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!

Ready for a new season!

And, no, I’m not talking about the weather here… though with the temp at -1 degree Farenheit this morning when I left the house, I’m ready for that, too!

No, what I’m talking about here is the buzz that a ballet friend started in class last night.

There are still three more shows to go in Boston Ballet’s 50th anniversary season, but… they just released the line-up for the 2014-15 season.

Dear reader, I was excited for this year, but next year… I literally found myself involuntarily squealing and clapping to myself at my desk as I read the article this morning. Thankfully I have coworkers who are forgiving of these silly quirks.

First up, Swan Lake makes its Boston Opera House debut! With new costumes and sets! While I think the new Nutcracker left a lot to be desired, the sets and costumes were quite nice, so I’m thrilled that Robert Perdziola is all over that. And Mikko Nissinen is adding in a prologue, hmmm.

Then in the spring, “Lady of the Camellias” which they did in ’04, but I’ve never even heard of, let alone seen. I’m excited for a story ballet that’s totally brand new to me!

Then their first mixed rep bill, “Shades of Sound,” with a repeat from last season and two BB premiers. I know people get persnickety about them repeating stuff too close together, but it’s Chroma!!! Which was awesome!!! And I’ll be able to see this from my new seats which are ever so much closer to the action than the balcony seats I had last time!!! Plus, it’s on the same bill as with some Balanchine (“Episodes”), and I generally do love me some Balanchine. And a choreographer and work I’ve not heard of (Hans van Manen’s “Black Cake”), but Nissinen’s description sounds like something I will love.

Followed by another mixed rep, “Edge of Vision” with an Elo world premier and an unnamed other work, plus Helen Pickett’s “Eventide.” That last is yet another piece/choreographer new to me, but from the article, it sounds like Pickett must be like Elo, constantly revising her work. While BB performed this in ’08, there will be a new segment with music by Phillip Glass (the composer who wrote the music for Close to Chuck!) and Ravi Shankar which sounds like an incredibly cool collaboration right there. Can’t wait.

And last but most definitely not least will be “Thrill of Contact” which indeed sounds most thrilling. Why? Well, first up, there are four pieces in this one. The first one is Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations” which I saw NYCB perform at SPAC last summer. Though I feel like a jerk for saying this, I’ve enjoyed BB’s take on Balanchine moreso than his own company’s, so I can’t wait to see them do this for some more compare/contrast. Then there will be a piece choreographed by BB’s own principal dancer (and my very favorite male dancer) Jeffrey Cirio. Swoon. If that boy can choreograph half as well as he can bound around stage, it should be spectacular. Then some Forsythe: “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude.” The title itself is pretty awesome. I lovedlovedloved “The Second Detail” so I’m sitting on the edge of my seat for this one. And then… oh then… dear reader, I can barely contain myself! Jerome Robbins’s “The Concert.” I have only ever seen this on YouTube and I can’t get enough of it. It’s hilarious and adorable and I’m appropriately THRILLED to finally be able to see this live!

I think it’s safe to say that this will be another 5-show subscription package for me for next season!!!

Getting Close to Chuck

Boston Ballet is back!

After a fabulous kick-off to the season last fall with their free, one-night-only gig on the Boston Common, followed by a riveting La Bayadère they were on to the silly season (aka, Nutcracker) which I successfully avoided in spite of their massive marketing campaign. Sorry, guys, I love ya, but once is plenty for me for the forseeable future!

The only problem with skipping out on Nut is that the time between October and February seemed an eternity to wait to get my BB fix. Ah, but here we are in the (near) spring with four glorious shows to satisfy those thrills!

First up is a mixed rep evening entitled Close to Chuck after one of the featured pieces. Loving contemporary movement as I do, I couldn’t wait! My La Bayadère companion (one of my fellow adult dancers) joined me again for this one. She has seen far more story ballets in her time and was looking forward to seeing something of a different ilk.

