Hi, DS readers! In an effort to get you even more fun and up-to-date dance news, we’re adding a few guest bloggers to the site! Julie Diana, a Principal with Pennsylvania Ballet, will be writing to you every-other Wednesday to let you know what's new in her life and in the dance world. To read up on Julie and learn more about her extensive list of credentials, check out the Pennsylvania Ballet website.
I feel so fortunate to do what I do! This profession allows me to travel all over the world, to experience other cultures, and to work in places that I would otherwise never see.
In the whirlwind of these travels, I’ve managed to jot down some notes about different theaters…I hope you find them as interesting as I did!
Paris Opera House
The theater reeked of elegance and history. Stagehands and dressers smoked in the wings, in the hallways, on the stairs. Enormous oil paintings lined the walls and evoked the spirits of great, dead artists. The windows in each dressing room, almost as tall as the twenty-foot ceilings, let in the smell of fresh baked baguettes and the sounds of passing double-decker tour buses.
The stage was raked at a perilous angle, but I felt no fear. I was just happy to be there.
Beijing National Theater
A thick layer of grey dirt covered the entire stage and backstage area. I didn’t want to touch anything, let alone roll around in the grime. No soap, no toilet paper, and no toilets; the uninviting bathrooms offered just a few tiny holes in the ground. One bathroom also hosted a smoky gambling ring – Chinese men, hiding from authorities, set up a folding table and chairs on the grungy floor and played cards throughout the entire day.
The size of the stage mirrored the city’s major streets with its sense of monitored expansiveness – uniformed men stood off to the side and watched our every move.
Halfway through my set of thirty-two fouette turns, my left knee buckled and I was catapulted about six feet toward the wings. There must have been a sniper in the balcony.
That particular week of performances, the sun refused to set. We emerged from the theater at around midnight, exhausted and hungry, only to put on our sunglasses and walk the deserted streets back to the hotel. I couldn’t sleep well on that tour – sleeping pills and eye pillows proved to be no match for twenty-four hour daylight. With our ballet company of snoozing swans and cranky cavaliers, I’m glad that the Icelandic critics had little basis for comparison.
Everything about the space was tiny: narrow hallways with dipped ceilings, squat staircases, minimal lighting. The area felt so cramped and claustrophobic that I couldn’t wait to get onstage and breathe.
The best thing about the theater was the coffee shop just outside the stage door. I salivated over their fresh bagels served with a maple oatmeal cream cheese spread. The place where J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter, it held more appeal than the mini theater across the alley.
Carved into ancient rock, the theater felt like it could’ve alternated as a museum of natural history. Recessed lighting illuminated the cavernous house and the acoustics were unlike anything I’d ever heard. Tickets oversold, so they set up folding chairs in another part of the theater and showed a live broadcast of the performance. We had to exit through a discreet side door after the show, avoiding an unrealistic crowd desperate for autographs. We felt like rock stars.