I am going to compile a journal of my journey through my first summer of Dancefest. Dancefest is a two-week dance intensive, which means that there are twenty 16-year-olds and four dudes, two of whom are gay, and one of whom is 25 years old. Classes start promptly at 9:00am and end around 2:30pm. After that is choreography, which rounds out the day at about 6:00pm.
Now I know why there are so many high schoolers — I can’t do this and work at the same time!
Just kidding, I don’t have a job.
Anyway, the classes consist of ballet, jazz and modern, as well as a men’s class and pas de deux (which translates to step of two! wow!). There is about 45 minutes for lunch at noon, and that’s it. Oh, and there are choreography classes on Saturday and one ballet class. So six days for two weeks.
My background to Dancefest is as follows: I have been taking dance classes for two years now. I would consider myself and Actor who Dances, not a Dancer, though I have been progressing nicely for the past two years. But I wouldn’t say I’m magnificent, by any stretch of the imagination. I just successfully completed Ballet I when I graduated BSU (this last May), and after that, well … I drank a lot of beer, which threw my exercising out the window.
For a month I haven’t been doing anything except play Final Fantasy and/or guitar, eat, and drink on the weekends. Lately I finally fixed my bike up so I’ve been riding a bit, but other than that I’m a bit fat lazy. That’s right, I used lazy as a noun.
The week before Dancefest started I realized that I needed to do something before I got there. So one morning I did some crunches and pushups … and that was about it. It’s not entirely my fault; I had been spending the day searching for a job, but still, I also couldn’t get my lazy ass out of bed before 11:00am, which is ridiculous. So I was expecting a big physical shock when I arrived at Stage II this morning at 8:45am.
I woke up at 7:00, then hit my snooze until 7:30. You can take the tiger out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the tiger, I guess. So after cursing myself for being a big fat lazy, I hopped in the shower and then proceeded to do some crunches and pushups before my bike ride to the Morrison Center.
Issue the First: I can’t do these in my room. It’s too small, my bed’s too big, whatever. I tried to do side to side crunches and could hardly move. I had to lay my legs to the side and crunch upward, which works too, but it severely limited my range of motion. Pushups weren’t so bad except Issue the Second: I’m terrible at pushups. This stems from the fact that I am a Nerd, and more importantly, I have been a nerd for my entire life. Thus, I felt no need to impress the ladies with my bulging biceps, and subsequently I have no upper body strength whatsoever. The most I can do with my arms is type on this very keyboard. I wouldn’t say I’m embarrassed by it, because in my everyday life it’s not such a big deal, but when I’m in dance classes or, most importantly, in men’s class, I certainly don’t feel as up to the challenge as the other guys.
That being said, I was born with huge legs, for reasons still unknown, and so what I lack in bicep/tricep strength (the latter is more important for men in dance), I more than make up for in leg strength. So I just plie more when I lift a girl (which I don’t do very often … until this week).
Oh, and if I use any dance terms that you don’t understand, I’ll list them at the bottom, and you can say, “Oh, well that’s great to know!”
Alright. At 8:45am I arrive at Stage II. I had helped Marla and Fred set up the marleys on the floor and the sound system and the ballet bars the previous day (Sunday), so the new look of things didn’t surprise me in the least. And having spoken to Marla about the whole thing long before the semester ended, I knew it was going to be full of women, and that didn’t surprise me because most of the dance classes were mostly women. What did surprise me was the diversity of people who were there. Everyone there had some dance training prior (it’s required), but the gamut ran from beginning intermediate (me) to some dancers for Idaho Dance Theatre, who are all amazing.
