a premiere in which i did not touch the ground

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This weekend A and I danced our first Christopher Wheeldon ballet. Well, part of it anyway…

We (rather unexpectedly) performed the pas de deux section of Wheeldon’s The American, a lovely ballet set to Dvorak’s triumphant score of the same name. The Company will perform the full ballet as part of our February mainstage, but this weekend PVD got a taste of what’s to come in the Black Box Theater. I’ve been describing this little ditty as 6.5 minutes of being either off your leg or in the air. Poor A never gets to let go of me. But somehow we made it through! Relatively smoothly! A triumph. And now for my own enjoyment, but if you care to see, a rehearsal code run down of one of the hardest, sweetest, most frustratingly beautiful pas de deuxs we’ve done to date:

that hard promenade, the first backwards lift, the lift that kills your arms, the nervous arabesque, the backpack press, the cartwheel, the tricky promenade, the split and scoot, the getting up, the run around, the impossible lift, the weirdly difficult fouetté + fall, the traveling baby lift, the birdy, the slow roll, the floor, the spiritual moment, the walk-walk, the run around, the flip lift, the swizzle, A’s least favorite lift, the drop, the rock, the running, the big lift, the craddle lifts, the backwards cartwheel, the second tricky promenade, the hip killers, the second swizzle, the drapey lift, the last backwards lift, the slow floaty pirouette, the bourrées, the end.

spirit in the sky

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Ah, sweet autumn. Often staved off by clinging tan lines and rushed along by jingle bells, you might just be the most underrated quarter of the year. But with a fresh slate at the start, a smattering of costume and food focused holidays, and a remarkable ability to bring out the inner emo poet of my youth, your months are far more magical than most. You entice the whole of New England into smokey scents and pumpkin flavors. Your pale skies give way to a fiery splatter of morphing treetops. Your crisp wind plucks leaves to the ground, acorns tumble under toe. Undertoe fades from feeling until next summer as waves are observed from the safety of warm sweaters. Farmer’s markets take shelter, early sunsets coax the world inside. Your time is to rest, to nest, let cozy manifest. Quite simply, you are the best.

goodbye broom

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Flying coven.

Plunging fall.

Morning birds.

Hopscotch pumpkins.

Broken witch.

Enchanted broom.

Sweep, sweep, sweep.

Chop, chop, stop.

Growing fondness.

Scheming neighbors.

Cultish fervor.

Human fire.

Ghostly woods.

Packed bags.

White paint.

Family dinner.

Soaring tango.

Happily Ever After.

 

photos of Saturday night’s “Widow’s Broom” by Ty Parmenter.

 

a hat trick

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Eight years ago I was seventeen. It was a typical Tuesday. My mom got a phone call.

“Where is Kirsten?,” the familiar voice of the studio registrar wondered.

“Uh, at school?,” my mom replied, the peculiarity of the inquiry making her question the simple fact herself.

“Well when you pick her up today, don’t take her to class at the studio. Take her straight to the theater. She’s in ‘The Widow’s Broom’.” The show was in 3 days.

One of the company dancers was mourning a sudden death in the family, and so as the world of professional ballet goes, I was thrust into her role. An hour in the tight hallway space of The Vets backstage for me to put my body into a witch’s. All that was left was to get my mind there.

Not yet a legal adult but on the cusp of my career, I embraced the challenge completely. I had danced Viktor’s eccentric choreography before. Not often, but enough to know it takes a solid week of repetition for your muscles to feel somewhat normal in the steps. After learning the show, I had 48 hours to prepare. So I rehearsed in my head, all throughout the day. I brushed my teeth to the rhythm of the coven’s twists. I made my bed in sweeping motions, steadying the invisible broom beneath my hips. My feet tapped out the formations in miniature as the rest of me pretended to pay attention in Calculus.

