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The life of a twenty-first century ballerina often means jumping from one persona to the next, out of pointe shoes and into socks, tattered technique shoes, bare feet and bruises. For three hours we are bunheaded and floating, while the next three have us rolling through the floor, hair and hips flying loose and low.

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Of course, this can wreak havoc on the structure of the ever-important feet and ankles, dramatic shifts in positioning and pressure causing all kinds of inflammation, irritation, and injury. Our February program jumps from balletic Serenade to apocalyptic Smoke & Mirrors and creature-like Coma, and all I can say is THANK YOU, SHOCKS.

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With compression in the arch and ankle, the Performance Shocks from Apolla are saving my feet. They hug just the right areas to provide support and protection, while still allowing the toes to shape and the heel to ground into the floor.

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Before a long day in pointe shoes, (my feet and) I love taking barre in my Apolla’s. They give me the perfect lift without being restricting or bulky. Ah, can a person truly love a pair of socks, you ask? I’ve rambled on and on about all of their many benefits, but for now let’s check out some close up glam shots and find out how well they really perform…

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Oooooh, aaahhhhh. Who knew a pair of socks could make me feel some kinda way? If you’re looking for a date this Valentine’s Day, might I recommend a fresh pair of Performance Shocks? Just kidding…kind of.

In you’re interested, Apolla is offering a discount to STB readers! Use the code SETTING*THE*BARRE19 for 10% off at checkout.

All photos by Jenay Evans for STB.

waltzing

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Performing a Balanchine ballet always provokes a certain sense of reverence. Iconic costumes, powerful scores, distinct steps.

I wrote a bit about the history of Balanchine’s Serenade on the FBP Blog, but rehearsing reveals so much more than research. How could I have known that the dramatic final movement, The Elegy, would be so cathartic? How could I have imagined the feeling of running in “late” as the Waltz Girl, or expected to embrace the quiet ceremony of taking my place among a crowd of strong, blue-clad women? This strange, wonderful job of mine surprises me every week.

I’ve heard it said that when you see a Balanchine ballet set to a Tchaikovsky score, you hear the music differently. He makes you hear it differently. Serenade seems like an ode to Tchaikovsky’s grand arrangement; the movement forms peaks and valleys, twirling up wind as the strings gather and letting ladies soar in the release.

Serenade was the first ballet Balanchine created in the United States. February 15th will mark the first performance of this legendary ballet in Rhode Island. We are making history, people! So can I get a witness?

for tickets.

r e f l e c t

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As fate would have it, in the midst of “Mirrors” I’m finding myself in an especially major bout of reflection. The dig is deep these days, my insides are hollowing themselves out, seeping through every pore for my observation. But the tricky thing about reflections is they are just an echo of the inside, just an impression, a shadow of the space taken up by the real thing. Much like a memory…

Our brains are incredibly complex gizmos, engineered with railways of apt tissue to trigger every thought, idea, action, and response. So much of this organ dedicates itself to function, learning, tackling new tasks. But one special little part of the brain is made specially for hanging on. Tucking away moments, years, entire lifetimes in its dark, cozy corner.

The problem with this system is the interruption from the heart, who also has a habit of holding on. Only the heart isn’t quite as adept at sorting as the brain. It keeps what it likes- what feels good. It hangs on to its favorite image and lets the rest slip away with the wind of time.

As my twenty-seventh (!) birthday approaches, I am making more time to reflect. Space to bring my head and my heart together and remold the memories. It’s coming up in the miles I’m walking, the nostalgic songs I’m studying, the journal I’m filling. In the studio, I’m pouring myself into the rehearsal process, letting it take me into those raw places where the subconscious and the soul connect and find physical movement that shines out through my chest. I’m remembering, reflecting, and refracting. Rebuilding, renewing, reawakening.

return to coma

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It’s almost the start of week 2 back in the studio and friends, I am sore. Physically aching head to toe, but bursting with warm fuzzies deep in my chest, just left of center. Every time my heart pumps I swear it’s in time with Arvö Part’s hypnotic score. That’s right, Coma returns this winter, and I am feeling every single one of the feels.

