best in show?

This year, Emory Swing Club once again showed its face at Best In Show. I’d never participated in the event before, but I remember it had been the highlight of the first few days when I was a freshman, so I was pretty excited. Anne asked me at the beginning of summer if I’d help choreograph the piece, and I wholeheartedly agreed…without really realizing what I was getting myself into.

Choreography is hard. I knew that, honestly — I mean, I’ve gotten a little bit of experience from the Flying Biscuits, and I know it’s a challenge. But in that situation, I’ve never been the best dancer, I’ve never had experience choreographing, and I’ve never been expected to think of fantastic moves off the top of my head. I can contribute to choreography, but I have a hard time starting it, and a harder time figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. So this was hard — not only was I the most experienced dancer in the piece, I was also the only one with any sort of choreography or performance experience. There was a lot of pressure.

More than that, I had to choreograph a piece that was comprised almost entirely of six count moves — and considering my love for swingouts and awesome little variations, that was hard! Anne, thankfully, was there to keep me in line and reprimand me when I was planning out a choreography which would be too hard for the level of dancers we had. I was able to convince her that jump charleston, the “tango” move, and a babydoll weren’t too hard…but that was really as complicated as we could get!

Anne and I had two intensive days of choreography during the week, and on Sunday morning, we ran through everything and made sure it work while trying to figure out the counts so we could teach it. That afternoon, we spent four hours teaching the choreography…and I’ve never even taught a group before! Not in a setting like this, where have to teach counts (instead of what I usually say: rock step, step-step, and yeah!) and have to figure out the pace that we can move at. I also don’t quite have the vocabulary necessary to teach the moves that I wanted to teach — I’ve just never had the need to learn it! So, the day was fraught with me trying to get across how to do a move and trying to explain it five different ways before finally, one way clicked. After four hours, we were spent. (More thoughts on teaching another time, if I remember to write it all down.)

That night, I choreographed some more with Matt for our solo, and we kept it simple and fun. And then the next day, Anne ran over the choreography with Koren (the guy?), who hadn’t had the opportunity to learn it the day before. And then the next day, we ran over it a few more times and finally performed it. Talk about your whirlwind choreograph-practice-perform!

I was super nervous that it would be too long / complex for everyone to remember and that we’d all just forget in the middle and run around like chickens with our heads cut off, and then I would be left alone doing some fishtails, boogie forwards, and apple jacks until the end of the song while my teammates cowered in the corner, scared of the 1200-ish freshmen who were booing me off stage…

Thankfully, it actually went quite well. And I have proof!

Some other minor updates:

1. My father is doing much better. He’s moved to the North Fulton Rehab facility, and they’ve said he’ll probably be out by next Thursday. He’s regaining the ability to walk without worrying about balance, and they’re finally figuring out the right dosage for his heart medication, so he feels considerably better.

2. School has started back up. Whoo…? It’s pretty normal. I mean, it’s boring and time-consuming and annoying, and I’d really rather just be working so I could make money, but that’s not gonna happen until after I graduate. So for now, I appreciate that all my teachers are nice and reasonable and that the class subjects actually seem interesting

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the end of the hall deli

So, tomorrow will be day 7 of my sick pagan father in the hospital. Thankfully, there’s a lot of progress being shown. For the most part, Dad’s able to walk, talk, and generally function as normal. Granted, they’ve been fiddling with his medication dosages the last few hours, so he wasn’t feeling the best when I saw him, but they’re working on it.

On Dad’s CaringBridge website, there are over 300 posts and 1500 visits. I mean, wow. And the things that people are saying are…well, astounding. I’ve always known my Dad is a popular, fairly-well-loved man…but the response and support I’ve seen while he’s been sick has been astounding.

The kindness of others is, honestly, impressive. My parents don’t eat the hospital food, for instance — instead, the mothers of the volleyball community have formed a cooking schedule for the next week. My parents eat homemade food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and not just your average food, no. Chicken Pot Pie was the specialty tonight, for example. They have so much food, in fact, that all the left overs go to the nurses and other patients…and they still have enough to talk about opening the “End of the Hall Deli,” where they’ll sell everything for a dollar.

Tomorrow, Dad will probably move to another hospital for his physical therapy as an in-patient. I’m honestly just relieved that he’s clearly doing so much better.

on my sick, hiccupping, pagan father

Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from my mom that I needed to go see my father immediately — she was driving down from Clayton, but she couldn’t get there in time, and he was seriously ill and potentially in need of help. I left work without even telling my boss — just up and walked out. I talked to my aunt, and on my way to her apartment (where he stays during the week), she told me to reroute my GPS to Northside Hospital.

