Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Week with ABT's "Corsaire"

(still more to come about this but for now here's an overview...)

What an incredible week this was!

As a super in ABT's production of "Le Corsaire" at the amazing Metropolitan Opera House, the week was a taste of the glamorous life I (and so many other bunheads) have always aspired to. That stage! Those dancers! That music! Those costumes! (Read the Times review here. Tonya writes about it here, here, and here.) And see my pictures here.

After "auditioning" last week I was certainly excited to be back on a big stage (dear Radio City, how I miss you...). But what I had forgotten about enjoying more being a super previously was just being up close with those incredible dancers.

We had a few brief rehearsals the week before, where Associate Artistic Director Victor Barbee taught us when and where we'd be onstage. Though we honestly didn't do much at all, the rehearsal process was fun because Victor would basically do the entire ballet before us by himself, quickly marking through every character's parts to explain to us when to watch for cues and so forth.

But the real fun started Tuesday, when we got to the theater. Having been there before (as a super, and then for a few auditions recently, I made my way straight in through the stage door, to the sign in sheets immediately inside, down the long hallways past the loading dock, and up the super slow elevator to the supers dressing room upstairs. I remember the first time I went back there - how confused and in awe I was at most everything. The confusion had passed this time, but I'll always be in awe of the theater - any theater, really.

I staked out a small corner in the dressing room packed with other supers (servant girls like me, many more slave girls, and quite a few lovely young girls from the JKO school who danced in the 3rd act Jardin Animee scene). Then we went down to the stage for what was a loooooong day of spacing, dress rehearsal, and performance!

The spacing rehearsal was quick, but it was our first chance with the company dancers. It was surprising to see that a lot of them actually marked a lot of steps during rehearsal rather than doing it full out. I'm sure they had to save their energy. The men seemed to mark a lot more than the women. Just an observation.

Anyway soon we were back upstairs and getting into costume for the full dress rehearsal. We had had a costume fitting previously for our rather silly looking servant costumes, but it was our first time seeing the fabulous hats we had to wear! Haha. Oh how I love the flamboyant-ness of stage costumes. It was fun to find a tag inside mine that said it came from Boston Ballet - my home! Although, I don't recall the company ever doing Corsaire while I was in the school there...but maybe I just missed it, haha.

On we went to the dress rehearsal, although very few of the dancers were in costume. What I loved most was the orchestra. I think it's because I have fond memories of being backstage at Nutcracker in Boston and hearing the musicians warm up elegantly in the hallway outside the ruckus of our crowded children's dressing room, but I love love love hearing a live orchestra warm up. And Corsaire's music, though not my favorite ballet music, is beautiful and so very familiar as studio music pianists play during class.

Everything went smoothly in the dress rehearsal, and before we knew it it was time for the first performance! We did have a short break in between, but that day felt like I didn't leave the theater for 24 hours. I told you though, I could live there and be perfectly content. They have a wonderful cafeteria in the basement there for all the dancers, crew, and other employees. It's great and super cheap, haha. Even better than Radio City's basement catering, haha.

Anyway, for every single show all week I stayed in the wings and watch every second of dancing possible. There is so much to learn just from observation, especially with these incredible technicians and beautiful people. After the first performance I realized I was much more concerned with what was actually being done onstage than about getting that "performance rush" kind of thing myself. I hardly noticed the big audience out there at all (except for during bows, when I admit I got a little teary inside wishing it were me haha). When I first stepped on that stage 2 years ago in Romeo & Juliet, it caught my breath. It was the biggest theater I had ever seen - so many ruby empty seats staring back at me. But after being at Radio City for so many shows, I can't say the Met looked small, but it didn't have that same shock value, haha. The dork that I am, I looked it up: the Met seats just under 4,000 people, while RCMH seats about 6,000. Both are just amazing. The Met's audience seems a lot closer to the stage, with the rings extending on the side to almost touch the proscenium. And it appears to go up much higher, with more levels of balconies. But RCMH is a lot wider, I think. And the orchestra seats go back further. That's what it looks like anyway, from the stage(s).

So instead of feeling that great butterfly nerves effect of performing, I was so focused on things behind the curtain (hey, literally all we did was stand and walk, and stand. Not too tough, haha). I loved being able to see the varied casts each night and the differences between their take on the ballet. With ballet tickets costing upwards of $50 these days, that opportunity is not likely to come around again anytime soon. It was interesting - the dancers that I tend to like best as an audience member viewing from afar are not the same ones I like best up close.

The first show was Paloma Herrera, who was just gorgeous. Her lines up close are even more envy-worthy. Besides that though her dancing was pretty much flawless. She and David Hallberg gave a clean, good show, but it was really Daniil Simkin who stole the show. It was my first chance to see the new soloist live, If you haven't seen his videos on youtube, do so immediately. So many of ABT's men can do tricks - incredible, unbelievable tricks - but in Daniil's variation as "Lankendem" each time this week, he showed exactly why everyone's talking about him. He can do those tricks, and more, but when he returns back to earth to land he may as well be coming down on eggshells. He has such a natural ease that when he ends a double tour on his knee it is the most gentle, soft, careful, calm thing I've ever seen. Whereas Angel Corella in his equally incredible Slave solo in act II throws himself with an uncontainable force through every movement, Daniil makes it look effortless. I was in awe, standing there trying to be a still servant girl behind the "pasha" and not applaud right there onstage.

