Update from Timmorie in Escuela Nacional de Ballet
Hey Guys! It’s Timmorie and I’m back with another Guest Blog. Last time I talked to you, I had just completed my first month at the Escuela Nacional de Ballet Fernando Alonso in Havana, Cuba. Since then, we have only picked up speed and continued to work hard.
In the previous blog, I had auditioned two of my variations. Afterwards, I felt so relieved. It was the first time that I had danced in front of the whole school and faculty at once. It went well overall and I was able to continue in my rehearsals with Profe. Ramona de Saa! The test I had mentioned in Danzas de Salon also went smoothly.
Up next was the annual tour to Camaguey, another province in Cuba, which is about 8 hours away by bus. The sections of the school repertoire that would be performed included the Grand Pas de Trois, Pirates (Pirates) and the Act II of our Le Corsaire Suite, Jardin Animado (the Dream Garden). Any students who weren’t in these sections had normal classes.
Those few days that students were in Camaguey were actually anything but normal. My class was combined with the 1st year Cuban girls and Profe. Marta Iris. Her classes were difficult, but also enjoyable. The 2nd day that the students were gone, we had a required school activity at the XXVI Feria International Del Libro (XXVI International Book Fair). We didn’t actually buy any books, but it was a beautiful day to walk around El Morro (the wall at the old fort).
After the book fair, my friend Catherine and I decided to go on a bit of an adventure down a street called Obispo. It’s mostly little shops where you can buy touristy souvenirs, but we just walked, talked and laughed for about 4 hours. We found a Chinese food restaurant, which is unheard of here, and a place called the House of Chocolate. We also found a market that usually sells cool things, but was closed. That afternoon is one of my favorite memories of “normal life” here.
Later that week, when everyone was back, we had the pleasure of working with choreographer and former student of Escuela Nacional de Ballet, Eduardo Blanco. He choreographed a Grand DeFile piece to be performed by the entire ballet school during the Encuentro. We also had a Saturday rehearsal to continue learning and cleaning the piece. Weekend rehearsals are pretty unusual, but became more and more normal as the semester went on.
The next Monday, we were back in the school rehearsing, because Tuesday through Sunday was spent in the theater. We had shows from the 24-26 of February. In days leading up to shows, we always have our normal schedules from 8:00am until 2:00pm and then rehearsals in the theater from 2:00pm to 6:00pm. I was excited to be able to perform one of my variations, the 3rd Odalisque from Le Corsaire, and it went decently.
It was quite a busy weekend with the shows, but what ballet dancer can’t make time for more ballet? I had the pleasure of seeing Ballet Nacional de Cuba perform Giselle. Giselle is not only my absolute favorite ballet, but is also a very special ballet to Cuba. Alicia Alonso became known and became a star because of her performance as Giselle in the Metropolitan Opera House when another dancer fell ill. I really loved this version of the choreography. It keeps many iconic parts of the ballet with plenty of room for interpretation by the dancers.
February finished with grades in Repertoire and March began with a tv crew in the school to film the Grand DeFile piece. On March 3, I was proud to celebrate 3 years post ankle surgery. A normal day of classes and rehearsals in Escuela Nacional de Ballet Fernando Alonso, in Havana, was the prefect way to spend the day!
Now, we know that not all of ballet is beautiful, which led me to quite the experience while visiting a podiatrist named Serafin. I bruised my toenail in February and it hadn’t bothered me very much. After the nail died, it started coming off and became very painful. I went to Serafin and his office was like something out of an old movie. He ended up pulling off my toenail, giving me a fist bump and requesting pictures for his phone after my friends had taken photos.
Just one week later, I had the honor of taking class from the Prima Ballerina of Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Viengsay Valdes. Her class was so musical and focused on dancing through combinations. The next week we had another film crew in our Ensayo General (General Rehearsal). When we have Ensayo General, we run Le Corsaire like a show in front of all of the teachers. The same week, I was grateful to take class from Lazaro Carreño, the uncle of Jose Manuel Carreño, who teaches classes for the company. His class was fun because of the complicated combinations and phrasing.
