Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Reflecting

So last week was the week of our TED Talk presentations for the Passion Project.

We started off a little rough, but as the days went on there were some really awesome presentations. 

Here are the blogs of some of the students whose presentations I was really impressed by:

The first two in this list (Megan and Mike) really made an impression on me, because they were really passionate about their project and had obviously prepared. Mike had a really entrepreneurial air about him, very professional, and Megan just loved what she was talking about.

Every presentation had its own flow to it that was unique and different.
'Quiet Dreamer', my friend Kathleen, had a very steady and soft spoken voice, and she had these surprising moments of sarcasm that one doesn't often hear because she's so quiet.

My presentation was on Wednesday, and it was the grand finale to a series of bad decisions I had made the days leading up to it.
I hadn't prepared enough - heck, I didn't even have a complete slideshow until the period before I was presenting! And the more that I thought I wasn't prepared, the more I stressed myself out, and so on and so forth. I have an entire rant that I wrote after I got home on Wednesday that I just had to get off my chest.

Now all that's left is to practice practice practice and freak out about finals.



I don't know how I'll get through the next four days.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

STEAM Expo

The GHEnglish Passion Project is coming to a close....

There are two deadlines that I have to meet:

  1. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Expo
    • This event is going to be hosted at my high school tomorrow evening, and I've been asked to present my project (or, at least, what I have of it). This'll be like a trial run for my TED Talk presentation, since I want to talk about dance as a form of communication and how it can help spread change, especially in the area of social inequalities. 
    • I'm going to ask my GHEnglish teacher if I'd be able to schedule 15-minute segments throughout the event, each segment beginning with me talking about the what I mentioned above, then going into detail about social media and the impact it has on teenagers, then introducing my dancers for She Used to be Mine  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77hsXM3wewQ) and having them perform live.
  2. TED Talk Presentations
    • This is going to be the presentation that I'm going to stress about the most. Reason why.... well, most of my GHEnglish peers haven't seen my videos - except for my theatre peoples, who have been getting involved or see it on Facebook. So I'm subtly preparing myself for a letdown in regards to their reaction to my videos. Most of them aren't involved with performing and don't really set personal parts of themselves out for people to judge regularly. So they don't exactly know how much their response (or lack thereof) affects my own self-esteem. So if they kind of half-pay attention to what I'm saying or showing, which is what I'm expecting, well..... their loss. Because a lot of thought and preparation and hard work has been put into this project, and I'm pretty proud of it. 
                    One could say that so much work has been put into it that it's almost greasy                                          (getitgetitgetit?? Because elbow grease and greasy.... never mind)

Speaking of underestimation.................

There's a guy on Youtube called Ian Eastwood that I've been following for a few years, and he recently released the world's first ever dance mixtape called AdultLessons, and it documents - through dance - his journey from adolescence to adulthood. He is also a TERRIFIC dancer!!!



What I find astonishing is that Ian wrote, choreographed, directed, starred in, and edited the entire mixtape.... sort of kinda like what I'm doing, but on a much larger scale.

COOL!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

I forgot to include my mini progress report ;P

I've been trying to decide on a name for my project...

Up until now I've been calling this project "Dance for Change" because I haven't sat down to think of a new one. But I did some research and it turns out (unsurprisingly) that 'Dance for Change' is already taken by several non-profit organizations.

So that's off the table.

I took the advice of my GHEnglish teacher, Sir Garreth (yeah, he works at Camelot), and brainstormed some new names:

  • Dance = movement, move, motion
  • for = to, in
  • Change = innovation, communication, improvement, transformation
- "Move to Change" is one of the names that I really liked, but that's already taken by a dance organization/school located in California that has ballet, bollywood, hip hop, and pilates classes (among others). Check them out at: http://move2change.com/contact/!

- "Communicating/Communication in Motion" is my second choice, and I'm pretty sure no other organizations or companies or anyone else online has taken it. 
I like that it it can mean two different things: The exchange of ideas as a moving force, and exchanging ideas through the movement of the body.

'Communicating in Motion' it is!!

I'm very happy to announce the first video in the Communicating in Motion series: She Used to be Mine!