OH speaking of the "pasha," the two men who played this role throughout the week were SO funny! Victor Barbee and Roman Zhurbin had the character down pat, but it was the subtle changes each show that made it perfect (especially for us standing just behind him on his fluffy pillow). I remember when I saw the production last year from the highest balcony I was distracted from the dancing but the overly hilarious pasha on the sidelines, and the same was true up close. It was fantastic. Victor would make these facial expressions, or Roman would swat flies in a confused frenzy. They would toy with the "odalisques," inviting them to sit on their lap, or reaching out for them. When Lankendem gives the pasha Gulnare's yellow scarf, they would toss it around, play hide and seek with themselves, or pretend it was a dress. When they dance with "Medora," they would fall clumsily or use their royal staff to balance extra long. At the last show, Roman used the staff as if he were playing the flute. Needless to say, we CRACKED up. The worst is when you're onstage, trying hard to be serious, and uncontrollably attempting to hide laughter. That makes it worse. Trust me.

The spontaneity and variances of live performance are what made the week most interesting. While most of the other supers in my part went upstairs to chat, eat, or relax, I sat in the stage right wings for the second act when we didn't have to be onstage. How could I not take advantage of seeing every single cast up close in that famous pas de trois between "Condrad," "Medora," and the slave? Wow.

I think the most passionate couple of the week were David Hallberg and Gillian Murphy on Thursday. They seemed so comfortable with each other, so natural in their dancing. Gillian was by far not my favorite in terms of acting, but her successful triple fouettes after her variation made up for it. While watching I tried to study every detail of her turns...I must duplicate in class this week! Haha. It's so easy for her - or it looks to be. Ah and David's gorgeous lines...

Of all the "Medora's" I think Michelle Wiles was my favorite in terms of becoming the character (which is interesting because it was she who I saw dance it last year and, though I reviewed it positively here, left little great impression on me previously. But she really came to life with Cory Stearns as her "Conrad." Xiomara Reyes also had some good acting going on, but I preferred her partner, Gennadi Saveliev, in the role of Lankendem instead.

But by far Irina Dvorovenko gave the most solid performance of the week. Wow! I was really not a fan of her after seeing the Balanchine program last week, but she has immediately become one of my very favorites of the company. She jumps SO high, which really made her variation during the third act Jardin Animee scene stand out from the other ballerinas. She she may have been the only one to cleanly finish those crazy fouettes in act II. Amazing.

At the risk of going name by name down the cast sheet and commenting, I'll stop here. But let me add the Misty Copeland was my favorite Gulnare, Craig Salstein my favorite lead pirate, and a few corps members as odalisques were exceptional (and yet I still don't know everyone's name...many look so alike, even up close!).

Ah, but the last I must mention is the retiring Nina Ananiashvili. She was just wonderful in both her shows this week, and I felt honored just to stand there onstage with her (and all the rest of them!). Her curtain calls after the last performance Saturday night went on forever! Usually I'd be out the door by the time everyone bows, but since we were completely done I had to go get paid (yay, we love that! haha) and so I stayed a few extra minutes in the wings to watch the endless front of curtain bows. That audience loved her. And rightfully so.

How wonderful to be a part of all that. I can't say enough of how grateful I am for opportunities like these, and even though a lot of people see them as little nothings - nobody's watching me, I'm not really dancing, it's a waste of time - I can't help but appreciate every minute onstage, any stage, and especially that stage with those people.

The last time I left that stage 'for good' I wondered if I'd ever be back. Now I just have this hope and feeling that I definitely will be.

The whole week just made me want more of what I'll probably never have. And it really made me remember why I want to do that all day, every day, again. I'm hyper-motivated to get back to class this week and get to work, despite my achilles tendon telling me otherwise. I feel like I've seen so much this week and I want to apply it to myself, work harder, push harder, for what I want. Re-inspired, I guess, is the word. As if I ever lost that inspiration.

Dear Radio City,
Please call to rehire me.

New Movmnt Out

The latest issue of Movmnt Magazine just came out this week.

Be sure to get a copy - it's definitely an interesting edition. Not what you'd expect from a dance magazine. But Movmnt is always on the cutting edge!

I have an article relating to this cool company in it. And they just recently posted my article from the last issue online here.

You can buy the new one at Barnes & Noble or at Universal News here in the city.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

ABT "Corsaire" Pics!

Wow, not having internet or a fully functioning computer makes life reeeeally difficult, especially when you're in the theater all week with little time anyway!

I have yet to write about this amazing week as a super in ABT's Corsaire at the Met, but tonight's our final show! It's been wonderful. Until I write maybe tomorrow, here are some fun pictures from backstage...some were taken just from my cell phone camera so apologies for poor quality, haha. Enjoy :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Studio's Spring Performance

Yesterday my old studio, Ballet Academy East, had their annual spring performance at the Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College. What I love (now as an audience member, and before while dancing there myself) about the school is its professionalism, particularly when it comes to performing. Every student looks their best, all appear well prepared, the stage is beautifully set, and costumes truly complement choreography.

