a christmas story

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This morning I parked my car at a metered spot in Brookline and hoofed it half a mile to one of the most beautiful bakeries, Tatte.  Brownstones lined my right and a woman in blue passed by on my left.  As she did I made eye contact, smiled, and chirped my usual “Hello!”.  To my delighted surprise, her equally spirited return greeting came almost instantly- if only you knew how many people look away when I acknowledge them.  Her quick but genuine response tickled, and I walked the rest of the way feeling a tad bit lighter.

Fast forward through some pastry perusing, tea sipping and note scribbling a la Tatte, when the women next to me start “discreetly” side-eyeing my notebook, a page of which I’ve now begun staining with the dregs of my English Breakfast leaves.  I realize the rather strong likelihood that my strange activity is offending their tame Wednesday brunch chatter and check my phone.  An hour has passed!  And I only paid for 48 minutes of parking!  I cause a bit of a ruckus in gathering my things (why must I bring crafts everywhere I go?), clearing my teacup and busting out the door.  There’s still a good 10 minute walk between myself and my inevitable parking ticket, so I pick up my pace from rush to trot towards the Brownstones.

From several gallops away, like the frame-by-frame delivery of a sad comic strip, I see the ticket print out (chchchchhchh), detach from its maker (zzzzip), and smack down onto my windshield.  I’m there just in time for my ticketer to turn around and watch my shoulders shlump dramatically downward.  Between panting breaths from frowning lips I sigh out, “This is me”, placing a defeated, consoling hand on my poor car, whose already been through enough this week.  The meter guard interrupts her own automatic apology to surprise me again, saying, “You know what?  If I hadn’t seen you earlier, and we hadn’t said hello to each other, I would never do this.”  She slips the ticket away, crumples it into her pocket, and before walking away, smiles once more and says, “Merry Christmas.”

Thank you, kind stranger who made my morning feel special when it could have been frustrating.  Never have I so directly felt the power of a friendly greeting.  If that’s not Christmas spirit personified, I don’t know what is.

 

making spirits bright

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Over the weekend, A and I headed up to the historic town of Winchester, MA for a Sugarplum guesting.  Diverts and rosin, golden tiaras and (so many!) children- what a way to kick off the Nutcracker season…

Though it feels good to be back in my city (and stalking Seven Stars), I really am a big fan of traveling to places my eyes have never met.  No matter if the destination waits just 60 miles north and the duration of the stay plans to be quite limited; The eminence of adventure is not lost in short journeys.  Discovering (and dancing) in new places is one of my favorite flavors of thrill.  Of course, sparkling tutus, glassy birch trees, miniature bottles of bubbly, warm crêpes and generous best best friends do seem to add just the right spice.

Oh yes, it’s a wonderful life.

happy december

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New England homes will always let you know when Christmas is coming; twinkle lights crop up in every window, woven greens circle door knockers and the warmth of crackling fireplaces glows from the inside out, sending plumes of exhaled smoke up through colonial brick chimneys.  December is upon us.

The successful closing of Up Close On Hope | Apollo & Bach Suites brought a short holiday break for FBP, and now with bellies full of turkey we plunge head first into Nutcracker preparations.  Ah, Tchaikovsky and sore toes, you epitomize my December.  To get into the spirit, I’ve been  doing some decking of my little halls and a bit of Christmas gift gathering too (#shopsmall), with festive socks on my feet and a chai in my hand, of course.

Last night I trekked it up north to Ballet Arts Centre of Winchester to rehearse with the students for my Sugarplum guesting this weekend (eeep!).  Back in Providence, the next 4 days will be spent hopping from France to Spain to Germany, through blizzards and living gardens to a land made of sweets, accompanied by suites my body knows forward and back.  So goes the wonderful, gratifying, exhausting grind of December’s annual preparatory routine.  Gird your loins, dancing friends, the Nutcracking season is officially here.

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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

nutcracker truths

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(me as an angel, my first role in The Nutcracker 14 years ago)

In honor of Friday’s opening night, I present to you, 10 truths that only those dancing in The Nutcracker can truly appreciate:

1.) By December 10th, hearing any segment of Tchaikovsky’s iconic score outside the ballet studio (i.e. tv commercials and shopping malls), will send you into immediate body convulsions and/or cause spontaneous choreography marking.

2.) There is nothing scarier than inhaling a piece of fake snow while attempting to gracefully circle the stage like a waltzing life-size snowflake.  Don’t breathe through your mouth…you’ve been warned.

3.) “As visions of Sugarplums danced in their heads” is not just a line in a poem.  It’s called Nutcracker Seasonal Sleep Disorder (NSSD), and the dance dreams of Nutcracker performances gone wrong will haunt you if you don’t take the proper precautions.  Chamomile and melatonin for all!

4.) Trying to keep your dressing room area clean is almost always an unsuccessful venture.  There will be eyelash glue stuck to your hairspray and blush dust all over your makeup case.  I promise.

5). Yes, getting into the shower to soften up that hair-helmet after the show is extremely satisfying, and yes, you will find at least 2 hairpins somewhere in your mane before that shower is over, no matter how many times your fingers scanned your scalp beforehand.

6). Has anyone ever considered just how creepy it looks when a clan of little clown children emerge from underneath Mother Ginger’s giant skirt?  Thanking the gods of Nutcracker that our version doesn’t include that strange divertissement.

7.) The debate over whether it’s Clara or Marie (I’ve even seen “Tess”), is one for which there will never be an answer that appeases everyone.*

8.) Whenever you see an actual nutcracker, you immediately picture what the costume would look like if that particular nutcracker were to grow 5 feet taller, come to life and battle a Mouse Queen.  Or maybe that’s just me…?

9.) There is nothing Christmasier (just go with it) than dancing amongst rows of Marzipan, Chocolate, Tea, Coffee, Sugar Plums, Trepak, and Flowers as the energetic music of the coda builds and rushes to an explosive halt.  It also sounds delicious.

10.) The holiday season is not complete without a visit from the party guest of honor, Uncle Drosselmyer, and his strange behaviors, questionable relation to the family and the absolutely terrifying giant mouse attack nightmare turned wonderful sweet dream he seems to orchestrate (also questionable).

*Ps, it’s Clara.

See FBP’s The Nutcracker this weekend only at Providence Performing Arts Center!