by Emma Love Suddarth
Laptop… billfold… Ziploc bag of toiletries… socks… binder… normal Tuesday. Pointe shoes? Foot thongs? Tennis ball? I always wonder what the TSA security officers think when they watch our dance bags go through the x-ray scanners at the airport. Whenever PNB travels on tour, I’m careful to triple check that all those “necessities” we dancers just can’t be without make it into my carry-on—you know, just in case. Sometimes it seems that my carry-on somehow ends up heavier than my actual suitcase. On a normal day in the Seattle studios though, what’s in there?
Naturally, I have the number one ballet-company-related necessity: pointe shoes. Seeing as we are currently performing—meaning traveling back and forth from studio to theater—I have far more pairs in my bag than I should. Another example of the just-in-case. Of course, those pointe shoes come with the necessary accessories, such as toe pads, spacers, toe tape, and a sewing kit, ready for the next pair to enter circulation. A single pair of flat shoes is in there as well, to use for class and the occasional rehearsal. A pair of foot thongs has kept up residence in my bag as well, perhaps for far longer than they should. I used them for Petite Mort a couple seasons back. Nostalgically I find them hard to part with—I treasured dancing that ballet, a favorite, with my husband, another favorite. They might stick around a little longer.
Next, a dancer always seems to have a number of therapy-related items. We require so much of our bodies on a daily basis that the least we can do in response is care for them as best we can. In my arsenal I keep anti-inflammatory gel, Advil, a theraband, a couple of different-sized balls for rolling, and, a trusty pet store tennis ball. I find it comforting to be reminded of our two rambunctious dogs at home every time I pull that one out.
Lastly, there’s always a handful of warmups every dancer relies on. From my bag I pull a pair of well-loved legwarmers, a cozy turtleneck (the theater is always colder so it’s long-sleeves for now), my favorite—not to mention super thick—socks that just happen to be covered in sock monkeys, and a pair of bright orange sweatpants. Ask anyone at PNB and you’ll receive the same answer, “Emma does not wear bright colors.” It’s true; I’m a gray and blue kind of girl. However, I absolutely love my bright orange sweatpants. Maybe it’s related to the fact that Price—my husband—has always loved orange, or maybe they’re just great pants. Maybe it’s just me, but when it comes to doing pliés in those guys on a Monday morning—somehow they go just a little bit better.
Contributor Emma Love Suddarth is from Wichita, Kansas. She studied with Sharon Rogers and on scholarship at Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and attended summer courses at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Ballet Academy East, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. She was first recipient of the Flemming Halby Exchange with the Royal Danish Ballet School and was also a 2004 and 2005 recipient of a Kansas Cultural Trust Grant. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 2008 and was promoted to corps de ballet in 2009.
While at PNB, she has performed featured roles in works by George Balanchine, Peter Boal, David Dawson, Ulysses Dove, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Mark Morris, Margaret Mullin, Crystal Pite, Alexei Ratmansky, Kent Stowell, Susan Stroman, and Price Suddarth. Some of her favorites include the Siren in Balanchine’s The Prodigal Son, Jiri Kylian’s Petit Mort, David Dawson’s A Million Kisses to My Skin, William Forsythe’s New Suite, and Price Suddarth’s Signature.
She is a contributor to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s blog. She is married to fellow PNB dancer Price Suddarth.
“I’ve wondered…what I will do after I stop dancing? Be a florist?” joked San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Gennadi Nedvigin in a media Q&A on Wednesday. “I could have performed for two or three more years,” said the soon-to-retire 39-year-old who will become Atlanta Ballet’s next artistic director in August. “But being offered this position took priority. I wanted to focus on one thing.”
“My aesthetic has been formed by the diverse range of choreographers and dancers I’ve worked with and by the diverse range of pieces I’ve performed in my career. Different styles of dance and choreography are like different languages,” he said. “The more languages you know, the better.” Drawing further upon the language parallel, the Bolshoi-trained Nedvigin related that he’s experienced the challenge of being immersed in new language environments before—first when he moved from his native Russia to dance with Le Jeune Ballet de France in France, and then again when he came to the United States to join San Francisco Ballet in 1997. “It’s like being dipped in water and forced to swim—twice,” he said.
Nedvigin will be “dipped in water” again as he transitions from dancer to director. Though this will be his debut in such a role, he has worked with Atlanta Ballet before when he staged Yuri Possokhov’s Classical Symphony on the company in 2014. “I was drawn to the sense of community among Atlanta Ballet’s dancers,” he said. “And I was proud of their performance.”
