elements

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There are few more hallowed grounds in the great cavernous world of dance than those woodsy ones that comprise Jacob’s Pillow. Being relatively quaint in composition (that is, when compared to say, the gilded curtains at Palais Garnier or even our own fabergé egg in Providence), is no accidental affair; The space at Jacob’s Pillow invokes an unbridled celebration of marriage between movement and nature. I mean, the celestial “pillow” itself is an oversized rock, so, there you have it. Stages unencumbered by adornment, curtains, walls…

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Could any such space appear more divinely designed for Louisa Chapman’s “The Elements”? On Saturday afternoon the sun was shining, the sky showing off a perfect milky blue, and the wind was so gracious as to help the trees do some dancing of their own. From between branches that same wind whirled down around our faces as we emulated flocking birds, an invisible current, congested leaves, and finally ourselves, gently blown aback by the sweet scent of summer. This feels like something I should further describe the feeling of, but I already have: simply the perfect marriage of movement and nature.

 

 

second photo by Michael Collins.

there is only now

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I am such a huge fan of New York City Ballet’s 2016-2017 campaign.  It’s somehow both hauntingly timeless and incredibly current; a breathing incantation of Balanchine’s mantra “There is only now.”  The captivating video and stunning photos by Peter Lindbergh are just dreamy, and his musings on the special art of capturing ballet dancers are truly poetic…New-York-City-Ballet-2016-2017-03.jpgnew-york-city-ballet-2016-2017-07New-York-City-Ballet-2016-2017-06.jpgnew-york-city-ballet-2016-2017-01new-york-city-ballet-2016-2017-02-762x1024New-York-City-Ballet-2016-2017-04.jpg

“With dance, it is about capturing movement, which is everything I love.  It leaves space for the unexpected, as the same movement is never twice the same.”

-Peter Lindbergh

breakfast à la beauverie

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“Here, in these gardens, my grandfather had painted in his Panama hat, and sometimes his suit, under an umbrella to keep the glare of sun from burning out all color in his work, while Stellita Steapleton or Mahdah Reddin or his daughter (my mother), Frances, or my grandmother took the sun.  Here had been formal gardens, trimmed hedges, and, the next terrace up, the cutting garden- all well fenced by hawthorn hedges to keep out animals.  Here the gardeners had worked under my grandmother’s supervision.  The yew tree, all asprawl now on the first terrace, had been trimmed in those days, and kept clipped in the shape of a basket.  Out of these gardens had come primulas; roses for the house; nasturtiums, whose cool leaves lined baskets of peaches and whose peppery blossoms made their way into salads; lavender for the linen closet; colombine; margeurites…”

A Place in Normandy, Nicholas Kilmer

Each day in Normandy, as we road tripped from one town to the next, whoever rode in the passenger’s seat that day (usually me) read aloud from this book.  Written by the current owner’s father, the sharp novel tells the story of La Beauverie, twisting through time from pre-war roots to present-day glory.  We’ve only made it halfway through so far (though we plan to finish!), but were pleasantly surprised to learn of its colorful history, including a longtime stint as the home and studio of impressionist painter Frederick Frieseke (the owner’s great great grandfather) and an incident with an interloping owl in its dreary ’80s phase.

Among my favorite things to read about were the flourishing gardens.  One evening, after a French Little House On The Prairie moment* walking back with a basket full of laundry from the Atelier, I decided to explore the gardens on my own.  The sentiment “Everything grows in Normandy!” we’d heard again and again since our arrival proved undeniably true in the pastures facing the house, but these gardens were quite contrarily an exercise in discipline.  Each stepped layer and pruned hedge was a cultivation of constraint, a controlled crop.

I’d been planning all week to make 2 ingredient pancakes (just bananas, eggs, and spices- have you tried them?), and suddenly felt no other place would be appropriate for their consumption.  That Saturday morning, we whipped up our ‘nana-egg-pancakes (M made apple compote for topping), grabbed some Nutella (my French travel essential), and nestled into les jardins.  No other description is necessary, it was every bit as wonderful as it sounds.

 

*These happened often.  I took a certain pleasure that week in strolling by the cows, calling them Lucy or Mindy or Grace, and pretending this was actually my life.

paintings of the garden by Frederick Frieseke.

midweek reads

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I can hardly contain my excitement to board a plane for France with my best friend tomorrow night.  I cannot be distracted from Parisian plans, but if you’re looking to take your mind off of things…

FBP’s Marissa Parmenter on sexism in the ballet world for Dance Magazine.

NYCB just got sportier.

Addicted to the Hamilton soundtrack right now.

Go Jeff!

Will I really be watching this live a week from tonight?

…and walking barefoot through these country roads, too?  pinch me.  swoon.

Vintage Paris Opera Ballet.

Currently consulting.

 

 

 

photo by Anna Ray Studio.

c l o u d & v i c t o r y

I first fell in love with Cloud & Victory via social media.  It was a classic tale of Instagram romance, if you will.  There were pizza emojis, hilarious narrations, and captions that spoke to my soul.  This one made me laugh especially hard…Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.23.39 PM.png

Cloud & Victory seems to speak the mind of today’s ballet dancer.  Aside from all that Instagram brilliance, the collection itself is spotted with fun pop culture references, snarky quotes, and of-the-moment affirmations.  The clothing (in design and manufacturing) is unusual, honest, and indisputably quirky.  My jeté en l’air like you don’t care tee always cheers up a long Saturday in the studio, its cheekiness matched only by the lightness of its fabric.

