keeping up

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Things have been a bit quiet around here lately. Please excuse the lack of communication; this past month was one of the strangest rehearsal periods of my entire career. Even with the company’s financial footing growing sturdier each year, unexpected setbacks inevitably arise. In coping with unpredictable cashflow, the past few weeks have been a cycle of 4 days on, 3 days off. We were forced into a work schedule of rehearse Wednesday-Saturday, rest Sunday-Tuesday, and repeat. Rehearse, rest, repeat. We’ve explored ways to deal with the stress of lengthy layoffs before, but what happens when layoffs creep into your regular routine?

Mid-season layoffs (we’ve also had a full week off after almost every program this season) are frustrating. Studio time is limited, precious rehearsal hours are coveted. I’d even go as far to say (bear with me) that my identity feels compromised. Without the work behind it, the art of dancing is lost. While I’ve learned to survive that loss during the summer months (re: rest and rosé) mid-season layoffs offer another obstacle entirely. It’s this loaded task of keeping in shape with less dancing time, as well as performing at the extraordinary level expected by the audience who- unless they are reading this post- should know no difference in your preparation experience. It’s easy to fall into a monotonous routine of class, gym, sleep- a truly depressing cocktail for any supposed artiste.

Leaving our surprise layoff period behind, we head into 3 consecutive 6-day show weeks. It will be a welcomed but admittedly difficult and abrupt transition. What an interesting thing to have a job wherein the overriding upset of time off is not the lack of income (which stings- don’t get me wrong), but the lack of the work itself. The first step to coping with such a circumstance is recognizing the beauty in that blessing. The next steps (suggestions, really) are slightly more hands on…

  1. Get away. Escape to Maine, road trip to Connecticut, watch the sun set in another state (thank you New England and your mosaic boarders).
  2. Explore. Try a new recipe, a new form of cross-training, a new craft.
  3. Take the long way home. Linger on the ordinary. You’ve got time.
  4. Journal. Even if you’re a self-proclaimed non-journaler, it’s healthy to document these uncomfortable parts of your life. I promise you will learn something.
  5. Trust your instincts. Listen to your body. Know when to experiment and learn when to relax.
  6. Practice patience. For all things, there is a season. This too shall pass.

visual learner

When I was 10, Festival Ballet Providence debuted a brand new Carmen.  A few Nutcracker performances with the company had brought me into full fandom by then, so I wouldn’t dream of missing a single show- even if I had no idea what it was about.  Because facts didn’t matter.  I never needed to read the story first, I preferred to see the story onstage.

From the very first scene, Carmen enraptured me.  Plotnikov’s telling begins with Micaela (the betrothed bystander) dramatically exposing the ruinous fates of key characters in a striking solo.  She eats up every bit of the stage, her motions sharp, flowing, heavy, and tragic.  One movement hypnotized me more than any other, and I remember feeling something in my stomach flutter when Micaela repeated the strange movement again in the ballet’s epilogue.  It appeared almost as a magic trick, her hands seeming to attach and shoot straight through her body.  It took obsessive 10-year-old me several hours in front of the mirror in my bedroom post-show to figure it out.

The dancer stands facing the wings in profile to the audience.  One hand is placed on the abdomen at the base of the wrist, fingers shooting outward away from the body.  The other hand mirrors this one, attaching at the back.  As the dancer begins to scuttle backwards, her hands flop up and down in time, as if shaking the hands of invisible strangers directly in front of and behind her.  It’s simple and bizarre and completely marvelous.

Yes, I have been idly “practicing” this odd step for 15 years now.  I’ve waited and watched for it every time the company has performed Carmen since, including 7 years ago when I entered the cast as a Factory Girl.  I’ve learned that the fingers must remain splayed, yet unstrained, the hands should rise and fall as if void of muscle and bone; It really works best when the hands are relaxed entirely.  All these years I have been workshopping and playing and alas, my turn has finally come!

for tickets.

gilded & floral

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When I looked back through my photos from last weekend in New York, I felt a wave of gold and pink.  Gilded and floral. Luxurious and blooming.  These hues really do best describe our trip.   Of the many gilded fixtures and blushing bouquets, though, one of each proved truly special…

Tiny Golden Loop, A Love Story

Friday was meant to be “my birthday”, for our celebratory purposes.  Unfortunately, I had been slightly handicapped by some strange spine-bending stomach pains that morning.  BUT!  Knowing me too well, my friends had arranged for us to spend the day in one of my favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods, and no belly ache could keep me from Catbird.  We hopped off the subway and I shot straight for the little jewelry boutique, tucked into 219 Bedford.  My goodness is that place magical.  Swept up in a sea of my own ooohs and ahhhs, it was like being pulled from a trance when T summoned me to the back wall looking excited.  My three best friends looked at me with bright eyes and wide smirks and pointed to a tiny bowed box on the shelf.

“Look how cute!”

“Yes, tiny box! You guys know how I love tiny things.”*

“Yeah! You should open it.”

After some “Huh, you want me to open this?” investigating, I started to catch on.  My trance reinstated.  I untied the teeny golden bow, and inside the bitty little black box I found an ever teenier little gold ring.  Feeling overwhelmed with surprise and excitement, I peeled the beautiful specimen out to read the engraving: a m i s ; meaning friends in French.

Are you wondering if I freaked out?  Oh my goodness did I ever!!!!!!  Choked up, I squeezed them into group hug after group hug, several times in the tiny boutique, once more outside on Bedford, again in the Tea House, and a few more times back at the Plaza.  I also developed this strange affectation of slow, exaggerated spirit-fingers-ing to subtly show my appreciation for their love, now forever suspended in gold and wrapped up in my hand.

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Briar Rose, A Breakthrough

I have seen the New York City Ballet live twice before.  The first time at Saratoga when I was a wee one, I think it was an excerpt from Harlequinade?  Hard to say.  The next time was several years ago on a December trip to the city with my dear Mama.  We saw The Nutcracker and, perhaps too infatuated with our own version, agreed that Ashley Bouder’s Dew Drop (and Waltz of the Flowers in general), was the stand alone wow.  Last Saturday night, though, I had the honor of witnessing Lauren Lovette in the second show of her Aurora debut, along with quite a few corps de ballet dancers who would be promoted to soloist the very next day (congrats, Indiana!).  Now I can say, with full reverence of the word, wow.  Wow, wow, wow.  What a show.

Lovette was the most perfect Princess Aurora.  Sweetness seeming to drip out of her in place of sweat, she eased her way through the ballet as if the character were hers from birth.  Every glance felt genuine, every touch appeared to affect her deeply, giving the impression that Aurora’s experiences were crossing over her own in the moment.  The sad, sweet, scary elation of such a momentous debut.  Her lines were sculpted yet understated, never sacrificing rotation and shape for alien extension.  Lauren is certainly one of NYCB’s more lyrical principals, but not for a lack of clarity in the crispier choreography.

The rest of the ballet was spectacular as well- those transforming scrim scenes leading you into the castle!- but Lauren really charmed us the most.  I mean, T wept through the entire Rose Adagio, so.  Yeah.  Safe to say seeing Miss Lovette blossom into this beautiful Briar Rose was a most worthy birthday gift.

 

*I managed to take home 3 TINY TINY TINY bottles of Tabasco from The Palm Court.  Yep.

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happiness is a warm back

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Way back in January, I made one big new year’s resolution and a smaller one: to learn how to knit.  One of my best friends shared the desire to learn, so together we made an adventure of it, rounded up supplies, filled a big bowl with popcorn, and started YouTubing tutorials.  I like to fancy myself a crafty lady, but my goodness!  Knitting is hard.  Several frustrating hours and unraveled skeins later, though, we were very slowly sort-of-kind-of-knitting.

Quite a few of the dancers at FBP are avid knitters, but none rival the ultimate knitting queen, Vilia Putrius.  With several decades of knitting experience, she has certainly earned that title…

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Vilia learned to knit when she was just 5 years old.  You could say a talent for crafting runs in the family.  Ms. Putrius grew up in a family of circus artists (how cool is that?) and some of her earliest memories are of her parents sewing costumes and knitting clothing for she and her brother.  By age 18, Vilia had become a professional ballet dancer, but that homespun tendency ran deep.  When she struggled to find warm ups to suit her distinctive style, Vilia took matters into her own needle-clad hands.  Her obvious talent turned the craft into a business, and a few years later Arleo Wear was born.

