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First step in being a super apparently has nothing to do with what you’ll do on stage and everything to do with what you’ll wear on stage.

Got an e-mail a couple weeks ago addressed to six of us super women trying to coordinate a date and time when all of us would be able to come to the company costume shop for a fitting. I would have thought such a prospect would be akin to cat herding, but miraculously the Friday evening option worked for all of us and we were told to meet at the security desk at company HQ and we would be escorted to our fitting.

Now, I still had no idea what exactly I would be doing in this show. Our original “congratulations” e-mail promised details — including role assignments — would be forthcoming, but none of us got them, so we were all a bit confused about what exactly we were in for, but nevertheless it didn’t really matter because, well, you could dress me up as a rock and I’d probably be okay with it because… I’m on stage during a professional production, yo!

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t have some ideas/hopes about getting to wear something glamorous…

The guy from the costume shop met us and brought us downstairs. I’ve been in the basement before (it’s where the studio locker rooms are), but there was a hallway I’d never noticed previously. We meandered through a few twists and turns and landed in this magical land of sewing machines and crystals and tulle.

I looked around trying to comprehend that this is the workplace for probably a dozen people. It is just so… crazy to me that people get to do this for a living. It’s so… artsy and cool. And it makes me feel so… corporate and boring.

But hey, at least I get to visit and hang out there for a little while, so that’s something, right?!

The costume manager and the wardrobe supervisor rounded us up and figured out who was who. I guess both casts of female supers were there (with a few exceptions from the second) so they were trying to match us with our double. As they went through their lists they named a few of us and said that we were villagers (I think?) and they’d do our costume fittings first.

Okay, so at this point I was feeling a bit disappointed. I was thinking/hoping I’d be one of the harem people which somehow sounded more exotic (ignoring the whole degrading connotation bit).

But… you know… see above. I’m on stage in a professional production, I’ll get over it.

Just allow me this brief sulk… and, okay, carry on.

They pulled out my costume which was this rather large, blue, linen-ish dress with a matching robe. On top of that I have a white veil that covers all of my head except the eyes. I kind of had to snicker at myself realizing that all my dance friends are asking which shows I’ll be in so they can come see me and here I am highly unidentifiable.

After the hem was pinned I changed back into my street clothes and gave the costume to my double to make sure it worked for her. I was feeling a bit dejected. But then…

The wardrobe supervisor said to wait outside the dressing area until they were done and then we’d try on the harem costumes.

Wait… I get to do… both?

Okay, now that I realize that I get to do two roles my disappointment has turned to elation. Now I realize that I’ll be in multiple scenes, and, OMG, this is going to be an even cooler experience than I was expecting!

I stood around waiting our next turn in the fitting room trying not to appear too giddy and stared around at the room. It was funny how much it actually resembled the organized chaos of our own studio company’s costume room. Boxes lined shelves by the ceiling labelled with various ballet names. I battled a fierce urge to figure a way up there to riffle through them.

After the village ladies from the second cast had tried on costumes and reverted to 21st century attire they called us all in for a quick run-down of some opera house etiquette. Primarily related to getting dressed. I didn’t realize that not only do we have dressers but that they are unionized and therefore there are very strict rules about what we can and cannot do re: our costumes. Basically… don’t expect to get dressed any time before 30 minutes prior to curtain and do not help yourself or anyone else into or out of costumes. And don’t be offended if you get booted to the back of the line when a real dancer comes in to be dressed. I think there were some other rules, but it was actually kind of a relief to know that someone else will be in charge of the whole process and I just need to know where to be and when.

After our lecture they started handing out costumes to the first cast. There were two basic types of tops: one was the sequined bikini top, the other an incredibly sheer short sleeved leotard with the sequined equivalent of pixellation over the chest. (The bottoms for both were the elastic-cuffed pajama bottom type.) I was relieved to find out I was in the bra group; somehow it seemed the safer option!

Thankfully mine seemed to fit fine without any need for alterations. They topped it all off with a hat that will clearly require a great many bobby pins to keep in place with a gigantic veil attached, complete with finger loops so I can swirl it seductively, or something. The costume-guy-in-chief (not his actual title) took a quick picture of me as apparently I am one of a number of us who doesn’t have hair of appropriate length (our hair is supposed to be down and curled and after an aggressive trim at the beginning of the summer mine is only just shoulder-length) and therefore will require a wig.

After having my costume tagged with my name we were set free. I was happy to discover that there was still plenty of time to make it to the open adult class afterwards, if for no other reason than to spend another hour or two in the mecca of ballet before returning to reality.

