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Behind Ballet Austin

Posts Tagged ‘tony spielberg’

Inside a Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance bag

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

With our Golden Anniversary production of The Nutcracker opening in a mere few weeks, I thought you might like a peek inside a Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance bag.

ballet-austin-the-nutcracker

Twelve-year Company Member Aara Krumpe really likes “the familiar.” Whether it’s wearing warm-ups she’s owned for years (pictured above), standing at “her” spot at the barre, or eating oatmeal for lunch every day, tradition is the name of her game.

How very fitting for a Sugar Plum Fairy…

ballet-austin-the-nutcracker

Since Aara was 15, she’s warmed up every day at the barre in a pair of old, soft pointe shoes. As her rehearsal and performance pointe shoes “die”, she cuts off the laces and saves them for barre work. In her words, ‘they just feel better than wearing ballet slippers!’

Something else Aara can’t live without is her yoga block, which she uses to do splits, stretches and to lay flat. In another note on tradition, Frank Shott – with whom Aara will dance for the 7th year and her barre mate since 2001 – constantly steals the block.

ballet-austin-the-nutcracker

Aara brings her ballet bag, originally a diaper bag given to her by Trainees, to and from work each day and then keeps a smaller separate bag in the studio for rehearsal. Her must-have dance bag essentials? A surprisingly small number of things:

  1. Cheap White Rain hairspray (she is the “wispy tamer”)
  2. A tupperware of oatmeal for lunch each day – “I realized I’m not a protein person. I need carbs. Oatmeal gives me enough energy and stays with me all day.”
  3. Emergen-C, just in case
  4. At least one unsewn pair of shoes and her sewing bag
  5. Thera-band for stretching and strengthening

ballet-austin-the-nutcracker

With The Nutcracker rapidly approaching, I asked how long a pair of pointe shoes – which take her 30 or 40 minutes to prepare – will last. Her answer? “Two run-throughs.”

Last but not least, I asked Aara if she has any secret tricks or tips. She had two suggestions for me:

  1. Elasticized pointe shoe ribbons (available at Discount Dance Supply), which are more comfortable over her Achilles tendon
  2. Perry’s Pork Chop Fridays. See you there?

 

You can see Aara on stage this holiday season dancing as Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. For tickets, click here.

Dancer Preview: Taking “Light” to Miami

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

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.

Casting Announced!

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

We are excited to announce main casting for Ballet Austin’s Golden Anniversary Production of The Nutcracker. More parts to be announced soon.

Herr Silberhaus
Frank Shott, Paul Michael Bloodgood

Frau Silberhaus
Aara Krumpe, Ashley Lynn Gilfix

Drosselmeyer
Edward Carr

Governess 
Anne Marie Melendez, Chelsea Marie Renner

Dresden Doll
Beth Terwilleger, Oren Porterfield

Pierrot Doll
Orlando Julius Canova, Ian J. Bethany

Nutcracker Prince
Kody Jauron, Andrew Mankin

Rat King
James Fuller, Christopher Swaim

Snow King 
Christopher Swaim, James Fuller, Preston Andrew Patterson

Snow Queen
Rebecca Johnson, Anne Marie Melendez, Jaime Lynn Witts

Sugar Plum Fairy  
Ashley Lynn Gilfix, Aara Krumpe

Cavalier
Paul Michael Bloodgood, Frank Shott

Spanish Male
Orlando Julius Canova, James Fuller

Spanish Female
Elise Pekarek, Brittany Strickland

Arabian Male
Edward Carr, Christopher Swaim

Arabian Female
Anne Marie Melendez, Rebecca Johnson

Chinese
Ian J. Bethany,    Michael Burfield

Russian Male lead
Preston Andrew Patterson, Ian J. Bethany

French male
Michael Burfield, Jordan Moser

French female
Beth Terwilliger, Oren Porterfield

Waltz lead
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.

The Other Nutcracker Cast

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Every year over 150 Ballet Austin Academy students are cast in Ballet Austin’s production of The Nutcracker.

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:

Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker

8 rats and 24 mice:

40 bon bons and 20 Chinese

Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker

… and 61 angels!

Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker

Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker is celebrating its Golden Anniversary this year. Tickets available now.

 

2012/13 Mobile App

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Announcing the 12/13 Ballet Austin mobile app update. Your insider access awaits.

Flip through our interactive season overview for exclusive updates on productions, dancers and artistic staff.

Want to catch up before the show? Use our mobile app to read our twitter and blogs, follow along during Footlights, watch videos and more.

With the Ballet Austin mobile app, the experience goes mobile. Make sure you download the update here.

