Author Topic: My first ballet gig!  (Read 3769 times)

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iamchristuffin

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My first ballet gig!
« on: Oct 16, 2011, 05:06 am »
Hi everyone,

I've been offered my first bit of ballet work - ASM for a well-known company's Nutcracker. I've seen the show before, I know the score well - What else should I do to prepare?

Thanks,
Chris

BayAreaSM

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Re: My first ballet gig!
« Reply #1 on: Oct 16, 2011, 11:31 am »
Chris,

As is the case with most ballet, it's all about recreating the original. There should already be run sheets from the last time it was performed, as well as an archival tape. When I get a new assistant on a show, I try to spend part of their first day with them watching the video once, then watching it a second time with the run sheet. (Very similar to how you would look at a script - read it once to get familiar, read it a second time and start taking notes.)

If it's a well-known company, odds are they have a headshot page or series of clickable bio/headshot pages on their website. I've had assistants create flash cards to help them learn the dancer's faces and names. That will be very helpful to you, and will make it easier for the SM and you to communicate about the dancers.

Anything else that would be specific to getting you prepared is most likely a question for that company's SM. Every company is different - some have large admin/support staffs, while some don't. It may be a good idea to find out what all of your duties may be, or if you're strictly the ASM and nothing more. Ask if you will be responsible for wrangling children/students in the production or if someone else will take care of that, if there are non-dancer guest walk-on roles - will you be responsible for getting them into the building and onstage, do you need to be available to count in Supernumeraries for their entrances? (my ASM has a ton of other activities, like casting Supernumeraries, securing parking for volunteers, sending student Mice into a scene, etc).

Also be sure to find out if you're working in an IATSE house or not. If you are not, then you may be heavily involved in scene shifts, if you are - then your goal will most likely be to make sure paths are clear of dancers for the crew to perform shifts. This information should be laid out on the deck/run sheets, but it's best to ask.

See if you can set up a meeting with the PSM/SM soon to go over what is exactly expected.



iamchristuffin

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Re: My first ballet gig!
« Reply #2 on: Oct 17, 2011, 05:26 pm »
Thanks for the help - the flash cards are a great idea! This is this production's 21st year, but the first in this venue (I don't think that will make too much difference)

This is a UK company, so it won't be IATSE - however, there is a large crew, so I will be just working on props and entrances.

What are Supernumeraries? We probably have the same things over here, just under a different name.

Because of the large numbers of children involved, there will be separate wranglers - plus, I'm not CRB checked by this company, so I can't be placed in a position of responsibility with children (from the limited understanding I have of this part of British law).

I'm catching up with the rest of the team when they are open in the first venue, so I'll ask about responsibilities then.

Chris

BayAreaSM

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Re: My first ballet gig!
« Reply #3 on: Oct 17, 2011, 11:54 pm »
Chris,

When changing to a different venue, there will be some technical/shift changes. When we took our Nutcracker back to the company's original home in 2007, when it thought it left for good in 2000, a lot of the hang changed, even though the set had not. Made for some very strange scene shifts, especially with different wing space compared to our main home theater. So some items will have to be adjusted in the space.

Supernumerary is the term used in US Opera and Ballet as "one who enhances a scene" and that "does not perform functions that would normally be done by an Opera Singer or Ballet Dancer" (aka  - cannot sing or dance). Nicknamed "Supers" - my men are usually guards in Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, and The Nutcracker, and play Courtiers (who walk into a scene and react to the action) in Giselle. You could consider it "acting" - but in a very loose way. Basically, if you have a small enough company, but need basic background roles filled, as long as they don't have to dance, you can hire a Super. A lot of times in Opera, a Super will also act as a costumed scene shifter.

For my company, anyone I hire has to have a background check, as our company is affiliated with our ballet school, and a majority of the time, our shows have children. Could be a bit of a benefit to you - one less thing you need to worry about. Hope you have a great time.

Merde!

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Re: My first ballet gig!
« Reply #4 on: Oct 18, 2011, 12:54 am »
A side note that I find amusing - casting supers in opera often comes down to who fits the costume. Literally. I have seen the call go out for (eg) female 5'6" size 10 skirt, medium blouse, size 7 shoe. For men, it gets even more specific, but it's all abt the clothes. Singing, acting, dancing, paying attention...all are set aside if you are a match. Of course, this leads to interesting tales of onstage shenanigans.....

BayAreaSM

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Re: My first ballet gig!
« Reply #5 on: Oct 18, 2011, 10:42 pm »
Quote
A side note that I find amusing - casting supers in opera often comes down to who fits the costume.

This is entirely true for ballet as well. While there may be a budget to design or alter costumes for the company, there is NO budget to alter costumes for supernumerary roles. I go through this in ballet constantly. Our biggest challenge was the ballet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, which had been created in the 80's - the era of body builders. It was required to have buff, built, V-shaped men. The auditions for that were very unfortunate.

I spend my Saturdays rehearsing the Supers, and come performance time, my ASM will count them in for all their entrances, make sure they do all of their costume changes and keep them out of trouble. THAT is a ballet ASM track in and of itself.

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Re: My first ballet gig!
« Reply #6 on: Mar 14, 2012, 05:10 am »
Especially when tutus are involved!  I would say familiarize yourself with how the SM calls the show, in the off case that you would need to take over ballet cue scripts can be incredibly intimidating. It's great if they work off a score but all the ballet companies i've worked for don't which can get confusing. I would say once you've deciphered it sit with the DVD of the show and call the show to the dvd. It probably goes without saying but study that video until you are so sick of it...then do it again especially if you tour because you may be asked on the fly to remember which wing set piece a leaves during the changeover from the rats to the sugar plum PDD when everything is moving!
  Also HAVE FUN! having done NUT I can say it is a challenging piece but also a great into to ballet and a recognizable piece.

Good luck!
"I will prepare and someday my chance will come"

BayAreaSM

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Re: My first ballet gig!
« Reply #7 on: Mar 21, 2012, 11:53 pm »
Chris,

I know it's been a while since you posted - but how did your Nutcracker experience go? Did you discover something in your rehearsals/performances that you wished you'd learned from the boards before going into the show?

I'd love to hear how your first foray into ballet worked out! Are you hooked yet?


iamchristuffin

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Re: My first ballet gig!
« Reply #8 on: Mar 22, 2012, 03:22 pm »
In the end, I had very little responsibility! There were two other ASMs who are full-time with the company, so they were each in charge of a wing, and I flitted between areas at needed.

Act One was manic, and Act Two was very quiet - 52 minutes with one cue. I did a lot of paging and props work.

The biggest difficulty I had was not doing things that were the responsibility of another department. This side of the water, unless you are with the largest companies, the lines can get quite blurred.

With this company (one of the aforementioned large ones!), everything was very segmented (much like I imagine America to be), and the hierarchy was very clearly outlined to me on day one.

On the whole, I loved my time there - spending Christmas Day setting up dressing rooms was a definite low-light though.

The highlights? Finally working on a ballet, good pay (after the food, taxis and Bank Holiday pay), meeting some lovely dancers, and finding that I already knew the majority of the dressers!

I have been hooked on ballet for a long time, and this experience hasn't changed that. At this point in time, I don't know if I could do it for 50 weeks a year, but every so often is a nice change from opera, theatre or musicals!

Thank you everyone for your help, particularly BayAreaSM! (sorry, I don't know your name!)

Chris
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