Saturday, January 19, 2008

New York, New York

After our first class we had a real treat, an adventure in New York City with Michelle Raider and the people from the River City Youth Ballet, West Virginia's Official Youth Ballet. The River City Youth Ballet is one of the most vibrant and active schools we visit and once a year they take a special trip to give their students special opportunities to see live productions and work with professional dancers. The folks at the River City Youth Ballet are probably the best friends we've made on the road so far, and that is out of a very crowded field of wonderful friends.

As it happened, their trip to New York City corresponded fairly well with our travel plans, so even though we weren't going to be coming through West Virginia on this journey, we would have the opportunity to work with Michelle's students in a special private class in Chelsea.

We were even more fortunate in that we were invited to attend the New York City Ballet with the River City gang. It was Valery's first time seeing the New York City Ballet on stage. The program was Traditions, a mixed repratory featuring George Balanchine's "Square Dance" and "Prodigal Son" and Jerome Robbin's "Four Seasons."

The picture on the right is Damian Woetzel in Prodigal Son. This performance was, we were told, the final performance by the ballet star after 23 years with the company although I believe this was not entirely accurate and that he is actually set to retire when the season wraps up in spring.

Woetzel proved to be a great actor in top form hitting all the right emotional notes. "Why is he retiring?" Valery wanted to know. "He still has great technique."

Woetzel's answer to the New York Times was that it was fitting to leave as the company commemorates the 10th anniversary of the death of Jerome Robbins by featuring his choreography.

“His presence was the reason I joined” the company, Mr. Woetzel said. He said he will focus his energy “beyond the limited space of performing” in “areas where I hope to make an impact in the second part of my life.”

Valery was especially impressed by the sinuey Siren danced by the long-limbed Maria Kowroski and, in The Four Seasons, the crowd-pleasing Fawn danced by Daniel Ulbricht.

"That is Russian style," said Valery. And Ulbricht is from St. Petersburg... Florida.

Incidentally, if you want a behind the scenes look at the New York City Ballet, they have their own YouTube Channel with lots of great videos.

The evening of Balanchine was a calm oasis in an otherwise hectic day of travel snafus with the generally easy to navigate New York public transportation system that didn't stop until the next day when we arrived breathlessly at our scheduled class at Chelsea Studios.

After a late night at the ballet, in our desire for extra sleep, we had cut the time a bit close for the 10AM class. We took the hotel shuttle to the Newark Airport, got on a clean and pleasant airtrain to the NJ transit station, and had to wait 20 minutes. We looked out over an area where plastic bags trapped on a barbed wire fence flapped like banners in the wind and birds flocked overhead, "mmmm, garbage."

"Ah, the Garden State."

We got on the train, dashed through the subway to the E, took it to the studio location I'd found on the Internet and tried to get in, but no one was there. There are apparently two Chelsea Studios. I called Michelle on the cell phone. Fortunately she, and the class, were only a block over.

We got there only a few minutes late, Valery changed quickly, unpacked his gifts-- "I'm Santa Claus!" and did a nice class. Afterwards we had a nice lunch with Michelle and friends, and Michelle discussed her idea to bring her students to Moscow for a ballet educational trip. We hope it happens!

See you in summer Michelle!