a midwestern nutcracker

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Saturday, December 13th, 2014 marks an important date for me;  Not only was is my first time ever performing as the Sugarplum, but also my first time dancing in a Nutcracker performance outside of FBP’s show at PPAC, which I’ve been a part of for 14 years of my life.  A pretty big deal, to say the least!

Being a guest artist was such a lovely experience, and our hosts showed us some really exceptional hospitality, with bountiful gift baskets upon arrival, hand drawn cards from the students wishing us luck, heated blankets backstage and in our dressing room, and a seemingly endless supply of cold water bottles to keep us hydrated.  The performances went fairly well, considering the less-than-favorable stage conditions, my bursitis, and a mild case of pre-performance jitters.  Although I must say, I think my favorite part of the trip was the cast party held “in our honor”, complete with an adorably inspiring question and answer session with the students.  Some of the highlights:

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In addition to the adorable notes of encouragement, and inquisitive/informative questionnaires from the littles, I especially enjoyed sharing the story of my injury recovery and some motivational words with a young dancer who had recently been diagnosed with a spinal stress fracture, just like mine.

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I boarded the plane homeward bound with a full heart and an inspired mind; A change of scenery and a fresh audience can work real wonders on a tired body.  Stay tuned for the scoop FBP’s Nutcracker opening this weekend, and our premiere of Grand Pas at PPAC!

all photos via STB’s new instagram

dear santa, love dancers

holiday gift guide

Nutcracker is in full swing, my friends and I watched Love Actually last night, and my “Bright Copper Kettles” scented candle burns whenever I am home.  We picked our names for the annual FBP Secret Santa, so it seems like an appropriate time to put together a little holiday gift guide: Setting The Barre-style.  Read along for 10 special surprises to wrap up for the dancer in your life…

1. The Modern Classic.  I can’t say enough good things about this ultra soft, barre-inspired workout top. But if you’d like to see me try, check out my review.

2. Chamomile Tea.  This super-tea not only squashes stress, but it relieves sore muscles and reduces inflammation as well!  Yogi-tested, dancer-approved.

3. Warm Booties.  I have been sporting these Bloch booties since 2010 when my mom snagged them for me at a YAGP competition.  I warm up in them every morning, and have yet to find a footwear option that keeps my toes as warm and cozy as these pups.

4.  Glass Water Bottle.  I’m a big believer in reusable water bottles, but am also super sensitive to that icky taste plastic or metal options sometimes leak into the water they are holding.  This pretty glass bottle would eliminate that problem entirely, and the bamboo shell makes it both aesthetically pleasing and indestructible.  Win-win.

5. Nutribullet.  I purchased a Nutribullet this summer and can honestly say I’ve used it almost every day since.  It’s the most high-efficiency, low-maintainance way to blend up nutrient-packed smoothies I’ve ever found, and the cups come with screw-on tops, so you can bring them anywhere.

6. Heating Pad.  This one is essential if your dancer friend lives in a cold winter climate!  Equally helpful in warming up a sore spot and cuddling up with on the couch after a long day of rehearsal.

7. Knit Shawl.  The beautiful and talented Vilia Putrius of Artsy Leo knitted this little guy for me a few months ago, and I am obsessed with it.  The shawl is so soft and intricately crafted; I can wrap it around any part of my body and feel like I’m instantly warm and a tad fancy. ;)

8.  Massage Ball.  I rely on my Footrubz rubber massage ball to cure all bunion-induced foot ailments.  Arch cramps be gone!

9. Pretty Pouch.  I have about four different pouches in my dance bag currently.  One for sewing supplies, one for tape, one for hair accessories, and one for miscellaneous mints, perfume rollers, and other items that attempt to make me smell less like a sweaty foot.  This glam little option from Madewell would be a warmly welcomed update.

10. Stretch Ribbons.  I arrived late to the stretchy ribbons party, but boy am I glad I finally decided to show up.  Two words: achilles savers.  Give any and all lady dancers in your life the gift of freedom from ankle-strangling satin ribbons!  Their tendons will thank you forever.

multitasking maria

All dancers know how tough it can be to find time for gift shopping with Nutcracker rehearsals and performances crowding up our holiday calendars.  I’m loving this adorable Visa commercial, which uses San Francisco Ballet principle, Maria Kochetkova, to poke fun at the dancer solution to most time management problems: multitasking!  Since we’ll be doing our first full Snow rehearsal at FBP today, I thought it would be appropriate to share the Nutcracker-themed commercial here.  Happy Saturday!

PS- Check out another Nutcracker-inspired commercial here.

dreaming without sleeping

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Last night visions of sugar plums were quite literally dancing in my head…all. night. long.  A romantic theory, yes, when wedged into the poetic syntax of a classic Christmas rhyme, but stuck between my ears, ringing bells from dusk to dawn?  A little less waiting-up-for-Santa, a little more pacing-my-kitchen-at-3am-annoyed-and-humming-Tchaikovsky.  Yeah.  No thanks.

