welcome to the dark side

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For most of my career I have been “the good guy.” Fairy, princess, maiden, swan queen; she comes in many forms, all of which include a healthy does of sweetness and sparkles. Last season, however, I got to dip my toes into the shoes of a not-so-nice-guy, and well…I kinda loved it.

Our fall season opens with Ilya Kozadayev‘s (very creepy) Hansel & Greteland I’ve graduated from the young heroine and straight into the wicked mind of her evil stepmother. She’s mean, she’s ruthless, she might even be slightly possessed. And yes, I’m all about it. Who knew creating the conflict could be so satisfying?

Though the show is part of our chatterBOXtheatre series geared toward children, brilliant Ilya did not hold back on the scare-factor of this grim (Grimm, heh*) story. The role is rife with all sorts of unsettling movements in which some vile creature within nearly breaks through her skin and bursts into the scene. The choreography somehow accomplishes this while remaining folkloric and simple enough for children to grasp onto. No small task. Perhaps the most frightening thing of all, though, is the stepmother’s ability to keep all of this darkness contained behind a startlingly realistic artificial composure. Shudder. She’s an intricate bit of character work and a real treat to tuck into. Long live the bad guy.

 

*Full disclosure, I already used this joke once today, in an interview with H&G choreographer, Ilya Kozadayev. Not proud, but still sorta proud, you know?

photo by Dylan Giles for Festival Ballet Providence

hot town, summer in the city

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It’s been a whole month (!) since Swan Lake. Several days after the final performance, The Great Flu of ’19 knocked me down for 2 weeks and well, you could say I ran out of steam. My annual lofty goals to “keep dancing all summer” fizzled under piles of tissues, and needless to say, I’ve been looking for motivation to get back into the studio ever since. Well guys, I think I might have just found it…

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We know the magic of Zarely’s super soft tights (I love the recovery compression tights for going out after a performance when my legs need a little love!) and elevated activewear, but did you know they recently released two leotards? Well, listen up. I’m out here shouting it from the rooftops.

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Have I peaked your curiosity? Okay, the review…

In keeping with Zarely’s design style, the Alicia leotard is cut to flatter. I was worried about her higher neckline, but the material (made in Italy) hugs so nicely. The lining is soft but effective- trust a busty ballerina to give you an honest assessment when it comes to support that doesn’t strangle you.

The base fabric is  thick enough to smooth things out without puffing up, but I think my favorite feature is the mesh panel…

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The designers at Zarely pay special attention to lines when creating each piece, and woah baby, it pays off. I’m not typically one for wearing mesh on the front of my torso, but this leotard dips a toe into the trend without being over the top. I’m a fan.

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So, what do you think?! If you’re interested in trying out one of Zarely‘s new leo’s (or any of their well-made dancewear) and want a little discount, use code KIRSTENZARELY for 20% off at checkout.

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photos by Jenay Evans for STB.

moving me

IMG_7312This bitter earth
Well, what a fruit it bearsIMG_7314What good is love
Mmh, that no one shares?IMG_7313 2And if my life is like the dust
Ooh, that hides the glow of a roseIMG_7317What good am I?
Heaven only knowsIMG_7311Oh, this bitter earth
Yes, can it be so cold?IMG_7315Today you’re young
Too soon you’re oldIMG_7316But while a voice
Within me criesIMG_7319I’m sure someone
May answer my callIMG_7318And this bitter earth, ooh
May not, oh be so bitter after all

This Bitter Earth
Dinah Washington
Snapshots of rehearsal for the contemporary solo from Christopher Wheeldon’s Five Movements, Three Repeats (thanks, Aza), originally created on the incredible Fang-Yi Sheu at the Vail Dance Festival. One of those five movements is the ballet-famous “Bitter Earth Pas”. Have you seen it? It was made for Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle, and it is truly breathtaking. Each and every time I hear this song, I find myself teary in the wings tuning into the lyrics as I wait for the third repeat.
The piece began as a mutual “fan-girling” between Fang-Yi Sheu and Wendy Whelan (former principals of Martha Graham Dance and New York City Ballet, respectively). This mini-documentary (thanks, Melissa!) gives a nice background of the collaboration and creation process. What is it about watching masters watch other masters shape their craft? So inspiring.

