Dec 092014
 
It's Nutcracker time!

It’s Nutcracker time!

The Christmas season is not complete for us without seeing a performance of the Nutcracker! We looked forward to our season ticket performance of The Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker. This is their 10th anniversary celebration.

A few days before the performance, I just happened to notice on Twitter that The Washington Ballet was hosting a “Family Day” with special activities in the morning on the same day as our performance. I wasn’t sure what to expect but we weren’t going to miss it. We woke up early and drove into the city. Because we were so early, we even snagged prime parking in the garage right across the street from the theater.

As we walked into the Warner Theater, we found it alive with dance. There were dancers posing all over the hallways and balconies. The pairing of the gorgeous theater with its gold and chandeliers and the elegant ballet dancers was stunning.

The children were given an activity booklet with assignments to have their pictures taken with the performers. They received a stamp for each activity completed. If they completed all the activities, they would get a special prize during intermission.

My girls weren’t in the best of photo taking moods that day but grudgingly complied with my request for pictures with all the dancers. The dancers were all very gracious and welcoming.

A gorgeous ballerina.

A gorgeous ballerina.

The delightful jack-in-the box.

The delightful jack-in-the box.

Posing with the Chinese dancers.

Posing with the Chinese dancers.

Clara and Fritz.  Clara was portrayed by Katharine M. Lee and was one of the best Clara's I have ever seen!

Clara and Fritz. Clara was portrayed by Katharine M. Lee and was one of the best Clara’s I have ever seen!

My girls loved the craft table where they cut out and assembled paper Nutcracker ornaments for our tree.

My girls loved the craft table where they cut out and assembled paper Nutcracker ornaments for our tree.

The most genuine smile from this child all morning!  Enjoying her Nutcracker creation.

The most genuine smile from this child all morning! Enjoying her Nutcracker creation.

The company dancers were warming up along the railing as a demonstration for the crowd.

The company dancers were warming up along the railing as a demonstration for the crowd.

Their stretches put my yoga to shame!

Their stretches put my yoga to shame!

An impressive split!

An impressive split!

One dancer said she stretched about an hour and a half each day.  This type of flexibility takes dedication.

One dancer said she stretched about an hour and a half each day. This type of flexibility takes dedication.

My girls attempting some ballet moves with a "cardinal" dancer from the cat and the cardinal birds solo.

My girls attempting some ballet moves with a “cardinal” dancer from the cat and the cardinal birds solo.

Saluting with the soldiers (English style).  These soldiers had the cutest personalities.  One girl was giving out high fives and another fist bumps to all passers by.

Saluting with the soldiers (English style). These soldiers had the cutest personalities. One girl was giving out high fives and another fist bumps to all passers by.

Septime Weber rehearsing a group of child dancers on stage.

Septime Weber rehearsing a group of child dancers on stage.

Luis R. Torres was Drosselmeyer.  In addition to being an amazing dancer, he could not have been more charming chatting with the children and posing for photos.

Luis R. Torres was Drosselmeyer. In addition to being an amazing dancer, he could not have been more charming chatting with the children and posing for photos.

After the activities, we had a few snacks from the theater and headed to our seats for the show.

Santa gave me my wish .  . . Maki Onuki as the Sugar Plum Fairy!

Santa gave me my wish . . . Maki Onuki as the Sugar Plum Fairy!

The show was wonderful! Every time we attend the ballet, I find something new to appreciate. This time, it was appreciating the fact that while on stage, your face and facial expressions are the most important aspects of your performance. A beautiful face with a pleasant expression, no matter how difficult the choreography, is the mark of a truly great performer.

Another wonderful thing to appreciate about The Washington Ballet’s performance was that they freely mixed races in their casting. During the party scene, for example, an African American mom was paired with a white daughter with blonde curls. Initially, there was a bit of shock, but that quickly faded into an appreciation for how beautiful this kind of casting is. When there is great contrast between the performers, you end up appreciating more the differences and beauty of each performer. It magnifies each one. A great performance also transports us into a fantasy world and the blind casting helped to heighten the fantasy element as well.

