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What’s up

My blogging has been so inconsistent this year which I blame on the high stresses and demands of grade 12, and I would like a chance to explain myself to the few (you know who you are!) who have been so encouraging about my writing and whose responses bring a smile to my face on a weekly basis. So here are the happenings of my current life:

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The booklets they send make you feel accomplished, haha.

I applied to five Canadian universities and received acceptances for Life Science at the University of Guelph, Queen’s University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo (co-op) and Health Sciences at McMaster University. I picked a general undergrad program because I know I love science and biology but still want to explore and discover in what field I will find my calling. In the end it came down to UofT or Mac, as I got into quite prestigious programs. The VicOne Stowe-Gullen stream is a first year foundational program for biological sciences integrated with art study in philosophy, literature, statistics, etc. and accepts around 20 students per year. Health Science at Mac accepts around 150 students and is closely linked to the medical school. It was a difficult decision but I decided I am not sure I wanted to streamline my studies to medical school so soon and accepted UofT, who also gave me a full scholarship for my first year of study there. However, future planning doesn’t end here as I am deferring this offer for…

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In case you didn't know how awesome it is. Photo clearly stolen from Nancy's instagram.

Ballet. You can study for a long time, but your body is only young once. I had to face the fact that if I did not pursue ballet NOW, I would be giving it up as a professional career choice. The difficult thing about dance is that employment is unpredictable and there is no clear path for where your auditions will lead you and for how long you will continue dancing in one place. I decided I was not ready to sacrifice this art form that I love so much. Because I like foolproof plans, this decision was the most difficult I had ever had to make, maybe I will write more about these reflections as a twelfth grader in the future.

And there are final exams in a week! It will be Calculus and Vectors, Music, Advanced Functions, English, Biology, and Chemistry. With last lessons concluded just a few days ago, so studying and scrambling for these last few assignments will be very fun (they say optimism creates more optimism and I sure could not have too much of it at this point)!

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At least summer's finally here!

I am also part of an initiative to share dance to public audiences by creating a collaborative work of live art with a composer and visual artist, combining dance, music, and painting – all original stuff by young artists. It is happening next week and will be really cool!

There are also a bunch of events: grad brunch, school BBQ, council meetings, choir summer concerts, year end recital…

All leading to GRADUATION!!!
Which I have had absolutely no time to think about. I think when it rolls around the corner I’ll just be relieved everything is over and it will suddenly hit me that I am finished high school forever.

Wow.

Thanks for reading my absolutely narcissistic post of the year,
thebookybunhead

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Copenhagen: A Summer Exchange

Copyright thebookybunhead 2012

From the moment I stepped out of the airport, I knew that my second time in Europe as a professional ballet exchange student would be no less than wonderful. Everyone was very welcoming and even Copenhagen itself seemed to greet me with its warm colours and lively streets. The next two weeks would be spent dancing with the Royal Danish Ballet and exploring the sights and sounds of the city!

We had ballet classes in the morning, one with students of the school, and one with professional dancers of the company. It was nice to have the variety of levels and intensity every day, as well as to meet many great people. We also took some other classes such as repertoire and Pilates, with Bournonville being particularly fun as a trademark Danish style with its charming expression and agile steps. It was an inspiring and exciting experience to take company class and I admit it made me feel impatient that apprenticeship starts a year earlier there!

We watched company rehearsals, and though it was too early in the season to see a performance, we got a tour of the beautiful, golden, traditional theatre and saw excerpts of ballet pieces in an annual outdoor show that promoted the Det Kongelige Teatre. It became chilly after sunset, yet the audience of thousands stayed sitting on the grass wrapped in blankets until a standing ovation at the end of the night; it was a kind of cultural appreciation I was quite impressed with.

Throughout the afternoons walking the streets of Copenhagen, we discovered many parks, observatory towers, and pretty buildings, and realized it was impossible to walk a few minutes without snapping pictures of a cool fountain or statue. I had the chance to ride in a canal tour, go to two of the oldest amusement parks in Europe, look at art (including a Degas exhibition) in a couple of the many museums that offer free access, and just enjoy the street and night life.