 

If you’d like to be moved too, come and see this weightless work live at Up Close On Hope. Tickets here.

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The life of a twenty-first century ballerina often means jumping from one persona to the next, out of pointe shoes and into socks, tattered technique shoes, bare feet and bruises. For three hours we are bunheaded and floating, while the next three have us rolling through the floor, hair and hips flying loose and low.

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Of course, this can wreak havoc on the structure of the ever-important feet and ankles, dramatic shifts in positioning and pressure causing all kinds of inflammation, irritation, and injury. Our February program jumps from balletic Serenade to apocalyptic Smoke & Mirrors and creature-like Coma, and all I can say is THANK YOU, SHOCKS.

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With compression in the arch and ankle, the Performance Shocks from Apolla are saving my feet. They hug just the right areas to provide support and protection, while still allowing the toes to shape and the heel to ground into the floor.

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Before a long day in pointe shoes, (my feet and) I love taking barre in my Apolla’s. They give me the perfect lift without being restricting or bulky. Ah, can a person truly love a pair of socks, you ask? I’ve rambled on and on about all of their many benefits, but for now let’s check out some close up glam shots and find out how well they really perform…

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Oooooh, aaahhhhh. Who knew a pair of socks could make me feel some kinda way? If you’re looking for a date this Valentine’s Day, might I recommend a fresh pair of Performance Shocks? Just kidding…kind of.

In you’re interested, Apolla is offering a discount to STB readers! Use the code SETTING*THE*BARRE19 for 10% off at checkout.

All photos by Jenay Evans for STB.

that’s a wrap

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Two weeks from today marks opening night of Nutcracker and the first official day of winter. But dancers know Nutcracker season is already in full swing, and New Englanders (or other cold-weather-dwellers) know winter has indeed arrived.

Early sunsets and extended studio hours make for chilly ballerinas. Luckily, my absolute favorite dancewear brand, RubiaWear, has us covered. Literally. Hehe.

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I firmly believe everything Ashley Ellis touches turns to gold. The RubiaWear creator and Boston Ballet principal dancer has been growing her collection of ultra-soft and flattering warm ups (which began as a range of legwarmers), and I am all about it. I’ve waxed poetic on the perfection of Rubia legwarmers in the past, but have I introduced you to the Cora wrap?

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Made from the softest fabric in a rainbow of color options, the Cora is cut to the perfect long-enough-to-warm-you-up but short-enough-to-keep-things-light way that Ashley’s designs seem to nail every time. The cozy wrap multitasks as much as its maker, lending itself to a whole gamut of various functions. While I tend to wear it doubled up around my hips, I’ve also been known to circle it around my neck when my shoulders feel stiff, or blanket it over my knees backstage.

Versatility, coziness, and a ballerina-run business. Win, win, win, as they say.

Curious about Cora? Check out my chat with Ashley here and browse the full RubiaWear line here.

four decades of dance

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You know how I’ve been complaining for the past year about how busy I’ve been? Well friends, I wrote a book.

What started as a simple chronicle of Festival Ballet’s 40 years became a thorough narrative not only encapsulating the history of the company, but showcasing photos and memorabilia that had since been lost in the depths of the archives. I spent many an afternoon elbow-deep in the chaotic filing cabinets that keep Festival’s past, riffling through playbills from the ’80s, checking facts and faces as I went. Many summer days spent sweating in the little conference room at 825 Hope, choosing fonts, resizing photos, playing graphic designer…

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I am a perfectionist. I am rarely happy with my work. For the first time in what feels like a long time, I am truly pleased. I have so many people to thank for their assistance and mentorship along the way. But here, in this special little piece of webspace where I can open myself up, I will say: I am proud.

