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Boston Ballet, South Korea, dancer blog 1

Posted by Geoff Edgers  August 27, 2008 12:53 PM

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Dancer Sarah Wroth takes on Boston Ballet's tour of South Korea. We'll post each of her blog entries starting with this, the first.

Friday August 22, 2008
I would like to announce that I just wrote that the month is now November! This is perhaps the best indication of my mental state right now. Today was our last official rehearsal day before we leave for South Korea. We all tried to overcome our excitement and focus on our last chance to perfect our ballets before we leave. We are a team trying our best to synchronize our preparation efforts before the big game.

T minus 36 hours and counting and Boston Ballet company members will be off to South Korea. We will fly tomorrow evening to New York City and then, at 1am, we will spread out ballet wings and fly over six thousand miles away to perform. (This kind of puts that whole morning work commute into perspective.) The flight is over 14 hours long and for a ballet dancer, used to constant movement and physical activity; it is going to pose quite a challenge. I am bringing a thera band, my i-pod with basic Korean lessons, two good books, a neck pillow, ear plugs and have ordered my oh-so-attractive compression stockings for swelling just to be safe. Who knows if that will be enough to prevent some type of "Shining" -esque "shut-in" syndrome.

This trip is a big deal, not only in distance for Boston Ballet, but it is our chance to share and spread our American art with another country and completely different culture. For some of our newer company members this is their first ballet tour. It will be so interesting to be somewhere where you are noticeably different from everyone else. I could not be mistaken for a Korean lady as was the case in Spain. That fact alone will make our dancing a unique experience for all our audiences.

My stomach, even now, as I sit here is churning and my heart is racing thinking about the cultural, linguistic and artistic differences to come. Will they enjoy our production? Will they applaud after the show with raucous cheers or will they wait patiently till the music silences? Will I be able to order food or read signs? And probably most importantly, how will I ask where the bathroom is?

So many answers to come.... Off we go!

Monday August 25, 2008

Mooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnddddddaaaaaay.....That about sums up the length of it. For the Boston Ballet Korea Tour, Monday started as our plane left New York at 12:50am on August, 24. We lost thirteen hours of our life that I hope I get back somewhere along the way. The flight was pretty smooth sailing. I must say, I lucked out as far as seating goes. Melissa Hough, Tempe Ostergren and I ended up in the exit row of our aircraft. We shared both the stressful task of ensuring the survival of our fellow passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency, and the absolute dancer joy of five feet of glorious legroom. As the 15-hour flight plugged along, dancers from all corners of the plane came to our little stretch area to try and break free from the creeping muscle cement that begins to form after hours in cramped quarters. I mentioned before that swelling is a huge issue for dancers and more than a few Boston Ballet-ers sported compression wrapped legs as we entered Seoul.

We arrived at the gorgeous Sheraton Walker Hill (our hotel) just in time for the complimentary continental breakfast. I tried a traditional Korean Rice Porridge which tastes a bit like chicken soup with rice that has been cooked a very long time. It was much tastier than the Green Tea Porridge we received on the plane (this tasted like green tea...oddly enough). After breakfast, the company spread to the four winds. Some dancers went to bed, especially those whose night was spent trying to find a comfortable position, neck dangling, to fall asleep in. Most took advantage of the bright, beautiful sunlight. I walked down the long hill to the fitness center after breakfast to try and shake loose the jet lag with some light cardio work. It was then that I realized something; I am an honest-to-goodness foreigner. Not only is it my look that screams "NOT FROM AROUND HERE!" but I am illiterate, unable to even work the buttons on the gym equipment. I am helpless at every task I undertake unless some extremely patient savior points me in the right direction.

The great thing about Korea so far, is that it seems these guardian angels are strategically placed all around looking carefully after all the lost tourists. Virtually every group of Seoul explorers I talked to had some story of a random act of kindness by some Korean stranger. Heather Waymack and I wanted to start the tour off right and take the subway to a historical shrine located in the North end of the downtown area. Once our shuttle dropped us off at the intersection designated for taking the subway on my trusty map, we roamed in circles for 15 minutes until we finally found the entrance next to a huge ten story mall called Techno Mart. We walked past roasted corn on the cob vendors and rows of pastry that smelled like carnival funnel cakes. Inside people were walking briskly in every direction and, as Heather and I hadn't yet figured out the walking traffic patterns, we kept bumping strangers accidentally. As we tried to figure out how to put paper money in a change-only machine, a young lady walked up to us and asked us if we needed any help. Of course, because I am a paranoid freak, I clutched my purse tightly for fear of a purse snatch. My fears were a waste of energy. She walked us to the ticket counter and taught us how to look up and declare what fare we should pay for our ticket. She even walked us to the ticket-taking machine and helped us put the ticket through properly. After making sure we were safely through, she scurried outside to meet her family members who had been waiting patiently for her since the whole saving-process began. I couldn't help but wonder, as I rode the train into the new city adventures to come, how many people have "irritated" me in Boston because they didn't understand, didnít know where they were, or couldn't read the signs, and how many will be helped as Boston Ballet dancers pay forward the random kindnesses received here.

NOW FOR THE BALLET NEWS: We had an optional ballet class this evening at the studios of the Universal Ballet Company and, as a testament to the small nature of the ballet world, accidentally ran into Eldar Aliev (former artistic staff member of Boston Ballet Company) on his way into the theater to judge a dance competition. It was good to see our old teacher again and I think he was excited to see our faces again as well. Tomorrow's class will be held much farther away at our first performance venue.

Now I sleep....IN A BED! Horizontally! First time since Friday night! I hope the dreams are sweet....and in English.

Boston Ballet dancers Heather Myers, Kathleen Breen Combes, John Lam,
Yury Yanowsky, Dalay Parrondo (Josephine Pra in the background) at the
food court nearby the Aram Opera House.

Photo by Elizabeth Olds

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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..

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