One more sleep ’til Swan Lake!

BB has gotten me, hook, line, and sinker.

They taught me Swan Lake choreography in the Adult Summer Dance Program.

They have plied me with teasers via e-mail and snail mail.

They have filled my FB and Instagram feeds with pretty pictures and videos.

They have accosted my eyes at every turn in Boston with signs, including a huge billboard I just spotted over I-93 this morning.

And that’s not even including the sneak preview they were so gracious to award a few of us lucky subscribers a couple weeks ago.

I’ll admit it, I’m excited for tomorrow night when I can finally see all the pieces come together! In the meantime, here’s a little background on how this show has developed including set and costume design for those of you interested in that stuff. (Isn’t that, like, all of you?! No? Am I the only ridiculous ballet dork here?!)

BB Up Close

In case I ever develop a case of the “I never win anythings” someone please remind me of this:

Apparently when I renewed my subscription for Boston Ballet’s 2014-15 season super-duper early I was entered in a contest. I don’t recall this fact. I was just so excited about the line-up and I adored my seats so much that I simply wanted to secure my spot in the next season’s action.

But I was.

And I won!

What did I win?

Oh
.
.
.
just the chance to go watch Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake rehearsals!

My non-ballet acquaintances were all, “Oh, that’s… nice?”

To which I replied, “Nice? Nice?! It’s fan-f&^$ing-tastic!”

Because I am a big ballet nerd.

Thankfully I’m well-acquainted with some other big ballet nerds and… as part of my prize I was allowed to bring one of them with me!

So I picked my time (there were four times during the weekend to choose from): Saturday afternoon.

Then agonized over what one wears to watch rehearsals: one does not want to look overdone or underdone and skirts are 100% out seeing as I could totally picture them giving us a nice scrap of marley in the corner from which to watch. The outfit I chose probably made me look a bit scattered, though I preferred to think of it as casual-chic-military-inspired-1950s-housewife.

Then agonized over whether we’d have enough time to get there (because, of course, we had our own class and rehearsals that ran past noon AND it was a nice warm day which Bostonians know cannot be wasted therefore pedestrians and motorists alike would be out in force AND the Head of the Charles regatta was going on in town, too).

But travel worked out perfectly: we were told to get there by 3:15 and I think we were at the door right on the dot. We met a couple staff members at the door and were told to wait there and to use the restroom if necessary NOW as we would not be able to wander in and out of the rehearsals.

So we waited politely until we were summoned to the elevators. There were two other women and a gentleman who were part of the “Winners’ Circle.” Somehow I was expecting a MUCH larger turn-out. They said they selected 100 winners! There were four times to pick from and I think they said that one of the Sunday times had a lot of people, but still… five people? Are all the other winners cray-cray? Or are they just super-popular with posher plans already in the works?

Whatever… that means larger scraps of marley for us.

Except, no. We weren’t actually marooned in a corner, peeping at the action like forlorn little mice. We were led up to the huge 4th floor studio and shown to a row of chairs that ran along the mirrors. Front and center! We were told to avoid certain areas for the directors, but other than that, we had our choice of seats right in the midst of the action.

Wow.

Although… hello, my name is Rori and I am conspicuous! Felt a teensy bit awkward to be positioned so we were staring directly at the dancers as they were warming up and running through bits of choreography before the action started. I mean, who knows, maybe they’re used to random people just hanging out watching them. But I was just relieved that I had been allowed to bring a friend so we could chat with one another and not let our awe be TOO obvious.

And then… well, then, Mikko came in. I say that like he and I are best buds; I should probably refer to him as MISTER Nissinen. But if you are a regular BB fan, you will easily recognize BB’s Artistic Director, not only from his picture in the programs, but from the shows themselves. I think I’ve seen him wandering around the Opera House at every show I’ve gone to, kissing cheeks and looking appropriately mysterious in his black leather jacket. You begin to feel like you know the guy even though the feeling isn’t even remotely mutual.

