The Light of the World

My daughter’s a dancer…so, of course, I had to reblog this …
………hugmamma.

thanks!…usher

You read it right.

I’m thanking Usher for bringing together…young and old…black, white and all colors in between…hip and not-so-hip…religious and aetheist…liberal and conservative…and of course, women and men…in celebration of our better angels.

In song and dance, we found common ground to set our differences aside for an evening. Squeezed into seats like those on an airplane, we were shoulder to shoulder with whomever it was that purchased the neighboring seat. We had no say in the matter. Ticket Master played Russian Roulette with our hard-earned cash.

Funny thing. No one turns up his nose at a much sought after ticket. Ask any football fan or tourist at a Broadway show.

When I bought the tickets during the summer I’d no idea what to expect.

Usher was one of my favorite coaches on TV’s The Voice. I admired his sincerity when handling those contestants he’d chosen to join his team. I was also mesmerized by his singing and accompanying dance moves. So I didn’t think twice about seeing him in concert.

Fortunately for me my husband is always game to see and do whatever catches my fancy. Our daughter agrees that it keeps her father youthful. He does too.

Needless to say we were surrounded by hoards of fans, mostly our daughter’s age. Yet no one looked askance at two old fogies looking like they’d mistaken Usher’s concert for some oldie but goodie like Neil Diamond. The man who checked handbags smilingly commented that we were somebody’s parents. We laughed along with him, although I assured him that we weren’t the parents of the couple who filed in ahead of us.

Were my daughter still living with us she would have been my concert companion. Instead, she’ll have to content herself with the video I text her. That is once I figure out how to do it.

As for the concert, the two acts hired to warm up the crowd for an hour or so were fine. I’d not heard of either, although that’s not saying a lot since I’ve no clue who the young folk are listening to these days.

What I do know is that using the colorful, four-letter word preceded by “mother” did not endear me to the second artist. Although I will say he had a splendid voice. The dancers accompanying him were amazing movers. However my husband and I agreed we were glad our daughter doesn’t do…that kind of dancing. A little too suggestive for our taste, what with all the bumping and grinding. Not to mention the skimpy costumes. What were they thinking? Actually it’s pretty obvious they’re not thinking.

Usher did not disappoint. His performance, as well as those of his dancers and musicians, was explosive. So was the production with its lights and smoke and technical wizardry. The staging platforms undulated upward and downward, forward and backward, even reconfiguring before our very eyes. How the female performers kept their footing on stiletto heels…and the male dancers bounced back into standing position from somersaults and floor splits…was mind blowing. It was like watching a three-ring circus. My eyes kept darting back and forth trying to catch every magical twist and turn before it faded from sight.

Nearing the end, the women seated beside me were up on their feet swaying and singing along with Usher. It was beautiful to see the entire arena of devoted fans on their feet joining him in song. Together it was as though the love between artist and fans was enough to change the world outside.

Audience applause brought Usher back for an encore. Before singing he asked for a moment of silence to remember the parents of Michael Brown, the shooting victim in a recent confrontation with a policeman in St. Louis, Missouri. As he sang a song of hope for brotherhood among humankind, tears welled up in my eyes.

Why don’t we invest more of ourselves in the arts where our spirits are allowed to engage with one another, rather than subjecting our better angels to grovel in the dust while our prehistoric instincts to kill or be killed be given full reign? What is our long-held fascination with gladiator-like activities…hunting for sport…or annihilation of those unlike ourselves?

Maybe we wouldn’t have to die in order to see Heaven, if only we would allow Heaven to exist…right here on earth. Something to think about when we give thanks on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanks, Usher. For making my Thanksgiving…

…one for the ages…

………hugmamma.

 

 

nurturing thursdays: happiness…a matter of choice

I very often use my daughter’s professional career path as a means to understanding my life, and life in general. I guess it’s because I can step back more easily and reflect upon its course with twenty-twenty hindsight.

Now that she’s headed in a different direction, away from ballet toward contemporary movement, my daughter is happier. For sure there have been potholes along the way, but is anyone’s life ever without them?

Choices. We’re always confronted with them. Never a day goes by when we don’t have to make decisions. A dancer’s life is no different and yet, whatever is decided alters her career path without it being obvious at the time.

The first ballet company with whom my daughter trained at the age of 16 had no qualms about her going elsewhere to dance when they were on hiatus during the summer months. At least that’s what the company’s dance school director said. She felt my daughter was a smart dancer who could easily transition between time with the company and time away with others.

