a bold statement

There is something that has been on my mind, but I’ve been too timid to declare it. It’s not exactly revolutionary, revealing, or remarkable, but in the interest of documenting my thoughts, it must be stated (and adequately mused on, let’s be real) here.

Justin Peck and Sufjan Stevens are the modern George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky.

There, I said it. In big letters, too. Okay, okay, before you go and roll your eyes and point out all of the differences in style and situational relationships, hear me out. I don’t mean to say that these choreographer/composer relationships are identical, but simply that Peck and Stevens’ partnership excites me in a similar way I could imagine a 25-year-old bunhead living in the mid-20th century would be excited by that of the late great(s) Balanchine and Stravinsky. I should add one last post-pre-text disclaimer to this preface and state that these are all very personal opinions of mine. Bear with me…

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New York City Ballet in George Balanchine’s Serenade, source unknown.

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New York City Ballet in Justin Peck’s  Year of The Rabbit, photo by Paul Kolnik.

One of Peck’s first choreographic endeavors at NYCB resulted in his Year of The Rabbit, an iconic piece set to Sufjan Stevens’ 2001 electronica album Enjoy Your Rabbit. One of Balanchine’s earliest works, Apollo, also marked his first collaboration with classically alternative composer Igor Stravinsky.

Stevens and Stravinsky share more than the double consonant start to their last names. Stravinsky made a name for himself as a musical revolutionary by changing the way people saw rhythmic design. Similarly, Stevens is known for his irregular time signatures and variation of genre and style.

There are endless parallels to be drawn between the two choreographers as well. Peck and Balanchine share a propensity to utilize the corps de ballet, emphasizing the strength of a body of dancers and creating architecture on stage. The two use a similar vocabulary and technique, pushing dancers to extend their limbs fully and consume the stage. I think the most essential comparison, though, is that both Peck and Balanchine are of the moment; well, of their moment.

For Balanchine, “of the moment” changed from the sweeping romanticism of Serenade in the ’30s to the paired down black and whites in the ’40s to ’50s Americana with Western Symphony, Square Dance, and Stars and StripesJustin Peck’s moment is this one, and he is certainly taking hold of it. His ballets seem to always be just what the audience doesn’t know they need. In 2014, Peck’s lively Everywhere We Go set to an original cinematic score by Sufjan Stevens marked the next major collaboration between the two artists, awaking even New York audiences with it’s contagious energy. In 2015, Peck paired up with street artist Shepard Fairy to create Heatscape for The Miami City Ballet, using the city’s colorful backdrop to weave culture into the ballet. Just last year, Peck and Stevens worked together yet again to create In The Countenance of Kings at San Francisco Ballet. Though all I’ve seen of it is the video below (at least 12 times, mind you) it’s already one of the best pieces of music and choreography I have ever experienced.

So when I hear Justin Peck and Sufjan Stevens are at it again, their newest collaborative work The Decalogue premiering in just a week, I can’t help but imagine myself several generations back, giddy over the news of a new Balanchine/Stravinsky ballet.

In his February interview with the Chicago Tribune, Peck mused on the importance of relationships between choreographers and living artists:

“What’s always interested me the most about ballet is it’s this great opportunity for many different artistic mediums to come together to create a cohesive experience,” Peck said. “I think the future of ballet, as I would see it, is to continue the conversation between all these different worlds and have ballet be the platform for these different conversations. … That for me is what makes it so exciting and universal. There’s something for everyone to get out of it. I think the art form starts to fade when we forget that.”

 

gilded & floral

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When I looked back through my photos from last weekend in New York, I felt a wave of gold and pink.  Gilded and floral. Luxurious and blooming.  These hues really do best describe our trip.   Of the many gilded fixtures and blushing bouquets, though, one of each proved truly special…

Tiny Golden Loop, A Love Story

Friday was meant to be “my birthday”, for our celebratory purposes.  Unfortunately, I had been slightly handicapped by some strange spine-bending stomach pains that morning.  BUT!  Knowing me too well, my friends had arranged for us to spend the day in one of my favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods, and no belly ache could keep me from Catbird.  We hopped off the subway and I shot straight for the little jewelry boutique, tucked into 219 Bedford.  My goodness is that place magical.  Swept up in a sea of my own ooohs and ahhhs, it was like being pulled from a trance when T summoned me to the back wall looking excited.  My three best friends looked at me with bright eyes and wide smirks and pointed to a tiny bowed box on the shelf.

