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  • Superstition and the Dancer: From Hauntings to Good Luck Charms

    With Halloween approaching, we always love to revisit our post about superstition and the dancer. This post was originally post 7 years ago. Enjoy!!!

    Shhhhhhh.....

    Dancers and their theatrical peers are masters of the art of fantasy and characterization. In order to be successful at their craft, a dancer must create a believable character that leaves their audiences spell-bound. It is within the confines of the theater that both performer and viewer silently agree to believe the unbelievable. “Without these unspoken agreements, there could be no theater; with these agreements, all theaters become magic places where time shifts and identity is transformed.” (Haunted Theaters by Barbara Smith. 2002)

    This “unspoken agreement” helped propagate the rich history of superstition and rituals among performers throughout the ages.

    The Ghost in the TheaterThe Ghost in the Theater

    Haunting & Superstition

    Superstitious beliefs attached to the theater originated in the continental cities of Europe where the ballet predominated.  Even in these modern times, theaters tend to have a plethora of associated superstitions and ghost stories. Here are a few:

    The Ghost Light

    According to tradition, one should always leave a light on in an empty theater.  This light either wards off ghosts—or may just provide the ghosts enough light to see.  Failure to provide this may anger the ghosts leading to pranks and other mishaps.

    Rehearsal

    It is considered bad luck if a rehearsal goes smoothly. The feared results of a perfect rehearsal include a very short performance run, or the performance itself will be disastrous. It is also unlucky to speak the last line of a play before Opening Night.

    Whistling

    It is forbidden to whistle anywhere inside the theater, especially in or near the dressing rooms. The superstition states that if a whistle is heard, someone (although not necessarily the whistler) will soon lose their job.

    Wishing an Actor or Dancer “Good Luck”

    This is by far one of the most well-known superstitions. Wishing an actor or dancer “good luck” before a performance is considered extremely unlucky and is sure to bring disaster. Instead, one should wish an actor to “break a leg”, which is symbolic of “taking a bow” at the end of a worthy performance, and wish a dancer “merde”.

    Merde is actually French slang for “dung” but has an interesting history in regard to the dance world. Before the invention of cars, Parisian streets were filled with horse-drawn carriages and plenty of horse dung. As dancers made their way to the theater, they would caution one another to “not step in the merde”. During the evenings when the people—and their horses--were in vast attendance, all the “merde” outside was considered a good thing. Dancers soon began to wish one another “merde” before going on stage as a way of saying “watch your step”.

    The Scottish Play

    Shakespeare’s Macbeth is said to be the most cursed of all plays; therefore actors avoid saying its name. Euphemisms such as “The Scottish Play” or “The Bards’ Play” are used instead. The superstition states that terrible luck will befall on any company performing the play, ranging from strange accidents to actual death. In many parts of the world, even speaking the name “Macbeth” anywhere inside the theater or quoting from its text will cause that person to lose all of their theatrical friends.

    Closed for Ghosts

    According to superstition, the theater should always be closed one night a week in order to give the ghosts a chance to perform themselves. Monday night is usually preferred, as it also provides actors with a day off following weekend performances.

    The World’s Most Haunted Theaters

    Many of the world’s oldest and most renowned theaters are said to be haunted.

    Many of the world’s oldest and most renowned theaters are said to be haunted. Ghostly encounters range from the mischievous to the deadly, and plague performers, stage-hands and ushers alike. Instead of frightening theater patrons away, these tales seem to have the opposite effect by adding to the theater’s allure and mystique.

    The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London

    London’s oldest working theater is said to be home to several spirits. Perhaps the most famous is “The Man in Grey”, who appears as a nobleman dressed in a grey cloak, powdered wig, and 3-cornered hat. According to legend, “The Man in Grey” appears just prior to a successful run, and he’s said to enjoy poking and kicking the actors. The ghost of actor Joe Grimaldi is a welcome sight by nervous thespians. Reports of his helpful guidance have surfaced on several occasions.

    The Orpheum Theatre, Memphis Tennessee

    Within the confines of the “south’s finest theater” lives the ghost of a young girl named Mary. Although no one knows exactly how she came to the Orpheum, the most accepted theories suggest she was either run over by a horse-drawn carriage or an automobile in front of the theater, or she fell to her death from a balcony while watching a performance. “Mary” tends to enjoy the view from seat C-5 and those who sit there claim to feel cold chills. Others have reportedly heard a child giggling and running through the halls, doors opening and closing on their own, and the pipe organ playing by itself. Still other accounts insist that Mary is responsible for turning all the chairs in her box backwards during performances she doesn’t like.

    The Paramount Theater, Seattle Washington

    According to local legend, this Seattle-based icon is primarily haunted by the ghost of a beautiful, red-haired woman. We first heard of this story on Halloween day a few years ago, when we used the Paramount for a company photo shoot. Built in 1928, the Paramount is one of Seattle’s oldest theaters, with more than one ghost reportedly seen by its former employees. However, having a personal encounter with one of these apparitions seems to be getting harder to come by. According to sources, this is due to all the rock concerts held at the theater, and only a select few of its eerie patrons still enjoy them.  (Ghost Stories from the Pacific Northwest, by Margaret Read MacDonald.1996 )

    Superstition in the World of Dance

    Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the fact remains that many dancers hold fast to their own unique rituals and good luck charms.

