Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds…

But why no sapphires?!?!

Why did you shun my most favorite of jewels, Mr. B? I think it would have rounded out the piece quite nicely, no?

*sigh*

As you have probably guessed, I finally saw George Balanchine’s iconic “Jewels” (1967). Boston Ballet wrapped up their 2013-2014, 50th anniversary season with it, and in doing so served to fill in a major hole in my ballet education!

The build-up to the show was nearly on par with the Nutcracker. Lia Cirio leaping in her “Rubies” costume has been plastered all over taxis and buses and such in Boston for months now. Meanwhile, “Pricked” was pretty much not advertised at all. Curious decision on their part.

My ballet companion for the evening and I got into town early enough to catch the pre-curtain talk. I was surprised to see so many people in attendance. Usually there is only a large handful of people in the audience, but there was probably twice the typical number for this one. The curtain was open giving us a sneak peak of the “Emeralds” backdrop, a cool, pale green backdrop with large green jewels pasted on it in an intricate design. The wings were draped in white. Very elegant feel, even if it gave me the impression more of peridots (a stone I am well-acquainted with, being an August baby!) than emeralds. The other thing we noticed was that there almost appeared to be a large stain in the middle of the backdrop, like the guy in charge of creating the backdrop spilled his beer while pasting stones on it or something. I’m guessing it was probably more likely the shadow of the “Rubies” backdrop behind it, but it was kind of distracting and shabby-looking.

Shannon Parsley, BB’s ballet master, led three BB dancers onstage to the chairs lined up across the front. These dancers represented a cross-section of the company and included Erica Cornejo, Principal; John Lam, Soloist; and Paul Craig, Corps de Ballet. Ms. Parsley gave a brief(ish) recap of the season for anyone who had been asleep for the past six months. I wanted her to wrap this part up a bit more quickly. Honestly, the people who are going to show up for the pre-curtain talk are most likely going to be the avid fans who already have a clue what the company is up to and don’t need the monotonous summary of where they’ve been and what they’ve done. But… this probably is standard protocol for these things, so I tried to sit attentively and not fidget.

They then moved to the dancers who each talked about one of the pieces: Cornejo discussed “Emeralds,” Lam “Rubies,” and Craig “Diamonds.” Probably the most poignant part was when Cornejo, who danced in “Jewels” the last time BB presented it (in 2009, I think?) discussed that this is one of her first major ballets after returning to the stage post-baby. She dances the role of the “walking ballerina” in “Emeralds,” which is a role of someone who has lost her love, very emotional, but that becoming a mother has given her additional emotional fuel. She teared up on stage talking about it! Lam talked a bit about the energy required for the jazzier “Rubies” and Craig discussed the Imperial Russian feel that “Diamonds” demands.

After a few questions we were dismissed and went to indulge in overpriced cheap cabernet sauvignon and pretzel twists. Dinner of champions!

Then it was back to the theatre to our assigned seats to settle in for “Emeralds.” Ashley Ellis and Yury Yanowsky were the… happy couple (?), while Lia Cirio was the “walking ballerina” with Lasha Khozashvili was her partner. I haven’t really formed much of an opinion of Yanowsky before, other than the fact that I thought he bore a passing resemblance to Grégory Fitoussi (I’ve been thoroughly sucked into the world of Mr. Selfridge and the character of Henri Leclair, with his broody eyes and heart-melting smirk, may have been a small part of that obsession… I am completely at a loss now that the season is over!). But I love that Yanowsky is one of the few dancers who started with the company in the ’90s. In fact, he’s surpassed two decades with BB. That alone makes me fond of him. In such a youth-obsessed world, he’s showing the poise and elegance that an experienced dancer brings to the stage with no signs of disintegrating technique. Ellis looked radiant paired with him.

Lia Cirio seemed to lose herself in this one, which I liked… in some ways. “Emeralds” seems to have a rather refined feel to it, with the exception of this one couple that seems to wander through as if lost. Cirio threw herself into the role with abandon, but at times it felt like it was teetering on the edge of losing complete control. I suppose that’s the line one tries to balance on and she managed to keep from crashing over on the wrong side of the line.

And then the pas de trois. The casting was terrific and I’ve decided I really like that Isaac Akiba kid. Doesn’t hurt that he’s a home-grown dancer from BBS. He’s got a youthful look to him that lent itself nicely to the playful feel of the pas de trois, but behind that exterior is a very solid technique. I expect he’ll be growing through the ranks in the coming years.

After intermission, in which I supported the local economy by purchasing a Jewels tee (it was 3/4 sleeved and boatneck, trés cute!) and we made the rounds of the audience to find the other people we knew, we were treated to the jazzy “Rubies” set to music by Stravinsky. I guess this was supposed to be a bit of a tribute to Broadway, though perhaps Bernstein might have been a better composer?

So maybe a minute into the piece we hear this clacking. At first ballet companion and I thought that maybe the dancers had REALLY rosined up their shoes and were sticking to the marley… but then we realized that it was their costumes! The gigantic red stones on the skirts clacked together as they moved and made a tremendously distracting racket. Has it always been that way? Does it drive the dancers bananas to have to wear those? I know it would annoy the heck out of me!