First of the Communicating in Motion series, this video comments on the effects that social media has on women's body image. 

Social media sets unrealistic standards of beauty for both women and men. Many people, especially teenagers, are affected by these expectations because they are constantly exposed to idealized images on many different social media platforms, and are persuaded to believe that what they see on their screens is real.

****************************************­*******

Dancers: Mary and Cali Ragland
Director: Irina Koleva
Editor: Irina Koleva
Camera: RJ Craig and Erin Donovan
Costume designer: Gillian W.

Choreographer: Irina Koleva

****************************************­*******

I'm already working on my second video!!!

We've only been able to get two rehearsals in, but this second choreography has been a work-in-progress for the past month and a half. Filming is scheduled to be tomorrow after school and Saturday, so I'm super excited!!! I have to remember to:
  • Check cameras out from Mr. Moore and Mr. Libby
  • Borrow a backdrop and portrait lights from Mr. Libby
  • Bring stage lights, hair curler and blow dryer
  • Makeup, pins, both costumes (black and Bulgarian)
  • Shoes!!!
This video is about social equality.
There are dancers in this one, all girls. Each of us is a different ethnicity; we have Bulgarian, Congolese, Indian (2 girls), and American.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

So.... the human body has its limits, apparently

Hiya.

I'm not exactly sure what to write for this week..... um.... well, I've allowed my body to settle into the natural vegetative state of a thousand-year-old tree. Why is this metaphorical tree a thousand years old, you may ask? Easy. Because a tree that old must a pretty darn smart tree. A wise tree. An intellectual tree. Heck, why not make it an immortal tree? Then it'll be the shrubby prodigy of the entire forest of intellectual plants.

(Apparently sticking a face on a tree automatically makes it old and wise.... good job humans.)

Anyway, most of my waking time has been spent studying this week.
On Monday I took the first AP Human final, and I was completely disappointed in myself for not doing better. So I went home and studied my butt off for two more days until the Wednesday final, on which I got a marginally better score and went home disheartened and ready to quit.

I did get some work done on my project (work that should have been done a week or two ago that I didn't get to doing). I finally finished editing the first video (She Used to be Mine by Sara Bareilles) on Thursday during my GHEnglish class. I finalized the color correction process, added black bars to make it look all professional, and tried to upload it to YouTube.

I'm not sure exactly what I did wrong when trying to upload it, but in the end, after I'd written up a description and tags and clicked the button to upload, an error message came up on the screen. The final bell rang right at that time, so I ended up not uploading it. The video is on a school computer, so I have to wait until the school week begins to get it.

Then Friday came.
Before I go into detail talking about the AP Human exam, I want to elaborate on why I think AP courses are such a big deal for students.

Advanced Placement courses are pushed upon us for several reasons, one being that they're seen as an opportunity to get credit in college for taking the class in high school (saving us a lot of money in tuition fee). Another biggie is that having as many AP credits as possible on our transcripts will make us look more attractive to the colleges we want to get into. This creates a sort of trap for American high school students, because we're expected to take these AP courses and ace them so we can say that we got something out of the class (instead of just memorizing frantically last minute). Oh, and we're also supposed to do extracurriculars like sports and clubs, do plenty of community service, and have leadership qualities to boast about - because apparently colleges want to see that as well in students. This really screws up priorities because the AP courses themselves already suck the bone marrow out of students and take up all of our time, but then we're supposed to find the energy and time to do all those additional activities? AND keep up our public image by trying not to look like the exhausted human robot we've become?
Well, knock me on the head and tell me that this kind of life is normal, but I would so much rather move to Finland, where students have just one series matriculation exams at the end of their high school career and lots of time to prepare for them.
This article by teacher Tim Walker goes further in-depth on this topic - http://taughtbyfinland.com/american-high-school-students-inspired-by-less-stressed-finnish-teens/.

The only problem is that in Finland, education is paid for by the government, while in the land of the not-so-free-people-drowning-in-student-loans, tuition costs a fortune.

