Monthly Archives: September 2014

World Ballet Day – times, deets, links

Want deets for the Oct 5, 2017 event? Click HERE!

Ballet fans around the world, mark the date: Wednesday October 1st. You are about to be blitzed. Never before has there been such a perfect opportunity for fans around the world to wholly immerse themselves in a day of ballet. Five companies, The Australian Ballet, The Bolshoi, London’s Royal Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada and the San Francisco Ballet, will each live stream a four-hour segment of their working day. Not only can you watch, but you can also send them questions via Twitter that they’ll try and answer through their four-hour segment.


Credit for the idea goes to London’s Royal Ballet who, in 2012, live-streamed a nine-hour day of behind-the-scenes footage, which drew 200,000 viewers, and, later 2.5 million viewers to the YouTube archive. But it takes five companies around the world to cooperate and make this one happen. (Don’t you love that the ballet world is showing the “real” world how to collaborate and cooperate — with no guns or threats or nationalistic rhetoric? It’s just “us” and “ballet.” Neat. )

Each segment will commence with company class. After this, it’s rehearsal time. Here’s what you can expect to see from each of the five companies:

The Australian Ballet: (7pm Pacific Time on 9/30, 12 noon local time on 10/1)

  • Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake
  • Stanton Welch’s La Bayadère
  • Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker
  • Ostinato by resident choreographer Tim Harbour.

Artistic director David McAllister will be on hand to answer questions via Twitter.

Bolshoi Ballet: (11pm on 9/30 Pacific Time, 10am local time)

  • The Taming of the Shrew by Jean-Christophe Maillot
  • Yuri Grigorovich’s Legend of Love

The Royal Ballet (3am Pacific Time on 10/1, 11am local time)

  • Carlos Acosta coaching Vadim Muntagirov in Don Quixote.
  • Marianela Nunez and Federico Bonelli in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon.
  • Liam Scarlett working with Laura Morera and Steven McRae on his The Age of Anxiety.
  • Christopher Wheeldon’s Aeternum
  • Frederick Ashton’s Scènes de ballet.
  • Ludovic Ondiviela’s Cassandra.

Wayne McGregor will be interviewed, as will artistic director Kevin O’Hare.

The National Ballet of Canada: (7am Pacific Time, 10am local time)

  • Anthony Dowell rehearsing the company in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon.
  • John Neumeier’s Nijinsky, coached by artist-in-residence Rex Harrington and senior ballet master Peter Ottmann.

Artistic director Karen Kain will be interviewed.

The cameras will also go inside the company’s wardrobe department and show dancers in athletic therapy and preparing pointe shoes.

San Francisco Ballet (11am Pacific Time and, whaddya know – 11am local time!)

  • Yuri Possikhov’s RAkU
  • William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude
  • Helgi Tomasson’s Concerto Grosso and scenes from Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote.

Interviews with artistic director Helgi Tomasson, principal dancers Maria Kochetkova, Yuan Yuan Tan and Taras Domitro.

If, alas, you have to miss it all, no worries, you’ll get the chance to watch it on YouTube. In the meantime, you can click on any of the above links, at the appropriate time, and they’ll either have the streaming on their site, or direct you where to go. Or heck, go straight to YouTube and see it all from there:

Enjoy! I certainly will.


Still some footage of World Ballet Day as of Sun Oct 5th! Here’s company class with the Royal Ballet. I just LOVED this; am delighted that this is some of the footage still out there. A highly recommended watch!

And, wow – THE BOLSHOI!! So excited about this one, as I missed the live streaming. Looks like it’s all four hours, to boot. Enjoy!

And here’s a fantastic article by the Toronto Star, summarizing World Ballet Day with some interesting statistics and details of the day (minus San Francisco coverage).

And if you STILL can’t get enough of the World Ballet Day chat, as clearly I can’t, even five days later, here’s a fun blog post (and some great Twitter pics!) by Pia Catton  of the Wall Street Journal


The marvelous, mesmerizing Misty Copeland


She’s got 1,590,000 Google hits. Hers is the ballet dancer name on everyone’s lips. Her athleticism and beauty in the ad for Under Armour this past summer created a sensation that quickly went viral. She’s tiny for a ballet dancer, at five-foot-two. She has curves. She didn’t take her first ballet class until she was thirteen. No matter — at thirty-two, she just performed her first Odette/Odile lead role in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake, while the company was on tour in Australia. Her memoir published last spring, chronicling her struggles against the odds to arrive at the place she is now, is a bestseller. She is the preeminent role model for young African-American girls yearning to be ballet dancers. She rose from humble circumstances, one of six kids, raised by a single mother with struggles of her own. She is one of the very few African-American soloists in the trade, the only one currently dancing in the ultra-prestigious American Ballet Theatre.

