Monday, March 05, 2007

SONNETS Pre-show

Usually when you go to a ballet, you walk into a theatre and come face to face with a Big Red Curtain. After staring at the Big Red Curtain for 10 to 15 minutes, the lights dim, the music starts, the Big Red Curtain opens, and theatre magic begins.


Unfortunately it also gives audiences the impression that they are watching something that has little relationship with reality... or even humanity. When you add to this that what people are watching is a performance filled with slender, beautiful creatures that only resemble human beings at their most elevated, it becomes easy to take it for granted that they are indeed not watching real people.

While this may be fine, or even desirable, if you are dealing with fairies, firebirds, and sylphs... sometimes it puts the dancers at a disadvantage. People forget that the dancers are actually experiencing something themselves... whether that be the joy of dancing alone or with others.

When I can, I enjoy breaking that false wall that exists between the audience and the dancers. Whether that means performing in intimate venues or finding ways of allowing the audience to see the dancers in a less formal setting.

When the audience enters the theatre for SONNETS, the dancers are already onstage. They are warming up, talking (quietly of course) and practicing any difficult combinations or steps that they may be doing later in the piece. This is not staged and the content changes from night to night. A particular Spanish court song begins very softly and a small cupid crosses the stage with a candle and the aid of a stage manager. The dancers drift off as the stage gets darker. The ballet is ready to start.

This opening serves many purposes. First, it allows the dancers to step onto the stage to get a feel for it before the show starts. It also gets them into the frame of mind, that they don't necessarily have to be "performing" when they stand on the stage. In a way, it allows the dancers to relax into the show. Since the dancers are just portraying themselves they don't need the added mystique (crutch) of the red curtain.

As far as what it does for the audience, it allows them to get a look at the dancers as people. Since the costumes for the piece are similar (with a few variations) they can start differentiating the dancers from each other.

Also, by allowing them to see a few steps being rehearsed, their minds can start getting used to the movement vocabulary that is being used in the show. Often, a non-dancer needs to see a step performed two or three times before they can identify the difference between it and a similar step. If an audience member is just looking at steps, they stop looking at the dancer performing the step.

The photo above is not from the beginning of SONNETS. It is from a note session given after a performance of the piece. But it COULD be from the beginning of the show. As you look at the dancers you will see a variety of expressions and expectations from each individual dancer. As a choreographer, each dancer evokes a slightly different response in me. It is my hope that by allowing the audience to see them as "themselves" before the show, that the audience gets some insight into what it really means to be working within a group of 30 individuals all with the same goal.

Not a single minded group, but one with a shared vision.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss the Cupid character who makes a brief, yet important appearance in the show.

Tomorrow is also the dancer's first day back for rehearsal for the piece. This will give us 4 weeks to get it back on its feet.

Until tomorrow. :)



Post a Comment

<< Home