Then came the transitions. “The Widow’s Broom” is a special ballet in that all of the sets are controlled by the dancers. Every scene change, magic trick, and optical allusion is created by the Company itself. Cues, patterns, pace- these things were all part of my training as a dancer, but never in relation to something other than my body. The pressure was on.

The day of the show, there was a shortage of hats. During my transitions, I was meant to be dressed like a villager (a boy villager, by the way, because all of the ladies’ costumes were in use), to blend in with the rest of the ballet. The Artistic Director looked at me standing in the Wardrobe Room before him in a baggy vest and brown balloon shorts. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. The face I would soon grow to adore: Misha with a new idea. He swiped the hat off his own head- a signature black Kangol newsboy- and smacked it down onto mine, tugging it eagerly over my bun. He stood back and looked at me with stars in his eyes. Now I knew I was not in this alone. We were pulling off this particular trick together.

scattered

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“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” they said. “Time management is my jam!”, I boasted in response. Oh my sweet friends, time management skills…

Pumpkins, witches, press releases, and midterms. Out of state reviews, at home interviews. Rehearsals and lack thereof. Community Land Trust events, a surprise Fireball appearance. Vegan transitioning, city strolling, gift shopping for a soon-to-be5-year-old. Dish washing, pointe shoe prepping, tea date catch ups, Swan Point walks. Show consolidation, damage control; busy messy life. Plans, schedules, routines, lists. Music to my ears.

Most days are spent navigating the quirky soundscape of Aleksandra Vrebalov’s beautiful score, picking apart Viktor’s intricate choreography and placing pieces into my body parts. I smooth them in with a few hundred repetitions. I am a mother in the morning, a widow when the lights darken. Buzzing in the kitchen, lonely in my rocker.

As you can see by the scattered nature of this post, it’s been a busy few weeks. I promise, I’ve been doing a lot of writing! Just not here. If you’d like to see, here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to…

My review of New York City Ballet‘s Here/Now Program celebrating contemporary choreographers, up now on The Wonderful World of Dance.

My interview with beloved children’s book author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg (The Polar Express, Jumanji)– conducted entirely through snail mail- now on Festival Ballet Providence’s blog.

A press release for our first main stage performance, The Widow’s Broom, up on several different media sites, but here it is on Broadway World.

My interview with Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee (of Wicked, Sweeney Todd, and Saturday Night Live) for Festival Ballet Providence’s blog.

 

photo by Jacob Hoover.

24 hours in nyc

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Hey, guys. Our quick trip to the city was a bit less adventurous than planned- note the puffy-eyed half-smile above. ^

I guess I can count myself lucky to have lived 25 years without experiencing serious food poisoning. But like most adventures to exciting places, this weekend’s trip gifted me with an unexpected notch in my belt…and a stitch in my belly. Safe to say this girl will not be eating sushi anytime soon!

Despite the many embarrassing circumstances my body surprised me with this weekend, I felt supported, loved, and cared for. There is a lesson in every bit of life (besides being wary of raw seafood) and this weekend’s was certainly one of compassion and trust. If only I could express my true level of gratitude for this sweet beanfriend. All I can say is I am sorry for couping you up in the big city. Thank you for making me feel cute in the least cute of times. Thank you for turning rain into sunflowers. Thank you for carrying my tea and toast. Thank you for all that you did and do. Thank you for being a one of a kind boo. Preesh you. Yup. I really, really do.

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weekend update

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Season 40 is off to a roaring start, and this beautiful beast shows no signs of slowing. In 5 weeks the company have learned almost 6 ballets; One new work is still in the creation phase, and our first full length Widow’s Broom is currently a collection of scenes. I have eight countable bruises on my legs and a fire in my belly. The time is now.

Speaking of full seasons and carpé-ing diems, this weekend M and I are off to the city to see New York City Ballet’s Here/Now program on Sunday. Wheeldon, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Peck. What an incredible lineup! I will be reviewing the show on The Wonderful World of Dance, so stay tuned.