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Sunday, December 9, 2018

2018 WTA Yearbook

As the latest term comes to its natural end, we here at Backspin Academy choose to send our students, benefactors and emotional supporters back out into the world with something for them to savor and hold dear as they remember their campus experiences of the past year.

And the time has come for us to gather together.

Our Beloved Backspin Academy

On one long weekend each December, the past, present and future of BSA -- along with some special invited guests and anyone who wishes to join us -- congregate across the campus grounds for a well-earned respite and time to pause, reflect and recuperate from all the work undertaken over the course of the prior eleven months.

In recent seasons, the event has taken on a name. Dubbed our "Carl TALKS Weekend" for the free-to-the-public, all-encompassing series of speeches presented by past alumni and future graduates (named after BSA's most senior, ummm, denizen), the activities have grown in scope -- literally and figuratively -- seemingly every year. This time around, nearly every area of campus was simultaneously utilized to both provide therapy and/or much-needed fun for all involved.


From the Navratilova Hall of Records that stands as the hub of the daily BSA grind to the impressive Henin Hall on the newly-renovated west property, Backspin Academy was decorated with festive banners and student artwork that formed a series of connective bridges between the various centers of action, drawing individuals in and encouraging them to turn both inward and outward in order to make their weekend getaway as rewarding as possible.


2018's Carl TALKS Weekend was pleased for the first time to welcome its namesake, as the beloved Carl himself made the trek from parts unknown to join with us in celebration.

A man of few words, Carl nonetheless led the inaugural edition of the sure-to-be-annual Carl Games on The Commons, which featured a series of athletic competitions at which Carl has traditionally thrived, including the "chase with club" game and a few hearty rounds of "Squish" (oddly enough, Carl seemed to *always* win). The agreed upon highlight of the Games was the the first-ever Elking event held on campus grounds. After hearing about the sport for years, the curious specators were all... um, delighted to finally see it up close and personal on the sprawling lawns on which our students often enjoy a break in the middle of each day.

We were assured that no elks were harmed in the demonstration... though the psyches of a few individuals in the crowd may not be able to say the same.

Joining Carl in demonstrating the finer points of Elking expertise was his son Carlo, who many of us haven't seen since he was just a boy. Carlo has grown into a fine young man in the interim, and announced to all this weekend that he'd been a 2nd Round draft choice of the Saskatoon Berrypickers of the World Elking League. Carlo showed everyone recent of photos of his mom Carla, twin sister Carlita, and infant sibling Carlie from their recent vacation at the Great Wall of China (including Carla's remarkable single-bound leap from one side of the wall to the other... something which has led to some discussions with the Chinese Olympic Federation about relocating the family there, which many of us suspect may be the reason why the rest of the family didn't make the trip back to campus this year).

Champions were crowned in every age group, with each winner getting the opportunity to take a photo with Backspin Academy's version of a "black swan," the formerly missing-and-presumed-imaginary "Caroline's Roo." Has it been nearly a year now since the creature was finally discovered in, naturally, Melbourne?

[Editor's note: we have since learned that Carl has been banned from attending Carlo's WEL competitions due to illegal coaching from the sidelines... as well as verbally threatening the umpire who levied the penalty against Carlo during one of his matches.]

In between and surrounding the activities of the Carl Games, campus vistors were thrilled with our offerings this year, as the boundaries of the traditional picnic area were populated by a series of pop-up stores, including those featuring items from longtime supporter Sugarpova (the CEO even dropped by to autograph a few bars of her new chocolate offerings), Jo Konta's Homebaked Goods, Michaella Krajicek's one-of-a-kind artwork and resident poet Diane Dees' tennis-themed "Nomenclature" brand cosmetics & accessories line (inspired by the well-received poem of the same name that debuted on Poetry Super Highway earlier this year). With items such as The Light and the Joy Glitter (the weekend's best seller), needless to say, the lines stretched nearly all the way to the Sugarpova Cineplex.

The BSA Bookstore on Dokic Drive was busy from sun up until sundown, nearly selling out of some of the items newly added to its shelves and storeroom since last year, from the usual specialty t-shirts to the exclusive musical collections from some of our more creative (and busy) students...

We're really excited about these 2018 releases!

The bookstore's items always seem able to fill an urgent need, or maybe even inspire a new one. If you get the chance when you're on campus, drop by and have a look (you never know which familiar-faced student might be working behind the register!).

Great news! We do believe that we generated enough funds for another big weekend at this time *next* year. We're so excited for the future!

Of course, the annual magazine cover collage was a big hit, and the site served as a background for quite a few selfies you've surely seen on social media in recent days. The BSA Arts & Crafts Club deserves all the credit for spending the year locating and collecting as many of the tangible tributes to the popularity of our students as possible.

This year, we thought we'd add a taste of the academic experience found on campus, allowing the weekend visitors a glimpse of the sort of discussions that go on within the walls of the Academy on a daily basis. One impromptu class -- "Svitology-101" -- proved so popular that we're thinking of adding it to the coming semester's course catalog. It seems as if it'd fit in rather nicely into the vacant slot left open by the recent cancellation of the no-longer-necessary "Wozniology-101" class that was chocked full of enthusiastic, socially concerned students for years.

