Monday, March 29, 2010

Moving Forward

Steven's posts from Japan have been fascinating! Thanks, Steven, for keeping us all in the loop with your adventures over there. Next, we're expecting a fashion show of the results of your shopping expeditions.

Back at the ranch, we are starting our third week of rehearsals for the Duets program. How do the weeks go by so quickly?? The time has a way of evaporating, despite how hard we're working to make the most out of every hour. Only about three weeks left until opening night, and although that may sound like a lot, keep in mind that there are five ballets on this program, one of which is a world premiere. Two of the pieces have not been completely set yet, and we haven't even started learning another of the ballets. The other two are set, but not in the range of ready-to-go. So... the next few weeks are going to be hard.

This period of time has special significance for me personally. Many of you know that I am retiring from performing after this program and my last performance will be the closing show of this run. Although I've known for quite some time, of course, that this would be happening, as each day and week passes I am more and more incredulous that it really IS. As prepared as I am for "the day after", there is no way to truly be ready. I simply cannot imagine what I am and what my life is without being a professional dancer. I am excited to find out, but from where I stand right now, I can't tell you what it will be like.

One strange feeling among many as I travel through these last few weeks of an 18-year career is the acute sense of immediacy versus the long view. To do what I have to do between now and May 2, I have to focus on each day as hard as ever, fixate on each step of each ballet, work as hard in class, take as much care of my body. There's no coasting to the finish line. It makes looking ahead to "retirement" (so weird to say that word) quite difficult and odd, because I'm still going through each dancing day as I always have--- there is no other way.
I do try to be more cognizant of my surroundings throughout each day, though, noticing the details that I know I will miss and appreciating them. The little moments in rehearsal, the ritual of class, the atmosphere and dynamic between my colleagues, my boss, the pianist, and even the room we work in. I should be taking more photos!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More from Japan

Yesterday I took my first (and maybe only?) real class here in Japan from Yurino's former teacher. I was surprised how much the language barrier didn't really affect my ability to understand combinations or corrections. The "sign language" we use for ballet steps and corrections seems to be pretty universal. Here is a picture of Ansa, Yurino, Yurino's former teacher, and I:

I'm finding the floors here to be both slipperier and harder than I'm used to dancing on. The first is probably good for my turnout, but the second is really taking a tole on my lower legs and feet. I'm feeling a little numb and weak from the knee down. I'm going to need a good massage once I'm back state-side.

Rehearsals are going really well. Ansa has been a huge help in giving us corrections on our Pas de Deux. Since Flower Festival is an older work we can just learn it off of a video without someone coming to set it on us, but that also means we don't really have anyone to teach us the finer points of the steps, so we've had to make a lot of decisions on our own about things like dramatic intent or the details of how to most effectively do a certain step. It's difficult to both dance and try and correct yourself, so having an extra set of eyes is great.

After class and rehearsal yesterday we went shopping in Sakae, and let me tell you, there is nothing like shopping in Japan. It's amazing. I'm going to need another suitcase to get everything home. I won't give you the list of everything, but sufficed to say I could possibly clothe myself for 4 days or so just on what I've bought so far, and I've still got 4 days left. Ansa and Yurino have been a great help in finding me good deals, and helping me to translate things like "do you have this in a different size?" (I'm usually a small/medium back in the states, but I'm a medium/large here) or "can I buy this one off the mannequin?"

Pictures from Sakae:
This is the main drag. It's really busy and in a weird way reminds me of the main shopping streets in most large metropolitan cities.
There was a ferris wheel coming out of the side of this building!

This is the Nagoya TV Tower. The shot is blurry, but it's the best one of the tower at night that I got.
This is from inside a shopping center in Sakae. I thought the light up topiary dinosaurs were a really interesting design touch...

Today I'm going to Nagoya Castle, the TV Tower, rehearsing and teaching a class at Yurion's studio, and then going clubbing with Ansa and her friend Ari. I'm told the club has many levels and each one is devoted to a different style of music. Should be fun!

Sayonara,
Steven

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Greetings from Japan!

Back in October my friend Yurino, who owns a ballet school in Japan, contacted me and asked if I wanted to dance with her in her studio's annual spring performance. The date happened to be right at the beginning of my 7 week layoff, and so I (of course) accepted. I've been wanting to go to Japan for a long time, and what better way to get there than to perform. The country and culture feels very different (shoes on, shoes off, shoes on, shoes off), but I've found the people that I've met to be very kind, and the city to be beautiful in a very different way from what I'm used to.

Here are some shots of Yurino's school (Yurino's School of American Ballet):




Fortunately for me, Ansa is here too! After rehearsals she has been taking me around town (I'm staying in Nagoya, where Ansa is from) and showing me the sights. Here is a picture of Ansa and my friend Yurino:


This is the poster for the show (I'm told my name is in the bottom right corner, but I can't read it, so I have to take their word for it):

So far the trip has been about 20% rehearsal and 80% leisure time, which has been awesome. Yurino and I are dancing the Flower Festival Pas de Deux choreographed by Bournonville, which is pretty short, but is a LOT of little jumps and not much Por de Bras. It's something I've never danced before, but is a ballet that a lot of classically trained dancers at some point in their lives have come in contact with, so I'm glad that I'm getting the chance to add it to my repertoire. Tomorrow I'm going to take a class here (we've just been warming ourselves up the last few days), and I'm really excited to see what that is like. I'll post more as my trip progresses.

Sayonara,
Steven

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reflections from the Four Temperaments



Revisiting the Balanchine's Four Temperaments this past two weekends has been wonderful, and I wanted to share some internal thoughts that I've had as well as from friends that have attended the ballet.

The role of Phlegmatic in The Four Temperaments was the first principal role I danced with OBT back in 2006. I could dance that part everyday and still find new things in it. As Bob Hicks said in his review, "What a feeling it must be, on stage, to know you're in the middle of a masterwork: cavorting with the gods." Dancing in this ballet does indeed feel like swimming in the middle of greatness.

Balanchine famously said, "See the music, hear the dance." I never understood what it meant to "hear the dance" before, but after opening night a friend said to me, "The music was so quiet, it was like I could hear you dancing." He later said that as his dance education continues that he finds the music enhances the dancing, and the dancing enhances the music.

I love the Four Ts because of the education that it offers to both dancers, audience members and musicians. Linda Besant, our resident dance historian, said in her Performance Perspectives presentation that there was a conductor in New York that would go to see the Four Temperaments and listen to Hindemith's music strictly so he could learn how to conduct. It teaches dancers how to dance with their entire body and to trust the stripped down nature of the movement as well as the sparsity of costumes and sets. It teaches an audience to see dance for the sake of dance, without the luxury of a story to follow.

The 4Ts is always a hit with dancers, and I hope it was as educational and enjoyable to watch and participate in as it was for us to dance.

See you in the Newmark in April.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ever wonder what happens in the moments immediately after the curtain falls? Take a look at the scene that unfolds onstage when those house lights come up:

video

Bows over, intermission started, the crew immediately begins the change into the next ballet and the dancers scatter to do the same. Twenty minutes might seem like a long intermission, but it's no time at all when you've got to change costume, hair, headpiece, pointe shoes, preset your props and quick change pieces, and hopefully try a few steps of the next ballet.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Waiting....

So we hung around in the wings (some people in THEIR wings, since we were doing Midsummer) and waited for word on whether we'd continue the show or not.


See the next post for Adrian's description of what happened.

Blackout!

video

Moments after the electricity went out midway through yesterday's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, I caught Adrian in the crossover backstage and had him give you what I thought would be a video description of what was happening. Unfortuntely, being a power outage and all... it was a little dark.