Darko Tresnjak

Ghosts of a Chance

I had this big plan that while I was making my triumphant return to the stage in Ghosts of Versailles at the LA Opera I would blog once a week to give you the low down of how it was going. Turns out it is difficult to be an international opera star and a Mom so that didn’t happen. So here is the wrap up – it was amazing. I was scared to death before the first rehearsal but once I had my dance bag over my shoulder and I walked through the Artist Entrance at The Dorothy Chandler it was like I was home. By the time I got to the rehearsal room my feet turned out, my back straightened and I was a a full four inches taller. It was so fun to hang around dancers and singers again. It’s like returning to a foreign country you used to live in – even if you haven’t visited in awhile you remember the language.

Patricia Racette and Me

Patricia Racette and Me

Patricia Racette, who is a big time opera star, was Marie Antoinette. I was her decapitated body in all white including white mesh covering my skin to give me the ghostly pallor that I actually almost have in real life and the piece de resistance- a black bag on my head. For the most part my job was to stand ramrod straight wearing a corset and about 500 pounds of dress until it was time to throw myself to the ground and then stand back up without using my hands. Patricia (Ms. Racette to you) was wonderful to work with. She embraced the entire concept and even had great ideas for me to do with her. My job would have gone very badly if she was a big old Diva who didn’t want me to do anything but she was lovely and made me feel like I was an important extension of her. It also worked because I’m not stupid and I know when to hold the fuck still and stay the hell out of her way.

Let me remind you I have not set foot on a stage in fourteen years. I was working with a couple of my old friends but the rest of the dancers are major younger ballerinas who are still working. So, of course, it was only logical that I was the soloist. What? Please! Everyone on that stage could dance rings around me. (Ironically I danced in a ring- see photo above). But, because Patricia Racette and I are almost exactly the same size I was Marie Antoinette. Take that you skinny little dancers! Besides, my arms still look graceful because it seems in ballet the arms are the last to go and the big hoop skirt covered a multitude of sins. It was the largest role I have ever done at the LA Opera in their biggest most expensive opera to date. It should not have happened but it did. Not only that, I worked with Darko Tresnjak the current Tony Award winner for Director of a Musical and my own Peggy Hickey who choreographed said Tony Award winning musical. Again, what? I know- crazy. And for a kicker Patty Lupone was also in it and I sat three feet away from her on stage during her number. Eva Peron right in front of me! It was a Master Class in acting every night. The entire experience from rehearsals to performances was a gift and I cherished every moment.

Speaking of moments, during one of the dress rehearsals Peggy came running up to me, grabbed me and dragged me off

stage. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to be so publicly fired. Turns out Laura, one of the dancers, had passed out because of the black bag on her head and they needed an EMT.

Company Manager- We need to call an EMT!

Peggy- DeAnne’s an EMT but she is on stage!

Company Manager- Go get her!

When I got to Laura I ripped off my mesh death gloves so I could take her pulse. I was a bit nervous because in EMT school I could never find anyones pulse and I pronounced them all dead. But Bam! Right to it ! It helped that her pulse was racing but I found it! Then I got to do all my EMT observation and stuff and watch her color come back and her pulse return to normal. It was all very exciting. Now I don’t like to use the word hero but you can go ahead. I basically saved Laura’s life. No need for thanks- it’s what I do.

Actually, doing this opera kind of saved my life, or at least the part of me that was dying from neglect. I was reminded of who I used to be and I am reassured that I am who I want to be now. I need to remember that just because I am no longer doing it for a living doesn’t mean I am not a dancer anymore. I thought I had to put that part away like it never happened but I don’t. I will always be a dancer- even if it’s just in my living room or in my soul – it’s what I do.