OMG! Why Dance? Cleveland Orchestra & Joffrey Ballet @ Blossom

OMG! Why Dance?
Cleveland Orchestra & Joffrey Ballet @ Blossom

Dancers look different onstage. Theatrical lighting, costuming and cosmetics all conspire to transform the person we had seen in the studio or at the shopping mall. Time can cause the biggest transformation of all. Former Clevelander Yumelia Garcia was so changed dancing for the Joffrey Ballet that we had to verify it was the same person. She seemed not just slimmer but longer and taller, and that was the first thing we asked her about when we spoke to her by phone, even before we asked for her take on the upcoming concerts on Sat 8/20 and Sun 8/21.

CoolCleveland: We used to see you taking Kay Eichman’s ballet class. You look so different.

Yumelia Garcia: When I was in Cleveland I was 17 and 18. Those are the years when you’re fighting your baby fat. But when I turned 23 or 24, I noticed my body started changing.

I think that working really hard in a company with a very intense schedule made a big difference. It was like, OMG! I guess when you work really hard your body does change.

And back then I didn’t know Pilates, but now I do Pilates on the side. You know, when you’re a short dancer you have to work to look longer. (Laughing.)

What will you be dancing in at Blossom?

In this particular tour I’ll only be in After the Rain, the Christopher Wheeldon dance. We’re 3 couples.

We’ve read about After the Rain but we’ve only found one video. (click here.)

Yes, I’ve seen the same video so I know exactly what you’re talking about.

The pas de deux on the video is 10 minutes long but the whole ballet is about 22 minutes long.

Correct. The other part is us, the other 2 couples. We are the storm; the music (Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa) is very intense, very strong and fast. Then, after the rain, that’s where the pas de deux comes in, as if the 2 dancers are feeling the drops.

Ah, yes. That’s very much the feeling you get from the music for the pas de deux (Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel). So you and the other couple set the scene.

As big a deal as Wheeldon is, we haven’t seen much of his choreography around here, just the Joffrey’s performance of his Carousel in 2009.

Yes, I believe those are the only two Wheeldon ballets the Joffrey’s done. I happened to join the company after Wheeldon set Carousel on the company so I danced in Carousel when we took that piece to Cleveland but I never worked with Wheeldon until he set After the Rain on us for the company premiere last October.

I don’t know if you know, After the Rain was created for New York City Ballet (Premiere 1/22/2005).

But Joffrey’s the only other company that gets to do it.

Yes, we are the first company to do it after NYCB, so it was quite an honor, not to mention a lot of pressure. But it was an amazing experience working with him, learning exactly the quality of movement he was after, the nuances.

After the Rain is so beautiful to watch, but also to dance. Very rewarding. When you finish you’re dead and you collapse. It’s very hard stamina-wise because it’s so intense. You have no chance to come down and say, “Let me just breathe now.” It’s go-go-go-go-go.

Compare and contrast After the Rain with another piece Joffrey is bringing to Blossom, Night by Julia Adam.

Like After the Rain, Night is also very contemporary, but Night has a story. Everything is happening in her dream. Whereas After the Rain is abstract. We’re not interpreting; we’re not showing emotion. We’re not allowed to show emotion in After the Rain. That’s actually what’s so good about After the Rain — how the movement goes so well with the music, how they seem to belong together.

[After our phone interview with Garcia, we realized how germane her comments were. No acting or emoting onstage; choreography that focuses first on the music: much of what Garcia says about After the Rain highlights ways in which Wheeldon, for a time Choreographer in Residence at NYCB, follows in the footsteps of George Balanchine, NYCB’s principal choreographer from 1934 until his death in 1983. Those who, like Jennifer Homans in her recent history of ballet, Apollo’s Angels, claim that ballet effectively died with Balanchine, are confronted with a list of contemporary choreographers that always includes Wheeldon.]

In photos of Night one of the women seems to be floating. She’s not being held up by the other women, is she?

She’s being held. (Laughing.) There are no wires.

And we gather that there’s a comic element to Night? That choreographer Adam is known for her sense of humor?

