I’ve been so excited to write this post, the final in my series on ballet! Today is all about the performance, the end goal, what arguably everyone associates ballet with. I think that a lot of people have been to the ballet at least once (or a play/ musical/ opera/ symphony), and have some understanding on what is going on from the audience side. However, everything behind the stage? It usually stays backstage. It is much like the duck on water; floating along calmly on top, with feet moving incredibly quickly and chaotically beneath the water. Without further adieu, a day of performance!
We had performances on the evening on Saturday, and the afternoon and evening of Sunday. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has their own studio at the school, so I essentially lived there for the weekend. It was a fairly exhausting and gruelling weekend, but I loved every minute of it!
On Saturday afternoon, I headed to the school fairly early- there was a Jets game happening that evening, and I wanted to guarantee that I would have parking. Warm up started at 630pm, and I was there by 445pm- while it does seem excessively early, it allowed me more than enough time to properly stretch and warm up. I did my hair and the base of my make up at home to make my pre-show to-do list a lot shorter.
We do a full half hour warm up led by one of the ballet teachers. It’s a little cramped, with 50+ adults crammed into a studio, but you angle yourselves at the barre and pay attention to where your extensions (legs/ arms) are. I loved our warm ups for all three shows, they were really aimed at the advanced students which isn’t so common. I have to hand it to the ballet teachers for running and a warm up of that size for a range of beginner to advanced adults!
Once warm up is done, we all waited in an over-sized studio- you keep moving, and typically run your piece(s) once or twice to solidify it. For some dancers, it’s helpful; for others, it is a hindrance. I personally find it quite helpful- it keeps all of my corrections and “trouble” spots in the forefront of my mind, and I can keep working it to build up the correct muscle memory. It also keeps your muscles lose and the blood flowing. Typical ballet etiquette would say that you don’t interfere with someone else’s pre-show rituals- so not everyone will necessarily run the piece. (They also may be actually on stage with another piece…) A show runner will tell you when it’s your turn to head down, and you wait backstage…
My only “ritual” of sort is what I do when waiting to go backstage. I have a certain set of rises, jumps, and port de bras (arm movements) that I do to keep everything limber and warm without wasting any energy that I need. I continue moving until it’s time! Depending on the theatre and the set up the size, layout, and lighting of backstage varies. If you are in the wings- the black curtains on the sides that run parallel to the stage that hides everything going on- you do have to be “on” because there is a good chance that someone on the opposite side of the audience can see you. A good rule of thumb is whispers or less, you never know what will happen with music, and you don’t want to be heard from the audience.
Whether or not you start onstage or offstage, it is always a rush to when you go from darkness to stage lights. Interestingly, I find that the stage lights kind of eliminates the audience- it’s pretty tough to see anything past the stage lights! Quite frankly, I like it that way because you won’t have to see any expressions or reactions. Realistically, there are some people that love a piece and some people that will hate it. That’s just how it goes. However, I don’t necessarily want to see that while I am dancing…. The performances built in strength throughout the weekend. People were able to get their bearings, we were able to make needed adjustments, and the movements just become so normal to your body that you can do it almost without thought! I was the most proud of the final performance- I was relaxed and confident, and just happy. I’m sure that I did make mistakes throughout, but it felt like everything was perfect! That is quite a rare feeling for a performance.
I take my make up off at home, before I shower to wash the helmet of hairspray off of my head. It is a gross amount of product coming off your head, but I think that it’s worth it from the audience perspective. I use a combination of micellar water and Clinique Cleansing Balm to remove my make up! It takes a while to get it all off, but I dislike the feeling of oil based cleansers. At the end of it all, the only thing left is stretching and to fall into bed.
I hope that you have enjoyed this series! This is truly the most fun that I’ve had in the two plus years I’ve had my blog, it has been wonderful to share something so important to me. Please feel free to ask any ballet or dance related questions you might have!