I guess black leather jackets are a bit much for running rehearsals. It was a black polo, track pants, and dance sneakers on this day. And… dear reader, he came right up and talked to the five of us! I guess I should have expected that, but I could also see someone of his stature being all, “I’ve got important artistic work to do, I’m not going to spend time talking to the ‘fans’ the subscriptions team decided we should drag into the studio!” But no, he was completely gracious, thanking us for coming (thank us?! NO, thank YOU!!!) and telling us that we would be seeing a run-through of acts III & IV of Swan Lake with Ashley Ellis as Odile and Eris Nezha as Siegfried. He told us about Nezha being from La Scala to which I was all, “Eek, I know, he and his wife came to talk to us during the ASDP!!!” Okay, that’s what I said in my head. Externally I only managed to smile and nod mutely because I could think of nothing witty or endearing to say.

And then… rehearsals got underway. I must apologize for not having any pictures to share with you. We were told we could take photos as long as we didn’t use flash and, of course, didn’t take video, but I would have felt really, really weird doing so. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was incredible and amazing to be so freaking close to the dancers. I thought Eris Nezha was going to land a grand jété in my lap at one point.

So many amazing things to witness.

For one thing… it really isn’t that different from when we do studio run-throughs before a show. Okay, so the dancing is obviously at a totally different caliber, but aside from that, the dancers who aren’t on are standing around watching, some of them are chit-chatting, some of them are checking their phones or sewing pointe shoes, etc.

Another thing is… yeah, they make it look effortless, but when you’re that close you can tell how much work it is. They are breathing like they’re running a sprint and “glistening” like nobody’s business.

Also… they don’t always keep their game face on during rehearsals. I saw some lip-biting, a few deadpan faces. I don’t mean that as a criticism at all! It’s actually a relief to me. I’ve always had a hard time getting super-emotive in rehearsals… I do fine on stage, but, for a current example, when we’re running Snow in the studio, being a smiling, beatific snowflake is not my MO in that moment. In the midst of going full-throttle for 6 minutes adding in a smile for a non-existent audience seems like a total waste of energy. I save it for the stage at which point, of course, it’s 110%, “Oh my gosh, I’m so THRILLED to be sucking in fake snow, this is the best thing I’ve ever done!!!”

But… they ALL clap for one another after each piece! I wasn’t expecting that. Not just clapping, but cheering and whooping for the hard stuff. I’ve heard that this is a close company, and that seemed to prove it, at least in some way. They seemed super-supportive of each other, working together to figure things out, etc.

And… for those people who think dancers are all built the same… they’re not. Woah. Revelation. I’m not sure if any of you have been following Katie (Kathryn) Morgan’s YouTube channel, but she’s mentioned multiple times in there that there are ranges of normal in ballet. You might have thought she was being PC. But she’s right. Maybe back in the Balanchine heyday the string-bean waif was the hand-picked ideal, but I think that is changing and it certainly is the case with BB. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all super-slender and you’d be hard pressed to find any pudge in that room, but… there are some bean-poles builds (guys and girls alike) and there are some very athletic dancers who have cores and quads of steel (again, guys and girls alike). It was nice to see women that I could look at and say, yes, if I were to work out/dance as much as they do, that’s what I imagine I’d look like.

That goes for feet, too. I, of course, saw plenty of to-die-for feet. I also saw some that were remarkably adequate. In fact, one of my favorites, corps member Sarah Wroth… yeah, her feet don’t appear much bendier than mine. Obviously you can’t be completely flat-footed; you have to be able to have the foot and ankle flexibility to get over your boxes. But banana feet are not a requirement.

It was great to see the rehearsal process. Even though these are professionals it was clear that this is a work in progress. It’s a nearly-finished work, but there are always tweaks to make, entrance cues to learn, details of placement. Mikko talked to us a bit towards the end while the ballet mistress was working with the swan corps and was saying that the individuals learn their parts: it starts messy, but gets better. Then they all come together and it’s like the whole process starts again. Then, of course, once they get that level down they move to the stage with the full costumes, props, and scenery, and again there is a process where you run through and things are awry, but they work it all through until the curtain goes up. Lots of building up and breaking down in the process of getting it to a completed work (and even then, as anyone who performs knows, there are always notes and things to learn and work on, even as the audience thinks it’s seeing a “finished product”).

All in all a fabulous afternoon peeking behind the curtain. As an amateur dancer, it was amazing to see how many parallels do exist. Dance is dance, after all. But it was also incredible to see so much amazing talent up close in one place. I feel so privileged to have been able to indulge in that afternoon and am so grateful to Boston Ballet!

