Friday, October 31, 2008

Xmas Tech Day 6: Halloween, Christmas-style

Happy Halloween everyone!

This holiday goes from being my absolute favorite one year to nothing but another normal day the next. Today was good, but not in the normal Halloween way.

We still had normal rehearsal all day and night, so I didn't get to dress up or go take Halloween ballet class as is tradition. I wasn't thrilled about missing that, but it was SO worth it for tonight's rehearsal.

We finally got to run the entire show non-stop in real time all the way through transitions and everything. It was like being shot out of a cannon - we never stop for an hour and half show. It's SO tiring (especially this first time because I didn't know what to expect with certain backstage transitions) and by the end you're dead. But it is SOOOOOO amazingly fun. Talk about adrenaline rush.

More details later. Tomorrow we run the whole thing all day again, but this time in full costume! Yay!

We did do Nutcracker in our bear suits, which was bit...spooky. Haha. Takes some getting used to, and to block out spacing with our costumes we had to be in them for about an hour straight without coming up for air (ie. taking the heads off). The actual dance is only 7 minutes that we have to be in there. So yeah, and hour was a bit...rough. The amazing stage managers had hands full of dixie cups with water as soon as we came off sweating like pigs (it's like a personal sauna in that fat suit, standing still, nevermind dancing!)

Anyway, it was such fun. I can't believe we open in a week! This is happening so fast.

PS- on the Halloween note, it was so funny...the other cast of Rockettes all dressed as Michael Phelps all exactly the same. They did their show run in bathing caps and goggles and gold medals, haha!

Xmas Tech Day 5: Backstage Choreography

Today we continued to run through pieces of the show in real time...we're starting to get down to the wire and we're now in the stage of learning where we need to be backstage and when. There are so many elements and props and elevators and costumes and shoes and people to be aware of in the wings and the immediate backstage area. We worked a lot today on the traffic in between our dances onstage. A bit of backstage choreography, if you will. And this is before we've even attempted dancing in costume or quick costume changes.

It's all still very exciting, though.

Very tired but very happy. Apologues for the brief blog.

Oh, and happy halloween everyone! :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Xmas Tech Day 4: Runnin' Thru

I'm dead exhausted tonight with a headache from being in theater-land all week.

It's a good tired, of course, but makes blogging low on the priority list...

Today was good, though. We finished up staging the rest of the show in the early afternoon, which meant going through Nativity and our curtain calls. Nativity's no big thrill in terms of choreography (I sit. Others walk.), but the curtain call is such fun. With lighting and everything today, you can't help but have a gigantic smile the whole time. I love being able to look so far out and up at the audience, a feeling you just cannot get in a studio. It's amazing, and I can't imagine it filled with faces smiling back.

After our dinner break we started to actually run through the whole show. We only made it a few numbers in, but it started the mad rush backstage of presetting our shoes where we need to change and such. Costumes will be a whole new element once we get to that point, probably this weekend.

Anyway, that's today in a nutshell. I MUST go to bed immediately before my head falls off, haha. Luckily tomorrow's rehearsal isn't until 1pm...and I'm supposed to have my last midterm at school tomorrow night but...might not make it if I'm stuck at the theater. Luckily my professor knows the scoop. Last week I came into class after missing the previous week because of rehearsal and as he was taking attendance he got to my name and he says, "Oh how's rehearsal going? I told the whole class last week that you're a star!" Hah. Most of the time at school it's like, Taylor who? Who's that? It was a funny moment.

Time to sleep. Tomorrow we'll probably get to a full run through in real time. It's getting close! One week til invited dress rehearsal (which I actually still have 2 extra tickets to if you're interested! let me know, 11/5 at 5:30pm). A huge thanks to the many of you who are planning to attend and have been in touch about tickets :) it means a lot that you're coming!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Xmas Tech Day 3: Almost Done

Today we almost finished teching the entire show.

We started where we left off yesterday: in the "Magic" scene where we're supposed to be at the North Pole. We carry these big candy cane pole things and today we used the real ones instead of the rehearsal props, and they were so much heavier than expected! We didn't have much blocking time before we just ran it, so getting used to the added weight was tough. I'm sure I'll get used to it by the time we open.

After that we got out for dinner early because they had to work with the little boys in the show for their next scene. It was kind of nice to have a longer break because I had school stuff to get done.

After dinner we went into the finale of the show (before Nativity and curtain call, so it's not REALLY the finale but...). We come down on these staircases on the sides of the Rockettes and I lead on. We have certain steps on certain counts we have to be on, and we're high up on the elevated stage, too, so it's difficult. I must have looked so stupid with my head down staring at where I'm walking so I wouldn't fall today, haha. Once we did it a few times it was easier to walk down without dropping my chin, but it will take some more time before I can look out into the audience comfortably while stepping down.

That scene took some time between all the different elements, even though our choreography isn't all that complicated. But once we finished we got to leave early for the night as well (only an hour early, but you would have thought it was the excitement of Christmas morning haha). Still felt like a long day even though it wasn't so much.

Tomorrow I'm sure we'll finish up teching the entire show in the morning. Who knows what the schedule will hold for the rest of the week? We're like a day and a half ahead, so perhaps we'll get to full run throughs? I can't believe how fast this is all moving...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Xmas Tech Day 2: Scary Stage!

