Reviving Giselle in the Pacific Northwest

Peter Boal with principal dancer Carrie Imler

Balletomanes everywhere know the story: A young peasant girl falls in love with a deceptive duke and dies of a broken heart. But Pacific Northwest Ballet will be the first American company to stage Giselle using primary sources that date back to the work’s 1841 Parisian premiere. Artistic Director Peter Boal, now in his sixth year with the Seattle-based company, is staging the Romantic ballet in collaboration with dance and music scholars. Doug Fullington, PNB’s assistant to the artistic director, is reconstructing choreography from Russian Stepanov notation circa 1900. Marian Smith, University of Oregon associate professor of musicology and author of Ballet and Opera in the Age of Giselle, is utilizing French sources from the 1840s and ’60s.

Boal, a former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and instructor for School of American Ballet, has seen his company perform The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Coppélia. However, introducing Giselle to PNB has presented Boal and his dancers with new challenges and opportunities. “We’re making this fresh,” he says. “Other versions can inspire, but at the end of the day, you have to come up with your own Albrecht or Giselle.” The work will premiere at McCaw Hall in Seattle on June 3.

Dance Teacher: Why did you decide to restage Giselle this season?

Peter Boal: To perform a Romantic era ballet will be a new and welcome challenge for our dancers. Giselle is one of the great chapters in the evolution of our artform and one that belongs in our repertoire. I decided to stage a new version for PNB because of Doug Fullington’s ability to read Stepanov notation and Marian Smith’s proximity to us in Portland. Doug had successfully reconstructed parts of Giselle for PNB School before we elected to mount the full production for the company.

DT: What were the challenges of interpreting the notation?

PB: The notation doesn’t include port de bras. It’s 98 percent legs and floor patterns. So I’ve focused on applying what I learned during a six-month leave of absence from City Ballet in 1988, when I took class with the Paris Opéra. The port de bras taught, with the elbow leading and the fingers arriving late, was sublime.

DT: What did the dancers find difficult when learning the choreography?

PB: Certain passages were challenging as far as speed and clarity are concerned. We determined that some of the leg heights that are used in today’s dancing weren’t there originally, so dancers in the 19th century could move more quickly. But, in most cases, our dancers were able to perform the notated steps at the speed required. I don’t have a female dancer’s sensibility since I’ve never danced on pointe. So the dancers have had input and dialogue.

Another challenge came with re-creating mime passages. Dancers today don’t often perform mime. Clarity and timing in their acting were areas that we had to develop. (There are 56 minutes of mime  and 60 minutes of dancing, according to the 1841 score.) Pacing the mime correctly requires finishing a movement and allowing a stillness to happen.

DT: Do you view contemporary works differently as a result of this process?

PB: Balanchine, who saw versions of Giselle with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, was beautifully respectful about his heritage. The women in his Serenade, in their long, tulle Romantic skirts, are reminiscent of the Wilis from Act II. Also, there is a moment in Giselle when she falls to the ground. That same movement occurs in Serenade.

 

Leslie Holleran holds an MA in dance history from the University of California, Riverside.

Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy of PNB

Dancer Health
Courtesy of Susan Jaffe

Throughout Susan Jaffe's performance career at American Ballet Theatre, there was something special, even magical, about her dancing. Lauded as "America's quintessential American ballerina" by The New York Times, Jaffe has continued to shine in her postperformance career, most recently as the dean of dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She credits the "magic" to her meditation practice, which she began in the 1990s at the height of her career. We sat down with Jaffe to learn more about her practice and how it has helped her both on and off the stage.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix, has been called the Queen of Fundraising by colleagues. A studio owner and high school dance coach with over four decades of experience, Clough is known for her smart and successful fundraising ideas.

Now, Just For Kix has created a new online tool to help everyone tackle their fundraising goals, whether you're raising money for uniforms, extra classes, or to cover the cost of travel for your dance team's next convention.

Clough shared a few of her best fundraising tips, including everything you need to know about the new tool:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
From Coppélia. Photo by Toshi Oga, courtesy of MOGA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending

"No formal training. No dance studio. No mentor," says Erik Saradpon about his beginnings in hip hop.

"I think that's why I'm especially tough on these guys, because I don't take the relationship for granted," he says, referring to his students. "I'm like a dad to them. I had a shortage of role models in my life. I wanted that so badly. I project that onto my kids."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
From "Boston—Our City." Photo by Rachel Hassinger, courtesy of BalletRox

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Stella Abrera in Alexei Ratmansky's The Seasons. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of ABT

Yesterday, Kaatsbaan, the Tivoli, NY–based cultural park for dance, announced that Stella Abrera will join the organization as its new artistic director, effective January 1, 2020. This news come just weeks after we learned that Abrera will be taking her final bow with American Ballet Theatre in June.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
From The Rock School 2019 Showcase. Photo by Catherine Park, courtesy of The Rock School

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Kyle Froman

Darla Hoover was at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's studios running a rehearsal in 2014 with director Marcia Dale Weary. Hoover had just returned the day before from staging a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jet-lagged, she mixed up her words when giving a correction.

Weary took Hoover's hand and gently said, "Honey, you work too hard."

Hoover, and the students, had a good laugh.

"Are you kidding me?" Hoover replied. "You're the one who made this monster. There is no off switch!"

Weary founded CPYB in 1955, and it quickly became an internationally known school that has produced countless principal dancers. Famous for her high standards and tough work ethic, Weary instilled those qualities in Hoover, who served as associate artistic director at CPYB under Weary, as artistic director at Ballet Academy East's pre-professional division in New York City and as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust.

Hoover took over as artistic director at CPYB in the spring this year after Weary died suddenly, and while she's committed to continuing Weary's legacy, students have begun to see some of Hoover's vision as well.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Jessica Kubat (center) with her studio staff. Photo by Vincent Alongi, courtesy of Kubat

Jessica Kubat's path to becoming a studio owner wasn't typical or glamorous or the product of a family business, handed down. When she opened MJ's House of Dance in Lindenhurst, New York, this past summer, she had just turned 40, was a mom of three, and had worked at two different studios long-term. Over the last two and a half years, she'd painstakingly saved up $25,000 and had gone to the Small Business Development Center at a local college on Long Island for help creating her business plan. Her area was moderately saturated with studios, so she spent considerable time planning what would set her school apart—live musical accompaniment, for one—and hired a marketing director nine months before the business even opened. It was a methodical, careful approach—Kubat calls it "the old-fashioned way"—to opening a studio, and it's paid off: She started summer classes with 75 students and is well on her way to reaching her first-year enrollment goal of 250 dancers. "When I turned 40, I decided that it was time to do something bigger," says Kubat. "I always wanted to own a studio—it was just never financially available to me."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
From left: Daniel Novikov, Alla Novikova and Mishella Vishnevskiy at Blackpool 2018. Photo by NYC Digital Media, courtesy of Alla Novikova

Alla Novikova began her dance training at a ballroom studio called Edelweiss in Saratov, Russia, when she was 9 years old. She was immediately recognized for her natural talent and work ethic, placing third at the Russian Open just three months after beginning ballroom lessons. The lessons she learned at Edelweiss shaped her career and provided the foundation she needed to open her own ballroom studio: Work hard to prove that you're good enough to be here, and give honor to the experiences that brought you to where you are today.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Professions across the globe hold yearly conferences, and the dance industry is certainly no exception. Annual conferences exist for dance teachers, dance medicine professionals, dance educators and more. Taking the time out to attend them can be well worth your while for a number of different reasons. Let's take a closer look at four of them.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox