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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.

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.

perform and protect

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Every year around the first week of November, my calendar fills up with acupuncture appointments and ice baths. My heating pad fires up multiple times a day, I sit down whenever possible, and when standing is a necessity, I consciously shift weight back and forth between my two legs to avoid (or let’s be honest, delay) the eminent burn out of my left calf muscle. That’s right, Nutcracker Season is upon us and my left leg is feeeeeeling it.

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If you have danced any variation of the “traditional” Petipa version of Grand Pas (affectionately referred to as Grandpa), you know what I mean. Each and every section of the 15 minute pas de deux- from adagio to coda- seems to depend heavily on the strength of the left leg. It’s the supporting leg in every pirouette, promenade, and balance and by the last cymbal crash, that baby is screaming.

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Swooping in to give my left calf any chance of survival this season, my favorite compression-tech dancewear brand, Apolla, sent over one of their newest products to save the day. The K-warmer (short for Kinesio) is made with a tight-knit to provide targeted compression to sore leg muscles. The special weave encourages circulation, which reduces inflammation and lowers the risk of injury. It’s sort of like having a personal physical therapist following your sore legs around, wrapping tape where you need support and applying pressure where you need blood flow.

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I love that the K-warmer provides support while still allowing my body to perform at its full range of motion. The warmers (which come in a set) can be extended for full leg coverage, but I like to double up on the squeeze-factor by folding one down around my calf for an extra warm hug. On particularly long days, I keep my K-warmers on when I leave the studio, so they can keep working their magic while my body transitions into rest mode. Performance and protection, double whammy! They are also antimicrobial (aka not stinky), sleek fitting (hello tutu time), and dancer approved.

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I really do swear by all of Apolla’s products and wear them daily. You guys know, I only work with brands that I genuinely love and think you will, too! If you want to get your hands on/legs in a pair of K-warmers, use code STB-ApollaDiscount-4 for 10% off at checkout.

PS- this is not an affiliate code- I don’t make any money from this, just want to spread the love and help you survive Nutcracker Season! Code is valid through November 22, 2018. xx

CLOSING EVENING: BALLET X

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Damian Woetzel, Artistic Director of Vail Dance Festival, photo by Erin Baiano.

On the last day of the Vail Dance Festival, I decide it’s high time I did a little dancing myself. Ballet X Artistic Director, Christine Cox, graciously welcomes me into the company class at the amphitheater. It’s been…a while since I’ve taken classes regularly (#summerslacking), but Christine’s class is exactly what I need. When Justin Beiber’s “Sorry” comes on for frappés- I know for sure I am in the right place.

Cox emphasizes the importance of dancing as a conversation with your body. The impetus on freedom of movement feels liberating compared to the strict ballet classes I am used to. Not only is taking class with Ballet X refreshing for my body, but it also makes me even more excited for their performance that evening. Closing the Vail Dance Festival is an ambitious task, but this Philadelphia-based contemporary ballet company delivers.

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Chloe Perkes and Zachary Kapeluck in Jodie Gates’ Beautiful Once, photo by Erin Baiano.

While the opening piece, Jodie GatesBeautiful Once missed the mark (slightly dated costumes and choreography, and a surprisingly sloppy execution), the next ballet absolutely redeemed the evening. Cayetano Soto‘s Schachmatt, was creative and original. Meaning “checkmate” in German, Schachmatt, proves that dance need not be heavy and emotional to be powerful. The dancers are like chess pieces, unified in black and grey jockey attire, moving in unison to fun mid-century music that sounds like it could soundtrack an exotic vacation for James Bond. The movements are provocative in a light hearted way, which is entirely refreshing in the world of drama-focused 21st century choreographers. Soto’s choreography is distinguished without taking itself too seriously, a rare combination that highlights this company so well.

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Ballet X in Cayetano Soto’s Schachmatt, photo by Erin Baiano.

Act II presents Matthew Neenan‘s The Last Glass, an indulgent ballet set to the cinematic music of Beirut. I get such fuzzy feelings when I listen to Beirut; It’s as if I’m standing in the middle of a colorful circus- feathers and sequins and laughing faces whirling by- but at the center, where I stand, it is actually quite lonely. Neenan’s choreography reflects the generous use of horns with carnival-like characters, but also the sorrow of Beirut’s vocals. It’s an impressive layering of tone, and the dancers of Ballet X  are exceptional in their ability to illustrate this intricacy.

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Richard Villacerde and Ballet X in Matthew Neenan’s The Last Glass, photo by Erin Baiano.

The closing evening of the Vail Dance Festival is made even more poignant in its marking of Richard Villaverde‘s last performance with Ballet X. The audience received his final bows with the company (he is on to pursue dancing in New York City) with warm, riotous applause. It was a small demonstration of our appreciation for every evening of brilliant art brought to this stage in the past 2 weeks, if such gratitude can even be measured in applause.

DANCE for $20.17

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Lil Buck, Tiler Peck, Johnny Gandelsman, and Ron “Prime Tyme” Myles in Vail Dance Jame 2.0, photo by Erin Baiano.

Vail Dance Festival‘s mixed bill “evening of dance for everyone” is nothing if not inclusive, and despite the rain, crowds flock to feel that inclusion. The evening begins with an extended version of the Vail Dance Jam presented on the first International Evening. This revamped edition shines even brighter than the first, featuring emotive vocals from Kate Davis and an ambitious blend of dance styles. Resident Jookin expert, Lil Buck, is especially enjoyable to watch, gliding through a sentimental solo with more vulnerability than we’ve seen from him so far in the festival.

Up next, an old piece with fresh faces: Unity Phelan and Cameron Dieck take on White Swan Pas de Deux with notable success. Phelan is so well-suited to Odette’s fickle, floating style, and Dieck makes a worthy prince. With her luscious epaulement, easy extensions, and apt emotion, Phelan is a true ballerina in the making. It’s exciting to see this star on the rise so featured here in Vail.

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Unity Phelan and Cameron Dieck in White Swan Pas de Deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

A revival of the 2015 Tiler Peck/Bill Irwin collaboration, Time It Was/116 follows, offering comedic relief and paired down interaction that seems to really please the couple sitting beside me. They are new to dance, and their audible reaction to this upbeat piece is an intangible certificate of success for the festival. I’m just sitting here wondering how Tiler Peck is able to chaine traveling upstage while spotting front. Sorcery. Bill Irwin is so talented and endearing as ever in this cheeky bit.

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Bill Irwin and Tiler Peck in Time it Was/116, photo by Erin Baiano.

George Balanchine’s Chaconne Pas de Deux, danced by Carla Körbes and Jared Angle, paints the stage next. The two inhabit the bodies of ancient Greek divinity in simple, fluttering white costumes. The rain has picked up significantly by this point, and the amphitheater’s funneled roof spouts water like a fountain behind the stage. Backdropped lights illuminate the water ad vivid flowers- the effect is ethereal. For a moment we are in a peaceful garden, watching young lovers swirl.

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Jared Angle and Carla Körbes in George Balanchine’s Chaconne Pas de Deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

The first act closes with two repeat performances, the first is my favorite fierce Agon Pas de Deux danced by Unity Phelan and Calvin Royal III. The two balance each other so well, it makes me wish they were in the same company so they could be paired together more regularly. Perhaps this is a good excuse to return to the festival next year! Another Balanchine piece, Tarantella, returns to the stage next. Lauren Lovette and Roman Mejia take full advantage of the opportunity to really let go this time, amping up the “friendly competition vibes”, sassy banter, and risk-taking. I enjoy it more and more every time.

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Calvin Royal III and Unity Phelan in George Balanchine’s Agon Pas de Deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

Act II presents Denver-based dance company, Wonderbound in Excerpts from Divisions, a collaborative piece featuring live music by Flobots. The performance reminds me of an extended dance sequence from an energetic musical, integrating a full band, quite a few vocalists, and theatrical choreography. The dancing style is sort of a jazz-contemporary fusion, with attention to big lifts and lyric-specific miming. It’s a bit of a flashmob-esque performance, and at the end of a long day, when the sun has gone down and the amphitheater has chilled down, it’s all a bit much for me. It does, however, delight the new dance fans to my left so, Vail Dance Festival Dance for $20.17- mission accomplished.

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Wonderbound Artists in Garrett Ammon’s Excerpts from Divisions, photo by Erin Baiano.

now premieres: celebrating women choreographers

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Cameron Dieck, Unity Phelan, Da’von Doane, Jared Angle and Liz Walker in Claudia Schreier’s Tranquil Night, Bright and Infinite, photo by Erin Baiano.

Though Damian Woetzel has presented female choreographers steadily throughout his ten years with the Vail Dance Festival (VDF), he decided it was high time he, in his words, “put a button on it.” Last night marked the first ever complete evening featuring premiering choreography exclusively by women.

The evening quite literally opened with a cubed puzzle of dancers unfolding like a kaleidoscope to begin Claudia Schreier‘s Tranquil Night, Bright and Infinite. Schreier’s relationship with the festival goes way back; After studying George Balanchine under Heather Watts at Harvard University, she became one of the inaugural members of the festival’s internship program in 2007. Ten years later, Schreier celebrates the centennial of the great Leonard Bernstein a year early, creating joyful, musically connected movement to his Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. This piece is pleasing to the symmetry obsessed, the long lines of Unity Phelan and Liz Walker creating mesmerizing Rorschach stains. The two seep from the center outward, supported by Cameron Dieck and Jared Angle. Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Da’von Doane shines, his bliss ever obvious from the amphitheater’s last row.

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Patricia Delgado in Pam Tanowitz’s Solo for Patricia, photo by Erin Baiano.

The next offering is perhaps the purest definition of inspiration: as choreographer Pam Tanowitz and dancer Patricia Delgado shared a ride from the airport to the festival last week, Tanowitz was moved to create a solo for Delgado. The resulting Solo for Patricia is an upbeat, staccato conversation with music.

I attended the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island just before heading to Vail, and a few of my friends asked what my favorite new music discoveries were. If I were to name one dancer as my favorite new discovery here at the Vail Dance Festival, it would be Delgado. Of course, having a best friend who trained at Miami City Ballet (Delgado’s former company) I was aware of her talent, but seeing Delgado blossom in this intimate space has made me most excited to follow her evolving career.

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Jared Angle, Jeffrey Cirio, and Calvin Royal III in Pam Tanowitz’s Entr’acte, photo by Erin Baiano.

The Tanowitz choreography continues, with her offbeat Entr’acte. Named for a German term meaning “between the acts”, this piece shouts from the stage with brightly colored costumes by famed costume designers Reid & Harriet and unapologetic classically modern choreography. The steps are both irregular and casual, expressing a Jerome Robbins’ sort of vibe with dancers dancing for each other, not the audience. The music is a piece by Caroline Shaw, the festival’s first Leonard Bernstein Composer-in-Residence, played live on stage by Brooklyn Rider. Shaw takes the stage pre-show to describe this piece of music as a classic minuet taken along with Alice through her distorting Looking Glass, and Tanowitz’s choreography seems to mirror that. The relaxed quality of Melissa Toogood‘s movement transcends in Entr’acte; she and Tanowitz are a perfect match.

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Devon Teuscher, Patricia Delgado, Andrea Gibson, Lauren Lovette, and Miriam Miller in Lauren Lovette’s Angels of the Get-Through, photo by Erin Baiano.

Closing Act I is Lauren Lovette‘s Angels of the Get-Through. The collaborative work features another Caroline Shaw piece, described by the composer as a 16th century hymnal swirling around the top of a cathedral and falling in fragments back down. Something about this introduction really excites me. It seems so perfectly coordinated with the echoed nature of Andrea Gibson‘s poetry, which is performed live by the poet herself, as she weaves in and out of Lovette’s detailed scenes. The first lines:

when two violins

are placed in a room

if a chord on one violin is truck

The other violin

will sound that same note.