Being a professional ballerina herself, Vilia is able to design pieces that a dancer truly needs. The Arleo Wear-covered dancers of FBP are a clear indication of that specificity; In the studio we stay bundled  in her cozy overalls, signature sleek ankle warmers, and on-trend convertible shorts, but it seems everyone’s favorite design might be the brilliant back warmer.

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Perfect for class and rehearsals alike, the Arleo back warmer allows freedom of movement in the hips and shoulders while keeping the core toasty.  Finally a way to keep an eye on lines without sacrificing comfort and style, ah!  Her knitting expertise is also woven into every garment she designs, using only the finest yarns to create these essential pieces.

Now that I have my back warmer, I truly wonder how I ever got along without it.  It’s like a ballet-appropriate version of your favorite cozy sweater.  And really, isn’t that what we all want?

to shop.

also check out her accessories while you’re at it. (you might see a familiar face;)

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.

i changed my breakfast

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I am a creature of habit.  I don’t easily tire of routines, and when I find a recipe or food I like, I will often eat it every day until the season’s agricultural tide urges change.  That being said, every now and again a friend will recommend something (the breakfast bowl that inspired the image above has become one of my favorites) and it will scramble up my whole pattern in the most refreshing way.

Recently, two of my best friends have been raving about steel cut oats.  Their promise of a fuller, nuttier flavor and more robust consistency (as opposed to traditional rolled oats) finally wore me down; it was time for this creature of habit to break the mold.img_9564

Though they take quite a bit longer to prepare (about 20 minutes versus the 5 minute cook time for old fashioned rolled oats), those little steel cut morsels really are a game changer.  My mornings have me feeling stronger and more energized throughout the rehearsal day.  I’ve been mixing in some flax seeds as my oats cool, to give them even more substance, and a secret ingredient for an added boost…img_9563

DanceFoods is the first superfood blend made specifically with dancers in mind.  It contains a mix of maca root, raw cocoa, goji berries and plant protein, all sourced from small farmers growing chemical/hormone free plants.  That’s all of the organic antioxidants and energizing goodness, and none of the extra junk!

The blend was conceptualized by a former professional dancer who felt the stress of long rehearsal days weighing on him.  With little time to prepare an adequate lunch, he could feel himself growing weaker.  His solution was to create this blend, providing dancers with a quick way to digest the essential vitamins we so often miss out on.

A dancer’s body is her instrument, and taking care of that instrument begins on the inside.  To get the best fuel possible, I’ve been cooking up some oats every morning and mixing the superfood blend right in.  I top the whole shebang with some berries and cinnamon et voila!  My routine has transformed.  img_9557

DanceFoods is offering Setting The Barre readers a 10% discount on their first purchase!  Use the code ‘settingthebarre’ at checkout.img_9561

a contemporary classic

We’ve traded Tchaikovsky for a delicious mix of Prokofiev and Bizet, and oh, what a welcome trade.  There’s nothing like a new soundtrack to wash away the worn and sing kinetic life.

This month and next are filling quickly with material- both the newly created and the boldly revisited.  Between R&J rehearsals, videos of Viktor Plotnikov’s first full-length rewind and play, rewind and play.  Fourteen years ago, our beloved Viktor reimagined this classic drama in that way only he can.  Then a fairly new choreographer, Carmen was one of his first collaborations with the company whose roster he now graces.  A decade and a half later we wake Viktor’s steps to discover them somehow still innovative; his is an ever revolutionary form of dance.

During my first year as a trainee with FBP, I performed as a (rather intimidated) “factory girl” in Viktor’s Carmen.  I remember reveling in the genius of his unforced mime and celebrating- though timidly- my body’s ability to use his powerful and strange dance vocabulary.  This season I am honored to be learning the role of Michaela, Don José’s betrothed who, in this version, also has the privilege of acting as a bit of a narrator.  Finding herself in quite the assortment of situations, Michaela’s choreography is both sweet and mature, and I am all sorts of excited to dance it.

 

for tickets.