If you get into this show, you CANNOT have a fear of heights.

I don't, but even still today was a little...scary!

It's been another 12 hour long day, so blogging will be brief. But we continued on with teching the show today. We started by finishing NYAC (New York at Christmas) and at the end, we all come in for a reprise on the "choral stairs" which line the walls of the audience. They start kind of by the 2nd mezzanine and head down to the stage, and we walk down and sing very quickly. Better not trip or I'm in trouble, haha.

That was not the worst of the heights.

We went into our big Santa Clause dance after that, which, until today, has been my favorite. Then I found out the stage actually rises up and down WHILE we dance. I knew the turntable would be moving, but raising the elevators? Eek! They did it very safely, of course, so we could all get used to the feeling of it all. But standing and just feeling the motion and actually dancing and seeing your eye level shift by the second are two different things.

Since I'm in the front line, there's like a huge cliff right in front of me as I do this jolly Santa choreography and jumps and stuff. And it rises during a jumpy step, so it's like that feeling when you're in an elevator and you jump and the floor hits you too soon. Takes some getting used to.

Then the's fun once you get used to it, but it actually moves quite fast. Faster than I was expecting anyway. And unfortunately it isn't fool proof and it doesn't always make it exactly 360 degrees back to where it started, so the lines on the stage don't come back to normally straight, so spacing is so hard. Ugh!

After running it a few times we finally all got used to it a bit, but I know for at least the first few weeks of shows I'm going to be on edge (pun intended). When our cast finished and went out to watch the other group I felt that nervous shaky feeling. I wasn't really scared by that point, but it's just this state of hyper-awareness.

Once that was over the rest of the day seemed like a breeze. We got around to starting one other number and then called it a night at 10pm.

Tomorrow we're there all day yet again. No complaints here. It's really nice that they're going so fast (we'll probably finish blocking the whole show tomorrow - 3 days for the whole Spectacular!) but the unpredictability of the schedule means a lot of sitting and waiting around. Ah well, after we finish the show we'll be in full run throughs by Friday!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Xmas: Discounted Tickets

Hi all,

Just FYI, if you're interested in coming to see the Christmas show I found out I get discounted orchestra seats.

My show schedule, again, is here. Shows start November 7! Regular tickets here.

For the discount, seats are right dead center in the orchestra in row WW (perfect view!). Throughout all of November and the first week of December (til 12/5) these tickets are only $36. However every weekend for the whole run they go up to $105. Through December during the week they are $72. Normally these seats sell for $172 every show.

If you're interested in coming at the discounted rate, LET ME KNOW asap via email (taylorjgordon (at) gmail (dot com).

I need to turn in a form at least a week in advance with credit card information for payment.

I also get to give backstage tours :)

Off to prepare for a full week of stage rehearsals!

Xmas Tech Day 1: Onstage!

Remember when I said I would love to live at the Metropolitan Opera House and just be a permanent resident of the theater?

Well, I'd like to make an amendment to that: I would LOVE to live at Radio City Music Hall, and I get to do pretty much just that for the next 12 weeks!!! (No, not live there, but spend the majority of my life there, haha)

Yesterday was our first day of tech at the theater, and WOW. I've only been in the house once when I was really young and we came to see the Christmas show on vacation. It looked like I remembered it, but bigger. That place is huge. The Met is big, but Radio City is a lot wider and the audience set back far away from the stage. It's amazing.

When I went to the stage door I saw people putting up the Christmas trees along the Radio City marquee, only to find the exact same image as the backdrop onstage in the theater! It's the background for our New York at Christmas scene, but it was such a classic moment to see it like that ironically.

I signed in and made my way to the house before I actually got to go onstage, so my moment of shock was more entering the audience and looking up rather than when I finally got to step onstage.

At noon we had "safety orientation" for all the new people to the show to teach us about backstage and such. As we filed into the audience to wait for the stage managers to talk, every person who walked in had the same open-mouthed, eye-widening expression as they saw the theater. What a view.

The stage managers spoke to us briefly about the basic safety rules (no running ever, be aware of all the flying set pieces, stay still if the stage elevators move unexpectedly!) and then we went on a full tour of the whole backstage area - the wings, the stage, the quick change spaces, the basements underneath the stage where all the animals stay and where the elevators drop (the stage itself is made of 4 elevators that go 20-something feet below ground to load scenery and 16 or so feet above the stage). Then we got to go to our dressing rooms, which are quite big compared to past dressing rooms I've been in. It's nice because there's plenty of room for everyone, especially when there will only be one cast a time there.

Then we went back into the house to get ready for rehearsal. We were only scheduled to block and space out Nutcracker all afternoon and be finished by 4pm, but Nutcracker went fast! They are way ahead of schedule, and as we were advised earlier, the schedule can change minute by minute, so we ended up staying til 10pm last night!

Staging Nutcracker was fun but tough. I had to get readjusted to the numbers and lines and spacing and everything, even though it was technically set up the same as how we had it at the studio. All the Nutcracker scenery was there for us, too, which added the next layer. The other "ballerina bears" and I come out of this big blue gift box center stage, and we had to practice the actual opening of the box. I'm in the middle and the other 2 girls are on the doors that open, so when it goes it SHAKES a lot. I have to stand strong in b-plus as I shake with the box and then step down and find my center again to actually dance. The first time it was bit like, woah, but I think I'm getting used to it. It'll be even harder with the bear head I'm sure!

Once I got over that first entrance everything was great. I'm dancing Sugar Plum center stage at Radio City Music Hall! It felt so so SO good to be back on a real's been a while. I'm so at home there.

After Nutcracker we had to wait around until they needed us again, which turned out to be not until after dinner. So we sat and watched the Rockettes tech for a good 2 hours and then had our dinner break. Of course it was pouring rain by that time, so I just ran quickly to grab a salad and ate in the dressing room.

After dinner we moved on to New York at Christmas and stage almost the whole thing. We weren't supposed to do this until Monday, so we are way ahead of schedule. I think this is the first tech situation I've been in that has ever not been behind schedule, nevermind ahead. I guess after 76 years they have it down pat.

The rest of the evening went smoothly with much less sitting around and much more stage time. We got to see the ice skating rink come up on the stage elevator and ice skaters finally do their real routine (very cool) and we got to use our real props (a camera that really flashes, haha).

It was a LONG day (10 hours there) but time kind of stops when you're in the theater. It's dark all day long and you forget that there's real life going on outside, haha. I felt a little bad because I was supposed to go review ABT last night at City Center since we were supposed to end at 4pm, but I suppose I'd rather be onstage myself than watching others (haha). No, seriously. I was dead by the end of the night, but it was so worth it. I love being onstage and the thing is, most of the time in the past when I've been lucky enough to perform at big theaters like that, I've been a background person or a corps member standing on the side or a kid in a minute-long dance. Now, I'm really really dancing. And it feels really really good.

Friday, October 24, 2008

my new favorite quote + studio newsletter

In doing a bit of Rockette research for my recent post on The Winger tonight I came across this line in a New York Times music review of the Christmas show, and it is officially my new favorite quote ever.

"The Rockettes dance the American dream in wondrous synchrony — row upon row of long legs and glittering teeth. As an anti-depressant they could put Zoloft out of business." -Bernard Holland, NYT 12/24/07

In the next paragraph he cringes at our Nutcracker bear scene (understandably...), but it's a fun article anyway.

Other NYT articles I came across of interest:
*What the Rockettes Want for Christmas: Respect
*History, Sure, But Add More Sequins
*A Nimble 75 Year Old Gets a Little Nip and Tuck

In other news, my old studio's newsletter that I write and put together is now posted online here if you care to take a look.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Xmas Rehearsal Day 11: Team Spirit!

Today was amazing.

It was our final day of rehearsal in the studio at the church before tech starts (tomorrow in general, but Saturday for us). We had a full run through nonstop of the show for each cast while the other cast watched. What fun!

First of all, yesterday at the end of rehearsal our cast, named the Blue Cast (the other is Gold), decided that we would all get together for our last day and all wear blue. So today everyone came in with blue leotards and shirts and so forth. Hooray for team spirit! I wore my favorite blue leotard and it was fun to see everyone all together like that - like school spirit. The energy was so positive with the group as a whole, way more so than the workhorse nature of the past 2 weeks. It was great. The other cast had the same vibe, but they had a group cheer for their cast, haha. Rockette cheerleaders. Throughout the two run throughs everyone was SO supportive of each other, cheering each other on and giving a standing ovation at the end. The directors even commented at the end of the day on how well we all worked together. They were pleased with the day (despite giving pages and pages of correction notes) and think we are ready to hit the stage. Just before we left for the day the big director made a comment while "almost getting weepy": "All your hard work and how much you genuinely love what you do is really showing through. What you created in this basement is truly incredible." Aw.

Our cast went in the morning, and the "show" went well. I felt good about it, and I enjoyed it much more having an audience beyond the 4 dance captains staring us down in search of mistakes, haha. Even though it was only the 50 or so members of the other cast watching (crammed in a 2 foot space along the mirrors up front!) it was great because it made me "perform" more.

At the end, everyone stood up and was clapping wildly - both casts. It was this incredible moment of satisfaction and excitement and energy and gratitude and joy and teamwork. You give so much while dancing, and those moments of actual performance are sublime. Your mind goes blank and your body takes over and it's pure movement and music radiating from inside.

But that moment immediately when it's over. At least, today, anyway. Maybe it's the adrenaline or the shakiness of muscle fatigue or the sake of being so very in the moment. But there is no feeling like that. Today I wanted to close my eyes and stop time and just savor those seconds of incredible happiness. I haven't felt it like that in so long, if ever, to that extent. Nothing else but performance can do that, to me anyway.

The clatter of applause drowns out all noise and time freezes with a smile, and then the warmth of joy melts you back to reality. Fulfillment and emptiness coexist. You have everything and yet gave it all. A few minutes later that moment is gone, forever. Ephemeral. I can only imagine what it will be like experiencing this moment ONSTAGE at Radio City Music Hall with 6,000 people clapping. I can't believe the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Xmas Rehearsal Day 10: Piece It Together

Today was a LONG day.

In the morning, we ran through the entire show with the whole cast. Stopping to piece everything together, it was tough but exciting to see everything starting to come together even more. It was our first time to see all of the Rockette numbers, including Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and the tap-intensive 12 Days of Christmas. Those girls are a-ma-zing.