Another instructive public class involved the aspect of "How-Not-To Report the News" (aka, according to some in attendance, "tennis news dies in darkness"). NOTE: A few of our younger guests, otherwise distracted last summer, had a difficult time determining from the classroom examples precisely *which* player actually prevailed in London... which we thought sort of proved our point.

And an accompanying "How-To Report the News" instructional offering that showed that it *is* indeed possible to take note of an event's "most talked about" aspect while also not burying the lede, or insulting the *true* protagonist in the story...

As always, we're very proud of our student body and faculty, even if some of them disappoint us on occasion. The BSA environment is one that embraces sincere attempts at redemption, and our arms are always open to reconciliation with even some of the more wayward members of the community. But even if such evolution never becomes a reality, we are committed to finding alternate ways to coexist. The BSA campus is a large one, and there is room for everyone, for we never lose hope.

Luckily for us, the BSA School for the Performing Arts has stepped up to fully commit the time and effort to truly make Carl TALKS Weekend (for the record, formerly informally dubbed the "Festival of Ideas," a moniker scrapped when Carl threatened to pull the use of his name from the lecture series event unless an *official* change was enacted) a celebration heard 'round the world, bringing together the talents of students from both near and far.

The Academy board of directors decided to acquiesce to Carl's desires, and the Carl TALKS sessions were once again a rousing success!


By the way, we'd all like to thank Kathy Rinaldi for serving as this year Mistress Captain of Ceremonies for the lecture portion of the weekend! By the end of it all, we all felt like a solid team.

Here's a look at what was a jam-packed schedule for the HJC this weekend:

Invocation performed by Carlos Ramos, laying out the rules and order for speakers, listeners and post-Talk autograph seekers gathering on the edge of the stage

"POJD!" - Petra Kvitova
"Trusting the Process and Other Self-deluding Trusty Self-Help Techniques" - Elina Svitolina
"Dealing with New Expectations That Will Now Scrape the Sky (note from speaker: this will probably be the worst Carl Talk ever)" - Naomi Osaka (w/ a brief introduction from Alona Ostapenko)
"Living in the Shadow of Thunder (a view from above the clouds)" - Anastasija Sevastova
"Working Eight Days a Week (or so it seems)" - Elise Mertens
"Clay, Me & My New Hard Court Life" - Kiki Bertens
"Strategies and Marketing in the Candy Business in a Health Conscious Age (aka Yum!)" - Maria Sharapova
"Intercom Repair for Dummies" - Alize Cornet

"Tennis is better than any movie." - Karolina Pliskova

"How to Insult Officials, Be a Poor Loser and Selfish Opponent, Assume the Role of Victim and Simultaneously Demand That Stated Rules Not Apply to You, and Yet Inspire Unbridled Support Due to Great Past Deeds" - Serena Williams (followed by a many-sided interpretation of double standards by Martina Navratilova, Sally Jenkins and Barbora Strycova)
"Preventative Medicine, Smart Body Management, Recuperation, Recovery & Restorative Success" - Dr. Mihaela Buzarnescu
"Traversing the New Terrain When Relationship Dynamics Shift Due to Changing Professional Success" - Donna Vekic
"Fear the Cap" - Emiliana Arango
"Flying High Mid-Range" - Caroline Garcia
"Bravely Getting Over the Past and Moving on to the Future" - Kristina Mladenovic [CANCELLED due to Mademoiselle Mladenovic missing multiple rides to campus]
"Nein!" - Julia Goerges

"When the Best Year is the Toughest Year" - Simona Halep
"Smiling Through the Pain, Eventually" - Margarita Gasparyan
"Don't Blame Me, I Don't Make the Rules (delivered via video link from Zhuhai)" - Wang Qiang
"The Petko Dance: A History" - Andrea Petkovic (with an after-Talk bonus: "The Philosophy of Tennis as It Pertains to Life (an open-ended conversation)")
"Building the Perfect Naomi, Pt.1" - Sascha Bajin
"Optimizing Doubles Success on the Grandest Stage" - Peng Shuai [CANCELLED due to illegal exchange of money in an attempt to arrange a better speaking time]
"Redefining Greatness" - Diede de Groot

"That's what makes me great: I always play everyone at their greatest, so I have to be greater." - Serena Williams

"The Secret Art of the Mugu" - Garbine Muguruza
"You May Not Know Me Well, But You Will (and I'm awesome, by the way)." - Dayana Yastremska
"I'm Back, and This Time I Mean It" - Victoria Azarenka [POSTPONED FROM AN EARLIER DATE]
"(Insert Appropriate Number) Time's the Charm" - Clara Burel
"Tales of a Great Chick: How Adding Grass to My Diet Made Me a New Woman All Over Again" - Angelique Kerber (w/ an introduction from Ash Barty)
"Surviving and Thriving" - Rebecca Marino [with after-Talk supervised online chat]
"Fear Nothing, but Hope for Better Health" - Madison Keys
"Have Expertise, Will Must Travel in Search of New Challenges" - Wim Fissette
"Remembering Bueno" - a tribute by Billie Jean King