Nedvigin announced that Atlanta Ballet’s 2016-2017 season will include works the company has performed before, such as John McFall’s Nutcracker, David Bintley’s Carmina Burana, and Helen Pickett’s Camino Real, as well as mixed repertory performances he personally selected. “I’ve carefully chosen these programs. They will hint at the direction I will take the company,” he said. He also emphasized that the company will perform “classical, neoclassical, and contemporary works”– bringing to mind the “many languages” analogy again.
Among the mixed repertory programs, Gennadi’s Choice will feature his staging of selections from Paquita, the Atlanta premiere of Liam Scarlett’s Vespertine, and a world premiere by Gemma Bond. Firebird will include Yuri Possokhov’s Firebird, George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, and Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort.
What other changes might Nedvigin bring to Atlanta Ballet? He indicated that he’s open to the idea of a ranking system for the currently unranked company. “Ranking exists whether it’s announced or not,” he said. “Ranking helps give dancers recognition and it doesn’t prevent lower-ranked dancers from performing lead roles.” Another possibility he’s looking into is touring. However, he acknowledges that changes will take time and that it will be at least a few years before he begins to attain his vision for the company. One thing that won’t significantly change for the present is the roster of Atlanta Ballet’s dancers. All had their contracts renewed, though some have opted not to return in the fall.
Nedvigin will conclude his 19-year performing career with San Francisco Ballet in May as Lensky in John Cranko’s Onegin. He will succeed John McFall who retires in June after 23 years as artistic director of Atlanta Ballet. Nedvigin will be just the fourth artistic director in the history of the 87-year-old company. “It’s an honor to be joining Atlanta Ballet,” he said. “These are exciting times.”
Atlanta Ballet’s 2016-2017 Season
ATLANTA BALLET’S NUTCRACKER
December 9 – 24, 2016 | The Fox Theatre
Live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra
Encore Presentation of David Bintley’s CARMINA BURANA
February 3 – 11, 2017 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra
One Hour Family Ballet – TITLE TO BE ANNOUNCED
February 11 & 12, 2017 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Recommended for families and younger audiences.
GENNADI’s CHOICE (Mixed Repertory)
March 17 – 19, 2017 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Selections from Paquita choreographed by Marius Petipa and staged by Gennadi Nedvigin, the Atlanta premiere of Vespertine by Liam Scarlett, and a world premiere by Gemma Bond.
FIREBIRD (Mixed Repertory)
April 14 – 16, 2017 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Firebird by Yuri Possokhov, Allegro Brillante by George Balanchine, and Petite Mort by Jiří Kylián.
Encore Presentation of Helen Pickett’s Tennessee Williams-Inspired CAMINO REAL
May 12 – 14, 2017 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Choreography by Helen Pickett
Music & Sound Design by Peter Salem
Live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra
How many years have you been doing ballet?
I’ve been dancing for about 16 years.
What are some roles you’ve danced with Ballet San Antonio?
With Ballet San Antonio I have been very lucky to perform a wide variety of different roles and characters. Some of my favorites have been the title roles in Ben Stevenson’s Romeo & Juliet and Cinderella, as well as the role of Odette/Odile in his Swan Lake. I’ve also danced the lead in Balanchine’s Donizetti Variations. In February, I performed the role of Wendy in Peter Anastos’ Peter Pan. It was a very fun ballet with lots of silly moments…and, as Wendy, I got to fly!
What’s your favorite thing about ballet?
One of my favorite things about ballet is that it is always changing, and, as a result, ballet is always changing me as a person. Everyday I come into the studio and discover something new about my technique or learn a new approach on tackling a particularly demanding step. As a performer, I’m constantly learning new ballets and choreography. With each new piece, I learn new ways to understand musicality and search for the intention behind the movement. Throughout the rehearsal process I find myself growing as an artist, an actress, a dancer, and as a human being. And then I get to share everything I’ve learned and experienced on stage with the world! I feel incredibly lucky to call myself a ballet dancer and feel very fortunate to always be growing as a person through this beautiful art form.
What’s in your dance bag?