I once read that Denmark was named the happiest country in the world, and I can say I easily believe it with the relaxed, “go-with-the-flow” atmosphere I felt during my stay. Everyone I met was so nice that I often forgot I was a foreigner, at least until Danish was spoken, which I found out has absolutely no resemblance to English. I was sad to leave but was looking forward to bring back everything I had learned to grow more as a dancer and a person in my final year at NBS! Between the ballet and the excursions with friends, I had a grand time in Copenhagen and hope to visit again someday.

So, this is part of why my summer was packed to write as much as I wanted. The first month of gr.12 has been so busy but I’m really hoping to get this blog up and active again.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Exam Bound

Crunch time! (Original content)

Crunch time! (Original content)

bound (adj) 1. Heading toward somewhere 2. Restricted or confined to a specific place

The end of the year is speeding along and I am feeling exhausted. It has been a marathon for the past few months with the dance festival, spring performance, and now final recital and academic exams. We get a free weekend without class, except there is a LOT to do: science reviews specifically, culminating assignments, procrastinated stuff, and extra credits squeezed in, hopefully. Our grade is in charge of an annual flower sale by tradition and many of us are catching summer colds due to bipolar weather of heavy rain (once pouring enough to collapse our church’s roof) and summer sun (we’re talking shorts and tank top weather here). It is also a personal tradition of mine to create handmade cards for my teachers, and I hope to continue it. Now I completely understand the phrase, “Time flies.”

So this is basically my excuse for my absence on WordPress; my “Drafts” category is growing drastically to the point that I doubt I could complete all these ideas in the summer. In the meantime, let’s get cracking on the notes fellow students (those of you unlucky enough to be on the same pace as my irregular school) , and exams here we come!

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Best Week Ever: Memories of a Ballet Festival

balcony jump - AI13

Some of us thought a jump shot on a sunny balcony would be cool.

It’s not any day you meet and perform with over a hundred fellow dancers from 10 different countries. Actually, it was a week. So naturally, I have an urge to write about this unforgettable experience. Amazing. Inspiring. Awesome. Enlightening. Bomb-diggity. These words can only begin to describe what hosting a giant, international ballet festival at our school was like.

Nearly everyone arrived early on the first day for orientation. It was a confusing ordeal at first, as students wandered around trying to find their partners who may or may not still be in bed. Or, having found them, realized their partners  had already been taken on a tour meaning they were left feeling quite useless, standing around like a lamppost. My partner was a pretty, Indian girl who will be in the corps of the San Francisco Ballet next year and who had no trouble engaging in conversation, which made it easy for me. From this first introduction, I realized how many different experiences were being brought by everyone, and was sure it would be an interesting week!

Being the second of this tetra-annual event (think Olympics, except with dancing, and a celebration instead of a competition), we had an arsenal of organizational experience that we launched into some virtually foolproof plans. Firstly, each of us was partnered with a student from a visiting school, and each school had a contact person. It was a system of relaying any concerns between student, teacher, and artistic director of the schools without multiple people trying to fix the same problem at the same time in their own way. Binders were prepared containing weekly schedules, pamphlets on public transportation and restaurants in the area, cell phone numbers of every participant, even directions on how to get to every studio. Food was also stocked up with snacks of fruit, yogourt, cheese, and crackers and tables laid out to fill “Town Square” as we call our school’s main hall, where 180 people would eat every day. It surprised a few of us when visitors exclaimed, “Do you get to eat this every day?!” pointing to the row of hot food and salad bar.

We started each day with a ballet class, each one with a different teacher and with a different set of dancers. Throughout the week I was scheduled to be taught by teachers from the School of the Hamburg Ballet, Dutch National Ballet Academy, New Zealand School of Ballet, and Houston Ballet Academy. To think that to take this week of classes otherwise I would need to travel across the globe! Although each class was set differently, with a variety of teaching style and focus (for example, upper body expression, or petit allegro which is quick beats and jumps) it was interesting to see that many corrections were the same, just told in a different way – dance truly is a a universal language.

