Principal dancer Tricia Albertson answers the questions we all want to know about having roles in both Dances at a Gathering AND Who Cares?.
MCB: Tricia, Program IV is a pretty challenging program for you. You dance the “Yellow Girl” in Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering and the “Blue Girl” in George Balanchine’s Who Cares?. What’s it like to be on stage for both ballets as compared to maybe just one of three in a night?
Tricia: When I begin any performance I pace myself, and take one section at a time. In this case, I actually prefer to dance both these roles in the same show. Although Dances at a Gathering requires a lot of stamina, there is enough time between the sections in which I dance that I have time to recover and catch my breath. My role in Who Cares? has so many jumps it could be considered a male variation! It’s necessary to be really warm for it so I’m grateful to have already danced so my blood is flowing.
MCB: The “Yellow Girl” is an amazing girl to watch in Dances at a Gathering because she is so sprightly and carefree. It is clear that this role requires a lot of stamina. How do you find the energy to get through the choreography in not only this ballet, but in both ballets of the night? Do you have a technique that you use?
Tricia: When it comes to stamina, I find that when I revisit a role, it’s always easier. I’m more aware of when to rest, when it’s easiest to breathe. Luckily, I have danced both of these roles in the past. Still, before the show, I will make sure I’m well hydrated and that I eat a good, high-carb, energy sustaining meal. I’ll also eat a snack between the ballets, maybe some nuts or juice. Arnica also helps. Before Who Cares? I’ll eat some homoeopathic arnica tablets. They help sustain my energy and keep me from being too sore the next day.
MCB: Dancers are so different when it comes to performances and pointe shoes. Do you wear the same pointe shoes throughout the whole night or do you wear different ones for each ballet? If you switch, what’s the difference in the shoes for each role?
Tricia: I switch shoes for each ballet, and sometimes I’ll switch shoes in the middle of Dances at a Gathering. The pas de deux I dance with the brick boy, known as The Giggle Dance, has some pointe work in it, so I like to have supportive (newer) shoes. After that, I do a lot of jumping and running, which is much more comfortable to do in softer, more broken-in shoes. In Who Cares?, I try to wear soft shoes that I know will pointe easily. My variation is so long, so difficult, and so tiring that by the end it’s hard to even feel my feet. I have to rely on my shoes to pointe for me!
MCB: After dancing challenging, artistically satisfying roles on an opening night, what’s your pleasure, vino, cerveza, or bubble bath?
Tricia: My real pleasure is a good night’s sleep! However, sometimes it’s hard to relax after the adrenaline rush from performing. If that’s the case, I’ll gladly enjoy a glass of wine or beer and an Epsom salt bath.
MCB: For the most part, audiences don’t realize what a toll on the body dancing is — as dancers are skilled in making movement seem effortless. From the high of opening night to the reality of doing it all over again the following day, how do you get your mind, body, and spirit prepared for the next performance?
Tricia: When I know I have another difficult show the next day, I have an extended, but necessary after-show process. First, I make sure that I eat a huge meal. I drink tonic water to help avoid muscle soreness and speed up my body’s processing of lactic acid. Next, I take a hot Epsom salt bath. This calms me and dulls muscle aches. Then I ice whatever needs icing, usually my feet and Achilles’ tendons. Finally, I rub arnica cream on my Achilles’, feet, and calves, and wrap them in saran wrap to help the arnica penetrate. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
MCB: Do you find it is easier or harder to dance challenging roles at the beginning or end of the season?
Tricia: This is a tough question to answer. In the beginning of the season I feel much more rehearsed for the roles I’m dancing because we are just coming off of a long rehearsal period. Once we get into January, we really have to cram program rehearsals together. Sometimes we go onstage with only two weeks of rehearsal. That may sound like plenty, but it means having only six or seven rehearsals. On the other hand, toward the end of the season, I feel much more in-shape and more comfortable onstage. I don’t get as sore or exhausted. I think part of that is because I’ve gotten into the rhythm of my schedule.
MCB: Final question. In the December/January issue of Pointe Magazine you said, “I am truly a crazy cat lady.” Tell us more.
Tricia: I do love cats. As I said in the Pointe article, cats seem to migrate to me. It’s a sad situation here in Miami Beach with so many stray, unhealthy, homeless and hungry cats. Each year, my boyfriend and I try to catch and spay or neuter as many cats as we can. But, it’s hard to put them back on the street after that. That’s how we’ve ended up with nine of our own!
Tricia Albertson and Yang Zou in Dances at a Gathering. Photo © Alexandre Dufaur.