Something super…

I’ve been pretty proud of all the things I’ve managed to do since returning to ballet, especially since I never thought most of it was possible…

There was my brief teaching stint (I still miss that).

And there was the whole getting back on pointe thing (part accomplishment, part foolishness!).

I always wanted to perform in a full-length ballet and I’ve got, what, 7 of those under my belt now?

I’ve done some “summer intensives” (okay, not at the same level as teenagers, but still!).

There aren’t too many ballet dreams left unfulfilled at this point.


Okay, who among us balletophiles hasn’t attended a professional production and thought, gee, how cool would it be to be on stage with them?

Of course since my ballet skillz are firmly amateur despite years of work I know that I’m not going to be getting a contract to dance with a professional company, but…

You do know that some of those story ballets need human scenery, right? The non-dancing villagers or guards or whatever who occupy space and fill out the story… known in the ballet (and opera, too, I think) world as “supernumeraries” or (since that’s such a mouthful) just “supers.” They’re what the extras are to film.

Well, it just so happens that my favorite local big name ballet company put out a casting call last month for their fall production. They were looking for “fit” dancers who would be comfortable appearing on stage in midriff-baring tops. Well… I’ve done that before, albeit on a much smaller stage, so why the heck not give it a go?

So I auditioned!


The only auditions I’ve ever done were for the studio shows, which is a whole other kettle of fish. Nerve-wracking, but you know what to expect and the people doing the casting know what you’re capable of even if you flub whatever it is they’ve asked of you. But this audition involves going to a place with a bunch of people you don’t know and being judged solely on whatever you do in that studio at that time… and with no inkling beforehand of what they’re even going to want you to do.

On the plus side, if you screw up, you get to return to anonymity and you haven’t humiliated yourself in front of all your friends.

So, the audition. We were told to wear comfortable yet form-fitting workout/yoga type clothes. Thus, true to form, I was out the night before looking for some sort of attractive workout attire since ballet is the only exercise I attempt to look presentable for, therefore I have cute leotards in spades, but anything else workout-geared is generally ratty, faded and will only serve to make me look like Queen of the Frumps. But, of course, one can’t look as though she’s trying too hard to look cute. Ugh, this auditioning is hard work and I haven’t even started yet!

The next day after work I go over to the company’s headquarters, change, and head upstairs to the big fancy studio where all the Important Things Happen to check in with the stage manager lady who wrangles the supers. She checks off my name, has me find my name tag in the pile, and gives me a form to fill out and take to the costume fitter people.

Next I head over to the fitters and give them my form. They measure me in 20 different directions (including my head circumference) and ask about my bra size and shoe size, take my mug shot, and send me off to wait for the audition to begin. No major humiliations so far.

Since I was there about half an hour before the audition time I had plenty of time to wait and people-watch. I saw a few faces I recognized from various BBS events (master classes and the summer program) and a lot more that I didn’t know. But from eavesdropping it seemed that there was a core contingent of super regulars who have done other shows. They all seemed very friendly, so that’s a relief! Also, I happened to be near the door to the studio and realized that I my favorite principal dancer was rehearsing while we were waiting. Squee!

The men were called in first. There were maybe 12-15 guys in all? Ages seemed to range from 20s to 60s. From what I could tell they all stood in a line and chatted for a bit with the powers that be, then that was it. Well, gee, okay then! This may be the easiest audition ever if that’s all it takes!

After the guys left we got the word to go in. Our line was much longer than the guys… I’d guess there were more like 30-35 of us? They started talking to us and I realized that the man doing the casting was the choreographer himself. WHAT?! Somehow I expected some sort of minion doing the casting. I mean, a very expert minion, of course, like a ballet master or mistress or something, but not the guy who actually choreographed the whole thing! He was accompanied by the assistant artistic director who didn’t say much, but spent most of the time furiously writing on a clipboard. No pressure. Nope, none at all.

The choreographer gave us a very short spiel on what he was looking for which, to be honest, I could barely hear. Then he split us into two groups and sent us off to opposite sides of the room. Then he asked that six people at a time run part-way across the floor, stop, look back, and then continue running off stage. The first group ran across and he called out two people to go stand next to the piano. The next group ran; one woman was called out to join the piano crew. Then it was our group. We ran… and he was all “stop, stop, stop!!!” Crap, what? “You are running too balletically! Just run normally!” Oh… damn. But hilarious at the same time. I mean, here we are auditioning for a part in a ballet and being told to stop acting like we’re dancers. We went back and tried again, and… he asked me to join the group by the piano! He continued this with all the other groups, then had those of us who had been pulled aside to stand. I think there were eight of us in all. Then he had us each go and sit on the prop bed and look, I don’t know, relaxed? sultry? something? It was a bit odd, but okay, we’re auditioning for a harem role, so not that odd! Then they had the remaining people run across the floor again.

