A Day in the Life of Ballet

copyright The San Francisco Ballet

courtesy of The San Francisco Ballet

Something really momentous is happening in the world of ballet starting tomorrow:  the very first, continuous streaming, 20 hours of live ballet from 5 of the world’s greatest ballet companies. Respectively, The San Francisco Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, and The Bolshoi Ballet are giving us a 4 hour view into the lives of each company — from warm-up class, to rehearsal, to performance. Streaming starts in the evening of Tuesday, September 30th at 7pm (PDT in the USA), starting with The Australian Ballet. Below are portions of the event press release and below that more information on the schedule and how to access the live streaming.

“The first ever World Ballet Day will see an unprecedented collaboration between five of the world’s leading ballet companies. This online event will take place on Wednesday 1 October (Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 7pm PDT for USA) when each of the companies will stream live behind the scenes action from their rehearsal studios.

Starting at the beginning of the dancers’ day, each of the five ballet companies – Australian BalletBolshoi BalletThe Royal BalletThe National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet – will take the lead for a four hour period streaming live from their headquarters starting with the Australian Ballet in Melbourne.  The live link then passes across time zones and cultures from Melbourne to Moscow to London to Toronto to San Francisco.

The live streaming will take viewers on a journey into the rarely seen backstage lives of ballet dancers.  This unusual access will throw a spot light on the differences in style between the five companies as they follow a very similar routine but approach choreography and performance in the ways that have made them unique on the world stage.  Starting with morning class to warm up the body with different exercises, moving on to rehearsals for their upcoming performances the day will be a celebration of dance; the athleticism and unparalleled dedication of all those involved in creating a world-class ballet company.

Viewers will be able to engage and interact with dancers, choreographers and coaches who live and breathe ballet every day of their working lives, asking questions throughout the day as well as having the opportunity to contribute by submitting a film of themselves doing a pirouette wherever they are in the world.  These will be edited into a film celebrating the worldwide appeal of dance.

The day’s streaming will be repeated on YouTube in full so that viewers around the world can catch up on any parts of the day they missed.  Edited highlights will then be made available for further viewing.”

Where to Watch

The entire 20-hour live stream event will be available on this page, sfballet.org/worldballetday or by visiting SFB’s YouTube Channel.

Schedule (all times Pacfic Daylight Time – PDT)

The Australian Ballet starts September 30th at 7pm
The Bolshoi starts September 30th at 11pm
The Royal Ballet starts October 1st at 3am
The National Ballet of Canada starts October 1st at 7am
The San Francisco Ballet starts October 1st at 11am

Marina Eglevsky – A Legacy of Dance, Part 1

Marina Eglevsky on the cover of Dance Magazine, January 1969.

Marina Eglevsky, born into ballet royalty, started dancing very early – almost as soon as she could walk. Her parents, Andre Eglevsky, premier danseur with George Balanchine’s American Ballet (which later became the New York City Ballet) and her mother, Leda Anchutina, also a soloist with NYCB, brought to her a legacy of dance that is a fascinating account. I had the great pleasure of interviewing her about her life – from her growing up years, being taught by George Balanchine, and on to when she took the spotlight in her own right as a dancer, first with the New York City Ballet, then onto Harkness Ballet and the Hamburg Ballet with John Neumeier, among others. Her father Andre is also credited with – if not the first – then surely the first in this country, of inviting amateur adults into his ballet classes at The Eglevsky Ballet school. What follows is Part 1 of my interview with Marina.

Q:  Marina, you are the daughter of Andre Eglevsky, widely regarded as the greatest male classical dancer of his generation, and you began studying ballet with George Balanchine and now stage his ballets for other companies. When did you start dancing? Where did your passion for dance come from?:

A:  I just started dancing, my parents were not really involved in whether I did or didn’t – but, once I was in it, then they became involved in how I was working in ballet.

By the age of 2 or 3 I was sitting around in rehearsals backstage. At that point, my father went on a major tour in Europe, and when he was rehearsing or busy – I would disappear and start just dancing somewhere – my mother said she would lose me all the time and to find me, would look for the crowd of people because I would be in the middle of the crowd dancing – I drew the crowd with my dancing.

My father had a performance to do on major network and was running around the studio and somehow I got into a Howdy Doody set and they whisked me away and put me in someone’s office. I remember sitting in this office and there was a pair of pointe shoes, they were really little – I just kept looking at them, and then the lady in the office gave them to me and I put those on and took Balanchine’s class in those shoes until they disintegrated and shredded.

I was allowed to take Balanchine’s class at a really young age and take company class, even though I hung underneath the barre, he would correct me. I was able to reach the barre and so he would teach me turnout, etc.  Everyday I came in with my father, and I would be in company class. By 5 or 6 they started to put me in Nutcracker and then I was more or less taking regular classes at the school and being involved in performing Nutcracker.  After various roles, eventually I grew too big for the party scene and auditioned for Clara and really wanted it, but I was too small for the costumes. I performed in Pulcinella up until 12 or 13 and by then I was a teenager and really questioned whether I wanted to continue in dance since I’d already put in a lot of time and I wanted to get more involved with regular school.

At that time, my father started his own company and school, (while still dancing for NYCB) – The Eglevsky Ballet – and out of his school he would do his own guesting appearances. At one of those guest appearances he had two heart attacks and that was end of his career so when he recovered, he went more into his own school, and Mr. Balanchine said “Please, I will help you with your school and your company and please come and work with my school” (SAB, School of American Ballet). I was around 12 at the time – it was a big change. I thought maybe I should stay around and go to school and be a doctor. I asked my parents what they thought – they said:  we don’t care. So that made me angry and I thought I’d  show them – so I decided to continue dancing. I went over to American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and focused in on a teacher there.

Eventually, Mr. Balanchine did take me into NYCB at 14 – and it was like a 2ndhome there – it was just part of the course. Yet, I was afraid to be only one kind of dancer, a Balanchine dancer – and, I was also under the shadow of my father – part of me wanted to get away from that and be on my own. Rebekah Harkness of the Harkness Ballet – had the kind of choreography I felt an affinity for and it was the kind of repertory I wanted to do – so, one day I went up to the director and asked to be in Harkness – and they ended up saying yes.

Q:  What was your experience like with Harkness – how long did you stay?

Marina with The Harkness Ballet.
Courtesy of Marina Eglevsky.

One of the 1st choreographers in Harkness was John Neumeier, and he’d expressed a great interest in me. At that time I was 15 or 16, and I didn’t understand the implications of a choreographer liking me, otherwise if I’d understood I would’ve stayed with Balanchine. While I was at Harkness, I married a dancer there which my parents were also against – after Harkness folded in the 70’s, we worked a little bit with Eglevsky Ballet and tried to heal and mend things with my parents.

After that, we were taken into Maurice Bejart’s company – we stayed with them until contracts started, and while we were waiting for them to begin, it didn’t feel right to me, but my husband was thrilled. Once I was married, my husband and I had a goal to stay together – which made it difficult to get a job. We went to Stuttgart, got a yes, but it didn’t come through, so then we went to ABT, I got a yes but not my husband, so I didn’t go. One day I was hanging around in ABT in the studios, and a man from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was there, and asked if we wanted to be in the company, and they had this amazing repertory – like Harkness – so we said sure. So we went there – it was wonderful, one of the first choreographer’s that came to work with us was John Neumeier, and we worked with the Winnipeg company for awhile. John said he was starting a new company in Hamburg, Germany and “would you come to Hamburg?” We both said yes to joining Hamburg Ballet – John’s still there – (he was from Stuttgart, but branched off to the Hamburg Ballet.)

End of Part 1 – stay tuned for next month’s installment.

Skyline High Kicks it Off!

Skyline High Dancers, courtesy Stephen Woo

Tonight, our Kickoff Fundraiser for Adults in Ballet – Philanthropy for Dance takes place at Rumbo Al Sur here in Oakland, CA. It gives me great pleasure to be able to begin this journey and to be able to help one of the best known Bay Area High Schools around – the Skyline High School Dance Dept.

Skyline High School is one of the most diverse High Schools in the country. Skyline’s Performing Arts Department provides a performing arts education in drama, dance, instrumental music, vocal music, and technical theatre. A typical school-year season includes 12 large-scale productions, frequent off-campus performances, and multiple opportunities to compete. Performances are held in the 975-seat Farnsworth Theater. (courtesy of wikipedia.org)

The Dance Dept. is comprised of 3 levels, beginning, intermediate and advanced. All levels are by audition, save for the beginning level. Both the intermediate and advanced levels have the opportunity to perform throughout the year and a major component of all the classes is allowing the students to create their own choreography.

Recently I had the great pleasure of interviewing the Dance Dept. Director, Dawn James and her 2 Dance Captains, Hannah Ayasse and Yelena Keller – all very special people!!

This is Dawn James’, Dance Dept. Director, 20th year at Skyline High. Her focus at Skyline is a modern jazz style, with a strong ballet technique base. She gives her students a lot of traditional ballet terminology and uses her modern jazz style to do that. She loves to see “the passion just ignite in her students”. And, from all accounts, she receives very high praise from her students.

