Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crushworthy - A Girl You Don't Say? It's Rebekah Rimsay

Yes, National Ballet of Canada's Rebekah Rimsay gets the honour of being only the 2nd female to get a Crushworthy column!

If you've read any of my ballet reviews, you'll know she's my absolute favorite ballerina, not only because she's an amazing dancer, but because she always brings on full characterizations to her portrayals, often with a sly sense of humour. I first noticed her in her hilarious portrayals in An Italian Straw Hat and Cinderella, both of which choreographer James Kudelka had created the role specifically with Rebekah in mind, and now she will perform another tailored made role as the Black Swan in the upcoming Swan Lake (opening this Thursday, Mar. 11th in Toronto and running until Mar. 21st)

Here's my interview with Rebekah, slightly edited (and basically because my transcribing skills are slightly lacking but you'll get the general idea and I apologize if I slightly misquote Rebekah):

Tapeworthy: You made such an impression on me with great characters in Cinderella and An Italian Straw Hat. How does it feel to have a role specifically tailored for you, as James Kudelka did for you in those shows, and in the upcoming Swan Lake?

Rebekah: Especially getting a good role is always something you want as an artist, because it's a chance to grow and experience and find new facets to the character, and I love dancing different characters. I like the diversity in dance, the different qualities, moods that sometimes contemporary pieces can really embody, it can embody atmosphere. We dancers are greedy that way.

James' work has all that in his choreographic repertoire and his creative mind and he has incredible characters and I love that I can be an outlet for that. I hope it's mutual. James works in his own head, he knows what he wants. There was a bit more freedom in Cinderella with myself, him, Jennifer Fourner and Vicky Betram. He knew exactly what he wanted with the steps, but there was a back and forth play. "Okay that works" "More Straight" "More Obvious". He would tweak it and let us take it. Normally he works so much in his own head, he knows the characters, what the relationships with other characters. He's a man of details with his own creative process. Which makes it more exciting when you find something new in his work. He's so picky about what he wants that if you find a freedom, that is a real honour, that you found something right.

Tapeworthy: Obviously dancing is such a technical discipline that you’ve studied hard at, but did the characterizations of your roles come naturally as a personal acting skill? Or are acting classes a part of the ballets training?

Rebekah: No, we don't take acting classes. Some have, but it's not typically part of our training. We had theatre arts class, not technically an acting class, but our teacher Beverly Miller (who recently passed away) taught us acting but that ended in grade 8 or 7. It planted the seed in what to look for in dancing and characters. In one class, she gathered us around and asked "why did this character work" and we would come up with ideas and culivate our eyes and appreciation.

Some dancers gravitate to contemporary work where it's more internal and the body is expressing something and projecting.

We learn from the older dancers in the company. Vicky Betram, Lorna Geddes, Karen Kain, Veronica Tennant. It's about what you gravitate towards and I've been a fan of Vicky. There's a video of Karen in La Ronde as The Actress and it's just divine and I have a tendency to appreciate that and I have all these wonderful examples that come before me.

They were trained by people like Celia Franca who was a master of theatre. Her milieu was dance but she understood theatricality. Understanding what the audience sees and what they will interpret from those movements and Celia was wise and in the company taught Veronica Tenant and Karen Kain.

Tapeworthy: Do you prefer the more classical ballets with the full costumes and stories or the more modern projects?

Rebekah: I like the variety!
We just finished performing 24 Preludes and I learned so much from doing it. One section is improvised but with rules, but the steps are essentially made up.

It was so difficult for me to think that way because it was so new the first time we performed it (2 years ago) but this time it sat and percolated and it was so exciting to come back to it. And audiences respond and it's thrilling. It's abstract and quirky and then in The Four Seasons, I'm not a really a character but I'm a mood, a time in someone's life. There's more projecting... I always loved it, and it was such an honour to get that role. Something sentimental for me (playing "Fall"). Especially where I am in my career now.

Tapeworthy: How does it feel to be a mother while also dancing? (Rebekah recently became a new mother and has since returned back to the company to perform)

Rebekah: Busy! Very very busy! We used to be able to have a show until 11(pm) and come home and start the next day at 1.

Now she (the baby) gets up at 7:30 (am) and I don't have a choice but to get up at 7:30! It's busy and tiring but it's something I wasn't willing to compromise in my life. But it's enriching artistically too.

