Monday, August 1, 2011: Dress Rehearsal!
Backstage at Dress Rehearsal
“What else?” Veronika Iblová sighs, hands on hips, looking around at the tangle of girls in leotards, jeans, leopard costumes, or dressed as butterflies. The director of the VIP International School of Ballet is doing makeup for the dance school’s final production in its first year of operation.
Mrs Iblová grabs a tube of lipstick and dabs it on the lower lip of a teenage girl costumed as a caterpillar. “I’m very much excited,” admits Kora Hampel, 17, a student at the German School. “This is my first time dancing with a group, but not in a group all practicing together,” she says.
“Up! Up!” Mrs Iblová commands, and 16-year-old Minako Hidaka of Japan looks up to the ceiling without raising her chin. The school director draws a line of color under Minako’s eyes. She’s a leopard, who started dance lessons at age 5.
“It’s difficult because you have to jump bigger,” she says. “You have to use your whole body like a cat.” The student from Prague 6 says she likes ballet music and dancing, and “These teachers are the best I’ve had” because they “focused on the basics and on expression.”
Minako says she is preparing to return to Japan and more lessons this summer, but she started at VIP with the basics again “because I was not so good at basic things” such as opening the hips and avoiding curled shoulders.
“Ask Elena! Ask Elena!” someone commands, so we ask Elena, sitting on the floor: “How old are you?” She holds up four fingers. “Where are you from?” She looks perplexed. “I don’t know,” she says, puzzled. “But I was born in Africa. I can speak Dutch, want to hear?”
She says a few words. Yes, that’s definitely Dutch. “It means ‘I don’ wanna go to bed,’” she smiles craftily. After her first year of ballet lessons is she excited to be going on stage?
“I don’t like it,” she says. “I don’t want to dance.” She looks terribly unhappy.
“What do you want to do instead?” She immediately brightens with a sunny smile.
“SPARKLING RAINBOW!” she shouts.
“You want to be a sparkling rainbow?” we verify her answer.
“YES!” she says. “Put in a glass of water!” She jumps up and shows off her makeup to a yellow flower.
“Ask for more eye shadow,” the flower advises Elena. Elena stands before Mrs Iblová. “I already gave you more,” the patient former dancer says.
“I don’t see anything,” Elena insists. A little more eyeshadow is dabbed on her eyelids.
“Can you shake your head – does it feel like your flower will stay?” a young woman doing hair has just fastened another pink artificial flower to another head.
“If you have long hairs they’re all over like a plant is growing,” advises a young dancer from the first category students, aged 4-7.
“And you, Nicky, do you have your tights?” a wardrobe assistant calls to the unseen Nicky. No answer.
The third-category students, aged 13-18, take the Divadlo Kolowrat stage. They stand in a small group under the bright lights, then start spinning into the dark in pirouettes, stretching into arabesques, and tippy-tippy-tippying a bourré on their toes. In their long, “romantic” pink tutus they look like a perfect Degas painting come to life.
Suddenly they plonk down flat on the stage in a circle with their feet almost touching. “I’ve been dancing 15 years,” one says, and they immediately start comparing their legs, their feet, their arches and calves.
Mrs Iblová appears magically out of nowhere and the girls stand at attention. She names the steps and the girls begin to dance without music. “Arabesque, and turn, and da and 1 and 2, pa ba, bum, and plié,” she says.
Meanwhile, behind one of the curtains in the wings, Martin Mayer, a veteran theatre lighting technician of undisclosed age, sits at his lightboard with his fists on his cheeks. He’s waiting for the rehearsal to officially begin.
“I’ve spent my whole life in the theatre,” he says. For the past ten years alone he’s been working repertory theatre for Divadlo Kolowrat.
And how does he like doing the lighting for a ballet?
“I’ve always done drama,” he says. “Everything [here] is a little new.”
Post script: According to Jana Malisová, school assistant, the final performance June 25 “was very special for the students and also for their parents. … I think the older students and the parents realized how our dancers improved during the school year and that they are able to present a piece of choreography from the beginning through to the end with a special mood, focus, and concentration.
“Most importantly,” she adds, “everybody got the unique feeling of the magic of a live performance.” – oo
– Mary Matz
Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička