When I watch anything done by people who are very good at what they do, I have the same feelings. They perform effortlessly as if anyone can do it. Watch a musician stroke the strings, a painter brush colors exactly where they need to go, and a dancer move with utmost grace, they all make it look graceful, effortless, and a delight to watch. I then try to imagine what it must take to come to the level of perfection in what they do and that’s all I can do, just imagine and even that is hard.
I have attended several practice and rehearsal sessions at the Festival Ballet Providence to observe and to take photographs for their Up Close on Hope performances. Watching the practice and rehearsals made me appreciate what they do at live performances even more, and I must say I got tired watching them and they were still jumping around.
I arrived there around 12:30 PM on Friday and found them moving around. Each dancer, ballerina in regular clothing, khakis, corduroys, chinos, some in costume was moving their arms, legs and bodies according to an internal rhythm with no music. At times they looked as if I was watching a movie that was being played at higher speeds than normal as they rapidly moved through their paces. That was probably to build extra muscle memory so that when they performed the moves would come effortlessly. This was a period of practice that was somewhat chaotic and mostly out of sync, individual effort, and the dancers and ballerinas appeared more human, even at times clumsy as they practiced some difficult moves.
Then Misha signaled that performance rehearsal would start, piece by piece. Everyone took their positions behind narrow side curtains that hid them from the audience and on cue they started flowing on to the stage, this time to music. Movements became more graceful, showing less effort, and faces and bodies became more expressive and emotional. I could hear brief comments, instructions blurted by choreographer or the artistic director. At the end of each piece they would huddle with Misha and Victor discus some details of a position, how they should tuck their chest in, and other fine points. At one point I saw Misha moving with Jennifer to show how a move could be improved by transferring her on his back from one side to another while explaining the reasoning behind the move. After the pieces were rehearsed, it was time to rehearse the bows, some of them a couple of times. Nothing was left to chance. This was only one of such practice sessions that takes place for weeks before the performance.
And the rehearsal continued, until around 3:45 PM. They would take a little rest, get ready and perform that evening. I did not see that evening’s performance but went to the following evening and enjoyed watching them perform and took photographs. I will share them with you in a separate post. I hope you get a sense of how much work that goes into making and see the tremendous human effort behind the effortlessly gliding moves of the graceful dancers and ballerinas at a live performance. It is a blend of strong human efforts and superhuman, graceful appearance and movements.
Here are some photographs from the practice and rehearsal sessions. If they look in some pictures less than graceful it’s because they have not yet donned their stage persona. Also, don’t look at these as great dance photographs where every line is perfect, every angle is just right. These are meant to show the human story, the human dimension, and the human effort behind each enchanting performance. They show dancers not at their best form, but most human.