Sunday, March 22, 2009

This is just a peep from us at OBT to say that we're working away over here getting the Left Unsaid program up to speed. Three of the four ballets are under construction right now, and actually the only one that hasn't been touched yet is Left Unsaid itself. The choreographer, Nicolo Fonte, will be arriving soon to start teaching and rehearsing the ballet.

Tarantella, though it's short, is a very tough little number. The two dancers go pedal to the metal nonstop throughout it and their energy can't ever flag. The choreography is quite revealing and if there's a dropoff in energy-output, it really would show! So the dancers are working on building stamina and really performing the pas de deux hard from start to finish. The tambourines that are a part of the piece sometimes get incorporated into company class if someone feels the need to embellish their grand allegro a bit with ribbons and percussion.

Vertiginous is also a killer, both athletically and technically, so that's being rehearsed with an eye towards developing stamina and a sense of pacing. Luckily, both of these ballets have music that really drives you forward and gives a lift of inspiration.

The Kudelka ballet, the world premiere on the program, is being created right now. James started working on it last week and will continue onward from here. I'm finding the originial musical score, set for two harps, to be really interesting. It can be a bit hard to find your way within it, but I'm sure it'll become clearer all the time. Hearing it performed live by two harpists is going to be lovely!

That's the state of things over at OBT lately. Right about now is when it's easy to be lulled into thinking we've got tons of time to prepare, but the days start ticking by pretty fast at this point. I'm quite looking forward to dancing at the Newmark again since I missed that opportunity last season and I love the different feel of that theater. And of course, having several performances in a row is a nice perk, too!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Masters and Moderns

Hi everyone, I know it's been a long time since I've written anything, but I was sitting around thinking about how excited I am for this next show and this seemed like the perfect outlet to voice that excitement!

For Christopher's first two seasons here, we called the program that we presented in the Newmark Theater "Masters and Moderns." I always really loved that title, and was sad when we stopped using it, but if ever there was a show that embodied that idea, this is the one.

I am beyond excited (thrilled even :-p) to be revisiting William Forsythe's homage to Balanchine, "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude." Rehearsing and performing this ballet last season was definitely a career highlight, and I'm really interested to see what coming back to it is going to be like. I've listened to the music a little bit over the layoff, and I think it's possible that a good 75% of the ballet is still in my muscle memory, and the rest is in my brain. Here's a picture of me right before my first performance of "Vertig" (I look pretty ridiculous, but it's a fairly accurate representation of how nervous/excited I felt right before the curtain went up):

Preparing to dance this ballet is much more psychological than physical for me. About half way through the ballet my body starts telling my mind that it's exhausted and can't go on, and my mind tells my body to shut up and keep dancing. Anyway, by then end I'm always exhausted, completely drenched in sweat, and feel more exhilarated and alive than I ever remember feeling before.

Also on this program is a piece by Nicolo Fonte (he choreographed our Bolero last year) entitled "Left Unsaid." I've only seen a video of this work, but it looks incredibly beautiful and I really hope that I'll get to learn it. Working with Nicolo last season was such a great learning experience for me, and there is something about his choreography that really allows me to feel like I'm using my whole body and that everything is being stretched to the limit. I remember feeling so free dancing Bolero, and even though it was choreographed, and I danced the same steps every night, there was something about it that felt incredibly spontaneous and alive. It was like dancing the same ballet for the first time over and over again.

The final two pieces are Tarantella by Balanchine, and a new work by James Kudelka. I've seen Tarantella, and it looks like a ton of fun. It's a pas de deux, and pretty short, but it's full of tricks, technique, and the opportunity to really ham it up on stage. All things that I love to do.

I was in the room for the creation of the Trio from Kudelka's "Almost Mozart" back in 2006. There were a lot of us in there learning it, I was working with Sam Rogers (an apprentice that season) and Mia, but I think there were maybe twelve of us in there all together (four sets of three). Anyway, my group liked to think of ourselves as the fearless trio, because Kudelka would ask the first cast (Alison, Paul DeStrooper, and Damian) to try something, and more often than not it seemed somewhat precarious, if not borderline dangerous, but being the young go-getter's that we are, Mia, Sam, and I would just throw ourselves into these tasks. I think each of us ended up on the floor a few times, but always got back up laughing. I have a lot of memories of feeling so challenged in new ways in Kudelka's rehearsals, and there's nothing I love more than a good challenge.

