Are Adult Humans Supposed to Have Hobbies?

…you know, things that are not their job and not their life calling, and they enjoy doing those things sometimes without caring terribly hard about whether or not they are good at them?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is very cool that my sets of “things I would voluntarily choose to do anyway” and “things that I am trying to do for my job” are largely converging, but this also sounds like a recipe for being an exclusive workaholic.

So should I start woodworking? Join a science fiction book club? Get really good at video games?

I’m trying to develop inexpensive and non-messy hobbies in particular:

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And generally trying to slurp creative juice out of neat little boxes. As adults do.

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Updates (In which I do less than It All)

Things I did this weekend:

  • Performed in the Barnard dance department show at New York Live Arts. The choreographers and dancers were absolutely killing it this year with some beautiful, intelligent, and hilarious work (in addition to being generally awesome people to be around all day).
  • Wrote two papers and a presentation.
  • Struggled with the subway system.
  • Tried really hard not to neglect my parents who flew in to see me.
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Choreography by the fabulous Caitlin Trainor. Photo by the fabulous Julia Cervantes. 

Things I didn’t do:

  • Laundry

It’s really really been awhile. I need to catch up before I revert to my super-seasonally-inappropriate clothing reserve and excessive body spray as an alternative to washing.

In related news, I think this is gonna be my new go-to answer for questions like “Is it possible to do dance and academics?”–Yes, but not laundry.

I’m pretty sure this is also the definitive answer to the perpetual question of “Can women Have it All?” (Which women? What’s “all?” No one really seems to care)–No: they can either have a reasonable laundry schedule or everything else, but not both. 

(Feel free to pull that out in interviews, female CEOs.)

I’m gonna go do laundry now.

Dancey Things that Happened During Midterms

So what’s going on in my life? Well last week was my main midterms week, so between three take-home exams and a paper, I churned out about 25 pages of words (some of which meant something, I hope). But when I wasn’t staring at my laptop screen, imbibing caffeine, and trying to will essays into existence, I also attended some really awesome dance-related events.

Sometimes, I feel like being a dance student in NYC is like being a kid in a candy shop–in which the pieces of candy are ABT and Stephen Petronio. 

Last weekend I went with my dance history class to see American Ballet Theater performing Taylor’s Company B, Ashton’s Monotones, and Jooss’ The Green Table.

I found The Green Table especially fascinating, even though it struck me as dated. Actually, I found it fascinating partially because it seemed dated. I don’t mean that in a bad way–like it’s no longer relevant–just that I can’t imagine anyone being so literal and theatrical with a political piece today. I think that literal can actually be really powerful, even if it doesn’t quite mesh with modern sensibilities.

I also wonder whether the expectation that great choreography should be “timeless” is overrated. I enjoy seeing art that really embodies the feel of a particular time: both the choreography and the war imagery here seem characteristically post-WWI, and that’s an important moment to capture.

On Monday, I attended a panel surrounding Arthur Mitchell’s (the founder of Dance Theater of Harlem) archives being brought to Columbia. The conversation between Mitchell and the other panelists (Carmen de Lavallade, Kay Mazzo, and Allegra Kent) was pretty mind-blowing and went in several directions. Some that I found particularly interesting:

  • How the recent Misty Copeland hype ignores/erases the many black dancers who broke barriers before her
  • “Race-blind” meritocracy in casting versus using using race as a deliberate choreographic statement (Mitchell insists that Balanchine’s Apollo is not the same piece without a black man and a white woman)
  • How choreography is performed differently over time (and how the availability or lack of original footage effects this)
  • The experience of performing in Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Developing a better relationship between Columbia and Harlem

Agon, 1957

Yesterday, went to an open improv event with the Stephen Petronio Company which involved dancing with company members, my friends, strangers, and a dog around a sculptural installation in Madison Square Park. You know that quote about how music writing is like dancing about architecture? Well I’ve been doing a lot of dancing about architecture lately. And it’s pretty awesome.

Why New York is Actually a Real-Life Version of the Internet

I’ve decided that if the internet existed in a physical form, it would probably be New York. Some parallels:

  1. There’s constant stimulation available, and you have instant access to any part you want whenever you want it (or as relatively close to instant as you’re gonna get with a city’s transit system).

    NYC’s version of Google

  2. Of course, this expectation of easy access only makes it more infuriating when you’ve got a connection problem stopping you from getting on (the subway) line.

    Error: this content is not currently available.

  3. They’re both places where you can come to be anonymous in a sea of strangers.
  4. And at the same time, they’re full of people trying to make a name for themselves.

    (Or at least Netflix)

  5. I think offensive subway ranters count as the equivalent of YouTube commenters, except you get to see what their faces look like.
  6. We celebrate how these two scenes draw in all types of people from all over the world (those that can afford it, anyway). And that’s true, but it doesn’t mean that all these different sorts of people are hanging out in the same places.
  7. They’ve each got a few sites that get most of the traffic. But sometimes the quieter spots are especially worth checking out.
  8. They’ve got some parts labeled as “safe” and others blocked off as “unsafe.” There are definitely real reasons for this, but the way in which the distinction is made can get questionable.
  9. They provide so much for you to discover and learn from–art, literature, culture, budding political movements and social scenes–but instead of taking advantage of that, you’re probably gonna spend most of your time on Facebook/Upper Manhattan.
  10. Some people need to disconnect from all this buzz every now and then to keep their sanity. Others are too hooked to ever go back to the quiet.

