the first snow

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There’s something about the first snow of the season that makes the world feel calmer. Skeleton trees don fluffy coats, icy rooftops shimmer, and the most wonderful- and busiest!- time of the year gets just a bit quieter, if only for one night. We had our first snow here in Providence this past weekend and ah, I am feeling the Nutcracker vibes. Of course, with frozen precipitation come cooler temperatures, making chilly bodies tougher to warm…

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If the cold weather wasn’t enough to make my muscles tighten, Sugarplum, Dew Drop, and Snow Queen will surely finish the job. I think I actually spend half of my Nutcracker run on my left leg, mid-pirouette. By the end of the day, these calves are BURNING. Thank goodness I have A always there to lift me up when my legs give out! And thank goodness my favorite leg warmers come in an adorable child’s size, perfect for warming those tired calves of mine.

Yup, these are actually RubiaWear “Rubita” leg warmers, and they are the cutest. Can you believe there are bunheads with legs the size of my calves? The thought is so precious I couldn’t even type it without scrunching up my face in a silent awwwww!

Anyway, these little miniatures are going to be in heavy rotation this winter. I also love wearing something made by the genuinely lovely, talented, badass boss lady, Ashley Ellis! If you want to warm up this winter and support smart ladies and their business endeavors, check out the rest of the (constantly changing!) RubiaWear collection here.

beyond the barre with shelby elsbree

The first time I met Shelby Elsbree was on a rooftop sipping rosé.   Throughout our short friendship she has been an unexpected source of light in my life, sharing tea and wisdom when I’ve needed those comforts most.  Currently in her first year at Columbia University, it appears the former Boston Ballet dancer embraces every new adventure with just as much spirit as the last…

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Hello beauty!  Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?  Tell us about studying at The School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York City.  Was it always a dream of yours? 

I moved to SAB when I was 13 years old, after having attended their summer intensive program in 2004. In all honesty I hadn’t known about the school prior to auditioning, coming from a small ballet studio in Sarasota, Fl. Needless to say, training at SAB was a dream I didn’t even know I had until it became a fast reality…and I never looked back. My time in those beautiful studios, going to high school in New York City, skipping across the plaza to watch my dream company perform every other night…it was surreal in every sense of the word. Balanchine training is neo-classical, sporty and fast-footed. Having come from a Vaganova background, I relished in the opportunity to grow in this dynamic way. Experiencing this new language of technique was invigorating, aesthetically inspiring and inevitably challenging. I soaked up every minute.  

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After graduating from SAB, you moved to Denmark to dance with the Royal Danish Ballet.  What was your first impression of Copenhagen?

My very first impression of Copenhagen was that of a European Disney world. The city sparkles. It’s so colorful on the outside, flourished with copper domes and dreamy, historical stories. Scandinavia is known for their simplicity in design; Every apartment is white, streamlined and clutter-free. Simple and beautiful, much like Danish culture itself. Danes also speak perfect English, which certainly eased any culture shock an 18 year old living alone in a foreign country might experience. 

Wow, sounds incredible.  In terms of ballet, did you have to make any adjustments in your technique when you moved to Denmark?

I did have to make a huge technique adjustment when I moved to Denmark. I held on to my straight legged turns and general movement aesthetic, but I certainly had to become more sensitive to stylistic changes of Bournonville repertoire.

Those straight-legged pirouettes are giving me grief in Allegro these days!  But speaking of stylistic changes, you originated the title role in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Golden Cockerel.  What was that like?  

Alexei is one of a kind. Working with him on Golden Cockerel pushed me to my every limit as a dancer and an artist. The story originates in old Russian folklore and the privilege of re-telling it through such an innovative narrative was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Definitely a career highlight! 

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Did you bring any aspect of Danish culture back with you when you moved to Boston?  What was that transition like?

When I moved back to America, I promised myself that I would bring as much Danish culture as I could possibly carry back with me. The reverse culture shock was actually extremely entertaining. I vowed to maintain a clutter-free apartment, invested in mid-century furniture and sprinkled tea-light candles everywhere to bring back the “hygge” elements of life Danes are famous for creating. The work load was certainly more intense in Boston, longer rehearsal hours, more performances. I was closer to my family though, and their proximity of support and love certainly helped with the adjustment. 

I’ve always loved the concept of “hygge”.  A cozy life is very important to me!  Ha.  Do you feel that you have been affected as an artist by the different environments in which you have worked?

I have no doubts that my journey as an artist, a dancer, a person have all been affected by the diverse settings I’ve had the privilege of working in. Training in New York City instilled within me a tireless work ethic I maintain today, it ingrained an insatiable curiosity and a contagious energy that I’m proud to share. Beginning my career in Copenhagen provided me with the most humbling, fulfilling platform from which my entire perspective as a dancer, and more importantly a person, grew. My career in Boston Ballet gave me the opportunity to sew my New York roots into a more balanced, Scandinavian approach towards hard work. The styles, cultures, and histories of these ballet companies merged in the most complimentary way for me as a professional dancer, and in the most fulfilling way for me as a person.  

