Ballet rehearsals on Second Saturdays

Jeff vonKaenel

No costumes. No lights. Just a sound system. Everything was simple. But it was magical.

Last Second Saturday, I had the chance to watch a few members of the Sacramento Ballet rehearsing for their upcoming Cinderella show, with guidance from Sacramento Ballet artistic directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda. Funded by a grant from Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen, the Sacramento Ballet opens up its practice facility at 17th and K streets for an hour on Second Saturday. The audience sits in chairs around the edges of the studio, watching the dancers practice their routines. It was very cool.

The afternoon that I was there, two male dancers were practicing their roles as Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters. The stepsisters were working on a difficult scene, doing slapstick comedy ballet. They were required to be both graceful and clumsy. Be both funny and artistic. And to fight with brooms without drawing blood.

But what was magical for me was hearing the artistic directors suggest small changes to the routines. After one wicked stepsister dropped the broom, Cunningham suggested that the other sister should hike up his skirt and look between his legs at his sister. The move was both artistic and clownish. It also set up the next move, where somehow one sister ends up sitting on the shoulders of the other. And through it all, they were still fighting over the oranges. You need to see it to believe it.

Through several practices of this scene, the artistic directors made small changes. Even I could see the routines improving. And seeing these tweaks made the ballet come alive. I instantly developed a greater appreciation for the process.

I had a similar reaction when I took an amateur acting class at B Street Theatre. After seeing the incredible number of choices that were made by the directors and by the actors, I developed a much greater appreciation for plays. I must say that I did not then and do not now, have any intention of dancing ballet or becoming an actor. But it is so cool to see the creation, to take a look behind the scenes.

This experience reminded me of the first time I saw my dad check the oil in his car. He opened up the hood, and there was a big, dirty engine in there. I never thought of cars in the same way after that.

The Sacramento Ballet’s free open rehearsals, called Saturday at the Ballet, will take place on Second Saturdays during October, January, February, March and April at 1631 K Street. There will be a rehearsal at 4 and another at 4:30 p.m. It is a perfect warm-up for the monthly art walk. See the show, go have dinner and then go to Second Saturday. Enjoy the magic.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.