First Loves

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

With Romeo & Juliet opening in just a few days, we asked our company dancers about THEIR first loves. Hopefully the stories aren’t as tragic…


Paul Michael Bloodgood

My first love was a girl named Celeste that I dated for two years. Then she dated my best friend and I at the same time before breaking up with us on the same day. I was 8. [Ed note: Paul will be tweeting during this weekend's performances. Follow him at www.twitter.com/balletaustin. Look for tweets signed ^PB.]

Orlando Julius Canova

My first love was the childlike empress from the Never Ending Story… Turns out I just wanted to be her.

Aara Krumpe

My first love is my husband of 9 wonderful years, Ambrose Krumpe.  We met when I was 18.  I knew he was ‘the one for me’ when he used a coupon on our first date!

Jordan Moser

Jessica Rabbit.

Preston Andrew Patterson

I met my first love at a music store. Upon first sight, I knew immediately she was to be my first love… She was an Everett Upright Piano. We’ve been together for 3 months.

Beth Terwilleger

Todd, my best friend. He is my first and only love. We met two years ago, fell in love a year after that, and four weeks ago he proposed. [Ed note: Congrats, Beth!]

Michelle Thompson

Most people would say that “ballet” was my first love, but in all seriousness I would have to say my husband Rhys Ulerich. [Ed note: Michelle will be tweeting during Sunday's performance. Follow her at www.twitter.com/balletaustin. Look for tweets signed ^MT.]

 

Kirby Wallis

I thought my first love was JTT (Jonathan Taylor Thomas). Little did I know, I would finally find true love years later in my husband… also named Jonathan!

Don’t miss Romeo & Juliet this weekend, May 11-13, at the Long Center! Get tickets here.


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.


Dancer Preview #1: Romeo & Juliet

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Getting into character and perfect technique – See what Paul Michael Bloodgood says about preparing for Romeo & Juliet.

Performing “in character” is one of my favorite parts of dancing any full-length story ballet such as Romeo & Juliet. Similar to an acting role in film or theatre, trying to embody the emotions and thoughts of a character helps me to interpret the dance choreography for that role into movement that translates to the audience.

Neither character development nor ballet technique is more important to me in a story ballet – they are of equal substance to fulfilling the presentation. If the acting is terrible, the audience isn’t going to care about the relationship between Romeo and Juliet, even if both dancers are technically flawless. On the flip side, bad technique would be equally distracting and pull the audience out of the scene.  Although the average observer might think one is more important than the other, to me it’s like cake and frosting: they complement each other perfectly.

Personally, getting “in character” for a role like Romeo involves reading the source material and watching films and ballet productions of the story, then finding my own voice or interpretation of the role. Although I try to transform into the character as much as possible, I believe bringing my own life experience to a role separates it from other iterations of the part.

Ashley (my Juliet) and I have spoken about the intimacies of our characters in depth, but we let ourselves laugh about it all, too. We’ve been great friends for ten years, and having the opportunity to perform Romeo & Juliet with my “stage wife” as she’s been nicknamed, makes our onstage relationship come full circle. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that she’s best friends with my real wife, Anne – a fellow dancer with Ballet Austin and one of Juliet’s friends in the production.

As we head into our last week in the rehearsal studio before production week, I am looking forward to running the three acts in succession to get a good grasp on the pacing and stamina required of me. Also on the check list are little things like trying to dance the piece in Romeo’s leather boots, working out any pas de deux kinks that may result from Juliet’s costumes and rehearsing to the live accompaniment from Austin Symphony Orchestra.

It’s all just a part of preparing for the show.

 

Catch Paul onstage as Romeo on Saturday, May 12. Tickets.

Have you read Dancer Preview #2? Read it here.

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

 

Dancer Meals – What’s For Dinner?

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Ever wondered how dancers fuel their body throughout the day, while still staying calorie conscious? Look no further than the recipes below.

 

Brittany Strickland:

A typical…

  • Breakfast: a piece of homemade bread toasted with peanut butter and jam, scrambled eggs, possibly some berries or part of a banana, and coffee
  • Lunch: a sandwich – turkey and cheese being a common go-to option – or dinner leftovers
  • Dinner: some sort of protein such as chicken or fish, accompanied by a grain and vegetable combo

Breakfast Recipe - 100% Whole Wheat Nut and Seed Bread

  • 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons honey, molasses or maple syrup
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, chopped*
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

To prepare the dough: Combine all of the ingredients, and mix them until you have a shaggy dough. Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes, then knead till fairly smooth. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, shape it into a log, and place it in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ bread pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap (or a clear shower cap), and allow it to rise for about 2 hours, till it’s crowned about 1″ to 2″ over the rim of the pan.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 40 to 45 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil for the final 20 minutes of baking. Yield: 1 loaf.