Okay, I’m going to go on a tangent here, because it’s Issue the Third: every dancer I’ve ever met has been extremely kind and courteous. Granted, I only know dancers from the Treasure Valley, but it still means something. I think there’s a stigma that all dancers are stuck up bitches, or gay if they’re men. Now the latter is mostly true. hehe. But!, every woman I’ve met and gotten to know who is a dancer has been very cool and extremely nice. Every instructor, every professional dancer, and every student has been great. I don’t know what that says about our dancing community here in Boise, or what it says about other communities across the country, but I think it should be acknowledged, primarily because I know a lot of stuck up bitchy actors. And I think most actors will say that they know a lot of stuck up bitchy actors.
Maybe it’s because I’m not totally in the dance community yet. Maybe if I spent more time taking classes and getting to know dancers there would be some that pop up that rub me the wrong way. But so far it hasn’t happened, and it’s one of the reasons why I enjoy dance classes a hell of a lot more than acting classes. There’s just no pretense. No drama. They’re just there to dance. That’s it. Most dancers are actually … not insecure, per se, but very concerned about their bodies and their movements, not because they have low self-esteem, but because they understand their physical selves much better than most other people. So if there is any bitching in a dance class, it’s usually a dancer saying they can’t do a certain move, or they’re too fat, both of which are usually not true.
Okay. I guess that’s my rant for now. Moving on…
So all kinds of different types of people. Some young girls, some really young girls, some that I have danced with before in Repertory class, some that I had seen dance with IDT, and some that I had never seen before. And the guys: Ben, who I have taken class with; Advin, who I have taken class with; and Drew, who I didn’t recognize at first but then realized had dropped in on our Modern class a couple of times. So all people I knew.
I, of course, stand out like a sore thumb. Six-foot-five pasty white redheaded goofball. I think I intimidate the younger kids. How could I not? They probably think I’m going to crush them underneath my foot and bellow thunderously as lightning streaks behind me. Oh well. I’m a friendly guy, I do what I can.
Marla made some announcements and we went to ballet. I take all Intermediate classes because I am not that good. So I took Intermediate Ballet, which was taught by Marla and was pretty easy. I think she’s ramping things up. I’ve never taken a technique class with Marla before but after countless Rep and Movement for Actors classes we know each other very well. And after being worried about my lack of phy
sical activity for nearly a month, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I slipped back into the routine. Class was an hour and a half and it went by quickly. Again, I’m not super at this or anything, but I did really well.
After ballet was Men’s Class, which was taught by a guy named Frank. Issue the Fourth: Men’s Ballet scares the shit out of me. Most people, especially ridiculous conservative Idahoans, probably assume that Men’s Ballet is all about putting our leg up on a bar and talking about our feelings for an hour. Maybe sometimes doing a really super gay jump or something. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My first Men’s Ballet experience was with Yurek, who is Marla’s son and is one of the manliest people I know. And I don’t mean “manly” as in he pumps iron and chews tobacco or anything stupid like that. I mean he is so in control of his body and his mind and his spirit that he exudes his masculinity like a fine wine. He’s buff and he’s an amazing, amazing dancer, and he doesn’t need to shoot a gun or skin a hog to prove himself. He kept asking me to take his class and the first semester that I could, I didn’t, opting to take Acting Styles instead, which was a fun class, but not nearly as necessary as Men’s Ballet is. Plus I was scared of it. I heard from Advin that they did a million pushups, every day, and after that they would eat an entire anvil. So, ironically, Men’s Ballet was becoming the most manliest thing ever, in my head. I felt totally inadequate, this big nerd who liked to act and play music and, at times, was a little more effeminate than usual (I cross my legs like a lady, I’ve noticed).
When I did end up taking Yurek’s class it wasn’t that bad. I think there was one day where I truly felt like I didn’t belong, and it was one of those strength training days. I’m just really behind on that, and I’m a Taurus, which means I’m inherently lazy and have to work harder to get stuff done. Hence why I can’t wake up at 7:00am. But after that semester I truly felt stronger and I knew I was learning more.