Despite my complaints and last night’s lack of sleep, I am fully willing to take on all of the stress Nutcracker season throws my way this year, because for the first time ever, I am learning the role of Sugar Plum Fairy(!!!) and realizing that dream is totally worth 2 months of insomnia.*

The first time I saw FBP’s Nutcracker (I think I was 2?), I immediately knew I wanted to be up on that stage.  Dream role at the time: Angel, of course.  When my shuffling feet finally hit the PPAC marley beneath that floating blue hoop skirt at age 8, I was irrevocably hooked.  As the years passed, I set my sights higher and higher, devouring each role that came my way, from Mouse, to Clara, to the unforgettable year I joined the corps in the Waltz of the Flowers and my favorite scene, Snow.  Sugar Plum has always been a lofty goal, but never something I expected to actually have the opportunity to  do.  It is such an iconic role, being able to rehearse it so early on in my career feels like a fantasy.  Shocked, ecstatic, grateful, intimidated…it’s hard to put my current emotions into words.  If all of that wasn’t enough, I get to dance it with my favorite partner, who also happens to be one of my best friends!  Incredible!

So bring it on, sleepless nights and dancing sugar plums.  I’m ready for you.

*If this really is just a dream, please nobody pinch me.

all that glitters is gold

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Hey all!  Just wanted to share the last of my Nutcracker pictures before I blink and it’s 2014 and anything Christmas-related becomes completely irrelevant.

This year I made sure to step across the big velvet curtain, climb up all those glorious gold stairs and snap some photos of the stage from PPAC’s stunning mezzanine.  It really is a beautiful theater, even though sometimes the lack of proper heating backstage freezes our brains into forgetting that fact (that’s for you, PPAC Management People, if you’re reading…we’re cold back there!).  Anyway, I’m going to quit my complaining (first resolution of the new year?) and let you check out a few shots from last week’s show.  Enjoy!

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in the wings

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As I sat on the edge of Stage Left’s half of the aging party scene set trying not to splinter my snowflake-thin mesh performance tights, I noticed how familiar Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers sounds when underscored with a motley collection of stray coughs and mucus coated percussions erupting from tired dancers in the wings.  For the first time, I considered just how different everything must look and sound from those red velvet rows across the orchestra pit.  Without any instruction, my neck stretched to its full extent and did its best to crane around the obtrusive lighting boom so to sneak a glimpse of…I don’t know…maybe just the first row of theater goers.  Unsuccessful in peeking but too tired to expend any additional energy, my head returned to its position between my slouched shoulders and I was back in my own mind, realizing I had a far better view of the bedraggled dancers backstage than the gussied up civilians under gilded skies in the house of the theater.

My eyes scanned the clumps of vibrantly-costumed dancers surrounding me.  We’d spread ourselves over the set like a thick layer of melting butter, consuming every surface with our tangled legs and piles of dirty warmups.  One group of Trepak girls in red dresses whispered and giggled, stacked on the rickety stairs down which Clara descends before Battle Scene.  photo 4

A collection of diverts donning elaborate headpieces pooled together on the dusty floor, stretching and staying just alert enough not to miss their cues for coda.  A little circle of exuberant party girls in springy ringlets line one wing, eagerly studying the dancers onstage, anxious for their turn to deliver flowers to one of the ballerinas during curtain call.photo 5

Their excitement is tangible and it thickens the air in that light way that whipping up meringue lightens eggs.  The 6-counted bars of Waltz begin to swell and I know this section is nearing its end.  Trumpets rein supreme over all else, and my fellow dancers and friends of the corps de ballet smile and float through their bruised toenails, finishing the dance with an impressive level of collective ebullience.  They exit the stage and join me on the already crowded set backstage to watch the Grand Pas close the ballet.  Their presence beside me shakes my internal monologue and suddenly it’s all just second nature.  I don’t even consider the somewhat strange fact that I’m sitting next to what I can only describe as a giant collapsed Christmas tree (which up close just resembles a pack of light bulbs caught in a faux forest), wearing huge knit socks over my dead pointe shoes and a pipe cleaner, wire, rhinestone tiara above my hairnet-hugged bun.  This all just seems normal…inexplicably soothing.  In way it really feels like home here, backstage at PPAC.

nutcracker 2014, according to my iphone

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As you may know, I’ve taken over Festival Ballet’s instagram-posting duties for the weekend, and have been snapping away like a crazy stage mom who just splurged on a fancy new camera.  From close-ups of gorgeous headpiece bling, to light soaked shots of the stage from the wings, the posts are turning out to be a bit of a photo diary of backstage life at Providence Performing Art Center during The Nutcracker.

This afternoon I have my “easiest” show yet, with just Lead Snow and Marzipan on deck.  It’ll be the first of all the performances so far that I get to sit back and relax during party scene, which means no rushing to rip off my party mom wig and sew-in my pointe shoe ribbons at hyper speed.  Hooray!

To follow along on all the action in real time, follow me @festivalballetprovidence and @keeksevans on Instagram.