Playing Favorites (Act II)

| 10.24.16 |

Hanging Lights in San Louis Obispo
Hanging Lights in San Luis Obispo

BEETHOVEN OPUS 130 (2016)

Our Cast: Matthew Dibble with Ron Todorowski, Daniel Baker, Ashlee Dupre, Ramona Kelley, Amy Ruggiero, Reed Tankersley, me.

Dancerly duties: This dance is very much Matt’s, so if I attempt to describe it from my perspective I undermine its choreographic intricacy and dramatic subtlety. I begin the dance as a prospective romantic foil for our hero Matt and proceed to destroy him with remorseless delight. The steps are tricky. The persona is trickier.

Favorite rehearsal moment: My character is complicated because of how simple and unsympathetic she must remain: shallow, selfish, fickle, villainous. Ever icy, never nice. Sometimes, depending on my own mood, she’s easy to play. Sometimes I try to lend her some depth. Kindness or heart, if you will. Twyla does not like this so much. “More [insert celebutante name],” she’ll say. I’m not the hero here.

But there’s more. One day as I was eavesdropping on Twyla while she quietly coached Matt on a solo in the corner of the studio, I’m certain I heard her refer to the darker, more metaphorical possibility of my character. I gasped, excited to have overheard. She turned to me, scowled, and then shooed me away. “Oh forget you heard that. You don’t get to know this.”

Favorite performance moment: Dancing with Matt on any given night. He’s that rare, unselfish partner who’ll save my balance before he thinks about his. (In the past he’s even belly-flopped on my behalf to save me from face-planting after tripping over my own feet. Twice.) I’m a “big girl,” Twyla would say — appreciatively, I think — with serious trust issues when it comes to swooning on stage. Not here. In Beethoven’s very bright lighting, I’ll fly at him nearly blind without thinking twice about it.

 

"Beethoven Opus 130" ; photo by Yi-Chun Wu
In performance with Matthew Dibble

 

Favorite source of inspiration: My partners. The music. My sheer, perfectly fitted black Norma Kamali sheath and my ill-fitting gold shoes (see “THE DAY OF”).

Biggest (favorite) challenges: See “favorite rehearsal moment” above.

Memorable Twyla moment: Those damn flat-shoed double fouettes in the first movement were meant to turn to the right. One day I sat down for dinner with Twyla and nervously asked her if I could switch them to the left (lefty here!), reassuring her I’d keep all the other right turns the same with no problem. “I just don’t want to make a fool of myself in my first entrance,” I suggested. She said we’d see about it and told me to keep working on the right.

So I did. But in my first company Beethoven run-through, I panicked and executed them to the left, too timid to embarrass myself in front of my colleagues. Twyla stopped to give me a correction on my preparation but then continued the rehearsal, and I figured I had successfully pulled off the directional switch. I proceeded to do them to the left in all of the performances that followed.

A recent DANY rehearsal found Twyla having a conversation with Daniel Baker about biting the bullet and getting over the fear of turning to your bad side on stage (“I don’t think movement should be compromised for the sake of the dancer,” she once said to me).

As I began to warm up my turns for a looming Beethoven run, she glanced over at me, still speaking to Daniel: “Yeah, isn’t she lucky those turns are to the left?”

I froze mid-preparation and met her gaze. She gave me a long look, grinned, and then motioned for the music to start.

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