Monthly Archives: April 2013

Funnest part I’ve ever had

The saddest part of performing to me is the final bow after the final performance.

We’ve been rehearsing Billy the Kid for almost three months (the most intense rehearsals I’ve been in, including Nutcracker). We had three performances and they were over too soon.

No more trying to get the “Journey West” dance down. No more trying to figure out the horse dance steps that I seemed to butcher until the performances. No more learning how to die “realistically.”

And sadly Nutcracker is still eight months away.

I’ll be honest, I never felt more comfortable on stage performing that I did the last two nights. I did the correct steps during the “Journey West” dance each performance and my timing was good. The horse steps finally, finally came during the performances.

And I was able to finally, really be able to get into character during the Town Scene, which was my main scene during, and much to my surprise when I first went to rehearsal, my character was one of the main characters of the Town Scene.

And my death scene is the end of the Town Scene, and the most dramatic parts of the whole ballet. I get into a fight with one of the other cowboys in the scene over two saloon girls. His character pulls a knife on me, the dancer playing Pat Garrett pulls the other cowboy away, and I accidently shoot Billy the Kid’s mother. Young Billy ends up stabbing me in the back at the end of the scene, starting his life of crime.

Loud applause followed my death scene during each performance. That’s an amazing feeling. Maybe I did OK.

The intense rehearsals, company warmups on stage, and the fact that this was a real dancing part, I think I felt more like a dancer this weekend than at any time since I restarted ballet as an adult.

I am eternally grateful to Mr. O, our artistic director, for casting me.

I’m sure come tomorrow, I’ll start having Billy the Kid withdrawals.


All day at the theater

It’s kind of hard to explain to people how much it is to perform in front of hundreds of people.

It scares the heck out of me, but really exciting at the same time, especially when you know you did your best, which is what happened last night. What a rush!

I’m hoping today will be the same. About to leave out the door. We have have an hour and 15 minute class on stage at noon. For an adult dancer like me, it’s sort of like pretending your dancing with New York City Ballet, Ballet West or Royal Ballet. Warm ups are really cool, far more relaxed.

First curtain is at 2, second at 7:30. My heart will pound as usual when the music begins to play, but I’m OK once I’m out on stage and for some reason it was really easy last night to get into character. There were no slip-ups, except my foot slipped as I was trying to go down during my main “death scene,” which may have made it look more realistic.

I really love this part. It will be really hard to let it go once the curtain falls. Nutcracker is just too many months away.


Tempestuous

A really cool piece from students of the Rock School, where our artistic director and ballet mistress both teach a couple of weeks during their summer intensive.


It’s opening night!

Can’t believe it’s gone by this quick. Three shows, one tonight at 7:30, and two tomorrow at 2 and 7:30, and then we’re done!

Dress rehearsal was a lot of fun last night. It was by far my best rehearsal.

I think my confidence picked up during company warmups. I mentioned the marley is different than it is back at the main studio at the school. Maybe it’s because the marley is a little slicker, but my turns in warmups were amazing. If only doing double pirouettes were so easy at the school. Even my inside turns were better.

I think warmups also made me a little more limber. And in the first dance (my main one), that’s really important (we do more back bending). And probably my main death scene, too. I found it a little easier to fall down to my knees.

On a side note, unlike a few years ago, we didn’t go down to the pit during our short tornado warning. We calmly did our stretches before warmups. The sirens went off just before we started … and warmups were really cool hearing the rain hit the roof and hearing the thunder and lightning.

And fortunately, there is no threat of severe weather now that we’ve reached our performance days. Sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s-80s, nothing that will cancel the shows or keep the crowd away.

And if there is someone from north Alabama reading this blog today, come see Huntsville Ballet perform tonight at the VBC, show’s at 7:30. Or tomorrow at 2 and 7:30.

And even though I love classical ballet, the pieces we’re performing tonight (other than the beautiful Dying Swan), our three main pieces aren’t what many people think when they think of ballet, so if you have any non-ballet friends, bring them. I think they’ll enjoy it a lot more than they think.


Much better on the second night

As usual, the second night of rehearsals during production week went a lot smoother. The opening dance went much better (the lighting changed somewhat, which made it a little more seeable). I kept balance tonight, and no collisions, thank goodness.

Still got to work on my death scenes, and this horse step we do (sort of a small saute followed by three steps in demi pointe). And I felt a little better tonight about being in character (I concentrated a little too much on the dance steps last night).

I’m looking forward to polishing things off tomorrow night, which is dress rehearsal, which I’m hoping we’ll still have considering there is a severe weather threat. Brings back memories of my first non-Nutcracker role, Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet four years ago. We had to spend about 45 minutes in a place called “the pit.”, a storage room underneath the concert hall during a tornado warning.

Tonight, I watched from the seats the other acts in our spring performance. It’s going to be really good. Our junior company is doing a religious piece called “Living Tears” which looks really worshipful and energetic.

We also have a guest performing Dying Swan. Her name is Dede Barfield, and she’s close to my age. She used to be a principal with Pennsylvania Ballet (where she was one of Mr. O’s partners). She’s now the ballet mistress at Ballet San Antonio (which is also where our guest artist performing Billy the Kid is from) and is absolutely beautiful performing the role.

And the company is also performing the Balanchine Tribute, which is one of my favorite pieces. It totally rocked from what I saw.

And I’m totally fired up about our piece, Billy the Kid. It’s a lot of fun, so worth my tired legs right now.


