Friday, November 03, 2006

Life as a Sugar Plum Fairy Part 2

Well, today I am fighting off my annual winter cough. It always sneaks up on me around this time of the year and it takes forever to go away. So I guess its up to Nyquil to knock me out for the night.

On Fridays, I am scheduled to teach company class. Rather than just have one teacher give all of the company classes, at SDB we have a wide range of instructors. We feel that it gives the professional dancers a nice variety of experiences. Some dancers also gravitate towards particular types of clases. So mixing it up seems to be beneficial to their bodies.

While I may have a reputation for choreographing rather eclectic ballets, my classes are probably the most rigid of the SDB instructors. Long barres and fairly straight forward academic steps. Since I am going to rehearse the dancers afterwards, I don't see the need to explore choreography in class. Rather, class to me is a place for dancers to hone their skills, build their strength and learn more about their own body mechanics.

After class, came rehearsal of Nutcracker. The company is looking pretty good at the moment. Everything has been taught except for the first act party scene, which will be done this weekend with children from our school. As our first Nutcracker is the day after Thanksgiving, we are in good shape.

So onto the continuation of the Sugarplum Fairy.

Our Sugar Plum is Chelsy Meiss. This is her second year with the company and she originally hails from Melbourne, Austrailia. Physically, she is well suited to the part. She has a porcelin complexion and flame red hair that look as if they came out of a painting by Titian. She also has a perfectly proportioned body and long, slim, delicate limbs. But she also has a strong, steely technique and can be a bit of a soubrette. Since her mother is a jazz dance teacher, she can bring some of that dynamism into roles which she performs.

As we rehearsed the role, we discussed various technical, dramatic and presentational aspects of the character.

Let's start with the basics. She is a fairy. What does that mean? Well, strictly speaking, fairies have no souls, They are spirits. They are ageless. So she is neither young nor old. Although fairies can be beautiful and charismatic, that doesn't necessarily make them lovable. They are not flesh and blood creatures.

In addition, while she is the ruler of Konfetenburg (the yummy candy kingdom), that still doesn't make her a major player in the greater fairyworld. But it makes her a huge player in the world of a child's dreams, since kids are so transfixed by sweets. It is very telling that her partner is not created to be her equal. He usually listed as her "Cavalier." The actual musical score actually lists him as... drumroll... a kind of cough drop.

So that is enough dramatic backstory, presentationaly the Sugar Plum Fairy is the personification of lots of little girl's dreams of a ballerina. In her pink tutu with her diamond (rhinestone) tiara, our youngest patrons come to see her smile and dance beautifully across the stage. She has to be Tinkerbell and Ballerina Barbie and more. On a few occasions, we have had children from the Make-A-Wish foundation at our shows, whose wish was precisely to see the Nutcracker and meet the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Finally, technically, she must keep all of her steps light and easy looking. This can be a difficult balancing act, as the more difficult a step is, the more effort it takes. The Sugar Plum is the almost surreally elegant, much more so than her classical "sisters." Even the Swan Queen is half-woman/half-bird. The Sugar Plum fairy is all ether. So even in today's rehearsal, Chelsy was having problems with a series of steps that she could normally do in her sleep. But she was having problems because she was SO into the music that rather than make it APPEAR as if she wasn't using too much energy, she was actually not using enough energy.

She was so worried about "floating", that she wasn't honest with herself about how much energy she REALLY needed to turn. But that is the beauty of rehearsal. You get to figure these things out. And since Chelsy is the type of dancer who always gives 100 percent, she is always making new discoveries.

Tomorrow, I'll go on to her partner... the cough drop. Which I am off to get a real one now. Cough. Cough.



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