It was during the summer that my daughter began honing her ability as a contemporary dancer. She felt combining year-round ballet with several weeks dancing a different movement would make her a more versatile performer. And it did. Yet it seems to have come with a price that was not made clear until the die had been cast, so to speak.

Rather than inform her directly that it would have been preferable for my daughter to spend summers with the company, very subtle hints were made by staff. Nothing definite, just little questions like “Do you want to be here?” Of course the answer was always an emphatic “Yes!” How was she to know they meant…”Well then you shouldn’t be seen by other directors who might want to steal you away?”

Ballet companies have the upper hand in deciding who among their many trainees and apprentices might eventually be offered a position. There are no guarantees. All of them are made to feel they have potential, but none of them can claim professional status until they have a signed contract.

So then the decision for the “wannabee” career ballet dancer is “Does she commit herself to a company who is still undecided about her? Or does she explore the larger dance community not only to enhance her skills but also to begin networking with fellow artists…dancers, choreographers, and yes, even directors?”

My daughter chose to broaden her dance horizons. She never did it with the intent to leave the company with which she was training. In fact she was always excited to return to the fold after time away. With renewed energy and confidence she incorporated what she’d learned during the summer into her performances.

Of course there are always different perspectives to any situation. So while my daughter saw her summers as enhancing her dance, the ballet company’s director perceived them as a sign that she wasn’t fully committed to him. When he let her go after 5 years he said “I decided to let you go instead of others because you’ll have an easier time finding a job then them.” At that point, my daughter was glad to finally be out from under a shadow that had been looming ever since she returned after the summer. She hugged her boss and thanked him for the opportunities she had been given while there. And with that she left the studio, breathing in the great outdoors and the promise of better days ahead.

Others who trained alongside my daughter never ventured off during the summers. They faithfully remained with the company. Of those, a few have gone on to become principal dancers. Sadly though they have never seen the broader dance world firsthand. And then there are all the others who were not even offered positions.

Becoming a professional dancer, especially in ballet, is just as much luck as it is talent and hard work. My daughter was fortunate to make it with the second ballet company she joined.

However the journey is never without its bumps. If one’s career stalls or back slides, then a dancer must decide her next move.

My daughter could have remained another 6 years to see where her career as a ballet dancer would take her. Instead she made the decision to change directions, helped in large part by all that she’d gained during her months off from the companies.

Over the course of her summers, my daughter has met hundreds of dancers on their way to somewhere. She’s also met her fair share of choreographers and directors. And then there are the stars with whom she’s paled around…Ethan Steiffel…Misty Copeland. Of them all, however, the most notable person she has met has been…herself.

Finding oneself in life is something for which we all strive. The choices we make, difficult as they might be in the moment, bring us to our own conclusion.

I’ve often told my daughter when she was a dance student, as well as on her way to becoming a professional…”Enjoy the process. As long as you do that, you’ll never be disappointed in the outcome. Happiness lies in the journey, not in the promise of the ‘pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.’ ”

Did I already mention…

…my daughter is happy…very happy.

………hugmamma.

(Enjoy more inspirational words at
http://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/nurturing-thurs-you-are/

 

 

 

dance…like nobody’s watching…

Ever since my daughter first stepped onto a stage at age 8, she had a presence that drew one’s eyes to her. Complete strangers, including a dad, told me they singled my daughter out as the one they watched throughout the recital. Of course, I wholeheartedly agreed that she was indeed the star of the show, even though she wasn’t. Surely, I’m no different from other moms.

As she has worked her way toward becoming a professional, my daughter has experienced a plethora of situations and people  in the dance world. Some good, some bad, some so-so.

There are directors who manage like mini-Napoleons; others who remember what it was like to be a dancer. There are dancers who lord it over others, and dancers who work as a team. There’s stress over roles, in part because dancers are clueless as to what the director and his staff are thinking. And then, of course, there’s always the audience to please.

Appearance is important, especially in ballet. Ever since Balanchine introduced spaghetti-thin ballerinas to the art form, directors have adopted the look as standard. Heaven help the dancer with shapely arms and legs and an ample bosom. Although a little wiggle room is beginning to loom on the horizon. Thanks to the efforts of American Ballet Theatre’s stunning soloist, Misty Copeland.

My daughter’s life as a ballet dancer was the best it could be, given what she brought to the table and the opportunities afforded her as a result. Her decision to switch to contemporary dance seemed a natural evolution, since that’s where she was featured the most.