Coincidentally the director of our company/studio, her husband, and another couple we dance with (okay, we dance with the girl and the guy steps in to partner her in shows when needed) were attending the same night, so we were able to catch up and enjoy a pre-show dinner at Back Deck, just down the street. I highly recommend their elderflower margarita, though perhaps not so great if you want to be able to focus for the first third of the show! Whee! As for dinners, my companions all had delicious-looking items, but my choice of the grilled vegetables Provençale was a bit boring for my tastes. Ah well. Can’t win ‘em all! A quick plug for subscriber benefits, though… we got us 20% off our bill!

The great thing about the restaurant was its plum location just down the street from the Boston Opera House, allowing us to zip out with 15 minutes before curtain and be comfortably ensconced in our seats before the show began.

Quick aside here about etiquette. Since I have a subscription I have the same seats for each show. But invariably you run into about 10 different ushers all asking to see your ticket and help you find your seat. I can never decide whether to say, “Oh, it’s okay, I know where I’m going, I’m a subscriber” and risk looking like a pompous boob, or play along like I have no idea where I’m going and let them lead me to my seat. Hm…

Back to the show.

First up was the headlining piece: Jorma Elo’s “Close to Chuck” or, more accurately, “C. to C. (Close to Chuck) Reborn.” Although Elo is Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, he originally created the work for American Ballet Theatre. The version we saw is edited from the original (hence the “Reborn” part of the title). From what I gathered through the post-show chat and other things I read, Elo is not one of those choreographers who creates a work and then expects it to exist in perpetuity in exactly the same form as the original, so this was, in fact, heavily edited to make better use of the costumes, to play up the chemistry between the dancers and the pianist (Bruce Levingston, the only pianist who has performed the score), and reflect the unique qualities of BB. Having not seen the original ABT version, I can’t comment on the changes, but I can say that what I saw (influenced as it may have been by the aforementioned elderflower margarita!) was very impressive. I didn’t know much, if anything, about Chuck Close prior to the show. I discovered that he is an artist who experienced a potentially career-ending spinal aneurysm which left him paralyzed. He had to relearn and refine his way of painting in light of this. I could see how the movements reflected this majorly influential experience in his life. There were moments where the dancers moved as if their limbs were foreign objects, difficult to manipulate. But at other times the movement was flowing and natural. The costuming was minimalist: men in black tights only, women in black leotards with sheer panels, no tights. But throughout the piece they would occasionally appear on stage wearing floor-length black skirts. The inside of the skirt revealed pieces of the Chuck Close self-portrait which they would display in various ways throughout the dance. The music was written by Phillip Glass, a well-known composer of a wide variety of works who has a few Golden Globes and Academy Awards on his shelf and who happens to be a friend of Close. As I mentioned above, Bruce Levingston was the pianist, as he was for the original ABT version, appearing stage right with his back to the audience. The set itself was designed by Mr. Close himself (how fascinating must it be to create a set for a ballet whose whole purpose is to honor you?). On the whole this was a fascinating collaboration of visual and performing arts. Truly inspiring.

Here’s BB’s Close to Chuck preview with some back story by Elo and rehearsal scenes (exciting note, just last night I was in that first room they show the dancers rehearsing in… subject for a future post!):

During the brief intermission we got up to stretch our legs, powder our noses, and inspect the wares at the boutique. My pocketbook was safe this show; nothing screamed at me to take it home, though they had some cool stuff on display, including some cool recycled/repurposed tote bags made from the banners they had used throughout the city to promote the Boston Common show. On our way back to our seats I nearly ran headlong into a guy who seemed awfully familiar. Um, hello, Mikko Nissinen. Nice show you’ve got going on here.

Back to our seats for the world premiere of “Resonance,” a piece created by José Martinez, a former Étoile with the Paris Opera Ballet and current director of the Compañia Nacional de Danza in Spain. The curtain opens on to the stage which has been bisected diagonally by what appears to be a wall of some sort. The only light comes from a bright beam coming from the far end of the wall (upstage, stage right) and the ever-powerful Lia Cirio– wearing a gorgeous long, navy blue dress — steps backwards onto the stage in the path of the light.

