AYCD: All You Can Dance

alonzo king

Sort of on a whim, my dance friend and I rode into the city for an annual event at the Alonzo King LINES Dance Center. You pay $5 at the door, and then you’re free to take 30-minute classes in various styles of dance all afternoon. What a steal! If only this event was as often as every few months, I’d be so happy. In the four-ish hours we were there, we took:

  • advanced beginning ballet
  • beginning modern
  • advanced beginning modern
  • beginning hip hop
  • beginning jazz
  • intermediate contemporary

Ballet was pretty standard and served as my warm up.

In the modern classes, I learned to let my movements reflect in my whole body, as opposed to moving parts of myself in isolation.

I had wanted to try hip hop for a while now, but it’s so hard! I think I’m just not used to the movements and having to inject my own style and sass into each step. That and jazz were probably the most crowded of the classes, even though all of them were packed. I loved how in jazz (more like contemporary jazz?), the instructor had us envision a scenario in order to illustrate the emotion behind a certain step. That certainly helped me “get” the step faster, rather than solely copying the movement visually.

I was in over my head in intermediate contemporary, but had fun attempting the choreography.

For now, I’ll stick with taking ballet classes regularly, but when I move for medical school in a few months, perhaps I’ll pursue a new kind of dance!

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SF Ballet: Program 1

This year, I decided to see more dance performances for inspiration as I learn ballet. I’m lucky to live near one of the leading ballet companies in the U.S. – the San Francisco Ballet. The last time I had seen one of their performances was the Nutcracker in 2011, where we sat high up in the upper balcony, looking down upon the stage at the tiny dancers.

My best friend, my little brother, and I arrived at the War Memorial Opera House with minutes to spare before Program 1 started exactly on time. It opened with 7 for Eight, choreographed by Helgi Tomasson, SF Ballet’s artistic director and principal choreographer. The music, which was Bach, was rich and ornamental, complementing the opulence of the opera house interior. For me, the male dancers stole the show in this piece, leaping across the stage as if untouched by gravity.

I was particularly looking forward to the next piece, Magrittomania, which is a tribute to the surrealist painter, René Magritte. You may recognize several of his works, such as The Son of Man…

Ren? Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964, Restored by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009  øðä îàâøéè, áðå ùì àãí, 1964, øñèåøöéä ò"é ùîòåï éðåáéõ, 2009

or The Treachery of Images…

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or various other paintings if you’re a modern art buff.

Magrittomanidirectly incorporates motifs from Magritte’s most famous paintings into the costumes, props (enormous, green apple-shaped balloons), and of course the dancing. Principal dancer Yuan Yuan Tan performed in this piece, and I couldn’t have been more excited to finally see her dance. The movements of her upper body were incredibly fluid, her arms more like ribbons than limbs.

Finally, it was time for the North American premiere of William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts. This had the most modern feel of the three short ballets (is there a term for these?), with minimalist costumes of solid colored leotards and a rather jarring, robotic soundtrack. I was amazed at how the dancers seemed to be keeping pace to an internal, synchronized rhythm, as I really couldn’t detect any order or pattern in the music. My friend and I ogled at the young corps members in Pas/Parts dancing proficiently alongside the more experienced principals and soloists. This was the first time I saw Maria Kochetkova, another principal dancer, perform, and even though Pas/Parts seemed more driven by group synchronicity than solo efforts overall, my eyes were drawn to her movements.

I’m glad our trio went to see Program 1 that day. It gave us a taste of the diverse ways ballet can presented, and motivated me to work to look that effortless when I perform.

An Absent Mind

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Last month, I was browsing Amazon Kindle book deals, and I came across An Absent Mind by Eric Rill, a novel about an elderly man, Saul, developing Alzheimer’s. What pushed me to buy the book was reading this review by one Anne D.:

I was unaware that the author secretly moved into my home and observed my family for several difficult years as my late husband faded away toward oblivion.

