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A step-by-step tour of Spain

Boston Ballet dancer's diary traces moves on stage and off

The trip has blended work and play, including (clockwise from top) Kelsey Hellebuyck carrying a case; artistic associate Trinidad Vives and artistic director Mikko Nissinen (backs to camera) addressing dancers; Megan Gray, Heather Myers, and Misa Kuranaga (from left) rehearsing; Yury Yanowsky and Karine Seneca performing; Lorna Feijoo taking a break; and Tempe Ostergren sewing poolside. The trip has blended work and play, including (clockwise from top) Kelsey Hellebuyck carrying a case; artistic associate Trinidad Vives and artistic director Mikko Nissinen (backs to camera) addressing dancers; Megan Gray, Heather Myers, and Misa Kuranaga (from left) rehearsing; Yury Yanowsky and Karine Seneca performing; Lorna Feijoo taking a break; and Tempe Ostergren sewing poolside. (photos by sabi varga; elizabeth olds (bottom left and center))

Sure, they look glamorous onstage, but ballerinas do get seasick. Need proof? Check out the ongoing tour diary being kept -- and generously shared -- by Boston Ballet principal dancer Romi Beppu. This is an important moment for Boston Ballet, which has embarked on its first international tour in 16 years. Over six weeks, the company is performing at seven festivals across Spain. Yet as Beppu's account of the tour's first days makes clear, all those appearances still leave time for a little clubbing.


Tuesday, July 17
Finally after a long plane ride and swollen feet we have arrived. Tenerife! It is about 1 p.m. Spanish time/ 8 a.m. Boston time, and we have been flying through the night. All of us are quite exhausted, with the exception of maybe [principal dancer] Carlos Molina, who was smart enough to wear a neck brace that allowed him to sleep on the flight without getting a neck spasm. He was a funny sight at the moment, but in reality, the smart one!

2:30 p.m.: Starving! We go to La Radio restaurant across from the hotel. It is our first experience in discovering that service in Spanish restaurants requires patience! Lunch is not an hour event, rather a two-hour sit-down extravaganza. After the first hour and a half, [principal dancer] Karine [Seneca] is just about falling asleep into her huge plate of tortilla (Spanish omelet). [Corps dancer] Raul [Salamanca] spots a huge rat hanging out on the floor near us. Great. He then makes an announcement to all of us in the restaurant about the presence of our new friend, and we call him Ratatouille. [Artistic associate] Trinidad [Vives], at another table, jumps up on her chair. Are we having fun yet?

Thursday, July 19
Class and dress rehearsal for "La Sylphide." Theater is gorgeous from outside. Looks like a modern art sculpture, half of it surrounded by water. First thing I notice are couples making out everywhere. This must be the place to "get romantic." I can definitely see why. Class is in the studio downstairs -- it is a maze to get there, but we finally find it. Yikes! Floors are HARD! This seems to be the general consensus all around. We manage, though, and after class we do a run of the Balanchine program in the studios. Hard floor, but all of us agree it is better to move to get our bodies over the jet lag and tired muscles.

Friday, July 20
First show kicking off the tour is sold out! Good performance -- everyone danced well, and you could feel the love from the crowd. We must have taken five or six full company bows. A great feeling!

Saturday, July 21
10:30 a.m.: Company is downstairs at the buffet breakfast in the hotel. We all look tired, perhaps a bit grumpy. Café con leche seems to be the popular beverage at the moment. "No eggs again," [soloist] Rie [Ichikawa] utters -- "Hmm, I guess we're too late again." Little does she know that the smart people sit near the tray of eggs and down them as soon as they arrive. We are learning, slowly.

4 p.m.: Back at theater for Balanchine program rehearsal. First up, "Serenade." Yikes. This stage is a little small for this ballet, it seems. The girls are having a few spacing problems, so we adjust to accommodate the stage. The corps girls are a little on edge knowing that the tight fit is affecting lines and formations. Next up, "Who Cares?" rehearsal. No problem with spacing, as there are only four dancers in this piece. We mark it for spacing and music, mainly.

Break time! I'm starving! We decide to eat in the theater's canteen, being too tired and lazy to venture out to a restaurant. [Second soloist] John [Lam] has already announced that jamon con queso sandwiches are only 1 euro! He hoards three or four sandwiches and carries them outside of the theater, where [second soloist] James [Whiteside] and other dancers are laying out in the sun near the water trying to get in some last-minute tanning time before the sun goes down.

We chow down and head into the wig and makeup room (a.k.a. the Internet cafe), where we all congregate with laptops to check e-mails, catch up on bills, and find out the latest YouTube video. [Soloist] Sabi [Varga], meanwhile, who has been declared the official photographer of Boston Ballet's tour, is all business, checking out his latest shots of the "La Sylphide" performance. We all ooh and aah over the photos; he seems pleased with the results.

Basta! Rest time before the show.

9 p.m. show. First performance of Balanchine program was fantastic! Everyone pulled it together, and the team spirit and energy could be felt in all three ballets. Even though the house was not as filled as the previous evening, the people of Tenerife who came seemed very warm and excited with the Balanchine extravaganza. Good start to the tour, and this calls for a salsa club celebration!!

After heading back to the hotel and getting a bite to eat, some of us decide to head out to El Son, a salsa club recommended by [principal dancers] Lorna [Feijoo] and Nelson [Madrigal]. We follow, ready and in the mood to party after a long week. We arrive at around 3 a.m.; the club is hopping. Totally different scene here than in the United States. The music is fantastic, and the energy is contagious. Karine, Rie, and I start dancing amidst a crowd of grade-A Spanish salsa dancers. We have no idea how to salsa, but we don't seem to care and neither do they. Oh my God! It is so hot in here. "Muy calor y muy caliente" in both ways.

Where is [principal dancer] Larissa [Ponomarenko]? She came in with us, but is nowhere to be found. Finally we spot her near the back of the club dancing with a random Spanish guy. She is all smiles and is loving every moment of it. Wish I had my camera. An hour later, the rest of the Boston Ballet dancers arrive at the club -- now the party has really begun! We basically took over the entire middle area of the club, everyone clearly a little tipsy, ready to party and have some fun. Lorna and Nelson, the Queen and King of Salsa, dance like uncaged animals, and we all cheer them on.

Sunday, July 22
Travel day to Las Palmas. Let's call this day "the ferry ride of sickness." Getting from Tenerife to Las Palmas requires an innocent two-hour ferry ride. No big deal, right? Oh, were we wrong. We board the massive ferry and are happily surprised with what we find inside. Comfy seats, a snack-bar area, plenty of walking-around space, and decent bathrooms. I think, "Good, I'll take a nap," as I am still a little sleepy from the salsa night.

We take off, heading for Las Palmas. Karine immediately sits up, a little concerned at how rocky and wavy the boat feels on the water. She is becoming a little tense, and the jokes are now over. [Corps dancer] Lorin [Mathis] comes over and directs us to where the restrooms are in case of emergency, acting as if he were an employee on this ferry. (He has been one of the favored comedians on this tour so far.)

About a minute after he leaves, I start feeling extremely queasy, uneasy, and nauseous. I tell Rie that I'll be in the bathroom. She follows me in. I know from the look on her face that we are both on the same page as far as how our stomachs feel. After that, without going into too much detail, let's just say that many of us in the company spent the majority of the ferry ride in the bathroom. Stomachs churning, pale faces, and an overwhelming feeling of "Get me off of this boat now!"

Smelly feet, mini bikinis, and mosquitoes in search of ballerina blood -- learn about all that and more in the next episode of Beppu's journal, found at theater_arts/exhibitionist.