Sometimes the audience laughs and sometimes they don’t. We premiered Night in Chicago in May. Everything we’re bringing to Blossom we’ve danced before. It’s just that we’re constantly switching the casting.

We were excited to learn that the Joffrey’s bringing two Balanchine ballets to Blossom, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and Stravinsky Violin Concerto. We gather that you’ve danced a lot of Balanchine, even before you came to the Joffrey.

Yes, but I must say, the very first time I ever saw Stravinsky Violin Concerto was here in the Joffrey performance. It’s not frequently performed. And, since it’s actually for very tall people…

You’re typed out.

Exactly. However, with Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux I am much more familiar. In some ways it’s typical Balanchine, very musical, very quick. But in other ways it’s not so typical of Balanchine in that it’s very classical and very technical. It was frequently performed by Patricia McBride who was very technical; she liked the pirouettes and the fouettés.

But it’s very beautiful and one of the Balanchine pieces that I enjoy dancing the most. It’s another one of those really hard, stamina ballets. You keep going and going and it seems you’ll never leave the stage.

(To see Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux in its entirety click here.)

[Asked to describe his choreography for Stravinsky Violin Concerto Balanchine replied, “The best guide to the character of these dances is a number of hearings of the music.” And an unusual violin concerto it is, consisting of a Toccata, 2 “Arias” featuring the violin, and a Capriccio which Balanchine rendered as 2 pas de deux danced by different couples sandwiched between small ensemble dances. Dancers who were there when Balanchine choreographed it say he referenced his friend Stravinsky’s lifetime of serial infidelity; they emphasize the male / female, thrust / receive of the dancing in the first Aria and the more tender quality of the second pas de deux, which Aria Stravinsky composed as a poetic tribute to his long-suffering wife, Vera.]

What about the Othello-duet?

That’s an excerpt from the full length Othello (originally choreographed by Lar Lubovitch for American Ballet Theater and San Francisco Ballet in 1997) which the Joffrey premiered in 2009. It’s the final pas de deux in which Othello kills his bride even though he loves her. It’s very dramatic, very emotional. I just hope it looks good out of context, that people will understand what’s going on.

We’ll have to rely on people to read their program note. How is it dancing to Cleveland Orchestra?

OMG! The sound is so glorious. The first time I heard it I just wanted to stand in the wings and listen. It was overwhelming. Who wants to go out and dance? We are so fortunate, performing with such an outstanding orchestra.

How did you like living and working in NE Ohio?

Cleveland was where I learned to speak English, where I learned everything about life in America. And my job with Heinz Poll at Ohio Ballet was the job that allowed me to stay in the U.S. At the time, my visa was about to expire and dance companies in the U.S. weren’t very enthusiastic about hiring foreign dancers because of paper work and legal costs.

I was young and stupid, auditioning without a green card. I’d be one of 3 girls remaining after an audition but when they asked me for my green card and I said “I don’t have one,” they’d give me back my resume and say, “Thank you very much.” Heinz Poll was the one who saw something in me, took the risk, and went to the trouble. That was the beginning of my career in this country.

OMG! We’re glad he took the risk; went to the trouble.

All five of the works previewed above will be performed both nights. Tito Muñoz, who will conduct both performances, was formerly Assistant Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra and has extensive experience conducting for the Joffrey.

The Joffrey Ballet performs with the Cleveland Orchestra at 8pm on Sat 8/20/2011 and 8pm Sun 8/21/11 at Blossom Music Center, 1145 Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls. Tickets $23 to $93 available by phone 216-231-1111 or 800-686-1141 or at


From Cool Cleveland contributors Elsa Johnson and Victor Lucas. Elsa and Vic are both longtime Clevelanders. Elsa is a landscape designer. She studied ballet as an avocation for 2 decades. Vic has been a dancer and dance teacher for most of his working life, performing in a number of dance companies in NYC and Cleveland. They write about dance as a way to learn more and keep in touch with the dance community. E-mail them at


Post categories:

Leave a Reply