Tag Archives: Pacific Northwest Ballet

Ballet Career Highlights: The WISH official Countdown

The piece of Indigo’s ballet journey that readers witness in WISH is just a small part of a dance career. Many (although not all) dancers begin taking ballet classes when they are quite young and study for years before auditioning for a summer intensive with a professional ballet school. While this is a big step, it’s still just the beginning of the professional path. If all goes well, a dancer is accepted in a summer intensive and later becomes a permanent student. Even then a real career is still years away.

After all the years of literal blood, sweat and tears, it finally happens: a real job with a real ballet company. Then the true adventure begins. Here are a few favorite moments from my career:

World tour: Israel
I’ll be honest: Israel was not a country I would have chosen to visit on my own. My mind conjured up vague images of giant dust storms whenever I thought about it. But once we arrived the sights (unique! exotic!) and smells (fragrant! decadent!) were so different from what we found at home. And oh, yes. Let’s not forget the uniformed men with guns. Correction. Not just any guns. AK-47s. Not a sight I’d ever seen a farmers’ market before. Unnerved, we walked in the opposite direction. Moments later we were walking along Via Dolorosa, The Way of Sorrows. Here we were, in Jerusalem, walking the same path where Jesus carried the cross, our feet retracing this ancient, Biblical event. Maybe we breathed in a few stray atoms that were remnants from that time.

The next day we ate breakfast while bombs shook the windows then visited Bethlehem, rode camels and went swimming in the Dead Sea. The high saline content made it possible to float in any weird position we could dream up.

It doesn’t get more adventurous than that.

dome

First professional performance in New York
They say there’s nothing like your first time. That was never more true than my first professional appearance with a world-class ballet company. Pacific Northwest Ballet needed a few dancers to fill in the corps for Balanchine’s Chaconne during their New York City tour. Not only did I land a solo, this was a “hair down” ballet, which was something I’d never experienced before.

We performed with PNB a handful of times at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I was sixteen at the time, and I have never felt more beautiful than during those few moments in the spotlight, dancing that ethereal ballet with my hair flowing down my back.

Having a tutu built from scratch to my specifications
Most ballet companies keep a list of ballets in their repertoire that they repeat year after year. While the roster of dancers may change over time, the costumes do not, which means you might have to squeeze yourself into a costume that was made for someone with a much shorter torso or a larger chest. The costume basically fits, but not exactly because it wasn’t made for you…it was made for someone else (plus who knows how many other people before you have sweated profusely in it).

There is nothing like having a costume made specifically for your body. It fits in all the right places, no bunching, pinching or sagging. Being measured for a costume fitting is magical: for a split-second you feel like a v.i.p. The very first night I performed with Miami CIty Ballet I danced in the world premiere of a ballet and was lucky enough to have a costume made for me, a stunning tutu that was a swath of luscious purples and fuchsia. Yummy.

These are just a few of my favorite moments…but there are enough for another book. Maybe one of these days…after I finish writing the rest of the Indigo Dreams Trilogy.

MORE READING:

Debunking Ballet Myths

BUNHEADS 101

A Day in the Life of a Professional Ballet Student

Favorite Dance Firsts

January is a month of firsts. With just a few days left to this month, I thought I’d share some of my favorite and memorable dance firsts:

1. First ballet class

Although I have already admitted that I was initially a reluctant ballerina, once I got into the studio I always had fun. These were the days when there was no uniform so it was fine to show up in over-the-top girly tutus. Back then ballet meant complete creative freedom, and my favorite thing in the world was “run-run-jump”, where we would do flying grand jetés over pretend puddles.

photo by Grier Cooper

2. First time en pointe.

Nothing beats the thrill of the first time you put on a pair of pointe shoes. Most young ballerinas dream about this day for years before it actually happens, waiting until they get the go-ahead from their teacher. Pointe shoes must be properly fitted as no two dancers’ feet are alike. My big day was a big deal: we had to drive forty-five minutes to the nearest shop. But that was all forgotten the moment I rose on my toes and took the first step towards a professional career.

photo by deafstar

 

   3. First partnering experience

Hello, awkward moment. When I got a last-minute phone call to fill in and perform in place of an injured friend, I didn’t exactly know what I was signing up for. Turns out I had to partner with one of the hottest boys in school and I’d never partnered with anyone before. I have never been so aware of every contour of my body and I don’t think I breathed the entire time.

4. First serious audition (SAB)

My ballet teacher brought me to my first real audition at the School of American Ballet. I was twelve. We rode the train from Connecticut to Grand Central Station. While the building that housed SAB was completely ordinary, the studios were the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen. Huge, pristine, light-filled and perfectly appointed. A glossy black grand piano stood in the corner, and a pianist played live for class. The infamous Antonina Tumkovsky conducted the audition and half the time I thought she was speaking a different language altogether. Embarrassing moment: she asked me to demonstrate a jump combination and the heel of my pointe shoe slipped off in the middle of it. I kept going but I was sure I would never get in.

 

photo by William Berg-Hillinger

5. Leaving home.

I left home and moved to New York City when I was fourteen after SAB asked me to stay on as a permanent student. I quickly learned how to navigate the streets and public transportation, although it was overwhelming. Life was a delicate balancing act of ballet, school and homework which didn’t leave much time for anything else. Even though it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I missed my family it was the opportunity of a lifetime and that is what serious ballet dancers do.

photo by melodi2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. First Hair Accessory

This is going to sound silly but it wasn’t until I went to my first SAB summer intensive that I had an epiphany: buns were made to be decorated. I wasn’t one of those people who wore a color-coordinated bow to match every leotard. Instead I fell in love with flowers. One of the older dancers made and sold hair combs decorated with fake flowers. She’d lay the multi-colored assortment out at her feet at lunchtime while she sat quietly sewing ribbons on her pointe shoes.

photo by Laura Morariu

 7. First solo.

My first solo also happened to be my first New York performance. I was lucky enough to have the chance to perform with Pacific Northwest Ballet for their production of Chaconne, an ethereal, hair-down Balanchine ballet. It was also the first time that my family saw me perform, which made the occasion triply memorable.