It's been difficult physically, because I came back to an injury as well, and we stopped for 9 months and my ankle injury got weaker and I re-injured it. It's just part of what we do as well, and in terms of getting back into shape, it's hard for some and easier for others. But because of the injury (that never fully recovered), the timing made it more difficult.

Tapeworthy: How do you see the future of ballet? And your place in it?

Rebekah:I would like to continue to be on stage. I was off a little while from dancing full time and Karen (Kain) asked "Why don't you try this character role".

Vicky (Betram) had been the only one to do it for years. These are roles that could keep me longer. It all depends on other facets in life though, but (dance), it's in the blood.

I love the abstract but I hope there is a continuation of people choreographing dances about people with characterization. At one point, it stopped but there has been a bit of a revival now. Next year, we will perform a new Alice in Wonderland and it has lots of characters and fantasy. I'd like to see that trend continue.

I'd hate to see it all become just dark leotards and dark lighting. There was a point in the 90's where that trend happened.

Keep it diverse!

Tapeworthy: What do you think of shows like So You Think You Can Dance becoming apart of the dance world?

Rebekah: I think it's great!

Even in our repertoires, it might be trite. People have different opinions of what it should be. But dance is everything. It's primal. Sometimes it requires years and years of training, sometimes it doesn't. Those Hip Hoppers? Wow. So You Think You Can Dance is an ambassador for dance. It's fun and there's definitely room for it in the world. If you watch it for entertainment or if you want to go more, see more, explore more and see more people express themselves (after watching SYTYCD).

And those dances are excellent dances! We watch it too! We are ballet dancers and we dance with rules, but for us, it's completely amazing in how they move!

Tapeworthy: You have this wonderful rapport with Piotr Stanczyk (above with Rimsay in An Italian Straw Hat). Do you get to pick your dance partners or is that chosen for you by the choreographers?

Rebekah: They choose for us. Piotr has a great sense of humour. And now that he's (Piotr) a principal, I'm sad that we probably won't get to dance much together.

There was a show, Cool World, a little play but abstratct, also by James Kudelka, and one of the hardest. We had to dance side by side, and it was one of the first things we did together. No comedy. A serious piece.

But the dance company is deep with talent, but yes, they choose our partners.

Tapeworthy: And last question, any roles you still specifically want to do?

Rebekah: Ugh, SO MANY! You know, even if I did all those roles, there would be others I would want.
Cranko, Tatiana, Mistress in Manon. Also La Ronde. The Actress. I have danced The Chambermaid and it was so much fun. If you don't know La Ronde, it's quite abstract as well. It's one person sleeping with another, with another, in a giant circle until it returns back to the original prostitute. It's expressive and you know who youre looking at. I loved it (The Chambermaid) but I love the role of The Actress and it's absolutely divine.

Here are previous ballet reviews:
24 Preludes by Chopin & A Suite of Dances & The Four Seasons **** - 24 Preludes by Chopin ****1/2, A Suite of Dances ***1/2, The Four Seasons ****
Sleeping Beauty ***
The Four Temperaments & Watch Her & Glass Pieces **** - The Four Temperaments ***, Watch Her ****1/2, Glass Pieces *****
Carmen & Skin Divers ***1/2 - Carmen ***, Skin Divers ***1/2
Romeo & Juliet ***
Innovation ***1/2 - IN COLOUR ***, Emergence *****, DEXTRIS ***1/2
In The Upper Room & Symphony in C & Polyphonia ***1/2
The Fiddle and The Drum & Etudes & the second detail & Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan ****
Cinderella ****
Rooster & Soldiers' Mass & 24 Preludes by Chopin ****
An Italian Straw Hat ****1/2
West Side Story Suite & Glass Pieces & In The Night ****1/2
The Merry Widow ****

Here are some other Crushworthy's:

Caitlin Crosby's Mantourage Includes Robert Hoffman
Words of Wisdom from the Buff Guy Scott Herman
I Don't Know How To Love Him, Sam Taylor
McAvoy Movie Marathon
My Boy Jon McLaughlin is Beating My Heart
Mamma Mia It's Dominic Cooper!
Aaron Tveit
Best Musical Hotness - deAdre Aziza, Seth Stewart, Curtis Holbrook and Spencer Liff
James McAvoy is SO Wanted
Cheyenne Jackson, Damn, Xanadu Me!
Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westin in Burn Notice
Fernando Meirelles and Slings & Arrows

Not officially Crushworthy posts but has some nice gratuitous pictures nonetheless:

It's Hot All of A Sudden
Broadway Showings (Cry Baby Boys Bare)
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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