A Day in the Life of a Story Ballet: Three Weeks and Counting

We're looking forward to seeing you on Saturday, February 28th for the world premiere of Belteshazzar: A Perilous Tale (don't forget to buy your tickets), but today, as usual, we're busy with preparations. We started off the journal with a post on January 16 and have also talked about the introduction to a story ballet like Belteshazzar. In case you've never been able to peek behind the scenes during the creation of a new ballet, here's the latest post in our preparations journal so you can join us and get in on the fun! The Week of February 8 - Belteshazzar Premieres in Three Weeks Ballet 5:8 Studio I, 9:30am Today's morning technique class fills the entire studio, attended by Ballet 5:8's company artists as well as trainees. Though Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager teaches morning class on most days, today's class is lead by former Ballet 5:8 Company Artist and now Executive Director Amy Kozol Sanderson. Sanderson's class moves quickly and is concise and practical - the difference in style between instructors from morning to morning forces everyone to stay mentally focused and attentive to detail throughout class. The 90-minute warmup goes quickly, and soon it is time to break for lunch. Ballet 5:8 Studio I, 11:15am Today's lunch break is a time of discussion and reflection on the latest material covered in our study of the Biblical story of Daniel. In the story, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are thrown in to a blazing furnace as punishment for not following king Nebuchadnezzar's orders to worship the idol statue the king constructed. The discussion is on the question of how we react to challenges and hardship in our lives. Do trials automatically make us better Christians? How can we submit to being made more like Jesus in the ways that we approach challenges and hardship? Ballet 5:8 Studio I, 11:45am Today's rehearsal begins with a review of Act II of the ballet. In this stage of the creation process, the ballet's framework and many of the bigger, group sections have already been set. Rehearsal days this week are split between cleaning and creating the remaining, smaller sections needed to fill out the ballet. During Act II cleaning, Slager watches while the dancers perform the entire act from start to finish, taking notes throughout. After the run, Slager lists corrections for specific dancers and talks through problem spots. The dancers then dance the corrected sections again, to solidify the changes and adjustments into mental and muscle memory.

For the second part of the rehearsal day, the dancers and trainees split up into Ballet 5:8's three studios. Slager finishes choreography for a section with King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in one studio. Since Belteshazzar is not the only ballet slated to go onstage during the Spring Tour, the dancers flip back and forth between a range of ballets on the daily rehearsal schedule. With a wide range of choreographic styles and emotions represented in Ballet 5:8 Spring Tour repertoire, the dancers must be able to flip between styles at a moment's notice - and this is no easy task, requiring enormous amounts of focus and concentration! Today, Ballet Mistress Lauren Ader-Cumpston runs the Fall and Winter sections of Four Seasons of the Soul for cleaning, taking care that each dancer portrays the shapes - including every wrist, finger and head - correctly. A movement of Sigao Ekklesia is also on the schedule for cleaning near the end of the rehearsal day. Ballet 5:8 Studios, 3:00pm Rehearsals are over, and the Company Artists scatter after taking a few moments to stretch and warm down in the studios. The trainees head to rehearsal for their contemporary ballet Abundant Grace, which will be performed on Friday. In the costume room, piles of fabric are slowly being transformed into costumes - bodices, skirts and more are slowly but steadily taking shape.