12.29.2004: If You Haven't Made Your Resolutions yet...
Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary? Why? Mainly because it takes effort, energy and a DAILY commitment to excellence. Remember, the best dancers in the world start their day with plie's and tendus at the barre...just like ordinary dancers, they just do it BETTER. And, that accumulation of effort pays off over time. But, you can't just work harder...you must work harder AND SMARTER. Start by choosing good parents and, then, choose good teachers...and listen to both.
Just like any other artists, dancers experience higher highs and lower lows than ordinary people. The trick is to treasure the highs without being consumed by the lows. Start by accepting frustration as part and parcel of the passionate pursuit of perfection. Enjoy the path, Sisyphus! And, realize all the positives and negatives are two sides of the same coin. But, don't reject one for the other. The full range of emotions has to become part of the palette of performing artists.
12.19.2004: Visions of Sugar Plums
Professional ballet dancers often have a complex "love-hate" relationship with
the Nutcracker. Usually it's the very first and the very last ballet
performances of a dancer's career in America. Ballet companies "love" the money
it generates and the large audiences it brings in every year. But, after what
can be a month or more of nonstop performances and several months of
rehearsals...familiarity can breed more than a little dislike from the dancers.
Repeat year after year after year, often from age 5 or younger on...and, you get
And, by the time a dance critic sits through his fourth or fifth performance of
the season...well, frankly, my dear, the thrill is gone. So, keep that in mind
whenever you read a Nutcracker review this late in the year.
This weekend was the eighth season of Iowa Dance Theatre (sic) at the
Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. And, a little more thought has been
given to developing characters and characteristic movement in their first act
Party Scene. The Waddleschelns and their children practically "waddle"
onto stage. The Tiltenmeiers and their brood "lean" this way and that
through the party. The Kleinhaughtys walk with their condescendingly
snooty noses in the air. And, the Messerschmidts are a tightly
regimented and militaristic clan. These details drew titters and chuckles from
Sunday's audience. And, a little more of that thought would go a long way in
making any Nutcracker party scene more multifaceted. All butlers should
be haughtier, a "gentleman's gentleman". All maids need to be more subservient
or subversively sly as appropriate to their status. All Drosselmeyers
need to be more mysterious and magical. All parents and partygoers need to be
larger-than-life, yet, still character-driven.
Having said that, Adrianna Herdeaz was an expressive Clara
throughout the show. Her version in pointe shoes was perhaps the most difficult
of the three different Nutcrackers I saw this year. And, her wide-eyed,
fresh-faced wonder helped create a charming and convincing lead character.
Other dancers that deserve mention: Joanna Sienkiewicz (bet that's not a
stage name!) brings an enthusiastic athleticism to the part of the Snow Queen.
Ben Rethmeier proffers princely proportions to portray a serviceable
Snow King. Chelsea Gauger makes a lovely, lithe and limber
Arabian Princess. Elysia Purnell shows promise as the Rose Queen.
Jacob Rutledge displays considerable tumbling skills as the lead
Russian. Jackie Koehler, Theresa Berger, Emily Asher, Dora Novak and
Alexis Robson are always some of the best and strongest dancers IDT
has to offer.
Guest artists Kristy Tancred and Rider Vierling of the Augusta
Ballet presented a finely honed, rarely-seen-in-Iowa Balanchine
version of the Grand Pas De Deux in Act Two. (There are two main versions
of this Pas: the traditional and the contemporary re-imagining by
George Balanchine.) The partnering was sure-handed, the details were done
well. Vierling was a virile and strong Cavalier. Tancred,
a sprightly, sweet, yet, strong Sugar Plum Fairy. They meshed well
together. Her variation was crisp, but, lacked the ending menage. His
variations were adequate except for a stumble during a turn to the knee in the
coda. Overall, much, much improved over a string of sub-par guest artists
IDT hired in the years just prior to Tancred and Vierling.
But, the corps de ballet work in Snow and Flowers was
underrehearsed. How difficult is it to stand in a straight line? To make
formations? It's not...but, young dancers have to be told constantly until it
becomes second-nature while moving. Becoming a good corps dancer is a
skill usually not taught in the classrooom. If individual ballet dancing can be
defined as presenting the hidden lines of the body to the audience...corps de
ballet work can be defined as presenting the lines and shapes of the group
to the audience. This kind of work is truly the power of individual movement
reflected and multiplied by many...otherwise corps de ballet becomes the
cliched "corpse de ballet".
And, choreography by committee can be a mixed bag as well. Yes, unexpected
fresh ideas can spring from many fertile minds...or the result can be a mediocre
mishmash without an overall guiding artistic vision. You can judge choreography
in several different ways: from the dancer, audience or choreographer's point of
view. But, the bottom line is whether the movement and music add up to greater
than the sum of the parts. Do both complement and complete the other? Or do
they cancel and compete? Do the steps make the music visual? The best
choreography challenges and satisfies dancers, choreographers *and* audiences.
Some might say that's more than can be expected in Iowa, at a regional
production or from Iowa Dance Theatre...but, should we lower our
standards and expectations? IDT isn't performing at the Botanical
Center anymore...they're at the Civic Center...and charging Civic
Center prices. They have to be held to the standards of what else you
expect to see on that stage for that price.
12.13.2004: Ames "Nut" Mixed Bag
At nearly a quarter-century, the annual Nutcracker at C.Y.Stephens Auditorium in Ames is the "grand dame" of all the holiday shows in the central Iowa area. But, like an aging ballerina whose time has come and gone, some lines and wrinkles and "false steps" are starting to appear.
What the Stephen's version does well are the details of the production: props and drops and costumes have been added to and embellished over the decades. The party scene in the first act is awash in a kaleidoscope of color. There's something irresistible about little girls in big curls dressed up in 1800's party best. And, it's great that so many real Iowa boys actually dance in the first act. A lot of other productions have to make up girls as boys.
The rat costumes and choreography are cute and cunning. I love the food props the mice carry as they scurry: a big olive, a peppermint candy, a cracker...doesn't everything go better with a Ritz? And, I chuckle every time the toy soldiers heave out that big toy cannon that actually shoots a bouncing basketball at the rats that can only "die"...laughing!
But, traditionalists can argue against some of the "extras" that have crept into the Ames' version of the annual Christmas ballet over the years. The four maids' constant attempts at comedy in the party scene can be more than a little distracting. (Read "annoying", but, at least, the fuzzy pink bedroom slippers are gone.) The extra xylophone riffs or thunder sound effects whenever
Drosselmeyer does his magic aren't in Tchaikovsky's original score. The ethereal music for the
Snow Pas de Deux has been inexcusably edited out. And, three extra variations have been tacked on to the second act. A word to the wise, Ames residents: don't expect to see
Puppets, Hungarians nor Irish dancing in any other Nutcracker in the world. The extra variations allow more young dancers chances to get on stage, but, a generation of Iowans is growing up exposed to "tampering" with a classic. (That
Hungarian music is actually from another Tchaikovsky ballet, the
Czardas variation from Swan Lake, Act II.)
Another big concern is the constant falling "snow" special effect during the end of the second act. I've always been worried about the safety of the dancers during that scene. Even with sneakers on all that "snow" would be tricky underfoot. In
pointe shoes, it's an accident waiting to happen. And, one dancer did slip and sprain an ankle in Friday night's show, an unfortunate "Snow" fall event. So, it's way past time to limit the snow special effect to the very end of the second act when the dancing is over. Safety of the kids should come first.
And, while we're doing the "safety dance", there needs to be a pre-show announcement that no flash photography is allowed during performances. It's made before nearly every other dance production in America because an unexpected flash can temporarily blind a dancer and end in injury. I was amazed when several flashes went off during this weekend's performances...and, secondly, that ushers apparently did nothing about it. Don't be a rude rube, Iowans! Turn your pagers and cell phones off! (Can you hear me now?) And,
NO flash photos at performances ever!
But, for real ballet fans, the entire production lives and dies on the strength and beauty of their guest principal dancers. And, with the first step on stage of
Sugar Plum Bonnie Pickard and Cavalier Jared Redick's grand entrance in Act II, the entire audience knew it was in for a treat. The professionals radiated confidence and aplomb that generated spontaneous applause...with, as dancers like to say, "line for daze".
Pickard dances like liquid velvet...or, perhaps more apropos for the ruler of the Kingdom of Candy, like sweet spun sugar or melting chocolate. Her movements are melodic and musical, like the tips of her precise pointe shoes were lightly kissing crystal bells. With an easy half-smile, she sprinkles her variation with balances that are still and subtle expressions of strength and grace. And, she doesn't take the easy way out. Some ballerinas forego the tiring grand menage at the end of the
Sugar Plum's variation, but, Pickard performs a difficult series of pique' and en de dans tours de force that puts "the icing" on a world-class "cake". Meanwhile, her partner,
Redick, is worlds better than last year's Cavalier. His technique was clean as a confectioner's sugar, but, his variation was more terrestrial than aerial.
Several promising young dancers also in this year's cast: Alissa Blad danced and performed her little heart out as Saturday's
Clara. Marc Heitzman as the Nutcracker could go places once he decides to turn-out, straighten and extend the line of his legs.
Keith Davis as a young Drosselmeyer shows some unexpected dramatic and comedic ability.
Sara Mills stands out as the lead "Flute" in the dance of the Mirlitons.
Dmitriy Komm and Kristine Koehler as the Spanish leads bring a mature Latin attack and passion to the stage. And,
Catherine Wooten as the lead Flower soloist and Friday's Ballerina Doll just keeps getting better and better from year to year.