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You are a talented photographer and also write a really lovely blog, Tutus & Tea.  How did you become interested in these sort of “extra curricular activities”, and where did you find the time to pursue them while juggling such a busy work schedule?

Thank you! My journey creating Tutus&Tea is one I’m forever grateful for. It all started one summer when my sister teased me for “not having a creative hobby (pilates/yoga doesn’t count!)”.  At the time she and my father were getting really into SLR cameras and there was one sitting on the counter. I picked it up, began researching, and invested in what would become one of my most favorite hobbies, photography. This was the summer before my first full season with Royal Danish Ballet, and when I returned to Copenhagen, my camera came with me.

Tutus&Tea came to me one sleepless night when I was contemplating the whole “blog trend.” What started as a creative outlet for me to chronicle my days of dancing, eating, traveling abroad turned into an enthusiastic pursuit of passions of stage that in turn, fueled my artistic perspectives on dance in exciting new ways.

As for time, there never seems to be enough of it right? I guess we all make time for things that bring us joy, and for me, Tutus&Tea was surely one of those things. 

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That is so true.  So let’s talk about what life looks like right now.  You recently retired from ballet and moved to New York City to attend Columbia University.  What provoked this change and how did you know the timing was right?

So timing is one of these funny things to honestly reflect on. I’ve come to believe that we’ll never really know if timing is ever right. When I considered the idea of “transitioning,” I actually wrote down my thought trains in a rather lengthy post on my blog that ended up being more of a letter to myself. Professional careers in dance are finite. They are precious, yet sacrificial. They are glamorous, yet exhausting. I told myself I would make Ballet a career as long as I felt fulfilled, as long as I truly enjoyed it. Otherwise it’s just too hard.

Columbia University has a unique undergrad program that was created for “non-traditional” students who have been separated from their education for some interesting reason. Think military veterans, professional athletes, parents, and a whole lot of dancers…Writing my application essay alone was an opportunity to converse with myself honestly- to reflect on my career and what it has brought me, to question my present career commitment, and to entertain ideas of change. It was cathartic and it was necessary. 00342v5a0818

How is it going so far?  Here you can just tell us a bit about what life is like lately, what you’re majoring in, any interested courses you’re enjoying or struggling with, etc.

It’s a whirlwind! I am currently enrolled full time, entertaining the idea of a major in Cultural Anthropology and potentially Journalism. I’m taking four classes, my favorite of which is Philosophy of Art where we are mostly learning how to question questions…so compelling! I’m struggling with the insane amounts of reading, and the challenge of prioritizing copious amounts of homework over enticing invitations that living in this city presents. I am LOVING being intellectually challenged and inspired on a daily basis. I am loving the change so far, and giving back to my body and mind in ways that I haven’t been able to for the last 16 years of my life focused primarily on dance. 

That’s wonderful!  I’m so happy for you. What advice do you have for dancers who are interested in pursuing other interests outside the studio?

I would strongly suggest that all dancers should find and pursue passions outside of the studio. Not only will this provide healthy perspective and space away from your days on stage, it will sculpt your perspective and approach towards your dancing that absolutely benefit your dancing! 

Find something that inspires or interests you beyond dance and take the time to indulge it. Pursue friendships and relationships outside of the theater and relish opportunities to balance your life outside of the ballet world. 

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Okay time for a little lightning Round:

Go-to breakfast? Gooooood coffee with cream, always. If there’s not a worthy blueberry muffin nearby, I do love a greek yogurt, granola, banana, honey situation.

Favorite ballet? Always a hard one. Tie between Serenade, Dances at a Gathering, West Side Story and Jewels…but let’s be honest, it depends on the day ;) 

Career highlight? I think I have too many career highlights to choose just one (insert monkey hidden face emoji) but on the top of my mind might be my first performance as Blue Girl in Dances at a Gathering, my premiere of Flemming Flindt’s The Lesson, Flower Festival in Genzano for Erik Bruhn, and Serenade for the Night of Stars in Boston….

Favorite restaurant in Boston? Wholy Grain and Tatte for Breakfast, Flour for lunch, Metropolis and Barcelona for Dinner

Favorite Danish meal/food? Mmmm….. I have to go with desserts. Aebleskiver and Gløgg during Christmas time are the best. They’re a type of pancake “holes” filled with warm, lemon zest flavored pancake filling that you role in powdered sugar and jam, accompanied by strong, mulled wine. It’s a magical combination. 