As we were walking out one of the staff members came looking for us and said they had gifts for us… as if what we just experienced hadn’t been sufficient! They gave us totes filled with a mug, pen, magnet, and the requisite publicity pieces.

BB Swag

We chatted with them a bit before we headed out. I guess this was the first time they’ve ever done something like this, opening the doors for patrons to see the rehearsal process, so they were curious what we thought. All five of us were equally agog.

As my friend and I exited we saw one of the dancers outside hop on his bike and ride away. Somehow it seemed absolutely ludicrous that one of these amazing dancers would just… get on his bike and go… home? I don’t know what we thought he should do. Grand jété to the moon? I guess it’s just surreal to realize that these dancers, as awesome as they are, are still just… people. At the end of the day it’s their job. And they think what any of us think when we leave work: “Crap, I drank all the milk this morning, need to stop and get more. Did I pay that bill that’s due tomorrow? Oh, and I need to call Suzy and see if she still wants to get together tomorrow.” It’s not, “Aw yeah, I’m a star!” And to most people, I guess they’re not. They look at them and see some guy on the T, some girl walking down the street.

But as ordinary as they all ultimately are, to some of us they represent something so incredibly special, and they are superstars in our eyes. I am eternally grateful that they allowed us into their world, even for just a few hours, to see what their “day-job” looks like, to dream and admire and appreciate and expand my ballet education just a bit more.

Thank you, Boston Ballet!

The tools of our trade

As regular readers are probably aware, I fund my dance hobby with a job in healthcare. I’m trained as a nurse (though currently I have a nursing job that does not involve directly caring for patients; I’m behind-the-scenes… in the wings, as it were!).

I had become a nurse just a couple years before resuming ballet and I found that this bank of knowledge gave me a whole new appreciation for the things my body can do. So much of our time as dancers is spent focusing on what we can’t do, but when you look at what we’re given to work with it’s pretty amazing that we can stand up and walk, let alone plié, grand jété, and stand on our toes.

It also gave me a new appreciation for how important it is to care for this tool we’re given. A lot of what we do in ballet isn’t entirely natural (hello, turn-out). While unnatural doesn’t inherently mean dangerous, it can be harmful if we don’t approach it in the right way.

This is why I’m such a fan of people like Lisa Howell and Deborah Vogel who spend much of their lives helping us understand how to get the most out of our bodies. The demands of ballet are constantly increasing and with that the risk of injury increases, as well. Whatever level we’re at, professional or amateur, we need to take care of ourselves if we want to continue enjoying ballet in the studio or on the stage!

If any of you are as interested in this as I am, but don’t want to embark on a new career, I’ve got a free (!) course for you! HarvardX (yes, that Harvard) just opened a MOOC (which stands for Massive Open Online Course) called Musculoskeletal Anatomy. Here’s their trailer on it. Fair warning: there are some brief shots of human cadaver dissection at about 1:15-1:45 — medical students learn anatomy by dissection, so if images of surgeries or that fetal pig you had to dissect in high school made you gag, this might not be the course for you. But if you can handle that (and keep in mind that the cadavers are people who made the choice when they were alive to donate their body for this purpose because they felt strongly about contributing to medical education in this way) this is a cool way to learn more about how our bodies work and how injuries may be evaluated and treated.

Through the Escape Hatch

So I skipped my Saturday morning class today…

To go to Saturday morning class at another studio.

Does this make me unfaithful?

I don’t know, I just felt the need to get away.

Our Saturday morning class is one I have a love-hate relationship with anyway. For one thing, it’s the one class where the adults and kids are combined. We have nice kids, so that in and of itself isn’t a problem it’s just…

I don’t know, sometimes (a lot of times) I leave feeling totally defeated and frustrated. The kids seem to take whatever gets thrown at them and just do it. Not that they always do it well, but they do it. Which is respectable. Sometimes I think that’s how you learn… just try and see what happens and refine as you go. But there are times when all I can think is, why am I here? Is this class meant to remind me of my weaknesses, my failings, the things that I will likely never conquer in the studio?

And then I want to cry and break things.

I know, I know, I being overly angsty about this.

The truth is, a lot of us adults feel this way at one time or another and the nice part is that we can all support one another.

