Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hi Everyone!

Hi! So, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing for the blog for a while now, and with a little encouragement from some friends, here I am!

A little bit about me: My name is Steven Houser and I am currently a Soloist at Oregon Ballet Theatre. This is my 3rd year as a full company member. The year before that I was an apprentice, and the year before that I was in the school. I was born and raised right here in Portland, OR (not too far from the studios actually) and couldn’t imagine a better city to grow up in.

Anyway, I thought I would tell you all a little bit about my day today and yesterday. Yesterday began with class at 10 am at our studios, as it does most days. Christopher taught, and I felt like I had a pretty good class. After that I had an hour of rehearsal for the corps of Rubies, the Balanchine ballet that is coming up in our Russian Program. It’s been really interesting learning Rubies, because the last time the company did this ballet I was in the school. I remember going to the show and thinking “Wow, what an incredible ballet!” Ever getting to learn and dance something that great seemed like somewhat of a pipe-dream at the time, so being in the studio learning it now is really a bit surreal.

After Rubies I had a long break (12:30-3:30), so I went up to my apartment and got to work on sewing some leotards and shorts that have been waiting to be put together for some time now (Brennan Boyer and I have a smallish dancewear business and finding spare time to work can be very difficult). After that was finished I had a little lunch and then made my way down to the studio for a 2 hour RUSH rehearsal.

RUSH is the Christopher Wheeldon ballet we are performing here in town for the White Bird “4x4” show this Thursday and Friday and again at the Kennedy Center for their "Ballet Across America" program. Our current challenge with the ballet is fitting the somewhat large cast onto the smaller stage of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. At times it feels a little bit scary, but I think that in the end all of us doing the movement in a smaller space is really going to make the ballet jump out at the audience a lot more than it would at the Keller Auditorium.

After RUSH I went home and finished Adrian’s shorts and Anne’s leotard. (pictured below)

Also, a shot of my little sewing table:

I finished off the day by hanging out with my friend Adrian Fry and some friends of his on the Eastside Esplanade enjoying the nice evening.

Today was pretty similar to yesterday. Our Ballet Master Lisa taught class, followed by an hour and forty-five minutes of RUSH, a two hour break, forty-five minutes of Rubies corps (and some very intense counting thanks to Mr. Stravinsky), and a short company meeting discussing some changes being made to our contracts for next season.

So, after a quick visit to the Physical Therapist (nothing serious, just normal wear and tear), here I find myself sitting at home and writing this! I’m not sure what to write about other than my daily life as a company member of OBT. I remember when I was growing up I always wondered what life was like for professional dancers, and I think that something like this would have been absolutely fascinating to me. If anyone has any questions, feel free to post them in a comment here and I’ll be glad to answer them. Now, I’m off to go fold some laundry, make dinner, go over choreography, hopefully read a little, and then go to bed. 

Have a wonderful evening!



  1. hey!

    I'm sooo glad i came across your blog..

    I'm a 17-year old female dancer, currently trying to pursue a professional life in something which keeps me alive... and in the meantime apparently following convention by sitting my school exams and aiming high ;)

    can't wait to read more of your blogs :)

    take care,


  2. Hi Steve,
    Keep on writing. I would love to hear from the men's perspective about being a ballet dancer. Balanchine had always said that ballet is woman (paraphrasing here). Do you think that is really true?

  3. Morning Steven,

    Thank you for your post! I agree that it's great to hear from not only Gavin but from you to gain more perspective on the life of a dancer.

    Do you get to make many of the costumes/outfits (my appology if this isn't the correct term) for the dancers? I've read a couple parts from Gavin and others that talk about modifying clothes/costumes to fit dancers. It seems like there's a bit of variety in sizes/heights of the dancers - both male and female. Does this make it harder for you to make the uniforms/leotards or are they made of a material stretchy enough to fit a wide range of dancers or do you have to take many many measurements for each person?

    thank you Steven,

  4. I can't wait to see the Russian program!!!, esp. Rubies. Any chance I can get you to make a leotard??? I'll pay you! My school is an all black and navy leotard dress code, and I really like custom leotards, since we all blend in together in black and navy.

    Thanks for the blog, I love this blog!!

  5. Sorry, instead of asking you to make a leotard, I should have asked you where you get your fabric from and what kind of pattern you use.

  6. Great writing Steven! I am so happy you get to do this too! I think it's great you have you're on business too - I'm totally interested in buying! :D Also, next year if you ever need help promoting or buying fabric etc I've got your back. Everything sounds like it's running smoothly and I can't wait to read more


  7. sethcm - What I make doesn't go on stage, but rather is what we wear in class and rehearsals. It's all lycra and spandex so it's very stretchy and fits a wide variety of dancers. However, with some dancers who have a longer torso, I can just add a strip of color into most leotard patterns to make it a little bit longer. But really, I use the same size pattern for everyone.

    fortheloveofballet - The patterns I got from our ballet mistress, and the fabric I buy at either Mill Ends or Rose City Textiles. Do you sew? If so, I have various tips and tricks I can give you. As far as getting patterns, there is very little difference between a swimsuit and a leotard, aside from material. For material, you want something that has a pretty even stretch in both directions so it will stretch both up and down and across your torso.

    Thanks for reading everyone!!

  8. Yes I do sew, enough to make a leotard, I think. Any sewing tips would be great!!!

  9. fortheloveofballet - Cool! Well, if you have a serger, use that for all the seams and to attach the elastic then use a double needle on your sewing machine to hem the edges. If you just have a sewing machine, use a wide zig-zag stitch for everything (this will allow the fabric to stretch). Also, sometimes using wooly-nylon thread for the bobbin will help the seams not break as easily. If you use a serger, use wooly-nylon thread for the loopers, and normal thread for the needles. For the elastic, about an inch smaller than the opening is a good rule of thumb and 18" for the leg elastic, making it flat in the front and gathering the fabric in the back of the leo. The next time I make a leo I'll post a sort of "Anatomy of a Leo" blog and that might answer some more questions for you. Hope this helps!