weekend update

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Season 40 is off to a roaring start, and this beautiful beast shows no signs of slowing. In 5 weeks the company have learned almost 6 ballets; One new work is still in the creation phase, and our first full length Widow’s Broom is currently a collection of scenes. I have eight countable bruises on my legs and a fire in my belly. The time is now.

Speaking of full seasons and carpé-ing diems, this weekend M and I are off to the city to see New York City Ballet’s Here/Now program on Sunday. Wheeldon, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Peck. What an incredible lineup! I will be reviewing the show on The Wonderful World of Dance, so stay tuned.

midweek reads

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The season has officially begun. Michele Gifford arrives Friday to set Christopher Wheeldon’s The American, and she’ll also be staying with me while she’s in town! It’s going to be a busy few days, a few links if you feel like reading…

Getting my house guest-ready.

Can dancing keep your brain young?

Seven different generations of retired San Fransisco Ballet dancers discuss what it really feels like to stop dancing. This is one of the most thoughtfully done articles I have read in a long time.

“If you have no life outside the studio, how can you portray a person of broad experience?” Ballet Hispánico dancer Christopher Bloom on getting his dance obsession in check.

This short dance film by Bat-Sheva Guez looks wonderful!

The Dancer’s Best Body Program– from the creator of The Whole Dancer- begins its next session soon! Will you be signing up?

 

photo by Tasmina Tanzim

weekend reads

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I have been back in PVD for less than 24 hours, now I’m off to New York to see my sweet Gma. If you’re in the bloggy mood, a few fun links from around the web..

Flip through the newest dance magazine,The Wonderful World of Dance, here. Gorgeous! (download it here)

Cannot wait to see this new dance film.

Isabella Boylston dishes on her #squadgoals cast and how her debut festival, Ballet Sun Valley, came to fruition.

Do you guys follow BalletMoods? It gets me every time.

A familiar face in DanceSpirit. ;)

 

 

photo of Iana Salenko by @pickledthoughts for The Wonderful World of Dance.

a ruby anniversary

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with Alan Alberto in George Balanchine’s Rubies, photo by Zaire Kacz Photography, choreography c. The Balanchine Trust.

DISCLAIMER: There are a lot of exclamation points in the post. I do try to use them sparingly, but sometimes there is just a lot to exclaim. Here goes.

In just a few short weeks, Festival Ballet Providence’s 40th year kicks off, celebrating our “Ruby Anniversary” with a packed season. The full schedule is on the website, but a few things I’m looking forward to…

The return of Viktor Plotnikov’s The Widow’s Brooma gorgeous production based on the work of an author who is near and dear to my heart, Chris Van Allsburg.

The 40th year (and my 18th!) of The Nutcracker at PPAC. My FBP Nutcracker experience is a legal adult. She’s graduating highschool and registering to vote. This is BIG, you guys.

The Director’s Choice mixed bill in February (on the weekend of my 26th birthday) featuring Christopher Wheeldon’s The American, George Balanchine’s Rubies, and a world premiere by Viktor Plotnikov set to Igor Stravinsky’s iconic The Soldier’s Tale (with live music and narration!).

A little tour (!) to the University of New Hampshire in April.

The Little Mermaid in the spring! My niece will flip.

I would also like to formally announce that for the 2017/2018 season, I will be joining the staff at FBP as Assistant to the Communications Director!(!!!) Look out for a whole new angle of behind-the-scenes peeks from what I predict will be a very busy Keeks!

Okay, now I am done.

Will I see you at the theatre?

behind-the-scenes

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Ah, Vail Dance Festival. A beautiful whirlwind of art and connection, effervescing with life. When I wasn’t fangirling world class dancers (or holding light reflectors in their faces), I found myself wrapped up in the serenity of Vail’s mountain air. What a completely magical place for a celebration of movement and music. I feel honored and humbled by this entire experience. Some behind-the-scenes photos, if you’d like to see…

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for more #bts from the Vail Dance Festival, check out @settingthebarre on Instagram.

CLOSING EVENING: BALLET X

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Damian Woetzel, Artistic Director of Vail Dance Festival, photo by Erin Baiano.