Throughout the ensuing piece there are ever-shifting elements. The pieces of the original wall are moved around revealing a pianist on stage at one point, then obscuring her again as if by an unseen hand. Until, towards the end of the piece, one section of the set is rotated in the center of the stage by four of the dancers. The costumes change, as well. Lia Cirio and Dusty Button were the lead female dancers. When Dusty first comes on stage she is wearing a leotard in the same blue as Lia, but without the long skirt. At some point the characters switch. The men, too. They are wearing long-sleeved tunics in one part, and then in another they are bare-armed. There are two pianists playing the music, but we only (occasionally) see one of them. In the corps work the soloists would occasionally dance separate and then at times join in the corps. They were dressed similarly, making them blend in seamlessly so that you almost lost track of the lead. The style of dancing struck me as vaguely Balanchine-esque with a modernist-classical feel. I felt that there was a lot of subtle symbolism going on during the piece, but subtlety is not always my strength when it comes to art. I enjoyed the piece, but must say it was the one I felt least inspired by at the end of the evening.

Here’s Martinez speaking about the piece:

After the second intermission came a piece I’ve been dying to see for years, though those who have been attending BB more regularly might be a bit bored with it by now: Jiři Kylián’s “Bella Figura.” This is the third year out of four that BB has featured this work. I’m not sure what has led them to show this so many times. My perverse thought is that they’re hoping the intrigue of partial nudity will help bring in new audience members. Not sure, but it’s a fun theory. There are portions of this piece where women (and men) appear topless. Honestly, though, it’s not terribly interesting. Ballerinas are pretty flat-chested, if you aren’t already aware. So if you were hoping for something titillating, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.

I’m not quite sure what Kylián had in mind with this work, but having seen others by him recently, I think that making the audience uncomfortable is part of his aim, at least in recent decades. Not in an overtly shocking way, but by pushing the boundaries of what we might consider acceptable in the world of ballet. For example, Bella Figura starts while the audience is still milling about during intermission. With the house lights on the curtain suddenly opens to reveal a group of dancers who are going through motions as if marking bits of choreography, preparing for the show. In this way of opening the piece, the audience is already on edge. People have been caught out of their seats, not sitting politely as we are trained to do when the lights flicker the warning to let us know intermission is coming to a close. Even those of us who are seated are cut off abruptly mid-conversation. You’re not sure whether to be embarassed at being “caught” in a theatre faux pas or to be annoyed that Kylián had the nerve to start the piece without fair warning. Alongside that, you can’t help but wonder if there’s been some error. Did some noob backstage open the curtain accidentally? Have we caught the dancers in some private pre-show ritual not meant for our eyes? Oh no!

I’ve noticed a definite movement vocabulary in his works: a kind of balance of very fluid motions juxtaposed by choppy, almost violent motions. The dancers facial expressions and steps have an almost in-your-face quality. If you’ve come to get washed away by pretty, flowy ballet, this is probably not the piece for you. But if you’ve come to feel emotion, you’re in the right place. The music he chose for this (a variety of works from Foss, Pergolesi, Marcello, Vivaldi, and Torelli) has a haunting quality to it. The choreography pulls at the viewer. Towards the beginning the dancers are all traditionally clothed, with the exception of one. A female dancer appears in nude-colored trunks and… that’s it. You feel this sense of vulnerability from her. It’s like that stereotypical nightmare come true… you’ve gone to work and realized only once you got there that you are stark naked. But she seems to not quite notice. It’s as though she’s preoccupied with other thoughts. A black curtain closes shutting off our view of the corps behind her and she and a male dancer (actually, he may have been wearing only nude trunks as well, but somehow his character didn’t stick out as much) are alone at the front of the stage. She steps forward, reaching towards the audience with her mouth open as if trying to tell us something. She steps back to the curtain where she’s wrapped in it from behind, only to come forward again. This process repeats itself. In my mind it was as if she was fighting two urges: one to feel safe, secure, swaddled, while the other was to reach out, allow herself to appear vulnerable and seek whatever it was she was seeking. And so it goes. The emotion is not always so raw. At times there’s an almost playful aspect to it. In one section after the iconic “red skirt” portion (all dancers, men and women alike, dance together wearing billowy, vermillion skirts and — you guessed it — no shirts) the curtain closes almost completely except for a small space in the middle where two women kneel, pulling off their skirts (don’t worry, they still have those nude trunks on) and almost seem to poke and prod one another as if they were two creatures from different planets trying to figure one another out.

At the end, after the curtain closes on the final scene, including two bowls of fire on stage, my companion and I let out a simultaneous sigh. We weren’t quite sure what we had just experienced, but it was emotional and it was deep. And perhaps this is why BB has been keeping it in constant rotation on their playlist.

Here’s their preview of the piece (and yes, there is a tiny glimpse of partial nudity, so viewer beware if you’re bothered by silly stuff like that):

On this particular evening there happened to be a post-show talk in the lobby with Mikko Nissinen (Artistic Director of Boston Ballet) and special guest Bruce Levingston. I love taking advantage of the pre- and post-show chats and learning what I can from the people behind the scenes, whether they be Mikko, the dancers, musicians, students, etc. In case you haven’t noticed, ballet isn’t just about staring at the stage for me. It’s kind of all-consuming. Luckily my companion has a similar dorkish streak and was happy to entertain my suggestion to stay and hear what they had to say. The talk centered primarily on Close to Chuck, the process of translating it from the original ABT production to something that was uniquely Boston, and also the history of how the piece came to be. Hearing the two men talking about it certainly gave me a greater appreciation for what I had seen.

In case you want to learn more, the Boston Globe did a very nice article on this which explains things far better than I could.

And so, that was my experience of getting Close to Chuck. As with nearly all contemporary works, I wish I had the chance to see it twice. I find that in reflecting on what I saw I come up with more questions and a burning desire to see it again and see what answers I can come up with. The show is running through March 2nd, so if you’re in the area I highly recommend you go check it out and see what you come away with!

Winter Update

Wow, I’ve been remiss at writing of late! Never fear, though, I’m here and there’s lots of dancing going on. I’ll try the quick recap.

Where did we leave off? Oh yes, December.

So our own Nutcracker show went quite well, I think. If you didn’t catch my somewhat flippant take on my experience as a party mom you can find that here. Snow and Hot Chocolate scenes both went reasonably well, IIRC. And my turn as a Rosebud, though light on the choreography, was full of some lively saut de chats, which I always find enjoyable. All in all I felt that I recovered all confidence that I lost the year prior and then some, so hurrah. Still end up on the plus side!

I also got around to scoping out a couple other studios’ versions of Nut. While they weren’t bad, I still think our version is best. I fully admit to being biased. One studio actually hires professional dancers from a major NYC company to play some of the leads (i.e., Sugarplum and her Cavalier, etc.). I was expecting to be blown away, but unfortunately… not sure whether it was bland choreography or a performance by dancers who felt they could just phone it in because, hey, why stress yourself out for a performance in some podunk high school theatre with a bunch of amateurs, but it was vastly underwhelming. I preferred the students’ dances. The other studio did not feature any special guests, per se. Actually, one child has been on Broadway, though they didn’t hype that. I had heard good things about their training, though, so expected some high quality stuff. I was disappointed to see that their scenery was incredibly cheesy and there was no plot whatsoever. I know the Nut plot is usually held together by a thread, at best, but this didn’t even have that. The party scene was lacking in Y chromosomes… or even people pretending to have Y chromosomes. Since they didn’t use adults and the children playing children weren’t particularly young you couldn’t differentiate between the moms and the kids. And then Act II was just a pure helter-skelter, hodge podge of divertissements. Both of these shows had their redeeming qualities, of course, but still, I walked out feeling a good deal of pride at being associated with our version.

Anyway, with Nut done we had our two week break for the holidays. I celebrated by being disgustingly sick. It seems to be an annual tradition, though this bout was especially violent and gross. Yay.

But… while I was recovering, shortly before New Year’s, I got an e-mail in my inbox from our director. She was wanting to submit a piece for consideration to a choreographers’ showcase that another studio was hosting. We had two weeks to throw this together and video it to send it. Who’s game? I am! So a bunch of us cut our break short to head back to the studio for rehearsals. In the span of two rehearsals we got the piece fully choreographed, costumes fitted, and the whole shebang taped and ready to send off. We found out within a week or two that the piece was accepted, so now we’re back to rehearsals and getting it cleaned up in time for the show! It’s a contemporary ballet piece, en pointe. I like it.

And in other performance news, I was invited back to participate in our local music school’s annual gala. They are reprising the Dancing with the Stars format with this year’s theme being Broadway. The fun twist this year is that the music school’s jazz band will be accompanying us dancers. The not-so-fun twist is that their repertoire apparently consists of snoozer songs. Nice songs, but not exciting to dance to. I had my first rehearsal with my new partner last night and, while not a dancer, he agreed that our song was boring, so we’re lobbying for a slightly more risque and definitely more up-tempo song. Fingers crossed that we get our wish! As for my partner… he told me he’s in it to win it, so I think we’ll get along just fine. We covered ball changes last night (which he referred to as “ball and chains” which was trés hilarious) and he made good progress on jazz squares. We’ll see what the next few weeks bring!

Aside from the performing and the class-taking and such, there are also a few Boston Ballet shows coming up. Close to Chuck (mixed rep) starts next week and shortly after that closes Cinderella opens.

So, that’s the quick and dirty of dance in this corner of the world. Hope everyone else’s new year is off to a good start in the studio, on the stage, or in the seats! Cheers!

The Silberhaus Party

15th December 18xx

The Silberhaus family had their annual Christmas party this weekend. This was the first year that husband and I were invited, though I loath to admit that I was not initially excited to receive the invitation. Surely I find Frau Silberhaus to be a kindly woman, but I have heard rumors about past parties and the eccentricities within. Husband impressed upon me that such an invitation could not politely be refused, however, and I knew in my heart he was right.

He encouraged me to buy a new dress and to find new outfits for the children in an effort to cheer me. While the idea of a new gown was exciting, I knew that the invitation was no cause for foolhardiness and assured him that our best clothes would serve us in fine stead, even in the grand surroundings of the Silberhaus drawing room. We would be expected to bring gifts to the party and the money would be better spent there.

I did allow him to convince me to have a new skirt made up to wear with my beautiful burgundy bodice — the one with the lace edging and the points on the sleeves. The dressmaker chose a beautiful fawn color and trimmed it with lace and a purple ribbon. With my lovely cream-colored cape I admit I felt quite grand.

Husband put on his best suit and our children were dressed in their finest clothes, though I failed to notice that our son managed to quite rumple his blouse until we were nearly at the party upon which time it was too late to do much about it. At least his hair was neat and the girls were lovely with their curls and bows.

We were nearly the last to arrive at the party due to the snow that had started, but were greeted warmly by the family and their servants. Shortly after we bid our hellos, though, we received quite a fright as a cloaked gentleman swirled in behind us, his face hidden. Husband and I rushed to protect the children, but as the gentleman removed his black cloak we soon realized it was simply their children’s odd, but harmless godfather Drosselmeyer. He waved in a young man and introduced him as his apprentice. The apprentice immediately asked the young Miss Clara Silberhaus to dance and the other children followed suit (with a little prodding from us).

As the children danced husband and I were able to take in the room and greet some of our fellow guests. I was relieved to see so many friends among the party-goers. Most of the women were wearing new dresses purchased for the occasion, but I was comforted to note the Frau Silberhaus herself was wearing a bodice I’ve seen before dressed up with a new skirt and sash.

I am afraid the children became a bit raucous in their dancing and there were some falls in their frenzy and some tears which I’m afraid came as the result of some of the naughty tricks young Master Silberhaus played on one particular girl. One of the maids entered with a tea cart full of sweets at just the right time to help dry the tears and distract the children. While they were thus occupied we were invited to partake in a toast, which was followed by a glorious round of waltzing. Unfortunately our dancing was brought to an abrupt halt by more of Fritz’s tricks.

Godfather Drosselmeyer must have had enough, for he gathered the children around him and we watched as he took out his pocketwatch. What could this mean? He swung it before him briefly before calling Fritz up to stand beside him. He then proceeded to somehow put the boy in a trance by telling Fritz to stare at the watch while it swung back and forth. What followed was such a sight to behold! Fritz returned to the group of children, but instead of sitting with them he took the hand of the young lady he had been tormenting for the bulk of the evening and kissed her hand. Repeatedly! They then waltzed for a few seconds before he took a corsage from Drosselmeyer and placed it around the young girl’s wrist. A few more kisses and a few more waltzes… it was truly a miracle. But then! Drosselmeyer snapped his fingers and Fritz realized in horror what he had done and went running to his parents. I suppose it was mean of me, but I could not help but stifle a laugh.

The magic was not over, however! The children were summoned to go sit along the sides of the room and two large boxes were brought in. What could they contain? They opened to reveal two life-sized dolls! Drosselmeyer’s apprentice brought in the key and the godfather proceeded to wind up the dolls who then performed a droll little dance for us! It was such a sight to behold and the children, girls especially, were absolutely entranced.

Husband helped to carry the dolls out while Drosselmeyer then brought in — oh, you shall never believe it! — a bear! I nearly fainted. What could he mean, bringing this mean, wild animal into a home, especially one with so many small children? The man was surely mad. But then music began and this ferocious animal rose up on two feet as if it were a human and began to dance! Can you imagine?! A dancing bear! It even somersaulted through a hoop that Drosselmeyer held before him. Once the music stopped the bear dropped back to all fours and was led out of the drawing room. I have never witnessed anything so unusual!

I worried that our evening would continue with more of these antics, which my constitution surely could not bear, but thankfully Drosselmeyer was momentarily out of surprises and the Silberhaus family took the opportunity to gather the children around the tree to hand out presents. We certainly did not expect such generosity from our hosts. The girls each got dolls and the boys… well, the boys received toy swords and pull toys in the shape of mice! I tried to hide my horror at the latter. As the girls were exclaiming over their dolls Drosselmeyer brought out yet another surprise for young Miss Clara: a nutcracker doll. I would expect that she would have preferred one of the pretty dolls that the rest of the girls received than that horrid wooden thing with its sneering grin, but she seemed awed by it and eagerly ran around to show it to each of the children.

Fritz immediately began pouting. Rather unbecoming behavior for a boy of his age, though, to be fair Clara was being a bit of a show-off and I cannot imagine what Drosselmeyer was thinking by only getting a special gift for one of the children and not both.

What happened next, though, oh, I can hardly bear to write it down, but it must be said… Fritz grabbed Clara’s nutcracker doll and wrenched it from her hands and before anyone could intervene he broke its head clear off its body! Clara was inconsolable, and I can only imagine that Frau and Herr Silberhaus were beyond embarrassed at the behavior of their children. Fritz was roundly scolded, though why he was permitted to stay at the party was beyond me. Our son would have been sent to bed immediately!

Thankfully Drosselmeyer had a bit more magic in him and repaired the doll so that you could never tell it had been broken. The girls all danced around with their new dolls and it was so beautiful to behold. That is, until the boys got antsy and rambunctious and descended on their pretty scene with swords raised and rats trailing behind them. I am sorry to say that our own boy was part of this scene, terrorizing his sisters. He is a sweet boy, but I’m afraid he does idolize that naughty Fritz. Husband and the other men came to restore order and I went to soothe the girls, but after a short time the boys descended on us yet again.

Frau Silberhaus suggested that the toys be put away for the time and that we all join in a dance. We had a lovely time dancing when suddenly a whirling dirvish caught my eye. Grandmother Silberhaus had risen from her comfortable couch and was twirling about the dance floor! Can you imagine!? She consumed more than her fair share of wine, I’m afraid! She even exposed her polka-dotted bloomers to us in her scurry before nearly toppling over. Thankfully her son was able to save her just in time!

With that latest in the string of odd events of the evening there was an unspoken understanding amongst us guests that it was time for us to take our leave of the party. We gathered up our children and I braced myself to head out into the snow.

It was a night I won’t soon forget. I do wonder if perhaps I had a bit too much wine, myself, though. I could have sworn that as we were leaving I saw a large rat run past with a crown on his head and a sword clutched between his teeth!

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!

Fun with Physics

Did I mention yet that I’m taking a physics class right now?

Well, I am.

Don’t ask… it’s a long story. Maybe I’ll post about it later.

Anyway.

So I was sitting in physics lecture today listening to my professor discussing how we can determine the center of an object’s mass — stimulating stuff, of course — when he flips to a slide with a drawing of a grand jété!

I thought to myself, “Hey, wasn’t there some physicist who wrote about dance?”

And then the next slide was a video clip of Kenneth Laws (aka, “some physicist”) and Cynthia Harvey discussing the physics of a grand jété while Julie Kent and Benjamin Pierce demonstrated!

I actually do own Mr. Laws’s book… I’m thinking maybe I should read it instead of using it as coffee table decoration! Maybe this crazy classroom venture of mine will pay off in the dance studio!

Edited to add: It was all I could do to not voice my indignation in class that the dancer was actually demonstrating a saut de chat and NOT a grand jété. Okay, I know it’s just semantics, but still… ;)

Nut 2013 – The chaos begins

Apparently my friends and I have developed a knack for choosing reunion weekends that happen to coincide with Nutcracker auditions.

This was the second year in a row that I missed them because I was gallivanting out of state with the same group of people. While I was swilling sangria and consuming tapas in Michigan, my dance friends were sweating it out in a curtained-off studio with numbers pinned to their leotards. Sorry, guys!

My dancer radar was up while I was traveling, though!

As we were leaving the tapas bar, I spied a brochure for the Grand Rapids Ballet. Might have to check them out next time I’m in town!

From dinner we proceeded to wander around checking out some of the ArtPrize displays around the city. Where I spied this:

Blind Grace, Dean Kugler

Blind Grace, Dean Kugler

This was just one of the works entered into ArtPrize that had a dance element, but we had limited time, it was dark, and there were a ton of people walking around the city checking out the art, so I didn’t get to search out any of the others. I quite enjoyed this piece, though. Details can be found here (and from there you can link to more info about ArtPrize).

It wasn’t my last chance to see dance-themed art during the weekend, though… because the following day we went to Meijer Gardens (should you ever find yourself in Grand Rapids, MI you must go there!) and I spied this Degas sculpture!

Edgar Degas, "Dancer Looking at Her Right Foot," c. 1895-1911, Bronze

Edgar Degas, “Dancer Looking at Her Right Foot,” c. 1895-1911, Bronze

Gorgeous!

In spite of missing auditions, I will still be in the show, though!

And I know you’re waiting anxiously to hear what my parts will be.

Repeats? New dances? Hm???

Well, in a way… both. I’ve been in all dances before. One of them will feature me in a new role, however.

First up is Snow… as a flake. Third year running. First year this piece nearly scared the tutu off me, but last year I quite enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got a lot of young blood in the dance this year, so will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

Next up is Hot Chocolate/Spanish corps. Another repeat – second year in a row. Last year I felt kind of meh about it. It had potential to be fun, but I was stressed and not totally pleased with my performance. Happy to get another run at it. The corps, with the exception of one guy, are all the same from last year. My partner from last year is the missing guy. Assuming the other ladies keep their partners from last year, I’ll get partnered with the new guy, but… new guy was actually the knight to my Lady in Waiting from Wild Swans, so he’s not totally new and he was a good partner, so I’ve got high hopes for this one this year.

Then the new/old dance. I’ll be back in the Waltz of the Flowers, which I was in my first year. But instead of being in the corps I’ll be a Rosebud. This is a role I’d had in the back of my mind, so I’m happy about that. My only disappointment is that I was hoping it could be en pointe, but the other rosebud doesn’t do pointe yet, so it’ll be slippers for us. Though, really… that piece is at the end of the show and by that time I can’t imagine I’ll be complaining when I get to take off my pointe shoes and put soft slippers on!

So, there’s the verdict. I think it will actually be a fairly fun, low-stress show for me this year, which I am looking forward to! Stay tuned for rehearsal updates and, of course, show recaps!

Best of luck to anyone else out there preparing for Nutcracker or other holiday shows!

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!