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Photo: Patrick Frenette.

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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
June 15, 2021
Dancer Diary: Leah Baylin in Green Mountain Falls, CO | Sunday, June 13, 2021

"Our first day of rehearsals was like a breath of fresh air as we began putting together steps and phrases with Silas Farley."

By Leah Baylin

Last Tuesday was a day we had all been excitedly waiting for. Rehearsing and learning new choreography – essentially our daily life – is something I’ll never take for granted again. I have missed this process so much during the pandemic.

Our first day of rehearsals was like a breath of fresh air as we began putting together steps and phrases with Silas Farley – the choreographer of the piece we’ll be performing at Green Box. We started the first rehearsal by sitting and having a “family chat,” as Silas and his wife Cassia explained the motivation and intention for the ballet we were beginning. We were all happily exhausted after learning and attempting several new phrases of choreography.

On day two of rehearsals, Patrick Frenette and I began rehearsing White Swan Pas de Deux. This beautiful pas has always intrigued me. The purity and emotion of the choreography and music together create such a serene moment in time. Getting to dive into the pas and rehearse all the details has been such a special process.

Although most of our time last week was spent in our makeshift studio at the Sally Bush Community Center, we did a have a bit of time to explore some nearby trails and local restaurants. A few of us took a hike up to the top of the Castle Rock trail where we had stunning views looking down on Green Mountain Falls. Later in the week we decided to venture down the street to a little restaurant called the Blue Moose Tavern – it truly was a classic small-town Colorado tavern and an experience for us all.

After an exhausting but fulfilling first week, we took the weekend to rest up and then get back to rehearsing again. We’ve decided that Silas’s choreography is so fun to dance, you just don’t realize you’re tired until rehearsal is over. For now, though, we’re sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows while talking and laughing.

-Leah Baylin, apprentice

June 15, 2021
Dancer Diary: Claire Davison in Green Mountain Falls, CO | Saturday, June 12, 2021

"It takes time for a choreographer’s style to settle into the dancer’s body, and by the end of the week, we were all sore and tired. Despite that, we had some good times outside the studio."

By Claire Davison

Hiking in Green Mountain Falls, CO. Photo courtesy Claire Davison.
Hiking in Green Mountain Falls, CO. Photo courtesy Claire Davison.

This week was the first week of creating with choreographer Silas Farley. I first met Silas at the Pacific Northwest Ballet summer course in 2009 (!) and it’s been wonderful sharing a studio again with him and his wife, Cassia, who is assisting with rehearsals.

On the first day, he gathered us to debrief before beginning. I appreciate when choreographers have the time to do that, especially when we’re in an intimate setting such as this. He told us about his process and intentions for the piece and grounded us before we started world-building.

It’s exciting as a dancer to hear the inner workings of a choreographer’s mind. It gives us meaning within the larger picture and hooks our attention immediately. The pieces themselves are wonderful to dance. Very musical and exciting, with nods to many great choreographers. I look forward to continuing with Silas next week.

With this being the first week of learning, we were exhausted in the evenings. It takes time for a choreographer’s style to settle into the dancer’s body, and by the end of the week, we were all sore and tired. Despite that, we still had some good times outside the studio.

The Colorado
The Colorado "ballet bubble" crew! Photo courtesy Claire Davison.

A highlight for me was hiking up behind the Lodge again and exploring more trails. I love these mountains and the weather has been especially beautiful.

Another highlight was exploring some of our local eateries and watering holes. The stretch of town down from the Lodge has a delicious breakfast place called The Pantry. The back garden is immense and apparently very popular on the weekends. We tried their famous cinnamon rolls while being serenaded by live music (a guy on his guitar, wearing a cowboy hat, naturally).

Right next to The Pantry is The Blue Moose Tavern. With pool tables and well-loved leather couches surrounded by funky lighting fixtures and posters, it is the epitome of a small-town Colorado bar. We will be back.

Now we have a few days to recuperate and put our feet up before continuing on with Silas. I’m excited to see what’s in store…

-Claire Davison, corps de ballet

June 7, 2021
Dancer Diary: Leah Baylin in Green Mountain Falls, CO | Sunday, June 6, 2021

"This time felt extra special as I’d get to be in my home state of Colorado."

By Leah Baylin

This being my third time taking part in a “ballet bubble” residency with ABT, I wasn’t a stranger to the feeling of anticipation and excitement of seeing my friends and colleagues again, many of whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. This time felt extra special as I’d get to be in my home state of Colorado.

Our first week in Green Mountain Falls was a blast. Most days started by eating breakfast together in the Lodge and ended by sitting around the fire pit, talking and laughing. Two major highlights from this past week were our adventure to the top of Mount Dewey and our homemade gnocchi night.

The very first day of the bubble we were all eager to get out and hike in the gorgeous Colorado mountains. “Let’s go for a short walk today” was the consensus. After hiking one trail to the next and winding around several mountain slopes, we found ourselves – six miles later – on top of Mount Dewey. Needless to say, we all had a few sore muscles.