And then there will come a class where the exercises all (or, at least, mostly) feel good and you walk out feeling exhilarated. Which makes up for a boatload of meh classes.

I don’t know, I think I’m just going through a weird growing pain phase in my ballet “career” that I don’t quite know how best to approach.

But I’m getting ahead of myself into a topic for another post.

Back to this morning.

So, Nutcracker auditions are tomorrow. Which are always a bit anxiety-provoking, even if they are mostly a formality (most of the dancers come from our own stock of students, so the people doing the casting know the raw material they have to work with and who will work best for what). You still want to go out there and dance proud, which is hard to do if you’re in a weird mental space brought on by feeling defeated.

Also, it’s hard to slay anxiety when you’re surrounded by people who not only share that feeling, but talk non-stop about the feeling!

Thus, I decided to spend the morning in a class where I knew I would A) get a good workout, B) get good corrections, and C) not be around anyone else I know from the studio!

So… I returned to BBS-Newton for the first time since the ASDP glory days to take class with one of the teachers I had over the summer. I’d enjoyed his classes then and was hoping to rekindle some of the magic I felt during those two weeks.

And, dear reader, I’m so glad I did. It was just what the doctor ordered. There were no miracles in the studio, but I felt good for the most part. I felt strong and centered and technically clean. And, bonus, I saw a lot of familiar faces which was fun. I’ve taken a couple classes at the main studio in Boston and didn’t recognize anyone from the program there… I guess they’re all Newton regulars.

Time will tell if this will spell a good omen for tomorrow. But I will at least be going in with the reminder that I can feel beautiful and strong and competent as a dancer and that will be the most recent ballet memory tomorrow when I pin on my number bib and go dance in front of the panel of judges!

Ballet zen has been achieved for the moment.

Go forth and conquer, grasshopper.

If the Gym Suit Fits

New studio year has started, but we’re still in the pre-Nutcracker lull (auditions coming up this weekend, stay tuned!)…

Which means that Saturday morning classes are followed, not by a series of rehearsals, but by leisurely breakfasts with the ballet pals.

This past Saturday four of us gathered around a table at our usual haunt alternately chatting about dance gossip and random accounts of our lives. Somehow our conversation got around to… gym class. Not classes at a gym, but physical education class from elementary, middle, high school. How it arrived there, I have no idea. All of us are many years removed from that era!

But there we were. The eldest amongst us asked whether any of the the rest of us had to wear gym uniforms… none of us did. The woman around my age and I waxed rhapsodic over our memories of the Umbro shorts and Champion sweatshirts that were the hallmark of our PE classes. But that was as uniform as we got.

She went on to describe the hideous one-piece outfits they had to wear in her time which sounded like rompers of some sort: shorts with an attached, blousy top that zipped up the back. I remember my mom telling me about these. We all giggled at the thought of having to appear in public in such a get-up.

Then conversation shifted to something else before we all got up to leave. The woman who was talking about the gym uniform said that she was going to go to a dance store to pick up some essentials and I remembered my recent discovery that my bottle of Jet Glue had congealed and I needed to get more. So I tagged along for the ride.

But, of course, no one goes to a dance store just to buy essentials. I mean, if you’re smart, you do, but if you’re human, you will be seduced by a rack of leotards or the display of shoes or something. I happened to spy a warm-up, on the clearance rack, no less, that I had seen months ago on my last visit to this store. It was still there and marked down to a ridiculously low price. I tried it on, pronounced it divine, and added it to my bill with the bottle of Jet Glue.

My companion looked over to see what I found. “It’s a warm-up, see… It’s all-in-one, shorts with a top attached which, um… come to think of it is actually rather blousy.”

Oh, holy hell, I just bought myself a gym uniform!!!

Hahahahaa!!!!

Okay, I’m pretty sure it bears no true resemblance to a gym uniform, but as I heard myself describing it we both cracked up laughing. *snort*

Regardless, I’m still pretty excited about this cozy cuteness! I had a hard time finding a pic on the Googles, so I assume it’s discontinued, but here’s one I found (Jozette for Mirella). Mine is in violet.

Mire_MJ7901_21

ASDP 2014 – The final take

Now that I’m a month or so out from Boston Ballet’s ASDP, some final thoughts… to wrap stuff up in my own head and for anyone considering doing this in the future.

