We are officially in full on Nutcracker mode. Each day is like a step through the looking glass, diving toes first into Clara’s strange dream. In so many ways, Nutcracker season really does feel like a dream. With its soft familiarity, it lures me in deeper, and somehow my presence there feels oddly foreign. I own the memories, yet they are not solely mine. The music runs habitually through me, like the soft ticking of an old clock that hung in my childhood home.
This year I am revisiting the enigmatic Sugarplum Fairy. I love this entire article by dance critique Alastair Macauly, but his eloquent examination of the music was particularly moving:
“Just the first string chord note can raise goose bumps, a sudden announcement of huge drama. The scales that follow, so momentous and solemn, are as breathtaking as the immense central staircase of a baroque palace. There’s a tragic quality here — those descending scales, with their emphatic rhythm, keep being repeated — but there’s also sublimity, transcendence and even, here and there, aspects of consolatory tenderness. How do you realize this extraordinary music in dance?”
I’ve often wondered about the Sugarplum Fairy. Who is she? What is she feeling? Why does she dance this dramatic pas de deux? Macauly’s assessment seems to ring true. He claims that the Sugarplum’s aim is not love nor tragedy, as the “sweeping” score implies, but pure beauty:
“The Sugar Plum, assisted by her cavalier, dances in sublimity beyond emotion; her transcendent beauty keeps being renewed by the dance.”
What a rapturous personality to pursue! Her power throughout and even beyond the dance world is certainly magical in its mystery, and I am honored to investigate.
As evidenced by the relative emptiness of this blog over the past few weeks, I think it’s safe to say this season has truly been one of the busiest of my life. A senioritis-induced course schedule overload and new opportunities in the studio have been filling my time so sufficiently, I can’t remember the last time I sat down to journal, let alone blog. There are so many things I want to share with you- stolen costumes, nostalgic cheese, nourishing drops of dew- but for now I will take a note from advent season.
Advent is a version of the Latin term “coming”. It refers to the season observed by Western Christian churches as a time of waiting to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus. It’s a time of anticipation and measured expectancy. Religious or not, I find the practice of this slow expectancy deeply relatable. In this chaotic season of life, advent reminds us to take pause, muse, and reflect.
M and I crafted up our own advent calendar (a la Reading My Tea Leaves), each tiny envelope full of good deeds (make dinner for his brother and sister-in-law who are welcoming a new baby this week), and fun winter time dates (spiked hot chocolate at Duck & Bunny) to help us savor the wait.
Tchaikovsky’s most famous holiday score has swiftly replaced the vivacious one which filled my fall. We’ve plunged so steadfast into Nutcracker preparations, it’s almost as if Up Close On Hope didn’t happen!
But it did. I stood in the wings as the lights lost their lume and the theater went black. I felt the corps step silently into their wheel as those two impish notes carried Elyse’s playful chant back to us all, uh oh…
I attempted to raise my heart rate in preparation of the cardio to come. I hopped from one foot to the other, letting my achilles feel their way around satin shoes. I released all the air from my lungs, filled them again, and counted four eights. I thought about all of the things that needed thinking, and then I forgot them all.
My face smiled without cheek wiggles, my arabesque sailed around under me. I felt comfortable, and confident, challenged and true. I let my port de bras fly and my feet sing along. Post-perfornabce, by way of some strange magic, I managed to remember all of the good things I’d done, and forgot all the bad. But I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised- there is “some strange magic” in all of Mr. B’s ballets.
It’s been a strange few days, so here are some photos of blue skies and books. My mom had a few Providence places to cross off of her bucket list, so we (very spontaneously) strolled through the gorgeous athenaeum and the quiet Arcade together. We talked architecture, restoration, politics and love. We walked Westminster and Benefit, bought vintage sweaters, picked up fallen leaves, and picked out East Side homes around the Boulevard. November is weaving its golden ways and once again I’m hypnotized.
Speaking of my lovely mother, today is her birthday! This wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t wish her a very happy day here. xoxo!
One of my favorite pre-show tidbits came around this time last season, while working on Apollo with a Skype-assisted Sandy Jennings. Her suggestion to wear my favorite perfume for the performance reminded me just how transformative feeling like a ballerina can be. Friday in the studio, sweet Elyse added another gem (harhar) to that collection.
“I want you to imagine you have little tiny diamonds on the tip of every eyelash, every fingernail, the end of every strand of hair…and maybe a few on your butt,” Elyse said with a wink.
Signature sass in every syllable, she dusted the aforementioned areas with jittering fingers. Delicate red-tipped nails played invisible keys hovering just over my shoulders and down my arms as she spoke. Emphasizing the importance of exclamation points (and maybe “a couple commas”) throughout the piece, Elyse used her diction to demonstrate. Ah, diamonds and dialogue, does it get any better?
This one is a memory I will lock up in me, to be accessed and applied whenever I lose sight of my brillante. Now, on with the show.
I tend to proclaim the season of life that I’m currently living to be the busiest, until the next one rolls in somehow more full than the last. That is a long-winded way to preface an apology. So. Excuse my absence here lately; I’m nursing a cold and studying the American Revolution and attempting a social life in the space between.
This past weekend we opened our performance season with a round of Halloween-appropriate Hansel & Gretel, and tomorrow begins our first program of Up Close On Hope. There are so many beautiful, challenging, inspiring things happening here, and I am so proud of this little company. In the cracks between ice baths and epsom salt I really am bursting with excitement to perform these works– and will update soon…promise.
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.