Korean Shaman

Korean ShamanNotes from  the field...


Elsie Ivancich Dunin

Danielle J. Van Dobben

Renee Noelle Meiffren

Pegge Vissicaro

"Notes from the Field" spotlights articles, photos, drawings and observations as seen by researchers as they travel and work throughout the world... We hope to give you an insider's view of field studies via reports sent to CCDR.

The first "in process" field reports are from Vice President of the CCDR Board, Elsie Ivancich Dunin, followed by members Danielle J. Van Dobben, Pegge Vissicaro and Renee Noelle Meiffren.  As they become available, additional reports will be added.


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REPORTS by Renee Noelle Meiffren

(Click on title to view report)

Studies at the Rudra-Bejart School of Dance, Lausanne, 2000-2002

Renee Meiffren's biographical information (click here).


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Sun, May 13, 2001

Dear Renee - Greetings!

We at CCDR would like to include some of your wonderful e-mail letters as part of the link on the CCDR web site that we call "Notes from the Field."  Is that okay with you?   Joann

Sun, 13 May 2001

Yeah! The letters are a great idea!  Renee


[Note by E. Dunin:

After her arrival in Lausanne, Switzerland at the Rudra Bejart School of Dance, on a two-year scholarship, Renee en Suisse wrote open letters to her family, friends and colleagues almost weekly, beginning in the Fall of 2000.

The following reports are redacted from a range of information about her experiences with the art of dancing at the school and with performances in Switzerland, France and Italy .  Only glimpses are included here of her nearly two-year sequence of classes.  Her writings reflect an excitement of mind/body learning with new movement experiences, and we see her grow as a dancer, as a performing artist, and as a maturing self-reflecting person.  The staff at CCDR rejoices in Renee's insightful impressions about dance and cultures through her dancing experiences at the school, studying with internationally esteemed choreographers and teachers principally in the dance performance world.  We sense her potential as a dancer/performer through her articulate verbal expressions.  The first letter comes to us in October, 2000 shortly after she arrives to begin her two-year scholarship at the Rudra Bejart School of Dance.  Those of us with a passion for dance and dancing, relive our own excitements through Renee's well expressed experiences in the field.]


Mon, 02 Oct 2000

We've been rehearsing like crazy for the performance at CERN in Geneva on the 9th of October.  I will be in a piece called "Arepo" that was choreographed for the Paris Opera and also in the piece called "Honky Cat" to Elton John. I will also be singing Mozart's "Marche alla turca" with the second years and I am gonna also play the drums in the finale! Tomorrow Bejart comes back from the London tour so he is going to watch us and give us feedback. Everyone is excited and nervous. Michel (the director) said that we are performing in a facility that is the size of two football fields.

Sat, 14 Oct 2000

The performance at CERN went so well. I really love Bejart so much, his works liberate you. You feel content to be a human being when dancing, and it's almost like when you're onstage, you are alive in the truest sense. You're aware of all that's around you and completely relaxed in the movement's beauty. I loved it!

The stage was incredible! Michel was the one who designed it -- it had ramps and fantastic rows of sidelights. On top of that, while we were performing you could see us dance on the screens hanging from the ceiling on either side of the stage. Each one was

about half the size of a movie screen! Then in the front of the risen stage were three smaller screens. It was vachement geniale!! :)

When we arrived, the gendarmerie was there, to say the least, security was tight. There were 25 chiefs of state there as well as 900 invitees. They were there for the presentation of the atomic discoveries and experiments of the past year. It was a huge event! Anyway, we were the cherry on the cake.

We did Arepo, Guy's classical piece, Claire's solo (also from Arepo -- it was made for Sylvie Guillem!), then I sang with the second years in Mozart's Marche alla Turca with movement and drama -- it was soooo much fun!, then it was Honky Cat and I had the wonderful honor of being center for most of it! That's a great piece! I love dancing to Elton John!, then after that it was the guy's piece called Les Patineurs where they (to the surprise of the audience) yell onstage!, and then the second years did a modern piece that was gorgeously choreographed by my teacher, and we all finished with Percussion and rocked the house with our South American rhythms! After the performance Bejart had us all surround him and he told us that he was very happy with our work.

Mon, 23 Oct 2000

All is well here in the land of Bejart . We are starting the new pieces, for the girls it's the incredibly exquisite work Don Giovanni and for the guys it's, that's right, the great Sacre du Printemps. What a genius! The steps are so musical that you don't hear the music anymore, you see it -- it lives. It's incredible. Anyway, we started African Dancing and that is a true blast. You just have to go for it, relax and dive in. It's really hard, but it's great fun. The music is also closely knit with the dancing it almost feels like the music pushes you to move. Kendo is also fun, we started with one on one combat (don't worry we have armor) -- one of the first times that I tried it, the teacher's assistant told me not to worry because it's okay to die in Kendo (you just gain a point for the other).

Here's my biggest news of all, in Don Giovanni I was chosen to be the Sylphide ballerina who is a symbol of love, purity, innocence and the literary and imaginary feminin ideal. (That's a mouthful!). 

         I also heard that in the year 2001, we will be receiving courses in INDIAN DANCING!!!! and will be performing Hamlet after studying with an actor from the Royal Shakespeare Company!

