Friday, February 12, 2010
I am sitting here in the therapy room at McCaw Hall.
Boyd, our physical therapist has his latest victim on the table. We call him "Bender the Mender," and he has on more than one occasion been responsible for keeping a show going - in particular the marathon ballets such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and of course The Sleeping Beauty or "Beauty" - it's abbreviated name.
Thankfully I'm not in here because I'm need of therapy - well physical at least, the mental and emotional I can't vouch for. My reason has more to do with human and internet connection than anything else. It's always a hoppin' place here in the therapy room.
This is our last weekend of shows, and I honestly can't tell you how I feel about that. A little sad? Yeah. A little happy? Sure. But truthfully the feeling that's recently overwhelmed me is... anxiety. And I am ashamed - of feeling anxious that is...
You see this Saturday I will be the Wit Fairy. It will be my premiere and my finale of this part all wrapped up into one show. As my co-worker Abby would say, "Git 'er done!" And I shall. But I find that in all this endless practicing and rehearsing I've developed a slight complex regarding this variation.
When I first saw that I was cast to learn this part my initial reaction was at first slight disbelief and then slight, well, for lack of a better word, horror. With speedy tempos, gallops on pointe and lots of chaînés (very fast small turns), it's a pretty challenging variation. And since I'm going for brutal honesty here, I really felt like it was over my head, not to mention my ability. But determined to see this as an opportunity for growth, I attacked this variation with tenacity and determination.
And much to my surprise I absolutely love dancing it! Oddly enough it really suits my dancing personality and I feel I've certainly risen to the challenge. This is me patting myself on the back...
The end of the variation is pretty tricky: you have essentially six counts of chaîné turns and finish in a double step-up turn done without coming off pointe. You feel like an Olympic gymnast trying to stick a dismount - the goal of course being a solid, sans fumble landing. I have practiced this part of the variation over and over again, and I wish I could say I nailed it every time. Everyone's been so helpful in offering up their suggestions, tips and corrections, but sometimes I felt like there were "too many cooks in the kitchen" if you know what I mean.
Taking everyone's suggestions and every opportunity to practice I know I've improved. But as my Facebook status said today, I've come to realize that at this point practice doesn't = perfect but only perpetuates my insecurity, anxiety and complex over this variation. Practice has become a barrier if you will to the one ingredient that I cannot be without: confidence in myself. By practicing over and over again, I am refusing to trust myself and my ability that I can and will do this variation excellently. Seems like a very simple lesson to learn, one I should have had under my belt a long time ago... But I find there's always lessons to be learned and re-learned. That's just life, right?
So all this work and for what? One show? That's a lot of pressure. Well it is if I choose to look at it that way. There are quite a few of us dancers who have put in countless hours for just one show - one opportunity. With only nine shows and quite a few casts, sometimes that's just how the cookie crumbles. But you know what? Even if it's just one, it's one! It's a gift! And what else are gifts for but to be enjoyed. So this Saturday matinee, while I'm not the Fairy of Joy, I will be full of joy as I take hold of the gift and blessing it is to dance victoriously the Fairy of Wit. And I will stick that last turn. I can do it and I will do it!
To come and see many premieres this final weekend, you can buy your tickets here. But you better hurry before they all sell out!
Photo of PNB principal dancer Mara Vinson as the Fairy of Wit in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo © Angela Sterling.
Posted by Jessika Anspach at 12:37 AM
Monday, February 8, 2010
Not only did I make it to the starting line but am now running this marathon that is The Sleeping Beauty. And what an eventful week it has been as we prepared ourselves for the initial sprint: opening weekend.
As I stated before, this is not just a ballet but a production. Nothing is glazed over; every detail is attended to. There are set changes (that involve moving giant pillars and platforms) for each act, props to be placed, costumes to be changed, and praise the Lord we have an excellent stage crew and an army of wardrobe, wig and makeup men and women that manage to transform us and the stage in only our 15 minute intermissions! We owe these unsung heroes a giant round of applause for their tireless efforts in making this production possible. And unlike us (the dancers), they don't have weeks of rehearsal to get things down pat. For most of them, they have the Monday of performance week till Wednesday night - our dress rehearsal - to get everything set up, lighting adjusted, and kinks worked out. And all this is going on while we are rehearsing on stage too.
You see with five casts of principle couples (Prince and Princess Aurora), each one needs a dress rehearsal, but with the limited time we have, unfortunately some are more "dressed" than others. This can be pretty stressful, especially when you're trying to get the full feeling of what this three hour show's going to require stamina-wise. But in these less than ideal circumstances everyone's handled them with grace and the utmost professionalism. Sometimes that's just how the cookie crumbles -so with chin up you make the best of it.
But I have to say Wednesday was quite surreal. Definitely NOT your ordinary dress rehearsal.
First of all, because Sleeping Beauty is so long, we broke up the dress rehearsal into two parts: the Prologue dress was in the afternoon, and then the last three acts were in the evening at the usual dress rehearsal time. But this pushed our class time up to 10am, which felt very early considering we'd finished rehearsing the night before at 9pm. It also required us to be ready with full stage makeup, performance hair and costumes for press photos at noon. Rushed? Just a little...
And the rehearsal was pretty rough. Not only did we struggle with orchestra tempos, but there were costume malfunctions, and special effect flubs. Well that's what dress rehearsals are for - ironing out the creases, which we most certainly did. And just as we were about to be dismissed can you guess what happened? The McCaw Hall fire alarm went off... and this was NOT a drill.
It felt like the hours before the fire truck arrived, but I'm sure it was only a matter of minutes. We all filed back into the theater to finally change, only to come back hours later to do it all over again... dress rehearsal part two: Acts 1-3. Well they say bad dress rehearsal, good performance... A true statement.
Opening night came and everything went off seamlessly. The production glittered and sparkled and everyone in it radiated excitement and energy. The audience was packed and I never felt more proud to be a part of such a tremendous company of beautiful and talented dancers. Two more shows remain this weekend and then we have five more performances the following one before the spell is finally broken and the Sleeping Beauty awakes for the for good. I would highly recommend coming to see this awesome production - it's definitely one you don't want to miss! Buy your tickets here before they all sell out! - Jessika Anspach, PNB corps de ballet dancer
Posted by Pacific Northwest Ballet at 10:45 AM