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.

 

elements

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There are few more hallowed grounds in the great cavernous world of dance than those woodsy ones that comprise Jacob’s Pillow. Being relatively quaint in composition (that is, when compared to say, the gilded curtains at Palais Garnier or even our own fabergé egg in Providence), is no accidental affair; The space at Jacob’s Pillow invokes an unbridled celebration of marriage between movement and nature. I mean, the celestial “pillow” itself is an oversized rock, so, there you have it. Stages unencumbered by adornment, curtains, walls…

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Could any such space appear more divinely designed for Louisa Chapman’s “The Elements”? On Saturday afternoon the sun was shining, the sky showing off a perfect milky blue, and the wind was so gracious as to help the trees do some dancing of their own. From between branches that same wind whirled down around our faces as we emulated flocking birds, an invisible current, congested leaves, and finally ourselves, gently blown aback by the sweet scent of summer. This feels like something I should further describe the feeling of, but I already have: simply the perfect marriage of movement and nature.

 

 

second photo by Michael Collins.

a dream is a wish your heart makes

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“Enjoy it,” they said, “Have fun. Finish every movement. Be in the moment. Be present. Be proud.” So I did. And I was.

And I’m still reveling in the magic of this dream coming true…

{two more chances to catch FBP in Winthrop Corey’s Cinderella}

all photos by Brenna DiFrancesco.

a few highlights

Before 2017 arrives and Nutcracker becomes utterly irrelevant for 11 months…

a rose gold makeoverimg_8177-2…because this tutu was always a bit more sugar than plum.

an upside down viewimg_8219…because it was taken before Thursday night’s post-school-show dress rehearsal, and it perfectly reflected my loopy feelings.

this dew drop momentfullsizerender-116…because it was captured by my best friend from behind the backdrop and I’m still trying to figure out how this became my life.

other highlights…

an early morning rhode show interview.

the boston globe backstage.

our adaptive dancers make national news.

a jazzy little thanks.

prepared

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I’m a planner.  Routines, lists, schedules…my piety is in preparation.  But some things cannot be predicted.

This year’s was by far the most dramatic Nutcracker of all my seventeen.  Through a partner swap, stolen costumes, and an injured principal pulled from the production the evening before, I found myself performing Sugar Plum Fairy with my best friend as Cavalier on opening night.  My life had suddenly become a cheesy Hallmark Channel special, but with actual dreams coming true.

No amount of planning could have prepared me for those 14 glorious minutes on stage, or for my devastation the following morning: Halfway through warm up I learned that the dear woman who gave me my first barre had just died.  Unable to finish class, I sloppily collected my things from the stage and fought through tears toward my dressing room, only to be stopped by my sweet partner.  He had awoken with a seized back and would be unable to perform Grand Pas in our scheduled matineeé that day.  Twenty of my friends and family were already gathering in the velvet-softened house; I sat in the light of my glowing mirror and cried.  I wept for Miss Ann, for the theatre whispering her name through its walls, and the stolen costumes crafted by her skilled hands.  I cried out exhausted, heaving breaths for the little girl who loves lists and the abrupt destruction of a preparation so righteously designed.  I sobbed, I crumbled, and then I stopped.  I began the meditative making up of my face, my hair, my body.  I found solace in this pre-show ritual.  I found comfort in knowing that dancers around the world were doing the exact same thing at that very moment.  I took a deep breath, and I prepared.

The next day, A’s back had improved significantly, and we performed Grand Pas for a sold out house.  Yes!  For the first time in my professional career with this company, all 3000 seats at PPAC were filled with bow-adorned children and the tired grown up arms on which they pulled.  Little voices asked for explanations, and equally excited wiser voices answered back.  As we took our bows at the end of curtain call, a roar was felt- not heard.  I sensed a closing in as the audience took to their feet, shortening the distance between stage and house.  In that cavernous space so filled with joy and appreciation was a warmth I’m sure will not soon leave me.  I’m learning, slowly, that the best preparation is a conscious opening of one’s self to the unexpected nature of life.  The reward is in the acceptance.

 

photo by Jacob Hoover.

dew it

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In the 17 years of Nutcrackering I mentioned previously, the addition of new roles to dance has naturally slowed over time.  From the fiery school times of annual auditions and casting letters, each winter bringing a brand new experience- angel, candy doll, party girl, mouse-attendant-trepak-maid- to the Junior Company track- Clara, snow & flower corps- to the company years- a bevy of divertissements- the progression has been much like a quarter spun on a table: at first so quick you can hardly recognize it, then gradually settling into a comforting rhythm.  With a few exceptions over the past 7 company years (seeing my name in the Spanish rehearsals was a true- and at first unwelcome- shock!), my Nutcracker roles have felt fairly familiar for some time.  This year that changed.

I’ve been plucked from the party scene entirely (the ‘party girl’ child in me weeps for this), and doled a brand new role in exchange for the many diverts I once danced: Dew Drop.  While I have done the Waltz of the Flowers more times than I’ll attempt to count, never have I experienced the iconic scene from the sparkling pink tutu of the Dew Drop.  Heck, never have I even worn a real pink tutu on stage (!).

In our version, the Dew Drop is dramatic, but spritely, melodious yet quick.  I’m visualizing a drop of evening dew descending from its nap on a flower petal.  She scurries down toward the end of the petal, then slowly stretches over the edge, allowing just half of her to dangle as she grips on to her fluffy bed.  Once all of her bitty body has pooled, she drops down, flying through the air too quickly to be seen.  But her splash seems to be everywhere.  The Dew Drop is felt all over, but never truly seen.  Just as she catches your eye, her plummet begins and she’s gone.  She’s a sparkling tinker, more of a reflection of the flowers she splashes amongst than a form of her own.  And she is all to pleased to be it.

If I can emulate physically even a fraction of what I’m visualizing, I will be happy.  Oh, and nailing all those fouettés would be nice, too.

 

photo by Devin Alberda.