Rehearsing for 3 by Dove has been a very gratifying experience so far. This season has been very rewarding for me when it comes to dancing big, new roles that really push my boundaries as a dancer. 3 by Dove has been no disappointment in continuing this push.
I will be dancing in two very different pieces for this program, Victor Quijada’s Suspension of Disbelief and Ulysses Dove’s Serious Pleasures. The contrasts between these two works are very deep, yet based on the same principles of taking ballet dancers and pushing them beyond their classical boundaries. Quijada’s work is a blend of his hip-hop/b-boy/pop-locking/endless list of styles, while Dove’s work is very contemporary ballet that at times pushes into the realm of modern dance.
Quijada choreographed SoD while I was in my third year at PNB. Before Victor chose his cast, we workshopped for a couple of weeks so that we could begin to understand his style and he could get an idea of which dancers he wanted. One of the last days that we were workshopping, I was told that I was not chosen to be in his work. An interesting side story to this is that I was actually really sick that day. I went home that afternoon and became extremely ill and eventually had my appendix out two days later. It was a missed opportunity and I was disappointed that I had come so far along in the workshop, but didn’t get a chance to be a part of his piece.
I knew that this work was returning this season and had pretty much assumed that since I had been cut from the process the first time around, I would not be considered to perform the piece. Peter Boal had mentioned to me around Nutcracker that he had me in mind to replace the one male in the piece who is no longer with PNB, but I had convinced myself that he must have been confused about which piece I was going to be dancing in. The casting finally went up and to my surprise, even though I already knew, I would dance in this piece.
For most dancers, being cast in something that is new to them is very exciting with a hint of nervousness. For me, I was very excited and slightly horrified. The last time PNB had danced SoD, there were rumors that we would never perform the piece again because it’s vocabulary is so far outside of any technique that we know and it could be almost impossible to teach it again without Victor. Now, here I was, one of three first cast dancers that weren’t around for any of the choreographic process. I specify first cast because that means that no matter what, we WILL perform. I was afraid that with the short three-week period to learn the piece, I wouldn’t be able to grasp the style or learn the foreign steps.
We started our first week of rehearsal by watching an old recording, tapping the memories of those that had danced the piece before, and decoding with ballet master Otto Neubert. Surprisingly, it wasn’t impossible to pick up the choreography, just difficult, and we had learned all of the “steps” by the end of the first week. A daunting task that Otto led very well.
The next step was when Victor arrived about two weeks ago. We spent most of that first week without touching the choreography. Check out my dear friend Abby Relic’s post to get a good explanation of the workshopping. We finally started working on the choreography towards the end of that first week. By the time that Friday of this past week came, we had touched every part of the piece in detail and were still working out kinks. We are really pushing this process until the last second and I am still a bit nervous about it. But I trust Victor and am positive that we will feel great by the time the curtain rises this Thursday evening. I’d like to give a special merde to the two other newbies in the cast Carrie Imler and Leah O’Connor.
Now for Serious Pleasures. We started rehearsing this piece way back in August, when PNB holds its summer course at the Phelps Center. I love rehearsing during this time because there is so much energy and excitement at the Phelps center as the students watch us. These students are so fresh and young and are really open to new experiences. Ironically, the dancers of PNB were doing the same as they were learning Serious Pleasures.
Alright, anyone that knows me well is aware that I am almost always brutally honest. So, I won’t hold back here. We had to be COMPLETELY open to new experiences while learning Serious Pleasures. SP is a piece that has very mature content. This work is not the Garland Dance in The Sleeping Beauty or the Grandfather’s Dance in The Nutcracker. Serious Pleasures is explicit, sexual, and raw. From the first moment in the studio, Parrish Maynard, who is setting this ballet, told us that we had to be open to this choreography.
From there, I knew I was excited to be a part of this work. I think there is nothing more important than art pushing boundaries. Asking an audience to experience something that may be beyond their normal limits. It is meant to make people think, to open their minds, and to become free enough from thought to accept, instead of pass judgment. Dove does this with this piece. There is gyrating, pulsating, and hairography. There is a lot of hairography (choreography for the hair). I am excited to be a part of the controversy that will surely surround this piece.
I am dancing with Chalnessa Eames and at times Seth Orza. There are multiple sections to this piece and each one has a different mood. Dove’s choreography is very earthy and extremely athletic. This piece does not disappoint.
The most recent challenge that we have added to this piece is working with the set. There are nine doors and multiple poles that stick out of walls that we dance in, out of, and on. Typically, we do not get to see the set of a ballet until we are onstage. But due to the complexity of dancing while using the set, we started rehearsing with it the week before we usually get into the theatre.
All in all, I am excited and nervous for this rep to begin. We have been rehearsing very hard with sore muscles, scrapes, and lots of bruises. I can’t wait to hear the audience’s reaction to this program. It is a unique treat.
(Shameless plug – I am the dancer liason for Backstage Pass, a group that brings 21-39 year olds interested in ballet together for PNB performances and events. On Friday, March 26, we will be holding our annual Backstage Bash, my favorite event of the season. It is an event open to all ages, where afterwards you get to dance backstage with the dancers. Don’t miss it!)
Featured photo: PNB dancers in Ulysses Dove’s Serious Pleasures, photo © Angela Sterling.