Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing American Ballet Theatre’s dress rehearsals of Frederick Ashton’s The Dream (based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Alexei Ratmansky’s fairly new The Tempest (also Shakespeare). The casts I viewed are scheduled to perform tonight—it's the closing week for ABT's spring season at The Metropolitan Opera House. I was impressed by the poise of dancers and staff at the rehearsal, which required juggling full costumes, an orchestra, massive props (including a fully moveable sunken ship) and scenery. No one was short on stamina, either: Herman Cornejo, as Puck in The Dream, must’ve jumped 100 times and completed something like 50 pirouettes. Cory Stearns, meanwhile, danced the lead in both ballets of the dress rehearsal.
Mistakes were fixed in two ways: A rehearsal director seated in the audience with a microphone announced spacing issues or minor, easily fixed slip ups (“Sarah, you need to be more stage left” was a correction I heard); bigger problems, like music cues gone awry or stubborn scenery, briefly stopped the run until the issue was fixed. Like the professionals they are, none of the dancers were distracted by these corrections or lost character.
Presumably to conserve their energy (many of these dancers, including the corps, were scheduled to perform other parts later that night), the dancers would occasionally mark steps or skip big lifts. As a dancer myself, I was particularly intrigued by which steps they chose not to do full-out—were those just the most physically taxing? Or were they the more challenging moves that the dancers didn’t yet feel comfortable attempting in front of a (limited) audience?
By the rehearsal’s end, I found myself with a renewed appreciation for the ABT dancers' work ethic.
Photos from top: by Gene Schiavone; by Fabrizio Ferri, both courtesy of ABT
Starting this Saturday, the Children's Museum of Manhattan on the Upper West Side will have an interactive dance exhibit called "Let's Dance!" Basically every facet of dance is featured in the exhibit: kids can explore lighting design with a special child-friendly lighting box; choreograph with the use of props, signs and costumes; create accompaniment with percussion instruments; manipulate posable figures; see incredible dance photography and video; and, best of all, interact with the dance portal, where they can watch, learn and interact with professional and student dance companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dancing Classrooms, Mark Morris Dance Group and Martha Graham Dance Company. Whew. That's a LOT of great stuff.
Kathleen Kelbe, Pembroke School of Performing Arts | Pembroke, MA
Total budget: $100,000
Project timeline: 3 months (ongoing)
Kelbe expanded from 1,600 to 6,000 square feet. She used Rosco's SubFloor and Adagio vinyl and broke her extensive renovation into three phases.
Ellen Marshall, Off Broadway Dance Center | Fulton, NY
Total budget: $60,000
Project timeline: 3 months
Marshall renovated a Methodist church into a 4,000-square-foot studio, with Stagestep Flooring Solutions' marbleized gray Timestep in her two studios.
Diana Griffin, Fusion Dance Company | Palm Harbor, FL
Total budget: $40,000
Project timeline: 45 days
From restaurant to studio! The checkerboard ceilings were a restaurant leftover that Griffin decided to keep. Her O'Mara sprung floors were self-installed in her 7,000-square-foot space.
Barclay Gibbs, Dance Conservatory of Maryland | Bel Air, MD
Total budget: $10,000
Project timeline: 2 days
Gibbs chose Gerstung Floor Systems' AirBase 600 for her 2,000-square-foot studio. This semi-permanent flooring will travel with her, should she change locations in the future.
Nigel Burgoine, Ballet Theatre of Toledo | Toledo, OH
Total budget: $4,000
Project timeline: 1 day
In her work as director of physical therapy for New York City Ballet, Marika Molnar relies on tools like bands, balls and Pilates equipment to rehabilitate and strengthen dancers. She says there's a place for such tools in daily dance classes, as well. Resistance and stability tools can help students develop strength and even break bad habits. "Say someone is compensating because of a weakness or restriction—that's what they're always going to do," she says, even after a teacher corrects them repeatedly. "If you give them something that makes things a little unfamiliar, their brain has to participate more. It becomes not only a physical exercise but a cognitive one." The dancer learns in a new way, and improves.
Molnar has collaborated with Pilates expert Joan Breibart and PTs at Westside Dance Physical Therapy to create a series of tools and exercises with dancers' training and recovery needs in mind. Here, she shares three of her favorites.
Christy Wolverton had a student who often either missed class or seemed to be sick. "When you're in our pre-professional company, attendance is huge," says Wolverton, owner and director of Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, Texas. She tried to be patient with the dancer and communicate with her parents to get a better idea of what was going on at home. "When she was diagnosed with a serious illness," she says, "we were relieved that we didn't come down on her for something that wasn't her fault."
Laura Glenn can still remember the excitement she felt watching the Limón Dance Company perform at Central Park in the summer of 1962. "I turned to the person next to me and whispered, 'He's going to be my teacher!'" she says. Two weeks later, she started as a Juilliard freshman, where she indeed studied under the legendary José Limón before joining his company in her second year.