On the last day of the Vail Dance Festival, I decide it’s high time I did a little dancing myself. Ballet X Artistic Director, Christine Cox, graciously welcomes me into the company class at the amphitheater. It’s been…a while since I’ve taken classes regularly (#summerslacking), but Christine’s class is exactly what I need. When Justin Beiber’s “Sorry” comes on for frappés- I know for sure I am in the right place.

Cox emphasizes the importance of dancing as a conversation with your body. The impetus on freedom of movement feels liberating compared to the strict ballet classes I am used to. Not only is taking class with Ballet X refreshing for my body, but it also makes me even more excited for their performance that evening. Closing the Vail Dance Festival is an ambitious task, but this Philadelphia-based contemporary ballet company delivers.

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Chloe Perkes and Zachary Kapeluck in Jodie Gates’ Beautiful Once, photo by Erin Baiano.

While the opening piece, Jodie GatesBeautiful Once missed the mark (slightly dated costumes and choreography, and a surprisingly sloppy execution), the next ballet absolutely redeemed the evening. Cayetano Soto‘s Schachmatt, was creative and original. Meaning “checkmate” in German, Schachmatt, proves that dance need not be heavy and emotional to be powerful. The dancers are like chess pieces, unified in black and grey jockey attire, moving in unison to fun mid-century music that sounds like it could soundtrack an exotic vacation for James Bond. The movements are provocative in a light hearted way, which is entirely refreshing in the world of drama-focused 21st century choreographers. Soto’s choreography is distinguished without taking itself too seriously, a rare combination that highlights this company so well.

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Ballet X in Cayetano Soto’s Schachmatt, photo by Erin Baiano.

Act II presents Matthew Neenan‘s The Last Glass, an indulgent ballet set to the cinematic music of Beirut. I get such fuzzy feelings when I listen to Beirut; It’s as if I’m standing in the middle of a colorful circus- feathers and sequins and laughing faces whirling by- but at the center, where I stand, it is actually quite lonely. Neenan’s choreography reflects the generous use of horns with carnival-like characters, but also the sorrow of Beirut’s vocals. It’s an impressive layering of tone, and the dancers of Ballet X  are exceptional in their ability to illustrate this intricacy.

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Richard Villacerde and Ballet X in Matthew Neenan’s The Last Glass, photo by Erin Baiano.

The closing evening of the Vail Dance Festival is made even more poignant in its marking of Richard Villaverde‘s last performance with Ballet X. The audience received his final bows with the company (he is on to pursue dancing in New York City) with warm, riotous applause. It was a small demonstration of our appreciation for every evening of brilliant art brought to this stage in the past 2 weeks, if such gratitude can even be measured in applause.

a word with james whiteside

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James Whiteside and Devon Teuscher in White Swan Pas de Deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

Last week I caught up with American Ballet Theater (ABT) principal, James Whiteside, between rehearsals at the Vail Dance Festival. James filled me in on his longtime love of ABT, his tap background, and his upcoming travels to Tokyo.

Kirsten: How long have you been at American Ballet Theater now?

James: This will be my fifth season with ABT.

K: How did you come to your decision to leave Boston Ballet?

J: Well I had always had my eye on ABT, ever since I was a teenager. It was the first big ballet company I saw and I was immediately obsessed.

After being in Boston for 10 years, I wanted to be inspired by new dancers, new work, new challenges, and New York City itself. So I auditioned on a day off during Nutcracker season in Boston, which is insane. Sometimes we do over 40 performances of Nutcracker, so I took the red-eye Fung Wah bus, back when that was still a thing, and I took ballet class with ABT. They offered me a soloist contract.

K: What was your transition into ABT like?

J: It was foreign and familiar all at once. The ballet world is very small, so I knew a lot of the dancers from- this, that, and the other- from guest performances, from summer programs, and stuff. But the rep at ABT is completely different from the rep at Boston. We did a lot of Balanchine, a lot of neoclassical work, a lot of contemporary work [at Boston Ballet]. ABT does big classics. Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, etc. So I had to learn all of ABT’s rep in an extremely short time, and I did an obscene amount of debuts that first year. Then I was promoted to Principal in the Fall.

