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Outdoor performance weather horror stories

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More summer fun. Treefrog's very funny post about the weather at a Joffrey performance in Ravinia suggested this one.

Have you ever been at an outdoor performance where the weather took center stage? Tell us about it -- dancers as well as audience members!

I can remember one ghastly "Swan Lake" with the Royal at Wolf Trap. One of the worst thunder storms I've ever seen. Couldn't wait for the fourth act, no, no. Had to come in the third. Just as Marguerite Porter was about to lurch into her fouettes, the lights went out and a quick thinking stage hand, meaning to be helpful, instantly turned a light on (think all those World War II movies when the Nazis first figure out that the prisoners have escaped, that kind of light), smack in her face, so she was undersandably disoriented. More thunder. BOOM BOOM BOOM. More lightning. Perhaps Odette's mother was trying to help out. The performance stopped. Then the orchestra started again. Derek Deane, the evening's Prince, walked out of the wings, completely out of character, and mimed, "So, lilke, what the hell am I supposed to do?"

People on the lawn, understandably concerned, crowded into the main theater. Even in the main theater, under cover, the lightning was scary. The performance was halted for a time, and I honestly can't remember what happened -- did they pick it up mid-act, or just pretend it was danced and go on to Act 4? ??

Treefrog, I've been at Wolf Trap in 50 degree weather, too. It's not pleasant. The summer parks are often 10, 20 degrees cooler than the city, and if there's the slightest chance of a temperature dip, I make sure there are blankets in the car.

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ABT at Carter Barron, many years ago. We were in the middle of Graduation Ball when the thunder storm hit. Within seconds people were sliding on the stage, and we had to stop the performance. Many audience members stayed, sitting there with their umbrellas open, hoping that it would stop, but it did not.

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Two or three years ago, in August, I tried to attend a performance of "Paris Quartier d'Ete" in Paris, in the gardens of the Palais Royal, but it was stopped by the rain. Actually, if I remember correctly, it started raining just when the music started. So everything stopped, people waited until the rain (which was quite light then) stopped, then some stage crew came and started cleaning the stage. Then the dancing was about to begin again... and the rain started pouring down very stronly, with thunder, lightnings, a strong cold wind, and there even was a light which exploded! There was a moment of panic in the crowd, everybody rushed to find a dry place under the arcades which surround the gardens, and the performance was cancelled. The tickets were reimbursed later, but it costed me an umbrella, as mine didn't survive the wind...

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Glebb will remember this too. Blossom Music Festival in July with 40F degree temperatures and hail dancing in unitards and then on to Wolf Trap with 105F degree temperatures doing Petrushka and Patineurs in wool jackets, padding, hats and wigs! If only we could have switched programming....

We complained to management during Wolf trap but we told how nice it was that the audience was seeing snow on stage to remind them of cooler times....

There was a performance by Joffrey at Ravinia of Arias' Heptagon, to the Poulenc Organ Concerto, where it thundered every time Christain Holder reached upward in his port de bras - eerie it was. I always had more awe of Christian after that one.

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Last night was merely uncomfortable for the audience, not as horrific as some of these other stories! We were well-equipped with warm jackets, hats, and blankets, but we saw one fool in shorts ...

I've been musing, though, about what goes through each party's mind: company management ("... we really need the money, and we have a reputation to protect..."), site management ("the show must go on! We're running a festival here!"), audience ("I must be crazy ... but I paid so much for the tickets and I've been so looking forward to this") and dancers ("Oh, s***!"). Am I on target? Any thoughts I forgot?

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I'm here, and I'll get even wetter if I make a run for the car? :)

mbjerk, I've been at Wolf Trap on its hot nights, too (never forgetting the humidity). I remember the Paris Opera Ballet dancing "Swan Lake" when it was in the high 90s. I was sitting far front, and the dancers costumes had obviously not dried out from the night before -- they were soaked when the curtain went up. The colors from the decoration on the men's white blouses had run.

It was hideously oppressive -- and, of course, we weren't under lights. I kept thinking that if it was bad for people who lived in DC and were used to these sumemrs, how hellish it would be for someone used to Paris, yet the dancers didn't show any sign of fatigue or annoyance, and they danced absolutely full out. And it was a summer park audience. Most of the people around me had never seen Swan Lake -- I admired the company tremendously for, in effect, dancing better than they had to. (Sometimes, living here in the provinces, we do get the "what do they know? we can let up" performance.)

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Two or three years ago (I get worse at gauging timing as I am further and further from high school), Paul Taylor Co. was scheduled to perform outdoors in Damrosch Park. There were two consecutive rainy evenings. I believe the first night was cancelled, but I went to the second, despite the evening's light rain/drizzle.

The opening was delayed for about 20 minutes. The drizzle became light and intermittent, The dancers themselves took brooms to remove standing water from the stage, and Francie Huber had her triumphant New York farewell in Piazzola Caldera. The confluence of it being her last New York performance, and the struggle to make sure the show went on gave it extra meaning for dancers and audience.

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I have another Joffrey/Wolf Trap story: It was the year (1975) of the revival of Gerald Arpino's "Valentine" with a score by Jacob Druckman, for double bass accompanied by the bassist, who was supposed to mutter and jabber at certain points of the score. Alvin Brehm, our bassist, always did his best in this ballet based on a boxing metaphor about the Battle of the Sexes. Rebecca Wright was the female lead, and sparred with Christian Holder. One night at Wolf Trap, a monster cloudburst came right over the theater (you could tell - no delay between flash and boom, and that ominous click that you hear that tells you you're too close to the lightning!) and, as Alvin was about as wired-up as a telephone exchange, with all the mikes and whatnot that he had to wear, "Valentine" ran in a record short time! Every time Becky would give Christian such a zetz, BOOM! When they finished, the dancers bowed, as Alvin was stripping wires from himself and his instrument, tearing his costume in the process! He received a particularly vigorous hand that night.

