Ballet West On Tour

Ok, I know everyone is freaking out, thinking, “I need my Inside the Dancer’s Studio fix right now. Where is Beau Lipton?” The answer to that question is: Beau Lipton has gone missing (he’ll be back … he just texted me, relax). On a happier note, Ballet West just got back from touring to Wolf Trap and Chicago!  I had the pleasure to travel with the company to Wolf Trap for three days. After a successful show in VA, half of the company traveled back home, while the other half of the company traveled to Chicago to perform Sinfonietta (Kylian) at the Chicago Dancing Festival in Millennium Park.

Bruce Caldwell holding up his "all access pass"

Monday was a traveling day, which, aside from some major turbulence in and out of Denver, went smoothly. Tuesday was packed with dancing for the company. We took class at Wolf Trap on the slipperiest floor in existence. Luckily we danced on our own linoleum for the actual show, because I don’t think the patrons’ tickets said “Ballet West On Ice.” Despite the Ice Capade, moving around after being on airplanes the day before felt great. A few minutes after class, everyone was about their business when suddenly the building started to rumble. That rumble quickly became a ferocious roar; the theater was trembling so badly people were losing their footing! Before I knew it, crew and company members were running around, screaming with terror, heading for an exit. EAAAARTHQUAKE!!! … (parentheses joke here) I wish the earthquake was that eventful. The truth is that some people in the basement didn’t even know there was an earthquake! Being from San Francisco, the shaker felt like a routine. Just to be safe, we all had to evacuate the building to allow the experts to make sure everything was “ok.” Even though the earthquake wasn’t a 1906 San Francisco devastator, DC’s buildings aren’t equipped for much shake at all, striking fear into everyone (everyone’s fine). After the time we spent waiting outside (some people partially naked to take advantage of the sun tanning opportunity … you know who you are), we had a dress rehearsal. Following the dress rehearsal was a dinner break, which was kindly provided by the Wolf Trap Presenters, and some time to relax before the “real” show. We opened the show with Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, moved on to Susan Shields’ Grand Synthesis, and closed with Jiri Kylian’s Sinfonietta. The show went really well (they usually do).

Wolf Trap's stage view

One of the interesting aspects of going on tour for dancers is adapting to unfamiliar theaters. I blogged (I like saying blogged) about the summer’s Utah Arts Fest, having it’s own beasts to battle. Sticky floor, small stage, etc … My personal beast to battle at Wolf Trap was looking out into the pitch black cave that represented our audience. The well lit view of dancers tends to be the opposite view for the people dancing on stage. The Capitol Theater provides a brighter house and exit signs to orient yourself while dancing. Wolf Trap, not so much. Other than that, the evening was perfect with beautiful weather and crickets to set the mood just right. Plus, the theater is a massive structure made out of tons of wood slats: the construction at Wolf Trap is beautiful.

Filene Center at Wolf Trap

The company had a little free time on Wednesday before heading to the airport. I toured the White House! The White House is a lot smaller than you would think, though I found the tour really fun (except for the part where we had to wake up so early, most of us only got about four hours of sleep).

The Chicago Dancing Festival spans multiple evenings with different companies from around the world performing every night at various venues around Chicago. The massive metal structure that makes up the Pitzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (where Ballet West has performed the last two summers) is a work of art itself. I was not one of the dancers to dance in Chicago, unfortunately, but I did receive some good feedback from the dancers that traveled there.

Pitzker Pavilion in Millennium Park

This year, Ballet West opened the Saturday evening show with Sinfonietta. Aidan DeYoung begins the ballet, running on stage and then doing a huge leap across center. He told me, “Waiting in the wings, to be the first person that ten thousand plus people see made me feel like I was going to explode. You could feel the people waiting for the show to start, it was fantastic. That piece (Sinfonietta) has a heartbeat.” Adrian Fry-Guy also gave me some insight on their experience there in Chicago. The highlight on Thursday was going to a Cubs vs. Braves game. Ballet West dancers filled the seats of a whole row (number six), which happened to be the free hat row for that game! So everyone received free Cubs hats, but the Cubs still lost. On Friday the company had class and rehearsal in the Joffrey studios. Adrian said it was difficult to dance after a day off and being on planes so much. Apparently the rehearsal was rocky but the show the next day was amazing. Adrian’s favorite part about the Chicago show was the support the dancers from other companies gave each other. At the festival, video feed is projected on a jumbo-tron for people way back on the lawn to watch. That feed is also displayed backstage on a TV for the dancers to watch. All the companies gather in the back when they finish dancing and watch the show. The dancers clap and cheer for each other; it’s great. Adrian thought it was also funny that everyone was watching this live art form on a TV.


The company taking class on the Pitzker stage

Adrian told me something that was very interesting: even though we’re (Ballet West) very accustomed to performing Sinfonietta (in Salt Lake, Vegas, Wolf Trap and Chicago), dancing the piece feels like a different ballet at every new venue. For a dancer, the venue can make the exact same ballet a completely different experience. Touring is amazing in that respect.

The Company after class in Wolf Trap

I performed Serenade (Balanchine) at the festival last year. The moment I remember the most from last year was dancing a particularly serene section of Serenade (Balanchine) at twilight. The audience count was around eleven or twelve thousand (yes, 11,000 or 12,000 watching ballet). I felt so lucky that so many people (that don’t even know me) were sitting there, quietly watching me express myself on stage. I held Haley on pointe by her thigh as she slowly lifted her arabesque higher and higher until she about bent in half. The audience went from silence to a roar that I’ve never heard directed towards me in my life. I stood up, and the rush that filled my body was like none I’ve ever felt.


3 thoughts on “Ballet West On Tour”

  1. The Tour sounded very exciting – a great opportunity to ‘show-off’ away from home and at such wonderful theaters in outdoor settings. I’m getting excited about the upcoming season!

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