My technique in ballet is getting better and better each day, it seems to be maturing with me, becoming more whole as I become more whole. Needless to say I love it here.

Mon, 06 Nov 2000

Well, everything is great. I just made it through an extremely intense week of Classical, Modern, African, Voice, Kendo and Rehearsals for Don Giovanni. Unfortunately our last African class was yesterday, I will miss it!! Anyway, we are going full force with rehearsals for the next performance which will be in CERN in Geneva again.

The last week before the performance we will have a choreographic workshop at the end of which we will create our own piece and perform it -- I wonder what it will be like!


Mon, 13 Nov 2000

Well, this week was intense; Classique, Modern, Percussion, Voice, Kendo and rehearsals. Yesterday I was asked to be one of three from the first year class to learn a new choreography for one of the solos from Don Giovanni. We are also working on the piece called "59 to 1" which is to California Punk music from the early 80s -- its really fun. It was great, we had Bejart in rehearsal for four days and I think that we will have him again next week. He is like a painter and an engineer at the same time, he fixes problems and constructs works in such a way that it makes perfect sense, and is also beautiful.

Oh, for voice we began a work by Bizet which is just exquisite!

Mon, 20 Nov 2000

Well, the first December performance at CERN in Geneva is going to be on the fourth. Rehearsals are intense and so are the classes. The best part of the week was when Michel Gascard told me that I've made fantastic (he actually used that word!) progress with opening myself up and with relaxation. That has been something that I have been working extremely hard on. Anyway, my Sylphide rehearsals for Don Giovanni are going very well, it's really fun because I appear and then disappear, then appear from another place and disappear again. It's super cool (that's actually something that French kids say, only it sounds like supaircule). We are now having Classical for 1h45m-2h, Modern for 2h, Choreography and Improvisation for 2h, Voice for 45m, and Rehearsals for 2-3h. It's a concentrated schedule but I really am feeling prepared for the rest of my life.

Mon, 27 Nov 2000

We have added, on top of the two new pieces (Don Giovanni and the Sacre du Printemps), a song by Bizet as well as Kendo (martial arts). The duration of our program went from thirty minutes to an hour and a half! We've been working so hard, I can't wait to experience the result.

Mr. Bejart is in the hospital because of knee surgery but he should be back soon. The company returns tomorrow, I love it when they're here.

You know what! I went club dancing for the first time last night. It was so much fun. We were definitely the most relaxed dancers there. We actually did a lot of the moves that we learned in African and from the Bejart choreography. It was really cool.

Sat, 02 Dec 2000

Well, we begin rehearsal tomorrow at the Arena for the December 5th performance. This Arena is supposed to be gigantic, I can't wait to see it.  I got my beautiful Sylphide costume (it even has wings and a flower crown) from Paris two days ago. It is gorgeous!

Christmas decorations have gone up all around the city, it's really beautiful. Have you started getting ready for Christmas yet?

Wed, 06 Dec 2000

The performance was yesterday and it was just incredible!!!! It was in the Geneva ARENA. There was a wall that was covered with autographs of people who had been there performing. There was; Eric Clapton, Sting, AC/DC, Lenny Cravitz, Celine Dion and lots of French stars. This was the very first dance performance there. We danced for about 2,000 people, the back rows had to be at least three or four stories high -- it was just immense!!! And did they ever love the show!!!! At the end we got five or six, maybe even more, curtain calls. They gave a standing ovation, hooting and hollering and stomping their feet. It was just awesome!

There were representatives from UNESCO and other major world organizations at the performance, and not only did they love us, but they want to see us again! They invited us to perform in the same place in January or February!

The program itself was awesome, the first thing we did was come out doing flips, cartwheels and other acrobatic feats. After that, we sang, we danced (of course, and the people just adore Bejart's works), we did Kendo, and did our percussion number at the end. I really feel like Bejart's works and his vision are a celebration of life, and we had the party of a lifetime.

I am so happy to be doing what I'm doing, what a gift to humanity this man is.

Mon, 11 Dec 2000

We had a giant project for improv, we had to choreograph and improvise our souls. The project was, "I look into my soul and what am I? What do I see?". It was very difficult because you really had to be honest or it just didn't work. We had to do it in front of everyone, after seeing some of those improvs I feel like I know the person better. I think that doing things like that are really going to bring us closer together. Anyway, this man was outstanding. He made us realize what we can really give to an audience when we are honest in all that we do. We can remind them that they are not alone, and that there is love in each of us. We can remind people of their humanity.

    I am very excited for the performance coming up on the 17th!!!!!! (It will be in Lausanne at the Metropole Theatre) Bejart will be in the audience -- I can't wait!

Mon, 08 Jan 2001

Hi!!! I hope that you enjoyed your Christmas and New Year's!! I had a wonderful time with

This week we got back on the 3rd and it's wonderful to be dancing again. We have the great Myra back for Modern, what a treat!! She really wants what's best for all of us! Ballet is going GREAT!! We had Michel Gascard the whole week and next we have a lady coming to teach the girls (classique and pointe) so I'm curious! We started a five week workshop with Richard Hallo from the Royal Shakespeare Company this week. We will be doing Hamlet (in English) but we are studying both the English and the French versions. I am really learning how to really feel what I am doing instead of showing what I am feeling. (Basic necessity to good acting).

Mon, 08 Jan 2001

Everything is fantastic here!! I will, however, need funding for next year. There has to be a way!! It's really frustrating with the big companies who have so much to give but can't. I have been doing lots of research on loans, which will not work because my school is not an accredited college or university and it won't work under professional school because the loan company has to have a relationship with the school in order for it to work. I asked my teacher if she knew of any companies in the States (she's a Graham teacher from New York) or in Switzerland who are willing to give to individuals and she said she will see what she can come up with. I really love it here!!!!! I really could not be in a better place right now, for my dancing and for my personal development, there has to be a way! There are so many people out there trying to find a good place to put their money, and I think helping someone out with their future is one of the best ideas out there! We just have to find them! So far, I have about enough to finish the year, but it's the second year that I need help with.

We work out a budget that is about (at most) $500 per month, just to give you an idea.

Mon, 15 Jan 2001

I had a very good and positive week this week. The teacher from the Paris Opera (ex-dancer, and ex-teacher there) was very kind with me. She told me that I work very well and she really is pleased with my technique.  Theater is going very well, we might do a performance of the play inside the play in "Hamlet". I love Shakespeare, what an absolute genius! We started Vivaldi's "Gloria" in voice! It is gorgeous! It will be part of our first voice presentation in front of Mr. Bejart. Modern is going extremely well. Myra is very happy with the progress of my class, and she said that she might even choreograph something for us this year. Bejart has begun a new piece that is just incredible. It is to French music (I don't remember the singer's name) and it is called "Lumiere" or light.

I feel like I'm beginning to settle in. I'm trying to get to know people and the place where I live. It's fun and scary at the same time.

Mon, 22 Jan 2001

It was a very good week with Classical and Pointe (the lady who used to teach and dance at the Paris Opera), Modern (Myra wants to show my class specifically to Maurice), Theatre (we will perform an excerpt of Hamlet at a High School in a week and a half -- I am an evil nurse :) ), Percussion (we will add bits of percussion to the play), Voice (Vivaldi's Gloria and a piece by Verdi), and Kendo (intense combat and meditative exercises). In short, it was a GREAT week!

It was the lady from Paris' last day yesterday.  She told me that she thought that I had a very pure and musical way of working, and that she thinks that things are gonna really work out well for me in the future. I thought that was soooo neat!!!  

I snuck into the Prix de Lausanne this morning with a few of my friends. It's a lot different when looking from the outside in! I talked to the lady who taught me there last year -- she was very kind with me. She offered me a scholarship to Jacob's Pillow, but I can't take it because it's in June.

Mon, 05 Feb 2001

Saturday was the performance of Hamlet at this really nice middle school theater, it was a real theater -- very high tech and beautiful. We did excerpts from the major sections, almost all in English (everyone did a great job with the language). I was in the play inside the play as an evil nurse. I really learned how to resonate and to get voice from down deep, it's such a powerful feeling. I love acting, and I really think that that is a huge part of my career. In Bejart's work, that is what you do. You explore the many facets of theater and acting. You find new and interesting ways to tell a story and connect with people. What a wonderful profession this is!

Next week we begin rehearsals for the March performance right outside of Paris. It's gonna be like one big party, with the traveling and everything. You really celebrate life here, but it is a lot of hard work. The harder you work, the more benefits are received by you and your dancing.

Mon, 12 Feb 2001

I was chosen, with five other girls, to learn a FABULOUS solo called "La Ballerine". It is wonderfully musical and technically challenging (two double attitude en dehors en pointe). On the video Lynne Charles is performing it and at the end, she does a triple attitude en dehors instead of a double!

The ballet that we will perform in Paris tells the story of the relationship between Petipa and Tchaikovsky. It's called "Souvenir de Leningrad" and was performed by the Kirov and some of the Bejart guest artists, like my teacher Michel Gascard.

All is going well. Modern is great, we might be in a new piece for the May performances in Lausanne! That would be really fun! Graham technique makes so much sense, and it is really a very pure way of moving with all the power starting in the torso, the center. Once you apply that to ballet, you can really do anything.

Singing is great too. We are singing excerpts from Vivaldi's Gloria as well as two Italian songs and one part of Bach's Magnificat which is MAGNIFICENT!!! Esurientes Implevit Bonis , it is called.

We are studying improv and stage arts with a woman named Kyra Karkarevitch who used to dance in the company. She is the wife of the really famous dancer, Gil Roman. So far we have been listening to everyday noises like a zipper or a door opening and we have to express the sound, with precision, through our bodies. Eventually it will be a choreography that will be very interesting, I think. She said something that I wanted to share with you, she said that what tends to set dancers apart as artists are two things: precision and musicality. I think she is absolutely right. That is exactly what you said too Mrs. Adams. Thank you!

Mon, 19 Feb 2001

I am an understudy in part of a pas de six and the solo from heaven "La Ballerine". It is very fun! Classes are great -- we started rehearsing the modern piece for the Lausanne performance of May 19th and 20th.

