Magazine article Pointe

Casualty of Love

Magazine article Pointe

Casualty of Love

Article excerpt

Nikiya's epic "death" solo at the end of La Bayaderes second act is more than M a test of stamina: It's integral to the ballet's plot. In it, Nikiya laments her doomed relationship with Prince Solor, rejoices upon receiving a basket of flowers she believes to be from him and collapses after being bitten by a snake hidden in the basket. "There's a lot of storytelling in the steps," says Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal Julia Erickson, who danced the role this spring. Here are her tips for navigating the variation's technical and emotional complexities.

1 Let the Character Drive the Choreography

One of the most difficult aspects of the variation is making the spare choreography fill the music. If you're having trouble slowing down, focus on what Nikiya is feeling as much as what she's doing. "Her love has betrayed her-and she's mourning," Erickson says. "When you grieve, it's like you're suspended in time, and that's exactly how the variation should feel."

2 Stay Grounded

Maintaining your balance through the solo's prolonged sous-sus. penchées and backbends can also prove challenging. "Feel a constant connection to the floor," Erickson advises "In soussus. for example. I think about rooting my legs in the ground, while simultaneously growing taller in my upper body." Once you're given the basket of flowers, let the prop work for you. "When you penchée, you naturally want to hold on to something-and the basket is something to hold on to!" Erickson says. "Its steadying influence may be all in your head, but it helps. …

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