moving me

IMG_7312This bitter earth
Well, what a fruit it bearsIMG_7314What good is love
Mmh, that no one shares?IMG_7313 2And if my life is like the dust
Ooh, that hides the glow of a roseIMG_7317What good am I?
Heaven only knowsIMG_7311Oh, this bitter earth
Yes, can it be so cold?IMG_7315Today you’re young
Too soon you’re oldIMG_7316But while a voice
Within me criesIMG_7319I’m sure someone
May answer my callIMG_7318And this bitter earth, ooh
May not, oh be so bitter after all

This Bitter Earth
Dinah Washington
Snapshots of rehearsal for the contemporary solo from Christopher Wheeldon’s Five Movements, Three Repeats (thanks, Aza), originally created on the incredible Fang-Yi Sheu at the Vail Dance Festival. One of those five movements is the ballet-famous “Bitter Earth Pas”. Have you seen it? It was made for Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle, and it is truly breathtaking. Each and every time I hear this song, I find myself teary in the wings tuning into the lyrics as I wait for the third repeat.
The piece began as a mutual “fan-girling” between Fang-Yi Sheu and Wendy Whelan (former principals of Martha Graham Dance and New York City Ballet, respectively). This mini-documentary (thanks, Melissa!) gives a nice background of the collaboration and creation process. What is it about watching masters watch other masters shape their craft? So inspiring.


If you’d like to be moved too, come and see this weightless work live at Up Close On Hope. Tickets here.

prokofiev’s waltz


Prokofiev is back in the studios, leading us through his most valtziest, schmaltziest of scores: Cinderella. Lately that classic melody has been filling every bit of free space in my head with its eerie brimstone canter. Daa-na, da na na na naaa…

This time around I’m doing a bit of a straddle across the ballet, dancing roles in every realm from corps to principal. That’s the beauty of an unranked company; you never know where the next rehearsal will take you! Wednesday morning I was in the back of the grand studio, a shivering Cinderella waltzing with her broom, then a Summer Fairy, attempting to personify the haze of balmy weather through a casual roll into plié. Next I was swept off into the ballroom by my handsome Prince Charming, only to be whisked into the wind as the ethereal Fairy Godmother. At night I returned to the studios a ball guest, giving in to the dark saccharine theme permeating the room.

The career of a ballet dancer hinges almost entirely on brain power. As much as it will impose upon your body (hello, angry calves), it will challenge your mind even further; “Can you learn an entire ballet- and keep it together!- in a week?” Ballet wants to know. “Can you portray an orphan child, a rich party goer, and several types of mythical creatures? Can you do it earnestly, genuinely, can you really?” Well, let’s find out.


photo by Samantha Wong.



This new season begins with collaboration.  A propitious brew of poet, choreographer, actor, dancer, observer, blended in pursuit of manifesting tragedy.  We’ve come together under a prolific score to leave some unique, yet to be determined impression on history’s most influential love story.  Creating and learning together, spoken expressions fusing with silent ones to produce some new form.

The past 2 weeks were certainly long ones, with Ilya Kozadayev in Providence creating an entire full length ballet in just 11 days.  Yeah.  We also welcomed 2 talented actors from Pawtucket’s Gamm Theatre as well as their director, Tony Estrella, into the studios to incorporate the element of dialogue into the show.  With words so beautiful, it’s only right to hear a few of them spoken by professionals.

Speaking of pretty words, as a lover of literature, I’ve been so appreciating hearing such expertly chosen arrangements articulated in the studios.  One of my favorites so far: “Come what sorrow can, it cannot countervail [this] exchange of joy.”  Ah, such lyrical beauty.  Here’s one that hits even closer to home: “Ladies that have their toes/ Ah, my mistresses!  Which of you all / Unplagued by corns will walk a bout with you.”  If you know my history with corns, well.

I’m quite looking forward to bringing this all to its decidedly unique fruition.  Stay tuned, friends.


photo via Festival Ballet Providence.

fauns and roses


We are headed to The Vets this week, and already I feel the familiar excitement of performance time.  Choreographer Dominic Walsh returns to Providence tonight, so it seems an appropriate time to look back on this interview from a few weeks ago, when he was in town setting his works.  In the clip, Dominic sheds some light on the inspiration behind his reinventions of Le Spectre de la Rose and Afternoon of a Faun.  Being able to learn about the birthplace of his creativity and take special note of those influences now, while preparing his pieces for the stage, has been so rewarding.  I especially love seeing the Rodin sculpture of Nijinsky that inspired the iconic first pose in his Faun.  Dominic makes such a poignant statement about creation:

“That time of The Ballets Russes was so exciting; They were breaking barriers.  There was this dedication to exploration and excellence.  So I think to reinvent these works is one way to contribute to the roles and responsibilities of the cultural institutions, and therefore our community.”