But, the tried-and-true C.Y.Stephen's Nutcracker recipe still needs to be spiced up a bit. Entire chunks of choreography should be freshened, revised and tightened a taste. Iowa students in general should be challenged to lift the level of their dancing in this December show. So, Iowa dance teachers need to work harder all year round. Otherwise,
Nutcracker in Ames will end up like that other holiday tradition: an unwanted fruitcake that gets passed along from generation to generation.
12.7.04:Dear Dance Doc:
"Can you refresh my memory on balance? If there were 3 things you would recommend doing daily, what would they be?"---Adult Dance Student.
Hmmm...This is a harder question to answer than you might think. Different bodies usually have different strengths and weaknesses...meaning different dancers would probably need to do different things. But, balance is defined as equal energy in all directions...so, just in general, building proper strength, turn-out and alignment are always a good place to start.
The first recommendation is to take as many quality dance classes as you can. A good teacher should provide you with specific feedback for your particular instrument. Always remember proper pelvic placement helps generate the turnout and alignment necessary for strong balances. Remember to practice "lifting" and "extending a lengthened spine" during plie's and fondus. Practice strengthening the extensor muscles through-out the entire body during all barre exercises...especially both legs during tendus, degage's and rond de jambes. Professional dancers can "break a sweat" just standing in first position because of this lengthening action. Hold your balances at the end of every exercise.
You can supplement the core strength-building process by cross-training in Pilates or Yoga if it's difficult to take as many ballet classes as you'd like. Daily crunches/the Pilates "hundred"/Swiss Ball or BOSU sit-ups, back-ups and side-extensions should be incorporated into your daily warm-up routine.
Ballet balances come from stretching a placed upper body away from stretched legs that are turning-out against turn-out. A common beginner error is to turn-out only one side of the body, generally the working leg. Another common error is the inability to find the proper "still place" during balances. Practice being still during all balances. Once you can do that well, then, practice "growing" in that stillness. Remember, the best dancers always show "movement in stillness...and stillness in movement".
Also, it's probably too time-consuming for most dancers to do on a daily basis, but, floor barre is an excellent way to supplement your ballet practice. Done properly, floor barre strengthens proper muscles, alignment and turn-out...everything you need for stronger balances.
E-mail dance questions to the Dance Doc on the CCDC Contact page.
12.6.04: Good "Turn Out" for Omaha Ballet:
Get to the Orpheum Theater early for Omaha Theater Ballet's Nutcracker...or be prepared to drive several blocks before you find parking. Omaha/Council Bluff's families turned out in force on a rainy, grey Sunday to support a bright, colorful jewel of a ballet this weekend.
If you've never been to the Orpheum Theater, it's a little like Des Moines' Hoyt-Sherman Theater...only on steroids...bigger, bolder, yet more dignified in a restrained go-for baroque, rococo manner. But, there's not a lot of leg room or elbow room in the refurbished theater seats. Americans were a lot smaller when this theater was first built, but, there are worse things than getting up close and personal with a packed house full of kids and families in their Sunday-go-to-the-ballet best...and all that fades out with the house lights once the curtain rises.
Choreographer/Artistic Director Robin Welch has re-shuffled the familiar Nutcracker music and re-placed the ballet in 1920's Omaha. Herr Drosselmeyer (Brian Guehring) becomes a Cecil B. DeMille movie director, the dancing dolls in the first act are Charlie Chaplin (John LaPuzza) and the cutest, biggest dancing Teddy Bear (Jackie Alvine) you've ever seen vying for the affections of Betty Boop (Michele Hebda). Drosselmeyer's Nephew who becomes the Cavalier/Nutcracker is the Movie Star (Avram Gold) in this version. The elaborate costumes and art-deco sets are straight from the "roaring 20's" (And that was CCDC Post-Secondary Program graduate Brooke Meyer beneath that three-foot long red feather in the first act.)
The costuming, sets, props and special effects are all first-rate...including a "shooting star" that whisks Clara (the promising Carly Bruce) and the Cavalier to the rafters, swinging Icicle Maidens who sprinkle snow on the whirling Flakes and Snow Beauties beneath...and a pirate ship on wheels that fires a cannon on the Sailor Corps while sailing on a dreamy "sea of smoke". The Waltz of the Flowers in the second act becomes a floral bouquet with elaborate technicolor costumes for pansies, tiger lilies, holly, dandelions, daisies, acorns and a bumble-bee (Nathan Minchow) who deserves quite "a hand" for his four-armed outfit alone.
Judge regional ballet companies on the strength of their men because it's a fact of ballet life that good women are almost a given. And, Omaha Theater Ballet is lucky to have Avie Gold. His multiple pirouettes and a la seconde turns set a "gold" standard of "balances that turn...turns that balance". Rachel Vickry makes a radiant Sugar Plum Fairy, but, it's Gold's sure-handed and subtle partnering that kept her on her pointe shoes time and again. There was only a small problem with one "pop-to-fish" that nearly became a "pop to drop". (Dancers are only human...and probably pretty pooped after a weak end of four-regular shows, rehearsals, classes and several school shows.) But, the last dramatic assemble' to overhead arabesque lift was a "24-karat" ending to the Grand Pas De Deux that locked out "as good as gold".
It's a kid-and-family friendly version of the Nutcracker that Omaha should be proud of...but, perhaps, Omaha Theater Ballet should consider alternating the traditional 19th-Century version with its early 20th century re-imagining every other year. Best of both worlds that way.
Whatever they decide, Omaha Theater Ballet is "ready for its close-up, Mr. DeMille!"
11.15.04: Ashley can turn! Ah!
An impromptu performance by a young rising star on the national and international dance scene was the highlight of the Dance Masters of Mid-America Dance Pageant at the Adventureland Palace Theater in Altoona this weekend. Ashley Canterna of American Dance Artists is the 2000 Youth American Grand Prix Gold Medal Winner, Silver Medalist at the 2000 Varna International Ballet Competition and a USA International Ballet Competition Jury Award Winner. She was in Des Moines to judge the 2005 Miss Dance, Teen Miss Dance and Teen Mr. Dance Contests Saturday night.
After the competitors had their turn, Canterna did a quick warm-up and costume change...then she brought the audience to its feet with a nearly flawless performance of a contemporary jazz/ballet piece to Don Quixote from the musical Man of La Mancha. And, Ashley Canterna can turn! Ah! ...like a top or a gyroscope! Wearing a stylized traje' de luz or matador's "suit of light" costume, the 19-year old whipped off multiple turns of every type imaginable: four or five pirouettes from fouette' turns, lightning fast arabesque and attitude turns. Most impressive was a rock-solid center at the core of every pirouette. She attacked every jump and turn with skill and obvious relish with well-schooled Kirov Academy technique and a performer's flair and attack. If you ever have a chance to catch a performance by Ashley, sister Adrienne or cousin Alicia Canterna or their fledgling new dance company, American Dance Artists, be sure to jete' at the chance!
Congratulations to Ashley Canterna and all this weekend's contestants. Hopefully, there'll be a bit more publicity if she ever returns to Iowa to perform again. And, perhaps one of the artistic directors of one of the many Nutcrackers in town will stop bringing in long-in-the-tooth guest artists with one foot in the grave (is that a little harsh???)...and hire someone like Canterna instead.
11.8.04:CCDC Instructor Alissa Hamer recalls Basil Thompson:
"It was so amazing to see Basil around the U of I dance department. His office was right across from the student lounge and I would run into him nearly every day. He always had a smile on his face and a warm, 'Hello dear!' to start off the mornings. Rarely would I catch him without that khaki fishing hat he adored. He was an incredible dancer and teacher and his presence will be missed very much."
Alissa attended Thompson's memorial service in Iowa City. His wife and children were all there as well as students, faculty and staff from Iowa, neighbors, friends and former dancers. She says, "There is a website with pictures set up for him at WWW.BasilThompson.Net if you want to check that out."
11.3.04:CCDC Faculty Mourns Passing of Ballet Master
Basil Thompson, an internationally acclaimed ballet master on sabbatical from the University of Iowa, died Tuesday in Lynchburg, Va., of sudden cardiac arrest. He was 67.
Thompson, trained by the Sadlers Wells Ballet School in London, was a former soloist with the American Ballet Theatre in New York and former artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet.
He also was a former ballet master of the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet, and only recently had reconstructed Petrouchka for the Joffrey's Nureyev Tribute.
CCDC instructor Melissa Uyehara trained with Thompson during three Milwaukee Ballet summer sessions. "He used to sit down and talk with some of the more advanced girls after class," Missy said. "And, I danced in one of his pieces. He was always very nice to us."
"I knew of him, of course, but, I only met him once," said CCDC instructor Emery Uyehara. "It was during a big audition at the Milwaukee Ballet studios. It was a packed studio and I remember he gave the trickiest petit allegro combination I'd ever seen. And, the funny thing is...he could do it at his age better than most of us could!" Emery says his other connection to Thompson was through his ex-wife Alaine Haubert who he trained with extensively in his hometown of Honolulu.
Thompson began his performance career with the Covent Garden Opera Ballet. In 1955, he transferred to the Sadlers Wells Ballet Company, now the Royal Ballet. He joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1960. In 1967, he joined the Joffrey as ballet master, working closely with Robert Joffrey at a time when the company was at its creative peak.
He became ballet master of the Milwaukee Ballet in 1981 and became the company's artistic director in 1995. Thompson joined the faculty at Iowa in the spring of 2000.
