| 10.8.2016 | THE DAY OF
The day after the day off is the day of our first tour performance. As I wake up, my morning lags under the pressure of a big premiere, which feels unwarranted since that has technically already happened this past summer in New York. Though I at first wonder if my misplaced anxiety is for several other dancers going into new roles, I realize as the day matures that it is at least partially triggered by this Arizona weather, this massive theater, and this wonderful partner (the inimitable Ronnie Todorowski, back with the group after a brief hiatus) that recall last year at about this time, which marked our high-profile kickoff of Twyla Tharp’s 50th Anniversary Tour with the first ever performances of “Preludes and Fugues” and “Yowzie” in Dallas. I was really nervous then.
I’m nervous now, too, even though I think I’ve better found my Tharp legs since last year. On this tour we’ve taken three different Twyla works: “Country Dances,” “Brahms Paganini,” and the more recent “Beethoven Opus 130.” For me, this program is a marathon. A minefield, too. One shaky, misplaced step often proves enough to set up a series of disastrous consequences. Admittedly it’s my pride, not my life, that’s on the line here.
To begin the day, I revisit Twyla’s 2015 NY Times blog – more specifically, a “day in the life ” type of essay detailing her week leading up to last year’s big opening. Appreciating again the frankness with which she addresses the pressured, sometimes perfunctory ceremony surrounding a premiere, I decide to record one day of my own preparation for this tour’s opening night. The most obvious similarity between my day and hers: She spends a lot of her day thinking about us while I also spend a lot of my day thinking about me. Her additional obligations exceed mine exponentially.
Here I manage to capture a characteristically unglamorous portrait of a 10-hour, fresh air-free theater day as I first haphazardly, then later determinedly, whip myself aggressively into performance mode. At this point in my career, obsessive, ritualistic behavior is what I’m coming to accept as my “process” but also what I’m trying to outgrow. Good luck with that one, KG.
Oops. By good luck, I mean “Merde.”
Friday, October 6
8:12 a.m. Slow walk to bathroom from bed, comprehensive body check-in. Left knee sore. Right heel achy. One to be expected, the other an unwelcome surprise.
8:46 a.m. “Merde” text from mom. Up to hotel snack bar to pilfer treats/bottled water then down to hotel pool to review warm-up I’ve planned for today’s company class. It’s hot out here.
9:30 a.m. Negotiate free meal coupons from hotel concierge for breakfast with Reed Tankersley. Eat oatmeal. Always oatmeal. Continue to watch hurricane footage with some disbelief. Matthew is still wreaking havoc. So is Donald. I read the news closely today, clinging to a good (frightening, really) dose of perspective as good pre-performance prep. A reminder to count my blessings and carpe diem.
A little after 10 a.m. Last minute hairspray run. Commence walk to nearest drugstore, a 4 mi hike “around the corner” along a really HOT highway road. Neither proper shoes nor sunscreen along for the ride and physically difficult day looming ahead. All that pontificating about careful body care I did yesterday mocking me from the computer I’m carrying in my ill-advised heavy shoulder bag. Pep talk to self to keep diva KG at bay and remember attitude of gratitude.
12:19 p.m. Arrive at theater, check out huge auditorium. Butterflies announce themselves in belly shortly thereafter.
12:36 p.m. Find show shoes and realize with some dismay they are not properly prepared (sewn) for the evening’s performance. Size also feels too small and soles are stiff as boards from shoe spray. Throw barely concealed mini-tantrum directed at our stellar wardrobe supervisor, Sydney De Briel, who is in no way responsible for my negligent lack of preparation.
1:15ish p.m. Visit from Sydney in company class. She informs me she has found and sprayed a larger, suppler pair of pre-sewn shoes for me, which will be ready for rehearsal. This woman has ongoing MVP status on this team.
2:15 p.m. Begin tech and spacing rehearsal, which consists of a run of the evening’s program. Dancers are left to their own devices when it comes to deciding how hard to dance. I’ve learned from Twyla I have a tendency to overdo prep and exhaust myself before it counts, so now my day-of rehearsal mentality is of the “phone it in” variety: execute almost full out and without feeling. It feels pathetic in the moment but usually gets the tech done without too much ado.
