Tag Archives: Nutcracker

Theater week is here

Hard to believe we’re one day away from our performances.

Dress rehearsal is tonight. That’s after a spacing rehearsal on Sunday, Act II tech rehearsal Monday and Act I tech rehearsal last night.

I have to admit I’m always a little nervous when we hit the theater, but I think most of the butterflies went away during spacing rehearsal for Chinese on Sunday.

Monday was the most physical of the rehearsals, but the most fun. We ran through Chinese three times, and the finale. We also went over our Nutty Nutcracker finale dance a couple of times … aka the evolution of dance. I was beat when it was over, but it was fun.

Last night was brutal. Don’t get me wrong, loved rehearsing the party scene. But I am in a harness, moving the magical bed, during the battle scene. My knees took a pounding with all of the stopping of the music.

I slept in this morning rather than going to a 10 a.m. open class. My body needed the extra sleep to recover. Company warmup is at 6 tonight, followed by dress rehearsal, which is scheduled to last until 10:30 p.m.

Curtain is up at 9:30 tomorrow for the first of eight shows in four days, counting the Nutty Nutcracker performance Sunday night. What little free time I have this week is about to disappear.

I’ve included photos of the stage, my dressing room (it was empty Monday since I share the dressing room with the rest of the party dads, but I am the only one who is in Act II, and the only one with a costume change).

I’ve also included photos from our last week in the studio.
finalx18finalx16
stagedressingroomfinalx15finalx23finalx22psdfinalx20


When Nutcracker tunes are stuck in your head …

One glance at the rehearsal schedule made me realize that what little down time I have over the next few weeks has disappeared.

Last Saturday, we had Act II rehearsal from 4:0-5:30. I worked split shifts to make it. It’s my favorite part, being in the Chinese dance the the finale waltz. I am by far the oldest dancer in Act II.

I was worn out when I walked out of work Saturday night around midnight. Two of my co-workers have quit. The workload on Saturday is usually a bear under normal circumstances. Now, it’s tough.

Sunday is normally an off day. But both people who quit worked on Sunday. We rehearsed the party scene for the first time (well, the children have already been rehearsing). But this was the first time the “parents” were thrown in.

So, I’ll strolled into the studio at 11:15 for a rehearsal that started at 11:30. Party scene rehearsal ended at 2 … and then for the next 90 minutes, it was time to practice my most brutal part … being “bed boy” during the battle scene.

What is “bed boy?” He’s the poor dancer under Clara’s bed, moving it across the stage making it appear to move like magic. Yeah, that’s me. It’s grunt work, too on the knees, very little vision, moving across the marley, making sure I’m aware of what part we’re at in the battle scene score (Got to be the longest in Nutcracker).

I staggered out of the studio at 3:30. Back in the office at 4, cursing me ex-coworkers for the fact that I wasn’t done for the day. I strolled out of the office at midnight.

I had every intention of making the 9:30 open class. But I watched The Walking Dead before hitting the bed. I was still feeling the rehearsals (and still hearing the music) when I woke up. I had a college class at 11:30 that I normally race from ballet class to make.

But I felt my body needed the extra couple of hours sleep to recover.

I have an open class Wednesday, and just looked on the rehearsal schedule and was surprised to see we’re running Act 2 Complete on Friday night after I get off work.

And then, after company class from 10-11:30 on Saturday, it’s back at it with Act II from 11:30 to 1:30, and rehearsal for our Gone Wild performance before staggering back into the office for another eight hour shift.

I can say why God rested on the seventh day. But my rest won’t come on Sunday. Party scene is 11:30-1:30, followed by battle scene from 1:30-2:30.

And then there is work.

I’m not complaining. My girlfriend said “Well, you’ve signed up for this.”

I did not sign up for having two ex-coworkers quitting in addition to the regular work, college work and dance load.

I love ballet. I love performing in The Nutcracker, even if the music does rattle around in my head until February.

And there are no rehearsals again until at least Dec. 1, which will allow my body to recover.

And other styles of music to creep back in my head.


Left out my favorite Nutcracker Photo

Left out my favorite Nutcracker Photo

Who says Chinese Lions can’t fly


More Nutcracker photos

As promised, more photos from our Nutcracker:

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

I’m in every photo except Arabian and Snow (that is if you count that I’m under the bed for the battle scene).


