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As some may be aware, I am now studying five AS-levels at sixth form. This, for those outside of the UK or otherwise unaware, is also what we call 'college' - our primary and secondary educations are two years shorter than yours, but up to age 16 are compulsory; the last two years is optional, studying whatever hella you want, usually one year of 4 AS-levels and a second year of 3 A2-levels, or 3-4 years of a B-tech, which lead onto university (our university courses are also, I have discovered, shorter than a lot of US ones, so it's extra important to have these years of specialised education in order to establish the proper foundation for what may be just 2 years at uni). For those curious, these are Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Critical Thinking, and... Performing Arts.
I would say "What? I like acting" but I have discovered that I do, in fact, detest acting. I just really hate it. I thought I liked it, and I like it in theory. I get a nice monologue and I go "Yeah, this is cool, I'm gonna do this and it's gonna' be awesome" and maybe I do it and it is, in fact, awesome. But even if I really like the role - White Rabbit was one of my favourites to date - I've realised that I just really... Can't be assed. It's not even that, so much. I just there and if I'm not in the exact mood I just really hate acting. I also, in the last year, have discovered that I have an awful singing stage-fright. I've never sung on-stage before, so some kind of practice run would have been nice, but I did it in front of a couple of, I don't know, hundred people at a small winter-solstice style festival (Save Rock and Roll, by Fall Out Boy) and I froze up and choked out and completely missed the first note by like three keys. But dance... I can be doing of the dancing. So since the beginning of A-levels, I have discovered this:
Biology really is the bomb and I was so wrong to even doubt it because I love all of it even plants and chloroplasts and xylem and phloem and gas exchange and health and disease;
Except enzymes. Can't stand enzymes;
Chemistry is 50/50 - sometimes it's ace and there and so interesting, and sometimes it's... Really not;
I am literally so bad at practicals, like the first three practicals we did I f*cked up every single one, and since then I've done like one successful practical in the entire year;
No, not kidding, I once did the wrong experiment entirely, got an outlier result for that experiment, and then tried to fake results and the results I faked turned out to also be incorrect - I did the wrong experiment wrong and then faked it wrong;
I really really need to stop spelling Miss McGlochglocghhloffghlolfnighn's name stupidly and learn how to spell it because apparently that is "not appropriate to write on your official progress report";
Decision Maths is like being a computer and basically if you try to use common sense or logic you'll get confused and get it wrong which is why it's theoretically easier than Stat or Mechanics, but in reality gets some of the worse exam results because you can literally lose 3 marks out of 35 for not writing "Sort Complete" at the bottom of your sorting logarithm;
The handshaking lemma is apparently a thing;
The 'C' in the CRAVEN acronym we learn for credibility criteria in Critical Thinking does not, in fact, stand for: Credibility; Critical Analysis; Circumstantial Evidence; Circumstances of an Extenuating Nature; or C... ruelty?; but rather...
All right, I can't remember what the 'C' in the CRAVEN acronym we learn for credibility criteria in Critical Thinking stands for;
I have a massive stage-fright for singing;
Yes, that note I was trying to hit in Save Rock and Roll really was as flat as I had feared;
There is no such thing as B-sharp*;
I really really hate acting;
CORROBORATION - the 'C' in the CRAVEN acronym we learn for credibility criteria in Critical Thinking stands for Corroboration;
I can... Actually kind of dance?
