a beautiful day in the neighborhood

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On the first Sunday in weeks together and alone, You and Me set out to see the city on foot. White shoes, sunny skies, let’s try this neighborhood on for size. Somewhere between breakfast and lunchtime, turn up our noses at donut lines, beeline for eggy Portuguese treats, with a side of cilantro and fresh lime. I love Foxes and maybe that’s the Point, after all, therein lives your favorite coffee joint. All the way down Gano to the pink non-hotel, under the bridge, green river smell. Approaching our new regular- the one full of expectancy- we spot silly kids dangling atop our catalyst of synergy. All the while you play harmonica and I speak in rhyme, tomorrow singing Yesterday will be today’s paradigm.

changing the tides

Another tide shifts, this wave breaks only to give way to the new one rolling in behind it, and just like that the liquid heap that has been carrying you disintegrates into a porous mass of sand beneath. Carmen absorbs her final pierce, Don José releases one last wail and Micaela, for the last time, lives on to tell the tale.

After two programs of tragedy, I think we’re all ready to bring some fairy tale magic to Providence. Leading things off, I’ve got one last performance of Boyko Dossev’s The Little Prince this afternoon, and I am very much looking forward to getting wild, silly, foxy, and wise. This intangible shift in work from somber to hopeful does not go unfelt, nor is it unexpressed, after all…

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

weekend links & an announcement!

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We’re heading into our final weekend of Carmen and The Little Prince this weekend, and I’m looking forward to getting back to some classical work. Today’s post features a baby picture of me dancing Satanella as a competitor in Youth America Grand Prix in celebration of this exciting announcement: I’ve been invited to attend next week’s YAGP final round and galas to review and cover as a media correspondent(!!!!!). For those of you who know me, you know this could not be a better fit, as a YAGP alumni and a hopeful future dance writer. I’ll be heading to NYC next Wednesday night to attend the final round of the competition, The Stars of Today Meet The Stars of Tomorrow gala, and the 50th birthday celebration of Julio Bocco. My bestie, B, will be joining me and helping to record and review so I can share the experience with all of you! Stay tuned!

And for now, enjoy some fun reads from around the web…

“In the end, we are all searching for stories, so collaborations allow me to collect different perspectives on the same story.” –Akram Khan and Cereal

Space Between Hours.

The Whole Dancer’s Best Body Program is enrolling- but only for a few more days! Sign up here and prepare to be your best self.

Beyoncé and Tiler Peck.

“Though retiring is scary, I know in my heart it is not a death.” -Boston Ballet “prima corps ballerina” Sarah Wroth on her decision to retire after 14 years with the company, and the bold and beautiful way she has spent her final season.

The Zarely site is full of great interviews with principal dancers from major ballet companies all over the world.

Will you be at YAGP? Want to be featured? Email me at settingthebarreblog@gmail.com to connect.

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.

perform

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I have spent the greater half of my life looking in the mirror. This is not the reflection (harhar) of a vain mentality, but the strange requirement of an artist seeking precision in physical lines. Yes, movement quality and emotional expression are absolutely essential, but intentional formation of the body churns in the heart of classical ballet.

This time spent studying my reflection, though not always easy on the ego (we can’t all look like Sylvie), has actually proven quite informative. Over the years I have learned a great deal about my body, how to command its strengths and how to deal with its weaknesses. I’ve also picked up a few really helpful tweaks for simulating a cleaner line. An incredible coach once told me,

“Ballet is an illusion. We must strive for the unattainable always and harmonize where we fall short.”

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Enter Zarely. Engineered with comfort and aesthetics in mind, Zarely tights aim to create a more visually stunning appearance for the wearer. Using the intricate art of optics inspired by illusionist Victor Vasarely (also the inspiration for the brand’s name), each piece features unique designs catered to a dancer’s highly distinct needs.

For example, the performance tights (pictured here) feature special light-reflecting fabric to create a slimming effect and a thicker weave at the toes and heel for traction inside pointe shoes. No more ripping up the heels to avoid shoe-slippage! Or was that just me?

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Personally, I like my performance tights to be thin enough that those hard-earned leg muscles aren’t hidden. Of course this exposure is usually only attained through sacrifice; a thinner knit compromises the fabric’s strength, making it more susceptible to tear. In other words, yes, I’ve ripped holes in tights straight out of the packaging before. Moments before a performance. No bueno. Zarely tights are thick but also sheer (sorcery), fusing durability with delicacy to create a truly stunning look.

