Friday, February 26, 2010

Dress Rehearsal

We just finished dress rehearsal, and welcomed back our beautiful orchestra! Here's Neil working with them on a few sections of Midsummer:

Children-bugs took a rest amongst the trees while notes and corrections were being given after the rehearsal:

And our hair expert, Sarah, tinkered with Alison's (Titania) hairdo. She does gorgeous work on the Titanias with curls and soft, sweeping waves that really make them look like fairy queens.
It's incredible how much work gets done in the last few days before we open. Everything's looking good and we're all ready to get this show open. Enjoy, everyone!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

No End to Listening

I read David Stabler's beautifully thought-provoking and insightful column in The Oregonian on Thursday, "A Year of Playing Bach".

He describes his resolution to re-dedicate himself to daily practice of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" after many years away from not just that particular piece, but piano practice in general. Although, of course, the specifics of piano practice are different from those of ballet, the psychological drive, effort, and ultimately the effects of "the art of practicing art" are exactly the same, right down to the physical process and development.

Here are some of my favorite observations from his column:

"I wanted to make music in the first person after writing about it for so long. One reason to play an instrument-- or paint or write or act-- is to bring what is inside ourselves into play. The fact that musicians often do that by learning other people's music is no contradiction. What we hear and how we reproduce it is who we are."

I will add that that is the reason why we dance, as well. We too (for the most part, in the ballet world) are interpretive artists, and the artistic gratification comes from being given a choreographer's work to hold in your body. No matter how big or small the role, when you, the dancer, are performing those steps, they feel like your very own that no one can take away from you, that you have colored with your own personal set of tools.

"Practicing is meditation-- we're practicing a way of thinking; we're practicing consciousness."

We sometimes talk about going on "auto-pilot" when repeating some very familiar exercise or piece of work, but in truth there's no such thing. It's just that the brain has learned the motor patterns so well that the movements no longer take such active, conscious effort. But even warming up, taking barre, doing class work is meditative in that you turn your focus deep inside yourself and the outside world fades away.

David concludes with his realization that the reason he decided to bring Bach's music into his own body was in order to hear it better, and to remember how to listen to it.

"There is no end to listening".

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sneak Preview

Here's a little tiny snippet of today's rehearsal for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Julia and Javier are dancing Peaseblossom and Puck.

We've begun rehearsing with the children, since throughout the ballet they interact quite a bit with the adult dancers. The children have a special, and huge, responsibility in Midsummer-- they actually move parts of the set. There are several "trees" on stage which the kids shift into different arrangements as the scenes change. There are markings on the stage floor to help them remember where exactly they're supposed to go, but still... I must say I'm glad I don't have to do that! They're doing great with their roles as bugs, flowers, and scene-shifters, thanks to Anne Mueller's conscientious rehearsals with them. Anne's been working with the children on Midsummer for weeks now, teaching them not only their steps, counts, and spacing, but also all of the tree-shifting. Watch for their adorable bug-choreography, like when they shiver in fear and concern, or rub the backs of their wrists together like real bugs.