AP courses also put a lot of stress on students because it forces them to compete with their friends and peers.
I had been trying so very hard to ignore the fact that all of my friends have been getting fantastic scores - they're all brilliant, so I'm not surprised - and I ended up getting about twice as many questions wrong as they did.
I got really frustrated because I didn't know what I was doing wrong. I was studying every day for hours, trying to take the information I had learned in class and relearn (aka memorize) it. I wrote flashcards, did review packets, pretended like I was the teacher and expained concepts to myself, read through the review book and my notes countless times while pacing in my basement, did so many practice tests that I got sick of looking at my phone screen, and I still couldn't raise my grade up to what my friends had. I got to a certain point of desperation because in my mind there MUST have been something that I hadn't done, something I had missed because I wasn't putting enough effort into it.

As a last minute resort before the AP exam, I got up at 2:30 am to study again. I went through all of the assignments that we had written up in the class and read the important ones, did some more online practice tests, took a ten-minute nap, and went back at it. I still didn't feel prepared for the exam when the time came to take it, so I was jittery and twitchy while listening to the instructions.

The exam was the last stretch of 3-hour testing that I had to take for the class, and I had studied as much as I possibly could for it. I felt better about the human exam than I had about the finals, and in my mind there was nothing else I could do about my score because that was it. I walked out of the school at 11:00 feeling exhausted but much better, and then I went about getting ready for a prom that I had been invited to in Delaware.
'Getting ready' included working out for an hour, showering, curling as much hair as I had time to curl, running around getting all of my stuff ready, driving in a rainy downpour to my friend's/date's house (in Delaware) to finish getting ready, going to take pictures with his friends at 6:00, getting to the actual prom at 7:30 (apparently that's called 'fashionably late' - it started at 7:00), torturing my toes by wearing heels half the night (they were lovely heels, so it was worth it), going to after prom at 11:30 (which had a pool and an inflatable obstacle course where we raced each other), and driving back home at 2:30 when it ended. My mom (bless her soul) and I got home at 4:00 and I crashed as soon as possible.

I hadn't slept for over 24 hours, so I was a wee bit delirious.


Let's just say that I'm truly feeling the effects of what stress can do to your body.
It's the day after all the craziness (or the day of.... I got home this morning), and I had a tennis tournament this morning at 11:30 which I biked to (stupid decision). I feel like I've been run-over by a truck, and I thought I would feel better if I ate some food. Right? Wrong. My stomach did not agree with nourishment at all. I've been in a fuzzy place the entire day, sporting an excruciating headach that makes me unable to think straight, which I think is just leftover nerves from the past week.

We'll see how tomorrow goes!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Coming up on the last few weeks....

Welcome to the beginning of hell week!

Thespians usually use this term to refer to 'tech' week, the 7 days in which you're in the auditorium for 7 or more hours a day, which can actually be pure joy until you get home and realize that you have that pile of homework to do and it's already 11 pm and your eyelids somehow keep sinking lower and lower until you've fallen asleep on your notes. 


Again.

(That picture doesn't exactly capture the essence of the exhaustion I'm trying to portray, but the open mouth will suffice.)

Well, this is similar, but the 7 hours a day are spent trying to relearn all of the AP course material that's been thrown at you throughout the school year.
And do all your other homework as well, of course. Unless you have other extracurricular activities (like my friends Zoe and Emma who are in a show currently), in which case......... good luck.

Anyway, I am very proud to say that my first video, "She Used to be Mine", is nearly complete.
  • I finally found the camera and got all of the footage that I needed, and managed to figure out how to use Adobe Premier (sort of).
  • My editor (who lives in Delaware) came over for Easter (Bulgarian's Eastern Orthodox Easter) and said that I did a good job on editing and that all there was left to do was use color correction (which I asked my camerapeople at school to do).
The video looks much better than I expected it to look, but it requires an extreme amount of effort on the editor's part to put everything together and actually make it good. Since I'm a bit of a perfectionist, I did all the editing myself. The problem is that I'm not exactly sure how I can do what I want to do, and if it's possible at all, but that's what Google is for!

What's next?
  • I want to write a paragraph or so discussing the issue that the video makes commentary on, which I'm going to post on a new Weebly page (which will be created soon... or at least, after AP testing) along with behind-the-scenes footage and the other videos.
  • I've already made a Youtube account, so that's where the videos will be posted.
  • I have 3 other videos and dances on deck, about racial equality, poverty, and the habit that American businesses have of overworking their employees. Filming for these videos will most likely happen the week after AP testing, so in two weeks.
  • I'm going to be participating in a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Expo that my high school is holding on May 23 - SUPER EXCITED for that!!!
    • My goal for the expo is to have at least three of the videos completely finished; filmed, edited, and completed. 

I'm not sure how I'll be able to finish everything, plus write the essay and TEDtalk for GHEnglish and figure out how to present my project, all in 10 days (and also keep up with school and life in general).

But hey, miracles happen.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Progress!!

Hello, all!

This past week has been a blur.... let's see.... what did I actually do?

  • I downloaded Adobe Premiere Pro CC, but I have no idea how to work it.
  • Someone keeps checking out the second camera that I used for filming, so I can't get the footage off of it.
  • I have about 30 minutes of footage right now to look through, which will probably take me about 2 hours to do and then more to choose which clips I want to use.
I guess I'll give y'all an overview of this first video.

The song is called She Used to be Mine by Sara Bareilles. 
It's part of a new musical that Ms. Bareilles wrote called Waitress, and it's about a girl's thoughts when she finds out that she's pregnant. 
Of course, that's not what my video and dance are focused on, but it's still a wonderful song.

The topic I'm focusing on for this specific video is social media and how it influences women's body image. I won't go into detail now, but check out these articles to read about the consequences of social media networks:


More next week!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Halfway Mark!

Hello, there!
It's surprising to hear that we're halfway done the Passion Project..... I feel like hardly any time has passed since we started it.

I just checked.
My first blog post for this year was on March 13.

So, about a month has passed.
Although I am pretty proud of what I have accomplished so far, I have to say I expected to be farther along down the road to completion. I set out to make choreographed videos that make commentary on and express the effects of social inequalities. What I've managed to come up with is about 30 minutes of footage that is still on the two cameras I used for filming.

(I tried getting the footage off of the cameras today in school, and managed to waste 15 minutes trying to find a USB cord and attaching the camera to the computer. Then I wasted the rest of the period trying to figure out how in the world one is supposed to import videos onto a Mac. I found out the last  2 minutes of class.

Macs suck.

I don't like Macs.

Mac computers are an Apple product.

iPods are an Apple product.

iPods kinda suck.

Apple sucks.

Addendum: Until I am convinced otherwise, Apple and its products are not all that great.

***************************************************************************

Anyway, I haven't completed even one video yet (though the footage looks fantastic; not exactly how I pictured it in my head, but it's still great). If we had to end our projects today, I would be very disappointed, partly in myself but mostly that I didn't get the chance to continue the project. I think that it could evolve into something really big and could be a centrifugal force for all different types of artists and people.

What have I learned?
This experience has opened my eyes to several things.
  • Firstly, the planning that goes into a big project such as this one is lengthy, because you have to think about everyone's separate schedules as well as your own, fitting in rehearsals and meetings in when it's convenient for everyone. As director, I've had to manage my time so that I can fit these rehearsals in, and I've also had to push myself to take the leadership position in all of the different roles that this project requires.
  • Behind the scenes/crew work is something that many people underestimate. Whether it be onscreen or onstage, there is a great deal of time and effort put into making sure that the lighting is done right so that it gives the setting the needed effect, but also doesn't wash out the dancer - the white balance needs to be corrected on the camera, and the cameramen and crew need to be conscious of where their shadows are. The makeup has to be a little heavier, but that's the norm for stage-related activities. Basically, it's a lot of work, but it's super fun.
I'm pretty proud of the 'final' product that we've created.
The whole team for this video had a good time (I hope) and learned from the experience. My only worry is that I didn't take advantage of everything that my crew and my dancers could offer because I'm really inexperienced when it comes to directing and I wasn't able to express my wishes directly to my camera-people and the crew.

But hey, there's always next time.