some strange magic

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Tchaikovsky’s most famous holiday score has swiftly replaced the vivacious one which filled my fall.  We’ve plunged so steadfast into Nutcracker preparations, it’s almost as if Up Close On Hope didn’t happen!

But it did.  I stood in the wings as the lights lost their lume and the theater went black.  I felt the corps step silently into their wheel as those two impish notes carried Elyse’s playful chant back to us all, uh oh…

I attempted to raise my heart rate in preparation of the cardio to come.  I hopped from one foot to the other, letting my achilles feel their way around satin shoes.  I released all the air from my lungs, filled them again, and counted four eights.  I thought about all of the things that needed thinking, and then I forgot them all.

My face smiled without cheek wiggles, my arabesque sailed around under me.  I felt comfortable, and confident, challenged and true.  I let my port de bras fly and my feet sing along.  Post-perfornabce, by way of some strange magic, I managed to remember all of the good things I’d done, and forgot all the bad.  But I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised- there is “some strange magic” in all of Mr. B’s ballets.

bringing brillante

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One of my favorite pre-show tidbits came around this time last season, while working on Apollo with a Skype-assisted Sandy Jennings.  Her suggestion to wear my favorite perfume for the performance reminded me just how transformative feeling like a ballerina can be.  Friday in the studio, sweet Elyse added another gem (harhar) to that collection.

“I want you to imagine you have little tiny diamonds on the tip of every eyelash, every fingernail, the end of every strand of hair…and maybe a few on your butt,” Elyse said with a wink.

Signature sass in every syllable, she dusted the aforementioned areas with jittering fingers.  Delicate red-tipped nails played invisible keys hovering just over my shoulders and down my arms as she spoke.  Emphasizing the importance of exclamation points (and maybe “a couple commas”) throughout the piece, Elyse used her diction to demonstrate.  Ah, diamonds and dialogue, does it get any better?

This one is a memory I will lock up in me, to be accessed and applied whenever I lose sight of my brillante.  Now, on with the show.

for tickets.

a word with elyse borne

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As the opening of our performance season approaches, rehearsals are ramping up.  In a rare moment of downtime, I corresponded with Balanchine répétiteur Elyse Borne to get her take on working with FBP and Mr. B…

Hello!  Let’s just dive in: What makes Allegro Brillante different from other Balanchine ballets? Why is it special?

Allegro is not exactly different but incorporates the speed, clarity, technical difficulty, musicality, and neoclassical style so closely identified with Balanchine.

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Your schedule is so busy!  You’re always traveling somewhere new to set another ballet.  Where else have you staged Allegro in the past?

I have actually staged Allegro for FBP before! I’ve also done it in San Francisco, Vancouver, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Singapore etc…..

That’s right, this wasn’t your first visit to Providence. What was your experience like working with the dancers of FBP this time around?

I had a great time with your dancers. They learned the choreography at breakneck speed and expressed a real interest in executing the ballet correctly.

“I love walking into a studio where no one knows the steps and seeing it all come to life in just a few hours.”

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If you could describe Allegro Brillante in 3 words, what would they be?

I would describe Allegro as fun, gut-buster, and energized!

What is your favorite part of the staging process?

I love walking into a studio where no one knows the steps and seeing it all come to life in just a few hours.

After retiring from NYCB, you were ballet mistress at Miami City Ballet for eight years and then San Fransisco Ballet for six.  You’ve been in the ballet world for your entire career, but now staging ballets, you have such a unique job.  How did you become a répétiteur?

I always had a propensity for learning quickly so this was a natural inclination. I gained a lot of knowledge being a ballet mistress and still face challenges with relish when I have to learn a ballet I’ve never staged. I feel honored and privileged to be allowed to stage Balanchine and Robbins.

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What is it about the Balanchine style that you enjoy so much?

I think I must have grown up with Balanchine style in my blood. It is so natural for me. Dancing at NYCB was a dream come true.

You premiered in The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov. What was that like? Do you have any favorite memories of working with Mr. Balanchine or at NYCB?

My scariest and favorite experience at NYCB was doing the Sugar Plum Fairy with Baryshnikov. Alone everyday for 5 days in a studio with the 2 of them, Balanchine and Misha. Awestruck and nervous and excited all at once. My memories go on and on. I think I will have to write a book! I was so lucky to work with such a genius.

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…and we would love to read your book.  Thank you, Elyse!

all photos via