When I remove my pointe shoes at the end of the night, a layer of expired white skin peels away with them. The water in my plastic ice trays is not able to solidify at a rate expedient enough to keep up with my feet-freezing rotation. I have noticed an undercurrent of those few sections of the Swan Lake score to which I don’t actually dance taking on a cacophonic harmony to those pieces I am rehearsing in the flooded soundscape that is my thoughts. The resulting contrivance is impossible to silence, nor ignore, so I’ve taken to humming along in appreciation of my mind’s attempt to remix Tchaikovsky’s compositional genius. As Swan Lake side effects crop up, I’ve learned it is important to pick your battles.
At the risk of dramatizing the ballet world tp the delight of Hollywood, working through a ballet like this one does feel, at times, a bit like fighting a battle. Pushing against physical limitations which weigh heavy, feuding with stubborn exhaustion as it begs you to crumble down into a pile of feathers on the marley…resisting the urge to relax in a would-be poised position through an entire adagio as sweat rolls down your wings and every last muscle contracts…
In a late night rehearsal Wednesday, our prima-in-residence, Miss Milica Bijelic, who is here from Serbia to set her ballet, lingered upon the importance- and difficulty- in “working the poses”. Arguably one of the most challenging aspects of Swan Lake, unbeknownst to the audience, is standing in a perfect diagonal and holding an active tendu front. Perhaps because it appears stagnant, the difficulty in this position is often underrated. Hips lifted, lower stomach engaged, inner thighs rotating forward, rib cage pulled in, shoulders down, chest forward, cheek turned, head tilted, eyes cast…the only muscles unflexed are those we must actively relax in the fingers, foreheads and the bottoms of our feet.
Doing this for 10 seconds is tough. Collecting a corps of 16 very different dancers into neat rows and columns of identical swans, all practicing perfect posture for the duration of Acts II & IV? Don’t be silly, that would require hours upon hours of grueling rehearsals. No one loves artistic precision passionately enough to even pursue such a thing…right?
…oh, right. See you tomorrow, Tendu.
Swan Lake photos by Darian Volkova.