Aside from that, I did like the energy in this one. I tend to like very active dancing with lots of jumps and non-traditional movements. Jeffrey Cirio and Misa Kuranaga were the central couple on the day I was there and, of course, I love them… though somehow I didn’t feel that this piece highlighted their chemistry and talents as well as other roles I’ve seen them in. Hmph.

After second intermission came — duh — “Diamonds” set to music by Tchaikovsky for the Imperial Russia experience. This one was impressive for the sheer number of dancers that are featured. Kathleen Breen Combes and Alejandro Virelles were the lead couple and can I tell you… I have a crush on Alejandro’s feet. My ballet companion had told me in advance to look out for them, but I don’t think I could have missed them. Ugh… makes a girl totes jeals. What a line! Breen Combes was absolutely lovely… until the very end. She is somehow both down-to-earth and totally elegant at the same time. She shows a level of maturity and grace that is lovely to watch. But something happened in the last few minutes. Not sure if she injured herself or if her shoe died a spectacular death, but I could tell she was struggling at the end. I feel so bad when I see that happen to dancers, especially lovely ones like her! I would guess, though, that if I were not a balletophile I probably would not have noticed. She kept going, masking any fumbles quite well. I did notice that the dancers were wearing white pointe shoes in this one, and I wondered if that contributed to the problem. Unlike the boatloads of pink shoes that the dancers can rifle through to find the right ones, I’m guessing there are only a few pairs of shoes in white, so the dancers might end up with something they consider less than ideal… just a theory on that one! I actually found the shoes distracting… might have liked them more if they were wearing white tights, as well, but I found it just interrupted the lines.

So, that was “Jewels.” Like most masterworks, I would need to see it a few times to truly absorb what all was going on and cement my opinion of the piece. As of now, “Serenade” is in no danger of being dethroned as my favorite Balanchine piece, but there were elements of this that I really appreciated. One thing I love in nearly all of Mr. B’s pieces is how he set steps to the music. Like many dancers, I have a tendency of choreographing dances in my head when I hear music, and it can be challenging when being choreographed ON and feeling that what you’re being asked to do doesn’t match with the music. Mr. B’s choreography matches what I hear in the music… so I feel some sort of bond with him over that, I guess!

And finally I’ll leave you with BB’s videos. First up is corps member Roddy Doble giving his thoughts on the pieces:

And now some snippets of the performances! This features the same cast I saw, but not sure if it’s from the same show or not.

A Tale of Two Performances: Tale 2

And now for something completely different…

I had no time to rest up after the showcase performance because then it was time for the music school, DWTS-style, gala performance! Just like last year, I’d been invited to perform as the “professional” dance foil to a local community star.

And, just like last year, my partner was definitely not a dancer, but he WAS a good sport and was willing to try just about whatever our choreographer threw his way.

Our first challenge, albeit a good one, was that we were going to be accompanied by live music performed by the jazz band from the music school. This was great, but because of royalty issues and such, our song choices were limited. The theme was Broadway and initially it looked like we were going to get stuck with “Summertime” which is a great song, but kind of a snoozer when it comes to rallying the audience.

I joked during our first rehearsal that since this was a fund-raising gala we should perform to “Hey Big Spender”. Never mind that the song’s topic is a bit more risque than having fun at a gala, bidding high,nd bidding often. My partner loved the idea, though, so we passed our request on to the band director who, to our surprise, readily accepted our proposal. What?!

The next challenge involved a number of snow storms on our set rehearsal days and one traffic snafu on my part. We had to cram to get it all done and the final bit of choreography wasn’t set until the week before the show. Yikes!

Then came the ultimate challenge… the competition itself!

I got to the gala before the doors opened to get my stuff settled. Save for a peep of fishnet stocking, you’d never know what was up my sleeve. The other “pro” from my studio was there and once the doors opened we mixed and mingled with our “stars” trying to build some fan support. After the cocktail hour the attendees were summoned to their tables and we went up to change into our costumes. The director of our company/studio conveniently had a red, fringe-y dress, kind of flapper-ish in style hanging out in the costume room that I had borrowed. My star’s wife had found him a red, sequined tie and made him a matching pocket-square. Dapper and ready to dance!

We were second in the line-up and could see the first couple dancing through the windows while we waited our turn. They had some definite star quality and put in a very fine performance, but our confidence was not shaken! After they finished and chatted with the CEO and the judges it was our turn. Instead of explaining it I’ll give you this… judge for yourself.

Camera angle isn’t great, but I swear my “star” did manage a pretty nice jazz square and a few other bits of fancy footwork. It was a fun little piece and I think the audience liked it. For me personally, it’s just fun to get out there and show a different side of my performance personality than what people generally see from me nowadays!

