Hello, it is Vivianna again, welcoming you to my 3rd blog post! Maybe you read my last two blogs? If you have, I love you. Maybe this is your first one? In that case, welcome! It feels like just the other day that I visited New York for the first time (in the summer of 2019) and instantly fell in deep love, and only a minute ago that I moved to the city September 2021 and thought to myself “Wow, now what?” (exciting and terrifying at the same time!)
I simply cannot grasp the idea that I have officially been in New York City for one whole year, and what a wild year it’s been! Moments with happy tears, sad tears, and even seasonal allergy tears. It has been the best, yet most challenging time in my life. I’ve personally learned a lot about myself and from the amazing mentors that I mentioned in my previous blog post. But first…I have to catch you up! It wouldn’t be Keeping Up with Viv if you weren’t caught up. Am I right or am I right?
Dancing and Working with The Taylor School
If you remember where I left off in my last post, I mentioned I was performing for the scholarship program at Paul Taylor Dance Company. This performance has definitely been a highlight in my first year. Studying at The Taylor School allowed me to immerse myself in the style and grow in my artistry, and thanks to the performance (which was put together by two students in the program), we were able to show off what we learned to the broader community.
The performance was filled with dance pieces from school director Carolyn Adams, company member Christina Lynch Markam, and scholarship student Bridget Cronin. Of course, all the dance steps come from Paul’s movement style; it was a treat to watch it come together. Some company members came to support, which felt surreal because usually the roles are reversed when I’m watching them at City Center or The Joyce Theater! A couple of my friends also came to watch and we celebrated with my favorite: tacos and margaritas. It was a great day!
The best part about Taylor is the community and genuine support you feel from everyone.
Staying in Taylor Land, I was very fortunate to teach, through a Taylor School sponsored program called Global Kids, at a couple of middle schools in the city. It was wonderful. I love teaching, especially when it involves one of my favorite types of movement styles. I didn’t start falling in love with modern dance and Taylor until I was a junior in college, so I wondered how it would go to introduce public middle schoolers to modern dance.
It was definitely a challenge getting the students to engage in class at first. I think at that age, they feel embarrassed by almost everything and seem confused as to why they are dancing to percussion and classical music versus today’s popular music. Since I only had 6 weeks with my students, my goal was to show them the magic and joy of dance. I wanted them to have a good time and to realize they are capable of doing all the steps I taught them.
As the weeks progressed, I could feel their excitement grow! I would always start off with basic across the floor combinations like walking and running patterns. Then I would either add on to the phrase work or ask them if they could go further in their ability. For example: traveling and taking up more space than they think and jumping higher than they originally thought they could do. It was fun to see them surprise themselves with what they assumed their limits were. Throughout the session I taught them a small excerpt from the first section of Esplanade, one of Paul Taylor’s most famous dances!
Learning choreography is no easy task, and the students did an excellent job!
Summer is the best time of year, especially in NYC.
There is so much life!
As Roxie puts it, “there’s men everywhere, jazz everywhere, booze everywhere, life everywhere, joy everywhere, nowadays.” (I wasn’t staring at men all summer, but you get the gist!)
However, I don’t know about the humidity?
I miss the dry heat from Arizona.
Maybe not the consistent 115 degree weather, but maybe a solid 95-100 dry heat.
Anyways, let’s start with some of the shows I got to see? One performance was Paul Taylor Dance Company at The Joyce. The lovely Mindy Cooper (Ann Reinking Scholarship Advisory Board Chair) took me to the performance and it was an inspiring night to say the least! I also had the privilege of watching The Music Man, on Broadway, with my friend Sophia. It was my first time seeing the show! I didn’t get to see Hugh Jackman, but I did get to see the amazing Sutton Foster!
Later in the summer, my friend came to visit me and we went to a Lawrence and Misterwives concert in Central Park and saw John Mulaney: From Scratch. If you haven’t listened to the bands Lawrence or Misterwives, I definitely recommend you do. They are both so talented and have the perfect vibe to be in your feels and dance in your living room. As for John Mulaney, I have loved him since the start of the pandemic and I feel so lucky that I got to watch his show at Madison Square Garden!
This summer, I also attended my first jazz club, Blue Note, and I had the best time! There is just something magical about jazz music and watching artists play their instruments with so much passion and swag.
Other highlights included visiting the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side for the first time. It was a great experience getting to enter an old apartment and learn about the two immigrant families that used to reside there. One crazy thing I learned is that one of the sons of the Puerto Rican family applied to be the building’s super at age 14 and he got it! Other fun summer spots were the Central Park Zoo, Rockaway Beach, MoMa, and a weekend upstate in New York.
More Performance Opportunities
Speaking of Upstate New York, I recently took a trip to Sharon Springs to perform. One of the exciting projects I got to be a part of this summer was working with choreographer Dave Grenke. He was a former Taylor dancer, so it was fascinating to be a part of this process and learn his movement style. He approaches movement in a different way involving the back plane of the body; in most dance forms, your weight is primarily forward. It felt opposite to what my body wanted to do naturally, which made learning his choreography a big challenge at first. His work was abstract and very gestural, yet allowed the audience to create stories and relate to his movement.
I was thrilled to perform a solo in the program which was titled The Poking Solo. It was gestural and traveled lightly at the end. I usually consider myself a fast learner when it comes to choreography, but Dave’s work truly challenged me. I watched archived videos of the solo from years past multiple times to make sure I had the sequence down and I even wrote out the entire four minute solo. Once I had the sequence down, I focused on the musicality and intention, which is my favorite part of the process!