Freed Maple Leaf Variation pointe shoes – I have about 6 pairs rotating at a time which I keep organized in a reusable wine bag (this way they are organized by pair and not mixing with my other dance wear), toe spacers and gauze which I use instead of toe tape (it doesn’t slip off when my feet get sweaty!), foot roller, dense rolling ball, thera band, back warming brace, Rubiawear leg warmers and socks that I’ve cut into ankle warmers, shorts, Eleve and Tulips by Tracy skirts, aqua socks (they keep my feet so warm!), multiple shades of chapstick/lipstick, water bottle, and, for snacks, I usually like to have bananas or apples, nuts, and protein powder (mix with water for a quick and easy snack when you don’t have a long break!).
Sally Turkel began her ballet training at the Cary Ballet Conservatory, in her hometown of Cary, North Carolina. At age 14, she was accepted into the residential high school’s ballet studies program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Upon graduation, Ms. Turkel performed with Houston Ballet, HBII, Carolina Ballet and Steifel and Stars. In subsequent years she joined Colorado ballet, where she danced for five seasons, performing a wide range of both classical and contemporary roles. A few of her favorites include the Serenity Fairy and Puss and Boots in Sleeping Beauty, Little Swans in Swan Lake, George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Glen Tetley’s The Rite of Spring, Michael Pink’s Peter Pan and Dracula, Agnes DeMille’s Rodeo, Lynn Taylor Corbett’s Great Galloping Gottschalk, and Christopher Wheeldon’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In 2013 Ms. Turkel joined Ballet San Antonio and was promoted to Principal Dancer the following year. While with Ballet San Antonio, Ms. Turkel has danced the roles of Odette/Odile in Ben Stevenson’s Swan Lake, Mina in Gabriel Zertuche’s Dracula, Cinderella and Fairy God Mother in Stevenson’s Cinderella, the Sugarplum Fairy and Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, and the female lead in Balanchine’s Donizetti Variations. In addition, she has worked with choreographers such as Stephen Mills, Twyla Tharp, Michael Pink, Emery LeCrone, and Stanton Welch.
In February 2015, Ms. Turkel danced the role of Juliet in Ben Stevenson’s Romeo & Juliet.
“Turkel maintains the character arc from impudent and reluctant girl to the grieving and horror stricken widow-too-young, with a richness of feeling that goes beyond her obvious prowess as a dancer.” [Tami Kegley, The Rivard Report].
There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great country full of mountains and valleys. – George MacDonald
A heroine’s quest to save her sisters from goblins comes to life through the choreography of the legendary Twyla Tharp as Atlanta Ballet brings The Princess and the Goblin to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre from April 15-17.
Created in 2012 for both Atlanta Ballet and Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, The Princess and the Goblin takes its inspiration from George MacDonald’s 19th-century fantasy story of the same name.
“Princess Irene is the oldest daughter of a mostly absent father,” explains Alessa Rogers, who is performing the part. “When her two younger sisters and other children of the kingdom are kidnapped and taken to the underworld, Irene must find the strength within herself to rescue them. She is aided along the way by her friend Curdie and by a mysterious presence.”
No stranger to the role, Rogers performed as Princess Irene in Atlanta Ballet’s 2012 production. Originally cast as the understudy, she was put into the part right before a studio performance. “That was my first lead role ever and I will always have a soft spot for it,” says Rogers. “It’s wonderful to revisit it now after 5 years. I recognize the ways in which I’ve grown and changed as a dancer since its premiere. A lot of opportunities sprang from this ballet. It’s been a crazy, surreal ride but The Princess and the Goblin gave me so much. I will always be grateful for the experience and for Twyla for believing I could be a princess.”
John Welker will also revisit a role he performed in 2012–Princess Irene’s father, King Papa. “His self-centered ways inadvertently lead to the abduction of his daughters,” Welker explains. “He then goes on a desperate search to find them. They, however, are saved by a young man named Curdie, whom he dismissed earlier in the story as a lowlife. Through the innocence of his children and the grace of Curdie, King Papa experiences a transformation and realizes the beauty of family and life.”
Welker especially identifies with King Papa because of his real-life role as a parent. “I enjoy and relate to this character due to my experience of being a father to a frustrating and very adorable three year old,” he says. “Through my son’s eyes I get to experience being a child again, along with all the joy and wonder life holds.”
