This week, American Ballet Theatre travels to Muscat, Oman on
the Arabian Peninsula for three performances of the full-length Don
Quixote. ABT is proud to appear at the newly constructed Royal
Opera House Muscat of the Sultanate of Oman, where the Company's engagement
represents the venue’s first performances by an American arts organization.
The Royal Opera House Muscat. Photo: M. Al Zubair.
Read below as corps de ballet member Nicole Graniero
chronicles this exciting trip for ABT.
Day 1 • Day
2 • Day
3 • Days
4 & 5 • Day
Here I am Nicole Graniero, a dancer with American Ballet Theatre,
stepping off the Qatar Airways plane in the tropic air of Muscat,
Oman - although it should have been more like a magic carpet dropping
us off into the Middle Eastern world of Aladdin. I noticed right away
the architecture of all the buildings. It's that Middle Eastern, Arabian
style. Or as one of my fellow dancers, Sarah Smith put it "All
the buildings are like giant sand castles you would only dream up
when you're a young child." I was taken to another land gazing
out the window of the bus to the hotel. I was in another land! I couldn't
wait to see how the city was going to look during the day (as we arrived
late Monday night).
I feel so proud coming here! We are the first ballet company to perform
in this beautiful opera house here in Muscat. I'm looking forward
to our performances and seeing how the people here respond. After
ballet class, I will have some time to explore our hotel and this
interesting culture filled city! I can't wait!
Tuesday, my first full day in Oman. Today was a free day but I decided
to take the Company's optional class taught by Kevin McKenize to get
my body moving after our long travel day. The Royal Opera House is
stunning. The house is magnificent, decorated in gold, mother of pearl
and teak wood. Although the house only seats about 900 people, it
is still breathtakingly beautiful. All the people working in the house
are friendly and excited to have us here.
Nicole and Sean Stewart in Company class.
After class Kevin recommended we go see the beach. He described how
warm the water was and how it is a nice relaxing way to finish the
day. To the beach I went. It was beautiful. The sand was soft and
the calm water was bath-like and filled with life. Through the water
one can see starfish and crabs pass you by. One crab was even friendly
enough to crawl on to Karen Uphoff's towel. Next stop was one of the
hotel's many pools. Most dancers congregated around the "leisure"
pool where you could rest under an umbrella or order lunch or a cool
beverage. I enjoyed a great lunch with my close friend Eric Tamm at the poolside outdoor restaurant, Tomato.
Nicole with Eric Tamm on the beach.
After lunch I was onto my next Omanian adventure. For the evening,
many dancers and staff members went on to a trip to the markets, known
as the Souk. There you can find scarves, silk and cashmere, brass
and silver goods, incense and spices. Everyone tried their best bargaining
with the merchants and attempted to find the best products. Most of
the salesmen were kind and open to photos, and some even offered stories
about their life. One man, from whom I purchased a brass vase, described
how his family lived in the desert owning 11 camels and a farm.
Sarah Smith, Nicole, Devon Teuscher and Gray Davis at the Souk.
After all the excitement throughout the day, one needs to rest and
relax to prepare for the next day filled with rehearsals and a performance
of Don Quixote. Most of our tours bond all the people in
this Company. For performances in Oman, we will have staff members
and even some of their children join us as supernumeraries. We are
all very excited to welcome our Associate Company Manager Kyle Pickles,
Assistant to the General Manager Kimberly Walen and Rehearsal Coordinator
Miki Shintani to the stage! Amanda Fields, daughter of Lighting Director
Brad Fields, and Michael and James Whitehill, whose dad James is ABT's
Director of Production, portrayed some of the town children.
(left to right)
James Whitehill, Kyle Pickles, Amanda Fields,
Coco Monroe and Michael Whitehill.
Photo: James Whitehill.
(left to right)
Nancy Fields, Amanda Fields,Joanne Whitehill, James Whiteill
Coco Monroe, Michael Whitehill, Miki Shintani and Kai Monroe.
Photo: James Whitehill.
The following day was the opening night of Don Q. Not only
an exciting evening for ABT, but a huge step for Oman! ABT has the
honor to open Oman's doors to the world of ballet! We are the first
ballet company in the world to perform in this country.
The entrance to the Royal Opera House Muscat.
Photo: M. Al Zubair.
To make our
performances superb we devote the day to rehearsing. No matter what
country or city we are in, ABT usually follows the same schedule on
the opening night of the ballet. We begin with spacing the ballet,
followed by costumes and sometimes make-up, depending on whether or
not photos will be taken. I was lucky enough to get the chance to
dance the dress rehearsal for the role of Amour. Act II was not called
to make-up so I felt a little funny not wearing my white pixie wig.
We ran the act making a few pauses for musical corrections. There
was a small challenge on the stage: the dimensions were very deep
but not as wide as usual. Thus, we learned to adapt our steps to the
new space. After the act everyone returns to the stage for notes.
Irina Kolpakova and Susan Jones gave me some helpful corrections on
The rehearsal day finished around 6pm. We take a break,
rest, relax, eat and then onto the 8pm performance! The audience was
very respectful. Not as enthusiastic as I thought, but this is the
very first time they are seeing ballet. I hope they enjoyed it and
will learn to appreciate this glorious art!
For the next two days,
prior to the evening performances, we rehearse the repertory for our
upcoming seasons at Bard College and City Center. It is a nice feeling
to rehearse the new ballets on a stage instead of in a studio, to get
the feeling of how it will be performed.
Nicole blogs backstage, in her wig and makeup for the role of Amour.
Tonight, Friday evening,
was my Amour! It was a wonderful feeling to be out there playing the
character of this god-like fairy of love. I hope I made Nancy Raffa
(my main coach for the role) proud!!
I hope Oman loved
having ABT! I know we all really enjoyed performing here. We have
one more free day before heading on our long flight back to New York.
One last day to enjoy this warm weather and foreign land!
Our final day in Oman was a free day. All the dancers were thrilled,
as we usually only get one day off on our tour. I was determined
to take in as much Oman as I could, so a day trip outside of Muscat
sounded like the perfect idea.
Kristi Boone, Jennifer Whalen, Nicole and Adrienne Schulte.
A small group of dancers decided to go on a desert excursion and
visit a water oasis known as the wadi. We met our tour guide early
in the morning to start on our wild excursion. We journeyed two
and half hours in an SUV to the desert (Wahiba Sands)! There we
visited a Bedouin family where they offered us traditional dates
and tea. They had beautiful scarves and woven bracelets for sale.
Then came the most exciting part: the chance to ride on a camel.
It felt similar to riding a horse only you sit much further back
on the animal.
The difficult part was staying on while the camel rose and lowered
itself to the ground to allow you to get on and off. Luckily, the
camels I got to ride seemed well-behaved - no spitting or hoof kicking
that I noticed. Although I did notice their beautiful long eye lashes!
Nicole and her new friend.
The camel ride was followed by another ride, only this time it
was in the SUV through the sand dunes. Our car went up, around,
way and that, then we reached a vertical drop. Everyone exchanged
a nervous glance, only to our surprise the car then slowly
sank into the sand and made the scary vertical drop a safe slow
motion one. Then again up, down, and around the dunes.
After the desert, our next stop was the wadi nestled deep in the
mountains. After the dry sandy desert, this wadi was paradise. It
filled with beautiful blue water, filled with tiny fish, surrounded
by palm trees and exotic greenery. Our group enjoy lunch and a nice
dip into the water at the wadi.
Nicole, with Eric Tamm and Luciana Paris, at the wadi.
From the dry desert to the tropical wadi my day was filled with
things I thought I would never experience. A great last day to a
The people who make up American Ballet Theatre, from the dancers,
to the stage crew, to the artistic staff all had positive reactions
to this tour, with hopes to returning again in the near future!
Thank you for letting me share my thoughts and stories of my time
in Oman. Onto the next American Ballet Theatre adventure!