Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ballet Boot Camp Year II aka Ashley Bouder Knows My Name aka Darci Kistler: The End of a Remarkable Era

Well if you have been wondering what I have been up to the past.....month I have not been posting, then you should know that I have been dancing my tail feathers off at a ballet summer intensive in Saratoga Springs, New York.

One of the benefits of this particular program is that many of the dancers you look up to on the SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) stage then come to teach your ballet class! For example, my intensive was witness to the incredible New York City Ballet Gala which marked the final performance of Darci Kistler in Saratoga in the ballet "Slaughter on 10th Avenue." She is retiring with the NYCB next year at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. Her retirement marks the end of an era with the NYC Ballet because she is the last ballerina in the company to have been chosen by Balanchine to join the company. Just a few short days after this amazing gala I was taught by Darci Kistler herself. First she watched our rehearsal of the "Raymonda Variations" and then taught us an amazing pointe class. Oh and just saying: She said I did beautiful pique turns =D =D It was possibly the best moment of my life.

We also had the fabulous opportunity to be taught the Raymonda Variations (and many other classes) by none other than Ashley Bouder, one of the best ballerinas in the whole world and a principal dancer with the NYCB, and Melinda Roy, a former principal dancer with the NYCB and the director of the summer intensive. We worked so closely with Ashley that she quickly learned all of our names. She is one tough cookie, but she makes everything perfect. She is a wonderful teaher and oh my gosh what a gorgeous dancer. I can't even describe! One day we walked into the studio and she was rehearsing Firebird. All of us were stunned. We sat 5 feet from her as she danced through the pas de deux by herself, hearing her breathe and seeing her every move. That's an experience that none of us will forget.

One of the perks of being in the highest level of the intensive (while it is extremely difficult) is the opportunity to take a partnering class with dancers from the NYCB. Such participants include Ask la Cour, Amar Ramasar, and Henry Seth who are so wonderful and kind and are so helpful. This was my first experience in a pas de deux class and they were so understanding and always wanted to help. The other wonderful thing is that we had four classes: two taught by Jason Fowler, one taught by Philip Neal, and one taught by the legendary Jock Soto. It's hard to imagine my emotions when he walked into the room. He said so many funny and wacky things like "You want to be like the prize turkey" and when we stood proud before a combination he turned to Melinda Roy and said "Those are prize turkeys." He was quite the character.

Daniel Ulbricht.... Oh my what to say what to sayyyyy. Well he complimented my passe and had me demonstrate a balance for the whole class. It made my day. He taught us only twice but both times he was so charming and personal and we all learned a lot from him. He is such a charismatic dancer and he translates that so well to his teaching. He gives difficult combinations that are often very fast and very complicated and it's fabulous because it makes us work so hard! Plus we're trying to impress him =) but that's not a big deal haha. He says that he gives us these crazy things so that when another teacher comes and gives us a simpler combination, we can relax and focus on our technique rather than too much on the steps. I found that to be so logical, or maybe I was just charmed.'s logical.

This NYCB SPAC season, while a week shorter than last years, was just as exciting. Even more exciting than the season itself, however, was the dancers that I had the privilege to study under this summer. Thank you NYCB!

Back to opera soon I promise!

Happy Listening!! =)

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