monday, monday


I’ve been busy getting back into shape for my first (pre-season!) performance this Thursday night(!!!) and if the excessive use of exclamation points wasn’t enough of a giveaway, let it be known that I am EXCITED about it.   Here’s some fun from around the web I’m poring over with a side of English Breakfast this morning…

Absolutely love Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s new season preview video.  Those overhead shots!  Also Clair de lune will never get old.

What do you think of the death of the American Dance Critic?

…on that note, this dance reviewer just articulated exactly how I feel about So You Think You Can Dance. (and pointed out the show’s annoyingly over guided approach to generating an emotional response from its audience.  Amen.)

Did you guys catch this webinar?  It was so inspiring.  Can’t wait to try out Shelby’s recipe for ginger nut butter this afternoon!

Also going to make these, because I have a serious pile of dead bananas at zee moment.

“I want to be a ballet dancer more than anything.” An old 1974 60 Minutes special covering an audition day for the school at American Ballet Theatre.


lost in motion


As a self-proclaimed millennial (who’s still trying to decide whether or not that’s something to be proud of), I watch the world focus shift from the expanse which surrounds to a palm-sized rectangle made of wires and glass.  With the irrepressible rise of mobile phones, comes the expectation of being perpetually available for communication.  From this persistent connection, the idea of social media is born, and so too the modern obsession with this phenomenon of creating an “online identity” (#guilty).

Now the pressure to always be represented! is shifting- I believe in a positive way- from a stress on the individual to an opportunity for a passionate collective to shine.  And is there any assembly more impassioned, fervent, and headstrong than that of ballet dancers?

We have seen the likes of Misty Copeland with her incredible legs and Daniil Simkin‘s playful backstage peeks growing in popularity on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.  Maria Kochetkova‘s explosive 30-second clips and the ever-lovable personality of Sara Mearns are now filling our feeds with enough inspiration to last us through Nutcracker.  But how can one single account change the way the world views ballet?  Let’s leave it to The National Ballet of Canada’s Guillaume Côté– and his 2 million YouTube hits– to demonstrate.

The clip above, in its dramatic artistry and impressive display of power, certainly speaks for itself.  Libby Coleman’s inside look, however, dives indulgently into the hopeful progression of these breathtaking videos with exclusive quotes from Côté himself.  Coleman takes us directly into the fire, as this electronic sharing of ballet is passed from the hands of ardent ballet fans and into the eyes of first time watchers.

So what do you think; Will it be enough to make a generation of selfie-loving hashtaggers rethink ballet?

everything is beautiful at the ballet


(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


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?

rehearsal chic

NYC Ballet Ballerina Style

After reading this article on HuffPo about the style of NYCB’s ballerinas, I started considering; how exactly does one’s in-studio style develop?  Everyone has their preferred dancewear flavor, from the guy who sports a wrestling singlet every Saturday to the girl who never starts class without her fluffy knit shawl.  We’ve all seen (and worn) some version of the sheer black wrap skirt and we revel in the magic of the tights-turned-bra-top trick.  We’ve certainly all experienced the softness, warmth, and fat-day-concealing power of the baggy cotton overalls that are somehow deemed acceptable garb within the half circle of wooden barres.  A company-wide rumor of unclaimed “trashbag” anything (shorts, pants, jumpsuits) in the lost and found excites us beyond belief.  But what exactly determines which odd ballet trend we go for?  Why do some of us reach for a sleek black camisole while others relish the chance to don a bright purple Yumiko in the morning?

Personally, I think it has something to do with our sartorial choices outside the studio.  Par example, one of my best friends is a true earrings girl.  From big studs to pearls to danglies (made that word up), she has a big jewelry box stuffed full of them…it’s like the Whole Foods bulk section in there.  She never leaves the house without some kind of ear decor, and she’s even been known to coordinate her earring/leotard combos quite painstakingly.  The brilliance in her dressing?  Without many other options for accessorizing your rehearsal-wear (shoes don’t deviate much from pink satin and necklaces/bracelets/scarves can be cumbersome), earrings are a really smart way to jazz up your ballet gear.  So bravo, T!

As for me, I’m getting pretty excited about a custom-made pair of leg warmers currently being knitted for me by the lovely Vilia Putrius.  Her stuff is seriously amazing…can’t wait to see how these turn out!

Happy Monday!

october first

oct ecap

Today is the first day of October!  Of course, I celebrated yesterday (my day off from work) by fighting the unseasonably warm temperatures with a thin black sweater and my orange beanie.  I can’t wait for the weather to start cooperating with the season…

I had a lovely “faux” first day of October yesterday, shopping with friends and visiting my dad at his kingdom of chemistry office.  The crazy brilliant engineer stuff that man does like it’s no big deal will never cease to amaze me.

Today the first few guest artists arrived for FBP’s annual Together We Dance gala this Thursday, and ohmygod, they are gorgeous.  More on that in an upcoming post…stay tuned…