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!
This weekend was a little different for me schedule wise… I had to go in to the studios on Sunday for an open house of the Semperoper. Because of this, we were given Monday off. It was so nice to walk outside on my day off and have stores to wander through and people all around me on the street to observe. What a privilege. I think I spent at least 3 hours people watching. That wasn’t the only activity I spent my day doing but it certainly was the most entertaining.
Dresdeners really have some interesting fashion. I really can’t smush it all into one generic style. In fact, I think the way I can successfully generalize Dresden fashion is to say there is no fashion at all. Yeah, that sounds about right. I will just let you feast your eyes on a few examples so you can truly understand.
After I had had enough with creeping on innocent people Hannah and I wandered into a part of Alstadt we had not yet been. We walked a block off the main street and we welcomed by a large courtyard. On the opposite side of the cobblestone expanse stood the Frauenkirche, a gorgeous church that has graced the Dresden skyline over 2 centuries before it completely collapsed two days after the 1945 bombing and was left a pile of rubble. After Germany reunified, the public pushed to rebuild the structure and in 2005 a spitting image of the original was completed. A few pieces of the original building were salvaged and used in the rebuilding and are easy to spot due to their much darker (burnt) color.
The inside of the church was pristine. I could not help but gasp at it’s beauty when I first entered the church. Honestly. I made noise. The whole inside was white with many gold accents. The paint colors used were soft hues of pink, blue, and yellow giving it the impression of a baby’s room (and all of the innocent thoughts that go along with babies).
Not even 5 minutes after we entered a man walked up to the podium and began speaking. We had no idea what he was saying of course but everyone else inside the church began filing into the pews and sitting down to listen. Oops! Time to go. We quietly made our way out and continued wandering the streets. We walked down a small street lined with restaurants catered to tourist (the courtyard had several hotels and also many touristy restaurants), climbed a small flight of stairs and found ourselves in front of another old gorgeous building facing a beautiful view of the Elbe River and Neustadt. Wandering to our right we found a small garden nestled along the river that we strolled through. Once we circled the garden it was time to head back home. Laundry had to be done and point shoes had to be sewn. Plus we were plum tuckered out. Too many beautiful buildings (and oddly dressed people) for one day. Phew!
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!