8. First costume made for my exact measurements.

There are always issues when you wear costumes from past seasons, made to fit other dancers. A tutu might be a little short in the torso (causing a pinch in the crotch, seriously uncomfortable) or too large in all the wrong places. But when you are the first cast to ever perform a new ballet, your costume is custom made for you. Mine was a beautiful purple romantic tutu made by the uber-talented Haydee Morales of Miami City Ballet.

photo by Piotr Bizior, www.bizior.com

 9. First Nutcracker.

I performed my first Nutcracker with San Francisco Ballet. Night after night I was a flower and angel (winner of the most hideous costume since forever award) Performing was a blast but this was the first Christmas I did not spend with my family because our last performance was at the end of December.

10. First international tour

Israel seemed like an exotic place to visit and it was seriously old. Anyone who’s read the Bible knows that this is the place where it all happened.  I will never forget this Miami City Ballet tour, for so many reasons, including bombs at breakfast, touring Bethlehem, Masada, Jerusalem, swimming in the Dead Sea and riding a camel.

 

Feast For The Senses Part II:Music That Makes You Move

Music is to dancers as oxygen is to the rest of us; a vital part of existence that we simply can’t do without. It’s the driving force for all dancers and creators of dance. But there’s music and there’s music. I’m thinking more about the type of music that touches us at our very core, elicits a burning, a yearning, a desire to translate what we are hearing into movement.

In short, the music that makes us want to step, sway, shimmy, shake something. Anything.

Because I was trained as a classical ballet dancer, I will always have a soft spot for classical music. Back in the day, Tchaikovsky was my man. The first time I heard the music to Balanchine’s “Serenade” I felt like passing out, it was so beautiful. The ballet is also stunning. ‘Serenade” was the first ballet George Balanchine choreographed in America, (in 1934), the beginning point where he began 50 years of reshaping classical ballet. It was the first of many pieces choreographed to his beloved Tchaikovsky. The ballet is set to the composer’s soaring score “Serenade for Strings in C.” Tchaikovsky called the piece—composed at the same time as the 1812 Overture—”his “favorite child,” written, he said from “inner compulsion…from the heart…I am terribly in love with this Serenade.”

See if you don’t agree after this:

Ah, Concerto Barocco. The ballet I love to hate (ready why here). Putting past associations aside and overcoming any Pavlovian tendencies, Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins is another piece of music I immediately fell head-over-heels with. In a word, gorgeous.

Concerto Barocco:

But now for something completely different. Balanchine went on to choreograph to a wide variety of music. The ballet Who Cares?, set to music by George Gershwin, is an excellent example. I had the pleasure of performing this ballet while I was a student at the School of American Ballet and I can still hear the music now… Balanchine chose 17 of Gershwin’s Boradway hits for this ballet, first performed at State Theater in 1970. it was at first performed with without décor but from November 1970 with scenery.

Dance Photography Books = Eye Candy

There has been a sudden plethora of cool dance photography books lately. I always feel compelled to share good books… especially good books about dance… and more especially good books about dance with pretty pictures.

 

In the book Ballerina, created to support his wife, Linda, who has advanced breast cancer, Bob Carey appears in a pink tutu — and only a pink tutu —. Says Carey, “The Tutu Project began in 2003 as a lark. I mean, really, think of it. Me photographing myself in a pink tutu, how crazy is that?” It was a big idea created by well… a big man (he’s 200 lbs). Carey appears at famous landmarks and bright, glitzy settings-all united by a singular theme: a man in his pink tutu bearing all in support of his wife and others with breast cancer. Net proceeds from sales of Ballerina go to The Carey Foundation, which was established by the couple to help people cope with financial burdens that often accompany the disease. “After years of talking about the project, it’s really happening—and I’m tickled pink,” Carey says.

Jordan Matter says the concept for Dancers Among Us evolved from watching his young son playing with trucks, completely absorbed in the moment and his fantasy world. The photographer wanted to create work that touched upon those feelings of wonder and living in the moment. Shortly thereafter, Matter attended a dance performance and knew he had found his collaborators. The photographs capture dancers in action in a variety of urban and rural settings, from train tracks to idyllic country scenes. Thus far, he has photographed members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Mark Morris Dance Group, American Ballet Theatre, Paul Taylor Dance Company and Aspen Sante Fe Ballet, along with Broadway legend Bebe Neuwith, to name a few among many.  

Dancers are found charging through Times Square, back bending on Madison Ave., whirling on a merry-go-round in San Francisco or reaching for sea gulls on a Sarasota, Fla., beach. It’s the visual truth too, he uses no digital manipulation. Here’s how he does it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry Leutwyler was working as a celebrity and fashion photographer in Paris when he was he was offered the opportunity to photograph Jorge Donne, a principal dancer with Bejart Ballet… and bitten by the dance bug. He moved back to New York in 1996 and was hired by New York City Ballet to document repertory pieces. One assignment turned into several more, and eventually he won permission to take pictures backstage, in class and rehearsal. The result is “Ballet: Photographs of the New York City Ballet,” a weighty tome that offers a revealing view of the life of one of the world’s most prominent ballet companies. His secret? “To completely blend in, to become invisible.”

View a slideshow of images from this book here

 

HAPPY READING!!