The only experience I’ve had in my own life with any type of dementia was in high school, when I heard that my 7th grade math teacher, who had been perfectly cognizant while teaching our class, had wandered off and gone missing due to his dementia. I remember feeling shocked that someone who had led a class just a few years ago could now be in a state where he couldn’t even tell where he was. Luckily, he was found safe but disoriented several days later.

I thought An Absent Mind would help me understand the complex disease of Alzheimer’s better, and what it’s like not only for those suffering from it, but also their caretakers. And it did express that, beautifully I thought. What I didn’t expect was to also see myself and my family in the narratives written from the perspective of Saul and his family members/caretakers. Keeping with my promise to myself to be more transparent with this blog, I think now’s a good time to mention that I lost my mother to lung cancer in 2009 after she fought bravely for a little over 2 years after diagnosis. As I kept reading, I marveled at how two unrelated diseases could conjure up such similar emotions among families who are affected. The terminal nature of Alzheimer’s and lung cancer is what connects the two experiences so tightly, and I admit it was pretty cathartic to read that other people, even if they are fictional characters, felt the same as I did while my mom was sick.

One last thing – one small section toward the end of this book where Joey, Saul’s son, decides to take greater responsibility in caring for his parents, gave me an intense feeling of gratitude that I got to live at home during this gap year before med school, allowing me to see my dad, my younger brother, and my stepmom everyday before I go off to pursue my career further. I know we all have to grow up and build our own lives/families, but I think I’ll always want more and more time to spend with them, to enjoy each other’s company in good health.

Swan Lake

This spring, my ballet school is putting on a Swan Lake-themed recital! One of my fellow adult intermediate classmates asked our teacher for a challenging piece, so he is teaching four of us the choreography for the following dance (51:49-53:20):

I have no clue how it’s going to turn out, but I’m enjoying learning choreography during rehearsals, since it feels so different than regular class. And of course, I would be doing this in soft shoes.

 

Med school interview day guide

Today I’m going to give some advice on how to approach med school interviews! Or rather, how to approach the interview day. My application cycle is coming to an end successfully, though it feels like just yesterday that I was exploring Chicago and falling in love with the city before my first interview. There’s a LOT of advice out there on every facet of the application process, so I’m just going to focus on what I learned from my own experiences.

Do mock interviews before you go.

Even if your interview skills are stellar, practice the big questions at home: Why medicine? Tell me about your self. Why this school? These questions will inevitably come up, and even the most eloquent person might have things they want to say, but might not think to say unless they had thought about the question at home. I practiced interviewing with my little brother and my dad, but some schools’ prehealth offices offer mock interview services that will give you feedback. Not gonna lie, I flashcarded myself when there was no one around to practice with. And yes, I’m turning “flashcard” into a verb. More than anything, I think practicing questions gave me a confidence boost that I could pull out to use during the real deal.

Make time to explore the location

Remember – you might be spending the next four years of your life in this city! I get that not everyone can take time off work/school in addition to the days they have to interview, but the time spent exploring the cities was so precious to me, I’d say absolutely do it if you can. You can get a feel of where students live, how you can pursue your interests outside of medicine, and just whether you like the vibe of the city. Plus, you may just end up on an adventure if you’re out and about on your own. Whatever you do though, make sure to get a good night’s rest before your interview.

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Catching a show at the breathtaking Pritzker Pavilion, carry-on luggage in tow! Love the abundance of public art in Chicago.

 

Don’t just arrive on time, arrive early.

This one may seem like a no brainer, but it’s amazing how being in an unfamiliar setting can interfere with your intended punctuality. Whether you opt to get to the school with your student host, by public transportation, uber/taxi, walk, or drive, plan to be at the admissions office or wherever the school indicated 30-45 minutes ahead of time. And if you plan to use Uber, first determine whether there will be very many drivers out on the road in the early morning. I was panicking before my SUNY Downstate interview because I assumed that an area like Brooklyn would be teeming with Ubers, but apparently not at 7am.

