I'm Back!

So, I've been gone for a while! I've had a fantastic summer full of intensives. I spent one week at Indiana University's Pre-College Ballet Summer Program and five weeks at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. After, I spent two weeks Arts Camp for Teens in Townsend Ma. My grandmother is currently visiting us! This summer has been crazy!  I want to share a little about my summer with you:

IU: it was a crazy week, and a great learning experience. We learned excerpts from Balanchine's Swan Lake and original choreography. We had a fantastic faculty and plenty of classes! (As well as a beautiful campus!) We had ballet, pointe and rehearsal every day, as well as rotating class in jazz, modern, health and music appreciation. I learned so much and have a better idea of what they are looking for. I feel much more prepared for auditioning there this fall!

CPYB:
What an amazing five weeks! I can't possibly say enough good about this program. We had so many classes and amazing faculty! Some of my favorites were Cynthia B., Melinda H., Susan V., Sara G., and Amy Y.
I had three roommates, and I was in Matthews dorm. Our RA's were the nicest people! I made many friends.
I also have scads of notes! What the teachers say is true: at CPYB you learn enough for a year! I was able to take a couple pritvate lessons, which was fabulous.

I loved my summer and I'm excited for the upcoming year. I will be taking tests, applying for college, and auditioning!

- Julia


We're sorry to inform you...

You are a dedicated student: you set goals, achieve them and work diligently. You think you are the best fit for that summer program, school, college or company. Two weeks later, a letter comes in the mail: "we're sorry to  inform you..."
What is going through your head? Does the world come crashing down? Are you sad? Angry? Did you expect it? How in the world are you going to recover?

Here are a few of my tips, tricks and experiences: 

Step 1: Cry

Being rejected is awful. You feel inadequate, dejected, unmotivated and you're angry. That's ok. Take time to feel all those emotions.  It's an important and healthy to take time to grieve. Find a parent, significant other, grown-up you're fond of, or best friend and talk to them about how you feel. It's all right, you can cry.


Step 2: Smile
Now, its time to set aside your grief for a moment. (Only a moment, don't worry, you can do it!)
You are epic! Did you hear that? You're brilliant. You persevered all year, you are a beautiful dancer and have wonderful technique. You deserved to be in that audition. Even if you weren't accepted, it doesn't take away any of your accomplishments . Nothing can take away all your work and artistry. So hang on to that, remember all the best times, the progress you've made and smile!

Step 3: 1 + 2 = Depth and Maturity
There is a technique in pain management:
You spend a few minutes focusing and acknowledging the pain and then you spend a few minutes thinking about something that doesn't hurt. You travel back and forth, between the two, until you can hold the part that doesn't hurt in the forefront of your mind while still acknowledging the pain.

So take the pride of your diligence and accomplishments and put that in the forefront of your thoughts, but be sure to acknowledge the pain of rejection. It's important that the grief doesn't overwhelm you and it is important not to ignore it.


Step 4: Reality Check
Rejection is normal and, possibly, a positive sign. Michael Jordan, one of the best basketball players ever, was rejected from his JV basketball team --  he was too short.
Don't flatter yourself to think that you are especially awful for being rejected. You're epic. Clearly other epic people, who have succeeded, have gone through similar rejection.

Step 5: Say a prayer
I haven't made a statement on this blog about religion. I'm a Christian, I believe in God. You don't need to agree with my opinions. I intend to treat everyone with the same kindness and respect, whether or not they agree. I believe in God and he definitely carries us through. So say a prayer, God has the best plan in mind. Its difficult to understand his plan, it's frustrating to sit there and not know what's next. So prayerfully and patiently wait for options and ideas to unfold.

Step 6: Take a Vacation
Take a few quiet days. Focus on the bare necessities. Sleep a little more. Eat ice cream. Watch Netflix. Emotionally and physically you've been on a roller-coaster, give yourself time to recuperate.

Step 7: Moving Forward
Now that you've acknowledged and worked through your feelings, prayed and re-cooperated, you can create plans to move forward. Maybe it's searching for a new school, more auditions, talking with your artistic director. By this time your thoughts will be much clearer.

As you move on in your journey as a dancer, remember:

It's not where you end up, its how you end up there. It's not what you do, its how you do it!

- Julia


GoFundMe

I started a GoFundMe to raise money for my summer intensives this year and it has been a great success! I want to thank everyone for all their generous support and donations. It is a wonderful feeling know that I'm surrounded by a group of people who love me so much!

