Written by Aleigha Mayo,
a second-year student in the LINES Ballet Training Program
2020 – the year where everything was headline news. How is there so much chaos in the world, but it still manages to evoke similar feelings out of everyone? The reality of black death, detained children, flawed systems, and the battle between health and isolation amidst rising COVID-19 cases sits messily in our laps. There is something about multiple waves of cosmic grief, and the heightened awareness of uncertainty that can separate a person from their innate desire to create. For the first few months of sheltering in place, my days were sterile. Any attempt at self-expression led to feelings of contempt for my process and my space. Naturally, I was hesitant when I first learned that the Training Program 2020-2021 would be virtual. I couldn’t imagine what a whole year’s worth of dance training in my apartment would look like, let alone devoting myself to the art of creation in a space where I’d felt so stuck. Despite having anxiety about the new online platform, I dove in anyway.
Thanks to the amazing faculty at LINES and my own surrendering, my worries were quickly laid to rest after the program started. The Training Program has proven itself to be fruitful. Even on a virtual platform, we’ve managed to stay engaged on both an artistic and social level. Each week, outside of dance classes, we are given open time as a group to discuss any matters with our instructors. We’ve talked about their personal dance histories, the importance of art in their lives, the effects that current events have had on any creative processes, and even viewed past works they’ve created. I think that injecting extra time into our dance day for communication has been a major help in generating an external source of inspiration and community. It’s allowed me to peek into the minds of my peers and instructors through a modality that isn’t used as often when we are in the studio, which makes the distance between us seem much smaller.
On an internal note, training online has empowered me to reclaim my body and carve my own sacred cavern in the world of dance. Every day is, very literally, just me and my art. And every day my ability to listen, and sit with it, gets stronger. I’ve noticed that even on my roughest days, the easiest way to navigate them is by surrendering. When I dissolve my expectations, disappointments, and fears it creates so much room for me to grasp onto all of the possibilities that already live. The music becomes sweeter and the movement more honest. Dancing at home has pushed me to be more self-reliant in my own practice. My capability in tasks as simple as remembering a combination for myself has grown exponentially at home. This has been the perfect time to hone into my craft and let it take on a form for itself. Being in my own bubble has really brought attention to the liberties I felt I couldn’t have when I was in the studio as a first-year. Even though LINES promotes an environment that prioritizes exploration, innovation, and truth in dance, I’d only worked within the limitations I set around myself, which I am just starting to break out of. I really do believe that this year with the LINES Ballet Training Program on Zoom has been the catalyst of this change. Below, I’ve quickly highlighted a few classes that have continued to push me out of my comfort zone and my reflections on the processes:
The second years are currently learning Alonzo’s work, Wheel in the Middle of the Field, with Brett Conway. This piece is set to live music, and sung by members of The San Francisco Opera. The voices on stage swell melodiously offering the dancers so much opportunity to play with dynamics, timing, and structure.
In my own experience learning the piece, I’ve struggled with switching my dynamics. It is natural for me to be swept by the lulling notes, and handle the most delicate movements with so much awareness and possibility. When it comes to the sharper movements that ask for clarity and intensity, my scope of the various ways that I can achieve them can become very small in my head. In Repertoire, they’ve added time for us students to continue playing with the choreography in a one-on-one session with the teacher as a way to further investigate the choreography. During my solo time, we talked about all of the different ways I could approach the more powerful movements with just as much wonder and attention as the others, how I can use the environment of my home to make the dance more real, and the ways in which being on camera could shift how my movement is perceived. Talks like these have helped to lay down new pillars that I can always look back to and build upon.
The Training Program takes a ballet class every morning. Each day is taught by a different faculty member. Since my time in the program, my biggest goal for myself has been getting free. We work daily in a form that can feel rote and restrictive. The act of a tendu can very well be a simple brush and point done for alignment and strengthening, which has its benefits. But how can I find all of the joy and sensation in a step as elementary as a plié? That has been my focus. In my mind, I want to stretch the foundation so far that it becomes a living, breathing thing with shape, feeling, and momentum. If I can find life in the simplest form, I believe I can birth anything.
Working with Alonzo the few times that I have over the span of two years has been an honor. This year, we had a three-day workshop with him over Zoom, and even in the form of pixels, he has a gentle sway that pushes me to remember how infinite I am. His two tenets to work with, “more” and “better,” reminds me that I shouldn’t settle for any less. I always have more to give, more to feel, more to exchange, and better to do. In this workshop, we wrote affirmations for ourselves with the reminder that “all affirmations of the conscious mind have to be so deep that it permeates the subconscious,” – a lesson in art and life alike. Whatever I believe to be true, think, and do becomes what I communicate. In my mind, it’s like shapeshifting. I’m sharpening my ability to shift at a cellular level by loosening the tethers I have to what I think I am and think I can do to gain the ability to become everything. For me, that is what makes the company so mesmerizing. They immerse themselves so deeply into the dance that their bodies become vessels for honesty. This mindset has been the vehicle moving me towards liberation.
A quote of Alonzo’s that has stuck with me states:
“Stay very clear about the goal. Despite what approach you take, it’s not about acquiring something. It’s about giving up something – giving up the I and the ego-self.”
All that I’ve been a part of, pondered, created, or criticized this year lives in a much bigger narrative – larger than any headline could encompass. This new era of dancing, resting, and learning at home has been and continues to be a testament to the resilience in tragedy, rebirth, and love that resides in the power of community and within myself.
STUDY WITH THE LINES BALLET TRAINING PROGRAM
Our Training Program is a full-time, two-year professional experience for avid movers ages 18-24. Each year consists of two semesters of instruction, during which time dancers work with a world-class faculty and study with Alonzo King in an interactive workshop setting. Auditions for the 2021-22 year begin in January 20201. CLICK HERE to learn more about the program.
Parallel to the Training Program is Training Ground, a program perfect for dancers 18+ who want a more serious regimen but may have financial or time constraints. Training Ground is divided into 3-4 month seasons of Fall, Winter or Spring, with the option to attend any season, and is accessible for international and domestic students alike. CLICK HERE to learn more.