Hard to simulate the stage

Never fails, the first night at the theater turns out to be the roughest one.

Collisions, slips on the floor were plenty last night.

One of the collisions belonged to me in our opening dance (the journey west dance in Billy the Kid).

Our largest studio back at the school is big enough to rehearse. But it does not account for the lighting we’ll have. It’s not as wide-open a space as the theater. And the stage’s marley is a little bit slicker than the one back at the studio.

Hence the wobbles, the slips and the collisions last night.

Most of us in the opening dance of Billy the Kid had no idea the challenge that awaited us when we took the stage last night. At the studio, the dance was rehearsed in full light and even lines from the beginning.

We discovered last night the dance would be done in the dark with the exception of blinding lights blaring right in front of us to create a silhouette for the audience. Our neat lines were also bunched in a wing with another set of lights in the middle. We came out bunched up.

And, because I wasn’t used to the marley being as slick, I lost balance during a turn in pique and collided with the girl next to me in line. Oy! You’d think I’d remembered how slick the Mmarley was during Nutcracker. My timing was also off a little (too fast, probably because I was nervous).

I will try to slow it down tonight. Other than that, I thought rehearsal went OK, other than our trying to find out just which wing we’re supposed to come out of and which panel we’re supposed to be on.

I’m hoping all of the bugs will be out tonight. Dress rehearsal is tomorrow.


Production week has finally arrived

When I first returned to dancing as an adult, I vowed never to perform and never dance with kids.

Funny how your dance journey changes. Friday and Saturday, I’ll be performing the most dance extensive non-Nutcracker part I ever had. And I’ll be one of only four dancers (out of more than 40 in the show) above the age of 18.

Today is sort of the calm in the storm. Just an evening company ballet class. That’s after three days of rehearsals and dance classes to fill the morning and early afternoons of my weekend.

Tomorrow is moving day into the Von Braun Center concert hall. We’ve got a three-hour rehearsal tomorrow, which I know will include both spacing and dancing. And for me, it’s always that first rehearsal in the vast empty concert hall where the butterflies really hit. They never really go away, but they usually calm down when we take the stage.

It’s crazy fun, and a totally different vibe than you get by just being in class. Sunday, we had our run through in costumes, but still, it’s not the same type of world as it is at the theater. To be honest, I think during performance week is when you really bond with the family that is Huntsville Ballet.

You share a cramped dressing room with your fellow dancers (if you’re a guy, it’s usually the smallest around, and there are only eight of us in the production). You really get to know your fellow dancers with the time you spend with them in the wings getting ready for rehearsal, the many hours of rehearsal, and the relaxed time of warmups and stretching.

And you get to know the wonderful people who work behind the scenes to help pull a performance off, like the tech crew who have been doing their jobs almost since I was a child, many who started as dance parents and kept volunteering for the ballet long after their kids hung up their shoes.

And you have the costume people and the makeup people. It’s amazing all the work they do. Some of them are parents, and its good to really get to know they away from the occasional “how’s it going?” at the studio.

Of course, the thing that I enjoy most about production week is how it stretches you as a dancer. It’s your chance to create art, to create something beautiful for an audience.

Unlike the dance family you’re a part of that’s working behind the scenes, you never really get to know their stories. I know many are there to support their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins or friends.

But if they’re someone who loves the arts, or someone there just looking to relax, enjoy and get their minds off their problems, then you want to give them their money’s worth and help them enjoy their evening all the more.


Blessed I can still dance at 47

There are days when I feel like the remedial one in company level class. My double pirouettes and anything in petite allegro can be completely all over the map. Some days I feel like I can really dance. Other days, I know I totally suck.

Found out today that I am blessed to be dancing despite my struggles. One week from tonight I’ll be performing in a major ballet production. I’m not going to take that for granted.

My seemingly fit, ultra-thin 27-year-old niece just found out she has MS, a mother of three small children.

Yeah, I maybe a little overweight ancient dude struggling in a ballet class. But I can still hang in with company kids.

Whenever I think about complaining after struggling in a class I should think about my niece and what her life will be like when she gets my age.


Fouettes by 10 amazing ballerinas

Saw this on Facebook today. It really rocks.


Sometimes you just can’t answer the bell

I love ballet (hence the title of this blog). There are times when I’ve gone to a morning class without hardly any sleep after a long night at work. Up until this year, I’ve hardly ever missed any class unless I have the crud or seriously hurt (which fortunately hasn’t been often despite my age).

Over the next few days, I will transition from copy editor-college student to company dancer-college student. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be rehearsing every day except Monday for our three spring performances next weekend. I still have an evening ballet class on Monday, so had I made it to this morning’s open class, I would be looking at nine-straight days of ballet (classes, rehearsals, warmups, performances).

That’s absolute heaven for me except …

This morning, I woke up fatigued from getting off work at midnight (on the day I have both five hours of college classes and eight hours of work). It’s honors day at the university, so there were no classes today, and I don’t have to be at work until 3.

As much as I love ballet, my body just wouldn’t move out of bed this morning. I figured I needed to recharge the batteries for what looks like a physically challenging, but emotionally rewarding stretch of days ahead. I’m off tomorrow. Class isn’t until 5, followed by rehearsal.

I felt it was a good idea to rest up.

Maybe it’s because of my more daunting schedule. Maybe it’s because my body is telling me I’m getting old (something I won’t readily admit).

But I figured my love affair with ballet and my eternal struggle to refine and multiply my pirouettes could wait just another day.