Survivors include his wife, Kitty Carroll, daughter Audrey and sons Edward and Colin. Funeral arrangements were pending.
11.01.04: Ballets with "Bite"
It was a "tale of two cities" this Halloween weekend as two Dracula ballets went on within two hours of each other. One was Iowa Dance Theatre's production at the Hoyt Sherman in Des Moines, the other was Omaha Theater Ballet's version at the Rose in Omaha, Nebraska.
It's unfair to compare the two...IDT's production is basically danced by high school students and younger with a few older dance teachers and college students. OTB's is a professional version with a paid company of eleven dancers and six apprentices. But, why is ballet flourishing at a professional level in one city and floundering at a high school level in a similar sized city a few hours away? More on that later, but, first, quick capsule reviews:
Iowa Dance Theater bills their version as Dracula, A Comedy Noir Ballet. It mixes equal parts slap-stick with ham-handed Hollywood vampire schtick and mostly high-school level dance technique. The exceptions here would be dance teacher Ben Rethmeier returning as the lead and Iowa State student Dmitriy Komm. Rethmeier displays clean classical lines throughout his portrayal. And, Komm drew audible gasps from the small crowd Saturday night with effortless elevation in his grand ciseaux split leaps. Steve Nelson as Gorot the mute narrator has an unctuous menace and presence appropriate to his role. Kristin Gall drew laughs from the crowd by playing dead well in the Necromancer's Waltz. And, Joanna Sienkiewicz as Marie has excellent extension and marks herself as a dancer with great potential. Watch for her in IDT's Nutcracker at the Des Moines Civic Center in December.
There are no music or choreographic credits listed in IDT's brief program notes. But, James Clouser's original choreography has mutated since it was originally set eight years ago. And, a corps of young ghouls lurches through their steps with all the nuance of a high school production of Grease. A series of tendu cuisse was executed as well as you could expect from any freshly resurrected zombie.
But, you can't expect much artistic subtlety whenever a ballet starts off with a costume contest with "slime for everyone" and "witch inna box" prizes. And, in interest of full disclosure, I never got one of the plastic "fangs" handed out to the audience before the show. I had to settle for a mummified small plastic figurine. "Fangs" for nothing, IDT!
But, another set of standards comes into play with a professional ballet production the next day in Nebraska. Omaha Theater Ballet's Sunday matinee production drew a bigger crowd than last year's performance at the Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center. It's nice to see the community showing up to celebrate choreographer Kennet Oberley's version of Dracula set to the music of Bohuslav Martinu. It's been tightened and reset to show off the strengths of the young dancers in a young company.
Avram "Avie" Gold has undeniable presence and technique to match as the essence of evil that manifests as Nosferatu. His double assemble en l'air, lingering pirouettes, arabesque and attitude turns and coupe' jete's supplement a satisfying dramatic characterization. A strong contingent of men backed him up with clean double tours en l'air and sudden grand sissones. Especially notable were Mathew Carter as Andrew and Wade Schaaf as Jonathan Harker. Carrie Wanamaker shows off long balletic line as Lucy and Rachel Vickry's poisoning of Mina was chockful of little choreographic details. Makes you wonder how well she'd do in the classic "mad scene" from Giselle.
Especially chilling is the casting of young student Anna Jordan. Her child victim was effectively poignant throughout the seduction and betrayal of innocence. The corps of OTB women was also strong throughout...as Angels of Light and as Shadows and Wolves.
Ballet companies around the country are trying to replicate the Nutcracker cash cow by trying to turn Dracula into a similar seasonal tradition. But, the problem is there is no instantly recognizable Dracula music comparable to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. And, the reason non-dance fans flock to the Christmas Ballet is mainly because their kids or grandkids are involved. Any ballet that wants a similar result is going to need to cast a crowd of kids. (How about doing The Pied Piper?) Nutcracker casts often top a hundred per show easily. Multiply that by at least two parents, two grandparents, two siblings, two aunts, two uncles and two friends, you can understand why the holiday tradition is the main money-maker for dance groups across the country. Besides Dracula, some ballet companies are attempting to attract audiences with Romeo and Juliet or a concert of classical pas de deux in February around Valentine's Day...like Omaha Theater Ballet has scheduled next year.
In the early and mid-90's, both Omaha and Des Moines had strong professional ballet companies with good corporate sponsorships and clear artistic vision. Both companies folded for reasons that are vaguely blamed on mismanagement, dwindling audiences and a poor economy. (I still think Prairie Meadows or Council Bluffs slot machines sucked away a big part of the older audience. The big sell of Phantom of the Opera at the Des Moines Civic Center probably didn't help subscription ticket sales around that time either.) But, why has professional level ballet returned in one city...and several efforts failed in the other? There are a lot of reasons...but, the main one is the sponsorship and backing of a strong arts organization in Omaha. It's called "Omaha Theater" Ballet for a reason. The Omaha Theater provides management, public relations, a built-in subscription base...and free theater and rehearsal space. Until a similar alliance or sponsorship can be forged in Iowa, attempts to resurrect a professional ballet company in Des Moines will probably have a stake in its heart.
Former Des Moines Ballet dancer Emery Uyehara's last choreographic assignment was on Milwaukee's City Ballet Theater. He currently teaches at Capital City Dance Center in Urbandale.
Summer 2004: Joffrey Summer Workshop Performance:
Drove out to Flint, Michigan to catch four of our students in the Joffrey Midwest Summer Workshop performance this weekend. (Once again we were reminded---"What a country!"---how big the mainland is...6-hours driving to Chicago...stop-over with some friends...7-hours or so to Flint.)
We got there with about an hour-and-a-half to spare...just enough time to check out the Farmers Market right next to the Holiday Inn Express (Alas, forgot to drop-in "I'm no expert...but, I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night!" the next day!) Bought two-loaves of fresh-baked bread, fresh strawberries and fresh blueberries...and a low carb bagel. Made a little picnic in our hotel room.
Caught the matinee and evening performances. Some good choreography, some good dancers...some not so good. There was one guy who had some nice turns. But, the teacher in me wanted to yell out corrections at a sloppy second leg in coupe'-jete's...dangly and not fully stretched feet. I was a little disappointed at the overall level of dancing. Some of the partnering was disastrous. The first "helicopter lift" in Don Q didn't make it all the way around. And, there's no way to gracefully cover that up...girl sprawled on top of the guy with legs draped in different directions. Second helicopter lift was better. But, the simple overhead press at the end...failed to lock out. The guy's hands were too far apart...and he didn't use his legs enough to power the girl overhead. He had to bring her down before the curtain.
What I did like was the good energy the kids brought to some very good choreography...and the evening audience responded. It was a ballet "love-fest" with energy flowing back-and-forth across the proscenium. It helps when most of the audience are relatives of the performers!
At the post-performance reception in the lobby, it was fashion-model slinky city! The latest in skin-baring, swish-skirted styles on parade! Oh, well, if anyone can get away with the latest trends...it's these young dancers with fabulous slim bodies!
2003: Local Choreographer Tapped for Brew City Ballet:
Former Ballet Iowa dancer Emery Uyehara has been chosen as a guest choreographer for City Ballet Theater of Milwaukee's 2003 Fall Concert. He's resetting a contemporary jazz-ballet piece to the music of Prince on six dancers of the Wisconsin company. It's called Thunder and has been performed locally by the Neumann Project and the School of Ballet Iowa.
How did CBT hear about Uyehara? "One of my former students (Kasey Knowles) is dancing with the company now. I'd taught her the piece one summer and she suggested my name when her director mentioned they were looking for more diverse choreography. They contacted me by e-mail...and I jumped at the opportunity," he says.
Uyehara currently teaches Ballet and Pas de Deux for Capital City Dance Center in Urbandale, Iowa. He's choreographed for Hawaii's Third Wave Dance Theater, Iowa Dance Theatre, the Neuman Project and Hurley and Dancers in Des Moines. Uyehara has danced with Ballet Hawaii, Hawaii State Ballet, Duluth Ballet and Ballet Iowa. He's danced in several cabaret shows on the strip at Waikiki. He reprises his role as the Arabian Prince in the Stephens Auditorium production of Nutcracker this December.
2003: From Russia, With Indifference...
The Moscow Festival Ballet brought a truncated, disappointing version of Cinderella to Stephens Auditorium last night. The reputation of Russian Ballet brought out dance fans from around central Iowa...but, the third-or-fourth tier company failed to deliver the goods.
Sets were sparse, costumes plain...and most of the dancing barely adequate...occasionally, disastrous. Oh, there were some watchable moments: Prince Valeri Shumilov has world-class elevation in his jumps...his double assemble' tours were clean as a whistle...four a la seconde pirouettes from a single preparation was "jaw-dropping"...his coupe' jete' menage generated spontaneous applause. And, Grigory Ustiansev as the dance master turned better than a top, with an effortless ballon in his double tours en l'air en passe.
But, despite a well-schooled upper carriage, limpid port de bras and sky-high extensions, Tatiana Shevetsova as Cinderella was bland at best. Fairy Godmother Tatiana Smirnova was tall and regal...but, small technical flaws were evident all night long. Alexander Piniugin as the ground-bound Jester should've soared in the grand Russian tradition. The corps was ragtag and seemed thrown together.
Shumilov's partnering of Shevetsova was under-rehearsed...a routine turn and catch into promenade fell off pointe. His hand placement on an overhead lift was an invitation to a fall. And, the choreography was laughable at some critical junctures: Cinderella running with abandon to her Prince shouldn't turn around, hoist up her skirt and plop herself down into a lift.