And… that was it! They told us they had made notes and would be in touch. Hm. Okay.

All in all not a terrible audition experience even though I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I hoped that getting pulled aside meant good things, but didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched.

And so… I waited.

For what seemed an eternity.

But in reality was only about 9 days.

And then I got an e-mail from the stage manager.


I was cast!


So that’s all the news I have for now, but I’m terribly excited to actually get to take part (however small) in a professional ballet production. I’ll keep you posted!

Put on yer apron… it’s Nutcracker time!

It’s almost here!

Nutcracker weekend!!! (Take 4… wow, can’t believe it’s been four years already!)

Trading in last year’s finery:


for a maid’s uniform.

Sad… but not! Hoop skirts are fun and all, but it’s nice to change it up a bit.

And, as the Stern Maid, I get to provide some comic relief. Which is way more fun than just dancing politely. Yay!

Stay tuned for updates! In the meantime, have yourselves a happy Winter Solstice weekend. Get out there and crack some nuts (but only the kind that grow on trees, please!😉 )!

The Swan Lake Report

Okay, so we’re a month out from this. I gave a barrage of lead-up to it, just to leave you hanging, dear reader. Sorry! At least I’m not the only person who is tardy about reviewing a Swan Lake performance!

But I DID see Boston Ballet perform their new Swan Lake production.

This whole “world premiere” thing confounds me at times… how can something be new when, not only is it over a century old, but the company has performed it a zillion times before? I guess since Petipa did not have the foresight Balanchine had to preemptively smack down any “improvements,” his work is up for endless tweaks and modifications and with each one they can slap on the label “new & improved!” and create tons of hype to drum up business in the process.

I’m sorry, it appears my cynicism is shining through already. Maybe I’m just feeling a bit of Day After Christmas syndrome. After all, I totally bought into the hype, just as I did with the “new” Nutcracker a few years ago and somehow after all of that I ended up feeling as I did then: not disappointed, exactly, but a bit… hollow.

Okay, I’m getting way ahead of myself here. Let’s rewind back to the pre-Swan days when I was all giddy at the prospect of seeing my beloved Boston Ballet back on stage after, what, like, 6 months away from them? I missed them. Any excuse to see them dance is pretty awesome, and while I got to “meet” some dancers during the ASDP and got to see even more of them close-up during one of their Swan Lake rehearsals, it felt like an eternity since I was able to see them on stage at the Opera House.

So I had to do a full prep.

First off, there are outfits to be considered. It’s very silly, I suppose, but I plan each show outfit based on what’s going to be presented. And for Swan Lake one must consider… well, SWANS! White swan, black swan… or a little bit of both? I put together a black and white outfit with a little bit of romanticism and a little bit of edge. That’s what I’m claiming anyway.

But one cannot stop at the outfit, dear reader. No! There is also hair and makeup to take into consideration. One of the magazines I read regularly had an article in their November issue with all sorts of cute holiday hair-do ideas so I took my inspiration from there for a relaxed, but sparkly up-do. I’m not much of a hair stylist, but I must’ve managed a home run on this one, because I got a few compliments, even from strangers! Not bad for my hurried attempt! For makeup I took instruction from the lovely Kathryn Morgan’s tutorial on an Odile-inspired everyday look.

Yes, I even did the red lip liner bit on the eyes. It’s just a tiny detail, but I think it made the look. I may need my own personal Kathryn Morgan to tell me how to fix my face on a more frequent basis, because not only did I have nearly everything I needed for this look in my arsenal, but I loved how it all turned out.

Now that I was prepped and ready to go, I picked up my ballet companion and we headed into the city in a flurry of excitement in spite of the cold, dreary rain of a nor’easter. We ran from parking garage to Sip for a pre-show dinner where, whom should we see immediately upon entering, but a certain Mr. Nissinen holding court at the bar? Internally awkward moment ensues where ballet companion and I each pondered the situation. One the one hand we felt as though we should say hello because, well, if you’ve been to a couple BB shows you feel like you know the guy even though you don’t really, but at the same time he actually HAD talked to us just a couple weeks before when we went to see rehearsal, so we didn’t want to appear rude on the off chance he recognized us, but… if he didn’t recognize us then we’d just look like yet another pair of Crazy Ballet Ladies. I smiled, my friend waved, and thankfully we were immediately ushered to a table to avoid any further consideration on the subject!

