the fourth wall

Klaus_Frahm_4th_Wall_itsnicethat_7

As a child of performing arts, the view of an empty theater from behind the “fourth wall” is wildly nostalgic.

Klaus_Frahm_4th_Wall_itsnicethat_11To me, the rows of vacant seats are not hollow, but filled instead with a warm familiarity.

Klaus_Frahm_4th_Wall_itsnicethat_13They are balanced, orderly, reliable.  Overflowing with the promise of their imminent fullness, but still an expression of beauty as they wait.
Klaus_Frahm_4th_Wall_itsnicethat_10

Arriving hours before opening to prepare for performance, I silently converse with the sacred space which lives in the absence of a dark red curtain.  I see the theater in its polished glory.

Klaus_Frahm_4th_Wall_itsnicethat_9

I see its restful moments in between shows.

Klaus_Frahm_4th_Wall_itsnicethat_12

And so too, its occasional center stage nap.

Klaus_Frahm_4th_Wall_int_1

Hamburg-born photographer Klaus Frahm created a series of images featuring European theaters captured from behind.  The collection feels oddly personal to me, like a visual documentation of my relationship with performing.  Equally insightful is Frahm’s philosophy regarding the art of photography as “revealing something laying under the surface”, a concept beautifully manifested in his work.

Though as diverse as the countries they inhabit, there’s a strange sense of continuity in a venue specifically intended for the sharing of performance art.  I find looking out at a theater from the perspective of the performer always provides a sense of home, whether that stage be in Rhode Island or Russia.

photos & quote via

opening night: boundless plotnikov

photo 1 afterlight

This has been the shortest theater week of my life, with tech rehearsals on stage beginning just yesterday.  That being said, it was a nearly 12-hour day spent clarifying spacing, lighting, costumes, and cues.  We moved into the Vets, staged an entire ballet, and ran a full dress rehearsal of the show, all before 10 o’clock.  I did not set foot outside the theater for over 9 hours.  9 hours, people.  We’re talking looooong day.  And today begins early once more, with another dress rehearsal on stage before tonight’s opening.

This is one of the most emotionally polarized shows I’ve ever been a part of.  Surrender expresses the turmoil of  lust, betrayal, deceit, and the ultimate triumph of love.  As choreographer, Viktor Plotnikov, says, it’s all about “surrendering to love” and “just letting things be”.  But as is the case in real relationships, the path to peace is not a smooth one.  The youngest of Plotnikov’s constantly conceiving brainchildren is Sharps and Flats, a comedy whose satirical tone could not be more opposite that of Surrender, making it the perfect foil to such a stark opening.  S&F also explores human relationships, but this time within the (slightly clumsy) structure of an orchestra of “broken musicians” navigating their way through their maniacal conductor’s ascent into musical madness.  The show closes with audience favorite, Orchis, returning from its premiere last season by popular demand.  This gravity-defying ballet leaves its audience speechless, with its dancers creating haunting, curved lines and “round shapes”, inspired by the understated beauty of drying, decaying orchids.  This is probably my favorite ballet to dance of the three, and not only for it’s breathtaking choreography but for my love of it’s inventive, commissioned score by Sonya Belousova, a young compositional genius.

If you are in the area, buy your tickets now.

If you are not in the area, buy some plane/train/bus tickets, then buy your Boundless Plotnikov tickets here.

nutcracker 2014, according to my iphone

photo 1 photo 1 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1 photo 2 photo 2 photo 3 photo 2 photo 4 photo 1photo 5 photo 1 photo 2

As you may know, I’ve taken over Festival Ballet’s instagram-posting duties for the weekend, and have been snapping away like a crazy stage mom who just splurged on a fancy new camera.  From close-ups of gorgeous headpiece bling, to light soaked shots of the stage from the wings, the posts are turning out to be a bit of a photo diary of backstage life at Providence Performing Art Center during The Nutcracker.

This afternoon I have my “easiest” show yet, with just Lead Snow and Marzipan on deck.  It’ll be the first of all the performances so far that I get to sit back and relax during party scene, which means no rushing to rip off my party mom wig and sew-in my pointe shoe ribbons at hyper speed.  Hooray!