Worst of all, the three-act ballet was squeezed into two acts...with large chunks of music, plot and character development just surgically excised. If the dancing had been better, I would complain more...but, unfortunately, there's only so much frustration a former dancer should be subjected to at a time.
A friend said it best, shaking her head as we passed in the lobby..."Any ballet is better than none." But, in this case, just barely.
2001(?):"BILLY ELLIOT"...A Dancer's View
Don't bother going to see Billy Elliot expecting to see a lot of expert dancing. For the ballet aficionado, Billy is no Center Stage, no Turning Point...not even a White Nights. Do go to see Billy Elliott if you want to see a heart-warming story of a boy's struggle with society and family to find his place in the world.
In Roger Ebert's review of the film, he says Billy is the gender opposite of the movie Girl Fight...and the parallels are obvious. In one, a misfit girl battles macho stereotypes to take up the sport of pugilism. In the other, a boy gives up boxing to pursue the art of ballet. But, to my mind, Billy Elliot is more a modern cinematic remake of The Ugly Duckling meets Swan Lake.
Set against the backdrop of the English coal miners' strike in the Orwellian year of 1984, 11-year old Billy Elliot is existing in a life of Dickensian dreariness. (Played by the remarkable Jamie Bell. His rare smiles light up the screen.) His mother is dead and his father and older brother are angry strikers. The only thing that brings him happiness is playing his brother's forbidden records (remember those?) and dancing and jumping for joy on his bed. His father scrapes together fifty pence a week to send Billy to boxing lessons where he often ends up on the canvas. Then, one day, a ballet teacher starts to rent half of the gym to teach her students. And, inexorably, Billy falls under the spell of dance. Soon, that fifty pence is paying for ballet lessons.
Watching the scenes where the boy learns to dance is presumably like watching the ugly duckling trying to fit into the flock. Unlike most studios, these girls get to wear tutus to class...so they're even more bird-like than real students. (Another minor irritant for at least one dancer in the audience: the students keep going from barre to center back to barre back to center...unlike classes in the real world. I don't think even English dancers are that crazy!) There's even another scene where the feathers really start flying. The instructor teaches ballet like a boxing coach...chain-smoking like a chimney and growling "Do it again!" over and over. No corrections, no feedback...except for a few instances that are a tad more sensual than they need be.
Billy Elliott is the male equivalant of Odette from Swan Lake. For a few hours each night, she's released from Rothbart's spell and is allowed to change from Swan to become human. For a few hours each day, Billy's released from the spell of spirit-numbing poverty to become human in his ballet class. Dancing, he says, is like "electricity". And, so the inevitable confrontation with family and the "Flashdance"-like audition build to a predictable, yet satisfying, climax.
My only two quibbles with the film: There isn't enough real dancing. Except for a few tantalizing glimpses of Royal Ballet students framed through a doorway...and a brief section during the credits...most of the dancing is performed---and depressingly realistically, I might add---by beginning students. And, the lower class English accent takes the American ear a little getting used to. (If you could understand either of the Montys: The Full or the Python, you'll be okay.) Ebert and I both agree the "R" rating is a little harsh...but, there's as much swearing as you might expect from a coal miner's father. Ultimately, Billy Elliot gets a thumbs up...four stars out of five. I would've given it five if only it was a little more *Ballet* Elliot. (Varsity Theater, 'R' rating)
It was September 27th, ____ long ago when God kicked me out of paradise. I remember sitting in the crowded 747 that evening, staring out the plane window with hot tears trickling down my face. Why was I leaving my Hawai'i? Well, ever since I bit into that forbidden fruit called "Dance"...I had set my feet on a path that ultimately would lead me away from the fiftieth state. I didn't want to go, but I knew I would never be happy unless I chased that improbable dream of becoming a professional dancer. I was scared of waking up some morning, with a fat bank account and an empty soul...(Okay, Okay...maybe not so fat a bank account!) Old at thirty or forty knowing I had never taken the risk...knowing I had been too scared to make that big jete' across the pond...never risked it all on a single bet on another pair o' dice.
Hawai'i has much to offer...but not for ballet dancers. I wanted to leave...but I also wanted to play it safe. Spending a month at my brother's on the mainland, making the rounds of auditions in San Francisco. One offer from a Jazz company that didn't pay---huh! Might as well stay at home and become a
Spats/Pasta with Passion dancer! Some interest---the WRONG kind---from the artistic director of a California ballet company. ______ just wanted to talk about his old boyfriend who used to be from Hawai'i. (I was so naive, I wondered what that had to do with me!) Another time, I guested with the
Frank Montoya Dancers in SF. And, later still, with Hawai'i Ballet Theater's
production of Pekelo and Pua'a in L-A. (I later met Mary Kay in Chicago who told me she saw that performance---what a small dance world it is after all!) When we got to LA, there was an audition at
Stanley Holden's studio for Hartford Ballet. I'd missed the Company audition and took the school audition instead as a substitute. The school directors said they were interested...but, I didn't want to get in a school. I wanted a professional contract in hand before I left my comfort zone in Honolulu. When I flew back to Hawai'i, there was a little girl at baggage claim who smiled the biggest smile and said "I saw you in
Nutcracker!" I smiled back and thought to myself, "This is a sign. I'm home. This is where I belong. From now on, I'll just be content to dance in Hawai'i." But, the Universe had other plans...
To Be Continued.
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
"Be careful what you wish for," they say. "...because you just might get it." I wanted to become a professional dancer on the mainland...and the chain of events that tore me away from the islands began innocently enough---like a small stone bouncing down a mountainside, it eventually became the avalanche that unceremoniously uprooted me from Manoa kicking and screaming. Call it fate, call it destiny...Whatever it was, it worked. It all started when I was taken off the air at KGU
and assigned to a copywriter's job in the front office. I wasn't happy, but, I
was still dancing...a few gigs in Waikiki (Bill Feeney's Lullabye of Swing,
The Lavender Follies), occasional guesting between Ballet Hawai'i, Hawai'i State Ballet and
Hawai'i Ballet Theater (How one city can have so many small competing companies when there's only enough money, audience and dancers for one is still beyond me!), training at
DanceWorks and Landovsky's and with Alaine Haubert. But, just as I was getting used to being off the air...a letter arrived from a dancer employment service telling me they'd referred me to a small company in Illinois---I vaguely remembered sending some information to the referral service...but, they wanted more money and like 25 pictures and resumes to send out! Have you ever priced head shots and poses? I didn't think anyone would hire me sight unseen...so I decided not to waste my money---Now, my name and incomplete information was being sent to the ______
Dance Theater of _____ What an odd name, I thought. What an odd place it must be...I figured nothing would come of it. So, I put it out of my mind.
Later that afternoon, I got a phone call at home. On the other end...the artistic director of the small company that had gotten my name.
She didn't want to hire me sight unseen either. She grilled me about my training and my experience. I told her I was trained by
Nolan Dingman of North Carolina School of the Arts. Name meant nothing to her.
Alaine Haubert of Joffrey and American Ballet Theater? Didn't know her from Adam.
Yasuki Sasa of Asami Maki Ballet of Tokyo? Bless you! ...(I didn't even try
Reiko Oda!) Finally, I mentioned _______, my former director at Ballet Hawai'i. Bells and whistles start going off! Turns out they had danced together in the
Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet years before. She laughed and said she was a young girl then and, once, a drunk ____ had put the moves on her on the way to a rehearsal! She said she'd call and talk to ______, catch up on old times and get a reference.
_____ must've talked me up, because ____ called back and offered me the job sight unseen. Just $150 a week...but a free room to stay in above her studios...plus an extra $40 a week if I cleaned up. I had to pay my own airfare. Like a mother bird kicks her reluctant offspring out of the nest to get them to fly...I could feel the universe giving me gentle persistent nudges in my backside. Time to put up or shut up. $190 a week and free room? Be careful what you wish for...(Why couldn't I have wished for more money, too?) But, I had to go...time to fly or die. Lock up the women and hide the cattle, mainland...Here I come!
To be continued...
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
Getting paid doesn't make you a real professional...that was one of the things I learned quickly my first few months on the mainland. Other things I learned were...what it's like to be a stranger in a strangely familiar land...and that it's possible for the weather to get so cold outside that instead of rain, "ice cubes" or even "shave ice" falls out of the sky! ...You folks in Hawai'i will have to trust me on this one!
When I got to the land the locals call "ill-annoy"...everything was different, but, as I said, strangely familiar. Instead of palm trees waving next to a sunny beach...there were maples and pines and oak on wide, suburban lawns. As I walked around the town, it suddenly struck me why everything looked so familiar...this was where Dick and Jane lived! When I was growing up, I remember learning to read while learning about Dick and Jane and their sister, Sally, and dog, Spot. They lived in an odd place with big houses and green lawns...nothing like the brown-skinned boys and girls I grew up with named Yamada and Rapoza and Nakasone. I felt like Dorothy..."Toto, I guess we ARE in Kansas anymore." I remember once when I first got there, the older girls in the "company" took me to a local nightclub. I wandered off looking for I'm not sure what...squeezing past crowded tables of tall white girls and taller white boys...and adrift in the middle of that sea of caucasianness, out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed another brown face topped with black hair...Omigod! Someone else who looked as out of place as I felt! I walked a little closer and as the white sea parted, the "howzit, bruddah" died on my lips...that other island-boy face stared back at me blankly...out of a mirror. You don't know lonely until you're homesick alone in a crowded midwestern nightclub with only your reflection to keep you company.
