My Second Semester at the Ballet West Academy
My Second Semester at the Ballet West Academy
I’m back! Hello everyone. This is a little late, but I’m so excited to share my third guest blog. I’ll be talking about my second semester at the Ballet West Academy. The second semester was nonstop and just kept going. We had classes, performances, competitions and lots of rehearsals!
Where I left off before, we were about to begin rehearsal with the company for John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. For the five trainee parts, bridge people/citizens, they used the tallest five girls. Considering I am 5”4’ and at Ballet West, I am not one of the five tallest. Anyone who wasn’t cast, was a cover. I actually really enjoyed watching the process of a ballet be set on a company. I had never seen, or been a part of that before and it was important to learn. Although it was a little challenging to sit in 3-6 hours of rehearsal sometimes, it was so cool to see the ballet go from studio to stage. The four Juliets, in cast order, were Beckanne Sisk, Arolyn Williams, Katie Critchlow and Sayaka Ohtaki. The Romeos, also in cast order, were Chase O’Connell, Christopher Ruud, Alexander MacFarlan and Rex Tilton. Every couple portrayed the story so beautifully and emotionally. It was inspiring to be able to watch from the wings.
The last week of February was spent in intense preparation for the Salt Lake City Regional Semi-Final for the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition. Ballet West Academy had over 103 solos compete, 4 pas de deuxs, 1 pas de trois and 2 large ensembles. I competed Flames of Paris, Pharaoh’s Daughter and my contemporary piece, Power. I felt that my pieces went pretty well and a picture of my contemporary piece made it in the Salt Lake Tribune. The large ensemble, Fierce Sun, also went very well! When the awards ceremony had concluded, the Ballet West Academy “came home” with:
-3 ensembles in the Large Ensemble Top 12, Fierce Sun, Pas de Trois from Swan Lake and Dissident
-2nd Place in Large Ensembles, Dissident
-2nd Place in Pas de Deux, Pas de Deux from Diana and Acteon
-1st Place in Pas de Deux, When It Is Time
-1 student in the Pre Competitive Classical Top 12
-1 student in the Junior Contemporary Top 12
-6 students in the Junior Classical Top 24
-2 students in the Junior Classical Top 12
-4 students in the Senior Contemporary Top 12, Myself included
-2nd Place in Senior Contemporary, Savannah Lyle
-1st Place in Senior Contemporary, Kenedy Kallas
-10 students in the Senior Classical Top 24, Myself included
-6 students in the Senior Classical Top 12
-3rd Place in Senior Classical, Ashleigh Richardson
-1st Place in Senior Classical, Savannah Lyle
-We were also awarded the Outstanding School Award
Everyone was so proud and excited for what we accomplished. The day before, we had found out that our large ensemble Fierce Sun and 2 of our soloists had been invited to perform in the inaugural Night of Shining Stars Gala. We were a bit starstruck as we walked the hall to find our dressing room, walking by the names of Daniel Ulbricht, Whitney Jensen, Fabrice Camels, Juliette Bosco, Beckanne Sisk, Vanessa Zahorian, Taras Domitro and so many other talented students and professionals.
After YAGP had concluded, no time was wasted in preparation for Ballet West’s World Premiere of Beauty and the Beast as a part of the Family Series. We had exactly one month to learn the ballet, receive casting and rehearse. The first two weeks, we rehearsed like the company. In the morning we had technique class with Ballet West II, followed by hours of rehearsals. Everyone really had to pay attention because people were often different parts in different casts, which meant they were learning a few parts at the same time in addition to anything they were covering. I was cast as a castle statue, rose and wolf cover.
I found that month of rehearsing difficult because everyday was a bit of a surprise. One day you were practicing on the side and the next day you were put in and had to know what you were doing, to not slow or inconvenience the rehearsal. With such little time, progress needed to be made everyday. This happened to me a few times and on occasion, the spot that I went in for wasn’t even mine. When this was the case, I just had to go over the choreography and figure it out before we got to that section of the ballet. It was a little stressful, but was also real world experience.
The costumes, sets, choreography, music and narration together made this ballet so much fun. My statue costume was a gray ballgown kind of dress with gray tights and gray pointe shoes. We had gray gloves and a light gray wig with curls. We also had to apply this white powder to make us appear like we were made of porcelain. The rose costumes were tutus with an olive green bodice and bright pink skirt. We had pink tights, pink point shoes, a headpiece with roses and wore a french twist for our hairstyle.
