A Matinée is an afternoon performance. They’ve always been a favorite of mine as an actor. Performing on two-show days can be exhausting, but well worth it in the end. Today, I went to a 2:00 p.m. performance of Giselle. That performance just so happened to mark the NY debut of ABT soloist, Isabella Boylston in the title role. The last time I was at The Met, I saw Diana Vishneva in Manon and sat in the Family Circle–the affordable seats. Although the view is high up, I was able to view everything with perfect clarity. For a ballet, it is actually beneficial to sit high up because it makes it easier to see every variation and formation. I actually saw details that those in the orchestra or balcony seats might miss.
Giselle is interesting. It’s the story of unrequited love, and a young peasant girl who dies from a broken heart. There is a specific part in Act 2 which was amazing to see from above. Act 2 deals with Albrecht’s mourning of Giselle and his encounter with the Willis, the ghosts of women who died before their wedding day. They are lead by Myrtha, the Queen of the Willis, and Giselle becomes one of them. It was hauntingly beautiful to watch, and something I will never forget. Here is part of the Willis’ dance. It’s about 15 minutes long in its entirety, so here is just an exerpt from the Dutch National Ballet production:
The amount of grace and lightness that it takes to portray all of the characters in this show is quite difficult, but I thought that for a matinee, with the cast that was performing, ABT did a fantastic job. Before I forget, there’s also the famous “Giselle Variation.” Pay attention to the footwork… it will amaze you. Here it is performed by ABT principal dancer, Gillian Murphy, with the Royal New Zealand Ballet:
Overall, I enjoyed my afternoon at the ballet. It was well worth the time. I am glad I finally got to see one of my favorite ballets live and in person. I’ll keep a lookout for Isabella Boylston. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is promoted to principal dancer soon.
A Few years ago, I saw the 2006 documentary called Ballerina. The film features profiles of five different dancers of Russia’s Marinsky (Kirov) Ballet throughout the piece. One dancer in particular caught my attention: Diana Vishneva. She was rehearsing the ballet Manon with the Paris Opera Ballet. Instantly, I was moved by it, and thought that if I ever got a chance to see it live, I’d go. Well, it just so happens that Vishneva is also be a member of the American Ballet Theatre. Last night, I got to see Manon performed live with Diana Vishneva, Marcelo Gomes and Misty Copeland.
I arrived early (like always) and good thing I did, because it immediately started to downpour the second I stepped into the lobby of the famed Metropolitan Opera House. I have lived in NYC for 7 years, and it is sad to say that I had never seen a show at The Met. I had seen a few operas at NYC Opera at the David H. Koch Theater, but nothing at The Met. Over the past few years, I have frequented Lincoln Center as if it were an extension of my home. Friends and colleagues have worked there, and to be honest, I find a sense of peace whenever I sit next to the fountain. Despite the tourists, I think in NYC, it is my happy place. I waited for an hour for the house to open, but it was totally worth it. For once, I wasn’t at the Met in the middle of the day. My seat was at the very top front row, and for $26 I got my workout for the day. Granted, I could have taken the elevator, but I felt like going through the maze of red carpeted stairs and walls in my red dress–it was fun. As I took my seat before the show, I also came to realize that it has been years since I heard a pure unadulterated orchestra live. Mind you, I have seen numerous musicals, but to just hear the orchestra throughout the show without singing gave me quite a thrill. Hearing the violin section warm up gave me such a sense of happiness in my heart that I haven’t felt for some time. I was never the greatest violinist, but I did find great joy in playing it growing up.
Once the ballet started, it was amazing just how fluid and at ease the dancers were. The Corps de Ballet was just as entertaining as the Principal dancers. The second that Marcelo Gomes made his entrance there were cheers, but it was nothing compared the the overwhelming reaction to when Diana Vishneva finally took the stage. The beauty and grace of both of them together was magical. You could see the history they had together as dance partners, and it was one of the most amazing things that I have ever witnessed. It’s difficult to put it into words the type of energy they had, and the emotions I felt when they were dancing. On a lighter note, Misty Copeland added some much needed fun to a rather dramatic ballet. For those who are unaware, Misty Copeland is the only African-American Female Soloist with ABT and the second in its history. For what it’s worth, after seeing her performance last night, and the fact that she recently made her NYC debut in Coppelia dancing the lead role of Swanilda, she needs to be promoted to Principal dancer–STAT.
The entire cast was amazing and I’m so glad I got to see Diana Vishneva and her flawless technique. What was even more surprising was the reaction at the end of the show. During the curtain call, it started normal, but the reaction to Diana Vishneva was so palpable that it had an energy all its own. People stood and cheered for close to 10 minutes without stopping. The entire curtain call seemed to last about 20 minutes as a whole. That experience alone was worth the price of admission.
I needed to see that show last night. I needed to see an art form I have respect for. While unable to dance myself, I needed to feed my artistic soul. I needed the let the creativity that is in me live through those dancers for a night. I needed to see the beauty of movement, lightness, and grace. The artist in me needed it like food for my soul. And boy, was it a good banquet.
Oh, and Happy Anniversary Diana Vishneva! She celebrates her 10 year anniversary with American Ballet Theatre this year!
Below is the quintessential scene from the ballet Manon, danced by Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes at the Dance Open in 2011:
From a very young age I have had a respect for movement. In the theater world, a lot of the time as an actor, you will see breakdowns that call for actors who “move well.” I’ve always had a deep admiration for those who move well–specifically dancers–more specifically, ballet dancers. They are the epitome of grace and lightness. They exude confidence and do it all while making the hardest tasks look effortless.
Dance is not effortless. The blood, sweat, and tears that go into training, rehearsals and performances is something that needs to be respected. Most recently, I’ve realized that as someone in the arts, it is important to have an appreciation and respect for what I cannot do as an artist. I know it sounds odd, but I think that it helps me as an actor. I have had a love of dance since I was little; all while knowing that I would never be able to do something like go up en pointe or grand jete across the floor. Because of my disability, and challenges physically, I was forced to stop ballet at about 11 due to the fact that I’d be eons behind the other girls in class. Music has always been my first love. I’ve always loved classical music, and sweeping orchestral themes. I also always wanted to move around to the music. Don’t get me wrong, I still move around to music. Sometimes I look like a flailing chicken, but I move around. I only wish that for a second I could know the sensation of actually dancing around gracefully.
As a kid, I would watch ballets on tape. I would watch documentaries about dance. Mikhail Baryshnikov was the dancer of the moment when I was a kid, and I would watch the Nutcracker over and over before my parents took me to see it at the Boston Ballet almost on a yearly basis. I’ve just always thought that dance was one of the most beautiful forms of art. The body goes through so much pain and effort to produce something so exquisitely gorgeous. I have so much love and respect for dancers, painters, musicians, and any form of art that I don’t actually do. I think if we respect others art forms, we’ll have a greater understanding of our own.