I got back from The Pulse in Chicago last (Monday) night just in time to rush off to my ballet class and dance in the pointe shoes Mia signed (without saying anything to anyone else in the class about why my shoes had writing on them until someone finally asked). 7 hour train rides are not fun. Especially with delays. But, anyhoo, onto the workshop.
It was all around amazing. They did a great job running the event, and classes were amazing. The only problem was that you seriously had to walk about half a mile inside the building to get from your hotel room to the convention center ballrooms.
Our first class was taught by Dave Scott. I was fun. That's about all I can say, as I am so hip hop impaired. I didn't think he was all that great at explaining the choreography (I find this to be a problem with many hip hop choreographers), but it wasn't extremely challenging either. Oh, and the assistants were amazing. One of the girls looked about 11, MAYBE 12 or 13 at the oldest. She rocked at everything in every class, only some of which they hadn't learned beforehand. The warm up was something that I think was a dance akin to the Soulja Boy. It was a song called "Hand Clap" by the same guy who sings that dreadful "Ay Bay Bay" song, and judging from the lyrics , I think it was some sort of hip hop line dance that I'm just out of the loop about. We learned a stepping routine and a short combo to "Wall to Wall" by Chris Brown. Then we did the stepping again because he wanted to see who remembered it.
See that thing the audience is doing? That was our warp up, just with a bit more enthusiasm and jumping around.
Chris Judd taught next. He described the dance as something you would do chilling with your home girl dancing in a club and suddenly you bust out into a routine. It was all very "chill" and "cool". He was a lot better at explaining the movement, and came down off the stage to show the choreography to the people in back who couldn't see. Then we did the dance a lot and more in groups.
And then, WADE'S CLASS!!!!!!!!!!!! We started out with an improv circle. He wanted to see how we moved, and gave the whole "How many of you count the music when you dance?" *hands shoot up across the room* "Well, don't, because if you do, you're dancing on top of the music instead of inside the music" speech. Like we didn't see that one coming. But, the whole concept really did make sense when he explained it in context. Then we learned part of this (1:47-2:02):
It was beyond amazing. I was in the very front and center the whole time. Not only was it great choreography, but Wade is a really good teacher, too. It was just great.
And then we had Brian Freidman. Apparently, I hadn't been drinking enough water that day, and that combined with sweating SOOOOOO much in the class before made me really dizzy and fainty feeling in the middle of this class, so I ended up sitting for most of it and drinking a lot of water so that 1.) I didn't pass out and 2.) I would be able to survive Mia's class. He did an autograph session after class and I got him to sign my new dance sneakers. So cool.
And now, the best class I have ever taken. Ever (if you haven't figured this out yet, Mia Michaels was teaching). She immediately started with choreography. I really do think she's slightly crazy, but in a good way. For example, she wanted one movement to be "buttery" and "metal" at the same time. But, it was a GREAT class with flawballchange (I'll get to what that means momentarily) choreography and teaching. And then the worst thing that could have possibly happened did: I had to leave approx. 5-10 minutes early for a pointe fitting at the Russian Pointe Boutique. Now, I was done dancing, it was just other groups left to do the dance, but listening to these people talk about the movement is almost as amazing as taking class from them.
The Russian Pointe Boutique was great. They have a mini-stage with theatre seats in front where they do their fittings. I tried on SO MANY different models, widths, vamps, and sizes. I didn't feel like the fitter wanted me to just pick a pair and leave like I sometimes do at my normal fitter, she really wanted to help me find THE perfect shoe. I have problems finding shoes. I have VERY tapered TOES with my second toe longer, but a wide metatarsal. I have a HIGH arch when I point my foot, but standing, my feet are almost completely flat. But, my arches are very strong, too. So, the pre-arched models didn't work as well for me. I finally ended up with Almaz Size 41 Width 5 Vamp 2 with a Flexible soft shank. They're really hard, but also really lightweight. I was surprised when she pulled out the soft shank; I've always been told that I need a hard one. But the fitter actually said that because my feet mere strong with a high arch, I wouldn't sink in my shoe as much as a lot of people do so I didn't need as hard a shank. Also, the hard shank was pulling me back, but at the same time, I was rolling over too far, which I already did know. I also got new flats (WHICH I LOVE), a Wear Moi leotard, and the Repetto legwarmer pants that I've wanted ever since I saw those POB school videos on YouTube. Sadly, they didn't have the heather grey, but I wouldn't be able to wear them in class anyway, so I got black.
