Tag Archives: performance week

A scene from Sleeping Beauty


I posted scenes from the wings of our production of Sleeping Beauty last week because we have an official photographer. But here is one from the production.

I am the lone guy in the photo talking to my stage wife during the variation by the fairies, which happens to be the one we did in class earlier in the week that I mentioned in a previous post.

Curtain falls on Sleeping Beauty

It seems so surreal.

It seems theater week flies by faster and faster each performance.

Three shows. Two days. So much fun.

The glitches, the problems we had during the tech rehearsals and dress rehearsal? They disappeared once the curtain went up for real.

My spur of the moment Act III role? I eared praise from the boss, our artistic director. I pretty much had my Act I part down.

All three shows were amazing, from the dancing, to the costumes, to the dancing.

I’ve mentioned before that this has been an odd year at the ballet school. A lot of our best dancers moved up the ladder to more well known companies and schools, or graduated and went to college,

We have a much younger group of company dancers than we’ve had in years,

But you would not have known it this weekend. Despite having to rush to the finish because of wedding delays, this was one of the coolest productions I’ve ever been in.

It was three acts, the longest performance I believe we’ve done. But it was really nicely done.

My mind is tired from the week. So are my legs,

Withdrawals have already set in.

Don’t know if I’ll be in the fall production again, but it’s still months off.

Going to use the next few months to see if I can’t polish what I can as a dancer before I get to old.

I love performing. I hope I have a few left in me.sbfinale

It’s theater week!

Today is sort of the calm before the storm, a chill day.

It is the only day since Friday where I don’t have ballet class or rehearsal between now and our performances Friday night and Saturday morning.

As was the case with Nutcracker, the head of the theater department at the university where I take classes has been brought in as production manager, and with that came changes at this past weekend’s rehearsals. I’ve now got more to do with my character role, which I don’t mind. It makes it more fun to do.

This weekend’s rehearsals were more intense, as they usually during our last rehearsals before hitting the theater. Sunday’s rehearsal was a half-dress rehearsal. I wore my jacket and pants to see how I moved in them (I have yet to put on the wig, that and the makeup won’t come on until dress rehearsal on Thursday).

Things will pick up tomorrow. I’ve got two rehearsals at the theater. I’ll be rushing from my graphic design class to the first one in the early afternoon, a scene rehearsal. Then, we do the full run through tomorrow night, and then a run-through Wednesday before dress rehearsal on Thursday, followed by shows on Friday and Saturday.

We’ve been rehearsing since January. Hard to believe Cinderella performance week is finally here.

Class-wise, Saturday’s class was fun, but challenging. The guest artist who is playing the prince taught the class. He gave some very challenging combinations, and he’s from Latin America, so there was a bit of a language barrier. But I hung in there, and really like his class a lot.

Other than warmups, there will only be two classes this week, Thursday morning and Saturday morning before our matinee show. They’ll be more the laid back, therapeutic kind, but I don’t mind.

Even though I’ve taken off work like I usually do, production can be tiring. And that’s especially the case since my college classes are still going on, and I’ve got projects to work on with the end of the semester fast approaching.

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

Reality or reality TV

Last year, when Breaking Pointe reached it’s performance episodes, I was amazed by the realism. It brought back memories of production week and performance night, especially when we perform The Nutcracker, which I believe is the closest we come to what it’s like to be a professional dancer.

We perform Nutcracker seven times in four days (two shows a day except for the Sunday finale. We have intense rehearsals the Saturday before the performances and move into the theater with spacing rehearsals on Sunday and practically live there the rest of the week.

That’s why last night’s episode of Breaking Pointe didn’t seem quite as real as it was reality TV. It almost gives you the impression Cinderella (a very difficult ballet from what I’ve heard) was almost thrown together at the last minute … and that everyone is dealing with personal drama when they take the stage.

Maybe it’s because I dance with a younger crowd, but I don’t recall a whole of lot personal drama keeping a performance from coming together.

And by the time we stagger out of that intense rehearsal on Saturday, we’re pretty much ready. We know our parts, although you wouldn’t know it by how much we rehearse in the wings before going on stage.

Come tech week, you can almost make an argument we’re over rehearsed. Many of us who’ve done the same parts in previous Nutcrackers don’t really have to think about it … We KNOW it.

Yes, there are sometimes wardrobe malfunctions, and problems with props or sets. Those things do happen. While I don’t believe anybody can say they had the perfect performance, I don’t really recall any disaster moments either.¬†

Yeah, there are mistakes perhaps the most skilled ballet watcher may notice, like Christiana coming out of pointe during her pas with Rex, but most in the audience wouldn’t recognize the mistake. And there are occasionally mistakes people will notice, such as our snow queen slipping on a piece of confetti on stage during Snow and falling on her butt, but those are usually rare.

And usually when they do happen, dancers usually get back up and keep going.

But I don’t know of anyone who will blame mistakes on problems going on off stage. Yes, I know it happens. But most of the people I’ve danced with have been pretty good at blocking those off.

I’ve gone into Nutcracker (and other ballets) with stress going on from work or home, but once I’m on stage, I tend to block things out pretty well and let the adrenaline take over.

The one thing I found very real from the episode? I’ve know dancers who got hurt at the last minute and had to be replaced. That’s happened at least three times. One girl slipped off pointe and broke her arm the week before we did Dracula. The girl dancing lead Arabian sprained her ankle during our last Saturday rehearsal and another girl got hurt right before Billy the Kid.

And their understudies did great.

I’ve also known dancers who went ahead and danced despite their injuries. The guy who danced lead Russian for us last year did so with an injured shin. One of our cavaliers danced with a hurt shoulder.

Both did great, but both dealt with the injuries afterwards, especially the one with the injured shoulder.

Sometimes, when it comes to Breaking Pointe, you have to ask yourself: “Is this real, or just reality TV?”

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.