SPENDING YOUR SUMMER IN NEW YORK CITY MAY SOUND LIKE THE PERFECT WAY TO EXPLORE THE ULTIMATE DANCE SCENE, BUT FOR NEW YORK CITY BALLET, IT’S JUST NOT ON THE PROGRAM.
Think you’re the only one who counts down to summer? This year, members of the New York City Ballet looked forward to June 30, the day of their final spring performance. Though not the beginning of a real vacation, the date marked the start of an annual getaway from the city, to Saratoga Springs, NY, located In the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. On July 9, the company opens Its 37th summer season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, with George Balanchine’s Serenade, Ago” and Who Cares?. With little time to waste following their demanding spring schedule In Manhattan, you might wonder what keeps them motivated. So, Dance Spirit asked NYCB members to share the secrets of their summers.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
During the regular season, the company dances at the New York State Theater in Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. In contrast, SPAC is surrounded by acres of woodland park and has an open-air stage that exposes the dancers to elements they normally aren’t aware of indoors, like changes in temperature, the sky, stars, mosquitoes and a truly live audience-many observers picnic on a lawn behind the amphitheater seats. As Pauline Golbin, a NYCB corps member since 1994, says, “It’s a wonderful treat, coming to Saratoga. Summer audiences are laid-back; it’s a good feeling.”
THE DAILY GRIND
Every afternoon during their summer engagement, company members will rehearse one of the 26 ballets included in the summer repertory. Over the three-week residency, there are performances every night and matinees on Saturdays. “[This is] about the same number we do normally,” says Principal Jenifer Ringer. “There’s no real break from our busy schedule.”
With various NYCB alums teaching company class, Ringer says, “Summer is a great time to learn. Trying new things, taking time with no distractions, can enrich your life as a performer.” Some dancers, like fellow Principal Damien Woetzel, choose to be on the giving end of this summer study hall by teaching in the mornings. Woetzel is also the artistic director of the nearby New York State Summer School Of The Arts’ ballet program, whose facilities on the SPAC grounds train 60 students every summer.
With mornings free and no commuting hassle, there is time for fun. Some NYCB dancers swim every morning, and the National Museum Of Dance in Saratoga is open year– round for browsing. Plus, there are the horse racing tracks-the city’s claim to fame. “The races are truly fantastic,” says Ringer. “It’s amazing to see those horses move.” As Golbin knows from many summers spent in Saratoga, “Almost everyone goes [to the tracks], but the dance and racing seasons don’t always overlap. If you want to see races it sometimes means staying on after the company leaves.”
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Each company member finds his or her own place to stay and usually comes back to the same spot summer after summer. “I stay in a condo close enough to the theater so I can walk,” says Golbin. Many of NYCB’s dancers enjoy the fleeting privilege of small town living, complete with walks down quiet streets, before gearing up for another year of hard work and city life.
ON THE ROAD TO R & R
This year, the transition between their two worlds is different from years past. After Saratoga, NYCB traditionally embarks on a summer tour, offering the dancers a great opportunity to travel and perform abroad. For instance, two years ago, after the company performed at the Verdi Festival in Parma, Italy, Ringer and her husband, Soloist James Fayette, stayed on for an extra 10 days to travel through Spain. This year, however, the company members will have time to plan even longer vacations, since they’re off from the end of the Saratoga season until The Nutcracker rehearsals begin in early fall. For more on NYCB’s summer season, see http://www.nycballet.org.
“Summer is a great time to learn. Trying new things, taking time with no distractions, can enrich your life as a performer.”
-Jenifer Ringer,principal, New York City Ballet
“Summer audiences are laid-back; it’s a good feeling.”
-Pauline Golbin, corps member, New York City Ballet
Colleen teaches English and humanities at American InterContinental University in Atlanta, and writes about dance, music and culture both here and abroad.