In the first few days, “Traditionally Timeless” was rehearsed: each school would perform a piece of repertoire that reflected their culture over the course of two programs. Each was the most exhilarating three hours I have never seen on stage. It was amazing to see everyone represent themselves and their school with so much integrity, and the diversity of styles and skills opened my eyes to how much more I have to explore in my art form. Counter-balancing acts, pure classical virtuosity, abstract, theatrical, and humorous contemporary, and impressive shows of strength in pas-de-deux – the shows had it all!

In total, there were 18 schools that participated and we had the privilege with mingling with what is, literally, the next generation of the ballet world. As mentioned, our daily ballet classes had new combinations of dancers every day, so we danced with the world, did a bit of unavoidable “sizing-up”, and collected lots of names that would surely pop up again in the dance world. It was also good practice for auditions to have to jump in and learn a class with people you hardly knew.

Another set of programs was performed in the second portion of the festival; these were named “Fast Forward” (they really liked the alliteration, didn’t they!) which featured student choreographic works as well as a live streaming project. These all had international casts, with a random scramble of dancers that had learned the dance through videos from their home country. And there were approximately four days to put it all together.

“Stream” was a 20 minute fusion of classical and contemporary styles and used projections of water and the dancers from Amsterdam on two big screens on either side of the stage. White was worn so that images would be projected onto bodies when people were dancing behind the screens. It really was a cool effect. It is amazing how technology can enable dancers from across the ocean to put on a show together with a lag time of .0-something seconds. It was a big achievement on the part of the choreographers, stage crew, cameramen, technology crew, and everyone in between.

We met many modern dancers from Juilliard, Palucca Schule, and Codarts who impressed all of us with their movement quality and style. It was improvisation as we had never seen before. And of course, they were all so nice. We got to know this cast of 35 or so people quite well since we had “Stream” rehearsal nearly every day. It was fun to learn how to communicate through language barriers and shocking for many of my friends who realized many Europeans not only speak their native tongue but also speak better English than most from North America, excluding their accents. I feel a lot of the times we are too casual with speaking properly, but that’s another topic. Other than the Cubans who spoke almost no English, we exchanged many words with everyone and nevertheless gained a valuable, international network of dance connections.

Our main socializing time was lunch hour. I had always told myself I would be the person plopping myself down at a table of foreigners, but I learned it’s not as easy as it looks. For the most part, students from the same school stuck together, so it could be a little intimidating. What I also learned is that having the courage to put yourself, as an individual, out there seems friendlier than approaching others in a group. By the end of the week, we were all quite comfortable with starting spontaneous conversation with anybody and could only wish that we had more time to hang out as our days were packed with dancing and rehearsals.

Wrapping up the week was a conference that was titled “Creative Challenge” after its topic, since “conference” seems to bring up the wrong sorts of ideas to young dancers (you pictured stern faces jotting down notes in an auditorium, didn’t you?). It started off with an interview with world-renowned modern choreographer, Wayne McGregor, and our main speaker, former Principal of the Royal Ballet, Deborah Bull. It was so cool to hear him speak about the projects he had done and how he built his company, but I don’t know if it was fatigue or the extremely hot temperature of a packed theatre, many of us started nodding off after 45 minutes, which was too bad because it is such a special opportunity to be sitting with two significant advocates of the dance world.

So the break-out sessions came at a good time. We split into groups in different studios to brainstorm ideas for a dance project that: a) is performed in an unconventional venue (meaning outside proscenium theatres) and b) collaborates with young artists from various disciplines (ex. composers, costume designers, filmmakers, poets, painters). Due to the economic times and the trend that companies are hiring older and more mature dancers, developing entrepreneurial skills is valuable to create opportunities for oneself. The projects are to be broadcasted through the internet and a hub designed so we can update each other on our progress and learning experiences.

The idea is also a way to expand the reaches of the art form to the public since theatre tickets can be considered elitist, especially when it comes to price. Our group extended the discussion to how the audience can become a participant instead of observer, and to work with “non-performers” as well, perhaps construction workers, the blind, or mathematicians. Everyone had different ideas and was enthusiastic about the new endeavour, which is good, since our director was worried it might have been too far “out there” for the current ballet community.

Ms Bull said something that really resonated with a lot of us, “You may think of yourselves as students that are about to enter the dance world as professional artists in companies. But actually, you are the dance world.” I just thought, “Wow, I am a part of this family that I’ve always envisioned to strive for. And I am a part of the future.” When the conference was wrapped up, a roaring standing ovation rose and our director performed a spontaneous dance of joy to the cheers and hoots of two hundred young dancers, giving the documentary crew quietly filming in the corner the exciting footage they had been waiting for. It felt like the beginning of a revolution and I hope we always remember the indescribable solidarity of that moment.

If that didn’t wrap up the week with a bang, the closing party sure did! We danced the night away, simultaneously introduced ourselves and said farewell to people we had or hadn’t met yet, and even saw some of the top directors and teachers of these highly prestigious schools break it down on the floor! A slideshow of photos from class, rehearsal, and performances played and there were tables of food: desserts of macaroons, cupcakes, fruit salad, and tarts; a bar for the legally of age (saw a director sneak his student a drink – very funny), and savoury treats of sliders, shishkabobs, cheeses, you get the idea. It was a fun evening, bittersweet, but only slightly thanks to the wonder that is Facebook. We joke that we are set for life from our connections all across the globe now.

It is hard to sum up my thoughts for this festival. I met so many wonderful people and was inspired by every single one to always be the best artist and person I can be. We shared many memories in the seven days the world gathered together in Toronto, and I feel very lucky to have been a part of a learning experience that I will treasure all my life. It will be funny if the t-shirts we received become rare collectibles one day; maybe we will recognize each other from them, or the grey booties that we also got, when our paths meet again.

April – May 2013
Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Filed under Dance, Life, The happenings

A Work in Progress (with Guest Artwork)

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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ― Confucius

It has been a very busy week preparing for our annual showcase. Long days leave us with hanging limbs, aching muscles, cracking ankles, and lots of homework waiting in our school bags. And I love it. Even when it means the rest of Canada is celebrating a long weekend while we have rehearsals in two out of the three days.

Don’t  get me wrong, I enjoy being lazy. There truly is nothing like lounging around on a couch reading a book, watching nostalgic television shows, and blogging away here on WP, but being busy is satisfying. Having work and goals leads to personal growth that makes us feel like a contributing part of society. Vacation is great, but I think, as human beings, if we had all the time in the world we would still find some project to work on, because we are naturally curious that way.

In ballet, it is much the same way except we can’t decide when we dance from when we want to, but also when we need to – it’s about discipline as much as desire. Maintaining strength and stamina is especially important the days leading up to a performance because often, muscle memory isn’t enough. After getting into the routine, our bodies crave the exercise, and sometimes even the soreness, strangely enough.

Ballet is a never-ending process of discovery. Each day, we get into class practising the same movements we’ve been doing for years. But then again, it’s never the same because bodies change and we are constantly finding new ways to engage our muscles and refine our artistry. Perfectionism is a raging epidemic in dancers because everyone is in pursuit of pure, classical, virtuosity. There is an internal hunger in all of us to reach the ideal, ballerina whose picture only becomes more perfect the closer we get. It’s what keeps us on our toes.

The older I get, the more I realize you cannot have a successful career unless you are head-over-heels-flat-on-your-face in love with ballet. Work is paired with passion, and learning about the art form and yourself is just as important as the performance onstage. With the words from my teacher, I’ve realized that there is never a finished product and that we are not “finished dancers”, especially as students still in a school. There is always more to learn and more to improve on to fulfill the potential that sometimes we don’t see in ourselves. And this does not only apply to ballet.

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http://greenembers.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/ballet1inverted.png?w=179&h=319
I would like to acknowledge Bradley for his beautiful sketches (that he drew for me a LONG time ago) and that inspired me to write this post. Please check out the original art and his blog here!