Location:
The ASDP takes place at BBS’s Newton studio. I would have preferred the Boston studio as it’s more convenient for me, but I’m sure that would discourage a lot of people who want to avoid the city. Having my car turned out to be a must… it’s possible to get there via MBTA, but added too much time and frustration for my situation. The studio has its own parking lot and I never had trouble finding a spot, but I did get there early for the enrichment session. I’m not sure whether those who arrived later may have had to park further away, but there seemed to be plenty of spots on the street, if so.

The space:
It’s a spacious facility. When you walk in there’s a waiting area and front desk that is always staffed. There are five studios: the grand studio, as you can guess from the name, is quite spacious; the other four are about half the size of the grand studio, if not smaller, but they still have high ceilings which help them to feel large. We were in different studios for technique depending on the day. The grand studio gave plenty of room to spread out while the others were cozier, but even so our class of 25 had enough room. The teachers were also good about structuring their exercises and groups to fit the space. The flooring was great (not too sticky, not too slippery), the wall barres were all set out a foot or so from the wall, portable barres seemed to be sturdy, though I did have one that was ridiculously tall. The only untidy spot in the place was the dressing room. Can’t speak for the men’s, but the women’s was in various states of gross most of the time. There was a children’s session during the day so I blame them. That was the only part of the studio space I was less than impressed with.

Live music:
At home studio we just have CDs and such. How I’ve missed having a live accompanist (for ballet AND modern classes!)! The teachers don’t have to fiddle around trying to find a track that will work or that is long enough for the combination they want to give. If they need tempo a bit faster or slower they just say so. If you haven’t experienced this, you will love it.

The classes:
I signed up for the “enrichment” session that started an hour beforehand and alternated between Pilates and modern. A lot of people didn’t do this session (it was an additional cost), but if you can swing the extra cash and can get there in time I think the enrichment session is necessary to get the most out of it. Both classes helped me get acquainted with my body in a different way that made me get more out of technique class, plus any additional strengthening is a bonus!

Technique classes — All told we ended up with seven different teachers during the two week session. While each teacher has his/her own style and that can be challenging to bounce among, most were BBS faculty, so the underlying focus and expectation was the same even if the execution was slightly different. And the classes were very formal. Sometimes classes at the home studio turn into ballet happy hour, which is fun, but old-school me appreciated the stricter expectations. To me, “strict” doesn’t mean “no fun” but rather there’s an element of mutual respect and that teacher and student take one another seriously. To me this is central to the art. But… that’s just me.

Repertoire/variations — The hour after technique had various things going on, but for most of the days we were either learning/practicing the beginning of the polonaise from Swan Lake that we presented on the last day or learning part of a pas de trois from Swan Lake. People who had done the program before said that in previous years this hour was only for rep. I liked being able to learn other choreography in the variations class and I also though it was really neat that they taught us stuff from Swan Lake since Boston Ballet will be opening the 2014-15 season with it! I can’t wait to see it on stage and be able to recognize some choreography! This is something that too few ballet students get to experience and I don’t quite have the words to describe the impact this has on a dancer. The first rep I ever learned was when I was 13 or so and we learned some of the Shades choreography from La Bayadère (see pic below… I look like I’m from 1891 instead of 1991!).

La Bayadere 1991

I had no context for this so it didn’t mean much to me at the time… until I saw a video of a professional company performing this same section and realized… we learned the same choreography! Little me had learned things that professionals do! It just gives you a whole new appreciation for the art and makes you feel more connected to it.

The days that we did not do rep or variations we had other stuff going on:
The first day was a “workshop” on pirouettes & allegro. I think they meant to do this twice, but we ended up using the second one to run the rep piece. I would have liked more of this stuff. I’m guessing the secret to pirouettes in hidden in my own damned brain as much as it is in any teacher’s, but it’s helpful to be able to focus on this stuff for longer than a few combinations in a regular class.

We had some lectures from former and current company members. I liked hearing about the history and current company from people who are “on the inside” and gain a greater understanding of what it’s like to dance professionally. A lot of us adults harbor curiosity about what it’s like to be able to do this for a living rather than something we squeeze into our lives around work, school, etc. Of course we know it’s not as glamorous as our fantasies, but it’s still fun to hear what it’s like straight from the horse’s mouth.

