Liza May

ESS 2014 Update #3 – Hard Work and Hope

Mind Blown.

I am SO tired. My whole body hurts. New muscles brought out of hiding this weekend are screaming “WHAT THE HECK?!? ”

And my brain is screaming too. “SERIOUSLY LIZA?!? SERIOUSLY?!?” My brain is fried. Sensory overload, too much to process. Too much information, too much beauty, sounds, conversations. Too much emotion.

Such an emotional experience!

I must have had five conversations where people cried. I cried. Several times. The passion here this weekend! SO much love, compassion, caring, sympathy, struggle, frustration, achievement, camaraderie, exertion, work.

So much work!

The teachers set the model, working non-stop from the moment of arrival till leaving this morning. None of them have voices left. Every teacher here gave 110% attention, concentration, focus – to every student in every level – personal attention, working with every student’s personal struggles and issues; pushing, pushing, pushing.

It was four days of working. Hard.

I’m an advocate of the Chinese Mother version of coaching. Meaning that I like a demanding coach with an expectation of my full commitment to doing my part. Meaning work. Hard. Practice. I like critique. I don’t want praise I want expert feedback.

So I loved that teachers here were told to teach to the highest level in each class. That classes should feel just beyond what we thought we were capable of doing. That we should be pushed, hard.

I loved when Kyle said “You’re in this level because we assume you know how to do that. If you don’t know how to do it yet you don’t belong in this level. Move yourself to the lower level.” I loved that fierceness and clarity, not wasting of precious time. I loved the work ethic of ESS.

Barry said, on Facebook, “Levelled workshops are why the Europeans are beating us here in the U.S.” I agree. I learn more at ESS than I learn anywhere else all year, including private lessons with some of these same instructors.

Private lessons are only one hour long, first of all. Two hours if you have the time and money.

And you don’t have 30 fellow dancers asking the exact questions you would have asked if you’d have thought of them.

And you don’t have partners of different sizes, connections, styles, with whom you practice each skill as you’re learning it.

And you don’t have the benefit of eight instructors having thought carefully about what you need to learn now, at this very moment, to push you exactly over that edge that seems just out of reach. Classes so superb, so rich, so precisely geared towards your exact skill level, where you can learn the exact thing you were dying to know.

And you don’t have the intensity of focus, the atmosphere of learning, that four days of continuous study brings.

And you don’t have EIGHT instructors – not just one but eight at once – studying you and helping you to push just where you need to push.

And you don’t have the benefit of looking at the levels below you to see more clearly what you’ve now mastered; and looking at the levels above you to see what you don’t yet know. At ESS you get a clear picture, a hopeful picture, of where you’ve come from and where you’re going. That it’s a series of baby steps, tiny masteries of tiny technical details, conceptual ideas, improvements in strength and coordination. It is deeply reassuring to have a picture of the process – the long, hard, lifelong process – of gaining mastery.

I hear that in Europe they have seven levels. At ESS we had only four. Parker and Jordan say that next year they may add another level, maybe two. Not more attendees – they don’t want it to be bigger and lose the intimate feel. But more levels. So classes even more precisely geared.

Level 4, the top level – which you automatically qualified for if you had Allstar points – was very advanced. Very. I peeked in a couple of times and couldn’t even understand what they were explaining in words, much less envisioning myself able to execute any of it. Level 4 did a group routine for us on Saturday night and holy mackerel, it was harrrrrrd. You could see that some people were not used to learning choreography, especially having to learn it in four hours and then perform. Allstar is such a unique division, maybe the division with the widest range in skill. Maybe next year there’ll be a Level 4 and a Level 5.

Maybe by next year I’ll qualify for Level 5.

Maybe I’ll also receive a Pulitzer for these updates, the Nobel Peace Prize, and straight hair.

The sun is setting over the bay as I write this. The Kona Kai is all but deserted.

If you’ve ever stayed at a hotel after an event is over you know the strange feeling – your mind full of the clamor and noise of four days of people and music but around you nothing but silent, empty walkways. It’s as if you had a dream and woke to find nothing but empty spaces and silence. Not a trace remains to prove that things happened in this place, beautiful things, dancing, music, life. All of it has vanished and all that’s left are ghosts and memories.

And the soft shhshhsh of palms in the wind, the last purple glow of the setting sun, the final chirps of birds going to roost, and the barking of the seals.

Filed Under: ESS

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