work shoes

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The first full week of Peter Pan  rehearsals has come and gone, leaving a trail of battered pointe shoes and swollen feet in its wake.  Last Friday I strapped on the satin death traps and didn’t stop once.  I’m hurting all over, and we’ve only learned Act I.  Woof.

Clearly demonstrated by my lack of activity here on the blog, I’ve been pretty swamped with rehearsals and PT and getting over a cold and sewing pointe shoes and reading for my new online Physiology course and…trying to stay sane?  Am I the only one who has a hard time separating studio life and real life?  Is it hard for anyone else to transition from work time to playtime?  Sometimes I forget that the weekend is not only a time to rest and recuperate my body, but also a chance to see friends, drink wine and cheat the diet (if we’re getting specific ;).  I’m hoping to do a better job of balancing all that out next weekend…although I’ve heard rumors that a 6-day work week is approaching tomorrow…wish me luck!

nutcracker 2014, according to my iphone

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As you may know, I’ve taken over Festival Ballet’s instagram-posting duties for the weekend, and have been snapping away like a crazy stage mom who just splurged on a fancy new camera.  From close-ups of gorgeous headpiece bling, to light soaked shots of the stage from the wings, the posts are turning out to be a bit of a photo diary of backstage life at Providence Performing Art Center during The Nutcracker.

This afternoon I have my “easiest” show yet, with just Lead Snow and Marzipan on deck.  It’ll be the first of all the performances so far that I get to sit back and relax during party scene, which means no rushing to rip off my party mom wig and sew-in my pointe shoe ribbons at hyper speed.  Hooray!

To follow along on all the action in real time, follow me @festivalballetprovidence and @keeksevans on Instagram.

struggles and rewards

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This first week back post-layoff proved far more challenging than anticipated.  I could go on and on about my tight calves, sore achilles tendons and lack of stamina, but instead I will just assure you these past 5 days have been a real struggle.

At the start of the season, I decided to reward myself for staying strong through all those injured months with some new Catbird goodies.  The Brooklyn-based jewelry brand’s Cyber Monday sale seemed like the perfect time to invest in a piece from their coveted ballerina collection (obsessed) and score a few other baubles with free shipping and a gifted tote bag as part of the promotion.  The indulgent package of pretties was the perfect pick-me-up in the middle of such a hellish week.

Now it’s on to sewing waaaay too many of these:DSC03302

and checking out Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker as the third installment of my seasonal ballet sampler.  Happy Nutcracker season, all!

i’m back, baby!

Last night I went from this:

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to this:

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After 6 weeks of easing the old bones back into ballet, October 10th arrived and it was time for my reevaluation with the spine doc.  If the fancy cocktails up there^ didn’t already give it away, I should tell you I received some good news: I’ve finally been given permission to resume dancing 100%.  You know, jumps, turns, partnering, pointe, the WORKS.  Guys, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

To make things even more wonderful, the boyfriend and I planned a little Japanese food date night on Westminster, and happened upon an anniversary celebration at my favorite little downtown store, Modern Love/Queen of Hearts.  Free champagne cocktails (named after David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust no less), shopping AND miso soup?  I guess the universe was really on my side last night!

Today in class, our ballet mistress started showing the first petit allegro combination, and I actually learned it!  And did it!  And I was sweating!  And my heart rate was all crazy and fast and awesome!  I jumped all the way through the end of class, and even did one of my rehearsals in pointe shoes today!  Woo!  You know what they (Elle Woods) say: Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy!  Well I certainly haven’t stopped smiling yet.

balance, balanchine, and broken bones

In so many ways, this season has been one that I will always remember.

