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On a misty November morning, I sat down with the multi-faceted Elizabeth White, founder and artistic director of the Elizabeth White Creative: a brand new production company making its premiere work OAETH :: on Saturday December 8th at the Center of Performance Research in Brooklyn.  The Elizabeth White Creative (EWC) is a new-media contemporary ballet company which combines visual arts, dance, and technology to create an immersive performance experience which tests the limits of conventionality.  This stunning visual production is solely the work and vision of the company’s ingenious artistic director.  White’s innovative approach to transforming space through movement and visual effects is challenging the paradigms of the traditional contemporary ballet-performance experience.

Learn more at elizabethcarolinewhite.com

I pose my first question to ignite the discussion:  “Can you describe the moment you conceived of your vision for this company?”  It's like lighting a candle and watching it burn; time and space completely vanishes.  Speaking with White is like a meditation; she evokes an unmatched sincerity and an ethereal presence as she begins to meticulously discuss her work and vision.

“There was a very specific moment, actually,” Elizabeth recalls, nodding fondly. Her eyes search the space for a few moments, as if drawing upon a metaphysical recollection that she can replay before her eyes.  

Previous to starting EWC, White tells how she had held a meritable position working as a studio-assistant to an NYC-based art director, who worked with a private repertoire of clientele in high fashion. White explains that while she valued this unique experience, she had also been subsequently ignoring a creative facet of herself that needed to be silenced in order to efficiently execute her daily duties.  In her words: “I would wake up, and I would put my soul away.”

“One night, I couldn’t sleep,” White recalls. “I remember getting up at 3 AM, and making myself tea, and taking a seat at this wooden table in the kitchen, in the dark.” Elizabeth stirs around the memory of that particular wooden table. I gather that it served as a motif, perhaps, to represent how she was feeling in the present moment. She describes this table as ‘unpainted,’ ‘unfinished’, ‘raw.’ “The feeling I got staring down at that table was very...honest.  It was almost like staring into a mirror,” Elizabeth explains.  “I suddenly got in touch with my higher self… and realized that I had been ignoring myself.  That I had been putting my life on hold; wasting my time... all I wanted to do in that moment was to start this company that I had always dreamed of.”  

Interestingly, the first piece that Elizabeth has created for EWC, OAETH :: is largely inspired by this self-actualization.  In the opening ‘Premonition Scene’, principal character Oaeth is struggling with the enrapturing thoughts and ideas which occupy her mind, and struggles with communicating these thoughts and connecting with those around her. To follow is the 'group scene’ featuring five new dancers, created to represent the people in Oaeth’s life who are fighting their own intrinsic battles. This scene introduces a specific character with whom Oaeth is able to connect with later, who will aid her on her journey in achieving transcendence.  At last, Oaeth experiences a healing encounter with her ‘Higher Self,’ and through this experience she is able to achieve a union between the ego and the Divine; to harness and to reclaim the divine power that exists within.  The piece is sensitive and nuanced, with many layers of spirituality woven into the fabric of the work.  It is evident that the motivation behind White’s choreography is pulled directly from the soul.

On top of choreographing and rehearsing each scene of the production, White has ingeniously created and facilitated all of the interactive sets and visual-effects for the piece.  With a masters degree in Arts and Technology from NYU’s TISCH School of the Arts, White’s brilliant skills and relentless dedication have allowed her create stunning interactive visual effects and projection mapping for the entire piece.  The images being projected are eclectic and symbolic, making for a stunning, mesmerizing, cohesive visual experience.

As the performance day draws near, I ask White what next steps are for EWC.  White’s eyes dance as she expresses the need to further communicate and promote deeply withheld ethical and spiritual values through her future works...More specifically, White tells me about being a passionate and dedicated vegan from a purely ethical/altruistic stance.  

“Becoming vegan for me was a large paradigm shift in my life,” White says.  “It was a huge awakening... It was like waking up inside a nightmare.”  White discusses in depth with me how she feels profoundly disturbed by the corruption and mass injustices which take place in our world, may of which are facilitated by our nationwide system of food consumption.  White adds that this profound personal awakening has also largely inspired some common themes which are synoptically revisited through her work.

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Allowing people the space to reconnect with their higher selves is what first and foremost drives me to create.

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White expresses how, as an altruist at heart, she hopes to strongly advocate for animal rights through up and coming productions, and how she wishes to draw inspiration for future pieces in the name of animals’ rights.  “Five months ago I came across a video series put together by PETA , which featured all of these different animals and highlighted these incredible abilities they possess.  One was this fish that does these mathematical calculations to organize his swimming patterns in order to attract a mate,” White invokes.  Hoping to emulate this concept and to transcend it into the world of performing arts, White hopes to create a cohesive piece to embody this idea.  “I want to bring attention to the other life forms on this earth,” she says.

