Ohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodness. Today was a day! Or at least tonight was a night—by far my craziest on the trip. Here’s how the cookie crumbled:
The day started out with a classic Verb family breakfast at Yunia’s. I never usually eat breakfast in the states, but I enjoy it so much here I might have to add it to my repertoire😛 I then took a really long Kate walk meandering the streets of “El Vedado”, the region of Cuba that we are staying in. Along the way, I bought some traditional Cuban snacks (peanuts in a paper cone, nut brittle, caramel bar), and some Cuban clothes off of some lady’s front porch. Clothing stores are a lot harder to find here, so I was happy to find some Cuban garb to be able to take back to the states💃
I stumbled across the National Hotel during my walk and decided to use it as a mini destination before I turned around. Not only did I use their bathrooms (hotel bathrooms are the best in Cuba because they actually have toilet paper, soap, and a toilet seat!) but I also got a cappuccino and pretended I was on vacation for 20 minutes. Lounging on the back terrace overlooking the Malecón, I couldn’t help but pinch myself about how lovely the moment was. I am in an incredible country experiencing new culture and finding new limits on how I far can push myself, while still having a sweet second to enjoy the ultimate coffee break. I got a little sad thinking about how I wanted to share that perfect moment with loved ones back home (shout out my boyfriend and parents) but I made sure to soak up the feeling as much as possible so I could share it with them upon my return. I miss you guys!
After a delicious lunch back at the house (I had sushi in Cuba!) team Verb had a rehearsal on our front porch lead by Richard to mentally prepare for opening night. We have been moving so quickly that we’ve been forced to throw things together without much rehearsal. I appreciate that Richard tried to carve out extra rehearsal time even if it wasn’t in an ideal space. Maggi said she thoroughly enjoyed supervising the rehearsal in her sunglasses on the rocking chair😎
Although we had a 2 hour break scheduled after warmup class before the show, I decided to prep my hair and most of my makeup before class just in case I would be able to rehearse “Rita” onstage during the break. Thank goodness I did, because things got crazy😧
I mentioned in my last blog post about how I have had minimal time to rehearse “Rita”. I asked to run the solo after class and was finally granted stage time. However, instead of being a solidifying pre-show run, it turned into a full blown coaching session. In front of the full Cleveland-Havana Ballet and staff, one of the ProDanza ballet mistresses who performed the role in 2006 started giving me notes about things to change. I usually love getting corrections because it shows that a teacher is invested enough in you to care about your development, plus it helps you to improve far quicker than having to discover the corrections on your own. However, I tend find last minute corrections to be stressful before a show because I don’t have time to rehearse or process them. It’s almost like finding out you studied an incorrect information for a test the class period before. I hate procrastinating and much prefer to be overly prepared, so I started to feel anxious. How many more parts was she going to edit with a performance in less than an hour and a half? Why couldn’t I have had rehearsal earlier in the week so this could have been addressed days ago? I couldn’t get the coordination for many of the changes she wanted to make, so I felt stupid in front of everyone🙈
I was fighting to keep myself together and professional. When I was finally dismissed from my embarrassing pop coaching session, I went directly to the corner of the stage and started to cry. The intensity of the trip caught up with me at that moment—all of the uncertainty, the constant pressure to perform at maximum capacity despite very limited time to perfect the work, the learning curve we’ve had as Americans trying to fit into the Cuban dance culture…thank goodness Lieneke and Lexy were both there to console me and give me extra tissues (I exhausted the tissues I had packed to serve as toilet paper within the first few sobs). It’s times like those where I really do feel so fortunate to be a dancer with Verb. There is always someone in your corner when you’re hurting.
I was finally starting to feel better when we finished “Bolero” rehearsal, but at that point we only had 40 minutes until the show, so I was also feeling anxious to get ready. I sped walked up the 3 flights of stairs to my dressing room to try to clean up my now sweaty makeup. I was taking deep breaths and refocusing for show mode when the same rehearsal director called my name from the hall to go to the sound booth. I ran down the 3 flights of stairs, around the crossover, through the house and up the stairs to the 3rd balcony tech booth to meet the sound man. The opening counts were slightly different from the CD Verb practiced with, so they wanted me to familiarize myself. I marked through the opening steps several times then sprinted all the way back to my noisy dressing room. I felt like I was on a roller coaster drop that was accelerating with greater and greater velocity.
Just as I was starting to refocus again, I heard my name called once more from the hall. Apparently there was a lighting discrepancy with the “Rita” solo, but Lexy jumped in for me. Lexy, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your generosity in that moment! My head was buzzing and my stomach was in knots from trying to keep cool while pre-setting all of my quick changes, getting into costume, and mentally cramming for the four pieces I had to dance.
After having to run back up and down the 3 flights of stairs yet again to retrieve a missing pair of toe pads, I was finally ready. If I had been a minute later, I would have missed my entrance (I am first onstage, so that leaves zero wiggle room to get ready). And with no time to really feel anything but “Read or not, here we go!” we were off.
“Appropriated Memories” felt like pensive and reflective, “Rita” felt zingy and crisp, “3am” felt sultry and steamy, and “Bolero” felt like a powerful group tsunami wave. Every piece was a thrill to perform in its own way. Of course there were little moments here and there that I wish had been slightly more one way or another, but overall I was pleased with how the show went, especially given the G-forces that came with it. All of the other Verb and ProDanza works I saw in passing when I wasn’t quick changing also looked very strong. Despite all of the insanity leading up to opening night, we actually pulled it off!
How is it that roller coasters cause you to feel anxious, terrified, and disoriented, but somehow leave you breathlessly wanting to do it all again? Ballet is a weird drug, I tell you. But I love it🤪💕