One of the best pairings of the entire afternoon was the Anacostian pas de deux between Esmiana Jani and Brooklyn Mack. You need to be in excellent physical condition to wear the costumes for this dance as they show plenty of skin. Esmiana Jani’s translucent white skin paired with Brooklyn Mack’s chocolate brown was so gorgeous. The contrast again allowed the audience to more clearly focus on each dancer. Sometimes in a pas de deux you tend to think of the two dancers as one unit and some details of their performance get lost. In this performance, you saw each detail and it was just breathtaking.

Maki Onuki, of course, never disappoints. She was perfection as the Sugar Plum Fairy! It is hard to describe what makes her so compelling to watch. There is something in the way she effortlessly lifts her legs into high arabesque, her beautifully poised fingers and hands, and the precision of her footwork and turns. She makes it look so easy. When she is on stage, it is really hard to focus on anything else.

Her partner, Miguel Anaya, however, managed to distinguish himself as well. In addition to amazing jumps and turns, he was the best partner to her in the pas de deux. In most pas de deux, there is a part where the woman does a series of pirouettes and the man helps her to turn by spinning her at the waist. Maki Onuki and Miguel Anaya did this move the best I have ever seen! He spun her so quickly and she remained perfectly straight like a spinning top. There was no wobbling side to side during the turns and they stopped the turn precisely with no jarring movements. Incredible! At the end of their performance, as they were taking their bows, he paused to kiss her hand, a touching gesture that seemed to say, “You are a prima ballerina. Thank you for dancing with me.”

As I mentioned before, Clara, portrayed by Katharine M. Lee, was amazing. Her arabesque is so high, especially for a child dancer. She had great poise and maturity for someone so young as well. There was a scene in the beginning where she looks into a sort of “mirror” and sees herself as the Sugar Plum Fairy with the real life Maki Onuki staring back at her. Perhaps some day this vision will be realized!

I completely loved the entire show and the Family Day experience. It was a bonus to see our good friends from Fredericksburg coincidentally at intermission. We gave them the free Nutcracker tickets we got with our season subscription last year and they went and were hooked! They now make The Nutcracker part of their family holiday traditions as well.

As for my girls, they enjoyed it but found all the activities on one day a bit tiring. One daughter took a nap during the first act and the other during the second. Between the two of them, they saw the whole performance! They did love to point out all the dancers they had met in person and it made the performance even more special for them. They also enjoyed getting their prize, a small Nutcracker ornament, for their efforts. They came home and displayed them proudly on our mantel.

The treasured Nutcracker prizes.

The treasured Nutcracker prizes.

 Posted by on December 9, 2014 General Tagged with: , , ,
May 062014
 
Taking my ladies to a special Easter ballet!

Taking my ladies to a special Easter ballet!

After consuming our Easter feast and donning our Easter finery, we had one more event to attend to complete our Easter celebration.

We are family season ticket subscribers to The Washington Ballet and were surprised to find that one the performances this year was going to be held on Easter Sunday. The timing was OK for us so we didn’t worry about switching tickets.

I received a call from the ticket office, however, a few weeks prior to the performance that they were cancelling the Easter matinee performance due to schedule conflicts with the cast but they were still holding the evening performance. We switched tickets to the evening show.

The ballet is an event that my girls and I enjoy attending as mother and daughters. This was a real treat for me. My son is showing some interest in attending when he gets a little older. He climbed into his car seat and was ready to join us on the adventure until my husband pulled him out to stay home for a boys night in.

When we arrived at the Kennedy Center, we found that our cheap seat tickets had been upgraded to the fifth row! We were off to the side but still had a wonderful, close-up view!

Septime Weber, the Artistic Director, came on stage to personally welcome everyone. He is such an engaging personality and everyone loves him. I loved that he especially acknowledged the “boys and girls” in the audience of which there were many, adorably dressed in their Easter outfits. Often children in formal venues like the Kennedy Center are viewed by the audience members as a bit of nuisance. Mr. Weber’s welcome seemed to say “You are not a nuisance to us. This performance is for you.”