White also wishes to collaborate with eco-conscious designers in high fashion for costume design in future productions.  One potential contender is Anna Tagliabue, a designer whose goal is to bring animal rights activism to high-end fashion clientele.  White met Tagliabue two years ago at an animal rights march in New York City, and has since appeared in Tagliabue’s fashion shows during fashion week in NYC.

I ask White if she would therefore consider her art as a form of activism.  “Discreetly, yes,” White explains. White discusses with me the fine line she has to navigate in an effort to create a comfortable, unbiased atmosphere for audiences.  “I am passionate about advocating for this cause, although I don’t want that to be a reason for people to be withdrawn from the art itself.  The moment it becomes explicit and non-romantic, and non-artistic, is the moment I will lose the audience.  It’s non-explicit: let the art speak for itself, ” White resolves. In that vein, White is optimistic for the future of EWC and the opportunities which can be seized in terms of advocating for animals rights.

Audiences who experience a production of the Elizabeth White Creative shall experience the touch of the Divine, which transcends through each moment of this young, pioneering genius’s multifaceted productions.  In a closing statement, White remarks, “I believe honest expressions of creativity have the power and potential to unlock hearts and minds and allow people the space to reconnect with their higher selves, and that is first and foremost what drives me to create.”



Don’t miss the Elizabeth White Creative’s premiering work OAETH:: on Saturday, December 8th, shows at 7 (SOLD OUT) and 8:30 PM @ the Center of Performance Research, tickets selling fast!

  1.   December 03, 2018
  2.   Career

I’ve been a dancer my whole life.  Often when I tell people that I’m a ballerina, their eyes will widen wondrously and they will proceed to say something along the lines of, ‘I've never met a real ballet dancer before.’  Next, they usually ask me questions about strict diets and intense training routines-losing sight of what it is that inspires me to dance in the first place.

Ailey/Fordham BFA student Djouliet Amara. Photo by Jaqlin Medlock

To many people, the abstract ‘dance world’ is quite fascinating, but also quite ‘out of touch.’  The dancing population is quite intrinsic, essentially meaning that it is very much in and of itself.  It is a profoundly intense physical, mental, and emotional atmosphere.  Yet through the mainstreamed population, the dance world is still plagued by stigmas of body scrutiny, and music that puts people to sleep.

I discussed this in-depth in a recent discussion with dance superwoman, Djouliet Amara.  Poised at the forthrunning of this revolutionary approach to choreography and studio-dynamics stands this brilliant artist, who wants her dancers to embrace their bodies and their love for what they do.  This revolutionary NYC-based dancer and choreographer is changing dance culture from the inside out:

“I want [my dancers/students] to feel natural,” Amara explained.  “I don’t want them to feel like they have to be dance-robots for me, I want them to dance for themselves.  To dance like they’re human beings.”

When asked what had initially inspired her to pursue a career in dance and choreography, Amara smiled and recalled upon a trip to Paris she had taken at the age of 17 for a merit-based scholarship in dance.  

“I may never have pursued this career if it weren’t for that trip,” she recalled.  While spending time away from home to study in France, Amara felt inspired by this newfound freedom to explore her passion; to harness this inner potential that she was discovering.  “I remember witnessing a group shooting a music video in Paris,” she explained, “I was studying that main dancer and I was thinking... I could do that. I could do that, and I could do that better.”  Amara’s confidence is inspiring, making her a great role model for the forthcoming generation in dance.

Interestingly, Amara had explained that for most of her life she had a different path in mind.

“My mother is a nurse and my father is an engineer.  I always had it in my head that I was going to become a doctor.  That was the plan,” she recalled, nodding at the thought.  Evidently things changed for Amara after that life-changing trip.  “I came home and I told my parents: This is what I want to do….I rocked their world,” she added, flashing a wide grin.

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Thanks to pioneering female choreographers, the dance world will foster a healthier atmosphere for women in the industry. 

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That same year, Amara had auditioned for the Fordham-Ailey BFA program, a dream she was inspired to chase after having seen Ailey perform, falling in love with the company instantaneously.  She breezed through the audition and quickly became the poster-child for the program, appearing in Fordham-Ailey advertisements and in Dance Magazine.  In her second year at the school, Amara landed an apprenticeship with the second company.  New York became her home, where she soon began modeling for dance brands, and was quickly signed by a leading talent agency to be commissioned for commercial work in dance.  She’s since worked with Ailey II, Kachal Dance, and Zest Collective and has been featured for Danskin Apparel, Kodak, Snapchat Horoscopes, Forever 21, as well as a feature in Refinery29 called “Redefining Body Types.”

This spring, Amara’s original piece titled “The Number Man” will tour and be performed at the Manitoba Provincial Dance Festival and The Canadian National Dance Championships.  The piece was created for Team Canada, who will perform in the 2018/19 International Dance Championships in Poland.  Amara’s dancers for the piece have already been touched by her contagious spirit and role-model work ethic, and soon audiences will be as well.  Amara gives me a perfect reason to look forward to the changes which are taking place in the dance world.  In the future, thanks to pioneering female choreographers like Amara, the dance world will foster a healthier and more effective atmosphere of growth for young women in the industry. 

