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Stories from a dance career San Francisco Chronicles: Episode 3

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Header image with Shane Wuerthner and Marie-Claire D'Lyse in Washington DC

After returning from London rehearsals picked up for Romeo and Juliet. Until now I had only really experienced John Cranko's beautiful production in Vienna. The San Francisco Ballet performed a version choreographed by Helgi Tomasson and although it was beautiful it seemed to lack the familiar qualities I had grown to love in Vienna. In many was ballet in San Francisco was beginning to feel like a stranger that looked familiar but whom I didn't actually know.

I was set to dance the role of Paris and was partnering the beautifully emotive Sarah Van Patten who would be playing Juliet. I longed to dance a role like Romeo, but it was not in the cards as they didn't seem to favour me for leading roles. We would be touring this ballet to the Kennedy Center at the end of October and Marie-Claire would get her first US performance in the role of Lady Capulet.

She was incredible, and quite frankly a shock to the company. She had come in injured and hadn't had a good opportunity to really show what she could do. She was an incredible artist, but not one who could do flashy tricks or excessive extensions and as such never really got the opportunity to show what she was capable of as directors so often struggle to look past flashiness to discover the artist that lies in waiting to be set free.

We were in a studio rehearsal a week or so before we headed to DC and Marie-Claire was ready to show her stuff. Drawing on the emotions of her past and the difficult start we had in our relocation to San Francisco, she let everything out and it was more than impressive.

She left the company speechless as Tybalt lay dead on the floor, her pain and anguish released in a perfect storm of agony that she was careful not to overplay. It is a fine dramatic line to walk between perfectly timed expression and melodramatic tones. Yet even with this incredible artistic display to a room who barely knew her the company dancers were in awe of what she had expressed. The ballet masters, however, seemed unfazed. Again seeing artistry as secondary to pirouettes, balances and other flashy elements.

We soon found ourselves rehearsing on the other side of the country in The Kennedy Centre Studios. The tour to DC was a whirlwind and was full of memories for me. Visiting this city that was my second home with the company that hailed from my first was surreal. It was like I was back in high school, even revisiting Kirov and showing Marie-Claire the haunts from my teens.

The performances went well, and yet my memories from the time seem to focus more on times spent outside visiting The White House, my Nations Capitol and The Smithsonian than the studio rehearsing or on stage in front of my audience. This feeling was one that would become quite common around my time in San Francisco Ballet where personal life seemed to flourish as the professional dwindled.

In many ways this little jump back to DC was a calm before the storm. Up next we had Nutcracker, 32 Nutcrackers in 2 and a half weeks to be exact. A gruelling schedule that neither I nor Marie-Claire had ever experienced and it was about to hit us like a ton of bricks.

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