Butler Ballet is the name of the Department of Dance’s “performance component” (as it says on the official website), the title of company putting on productions in Clowes Memorial Hall and soon the Howard L. Schrott Center. For instance, I danced in the Butler Ballet’s performance of Coppélia this past spring. It is also the name of a class the dance majors take most or all of their semesters at Butler University: I have “Butler Ballet” as a class on my transcript each semester.
As a class, Butler Ballet has a class code, credit hours, and ultimately a grade. Currently, it meets:
- Monday 4:40 – 5:30
- Tuesday 3:40 – 6
- Thursday 3:40 – 6
- Saturday 8 – 5
This is not to say that we are in Lilly Hall from 8 am to 5 pm every Saturday… only sometimes! Butler Ballet, though scheduled as a class, is more of a potential class — you may be called at any (or all) of these times throughout the semester.
If I had to generalize, I would say I had several hours on Saturday, full Tuesday and Thursdays with maybe an hour or half hour gap in the rehearsals, and Monday rehearsals some of the time. However, it really just depends on the role. Dancing Swanhilda in Coppélia, I not only had full Butler Ballet times, but also extra rehearsals on Wednesday afternoons. When Kevin Irving visited Butler to set Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero, we danced from 3:30 – 6 on Monday, 2:10 – 6 Tuesday/Thursday, and 3:30 -5:30 on Wednesday, plus Saturdays. However, rehearsal periods in normal circumstances are limited to the periods set forth by the Butler Ballet class schedules.
And that’s how Butler Ballet rehearsal periods work.
My homemade tutu lasted for about two years — and now is completely dead, falling apart and saggy, the tulle torn. Oh well.
Why is Butler University kind of like the Wicked Witch of the West? Well, it completely fell apart when rained last Saturday. There was a pretty big lightning storm Saturday morning/afternoon, so they tell me.
I only knew it was storming vaguely, since we were in the midst of Studio Dress for Coppélia. There is a part toward the end of Act I when Dr. Coppélius chases the drunk village boys around with his cane. Just as he swung at the first lout came a flash of lightning — CRACK! Perfect timing. I heard the rain before we started Act II as well, but I was rather tunnel-visioned for the entire ballet, so I didn’t realize what a storm we were having.
Then my partner and I stayed afterwards to work out some costuming/wedding pas kinks while the building slowly emptied. When I finally took all my costumes back down to the basement, I was surprised to find the hallways dark (basement = no windows), the third of the lights that were on flickering menacingly. Someone was playing the piano in one of the dance studios, an odd waltz, so the atmosphere was particularly eerie. I felt like I was in Phantom of the Opera or something. Needless to say, I was also very glad when the student who plays Franz came down the stairs a few seconds later. Company is always good when you’re walking into what could very easily be an episode of Doctor Who.
You don't want to run into these in a half-lit basement...
Outside was drizzly, but bright. My cell phone finally picked up enough of a signal to dump on me about three BU alerts about the storm. Jordan Hall was on fire, apparently, due to a lightning strike? My boyfriend later told me he and his labmates didn’t realize the fire alarms were going off for a while. Much of campus lost power, the cable was out for a while in AV and the internet even longer. The phones went out, and we got another alert telling us BU police officers were stationed at the front desks of the residence halls if they should be needed.
My goodness. Butler doesn’t fare too well in the stormy weather. It’s meeelting…
Studio Dress was this Saturday –the first time we’ve run Coppélia in order, in costumes. I was anxious for the event, since I had been rehearsing the hardest part — Act III, with the wedding pas — at the beginning of the rehearsal periods, then following with Act I then Act II in descending order of stress. Yesterday we went straight through, with everyone in place, with costumes.
Before we started, I just listened to the overture with my eyes closed, soaking the fact that, yes, this is happening. I know I was still a little nervous because I was rushing the music in the beginning, but overall? Actual fun. I realize this is all I’ve been talking about for the last few weeks, but this is such a revelation for me, the nervous ninny.
There were a few bumps along the way… I messed up the sequence of some of the choreography in Act II; I couldn’t get the Scottish hat to stay on before the Scottish variation; some of the wedding pas was bumpy — probably because this was literally the first time either of us had done it in costume, and my tutu had more friction than usual and his sleeves kept getting in my face. But these are kinds of things that make great stories, n’est-ce pas?
Production Week starts tomorrow. Tech rehearsals, spacing, orchestra rehearsals, dress rehearsals, ACH the real performances!! I’m going to be so sad when it’s all over, but for now I’m totally, completely enjoying the ride.
