It’s hard to believe that six weeks of our intense Summer Intensive program are almost over. The students are in their final days at the studio, rehearsing their ballet and style class pieces for Friday’s performances at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts. "Emergence" is our annual show celebrating the accomplishments of the summer’s group of students. The buzz in the studio today was all about “pancaking” pointe shoes; this is a process in which pointe shoes are covered with foundation makeup to dull the shiny satin and make them look more uniform and professional.
The Summer Intensive program does much more than keep the kids on their toes (literally all day!); in watching rehearsals for Tech 1 and 2, I saw that they are learning the basics of what it takes to be a professional dancer. Monica Isla’s Tech 1 girls have been en pointe for perhaps six months to two years so this dance, set to Bach, is challenging the girls to get comfortable on stage while bourrée-ing to and fro (little tiny steps en pointe, in place or traveling). There are lots of turns and échappés (movements up to the tips of the toes into different positions of the feet) to help build strength in their feet. Monica watches from a standing position, scanning the room, reminding the girls where they should focus their eyes and to watch their spacing. It is intriguing to watch how each of these tiny details must be taught. At the end of the piece, all 21 girls are in a pyramid formation, and they needed to learn their bows. Monica showed the girl at the top of the pyramid, a precious little thing named Rosalie, that she would be the leader and that the rest of the girls should keep their eyes on her peripherally, while smiling and still looking forward. I’m looking forward to seeing them in performance.
Rolando Yanes’ girls in Tech 2 were up next. The two classes sat and watched each other and the atmosphere was very supportive. His ladies are a bit older and there is an emphasis on showing these girls how to be in a strong corps de ballet. His dance is much more stylized and he keeps reminding the girls that they should be channeling 1940s sophistication (At 14 years old, I wonder if they know what this means!) He warned them at the beginning of the dance that if they didn’t smile, he’d make them jump for two hours in class tomorrow. He started giggling and so did they – but they did smile! His piece contains lots of posing and picture making of classic groups of ballerinas; the girls stand with one foot crossed over the other one, arms in the lithe, archetypal position of the sylph from the romantic age of ballet. There are interweaving patterns and a fast section in which 20 girls are running in three consecutive circles. He reminds them to breathe as they extend the arms, to suspend their jumps so they look like light, little fairies. Their piece went well in rehearsal and they seem relieved, but then he reminds them, “Good job, but don’t forget I’m not going to be onstage telling you what to do.” The girls laugh nervously and look to him for reassurance. It’s easy to tell that they have had a good time working with him.
The last half hour of the day combined these two levels for the Jazz number. It was fun to watch how some of the dancers suddenly relaxed and found their groove, while others clearly prefer the rigidity and control of ballet. Each week, the students in the program have gotten classes in another style of dance – African, Modern, Afro-Cuban and Jazz, as well as a Composition class to start learning how to improv and choreograph. Faculty member Kristin Herlache is serving as a répétiteur today, someone who rehearses and cleans up the pieces for the choreographers. She runs the dance twice, giving lots of notes and corrections. At the end, they talk through how they will do their hair (high bun, middle bun, high ponytail?) and whether or not they’ll have time to change between their ballet and jazz dances (will they keep their tights on under their jazz pants?) Kristin reminds them calmly that they still have dress rehearsal to figure all the particulars out. The girls are dismissed and off they go to get on the bus and head back to UWM’s Sandburg Hall for dinner and the last few days with their new dancing friends.
You, too, can watch these talented young dancers stretch there wings as artists. There are only two performances of Emergence - don't miss it! Click here to buy tickets online, or call the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center Box Office at 262-781-9520.
Director of Community Outreach