Our homemade gnocchi were another highlight of the week. Luigi Crispino, a corps dancer from Italy, taught the group how to make his grandmother’s delicious recipe. The mess we all made of the kitchen in the process was well worth it and the gnocchi got devoured while we sat chatting around the campfire.

-Leah Baylin, Apprentice

June 7, 2021
Dancer Diary: Claire Davison in Green Mountain Falls, CO | Saturday, June 5, 2021

"With some of my ABT people here with me in Colorado, it feels like a true homecoming."

By Claire Davison

I drove up from Boulder, my hometown, passing much of Colorado’s celebrated scenery. I’ve never seen Colorado so green. Even the burn areas are growing new life. It felt like a good omen as I headed to my first residency and shows with ABT since the pandemic began.

Pulling into Green Mountain Falls we passed a public swimming pool, the Sallie Bush Community Building, and some residences. There’s a small stretch of town down one of the only paved roads. A cafe, two restaurants, and a bar lead to a small lake with a gazebo in the middle. In the winter it freezes over, welcoming ice skaters. It makes me think of my mother who grew up in the small Colorado town of Fairplay. I will always have a soft spot for small Colorado communities.

The Outlook Lodge, where some of the dancers are staying, is an idyllic mountain inn. Built in the 1800s, each room is unique. We spend our mornings sipping coffee in the living room and our nights around the fire pit, customarily roasting marshmallows and catching up.

I feel like my lives are melding together here. Having left home at a young age, “home” is split in two for me: half in New York at 890 Broadway (or sometimes the basement of the Metropolitan Opera House) and half in the mountains of Colorado. With some of my ABT people here with me in Colorado, it feels like a true homecoming.

After our ballet classes on the first day (technique and pointe), a few of us wandered the trails behind the Lodge. The Thomas Trail brought us to a waterfall and some beautiful views. On our attempted descent, we ended up on a trail that brought us to the top of Mount Dewey (lovingly dubbed Mountain Dew). It was one of those happy little accidents that comes when you explore a new place.

I had the pleasure of teaching a ballet class to a wonderful group of people in Colorado Springs on Wednesday afternoon. I love teaching and felt especially connected to this group of Coloradans. They were so generous with their energy in class and their questions in the Q&A afterward. It was very inspiring.

Yesterday we had a photoshoot in various iconic CO Springs locations, including Garden of the Gods. While I’ve been to most of these places before, it was extra special experiencing them again with my colleagues. After lots of laughter, posing, and some sunburns, a few of us explored downtown CO Springs before ending up, as always, around the fire pit.

Next we have a few days to recuperate before starting rehearsals on Tuesday. I am looking forward to seeing Silas Farley, our choreographer, and working with him! Stay tuned…

-Claire Davison, corps de ballet

Carlos Lopez. Photo: Hanna Bass.
Posted In
Ballet BubblesGet to know...
March 12, 2021
On March 13, 2020, ABT’s Manhattan studios were shuttered due to the threat of COVID-19. While months of planned rehearsals and performances were canceled, the ritual of morning ballet class continued on, thanks to Carlos Lopez, Director of Repertoire. He began leading daily Company class over Zoom immediately upon lockdown. One year later, Carlos shares his experience in photos and thoughtful reflection.

"I’m still teaching by myself from a studio or from my living room, understanding that I cannot control what life is going to give me, but I can control what I want to do with my life."

By Carlos Lopez

It is hard to believe that a year has gone by, when on March 13 of last year, we were all sent home, not knowing that our lives were about to change forever. Who knew that the idea of teaching a class over Zoom the next day would reinforce in me the values of reconnecting, empathizing, and sharing with the dancers what we were all experiencing at the time? Every day, for one hour and a half, we supported each other by showing up. As I said many times to them and to myself, “Just keep swimming.”

In October, after many quarantines, I ventured into the first ABT “Ballet Bubble” with uncertainty and cautiousness of what was going to happen.  There were tests, masks, distancing, and protocols to grapple with, but the power of unity soon made us calmer, and we realized that we were the lucky ones! We were in a beautiful place, able to create, work again with people that we care about, and do what we enjoy as if our lives were back to normal. I will cherish every moment we had.

Last year, I was fortunate to spend more time with my family and friends and even do a project on the streets of New York. I used the time to reflect on myself, on life, on what’s important, and what’s not. We witnessed discrimination in our society and learned how to take action.

Now, a year has passed and although the situation has improved, there are still many people suffering all over the world. I’m still teaching by myself from a studio or from my living room, understanding that I cannot control what life is going to give me, but I can control what I want to do with my life. Each day, I’m hoping for things to get better, and, as someone recently said to me, I’m being a team player.

Carlos Lopez joined American Ballet Theatre in 2001 and was promoted to Soloist in 2003. After retiring from the stage, he joined the faculty of ABT Studio Company. He was appointed Director of Repertoire at ABT in August 2016.

Teresa D'Ortone. Photo: Vikki Sloviter.
Posted In
Ballet Bubbles
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 filmed performances from the ABT Studio Company ballet bubble 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 Follia Variations</i>, October 2020.
Teresa D'Ortone rehearsing Lauren Lovette's La Follia 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.