 

Sofia Bianchi is currently serving as Managing Editor at bSmartguide as well as pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Fordham University.  She is a current member of the Female Founders Fund Fellowship program as well as dancing in NYC for the Elizabeth White Creative.  In the future, Sofia hopes to find success by pursuing the many facets of creativity.  Her many interests include writing novels, poetry, the fine and performing arts, choreography, and app-development.  

 

 

  1.   December 01, 2018
  2.   Career

On a beautiful November afternoon I caught up with Djouliet Amara, a 23-year old NYC-based professional dancer and choreographer, who is making waves in the dance world with her innovative approach to movement, choreography, and what it means to be an artist in this industry.  Amara greeted me in the doorway of the coffee shop with a bright smile which made me feel like we knew each other in another life.  She commands space in a room in the way that a good dancer commands the space on stage.  Immediately I could sense that I was in the presence of a pioneering woman in dance in the midst of a flourishing career.

Photo by Camryn Elizabeth

And a flourishing career, indeed.  Moments into our conversation, I was furiously typing in my efforts to catch all of the items on Amara’s extensive list of accomplishments-all of which seemed to roll off of her tongue as casually as if she were reciting the alphabet.  Her demeanor was calm and cool as she explained how most of her days consisted of rehearsals, commercial modeling shoots, and most recently: choreography.  She is the quintessential New York City hustler— always bouncing from one rehearsal to the next, shooting one campaign after another.  In the past, Amara has worked closely with Gentry George (of Zest Collective), Francesca Harper (of The Harper Project), Alia Kache (current cast member for The Lion King on Broadway),  as well as the Alvin Ailey II of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  “I’ve also appeared in Danskin Apparel and Forever 21 ads, as well as features for Refinery 29 and Dance Spirit Magazine,” she recalls.  Most recently, Amara has been shattering boundaries of convention as she juggles ongoing dancing and modeling projects with her latest choreographic endeavors.

When I asked Amara to speak more to me about her latest experiences with choreography, her eyes flitted with excitement.  Immediately I could tell that choreography is where Amara's heart subsides.  She spoke eagerly to me about being introduced to choreography at the Ailey School through composition classes taught by Francesca Harper, founder of The Harper Project.  “Ever since Harper’s classes, I’ve been in love with the choreographic process,” she says.  Amara also spoke with reverence of Stefanie Batten-Bland, whose “raw and organic” choreographic process has largely inspired her recent work.

Amara’s eyes brightened as she began to elaborate on her own choreographic methodology.  Amara speaks with clarity about how she wants her dancers to understand that they are human beings, first and foremost.  “I want it to feel natural, ethereal, goddess, luscious, streamlined,” she declares; it is a firm constitution of her beliefs.  “I don’t want them to feel like robots.”

This past summer, Amara had been commissioned to create an original piece for the dancers of Team Canada, the same dancers that will be performing at the International Dance Championships in December of 2019 in Poland.  Consequently, the piece is scheduled to tour in a series of performances across the US and Canada for the Manitoba Provincial Dance Festival.

“I called this piece: The Number Man”, Amara began.  I could see the wheels turning behind her poised facade.  “It is a piece meant to tell the story of an artist’s journey.”  Amara explained to me how the beginning of the piece is supposed to serve as a representation of some tedious, office-like atmosphere.  “It’s the life of this ‘number man’: It’s clinical, it’s ‘cut-and-paste career’, it’s ‘office cubicle’, it’s 9-to-5,” she explains.  “This is a piece about coming out of a place where you feel stuck...It’s all about breaking out of this need for stability.”  Amara offered words from the heart to me about wanting to inspire these dancers to take risks, as she has so often done in the past.  “It’s part of my own story.  It’s a part of who I am.  Everything I create- is a part of who I am.”

I am struck by the ingenuity of this whole idea.  “So in giving these dancers this experience, you are literally giving them a physical reminder that they should always choose to take these risks, to pursue this passion; this dance will remind them exactly who they are, and why they have chosen to be dancers. ”

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It's this balance of work and play - you need to work while you play.

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“Exactly,” Amara replies, flashing a radiant smile.  I take a moment to marinate in this thought, reveling in the brilliance of it.  Amara begins to nod slowly, and after a moment she adds, “And, you know... it’s not always easy.”

The virtuoso discusses with me the challenges of the world that young dancers have to navigate, how the nature of it is very unstable.  “You have to have a thick skin, you have to be willing to take those risks.  You have to be mentally flexible, adaptive.”  Perhaps the most important aspect of finding success industry, we discuss, is that you have to know your worth.  So many times, Amara explains, opportunities may look good from afar, but once you get close you will learn that the people there will only take what they want from you, and leave you dry.  However, it’s never meant to steer you away, we conclude, but rather to lead you towards a hidden paradise that awaits you behind closed doors.  Part of realizing your place in the dance world is learning how to be in control of your career, learning to treat yourself well.

