a hat trick

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Eight years ago I was seventeen. It was a typical Tuesday. My mom got a phone call.

“Where is Kirsten?,” the familiar voice of the studio registrar wondered.

“Uh, at school?,” my mom replied, the peculiarity of the inquiry making her question the simple fact herself.

“Well when you pick her up today, don’t take her to class at the studio. Take her straight to the theater. She’s in ‘The Widow’s Broom’.” The show was in 3 days.

One of the company dancers was mourning a sudden death in the family, and so as the world of professional ballet goes, I was thrust into her role. An hour in the tight hallway space of The Vets backstage for me to put my body into a witch’s. All that was left was to get my mind there.

Not yet a legal adult but on the cusp of my career, I embraced the challenge completely. I had danced Viktor’s eccentric choreography before. Not often, but enough to know it takes a solid week of repetition for your muscles to feel somewhat normal in the steps. After learning the show, I had 48 hours to prepare. So I rehearsed in my head, all throughout the day. I brushed my teeth to the rhythm of the coven’s twists. I made my bed in sweeping motions, steadying the invisible broom beneath my hips. My feet tapped out the formations in miniature as the rest of me pretended to pay attention in Calculus.

Then came the transitions. “The Widow’s Broom” is a special ballet in that all of the sets are controlled by the dancers. Every scene change, magic trick, and optical allusion is created by the Company itself. Cues, patterns, pace- these things were all part of my training as a dancer, but never in relation to something other than my body. The pressure was on.

The day of the show, there was a shortage of hats. During my transitions, I was meant to be dressed like a villager (a boy villager, by the way, because all of the ladies’ costumes were in use), to blend in with the rest of the ballet. The Artistic Director looked at me standing in the Wardrobe Room before him in a baggy vest and brown balloon shorts. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. The face I would soon grow to adore: Misha with a new idea. He swiped the hat off his own head- a signature black Kangol newsboy- and smacked it down onto mine, tugging it eagerly over my bun. He stood back and looked at me with stars in his eyes. Now I knew I was not in this alone. We were pulling off this particular trick together.

scattered

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“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” they said. “Time management is my jam!”, I boasted in response. Oh my sweet friends, time management skills…

Pumpkins, witches, press releases, and midterms. Out of state reviews, at home interviews. Rehearsals and lack thereof. Community Land Trust events, a surprise Fireball appearance. Vegan transitioning, city strolling, gift shopping for a soon-to-be5-year-old. Dish washing, pointe shoe prepping, tea date catch ups, Swan Point walks. Show consolidation, damage control; busy messy life. Plans, schedules, routines, lists. Music to my ears.

Most days are spent navigating the quirky soundscape of Aleksandra Vrebalov’s beautiful score, picking apart Viktor’s intricate choreography and placing pieces into my body parts. I smooth them in with a few hundred repetitions. I am a mother in the morning, a widow when the lights darken. Buzzing in the kitchen, lonely in my rocker.

As you can see by the scattered nature of this post, it’s been a busy few weeks. I promise, I’ve been doing a lot of writing! Just not here. If you’d like to see, here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to…

My review of New York City Ballet‘s Here/Now Program celebrating contemporary choreographers, up now on The Wonderful World of Dance.

My interview with beloved children’s book author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg (The Polar Express, Jumanji)– conducted entirely through snail mail- now on Festival Ballet Providence’s blog.

A press release for our first main stage performance, The Widow’s Broom, up on several different media sites, but here it is on Broadway World.

My interview with Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee (of Wicked, Sweeney Todd, and Saturday Night Live) for Festival Ballet Providence’s blog.

 

photo by Jacob Hoover.

24 hours in nyc

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Hey, guys. Our quick trip to the city was a bit less adventurous than planned- note the puffy-eyed half-smile above. ^

I guess I can count myself lucky to have lived 25 years without experiencing serious food poisoning. But like most adventures to exciting places, this weekend’s trip gifted me with an unexpected notch in my belt…and a stitch in my belly. Safe to say this girl will not be eating sushi anytime soon!

Despite the many embarrassing circumstances my body surprised me with this weekend, I felt supported, loved, and cared for. There is a lesson in every bit of life (besides being wary of raw seafood) and this weekend’s was certainly one of compassion and trust. If only I could express my true level of gratitude for this sweet beanfriend. All I can say is I am sorry for couping you up in the big city. Thank you for making me feel cute in the least cute of times. Thank you for turning rain into sunflowers. Thank you for carrying my tea and toast. Thank you for all that you did and do. Thank you for being a one of a kind boo. Preesh you. Yup. I really, really do.

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weekend update

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Season 40 is off to a roaring start, and this beautiful beast shows no signs of slowing. In 5 weeks the company have learned almost 6 ballets; One new work is still in the creation phase, and our first full length Widow’s Broom is currently a collection of scenes. I have eight countable bruises on my legs and a fire in my belly. The time is now.

Speaking of full seasons and carpé-ing diems, this weekend M and I are off to the city to see New York City Ballet’s Here/Now program on Sunday. Wheeldon, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Peck. What an incredible lineup! I will be reviewing the show on The Wonderful World of Dance, so stay tuned.

it’s october third.

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Oh, October. Sweet month of change. Temperatures finally dropping, but the sky does not yet fade. A dark bar incites its usual existential sound; crunchy brussels and and fluffy hummus abound. A bright breakfast expands palettes into poaching, Nick’s eggs + veggies do the experimental coaching. A weekend date requires little more than borrowed beanies and held mitts: a westside going golden and freshly layered knits. Dusty vintage rockets provoke one too many sneezes, strip-shouldered mannequins provide warm woolen squeezes. Grocery store hide-and-seek yields new plant babes and boo Sunday snacks. Portuguese fado follows carefully unplanned naps. Beanfriend makes soups, 90s Bourdain loops. Welcome, Dear Autumn, we’ve been waiting for you.

a week of wheeldon

How can 7 days feel like 28? Monday rehearsing, Tuesday teaching, Wednesday writing, Thursday sneezing, Friday performing, Saturday learning, Sunday running through.

Christopher Wheeldon’s The American is a 25-minute study of style. An energetic corps frames the ballet, the first and third movements clasping around the pas de deux like a joyful storm unable to disturb its tranquil eye. These rigorous bookends accentuate a languid pas de deux, ebbing and flowing at the heart of the ballet. One lift flows into the next with an unattainably smooth finish. It’s like treading water: keep both feet moving and you’re head will stay above water.

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That’s how this week has felt, too. Just keep moving. Put one foot in front of the other. Lean on each other. Lift each other. Confront discomfort. Find peace in solidarity. Work. Sweat. Love. Relax. We are searching for the strength, but first, it’s ice, massage, acupuncture, rest, then on to the next. 40th season, you are already a force.

a ballet a week

The 40th Season is off to a roaring start with an ambitious ballet-a-week tempo. Our bruised bodies are struggling to slip into the rhythm, like sun kissed cheeks through turtleneck sweaters come cool nights.

Vrebalov and Dvorak swirl their dramatic strings through the studios, comforting Mozart tempers mighty Magnificat. Ten thousand steps carve pathways in my mind, boot printing seemingly arbitrary aisles from one ballet to another. As I fall asleep at night, the hard lift from The American makes its way into Minna Shaw’s movement; But this Widow is grounded.

I’m an enlightened, distressed, heavy, heavenly creature in one studio, a wild flung tango temptress in the next. Counts and breaths and corrections seep up every pocket of my being, consuming me with the challenge that I love most of all. I am tired and sore. I am happy and whole. I am stepping into Week Three. Ready. Set.

 

photo by Tasnima Tanzim.