Ask The Bruins Chat Wrap: Valorie Kondos Field
Jan. 13, 2005
Q: Lisa (Los Angeles)
A: When I choreograph for our athletes, my primary goal is to encourage them to challenge themselves to learn different types of movement. My goal is to get them to look like dancers who tumble - not gymnasts who dance. One of the gifts I have to give our team is to challenge them movement-wise. For this reason, and because I need to continue challenging myself each year, I'm constantly looking to do different things. I have to admit that I went into this season deciding to push our athletes choreographically in areas I haven't asked them to go before, and trust that eventually - their routines would evolve into something interesting to watch.
I'm well aware that I risk having people criticize my choices and make judgement on what's good or bad, but that's the risk I choose to take for the sake of personal growth and for the growth of our athletes.
For example: I wanted to give Kate something contrary to anything she's ever done. We all know that she can do cute, fun, beautiful, spunky - but can she do avant garde, Twyla Tharp, un-orthodox movement? Can she create interesting movement without hitting a series of poses - like her routine last season? The answer is "yes" she can - however, I am consistently on her in training to not resort back to getting stiff and looking like a gymnast who dances. Personally, I absolutely love her routine this year. When I watch her I can totally FEEL the movement. I am so proud of her for pushing past her comfort level and not being concerned with "will people like it."
Choreographically, as in any art form - With respect to Good or Bad, Boring or Interesting - Everything is open for healthy debate, discussion, and if need be... judgement. I ... plan to keep my focus on Diversity.
Q: Val Rust, UCLA Faculty
A: We train from 8:00am to 11:00am most weekdays. Feel free to stop on by.
Q: Bruin Fan (Westwood, CA)
A: We don't separate our team by classes or by scholarship and non-scholarship student-athletes. The same things are expected of everyone. This is something I talk a lot about in recruiting. To be honest, I've never had to talk with one of our student-athletes about acting like a "diva", which is rather remarkable considering all of the "star" athletes we've had on our teams.
Q: Mark Kowal (Eagle Rock, CA)
A: Our meet in Utah was great for us in quite a few areas. Our freshmen competed like champions. Some of our upper classmen had mistakes they don't usually make, but served to highlight the areas we need to work on. And our "loss" only served to fuel our competitive fire. With regard to OSU, we will be putting up quite a different line-up because I need to get more athletes on our roster competing. Our goal is to always hit 24 for 24 routines, and hope that that allows us to "win" the meet. Will I see you on Monday at our home opener, Mark?
Q: Denny (Santa Monica)
A: All of our student-athletes get new floor routines every year. I am one of those choreographers who continue to tweak our floor routines all season long. In answer to your question ... No Denny, I don't think you need to be concerned about this year's floor team. We really don't have a weak event this season.
Q: Shelly (Milwaukee, WI)
A: Dantzscher is doing GREAT. She has not graduated from school yet. She's doing really well in school and will graduate in June. She's got a few things going with photo shoots for some magazines, and she's in my office all the time. I agree with you, she is great.
Q: John (New York)
A: We go to a few of the bigger national meets. Usually, I hear from the recruits via e-mail and any video footage they send.
Q: Camille (Arcadia, CA)
A: Holly Murdock has injury-retired. Her body was breaking down with all of the pounding, and she really wasn't very happy in the gym any more. Because she has legitimate physical issues with the sport, she qualifies for an injury- retirement scholarship. She has two more years left in school here, and she will be helping us out at our home meets. We all miss having her in the gym every day. Our entire gym erupts into a welcoming cheer when she comes into the gym.
Q: UCLA fan
A: Courtney did not back out of a verbal commitment to UCLA. In recruiting, it's always in everyone's best interest for the recruit to end up where they really want to go. The team and I have absolutely no ill feelings toward her.
