At the Center of It All: Thoughts from #TheMetropolitanOperaHouse & #ABT’s Performance of “Manon” starring #DianaVishneva, #MarceloGomes, & #MistyCopeland

Program and ticket from the American Ballet Theatre’s June 3rd performance of “Manon”

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.

A shot of the fountain in Lincoln Center from the lobby of Metropolitan Opera House during the rain storm.


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!



Photo Credit: Andy Stone.
Diana Vishneva & Marcelo Gomes after June 3rd’s performance of Manon at The Met. Photo Credit: Andy Stone.

Below is the quintessential scene from the ballet Manon, danced by Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes at the Dance Open in 2011:









Getting Through the Day: Leading a Creative Life

Over the past few days, I have been sick in bed with a really bad cold, and I can barely talk. But I can write, so here I go. There are things that I think follow us throughout our lives, without us being very aware of the fact that we acquired a passion or talent for something at an early age. When we read, or see a biography of someone, oftentimes, a point is made that they began to do whatever they are good at from childhood. Certain things I wish I had been doing from an early age, but I’m quickly coming to realize that my talents are what they are. No, I didn’t start dancing at 3 to become a ballerina professionally, or sing before I could talk, or even sit by my mother and watch her sew and follow suit.

What I did do was use my imagination. I would play dress up, write short stories, create characters, do funny voices, and put on plays for my cat (I was an only child, can you blame me?) My imagination and my interest in human behavior have always been constant forms of stimulation for me as an artist. I love  acting, writing, and creating.  For the last few months however, I have been in a creation-less slump. When my grandfather died in September, I didn’t get to go to the funeral because I was committed to filming Boardwalk Empire on HBO. Filming and the funeral fell on the same day. That day will stick with me as one of the most difficult days of my career and my life. Why I am compelled to write about it now, I am still unsure. I felt a sense of vacancy, joy, and sadness all in one day. I felt lost because I missed my Papa so much, but I knew that I had to get through the day. I did get through it. I could feel a sense of calm throughout, that made me realize that he was with me in spirit. I knew he was proud of me. We would have long conversations about what I wanted to be when I grew up; when I finally moved to New York, our conversations expanded to what my goals were, and “How’s New York?” was always his first question.

How’s New York? It’s fabulous because I am learning and growing everyday. I am surrounded by interesting people, so there is really no excuse for me NOT to be in a constant state of creation. Whether I am taking the words from the page and interpreting them so that they come off as a cohesive monologue or scene, or I am filling a page with words from  my brain, I should always be creating. There is always an opportunity for creativity and for sending it out into the world so that others may benefit from it. My grandfather was a chemist so he was a creative person as well, just in a different way. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to listen to his stories and gain new appreciation for how one views their world.

A little over month after my grandfather passed away, my aunt lost her fifteen month battle with leukemia. She created things as well. She was crafty, loved to knit and make jewelry. She was a creator, an inventor of her own happiness. This year, I am slowly learning to be my number one inventor. I am creating a life as a writer and actor; slowly but surely, it is paying off (literally.) The last time I saw my aunt, she was in the hospital, I had just filmed Boardwalk Empire, and she was so proud of me. She told me that she loved me, and to not give up. But that’s what had happened shortly after she died. I gave up. I became over analytical of an industry I love, and more importantly, myself. I tried to deny my career goals and fell into a rut. I played the blame game. And it wasn’t fun. Then I realized something. The fire is burning in my belly more now than ever. My passion for the arts and for telling a story through acting and writing is still alive  A project is out there. Someone is out there needing a curly-haired, curvy, slightly goofy, character actress. I am going to persevere. I have to create, invent, interpret, be just who I am–and be happy with fact that my talents are what they are: mine.

Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.

Madeleine L’Engle