Don’t hesitate to talk about things outside of your application.

Your interviewer wants to get to know who you are as a person. One of my interviewers specifically said that he wanted to see if he could imagine an applicant as his colleague, someone to converse with and spend time with. Easy enough, right? In practice, it was actually kind of difficult for me. On one hand, it’s like, “I need to convince this person that I’m suited for med school,” but on the other hand, you’re like, “I want to answer that if I wasn’t going into a health-related field, I’d want to be a cheesemonger, help!” Allow your personality to shine through–using your best judgment, of course.

Be open and cordial with your fellow interviewees.

Even though I was pretty exhausted at the end of interview days from being “on” the entire time, I greatly enjoyed meeting people in the same boat as me! There are so many accomplished young people out there, it might be intimidating at first, but it really helps to talk to each other and kind of diffuse the stress of interviewing that way. It goes without saying that you should still remain professional, even if there aren’t any faculty or staff listening in on your conversations.

Send thank you cards if you want.

Some schools will give you directions on how to send cards, some schools will explicitly tell you not to send them (cough, USC). Send them if you feel like you connected with your interviewer or out of courtesy, but not because you think it’ll affect your admission decision either way. At least with the majority of schools, it’s not a dealbreaker and shouldn’t be.

All right, that’s all for now! I hope some future applicants find this helpful, and feel free to comment your own two cents!

P.S. I think I’m going to gradually make this blog un-anonymous because there’s no real reason for my identity to be hidden, and it’s hindering my ability to write freely. 🙂

 

 

 

blast from the past

Found this draft that I wrote 3 months ago, and it’s so funny to see how much has changed in the short time since, that I’m just going to post it. It ends abruptly because I never finished it:

“Oh boy, I’ve let two months pass since I wrote anything on here, and I don’t even know where to start. It’s not that I have a toooon to write about, but just that if I started somewhere I’d end up needing to write endlessly. It’s either I write something so short it would be like, “I did x, y, and z,” or it would end up so long there’d need to be a separate post describing each meal I’ve had the past two months. Exaggeration, because my life’s not that interesting, but still.

Let’s start with some random updates to feel like I’m contributing to my ever-present goal of journaling regularly:

  • I started watching How I Met Your Mother, and even though it initially seemed like cheesy guy humor and Ted is super whiny, I am now hooked.
  • My left knee is has been feeling unstable the past month. It started out of nowhere, but now I’m beginning to suspect it’s exacerbated by ballet. I need to stop forcing my turnout, which is hard not to do since my turnout sucks so much.
  • I think I’m getting lazier, which is a very bad thing.
  • I’m trying to read more to occupy my time instead of being glued to a screen (unless it’s a Kindle, hah). I just finished reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and I’ve never felt so creeped out while simultaneously having my heart warmed. The night after I finished it, I dreamed of being on a hillside or mountainside and passing by a long pool with slimy, orange fish-like blobs slowly crawling out of it. I couldn’t decide whether to put them back in the pool or help them find their way to sea. Trippy.
  • I’m not quite sure I’m warming up to interviews. I also am still swinging between confidence in my ability to rock this med school application process and self-doubt that I’m somehow a terrible interviewer and none of the schools will want me. I mean, I leave interviews feeling pretty good in most cases, but what if I’m not conveying my passion for medicine enough? I end up talking about the activities I was involved with in college, but what if my interviewers hear that and think I belong in social work or some other profession?? Not to mention when I’m around the other applicants at a prestigious school, all I can think about is how much better an applicant they probably are than me. It’s hard to remember that not every competitive applicant has worked at the NIH or been published in Cell or started a nonprofit or was a professional athlete, especially when most of the kids I see at these schools really ARE amazing candidates for med school and winning at life.
  • Ballet has been tough. I feel like I’m making no progress in class, and trying to act like and be a performer during rehearsals is harder than I thought.
  • I’m seriously in love with Chicago. I get stomach butterflies for Chicago. I went to Wicker Park, and even though it is the face of yuppies and gentrification, I will admit this secret hipster died and went to heaven a little. Maybe exaggerating, I haven’t actually seen that much of the neighborhood. Ignoring the fact that Chicago winters are some of the worst in the country and that I am the worst person for dealing with the cold, Chicago is a city I want to spend some of my youth in. That used to be San Francisco, but ever since tech town took over and skyrocketed the cost of living there, it’s grown just a little tiresome. (I’ll never truly fall out of love with SF; it was my first love–of a city.) Great music scene, food scene, art scene, public transportation scene, and affordable! The terrain is flatter than I’d like, but that’s something I could overlook.
  • I was into soapmaking for about 5 seconds.
  • I am now using pumpkin spice goat milk soap in the shower.
  • No, it was only a melt-and-pour project.
  • October 15th CANNOT COME SOONER. Please med schools, tell me you love me! Also, reminder to self: set up voicemail on phone.
  • I have an alumni email address from my university now. Woo~. AND the best part is I have access to PROQUEST! I’m still trying to see if I have all-library access so I can get to Pubmed.
  • I think I’ve taken for granted how easily being in school comes to me. My dad has been worrying about my younger brother’s (16) grades, when they seem fine to me.”