Ah. After some delicious noms we scooted a few doors down to the iron gates of the Boston Opera House where we had to open up our impossibly tiny clutches to ensure we weren’t up to any nefarious schemes. Coats and umbrellas were checked. (NB: Do not bother with the coat check unless you have no desire to ever leave the opera house… the line after the show stretched nearly out the door. We inadvertently cut it, to our benefit, but don’t think we’ll be doing that again!) We were there early enough to catch the end of the pre-curtain talk which was more packed than I’ve ever seen it! Wish we’d caught the beginning because the talkers were ONLY M. Nissinen himself, alongside Miss Larissa Ponomarenko (former BB star and now a ballet mistress with BB), Misa Kuranaga, and Jeffrey Cirio. Only four of my favorite BB people ever! Swoon! Behind them the regular red velvet curtain had been replaced by a gorgeous dark blue velvet curtain with an elegant white border and what almost appeared to be a coat of arms at the center with a giant “S” and a swan on it. Pretty pretty!

The talk concluded shortly after we got there and we were shooed back to the lobby which was swarming with patrons to a degree I haven’t seen since Nutcracker! We stopped downstairs and they had a cute photo backdrop inspired by the lake scene. We asked a nice woman if she would take a picture of us in front of it. I mean, it was THERE!!! Why not?!

Then we headed back up towards our seats with a quick stop-over at the gift shop so I could buy myself a present I had picked out back when they first posted their Swan Lake merchandise: a gorgeous oatmeal heather drapey tee with 3/4 sleeves. Unfortunately it seemed I was not the only lady with her eye on that garment. They were sold out of all but a few in size large (which in a drape-y style would only serve to drive me mad as it would flop off my shoulders at every turn and perhaps give onlookers an unintended show. Sadness prevailed!

But there is no time for sadness when a ballet is about to begin, so we went in and took our seats, scanned our programs and listened to the orchestra tune up (I heard someone behind me say, “Do they have a pit?” Um… it’s a major ballet company performing in a major theatre, do you think they dance to old, scratchy records? Of course there’s a pit!!! Sheesh. The person then said that she could not see the pit… um, isn’t that the point?)

The program was arranged so that there was only one intermission between the second and third acts (there are four acts total). Nissinen also added a prologue before the first act set to the opening movement. The curtain opened to reveal a picnic scene. Lia Cirio was in the center, reading, while her friends supped and flirted around her. I immediately recalled my dance studio’s production of Alice in Wonderland a few years ago as we had opened that with a very similar picnic scene. I doubt Nissinen has ever been found slumming in the ‘burbs at local studio recitals for inspiration, but it was funny how familiar the scene was! The friends packed up their picnic and went off, leaving Cirio alone when along comes Von Rothbart (played by “Guest Principal” — I guess that’s what they call a Principal when he semi-retires — Yury Yanowsky), up to no good. He tries charm and, failing that, goes for straight-up abduction, pulling Cirio into a cloud of fog.

Curtain down and then back up revealing a village scene. Prince Siegfried (played by Lasha Khozashvili) is hosting a wild kegger for his 21st… okay, so it wasn’t that crazy of a party. But there was some revelry with goblets including… the Polonaise we learned during ASDP! The pas de trois we learned in variations was also in this act. I was so excited to see choreography I had learned (I was worried that Mikko might have changed it all with the new production). I saw the most amazing thing during the pas de trois. There was a section with one of the females dancing solo — I think it might have been Seo Hye Han, but don’t quote me on that — and she did a pirouette, stopped the turn STILL EN POINTE, développéd devant, did a full grand rond de jambe STILL EN POINTE, and did one more revolution in arabesque. You could tell there were a few dancers in the audience as there were audible gasps from various corners. It was the most beautiful, controlled thing. I didn’t even know such a move was possible. OMG!!! After she finished her solo and the audience burst into wild applause the man sitting next to me leaned over and said, “That was beautiful, but what was it that you found so amazing?” so I tried to hurriedly explain what she had done and why it was so challenging. I don’t think my explanation cut it, but I appreciated him asking!

