What We Learned from "city.ballet." Season 2, Episode 12
Over the course of "city.ballet.," we've seen all the insanely hard work that goes into a professional ballet career. But in the final episode of the series' second season, we get a look at the end product: the performance. Those few minutes onstage, the New York City Ballet dancers make clear, more than justify the countless hours they spend in the studio. Here are five things we learned from the ep.
NYCB dancers backstage before a performance (still from "city.ballet.")
1. Choreographers have control over every aspect of their ballets—until they don't. The minute their work hits the stage, it's totally out of their hands (and feet), which is a disorienting feeling. "At this point, I'm still thinking, 'How can this piece be better?' " says choreographer and NYCB corps member Troy Schumacher just before the debut of his ballet Clearing Dawn. "But now I don't have any part in it. I have to just sit back and enjoy all that the dancers are giving to the piece."
2. In fact, once any ballet is onstage, the only thing to do is relax and be in the moment. "Sometimes you don't know what's going to happen out there," says principal Maria Kowroski—especially the first time you perform a ballet. "But that's the time to trust your partner, to just look at him and think, 'Oh, I'm so happy I'm dancing with you!' It's that freedom and abandonment that make it special."
3. Schumacher's playful choreography for Clearing Dawn is so winning. "Have a good day at dance school," he jokes to principal Andrew Veyette just before the curtain goes up, referring to the piece's school-uniform-esque costumes. And those costumes match the ballet's youthful spirit perfectly. "It feels like playing a game onstage—like a game of tag," says soloist Georgina Pazcoguin.
4. Before a show, some NYCBers lick for luck...? Yes, we all know about "merde," but apparently a few of the older company dancers have a tradition of touching each other with licked fingers before a performance. Uh, we need to hear the story behind that.
5. Performing is basically the best rush ever. Well, you probably already knew that, but still! The episode closes with the dancers' tributes to the joy of being onstage, and it's the perfect ending to the season—because that rush is the whole reason these artists do what they do. As Kowroski says: "When you're really in the moment onstage, when you feel all the blood rushing in your legs and your feet and your arms—it's something so pure and raw. You're just living."
Click the image below to watch the full episode!
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"When you're out on the dance floor, don't ask for permission—ask for forgiveness."—Kalea Hidalgo
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You rehearse your group routine to perfection, but when the big performance rolls around, everyone turns into speed demons. It's the runaway-train effect—and it only takes one loud tapper, or zippy turner, to throw the whole group off the music.
While nerves and excitement are partly to blame, the ability to keep to tempo begins in the studio. A well-developed sense of musicality is your best defense against the dreaded speed trap. "When you understand how the steps fit with the music, going too fast won't just feel like rushing," says Jeremy Arnold, lecturer of tap at the University of Texas at Austin. "It'll feel wrong." How can dancers develop that musicality? It all starts with learning to listen.