In the morning, my father suffered a stroke. However, he did not get attention until the late afternoon, so there wasn’t much the hospital could do but put him on blood thinners and run some tests to see what was going on. It turned out that the stroke was what they call a vertebral artery dissection — it is a rare stroke which is not actually caused by a clot, but by the separating of the walls of an artery. In this sense, the entire artery on the back of his neck on the left side has, as far as I can understand it, disintegrated. This mostly affects his cerebellum, which affects balance and coordination (especially on the left side, due to the artery affected).

So, long story short, there is good news: Dad will be okay. He will probably have to go through a significant amount of physical therapy to regain coordination and balance, and he will be on blood thinners for the rest of his life…but his intelligence has not been affected (which really worried him for a little while), and his snarky character…well, that most definitely remains in tact. The doctors expect a full or nearly full recovery, hopefully within six months.

Right now, Dad is still disoriented and weak…and he has a serious case of the hiccups (more than 24 hrs now) which absolutely will not go away (or let him sleep). However, he is mostly in tact — in tact enough, at the very least, to assure the chaplain who came to wish us well that he is most definitely pagan. The conversation went something like this:

Chaplain: “We’re here 24hrs a day if you need us. You’re in good hands.”
Dad: (hand in the air) “I just want to let you know — I’m a pagan.”
Chaplain: (pause)
Dad: “I practice every religion’s fertility rituals, and the rest is a la carte.”
Chaplain: (really long awkward pause, red face)
Mom: “Oh, oh Bob. You’re luck you’re sick or I’d hit you right now.”
Chaplain: “Well, you’re in good hands, and we’re right down the hall.”

As of this moment, one cousin (Scott) has flown in from Texas to help out in the hospital for the weekend and another (Chris) is driving down from Chattanooga to watch the house and pets for mom. Mom will drive to Clayton tomorrow while Scott stays with Dad so that she can pack a real bag and make sure the cabin is taken care of while she’s away.

I have to admit, I am shocked and awed by the response from friends and family. My cousins just dropped all their work to come help us, despite living a considerable distance away. The volleyball community which my Dad is a huge part of has also leaped into action — there is a website dedicated to wishing Dad well, and the volleyball mothers have formed a cooking schedule so that my mom is eating homemade food every meal and never has to leave the hospital room to get it. The volleyball coaches are already sorting out a schedule to cover for my Dad, and everyone’s working to get everything done.

I wanted to thank the community I’m closest to — all my dancers and Emory friends — for being supportive. When this all happened yesterday, I was scheduled to babysit that night and to work on choreography, and I couldn’t find the right phone numbers or get in touch with the right people…but man, it all worked out. Evin helped me get in touch with Erica, Erica made sure I didn’t have to come get Alanna, and Heather was ready at any moment to bring me whatever I needed. I was barely coherent on the phone, and I cannot express how much I appreciated the support of my friends.

If anyone is curious in keeping up with his progress or wants to leave a note wishing him well (whether or not you’ve even met him — honestly, every warm thought and prayer helps), you can go to the following website: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bobwestbrook.

He’s a funny, intelligent, and kind man, and I love him dearly.

sbsb: great moments

Terrace: Looks at my face. Scans my body down, then up. “You really know how to work a skirt.”

Me: “It’s not that the other girls aren’t pretty…it’s just that I have bigger boobs.”

Sue Mi: “It’s not that the other girls aren’t pretty…it’s just that you’re ugly.”

Jo: Teaching boogie forwards: “It’s the hump, and bump. Hump and bump. Dig it in. PUSH! Now put your pelvis in it! Unnnh!”

In a car train headed towards GA Tech:
Me: “I really want to flash Beth and Breanna!”
Albert: “DO IT!”
Me: “How do I get their attention?”
Sue Mi: “Honk your horn.”
Me: “But that will make other people look. I don’t know if I can honk my horn…”
Albert: “I’ll honk it for you!”
He honked the horn. I flashed. They never saw it. So he honked it again.

In the middle of the Jack and Jill finals, while Alan was MCing:
Beth: “LET’S DO THE FORK IN THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL!”
Competitors: Dancing in a circle with arms waving in the air. “TING TING TING TING TING TING TING!”
Alan: “Uhh…I don’t know what just happened. Let’s play some music?”

southern belle swing bash 2010: review

It was a fantastic time! Here are some of my thoughts on the event.

I’ve never been one to care about how well events are run, but I have to admit — SBSB was run beautifully. I always volunteer, so I see a lot of behind-the-scenes chaos. SBSB, however, had the least amount of chaos I’ve ever seen. I think part of it was the spiffy little volunteer time cards we were given to both hold us accountable and give us an easy-to-read schedule of our individual shifts. I think a bigger part of it, though, was Jaya’s mad organizational skills.

