gold, on the ceiling

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Leave it to Vogue to create a stunning editorial in celebration of ballet big wig/Hollywood’s most envied Baby Daddy and his first year as artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet.  This gorgeous spread has everything: the always magical city of Paris, suave Mr. Millepied, breathtaking Natalia Vodianova, one of the world’s most distinguished professional ballet companies, and shimmering designer gowns that bring the extravagant Palais Garnier to life.  Glamour is at an all time high here, folks.  I’ve shared a few of my favorite photos above, but for the full collection, head on over here.

all photos by Annie Liebovitz for Vogue

aurora for a day

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Aside from the fact that my eyes are extremely heavy, right now I look absolutely nothing like I do in these photos.  I am bruised over most of my body from the hips down, my hair is still in a towel from a shower I took 2 hours ago, and I have pillows supporting my neck, back, and knees…if only I could look as effortlessly sleepy as Princess Aurora every day.  Le sigh.

I wanted to share a few photos from the Collaborations project with you, but it felt wrong to make you believe I look anywhere near this serene as I sprawl on the couch creating this post for you now.  In a way the juxtaposition between these images and my appearance tonight is sort of what this blog is all about: bringing awareness to all of the ugliness that goes into making ballet look beautiful, like the calluses stuffed behind those pink satin pointe shoes we ballet dancers all love to hate.

To see my photo on the June page of our gorgeous Ballet Off Stage calendar, or to purchase one for your favorite dancer, head on over here.

photos by Cemal Ekin, styling by Vilia Putrius

collaborations

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After a long first week back in the studio, tomorrow marks FBP’s first public event of the season:  Collaborations.

Brainchild of FBP principle dancer, Vilia Putrius, this project combines Ms. Putrius’ impeccable aesthetic with the photographic talents of Cemal Ekin and an eclectic selection of the vast array of natural beauty Rhode Island has to offer.  Over the course of a year, twelve dancers from the company were selected and shot in various locations, each portraying a famous character from a major ballet.  The resulting images will be turned into a calendar for the coming new year.  I am so honored to have been included in this stunning series (I got to play Princess Aurora from The Sleeping Beauty for a day- dream come true!), and can hardly wait for the unveiling of the final prints at tomorrow night’s premiere.  In addition to a gallery-showing of the prints and live auction, the company will be holding open rehearsals of our newest works, inviting the public in for an exclusive sneak peek at what’s in store for November’s round of Up Close On Hope.  If you are in the Rhode Island area, do consider stopping by and checking out the collection.  For more information, read what photographer Cemal Ekin has to say about the process and his observed comparisons between visual and performing arts.  For tickets to the event, click here.

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photos by Jim Turner and Vilia Putrius

NYCB x The Coveteur

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As a long time fan of The Coveteur, a website that takes you inside the closets of today’s tastemakers and publishes the scoop on all of the latest designer collaborations, I practically jumped out of my dress when I noticed their feature on New York City Ballet‘s annual Fall Gala, which happens to be tonight.  Because I stalk several NYCB dancers on instagram, of course I had already heard about the company’s collaboration with Thom Browne, Carolina Hererra, Mary Katrantzou, and Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen (coordinated by NYCB board member and resident fashion insider, Sarah Jessica Parker).  But, being the stalker that I am, the idea of sneaking a peek behind-the-scenes before the costumes even hit the stage was impossible to resist!  Imagine how fun it would be to don an exclusively NYCB designer costume for the night?  Swoon.

Check out the designs for yourself here!

Read more about the project here.

All photos via The Coveteur

on set at the columbus

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After smacking Alex in the chest with my forearm for the fifth time, an angry breath escaped through my lips.  It’s difficult to piqué in menège through a tiny gap between your partner and a giant camera, on toes that haven’t smelled pointe shoes in nearly 4 months.

Being a ballet dancer certainly creates some pretty interesting opportunities outside of the studio, especially when you’ve recently decided to say ‘yes’ to everything and you’re also fairly strapped for cash.  It turns out there’s a real market out there for bunheads in need of sporadic work.  This weekend’s odd job du jour had me filming a mock Gatorade commercial in a rather dingy- but potentially quite lovely- old theater on the West end of Providence called The Columbus.  The space is currently a live music venue, but this Sunday it played the role of “studio space” to Alex and I, as we demonstrated the underrated athleticism of ballet.

