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!

a beautiful day in the neighborhood

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On the first Sunday in weeks together and alone, You and Me set out to see the city on foot. White shoes, sunny skies, let’s try this neighborhood on for size. Somewhere between breakfast and lunchtime, turn up our noses at donut lines, beeline for eggy Portuguese treats, with a side of cilantro and fresh lime. I love Foxes and maybe that’s the Point, after all, therein lives your favorite coffee joint. All the way down Gano to the pink non-hotel, under the bridge, green river smell. Approaching our new regular- the one full of expectancy- we spot silly kids dangling atop our catalyst of synergy. All the while you play harmonica and I speak in rhyme, tomorrow singing Yesterday will be today’s paradigm.

boat house love

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blue glass

blue china

blue sky

blue sea

a long weekend for lobster

and a fluffy dublin tea

late night whisky scrabble

leaks into breakfast babble

sticky griddle we will dabble

breakfast for dinner, dialogue for dessert

warm wood surrounds us

empty space confounds us

still this young love abounds us

drowns us, pouring over every day

with

nutella lips

ginger sips

goosey quips

my person sticks

to yours like beans 

bean legs

soda breads

looking out

where the ocean ends

tiny hands

frozen sands

perfectly aimless

weekend plans.

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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full circle

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When I was 9 years old, I took my first pointe class.  It was my first exposure to classical ballet, my first time hearing the word épaulement, and my first time using those barres around the studio walls for a non-playtime purpose.  I had stepped- rather abruptly- out of the world of sequins and trophies and into the rigorous schedule of Festival Ballet Providence’s summer workshop.

Because like many children of the ’90s my previous knowledge of pointe shoes came from posters of babies in green tutus, I strolled into that very first pointe class with my ribbons criss-crossed 3 times and tied just below the knee.  Yes, I know.  Luckily for me (and my pre-adolescent self esteem), gracious Miss Mary Ann put a gentle arm around me, chuckled, and guided me through the entire process from padding to relevé.

That first pair of properly laced pointe shoes was like a seal; I was irrevocably into it.  The next fall I registered for a few classes, then more, and by the following year I was diving into a full load of classes on the pre-professional track at FBP.

When the need for Summer Dance Intensive training wove its way into what I was beginning to subconsciously refer to as my “career path”, I was 11.  FBP’s was the first SDI I attended, effectuating my first impression of the demanding, rewarding, and, yes, intense experience these programs are named for.  Naturally, I was hooked.

The six summers that followed brought me from Connecticut to New York and back.  I performed with a pseudo-company of 22 international dancers at Jacob’s Pillow and studied under countless methodologies, including a Bolshoi program taught entirely in Russian.  Ras, dva, tri…

Just in time for my final Summer Dance Intensive, though, fate brought me back to FBP.  Those 4 weeks were some of the most physically difficult and spiritually gratifying I have ever experienced.  My body and mind were tested in that specific, euphoric way only exhaustive dancing can incite.  It was my divine confirmation.  This was the work I wanted to be doing.  This was professional ballet.

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If my summer dance experience seems to have already come full circle, well then consider this a second lap: I am thrilled to announce I will be teaching in FBP’s 2017 Summer Dance Intensive!  This July I will join the staff at FBP, instructing future ballerinas in variations and pointe.

The studios that fostered my love of ballet, equipped that love for the real world and have since become my second home will now grow with me once more.  I cannot wait to give back all that this sacred place has given me.  So come dance with me, will you?

audition tour dates.

more information.