A tale of two performances: Tale 1

Here’s the first of two recaps of performances that took place in the same week, but on VERY opposite sides of the spectrum. Introduction can be found here!

This was the choreography showcase. I was feeling pretty good going in. Since we had crammed at the very beginning to learn the piece, we were able to spend all the subsequent rehearsals tidying and such. I think we all felt quite prepared going in.

We got to the week of the show and our scheduled tech rehearsal. There were two showcases, no pieces were repeated between the two, and all rehearsing that night, so time was short to get everyone in. We were able to sneak in a quick walk-through during a break, but only got to run the piece once that night.

Then show day. We rehearsed one final time in the studio after class that morning, then headed to the theatre. The piece I was in was in the second show which meant that I actually got to be a regular audience member for the afternoon show, which was kind of a treat. The program was a mix of classical, contemporary, lyrical, and modern stuff, with a tap piece thrown in for good measure. Some I quite enjoyed. Others not so much. I suppose that’s the way it is with these things! Something for everyone.

Once the show was over I rushed home to bun up and slather my face in makeup before returning to the theatre for the second performance. Call was ridiculously early. I wouldn’t have minded the extra time backstage to relax, but we were, of course, sharing our dressing room with two or three other companies, so it was crowded and awkward. The sponsoring company did offer a warm-up class open to all performers. And here’s where things got a bit interesting.

The studio space at this venue is cozy and there were only a few real barres. Those of us who didn’t get a barre made do with chairs or used the wall, trying our best not to kick one another. We’d angle ourselves so as not to grand battement into the person behind, but then would end up kicking the person across the aisle instead. None of this was the interesting part, though.

As I’m sure my readers can appreciate, one of the beautiful things about ballet is the transcendental language of the art. You can go into another studio — heck, you can take class in a foreign country with a different native language — and you still know what to expect, not only in terms of exercises, but in terms of how to behave. Or, at least, that’s what I thought before now.

Perhaps people were just punchy after a long day. Maybe they had too much sugar in the between-show break. I’m not sure. But two things were very obvious in this class. Number 1 was which students belonged to the host studio. And number 2 was that these students had zero respect for their faculty member who was conducting the class. Oh, and number 3: they had zero respect for the other studios/companies who were invited to perform alongside them. It was one of the most awkward classes I’ve ever taken. I could barely catch the combinations because I couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying over the endless cackling and chit-chat that took place every time the music was off. On top of that I felt deeply embarrassed for the teacher who was doing his best to take the high road and ignore the behavior, and for the girls who were from that studio, but who were acting appropriately.

Up until this point I had viewed this studio with a lot of respect. They turn out dancers with very strong technique (we have some of their alums at our studio and they are all talented dancers). I hope that the entitlement and brattiness I witnessed was an aberration. The alums I just mentioned are all lovely, kind people. But I can’t say that I would recommend the studio to anyone after what I saw.

I can forgive an off day. Sometimes there’s a full moon or a mass case of the sillies. (I wouldn’t have minded silly… but what I observed was simply rude.) But as with everything there’s a time and a place. When you are representing your school in public that is not the time to show off your queen bee skillz. Ugh.

I must say, though… our students and those from the other studio acted as though they didn’t notice the ruckus and performed the combinations seriously. At the end they all lined up to curtsey or bow and personally thank the teacher. Unprompted, too. Way to represent! Seriously, our director would have been irate if we acted the way these kids did, especially if we were the hosts!

After the class we got into our shoes and costumes and did last-minute run-throughs in our heads before going onstage. The performance itself… well, it was a bit disappointing for at least a few of us. Nothing terrible happened, but it wasn’t nearly as smooth as it typically was in rehearsal. There were a few bobbles here and there. I think what made it more disappointing was knowing that it was a one-and-done thing. Would’ve been nice to get a do-over once we got the wobbles out of our system.

But all in all, we came, we saw, we performed.

A couple weeks later we got to see video of the performance. And while we each focused on our own missteps, I think we could all agree that when looking at it as a whole it looked quite nice and we represented our company well.

On to tale two…

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!

