Touring with Boston Ballet

Tours are always an exciting way to get to know your company in a more personal, ‘out of the box’ way than what the daily grind will allow… New studios, stages, surroundings…new audiences to inspire and to appreciate your hard work with fresh eyes… I find that as creatures of habit, routine and daily ‘norms’ (think barre spots, PT exercises, pliés….) traveling becomes a healthy, often long overdue, break from our comfort zones at home.

For the first time in 30 years, Boston Ballet is touring London this week to perform two mixed bills at the Coliseum — home to the largest theater audience in London and host to a plethora of beautiful companies including English National Ballet. Four performances of Program 1 will include George Balanchine‘s Serenade and Symphony in Three Movements, Jorma Elo’s Plan to B and Vaslav Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun, while two performances of Program 2 offer Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, Jiri Kylián’s Bella Figura and William Forsythe’s The Second Detail.

Balanchine's Serenade - Photo: © Gene Schiavone

Since joining Boston Ballet in March, I didn’t realize I’d be dancing on the other side of the pond again so soon…but just as my tours with the Royal Danish Ballet brought me renewed perspectives of diverse artistry, appreciation for my colleagues and exposure to stages further from home, I trust the same will come with my new company.

I look forward to performing in two Balanchine ballets in the first program and anticipate the energy of taking them to a new city – London especially, as a global hub of dance fame… Serenade has always been one of my favorite ballets. Between Tchaikovsky’s delicate score, the ethereal formations, weaving patterns and floating tulle… I’m left with the most fulfilled sense of exhaustion at each curtain call. I’m humbled to say that this will be the third country and fifth stage where I’ll have the honor of performing it.

Shelby with fellow SAB students and Suki Schorer after a performance of Serenade at the Koch Theatre - Photo: © Shelby Elsbree

At 17 I performed the first movement with the New York City Ballet to honor Lincoln Kirstein (co-founder of NYCB and SAB). As the curtain rose at the David Koch theater in Lincoln Center, we stood there in a confident 6th position and I remember thinking to myself that this would be the first of many… During my first season with the Royal Danish Ballet, I had the privilege of dancing one of the Russian girls, as well as the corps de ballet at the Opera House in Copenhagen, and one year later, at the Royal Theater we called home. Once again, this past Spring, I found myself getting caught up in the choreography I’ve grown to cherish, this time at the Boston Opera House…and this week, on the Coliseum’s stage here in London.

Shelby's Serenade Costume

Shelby's Serenade Costume - Photo: © Shelby Elsbree

While rehearsing for this program, our ballet master (former Boston Ballet Principal, Larissa Ponomarenko) showed us a video of Russian Folk dancers, whose intricate, weaving patterns and synchronized movements seemed all too familiar – inspiration Mr. B must have used to choreograph the “Russian Dance” movement of Serenade, which happens to be my favorite. While training at the School of American Ballet, my teachers always used to say that Balanchine liked to “Borrow from the Best” and here we have a beautiful example:

It’s been a rewarding, long season for my dance career so far, starting with Alexei Ratmansky’s The Golden Cockerel in Denmark, and finishing with the ‘crown jewel’ piece from my SAB training, Serenade, here in London. I look forward to the feedback of a foreign audience and I can’t wait to see what next season has in store!

About the author:

Shelby Elsbree, native of Sarasota, Florida, began her training in dance at the age of nine. Four years later when she was offered a full scholarship to train at the School of American Ballet, Shelby moved to New York City where she trained for five years under such renowned teachers as Kay Mazzo, Jock Soto, and Peter Martins among others, and performed several times with the New York City Ballet. Shelby was offered a contract with the Royal Danish Ballet after her final year in training, and moved to Copenhagen at the age of 18 to begin her professional career in the corps de ballet, having joined Boston Ballet in March 2013.

She has received two merit scholarships for recognition of her talent, represented the company in the Erik Bruhn Prize competition in Toronto, Canada, and danced several leading roles. Among her most prized experiences include the Blue Girl in Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering, the Student in Flemming Flindt’s The Lesson, Olympia in John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias and the Golden Cockerel in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Golden Cockerel.

Shelby chronicles her daily musings and culinary enthusiasm on her blog, Tutus & Tea. She frequently contributes her favorite Performance-Ready recipes and Audition Tips on Pointe Magazine’s blog. You can follow her different passions through her homepage, or on Twitter @tutusandtea.