At the end of the day, you need to give yourself the opportunities that you deserve.  “It’s this balance of work and play--you need to work while  you play,” Amara affirms.  She smiles robustly, and I return the gesture.  Her energy is contagious— a promise of what’s to come.  

 

Sofia Bianchi is currently serving as Managing Editor at bSmartguide as well as pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Fordham University.  She is a current member of the Female Founders Fund Fellowship program as well as dancing in NYC for the Elizabeth White Creative.  In the future, Sofia hopes to find success by pursuing the many facets of creativity.  Her many interests include writing novels, poetry, the fine and performing arts, choreography, and app-development.  

 

  1.   November 30, 2018
  2.   Career

Today, feminism is a trending topic in the media.  It seems that every millenial girl wants to wear her pink hat and profess her womanhood to all of humanity.  But, perhaps you’d be surprised to learn that years ago, most girls would hesitate to stand beside social pioneers such as Wilhelmina Drucker, Susan B. Anthony, and Gloria Steinem and say, "#MeToo."  The following women paved the road to the new frontier of feminism.  Let's take a moment to tip our pink hats to them.  Here's my list of top 10 female role models who called themselves feminists before it was cool.

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Mary Wollstonecraft  (1759-1797)

English writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft is commonly referred to as ‘the mother of classical liberal feminism.’  In other words, Wollstonecraft was a feminist before feminism was even a thing. Wollstonecraft was one of the first of her time to suggest that women were capable of achieving the same kind of personal success in their lifetimes as men through proper education.  In A Vindication of the Rights of Women, (1792) Wollstonecraft encouraged women to combat their emotions in order to prove that emotional irrationality is merely a symptom of a lack of education.  Wollstonecraft argued that educating women would allow all females to perform in accordance with intelligence and reason, as well as realize their fullest potential as human beings.

bSmart words: “I do not wish for women to have power over men, but over themselves.”

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)

This feisty French feminist exploited her genius through novels, autobiographies, and essays.  Simone de Beauvoir was a 20th century author, social theorist, political activist, and existentialist philosopher who dedicated her life to articulating her social theories.  The Second Sex (highly reccommend!) is perhaps her best known publication, where she challenges the social and professional expectations which society places on women.

bSmart words: “A woman is not born a woman, rather she becomes one.”

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

Rosalind Franklin was an English chemist and x-ray crystallographer whose contributions were instrumental in the discovery of the double helix structure, as well as the molecular structures of coal, viruses, and graphite.  Franklin was a trailblazer for women in science. Her contributions to the discovery of the double helix went unacknowledged when in 1962, colleagues James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.  After finishing work with DNA, Franklin lead a study on viruses where team member Aaron Kluck continued Franklin’s research, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982.  Franklin died at the age of 37 from ovarian cancer, and was only ever acknowledged for her groundbreaking contributions to biochemical research after her death. In her lifetime, Rosalind Franklin would never see the influence that she would have on the women-in-science community, yet her humble discoveries have lead a lasting legacy which continues to reign today.

bSmart words: “Well, anyhow, how do you know He isn’t She?”

Lucy Stone (1818-1893)

‘Morning Star’ Lucy Stone was a vocalist, suffragist, abolitionist, and advocate for women’s rights in the 19th century.  In 1947, Stone became the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. At a time when women were discouraged from public speaking, Lucy Stone became the founder of the long-running Women’s Journal. In Women’s Journal, Stone aired her feminist views on a weekly basis, and had earned herself the nickname the ‘heart and soul’ of the Women’s Rights Movement.  Stone helped to form the American Woman's Suffrage Association which achieved tremendous gains in woman suffrage at the state and local levels.

bSmart words: “I believe that the influence of woman will save the country before any other power.”

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

Where would our country stand today, if it weren’t for Susan B. Anthony?  Susan B. Anthony was a social reformer who moved mountains for the women’s suffrage movement.  After having been prevented from speaking at a temperance conference, Anthony, alongside close friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society in 1852.  Alongside Cady-Stanton, Anthony co-founded the Women's Loyal National League (1863), The American Equal Rights Association (1866), and The National Woman’s Suffrage Association (1869). Anthony is also largely responsible for the ratification of The 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

bSmart words: “I declare to you that woman must not depend on the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

The determined Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a leading lady of the early women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements.  As president of the National Woman Suffrage Association from 1892-1900, Stanton organized events and made speeches expressing her views.  Stanton was also the first of the early women’s rights movement to extend her concerns beyond suffrage, but to parental and custody rights, property rights, divorce, birth control, and employment and income rights.  Many believe that Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, is what first initiated the first women’s rights and women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

bSmart words: “Self development is a higher duty than self sacrifice.”

