"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Friday, June 24, 2011

"This is why we fight.."

This is our last weekend, here at the kibbutz. My feelings are so bittersweet. I had a rough week of dancing (explanation below), so in some ways I am SO ready for a little break. In other ways, I am so sad to leave this amazing, beautiful place. I have also just begun to grow closer with certain friends here, and am so frustrated and sad to leave when friendships are just blooming.
We decided to dress silly for our last modern class...
So, this post has a bit of a different vibe to it, but this past week was really hard for me. I'll explain why...I've realized some things about dance; if ever I said things were hard here, it was not the hardest. This past week I woke up to many things, but also faced even harder challenges than ever before. My emotions go up and down like I'm a teenager again, and one minute I feel confident, and the next, my ego truly lacking.

I won't go into too many specifics, but mostly all these thoughts and feelings are coming from casting choices....what I'm dancing in or not dancing in for the final show, which is in just a few days. I hate drama that comes out of these experiences...You never know what directors are looking for when they cast various parts. I am currently understudying or in the "second cast" for a couple parts that I'd really like to be able to perform more. Specifically, I am referring to the what we call the "mattress" section of the piece called "Screen Saver." I'm pretty sure I wrote about learning this piece before. It is the most physically challenging piece of choreography I have ever learned, and it's incredibly exhausting to do. Ever since we learned it though, I've had this strong desire to conquer this, and to be able to not just get all the way through it, stamina-wise, but to perform it. I had been rehearsing with a couple fellow dancers as a kind of second cast, but I still don't know if I'll get put in the final show or not (though I know I shouldn't fixate on it so much, it really shouldn't matter if I perform or not...). It's frustrating, still, because I've worked so hard and have given this truly all I have. An incredibly wonderful classmate let me run the piece in her place during tech the other day. Mika has told me how far I've come with it, and that I should be proud at how it has transformed in just a few weeks. Still, the second half is a bit weak, and I let my exhaustion show through, which I can understand to be true.

We recently had final conferences about our progress, and so much of what I heard was positive, encouraging about my growth and where I'm going from here, and positive about what I high note I'm finishing on. I was so happy to hear all this, but the casting seems incongruous. Some of my best friends here and I have shared mutual feelings, and we sometimes wonder why we chose the arts as our field, when it lends itself to so much emotional and personal exhaustion. Things like casting should not be personal, but of course we cannot take every decision as a compliment or blow. Everyone says to think of large experiences like these five months as a journey of opportunities, learning, and successes, and not think of the final performance as a culmination of everything we've learned, but just a small piece of it. Abra, my friend from home who did the last program told me that casting really doesn't matter so much as that I should give my parts that I am performing everything that I have; even if it's less stage time than I wish, I can make every moment count. (For example, I have this solo I love in the piece of Matz Ek Gizelle we are doing, where I get to share a long hug with Albert, then wake up to what a womanizer he is, push him away and grand-battement kick him. It's split-cast, but I'll be doing this part in two shows--It's just a really fun applause-moment, and I savor it every time.) I am trying to think this way, but, it's hard. I really wanted to able to conquer the "mattresses," and by that I mean, getting all the way through the piece without collapsing because of lack of cardio stamina, or my quads giving out. Because of all the work I have put into rehearsing, inside and outside of scheduled rehearsal time, I have been able to accomplish this. It's been really amazing, when I think about it, to consider my journey of progress, and realize how I can actually DO this thing now, when I couldn't get through it before. But somehow, that's not enough for me. I feel like I haven't truly conquered it unless my director will put me on stage....So this battle is what I've been fighting all week. It's tough, and it's taken a toll on me. In some ways I wish I could let it all go, and just enjoy these last few days. In other ways, I know that I am a fighter, and that nothing has ever just been handed to me. This battle is something I was meant to fight, whatever the outcome may be. (My theme song lately has been The Decemberists' "This is Why We Fight." SUCH a powerful, amazing song!