I started out by taking a little trip down memory lane, recreating two pieces I first performed in high school…546956_3917191296764_1686849931_n156490_3966715814846_1748587314_n

…and also performing in an explosive World Premiere by the edgy Georgian choreographer, George Birkhadze, who currently resides in Boston with his beautiful Boston-Ballet-Soloist wife.  Performing alongside me in this particular piece were two of my best friends.  How lucky am I to have the honor of sharing the experience of learning, rehearsing and performing a brand new work with two of my besties?!601918_4290054418109_642117256_n

Next came The Nutcracker.  Considering the fact that I have been onstage in this very production of the holiday classic for 14 years now, the fact that I can call this one memorable is a biiig deal.  This year I was challenged with the role of the Spanish divert.  With blonde hair and Scandinavian roots, I had several meltdowns about the intimidating task of performing with that unmistakable snappy Spanish flare before dancing the role opening night and surprising myself with a confidence I never knew I had.  Special shout out to Alex for making it one of the most fun parts I’ve ever danced!548767_4140715164721_1205807527_n

After Nut came our collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design’s fashion/apparel department and Boston Ballet’s Boyko Dossev for Little Red Riding Hood.  The second installment of Boyko’s choreography on FBP designed for a young audience, this show was accented by hand-made (by students my age!) costumes, each more interesting than the next.  We also got to model in the RISD fashion critique, and a few of my fellow bunheads are walking (and dancing?) in the world-famous RISD fashion show this weekend!  How cool!12977_4448438137603_1496460035_n 999c2881

The next show, Agon & Orchis, was without a doubt the most memorable of my career so far.  My first time ever performing a Balanchine work would have been memorable enough, but Agon surpassed even my own expectations.  What an incredibly daunting and rewarding ballet it was.  I’m telling you, Agon is known to be one of Mr. B’s most complicated ballets (so much counting!) and performing two very different roles forced me to really think, instead of relying on muscle memory.  Such a unique experience!  Working with one of Balanchine’s original dancers, Sandra Jennings, was equally amazing.  I mean, she is a legend in the ballet world.  Growing close with her and hearing her feedback on my performance was incredible.  Orchis, an all-new contemporary ballet and the collaborative brainchild of choreographer Viktor Plotnikov, photographer Cemal Ekin, RI glass artist Toots Zynsky, RISD fashion department head Beth Bentley, Russian composer Sonya Belousova, and lighting designer Alan Pickart, will not soon be forgotten by anyone involved, including our audience.  There’s little I can say for Orchis besides masterpiece.  A genius, surreal, gravity-defying work of art.  I will always remember this ballet, and look forward to hopefully dancing it again one day.  I even made it into a major Turkish magazine!734409_494802730582057_621539993_n 577228_4638749775275_1357548708_nHurriyet 74408_4646266523189_445316378_n 74431_4646267563215_938506634_n

Also contributing to my inclination toward this show is the fact that following opening night’s performance, I was promoted from Apprentice to full Company Member.  This is something I have been working toward since my first time dancing in a ballet 14 years ago.  To have all of the blood, sweat and tears I’ve shed throughout the years recognized in such a public and exciting way was so special.  A fulfilling moment in my life that I will hold onto forever, for sure.482297_10152654690810385_817495648_n

So then it was on to my first performance with my new company status.  Another round of original and classical works for the upcoming Up Close series.  I was to perform in 3 different pieces.  This is when the back pain I’d been feeling all year started to get real.  I would walk home slumped over like an old woman, and spend weeks at a time flat on the couch, unable to bend or twist at all.  I pulled it together enough to dance one of the pieces I was cast in, as well as an encore production of Little Red that same weekend.  Doing so, however, left my back in more severe pain than I’d ever felt before.  The company dove into rehearsals for our Spring show, The Sleeping Beauty, in which I was cast in several of my dream roles…Bluebird and Lilac Fairy.  But as the company rehearsed, I watched from the side in my corset-like back brace, trying to pick up the choreography and intricate miming without tipping to either side, as not to upset my angry back muscles.  It was only a few days later when I received my first ever bone scan, and became aware of the stress fracture in my spine that I’m convinced has been hanging out back there for quiiiite a few months now.  So that was that.  I left the hospital with a fracture, a heavy heart and orders not too dance for 6-8 weeks.

