root to rise

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We’re sliding into slower days and I’m splayed out, one foot into nesting mode and the other five toes clinging dearly to the adventurous personality of my summer skin. As I’ve mentioned before, these past 8 months have been a real metamorphoses for me. In February, I was dropped hard onto the earth. In March, I learned how bitter it could be. In April, I recited a manifesto. In May, I was reborn, I dove into a lake. In June, I was surprised. I hugged my soulmates and let go of fear. In July, I harnessed a confidence I never knew lived inside me all along. By August, I was floating.

Then September rolled up. In her suitcases she carried anxiety and doubt, a familiar overthinking that kept me up at night. Toxic ambivalence. This duality of heart that served me such clarity 8 months ago, in the amber light of fall just clouded my lens. With my head already underwater, I’ve got no choice but to kick and paddle. So I swim.

A certain someone recently acknowledged the indescribable feeling that comes from just being with your art. No expectations, no homework, no parameter of time. Just pure connection with this inhuman, breathing beast that has grown with you always. It will make you whole, if you just let it.

Today, I am channeling that. Restore. Refresh. A new month, a new mindset. Let’s work, let’s play. Happy October.

welcome to the dark side

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For most of my career I have been “the good guy.” Fairy, princess, maiden, swan queen; she comes in many forms, all of which include a healthy does of sweetness and sparkles. Last season, however, I got to dip my toes into the shoes of a not-so-nice-guy, and well…I kinda loved it.

Our fall season opens with Ilya Kozadayev‘s (very creepy) Hansel & Greteland I’ve graduated from the young heroine and straight into the wicked mind of her evil stepmother. She’s mean, she’s ruthless, she might even be slightly possessed. And yes, I’m all about it. Who knew creating the conflict could be so satisfying?

Though the show is part of our chatterBOXtheatre series geared toward children, brilliant Ilya did not hold back on the scare-factor of this grim (Grimm, heh*) story. The role is rife with all sorts of unsettling movements in which some vile creature within nearly breaks through her skin and bursts into the scene. The choreography somehow accomplishes this while remaining folkloric and simple enough for children to grasp onto. No small task. Perhaps the most frightening thing of all, though, is the stepmother’s ability to keep all of this darkness contained behind a startlingly realistic artificial composure. Shudder. She’s an intricate bit of character work and a real treat to tuck into. Long live the bad guy.

 

*Full disclosure, I already used this joke once today, in an interview with H&G choreographer, Ilya Kozadayev. Not proud, but still sorta proud, you know?

photo by Dylan Giles for Festival Ballet Providence

not to worry

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“I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.”

-Mary Oliver, I Worried

shaping the clay

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It’s simply impossible to put this summer into words. But on a recent train ride home from New York, on the final page of a journal that has seen me through some big transitions, I tried. In the spirit of celebrating vulnerability and staying accountable, here is that entry- unedited, raw, and rambling. If you are interested…

 

I am not standing still.

I am evolving, changing, growing, blooming, becoming. Shaping my clay, never into the kiln, careful to never let the dust quite settle. I am so grateful for the gift that this summer has been. The shift to total positivity. The timing. I am awake, I am alive. I am here. I am everywhere. 

I am vowing to stay curious. To stay lost. And to always appreciate roaming. Even when things get hard, when I cry, when I get hurt, when winter seems too long and ballet seems too hard. I have been created by every experience I have had so far, and this process continues infinitely. The good and the bad. The bad things seem to thrust me ever more vigorously into a season of light and hope, and for that I am incredibly thankful.

I have found my balance, and learned that it is an active pursuit- not something to set and forget. It is my daily actions, the decision to get out. To take risks, to talk to strangers. To interact with my world and notice its ebbs and flows. To lean into the current and also go against the grain. To see the patch of sunlight on the floor and cuddle with it. To feel the weight of the world and turn towards, not away, from it. This mixture, this recipe, it’s always changing, adjusting.

The greatest asset: flexibility of spirit. The ability to re-envision my life again and again. To see the endless possibilities ahead of me, and know that reality will look like none of them. To celebrate that. To see the future as unlimited in variation, but so preciously limited in length. To be given this perspective right when I needed it, and to be given the ability to share it by doing what I love. To connect with new places and faces. To experience new relationships. To feel love. To love. To be loved in so many different ways. To love every little bit of it. 

 

Happy September. Keep shaping.

back to the grind

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Hey.

Hi.

Hello.

It’s been a while. My absence on the blog has coincided with my absence from the studio, as I’ve taken the longest break from ballet since my spinal injury years ago. It was not a planned break, but of course the biggest lesson of the summer was in being prepared to be surprised. And what a beautifully surprising summer it has been!

Rhode Island, Maine, New York, Colorado. I’ve been living in trees, on ferries, between mountains, and below buildings; smiling and writing and loving every minute. But with our 42nd Season less than 2 weeks away, the reality of harnessing my technique and regaining control of my body is feeling like Sisyphus and his hill.

