a wednesday journey


Wednesday begins with a challenging class and a run of Allegro Brillante.  Five hundred practice pirouettes and a bucket of sweat later, the hour is up and it’s time to move on to Niris, the polarized pas de deux conceptualized by Yury Yanowsky.  Its intricate score, originally intended for the Steve Jobs film, instructs our bodies in its profoundly bipolar energy.  The first half is electric and sexy, until the music combusts and fizzles into a slow, bleeding romance.  My breath expands with the swell of the cello as B sweeps me across the floor and through the air.  I exhale into Viktor Plotnikov’s grounded Swan.  My feet quiver below an inverted spine and hyperextended elbows.  I am the unsettled soul of a dying bird.  Its an unseasonable 80 degrees outside and we’ve opened the the doors, but I can hear a familiar Tchaikovsky waltz from the next studio and suddenly I’m cold.  Snowflakes in October.  The steps, while second nature now, feel refreshing to revisit, much in the way of the holiday season itself.  The hanging of decade-old stockings above the fireplace always feels more cathartic to me than repetitive.  I shed the shell of satin from my feet and stumble, knobby-kneed, into to the woods of an evil witch.  In my practice skirt I resemble a giant napkin but oddly it sort of just feels like Gretel.  In the blink of an eye the score has run straight through and we’ve danced every bit of it. My napkin is traded for a heavy circle skirt and it’s off to the orchestra.  Another Plotnikov piece to end the evening, but this time my body is loud and awkward, moving like a mandolin, chest of drawers, human violin, clumsy monkey.  It’s 8:30 pm at this point, and I am delirious.  Ready for a shower, a sleep, and a new day to do it all again.


beyond the barre with shelby elsbree

The first time I met Shelby Elsbree was on a rooftop sipping rosé.   Throughout our short friendship she has been an unexpected source of light in my life, sharing tea and wisdom when I’ve needed those comforts most.  Currently in her first year at Columbia University, it appears the former Boston Ballet dancer embraces every new adventure with just as much spirit as the last…


Hello beauty!  Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?  Tell us about studying at The School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York City.  Was it always a dream of yours? 

I moved to SAB when I was 13 years old, after having attended their summer intensive program in 2004. In all honesty I hadn’t known about the school prior to auditioning, coming from a small ballet studio in Sarasota, Fl. Needless to say, training at SAB was a dream I didn’t even know I had until it became a fast reality…and I never looked back. My time in those beautiful studios, going to high school in New York City, skipping across the plaza to watch my dream company perform every other night…it was surreal in every sense of the word. Balanchine training is neo-classical, sporty and fast-footed. Having come from a Vaganova background, I relished in the opportunity to grow in this dynamic way. Experiencing this new language of technique was invigorating, aesthetically inspiring and inevitably challenging. I soaked up every minute.  


After graduating from SAB, you moved to Denmark to dance with the Royal Danish Ballet.  What was your first impression of Copenhagen?

My very first impression of Copenhagen was that of a European Disney world. The city sparkles. It’s so colorful on the outside, flourished with copper domes and dreamy, historical stories. Scandinavia is known for their simplicity in design; Every apartment is white, streamlined and clutter-free. Simple and beautiful, much like Danish culture itself. Danes also speak perfect English, which certainly eased any culture shock an 18 year old living alone in a foreign country might experience. 

Wow, sounds incredible.  In terms of ballet, did you have to make any adjustments in your technique when you moved to Denmark?

I did have to make a huge technique adjustment when I moved to Denmark. I held on to my straight legged turns and general movement aesthetic, but I certainly had to become more sensitive to stylistic changes of Bournonville repertoire.

Those straight-legged pirouettes are giving me grief in Allegro these days!  But speaking of stylistic changes, you originated the title role in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Golden Cockerel.  What was that like?  

Alexei is one of a kind. Working with him on Golden Cockerel pushed me to my every limit as a dancer and an artist. The story originates in old Russian folklore and the privilege of re-telling it through such an innovative narrative was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Definitely a career highlight! 


Did you bring any aspect of Danish culture back with you when you moved to Boston?  What was that transition like?

When I moved back to America, I promised myself that I would bring as much Danish culture as I could possibly carry back with me. The reverse culture shock was actually extremely entertaining. I vowed to maintain a clutter-free apartment, invested in mid-century furniture and sprinkled tea-light candles everywhere to bring back the “hygge” elements of life Danes are famous for creating. The work load was certainly more intense in Boston, longer rehearsal hours, more performances. I was closer to my family though, and their proximity of support and love certainly helped with the adjustment. 

I’ve always loved the concept of “hygge”.  A cozy life is very important to me!  Ha.  Do you feel that you have been affected as an artist by the different environments in which you have worked?

