The Importance of Being Earnest—About Dancers
By Rebekah Levin
Imagine, if you will, you’ve decided to attend a poetry reading. When you get there, the poet, with great panache, ascends the stage, grips the microphone, opens his mouth… and says nothing. He stares with great purpose and fervor, mouth agape, for a good half hour.
Are you confused? Yes! Are you bored? Yes! Do you applaud enthusiastically and avoid eye contact with everyone when you leave the auditorium so as to not admit how ignorant you are of what must be fine art? Oh, yes!
The same follows for a ballet… the curtain rises and, oh, what a lovely…er…empty stage…. You can only admire the lighting cues, canned music, and playbill advertisements for so long before it gets like that uncomfortable poetry “reading.” The artistic director, Colleen Smith, (see previous post), has done fabulous background research and brought together many creative elements to choreograph Gatsby, but without the dancers she cannot animate the art. She’d be reminiscent of our frozen, open-mouthed poet. And as audience members, without the dear dancers you would be bored, confused, and forced to extoll the virtues of… um, ridiculously abstract art? Yep, dancers prevent all that. So, hug a dancer today and tell them “Thank you!”
Not only do these dancers become the medium for a performing art (and prevent the aforementioned uncomfortable situations), they also help contribute to the creation process of a new ballet.
How? Through direct feedback, individual movement qualities, and mistakes!
When organizing different sequences, Colleen Smith will often ask the dancers for feedback to see what movement or musical phrasing feels most organic, especially in a pas de deux (“step of two” or two dancers dancing together) and group pieces where reliance and awareness of others’ movement patterns and timing is crucial for success! Other times, the choreographer may be inspired by a dancer’s natural movement quality or technical prowess and want to highlight those strengths. This is especially helpful when creating the main character roles.
But, perhaps the most interesting “inspirational moments” in rehearsals occur during mistakes! For instance, two dancers almost collide and creatively maneuver out of the way, a dancer turns the wrong direction and makes an interesting mirroring pattern… a dancer completely improvises (praying fervently that no one else notices but then everyone else follows because they all forgot the choreography …and then, when the choreographer doesn’t notice, they decide to keep it that way, the sneaky imps. And then—please, just carry on to the next paragraph if your attention is waning because this is going to be quite a tangent—there’s that one unfortunate dancer who is in a blissful self-absorbed concentration, oblivious to the clandestine change and actually does know the original sequence. Upon realizing one is sticking out like a hitchhiker’s hornet-stung thumb, one asks, “Am I going mad? Have I travelled into a parallel dimension? Or, is everyone else in cahoots?” Answer: Cahoots… but it’s nothing personal).
The dancers are Ballet Palm Beach’s most valuable assets! And, (yes… it’s time for some advertising… *cheesy grin*) you can show your appreciation to our own fabulous collection of dancers by seeing Gatsby! (Trust me, empty seats are just as awkward as an empty stage *shudders*).
Just who are these valuable individuals who become manifestations of creativity (they should add that phrase to their resumes) and are eager for you to have an enjoyable Gatsby experience?!? I’m delighted you asked! I present
Aaron Melendrez (not shown in gallery… photo is coming!)
So far, these dancers have been working on Gatsby for three weeks. They’ve had time to start analyzing their character and play upon their own interpretations. How exciting! Keep those eyeballs peeled for upcoming interviews with the main characters!