By then it was time to run back to the hotel just in time to change clothes, grab food at the horrid little Italian place in the convention center and head over to the showcase. There was some really awesome choreography. There was also some really bad choreography that the judges loved. One group (and by saying the following, I am not trying to insult these people, just speaking the truth) looked like prostitutes. And then there was this dance called "Zombie". When I heard the title before the stage lights on, I was thinking "Oh my heck, they ripped off Ramma Lamma and are performing it AT THE PULSE". It was actually a contemporary piece to Zombie by The Cranberries . Definitely the best piece I've seen at a competition, and the judges insisted that it was one of the best they'd ever seen in Pulse history in their live commentary after all the performances were over. Wade is a big fan of "balletic movement". I'm pretty sure he won the Guinness world record for most times the phrase "balletic movement" can be used in one sentence. All of the judges really loved "Zombie" (I don't think anyone in the audience didn't), and both of the two dances to "The Scientist". There was one other standout: Requestified. From Request Dance Studio in Auckland, New Zealand. It was a mash up of hip hop songs. They had really high energy. I didn't love it as much as a lot of people seemed to (I'm pretty sure Mia cried at this, too, and Wade had some sort of Oceanic island country connection with them all), but for non-pro hip hop, it was pretty good. I actually enjoyed listening to the judges talk more than I did the dancing. And here's where the flawballchange comes in. Brian was trying to describe one of the dances, which he thought was beyond flawless. So flawless mixed with a ball change, which is apparently his favorite step, is flawballchange, and also my new favorite word. Also, he got on this rant about fouette turns. "Choreographers: fouette turns. Don't do them. Your dancers are not ready for them. You're uncomfortable. I'm uncomfortable. The dancers are uncomfortable. Your aunt is uncomfortable. Her friends are uncomfortable. Your shoes are uncomfortable. Don't do them. They're not fun to watch. Unless you're really, really, really good at them and then we'll love you and clap."
The faculty photo shoot was next. Basically, all the teachers sat on a giant couch and studios/groups of 5 or more indies crammed onto the couch with them for a picture. I'm pretty sure there's a foot in my face in the picture, but I'm sitting by Wade Robson, so it's ok.
Then I get back to the hotel room, and am flipping through the channels on the TV. Nothing is on. I decide to watch Men's USA Figure skating Finals. One guy skates. Then the commentators comment. One of them says "Usually, I feel that he skates on top of the ice, but tonight, he really skated inside of the ice". This wouldn't have been particularly funny if I had just seen it on tv at home, or not soon after finally understanding "inside the music".
The next day, I had more classes. This time, I had Laurie Ann Gibson. Her class was pretty good, but the incessant chanting of "Can't nobody do what I do! Can't nobody move how I move! Can't nobody dance like I dance!" got a little irritating. She reminded me a lot of Tremaine's main tap teacher, Laurie Johnson, and not because of the name.
After classes finished that day, there was a Q&A session with the faculty. And the one thing everyone had been wondering was finally revealed; what was the inspiration behind this:
Mia said (this is not a direct quotation, but pretty close):
I was about to fly out to LA and I didn't really know what I was going to choreograph for the show. I liked a boy and he didn't like me back. I know, we're in like kindergarten, right? But, anyway, I went over to his house before I left to give him a sunflower because we were friends and he had the flu. I saw the hesitation in his hand; he wasn't sure if he wanted to take it because that might mean he liked me back. That hesitation bugged me so much.
It's amazing that someone can experience something so seemingly small like that and make an entire dance out of it. Also, at the Q&A, Brian and Chris moonwalked. Hilarious. There was a lot more stuff said that I might post about later, but it's already taken me long enough to write this.