Very well said.  If you have a minute, check out his interview below.  The extended version is even juicier, if you’re interested.

For tickets.

Photo of FBP ladies in rehearsal for Dominic Walsh’s Afternoon of a Faun by Alex Lantz; Second photo featuring Ty and Marissa Parmenter in Dominic Walsh’s Afternoon of a Faun.

building the house

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I crank open the back door at the 4th Street entrance and creep into FBP into a day for which, it turns out, I am emotionally underprepared.  I’m standing in the green room, but black seems a more fitting color to describe the building on this particular Sunday.  The fluorescents have been cut, dark curtains hang over the windows and a single glowing boom reflects in the glassy marly floor like the moon on a midnight river.


Jaime kneels, blonde hair and ruffled black dress leeching her soaked face and body.  In the frame, silk trills of water weep down her mascara-inked cheeks as she stares blankly ahead.  What I see that the camera does not: the plastic pool in which Jaime has knelt to keep the floor from flooding, Viktor Plotnikov– watering can in hand- playing special effects manager, and Shaun Clark working his directional magic behind the lens.


Moments later I find myself in a living oil painting, a canvas of white linen dresses wrapping up a family portrait in the wake of tragedy.  The fifth sister missing, four girls and a grandmother’s audible tears stain the page and screen, while an oppressive mother’s mourning fumes in the foreground.  Behind her, we do not weep; we wail.


Undoubtedly one of the darkest days of my career, the preliminary filming for a new Plotnikov project has me anxious for the start of Season 38.  In the meantime, I will do my homework.

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Fifth photo by Alex Lantz, the rest by me.

in the studio: coma

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I thought it would be fun to share some rehearsal photos from Coma, a ballet I can’t seem to ever get enough of.  Last year when we did Boundless Plotnikov, I posted a rambling of “viktorisms”, little tidbits of interesting language used throughout the rehearsal process.  More of a random narrative for my own personal archives than an engaging article, the post proved to be pretty fun to write, so I thought I’d do another, Coma edition, to accompany these rehearsal shots.  A bit darker than last year’s rant, I’ll admit, but this is a state of comatose we’re talking about now…

“Get out of your skin.”  Viktor describes the entrapped feeling of an unchangeable disaster like being suffocated in a prison of your own body.  He often asks dancers to perform movements as if they are desperately trying to escape this invisible chokehold, scratching their skin down to the bones always driven by frustration and sadness, never anger.

Hollow bodies, we ghost from one point to another.  Like a “glitch” in a computer screen, you never quite see us until we’ve assembled, and even then we are “transparent”.

Empty metal cubes form a frame for the passage from our world to theirs.  They are tangled and bound up in it, unable to pass through, but with a bit or urgency I am staring straight into a line of grieving loved ones shrugging why.

A stark contrast, the third movement often references “our childhoods”, wiggling our toes up to the sky like babies who see their feet for the first time every time they catch a glimpse of the great toed-wonders.  We feel the sun on our faces in a dream we wish to never wake from.

Octopus, citizens and green cards, screaming through your hand, half crucifix/half wings, big mama, pulling on the reins, petrushka, and pinocchios.

For tickets to see Juxtapose.

all photos by Dylan Giles for Festival Ballet Providence.

exploring the darkness

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For the past few weeks, A and I have been “setting the mood” with creative lighting in the studios before our Moonlight rehearsals.  Remember when we danced under chandeliers?

Yesterday, our director suggested this artificial form of inspiration was merely a crutch, stifling the growth of our professional artistry.  So we kept the lights on.  And I fell apart.

The first run was rough.  I kept catching myself in the mirror, hating what I saw (dancer problems), and throwing off the piece.  While I should have been deepening my plié and relaxing into the floor, I was self-consciously tip-toeing around the studio robbing this gorgeous pas de deux of all emotional purpose.  So, after some encouragement to dig deep into my emotional history, we ran the piece once more.  And I fell apart.  In a good way.

