Saturday, June 18, 2016

Ballet in Poland vs. Ballet in the United States, part 2:

When I found out I was going to be studying at Hockaday, I could not have been happier. I read all about the dance program and was excited to become a part of it. Thanks to ASSIST students that have gone to Hockaday before me, I found out that Hockadance has an amazing reputation. When I arrived, I wasn’t sorted into a group that I wanted, blame it on jet-lagged audition or not enough places in higher group, at first I was devastated, later I realized that even though it could have been more challenging, I wouldn’t trade my dance class for any other.

dance studio at Hockaday

There were five groups of Hockadance, which had classes in two dance studios. I was a part of group called DanceWorkshop II, which had classes in a studio in fitness center building. I fell in love with that dance studio. Instead of usual rectangular shape of a room, its two walls were turned into glass semicircle. It was inspiring to dance and be able to look outside and absorb the wonders of the world outside. I think that was one of the loveliest spots on school campus.

Small dance studio
The experience of Hockadance was completely different from the one I’ve been used to for the past thirteen years of my dance life. Before, I had mostly ballet classes, filled with repeating the same routines over and over again. I’m not saying that it is a bad method of teaching because it certainly does create a good dance technique, but sometimes it can get really boring (especially when one is not training to become a professional dancer…) At Hockaday, our main focus was on exploring different dance styles. Even though I sometimes missed pointe shoes work, I was happy I could learn something new. It allowed me to try dance moves and styles I thought I never would. And the most exciting part was that we had so many amazing opportunities to perform in front of various audiences.

As a fairy of Neverland
In the fall, all dance classes put together a “Peter Pan” production. Each group was responsible for different parts of the show; there were the pirates, lost boys, fairies, and of course Peter Pan and Wendy. It was around that time, when I first saw how the girls in the best group called “Hockaday Dance Theatre” danced. Most of them were seniors, who have been in the Hockaday dance program for years. I have to admit that I was. Their level of dance was as good as I’ve seen back in the days in ballet school in Warsaw, if not better. I never thought that it is possible to achieve such level without professional school based training. From that day, I wished that I could have such private dance classes as they did, after I left ballet school. I knew it was impossible, so I tried to enjoy as much of the dance program as I could.

In my Indian dance costume
Out of many opportunities I will never forget the time we learned an Indian dance. It was taught to us by an ex-Bollywood actress, whose daughter was in my dance class. We were certainly the most interesting act at our school’s performance. During performing, we wore Indian dance outfits that were the most extraordinary costumes that I ever wore for dance. They were of bright colors, with amazing accessories that made it difficult to move around, let alone dance. Many of out school mates believed that it didn’t had to do much with dancing, nor that I was difficult to learn! How little did they know! The dance was filled with seemingly easy steps and moves that actually were almost impossible to perform. We, as contemporary dancers specializing in ballet and modern dance are not prepared to do this kind of moves. Every little gesture and movement was important! For example, try bending your middle and ring finger, leaving the rest straight. See? Not easy at all!  I know I probably would never try such an exotic dance back home so I am happy that I had a chance to do it.

I also performed at South Dallas Festival and Dance Planet. These were Dallas based festivals during which I was able to see more of the dance world of Texas. I especially loved Dance Planet at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Why? I simply loved the place. It felt like I materialized into one of the “Step Up” movies. I’ve never seen a school like that before. I also had the chance to perform a duet in classical ballet on pointes, which was my biggest achievement in my dancing career.

I will never forget my experience with the dance program at Hockaday. Being a dancer is about exploring your possibilities, pushing the boundaries and becoming whoever you want to be. Thanks to my dance program I was able to do that and much more…