    Superstition

    Some dancers wear "lucky" jewelry for every performance.

    For example, Vanessa Zahorian a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet says a prayer and kisses the ground before going onstage. She also wears a diamond pinkie ring which her parents gave her as a child during every performance, kept hidden from view courtesy of tape.

    Some dancers such as Jon Leher, director of contemporary dance company LeherDance in Buffalo, New York, believe luck comes from a little extra sweat. Literally. “I try to wash (my warm-up clothes) as little as possible,” he says.

    Other pre-performance rituals include everything from forming a circle and linking pinkies with corps members, applying perfume, to warming up or doing one’s hair and make-up in a precise order.

    Conclusion

    However you slice it, superstitions and rituals are just as much a part of the dance world as company class and daily stretching. So whether you exit your dressing room left-foot-first, whisper a prayer, or simply say “break a leg” to your peers, every performer has their own way of avoiding the personal--and paranormal—pitfalls of the theater.

    All photographs © Angela Sterling

    Dancer/Model Stacy Lowenberg, Pacific Northwest Ballet

    We invite you to post your own performance rituals or ghostly encounters.

  • Urban Nutcracker

    We are sharing this fun post from Dustin Todd Rennells that talks about creating all new costumes for Tony Williams', Urban Nutcracker.  Enjoy!

    by Dustin Todd Rennells

    Katrina Gould in Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker Photo: RavenWolfe Photography Katrina Gould in Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker Photo: RavenWolfe Photography

    This was one of my favorite overall projects to do for Urban Nutcracker. This tutu came to us at a great price from Class Act Tutu when I begged for a good price for our amazing show. It came naked just wine and black. Through the help of numerous volunteers all the gold window panes and sequined borders were sewn on and tacked down. First is Katrina Gould as Sugar with her backup of Sugar Plum Attendants in several beautiful images by RavenWolfe Photography. Next is my original drawing of the piece that I had envisioned. This is most likely the closest to my original idea. Lastly is the tutu we had used for 6+ years. Definitely a new concept here! Sugar embodies the city of Boston, wine/brick red like the buildings with glowing lights of a city during the holidays. Thanks to Anita Handy-Velasquez, Amanda Lapham, Yara Figueroa, Molly Mclaughlin-Drubin and Judith Alvarez for their additional work to this costume and headpiece. Based on original drawings by Rebecca Cross.

    Katrina Gould in Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker Photo: RavenWolfe Photography Katrina Gould in Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker Photo: RavenWolfe Photography
    Katrina Gould in Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker Photo: RavenWolfe Photography Katrina Gould in Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker    Photo: RavenWolfe Photography

     

    Katrina Gould in Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker Photo: RavenWolfe Photography Katrina Gould in Tony Williams' Urban Nutcracker    Photo: RavenWolfe Photography

     

    Concept for Urban Nutcracker's Sugarplum by Dustin Todd Rennells. Concept for Urban Nutcracker's Sugarplum by Dustin Todd Rennells.
  • The Romantic Tutu Skirt

    While ballet tutus can take on many forms, when most people hear the word “tutu” they envision the ethereal Romantic style tutu skirt.  In honor of its timeless beauty, we would like to take a moment and share a little bit about this classic tutu style.

    The Romantic Era of Ballet

    The Romantic Tutu made its debut during the early to mid-19th century, a time in which “romanticism” in art and literature held great influence over the creation of new ballets. By many historical accounts, the Romantic period is considered to have begun with the 1827 Paris debut of La Sylphide where the Romantic Tutu skirt was first worn by Marie Taglioni.

    Marie Taglioni, La Sylphide wearing the first Romantic Tutu Marie Taglioni, La Sylphide wearing the first Romantic Tutu

    Many of these Romantic Ballet stories told tales of conflict between man and nature, society and the supernatural.  This era put the ballerina center stage “floating” on the tip of a toe in the forms of sylphs (La Sylphide), wilis (Giselle), and other ghostly spirits—who enslaved the hearts and senses of mortal men.

    Carlotta Grisi, 1841 as Giselle Carlotta Grisi, 1841 as Giselle

    The Romantic Tutu Skirt

    Due to this marked supernatural influence, the second act of these Romantic ballets (representing the spirit realm) began to be called the “white act” or “ballet-blanc”.  The corresponding costume was an elegant white skirt made of layers upon layers of tulle (fine netting). This other-worldy white skirt was what we’ve come to know as the Romantic Tutu Skirt.  This ghostly vision was enhanced with new developments in theater effects such as gas lighting (that could be dimmed), posing en pointe, and the use of wires to make dancers “fly”.

    What is a Romantic Tutu Skirt?

    Romantic Tutus are long, floating and ethereal.  They are usually 3-5 layers of soft tulle.  These soft layers can begin at the waist (Romantic Tutu) or fall from the high hip for a dropped waist look (Romantic Tutu with Basque).