 

The influence of woman will save the country before any other power. - Lucy Stone


Alice Walker (1944-Present Day)

Alice Walker is an American novelist, poet, short-story writer, and activist.  Her beloved novel The Color Purple captured the hearts of audiences nationwide, earning her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1982.  Other works include Meridian (1976), The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970), and The Temple of My Familiar (1989).  Walker is an avowed feminist, and is also responsible for coining the term ‘womanist’, an inclusive term, made to integrate black women into the feminist label.

bSmart words: “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”

Wilhelmina Drucker (1847-1925)

Wilhelmina Drucker was a woman ahead of her time.  As the first Dutch feminist, she made a large impact throughout Europe through her political appearances and her writing.  Drucker addressed representatives from Germany, Austria, and Italy at the International Socialist Labor Congress of 1891 to call for full political and legal equality of men and women. This policy was then adopted by the Labor Congress.  This helped for feminism to begin to integrate itself throughout Europe at a time when feminism was still in its infancy.

bSmart words: “Where the men fight, the woman wins.”

Gloria Steinem (1934-Present Day)

...And last but not least, Gloria Steinem.  Gloria Steinem might have been the woman who made feminism cool.  (Correction: It was always cool--but for a dark time nobody knew.)  In 1963, Steinem went undercover as a Playboy ‘Bunny’ to write ‘A Bunny’s Tail’, making her a household name.  Then, just at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement, Steinem published an article in 1969 for her column in New York Magazine called ‘After Black Power, Women’s Liberation.’  The article exploded in the media, making Steinem famous overnight as a national feminist leader. Steinem has a number of published works, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983), Marilyn: Norma Jean (1986) and Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (1992).  She is also the founder of Ms. Magazine which launched in December of 1971. Gloria Steinem has appeared internationally as a spokeswoman for feminism and equality.  Ms. Steinem is also a breast cancer survivor of over thirty years. Steinem’s contributions to American Feminism have earned her the nickname: ‘The Mother of American Feminism.’

bSmart words: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

 

Sofia Bianchi is currently a student Fordham University and a fresh alum of the School of American Ballet, the premiere training grounds for young dancers in America. She is the creative coordinator of the ballet curriculum at the Middletown Arts Center in Middletown New Jersey, where she teaches ballet to young students. Sofia is currently exploring different facets of her creativity and hopes to become successful as a publisher, editor, or novelist.

 

  1.   November 01, 2018
  2.   Career

The proccess of dealing with toxic people begins with detoxifying yourself.  Although someone else may have been the person to 'intoxicate' you in the first place, you are still stuck with the negative energy that is already in your system.  Start by cleansing your system of negative thoughts.  The energy you are is the energy you attract.  But where do you find the energy to do this after somebody has been draining you of positive energy for so long?  How can you possibly just pick up and start creating new energy for yourself?

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Step One: Forgiveness

Step one is forgiveness.  It's the hardest step.  You have to forgive the people who wronged you.  You have to forgive the people who made you this way.  Yes, they did make you this way.  Recognize that, honor that.  But, you also have to begin honoring your new self, and the way to do that is to understand you’ve only been wronged because your ‘wrong-er’ has been wronged too.  It doesn’t matter why, how, or by whom.  Don’t try to relive the saga of how you, and they, arrived at this place.  Spare yourself the emotional trauma (it’s good for nothing, trust me.)  Just know that they have suffered, you have suffered, and it's come time for you to no longer endure the suffering.  It's time to start living.

Step Two: Stop judging people for who they are.

In order to seamlessly enter the patterns of your new life, try to break your habit of making judgments.  If you’ve been surrounded by a field of toxic people for most of your life, you will already be in a pattern of bitterness and judgement.  Chances are, you still feel resentment towards them, and it still keeps you up at night.  In this moment, stop judging people for who they are.  Remember that all people are a byproduct of who has raised them and who has manipulated their energy.  You don’t have to like people, but you don’t have to be affected by their negative energy either.  You can just smile and know that they have some work to do with finding themselves.  If you come across one who’s thrashing around their inky negative energy, then happily move on to the next person.  Keep your distance from negative people before they stain your white clothing of rebirth.

Step Three: But what if I have no choice but to be around Senorita Toxica?  

If you have no choice but to be around a toxic person, then try to build a wall of transparency.  Be a diplomat.  Be minimal with your responses and word choice, but don’t be too noticeable about it.  Try to be discreet.  In other words, be neutral.  Picture yourself as tans and whites and beiges when you are around them.  You can then expose the most positive assets of your personality, or your metaphorical ‘pops of color’, around the people you truly love and those who reciprocate your love.  If you have a quick mouth, use it to be witty to your dearest friends, not wisely destructive to your emotionally-fragile enemies.

Step Four: But what about Love-Hates?

