Charlotte Stabenau's blog

My name is Charlotte, and I am a ballet-aholic.

 

I rang the doorbell at photographer Nathan Sayers' studio a couple of weeks ago, and was surprised to hear the sharp yapping of a little dog.  The door opened to reveal a little Yorkie (I think), and a laughing voice called "Henry! Come here!".  Henry turned and trotted into the studio, making a beeline for Sterling Hyltin, a principal with New York City Ballet, who was having her trademark mermaid hair coiffed by hair and makeup artist Chuck Jensen.

 

My favorite kind of ballerina is the kind that is not known for one particular quality.  I love watching someone whose dancing is multifaceted and can adapt to any kind of choreography, music or mood.  I think it's a sign of artistic maturity and a true understanding of all the possibilities of expression that ballet can present.  I was lucky enough to see two such dancers yesterday, Sofiane Sylve (a principal at SFB) and Savannah Lowery (a soloist at NYCB).  I was invited to watch a rehearsal they had with Avi Scher, and since I'm a huge fan of Sofiane's, and also now o

 

Now that all the summer dance programs are wrapping up, I've started thinking about my one experience going away to ballet sleepaway camp when I was 15.  I've always been something of a homebody, and I was really nervous about going away for eight weeks.  My coach at the time convinced me that it was a good idea, though, so off I went, moving into an upstate New York college dormitory with what seemed like hundreds of girls and about five boys.

 

When I stop and think about all the long years I've been studying ballet (20, to be exact), I always realize how much it has influenced the person I've become since I started.  It's unavoidable, when you've been working on something so hard for so long.  But since ballet has both its positives and negatives as a discipline, it's shaped me, and everyone else, I'm sure, in both good and not-so-good ways.

 

On Wednesday, I attended a photo shoot with Misty Copeland, a soloist at American Ballet Theatre.  Misty started ballet at 13, which is pretty late for a woman, but fell in love with it and made the choice to pursue it as a career.  It's a good thing she did, too, since she's an absolutely beautiful and amazingly talented dancer.

 

People say that the real star of Balanchine’s ballets is the corps, and I think that’s right—they’re always dancing, and they never get a break, like in so many classical ballets. Last night, Western Symphony definitely proved that point for me, as I found myself watching the corps more than the soloists. The patterns they formed were so fun and intricate, and their energy was unflagging as they smiled and pranced from one shape to another.

Unless you’re a professional dancer with an incredibly grueling schedule, teachers often advise not taking any real time off from ballet, because for every week off, you will need two to get back what you lost. Or so I’ve heard. The general idea, I guess, is that anything that takes time away from working, working, working on your dancing is bad. Having just come back from two weeks away, though, I can say that time off has been hugely beneficial to me as a dancer.

After seeing New York Theatre Ballet’s “Signatures 10” program on Saturday night, I realized how hard it is to just stand still and hold a pose onstage. These dancers did a great job of it, especially in Ashton’s Capriol Suite, a kind of modern retelling of Renaissance-era court dance.

One of the reasons I love going to see dance in small theatres is because I get the chance to watch the dancers up close, and really analyze their performance. This was the case on Thursday, when I went to see Dances Patrelle and Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance at Symphony Space. I sat very close to the stage, and enjoyed picking out the details. What impressed me most, though, was the dancers’ commitment to connecting with the audience and each other, which is sometimes hard to feel in a huge theatre or opera house.