Words cannot express my gratitude.

 - Julia

http://www.gofundme.com/julia-ballet

Try, Try Again!

I was inspired to write this post because of two comments from teachers:

1. You have to be a scientist!
We had a substitute teacher a couple days ago. She told us we needed to be scientists, whenever something wasn't exactly how we wanted it to be, we needed to figure what went wrong and fix it!

2. Is that the best you have ever done?
A teacher asked us this after a seemingly simple combination. She told us to make every step a little better than the last.

These two ideas combined create an apt and successful student. I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts and methods for putting these ideas into use!

Speaking of scientists! Scientific method is the process of observing, questioning, hypothesizing, predicting, and testing. This may seem complex, but in reality it is a rather natural train of thought. Take the scenario of a dancer who is trying to do a triple pirouette:
She gets around twice and hops the third. She starts by observing, she notices that she can spin around three times and she can hold her passé for 3 counts. She questions why, when she puts them together, does she hop the third? She hypothesizes that her knee bends on the third rotation. She predicts that thinking about pulling up on her knee and think of turning upward instead of around will help her finish her third rotation. She then tests our her theory!

Now it may take one round of scientific method to fix her turns or it may take 500 but keep trying! There is a reason that science is continually moving forward.

On the second score:  Was that the best you have ever done?
Admittedly, when we were asked this question we, honestly, replied no. Doing everything better than you did it the last moment is deceptively overwhelming. When trying out the mind set, you will find it forces you to stay in the moment and constantly realizing how you have improved and how to move forward!

I believe that these two ideas live in tandem. Think about it as pleasing both sides of your brain, Your right brain is emotionally satisfied with the encouragement and challenge of always doing better and your left brain is soothed by the logical, clear thinking of the scientific method.

As with all habits in life they do not come instantly, take heart in knowing that you will find success, if you stick with it. We often give up when success is just around the corner. Comment below with your observations!

Motivation

Dancers don't tend to have trouble understanding the gravity of the situation. Keeping our hope sustained is the common challenge. At a moments notice, one feels as if they can conquer the world, the next one feels as if all hope is gone. The challenging prospects of an artist's life can be paralyzing. I wanted to share a few of my methods for holding on to hope rather than disparaging oneself.

1. Stories that inspire:
Everyone has memories the treasure, stories that give hope, and books or music that inspires them. Keep a small collection handy for those times when you need a little inspiration. I would recommend thinking about them every morning, to start your day well! Wilma Rudolph is an amazing person with an amazing story, look it up if you are in need of inspiration!

2. Goal Board:
Using a cork board, wall or door, tape up pictures of your current goals. (E.g. beautiful feet, arabesques, jumps, difficult variations and etc.) Perhaps tape quotes that inspire or admiral dancers. To have this visual focus for your ideas is powerful. The board pulls together your goals, inspiration, and admiration all to one place.

3. Ask yourself why three times:
(This idea has many sources and articles, if you want to read more, try this one: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_5W.htm)

When feeling de-motivated, ask yourself why three times. Here is an example of this blog post, perhaps I feel de-motivated to finish it:

Why am I writing this blog post?
Finishing this post was on my to-do list.
Why was it on your  to-do list?
I want to keep up with my blog.
Why do you want to keep up with your blog?
I care about my blog and enjoy blogging. It focuses and helps my mind and energy.

Ask can why can be a positive reminder and energy boost.


4. Remembering why:
Remember why you love to dance. Remember performances you loved. Remember the friends you have made. Remember where you came from and how you have improved. Bring a smile to your face by remembering what makes you tick.

5. Be healthy:
This is a general rule. Here are the basics:

Eat plenty fruits and veggies
Drink water
Sleep (rather than play on your phone, although it's a challenge)
Talk (don't keep your feelings pent up - talk to a parent or a person who will listen! 99% of the time they can help.)

In conclusion, what I hope to bring across to my readers:
working toward your goals/dreams is a balance of keeping the gravity in your head, the hope and passion in your heart.

- Julia

Moments

I've been working on staying in the moment. My mind tends to run 100 'what ifs' a minute, this can cause one to become scattered, stressed and almost paralyzed. I have found that staying in the moment is not only calming and focusing, it's also more productive.

