We are so fortunate to live in a time of ever-improving technology where we can attend meetings via Zoom, watch videos on our computers, and see streaming performances on our cell phones. With these wonderful modern inventions, it is easy to forget the amazing interactive experience of a live performance.
SNB elected to perform at Ranch San Rafael this year and (while the venue was very costly for us) we were happy to do it. As I walked onto the stage on July 17 to give my opening remarks before our Giselle (SNB’s first live performance since 2019), I was struck by the excitement and rush of energy that emanated from the audience. I found tears come into my eyes and I thought to myself: “There is nothing like LIVE Theater!”
The audience is as much a part of live theater art as the performers. Art is meant to be interactive. The artist and the viewer are necessary to create a complete work of art. This became all the more evident to me as SNB performed at four different venues with different audiences. The only similarity was the warmth, excitement, and joy that emanated from the crowds. We received an energetic welcome and a tumultuous standing ovation at every venue. It was inspiring and uplifting.
Artown Executive Director, Beth MacMillan described it beautifully: “We took a great chance presenting Artown at Rancho San Rafael, but it was worth it. We found that the audiences and the performers were so happy and excited to be able to have live performances again, and we were so glad to be able to do this for our community.”
Equally uplifting was the live theater experience of performing out in nature. The first act of Giselle takes place during the day, and the second act takes place in the dark of evening. “It was as if we were all there as part of the ballet,” said Beth MacMillan. “We were in daylight in the village and in moonlight in the woods.”
Several other audience members commented that in the 2nd Act, when the breeze came up and lifted the soft tulle of the skirts of the corps de ballet, it was magical: “The dancers looked as if they were floating on air.”
For me, the most amazing experience came when SNB performed Giselle at the beautiful Sand Harbor venue on Lake Tahoe as part of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.
It was about four o’clock in the afternoon on July 26th when the SNB dancers took the stage at the venue on the beach to start blocking the choreography. It began to drizzle. We did our best, stopping periodically to let the tech crew wipe the stage. The drizzle continued on and off and seemed to subside during the dancers’ warm-up on stage. But as the dancers went to the dressing rooms to don their costumes, the wind came up and blew over the tent that was to be used for quick changes, and the rain came pouring down. We all waited tensely. The dancers could not perform on a wet stage, as it is too dangerous. I wondered what to do. I looked out into the audience thinking that people would leave. To my utter amazement, nobody left. In fact, more people came.
My mother (who passed away in 2008) was a marvelous ballet company artistic director. She taught me two important things: a ballet company director must try to remain positive at all times and (most of all) must have great faith. So I decided to call upon my Mom and ask for her help and guidance in this difficult situation.
The rain subsided. The tech crew wiped the stage, and I made the announcement that we would begin the performance. The audience gave us a big round of applause.
To our amazement, the rain drizzled a bit during the first act; increased at intermission, and subsided during the second act right up to the very last moment of the ballet when the lovers part and the spirit of Giselle returns to her grave. It was at that magical moment (as the music builds to a loud crescendo and as Albrecht stands alone heartbroken on stage holding one lily in his hand with his eyes up to heaven) that the rain suddenly poured down from the sky. With tears in his eyes, Albrecht dropped the lily to the ground on cue. It was utterly amazing! The audience all stood up and went wild with applause. All the dancers rejoiced. My only thought was: “We did it!! Thanks, Mom.”
In my 50 years of ballet, that had to be one of the most nerve-wracking performances I have ever experienced and one of the most uplifting. It is something I will never forget. One could never have such a performance in a virtual setting.
There is nothing like LIVE theater!!!
Photos by Alexander Cain Biber