moments on stage

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Hello, all!  Just wanted to pop in and share some photos from the dress rehearsal of Boundless Plotnikov.  Below is a mixture of shots from Surrender, Orchis, and Sharps & Flats.  Enjoy!

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All photos taken and owned by A. Cemal Ekin©

giving back

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Last night was nothing short of a triumph.  Everyone involved- from the dancers, to the many choreographers, to the lighting director who learned the cues moments before the show- exhibited an incredible amount of professionalism, and for that we should all be very proud.

After the performance, a few friends and I headed over to our favorite bar, Ivy Tavern, for some well-deserved wine and dinner.  We toasted to our success, laughed about our mistakes, and ate and drank until we were properly satisfied.  Upon realizing it was past 11, we signaled our waiter-friend for the check and bantered a bit about who had cash, how to split the bill and the rainy walk home that awaited us.  It was then that something truly amazing happened.  When our waiter returned, his hands were empty but his words were not.   “Hey guys”, he started in, looking a bit confused, “so the man at the bar just paid for your entire meal.”*  Now, having noticed a mysterious-looking mustached man and his sidekick with a gaze that lasted just a bit too long on my way to the bathroom earlier that night, my first reaction was to start considering how to walk home without being followed by the very generous, albeit slightly creepy, ‘man at the bar’.  But when I turned and saw an older man and his wife raising their glasses towards us, I realized what had really happened.  This couple had just seen our show.

We thanked and thanked and thanked them again, utterly blown away by such a kind gesture.  In an effort to show our gratitude for their munificence, we offered to buy their next round, but in reply, the woman simply shook her head, held up her FBP playbill, and said, “The real gift was given earlier tonight.”

Sometimes humanity surprises you.  Sometimes-when you least expect it- someone is watching, connecting, and graciously receiving what you’ve worked so hard to offer.  It is moments like these that remind me why all the sweat, tears, and sore muscles are worth it: Because there is no sweeter gift than appreciation.

*For the record, we are pretty sure our waiter thinks we are famous now.  We don’t mind it.

all this has happened before, and it will all happen again

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Growing up, I was a Disney kid.  Some lived for Nickelodeon, others were Looney Toons Lovers, but in my world it was only Disney.  And I don’t mean Disney Channel, no, my little heart beat only for the animated musicals that began with a blue castle and ended with a lesson well learned.  Princesses, pirates, animals that can sing…in my wide eyes, Disney was the stuff dreams are made of.

My mother kept our impressive collection of Disney videos stacked in a big wooden cabinet in the living room.  Some of their cases were torn and faded, a sign of that movie’s prominence in the rotation (and probably residual stains from being clutched by my grilled-cheese-greased hands).  One of these “more loved” cases was the one that held Peter Pan.  Disney’s 1953 version of J.M. Barrie’s classic play-turned-novel(turned movie-turned broadway musical-turned ballet) was always one of my favorites, indulging my young imagination with its constant adventures.  Now, taking a trip down memory lane with Tinker Bell and Netflix, suddenly I’m enlightened.

Rewatching Peter Pan in my 20s, I realize the message here is so much deeper (and a bit more racist) than what’s seen on the pixie-dusted surface.  In the opening lines (the title of this post), the narrator suggests the cyclical nature of this story; The audience is joining in a little late, but this will not be the final telling.  Peter has visited the Darling house before, and you can bet your second star he’ll be back again.  His life is a succession of new children, new friends, new stories.  Saying hello, and saying goodbye.  It’s really quite sad when you consider it.  I was never truly able to wrap my head around the story’s meaning as a youngster, but suddenly Peter’s fear of growing older and Wendy’s dreams of a land where kids stay kids forever sound like a page from my own diary…

At some point I think we all feel a nostalgia for younger times.  But then maturity sets in, responsibilities take hold and we realize that growing up isn’t so scary after all.  What makes this story worth hearing is the contrast between Peter’s unyielding grip on youth and Wendy’s choice to ascend into young adulthood.

Of course, as the reality of my fast-approaching 22nd birthday sets in, I’m still clinging to that youth, spending my days sword fighting in Neverland with Captain Hook and The Lost Boys.  How’s that for employee benefits?

{photo above of me in my younger years, c/o Thomas Nola-Rian}

work shoes

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The first full week of Peter Pan  rehearsals has come and gone, leaving a trail of battered pointe shoes and swollen feet in its wake.  Last Friday I strapped on the satin death traps and didn’t stop once.  I’m hurting all over, and we’ve only learned Act I.  Woof.

