full circle

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When I was 9 years old, I took my first pointe class.  It was my first exposure to classical ballet, my first time hearing the word épaulement, and my first time using those barres around the studio walls for a non-playtime purpose.  I had stepped- rather abruptly- out of the world of sequins and trophies and into the rigorous schedule of Festival Ballet Providence’s summer workshop.

Because like many children of the ’90s my previous knowledge of pointe shoes came from posters of babies in green tutus, I strolled into that very first pointe class with my ribbons criss-crossed 3 times and tied just below the knee.  Yes, I know.  Luckily for me (and my pre-adolescent self esteem), gracious Miss Mary Ann put a gentle arm around me, chuckled, and guided me through the entire process from padding to relevé.

That first pair of properly laced pointe shoes was like a seal; I was irrevocably into it.  The next fall I registered for a few classes, then more, and by the following year I was diving into a full load of classes on the pre-professional track at FBP.

When the need for Summer Dance Intensive training wove its way into what I was beginning to subconsciously refer to as my “career path”, I was 11.  FBP’s was the first SDI I attended, effectuating my first impression of the demanding, rewarding, and, yes, intense experience these programs are named for.  Naturally, I was hooked.

The six summers that followed brought me from Connecticut to New York and back.  I performed with a pseudo-company of 22 international dancers at Jacob’s Pillow and studied under countless methodologies, including a Bolshoi program taught entirely in Russian.  Ras, dva, tri…

Just in time for my final Summer Dance Intensive, though, fate brought me back to FBP.  Those 4 weeks were some of the most physically difficult and spiritually gratifying I have ever experienced.  My body and mind were tested in that specific, euphoric way only exhaustive dancing can incite.  It was my divine confirmation.  This was the work I wanted to be doing.  This was professional ballet.

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If my summer dance experience seems to have already come full circle, well then consider this a second lap: I am thrilled to announce I will be teaching in FBP’s 2017 Summer Dance Intensive!  This July I will join the staff at FBP, instructing future ballerinas in variations and pointe.

The studios that fostered my love of ballet, equipped that love for the real world and have since become my second home will now grow with me once more.  I cannot wait to give back all that this sacred place has given me.  So come dance with me, will you?

audition tour dates.

more information.

plié this way

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I remember the first piece of Free People clothing I ever wore, because I still own it.  Decidedly outside my usual color scheme, the tangerine hoodie is embroidered in thick black thread with an intricate floral pattern.  It has been mine for nearly a decade, a most prized gift for accomplishing the awkward task of turning fifteen.  Since then I’ve moved from my parents’ home to my brother’s, to a shared apartment in Providence before finally my own, and a certain orange sweater has come with me every time.  Though admittedly not something I wear every day, that Free People hoodie gives me such fuzzy feelings.

These days my uniform has changed slightly, from tangerine sweatshirts to easy dresses, flowy tees and seamless intimates by the boho brand.  It would be no exaggeration to say my closet is chock full of freeps…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So when Free People contacted me about styling a few pieces for their Movement is Free campaign, I yipped, squealed, and jumped on the idea.  Kelly did what she does best (with a side of cuteness and Christmas) and HERE WE ARE!  On the FREE PEOPLE WEBSITE!  Sorry for the shouting.  I’m a tad excited.

Go check it out, if you like.  Let me know what you think, should you feel so inclined. I’ll just be here, happy-dancing…

 

all photos by Kelly Louise Photography.

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.

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}

 

down the l i n e

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When I remove my pointe shoes at the end of the night, a layer of expired white skin peels away with them.  The water in my plastic ice trays is not able to solidify at a rate expedient enough to keep up with my feet-freezing rotation.  I have noticed an undercurrent of those  few sections of the Swan Lake score to which I don’t actually dance taking on a cacophonic harmony to those pieces I am rehearsing in the flooded soundscape that is my thoughts.  The resulting contrivance is impossible to silence, nor ignore, so I’ve taken to humming along in appreciation of my mind’s attempt to remix Tchaikovsky’s compositional genius.  As Swan Lake side effects crop up, I’ve learned it is important to pick your battles.

At the risk of dramatizing the ballet world tp the delight of Hollywood, working through a ballet like this one does feel, at times, a bit like fighting a battle.  Pushing against physical limitations which weigh heavy, feuding with stubborn exhaustion as it begs you to crumble down into a pile of feathers on the marley…resisting the urge to relax in a would-be poised position through an entire adagio as sweat rolls down your wings and every last muscle contracts…darianvolkova2

In a late night rehearsal Wednesday, our prima-in-residence, Miss Milica Bijelic, who is here from Serbia to set her ballet, lingered upon the importance- and difficulty- in “working the poses”.  Arguably one of the most challenging aspects of Swan Lake, unbeknownst to the audience, is standing in a perfect diagonal and holding an active tendu front.  Perhaps because it appears stagnant, the difficulty in this position is often underrated.  Hips lifted, lower stomach engaged, inner thighs rotating forward, rib cage pulled in, shoulders down, chest forward, cheek turned, head tilted, eyes cast…the only muscles unflexed are those we must actively relax in the fingers, foreheads and the bottoms of our feet.

Doing this for 10 seconds is tough.  Collecting a corps of 16 very different dancers into neat rows and columns of identical swans, all practicing perfect posture for the duration of Acts II & IV?  Don’t be silly, that would require hours upon hours of grueling rehearsals.  No one loves artistic precision passionately enough to even pursue such a thing…right?

…oh, right.  See you tomorrow, Tendu.

 

Swan Lake photos by Darian Volkova.

s n e a k peek: fp x fbp

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On Monday a few of the FBP ladies and I got together with girls of Free People Providence for an exciting collaborative photoshoot of the Free People Movement collection.  We headed over to the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket to fill up the bare industrial space with soft spandex, tulle, and floaty port de bras.  Here’s a little behind-the-scenes action, stay tuned for the official photos…

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follow @freepeopleprovidence and @festivalballetprovidence for the latest.

i t i s

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Maybe you read my last few posts, and you are wondering about that sore foot of mine…or maybe you didn’t and aren’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway.  With my MRI results came good news and bad news.

The good news: Nothing is fractured.

The bad news: Everything is enflamed.  I’ve got bursitis, tendonitis and sesamoiditis.

All of the itis’s.  That’s what I’ve got.

A bit of a disclaimer: I would like to make it clear that I in no way advocate for dancing on injuries.  In fact, I think it’s a terrible idea and extremely destructive treatment of your most valuable instrument.  That being said, I have been given the okay by my orthopedist to continue rehearsing- with caution- for the next 3 weeks and perform in our final performance of the season (followed by a summer of rest and relaxation- doctor’s orders).

So with anti-inflammatories and a bucket of ice I shall press on.  Excited, nervous, slightly disbelieving; I walk into rehearsals this week with careful steps, a positive mindset, and the opportunity to glean a powerful life lesson.

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