To follow along on all the action in real time, follow me @festivalballetprovidence and @keeksevans on Instagram.

preparations

photo 4

It’s officially Nutcracker theater week, day one!  I’ve yet to actually set foot inside PPAC this year, but with preparations already taking up so much of my time (notice the above photo in which I’m sewing pointe shoes in the car en route to a check up with [one of ] my [ many ] back doctor [s]), I can already tell it’s going to be a great deal busier than my last theater week.

With a definitive cast list still up in the air, I’m feeling a bit uneasy about this weekend’s performances.  When will I be dancing which roles and with whom?  Just tiny details!  Although, casting questions aside, I’m not sure I’ve ever really felt super duper prepared to perform by day one of theater week.  It’s always those tech and dress rehearsals onstage that take my comfort level from restless to ready.  Hopefully PPAC works its magic and I can sleep easy tomorrow night before Thursday morning’s show.  Wow, just two days until we open!  Where has December gone?

everything is beautiful at the ballet

cw1a8762

(FBP dancers Louisa Chapman and Dylan Giles in Mark Harootian’s The Daily Grind, photo by Cemal Ekin)

Two days into FBP’s (slightly surprise) 2-week layoff and I’ve already established a new morning routine:  After giving my boyfriend a lift to the train station so he can make his way to work in Boston, I make a cup of tea and sit in bed surfing the web before getting ready to head into the studio for a mini ballet class.  Uh, back up- did I just say surfing the web?  Yikes it appears I did…

Anyway, outdated terminology and all, my internet perusing has lead me to many strange and beautiful things (as it seems to do so often), but this morning’s find seemed like one I should share with all of you.

Journalist and founding editor of Next Avenue, Donna Sapolin, recently attended the SanFrancisco Ballet performance at Lincoln Center and was, as she put it, “utterly captivated”.  Sapolin immediately recognized the “great deal of creative intelligence, effort and teamwork” that goes into making ballet look so effortlessly beautiful and consequently realized that ballet dancers encompass all of the qualities that contribute to a successful career.  So she wrote an article about it.

In her piece for Forbes, Sapolin lists the 7 qualities required of professional ballet dancers that, if applied, would help any business thrive.  In short, these are her criteria:

1. Listen intently. Ballet dancers hinge every move and gesture on the musical score’s rhythm and emotion and the choreographer’s instruction. To do otherwise would result in failure.  We tend to forget how much we can learn by simply paying attention to others’ concepts and expert guidance, particularly in these tech-driven times when so much is competing for our attention. Lending an ear and being truly “present” to what others are saying are vital for learning new skills and absorbing valuable ideas at work. They’re also great ways to make your colleagues feel respected and spur their productive cooperation. So, lean in, make eye contact, speak less and listen conscientiously.

2. Take many steps. Top ballet dancers don’t think in terms of reducing the number of steps in the dances they perform nor do they believe they can cut back on their practice and rehearsal sessions and still manage to excel on stage.  There are no shortcuts to achieving excellence. Keeping your footing while spinning and performing gravity-defying ballet acts requires sustained focus, practice and perseverance. So does developing and executing elegant, simple and helpful solutions in other fields.  Continuous effort while holding the bar high also enable workers in other fields to create masterful products and services.

3.  Collaborate face-to-face. The ballet is all about direct contact between dancers, but that kind of partnership and collaboration is becoming a rarity in many other occupations.  Nothing beats face-to face contact and interaction when it comes to brainstorming, resolving problems and building both team spirit and a sense that ownership of one’s work matters.

4. Smile through it. Ballet dancers perform stunningly difficult maneuvers with total grace and a smile on their faces.  They want to delight the audience — a display of suffering wouldn’t help their cause.  There may be a lot to moan about at your job, but whining will not improve things. First, make the decision to be happy, focus on reducing your overall stress level and developing a more exuberant, grateful attitude. Then lend a critical eye to your own performance and do everything you can to improve it.

