Schwanensee

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!

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Juwelen

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!