Creating "Peter Pan"'s Magic

Pennsylvania Ballet presents Trey McIntyre's Peter Pan for the first time this May. PAB soloist Lauren Fadeley, who'll dance the part of Wendy, is guest-blogging the rehearsal process for Pointe. Read her first post here.

 

Peter Pan rehearsals are well underway. With the company premiere in a week, gone are the days of learning counts and choreography, hoping to remember everything for the next day. Now we're into full run-throughs, complete with scenery and props.  Dancing the ballet is starting to feel like second nature, which seemed unfathomable three weeks ago. 

 

A lot has happened since that first week of rehearsals. Recently we've been working on transition scenes. I find these in-between acting phrases to be the hardest to portray as there isn't much actual dancing. As dancers, we're trained and accustomed to learning steps, so when we're told to act naturally, it can be a bit of a struggle. But it's a welcome challenge for me, as I find it fun to come up with different ways to express Wendy's emotions. In the beginning she's very childish, arguing with her brothers and playing pranks on the nurse. But as the ballet progresses, she takes on a more motherly role and ultimately decides that's what she wants for her life as opposed to staying a child forever. It's important to show that growth of character throughout the performance in a way that's believable to the audience.

We've also started to add in the outside elements that make this production so magical. As I mentioned last time, all the Darling children, Peter, and Tinkerbell get to fly. I have to say the harness system we use was more painful at first than I had expected, but you eventually get used to the pressure--and it's too much fun to let any of that get in the way. It's taken a lot of time to get everything in the flying scenes cued perfectly with the choreography and music. I heard that when Peter Pan was danced by Houston Ballet in 2002, there were eight men in the wings pulling ropes to make everyone go up in the air! Now, in the days of smart phones and touch screens, we're using a computer system where someone just presses a button for each action.

Other special effects include full-size moving beds and a boat battle between Captain Hook and Peter. Since the props are so large, we have to practice these scenes at our company's production warehouse. There are also many light effects that are done by the dancers onstage to mimic the fairies flying.  It's funny now to see the dancers in rehearsals waving flashlights, but the overall effect in the performance is pretty cool. There are tons of these kinds of little details all throughout the show that make it amazing. I'm looking forward to seeing it all come to life on stage next week!



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Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy The Washington Ballet

You made a deal with your mom to take ballet classes in exchange for a ride to tryouts for the football team. How did that work?
I thought that I would take ballet for a couple months, become a master and then leave that alone and concentrate on football. Ballet had other ideas, which perplexed me, and ultimately, I think, made me fall in love with it.

How is The Washington Ballet evolving under Julie Kent's leadership?
It's still early, but I think that the company is growing stronger classically. And we have Julie, Victor Barbee, Xiomara Reyes and Rinat Imaev—a great team of people who are giving their input and expertise, which is quite helpful.

Mack in 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Theo Kossenas

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Summer Study Advice
Summer intensive students at the School of American Ballet. Photo by Rosalie O'Conner, Courtesy SAB.

As a young student, Shea McAdoo's classes at the Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona, were “strict, straightforward, very classical and purely Vaganova." She appreciated the Russian rigor and precision, but when she was accepted to the School of American Ballet's summer course at 13, she leapt at the chance to learn something new. The vastly different emphasis on Balanchine technique at SAB was illuminating: “It changed my whole way of thinking about musicality and accents. I'd never known there were so many ways to do a tendu! And the épaulement—I loved how they talked about light hitting your face, tilting your chin to show off your diamond earring."

McAdoo's experience was transformative, even when she returned home. “Of course, I lowered my arms back down in second and didn't cross my wrists," she says, “but there were stylistic choices I brought back with me." Today, as an apprentice with Oregon Ballet Theatre rehearsing Balanchine's Serenade, she credits her ease with the ballet's fluid port de bras to her summer at SAB.

Learning about ballet's various styles and techniques is an important part of a dancer's development. With summer intensive auditions approaching, it's a perfect time to consider broadening your training. While it can be initially confusing, immersing yourself in a style outside your comfort zone can be eye-opening and influential for your future training and career. And the benefits of diversifying your training can last beyond a single summer.


Shea McAdoo in OBT's production of "Paquita." Photo by James McGrew.

Let Curiosity Be Your Guide

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Summer Study Advice
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As summer intensive audition season starts up, I've been reminiscing about my own experience as a young dancer—way back in 1993—and how challenging it was to navigate. In fact, I think it's safe to say that my first summer program audition was a complete disaster.

I was almost 16—a little late by some standards—and was still pretty clueless as to how I compared to others outside my hometown. That weighed heavily on my mind as my parents and I made the hour-long drive to Milwaukee. The audition was for a school in Pennsylvania, and as I scanned the big-city studio, my mind slipped into exaggerated teenage self-consciousness. Dancers lined the barres stretching, showing off their flexibility as if doing some sort of war ritual. Many were chatting in groups, wearing trendy warm-up jumpers and donning perfectly shellacked buns. I tried to act like I knew what I was doing, but inside I was a wreck.

The teacher clapped his hands together to begin class. He was fast-paced, no-nonsense and not one for smiles. During pliés, he stopped in front of me with his clipboard as I emerged from a cambré back. He looked me up and down, frowned and kept going. I, of course, freaked out—what did that mean? I still had an entire hour and a half left of class to prove I was still capable, but instead I completely lost my concentration. I just couldn't shake that frown. I forgot combinations and even started with the wrong foot in front a few times in center. By jumps, the adjudicators had stopped watching me altogether. Needless to say, I spent the majority of the ride home trying not to cry.

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via YouTube

It's finally the weekend, and we're celebrating the best way we know how—a new ballet video. Juliet Doherty (who trained with San Francisco Ballet and Master Ballet Academy, and is set to star in the dance film, On Pointe), teamed up with Cartoon Network for her latest project.

"Cartoon Network contacted me about their show, Steven Universe, which was coming out with a new vinyl album of the soundtrack of the show," Doherty shared with Pointe. "They told me about one of the show's main characters named, Pearl, who is a strong-willed character but has the grace inspired by a ballerina."

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Videos
Mr. Jeremy FIsher, from Sir Frederick Ashton's "The Tales of Beatrix Potter."

Animal roles might not typically be what dancers dream of performing…but they're oh-so-fun to watch. You can't help falling under their spell (and perhaps aspiring to dance one someday). Here's a round-up of some of our favorite furry and feathered roles.

Bunny Hop

Run. Dance in a circle. Pretend to be a rabbit. It might sound like a creative movement combo, but don't let that fool you. The role of Peter Rabbit in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Tales of Beatrix Potter requires fierce technique—not to mention the ability to project personality while wearing an animal head and fur suit.


Four-Legged Interlude

Who do you turn to for halftime entertainment during a quartet of fairy variations? Dancing lizards, mice and a frog of course! This charming quintet of creatures light up the stage in David Bintley's Cinderella.

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