3 ? p.m. Country Dances finished, Beethoven next. This is my most difficult piece, demanding strong ballet technique while serving stamina pushing off-center sequences. I practice some fouettes, falling out of them half a dozen times and again in the rehearsal. Best intended attempts at perspective and maturity quickly disappearing. Crazy KG clouds looming in this large, windowless performance hall.
Around 4:30 p.m. Complete program run, mostly navigating entrances/exits and group spacing. I ask Al Brady, doubling as company manager and rehearsal director, what’s going wrong with my fouettes. He gives me a few good corrections. I fall out of the step again. He suggests good-naturedly that I relax and let it happen. I snap in return that I haven’t had ballet class in three days (Al is also in no way responsible for my negligent lack of preparation) so how could it happen? Diva KG prevails.
Five minutes later. Return to stage with original, too small shoes. Big toes scrunched, feet frozen into bizarre talon-esque form in the inflexible gold slippers. Try fouettes in this pair. Turns improve. I will wear these shoes tonight and no longer wonder about origin of aforementioned foot pain.
4:46 p.m: “Dinner.” Theater provides us with a generous banquet-like spread, most of which I am hesitant to enjoy too liberally pre-show. Sandwich. Always a simple sandwich. I bring my Tupperware to thieve food for a later dinner, and the company appears amused by my refusal to waste a free snack opportunity. Later I notice with some satisfaction that they ask the theater staff for to-go containers and do the same.
5 p.m. Tears. No good reason. Shoes, nerves, sore feet, the stress of it all.
5:11 p.m. Text from dad: “Merde.” Text from me: “Thanks. Having the worst dress rehearsal. Just over it. F** and can’t dance. Time to retire.”
5:14 p.m. More tears about superficiality of previous text/tears.
5:20 p.m. Contribute to Matthew relief fund (No social media spins attached. See link below for more info on how and where to give to those in need.) Answer some emails.
6 p.m. (Sharp.) Dressing room hair and makeup with Ramona and Amy Ruggiero, while Ashlee Dupre, our newest company member, prepares on stage for her Beethoven debut. Ramona admits to feeling a tad out of body and in denial. I am relieved for this company.
6:45 p.m. Extra-diligent warm-up on stage with best approximation of Willy Burmann’s barre. Practice and fall out of fouettes in both pairs of shoes several times.
7:30 p.m. Eat one third of a banana. Always one banana divided into thirds so as to spread consumption of single banana over triple bill.
Check phone. Learn of the passing of one of my early ballet teachers, the first to encourage young KG to graduate from a single to a double pirouette. Resolve to dance this performance, and these damn double fouette turns, for Ms. Rivet, who bravely and cheerfully fought battles bigger than any I can possibly comprehend.
7:55 p.m. Sydney snaps my bright orange culottes onto my bright orange leotard and sews the neck of my costume closed. No escaping now.
8:05 p.m. Curtain. Against all previously evaluated odds I enjoy the evening’s entrances from start to finish. I complete my fouettes for the first time today. All four of ‘em. (Yep! Four. Yikes.) Following the performance, the audience is appreciative and on their feet. This is the payoff.
Past 10 p.m. Pack out of theater and return to hotel lobby for unofficial company gathering and debrief. Though I’m happy and high from adrenaline, I take stock of my individual performance: passable at best. I wonder quietly how much longer I can indulge days full of my own immaturity for the sake of aforementioned “process” and an only okay show.
But much worse, and much more consequential, is a certain presidential candidate’s really bad show: Trump has been caught on camera riffing like a dangerous sexual predator. As I watch a lone woman (looks like Scottie Nell Hughes) on CNN trying in vain to defend his latest display of despicability, I wonder aloud how many people sitting in this lobby, ostensibly pro-Trump territory, can still outwardly support this sham of a candidacy. Perspective temporarily restored. I’m so with her.