Why? Let us talk about multitasking. The majority of people have been persuaded that multitasking is an enviable, highly effective skill. The capacity to perform two actions at once is almost supernatural. In reality it is far from supernatural. When you are performing two actions at once (e.g. homework and listening to music), your brain travels quickly from one to the other. Although studies have shown that some people are rather adept to multitasking than other, studies have shown it is not an effective or efficient way to produce results. It has been proved, over the years, that the best results are achieved from longer periods of time that are focused on one task, stay in one moment at a time.
(Here are a few articles if you wish to read further:
http://www.npr.org/2013/05/10/182861382/the-myth-of-multitasking
http://www.productiveflourishing.com/the-two-hour-rule/ )

Staying in the moment, staying focused on the current second has a number benefits in ballet class (not only in homework productivity). The benefits range from remembering choreography to avoiding injury. Imagine a few scenarios:

1. So-and-so receives a complement on a step they performed. Your reaction could be to stew about how so-and-so always receives compliments and is the favorite OR you could stay in the moment and think "oh, watch how she turned out there and went through her foot there." Then you realize that the moment is gone, those emotions rose, sank again and now you have a valuable piece of information. Thank you so-and-so for furthering my knowledge and capabilities.

2. Ballet class is exciting, you are passionate and can't wait for what the future holds. You also tend to be over enthusiastic. One day you notice your knee is hurting when you jump. Wait - you're enthusiastic and passionate, so you ignore the pain. Eventually the pain is so prevalent that you need to stop dancing for a little while. What if, instead of ending up in that situation you had stayed in the moment and been mindful? You might have been able to reign in your enthusiasm and not ended up with an injury.

These are only a few scenarios. Staying in the moments helps you to improve faster, stay safe, be artistic, mature, learn and remember choreography, and much more.

Staying in the moment is definitely an ongoing challenge. Staying in the moments is worth it. Try a few of these in class:

1. Think about the steps you are currently doing.
2. The previous moments have passed, think about how you can move forward with further knowledge.
3. Do a body check. Think how is my knee feeling? Do I feel tired? Do I feel thirsty?
4. When you are put in a spot, routine or even combination you did want or weren't prepared for, acknowledge your feelings and then decide to leave them behind. Move  forward gusto and focus! You will survive and improve from the experience.

What are your thoughts on staying in the moment? Do you find the above list challenging or are they already a way of life? Comment down below with your thoughts! Remember, as you try these ideas out, the may not work perfectly the first time but stay in the moment. Learn from your results and try again!

- Julia

P.S. Writing about moments made think of this one from Stephan Sondhiem's "Into The Woods:"

"Let the moment go...
Don't forget it for a moment, though.
Just remembering you've had an "and",
When you're back to "or",
Makes the "or" mean more
Than it did before."

The Science of Stretching

What happens when you stretch?
As dancers, we need to stretch. It helps relieve sore or tired muscles and it improves flexibility. (Which is helpful technically and aesthetically in ballet). Have you ever wondered what is happening in your muscles that achieve these results? Keep reading!

Muscles move your body. Bones are connected to other bones by joints and ligaments. Muscles are connected to bones by tendons. Your bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons are your musculoskeletal system. The bones, ligaments, and tendons hold everything together and keep your body in the correct shape to move. Movement only takes place by the muscles contracting, pulling the bones they're attached to, creating movement as allowed by the rest of the musculoskeletal system.

Muscles are made up of strands (fascicles), which are made up of groups of fibers (fasciculi), they are made up of threads (myofybrils), which are made up of bands (sarcomeres), which are made of filaments (myofilaments), which are made up of proteins....


Muscles move by contracting when an electrical signal crosses where the muscles meet. When our myofilaments receive that signal, they produce calcium, which signals the sarcomeres shorten and the entire muscle contracts. That is the process of movement.

Stretching starts with the sarcomeres. When the sarcomeres contracts the surrounding myofilaments cross over each other, shortening. When you stretch a muscle, the myofilaments are pulled to their fullest extent, allowing other parts of the muscle to relax and/or stretch. The more you stretch a muscle, the more the surrounding ligaments and tendons are stretched and (when the stretching is done safely) realigned.

In order to safely stretch, you need to be warmed up! When your muscles are warm, you can fully feel everything, if they are not, you will not be able to properly feel if you are hurting yourself.

When stretching or creating a stretching routine, consider the importance of opposites. Our body is kept in alignment by opposing forces, like our lower back/stomach, quads/hamstrings, and etc. When you stretch one way, stretch the opposite, to keep your body balanced and prevent injury. The process of stretching is one of relaxing, lengthening and aligning.