Nutcracker grande pas de deux

Just beautiful.


Sadness is an empty theater

My Nutcracker withdrawal this year began shortly after our final bow.

It hit even harder as I helped the tech crew take down the sets we put up what seemed like only a day before, but in reality was a little more than a week ago.

I took a couple of photos of how empty the place seemed without all the sets, the props, the dancers, the wardrobe and makeup crew, the volunteers, the parents and the crowds.

What an amazing week it was. I’ve said it before, but Nutcracker week is the one week that I get a little glimpse into what it’s like for a professional dancer. From last Saturday onward, the theater was my home until roughly about 5 this evening.

Set setup, long rehearsals, company warmups … multiple parts in multiple performances in a single day. We’ve just completed seven shows in four days. And since the school shows on Thursday and Friday were so early, I don’t know if I slept more than four hours a night until last night. Our show today wasn’t until 1, so I got to sleep in a little bit after leaving the theater at 10 last night (I was at the theater yesterday for 11 hours because of how our two Saturday shows were paced).

Performance-wise, it was an interesting week for me. One of my three roles was “bed boy,” which if you know anything about New York City Ballet’s Nutcrackers, you know there’s a poor unfortunate dancer under Clara’s (or Marie’s) bed transporting her around the stage at various times during the battle scene. They changed my path and added fog, which obscured my already limited vision.

I botched my exit because of it dress rehearsal night and for our Friday night show (nothing like flying blind as your backing off stage), but by our performances Saturday and today I was nailing the bed runs.

My favorite role, the Chinese Lion (or Dragon) went well. Got ahead of the music during the Saturday matinee performance because our wonderful orchestra (trust me that’s not sarcasm, they did a great job) for some reason slowed the music and had to make an adjustment. But my jumps got better and higher with each performance, as did my timing. I felt our last two performances were my best shows overall.

As for the party scene, I thought things went really well every performance. My very young party wife and I worked well together during our short dance, and she did a very good job staying in character the entire scene. She was a pro, and maybe the best party mom I’ve ever worked with (she took her role as “mom” seriously and was constantly fixing our “son’s” hair and making sure his little tie looked great).

There are some things I’ll never forget. I already mentioned the gift I got earlier this week. The Claras gave me a nice little red velvet cake in appreciation for my grunt work as “bed boy” during the battle scene. And I received several compliments for the multiple roles I had in the show.

Company warmups are always among my favorite things about production. Mr. and Mrs. O alternated leading them, and we do them to Christmas music. Nothing gets me more in the Christmas spirit.

Among the touching things this week was watching the company girls who are seniors in high school. It’s always an emotional week for them, but today was especially hard for a couple of them. They’re going to be going off to college and this was their last Nutcracker with the company (and maybe for good, I hope they don’t quit dancing when they go off to college, but many do).

We also had the first sold out public show that I can remember since I started performing a few years ago (the school shows are always sold out). We had the packed house for our Saturday evening show. We had great crowds all week.

And I believe we had our best performances as a company and school the last two days. Our cavalier and our two Sugar Plums were amazingly beautiful during our grand pas and coda the entire week.

There’s a lot more I could say, but I’m extremely tired. It seems the older I get, the faster the week goes, and this was the fastest I can remember.

The real world beckons tomorrow.

I’ve included a few photos of the empty theater, my Nutcracker “family” and one of us who made up the Chinese dance crew. I hope to have actual performance photos soon.ImageImageImageImage


Misty Copeland to perform in The Nutcracker alongside fans

Misty Copeland to perform in The Nutcracker alongside fans

Has to be really cool to have Misty Copeland perfom Sugar Plum in your Nutcracker


Getting rid of the on-stage jitters

Never fails, I’m always a bundle of nerves during the first full run through on the VBC stage, especially during Chinese.

We had Act II rehearsal tonight. I thought I did OK for the first night, I wasn’t quite as sharp as I want to be, and my jumps were not as high as I would have preferred. But there were no major mistakes, so I’ll take it. I know things will get better from here on out now that I’m used to being back in the theater.

I’m a lot more comfortable, and a little more confident after the second run through. There’s been a slight change in the choreography, but that’s not really a big deal.

I thought it was a good rehearsal overall. Our Sugar Plum and cavalier are going to rock the grande pas. And the guest artist we have doing Russian can really leap. It’s going to be fun to watch him perform.

