Dance moves: making a ballet on a shoestring
The production meeting has finished and it’s time for rehearsals with the main company. Alan sits on a chair in front of the dancers, while Demakov prowls the group, adjusting postures, repeating moves and offering encouragement when dancers are struggling. “You need to put her out of her misery,” one of the team says, as one dancer in particular struggles with a certain movement and the sequence is adjusted.
The group is rehearsing the opening scene of The Sleeping Beauty, where guests are arriving for the christening of Princess Aurora. “Shoulders down and open your chest,” Foley says, as a collection of taut limbs, stretched muscles, slender necks and pointed toes snap to attention. “Keep pushing those heels forward ladies,” he shouts. When dancers are not in a scene, they are at the side doing press-ups, stretching or checking their posture. Some of the dancers get a shoe allowance (each pair can cost €90) and they might go through three pairs during the run.
Behind us, students from the Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa dance class, which Foley teaches, are busy making flower props that will be used in a garden scene, pausing to applaud spontaneously when a dancer nails a solo spot. In this context, it’s easy to see why there was such a strong reaction when the film industry applauded Natalie Portman for becoming a “ballerina” for her role in Black Swan. She couldn’t possibly have – most of the dancers here have been at it since they were nine or 10 years old.
Rehearsals didn’t start until 10am, but most were here warming up for an hour or two before that. “It’s an insult to them to say you could achieve this level of performance in a year,” Foley says.
Someone arrives with Halloween masks – the makings of more costumes. Foley tells me about a visit to the Royal Opera House in Stockholm recently, where he was again calling in a favour and collecting some cheap costumes.
“I arrived at the stage door and they brought me up in a lift. The door opened and I looked and asked, ‘Is this really the wardrobe department?’ It was actually only the girls’ section and it had 33 staff. It is a country of nine million people and they have similar facilities in Malmö, Gothenburg and other cities, so it is possible to fund ballet well.”
He springs from his chair having spotted some inconsistencies in the movements. “It’s all in the music, girls. Listen and feel it,” he shouts.
As he flops back down on his seat a colleague shows him a message on her mobile phone. It’s a promising report on box-office sales. “We’ve done €4,000 advance sales in 24 hours,” he says.
His home may be safe for another while.
* Cork City Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty is at the Cork Opera House until Saturday, and Wexford Opera House on Sunday. An exhibition about Joan Denise Moriarty is at Firkin Crane, Cork until December 31st. firkincrane.ie