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SideBarre

It takes more than pliés to lift a ballet company to great heights. From dancers to conductors, teachers to makeup artists, this blog series features fascinating insight from ABT experts and an intimate look inside America’s National Ballet Company®. Take a spot at the SideBarre each week to get to know the incredible people behind each bourrée of American Ballet Theatre.

Posts in: Ballet BubblesView All Posts
November 24, 2020
ABT has created “ballet bubbles” in various locations of New York State to safely gather dancers and choreographers in a quarantined setting in order to create new works.

"The chance to spend seven weeks together was something none of us could have imagined possible a few months back. We were so grateful for the opportunity to dance together once again."

By Teresa D'Ortone

Teresa D'Ortone and Tristan Brosnan in Amy Hall Garner's <i>Escapades</i> in the 2019-2020 season. Photo: Vince Bucci.
Teresa D'Ortone and Tristan Brosnan in Amy Hall Garner's Escapades in the 2019-2020 season. Photo: Vince Bucci.

ABT Studio Company formed a ballet bubble in East Haddam, Connecticut to rehearse existing repertoire and create new works to be filmed at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in Tivoli, New York. Highlights from ABT Studio Company’s ballet bubble can be seen in ABT Today: The Future Starts Now on YouTube. Stay tuned for a full virtual program of these exciting Studio Company filmed performances in 2021!

SideBarre asked ABT Studio Company member Teresa D’Ortone to tell us about her bubble experience.

Remember the feeling the first time you were away from home, leaving your loved ones and all that was familiar? Then finally returning home, and feeling as if you had never left? This was exactly how it felt when ABT Studio Company finally had the opportunity to reunite at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut this September.

The chance to spend seven weeks together was something none of us could have imagined possible a few months back. Arriving at the residency was the beginning of something new. We were so grateful for the opportunity to dance together once again.

ABT Studio Company in the ballet bubble at Goodspeed Musicals.
ABT Studio Company in the ballet bubble at Goodspeed Musicals.

Spending the remainder of our spring season at home, though tough at times, helped push a different kind of motivation to the surface.

I soon realized just how much of a privilege it is to dance in a studio every day. Preparing to get back into the studio was a challenge most dancers in our group were quick to accept. We worked virtually with choreographers and learned from all sorts of influential artists. Although we were in different places and different countries, each with our own challenges, our time in virtual class felt like home.

Upon arriving in East Haddam, we followed a strict protocol and quarantined for two weeks. We continued virtual classes, including technique, strength, and Pilates, all from our individual bedrooms. We had no contact with anyone outside of our Studio Company “bubble.”

The hardest part of the quarantine process was knowing that we were so close to our group, all in the same place and doing the same things, but unable to do those things together.

Teresa D'Ortone rehearsing Lauren Lovette's <i>La Folia Variations</i>, October 2020.
Teresa D'Ortone rehearsing Lauren Lovette's La Folia Variations, October 2020.

Those two weeks went by very quickly, and we were so fortunate to begin classes and rehearsals in the studio as a group once again. The very first step in the studio was an absolute relief! After imagining what that first day back would look like for so long, it is hard now to put those feelings into words.

It felt surreal to finally be back working with everyone in the same room, doing what we love.

The adjustment from dancing in our bedrooms to the studio came naturally for all of us. Of course, we were all a bit nervous the first few days, but we were quick to ease into our daily routine.

We had a variety of repertoire from last season that we were happy to begin working on again, as well as some new works we have yet to perform. The repertoire is a mix between classical and neo-classical/contemporary – taking on such diverse movement is one of the things I missed most while away.

We are putting together all of these pieces to film over the next two weeks while at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in upstate New York. More than anything, I am excited for the opportunity to get back in a theater and perform, even without a live audience.

One of our pieces, choreographed by Lauren Lovette, was completed on the very last day before we were all sent home for COVID-19 lockdown in March. Working on this ballet now is particularly special and represents all the hard work that went into the last couple of months. Seeing everyone with newfound levels of motivation and energy has been well worth the wait, and I am trying to take in as much of this experience as possible. I know that looking to the future of ABT will continue to motivate us all!

Teresa D’Ortone joined ABT Studio Company in Fall of 2018.