After the revelry, Princey gets all woeful about his mother’s demands to Get Married Already! So what better way to deal with his sorrows than to head out to the lake to shoot some birds. Except, you know, he goes and falls in love with one of the birds. Because… right, of course, interspecies romances, nothing weird here, folks!

So, curtain down, lights up, stretch legs, lights down, curtain up and… we’re back at the palace where the formal birthday party is going on including the parade of various “international” dances along with the seemingly endless pas de cinq. A few princesses are presented to tempt Prince Siegfried, but no, this man knows what he wants and it’s not any of the faces from this string of identical ladies. Enter Rothbart with a black bird. According to the program notes, Siegfried thinks that it’s Odette in masquerade. Because… birds dress up. Okay, sure. So he’s all a-swoon over Odile and I’m… all a-BLINDED by her sparkling costume! Yes, I’m a girl and I do love me some sparkle, but this looked like she was covered in LEDs. There was one part where she stopped dancing and was just standing in B-plus and yet still the audience could only see *flash-flash-flash* in time with Lia Cirio’s post-variation rapid breathing. So much for making it all look effortless. It was a bit unnecessarily blinding, I thought. And then they threw in some multi-media effects by projecting a video image of Odette to show Siegfried how sadly mistaken he was in thinking Odile was Odette and… it was a nice idea, but somehow came off kinda cheesy. Anyway, clearly Odette is now stuck in her avian ways. Whoops! Not cool, Mr. Princey-Prince. I hope you learned your lesson! All that glitters is not… your swan girlfriend.

Well, now that Von Rothbart managed to ruin a perfectly good party, there is nothing left for us to do but return to the lake and drown our sorrows. Except Siegfried mistakes this plan for just up and up drowning, I guess. There is much swanning by the swans and some struggles between Von Rothbart and Prince Siegfried and… the end.

I hate to say it, but by this point in the show, much as I love ballet I was kind of… well, truth be told, a little bored. Which I guess is my issue with a lot of story ballets. The climax ends up being a bit vague and cloaked in a whole bunch of bourrées and you kind of think… “That’s it?” Hm.

Maybe I’m just a victim of my own 21st century attention span. Not sure.

All cynicism aside, though, there was much to admire about this show. The sets looked as though you could step right into them and be transported to another century and the costumes (non-sparkly ones, anyway) were gorgeously vibrant. It was obvious how much work went into this and I think it paid off royally. The house was packed with an enthusiastic crowd. Ballet companion and I were chatting with a couple next to us during intermission and learned that they have a teen daughter who dances, though ballet “isn’t really her thing,” and they had first come to a Boston Ballet performance to see the new Nutcracker a season or two ago. They know nothing about ballet, but were so impressed that they’ve returned for shows since then. And… well, that’s really what it’s all about, right? Sometimes these ballets that can feel a bit old-fashioned, trite, and hackneyed to some of us serve as the “gateway drug” to get people in the doors and turn them into devoted fans. Which isn’t to say that these shows don’t have their own magic. While I love a good contemporary piece where the sets and costumes are minimalist and the focus is on the dancing, I also appreciate the artistry of an intricate costume and elaborate sets.

So… long-winded account, but there you go. If you’re craving some visuals, check out this video for a glimpse of the action! (At 0:30 there’s a 2 second clip from the polonaise we learned during ASDP!)

BB Up Close

In case I ever develop a case of the “I never win anythings” someone please remind me of this:

Apparently when I renewed my subscription for Boston Ballet’s 2014-15 season super-duper early I was entered in a contest. I don’t recall this fact. I was just so excited about the line-up and I adored my seats so much that I simply wanted to secure my spot in the next season’s action.

But I was.

And I won!

What did I win?

just the chance to go watch Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake rehearsals!

My non-ballet acquaintances were all, “Oh, that’s… nice?”

To which I replied, “Nice? Nice?! It’s fan-f&^$ing-tastic!”

Because I am a big ballet nerd.

Thankfully I’m well-acquainted with some other big ballet nerds and… as part of my prize I was allowed to bring one of them with me!

So I picked my time (there were four times during the weekend to choose from): Saturday afternoon.

Then agonized over what one wears to watch rehearsals: one does not want to look overdone or underdone and skirts are 100% out seeing as I could totally picture them giving us a nice scrap of marley in the corner from which to watch. The outfit I chose probably made me look a bit scattered, though I preferred to think of it as casual-chic-military-inspired-1950s-housewife.

