perform and protect

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Every year around the first week of November, my calendar fills up with acupuncture appointments and ice baths. My heating pad fires up multiple times a day, I sit down whenever possible, and when standing is a necessity, I consciously shift weight back and forth between my two legs to avoid (or let’s be honest, delay) the eminent burn out of my left calf muscle. That’s right, Nutcracker Season is upon us and my left leg is feeeeeeling it.

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If you have danced any variation of the “traditional” Petipa version of Grand Pas (affectionately referred to as Grandpa), you know what I mean. Each and every section of the 15 minute pas de deux- from adagio to coda- seems to depend heavily on the strength of the left leg. It’s the supporting leg in every pirouette, promenade, and balance and by the last cymbal crash, that baby is screaming.

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Swooping in to give my left calf any chance of survival this season, my favorite compression-tech dancewear brand, Apolla, sent over one of their newest products to save the day. The K-warmer (short for Kinesio) is made with a tight-knit to provide targeted compression to sore leg muscles. The special weave encourages circulation, which reduces inflammation and lowers the risk of injury. It’s sort of like having a personal physical therapist following your sore legs around, wrapping tape where you need support and applying pressure where you need blood flow.

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I love that the K-warmer provides support while still allowing my body to perform at its full range of motion. The warmers (which come in a set) can be extended for full leg coverage, but I like to double up on the squeeze-factor by folding one down around my calf for an extra warm hug. On particularly long days, I keep my K-warmers on when I leave the studio, so they can keep working their magic while my body transitions into rest mode. Performance and protection, double whammy! They are also antimicrobial (aka not stinky), sleek fitting (hello tutu time), and dancer approved.

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I really do swear by all of Apolla’s products and wear them daily. You guys know, I only work with brands that I genuinely love and think you will, too! If you want to get your hands on/legs in a pair of K-warmers, use code STB-ApollaDiscount-4 for 10% off at checkout.

PS- this is not an affiliate code- I don’t make any money from this, just want to spread the love and help you survive Nutcracker Season! Code is valid through November 22, 2018. xx

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.

the first snow

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There’s something about the first snow of the season that makes the world feel calmer. Skeleton trees don fluffy coats, icy rooftops shimmer, and the most wonderful- and busiest!- time of the year gets just a bit quieter, if only for one night. We had our first snow here in Providence this past weekend and ah, I am feeling the Nutcracker vibes. Of course, with frozen precipitation come cooler temperatures, making chilly bodies tougher to warm…

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If the cold weather wasn’t enough to make my muscles tighten, Sugarplum, Dew Drop, and Snow Queen will surely finish the job. I think I actually spend half of my Nutcracker run on my left leg, mid-pirouette. By the end of the day, these calves are BURNING. Thank goodness I have A always there to lift me up when my legs give out! And thank goodness my favorite leg warmers come in an adorable child’s size, perfect for warming those tired calves of mine.

Yup, these are actually RubiaWear “Rubita” leg warmers, and they are the cutest. Can you believe there are bunheads with legs the size of my calves? The thought is so precious I couldn’t even type it without scrunching up my face in a silent awwwww!

Anyway, these little miniatures are going to be in heavy rotation this winter. I also love wearing something made by the genuinely lovely, talented, badass boss lady, Ashley Ellis! If you want to warm up this winter and support smart ladies and their business endeavors, check out the rest of the (constantly changing!) RubiaWear collection here.

a few highlights

Before 2017 arrives and Nutcracker becomes utterly irrelevant for 11 months…

a rose gold makeoverimg_8177-2…because this tutu was always a bit more sugar than plum.

an upside down viewimg_8219…because it was taken before Thursday night’s post-school-show dress rehearsal, and it perfectly reflected my loopy feelings.

this dew drop momentfullsizerender-116…because it was captured by my best friend from behind the backdrop and I’m still trying to figure out how this became my life.

other highlights…

an early morning rhode show interview.

the boston globe backstage.

our adaptive dancers make national news.

a jazzy little thanks.

dew it

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In the 17 years of Nutcrackering I mentioned previously, the addition of new roles to dance has naturally slowed over time.  From the fiery school times of annual auditions and casting letters, each winter bringing a brand new experience- angel, candy doll, party girl, mouse-attendant-trepak-maid- to the Junior Company track- Clara, snow & flower corps- to the company years- a bevy of divertissements- the progression has been much like a quarter spun on a table: at first so quick you can hardly recognize it, then gradually settling into a comforting rhythm.  With a few exceptions over the past 7 company years (seeing my name in the Spanish rehearsals was a true- and at first unwelcome- shock!), my Nutcracker roles have felt fairly familiar for some time.  This year that changed.

