Tuesday, November 01, 2011

This is a long post. One that jumps around between a couple of topics. One I probably should have edited to make shorter. But I didn't want to go through the hassle of editing this here casual blog of mine. So, instead I left it in its wordy, drawn-own state, added in this introductory paragraph to make it even longer, and all I have to say is bravo to you if you make it to the end. Really wants to make you keep reading right? Drawing the reader in with clever opening lines was always a strength of mine. Cough. Anyways, if you're still with me, here it is...

I'm re-reading one of my favorite novels, The Thirteenth Tale, and this one passage stuck out to me... it's about an author and the stories she has yet to write,

"My study throngs with characters waiting to be written. Imaginary people, anxious for a life, who tug at my sleeve, crying, 'Me next! Go on! My turn!' I have to select. And once I have chosen, the others lie quiet for ten months or a year, until I come to the end of the story, and the clamor starts up again."

I felt an instant connection to this passage because it perfectly describes how I feel about choreography. I have a huge list of songs I have to use, the workings of multiple pieces started in my mind, and the minute one dance is done I'm eager to pick out the next and get started, feeling bad for the other songs and ideas that will have to wait until later. I'm lucky to have such a passion and it's crazy to think that just 6 years ago I had absolutely zero interest in ever attempting choreography and little to no respect for it as an art. I truly believe this is one of the main reasons I was led to Wheaton, to discover this passion of mine... every so often things happen to fall a certain way and a lot of "chance" things lead you to something wonderful you couldn't have expected. Wheaton for me is one of those things... to think of how I ended up there and then what I got out of it... it's nothing short of a blessing.

How I ended up at Wheaton College is a bizarre story, all the more so if you know how much I am into researching and planning things and just how much typically goes into my decision making process. I had a list of 7 schools I was applying to senior year, not to name drop them (but I am anyway) they were Brown, Amherst, Wellesley, Tufts, Vassar, Stonehill and Gordon. I had done all my research... I knew their acceptance rates, average SAT scores, and essentially calculated my odds of getting into each one. In my know-it-all teenage mind I KNEW I would get into 2, had a chance of getting into 3, and probably would not get into the remaining 2, but wanted to try anyway... or in guidance counselor terms I had 2 safeties, 3 matches and 2 reaches. I had visited dozens of colleges, done all my interviews, taken tours, sat in on classes, and again I KNEW these were my top 7 choices. So when my guidance counselor told me I needed to apply to more "safety schools" I was strongly against it. If I KNEW I could get into two of my schools and I KNEW I would choose any one of these seven over any other school, why should I have to apply somewhere else? He was adamant that I choose at least one more school, "to give me more options" he said. KNEW (had to throw in one more all caps "knew"... sorry)

Now, normal Trisha, if forced to pick another option, would have gone through the whole research process again of trying to find her 8th choice... the perfect school for her if options 1-7 didn't work out. But rebellious Trisha (a side which rarely comes out) thought it would be perfectly spiteful if she chose a school at random, as if to say to mr. guidance counselor, "fine, i'll pick another school, but don't think I care which one I choose because I WILL get into at least 2 of my schools, I WILL go to one of those and this "8th choice" will be inconsequential and unnecessary, as I said from day 1". Time for Trisha to stop referring to herself in 3rd person. In reality, he didn't know how I came to the decision of choosing my 8th school, and probably it wouldn't have mattered much to him anyway. But I felt deliciously evil in knowing how I decided and in my mind it was the perfect way to get back at the guidance counselor who forced me to spend the unnecessary $55 on another application. So how did I come to my decision you ask? I picked up one of those top colleges in the northeast guidebooks, opened to a random page (which happened to be Wheaton's), saw its acceptance rate was more in the realm of the schools I knew I would get into rather than a Brown or Amherst, and decided to apply there. Knowing nothing about it. It made me so happy to do this to my guidance counselor without his knowledge that it was almost worth the $55 in my mind (of my mother's money... if it was mine it might have diminished my happiness a bit. But that's irrelevant).

Fast-forward several months and low and behold I get into the two schools I knew I would, plus Wheaton, and waitlisted at two others. Once I actually was accepted at Wheaton I figured it would be just plain irresponsible of me to not at least visit the place and see how it compared in my mind to the other two schools. (Of course, my method of choosing the school wasn't at all irresponsible in the first place). Two second background story... at all of my past college visits it had rained the day I visited... every single one (and remember, I visited dozens) so, by the 14th time or so that it happened I said to myself "if I ever visit a school and it's not raining I will take it as a sign and go there if I'm accepted". Well, no shocker with what happened next. I visit Wheaton and it's a gorgeous, sunny day. Even though researching, planning, calculating and comparing is my way of decision making and I'm often ruled by logic, I allowed my gut to take over and, completely unlike me, I didn't even think about it when I accepted my enrollment to Wheaton, turning down the other two schools. I felt that I was led there, for some unseen reason, and that it was where I was meant to be. Strangely enough I was really comfortable with my choice, even though I knew little about the place, because I took everything as a sign. Yet spiteful me was biting her tongue and did not thank guidance counselor. Didn't want to give him the satisfaction.