    At Class Act Tutu, we LOVE romantic tutu skirts.  From the famous classic white to today’s vivid, colorful layers, we have the skill and ingenuity to create the tutu of your dreams!  We encourage you to put one on and get busy enslaving hearts!

    From Vail International Dance Festival, International Festival of Dance II, Giselle, August 4, 2012.  From Vail International Dance Festival, International Festival of Dance II, Giselle, August 4, 2012.
  • Reset

    We are so thrilled with how this custom costume turned out. This leotard/saucer tutu was created for Reset. Reset was choreographed by Justin Allen for a contemporary solo by Sarah Lapointe at the 2015  YoungArts Miami performance.

    Sarah is a student at The Rock School for Dance Education.  All Photos, ©Vikki Sloviter Photography.

    Sarah Lapointe, ©Vikki Sloviter Photography Sarah Lapointe, ©Vikki Sloviter Photography

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty Returns Better Than Ever

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura as Princess Aurora in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty. Nakamura is one of four dancers performing the lead role in PNB’s presentation of the classic story ballet, running January 31 – February 9, 2014. Photo © Angela Sterling.

    Pacific

    Lavish storybook sets, decadent costumes and gorgeous dancing provide the stunning backdrop to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’.

    Kaori Nakamura and Seth Orza brought the house to its feet in a standing ovation during Friday’s opening as Princess Aurora and her beloved Prince Florimund. Their technique was amazing, and the way they looked at each other? Hello! Talk about your fairytale romances! I loved how the two of them can take a character, even one as well known as Aurora and Florimund, and make them their own. Orza is just one of those dancers you love to watch…over ‘n over again. I’ve yet to see an “off” performance from him or one where I wasn’t fully enraptured with his character. He *IS* the Prince…every time, all the time.

    I was also highly impressed by how quickly Nakamura went from bubby teenage Princess in Act I, to delicately composed bride in Act III. While this electrifying ballerina recently announced her plans to retire at the end of the season, her performance proved that she still has what it takes to rock the ballet world for many years to come.

    Jonathan Poretta provided a breath of comedy (as well as a serious hint of creepy!) as the wicked fairy, Carabosse. I loved how he’d peek out from under his “hag hoodie” and how the strobe lights would “flash” whenever he (she?) flew through the air. (Mmmwwa ha ha haaa!) In fact, I was almost sad when he died at Florimund’s hand (just before that glorious kiss), but as we all know, good always triumphs over evil especially in fairy tales.

    Laura Tisserand’s Lilac Fairy was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The depth of her storytelling ability seems every bit as endless and beautiful as her extension (which is really saying something, folks!). Everything she does is just incredible.

    The king and queen (Otto Neubert and Maria Chapman) plead with the wicked fairy Carabosse (Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Jonathan Porretta) in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty. Photo © Angela Sterling.

    The

    And speaking of incredible, Act III’s Gold and Silver Pas de Trois (featuring Lindsi Dec, Andrew Bartee and Jerome Tisserand) was nothing short of jaw-dropping. Bartee has really come into his own as an artist (can’t wait to see more from him!), while Tisserand almost oozes with delicious charisma. Dec’s thousand-watt smile and clean technique shined brighter than any diamond, easily re-solidifying her place as an audience favorite.

    Just before the show, Artistic Director Peter Boal announced five (!!) well deserved company promotions: Elizabeth Murphy, Margaret Mullin and William Lin-Yee were officially recognized as soloists, while Lindsi Dec and Laura Tisserand were bestowed the title of Principal. Talk about putting a big, luscious cherry on top of a fantastic opening night!

    The Sleeping Beauty runs through February 9th. Tickets available at PNB.org.

  • Amazing Costumes on a Budget: Savannah Arts Academy

    The Wizard of Oz, Savannah Arts Academy - Lollipop

    Lollipop

    To kick-off our "Amazing Costumes on a Budget" series, we'd like to take a moment and introduce you to the talented Christina Powell-Dance Department Chair of the Savannah Arts Academy in Georgia. Christina knows all about creating fabulous, professional-looking costumes--without breaking the bank! When we asked if she'd be interested in sharing some of her best "trade secrets" with our readers, she eagerly accepted. So, if your dance production is in the middle of a financial bind, you might want to take a few notes. So grab a pen (or bookmark this page), and get ready to be inspired!

    Class Act: So tell us, what initially prompted you and the Savannah Arts Academy to be "beautiful on a budget"? Was this something you've always done or did the current economy have something to do with it?

    Christina Powell: Working for a public school in a dance department that is fully supported by fundraising efforts and ticket sales to productions (we receive no funding from the local or state government), we must be extremely creative with our funds. We must work around [financial] issues to be beautiful on a budget. We ask for a lot of help from local seamstresses who donate their time and sometimes even the cost of materials to create costumes for us. For tutus, we order the skirts with basques from Class Act Tutu and the matching basque fabric for the bodices. We then have parent volunteers or local costumers make the bodices for each dancer to complete the look. In addition, we sometimes work with fashion students from our local art college, Savannah College of Art and Design.

