Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fire Island - Dancers Responding to AIDS

Being a part of the Fire Island Dance Festival was an absolutely incredible experience! BalletCollective not only made its company debut appearance at the festival, we also premiered an excerpt of our newest work Dear and Blackbirds.
Awaiting the Pines ferry
Photo by Troy Schumacher

The journey to the island is a bit of a trek - an hour and half bus ride from the city to The Pines Ferry, a 20 minute ferry ride, and then a casual walk on the boardwalk to the location. But once you set your eyes on the Pines and the Fire Island Dance Festival performance venue, you fall in love.

Throughout the weekend, the performers and dance companies were on tight itineraries to ensure that we could make it to all the wonderful events, see the amazing beach houses (our hosts have an original 50's beach house!), take a dip in the many pools, and of course be wined and dined by the amazing people who make the Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA) possible.

Friday, after arriving on the island, we made our way to the first of our scheduled events - a pool party! We relaxed, had some lunch, and then freshened up for the opening night cocktail party. We were then punctually whisked away to the cocktail party, met a few hundred people, and enjoyed a performance by the Mark Stuart Dance Theater. Immediately following we were graciously met by our host families holding up a sign that read "Troy and Ashley Schumacher". Troy and I were hosted by Jim Streaker and Scott Ahlborn. Upon arriving at their beach house we were immediately struck by its 50's charm and detail! Jim and Scott were so welcoming, respectful, open,

50's Beach House
Photo by Troy Schumacher

funny and just a joy to be around. Troy and I were greeted in the morning by coffee and a freshly made frittata with vegetables from their garden, and in the evenings after the performances yummy Malibu cocktails or martinis with pickled green tomatoes! We sat, watched the passers-by from their all-glass windowed living room, and enjoyed each other's company!

Our host family's house was conveniently located two doors down from the dancers' greenroom and four doors down from the performance venue. We had the best and most prime location for everything! It made life so much easier (the other dancers had to lug their performance clothing and dance bags to and from events to make sure they'd have all that they needed for the tech run through and performances). I just had to walk next door.

Because the greenroom was so close to my house and the performance venue, Harrison Coll and I warmed up in my hosts' kitchen. It was more comfortable and less chaotic than the greenroom, as we were only two, instead of 20, trying to warm up and get in the zone. Dear and Blackbirds was fifth on the program, so at the top of the tech rehearsal or show, Harrison and I would make our short walk to the green room, put on our costumes and make any last minute adjustments before being escorted to the venue.

Rehearsal "Dear and Blackbirds"
Photo by Troy Schumacher
Saturday was performance day! After a brief orientation and coffee time with our hosts, Harrison came over and he and I gave ourselves a ballet class warm-up in the kitchen. Our tech run-through was at 1:40pm. This was our first time up on the stage, feeling the floor, etc. The intense natural sun light was blinding, and the no wings or backdrop (just the ocean) was disorienting, but after a few minutes of trying things we were ready to begin our walk through. Troy went over the musical cues with the tech crew while Harrison and I took our places for the top of Dear and Blackbirds. In the midst of our tech rehearsal, Troy says to us, "Get together... picture time!" We do as we are told, and then look behind us and there, waving, were Jim and Scott... kayaking behind the stage! It was the coolest thing ever! They watched our run-through from the ocean.

After our run-through, Troy, Harrison and I took a dip in Harrison's hosts' pool to cool off and relax for a few. At 3:15pm Troy and I headed back to our 50's beach house to regroup and get focused for the first performance. At 3:30pm I jumped in the shower to warm up, then started to put on my face (do my stage makeup). Since the lighting is "au naturale" my stage makeup reflected that: mascara, a little eyeshadow, blush and lip gloss. At 4pm Harrison came over and we began our joint warm up together. An hour later, the show began. We headed over to the greenroom, slipped on our costumes-- mine a blue dress from Lord and Taylor, and Harrison's a Uniqlo polo shirt and mustard yellow Zara pants cut into shorts--styled by myself, Troy and Jeff from the DRA. I sewed in my point shoe ribbons, grabbed last minute rosin and a sip of water. Soon we were escorted to the "on deck" position and awaited our turn!

To be continued...

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