In her current job, dance is the focus for my daughter and her coworkers. Not appearance. Not roles. Not the director. Learning the new movement is exhausting, painful, and enervating. At day’s end, she literally collapses on the sofa applying frozen vegetable bags to both knees. Later, as she crawls under the covers, her lips form a small smile. She can’t wait to be at it again…

…dancing…for the pure joy of…dancing…

………hugmamma.

 

 

unique is…as unique lives…

( Move your mouse over each photo, to read its caption.) 

To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour

-SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL –

I would like to credit the assembling of this post to another blogger from whom I borrowed SWC’s words. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to relocate the blog from whence it came. If you recognize this quote, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due. Without it, I would not have thought to post this homage to my UNIQUE AND BELOVED…DAUGHTER.

………HUGMAMMA.

nurturing thursdays: get ready, get set…get moving

I’ve done my fair share of packing up households because of a new job. Never my own. Always my husband’s…and now my daughter’s.

Let’s see, a change in jobs in 1976 landed my husband and me in The Big Apple. We were in our mid-20s then. That was fun, especially since we’d left one island, Oahu, for another, Manhattan. Worlds apart, though, if you’ve had the good fortune to visit both. Lucky us, having resided where tourists love to vacation.

Four years later, we moved again. This time, Redding, Connecticut, to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. As different from NYC as one can get. Only 11,000 inhabitants at the time. Probably not many more now. Great place to raise our newborn. Lots of wide open spaces. Exploding fall foliage colors that knocked our socks off! Small town parades. Country fairs. An idyllic setting where everybody knew everybody.

When our daughter was 11, we moved again, much to her chagrin. We trekked cross country to Seattle where hubby got a promotion. And here we’ll probably remain, unless Hawaii, land of our birth, beckons us home.IMG_0809

Just because hubby and I were settled, however, didn’t mean our daughter was. At age 16, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she trained for 5 years, hoping to become a professional ballet dancer. Because she was young and didn’t yet drive, I moved with her. For 2 1/2 years we managed on our own, while my husband remained in Seattle earning a living.

Dancers go where the jobs are. And so our daughter moved once again, to Nashville. I flew back to Atlanta to help with the packing while she was at work. She lived and worked in The Music City for 6 years. Midway through, she downsized to a smaller, cheaper rental which meant another move. Of course, I was there to help our daughter whose broken hand was in a cast. Discovering a bed bug larvae didn’t help the situation any. Neither did the reappearance of the cicadas who rose from where they’d been sleeping for 13 years, in the ground beneath the trees in and around Tennessee. 

A year ago our daughter decided to pursue a different dance path. She moved home with my husband and me while she auditioned hither and yon, and danced a couple of gigs in Houston, Texas. Storing her belongings meant moving stuff around in our house. Throw in a couple of remodels, and we had to move things around again.

One year later, we’re packing up our daughter’s furnishings once again to move her back to Nashville. She’ll be dancing with a newly formed, contemporary dance company this time.

At this stage, I could probably get a job with a professional mover. I’ve packed enough boxes in 43 years of marriage, I could probably do it in my sleep. Which reminds me, preparing to move leaves little time for rest. A couple of catnaps here and there suffices.

Because moving also involves selling and buying houses, or renting apartments, I’ve become a pro at that too. Because both my husband and my daughter have had to get on with their jobs, I’ve been the one to handle the transitions.

Then, of course, there’s the decorating. Imported Photos 00176

Everyone who knows me, especially those who have visited any of our homes or rentals will attest to my being able to whip a place into shape in no time. In fact, I can do it as often as the spirit moves me, which of late hasn’t been as often as it use to be. The spirit’s a little more settled these days, owing to wisdom…and because my “get-up-and-go”…got up and left.

Something my daughter said yesterday in the midst of packing up several boxes, ensuring they wouldn’t break the mover’s back when he lifted them, made all my years of moving worthwhile. Stopping dead in her tracks as she was heading down the hallway, my daughter returned to where I was bent over fitting wrapped items strategically into a box. As I stood up and faced her, she placed her hand firmly on my shoulder and with eyes wide and grinning from ear to ear, she said…“You’re amazing!”

………hugmamma.

 Please check out other inspirational posts at…
http://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/nurturing-thurs-rebuilding/

 

 

nurturing thursdays: the eaglette has landed…

IMG_0493You might wonder why I write of my daughter’s comings and goings under the heading of nurturing thursdays.  It’s because health and wellness also includes…peace of mind. And knowing that my child is happy in her life…comforts me like nothing else can.

