Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My last lectures - Wisdom I have gained from my professors

Here I sit, two weeks and two days away from walking in the University of Utah graduation ceremonies and only five more days of class from one of the most amazing dance departments in the country.  At the beginning of this semester I read Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture."  I read it in two hours of a free afternoon (what a rare treat) and it brought me tears and laughter over and over again.  What a great time in my life to absorb life advise and anecdotal stories from a college professor.  I feel like this semester especially, my own professors have been continuing the treat.  My last lectures here at the U have been filled with moving advise, crazy ideas, silly stories, and random sayings.  I am documenting them here so I don't forget them because they are that amazing.  College professors really are inspiring  people (my father included).

The first pieces of advise I will share with you come from Jon Scoville and Tandy Beal - two of the most amazing artists and people to ever grace my life.  The "newlyweds" were the artistic directors of senior concert and many times throughout this semester have gone to bat for us and helped our senior concert dreams come true.  The night of tech rehearsal for senior concert we had just run our senior piece and it hadn't gone so well - we were feeling a bit discouraged after being at the dance building for hours on end
 (nothing new) and just wanted to go home when we were all gathered in the theater for a pep-
 talk from Tandy Beal.  At this time she reminded us how lucky we are to have spent these years dancing with such amazing people and how lucky we are to dance everyday .  She talked about her experience the past weekend dancing onstage with Bobby McFerrin.  She said she realized, "All I can do is be present and risk my soul."  What a great piece of advice for a dancer- or anyone!  As senior concert finished Jon spent the day discussing how we felt about the performance.  Honestly we put on a really good show- and Jon agreed.  He talked about how he hopes that we continue to be true to ourselves and true to our art and continue making work because, "Making things is the best solution to a world run amok."

Eric Handman is an amazing mover.  He makes his awesome ninja skills look so easy and the rest of us only try to be as cool as him.  He is also very skilled at saying quirky things in technique class that really do make perfect sense but also remind you that even on a friday, when you are exhausted and sick of school, what we do is supposed to be fun.  There is fun in every little bit of our day.  My greatest smile in class came one day while I was dancing and in his super cool smooth voice he says "YESSSSS... like boys don't cry."  Haha- I finally realized he was making a musical reference to The Cure... but it took me a good long while and I had many laughs along the way. My favorite day in his class was when we were doing some ninja skill creation of his that required us to fly through the air and across the floor.  Admittedly- I am not the most courageous dancer and approach dive roles across the floor cautiously when lacking a helmet.  His advice to that, "Don't be afraid to be a HERO."  It helped.  Superman doesn't have to worry about getting hurt, and turns out, I know my body well enough that neither do I.

Steve Koester taught our contemporary views class where we discuss art, dance, ourselves- what we are, what we do, and what we mean.  On one very special day in this class half our faculty came in and we got to hear them speak about their views on life and art.  Steve talks about staying true to yourself as an artist- taking risks but exploring what you are good at.  He says, "It's like Paul Taylor coming out and trying to do hip hop.  There's something really pathetic about that."  For people who know dance, and know Paul Taylor- an incredibly funny image just popped into your head.  Paul Taylor does not do hip hop. Period. So don't try to make that happen.

Also in Steve's class we wrote a manifesto of sorts.  In respect to art and dance, we were supposed to write 5 sentences that "we believe..." about art and five "no to..." about art.  This is where I discovered a piece of wisdom for myself.  As a girl from a family of scientists, who got her IB diploma, who is capable of being a science major, but really doesn't want to, I am constantly asked the question, WHY AM I A DANCE MAJOR?  I know why I am a dance major.  It is a part of me and it defines who I am- but this is incredibly difficult to explain to people who have not been dancers since they were four years old.  After much thought, I came up with this manifesto for myself, "I believe art is absolutely vital to a community.  While science and politics may explain how we live, art explains the why giving everything else its meaning and its significance."  Take that and ponder a bit.  I felt redeemed when months later I stumbled upon this quote by Friedrick Nietzshe, "He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how."  Dance is my why and I'm lucky to have that.

There have also been some awesomely funny things said throughout the last few weeks that have kept me laughing when I really needed it. Donna said one day in reference to planning senior concert, "There are just too many chefs in the soup."  There are usually too many chefs in the kitchen- but I like soup better- it's messier and honestly sounds like more fun.  My chemistry professor let this one slide last night, "What in the hell am I doing with this column of rainbow bubbles?!"  I don't really know what he was doing, but it was definitely a day were columns of rainbow bubbles were completely necessary for making it through class.  And today in ballet, "What are these gnat things about anyway?'  after somehow managing to convince Jen that it would be the perfect day to have ballet class OUTSIDE.  Fun times were had while getting some weird looks from those science students. (Loosen up science nerds!  We were just exploring WHY we live our lives on such a beautiful day!)

These pictures are of me and some seniors sitting on the front of the stage after tech rehearsal about to listen to Tandy- picture by Steve Rasmussen, Gina Davis dancing like a hero, and ballet class outside.

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