I have no doubts that my journey as an artist, a dancer, a person have all been affected by the diverse settings I’ve had the privilege of working in. Training in New York City instilled within me a tireless work ethic I maintain today, it ingrained an insatiable curiosity and a contagious energy that I’m proud to share. Beginning my career in Copenhagen provided me with the most humbling, fulfilling platform from which my entire perspective as a dancer, and more importantly a person, grew. My career in Boston Ballet gave me the opportunity to sew my New York roots into a more balanced, Scandinavian approach towards hard work. The styles, cultures, and histories of these ballet companies merged in the most complimentary way for me as a professional dancer, and in the most fulfilling way for me as a person.  


You are a talented photographer and also write a really lovely blog, Tutus & Tea.  How did you become interested in these sort of “extra curricular activities”, and where did you find the time to pursue them while juggling such a busy work schedule?

Thank you! My journey creating Tutus&Tea is one I’m forever grateful for. It all started one summer when my sister teased me for “not having a creative hobby (pilates/yoga doesn’t count!)”.  At the time she and my father were getting really into SLR cameras and there was one sitting on the counter. I picked it up, began researching, and invested in what would become one of my most favorite hobbies, photography. This was the summer before my first full season with Royal Danish Ballet, and when I returned to Copenhagen, my camera came with me.

Tutus&Tea came to me one sleepless night when I was contemplating the whole “blog trend.” What started as a creative outlet for me to chronicle my days of dancing, eating, traveling abroad turned into an enthusiastic pursuit of passions of stage that in turn, fueled my artistic perspectives on dance in exciting new ways.

As for time, there never seems to be enough of it right? I guess we all make time for things that bring us joy, and for me, Tutus&Tea was surely one of those things. 


That is so true.  So let’s talk about what life looks like right now.  You recently retired from ballet and moved to New York City to attend Columbia University.  What provoked this change and how did you know the timing was right?

So timing is one of these funny things to honestly reflect on. I’ve come to believe that we’ll never really know if timing is ever right. When I considered the idea of “transitioning,” I actually wrote down my thought trains in a rather lengthy post on my blog that ended up being more of a letter to myself. Professional careers in dance are finite. They are precious, yet sacrificial. They are glamorous, yet exhausting. I told myself I would make Ballet a career as long as I felt fulfilled, as long as I truly enjoyed it. Otherwise it’s just too hard.

Columbia University has a unique undergrad program that was created for “non-traditional” students who have been separated from their education for some interesting reason. Think military veterans, professional athletes, parents, and a whole lot of dancers…Writing my application essay alone was an opportunity to converse with myself honestly- to reflect on my career and what it has brought me, to question my present career commitment, and to entertain ideas of change. It was cathartic and it was necessary. 00342v5a0818

How is it going so far?  Here you can just tell us a bit about what life is like lately, what you’re majoring in, any interested courses you’re enjoying or struggling with, etc.

It’s a whirlwind! I am currently enrolled full time, entertaining the idea of a major in Cultural Anthropology and potentially Journalism. I’m taking four classes, my favorite of which is Philosophy of Art where we are mostly learning how to question questions…so compelling! I’m struggling with the insane amounts of reading, and the challenge of prioritizing copious amounts of homework over enticing invitations that living in this city presents. I am LOVING being intellectually challenged and inspired on a daily basis. I am loving the change so far, and giving back to my body and mind in ways that I haven’t been able to for the last 16 years of my life focused primarily on dance. 

That’s wonderful!  I’m so happy for you. What advice do you have for dancers who are interested in pursuing other interests outside the studio?

I would strongly suggest that all dancers should find and pursue passions outside of the studio. Not only will this provide healthy perspective and space away from your days on stage, it will sculpt your perspective and approach towards your dancing that absolutely benefit your dancing! 

Find something that inspires or interests you beyond dance and take the time to indulge it. Pursue friendships and relationships outside of the theater and relish opportunities to balance your life outside of the ballet world. 


Okay time for a little lightning Round:

Go-to breakfast? Gooooood coffee with cream, always. If there’s not a worthy blueberry muffin nearby, I do love a greek yogurt, granola, banana, honey situation.

Favorite ballet? Always a hard one. Tie between Serenade, Dances at a Gathering, West Side Story and Jewels…but let’s be honest, it depends on the day ;) 

Career highlight? I think I have too many career highlights to choose just one (insert monkey hidden face emoji) but on the top of my mind might be my first performance as Blue Girl in Dances at a Gathering, my premiere of Flemming Flindt’s The Lesson, Flower Festival in Genzano for Erik Bruhn, and Serenade for the Night of Stars in Boston….

Favorite restaurant in Boston? Wholy Grain and Tatte for Breakfast, Flour for lunch, Metropolis and Barcelona for Dinner

Favorite Danish meal/food? Mmmm….. I have to go with desserts. Aebleskiver and Gløgg during Christmas time are the best. They’re a type of pancake “holes” filled with warm, lemon zest flavored pancake filling that you role in powdered sugar and jam, accompanied by strong, mulled wine. It’s a magical combination. 

