Friday, August 28, 2009

Fall.Art.Live is almost Live

I arrived at the studio this morning to see these gorgeous, huge white sails being erected over the parking lot/soon-to-be festival ground:

All day long, our production team along with volunteers and various assorted OBT adminstrative staff have been working, working, working to get ready for tomorrow's events. The big job is building the stage where the classes, workshops and performances will take place. It's not quite as easy as just tossing down a few pieces of plywood. When I stopped by, the challenge was getting all the platform segments to lie flush with each other. (Even a small difference in level between two sections is bad news for anyone trying to dance up there.)

Here, Christopher surveys the scene:

Keep reading for more photos...

Executive Director Jon Ulsh put on his toolbelt and joined the crew building the stage:

But that's not why Thyra is threatening to shoot herself with a screw gun.

She's taking a little break to stretch those hamstrings:

The Port-O-Potties have arrived!

Some of our most intrepid (and energetic!) voluteer helpers get down and dirty with the power saw, cutting boards to build the stage.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Anne's Chicago Dancing Festival Recap

Our trip to Chicago for the Chicago Dancing Festival was short, but

very sweet. I was a little sad to fly separately from the other

dancers but tried to make up for having an easier travel schedule by

packing a picnic dinner for my roommate (Alison) and me to eat once we

got to the hotel (salami, bread, olive tapenade, and ceasar salad).

She brought her baby Charlie along, so I figured the last thing the

three of us should do at 10:00 pm on a Monday night was to go and hunt

down dinner.

We did our best to turn in early, but struggled a bit with the time

difference. We woke early the next morning to head to the Harris

Theater for our lighting rehearsal. Alison and I met a very sweet

young woman from River North Dance Company upon arrival who helped us

arrange the dressing room situation so baby Charlie and the sitter

would have space to settle in.

The theater was lovely and we were excited to see the marley was the

same as the OBT marley. After spacing rehearsal, we all went for a

bit of breakfast since we had a little time before class.

Class is always fun in a festival because you are dancing with dancers

from other companies and taking from a teacher you aren't accustomed

to. Class was very thorough. Of the whole group, only three of us

were in pointe shoes (myself, Alison, and a woman from Richmond

Ballet), which felt very different.

We had to fiddle with our shoe choices for the day because we

discoverd in class that our shoes sounded loud and felt slippery.

This is a tricky thing about touring: you have to have a variety of

shoe choices prepared because a pair that's great at home may be a

disaster on a different stage.

We went through the piece (we danced Trey McIntyre's "Just") doing

some things full out and others not to save energy for the show. I

performed with a new partner, so we wanted to make sure we felt very

"in sync". Lucas is my third partner in this ballet since it was

created in 2005/6). It's a real stamina killer, but so satisfying to


After a bit of rest and a sandwich, it was time to get ready for the

show. Here again, in a festival you have to be much more flexible in

your warm up and preparations because you are sharing the space with

other companies. Christopher came backstage to wish us merde and told

us he was excited to see us dance. We thought that was an incredibly

sweet thing to say (he's seen us dance the piece in around 20 shows)

and it reminded us how fortunate we are to work for such a good boss.

We hit the stage third, right after a real crowd pleaser danced by

River North. I didn't get to watch anything before us because of the

high warm up factor of the piece we were dancing. We had about 90

seconds to feel the space before the piece began. Lucas and I arrive

in the 2nd movement; I start out running on in a blackout to charge

forward and dance as fast as I can for about 32 phrases of music. He

does the same and then we have a duet of the same length and pace.

It's a pretty shocking way to begin a piece and I always feel so free

to enjoy the rest of the piece once I've navigated my way through that

first part.

The piece went very well and I think we all enjoyed ourselves quite a

bit. I think our hometown crowd would have been proud of how we

represented Portland and OBT.

After icing down and packing up, I watched the Joffrey close the

show. I have two friends dancing with them, so I was excited to

connect with them and see them dance. The dancers looked great and I

wished I had been able to see the piece (Age of Innocence) from the


I attended a reception and had a lovely time eating mini burgers and

paninis while talking with, among others, some board members from

Richmond Ballet. I did my best to turn in early since my shuttle was

picking me up at 7:15 am. I was sad to leave so soon but had a great


Anne Mueller

Monday, August 24, 2009

We're getting ready for the first ever OBT block party! Um, I mean Fall. Art. Live. It sounds like it's going to be a pretty fun day--- food, beer, performances, you can even take a dance class.

A bunch of really inspired OBT staff spent last Friday doing a major cleaning of the building, from windows and mirrors to bathrooms and landscaping. Come out on Saturday and see how the place sparkles like I've never seen it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer in the city

After my three-week stint as a Midwesterner this past July, my parents surprised me with a brief trip to New York City. After two weeks of Nebraska and a week of seclusion at a cabin in Wisconsin, I really looked forward to the bustle of Manhattan. Part of the reason my folks wanted me to go with them to NY was because of the residence that they've acquired when they travel East. This is the view to the east from the 60th floor condo that they stay in for FREE whenever they travel there. This was my fourth trip to NYC, and this residence was the most different of any other that I've stayed at in the city. The first two times I stayed in hotel rooms that didn't cancel out the noise of the city, and the third time I stayed in the dorms of the School of American Ballet. This was different because it was so quiet up on the 60th floor. And quiet isn't something that I associate with NYC.