Boston-based Old Harbor Production Company reached out to FBP about hiring 2 dancers for a promotional project comparing a basketball practice to a ballet rehearsal.  The finished product will parallel a “day in the life” of the basketballer and the ballerina (myself), showcasing the surprising similarities between the two, both in endurance and elegance.  While I must say I felt a bit strange walking into the theater over and over with a big shiny lens in my face, and I will never be able to un-see my feet doing an entrechat quatre up close and in slow motion, downing a bottle of Gatorade dripping in spritzed-on sweat for the commercial’s climax was a bit of an iconic, surreal, PINCH ME moment and I won’t soon forget it.

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september in the creative capital

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“To say the word Romanticism is to say modern art- that is, intimacy, spirituality, color, aspiration towards the infinite, all expressed by every means available to the arts.”  -Charles Baudelaire

Last week a few of the dancers and I attended a campaign party to show our interest in all of the elections going on right now, and to emphasize the importance of supporting art, even in our (very) little corner of the world.  There are speculators out there who claim that ballet is dying.  That it is too old, unapproachable, and unchanging to keep up with today’s faster-than-ever-paced society.  But I challenge them.  I challenge them to look past these stereotypes that they latch onto for argument’s sake and to take another look at ballet.  It is not misguided, it is misunderstood.  With new works being created every day and young choreographers emerging as if overnight (hi, Justin Peck), ballet keeps up a rate of fresh production to rival some of the world’s leading musical and visual artists.  Through time and space, ballet continues to reinvent itself, with hundreds of companies across the globe performing modern, contemporary, and neoclassic works alongside their classical repertoire, and doing it with style.  The level of skill, strength, and intelligence required for dancing such a wide range of movements with this high standard of technique is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  Perhaps, I am suggesting, it is simply because the public is not informed of this constant creation, that ballet does not receive the credit it is due.

Today I met a man in line at the supermarket.  He was African, with a thick accent, and a vibrancy for life that suggested he had only recently moved to the US and was not yet intimately aware of its quickly reproaching society.  He told me he liked my outfit, and asked what I called the style of skirt I was wearing.  I responded “A-line” and my insides fluttered a bit when I noticed him repeating it to himself, filing away my words into an important storage section of his brain;  his inquiry was genuine, his enthusiasm contagious.  He showed me the hydrangeas he’d selected for his wife, and continued to ask me about myself, Was I a student? -no- A ballet dancer?!  How wonderful! I simply must write down the name of my company so that he can see a show.  I scribbled Festival Ballet Providence and some info onto his receipt and he was on his way, smiling as he waved goodbye.  His interest was honest, and it left me realizing how many times I’ve had this exact interaction, only with a considerable lack of excitement from the inquiring party.  Then I thought about how this man might actually look into FBP and show up to a performance, and how happy it might make he and his wife.

I would like the public to consider ballet the way this man did.  Consider it as a higher form of entertainment.  Consider what ballet could teach you or your children.  Consider how it could make you feel.  Consider how ballet could inspire you, enrich or pleasantly bemuse you.  Consider the many ways in which ballet in all its diversity is relevant to the art scene; past, present, and future.  Consider how much you really know about ballet.  Now is the time to encourage this renaissance, and as dancers we are the messengers of this movement.  Who’s with me?

all photos by STB

ballet with a bend

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Today is the day!  I’m very excited to finally share the music video for The Bynar’s Time vs. Money.  We worked so hard to create this, and I think the final product tells that story itself.  I am beyond proud to have been a part of this project, and hope you all enjoy watching.