After our dance there was a live auction followed by the other two couples’ dances. And then, the judging. Of course, we’d received judges’ scores immediately after our dances, but those didn’t count. The real decision was in the hands of the audience. And in their feet. And voices. Yes, it was a “noise-meter” kind of scoring. And…

Well, I’m afraid, dear reader, that a star other than my own partner managed to bring the loudest crew. It was only a baby mirrorball for us this year for best chemistry or something (how terrible is it that I don’t even know what award we won?).

Of course, the real winners were the students of the music school. It was all in good fun, and though I was a teensy bit disappointed to not be a repeat champion, I was glad to be able to be a part of it.

And… I was glad to look forward to a few weeks of no rehearsals of any kind! Phew!

Getting my Gaynor groove on

So… I’m trying to develop a functional relationship with my Gaynors.

At first I was all, “These suck, burn them at the stake!”

I shoved them to the depths of my dance bag and resurrected some old Chacotts while I wait for my darling new Freeds to show up on my doorstep.

That was all well and good. Except the Chacotts twist on my feet a smidge. The bigger issue, though, is that the area under the pleats is going soft. I’m not sure if I’m having some sort of technique issue (entirely possible) or if the glue was a bit shot to begin with. The shoes are at least two years old, based on when I bought them, and who knows how long they were hanging out at the store before then. Old glue does not make for a good shoe.

When I discovered this and experienced a pang of fear thinking, “I don’t know that they’ll make it until Nut and I really don’t want to order yet another pair of shoes.”

The logical conclusion then — of course — was to suck it up and learn how to dance in the new shoes I already own. Duh.

And… okay, I’ll admit it: after working with them a bit they’re not as bad as I felt initially. I do still think they’re kind of ugly in the box area. But I am figuring out how to dance in them and finding a few redeeming qualities. Like, they’re quiet (Freeds are quiet, too, but I’ve had some clompy shoes in the past, particularly the Russian brands). And my alignment feels better.

This in no way means that I’ll be giving up on the Freeds, but it’s honestly a relief to know that the GM purchase was not entirely in vain. Maybe there is room for both brands in my dance world. It may be sacrilegious to even suggest such a thing, but I’ll remain open-minded to the possibility!

Pointe shoe rescue, BB50 begins, and more fun with physics

Quick mash-up post here of three random ballet-related things flitting through my brain.

First off… the pointe shoe debacle.

Recap: old shoes (Freeds) are dead. I had been fitted into Gaynor Mindens this summer and thought I could just wear those. Plan made without ever trying to dance in them. Whoops! Turns out I find them rather unenjoyable. I do not have the luxury of time with Nut coming up in less than two months including two pieces I need to perform en pointe, so this is not the time to play the getting-to-know-you game! What to do, what to do?

Local store didn’t have any stock shoes from my maker in my size and I don’t have the time to call around to hunt some up. I ordered a new custom pair with a few tweaks from my last custom order, but that helps me nada seeing as it takes about 3 months for them to get made.

I ordered a pair of Freed Studios, but as with the last time I tried them the wings are just way too stiff. Sent those back. Argh!!! Emergency!!!

Then I remembered the Chacott Veronese II hanging out in my closet. They were a pair I bought a couple years ago shortly after I went back en pointe. I had bought these because they were a shoe I wore in college, but this was during my great pointe shoe odyssey in which I was buying up different shoes in an effort to identify “my shoe” and the Chacotts only got a couple wears before I moved on to other models. I pulled them back out and tried them on and I think these just might work to get me through until the new shoes come in.

Freed actually owns Chacott now, so I guess the shoes are cousins of a sort! They are nice and light and easy to dance in, so although I love Freed more, these are a serviceable back-up.

Crisis averted!!!

Next up… this weekend!

Boston Ballet is kicking of its 50th anniversary season with a run of La Bayadère. I will be there, bien sur! I got an e-mail from BB with pre-show info, including a link to the casting. I was super-excited to find out that Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio will be playing the night I’ll be there (as Nikiya and Solor). My two faves! Yay!!!

Check back later for my review.

And finally… physics.

I was prepping for lecture and was printing out the slide deck. On the top page was the agenda of topics for the evening, including… pirouettes and fouetté turns! That and falling cats.

The bummer is that we ran out of time before we could get to those parts! Waahhhh!!! Professor said we’d cover what we missed next week, though. Phew! Maybe he has some secrets to impart that will revolutionize my dancing. If not that, maybe I’ll at least learn something about the crazy felines that inhabit my house.

Party (Mom) of 5

Just got the news that I am going to be a mother!

I have tried to avoid this predicament, but it has found me anyway.

Yes, my friends, it is true… the cast was short a party mom and I have been roped in.

Noooooooo!!!!

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this!

Okay, okay, the hysterics are a smidge unwarranted here.

Last week the director asked, rather off-handedly, if I could be in the scene.. this was during class, right before I was supposed to do a combination across the floor.

I was all, “Tombé, pas de bourrée, WHAT?!”

And she was all, “Well, it’s not definite, we may have someone, but if not…”

So today I asked if I was needed and got a reply in the affirmative.