“Look how cute!”

“Yes, tiny box! You guys know how I love tiny things.”*

“Yeah! You should open it.”

After some “Huh, you want me to open this?” investigating, I started to catch on.  My trance reinstated.  I untied the teeny golden bow, and inside the bitty little black box I found an ever teenier little gold ring.  Feeling overwhelmed with surprise and excitement, I peeled the beautiful specimen out to read the engraving: a m i s ; meaning friends in French.

Are you wondering if I freaked out?  Oh my goodness did I ever!!!!!!  Choked up, I squeezed them into group hug after group hug, several times in the tiny boutique, once more outside on Bedford, again in the Tea House, and a few more times back at the Plaza.  I also developed this strange affectation of slow, exaggerated spirit-fingers-ing to subtly show my appreciation for their love, now forever suspended in gold and wrapped up in my hand.

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Briar Rose, A Breakthrough

I have seen the New York City Ballet live twice before.  The first time at Saratoga when I was a wee one, I think it was an excerpt from Harlequinade?  Hard to say.  The next time was several years ago on a December trip to the city with my dear Mama.  We saw The Nutcracker and, perhaps too infatuated with our own version, agreed that Ashley Bouder’s Dew Drop (and Waltz of the Flowers in general), was the stand alone wow.  Last Saturday night, though, I had the honor of witnessing Lauren Lovette in the second show of her Aurora debut, along with quite a few corps de ballet dancers who would be promoted to soloist the very next day (congrats, Indiana!).  Now I can say, with full reverence of the word, wow.  Wow, wow, wow.  What a show.

Lovette was the most perfect Princess Aurora.  Sweetness seeming to drip out of her in place of sweat, she eased her way through the ballet as if the character were hers from birth.  Every glance felt genuine, every touch appeared to affect her deeply, giving the impression that Aurora’s experiences were crossing over her own in the moment.  The sad, sweet, scary elation of such a momentous debut.  Her lines were sculpted yet understated, never sacrificing rotation and shape for alien extension.  Lauren is certainly one of NYCB’s more lyrical principals, but not for a lack of clarity in the crispier choreography.

The rest of the ballet was spectacular as well- those transforming scrim scenes leading you into the castle!- but Lauren really charmed us the most.  I mean, T wept through the entire Rose Adagio, so.  Yeah.  Safe to say seeing Miss Lovette blossom into this beautiful Briar Rose was a most worthy birthday gift.

 

*I managed to take home 3 TINY TINY TINY bottles of Tabasco from The Palm Court.  Yep.

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there is only now

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I am such a huge fan of New York City Ballet’s 2016-2017 campaign.  It’s somehow both hauntingly timeless and incredibly current; a breathing incantation of Balanchine’s mantra “There is only now.”  The captivating video and stunning photos by Peter Lindbergh are just dreamy, and his musings on the special art of capturing ballet dancers are truly poetic…New-York-City-Ballet-2016-2017-03.jpgnew-york-city-ballet-2016-2017-07New-York-City-Ballet-2016-2017-06.jpgnew-york-city-ballet-2016-2017-01new-york-city-ballet-2016-2017-02-762x1024New-York-City-Ballet-2016-2017-04.jpg

“With dance, it is about capturing movement, which is everything I love.  It leaves space for the unexpected, as the same movement is never twice the same.”

-Peter Lindbergh

snow day education

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Growing up, I didn’t know much about “the ballet world”.  Sure, I had heard of New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and the Bolshoi, but I couldn’t tell any of them apart and the name Balanchine didn’t mean a whole lot to me.  In my mind, the ultimate principals were Cooper Nielson and the Kathleen Donahue, but no one was cooler than underdog Jody Sawyer.  Fast forward 10 years and the baby bunhead in me is making up for lost time with some borderline obsessive fan-girling tendencies, re: hours of youtube-ing on a lonely snow day (I didn’t say I was proud of it!).

