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!