Puremovement: Chasing the blues away

Last week was one of those weeks full of a series of small annoyances that led up to a feeling of general grumpitude. I won’t bore you with the entire litany, but as some examples:

- Mother Nature and the poor driving habits of my fellow man led to three consecutive days of wretched commutes.
- As a result, I had to bail on rehearsal with my DWTS partner and missed a couple dance classes, too.
- I was soothed by the knowledge that a master class scheduled at our studio on Friday. I had switched my work from home day so that I would be sure to be able to attend this… but then got word that the class was being been cancelled due to low enrollment.

Rawrawrawr.

So Friday found me moping around the house, drowning my sorrows in a virtual pile of medical records of patients with heart failure (if nothing else, my job serves to put my woes in perspective).

Then a text message came across my phone from a friend. She was supposed to bring her daughters to see a hip-hop company perform that night, but her house had been taken over by vicious microbes and they weren’t well enough to go. Her tickets were up for grabs if I was interested. I hemmed and hawed still being in my general funk. Another teacher/friend ended up taking the tickets for her and her daughter and then she texted me to see if I wanted to take the third.

Alright, alright, I’ll go!

The company was Rennie Harris Puremovement from Philadelphia. Regular readers may know that while ballet is my primary dance form, I like to dabble in others, and I’ve done some hip-hop. Of course, the hip-hop I’ve done is nothing nearly as hard-core as this kind of hip-hop. Maybe because of that I have the utmost respect for the things true hip-hoppers and b-boys/girls can do with their bodies.

Before the show started there were some cool jams emanating from the typically staid auditorium to set the mood. I was disappointed when I got in the room, though, to see how many empty seats there were! I don’t think this had anything to do with the performers, by the way. As I mentioned above we were coming out of a string of lousy weather days and it was also the final day of school before February school vacation, so I’m sure a lot of people were getting ready for their adventures there. But still… I expected more of a packed house. On the plus side, it was intimate and we had a (nearly) front row seat.

The curtain was open and remained so throughout the show, which was kind of cool. The first half of the show was entitled “Something to do with Love (Volume 1).” There were seven dancers — four women and three men — who danced this piece, coming on and off stage at various times. What struck me the most about this work was the perfect balance of harmony and individuality. Take the costuming: the women were all in a bright tank top with a black vest-ish sort of thing over and black pants. The men were in button-down shirts, jeans, and vests. But none of them wore the same style. It was obviously a “costume” of sorts, not a come-as-you-are thing, but each person had their own take on the uniform. And this translated throughout the dancing. They were SO in sync even in very fast choreography: the steps, the turns, the changing of positions were all spot-on. And yet… each dancer had his or her own distinct style that came through. This in no way distracted from the choreography and, in fact, enhanced it. This work seemed to be a compilation of stories about the joys and struggles love, and not just romantic love. I saw the excitement of meeting new people, misunderstandings, rejection, shared fun and support. The costuming and personalities of the dancers added to all of this. Oh, and the music was kick-ass, too.

This was followed by a 15 minute intermission in which the music kept pumping to keep the energy up in the room.

Then the second half, featuring three works from the company’s earlier days: “P-FUNK,” “March of the Antman,” and “Continuum.” I’m not sure about this, but based on the casting in these pieces I’m guessing the dance company was originally comprised of only (or mostly) men. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. The pieces were fantastic and served to showcase the wide-ranging skills of the men in the company, but I kind of wanted to see more of the ladies. The second half had a very different feel to it. There was a fair bit of spoken-word, a lot more aggression, strong emotion, raw power in this half. I almost would have preferred the show to be reversed in order so that this stuff came first and “…Love” second, but I guess that’s the eternal desire for a more happy ending to a show, even a show of mixed rep.

All in all, very powerful, invigorating, and impressive. A nice break from my typical ballet/contemporary viewing and made me want to get back to hip-hop class.

Found this clip online from a promotional video a few years ago. Gives you a sense of the breadth of their work.

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!

BB’s La Bayadère

First show of Boston Ballet’s 50th season is in the books!

(First show, that is, if you don’t count the special, free Night of Stars that took place on the Common in September!)

I’ve been wanting to see this ballet for a good 20+ years. When I was in the 8th grade, taking what I consider to be my first “real” ballet classes (I’d taken some form of ballet for the 5 years prior, but this was the first time I had taken it in any sort of a formal setting), the director of our studio put on a winter show. I guess you could consider it a Christmas show, though that wasn’t the main point of it. It did take place in December. And it did include a vaguely Christmas-y part (an original ballet production of the Little Match Girl). But it was part of a larger showcase that included class demonstrations and excerpts from the third act of La Bayadère.

I didn’t know anything about La Bayadère at the time, so it wasn’t until years later when I saw a clip of the Kingdom of the Shades that I realized the choreography we learned was after Petipa and the costumes were designed to resemble those from the ballet with the white bodices and tutus and the white tulle extending from our buns to our arms. I remember feeling awed to know that we had replicated, in some form, stuff that professionals have performed on stage!

So finally, FINALLY I was going to see the real deal!

One of my dance friends and I made an evening of it, starting with dinner at Teatro. The only reservation we could get was for early-ish (5pm), but it worked out splendidly since there was a pre-curtain talk taking place before the show we were going to see. We stepped in to the talk a bit late, but thankfully BB posted an excerpt which you can watch here:

We missed most of what’s in the video, but we heard the Q&A section which was omitted. One that stood out was a woman who asked about the stereotyped Native American dance. What? Wrong Indians, lady. Though once I saw the section in the show I could see how she had gotten confused and I also found a review in the newspaper that referred to the Native American dance. Seriously? Why would they randomly put a Native American segment in a show that takes place in India? Especially since the woman staging it is French! Think critically here, people. Ms. Ponomarenko did gently inform the questioner that though that dance is meant to be a tribal dance, it was meant to be a tribal dance from India. More about the stereotypes later.

Another question was about the missing fourth act. What? There’s a fourth act out there somewhere? They said that companies probably do not perform that act simply because it would make the show too long. It is kind of a long show, so I can see that, but after watching it and researching what the fourth act was about, I kind of wish they kept it. The story would make a lot more sense if it was included. Again, more on that in a minute.

Pre-curtain talk over my friend and I headed back out to the lobby for some champagne and shopping! I simply had to get one of the gorgeous tees they had for sale. I don’t buy tees for all the shows. After all, there are only so many t-shirts one can wear and some of the designs are, quite frankly, “meh”. But there are a few where they are simply spot-on and this was one of them. I don’t usually like slouchy tees, but this was silky soft and gorgeously drapey, plus there’s a sparkly stone glued to the center of the lady’s forehead. Oh, and I had my subscriber discount, so… score!

We ran into our dance company’s artistic director while we were at the gift stand so had a nice chat before we headed to our respective seats.

Quick note about these seats… as I’ve mentioned, I am a subscriber, in large part because they gave me the opportunity to subscribe at a ridiculously good price last year and allowed me to renew this year at the same rate! The seats are in the “B” section which is kind of the middle-of-the-road seats. Not obstructed view, but not primo seating. (Surprisingly “A” seating is not primo seating, either — there’s another level above A. One of these days…. one of these days.) When I renewed they asked if I wanted to keep my seats which were up in the balcony. I liked my seats fine, but after seeing Book of Mormon from the orchestra level I decided I might like to be down there instead. So I asked for best available in my price group on that level. Well, dear reader, my new seats are incredible. Off to the left side, but towards the center, about halfway down. The view was amazing!

Okay, back to the show. Curtain goes up on Act I, in which the scene is set. The High Brahmin digs Nikiya, one of the temple dancers, but she’s all gaga over Solor (me, too… I mean, it was being played by Jeffrey Cirio!). High Brahmin is not cool with getting snubbed, so he plans to bump off his rival, because that seems like a reasonable way to win a lady. But turns out that the Rajah thinks Solor is pretty cool and thus should marry his daughter Gamzatti. He shows Gamzatti Solor’s picture (which he just happens to have hanging around) and she’s smitten with his dashing good looks. She’s kind of a looker herself, it seems, because that two-timing Solor sees her and forgets his pact of life-long love with Nikiya and jumps on board with marrying this other girl. Jerk. The High Brahmin still has his knickers in a twist, so he decides to tattle on Solor and Nikiya thinking that the Rajah will join him in the plan to bump off Solor, but OOPS, instead Rajah decides that Nikiya should be the one swimming in cement shoes. Gamzatti tries to help out this poor, unsuspecting girl by saying, “This man is mine, why don’t you just turn your pretty little ass around and go after someone else.” Oh, c’mon, Gamzatti. That NEVER works! Nikiya in turn goes a little crazy on her rival and allllmost kills her, but doesn’t succeed and runs off in horror. Which, not surprisingly, is not a great way to win friends and influence people. So now Gamzatti and Rajah are both on board with getting rid of this pest. Curtain closes.

Act II takes place in the palace garden where Gamzatti and Solor are celebrating their engagement and guess who has to dance at the celebration… Nikiya. What could go wrong? Well, Nikiya could be handed a basket of flowers which she thinks was sent by Solor, but turns out to be a gift from Rajah and Gamzatti. And instead of a nice little note card informing her of the sender, they include a poisonous snake. I guess that got the message across just as clearly. Solor, in all his infinite wisdom, takes off with Gamzatti and Nikiya, seeing this, refuses the antidote and dies.

So now it’s time for Act III and guess who is now feeling like a heel? Yup, Solor. So, how best to deal with realizing you’re a major two-timing jerk? Get high. Duh. So a few puffs on the opium pipe and… what’s this? A bunch of white spectres comes down a ramp and Nikiya is with them and he dreams that she forgives him and takes him back to her otherworldly home.

The end.

Except, I mean, kind of a weak ending, right? Because we know Solor is still in his drugged-up stupor and he’s going to come out of it so… then what? Well, I looked up the fourth act and it turns out that in that he does in fact wake up and has to go get married to Gamzatti, but the gods get kinda p.o.’ed about the whole thing and strike everyone dead and then Solor’s and Nikiya’s shades are reunited and sent to the Himalayas. Still kind of unsatisfying that Solor still gets the girl after all the crap he’s pulled, but maybe shades are more forgiving than I. But at least it gives an actual closure to the plot.

The dancing was lovely for the most part. Act II in particular was quite impressive and the Indians dance was probably my favorite. It was just so energetic and thrilling. I could see why people may have gotten it confused with it being a Native American dance as the dancers wore feathered headpieces and carried drums. What I took away from it, however, is that there are incredible commonalities among dances throughout the world. People are made to dance, are made to create rhythm and move to those rhythms. It’s what we do, no matter where we’re from.

Back to the dancing. Things got a bit shaky in Act III, though I wasn’t completely upset by this. The Kingdom of the Shades is known for being one of THE corps pieces. In ballet we’re all about the soloists, but to have a large corps dancing together in unison is really incredible. You can fudge some stuff as a soloist, but there’s no wiggle room when you’re in a group of 23 other women all doing the same thing. I also know that this is purported to be a particularly challenging piece due to the length and repetitive nature of the opening. I saw a few bobbles in the corps. One the one hand this does mar some of the illusion of effortlessness, but as a dancer it was somewhat relieving to see that we amateurs are not alone in dealing with the challenges of ballet.

The acting in the show… was okay. I’m not sure that this is a critique of the dancers, though, as much as it is of story ballets. There is SO much to tell in a very short time that I don’t know that it’s possible to express the requisite range of emotions and make it believable.

Costumes and sets, as always, were incredible. There was a small lighting glitch at the start of the third act when the shades enter coming down the ramps. I’m not sure what happened, but the light did not come up as it should have and I could hear some frantic wrangling of a spotlight behind me. I can only imagine what those shades were thinking as they descended the ramp in the near dark! Luckily all recovered within a minute or two. And the orchestra remained superb throughout.

Overall a lovely evening at the ballet. Glad to have finally be able to say that I’ve seen La Bayadère and loved the glitter that BB brought to the stage.

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.

Boston Ballet’s Night of Stars

I’m a bit tardy on this review, but had to write it up!

Boston Ballet is kicking off their 50th anniversary season and they chose to do so by giving the gift of ballet to the city. That is, they set up a stage on the Boston Common (which, if you’ve never been to Boston, is a big park-like thing in the middle of the city) and chose an incredible program spanning the gamut from classical story ballets to Balanchine to contemporary and presented it for FREE to anyone willing to come out and watch.

The estimated attendance I saw was around 55,000. And I was one of them!

The show was slated to start at 7pm. BB sent out an e-mail the day before suggesting people arrive between 4 and 5:30 to get good seats. So… my friends and I got there at 3. And we were far from the first to arrive. But we were among the first, so we scored an awesome piece of lawn facing the right side of the stage. We didn’t bring chairs since we weren’t expecting they’d be allowed. Turns out they were. Drat. But even on blankets the view was great.

It was a glorious late summer day, temps in the upper 70s, only supposed to drop to the mid-60s at night. So we spread out our blankets and basked in the sun. At 4pm they opened the information booth and started playing videos on the screens they had set up. The first 50 people to the info booth got a free Night of Stars t-shirt… and yes, I got one! Very exciting. The videos turned out to mostly be stuff that I had already seen on their web-site: profiles of dancers, info about the school, etc. But at least it gave something for the early-comers to watch.

At around 6:30 I decided to stretch my legs and went for a quick walk (which was not so much walking as it was attempting not to step on the sea of humanity, dogs, and blankets surrounding me) and realized exactly how many people had come out to watch ballet. It was truly spectacular. It seemed like every square inch of the Common was covered.

By the time we made our way back to our blankets the curtain was nearly set to rise. Except… well, there was no curtain. There were no real wings, even. There was, however, a pair of dancers rehearsing on-stage. Those two were a certain Jeffrey Cirio (SWOON!!!) and Misa Kuranaga practicing their Don Q pas de deux, complete with legwarmers over their costumes. They were out there as they probably would do before any other show, unabashedly going through certain parts of the dance, except we could see them (the lights weren’t up and the cameras weren’t on them, but for those of us in the front it was all there for the viewing). This alone was enough to make my evening. It was this glimpse into their non-performing world.

As 7pm neared twilight was beginning to creep over the Common. A slightly-more-than-light breeze blew up. It was all terribly romantic. The screens switched over from the videos that had been running over the past few hours to an introduction and thank-you from various BB big-wigs. Then the orchestra tuned up (yes, the entire BB orchestra was there, too!). And then… the show.

As you might have guessed, it opened with the Don Quixote pas de deux featuring Mr. Cirio and Ms. Kuranaga. I saw them paired up in Coppelia and they are such a good match. Their dancing complements each other exquisitely. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it previously… I heart Jeffrey Cirio. His dancing is simply divine. Swoon. And… swoon again.

Ahem, where was I?

Oh yes. Don Q. Pas de deux. Both dancers are just marvelous. You’d never know they were performing out of their element. Fan-frickin-tastic!

Next up were excerpts from Christopher Bruce’s “Rooster.” I had seen the full “Rooster” in last year’s fall program and loved it. It’s set to Rolling Stones music and the dancing has kind of a jazz/modern feel to it, so I feel like it’s a great intro to BB for people who may not think that they like ballet. For this show they performed “Paint it Black,” “Play with Fire,” and “Sympathy for the Devil.” Great music. Great dancing.

After that was a preview of the next show coming up: the Golden Idol variation from La Bayadere. This one featured a few children from BBS. Now, let me tell you one thing I learned from this piece. You know how pink tights highlight muscle line (cellulite, too, but let’s not discuss that!). Well, turns out gold paint does the same thing. I suppose it goes without saying, then, that it made this piece rather appealing to the eye. The dancing… well, I know it’s a super-hard variation, in part because it is about twice as long as most men’s variations in classical ballet. It was good… not quite great, but… certainly good. And… gold paint, yum.

Next up was the mystery performance of the evening… the world premiere of “Swan” which was choreographed by Viktor Plotnikov. It was a pas de deux between Lorna Feijoo and Yury Yanowsky. They danced exquisitely, but the piece itself left me a bit underwhelmed. I think I was just expecting something a bit bigger and brighter and was kind of disappointed to find out that the world premiere was something not what I built it up to be in my mind. I should probably see it again in a different context to better judge its merits.

And then, to end the first half, was Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Movements.” It features a huge cast and I think because of that, there were some amazing parts and some that could use some tightening up. Lia Cirio (sister of my crush) seemed totally in her element in this piece. She exudes a certain matriarchal vibe and her role in this suited her. The other soloists in this were equally fine. The corps, however…. well, this is one of those pieces where if one person’s arms are out of line with everyone else’s it sticks out like a sore thumb and I saw a lot of moments like that. I saw one reviewer who said that this piece simply didn’t translate to the outdoor setting, and I can see how that may be the case. A lot of the lines and angles couldn’t be seen properly from our vantage point. But I also felt like there were a lot of newer dancers in this piece and it simply wasn’t as polished as other dances they’ve done. A bit disappointing.

Intermission was a generous 25 minutes… good planning on the part of BB, I think. People needed all that time if they were to get to the Port-A-Potties and back! The evening was warm and it was good time to kibbitz with my friends over our favorites.

The second half of the show was a bit less frenzied with just two works.

The first was “Plan to B” by Boston Ballet’s resident choreographer, Jorma Elo. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the only other piece of his I’ve seen, “Awake Only.” The dancing was fine, I just didn’t feel like I got what he was trying to express. Well, “Plan to B” managed to change my mind about Elo. This is amazing and highlights the amazing breadth of skill the BB dancers have. I mean, the make story ballets come to life in such a dreamy fashion, but they are also incredibly strong contemporary dancers. The stuff they did in this piece was mind-blowing. (And, no, it didn’t hurt that a certain JC was in this one, too!). I loved it.

The second piece was another one of my favorites, both the work and the way BB performs it: Balanchine’s “Serenade.” This would be the third time I’ve seen “Serenade” this year. First time was during “Chroma” last spring. I thought my heart would pop out of my chest from the beauty of it all. Second time was watching it performed by NYCB at SPAC and I was strangely disappointed. That was Mr. B’s own company up there and I thought BB performed it far better. I blamed the outdoor setting. So… I was approaching this piece with mixed feelings. I loved the way BB did it last time I saw them, but was worried that the setting might mar it. Well, dear reader… mark this as a win for the home team. Not only did BB perform it as wonderfully as last spring, but the breeze and the long tulle skirts (nearly 3 football fields’ worth according to their fun FAQs!) made it simply dreamy. An exquisite ending for a lovely evening.

This performance was such an incredible gift to the city and I am so impressed at the turn-out it generated. Those 55,000 people who showed up to watch ballet must have felt like a huge gift to the company. I do hope that it inspired some of those people to pay to see a show during the upcoming season. That would be an even bigger gift.

And Boston Ballet is certainly deserving of that. They’ve had bumps in their road over the past 50 years, but I heartily feel that they are entering the next half-century as one of the pre-eminent dance companies in the US and hopefully the world. The calibre of dancing and the quality of shows they produce is simply amazing. I feel incredibly privileged to be a subscriber and get to see each of their shows. I am so excited for this season!

Were you one of the 55,000? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of the show!

Edited to add this video recap posted by Boston Ballet!

Night of Stars

This is coming up…

It’s Boston Ballet on the Boston Common for FREE!!!

It’s gonna be epic!

And there will be something for everyone from classic to modern to the Rolling Stones:

Balanchine (Serenade and Symphony in Three Movements)
Jorma Elo (BB’s resident choreographer)
Exerpts from Petipa’s Don Q and Clerc’s La Bayadere (you can catch the full version of the latter later in the fall at the Opera House… you will have to pay for that one, though!)
And Christopher Bruce’s Rooster (see? Rolling Stones)

Oh, and there’s a rain date, too. So if Saturday the 21st is soggy, the epic-ness will occur on the 22nd.

My dance homies and I will be there. Will you?

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!