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Saw Giselle last night.

Pros: really good performance, and the hops-en-pointe section didn’t seem random and wtf-y. Which, tbh, sometimes it does.

And as silly as ballet mime feels sometimes (I may have leaned over to my friend L during the second act as Mirtha mimed at Albrecht and whispered, “Make me an omelet, mortal!”), Giselle’s mom in Act 1 flat-out ripped everyone’s heart out with it during the death scene.

Cons: one of my favorite people was the guy in the peasant pas (he was lovely), and between that and the fact that I learned the male variation a couple years back, I was all kinds of paying attention, and now the music is STUCK IN MY HEAD FOREVER.

You guys, I would much rather have Tchaikovsky stuck in my head, for reals. Adam is so … errrrrgghhhh.

It’s that class of ballet music that’s fine as long as there’s a ballet to go with it, but nigh unlistenable on its own. (I should note that the male peasant pas is fairly inoffensive … the first two or three times.)

Also, to be honest, I don’t feel like Adam quite understood the story. Like, seriously, listen to Albrecht’s variation. Then ask yourself whether it sounds like the kind of music that goes with the concept these angry dead ladies are trying to dance this guy to death.

To be honest, it sounds more like, “Jovial wine merchant announces his engagement,” or something.

But we accept it, partly because the choreography is awesome and possibly also because by the time the second act begins many of us have had a drink or two.

Maybe it works better when they play Albrecht as a philandering jerk who just kinda vaguely feels bad about stuff (now that it’s Much Too Late)? Then we’re all on the side of the Wilis, and maybe they think it’s funny.

Though, to be entirely honest, I suspect that Giselle’s BFLF[1], Mirtha, didn’t even think anything was funny even before she became a Wili. Definitely not as she was played last night. There were some seriously fearsome vibes rolling up off the stage.

  1. Best Frenemy Literally Forever


In other news, I’m horribly swamped with dancing stuff right now, which I suppose is a good problem to have.

But alas, BW is leaving us for bigger things, so I’m also all kinds of moping about that. I’ll miss him as a ballet mentor, but also as a friend. That said, he won’t be so far away that I can’t go watch him dance once in a while.

I’m glad we have L’Ancien teaching advanced class, but my relationship with him is very different. I had BW entirely to myself for months, and he understands my body better than anyone (better, in fact, than I do) where ballet is concerned.

So until he departs, I plan to make the most of every class with him. I mean, not that I didn’t plan to in the first place. But you know what I mean.

Anyway, it’s late and I’m exhausted, so off to bed with me.

Mr. Merkah demonstrates how I feel right now

Ballet Intensive, Day 3

Last night, conditioning class was tough —Ms. A2 opened with a gentle warm-up that lulled us all into complacency, then whipped out the most-demanding Pilates workout I’ve done to date.

I spent the brief break before technique class pacing the studio to keep my muscles warm; between that and the flexibility work we did in conditioning, I had increasingly awesome turnout throughout barre and good extensions. I’ve been remembering to stretch my piriformis, which has been helping with my splits.

Double turns were reliably on tap for turns and terre-a-terre (a lovely waltzy thing with sweeping ronds) and I had good entrechats during petit allegro, although I had to battle muscle memory to keep from doing a similar combination we do frequently at home.

I might overturn my ruling about triple turns tonight, because I’d like to tune them up for variations, if I can.

After the second break, we ran Albrecht a bunch of times, then revisited our duo, then returned to Albrecht.  We’re now really polishing both. I substituted contretemps where I’d just been stepping over myself in one passage and added double turns where they fit, though if we perform the duo, I probably won’t do them unless C does. We are, after all, supposed to be mirroring of one-another, not show-boating!

Albrecht-wise, since I now have the opening pose-step-chassée-cabriole-assemblée-Sissone sequence down, I’ll see tonight if I can work double cabs in. I’m still not 100% sure I can even do them reliably, but it would be awesome to be able to pull them out on Saturday.

I should also figure out how I want to finish Albrecht’s variation — there are some options. Right now I’m doing a turn from fourth to second to the knee (which I think I should finish effacé but with my shoulders opened back to stage left, since that would leave me facing our imaginary Giselle, for whom I’m theoretically doing this entire dance?).

I plan to watch some versions of the variation on YouTube and collect some ideas.

Mr. J got my arms sorted on a part of Albrecht’s variation about which I’d somehow confused myself and improved my tour-to-the-knee (a definite in the duo and an option for Albrecht), which I’d been doing awkwardly — tour, land on two feet, rond de jambe to knee. He demonstrated it and I realized that it’s cleaner if you pick up the leg that will be in back before you land the tour.

I also want to see if I can swing a double tour before I go home — I had a respectable 1.5 last night, which is progress, although not incredibly useful.

Ballet Squid Chronicles: A Case of the Wilis*

    *You know it’s gonna be bad when I lead off with the bad puns.

    This morning, we just did Ballet Essentials. We didn’t have time to do both classes and still eat before today’s ballet (this was a shame, because Margie was teaching the Beginner class, and it’s a rare treat to get to do Beginner class with Margie).