Having left Nashville Ballet a year ago in search of a better fit, my daughter traveled far and wide from Atlanta to Chicago to Germany to Toronto. She even poked around here in the Seattle area. Wanting to expand upon her contemporary dance experience to improve her resume, she opted to return to her mentor and coach who started her own company in the Music City, as Nashville is most famously known.

My daughter’s dance career has been 95% training, 5% performing. Opting to always hone her craft, she has trained elsewhere in the summers when ballet companies are usually on hiatus. In the early years she would have to pay for the training, but as she grew in her profession she was paid, and handsomely I might add.

In the end however, all things considered, the majority of dancers fall under the category of…”starving artists.”

I would compare a dancer’s life to a roller coaster ride. If she hangs on long enough, she’ll adjust to the twists and turns. And if she’s truly passionate, she’ll love the adrenalin rush in spite of being tossed about.

Social dancing was more my speed. Were I in my daughter’s pointe shoes, I’d have “caved” the first time I was critiqued in front of other dancers. Just as I would lose my meal the first time the roller coaster spun me upside down.

Enjoying the company of hardworking dancers once again, my daughter is elated to be back in the studio.

While fledgling, NEW DIALECT promises to thrive as a much-needed alternative dance platform in a city dominated by country music. That it might gain the financial backing of some of that genre’s most influential singers is powerful stuff. It’s not surprising though, since the director, Banning Boudoin is as much a woman with heart as an artist with talent to burn. Both extremely attractive to those wanting to bask in the aura of one poised to do great things.

Like hanging onto a shooting star, my daughter will thrill to the ride of her life as she and Banning soar the universe, exciting others with their passion.

Dancing…

…for the sheer joy…and love of it!

………hugmamma. img_5200.jpg

 

 

nurturing thursdays: choices…changes…part 1

IMG_1711I continue to learn from my 28-year-old daughter, the dancer.

As I write…she’s off living life…her best life.

This last year away from the sheltered environs of a ballet company, my daughter discovered, much to her delight and mine, that the dance world is bigger and more exciting than she ever imagined.

Auditioning for a few companies known for their contemporary repertoire, she met dancers from around the world as well as the United States. While competing for single digit job openings, there was not the subtle and not-so-subtle rivalry that can often accompany “cattle call” auditions for ballet companies. Yes, there were 95 auditioning for one or two jobs with a German company, but my daughter spoke highly of the amazing three dancers who were asked to remain, while she and the others were thanked and let go. Having made it to the last group of 12 was enough of an ego boost for her.

Earlier in the spring, my daughter again broadened her dance experience when she returned to Houston to work with the Grand Opera’s CARMEN. The director and a seasoned cast of NYC dancers were brought in for the production. For the first time my daughter was in the company of dancers whose careers ran the gamut from Broadway shows, to TV dance competitions and commercials,  to feature films, to videos, to award shows. She felt giddy knowing she was among an elite group of professionals, but she loved them even more for how down-to-earth they were off stage.  And they loved her as much it seems, for they encouraged my daughter to move to New York to join their ranks. 

Already committed to train with a former mentor and coach, my daughter returned to Nashville several weeks ago. Working with the woman’s small, fledgling contemporary dance company my daughter will decide whether or not she will remain after the summer. Meanwhile she is having the time of her life.

My daughter thrives when challenged. She yearns to learn continually; she never wants to settle…to plateau. During these last few weeks, she’s taken…pointe-counterpointe and aerial classes.

Isn’t it interesting how opportunity knocks when you least expect it? A couple of folks who have seen my daughter in these classes have asked her to work with their companies as well, should she return to Nashville on a more permanent basis. One offer in particular caught her attention…to learn a Balinese-type dance. Currently, only one woman knows the solo and the director of the modern dance company feels certain my daughter would learn the piece in no time, and to perfection. 

Talk about coming into her own. 

Ballet companies tend to be hierarchical. Only a select few are designated the leads or the soloists. Dancers can wait years for their break-through moment. For some the opportunity never comes. 

Happy to work where talent and hard work are the only criteria for being noticed, my daughter is loving the directors and dancers she has had the pleasure of being with as she grows ever more comfortable in her new skin as a contemporary dancer. 

It’s true what someone recently told me…

…i’m only as happy as my least happiest child…

………hugmamma.

(Stay tune for “nurturing thursdays: choices…changes…part 2)

 

friday fictioneers: …finding home…

AdamIckes-boardwalk

I’m taking a different path, and not settling.

It’s risky. I’ve bills to pay, a place to rent.

A friend once said “If you love where you are, you’ll find a job that you like. If you take a job and don’t like where it is, you’ll always struggle to make it work.”

Dancing is my passion. Happiness is my home.

Both are possible.

It’s mine if I remain true to what I want. 

There. Ahead. My oasis.

Home. 

I dance. I thrive.

...one of my favorite shots of my precious daughter...by martin o'connor photography

…one of my favorite shots of my precious daughter…by martin o’connor photography

…dancing acrobats…

Had a nice conversation with my daughter yesterday. We covered a lot of territory.

A niece on my husband’s side attends college and works part-time in Chicago. She and her cousin, my daughter, met for brunch, catching up on one another’s life. A little later, my daughter met a dancer friend who just recently moved to the Windy City to be with her boyfriend.

The young lady didn’t decide to audition for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago until the last minute. At first she had difficulty with the online pre-registration. When she finally figured it out, the online registration had closed. She was instructed to call a number and was told she could show up and register in person at 8 a.m., an hour-and-a-half before the first group of 50 was to take class. Upon showing up, my daughter’s friend grew nervous as she watched dancers arriving for their scheduled audition times. Deciding she’d made a mistake to wait until the last minute, she fled never to return. Smart move.

My daughter and I agreed that auditions are not to be taken lightly. Dancers must be physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to compete. It’s even more imperative when the company is one of the top choices for hundreds of dancers looking to be hired.

During our conversation, I learned why it was my daughter was one of the thirty dancers cut after the first few seconds of the choreography portion of the audition. She couldn’t hold a handstand quite as long, and comfortably, as those who weren’t cut.

Imagine that! Dancers are now required to include acrobatics in their bag of tricks. Not something my daughter learned to perfect in ballet.

Today’s choreographers are probably incorporating such moves as are found in Cirque du Soleil and street dancing, to “push the envelope” and to thrill audiences.  

Times-they-are-a-changing. And how! Like it or not…we’ve got to adjust…or wither on the vine and die.

I’m no quitter; neither is my daughter. Especially since life offers so much more than we could ever possibly sample. So while it might be trite, it’s nonetheless true…

…when one door closes…another door opens…

………hugmamma.

nurturing thursdays: …of caterpillars…and butterflies…

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over,

it turned into a beautiful butterfly.

Can life get any better than that?January 2011 00049

Two auditions down, one left to do.

While awaiting news of her Toronto audition for Ballet BC, my daughter did Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s audition yesterday. While she made the first cut, one of forty dancers down from the 250 or so vying for one or two positions in the main company and another couple in the second company, she did not make the second cut which shaved the numbers by 30 dancers. Wanting to share the disappointing results, she called me as soon as she exited the studio.

I detected neither devastation nor ecstasy in the tone of her voice. She sounded chipper. I was hopeful, until she gave me the bad news. Except for her words, I didn’t pick up on any major catastrophe. Just the slightest trace of sadness. After all this was her dream company.

On her way to catch a subway back to her hotel, she seemed slightly out of breath as she explained the outcome.

My daughter felt okay at having lost out to phenomenal dancers. She mentioned a couple of the women, one already with Hubbard Street 2, and the other, a 31-year-old who’d danced with Milwaukee Ballet since she was 17. I’d seen the second one a couple of summers ago when she and my daughter danced with Textures Contemporary Ballet. The woman was amazing. And according to my daughter, the Hubbard 2 dancer “moved beautifully” as well.

As with any job interview, dance auditions are a roller coaster ride. Only the hardy get off in one piece, prepared to do it all over again. And that’s my daughter, ready to continue on with the ride of her life. One I would’ve ditched years ago. In fact, roller coaster rides lost their appeal for me after I did a handful of them way back in the day. Besides scaring the bejesus out of me, they made me nauseous.

It takes a certain mindset to survive roller coaster rides…the man-made ones and the ones manifested in our everyday lives. To survive we must establish coping mechanisms…give in or zone out. Either way we have to let ourselves…go with the flow. 

On the subway ride, my daughter sat with another dancer who’d been cut from the audition. Both traded stories of where they’d been auditioning, and what they planned to do in the aftermath of this failed venture. It seemed the young woman was more despondent about her prospects. 

One of the beauties of dancers is how they support one another in good times and bad. They realize they’re all in the “same boat.” They cheer when others break through and live their dream. They empathize when others don’t make the cut. They support one another in their job searches, often suggesting companies they should try.Nashville 09-2010 00036

We continued our conversation once my daughter was in her hotel lobby. We talked of her upcoming four days in Atlanta where she’ll be auditioning during company classes. Always the preferable way to have the director see her among his own dancers, rather than one of fifty in so-called “cattle calls.” Having trained and apprenticed with the company might also work in my daughter’s favor. I say might because six years have passed and there are lots of “other fish in the sea” who might be equally as good or better, as we’ve learned from previous auditions. There’s no guaranteeing who will succeed in being hired to fill the one or two openings available.

