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.

some strange magic

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Tchaikovsky’s most famous holiday score has swiftly replaced the vivacious one which filled my fall.  We’ve plunged so steadfast into Nutcracker preparations, it’s almost as if Up Close On Hope didn’t happen!

But it did.  I stood in the wings as the lights lost their lume and the theater went black.  I felt the corps step silently into their wheel as those two impish notes carried Elyse’s playful chant back to us all, uh oh…

I attempted to raise my heart rate in preparation of the cardio to come.  I hopped from one foot to the other, letting my achilles feel their way around satin shoes.  I released all the air from my lungs, filled them again, and counted four eights.  I thought about all of the things that needed thinking, and then I forgot them all.

My face smiled without cheek wiggles, my arabesque sailed around under me.  I felt comfortable, and confident, challenged and true.  I let my port de bras fly and my feet sing along.  Post-perfornabce, by way of some strange magic, I managed to remember all of the good things I’d done, and forgot all the bad.  But I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised- there is “some strange magic” in all of Mr. B’s ballets.

the colour in anything

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To burn like cedar, I request another dream, I need a forest fire…

When the curtain rose and James Blake’s echoey beats leaked out, I became aware of every sense.  Jet-lagged as I was, my eyes widened, ears hallowed, body tilted forward- quite literally I sat on the edge of my red velvet seat.

The dancers were lined up and still. Clad in that quintessential, elementary French blue, they looked more like paper dolls than actual humans, each more perfectly cut than the next.  At the snare’s first kick, in unison they ticked a ronde de jambe to B+ and snapped up to elongé.  It was unmistakable Serenadian goodness, a current choreographic genius’s nod to old world classicism.

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The four lines moved separately from one another, but in decided consonance, each painting its own layer of the music.  Forsythe’s choreography braided steps together effortlessly, showcasing technique and timing in a celebration of 21st century dance.  Movements were bright and loud, but never boastful.  The ladies tilted hips and flexed hands between turned-in footwork while the men maintained Blake’s syncopated baseline with precise profiles and brisés on the upbeat.

The six movements which followed were pure balletomane bliss.  Much like the soulful, poetic electronica, Forsythe’s neo-classical choreography ranged from spritely to wrenching.  A la Jerome Robbins, much of the ballet felt like it was being danced by the dancers for each other, rather than for the audience.  Parts of it looked like the most fun anyone could have on stage, ever.  Others were magnificently tender.  Blame it on the lack of sleep if you will, but a haunting pas de deux between Léonore Baulac and François Alu nearly brought me to tears.

And how I told you what I’d do, if one day I woke and couldn’t see the colour in anything…

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What an important piece of ballet history.  Sitting in Le Palais Garnier (dream come true) witnessing all of this was an unforgettable night in my development as an artist and spectator.  There is so much more of this French travel I want to share with you, all in good time…
I noticed I can still ghost the streets
I noticed just how slow the killer bee’s wings beat
And how wonderful, how wonderful
How wonderful you are…
lyrics by James Blake.

ladies who l u n c h

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On Saturday M gave me my first taste of Olga’s Cup and Saucer.  I was blown away by the extensive menu and peaceful garden outside, but a warm May morning and a secret spot by the river beckoned (as they do).  So we ordered brown bag breakfasts and went dockside.  Of course this meant returning to experience the outdoor dining area as soon as possible was nonnegotiable…

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It was quite serendipitous, then, when Duck & Bunny‘s Monday hours (or rather, lack thereof) called for a quick change of location for the tea/bridal party duty date my mother and I had planned.  We scooted from Fox Point to Point Street in search of fresh salads and a quiet patio.  From one bunny to another!

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I’m happy to report that our food completely lived up to the expectations set by my wandering eyes a few days prior (I had the teriyaki salmon salad, my mom had the chicken caesar), and the sun drenched patio was every bit as serene as I had hoped it would be.  With vibrant basil and scallion plants thriving from banks all around us, I had to keep reminding myself we were still in downtown Providence.

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Bravo, Olga.  I raise my English breakfast-filled cup (+ saucer) to you.