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Stage Rake

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This is not a topic for debate (or is it?) but I have often wondered what difference stage rake makes compared with dancing on a flat stage. When Darcey Bussel performed at the Maryinski Theatre last year many comments were made about how well she danced on the raked stage. I have just watched a performance on a raked stage which prompted this query. One of the panels many dancers will be able to answer this question which I have never seen discussed previously. Does it affect balance for a ballerina and does it affect male dancers to the same degree?

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Oh, boy - does that bring back memories - I've worked on flat and raked stages, but the worst time I ever had dancing was in New Haven CT, where I was supposed to be dancing at the "Festival on the Green". The first day's performances went fine; they had rigged an outdoor stage that I think must have been designed by the Theater and Engineering departments at Yale together - it was the best outdoor portable stage I ever worked on - but the second day, a nor-easter came through and tore up the festival site something fierce! We were transferred to Woolsey Hall, a concert hall at Yale whose prime function was to serve as a platform for concert music. The stage was very beautiful wood, kept highly shined with actual furniture wax! The management of the place (very polite, but very firm) wouldn't let us put rosin on the stage, for they were also very proud of the gloss, and this was the 60s - the Age before Marley - plus, the stage was raked a good 8 degrees. Well, we slipped and slid and knew this odd tendency to crowd the apron in "Les Sylphides" - and the only entrances/exits to either side were a couple of normal-sized doors, so the corps couldn't exit before the Grande Valse Brilliante, so we had to figure out what to do with them! My partner and I were dancing the Bluebird pas de deux(it was more or less a highlights program), and we kept noticing that if we did single pirouettes, we had a decent chance of ending where we had started, but all bets were off after one! Same went for double tours - start one place, end up a foot downstage. (And maybe not stop then, from the no-rosin rule)

I will note, however that I never saw a more careful performance of anything! While nobody throttled down or marked anything, everybody danced with an extreme concentration on placement, and getting the heels ALL the way down at every opportunity! I ached for a good two days after that experience, and thereafter, if the Festival were rained out, the dance venue was made the old Yale Drama School Theater when we made a representation to the Festival producer of the difficulties of the beautiful but treacherous Woolsey Hall.

Wow! wotta war story! Does this provide some anecdotal answers to the question?

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Depends on the choreography! I was asked to do Flower Festival a couple of years ago in France - I had performed it here a few times and it was SO much easier on the raked stage!! You barely have to jump to pointe the bottom foot! There is a series of turns in the female variation that require your weight to be forward - no problem on a raked stage! You'll notice that most of the'old' choreography requires men to do great leaping variations from upstage to down, and then walk back upstage to do it again.......much easier to jump going downhill than up! Although it took a few tries to find my balance in pirouetttes, I would much rather do Flower Festival on the raked stage it was choreographed for! Balanchine on the other hand...........

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Brooke, in which French theater did you dance?

I've read that some POB dancers had problems because the stage of the Opera Garnier (the "old" Opera, built around 1875)

was raked, while the stage of the Opera Bastille (the "new" one, opened in 1989) isn't, and they have to dance on both stages...

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Estelle, it's terrible when you have to switch stages every performance, you need as minimum couple rehearsals to adjust to new conditions. This is why I don't recommend to go to the first performance of any European company in America, they really don't understand what they are doing. Plus they need another three days for time adjustment or we will see crowling flies on the stage.


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