The cast of The Princess and the Goblin includes 13 students from the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education. Tharp explained to The New York Times in 2012, “My mission was to find movement [for the young performers], which they could really do that was not something they were straining to reach at […] But that would not just be running and skipping and hopping and chaos. First thing I did was to get them out of their ballet shoes and put them in street shoes. Next thing was: ‘Girls, get your hair out of the buns. Now let’s be who you are, and let’s figure out how you move.’ ”
Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and the Goblin is set to compositions by Franz Schubert arranged and orchestrated by Schubert scholar Richard Burke, as well as original music by Burke. The score will be performed live by the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra.
Tickets start at $25. Purchase here or call 800-982-2787.
From Atlanta Ballet’s website:
“Run time is approximately 1 hour and 24 minutes. This program is performed without an intermission.”
by Lauren Warnecke
Ballet has been the topic of much debate among dance scholars and writers over the last decade. Authors, critics, and academics have questioned the relevance of an art form with more than 600 years of history, particularly given the fact that much of that history has centered around Euro-centric, imperialist, male dominated subject matter (or Euro-centric, imperialist, male-dominated stereotypes of non-Western themes). Ballet dancers, choreographers, and artistic directors have varying views on how to remain current and inclusive in modern society, with some companies focusing on preserving the classics, others re-imagining or somehow evolving older ballets, and still others trying to push the form into entirely new territory.
Published in 2015, The Ballet Lover’s Companion by Zoë Anderson is a brief dance primer on ballet, with each of its eight chapters dedicated to distinct periods throughout ballet’s long history. In fewer than 350 pages, Anderson sifts through 140 ballets, analyzing their context by examining the social and political eras in which they were created. It’s an exciting (context: exciting for dance nerds like me) update to the slew of western dance history books available in that Anderson actually digs into the late 20th and early 21st century, perhaps replacing Susan Au’s 1988 stalwart on many dance majors’ bookshelves.
The Ballet Lover’s Companion is essentially a less verbose, easier to read, more optimistic version of Jennifer Homans’ Apollo’s Angels; Anderson, a dance critic, is unafraid to infuse the facts with opinion and commentary. For this reader, those are the bits that allowed me to get all the way through the book as a recreational read, but a second, typo-free edition could easily complement a western dance history course given its interesting tidbits of history and thorough treatment of an impressive number of ballets.
That all of those ballets originated from Europe, Russia or the United States is a symptom of ballet’s history, and not necessarily the fault of Zoë Anderson. That only five of the 140 ballets surveyed were created by women (namely Bronislava Nijinska, Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp) might be more problematic given the scope of the book into the 2010s, but perhaps again indicative of a systemic problem, and not at all unique to Anderson’s book.
Unlike Au’s Ballet and Modern Dance, or Homans’ Apollo’s Angels, however, The Ballet Lover’s Companion doesn’t appear to identify a clear audience or position itself as a textbook, though it reads like one. One page offers an enlightened discussion on the radicalism of the Ballets Russes and the desire of early 20th century choreographers to abandon classicism for more meaning and authenticity, while the next page gives a definition of the word tendu. Unsure of its audience, The Ballet Lover’s Companion could be for everyone interested in ballet, or no one at all, but my guess is that pre-professional dance students and college dance majors have the most to gain from reading it.
Contributor Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance writer based in Chicago, and regular contributor to SeeChicagoDance.com, Windy City Times, and Chicago Magazine. Lauren is the creator of artintercepts.org, a blog committed to critical discourse about dance and performance, and has written for nationally reputed sites such as Dance Advantage and 4Dancers. An experienced educator, administrator, and producer, Lauren holds degrees in dance (BA) and kinesiology (MS). She is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), and holds specialty certificates in Functional Training (ACE) and Sports Performance and Weightlifting (USAW). Tweet her @artintercepts0
by Cara Marie Gary
As a young ballet student or aspiring professional dancer, some big challenges in life usually center around getting into a top summer program, performing well in a competition, or landing that first contract with a professional company. These were certainly part of my experience, but now as a professional dancer with some seasoning and experience, the challenges that I face on a daily basis are different, but just as important.
One of the top challenges in my life as a dancer is dealing with and learning to appropriately manage pain. Fortunately, I haven’t had any major injuries while dancing professionally, but aches in my body are a daily struggle, as an average five-day rehearsal week consists of approximately 38 hours of dancing. Each morning I wake up refreshed, but often with minor aches and pains, and over the years, I’ve found some helpful remedies for this challenge. I often consult with my physical therapists about the pain I’m experiencing and they always offer specific strengthening exercises for weak areas that could be linked to the source of pain.
