Dream Journal: Martha Graham and Carly Rae Jepsen

I sat backstage at our dance studio’s end of the year recital, but rather than lots of little kids on stage, there were older teenagers performing. Through sheer curtains that lined the wings, I watched them expertly perform choreography by modern dance icon Martha Graham. Though Ms. Graham passed in 1991, the studio had brought in an instructor from New York to teach her repertoire to the students. I was surprised that the studio had spent so much money to hire the instructor and that there were enough older, professional level students to perform.

I left the performance and returned to the studio, where I had to teach my Monday night jazz class. That night, Kirsten, the owner of the studio, was evaluating me as a teacher. For some reason, Lucas, a coworker from my full-time job, dropped by. We both thought it might be fun if he guest instructed my class. The students and I did several dance combinations across the floor as Lucas supervised. The music stopped playing, so Lucas checked the connection between his iPhone and the sound system. He then realized that he had an app open on his phone, which was interfering with the music. He closed the app, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” began.

The students lined up to do more combinations across the floor, and as the first student began, Lucas let out a shout of disgust. “UGH!” he yelled at the student. “UGH! I don’t care for it.” Kirsten walked by and told Lucas, “I’m sorry, you need to find something else to say.” Confused as to what was going on and why this man was teaching the class, she dismissed everyone in the studio except for a few students who needed to rehearse for an upcoming performance. I had a feeling that I was going to be in trouble, because I was supposed to be teaching and instead allowed someone who insulted the students to teach instead. I would not do well on my evaluation and would probably lose my job at the dance studio.

As Lucas left the studio, he called out, “You owe me a slushie tomorrow!” Outraged, I stomped across the studio and yelled at Lucas. “I don’t owe you a slushie. You ruined EVERYTHING, and you’re going to spend the rest of the week making up for it.” I walked away crying and shouted through tears, “PLEASE LEAVE.”

I watched through the window as Lucas left, and our other coworker, Lance, met him outside. They had driven to the studio together, and Lance went to get dinner while Lucas taught class. As they left the parking lot, Kirsten asked me and another teacher, Lindsey, to get ready for rehearsal. We would be performing at a new church, Epicenter, for its grand opening celebration. This church would be the “epicenter” of the arts. We would rehearse and perform there before any of the congregation would enter or even see the building.

As we prepared to rehearse, I was responsible for starting up the music, which I couldn’t find. I was now even more nervous that I would be in trouble, because on top of the teaching fiasco, I had lost the CDs for our performance. I soon found them in a yellow folder by the window. We began rehearsal with a series of plies, releves, and turns. Kirsten mentioned that part of the performance would be a leaf dance, but we wouldn’t use real leaves until later.

[When Lucas walked into the office this morning, he had a container of Rice Krispie treats and chocolate-covered pretzels. I told him he had been redeemed from ruining my life.]


Halav Lav & Project Dance Orlando on Kickstarter

Halav Lav Ballet Company of Mechanicsburg, PA, has been invited to participate in Project Dance this April (13th-15th) in Orlando, Florida. As part of Project Dance, “a movement of dancers seeking to positively impact culture through artistic integrity,” Halav Lav will perform original works as part of a day-long free outdoor dance concert. Halav Lav has also been asked to assist the leadership team throughout the weekend.

In order to attend Project Dance, Halav Lav needs to raise $2000 to cover Project Dance performance fees and master classes, food, and transportation to and lodging in Orlando.

Please visit Halav Lav’s Kickstarter project page to contribute!


Dream Journal: The “New Year’s Eve” of Dreams

When I say “New Year’s Eve,” I don’t mean the upcoming holiday. I mean the celebrity-stuffed movie starring, among MANY others, Zac Efron, Lea Michele, Jessica Biel, and Seth Meyers – REALLY?! (with Seth Meyers). My dream was packed with celebrities, though when morning came, I could only remember one or two of them. Here are the bits and pieces that come to mind:

The Hangover
In part of the dream, I was in a house with a bunch of celebrities. Most, if not all, of them were men. They were waking up in this house, and like in The Hangover, they had no idea how they got there. They also weren’t sure why they were all dressed as women. I went around the house to watch them wake up, because it was amusing to see them try to make sense of everything and attempt to figure out what happened. One of the celebrities was possibly Don Cheadle. There were also several older Caucasian men, perhaps British, and a little on the heavier side. One celebrity that I distinctly remember was dressed as a bearded woman in a large flower-print dress. After shaving the woman’s beard, we discovered a smooth-faced Steve Carrell underneath.

