Follow by Email

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Laguna Beach Dance Festival

ON Friday September 28 (7th?) I got up to catch my flight
to the CADANCE Festival in Laguna Beach, California. I
had not planned on calling a car because I figured I
wasn't travelling with too much so it would be easy to
catch a cab. Unfortunately, the weather was not so
cooperative. When I walked outside it was raining
heavily and the wind was really blowing strongly. Just
getting to the corner of my street to hail a cab left me
soaked. When I got to the airport, George was not there
yet and the lines were long. George called me on his
cell and he and his friend showed up about 5 minutes
later. We made our way through the line and George and I checked
in, the baggage rules have changed for domestic travel
and even after planning we had to pay a large fee to get
the Spartacus tent and costumes on the flgiht. The three
of us got on the flight to Dallas and then George and I
caught a connecting flight to Laguna Beach.

When the plane flew over Laguna I was struck by the
incredible beauty of the area. It has clear blue skies,
impressive mountains and its by the Ocean. We were
picked up at the airport by one of the volunteers for the
Festival. As we waited for our bags the guy walked right
up to me and said you must be the dancer I am looking
for. He said George and I stood out which is why he
approached us. I don't know if thats a good thing.

He drove us to a vacation cottage by the beach, our home
for the next few days. The cottage was really charming
with two bedrooms

and a living room

and completely
decorated in americana; quilts, antique dolls, antique
furniture, it was very confortable and inviting.

We had the first night free so we just releaxed.

The next morning we got up early for class and a dress rehearsal.
The class though had been cancelled and so we were left
to explore for an hour before we had our dress rehearsal.
We walked around the city and watched a master class
being given to students by one of Trey McIntyre's dancers

before returning to meet with the very talented stage
manager and lighting designer. They made our rehearsals
really quick and easy. After we returned back to rest at
the cottage. We went back to the theater and we were
running late so we hurried on to the stage where all the
dancers from the other companies were already gathered.
I could see curiousity cross the faces of several of the
dancers as we entered since we didn't really know most of

I recognized Marcello Gomez from open classes in
New York and he was very nice inviting me to stand near

I left class a bit early, I was worried about not
being ready in time. I was out of practice getting my
make-up on and preparing myself for the stage so I
decided it was best to be cautious and take an extra bit
of time. I took a few minutes to go back in and rehearse
the last lift in Spartacus with George before returning
to getting ready. The theater was an intimate space with
few dressing rooms so all the male dancers were set up
outside in a tent to get ready. I made the mistake of
thinking that California would be hot and in fact it was
very cool outside and I had not brought any warm dance
clothes with me because of the weight restrictions on the
flight. My legs and back tightened up as I got ready. Its
always a bit odd when you are applying your make-up and
changing into your alter ego and are surrounded by
dancers who have never seen a male ballerina get ready.
I noticed several people eyeing me as I applied my eye
shadow and lipstick. They tried to politely steal
glances my way. I'm sure they thought I was odd.
I made a second mistake which was wearing very soft pointe shoes.
Spartacus went fairly well the first night
but both my legs cramped from the cold and the soft
shoes. It was not one of my best performances. I was
smart enough to change my pointe shoes for the Dying Swan
and was able to do a better job with that. Because of the
feathers falling, I had to add a whole bit where I swept
the stage of feathers after the bows which was very fun
and seemed to be taken well by the audience. Alot of
the dancers were in the wings for both pieces we did,
they were really supportive and once they saw us perform
we had made many new friends. After the performance a sit
down dinner and fundraising event was held by the
festival. It was held outdoors with live music under the
stars. George and I were almost the last to leave. The
second days performance went much better for us. A
chiropracter was backstage and he fixed me so that I felt
100 percent for the performance. The audience the second
night also seemed to know what to expect and we recieved
a huge ovation.
After the second show we had another
great party with the dancers and with Jodie Gates the
director of the festival to celebrate
(This is a terrrrible picture of me at the party with Jodie, by the way Ari is named after Jodie Gates and Pearl Lang)

George and I spent an extra day in Laguna walking on the beach and
meeting with Lars, a friend of Paul (Boos). Lars had
visited us in Japan and travelled with the company for a
few weeks.
That evening we were invited to dinner with
one of the board members who treated us to a home made
dinner. The return home was not quite as pleasant. It began with
our flight being cancelled. George was planning on
reconnecting with his friend in Dallas and flying to JFK
but the only flight they could put us on was through San
Francisco and to Laguardia. We explained that George was
planning on being picked up at JFK by family and that
arrangements had already been made. The airline said
they couldn't do anything for us but they would upgrade
us. We discovered that meant that they upgraded our
boarding priority only. Needless to say, George was not
happy. It was not a great note to end such a great trip
but we did make it home safely.

