Critical Dance

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Critical Dance Goes Backstage – A Daily Diary

July 4, 2002

By Stuart Sweeney

The company performed the Mixed Bill for the first time last night and is settling into the London season with the routine of a ballet dancer’s life such as the daily classes at Sadler’s Wells and hunting out the local restaurants and shops that are open after performance to grab some food.

Chalnessa Eames took some time after an afternoon run-through of some of her roles to chat about herself and the week. She studied first at a private ballet school Harid Conservatoire in Florida and then spent 3 years at the Royal Winnipeg School followed by another three in the Company. The Winnipeg provided lots of opportunities for touring and China and London were just two of the destinations. She remembers seeing Manuel Legris partner Evelyn Hart in our Peacock Theatre and being blown away by the quality of his dancing and partnering, as most of us are.

This is the end of Chalnessa’s first season with PNB and the pace is a lot quicker than at Winnipeg with some 8 programmes in the season and lots of new parts to learn. I asked if she was a quick learner and she replied with a laugh, ‘I’m learning to be quick!’ The Company dances a wide range of ballets and although the Balanchine tradition is important, it is only one of the threads. She is more used to the Russian style of the Winnipeg classes and the PNB classes are more Balanchine based, but not exclusively. Next year in fact PNB will only perform one of the Master’s works and will be focussing on the full-length classical rep including “Paquita”.

She told me that it’s nice to be in London, but there has been little time for sightseeing. Chalnessa’s parents are across too and they have been out and about daily. They all went to do some shopping on Sunday after class, but jet lag eventually defeated her and she had an early night. And since then it’s been non-stop, although there was a first night reception for the cast, friends and sponsors.

She loves Sadler’s Wells as although it’s a 1,500 seater theatre the audience seems close and she likes the way that the staff are so friendly. In common with all the dancers she has several roles in “Silver Lining”, which sure gets everyone on stage. In addition she is in ‘Divertimento’ and is standing in at short notice for someone in ‘Fearful Symmetries’ which, with its pace and rapid entrances and exits, is really tricky with everyone counting like mad.

This is the end of the year for the Company and after the week here Chalnessa is heading off to Jamaica to get some sun after the wet conditions of Seattle….and London, of course. Then it will be seeing some old friends in Winnipeg and back to Seattle. She was brought up not far away from Seattle and finds the City a good place to live with the Pacific views and the attractions of the downtown area.

And then our time was up and Chalnessa had to prepare for the Mixed Bill in the evening. One of the considerate points of PNB is that all the dancers get a mention when they are on stage and their photograph in the programme, so look out for her if you go to Sadler’s over the remaining days of the visit.

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