I have never seen Peter Pan as a ballet before. It is a marvelous choice for small children! Some of the performers are on wires and really “fly” during the performance. This so excited my children. There were many animated discussions over whether they were really flying or if there were wires attached.

There were also some wonderful choreographic moments (courtesy of Septime Weber) made with children in mind, especially Nana the Dog and the boogying Crocodile. My children and the many children in the audience were laughing with delight at so many of these moments.

It has been about a year since I last saw The Washington Ballet perform and I was amazed by the progress that has occurred in that time! It’s not as though The Washington Ballet was shabby before but they are really on fire right now.

Last year, I remember feeling a bit disappointed in some of the performances if Maki Onuki, the prima ballerina, was not performing. She is so much fun to watch. Well, Maki Onuki did not perform at all in this performance and the show was still electrifying! Tinkerbell was danced by Francesca Dugarte and she blew the audience away with her super tight turns and precision. She was the clear audience favorite ballerina of the night. Morgann Rose as Tiger Lily was wonderful as well. Although you couldn’t see much of the precision of her movements due to her Mrs. Darling full gown costumes, Kateryna Derechyna, appeared to have mile-long legs and gorgeous extension. It was exciting to know that there are many “prima” ballerinas to look forward to.

The men of The Washington Ballet continue to advance as well. Peter Pan was danced by Jared Nelson whom Hollywood casting could not have found a more suitable Peter. His long blonde curls fit the role perfectly and his dancing was amazing. In the first act there are numerous scenes where he has to alternate flying on the wire and dancing on stage. I can only imagine how it must throw off your balance to execute a pirouette with the wire attached but Mr. Nelson was such a professional you could not see any difference in the pirouettes done with and without the wire attached. His acting and expressions were also first rate. We all believed he really was Peter Pan.

It is often hard for a ballet company to attract a large number of high caliber male dancers but The Washington Ballet has somehow cracked the code. There were so many jaw-dropping male performers. The sequence of the 3 pirate soloists: who I think (it’s hard to tell from the program) were Corey Landolt, Brooklyn Mack (who was instantly recognizable when he jumped 6 feet in the air) and Chong Sun were perfection.

There were also many moments throughout the production when I found myself having to realize when the wires weren’t attached. Some of the pirouettes were executed with such lift in the upper body it looked like the dancers were being pulled up by wires when they were not. Some of the partnered lifts looked so effortless I thought there was a little help from a wire when there was none.

Enjoying art from Jun Kaneko in the Kennedy Center lobby during intermission.

Enjoying art from Jun Kaneko in the Kennedy Center lobby during intermission.

So not only were the principal female and male dancers amazing, the Studio Company (their up and coming performers) have advanced so much in a year as well. The biggest change I saw was that there seemed to be a huge emphasis throughout the production on acting. The facial expressions and the movements on stage when dancers weren’t dancing but were just waiting in the background were so well executed. Their actions exactly fit their characters. This made such a difference to the performance as a whole. If you were watching a lead performer or soloist and your eyes just happened to glance to someone in the background, having that person fully in character engaged with the scene enhanced how the entire performance “read” to the audience.

The best example of how acting was used in the performance came from Jared Nelson’s Peter Pan. As he is saying goodbye to Wendy near the end of the performance he stood on the corner of the stage not 15 feet away from us. At that point, he was supposed to be feeling sad, but the kind of sadness that a boy who refused to grow up would feel. He had to stand there looking sad for at least 2-3 minutes and he nailed the expression and never came out of character once!

I can’t let the performance pass without mentioning the children. There was a surprise (to us) of numerous children appearing onstage in the Never Never Land scene. There were adorable mushrooms and mermaids with tails and big blond wigs that were rolled out on platforms. The kids were fantastic! They added an extra magical touch to the performance. Some of the children I think I recognized from the Washington Ballet’s ARC program aimed at bringing dance education to underserved Washington, D.C. neighborhoods.

