Halfway Through ADF – I’m SO Inspired!

Hello everyone!

I am officially three weeks into the American Dance Festival, and I am SO grateful to be here! I am having the time of my life! This experience is helping me find myself, work through obstacles I have not been dealing with effectively, and is bettering my technique. All of this is happening while I am training, growing stronger mentally and physically, and being inspired left and right!

I’ve met some amazing people/dancers, and this environment is incredibly supportive, safe, and creative. I love how immersed I am in dance and art, and I cannot express enough how truly thankful I am for the opportunity to be here this summer.

I wanted to share with you all some photos I took within the last three weeks! It is amazing how quickly time is passing, and I really want it to slow down! The first week I was here, I was able to take some fun photos at the Duke University Chapel!

Today, I went to the Nasher Museum of Art of Duke’s West Campus for their presentation of “Movies by Movers“, which is a series of dance films they present throughout the weekends of the summer intensive. Today was the first day, and the films I viewed were stunning. I left the museum theater feeling introspective and thoughtful.

You can view the list of  “Movies by Movers” at this link: ADF Dance Film Festival Line Up

At the Nasher, I visited their gift shop and found some beautiful post cards with prints of artwork featured in the museum on them! I am in love with the one on the top left of my picture (your left!). It is called “Places to Love For”, and I was immediately drawn to it. She looks like a dancer, but even if the woman depicted is not, I feel like the painting has a lot of movement to it, even though she is portrayed standing still. I wish the museum sold a full-size replica print or poster because I would have bought one for my room! Instead, I bought four different post cards that I am going to frame and hang on my bedroom walls when I go home!

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I am also collaborating with a visual artist while I am down here! He is based out of Raleigh, NC and I am modeling for him for a project he is working on, and in exchange, he photographed some headshots and dance photos for free for me to use for auditions and dance projects when I am back home in NJ/NY. I CANNOT wait for those photos to be released so I can share them with you all! They came out so great, and we worked for a while on them! We have another photo shoot scheduled for his projects too, which will be super awesome to see the final result when he is done manipulating the images.

Living down here on my own and navigating this festival is changing my life, and I have a feeling when I return home I will be a better version of myself.  Dance has ALWAYS been the one constant in my life, and the American Dance Festival is confirming my belief that dance is my path to journey down in this lifetime. I am forever grateful for this art form and the community surrounding it.

I will update you all soon! I can’t wait to share my other adventures and projects with you all!

xoxo

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Is Being a “Professional Dancer” an Achieved Status or a Mindset?

Hello everybody!

Today I want to address something important. This is especially important for all of my fellow dancers who are just coming out of a college dance program, or those who are only one or two years removed from undergrad.

See, in undergraduate dance programs, the professors and dance directors warn students that finding professional work is hard (Most do, but if not, than THEY SHOULD). They say the performer life is hard because a lot of professional dance company work (especially in NYC) is unpaid, or a stipend is the only compensation for MONTHS of time and energy put into rehearsals. They warn students they will hear more “No’s” then “Yes’s”. They even warn students that most of the time, they will be paid more to teach dance than to perform dance.

When young dance graduates find a company or dance project to work with, how do they handle putting in a ton of effort for little or sometimes no pay? Does little or lack of pay make what they’re doing any less “professional”? If the company someone dances for doesn’t offer benefits or a steady income, is she not as “professional” as someone who dances for a company that does provide those benefits and income?

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I’ve discovered a lot in this past year removed from undergraduate school. What I’ve discovered is all of what my dance director and professors warned me about is true. I’ve discovered I will see the same 60 people at every small contemporary/modern dance company audition because we all want the same jobs. I discovered I will pay more money to commute in and out of NYC to audition for jobs and companies that are not even willing to pay me even if I was hired.

However, I also discovered that the small companies and dance projects I work on require just as much time and energy as projects within a “bigger” company would. If I am working on a contemporary dance piece for a private, small company that requires unpaid weekly company class/rehearsal, and weekend rehearsals/traveling/shows, what separates the professionalism of that situation from a company who does the same thing but has a more well-known name (ie: Paul Taylor Company, Alvin Ailey)?

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Is it because more well-known companies are established and have a historical legacy? Yes, that probably has something to do with it. And it makes sense to feel that way when people perform with a small dance company not many people have heard of. But, if I take myself and my work seriously, I will be viewed seriously. And if I am viewed seriously in my dance endeavors, why would I not be viewed as a professional? Even if I do not necessarily like the choreography I am dancing, if I keep my attitude towards it professional, I will act and be viewed as such.

The title “dancer” or “artist” in general is very unspecified. Just because someone doesn’t have a piece of their art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC doesn’t make them any less of an artist. If they are mentally and physically invested in what they are creating, they are a creator. They are an artist because they view themselves as one! Granted, if the opporunity arose to have art displayed in the MET or to dance with New York City Ballet for example, obviously those achievements are milestones in someone’s artistic career that should be celebrated. However, what I’m saying is not any one who makes artwork can call themselves an artist (although they did create something classified as artwork).