The weekend’s four performances featured varied casts for the highest level roles: the leads in Balanchine’s “La Source,” NYCB principal Jonathan Stafford’s new ballet “A Simple Assortment,” and the ever-entertaining excerpts from “Don Quixote.” Rotating amongst the challenging choreography were 3 former classmates: Katie Kim, Chloe Sherman, and Alissa Stover. I shall not “review” with my personal bias, but suffice it to say that all are lovely in whatever task they tackle.

Katie’s sheer natural strength marks every role she takes and was best suited to the quick musicality of Balanchine’s sweet pink work. In cotton candy like, floppy tutus she and the corps used stellar technique to show off the real beauty of the choreography. The images that are created with these young able bodies are breathtaking as they weave, twirl, and lean. Having never seen “La Source,” before, I can say these dancers made it one of my new favorite pieces to watch.

Featured in the ballet’s pas de deux on Sunday were Alissa and Alex Castillo. Both worked well together to give a seamless performance. Alissa’s continued assurance through her long variation gave nod to her artistic strengths: her supple, wonderful feet and enviable arabesque line. And Alex marked his variation with such clean beats that almost define the school.

Though I think I would have preferred the casts reversed, with this couple in the more emotional pas de deux of Jon Stafford’s ballet, the two that did have these roles on Sunday were flawless. Chloe and Devon Carbone danced with great connection. The detailed partnering choreography was done effortlessly. Devon’s technique has really blossomed, not only in his work with a ballerina but on his own, which came through in later parts of the ballet. And Chloe has added an emotional depth to her already gorgeous physique.

The one who stole the show, however, in my opinion, was Hannah Marshall in her short solo. Stafford gave her movement that seemed to really express her strengths. What fantastic use of her upper body! She had a special breath through her long limbs, as if aching for something invisible far away from her. Later in the program her fierce technique shone, but here was a real artist. Take note: she’s one to watch!

Also on the program was the annual appearance of Marcia Dale Weary’s traditional ballet, “Un Petit Menuet” for the youngest dancers of the school. In curled braids and classic white, the little ones demonstrated promise and a clear understanding of the basic principles the school teaches: sharp feet, long knees, curved porte de bras a la Balanchine. Somehow this year’s group appeared older, or at least taller, than previous years. I would have liked to see them do more.

For the older levels not yet of age to perform on pointe was awesome faculty member Jenna Lavin’s new ballet “Concerto in F.” Set to Vivaldi, the almost academic piece gave a large group of students a moment to shine. Sweetly musical and like candied mints in green skirts, the dancers certainly showed they’re on their way to good things.

Closing the program was “Don Quixote Suite.” The playful entrance was led by the charming Alejandro Herrera, whose smile immediately brightened the stage with a lovely corps of enthusiastic, clapping dancers. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, dancing their best in the various sections for Flower Girls (Victoria Grempel and Hannah Marshall), Classical Ladies (in particularly beautiful off white/gold tutus courtesy of Louisville Ballet), and Toreadors (how fun this part must be for the men!). But Olivia Lipnick, as Mercedes, was by far the most perfectly cast! Not only did she simply look the part with her dark hair and red lips, but her cast-off flirtation was absolutely spot on. I don’t know if it was intentional or simply natural for her, but I had to giggle at how great it was. Her dancing, as well, was lovely.

The ballet ended with a festive release of confetti from the ceiling, with the dancers circling and dancing happily. It showed the joy they all took in performing, and perhaps their relief that it was all over. Another year complete, another performance down, another curtain falling. Onto the next!

NYCB: Toccata, After the Rain, & Chaconne

New York City Ballet’s Saturday night program was a treat I got to enjoy thanks to friend and fellow blogger Tonya Plank (she writes about the program here. And always nice to see Philip too, who wrote about it here.). I wasn't intending on writing about the program, but I'll make this quick...

The program opened with Jiri Bubenicek’s new contemporary work, “Toccata.” It’s a rather dark, silent, poignant piece with heavy partnering for its various couples. The dancers frequently slide across the stage, outlasting the force of friction in otherwise grounded choreography. A solo for Robert Fairchild is its centerpiece, showing off his exquisite physical control. He has a way of defining intricate movement and making it so organic. Abi Stafford in the main female role seemed well fit to Bubenicek’s vocabulary.

Wheeldon’s 2005 ballet, “After the Rain,” followed. In the first part, three couples dance aggressively. The ladies often stand with their torsos at 90 degree angles, rotating their legs from the floor up to penche arabesque, and back again. The result is like the arms of a clock, though much more refined and shapely are the limbs of the lofty Teresa Reichlen, the feisty Savannah Lowery, and the exquisitely carved Wendy Whelan. It’s interesting to see one of the company’s smallest women dance next to its tallest - a casting choice I’m not sure works to their advantage or not. The obvious distinction only enhances the extremities they each embody.