It was inspiring to realize that The Washington Ballet not only has a current high caliber cast but is also growing a bench of about 20 years worth of performers. I can only imagine how intense the competition must be within the cast but surprisingly you don’t get any inkling of this from the stage performances. The company seems like they like and support each other. There is a great energy about The Washington Ballet right now and you really feel it as an audience member. While it is fun just to watch great ballet it is even more fun to be around a group of people who are pushing themselves continuously to achieve more and greater things and to join in the celebration of their progress.

Septime Weber is not resting on his laurels with this progress however and notes in the program:

Septime Weber's vision for 2014-15 season

I can’t wait to see what they accomplish next! The program also notes that next season there will be live music for their five main productions, which is huge because 1) it means someone has given them a lot of money to be able to do this and 2) it eliminates the biggest criticism big newspaper reviewers usually make about their productions.

So, bravi to The Washington Ballet! Thanks for keeping it fresh and exciting for your subscribers!

Leaving the Kennedy Center.

Leaving the Kennedy Center.

Next time, I will literally need to leave a trail of bread crumbs to my car.  Between the cavernous garage and several construction projects going on within the garage, we wandered around a good 15 minutes before we finally found our vehicle.  I found it amusing that the garage labels the parking areas in decimal points, which evidently are impossible for me to remember.

Next time, I will literally need to leave a trail of bread crumbs to my car. Between the cavernous garage and several construction projects going on within the garage, we wandered around a good 15 minutes before we finally found our vehicle. I found it amusing that the garage labels the parking areas in decimal points, which evidently are impossible for me to remember.

*Other than being a season ticket holder, I am not affiliated with The Washington Ballet.

 Posted by on May 6, 2014 General Tagged with: ,
Sep 052013
 

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It’s back to school week and this week we are adjusting to the new demands of our homeschool schedule. This month I will be devoting to educational topics as there are certainly a lot of organizing challenges that go along with school. But first, I wanted to briefly recap summer’s blog posts.

As with last summer, my children and I were busy traveling and participating in various camps and educational opportunities. Last summer, I had a great time with all these activities but simply found it too overwhelming to blog about any of it. This year, while I wasn’t able to keep to any predefined schedule, I did manage to blog about the interesting things we have seen. I am glad to have this as a record for our family and glad that many of you have commented that you were interested to hear about these adventures as well! I also learned on Twitter yesterday that Virginia set tourism records in 2012. It will be interesting to see if this holds for 2013 as well.

This summer was packed with various birthday and other celebrations for our family. While most of these events did not hit the blog, I shared with you the simple Father’s Day cards we sent this year. Having some simple, non-stressful homemade crafts up your sleeve is one of the best skills to develop as a mom and these cards definitely fall in that category. From the many amazing aunts and grandparents I have and have been fortunate to have, I have learned that taking time to remember all these small events–even when you are tremendously busy yourself– means so much more to the recipient than you will ever know. So, if you are one of those people who faithfully sends Facebook birthday greetings or emails or even snail-mailed cards during the holidays, and you aren’t sure if it is worth the bother, allow me on behalf of the universe to say that it has made a world of difference to someone to be remembered so kindly and thank you for your efforts!

I posted about our family room flooring project, replacing carpeting with stained-to-match hardwood flooring. Over the summer, as we did some entertaining in our home, we received several positive comments on how this project turned out. We are still allowing the floor to cure at the moment but are making grand plans for moving back in around Christmastime.

I gave a report of my first time ever visit to the homeschool convention sponsored by HEAV. I continue to benefit from so much of the advice and information I received there. I would highly recommend that any homeschooler ensure they are attending a conference like this once a year.

I also gave a report of my visit to the National Gallery of Art exhibit on Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes. While you may or may not see a connection between the arts and organizing, I find the arts a tremendous source of inspiration. I also hope that my small efforts in blogging may encourage more people to incorporate more art into their own lives. In a prior post, I wrote about our visit to The Washington Ballet’s spring performance at TheARC.

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This post was favorite-d and retweeted by The Washington Ballet on Twitter and I also was enormously thrilled to receive this comment on the post by one of the young male dancers in the show.

Yesss thanks for the compliment on my Technique nd how i was a standout

I reviewed the fantastic book and pattern book companion for The Broken Circle: Yarns of the Knitting Witches by knitter and author Cheryl Potter. Ms. Potter left a kind comment for me:

Thank you for taking the time to read my book and write a review. I love hearing what readers think of The Broken Circle and the patterns that go with.
Cheryl

It is one of the great rewards of a blogger to receive a comment like this. Authors and prospective authors, please take note that you can earn yourself tremendous goodwill by trying to comment, Tweet, etc. with appreciation for each positive review. I continue to be enamored of the Skye’s Traveling Cloak pattern from her book. Over the Labor Day weekend, Ms. Potter had a terrific yarn sale going on in her Potluck Yarn Shop and I picked up some amazing hand-dyed yarn from her Potluck Yarn collection to make it with.

In other comment news, it was fun to get a comment thread going on my old post about topiaries. A reader commented with a question about how to read Mike and Marliss Stribbling. Mike Stribbling himself commented:

We do not have a website but if you need info on Topiary drop us a line and we will give you all the help you need within 24 hours

Behind the scenes, I connected the reader with Mike’s email address. If spam weren’t such an enormous problem, I would post it here for everyone. Mike sent me a nice note that he enjoyed my post as well. It’s always fun to see how people connect with words that you have written.

So, while we still have 16 days until summer officially ends, we, like most families, are transitioning into a fall mode at the moment. This month will give you a little peek into how school works in our house as well as share some clever education ideas from others and discuss how our routines in general are changing with the seasons. Hope you enjoy!

 Posted by on September 5, 2013 Monthly Recap Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Jun 272013
 

2013-06-27-diaghilev-sign

The day after the HEAV Homeschool Convention ended, I saw that The Washington Ballet was giving a special free performance at the National Gallery of Art in connection with the Diaghilev and the Ballet Russses exhibit currently on display.

Even though we had just done a lot of travel and were a bit tired, we had to go! So we packed into the car and headed north to D.C. Traffic being what it is, we ran a bit behind schedule. When we arrived in D.C., we were surprised to find that we were also right in the middle of the Capital Pride Festival!

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We made our way to the National Gallery of Art just in time to catch the last part of the ballet performance. It was such a beautiful moment, combining the incredible architecture of the museum with gorgeous artwork and ballet. The dancers were dressed simply in rehearsal clothes in a wonderful contrast to all the formality around them. As I watched the performance, it just struck me how much freedom of thought and expression is required to enable the creation of great art like this.

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It ended up being somewhat good timing to have come right at the end as my son did not have the patience to sit still (and be quiet) for very long.

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After the performance, I took the children through the Diaghilev exhibit. Although I had heard of the Ballet Russes before, I didn’t know very much about it. So, the exhibit was quite a surprise. The exhibit had original costumes and set designs, combined with costume and set design sketches, as well as video screens of famous ballet companies performing works from the Ballet Russes.

Sergei Diaghilev was the mastermind behind the Ballet Russes. Through his vision, he created a ballet company unlike any other before or since. Most of the reason the Ballet Russes is so famous is because Diaghilev brought together the most creative forces of the day in art, music and dance to create unique performances. Set and costume designers included Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Coco Chanel. Music was commissioned from Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev, among others. The dancers and choreographers were a tour de force of Vaslav Nijinsky, Michel Fokine, Anna Pavlova, George Balanchine and many others.

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The costumes were interestingly mostly made of cotton. There is only one surviving film of the Ballet Russes. Diaghilev forbade any recording of the performances even though the technology existed at the time. One movie, captured in secret at a rehearsal preserves a precious few moments and gives you a glimpse back in time.

What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how shocking many of the ballet performances were. They were shocking at the time they were created and they are still pretty shocking today! “Afternoon of a Faun” for example is described as having “an overtly erotic subtext beneath its façade of Greek antiquity, ending with a scene of graphic sexual desire.” Other works included transsexual themes and virgin sacrifice.

I might have had the only children viewing the exhibition that day. My kids, although they can read, did not pick up on the more adult themes of the exhibit and focused more on watching the ballet performances on screen. We also compared the artistic sketches to the final costumes, pointing out differences in the execution of designs. In general, my children enjoyed the exhibit. For adults, the exhibit was interesting, beautiful and disturbing simultaneously.

