a premiere in which i did not touch the ground

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This weekend A and I danced our first Christopher Wheeldon ballet. Well, part of it anyway…

We (rather unexpectedly) performed the pas de deux section of Wheeldon’s The American, a lovely ballet set to Dvorak’s triumphant score of the same name. The Company will perform the full ballet as part of our February mainstage, but this weekend PVD got a taste of what’s to come in the Black Box Theater. I’ve been describing this little ditty as 6.5 minutes of being either off your leg or in the air. Poor A never gets to let go of me. But somehow we made it through! Relatively smoothly! A triumph. And now for my own enjoyment, but if you care to see, a rehearsal code run down of one of the hardest, sweetest, most frustratingly beautiful pas de deuxs we’ve done to date:

that hard promenade, the first backwards lift, the lift that kills your arms, the nervous arabesque, the backpack press, the cartwheel, the tricky promenade, the split and scoot, the getting up, the run around, the impossible lift, the weirdly difficult fouetté + fall, the traveling baby lift, the birdy, the slow roll, the floor, the spiritual moment, the walk-walk, the run around, the flip lift, the swizzle, A’s least favorite lift, the drop, the rock, the running, the big lift, the craddle lifts, the backwards cartwheel, the second tricky promenade, the hip killers, the second swizzle, the drapey lift, the last backwards lift, the slow floaty pirouette, the bourrées, the end.

{an interview with} an american in paris

Hello, all!  I’m so pleased to finally be able to share with you a guest post from Rhiannon Pelletier of A Dancer’s Days.  Ms. Pelletier had a chance to catch up with former Miami City Ballet soloist Sara Esty, who recently landed a role in An American In Paris, Broadway’s newest show that’s compelling dancers everywhere to hop a plane to the city- STAT.  As a child of theater, I’m loving all the ballet representation on Broadway stages as of late, and could hardly contain my excitement to sneak a peek at what it might be like to actually experience this integration.  Oh, and if the star-studded cast and original Christopher Wheeldon choreography weren’t enough, the Paris debut sent my Esty-envy right over the edge.  For a behind-the-scenes dip into the life of a ballerina on Broadway, check out Rhiannon’s take:

“At my home, Maine State Ballet, there isn’t a person in the building who fails to snap to attention when the words, ‘The Estys are here’, trickle down the hallways. We all know who they are; their names have become somewhat of a legacy. Twins Sara and Leigh-Ann Esty, from small-town Gorham, Maine, have roots planted firmly with our school and company. They not-so-quietly climbed through the ranks and took on roles as prestigious as the Dew Drop Fairy in The Nutcracker. A dynamic duo they are.

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Sara & Leigh-Ann Esty, respectively

The two eventually migrated down to take on the Miami City Ballet where they stayed for ten years. Leigh-Ann is currently a corps de ballet member with the company and Sara Esty reached as high a rank as soloist before an exciting opportunity came her way…

Sara was kind enough to work in between her busy schedule and indulge me with a Facebook conversation about her new and exciting life.

Firstly, congratulations on your life (no, seriously). You’ve certainly taken advantage of this blossoming crossover between ballet and Broadway. How did this opportunity come about?

Thank you so much!!! So I had been with the ballet company in Miami for about 10 years and one day I literally got a random Facebook message. It was from a casting director in NYC, saying she was working on a new project with Christopher Wheeldon for Broadway and asked if I would be interested in contacting her. There was no doubt in my mind that the answer was yes! Two of my favorite worlds were colliding – how could I not be part of it? I wrote her back and soon came to find they were looking around in professional dance companies for artists interested in singing and acting for a new version of An American in Paris. The rest is history!

That’s incredible. Has Broadway always been something on the bucket list?

I think I’ve always had a theatrical personality and drive about me, but it wasn’t till around high school that I made the promise to myself it would happen someday.

Coming from a small-town atmosphere, was the prospect of opening this premier Broadway show in Paris, one of the biggest cities in the world, overwhelming? … I mean, you are the “American in Paris!”

Haha! Yes, I mean all I was prepared for was to do what I know how to do… The rest was icing on the cake. I love the show and the experiences and places it has brought me so far. It can be overwhelming at times but mostly exciting and extremely gratifying!

What an adventure… Could you describe a typical day for the cast while you guys were in Paris?

Well, we had the mornings off typically and then would rehearse a bit after around noon. Shows were around 7 or 8. Other than that we had Paris at our finger tips!

I understand that you and Leigh-Ann have been blessed to work side by side one another for almost all of your professional careers. How are you coping with being separated for the first extended period of time?

Leigh and I have been dancing by each others sides for over 20 years. Being apart in life, let alone at ballet, has been a bit of a struggle. Good and bad I would say! The worst thing is just missing each other and having to catch one another up on our daily activities, people, and lives where as we never used to have to do that. We have gotten more used to it, and because we are so close, nothing changes whenever we see each other. It also came at an appropriate time I think. Independence is such an important thing for siblings, and we are really loving finding ourselves as individuals. Needless to say, I hope we get to dance together again one day!! This time is important and healthy though. :)

There are rumors twirling around that you’re dating a fellow cast member, can you confirm or deny them?

Haha, yes I can happily confirm them. What can I say, Paris is a magical place! We started out as friends. I’ve always wanted to find someone who is first and foremost a good friend :)

Last question! How did it feel to perform as the lead for the first time at the Palace Theatre?

It was unreal, surreal, emotional, empowering, exciting – all of the above! Life dreams –

I can’t thank Sara enough for taking time out of her wonderful, busy life to indulge her fans! You’ll never meet more gracious, humble, extraordinary people than Sara and Leigh-Ann.

* Sara is dating fellow cast member Will Burton (and may I recommend them both as perfect candidates to stalk on Instagram). She will be performing the lead in An American in Paris July 21-26. Don’t miss it. She’s incredible 

UPDATE: Sara will now be performing the role of Lise for the production’s Wednesday matinee performances beginning July 15th.”

Thank you Rhiannon and Sara for your contributions.  Such a fun read!