I always look forward to summer because it has become the best time of the year to focus on what I really love to do – teach dance!- . As much as I love Nutcracker, our spring ballet and the student performance, they take focus away from my first passion which is sharing the joy of dance through classical ballet.
Those performances are great for the faculty and, most importantly, the dancers but they require much of our time and energy. Summer let’s us “get back to our roots”. And, I love those roots!
There’s nothing better than being part of a good classical ballet class. I hope you take time to enjoy the slower pace of summer and the space that is allows to just really enjoy (or let your dancer enjoy) dance class purely for the sake of dance class. No worries about rehearsals, casting, homework waiting at home…just the present moment spent dancing. BEAUTIFUL!
Interview with Ballet Virginia International’s Lilac Fairy – Leah Upchurch
Sleeping Beauty 2015 Series
During this wintry weather I had the chance to talk with Leah Upchurch who will be dancing the role of Lilac Fairy in our upcoming performances of Sleeping Beauty on March 14th at 2 PM and 7:30 PM at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach.
Leah is a BVI company member and has grown up performing with BVI. It doesn’t seem too long ago that she was Clara in the Nutcracker. When Leah dances you can’t help but be taken with the joy and grace that she emotes. Read this interview and you’ll see what gives Leah that special spark.
When Leah was just two years old, her mom gave her the VHS tape of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker”. “I have to admit that I watched that video every single day and learned every bit of choreography there was to know on that tape even though I didn’t know what those steps were or what they meant” says Leah. “All I knew at the time was that I loved doing it and that’s where I wanted to end up in the future.”
Now at almost sixteen, she has had many experiences that have made her want to become a professional dancer. She’s trained for three summers at The School of American Ballet in New York City where she was taught by the same people who danced in the Nutcracker video she loved when she was two. Leah has also taken many master classes with Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem and American Ballet Theatre.
Being cast as the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty is a big step in her journey to become a professional dancer. I asked Leah about being chosen for this iconic role and, not surprisingly, she focused most on the challenges of the role and how she plans to meet them with her usual beauty, style and grace.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges for this role for you?
“I think some of the biggest challenges I will have to experience would not only be the technique aspect of the role but the acting aspect of it because the Lilac Fairy is such an important role to portray and having to put yourself in the character’s shoes and interpret what their feelings and emotions are is a difficult process. You have to portray a brave and strong manor while still looking delicate and beautiful because you are a fairy. You have to be a leader when you are helping the prince defeat the evil fairy, Carabosse and finding a way to the princess, Aurora. However, I do think I will be able to overcome these challenges and successfully become the Lilac Fairy.”~Leah Upchurch
I had the opportunity to email interview LeeAnn Walker, who will be dancing the lead role of Princess Aurora in our upcoming performances of Sleeping Beauty on March 14th at 2 PM and 7:30 PM at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach.
LeeAnn is a former student and has come back several times to perform with BVI. I’m always struck by how pure and beautiful her dancing is and if you read this interview you’ll see that it is really just who she is that is shining through in her dancing.
What’s your favorite part as far as the choreography for this part?
So far my favorite part of Aurora’s choreography is all the different pas de deux and variations she has through out the whole ballet. I like how the choreography is challenging and gives me something to continue to work at and perfect. Overall, I think I am most excited to learn and perform the Rose Adagio from the first act and the wedding pas de deux in the third act. I think both of them are beautiful, and I learned parts of them at summer intensives when I was younger so it is really exciting to now be able to perform them for an audience.
What does being the lead dancer in this famous ballet mean to you?
Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite ballets and it is an honor to be able to perform the role of Aurora. I find it so intriguing that the same ballets that were created over a century ago are still being performed today, and I feel privileged that I get to be part of its lineage. At the same time being the lead in such a famous ballet does add extra pressure. I hope I can move the audience just has much as all the amazing dancers that have previously performed the role of Aurora.
What was your reaction when you were asked to be Aurora?
I was very honored and excited when BVI asked me to be Aurora. I think it will be the biggest role I have performed in my career and it boosted my confidence when I found out they wanted me to be Aurora.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges of this role for you?
I think the biggest challenge I will face in this role is gaining the stamina to perform the whole ballet to my fullest potential because it will definitely be the most dancing I have done in one performance. I am also excited to dance with a new partner, but we will only have a week to rehearse together before the performances. In the end I know everything will come together and I am so excited to once again perform will BVI.