Part II of the piece is really its heartbeat. The quiet, human pas de deux for Wendy and Craig Hall makes you hold your breath. Out of her gray uniform of part I and into only a pale pink leotard with hair down, Wendy is vulnerable, open, raw. Craig truly complements her with his understated strength. Arvo Part’s hauntingly wonderful music (played well by Jean Ingraham and Cameron Grant on Saturday) seems to slow down the dancers’ reality, making them move in slow motion in a realm all their own.

To end the night, Balanchine’s lovely “Chaconne” offered a chance to see more of the corps de ballet dancers in the spotlight. Saski Beskow and Gwyneth Muller danced the first pas de trois with Ask la Cour, and later in the pas de cinq Stephanie Zungre took center stage with four younger dancers. Erica Pereira has technique for days and whipped off the pirouettes and other feats in her pas de deux with Adam Hendrickson with obvious ease. She is so tiny on the huge State Theater stage, but her smile and lines extend further than some of her lengthier counterparts.

Maria Kowrowski, with all her height, beauty, and clarity, was not at her best in this ballet, for my taste anyway. She could just stand there and look gorgeous. But in so many Balanchine ballets she looks the same to me: just beautiful, articulated legs flying high, feet perfectly placed to make the perfect requisite curved lines of ballet. And nothing more. What makes “Chaconne” different from her other roles in Balanchine’s classics? It might be nice to see her explore subtle differences in her own character onstage.

ABT Does Balanchine

This was a wonderfully busy ballet weekend!

It started Thursday night when I headed to the gorgeous Metropolitan Opera House (it’s been said that I would love to just live there…) to see American Ballet Theater’s first program of their season: Balanchine-Tchaikovsky Spectacular. It’s so good to see something other than a full-length classical ballet on the agenda for the company. We see New York City Ballet dancers all the time in four ballet bills, but to get a taste of ABT’s stars beyond the times they carry a long evening’s show helps to display the diversity and multiple talents of this fantastic company.

“Allegro Brillante” opened the program and was staged by a former teacher of mine, Darla Hoover. Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky danced the leads powerfully, but something seemed to be off despite their flawless technique. Much has been said about “other companies” dancing Balanchine’s ballets. Like when the Kirov Ballet danced “Rubies” last spring, it begs the question, “Do we want to see Balanchine’s ‘Rubies’? Or do we want to see the Kirov doing Balanchine’s ‘Rubies’?” Of course there’s no one way to dance the genius’ luscious choreography, but somehow the interpretation seemed forced on Thursday. Irina had strangely punctuated fingers that almost zapped water from her nails with each calculated stop. And during simple pirouettes from fourth position she seemed to slip back into the Russian style of bending both knees in preparation. The corps de ballet women danced well but only one, Simone Messmer (I think? I should know the corps better...), stood out.

“Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” was only slightly better. Xiomara Reyes and Angel Corella have that very obvious something that sparkles when they step onstage. Angel was particularly cocky, shaking his head smartly during quiet moments in his variation as if to say, “Go on, applaud now. I know I’m great.” Good thing he actually is! Both were at their best during the coda, where Xiomara hauled herself at Angel over and over again in the series of fish dives, gaining guts and height progressively.

“Mozartiana” was the best of the night. Maria Riccetto began onstage amongst four petite primas from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT (one danced Clara in Radio City with me!). Within seconds I fell in love with this ballet and the soft clarity Maria brought to its center. Aaron Scott in the Gigue was playful and technically clean, but Blaine Hoven in his later variation showed crystal clarity in Balanchine’s trusty intricate footwork. Blaine’s musicality in a series of petite allegro that could make any grace flop was spotless. It was as if he drove the tempo, careful not to fall behind.

Finally it was the corps that excelled in “Theme and Variations.” As the curtain rises on the sugary glimmer of pastel tutus one can’t help but be in awe. Balanchine created a true gem for this company with this ballet, and 62 years after it’s premiere it still shines. Yuriko Kajiya danced tentatively after a slight mishap early on, but her performance grew as she went on. Cory Stearns was wonderful throughout, marking the choreography crisply and gallantly.

The evening was merely a sample of the greatness to come with the rest of their Met season. A former Balanchine ballerina told me that this choreographer always wanted dancers who “looked interesting” onstage. ABT certainly has many ballerinas (and oh those men…) of interest coming through the ranks.

(luckily this week I'll get to see them in every performance of "Le Corsaire" from the best seat in the house: onstage!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Are We Human? Or Just Dancers?

(Sometimes when I have so much I have to write, I simply cannot. And then something as simple as a Facebook status sparks my insomnia-time-killing-activity du jour. I don't know if this will make annnny sense when I re-read it in the morning, but for some reason I felt compelled to respond to a question posed by a friend: "Are we humans? Or just dancers?" Feel free to argue. Or just tell me I make no sense at 4am, haha...)

(5:13am update: now that my internet is slowly working I found that the question is actually a quote from a song by The Killers ((ok, I admit my slight pop cultural ignorance...)) that has been debated over whether they're actually saying 'are we human or are we denser?' I don't actually care - it still got me the way some responded to the Facebook question...)

Are we human? Or are we just dancers?