Guilty pleasure?  Ice cream always. And I don’t feel guilty about it. :) 

Thank you so much, Shelby! xx

a giveaway

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To celebrate 2000 lovely folks following along on this little blog of mine, I’m partnering up with the beautiful Ashley Ellis (Boston Ballet principal and famed legwarmer goddess of Rubia Wear) to give one lucky reader a pair of free warmers!  See here for details on how to enter, and bon chance!

A few other things…

Ilya Kozadayev will be in the studio next week to begin choreographing a brand new Romeo & Juliet on us.  I’m doing a little research on all the many versions to prepare!

I’ve also started a new semester at Providence College.  This article is both depressing and motivating.

Not a read, but last night I nerded out and watched Joffrey’s live stream of rehearsals for the new Nutcracker Chris Wheeldon is choreographing there, and you should too.  Hi Mahallia!

 

photo by Kenenth B. Edwards for Rubia Wear.

ms. rubia and her wonderful warmers

Last winter, somewhere in the midst of record-breaking snowfall, a friend introduced me to RubiaWear leg warmers.  Flattering silhouette, ultra thin fabric, soft knit, subtle stripes.  Always game for a little investigation, I decided to give them a go.11026053_1607928049427136_5997283873558158194_n

When my first pair arrived in the mail, immediately I was hooked.  For the remainder of the season, not one morning passed where I watched my reflection without the warm hug of my trusty Rubias.  Today Boston Ballet’s Ashley Ellis, the genius behind RubiaWear, sheds a bit of light on what life has been like since creating the collection of warmers worn ’round the world…

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So Ashley, how did you become inspired to start making leg warmers?

It should be noted that I am in Boston now, and well, winter here is notorious for being long with extreme conditions, so this was surely extra incentive for creating a line of ‘warm ups’!

Apart from this, I really enjoy making all sorts of things, am always busy with projects, I find it to be a nice outlet for me. Whether I’m sewing, fixing things around the house, painting, baking, or what ever else sparks my curiosity. Needless to say that when I sew I am often drawn to making things to wear in the studio because this is where I spend so much of my time.

In the months before I opened the line I had made some legwarmers for myself, simply because I had lost the ones I’d had before (by that mysterious fairy that steals dancewear left in the studio over night). I played a bit with different styles that I found to be most flattering. Then, a few friends started to ask me to make them some. As more people showed interest I thought it would be fun to make more and come up with a design to offer to my colleagues. I explored this idea step by step, and with each new detail I wanted to create a product that looked professional but maintained a unique quality.  In the end I thought I might as well make it an official line and how fun it would be to offer not just to my friends, but also to anyone who would be interested.

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Your tendency towards constantly finding little projects is so relatable.  So, what made you decide to turn it into a business?

It wasn’t really a predetermined plan of mine, it just sort of happened. Not to say it was easy- it took a lot time, work, and educating myself on how to get it all going, but I was having fun with it so I kept going.

I knew that my colleagues were fans of the warmers but I had no idea whether or not people outside of my direct contact would be interested in buying them so I just decided to give it a shot. I did feel that if I was going to offer RubiaWear to the dance world at large I wanted the product to be of a high quality and offer an attractive platform from which I was able to sell it. Essentially, something that I myself as a dancer would want to buy and wear everyday.

Since starting with the official line of RubiaWear things have been escalating nicely which has been a very exciting ride so far. It’s been difficult to keep up with at times, and I wish I could move faster and offer more growth sooner, but this will come with time. I plan to introduce new designs, premade products to get things to customers faster.

Being a dancer is still my passion and full time concentration, so at times there are moments when I have to step back and admit that there are things that still have to wait and feel fortunate that things have escalated at the pace that they have.

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I’ve always wondered, where does the name RubiaWear come from?

While dancing in Spain for three years with the Corella Ballet de España I picked up the nickname Rubia, which essentially means Blondie, and it kind of stuck. I wanted to have a part of myself in the name but didn’t really want to use my own name. So, RubiaWear has a sort of disguised part of me in it. I chose the logo and its colors because I thought suited the ‘blonde’ theme. I like that there is meaning behind it but it doesn’t have to be completely obvious.

I just love your children’s line, Rubita, and my goodness, the Rubita MINI series- don’t even get me started.  Cuteness overload!  Where did the inspiration to start making miniatures come from?

Well, besides the fact that the Rubita sizes are so adorable? Haha. I just thought that there are so many young dance students out there who should also keep their little legs warm in between classes and to and from the studio. These ballerinas in training should also have the option to wear dancewear that is unique and showcases their sense of style, even if they do have to wear a uniform for class. I plan to offer children’s sizes whenever I can with future products as well.

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What has been the most surprising/exciting/fulfilling aspect of running RubiaWear so far?