Misty Copeland is a whole lot of wonderful.

First, the ad for Under Armour, in case you haven’t seen it.


The rejection letter the voice-over reads in this commercial is fictional, but it certainly does represent the odds Copeland had to work against, odds for many an aspiring ballet dancer, or gymnast, or pianist, or violinist, or any teenager (or adult, or middle-aged person, or retired person), who believes in a dream with all her heart. Here it is:

Dear Candidate,

Thank you for your application to our ballet academy. Unfortunately you have not been accepted. You lack the right feet, Achilles tendons, turnout, torso length and bust. You have the wrong body for ballet. And at 13, you are too old to be considered.

Oh, don’t you love stories of people who simply ignore comments like that, lower their heads and work, push, remain true to their vision, ultimately finding well-earned success?  Me too.


There are dozens of articles out there that chronicle Misty Copeland’s story well, such as this New Yorker article about her: You can also give her memoir a read:


Anaheim Ballet’s wonderful series of interviewing dancers brought us this clip featuring Misty Copeland. While mainstream viewers may prefer the briefer, eye-candy of the Under Armour commercial (and how I LOVE getting the chance to use “mainstream viewers” and “ballet dancer” in the same sentence!), this clip gives us Copeland’s philosophy, her heartfelt thoughts. And some gorgeous dance, to boot.




That Most Embarrassing Moment


We’ve all had them. They made our faces flame as we stood there and desperately wished the ground would open up and swallow us whole. But instead we stuttered our way out of the awkward situation and prayed for time to fast forward to the day where we could chuckle about it, think, “ah, that was pretty funny, in retrospect.” Oh, that Most Embarrassing Moment.

Back around 2003, Travelers Tales bought my essay, “R&R in the B&B” and in the 11th hour, dropped it from the anthology. The book had run too long. Never mind that I had the signed contract, the book galleys, and was waiting for the final publication and payment. Instead, an apology letter came in the mail. Heartbreaking to my ego. One of those “oh yeah? Here’s my worst experience as a writer” story. Which adds insult to injury to my “oh, yeah? Here’s my most embarrassing experience as a traveler” story that they dropped.

My poor orphaned essay.

Good thing for blogs.

Indulge me, dear reader. And then indulge me further by sharing your most embarrassing travel (or otherwise) moment. Only, mind you, if it makes you laugh now.


                                       R&R in the B&B

“Nothing is going to get me back in the car tonight,” I growled to Barbara, my travel companion. However picturesque rural England was, it was tiring as hell for a nervous American who had learned only the previous month how to drive a manual transmission car. Combined with the wrong-side-of-the-road confusion, missed turns, early nightfall and drizzle, it was a wonder I hadn’t jumped ship miles back.

We’d booked a room in a traditional thatched Devon longhouse B&B. While I’d dodged traffic and groused, Barbara had navigated over the maze of tiny roads that comprised much of rural England. “Next, get off the A-38 and onto the B-3193,” she’d read, “then the dual carriageway to Newton Abbott…whoa, watch the cows there, then as the road narrows, look for Preston, but not King’s Day, which would mean we’ve gone too far. That must be it,” she said finally, pointing to a farmhouse on the right.

It looked just like the picture in my guidebook, a charming, thatched, seventeenth-century longhouse, several sets of boots out front next to the doormat. A “No Smoking” sign was posted over the open door. I parked and scrambled out of the car with shaking legs, muttering dark curses about driving, all those silly British rules, that idiot clutch. After grabbing our bags from the trunk, we wandered into the paneled entryway, hearing voices in one of the rooms. The warmth of the house, the rustic oak-beamed ceiling and reassuring tick-tick of the grandfather clock immediately soothed me. “I just love B&B’s here,” I told Barbara. “You get a real feeling of home.” There was even a tray of freshly baked cookies on a nearby lace-covered table. I grabbed a cookie and stuffed half of it into my mouth, feeling even better as the sugar hit my system with a rush. Dumping our bags on the floor, we wandered into the living room, where a plush sofa and deep armchairs beckoned, all facing an inglenook fireplace that crackled and glowed with burning logs. Barbara plopped on the sofa with a happy sigh. The voices grew louder and soon four people came into view.

They stopped when they saw us. Then one of the women smiled. “Good evening,” she said. “How might we be of assistance to you?”

“Oh, hello.” I waved the cookie around. “Do we check in with you?”

“Check in…?”

“Or whatever you call it in a B&B,” Barbara added, seeing the confusion on the woman’s face.

I’ll say this about the English; they are unfailingly polite and gracious. “I’m terribly sorry,” she said, her worried eyes reflecting her contrition, “but I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong house.”

A momentary pause. “This isn’t the Sampson Farm?” I asked.