Mon, 26 Feb 2001

I had the luck of being chosen to learn four new pieces. I am understudying all but just to learn them is an honor. I got to perform them, with others, yesterday for Mr. Bejart. I hope he enjoyed it, I certainly did. I was chosen to perform as one of four couples in very classical pas de deux, (with a really cute Napolitano named Alessandro) Honky Cat as well as dancing in the Modern piece, singing (I think Vivaldi's Gloria), drumming and acting as a player in Hamlet. I am very excited! As far as I know Bejart will work intensively with the school for the next ten days to help prepare our show in Paris (right outside of Paris) the 16th of March.

Mon, 02 Apr 2001

I'm so sorry that I haven't written for a while.  We kept on having Sundays off instead of Mondays, so the computer place wasn't open. We then had our incredible performance in Verneuil right outside of Paris and then a week off.  

We had an outstanding performance with new pieces, old pieces, modern, singing and Hamlet. The performance was sold out three months in advance and it was very successful. Anyway, now school has begun again and we have; ballet (my teacher wants to coach me and another girl in his sister's, Maya Plisetskaya's, version of Don Quixote), modern (wonderful), INDIAN DANCING (outstanding), voice (I am working on a Bach Cantata, Rossini, and Ophelia's Song, Hamlet) and Kendo (interesting). We have another performance in Lausanne on the 28th of April to benefit the children's hospital, I am sooooooooooo excited.

Mon, 09 Apr 2001

This week we begin our workshop of COMEDIA DELL'ARTE. It is also our last week of Indian Dancing :( I love it so much. A group of us actually went to see a performance of our EXTREMELY handsome Indian dance professor. It was in Geneva, but we got a really good deal on train fare and the tickets so we went and had a blast. It was really unbelievable, Nundren which means King of Human Beings, dancing alone for two hours. He had one solo that was thirty minutes long, it was fantastic. I love Indian Dancing, I can't describe it in words.

Anyway, I have more news. Azari Plissetski, my Classical ballet teacher asked me and two other students (both second years) to learn the two solos from Don Quixote First Act. That's not all...they are the official Maya Plissetskaya versions -- she happens to be HIS SISTER!!!!  So, I learned them and they are wonderful! He also brought a video of her doing one of them in the early sixties, and boy was she way ahead of her time! So, we are going to rehearse them and he said we MIGHT show them to Maurice -- wouldn't that be GREAT!!!!  I feel so honored!

Modern is going extremely well, we are doing things in her class that first years usually are not able to do and Myra is very happy. I had no idea what an outstanding lady Martha Graham was; if you can, you should read her autobiography and see some videos of her work, she was a real revolutionary.

Bejart is getting ready for the opening of his new piece Lumiere set to Bach's Magnificat and French music like Jacques Brel and others. It is OUT OF THIS WORLD!! And my Modern teacher, Myra will be in it, and she is unbelievable. You should see his dancers, they really can do ANYTHING!!

Our next performance will be here in Lausanne at the end of April and then we go to Avignon on the 7th of June. After that it is Geneva on the 22nd and 26th. I am so thrilled!

Mon, 23 Apr 2001

Yesterday I found out that we will do a presentation performance for Comedia Del'Arte (Italian theatre) and I have been cast as one of the Lovers.

This week we had our first real voice presentation in front of all my teachers and the rest of the students. I was nervous because a week before the performance my voice changed from Soprano to Mezzo. My voice teacher had to lower the parts that I sang by myself. I couldn't believe it but she chose me and two other girls to sing a solo, "Ophelia's Song" from Hamlet.

Mon, 30 Apr 2001

We just had our performance for the Children with AIDS Foundation, it was a serious blast. I love to perform, especially Bejart because you find this sense of unbelievable freedom, like an explosion. In this performance we did the wonderful Modern piece that went really well, our Bejart repertory (Lesson of Marius Petipa, Honky Cat) we sang Toast for the New Year followed by ten minutes of outstanding percussion. I think we blew the audience away! Bejart was in the audience and I saw him back stage. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and said "Bien, bien!". Needless to say it was a wonderful evening. And I got to wear my Versace unitard -- what a night!

Mon, 07 May 2001

I am thrilled because I have been cast in a piece in which lots of different couples dance to old Provencale music, called "La Mer". We started working on the Comeddia Dell'Arte for the performance on the 19th of Mai (with the company!!!!). We have also begun preparation for the performance in Avignon for the TGV Mediterranean which will be in front of 6,000 people (including the President of France!)-- I am not joking! That will be on the 7th of June. We then have a performance in Lausanne, one in Geneva and then one in Genoa , Italie on the 15th of July (that will also be with the company). Then....I come HOME!!!! I will be in Arizona until the end of August!

