sunday morning

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Yesterday I went from flat shoes to pointe shoes to flat shoes to pointe shoes to flat shoes to pointe shoes.  That’s 5 shoes changes, with 0 exaggeration.  A constant alternation of footwear from death traps to soggy canvas slippers can only mean one thing:  Up Close On Hope is just around the corner.

With just one month left in the season (crazy), my inherent and at times unhinging need for sunshine and warm weather has been kicked into the highest gear.  Luckily this lazy Sunday morning has served up some sunny windowsills, and I’m more than content eating spoonfuls of cinnamon raisin almond butter/strawberry preserves (game-changing combination, you guys), drinking tea, watering my new “love fern” and reading some short stories by the raddest B.J. Novak.  Have you guys read his new book, One More Thing?  I heard about it over on A Cup Of Jo, and was hooked by the simplicity of one of the shortest stories in Novak’s collection…

“If you love something, let it go.  If you don’t love something, definitely let it go.  Basically, just drop everything, who cares.”  Made me laugh…

I’m off to a photoshoot with the lovely Andrew Marnier, have a relaxing Sunday, all!

identity

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I am a solo-dweller.

A candle-hoarding, Netflix-binging, topless-laundry-folding, plants-are-my-pets, master-of-the-house party of uno.

On the evening of my 23rd birthday, after returning from work around 9 pm and washing several layers of other people’s sweat off my body in my chokey-sized shower stall, I sit on the couch eating baby carrots straight out of the bag.  It is fantastic.

I make needlepoint samplers for my newlywed friends, and attend nuptials -stag- in a lacy frock and ballet flats.  Like a bona fide lady.

I gravitate towards the children on the dance floor, identical twin flower girls and a hesitant ring bearer who transforms to Michael Jackson’s greatest hits.  I don’t notice how much time I’ve spent teaching a wide-eyed 4-year-old to swing dance until the end of the night, when an unknown relative (Aunt Amelia?)  thanks me for being “so generous with the kids out there!”.  Apparently, these are my people.  I am only too tickled to be accepted into their world, to forget the darkness outside and embrace the ease of innocent youth, if only for a hour or two.

I take myself to the emergency room on a Sunday morning, and sit with my dead girl toe, chewing cinnamon gum, sipping icewater, diagnosing myself, and reading a novel…you know, grown up things.

I book flights, cancel flights, make plans, order cable, write letters and poetry.

I go to the gym regularly (what), I use fancy shampoo and meditate myself to sleep.  I’m a yogi vegetarian who makes her own hummus, and my 13-year-old self is rolling her eyes at me.

swing into theatre week

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Last year I flew, suspended by a harness and some thin wire, up over the stage and off to Neverland, hand-in-hand with a magical boy whose very essence seemed to hold the key to eternal youth.  This year, my stiff body swings motionless to the sound of tolling bells while my unreachable mind mistakes hospital fluorescents for a warm sun in its dreaming, comatose state.  Although it seems contrast roosts at their core, these two “stunts” both required a special rehearsal in the theatre prior to the official onset of tech week.  And rehearse we did…

Last night the 6 dancers of Coma involved in the swinging segments (4 coma patients, 2 “Dark Angels”) headed to The Vets to bring one of this ballet’s most defining elements to fruition.  Inspired by this image from the 1978 film of the same name, Coma uses floating swings, dramatic moving lights and the commanding combination of stirring strings with sparse arpeggios to leave a lasting effect on its audience.  Have I mentioned that I cannot wait to perform it?

for tickets.

PS- Follow along with FBP’s instagram @festivalballetprovidence as I do a bit of a theatre-week-takeover!

PPS- A great article shedding some perceptive light on Coma here.

PPS- Check out my interview alongside Coma choreographer Viktor Plotnikov on The Rhode Show here.

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big screen ballet

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The past two Sundays have ironically both involved a cinematic ballet experience of some kind, with a trek up to Cambridge to see Ballet 422 last weekend and a drive to East Greenwich yesterday for a screening of The Bolshoi’s Romeo & Juliet.  The two shows were vastly different, save their only similarities seated in the audience: a combination of bunheads and bald heads…my kinda crowd.