Fiddlesticks.

“You’ve done it before, right?” she asked.

Um… no. My avoidance methods have worked perfectly up until now!

“What?! Well, that settles it… you HAVE to be in it!”

So, what, is the party scene actually some sort of hazing ritual?

And here I thought Snow was the hazing ritual!

Hm… does this mean I have to get some less-sexy/non-T-strap character shoes or am I going to be That Mom?

Party scene actually has some potential for fun and — bonus — I get to wear a hoop skirt, which was a childhood dream of mine since I read the Little House books.

This does, however, take the chill, relaxed show I was expecting and ramps it up a notch. Party scene isn’t particularly tough, but it is long and from that I have to quickly transform into a snowflake and then go on to perform in two dances in the second act.

Four scenes?! Phew!

But… it should be fun! Would be more fun if there was real champagne in the glasses we toast with on stage, however…

First rehearsal is tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted!

GM – First Impressions

I finally sewed up those Gaynor Minden pointe shoes I bought back in… oh, JULY!

In my defense, the shoes are a major PITA to sew. Most pointe shoes have a separate inner layer of muslin-type fabric to sew the elastics and ribbons to (I sew my elastics on the inside… I know not everyone does that). In GMs the satin is fused to the inner layer which is some sort of flocked material. Getting a needle through all of that is un-fun, to say the least. My fingers still hurt days later.

Also, I had two other pairs of Freeds going and with rehearsals and such sewing up a new pair of pointes wasn’t high on my priority list.

But both pairs of Freeds (including my precious custom pair!) are essentially dead, so I didn’t have much choice with rehearsals looming in the near future.

Sew-sew-sew I go.

And then tried them out tonight for the first time in pointe class. I was hoping for the best, but I’m really not sure these shoes are for me. At best there’s going to be a pretty significant learning curve with these shoes and I’m just not sure I have the patience for it when I know the Freeds work.

Okay, let’s start with the positives, because it’s not all bad news.

They make my arch look really nice. And my feet have rather low arches, so that’s something. We were doing développés to the side and I was facing the mirror and though, holy Toledo, I actually look like I have bendy feet! Which I don’t. At all. So… that’s nice.

And… um… yeah, I guess that’s about it on the positives.

Argh. I really wanted to like these, especially since they are on the spendy side.

For one thing there is all the built in padding. It seems like a nice idea. Cushy inside. What ballerina doesn’t want some comfort in the shoes of death? But… I just felt like there was way too much going on in this shoe. I couldn’t put my finger on it until my teacher asked what I was wearing. She wears Gaynors so she is familiar with them (and obviously not anti-Gaynor like many teachers can be), but said that with all of the padding it can feel like you’ve got like an extra half inch of stuff in the platform and it means you have to go that much farther to get up en pointe. YES!!! That’s exactly it!

We weren’t doing anything particularly challenging in class today, so I was baffled as to why everything felt like a major ordeal. And that was a lot of it. I felt like my feet had grown overnight and I couldn’t figure out how to make them work.

Honestly, it kind of felt like I was trying to do pointe in a tennis shoe.

And then there’s the fact that they’re ugly as @*%#! Sorry. I know it’s stupid to get wrapped up in how a shoe looks, but these things look like boats on my feet. Again, I think it’s all the padding in the box that makes them look about twice as wide as my Freeds. The ugly box doesn’t quite make up for the pretty arch.

So… what to do, what to do? We’ve got rehearsals coming up and the show is only a little over two months away, so there’s no way I can get a new custom Freed order made up. I might look around to see if anyone has my maker in my size hanging around their stock room to get me through until I can get some customs made up. The other alternative, of course, is to just try to muscle through and figure out how to dance in these things. Probably more reasonable, but I’m just scared after how today’s class went.

Sigh… more to come, I’m sure. I’m not going to toss these shoes out quite yet, but I’m certainly not feeling any real affection towards them at this particular moment!

Glittered and feathered

I have been terribly remiss in keeping you up to date on the progress with our summer ballet!

But the thing is, dear reader…. the weeks have simply flown and I can’t believe we’re only a couple days from showtime!

Typically I would feel harried and frazzled with the short time we’ve had to prepare. Realistically we’ve only gotten in about 5 or 6 rehearsals for each piece. But for some reason, for this show… it works. I’m not going to question it, just going to enjoy the ride.

Today was our studio dress rehearsal (which is a chance to run through the show from start to finish, in costume, in the studio instead of on stage). The real dress rehearsal will take place in a couple days.

It was the first chance I’ve had to try on my different costumes, which is fun in and of itself! The only thing I’d seen previously was the bodice for our swan costume.

The big excitement for me was finding out that the swans were going to be in classical tutus. This is the first time I’ve gotten to wear one of those puppies since high school. Woot!

But… wait. I went to pull that sucker over my behind and, um, er… I know our costumes are supposed to be snug, but… this… this doesn’t even seem to go past mid-thigh! I pulled it off to make sure the hooks were undone. They were. Uh… help!