    Class Act: Are there any specific actions that you take to do this? How does it all come together?

    Christina Powell: Well, at the beginning of the year, I take inventory of our costume closet and create a list of the most wanted items that I’d like to purchase for the year. Two years ago, we ordered an entire set of white romantic tutu skirts from Class Act Tutu. This was our first big tutu purchase! In order to save money, we had the bodices made to complete the look. We used those tutus for a Swan Lake excerpt and for the Fairy Corps in Cinderella. We used them again this year for the Emerald City Corps during our ballet, "The Wizard of Oz". Each time we use the white tutus, we change the decoration to fit the part. For the Emerald City Corps, a parent volunteer added emerald tulle overlays and a gold ribbon design on the bodice. The tulle was purchased in bulk from Class Act Tutu. Outside of ordering tutus, we also order other costumes that I feel like we’ll get a lot of use out of. For example, we ordered some Rockette-like white costumes that we wore in our Winter Dance Concert. We used them again for a local holiday event in downtown Savannah. The girls dressed up as snowflakes using these same costumes. Then in, "The Love of Broadway", our final show this year, we used these costumes again with added gold accents to perform “One” from A Chorus Line. So, my advice is that you prioritize your costumes needs, determine what costumes you can get the most out of, and take baby steps each year until you create a wonderful costume closet!

    Class Act: You know, I wonder how many other dance companies will read this and think, "Hmm. Why didn't we think of that?" Now, I also heard that you re-decorate your tutus. Would you share some examples of that with us?
    The Wizard of Oz, Savannah Arts Academy - Poppies

    Poppies

    Christina Powell: Yes, we do this a lot! For the lollipop tutus, I ordered that set of costumes at the beginning of the year. For our Winter Dance Concert, we used those tutus for a Sleeping Beauty excerpt. Then, we redecorated them for the Lollipop Corps for Wizard of Oz. We do this for all of our tutus. We always sew decorations onto the costumes so that we can easily take them off to change the look for the next performance. Never use glue! Also, skirt overlays are a great way to add color to costumes and to completely change the original look. The skirt overlays work best on white romantic tutus.

    Class Act: Do you have any final words of advice or any "Top Tips" that you'd like to share before we close?

    Christina Powell: It is so easy to get overwhelmed with costuming needs, especially if you are just starting to build a costume closet and you’re on a budget. When I took over as the chair of the Savannah Arts Academy Department of Dance, we didn’t even own a tutu! That was two years ago. Now, we own two complete sets of romantic length tutus (a white set and a pink set), a set of euro-tutus (red for the Poppy Corps for Wizard of Oz),  four romantic tutus for the Cinderella fairies (Summer, Spring, Winter, and Autumn),  and several pancake tutus (Fairy Godmother, Mazurka lead for Cinderella, Wizard for Wizard of Oz, etc). We have already used the white tutus in four shows, and the pink tutus in two shows. The red pancake tutu has been worn for the Mazurka lead in Cinderella, the Spanish variation for Nutcracker, the Don Quixote pas de deux, and the Poppy Lead in Cinderella!  Lots of use out of the red pancake tutu! Also, the winter fairy tutu was also re-worn by Glinda the Good Witch for Wizard of Oz. The best advice I can give someone wanting to build a costume closet, is to prioritize! Think about what kinds of costumes you need for your upcoming shows. Think about what you can get the most out of. Start basic (a set of white romantic tutus is a great place to start! They are so versatile and beautiful on stage!!!), and again--take baby steps! Breathe! And most of all, have fun!

    Thank you so much, Ms. Powell! Your creative ideas are going to come in handy for so many dancers out there. We wish you and the Savannah Arts Academy continued success! If you'd like to learn more about the programs available through the Savannah Arts Academy or attend future performances, please click here.

    Denise Opper ~ Media Relations

  • Madison Abeo - An Interview with a Rising Star

    Young dancers spend countless hours in the studio developing their skills and artistry. While you will often find their peers hanging out at the mall or movie theater, these hard working young men and women will deny themselves the typical pleasures of teenage life for the promise of a shining dance career.

    Madison Abeo, a level VIII student at Pacific Northwest Ballet School, is one such dancer who recently caught our eye. We were not only impressed with Madison's classic beauty and winning smile, but by her charisma, work ethic and dedication to both her family and her art. This young lady is the living, breathing definition of a "class act" - and we're thrilled to introduce her to all of you!

    Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Madison Abeo...

    Grace:  Madison Abeo

    Grace:

    Hello, Madison. Please share about yourself and how you got your start in ballet.

    I was 3 years old and my family and I were living in Zambia, Africa. We had traveled there while I was young to do work in the villages. My parents put me in a local ballet class because I was clumsy and always tripping over my feet. We lived there for 2 years and when we moved back to the states I took classes at a small ballet studio in Monroe, where the teacher was a Cornish graduate. She encouraged me to audition for Cornish and then I danced there for 4 years before moving to PNBS.

    When did you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a career in dance was right for you?