5. Show some leg. I love how ballet costumes swirl, swish and cling, highlighting the magnificent muscular bodies of the dancers while also revealing their emotional core.  In the workplace, it’s vital to reveal and tap into your humanity. This is especially true when you hold a leadership position. Expert skills and an excellent work ethic are important, but nothing will take you further than revealing your human side.

6.  Lend a hand, take an outstretched one. Ballet dancers lift, entwine, lean on and support one another. That makes them terrific role models for what we need to emphasize in our own work environments. We should cheer one another on, provide constructive feedback, collaborate and mentor one another with the objective of enabling everyone to reach their potential. We should also be willing to ask for help when we need it.

7. Stay active, keep moving. The ballet stage is filled with action and the dancers never stop practicing to perfect their movesYou need to own your body to own your mind. Energize yourself and your environment by prioritizing fitness. Sit less — prolonged periods of sitting steal our health. Keep learning new skills. And take initiative to move yourself and your work forward. Sustaining motivation is in large part a matter of visualizing your goals and breaking them down into smaller steps.

Read the full article here.

ballerina with red chairs

kirsten2adj-1

photo by Sheila K. Lawrence

Seeking perfection for a living can be mentally draining, to say the least.  With so many negative thoughts swirling around in your (bun)head day in and day out…my feet never point in that lift! my butt looks huge in this costume! why can’t I just turn out?!…it’s not hard to lose sight of what’s really important: connecting with your audience.

Enter Sheila.  This Tuesday, a “Backstage At The Arts” class for art-lovers of a more advanced age sat in on our rehearsal day.  About twenty charming students perched in the rows of our black box theater and observed as we marked, ran, and worked through the difficult bits of each piece for this weekend’s show.  Before my scheduled rehearsal time, our artistic director, Misha, opened the floor to any questions the students had for the dancers.  After informing the room of how I’d been dancing since I was 2 years old and my dream company (de jour) is Boston Ballet, Misha let them all in on a little “secret” of mine.  You guessed it, my injury.  The words fractured spine escaped from my subconscious, rolled out through Misha’s pursed lips, made their way to the ears of the students and rushed down their unsuspecting throats, pausing once for an audible, collective sharp inhale before passing down into their stomaches, where they seemed to sit quite uncomfortably.  This spawned a series of How did that happen?  Were you dancing?  How long did it take to recover?  How long have you been back in the studio?  and before I knew it I was in the middle of the first run of In Passing.  We worked on some corrections, ran the piece again and rehearsal was over.

Still feeling a bit too rusty to be in front of an audience, I didn’t waste time exiting the studio after practicing a few pirouettes.  As I b-lined for the dressing room, a woman stopped me.  It was Sheila.  She tapped me on the back and proceeded to express just how deeply In Passing had affected her.  She told me how much she enjoyed my dancing and that the piece nearly moved her to tears.  I noticed she was holding a camera in the same moment when she asked if I might be willing to pose for some photos in an empty studio down the hall.  Of course, being so grateful for her kind words, I obliged.

The shot above, which Sheila has dubbed “Ballerina with Red Chairs”, was the result of this mini photoshoot.  Whenever I see this picture, I will remember Sheila and her warmth.  Every time I look at my shadow cutting through the block of sunlight shining in through the window, I will be reminded of how just a little bit of darkness can interfere with something that is meant to be bright.  So here’s to a night of accepting our shadows and spotlighting our bright bits.  We could all use a little positivity sometimes…don’t you think?

time to perform

b4462b1de219a8dddd2344c6014e28ab

Tonight I will perform for the first time post-fracture!  Our black box theater series, Up Close On Hope, opens at 8:00 and I just can’t wait to get out there and perform Viktor Plotnikov’s Tea Time.  It’s a satirical piece about living life in the “high society” (read: lots of subtle humor and snooty facial expressions).  There is a whole crew of wonderful people coming to support my return to the stage tonight, and I couldn’t be more grateful for their encouragement.

New England readers: you really need to catch this show.

For more info.  For tickets.