There were 11 performance of this ballet in 4 days, which was rather exhausting but the casts were rotated a lot. Right after our show weekend was spring break, so everyone got to rest after a strenuous few days. I was able to go home and see my family for the first time since Christmas and see my dogs for the first time since October! While I was home, I also got to do a photoshoot with the incredibly talented Peter Hinsdale, @chippercentral on Instagram. We got some great shots at the Art Institute of Chicago and in Millennium Park. His attention to detail and symmetry is amazing and he was awesome to work with! The rest of the time I was home, I was taking classes at the Ruth Page School of Dance and with one of my favorite teachers.
When I got back from spring break, we were rehearsing for YAGP Finals in New York. Ballet West had 3 Senior Category Soloists, all 4 Pas de Deuxs, the Pas de Trois and the Large Ensemble competing. The week of finals was so much fun! I got to be with my parents and I ran into so many friends. Throughout the week, I was also taking classes at Steps on Broadway. I had the privilege of taking class with Alessandra Ferri, Maria Kowroski, members of New York City Ballet and was in class when the New York Times was working on a piece about Maria Kowroski.
The soloists from Ballet West Academy performed beautifully! The pas de deuxs and pas de trois also did a wonderful job! The ensemble was more rocky than we all would have preferred. Pieces before us had lotion on their legs and feet leaving the stage pretty slick and we were all in pointe shoes. There was a lot of slipping and unintentional sliding. We also hadn’t rehearsed in about a week due to some coordination issues. Although we were all a bit disappointed, we were excited to find out that Kenedy had made it to the final round of the competition. She did very well, so we were all excited to hear the results during awards. Ballet West Academy was awarded:
-Top 12 in Ensembles for When It Is Time- Kennedy Kallas and Colin Jacob
-Top 6 in Classical Pas de Deux for the Pas de Deux from Satanella- Ashleigh Richardson and Jackson Schene
-Top 12 in the Senior Category- Kennedy Kallas
-The Natalia Makarova Award- Kennedy Kallas
Students were also awarded scholarships to some of the top ballet schools in the world, including the Berlin State Ballet School, Houston Ballet Academy, Dutch National Ballet Academy and the Princess Grace Academy.
In the week after YAGP Finals, we had to prepare for one final show of Beauty and the Beast to be performed in Ogden, Utah. This last performance was the final thing for the Ballet West II season, so there was a lot of excitement going into the show. There was also some nervousness, however, because the cast going on stage wasn’t actually a full cast. Due to injuries, the cast was a mix of everyone and I was actually put into a new castle statue spot. The show ended up being just fine and was followed by a party thrown by a Ballet West donor. This was the first event of that kind that I had been to and it was really fun.
The very next day, I flew to Berlin to be a part of a cultural dance exchange with the Staatsliche Ballettschule Berlin, the Berlin State Ballet School. I will go into detail with TONS of pictures in another blog, because it was two weeks jam-packed of amazing experiences and adventures.
The day I flew home from Berlin, I headed straight to the theater to watch a Cinderella rehearsal. In the two weeks I was gone, everyone was hard at work to get this ballet together for the spring show. The next day, I was in the rehearsals. My body felt like mashed potatoes after sitting on a plane for a total of 13 hours the day before, but that’s the life of a dancer. I was ecstatic to find out that I had been cast as a Stepsister in Cinderella, Mazurka when I wasn’t a Stepsister and as Irma in the Abdallah Suite. There was a ton to learn, but it was a wonderful challenge to take on.
As the show weekend was upon us, there was so much excitement. Everyone was ready to perform, but also get to summer break because it had been such a long year. The shows went very well! The acting as a Stepsister wasn’t as challenging as I thought it might be. I tend to be a very serious dancer in class and expanding this acting side of myself was more of a relief. Performing the Abdallah Suite was also relaxing in a way. With Bournonville choreography using such conservative port de bras, the style was very comfortable for me. It was also a great opportunity to expand my repertoire.
When all of the shows were done, it was time to say goodbye to some and see you later to others. Actually, I don’t like using the phrase goodbye in ballet. Our world is so small and at this point, we all run into each other again anyway. So really, I said see you later to everyone and some people I’ll just see sooner than others. I headed home to have a little break and then take part in the Ruth Page International Dance Exchange. (I’ll talk about how my summer went in a future post!)
Originally, my summer plans were rather intense. I was accepted to compete in the Varna International Ballet Competition and invited to compete in the Seoul International Dance Competition. Sadly due to some logistical situations, I was unable to see these plans through. Fortunately, I have been granted an open invitation to attend it in the future.
Thank you so much for sticking to the end! I know this post covered a lot of time, but I love being able to share my experiences with you guys! I am so grateful to Ballet West for the many opportunities that I received this year and for the learning and growth along with them. I can’t wait to let you peek into my time at the Berlin State Ballet School and include you in my experience at the Ruth Page International Dance Exchange. Other than all of that, thank you thank you thank you to Robbie and Gina for their continuing support with my guest blogs <3 -Timmorie