Following New York City Ballet corps member and resident choreographer, Justin Peck, Jody Lee Lipes’ Ballet 422 offers up an impressive array of balletic athleticism and choreographic innovation, wrought with a generous supply of stylish #BTS shots.  Mr. Peck, at the tender age of 25, exudes professionalism and creative depth beyond his years, and the entire company (especially featured principal, Tiler Peck) demonstrates a skill level and quickness of movement that only the NYCB can deliver.  Of course it suits that these inspired minds belong to NYCB, a company founded on choreographic liberation and the freedom to create entirely new movement.  An artistic peek into the modern world of ballet, the film provides a backstage guide to the choreographic, rehearsal, staging and performance process of a world premiere at the historic Koch theatre.  I truly enjoyed seeing the magnificent costume department and the care that goes into each garment, as well as the showcase of talented orchestral musicians and powerful NYCB dancers, but without any real narration or interviews to speak of, Magnolia Pictures may want to consider renaming the film Justin Peck Relaxes Face While Thinking.*

The Bolshoi’s R&J on the big screen could not have been more opposite; One of the world’s oldest companies performing one of literature’s oldest tragedies in ballet’s most traditionally classic choreographic style.  In three words, it. was. dramatic.  Of course, drama is to be expected from a famously grim love story in which so many crucial characters suffer an untimely death**, but there’s something about this particular rendition that seemed just a bit over the top to me.  Maybe it was Tybalt’s refusal to die without a lingering (re: dragging) “death dance” for the books, but that’s probably just my impatient millennial mind at work there.  Gorgeous in its classicism, but predictable by nature, this show separates the diehard traditionalists from those of us who chuckled when Lady Capulet practically dislocated her shoulder tossing herself onto her nephew’s dead body about fifteen times (Mom, I’m looking at you!).

So, have any of you seen either production?  What did you think?

*Spoiler Alert: Justin Peck’s “deep in thought” face comprises 90% of the film.

**Yet another spoiler, everyone dies.  Sorry for giving away the ending, guys.

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ladylike

afterlight

I’ve never met a dancer who is not hyper specific about her taste in leotards.  Tight and supportive, soft and worn in, bright, dark, feminine, sporty, strappy, simple; There are a lot of options and even more opinions.  Of course, I am no exception to the rule, preferring my leotards supportive yet soft, and feminine but flattering.  Despite my mother’s insistence that my bust is fairly compact, my tendency for dramatics has me completely convinced otherwise, resulting in a certain inclination towards what I like to lovingly refer to as “boob-friendly leotards”, i.e. those which suit a slightly fuller chest.  I tend to favor dark colored (re: slimming) leo’s that cut high on the hip, dip low in the back, and offer some kind of unique feature to set it apart in a sea of basic black camisoles.

All details considered, you can imagine my apprehension in opening the package that contained a custom-designed leotard, made especially for my blog, by a young dancer (and I mean young!) whom I have never even met.  I held the package in my hands, waiting just long enough for my curiosity to swell into a tangible entity outside of myself.  A few nearby other dancers took note of my anxiousness and encouraged me to rip open the package.  When I did, we were all blown away.

It’s hard not to fall in love with this leotard instantly.  It collects little pieces of light from every beautiful balletic dream and weaves them all up into a fairytale of a garment.  But what surprised me about my experience receiving this leotard was the way in which every aspect that would normally send me running for cover actually became what I love most in this piece.  You know how sometimes when you try too hard to hide something, it actually becomes more glaringly obvious?  Well, there’s a widely revered characteristic in French women that I have always been envious of; They use their flaws and insecurities as defining features, promoting the effortless allure of unbrushed hair and a good run in your stockings.  In this leotard, I have finally reached an understanding of French female empowerment.  The light colors I habitually avoided now gracefully wrapped their way around my body, and feminine cut-outs along the neckline emphasized the bust I had always spitefully suppressed.  And you know what?  The change felt good.  I strutted my stuff through every rehearsal in the gorgeous creation, and I think my confidence showed; Almost every girl in the company approached me that day complimenting the new leo, and even asking where and how to get one for themselves.  If that doesn’t confirm a successful design, I don’t know what does.

With its soft, delicate, vintage-inspired front and a sporty, clasp-enclosed shrug style back, this leotard really does it all.  It’s so completely one-of-a-kind and like nothing I’ve ever had the pleasuring of dancing in before, and I am proud to know Setting The Barre is being represented so elegantly.  And because Miss Jones knows that no project is complete without a personal touch, she even embroidered my name into the hip.  Incredible.

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So readers, I invite you to experience the bliss that is classic femininity with a decidedly modern twist.  Get your hands on the limited-edition Setting The Barre leotard, with a special reader’s only discount.  Use the code DANCE13 for 10% off at check out.

view the rest of the Miss Jones Dance etsy shop here.

