moving me

IMG_7312This bitter earth
Well, what a fruit it bearsIMG_7314What good is love
Mmh, that no one shares?IMG_7313 2And if my life is like the dust
Ooh, that hides the glow of a roseIMG_7317What good am I?
Heaven only knowsIMG_7311Oh, this bitter earth
Yes, can it be so cold?IMG_7315Today you’re young
Too soon you’re oldIMG_7316But while a voice
Within me criesIMG_7319I’m sure someone
May answer my callIMG_7318And this bitter earth, ooh
May not, oh be so bitter after all

This Bitter Earth
Dinah Washington
Snapshots of rehearsal for the contemporary solo from Christopher Wheeldon’s Five Movements, Three Repeats (thanks, Aza), originally created on the incredible Fang-Yi Sheu at the Vail Dance Festival. One of those five movements is the ballet-famous “Bitter Earth Pas”. Have you seen it? It was made for Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle, and it is truly breathtaking. Each and every time I hear this song, I find myself teary in the wings tuning into the lyrics as I wait for the third repeat.
The piece began as a mutual “fan-girling” between Fang-Yi Sheu and Wendy Whelan (former principals of Martha Graham Dance and New York City Ballet, respectively). This mini-documentary (thanks, Melissa!) gives a nice background of the collaboration and creation process. What is it about watching masters watch other masters shape their craft? So inspiring.

 

If you’d like to be moved too, come and see this weightless work live at Up Close On Hope. Tickets here.

colors of the wind

Okay, okay, I hear you. I just posted a gallery of photos including both bougie hotel room views and 3 angles of a public restroom. It’s confusing here today. But so is life.

Lately life has been, well, confusing. The sky is falling, the world seems to be full of friends and strangers, with surprises- and coincidences- around every corner.

I hear Mercury is in retrograde. Do you guys believe in that stuff? Yeah, I don’t know either. More confusion. Ambivalence…

…but Mercury does appear to be flying around backwards, and life on Earth is coming up…color coordinated? This warm fuzzy hue of green/orange/yellow keeps making its way into my suitcase, around my best friend’s neck, under my dinner plate, and in front of my lens. It’s in the bathroom mirror behind me, under the sink where I wash my hands for the weekend, in the midnight meal we prepare. Life is doing this chameleon thing and it’s all I can grasp onto to keep from flying away with that retrograding rock.

This weekend B and I performed in Ballet Theatre Company’s 20th Anniversary Gala. Ah, what a weekend, and what a feeling to find a place that feels so cozy and welcoming and inspiring. And and and, here are some non-bathroom-related photos from the weekend, including more unintentional matching!

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leap of faith

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What a weekend.

Opening night always generates the most jitters.

Before the curtain’s first rise, the corps de ballet is tilting chins from one corner to the next like birds, cooing and checking in with the fluttering heartbeats around them. Feet shift from one to the other, hovering in sixth position, right arm ready to raise up and block out the moonlight. Finally the strings ring out and the adventure begins.

I whirl, I twirl, I collapse, I pose, I dip, I dive, I wake, I die. Waltz girl is a swirl of emotions, overtaking me and flooding the stage. I leave it soaked and stained with that euphoric feeling.

The rest of the evening continues in the bliss of performing a truly fulfilling program. The following day does not.

Saturday night I am in the corps of Serenade. Just before the start of the Waltz, I turn to dramatically drag my invisible mink coat off stage left. It’s surprising but not altogether startling to see Misha standing in the wing, directly in line with my slow exit. It is quite startling when he takes my shoulders and frantically whispers, “Can you do Russian Girl?”

My heart flips and then sinks. My best friend is cast to do Russian Girl that and every night. I manage an, “I guess so,” followed by a, “…wait, right now?” and a, “but what’s next?” and 32 counts later I’m running out from the wings to someone else’s cue.

The corps shuffles around to accommodate one less as I blindly navigate the role I barely learned and have left unconsidered for weeks. My mind wanders dangerously into worrying about the shoes I am filling- my very best friend’s. Where is she? What happened? Is she in pain? My own shoes turn their tips toward our dressing room, and then sharply back to the stage. I must do this for her.

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Never in my life have I experienced a more intense performance. Never have I jumped into an unrehearsed role mid-show, unsure of the steps, the timing, the spacing, or why any of this was happening. Never have I felt so shaken and helpless towards the fate of my friend, unable to follow her ambulance to the emergency room because there are still two ballets on the bill.

Never have I felt so tangibly the support of this ballet family, stacking up like human beams to bolster me, eyes wide and minds ready to slip a hint where one was needed. Hands criss-crossed like little Russian dolls, sending squeezes from one hand to the next. A circular hug and immediate murmurs of quiet, strong love. A dedication to our spritely Russian Girl, to whom we unanimously, simultaneously, unspokenly dedicate the entire weekend to.

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The Elegy finds me in a different light. I am dancing when Waltz Girl is statued. I am a strange new spoke in our pinwheel and I’m dizzier than before. The wheel bursts and I am thrown from the explosion. I run frantically towards center stage, saud de chat with everything I have left, and dive into the wings.

Finally, the curtain falls. We bow. The curtain falls again. My powder blue family surrounds me. Hugs, tears, hair stuck to my eyelashes and a bitter taste in my mouth.

