If you have been following us on social media, you know we have been talking about Paquita. Tonight, well technically tomorrow, around 12:01 AM, Paquita will be available to stream on A Ballet Network. If you are new to this whole Paquita Project, here is the rundown.
I think the only way to become a dancer is to dance. And I don’t mean competition variations, but be a part of an actual ballet. It’s important for kids to understand that ballet, the art of ballet, isn’t about being a soloist or principal dancer, it’s about being a cog (dancer) in a huge machine (company) and you are all working together to produce something beautiful. It’s so important to understand that ballet is not about the individual, it’s about being a part of something larger, and constructing a picture. I think it’s easy for kids to get caught up in the chase for “stardom” or a principal title, when the reality is, it’s a long road from student to principal dancer, but it is a very short road from student to trainee. And once you are in that position a very exhausting process to prove you are ready for a job.
Because Covid took away so many of their opportunities we thought, “Well why not just make a digital season through A Ballet Education? I mean it can’t be that hard right?” I was definitely wrong. So, we are very lucky at A Ballet Education that Ashley, Eric, and I all do photography and videography as well as teach, so we thought we would give it a go. But, we wanted to do it fast, and treat the kids like they were in a company. (I know, kind of hardcore.)
You might be thinking, why Paquita?
Paquita is my second favorite ballet in the classical repertoire. It is this wonderful third/second act of a ballet, depending on the version, that bonds the women of a company. It is this humbling experience where the principals, soloists, and corps all have to dance together. It is rich in history, and the fact that each ballerina got their own variation, a lot of times their own composer, it really opens this world up to changing steps to fit the dancer. It gives dancers the artistic freedom to use their own agency and make artistic choices without having to worry about carrying a full ballet, or the demands of a story, or the exhaustion of a full length. It is this ballet that is really empowering to women, as the female is not the victim and the male is the after thought. I think it is this moment in classical ballet, where we get to understand that ballet isn’t steps, or faeries or dryads, it is powerful women, doing cabrioles, and bravura steps. Paquita is really this jewel of ballet that we sometimes take for granted during YAGP season.
So here is how it went down. We didn’t charge the kids to participate, or random costume fees, or rehearsal fees, as you wouldn’t be charged in a company, it’s a part of the job, and at the beginning, it was just going to be in the studio in leos. But, we did put this crazy demand and expectation on the kids:
We only gave them four- 3-hour rehearsals, split over two weeks, and basically said good luck. Then on the second week, we decided we would test the kids, and hand out brand new solos, and give it go. At this point, we decided we would rent a friend’s studio that has the square footage and just do it there.
We are also lucky to have New York City Ballet Dancers in town, and let us be honest: dancers have to dance. If dancers don’t dance, their soul dies, and they spiral into this endless depression of crazy. So, it was decided that two Balanchine dancers: Ashley Hod and Andrew Veyette, would take on Paquita. Right? Good for them, stepping outside of their comfort zone.
So they were gracious enough to also participate, which led to Empire Tiaras rushing and creating the semi-costumes in 1 week and overnight shipping them. I know it sounds crazy. Even typing this, I feel like, “Wow, we are crazy.” But, it gets crazier.
We realized that because of the costuming, we needed better lighting, so we ended up asking our families for help financially. We are very lucky enough, that during the pandemic our non-profit: A Ballet Foundation, got approved. So, parents and friends of ours pitched in. So, we basically had to relight and entire studio to make it seem or feel like a performance.
And then, it gets even crazier. We decide that we are going to take on Swan Lake. What the heck, right? But this time around, we decided we are going to open it up for professionals and students who want to dance. Right? Crazy. So if you want to be a part of our Swan Lake Project, it will be assembled from start to finish in 1 week.
So, here we area day away from Paquita: three weeks from rehearsal to performance, edited and ready to go. I couldn’t be more thankful for my amazing team: Ashley Lorraine Baker and Eric Hipolito Jr, the talented and humble Andrew Veyette and Ashley Hod and the generous support from all of you. We hope you enjoy.
Here is how to watch it: Subscribe on A Ballet Network and enjoy. Once you purchase your yearly subscription, you will be able to access it.
Disclaimer: It’s our first time making a full film, and they are students and produced against a negative dollar budget…. Also reminding that companies that dancers need to dance, even if it is just in-studio projects….