twist and shout

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Summer has officially arrived and I am LOVING IT. Wind in my hair, ice cream in my tummy, yes sirrrreee. Between traveling, teaching, and school, this is set to be the busiest summer of my life, but I’m always happiest when I’m buzzing from place to place.

In an attempt to grow my baby muscles/give myself some form of a routine, I’ve been getting back into kickboxing (remember our first fling?), which means more mornings start out early and spandex-y. My body doesn’t exactly wake up craving burpees and boxing, but having fun clothes to wear does help! Especially if you decide to grab an iced tea after working out and want to look a bit less like a drowned rat. If you are in need of some motivation to move this summer, check out Zarely‘s dancer-designed active wear, and use the code KIRSTENZARELY at checkout for 20% off your order.

 

{Here I am sporting the Iana top c/o Zarely, a brand that I am very proud to partner with. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Setting The Barre!}

photos by Jenay Evans.

somewhere upstate

After connecting with nature at the Pillow, M and I headed West towards Kinderhook to visit the sweetest Gma of them all. We were hoping the trip would only take 30(ish) minutes, but then the sun was shining, the tank was clean…IMG_5759IMG_5758IMG_5763IMG_5762…and field after field of wildflowers beckoned from the roadside! We had no choice but to pull over and dive in. So goes summer’s siren song, right? A bit of irony, you may notice, as my shirt claims that I am always on pointe, but if there is any place I would never like to be eeuuh-puueehn, it’s in a dense, damp, field of flowers somewhere upstate. Sure it may sound romantic (wait, does it?), but I assure you, muddy pointe shoes are no picnic. Fortunately I like to think this whole irony thing would be rather welcomed by the designer of this fun tee, Cloud & Victory. Do you guys follow them on instagram? Oh boy, you really should!IMG_5754IMG_5757IMG_5753IMG_5752Min’s endless stream of clever captioning brings this world the (actually funny) ballet humor it so desperately needs right now. Between her wise-cracking edits, C&V’s feed features the brand’s latest designs, yet another outlet for Min’s expert blend of ballet beauty and punny, dad-joke-eqsue humor (my favorite kind). The latest collection is modeled by San Fransisco cool-erina, Mathilde Froustey, and it’s seriously delicious.IMG_5751IMG_5764

Check the lookbook and let me know what you think! Which pieces would you wear?

 

 

 

all photos by Michael Collins for Setting The Barre.

a b&b tour of the Berkshires

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white horses and red lions cradling our heads

striped walls

antique-scattered halls

baked french toast and four-poster beds

John and Naji and Sylvia and Steve

teapot shelves

helping ourselves

to hidden matchbooks as we leave

buttered mussels and english muffins

double kale

unsent mail

crispy dolma with thick rice stuffed in

monument mountain surrendering to our feet

poolside tunes

quarter moons

goodbye sweet Berkshires, until again we meet.

-from the fondly reminiscing brain of a wait why am i still awake right now?

10 days down under

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as we touched down in Queenstown

island vegetation and mini eco-system formations

welcomed us to a land down under

avo toasted plates and brekkie bowls

dark fruit breads and savory scones

skyline hikes to starfish dives

winding drives past brown beehives

by rocky vineyards and cold Sound rocks

then cute salads and long bird walks

sweet TimTams and fijoa fruits

just Keds and my trusty boots

exploring a world upside in and downside out

leaning left in round abouts

now a fat stack of boarding passes

sits in my home like wasted ashes

artifacts of our 40-hour days

and proof of passports so well played.

BOS-SFO-SYD-ZQN-AUK-HOU-IUD-PVD

-from the weary mind of a NZ traveler

prokofiev’s waltz

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Prokofiev is back in the studios, leading us through his most valtziest, schmaltziest of scores: Cinderella. Lately that classic melody has been filling every bit of free space in my head with its eerie brimstone canter. Daa-na, da na na na naaa…

This time around I’m doing a bit of a straddle across the ballet, dancing roles in every realm from corps to principal. That’s the beauty of an unranked company; you never know where the next rehearsal will take you! Wednesday morning I was in the back of the grand studio, a shivering Cinderella waltzing with her broom, then a Summer Fairy, attempting to personify the haze of balmy weather through a casual roll into plié. Next I was swept off into the ballroom by my handsome Prince Charming, only to be whisked into the wind as the ethereal Fairy Godmother. At night I returned to the studios a ball guest, giving in to the dark saccharine theme permeating the room.

