Tuesday, March 4, 2014

T-minus six days...

Less than one week till the shows! The show we’re doing is a little unusual for our company. We normally do a classical “story” ballet, sometimes with a short contemporary piece preceding it, but this time we’re doing it in three sections. The first is a short called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, based on that bit in Fantasia where Mickey loses control of all those brooms and buckets, which is actually based on a poem by Goethe of the same name.

From Youtube. 

It’s going to be really cute, even if I have to dress up as a mustard-colored broom! This act is full of little ten year olds running around in blue tutus pretending to be water drops. The last time we did this, I had just gotten up en pointe, so I’m happy to be doing more this time. (Pointe shoes are the hard ballet shoes that allow a dancer to go up on to the tips of her toes, as opposed to soft shoes, which only allow dancers to go onto the pads of their toes. Male dancers don’t usually wear pointe shoes.) I’m also excited for my friend J—he just started dancing and although he isn’t a natural by any means, he’s doing really well adjusting, and the director has given him quite a lot in this section, at least for a beginner. I know a lot of people are concerned about starting ballet as an adult, but it’s never too late: the most important things you need are a good attitude and a willingness to improve. J takes constructive criticism really well, and in our spare time asks people to go over the choreography and technical aspects of the steps with him. He didn’t even mind (too much) the dance belt and tights I threw at him after reading the e-book on Ballet for Men.

That said, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is the least intense of the three sections. The second is a mishmash of excerpts from various classical ballets, This is the section I’m most excited and nervous about; I was lucky enough to get a pas de deux (a partnering dance) with the principal danseur, who is absolutely awesome! He’s married to the director, and she first choreographed the dance for herself in her prime. It’s a dream come true—the highest honor I could have, especially with other, more qualified ballerinas doing the show as well. The dance I’m doing is Prince Ivan and Princess Vasilisa’s when they first meet in The Firebird. It’s going really well in rehearsals, and today will be our first dress rehearsal at the theatre.

Still, I’m taking the dance so seriously that I think it may be starting to affect my knees. For those of you who don’t know, “turnout” refers to turning your hips, legs and feet away from each other (think of making your feet a “V” shape with your heels together), which is desirable in classical ballet and has to do with your natural ability. Most professionals have around 180 degree turnout—in many companies, they’ll turn away children who don’t have 180 degree natural turnout. Talk about a tough break!

My natural turnout is really crappy—around 100 degrees, which means I’m always struggling to turn out even the slightest degree. The difficulty is, to protect your knees, simply pointing your feet away from each other doesn’t work: you have to turn your whole leg out from the hip. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to turn out your hip than just your feet, so lately I’ve been unconsciously forcing my turnout… Just have to keep telling myself to stop. Here’s a video that's helpful for finding your natural turnout:

Also from Youtube.

Anyhoo, enough about injuries. The third and final section is a contemporary style ballet set to Gustav Holst’s Planets. The music is beautiful and the concept is just plain awesome. I’ve done this piece with the company before twice: once when I had just graduated from the youth company to the adult company, and once as the soloist. The second time was a shortened version for a student recital, which is the only reason I was cast as the soloist, but the work still means a lot to me. Here’s one of the musical pieces it’s set to:

Jupiter! From Youtube.

Awesome, huh? (And I mean literally, it fills me with awe.) That piece is the corps dance Jupiter, which means almost everyone in the adult company is in it, no matter what level. The less experienced members are placed towards the back, but they still do the same choreography. The great thing about being in a community company is that everyone has the chance to perform. Very rarely will you get that opportunity with so low a level of commitment in ballet. That said, the way the company and roles are set up makes you push yourself—if you put in the work, you can get good parts, unlike in professional ballet where body shape and natural flexibility are big factors, among other things. My head and my bum are both a little too big for classical ballet, but I get to perform anyway, and I can honestly say it’s the best thing that ever could have happened to me.

ABT's Gillian Murphy as Odile in Swan Lake. From Youtube.

I’ll probably never pull fouettes off as well as Gillian, but at least I can do what I love to do! I’ll let you guys know how the show goes next week. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and happy dancing!

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