 When I saw this, I cracked up and just knew I had to reach out to Min, the genius behind the C&V brand.  We instantly connected (thanks social media and shared interests), and sweet Min sent over a tee from the Spring collection (Blood, Sweat & Pirouettes could not be a more accurate description of the Swan Lake preparation process- and yes, I do sweat glitter) as well as the Svetlana Zakharova/Carl Sagan mash-up inspired by the former’s Odette (because Carl Sagan as Odette would probably be more of a turtleneck situation).  I snuggled up with my super soft new duds and chatted with the lovely Min about the dancewear brand that bolstered her in the wake of very personal despair…about-cloudandvictory-min-with-miko

Hi Min!  Let’s get right to it.  Tell us how Cloud & Victory began.

I had become anorexic and clinically depressed when I was in law school from pushing myself too hard, and had taken a year off to recover. A new ballet school opened near my home, and I decided to take some ballet classes. Ballet was really helpful to my recovery, and when I returned to university to finish my degree I decided to design and sell some fun ballet tops to cope with the trauma of going back to school – clothes I would want to wear. After graduation, I was still too ill and weak to take a full time job, so I decided to focus on the clothing thing for a few months while I got better. Even though it was supposed to be temporary, I took it very seriously! I knew that I wanted to offer a socially-responsible product, with clothing that was high-quality and ethically made. I did a lot of research and put a lot of work into it. The word got out very gradually, but the response was very positive, both from professional dancers and students, so I kept going and going. And I haven’t stopped!

It’s hard work but I love C&V and am grateful to have the chance to do what I’m doing. I’m also very lucky to have my family’s support – even though they initially didn’t have a clue about ballet and were pretty skeptical of this funny online thing I was doing! Cloud & Victory is actually a combination of my parents’ Chinese names.e1c9c0b921fb433123340ef412f0d9a8 (1)

Your story is really quite beautiful.  What has been the most special moment for you in creating this brand?

Oh gosh, so many! Shooting with my friends, like Joy Womack, Keenan Kampa and Miko Fogarty. A forthcoming collaboration with Gaynor Minden. Going backstage after an ABT performance and realising that a bunch of dancers knew about C&V. Diana Vishneva contributing her pointe shoes to a fundraiser I organized for Nepal earthquake victims. A woman e-mailing me to tell me that an interview I did with Royal Danish Ballet’s Carling Talcott about our experiences with anorexia encouraged her to seek help for her eating disorder. All the people I’ve had the privilege of meeting, collaborating with and befriending through C&V – I treasure all these moments and relationships. They keep me going when I feel discouraged or burnt out.SS16-Lookbook-8

The biggest one that stands out for me right now was going to Russia to shoot with Joy – I had my photographer and backup photographer cancel on me just days before the trip, Russia had just invaded Ukraine so there was a lot of uncertainty, and I was one of the few crazy foreigners going into the country instead of trying to get out. This short Chinese person, wandering into Russia. But thankfully it all worked out.

“I had never imagined when I started C&V that I would ever end up in this place, this ballet mecca, and pull off this crazy, incredible experience.”

 

I got to collaborate with Joy again and watch her perform, which was such a treat. I met and took pictures of some lovely girls from Vaganova school, some of whom I’m still in touch with – I couldn’t believe that all the way in Russia, there were dancers who liked C&V and wanted to work with me! odette

On my last night I watched the Mariinsky perform. It was amazing – my first ever Ratmansky! After the show, I was waiting by the canal between the old and new Mariinsky buildings for my friend Xander. I remember looking up at the night sky and crying: it was so surreal. I had never imagined when I started C&V that I would ever end up in this place, this ballet mecca, and pull off this crazy, incredible experience. And then Xander popped up next to me and I had to hastily tidy myself up without him noticing. Luckily it was dark!

Most of the Russians I met were really nice and helpful as well, I’ve heard from my Russian friends that this isn’t always the case!

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Wow, squad goals is right!  You have had some pretty incredible experiences so far.  What’s your ultimate pipe dream?

Well, of course every business owner wishes for their brand to be successful. I suppose my biggest goal would be for C&V to be in a position where thorough it I can contribute consistently and meaningfully to the world we live in, and to foster a ballet community where we can help and empower each other. It sounds terribly cheesy, but it’s true! Oh, and to be less stressed. Less tired, more inspired – that’s the dream!

AMEN TO THAT.  

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Thank you so much Min, for generously sharing your humor, your story, and your glorious designs!  Head over here to shop and learn more about Cloud & Victory on their blog. xx

All photos via Cloud & Victory.

from the h o u s e

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Ballet is a living art form.  Its makers do not produce something to be hung and admired, used, or stored for the enjoyment of a future audience.  It is breathing and fleeting.  After a step has been made, so too it has vanished.  When a performance concludes, all that is left is a memory.

What a magical thing then, when another artist, in this case a photographer, is able to catch a bit of that living art and preserve it in time.  I am grateful to any brave soul who attempts the frustrating task of photographing moving art- especially one as precise and with such perfectionist authors as ballet dancers-  so much so, that I am able (in most instances, ha) to overlook technical imperfections and admire, commend, and spread the beauty such carefully captured art.

A small collection of photographs taken at a dress rehearsal, by the courageous and talented Saulius Ke

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theatre thoughts

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home is where the house faces

and up on high the white light traces

a hallow box the wing embraces

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home is where the curtain rises

to a careful grid of our varied sizes

we look, line, breathe and hope distance disguises

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home is where the booms stack and glow

creative floods do steady flow

and nurtured artists bloom and grow

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home is where the gold molding frames

setting and seating change their names

but forever our sanctuary the theatre remains.

{sleepy theatre thoughts by me | awesome dress rehearsal photos by Jacob Hoover}