Another dancer said that hers was snug and took some doing. But… this was going to take some doing, and potentially a tub of margarine. I felt like Winnie the Pooh stuck in the sand bank. The director was standing nearby and said, “Well, it’s a child’s medium.” This made me feel better about the size of my rear in comparison to the opening in the tutu (and I’d just been celebrating that my weight had dipped back into my “happy zone” this morning!). I tried switching with another dancer who is a bit more child-sized, but she had an even tougher time than I did. The director went through the swan roster mentally to see who else was little that might fit into the tutu that I could try switching with… the two smaller people were already wearing that size, so… well, here goes nothing.

So I pushed. And I pulled. And I shimmied. And I wiggled. And damned if I didn’t get that thing over my tush. The good news is that once I got it over my hips it was fine. It was just GETTING it on that was the problem.

Score – Rori: 1, Tutu: 0. Ha!

Oh, but dear reader, the costume is sososososo pretty! It’s like… my dream. Classical tutu. White brocade bodice and basque. Feathers off our arms and feathers pinned to our hair. And a pretty crown, too.

I got a selfie in the mirror of me wearing it. Terribly blurry, but hey, I’m trying to keep a degree of anonymity here (ugh, who am I kidding… if you know me, you know me).

So… here you go… Rori as a Wild Swan.

Swan costume

The run-through of our swan dances went surprisingly well. We have another rehearsal for the swans before the real dress rehearsal, which is much-needed, but even so, I felt good about it.

After swans I had to shimmy my way back out of the tutu to get into my Lady in Waiting costume. Getting out was only marginally easier than getting in! But I managed to pop out in the nick of time to put on my Lady costume (which, thankfully, is much more forgiving!) and change out of my pointe shoes into flatties. Of course during the show I don’t know that I’ll have quite so much time. I’m thinking this will be a week of very clean eating to give myself whatever small edge in costume changing I can!

Drat if this wasn’t the week that I concocted my first batch of homemade, premium ice cream! Waaahhhh!!! A-rationing I shall go!

The final dances went well. Perhaps my favorite part of that section is that we get to stay on stage during the wedding entertainment. They’re such fun to watch, especially the jongleurs, which is pretty much an acro piece. Those kids are incredible! Wish I could do that stuff!

So… one more swan rehearsal, then dress rehearsal, and then the two shows! I’ll be sad when it’s all over. This has been a fun one. Hopefully I’ll get some more pictures to share with you.

In the meantime, happy dancing all!

Saratoga Summer 2013 – Day Three

Our third and final day of our dancer retreat started EARLY!!!

Okay, 7am isn’t particularly early, but… the kids were going to attend ballet class at the Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive where our dancer who was understudying for the NYCB kids was taking class. They stumbled up the stairs from their basement sleeping quarters bleary-eyed, but wearing their pink tights and black leotards, all bunned up and raring to go. We had to get breakfast eaten and bags packed before we left to take them to the studios behind the National Dance Museum for 9, so it was a hectic morning.

I had almost allowed myself to get signed up to take one of the intensive classes, but the pointe shoe fitting I scheduled made that an impossibility. When we got to the studios to check the kids in I was rather relieved at that particular turn of events. The master class we took the day before was one thing — there had been a wide range of ages in that class, from tween to 50+. But the intensive was ALL kids. I can pass for a few years younger than my age, but not THAT much younger! So I can’t say that I regretted not being able to take the class.

I met up with the understudy’s mom who was taking her other daughter for a pointe shoe fitting and we drove back to Saratoga Dance. My fitting was second, so I poked around the store a bit more, but being afraid of dropping any more money (especially seeing as I already expected I may walk out with a pair of pointe shoes!) I ended up perching myself so that I could watch the fitting process for my young friend.

Once again, huge kudos to Katie, the fitter at Saratoga Dance. This young dancer’s feet are particularly challenging to fit. Katie acknowledged this, but never expressed doubt that she’d find a good shoe for this girl. She tried on a couple pairs that were okay, then came back with a Grishko Maya that she had ordered for another dancer. She knew it wasn’t quite the right size, but they were close and she had an inkling that they design of the shoe might work. Though it was a tight squeeze, this young girl was determined to get this shoe on. She went up en pointe, and gosh, even though they weren’t quite the right size, they looked lovely.

Katie left to check on something else and the dancer’s mom asked her which shoe she felt best in. She literally hugged the Maya’s to her and said, “These!” Soooo sweet to see her find shoes that she loved. Even though she wasn’t able to get the shoes then and there, she walked out of the store knowing that a beautiful pair of pointes would soon be on their way to her. Can’t wait to see how they work out for her in class!

Well, then it was my turn for a fitting. Since I hadn’t planned to have one I hadn’t brought my pointe shoes with me, but I told her what I was wearing and Katie told me her opinion of Freed Classics: “You can spend your entire life chasing a shoe you had once.” And I can certainly see how that can be the case. Because they are handcrafted they can be iffy. This is why companies order so many shoes and dancers go through them and probably never use half of the ones ordered for them because they don’t feel quite right.