Yesterday I dove in hard to the New York City Ballet’s online presence, which is rather extensive, I might add.  I thought I would share some of the beautiful content I uncovered during the NYCB-themed cyber stalk sesh…

Some gorgeous photos from the impossibly chic, talented and well-spoken Garance Doré, taking us along on her visit behind the scenes with the New York City Ballet.  (part II here)

Ever wonder how NYCB principal Sara Mearns creates that just-tossed-it-up-real-quick twist/bun hybrid thing she’s always sporting?  Ponder no more, here’s a tutorial from the master herself.  And ps, she just replaced Jody as ballet’s resident “cool girl”.  Sorry, Sawyer…

I never considered that a person actually holds the job title of “official shoe sprayer to the New York City Ballet”, but it’s pretty rad.

Take a peak inside the NYCB costume shop and follow the recreation of the Theme & Variations tutus.

The euphoric purgatory of being promoted to Soloist in the New York City Ballet.

 

photo by Garance Doré

NYCB x The Coveteur

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As a long time fan of The Coveteur, a website that takes you inside the closets of today’s tastemakers and publishes the scoop on all of the latest designer collaborations, I practically jumped out of my dress when I noticed their feature on New York City Ballet‘s annual Fall Gala, which happens to be tonight.  Because I stalk several NYCB dancers on instagram, of course I had already heard about the company’s collaboration with Thom Browne, Carolina Hererra, Mary Katrantzou, and Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen (coordinated by NYCB board member and resident fashion insider, Sarah Jessica Parker).  But, being the stalker that I am, the idea of sneaking a peek behind-the-scenes before the costumes even hit the stage was impossible to resist!  Imagine how fun it would be to don an exclusively NYCB designer costume for the night?  Swoon.

Check out the designs for yourself here!

Read more about the project here.

All photos via The Coveteur

a day in the life

Presented by the New York City Ballet, this little clip compares the daily routine of a NYCB dancer to that of a young professional.  Though the two might not cross paths all that often, this video’s witty split screen reminds us how similar they can be.  I think my favorite part is the shot of the man’s fingers padding along his keyboard mirrored by the bourrées of the dancer en pointe.  Both are so gentle, but so skilled.  I think it’s a pretty cute project, bringing professionals of all kinds together to promote NYCB’s young patrons circle.  If only more young people could learn to appreciate dance- we need all the support we can get!

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Ask anyone in a professional ballet company their opinion on the gimmicks surrounding ballet in the media (read: overdramatic reality shows and thrillers based on every cliché in the book), and they will all share with you some version of this fact: Dancing ballet professionally is dramatic, scary, and full of passion enough on its own.  It doesn’t need a script.

That seems to be the thinking behind the newest mini-series on aol.com, city.ballet.  Featuring 12 short documentary-style segments, the show gives viewers a behind-the-scenes peek at the life of a New York City Ballet dancer.  Each clip focuses on a different aspect of professional ballet, from the shoes to the makeup to deciphering the ranks, all seasoned with honest, straight to the point commentary from the dancers and even ballet master in chief, Peter Martins, himself.    The series takes us into the enormous shoe closet (fully stocked with Freed’s customized to each dancers exact bunion size and callus width), into the rehearsals of principle power couple (and real life couple) Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck, and into the physical therapy room where injured dancers seek treatment daily.  Finally, a true representation of the professional ballet world has been documented for the world to see.  And with long-time balletomane Sarah Jessica Parker as our host/narrator, I don’t think it could get any better!

Although I’ve yet to watch them all (can’t wait to finish them up later tonight), one of my favorite segments features a part of the ballet world that every female dancer knows all too well…the corps de ballet.  The video addresses the importance of the often under appreciated corps and its role as the base of the company and the “glue that keeps everything together”.  Preach!

Check it out here, and let me know what you think!