Keeping Calm and Tendu-ing On: Interview with Miami City Ballet’s Rebecca King
She took the time to chat with me about her blog and her burgeoning business.
A little bit more about King:
King grew up on the west coast and received her training at Contra Costa Ballet until she moved to Pennsylvania to study at The Rock School. After high school, Rebecca relocated to Miami, and shortly thereafter, joined Miami City Ballet. Rebecca is also the creative mind behind the blog, Tendus Under A Palm Tree, and Rebecca King Social Media Management, where she helps small businesses find their voice through social media.
Jessica Wallis: Many people may know you from your blog, Tendus Under A Palm Tree, where you feature your “Keep Calm and Tendu On” merchandise. The “Keep Calm” phrase has become popular lately. How did you acquire the rights to it?
Rebecca King: One of the reasons I chose the “Keep Calm” phrase and logo to work with is because it surprisingly has no copyright, so it was easy to personalize for my blog. “Keep Calm” has definitely resurfaced in recent years, so I was excited to use it.
JW: In a previous interview, you stated that you take Tendus Under A Palm Tree very seriously and that you consider it part of your job. Is TENDUS still fun, or is it more of a responsibility?
RK: I really grew TENDUS this year by incorporating some new goals for the brand. I don’t see writing as a responsibility as I really enjoy it, but I just wish I had more time to do it. I truly enjoy promoting my art form through TENDUS. What’s great is it can be whatever I want it to be, on my own time.
I have really been missing writing recently, as I’ve been busy planning my wedding. Once I have more time on my hands, I hope to do even more with it.
I recently conducted an Instagram contest on my blog where participants entered to win a “Keep Calm And Tendu On” bag. I look forward to doing more contests of the same nature in the future with new merchandise and new prizes.
JW: You and I share an affinity for George Balanchine. How did you develop an interest in Mr. B’s choreography?
RK: I grew up in California and frequently attended performances at San Francisco Ballet. The company has many Balanchine works in its repertoire that I would never miss seeing onstage. Additionally, my ballet teachers taught in the Balanchine style, so I was exposed to it often and was taught its importance.
Now, after dancing in many of his ballet, I realize that audiences will never know Balanchine ballets like dancers do. Dancers who have the great opportunity to dance Balanchine ballets, come to know the intricacies of the choreography and each dimension of his brilliance. When I dance a Balanchine ballet, I feel as if I know Mr. B, just through knowing his choreography.
Miami City Ballet has the privilege of having a repertoire filled with his works. We often have Balanchine’s dancers come set these ballets and coach us to give us a real idea of exactly what he wanted. I feel that this keeps his ballets alive and constantly evolving.
JW: Miami City Ballet is now under the direction of former New York City Ballet dancer Lourdes Lopez. Can you
speak about what it is like working with Ms. Lopez?
RK: Edward Villella definitely created a family with Miami City Ballet. Lourdes understands and embraces that family atmosphere, and we continue on in that fashion. Being able to be a part of the original MCB as well as this new chapter for the company, is a privilege.
JW: Have you learned anything from Ms. Lopez about George Balanchine?
RK: Lourdes once told us that she stepped into an elevator one evening with Mr. B. She thought that maybe he was going to start asking her about her dancing or something related to the company, but instead he asked her what she was going to have for dinner that night. She thought this really showed that he wanted to know his dancers as people and that he cared about them more than just as dancers on the stage. I think Lourdes has that same approach as an artistic director.
JW: What are your favorite dance books?
RK: One of my favorite nonfiction books is Once A Dancer by Allegra Kent. She is so open and honest in that book. It shows what it was really like to dance for Balanchine. I also love Winter Season by Toni Bentley, particularly because she writes from the perspective of a corps de ballet member, and she illustrates how challenging it is to dance in the corps. Holding Onto The Air by Suzanne Farrell is also a great read. Balanchine Variations and Other Balanchine Variations by Nancy Goldner is a great resource, as the author discusses the story lines of his ballets. I like to read them when we are working on Balanchine’s works to get a better idea of the piece and my fellow dancers often like to borrow them as well.
At the time of this interview (March 2013) Rebecca was planning her wedding and experiencing the excitement of Miami City Ballet’s 2012-2013 Season. Rebecca got married at the beginning of June.