Mon, 14  May 2001

I am loving my school! It has been wonderful, the Lausanne season for Bejart Ballet has just started. I get to sell programs at every performance for two weeks. That means that I get a FREE seat to every performance. ( a $90 value per night - free!!) They finished a first week of performances yesterday. They performed "Le Presbytere..." which is also called "Ballet for Life". It is a ballet about AIDS, Freddy Mercury (of Queen) and the incredible dancer Jorge Donn who both died of AIDS,  fate, death and the beauty of loving and living. What an outstanding program. I have never seen an audience so thrilled after a ballet. I am so lucky to have experienced such a thing. So, next they will perform "La Route de la Soie", "Bolero"!!!!!, and the new piece "Lumiere" to French music and Bach's Magnificat (it's magnificent). The school will be performing in two of the performances with them. Needless to say, we have been working really hard! We added the Indian dancing to our program. This is a dance with drum sticks so we dance and make rhythms at the same time. I am one of twenty students chosen to be in it! I am also very excited because we have two casts for Honky Cat and I am the only student who is in both! I love that piece! Oh!! For the pas de deux piece that I am in with three other couples, I get to wear a tutu. It is really cute, simple and white.

Mon, 28 May 2001

It's almost the end of school!  Our performances with the company went EXTREMELY well. The audience went crazy after we finished, it was an amazing experience! I got to see David, my modern teacher, again. He came all the way from New York to see the performance, it was awesome!

In a week we leave for Avignon. We will dance for the opening festival of the TGV Mediterranean (the new line that will go from Marseille or Avignon to Madrid or Rome ).  Apparently after our percussion finale, there will be fire works, and for one of our dance pieces there will be FLAMES at 30 meters high. There will be 6,000 people in the audience, including the president of France and the top guy of Germany. I am thrilled!!

Mon, 11 Jun 2001

We performed in Avignon for 5,000 people and the wife of Jacques Chirac (the president of France). He was there, he gave a speech but left before the performance began because of security reasons. It was soooooooooo awesome -- the stage was outside in the middle of the desert next to the TGV railway. It was fantastic to dance outside with the breeze, the sun and the moon. We didn't start rehearsals until about six everyday because of the heat, so we took class in the morning and the rest of the daytime we discovered Avignon a bit.

The performance went EXTREMELY well, the audience loved it! After our percussion finale, there  were the fireworks. What a work of ART!!! The fireworks were like an entire ballet, it was out of this world. They were done by the same man who did the year 2000 celebration at the Eiffel Tower .

Mon, 18 Jun 2001

We had wonderful rehearsals for a new piece that is danced all together (for the performance in Geneva). It is excellent choreography (Bejart) with excellent music by Stravinsky. It is really fun. Bejart  always does incredible group works, great energy with very musical movement. We had 2 hour ballet classes with Michel Gascard all this week. He really helps you to understand your body and why you do what you do. (You know Mrs. Adams, he says exactly the same things that you do.)    

On Sunday we have the day off, and it's my birthday! My friends and I might go dancing, that would be really fun!

Mon, 17 Sep 2001

It has been difficult for us watching what is happening back home. I feel such a need to go and help but I think the most that I can do is produce positive energy through my dancing.

I do have possible good news...I may be going to Paris with the company!!!! It isn't for sure but I heard through the grapevine that I have a good chance. I will continue to work hard and take it as an honor that I am even considered. If I am chosen, I will be doing delicious East Indian dancing movement to Bach's Magnificat and then to African Drumming. This is all a part of Bejart's brilliant new piece called "Lumiere". It will be performed at the Palais de Congres. It is not sure yet that I am in it, so we'll see.  

I am so lucky to study here. I have the opportunity to find myself, the artist, the person, before I enter my life as a dancer. This is the year that I put myself out there in auditions. It is scary and exciting and we'll see what happens. It is the beginning of the rest of my life...thank goodness I have been exposed to the vision of Mr. Bejart. He gives love back to the world and with that he realizes the dreams of every true artist.

Tue, 09 Oct 2001

Paris was a dream come true. The city, the performances, the ballet classes -- all was top quality. This is truly a world class company. Everything worked like clock work. The technicians, the costume people, the dancers and Bejart all worked together to create serious magic. We had the train at 7:14 am and upon our arrival we were taken to our hotel (that was at minimum $110 per night). Then were taken directly to the theater for a rehearsal. The next day we had class followed by a costumed rehearsal, followed by a costume/makeup rehearsal (which finished around 10:30 pm ). Then everyday after that we had class at either 3:30 or 4:00 (excellent classes taught by past dancers of the company) followed by corrections from the night before, followed the performance from 8:30 - 10:30 . We would get back to the hotel at about 11:30.

I was so excited each night that I didn't go to bed until 1:30 or 2:30 am . I would usually wake up around 7:00 am . I walked around Paris all day long. I saw Montmartre (Sacre Coeur) I saw the outside of the Louvre (the lines are soooooo long!) I saw a little of the Garden of Tuileries , the Bastille, the Seine and the City Hall. One of my favorite moments was when all eight of us went to the weekend market at Bastille. We all bought fresh bread, roasted chicken, tomatoes, grapes and drinks and went and had a picnic in the grass, right next to a fountain at the Place des Vosges (the old house of Victor Hugo). It was a lovely day with blue sky and great conversation.      

The performances went so well. There was one moment where I did a grand-jete and the top of my crop top came down a little too low. Luckily I exited right after so it really wasn't a big deal. Being up there with this company and this wonderful man, making people feel good about who they are, was a wonderful experience. I felt like I was one of Shakespeare players. It was excellent.    

Oh, at the hotel we stayed a few doors down from the Alvin Ailey Company -- it was so cool to pass them in the halls. We didn't get to see them though because we performed on the same days.

