Ballet-Behind the Scenes
I live near Seattle and support the PNB (Pacific Northwest Ballet). That support entitles me to free admission to two dress rehearsals. This season I saw Romeo and Juliet, then “American Stories.”
What I enjoy about the dress rehearsals is the opportunity to watch them perform and then watch the stager and artistic director make adjustments. They meet with the dancers from various acts, rehearse changes, change lighting, adjust the tempo of the orchestra, and all with aa thoudans or more donors sitting quietly, watching and enjoying the opportunity.
Some dancers wear warm-up clothes, others near-full costume. Conversations fly around, steps are repeated over and over as they iron out angles, arm extensions, entrance adjustments and on and on. In all, these asides from the ballet may take anywhere from five to thirty minutes.
One dress rehearsal years ago, I was so engrossed in the dancing that when I heard, “Speed up the tempo,” I jumped. The orchestra went back a few bars, sped up the tempo and then, I heard “Not that fast.”
While I wanted to laugh, I kept my giggle to myself as I realized even a minor tempo change affects the quality of the production. The dancers picked up the new starting spot without any delay and the ballet continued on like the true professionals they are.
In “American Stories”, a narrative ballet, the third ballet called “Waiting At The Station” (music by Allen Toussiant, choreography by Twyla Tharp), had no stops. The music was primarily piano with orchestral backup. The events on stage took place as if in a 1940s train station. As I listened, I wondered how they’d ever stop, back-up, and restart with 7 pieces of music that had similar moods, tempos, and musical identity (to my ears). That would have been fascinating to see!