A great person asked this on Facebook recently, only to receive 15 comments romanticizing the idea that dancers are somehow superior to average people: we are “a higher form of humans,” “superheros of the body and spirit,” “maybe ‘hancers’ or ‘dumans.’”

No. Dancers are very, very human.

Dance is primitive. Without language, words, tools, or music, we danced. Does dance not imply the very archaic nature of the human race?

First off, being “just” a dancer is putting it mildly. As artists, technicians, performers, movers, we have a heavy job. It’s like the old adage of having either brains or beauty. The proportion may lean heavier towards one in certain people, but most everyone onstage today is more than “just” an empty dancer body.

That’s not to say a thing about education. Humans are largely uneducated at their primal core. Dancer, scientist, dumbbell, genius – we all have human instincts we cannot deny, both good and bad.

If, as a dancer I were not human, I wouldn’t feel my achilles tendon shredding slowly with every plie, for starters. My back wouldn’t pop, your knees wouldn’t crack, and my teacher’s hips wouldn’t give with years. We would not be bound in a single fragile body, for better or worse. If the young dancer were not human, she would not care that she misses play dates and birthday parties to be at the barre. And we wouldn’t desire to improve, to please, to grow at an expense. But what kind of dancer is that?

Being “just a dancer” would mean a world of perfection. Without humanity there would be no jealousy. No dancers’ arched feet would be enviable, no “trina” too skinny, no attacks to our self-esteem. What self could we know? Casting would not shed a shadow on the underdogs. A faulty performance would be a speck in the glassy sand. A trip onstage would never happen – only humans make mistakes.

Those icons before us would never retire. They would not pass away, involuntarily stealing their knowledge from nourishing young starving artists. Immortality would grace Balanchine, Robbins, Nijinsky, Nureyev, Diaghilev, and so many more.

Your heart would not shudder when Juliet, Odette, or Giselle dies.

My bun would not frizz after sweating at barre. And forget about our animalistic senses. I wouldn’t need eye contact, acknowledgement. Who wants to be able to see that spotlight anyway? I wouldn’t smell those surprise yellow roses at the stage door, or the musk of an old tutu. The dry thirst of grande allegro would quench itself. That blister, the ingrained leotard strap, the stabbing bobby pin, the raw slice of a drawstring, would go unfelt.

And music, unheard?

You wouldn’t rouge like a tomato after doing the wrong step. Smiles wouldn’t be contagious. Though nor would frowns. There would be no voices to drown out. Dancers don’t talk.

We would never be short of breath. We’d have none.

Time off would not be hard to stomach. Digesting artistic meaning would be obsolete. A weightless wonder, we could fly with no impacting burden to our bones. I’d have a better arch. Maybe a sixth toe for stability. And turnout, please.

But no pleasure to be felt with your partner’s touch. You couldn’t bear a little dancer of your own. You wouldn’t want to. You’d dance alone. We would sense nothing of community with those moving around us. No corps. Who needs chemistry in a pas de deux? We would feel no loyalty, trust, appreciation, respect, love for our leaders, our teachers. No admiration. No motivation.

Applause wouldn’t stimulate. Correction would be unnecessary. Comfort wouldn’t be found in the dailyness of class, only robotic repetition. We would be obedient, never questioning how or why. Never innovating.

I wouldn’t tire. I would sleep. Peace should be constant.

The human condition plagues us. Dance is not an antidote. It’s a symptom, our way of coping, our expression of the soul that is the essence of our individual humanness. Why would one classify us as otherworldly, or different? Is it not enough to be human?

The same gifts and hazards that identify a human life, breed a dancer.

If I were not human, my heart would not ache every time the curtain tears closed before my wet eyelashes. I would not love what I do.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Week Ahead

There's lots happening this week, and since my stupid internet (and insomnia, and achilles tendon, and multiple other problems, haha) will likely stop me from posting in detail, I thought I'd quickly mention them here in case people are interested in going!

Tomorrow (Monday 5/18) night two exciting things are happening. Not counting the obvious fact that it's opening night of ABT's Met season.

First off is the new Great Dance Internet - Technology Meetup's first gathering. Organized by friend and fellow blogger Doug Fox, the inaugural event will focus on "Promoting Dance Through Video & the Internet." Several interesting people are scheduled to speak at Cedar Lake's great facility tomorrow at 7pm. Go and report back! I can't make it but I hope to attend future meetups, for sure.

Also tomorrow night is an event at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts: "What I Learned from Balanchine - an Evening with Gloria Contreras." Gloria became an apprentice in NYCB the same year Carol did, and while hearing her name pop up often in our interviews, I did a Google search for her a while back. Keeping with my (strange?) habit/fascination with finding old/out of print/unheard of dance biographies, I was SO excited to find that Gloria had recently published a book herself! I ordered her book immediately and read it cover to cover. Thin and relatively self-observant as it was, I enjoyed it and hearing about her personal experiences learning the craft of choreography under Balanhcine, something few of his dancers set their sights on then. Tomorrow it looks like she'll be reading from her book and speaking more. Interesting!