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A real artist or dancer (in my context) is someone who is investing most of their time and sometimes even most of their life to their craft. They are the people who are constantly in search of improvement and knowledge in their field, while simultaneously teaching others about their craft through sharing their craft with others and with their community. Their mindset is focused on consistently bettering their art.

Let me put it this way – the CEO of a Fortune 500 company doesn’t walk into work everyday thinking she or he cannot handle the day, and that their job responsibilities are outside of their skillset. No. The people who make it to CEO, CFO, principal dancer, company soloist, “professional”, etc. KNOW their worth and they KNOW their skillset. That is why they are in those positions. They believe they can handle whatever tasks are thrown their way because this is what their years of training, education, and experience has prepared them for. Even if someone is dancing for a small company and is not being paid as much as much as she would like to be or thinks she deserves to be, it is still an achievement and progress to have made it into a company after graduating a college dance program.

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In short, professionalism begins with the right mindset. The more someone believes they are a professional, the more they will begin to act like one. And once opportunities arise, even in small companies (or small art galleries!), the more it will reinforce the professional mindset. This mindset is what will bring someone to where they want to end up in their field (dance, art, business, whatever!).

Aim high, shoot higher. Don’t lose sight of who and where you want to be.

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Dancers, Fairies, and Road Trips!

Hello beautiful readers!

Holy apologies – I have been so absent lately for good reason, and I wanted to update you all on my life and tell you what is coming next for me!

Last week was my final week of teaching, and my final week of rehearsals for the company’s big show. On Saturday June 9, the Warwick Dance Collective presented A Midsummer Night’s Dream ballet, and I danced the roles of a lead fairy attendant and a maid of honor at the triple wedding in act II.  (See Related)

Related: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Fairy Makeup and Hair

I am not a ballerina, however, the company I dance with right now performs mostly ballet, and I am trying to teach myself how to dance gracefully in pointe shoes! This show was particularly challenging because I have never danced en pointe in a show for any longer than 5 min. I realized the brand of pointe shoes I’ve been rehearsing in are not the best shoe for my feet.

Anyway, there will be official video and pictures emailed to me, but below are images of my official fairy/bridesmaid makeup, and a picture my dad snapped of me from the audience.

In addition to having a fun time performing, I was accquainted with new dancers! My director brought in all of the male dancers from other companies, and they were all so fun and kind. I’ve never met a better bunch of dancers to work with on a project! Although hectic, overall Midsummers was a great experience!

The following day, Sunday June 10, I drove 10 hours south to the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC! The drive was not bad, and my mom came with me. I drove all 10 hours because I wanted to see if I would be able to do it when I was that tired – and I did! I was exhausted from my crazy week, but I knew it would be a push from show weekend until the end of ADF.

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Can’t stop won’t stop! Am I right?

I am officially here, and my first day of work was today. I am working in the performances office, and I am so excited I have the opportunity to meet a lot of the choreographers who come to dance, teach, and perform at the festival. Today, they literally put my ass to WERK. I did so much manual labor I feel like my arms are going to fall off. And tomorrow I have to pick up dancers of Shen Wei Dance Arts from the Raleigh/Durham airport. Crazy right? I might be picking up the ACTUAL Shen Wei – uhmm what?! So cool!

Thursday is the official start of this year’s festival, and I have a crazy weekend coming up as well. There will be a lot of auditions, classes, and work to do so I may not get around to posting until Sunday to let you all know about my week. I am going to do a summer series of ADF posts on my journey here, my work, progress, and the adventures I find myself on!

Also, I just want to quickly shout out my beautiful mother for being an ABSOLUTE ANGEL and driving with me, going food shopping for me, helping me move in, and providing more love and nurturing than I deserve! She helped me prepare and execute SO MUCH for this trip, and this trip would not have been as comfortable or smooth if she was not here to help me. So thank you momma! I love you!

Until next time, I hope you all have an amazing week!

Xoxo

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You Are a Breathtaking Goddess from Heaven, and You Need to Believe it

Happy Sunday Leaps readers!

I was just hired at a barre studio (See Related below), and this journey to become a fitness instructor in the midst of all of the rehearsals for my upcoming show, and preparation for my time at the American Dance Festival has taught me A LOT.  Not only has it helped me sharpen up my time management skills, it has showed me how to embrace challenge with a positive attitude.

Related: Xtend Barre Training

You would think teaching dance and teaching fitness is similar, but to be honest, they are very different. Dance teachers probably have a better sense of rhythm and timing than non-dancers training to be fitness instructors, however, being an effective and consistent fitness trainer is a lot of work, even for experienced dance teachers.

At first, this task seemed really daunting to me – how can I balance all of these goings-on while trying to retrain and adapt my teaching methods for fitness, on top of going through a lot of personal challenges? I have come to realize pushing the limits of my body, mind, and my teaching capabilities is such a healthy and needed challenge for me. These are challenge I didn’t know I needed.

There is one teacher at the barre studio I’ll be working at who I really enjoy, and at the end of every class of hers, she tells us to hold our hands in “prayer” pose, close our eyes, and tell ourselves “You are a breathtaking goddess from heaven who kicked butt today”. This resonates so much with me at this time of my life. Yes, we are ALL breathtaking goddesses from heaven. Even if our biggest accomplishment today was getting out of bed when we didn’t think we could, we kicked butt today. We have ALL of the power to go and get whatever it is we want!