We have Act I tomorrow, which means I switch to party dad and work the magical bed during battle scene. It’s a totally different vibe from Act II, which to be honest is more fun for me.

Get to sleep in a little tomorrow, but have my last final of the semester at noon.

Dress rehearsal is Wednesday … and then it’s seven shows in four days starting Thursday.

####

One of the traditions we have during Nutcracker is gifting. The kids exchange gifts with other kids who are in the same dance with them.

As an adult, I really don’t expect a gift, but it melts my heart when I get one, I do confess.

Last year, one of the Chinese girls gave me a small Chinese soup bowl with scented soap. A couple of years before, one of my party “daughters” gave me a Nutcracker ornament that hangs from my tree each year now. Tonight, one of my Chinese girls gave me a box with candy. It’s pretty cool.

#####

My biggest challenge may not be on stage, but sharing a small dressing room with the rest of the party dads, the guy playing Mr. Stalhbaum, the guy playing Drosselmeyer and Mother Ginger. I’m the only one with a costume change, which means trying to keep up with clothes, costumes and shoes, while trying to work around eight or nine other people.

Of course, by the time Act II is over, it’ll be cleared out except for me and the dad who plays Mother Ginger.

I will try to post pics by the time we’re done. Didn’t have a whole lot of time tonight.


A ballet slowly gets a makeover

The original artistic director for our school and company is a local legend.

The man taught thousands of students. He choreographed his own version of The Nutcracker, painted the backdrops for each scene and played a role in the creation of the props and other materials used for the sets.

Anyone associated with the school who is older than the age of 35 speaks about him in reverence.

Any attempt to change anything this man had a part in creating during the more than 30 years he was artistic director is met, as you can expect, with some form of resistance.

Mr. O found that out when he brought his own version of his Nutcracker a few short years ago. He is still finding that out as he works with the theater director of a local university.

The sets, the backdrops that the original director created were pretty remarkable. But the problem? Many things used for the Nutcracker are well … more than 40 years old. The old stage crew that ran the show up until this year put up resistance to replace the stuff.

They retired.

The makeover is slowly beginning. I put in a link about the costumes. We now have a new snow scene backdrop. It totally rocks. My iPhone can’t do it justice.

But there is still plenty left to do that won’t be done at least for another Nutcracker or two to come. The one thing that baffles me? Why during the reign of the original artistic director and a couple of his successors that no one thought about updating or replacing deteriorating props, backdrops and other things needed for scenes.

That doesn’t take away from what was originally done. It adds to it, and make things simpler in the long run. We had to replace the rickety stairs used for the entrance because they reached the point where you couldn’t replace them anymore,

And the barres we use for company warm ups? They’re as old as me.

And the backdrops for the party at Stahlbaums, the battle scene and the Land of Sweets are tattered, and at the point of mildew. Even the original artistic director should have thought about replacing them after a couple of decades.

I’m including a photo of the snow backdrop.

As for today’s schedule: It’s the lightest of production week, somewhat.

I have spacing rehearsal for Chinese that’s only 30 minutes. But then I lend a hand with the small, new stage crew. There’s still much to do with the sets.

Tomorrow, the real dancing work begins on stage with a full Act 2 rehearsal.Image

 


Only in ballet: “Since it’s cold, it’s OK to keep your clothes on.”

Those were the words Mrs. O said this morning.

And with good reason: It was frigid in the studio where we have class. In Alabama, we have bi-polar winter weather. Two days ago, the high was 74 and humid. The studio felt sticky.

Today, highs in the low 40s, but this morning it was in the 30s with snow flurries and sleet. And our heating and cooling unit was on the fritz (no pun intended considering its Nutcracker time).

Since it was a company level class, normally the warmups must come off before we hit center. Today, Mrs. O left the warmups can be worn option, of which most of us took advantage of it.

It was a fairly easy class considering we start rehearsing at the theater tomorrow. I got praise during a jete combination during petite allegro and that NEVER happens. It was a fun class.

We also had our final rehearsal in the studio this after (it was Act I). Party scene went really well. Things always seem to come together right when we hit the theater.

Of course, with the new sets, it will be interesting to see how things go once we’re there.

Theater week actually begins today. I’m about to head out to help with the sets. I’m excited. This is my favorite week of the year.