May 24, 2010
Post by Michael Sean Breeden
The layoff period between seasons is a much-needed time in a dancer’s life. We are able to sit back and reflect on the past season now that the demands of performing are over. Best of all, perhaps, the time off allows us to take vacations that will leave us refreshed and mentally ready to come back for another season.
For the second consecutive year, myself and fellow corps de ballet members Ezra Hurwitz and Neil Marshall have embarked on an extensive European vacation. We began in London, went to Paris and then on to the Cote D’Azur and Provence in the south of France and are presently in Barcelona. One great thing (among the many) about being on vacation in Europe is that it is so rich in art and steeped in its long-held traditions. We often miss out on other art during the season due to our hectic schedule and there is no better time to get our fix than during the layoff.
In addition to seeing major sights, we’ve been spending hours in many, many museums — small and large — with art work ranging from the Renaissance to Surrealism. We wandered through Monet’s gardens and had new-found appreciation for his work when we later saw it in various museums. We stopped in at Dali’s bizarre and stunning house in Figueres, Spain, full of huge-scale works that have impeccable attention to detail. Presently, we’ve been running through Barcelona taking in all the revolutionary Gaudi architecture that seems light years ahead of its time, or any time really.
While architecture and painting are art forms that differ very greatly from ballet, one can still learn much through appreciation. The skill and dedication necessary to have created these masterworks is more than admirable and these are lessons than can be applied to any trade.
We did, however, find time to go to the ballet. In London, we saw the Royal Ballet perform a mixed bill of contemporary and new works. Even though they were working with new choreography, one can still see the great English training and style vividly in almost all of the dancers. It is especially fascinating because it is an almost 180-degree difference in style from the way we dance at Miami City Ballet. They are all about elegant placement and soft poetry whereas we love physical strength, attack and freedom of movement. Even the musicality is different. They often ‘coast’ through the music, gently dancing along the surface of it, while the Balanchinean way is to directly inhabit and reflect it.
Before we jetted off to Europe, I also had the chance to see the New York City Ballet gala, an evening of two premieres by Benjamin Millepied and Alexei Ratmansky. Having worked with Benjamin for my SAB (School of American Ballet) workshop and gone to school with two of the ballet’s principals and many of its corps, it was a particular pleasure to see how much all these artists had grown. While it is nearly impossible to keep up with your peers during the season, it is always wonderful during layoff to see what directions their careers have taken.
While I am sad that my trip is coming to an end, and I’ve enjoyed experiencing the arts and cultures of several different countries, I always come out of a layoff looking forward to coming back to class and rehearsals. This trip has left me feeling refreshed, invigorated and ready to be back in the studio.