For the sake of my recent struggles with being on top of posting pictures I have decided that in my world, Sunday counts as the last day of the current week, not as the first day of the upcoming week. Feeling crunched for time, I dug back through my pictures from Houston and found some more to edit and share with you. Pretty soon I will also be a contributing writer and photographer for Human or Dancer, the blog run by dancers of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. The first photos I’ll be adding to that site will be behind the scenes pictures from our rehearsals for our upcoming performance, Coppelia. If you are a reader in the Pittsburgh area, click here for ticket info! Hope you can make it!
This weekend I am on tour in Ottawa, Canada performing George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker with the Pennsylvania Ballet. How awesome is that? We arrived around 8 on Tuesday night after an excruciatingly long 10-hour bus ride that was not without a few frightening moments. The first happened just one hour into our journey. The built-in DVD player on the bus stopped working halfway through our first movie. Fabulous. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to occupy myself for 10 hours without a movie or two. I don’t think I was alone either, no one was pleased that it broke. After two hours of driving, per union rules, it was time for our first 20 minute rest to get off the bus for a snack, bathroom, smoking break, or other desired activity. Wonderfully, by some stroke of magic, the DVD player was fixed and in full working condition as we all piled back on to the bus. We were saved from a slow boredom-ridden demise. We got back on the road and things started running smoothly again. We stopped again, this time we had an hour for lunch so I made sure to get in a good 20 minutes or so of power walking around the mall where we stopped. Back on the bus again. The sun went down. We crossed the border. Everyone was allowed to enter Canada. We stopped again. But wait, we weren’t at a rest stop, we were on the side of the road. The lights turned off. The bus stopped running. Everyone searched for answers with panicked looks. It was pitch black outside and we were stopped on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. (Yes this sounds like a scene from a horror movie but this truly happened). I was expecting us to be there for a while. Maybe we ran out of gas? The lights came on and off a few more times until finally the bus engine started purring again. As we pulled back on to the road a voice from the front of the bus called back informing everyone to unplug everything from the outlets on the bus. Apparently all the electronics was too much for the bus to handle. Interesting. Two movies and one more (actual) rest stop later and we finally made it to our hotel. The bus was unloaded and room keys were passed out. Almost all the dancers have rooms on the same floor of the hotel. Once we all got settled my roommate and I roamed the halls and gathered a group together to go out and explore Ottawa. We didn’t wander very far because it was dark and rainy but we went far enough to get Canadian dollars from an ATM and have dinner. The travel day was done and now the fun begins.
The next day we had leisurely morning, class at the theatre wasn’t until noon. We took class on stage and started right away into a full day of rehearsals. The first few hours were devoted to Act 2. Being mostly dancing and few logistics there was not much stopping. We were given a short break for dinner before starting the rehearsal of Act 1. Having many more features such as children, growing trees and a battle, the first act rehearsal had much more stopping and starting, but that was expected.
I love being in the theatre. It is such an exciting place to be and it means that I am (or going to be) performing. Performing is my favorite part of being a ballet dancer. It brings me such a feeling of elation that words just cannot describe. It is my happy place. When I am on stage nothing else matters but me and what I can give to the audience. The Nutcracker is a particularly special performance because this production is more often than not the first ballet many young children attend. I hear stories all the time of professional dancers who realized they want to pursue a career in ballet after seeing their first ballet: The Nutcracker. I want to be the reason that a little child in that audience turns to his or her parents to beg for ballet classes.
Tonight is opening night! We are in Ottawa from December 1st to the 4th then return to Philadelphia for a full run of performances starting on the 10th and running through the 31st. If you are interested in going to a show check out Pennsylvania Ballet and support the arts!
I am officially living in Philadelphia for the next two months while I perform in The Nutcracker with the Pennsylvania Ballet. Yesterday was moving day. I woke up (an hour after my alarm went off), stuffed my car as neatly as I could, stopped for a much needed car wash, and began my drive across Pennsylvania. Sadly most of the leaves have fallen off the trees by this point so the scenery wasn’t much to be admired. That made the drive pretty boring. I listened to some great music and called a few people to make the time go faster. It didn’t work too well. Road trips by yourself just really aren’t the best. At least there was hardly any traffic.
I made it to my destination at about 3 in the afternoon. Because the apartment building is in the middle of downtown there is no driveway or available street space for unloading. The sidewalk it was. Apparently that’s how most residents of the building unloaded their belongings. My friend and his roommate included. Fine with me. Upstairs, I started right away to make my “room”. I am using a combination of the hall closet and a stack of plastic drawers for my clothes. I have a few extra bins and organizers for my ballet clothes and all my scarves. I think I left more than half of my scarves at home too. It all worked out rather fabulously. It’s a small space but It is just perfect for me and my semi-nomadic lifestyle.
Because I made my room into the foyer, in order to separate my new living quarters from the rest of the apartment I purchased 2 metal clothes racks and some curtains from Ikea to set up as a wall. However, as I was unpacking we noticed that there were some fixtures on the wall that would work perfectly for me to tie some string from and hang my curtains. How lucky! Now I have my own little oasis that makes me feel like I should be escaping from reality on some remote tropical island. Too bad I’m not. Instead I will be romping around in snow for the next two months. Can’t wait.
It has already snowed once this year. On Halloween weekend. Way too early in the year if you ask me. I will admit there was one benefit to the snow. It gave me the opportunity to take pictures with my new camera! Here is a small sample of a few of my shots so far. More from Philly in a few days!
The rents arrived for a visit yesterday morning. Fun times! I first met up with them outside the Semperoper yesterday around 2:30 after I was finished with my rehearsals for the day. Being without any form of communication with each other in Germany except for speaking face to face we planned our meeting place the day prior before they had left America. The plan was to meet either outside the theatre or back in the lobby of the hotel. Not knowing which place they would be I came out of rehearsal into the “platz” with my eyes peeled. I slowly swerved my way around hoards of tourists to finally find them standing along the far side of the platz with the same searching eyes. I took them back to see my apartment (and so I could shower) and then we headed to Neustadt to check out an interesting store that the guidebook recommended. It was a quaint wine and cheese store that was decorated wall to wall lovely painted tiles. Along with a large assortment of cheese, wine, and other milk products another room in the store sold random little trinkets and a few gift boxes with strawberry wine and jams. Tasty. They sadly do not allow pictures and, as witnessed, will not hesitate to remind you if they see you pulling out your camera to take one. Before leaving we bought a small piece of Camembert and part of a loaf of walnut bread for a late afternoon snack/very early appetizer, depending on your point of view. It was sublime. After we finished our snack we headed back to Alstadt for dinner at Max. It was a simple restaurant with a simple interior and simple food. Don’t mistake and of the simplicity for lack of quality though. It was all delicious. From the local draft beer, the tomato soup and the pork with potato pancakes to the smoked salmon, the grilled vegetables and the olives everything was quite tasty. After dinner M & D headed back to their hotel for a long restorative sleep.
Day 2: Saturday. I had a short morning at ballet. As we arranged prior to parting the night before, my parents and I met up at 11:30 at their hotel. We had lunch at the Herbstmarkt that has been set up in Altmarkt Platz for almost a month now. I had currywurst with pommes (my first), Dad got bratwurst with sauerkraut and potatoes and Mom got a picked herring sandwich. The currywurst was basically just a cut up bratwurst with some type of curry like sauce poured on it. I added fries on the side. They were made fresh to order too. The bratwurst is cooked at any time and just kept warm if it is not sold right away but they make the fries to order. I had to wait an extra 5 minutes or so before I got my lunch just for the fries. But hey, I’m not complaining!
Our next stop was the Hygiene Museum on the outskirts of the Grosser Garten. Don’t let the name fool you, this museum had nothing to do with soap or handy wipes or hand sanitizer. No no no. The stationary exhibit has features on the human body, inside and out, germs, food, the brain, sex, limb deformities, eyes and ears, and beauty and appearance. The temporary exhibit featured artwork from different time periods of artists attempts to capture human expression and the first few images and artist renderings of the brain and its inner workings. Very interesting indeed.
For dinner we headed to another guidebook recommendation that I have had my eye on since I got to Dresden but never made the trip to. The brenNessel is an adorable little restaurant hidden among houses and the Dresden School of Music. Everything on the menu was vegetarian. And everything on the menu was only written in German. It was an adventure just translating let alone deciding what we were in the mood to eat. We figured most of it out (with a little help from out waitor) and made some very delicious decisions. We all shared two salads to start. The first had a coleslaw type base and was topped with apple slices, walnuts, and the biggest green grapes I have ever seen. The second had a small bed of arugula underneath a generous mound of roast beets and large clumps of goat cheese. The beets had some sort of sauce on them that somewhat resembled the color of Pepto-Bismol but was not in anyway unappealing. For the main course we ordered three entrees that we were all interested in and split them each three ways. Entree number one was a roulade. Cabbage rolled with some sort of grain on the inside topped with a fresh tomato sauce. On the side were large roasted potatoes with rosemary and a small green salad. Yum. Entree number two was a pasta dish. Penne with mushrooms and cubed apples tossed in a creamy gorgonzola sauce. Double yum. Entree number three was rice, chickpeas and eggplant with curry spices baked in a casserole dish with a layer of sheeps cheese and a few cashews on top. Triple yum! All three had such different flavors but not one was any better or worse than the last. They were all exceptional. I’m just sad I didn’t make the trip to this restaurant sooner because I would love to go back! I did take home the part of the rice/curry/eggplant/cheesy deliciousness that we got too full to finish and I can’t wait to enjoy it a second time.
Sunday night was my first performance on stage with the Dresden Semperoper Ballet performing Aaron Watkin’s Swan Lake. It felt like a dream.
My day started like any other with a ballet class for an hour and 15 minutes. I had no rehearsal that day because of the show so most of the afternoon was spent lounging around. At 4:30 I returned to the theatre for my makeup call. Every single dancer has an assigned makeup call. They were written out on a list earlier in the week. The women were split among 6 makeup ladies, the men among 4. At my assigned time I walked into the makeup room and sat down at Claudia’s station. The room was set up just as one would expect a makeup room to be. There were two narrow rows lined with mirrors and barbershop chairs on both sides. Laid out on the counter in front of me was a tray with about 12 different shades of blush. Behind that was a tackle box filled with assorted hair pins. Headpieces were hanging from a cabinet overhead. There was a cup of various brushes in the corner. Foundation sticks and clean sponges were randomly hanging out in many places on the counter. Claudia started with my hair. She brushed it out, sprayed it with an incredible amount of hairspray and neatly combed is back into a low ponytail with a center part. From there she twisted it up into a bun. My only involvement in this whole hair/makeup process was holing bobby pins over my shoulder so Claudia didn’t have to reach to the counter every time and fiddle with untangling them. After my hair was tight and neat she moved on to my face. After looking through al of the shades of foundation she used the last one she picked up to cover my forehead, nose and cheeks. I think she used a slightly darker shade for the lower half of my face but I am not positive. My eyes were closed a lot of the time. Next came the eyeshadow. A pinkish color on the inside of my lid and a darker shade on the outside. Every time she sipped the brush in the powder she put two colors on at one time. I don’t know what that accomplishes at all but it was rather intriguing. Eyeliner next. Liquid. Applied using a brush that was dipped in water then in the pad of black liner. Then came the fake eyelashes. First she measured the width of my eye and trimmed a little off of each end, applied the most perfect thin line of glue and delicately placed them on my eyes. One at a time of course. Once those were successfully attached she finished up by brushing rouge on my cheeks and a little bit of brown shadow along my hairline and under my cheekbones for come contouring. I looked great, if I may say so myself. I wish I could get my makeup professionally done all the time. What a way to be pampered!
Warm-up class started at 6 and lasted for a scheduled 30 minutes. The teacher offered an extra 15 minutes of center work for anyone that was willing so I stayed just to ensure I was on my leg and fully warm. Mission accomplished. I headed back to my dressing room to change into my costume and headed back into the studio to put on my pointe shoes, review the choreography, and keep warm. My first entrance is not until the 2nd act (of the 4 act ballet) so I got to watch the first act from the TV that was turned on in the studio. Before I knew it, it was time to go backstage. If I wasn’t nervous before, I sure was now. Standing backstage looking at all the other swans marking choreography around me just made me lose were I was for a minute. I had entered another universe where even though there are dancers all around me and an entire house full of attendees I am the only one that exists. It is a rather funny feeling that I am having slight struggles describing. The best description I can come up with is that I feel acutely aware of myself and what is around me yet at the same time seem to feel nothing. The ballet went by in a blur. The corps de ballet was praised for a job well done by the director after the curtain closed for the final time. I got out of my costume, took off my makeup, took out my hair, showered, and that was that.
