Memories and Finales

Post by Principal Dancer Deanna Seay

Like all years, as we get older, this one has flown by, and I can’t believe that we are already opening Program IV. More significantly, I cannot believe that this will be my 21st, and final, Program IV as a full-time member of Miami City Ballet. Each of the four programs that we present carries a particular feeling — the excitement of opening the season with Program I, for example. As Program IV closes the season, it is accompanied by the excitement of the summer, prospects of the coming season, as well as the bittersweet knowledge of knowing that roster changes mean that this will be the last time we all dance together. This last reason, of course, weighs heavily on me as I prepare this Program IV, so it is fitting that these final two ballets are so special to me.

The full Who Cares?, choreographed by George Balanchine to a series of songs by George Gershwin, was one of my early principal roles. Of the three principal women, I was given the jumping variation – a bit of a surprise since I never thought of myself as a “jumper.” Yet the variation was full of things that I could do — big moving sequences with lots of jazzy syncopation. Still, though, it is two minutes of jumping, but singing the lyrics in my head helped me find a dramatic impulse that allowed me to get past the burning muscles and lungs. Building a stairway to paradise is hardly easy work, but the hopeful, bounding combination of steps and music made the process a lot of fun.  My pas de deux, set to the title song, is at the other end of the spectrum — a bit more relaxed and without any sort of technical pyrotechnics. Hearing this music now brings back many years of memories; many different partners, theaters, rehearsals, circumstances, and that is actually what I feel the pas de deux reflects. While “Man I Love,” is the most romantic duet, and “Embraceable You,” highlights young love, “Who Cares?” seems to be a meeting of two old friends — possible former lovers, but maybe not. Regardless, they share a history, and have come together to remember the old times, maybe show off a little. It is a trip down memory lane for them, and in that, for me as well. Who Cares? is most definitely one of the oldest, most faithful of my “ballet friends” and one of the ones I shall miss the most.

The theme of nostalgic memories also carries through to Dances at a Gathering.  Set on the Company in 2005, it was one of my “later” roles, and in a completely different realm from Who Cares?. My particular character, the “Girl in Green,” arrives late, and performs a solo. More mime than dance, her gestures convey a series of movements already executed and delivered with an air of how wonderful everything was. During her second entrance, often referred to as the “Walk Waltz,” she dances, flirts, and flits around the stage, trying so very hard to attract the attention of the men that come and go. Her happy-go-lucky attitude surfaces when, after the last man has left, she shrugs as if to say, “Oh well…life goes on.”

This brings me to the finale. I have never experienced a finale like the one that closes Dances at a Gathering. Alarmingly simple, each dancer walks on stage and takes their place, looking around to observe the other dancers, the atmosphere, the stage. They gather, separate, and mingle, before finally dispersing as the curtain closes. Within all of this simplicity, though, is a moment with which I can’t help but to feel a profound connection. When the central male character kneels and places his hand on the floor, it is as if to indicate that it was here, in this place, that all the dancing happened. Watching him make this gesture, I feel that this moment could also express the gratitude I feel as I acknowledge that it has been here, in all of these theaters and with this Company that all of my dancing has happened.

Deanna Seay in Who Cares? Photo © Steven Caras.