First Trip To See The Kansas City Ballet!

Seldom have I looked so forward to a Friday as I do toward this one.

Today, some of us have been given the chance to see the Kansas City Ballet perform! They’ll be doing their show “New Moves.”

I’m overjoyed at the opportunity.

I’ve never in my own memory been to a professional ballet performance. It’s always been one of those things I imagined; one of those things I saw in small clips shown from YouTube for old VHS tapes, which were shown in dance classes to reveal what we must aim for in the movements we were about to learn.

Until now I’ve only ever actually been to collegiate-level dance performances. Even those have blown my mind. I can never forget what it was like to be in a room with some of the amazing ballerinas and dancers I’ve been around here in college. Their influences, both as dancers and as people, have engraved their imprints permanently onto my memories so every time I think back upon them, I find the strength to keep aspiring to be more. To aspire to one day be like them: As a dancer. As an artist. As a person.

I can’t imagine anyone better, either as people, or even just as performers. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to see something somehow better, in some way, than what I already can’t stop remembering.

Yet tonight, some of us get to.

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Completely Not Ready

I have known this day would come, and I confess I am completely unready for it.

Today, those of us in the Kansas State University Tap Dance Ensemble, as well as the other dancers cast in Spring Dance 2017, take the floors in Nichols Hall for intensives to prepare us for our shows in March.

For me personally, it’s the last first time that I’ll step on the floor in Studio 026 as a student, and I confess that no matter how excited I am to graduate this coming May, the emotional weight of the steps I’m about to take weigh on me heavier than anything I’ve ever done.

I’ll of course try and be an adult and keep it together as much as possible, but the fact is seeing my teammates will bring me a joy only matchable perhaps by the sadness of a final new beginning.

It’ll take everything I am, every ounce of strength I’ve never showed the world, to focus on what I need to, which is how amazingly blessed I get to be as we start the new semester, and, what is more…

As we all get to dance our way into it.

 

Have a great day everyone :).

A Few Weeks In To Tap 3

Editor’s Note: This was initially written back in early February, but was never published though it was fully written. Now seems like an appropriate and interesting time to share, as a way of taking it back to a time in Tap 3. Enjoy 🙂

 

It’s horrifying to think we’re already in February isn’t it?

This semester, I started taking Tap 3 “Advanced Tap.” I also decided, prior to the semester, that I would begin training for my first full marathon. This is something I’ve failed at twice before, in each instance because I tried to train for a full that fell on Feb. 14 or that weekend, which meant I had to train through the snow and through winters that felt about as warm as I imagined the surface of Pluto must feel.

Still, I was sure I could do it this time. It was El Niño, so it was setting up to be the warmest winter in years, and I was training for a May race. Should have worked perfectly.

Instead, I realized by the end of week one that I made a massive miscalculation.

I misjudged the devil out of Tap 3.

I knew it would be fun, and I knew it would be mentally hard, and I knew it would be a workout, but my gosh I didn’t see how much of a workout it would always be.

Keep in mind I’m not complaining at all. I love it, and I love knowing that, by the time it’s done, I’ll be ready to completely rock dance camp again in August. I love knowing it’s making me sharper. I love knowing it’s pushing me far outside my comfort zone and making my feet faster, more precise and capable of enduring more than I ever thought they could.

I just also may have to stop my full-force training, and make this kind of a “dummy-run.” I may try and add the miles and see if I can get to the point of running it, and just run it in Manhattan to see what it feels like and see if I want to deal with that in a full-race environment. Initially though, in weeks 2-4 of my running training, all indications were that I flirted with achilles tendonitis. So I backed off running for those three weeks and ran a grand total of nine miles in there. That’s nowhere near what I “should” be at per my running training, so I’m probably in a bit of trouble with that one. Oh well.

