nutcracker magic

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It felt coincidental when the first snowfall of the season came on our last long Saturday of rehearsals at the studio, little white flurries beckoning from the high windows, guiding us giddily into theater week…

It felt serendipitous when a fresh blanket fell in the wee hours of the morning just before our first Discover Dance performance, returning the world to wonderland…

But it felt utterly and undeniably magical when sparkling white flakes greeted me at the stage door after opening night, making their dizzying way down through the dark downtown sky.

Everything about the stage door at the Providence Performing Arts Center is nostalgic for me. Eight-year-old Kirsten instinctively emerged from the theater out into snowy December, half-mittened hands in the air and boots circling one around the other below. I looked up into the swirling night and felt a peaceful joy that can only be described as Christmas bliss.

Boy, what the adrenaline of opening night Sugarplum and little snowfall will do to a girl.

 

an article about my many Nutcrackers, here.

a review of last night, below…

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first photo by Cameron Morgan.

sugar and spice and snow and dew

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This weekend marks my eighteenth year performing in Festival Ballet Providence’s The Nutcracker. That’s right, folks. My Nutcracker career will officially be a legal adult with voting rights by Sunday evening. I am equal parts giddy and flabbergasted. Where the heck did the time go?

The most remarkable thing about this 18-year marker, I think, is the fact that after hundreds of Nutcrackers, there is still something new; This year I will be dancing the role of Snow Queen for the very first time. Snow pas has always been a favorite of mine…the triumphant horns, the imminence of spritely snowflakes, the sweeping lifts. Misha likes to describe the pas de deux like the beginning of a snow storm, little pockets of icy air chasing each other into swirls. A is the wind and I am swept up in him, spreading diamonds over the stage with my crystal wake. Ah, to be Queen of the Snow…

Of course I am also honored and excited to manifest visions of Sugarplums and whirling Dew Drops once again! If you find yourself in Providence this weekend, you can find tickets here.

 

photos by Emma Margulies.

the first snow

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There’s something about the first snow of the season that makes the world feel calmer. Skeleton trees don fluffy coats, icy rooftops shimmer, and the most wonderful- and busiest!- time of the year gets just a bit quieter, if only for one night. We had our first snow here in Providence this past weekend and ah, I am feeling the Nutcracker vibes. Of course, with frozen precipitation come cooler temperatures, making chilly bodies tougher to warm…

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If the cold weather wasn’t enough to make my muscles tighten, Sugarplum, Dew Drop, and Snow Queen will surely finish the job. I think I actually spend half of my Nutcracker run on my left leg, mid-pirouette. By the end of the day, these calves are BURNING. Thank goodness I have A always there to lift me up when my legs give out! And thank goodness my favorite leg warmers come in an adorable child’s size, perfect for warming those tired calves of mine.

Yup, these are actually RubiaWear “Rubita” leg warmers, and they are the cutest. Can you believe there are bunheads with legs the size of my calves? The thought is so precious I couldn’t even type it without scrunching up my face in a silent awwwww!

Anyway, these little miniatures are going to be in heavy rotation this winter. I also love wearing something made by the genuinely lovely, talented, badass boss lady, Ashley Ellis! If you want to warm up this winter and support smart ladies and their business endeavors, check out the rest of the (constantly changing!) RubiaWear collection here.

a premiere in which i did not touch the ground

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This weekend A and I danced our first Christopher Wheeldon ballet. Well, part of it anyway…

We (rather unexpectedly) performed the pas de deux section of Wheeldon’s The American, a lovely ballet set to Dvorak’s triumphant score of the same name. The Company will perform the full ballet as part of our February mainstage, but this weekend PVD got a taste of what’s to come in the Black Box Theater. I’ve been describing this little ditty as 6.5 minutes of being either off your leg or in the air. Poor A never gets to let go of me. But somehow we made it through! Relatively smoothly! A triumph. And now for my own enjoyment, but if you care to see, a rehearsal code run down of one of the hardest, sweetest, most frustratingly beautiful pas de deuxs we’ve done to date:

that hard promenade, the first backwards lift, the lift that kills your arms, the nervous arabesque, the backpack press, the cartwheel, the tricky promenade, the split and scoot, the getting up, the run around, the impossible lift, the weirdly difficult fouetté + fall, the traveling baby lift, the birdy, the slow roll, the floor, the spiritual moment, the walk-walk, the run around, the flip lift, the swizzle, A’s least favorite lift, the drop, the rock, the running, the big lift, the craddle lifts, the backwards cartwheel, the second tricky promenade, the hip killers, the second swizzle, the drapey lift, the last backwards lift, the slow floaty pirouette, the bourrées, the end.

goodbye broom

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Flying coven.