Oh, everyone was super-nice. But, the "____ Dance Theater" was a glorified junior company...a school that was making money hand over pointe shoe...and successful enough to hire an island boy to partner one or two of their best girls. I was getting paid and a place to stay, but I was far from what I considered a "professional dancer". I felt like I'd taken a step backwards---even though the dancers were very good for students and teachers. If you rate professionals like baseball players: single-a, double-a, triple-a and major leagues...I was barely playing high school ball. Hawai'i wasn't even single-a either, but at least there were more of us. One of the only good things---Not THE only...the dancer students were *really* nice to me and tried to keep me busy before the novelty of the "beach boy ballerina" wore off---was downtown Chicago was only an hour-twenty train ride away. I bought a monthly pass...and soon I was spending my days dancing in the Windy City and my nights rehearsing in ______. Soon enough, I would trade the Scorpio intensity of ______ for the vagaries of
Maria and Marjorie Tallchief...
To be continued...comments welcome!
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
I learned the hard way that oral agreements aren't worth the paper they're
written on...after ____'s Nutcracker (I did Arabian and some Russian...too short to partner her
Sugar Plum), she tossed me out of her life and her studio. I thought I'd been hired for the year. But, she just used me for a few months and then it was out in the snow. I asked her to let me stay in the apartment for a few weeks until the
Hubbard Street Dance Theater audition and she said OK. But, the next morning there was a note tacked to my door saying she'd reconsidered and I had 24-hours to get my stuff out of her place. (Whaddya expect from a Scorpio!) Gee! No sense of "ohana" that woman! ("ohana"-Hawaiian for "family") But, I had a little money saved...I had my return ticket to Hawai'i if I needed. With the help of a friend, I decided to move into a hotel and stay the few weeks until the big audition.
I'd seen Hubbard Street Dance Theater about a year before in Hawai'i at Castle High School. They were great! Rousing standing ovation! I remember thinking to myself if I didn't get in a ballet company, that
Hubbard Street would definitely do! Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Modern, Gymnastics...girls
en pointe! So, a few months later, I made sure to track down Lou Conte's studio on Wabash on my first trip by myself to downtown Chicago.
Warren Conover taught the company class and it was open to other dancers...(Conover was
Fritz in Baryshnikov's Nutcracker on PBS). I paid my money and took class alongside the dancers I'd applauded just a few months earlier. One of them had just guested with Ballet Hawai'i's "Nut"...Steve
____. He recognized me and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was dancing with a small company in ____. After some small talk, he said I should audition for
Hubbard Street because he was leaving...and they'd probably need a guy. If that wasn't right place at the right time slapping me in the face...I didn't know what was!
I psyched myself up for that audition! I put up little notes all over my hotel room reminding me my goal was getting in that company. I caught the train in to Chicago everyday and trained at Lou Conte's...and was even offered a scholarship (free classes) at
Maria Tallchief's Ballet Chicago Workshop. I took at Lou's in the morning...and
Maria's at night. Ballet twice a day...partnering, jazz and house at the Workshop. There were a lot of better bodies at all the classes, but my technique was better than most men. I could out-jump or out-turn most of the guys...this wasn't just my imagination either, after one combination of fouette jumps, Teacher
Anna Paskevska came over and hugged me and got all emotional, "Yes!" She cried to the rest of the men in class. "THAT is the way you should jump!" So, I thought, YES, I was ready for the audition! GIVE ME THAT CONTRACT!
...I didn't even make the first cut.
What's worse...the first combination was a ballet combination. I got cut after the BALLET combination. I didn't even get a chance to do the jazz or modern. Do you understand? I GOT CUT AFTER THE BALLET COMBINATION! It was the worst feeling in the world. It was the lowest point of my dancing career. Later at the train station, I decided to give up dancing. I was going home.
Hey, I TRIED! I had no money, no place to stay, no friends. It was snowing outside! Radio said exposed skin would freeze in less than 15-minutes! What in God's name was I doing so far from home and friends? I GOT CUT DURING THE BALLET COMBINATION! Soon as I got back to the hotel, I was going to make my reservations back to Hawai'i. Maybe I would dance again, maybe, I wouldn't...but, at least I'd be WARM again!
To be continued...Comments welcome...
Kulia I ka Nu'u,
How do you explain "color" to someone who cannot see? How do you share music with someone who cannot hear? How can a dancer explain why they dance...to someone who has glued themselves to the ground? Likewise, I cannot explain why...those of you who do not dance may not understand...but, dancers will only nod with empathy as I say...I could not walk away from dancing even after humbling rejection at the Hubbard Street Dance Company audition. At first, as I forced myself out of the post-rejection depression, I reasoned with myself...I still had a dance card at
Lou Conte's Studio...a scholarship at Maria Tallchief's school...and a rail pass good for another few weeks. Why not take a few more classes before I went back to Hawai'i? Why not, indeed?
On my daily walk between one studio to another, I passed a Japanese Restaurant kitty-corner from the Merchandise Mart. On a whim one day...I walked in and asked for a job. I got hired on the spot. So, why not stay a little longer in Chicago? The spring auditon season was coming up in a few months. The weather was warming up already. The girls were pretty at
Lou's and Maria's. I was getting good classes with Homer Bryant, Anna Paskevska and
Warren Conover...and later with Larry Long and Baruti Barodicaite at
Page's. The restaurant put me up in an apartment with their chef in the trendy River North district...fifty bucks a week! My manager even helped me move! Free lunch at the restaurant...free classes at night! It was like I'd died and gone to Dancer Heaven! ...except I still hadn't reached that "professional ballet dancer on the mainland" goal.
I went to every audition I could...even Twyla Tharp's! (hardest audition I'd ever been to...I got cut, but she gave us free tickets to her show!) But, as it turned out, I got in my first real company without even auditioning...
To be continued...comments welcome!
Kulia I Ka Nu'u
One of the regular customers at the restaurant in Chicago was a fortune-teller, an amateur palm-reader. She was a young, pretty blonde. She sat at the sushi bar and read palms. So, after a couple of visits and after she read the palms of the two sushi-chefs, the head cook, the manager and two waitresses, I skeptically let her read mine. She took my hand and her eyes widened. She looked at me and said "You should play the lottery! You're very lucky! I've never seen so many signs for luck!" She pointed to my wrist and said, "See these 'luck bracelets'...it means you're very lucky," She repeated, "You should play the lottery!" I looked at the wrinkles on my wrist and had to admit there were quite a few...but, I didn't buy a lotto ticket. If I am lucky...it's not in gambling...(it took one visit to Vegas to convince me of that!) Luck to me is preparation meeting opportunity...and, I guess it may seem like luck the way I got my first full-time professional dance job...but, remember, I'd been preparing for it for a long time.
Doing well at auditions is a skill. The more you take...the better you'll do. (Except for that darn
Twyla Tharp audition!) And I showed up for every audition and every cattle-call I could in Chicago. I was getting better at it...making the first cuts more and more...and final cuts at a few. But, I didn't get a contract...and while it was frustrating, I was doing OK in the Windy City. Remember free lunch and free classes...nearly free apartment! I was popular at the dance school...all the girls were pretty and I was looking forward to Summer Session at
Maria Tallchief's Chicago Ballet Workshop. Stevie Wonder was going to give a free concert at Grant Park and the "Taste of Chicago". The Blues fest was a blowout. Every Chicago Bulls game was on the television. Every Bears game on the radio. The world was my oyster and the only irritant was not having a full-time dance job.
Homer Bryant got me one. A former student of his was dancing at the Duluth Ballet. They needed men. She asked him if he knew anyone. He said only one of his students was ready...and that was me. Lucky me with the wrinkles on my wrist. Artistic Director
Nancy Gibson-Dornacher gave me a call. She didn't want to hire me sight unseen...but, Homer's recommendation carried a lot of weight...his reputation had reached even into the hinterlands of upper Minnesota. So, I sent her a raw videotape of the end of the semester performance. I had done
Paul Brown's Tarentella pas de trois, drummer boy in "Graduation Ball" and partnering and group work in several other pieces. She liked what she saw. I got the job. Goodbye, Kampai Sushi-Bar. Good-bye, River North apartment. Good-bye, Chicago, you Windy City! You city of broad shoulders! Hello...Duluth? MINNESOTA?
To be continued...comments welcome. If you want to be dropped from my life story, send me a note. Or do nothing, eventually I'll pare down the list.
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
It was late Sunday, July 3rd, ____ when I packed up my few belongings and hopped into
Adam Sakurayama's truck for the long drive from Chicago, Illinois to Duluth, Minnesota.
Adam and Kenny worked with me at the Kampai Restaurant Sushi Bar in the Windy City. Kenny was head chef and my roommate.
Sakurayama (which means "mountain of cherry blossoms" in Japanese) was my manager and bartender. When I told him I was quitting to take a job with the
Duluth Ballet, Adam said, "I knew it...you're O-blood type. Well, okay...how're you going? Never mind, I'll drive you." (This makes sense if you know that in Japan, personality traits are believed to be assigned to blood types...it's as if he said "I knew you'd be leaving to become a dancer eventually...you're a quadruple Scorpio, after all." And even though he was my employer...in Japanese tradition, we became more than boss-worker...and he felt obligated to drive his best waiter 12-13 hours to my next job!)
We nearly died on that trip. We drove all night taking turns at the wheel, but, Adam insisted on driving most of the time. I remember waking up and finding that darn "kamikaze" dozing with the cruise control locked at 70-miles per hour! Thank goodness most of the roads were straight through Wisconsin!
