So there I was, my 5th time working with a company and so, I arrived confident that learning the show in five days wouldn't be any problem. I was relaxed and ready to just learn a new ballet. However, there was a twist. Most of the choreography wasn't ballet. It wasn't contemporary ballet either. It wasn't even jazz.
This choreo was a different type of movement. It had been described as contemporary to me before flying out to do the show, but that definition did not match the one in my head which was 'ballet steps/lines danced in a less classical style, to modern music'. It was more of a casual movement,
more like hip hop-ish movement that might be easily related to commercial work rather than ballet, or ballet based styles, stuff i'd never really done. And while the steps were simple enough I had a real struggle finding myself in it.
I'd never really considered myself one, but honestly this made me feel like the biggest Trina in the whole world (as in ballet-rina for those unfamiliar with the term). It was a language I'd never used, and to add difficulty, the counts/steps basically never repeated. I was out of town, with a contract to fulfill and nothing to to about it but get my head together and get the job done... and five days to learn, get used to and have the choreo right before show time, as we were going into the theater right on Monday.
Not gonna lie, while learning it, I felt like my head was going to explode, I had a constant feeling of head strain and the fact that it was completely unexpected wasn't helping. Half of the time i didn't even understand why I was doing those steps. It felt like someone was asking me to memorize a speech in Chinese or some foreign unknown language, and fast!
Flashing through my head, all the times my friends invited me to hip hop class, as well as all the times teachers told me to try different contemporary classes. All these thoughts where actually getting even more in the way of me learning the stuff.
When I felt like I might just give up, the wise words of my 'jazz Sensei' to 'get myself together and do what I'm expected and supposed to do' popped into my head, and pushed me to go forward.
I really like working with this company and although most their choreo is more ballet based, I figured being that it is a contemporary company after all, sometimes there simply would be stuff like this and i simply had to step out of my comfort zone and do what I had to do.
What saved me from being completely unable to handle this situation, was the training I got from my 'Sensei', Stephen Harding (www.stephenhardingjazz.com)
His class, besides kicking my butt and getting me in the best shape ever, helped me to learn how to learn other styles and ideas outside of the 'ballet box'.
He teaches a different (fairly long), stylistically different, choreo every class, which forces you to use your brain and develop your choreography learning skills. All of this while working on (pretty advanced) technique, pirouettes and jumps. Although Stephen's class is definitely a ballet based contemporary jazz style it always had added style challenges and details that definitely help you develop your information intake rate. I always knew his class was helping me remember choreography in ballet faster and I definitely had enjoyed that benefit. But Jazz class taught me to learn choreography that isn't ballet as well, and although the choreo for the show wasn't jazz really either, at least I had a chance at getting the job done, where before my studies with Stephen Harding, I probably wouldn't have been able to manage.
In class, if the movement was really challenging, SH would push me to finish and deliver -at least as best as I could, and lucky for me I was able to translate this into my real life experience outside of the classroom, and not just drop the towel over dancing something that wasn't classical ballet.