 

Anne Marie Melendez:

A typical…

  • Breakfast: coffee and oatmeal with a handful of blueberries or some other fruit
  • Lunch: sandwich with pesto, sliced mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, and something leafy on two slices of homemade whole wheat bread
  • Dinner: pasta with marinara sauce, ground turkey (or grilled chicken) and possibly some cooked broccoli or spinach mixed in at the end, a salad with crumbled feta and kalamata olives, and a baguette fresh out of the oven
  • Snacks: Greek yogurt, almonds and fruit are great for workday pick-me-ups

Lunch Recipe - Homemade Wheat Bread

  • 7 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Yeast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (increase or decrease to taste)
  • 1/4 cup Vital wheat gluten

Mixed into a food safe but not airtight container, add and mix in:

  • 3 & 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup of honey (You can also use only water instead of honey)

Don’t over-mix, this is a no-knead recipe!

Leave container of dough covered, out on the counter for 2+ hours to allow it to rise, and then put it in the refrigerator. You can use the dough piece by piece for up to two weeks.

Pull off a cantaloupe-sized chunk of dough, shape it into a ball, then elongate it a bit into an oval and toss it into a loaf pan. Let it rest (loosely covered with plastic wrap) for 90 minutes and then bake it at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Note: If you use only water you’ll have to adjust baking time and temperature, but the process is essentially the same.

After letting the loaf cool, slice it up to have sandwich bread for the week!

 

Ed Carr:

A typical…

  • Breakfast: a bowl of cereal, some juice, and a banana
  • Lunch: leftovers, or a sandwich or something else quick from a nearby restaurant. Can’t miss homemade Thai food from Royal Blue Grocery on Fridays!
  • Dinner: simple and quick meals for dinner, with enough for a few days of leftovers
  • Snacks: fruit, yogurt, trail mix, and chocolate milk

Dinner Recipe – Ed’s Simple Stir Fry

  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 (or more) cloves of garlic, minced
  • Optional: crushed red chilies, rice vinegar, teriyaki/Sriracha/hoisin/oyster sauce, etc.
  • sesame or other neutral oil (for use over high heat)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. tofu (or another protein), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 cups assorted vegetables chopped into similar shapes/sizes
  • A splash of water, stock or white wine

First, prepare the sauce by combining the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and whatever else you like in a small bowl. Taste, adjust, and set aside to let the flavors meld.

At this point it’s best to prepare all the other ingredients and have them ready by the stove.

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally. When the onion begins to soften, add the protein and cook until the tofu begins to brown or the meat is almost fully cooked.

Add a splash of the sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until the tofu is nicely browned or the meat is done. Remove the onion and protein and set aside. Return the pan to the heat and add another tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the vegetables and turn the heat to high. Add the splash of liquid and cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are tender.

Turn off the heat and return the onion/protein mixture to the pan along with the rest of the sauce. Stir until evenly mixed and heated through. Serve immediately over rice or noodles, and save the leftovers for lunch!

 

You can see Brittany, Anne Marie and Ed in all of their well-fed glory, May 11-13 in Romeo & Juliet. Tickets here.

Hansel and Gretel – Dancer Preview #2

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Ballet Austin II dancer Sarah Hicks lets us into the world of  creative “workshopping”.

As a young dancer, you don’t often have the privilege to be choreographed. The opportunity to have a completely new work of art created for you is perhaps one of the most exciting parts of being a dancer. The fact that I have experienced this with Nelly van Bommel’s Hansel and Gretel is absolutely thrilling, to say the least.

Every choreographer works and creates movement differently. In Nelly’s case, we went through an exhilarating, entertaining and, at times, completely hysterical process we called “workshopping.” In these creative brainstorm sessions Nelly would give us a simple idea, such as pretending to run through a room full of shattered glass, and have us show her our physical interpretation. From there, she would take the movement we gave her and morph it into something quintessentially “Nelly.”

After much manipulation and innovation on Nelly’s part, we ended up with movement that could easily be described as playful, energetic and even mischievous. Her choreography is largely based on a tribal-like community feeling in which moving as a group and being comfortable with your fellow dancers is crucial. She challenged us to create games, to be shamelessly verbal while dancing, and to spend a lot of time rolling, stomping, scooting and crawling on the floor (activities we “bun-heads” generally find mortifying!).  Despite all this, the challenges paid off and we ended up with a piece that is funny, charming and truly unique.

Another notable quality of Nelly’s work is her use of props. As an audience member, you will quickly find yourself thrust into a world of spinning tables, four wheel drive shopping carts, and velcro cupcakes.  Nelly created a full sensory experience in her fabulously comical interpretation of a fairy tale classic.

Hansel and Gretel is entertainment for the whole family, sure to please audience members of all ages. Don’t miss it!

Hansel and Gretel opens Feb 25. Tickets available here.

 
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