October 20, 2015

‘Tis the season

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It is Nutcracker season. The dancers have been in the studio, perfecting their characters and practicing each role. Each year, there is a buzz of excitement for this performance. A special combination of nostalgia for performances past, and excitement for performances to come, fills Salt Creek Ballet and the theaters we will call home one weekend at a time. Join us. Opening performances are Thanksgiving Weekend.

Photo by Sarah Mills Photography

June 18, 2013

A Tribute

Words and Photos by Bari Baskin of Time Stops Photography, SCB Alumna and Board Member

A few months ago the world lost a very special woman, Patricia Sigurdson, founder of Salt Creek Ballet. She played a huge role in so many of our lives.  This Friday, several hundred people will be gathering to honor, remember and celebrate Patti’s life. A handful of SCB alumnae got together last night to be a part of a piece created by Julia Rhoads, former SCB dancer and founder of Lucky Plush Productions.  It’s been 12 years since I was last in a dance studio as a part of any sort of rehearsal. What a trip!  A few of my friends from my time at Salt Creek were there as well as dancers from various times in SCB history.

Julia started out by reading us what she had written about Patti’s life and the words we would be dancing to.  It’s such a cool concept and I’m excited to be a part of this piece.

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Other familiar faces were there as a part of the process as well. Susan O’Connell and Sue Wren, two women who were a integral part of both Patti’s life and Salt Creek’s story participated in the rehearsal as well, adding input and creative energy.

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There was a lot of laughter and it felt good to be a part of something so meaningful. I ran back and forth between dancing and grabbing my camera to get a few shots of what this night looked like for us.

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I can’t wait to see my alumni friends as well as the huge outpouring of love and support as we celebrate Patti and all she did to change and enrich our lives and those around us.  We hope to see you Friday night!

June 14, 2013

Crunch Time

Words by Natalie Sprovieri, SCB Company Member
Photo by Bari Baskin of Time Stops Photography, SCB Alumna and Board Member

It is hard to adequately describe what it’s like to experience Regional Dance America festivals. It’s a crunch time, both physically and mentally, it’s a time where we push beyond the threshold and reach our personal limits; it’s a time of growth. My experience at festival this year was one that I will surely never forget. Between the glorious aspects of performing, waking up in the early hours of the morning to take class after hardly sleeping at all and creating new bonds and friendships, each individual experience was priceless; but the particular part of festival that I loved the most was performing. It’s a unique feeling being able to perform for your fellow dance peers and not just any regular audience.

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The RDA audience gives a different energy when I am on stage. This audience has the knowledge of how and what good dancing looks like. They pushed me to feel an excessive sense of professionalism and the need for perfection in every performance. Each time I stepped out on the stage was like entering an alternate reality; I became eye candy, a visual art participant.

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Most importantly, I felt connected. Performing at RDA builds such a strong sense of connection between yourself, the audience, and your fellow company members that within every performance you grow as a dancer, performer, and dance companion. This experience taught me an important lesson; in the words of Jackson Brown, “opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.”

March 11, 2013

Preparing for the Performance

Words & Photos by Bari Baskin of Time Stops Photography, SCB Alumni and Board Member

A wonderful performance of Alice in Wonderland is almost upon us.  However, before it hits the stage with an audience out front, there is so much more that happens behind the scenes.  I was recently asked to come in and photograph Alice in Wonderland being set on the company.  A rush of flashbacks came flooding through my mind, reminding me of the days I had been a dancer with Salt Creek.  Getting to be a part of this kind of experience, whether it was brand new piece or one being reset was always so much fun.  It was exciting to find out what role you would play.  Working with the choreographers as well the other dancers in the company was what we lived for. This rehearsal was especially fun for me as Susan O’Connell was one of my favorite choreographers from my days at SCB. It almost made me wish I was back on stage, dancing with the company, were I not 20 years older now wondering where my flexibility and stamina has gone!  I’ve always loved being backstage, seeing what happens as performances are put together, even when I was one of the dancers myself.

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So much happens before full costumes are adorned, sets are added and an audience is invited in.  Generally, large props may be used from the beginning, as it is always much easier to learn with them than to add them after the fact.  Sometimes, practice costumes will be worn for the same reason.

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There is lots of repetition until everyone gets is just right, with correct lines, proper timing, appropriate acting and working together to make sure everyone can get to where they need to be.

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I can’t wait to see this performance and enter the world of Alice in Wonderland created by the beauty of dance. We hope to see you there too!