Duluth was nothing like I expected. I thought it'd be a rusted out relic of an old iron mining town. Instead, it's a scenic tourist destination and the gateway to the pristine Boundary Waters area of Northern Minnesota. That's why the Board decided to run the season from July to December that year...trying to take advantage of the summer tourist traffic to increase audiences. It's a small city...maybe, 60-thousand...but, other cities could learn a lesson from the Minnesotans on how to pay for a professional dance company. The ballet has a dedicated funding stream and rent-free studios. There were two other guys, three girls, two female apprentices and an all girl junior company. I got 2-hundred a week...and about 40-bucks extra for teaching jazz and partnering in the school. (In a strange coincidence, my former artistic director at Ballet Hawai'i had been the A-D in Duluth.)
Remember when I said "Be careful what you wish for"? Well, that came true in spades in Minnesota. If you've never been the principal dancer in any size professional company...you don't know how much pressure the position brings with it. The other two guys were rehearsing a fraction of the time I was...One had barely started dancing...and, frankly, the other was a weakling. Couldn't partner worth a hoot. They worked mostly half-days...I was there all day for almost every rehearsal...and taught in the school in the evenings. The Artistic Director spread the word that I was the best male dancer to ever dance in Duluth. (I remember thinking...if I'm the best, those other guys must've been frauds!) It was fun at first...but, the pressure started wearing on me. If I ever had an off day...the entire company looked bad. And I felt worse. The Duluth newspaper critic was lukewarm to my classical pieces...he said I was better suited to the contemporary, modern numbers. It was probably true...but, I felt terrible...Even though I was probably dancing the best I've ever danced. (I swear, after a year of Homer Bryant's floor barre...7-pirouettes at least on my strong side every time, 5-on my "weak" side. EVERY TIME! And I was always a strong jumper.) Using the sports analogy again...I was the ace of the staff at the single-A level...I was "the man"! But, the pressure I put on myself was enormous. Something had to give...
To be continued...comments welcome.
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
The colder the climate...the warmer the people. It's almost as if the people in Minnesota and Duluth try to compensate for the long, dark, frigid winter by taking care of each other...and looking out for a lonely ex-Island boy who had wandered far, far from home. I learned a lot that one season in the Duluth Ballet. I made a lot of mistakes and, unfortunately, burnt a lot of bridges. Some things I remember the most outside of the studio...my first tiny two-room apartment on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior. I had an almost tame wild chipmunk that would come out and beg for food everytime I sat on the cliff to eat dinner. One night, that fall, I watched in awe as a giant lightning storm stalked the far Wisconsin shore. And, that winter, I learned what "lake-effect" snow meant...piles of the white stuff 5-to-6 feet high on both sides of each road! I performed Peter in "Peter and the Wolf" (Imagine me in a blonde yellow wig!), the Bluebird Pas de Deux, Cavalier from "Nutcracker" (That started out great! It turned out Melissa ___ and I both had been taught the same version. We started dancing it together at the first rehearsal before being shown the steps...leaving poor Peter ___ shaking his head in bewilderment!) and a plethora of contemporary pieces. One of the other girls had been a military brat and danced in Japan for awhile. She spoke a little Japanese and she understood when I started complaining to her in "Nihongo" about a guest choreographer. We did a lot of "run-outs" to little towns in the Duluth-Superior area...once even to the Twin Cities for an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair. I danced on a dirt race-track at the Carlton County Fair...the townsfolk lolling about in the grandstands. My Artistic Director was afraid I'd refuse to dance on dirt...but, I just laughed it off and considered it part of the job. It was on one marley-covered gym floor in a small North Shore town, I did the most turns I've ever done...more than I could count...starting with arms wide and turning while pulling them in...still turning when my arms were completely in...so I started lowering my passe to sous-sus to conserve angular momentum...still turning into a last soutenou and spotting one of the corps girls behind me just staring in slack-jawed astonishment! What a feeling! Dancing like that is one of the few times it's as if God himself had reached out and touched me!
And, here's the best clean joke I heard about living in Duluth: Man's waiting at a bus-stop when the bus finally pulls up. He asks the bus driver, "Does this bus go to Duluth?"
"Nope," the bus driver says. "It goes 'chug-a-chug'."
...As you can see...not a lot of regional jokes pass the PG test...hehe!
Anyway, before long it was time for me to bid "toodle-loo" to the twin harbors and head back to Chicago. I think if I had gotten that part-time job on the radio in Duluth...I might still be there. But, it was a country and western station...and I couldn't see myself playing "Boot Scootin' Boogie" or "Drop Kick Me, Jesus, Through the Goalpost of Life" for a living. I thought with a season as a professional behind me...it was time to move on and up. I was burnt out from the pressure of carrying the company...I was ready to be a role-player in a bigger company. As it was, my teacher, Nolan Dingman, always told me that I'd probably have to work my way up from company to company. Have dance belt, will travel. So, it was time to put the rest of his plan into effect. Back to Chicago...back to the Kampai Sushi Bar...back to Maria and Marjorie Tallchief's Chicago Ballet Workshop...and back to unexpected difficulties...
To be continued...comments welcome!
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
Every so often, a young dancer will come to me and ask me for advice about becoming a professional. I almost always tell them the same thing: "Forget it, kid. If there's anything else that makes you happy...go do that instead! Trying to become a dancer is a hard-knock life! Dancers get higher highs than ordinary people, yes...but, much lower lows...and much more often. Be a cheerleader! Get married! Have kids! Take dance classes on the side if you have to..." and so on and so on. Of course, that's not what they want to hear...but, they need to face facts before they break their hearts and waste their time and their parents' money. A dancer's life is hard and short...very little time is spent in the spotlight before adoring audiences...if ever! If you have a choice...don't ever "choose" to try to become a professional dancer...
...but, for some of us...it's not a choice. I didn't "decide" to become a professional dancer and then sign up for classes. I took classes and got addicted. I took more classes...17 a week at the University one semester! I set little goals. Survive Ballet II. Dance in the U-H modern dance concert. Try Ballet III. Dance in the "Nutcracker". Get into Ballet IV. Get paid for the "Nutcracker". Dance in a jazz company. (Somewhere in the middle of all this...dancing became my life) Dance in a ballet company. Get paid for dancing in a company. Guest on the mainland. Tour to the mainland. And, finally...move to the mainland...get into a professional ballet company. I'd gotten into two. And...So, that's IT! End of saga! We're done! Thank you for coming, folks! Drive safely! Don't forget to tip your waiters and waitresses! Screen fades...credits roll...THE END. El Fin'! Sayonara! I lived happily ever after! Many fruitful years later, I die with a smile on my face...and many generations mourn my passing!
...Yeah, right...wrong fairy tale, Brothers Grimm! The only bad thing about working so hard and so long towards a goal...is sometimes you actually make it. And, because this is real life and not a sitcom...It very rarely turns out to be the way you pictured it. Oh, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed my years as a professional dancer...but, you have to make a transition once you're there. My follow-up advice to dancers who want to become professionals is: find a teacher who believes in you and will work with you...and can truly make you better. Take as many classes as you can! Find out if it's something you really love...or something you can live without. And my advice to professionals? Find an artistic director who believes in you and will work with you...and challenges you to make you better. Otherwise?
...Otherwise, it'll turn out much like my years in the Des Moines Ballet...
To be continued...comments welcome!
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
Phyllis S and I used to have a running joke about what a "soap opera" dancing in Ballet Hawai'i was...We used to roll our eyes at each other and whisper, "As the Fouette' Turns" whenever James McKuen or John Landovsky or, later, Pam Taylor-Tongg trotted out the latest ridiculous edict from the board...or when our principal female dancer started stripping for a living during a lay-off...or when Celia C and our guest principal started feuding like cats and dogs...or whenever another unlikely pair started hooking up right before our eyes... (Never mind that Phyllis was the cause of many of the latest soap opera antics!---And, I, of course, was blameless! When I ran into Phyllis in ballet class a few years later at Ruth Page's or Lou Conte's in Chicago...she just ignored me. But, then, I didn't say anything either...not even, "Ah...as the fouette' turns!") I used to wonder if Ballet Hawai'i was just an unfortunate hormonal maelstorm...an exception to the calm, ordered rule of a real professional company. Well, I never made it to the major leagues of Ballet...But, as a journeyman dancer at the single-and-double-a level...let me tell you putting young, attractive dancers together for eight hours a day, five-or-six days a week...in leotards and tights...sometimes making them handle each other and feigning passion...well, relationship trouble was always boiling beneath the surface.
For example: Frankie and Janie were lovers my first year in the company...and, oh, how that Frankie could love! Unfortunately, he ended up loving Natalie and Emily on the side...and propositioning nearly every woman of age in town as well! And Emily was Frank's best friend's girlfriend! ...Has this ever happened to you? Janie came to me tearfully one night asking for advice...I told her she was better off now that she had broken up with Frank...the next day, they were back together...and both of them were mad at ME! Early that first season, Sean confided in me that he thought the new "anti-sexual harassment" policy in our employee handbook was aimed directly at him. I told him I thought it was aimed at me...we both laughed. But, I had to admit it was a bit disconcerting to watch Sean openly fondling and caressing the company girls during rehearsals...right in front of his girlfriend! I thought I was bad!
So, more than a little hanky-panky between the dancers I could tolerate...besides I was having my own problems outside the company with the school director, but, I was not happy when one of our choreographers started mooning over a high school student in the junior company. The man had a poor track record when it came to young girls...he'd married one of his students...and then left her to marry another of his students...and was infatuated with another student again! His wife found a letter he wrote to the girl confessing his crush...so, she left him and took up with one of the other dancers...Later, I came upon
the man talking to the object of his affection backstage...he was telling her how beautiful her eyes were. She looked at me with pleading in her eyes when I stumbled on the scene...I told him to leave her alone. He said...but, look how beautiful her eyes are! I told him to leave her alone. He stared at me as if seeing me for the first time...and then he turned on his heels and stalked off. ...I never got a good part at the
If Phyllis were there, I would have rolled my eyes and whispered, "Ah...how the fouette' turns..."
To be continued...comments welcome!
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
I've always said it takes 5 things to produce a professional: Good body, good mind, good spirit, good training and...good luck! If you score high in all five categories...You'll dance in the upper echelon. 4-outta-5...probably. 3-outta-5...maybe. 1-or-2-or-none...get used to dancing for fun!
Well, I had a Bad Body for Ballet, but a good mind, good spirit, good (but late) training...and (remember the fortune teller?) good luck. But, that luck seemed to have run out in the spring and summer of 1989. I arrived back in Chicago after a season in Duluth. I moved in with one of my dancer friends in a walk-up on Halsted in the Bridgeport area across the freeway from Comisky Park. It was a 4-or-5 room apartment. He had a sweetheart deal with the landlord, so he just charged me 50-bucks a week plus utilities! I got my job back at the Sushi Bar. I got my scholarship back at the Tallchief's. I was ready for audition season.
(BTW, this is how bad my luck was...one of the waitresses at the sushi bar told me she played in a band that was just starting out...and she wanted to know if I wanted to see her play. I didn't want to tell her no...so I said I might show up after dance class. She said she'd put my name on the guest list. I forgot all about it. She apparently thought it was a date...She was cold as ice to me after that. You might know her name or the band she played in: She was D'arcy and she played bass for a group called "Smashing Pumpkins"! James Iha used to drop by and pick her up at the restaurant! ...For you older folk not familiar with these names...it's as if Belinda Carlisle had asked me out...OK, OK...Linda Ronstadt? Olivia Newton-John? Yoko Ono?)
I went to ten auditions that year...and got tantalizingly close at most. Alvin Ailey himself offered me a scholarship for the summer. The director of Saint Louis Ballet made all his cuts...and then sat us down and asked us if we had any questions about moving to his city. (He was a fraud...I'm GLAD I didn't go there!) I made the final cut at the Ballet Met audition...they taught us repertory and then videotaped it. They said they'd be in touch one way or the other...So, I kept training and waiting tables and just plain waiting and waiting and waiting. Spring turned into summer. The temperature and humidity kept climbing and climbing. The sun turned the windy city into a rotisserie...we all baked and broiled together through the dog days of summer. Temperatures at night only got down to the eighties! And I waited and sweated and waited and sweated.
It happens to dancers all over every year. Dancers in companies audition at bigger and better places...hold onto their contracts until the last possible moment. Company managers don't know who's coming back and how many openings there are. Everybody waits and waits. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the food chain things were getting tough. I called, I wrote...none of the companies knew who I was. August turned into September...and I finally realized I wasn't going to get another job. I was even considering heading back to Duluth with my hat in hand and tail between my legs...and trying to rebuild a bitter, burnt bridge.
But, finally, my luck turned at the last instant. I was warming up in the foyer of the big studio at Ruth Page's. I was talking to a girl who had just gotten a contract at Oklahoma City. I was complaining to her about how my summer had been wasted...and I asked her if her company needed men. Her friend (who I'd seen in class many, many times, but who'd never said word one to me) overheard me and suddenly blurted out, "Des Moines Ballet needs men!". I looked at her in surprise, but she'd already turned away and charged into the studio as if she was taken aback at her outburst. Those five words changed my life...
To be continued...comments welcome.
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
"Des Moines Ballet needs men."
The University of Iowa had offered me an academic scholarship when I'd graduated from high school. (I'd applied to the Iowa City school because of the international reputation of their Creative Writing and Journalism programs.) But, love and a lack of money kept me in Hawai'i. Now it seemed as if my peripatetic dancing career was veering towards the Hawkeye state anyway...
"Des Moines Ballet needs men."
I'd heard of the Des Moines Ballet even in Hawai'i. One of the girls I trained with went to New York...and ended up getting a contract with the Iowa company. Rhonda L only spent a year there...then she came home and went back to school. Got her masters in Physics is the rumor. Talented dancer, talented human being. Wouldn't it be a strange coincidence if two dancers from the same small studio in Hawai'i ended up in the same small company in Iowa...
"Des Moines Ballet needs men."
I had nothing to lose...everything to gain. After that class with Larry Long, I went home and sent my resume' and pictures to Des Moines. A few days later, the ballet mistress called me back. They were interested. We talked a bit. Turned out Gigi Oerter had trained at North Carolina School of the Arts and knew my teacher, Nolan Dingman. She said she owed her career to his teaching. So did I, I said. But, I warned her I didn't do the strict Balanchine thing anymore. That's okay, she said. That's good, in fact. How would I like to come to Des Moines to audition? The punchline to an old joke sprang to mind...Wood eye? WOOD EYE!!! When do you want me, I asked...
"Des Moines Ballet needs men."
I was pretty cocky...almost arrogant. I bought a one way ticket on Greyhound to Des Moines. *One-way!* I was still dancing well. I'd been a principal dancer in Duluth. Sitting on the bus and rolling through endless cornfields I remember thinking, how good could the dancing be in Iowa anyway? I expected to walk in to Des Moines and have the local yokels fawning all over me.
...Boy, was I wrong!
To be continued...comments welcome,
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
When I got to Iowa's capitol city, I soon discovered it was true that the "Des Moines Ballet needed men"...But, I also found out the DMB had some VERY good men already...and the people who ran the company weren't so sure I was going to fit in. I didn't look like everyone else...had a bad body...could dance some. So, believe me when I say I didn't "ballance' " in and blow anybody away. Consider what they had in the company already when I showed up on their doorstep: Robin "the bird" F was a former principal dancer with North Carolina Dance Theater. His buddy, Sean H, was a hapa-haole guy from New York state who had also trained at the North Carolina School of the Arts...later went on to Ballet Arizona and the European company of "Cats". Frank A was an Italian-American who trained at the Joffrey School...who went on to Tulsa Ballet Theater and Ballet Oregon. Ron O was a tall native Iowan who'd danced since he was young...and he also went on to TBT...(All straight, by the way. ..That meant BIG trouble for the poor women of central Iowa!)
There are basically two types of dancers...those who start dancing and training while they're young...and those who take up dancing after their bodies have stopped growing. My teacher says it's important for aspiring young dancers to keep training while they're growing...that way their bodies evolve into proper dancing instruments. Nolan Dingman says those types of dancers can stop dancing for long periods of time as adults...and then start up again with minimum muss and fuss. You, he said to me, started late...you have to take class everyday to keep your instrument sharp. If you stop dancing...in no time, you'll turn back into a pumpkin/pedestrian! He implied dancing for me would be like trying to retrofit a new carburetor and spark plugs to a Yugo. You might end up with a little better car...but, heck! It's still a Yugo! (Don't get me wrong, Mr. D wasn't trying to discourage me...just telling me the facts, ma'am. Like all good teachers he believed in me more than I believed in myself...and then showed me the way! He's a flawed human being, but I owe my career to him!) I like to think I got better than I had a right to expect considering my late start...but, dancing alongside and competing with well-trained professionals is both challenging and humbling for us late-comers.
Meanwhile, back to my story...so there I was hoping the artistic director wouldn't tell me "Yugo" back to where you came from! I was sweating and second-guessing my hubris at buying just a one-way ticket from Chicago! ____ kept me waiting for three long days before he finally offered me a contract...and then mostly because it would be almost impossible to get another guy at that late date. So, no matter...Almost exactly two years to the month from the day I left Hawai'i, nine months after I left Duluth, four days after I left the Windy City...I signed that contract and became an official member of the Des Moines Ballet. ...This is where "be careful what you wish for" came back to bite me in the butt big-time...
To be continued...comments welcome!
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
Excerpts from a letter never sent...dated "12:34:56am 7/8/----"---my first year at DSM ballet has just finished. I'm working part-time graveyard shift at a radio station during the off-season:
"...Yes, I am summering in Des Moines...which doesn't sound too bad...until you consider that I am summering in Iowa...which sounds worse. Not that I want to put Iowa down...I went riding on the motorcycle today, out beyond West Des Moines---and Iowa is beautiful country---but, it still ain't Chicago or Hawaii.
"...But, we...everyone of us...must make our own mistakes. And I have to learn from my own. ...So, is there some fate or destiny at work in our lives? ...and what part does free will play in it all? ...the old questions return to haunt me...Will I ever find a perfect love? ...I'm back on the social scene in a limited way...
"...I'm currently finishing up performances with the Des Moines Metropolitan Opera of Indianola. They pay us well and use us in a very limited way. We do about two or three minutes of dancing in the third act of "Boris Godunov" and in the third act of "La Traviata". For this, we get paid two-hundred a week for five weeks of what they laughingly refer to as work. We zoom in, make-up, warm up, perform...then leave. Money for nothing and the chicks...Well, I'm working on it.