I’ve really enjoyed the learning aspect that starting RubiaWear has offered. I’ve had to learn a lot, not just about how to make warmers but how to run a business.

I’d say one of the most rewarding things has been seeing people all over the world getting excited about the product. I enjoy being in contact with the customers. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and it gets me more excited and confident about moving forward into the future.

I have to mention that I’m grateful for how encouraging and supportive people, near and far, have been of this venture.

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THANK YOU to the inspiring and beautifully articulate Ms. Ashley Ellis for sharing her story!  To shop the collection (which I highly recommend), head right this way.  To catch Ashley on stage, head over here.

photos by Kenneth B. Edwards

en{joy}

Today I am so excited to share some thoughts from the bright ball of sunshine that is Miss Shelby Elsbree.  In perfect sync with Tchaikovsky’s return to the studios and the migration of cloves towards the front of my spice rack, the ever charming Boston Ballet dancer muses on spreading joy- both to yourself and to others- throughout the holiday season.
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Happiness.
 
There are so many opportunities to seek it throughout our long days…shorter now with a shy winter sun. In the dance world, most of us are preparing to dive head first into our annual Nutcracker marathons, a sugar-coated race to New Years Eve during which Tchaikovsky melodies float endlessly in and out of our minds and bodies. The thing that I hold onto each December, the thing that re-energizes my soul and ignites my daily motivation is that solitary concept of spreading joy. The holiday season is so much about generosity.. giving of your time, your resources, your gifts, your love…all in the name of sharing happiness. This is what each performance of the yuletide classic gives us the opportunity to do. 
 
The luxury of happiness lies in the reality that it can manifest itself in so many different ways, unique to your own pleasures and pursuits. Perhaps your morning playlist puts the pep in your step, an afternoon coffee with a good friend, or phone call to your family…The light of a new day, the nourishment of a lovely meal, the pairing of a great wine/cheese…the most excited greeting home from your new puppy (…his name is Oliver :)
 
The thing about happiness is that it remains a choice we have to make – the old adage we’ve heard many a time could not ring truer this time of year, when summer sun is long gone and chilly days stake their claim. We can decide to harness positive energy, to share/spread light wherever our days might take us, to fixate on the good things (which inevitably sheds a healthier light on the not so good things). We can find moments in our day, or cadences in our conversation that not only strengthen our own perspective, but that inspire the motives of those we speak to as well…this forms a generous cycle of perpetuated happiness! 
 
This past season I’ve been contemplating the idea of meditation. The thought of finding silent moments to receive stillness, to allow thoughts to flow freely in and out of my conscious, to sink into the present, to find happiness…To be honest, I’ve never been one to indulge this discipline successfully — until that is, I realized my meditation comes in a different form than a cross-legged posture. Nearly every morning, dancers all over the world start their day with a class. A gentle barre to warm up the bones, to encourage the body, followed by a more liberating center. This, I realized, is how and when I set the pace of my day. 
 
Be it a more successful start (physically/mentally), or a day I feel faced with challenges, I strive to see the light in my steps, my words, my thoughts…Not every day is going to be perfect needless to say, but it will offer the choice to seek and share the one thing we all hope to find at the start, middle and end of each day, each week, month, year, season…a daily decision, a hopeful, contagious, incandescent choice to be happy. 

 

For more from Shelby, check out peeks of her life as a ballet dancer/experimental chef/budding photographer on her inspiring blog, Tutus & Tea.  Thank you Shelby!
xx

uncharted territory

IMG_8848fremd (adj): 1. foreign or unfamiliar; 2. alien or strange.

A stark white square of light carves stage left into a startlingly austere canvas, inhabited by a single dancer.  Bare, heavy beats sober the audience from it’s Balanchine-induced Theme commendation, while somehow indulging our senses with the strange pleasure of a new, uncomfortable, addicting drunk.  Our lone dancer cuts through his fluorescent enclosure, sharply slicing space, seeking some meaning, perhaps chasing time…

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rethink ballet

How cool is this new “Rethink Ballet” promotional clip from Boston Ballet?  The slow-motion quality and pared down setting allow for a unique observation of each dancers gorgeous technique.  There’s something so satisfying about seeing the climax of a saut de chat when the moments just before have been warped in temporal extension.  A soaring jump is lovely, but a perfect preparation satiates the soul, am I right?  Stretched speeds, prolonged lines, and an apparent refusal to accept all matters of physics.  Are you rethinking ballet yet?

Tonight I will be attending BB’s final program at the Boston Opera House, Thrill of Contact, and with Balanchine, Forsythe, Robbins and Cirio on the bill, I must say my hopes are very high.  Such an incredible repertoire, and the charming principal dancer Jeffrey Cirio’s mainstage debut as a choreographer- sign me up!