I am currently in an intense rehearsal period for the junior company’s upcoming ballet: Mini Tales and Bolero. And while I call it a ballet, it’s more of a performance of four “mini” ballets:
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- Jack and the Beanstalk
For those of you that are unfamiliar with this concept, it is also commonly called a repertoire performance, or a mixed bill.
I am cast in Thumbelina as the Lead Bird, while I also have a role in Bolero. Bolero is a (very sassy) Spanish dance that is about interactions between people. To portray this, there are dancers in pointe shoes who dance much more balletic steps and dancers in character shoes with much stronger and ferocious movements. My interpretation is that the dancers from each group are fighting each other for power.
I am one of the ladies in character shoes, and you would not believe how much character shoes hurt your feet! Most of us have probably been in them for a character class, which is usually no more than an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes …but for 2 hour to 4 hour rehearsals …your feet are dead!
All of these foot problems are in addition to my role as the Bird in Thumbelina. That role is danced in pointe shoes, and for my first major performance role en pointe, the workload in pointe shoes is an entire new challenge for me. I have had to deal with a horrific number of blisters, corns, calluses, and other mini-devils over the past few weeks of rehearsals.
The ballet, being a mixed bill, has an extreme rehearsal schedule. Each ballet piece is difficult in its own way and has a multitude of dancers. The entire show runs about 90 minutes. That’s a lot of dancing to choreograph, considering the fact every dancer in Bolero is onstage for the entire 20 minutes of the music’s duration.
For the first two performances, I have the treat of going from pointe shoes for Thumbelina, straight into character shoes for Bolero. All of my foot problems have added up to a few impossible weeks for me. For example, this Saturday I will have the pleasure of a 90-minute class in pointe shoes followed by a 120-minute rehearsal en pointe, and then another 120-minute rehearsal in character shoes to finish off my day. That will end up being 210 minutes en pointe and 120 minutes in heels, all in a row. Wish me luck!
For Thumbelina, I have also had the joy of learning how to make a tutu not look awkward! This is my first role wearing a “real” tutu and I get to wear a white rehearsal tutu to get the feeling for it. I have had the pleasure of learning a few great tips:
- If you can’t find something, it’s probably under your tutu.
- If you take it right out of the box and wear it, it will look more teacup than tutu.
- You take up more space than you think, so at any point in time you are probably annoying someone.
Despite all of my foot and toe difficulties, I am having quite a fantastic time with my role in both ballets. Bolero is unique, because I can dance in a different way. This dance requires more attitude and has very different “Spanish” shapes and expressive movements. I am really learning how to make my dancing captivate the audience.
On the other hand, Thumbelina is much more balletic. I have to work in pointe shoes and practice some challenging steps for the performance. The choreography for my role has lots of turns and tricky pointework. My hard work has helped me handle this before the performances begin.
Either way, this rehearsal period has been a surprisingly heavy workload. I have learned who my friends are: coffee, hydrogen peroxide (for blisters), protein powder, bandaids, and as much sleep as possible.
The lesson of this post is to learn how to deal with the hard times – make the best of a big workload by learning ways to make hard times a little bit better. Find things that work for you, and apply them later on. You can read as much as you want and watch as many YouTube videos as you may wish about how to survive a rehearsal period, but you will never get the real knowledge unless you experience one.
So, if you are having a hard time making it through, keep pushing and finding what works for you. You’ll make it, and come out the other side better than you started!