Hannah Ayasse

Hannah Ayasse, senior and co-Dance Captain, started dancing in elementary school and remembers her sister taking her to see Skyline’s dance productions and knew then what she wanted to do.  She’s put the strong emphasis on learning the art of choreography taught in the classes — to her advantage. She began choreographing her freshman year and since then has choreographed about two dances for each show. She’s found her true passion in story telling through movement and was awarded Best Choreographer her sophomore and junior years. In her own words:  “…[it was through] the amazing opportunity to choreograph that I discovered how dance has the capacity to carry great emotions and stretch the soul.”

Yelena Keller

Yelena Keller, senior and co-Dance Captain, also started dancing at an early age in elementary school Being a very creative person with interests in a variety of different forms and expressions of the arts, dancing to her means being able to bring it all  into one spontaneous moment – all different forms of the arts into one. As she puts it “…[dance] allows me to take on a role, the music – figure out a way to make the movement your own. A lot of creativity that goes into dance whether your choreographing or not you have to figure out a way to make the movement your own.”

As Dance Captain, their duties are integral to helping the classes run smoothly, the rehearsals and the performances – they’ve even created a Facebook group that they use to get the info out to students, and organize potlucks with fellow students Especially if there are sub teachers, they will take on more of the teaching duties. In short, they are Ms. James’ “go to girls”.

They both have a true passion for dance – Hannah is off to college at George Washington University in the fall and hoping to minor in dance and perhaps be a dance teacher one day. Yelena has been accepted at Sarah Lawrence College and will be joining their dance program, either majoring or minoring in Dance.

Dawn James

They both give very high praise to Ms. James for her work and dedication to her students and to the Dance Program – in Hannah’s words:  “All I know is that if I could have the effect on a child’s life that Ms. James has had on mine, I would feel extremely fulfilled.” And Yelena expresses – “…every day that I spend in Ms. James’s dance class is a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

When asked about how they will put the donation from Adults in Ballet to use, the major consensus amongst all 3 ladies is they would like to start a yearly, ongoing scholarship for those students wishing to continue their dance training beyond their years at Skyline. And, secondarily, among other things, a new mirror wall is very much needed for the dance studios. Since Skyline depends entirely on private donations to keep operating, we are pleased to be able to help them.

Both ladies will be performing this week at their end of year dance performance – “Bodies In Motion” taking place this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 17 – 19, at 7:30 pm in the Farnsworth Theatre, on the Skyline High School campus, 12250 Skyline Blvd. in Oakland. Please click here for more information.

Brava Ladies!!

Dance in the Bay Area: Behold The Gift

Behold The Gift

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, dance goers have many wonderful Holiday performances — from professional companies to local community groups — to choose from. I had a chance recently to see a local group — the Behold Dance Collective – perform at a local tree lighting ceremony. Behold Dance is a local, community based group that truly embraces the Spirit of the Season and encourages dancers of all ages — whether taking class or providing opportunities for performing. This weekend they perform “Behold The Gift” in the Temple Theatre at the Oakland LDS Interstake Center, 4770 Lincoln Avenue, with 2 shows. With poignant choreography and music celebrating the life of Christ, “Behold The Gift” celebrates significant moments in His life and visit to ancient America.

Mindi Wade, founder and Artistic Director, told me the idea for her collective grew primarily out of the first performances of “Behold The Gift” at the Temple Theatre, which she originally choreographed for adult dancers. From these beginnings, it became the Behold Dance Collective, which now houses both an adult company and a youth company under the umbrella of the Collective, a non-profit organization “dedicated to producing dance art that inspires individuals and unifies communities. We dance to honor the joys and challenges of life.”

Every  year they perform “Behold The Gift” at Christmas and in the Spring they sponsor Tapestry, a Dance Event and invite different dance companies from all genres, professional and non-professional, to perform. Producing, directing and performing the shows is a community effort and Mindi enlists the help of other professionals, teachers and members of the community. She’d like to thank Jennie Smith, Vicki, and Lynn for their outreach efforts for autistic children; and Kathryn for her help in directing Tapestry. Throughout the year, they also perform at local arts and dance festivals.

With an extensive dance background in ballet, modern and more, Mindi teaches children’s classes at her studios in Oakley, where she also employs several other teachers as well. She offers primarily ballet, modern, jazz and tap and also offers creative movement classes for children with disabilities. In the coming year, she hopes to expand both her school and her youth and adult companies.

“Behold The Gift” performances will be this Sunday, Dec. 18th, with 2 shows — at 7pm and 8pm at the Temple Theatre. Click here for directions. Performances are free (no tickets required), however, donations are welcomed at the door. For more information on the Behold Dance Collective, click here. If you have questions for Mindi, please email her here.