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Infamous street artist, JR (you know, the one responsible for the NYCB installations at the Koch Theater), is at it again.  This time, the French artist known for his large-scale black and white images flyposted around the streets of Paris, brings us Bird Ballerina.  In this wheatpaper piece, a ballerina sits behind the “bars” of nine shipping containers in the Port Le Havre in France.  The resulting image is hauntingly beautiful, an unmistakable sadness exuding from the caged ballerina who patiently awaits her release.BirdBallerina_01 BirdBallerina_02 BirdBallerina_03 BirdBallerina_04

via Honestly WTF

music into movement

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One of the greatest struggles of working in a small ballet company with a very limited budget is our inability to afford a live pianist.  And I don’t just say this because I enjoy live music- having a pianist play specifically for your class is an unfamiliar luxury I took advantage of during all of those summer intensives spent away from home, never realizing just how beneficial it really was.  In my recent teaching endeavors, I’ve noticed that so many young dancers today tend to ignore the rhythm that is navigating them through space.  When someone is playing live- on the spot- with songs curated explicitly for the class currently being danced, it promotes a precise musicality, encouraging dancers to really listen to the music that’s guiding them, instead of just writing it off as a sound that comes from a machine which says “Go”.  The right pianist can feed the dancers with an external energy, sweeping the room up into their thick cloud of musical ardor.  In these instances, the music becomes much more than a simple accompaniment;  It’s a sharing of sound, time, and space.  Of course, the next best thing to having a live pianist on hand is a meticulously crafted recording, created by a musician whose great love for music intensifies even greater when he sees it come to life through movement.  Enter Christopher Ferris.

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Mr. Ferris is a business consultant by day, but his true passion lies in providing music for ballet classes, particularly those at the Evergreen City Ballet (ECB), where he spends most of his time behind the keys.  Chris’ specialties in composing and improvising are perhaps what make him so well-suited for playing piano for ballet.  “His style is wonderfully contemporary, and he seems to find a match to all the different combinations that we do. He knows when to be upbeat and happy; he knows when to throw in a little whimsy, or a soulful adagio, which is great”, former principal dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), and current ECB School Principal, Louise Nadeau, certainly recognizes Mr. Ferris’ incredible talent.  “On a practical standpoint, his tempos are always clear and precise, which is fantastic for all of us,” Ms. Nadeau adds, assuring any skeptics that Chris’ music is not only unique in its style, but it’s logical, too.

Chris’ accuracy in his interpretation of a ballet class seems to stem from a true understanding and appreciation for both art forms, and how beautifully the two intertwine.  In an email correspondence between the two of us, I pointed out that while much of my family is musically gifted, I am the only dancer.  Mr. Ferris helped me realized just how similar my family and I really are on an artistic level.  “I think that being a dancer is very much related to being a musician – in a few but not all ways. Playing an instrument is definitely a physical experience; both require charging the body with rhythmic commands, fine motor actions that combine refined technique and musicality/artistry to whatever degree is possible from an individual’s talents. While there aren’t really analogs for things like sight-reading for musicians (which I’m not very good at) or maybe snap memorization of combinations for dancers (which always amazes me), at the very least there are some similarities. Really talented dancers can use their bodies to express music like an instrument, or create visual music.”  What an articulate insight into the coherence of music and dance.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to share these gifts with the entire dance community?

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Now here’s where you come in.  Chris is working hard to record an original CD, his efforts being closely monitored by former PNB Soloist and current ECB Artistic Director, Kevin Kaiser, to make sure each track is just right for a ballet class.  All he needs now is your support on his Kickstarter campaign to get things moving.  Even a pledge of just $1 will help with this brilliant project, as we attempt to bring a new, interesting, and most importantly different sound to ballet class.  Some of the key elements Chris would like to bring to this CD include clear introductions, a good variety of combinations, reliable and appropriate tempos, longer running times (which means fewer trips back to the player and combinations that move straight on to the other side!), and full balances and stretch music on the end of each track.  Artistic Director Kevin Kaiser notes, “I’ve had artistic directors from around the country come in and teach our summer intensive; I’ve had principal dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the feedback I get is amazing – following the class – they all feel the same way the that I do, and that is that [Chris] brings such a high level of energy to the class and has that mood to be able to fulfill the steps, and it’s very nice to have a pianist like that within our organization.”  Well, that’s it- I’m sold on Ferris!  Are you?

To listen to Chris’ jazzy, syncopated and fun demo CD, click here.

To pledge to his Kickstarter campaign, click here.

To learn more about Chris, click here.

 

photos by Tim Aguero