I don’t know about you, but I have been known to love watching/being part of a rehearsal more than the final product on the stage in any kind of theatrical production. In this case an opportunity to view The Portland Ballet Advanced Students at work and play.

Restlessness and Creativity. The Repetitive Nature of Shaping a Work.

Personally: I don’t mind the endless back and forth of realizing ideas, shaping them, throwing them out and beginning again. It’s the best part of the creative process. Yes, yes, I know. Getting on to the stage, however that might look, is thrilling, both for the performer and the audience because it’s live theatre. What could possibly go wrong?

I had the pleasure of stepping into a rehearsal process and observed The Portland Ballet hard at it this weekend. Their Masters Workshop 2013 has been decamped in a space up the road from TPB while they build exciting new add-ons to the school and company building (right next to Wilson High School).

What Do They DO?

During the rehearsal, I sat next to TPB director Nancy Davis while she pointed out different dancers to me, where they had been for summer intensives (to which most serious dancers aspire to be heading.) And sprinkled in were some “guest dancers” that Master Choreographer John Clifford brought with him for the pieces he is setting on the dancers at the Workshop.

Here’s the challenge:

It’s an utterly gorgeous August Saturday afternoon. But for this group of advanced level TPB students, it’s immersion time…

~learn a full performance program of choreography in just two weeks. TPB’s Master Workshop is conducted as a professional company, with two hours of class and four hours of rehearsal each day. This year’s faculty includes Master Choreographer John Clifford (founding artistic director, original Los Angeles Ballet, dancer/choreographer New York City Ballet) and Master Teachers Gavin Larsen (Oregon Ballet Theatre, Suzanne Farrell Ballet), Kathi Martuza (Oregon Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet), Alison Roper (Oregon Ballet Theatre, Trey McIntyre Project) and Katarina Svetlova (Dusseldorf Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre).

So in the studio, with the size of the actual stage that will be their performance space at Body Vox delineated by tape on the floor, I was staying put, as far back to the wall as I could, so flying feet, bodies and pointe shoes would have space, I shot a bit of video of the process John Clifford was putting the dancers through. Lots of “marking” movement to learn it, lots of running through the same counts again and again, putting the movements into muscle and mind memory.

While John, during rehearsal, kept rewinding to the mark on the music and getting out the steps to time, we kept hearing the familiar notes again and again. Nancy and I both agreed, “Who gets tired of Ravel’s Bolero. It is infinitely interesting”.

Really fits into the paradigm of the meaning of “REHEARSAL: Learning choreography or some other persons language. Marking it as your own. To know it; running it again and again! Letting Go!

It’s Showtime

Cleaning up, defining, changing? All still to come in the short week that remains until It’s show time on Sunday, August 25 at Body Vox!

Just to give you an idea of the places all these dancers come from, Nancy told me her daughter Lauren and Michael McGonegal are both with St Louis Ballet and here to do the Workshop. Michael was in Houston Ballet before that. Caroline MacDonald is in the graduate program at Pittsburgh Ballet and is often chosen to dance with the company.

The boys John brought, Kyle and Greg are at the Kirov Academy and Baltimore School of the Arts. TPB dancers went to SAB (New York City Ballet), SFB (San Francisco Ballet) and all the other major programs this summer and several with scholarships.

More about The Masters Performance