As you’ve read, I have incorporated an excuse for my inactivity in this post and am itching to complete all the ideas that I had a few weeks ago in my What Now? list. There is a lot of school work to be done this weekend, and as I’ve mentioned, rehearsals, but I am determined to write at least one little something each day.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Note to self when falling into a pit of hopelessness on a super hard, super long test

That moment when you’re only halfway through a test with only twenty minutes left, scribbling furiously at the page and gasping in air to stop yourself from fainting while your thoughts whirl into a tornado of chaos that causes you to forget everything you studied all night and doubt all the learning capacity and self-worth you’d gathered throughout your life?

At this particular moment, I must tell you, just DON’T PANIC (A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would be handy here). Stop for a couple of seconds and get yourself out of the downward spiral into the pits of darkness – fast! And at the end of writing in scrambled focus, you probably feel absolutely awful. I know that it is even more painful when you have prepared and studied, and can come up with most of the answers in the few minutes after the paper has been handed in. I know failure sucks. But I can assure you, you didn’t fail. It may not be the perfection you always aim for, but it was your best on this day at that hour.

Don’t go over it again and again in your head, torturing yourself by reliving this tragedy, there’s nothing you can do, it’s over. Move on because there will always be something else you need to focus on. And know that these negative feelings will pass, I promise. Just think of other past assignments that made you feel this way, but that you’ve forgotten as they’re completely insignificant (like that A- Grade 3 math test that created floodworks). Keep moving forward. A bad test will not destroy your life. There is much more to explore and an entire future to experience.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
– Winston Churchill

Well, this happened today. And yesterday. Two giant science tests two days in a row is not exactly the best thing to return to after a break, but what can you do. Sorry for the completely unconventional post, just needed to vent about this for my emotional health before I explode.

thebookybunhead

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Production blockage 101

Unfortunately, it is my current status and a much too common phrase in my life. Despite many resolutions and and self-created incentives, my id has firmly chosen a life motto for me:

Yes, I am minute management challenged and deadline deficient. To be fair, I must say this year has gone much better than any previous; I have successfully stuck myself to a chair and my mind to assignments to be punctual for the judgment of each of my work. Distractions everywhere, and yup, the temptation is definitely there to pursue hobbies before academic duties. It is like my own personal scene of angel and devil on my shoulders unfolds as there are so many other activities I would rather be doing on the weekend, or worse, after and exhausting day such as today, getting home from school at 9 at night. Everything from books to music to websites screams out:

https://i0.wp.com/media-cache-ec2.pinterest.com/upload/121175046194302951_yfHVWe2a.jpg
Recognizing this detour on the path to relief and satisfaction is definitely the first step. Alas, the moment I set my eyes on the goal on starting something is only half the battle. Because as I’m working, my super-ego keeps scaring the bejeezus out of my spontaneous thoughts with:

Perfectionism.

Not saying striving for the best is a bad thing, but I can definitely categorize perfectionism as a form of self-abuse. Seems to be a common disease in dancers, but that’s a different story. This pressure is so daunting that it stops my train of thought in its tracks. Literally. I just stop planning, writing, editing, whatever. Because I figure, if it’s not going to be perfect, what’s the point?
If distractions in this increasingly media addicted world isn’t bad enough:

homework! what homework?

how about distractions inside your head because you don’t want to finish something since it will never be finished the way you want it to be? No picture for that one. It is a vicious cycle and the only way to break it is to crave the opposite: being on time, or even better, being early. Honestly, the day I discovered how much pointless time I spent worrying on procrastinating, therefore ending up completely avoiding the task completely, was the day I finished my first essay within the first few days it was assigned. Got it, it’s fresh, work, done. There’s nothing like the rush of a panicked “WHAT ASSIGNMENT?!” when a due date is pointed out and you finally realize, “Oh, I finished that weeks ago!” Great feeling.

It is so refreshing to change such a stressful pattern, and just one success in time management gets you on a roll for the better. That being said, getting out of a funk as they call it can be hard especially when it is a challenge to just do what you have to do. I don’t want to add hypocrite to my list, so now’s a good time to crack down and take my own advice…

To our perfectly capable brains,
Study buddies hang tight!

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