Another smile of abject apology. “I’m afraid not.”

Barbara stiffened on the couch.

“So, you’re a B&B, just not the Sampson Farm, right?” I asked.

Again, the heartbreaking politeness, the shake of the head.

I hesitated, feeling a chill creep down my spine. “What you’re trying to tell us then, is that we’re in your home.” An affirmative nod this time. The other three people behind her echoed the nod.

I was suddenly aware of the half-eaten cookie in my hand.

Barbara had edged up to a standing position. “I think, uh, we made a mistake here.”


Which is worse, the agonizing heat of embarrassment that floods the body during such a moment, or the lucid part of your brain that makes it painfully clear that you’ve not only wandered into a stranger’s house, making yourself at home, but you’ve also tracked in mud? Or perhaps it’s the absence of any witty retort, which fled, along with your composure, at the realization that this was not the place you thought it was.

Barbara and I performed that timeless dance, so entertaining to witness when you’re far, far removed from the situation. We edged out of the room in a sideways, crablike motion, one apology spilling over the next.

“I’m so sorry…”

“We saw the thatched roof, the lights, the open door…”’

“It was the ‘no smoking’ sign that made us so sure…”

“Really, that’s quite all right, no need to worry,” the owner assured us. “So sorry to have confused you.”

“It’s just that I was so anxious to get out of the car…”

“We’ll be on our way now…”

“So soon? Well then, if you take this road just another five hundred meters, you’ll come upon another house quite similar to ours, except, of course, the sign, which will read, “Sampson Farm.” Polite chuckles all around at this comment. Barbara and I offered weak smiles and one last apology before slinking out.

The night was silent except for the crunching of gravel under our feet and the roar of shame that still filled my ears. “Oops,” Barbara finally offered.

I guess something got me back in the car that night.


Changes afoot at Pennsylvania Ballet


Editor’s note on April 28, 2016. Yet more changes announced this week. See link below.

Changes, did I say? How about “Pennsylvania Ballet dumps, well, pretty much everybody who’d been in charge.” But, well, that’s an awfully long title for a blog, and perhaps a touch histrionic. And I’m not trying to be all theatrical and make trouble, but… yikes. In walks new artistic director, Angel Corella, former American Ballet Theatre principal and star, who took the helm, oh, a few days ago. Shutting that front door firmly behind him, he then went to the back door and swung it open. Which is why the following administrators are now gone:

  • Jeffrey Gribler, ballet master
  • Tamara Hadley, ballet mistress
  • William DeGregory, director of the company’s ballet school and the Pennsylvania Ballet II training company
  • Michael Sheridan, assistant to the artistic director
  • Various members of marketing and development departments
  • (Departures preceding Corella’s arrival include artistic chief Roy Kaiser and executive director Michael Scolamiero)



I have no connection to the Pennsylvania Ballet, and, at times like this, that’s probably a good thing. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to point at the elephant in the room and say, “Holy shit, that’s a lot of firing of some really talented, loyal, dedicated staff there. Are you sure you know what you’re doing there? Are you sure this was the way to go about doing it? Because this seems pretty unattractive [and yet, imminently blog-worthy] to me.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Ballet companies and corporations alike, this tends to happen at some level, when upper management changes. It’s sort of the way a lion taking over a pride will kill the cubs and any troublesome males so that the females have no question of torn allegiance. Hail to the new order, bow or get out.

The ballet world is a jungle. Make no doubt about it.

I read this news and felt such sympathy for those who lost their jobs. I’m hurling my best wishes out there into cyberspace, in the direction of the aforementioned fired professionals. Secondly, I’m thinking about the dancers today. Those are some big, big changes to swallow. Personal feelings are irrelevant; the new order begins now, so get up and dance.

Best of luck to you, dancers. I’m certain you will all muster through the challenge and the pain of the transition, because dancers know pain and yet they dance full out, perform, smile anyway. You will do the Pennsylvania Ballet proud, keeping up the standard like the powerful, grace-laden, warriors all of you are.

Wishing all members of the Pennsylvania Ballet a heartfelt merde for the season that lies ahead. May you survivors build it into something beautiful. And may those of you departing know that your work has left a powerful legacy, a world-class company to carry on.


PS: those new changes? Equally awful. 17 of the 43 dancers – nearly 40% – are leaving. 12 were let go and 5 are leaving on their own. You can read about this new situation HERE.
PPS: You can read more about the original situation HERE.
PPPS: One positive facet of the icky new changes from the April 27th announcement is that dancer Elizabeth Mateer is one of those who’s chosen to leave on her own, and she will be  joining “my” San Francisco Ballet. Yay, and welcome, Elizabeth! Wishing you and the SFB a long, fruitful relationship.