February 22, 2013

A Moment in Time

Words by Christina Salerno, SCB Executive Director and Alumna & Heidi Peters
Photo by Heidi Peters

Without a partner to work with, one dancer takes a moment in Pas de Deux Class to work on her own placement.

In classes and rehearsals, there are often times when dancers just have to wait around. Sometimes a choreographer needs to finish a section with other dancers, sometimes a female dancer has to wait her turn with a male partner. For as much movement as there is in dance, there are also many, many hours of waiting. Here, an SCB company member keeps herself busy by continually going to the piano and concentrating on her balance – she is practicing one or two very subtle moves over and over again, training her muscles to improve. At one point, the instructor noticed this work and commented that all the dancers should feel free to do this — to go off into their own world for a minute or two between turns with the partner.

What I like about this picture is the fact that the other dancers are blurry and relaxed in the background and the dancer at the piano is so focussed on her posture in the foreground. It is a moment which foretells future moments for all involved.

February 8, 2013

For All Things Grave and New

Words by Jessie Philbrick, SCB Company Member
Photos by Scott Lewis

As Company prepares for this year’s Adjudication, I am loving the reemergence of one of my favorite parts of the season: the adventure of choreography with such a wide spectrum of movement and artistic style. Autumn and Michelle Broviak’s “This is Not America,” a dance where we portray the homeless people we all see living on the street, has been particularly inspiring for me.

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Ultimately, the goal of this dance is to promote awareness and inspire empathy. However, even without a mission or greater purpose or anything to that end, this dance has been incredibly meaningful for all of us working on it.

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It’s forcing us to open our hearts, to learn to connect them to the movements, rehearsal after rehearsal. While working through this choreography, I’ve noticed a change about me: my thoughts are less self-focused. I believe this is because I am forced to portray something serious that I cannot singlehandedly relate to, or understand, yet, as a dancer I must communicate the hopelessness these people feel as if it is my own.

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This is the first time I have ever explored this kind of openness and compassion as a dancer, and really the first time I have ever danced for a current, serious issue of our day. Not only is this dance meaningful, but I feel more meaningful as a person because I am involved in it.

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January 31, 2013

In Between Moment…

Photo by Heidi Peters
Words by Heidi Peters & Christina Salerno, SCB Executive Director and Alumna

It is not uncommon for younger students to watch quietly at the edge of the studio doorway where the Company practices. The younger students always seem to crouch or sit, or in this case lay, so that they do not catch the attention of anyone in the room.

The Company dancers never seem to mind the younger observers — probably they remember when they stood at the edge of the studio doorway themselves.

As a photographer, I like the reflection on the floor of both the dancers preparing to start and the girl laying down watching. The reflection seems to capture the moment when both observer and observed are in harmony, when one is looking toward the future and one is remembering the past.

December 12, 2012

Nutcracker “From the Wings”

Photos by Heidi Peters
Words by Heidi Peters

Princess Clara and The Nutcracker Prince (Jessie Philbrick and Luke McCollum) warm up on stage in the last moments before the curtain goes up. Cast members of the party scene, who are  already in costume and ready to start the first act, make the most of the chance to watch their practice at close range.

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A spirit of camaraderie is shared before each performance when Zhanna Dubrovskaya, Artistic Director, gathers the cast in a circle and shares final words of encouragement and advice.

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During the party scene, children must improvise on the side while the adults dance a formal piece. A young boy in the cast approaches this task with great relish.

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Valery Dolgallo, as Herr Drosselmeyer, waits in the wings before making his dramatic entrance to the party scene.

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Before squeezing inside the large “present” which gets delivered to the party and appearing as part of the Harlequin couple, Michael Fitzgerald does a few final jumps.

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The snow that falls during the final dance of the first act can be slippery. Nina Lewis leads a line of dancers who are safely positioned just upstage from the path of the flurry.

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Costume Mistress, Mary Blake, sews the Sugar Plum Fairy into the bodice of her costume before every performance. Even though it is firmly hooked already, sewing up the back gives extra security and prevents her Cavalier from getting a finger caught during difficult lifts and turns.

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The satin on the tip of a dancer’s pointe shoe tatters quickly. A dancer is handed a pair of scissors backstage to trim the satin so that it appears neat on stage.

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It’s not all serious and solemn in the wings. A waltz couple do the Gangnam Style to Tchaikovsky’s score in order to keep their legs warm.

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When the guest artists perform their duet, younger dancers pause to watch and admire.

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September 20, 2012

Nutcracker Auditions, Behind the Scenes

Guest Post by Christina Hebding, SCB Alumna (’12)
Photos by Heidi Peters

What is it like to be casted in The Nutcracker?

