Tag Archives: rehearsal

Growing Pains: Growing into a Professional Company, Part 2

A few weeks back, I wrote about the difficulties of getting a new dance company off its feet and onto its pointe shoes.  I quickly realized that there are a lot more difficulties than one puny blog post can detail.  Now, back by no demand, I bring you a few more obstacles to starting Stretch….and how we’re getting around it.

Our dancers are awesome…too awesome.

Stretchers are amazing dancers from all different genres and types of dance and are held to very high standards (you have to in order to make it in Lyndell Perfect Land!).  Unfortunately, that means our dancers are good enough to book gigs, which means Lyndell is constantly scheduling around other rehearsals and sometimes even losing dancers to overseas commitments.

Denai and Chris
Denai and Chris also lead dance warm ups when Lyndell is off doing…whatever creative directors do.

How we’re overcoming it:

We dance around our schedules as much as we dance around the studio.  Usually, the only time everyone is free is on Saturday nights.  It’s not always the best time, but we’re making it work for now.  We also have two awesome dance captains, Denai and Chris, who learn every single dancer’s choreography so that they can jump in when someone is missing.  We also take a video each rehearsal (the edited versions are posted on our YouTube channel!) to catch up on any choreography that we missed.  This means that each dancer has to be really on top of their choreography and able to follow it ourselves.

Time is…time.

Like all artists, Stretchers have day jobs.  This means we have anywhere from 20-40 hours of work and/or school in our week before we even begin attacking Stretch rehearsals.  This doesn’t just apply to rehearsals, but to the administrative side of the company as well.  Every assistant, every designer, and especially all of the creative and magic that Lyndell does on her end.  Finding dance space and writing pitch letters may sound boring, but it’s vital for a baby dance company to find its feet.

How we’re overcoming it:

I can honestly say that I’ve never worked with such a selfless, caring group of dancers.  Each dancer does their part to help out.  Whether it’s passing along grant opportunities, finding ten new possible VIPs for our premiere, or a certain dancer typing up a blog every week, each person does their part to help Stretch become an established company in record time.

394262_331244156904181_1070774138_n
Almost kissing in a handstand with pointed toes…only in Lyndell Perfect Land.

Lyndell Perfect Land is a hard place to live.

I’ve referenced Lyndell Perfect Land in past blog posts, but I don’t think I’ve ever fully explained what it is.  Lyndell Perfect Land is an amazing place where gravity only exists sometimes, our spines can bend in two, our costumes are designed by Hugo Boss, and there are 92 hours to every day.  It’s amazing to see it become reality, but getting there is as difficult as getting somewhere over the rainbow without a tornado.

How we’re overcoming it:

Practice makes Lyndell Perfect Land!  It’s always amazing to me when Lyndell says something along the lines of “Ideally, I’d like this to end in a backbend that you hold for two minutes…” or “That cartwheel looks too pretty; can you do it on your elbows instead?”  (this is usually the point in the rehearsal process where I say something snarky).  But somehow, through sweat blood, and the right amount of chutzpah, we make the leap into Lyndell Perfect Land.

375175_311937695501494_1007881015_n
Lyndell wants YOU to bust out sixteen pirouettes.

Football vs Ballet

Misty vs FootballI came into this article expecting to find irrefutable proof that dancers easily outdistance their competition.  I remember back in high school when a football player challenged a girl who took spent about four hours dancing after school each day to a push up contest—and she beat the pants off of him.  I thought that when I wrote up the details of football vs ballet, the winner would be clear.

The results surprised me.

I won’t say that I’m completely biased against football—but I will admit that I may be just a bit jealous because football players get paid millions of dollars more than their dancing counterparts, or because most people in the US have at least one favorite football team, but couldn’t care less about their local dance company.

It wasn’t that football players were far above dancers in the stats–but it was how similar the two disciplines were. The more I researched, the more surprised I was to see similar correlations between reasons for injuries, longevity in the profession, and hours of practice though really, I shouldn’t have been–they’re both athletic activities that depend on perfect physical execution).  This table below is just the tip of the iceberg of what I uncovered:

Ballet Football
Calories/hour 600 656
Hours of practice/day 7.5 2-8
Percentage of injuries/year 61% 264%
BMI 13-18.5 18.5-24.9
Average Retirement Age 34 28
Average Salary $22,516-100,000 $4-14 million

You can tell just from this small chart alone what some of the advantages and disadvantages of each activity are.  It’s one thing to think about the injuries a football player sustains when it happens on screen—it’s another to see how the numbers add up.

It’s also another thing to hear about eating disorders in dancers and to see the hard evidence in their BMIs.  The lowest healthy BMI for women is about 18.5—to see that that number is the highest of the range for professional dancers, and should be a wake up call to those in the field.

It was amazing to see the similarities between these two disciplines that seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.  It also introduced another difficult point: how do you determine the winner?  Football players certainly have much higher incomes, but an astronomically higher injury rates.  Dancers have a longer careers, but only by a slim margin.  Both dancers and football players are put under extreme stress during their primes, but dancers have a much healthier mental state after they retire.

