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Monday, September 27, 2010

Approaching Stress and Awesomeness

 The best times to update your blog are those times when you have approximately 47 other things to do n the next seven hours before your entire world implodes and gets sucked into a black hole of stress. This is one of those times. I'm not really stressed yet--it's still too early in the semester, and I've only just started my new internship, and An Extraordinary Echo is still a whopping ten days from opening. But I feel it. I sense the Stress and the Crazy waiting on the other side of the Wednesday bridge. Or maybe the Thursday wall. Either way, IT'S COMING.
  Today I started my internship at a dance magazine and while I haven't done much yet, I'm so looking forward to getting to work on a publication I've been reading for years, that I respect so much. School is wonderful and I actually enjoy every single one of my courses which is an incredible feeling. I particularly love my American History Through Literature class and feel like the biggest nerd when I'm the only one in the class who gets really, really enthusiastic about John Winthrop and Puritan court records.
   Every afternoon and evening I'm either working, rehearsing, or in dance class which means Graham and I barely see one another these days, except for the brief window between walking in the door night and falling asleep. Thankfully, I keep Sundays free for church, family time, and household chores, which keeps me sane. I hate having to miss Sunday rehearsals, but it's important to keep that day sacred, to me.
   Speaking of rehearsals, the show is coming together so beautifully but I still feel way overwhelmed by the fact that we open so soon. During the Summer I didn't have much to distract me from preparing for the performances physically and mentally, but now I'll be juggling school and two jobs during production week, something I haven't done since high school (minus the jobs). My mom is flying in to see the ballet as well, and I'm really looking forward to that, but also frustrated that I'll barely get to spend time with her while she's here. Still, she hasn't seen me dance in years, so this will be really special.

Just a quick, disorganized update. In case I don't blog again before the show, make sure you take advantage of the pre-sale discount and get ticket's for An Extraordinary Echo for just $10.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writer's Block: Real or Not?

    In my last post, I mentioned that I've had a hard time writing these last few weeks. I used to scoff at the term "writer's block" because it's kind of a pretentious self-important concept. Can't use a "block" as an excuse in many other professions, can you? There's no such thing as "editorial assistant's block" or "teacher's block" or even "ballerina's block". Actually, ballerina's block would probably be rampant if dancers ceased being told what to do. (We tend to like being told what to do, at least in the ballet world.)
  Often times, our seeming inability to write has more to do with distraction or lack of discipline than anything. Whenever I have a deadline approaching or a short story assignment due for school my creative juices flow incredibly well. It's only during my down-time, when I should be working on that project or proposal that the well of ideas dries up, and I can't remember any non "to be" verbs.
   These days I'm exercising a good amount of discipline, forcing myself to write even when it's lacking in quality and innovation. When I go back to revise I get completely discouraged and want to write even less and it's one messy spin cycle in the smelly laundromat of my brain. (See? There's one example of the kind of metaphors I'm creating lately.)

Do you think writer's block is a real psychological barrier or am I just making up excuses to make myself feel better? How do you overcome these mental roadblocks with no tangible incentive in the form of a deadline or a paycheck?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Looking Forward to October

    During academic semesters--no matter how hard I try--I tend to have time to either dance a lot or write a lot, but rarely both. I've finally begun to really work on some pieces for this year's round of journal and literary magazine submissions and finding it difficult to get back into the swing of creative writing after focusing more on journalism this summer. I keep worrying that my couple of creative pieces that have recently done well are complete flukes and that I'll never write anything good again, let alone actually improve as I hone my technique and style. Typical perfectionist.

