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Dancer Preview #2: Romeo & Juliet

Friday, May 4th, 2012

In the past 10 years, Ashley Lynn Gilfix has danced in her fair share of pieces – both contemporary and classical. Find out what still challenges her, and why she’s incredibly excited to be Juliet.

Performing Romeo & Juliet is a great cap to the season and a truly memorable way to celebrate 10 years with Ballet Austin. I feel so fortunate to call Ballet Austin home, and it has been an amazing journey so far – filled with challenges that have inspired me to grow as an artist and as a person. Each role has demanded something different technically as well as dramatically, and I have discovered a lot of things about myself along the way. Whether it is the creation of a new contemporary ballet or the restaging of an old classic, each experience informs the next. I’m going to be pulling from everything I have learned so far as I take on this incredible opportunity to dance the role of Juliet.

Rehearsing Romeo & Juliet has definitely been a big shift after Light. The choreography is much more classical, which places a different set of demands on my body – being in “contemporary shape” is very different from “classical shape”. Contemporary movement tends to be very expansive, often involving deep lunges, full articulation of the spine and torso, and floor-work, which takes a lot of core and upper body strength. Needless to say, I am usually extremely sore when we begin a new contemporary piece and I spend a lot of time in the tub recovering with ice baths and Epsom salt.

Despite all of this, I actually think it might be harder to shift back into classical mode, like we’ve done with Romeo & Juliet. Everything has to be upright and placed and there are a lot of repetitive motions, which can be hard on the joints and tendons of the lower legs. There is also really nothing that prepares you for being back in pointe shoes all day long – it definitely took my feet and legs a couple weeks to adjust and regain the stamina required for Juliet’s more intricate pointe work. We frequently alternate between classical and contemporary works during the season, and while it can initially be a bit tough on the body, I love dancing both styles and wouldn’t have it any other way.

On an emotional level, working on Light was very draining because of the nature of the subject matter. While Romeo & Juliet is a tragic ballet, it is a fictional story, so the mood in the studio has been much lighter. It is actually a lot of fun to rehearse the darker scenes, like the potion scene and the crypt, because they are very challenging dramatically. One of my favorite things about full-length ballet is the acting, and I really enjoy the challenge of developing a character and showing their evolution from beginning to end. I typically do a lot of research when I’m working on a character in order to gather ideas that may help infuse my own interpretation. For this production I have been reading the play, and watching films and other versions of the ballet.

My Romeo, Paul Michael Bloodgood is also in his 10th season with the company, so it is very special to be performing together. I fondly refer to Paul as my “stage husband”, and in our 10 seasons with the company, we have been paired together in over 15 different roles. Dancing together so frequently has allowed us to cultivate a wonderful onstage partnership and also a great friendship, which allows us to be very relaxed around each other. As a result, it has been easy to explore some of the more vulnerable moments that our characters share as their love story unfolds.

Romeo & Juliet is my favorite ballet. I love Shakespeare. I love the drama. And the grand and sweetly haunting Prokofiev score is incredibly moving. Also, Mills’ choreography is wonderful to dance. For as long as I can remember, I have hoped to someday have the opportunity to dance Juliet, and I am absolutely thrilled to be performing this role next weekend.

 

Catch Ashley onstage as Juliet on Saturday, May 12. Tickets.

Did you miss Dancer Preview #1? Read it here.

Ashley, Paul Michael and Michelle Thompson will be live-tweeting backstage during performance weekend. Follow us (and them) at twitter.com/balletaustin.


Inside the Costume Shop

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Romeo & Juliet is without a doubt a beautiful production – expressive emotion, mesmerizing movement and, of course, bejeweled costumes. Take a peek…

ballet austin romeo and juliet costumes

Costumes are organized on the rack by Company member. Dancers change frequently during the production, but the largest quick change is the 18-person switch from the Market scene to the Ballroom scene.

ballet austin romeo and juliet costumes

In last week’s Romeo & Juliet by the Numbers, we revealed a handful of facts about the costumes. Here is Lady Capulet’s (Michelle Martin, Associate Artistic Director) Ballroom Gown. Supported by two hangers, this beauty weighs a total of 30lbs.

romeo and juliet ballet austin costumes

The gown, filled with intricate detailing, would cost several thousand dollars to replace. It is due to the expense of replacing costumes like this one that wardrobe does their best to repair each piece in the weeks leading up to the performance. For Lady Capulet’s 3 dresses, including this one, our two wardrobe people spent 4 days on alterations.

romeo and juliet ballet austin costumes

When wardrobe began to repair the costumes 4 weeks ago, they discovered that many of the buttons, brooches and bejeweled adornments featuring rhinestones were in need of repair. In the buttons above, they replaced each of the individual rhinestones.
(Ed note: They’ve since blocked this day from their memory.)

ballet austin romeo and juliet costumes

Ashley Lynn Gilfix, one of our Juliets, gets fitted for her costume by Wardrobe Master Alexey Korygin. Here they talk about adjusting the gathering in the fabric on her arms.

ballet austin romeo and juliet costumes

The costume shop keeps detailed records of every dancer’s measurements. Once ballets are cast, dancers are assigned costumes based on their measurements, and fittings and alterations then proceed from there.

ballet austin romeo and juliet costumes

In Juliet’s costume, they replaced all of the pearls and metallic fabric insert that runs down the sleeve. Metallic fabric can tarnish, and when these were pulled out of storage the shiny gold fabric you see now was green.

ballet austin romeo and juliet costumes

Tybalt’s costume (played by Ed Carr), needed to have the entire underarm replaced. If you look closely, you can just see the slight difference in fabrics.

ballet austin romeo and juliet costumes

For our Romeos’ (Paul and Frank) costumes, all of the sleeve grommets were replaced. Other alterations include re-soling shoes, as well as button, bead and snap replacements. The shop never cuts costumes; they only fold, adjust, pin and sew so as to extend the garment’s lifespan.

 

Romeo & Juliet opens May 11-13. Tickets selling fast.

Special thank you to Wardrobe Master Alexey Korygin, and Wardrobe Asst. & Shoe Manager Jamie Urban.

 
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