I’ve been plucked from the party scene entirely (the ‘party girl’ child in me weeps for this), and doled a brand new role in exchange for the many diverts I once danced: Dew Drop.  While I have done the Waltz of the Flowers more times than I’ll attempt to count, never have I experienced the iconic scene from the sparkling pink tutu of the Dew Drop.  Heck, never have I even worn a real pink tutu on stage (!).

In our version, the Dew Drop is dramatic, but spritely, melodious yet quick.  I’m visualizing a drop of evening dew descending from its nap on a flower petal.  She scurries down toward the end of the petal, then slowly stretches over the edge, allowing just half of her to dangle as she grips on to her fluffy bed.  Once all of her bitty body has pooled, she drops down, flying through the air too quickly to be seen.  But her splash seems to be everywhere.  The Dew Drop is felt all over, but never truly seen.  Just as she catches your eye, her plummet begins and she’s gone.  She’s a sparkling tinker, more of a reflection of the flowers she splashes amongst than a form of her own.  And she is all to pleased to be it.

If I can emulate physically even a fraction of what I’m visualizing, I will be happy.  Oh, and nailing all those fouettés would be nice, too.

 

photo by Devin Alberda.

weekend in wonderland

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When you start the weekend on a Thursday afternoon with airport wine and your best friend.

When you realize how to spell Chautauqua.

When you fly into a blizzard, but a bold ballet dad braves the storm.

When your apartment is above the old McDuff’s, and has the puppy portraits and “wipe your paws” doormat to prove it.

When you can walk from McDuff’s to the (gorgeous) studios and the theater in under 3 minutes.

When you find breakfast cookies. And so you return after hours to beg for more. And then leave with 6.

When you warm up to Christmas carols and the snow just keeps coming.

When you mirror the 12-year-old ballerina showing you how to Sugarplum and remember yourself as a 12-year-old bunhead and wonder how this all came to be.

When you realize your tutu matches your tea saucer and your life is complete.

When the waitress thinks you’re married and refills your would-be husband’s coffee again and again (and again).

When angels literally surround you and ask questions like, “Do you live at your studio, or do you have a house?”

When you vow never to turn Hallmark channel off.

When dinner turns strangers into friends and the person across from you says “bubblah”.

When you take your partner’s hand, step into sous-sus, and feel astoundingly present.

When you sign an autograph for Phoebe on the bathroom counter and she smiles a smile bigger than her face.

…you’ve just done a Nutcracker guesting in Wonderland.

a very nutty friday

With two shows in Winchester and another week of rehearsals under my belt, it’s safe to say I am officially in full on Nutcracking mode.  It only seemed appropriate to have this week’s links reflect my current nutty state of mind…

Secrets behind the magic of The Nutcracker from the Royal Opera House.  (spoiler alert)

“The greatest mysteries, however, remain in the music we already know. What does the Sugar Plum’s adagio express? We can say it’s about the sublimity of a perfect being; we can say its huge, cascading scales are liturgical, Tchaikovsky’s requiem for his beloved sister (who died while he was preparing the ballet); it contains both glory and tragedy.” -New York Times dance critic, Alastair Macauly, on the mystery and reward of his annual Nutcracker marathons.  (reminds me of the Nutcracker mini-marathons my mom and I used to do)

Meet the Sugarplums of Boston (Hi Ashley!)

Festival Ballet’s Adaptive Dance program comes to the Nutcracker stage. (heartwarming)

Dew Drop is my favorite part of Balanchine’s Nutcracker. (so dynamic)

A while back my mom and I went on a little date to see the Bolshoi Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet– in a movie theater a few miles away from Providence.  Though an entirely different experience from that of attending a live performance, seeing ballet on the big screen was stunning in its own way, and the behind-the-scenes footage and commentary were so cool.  Now is your chance to see what I mean- this weekend The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker will be screening at a view different theaters around the country. (check out the RI schedule here!)

And while you’re at it, check out some of The Royal Ballet’s rehearsal shots from their time in the studio preparing The Nutcracker. (lovely)

For tickets to FBP’s Nutcracker at PPAC next weekend. (shop local)

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.