This is the Beginning…..

“Backstage” at the audition…

Anticipation…

At Salt Creek Ballet, the cast list for The Nutcracker is one of the most important days of the year for the company members. The photos shown here remind me that I too started as a young performer, first as an angel. Meanwhile, throughout the month of September, the company seems to be filled with a lot of anxiety, mystery, hard work, emotional exhaustion, yet there remains optimism and anticipation. Everyone has a dream part, or solo they want to perform, so they try to work hard all year, including the summer, to prove themselves capable of performing that role with fluid execution. The cast list clearly states who is performing what part in The Nutcracker. Dancers either receive roles they anticipated, or may be disappointed in their parts, or sometimes even get more than they expected. What I loved about Nutcracker roles is that you could always end up performing a part you were never casted for on that first day. Understudies are given opportunities to show that, if they work hard enough and progress enough, they can perform the role they studied.

In my experience, I’ve always looked at the cast list as a milestone, and a symbol of the start of Nutcracker season. I was able to compare my parts to the previous season, to see how much I grew as a dancer. Additionally, I was able to measure my successes, and determine if I felt accomplished in my own progress. As I would approach the cast list, I would feel vulnerable and outside my comfort zone. The experience required me to face the truth, and the mystery behind that whole month of September. When I read my parts, it was always factual, confirming, and real. It was officially the beginning of The Nutcracker. The feeling of being casted is new, fresh, and clean. It’s like a fresh breeze air. It’s sharp. It’s inspiring, and spiritual. It’s everything you’ve worked towards. It’s nutcracker.

July 20, 2012

Coordination…..

Post by Christina Salerno, SCB Alumna and Executive Director

Photos of Guest Teacher, Randy Newsom, and SCB dancers by Scott Lewis

One of the most special and incredible aspects of dance is its capacity to highlight the human body’s ability to coordinate muscles, memory, and breath in concert with music.  Dance is often compared to athletics, and rightly so on many fronts, but dance exhibits a highly refined level of coordination not often displayed by other athletic pursuits.  Dance searches for an ideal, but that ideal is not an end unto its own.  To use a basketball analogy, it is not IF you score a basket, it IS the shape of your legs, arms, fingers, WHILE scoring a basket that makes the difference.  And the ball must pass the hoop at precisely the moment that the choreographer has envisioned the ball passes through the hoop.  And there must be passion in the whole persona of the individual making the basket.  Not just JOY, but ELATION, possibly with emotion that simultaneously portrays what came just before as well as what is yet to be revealed.

Legs and Arm coordination

To train one’s body to be perfectly coordinated is an ongoing process for any dancer ~ a life long quest for perfection.  As an American Ballet Theatre Ballerina once remarked to me, “To become a dancer, you really need to love attention to detail, you need to be able to work for hours on tedious things such as where your little finger is in second position [of the arms].”

A brief stop in sequencing

Each choreographer adds a new dimension to coordination.  Some challenge the limits of the mind to string together repetitive elements with slight variations (think the finale of “Four Temperaments” by Balanchine, the “Adolescents” dance in MacMillian’s “Rite of Spring”), some ask the body to work independently of its individual parts (think “Breakers” by Cunningham and countless works by Wayne MacGregor), some repeat signature choreography in multiple ways, on multiple characters/dancers (think Petipa’s “Sleeping Beauty” prologue, Balanchine’s “Symphony in C”), some challenge the dancer to coordinate without the luxury of music (think Morris’ “Gong”), some require incredible speed and precision (think Ashton’s “Scenes de Ballet” and “Med. Diverts” from “Ondine”), some require dancers to make the most out of the languid movement (think Duato’s “Songs without Words”), some ask dancers to luxuriate angularity and sensuality simultaneously (think Wheeldon’s “Tryst”)…….in advance of any comments, I would like to here add that truly great works exhibit multiple expressions of coordination.   A case could be made for any of the above, as great works each in their own right, that each of them could and does exhibit aspects of coordination on multiple platforms.

Similarly, each teacher brings new elements of coordination to each individual student.  Guest teachers benefit from the fact that what they bring to the ballet studio is somehow different, challenging and unique to what has been developed prior to that teacher’s arrival.  No matter that the basic technique is the same, no matter that the corrections are similar to what is said repeatedly both before and after the guest instructor graces the studio.  What the guest brings is a fresh perspective, a new look at how to coordinate one’s body and mind.  And if that teacher also introduces some Bourneville, Graham, Leon, et al. along the way, then those dancers become annointed to have yet another chance to expand their individual level of coordination.

Coordinating a movement backwards

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