Today at the beach
On a happier note, I have been able to take my mind off this and my aching muscles by hanging out with great friends this weekend. Last night I had a BBQ/picnic with some friends, then watched Harry Potter 6, and continued to laugh the night away until we were giddy. Tonight I revisited the classic Center Stage with a friend. I also went into Nahariya and spent time lounging at the beach, closing my eyes and listening to the waves. I also swam for a few minutes, though the waves were choppy and the shore rocky. Nature, relaxation time, memorable experiences with friends...it reminded me to take a step back from this show that it is not the end-all-be-all of my time here, and that what I've learned goes beyond the stage.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

To read, write, dance or sleep, that is the question...

SO much going on here at the Dance Village on Kibbutz Ga'aton!

My parents came to visit last week, which was awesome.  The couple times I've seen people from home it feels almost strange (great, of course, but strange) to see them here...like they've just rocked my little MASA-dance world, and it's a bit mind-boggling.  Having my parents here though, didn't seem strange at all, even though I expected it to be a clash of worlds.  It was almost as i had been imagining their presence all along, or perhaps, with regular Skyping, it was as if they actually were here.

They spent some time in Jerusalem, and then came to visit me at the Kibbutz.  The class they observed was a good one to see, because there was lots of action--It was a Rep rehearsal, putting together a section from "360." They seemed to enjoy wandering around the kibbutz and enjoying the beautiful, flowering, sweet-smelling scenery (Can scenery be sweet-smelling?).  And I think found the cafe as wonderful and delicious as I do. :-)

We went to Tzfat that afternoon, which is probably my favorite city in Northern Israel.  It is home of Jewish mysticism, the center for jewelers and artists, and the location of beautiful old synagogues.  The covered, cobblestone ally where the artists sell their work reminds me a bit of the Old City of Jerusalem, and I absolutely love the atmosphere and the picturesque view of the Galilee.  From the first time I was here on Birthright, I fell in love with this city!  I’m so happy I got to share it with my parents.
Ally in Tzfat
My dad’s birthday was actually that day, and we celebrated that night at Café Café in Nahariya.  What a great place.  Delicious as always.

View from cafe in Tzfat
We then drove to Tel Aviv along the coast, getting a bit lost while trying to find our way around the handle of Haifa.  But everything eventually worked out, and we arrived in Tel Aviv in time to walk through Shuk HaCarmel (the main market in central TLV) to end up at Nachlat Binyamin (one of the main streets that hosts an arts/crafts/jewelry fair, created by local artists, every Tuesday and Friday).  Wandering through the market, grabbing a bite to eat, and browsing the art fair is one of my absolute favorite things to do in the world, and I'm glad my parents experienced it as well.

Our hotel, the Hilton, had a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean.  My dad and I took a walk along the coast, north to the Port after dinner; it was fun to see everyone out and about, even on a Friday night here (which is Shabbat, but Tel Aviv is a pretty secular city, so tons of cafes/restaurants/bars are still open).

View from the Hilton Hotel
The next day, I took them to my favorite places around the city....my favorite cafe (called Zorik, on Yehuda Maccabi a little east of Ibn Gvirol), which has a fun, lively atmosphere, comfy chairs/couches, friendly service, and taim maod (delicious) coffee, lemonade, and all kinds of food.  We traveled south to Rabin Square, which I thought my dad especially would like to see.  I think my mom was a little underwhelmed with the memorial.  I never really thought about it, that he deserved more than a corner dedicated to him, which a plaque, some stones, a flag....I don't know though, for some reason it seems fitting to me.  There is a wall with preserved graffiti and newspaper clippings...pictures of Rabin and Arafat shaking hands, with Clinton in the middle.  The feel of the whole corner is informal, ordinary, or even run-down in a sense.  But it seems to fit the fact that he was fighting for the common man, the ordinary Tel Avivan, to live in peace, and it also fits the irony of those dreams having been shot down, right there in that spot.