I have been hesitant to write about this- even in my analog journal- for fear that any sort of negative talk on the subject will worsen the struggle, but the truth is I am having a hard time. The frustration of returning to my body after each summer is always a challenge, but this year seems to be proving particularly difficult. Perhaps it’s the fact that I am more eager and excited to dance than I have been in the past few August’s, or the fact that my unplanned break from ballet has left me further away from “in shape” than I’m used to. Each morning I take class, hating what I see in the mirror, and ignoring these thoughts so not to give them weight. My pointe shoes feels like hooves, my ankles are shaky, my pirouettes are wildly uncoordinated, and my hips crack in every grand battement.

I know I’m not alone here, as so many of us dive back into our full-time schedules this time of year, retraining or summer selves to better balance work with play. I suppose the point of this meandering post is to help me refocus. To remember that all worthwhile things require a bit of toil. All efforts contribute to the cause and progress is not linear.

Whew, more updates to come. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

floating

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my fingers are still sailing
the soft bends of your hair
and my eyes are still warm from
the sweet heat of your stare
I’m still sinking in the space
there- just beneath your nose
you’re still weakening my knees
you’re still tangling my toes
I’m still seeing us in stripes
and mirrored sideways smiles
I’m still looking through the stars
I’m still counting all the miles
my breath is still caught
tucked behind your left ear
I can still her an echo:
your voice calling me “dear”

Vail Dance Festival in Review: International Evenings II

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Isabella Boylston in Flower Festival in Genzano, photo by Christopher Duggan

When international stars of ballet gather in the beautiful bubble of a town that is Vail, magic is bound to happen. The second night of Vail Dance Festival’s “International Evenings” certainly saw magical moments, with crowd-pleasing highlights feathered throughout.

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Catherine Hurlin and Lil Buck in Vail Dance Jam, photo by Christopher Duggan

This Festival wastes no time waiting to be festive; The show erupted with an epic opener, “Vail Dance Jam,” a collaboration between the dancers, musicians, and choreographers of the festival. The music was wonderfully rollicking, setting the tone for more fun to come.

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Melissa Toogood and Calvin Royal III in Trails, photo by Christopher Duggan

The first act continued with a series of pas de deuxs: first a very sweet Flower Festival in Genzano from American Ballet Theater (ABT)’s Isabella Boylston and Mikhailovsky Theatre’s Julian Mackay, followed by an other-worldly Merce Cunningham excerpt from Trails danced in beautiful sync despite the music’s irregular rhythm by ABT’s Calvin Royal III and Melissa Toogood, and finally La Sylphide, performed by Festival newcomer Maria Kochetkova and New York City Ballet (NYCB)’s Joseph Gorden. The August Bournonville style (showcased here in Flower Festival and La Sylphide) can be quite academic-looking, but the joining of these incredible artists has proved once again that Vail Dance Festival is a breeding ground for growth and exploration.

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Jacqueline Green in Pas de Duke, photo by Christopher Duggan

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Jacqueline Green wowed the crowd in another Ailey solo, this time to Duke Ellington’s vivacious music in an excerpt from Pas de Duke. She moved with crisp, clear confidence, hitting every step so full out it was as if she was making the music with her body.

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Alina Cojocaru and Herman Cornejo in Romeo & Juliet, photo by Christopher Duggan

The first half closed with a real stand out performance- English National Ballet’s Alina Cojocaru and ABT’s Herman Cornejo in the Balcony Pas de Deux from Romeo & Juliet. Wow. This had me on the edge of my seat, waiting on every effortless lift, exquisite pirouette, and nuanced breath. In this pairing, the audience received true artistic and technical expertise, a cosmic meeting of dancers and musicians that is rarely found. Cojocaru simply is the music; Her innate ability to make her audience hear every note in the score cannot be taught. What a treat.

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Festival Artists in The Personal Element, photo by Christopher Duggan

Act II opens with another peak; the world premiere of Alonzo King’s The Personal Element. This mesmerizing ensemble collected dancers from LINES Ballet and New York City Ballet in a whirlwind of sweeping movement, King’s choreography seamlessly sculpting the dancers into every formation imaginable. The dancers split into pairs and then join back together, zipping up into miniature tornados of movement and then melting back down into the music, a hypnotic score composed and played live by the incomparable Jason Moran.

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Lauren Lovette and James Whiteside in George Balanchine’s Duo Concertant, photo by Christopher Duggan

The evening continued with two more pas de deuxs, this time featuring this year’s Artist-in-Residence, Lauren Lovette, and ABT’s James Whiteside in George Balanchine’s playful Duo Concertant followed by the calm and refreshingly human The Still Point, danced by ABT’s Devon Teuscher and Cory Stearns. The latter offers the delicate study of a relationship, both passionate and comfortable, conflicting and familiar. The former celebrates yet another Festival partnering win, Lovette and Whiteside’s spritely energy and effortless musicality combining just perfectly in this seemingly made-for-them ballet.

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Lil Buck, Michelle Dorrance, James Whiteside, and Melissa Toogood in 1-2-3-4-5-6, photo by Christopher Duggan

A Festival favorite 1-2-3-4-5-6 closed the performance, jolting the amphitheater with a tangible energy only the dream team of Michelle Dorrance, Lil Buck, Melissa Toogood, and James Whiteside can serve up. This mixed-genre piece showcases the diverse talents of the artists, as they perform their own choreography and improvography while still maintaining a cohesive and all too fun to follow work of art.

For more information on the Vail Dance Festival.