INTERNATIONAL EVENINGS I

Sparing a few adventurous photoshoots and early morning hours spent writing papers (oh right, I am still in school huh?), my days at the Vail Dance Festival have been spent watching/fangirling rehearsals at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Seeing these artists pushing and playing and piecing things together makes me all the more excited to return the amphitheater (showered and trading Keds for heels) to see International Evenings of Dance I. 

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Carla Körbes and Jared Angle in Christopher Wheeldon’s After The Rain pas de deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

I have to begin with some serious praise for Damian Woetzel: Every piece was cast just perfectly. Perhaps this is the beauty of the Vail Dance Festival, Woetzel’s personal relationship with each dancer allows expert curation yielding a well-rounded show. Woetzel also highlights the celebratory nature of this festival at every turn, this evening’s adaptation in the form of an energetic opening performance by Celebrate The Beat. The colorful local organization features over 100 children, expressing themselves in boisterous movement.

The festivities continue with one of my favorite pairings, Isabella Boylston and Jeffrey Cirio. The two dance an adorably playful pas de deux from The Flower Festival in Genzano, emulating the August Bournonville style with clean technique and genuine chemistry. Boylston and Cirio begin by greeting Quartet-in-Residence, Brooklyn Rider, whose onstage accompaniment adds to the communal feeling here in Vail. There is a genuine, never saccharine, chemistry between these two dancers that makes me excited for what’s to come.

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Jeffrey Cirio and Isabella Boylston in August Bournonville’s Flower Festival, photo by Erin Baiano.

The professional performances progress with an elegant White Swan Pas de Deux from James Whiteside and recently-promoted American Ballet Theater Principal Devon Teuscher. Devon’s long lines just float on forever with Whiteside’s skillful partnering melting her over the stage.

Balanchine’s Tarentella quickly changes the pace, with its lively tambourine-driven rhythm and friendly competition from Lauren Lovette and recent School of American Ballet graduate, Roman Mejia. I’ve asked it before and I know I will again, but: is there anything cuter than Lauren Lovette? Tarentella appears to be designed for her, with its energetic footwork, cheeky head inclinations, and collection of chirpy pas de chats. Seventeen-year-old Mejia gives Lovette a run for her money, though, with a myriad of cheeky expressions of his own. The pair seemed to be having a particularly good time as Lovette took off on a series of pirouettes from fifth traveling downstage, Mejia egging her on from his knees below. The soon-to-be New York City Ballet Apprentice enlisted any and all forms of tambourine playing he could think of, striking the small head against a shoulder, a thigh, a hip, a hand, whirling up a clattering merriment that broadcast over the entire audience. These two just make you smile. Simple as that.

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Roman Mejia in George Balanchine’s Tarentella, photo by Erin Baiano.

Next up, a showstopping Agon pas de deux from Unity Phelan and Calvin Royal III. Once again, casting proves paramount; Phelan and Royal are a perfect set. With matching long lines and unforced austere expressions, they weaved their way through Balanchine’s best sculptural pas de deux like a pair of gorgeous cobras. I was enraptured all the way until the final chord.

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

Celebrating the 37th anniversary of its premiere last night, Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody is danced with indulgent ease by The Royal Ballet artists Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambe. Equally satisfying to the diehard balletomanes is the impeccable Tiler Peck partnered by Joseph Gordon in Balanchine’s Divertimento Brilliante. Peck is the perfect music-box-ballerina- the delicate yet crisp dancing that childhood dreams are made of.

