Around the beginning of September, I decided to get back to basics. There had been subtle hints in my life in recent months, for me to take an important step in my career: more training, specifically improvisation. Then, after researching various programs, including Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB), The Magnet Theater, and the People’s Improv Theater (PIT), I decided on the PIT. Both UCB and the PIT have very similar programs, and many people have crossed over between each program. The founder of the PIT was even a co-founding member of UCB. Needless to say, improv is a tightly-knit community.
I’m halfway through my class at the People’s Improv Theater for level 1. My ultimate plan is to do the whole program because, like I said to my fabulous teacher last week, I feel like it’s really helping me as an actor and with the writing of my show. It has forced me to be in the moment as actor. It has forced me to listen to what my scene partner is talking about, and as a result, react. With improv, there is no script, there is no anticipation of what will happen next. It’s the best decision I’ve made socially, in terms of my career, and for my overall happiness. I am happy, and I’m smiling. I don’t know what’s going to happen next in my career, but that’s the thrill of it I guess. So..can you say, “Yes, and?”
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: