Monday, August 19, 2013

Joyce Performance Recap: Wednesday

Photo: Erin Baiano
Now that I am somewhat rested, a day under my belt in Tennessee and my dog Bailey on my lap, Ithought I would share my insider's view of BalletCollective's experience performing at the Joyce.

Wednesday the nerves were flowing. Why? Because there was much to accomplish in a short amount of time. With the ballets in performance-ready shape it was now a matter of configuring the lights and working the ballets on the actual stage. The Joyce's Balletv6.0 festival only allows a day of the show load in and load out. This tight set up and take down enables the Joyce to have six companies in the short two week run. Yet, it makes for a stressful start.

As BalletCollective had never performed at the Joyce theater, we were all unsure of what the experience would entail. Troy and Brandon headed to the theater bright and early Wednesday morning. With only two hours allotted to hang, prep and configure the lighting, Brandon needed to have his design set before he entered the theater. Troy's dad and stepmom acted as dancer doubles by walking around the stage while Troy and Brandon worked out the kinks of the lighting. By noon, the lighting had been cued and the stage was ready for the dancers and musicians.

BalletCollective arrived at the Joyce in time for our one and only rehearsal in the theater, which so happened to be our dress rehearsal as well. The Joyce Theater designates the company's dress rehearsal as the official time for the press photographers to shoot. This then makes for a pleasant performing experience for the performers and the audience members, as there are no photography/photographers allowed during performances.

Our dress rehearsal went off without a hitch! We ran both The Impulse Wants Company and Epistasis smoothly. BalletCollective was ready!

After a short break, a chai tea and a banana (my pre-show snack) I was ready to begin my performance make-up and hair. The dancers, all in the same dressing room (this may be unconventional to most, but we enjoy being together no matter our gender. Bathrooms suffice for changing and keeping privacy.), have the music blasting as we put on our stage faces. With many jokes being made and fun stories being told, the dancers were calm and seemed to be pumped up!

An hour before the curtain goes up I am in the studio warming up. First some stretching and light strengthening exercises, then I am ready to begin my barre (a series of ballet exercises that we do to ensure that our muscles are ready to perform). Sweating in my LuLu Lemon warmups, I do my last part of my warmup: my crunches to ensure a tight center and also in hopes of showing cut abs (for both my costumes I was wearing a midriff top which showed my tummy... yikes).

As we were all finishing up our warmups, Troy entered with "Merde cards" (comments on our work) and began his pre-show pep-talk. Troy acknowledged how a year ago he didn't know where BalletCollective would be, let alone be debuting at the Joyce Theater. He expressed his appreciation and gratitude for all of the dancers' hard work over the past few months. Getting choked up, he slowed down and took a deep breath as he explained how much he had loved working with each one of us, and that he couldn't have done this without us. He rounded the room with hugs for all while wiping tears.  (It was extra hard for me to hold back tears as I watched Troy get emotional. We and BalletCollective have come so far that it was a great sense of joy to be where we were.) He said Merde and out he went to the audience. It was now up to us to pull this off.

Costume is on and I head to the stage to practice before the "curtain goes up".

One of BalletCollective's signature moves is to do away with the curtain. In all of our seasons we have never had a curtain for the performances. Most companies keep the pre-warmup and practicing a mystery but Troy thinks that it breaks down a barrier that makes the process more interesting for our audience members. It creates a more intimate viewing. The audience is able to learn about the dancers and their individual personalities and quirks. For example, I like to practice many steps and go over the ballets on stage right before the performance begins. I also do a specific on stage warmup which consists of running the perimeter of the stage, a few turns, and then 16 jumps (8 small, 8 big) followed by a high five on the last jump. Other dancers do not do as much. Some stand and chat, stretch or pace.

Soon the house was packed. The sounds of excited audience members filled the stage. Brandon gave us the "places" call and the dancers cleared the stage.

The performance was about to begin. The musicians tuned and the lights dimmed. Hugs and exchanges of "merde" occurred. The first notes of The Impulse Wants Company were heard... BalletCollective's debut performance had begun!

Photo: Erin Baiano
The music to Impulse is quite difficult to count but the challenging rhythm must be counted because it determines where we are in the music and when we are to enter or do specific steps. Since it is not typical, easy to count music, we count as a group to stay focused. After all of us counting 6,10, 8, 10, first David went out and met Kaitlyn, who was already on stage. The dancers remaining in the wings kept their focus and before long Meagan, Lauren and I were counting our 10, 6, and three 8's. Then we were on stage. My first appearance at the Joyce was in action.

Before I knew it the lights went dark and we were running on stage to bow after The Impulse Wants Company. Throughout the ballet the energy on stage was incredible. Everyone was like one. The focus was intense. Each dancer was in the moment. It was an amazing feeling to be on stage with the entire group of dancers each giving 150%. This energy was matched by the audience. They seemed to be very into our performance.

We bowed a number of times. Then the dancers scrambled off the stage and downstairs to our dressing rooms to quickly change our hair, costume, and shoes. After a quick refreshing of my makeup, and a new midriff shirt and shorts, I grabbed an Altoid and headed to the stage.

The quick intermission was great because we had just enough time to change our clothes and freshen up but not enough time to get cold (staying warm is key to a great performance). I immediately reviewed my steps to Epistasis. Within minutes "places" was called. The lights went dark, and we were off!

Although I am an original dancer in Epistasis, this year I was also doing the central pas de deux in addition to my original parts in the ballet. My nerves were heightened for sure. The ballet calls for great stamina for all the dancers. I just wanted to dance well for myself and for Troy. We begin the ballet with a high paced energetic opening number which leads in to a series of solos (6 dancers have a solo). Immediately following my solo the central pas de deux begins as Taylor and I meet face to face. We locked eyes and I knew we were connected. Like The Impulse Wants Company, each dancer was living in the moment, intently focused, and filled with intense energy.

Before long Taylor and I were embracing in our final slow dance sequence. This is my favorite part of the ballet. The music matched with Troy's movement is quite touching. We had made it through Epistasis! All drenched in sweat, we were thrilled with the performance.

As the lights came up, BalletCollective bowed. The dancers and musicians love seeing the enthusiastic crowd. I felt accomplished and so did BalletCollective. Thank you to all of you who supported us!

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