Giuseppina Bozzacchi as the first Swanhilde in 1870.
Tomorrow is Studio Dress for Coppélia! I’ve written numerous posts on Studio Dress — you can read them if you want. Also, I wouldn’t really argue if you wanted to buy tickets for Coppélia.
I’m so excited. I spent a good part of this semester telling myself not to be nervous, reminding myself to enjoy my final months at Butler. The spring of my sophomore year, I was one of the Little Swans in the Butler Ballet’s Swan Lake. I was nervous all the time. I couldn’t eat without feeling sick to my stomach, and I had nightmares that one of the dance professors locked me in the smallest ballet studio in the basement and wouldn’t let me out because he wanted me to practice.
Even last year I was nervous for Sleeping Beauty far in advance of the actual shows because I found out I was the last minute understudy for Aurora and learned the whole ballet in about three days. I had a dream that I had to go in because my friend who actually dancing the role decided she didn’t want to do and it and was laughing at me from the wings while I tried to do the grand pas, only I decided to change the choreography at the last minute and didn’t tell my partner… This dream = a nightmare.
This year, I’ve thrown myself in the fun of the role. As I’ve said before, Swanhilda is a real girl, not some remote princess or swan maiden, which makes her more approachable. When I leave the stage angry, I play over dialogue in my head so if I have to enter slightly more cheerful, I know how I got there; if I am to be upset, I cover my face in my hands sometimes so the other dancers don’t see what weird faces I’m sure I’m making. Keeping track of the emotional story gives the dancing purpose and makes it fun.
I did have one dream where the dance faculty told everyone that due to copyright issues, we would be performing Dracula instead of Coppélia, and I had three weeks to learn everything. The subconscious is an amazing thing…
When I learned I would dance the role of Swanhilda in the Butler Ballet’s upcoming production of Coppélia, one of the first things I did (after freaking out and then getting my hands to stop shaking) was to look up the meaning of Swanhilda’s name.
Alternate spellings are “Swanilda” or “Swanhilde,” but the cast list released to us had “Swanhilda,” so Swanhilda I am! Battle Swan.
There’s a balancing act here. I think Swanhilda can easily slip into all battle and no swan: She is sassy and wholly forthcoming, wrecking havoc in Dr. Coppélius’ toyshop, destroying his dream of a daughter-doll come to life.
I have to remember the small moments. I am shy but give in gratefully when Franz offers me a stalk of wheat; I look at Dr. Coppélius after I break the real Coppélia doll, accepting responsibility for my action, though maintaining its necessity with a look toward my confused fiancé; I bubble over with excitement upon encountering 1. dance 2. my friends 3. flowers.
Swanhilda likes to cause mischief, but I hope the impulse comes from frustration with Franz’ infatuation with Coppélia and a gleeful, prankster nature rather than from real hatred. I have no idea whether I’m succeeding in avoiding the overtly malicious. Swanhilda is a touch supercilious, perhaps, but only because she is young and in love and brimming over the edges with life.
Right, I sincerely hope this is an accurate assessment of Swanhilda’s character. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone wanted to contest the validity of the above, I am nonetheless having the time of my life.
Okay, now buy your tickets for Coppélia.
I went to bed early on Saturday night with every intention of waking up at a decent hour and doing some homework before church. Yeah… that did not happen. Saturday I had rehearsal from 8:30 am to 5 pm with only half an hour break to eat lunch, etc. We ended about half an hour early, actually, but I was still pretty tired after a day of mega dancing. So I slept in to a ridiculous hour this morning and rewarded myself with banana pancakes.
Ugh, they were so delicious! Senior semester is odd in that I have lots of do — and I either have super amounts of motivation (Coppélia rehearsals/prep) or none at all (pretty much all other academic homework). It’s a good thing I’ll be dancing next year, since that’s what’s really holding my interest.
And I just remembered I still have to finish one more French class before I can graduate — I’m walking in the May commencement, but I have to finish three more credit hours of my foreign language requirement for my second major in English Literature. “Happy graduation, everyone! Okay, now I’ll go write my French paper.” Gah, it never ends!
I still believe in the liberal arts, I promise. But I also believe in sleep. Right now, the two aren’t playing nicely.
Saturday was a rehearsal whirlwind, with the day beginning at nine with the wedding pas from Act III of Coppélia. We used a new recording, which was about five times faster than the old one. I did one attitude promenade about fifty times. Start the day off with a bang!
Got my tote bag of shoes/leg warmers, my water bottle, and my tutu. Ready for rehearsal!