A surprising Serenade it certainly was.

 

first and third photos by Ty Parmenter.
second and fourth photos by Dylan Giles for Festival Ballet Providence.
fifth and sixth photos by Alex Lantz.
Serenade
Choreography by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust

twenty-seven

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Today, I am 27. Wow.

I am a nester. I am a small talk-avoider. I am a devotional walker, an emo-music rediscoverer, a reborn journal keeper. I am someone who hangs gauzy curtains to softly filter morning light. I am a woman who overthinks, has trouble escaping her own mind, who vows to practice the delicate art of unwinding. I am someone who is soon closing a major chapter- organized education- but remains hungry to learn. I am a woman who strives to empower herself and her fellow ballerinas simply by believing in her own sparkle. Easier said than done, yes.

I am an author, a homeowner, a soon-to-be wife. I am a friend, a partner, a colleague. I am endlessly nostalgic (did I search through every February 11th post I’ve written here since 2011 this morning? why yes, I did). I am a modern romantic, I crave renaissance, reverence for the old and bold creation. With surrendered bones I ride the ebb and flow of the process, letting inspiration die to be reborn in some strange surprising spark. I am growing, I am changing, I am learning to really love my own company.

I am beautiful, I am strong, I am talented, I am powerful, I am me. 

I am repeating affirmations, I am seeking adventures, and I am never slowing down.

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The life of a twenty-first century ballerina often means jumping from one persona to the next, out of pointe shoes and into socks, tattered technique shoes, bare feet and bruises. For three hours we are bunheaded and floating, while the next three have us rolling through the floor, hair and hips flying loose and low.

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Of course, this can wreak havoc on the structure of the ever-important feet and ankles, dramatic shifts in positioning and pressure causing all kinds of inflammation, irritation, and injury. Our February program jumps from balletic Serenade to apocalyptic Smoke & Mirrors and creature-like Coma, and all I can say is THANK YOU, SHOCKS.

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With compression in the arch and ankle, the Performance Shocks from Apolla are saving my feet. They hug just the right areas to provide support and protection, while still allowing the toes to shape and the heel to ground into the floor.

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Before a long day in pointe shoes, (my feet and) I love taking barre in my Apolla’s. They give me the perfect lift without being restricting or bulky. Ah, can a person truly love a pair of socks, you ask? I’ve rambled on and on about all of their many benefits, but for now let’s check out some close up glam shots and find out how well they really perform…

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Oooooh, aaahhhhh. Who knew a pair of socks could make me feel some kinda way? If you’re looking for a date this Valentine’s Day, might I recommend a fresh pair of Performance Shocks? Just kidding…kind of.

In you’re interested, Apolla is offering a discount to STB readers! Use the code SETTING*THE*BARRE19 for 10% off at checkout.

All photos by Jenay Evans for STB.

waltzing

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Performing a Balanchine ballet always provokes a certain sense of reverence. Iconic costumes, powerful scores, distinct steps.

I wrote a bit about the history of Balanchine’s Serenade on the FBP Blog, but rehearsing reveals so much more than research. How could I have known that the dramatic final movement, The Elegy, would be so cathartic? How could I have imagined the feeling of running in “late” as the Waltz Girl, or expected to embrace the quiet ceremony of taking my place among a crowd of strong, blue-clad women? This strange, wonderful job of mine surprises me every week.

I’ve heard it said that when you see a Balanchine ballet set to a Tchaikovsky score, you hear the music differently. He makes you hear it differently. Serenade seems like an ode to Tchaikovsky’s grand arrangement; the movement forms peaks and valleys, twirling up wind as the strings gather and letting ladies soar in the release.

Serenade was the first ballet Balanchine created in the United States. February 15th will mark the first performance of this legendary ballet in Rhode Island. We are making history, people! So can I get a witness?

for tickets.

r e f l e c t

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As fate would have it, in the midst of “Mirrors” I’m finding myself in an especially major bout of reflection. The dig is deep these days, my insides are hollowing themselves out, seeping through every pore for my observation. But the tricky thing about reflections is they are just an echo of the inside, just an impression, a shadow of the space taken up by the real thing. Much like a memory…

Our brains are incredibly complex gizmos, engineered with railways of apt tissue to trigger every thought, idea, action, and response. So much of this organ dedicates itself to function, learning, tackling new tasks. But one special little part of the brain is made specially for hanging on. Tucking away moments, years, entire lifetimes in its dark, cozy corner.

The problem with this system is the interruption from the heart, who also has a habit of holding on. Only the heart isn’t quite as adept at sorting as the brain. It keeps what it likes- what feels good. It hangs on to its favorite image and lets the rest slip away with the wind of time.

As my twenty-seventh (!) birthday approaches, I am making more time to reflect. Space to bring my head and my heart together and remold the memories. It’s coming up in the miles I’m walking, the nostalgic songs I’m studying, the journal I’m filling. In the studio, I’m pouring myself into the rehearsal process, letting it take me into those raw places where the subconscious and the soul connect and find physical movement that shines out through my chest. I’m remembering, reflecting, and refracting. Rebuilding, renewing, reawakening.