Thursday, October 9, 2008

Xmas Rehearsal Day 1: Ballerina Bear

Well, I made it through day 1 alive!

And wow, I love my job :)

I got up bright and early to walk the few blocks over to the church where our first few weeks of rehearsals are being held. I made my Starbucks trip and headed to the hall, only getting minorly lost in trying to find the entrance (it's like through a gate and down some stairs...). I showed the security people my lovely Radio City ID and signed in on the Blue cast sheet (we're divided into 2 casts, blue and gold).

Then it was a bit confusing trying to find the dressing room the way the space is set up, but luckily I ran into a familiar face from class who showed me the way. Even before seeing him one of the Rockettes stopped me and said hi to me because they recognized me from class. Funny! Anyway, I found our dressing room and my little cubby with my name on it to leave my bag there, and a big green folder with my Welcome Packet.

Of note in the Welcome Packet:
-rehearsal schedule. We go to the theater in less than 2 weeks for staging of one dance! Woo!
-rules about giving backstage tours. If you come to the show I can take you for a brief, free, backstage tour! So if you plan on coming, let me know :)
-sheet music for the songs we must learn. Yes, I must sing.

Moving on.

After stretching a few minutes in the studio and eavesdropping on many of the smiling faces who already knew each other from last year, it was time to get dancing. The director L, who I knew from the audition, introduced herself again and her 2 assistants. Then she read of the casting assignments for the Nutcracker number, which we spent all day on. To no big surprise, I am a "ballerina bear." I am told there are all new bear costumes this year with "less vision impairment and less weight," haha. Alrighty then.

(this is a friend of mine who did the show last year in Florida as a ballerina bear. hmmmm....)

With the ballet part a given, I already had my rubbered (for less slipping) pointe shoes on and ready to go, even though my feet desperately did not want to go on releve at that hour with little warm up. As they started placing us on the mock stage, I realized I was the only one with pointe shoes on, even though there are 6 of us "ballerinas" (3 per cast). Great, I think to myself. Well, better to be overprepared than not at all, but I'll take them off once we get a break.

Then, to my surprise, as the assistants were working with other people the director herself came over to me and told me, BY NAME, that I could just learn in flat shoes and put pointe shoes on later. How did she already know my name??? I didn't know if this was a good thing or a bad thing...took of the shoes and moved on with the choreography. As we're learning the big waltz (of the flowers...but not) she yelled out a correction about my arms, again BY NAME. At this point I'm like, uh oh, she knows my name because I'm going to be the one doing things wrong or something, haha.

Luckily my paranoia went away real fast when I saw that she and the other teachers knew everybody's name right away, not just the returning people from last year. Wow! Weird, but nice haha. In past experiences with ballet they couldn't give a care what your name is as long as you have pretty feet, haha.

Anyway, after 2 -1/2 hours, we were mid step and the AGVA moderator sitting in the corner yells, "Take 10!" and everyone stopped. Music playing and all. Because it was exactly time, we are entitled to our break and because it's a union show, we get it exactly when we're supposed to. Another thing I'm so not used to! How nice to a) get a break and b) get it immediately on time like that. Those breaks were periodic and needed throughout the day.

We had an hour for lunch, during which I ran out for a salad and sat in the mini park nearby because it was so nice out. Then I checked emails on iPod at Starbucks and headed back early to go through the choreography.

The rest of the day was more Nutcracker, finishing with a full run through of the whole piece (Polar Bear March, ballerina bears to Sugar Plum music, Russian bears, panda bears for Chinese, "baby bears", and the end waltz of the flowers with everyone). By 6pm I was dead but it felt SO good to get through that last run through of all the work we did all day. What a feeling, to give everything you have like that.

By 6:30 I was already home and in a bubble bath, haha. I'm trying to save my body before bad things happen (my foot is still bad even at the start of this...) and since my lovely new apartment has a real bathtub, I must take advantage, haha. My back was hurting from standing all day, and my left quad is tight from kneeling repeatedly as part of the choreography. Post-bath, though, I'm not as sore as I thought I'd be. I spent some quality time with my foam roller, too, which definitely helped.

In terms of choreography, it's fun but challenging. Because we're in "bear suits" we can't use our heads or our epaulement (shoulders) so it's tricky when that comes naturally. And they want all the arm movements very sharp so that they read with the costumes on. My multiple corrections for the day (they were excellent about giving personal corrections to all!) were mostly focused on making sharper arms. Hey, you can take the girl out of ballet but you can't take the ballet out of the girl!

For our "ballerina bear" section, there are 3 of us that dance to the beloved Sugar Plum music. Apparently we appear in a big gift box that opens up and then we come out and dance. I'm in the middle. And we had to practice with our wands. My goodness, you'd think I was carrying a big glittery pink BRICK. It was so heavy! I don't know if the show wands will be the same, but the rehearsal wand was weighing down my arm after 8 hours...although it was cute with a little disco ball on top :).

The biggest challenge of the day was not the actual steps or even learning them so fast, but it was the spacing. Ever wonder how the Rockettes are so accurately evenly spaced?

Well, the stage has a huge number line going across it in addition to colored tapes and colored dotted tapes that divide the panels. Every single step (EVERY every every tiny step) has an exact number and color of where it needs to be or how far it needs to travel. For instance, I start on 16 green dot. I balance' out to 18 green dot, then balance' back to 16. But then there's a soutinou out and down to 14 red line. And we make a circle later and I must be on 4 between the white line and the white dot. By the end of the day, I felt like I was playing ballet Twister or something!

Talk about details. I'm sure it will become second nature soon, but trying to grasp the actual choreographing on top of where my mark is and how far exactly I must travel in each step in all directions is a tease of the brain.

Which is why tonight is devoted to doing my homework of writing down the sequence and my exact places. We're told "there's no time to go back, only forward" and we won't do Nutcracker again for a while, so I MUST remember everything. Tomorrow we learn a whole new dance. Let the note-taking begin!

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