happy birthday julio

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Julio Bocca and dancers, photo by VAM Productions.

Is there any better way to round out a week of wonderment than by celebrating a man as talented and charming as Julio Bocca? I think not. Friday evening, the Koch Theatre replaced its grandiose guise with a delightfully casual vibe for the Bocca Birthday Bash. With famous dancers flooding the aisles to greet each other and catch up pre-show, I started to feel a bit like I’d stepped into a gigantic living room for a dancer dinner party catered to the likes of Stella Abrera, Lauren Lovette and Isabella Boylston.

As the curtain rose, my intuition took form: A pack of A-list dancers gathered buoyantly around a table stage left, clinking glasses in symbolic toast to Mr. Bocca. Georges Bizet’s Carmen flowed from the speakers, pouring over into the house and inciting an audience-wide exhale in collective satisfaction. The backdrop transformed into a red-wallpapered living room wall, decorated with a gallery of electronic picture frames whose contents came to life, changing with the tide of the program. Each piece seemed befitting of the Bocca theme, many of them proceeded by an insightful commentary from performers past and present.

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Marcelo Gomes and Luciana Paris in My Way, photo by VAM Productions

American Ballet Theatre’s Marcelo Gomes addressed the audience (or were we party guests?) first, transitioning from his touching speech to a rascally rendition of Twyla Tharp’s “My Way” from Sinatra Suite, in which he partnered a refreshingly grounded Luciana Paris. Gomez returned later in the program with Ballet National SODRE dancer Maria Noel Riccetto to dance Macmillan’s Balcony Pas de Deux from Romeo & Juliet, serving up a performance nuanced enough to rival even the great Bocc-omeo himself. That music, and those lifts…

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Marcelo Gomes and Maria Noel Riccetto in Balcony Pas de Deux from Romeo and Juliet, photo by VAM Productions

Suave Mr. Joaquin De Luz spoke next, leading into his flirtatious performance of the Suite from Other Dances with Tiler Peck. Perhaps I was still relishing in the glow of spotting Ms. Peck leaving rehearsal Wednesday afternoon, but this pas was one of the highlights of the evening for me. The Jerome Robbins choreography seemed to flow out of Peck, as if she was creating it spontaneously right on stage. Excuse the cliché expression, but it was all so organic, as if Tiler was a wet paint brush being swept across a blank canvas by an invisible force of genius. Effervescent joy radiated from them both.

JULIO BOCCA: A TRIBUTE TO A DANCE LEGEND

Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz in Suite from Other Dances, photo by VAM Productions

The classics were certainly represented quite well, featuring an adequately impressive Don Quixote, complete with stunning balances and triple fouettés from English National Ballet’s Tamara Rojo and Isaac Hernandez, plus a jaw-dropping opening of the Black Swan pas de deux from San Fransisco Ballet’s Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz.

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Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz in Black Swan Pas de Deux, photo by VAM Productions

There were three solos presented, the first being an energetic solo from Mambo Suites danced by the dashing Gonzalo Garcia, followed by a Georgian folk dance from State Ballet of Georgia’s Nina Ananiashvili, and finally the return of Vitor Luiz to finish the show with a Bob Fosse piece which, honestly, sort of started fun and then fizzled.

Contemporary works abounded as well, most noteworthy  from Paris Opera Etoiles Isabelle Guerin and Manuel Legris. The two performed a rather moving piece of choreography that, while I admit took a while to win me over (re: the slow as heck first half), ended with a strong, emotional adieu. Though most of the contemporary works were less than thrilling (I love Yuan Yuan and Vitor, but found the choreography in their contemporary pas, Yuri Possokhov’s Final Pas de Deux from Bells, to be quite dated), there was no doubting the extreme level of professionalism on display all evening.

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Vitor Luiz in Percussion 4, photo by VAM Productions

Between performances, dancers took to the stage or screen to share stories and express their appreciation for Bocca. Artwork on the pseudo living room wall transformed to reveal coordinating sketches, vintage photos, and video clips. An on-going interview with the birthday boy himself served as endearing evidence of his contagiously upbeat spirit. In it, Bocca describes himself as being “open and honest on the stage”, a sentiment as equally proven by the footage of past performances as it was in the adoration from Bocca’s colleagues. Former partner, Natasha Makarova, for example, fills the dancer dinner party with sweet praise, remembering,

“I loved you as a partner and as a human. The combination is unique. Ah, to be able to throw myself without fear, and you would always catch me.”

JULIO BOCCA: A TRIBUTE TO A DANCE LEGEND

photo by VAM Productions

It was loving comments like these, combined with charismatic responses from Bocca which made his magnetism so irresistible. By the end of the evening, you couldn’t help but just love Julio and feel glad for the existence of this ballet legend.

 

A big THANK YOU to YAGP for having me! I will be posting a few more highlights from the week, so stay tuned. For now, in case you missed them- here are my reviews of The Final Round and The Stars of Today Meet The Stars of Tomorrow Gala. (and a bonus gala dinner post, too!)

visions

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We are officially in full on Nutcracker mode.  Each day is like a step through the looking glass, diving toes first into Clara’s strange dream.  In so many ways, Nutcracker season really does feel like a dream.  With its soft familiarity, it lures me in deeper, and somehow my presence there feels oddly foreign.  I own the memories, yet they are not solely mine.  The music runs habitually through me, like the soft ticking of an old clock that hung in my childhood home.