Without the dim lighting helping me to feign dissolution, I was forced to crawl into one of the darkest corners of my mind.  Here, in this routinely averted fold of grey matter, I became so distracted with the weight of my despair that I forgot to notice what my body was doing until the last chord rang out and our run was over.  If that sounds dramatic, it’s because it was.

i’ll spend the time, you spend the money

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Hello, lovelies!  Sorry for abandoning you a bit, there.

After finishing Peter Pan, things slowed down only slightly.  I took one day of rest before heading back into the studio to begin work on a project with Alex and Viktor Plotnikov (hint: we are filming a music video!).  Viktor is one of my favorite choreographers, not only for the beautiful language of movement his body seems to have effortlessly created as if writing an entire alphabet of steps is just a natural thing to do, but for the coolness he exudes.  And I don’t mean the obvious type of cool that makes you jealous, or nervous, or perplexed.  I mean a cool so genuinely easy-going and real that you might not believe it comes from the same man whose brilliant mind made dying orchids dance and instruments inhabit their musicians.

Today Viktor started rehearsal by asking me how old I am.  After responding, “22”, my mind wandered back through the years, running its fingers through every strangely beautiful ballet of his creation I had ever danced.  I remembered Carmen, and Kinetic 2, and The Widow’s Broom, which I jumped into the day before the performance, back in my senior year of high school.  I remembered the time we worked together at Jacob’s Pillow, where he set a 3-movement piece in one week, on a 22-person company who had all just met for the first time that day.  I remembered Untitled, a solo in which I attempted to unwind a mentally unstable brain, and Blue Canary, where my classmates and I danced like hobos to a Russian song sang by an Italian man in (mostly) English.  Then my mind landed on Alone.  Set to the soothing strum of a guitar and dressed in simplicity, this piece remained hauntingly true to its title.  When I was 16 and performing Alone for YAGP, its eerie mood didn’t quite occur to me; At that age, dancing onstage in a biketard for a hundred strangers and a panel of stiff judges makes it a little tough to feel alone.  But when I think of this dance now, I realized how utterly fitting the sad appellation was.  It was my first time ever working solo with Viktor, 5 years that feel like 15 ago.

Tugging me from my memories, I hear Viktor say, “I know some people think it’s hell to do this, but I would live for 5,000 years if I could, just to see what will happen to us”, with a laugh.  I look up to see him beaming towards no one in particular, a smile as big as the cheshire cat spread across his face and his signature eye twinkle catching the mid-morning light.  I’m convinced that’s the secret to his creativity.  When children grow into teenagers and then young adults, every day that little twinkle behind their pupils fades a bit, only to be replaced by the cloudy onset of jaded realities.  Every day that special light where imagination sprouts becomes duller and duller as we begin to understand the limits that life presents.  But the difference with Viktor is, he never lost his sparkle.  He has the boundless imagination of a child backed by the brain of a smart, detail-oriented man, and that’s what makes him brilliant.

eating marley

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Today I fell in rehearsal.  I fell biiiig.  Don’t worry- it wasn’t the injury inducing kind of fall, just one of those cartoon-like, feet-out-from-under-you, now-the-world-is-sideways spills that announce themselves what seems like decades before you actually hit the ground, providing ample time to ready once’s self for impact.  With two photographers poised behind their lenses at the front of the studio and one of my favorite principles running rehearsal, it was my ego that bore the bluest bruise.  Mortifying!  But they say if you’re going to fall, fall big, right?  I think that’s what they say…or what someone has said once…at some point…or maybe it was me who said that…just now…but I digress…

Two July’s ago, I saw NYCB principle Ashley Bouder perform at the Nantucket Antheneum Dance Festival (also known as the time T and I met Sasha Radetsky and Benjamin Millepied) and something she said during the Q&A session following the show stuck with me.  An elderly audience member (as most of them were, actually) asked if she had ever fallen on stage.  Instead of reliving the humiliation of a traumatic center stage tumble, Bouder casually informed us that she falls several times per season.  There was audible shock among the audience as she joked about how her feet often have too much energy for the rest of her.  They dance right out from under her, she told us, knocking her off her balance and into a less than cozy stalemate with the stage.  Can you imagine?  Principle dancer with one of the world’s most distinguished ballet companies, and she eats marley on the regular.  If that doesn’t make you feel a bit closer to the alien-like beauty/enigma that is “The Prima Ballerina”, then I don’t know what will.

photos by the lovely Jim Turner