Act II leads in with a 6-count wake up call; Artist-in-Residence, Michelle Dorrance‘s 1-2-3-4-5-6 intricately weaves tap, Jookin, ballet, and contemporary into precise phrases of 6. The acapela piece returns the party vibes to the stage, complete with fast feet, gorgeous fluidity from Lil Buck and some face-swirling chaines by James Whiteside.  The fun continues with a fast-paced lesson in the art of “the jam” with Doggerel, featuring Jookin dancers Lil Buck and Ron “Prime Tyme” Miles, vaudvile-style performer Bill Irwin, Michelle Dorrance, and the talented musicians of the Vail Dance Festival. Princess Grace Award winner, Elena Heiss presents a striking Flamenco solo, bringing some variety to the program.  Daniel Ulbricht‘s sharing the stage with singer Kate David and guitarist Gabe Schnider in an acoustic version of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine further diversify the evening’s offerings. Misty Copeland and Marcelo Gomes command the stage in one of my favorite pieces of choreography, Twyla Tharp‘s Sinatra Suites. Christopher Wheeldon’s After The Rain Pas de Deux followed, featuring Carla KörbesJared Angle, and some of the most beautiful music ever written, Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im spiegel played live by violenist Johnny Gandelsman and pianist Cameron Grant. An impressive execution of the wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote, danced with bold artistry and altheticism by Misa Kuranaga and Herman Cornejo, finishes the evening with roaring applause, but not before Jerome Robbins’ Three Chopin Dances steals my heart.

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Joseph Gordon and Lauren Lovette in Jerome Robbins’ Three Chopin Dances, photo by Erin Baiano.

Danced last night by Lauren Lovette and Joseph Gordon, this piece was new to me. The first of the “three dances” comes in the form of a romantic pas de deux, the dancers like saturated watercolors, both ethereal and grounded. Lovette and Gordon are like wet roses, dripping with softness, weight, and a delicate strength. For the second movement, Robbins’ defies tradition by giving the woman the first solo. This flirty piece hints at Hungarian character influences, with a casually traditional, undone undertone. The final movement begins with the male solo. Tender in nature, the softness of Robbins’ choreography further gender-bends here, a refreshingly non contrived take on role reversal in ballet. Three Chopin Dances finishes off with an even grander romanticism than its opening, sweeping me out of my seat, off my feet, and back around again.

Tonight’s installment of the International Evenings series is entirely different- and sold out. To catch these artists later in the Festival, head here.

upclose: jerome robbins

“Go somewhere you’ve been once before,” Damian Woetzel recalls the instructions of Mr. Jerome Robbins as Herman Cornejo took the stage. Cam, the pianist, prepares for the first solo of Dances at a Gathering. “I remember,” Woetzel’s voice trails as Chopin’s chords transport me…

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Herman Cornejo in Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering, photo by Erin Baiano.

…back to my childhood home, the sound of my sister’s Sunday morning piano practice drifting up the stairs, riding the scent of bacon from the kitchen and pulling me from a dream. The same familiar mazurka rises up from the orchestra pit at the Vilar Performing Arts Center. It floats through Cornejo’s sweeping steps just like a sweet smell on a breeze and I’m transported back again.

The first of Jerome Robbins’ iconic “piano ballets”, Dances at a Gathering marks the choreographer’s return to New York City Ballet in 1969. This meditative piece was made to be danced “for the dancer, as if no one is watching,” according to our host Woetzel, who graces the screen above us in vintage video footage rehearsing with Robbins himself. What a revolutionary idea, using the stage as a private space for the dancer to reflect.

The evening moves in a relatively chronological order, taking the audience through the evolution of Jerry’s work as a choreographer and dancer. This notion of the audience as an unnoticed observer is evident throughout. Even in his first work for American Ballet Theater, Fancy Free, a highly entertaining marriage of broadway and ballet, the audience peers through a window, as noted in my latest review of the piece. This evening we are given even more insight into those personalities, with demonstrations from Daniel Ulbricht the “Chicago Guy”, Corey Stearns the “Long Island Farmboy”, and Marcelo Gomes as “Mr. Miami”.

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Marcelo Gomes, Cory Stearns, and Daniel Ulbricht in Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, photo by Erin Baiano.