For those of you were wondering,
I had already made plans to be a part of this festival before I
announced my retirement in Japan. I have not totally decided whether
I will perform in special performaces but I do want to
thank everyone for supporting me throughout my career.
I enjoyed my retirement performance in Japan and will
treasure it but I will also treasure this performance as
I shared the stage with fellow dancers from a variety of
important dance companies and reconnected with a
community of dancers one last time.

Maria Ricetto (Soloist from ABT, originally from Uruguay and me after the second show) one of the many new friends I made.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A new Beggining the end of 2008 and start of 2009

Hey everybody,
The last two years have been incredibly busy and I have lost track my diary/blog. The 200 performances in basically a year and a half in over 100 cities was in a word "Exhausting".
Some of the big news is that I decided to officially retire. What this means is that I will not be dancing at the same level as I did, especially in Japan. I might perform for a special show here and there but it is sadly time to put that part of my life behind me. I had two extraordinary events to share with you.
My final Gala Performance in Japan and a guest performance in California at a festival.

The final Gala was set for the Last Day of the Japan "Recipe for Laughter tour 2008". I've seen many retirements and tried to base mine on what I have seen. I have seen some done with great videos and retrospectives and with many dancers performing all the special roles associated with the person retireing and I have also seen versions where basically the retiring ballerina dances everything and people wonder if there is an ambulance waiting for her at the end of the show. I like the second because you really get to see the ballerina slowly deteriorate over the evenings performance and it is an apt comment on a dancer's career.
I opened the evening with a role that I have dancing for 18 years, Odette in Swan Lake Act ll. Although this was not what I consider my first major role, that was Medora in Corsaire, It was a role that was the most important in the Male Comedy Ballet repetoire. It is a role I never tired of and always had challenges for me. I will miss Odette, she was a fun character to play because there was so much room for interpretation and so many technical challenges. For the curtain call I was surprised by Paul Boos, my friend and the ballet master presenting me with a dozen roses on stage. I actually choked up because it was completely unexpected.
The second act opened with Pas De Quatre. It is a ballet that was set with the 4 greatest ballerinas of the time. I thought it was fitting to cast the 4 dancers in Grandiva who have the most seniority. Allen, Oswaldo, Me and Bart. This was Bart's first performance in pas de quatre and the role he performed was also performed by the youngest star of the time. Bart was the youngest of the four of us and his inclusion infused excitement into the ballet for the audience and the cast.
I continued with Spartacus pas with George. This is probably the last duet that my career has been associated with. It was fitting to include this ballet because it represents a huge departure from what Male Comedy Ballet was like 20 years ago. It is a ballet that uniquely represents Grandiva and me personally. This ballet is deceptively difficult. Actually George and I have attempted to teach this ballet to other casts but have not been successful. I have hope that we will be able to pass this ballet to another generation because as a choreographer I think this is one of my best duets.
I closed the second act with The Dying Swan. When I first performed this ballet it was based on the idea that sometimes this short solo is done in its entirety for a curtain call. I first added one extra run of the ballet with a different ballerina and then decided too extend that to two extra ballerinas. When I thought of this idea I thought listening and watching the same rendition 3 times would be too much for the audience so I decided to make the third version, my version, really a slapstick version with a special recording. Just between you and me, I also thought the other dancers doing the role were much more elegant physically and so I thought it would be better for me to concentrate on comedy. From a comedic standpoint I think Dying Swan is probably one of the funniest things in my rep and so I felt I needed to include it.
The evening ended with a special version of Minkus Gala. I wanted to do something different with this ballet since we do it so regularly and we changed all the solos in the middle to give dancers an opportunity to dance either a role that was new to them or one that was associated with them. I also wanted to be able to dance with all my male partners, Tetsushi, Momchil, Oswaldo and George. I did miss dancing with Baris :(, but I couldn't fit anything else in without exhausting myself to the point of injury. I did dance Carmen with Baris on the last regular performance of the season so....for those of you who travelled to see that one thank you. Momchil and I danced Sleeping Beauty, and Oswaldo and I danced Star Spangled Ballerina a ballet that was created for me.
The final curtain calls were a show all by themselves. It was overwhelming for me. The huge numbers of bouquets of flowers and all the tears from the fans (at a comedy show!) were touching and a bit hard to handle for me. The dancers presented me with a diamond ring to remember them and the evening by. I will cherish it and all the years I have danced professionally starting at Ballet Florida in 1983 to my last official performance with Grandiva in 2008