Footballer in ballet
It’ll probably come out a tie in the end, but it’s a great excuse to post pics of football players doing ballet in the meanwhile!!

A disclaimer: Research on the impact of sports and dance on both mental and physical health is an emerging field, so bear with me on some of the numbers.  As football and ballet are two very different disciplines, there won’t always be exact crossovers in the data, as ABT is going to report different data than the NFL will (for example, most reported dance injuries were sprains, breaks, and other muscle and bone-related injuries.  The most prominent NFL injury statistics ignore sprains almost completely and focus on concussions).  What I aim to do is present the big picture, and maybe those with the money and resources to research these ideas properly will follow up!

Backstage at the Los Angeles Carnival Choreographer’s Ball

1456745_10151708267366237_598503973_nIt’s just past midnight as we wait backstage to go on for the Los Angeles Carnival Choreographer’s Ball.  Some of us have been here since 3:00pm for tech, others of us have filtered in after work, but no one cracks a yawn, tired as we are.

Is it adrenaline or the cold air bursting through the open door that has us jumping up and down as we struggle to concentrate?

We try to warm up stiff limbs while dodging dancers in Cleopatra costumes and gold leggings.

As the dance onstage starts to wind down, Stretch Dance Co. circles up for one last huddle, our excitement arcing between us like electricity in a lightning storm.  We whispered well wishes and encouragements, squeezing hands for support.

“Don’t mess up,” I say–I always know how to ruin a Hallmark moment.

Some of the Stretchers tittered, but our laughter dies out as the lights went out on the dancers onstage.  It was show time.

But for me, the show had  started the minute I walked through those doors.

I’d heard so much about Carnival Choreographer’s Ball from dancers who had performed there in the past, but I had no idea what to expect when I arrived on scene at the Avalon in Hollywood with two bulging bags full of potential costumes and my work bag past the bouncers who, if they weren’t Russian mob, had been trained by them to scowl like supervillain henchmen.

1480719_3590170609888_1109727186_n

It was like I had stepped on the set of every dance movie ever made.  I had to quickstep out of the way of hip hop dancers practicing in the lobby, tiptoe around a couple salsa practicing a steamy routine on the landing in front of the stairs.

It was humbling to see all the amazing talent at the show during the dress rehearsal.  From a cute holiday mall-themed hip hop dance where the “mannequins” come to life, to a clever burlesque piece that shows that being sexy isn’t all that’s cracked up to be, to steamy Latin dancing… there were so many jaw-dropping dances and dancers  that it was easy to feel overwhelmed.

And I was feeling a bit overwhelmed in spite of myself.  I’ve been performing since I was three years old and I still can’t get over the preshow jitters every time I’m in the wings.  How was I, little music theater ensemble kid, supposed to measure up to all the talent that had already been onstage tonight?

But as the first twinkles of Macklemore’s “Same Love” filtered through the speakers, the jitters died. I wasn’t here to outdance anyone at Carnival tonight. I wasn’t here prove myself the best performer.  I wasn’t even here to be seen by the jaded agents and directors watching sleepily from the back seats.

I was here to spread a message: that underneath all the makeup, the technique, the costumes, we all share the same love for dance.

Don’t mess up, I whispered to myself.

And then I joined the dancers of Stretch Dance Company onstage.

1476390_724197774275482_1637767961_n

What Makes a Stretch Dancer?

Miss our weekly video? We’ve missed making it!  But don’t worry: we’re coming back with a hearty round of Applause from Lady Gaga this coming Thursday! Stay tuned on our YouTube channel to see it first!

Do you think you have what it takes to be a Stretch Dancer?  After watching our dancers back in action at our latest rehearsal, I’ve compiled a list of what makes a SDC member stand out above the rest!

1002610_683614571667136_1938735438_n

A Stretch Dancer is…

Disciplined – When you only rehearse once a week, you have to be on your A-game.  This doesn’t apply to just  polishing the combinations learned during rehearsal, but making a personal commitment to keep our dance skills and knowledge at its best.

Versatile – Versatility is key for a Stretch Dancer.  One week we’ll go Gaga, the next we’ll turn Pink, then head into history the week after that.  Dancers need to be able to make those leaps without missing a beat while still portraying their character honestly and respectfully.

Stretch - Stretch
Carrie’s got the Stretch part down pat!

Exceptional Actors – Stretchers come from a variety of dance backgrounds ranging from contemporary to flamenco, but we share one thing in common: a solid set of acting chops.  Lyndell’s choreography is extremely story-driven and would wouldn’t pack as much of a punch without some amazing storytellers  behind it.

Stretchy– Dancers have to be flexible, and not just on the dance floor!  Since we come from such different backgrounds, everyone has their chance to shine…and to stretch their abilities. From dance steps to emotional vulnerability onstage, each dancer has to face moments where they move past their comfort zone.

