in my skin

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I’ve been standing in the shower for far longer than necessary, letting the hot water patter over my shoulders and steam up my sore body. Two thick strips of kinesio tape flank my pulled lateral quad. A pillow of gauze inflates with water between my scarred baby toe and my bruised fourth toenail. The biggest toe on my other foot hides its half-nail under a bandage cap. Ballerina feet indeed.

That morning, finally seeing my podiatrist after a week of phone tag, he jokes that I’m lucky he doesn’t have a jealous wife. I have 3 voicemails in my inbox that say, “Hi Kirsten, it’s me. I’ll try again later.” This morning the office is empty save for my mother, the secretary, the doctor, and me. He’s wearing full scrubs, gracious nature brings him in to cut away bits of my skin before heading to the hospital for a full day of surgeries. My mother- bless her brave soul- is enlisted as accomplice, er assistant, in the scraping of my toe gunk. She patiently holds back my pesky wiggly toe- the one that’s had a bit of bone removed by that very wonderful podiatrist himself several years before- and never even squirms at its squishy ilk.

Today begins a week of 12-hour days. Beginning in the studio at 9:30am and wrapping in the theater at 10pm when the union crew turns out the lights on us, we will work. We will warm up, we will rehearse, we will warm up again. We will space, we will learn, we will dance. We will correct, repeat, perform. Repeat. A week quite literally full of ballet. Equal parts intimidated and excited, a recipe for the best kind of butterflies.

Here goes.

hbd mr. b

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It’s Mr. B’s b-day and I’m celebrating with a little homework. Ballet homework, that is…

A week ago Balanchine repetiteur Sandy Jennings was in town setting Rubies for our February program and I’m feeling pretty dang honored to be rehearsing both Solo Girl (aka “Tall Girl”) and the Principal Pas De Deux. Eeep! So much excitement, so much responsibility, so many counts.

So here I am watching archival videos online, sipping on dandelion tea, and sitting on my NEW COUCH. If you’ve been following along for a while, you know how much I love arranging and rearranging my furniture, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve made such a major change in my space. Stay tuned for photos, it’s been a wild ride…

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

moments

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Sometimes a single moment onstage lasts longer than every hour of rehearsal leading up to that moment combined.  Despite the irony of its extremely fast-paced nature, Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux gave me one of those moments this past weekend, where the whole room seemed to slow down to a halt.  It’s such a strange moment of meta, when you are performing and you’re actually able to perceive your own performance as its happening.  A moment like this one presents the unusual opportunity to monitor your own dancing- in a way.  But instead of scanning the crowd, counting my steps, or wishing I’d used just one more spritz of hairspray in my french twist, this time warping moment solicited something far more simple: my own realization of the happiness it was bringing me.photo

Vaganova-trained from the relatively ripe age of 11, I’ve always considered the Balanchine style to be just a tad bit…inferior.  The splayed fingers, over crossed tendus and non-existent first position port de bras comprise a foreign technique that to me once seemed brash, hurried, and dare I say slightly unrefined.  Only now, after submerging myself in the romanticism of a Balanchine pas de deux, do I finally understand what it all means.  In Tchai Pas, there is no time to worry about your tricks.  No time to contemplate what you could be doing better, or how to convey a certain emotion.  The music plays, the dance begins, and it all sort of just happens.  Naturally.  There is a sublime joy that comes with such freedom of movement, a bliss that the great Balanchine bestowed to his dancers, and that, proven by my recent cognizance, continues to circulate throughout the dance community to this day.  There’s no worrying about making that perfect position before hitting the next, because it all sort of just bleeds together seemlessly into this paradoxic lyrical garden filled with pronounced motions.  It’s not about perfection, it’s about interpreting music into emotion.  And that, my friends, feels incredible.1554395_10201991532698430_458184464168576495_n

To give you some perspective, I think the feeling is best described by one of Mr. B’s most famous quotes, “Dancing is music made visible.”  Even if it wasn’t visible to anyone else in the room, the music was all I could see.  It was all around me, everywhere I looked.  It was in every passionate developé, every pirouette, every echappé.  Every time I left the stage it filled my ears, eyes, and nose, telling me to stay calm, focus, and slowly take in another deep breath full of the Tchaikovsky-drenched air.

an evening in neverland

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Monday night, FBP held its annual spring fundraising gala at Aspire at Hotel Providence on one of my favorite streets  downtown.  The theme of the event was An Evening in Neverland, a clever nod to the company’s upcoming production of Jorden Morris’s Peter Pan.  It was quite a lovely night, with yummy hors d’hoeuvres, free wine(!!), a performance (Alex and I danced Joseph Morrissey’s beautiful neoclassical pas de deux, Poised, on a carpeted floor, in pointe shoes, mind you) and an exciting silent auction where prizes included a week’s stay in a 30-room mansion in Poland, a precious piece of glass artwork by world renowned, locally based artist and FBP board president Toots Zynsky, and a private museum tour in NYC lead by the one and only Mikhail Baryshnikov!

This week I’m switching gears from Esmeralda pas de deux to Balanchine’s iconic Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.  It’s a romantic duet, complete with a flowy dress for me, puffy sleeves for my partner, and an adorable little “cuddle” lift at the end.  Festival favorite and Balanchine Trust Repetiteur, Sandra Jennings, makes her return to Providence tonight (eep!) to watch our rehearsal and spruce, shape, mold, and refine us before Friday night’s performance.  Considering I had to put this piece very much on the back burner to prepare for Esmeralda for the past two weeks, my Balanchine footwork is a biiiit rusty.  Here’s to hoping I can whip those toes into shape before 7 pm!

promoted

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Last night was one of the most surreal night’s of my life.

First of all, performing Balanchine’s Agon onstage is just as intimidating as it seems, but oh so rewarding when that curtain closes.

Being a part of Plotnikov’s Orchis was absolutely incredible.  There are no words.  During the final pas de deux, I swear you could have heard a pin drop, the audience was so silent.  Amazing.

After the performance, a reception was held in the mezzanine of the theater.  Wine, champagne, tiny desserts, all par for the course.  One thing was different on this night, however.  An announcement was made by the artistic director, Misha.  Someone was promoted- mid season- into the company.  And guess what?  That someone was ME!

I am still so overwhelmed with excitement.  And joy!  And disbelief.  But most of all, pride and optimism.  In a world where we receive corrections (pretty much a run down of everything we did wrong) the moment we leave the stage, having all of my hard work recognized is truly extraordinary.  I can’t wait to perform again tonight and tomorrow, now with a renewed sense of energy and vivacity.  These moments right here, this is why I love ballet.

sparks

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There is so much potential energy in a stack of matches.  All it takes is one simple spark and the whole pile is aflame.

Right now, the dancers of FBP are all sharing a correlative level of potential energy.  Once set in motion, there is a possibility for each little spark to reach the (almost painfully) dry oxygen that inhabits the stage and burst into flames.  I cannot express just how excited I am to even have the chance to experience this potential bonfire.

Tonight will be my first time ever performing a Balanchine ballet- a milestone for any professional dancer- and (for reasons that only type A personalities would understand) I am so glad that it’s Agon.  As for Plotnikov’s Orchis, for any of you attending the show, please note your exits and practice a little stop, drop & roll…we’re going to burn it up.