I hope you've learned new information about the science of stretching and find it useful! The less that is uncertain in a performer's life, the better!

- Julia

Sources: (If you want a in depth read, I would highly recommend these.)

Appleton, Brad. "Stretching And Flexibility." web.mit.edu.com
http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_toc.html#SEC5

Grieg, Valerie. "Inside Ballet Technique." Princeton Book Company/Dance Horizions, 1994. Print

Is Fear Okay?

Yes.

In the past 6 months there have been many changes in my life. Auditions, tests, work, dance, emotions and goals have been changing and emerging. The one thing that keeps coming back is fear. I'm afraid. I'm nervous. I'm terrified. Is that a bad thing? Am I a coward?

No. Fear is natural and a good emotion! It's an instinct that protects us from hurting ourselves and others. It is a good thing to feel fear, though, it's not advantageous to let fear be crippling. I think the idea that has been dawning in my mind is that I don't have to be fearless to move forward. Fear is okay. There will always be a part of me that will be afraid. Without fear would life be as exciting? Would I have motivation to do anything if I wasn't afraid? Would I feel the same rush of adrenaline when I preform or audition?

There are many kinds of fear; some kinds are useful instincts and others are dangerous feelings of your psyche. Perhaps the kind that dancers, students and artists most often feel is a motivating kind.

As I move forward with goals, work through challenges and have tough conversations, I'm going to remember that it's okay to be afraid, I will probably always be afraid, but I mustn't let it stop me, instead,  let it inspire me! Take a page out of Lizzie Bennet's book:

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” [1]

Dares are irresistible even to the meekest of souls: the next time fear starts to cripple you, let it be a dare. A dare to move forward.

- Julia

[1] Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Ups and Downs.

So, I could start this post by complaining. I could state all my worries, problems and concerns. I could cry. I kind of want to cry. But is that really what I want?

This blog is meant to be the "me" that I can look back on and say -- she is why I succeeded. Sure, she was a girl who cried. Who, sometimes, felt like her goals weren't possible. She was scared of failure. But that is the girl who knew what she wanted and she knew how to get there. She knew she needed to work hard, to be smart, and brave. That was the girl who as many times as she fell apart, picked herself up and went back to work.

I wanted to share these thoughts with you, so I could be more candid. If I don't share the ups and downs, I won't have depth. What is an artist without depth?

- Julia

Auditions

This year was the first where I auditioned for major ballet summer intensives. I auditioned for Joffrey Ballet, American Academy, and CPYB's (applied) summer programs. I will also be applying for Indiana University's pre-college summer program when their website is fully updated. This was also the first time I had a photo shoot (http://www.igorburlakphotography.com)!

It was a valuable experience with quite a learning curve. I want to reflect back on these events, to pin-point what I did well and bring those aspects to all my classes.

The process began with looking for the schools that I was interested in: what prices could I afford, who had finical aid, who had an audition tour in my area, whose curriculum suited my goals best and much more! I loved auditioning for several places; the experience of auditioning is so enjoyable, exciting and important.

During the registration process I realized the amount photos I needed! I was hesitant to have a photo shoot, but I was extremely pleased with my results. It was entirely worth the time/money/effort to hire a professional photographer, who knew how to photograph ballet dancers! (He is a ballet teacher at Boston Ballet.) It's a strange experience being in a photo shoot and unlike any other! Its exciting and a little unnerving to be under bright lights performing one static position over and over again.

As I auditioned, I tried to keep in mind that it was incredible that I was even auditioning for these schools! Four years ago I would have never imagined being able to come this far. I was proud of myself.

When I auditioned, of course, I worked as hard as I could and learned the combinations, at the same time, I tried to enjoy myself and smile. There comes a certain point in your dance education where if you don't love dancing you would have certainly have already quit! So I tried to show that I loved being there. I engaged with the teacher, did well and I definitely looked like I wanted to be there. The wonderful feeling when I left the class was that "I'm so proud of what I accomplished, it does matter if I'm accepted or not!"

I feel satisfied and proud about all my auditions, photo shoots and applications went and I  am anxiously awaiting the results. I find the waiting to be the difficult part!

So as I finish this adventure, I'm going to take with me the pride of my accomplishments and remember my love of ballet!

I'm excited for the adventures ahead with more auditions, classes, photo shoots, and summer intensives!

- Julia

An Engaged Student Part 2

Here are my results as I tried out the principles of being "An Engaged Student" during several dance classes.