Passionate – Above all, Stretch Dancers are extremely committed to dance and storytelling.  Dance is more than a job or a workout to us; it’s expression at its purest form.  This week’s video might suggest otherwise, but we’re not in it for the “Applause.”

Interested in learning more about becoming a Stretch Dance member?Find out more StretchDanceCo.com! 

Stretch - Awesome
We’re also just an awesome, open group of people who love to dance!

 Got a dime to spare?  

Stretch - Donate

Stretching the FAQs: Questions from Our Preview Performances

First off, all of us at Stretch Dance Co. would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came to our preview show this past weekend!  It was an incredible experience for us to show you what we’ve been working on.  For those of you who missed it, don’t worry!  We’ll still be posting videos and updates on our Twitter, Facebook, and website, so…

Stretch - Empty stage1

This weekend was a great opportunity for us at Stretch because it was the first time that we got to hear some audience feedback.  Some of the questions were expected, some took us by surprise.  Here are some of the top FAQs from our audience:

How do you deal with the emotional strain of a show about the Holocaust? (This was the most asked question by far!)

While I Have Lived a Thousand Years is a very inspirational account, the Holocaust will never be—and should never be—a light-hearted subject matter.  That being said, we’ve joked about getting a puppy to cheer us up after particularly rough rehearsals.

It helps to know that the Dr. Livia Bitton-Jackson is still well, and lives a very full life in spite of her traumatic experiences.  Lyndell linked us to a phenomenal interview with her, and it is amazing to see her composure and gentle spirit (you can check it out here if you want to see!  You can create a log in for free).  For me, it helps to know that by bringing her story to life through dance, we are hopefully preventing its recurrence.

Stretch - Puppy Mascot
The puppy mascot would be available after performances to cheer up audience members, too!

 

Which orchestra played for the soundtracks? 

No orchestra, just one man!  Our composer, Robby Greengold digitally compiles all the music and different instruments to create the tracks.  We hope to raise enough funds to eventually hire an orchestra to record the tracks, but for now, we make do with Robby’s one-man band!

 

Do they still teach the Holocaust in public schools? 

Stretch - Family
Stretch dancers come from different backgrounds, but have the same passion!

Most curriculums cover at least some portion of the Holocaust.  However, as budgets steadily grow tighter and resources are stretched thinner, students today may not get the same exposure to the material as past classes.  I remember visiting the Museum of Tolerance several times while I was in school, but some schools now cannot afford even the buses for field trips.

Furthermore, our production is a fresh perspective of the Holocaust.  Many people in the audience were surprised at certain facts from the memoir, particularly in what the prisoners were forced to eat and drink.  Our production can round out and fill in the holes in the current high school curriculum.

 

Is everyone in the cast Jewish? 

Nope!  Some of us are, but  others in the cast are not. Just as we come from many different dance disciplines, we all come from different backgrounds, but we all feel strongly about the subject of compassion and tolerance.

 

How can I get involved? 

Contact info@stretchdanceco.com to see how you can get involved!  And of course, don’t forget to follow us on our social media! Or you can…

 

Stretch - Donate

Stretching Past the Limitations

Stretch - Fearless Leader Lyndell 2
Lyndell is always on her game!

I know we make it look easy, but putting up a brand new original production with a young company can have a lot of pitfalls. Luckily, our fearless leader Lyndell has thought of a way around several of the issues.

How does Lyndell choreograph for dancers from different styles?
Our company consists of dancers who have studied anything from hip hop to flamenco, so you’d think it’d be incredibly difficult to make the corps pieces looks cohesive and strong. It probably is, but Lyndell makes it seem easy. Though all of us in the company come from a different dance background, everyone has an incredibly strong acting ability that helps knit us together. The movement in the group pieces is often very fluid and simple, but uses timing, ripples  and acting to keep the pieces dynamic.

Stretch - Anne

The dance solos are a very special treat. Lyndell tailors each dance to the soloist’s abilities and strengths, so each solo is absolutely stunning to watch! The solos are where you’ll see the flavor of where each dancer comes from, which makes the piece much more personal to us as we continue to build it.

How do we get by with just one rehearsal a week?
The great thing about rehearsing once a week is that we can slowly build our company. Many of us perform in other productions at the same time, and all of us have at least one other day job. Though it can be tough to keep the energy going at 9pm on a Saturday night, it’s great to end our week with Stretch! It means that each dancer has some homework when we go home, but it also gives us more time to work on the story behind movements.

It can also be difficult when performers are absent due to work and other shows, but we take a video (not the ones that you guys get to see!) of the combinations each week so that everyone can catch up and stay on the same page.

How do you get the word out about a young company?
Our social media extraordinaire, Matt Lardner, does a fantastic job of updating Stretch Dance Co.’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and makes our amazing videos each week. It may sound silly, but social media can mean a lot these days. Besides, it’s a great way to share with our friends and family everything that we’ve been doing!  And of course, we’re using our Preview Performances to get the word out and give you a sneak peak into the amazing work that we’ve been doing.  Hope to see you there!

Stretch - Family