#newyearnewme

Writing this post is borderline scary, but I’m forcing myself to put my thoughts onto paper text today. It feels like there’s too much to say at once and I’m just going to start word-vomiting everywhere.

2015 was all sorts of awesome. It was the year I started dancing again, the year I did long distance with my boyfriend (not awesome, but we made it!), the year I started working like a real adult, and–now is as good a time as any to mention–the year I overcame the hurdle of getting into med school!! More on that later. Sometimes I think everything is going too well to be true, like what did I do to deserve it all?

Anyway, since this is the new year, it’s all about change. What can I do differently to be a better version of myself? A few things that have irked me about myself recently have coincided with the “new year new me!!!1” sentiment, so here is my one resolution:

1. Break more rules.*

Okay, let’s be real. It’ll be more like bend the rules…baby steps, right? I’ve found that I totally and unquestioningly follow rules sometimes, and I don’t like it. It’s probably what made me such an easy child to raise (you’re welcome, mom and dad).

This characteristic really came to light the past few weeks. My boyfriend, C, and I took a road trip through Vegas and some nearby national parks. We drove in early to Bryce Canyon to watch the sun rise, and one of the viewpoints had a “DO NOT ENTER” chain blocking the path, probably because of the snow during winter. C wanted to cross it to get to the viewpoint, but I hesitated. We weren’t supposed to! People were going to see us! I did it anyway (literally just stepped over the little chain and walked a short way up the hill), but I had felt so reluctant–for what? If I had been alone, it would have never even crossed my mind to walk past the sign to reach the viewpoint.

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The view at the top of the hill

Another example: I was at the airport to fly back to NorCal after the trip, and my flight was delayed 2 hours. Since I had checked a bag, I decided getting on an earlier flight wouldn’t work, because the bag would still get there later than I would. I waited and waited and finally was picking up my bag at 12:30am at SJC–only to find that it had gotten there on the earlier flight. -__- That moment I was struck by how my own rigid idea of “just how things are/should be” potentially cost me the chance to get home sooner and save my dad a trip to the airport at such an ungodly hour (arrival was supposed to be 10pm…shout out to my unbelievably chill dad and his jetlag from his own trip).

These are just two mild examples, and maybe to some this will seem like the opposite of what a resolution should be or that my fear of breaking rules is laughable, but blindly following rules has become tiresome.

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over. – Richard Branson

Did I format that quote right? Actually, whatever. I’ll learn in time. 🙂 Ooh, here’s another one I like from Pirates of the Caribbean:

You’re pirates. Hang the code, and hang the rules. They’re more like guidelines anyway. – Elizabeth Swann

*With that said, my guidelines are: don’t get my med school acceptances rescinded and in general don’t be an asshole.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE