The gun shot sounds and we’re off. It has begun.

Not only did I make it to the starting line but am now running this marathon that is The Sleeping Beauty. And what an eventful week it has been as we prepared ourselves for the initial sprint: opening weekend.

As I stated before, this is not just a ballet but a production. Nothing is glazed over; every detail is attended to. There are set changes (that involve moving giant pillars and platforms) for each act, props to be placed, costumes to be changed, and praise the Lord we have an excellent stage crew and an army of wardrobe, wig and makeup men and women that manage to transform us and the stage in only our 15 minute intermissions! We owe these unsung heroes a giant round of applause for their tireless efforts in making this production possible. And unlike the dancers, they don’t have weeks of rehearsal to get things down pat. For most of them, they have the Monday of performance week till Wednesday night – our dress rehearsal – to get everything set up, lighting adjusted, and kinks worked out. And all this is going on while we are rehearsing on stage too.

You see with five casts of principle couple, Prince and Princess Aurora, each one needs a dress rehearsal, but with the limited time we have, unfortunately some are more “dressed” than others. This can be pretty stressful, especially when you’re trying to get the full feeling of what this three hour show is going to require stamina-wise. But in these less than ideal circumstances everyone’s handled them with grace and the utmost professionalism. Sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles -so with chin up you make the best of it.

But I have to say Wednesday was quite surreal. Definitely NOT your ordinary dress rehearsal.

First of all, because The Sleeping Beauty is so long, we broke up the dress rehearsal into two parts: The Prologue dress was in the afternoon, and then the last three acts were in the evening at the usual dress rehearsal time. But this pushed our class time up to 10am, which felt very early considering we’d finished rehearsing the night before at 9pm. It also required us to be ready with full stage makeup, performance hair and costumes for press photos at noon. Rushed? Just a little…

And the rehearsal was pretty rough. Not only did we struggle with orchestra tempos, but there were costume malfunctions, and special effect flubs. Well that’s what dress rehearsals are for – ironing out the creases, which we most certainly did. And just as we were about to be dismissed can you guess what happened? The McCaw Hall fire alarm went off… and this was NOT a drill.

So we all marched outside to wait on the sidewalk of Mercer Street in the cold, wet weather clad in out costumes of tutus, pantaloons, and gold heels – the men’s attire, wigs, and stage makeup. Olivier Wevers, dressed as the evil fairy Carabosse, began to wave at the cars that slowly drove past us. It was quite a sight to see! We looked like a freak show – or at least that was the message conveyed by the baffled and slightly horrified expressions of those people who witnessed hits spectacle.

It felt like the hours before the fire truck arrived, but I’m sure it was only a matter of minutes. We all filed back into the theater to finally change, only to come back hours later to do it all over again… dress rehearsal part two: Acts 1-3. Well they say bad dress rehearsal, good performance… A true statement.

Opening night came and everything went off seamlessly. The production glittered and sparkled and everyone in it radiated excitement and energy. The audience was packed and I never felt more proud to be a part of such a tremendous company of beautiful and talented dancers. Two more shows remain this weekend and then we have five more performances the following one before the spell is finally broken and the Sleeping Beauty awakes for the for good. I would highly recommend coming to see this awesome production – it’s definitely one you don’t want to miss! Buy your tickets here before they all sell out!

– Jessika Anspach, PNB corps de ballet dancer

Featured photo: PNB dancers in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty, photo © Angela Sterling.