have been born out of class and how so many things in my life are now inspired by ballet. I love that just the thought of going to ballet class makes me happy and that I never leave the studio without a sweaty glow and a deep and abiding sense of joy that carries me through to the next happiness.

And there you have it, my ten answers to ten questions… feel free to answer the ten questions here, on your own blog (please link back to Pointe Til You Drop and give credit where credit is due!), or head on over to the FABULOUS Pointe Til You Drop and answer them there!

Thanks to Pointe Til You Drop for the inspiration and the questions. Everyone must follow this blog!!! Seriously, it is one of the BEST ballet dancer blogs on the interwebs <3

http://pointetilyoudrop.blogspot.com/