    Margie gave us some long and interesting combinations at the barre, which I enjoyed, and we did grand battement and beats while lying on the floor (we also did grand battement at the barre). I had forgotten about things like doing beats while lying on the floor — we used to do that as a conditioning exercise when I was a kid. I might add that into my daily conditioning rotation, because I’d like to get beaten jumps nailed down again (beyond the cabriole, which I seem to have down). We also did piqué turns, which I enjoy immensely.

    After, we grabbed lunch, then headed over to the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts to see Giselle.

    I enjoyed the production, which I feel was quite well done, especially considering that we’re a small company in a part of the country that doesn’t really know from ballet, so we’re always working with limited resources.

    The copious Ballet Mime was handled well and seemed less silly than it often does (I am forever reminded of Adult Beginner’s hilarious Giselle review and find myself giggling about “eggbeater above the head” — though now I can’t find the original post o_O). The ensemble and corps numbers in the first act were a particular treat (but, frankly, I’m a sucker for good ensemble or corps action), as were some of Albrecht’s 2nd-act solos.

    Update: I was confused about which of AB’s posts had the “eggbeater-above-the-head” reference. You can find it here

    Giselle’s infamous hops-en-pointe — which can either be pretty impressive or pretty much “WTF?” — came off quite nicely. Denis was inspired to ask questions about pointe technique (he noticed that nobody else en pointe ever seemed to “move around on one foot,” and after a while I figured out what he meant).

    I’m not sure whether or not it was intentional, but in this production, Albrecht came across less as a roving Count Jackwagon than as a nobleman torn between love and duty. Likewise, his fiancée didn’t come across as a jealous biznatch or appear to blame Giselle for Albrecht’s waywardness (thank you, Louisville Ballet!). It’s a shame there wasn’t more opportunity to develop that particular angle, which seemed a little more nuanced than the usual “Smarmy McDickface & Wig-Snatching Harpy” angle.

    Giselle, meanwhile, came across as … well, Giselle — a sparkling young girl who just wants to dance, even though her Mom doesn’t want her to because she doesn’t want her daughter to keel over dead from a heart attack (this, by the way, is the only bit of Ballet Mime that really fails to work — I don’t know about you, but when I picture miming, “No, you’ll die of a heart attack!” I don’t really picture a karate chop to the torso).

    In the second act, the Wilis did a lot of Graceful Zombie Arms, which made both Denis and me comment on how someone needs to do an updated version of Giselle that cashes in on the current zombie craze, because that would frankly be awesome (Mr. Bourne? Are you out there? We have a ballet for you…). Hilarion (danced by Eduard Forehand, who did not get to dance nearly enough) did an excellent job looking frightened, tired, and finally exhausted when the Wilis were dancing him to death, and our Myrtha was gracefully imperious in a way that worked pretty darned well.

    Speaking of Myrtha, some unintentional mirth occurred when Something From Above broke loose and floated to the stage in the midst of one of the big first act scenes with Everybody Including Half The Opera Company (comments on the wandering noblemen from Denis and Kelly went like this — Denis: “See? Fat guys can do ballet!” Kelly: “Look, they borrowed half the Opera company!”**)

    The dancers handled it with grace and professionalism (by, of course, ignoring it completely and continuing as if it wasn’t totally in the middle of the floor and in everyone’s way). Eventually a guy with a big robe managed to spirit said Unintentional Prop off the stage. Fortunately, whatever it was didn’t appear to be heavy or sharp and nobody was injured. This makes two out of two recent dance productions that involved Stuff Raining Down From Above (at U of L’s Dance Theater performance in Iroquois Park, a light in the rigging exploded and dropped what appeared to be a very large filament).

    Likewise, there was a brief issue with the music (unfortunately, recorded music is the order of the day in Loutown, at the moment) — a spot where the speed of playback wavered briefly. Fortunately, this happened while no one was dancing, but it grated on my musical ear a bit. I’m not sure it was widely noticed.

    The lighting design was the production’s most significant weakness. The set-pieces and backdrops were quite nice, but a great deal more could have been done with lighting both to enhance the spookiness of the Wilis and also to drive home the whole point that it’s the arrival of the dawn that breaks their power. Denis suggested that the lighting issues, however, may have derived form the failure of whatever failed up in the rafters.

    One last bit! Apparently, there was some confusion getting my subscription set up, but the folks at Will Call handled it very gracefully and gave us really great seats for this show. This is one of the perks of subscribing to a small company — the subscriber base isn’t huge, so every subscriber is treated really well.

    Next on the roster for the season is The Nutcracker. I believe PDG is dancing in that (along with ever other professional- and semi-professional dancer in the Greater Louisville Area, from what I’ve seen :D), so I’m particularly looking forward to that. Claire is in Giselle, but I don’t know if she was in this cast (if she was, I couldn’t pick her out) and/or if she’s still sick. Likewise, I’m hoping to see PDG2 and Brienne in some shows.

    While it’s unfortunate that our company can’t really support too many professional performers on a full-time basis, it’s also kind of cool to take classes from (and sometimes with!) dancers who we get to see on the stage.

    Anyway, I need to go do my math homework, so that’s it for now. More to come (if nothing else, Monday class notes).

    **They couldn’t hear each-other, so I had to convey comments from one to the other. Also, I am very much of the opinion that fat guys (and gals) can indeed do ballet!

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