When it was time to perform, I was looking forward to traveling upstate and having a mini vacation away from the chaotic city life. It was a blast to stay at the Grenke Farm! We rehearsed in Dave’s barn which happens to have the original dance floor used by Paul Taylor when he was located in Midtown. How cool?! We also got to perform alongside Jamie Rae Walker, a former Taylor dancer. She performed a beautiful and snazzy solo, choreographed by Annmaria Mazzini.
It was good for the soul and mind to escape the concrete jungle for a little bit and get to do what I love.
One of my goals is to create more content and art. I have always enjoyed and been in awe of some amazing dance films, music videos, and movies with great dancing involved. I love everything from cinematic masterpieces, such as West Side Story and La La Land, to commercial work by Jojo Gomez. I dream of being in music videos for my favorite choreographers and for music artists such as Saint Motel, Lorde, Jon Batiste, The Lumineers, and Hozier, and the list will continue to grow!
If you follow me on socials, you may have seen that I recently released my first dance film. If you watched it, again, I love you! If you haven’t, you can go on my Instagram and click on my pinned post! Fun fact about this project of mine: I choreographed it when I was a senior at The University of Arizona. This project is very personal to me and I was very proud and emotional to share it online because it is about healing. As you may know, healing is non-linear and can drive one crazy.
I chose to dance to That’s Life, by Frank Sinatra, because it felt right and fit with my vision and experience. I had a vision of my dance being very theatrical and emotional, but it turned out to be the opposite. As I began to choreograph, in a way, I began to process my personal experience all over again. In my solo, I played with the phrase “catching up with time” and “all the times you knew you should have walked away but didn’t.” I think my dancing really demonstrated how my mind and body had to process and relive certain events, which meant every gesture felt precious.
My first project is in no way perfect and a part of me wishes I could have done it over again to make the choreography and editing better. However, I do love and feel proud of it. It’s only the beginning of my dance film director journey!
So what am I up to now? I mentioned in my last blog that I wanted to make a new dance film for the summer. I originally wanted to create something that showcases my growth in my theater dance journey, but I have decided to make that a bigger project for later in the year. By the time this blog goes live it will officially be one year since I moved to New York, so for now, I am creating a short solo honoring my first year in the city! I was debating between songs, so naturally, I created a poll on Instagram to help me make my important decision. I don’t want to give away the song just yet, but I will say it reminds me of one of my favorite professors from The University of Arizona, Tammy Dyke-Compton. I will always be grateful towards her teaching because she made me feel seen and supported for the first time in my career. As an eager student, feeling seen means the world! Her teaching sparked my joy for dance and helped me rebuild my confidence in myself. With this project, I am inspired by her movement style and how it has been my foundation as I continue to grow in my dance career. I am excited for this special project of mine and for you all to watch it. When am I posting it? I’m not sure. I guess you’ll have to follow me to wait and see.
Training Highlight: Momen
As I am typing this I just finished up the most magical weekend. I attended Momen: Third Edition created by Al Blackstone and Abraham Lule. It was a three day workshop with a line up of the best faculty in the industry. It was a privilege to attend Momen, and I feel that I learned so much in the short amount of time. Al has a beautiful way of creating a safe space for dancers in his class and because of that it has turned into this great community. We jazzed it up, did some hip hop, west african, contemporary, improvisation, journaled, discussed, and made friends. My body is sore but my heart is so happy from dancing all weekend.
As much as I adore dancing and learning choreography, my favorite thing from this past weekend was observing everyone in class. Each dancer brings their individuality and it’s the most inspiring. I keep realizing the best dancers aren’t the best because of their physical appearance or their extension, but are the best because they radiate confidence and joy! As Sheila Barker stated, we are all beautiful and we need to tell our stories when we dance even when we are just doing something as simple as tendus. I love how all of us love our craft, but there comes points where we feel blocked as artists. This weekend was a wonderful reminder of why we do what we do. Isn’t that the best feeling? I am ready to dance again and incorporate all I have learned at Momen.
Auditioning in NYC
I have discussed my wonderful training in my last blog posts, but I haven’t really mentioned my audition experiences. Due to COVID the majority of auditions are self tapes. It means that instead of showing up to an in-person call to learn a dance combination, dancers have to submit virtually. This includes: learning a dance from a video, filming yourself dancing, renting studio space to film yourself, filming yourself singing, and editing your video. It’s a process! I’ve been fortunate to have a couple opportunities to audition in person. I have even had my own audition horror story, tragic. All I have to say is 2 words: wrong key. I can laugh about it now, but I definitely cried after because it was my first time singing at an audition. Next time I have to sing, I am ready for my redemption!
To my pleasant surprise, I have been feeling very confident in my dancing at auditions. I have been getting callbacks to shows I really hope to be a part of which is encouraging! I definitely get anxious and nervous, it’s hard not to! I try to make sure I’m breathing, which my body forgets to do quite often (lol). Each audition is a new and great learning experience; I just want to keep auditioning and getting seen to hopefully book an amazing gig soon.
The last months have been transformative and eventful and looking forward to an exciting photoshoot with James Jin in the fall! I first shot with him in 2019, so I am ready for my second round. I am thrilled for the opportunity to showcase my growth the last couple of years in James’s spectacular photos! Also, I recently ordered my first pair of LaDuca Boots and I cannot wait until they arrive! Yes, I will be playing the song “These boots are made for walking” as soon as I put them on.
I have good things coming my way; I am manifesting. I want to approach dance classes and auditions fearlessly and enjoy every part of my dance journey. I will keep working on my voice because soon I hope to book a show where I dance and sing. I will keep practicing my creativity by making dances and TikToks.
The hustle continues, and guess what? The learning does too.
Thank you for reading and I will see you in my next blog, where I will talk about my year in review. Follow me on socials and let’s connect! Till next time!
Xoxo Vivianna DeSantiago