Good friend and Conservatory alumna Andrea Thompson reports from her travels abroad, which started on a Birthright trip to Israel and continues this spring with a string of auditions. Here, she writes about her experience after Batsheva Dance Company’s winter Gaga intensive and the first round of auditions for the Ensemble.
DAY BEFORE AUDITIONS: I got to experience a Batsheva ballet class! Claire, the Ensemble director, taught the class which was mainly for the Ensemble but overrun by people from the main company. Bobbi took ballet 🙂
It felt much like the Conservatory in terms of environment: safe to go for things, push pirouettes and beats and things you don’t get to do there on a daily basis. I’m really glad I got to see what the once-a-month ballet there is like. I must admit that during the intensive and in fact my whole month-plus in Israel I have not really missed ballet because Gaga and Batsheva’s rep have felt so full and complete on their own. Though in the four ballet classes I have taken since November I can definitely tell that it’s been a while…
After ballet, Faith [another Conservatory alum] and I stayed to watch the Ensemble rehearse “Tabula Rasa,” a piece to gorgeous Arvo Part music that Ohad made in the 80s, pre-Gaga. In structure, the piece is closer to classical organization than his more recent works: lots of formations and duets and patterns and some unisons. I loved it. If there were a part of me that would miss classicism, this piece satisfies that appetite. The music alone holds enough “beauty” in a traditional sense–as opposed to the “finding beauty in things that are grotesque, extreme, or exaggerated” category–that I was immediately and unquestioningly hooked into watching. It is exactly what I want to dance: inventive and surprising movement accompanying fantastic music that picks you up and sweeps you off your feet.
AUDITION, DAY 1: There were three sessions of auditions throughout the day, each with about 60 people. I was in the earliest group from 9-12:30. We started with a Gaga class taught by a girl in the Ensemble–obviously, no one watched. Then we learned a bit of rep from one of the company members, a tiny firecracker in the main company. She didn’t tell us what it was except that it was a solo she does in some piece. I liked it a lot. She taught us the material and the co-associate director of the main company and rehearsal director for the Ensemble chimed in with more information about qualities and dynamics to get us juicing everything there was out of the movement.
We did the phrase in groups of 11, and being that my number was 5, I was in the first group for everything. We spent probably an hour and a half learning and then doing the phrase in groups, then each group got 2-3 minutes for improvisation. No interacting, just improvising in your own box of space.
And that was the end! We went upstairs and half an hour later Claire came up and read the list of numbers for the people who they wanted to see the next day. The good thing about being #5 out of 60 was that I had very little suspense! I was called, so Saturday I returned.
DAY 2: There were 34 of us; my French friend who also did the Gaga intensive and I were the only non-Israelis there. A former company member of 10 years taught Gaga. It was perfect because my nerves were a bit higher that day, and with him I got to bomb around and get some jitters out–sweaty time! Then another company member taught something from Humus! I had learned it from Bobbi at SFCD summer 2009 and good thing, because I was #2, in the first group for everything and had to look sharp. We worked for about an hour and a half on it and they made a cut. Then the last 20 of us did that together with the phrase from yesterday. Ohad came for the last hour or so, and he saw both phrases and then a three-minute improv (four people at a time: “Show us what kind of creature you are,” he said).
They made another cut sort of–15 out of those 20 people were invited to the February audition, including my friend and myself. They said that some of us don’t have to go if we can’t make it because they know us now.
So excited to return and keep putting myself out there!