Tag Archives: performing

I believe I’ll sit this one out

This past week was the first regular week of classes at BRT in Albuquerque.

For me, it was an interesting pair of classes.

Because of my now-mostly day job, my class choices were a Ballet I class on Wednesday night and Ballet II on Thursday.

The Ballet I class was pretty interesting. I hadn’t been going to it in the summer. Didn’t know who the teacher would be.

The same anxieties always hit with that first class.

The regular teacher wasn’t there. The guy who taught was the guy who has been teaching the Ballet II class that I had been going to during the summer.

There were five of us, and it was a bit of an unusual mix. Of the five, only two were women. I’ve never been in a class where we (the guys) so outnumbered the girls (I have been in classes were the numbers were almost even).

It wasn’t one of my better classes.

I’ll be honest, I always have a hard time finding the right tempo when it comes to a slower class. And this class wasn’t quite a beginner class, and the teacher didn’t quite teach it as one.

I was a bit sloppy and off count.

That is until grande allegro (big jumps) time. Sautee, fi-e, glissade, assemble’ (repeat), pique, chasse, tour jete, tonbe pas de bouree, saute chat is a combination I knew pretty well and managed to earn praise for.

Made me feel a whole lot better.

Night 2: Ballet 2 went a lot better.

Same teacher taught. Everything we did was technically a whole lot difficult than the night before. My timing was better. Technique was better.

I’ll be honest, I rely too much on my neighbors, and since my neighbors were better, I was able to step up my game.

I even managed to make it through petite allegro a lot better than I normally do. My glissades didn’t quite suck as bad as they normally do.

I also think it helped that I was more in my comfort zone.

My four other classmates were women. Why am I more in a comfort zone in a class like that?

When there are other guys in the room, I tend to get a little more competitive, unless they are good friends of mine who are company wonders like two of my close dancer friends back home.

And the two other guys are a couple of decades younger than me. Can’t figure out why I wanted to be so competitive, other than the fact that neither seems to understand spacing, which did annoy me a bit (but I didn’t complain).

Now for the title of this blog entry.

BRT has auditions on Saturday for Nutcracker and its spring performance of Beauty and the Beast.

If you follow my blog, you know I love performing. And I’ve been in at least one ballet a year, and most of the time two, since 2007.

And I was in three in what turned out to be my final year of performing with HBC before packing it up and moving from Alabama to New Mexico.

BRT has an audition for adults for character roles (and company if I were about 20 years younger and three times as good as I am). With HBC, I was pretty much always drafted, something that happens when you are a guy with the shortage of men in ballet.

A few days ago, I was for sure I was going to audition (which would have been a first even though I’ve danced in classes that were audition classes).

But I’m still adjusting to life in New Mexico. So is my daughter.

Even though there is a Ballet I class on Saturday morning (a tough one to make since my ballet commute is about 70 miles), I’ve opted to use Saturday as a sleep-in day, and a day of recreation day with my daughter, who is still not quite as connected to life and friends here in the Land of Enchantment.

So, for the first time since 2007, I believe I’ll be sitting this performance season out.

Which for me is kind of difficult.

It will be really hard reading about other people doing parts with HBC that were solely mine for the past few years.

But I’m getting older.

Maybe it’s time for me to just enjoy class and learn to enjoy performances from the audience.

The awkward moment when you have one day to learn a part

I’ve seen dancers get injured before performances before, and see understudies have to learn a part of the fly.

Just never thought I’d be one of those dancers who has to be a quick study.

Let’s just call it the tech week surprise.

Nothing like having your artistic director ask you to do a part with only one rehearsal before dress rehearsal, especially when it is in an act you haven’t been in.

My part of a court man in Act I I have down, But now there is a part in Act 3 I have to learn. I did walk through with Mr. O before Act I rehearsal tonight, It’s simple enough, except that we did it without music, Not having a clue about the music, or the cue of when I come in, that’s a little bit frightening.

But how could I refuse?

Being an old recreational adult dancer, performing is my one little glimpse of what it must be like to be a professional dancer, especially during tech week. And this just adds another layer to that.

As for Act I, there was a lot of tweaking tonight in our first rehearsal on the stage. There was a lot of stopping. In the words of my court lady, we really haven’t had a run through without stopping, which is unusual.

Last year during Cinderella, we ran the kitchen scene that I was in about three to four times a week.

Because of the wacky winter weather, we’ve been behind the eight-ball for Sleeping Beauty. I am confident, though, that we’ll pull things together. On the years that I’ve been a part, the company has not failed to put on a good show.

There is a lot of good dancing in this show. At least in Act I, the only act I’ve seen so far (I will get more than a preview of Act III Wednesday, I’m sure).

As far as classes go, I was a bit lethargic at the barre today, and really struggled during petite allegro.

But the final combination I acquitted myself quite well, which is amazing considering I normally struggle with one of the steps in the combination. It was a four-pique turn, balance turn, ton be couple jete combination in a horseshoe.

I never have been able to get the ton be coupe jete part.

That was until today.

The not so quality photo was from the theater tonight,


Musicality, movement quality and line

There really isn’t much dancing involved with my part in Sleeping Beauty.

That’s sort of by design.

There are four court men in Act I.

I am the only dancer. The other three are dads, and I think the notion of having to do any difficult steps would have frightened them away.

Our wives, like me, are dancers.

But in Act I, we’re basically props.

But that doesn’t mean we just stand there.