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Indeed I do remember those Ravinia and Wolf Trap performances mbjerk! Funny I don't remember any weather disasters at Artpark. I guess Artpark has more protection from the elements.

There is a Joffrey/outdoor theatre situation in the upcoming Altman film "The Company".

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I did see one horrific outdoor performance, not of a ballet, but an opera. It was the 'Met in the Park Concert Series' performanc e of "Lucia" on Staten Island. The poor Lucia and her Edgardo (Annick Massis and Jonathan Welch) were attacked unmercifully by a horde of insects that looked as large as moths. (They are known locally as "JuneBugs"). They swarmed around and got stuck in the soprano's hair and sought out her bosom for refuge. She shook the front of her dress (with the help of her Tenor!) to dislodge them. Apparently, the bugs were attracted by the very bright lights on the stage. When it was deemed foolhardy to open one's mouth under the circumstances, the program was halted. After the performers regained their composure, the program continued---without the lights.

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Insects too at Miller in Houston. When I had to do the doll in Act II Copelia, it was awful. You could not twitch, or have your mouth slightly open. Between the mosquitos and gnats it was a competition between me and the bugs. The bugs often won. Even as Franz sleeping through Act II these pests were a bother. I also did Act III Beauty pas there and my partner and I ended up spitting insects at eachother one fine evening. It is hard to breathe without sucking in the buggers.

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great thread. :) treefrog, your responses are spot on, IMO.

mbjerk: 'patineurs' outdoors in 40 degrees? yuck-o! :eek:

glebb - thanks for reminding us of the magic, which i can really relate to, too. i don't recall ever being at performances which were rained out or didn't happen, nor where anything went wrong because of the weather - but i DO remember the ones where the weather and/or the outdoor environment truly amplified the sensual dance/music experience in magical ways.

every summer, in february, the west australian ballet (WAB) do a season in an old rock-quarry, which has been converted into an amphitheatre (by the late architect-husband of a nearby resident, who is a ballet teacher). it's in some low rolling hills in the suburbs, just above the city, so that the city lights are visible in the distance, if you are sitting up the back - as i prefer to. (if you are sitting close to the stage, the stage is surrounded by trees.)

our summers are very reliably dry, but i know some performances have very occasionally not happened, or started late due to sprinkles...

i would love to see, again, a ballet by stephen page, aboriginal choreographer, commisioned by WAB a few years ago. can't recall the title - but its atmospheric music, which included didgeridoo and nature sounds - on top of the ambient sounds of the LIVE nature...(because little creatures DO live in the surrounding bush) was marvellous - the warm night air really adds a vital dimension, and the dance (a melange of aboriginal dance, animal movements and **BALLET**!) was superb - the most refreshing balletic choreography i have ever seen. it was an indulgence for ALL the senses.

another memorable outdoor story was at battersea park, in london, in the mid-80's, where i saw the rambert do christopher bruce's 'ghost dances' - a work where i love the movement style and its relationship to the music - in "the tent". now this is a BIG tent.... the performances "in the park" are (or were) an annual event, and sometimes include the major ballet companies.

the evening was quite pleasant, but just as this work began, a tremendous thundercrack was heard overhead, and the skies opened. the storm continued through the work, sometimes 'drowning out' the music. there was no risk to the show, as we were ALL safely dry, inside the tent - but the extra dimension added by God was something else - especially given the dramatic meaning of the ballet.

great memories.

alexandra - where are you calling "the provinces"?

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This one is only part weather. The New Haven Green is no slouch when it comes to wildlife either. Except this was avian in nature. The ballet was Giselle, and the first act went uneventfully in the twilight. As darkness came, and deepened in the intermission, a large flock of starlings took refuge in the trees and upper works of the staging. They gave nice creepy creaks and burps as act II proceeded, but they did what starlings do all over the Wilis. Given what starlings eat, it's got a lot of green and purple in it, and the Wilis and everybody else were soon apparently caught in an epidemic of chickenpox. All efforts to dislodge the birds met with no success at all, until the rain came at just about the time of the breaking of Myrtha's wand - then it poured, at least partially cleaning up the performers.

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A couple of years ago, at SFB's Stern Grove performance, the weather was cold, foggy, windy, and not summer-like at all. As a result they canceled Symphony in 3 Movements, and performed Solo and Sandpaper Ballet in warmups to prevent injuries caused by cold weather. This was after about an hour of deliberation, and Tomasson himself delivered the news. (As soon as he came out, people applauded).

Postscript 7-28: This year's Stern Grove festival saw the cancellation of the final program, Paquita, for the same reason. Maybe they should change venues or something...

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Guest Danielle

A few years ago we were performing at a summer festival. We were performing sections of an origional work by the artistic director called " Seascapes"(about the ocean). In one section we were actually in these "bags" and completely blind not to mention hot!! So already, it is an uncomfortable situation. On this particular afternoon it was raining on and off and right as this section began, the wind began to pick up. In these bags, we became sort of like kites with each wind gust and each time we stretched out the bag we almost got blown right off the stage!( or at least thats how it felt) :D Of course, since we couldn't see anything, we had no idea where the wind had pushed us. It was almost a disaster. Each time the company performs Seascapes, we pray to not be cast in the "bag section"! It is a very nice visual effect but, nerve racking for the dancer inside of the bag! We don't do that section of the ballet outside anymore! :rolleyes:

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