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Attending Reheasals


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#1 SanderO

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 06:41 PM

A nice lady from the ABT called this evening requesting that I become some sort of sponsor and they have all sorts of membership levels with all sorts of perks and each contribution is matched by Andrew Mellon... a nice rich chap.

One of the perks is tickets to attend a dress rehearsal at the MET and perhaps a buffet with the company...at their rehearsal space after a rehearsal or class ... I am not exactly sure what this perk is. The bigger the donation, the more rehearsals and other perks you get.

I would probably prefer to spend my money on tickets to performances than on support if I had to choose. And I do have to choose.

So my question to BT is... would seeing a rehearsal be beneficial to someone such as myself.. would it enrich my ballet experience in the future? Do I even want to see a performance in rehearsal and not the actual performance? What should I be looking for at a rehearsal? The lowest support level IS affordable.

As odd as this may sound I have a strange desire to not actually know the dancers or choreographers etc on any close up personal level... just to sit in the theater and be transported by the ballet experience. Is this odd?

#2 Helene

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 07:27 PM

So my question to BT is... would seeing a rehearsal be beneficial to someone such as myself.. would it enrich my ballet experience in the future? Do I even want to see a performance in rehearsal and not the actual performance? What should I be looking for at a rehearsal? The lowest support level IS affordable.

Having just forked over my credit card number to a very nice man from the Seattle Opera, I'm going to answer this in a rather cynical way: my suggestion is to find someone who is already a donor who can bring you to a rehearsal so that you can decide for yourself whether it's worth it. Then if you decide it is, you'll be on their "make him into a repeat donor" list, instead of donating once and then stopping, at which point they'll put you on their "get him back as a donor list," which is more annoying than their "make him into a first-time donor" list. (In my opinion.)

Whether a rehearsal is valuable to you depends on a number of factors: where it takes place, whether there are any concessions to having an audience, where you are allowed to sit, whether the technical aspects of a technical rehearsal are interesting to you or if it would drive you crazy if someone yells something about the lights and the dancer stops in the middle of a passage so that the techs can recalibrate a cue or adjust a light, if floppy legwarmers and a tutu will drive you to distraction, etc. All rehearsals, unless otherwise noted, supposedly run as if an audience isn't there, but I suspect that's not 100% true. I gave up on NYCB stage dress rehearsals because I really didn't like where we had to sit, and the people around me chatted way too much during the rehearsal, which made getting a few hours off from work not at all worth it. (But that was almost 20 years ago.)

I prefer studio rehearsals, with dancers and the stager/choreographer, maybe some of the artistic staff, and a pianist. One of the best things I saw, I think as a low-level donor benefit at PNB, was a presentation in the studio by Francia Russell, Patricia Barker, and Benjamin Houk on how dancers were coached in and rehearsed Swan Lake in a studio. It wasn't strictly a rehearsal, because Russell made it into a teaching session for us, and the dancers spoke a bit, too. She pointed out how different dancers have different partnering needs -- these two had been partners for years and had premiered a number of ballets together -- and what the challenges of partnering Barker -- her legs are muscular and aren't strictly straight, and she said it made it hard to partner her in supported turns -- are compared to another dancer.

But the thing I will remember most about it: I watched Hauk partner Barker from up close, and in the White Swan pas de deux, watched him in the passage where Odetted is in low arabesque and slightly atilt and then falls backwards into his arms. He initiated the entire movement with one hand under her ribs, and by holding the front of her ribs with his fingers, and pressing with the base of his hand into her back ribs. She swivelled and swooned. (Isn't physics grand?)

As odd as this may sound I have a strange desire to not actually know the dancers or choreographers etc on any close up personal level... just to sit in the theater and be transported by the ballet experience. Is this odd?

The only dancers I've ever met (in the past) are those who've taught adult open classes, and occasionally, their dancing spouses and partners in passing, and one who brought a small troupe to Jacob's Pillow and to whom I babbled incoherently about a piece he had choreographed, until, much to my chagrin, I realized that Scotty wasn't there to beam me up when I had finally stopped.

I have no interest in meeting dancers, either. I'd rather that they lead their regular lives and meet people in everyday ways, and that if I was ever in line with a dancer at the supermarket, at most we'd exchange the standard complaints about how slow the line is, just like other strangers.

#3 carbro

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 07:48 PM

I have attended a few ABT dress rehearsals, and while I enjoy them, I don't find them enlightening. About the only thing I observed that gave any insight into the performance was when a dancer stopped and asked for a change of tempo. Otherwise, it is much like watching a performance. You can hear that the artistic staff is making suggestions to the performers, but you can't really hear (or see, usually) what the correction is.

I'd really like to hear those comments, so I can see the dancers' responses. I want that kind of insight. But I'd have to cozy up to a higher level donor to get access to the studio rehearsals where I'd be close enough to see and hear the things that differentiate rehearsal from performance.

#4 Farrell Fan

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 07:18 AM

The dress rehearsals at ABT that I've been to have been very much like regular performances -- including applause from the audience. The rehearsals at NYCB are working rehearsals with just piano accompaniment and attendees are not allowed to sit on the orchestra level. There are many starts and stops, but it is not possible to hear what's being said -- unless Mr. Martins is sitting in the orchestra and using a microphone. I don't think much insight is gained from either kind of rehearsal. My favorite "behind the scenes" activity is observing a class at the School of American Ballet, a perk available to donors there -- at least it used to be.

I can't let the subject go by without reprising the story of the time I snuck into a closed Suzanne Farrell Ballet rehearsal at the Kennedy Center and sat in the dark in the last row of the orchestra. At the intermission of that evening's performance she thanked me for attending the rehearsal -- further proof that the woman has supernatural powers.

#5 Dale

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 08:40 AM

I found that there are two types of ABT open rehearsal - one was sort of a dress rehearsal run through. The type described above in which there is an orchestra and clapping and much more like a regular performance. I once went to one for big donors (a friend's father forked over the money). It took place at the ABT studios. We sat along the studio's mirrors while the dancers did a real rehearsal. The group was separated into two - we sat in two different studios and for the whole day different rehearsals took place. A rehearsal for Apollo with just four dancers was followed by a corps run through of Theme and Variations.

I really enjoyed the rehearsals at NYCB, described well by Farrell Fan. I could hear a little (we were sitting in the first ring), but much was gained by the body language and demonstrations.

#6 kfw

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 08:46 AM

The rehearsals at NYCB are working rehearsals with just piano accompaniment and attendees are not allowed to sit on the orchestra level

Yes, but First Ring ain't too shabby! I don't know if I've ever learned much from rehearsals, but I enjoy watching the dancers perform in leotards and whatnot, I enjoy watching them polishing particular sections or steps, I enjoy noting how these then look in performance, and I like seeing the camraderie among the dancers.

#7 bart

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 09:37 AM

And then there are those companies with huge windows allowing people on the sidewalk to observe what is going on in the main studios. Miami City Ballet has such a system in Miami Beach.

#8 Treefrog

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 05:56 AM

I've only been able to attend one tech rehearsal, as the invitations are usually for early afternoon when I am teaching. I do kind of like seeing everyone in rehearsal clothes. But the real benefit for me was having a preview of a piece I'd not seen before. When I subsequently saw it in performance, there were particular things I could anticipate and look for.

Plus, I happened to be seated next to a gentleman who was very knowledgeable about ballet in general and the Joffrey in particular, and I very much enjoyed the conversation during the breaks.

#9 pj

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 01:57 PM

I LOVE attending rehearsals. I have only seen two companies (ABT and Kirov) in rehearsal, but those times were just so much a part of understanding the hard work of ballet. Just as a side note, I still felt the "magic" during the performances after the rehearsals. For me, it added to the experience, as it was so interesting to see the personalities of the dancers and especially of the artistic directors, as they directed their dancers. I would never miss an opportunity to see a rehearsal in the theatre (or the studio, for that matter).


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