"When Upside Down is Right side Up" - Caroline Wozniacki
"When Right side Up is Suddenly Upside Down" - Jana Fett
"Are You Ready For Me?" - Aryna Sabalenka
"More Time for Coffee (and no skimping on the creamer)" - Lucie Safarova
"It's Good to Be Wanted" - Demi Schuurs
"Do You Know My Mommy?" - Alexis Olympia
"The Continued Fine Art of Bannerette Whispering" - Kathy Rinaldi
"The Fine Art of Pasty Whispering: Men's Edition" - Amelie Mauresmo (SCHEDULE CHANGE: new title is "The Fine Art of Pouille Whispering")
"Toiling in the Shadows (and being fine with that)" - Petr Pala
"What the Future Holds for Me" - Jelena Jankovic [CANCELLED due to absence of speaker]

"I think I have nothing to prove anymore to anyone, and it's definitely a good statement for myself." - Elina Svitolina

"The Future Still Looks Good From Here" - Sloane Stephens
"Against the Odds: The Future Still Looks Good From Here (crossing fingers)" - Timea Bacsinszky
"Baking All Your Troubles Away, in Theory" - Johanna Konta
"Living Without My 'Other Side' (and Abbey Management Tactics)" - Aga Radwanska
"Finally Finding that White Mile" Patty Schnyder
"When Everyone Tells You You're Wrong, But You Don't Believe Them... and then you're told you *were* 75% wrong"" - The USTA
"When Being Only 25% at Fault is a 100% Victory" - Genie Bouchard
"I'm Ready to Do This From the Other Side -- Who's Up First?" - Coach Francesca Schiavone
"Winning is Heaps Cool (and I want to do it more often)" - Ash Barty
"Living the Dream" - Ankita Raina
"I'm Still Not Sure Why I'm Here (but I *do* like the complementary mint on my pillow)" - Eliessa Vanlangendonck
"POJD! (closing statement)" - Petra Kvitova

All our visitors knew that our talented students had been working overtime for this year's weekend celebration, as it was clear *before* they even arrived on campus. The evidence was right along the road for all to see.

The Carl TALKS weekend has garnered much praise for the creative arts showcase that it has become while featuring all varieties of student-produced entertainment.

From travelogues..

To performance art...

Rain Delay Cornet (photographed by Jimmie48Photography)

And.... scene.

There's surely *something* for everyone.

Of course, the day and night long affair that is our annual film & theater festival attracts by far the biggest number of individuals.

Since its founding a short while ago, the works produced in association with the Backspin Academy Center for the Performing Arts have seemingly grown exponentially in both quantity and quality. We're positively bursting at the seams with pride and a desire for the vast array of talent on campus to be recognized and celebrated. This year's carefully selected films, plays and streaming entertainment allowed the entire campus community, as well as the general public, to experience the breadth and scope of our student body's creativity in one big three-day gulp. The entertainment was rolled out 24-hours-day on the weekend (though the one woman show being given by a certain German won't take place until later this month, she was generous enough to give out audiences a few brief preview of what's to come on New Year's Eve). The whole big deal was kicked off with a casual red carpet affair that preceded the opening of our very first, star-studded presentation...

A day-long honoring of the campus' biggest achiever of the past year, featuring her past starring roles, as well as her triumphant recent ones...

[HINT: click on images for inspirations]

For some, nothing beats the heart-pounding excitement of a live performance, and the festival caters to such tastes.


Our live plays and musicals were performed at the fabulous JJ Center for Dramatic Arts, on the stage of the glorious Li Na Theatre...

We've added a streaming entertainment service to meet changing needs and desires. So far, our original content (previewed on the big screen on Carl TALKS weekend) has thus far been viewed as top rate.

Meanwhile, our traditional film and television festival once again took place at the high-tech and oh-so-comfortable Sugarpova Cineplex...

Stars great and small, past and present -- and everyone in between -- starred in all varieties of films, often in roles echoing their own life experiences (that is, when they weren't taking the opportunity to experience some things "out of this world")...

In a tribute to a recently departed (for new pastures where we all expect her to find great success!) and much-beloved student, we brought back a past favorite...


At long last, we even celebrated the curtain dropping on the nightmare midnight movie after a run that was, quite frankly interminable...

Of course, the BSA arts community does not discriminate. Student-produced works, art house fare and mainstream big budget international productions are given equal time throughout the year on the screens of the Sugarpova Cineplex. For those who wish to take a break from our exclusive productions to enjoy a few hours of Hollywood-style fun in a different setting, there will be fine additional entertainment choices.

And, with an introduction from our own Sachia Vickery...

And, thus, we arrive at the end of yet another year, as soon our thoughts will be overtaken by the ideas and notions that will shape the NEXT twelve months.

Who will reclaim a leading role on campus, or further grow their current influence? With the slate clean, everyone's grade point average will once again be 0.0 as 2019 begins, after all. Who will break out of the pack and become a new star? Someone will, of that we can be certain. One year from now, we will know all. Today, though, we are a-sea in the darkness.


If we knew the answers ahead of time, we'd miss out on all the fun.