meditation and manifestation


I’ve always been a little afraid of the dark.

There’s something about pitch black space that has never sat well with me.  It seems to swirl about shapelessly, taunting my confused pupils with invisible threats.  For when darkness is unavoidable, which it so often is, I’ve discovered a little trick to escaping its grip: with closed eyes and deepened breath, I slip into the serenity of my very own eclipse.

Standing in the wings before Apollo, the house lights go down and ceremonious Stravinsky inflates.  For several measures, alone in the highest wing stage right, I must wait in darkness.  Trapped in emptiness and the discomfort this holding brings me, I dive into my darkness.  Eyes closed and hands in anjali mudra, I meditate.  I press my palms together and study the shifting of my weight, attempting to create an equal and opposite energy inwards, gently squeezing every muscle towards my center with a special focus on the connection of my feet through the shanks of my pointe shoes and into the floor.  I am careful to correct any asymmetry in my stance, to quiet the flicker of my eyelids and to kindly remind myself of my own nowness.  I am here, I am here, I am here.  The final chord carries up with it the rising of the booms from respite to brilliance and my eyelids part on a slow count of 8.

The first 6 movements have passed and I’m returned to my corner.  A wave of emotions wash through me watching the naturally serious Mindaugas noticeably gleeful in his pas de deux with Vilia.  He moves freely in the steps given to Mr. Balanchine’s Apollo, portraying the character with an ease that cannot be planned, taught, or otherwise artificially obtained; It is manifestation- a serendipitous expression of the perfect meeting between dancer and ballet.  It is beautiful, it is magical, and I am honored once again.


all photos by Brenna DiFrancesco, Apollo choreography by George Balanchine©



Apollo Mikhail Baryshnikov with, from left, Heather Watts, Elise Bourne, and Bonnie Bourne Credit Photo ©Paul Kolnik New York City Ballet Choreography by George Balanchine

IMG_4822Perhaps it speaks to my slightly dramatic nature, but I can’t help but reflect profoundly on what will occur just 12 hours from now.*  Tonight I will make my debut performance in one of Balanchine’s greatest (and first) ballets, the iconic Apollo, and I am feeling allllll the feels.

There’s something so special about dancing a Balanchine ballet- working with the illustrious Trust, perfecting each stylized step and unusual count- that changes you.  There’s some stirring sensation in knowing that exactly those movements your body transmits now were carried through time and passed from dancer to dancer, finding their way from emulation by some of ballet’s most legendary to your very own splayed fingers.  It invigorates in such a different way than work choreographed on your body can.  Highlighting the deeply historical nature of our art form, Balanchine ballets not only challenge a dancer’s ability to adapt in technique, but also to punctuate with a pinch of her own spice.

It has been a bit of a turbulent ride, but we had our first dress rehearsal yesterday, and this evening I will join the ranks of some truly incredible artists who have danced this ballet before me.  Mindaugas, our Apollo, is one of the best this role has ever seen (Sandy’s words!), and I can hardly believe I will be dancing with him in his final few Apollo‘s.  To say I feel honored would be an understatement.

If you are in the RI area, do not miss this bit of history.  For tickets.

*Can you reflect on something that has not yet happened?  Is this a new level of overthinking for me?  Uh oh.

Apollo across generations: Jacques d’Amboise, Jean-Pierre Frolich, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and FBP’s own Mindagaus Bauzys.  Thank you to Brenna DiFrancesco for snapping the photo of us in yesterday’s dress rehearsal.

Apollo choreography by George Balanchine©

apollon musagéte


history, mythology
symbolism wrapped in white
the Youth of Zeus, both god and muse
wheeling in circles toward the light
artistic divinity, physical symmetry
curator of beauty, movement and word
collector of gesture, youth under pressure
born fresh to a body fore matured


flexed hands, open hips
collect more space in less time
mice that flinch and toes a-ginch
3 muses scatter a musical rhyme
Mr. B’s revolving mirrors
simple steps with precise execution
chariots, chains, clocks and trains
final apotheosis: elevated resolution.
– from the mind of Kirsten, channeling Calliope
Apollo choreography by George Balanchine thanks to the George Balanchine Trust©
photos by Melissa Wong.

black and white and gold all over

IMG_4355 151030 Festival BalletIMG_4360 151030 Festival BalletIMG_4356151030 Festival Ballet

November’s golden trees are lighting up the East Side in their vivid dying dance and studio life counters, shifting its fiery red to a cool, autumnal black and white.  At last the final flames of summer have simmered to smoldering coals, reminding us that soon they will be just the ashes of their former selves, prepared to wrap up in a blanket of winter white.  Our fall series of Up Close On Hope is coming right up, and MAN, it’s going to be a good one.

As I’ve mentioned before, the first half of this month’s program features George Balanchine’s Apollo.  It’s a simple ballet with a powerful score, a nod to Greek mythology, and an impressive history.  I feel so honored to be dancing Calliope, the muse of poetry.  She’s a dramatic, wounded artiste with far more weighty words than her little heart can hold.  Funny when ballet life parallels the real world, isn’t it?  (Just kidding….kind of.)

The second half of UPOH comprises the Bach Suites: 3 world premieres and 2 pas de deuxs set to the timeless music of Mr. Johann Sebastian Bach.  To create the movement, FBP has called upon two new (to us) choreographers, husband-and-wife pair Andrea Shelley and Spencer Hering, as well company member Ty Parmenter, resident choreographer Viktor Plotnikov, and artistic director Misha Djuric.  Perhaps the most exciting element of this program points to the talented local musicians who will play Bach’s brilliant Suites live(!) in our black box theatre.  There’s something so special about live dance and music together- visible comments being made by the choreography and its dancers, reciprocated by the score in such a distinctive way.  This intimate conversation between artists both visual and auditory is at its most pure when remarks are made in real time, responses emerging spontaneously.  The product is altered ever so slightly from the last run, the dress rehearsal, the walk through the night before.  Such reliance on impulse, acute awareness, physical innervation.  Here I go with my excessive words again…better cut myself off here…

for tickets.

Apollo Choreography by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust, Apollo photos by Eric Hovermale