Thoughts on Tech Week

by Ellen Bast

 

Tech week.

 

Few phrases bring me, as a ballet dancer, the same level of excitement, nerves, and anticipated exhaustion as those eight letters (six if you remove the duplicate e’s!). Tech week—when dancers move from the studio to the stage, from our warm, safe, comfortable rehearsal space to a dark, cold, unfamiliar theater, often late into the evening and night. Tech week—the time that we complete our final preparations that allow us to share our craft—in this case, a full-length ballet of A Christmas Carol—with the public, people who willingly give up an afternoon or evening (and the cost of admission) to see what we’ve developed throughout the rehearsal process.

 

Tech week is a special, rather tiring, beast. Tech week means that instead of going to work during the day, having a break, and then heading to ballet class in the evening, I race from my office to the dressing room. Then, I transform from an economics researcher to a ballerina, dressed in the fashionable combination of heavy makeup, a costume, and sweatpants with crazy socks, in an effort to stay warm. Tech week means that once I am in the theater, the outside world ceases to exist—I am ready to dance (or at least stand onstage while lighting is set) with a moment’s notice, yet most of my time is spent waiting and staying out of the way. Tech week means that something is going to come up—impacts from the verdict in a major local trial, a deadline at work, a forecasted snowstorm—just to keep me on my toes, even when I’m not balancing en pointe. Tech week means that I do all these things, get home late, and then wake up early the next morning to do it again.

 

But tech week also means that I am excited. Tech week means that all of the work of the past three months—the rehearsals spent learning and practicing choreography, the time spent listening to the music to understand its nuances, the workweek evenings and weekend mornings spent honing technique in ballet classes, the blisters from pointe shoes—is coming to fruition. Tech week means that I can allow myself to move beyond all the details that I so carefully consider regularly and instead allow myself to just dance on stage. Tech week means that the rest of the cast and I, who have already spent rehearsal time together getting to know each other as dancers and individuals, will develop a deeper sense of camaraderie as we crowd around lighted mirrors, putting our hair into buns and hooking each other into costumes.

 

Tech week is hard. It is draining both physically and mentally, and by the end, I am ready for a hug, a drink, and a nap. But, paradoxically, tech week is exhilarating. It signals that performance day, with its warm-up class taken on stage, the CCB pre-show squeeze circle,[1] and the moment when we as a cast can finally share A Christmas Carol with the public, is so close. Tech week means that, despite the butterflies in my stomach, there is a giant grin on my face. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

[1] The “squeeze circle” is a CCB tradition where the cast stands with hands clasped in a circle around the stage and either Becca or Pete starts a hand squeeze that is passed through each cast member’s hands around the circle.