The career of a ballet dancer hinges almost entirely on brain power. As much as it will impose upon your body (hello, angry calves), it will challenge your mind even further; “Can you learn an entire ballet- and keep it together!- in a week?” Ballet wants to know. “Can you portray an orphan child, a rich party goer, and several types of mythical creatures? Can you do it earnestly, genuinely, can you really?” Well, let’s find out.

 

photo by Samantha Wong.

& everything else

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A comprehensive list of everything we saw and ate in between celebrity dancer sightings and life-changing performances:

Le Pain Quotidien is always our first stop in the city. No matter the time of day or where we are headed next, it’s always a safe bet for something refreshing and delicious. It’s like a fancier, Frencher Panera Bread. Ask for their chocolate/hazelnut spread to smear over their homemade bread.

Central Park in April, my goodness, yes. We walked directly through the park from Lincoln Center to one of the early-round competition sites to see the lovely FBP students perform (congrats!), and it was magical. Birds chirping, sun shining, flowers blooming magical.

Rosa Mexicano, every night pre-performance. Sasha Radetsky recommended the guac, so we had no choice…

Jack’s Wife Freda for breakfast bowls and a rosewater pancake. It was a struggle not to order every option on the menu (dying to try the green shakshuka and the Mediterranean breakfast!). The staff was also very sweet and oh so chic. 10/10, would recommend.

Aritzia in Soho for the best dresses.

Blue Dog Kitchen. Golden corn bread with honeyed butter. Enough said.

Williamsburg stops: Catbird for a couple of new threadbares, WholeFoods for gawking and trail mix, Bedford Cheese (in a new location!) for fancy coffee to bring home to the manfriend, Sabon for fancy soaps to bring home to Mama, and Woops! Bakeshop for new/old friends and green tea catch ups.

The Empire Rooftop for Kentucky Gingers & shenanigans.

the final round

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Junior Grand Prix Winner, Madison Penney in Variation from La Esmeralda. Photo by VAM productions.

 

Tiny netted buns flock from all directions toward Lincoln Center, filling the surrounding sidewalks with even more bustle than usual. It’s April in New York City and that means flowery trees, energetic birds, and equally excited young ballet hopefuls buzzing backstage at Youth America Grand Prix.

Wednesday night’s Final Round filled me with all kinds of nostalgic warm fuzzies, a feeling that never quite managed to find me while I was actually competing all those years ago. As the gold curtain rose on little Remie Madeleine Goins, first competitor of the evening, those fuzzies shifted from nostalgia to pure adoration (is there anything cuter than a beautiful, 12-year-old teeny Harlequinade?). About 7 seconds in, that feeling shifted again to one of astonishment; Little Miss Goins whipped out some pretty spectacular pirouettes with gusto and sass to match. She went on to win the Shelley King Award For Excellence, and excellent she was.

From there the performances ebbed and flowed, with standouts in a seas of Esmeraldas from ultimate Junior Grand Prix and First Place award-winners Madison Penney and Hannah Park, respectively, as well as a technically clean and precisely French Satanella from Elisabeth Beyer. The crowd fell hard and fast for Taro Kurach’s Basilio (the longest applause I’ve heard at YAGP since Jim Nowakowski), but for me, the true highlight of the night came from sweet Viola Pantuso’s Fairy Doll variation. Though her success was no huge surprise (Miss Pantuso hails from Ellison Ballet, aka New York’s Leading Compete-erina Factory), a rather serious tumble mid-solo did leave things hanging in the balance a bit. What impressed me most was not the way she popped right back up without missing a beat, gorgeous technique highlighted by a tastefully sparkling costume, but her unmistakable stage presence- that thing that simply can’t be taught. It can be coached, though! And ex-FBP Ballet Mistress/dear old friend, Jolanta Valeikaite (who was previously honored with YAGP’s Teacher of the Year Award), is just the woman for the job! Leave to sweet, tough, brutal, loving Jolanta to put her whole self into nurturing a perfectly polished performance. Bravo!