Because I am the lone dancer and most experienced performer of the court men … my lady and I are front and center. We have the most to do.

Even when you are performing more of a character role in a ballet, you can’t forget three important elements to what makes ballet, and dance in general, beautiful and graceful.

Musicality, movement quality and line.

With my part it means when and how you walk, gesture and pose.

Twice in the scene, we’re in lines, we halt and go into first arabesque. My lady and I are at the end of the line. No one in front of us.

Two questions run through my mind: Will our line look good to the audience? Is my knee straight when we tendue?

I know the latter is such a small thing, and the audience wouldn’t notice. But as a dancer, to me that’s important considering this is one of the few things we’re required to do that is balletic.

I don’t think people realize how much the three elements I’ve mentioned really are important to a dance performance.

Must of us focus on the steps and technique.

You can do all of the steps correctly, but if you don’t those three elements, you can really look bad performing.

If you don’t believe me, watch Dancing with the Stars.

That’s become my daughter’s and my guilty pleasure.

My daughter is amazed how many times I will mention whether or not I like a couple’s movement quality, comment on their music quality or line, and one of the judges will say basically the same thing.

They may not be dancing ballet, but those elements are just as important when you’re doing other forms of dance from contemporary, ballroom to even hip hop.

A small part in Sleeping Beauty

After sickness, personal matters and a large college work load, I finally returned to ballet class for the first time in 2015.

There was little mercy for the old man who hadn’t been in class since the week after Nutcracker. Even though there are more adults in the Monday open class than there are in the other morning classes I take, Mr. O’s class was pretty physical.

And I’ll be honest, it took a while for the ballet brain to kick in after a long, tough barre. Ended up on the wrong leg in a combination, so I did a pirouette in the wrong direction. I also shortened a petite allegro combination and ended up going the wrong way and almost collided with one of the company boys in class.

But other than those little mishaps, I thought I acquitted myself quite well for an old guy who has been out a month.

Seriously, I’ve pledged to just enjoy class and not take things too seriously this semester. I even thought about taking a break from performing.

But when your artistic director asks you if you’re interested in a small part in a full length Sleeping Beauty the company is doing, really how can you refuse?

It’s a small part (a court person), probably mainly character and little dancing. Supposedly there’s not as demanding rehearsals with this one. So yeah, with my busy schedule, agreeing to do the part was pretty much a no brainer.

You learn so much more and appreciate story ballets once you’ve been in them. This will be my seventh different ballet to be in. That’s a bunch for an old recreational dancer like me.

That awkward moment when you are called out in dress rehearsal …

for not wearing makeup.

I admit it, when I first performed in Nutcracker in 2007, I was like, “seriously? I have to wear that?”

I’ve somewhat gotten used to it as an adult male recreational dancer who happens to perform. Can’t say that I’m entirely comfortable with base, blush, lipstick, eye liner … Not that anybody can really tell on stage.

But still, I guess it’s the not wanting to let loose with the man card in me who tries to get away without makeup when I can get away with it.

Can’t do it when you’re a party dad in Nutcracker. Or playing the somewhat effeminate hairdresser in Cinderella. But I was able to accomplish the feat when I was a cowboy in Billy the Kid … and when I’ve played a priest in Dracula and Firebird in performances past.

Not this time … even though I’m only on stage for three minutes during Firebird … even though I’m wearing a priest hood with the robe.

The artistic director points out I look too pale. Tells me I have to wear it tomorrow night.

Darn it.

Which leads me to an “only in ballet” moment.

All the guys share a dressing room … which happens also to be the storage closet.

Preteen boy dancer to teen dancer: “Which do I put on first, the eye liner or the mascara?”

That conversation, if heard outside the dressing room, would probably give a father a heart attack if he has a son who wants to take ballet.

I’ve reached the point where I find that really funny … rather than well .. disturbing.

Which brings me to another “only in ballet” moment: Going through a drive thru between performances while wearing makeup.

“Why yes, drive thru lady, I am wearing makeup … don’t judge me!”

Seriously, ballet is really fun … and if you’re a guy and you want to take class … makeup is not required for class.

But if you end up in a performance, beware … you may be told to pick up some Max Factor, tan 2.

Did I mention, sometimes you really need a sense of humor if you’re a guy, and you happen to take ballet?


It’s about to get really busy

I’m not a fan of the fall break concept on the school calendar.

Our ballet school follows the local calendar. While I know people nowadays seem to be enamored with taking a break this early in the school year, it was something unheard of when I was a kid. We turned out OK.

My real problem with fall break? No ballet for a week just when things are starting to amp up. But maybe it comes at a good time. We’re about to get hit with a ton of rehearsal time.

The pre-pro school where I take class added a fall performance a few years ago. This year we’re doing The Firebird as the main attraction along with a few contemporary pieces from the company.

I’ve got a small part in Firebird. I play a priest in the wedding scene at the end, a small part I’ve done the last two times we’ve done it. We’ve got four shows October 24-26, three weeks away.

And that’s on top of Nutcracker rehearsals, where my parts are a little more extensive in the party scene, battle scene and the Chinese dance in Act 2.

Yeah, things are about to get really intense.

Classes are going OK. I’m not beating myself over the head on things I struggle with like I used to. Just enjoying being in class during what has been a stressful time with finances and college classes on top of a very difficult work schedule.

I really haven’t danced enough to suit me.

Oh yeah, the photo with this entry? It’s from Firebird rehearsal. Took it as part of a photo project I have for a college class I’m taking.rehearsal

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.