Then agonized over whether we’d have enough time to get there (because, of course, we had our own class and rehearsals that ran past noon AND it was a nice warm day which Bostonians know cannot be wasted therefore pedestrians and motorists alike would be out in force AND the Head of the Charles regatta was going on in town, too).

But travel worked out perfectly: we were told to get there by 3:15 and I think we were at the door right on the dot. We met a couple staff members at the door and were told to wait there and to use the restroom if necessary NOW as we would not be able to wander in and out of the rehearsals.

So we waited politely until we were summoned to the elevators. There were two other women and a gentleman who were part of the “Winners’ Circle.” Somehow I was expecting a MUCH larger turn-out. They said they selected 100 winners! There were four times to pick from and I think they said that one of the Sunday times had a lot of people, but still… five people? Are all the other winners cray-cray? Or are they just super-popular with posher plans already in the works?

Whatever… that means larger scraps of marley for us.

Except, no. We weren’t actually marooned in a corner, peeping at the action like forlorn little mice. We were led up to the huge 4th floor studio and shown to a row of chairs that ran along the mirrors. Front and center! We were told to avoid certain areas for the directors, but other than that, we had our choice of seats right in the midst of the action.


Although… hello, my name is Rori and I am conspicuous! Felt a teensy bit awkward to be positioned so we were staring directly at the dancers as they were warming up and running through bits of choreography before the action started. I mean, who knows, maybe they’re used to random people just hanging out watching them. But I was just relieved that I had been allowed to bring a friend so we could chat with one another and not let our awe be TOO obvious.

And then… well, then, Mikko came in. I say that like he and I are best buds; I should probably refer to him as MISTER Nissinen. But if you are a regular BB fan, you will easily recognize BB’s Artistic Director, not only from his picture in the programs, but from the shows themselves. I think I’ve seen him wandering around the Opera House at every show I’ve gone to, kissing cheeks and looking appropriately mysterious in his black leather jacket. You begin to feel like you know the guy even though the feeling isn’t even remotely mutual.

I guess black leather jackets are a bit much for running rehearsals. It was a black polo, track pants, and dance sneakers on this day. And… dear reader, he came right up and talked to the five of us! I guess I should have expected that, but I could also see someone of his stature being all, “I’ve got important artistic work to do, I’m not going to spend time talking to the ‘fans’ the subscriptions team decided we should drag into the studio!” But no, he was completely gracious, thanking us for coming (thank us?! NO, thank YOU!!!) and telling us that we would be seeing a run-through of acts III & IV of Swan Lake with Ashley Ellis as Odile and Eris Nezha as Siegfried. He told us about Nezha being from La Scala to which I was all, “Eek, I know, he and his wife came to talk to us during the ASDP!!!” Okay, that’s what I said in my head. Externally I only managed to smile and nod mutely because I could think of nothing witty or endearing to say.

And then… rehearsals got underway. I must apologize for not having any pictures to share with you. We were told we could take photos as long as we didn’t use flash and, of course, didn’t take video, but I would have felt really, really weird doing so. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was incredible and amazing to be so freaking close to the dancers. I thought Eris Nezha was going to land a grand jété in my lap at one point.

So many amazing things to witness.

For one thing… it really isn’t that different from when we do studio run-throughs before a show. Okay, so the dancing is obviously at a totally different caliber, but aside from that, the dancers who aren’t on are standing around watching, some of them are chit-chatting, some of them are checking their phones or sewing pointe shoes, etc.

Another thing is… yeah, they make it look effortless, but when you’re that close you can tell how much work it is. They are breathing like they’re running a sprint and “glistening” like nobody’s business.

Also… they don’t always keep their game face on during rehearsals. I saw some lip-biting, a few deadpan faces. I don’t mean that as a criticism at all! It’s actually a relief to me. I’ve always had a hard time getting super-emotive in rehearsals… I do fine on stage, but, for a current example, when we’re running Snow in the studio, being a smiling, beatific snowflake is not my MO in that moment. In the midst of going full-throttle for 6 minutes adding in a smile for a non-existent audience seems like a total waste of energy. I save it for the stage at which point, of course, it’s 110%, “Oh my gosh, I’m so THRILLED to be sucking in fake snow, this is the best thing I’ve ever done!!!”

But… they ALL clap for one another after each piece! I wasn’t expecting that. Not just clapping, but cheering and whooping for the hard stuff. I’ve heard that this is a close company, and that seemed to prove it, at least in some way. They seemed super-supportive of each other, working together to figure things out, etc.

And… for those people who think dancers are all built the same… they’re not. Woah. Revelation. I’m not sure if any of you have been following Katie (Kathryn) Morgan’s YouTube channel, but she’s mentioned multiple times in there that there are ranges of normal in ballet. You might have thought she was being PC. But she’s right. Maybe back in the Balanchine heyday the string-bean waif was the hand-picked ideal, but I think that is changing and it certainly is the case with BB. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all super-slender and you’d be hard pressed to find any pudge in that room, but… there are some bean-poles builds (guys and girls alike) and there are some very athletic dancers who have cores and quads of steel (again, guys and girls alike). It was nice to see women that I could look at and say, yes, if I were to work out/dance as much as they do, that’s what I imagine I’d look like.

That goes for feet, too. I, of course, saw plenty of to-die-for feet. I also saw some that were remarkably adequate. In fact, one of my favorites, corps member Sarah Wroth… yeah, her feet don’t appear much bendier than mine. Obviously you can’t be completely flat-footed; you have to be able to have the foot and ankle flexibility to get over your boxes. But banana feet are not a requirement.

It was great to see the rehearsal process. Even though these are professionals it was clear that this is a work in progress. It’s a nearly-finished work, but there are always tweaks to make, entrance cues to learn, details of placement. Mikko talked to us a bit towards the end while the ballet mistress was working with the swan corps and was saying that the individuals learn their parts: it starts messy, but gets better. Then they all come together and it’s like the whole process starts again. Then, of course, once they get that level down they move to the stage with the full costumes, props, and scenery, and again there is a process where you run through and things are awry, but they work it all through until the curtain goes up. Lots of building up and breaking down in the process of getting it to a completed work (and even then, as anyone who performs knows, there are always notes and things to learn and work on, even as the audience thinks it’s seeing a “finished product”).

All in all a fabulous afternoon peeking behind the curtain. As an amateur dancer, it was amazing to see how many parallels do exist. Dance is dance, after all. But it was also incredible to see so much amazing talent up close in one place. I feel so privileged to have been able to indulge in that afternoon and am so grateful to Boston Ballet!

As we were walking out one of the staff members came looking for us and said they had gifts for us… as if what we just experienced hadn’t been sufficient! They gave us totes filled with a mug, pen, magnet, and the requisite publicity pieces.

BB Swag

We chatted with them a bit before we headed out. I guess this was the first time they’ve ever done something like this, opening the doors for patrons to see the rehearsal process, so they were curious what we thought. All five of us were equally agog.

As my friend and I exited we saw one of the dancers outside hop on his bike and ride away. Somehow it seemed absolutely ludicrous that one of these amazing dancers would just… get on his bike and go… home? I don’t know what we thought he should do. Grand jété to the moon? I guess it’s just surreal to realize that these dancers, as awesome as they are, are still just… people. At the end of the day it’s their job. And they think what any of us think when we leave work: “Crap, I drank all the milk this morning, need to stop and get more. Did I pay that bill that’s due tomorrow? Oh, and I need to call Suzy and see if she still wants to get together tomorrow.” It’s not, “Aw yeah, I’m a star!” And to most people, I guess they’re not. They look at them and see some guy on the T, some girl walking down the street.

But as ordinary as they all ultimately are, to some of us they represent something so incredibly special, and they are superstars in our eyes. I am eternally grateful that they allowed us into their world, even for just a few hours, to see what their “day-job” looks like, to dream and admire and appreciate and expand my ballet education just a bit more.

Thank you, Boston Ballet!

If the Gym Suit Fits

New studio year has started, but we’re still in the pre-Nutcracker lull (auditions coming up this weekend, stay tuned!)…

Which means that Saturday morning classes are followed, not by a series of rehearsals, but by leisurely breakfasts with the ballet pals.

This past Saturday four of us gathered around a table at our usual haunt alternately chatting about dance gossip and random accounts of our lives. Somehow our conversation got around to… gym class. Not classes at a gym, but physical education class from elementary, middle, high school. How it arrived there, I have no idea. All of us are many years removed from that era!

But there we were. The eldest amongst us asked whether any of the the rest of us had to wear gym uniforms… none of us did. The woman around my age and I waxed rhapsodic over our memories of the Umbro shorts and Champion sweatshirts that were the hallmark of our PE classes. But that was as uniform as we got.

She went on to describe the hideous one-piece outfits they had to wear in her time which sounded like rompers of some sort: shorts with an attached, blousy top that zipped up the back. I remember my mom telling me about these. We all giggled at the thought of having to appear in public in such a get-up.