I suppose it’s strange to feel such joy in working on such a truly sad piece. But many of my most profound artistic experiences have been tied up in tears. From Moonlight to Micaela, darkness has summoned some stellar inner light. And Coma has certainly inspired me before…

So here are some past Coma ramblings, if you’re interested.

viktorisms.

strange comfort.

swinging.

the space between.

two thousand nineteen

As a lover of lists, I look forward to my once-yearly grand tally of each revolution round the sun. 2018 was a year of appreciating the struggle. And there was quite a bit. But there were also HIGH highs! Engagement! House! Book!

Just a few hours away from a brand new year, though, I can’t help but look ahead with the fear-excitement of a planner who loves clean slates and a chance to draw the most perfect picture.

Alas, the perfect picture is never really made, is it? We always regret that decision to dot our i’s with a heart in middle school, we spend hours sketching addresses for save-the-dates only to be slightly disappointed…or is that just me? Maybe this year I can not only embrace the struggle, but also welcome the harvest, whatever it may be.

Not to be mistaken for forced joy at life’s less-than-overjoying moments, welcoming the harvest means cooking with what you’ve got, even if it’s not your favorite veggies. This is not to say “make lemonade out of lemons”, because sometimes we just can’t. And that’s okay. Welcoming the harvest is about acknowledging when things don’t go exactly to plan, and then noticing that the earth has not stopped turning. Every crop is a lesson, an opportunity to learn. Welcoming the harvest is the decision to take it.

I’ve planted some major seeds in 2018. Let’s see how they bloom.

restful

a restful moment in january.

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a red ruby and a soaring american on a 26th birthday in february.

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too much on my plate in march.

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a mini-tour to new hampshire and a swim on stage in april.

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another fairytale princess in may.

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the trip of a lifetime and an engagement in june.

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sword-fighting pirates and reminiscing on italian adventures in july.

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dress shopping in august.

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first home purchasing in september(!!!)

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bostonian adventuring in october.

cape cod nutcrackering and book publishing (!) in november.

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a homemade stocking, two dancing queens, and so much good boo time in december.

 

Thank you for sharing this little corner of webspace with me. It has been a good eight (GASP!) years.

winter from the wings

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I’ll never tire of saying that…and it seems I’ll never outgrow that magical feeling backstage at PPAC at the end of December. Nineteen years of Nutcracker on the PPAC stage have turned it into something of a second home- a holiday home- for me. Sharing that bubbly backstage feeling with all of the sweet children in the cast takes me right back to my own childhood Nutcracker experience…stepping out onto the big stage, seeing the paper-white snowflakes close Act I, visiting the Land of Sweets from the Silberhaus steps of the Party Scene just halved and resting Stage Left.

This year I take the stage in the crowns of queens. Under the lights I hear words of affirmation in the wings. I return to my dressing room to treats and smiles from my fellow ballerinas. Then, in a flash of a weary week, it’s all over. Nutcracker works its magic into our tiny ballet family, the Company that has shifted and changed so much this year suddenly feels warm, fuzzy, related. We are for each other. We are special.

And together we move forward into a new year, a new bill, a new challenge for this steadfast little family of ours. 2019 here we come.

 

photos by Brenna DiFrancesco.

that’s a wrap

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Two weeks from today marks opening night of Nutcracker and the first official day of winter. But dancers know Nutcracker season is already in full swing, and New Englanders (or other cold-weather-dwellers) know winter has indeed arrived.

Early sunsets and extended studio hours make for chilly ballerinas. Luckily, my absolute favorite dancewear brand, RubiaWear, has us covered. Literally. Hehe.

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I firmly believe everything Ashley Ellis touches turns to gold. The RubiaWear creator and Boston Ballet principal dancer has been growing her collection of ultra-soft and flattering warm ups (which began as a range of legwarmers), and I am all about it. I’ve waxed poetic on the perfection of Rubia legwarmers in the past, but have I introduced you to the Cora wrap?

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Made from the softest fabric in a rainbow of color options, the Cora is cut to the perfect long-enough-to-warm-you-up but short-enough-to-keep-things-light way that Ashley’s designs seem to nail every time. The cozy wrap multitasks as much as its maker, lending itself to a whole gamut of various functions. While I tend to wear it doubled up around my hips, I’ve also been known to circle it around my neck when my shoulders feel stiff, or blanket it over my knees backstage.

Versatility, coziness, and a ballerina-run business. Win, win, win, as they say.

Curious about Cora? Check out my chat with Ashley here and browse the full RubiaWear line here.