After lunch we continued to run through things and go through pages and pages of notes and corrections. At 5pm everyone but us in the ensemble called it a day, and we continued to clean through different dances.

So we got out at 6pm, which was the time I was supposed to be 20 blocks south at school for a midterm exam. I RAN out of rehearsal and luckily hopped in a cab right away but rush hour traffic made me late, of course. The actual exam didn't start til a bit later so I only walked in on a lecture. With my brain half in Christmas dance land and half in memorizing accounting terms for my test, I was a bit of a mess, haha. Perhaps not the most effective way to go into an exam. Usually people prefer a clear mind and a full stomach. But I actually felt okay about the test (thanks to a crash study session last night) and finished way early.

AND, being the crazy overachiever that I am I decided that since I finished with lots of time to spare I'd run and try to make it to ballet class at 7:30. Unable to get a cab (which probably would have taken longer anyway) I literally sprinted across town and made it with 5 minutes to spare before plies :) Haha. I'm glad I went though. My body goes from sooo warm to sooo cold during rehearsal when we dance and sit and dance, and working through barre and class actually makes it feel better. I think that's why I haven't been nearly as sore as I expected to be (thus far...knock on wood).

Anyway, tomorrow is another long day of rehearsal plus school at night, but no exam. In the morning, we're doing a full run through without stopping so it will feel like a real show. Yay! And I believe in the afternoon we'll get to watch the other cast run it through. It's our last day of rehearsal in the studio!!!!!!!!!! Gosh this is going by fast. Theater on Saturday!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Xmas Rehearsal Day 9: Blind Ballet

For the first half of today's rehearsals we were at the theater in the rehearsal hall there rather than the church we've been at all this time. Why? To do Nutcracker in our fabulous bear suits!

I walked down the hall to get to the room we're supposed to wait it and found puffy bear heads and big fat furry bodies lining the walls. I wanted so badly to take a picture of all the costumes - it was QUITE a sight - but I couldn't get my camera out fast enough before people started putting them on. I'm sure there will be more opportunities...

Before we actually got into the costumes they took us all in the studio to sit in a circle and have a "bear zen moment" to prepare for what was to come. I was a bit nervous about actually dancing in the head, but they made it seem like much more of a big deal, haha. We're all sitting there in the lotus pose "becoming one with our bear suit" and they're telling us it's totally okay to "have a moment" if we freak out inside the head or something because it takes some getting used to. I was more nervous AFTER this scene than before, haha, but it actually wasn't quite so bad.

They went slow so we could try to feel our spacing with our vision impaired. I swear, it's like dancing ballet blind. I don't think I would have given it a second thought if I didn't have pointe shoes on, but because of the turns and such we do and the way the head works it throws me off. Way off! By the end I finally started to feel my "bear center," haha.

It's hard because there's no peripheral vision so you can't see the other dancers around you, except of course in the mirror, which I was relying a little too heavily on. The way we see through the bear's mouth, you have to make an effort to look out rather than getting stuck inside the head (and hence listening to your own loud breathing rather than the music) and I'm afraid onstage looking out all I'll see is blackness, haha. I'm sure it will get better.

Anyway, besides the head, the costume itself is HOT. After we do like 1 step it feels like a sauna in there. Ick. Luckily in the real thing we're only in it for 7 minutes of Nutcracker onstage. But trying to move with it on and carrying that mega wand and moving around, my arms were SO sore by the end of the 4th hour. Ouch.

After our dinner break, we were back at the regular studio and we did a run through of our entire show, with just us in the ensemble. Doing everything back to back like that was tiring but it seemed like so much less work than all the effort we spent learning everything. Someone calculated something like 60 hours of rehearsal thus far for 23 minutes onstage. Wow. Of course it's necessary, but the show itself goes by really fast. Tomorrow we do the full show run through with the whole cast so I'm sure that will drag it out better.

Once we ran through the whole thing we got notes and went through to clean stuff, spending a lot of time on our Central Park dance. There's one time we break and stand on the sides to watch the ice skaters do their thing in the middle, and we're supposed to "be in love" with our partner. After the first run, the dance captains made everyone laugh by saying that my partner and I looked like we were so not in love and that we were "the shy couple."

How do I put this...I'm not the most physically affectionate person in general, so to "be in love" does not come naturally, haha. Luckily my awesome partner helps me out and after the next run through the dance captain was like, "Wow, I think Taylor might actually like Wes!" and everyone laughed. Ah, well. I'll improve. :)

It was a long day and tomorrow is another long one 10am-6pm plus a midterm at school immediately after (um, at 6pm...oops gonna be late) as is Thursday. Luckily it looks like we may have Friday off completely while the Rockettes start tech, so I can catch up on the rest of my life. I'm in no hurry for that, though. I love living in Radio City land :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Xmas Rehearsal Day 8: Welcome to AGVA!

Today was an exciting day at rehearsal because we had a meeting about joining the AGVA union, finally.

I was surprised to see how many people were new to the union. They basically gave us all the information we need about paying our induction fee and then how much our semiannual dues are going to be (expensive but well worth it). Then they gave us insurance information and so forth...

