I’ve been struggling to find the appropriate words to express just how profound my experience as a President’s Summer Fellow has been. After falling into a deep rut following a series of negative experiences working as a professional ballet dancer, I desperately wanted to rewire my relationship to my body, my technique, and the concert dance world in general. This was a big request for a ten week project, but I am incredibly happy with the results. Through innumerable bruises, doubts, and tears, I have come out of this adventure a very different dancer then when I began. Spending six weeks training and exploring at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance has given me new confidence, a new sense of wonder, and new joy in all things dance and movement related.
When I last wrote, my classmates and I were preparing for our end-of-workshop performance, a two night affair open to the public and held at San Francisco’s Z Space theatre. In the days before the show nerves ran high, and the pressure to pull all the last minute odds and ends together was physically palpable. Work 2013, the piece that my class created collaboratively using choreographer William Forsythe’s Improvisational Technologies under the direction of Forsythe’s representative Alessio Silvestrin, wasn’t fully set until the day before opening night and I was anxious about remembering all my cues. The other piece I was dancing in, Robert Moses’ Lucifer’s Prance, also had last minute changes and adjustments that I was nervous about keeping track of. Thankfully, in the end, everything came together. Out under the lights, performing two intensely physical, 20+ minute pieces led me to a part of myself I’ve never accessed before. After spending six weeks pushing my mind and body to do things they really weren’t sure they wanted to do, it was an incredible feeling to be standing confidently on stage, physically announcing “Here I am, and here is what I have to say.”
Coming down from the high of performing and adjusting back into a routine that doesn’t involve nine hours of dancing every day has been its own particular challenge. Saying goodbye to my classmates, many of whom I grew incredibly close to over the six weeks of the workshop, was bittersweet. I know that we’re all going off into the world to pursue amazing things, but I’ll miss their support, camaraderie, and inspiration. I injured my foot in the last week of the program, and while I made it through the end-of-workshop performances in one piece, I returned home to a diagnosis of tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and a metatarsal sprain in my big toe. Unable to dance nearly as much as I would have liked to in the remaining weeks of my summer break, I’ve been exploring other interests sparked by my time in San Francisco. I picked up a math textbook of my own volition for the first time in almost ten years, inspired to learn more about modular arithmetic and group theory after seeing many of the same ideas applied to bodies and movement through the Forsythe Improvisation Technologies exercises. I’ve also been thinking a lot about language, both it’s potential and it’s limitations in terms of describing somatic and bodily phenomena. As part of a process started in my classes in Reed’s dance department last year, my time in San Francisco equipped me with the tools to better recognize and appreciate the interconnectedness of my mental and physical intelligences, opening my eyes to the creative and expressive potential of their combined (and arguably indistinguishable) power.