'Best Seat In The House'

Romanian-born dancer Alina Cojocaru as Nikiya, and Angel Corella as Solor, perform during the American Ballet Theatre's "La Bayadere," a three-act story set in royal India, at the Metropolitan Opera House Monday, May 12, 2003, in New York AP/AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE

The American Ballet Theatre is one of the world's most renowned dance companies. Only a select few make it on their stage.

But sometimes, you don't have to be graceful to be part of the dance.

The Early Show correspondent Melinda Murphy found out why.

Murphy proclaims herself to be gawky, with all arms, legs and angles. But she found a way to join the ballet, at least temporarily.

The American Ballet Theatre was auditioning for "Swan Lake," and all Murphy had to do was look the part.

Victor Barbee, American Ballet Theatre assistant artist director says, "We look for certain types of people: ages, looks and most importantly, they have to fit into the costumes."

But the most important factor is fitting into the costumes.

Being the right size landed Murphy a role as a super (an extra who stands on the side to fill the stage). The American Ballet Theatre production of "Swan Lake" needed three women supers and three alternates.

It's a pretty coveted part. Barbee says, "It's like sitting on a bench in a Mets game, or something like that. You're right up close, and seeing the actual close-up action."

The next night, during dress rehearsal, Murphy learned the group is like a backstage sorority and most have been doing it for years.

Karen Brown, a "Swan Lake" super, says, "What's great is when you get the costume on, all of a sudden it's like you're in another world. So you're part of that part and you carry yourself that way. It's like playing dress-up, except you're a grown-up playing dress-up."

Supers usually do their own make-up, but Murphy got a little help. And, she got some supers' tricks of the trade, such as reacting when appropriate.

Murphy says there wasn't much to it, but it is harder than it looks. With one dress rehearsal, she was off to perform on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House.

"Standing in front of a packed house at the Met was pretty darn incredible," says Murphy. "For more than a half-hour, I really did have the best seat in the house."

She says it was one of the best nights of her life.

The American Ballet Theatre's performance of "Swan Lake" continues at the Met through the weekend. The company will spend the summer traveling to various cities.
  • Rome Neal

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