And this feeds into part of my reason for wanting a fitting… it’s frustrating to spend $100 on a custom shoe that you have to wait 3 months for and then might not fit right. It would be nice to find a stock shoe that works for non-professional me. Katie brought out a pair of Freeds just to get a sense of how they work for me. She also suggested spacers between my first and second toes. My toes tend to compress and it’s been putting a lot of pressure on my second and third toes… plus I keep losing that right big toenail. The spacers she had were different than the ones I tried previously. The ones I had before seemed bulky and didn’t do much. These I couldn’t even feel, but I could tell actually worked.

Then came the question: “How do you feel about Gaynors?” Eeeeeekkkk. Um. Gosh. Well, I don’t really know HOW I feel about Gaynors. I’ve heard the arguments on both sides and I can see validity to both points. My main beef is that I think they look horrendously ugly on most people I’ve seen who wear them. I will also concede, however, that part of the ugliness could very well be due to poor fit. The fitter told me that a lot of issues she sees are due to that exact problem.

Well, hey, it’s a fitting. I’ll try whatever is put in front of me. The only other time I tried Gaynors on was before I returned to pointe, so it would be good to try. So she brought out a pair, along with a couple other traditional shoes. We tried the Gaynors first and they are pretty comfortable (you know… for a pointe shoe). And I surprisingly liked the way the shank felt on my arch. They… well, they didn’t look bad. So they stayed in the running. I also tried a Suffolk which is a brand I’ve been wanting to try (and one that a few of our girls ended up with), but have had a hard time finding. I felt pretty good in those, too. I also tried a pair of Grishko 2007s, which I’ve worn before. This pair seemed to fit better than the ones I had, but didn’t particularly wow me, and the fact that I’d already had an iffy experience with them… nah. I’m trying to remember what, if any, other shoes I tried. Clearly they weren’t memorable, if they existed!

So, it boiled down to the Gaynor Mindens and the Suffolks. Katie preferred the Gaynors, both for looks and for durability, comfort, etc. And… I got them. This doesn’t mean I’m throwing in the towel on the Freeds (more to come on that in another post), but this is a shoe I’ve been intrigued by for quite some time and I’m looking forward to developing a more educated opinion of them. Stay tuned for updates on that front!

Okay, with shoes in hand… we did a little bit more exploring of Saratoga. Our time was limited so I didn’t get to poke in all the adorable shops, but we did find an adorable diner, a fabulous olive oil & balsamic vinegar store (dark chocolate balsamic condimento is the shiz-nit!!!), wandered to Congress Park and watched the kids ride the carousel and took pictures of the children, then got some fro-yo (soft-serve raspberry chocolate sorbet is ALSO the shiz-nit!!!).

With the clock ticking and one more stop to make, we ended our tour of town and loaded back in the car. We stopped at the National Dance Museum on the way out of town. At that hour I decided I’d be fine with just browsing their gift shop for a souvenir (I suppose pointe shoes would have been an adequate souvenir, but they don’t exactly scream “Saratoga!” and that’s what I was looking for!). I found a book on the history of dance in Saratoga and also got some cute baby legwarmers for a little friend of mine. My friend and her daughters and the other girls with us continued browsing while I went to powder my nose.

As I was coming back out my friend said that the gift shop lady said that due to the fact that the museum was closing relatively soon, she wouldn’t charge us if we wanted to go through the exhibits. How nice was that?! So we zipped through the Hall of Fame as well as a couple of the special exhibits going on. There were photos in the foyer from Dancers Among Us, which are trés cool. I think I might need to add that book to my wish list. They also had an En Pointe exhibit sponsored by various pointe shoe makers showing what goes into constructing pointe shoes, how dancers take care of their feet, etc. It was a quick visit, but glad we at least got to see a bit of it!

And then it was back on the road towards home. There was tons more I would have gladly done in Saratoga, but we managed to pack quite a lot in to 48 hours! This town really is a bit of a dancer’s paradise, so if you ever get the chance, check it out. I loved sharing this experience with some of my friends and hope to get back there again soon! There are many shops to be browsed, restaurants to be sampled, and, oh yeah, Sun King Adult Dance Camp!!!

Saratoga Summer 2013 – Day Two

I awoke on day 2 to find that everyone was still lazing about in bed! C’mon slackers! But within a few minutes everyone began to stream out into the kitchen. There’s nothing like the closeness that’s built by seeing people in their PJs, sans makeup & contacts, and before coffee!!! Hahaha.

The mom of the dancer who was an understudy for the children performing with NYCB had kindly gone to the grocery store in advance of our arrival to stock the kitchen with breakfast stuff, so we at least didn’t have to go far to fuel up!

After getting dressed we all rolled out of the house. We were going to see the matinee show that day at 2pm, so people made various pre-show plans. On the list for many of us was a stop at an amazing dance store that the understudy mom (who is also a teacher at our studio) had told us about. She said she had been in the store multiple times in the past week and a half and never left empty-handed (uh-oh!) and that they also had a terrific pointe shoe fitter who fitted her daughter in a new shoe.

