THE FIRST DAY OFF… Nursing the Aches and Pains, Getting the Groceries and Hunting Down Monkeys..

Dancers are often called frivolous.

Ballet deals in the illusion of control and ease of movement. But the leaps and lifts, the hip turnouts and grand pliés, and sheer repetition of steps and stretches places ballet near the top of a list of physically demanding activities.  Dancers labor in classes and rehearsals during the day, and then work like madmen again in performances at night. They tend to be as mentally alert as they are physically agile, and they are frequently long-lived.  If their attitude strikes some as overly lighthearted, then perhaps we all should learn how to be frivolous.

But on the contrary the company dancer have learned to  master time, beautifully . They can mentally rocket above it, just as they soar above the ground in their performances. The nature of their art requires them to be acutely aware of the necessity of using time well. Ideas may occur to choreographers throughout the day. But they can only realize those ideas by creating specific steps for specific people in specific rehearsal periods. Every minute counts. No wonder George Balanchine liked to say that his muse came to him ”on union time”.    And of course Bob Fosse is quoted to say  I  think Balanchine and Robbins talk to God on their day off and when I call —  he’s out to lunch.

Because dancers’ lives are divided into such rehearsal periods and units, they learn how to concentrate upon whatever is demanded of them at any given moment. They give their complete attention to the task at hand. Although not all dancers receive a rigorously academic education, their memories are often phenomenal, possibly because anything learned by ones complete mental and physical being is not easily forgotten.

So CBT Dancers are enjoying two days off..   Melody Staples comments:  

I will be cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen, dusting, vacuuming and generally straightening and putting away all the things that have been left around during performances. I will be making big dinners so that Steven and I  have enough leftovers for when we are performing and I won’t be able to make dinner. I’ll probably read 2 or 3 books and go to the library. I hope to get another ¼ of my quilt quilted. I also have several phone calls to catch up on.

Jennifer Balcerzak Muller and her husband Tim headed to Journey to the West and to Harris Teeter for the grocery run

Classes, too, are of fixed duration and, like rehearsals, usually involve groups of people moving together. A few dancers give themselves personal warm-ups. Others receive private coaching. But, in the typical class, many dancers perform the same exercises under a teacher’s watchful eye.  Class is a regular, necessary part of a dancer’s day. And when class is in session, dancers must be focused and attentive. Time is filled with meaningful, physically demanding activity. While a company class lasts, it can be a great leveler. Everyone from a troupe’s most famous star to the newest member of the ensemble can be seen lined up at the barre, and even though the teacher may treat the star with deference, the star may still falter, while the newcomer may dazzle. During class, students become aware both of human imperfection and of human aspirations toward excellence. But when class ends, it is truly over – and now it is time for the dancers to devote themselves to what is scheduled to come next in their day.

and the art form of nursing the body to health.

So step off, football jocks. The ballerina needs the physical therapy table more than you do.  So what do you think we do on our day off. ?  Unlike professional sports teams, many classical ballet companies don’t have the money for on-site doctors and physical therapists. CBT ‘ sport medicine trainer Al Hawkins is the on-call guru. And calls often go to Jessica Roan Valentine’s husband, Brandon, an orthopedic doctor.  “I think companies are realizing now that if they want to have dancers perform for a long time, they need to be proactive,” .  Hawkins, who has worked for the ballet for over 10 years  , says his  role is  with dancers, he says, it’s “maintenance.” Try telling a dancer with a chronic injury that she really needs to rest for three weeks to be pain-free. Not gonna happen.”

“So I’m giving them practical things to do to minimize the condition, if possible, and undo the damage, if possible,” Hawkins says. “I want to get to them before they get to the point where they can’t get out of bed.”

And what do choreographers’ do?   

Well This FIRE MONKEY Won’t t Sit on a Fence like some Spoleto audience members . The Chinese zodiac says people born in the years 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 and 2004 are governed by the spirit of the monkey. These folks are sociable, cheerful, brainy strategists who slip into and out of difficulties with ease. The monkey is the sign of the inventor, the improviser, the motivator.  I went to see my MONKEY COUSIN playing at the Sottile Theatre. 

Monkey: Journey to the West is a stage adaptation of the 16th Century Chinese novel Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng’en. It was conceived and created by the Chinese actor and director Chen Shi-zheng, together with the British musician Damon Albarn and British artist Jamie Hewlett (the co-creators of the virtual band Gorillaz). However, the original idea came from Jean-Luc Choplin, head of the Chatelet Theatre in Paris.

Yes that’s right.. I saw the Journey to the West… the Monkey craze at Spoleto. Monday night.  I have to admit even after making sure I was one of the first to buy tickets when they went on sale in January, talking it up to everyone I saw, spending endless hours hearing about the event from Foy Flying Master Dave Hearn – I so wanted it to be magnificent   ( Dave and I have worked together for years with all my flying needs in ballets Dracula, Peter Pan and Camelot). Going to Journey to the West was my biggest project for the past two days.


Well   ..

I was very underwhelmed.  I am deeply saddened that my imagination planted a glorius garden of visual delights I wanted and  expected to see, just  got the better of me.  Not the work itself .   Post and Courier’s Tim Page, went to ‘Monkey’ last night and after 40 minutes he left.  Not his cup of tea– was quoted, I however completed the event becuase the 20 years in Charleston courteousness , forced me to stick it.  out,   I would not have to get up in the middle of the show.   But I wanted to ….

The work needs serious pruning, transition help and a much larger venue to demonstrate its probable potential..  Kudos to the tech crew for biting off as much as possible. and Nigel well.. I love his gamble. I adore Spoleto and want success for them at every turn.. And really  the idea sounded alot better than Sweeney Todd..   

So sorry,  Cousin,  my Chinese Monkey.. wanna come see Twisted Tango tomorrow? 


Genius is another word for magic,

and the whole point of magic

is that it is inexplicable.

~ Dame Margot Fonteyn


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