Q: Ryan Lange (Red Deer, Alberta, Canada)
A: I feel it's imperative we keep our focus on ourselves and on our goals. We can't measure our success by what other teams do, by whom we beat, or whom we lose to. We need to regroup after every meet, discuss where we need to step it up, make appropriate corrections and changes, and hopefully, by April 21st we'll be able to compete with the same confident, aggressive, and clean gymnastics we've had in the past.
A: The NCAA does not offer rhythmic gymnastics as one of its sports, so no we do not recruit rhythmic gymnasts.
Q: John (Riverton)
A: Hi John, where is Riverton? I appreciate you coming to the source. O.K. let's see... first of all we started with 16. Secondly, I don't travel our entire team. And no... I don't already have people to replace the athletes that are no longer on our team. (That seems like an odd question, maybe I'm not understanding it well.) As to our dwindling numbers:
Trishna Patel wanted to come back for a fifth year because she was so very close to getting a Yurchenko full vault. She decided a few weeks ago that she just didn't see that happening between now and April, so she has decided to retire from gymnastics and spend her time concentrating on school and getting an internship in the entertainment industry.
Christy Erickson is pretty much the same story. She also had a fifth year to compete and in November asked if she could stop training and become an undergraduate assistant coach. I was thrilled because she is so valuable to our team in this capacity.
Jen Sutton's school schedule is extremely difficult and will get more and more difficult for her the next year and a half. She's a brilliant student. She also injured her neck in the fall. When she healed from that and was released to start training again, she and I sat down and talked about where she could feel the most useful for the team. Jen is now helping out in the gym - doing a great job!
Holly's situation I addressed in an earlier question.
It is an odd year in this sense isn't it? Mainly because we had three fifth years come back - Trishna, Erickson, and Maloney. That's a first for us.
Q: adam ahquin san diego
A: Adam Ahquin... are you the awesome dancer I've heard so much about??? If so, how cool! Thanks for the note.
Q: Orange County
A: I saw that in the paper. I don't think there is any more reason for concern than there has been for the past several years. It's simply talking about the participation numbers. I keep seeing the NCAA doing everything it can to help out those sports.
Q: Scott Smith Newport Beach, CA
A: Yes, I can. Thank you for your kind words.
Q: Betsy (Boston)
A: Hi Betsy. Our goal each year is to help our team members learn life lessons through the sport of gymnastics. That includes having integrity in everything you do in life, and through that integrity being able to compete with unwavering confidence. With regard to looking at our season as a whole, I've been chastised in the past for not putting up our strongest line-ups in every meet. I believe that if you are on our team, and you have properly prepared to compete, then you have earned the right to compete. Every line-up I put up should be able to "win" the meet if they hit their routines. From a "team" perspective, I can't tell you how many times we've had to rely on our depth to come in and compete at nationals. I believe that they were able to compete as champions because they had been given competitive experience during the course of the season.
Q: Amy (New York)
A: Our line-ups each meet are determined by a few things: The health of our athletes. Who we want to give more competitive experience to. Who we want to rest. Who needs to rest. We try to put up our strongest line-up for our home competitions. We try to compete our athletes at away meets if we know their family or friends might be there. However, first and foremost comes the health of our athletes, and then giving them as much competitive experience as possible.
I'm not "worried" about putting freshmen up first or last in the line-up, but I do take into consideration the extra pressure it may put on them because obviously I want them to feel success. I was extremely impressed with Lindsey Vanden Eykel our first meet - a freshman, competing last in the line-up on our first event, at her first college meet, and she hit the most beautiful bar routine I've seen her do.
Q: Sabrina Houston,TX
A: Thank you for the compliment. All of our floor music is done by Eric Larson of Wolfjump Music. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't know the titles of the individual songs because he sends me a ton of demos, and I just pick the ones I like.
Q: Rachel, Davis
A: I would love to choreograph more elite routines. I was excited that the Canadian Federation allowed Kate Richardson to keep her college floor routine for the Olympics this last summer. Kate said that every time she performed it at Canada's Olympic Trials and at the Olympic Games, she had people coming up to her and telling her how much they enjoyed it.
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