It was great though, because after rehearsal I went to take class and for the first time I got to pay the union rate by showing my brand new AGVA card :) I saved myself a whole $3 tonight. Yes! Haha but it adds up with the number of classes I take per week! And the other benefits of being in the union are good as well, of course.

Rehearsal itself wasn't too tough today. We had a shorter day, and just ran through a big chunk of the show in order. We went from the Santa number through a scene Santa himself does with the young boys, and then into our "magic parade" thing. I like that we keep building on what we have because every time we work with more of the show it feels more real. There's one part after our last dance where the older young boy starts to sing about finally believing in Santa and in magic and so forth, and all 4 times we ran through it today I almost started tearing up. This is all still unreal.

Anyway all night I went to class and my other rehearsal for Giselle stuff. It's a bit strange - my body is more sore after 3 hours of strict ballet class than it is after 8 hours of rehearsal for the show. Hmm.

Anyway, tomorrow we rehearse at the theater but not actually onstage. We're there because we're doing Nutcracker IN our bear costumes...I'm a little scared! Seriously, when I tried it on it was like dancing with your eyes closed. Eek...

Oh we also got our tentative tech schedule, and we start onstage this Saturday!!! I can't wait to get on that stage. They're going to need to stop everything and just let me stand there and look out into the empty house for a few minutes to take it all in. Luckily we have a "stage orientation" thing before we actually dance Saturday morning, to teach us about the safety issues of all the crazy backstage things that fly around and so forth. Very exciting.

On top of all this, I have a midterm exam Wednesday night, another midterm paper due Thursday, another exam next week (which, um, I might have to reschedule because of tech?), and several reviews/articles that need work.

Better get to bed to prepare for it all!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Xmas Rehearsal Day 6&7: An Update from Last Week

Finally have 2 seconds to sit and update about all of last week's rehearsals.

Since my posts last week were vague and rushed, I'll start with Monday...

MONDAY 10/13

For the first hour of rehearsal I had a costume fitting scheduled and I was concerned because I thought I'd be missing choreography, but it turns out the part they were working on for that time period is a part I'm not it. It's the beginning of the big Santa dance (the section in the video in another post where they all come out from blackness) and my spot in the cast doesn't enter til everyone joins in together.

So I went for my costume fitting at the theater this time. It was for my fabulous ballerina bear costume, and oh my goodness, I could barely see a thing with it on! I see through the mouth but it's very hard to see out...I'm going to be like dancing on pointe with my eyes closed practically! I have new respect for those theme park people who wear those kinds of costumes all day long...although they don't do it in pointe shoes ;)

Anyway I tried that on and then I had yet another costume (I lost track of how many now...I think it's 7 for the whole show?). This one is for when we are people on the streets of New York before the Rockettes do their dance on the sightseeing tour bus. I'm a "preppy girl" and it's actually a cute little skirt and sweater outfit. I have to change in and out and back into that oufit VERY fast, as I learned later.

So anyway, Monday after my fitting I headed back to rehearsal and we did the full Santa dance with the Rockettes and all. I think of all the many dances I'm in, that one is my favorite even though you won't be able to pick out which of the 48 Santas is me for most of the time. It's VERY aeriobic, bouncy, jolly choreography - but very fun. At one point we all grab these Christmas bells and luckily my arms have gotten used to ringing them repeatedly so my forearms are no longer burningly sore like last week.

After dinner that night we learned the traffic scene for before the Rockette tour bus part. It was hard! You'd think walking would be the easiest part of the show, but, um, not. It's a very detailed pattern of where we go and how and so forth. Then at the end of this section is where we sing. Yes, sing. It's called "New York at Christmas" and we had only learned the song quickly last week, so trying to remember the words while learning steps that go with it was a challenge! By now I finally have it down, but that night was a bit confusing!

Later that night I had my usual Monday night rehearsal for the other little student showcase I'm doing in November. Yes, squeezing in a thousand things as usual, haha. But it was good because we finished learning the section of "Giselle" we're performing.


As I'm writing this I'm following along the schedule the gave me because Tuesday seems like so long ago and all the days mesh together, haha. So Tuesday was another 1-9pm day. The first part of the afternoon was spent learning the whole scene we do "in Central Park." On the Rockettes' bus tour they end up in Central Park and we come out and dance. This is also when the ice skaters come out (who we met but have not seen practice yet, ice in the studio hah).

This dance is really fun, too, but it wasn't so much when we were learning it. It's must softer and lighter than the Santa business, but they still want movements sharp and big. Being the ballet bunhead I am it was hard for me to not get too "graceful" with all my steps. This whole section is partnering in heels, which took some getting used to as well. My partner is super nice and understanding of my...insecurity, haha. He's done the show for the past 5 years (!!) so he helped out a lot. By the time we finished learning everything (and the confusing spacing numbers and lines to go with it, like I mentioned last week) it was fun. There are lots of lifts and such. Yay.

Tuesday night we revisited the Nutcracker section and did some cleaning up of details. I was much more comfortable going back over old choreography than racking my brain to learn new stuff. It all fits together and feels more natural once you let it sit in your brain for a few days. After that we learned another song we sing called, "Magic."