This injury, however sad and painful, has brought to light some kind of strange inner peace.  To have my pain justified, the opportunity to see my friends perform Sleeping Beauty, new Parisian plans to take French language classes instead of the dance intensive this summer…these things have all changed me for the better.  I remember the first time I fell onstage.  I was performing Musicbox, the solo pictured in the first photo of this post.  After I came off stage, one of the principle dancers with FBP, who was also my teacher at the time, told me, “Welcome to the club.  Every professional dancer has at least one big fall.  Now you’re one of us.”  I will never forget those kind words.  Now, as I experience the hardships of my first real injury, her reassurance that these things are all part of this profession comforts me.  Knowing that I am not the first, and will surely not be the last ballet dancer to suffer a spinal stress fracture keeps me balanced.  In a way, it almost feels good- emphasis on the almost– to think that this injury is a result of all my hard work this year.  A badge of honor, so to speak.  So now that it’s summer, cheers to a wonderful season full of ups and downs (but mostly ups!), locating my inner sass, Balanchine counting and petit allegro, floating Orchids, a promotion and a stress fracture.  Next up, Paris!  Stay tuned…

around the studio

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With Agon & Orchis just about two weeks away, all of us at FBP have been working extra hard to cross our fifths and spot our turns.  Last weekend marked not only our 3rd visit from Sandy Jennings of the Balanchine Trust, but also the completion of Viktor Plotnikov’s Orchis.  After a 7 day work week, two grueling days of detail-oriented Agon rehearsal with Ms. Jennings and a 5 hour, new choreography-filled rehearsal with Plotnikov, the company was looking like this:photo

But we’ve since had 2 days of “rest” which for me meant this:photo…blowing off some steam…
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…and a painful podiatrist appointment.  Hashtag dancer probs.  But today we’re back in the studio giving it everything we’ve got!  So watch out Providence- this show is going to knock. your. SOCKS OFF.  Seriously.  Now go buy some tickets.  :)

tutu talk

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It’s time for an all new installment of everyone’s favorite ballet confession session: Tutu Talk.  This time, however, the talk will be a bit less “tutu” and slightly more “icepack”.  Yup, I said it.  The two syllables that will always make a dancer cringe…ice…pack…oooooh even typing it gives me the chills (pun very much intended).  The topic of today’s discussion, as you’ve probably already deduced, is injuries.

My mom has always told me it’s best to “write what you know”.  So, while I’m currently experiencing an injury, I figured I’d write what I know and share it with all of you.  Plus, misery loves company, so as long as I’m in pain I might as well drag you all down with me, right?!  Right now, I’m suffering from a lower back muscle strain of sorts. It started with a few displaced ribs, then some overcompensation in the surrounding muscles…yadda yadda yadda…doctor lingo…my back is in a lot of pain.  So instead of rehearsing my favorite scene from The Nutcracker with the rest of my snowflake friends, I’m sidelined on the couch with a heating pad/icepack rotation and a lovely little holiday cocktail of medications.

Ask any dancer what the worst part of being injured is, and I assure you their answer will not include the pain, the doctors visits, or the extra money spent on various healing devices (we dancers are quite creative when it comes to treating injuries).  The worst part of being injured is not being able to dance.  Having to sit t the front of the studio while everyone else sautés and chaines across the floor.  Losing that achey sense of accomplishment you get after a grueling day of dancing…yes, these are the things we dancers hate most of all.

But sometimes, laying flat on the couch with ibuprofen, a heating pad and an icepack is the only thing you can do.  So here I am.  Luckily, it’s December 1st and I have Christmas movies, vanilla chai and snow outside to distract me from the pain!  So enjoy the holiday spirit in the air and send your healing vibes my way.  Until next time, xx.