Above: Adrian Danchig-Waring and Tiler Peck rehearsing APOLLO
On Monday October 8th, 2012, Tom Gold invited me and photographer Brian Krontz to a rehearsal for his Company's upcoming performances at the Havana International Ballet Festival. I trekked across Central Park to the studio at Ballet Academy East, met Brian, and rode the elevator to the 3rd floor with New York City Ballet principal dancer Robert Fairchild. Robbie is one of several NYCBers going to Cuba with Tom: Abi Stafford, Tiler Peck, Likolani Brown. Amanda Hankes, Gretchen Smith, and Adrian Danchig-Waring along with ABT soloist Simone Messmer and former NYCB principal Stephen Hanna will all be Havana- bound. The performances are October 31st and November 1st.
Tiler, Abi, Rob and Adrian were in the studio today, along with Willy Burmann, ballet master de luxe. Brian settled in to shoot; I had no idea what ballets Tom was planning for the tour or what they'd be working on in this session. But fortune smiled on me in her kindest and most unexpected way today: Adrian Danchig-Waring will be dancing Apollo for the first time in the Havana performances, and this was his first rehearsal.
There was a bit of tension in the air, but it was the positive kind of tension. And while I am sure Adrian wasn't expecting to be photographed at this early stage of tackling one of ballet's most demanding and magnificent roles, he was wonderfully generous and went about his work with great focus and intensity. The keen-eyed Willy Burmann made technical suggestions while Rob Fairchild, who has already made a powerful mark in this great Balanchine ballet, offered interpretive clues. As the rehearsal progressed, Adrian's Apollo took shape: it's going to be one of those perfect meshings of technique, physique and artistry.
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By the point where Adrian began the pas de deux with Tiler Peck as Terpsichore, there was a real APOLLO-atmosphere in the studio.
Tiler was incredible! I love her energy and the way her smile will light up her face when something Tom or Willy said would make her laugh. It was really lovely watching her at close range today. And she was so sweet as she made suggestions to Adrian on keeping the tricky partnering in this pas de deux on track.
Adrian and Tiler then packed up and left: I knew I'd be seeing Adrian again later in the day.
Abi and Robbie took the floor for Twyla Tharp's JUNK DUET, a sexy and sometimes combative pas de deux requiring non-stop energy.
Tom Gold (above) has danced this duet before; apparently there are several 'versions' of the piece as each couple who have danced it since its 1998 premiere have thrown in their own bits of dazzle along the way. So part of the rehearsal today was spent sorting out movement options at various points along the way.
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I always love seeing Abi - not just for her dancing but also for her lovely and kind personality. I believe she's the only dancer from the current group who's been to Cuba before.
Rob Fairchild and Abi Stafford
Earlier, during APOLLO, Tiler and Abi had rummaged around the studio to find props to use for their solos; Tiler ended up with a box of Kleenex...
...but it was Rob who made the best discovery.
In addition to APOLLO and JUNK DUET, the tour repertory features Tom Gold's GERSHWIN PRELUDES and TANGO FANTASIE. I hope someone in Havana will be taking pictures!
My thanks to Tom, Willy, publicist Dan Dutcher and all the dancers for sharing their studio time with us, and to Brian for the beautiful images.