It didn’t sink in that I had just performed in 2 acts of Swan Lake until I woke up the next morning. How unreal.
Time to do it again!
Today was a great day. With our first performance of Swan Lake in two days we were doing everything but rehearsing. But really, that’s the truth. It’s a little disconcerting for me because that is not what I am used to but I’m sure it will end up to be just fine. Most of the company has performed it yearly for quite some time so if I ever get lost I can just look around and follow someone who knows it like the back of her hand.
I had rehearsal for one hour this morning. I was dancing for about 20 minutes of that then just sitting and watching a part I was not in for the last 40 minutes. Quality. Once my dancing day was finished at noon I went out to lunch with some friends. We went to a local establishment that serves up a local specialty. There are many different names and varieties to what I am about to explain. (The version I got is called doner). Essentially they are the insides of a gyro stuffed into different carbohydrate exteriors. Mine was in a crunchy flatbread type pita. I have never encountered anything quite like it before. It was delicious though. Fluffier than normal flatbread but still somewhat dense. Then toasted to get that little crunch. (The other options were a large tortilla type bread, a smaller round bread with a bit of cheese crisped on it, and of course a bread-less option for the carb conscious). Inside was shaved lamb (mmmmmmmmmmmmm), tomatoes, onions, shaved lettuce, and 2 different unknown sauces, one red and one white. So there you have it. The German Gyro.
Fully stuffed and satisfied, we moved on to the next activity. Shopping. But don’t get too excited yet. On our way to the large outdoor shopping street something happened that made my day. No, probably my week. I got approached by a street fashion scout. She came over (dressed in her model-esque outfit) and put her head right in front of mine. The first question she asked was what language I spoke. Once we got that out of the way she continued to explain to me that her team was out there with Grazia Magazine looking for people on the street that are fashionable. She said I look “pretty fashionable” and asked if they could take my picture. “Of course”, I responded calmly. I was truly freaking out and jumping for joy on the inside. It has been a dream of mine to be stopped on the street for such a purpose for a few years now. I mean… it is only Dresden, but who really cares. Dreams can come true! I filled out a short form with my e-mail and such. I now am entered for a chance to win tickets to Fashion Week in New York. How exotic. At least there is an exciting activity to add to that gift. My picture was taken a few times, I was handed a copy of their magazine and that was that. That’s when I kind of hyperventilated a little bit. No big deal.
The day continued with some small purchases, a little down time, some burnt rice, and a roller blading street party. Yeah, about ten minutes ago I heard loud dance music coming from outside so I looked out the window. Down on the street were a few cars with flashing lights (not police cars I think) and blaring music. Behind them followed a mass of Dresdeners on rollerblades. I couldn’t see the end of them. Gotta love it.
Overall this day has been an epic win. Except maybe for the burnt rice. I was really looking forward to eating that but was way too lazy to make a new batch. Oh Well. It’s the big picture that counts.
Today was my first day of official ballet business. The morning started with heading to the Palucca Hochschule for the orientation meeting starting the school year. Throughout the minor 20 minute bus ride from our apartment to the school other students were getting on at nearly every stop. We followed them through the building because, let’s be real, we had no clue where the Green Room was. As soon as I heard the bustling of happy students seeing each other again rising up from downstairs I knew we were soon to be the new fish in the pond. We filed into the room with everyone else and sat down. Little did I realize we were about to get “a full crash course in German.” I was able to understand every other thought that the director spoke about. There was a slide show of students dancing in a field as part of a project, some new students being introduced, and an overview of the school year. I was briefed in English by the director after the meeting and was told my rehearsals would be starting today! He said we should take the class with the bachelor students (that began 30 minutes from then) and then head over to the Semperoper to start rehearsals for Swan Lake. No better way to start then at full speed!