Speaking of books, I'm going out of chronological order here, but this Friday 5/22 the 92nd Street Y is kicking off a new series: "Dance Books at Noon." I know I'm a dork and there's about a handful of people in the world who care about dance books in particular, but I think this is excellent! I hope it continues, because really there are few press opportunities for dance authors today. We (me being an aspiring, first-timer...) barely have a sizable demographic compared to trade publishing, and to have events like this with the New York dance audience is wonderful! This Friday features Marian Horosko and her book "Dancer's Survival Manual." I'll look forward to seeing who else they feature...

Moving away from my writing obsession and back to the stage obsession, another event this week is a performance by Rebecca Kelly Ballet. I was an apprentice with them last spring (gosh, it seems like forever-ago) and I really admire Rebecca's work. They perform in a studio showing this Wednesday 5/20 at 7pm at City Center's Studio 5.

And then, this weekend is my old studio's annual spring performance. Ballet Academy East's student company is performing excerpts from Don Q and Balanchine's "La Source" at John Jay College 5/22-5/24. Perhaps the most beneficial thing I gained from my two years dancing their was the opportunity to learn and dance Balanchine repertoire. How amazing it was to dance one of the solos in "Raymonda Variations"! Few SCHOOLS have the chance to dance his wonderful ballets, so I'm looking forward to seeing former classmates (and lots of young-ins now grown up!) in another of Balanchine's great works. If you're around, go!

As for me, on top of trying (and likely failing...) to attend some of these fun things, I have work, a few auditions, and rehearsals for my lovely ABT super-ing gig. And hopefully a doctor's appointment or two to check out this darn achilles tendon.


ABT opens their Met season this week. And what does that mean? They're hiring supers!

A super (supernumerary) is basically a walk-on role. Because many of their big ballets have huge scenes with lots of people, to fill up that gigantic, wonderful stage they often use "extras" to walk on or act as small parts like guards, maids, and so forth.

I supered for the company two seasons ago in their Romeo & Juliet (for Alessandra Ferri's farewell performance!) and it was absolutely amazing. I wrote about it here. Not only do you get some cash and a close-up view of those amazing dancers, but, my god, you get to be on that stage. It took my breath away the first time I walked onto it, the same way it did when I walked into an empty Radio City Music Hall last fall.

(as a bridesmaid in R&J 2007)

I'm excited that I get to do it again! This time in "Corsaire," which runs next week, May 26-30 at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Yesterday I went to the "audition," which basically consisted of standing in a line so they could see what roles you look like you might fit. Lucky for us, they need a lot of girls for this ballet. There's a big group of "slave girls," and then there are younger "servant girls" who come out with the Pasha in the ballet. I remember seeing it last year and thinking, "Oh how cute those little girls are. They must be like 8..." Of course, I saw it from like the last row of the very top-most balcony of that huge theater. But, my guess was not entirely off. The casting notice for "servant girls" asks for ages 13-18. I'm 20. They cast me as this. The other two girls with me are ages 11 and 12. Seriously! I cracked up. I know I look young but...

I didn't care, though. I wanted any part! Just to be on that stage again.

After they took us aside and cast the apparently older looking girls as slave girls, we started a brief rehearsal for Act I. Basically, as expected, we come on with the Pasha bowing and skittering across the stage, then we bring on a big pillow for him to sit on. Then we stand. Behind him. For all of act I. Haha. Hey, it's the best seat in the house to watch those variations night after night. Though I'd rather be doing them, haha.

The rehearsal was fun though. ABT Associate Artistic Director Victor Barbee practically performed the entire act for us as a one man show to explain how and when things would happen. Hah! He's great. I believe he is one cast of the Pasha, so I'll see him onstage too.

Anyway. We have two more rehearsals and a costume fitting later this week. Then next Tuesday is dress rehearsal before the first show. Pictures sure to come!

More from my Mom's Recital

I'm SO backed up on life and won't have time to really write about my time visiting home last weekend for my mom's studio's recital. are some more pictures to make up for it!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stupid Internet

I've been having mega problems with my internet connection in my apartment this week - hence the lack of blogging! I have much to update on and will try to find internet time in Starbucks or someplace this weekend, haha.

BUT the highlight of my week is that I finally got organized with things and booked my flight to dance in Austria this summer! I can't wait. Details to come, but if you know of anybody looking for an apartment in the city from July 10- August 10, let me know! Mine's available ;)

Happy Friday, and more blogging to come.

PS- a reminder to New Yorkers that the Dance Parade happens tomorrow! Looks like fun.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day! (+ recital pics)

Happy Mother's Day!

I got to spend Mother's Day weekend with my mom home in Massachusetts helping out with her dance studio's annual recitals. Busy! More details to come (I'm on the bus heading home to NYC now and hope to write more...) but here are a few pictures...

I half-improvised a last-minute solo to Billy Joel's "River of Dreams," (there's an explanation for the song choice...) and then filled in and danced in their opening: it was a medley of songs relating to "jailbirds," so we were all dressed in the black and white typical "jail" outfits. I only came out during "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago, and I did Catherine Zeta Jones' part, haha. It was fun but I had to learn everything super fast the day before performing. Go ahead, laugh at the pictures ;) The black strips were supposed to be jail bars...