Nov. 22, 2001

We are having lots of pointe classes, modern/Graham repertoire and singing. This is all in preparation for a presentation to Bejart for the December performances.     I have news, I was chosen as one of six to learn the solo from "Two Pigeons." It isn't the Frederick Ashton version, it's from even before that. Claude Bessy let us borrow a rare videotape of Yvette Chauvire coaching Marie-Claude Pietragalla in the variation. It is a gorgeous solo with the dancer as a Gypsy character, flirtatious and fiery. Azari (my ballet teacher -- brother to Maya Plissetzkaya) said that we might have a corps dancer from the Paris Opera come and coach us. That would be sensational.   

With all the work that I am doing in every area there is one very important lesson that I am learning. What separates the ordinary artist from an extraordinary artist? It's the interior: the soul, and the RESONANCE of the soul through the active use of the  center. This seems a quieter approach, but it is more potent and more true, more human. In dancing, this means less gesture, less artifice, less obvious emotion -- more honesty, use of the center (abdominals and chest) and more internal acting. The use of the eyes, of the breath and of the music become central. The dance is most brilliant and most serving when you apply the self to it. The self being the real true, human you. Otherwise, dance is dead: robotic and it ceases to be art. What it looks like is one thing, but what it FEELS like, is another. When you enhance the beauty of dance with real human breath and life that is when it speaks and serves the world as a true art.

I wish you all a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Mon, 26 Nov 2001  

I am so excited! I have been chosen as one of three girls to work directly with Bejart. He is choreographing a solo for the Gala performance in December. It is a pas de deux with a single ballet barre on pointe. The music is outstanding. It is a mix of calming electronic music with ocean, and birds. It is a story of a woman who is lost in the ocean (or in her mind) and finds something stable, something concrete (the barre) and it saves her (like finding a piece of wood).

He choreographed it on us Saturday and Sunday. He is INCREDIBLE!!!! He is a painter and a poet. He has such imagination. And he doesn't just tell you what to do and you do it, no, you have to be a part of his world. You have to tune in to that atmosphere, that dimension that he is cultivating and become a part of it. You are on the tip of your toes the whole time, literally. :) With Bejart, he asks you to go beyond. He said that it isn't just dance, it is THEATER. You have to make the audience believe. He said that with us, what we have to work on most is the change of psychology. How do I feel at this moment, how does my energy change when I am at this part of the space, stage. He said also we work on dividing the human being from the dancer. There is a moment for each in the piece. We are also learning that dance is REALLY acting with the body. It isn't just using your face to act, but it is to express fear, love, etc THROUGH AND IN YOUR ENTIRE BODY: It is to let the knowledge and experience of those emotions and realities tinkled down from your mind and face into the body allowing it to express itself and manifest itself in your instrument and THROUGH your technique and human actions.

Being a dancer here is a dream because you use EVERY part of yourself. You use not only your dancing skills, but your life experience, your love, your power, your family, your friends, what you've read, what you've seen of the world, what you've learned from just being a human being. It is so complete, so challenging, so exhilarating -- it is why I came. The choreography feels wonderful in the body, the pointe work is gorgeous and the story rich and interesting. What an honor...

Dec. 10, 2001

We are preparing for the big performances. It is thrilling and believe me, the pressure is ON.

I have great news...I was chosen to be in the group of girls performing in the "Two Pigeons." It is the solo choreographed on the great French ballerina, Yvette Chauvire. It is very classical and very feminine. In this variation I get the chance to play Gypsy which is something I really love. I don't feel like a little girl in this variation, I feel like a fiery, passionate woman -- I like it. I am dancing it with four other girls and each time we do it I feel our energy to be stronger and stronger. We will perform at the birthday Gala of the 23rd December. It is such an honor to be able to give this great man a gift in this way.    

All is well here -- rehearsals left and right, learning something new every second, good conversation,  difficult rehearsals, learning how to deal with people in positive and negative situations and learning to be detached, to take in what you need and let go of what you don't.   

 It is my preparation for the rest of my life -- if this is just the introduction, I am both intrigued, scared and delighted to find out how my life will manifest itself in the future. I hope that it is full of color, adventure, love and the overcoming of fears and difficulties. We are all warriors in a sense but we must first conquer ourselves before we help and protect others. I think my personal voice and direction are shaping rapidly here and I am so excited to see how I can use them to do a little good in the world. 

Mon, 21 Jan 2002

Well I have some pretty darn exciting news...I am auditioning for Bejart's NEW company the week of the 28th. He says he wants to put together a new ensemble comprised of 12 to 15 dancers who will dance his new creation (that he will create on them). This company will tour Europe and maybe the world. He says he would like this creation to be a mix of ballet, theater, singing and acrobatics. There are 24 of us from the school who were chosen to audition. This audition (beginning at the end January) is each person going one by one presenting a solo that they produced themselves. We can choose whatever music we like and the movements that we like. He says he wants to see our IMAGINATION. He says he can't have dancers that raise an arm or a leg because they are told to. He says he wants people that give something in return and aid in the creative process by being present and mindful. I chose a very special song by Bob Dylan sung by Joan Osborne called "To make you feel my love." I actually cut out section of it so that I can sing it and the rest I will dance. I am very excited because I will be able to express myself movement wise in a way I have always dreamed of. And yes, it is on pointe -- I just can't live without my pointe shoes.