"...I just bought another motorcycle. When I got the job on the radio, I bought another dancer's Kawasaki KZ440. The transportation system here in Des Moines sucks the big "O". It was pretty dangerous for awhile, I rode at night and in bad weather...because I had to. But, after a month or two, I got the hang of it. Just about this time, a guy at work was selling his Kawasaki 550A...and one of the other dancers said he wanted to buy my bike. It turned out to be pretty much of a straight trade. Now, I've got more power than I need...this new bike has a power cam that I haven't tested to its limits yet. It's a little tougher to handle the extra weight, but I'm going to give it another month or so to get accustomed to the new parameters. When the fall comes...oops! That doesn't sound the way I wanted it...When the autumn, the bad weather, the snow...comes...(let's not talk about "fall" when the subject is motorcycles!)...I'll probably have to buy a car. Good thing I've got these two jobs.
"I'm also scheduled to begin teaching adult ballet classes when the Opera concludes. Currently, I wake up about one or two o'clock in the afternoon...(remember I get to sleep about 5:30am) ...and head in to the studio to do my own barre and stretches. Even if I don't get a class, if I have to be there to teach, I'll be a little more motivated...I think. It's a bit boring to do my own classes all the time, but I know if I don't...I'm going to suffer when the season begins anew in September.
"Yes, I have signed on for yet another season with the former Des Moines Ballet...newly renamed...Ballet Iowa...
"...The Artistic Director says he noticed some improvement in my dancing over the course of the year. He says he expects to give me more roles next season. We'll see. I also get a raise...a minimum of $20 a week more. they have to see what they have left in the payroll budget after everyone is hired. The upcoming reprtory includes "La Sylphide", "Nutcracker" (of course!) and "Why is Light Given to Lost Men?", a new Ballet. Our tour rep tentatively includes Balanchine's "Pas de Dix" (We can't officially say its Balanchine's version, but Cheri Noble, Ballet Mistress for Ballet Arizona, was the prima at Pennsylvania for years. Cheri set it on us and says Villella told her it was what he remembers) "Pygmalion", "Drum and Corps", "Swallows Return in Spring" and, possibly, excerpts from concert rep.
"The only other place I auditioned for was Ballet Omaha. The Omaha Artistic Director guest taught for us...and he seemed interested. But, even though I thought I kicked some serious butt at the audition (one of their men was taking class), he turned me down with a very nice letter asking me to audition for him again some other time. I didn't do a serious round of auditions this year..."
"...It should be an interesting season. On the minus side, we lost two of our principal couples...two to Ballet Arizona (an occupational hazard of guest choreographers) and two to retirement. Another of our tallest men goes to Tulsa Ballet Theater. (He came back from the audition...and says it's more money for less work and more weeks...he had to sign) On the plus side, we have a soloist from the Hungarian State Ballet coming to augment our company. His girlfriend, an American on scholarship at their school also comes for her first year with the company. A girl who danced at Ballet Met and Ballet West is coming, but we couldn't sign her boyfriend after Dennis Nahat from Cleveland Ballet waved a contract under his nose. Another guy is signed and definitely (supposedly) coming. We have one of the girls from the junior company moving up to an apprentice position in the fall...and another scheduled to move up mid-season. That leaves us definitely short one man. With our director out of the country (at a Budapest seminar) that leaves our Ballet Mistress scrambling for another dancer. If you know of any guy who's good enough and interested enough to relocate to Des Moines...tell him to contact me or the Ballet. I'm serious.
"The weather here has been an anomaly according to the locals. A very dry winter...relatively warm...(warm is very relative to a former Hawaii boy)...and then a deluge in the spring. This is all connected to a little known meteorological phenomenom. You've heard of "el nino"? The cooling of Pacific waters affecting climate across America? Well, you probably haven't heard of "El Nincompoopo"...this little understood meteorological phenomenom is somehow connected to buying a motorcycle in the middle of a drought...somehow this immediately triggers constant rains and flooding in the immediate five-state area around the "nincompoop" who bought the bike...hence the name!
"I must be recovered...it's my sense of humor that never made it back! Actually I'm doing better, but, I don't get enough letters...please write."
Next week...the beginning of the end. Comments welcome.
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
Back in high school, my buddies and I used to entertain ourselves by trying to figure out what would be THE BEST job in the world! We came up with things like 'professional sleep study participant'...'gigolo boy-toy for the young trophy-wife association'...'quality control taste tester for Ben and Jerry's'...'official bikini inspector and tan lotion applicator-in-chief at Sans Souci Beach', etc. Unfortunately, though we came up with quite a list, we never quite figured out where to apply and how to get paid. But, the sad truth is...even "THE BEST job in the world" inevitably turns into just another dreary job...if you don't figure out how to keep it fresh.
...and dancing for an Artistic Director who holds a grudge against you can turn one of the best jobs in the world---"professional dancer"---into one of the worst. In my two seasons with Des Moines Ballet/Ballet Iowa, I rarely got good parts, I rarely got corrections in class...____ wouldn't even look at me near the end. I tried not to let it affect me...but, it did. I almost started hating dancing as a result. And that confused me a lot...
...I remember we were on tour once...Burlington, I think. An old theater overlooking the Mississippi River. I wasn't scheduled to dance that evening...but, I came to the theater to take the warm-up class anyway. I usually get on stage at least 45-minutes before barre to warm-up and stretch. The rest of the company straggled on stage later...usually, by age. Normally, the younger, more ambitious dancers first...and then the older members later. I never understood that...I always thought the older you get...the more warm-up you needed. But, the other dancers apparently subscribed to the theory the older you get...the more rest you needed. I remember Frankie coming up to me that day and asking, "What the hell are you doing here? You're not dancing! It's your day off! Why're you taking company class?"
I looked at him solemnly and said, "Ballet is my life, Frank."
He stared at me in disbelief, shook his head and said, "It's just BALLET, Emery!"...like he was explaining something to a simpleton. He snorted, shook his head again and started walking away. "It's just ballet!", he yelled again over his shoulder.
I watched him walk away. What he said made me angrier than I should have been...and, under my breath, I muttered at his back, "It's not 'just ballet', Frank! It's my life!"
...and that's how I survived a subtly hostile work environment. You know that part in "Center Stage"? When the company director welcomes the newest students to the school and asks how many of you were the best at your old school? And then warns them to get used to being anonymous anymore? That's what it was like for me. I was one of the best at my old school in Hawai'i (Darn that Stanley H______!), the best in Woodstock, Illinois. One of the best at Maria Tallchief's school in Chicago. The best at the Duluth Ballet. Everywhere I had gone before, teachers and directors usually liked me because I worked hard and lived, breathed and ate ballet. But, that didn't mean a thing my last few years as a professional dancer. That meant I had to reevaluate my dedication and passion. I had to find out where my joy came from...and I realized I never hated dancing. I just hated dancing for a person who hated me...
So, I was ready for the end when it came...and it came much too quickly...
To Be Continued...Series ending soon...comments welcome!
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
When the end of my full-time professional dancing career came...it came rather quickly. And, it always seemed to me, there was an odd sort of symmetry to my entire professional experience. When it began, it seemed circumstances conspired to take me off the air and send me off pursuing my dancing dream. When the dream ended a few years later...I woke up and was back on the radio practically full-circle.
The beginning of the end was unexpected. A surprise 6-week layoff after my second "Nutcracker" with the newly renamed Ballet Iowa. Our touring had fallen through...money was tight. My relationship with my Artistic Director had deteriorated to the point I didn't mourn when I learned the board wasn't going to renew his contract. We'd moved into a big, spacious new building that was draining our funding...three big airy studios, storage space, offices, stage crew workspace...but, the floor was hard: wood laid directly over concrete. The dancers started getting injured. I was injured, the first time seriously since I started dancing. I wasn't getting parts I was promised. When the layoff came, I wasn't worried. I could just ask for more hours at the radio station I worked at part-time. They LOVED me there. It was so nice to go from someplace where the boss hated and ignored me...to someplace the boss loved me and asked me to work more.
The board hired a former dancer from the Bolshoi Ballet to become the new Director. Though we'd worked together well when he coached me in the Russian variation that year, he didn't offer me a contract for the new season. I think he wanted better bodies. But, don't cry for me, Kaunakakai! I landed on my feet. Talk about timing! During the six week layoff, a rare full-time job opening was posted at the radio station. I guess about twenty or thirty people applied for the one position. And, *I* got it. When the season resumed, I was able to go back to my old director and give him my official notice. One of the other boys didn't come back at all...he just signed a contract with his old company. The Director had to ask me to stay long enough to finish the final performance and television taping. I didn't feel he deserved it...but, I stayed long enough to finish out most of the season. I didn't audition anyplace else because I figured with my body I'd have a real hard time getting into a bigger or better company than Ballet Iowa. Besides, my whole experience with KO kinda soured me on the experience. And so, the zenith of my dancing career was with a small double-A company in a ballet backwater. Never had so much as a cuppa coffee in the majors. Still, I took a chance...I lived my dream. Only a few regrets. So, when I left...I didn't look back...
...well, not exactly. I couldn't walk away from dancing when I was cut during the first round of the Hubbard Street audition...and I couldn't walk away just because I wasn't getting paid to dance full-time. I kept taking classes. I performed and got paid well in another "Nutcracker" the first few years. Guested with a small civic company and a small modern company on occasion. I keep taking classes and I still enjoy it. I teach and choreograph a lot more and am still enjoying that. I still keep getting asked to perform to this day...but, that's mainly because there are so few men dancing at all where I live. Still...any day I don't dance is a wasted day for me.
So, that's my career in a long, serial nutshell! Thanks for listening! Now...what have you been up to?
Kulia I Ka Nu'u,
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