The other thing to consider is that unionized dance companies, Atlanta’s being one, must hold auditions even if they don’t have jobs to offer. I’m not sure what the rationale is for this rule. So even after dancers dole out money for head shots, airfare, accommodations, and registration fee…yes, they have to pay to audition…chances are the entire affair was a ruse. As a veteran of the business, my daughter only does auditions where jobs are available. She learns of them through her network of friends or is astute at seeking out companies with openings online.

Auditions are an excellent way for dancers to critique themselves. They see where they stand among their competitors. They learn what specific things they need to improve, perhaps to master, to better their chances of being hired. They can gauge first-hand what companies are seeking in prospective members. 

On a personal level, auditions can be healthy doses of reality. Dancers learn if they’re made for a career that can be very fickle…at times based more upon subjective, not objective, criteria. Appearance matters, whether in the dancer’s look or the lines she creates while moving through the choreography. Directors know in their heads what they’re looking for. Too bad dancers can’t get inside those heads. It might be a lot easier to decide whether or not to even go through the motions.

I’ve been enamored of dance all my life. Growing up I just moved to whatever music was playing on the radio or TV. Except for the requisite hula classes…I’m Hawaiian, after all…I taught myself, and others, to do the popular stuff…the mashed potatoes, the twist, the jerk, the continental. An older sister used me to practice the cha-cha and the swing.IMG_4657

Ballet and I would never have seen eye-to-eye. I’m not one for standing still and moving my limbs. Not when I have no control over my body once the music begins. It grabs hold of me and throws me around like an out-of-control, deliriously excited rag doll.

My daughter is beginning to learn some of why dance appeals to me. Having decided to go more contemporary, she’s learning to take ballet to a new place. Allowing the body to sculpt the movement, rather than confining it within specific structures. Marrying both concepts creates beautiful movement, not unlike ballet in its finished form…on stage.

No matter the form it takes, dance is like magic effortlessly performed.

…like a butterfly…freed of its cocoon…

………hugmamma.Andrea's Portland Pictures 2008 006

…the person…not the label…

IMG_5221While my daughter’s away auditioning for a job with a contemporary dance company, I’m keeping busy putting Christmas away. Yes. Shame on me. It’s March and the ornaments, trees, tinsel, and holiday vintage collections are only now finding their way back into our garage. It usually takes a week or so to get them all up in the first place, so I’m in no hurry to reverse the whole process. And thankfully, my family is fine with the holidays lasting until spring. Then again…they’ve got no choice.

So as I’m organizing my house for the new season, I’ve a lot of time to think about my daughter’s work status which, for the moment, is in a holding pattern. Although not really since she’s a busy, little bee looking to join a new hive, so to speak.

What continually springs to mind is my daughter’s beautiful face, and with that, her great personality. They shine through despite the fact that she’s not yet landed her dream job with a contemporary dance company.

My daughter would’ve loved dancing with Staatstheatre Nurenberg Ballet in Germany. She found the movement quality and the director equally amazing. It seems Goyo Montero would himself demonstrate the choreography if he felt it would help the dancers. At an age when most directors would have stopped dancing, evidently he could still master the moves. That’ll get my daughter’s automatic respect every time.

Although she didn’t get the job, out of 94 from around the world who were invited to audition, my daughter survived the first cut as one of 12 who went on to the final round. Of those only 2 were kept. Since the director was looking for soloists, he was obviously scrutinizing every little detail with regard to their appearance, technique, and performance. That my daughter got as far as she did is a testament to her talent. The competition for jobs in Europe is even stiffer than here in America. 

Last summer my daughter auditioned in NYC for a premier Chicago contemporary dance company. Of the 300 dancers, she was one of 2 remaining. Because auditions had taken place elsewhere in the country, there were a few others being considered for the job as well. A couple of weeks later the director called to say my daughter had not gotten the spot, but that she should try again in the future. And so she’s currently in Chicago taking classes at the company’s studio, gearing up for the audition on Saturday with a call-back on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a job with a Canadian company is also on the back-burner. Its director promised to notify those in whom she expressed an interest at the Toronto audition last week. My daughter’s “holding her breath” for that one, even as she’s moving on to the next possibility. 