Plunging fall.

Morning birds.

Hopscotch pumpkins.

Broken witch.

Enchanted broom.

Sweep, sweep, sweep.

Chop, chop, stop.

Growing fondness.

Scheming neighbors.

Cultish fervor.

Human fire.

Ghostly woods.

Packed bags.

White paint.

Family dinner.

Soaring tango.

Happily Ever After.

 

photos of Saturday night’s “Widow’s Broom” by Ty Parmenter.

 

a hat trick

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Eight years ago I was seventeen. It was a typical Tuesday. My mom got a phone call.

“Where is Kirsten?,” the familiar voice of the studio registrar wondered.

“Uh, at school?,” my mom replied, the peculiarity of the inquiry making her question the simple fact herself.

“Well when you pick her up today, don’t take her to class at the studio. Take her straight to the theater. She’s in ‘The Widow’s Broom’.” The show was in 3 days.

One of the company dancers was mourning a sudden death in the family, and so as the world of professional ballet goes, I was thrust into her role. An hour in the tight hallway space of The Vets backstage for me to put my body into a witch’s. All that was left was to get my mind there.

Not yet a legal adult but on the cusp of my career, I embraced the challenge completely. I had danced Viktor’s eccentric choreography before. Not often, but enough to know it takes a solid week of repetition for your muscles to feel somewhat normal in the steps. After learning the show, I had 48 hours to prepare. So I rehearsed in my head, all throughout the day. I brushed my teeth to the rhythm of the coven’s twists. I made my bed in sweeping motions, steadying the invisible broom beneath my hips. My feet tapped out the formations in miniature as the rest of me pretended to pay attention in Calculus.

Then came the transitions. “The Widow’s Broom” is a special ballet in that all of the sets are controlled by the dancers. Every scene change, magic trick, and optical allusion is created by the Company itself. Cues, patterns, pace- these things were all part of my training as a dancer, but never in relation to something other than my body. The pressure was on.

The day of the show, there was a shortage of hats. During my transitions, I was meant to be dressed like a villager (a boy villager, by the way, because all of the ladies’ costumes were in use), to blend in with the rest of the ballet. The Artistic Director looked at me standing in the Wardrobe Room before him in a baggy vest and brown balloon shorts. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. The face I would soon grow to adore: Misha with a new idea. He swiped the hat off his own head- a signature black Kangol newsboy- and smacked it down onto mine, tugging it eagerly over my bun. He stood back and looked at me with stars in his eyes. Now I knew I was not in this alone. We were pulling off this particular trick together.

scattered

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“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” they said. “Time management is my jam!”, I boasted in response. Oh my sweet friends, time management skills…

Pumpkins, witches, press releases, and midterms. Out of state reviews, at home interviews. Rehearsals and lack thereof. Community Land Trust events, a surprise Fireball appearance. Vegan transitioning, city strolling, gift shopping for a soon-to-be5-year-old. Dish washing, pointe shoe prepping, tea date catch ups, Swan Point walks. Show consolidation, damage control; busy messy life. Plans, schedules, routines, lists. Music to my ears.

Most days are spent navigating the quirky soundscape of Aleksandra Vrebalov’s beautiful score, picking apart Viktor’s intricate choreography and placing pieces into my body parts. I smooth them in with a few hundred repetitions. I am a mother in the morning, a widow when the lights darken. Buzzing in the kitchen, lonely in my rocker.

As you can see by the scattered nature of this post, it’s been a busy few weeks. I promise, I’ve been doing a lot of writing! Just not here. If you’d like to see, here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to…

My review of New York City Ballet‘s Here/Now Program celebrating contemporary choreographers, up now on The Wonderful World of Dance.

My interview with beloved children’s book author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg (The Polar Express, Jumanji)– conducted entirely through snail mail- now on Festival Ballet Providence’s blog.

A press release for our first main stage performance, The Widow’s Broom, up on several different media sites, but here it is on Broadway World.

My interview with Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee (of Wicked, Sweeney Todd, and Saturday Night Live) for Festival Ballet Providence’s blog.

 

photo by Jacob Hoover.