Monday, June 4, 2012


Show's over, and I managed to pull myself together enough to have a great time by the grande finale.  My husband knows I am a basket case for weeks until it's all over!  I think I've shared before how much I prefer the discipline of classes, rehearsals, and the backstage camaraderie more than the nervous tension of going onstage.  Edgar Degas must have had a sense of this since he opted to depict these scenes rather than the polished production.

Solo Variations
The girl in the red tutu was getting ready for
her Kitri variation, from "Don Quixote"
as the Technical Crew adjusted the lighting

During our Technical Rehearsal, which is when the technical crew works on lights, backdrops and other staging issues, I managed to sneak my camera in.  I could only shoot the younger dancers since I was too busy dancing, snacking, or changing costumes later on. (Too much snacking too as it took 3 dancers to hook me into my corset-tutu!)  But I hope this gives you a sense for what it's like behind the curtains.  It really is not much different from Degas' days.

Swan Lake Cygnets
These young swans kept referring to me
as Mama Swan!

Ballerina hopefuls.
The youngest dancers were mesmerized
watching the older girls from the wings.
We were sad to shoo them away but we were
tripping over them on our quick entrances & exits!

Solo Variation
The girl in the blue tutu was
dancing the Bluebird Variation from "Sleeping Beauty"
while a young dancer watched from the wings

I was really proud of the girls, particularly the older teenagers in their solo variations.  Not too long ago, I was teaching them how to prepare their first pointe shoes and giving them their first pointe classes!  (I only teach occasionally, for example, these special pointe classes.)  Now, here they are, earning their tutus and dancing classical repertoire.

I was in several pieces requiring quick costume changes, but my white swan tutu was for Michel Fokine's "Dying Swan," a poignant adagio he choreographed for Anna Pavlova in 1905. I didn't know it was based on Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem of the same name.  It is set to Camille Saint-Saëns' soulful cello piece. (The solemnity was slightly ruined by a few of my feathers fluttering off the tutu -- I felt like a goose!)  I did not dance Odile, the Black Swan, as some of you were asking.  That is about 32 fouetté turns too many for me!

Svetlana Zakharova in "Dying Swan."  Cello solo played by Yo-Yo Ma.

In case you are not familiar with "Dying Swan," there are very many versions on YouTube.  This is a recent clip I had not seen before, featuring Svetlana Zakharova, who has impossibly long limbs.  It is an artistically demanding role rather than a technical, bravura one.  For me, it is ballet at it's most sublime.  I am always honored to be cast by our Director in this solo, and am touched when, once in a while, an audience member comes up afterwards to tell me they were moved to tears.


  1. Wonderful, J! I can so imagine the excitement, anticipation and satisfaction of being part of such a great project. Would love to see you dance! xoxo

  2. Looks super great
    have a nice and stylish week darling
    come and say Hi,
    The Dolls Factory

  3. Love these pictures!

    Bad Joan

  4. Wonderful post, wonderful pictures. So interesting, since it is a hidden world normally.

    I love Camille Saint-Saëns music. I just heard his 5. piano concerto (Egyptian concert) this Saturday played by on of our local symphony orchestra and Jean-Yves Thibaubet and I just LOVED it. Such a wonderful piece and wonderfully conducted.

  5. Amazing pictures, I do love ballet!! x

  6. I love all type of dance, but ballet, wowwwwwwwwwwww. I didn´t know you were a ballerina. How amazing!!!

  7. i so love these posts..they are like poetry both visual and literal..i can see it through your the pictures..favourite would be the one with the kids looking at the grown-ups has so many other meanings i they are taking a glimpse at the world they so long to be a part of someday soon..

  8. This is so cool!! I love the costumes so much.

  9. Great photos!!!

    Kisses from Italy


  10. Jenny, this is a beautiful post. Your photos are very Degas-like. I was looking at a couple of his pastels of dancers recently - they are remarkably modern for their period, and he must have felt a real sense of exploration when creating them.

    It must be terrific to have the chance to be part of a whole artistic performance. It's something that as a writer, I don't generally get the chance to do.

    As for the clip at the end - well, as well as being a marvellous dancer, her physique is almost unreal. The staging is very good too - it enhances this impression. Perfectly extraordinary.

  11. Truly beautiful. Brilliant post Jenny. Your pictures really convey the Degas look and feel. And I felt transported to the wings by your story. Xxxx

  12. Great shoots! You managed to capture the essence of a ballerina. The dying swan is so powerful and full of life.

  13. Lovely pics!!
    I invite you to visit my blog and if you want we can follow each other.

  14. Such lovely imagery. I need more ballet in my life. :)

  15. poetry in motion; the video was sublime to watch.

  16. Hi Jenny,

    I loved this post...I love the Degas pastels of the ballerinas. One is my screen-saver! When we were little girls, my sister and I split up all activities. Hers was ballet and mine gymnastics, so I wasn't "allowed" to dance and vice versa. The end result is that I am just obsessed with ballerinas and ballet. I love Swan Lake-- the most sublime music, the most sublime dancing. Wonderful post and I'd love to see a clip of you dancing :)

    Much love,
    (Everyone calls me) Izzy (now. Bella before Twilight came out)

  17. You are wonderful. Thank you so much for all your lovely comments. Xxxx

  18. Ah, I would so love to witness your performance of this beautiful piece. I envy the audience who had this pleasure.
    Your photos strongly evoke the behind-the-scenes interludes. There is something especially delicate about the moments you have captured where the waiting performers are stilled by the focus of observing those on stage.

  19. Such beautiful images... I would be like you loving the process instead of the final product... Ha!

  20. Thank you for sharing these special moments backstage! They are very Degas indeed. I would have loved to see a video of you in your Dying Swan solo.

  21. Any discipline that exposes you to a watching, judgemental audience is incredibly scary, I know how you feel performing on stage...I'll never forget my nerves when I was entered into dance competitions every year when I was younger.
    Your photographs backstage are beautiful, you've captured a vulnerability and almost self-consciousness that are certainly never present onstage unless the role requires such body language...I just love the one of the girl hugging herself. It's as if we are peeping through a keyhole at those treasured, secret moments of intimacy.
    Christobel xx

  22. I adore these pictures! Lovely that you took the pictures backstage!
    And I adore dancing and everything that has to do with it ^-^ Love this post <3

  23. Amazing !
    I think You have a great blog !

    xo ,
    Ana Catalarrana

  24. These are such beautiful photographs, Jenny! They have quite a mystical quality about them.
    Ballet has been one of my major loves since I was a very little girl - and this love has never diminished one bit.
    Thank you for your ever so lovely comment! It was greatly appreciated.

    Best Wishes,



Dear Fellow Aesthetes, I love hearing your thoughts. I think the other readers find them valuable too! Much love xxx

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