October 27, 2020
ABT has created “ballet bubbles” in various locations of New York State to safely gather dancers and choreographers in a quarantined setting in order to create new works.

“I found that working in this bubble after months of not being able to perform with ABT was extremely fulfilling and inspiring.”

By Anabel Katsnelson

From September 21–October 26, ABT dancers Anabel Katsnelson, Betsy McBride, Duncan McIlwaine, Erica Lall, Jacob Clerico, and Melvin Lawovi, along with Director of Repertoire Carlos Lopez and choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie, created the first ballet bubble at PS21 in Chatham, New York. The group lived together on the grounds of the performance space, set in the foothills of the Berkshires, for five weeks to rehearse and film a new ballet under strict safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SideBarre spoke to Anabel about the unique opportunity and her experience there.

Anabel Katsnelson, Erica Lall, and Betsy McBride at the PS21 theater. Photo courtesy Katsnelson.
Anabel Katsnelson, Erica Lall, and Betsy McBride at the PS21 theater. Photo courtesy Katsnelson.

How did you feel rehearsing and performing again after months of lockdown?

It was truly a pleasure to dance in a theater after spending months taking “quarantine class” at home on my little square of marley from Harlequin floors. It felt so freeing to take up space and do big jumps across the floor! Rehearsing and creating a new work delighted and challenged me in so many ways; I really tried to soak it all in. The first couple of weeks were physically difficult as far as getting back into dancing shape, but by the end of the project, I felt like I had surpassed where I was as a dancer even pre-covid.

What were the grounds of PS21 like and what did you do there during downtime?

The grounds of PS21 were gorgeous, and we were lucky enough to be there for peak fall foliage! We rehearsed at the on-site theater, just a short walk from the house we all stayed in. I loved being able to go apple picking on my five-minute breaks and take long walks around the grounds in my downtime. There was an animal sanctuary next to the house with pigs and goats! In our downtime at the house we cooked together, watched ballet videos, tie-dyed, celebrated birthdays, sang karaoke, and had dance parties!

How was your experience working and living with the same group of people?

Anabel Katsnelson with Darrell Grand Moultrie rehearsing his new work at PS21 in Chatham, New York. Photo: Carlos Lopez.
Anabel Katsnelson with Darrell Grand Moultrie rehearsing his new work at PS21 in Chatham, New York. Photo: Carlos Lopez.

The incredible pod group made the experience so special! Of course, all of us dancers knew each other before the project, but living together for five weeks bonded us all in so many ways. Carlos Lopez, the Director of Repertoire, taught classes for us, organized events for us, rehearsed us, took care of all of our safety protocols, and motivated us every day!

It was inspiring to watch ballets together and have open conversations about our artistic aspirations in a setting outside of the studio. Our choreographer, Darrell Grand Moultrie, also stayed in the same house and got to know each one of us! I think the living situation added a human aspect to the piece. Darrell became acquainted with our personalities and urged us to remain true to ourselves in our dancing.

What was it like working with Darrell Grand Moultrie for the first time?

Anabel Katsnelson gets a leg up at the PS21 theater. Photo courtesy Katsnelson.
Anabel Katsnelson gets a leg up at the PS21 theater. Photo courtesy Katsnelson.

Working with Darrell was incredible! From the get-go, he had a great eye and was able to assess each dancer’s strengths and weaknesses. He was passionate about not only creating an awesome piece, but also ensuring that the process was transformative and impactful. What I learned during these weeks helped me grow as an artist and will stick with me for the rest of my career!

Darrell chose Duke Ellington music for his new work, which will premiere at ABT’s virtual gala on November 23. How was it dancing to jazz music rather than classical piano or orchestra?

I loved dancing to Duke Ellington! It felt great to dance to familiar music while still maintaining a classical base. In this case, the music really dictated the movement. The piece came together seamlessly because the choreography fit the phrasing of the music so well.

Any other reflections from lockdown or the bubble?

I found that working in this bubble after months of not performing with ABT was extremely fulfilling and inspiring. I cannot wait to see the final result at ABT’s virtual gala on November 23!

Anabel Katsnelson is a member of the corps de ballet. She joined ABT in 2016. Follow her on Instagram @anabel_katsnelson.