I expected to not be able to get a ticket, so I wasn't surprised to check the website and see "no availability." I double checked at the box office, where I was told to check back on the day of the event, as there would be tickets turned back in.
This didn't surprise me too much, since I knew these would be from subscribers wanting to trade them in for something else. After all, the title of Angel's talk was "The Art of Coaching," a subject not for the faint of heart. My hope was that there would be an audience of teachers and students. My cynical head told me this would not be the case. My first reaction, on seeing how fast the tickets went was, "They know he isn't dancing, right?"
Day of, I got a ticket. I was spending money I didn't really have, but I knew it would be worth it. When I discovered the dancer was home from rehearsals in time to go, I urged him to take my ticket and get downtown. He came along with me, and bought his own. Sure enough, when we got upstairs and the seats began to fill, the majority of the audience was over sixty. Not dancers, teachers or students, (though there were a few) but mostly balletomanes and company patrons. I found myself sitting next to a member of Pennsylvania Ballet's board.
I was there for more than one reason. To discuss what we were seeing with the working dancer I'd brought along, and to get a read on Angel himself, whom I had not seen in person for three years. Some of the interviews and photographs coming out of Spain, when Corella Ballet had to be given up and Corella Dance Academy firmly established before he went broke, showed a distinct disillusionment, and the thousand-yard stare of a battle-scarred veteran.
The first photos of Angel after taking up the reins of a long-established company showed the spark of a passionate artist reigniting. As I sat chatting with the lady from Philadelphia on one side, and the dancer on the other, I saw Angel in the studio doorway, grinning, eyes shining, waving to people he knew. The energy level was high, even though he'd already put in a full day.
About a week before, as the company apprentices surprised him with a birthday cake, he was posting "I can't believe I'm forty already." Neither can we, really. Wasn't it only yesterday he was just a scrawny kid with no English and precious little control over those whirlwind pirouettes? Now, from the director's chair, he addresses the transition from dancer to director. No longer scrawny, he pats his belly and gleefully admits that "Now I eat whatever I want!" Indeed, when he was both dancing and directing, his talk of diet was dour. "No chocolate. No sugar." Now, when asked what he likes most about being a director instead of a dancer, it's definitely the diet. "Chocolate! Sweet stuff!" He's put on weight with no shame whatsoever, and it's hardly surprising with all the galas, awards banquets and receptions he's been through in only one season.
Angel is happier than I've seen in years, and now I can turn to the task at my right hand. The dancer in the family, who is keeping a keen eye on young Peter Weil's every move, and watching Angel's corrections like a hawk. Then it happens. The jetes en manege, jumps in a circle which are much harder than dancers make them look, because of having to carefully manage the space in which you have to work. They are also a staple of the man's variation. No escaping the damn things, even if you are dancing on a stage the size of a postage stamp. The dancer beside me suddenly springs to life while sitting still. Angel has given Peter a simple tip that changes the whole perspective of this particular combination. Change the connecting step between jetes from coupe to faille.
Even as a mere ballet mommy, the nut season has just opened up for me. Lord, the post-performance frustrations I have weathered, listening in empathy, about those freaking coupe jetes! At the end of the evening, I give Angel a hug, then step back as he and the dancer discuss the mechanics of that simple change, and also how to manage the transition into his closing double saut de basque.
The following evening the dancer and I had some private studio time. The person who had agreed to coach begged off at the last minute. The CD wouldn't play. He talked us both through a barre (now there's a whole 'nuther blog!) and then I sat in front of the mirror while he picked one of his upcoming variations apart. We incorporated things discussed the night before, like breaking that fourth wall to bring the audience in. Angel mastered this early on, and now tells his young dancers "Look up! Show yourself to the audience!" As the dancer works out how to get from one starting point to another, I tell him to show me his face. So instead of just doing a ballet walk or run from place to place, he comes up with a way to dance through it, with a minimum of turning his back to the audience. The jetes en manege, in the small space, went off smoothly and with style.
I now dare to hope we might get through the season without any injuries. (Knocking on my head...)