Wednesday we continued learning the Central Park piece and the reentrance we make to sing again at the end of the scene (back in "preppy girl" costume). Then we started yet another new number. It's the part where we come on as Santa's Helpers at the North Pole, and we dance with...a pole. Haha, it's like a giant candy cane thing with a glowing globe at the top. And, like the other props, it is HEAVY. And tall and awkward. Again, now after doing it for a few days it feels much better, but at the time we learned it, it was a challenge. We do this whole part moving all around the pole and lifting our legs and such, and all the while the cane must stay completely vertical. May sound easy, but when your arms are moving around and your legs are whacking up it's hard to keep that thing straight!

There's also a part where we all make a circle around the elves and hold our canes next to us so the person beside us grabs it as well. Hard to explain (see the video from the other day...) but because of the spacing and safety issues we spent a good hour just on this 16 count circle. Crazy! But it was necessary (a girl got bopped in the nose with a cane once!).

After dinner we learned the other half of this scene. We come in as if it were a parade of Santa's Helpers, and me and one other girl sit on this giant cart that is wheeled out. The rest of the cast stayed in one studio to learn the parade choreography while two of us went with the other dance captain to learn our little part of the cart. We're sitting down so it's mostly arm movements and little kicks. Kind of cute :)

The rest of that night we learned our third and final song called, "Shine," a tune that I could NOT remember for the life of me until we finally put movement to it on Thursday.


Thursday afternoon we continued with the "Magic" parade stuff. This time we actually got to sit on the real cart that they pull out. It's fun! It's high up and then we get lifted off by two of the guys. At least this is another time you can pick out which tiny person I am on the huge stage, haha.

After we learned the rest of it the other cast members in the scene came to join in. This would be Santa, Mrs. Clause, and the boys who are in the show (characters names are Ben - little boy - and Patrick - preteen boy who doesn't believe in Santa). It was fun to have them in the studio too, because it finally started to feel like a show with more than just us in it. The guy who plays Santa is so great! He has the perfect Santa voice (see NBC youtube video) and apparently has been doing this for years. The little boys were cute, too. One of them was SO little! It must be so exciting for him to be in this...although I'm sure my childish excitement is equal.

Thursday night we learned the finale of the show, where we sing that song, "Shine" we learned the night before. It's not really a dance piece. We stand on the choral stairs onstage as the Rockettes dance, and we kind of clap and sing and move our arms. It's a nice peaceful finale, though.

The rest of the night we went back and cleaned up the "Magic" sections we learned before.

FRIDAY 10/17

The day we finished learning the show! It was an exciting moment.

In the morning we started with the Nativity scene. I'm a shepherd, so I don't really do much. Nobody actually does much in this scene, but it is very powerful. I kneel looking up at an angel at one point with 2 other shepherds (and their sheep. I don't actually have a sheep but they have real ones!) and then I sit on the big rock with "Mary" and "Joseph" as all the kings and so forth come in. I have to say, it was a nice break to just learn to sit for an hour and a half on a Friday morning :) haha

After that we learned the curtain calls with the full cast. This was great because it was the first major time we heard the "singers" do their thing, and oh my goodness, they are AMAZING! Everyone was like cheering them on rather than taking our bows, haha. They're great. Our bows are, you know, bows. We sing again at the end.

In the afternoon we ran through the full "New York at Christmas" scene, including the Rockettes on their tour bus (or the fake set they use for rehearsal). Wow! This was the first time we saw the Rockettes actually dance all together like that in the studio and, just, wow. They are wonderful. This was another moment where I was like, oh my gosh, I can't believe I'm actually a part of this show. I am SO LUCKY. SO much.

I was so impressed I nearly missed my own entrance to dance, haha. Let's hope that doesn't happen onstage. Although I'll be in a quick costume change any time they dance so I should be okay.

After that we went through Santa again, repeatedly, to the point where we were all beat red, breathing hard, and shaking with exhaustion, haha. Wow, those dance captains can work us hard. It was so fun though.

After that we did Nutcracker again, this time with the girls who play Clara. One of them I know from taking class, and the other is SO tiny! Wow, fierce little things they are. They are lucky, too. Anyway, we learned our bows for Nutcracker and, at 5:42pm before we called it a week, we finished learning the entire hour and a half production of the Radio City Christmas Show. It only took one week.

One week, lots of sore muscles, lots of coffee, and lots of smiles from me :)

I am SO happy, if I haven't mentioned that before.

Anyway, I took class after all that on Friday night and felt wonderful, but Saturday during class I felt the tiredness sink in. I was better today, though, when I had a private class with my usual teacher (who took no pity :) The rest of today was spent doing a midterm paper for school that's due tomorrow that I hadn't had a spare second to start. Luckily I finished it, but I have 2 more exams this week on top of rehearsals. No worries...these are the best few months of my life.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Morphoses Review Posted

My review from last week's performance of Morphoses at City Center is finally. up. Read it here.

I saw San Francisco Ballet this afternoon, so that review is to come.

Must work on midterms for school tomorrow but I'm hoping to find a moment to blog about the past few days of Radio City rehearsals...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Xmas Rehearsal Day 4&5: Getting Harder...

Wow, this week is going by fast and I feel like I've been dancing literally nonstop. I love it though.

I had another very long day yesterday and today, so blogging will be minimal until I have (little) time on the weekend.

