breathed into being

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Setting sail from one sweet port to the next. Finding an upturned lip in the darkened threads of a couch. Seeing stripes in the reflection of a metallic basin. Counting days, hours, minutes…then losing track of everything and anything at all.

Dancing and romancing, singing tragedies without words. Becoming someone else for an evening, savoring their spark, pushing away their sorrow. Remembering that acting can intercept with reality and- even when you don’t intend it- life informs your art.

Noticing the frayed string of a tiny tea bag. Imagining the one-sided conversation heard by strangers in the park all the way on the other end of the telephone. Imagining the way his eyes flicker when he’s saying something serious. At night, wrapping myself in the weight of us; In the daytime, walking light as air.

All of these things can be used. Taken, molded, changed, wrapped around a different character, and breathed into being on stage. And just as easily, when the time comes and the final curtain calls, they unwrap from around your limbs and dissolve into memories. A beautiful catalogue to return to from the next life.

“I’ve never been good at goodbyes.” So darling, I’ll see you soon.

autumnal things

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dying chlorophyll confetti

flying, fertilized, and ready

giving wind its autumn sound

painting time upon the ground

 

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

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.

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.