When I first started drawing American Ballet Theatre, I didn't really have a very good grip on my process beyond "sit down and draw" and I knew absolutely nothing about ballet.
Still, over the last couple of years, I have come to recognize that the initial drawings--the first half-dozen or so--are the ones that ground me as I begin working; that my instincts lead me to the main focal points of a company or a rehearsal, and that, in any new studio, there's always an energy that demands attention and it usually shows up on my paper.
So, it's no surprise that Gladys at the piano was one of the very first three or four drawings I did of ABT, because if I hadn’t included her I would have been missing something essential and big.
We were downstairs at the Met and Irina Kolpakova was running the rehearsal. Every dancer who arrived checked in with Gladys, gave her a status report, answered her questions and gladly received her warmth. That's why I was especially pleased with the way that the reflection of a dancer can be seen in the piano; it seems to me that that's a pretty accurate depiction of the connection between her and the company—she plays, they dance and it ain’t just because she’s the rehearsal pianist.
I'm no expert on ballet, but I do know the dominant mother-figure when I see her. I also know that when I drop in for a visit at 890, I too want to stop and sit with Gladys and answer all her questions and tell her what's going on, because without doing that, the visit is incomplete.
So, Happy Birthday, Mrs. Celeste—I’ll be by to let you know what’s going on next time I’m in the building . . .