    When I did my first Nutcracker performance at Cornish, and played the role of Clara – I knew I wanted to dance professionally. Its hard to explain how it made me feel, its something only a dancer understands. I dance because of the feeling I get when I dance, there really is no word to describe it.

    Many locals are familiar with your father's "artistic" side. Can you share a little bit about your family with our readers?

    My dad is local rapper RA Scion, who was in a group called Common Market. My mom manages his music and the business side of things. He has had music videos on MTV and done 5 or 6 CD’s. I am in a few of the videos. We have had an exciting life. I have been to huge concerts and danced on stage with him at Bumbershoot, Sasquatch Festival, and toured to several cities him on the road when I was younger. I have seen the fun side of music festivals, the VIP and green rooms, the backstage life is something that is the same in music as it is in dance.

    How has their influence affected you? Are they supportive of your career or did they caution you against it?

    I don’t feel like they have influenced me in the way of dance. Neither of them are dancers, but they did influence me with how I perform and work. Both are very hard workers. My dad taught me the value of not only hard work but how important the quality of a good performance and show is. How to be a humble and a grateful performer and how to work to do your best for the sake of the audience.

    You've had the opportunity to meet and work with many local artists - both in music and dance. Can you share a little about that? What were some of your most favorite projects?

    I have worked with a few bands and danced in their music videos. My favorite music video was for a local group called Alabaster. It was a fun atmosphere and they gave me a lot of artistic freedom. I was also asked to work with STG/Paramount for their annual DOORS fundraising event, where I was honored to have Olivier Wevers choreograph a piece for me to perform, and PNB was nice enough to loan me a costume. I was the only classically trained ballet dancer highlighted that night, and I got to meet some amazing people that donate to the arts.

    What programs are you looking at for summer?

    I auditioned for 4 schools, ABT New York, San Fran Ballet, Boston Ballet and Houston Ballet and I was grateful to get into all 4! I have recently made the decision to attend San Fran Ballet summer intensive, after discussing it with my parents, my teachers I decided it was best for my future.

    Even with partial scholarships, summer intensives can be quite expensive! Unlike many students, I've heard you're actually working to help off-set some of the costs associated with your intensive. Tell us a little more about that.

    Yes they are very expensive! I am always shocked at how parents can afford to send their kids every year to these programs that are $4-7,000 and then you have airfare, spending money, etc. My family has never been able to afford such things. I am grateful to my grandparents that have helped with the costs in the past. Now that I am old enough to help work to earn the money, I have been babysitting and saving every penny! I also have created a Facebook fan page, at the suggestion of my Aunt, and people who had no children for me to babysit, that wanted to donate and invest in my future. It means so much to me that so many people not only believe in me, but that they are helping me reach my dream.

    Working, going to school and taking dance class...that's quite a load! Please share what a typical "day in the life" is like for you.

    A typical day for me is – waking up around 6:45am to get ready for school. Packing a lunch and all of my school and dance gear. School until 1:30pm, and I attend the Center School, which is at the Seattle Center, so I just walk to PNB from there. I take about an hour to change, tape my feet and stretch. Then class, which is always on pointe at this level (Level VIII) is from Mon-Sat from 3:00 until 5:30. I stretch briefly after class, get home around 6pm, eat a quick dinner. Then if it’s a Friday, I babysit from 7 until Midnight or spend the rest of my night doing homework. Saturdays are usually the longest dance day, my level dances from 11:30am until 4pm and I arrive early at 9am to take the Pilates class that is provided to help with my core strength.

    strength

    Strength:

    Many young dancers have strong mentors in their lives who encourage and inspire them. Who are your mentors and how important has their influence been to your success?

    Some of the people I consider to be mentors are Olivier Wevers (Former PNB Principle dancer and director of Whim W’him dance Co.), Andrew Bartee, Sarah Pasch (PNB dancers), Rena Robinson-Steiner (Former PNB Teacher and dancer with Dance Theater of Harlem), and Colleen Dishy (former RAD and Cornish college teacher). In one way or another, all of these people have spent one on one time with me, giving me advice, encouragement and have been amazing examples for how to be the best dancer I can be.

    You've also done some modeling for Vala Dancewear. Can you share how that partnership came about?

    My mom likes to take photos for fun and some of the pictures caught the eye of an amazing dance mom (You! Lol) who gifted me a leotard and my mother took photos of me in it. Rebecca, the owner loved the photos and was so nice - gave me even more leos for my mom to take photos of me in! I love the leos because they are a great twist of classic styles, they are comfortable and SO much more reasonable than some of the other brands. The most recent photoshoot we did was with professionals, La Vie Photography / Bamberg Fine Arts Photography – in which I wore Vala leos AND Class Act tutus. It was kind of a fashion ballet photo shoot, with some partnering photos that included my class dance partner Levi Teachout. We spent all day taking photos in different tutus and outfits, and we have already seen a couple of the shots and they are so beautiful! I am so excited to see how the rest turned out!

    Beauty:  Madison Abeo

    Beauty:


    Okay...loaded question time! Who are your favorite dancers?