All right, well, I think that's all for now. I'll try to start updating with a bit more frequency!

Thanks to all of you who came and saw our most recent show, I hope you had as much fun watching it as we had dancing it!


P.S. Here's a video that Adrian had taken last year before our first performance of "Vertiginous Thrill." We held hands and made a circle so we could feel together before we launched ourselves into such an exhausting ballet.

One Year Later

It is incredible to me, but yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my ankle surgery. And one year ago today I was sitting here, all casted up, wondering how the coming year would play out. This blog was sort of born from the occasion of my injury, and I am struck by the evolution of both as the months have passed. The paths of the two have spread apart, thank goodness! As I look back on the very early first posts back from the spring of 2008, I see that I wrote a lot about the recovery process (and the pre-recovery period when I couldn't even do anything yet). As I progressed, I let you in on less and less of what was happening, mostly because I had less time to sit at the computer and describe what I was doing but also because it seemed less interesting. And soon, thankfully, my cohorts joined in and you got to hear several voices tell the story of being a dancer at OBT.

For the record, and to put a satisfying cap on what was the origin of this blog: the surgically repaired ankle from last year is doing very well. I managed to make my way through the first performances of the season in Swan Lake, though it was not easy and I was really not at all fully recovered. There were lots of secondary problems that cropped up as a result of favoring a weak and painful ankle, as well as from the basic fact of returning to dance after so long. The nastiest problems were my toe woes-- my toenails could not adapt fast enough to pointe shoes and loosened in their beds, making wish they would just fall off. Or that I could chop them off! My podiatrist convinced me not to, and did his best to shave down the ingrown parts and the corns, but could do nothing about the loose nail beds. The problems were compounded by the fact that I was in the process of trying new pointe shoe makers, one of which was too square and wide and didn't support my foot enough. Unfortunately, I didn't realize this until the week we opened and then had to deal with trying to perform in shoes that I was sliding around in.

The three week layoff after Swan Lake was a respite for me. Nutcracker rehearsals began, my toes had recovered enough, and I found a couple of new pointe shoe makers that fit much better. I remember having a lot of ankle trouble throughout the rehearsal weeks and while we were in Anchorage, but reached a turning point when we returned to Portland. It was like a switch had been flipped and all of a sudden I was on the other side of the healing process. Not completely through it, but standing on the far side looking back over the field behind me. And since then... knocking on wood fervently.... my ankle problems have been minimal. I don't even feel I need to ice it every day, though I do pay special attention to working out the muscles of my lower calf and instep. A little tendonitis-y stuff is most of what I deal with now.

And the blog... it's grown and evolved and become a wonderful forum for so many voices. It's exciting to think of things to write about here that you'll be interested in hearing. The blogger team has hatched several ideas for blog-projects, a few of which have come to fruition and a few of which are still on the drawing board, so stay tuned and keep checking in with us.

I don't want to belabor this topic, but I can't stop thinking about the passage of a year and marvelling at what a body can do. I'm remembering the various milestones along the way, the stages and phases I passed through. My daily routines were so habitual because I had no option for varying them. For weeks it seemed that the days were filled with small tasks that just took a lot of time, like taking a bath, making the bed, making breakfast, cooking up exercises that I could do without standing on two feet. There were the tiny triumphs of walking again, going up and down stairs, standing on one leg. I remember so vividly the first time I walked outside, by myself, without crutches and in two regular shoes. It was a gorgeous spring afternoon and I felt like everything in life was about to be reborn! I sorted through boxes of photo cds from years of OBT's past, figured out what was on each one, labelled it, and filed them into categorized notebooks for the OBT archives. I wrote here and tried to imagine something interesting that didn't have to do with my injury.

Thanks to all you readers for sticking with us and responding with your wonderful comments. It's wonderful to hear your thoughts and questions, so please keep them coming. And here's to the upcoming years of the OBT blog!