Worst of all, bugs are everywhere (like a moth to a spotlight?). Once during a Concerto Barocco performance a huge beetle landed on Albert Evans’s head at the very beginning of the adagio. It crawled around on his face throughout his pas de deux while we corps women snickered behind him. Panicked, he asked me to flick it off him when we got to the large winding circle midway through the piece. But we had formed a giant chain, and he and the girl behind me had my hands. I could be of no help, for there was no way to do it without resorting to a head butt! Eventually the beetle fell
Despite all of these issues, I love going to Saratoga and I am so happy that we are returning to a two-week allotment next summer. (We used to do three weeks; it has dwindled over the years.) The Saratoga season is a formative part of life at City Ballet—we rent big houses together and throw crazy parties. Touring always elicits company pride, and likewise the Saratoga season evokes a fierce solidarity. However, living with colleagues can also be oddly revealing: like when my close friend Jared Angle—the most chivalrous and reliable of onstage partners—ran away shrieking and left me to be attacked by a rogue chicken on our farm this year! (I was okay, I grabbed a stick.)
Cheesy as it sounds, returning to Saratoga every summer feels like going home in a way. This summer Wendy Whelan calculated that after 28 Saratoga seasons she has spent well over a year of her life in the town! There are also certain ballets that seem perfectly suited to Saratoga. Balanchine’s Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet is bliss to dance outside in the woods (and it is all the better if it thunders and pours), as is Le Baiser de la Fée and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Midsummer I find it so moving to look from the children portraying fireflies around me on the stage out onto the lawn and the twinkling of the real fireflies beneath the trees. It can be a surreal, 3-D experience.
Saratoga is a real arts community. With the theater that brings in world class ballet, opera, and symphonies, the vibrant Skidmore College campus, the National Dance Museum, and the Yaddo Artists’ Retreat all in close proximity to rolling farmland, the historical race track, and the serene lake, it seems like a truly inspiring place in which to live. The secret seems to be out unfortunately, and I’ve noticed lots of land development in the past few years. More parking garages and chain stores seem to spring up each year. I so hope Saratoga will retain its charming quirkiness amidst the population boom, for a lot of funky little spots seem to have disappeared (R.I.P. Last Vestige). The good news is that the wonderful volunteers of For Art’s Sake are proof that Saratoga’s core community truly values culture over consumerism and they are willing to fight for it. Next year marks NYCB’s 50th anniversary in Saratoga Springs; I hope that it remains a solid home for the company for decades to come.