Sunday, April 12, 2015

Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack in Swan Lake

Sometimes being a subscriber has serious benefits. Like having my usual seats for The Washington Ballet's production of Swan Lake, starring ABT's Misty Copeland and TWB's Brooklyn Mack. Usual seats meaning centered in the lower orchestra section, about 6 rows back from the pit. Only two of the five performances featured this pairing, and both sold out quickly. I'd heard that some tickets were released for sale earlier this week for $300 a seat. Wow.

And "wow!" is the proper description of these two performers. The dancing was stunning and the acting heartbreaking (Swan Lake is a tragedy, after all). Both are at once athletic and graceful, never allowing the technical overshadow the storyline. Even when taking bows after crowd-pleasing segments, they remained in character: Misty's Odette being clearly a bit shy when acknowledging applause while Odile eagerly ate it up and wanted more.

Kudos must be given to the staging and choreography. This is a re-creation of the pre-Soviet version. I was most impressed with this version and I hope it becomes more popular.

I've also been told this is the first time two black dancers have performed Odette/Odile and Siegfried opposite each other. Okay, I guess that's important in some way, and I guess that might have been part of the reason these shows sold out. For myself, I'm just thrilled that I got to see two dancers of stellar capabilities perform together.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Stage performers are notoriously superstitious. Never wish one "Good luck!", for that will surely invite disaster. Thus the phrase, "Break a leg!"

Before class Thursday I asked the instructor for information on the Adult Weekend Workshop. She seemed pleased that I'd signed up for it, and sought to reassure me by saying, "All you have to do us stay healthy and you'll do fine."

At the end of class I opted out of the last exercise because my right shin felt tight. By the time I got home my ankle was sore too. I took some ibuprofen and didn't give it much thought. Friday it seemed stiffer than usual but no worse. I was rudely awakened this morning by the sound of my neighbor's storm door banging in the wind, and when I got up I found my ankle very stiff and achy. So much for class this weekend.

I'm not one for superstition, but apparently I'm jinxed.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Goals and incentives

I commented to a friend the other day that I didn't understand how people could take the same level ballet class year after year and be happy with it. Not to say they're wrong, mind you, but I just don't understand it. I have trouble enough convincing myself to go to class some days knowing there's no specific goal other than just getting better. Better for what?

So I set myself goals. When I first came to this school I was taking their Beginner I class, and it was a challenge. Chatting with the instructor I commented that my goal was to get out of her class. Not because it was her class, because she's a fine instructor, but to move up a level. Part of this is because the influx of new students into the Beginner I class caused the complexity level of the class to vary significantly from class to class, but also because I needed to have a reason for being there. Similarly, I wanted to move into the Advanced Beginner class so I could take classes Thursday nights too, and that's the only class I could hope to take that night.

Of course there are other benefits. While I consider myself somewhat out of shape, being almost 25 lbs above my doctor's recommendation, I was recently reminded that I'm not doing too terribly. I met a friend for dinner the other night and he suggested walking the 20 minutes to the restaurant. I was fine with that, though his initial pace seemed faster than I would have set. Yet part way into the walk he had to slow down, while I was still quite happy. So there's some cardiovascular benefits accruing. But when I'm one of those "What's the use?" moods, somehow that doesn't seem to justify the time.

Sunday morning, after my regular Beginner II class, one of the guys in the dressing room asked me if I'd signed up for the Adult Weekend Workshop in June. I'd seen it on the calendar, but didn't know anything about it. It's a three day workshop (Fri-Sat-Sun) running 9:30am to 4:00pm, approximating life in a ballet company. Each day starts with a typical ballet class, but after the break you learn steps and choreography that lead to a mini-performance Sunday afternoon for friends and family. It's split into two tiers, one for the students taking Intermediate and Advanced classes, and one for those taking Beginner II and Advanced Beginner. Minimum registration is 15 and maximum is 25.

This sounded like fun (for some definition of "fun"), so I signed up. I'm a little bit nervous about it, but it's a goal. A reason to not skip classes. A purpose behind working to improve and not just go through the motions.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

TWB Open Rehearsal of Swan Lake

Monday evening I attended what was billed as an "open rehearsal" for The Washington Ballet's new production of Swan Lake. Here's the description of the origins of this production provided by TWB:
Guest choreographer Kirk Peterson is working with The Washington Ballet to stage his recreation of the original Swan Lake based on the 1895 version next month. "For more than a hundred years, choreographers and dancers all over the world have been changing and altering certain bits of the ballet and so I've been on a three decade quest—a sort of archeological dig—to try and find the original missing parts of this beautiful masterpiece that have been lost," says Peterson.
I was hoping to get a behind the scenes look at how professional dancers learn their parts, but that was a silly thought. That's not the sort of thing that would appeal to the average ballet subscriber, most of whom arrived at the rehearsal studio dressed far better than I in my "business casual" attire of dockers and polo shirt. What we got instead was a run-through of acts 3 and 4 from a most unique, close-up perspective.

As a subscriber I have tickets to this production, which is already sold out. Current schedule has Misty Copeland dancing the dual role of Odette/Odile the night I'll be there, which should be a treat.