    My favorite dancers are: Carla Korbes (PNB Principle dancer) – She is the perfect dancer. Not only does she have amazing feet, lines and expression – she is one of the nicest and most down to earth ballerina’s at the ballet. She is kind, humble and smiles at you when you say hi. When I watch her dance, she takes my breath away. Lucien Postelwaite (Ballet Monte Carlo) was the main reason I wanted to dance with PNB. He is a star. The perfect blend of grace and strength. As a younger dancer and before he left PNB, I often said I wanted to someday dance a piece with him! Andrew Bartee (PNB dancer) can do things with his body that I have never seen other people do. He is a true artist and isn’t afraid to be himself.

    Is there anything from your past (dance or otherwise) that if you could - you'd change?

    My parents have taught me that all of the challenges we face help make you who are now, so I don’t think I would change anything!

    Developing as a dancer and artist takes dedicated, consistent effort and tons of "sweat". How do you stay so motivated?

    Family, friends and my passion for dance is what keeps me going.

    Do you have friends outside of dance? If so, do they support you in your efforts?

    Yes I have friends outside of dance. My true friends understand my passion for dance, they often ask me about my progress and shows and they know how much it means to me to have them at performances, so they come to as many as they can.

    What is your "dream" role?

    My dream role is of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. I have always been mesmerized by the beautiful upper body movement of that role. The back and arms are amazing in that part. Also it is a huge test as a dancer to be able to play the pure and dark side of a character, really pushes you to the limits! I hope I get the chance to someday dance that role.

    A dancer's career is often very short. What can you see yourself doing after the final curtain goes down?

    I want to stay in the dance world, I would love to teach classes. I love kids and I think I would do well as a teacher.

    What final piece of advice would you give to other young dancers out there?

    Don’t make yourself try to fit into the “box” that some people and teachers think you need to be in order to be a good dancer. Its unrealistic. Instead, be the best dancer you can be by working on your strength and being healthy. Most of all, respect your teachers, they may not dance anymore, but they all were amazing when they did. They have learned tools that will only make things easier if you just listen. Lastly, dance is hard – on your body and on your spirit. Make sure you love it and that the love shows when you dance, or else its not worth all the pain and effort.

    To see the rest of the photos from the shoot Madison did with La Vie Photography – and to visit Madison’s dance support page, please visit https://www.facebook.com/MadisonRaynAbeo .  You can see Madison dance next in an excerpt from Balanchine’s Serenade – performed by the Level 8 dancers as part of the PNB School’s, End of Year performance on June 15th , 7pm at McCaw Hall.  Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.pnb.org.

  • Valentine’s Day with Seth Orza & Sarah Ricard Orza

    Seth Orza, Soloist and Sarah Ricard Orza, Corps de Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Shown here in "Petit Mort".

    Seth

    Ah, Valentine’s Day! It’s the time of year when we shower our true love with tokens of affection, whether they be in the form of a box of chocolates, a gushy card, or a dozen roses (or all of the above!).

    In the dance world, Valentine’s Day can be especially wonderful as couples not only live, but oftentimes work, together. We decided to get an inside look at the blessings of Valentine’s Day through the eyes of the dancers themselves. First up is Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza of Pacific Northwest Ballet!

    Class Act: “How did you two meet?”
    Seth: “We met in New York at the School of American Ballet’s when we were both 13.”
    Sarah: “We met at the summer course. Then we got together and started dating seriously when we were both at the School of American Ballet for their year round program when we were 17. And we’ve been pretty much together ever since then. We’ve been together now for 12 years and married for 2 ½ years.”

    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza shown here at SAB Summer Course, 1995 (Age 14). Seth & Sarah met at age 13.
    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza shown here at SAB Summer Course, 1995 (Age 14). Seth & Sarah met at age 13.

    Class Act: “Congratulations, that’s wonderful! So what’s the best thing about being married to a fellow dancer?”
    Sarah: “Well, I think that the dance world is just so small and intimate; sometimes it’s hard to explain or even relate to people who aren’t in the world on a daily basis—what’s going on, or what the daily ups and downs are like. So, if I’m having a bad day, Seth already knows why and that’s good.”
    Seth: “We try to help each other out along the way through the pressures of ballet, performing, and all that.”
    Sarah: “Oh, and travelling. If we tour, it’s great. It’s really nice to have your loved one with you when you’re going to all those places.”

    Class Act: “How do you two plan to make this Valentine’s Day special?”
    Seth: “Well…” he says with a sly tone, “it’s kind of a surprise.”
    Class Act:(Laughing) “Oops! I don’t want to ruin anything!”
    Seth: “We try to do something special every Valentines day, but it’s hard after twelve years to do something different every time.”
    Sarah: “There was one year when I had the genius idea of getting chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva. So I got a dozen chocolate strawberries only to find that in the fridge at home, Seth had also gotten a dozen Godiva strawberries!” she laughs.
    Seth: “We had a lot of chocolate strawberries!” he chuckles.
    Class Act:“Great minds think alike! So, do you have any last words of advice for fellow dancers out there?”
    Seth: “It’s nice being in a relationship with a co-worker—or a dancer—and it does work out.”
    Sarah: “It’s definitely a balance, though. I mean, we’re together at work all the time and then at home all the time. So sometimes there’s days when one of us has to step back and take some space—be it at work or at home. You just find that balance with spending all of your time together.”