At the Semperoper studios it was a whole different world. Within literally 30 seconds of wandering into the building looking lost we were offered help by no less than 6 dancers. Everyone was so friendly. The artistic director came up to introduce himself to us as soon as he saw us and gave us a short run down of how all the posters were laid out. Although everyone speaks English at the ballet (too many nationalities to keep it all straight) all of the schedules and cast list and such are printed in German. After staring at them all long enough and comparing back and forth I have it all basically figured out. I know where to go and at which time and for now that will do just fine.
Moving on to dinner… since I have arrived to Dresden all of my meals have been created from the small selection of foods at our local grocery store. There is a rather limited option, not only of recognizable foods, but just of food in general. My meals have consisted mostly of meusli, yogurt, trail mix, lettuce, cheese, nutella, milk, eggs, rice, carrots, eggplant, and soy sauce. (For a few nights I sauteed up some eggplant in a pan with garlic and onion and soy sauce if I felt like it and served it over rice or lettuce.) Even though I am trying to be as creative as possible I sure am missing the varied diet I was accustomed to back at home. Thankfully one of the apprentices I met at the ballet today informed me of another grocery store in close proximity to our apartment that is far superior to where we have been going. I believe I will be checking that out tomorrow. For dinner tonight though, I went out with Hannah and the other apprentices to an Italian restaurant in Neustadt on the north side of the Elbe River. I know, so German right. You’ll just have to forgive me, I needed some variety of any kind at this point. I ordered pizza with fresh tomatoes, parmesan, mushrooms, and arugula. The English translation on the menu translated arugula as “rocket.” Gotta love Europe! It was supremely delicious. The “rocket” was fresh and spicy and the crust was thin and crispy. Just the way I like it. Needless to say I ate it all. Save for one piece that I gave to Hannah.
Over all a day of success.
I have found from my previous experiences with foreign travel (well any travel really) the first few days are rather rough. You are in an unfamiliar place, not really knowing where anything is, where you are going, or how to get there. On top of that everything is in a different language. German, as a language, is so different than any other language I know. I have studied both French and Spanish in school and from those can figure out parts of Italian and other romance languages fairly easily. There are a lot of similarities. But in German, the words are just so random! There are a lot of consonants. I am starting to get a hang of the very simple words like please, thank you, numbers and a few transportation related words. Other than that it has been trial and error. I’m sure once my culture shock has faded away a bit I’ll get more comfortable speaking but for now I am just going to try to do as much as possible with as few words as possible.
The highlight of yesterday (which mostly consisted of wandering around town on foot and getting stuck in the rain and cold winds) was going to see Dresden Semperoper Ballet’s premiere of Jewels, a George Balanchine ballet. When Hannah and I finally found where the box office was tickets were nearly sold out. We lucked out though! We got two of the last tickets in the theatre for the student price of only 11 Euro, compared to the normal price of 39 Euro. Yay! We arrived at the theatre about 15 minutes early via tram from our apartment and wandered up to our seats in the 4th tier. The building is gorgeous!!!
Brief history lesson from the guidebook: The building burnt down entirely in 1871 just 30 years after it was opened. It was fully rebuilt and reopened by 1878 and housed the premieres of many famous German composers, Strauss, Weber, and Wagner to name a few. It was shut down temporarily during World War II but was back in full swing starting in 1985.
On the way upstairs we bought programs to read while we were waiting for the show to begin. Of course they were all in German (duh) save for one page in the back explaining why Balanchine created Jewels. He was inspired by the emeralds, rubies, and diamonds that he saw one day in a store front in New York City. Those three jewels then became the themes, and names, for the three corresponding sections of the ballet, each with different costumes and styles of choreography relating to the certain gem.
The performance was magnificent! The corps was fabulously together throughout the night and the principals and soloists danced beautifully. I had so many moments of awe I don’t think I can count them on my hands and feet combined. Comparing the casting with the list of company dancers I was pleasantly surprised to find that a few of the dancers who performed principal and soloist roles were in the corps! They seemed so comfortable and seasoned in lead roles. I hope to see more great things from them to come.
I can’t believe I am about to start dancing along such talented dancers! What an opportunity. What an experience. I can’t wait!
Welcome! This is my first experience blogging and it is going to be a complete experiment for me. I am moving to Dresden, Germany from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to follow my dream of becoming a ballerina. This blog will essentially just be a place to share anything and everything that I experience, with a slight focus on food (yum!), fashion, and ballet. Hope I keep you interested! Thanks for reading!