Love-hates are what most toxic relationships are made of.  Remember, a real love relationship involves people who will love you for all choices you make, not just some of them.  They will have your best interests at heart and give you the freedom you require to explore and to feel relaxed as you explore.  You will never feel like you have anything you can not tell them; you will never feel like you need to take cover from being around them.  Understand that.

The energy you are is the energy you attract.

If you're bothered by the idea of living your life at the cost of burning bridges with somebody whom you are 'supposed to' love by default (for instance a family member), but who has wronged you multiple times out of their own ignorance, then lead by example.  Show them better ways to do things instead of tearing them apart.  Be excited about your latest revelations, and don’t allow yourself to be bothered by the sting of their apathy.  Don’t feel upset when Senorita Toxica does not reciprocate with the same enthusiasm to your ideas, or if he or she tries to tear your ideas down while they are still in incubation.  Remember your wrong-er has yet to be cleansed of toxicity themselves.  Also, remember that it isn’t your job to do so; it’s theirs.  Continue to be neutral, continue to keep a healthy distance; continue to seek out more positive people to populate your life with, ones who believe in your ideas and philosophies.  Build a new world and a new life, and enjoy the freedom of being able to decorate it and re-decorate however, and whenever, you like.

 

Sofia Bianchi is currently a student Fordham University and a fresh alum of the School of American Ballet, the premiere training grounds for young dancers in America. She is the creative coordinator of the ballet curriculum at the Middletown Arts Center in Middletown, New Jersey, where she teaches ballet to young students. Sofia is currently exploring different facets of her creativity and hopes to become successful as a publisher, editor, or novelist. 

 

  1.   October 02, 2018
  2.   Relationships

Code, code, code, is all I hear lately.  ‘Coding is the way of the future!  Coding is easy and fun!  Every company values workers who can code!’   With all of this buzz about coding, I decided I would give it a try this summer.   So, I recently set an important goal for myself: Learn how to code, in as many software languages as I can manage by the end of the summer.  Now, if you're unfamiliar with coding, you may be quietly wondering: What is a computer code?  What is a ‘software language?’  If so, never fear!  I was standing in your shoes just a few weeks ago.  Your questions and concerns (which are more common than you think) will be addressed in this article...and your curiosity is a great sign that you're on your way to becoming a successful coder.  

Purchase 'Code' by Charles Petzold here!

In the beginning of my coding journey, I had no idea where to begin.  Having had no prior knowledge or experience with code, I was starting completely from scratch.  In the beginning I felt like I was spending more time looking up what certain terms meant (what ‘coding’ meant, for that matter) and what different softwares were, than actually taking the time to practice coding.  I wished there was some sort of guide that could tell me from the get-go which online program to start with, and which programs I could eventually advance to having gained the necessary experience.  Now there is!  Welcome to Sofia B.’s Smart Guide to Coding, Volume I.

Through a series of articles that relay my coding progress this summer, I wish to inspire you to take up coding as well, so that we can weather this journey together.  I am now well-along in my coding journey, and I am happily progressing at a steady pace.  While I am by no means an expert at coding (yet), I hope that my guide serves as a resourceful tool and comforting read, for the curious woman who wishes to embark on this journey alongside me.  You don’t have to do this alone!  In fact, I invite you to reach out to me, so that we may help each other along the way.  (You can reach me on the bSmart connect platform under Sofia Bianchi, or directly at sofiarosabianchi@gmail.com… Let’s connect!)  After all, coding can be easy and fun.  When working with code, the opportunities are endless.  You are capable of anything, girl!  So what do you say we get started?

 

Step 1) What is Code?

Ever wonder how your phone makes an app pop up at one tap of a finger?  That’s code.  Or how when all you do is click: File, Save, and then the document saves?  That’s code.  Or how your favorite online shopping website starts showing an active slideshow of new arrivals on its home screen without you even doing anything?  That’s also code.

Coding is the language of computers.  In fact, it is more like a realm of computer languages, divided by different (what I like to call) ‘dialects,’ or, software languages.  It works like this: you write a ‘script’ of commands for your computer, app, or mobile device to follow, using the specific vocabulary that the software you are working in uses.  Then, when you ‘run your code’ you are putting these commands into effect.

You can also write into your ‘script’ a framework of rules for your virtual world to follow.  For instance, whenever I click on this, this will happen.  Whenever I tap this, this will pop up.

 

Step 2) What is a Software?

A software is what I call a ‘dialect’ of code.  Every software has its own ‘dictionary.’  In other words, every software uses slight variations of very specific commands which can be used to make your computer or mobile device do cool things.  When I use the ambiguous term ‘cool things’ it's because it's an umbrella term which represents the endless possibilities of the animations at your fingertips when you become an affluent coder.  For instance, you can make a letter get bigger or turn a different color when you hover your mouse over it, or you can make things ‘pop up’ or ‘disappear’ with the tap of a finger, as if by magic.  That’s right, it’s just like magic.  Learning to code is essentially learning how to be a virtual-magician.