For the moment though, there’s something bigger making me want to hold off on training. I really really really (for emphasis) hate feeling like I’m not dancing well enough to compete on the Tap Ensemble. I want to get better, I want to be one of the best dancers on the Ensemble, even if that isn’t possible and never will be possible because of how new I am. I want to make that pursuit though! I want to chase the gap between the other dances and I like a racing opponent in the distance who I can see ahead of me but fading and who I’m determined to overtake. I musn’t let an injury derail that pursuit, so if I have to back off running to stay healthy while I get used to this semester’s dance load, I can accept that.

I feel such tremendous loyalty to my team that I find myself inclined to give tap my full athletic priority for the moment. I’ll run, but the mileage may not be enough to make it to my chosen full marathon race-date. Instead, I may have to “settle” for trying to PR again at the Bill Snyder Highway Half-Marathon this year. :). Then again though, I did place third in my age group last year, and I’m eating better and training harder via core workouts and dance classes, so maybe I can make the effort in that regard count.

Here’s the truth: I love this dance stuff. I’m not good at it, but I want to be, and I’ll do anything to be, within ethical and legal limits of course! I want to become good enough that I can do it at local gigs and talent shows and maybe even one day become a professional. I have no expectations, but as I once wrote:

Growth,

The preceptor that teaches us to dance with Success,

Chooses to keep better quality company than Comfort.

 

Tap Happy 🙂

-Shelton 🙂

 

The Dance Over Words?


“Meaning necessarily entails words, symbols. They point to something other than themselves. Good music doesn’t point anywhere. It just is. Likewise, only unhappiness has meaning. That’s why we feel compelled to talk about it and have so many words to draw upon. Happiness doesn’t require words.” -Eric Weiner, “The Geography of Bliss.”

For that very reason, I wonder if my idea of trying to translate poetry into dance is a futile exercise. Good dance should convey an emotion, and not one capable of extrication by words.

I suppose I thus imply that the dancer is superior to the wordsmith of equal stature. Does dance, in my eyes, transcend the essence of writing because writing requires words while dance can simply symbolize?

This question of the heart merits further introspection. Is there added virtue, based on the quote above, in how writing (outside of forms that self-analyze, such as the ars poetica in poetry) points to something else? Does dance always point to itself, or can it point elsewhere as well? 

Please leave your thoughts below :).

A Sick Beat To Start Your Sunday :)

Hey Everyone!

Something I’m going to work on doing more on this site from now on is sharing neat dance videos when I find them (and I usually find lots of them). I haven’t done that a lot, but I want to. This site is, and always will be, primarily about the beauty of life, and dance :).

Here’s a little bit of both! This deserves to be the first offering toward that commitment :). This is the type of sick beat that Taylor Swift said we should be getting down to :P. Enjoy!

Wednesday tap class with my Tapped In girls @dancepadstudios #tappedin #taplife #tapdance

A post shared by Lyla Menkhaus🎭 (@dancelyladance) on

Proclamation.

On the morning of the opening performance of Springdance 2016, I woke up with a horrifyingly sad, exciting, terrifying realization. The date: April 1st, 2016.

The realization: I can’t let this end.

This camaraderie. This teamwork. This rush you get from it all.

Forget the performing. Every true performer feels that. The way you feel when the lights are off but the curtain comes up with you holding your shape like a statue, eyes burning with energy in the darkness while the audience waits eagerly to see you and your teammates, your peers, your fellow goddesses, illuminated by the lights from the wings of the stage. Forget the performing. Forget the way you wait on the lights to rise, to ignite the fuse of desire that runs from them straight into your soul, causing it to leave your body and transpose itself on the stage through your movements.

Forget that. Everyone feels that.

The rush I’m talking about is very different, it’s the rush of the process. Of auditioning, of making it, of struggling through choreography that you’re determined to get but that you never really nail until the final two dress-rehearsals; as if your mind possesses the same blazing hot competitive fire the best professional athletes are known for. The fire that dictates that, when the moment is crucial and everything they’ve ever worked for falls upon their shoulders and a single, solitary moment, they come through seemingly effortlessly.