My carpool buddy had made a pointe shoe fitting for her older daughter after she heard this and I was more than happy to accompany them. We had a master class scheduled for the afternoon (more on that later) and our teacher had suggested we wear traditional black-and-pink. I don’t have a plain black leo that isn’t long-sleeved, so, oh darn!, would simply HAVE to purchase one!

We arrived at Saratoga Dance, Etc. and… it felt like I was a kid entering Willy Wonka’s candy factory. There were many squeals of delight from the dancers. The store is simply beautiful: the displays, the decor… it’s heaven. Beyond that, I don’t know about you, but a lot of dance stores I’ve been in are pretty much holes in the wall with very limited floor space. This store took up two storefronts with one dedicated to adult sized dancewear and gifty stuff, the other side dedicated to shoes and children’s and men’s dancewear (yes, they actually had some men’s dancewear, guys!).

The mom had advised (or, uh, warned!) the store that there was a group of us from our state coming in at some point and the staff there was so friendly and welcoming. They were helpful, but happy to leave us alone and let us poke around and take it all in. They were gracious enough to allow us to take pictures of their decor, too. Unfortunately I wasn’t smart enough to take them up on it so I could show you, but if you click on the link to their website you should be able to see some of it.

I found a black leo that I loved and also got a pair of GM tights (my faves that I can no longer find on Discount Dance!). Then I settled in to watch my friend’s daughter get fitted for pointe shoes.

So… all the stuff I said before about the store before… I mean, that made me like the place a lot. But what made me LOVE the store was the time and attention that their fitters spent with our girls. They have a huge stock of shoes, which helps the fitting process: Suffolk, Freed, GMs, Bloch, Grishko, Russian Pointe, etc. Plus they will make modifications for the dancers’ needs. Katie (their manager) offered to put in shank tacks for one girl, and changed out the cotton drawstring for an elastic one for another. My friend’s daughter ended up in a pair of Suffolks which looked gorgeous on her wide, tapered feet.

After watching all of this I wanted a fitting for myself, even though I thought I had found my shoe. My carpool buddy encouraged me to make an appointment for the following day… another of our girls was having one the following morning, so I figured, what the hey, I’ll take the open slot after her. I was a little giddy at the thought.

At this point we only had about an hour and a half before showtime, so we grabbed some food and headed back to SPAC for the afternoon’s show of Balanchine/Martins. We had amphitheatre seats for this show, which were lovely. It had turned out to be a warm, clear, sunny day, so it was nice to be in the shade of the covered seats, plus the view of the stage was far better.

The show opened up with Hallelujah Junction (Martins, 2001). One of the male soloists in this piece absolutely blew me away. He had amazing ballon. I found a brief video of one of the NYCB dancers talking about the piece:

After a brief pause came the Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux (Balanchine, 1960). The music was originally composed to be part of Swan Lake, but it had been composed after the rest of the music for the ballet and wasn’t part of the published score that Petipa had when he staged the ballet. When the lost piece of music was found years later, Balanchine used it to create this. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was the best performance for either of the dancers and I could tell, even from the audience, that the female dancer wasn’t happy with it. But, again, I imagine that dancing in a setting like SPAC has got to be a bit disorienting. Anyway, I found a video of the whole piece with Baryshnikov in the man’s role!

Intermission number one.

Then back for the Barber Violin Concerto (Martins, 1988). According to the notes this was originally choreographed to feature a pair of NYCB classical dancers and a pair of Paul Taylor modern dancers (including a certain David Parsons!). As a lover of both classical ballet AND modern technique I was super excited to see a piece that combined the two. Unfortunately, though… I didn’t love it. I think I could have loved it, but the interpretation wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. The modern couple (which, granted, in this production were NYCB members, not full-time modern dancers) seemed a little too light and wishy-washy. Maybe that’s how Martins choreographed it, but it seemed to me to be a mockery of modern. It did not feel grounded or quite as sharp as I think of a lot of modern. But at the same time it wasn’t soft and flowy, either. I felt like they weren’t quite sure how to interpret the choreography, so they just made it a silly parody instead. I would love to see it performed as it was originally. I did find some selections as performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet to give you a taste of it:

Intermission #2 (in which I went searching for ice cream, which, sadly, tasted like frozen Cool Whip… gross!!!). Then the final piece of the afternoon, the Stravinsky Violin Concerto (Balanchine, 1972). This piece has another interesting history… Balanchine has originally choreographed to this score in 1941 for the Ballet Russe as Balustrade. When he decided a few decades later to use the score again he couldn’t remember the original choreography, so what we see is totally different from the original. I found another clip with Janie Taylor talking about the piece… and she was actually one of the performers when we saw it! (Were the dramatic pointe shoe breaking-in scenes really necessary to this video, though? I think not, NYCB… stop being silly.)

With the show over we got back into our cars and headed, not for our rented home, but for the studios at the National Dance Museum for a master class with Simon Ball, a principal dancer of the Houston Ballet! Eeeeek!!!