I like the Act III classical work. Swanhilda is so sassy in Act II and so emotional (angry/frustrated/happy) in Act I. Doing the wedding pas feels like drifting in a dream world. She is so gently happy to be with her rather flighty beau. She finally demonstrates and maintains a sensitivity and delicacy that comes and goes in the other acts.
She still gets her say, though — the variation is extremely playful, and that famous music provides the power that makes her so down-to-earth. Above all, she is just happy like one in a dream — happy to be with Franz, happy to be with her friends, and happy to be dancing. As one of the choreographers put it, “Franz is addicted to the bottle. You’re addicted to dancing.” More on Swanhilda’s obsession with dance later!
I lost my contact today during rehearsal. We were learning part of the Act II scene when Swanhilda pretends to be the Coppélia doll and generally wrecks havoc with Dr. Coppélius. Blink, blink, blinkblinkblinkblinkblink, goes the choreography, so blinkblinkblink I go. Then I try not to move my eyes at all afterwards, at least until Dr. Coppélius turns to consult his book of spells.
As I tried to stare as innocently as possible straight ahead, my eyes grew drier, drier. Then my contact fell out, and I had to stop the doll imitations to pop it back in. Besides losing my contacts, Coppélia rehearsals are going smoothly. I am having the time of my life with all the acting. My feet, however, have told me I am not to wear anything but Danskos or tennis shoes. The weather is beautiful outside, so you end up with an odd outfit like this:
Oh well. Whatever keeps my feet happy! They aren’t too bad right now.
In a dance studio not terribly far away, Coppélia begins.
*cue Star Wars rolling theme credits/music*
Since one of our heavy rehearsal days last week was cancelled due to plumbing issues in Lilly Hall and I was traveling to Kansas City on Saturday, this week feels like the first real chunk of rehearsals. I have the good fortune to dance Swanhilda in Butler Ballet’s Coppélia. I am having so. much. fun.
In the last three days, I’ve learned, in addition to some Act I stuff/a variation from the previous week:
- Most of the end of Variations on a Slavic Theme with the Friends
- The wheat pas (a pas de dix in this version… though I’m not sure how it’s dix because a normal pas de deux has one couple, two people. So with a corps of eight couples, shouldn’t this be a pas de dix-huit? Or even a pas de neuf? My boyfriend tells me it’s like polypeptides: Once you get past a certain number, the peptides just become “many.”)
- The wedding adagio
- Some of the Swanhilda/Franz Act I mime/acting
- Part of the Act III Ribbon Dance (where I literally become a human Maypole, holding all the ribbons in a shoulder sit that rotates.)
Have I mentioned that I’m having a blast? I’ve never danced such a large part before — well, thanks to the foot injury that switched me from Sugarplum to Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, I’ve never performed an entire classical pas either — but Swanhilda is the perfect role.
I think I would be more nervous if I were dancing a princess or something — I had scary dreams about doing (and forgetting) the wedding pas from The Sleeping Beauty when I was understudying Aurora — but Swanhilda is a real girl, a normal girl, a girl in love who gets angry and hits her rather flighty fiancé over the head with flowers, who laughs with her friends and sneaks into Dr. Coppélius’ house and can be rather nasty but in the end understands a father’s love can be just like her own marital love. She’s much more human to me than a princess, and I’m so excited I have the chance to dance her.
The week after the week after. The following items are related.
1. Midwinter production/performance week, check. Evaluation week (i.e. the week I apply to many jobs), check. Coppélia-rehearsals-begin week: in progress.
2. I didn’t intend to be writing many blogs this week after seeing our rehearsal schedule combined with the terrifying prospect of whipping my BSI paper into shape.
3. This winter has been extremely temperate. Last year, we had two snow days thanks to the ice storm which coated the campus and its environs. The “Icepocalypse,” we called it. This year, there are no snow days for us, which suits me just fine. I like warmer weather.
4. The reason I am writing now and not frantically finishing English homework?
All dance classes have been unexpected cancelled. Snow is not the reason. Instead, we must blame the Lilly Hall sewage system backup which flooded a basement mechanical room last night and resulted in all the water being shut off/bathrooms being closed.
Facebook has been rather amusing, with all the sewage jokes. You fill in the blanks — I’ve included one of the tamer examples below.
Still, I’m a bit conflicted. I enjoy being lazy, I promise! But I’m disappointed/waiting for the backlash of the missed day: I had over three hours of rehearsal scheduled, and learning new material is always exciting. Plus, I’m sure we’ll have to make up for lost time over the next few days.
One thing is for sure. This is probably the oddest reason classes have been cancelled.