I was also asked by William from Brazil to choreograph a Pas de 2 with him. We started yesterday and it was like MAGIC. Ideas flowing, bouncing off each other -- it was exhilarating!! That one we are dancing to Aretha Franklin's "I ain't never loved a man the way that I love you". So, needless to say, I am so excited and anxious to see what happens with all of this.

Mon, 28 Jan 2002

...getting ready for the big solo showing, aaah! I have mine completed, I dance for half and sing for half. I really feel good in it so we'll see what happens. It should be this week that it is shown. It will be two or three people per day.

I never told you guys about Maya Plissetskaya's Aunt. She was very kind with me. She complimented me on my training -- which was thrilling and an honor. She was a very small lady of 93 years. She told us mostly to turn out. She said you can't be a dancer if you don't turn out, it's the way to find assured stability. What I enjoyed most about her coming to teach was watching HER while we did the exercises. It was as if she was dancing through us. It was as if she became young again, the joy, the romantic movements of the arms, the sparkle in the eye all rushed back to her as if it was she who was dancing. It was beautiful.

This past week we also had acrobatics (scary). The funniest thing happened: we were learning front walk overs (I think that's what they are called) and I couldn't get it. I am scared and it's difficult to know what the heck my body's doing when I am upside down. But, Valerie said something about the relationship between the back and the foot that really made sense, so I kept it in mind. After that, we went into cartwheels (which is about the only thing I can do). So, I was relaxed, did a cartwheel, turned to do another one and I did a front walk over instead!!! I had never done one in my life and I suddenly did one perfectly by mistake. Everyone was laughing, I was bewildered and the first thing that came out my mouth was "I did it!" It was a really bizarre situation. But you know, the body knows more than we think. It's when we stop trying to control it so much that it actually does what we want it to. So that was my little miracle.

Mon, 04 Feb 2002

I had a very difficult week. I was injured (lower back) for the first time in a serious way. I think I did it in acrobatics because I am not used to doing that kind of thing. I missed a whole week of school and got really sad. But then I looked at the whole thing from a different angle (with the help of my parents). I took it as an opportunity to discover what life is really all about, how to take care of myself and not care what others think of me in the process. At first I felt so guilty for not being able to take class but now  I have learned to acknowledge that I really must take care of my own happiness, do what's best for me and take care of my body. What's more is I got really lonely and felt sorry for myself. I don't want to feel that way. I want to be someone who produces love and joy so I can give it to others and it's not going to happen like that. So, I came to the realization that true happiness comes from loving others and being loved in return. My friends and family are the most important thing. So, I am going through a personal revolution right now. I am trying to be more social, really getting to know my friends and you know...my back is not hurting as much as when I felt so alone. The happiness and the positive attitude has honestly sped up the healing process. I feel more relaxed and ready to work with this new found joy and purpose. The cultivation of happiness within yourselves and sharing that with others is really what makes life worth living. So with this injury I have a newfound gratitude for my body, my art and most of all the people I am surrounded with. I am not alone and I was never alone, I was just shy and afraid. It's amazing what beautiful things can happen when you embrace your fears.

So, I will take care of myself, take my time to heal and hopefully this week I will be showing my solo to Mr. Bejart! I think that this experience has upped the artistic quality of what will be shown. I am scared as heck, but knowing that I have such a wonderfully supportive group of people standing right beside makes me feel courageous enough to do it.

Mon, 11 Feb 2002

At this moment I am going through a really difficult and challenging time in my life. "The winds of change are blowin wild and free..." as Bob Dylan would say. I performed my solo after spending a week on my back. He said that I didn't show anything he didn't already know about me. There wasn't enough dancing and he had been expecting more. He was right. My solo was too sweet, too nice and there wasn't enough dancing.  I had completely misunderstood the project and was really embarrassed. My solo was more sentimental than anything else. Apparently he had wanted to see more passion, more fire, more strength. What I had choreographed had come from such a good place that I really was unpleasantly numbed and thrown back. I asked him if I could redo it and he said yes.

So, now it's time for me to grow up. I spoke to our improvisation teacher Larrio and he told me that Bejart doesn't want polite apologetic people. He says I am too sweet. I need to be more vulgar, more real, more raw. I have the right to feel angry feel strong etc.

But I know that I am a very strong person (or I wouldn't be here). I know I am confident and can stand on my own two feet. In a way I've been hiding behind my sweet apologetic side for far too long. I am very sincere, don't get me wrong. But now it's time to LET people know the side of me that only I (and my parents) know. I've been so afraid to show it for so long for fear of what people would think. But now I know in order to grow and find my personal freedom I must let myself go. I am of course still my same person, but just more confident and more honest with myself about what I feel, the quality of my work and what my problems are. I've been such a perfectionist all my life that I've finally reached that point where if I continue like this I will keep myself from experiencing a happy healthy life. But also, how can I be a complete artist if I keep myself always a little girl? I need to become that person that I've always seen myself being but have been too afraid to show the world. Too afraid of rejection, heart break and being vulnerable. Now's the time to plunge and yesterday I had a genuine breakthrough. It is actually been liberating thus far. So, Friday I will redo my solo and share a part of me with him that I have never really shown anyone else. If for nothing else I will do it for me, my honor and for the sake of self discovery.

