Ballet & Beer, Part 2: Conversations with the Dancers

Posted: 08/27/2012 in Uncategorized, Wandering 'Nati
Tags: ,

If you wanted to read part 1, it starts here.

We’re all back in the lobby now. Allie is helping out at the “Ballet Barre” where beer, wine & water are available. Regardless of the busy, she still takes a few minutes to be personal, get my thoughts. A large table of Larosa’s encourages people to stay, congregate, be social. It hasn’t even been 5 minutes and there are already dancers wandering through the group, greeting friends.

I decide to dive in. Romel Frometa Castellon, Cervilio Miguel Amador, and Patric Palkens are sitting on the stoop to the balcony in a line. All 3 were in the rehearsal we just watched. They are dressed in very casual street clothes and look like they could’ve just stepped out of a Bruce Springsteen video. I make a lame joke, asking how are they not diving into the pizza after all that hard work? Amador smiles – telling me that they’ve stashed a whole box behind them. They will eat. Another blogger comes up asking for a picture and they all lean together with big smiles. I step out of her shot. Peeps, this is where I still have a lot to learn. Not wanting to be rude, I didn’t whip out my camera to duplicate the shot and now I am kicking myself for not having done it! Next time, I will step into the shot and hand someone else my camera! My bridge to starting a conversation with strangers has vanished and I feel my natural shyness welling up. Crap! I will regroup my confidence hiding out behind a piece of pizza.

I take a deep breath. Time to beat down the shy again. No matter how lame I feel, I am here for an opportunity to meet these beautiful creatures. If I strike out, I strike out – but I have to try. Now it is just Patric on the step. My opening is so lame, I’m not even going to tell you what it was – but trust me, it was sad. However, he doesn’t dismiss it and gives me two minutes of casual before he gets to business. Do I go to the ballet frequently? What was the last thing I saw?

I am being measured, I can feel it. If this were a traffic light, Patric is set on yellow and my answer will determine whether he floors it or hits the brakes. Luckily, Eric and I had tickets to Carmen for Valentine’s Day. Acceptable, but still on yellow. What did I think of it? [Here is where the ‘somewhat’ gets added to the ‘likeable’. If you ask my opinion, I have a nasty honesty habit.] I offer an embarrassing confession: I had confused Carmen with another ballet from a few years before, so it wasn’t what I was expecting from the beginning. Beyond that, there were things about the choreography for the male leads I didn’t understand. I inhale and wait for the light to change. I am not a girl who sugar-coats things and I may have just blown it.

The conversation is off like a shot! Green means go, and go we do! He is educating me. Carmen had an Italian choreographer and there are distinct differences between the Italian & Western styles when it comes to the male lead. Also, out of a 2-hour ballet, the character has only 11 minutes to connect with the audience. This may explain the things I didn’t understand.

If you aren’t familiar with ballet, the idea of different styles may be foreign. There are many different styles which dictate whether a hip is turned up or down in arabesque, the softness of expression in the hands, the amount of tension in the neck, which roles have more power. Working with these various styles and with choreographers from all over the world helps to produce a well-rounded dancer. But there are also challenges. We discuss the pros and cons of working with a choreographer through an interpreter – the choreographer for Carmen does not speak English. All of Patric’s notes on the performance are things I had not considered. I think to myself: what if my trainer came in one day and began giving me direction in Japanese? Comments on refining my form and words of encouragement being filtered through a third-party? What if all of my life I have trained in one style and then he announces that we are doing something different? All those refinements I have worked on – forget them now. It would be hard.

Hard it is! Patric tells me all of this learning takes place over an intense 3-4 week span between each show. Each day starts with a 90-minute class (yes, even professionals go to school every day), followed by 6 hours of rehearsal – so 7-7.5 hours of hard physical work every day. I can not imagine working out in the gym for 7.5 hours straight. Nutcracker rehearsals are even longer – sometimes 11-12 hours. Those will begin in October. It is the type of schedule where you have to love what you do and the people you work with or you will go crazy.