Monday we went over the "Santa" number, then learned this scene that's like traffic on a New York City street (before the Rockettes come in on the 'tour bus' which is very cool).

(go about a minute into this video and that's when we come out)

Yesterday we learned the rest of this "New York at Christmas" scene, where we are dancers in Central Park. It's a lot of partnering, waltz-y type choreography- very pretty. We also ran through Nutcracker again last night and clarifies more details, if there could be any more!

Today we ran through the NY @ Christmas full scene with the singing ensemble as well. There are about 6 singers that join us onstage at different points (and we sing as well...hah...). Luckily the choreography felt more natural today after letting it sit (and writing it down) overnight.

After that we started to learn a new piece - the part where we open as Santa's Helpers in the toy shop ebfore the Rockettes do the famous Rag Doll number. We have these huge candy cane things to work with, and it's tough to keep them straight, literally. And, like the other props we've worked with, they are HEAVY. My arms and back are burning tonight. Also my thighs, because during this part me and 1 other girl come in on this wagon thing sitting, leaning back, kicking our legs. Hello abs!

(go about a minute and 5 seconds in and we are those people with the lighted poles, haha)

Anyway more details to come probably Sunday when I might have a spare moment. Rehearsal all day tomorrow and Friday, Saturday I'm reviewing 2 performances in 1 day and taking class, then Sunday I also have a private with my regular ballet teacher. PLUS I have 2 midterm exams next week and 2 more on the way shortly. It never ends!

I've never been happier though. I want this to go on all year long!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Xmas Rehearsal Day 3: NY @ Christmas

Between rehearsals and taking class and a different rehearsal, I've been in or around a studio for 12 hours today. Therefore, serious blogging must wait til the morning since I don't have rehearsal til 1pm tomorrow.

But it was another good day of rehearsals today. We started the opening of the number called, "New York At Christmas" where the Rockettes are on the NYC tour bus. We start as people on the street with these intense walking traffic patterns and such. Details to come...also had another costume fitting for my fabulous ballerina bear suit and such.

I must get to sleep immediately as I just got home...details in the morning or perhaps late tomorrow night after rehearsal ending late again.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Xmas Rehearsal Day 2: Here Comes Santa

Just when you think it can't get any better.

Yesterday I found out I was a ballerina "bear."

Today, I found out that I am Santa Clause!

Oh man, it is amazing. For this big number called "Here Comes Santa Clause" there are 48 of us dressed as Santa (us in the ensemble plus the Rockettes) all dancing in unison for a LONG time. We spent the entire day learning just part 2 of this huge dance.

First of all, it was neat to finally see the actual Rockettes in person. They're not all as tall as they're cracked up to be, haha. But indeed, taller than me.

So yes, for this dance there are 6 lines of 8 people and lucky me I get to be in the front line on the end on stage left (right if you're in the audience). We may all look exactly alike in our big red suits and beards, but at least for part of the dance you may be able to find me knowing that, haha.

In this dance there is a lot less moving around in terms of spacing, so the number/color business that threw me off so much yesterday (read yesterday's post) wasn't as much of an issue today. Plus I'm just getting used to being aware of that kind of spacing. What DID throw me and all 48 of us off in this number is the EXTREME detail described for every single movement. If I thought ballet teachers were picky about detail, that is nothing compared to this. Everything from where your eye focus is to lining up your fingernail to the tip of you ear when pointing, to the angle of a flat back. Wow!

Catching the actual (jolly, jaunty) choreography with the intense details on top was another mind/body boggle challenge again. But when we do it repeatedly and it finally gets into your body, and we try a full sequence with the music and you get it right, it's like, oh my god this is so great! What a feeling! Several times I caught myself just smiling automatically for the joy of the movement, something that happens very rarely in ballet class.

One important thing I forgot to mention yesterday is that we have live music during rehearsal. Not just a pianist playing the main beat, but a whole drum/symbol set and keyboard and such. It's so cool and it gives such a different energy to the room with real music. The drums just drive you when you're tired after 6 hours.

Back to the mind bending choreography - one section of this dance goes into a Busby Berkley -esque scene where we get on a big spin table that rotates the stage and do lots of hand things that give an optical illusion type thing. We're holding Christmas bells the whole time (heavy prop number 2, almost more difficult to maneuver than yesterday's massive wand). It's all in patterns of when your arms go up or out or side or whenever and every person is different, so it got so confusing! During my lunch hour I got my Jamba Juice and sat in the park writing numbers and movements so I'd remember my patterns. By the end I finally got it, but I hope I remember next week, haha.

Anyway, we finished this part of the dance and it's actually really fun even though it's very aerobic - and will be more so in a fat Santa suit! Today we had the 2 casts in separate rooms, so unlike yesterday where we had a few minutes downtime here and there while the other cast used real spacing, today we were on the floor ALL day. We had our AGVA call out breaks on time like yesterday, but besides that we were up and on the whole time.

By 5pm when we had vocal rehearsal I was relieved, even though singing is my least favorite thing!

Oh speaking of least favorite things, part of the Santa choreography is the Shim Sham, a tap step that I simply cannot do! I haven't taken tap in years and even then it was like BASIC basic. Here I am doing tap steps with the Rockettes behind me. Uh oh, haha. I finally got the rhythm of it after many attempts but...this show is certainly teaching me a lot in only 2 days!

