Frankly, it was a thrill to watch the dancers in a "rehearsal" environment (which I have rarely done). It is one thing to watch them perform; quite another to be able to also watch them as they "step off the stage into the wings". I got the biggest kick out of seeing someone like Carla Korbes "do her thing" as if she were on stage, but then at the conclusion of her dance, she walks away, hands on hips, in a natural stride, recovering her breath, just as I assume would happen in the wings on performance night. I was fascinated to watch the dancers watch each other as one by one they performed pieces that perhaps no one has seen in 100 years (since it took Doug's ability to decipher Stepanov's notation system to recreate them). They would laugh and joke with each other, or re-lace point shoes, or put on a tutu for the next demonstration. I felt I could detect a spirit of competition among the dancers, as well as a desire to be the one in the lime light at that moment; but also a sense of fun, family, and team, as they, like all of us in the room, appreciated the talent of the current dancer.
I've been thinking about this since Sandy first posted it. One of the oddest things about the experience was the realization that while we, the audience, could see backstage, the dancers could also see us!
I just finished reading Kyle Froman's new book, In the Wings: Behind the Scenes at the New York City Ballet
, and in it he writes:
Because we can't see the audience, I sometimes imagine who's out there. Instead of dancing to blackness and stage lights, which is basically what we see, I think of the different types mixing in the house. I know there's always a group of students from the School of American Ballet, but I imagine society ladies dressed to the nines, young couples experiencing ballet for the first time, and devotees who've come for years....
Some come for the glamour of the evening, and others want to see sweat. Wherever these people have come from, their world is as exotic to us as ours is to them. Imagine wearing a suit and tie to work instead of tights. Wouldn't it be weird to wear one set of clothes all day instead of changing over and over. Do "normal" people worry how their feet are pointing?
So here were were, in a brightly-lit studio, caught staring at, for example, Benjamin Griffiths' hair, wondering how he made it look so different (and unplastered) for the Balanchine program, or the boys group, who could have been 10-year-olds, sitting self-conscious and huddled under the bar, their knees held against their chests, until they unfolded themselves, got up to dance, and proved themselves to be the 12-14-year old dancers they were.
While I don't know what they were thinking, seeing a small set of core audience, but I could imagine Peter Boal thinking, "I hope they're all signed up for the Reverence Society," and perhaps the dancers, "She left the house wearing that
?" or "He's kind of cute," or "She reminds me of my aunt," or "Isn't there someone under 50 in the room besides us?" But whatever they were thinking, there was little mystery left