Until recently, my knowledge of the ballet was pretty limited. Tutus, tights, the Nutcracker, plies, and the fact that all ballet dancers are all annoyingly fit pretty much summed up what I knew. But the ballet world is much more. And if Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar-nominated thriller Black Swan didn't provide you an angst-filled two hours, it at least gave you a glimmer into an intense, highly competitive, and extraordinarily disciplined environment.
Garen moved into our building some two years ago, and when he did, he introduced B and me to three regular fixtures in our life today: his partner, Scott, Pilot their pooch, and the ballet.
Garen Scribner and Helgi Tomasson rehearse Tomasson's Swan Lake. Photo: Erik Tomasson
Garen is a soloist in the world renowned San Francisco Ballet. He’s from Virginia and began his ballet start by training at North Carolina School of the Arts, Maryland Youth Ballet, and Boston Ballet School. In 2003 he became an apprentice at the San Francisco Ballet. In 2008, he was promoted to a soloist. He's pictured above with SF Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson.
I knew being a professional dancer was demanding, but I didn’t realize the chops you need when you perform at a serious dancer’s level, at Garen’s level. The amount of rehearsing, weight lifting, stretching, physical therapy, ice, and heating pads often required is impressive, or eye opening, depending on how you look at it. The occasional injury is an unwritten line in the job description. Last season, while lifting his female partner, he dislocated his wrist. He had to complete the move, land her safely, and finish the piece until he was off stage. Ouch.
Garen Scribner rehearses McGregor's Chroma. Photo: Erik Tomasson
I’ve seen many ballets over the past couple of years. Sometimes with B, other nights with my friend Sharon, a season ticket holder. She’s a ballet aficionado and fills me in on the dancers, the pieces, the movements, the whole ballet shebang. Garen is generous and has treated us to a backstage tour on several occasions. It’s pretty much what you’d expect for a pre-show drill; dancers stretching with headphones on, others getting their make up on, technicians in black shirts doing last-minute checks. Even though it’s the same tour each time, it never gets old. I love the pre-show fervor.
After the pre-show tour, we’d take our seats, settle into the velvet chairs, watch the composer come out to a round of applause, and then up comes the curtain. It doesn’t really matter what ballet is being performed, I love going, and even more, I love seeing Garen’s work. He’s simply beautiful to watch. If I could hoot and holler without embarrassing myself or more importantly him, I would. Instead, I bite my lip and applaud like there’s no tomorrow.
For any of you would-be ballet goers, who find yourself in the “lite category,” like myself, here’s a great cheat sheet about the ballet. You can get answers to questions about, what’s in the pointe shoes, do dancers get dizzy when they spin, and where does the ballet come from.
And…if you get the chance, enjoy an evening at the ballet, especially the SF Ballet. It’s a good chance Garen will be performing. Trust me, you’ll be in for a treat.
Garen Scribner in Neumeier's The Little Mermaid. Photo: Erik Tomasson