Clearly demonstrated by my lack of activity here on the blog, I’ve been pretty swamped with rehearsals and PT and getting over a cold and sewing pointe shoes and reading for my new online Physiology course and…trying to stay sane?  Am I the only one who has a hard time separating studio life and real life?  Is it hard for anyone else to transition from work time to playtime?  Sometimes I forget that the weekend is not only a time to rest and recuperate my body, but also a chance to see friends, drink wine and cheat the diet (if we’re getting specific ;).  I’m hoping to do a better job of balancing all that out next weekend…although I’ve heard rumors that a 6-day work week is approaching tomorrow…wish me luck!

a dark audition day

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In the ballet world, auditions are a fact of life.

Sometimes you’re competing against thousands of ballet students for a scholarship to a summer intensive, sometimes you’re rivaling hundreds of young dancers for a spot in a professional company, and sometimes your up against 25 of your closest friends and colleagues for a role in an upcoming ballet.  Regardless of the exact setting, the pre-audition jitters are universal.

Friday was FBP’s first full day back to work (thanks, blizzard!), and we were welcomed warmly back to the studio with an audition.  Of course, this came after I overslept, lost my keys somewhere in my own apartment and almost wiped out in the snow on my walk in.  I blame those pesky pre-audition jitters.  Nonetheless, not a particularly good start to my day…

Now, the first day back after a two-week nacho-eating-marathon resting period is a lofty endeavor in and of itself, but dancing your first class back while being stared down by Jorden Morris, the mysterious Peter Pan choreographer whom you’ve never met, is a true challenge.  I entered the studio the same way I always do, warmups in hand, back contracted and shoulders rounded to keep the cool draft off my chest, and feet scurrying quickly beneath me.  I stretched my quads, hamstrings, calves, hips, warmed up my back, did some ab exercises.  Then the waiting began.  The ballet mistress and several dancers would be arriving late, the roads were terrible, our director announced.  After 20 more minutes of excessive calve stretching and crunches, the last dancer settled into their place at the barre and we began with pliés.

Somehow we all made it through that painful first class back, only to be rewarded with a rather awkward waiting session between the audition and the cast posting.  We all shimmied back into the warm-ups we’d shed during class and rolled out, stretched out, ate apples and checked Instagram important emails, trying to keep things light and ignore the obvious tension in the air.  That’s when something strange and unexpected happened.  Our artistic director entered the green room and calmly told us that an ex-FBP principle dancer, Jaclyn Ricci, also the younger sister of a current FBP dancer, had passed away the night before.  I felt my hand clap over my gaped mouth and I froze for a minute.  She was 36.  I just saw her two days ago.  This can’t be real.  The tangible stress in the room was abruptly cut with a collective held breath.  A dark cloud hung above us.  Then the casting went up.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again; being a ballet dancer is one of the most intense jobs in existence.  Far more theatrical than the stories our bodies tell on stage, the day to day life of a professional ballet dancer is never lacking in drama.

I would like to dedicate this post to Jaclyn Ricci.  She was a beautiful dancer, warm spirit, and an inspiration to so many dancers, including myself.  Her bright smile and poignant sense of humor will live on forever in our memories.  RIP.7545_644331578962504_571349828_n

PS- stay tuned for an update on the outcome of the Peter Pan audition!

Untitled

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I wanted to call this post “Nutcracker Selfies and Feet Pics” but it seemed a bit crude lengthy for a Tuesday evening montage of slightly immaterial photos.  So instead I called it “Untitled”, added the aforementioned random assortment of iPhone-captured shots and called it a day.

I was told that (and I quote) some of you will never tire of seeing backstage ballet pictures, so here you go!  Enjoy the reflections and feet of Nutcracker before they disappear for a whole year.

And if you’re wondering, yes those are ice baths my feet are “relaxing” in, yes, I struggled through one every night during the weekend of the show, and yes, they hurt like hell.

preparations

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It’s officially Nutcracker theater week, day one!  I’ve yet to actually set foot inside PPAC this year, but with preparations already taking up so much of my time (notice the above photo in which I’m sewing pointe shoes in the car en route to a check up with [one of ] my [ many ] back doctor [s]), I can already tell it’s going to be a great deal busier than my last theater week.

With a definitive cast list still up in the air, I’m feeling a bit uneasy about this weekend’s performances.  When will I be dancing which roles and with whom?  Just tiny details!  Although, casting questions aside, I’m not sure I’ve ever really felt super duper prepared to perform by day one of theater week.  It’s always those tech and dress rehearsals onstage that take my comfort level from restless to ready.  Hopefully PPAC works its magic and I can sleep easy tomorrow night before Thursday morning’s show.  Wow, just two days until we open!  Where has December gone?