We've done, so far, two drama performances (one contemporary monologue, one Shakespearean monologue) in front of each other, and two dance performances for an audience. The monologues were all the same, because we were supposed to do one the same and then one we chose ourselves, but off course Miss D. never got around to organising that, so it was just the one (and I kind of hated both of them tbh); similarly, we were supposed to be being given one ensemble song to perform, and one of our own choosing individually, for the skill assessments at the beginning of the year, but... That hasn't happened and it's nearly time for our end of year assessments, so... Hh. But the dances, they were... Well. I did about two years of street dance when I was about twelve. I hated it. I was awful and everyone else was older and full of swag and hippiness, and there's me bumbling along at the back, completely unable to keep up or remember what the hell was going on at any moment in time. I essentially have no natural rhythm in terms of finding the basic beat of a music, or even trying to clap in time with a... That thing you put on the top of a piano that has a little pendulum that swings back and forth and clicks once a second. You know that guy on Footloose that's friends with the main guy, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Bacon tries to teach him to dance by getting him to click along with some music, just like click-beat-click-beat-click-beat, and he literally can't do it for more than three beats without speeding up or stopping or slowing down or getting distracted? I'm like that. I just can't keep in time with a beat. I can't do the 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 you're supposed to time a dance to. What I can do is move to words. To find the basic sway of the song and show that. The two performances we've done have been slightly edited versions of the same dance: a medley of African music and dance, starting with a piece of movie soundtrack of a funeral, followed by Circle of Life, and finally the South African national anthem. The first time was for the South African bishop when he did a special service in Blackburn cathedral. This was obviously the appropriate theme. The second time was for the Awarding of the Freedom of the Borough to Julie Hesmondhalgh (she is very nice and she is in Cucumber and she was made to play a transgender woman and then later admitted she regretted taking the role away from an actual trans woman, leading to a touching scene in Banana where she symbolically 'handed over' the role to the trans woman who was played by a trans woman) and we did the same thing but with a few more bits added in because we got told like the week before we had to prepare a dance for it. I played a panther and I was very good - I especially liked the second performance, because the way we'd set it out all along was that I came on first simply because I was the only one who didn't step back out of the line when Mrs. J. asked who wanted to go first, but this had a lot more connotations the second time around. The majority of the other animals were lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants, meerkats - dusky grey and orange. B-th was a bright red and blue parrot, and I was a black panther: we stood out. In the opening notes of the first song, we came onto the stage one by one; the second time we did it, it was timed so that I came out through the back several seconds before anyone else. B-th then came from the side, and we had about a bar of playing in the middle, me pretending to try and catch her, her spinning away and bowing tauntingly, before the others came on to begin the dance proper. Then, toward the end, we all come together for that kind of big drum-beat in Circle of Life, dropping 'dead' to the ground on the final smash of the drum to leave B-th and the lion in the centre. They had a small choreographed dance, then the lion interacted with another member of the group, and me and B-th came together again for a kind of extension of the earlier scene, which was very nice and provided continuity. The only fault, possibly, with that second dance, was that Mrs. J. also came up to me before we started, and told me that Julie Hesmondhalgh would be sitting in a special seat at the side of the stage. She had told us all to generally keep a little clear or her, but that she was very nice (she was) and that she should like me to go right up to her and interact a little before B-th came on. However, when I went on, having no glasses as panthers do not generally wear glasses, I went right up to the seat and kind of stared at it for a second before I realised there was no Julie Hesmondhalgh. So I tried not to panic and instead just went right up to the rest of the audience, and was moving right into their faces, peering in, animalistic and that - then blinked, and realised that I was, in fact, right in the face of Julie Hesmondhalgh, who had moved to a seat in the audience in order to give us more room. This surprise caused me to break character for a second, as she caught my eye and grinned, leading me to give a kind of maniacal grin before I sensed B-th and tried to remember how to panther.
But now our dance lessons are being put on hold and I don't know when they're coming back so I am very sad.
Which is why I have decided to do a very stupid thing. I am going to try and learn this:
This is a very stupid thing to do because Mr. Polunin has been training for ballet his entire life and is professional and amazing. I have been given a couple of weeks of ballet lessons as part of a Performing Arts AS-level. But the fact is that I'm mentally exhausted from five AS-levels (even Performing Arts is mentally exhausting at the moment because it's been organising and planning and coursework, no actual dance or singing or drama), and I'm emotionally exhausted from life and sh*t and... Mostly Performing Arts, and I'm even fricking spiritually exhausted from having to sit through communion once a week and not punch Mr. P. when he starts on again, like I'm not even kidding last week our assembly was to remind us that some of us will probably go to Hell - note that this is the Head of RE we're having to fight for our LGBT+ education campaign, who has famously caused a girl to change schools due to his homophobic sermons in the middle of lessons (whilst she held her girlfriend's hand under the table and tried to stop the tears), and is generally listed on my pile of Things I Would Love to Fight Formally and Famously if I Had the Energy So You Know At Some Point Deff. But Please Just Not Right Now. I need to be physically exhausted too. I need to be able to sleep at night knowing that I've actually made something, done something, with my body, with skills and sweat and pain, not just Congratulations, Rao, you didn't kill an RE teacher! and Well done, Rao, you got out of bed without crying today! because, while they are fabulous achievements I am glad I am currently able to uphold, they aren't exactly substantial in the scheme of a success-driven overachiever.