This year I am revisiting the enigmatic Sugarplum Fairy.  I love this entire article by dance critique Alastair Macauly, but his eloquent examination of the music was particularly moving:

“Just the first string chord note can raise goose bumps, a sudden announcement of huge drama. The scales that follow, so momentous and solemn, are as breathtaking as the immense central staircase of a baroque palace. There’s a tragic quality here — those descending scales, with their emphatic rhythm, keep being repeated — but there’s also sublimity, transcendence and even, here and there, aspects of consolatory tenderness. How do you realize this extraordinary music in dance?”

I’ve often wondered about the Sugarplum Fairy.  Who is she?  What is she feeling?  Why does she dance this dramatic pas de deux?  Macauly’s assessment seems to ring true.  He claims that the Sugarplum’s aim is not love nor tragedy, as the “sweeping” score implies, but pure beauty:

“The Sugar Plum, assisted by her cavalier, dances in sublimity beyond emotion; her transcendent beauty keeps being renewed by the dance.”

What a rapturous personality to pursue!  Her power throughout and even beyond the dance world is certainly magical in its mystery, and I am honored to investigate.

bringing brillante

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One of my favorite pre-show tidbits came around this time last season, while working on Apollo with a Skype-assisted Sandy Jennings.  Her suggestion to wear my favorite perfume for the performance reminded me just how transformative feeling like a ballerina can be.  Friday in the studio, sweet Elyse added another gem (harhar) to that collection.

“I want you to imagine you have little tiny diamonds on the tip of every eyelash, every fingernail, the end of every strand of hair…and maybe a few on your butt,” Elyse said with a wink.

Signature sass in every syllable, she dusted the aforementioned areas with jittering fingers.  Delicate red-tipped nails played invisible keys hovering just over my shoulders and down my arms as she spoke.  Emphasizing the importance of exclamation points (and maybe “a couple commas”) throughout the piece, Elyse used her diction to demonstrate.  Ah, diamonds and dialogue, does it get any better?

This one is a memory I will lock up in me, to be accessed and applied whenever I lose sight of my brillante.  Now, on with the show.

for tickets.

theatre thoughts

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home is where the house faces

and up on high the white light traces

a hallow box the wing embraces

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home is where the curtain rises

to a careful grid of our varied sizes

we look, line, breathe and hope distance disguises

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home is where the booms stack and glow

creative floods do steady flow

and nurtured artists bloom and grow

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home is where the gold molding frames

setting and seating change their names

but forever our sanctuary the theatre remains.

{sleepy theatre thoughts by me | awesome dress rehearsal photos by Jacob Hoover}

 

s w a n week

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Last week was…tough.

The days were long and rehearsals seemed to bleed together for hours on end with nary a true 5-minute break in sight.  Oh, the joys of a non-union company.  It was my first week back in pointe shoes, back to dancing full out, back to a sore body and blistered feet.  BUT!  If you want to get through a week of intense Swan Lake-ing and maintain your sanity, try fearing you may not be able to perform for a few days beforehand.  Gratitude in movement will come pouring out of you.

This week is our last in the studio before tech begins at The Vets.   By Saturday evening, we will have gone through the ballet a total of 8 times, with 4 full runs and 4 work-through rehearsals of all 4 acts.  Thats 4x pas de trois, 4x waltz, 8x lead swans, 8x princesses, and perhaps most lethal, 8x swan corps.  In 5 days.  Translation: a WHOLE lot of arm flapping and bourrée-ing.   I am preparing myself (with ice, protein, physical therapy and acupuncture) for the familiar cycle of warming, using, exhausting, and rehabilitating my body.  Come on, Swan Lake, let’s do this.

monday distractions

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We’ve been back for one week and these tootsie toes are banged up!  Swan Lake is killing me/giving me life all at once and its a cocktail of crazy I am beyond excited to be chugging.  A few fun things from around the web…

Justin Peck’s first piece for San Francisco Ballet, In Countenance with Kings, looks mesmerizing. (Sufjan is my king.)

One of my favorite humans, Emily Bromberg, visited FBP Saturday and now I’m seeeeeriously considering hopping back up to the city in April to see Miami City Ballet perform at the Koch Theater. (just a 3-hour bus ride away…)

As a child of competition turned adult ballet dancer, I was so happy to read this article.  (artistry over acrobatics, for the win)

I’ll be diligently using these tips all week.  (emphasis on the sleep)

My engineer dad perked up a bit when my mom showed him this little video, explaining the physics of the Odile’s 32 fouettés. (#balletisscience)

Thanks Suffolk Pointe for sharing the insta-love. (duck, duck, swan)

Speaking of swans, tickets to FBP’s Swan Lake are on sale now. (don’t miss out)

photo by Alex Lantz