It’s simply part of my daily routine for my joints to snap, crackle, and pop, especially in the morning, and even though I’m used to these noises, I try to make monthly appointments with a chiropractor for proper treatment. I’ve also learned to explore and experiment with alternative techniques and have discovered a lot about what works for my body. For example, I tend to hold a lot of tension and stress in my upper back and neck. I’ve found that the best remedy for this area of pain is a technique called “cupping”. It’s an ancient form of alternative medicine that uses cups and heat to create a suction that pulls the fascia tissue towards the cup, ultimately mobilizing blood flow to promote healing. The cups are normally left on for about fifteen minutes, and once they are removed I feel an immediate release of tension and have a noticeable increased range of motion in my upper back and neck areas. This technique creates dark circles where the cups where placed, and often times my co-workers joke that it looks like I got attacked by an octopus, but I don’t mind, because cupping works miracles for me!
When my calves or hamstrings are hurting, I’ve undergone a technique called “dry needling”. This is a process similar to acupuncture, but a little more invasive, because the needle is inserted into the skin and muscle. Sometimes, the sensation of the needle hitting a trigger point makes me almost jump off the table, but the certified physical therapists are quick and efficient. At times I’ll be a little sore the next day, but the overall result pays off with lasting relief in the areas that have been targeted.
My favorite treatment, of course, is a massage – but not one of those gentle, relaxing, soft-music-playing-in-the-background kinds. I find that deep tissue massage is the best to help release knots and improve circulation. In contrast, my least favorite treatment is the ice bucket. Although it is effective, I tend to hold off on using this treatment until I can no longer stuff my swollen feet into my pointe shoes (Nutcracker season is often the culprit). Everyone has a different pain tolerance, but it’s important to not just push through the pain. Instead of continuing to torture my body, I’ve learned how important it is to deal with pain intentionally, and to find specific and effective ways to care for myself.
Personal vs Professional Life
Another challenge I face as a dancer is separating my work from my personal life. Although I’m passionate about dancing, I’m normally in the studio eight hours a day, five days a week, and I feel it’s important to focus on other interests and activities once work is completed for the day. To tackle this challenge, my roommate (also a dancer with The Joffrey Ballet) and I came up with some “house rules”.
First, we are intentional about limiting talk about work when we’re at home, and we also make sure to leave “work duties” at work – that means no bringing pointe shoes home to sew! Instead, we focus our attention on other aspects of our lives. For example, we try new recipes and often cook together, and instead of watching dance-related videos, we might turn to Netflix for a less-connected escape from reality.
We both enjoy art in other forms and have unashamedly bought into the growing phenomenon of the therapeutic adult coloring books, and I sometimes paint while my roommate designs and sews clothing for herself and others. I also enjoy crocheting, (I usually have a project or two going at a time), and on weekends I like to add brunch or a Bikram yoga class to the mix. As dancers, it’s important to recognize that we work in a very unique artistic bubble, and I’ve found that it’s healthy (and fun!) to develop boundaries and a balance between my work and my personal life.
Adapting To Change
A final challenge I face as a dancer is learning to adapt to change. I’ve found that it’s necessary to be versatile in all aspects of what my job demands. The beautiful thing about our art form is that it is constantly evolving, and dancers often have to learn to adapt to new choreography and styles as ballet and dance continue to push boundaries. It’s important to not be timid and learn to be bold when exploring new styles of movement. l try to watch and learn from fellow artists and apply corrections from ballet masters and choreographers, and I’ve found it always goes a long way to be polite and respectful to the people surrounding you as you learn together.
Dancers also have to adapt to occasional disappointments at work. Like any other job, there will be good days and bad days. Sometimes you show up to work and feel great when you’re completely on your leg and feel like you’ve had some really productive rehearsals or successful performances. Other days you might deal with situations like dealing with a painful ache, experiencing unwanted casting changes, or not seeing your name next to a desired role. I think it’s important to avoid focusing on the drama or negative feelings on those bad days. Instead, it’s important to open up your horizons to inspiration not only in the workplace, but also outside of that “ballet bubble”. That could be through studying something new, getting involved in organizations about an issue or community that matters to you, or simply getting out in your city and appreciating what makes the world around you unique.
As humans, we’re often creatures of habit and resist change, but I’ve come to realize that change is the only constant in life. Accepting this fact and learning to move forward has been an ongoing task, and I find that I deal with this challenge most successfully by choosing to adapt and learn from each experience.
