By Samantha Madison
April 2, 2014
[Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA] — When Alan Hineline decided to create his own ballet in 2002, he decided to do something that had a simple storyline but would also offer boy dancers larger roles. He said he chose “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” for those reasons and because he wanted to develop the audience Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet attracts.
“With this ballet, its inception was here, its conception was here,” he said. “We wanted a ballet that was sort of male-centric because most ballets are about the heroine, and we wanted to do something that was more about a boy because we had a level of boys at the time that we wanted to encourage. We wanted to continue to develop audiences, so we looked for a story that was concise. ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ isn’t ‘War and Peace’ so there aren’t a ton of tangents that you have to cover to understand the story.”
Hineline spent about nine months to a year putting together the ballet’s libretto. The composer, the set designer and the costume designer took about another six months on the production. Then, when it came to the choreography, Hineline said he had about eight weeks to pull that together. That was followed by casting with students from the ballet school.
“It’s huge,” Hineline said. “I told someone immediately after I’d done it that I felt like I could probably direct a movie now because that’s what it is — it’s pulling all of those separate pieces together and sewing them together so it makes sense.”
Since then, the piece has toured widely, being performed by other schools and even professional companies. Companies or schools license the intellectual property rights to do the choreographyand then enter into a production agreement to get the sets, costumes and music. “It has gone on to have a life outside of here,” Hineline said. “That is something we’re sort of institutionally proud of. It’s not just recouping costs, it’s actually been a money maker for us.”
The school is preparing to perform the piece again. Hineline said the piece just finished in Oklahoma City, so the students are rehearsing and getting ready to perform it at the Whitaker Center next weekend.
Auditions and rehearsals
Rico Hipolito moved to the area because his ballet school in Washington was connected to a professional company, which meant he wasn’t getting the chance to play any larger roles. Now the 19-year-old is set to play Ichabod Crane, a role that he said has taken a lot of preparation — both physical and mental.
Hipolito said there weren’t standard auditions. Instead the instructors watched the students in class, and Hineline cast the roles from what the students were able to do. After they were cast in the ballet, the students started rehearsals.
Now, Hipolito and the other principal roles — Caroline Dougherty, who plays the female lead Katrina — spend time from 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at CPYB working on the ballet. Outside of the rehearsals, Dougherty said she and Hipolito go to the gym most days at 6 a.m. to get their bodies more in shape for the demanding roles.
They both also have copies of a previous performance of “Sleepy Hollow” that they watch on a regular basis to help commit the moves to memory. Hipolito said he will put it on while he is doing the dishes, and even though he can’t necessarily see what’s going on, he knows what he is supposed to be doing during certain parts of the music. He said since they started rehearsing, he has probably watched previous performances of the show around 50 times.
“I look for the counts, because I really struggle with musicality,” he said. “Then also, the decisions they make when being their character. Once I get the counts down, I can put my own flavor into the dance. And I just remember everything because it’s better for me to see the dance than to just learn it and put it aside and come back to it..”
Dougherty said she likes being able to see how other people performed her role, but she doesn’t want to completely mimic the other Katrina. “I didn’t want to copy exactly what they did, I wanted to make it my own,” the 17-year-old said. “I think … what’s exciting about being an artist is that you have that opportunity to make a role your own and to become that role. This one, I definitely have studied, but there’s other ballets. Like right now we’re working on a ballet with Alan and it’s brand new, so I have no one else to watch.”
A demanding performance
Dougherty, who is starting a contract with the Houston Ballet in July, said Hineline warned them that the principal roles in the piece were going to be challenging, but she didn’t believe him after watching the ballet for the first time.
Then they started rehearsals.
“I started learning it, and I was like, ‘OK, I was wrong,’” Dougherty said. “I think what’s challenging is this female role carries the ballet. Ichabod and Katrina kind of carry the story, so I have to be on all the time. I have to be, not only technically strong, but I have to portray this character of this girl that experiences a broad spectrum of emotions.”
Hipolito said his role is difficult just on the physical demand alone. But then, on top of making every step of the choreography absolutely perfect, he has to think about developing his character as well. Even though a position is difficult, it can’t show on his face because he is supposed to look like he is in love. He said right now, he has to work on his emotions.
“We’re basically done with learning the whole ballet — now it’s just like showing the audience it’s real because the audience can sense if it’s fake really easily,” Hipolito said. “So when we’re fighting, (we are trying to) really act like we’re about punch each other or dance like I’m about to kiss her — I mean I actually do get to kiss her. But right now, I have to work on facial expressions and being in love for the whole dance instead of like three-quarters of it, and then the other quarter of it, I’m like tired and catching my breath. So I have to work on that.”
Dougherty agreed, saying that as a 17-year-old girl, there are feelings she is expected to portray that she has never experienced in real life. She said people don’t realize that ballet requires so much thought and acting skills.
“She goes from being this happy, innocent girl to being so angry and throwing Brom Bones on the floor,” Dougherty said. “There’s just so much that goes into it. So it’s not just physically tiring, it’s mentally draining too because I’m having to experience all of these emotions and portray them clearly to the audience so that it carries the story throughout the ballet.”
Hipolito said “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a different kind of ballet that allows the students to be funny and goofy on stage while still learning a lot about the dance form. He said this is his first lead role and that being the center of attention for most of the performance is something he is enjoying, and he hopes the experience will help him land a job with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company.
Dougherty said the hardest part of being in the ballet is her schedule — waking up early to go the gym, attending school for most of the day, rehearsing at CPYB and then doing her homework after she returns late in the evening.
“I’m up until like 1 , and then I have to get up at 6 and do it all over again,” Dougherty said. “I have those moments where I just crash, but they’ve put up with me and they really have taken so many opportunities on me. I feel like I’ve grown so much from when I came here as a sophomore until now, not just physically, but also mentally, I think I’ve really evolved.”
When: 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 12 and 2 p.m. on April 13
Where: The Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, Harrisburg
More information: For tickets call 214-2782 or go online to www.whitakercenter.org
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