The evening feels like an interactive ballet, with fun facts and bits of history tucked behind each wing. Damian Woetzel draws back the curtains, revealing intimate bits of Jerry’s working style that make us feel as though the choreographer is in the room. Samplings of Robbins’ work carry on with Ulbricht’s display of the fun “horseplay” solo from Interplay. We see some of Jerry’s more experimental work, with Lauren Lovette‘s interpretation of The Cage and Unity Phelan and Jared Angle‘s silent introspection in Moves.

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Jared Angle and Lauren Lovette in Jerome Robbins’ The Cage, photo by Erin Baiano.

Robbin’s iconic reimagining of the Nijinsky classic Afternoon of a Faun is danced with poise and savory tension by Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III. Through Woetzel’s commentary we learn that this updated version was inspired by famed Balanchine dancer, Edward Villella. Robbins happened to walk by the studio as Villella sat alone, stretching, noticing his own reflection in the mirror. The ballet emulates this experience, using the fourth wall as a mirror through which two young dancers find each other. The imagining of a mirror forces the dancers to completely ignore the audience and dance for themselves- Jerry’s favorite indulgence. The effect results in a ballet even more provocative than its controversial predecessor.

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Damian Woetzel coaching Calvin Royal III and Isabella Boylston in Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, photo by Erin Baiano.

The evening continues with a tasting of ballets being revived this weekend, including Lauren Lovette and Devon Teuscher in Rondo and Lovette with Joseph Gordon in Three Chopin Dances. Displays of Jerry’s broadway works ignite Damian Woeztel, who joins Carla Korbës for a gang dance-off from West Side Story and Vail Dance Festival Artist-in-Residence Michelle Dorrance in a gender-bending tap section of Gypsy. He catches his breath as we watch a clip from The King & I and I start to wonder if the references to my childhood are somehow supernaturally intended.

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Jared Angle and Tiler Peck in Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering, photo by Erin Baiano.

As Tiler Peck and Jared Angle take on a pas de deux from Dances later, my nostalgia returns. Back to the home I grew up in, I am in the side yard now. It’s summertime. The windows of our old colonial are all open and my sister’s Chopin wafts outside into the sunshine. I am surrounded by tiny blue flowers, which I study as they bend in the wind, letting go of a petal here and there. For  moment, the wind pauses and they settle into stillness. Peck and Angle’s delicate partnering and soft movements describe this memory with an eerie similarity. In the upstage left corner the both suspend relevé. An emotional Heather Watts tells us Jerry’s intention to “distill movement down to nothing.” It’s quite literally breathtaking.

a slip and a tip for traveling dancers

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Summer and New England have only just made things *official*, and already this is the most traveling I have ever done on a summer layoff- hands down.

From New Zealand, to the Berkshires, to Maine and soon enough Colorado (more details on that soon), M and I have been zipping around this globe like hummingbirds dipping our little beaks in here and there and everywhere. In the process we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes travel more enjoyable for us. My biggest lesson learned, if you’re interested…

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somewhere upstate

After connecting with nature at the Pillow, M and I headed West towards Kinderhook to visit the sweetest Gma of them all. We were hoping the trip would only take 30(ish) minutes, but then the sun was shining, the tank was clean…IMG_5759IMG_5758IMG_5763IMG_5762…and field after field of wildflowers beckoned from the roadside! We had no choice but to pull over and dive in. So goes summer’s siren song, right? A bit of irony, you may notice, as my shirt claims that I am always on pointe, but if there is any place I would never like to be eeuuh-puueehn, it’s in a dense, damp, field of flowers somewhere upstate. Sure it may sound romantic (wait, does it?), but I assure you, muddy pointe shoes are no picnic. Fortunately I like to think this whole irony thing would be rather welcomed by the designer of this fun tee, Cloud & Victory. Do you guys follow them on instagram? Oh boy, you really should!IMG_5754IMG_5757IMG_5753IMG_5752Min’s endless stream of clever captioning brings this world the (actually funny) ballet humor it so desperately needs right now. Between her wise-cracking edits, C&V’s feed features the brand’s latest designs, yet another outlet for Min’s expert blend of ballet beauty and punny, dad-joke-eqsue humor (my favorite kind). The latest collection is modeled by San Fransisco cool-erina, Mathilde Froustey, and it’s seriously delicious.IMG_5751IMG_5764

Check the lookbook and let me know what you think! Which pieces would you wear?