The next day I took class at Steps on Broadway with Willy Burrman. I was so stimulated by the dance environment of Steps that I forgot how long it'd been since I danced. Steps offered a grab bag of dancers: from stars of City Ballet and Ballet Theatre to people, like the woman I shared a barre with, who could very well be taking their first ballet class. I danced with the likes of City Ballet's Maria Kowroski, Teresa Reichlen, Tom Gold (former NYCB), Stephen Hanna (former City Ballet, current adult Billy Elliott on Broadway), Ballet Theatre's Jose Manuel Carreno, Julio Bocca (former ABT), and a handfull of Miami City Ballet dancers that I also recognized. And I actually knew two of the dancers in the class personally: one girl danced with me at a summer course at PNB a couple years ago, and one man was a dancer with the Omaha Theater Ballet when I was about 14. I approached him and said, "You might not recognize me, but I was a student in Omaha when you were in the company." When I shared with them that I was with OBT they asked how we were doing, as they'd heard about the Dance United benefit and our financial situation and wished us the best.

After class I ventured to the Yumiko Store. Yumiko is a dancewear provider that's popular among the ballet community. Her work is generally only available online, but recently opened a store in NY.

Just walked by Alvin Ailey's new dance studios, which are beautiful. Wished I could've had a chance to dance in them, but it was a short weekend.

Spent a large chunk of time, and could've spent much longer amount of time, at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts. They had a terrific exhibit of the Diahilev and the Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo. Reminded me of our performances of Rite of Spring celebrating the anniversary of the company. Had some great clips of video, music, books, etc. showing how inventive, necessary, collaborative, and groundbreaking the short-lived Ballets Russe company was to 20th century ballet. For me, two of my most definitive ballet moments have been dancing in Balanchine's Apollo and Christopher Stowell's Rite of Spring this past March, and both of those works (Apollo in its entirety, and Stravinsky's compostion of Rite of Spring) were products of the Ballets Russe.
Snapped a shot of Jerome Robbins Place walking by it near Lincoln Center.

Towards the end of the second day in the city, I was really pining for a taste of Portland. I mapped out a day to find a Stumptown Coffee. And luckily, Spoon came to our rescue. When we arrived there we asked if we could have our coffee "for here," and I've never seen a barista look so confused. "You want to stay here and drink your coffee?" she asked. "Yeah, we just want to sit for a bit," I said. "Oh...well, if you want to..."

I tried to be a New Yorker and blend in for the short time I was there: I referred to Manhattan as "the city" and wore dark clothes and walked quickly and pretended to know where I was going. But I think I was pretty unsuccessful at it. It reminded me that I am a northwesterner at heart, that I am glad to be back in Portland, and ready to celebrate 20 years of OBT.

Let's dance.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

OBT Summer Camp

We all had a great time on Friday at what felt a little like OBT day camp. We packed up all our gear, trekked up to the park and spent the day amongst the trees, dancing under a stubbornly gray sky and using a tent as home base. The show went very well and I think everyone felt the glorious freedom that comes from dancing outside.

Here are Christopher and Linda watching the dancers rehearse Just:

And this is the view from "backstage" as everyone warmed up before the rehearsal:

Adrian rolls out his IT band:

When Steven said "come one, come all", I don't think any of us expected so many people to take him up on the invitation. The amphitheater was packed. All the green spaces you can see in the photo above were filled with people and picnic blankets. It was estimated that there were 3000 people there! Being able to watch the audience watch us as we perform isn't something that happens very often, and I find that it makes for a totally different performance experience. It's more casual, yes, but also slightly more nervewracking in that the potential for distraction and loss of focus is pretty high. I'll take that chance, though, for the fun of seeing all the little children dancing about at the foot of the stage!

Performing with the musicians of the Portland Cello Project was a wonderful thing, too. Live music always takes a performance to new heights. Let's hope we can all do this again next summer!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Come One, Come All!

Hi everyone. As Gavin posted yesterday, we have a show coming up tomorrow night at the Washington Park Amphitheater. It starts at 6pm, it's totally free, and you can bring a blanket and a picnic if you want. We're splitting the evening with the Portland Cello Project and they'll be playing for Anne's ballet "No Sleep Lost." The cellists were in the studio today, so I thought I'd share some pictures with you from that rehearsal.

Here are the wonderful cellists. There are more than 5 in the project itself, but these are the members playing for Anne's piece.

Gavin, Adrian, and the Cellists.

More from "No Sleep Lost."

Later in the day we had a dress rehearsal in the studio since our stage time will be somewhat limited tomorrow. Also, we want to keep the costumes as clean as possible before the show, which is no easy feat when performing outdoors.

Olga rehearsing her variation from Yuri Possokhov's Raymonda.

Candace and Adrian in Nicolo Fonte's Left Unsaid.

Mia and Brennan in Christopher Stowell's Eyes On You.

So, if you love OBT, or Cellos, or even just an excuse to have a picnic, come on down to Washington Park tomorrow evening at 6.

Hope to see all of you there,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dancing in the Park

The studios are alive with company rehearsals again, even though we're still in the middle of our off-season. A small group of dancers is rehearsing Just (by Trey Mcintyre), which they are performing next week at the Chicago Dancing Festival. And another bunch of us are putting together a series of excerpts that we're going to perform this Friday in Washington Park, sharing a program in the annual concert series with the Portland Cello Project!

Come on out and see us in an eclectic program of pieces ranging from Just (in its entirety) to Left Unsaid (you'll remember Nicolo Fonte's ballet from this past spring), some solos from Raymoda, three of the highlights of Christopher's Cole Porter ballet Eyes On You, and the official premiere of a new duet by Anne Mueller. Anne's piece will actually be performed WITH the cellists.

See you Friday!