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!

Getting my Gaynor groove on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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… ;)