 

 

 

all photos by Michael Collins for Setting The Barre.

shocking

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As you may recall, if you’ve been following along here for some time, at the end of last season I incurred a host of local injuries around my left bunion area. There was bursitis, sesamoiditis, tendonitis, a real -itis fest, if you will. ANYway, when that all happened, wearing flat technique shoes first thing in the morning became rather unbearable, so my physical therapist suggested I try warming up in socks. I began wearing socks for pliés and tendus, then expanded that to include dégagés, then rond de jambes, then fondus, until one day I was working through the entire barre “en sock”. And let me tell you, it was a magical discovery.

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I found I was able to warm up my feet more thoroughly, connecting down through the floor from the very start of the day. My bones were free to spread and contract as they took their morning breaths, inhaling marley up through their joints and exhaling sweet, strong energy. I was able to dance my entire season sans-itis. A miracle, friends! The only problem? In an attempt to give myself some form of padding, the socks I had on rotation were baggy, bulky, relatively uncomfortable and wholly unflattering.

Then I heard about Apolla Shocks.

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Let me first disclaim: This is not a sponsored post. Although I did receive the Apolla Shocks pictured here complimentary, I approached the brand myself to inquire about their products after being tipped off by the lovely Cirio Collective dancers. Socks specially designed for dancers! Look how pretty! How supportive! How strange! I had to learn more.

And boy am I ever glad I did. As seems to be the trend this days (thank goodness!), sports science, design, and dance have come together in the creation of these beauties. The pair I’m wearing here are the mid-level support and the ones that will likely become my go-to, The Performance Shocks. They feature a compressed weave for extra arch support and ankle stabilization, and a slim yet free toe fit to allow for articulation without suffocating your piggies.

In my shocks I am finally I am able to properly employ my feet at the barre again, shaping them with all of the grounded metatarsals, lifted arches, and lengthened toes I can muster! IMG_5223IMG_5221

All Apolla Shocks come in 3 different shades so you can (at least attempt) to find your shade and ergo, your perfect line, because it’s just that easy, right? These science socks are moisture-wicking (happy dancing- any fellow sweaty feet friends?!) and antimicrobial, meaning every day washing is not necessary (double happy dance).

One of the coolest things about these dance socks is the option for their revolutionary customizable traction. The thin rubber traction starts out rather sticky, but is meant to be worn in to your desired level of grip. Once my shocks start too feel a bit too slippery (I actually like how their feeling after just a few uses), I plan on rubbing some rosin into the soles (as suggested by Apolla) to keep them right where I want ’em.IMG_5222

What do you think? Do you dance in socks? Would you try Apolla? If you are interested, Apolla is offering Setting The Barre readers 10% their first purchase with the code STB-ApollaDiscount-1 at checkout. Valid through June 19th.

 

photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

she thinks therefore she thinx

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Everything is beautiful at the ballet…except when it’s not.

Let’s be real for a second, okay? Disclaimer: Male readers, you can excuse yourselves now. Ladies, let’s talk.

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Sometimes being a ballerina is all about tutus and pointe shoes and pink tights and tiaras and feeling like a beautiful princess, and sometimes it’s all about tutus and pink tights and period cramps. Being a professional ballet dancer revolves largely around the pursuit of seemingly effortless perfection, but in reality, most of this life is difficult, sweaty, and well, a bit icky.

Diving head first into that realness: attempting ballet with your period is not fun. Bloat, cramps, muscle soreness, it’s a cocktail of shitty. Not to mention the awkwardness of feminine care products. Pliés and pads? No, thank you. Has anyone else ever ruined a leotard a certain time of the month? Better yet- does anyone have a special “period leotard” (or 3?). Dark colors, looser styles, “boob friendlies” as I like to call them- these are a lady’s best friends. But what if there was a special leotard- designed by cool girls who get it- to help make your period a little easier? Well gird your loins!!! It’s here!