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Stay tuned for the final version of the book, and information on how to order it, if you’re interested. For now, I’ll just remain unabashedly tickled. :)

 

photos of me by Michael Collins, cover photo by Jacob Hoover.

back to the stage

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Beethoven, Phillip Glass, unauthored cacophonies, but first ballet class…

This weekend I will (finally!) perform in my first real program of the season! That’s seven longs months offstage, folks. Despite last minute adjustments in choreography, costumes, timing, spacing (you know, the usual), I am feeling emotionally r e a d y. I’m dancing Plotnikov, Kozadayev, Yanowsky, and Douglas. Ooof, now say that all five times fast…

So tonight’s the night. It’s about dang time. Let’s do this thing. Go get ’em, tiger. And all those other clichés. See you on the other side.

 

Photo by Dylan Giles.

perform and protect

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Every year around the first week of November, my calendar fills up with acupuncture appointments and ice baths. My heating pad fires up multiple times a day, I sit down whenever possible, and when standing is a necessity, I consciously shift weight back and forth between my two legs to avoid (or let’s be honest, delay) the eminent burn out of my left calf muscle. That’s right, Nutcracker Season is upon us and my left leg is feeeeeeling it.

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If you have danced any variation of the “traditional” Petipa version of Grand Pas (affectionately referred to as Grandpa), you know what I mean. Each and every section of the 15 minute pas de deux- from adagio to coda- seems to depend heavily on the strength of the left leg. It’s the supporting leg in every pirouette, promenade, and balance and by the last cymbal crash, that baby is screaming.

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Swooping in to give my left calf any chance of survival this season, my favorite compression-tech dancewear brand, Apolla, sent over one of their newest products to save the day. The K-warmer (short for Kinesio) is made with a tight-knit to provide targeted compression to sore leg muscles. The special weave encourages circulation, which reduces inflammation and lowers the risk of injury. It’s sort of like having a personal physical therapist following your sore legs around, wrapping tape where you need support and applying pressure where you need blood flow.

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I love that the K-warmer provides support while still allowing my body to perform at its full range of motion. The warmers (which come in a set) can be extended for full leg coverage, but I like to double up on the squeeze-factor by folding one down around my calf for an extra warm hug. On particularly long days, I keep my K-warmers on when I leave the studio, so they can keep working their magic while my body transitions into rest mode. Performance and protection, double whammy! They are also antimicrobial (aka not stinky), sleek fitting (hello tutu time), and dancer approved.

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I really do swear by all of Apolla’s products and wear them daily. You guys know, I only work with brands that I genuinely love and think you will, too! If you want to get your hands on/legs in a pair of K-warmers, use code STB-ApollaDiscount-4 for 10% off at checkout.

PS- this is not an affiliate code- I don’t make any money from this, just want to spread the love and help you survive Nutcracker Season! Code is valid through November 22, 2018. xx

you want thing-a-ma-bobs?

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WOW.

It’s been almost a month since my foray under the sea, and I have yet to chronicle it here! What an interesting experience, to dance a ballet with no legs, hovering above the stage in a shimmering pseudo-fin. With some support from my undertow (blue unitard-clan men), I bobbed through back flips and press lifts, paddling through the waves with the wonder of a woman in love with a world she’s never known.

Of course, I owe the great fun of Act II to my Prince, whose garden grows greener and waltzing whirls worthier than any I’ve known. Okay, things are getting strange…enjoy some behind-the-scenes photos, I’m off!

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first 6 photos by Thomas Nola-Rian.

 

swimming into spring

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It’s here! Spring sunshine, mermaid musings, and the final week of the FBP season! Whew!

What a long and fulfilling season it has been.  I’ve been a lonely widow, a playful courier of faith, a sugar-filled fairy, an icy queen, a dewy drop, a romantic American, a rousing ruby, a hyper fox, a slippery tippler, a gush of thrusting gust, a significantly more spritely American, and now, a marveling mermaid.

Here’s to a season of playing, dancing, stumbling, swooshing, and swimming. I am beyond excited to jump down under the sea this weekend. If you’re in New England, I hope you’ll join me.