A few weeks ago, we premiered this video at Fete 2012 – our annual gala and biggest fundraiser of the year. Watch below to learn a little bit more about what The Nutcracker means to the Central Texas community.
Company Dancer Michelle Thompson reflects on the musicality and hilarity of The Taming of the Shrew. Let us know if you can hear her laughing from the audience.
Tonight we are going to the Long Center to prepare for Stephen Mills’ The Taming of the Shrew, and I am looking forward to putting this production on the stage again. I was in the original cast 10 years ago, toured the production to Washington D.C., performed it again 7 years ago, and now will be performing it this coming weekend – making this my fourth opportunity. There are so many things that make this production special. The story, the humor, the sets, the music, and the joyful movement are all lovely ingredients for an extremely entertaining evening.
The choreography is filled with quick jumps, swirly spins, humorous gestures, and intricate patterns. Mills’ choreography relates directly to the music, which swoops and swirls around you encouraging you to jump, spin, bend, and run with energy. I am one of the Commedia dancers, and there are very few times of stillness throughout the ballet. The Commedia dancers form intricate patterns and lovely movements, but they also shift the scenes and become part of the narrative that helps drive the story forward. It is important when dancing in a corps de ballet and when moving sets that your timing be precise. Musicality and awareness are essential as you move through the ballet, but all this must be done with a mask on that includes a large beak. So not only do your toes have to be in line, but so does your beak. Ha!
I am also excited to perform as one of the Street Women who starts off as a thief and then ends up happily ever after with one of the suitors. Playing alongside Beth Terwilleger, we get to take off our beaks and put on outrageous wigs creating a rush of excitement for Petruchio. Our Petruchio, Paul Michael Bloodgood, falls for our flirtatious moves and silly trickery and loses all his money. Our journey doesn’t end there, though. We come out later in the third act without the wig and dance happily at the Garden Wedding. The third act is extremely joyful and full of celebratory dances and my suitor, Jordan Moser, partners me in many twirls and jumps as we happily dance the evening away.
Throughout this ballet the steps and patterns must be precise, but the acting and comedic timing are vital. Our bodies and faces must communicate the frustration, the joy, the disgust, the flirtation, and the joke so that the audience can fully appreciate the story unfolding. It is important to be aware of your fellow Commedia dancers, your partner, the music, and the audience to communicate the story and to capture the greatest laugh. I always find myself cackling loudly during Petruchio’s house. I hope you will join my cackle this weekend at the Long Center.
The Taming of the Shrew opens FRIDAY, for one weekend only. Tickets available here.
Company dancers Frank Shott and Jaime Lynn Witts discuss comedy, chemistry and what it’s like to dance together as Kate and Petruchio (when they’re already married!)
There is always a sense of anticipation just before casting is posted for any show. Story ballets, like The Taming of the Shrew, hold a particular excitement, and the chance to develop and portray a character on stage can be incredibly rewarding. There are so many different things to think about besides just the dance steps. The story needs to be clear and in the case of Taming, so do the jokes – everything from slapstick to sarcasm needs to read all the way to the back of the audience. It is no easy feat to be believable, funny and dance well all at the same time.
So much of comedy is onstage chemistry between the two leads. The chance to do this with someone that you already share so much with is an indescribable joy. While Jaime and I have had a couple of other opportunities to dance together before, this is the first time that we have gotten to do so in a story ballet. I have always wanted to play a part opposite her in a character-driven piece. She has a sense of comedic timing and theatricality which lights up the stage. Jaime also has a strong personality (just ask around) that when coupled with my own particular “charms” makes The Taming of the Shrew seem like a natural choice.
When casting was posted for The Taming of the Shrew, I was stunned. Not only was I going to get the opportunity to play Kate, but I was going to get to dance with my husband, Frank, as Petruchio. I could already hear the jokes from our friends and co-workers. I guess I have a strong personality and am the oldest of three girls, so Kate and I have a couple of things in common. It has been so much fun getting to work on this with Frank. Comedy is challenging, but we have been able to take advantage of the chemistry we have while working on our characters in the studio. Frank and I have a particular way we banter back and forth, a little like Kate and Petruchio toned down, and it’s so fun to look over and see him making a face I know I would see at home. Sometimes there’s just not that much acting involved – it’s just like us!
We do go home and discuss the scenes we rehearsed that day when we get a second after school, teaching Academy class and putting our daughter to sleep. We talk about what is working, what isn’t working, and where we would like to go with our characters. Jaime’s insights and impressions always give me new ideas of where I could go. Frank sees things from a very different place than I do, so it’s great to have his opinion. It has been such a fun and unique experience so far. We do both have to laugh at the situation sometimes, particularly when I keep telling him I won’t marry him. We can’t wait to see where exactly our characters end up when we get to the shows!
(Oh, and by the way, thankfully Jaime didn’t laugh in my face when I asked her to marry me!)
Don’t miss The Taming of the Shrew Oct 5-7 at the Long Center. Jaime and Frank perform Saturday at 8pm. Tickets here.
If you’re like me, it might just be possible that you never read The Taming of the Shrew in school. But never fear, we put together a handy reference guide to get you up to speed.
Meet Petruchio and Kate (the shrew) from the Ballet Austin version. Their relationship is a tad bit rocky at first…
Petruchio has promised to marry Kate, the shrew, and take her off her father’s hands. Would you take this woman? Let the taming begin.
Movies more your thing? Maybe you’ve seen one of these modern versions:
10 Things I Hate About You:
Based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, this version takes place in a modern day high school. As for the unusual title? It’s taken from a poem Kat (Julia Stiles) writes to describe her relationship with (Patrick) Heath Ledger in the movie.
Kiss Me, Kate:
The 1948, Tony award-winning musical features music by Cole Porter and provides a whole different style to the story. The original production starred Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk and Harold Lang.
Prefer the classics?
This 1967 version of The Taming of the Shrew features Elizabeth Taylor as the Shrew and is not to be missed.
Get a glimpse of Ballet Austin behind the scenes and read more about our upcoming performances, as well as get an inside look into the lives of company dancers and Artistic Director and Choreographer Stephen Mills.