Thursday, March 3, 2011

SWAN LAKE variations

I'm excited to teach the Swan Lake Theme Dance Workshop in April! In preparing for it, I have recalled some beautiful memories of when I first learned these famous solos and variations.

I was privileged to have been coached by Dame Sonia Arova during Summer Intensives as a teenager. She approached my parents and said she would like to give me daily pointe/variations private lessons, in addition to the heavy workload of the Summer Intensive. For 2 years, each Summer, I traveled to Mobile, Alabama and had a fantastic time immersed in ballet. After each Intensive ended, she offered me to attend an Alabama School of Fine Arts, where she was influential,in Birmingham Alabama. As this was going to mean that I would have to move across the country, I was honored by her invitation but didn't move there.

She concentrated on Odette/Odile in my private classes as she once told me something I always treasured and will never forget: after one particularly exhausting private class, she came up to my parents afterwards and said I would benefit from more upper body strength because I would be doing a lot of partnering in the future. She said she always felt I would be a strong Odette/Odile......

Well, I literally jeted around the rest of that day as I could not believe my ears!! To have Dame Sonia Arova (or Madame, as we all called her) have that kind of opinion about me was breathtaking!

Alas, a torn hamstring took me away from dance for a long time-I never got to dance Odette/Odile. (yet)... (Hey, in dance, you "never know" and you can "never say never"). However, even if I never do get to dance it, the power and confidence of her words and her faith in me is something that has buoyed me throughout my career and gave me an unshakable sense of myself as a dancer. I'm forever grateful to her.

P.S. At that time, like my friends, I was always more interested in Odile than Odette-for one reason-FOUETTES, FOUETTES and more FOUETTES! Back in my day, I was a TURNER, with a capital "T"!
I could reliably do double attitude turns, double arabesque turns, double ala seconde turns, Italian Fouettes, double pique turns, double "lame ducks" right and left, en pointe, any day of the week. I routinely did multiple (triples, quadruples) pirouettes en dedans and en dehors, en pointe, to the left and right. I basically conquered the turn repetoire-in fact my teacher came over to my Mom when I was 13 and told her so. I'm forever grateful to him for his outstanding bravura technique teaching he did with me.

My ALL TIME record is 10 pirouettes en dehors to the right and 19 partnered pirouettes to the right,(from one take off), with my partner in 2008. En pointe. (We tried for hours to get to 20, but alas, we could do 17 and 18 frequently with 19 standing as our record.)...I did the 10 pirouettes in NYC at age 14 en pointe. I supplemented my year-round training with special training each Summer. Age 14 was in NYC. Ages 15 and 16 were with Dame Sonia Arova. Age 17 was in Europe. Age 18 was at the Joffrey Ballet School's Trainee Progam, after which I moved to NYC. (and contrary to how it may appear, my parents aren't wealthy. They, like thousands and thousands of other parents, sacrificed whatever they could in order to give their child the best education in sports, music, dance or whatever their child's passion is. I'm forever grateful to them!!)

From age 11-20, I tried (space permitting) to fit in at least 32 fouettes per day at the studio.
Frequently, I fit in 32 fouettes right AND left (as I was an awesome "lefty" TURNER as well) or 2 sets of 32 fouettes to the right. En Pointe. (Yes this included those at age age 11, I was taking 10 classes and 2 private lessons per week...that's (in essence), 12 classes a week for an eleven year old.) My mind boggles-but I loved it (would have taken 12 more classes per week if I could!) and it "turned" me into a TURNER!

From my early teens on, I managed 32 fouttes (doubles on every 4th one), ending with a triple! Day in/Day out. Consistently. As I am a taller dancer, I simply couldn't manage triple fouettes, but my output was still awesome.

As a 12 and 13 year-old, I would frequently "warm-up" for my pointe private classes with a set or 2 of fouettes with the bells and whistles...Stone cold...straight from sitting in school...en pointe. There was a running joke in my studio: The older adult dancers (who had morning class while I was in school) would say to me when I arrived at the studio after school: "He's in a bad mood today-go in and do some fouettes so his mood picks up". LOL :)
I was happy to oblige.

So OF COURSE I liked the Odile part better-she was the one who got the fouettes.
I have since deepened as an artist and look beyond the fouettes to the differences in characterization of Odette/Odile and find endless facets to enjoy. (But part of me will always remain that TURNER and when I hear the stirring music for Odile's fouettes, my ears will perk up and I'll be transported back to the girl who would rescue the studio from a teacher's bad mood.) :)