Dec. 29, 2011
UCLA Gymnastics coaches and team members will be answering your questions every Thursday over the course of the season. To submit questions for future Q&As, CLICK HERE.
Megan (Montrose): Have any of the gymnasts helped choreograph their own floor routines, or have they all been done by Miss Val this season?
Valorie Kondos Field: I LOVE to have collaboration on choreography. Regardless of what I'm choreographing, I feel that the work turns out best when I have a lot of input. I'll often look to someone, even if it's someone who knows nothing about dance or gymnastics, and ask them what they think. So to answer your question, every routine we perform is a blend of a lot of different opinions. This is probably the reason why our routines aren't "complete" until mid-season; we are constantly tweaking. I will often ask one of the girls or Amy to re-work a section if I don't think it's working well.
When we get an athlete who has a particular style and understands how to choreograph a piece, I will work with them to figure out the structure of the piece and then let them put the steps together. Ariana Berlin, Talia Kushynski, and Aisha Gerber (all World Arts and Cultures majors) choreographed their routines with very little input from me. With Aisha's routine this year, I felt the middle part of the music lent itself to syncopated movement. So I showed her what syncopated movement would look like and let her come up with the choreography. The arabesque hold is a direct steal from a So You Think You Can Dance routine which I loved and suggested she include. Another "Miss Val" fact ... for some reason I hate to choreograph end poses. This year, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs has been amazing coming up with unique end poses that fit the music and story perfectly. Mattie Larson's is a great example of that. I was trying to get really technical with Mattie's ending, and Elyse said, "I think she should just crumble to the ground like all of her marionette strings were cut." Brilliant!!!
RL (Glendora): Do you think this team is better than last year? What improvement do you think are needed in the team?
Valorie Kondos Field: Yes, I do think we are a better team than last year. We have more depth, and the team chemistry is really solid. We definitely have heart and discipline. We need to develop our ability to bring our best EVERY TIME our best is needed ... the understanding that we're not going to HOPE we're successful; we're going to BE successful.
Susan (Liverpool, England): I was really disappointed for Vanessa Zamarripa last year due to her injury and am happy that she has healed well. To what extent should we expect to see her in the lineups this year? Is she ready for all four pieces? I hope so! Will she have a new floor or use her one from last year? Thanks and good luck!
Valorie Kondos Field: We're excited to have Vanessa back. No one does gymnastics like she does. You can't coach the way she "floats" through her skills. Right now, she's back on everything but floor. She's been a bit hesitant to get back all of her passes, but she's working well through it. And yes, she has a new floor routine.
Megan: When did Alyssa Pritchett get her half-in half-out on floor? Why haven't we seen that before? Or her in the floor line-up before?
Valorie Kondos Field: Alyssa had her tumbling from her club, Wildfire. Unfortunately, she has tweaked her ankle every year at the start of the season and hasn't been able to compete much for us.
Josselyn: Of course all your athletes are used to performing high-level floor routines prior to NCAA, but have you ever had an especially rewarding experience with a "resistant" or "hesitant" dancer who realized her full potential with you and became a confident performer?
Valorie Kondos Field: YES! So many I don't know where to begin. The one person that comes to mind from our current team is Olivia Courtney. To see her smile on floor and "perform" the movement is a huge break-through.