From the children who perform as Angels to the professionals who dance the principal role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, The Nutcracker is as much a part of ballet as tendus and pliés.
Today, Ballet Austin heads to Miami to perform Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project. See what’s going through Company Dancer Anne Marie Melendez‘s head as she prepares.
There has been a buzz of excitement around the Ballet Austin studios over the past couple of weeks. There is something about touring that charges us dancers up like few other things. The idea of traveling somewhere, all expenses paid, sounds glamorous at first glance. But going on tour can definitely bring its own set of challenges, obstacles, and concerns especially when it involves a ballet such as Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project.
Having performed Light as recently as March certainly aided in putting the ballet back together rather swiftly. Still, we took it section by section, reviewing the mechanics of the movement as well as the musicality. These elements are so important when presenting a ballet like Light because those pieces have to be so clear and must lay the foundation for the narrative and the emotional element that comes with performing the ballet.
In addition to rehearsing Light, we have also been busy revisiting The Nutcracker, as it will be fast on our heels once we return from Miami. The two ballets couldn’t be more different from each other as I literally spent a few days going from being the Snow Queen in a tutu, to running around barefoot and being dragged across the floor by my arms. It was quite confusing for my body – my calves and ankles would be tight and sore from the classical work, and my back and neck would be stiff from the more modern movement. Let’s just say there were quite a few hot baths, ice buckets, yoga sessions, etc…
As we prepare to leave for Miami on Thursday, I have a list of logistical concerns. What do I pack? In addition to what I would normally pack for any other trip like clothing and toiletries, I also need to bring an entire list of things that are dance and performance related. Outside of the obvious leotards and tights, I need my performance shoes, extra shoes for my understudy duties (which of course I won’t need – *knock on wood* – but they must be packed!), stage makeup, dance bag and all associated peripheral devices like my calf roller. And yes, yoga mat, you WILL fit in my suitcase. I have a list, and I’m checking it twice!
My other concern is food. Yes, clearly there is food in Miami, great food no doubt, but this is not a vacation. Just as most sports athletes have their eating, sleeping, and training routines leading up to events, dancers are quite similar. I normally take into consideration what I eat, but I am never pickier than I am during performance week. It’s not so much of a superstition as it is a need to efficiently fuel my body so that it can function as best it can when the time comes. Performance week is not the time to try something new, so my concern, being out of my element and out of my own kitchen, is how to maintain my routine. So far I’ve decided to bring Clif Bars, instant oatmeal, and head to the market once we get to Miami to stock up on some bananas and other easy to grab snacks.
All of these logistics are not unlike the mechanics of the choreography – they are the foundation of what we are ultimately trying to present. Overall, I am both nervous and excited. I think a certain amount of nerves is healthy, it means you care about the outcome of something. I’m excited to share Light and Ballet Austin with a new community, and I’m curious how both the company and the work will be received.
This evening, Paul, Ashley, and I just finished watching the documentary “The Last Days.” I think continuing our education is an important way to prepare before we leave on Thursday, as it continually informs the work we are doing in the studio and on stage, and most importantly, it reminds us of how vital it is to keep telling this story.
In Miami? You can see Anne perform Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project on stage this Saturday and Sunday. Tickets here.
We are excited to announce main casting for Ballet Austin’s Golden Anniversary Production of The Nutcracker. More parts to be announced soon.
Frank Shott, Paul Michael Bloodgood
Aara Krumpe, Ashley Lynn Gilfix
Anne Marie Melendez, Chelsea Marie Renner
Beth Terwilleger, Oren Porterfield
Orlando Julius Canova, Ian J. Bethany
Kody Jauron, Andrew Mankin
James Fuller, Christopher Swaim
Christopher Swaim, James Fuller, Preston Andrew Patterson
Rebecca Johnson, Anne Marie Melendez, Jaime Lynn Witts
Sugar Plum Fairy
Ashley Lynn Gilfix, Aara Krumpe
Paul Michael Bloodgood, Frank Shott
Orlando Julius Canova, James Fuller
Elise Pekarek, Brittany Strickland
Edward Carr, Christopher Swaim
Anne Marie Melendez, Rebecca Johnson
Ian J. Bethany, Michael Burfield
Russian Male lead
Preston Andrew Patterson, Ian J. Bethany
Michael Burfield, Jordan Moser
Beth Terwilliger, Oren Porterfield
Jaime Lynn Witts, Michelle Thompson, Chelsea Marie Renner
Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker runs Dec 8-23 at Long Center. Come celebrate the holidays with us. Tickets.
Rarely do we bring you non-performance related news from Ballet Austin, but this one was just too good to pass up.
Brittany Harpole, one of our amazing BCS and Certified Pilates instructors – and recent new mom – is teaching a “Mommy and Baby Fit” workshop beginning this month.
The workshop offers flexible options for new moms of all fitness levels with children ages 10 – 18 months.
For a sneak peek, check out the video below.
For full details and to enroll visit balletaustin.org.
This year is no exception, with the total clocking in at 174. See if you can spot our…
2 Claras, 2 Fritzs, 11 party girls and 6 party boys:
8 rats and 24 mice:
40 bon bons and 20 Chinese
… and 61 angels!
Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker is celebrating its Golden Anniversary this year. Tickets available now.
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.
For more information on how to make a difference with Ballet Austin, visit www.balletaustin.org/mygiftatwork.
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.
Just two and a half weeks until The Taming of the Shrew opens at the Long Center. In anticipation, enjoy this exclusive sneak peek of the production:
Would YOU take this woman? The Taming of the Shrew opens Oct 5-7. Get tickets today!