I was the second corps Shade when dancing for the National Ballet of Canada. On the ramp - and in some theatres you have a double ramp (this means you climb a sort of ladder off stage and wait on a dark platform before you get into place for your first arabesque) - you have a bright light shining right in your range of vision when facing into the wings and it is hard not to be blinded by that light surrounded by the dark stage and wings. If you get spots in your eyes, you will be have a rough time seeing anything. All the rehearsing in the rehearsal room and on stage without that lighting cannot help you deal with that stark light in your eyes surrounded by black everywhere else. The whole entrance of arabesques going into the beautiful adagio by the corps requires an adagio technique which is not stressed in class or other ballets. It is a beautiful ballet to dance, and hard and on the legs and breath for the corps because of the sustained control of the adagio followed by the following waltz where the three soloists come on stage. I am flying into SF to see tomorrow night's show.
Great information - I'd like to hear what you think about the staging and lighting used for SFB (how it compares). It looks like you will see a really good cast for The Firebird (Tan, Helimets and De Sola). I think that was the original cast for Tuesday night, but things got changed around. I had really wanted to see Yuan Yuan as the Firebird. As she is nearing the end of her career (hopefully a few more years), now is the time to see her: one of the most elegant, ethereal dancers of her generation.
Messmer is dancing the Firebird role on Sunday - wish I could be there. ;)