I’ve never really been one to pay attention to the instructor line-up, either. It might be because I’ve never taught, and so I don’t feel I can judge a dancer’s ability to teach, and so I generally accept and enjoy whatever the line up is. However, I must say that I believe the instructors did a fantastic job. They taught beautiful and complex swingout variations, great technique, and they were generally hilarious. Whether they were teaching alone or with a “male assistant,” they paid attention to the leads and helped out when they could, while still focusing on the ladies. Jo is dirty and hilarious, but a very technical and very easy to understand instructor. Laura is elegant, and she teaches in the same way — her connection class and exercises were great. And Carla is…well, fantastic; it’s incredibly easy to learn from her.

The Hotlanta Jazz Band was great — I’d never heard them, but they did a truly fantastic job. They played a great variety, their songs weren’t too long, and their music was poppin. It was a joy to dance to them.

My house guests were incredibly kind and thoughtful. They helped out with the cost of breakfast (which was up there, since we had a lot of food), and they washed dishes and gave us hilarious honorary asian HERRO KITTY shirts.

Most of all, however, was that the people were…the best. Honestly, that’s all I ever care about when it comes to events: how was the dancing? Mediocre? Okay, that’s pretty typical. But SBSB, the dancing was fantastic in that way that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Three songs in a row, two leads simultaneously came up to ask me to dance. I tried to get off the dance floor multiple times for water or a breath of fresh, slightly-less-muggy air…only to be stopped halfway towards the door for another fantastic dance that I just couldn’t turn down. I think I danced more (and sweated more) than I ever have before at an event. There were maybe ten leads there that I just wish I could have danced with more — because even though I danced with each one two or three times each night, it wasn’t enough. But there were too many good leads to even think about dancing with anyone more than two or three times…because, well, damn! How else would you be able to dance with the REST of the fantastic leads?!

All in all, it was a fantastic event. I’d never actually attended more than a dance or two of SBSB in the past due to scheduling conflicts, and I’m really glad I was able to focus on it this year and really enjoy such a wonderful event!

quotes of the day

Me: “Sorry I was late. I was distracted.”
Erica: “Yeah…did he bite?”
Me: “Well…yes.”

Alanna: “Mommy, can I have some solitude and reflection?”

Today was fantastic. I rode a motorcycle (terrifying), floated in a pool (relaxing), and had a playdate with a fantastic little girl (adorable). Nothing really got done…but I feel accomplished.

on how much i love atlanta

I moved back to Atlanta last Friday, and it was like I could feel the stress falling off my shoulders in heaps. I moved in to my new house without a hitch, painted (most of) the walls, and went back to work…and here are some of the things I love about Atlanta, Emory, and the things I associate with this place.

1. My job is fantastic. I sit in an air conditioned library, accomplish a few minor tasks, and study for the GRE (in-between browsing the internet, of course). I have the same pay rate, but more hours and more respect. Everyone smiles. People actually do their job — almost like responsible adults. It’s nice and comfortable, and I’m glad to be back among people I respect, and among people who respect me.

2. My bosses are MORE fantastic. When I got here, Tara (the Circ Desk Boss) shouted for joy. Then Colin (the Music and Media Boss) came down and we had a meeting about my schedule for the fall semester. They told me to come up with my dream schedule. And that’s what I’ll be working: 40 hrs between the Music and Media desk and the Circulation Desk, spread out over the entire week. I don’t even have to go looking for a second part time job. I’m beyond happy.

3. My roommate is fantastic. I love you, Heather. We’re painting, cleaning, and arranging our house to make it a comfortable little home. I’m loving it.

4. Hotjam is fantastic. Last night, there were so many people I didn’t recognize, and the dancing was so good! We had 3 jams, 1 birthday jam, and we did the big apple and Frankie’s shim sham. It was…amazing. The energy was so high, despite the heat and humidity. Also, I saw Rachel Randall, who is ENGAGED!!

5. Marta is…well, not fantastic. But not terrible! The cheapest option right now is for me to ride MARTA before school starts, since there’s an Emory Express shuttle which takes a direct route and leaves only half an hour on each side for me to be bored and sit around. I mean, I felt incredibly white while riding the bus, but it was safe and easy, which is a relief! At the same time, I’m saving money and being green. Win-win situation!

Being back is good. I’ll be working, dancing, and babysitting…and somewhere in there, I’ll manage to do my homework. I’m helping Meghan move tonight, and Shelby also moves back today. I’m going to see Chris on Thursday, then go home and pick up the rest of my furniture. Then dinner with Val & Sam (who got engaged!! and Jena & Max are engaged!! wow!!), then Emory Milonga, then Clothes Swap…whew. And that’s just this week…