Thursday, November 6, 2014

And the Show Begins!

Dear and Blackbirds Photo by Matthew Murphy
The Impulse Wants Company, first on the program, is a very communal ballet filled with tons of energy. The dancers were focused, filled with excitement, yet perhaps on edge a bit (possibly due to nerves for our own dance steps but mostly because collectively we all wanted this event to be a huge success) Though as soon as we each arrived on the scene and stepped on to the stage, our nerves and jitters subsided.  

The ballet ended with an overwhelming response from the audience. The dancers were encouraged and excited to now go on to perform the premieres.

Up next, Dear and Blackbirds. Though this was a premiere, Harrison and I had performed excerpts in Fire Island and Telluride this past summer so it didn't feel as if I had never danced it. However, I had never performed it with Troy, so it was going to be a different experience for sure.  Troy and I rarely dance together at City Ballet, but do occasionally dance together on projects of his creative works, so this was not our first rodeo together. The lights go to dim, we steal a quick "merde" hug and we begin walking. After just four steps the musicians began playing. Everything happened as planned thus far, except the musicians were off to a gallant pace. Luckily for me, the beginning of Dear and Blackbirds is minimal dancing for my part and starts out slow, unlike Troy who was flying around, jumping and turning at the speed of light. We had moments where our eyes met - both understanding by the look and expression that "Wow, this is fast!" Before long we had settled into the quick pace and just went along for the ride. Though, at times I felt rushed, overall the performance was exciting and spontaneous. I enjoyed portraying a different woman and telling a new story dancing with Troy and I think he had a blast too!

All That We See Photo by Matthew Murphy
After taking our bows and during the three minute pause, I ran to start the laundry for The Impulse Wants Company costumes, that way by the time the performance had finished, I could hang the costumes up to dry overnight. I managed to make it back to the stage before All That We See started.

Troy and I, dabbing off our sweat, catching our breath and taking sips of water, stood watching from the sidelines. All That We See is a wonderful ballet filled with great music, varied tempos, moods, and interesting steps. Created for five dancers, with eight movements, everyone dances hard for 18 minutes and they are exhausted by the end. I love watching this ballet and find it so diverse. I think it could be Schumacher's best yet!

The crowd was incredibly supportive of all three works. BalletCollective left feeling extremely accomplished and grateful.

After the performance Wednesday night we all headed to a party to celebrate the night that thrown by our supporters! Needless to say it was a blast, but also a late night. Thursday Troy and I slept in and had a slow start to the day. Instead of getting up early and taking morning ballet class, Troy taught a warm up class at 5:30pm for the company on stage.

I arrived at the theater early to finish dealing with the laundry and making sure the costumes were ready to go for the evening performance. Then I got straight to my makeup and hair, giving myself plenty of time to stretch and prepare before our warm up class. After class, Troy and I ran Dear and Blackbirds to get a "puff" in. It is essential to get a puff in before doing something hard. (It makes it easier in the performance having already danced hard.) And since the pas de deux is 10 minutes of non-stop dancing, we needed to feel winded.  Some of the other dancers did excerpts of All That We See to get moving as well.

The on stage call was announced and the dancers were ready! Interestingly enough, the New York Times review came out online an hour before the show was to start. Usually Troy, and the rest of us, would not jump to read something that reviewed the same ballets we were soon to dance, but Troy received word from his press advisor that he must read it. So the article filtered through the theater, and caused a rush of excitement and joy to all at BalletCollective. That night's performance had an extremely different feeling. The atmosphere on stage and in the orchestra pit was fresh, relaxed, joyful, and an excited ball of energy, feeling lucky to again perform something so special to all of us.

We finished the performance with hugs and kisses, all looking forward to BalletCollective's next and future endeavors!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Arriving at NYU Skirball Center

Photo by Matthew Murphy
BalletCollective had an amazing run at the Skirball center! Thank you to all who attended our performances and supported our many artists. For those who missed it...

Wednesday was a jam-packed day! Brandon Baker, BalletCollective's lighting designer, arrived at the theater at 5am to begin "set up" and lighting for the different ballets. After taking class at Steps, Troy arrived at noon to assist with lighting, and oversee any other theater doings. The dancers trickled in around 1pm to put on our stage make up ... because press photographers were going to be shooting our dress rehearsal. Soon after the musicians arrived and did their sound check, we were ready!

Both premieres: Dear and Blackbirds and All that We See, had complete dress rehearsals, meaning performance makeup and hair for both male and female dancers, and a full out run of the ballets with live music and lighting. However, each ballet began with a spacing rehearsal with the musicians playing through the piece, as the dancers took it easy (marked through the steps without going full out with energy and feeling). Then once the music levels sounded balanced and the dancers had a sense of the space, we danced each ballet full out. For The Impulse Wants Company, since it was not a new piece, we rehearsed in practice clothes and took it under top speed - to make sure we saved some energy on reserve for the evening's performance, which was a very quick turn around!

Photo by Matthew Murphy
It's a hard day, entering a theater for the first time, having dress rehearsal and then the first performance all in a few hours. Getting ourselves organized and comfortable on the stage has to happen in about 60 seconds! Thankfully the Skirball Center is a wonderful theater. The stage was a great size, much bigger than I had imagined. It is rather wide compared to most theaters. There are two large columns that flank each side - though the stage extends about five feet farther on each side into the "wings". Yet, there were no actual wings. And the floor was not slippery nor too hard.

At five o'clock, the dancers grabbed a snack and headed to our coed dressing room to relax before beginning our pre-show rituals. With the music blaring Simon and Garfunkel or the occasional "Call Me Maybe," we were pumped.

Two hours before every show I start my makeup and hair. Once my face and hair are made up, I change into my Uniqlo warmup fleece sweater and pants, eat a banana, put on the last finishing touch: my Mac Russian Red lipstick, and head to the stage to start my barre. I love stretching and warming up on or near the stage; it gets me in the zone. One hour before the show I give myself a ballet barre warmup, similar to morning ballet class in that it works the whole body, do an ab series, and then put on my pointe shoes. I then change into my costume and grab two Altoids for the road!

Photo by Matthew Murphy
About half hour before the show, the audience started to file in; meanwhile the dancers were warming up on the stage, for all to watch. Troy loves to remove the wings and curtains from all our stages. He feels that it allows the audience to see what goes on behind the scenes: stretching, talking, hugging, heavy breathing, collapsing to the floor, etc. One of Troy's hopes for BalletCollective is to help ballet become more accessible by breaking down the barriers and removing the facade.

Brandon, acting as stage manager and lighting director, called "places" and soon the audience grew quiet and the lights went dark.  

Stay tuned for more about our performances!