    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza on their Wedding Day

    Seth

    Class Act: “Do you ever have a day when you really don’t want to be with the other person but you still have to work with them?”
    Seth/Sarah: “Oh no, never!” they laugh in unison.
    Seth: “Of course, but I think that happens in any relationship.”
    Sarah: “We have partnered together a lot, and that has challenges…”
    Seth: “Yeah, working together professionally…I mean, if she’s just around it’s one thing, but if we’re working together, it’s kind of hard sometimes.”
    Class Act:“Well thank you both so very much! I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!”
    Sarah: “Thank you! You have a happy Valentines Day, too!”

    by Denise Opper, Media Relations Class Act Tutu & Vala Dancewear

    This post first appeared for Valentine's Day, 2010.

  • Behind the Scenes: YAGP Competition with Carolyn Lovett

    Saucer Tutus at YAGP Finals

    Class

    Whether you've participated in the competition aspect of dance or not, chances are you've at least heard of the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). The YAGP is the world's largest scholarship competition open to students 9-19 years of age.

    We know how daunting the thought of competing can be, so we decided to provide you with some tips by going behind the scenes with Ms. Carolyn Lovett, teacher, choreographer and artistic director of the Lovett Dance Center in Tustin, California.  Carolyn's students have participated in YAGP since 2004 and routinely receive some of the highest marks at the competition...

    When did you and your school first get started with YAGP and why?

    I've been involved with YAGP since 2004. For the longest time I was afraid to do Grand Prix. I always knew it was out there but it seemed to be at such a high level that I dared not enter. As a Ballet teacher who has been working for studios that compete in the regular/jazz competition scene I have been very successful but I found it to be a bit of a dead end at least for Ballet students. If I was going to grow creatively and if my students were going to have more opportunities I needed to make a change. Finally I decided to take the plunge and what a plunge it’s been. I started by entering just a few soloists and groups to learn what Grand Prix expected and desired of the dancers. It has taken some time, but I feel that we fit in very nicely now and we are receiving the opportunities that come along with it.

    What sort of awards or honors have your children and students received at these events?

    Oh my….we started receiving awards our 3rd year in.

    We have had several top 12 Pre-Competitive placements. My daughter has won twice and placed top 12 in New York City. We have several top 12 placements in the Junior Division including top 3 placements and the “YAGP Award” this year. We have many Ensemble placements including Pas de Duex’s and personally I have received the “Outstanding Teacher” award once, “Outstanding Choreographer” 3 times and this year we received the “Outstanding Studio” award. We have also been fortunate to perform with YAGP in the Spoleto Festival in Italy with an ensemble piece I choreographed on my children and another student. My students have also been awarded scholarships through YAGP. Ultimately that is what Grand Prix is about, exposing students to professionals from around the world that can offer them a road to eventual success.

    My students have received scholarships to ABT, Bolshoi, Kirov, The Rock and Australian Ballet.

    What sort of planning does an endeavor like this entail? (I'd imagine it's quite a bit!)

    What it takes is time! Time for us to figure out what solos work best on each student, time to choreograph contemporary pieces for each student, time to improve technique, time to work on the chosen solos, and time competing those solos before we get to Grand Prix. I really get started as soon as the first YAGP Regional is over. We always learn from the judge’s critics so we start on those immediately to improve the solos for New York Finals and or the next year. Grand Prix is inspiring so we all start thinking about what to next before we are even done with the current year.

    How do you go about selecting your choreography and costumes? Why did you choose Class Act Tutu? (Hee hee...I had to throw that in there.)

    Lovett Dance Center

    Lovett


    When it comes to choreography, I am at the mercy of my own feelings. If I am going through rough times then my work tends to be a bit moodier and dark, but when I’m feeling more positive my work is lighter and more beautiful. I’m in a positive mood this year. As for costumes, we put what we can together without a costume designer to keep costs down but I do have someone make those costumes I just can’t find through a catalog. We do have to special order our tutus well ahead of time because they take so long to make. I ordered saucer tutus from Class Act Tutu this year because they were the only company out there that makes them! I had a special piece that required the saucer and Class Act makes a BEAUTIFUL one! Very nice quality and a fun selection of colors that fit my piece perfectly. By the way, that particular piece placed 1st at YAGP regional and will be competing in the New York Finals!

    Woohoo! That's awesome! So how do the parents feel about their student's experiences with YAGP?

    I think the YAGP brings out many feelings. It can be very exciting and rewarding, but can also be disappointing for those with high expectations but lack the preparation or physical attributes required for such an endeavor. When competing in Grand Prix, it is important to remember the level of talent is exceptionally high, and in New York it's mind blowing! Grand Prix is truly International is scope so my students have been able to meet kids from all over the world. Performing along-side kids from Brazil, China, Japan, Australia and numerous others countries is enriching to say the least. Even those students who do not compete as soloists find the experience exciting and enriching. The Gala alone is worth going for and the camaraderie it brings between the parents and students can last a lifetime.

    How has your involvement with YAGP (or competitions in general) enhanced your student's training?

    It has upped the game you might say. Grand Prix has pushed me to become a better teacher, therefore my students technical level has steadily increased over time. It is also encouraging me to choreograph work that I might not otherwise create. This gives my students a greater depth of movement to master.

    Lovett Dance Center

    Lovett

    What advice would you give to a school or student looking to compete in their first YAGP competition?

    Be prepared! Mentally and physically prepare and be willing to learn along the way.

    Thank you so much, Carolyn and congratulations to all of your terrific dancers!

    *STOP THE PRESSES!* We've just received the following announcement from Carolyn:

    "Things went great in New York! My son and daughter, Devyn and Tiana, both made it to final rounds. Tiana placed in the top 12 junior women. Both received scholarships to Princess Grace Academy in Monaco and Devyn also received a scholarship to Washington Ballet. My boys trio "Insight" (Devyn Lovett, Sam Zaldivar and Patrick Frenette) placed 2nd in ensembles and also got to perform in the Gala! This is a piece I choreographed for Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy. So...it was a good week!" We'd have to agree! Congratulations to you ALL!! :)

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    *All photos appear courtesy of Carolyn Lovett/Lovett Dance Center*



  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's All Premiere Offers Something for Everyone

    (l-r) Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura and corps de ballet dancers Sarah Pasch and Leah O’Connor in Andrew Bartee’s arms that work, presented as part of ALL PREMIERE, November 2 – 11, 2012. Photo © Angela Sterling.

    (l-r)

    Pacific Northwest Ballet continues its milestone 40th anniversary season with the current quadruple rep, “All Premiere”. This power-packed display showcases the choreographic genius of PNB dancers Andrew Bartee, Margaret Mullin and Kiyon Gaines, as well as a world premiere by “Seattle native makes good”, Mark Morris.

    Andrew Bartee’s “arms that work” opened the show and featured a massive wavy fence constructed of long vertical elastic bands. These bands allowed the dancers to move through, behind, and sometimes artfully twisted and tangled within the structure itself. Local composer, Barret Anspach created the musical narration behind this piece. (Does that name ring a bell? It should! His sister, Jessika is one of PNB’s lovely corps members. ;) ) Anspach’s music suited Bartee’s modern mix of bouncy, halting and sometimes jerky choreography perfectly. The tone behind Bartee’s piece felt a bit reminiscent of the endless internal struggle between what we want versus what we can’t have. While I can’t say for sure that’s what Bartee was going for (I refuse to read anything about a new piece ahead of time so I don’t watch with pre-conceived ideas), but that’s the direction my thoughts traveled.

    Margaret Mullin’s “Lost in Light” followed Bartee’s piece, which exuded far more joy and loveliness. The piece featured four couples sweeping gracefully across the stage filled with minimal light streaming down as if from heaven itself. While Mullin’s neoclassical style distinctly showcased each of these couple’s stunning technical attributes to a “T”, the real standout this time was corps member, Brittany Reid. For the first time ever, I was able to catch a glimpse of this young woman’s passionate, lyrical quality and was left in near jaw-dropping awe. Seriously, folks - she was amazing and she’s definitely secured her place as one of this year’s dancers to watch.

    Mark Morris’ “Kammermusik No. 3” had no clear “story” or human element behind it, but instead focused largely on witty, angular movements sewn together with a silver thread of fun. The set featured gorgeous magenta backdrop made even more striking with a black curtain that was lowered – then raised – during the various interludes. At one point the music was silent and all you could hear was the sound of the dancer’s feet whisking across the stage. The piece ends on a particularly playful note with one male dancer tossing another off stage. Whoosh!

    The final piece of the night (and the one that literally brought everyone to their feet in standing ovation), was Kiyon Gaines’ “Sum Stravinsky”. Let me begin by saying, “Ho…leeee….COWWWW!” With one fell swoop (and maybe a few pirouettes), Gaines masterfully secured his place in the choreographic annals of fame!

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carrie Imler in Kiyon Gaines’s Sum Stravinsky, presented as part of ALL PREMIERE, November 2 – 11, 2012. Photo © Angela Sterling.

    Pacific

    Gaines’ artistic eye was masterfully brought to life through the use of gorgeous partnering and impressive costumes. The supremely talented partnerships featuring Carrie Imler and Jonathan Poretta, and Maria Chapman and Karel Cruz brought a mile-wide grin to everyone’s faces. These dancers literally stole the show and left me (and I believe I speak for everyone else at McCaw Hall that night) with a desire for more. Typical ballet costumes (read: tutus and pointe shoes) in shades of powder blue and teal sparkled with new life, thanks to the talented Pauline Smith. (Chapman’s one shoulder tank style bodice was nothing short of gorgeous!) In short, Sum Stravinsky made my heart sing. It was completely, and unequivocally, awesome.

    From modern to classical, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s All Premiere offers something for every Seattle dance fan. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “All Premiere” runs through November 10th. Tickets available at PNB.org.

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