Teachers:
I thought the entire faculty was tremendous: caring, skilled, and personable. But, I did have a few favorites. The bummer is that none of my favorites appear to be ones I can take classes with after this.

There was Gene Murray, hilarious and quirky, not universally popular, but had a personality that cracked me up, but also made me want to work my ass off to impress him. He generally teaches day classes at BBS, though there is an evening elementary/intermediate class on Thursday evenings. Sadly, I’m generally not in town on Thursdays. But… I might be able to make it in for one at some point.

Then Andrew Kelley, just… Ballet master, right there. Every comment on technique and artistry was spot-on and I felt like he was this well of knowledge and maybe there would be hope for me yet if someone can just keep explaining things to me the way he does. And he would have us do exercises again to make sure we could truly incorporate what he was telling us. Brilliant. And… I can’t find anything about him teaching anywhere in the city! I did see his name on another studio’s web page, but on their class schedule he was nowhere to be found. That said… I did see that his name is on the BBS faculty roster this week, so maybe there’s light on that horizon.

And Christopher Hird, BBS’s head of adult programming (among other roles)… though he really only taught our very first, abbreviated technique class, and also our variations class, he was a constant presence throughout the two weeks and you could tell that he was committed to us having a great experience. I also loved his corrections. He just… he knows how to teach (no small feat) and made everyone feel like they were welcomed and valued and capable. And… he only teaches beginner classes during the year. Sad trombone.

But all the teachers there were excellent so I’m definitely hoping to plan to take some classes in Boston and Newton during the school year. Great quality classes and the studios are awesome.

And now, in no particular order, some random thoughts about the BBS-ASDP:

If I do this again next year I think I’d bump up to the Advanced level for the additional challenge. I considered switching this year, but I went into this knowing I have a lot of basic things I need to work on and I felt I’d have a better chance of doing that at the Intermediate level. While I didn’t figure out any major secrets, I learned so many little things that I will take with me: stupid stuff like how to better place myself at the barre, thinking about my turnout differently, how to be square (the good square, not the nerdy square!).

Strength — It’s probably impossible to not feel like you’ve built strength after dancing 3.5 hours each night for 10 out of 12 nights, but still… I left feeling like my core, legs, and feet were all working more effectively.

I like having a pre-plié barre warm-up exercise. Every teacher here did one. It’s not something my home studio does, but I love it. It reminds me of yoga classes in one way where you start by focusing on breathing and such rather than jumping right into poses. It gets you centered and puts you in the class mindspace.

Also, I really like teachers who set up lines and groups and rotate the lines. It saves a whole bunch of time figuring out who goes first. Everyone gets a chance at the mirror which means, yes, you WILL need to learn how to remember combinations without following people in front of you, but, NO, you cannot be Snow White’s evil stepmother and plunk yourself in front of the mirror all class. There’s a lot to be gained from having to switch it up.

Sometimes it’s nice to be anonymous. I didn’t know anyone else doing the ASDP. I recognized a few faces from other classes I’ve taken in town, but that was it. It’s scary not to have a security blanket, but it’s also nice to step outside of the usual group and stand on my own two feet.

I loved being part of a group that takes ballet so seriously. Yeah, we were all there to have fun. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t find joy in it. But people were there to learn and to improve. And the teachers wanted to help us get there. Sometimes as adults we get lost in the fray. We’re too old to matter. But I’ve found we’ve got a lot to offer… sometimes it just takes a new explanation or a bit of guidance to allow that to come through.

Should you do the ASDP? Well, first off, I’m not sure I’d travel in from out of town unless you have some other reason to be in the metro Boston area. It’s a great program, but it’s kind of a semi-intensive. It’s intense if you put in a full day of work before getting there. But if I was looking for a true intensive experience I think I’d go for Sun King or one of those where you truly immerse yourself in dance all day, every day for a week. But if you’re local or have some other reason to be in town, do it. There’s a level for just about everyone. There are super-beginners and there are people who have danced for decades. So don’t be afraid that you’re not “good enough” to go. You are, and you will love it.

Overall, this was a great experience and opened me up to the idea of doing more intense intensives (Sun King, I’m looking at you!) in the future.

Anything I missed that you want to know about? Leave me a comment!

ASDP – The end :(

Last day of ASDP coincided with my last day of being 35. Too many endings all at once here!

Nah, in truth it was a pleasant way to close out this year of my life.

Started with modern… good class. Did some mirroring stuff with a partner at the beginning. That stuff used to make me rather uncomfortable when I was younger. I don’t mind it so much now, but somehow I still instinctively cringe whenever I find out that we’re doing something like that. Ballet Perfectionist Rori can’t help but feel like she must come up with super-cool, innovative movements that will lead to groundbreaking new choreography, but generally all I come up with is a reprisal of my 4-year-old self rocking out to the record player in my living room. (See Exhibit A below). Meh.

LR Dancing

Rest of class was good, though. Similar to what we’ve been doing. Added a bit more on to our combination we’ve been working on.

Then technique… Kristen Beckwith again. The only person we had three times for technique during the program. But at least with that I felt like I knew what to expect and had a better idea what she was looking for. She said something about my turnout that got me thinking. I don’t remember exactly how she worded it, but it was along the lines of opening the hips from the front. I usually only think about turnout as a rear-end thing, but somehow thinking about it as originating from the front made more sense and was easier to figure out how to engage the right muscles (they are big on turnout at BBS… but there were a lot of comments about engaging the glutes from other teachers and I was fighting the urge to pipe up with quotes from Lisa Howell or Deborah Vogel about how turnout needs to originate from the deep muscles, not the glutes). Barre was good. Centre… some good, some abominable. I love how you can get something perfectly on one side (usually the right in my case), but the other side is a total mystery whose secrets refuse to be revealed.

And then… the grand finale. There was a small crowd collecting in the lobby throughout class. Someone who had done the ASDP last year said that a ton of people show up for the final presentation, but somehow I didn’t think she was serious. I guess she was. Of course, for many of my classmates this is the only opportunity they get to show off what they do in ballet class. So it’s nice that BBS opens this up to family and friends. Apologies to those who know me IRL for not getting an invite. Nutcracker season will be upon us soon. The seats are more comfortable there and I get to dress up all pretty-like.

Anyway, the one bummer with having an audience is that we were only able to watch the other classes do their pieces during our brief rehearsal time before the audience was allowed in. During the actual presentation we remained “backstage” as it were.

I was impressed with what the beginner class did: their rep piece was extremely long! And one dude… someone was joking afterwards that he must’ve been a ringer… his technique was way too good for beginner. The ladies in the elementary level got to wear romantic tutus over their leotards. They seemed adorably excited about this. Meanwhile I thanked my lucky stars that our rep teacher didn’t come up with any such foolishness for us. Though… it would have been nice if he’d suggested a uniform of sorts. Most people wore black/pink because there were some rumors that we should, but there were a few who didn’t hear the rumor. Oh well. It’s not like it was anything formal.

After we did our run-through we vacated the premises so the audience could come fill the folding chairs. They had an idea to show the audience some working rehearsals of the pieces to show what goes into it. So we came out once to do the rehearsal take. Then came out again after the other groups did their rehearsal take to do it as the real deal. Cute idea. No idea what the audience thought of it, though. And it meant that they watched our piece a total of 4 times because our group was so big that each “cast” got to do a performance.

They had a reception afterwards which I poked my head in on to satisfy my curiosity, but knowing no one there I didn’t feel compelled to stay. In the locker room while I was gathering up my things a few people were talking about heading over to the Armenian restaurant around the corner. I came upon them while I was leaving and one of them looked at me and said, “Are you coming with us?” and another one said, “Yes, she is coming with us!” Hm… okay. Why not? There may be belly-dancing.

Six of us dancers and 4 significant others went over and shared pitchers of sangria and hummus/baba ganoush/etc. There was no belly-dancing, but we did get to indulge in some highly dorky ballet-talk. I found out about another studio halfway between me and Boston that some of the ladies go to and highly recommend. It’s a Saturday class, so wouldn’t be able to go during the school year, but their favorite teacher will be there on the 30th, before our year starts, so I may check it out then and see if I can get some of my ballet friends from home to join me!

And that was the end of the program. I’m going to do one final post of my overall impressions/thoughts, but still thinking on that one… Thanks to those of you who have followed along with my first summer “intensive” journey! It’s been a fun one and I’m glad I did it!