ALSO, on Mother's Day I always think of the few very important people who have been 'like-a-mother-' to me, or 'mom-away-from-home.' Thank you! Love you all and mostly my MOM.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Re-Auditions

Monday and Tuesday of this week were like complete deja vu of two of the most exciting days of last year for me: auditions for Radio City. This time it wasn't as stomach-churning - or not in the same way, at least.

Having already done the Radio City Christmas Show I was only required to re-audition by attending the callbacks on Tuesday afternoon, but it was "highly recommended" we attend the full process so that we'd know the audition choreography. Needless to say, I obeyed! Monday morning I got up way early (with little sleep, as usual lately...) and headed down to the theater for audition day one. Of course it was pouring rain and being me, I forgot my umbrella. I had an overstuffed bag with heels, various leotard choices, makeup, multiple pointe shoes, and my show shirt from last year. But, yes, forgot the umbrella.

I arrived on 51st street at 8:30 for the audition beginning at 10am, only to find a line of dancers already waiting. Last year I arrived somewhere closer to 9am but I ended up joining the line almost exactly where I had waited last year. Weird. But there happened to just exactly enough people in line to make my spot be under the Radio City sign overhang. No worries with the rain! I'm telling you, that theater gives me luck (let's just hope it continues that way...).

(forgive the poor quality cell phone pictures!)

I had my usual coffee and muffin in line casually as I eavesdropped on the other dancers: bunheads like me (or how I appeared last year anyway), serious competition girls, fresh high school grads, and other familiar faces all speculating about the day ahead. "I heard they don't hire you if you look young..." "Wait, don't they wear bear costumes?..." "I've auditioned five times and always get cut..." "My friend is a Rockette and she said..." I love people watching and just listening.

By the time they started to let us in around 9am the line was already around the block. Crazy! All I could think was how truly lucky I was to have had the opportunity that this many people were trying for. Even to know I did it once is huge for me. I say this every day, but I am SO grateful.

They gave us wristbands to mark us as "auditioners" and then let us through the stage door and up to the rehearsal hall. So familiar. I felt like I was home. We got up to the holding room (deja vu, again), filled out paperwork, handed in resumes and photos, and claimed stretching space. Luckily since I'm a repeat and an AGVA union member (and an early bird) I got into the first group to audition, but I found out after the fact that I actually could have shown up later and just walked right in and still gone with the first group. Oh well, more prep time.

By the time I put my bag down, went to the bathroom, and returned, you couldn't even see the floor in the holding room. Flailing legs, lipstick tubes, hair straighteners, character heels, and dance bags covered every square inch! I went back to my corner where I left my stuff and literally went under a table to stretch. Hah! The chatter in there was even better than in the line outside. I got to see friends from last year's cast and go over the dance combinations we knew were coming.

At 10am on the dot (they are so wonderful how they work by the clock) the first group of 80 of us went in the studio. The same familiar faces stood at the front of the room, ready to teach and judge us. I wore the same red leotard, black tights, and little black skirt I wore last year, and got myself in the same spot in the front just left of center as I stood last year. If it worked once, I hoped it would work again. Though this time I was prepared with heels (what did the little Taylor of 2008 know about bringing heels to an audition? Stupid.) and not wearing a bun (during show rehearsals they would tease me playfully for never having my hair down. So there you go ;). De-ja-vu.

They taught the combination quickly, but luckily it was a phrase I did exactly 110 times in the show run. We gathered on the sides and waited to dance it in groups of 3 for them to see us. The production manager lady called the first name. Then, "Taylor Gordon." I was in the very first group of the day. Yikes! Normally that would have made me immediately nervous, but I somehow felt more confident than ever being first, in the middle of the group of 3. Happily, that being first business didn't continue throughout the day, haha (though I was in the middle every time. Luck of the draw the way the names worked out).

It went fine, and then we waited for the other 80 people to dance. There are a lot of good dancers in New York City, let me tell you. It's hard to see why some people got cut and others didn't. Obviously I have more of an idea of what they're looking for now, but there's still something more...anyways when they announced the names to stay for the next round, I couldn't help but hold my breath and get a little shaky, even though technically I knew I had made it to the callbacks. You never know.

So the few of us returned to the holding room while sad faces left. And we waited. And waited. And waited. They took 4 or 5 more groups of 80+ people. Crazy! After more than an hour of waiting the rumor was that there was still a line around the block outside. There had to have been nearly 500 girls their auditioning for maybe 40 or so jobs, plus they still have to hold auditions in Chicago and LA next week. Wow.

It was a lot easier waiting so long this time as opposed to last year because I knew what was coming next: "ballerina bear" choreography! After they finished with the first cut of all the giant groups, they took the final 35 or so of us back into the studio to add on to the combination we had done earlier. And then, yes, pointe shoes.

It's very obvious that my ballet is what got me the job last year. There are only 3 "ballerina bears" in the show and if I didn't happen to have some ability in pointe shoes, I know there's no way my jazzerina skills would have been up to par. But for the audition process this time around the ballet was my very least favorite part! Mostly because I'm having major issues with my silly achilles tendon. Being in heels was really a treat for once, haha. The point shoes (which I've been trying to force myself to stay out of for fear of making my injury worse) were painful, not helped by the fact that I wore my last dead pair of shoes from the actual show (dyed unnaturally brown for the bear suit). But I wore them because they had the rubber on the tips so I wouldn't slip on the hardwood floor of the studio. That would've been the last thing I needed, a fall!