K: Do you feel like you’ve adjusted to New York life?

J: I’m from Fairfield, Connecticut, so I spent a lot of time in the city as a kid, going to Broadway Dance Center, seeing Broadway shows with my dance teachers. I’ve had my heart close to New York City for a long time. So it feels more like a homecoming.

K: So now your address just matches your…

J: …my soul.

K: [Laughs] Now, this isn’t your first time in Vail.

J: This is my third year in Vail. My first year I only did one ballet. Last year I did a lot, this year I’m doing a lot, and I’m coming back next year.

K: So it just progresses more and more as you keep coming back?

J: Yeah, they make you work! Damn! It’s really, really ambitious. Incredibly ambitious. In a way, it feels like our New York season: putting together a large amount of things in a short amount of time. It’s crazy, this festival has gained so much visibility in the dance world. It’s become the dance festival.

K: What keeps you coming back to the Vail Dance Festival?

J: My favorite thing about this festival is the location, the setting, the nature.

K: It really is beautiful. Has the altitude been an adjustment?

J: Oh, of course. Everything is harder here, without a doubt.

K: So what are you performing in Vail this year?

J: I have danced the White Swan Pas de Deux with fellow ABT Principal Devon Teuscher. I have also danced Michelle Dorrance’s 1-2-3-4-5-6, where I had to do a lot of tapping, so that was fun. I tapped as a teenager, so it was nice to revisit it. I did a new ballet [Farewell] by Matthew Neenan on Saturday night. I danced with an old colleague of mine, Misa Kuranaga. We danced together a lot in Boston. It was so nice to dance with her again, she’s an extraordinary dancer.

I’ll be dancing in the new Michelle Dorrance ballet- I keep calling it a ballet, but it’s a dance. [Laughs] I don’t know what it’s called, but it is epic, and ambitious and daring and I just can’t believe we’re doing it tonight. I’m a little stressed out.

K: [Laughs] That’s kind what the festival is about though, right?

J: Amen to that! It all will come together, I know it will.

K: Definitely will. So that’s a big piece…

J: Yeah, it’s about 30 minutes long. It’s a big cast from all different backgrounds. We’re tapping, we’re…not tapping.

K: [Laughs] All of the in between…

J: Yes. [Laughs]

K: So what’s up next after Vail?

J: My summer has been completely booked with festivals and galas. It’s been exceptionally fun. It’s been like a tour- I feel like I’m on a rock concert tour. I’ve been a lot of places, I’m going a lot of places.

The next stops on my “summer gig tour” are Sun Valley, Idaho, which has a similar beauty to this, actually. And Tokyo.

K: No big deal. “Oh yeah, Toyko.”

J: Oh yeah, Toyko. [Laughs]

K: Have you been before?

J: I’ve been to Toyko before, yeah. It’s just so strange and wonderful. Just so different.

K: Dream destination for me.

J: And then I have my Fall season with American Ballet Theater. I have some personal projects in the works, which if you follow me on my various socials, you’ll learn of.

K: So back up for a second, though, what are you going to be doing in Tokyo?

J: In Tokyo, I am choreographing and dancing in a Disney ballet DVD release of Beauty and the Beast.

K: What? Stop! That’s awesome.

J: Yeah, it’ll be Misa and me.

K: That’s really exciting. And what are you doing in Sun Valley?

J: In Sun Valley I’m dancing [George] Balanchine’s Rubies Pas de Deux with Tiler Peck. I’m also doing a solo I created to Louis Armstrong’s You Rascal You, which I made a short film for years ago that people really liked. The premise is that I have killed my wife’s lover. I’m really excited about it, I’m dancing around in the streets. You can view it on Youtube.*

K: Great! Are you looking forward to getting back to New York after that?

J: Yes. But I actually haven’t had a day off since June, so next week from Wednesday to Wednesday, I’ll be in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

K: Ah, I love Provincetown! So beautiful.

Thank you for chatting with me, James! Enjoy some well deserved rest in P-town.

*Editor’s note: I watched James’ You Rascal You video immediately after transcribing this interview and- oh my goodness- go watch it right now. Please.