The Hostage
I was being held hostage with several other people in a one-room house. The house was built like a greenhouse, except without the glass walls, and with doors on each side. There were multiple men holding us hostage at gun point, one of whom looked like Vince Vaughn, though it seemed like most of the hostages were just innocent bystanders. They only aimed the gun at one person, but they wouldn’t let the rest of us leave. I remember thinking that their demand was so simple. We asked the main hostage to give in to their demands so we could leave, but she refused. At one point, our hostage takers had left the house, taking their guns with them. We conspired to make our escape. “What if one person held watch at the door while we escape? If it’s clear, we all can go free.” Though our hostage takers all left through one door, they may return through any of the four doors. The main hostage filled us in on that information, as if she had been a hostage longer than any of the rest of us. It was if she had experience being their hostage, and we were new additions to the house.

The Dances
There were several parts of the dream that involved dance or dancers. In one scene, I was part of a group performing in the kitchen of a house. It was a much larger house than where we were being kept hostage. It was possibly the same kitchen from The Hangover portion of my dream, but they seemed slightly different. (In The Hangover portion, the fridge was in the corner, and there was an island in the middle of the kitchen. In this scene, the fridge was on the end next to a door, and instead of an island, there was an L-shaped counter.) Both kitchens featured warm wood paneling on both the cabinets and floors. Our performing group was fairly large, and we were all wearing mauve-colored dresses. The leader of our group was a girl named Leah O. In real life, I went to high school with her, though we weren’t friends then and haven’t talked since graduation. I was wearing the same costume as the rest of the group, but I couldn’t remember ever practicing with them or learning the routine. I tried watching Leah during the performance and attempted to keep up and pretend like I knew what I was doing.

In the other dance portion of the dream, I was in a dance studio about to take a class. I don’t remember actually dancing, but I was wearing my pointe shoes and stood by some of my friends from real-life dance class. At one point, I remember fixing my ponytail, and my hair was almost down to the floor. The ends were all dry and frizzy, and I didn’t even realize my hair had gotten so long. When it had been up in a ponytail earlier in the dream, the length didn’t feel or look any longer than it usually is. My friends in class didn’t realize my hair was that long either, because they looked at it in amazement and shock.

SIDENOTE: When I was writing about New Year’s Eve earlier, I thought about how celebrity-stuffed it is… And then I thought about turducken, and how bird-stuffed it is. (Turducken is a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey, FYI.) And then I realized that turducken is the Inception of poultry. And then I LOL’d.

Inception. The turducken of dreams.

Halav Lav Headshots

Recently, Halav Lav Ballet Company, of which I am a member, went to nearby Nagley Park in Lemoyne, PA, to take headshots for our new website, which will go live in the coming weeks. Sarah, another Company member, was our main photographer, but I brought along my camera, too. Out of the four of us in the Company, three are photographers. We took turns in front of and behind the cameras to ensure that no shot was missed. What we ended up with were many great photos and options for our individual headshots. After the individual headshots were completed, I set up my camera and tripod to get some photos of the entire Company. Here are some of the photos that I captured during the shoot, without post-processing. (Sarah captured better headshots of Jade, who is pictured in the group photos below.)

L-R: Cindy Agoncillo, Jade French, Hope Dudek, and Sarah Long

Click the image to enlarge.

Thanks to Sarah for taking my headshot!

Photo by Sarah Long, Editing by Cindy Agoncillo

The Turning Pointe

turning point – noun
1. a point at which a decisive change takes place; critical point; crisis.

One foot shown en pointe.
Image via Wikipedia

During the past two summers, I worked as a residential counselor for the Boston Ballet‘s Summer Dance Program. I was like a camp counselor/resident assistant/mom/older sister to teenage girls who had traveled from across the country and the globe to study for five weeks with the Boston Ballet. These are dedicated students, many of whom have dreams of becoming a prima ballerina in a company. During the program, they dance for 5-6 hours every day, five days a week for five weeks. Because of the intense schedule, several students are sent home over the course of the summer to nurse injuries, both old and new, aggravated or caused by hours of dancing or unfortunate falls.