…describe this idea of our reflection on those around us. Perhaps it was my hour-long conversation with the choreographer right before the show (details coming soon!), but I could not help but feel connected to this ballet. I confess I am not usually one for spoken word poetry as accompaniment (I prefer “getting lost” in a classical arrangement) but Gibson’s words- and Lovette’s interpretation of them- are affecting. It’s no surprise at this point that I am enraptured by the first movement featuring an emotional Patricia Delgado, and equally captivated by the following section, where Delgado is joined by Lovette. In a segment of Gibson’s poem designed as a series of commands, calling her love to ultimately “come become beside me,” Lovette and Delgado are immersed in each other. They do not acknowledge us, but somehow we cannot look away.

Lovette departs from her first commissioned work for the New York City Ballet by exploring an entirely contemporary vocabulary. The next section muses on the frailty of human connection and our overriding aversion of interaction with strangers. Miriam Miller and Devon Teuscher are beautifully paired in this exploration of contact. All four ladies come together for a final movement. The girls lift up a wistful Teuscher together, Gibson’s words and their expressions begging her to express herself, to “be the Milky Way”. The entire cast strides forward one at a time to sit side by side on the edge of the stage. For this setting, in this show- in which it seems Lovette has taken to celebrating female relationships- this maneuver is wholly effective.

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Vai Dance Festival Artists in Michelle Dorrance’s we seem to be more than one, photo by Erin Baiano.

The evening closes with a 30-minute manifestation of the 2017 Vail Dance Festival. VDF Artist-in-Residence, Michelle Dorrance, is the choreographer/genius if not slightly loony conductor of her we seem to be more than one, the colossal tap-based work featuring a star-studded cast of festival artists. Dorrance reminds me of Jiminy Cricket, whispering into the ears of her dancers. They are her unstring-ed puppets, hypnotized by the percussive movements Dorrance seems to involuntarily produce. This sort of radical presentation is exactly what I hoped to see in Vail: James Whiteside revisiting his roots, Tiler Peck on stage in tap shoes for the first time ever, jookin and flamenco swirled into Dorrance’s style. Damian Woetzel charming Ms. Dorrance, Bill Irwin stealing the show. ABT heartthrob Herman Cornejo just tapping away! It is this sort of nakedness, challenging established dancers with a foreign genre, an exposed style, and an entirely original cast, that makes this piece exclusively “Vail”.

to infinite and beyond

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Remember when we talked about Apolla Shocks, way back in the day? Well, I’ve been wearing them for about a month now and I am completely hooked. I mean hooked as in, they are with me in Vail and I’m not even dancing here, hooked. So let’s get you better acquainted, shall we?

Apolla offers three different fits, and while the Performance (medium support) seems to be the frontrunner for me at the moment, the Infinite (maximum support) is pulling a close second. I got to try these out these guys in the black, non-traction style…

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A bit taller in the ankle, the Infinte Shocks offer slightly more stability and compression than the Performance style to relieve sore muscles and fight inflammation up through the calf. These socks will be in heavy rotation throughout the season as my feet swell and my joints take on more pressure.

All Apolla Shocks are anatomically correct, meaning there is a right and left side, making their structured arch support even more effective.

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Since receiving my Shocks, I’ve washed them an embarrassingly few number of times (less than I’d care to admit), but you guys, they don’t get stinky! I meant it. My flat shoes and toe pads are disgusting, but the antimicrobial magic in these things keeps them fresh for(almost)ever.

The Infinite style also features a bit more padding (or as the scientists call it, “knit-in energy absorption”) in the metatarsal and heel to cushion your base and protect your feetsies from the damage dancing can (let’s be real, will) cause.

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Has anyone else tried Apolla Shocks? If you are interested in trying these bad boys out for yourself (ppppsssst, they are releasing a new color soon!), enter code STB-ApollaDiscount-2 at checkout for 10% off, valid through 8/31 (wink).

 

all photo by Jenay Evans for setting the barre.