Pre-Performance Prep

Houston Ballet student Maddy Graupmann checks in from her fifth week of the summer intensive.

 

The time has really flown by this year! This is the week where we really have to crack down in rehearsal because next week we will mostly be staging all the pieces. We've already had some rehearsals down in the Margaret Alkek Williams Dance Lab, but it is a very different atmosphere, especially when you realize just how much you've been using the mirror for spacing and timing. It throws a lot of people off at first, so we've started rehearsing the dances facing away from the mirrors during class.

 

People always ask me how I remember so many different dances at once without getting them mixed up—and I actually don’t even know myself. It’s just second nature! I hear a different song and automatically adjust the mood and mind-set to fit it. When learning multiple dances at once, you have to know the choreography and be able to do it in your sleep. As a dancer, you have to learn quickly, or a director may remove you from a ballet altogether. On the other hand, if you are not doing a certain role, you should also know that choreography in case you get thrown in last minute. My dormmate, Fernanda, has been helping me learn the choreography to her role (she has a different one than I do), just in case!

Some students also have the opportunity to choreograph on some level 8 students for the American Festival for the Arts performance. They get to work with young composers from the AFA summer program who write original music. It's an amazing experience for everyone involved. I even see a lot of my dormmates rehearsing the pieces they're performing in our dining room—they only get around 10 rehearsals before the performance, so it is constantly on their minds!

I am in two pieces for Houston Ballet summer intensiv'es performance this year: Serenade and Friends from Coppélia. We have two totally different costumes for each. In Serenade we'll be wearing tight, pale bodices with sheer, floor-length skirts that look beautiful when we jump and turn. We also wear a slicked back low bun. Coppélia’s costuming is very different! We have long-sleeve, maroon leotards with a matching short, wrap skirt. Our hair is going to be in a braided bun on the crown of our head with flowers beneath. For some people in the same shows (there are three different casts) for both Serenade and Coppelia’s Friends, there are only a few dances in between both pieces to change all of that!

We are still very much in the cleaning-up stage, and we've already had two additional rehearsals this week to work on finishing touches! It always seems to me that a performance is never stage-ready, but somehow the day before it’s just there, the performance just happens. I really hope that will be the case for this summer! I can’t wait to see!





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Angela Sterling, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

Clear your schedule now for Monday, January 29th, 2:45PM (EST)/ 11:45AM (PST). Pacific Northwest Ballet will be live-streaming rehearsal from Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, straight from their Seattle, WA-based studios. To psych us up for their on stage performances February 2nd - 11th, PNB is letting us in on their Act II rehearsal.

From the corps of swans to Odette and Prince Siegfried's pas de deux, and the infamous four swans, this rehearsal is not to be missed. You can sign up now for a live-stream reminder on their site. In the meantime, we'll be brushing up on our Cygnets with this PNB sneak peek.

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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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Summer Study Advice
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Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn't possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.

1. Follow directions. Before filming, research what each school you're interested in requires. "It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that," says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. "If the guidelines haven't been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through." You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.

2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes. "Keep it short, simple and direct," advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. "You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it." Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don't ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.

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Career
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I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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Videos

They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

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Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

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