When Americans were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, the school was having another audition. I danced my other 2 variations, Peasant Pas de Duex from Giselle and La Fille Mal Gardee. I had never worked on these variations before, so I was definitely more nervous. They went better than I had expected, but of course there is always room for improvement.
We also our first day back with our normal teacher, Profe. Ana Julia. Her class is hard. There’s no other way to describe it. The class involves lots of turning, jumping, balancing, releves, penches in all directions, repeating and moving more quickly or slowly than you would like to. Every class includes center on pointe and sometimes after class, it feels like my legs are going to fall off. Thankfully, she is funny, motivating and makes us work hard, without being scary.
Once we finished the audition on St, Patrick’s Day, pretty much everything changed. There weren’t anymore academic classes until after the Encuentro and spring vacation. This meant that days were pretty long with classes and rehearsals from 8:00am until about 4:00pm or 5:00pm everyday.
At the end of March, we had another weekend of shows from the 24-26. We were back in the theater from Tuesday through Sunday. I was extremely excited to perform my Peasant Pas de Deux variation and the Medora part that I share in Le Corsaire. I was very happy with how those shows went!
The next Monday was a day off. The few weeks before were tough and a “ballet storm” was on the horizon. Tuesday and Wednesday included lots of visitors and a conference of journalists for the Encuentro. We also had another test in Danzas de Salon, which went nicely.
The following week, the “ballet storm” was upon us. Tuesday through Sunday, we were in the theater again. The Friday show was the official Graduation of the class from last year, where we performed Le Corsaire. The Saturday show was technically Ensayo General Abierto (Open General Rehearsal), which was in full makeup and costume. This was our rehearsal for the Gala to kick off the Encuentro.
Now I have mentioned the “Encuentro” a few times and I’d like to explain. This year was the XXIII Encuentro Internacional de Academias para la Enseñanza del Ballet de La Habana, Cuba, 2017 (The XXIII International Meeting of Academies for the Teaching of Ballet of Havana, Cuba, 2017). This is 10 days of classes from teachers of Escuela Nacional de Ballet and teachers from around the world. There are classes in ballet, repertoire, pas de duex, physical preparation, pilates, danzas españolas, modern, character and plenty of rehearsals. There are also 4 galas and a competition at the same time. It’s definitely a lot, but it was so much fun!
Along with the Encuentro, two of my teachers from the Ruth Page School of Dance, Victor Alexander and Birute Barodicaite were here. Victor was on the Jury and teaching modern classes and Birute was teaching ballet classes. One of my friends from Ruth Page, Lucy, was also in Cuba to perform a pas de duex with a student here. To add to the fun and excitement, my parents were in town!! I hadn’t seen them since leaving America in January and it would be an understatement to say that I missed them.
While my parents were here, we walked down Obispo, through Old Havana, took a bus tour, went to the Museum of the Revolution, met an artist and even got locked in our hotel room, but my favorite thing we did, by far, was just hang out. I was happy to spend Easter with them too.
Needless to say, when the Encuentro had finished, everyone was pretty tired. After the Gala Clausura (the Closing Gala), we had a day off. We were back in class the next day though, because on the 22 of April we had a Prueba de Ballet (a ballet test). Following our test, we had one more day off. On Monday, we had classes again. Technically, when the Encuentro ended on the 19th, we were supposed to begin our spring vacation with no classes, but the 3rd year girls are just lucky.
Now, as I am writing this, we ended up getting a spring vacation. We had classes Monday through Thursday, but we are off until May 2. Once we get back to school, academic classes will start up again, we will begin preparation for Graduation and our final test in ballet.
Although the last few months were tough, I wouldn’t want it any other way! Again, feel free to leave any comments or questions and I will try to respond. Robbie and Gina, thank you so much!! Until the next blog. Nos Vemos – Timmorie <3