I tell Patric that I had forgotten what it was like to be in a studio, particularly about the constant pirouetting popping up around the room. At this he laughs and puts his forehead into his hand. He explains: there is a contest almost every day amongst the dancers to see who can do the most revolutions. Amador drops back onto the step next to him and Patric throws a thumb in his direction. “He always wins.” They are laughing about it as Amador tells me his record is 11, but on a spinning board, which distributes balance over the entire foot, he can do 44. Pirouettes are all about the core and the spot (the whipping around of the head to keep a focal point), he says as he pulls up and gestures to his midsection, his shoulders locking straight into the form required for the turn. If you forget either for a second, you lose your balance.

Interweb, I am telling you – if you have ever swooned over a dancer on stage, these two are the reason why. Both of them smiling at me so easily it is almost too much to take. Up close, Patric has the well chiseled features of a young Christopher Reeve with eyes just as blue-sky-blue. Amador, of the rock-star gestures & dramatic entrances from rehearsal, has a huge, welcoming smile and unusually colored eyes. With his smile, if he triple-dog-dares you to do something, you’re going to try it. Saying no isn’t an option. The stereotypes of distant, haughty dancers cannot be found with these two. They have the easy physicality that comes after a great workout – I am tired, but my muscles feel incredible. They are open and warm. It was foolish to feel shy around them for an instant. Though I am a complete stranger to them, I feel like I could be their favorite little sister – stranger still because at 37, I am so much older than both of them.

The subject of age does comes up when we talk about connecting to the audience outside of rehearsal. Patric points out that sometimes it can be difficult to connect – for all intent & purpose, when he leaves the studio – he looks like a 22-year-old college kid. He is dismissed. I can see this. He is not wrong. I insert that when his audience is either 5 or 55, it must be hard – and when your livelihood depends on patronage, you have to figure it out somehow. That is why events like this one are so important for fundraising. Increasing the social media presence is a good thing. It will draw younger & more diverse crowds on terms they embrace without alienating the existing patron base. Knowing that more of my friends are attending the ballet, as well as accompanying events like the dinners at Arnold’s, I agree. They know of these things from Facebook. It would be a lot easier to get money out of my pocket to support my friends Patric & Amador than it is to convince me to donate to people I’ve never met. This event makes them personal to me. I am also far more likely to attend future events so I can say hello.

(Dear Eric, we are about to spend a lot more money on ballet. No, this does not mean we will also be spending more money on golf. Love, your wife.)

Heather Britt joins the conversation and I tell her I liked the work. It seemed like the dancers enjoyed it  and get along well. She says they have to get along well. Dancing is so intimate, it would be hard to work with someone you don’t care for. It isn’t 5 more minutes before she’s mentioning her Rhythm & Motion class to me – encouraging me to try it. Again, the vibe here is so welcoming! Everyone I speak to is encouraging COME SEE! COME DO! COME ENJOY! She doesn’t know I’ve already stashed a class schedule in my purse. LOL!

Come see, come do, I will. I told you I was planning to go full immersion on this experience. I’ve been working really hard to get back in shape for almost a year now and I can’t think of a better way to put myself to the test than by trying out Heather’s class. Something unfamiliar and different from the work I do at bootcamp/boxing and the running I submit to. My training is about being in shape to do whatever I want whenever I want, ready for adventure. This is certainly an adventure. I have a few days off coming up and a class schedule in my purse – I am armed and dangerous.

Stay tuned for the next step: Rhythm & Motion v. 20 Years of Rust


The Kaplan New Works Series will be performed by the Cincinnati Ballet at the Micky Jarson Kaplan Performance Studio from September 6-16th. Tickets can be purchased here.

  1. […] how about I say Patric Palkens is the guy in the promo/ad with the tattoo on his stomach – remember when I wrote about him?  […]


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