Special thank you to Sarah Jones for her stunning design and Jenay Evans for her brilliant photography.

nice to meet you, miss jones

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Today’s big announcement pertains to a project I’ve been anxiously waiting to share for weeks now, so here goes:  Ladies and gents, I would like to formally introduce you to the exclusive Setting The Barre leotard (!!!!!!!).  I’ll admit that I was a bit trepidatious in agreeing to collaborate with a young dancer living across the globe on a leotard to represent something so near and dear to my heart.  But in the spirit of 2015 and embracing all opportunities, I decided to encourage the industrious Miss Jones to indulge in this adventure, and boy was that a rewarding decision.  I immediately fell in love with her creation, examining every detail, but in turn realized that my pool of knowledge regarding the designer herself was rather shallow.  So before I get down to my review of the leotard (stay tuned for the third post of this installment), I’d like to give you all a chance to get to know Miss Sarah Jonesphoto 2

First can you tell us a bit about yourself and your dance background? 
I started ballet when I was 3 at  the Valerie Jenkins Academy of Ballet in Sydney [Australia] and I’m now 15 and studying for my Cecchetti Advanced 2 exam (eek!) I also take jazz, hip hop, character and contemporary. I probably won’t go the super classical route in the future, but I would love to be part of a contemporary company and maybe do some commercial work. I dance mostly because I have absolutely no idea what kind of person I would be without it, or what I would do with all that free time :) I also love the constant challenge and the discipline it has taught me.

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What inspired you to start designing and sewing your own leotards?
I started to make my own leotards because I felt consistently uninspired by the designs at my local dance store; they were always just the same few colors and cuts shuffled around a bit, plus they’re always super expensive! The fist thing I made was a simple wrap skirt and I got so many positive comments from other people at my studio that I just decided to take it a little further and make leotards.

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Do you build your own patterns?  
I make all my own patterns, mostly through trial and error and sometimes basing them off things I already have. By now I’ve built up a good range of existing pieces I can mix and match to create almost anything. Leotards have the bonus that they’re made of stretchy fabric so you can get away with not having insanely complicated patterns.

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How do you come up with the silhouettes and styles for each new leotard?
I take inspiration for leotards from everywhere! If I see someone wearing a really great dress, I think about if it could be translated into leotard form. Another great source of inspiration is swimwear because the designs are often much more elaborate than your traditional leo but the construction is still quite similar. I love anything that is not really conventional, if it’s a bit dramatic and catches your eye from across the room that’s ideal!

photo 1What makes the STB leotard special?I would have to say the main distinguishing features of the STB leotard would be the tulip shaped cutouts around the neckline. I was inspired by an amazing dress I saw in the window of a Pucci store which had a row of cutouts around the waist. It got me thinking about how cutouts could be used in leotard form. I think it’s important thing is that a design has some element of symmetry and that the lines created are streamlined and flowing (just like in ballet!) so I really tried to keep that in mind when designing the leotard.photo 3

Now- just for fun- choose 3 words to describe your own “studio style”…

If I had to choose the words to describe my aesthetic they would probably be fun, flirtatious and unexpected. That’s a difficult question!

Stay tuned for my thoughts on this gorgeous design, and for information on how you can get an STB leotard for yourself, with a special readers-only discount code!

For more peeks at this pretty leo, click here.

photos by Jenay Evans

the space between

This post was inspired by Viktor Plotnikov’s choreography, Arvo Pärt’s brilliant composition (I recommend clicking here to listen along while you read), and the enigma of the comatose.
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listless in every sense,
a state of chronic quiescence.
explicitly numb and seemingly unaware of all circumstance,
dormancy has never existed so overtly.

 

deafened by cryptic disfunction,
inanimated without consent,
involuntarily absent from existence,
this paralysis solicits no invitation.

 

an aleatory boarding onto
a train with no destination,
no schedule, and no track,
only its passengers are bound.

 

the persistent innominate “they” say
ignorance is bliss, but
only those who constantly travel
without ever advancing know:
enlightenment exhales elation.

 

so rhythm compensates,
and euphoria hangs in the balance, where
our passengers gently swing,
sweeping in the space between.

 

poetry by me, photo by Madeline Issa.

happy sunday.

Just wanted to share a little weekend inspiration- in the form of this airy solo danced by the unconventionally exquistie Sergei Polunin.  Under the direction of David LaChapelle, the stripped down nature of this piece captures the honesty in Polunin’s movements as he soars through space, executing steps that only a dancer of his skill level could even fathom, with unembellished ease.  The location feels like the skeleton of a open church, settled into a nest of trees somewhere, removed from even a polluted whisper of the superficial stage.  In its simplicity, the project lends an unpretentious suggestion that Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” lyrics will resonate with dancers who share this similar form of worship in motion.

For more weekend inspiration…

Did you hear who Paris Opera Ballet director Benjamin Millepied announced as the company’s new associate choreographer?

Have you seen the new documentary following NYCB dancer and emerging choreographer Justin Peck as he creates a piece for the company?  I’m can’t wait to.

Speaking of ballet documentaries, why not contribute to the production of Petite Ballerine?

A review of FBP’s latest black box installment, Scheherazade & Soledad.

losing my senses

Viktor

I can still remember with remarkable clarity, the first time I saw Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma.  I was 13 and a member of the Junior Company at FBP, which relegated me to the very first row of the theater, waiting with the other young dancers to deliver bouquets to the principals at the end of the show.  Not ideal seating for a ballet, but secretly, it was exactly where I wanted to be.

When the curtain rose for Coma, the entire audience hung breathless.  Dancers swung just feet above the stage, their horizontal bodies cutting through the air like blades.  The effect was startling, so striking and beautiful that I actually felt deaf for a moment.  Visual imagery overwhelmed me and for a moment all I could do was see it.  But I was seeing not in the traditional method of perception through retinal observation; I was not looking, I was seeing it.  Not observing, but absorbing.

Moments later, a bell chimed, waking my ears from their momentary impedance, and the dancers abruptly rose from their positions.  A haunting oscillation between silence and sound flooded my eardrums, and I realized the visual components, though stunning, may not even be my favorite part of this ballet.  It took me about 16 seconds to fall in love with Arvo Pärt’s tragically beautiful music, particularly Spiegel im spiegel, used in the end of the ballet.  After a number of difficult movements depicting heartache, sadness, and the grief of the living, two of the “coma” dancers (the ballet is split into “coma patients” and “visitors”) dance together with a dream-like serenity that plucks you up out of your seat and into the weightless world of a vast oblivion.  It’s delicate and devastating.  A completely heedless surrender to the bliss that envelopes the unaware moribund.  Profound in its simplicity, and harrowing in its youthful intonation.  I was transfixed.  So much so, that my plucky little teenage self mustered the courage to approach the great Viktor Plotnikov (after performing my flower delivery duties, of course) to let him know how much the ballet moved me, and also to ask for a bit of insight into the plotline and inspiration.  In the true Plotnikov fashion that I would become all too familiar with in years to come, Viktor simply replied, “Tell me what do you think it is about?”  And then I was speechless.

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Eight years later, the ballet is being revived for the third time, after being performed the season following its premiere upon popular audience request to see it again, and then traveling to Venezuela with the company several years later.  FBP doesn’t perform Coma until this spring, but my entire season has secretly revolved around whether or not I would be cast in the masterpiece which struck my senses so intimately all those years ago.  I invite you to imagine my sheer elation when I learned that not only was I cast in the ballet, but I would be dancing the very part which taught my eyes to see  music, the final pas de deux to Spiegel im spiegel.  It’s an honor that I don’t take lightly, and although we’ve already begun setting the ballet, I am extremely anxious to begin rehearsals with Viktor this week.  I hope to uncover more clarity in my own divulgence into this ballet, but this quote from Mr. Plotnikov during the early stages of Coma’s choreography does shed some light on the subject:

“This ballet is abstract, but with a deep emotional quality I think people will be drawn to. The piece portrays the difficult feelings friends and family experience when a loved one is in a comatose state, and flipping the coin, also depicts the vision I have of those actually in the coma. I feel the mind of one in a coma is a beautiful place to be, as is the transition to the next place. Arvo Part’s music is important to the piece, an amazing composer who gives both the notes and the silence equal weight. This is very appealing to a choreographer such as myself. I feel extremely fortunate to have been granted the rights to the music for this piece, as it’s not easily given.”  (Dance Magazine)

It seems the music was just as vital to Viktor’s creation as it was to my artistic awakening.  Stay tuned for more on this enigmatic masterpiece…

sneak peak here, photos via here and here.

downtown dancing

View More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalexView More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalex View More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalex View More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalex View More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalex

“Okay, go now!  Wait, no no no, run!  Car!”  Not your typical photoshoot soundtrack, but then again, this was by no means your typical photoshoot…

I was introduced to the work of Andrew Mariner through social media (#2014), where I was drawn to his avant guard approach to ballet photography and immediately started picturing Providence’s highly photogenic cityscape reflecting in his lens.  I decided to reach out to Andy about getting together for a shoot as part of his ballet series, and several weeks later, I was darting into the center of the financial district, dodging cars in my pointe shoes, Alex tossing me around in all different positions (sheesh, that boy is strong!).  Yes, people were staring at us as we “fished” through traffic or pushed up into a press over the Providence River.  But, you know, I felt oddly comfortable rocking a tutu on Westminster Street…sort of just blended in with the, let’s just say eclectic, wardrobes splashing around RISD’s campus.

Andy’s sharp eye and undeniable ability to capture that perfectly imperfect moment is what I admire most about his photography.  He came prepared, with a selection of locations and ideas ripe for collaboration.  Of course Alex and I were all too pleased to indulge!  We have become quite good at working together on spontaneous experiences of this nature, as you may recall.  Always a pleasure working with old friends, and making new ones as well.

PS- No, we did not plan our coordinating Christmas-colored outfits, but we were quite excited by the adorable, thematic serendipity :)

PPS- all photos by Andrew Mariner.