Yesterday, one of the students I got to know during those two summers had hip surgery. Just a few years out of high school, and she’s having hip surgery. Soon after setting the date with her surgeon, she shared on Facebook that the procedure would fix her constant pain, but in exchange she would probably have to give up dancing. Her doctor said others have been able to return to dancing after surgery before, but he cannot say for certain that she won’t need surgery again. “I’m pretty sure the door is closing on a professional career,” she said. Though terribly disappointed, she fortunately has the willingness to consider other options and form a Plan B. Other students I’ve seen are so blinded by the chance at a role or a career that they become determined to dance through pain and injury at the risk of further damage to their bodies. Every summer, I’ve posed this question to my students: if you couldn’t dance, what would you do? For some students, I think it may have been the first time they ever thought about it.

In A Chorus Line, a musical about a group of dancers auditioning for a new stage production, the characters face the same question. (SPOILER ALERT!) After one of the dancers falls and is taken to the hospital, the director Zach (played by a young Michael Douglas in the ’80s movie version) asks, “Do you ever think about what you’re going to do if you stop dancing?” In the movie, Connie says she’ll go off her diet. Sheila talks about how she and Zach appeared in the chorus together many years ago (“You were a rotten dancer” – “Why do you think I became a choreographer?”) and how she now has a 9-year-old daughter.

Sheila: God help her, she wants to be a dancer.
Diana: What’s so wrong about that? How can anybody in their right minds want to be anything else?

In the stage version, Diana answers with “What I Did for Love,” singing about how she wouldn’t regret the sacrifice she made for dancing, but at the same time is ready to move forward.

Look my eyes are dry
The gift was ours to borrow
It’s as if we always knew
And I won’t forget what I did for love
What I did for love

When I see these dancers go home from the summer program or into the operating room, I wonder what things would have been like had I continued dancing. I was 3 when I took my first dance class, but my family moved to a new state the next year; I didn’t take class again until 2nd grade. At first I took the ballet/tap/jazz combination class that introduced kids to the different styles of dance. When I got older, I focused solely on ballet. At the end of 6th grade, I felt like I wasn’t growing as a dancer. That fall I was at a new studio learning terminology and the importance of turnout and pointing my toes, things I didn’t realize until then were fundamental to ballet. After a boot camp of a year, I was able to move to the advanced class. I shared a barre with the school’s best dancers – the girls on pointe who took home trophies from competitions. I hoped to be one of them someday. To my excitement, my teacher had me fitted for pointe shoes at the end of the year, and she gave me exercises to do over the summer to prepare for class in the fall. As the end of the summer approached, I received the usual class registration forms in the mail. I was excited to see I had been invited to join the new repertory company my studio director was forming – until I saw all the requirements: weekend company rehearsals, regular class during the week, and extra classes for company members. It was a bit much, especially during my first year of high school. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle it all and hoped my director would let me take class without joining the company. All or nothing, she told me. I went with nothing. “Are you sure?” she asked. I was feeling pretty confident in my decision to focus on my academic success, but she told me that somewhere “down the road” (I remember her using that specific phrase) I would regret it.

I was 14 years old – the same age as the youngest dancers in the Boston program. Looking back on my high school experience, I probably could have handled the academics as well as the dance training and membership in the company. What if I had chosen all instead of nothing? Could that decision have changed the course of my life? Would I have attended summer intensive programs around the country? Would I have had dreams of a professional career in ballet? Would I be having surgery in my early 20s?

Would I have ended up where I am today if I had continued dancing?

Though I stopped training at that point, I never stopped loving dance. After 5 years without ballet, I joined the dance ministry at my college, took a year of ballet, and even performed in the year-end recital. Last year I started taking ballet and jazz classes at a local studio, where some of the other students in my class were also in their 20s – or older! Over the summer, I talked with my teacher about dancing en pointe, and this fall I dug my pointe shoes out of the closet. Now almost 10 years old, they still were not broken in or worn out. (Hopefully it’s okay to be using shoes that are so old, though my feet haven’t grown since then…) I’m excited to be on pointe – finally! – but at the same time somewhat terrified. It’s been a while since I seriously studied dance; I am not in my physical prime. Since then I’ve lost stamina and flexibility; I’ve gained weight. Sometimes I think I’m too old to be starting pointe – I might break something! But now that I’m “down the road” I think I can say I don’t regret leaving dance for all those years. Though I may wonder where life may have taken me had I continued dancing, I enjoy where it has taken me so far. I love the place dance has in my life right now, as something to appreciate and enjoy doing, not demanding my perfection. So while I don’t regret leaving dance before, I’m glad I had the option to return.

Do you have a turning point, a moment or decision that possibly changed the course of your life?