MBT STARS ON THE RISE IN NASHVILLE BALLET'S "SLEEPING BEAUTY"
October 2017 - Nashville TN
On September 23rd and 24th, two MBT alumnae, Sarah Cordia, and Colette Tilinski performed in Nashville Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty. Colette, who graduated last spring, is a member of NB2 and describes below her new life at Nashville Ballet and working in her first professional production.
Sarah has been with Nashville Ballet since 2010, after she graduated from MBT, and rapidly advanced through the ranks to become a full company member in 2012. Since then she has had the privilege to dance numerous principal roles, but her recent performance as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty was a pivotal moment in her life as a dancer and artist. She was able to hone her craft in the role of Aurora by dissecting and strengthening her weaknesses, as well as studying the legacy of other great ballerinas who have performed this role since 1890. This classical choreography that has become the zenith of every illustrious ballerina’s career, has left a unique impression on Sarah. The connection to a ballet tradition that has survived intact through vast cultural and technological change has awed, challenged, and inspired her.
What is the most important and valuable lesson(s) you have learned at MBT that has helped you in your journey as a professional dancer?
“I’d say there are two important lessons MBT taught me that have tremendously helped me in my professional life. First, I can confidently say I got my apprentice contract with the company because I always knew everyone’s part. While I was in the second company, I went in for company dancers constantly because of injuries or illnesses. Sometimes it was for parts I was supposed to understudy and sometimes it was for parts I wasn’t but I had learned anyway. Ms. Maniya always says, “I like smart children.” Professional ballet companies value smart dancers too. Another Ms. Maniya lesson that has helped me is that everyone has their own journey. There is no cookie cutter path to get a contract, or to get cast in the roles you want. My progression with Nashville Ballet hasn’t always felt like a steady climb. In my best moments, I wasn't wasting energy wishing I was in a different place in my career; I was using that energy to trust in the work I was putting in.”
What was the most challenging thing you had to adapt to and/or go through as a professional dancer?
“The most challenging thing I had to adapt to when transitioning to a professional dancer was not having Ms. Maniya every day. I know it sounds a little silly, but Ms. Maniya cares so deeply for and invests so much in every single one of her dancers. As a professional, I don’t get nearly the amount of personal attention in class as I did at MBT, so I’ve had to become my own teacher in a way. I also don't have a loving motherly-like person coaching me and checking up on me every day when I walk in the building. I think the relationship Ms. Maniya has with her students is such a gift.”
How do you juggle school, married life, and professional life dancing and teaching? What obstacles or challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?
“I have no idea how I juggle all the things I juggle. At times, it feels completely overwhelming. In preparing for Sleeping Beauty this fall, I decided to take a semester off of school so I could focus entirely on the role. And luckily, my husband is a dancer too, so he gets it. I am tired a lot, but often teaching rejuvenates my energy. It’s so inspiring to give back the knowledge and experience I have and see the students take it and grow from it. I guess my advice would be to remember that ballet is fun. Try to enjoy this time because it won’t be here for long.”
How is your life and schedule compared to this time last year?
“Our usual work week is Monday- Friday, but leading up to performance the ballet will add extra rehearsal days on Saturday. The second company starts the day with class from 9:00-10:45. We then rehearse from 11:00-2:00 and then 3:00-6:00 with a break in-between for lunch. Rehearsals can vary in intensity, some rehearsals we will be running pieces while others we will be standing and cleaning. After rehearsal is over for the day, I usually go to the gym to cross train by using the elliptical, light weight lifting to tone my back and arms, do a few core strengthening exercises, and stretch to cool down. After cross training, I leave the ballet and go run errands or go home and make dinner. My new life at Nashville Ballet is different from what it was at MBT because previously I was juggling school and ballet. It has been nice to only focus on ballet and really dedicate all energy towards doing my best every day.”
How did you learn the roles for Sleeping Beauty, and how did NB casting let you know what you'd be performing?
“The second company started rehearsing almost immediately upon arrival for Sleeping Beauty. The teachers and directors watched us during class the first week to decide initial casting and put together a working cast to set the ballet. I was in the working cast for both the main corps de ballet roles for the second company, and as rehearsals progressed NB sent out an official cast list and I was cast to perform those roles as well as understudy Lilac Attendant (company role). The NB makes it clear that casting is subject to change, and that it is very important to know all the roles you are understudying well enough to perform it if called upon. I was lucky to have the opportunity to perform Lilac Attendant and Aurora's Friend (both company roles) due to two company member injuries. I was thrown in by the ballet masters in rehearsals to fill in for the company roles and the next day the casting changed and I was now performing both roles and understudying White Cat in the third act of Sleeping Beauty. Ms. Maniya is right when she tells her students to learn every role, because when stepping into a professional company setting, you are expected to know roles even if you were not told to understudy them.”
What is it like rehearsing and performing with the company members?
“Rehearsing with the company is very inspiring, but also a little nerve racking. Having the opportunity to watch dancers with more experience and learning from them is very special. I am reminded every day that that I am lucky and blessed to be able to live out my dream and have the experiences to work so closely with the main company on a daily basis. I know that rehearsing with the main company is a privilege, and because of that I have to be extra attentive during rehearsals. It is important to review all of the choreography given and pay attention to everyone’s corrections because you never know when you will be thrown into a role. The artistic staff is ALWAYS watching and observing how the second company is working, picking up choreography, applying corrections, and performing in class. Rehearsing with the company has been an amazing learning experience so far, and I hope that I will get opportunities like I did with Sleeping Beauty later in the season.”