As we danced to the all-too-familiar Sugar Plum music, I had another moment of being SO grateful. There are exactly two people in the world who danced that variation center stage at Radio City Music Hall last year. I was one of them (my alternate in the other cast, the other). What a very nostalgic, strange, putting-things-in-perspective feeling.

Anyway, they made one last cut and then invited those of us left to the callback on Tuesday afternoon. Phew, day one over. As I packed up and left that day I passed all the guys lining up for their ensemble audition, wishing good luck to friends I knew auditioning for their first time.

Tuesday was more deja vu. I arrived an hour early and was led to the other studio upstairs there (as if I didn't know where it was) to stretch. We signed in and went over choreography and chatted with some of the guys from our cast last year who had just finished their callbacks. Then finally it was time to head back in to the big studio.

They started us with a brand new combination, but one I also remembered from last year's audition. I believe it's part of one of the touring versions of the show where some dancers are "Clausettes" and actually have short speaking parts. It's a cutesy little number and was actually quite fun to do. That day I wasn't in the first group to dance the combination in threes (yay) but I was in one of the early groups, which was nice to get it over with. I hate auditions where you're in the last group so you must watch anxiously and forget the choreography and get cold.

After that, we learned a song! Yes, singing. This was the part of last year's audition that STRESSED me out. Haha. Until then, I DID NOT sing. I still don't really, but after sort-of-singing (I admit, towards the end of the run sometimes I lip synced out of exhaustion) in the show last year I was much more comfortable. They're more looking for personality than a good singing voice, thank goodness. Last year they had us audition with "Need a Little Christmas," which was familiar at least. This time we sang, "Santa's Gonna Rock," also from a touring show. Unfamiliar, but a much easier tune to carry while dancing! If you know me in person, you know I'm extreeeemely quiet even just talking, never mind singing. But for the first time I think I was actually almost comfortable singing and dancing nearly alone in public, haha. I have the show to thank for that.

Later we reviewed the combinations we did Monday and did them again, this time so that they could video tape them. And make decisions, of course. It all seemed to go by much faster than last year, again maybe because I knew what was happening. It just goes to show that even if you don't get or want or are not ready for a particular job, it's so beneficial just to go to the audition to be more prepared for next time.

When dancing was done for the day, we returned to the holding room to fill out final paperwork, have our pictures taken, and have measurements recorded (only for the new people). We had to mark our preferences for which show we'd like to be in if chosen. Of course I put New York first, but honestly I would be so thrilled just to get in any of the companies! Besides NY, this year they have the arena tour (to a whole bunch of cities), a group for Pittsburgh/Seattle, another for Atlanta/Dallas, and one in Nashville.

I left that day saying a prayer as I headed into the elevator, stared at the "Rockette Operations" directory sign that made me laugh my first day there, slowly made my way out the stage door, thanked the security guard, and entered back into the rainy streets of reality. They told us the first casting phone calls would be made mid- to late June, but casting isn't finalized until August. Last year they called me in September.

There are a lot of people who have done the show for many years (some for a decade or more!) who don't think twice about getting to do it again. Some people from my cast were lucky enough not to have to re-audition. Lots of those of us who did are already planning their schedules accordingly as if they've already received their contracts in the mail.

I don't think that even if I were so lucky as to get the job for multiple more years in the future, that I could ever just assume I'd get such an opportunity yet again. I can't take something so wonderful for granted like that. Once was enough magic for a lifetime, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed until my phone hopefully rings this summer with my favorite 212-phone number...what I would give to do it again...

In other news, tomorrow I'm heading home to Mass. for my mom's studio's recital. Blogging and pictures to come as the weekend progresses!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Crazy Week Ahead

Tomorrow is the day I've impatiently waited 4 months for: (re)auditions for Radio City.

I'll be at the theater, my theater, at what will feel like the crack of dawn tomorrow for the first day of auditions, even though I'm only required to go to the callbacks on Tuesday. I still remember my audition day last year - I got there an hour early only to find a line of hopefuls already halfway around the block. Little did I know what would come of that day! I can only hope (and cross my fingers, toes, eyes, and everything else) that I will be so lucky again. They likely won't let us know until July, but this is the first time I've been so at the mercy of my dancing: I NEED this job in so many ways. It's a bit scary, honestly. Wish me luck!

I'll probably be on twitter all morning because it's going to be a long process..

Later this week I'm heading home to Massachusetts again, this time for my mom's studio's annual recital! I haven't gone back for this the past 3 years, so it should be a nice little reunion with everyone. I'm helping out and of course I'm dancing, but more on that later...

First, I must focus on tomorrow and callbacks Tuesday...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Is it really May already?

I can't believe it's May 1st. Where did the last 4 months go?

Anyway, I just finished putting together the latest of my teacher's monthly ballet e-newsletter, so check it out here if you're interested. Or you can subscribe directly here.

Happy Friday everyone.