Monthly Archives: April 2013

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.

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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.


Ballet and Blue Jeans

Our wardrobe lady wanted me to wear the plaid shirt and jeans to Billy the Kid rehearsal tonight. It was interesting combination with ballet shoes and tights underneath. Have to tell you, talk about restrictive movement. I’d take my tights or warmups any day, but for the performance, that’s not allowed. It is doable. I just hope the theater will have the A/C on because it was hot in the studio tonight.

I was glad to get back to ballet. Nine days off made today a little bit tougher. I was a bit sluggish during class (but I did make it through class, can’t say that for a few younger dancers). The combinations were a bit messy, but I was able to do everything, although my turns felt a bit weighty.

Rehearsal went OK. Did fine on the hardest dance I’m in (the opening). But I butchered this “horse” step I have during the town scene. Got to do much better when we hit the theater next week.

I’m beat, and will be sore in the morning (a sleep in day with just one afternoon college class). It was a long layoff from dance, but I’m glad to be back at it. Starting Thursday, there will be nine-straight days of classes, rehearsals and performances. Can’t wait!