April is upon us and that means it’s time for Houston Ballet’s Academy Spring Showcase! The Spring Showcase is happening April 20-21, 2012 and is a chance for our students to show off their growing technical and artistic skills. To get an idea of how the students prepare for such an important event, we caught up with Houston Ballet II students Jacquelyn Long and Joel Woellner.
Dancer: Jacquelyn Long; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
Let’s start with the basics. How old are you and where are you from?
JL: I’m 18 and I’m from Virginia Beach, Virginia.
JW: I’m 17 and from Sydney, Australia.
How long have you been at Houston Ballet Academy?
JL: This is my second year as a HBII. I started coming to Houston Ballet Academy when I was 14 for the summer intensive program and kept coming back! I stayed when I turned 16. Before then I was a Ballet Virginia International which my mom owns.
JW: This is my first year. I was at Academy Ballet in Sydney.
Why is the Spring Showcase important?
JL: It gives the academy a chance to showcase our skills and show how we’ve improved. It’s a chance to show the big changes in technique I’ve learned this year.
JW: It’s the end of the year and we can show what we’ve learned.
What is the most challenging piece you’re performing in the show?
JL: Hmm, I’d have to say Paquita because I’m part of the corps but if one person messes up it’s very noticeable so I have to be very clean. It’s a classical ballet with tutus that really show the leg so everything you do shows.
JW: The Sleeping Beauty pas de deux. I haven’t done a lot of pas before and it’s about elegance and it has lots of subtle weight changes and where to put the girl to make her look good. The teachers are helping me on it.
Have you done any of the pieces in the show before?
JL: I’ve done segments of A Dance in the Garden of Mirth and Paquita, but not the whole thing before.
JW: It’s all new to me.
What’s your favorite piece in the showcase?
JL: A Dance in the Garden of Mirth. I’m excited because you can get really into it. It’s very Renaissance and fun! The music is very powerful and it’s difficult. It will wake up the audience when they see it!
JW: A Dance in the Garden of Mirth. It’s very sophisticated, up-market and fun, but very hard physically. It makes me feel happy when I dance and I have a good time doing it with all the HBII dancers.
Liana Carpio Chunwai Chan in A Dance in the Garden of Mirth; photo: Amitava Sarkar
On the program is a new work, Impromptu, by Houston Ballet Soloist Ilya Kozadayev. What’s it like working with him?
JL: It’s neat and fun to work with a new person, although we know him through the company. He’s very into the music and wants us to be as well. It’s a contemporary dance and we’re in flat shoes and there’s lots of swaying to beautiful, calm music.
What do you do to prepare for the Spring Showcase?
JL: We start learning early. A Dance in the Garden of Mirth, we started learning before The Nutcracker started and then learned the whole thing in January. With tours and working in the company we piece the show together when we can. In the last months leading up we really go into high gear.
JW: I go to bed and think about it. I visualize it and so I feel like I’ve done it before and I feel secure. Of course there’s lots of rehearsals and work behind the scenes. But mostly mental preparedness.
Jacquelyn, you’re going to be performing on tour in Las Vegas the weekend before the Spring Showcase. How will you make sure you’re rested and prepared?
JL: It will be difficult. I’m in all four pieces so it’s going to be hard. However, the tour pieces I’ve done before and are in my body already, so I can stay on top of what I know. This is my last tour with HBII and I’m sentimental!
Are your families coming to see the show?
JL: Yes! My mom is excited.
JW: My family and my old ballet teacher are coming.
Do you have any advice for other student dancers that are preparing for their end of the year shows?
JL: Take a step back and don’t overwhelm yourself. Focus on your performance but let the love of dance shine through.
JW: Work hard in rehearsal and focus on perfection. At the same time, entertain the audience. Yes, it’s nerve wracking but in the end entertain the audience and have fun!
What do you do for fun when you’re not dancing? What are your hobbies?
JL: I’m a big napper. I nap whenever I can. I read and watch TV and try to relax with friends.
JW: Like Jacquelyn, I like sleeping. I don’t think about dance, I want to keep it far away from me when I’m not dancing.
Well, good luck on your upcoming performance and thank you for your time!
Dancers from Houston Ballet Academy; photo: Mary Stephens of Art Institute of Hosuton
If you would like to see Jacquelyn, Joel and the rest of Houston Ballet II perform in their annual Spring Showcase, April 20-21 tickets start at $25 and can be purchased here.