Coincidentally I had recently watched (and read) Mao’s Last Dancer which was tangentially about the Houston Ballet (Li Cunxin was a Chinese dancer who defected to the US in 1981 to join the Houston Ballet). But the stronger connection, perhaps, is that Simon Ball formerly danced with Boston Ballet, as did his wife.

We got changed, me into my new black leo from Saratoga Dance (pretty pretty!) and sat around warming up. My Saratoga roomie made me promise to stand near her at the barre and I was more than happy to comply, not knowing how many of us in class were going to be of the 21+ variety (let alone the 30+ variety)! We filtered into the studio and brought out the barres. I think the class was originally organized for our group, but it had been opened up to the public, so I’d say a third of the people in the room were our dancers.

We started the barre with a nice warm-up exercise facing the barre, then went through the regular pliés, tendus, dégagés, rond de jambes, etc. The warm-up exercise, barre stretch, and rélevés were not typical to our barres, though, and were a nice addition. The artistic director took class and one of our other ballet teachers watched from the door, so I wonder how much of this will be coming up in class next week! It was a terrific barre, though.

Moving on to centre, we had another tendu combination, then an adage, pirouettes across the floor, lots of petit allegro, and a final grand allegro. My confidence maddeningly dropped as center went on. Grr. So much for impressing Simon Ball. Or any of the other dancers. Whatever. I’m old. I need to stop worrying about such silliness. I should just revel in the fact that I got to take class from the guy!

Dripping and shaky, we applauded and wobbled out of class (though we did get a picture of our group with Simon before the jangling Zumba ladies pushed us out of the room).

The experience was awesome from so many levels. To actually get to dance in Saratoga (we were dancing in the same studios Sun King Dance Camp uses, so it gave me a taste of what it might be like to do one of those… which is totally on my bucket list!) and use a huge poster of Maria Tallchief as my spot… cool. To see that I could keep up (mostly) with a class taught by a professional dancer… cool. To hear corrections from a professional and new teacher that gave me new ways to think about things in class… cool.

I think our teachers appreciated the opportunity, too, even those who didn’t take class, and just watched from the door. I heard them saying that it was nice to hear another teacher harp on things the same way as they did; it served as validation that they were on the right track. But they also liked hearing new ideas about imagery that they could use when giving corrections. Though I did hear one saying something about our students’ miserable failure when it came to an assemblé combination. “Guess what we’ll be working on next week?” Ack!

Class over, I was looking forward to an adult beverage. Most of our crew were planning to head back to the house, order pizza, and make ice cream sundaes. One of my teacher friends, though, had spied an Italian restaurant in town and she and her roomie were planning to hit that place up and invited me to join them. I was feeling in need of a little quiet time (one challenge of being an introvert on a trip with 20+ other people!), so I eagerly agreed and we spent the evening enjoying the pleasant weather on the restaurant’s patio while sipping cocktails and indulging in tasty pasta.

Back at the house… The understudy dancer performed her part in the Garland Dance for us in the middle of the living room. We took silly pictures of us doing silly things. We chatted about the day. Finally the excitement caught up with everyone and we headed off to bed to rest up for the final day of our trip…

Which I shall tell you about in my next post… in which Rori gets a new pair of pointe shoes and eats fried oatmeal. Stay tuned!

Gettin’ my swan on…

I realized I did not inform my loyal readers of the audition results!

Heavens to Betsy!

Well…

*Drum roll please*

I shall be… A SWAN! And a lady in waiting.

Terribly exciting… I think.

We had our first swan rehearsal this week.

Didn’t get to see what the costumes will look like, but we did start with bodice fittings. Had to laugh at the director while she was putting bodices on people… “If I’m not struggling to hook you in, it’s too big!” Haha. So I do know that those are white with a few jewels in the center. Curious to find out what the tutu situation will be. And also hoping for one of those feathered swan headpieces. Hm.

And then, the dancing… Aside from the fact that my bruised, big toenail is hanging on by the tiniest little piece of skin (I’m waiting for it to fall off on its own… blech)– making pointe work a bit hairy at the moment — I think I’m going to really enjoy the dance. It’s rather aerobic, but quite fun. I mean, not fun, like “Woohoo, I a swan, wheeeee!!!” but fun, like, “Augh, the angst of being a human trapped in a swan body, alas!!!” That is Rori’s definition of fun. (It really is quite shocking that I didn’t spend my teen years dressed in black.)

We covered quite a bit in our first rehearsal. Good thing seeing as we really only have a few weeks before the show. I’m guessing there will be more than one dance for the swans, so not sure how much more we have to cover, but so far, so good!

Not sure when the ladies in waiting start rehearsing… soon, I’m sure.

Much as I’ve been enjoying my dance break, it was good to be back in the studio working on a new show. Summer classes and full rehearsal mania start next week. As well as an exciting field trip I look forward to telling you all about!

Hope everyone’s summer is off to a glorious start!

Stay cool and swan on!