Every software has its own ‘language.’  Here is a list of some common software languages:

  • C Sharp
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • C++
  • Python
  • SQL (pronounced 'sequel')
  • PHP
  • Ruby on Rails (often referred to as simply, 'Ruby')

Warning: Become familiar with the names on this list now.  When you begin your coding journey, you will start to hear these thrown around left and right.  (When I first started hearing these I was like, Wait what?  C Plus What?  What’s a software again?)

Essentially, the more software languages you learn, the more marketable you become in the professional world.  (However, once you start with one software language, the rest should come easy.  It’s like knowing Latin, and then being able to decipher foreign words with ease.)

A master coder knows their software languages well enough to be able to put commands together in clever ways for a desired aesthetic effect in the same way that a successful poet would combine words with rhythm in order to evoke a certain mood.  Being a master coder is like being a Shakespeare of technology.

 

Step 3) What’s a Good Beginner’s Program?

The great thing about learning to code is that you can teach it to yourself.  Like anything, learning to code will require practice and patience, but it isn’t rocket-science.  Luckily, all you’ll need to begin is your computer and your brain.

I tried and failed multiple times before finding an online code-schooling program that worked for me.

I would highly recommend to start with Codecademy.  It’s easy, fun, and free!  Codecademy assesses your level of understanding before you even begin, making sure you're placed in just the right level.  Then, it guides you through a straightforward, colorful, self-paced program to get you started on your road to coding success.

The software that Codecademy suggested I learned first was JavaScript.  I followed the easy-to-follow prompts, and was hooked right away.  One of the first things the program had me do was type in a few simple commands to watch some colorful letters come to life on the screen.  My initial reaction was: Did I just do that by typing in a few simple words?  I can do anything!  (Follow up on next week’s article to learn the definitions of basic terms that I learned, which may help you to get ahead before you begin.)

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Being a master coder is like being a Shakespeare of technology.

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Step 4) What is Coding Used For?

Companies actively recruit workers to code their systems for them, and they highly value any employees who come in knowing how to code.  On the front-end, coding is used for marketing: drawing in consumers by creating virtual visual magic to represent the company or brand.  Every company wants to have a visual edge; especially through any form of streamlined virtual media.  On the back-end, coding is used for managing databases and servers.  Every company wants their systems to work smoothly and soundly in order to operate with maximum efficiency.  To learn more about the difference between front-end and back-end development, click on this link.

Coding is used to articulate databases, general purpose programming, computer system support, computer engineering, and web/app-development.*

*(Be prepared, some people/sites use the acronym ‘web-dev’, or just ‘dev.”’  When I first saw the word ‘dev’ I was like, What? What does ‘dev’ mean?  It generally refers to: developer, whether that be a web or software developer.)  

 

Step 5) How Valuable is it to Know How to Code?

Short answer: Very.

Every company values a person who can articulate their web/device systems.  Not only that, but it's imperative that workers are hired to improve upon these systems in order to keep up with competing businesses.  In other words, every company in every field requires people who code, and values their coders tremendously.

Lydia Dishman published a study for Fast Company in 2016 which stated that seven million job openings in 2015 were in occupations which required coding skills.  In 2011 that the top 25% of computer programmers make nearly $80,000 annually,  while senior software engineers average a salary of $121,348, not including bonuses (to learn more, click here.)  According to a study published by The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for computer programmers in May of 2017 was $82,240.

Perhaps the best part about code is that you can do it from anywhere you are in the world, as long as you have stable internet connection.  Better yet, companies all around the globe will hire you, so long as you possess the skill.  Thinking about relocating to a tropical island for the rest of your life?  (Hey girl, that’s so funny, so was I.)  As long as you bring your laptop, no problem!

 

On Your Mark, Get Set, Code!

Being a person who codes is essentially being a person who possesses the skills to design for the virtual world.  Animating a virtual world is just as dynamic as animating the physical world: It’s like a dance, and you, the coder, are the choreographer.  

 

Sofia Bianchi is currently a student at Fordham University and a fresh alum of the School of American Ballet, the premiere training grounds for young dancers in America.  Sofia is currently exploring different facets of her creativity and hopes to become successful as a publisher, editor, or novelist.

  1.   August 09, 2018
  2.   Technology

An interesting paradox occurred recently on the day I moved out of my first New York City apartment.  The weather was like a beautiful piece of music; wild, heavily-orchestrated, and very satisfying.  So too was the climate of my heart.  Sunshine and sporadic thunderstorms in the morning (which seemed to mimic my emotions), a giant monsoon on my way out (like the trumpets of the grand finale), and a rainbow beginning to straddle the sky, as the sight of life as I knew it for the past four years was disappearing into the horizon.  At the end of the day I felt emotionally spent, and blissfully calm.  The storm had come, and it had passed.  It was a sign that my heart was ready for my next adventure.

Sofia Bianchi as a professional ballet dancer. 