Anyway, back to singing. They gave our last hour of the day over to the music director of the show to learn the song, "New York at Christmas." Another skill I lack besides tapping that I should have: reading music.

The song is pretty short and not that hard to sing, but because it's an original song for the show and I've never heard it it was hard to learn the pitches by just looking at the paper. Eventually we dissected each phrase and the notes and such and I got the tune, but...yeah another thing on the to do list after this show: learn to sing and read music, haha.

I hummed it all the way home so I would remember the notes if not the lyrics just yet. Even though I was tired I refreshed myself with a shower before heading to ballet class at 7:30. Yes, only the insane dance MORE than necessary. I actually had a really good class, though, and felt more energized rather than less after giving so much all day. It's a great feeling.

Now class is over, my homework of writing down spacing and choreography is complete, and it's time to hit the sack early again. I'm still in the sleeping pattern changing process, so I'm really making an effort to get to bed by 11pm every night (way early for me...) so once shows start I can be bright eyed for a 9am Sunday show every week.

Thankfully the weekend is quiet. Just taking class tomorrow as usual, and Sunday celebrating a friend's birthday. Then back to the Christmas grind next week. I can't wait!

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!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Tomorrow's the day :)

I'm SO ready to start rehearsals. I have my favorite leotard picked out, and my shoes all packed, and my alarm set to give me time for a Starbucks stop before the big day. Can't wait!

I'm there 10-6 (oof) tomorrow and will do my best to update tomorrow night. Better get to bed early.....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

so long, internship!

I don't think there has been one time in my life where I felt like I was making a sacrifice of "real life" conventions for my love of dance. Of everything I've given up (real high school, real prom, in some ways real college...) I have no regrets, and today was no different.

I spent my last day at my new internship today - new being the ironic word, haha. I've been there 3 weeks and last week had to share with them my exciting news about Radio City, which meant I'd have to leave. It was in the publicity department at a major book publisher owned by Barnes & Noble. Not exactly what I want to be doing in publishing eventually (magazines are more me than books, and editorial is my niche rather than publicity) but it was a really great opportunity. I'm very thankful for the short time I spent there, and I did learn a lot. But I was so ready to say goodbye tonight and say hello to rehearsals on Thursday!

Over the past week or so I've tried to take care of all pending responsibilities so that I can give the show my complete focus come Thursday. For the most part, I've done that. Obviously I still have school to worry about but besides that, most everything is ready for me to get dancing!

I really can't wait for Thursday morning when we start. I've been told our first day is to learn the "Nutcracker" section, so at least that's up my alley, haha. I am actually starting to get a bit nervous for it all though...I was looking through the cast list and many of the other dancers are way older and WAY more experienced (some were in Movin Out on Broadway, one is a beauty queen, many have nearly 10 years on me!) but I'm sure I'll deal. Once I get into the swing of things the nerves will's more excitement than stress anyway!

Monday, October 6, 2008


This morning I headed out to Queens to pay a visit to the Radio City costume warehouse for my fitting. Exciting!

One of the first things that caught me so off guard with this whole Radio City business is that I can get exactly what I want. No, seriously!

What I mean is, starting with my pointe shoe order, they asked for every specification possible that I wanted for my shoes. I've always been a "go with the flow" kind of person. I grew up just going with whatever option was there, never thinking twice about wanting something bigger or better or whatever if it caused extra trouble. In my performing experiences, same thing: whatever size is available, I'll make it work. Share costumes with the other cast? No problem, I'll adjust. No more small hats? I'll bobby pin a bigger one.

Here, I get what I want! It's throwing me for a loop, haha. They ask me certain things and I want to say, oh, whatever you have is fine. But they need an exact answer, haha. And today, at my costume fitting, I had three dressers pinning and poking and prodding for an hour to make sure all of my costumes fit to a T. No wonder show biz folks become spoiled divas!

Anyway, I tried on all of my costumes (except for whatever my 'nutcracker' costume will be...I'm guessing a bear suit...) but everything is SO cute! I love them all and can't wait to actually dance in them. One that's particularly great...

A Santa Fat Suit (ohhh yes)

Friday, October 3, 2008

my ABT review for Pointe Mag

A while back I was asked to write a review of ABT's full spring season for Pointe Magazine. I found out later that due to space issues in print, my article would appear online. And since it wasn't supposed to be printed until the October/November issue, it just NOW became available online.

Read it here.

While I'm always thrilled for the exposure of my writing no matter what, I don't know if it's the smartest move on the magazine's part to delay reviews like this so much. Being a bi-monthly publication, I imagine it's difficult to find ways to maintain reader interest during the off times (movmnt does this well). All those dance magazines are definitely making an effort with their new video channel, but is waiting 3 months to post a now-outdated review really necessary? It's not just mine...a review of the Kirov from April wasn't posted til August, and so on. I'm just curious what the reasoning is behind this, given the developing nature of the internet and the immediacy of the other bloggers...

On the plus side, the new print issue looks great! It's their higher ed issue, an important one.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

xmas on youtube

I almost teared up when I found these - and I NEVER cry. I am SO happy.
Nutcracker is the 3rd one...looks like there are 3 Sugar Plum's on pointe...