nutcracker magic

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It felt coincidental when the first snowfall of the season came on our last long Saturday of rehearsals at the studio, little white flurries beckoning from the high windows, guiding us giddily into theater week…

It felt serendipitous when a fresh blanket fell in the wee hours of the morning just before our first Discover Dance performance, returning the world to wonderland…

But it felt utterly and undeniably magical when sparkling white flakes greeted me at the stage door after opening night, making their dizzying way down through the dark downtown sky.

Everything about the stage door at the Providence Performing Arts Center is nostalgic for me. Eight-year-old Kirsten instinctively emerged from the theater out into snowy December, half-mittened hands in the air and boots circling one around the other below. I looked up into the swirling night and felt a peaceful joy that can only be described as Christmas bliss.

Boy, what the adrenaline of opening night Sugarplum and little snowfall will do to a girl.

 

an article about my many Nutcrackers, here.

a review of last night, below…

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first photo by Cameron Morgan.

sugar and spice and snow and dew

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This weekend marks my eighteenth year performing in Festival Ballet Providence’s The Nutcracker. That’s right, folks. My Nutcracker career will officially be a legal adult with voting rights by Sunday evening. I am equal parts giddy and flabbergasted. Where the heck did the time go?

The most remarkable thing about this 18-year marker, I think, is the fact that after hundreds of Nutcrackers, there is still something new; This year I will be dancing the role of Snow Queen for the very first time. Snow pas has always been a favorite of mine…the triumphant horns, the imminence of spritely snowflakes, the sweeping lifts. Misha likes to describe the pas de deux like the beginning of a snow storm, little pockets of icy air chasing each other into swirls. A is the wind and I am swept up in him, spreading diamonds over the stage with my crystal wake. Ah, to be Queen of the Snow…

Of course I am also honored and excited to manifest visions of Sugarplums and whirling Dew Drops once again! If you find yourself in Providence this weekend, you can find tickets here.

 

photos by Emma Margulies.

a premiere in which i did not touch the ground

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This weekend A and I danced our first Christopher Wheeldon ballet. Well, part of it anyway…

We (rather unexpectedly) performed the pas de deux section of Wheeldon’s The American, a lovely ballet set to Dvorak’s triumphant score of the same name. The Company will perform the full ballet as part of our February mainstage, but this weekend PVD got a taste of what’s to come in the Black Box Theater. I’ve been describing this little ditty as 6.5 minutes of being either off your leg or in the air. Poor A never gets to let go of me. But somehow we made it through! Relatively smoothly! A triumph. And now for my own enjoyment, but if you care to see, a rehearsal code run down of one of the hardest, sweetest, most frustratingly beautiful pas de deuxs we’ve done to date:

that hard promenade, the first backwards lift, the lift that kills your arms, the nervous arabesque, the backpack press, the cartwheel, the tricky promenade, the split and scoot, the getting up, the run around, the impossible lift, the weirdly difficult fouetté + fall, the traveling baby lift, the birdy, the slow roll, the floor, the spiritual moment, the walk-walk, the run around, the flip lift, the swizzle, A’s least favorite lift, the drop, the rock, the running, the big lift, the craddle lifts, the backwards cartwheel, the second tricky promenade, the hip killers, the second swizzle, the drapey lift, the last backwards lift, the slow floaty pirouette, the bourrées, the end.

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.

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?

moments.

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I’ve been collecting moments throughout this dear little career of mine. Writing them down, sharing in this space, keeping them safe here where I can return to them when they are needed. Last Saturday night amidst multiple mediums of fire and water, I scooped up a pretty powerful one. It’s past my bedtime, but I’ve got to get this out, down, locked away here in my safe space…

At 8:14 I crouch behind the basin stage. In full red unitard and crimson pointe shoes, it would be tough to hide me even without the hundreds of fiery crystals and plumed feathers crowning my head. Our elliptical audience catches my heart beats then tosses them up like sparks spit from blaze, left to scatter down wildly into the water below.

At 8:20 the performance begins. At 8:24 the first torches are lit. At 8:27 it starts to rain.

Then comes my cue. Stravinsky’s Firebird is reaching its swell, behind thin black capes I make my way to center stage. I enter the huddle of students, worriedly whispering, The stage is so wet! Be careful Miss Kirsten! and as the horns exhaust I am hoisted up from the group.

The music takes a sharp breath in while the audience applauds. Slowly in cadence with the petering cheers, I feel wet ground replaced beneath me and I stare boldly into the crowd. A bassoon guides my sanguine step forward, carefully onto pointe and then downstage. Red feet are less timid than mine. Looking through the layer of thin black smoke and metallic raindrops between us, I finally break gaze with the crowd to twitch my chin down with the quick recoil of my wings.

Oboes lead me through my trance before the flames assemble and the horns creep up again. We board the boat and push into the river as the finale builds. I peak. On a platform in the center of this wobbling wooden vessel, I can feel the warmth of four huge torches surrounding me. I stand in a deep lunge, never feeling more balanced and unstable. Stravinsky’s creation lets out its largest blast. I peek. Up into the weeping night sky, bending back toward flapping wings. It’s then the crowd’s cheers fall silent and I’m wrapped up in my moment. Under water, over water, through fire and cloaked in it, I cry.

This perfect, strange, magical moment, between PVD and me.

 

photo by John A. Simonetti.

a dream is a wish your heart makes

IMG_3896IMG_3865IMG_3916IMG_3871IMG_3922IMG_3924IMG_3920IMG_3917IMG_3921IMG_3926IMG_3918IMG_3923IMG_3919As I prepared to take the stage as Cinderella 27 hours ago, friends, mentors, choreographers, and colleagues kept prescribing this one bit of advice:

“Enjoy it,” they said, “Have fun. Finish every movement. Be in the moment. Be present. Be proud.” So I did. And I was.

And I’m still reveling in the magic of this dream coming true…

{two more chances to catch FBP in Winthrop Corey’s Cinderella}

all photos by Brenna DiFrancesco.