Back-to-School Thoughts

  • I don’t really have any anxiety surrounding flying, but airports themselves make me kind of nervous. I’m not sure if it’s the TSA factor, the fear of missing my flight, or the environment which manages to feel both fast-paced and monotonously slow at the same time. Also, they smell funny.
  • Storage is really just an advanced, live-action version of Tetris. If you win, your fridge gets to survive.

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  • I hate unpacking. I hate it so much that I got it over with in three hours.
  • There are two types of summer story jealousy. The first is the actual, visceral feeling of “I wanna be you,” or at least “I wanna do that” (ex: me talking to people who were dancing in Paris). The second involves having no personal desire to do what that person did, but still feeling your comparative lack in the coolness/excitingness/impressiveness/successfulness departments (ex: me talking to people who were interning at Google and JP Morgan).
  • I’m only mildly jealous though, because I had a pretty good summer, and I think I’m the only person here who is legitimately excited to go back to school.
  • Reminder: New York is delicious and too expensive.

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  • Today I went to Steps to take a ballet class, but got there late and decided to take a jazz class 30 minutes later. It ended up being a super sexy style, and all the other women were wearing heels. I was trying really hard to be sexy in socks. I think it was kind of cute.
  • If Obama is actually coming to Columbia I guess we’ll be able to accurately say things like “I have to write a paper tonight . . . Thanks, Obama!” or “Just bombed my midterm . . . Thanks, Obama!”
  • So, 8:40 am class tomorrow . . .

Dropping In

I’m done with the semester and back at home! What I wrote on the plane last night between episodes of Full House and JetBlue popcorn chips:

Since my finals week this semester lasted longer than my actual finals (don’t hate me–I had a lot of paper finals that were already turned in) I spent a lot of the time taking open dance classes around the city. Particularly, I spent some time in classes that I’ve never taken before, probably won’t take again anytime in the foreseeable future, and didn’t expect to be particularly good at.

Steps Lobby

See, there are two types of people in an open class: the regulars and the randos.

The benefits of being a regular are pretty obvious. You form relationships with teachers and other dancers. You become more familiar with the style and can work on a deeper, more detailed level. You hopefully get more personal attention and corrections over time. You have a name.

So why be a rando?

Sometimes it’s out of scheduling necessity (e.g. your schedule only lets you take that class during finals week), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its perks.

Worst case, you’re invisible. Best case, the instructor takes personal interest in you, wants to know your name and background, and gives specific feedback.

But either way, you get thrown into a strange, new world with nothing to lose. Sure, there’s a chance to make a first impression, but there’s no reputation, no expectations following you. Whatever you do now is what you are here. (But only for 90 minutes.)

You’ll get confused and a little lost and thrown off your game, and you’ll have to get a little stronger and smarter as you find your way back on. You can ride that first, fast part of the learning curve, even if you don’t look amazing while doing it.

And there’s something kind of special about knowing that whatever happens in that 90 minutes has never happened to you before and may never happen to you again. It’s not a replacement for what you do every day, but it has its own charm.

Because eventually, all dance studios and dance classes start to feel a little like home, no matter where on earth you are or who you’re with. And dropping in is like a little test of how quickly you can find a home in an unfamiliar setting, at least until you let go of it once again to find a new one.

My Life Lately

Some things I’ve been up to lately:

First of all, I did some Nutcracking this weekend (the ballet kind). It’s been a while since I’ve been in a Nutcracker, but I’ve gotta admit that it still holds a certain nostalgic and kind of magical place in my heart. Kind of like a home to come back to. The show went really well and now I’m all in that Christmasy mood.

Photo by Rebecca Ohaeri

On a side note, has anyone noticed how crazy the actual Nutcracker plot is? Besides all those colonialist vibes, can we appreciate that the Nutcracker is a fairy tale in which the girl saves the soldier? (Specifically with a shoe . . . ) And that it’s a ballet about food? Also, do no other NYC residents find the concept of ginormous fighting rats a little too real? Not that anyone really watches ballet for the plot but . . .

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The morning after the show, I woke up at 5:30 (after 2 hours of sleep) to shoot a dance film project at Hudson River Park (and drag along a highly obliging dance friend to help). Ever since I saw some kids playing on the beautifully geometric/funky jungle gym dome there, I knew I wanted to make my dance around it. I figured that we needed to get there super early to film before kids overtake it. What I didn’t realize was that it was going to be cold. Really really cold. I had to stop every few minutes when my hands went numb. Also, when the camera I borrowed wasn’t working, we had to resort to using an iPhone.

Despite that, I managed to get some pretty good footage out of it and made this:


I stuck around in the area for a few hours afterwards, hoping to get some footage of actual kids for contrast. Except that it was so cold that no children ever showed up. Whoops. I kind of stopped wanting the kid footage in the end though, since the space and some of the movement that came out of it already brought a strong enough “kid element” into the piece. But I guess that also means we could have slept in a little . . .

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As of yesterday, I’m done with classes for the semester. Turned in some papers and projects. I guess that makes me 3/8 of a graduate? On to reading week. Maybe I’ll break the traditional typical reading week ritual of locking yourself in a library while trying really hard to look like you’re studying intensely (actual progress optional) by actually doing something exciting. Or maybe not. We’ll see.