Ballet News

Bus call for the tour to Billings

Bus call for the tour to Billings, Montana, was for 6:30 a. m. for a 7 a. m. departure. I unlocked the Annex building as the trickle of cold, sleepy dancers began. Someone decided to start a pot of coffee for the road. The dancers huddled in the office reminded me of hovering over a campfire for warmth. Michael experimented in ways to provide hot turkey and stuffing during the bus ride. James came on the bus with his camping backpack and survival gear. It was only a five day roundtrip, and with the supplies and experience gathered on the bus, I felt confident we were prepared to survive not only the weekend, but even an accident stranding us in the mountains along the way. Some dancers slept on the bus; others read or played cards. Preparation for a tour usually entails packing and sleep. Rest and nutrition are important for dancers, and more so when traveling. The conversations and laughter echoing around the bus were just one demonstration of the camaraderie felt among the dancers. In many ways, we are a family. The scenery en route to Billings was incredible. I’m a southern girl, raised in the bayou, so snowy, forested mountains are still awe inspiring for me. I think the winter wonderland scenery helped keep everyone in the holiday spirit, even without our families. Dancers become accustomed to traveling, whether touring with a company or searching for a job, and on this trip, the serene beauty of nature helped keep our spirits balanced. The hotel graciously had a late Thanksgiving meal ready for us Thursday evening after we arrived. The plates were loaded with food, which is always a happy sight to hungry, travel weary dancers. We all grew up with different family traditions and expectations for the feast, and sharing this meal together brought a sharing of stories about home for the holidays. The stuffing and pie weren’t bad either! Our first interaction with the young dancers in Billings was a walk through rehearsal at the local YWCA, where some of the young dancers take classes. The dance students were well rehearsed, but some seemed a little timid around the professionals. Friday evening was a technical and dress rehearsal with the orchestra. For most of the company, the Alberta Bair Theater was a new venue. A large stress of tour lies primarily in the unknown of a different theater and orchestra. In this instance, however, the Morrison and Special Events Center stages are still relatively new to most of the company. I haven’t really had a ‘home’ theater in years, though some are more familiar that others. There was an added stress in this tour in that our technical and dress rehearsals in Billings were our first for this year’s production. When the snow fell on stage during the snow scene, it was our first experience dancing in the flurries, or blizzard depending on where we were on the stage. I ended the scene under one of the larger ‘snow falls’ and am still finding flakes in my dance bag. It is a pleasure and a treat to share our company and our dancing with others. I enjoy the excitement of touring, occasionally, but also appreciate that Ballet Idaho is a resident company to Boise, and not always on the move. I am now accustomed to living away from my parents and brothers, but not to leaving my husband behind. The entire Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain region is new to me, and I hope to see more, just not away from my new home in Boise for too long. I wanted to thank our Board of Directors for helping to provide Thanksgiving dinner, and of course to the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale for inviting Ballet Idaho. I must also thank Betty Loos and Jana Stockton from the School of Classical Ballet in Billings for rehearsing and providing such wonderful children for our production of The Nutcracker. Ballet gives us an opportunity to share our gifts and our souls with otherwise complete strangers in the audience, and sometimes on stage. One of the joys of The Nutcracker is that after a performance, no matter where, our fellow dancers and stage hands are no longer strangers. -Sarah Ellis, Ballet Idaho Company Dancer