What happens when Dennis seats you next to Ethan Stiefel…

29 Jun

In my opinion, one of the best-kept secret performances of ABT is at the Guggenheim’s Work and Process program. Being an education intern reporting to the Associate Director of Education and Training, Dennis Walters, preparing for this event was one of my largest projects for the semester. This year, the theme of all ABT events is to celebrate the 75 years of the company. This event at the Guggenheim was no exception. There were three shows: Sunday matinee, Sunday evening, and Monday evening, with each program covering 25 years of American Ballet Theatre from 1940-2015. The shows were a mix of performances by ABT’s company, broken up by panelist discussions.

My responsibility leading up to the event was to create three separate presentations that compile photographs of leading dancers, choreographers, and new ballets for each twenty-five year segment. Let me tell you, this was no small feat! Being a ballet nerd, I thoroughly enjoyed going through all of the photos from decades of performances by the stars of ABT. Choosing which was the best image for each star was some of the most challenging decisions I’ve had to make but there was comfort knowing that no photo would be the wrong photo.

Working behind the scenes was one of the aspects of the internship that I was most looking forward to. Arriving on Sunday afternoon through the stage door of the Guggenheim, knowing you were on the list was a special feeling. It was only up from here… I walked into the theater to be faced with company class and Gillian Murphy front and center, right in front of me. The day preparing for the event was spent getting panelists and dancers to sign their release forms and assisting patrons in receiving their tickets and getting to their seats comfortably. The energy in the ladies’ dressing room was so powerful and had the signature smell of all the hairspray in the world seeming to be in that one room. Waiting outside for the performance to start and having a patron come up to you saying “Oh, you’re with ABT, I’m _____ and I believe you have my tickets” or something along those lines makes you stand up a bit taller and with more attention knowing that you are representing this institution.

The greatest moment of all though was when Dennis handed me a ticket for myself to watch the show and simply said, “I’ll put you next to Ethan.” I’m pretty sure my heart stopped and I could not breath. I was going to watch the afternoon show next to Ethan Stiefel, one of my favorite dancers and star of my favorite dance cult movie, Center Stage. Just a casual afternoon watching an exclusive performance of American Ballet Theatre, sitting next to Ethan who just came to watch his fiancé, Gillian Murphy, perform. I introduced myself once seated next to him and we had a lovely, light conversation before the show began that I will remember forever.

You never know who you are going to meet during your time at ABT and I have been fortunate enough to converse with those I have been looking up to for years and years. I would always advise future interns to not be so star struck as I appeared to be – everyone at ABT is so friendly and down-to-earth and as an intern, you belong here too so don’t be shy!

Amanda Fornieri

Educational Outreach Intern

Spring 2015

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