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The geniuses behind Thinx period underwear have created a line of leotards to make your period a bit less cringe-worthy. Now, if the sound of a leotard that absorbs your period sounds horrifying, please just stay with me for a minute here…

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While I wouldn’t want to go free as a bloody bird in the studio, an absorbent back up layer built into a leo might be one of the best ideas I’ve heard all year.

These leotards are designed with multiple layers of fabric in the nether regions. The outermost layer is antimicrobial and moisture wicking. All those lovely fluids absorb straight through to the inner layer, which locks them in like a magnet. That means guaranteed dryness (I mean, you know, not too dry, that would be weird- just the normal amount of dryness- then again, what is normal? we are all glorious, beautiful delicate flowers! but strong, too, right?! right!). Thinx somehow does all of this while still creating a not-too-thick, not-too-thin leo, perfect for light days as a backup for your tampon during those long rehearsals where you reeeealllly need to “take 5”.

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Best of all, these leotards are reusable! Just rinse with cold water and then toss it in with the rest of your clothes. Seriously! I was shocked, too, but it works like magic. Also, the Thinx leotard is pretty darn cute. Those mesh side panels are *v on trend* and the low criss-cross back is super flattering. The material is thick enough to feel held in but not squished- though I will say it’s a CHEEKY situation, if you know what I mean (wink). I also think this bad boy could be vastly improved with the addition of a shelf bra, as I am a big fan of support!

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SO are you breathing a sigh of relief? Does this sound insane to you? Let a sista know in the comments below!

Pssssst, they make unitards, too! Get yours here.

all photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre. all opinions are my own :)

recover

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Ahhh, rest. Relaxation. Sitting still. It’s not something dancers think about all that often, but it’s just as essential to the dancer’s life cycle as rehearsal and performance time. With a few injuries under my belt (the infamous spinal fractures of 2013 and who could forget the season of itis?), I’ve taken on self-care with a pretty serious fervor. I meet regularly with our goddess of a physiotherapist, incorporate as many anti-inflammatory foods into my diet as I can without actually sticking my face into a bucket of turmeric, and let a (highly skilled) doctor stick needles into my body more often than I care to admit. I holistic heal like my dancing depends on it because, well, it does.

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But sometimes (ahem, Nutcracker season) there is just not enough time to run to the store when you’ve diced up the last of your ginger. You’re on the zillionth run of Flowers, the stage feels like concrete under your tired knees and you need more immediate relief for those sore calves. I feel you. So does Zarely.

Rounding out their tri-series collection of ballet tights, Zarely’s recover tights support the rehabilitation stage of a dancer’s life cycle. They are made with a graduated compression weave to gently squeeze the muscles, enhancing blood flood to achey stems.

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So let’s be real- these puppies are tight in every sense of the word. I grunted several times whilst putting them on. But once their constricting hug enveloped my legs completely, I could really feel the heal! Plus, the looser, flexible hip area allows for full range of motion, meaning once their on, you can slide around for some stretching, easy peasy.

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I can’t wait to wear these the next time I have a guesting that requires air travel. Have you ever felt like your ankles and feet have doubled in size from departure to arrival? The extended period of time spent sitting restricts blood flow to these areas, causing painful puffing. It’s really no fun landing in a host city to perform with swollen feet, so I’m looking forward to repairing in the air with Zarely. (double wink)

These compression tights also look beautiful, unlike most of their clinical counterparts, so they would be perfect for a post-performance gala or celebratory drink. Tingle while you mingle! Haha, sorry, I tried.

If you’d like to get your body restoration on, head over to Zarely and use the code KIRSTENZARELY at checkout for a 20% discount. See my previous posts on their rehearsal and performance tights for more reviews.

 

all photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.