Of course as her parent, I would give anything for my daughter to achieve her heart’s desire. That’s every parent’s wish. And yet what I’ve learned from this whole process is that I will love her no matter the outcome. 

It’s difficult, I think, to separate the person from whatever labels we’ve assigned them throughout the course of their lives. My daughter was a ballerina, but chose to leave that position for another more personally satisfying dance job. Yet whatever it is she does, she will remain exactly who she is. And I really like who she is.

Ours is a society which labels people. We’re either upper, middle, or lower class. We’re either rich or poor. We’re either educated or illiterate. We’re either Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. We’re either Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, or middle-eastern. We’re either northerners or southerners. We believe in God or we’re atheists. We’re either “in” or we’re “out.” We’re either employed or unemployed. Even housewives like me insist upon the fact that we’re earning our keep.

Parents can get caught up in society’s labeling game so that if our children don’t “make the grade,” somehow that’s a bad reflection upon us. Against our better judgment we tend to turn against our own, siding with society’s expectations. Until we come to our senses, our offspring are emotionally set adrift to figure life out for themselves. Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t.

Some children who can’t make it on their own for whatever reason, decide to avenge themselves against the society that labeled them as outcasts. I’m certain I needn’t remind you about all the recent shootings.

Accepting our children for who they are and not what they achieve or don’t achieve in life is often difficult. But it surely makes no sense to turn against them because others do. Who are these other people that come between you and your own? Complete strangers when you come right down to it. And if they’re so-called friends, then it’s best to get new friends. With friends like that, who needs enemies? And even if they’re family…

…i’d do what i feel is best for my own child…

………hugmamma.

i hope you dance…

Early this morning, 4:30 a.m. to be exact, my husband drove our daughter to the airport for her flight to Toronto at 6:55 a.m. She’s off on a whirlwind tour of job auditions. After a couple of days in Canada, she heads to Chicago for a week of dance classes at a prominent studio where she will also audition for a position with the resident company. From there she heads to Atlanta where she’ll take classes with a company with whom she might want to work.

There’s a sign hanging in our dining room which reads I Hope You Dance. It’s occupied the same space for quite some time. Regardless of the changing decor to suit the seasons, that sign stays put. It reminds me, and my daughter, that as long as she has a passion for her art my husband and I will do everything we can to support her. 

It takes a lot on all our parts for my daughter to realize all she desires with respect to her profession. She must continually hone her talent and skills; and we, her parents, must be willing to pick up the slack financially. As long as she continues to draw the attention of people at the top in dance, we feel she has a shot at doing what she wants, where she wants, for as long as she wants. Because of our faith in her, we’re willing to forgo luxuries for ourselves in order to sustain our daughter’s dream of dancing until her body gives out or her passion for performing wanes.

What greater gift can we give ourselves than to have our daughter push past obstacles time and again to occupy the place God meant her to have on His earth?

Since neither of us was born into the lap of luxury, my being the youngest of 9 and my husband being the eldest of 12, we want for very little as adults. The fact that our daughter blest our marriage after 16 years is a miracle for which we have never ceased being grateful. That we can celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is a gift that keeps on giving.

As any parent of an athlete intent upon making his or her sport a lifetime commitment will tell you…it ain’t easy. I talk to myself, a lot. I argue both sides of every issue. Of course I’m always prejudiced in favor of my daughter. What parent isn’t? Nevertheless I also look at the greater picture and I never, ever ignore reality. At the same time, I choose my words carefully so as not to snuff out the flame that burns within my daughter’s heart for what she loves. And I always remember that she’s an adult, almost 28. She must live her own life. If my husband and I support her endeavors it’s a choice we make freely…no strings attached. Ever.

The greatest lesson I learned as a result of both my mother’s and my mother-in-law’s parenting is to never expect anything in return for what I give my daughter freely and willingly.

My mom’s love came with an entire flotilla of spider webs; my mother-in-law’s love welcomed me back time and again like a sparkling, refreshing fountain from which I could drink whenever I thirsted.

My daughter probably saw both tutus (Hawaiian for “grandma”) a little more than a handful of times. Her fondest memories are of my mother-in-law. Of my own mom, my daughter retains sketchy remembrances of a depressed, frustrated old woman.

Because my mom was all I had growing up, my love for her cannot be severed. She and I shared one another’s lives the longest, most of my older brothers and sisters having left home while still young to make their own way in the world. So while I don’t condone how I was raised, I don’t fault my mom for doing what she needed to survive after my dad died. I only knew that my own daughter was going to go her own way with all the love and support I could muster.

And whatever she does with her own life……is for her to keep…or share as she sees fit. Knowing her as well as I do, I’m certain…

…she’ll always share her life and her God-given gifts…without reservation…

………hugmamma.

...one of my favorite shots of my precious daughter...by martin o'connor photography

…one of my favorite shots of my precious daughter…by martin o’connor photography

trickery over artistry…

Scott Hamill is undoubtedly correct in siding with the Olympic judges who awarded the 2014 gold medal to Russian ice skater Adelina Sotnikova. After all, he and they are the experts.

I’m no expert, however I’m entitled to my own opinion. And in my opinion, South Korea’s Yuna Kim was more deserving of the top prize. 

Sotnikova was, without a doubt, the more athletic of the two women. Aesthetics aside, for we all have our own preferences, the Russian competitor seemed to throw in as many jumps as she could muster beyond the two minute mark just to clinch Olympic gold. The beauty of ice skating went by the way side. All I saw were limbs flailing every which way as Sotnikova hurried  from one jump to the next. While I had been striving to apply some meaning to her movements, my efforts came to a sudden standstill when it became obvious that she was skating to beat the clock with all manner of trickery.

Kim, on the other hand, concluded a perfect free skate. Not only that but she was breathtakingly beautiful, exactly what one expects of a champion. She was not playing to the crowd, although she does that unintentionally. I’m certain the viewing audience on hand and at home held a collective breath, expelling it only minutes later in wondrous awe.

Watching the program with my daughter, we couldn’t help comparing the evolution of tricks as a mainstay for ice skaters and ballet dancers alike. The higher the jumps, the better. The more spins, the louder the applause. The standard of excellence has definitely undergone a transformation from the ice skating performances of Peggy Fleming to the current moves performed by Adelina Sotnikova.

In ballet we had Anna Pavlova…

For a very long time Anna believed that her technical proficiency was curtailed by her physical abilities until one of her teachers, Pavel Gerdt, told her, “Let others perform acrobatic tricks. The thing you consider to be a shortage in reality is a rare gift which singles you out from thousands.”

Anna graduated in 1899 at the age of 18, and her graduation performance in Pavel Gerdt’s Les Dryades prétendues (The False Dryads) was so successful that they were allowed to enter the Imperial Ballet Company. Anna Pavlova was accepted as a coryphée – a ballet dancer ranking above a member of the corps de ballet and below a soloist.

In the next several years she performed in such ballets as The Pharaoh’s Daughter, Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadère (The Temple Dancer) and Giselle. The public at the time was used to academic ballet performances, and Pavlova’s different style which paid little heed to strict academic rules made a splash. She could dance with bent knees, bad turnout, misplaced port de bras and incorrectly placed tours, but her amazing physicality and the spirituality of the characters she created delighted the public and impressed critics.

Currently, ballet schools and companies are placing a great deal of emphasis on tricks. Gelsey Kirkland, an acclaimed ballerina who now coaches touched upon the subject in an interview.

K: Are there any specific areas of technique you like to focus on?
G: The explosion in bravura technique over the past several decades has been fantastic and I would certainly like to learn some of those tricks! But other, more subtle areas of technique have perhaps been neglected. What I try to do is to see where the need is, and one of the needs seems to be in exploring and respecting the boundaries of classical port de bras and explaining it with an artistic perspective. I like to help people find the beauty inside the restrictions.

 
K: Can we talk about the training system in America?
G: I believe the American training in general is not rooted enough in European tradition. There is no national system of training, as in Russia, to prepare people for the great classics. A training system needs to integrate technique, style, mime, acting, character dancing, and historical dance. These things are essential to putting the puzzle together. The focus of today’s ballet training is often primarily athletic. Beautiful port de bras and épaulement however do not appear out of the blue. They need to be built into the training.

(- See more at: http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/September-2005/Gelsey-Kirkland-Speaking-from-the-Heart#sthash.opj9htrA.dpuf)

Athleticism and artistry should be given equal consideration in both ice skating and ballet. To give one more weight over the other is to favor one type of skater or ballerina over another. In sports that set themselves apart from football, basketball, soccer, hockey and the like, there is an expectation of finesse and refinement. More than that, ice skating and ballet at their best should involve the audience in a story. We should journey with the individual from beginning to end, swept along in their own personal adventure of excitement and hope.

I rode the tide of Yuna Kim’s ecstasy basking in the glory that should have been hers. I wasn’t so moved by Adelina Sotnikova who left me flat and wondering.

…there’s truth in beauty…and beauty in truth…

………hugmamma.