Though the challenges that I now face as a professional dancer are different than my days as a young student, pursuing this career has certainly always kept me pushing myself to learn and improve in new settings and environments. Since the opportunity to dance as a career has become my daily reality, I’ve learned that challenges will always keep coming, but life is too short to not enjoy each moment. I challenge aspiring dancers to not be discouraged by the challenges they face, but to find something positive in every day, and use that determined perspective to keep moving toward their goals.
Contributor Cara Marie Gary is a native of Belton, South Carolina. She joined The Joffrey Ballet in July 2012. Prior to joining The Joffrey Ballet, Ms. Gary danced with American Ballet Theatre’s ABTII and was an apprentice with Orlando Ballet. Ms. Gary began her formal ballet training at International Ballet Academy in Greer, South Carolina, under Hennadii Bespechnyi and Vlada Kvsselova. Ms. Gary received additional training at summer intensives with American Ballet Theatre, Brianskv Saratoga Ballet Center, Ukrainian Academy of Dance South Carolina Governors School, Ballet Spartanburg, and Chautauqua Institution. Ms. Gary graduated with honors from Belton-Honea Path High School and is currently pursuing a Business Administration degree online through North Greenville University.
In 2010, Ms. Gary was a competitor in the IX USA International Ballet Competition held in Jackson, Mississippi. She was a top twelve finalist in the Youth America Grand Prix National Finals in 2008 and 2009. She also received the overall Grand Prix Award in the 2009 YAGP regional semi-finals. In 2006, she was awarded a Diploma of Laureate at the VI Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition held in Kiev, Ukraine.
Ms. Gary has had the opportunity to tour throughout the United States and Europe. Ms. Gary has performed the title role in classical ballets such as The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, Don Quixote, Paquita, Markitanka pas de six, and Coppelia. Her repertoire with ABT II includes roles in the Flame of Paris pas de deux, Jerome Robbins’ Interplay, Antony Tudor’s Continuo, George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and Stars and Stripes pas de deux, Jessica Lang’s Vivace Motifs, Roger Vanfleteren’s Pavlovsk, Jodi Gate’s A Taste of Sweet Velvet, Aszure Barton’s Barbara, and Edward Liang’s Ballo Per Sei. Ms. Gary has performed roles in new choreography by Robert Hill. Her repertoire with Orlando Ballet also consists of Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake.1
“If you will patiently dance in our round
And see our moonlight revels, go with us.”
In 1962, New York City Ballet premiered George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based on Shakespeare’s comedy of love and magic. I remember thinking how ingenious this ballet was the first time I saw it.
I first became involved with the classic love story while training with Boston Ballet. At age 16, I performed as a hound dog, a member of the court, and an epilogue fairy. Needless to say, it was an exciting and eye-opening experience. Also, it was my first time working with Boston Ballet.
Now, 10 years later, I am revisiting A Midsummer Night’s Dream in my professional career. This time, I have been given the opportunity to learn a variety of roles, including Hermia, Act II Divertissement, and Fairies.
The ballet was set in June 2015 by Sandra Jennings. Since then, we have been coached on various sections of the production. As the performances approached, Sandra put the final touches on the show before it opened in March.
Along with revisiting the ballet, I am also revisiting working with Sandra Jennings. When I first performed the production with Boston Ballet, Sandra was staging it. At the time, I was training with Sandra’s mom, Jacqueline Cronsberg, and continued to work with her for many years. It has been a rare opportunity to work with both of them in my career.
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
– Lysander to Hermia
During the staging process, I spent time reading Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream so I understood the characters on a deeper level. Most importantly, I learned that Shakespearian comedy is different from modern-day comedy. Shakespeare’s comedies are stories with happy endings–their main purpose isn’t to make the audience laugh, although they often contain many incidents of humor.
Once rehearsals started, I was able to shape the characters by what I read, especially Hermia. MCB Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez, who danced the role of Hermia’s rival Helena during her career, coached Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, and Lysander along with other characters in the ballet.
Lourdes also brought in playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney to help us act out conversations and misunderstandings between characters. Our narrative is visual, so learning how to lay out a conversation without words for the audience can be tricky. But challenges like these are among the many things that make this art form so rewarding and exciting. I look forward to continuing my journey in A Midsummer Night’s Dream during our final weekend of performances.
Nor spell nor charm
Come our lovely lady night.
So good night, with lullaby.
– Fairies’ song
Miami City Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale from April 9-10, 2016.