I had freshly graduated from the School of American Ballet in New York City, the premiere training ground for ballet dancers in the United States.  The past four years had been transformative and surreal.  I've had the chance to share the Lincoln Center stage with ballet superstars such as Tiler Peck and Sara Mearns, I've been trained by dance legends (among them Kay Mazzo, Suki Schorer, Suzy Pilarre, and Darci Kistler), and I shall forever hold a place in the George Balanchine-legacy continuum.

With all of these beautiful experiences behind me, I recently decided to pursue my academics full time.  Through this treacherous and tentative transitional period in my life, I've come to learn just how valuable my training has been to me.  I'm quickly learning that the strengths which I have acquired through my dance training are applicable to all aspects of life.  In the very act of mustering the courage to pursue this new adventure, I have grown and matured, and have come to know myself better than ever.  In recent months, there were a multitude of signs signalling to me it was time to make this jump.  Yet I have no regrets on having made this young-dancer’s journey, because it lead me to a platform for take-off which I never would have reached, were it not for this extraordinary adventure.

Before embarking on my journey through intense training in ballet, the only friends or connections I had lived and reigned in Middletown, New Jersey, the town where I grew up.  My most eventful days were spent drawing pictures at my desk, reading and writing in my bedroom, or playing outside with my small circle of friends, whom I never seemed to share much in common with.  There was nothing interesting about me, and the most interesting things I could find were between the pages of the books I would read or existed within the landscape of my daydreams.  As a child I had developed a lot of insecurities, in spite of this.  Middle-school was my breaking point: I existed more in my own head than I did in the physical world. On the last day of eighth grade, I said goodbye to all my (small number of) friends before my last class, so I could run straight out the door at the sound of that final bell, and never look back.  There was literally a rainbow that day (it was an omen).

Yet upon discovering ballet, I initiated a transition from day-dreaming and self-doubt to discovering my potential as a professional, which is what has ultimately helped me to destroy these insecurities.  At 16 I began commuting into the city each day to train at SAB in New York.  The pursuit of ballet is what allowed me to begin discovering my place in the world.  I have since proven to myself that I am capable of belonging to any world that I wish to belong to.  I now understand that hard work is rewarded in remarkable ways—ways that you often do not expect.  And because I have learned these lessons, my heart is full.  My soul feels ripe enough to embark on a new adventure.

My training among ballet professionals has taught me the importance of making and maintaining relationships. People always tell you that your connections are everything, and I have had the opportunity to learn this by living it.  Between New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Miami, I have been dazzled by dancers, musicians, filmmakers, and other artists from all over the country, and all over the world.  Through these relationships, I have learned what makes people different, and what makes us all the same.  I have also learned that I love learning about new people, places, and cultures; and that I must factor that into the plans I make for my future in order to feel artistically and spiritually satisfied.  I have developed many unique relationships, I can continue to draw upon them in the future to grow my network and receive advice.  The truest, most powerful relationships that I have acquired shall remain close ties forever, while the inauthentic ones will become loose ends in time.

New York City, while providing me a place to grow in the later years of my dance training, served as the foreground of my young adulthood.  From the get-go, New York hit me with a serious case of ‘culture shock.’  At nineteen I moved into my first apartment where I was free to explore the city at my leisure.  I proudly consider myself a New Yorker, and I value these unique experiences. New York has been instrumental in conquering my childhood naivete.

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I'm quickly learning that the strengths which I acquired through my dance training are applicable to all aspects of life.

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I would have never known my physical capabilities if it weren’t for my dance training.  I have a fundamental understanding of the human anatomy, and how my own body responds to certain types of physical activity.  I know what kind of a diet my body responds well to, and I know how to accommodate for it.  For many years I trained my body to love and enjoy a nutritious, self-sustainable lifestyle.  

I also believe that the discipline that's realized, through the relentless practice of ballet, is permanent.  To become a ballerina requires a tremendous amount of discipline.  I believe that, whether innate or acquired, this discipline never leaves you: it becomes part of who you are.  Or perhaps it is who you are, and the practice of ballet allows you to reveal it, like the statue which emerges from the marble.

Most of all, ballet has taught me who I am.  It has taught me that I do have discipline, that I am hardworking, and that I am not very different, essentially, from my friends from all over the world.  It has also taught me that my dancing has never defined me, but rather, I have always been the one to define my dancing.  My 'itch' to succeed has guided me to and through the world of ballet.  And now, as it leads me into a different direction, I trust it blindly, for it has never steered me wrong.

 

Sofia Bianchi is currently a student Fordham University and a fresh alum of the School of American Ballet, the premiere training grounds for young dancers in America.  She is the creative coordinator of the ballet curriculum at the Middletown Arts Center in Middletown, New Jersey, where she teaches ballet to young students.  Sofia is currently exploring different facets of her creativity and hopes to become successful as a publisher, editor, or novelist.

  1.   August 06, 2018
  2.   Career
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