Class 1: 
I reflected on my class, decided to become organized and wrote the previous post.

Class 2:
I felt I received and absorbed an increased amount of the material and enjoyed the class. In hindsight here are the characteristics that were difficult to sustain for the entire class:
Paying attention to detail, staying focused, committing/pushing through.

Class 3:
I felt engaged with the teacher. One feels as if they are fully focused rather than scraping by. However, committing to every step, exercise and moment are difficult tasks; I will continue to work on them. 
I would add these ideas to my initial list: 
1. Going overboard. It's easier to pull back from too much, than to bring up to little. 2. The performance aspect of class should not be forgotten!

Class 4: 
I definitely noticed that as you learn the habit of committing, it becomes easier! Also, if you have the guts to push through it's satisfying.

Class 5:
I confess today I felt tired from the week -- but keeping these concepts in mind definitely helps the tiredness not to show. They were also were helpful at an audition I had for a summer program!
 

Class 6:
I felt in tune to what the teacher said and planned to say. I had a few moments where I committed and went for it, it felt exhilarating.
Yes, I feel engaged, I feel part of the class. I notice I learned more in class. Now I need to extend beyond that. I need to show my teachers how enthusiastically and tirelessly I can work! I want them to ask, "what's up with her?"

Day 7
So today's class wasn't the best. I had trouble focusing and I had trouble performing simple combinations. I'm tempted to say I had a terrible day, but no. I have a more useful solution. Today was a brilliant day. Tomorrow I know exactly what I need to do to improve. Not everybody has that luxury!

Day 8:
Class improved today, but not what I had hoped. I will keep pushing forward.  I did have a few wonderful moments and that's what counts!

Day 9:
Class improved greatly! I worked hard and it payed off, I'm excited for what's coming ahead, I, still, need to extend beyond this. I want to pull more out of myself!

(I know 9 is a strange number. Due to the lovely New England weather, snow has kept us home for 3 classes, possibly another tonight and it's killing me. I love snow, but not snow days.)
 
Now, here is the difficult part - I will work on applying these ideas every day! Once the basic concepts were learned and executed the concepts that surpassed the all others in difficulty, simplicity and importance for me were:

Smile. Eye contact. Be sweating profusely by the finish of plies. Focus. Connect.

I hope you find this list useful. Comment below on what you found helpful or what you would add!


In conclusion of this experiment, I will quote a wise little man:

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” - Yoda

- Julia

An Engaged Student Part 1

I didn't want to call this post "how to be a good student," you and I are good students. The question is can we become better students? Every girl who auditions for so-and-so's summer program is a good student, why do they stand out?

I've complied a list of of characteristics, practices and habits of those students who seem to stand out.

Here is my list:

1. Before class:
Arrive early: This gives you the chance to warm up, fix your hair, and mentally prepare yourself.
Be prepared: Review yesterday's class corrections and choreography.
Positive energy: Nothing kills motivation as nervous energy does. Turn that energy into positive thoughts, expectations, and affirmations.

2. Your "stance:"
By stance, I am not referring to your placement, turnout and posture, I'm talking about general attitude. 
Smile, chin up, shoulders back!
Look the teacher in the eye. 
Be (or at least look) awake. 
Be open, don't put your hands on your hips or cross your arms, look open and ready to receive information!

3. During class:
Be engaged with the teacher: listen and pay attention to every detail.
Work hard and focus through the whole class.
Commit to doing every step the best you can.
Be self-aware, mentally and spatially.
Think ahead, otherwise you're late.
Make connections; bring what you learned at the barre to center.

4. After class:
Stretch.
Write down corrections/class notes/choreography.
Carry the characteristics with you everywhere -- not just in the classroom!

I will be trying these ideas out over the next few weeks -- stayed for the next post with results!

- Julia

Dance Smarter, Not Harder

Hello!

I am a ballet student. I want to be a ballet dancer.  What more is there? Well, a great deal!

These coming two years will be quite thrilling. I have auditions, applications, classes, performances, tests, and finishing high school! I decided to write this blog to bring more focus and organization to my goals. I also hope that by sharing my experiences, other dancers will find this blog useful and enjoyable.

I have an audition for a higher division at my dance school in April. These next posts will be leading up to that audition, as I work on technique, strength, artistry, maturity, flexibility, musicality and more!


Dance smarter, not harder!

You know what? This is ballet. Do both!

- Julia