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Critical Dance Goes Backstage – A Daily Diary

July 2, 2002


By Petra Tschiene


Tonight PNB will open their London season with Silver Lining, so naturally all of today’s preparations were geared towards getting ready for curtain time at 7.30pm. Jet lag or no jet lag, class is the one constant in a dancer’s life and so all company members found themselves squeezed into the Ashton studio at 11am to start their working day. There did not seem to be a free space on any of the stationary or portable barres and the combinations in the centre often had to be executed in two or three groups in order to ensure everybody had the necessary minimum space. I was told that the dancers were used to more space in their own studios in Seattle.

I was very impressed with the company members' total concentration and focus especially since they probably have not all completely recovered from jet lag yet. Each of them seemed to have their own favourite stretches to help them prepare their bodies for the dress rehearsal ahead. It was a remarkable experience to be able to watch so many gifted dancers with distinct personalities in one room. According to PNB Marketing Director Margo Spellman, one of the dancers present was a former company member, Charles Newton, who had retired last year to become a teacher in Alaska. Newton had started rehearsing a few weeks ago, rejoined PNB for the tour and would appear in tonight’s programme.

At 1pm, the dress rehearsal of Silver Lining started on stage most interestingly with a briefing about how and in which order bows were going to be taken at the end. The audience attending a performance never realizes how much effort goes into all the details we take for granted. In the course of the rehearsal some of the lighting arrangements were fine- tuned and some slight changes in the tempi of the music agreed with Conductor Stewart Kershaw. I learned that the acoustics in the Sadler’s Wells Theatre had to take some getting used to because PNB are used to performing at a larger venue at home. One of the dancers appearing in a tap number was carrying a microphone to ensure he could be properly heard above the music. Although the members of the press were told that the dancers would have to preserve their energy for tonight’s performance and would not dance full out and have to mark on occasion, Ken Stowell’s choreography to music by Jerome Kern came across as lively and bubbly- like champagne. I very much look forward to seeing an actual performance.

Spellman, who very kindly looked after me during my visit to the theatre, and a couple of other Company personnel  I met briefly remarked that they were very pleased that it was not raining this morning. I am afraid by the end of this week PNB will find that London weather is not much to write home about. For the moment I keep my fingers crossed for them for opening night. Good luck!


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