In so many ways, this season has been one that I will always remember.
…and also performing in an explosive World Premiere by the edgy Georgian choreographer, George Birkhadze, who currently resides in Boston with his beautiful Boston-Ballet-Soloist wife. Performing alongside me in this particular piece were two of my best friends. How lucky am I to have the honor of sharing the experience of learning, rehearsing and performing a brand new work with two of my besties?!
Next came The Nutcracker. Considering the fact that I have been onstage in this very production of the holiday classic for 14 years now, the fact that I can call this one memorable is a biiig deal. This year I was challenged with the role of the Spanish divert. With blonde hair and Scandinavian roots, I had several meltdowns about the intimidating task of performing with that unmistakable snappy Spanish flare before dancing the role opening night and surprising myself with a confidence I never knew I had. Special shout out to Alex for making it one of the most fun parts I’ve ever danced!
After Nut came our collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design’s fashion/apparel department and Boston Ballet’s Boyko Dossev for Little Red Riding Hood. The second installment of Boyko’s choreography on FBP designed for a young audience, this show was accented by hand-made (by students my age!) costumes, each more interesting than the next. We also got to model in the RISD fashion critique, and a few of my fellow bunheads are walking (and dancing?) in the world-famous RISD fashion show this weekend! How cool!
The next show, Agon & Orchis, was without a doubt the most memorable of my career so far. My first time ever performing a Balanchine work would have been memorable enough, but Agon surpassed even my own expectations. What an incredibly daunting and rewarding ballet it was. I’m telling you, Agon is known to be one of Mr. B’s most complicated ballets (so much counting!) and performing two very different roles forced me to really think, instead of relying on muscle memory. Such a unique experience! Working with one of Balanchine’s original dancers, Sandra Jennings, was equally amazing. I mean, she is a legend in the ballet world. Growing close with her and hearing her feedback on my performance was incredible. Orchis, an all-new contemporary ballet and the collaborative brainchild of choreographer Viktor Plotnikov, photographer Cemal Ekin, RI glass artist Toots Zynsky, RISD fashion department head Beth Bentley, Russian composer Sonya Belousova, and lighting designer Alan Pickart, will not soon be forgotten by anyone involved, including our audience. There’s little I can say for Orchis besides masterpiece. A genius, surreal, gravity-defying work of art. I will always remember this ballet, and look forward to hopefully dancing it again one day. I even made it into a major Turkish magazine!
Also contributing to my inclination toward this show is the fact that following opening night’s performance, I was promoted from Apprentice to full Company Member. This is something I have been working toward since my first time dancing in a ballet 14 years ago. To have all of the blood, sweat and tears I’ve shed throughout the years recognized in such a public and exciting way was so special. A fulfilling moment in my life that I will hold onto forever, for sure.
So then it was on to my first performance with my new company status. Another round of original and classical works for the upcoming Up Close series. I was to perform in 3 different pieces. This is when the back pain I’d been feeling all year started to get real. I would walk home slumped over like an old woman, and spend weeks at a time flat on the couch, unable to bend or twist at all. I pulled it together enough to dance one of the pieces I was cast in, as well as an encore production of Little Red that same weekend. Doing so, however, left my back in more severe pain than I’d ever felt before. The company dove into rehearsals for our Spring show, The Sleeping Beauty, in which I was cast in several of my dream roles…Bluebird and Lilac Fairy. But as the company rehearsed, I watched from the side in my corset-like back brace, trying to pick up the choreography and intricate miming without tipping to either side, as not to upset my angry back muscles. It was only a few days later when I received my first ever bone scan, and became aware of the stress fracture in my spine that I’m convinced has been hanging out back there for quiiiite a few months now. So that was that. I left the hospital with a fracture, a heavy heart and orders not too dance for 6-8 weeks.
This injury, however sad and painful, has brought to light some kind of strange inner peace. To have my pain justified, the opportunity to see my friends perform Sleeping Beauty, new Parisian plans to take French language classes instead of the dance intensive this summer…these things have all changed me for the better. I remember the first time I fell onstage. I was performing Musicbox, the solo pictured in the first photo of this post. After I came off stage, one of the principle dancers with FBP, who was also my teacher at the time, told me, “Welcome to the club. Every professional dancer has at least one big fall. Now you’re one of us.” I will never forget those kind words. Now, as I experience the hardships of my first real injury, her reassurance that these things are all part of this profession comforts me. Knowing that I am not the first, and will surely not be the last ballet dancer to suffer a spinal stress fracture keeps me balanced. In a way, it almost feels good- emphasis on the almost– to think that this injury is a result of all my hard work this year. A badge of honor, so to speak. So now that it’s summer, cheers to a wonderful season full of ups and downs (but mostly ups!), locating my inner sass, Balanchine counting and petit allegro, floating Orchids, a promotion and a stress fracture. Next up, Paris! Stay tuned…