We also (of course) went to Neve Tzedek, the beautiful, artsy area in south Tel Aviv where Suzanne Dellal is located.  I showed them the studios where I take Gaga class, where Batsheva rehearses, and the shops...I love this area so much.  The residential area is so picturesque, and the theatre area is just beautiful.  Most of the shops were closed, because it was Saturday, but the theatre area was still bustling, and the famous ice cream shop, of course, was open for business.  Well, that about sums up their visit!

I absolutely need to write about the book series I just finished which I became...well...pretty much obsessed with over the last 6 weeks or so. It's the trilogy, the Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  I brought the first book with me, and started it around the time that we went on our trip to the south.  Literally, I could not put it down.  I love reading, but seriously, I have not been so fully captivated and all-consumed by a book, probably since I became enthralled with the world of Harry Potter (circa age 14).  Anyway, I was so drawn to this book that we were hiking Masada and I was honestly thinking..."I wish I was reading right now..."  I ordered the second and third books online, and literally, when I finished the second, immediately picked up the third.  I don't know how to categorize them; think 1984 meets Enders' Game meets Harry Potter.  The premise of the books is: in a dystopian future-North America, the government imposes it's power over the people by creating an annual lottery, where the "winners"--all children between 12 and 18--must participate in a fight to the death.

It's technically Young Adult series, but honestly, they are so dark and disturbing at parts, I don't agree with that categorization. But they really resonated with me in the present time and place.  I was reading the second one around the time of Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day; the books seemed to speak directly about my life here and now, about survival, retaining our humanity, the will to sacrifice, embracing love, and choosing life.  I finished the 3rd book just last week.  My roommate had gone to bed, and I was starting to get choked up, so I finished the final pages outside my apartment door.  Then I took a 1am walk around the kibbutz because I was crying my eyes out and couldn't shake it.  I won't give anything away, but it's clearly a very bittersweet ending.  Very fitting though, in my opinion. Anyway....very powerful...read it!

Much of this entry was written in a dark theatre, as we are in tech for Nizotzot ("sparkles"), which is our choreographer's showcase.  After many technical difficulties involving making a projection of screen captures of Skype conversations, and some complex editing of music, I think I've thoroughly been a pain to the people running my lights and sound....There were still a few lights/sound/movement cues that weren't in synch today, but I hope it goes better during our dress tomorrow.  We had our last studio rehearsal last night, though, and my dancers made me very happy!  Dance-wise, I think it's really come together, and I hope that the final product will prove that as well.

In general, we are just dancing harder than ever.  At the beginning of last week, we started working intensely on a section from "Screensaver."  I kid you not, it's the most physically challenging piece of choreography I have ever encountered.  In this section, we are dancing (rather, jumping, pas de bourreeing, arching, flinging, and falling) on mattresses.  The mattresses absorb all of your weight, so you sink down as you land, and finding the momentum to jump again is the most difficult thing, muscularly and cardiovascularly.  The piece is essentially about war--We were given the image of being shot to hold in our mind, as we struggle to keep going.  "People keep pushing you down, but you want to live," Mika told us.  The emotion of the piece, combined with my will power to want to prove that I can do it, that I can beat my body's limitations, is what keeps me going.  Still, it's so incredibly hard, and I haven't been able to get all the way through yet.  After the last run-through of the day, I went up to Mika to explain my frustrations--I want to do it so badly (and for me, being so physically strong, it's weird to find myself in a situation where I really can't do something), but no matter how much I tell myself to keep going, my body doesn't obey.  It kills the quads the most.  And about 3/4 of the way through, I get to the point where my muscles literally stop firing.  Of course, I ended up tearing up as I explained how frustrated I am, but I was comforted by the fact that it's difficult for everyone, even all the company members who have done this part before.  It will get easier, I was told, and I hope it's true.  I really want to be able to do this part, if only just to accomplish it for myself.

So after the Nizotzot show in a few days, this is what I'll be faced with...sore quads and a stiff back. But I'm ready...bring it on. :-)

So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So goodnight, dear void. -From You've Got Mail