I know he believes in me -- he wouldn't have expected more if he didn't believe there was more. He is a good teacher, someone I have tremendous respect for and I want to show him what a difference his school has made in my life. I feel so good and so ready for this change such a life enhancing and necessary step toward ultimate self-realization (personally, artistically). And, even if I don't get accepted into his companies, I know that I have given it my best shot and have opened my eyes to a deeper more honest life experience. So, here I go, I am taking the big leap toward a deeper understanding of myself - it is the beginning of a journey that I am ready to experience.

Mon. Feb 25 2002

I have choreographed a solo that is full of fire, passion, animal and earth. It was inspired by my pain, imagery from poetry that I wrote and Native American folk music (Lakota Sioux). I really identify with the music, it's like they are me singing to be set free. It really comes from the gut.

Anyway, I had the most wonderful contact with a man who came for three weeks. His name is Larrio Ekson and he is an angel. He told me that I need to break free. I need to feel my feelings and not be ashamed. I need to be dynamic and not always the same gentle Renee. He said that in life I will have much pain and for my own sake I need to know how to deal with it. As an artist I need to represent the human experience in its entirety. It is time for me to become a woman. Well, I worked on really going deep inside, feeling less like a student and more like a professional. I worked on feeling  my body in space. Most of all on the way that my head rests on my shoulders. I have a tendency to stick my chin out or up which makes me look naive and childish. If I lift from the back of my neck and align my spine correctly I look confident and in charge. I feel liberated. I feel strong. I feel like anything is possible and I am seeing clearer and clearer everyday. He was very kind with me, very encouraging. He told me to maintain my naturally kind self but add the strength of character that he knows is there, that maturity. He was so nice with me, so honest and he told me that I am going to make it. What wonderful words to hear when you're through trying times like these. So, he really changed my life. He launched me toward my life's work -- really digging deep within and sharing what I find with others through my art. I am free! I am free and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks (because they are the same) :).

As for the solo I am really ready. I took out anything unnecessary, and am left with something that truly expresses me, my state right now and every time I do it I feel a sense of freedom that is overwhelming. I am exposing myself, my strength, my truth and it is a beautiful experience.

So, now here begins my real journey, a journey of self-discovery and a search for truth and beauty. I show the piece on Saturday -- here we go...

Mon, 18 Mar 2002

I know it's been a while. My Mom and all came to visit. It was a very healing and lovely experience. What a blessing it is to have loved ones by your side. I am so very grateful that they came.

On Thursday the Second Years leave for Paris to dance for the President of Senegal and UNESCO at the Pompidou Center . We will do African Dancing, the Rite of Spring and Percussion.

This week was very cool because all the Second Years worked with Bejart. He is having us do Improvisations, Ballet/Pointe work, and exercises of balance to discover our strengths, weaknesses, our concentration and who we are. He wants to become familiar with us before he chooses who he wants for the new group. I learn so much from him, he is an incredible teacher.

Mon, 25 Mar 2002

We just came back from the performance in Paris . It was exactly what I needed. We performed at UNESCO, I don't know exactly who was there but I heard that Jacques Chirac was probably in the audience. The African Dancing was amazing to do onstage. It was just the girls of the second year along with our teacher Assiata. We had live music to top it off.

So, school goes back to normal next week as we prepare our next performance which will be at the Expo 2002. I think that's where all the new inventions for the year make their premier.  AND...This week we should also be hearing who made it into the small company.

Thu, 04 Apr 2002

School is tough but going well. We just found out that we will have 23 performances this summer in Lausanne, all over the south of France, and Italy . I am really excited. So, we finish the week with a presentation of our work in Commeddia del'Arte which has been fantastic. I will be singing an Aria with three other girls (it's actually for sopranos and I'm a mezzo!!!!!). I hope it goes well. Man, I love to sing! Modern is also going well as we prepare a Graham piece called "Secular Games."  It is really dynamic and brilliantly put together.

Sun, 21 Apr 2002

We have begun rehearsals for the performances of summer. We are doing the piece Secular Games of Martha Graham and Mozart from Bejart. They are both very rich pieces, real works of genius.

This week we will have a wonderful ballerina,

Shonach Mirk come and set more works of Bejart on us. She will teach classes and coach us on our work.

In just a couple months we're off to the South of France.  I will be home around the end of July. So, everyone in Arizona, see you soon!

April 28 2002

Well this was a fantastic week. Shonach was delightful. She was friendly and direct as a coach. She is a strong woman who really went deep inside as an artist. It was interesting to get her perspective on the choreography, what was behind it and how she felt. You know what? She knows Sibylle and Donald from Ballet Arizona because they danced together in Zurich. It's such a small world.

This week we go into Performance Mode with rehearsals in every subject. Our first performance will be 19th of May for the World Expo 2002. We will have excerpts from each class all throughout the day.   

I am preparing for my life as a professional, and it's a great place to do it. If you would like a list of our performances, it is posted on the school website: www.bejart-rudra.ch.

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