Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Of performing.

After this weekend, I have concluded that I absolutely love theaters. I just love the buildings themselves...they're portals to an enchanted land. And it is one of the most exciting and thrilling things ever to be standing in the wings, surrounded by darkness, watching the story unfold under the bright lights of the stage, and thinking, I am an inhabitant of this world!

This has been an all-round awesome weekend (it always is!), so I thought I'd share it with you all. Well, the awesomeness started on Friday morning when my mom, Evangeline, and I went out for breakfast at a little diner right across the square from the theater around 7:30 am. We all had pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon (remembering too late that it was a Friday :-/ ). As we sat there eating and talking, our ears suddenly picked up "A Hazy Shade of Winter" by Simon and Garfunkel playing on the radio! We are all major Simon and Garfunkel junkies, so that brought great joy to us, and we all started singing along!

Around 8:15 am, Evangeline and I headed over to the theater. The morning was gloriously warm, sunny, and springlike. As we applied our makeup in the spacious dressing room, the cell phone of one of the girls went off to the tune of "I Wanna Be (500 Miles)"! We've been obsessed with that song ever since watching "Benny and Joon" several nights ago. "This day just got even more epic!" I exclaimed. "First Simon and Garfunkel in the restaurant, and now "500 Miles"!"

We got into our costumes and headed upstairs for the performance, which would start at 9:30 am. It was for the area schools, but about 40 people we know from church were coming, and there would be a full house. I love going up the stairs from the dressing rooms at the theater...there are three flights, and the steps are wide and concrete, with paintings of performers on the walls.

As I stood in the wings, listening to the familiar music of the overture of "The Ugly Duckling", the previous week's performance came to my mind. I remembered standing in the wings and looking up at the ceiling, which soared high above me, shrouded in darkness. I had wanted to write a poem...something about a starless night that is suddenly transformed into beauty and light.

The performance went remarkably well! I only made three mistakes, and none of them were very noticeable. I realized something during that performance, and when I mentioned it to Evangeline, she said it was the same for her. In general, we both tend to be quiet and introverted when we're around other people, but when we perform, those barriers fall away. There is this wonderful freedom to really enter your character (be a swan or a crazy hunter!), and to become it. And of course, your own personality enters into the portrayal, too, and you are more alive and real than you usually are. That's one of the things I absolutely love about performing.

The other reason is the audience! It is so wonderful to know that you are making it possible for all of these people laugh, cry, and have an enjoyable time. You become the guides to that enchanted world, and can take the entire audience with you!

The next morning, I woke up around 7 am. Evangeline had a Music Teacher's Association competition to audition for at 8 am, so I just stayed in bed until almost 8 am so that I didn't get in everyone's way. :P I would have had a nice, peaceful morning of sitting on the couch drinking coffee, but our cockatiel would not stop screaming! So I had retreat into the upstairs hallway, until my friend (I'll call her Elizabeth) got here around 9 am. She was going to spend the day with us and sleep over as well, so she could go to the performance. Evangeline got home around that time as well. Her competition went quite well, and we found out the next day that she got 14 out of 15 on her piano playing and a perfect score on the music theory, which means she'll be going to state in May!

We left for the theater again at 10:30 am. Two dancers from the Milwaukee Ballet were teaching master classes, and Evangeline and I attended both the Intermediate and Advanced classes - from 10:45 am to 1:30 pm! It was a lot of dancing, but it was wonderful. :) I'm really happy that my stamina is improving so much! After the last class, we all sat on the stage and asked the dancers questions about their careers and backgrounds for about half an hour. Then we went and had sandwiches in the loading dock, and after that it was time to do our hair and put on makeup and costumes in preparation for our last performance!

The actual dancing part of that performance was wonderful, but I was having some issues with my costumes. :P I'd been very forgetful and didn't lay them out in the wings, so when my quick changes came I was rushing around madly looking for them. Not fun. Do not do that! But they were all found in time, thanks to the wonderful moms who double so niftily as stage and prop managers. :)

The narrator of our production was SO nice - we all love her! She was obviously very excited to be narrating for us, loved watching us dance, and even gave all of us letters and roses after the performance...she's a very thoughtful lady! I ran into her that evening as she was leaving after the performance.

"You did such a wonderful job!" she said, giving me a hug.

"Thank you! You did too!" I replied.

"It all came from you guys. The way you all danced told me how to tell the story...it's really cool." I agreed.

"Are you planning on staying with dance?" she added. I nodded my head. Despite how stressful it had been over the past few weeks, I was realizing that dancing was not something I can leave any time soon. The only way that would work is if I never heard about ballet again!

"Good!" she exclaimed. "You have such grace and poise, and your jumps look so effortless...you really have something. I'm glad you're going to continue!"

"Thank you!" I exclaimed, beaming. I was so happy. In that weekend, I think I finally started learning to really dance, not just go through the motions, and it was wonderful to know that someone appreciated it.

I just found something on Pointe magazine's website that says exactly what I was trying to say earlier!

As dancers, we thrive on that ability to transcend the normal and become someone (or something) else on stage. It places us among the lucky few people who have the opportunity to experience that intangible freedom of another world.

But aside from those precious moments in performance, we spend hours and hours in the normal classroom grind, preparing ourselves for rehearsal, where we’ll spend hours and hours preparing for the product—our performance. The overwhelming majority of our time as ballet dancers is spent either preparing or preparing to prepare for time on stage, and naturally, we strive to make the most of it.

But all too often, I find myself working so hard on technical improvements in class that I forget to perform, to live the motivation of my movement—which is, after all, one of the greatest gifts of dance and the reason I’m there in the first place.

I'm starting to think that maybe if I don't dance, I'll be wasting one of my talents. It's definitely something to think about.

I was going to write about going to the Milwaukee Public Library and the Joan of Arc Chapel this past summer, but this turned into such a ginormous post that I'll spare you. ;)


Katherine Sophia said...

That's so cool! It sounds amazing.
You say, "I'm starting to think that maybe if I don't dance, I'll be wasting one of my talents. It's definitely something to think about." I've noticed you going back and forth on this, and I know exactly what that is like...
the answer to what direction to go is different for each person, but it's a huge decision, and I'm praying for you! :D

Jessica said...

Ah the power of performance. Though I have never been a dancer I have had experience with competitive interpretive speaking. You take a piece of published literature and interpret the piece with your voice and body, essentially becoming a one person act,and it is in performing as you so beautifully described that I have found another part of myself one that I didn't know existed, one that is freeing and delightful. So glad your performances went well. Congratulations on a job well performed. Bravo! Hoping an encore come soon. :)

Anonymous said...

*sigh of joy*
I love reading posts about theatre/peformance. This is lovely. I love reading about the passion that you have for dance! It's awesome. :)

Lady Blanche Rose said...

Katherine Sophia - Thank you! :) And I'm so happy to know that I'm not the only one who is constantly changing their mind about what they're called to do...sometimes I start feeling schizophrenic. :P Thanks SO much for your prayers! I will pray for you too!

Jessica - I love how you described performing! I've actually never heard of interpretive speaking, but it sounds really awesome. And thank you!

Addie - Thank you so much! :)

All these comments mean so much to me!