So yes, this dance is impossible. But I started this morning, and it felt... Just f*cking brilliant, to be honest. I took my dance kit in, and because the bus always arrives half an hour before lessons start, I spent that half an hour in the studio. On the first day, I've gotten up to the first time he leaps off the ground and then lands on his back. I stopped partly because I needed the last five minutes to cool down and get changed back, and partly because on my last attempt at aforementioned jump, I had landed exactly on my shoulder, attempted to roll over and carry on, and in doing so skimmed my entire side across the floor, squawked, and fallen onto my... Head, as far as I can recall. On critical self-analysis (b*tch, this is goin' in my coursework (except that note)), I believe this was because my jump from knees was not high enough to allow for a full extension of the body, then a recoil which would have made it safe to land land on your flat calf and lower arm, bring them into your body, and use that momentum to roll - not just throw yourself around and try to hit the softer parts; to improve and increase safety in future, I will make sure that my jump is higher. This can be achieved by practising the extension and recoil, and by increasing the strength in my legs, to make it easier to reach the height required from my coiled position on my knees. Either this, or I change the move to allow more time to complete it/make it substantially easier, but where's the fun in that?+ And this was at eight in the morning. And although this kind of exertion at 8am leads to muscle death throughout the day and a limp shoulder for a couple of hours, it felt good. Endorphins released by exercise, and that. So I'd like to think that I'll do it again. And I'll keep doing it, until I get better. Because despite the description of amateurish incompetence you have just witnessed, this is something I can do. I am okay. And I'm not going into this dance expecting to have it aced and be as evocative and technically perfect as Sergei Polunin by the end of the week. I probably won't be able to use it in my portfolio anyway, and I might not even have half of it cracked by the end of the year. I'm just going into it with a grin, stupidity, and a lot of lessons about health and safety on a hard studio floor to be learned. And it feels amazing.
* me: i mean, it's amazing - like, the entire 12-person jazz band were rehearsing in the studio, and just from across the room miss d. can pull out one thing - like, they'll all be going, and out of nowhere she'll just yell, like "sax #3, you're one note off, you need to be hitting c, not b-sharp", and i knew musical people were amazing but-- s-on: "c, not b-sharp..." me: -- wh... no, nO-- s-on: "C NOT B-SHARP", EH? me: I DON'T KNOW WHAT I DID WRONG I JUST KNOW THAT IT'S INCORRECT s-on: SHE WAS HITTING B-SHARP INSTEAD OF C, WAS SHE? me: FUCK THE SHUT UP. c-is: "Fuck the shut up", eh?
+ not dying. the fun is in not dying while attempting it.
fyi, the title of the essay comes from the song i have in my head at the current time, which contains the repeated lyric "did we all fall down?"; when trying to think of titles, i could only think of something from this song, or from the song of the dance, take me to church. then i remembered the dramatic falling i completed at 8am this morning, and it seemed like a good way to go.
Favorite visual artistImpossible to choose!Favorite moviesThe X-men series, Dead Poet Society, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Breakfast ClubFavorite TV showsQI, House MD, Game of Thrones, Blackadder, Peaky Blinders, Dara O'Briain's School of Hard Sums, Black BooksFavorite bands / musical artistsMy Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, Of Monsters and Men, Bad Religon, Fall Out BoyFavorite booksDiscworld, The Name of the Wind, A Game of ThronesFavorite writersTerry Pratchett, George RR Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, ShakespeareFavorite gamesAssassin's Creed series, Ratchet & Clank, GTAFavorite gaming platformImagination :DTools of the TradeSarcasmOther InterestsFalconry, the theatre, artwork and literature, languages, complex maths and the sciences
I can't think of a title for this poll and I tried for so long but