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At the beginning of 2018, I told myself my goal for this year is to take a lot of risks. In January, I didn’t know how I could handle any sort of risk that put me too far out of my comfort zone. The thought alone caused so much anxiety, it made me sick. Halfway through 2018, I faced unforeseen hard challenges already, and have a lot of challenges ahead of me. Now instead of thinking, “How the hell am I going to do this?”; I’m excited and think, “This is going to make me work hard and I am going to gain so much from this experience”.

There is so much good happening from me taking on a lot of challenges at once, and I’m starting to truly believe I am capable of accomplishing everything I want. I hope you all know you too are goddesses from heaven who are powerful, phenomenal, and capable of whatever it is you wish to be. Embrace your own challenges, and accept new ones even if you are unsure of the outcome. Do things that scare you, and be powerful! And above all else, don’t settle for something less than what you want. Because you have the power to make your situation better (you’re a goddess, remember?).

Enjoy your Sunday goddesses!

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Birthday Wishlist – It is my Jordan Year!

Hello readers!

My 23rd birthday is coming up on July 3 – and I cannot believe it is basically a month away! I feel like I just turned 22, and I have never been more excited to turn a specific age. For real – even 21 was kind of lame and not as exciting, and I am SO ready to leave 22 in the past.

People say 23 years of age is your “Jordan” year, also known as, the BEST year of your 20s. They say this because Michael Jordan’s basketball jersey number was 23, and he led a fantastic and successful career. Within this context, I am very much looking forward to my 23rd year. I went through a lot in the first half of 2018 (and the last half of being 22 years old), learned a lot of tough lessons, and made a lot of hard decisions. I will eventually write a lengthy post about what I went through and why it is so significant to me turning 23, but for now just know I have a feeling 23 is going to be an AMAZING year.

Nonetheless, if anyone was thinking of what to buy me for my birthday, here are a few items I definitely don’t need, but totally want if anyone was wondering what I have my eyes on.

Vanessa Long Maroon Crewneck Sweatshirt

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Vanessa Long Sweatshirt

For those of you who don’t know or didn’t get the chance to read my post My First NYC Dance Job Starts this Fall!! (2018), I am starting a training company position in NYC starting in October with the Vanessa Long Long2 Dance Company. This opportunity came to me immediately after a VERY significant event in my life back in April. This opportunity means so much to me that I would really love this sweatshirt to relish in the memory that is this opportunity. Also, it is adorable and I love the maroon.

Bad Habit Beauty Arabesque Palette (on Shop Hush App)

Arabesque Palette

Omg, this palette is adorable! It is not only dance themed (which you all know I love), the packaging and color scheme is AH-MAZING. This palette gives me serious Anastasia Beverley Hills Soft Glam vibes, which at $16, this seems like a great dupe! I’ve watched a lot of YouTube reviews of this palette, and a lot of YouTubers agree that this palette is an affordable dupe for the ABH one. Plus, it’s dance-themed. So in my book, it’s automatically better. LOL! This palette is only available to purchase through the Shop Hush Phone App, which is kind of weird since you can order other items through the Shop Hush website. I don’t need any more palettes or eyeshadows, and I’ve been really good about not buying any. However, if someone bought this for me, I would not be upset or opposed. 😉

Phenomenal Woman Campaign T Shirt

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Phenomenal Woman T-Shirt

Maya Angelou is such an inspiring poet and woman. She spoke eloquent truths regarding her experiences with racism, sexism, and life in general. I love her poems, especially “Still I Rise”, and “Phenomenal Woman”. Since I love the poem and come from a lineage of Phenomenal Women (Yes mom and grandma, I am talking about you!), I feel like this shirt is such a proud statement. Yes, I am phenomenal, and yes the women who came before me and who bore me are phenomenal, and I will be a phenomenal woman proudly. Funds from t-shirt purchases go towards the Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation, Essie Justice Group, Girls Who Code, Higher Heights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood, and The United State of Women (which is super cool).

Natalie Dancewear Padded Turn Socks

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Natalie Padded Turn Socks

 Okay, so I usually am loyal to my cotton crew socks from Forever21 for dance socks, however, these have piqued my interest. I know there are a lot of dance companies that market “turning” socks, and I have never justified spending money on them when I can get my 3-pack of cotton socks from the F21 at the mall for $3.80. Nonetheless, I love Natalie leotards and tights, so I am sure if this product is anything like those, it is a higher quality product. They have padding where the pads of the feet are for turning, and I am not sure how comfortable they would feel. I’ve read reviews saying they are great, and others saying they are very slippery on Marley floors, and the pad uncomfortable. Either way, these are last on my list because like I mentioned they are completely unnecessary. But, since I love Natalie products I feel like they might be worth a shot. Plus, they come in cherry red which is a hot color!

Those are the products I have been eyeballing lately. Of course, they are unnecessary, which is why I haven’t bought them myself already. But they are fun, and I would use each of them!

I can’t wait to turn 23, and I hope my last month of being 22 is amazing!

Until next time, xoxo

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