As we left the exhibit, I thought we would take a brief stroll through the Capital Pride Festival on our way back to the car. From the street, it just looked like a big fair with food vendors, amusements and exhibitors. There apparently is a children’s section of the festival but this was not it.

There were a few business vendors handing out free stuff. My children got some neat notepads from Amtrak. A few more steps in, however, and they were passing out condoms to everyone. I then noticed that the ads on the sides of the garbage cans were for various sexual lubricants. We turned back at that point and made our way out via the food vendors. In a way, it was the perfect modern day extension of the Diaghilev exhibit. As in the exhibit, my children took no notice of the more adult content around them and were just thrilled to have a new notepad to draw in.

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We entered the parking garage and shared an elevator with several very kind celebrators of the Capital Pride Festival. They asked how our day was and I told them how we had really enjoyed the art exhibition and ballet performance. “We had no idea all the rest of this was going on,” I said and they all smiled and laughed.

As we drove out of the city, we couldn’t help but notice these banners on the streetlamps promoting a new play at The Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company.

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The play is described as: “In this irreverent, contemporary, and very funny remix of Chekhov’s The Seagull, award-winning playwright Aaron Posner wages a timeless battle between young and old, past and present, in search of the true meaning of it all.” Again, I was shocked at the title and even more shocked that this sign was on a public street. From the backseat I heard my children calling out, “Stupid Flying Bird! Stupid Flying Bird!” Yes, they saw the signs too but again had no idea what they meant.

Having just come from a very conservative environment for the past two days, I was a bit mentally exhausted from all I had just taken in. I had been on both ends of the intellectual spectrum. In the end, however, I decided that it was wonderful that we have both conservative and liberal influences in our society and that it made us a richer country for it.

Might we be a little more “liberal” to allow people to pray and express themselves religiously in more places? Might we be a little more “conservative” by embracing the fullness of the world’s family and allowing homosexuals to participate fully in all of the world’s religions? We have work to do in all areas. This reminder on the Newseum was particularly poignant.

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 Posted by on June 27, 2013 General Tagged with: ,
May 252013
 

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Last weekend, we had a wonderful experience seeing how a community can be transformed through the arts. 

The last performance of our Family Series tickets with The Washington Ballet was “Peter and the Wolf + Other Works.”  When we looked at the tickets the day before the show, we saw that it was held at a new theater we had never heard of before called THEARC (Town Hall Education, Arts and Recreation Center) in Southeast Washington, D.C.

In general, the eastern parts of the District tend to have more crime and economic difficulties than the western parts so we had no idea what to expect coming to visit THEARC.  When we drove in, we noticed there was a newer Metro station in the area (Southern Avenue) and the neighborhood looked surprisingly nice and well-kept.  THEARC was in a block of newly constructed buildings housing a Boys & Girls club and other community facilities.

The best part, though was that there was…..gasp…..free parking!!  This is practically unheard of in D.C.  And you could park right outside the theater and just walk a few steps to the door.  Wow!  The theater was new and clean and there were friendly folks inside to greet us and take our tickets.

THEARC is a relatively small theater but smartly designed with one level of seating as well as some semi-raised seating along the sides.  Our tickets were on the second row.  I was surprised that we were able to sit so close.

The show began with a performance called Affinité, which was a mostly traditional-style choreography from Elias Lazar to the music of Mendelssohn.  The dancers were from The Washington Ballet’s “Studio Company” who are the more junior dancers of the professional company.  When some of the men came on stage, I was shocked at how young they looked.  Some seemed no older than about 16 or 17 but their technique was so good that I guessed they had to be at least 20 or so to have that much discipline and control in their dancing.  We were sitting so close that we could see every detail of their faces, costumes and technique—even the sweat droplets flying.  My daughter commented that the purple, orange and pink costumes were all of her favorite colors.

The next piece was called “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Mozart” and featured dancers from THEARC’s ballet program.  My children love to watch other children dance and it seems to motivate them strongly to see kids their own age doing incredible things.  The piece started with the youngest dancers, showing a young Mozart with corps de ballet, and progressed to the teenage dancers and a teenage Mozart and even one of the professional studio dancers for the adult Mozart.  Pianist Zinaiza Stepanova performed the music live for this performance which was an extra-special treat.