Like the rehearsal tights, the waistband on these is not too tight (goodbye, muffin top), but also not saggy, perfect for dancers like moi who tend to pull our performance tights up Urkel-style to the top rib before hooking into that tutu (wink). They also have a super flattering- yet somehow tactically undetectable- seam up the back of the leg. Ooh la la…

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Perhaps my favorite feature, though, is the softness of these things. They are a special kind of, “Okay, okay, I’m slipping into these things at 8 am for a morning school show and I’ll be wearing them until the end of stage rehearsal at 10 o’clock tonight and I can do it all without itching my quads off” soft. Yeah.

But don’t just take my word for it, see (and feel!) for yourself; Setting The Barre readers receive an exclusive 20% discount by entering the code KIRSTENZARELY at checkout.

 

all photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

rehearse

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Ballet is one of those things that spills itself into every bit of your life, seeping out from the studio and into places you’d least expect. An example? Okay, from Kindergarten to Grade 5, my rigorous training schedule “required” that I wear tights and a leotard underneath my regular clothes to school most days, so as to be on time for my dance classes that afternoon. Let me clarify- this was never actually imperative, but a cocktail of young bunheadity and an obsessive compulsion toward punctuality had me convinced wearing tights under my OshKosh B’gosh overalls was not only convenient but absolutely necessary. Plus, I felt a bit like a baby ballerina Clark Kent.

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Fast-forward fifteen years, my legs are so accustomed to that itchy tights feeling tht I actively avoid wearing them outside the studio. Too long I’ve suffered the awkward seam-up-the-back-of-the-leg-impression-long-after-you’ve-removed-them-for-the-day situation. Imprints often encircle my shins where convertible tights once lived, haunting far past their shift. But now all of that changes.

Introducing Zarely. Engineered with comfort and aesthetics in mind, the collection of ballet tights and athletic wear was the brainchild of a former San Fransisco Ballet soloist. Created by a team of dancers, designers, and physical therapists, Zarely’s uniquely engineered ballet tights follow a 3-stage system of rehearseperformrecover, specifically designed to support the strenuous schedule of a professional dancer. I’m not one for gimmicks, but with personal endorsements from dancers like Dores Andrés and Lauren Lovette, I couldn’t wait to see what these tights were all about…

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…and woah baby, are they nice. The first thing I must say is they are sooooft. And I mean buttery soft. The waistband is also somehow non-suffocating, which makes me wonder how/why we’ve been wearing glorified sausage casings around our waists all this time. The rehearsal tights (pictured here) feature a special smart compression technology to fight inflammation and swelling, with extra support in hard-working areas (think ankles and knees) and convertible edges are crafted with special attention to ensure flexible, run-free openings (hallelujah). All Zarely tights are fabricated with a special light-reflecting material for a slimming effect and a patterned weave to create a subtly hyperextended illusion. Dancers work incredibly hard every day to form a line worth watching. Twenty-first century technology that can help get the job done? Sign me up!

I’m obviously pretty excited about Zarely and will be featuring more of their designs later this week (stay tuned!), but if you’re interested in finding your best lines, Setting The Barre readers can enter the code KIRSTENZARELY at checkout for an exclusive 20% discount.

all photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

fangirling

Watching Carmen from the wings for the umpteenth time this month, I found myself gazing up at my colleagues in childlike wonderment. Perhaps I was riding the high of catching Carmen’s tomato, but uncoordinated fruit sports aside, I could watch these talented people perform this ballet forever. The music is unbeatable, the costumes are quite chic, and the choreography is perfectly vintage Viktor. It is simply strange, classic Plotnikov movements riding along the iconic score and competing with bombastic phrases only when necessary. Solemn, flirtatious, dramatic, and drunk.

Last night was extra special because I got to watch one of my very best friends debut in the title role(!!!). T and I have a special kinda bond that spawns only from 4 years of cohabitation-turned-total-life-coordination. It’s a synced up popcorn between the couches, crying on the first night, don’t watch another episode without me, kinda thing. What a proud moment to see someone I adore so completely dance the principal role in a ballet that is equally as dear as her. T’s Spanish siren dreams have become real at last. Bravo, lady, bravo!

And after a bit of a casting emergency, I actually got to be the fragile foil to her headstrong harlot!

Carmen + Micaela forever.

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xo.