I wanted to share some of the shots from the first performance of "Romeo and Juliet" I photographed this season featuring Marcelo Gomes and Julie Kent in the title roles. More photos from the second performance coming soon!
Last weekend I took a little trip to Connecticut to shoot a local ballet school's production of The Sleeping Beauty. When I first heard about the job I was excited for a chance to get out of the city for the afternoon, but that was quickly usurped by my excitement at the chance to photograph my former coworkers from American Ballet Theatre, Jared Matthews and Hee Seo. Since I left the company these two have put their mark on some of the most prestigious roles in the ballet canon and grown as artists and technicians. I got a chance to witness this first hand and am now able to share a few pictures with the Rant!
I wanted to share a few more pictures from a rehearsal for Avi Scher's upcoming season at Ailey Citigroup Theater. I've long been a fan of Avi's work and have had the opportunity to photograph his company throughout its development. These latest pieces are some of his most ambitious yet, and feature an all-star cast of dancers like New York City Ballet's Sara Mearns and American Ballet Theatre's Marcelo Gomes, both pictured here. Enjoy! And grab your tickets today!
Nothing welcomes fall, or brings out the kid in all of us, quite like Central Park. I recently spent a Sunday afternoon there with my friends Daniel and Jackie, and let's just say we were operating at the level of a five-year-old...with expensive camera equipment.
I didn’t expect to make my return to the stage so soon. Or in quite the manner that I am about to. Yet here I am, standing next to my old colleagues in the wings at New York’s City Center, preparing to walk on stage in jeans and a sweater. Stage left at this particular theater has to be the most cramped backstage I’ve ever encountered—less than four feet of space before a wall of ropes—and as I wait, anxiously tapping my Converse on the ground while other dancers file in around the light booms, part of me wants to grab hold of one of the ropes, release its hook, and fly up into the rafters.
All evening people have been asking me if I’m “going to do it.” The piece going on right now, Citizen by Lauri Stallings, had its world premiere earlier in ABT’s season. I was sitting in the audience during the dress rehearsal when various stagehands, dancers, and children wandered on stage behind the ballet’s performers (at the direction of the choreographer) and stared out at the audience. I didn’t know what to make of it when I was sitting out in my seat, and now I am about to become one of those stragglers, whose population has been growing with each passing show. It will be the first step I’ve taken on stage during a performance since April 2007.
Everyone around me is making jokes. One boy is stripping down to his boxers. Another has a kilt on. Someone even has a video camera to capture all of the action. For them, it’s just another night to try a new and outlandish way to draw attention. To me, it is a reentry into a world I left without choice. I feel myself falling back into my perfectionist-micro-managing dancer mindset as I ask all the particulars about our entry: when do we go? How long do we stay? What do we do? It’s less than thirty seconds on stage, I tell myself. One of the newer corps girls, a face that wasn’t on the roster when I departed from the company, is kind enough to answer a few of my questions and explains to me that we walk out and stare at the audience “when the dancers freeze, and the orchestra hits a loud, prolonged note.”
The pace of the people around me is quickening, as they make last minute adjustments to their outfits. I align the Velcro of the bag on my shoulder, which holds the camera that has become my true companion over the past year; it reassures me things are okay. It’s coming. “It’s soon,” the young blonde says to me. I see my friends on stage, dripping sweat down their costumes of shimmery fabrics and sequins as they execute the frenetic choreography, wrapping arms around each other and propelling their bodies into splayed positions before freezing in a tableau.
“Now,” she says. Strings swell—always my favorite sound out of the orchestra pit—as dancers, technicians, and bystanders emerge from the wings. I feel my posture change; my neck extends, head cocks, and my breath escapes me. The audience is barely visible, as the lights lining the front of each balcony in the auditorium shine in our faces, and I am suddenly a performer again. Part of me wants to sit on the stage for the remainder of the ballet and feel the energy rise up from the floor and into my body. Part of me wants to take a picture. And part of me wants to scream.
Instead, I back into the wings with everybody else, walk out the stage door, and take a breath of the autumn air. Just another citizen.
Last night marked the official end of my four-year career with American Ballet Theatre. There were no balloons, no speeches, no tears, and ultimately no closure. Standing in the wings, watching my childhood idols Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel dancing Giselle, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have worked alongside so many inspiring artists. But as the second act progressed, and the ghost-like wilis overtook the stage, I couldn’t help but feel like one myself.
Over the past year I have had moments of hope where my return to the company seemed almost within reach. Then, in March, the decision was made that I was going to step away from the company and devote my emotional and physical energy into healing; hoping was replaced with coping. That was long ago, and over the course of the subsequent months I have faced the emotional devastation of dealing with a chronic illness that ultimately pulled me away from the goal I worked toward since I was thirteen.
One of the words I have wrestled with most through this time is “closure.” As performer and a writer, I enjoy experiencing the arc of my movement or words when creation is complete. The art that I lose myself in, often wraps things up in a way that morphs my perception of the journeys we take.
I put much of my hope for a neatly tied bow in the end of the year party that typically occurs on the Friday before the final day of Met season. It is a time to celebrate the dancers’ hard work and acknowledge those who are leaving. Because of the nature of ABT’s schedule this year (which continues after Met with four weeks of tour), the party was eliminated. With its cancellation came a barrage of emotions.
It is one of many rituals dancers experience when parting ways with the company, in which I could not partake. I didn’t know my last show, a Romeo and Juliet in Chicago in April 2007, was going to be the final bow I took with the company. While some of these rituals may indeed be superficial, they are moments I wish I had the chance to experience.
In reality, my departure began shortly after that bow, when I was diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus. Since then, I have drifted away from the friends that became my family during my time with the company. Yet my name still rested comfortably in the middle of the corps listing of the program. Its removal cuts the final strings that tied me to my first New York family.
I took a walk through the Met yesterday evening (essentially this family’s home), gathering my memories of my time as a member. As I wove through the maze, I wondered if it was the last time my ID would let me through the doors; if my dressing room spot would ever be mine again; if I would ever warm-up at the barres in the wings; if I would have another ‘first’ performance, entering the stage and feeling the orchestra sweep over me. These are all questions I can’t answer.
Walking around backstage, I began realizing that life, unlike the movement or words in whose arcs I trust, isn’t something that can be revised through rehearsals or drafts in order to come to a resolution. It is a constantly evolving creation that isn’t over until it’s over. It’s entirely possible that I will be back. And it’s entirely possible that I won’t. I guess that’s the beauty of not having closure; possibilities are endless.
(The Fourth of July celebrates one of America's favorite pastimes: EATING. So at the first barbecue I attended last week, the big question was, "Whadda we eat?!" Here are a few menu options.)
(What better way to satiate the palate than with a beer or two? Isaac looms over the aftermath.)
(Bella is so delicious that you may want to eat her up, but she's a bit furry...and a dog. Why else would she be sitting at attention, waiting for food to drop to the ground? I could never get away with that.)
(Sure, the cake that Nicole made was delicious, but there were so many more unique menu options!)
(We don't need typical (and delicious) American fare when we could...)
(Eat Kristi's foot.)
(Or David's head.)
(Speaking of heads...light Marcelo's on fire and you've got Brazilian flambe!)
(But who needs food when you can dance! It's all the nourishment you need. (Cue "The More You Know" music and shooting star.)