Now, I always follow my gut... it leads me throughout my life. While my heart isn't always smart enough, and my head doesn't always care enough, my gut has yet to lead me wrong. It combines my head, my heart and that unknown instinctive quality that I believe is God's guidance to get me what I need, even if it's not always what I want. I'm SO thankful I ended up at Wheaton, as I truly believe it was perfect for me and helped me grow into who I am. Beyond the classes and professors, friends and experiences, one of the best things I found at Wheaton was my passion for choreography. I honestly do not believe I would have found it otherwise.

I have been dancing for a long time, over 20 years now (ugh). In high school I had the opportunity to choreograph, and was greatly encouraged to do so by some of my teachers. But I had zero interest... not a spark... not one miniscule part of me had any desire or curiosity to explore even the possibility of it. I liked dancing. I liked others giving me steps to dance. I did not like the idea of creating movement for myself or others to dance. Period. When I got to college I didn't think I would have much of an opportunity to dance again in my life, beyond possibly some occasional classes, and of course in musical theater, but that's completely different. I didn't think I'd be able to dance in choreographed works. There simply isn't much opportunity once you graduate from a studio unless you join a professional company. Then I found dance company at Wheaton. I had an outlet to dance and I had a dance family. Still, I had no interest in choreography and I did not expect this to change. During my first two years at Wheaton I had the opportunity to work with multiple choreographers, all with different styles, very different than I had ever experienced at home. One day, sophomore year I (quite subconsciously) started visualizing choreography to a musical theater song I was listening to. I didn't know what to make of it. More and more ideas came to me with each listen to the song... I was choreographing without even trying. I decided to follow my gut (again) and push myself to go for it... if I'm ever going to choreograph might as well make it this semi cheesy, fosse-esque musical theater choreography I was visualizing, because, I thought, I could do anything with a musical theater style piece, and it would be much easier than a "real" dance. I worked for something ridiculous like 8 months on the piece before teaching it to the company as a junior. I was proud to have choreographed something, when I never thought I would, even if it was "just a musical theater piece". But I hadn't found my voice yet as a choreographer. Honestly, after that first experience I didn't have a huge desire to try choreographing something else and I had little belief that I would be able to ever do a "real dance". Even now, after having choreographed over a dozen pieces I feel like each time I start a new piece I won't know what I'm doing and I have little confidence that I'll be able to do a "real dance". Now I realize my works are real dances, they're just different. (I always thought of a real dance as like a lyrical jazz, which is actually sort of the style of the piece I just set recently.) I enjoy though that with the start of each new work I still feel like I won't have a clue what I'm doing... it emphasizes to me how there's no formula or set approach to choreographing and the process becomes more organic for me. Where was I going with this? (going back to re-read...) Oh, so I had no desire to choreograph again and little confidence in my ability. Then, junior year I worked with a choreographer who completely inspired me. His approach to choreography was unlike anything I had encountered before... there were no counts, no set tempo from dancer to dancer (dancer's choice!) and he had choreographed the whole thing but hadn't picked out music yet... but his passion for movement was infectious. Beyond his approach, which was new to me, what really inspired me was something he said, something that I now consider to be practically my mantra with choreography. Someone asked him why he decided to become a choreographer and through a huge smile he said "I get to play with movement every day of my life. What could possibly be better?" Those words struck a chord with me. Never before had I thought of choreography as playing with movement. I thought of it as you learn these set steps in your technique class and choreography is just stringing those learned movements together in a different order. Romantic definition there right? Can you tell I was a math major? Never before had I considered the possibility of creating something new or playing. My eyes were suddenly open to a world of possibilities. I said my first piece was heavily Fosse inspired... I had always admired his work but had never really thought about why I admired it. Now I believe it's largely because he wasn't afraid to be different, his moves are both sexy and odd and they have a sort of tongue-in-cheek, quirky humor I am drawn to. So many of these qualities I admire in Fosse's work were relevant to me in a fresh way when I thought about choreography in terms of playing with movement... now when I choreograph I do whatever strikes me, even if it's bizarre and different, I enjoy quirky movements that play off of literal interpretations of lyrics and I try not to limit myself to conventional dance steps learned in class. I found my voice and my inspiration, guided by the choreographer's words "play with movement". Such a simple idea, yet it completely turned my perspective upside down, or rather, right side up.

Since then I have been unable to stop creating choreography. Thoughts constantly swim in my mind for bits of movement and new works to set. And while it's possible I could have stumbled upon this passion of mine at some other point in my life and in some other way, I'm not so sure I would have... like I said, I was certain upon entering Wheaton that I wouldn't dance again. And if I didn't dance again, in this traditional way as I'm referring to it, outside of musical theater, why would I have ever been inspired to choreograph? I believe in my heart that dance company at Wheaton, and the choreographers and different styles I was exposed to there (and one choreographer's words in particular) are the reason I found this passion of mine. It makes you wonder what other passions of yours may be out there, yet undiscovered. Here's a shameless invite to check out some of my choreography here.

And as a random conclusion to this essay length blog of mine, if you haven't read The Thirteenth Tale and you enjoy reading, go read it now. I love a lot of books but very few are memorable and this is one that still creeps into my thoughts years after having read it, necessitating multiple re-reads. That's all.

Random pic, just because.