I’m talking about the rush of casual, sweet conversations with the beautiful dancers backstage. The casual jokes about the week or the way the assistant stage-manager looks “adorable” running across the stage. The joy of dancing with people. Of doing something that at times can be so solitary but is inherently social, even to the point that you know you never actually dance alone, even if you have a solo, because people in the wings and people around you love what you do because you do it.

In such a competitive world, that’s a beautifully dissonant concept. And it’s one I’ve been so blessed, to the point of being spoiled, to be a part of.

On April 1st, I woke up and realized how bitterly sad it was that I only had these two, and next year’s two, Springdance performances left. I woke up and realized that, ok fine, these things have to end eventually. Time, after all, waits for no one. But damn it if that means I have to stop performing, or at least stop trying to.

Because here’s the thing: Such sadness, matched with the joy of making so many friends through rehearsals and short conversations, can overwhelm the heart. It can do so to the extent that you realize you need to change how you live because of how special it all is.

Even if it changes, even if what we feel is just the naiveté of college dance and in the real world it changes to the point of being totally unrecognizable, the very fact that it existed at all makes it worth seeking for all eternity. Makes it worth fighting for for all eternity.

Makes it worth creating anew in the case it has gone extinct or been forgotten.

In a way, I suppose that’s what Love is, isn’t it?

I guess what I mean to say is simply this: I want to dance for the rest of my life. Not just as something that supports my running-life, but maybe even professionally.

And I know my dancing peers would say that might be a bit “ambitious,” maybe outright “insane.” I get that, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against me. All I’ve got is passion, the desire to work hard, and some of the best friends and teachers on the planet who are willing to put up with my inexperience and help me mosey along.

Yet so many have told me they disagree that I’m “wasting my time.” So many have told me to go for it, from those I have known closely to those that I haven’t known at all but who I have still bounced questions off of randomly (like I did to one former professional-ballerina who lives in the Boston area). I get it; I’m not a great dancer yet. I started old (at age 24). I’m a dude in a girls’ sport. Hell, I’m a straight dude in a predominantly girls’ sport, which can make things even more complicated. There’s a lot to navigate both socially and physically (as an athlete). I have so far to go to get to any professionally-respectable level.

But when I woke up that morning, I realized that what we’ve done, and what we were doing, and what we did, were all I wanted from life.

So I’ve spent the last few days contemplating. Now, I’m ready to say it:

I’m going to get good.

Not only will I keep dancing, I’m going to push myself athletically and make that my focus so that maybe one day, I’ll be good, or, even crazier, “great.” And, by “great,” I mean good enough that I can land a low-level gig performing. Certainly teaching, but maybe even performing.

If nothing else though, I’ll never stop auditioning. My love and passion for it, my unquenchable craving for it that I can’t restrain, won’t allow it.

Athletically, I’ve always been a long-distance runner first. Today, I’m announcing that I’m going to change that up and become a dancer first, and a runner second. Not because I don’t like running, and not because I don’t love runners, because I love both.

But my soul burns with icy desire to be a better dancer, to help those dancers around me, to inspire the world that way.

I was put on this earth to tell stories. I can serenade everyday citizens with my poetry and can seduce poets into reading long writing segments with my prose.

Now though, I want to learn to do it with movement as well. I always did, but the other day, I learned that this is inescapable, and, because it is, I need to give it absolutely all priority outside of my writing, even to the point of sacrificing my emphasis in something I’m good at, like running.

So perhaps I should reintroduce myself. I am Shelton Matthew Burch. I am a Writer, and I am an aspiring Tap Dancer.

I train to be the best storyteller and athlete possible, both through writing and dance. Athletically, I choose to be a dancer first. To support and thrive at running, but to use it to support the endurance needed to dance so that I might inspire the world not just with my words but with my movements. I strive to become as flexible and strong as an olympic-level athlete, but with the endurance of a competitive half-marathoner.

And, above all, I seek to glorify God through my excellence in both. This is what I chase. This is how I serve, and this is who I will be. 🙂

Have a great day everyone. 🙂