    Aside from those impending submission deadlines, I'm quite looking forward to October, my favorite month of the year. The hay bales stacked with pumpkins have appeared in front of all the markets on the Upper West Side and I noticed a few eager leaves beginning to take on an orange hue during my walk across Central Park today. Aside from the wonderful autumn weather, a variety of exciting events fill my calendar in the approaching month. Some highlights: 

September 28 - October 9
This annual ten day festival at City Center features some of the world's most renowned dance companies and choreographers alongside up-and-coming artists. In addition to the five main stage programs, Fall for Dance includes panels on dance-related topics and free pre-performance dance classes! All seats are $10 which means they always sell out quickly. Thankfully I was able to wrangle a couple of tickets and I can't wait to see such a wide variety of styles--from ballet to Indian dance-- presented in the same program.

Ongoing from September - December
Although I'm an uptowner, I often take classes, rehearse, and see performances in lower Manhattan. Presented by the Lower Manhattan Arts League, this festival includes theater, dance, film, music, and visual arts. I'm particularly excited that Dance New Amsterdam, one of the studios I visit most frequently, is offering a day of discounted classes on September 21 as well as a day of free classes on October 9! I'm looking forward to getting in as many affordable shows and classes as possible this season. 

October 7-9 
I'm busy, busy, busy gearing up for the premiere of An Extraordinary Echo, In-Sight Dance Company's first full-length ballet! It's really starting to come together well and I'm at that point where I'm starting to become familiar enough with the choreography that I can really focus on exploring the movement artistically. It's been a long time since I've performed a story ballet and it's an incredibly rewarding experience. Have I mentioned that I absolutely adore the people I work with? They're incredible artists and people, truly. We're also launching a blog soon and when I get the green light, I'll be sure to share the link here. If you're in the NYC area, it would mean so much to me if you came to one of the performances!

Mystery Birthday Events
My lovely, creative friend Jennifer emailed me a few weeks ago demanding that I remain available the morning of October 2 for an early birthday surprise. That's less than a week before the show opens so I was hesitant, but Graham insisted that I should ask for the day off from rehearsals. I still have no idea what is is I'm in for and not knowing is driving me crazy! My real 21st birthday is on October 28th so I'll also celebrate with Graham later in the month with dinner and some kind of surprise. Last year he surprised me with a spotless apartment for my birthday which caused me to quite literally wept tears of joy and gratitude because it just looked so nice. The year before that he proposed on my birthday, so he's set a pretty high standard for himself. (No pressure or anything, honey.)

What about you? Any exciting upcoming events you're looking forward to? 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reduced-Fat Banana Oatmeal Cookies

   I heartily endorse year-round baking, but even the slightest hint of Autumn in the early September air sends me into a full-on flour frenzy. After a round of back-to-school shopping on Sunday evening, I whipped up a batch of these banana oatmeal cookies with some cardamom cinnamon tea to welcome my favorite season (and to entice a crisp Fall breeze).  It's still too early for pumpkin muffins, cinnamon rolls, and gingerbread men, but these oatmeal cookies provide just the right amount of spiciness to remind you to pull out your winter coat, along with enough sweetness to comfort you after you miss the school bus or the bully steals your lunch money. Bonus: they're not too bad for you. As far as cookies are concerned, they're practically a health food.
   Fellow blogger Katie requested the recipe after I mentioned them on Twitter so blame her if you hate them (kidding):

Reduced-Fat Banana Oatmeal Cookies

1 large or 2 small bananas, mashed
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbs. non-dairy milk
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour, or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp. pie spice (see note)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries,  walnuts and/or chocolate chips (optional)

NOTE: If you do not have apple or pumpkin pie spice, combine 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. dried ginger and a pinch of ground cloves.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. 

In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, applesauce, and banana until well-combined. Add the molasses, vanilla, and non-dairy milk and mix. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add in batches to the banana/sugar mixture and combine, being careful not to over mix. Fold in the dried fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips, if using, and drop by generous tablespoons onto the cookie sheet. Bake 10-13 minutes until the bottoms are just beginning to brown. Let cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes before removing the cookies to a cooling rack or flat plate to finish cooling. Or just eat them right away, like we did. 

These are much cakier than your typical oatmeal cookie and taste delicious with strong-brewed coffee or tea.