Cut to today, this Men’s Ballet class, and Frank. Frank was wearing some kind of thick belt around his torso. It was either to keep his back straight, or it was a 100 pound weight, or both. Either way, the guy was strong. Most ballet danseurs (I think that’s the male equivalent to ballerina. Why it’s not ballerino I’ll never know) are silently strong. Like Yurek. That guy is skinny and he doesn’t look like he could hurt a fly. But I’ve seen him do the most amazing things ever with his body. I bet he could do a thousand pushups if you asked him to. Nicely.
The first class was easy, though. We worked on arm control and did some manly balances and some assembles and at the end we did toures, which I actually got. I did a good one, in other words. I never did good toures until today. Now, a toure is a really easy jump where you basically spin around yourself. It’s not easy if you suck, like I do, but in the grand scheme of ballet it’s an easy move. And I finally did a good one. So good for me.
Frank is a really nice guy, and very cool, and he explains things in a way that makes it easy to understand. And he bugged me about my poor posture, which, by the way, I am making worse by typing this out. Yay computers. But he did a great job (yeah, as though he wouldn’t) and it’ll be fun to take class with him for the next week and a half.
After that was Pas de Deux. I guess dance classes work like this: everyone takes a ballet class in the morning, then the guys go do Men’s Ballet, and the women take Pointe class, and then afterwards they come back together to do Pas de Deux. It makes sense, because in Men’s Ballet we spent time getting stronger to lift up ladies.
Okay, here’s Issue the Fifth: a lot of guys think that taking dance classes is a great way to meet ladies. And the truth is, it is, but only because there are a lot of women there. But if you take a dance class, you can’t expect to hit on women there. I’m not saying that because I tried it or anything, because me trying to hit on a dancer would be a sight in itself. No, I say that because there’s just too much class, and it’s pretty intense. So you could like a girl in some dance class and want to talk to her, but you can’t try it in class because you’ll be too busy making sure you don’t drop her. Ya get my drift?
Plus I don’t think there was a girl over 18 in the entire class, and even if there was, I’m too old for that. I mean, come on. I should be married and have kids by now.
That being said, I did team up with a very pretty girl in Pas de Deux (and Jean, if you read this, you were extremely nice to me and helped me out a lot, and I thank you for that). Class was easy, as we didn’t do any lifts or anything serious. Frank taught this class as well, and he was great. I’m nervous about lifting women, though. Refer to Issue the Second for more info on why I’m nervous. I think it’s more about being branded a “bad partner” than it is the actual act of dropping someone. I mean, that would suck, of course, but I generally like to be liked by people (which to some may be a bad habit I need to break), and to have someone say, “That guy is a bad partner,” would probably make me depressed for the rest of the day. Again, Jean, you were very kind to put up with a big fat lazy like me.
After that was lunch. I am broke and brought quarters for the vending machine. I don’t know if, because I technically have a scholarship for doing Dancefest, that entitles me to the meal plan as well. I doubt it does. I mean, I live here for Chrissakes. Why would they pay for me to eat?
That being said, I wish they would pay for me to eat. Actually, I just have to remind myself to pack a lunch. And even then, if I eat a big breakfast I should be okay, because I only have one class to go.
The last class I’m taking is the flip Intermediate Jazz/Modern, which alternates every day. Modern was today, and it was a blast. It was taught by a woman named Nicole, who is friends with Kelli, who taught my Modern class in school. She did a lot of Kelli-esque stuff. I had fun.
After that is choreography classes, but I couldn’t attend those because I’m going to my family reunion next Wednesday. It kind of sucks, really. I enjoy these classes, and I may actually enjoy them more than going to see some extended family I never see for a weekend. But it’s already been set up, so I’ll go.
I screwed up my ankle, by the way. But I always screw up my ankle when I start class. It’s a given. I don’t know what’s wrong with it but it feels fine now. I think I roll it a little bit. It always happens when I’m doing changements (I think that’s how it’s spelled), too. Silly.
Anway, that’s it for day one. Hopefully my following entries will be shorter. But if you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like for a random dude to take some dance classes, well, here’s your answer.