Guilty pleasure?  Ice cream always. And I don’t feel guilty about it. :) 

Thank you so much, Shelby! xx

all the leaves are brown






Ah, autumn.  This weekend felt short, yet decidedly fall.

There was a cousin visit, complete with brunch, a stroll through Swan Point and heavy and happy life discussions.

There was tea times three and lots more walking, leaf rustling, west side mansion shopping, and poster hunting.  There were Bucks & Dunnies, Ducks & Bunnies, pumpkin peeping, late night cookie baking (have you ever made just one chocolate chip cookie?) and more “life discussing”.

In a few hours it’s toes first back into ballet, but for now, I’m savoring the warm fuzzies of this photo diary.

bike n brunch


Something about us on bikes just feels right.

One of first dates was spent behind the handlebars, racing down a bus tunnel with bellies full of froyo.  We biked our way through Vernon to Giverny, up to Monet’s gardens and back again.  We pedaled along train tracks to a rusty old bridge in East Providence, and crossed a bridge over the Seine to meet a whirring train headed for Paris.

Of course, if we’re not biking, please find us brunching.  Oh, pretty please.

Savory crêpes, sweet pancakes, miso fettuccini, we’ve brunched it all.  No discrimination.  Many a pilgrimmage in Paris led to golden eggs and spicy avocado toast.

So a Monday dedicated to biking from Barrington to Bristol for brunch?  Bliss.

a word with elyse borne


As the opening of our performance season approaches, rehearsals are ramping up.  In a rare moment of downtime, I corresponded with Balanchine répétiteur Elyse Borne to get her take on working with FBP and Mr. B…

Hello!  Let’s just dive in: What makes Allegro Brillante different from other Balanchine ballets? Why is it special?

Allegro is not exactly different but incorporates the speed, clarity, technical difficulty, musicality, and neoclassical style so closely identified with Balanchine.


Your schedule is so busy!  You’re always traveling somewhere new to set another ballet.  Where else have you staged Allegro in the past?

I have actually staged Allegro for FBP before! I’ve also done it in San Francisco, Vancouver, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Singapore etc…..

That’s right, this wasn’t your first visit to Providence. What was your experience like working with the dancers of FBP this time around?

I had a great time with your dancers. They learned the choreography at breakneck speed and expressed a real interest in executing the ballet correctly.

“I love walking into a studio where no one knows the steps and seeing it all come to life in just a few hours.”

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If you could describe Allegro Brillante in 3 words, what would they be?

I would describe Allegro as fun, gut-buster, and energized!

What is your favorite part of the staging process?

I love walking into a studio where no one knows the steps and seeing it all come to life in just a few hours.

After retiring from NYCB, you were ballet mistress at Miami City Ballet for eight years and then San Fransisco Ballet for six.  You’ve been in the ballet world for your entire career, but now staging ballets, you have such a unique job.  How did you become a répétiteur?

I always had a propensity for learning quickly so this was a natural inclination. I gained a lot of knowledge being a ballet mistress and still face challenges with relish when I have to learn a ballet I’ve never staged. I feel honored and privileged to be allowed to stage Balanchine and Robbins.

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What is it about the Balanchine style that you enjoy so much?

I think I must have grown up with Balanchine style in my blood. It is so natural for me. Dancing at NYCB was a dream come true.

You premiered in The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov. What was that like? Do you have any favorite memories of working with Mr. Balanchine or at NYCB?

My scariest and favorite experience at NYCB was doing the Sugar Plum Fairy with Baryshnikov. Alone everyday for 5 days in a studio with the 2 of them, Balanchine and Misha. Awestruck and nervous and excited all at once. My memories go on and on. I think I will have to write a book! I was so lucky to work with such a genius.

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…and we would love to read your book.  Thank you, Elyse!

all photos via

season 39


Balanchine, Plotnikov, Yanowsky, oh my…

This season is off to a sprinting start.  In 3 weeks, we’ve had 3 choreographers and 1 répétiteur in the studio setting their (very diverse) works.  We’ve counted, melted, whirled and exploded through Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, acoustic guitar and the sound of knives being sharpened.  Pointe shoes, flat shoes, tutus and ripped tights.  The above photo captures my pure Saturday afternoon exhaustion.

This week we are plunging back in, with just 3.5 weeks until our first show of the 39th season.  Here we go.

hello october



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This weekend was a “kirsten weekend”- that is, I was sickish and sore and in the presence of world’s best beanfriend and thereby granted full control over activities.  My picks…

sushi + red wine + couch + this romantic drama

pumpkin blueberry pancakes + tea + couch + fleet foxes

pvdonuts + more tea + neutaconkanut hill hike + an old bridge friend

homemade portuguese soup + roasted autumn fruits + this romantic drama

Sometimes I enjoy being a walking cliché.  And sometimes I wonder how we fit so much into half of a weekend.  Welcome, October.  I like you so far.