Every ballet school has its strengths and weaknesses.  For THEARC students there were 3 key strengths: 1) They were absolutely relaxed in their movements.  There is a tendency particularly in beginning ballet students to look very stiff and uncomfortable particularly in the arms and there was none of that in these dancers.  2) They are almost silent when landing their jumps.  Most young dancers sound like a herd of elephants when they land their jumps because they don’t know how to roll through their feet yet.  Even when a crowd of about 20 dancers from THEARC jumped together, there was almost no noise on the landing.  Amazing!  3) They have terrific confidence and stage presence.  I didn’t spot any shy students who seemed afraid or embarrassed to be on stage.

The teenage Mozart, Aeron Buchanan, was a standout and had wonderful technique.  Also, the middle group of ballerinas (perhaps 8-10 years old or so) had an amazing photogenic quality.  There were so many of them with the balletic ideal of long arms, long legs and long necks.  They were gorgeous to watch.  It is exciting to think about where all of these students may be in 10 years.

The studio company came back to perform “Classical Symphony in D” with music by Sergei Prokofiev and choreography by Sunhee Kim.  I loved the costumes for this piece.  The women’s costumes were unique combinations of nude-colored material with white details.  I loved the concept so much that I tried to draw it so I would remember.  This concept could make for an incredible evening gown or even wedding gown.

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The men wore white tuxedo-like outfits with pants and long tailcoats.  Taking men out of traditional clinging tights for ballet is a great way to modernize the performance and make it more accessible to the audience.

Then the studio company performed “Blue Until June” with choreography by Trey McIntyre.  I love this work and we saw parts of it before at the “Tour de Force” performance in February. I never tire of watching it.  It was so interesting to see the change in the studio company when they performed this work.  In the previous two performances involving classical music, the performances were solid but as an audience member, you didn’t quite get lost in the performance.  You were always conscious that you were watching.  With the music of Etta James in “Blue Until June” and the challenging choreography that combines both modern and classical ballet elements, the studio company shined and drew the audience in.  I can’t imagine anyone performing this better.

My girls are becoming connoisseurs of intermission snacks.  They went for the vanilla cupcake and M&Ms.

My girls are becoming connoisseurs of intermission snacks. They went for the vanilla cupcake and M&Ms.

After intermission, we enjoyed the showcase piece, “Peter & The Wolf.”  They staged it sort of like a bedtime story being read to children.  Arthur Espinoza read the story with great expression and the stage scenery consisted of very simple props of boards on wheels.  The use of this minimalistic scenery was so clever.  The dancers peeked around them, rolled them into different positions and even spun them around.  A sheet of blue material was used to simulate water for the duck.  My children loved the story and the performance.  The story is a bit scary for small children, though.  My 4-year-old was most worried when the wolf appeared and was chasing the duck.  An adorable little boy about 3 sitting next to us with his grandfather became so terrified by the wolf his grandfather had to take him home.

In the end, it was wonderful to see this range of performance abilities and to be reminded of how much work and effort goes in to getting to the highest professional levels of performance.  The very young dancers showed us how ability progresses steadily by age and the studio company showed us that even when you have all the core elements down, there is still that small, undefinable “it” and “life experience” factor that transforms execution of steps into a moving experience.

Overall, this was a very inspiring experience.  It was wonderful to see an entire neighborhood transformed by the arts.  The workers at THEARC and the students in the performance all seemed to appreciate and value how much THEARC had done for their community.  The Washington Ballet is currently conducting a fundraiser through indiegogo to continue their work, including providing 400 D.C. public school students with ballet scholarships, paying for live piano accompaniment in their classes and funding a dance teacher for the public school system.  You can learn more and donate at this link.

The Washington Ballet@THEARC Making a Difference in DC (w/Dodds) from Backfin Media on Vimeo.

*I have no affiliation with The Washington Ballet.

 Posted by on May 25, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,