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!


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…


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.

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.


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.”


Since I’m out of town next week, I made up one of my ballet classes tonight. It was actually a pilates class, and once again, people are all on vacation or something because I ended up being the only one in class! My abs are going to be sore tomorrow. The class was a lot of laying on the mat and moving my upper body and legs around. For someone who hasn’t done a workout targeting my core for a long time, ouch. It was great to try something different with instruction, but if I were to add another class to my current 3x a week, I’d probably add a ballet class. Just because pilates on the mat is something I feel I could do with Youtube, but ballet mostly requires instruction.

My eyelids are starting to get heavy. I keep sleeping 6-7 hours a night these past two weeks, which is terrible because I LOVE my sleep and consistently got ~8 hours a night during college. Why, why, why? Too many distractions. It’s probably also because I end my days so late with ballet and other activities that I come home and want to do stuff for hours, when I really should go to bed. Goodnight everyone!

P.S. my life has evolved into making myself comfortable at the mall with my laptop  and essays and taking advantage of the free wifi in between work and other commitments. It’s like college minus the library!

This is going to be a fun week for my feet…

I took my first pointe class yesterday! In April, my teacher told me I could start pointe, which of course I was very excited about, but putting on my new shoes was a reality check. I was getting cramps in my arches and took it as a sign that I wasn’t ready, so into the closet my shoes went.

Last week, my teacher gave the go-ahead to another adult dancer to start pointe and asked me again when I would start. In his words, “How are you going to know if you’re ready if you don’t try?!” With that kind of encouragement, I decided to go for it, so I showed up to the adult beginner class yesterday. There was one other person who is more experienced en pointe, so it was basically a private class. Yay! Usually there are other attendees who are actual ballet beginners, hence the class name, but people are coming to class less often now that it’s summer.

The class itself was great! I didn’t have as much trouble at the barre as I expected. Barre was around 20 minutes, with focus on relevés from both feet in the different positions. We went through the regular order of combinations, but tailored to practice rising up en pointe.

One thing I realized is that it’s much easier for my foot to look sickled during tendus in pointe shoes, so I need to focus on beveling my feet. I also need to roll through demi-pointe more in relevé.

I attempted a little bit of centre with exceeding care, but stopped when my right big toe started to hurt during echappés. I think I need to cut my nail shorter, take it more slowly, or both. After putting on my soft shoes, I felt so light, it was funny.

In general, my feet feel pretty good after that class. No blisters yet! Unfortunately, I won’t have another pointe class for 2 weeks since I’m going to Yosemite next week!! Really hoping we get Half Dome permits in the daily lottery since we had no luck in the preseason one. Either way, my excitement level is through the roof! My feet are seriously working hard this week and next.

Since I’m gone starting Saturday, I’m making up a few classes this week, meaning 5 classes this week! Time to go get ready for class, in fact.

Somewhere in the between

Last night from 11pm to 2am and I churned out my “most meaningful activities” drafts for med school apps. They’re pretty short (1325 characters max each), but it took me a long time to perfect them, and they still need a few rounds of editing.

Also, I’ve just about finalized my school list! Thought I had a good school list going but realized I need to do more research. My problem was that the list had too many extremely competitive schools and not enough “good fit” schools, in my opinion. I have to tread carefully because my average research involvement could put me at a disadvantage for the more research-oriented top schools, even though my stats are on par with their admissions profiles. One thing for sure is that I’m applying to 30 schools, give or take a few. Back to the drawing board…

Ballet class tonight was quite a workout. We were doing a sequence at the barre with frappés and fondues on relevé, with 8 counts of passé relevé at the end. My leg was almost shaking and the arch of my standing foot was sore at the end of the 8 counts! I definitely need to build more strength in order to stay up longer.