Then conversation shifted to something else before we all got up to leave. The woman who was talking about the gym uniform said that she was going to go to a dance store to pick up some essentials and I remembered my recent discovery that my bottle of Jet Glue had congealed and I needed to get more. So I tagged along for the ride.

But, of course, no one goes to a dance store just to buy essentials. I mean, if you’re smart, you do, but if you’re human, you will be seduced by a rack of leotards or the display of shoes or something. I happened to spy a warm-up, on the clearance rack, no less, that I had seen months ago on my last visit to this store. It was still there and marked down to a ridiculously low price. I tried it on, pronounced it divine, and added it to my bill with the bottle of Jet Glue.

My companion looked over to see what I found. “It’s a warm-up, see… It’s all-in-one, shorts with a top attached which, um… come to think of it is actually rather blousy.”

Oh, holy hell, I just bought myself a gym uniform!!!


Okay, I’m pretty sure it bears no true resemblance to a gym uniform, but as I heard myself describing it we both cracked up laughing. *snort*

Regardless, I’m still pretty excited about this cozy cuteness! I had a hard time finding a pic on the Googles, so I assume it’s discontinued, but here’s one I found (Jozette for Mirella). Mine is in violet.


The Misty Buzz

So, the whole Misty Copeland Under Armour ad has been everywhere lately. Even people I didn’t think were into ballet are posting it on their Facebook feed and it’s all over the news lately.

If you’ve — somehow — missed it, here you go:

Let me start by saying that there are a lot of great things about this ad.

I love anything that puts ballet into the media.

I love that it shows the true athleticism required to be an elite dancer. It’s not just flapping one’s arms about and looking pretty… you need to have incredible strength to make it look that easy. So kudos to UA for showing that.

It bucks the unhealthy waif myth about ballerinas.

And, it has a kick-ass reminder to stay strong and keep working hard for what you want.

But… I have some issues with the ad campaign, or at least some of the press it’s generated.

For one thing, I’ve seen a lot about how this shows that ballet is a sport. Ballet is NOT a sport, it is an art. Yes, it is an art that requires a great deal of athleticism. But it is not a sport. Sure, it is reduced to sport in some areas. We try to grade dancers on technical abilities and artistic merit. But so much of what makes ballet great is the unspoken communication between performer and viewer. And that can be a very personal thing.

I mean, I love hockey. And yeah, it can get me very emotional at times. But much of the emotion is related to whether a goal was scored or a save was made. As a spectator and fan I don’t really care if a goal was pretty or not, if a save was a case of x-ray vision or pure, dumb luck. It’s the end result.

In ballet there’s so much more to see. I’ve gone to ballets where my companion and I saw the exact same show and had two very different interpretations and reactions to what we saw. There is no final score. The end result is up for debate.

So, sorry, opiners, Misty Copeland is an athletic artist, not a sportswoman.

Then, the voice-over. Is this a letter that Misty received? Or is this something Under Armour made up for a good story? Because from what I’ve read of Misty, she never even really danced until she was 13 and was encouraged to pursue it even though her family had doubts. She had such pure, raw talent that the ballet teachers who saw her pushed to do it, far from the discouraging tone of the words in the voice-over. Maybe this is a real letter, but it just doesn’t jibe with what I’ve read of her story. I want to know more about that…

And then there’s something else… I guess maybe the fact that this is so focused on this feeling of rebellion. That, yeah, Misty might not be the image that pops into someone’s head when they think of a generic ballerina, but she had grit, strength, and a don’t-tell-me-no attitude that propelled her to the elite ranks. I’m sure all of that is true. It’s just… there are a lot of plucky, gritty, strong, determined dancers that don’t make it. And the message of this ad seems to be, well, clearly they just didn’t want it enough. The reality is sometimes you do all you can and things don’t work out the way you wanted. And sometimes you end up in a dream position without even knowing that’s where you wanted to be.

I’m not quite sure what point I’m trying to make here. It’s just, I see all these people (mostly people who know zip-zero-nada about dance) being all, “Ooh, this is so awesome, so inspiring!!!” and I’m like, yeah, it’s cool, but…

Something about it just doesn’t quite ring true to me, and I can’t put my finger on what that is.

Anyway, all that aside, the big burning question I have out of this ad campaign is… when is Under Armour going to get into the leotard business? Because, seriously? I sweat like nobody’s business in class and I could use some of that awesome wicking technology in my leos so I don’t look like I just I’ve been to the swimming pool instead of ballet class.