hair, beautiful hair

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I knoooow I said I was done with Nutcracker posts, but I kind of had to share this compilation of, well, hair.  It’s known amongst all FBP veteran women (and quickly learned by those just joining the ranks) that every year before the first Nut dress rehearsal of the season, our artistic director bursts into each and every ladies dressing room with two large plastic bins; One containing hair and the other full of jewels, flowers, feathers, pearls, and small animals lace.  He distributes ziplock bags based on (general) hair color, dress color and “which embellishments match each dancer’s personality”…supposedly.  After the dispersal of the accoutrement, it’s up to us ladies to concoct and construct the most extravagant Victorian-era-inspired mountains of hair we can come up with.  Which usually leads to the emptying of everyone’s bobby pin supply, faux curls stuck in rhinestones, tangled strands of pearls,  flying feathers and finally, six successfully flamboyant cornucopias of hair.

The braided and curled coifs that take us far too long to build serve their purpose in the party scene only to be ripped from our scalps just after leaving the stage to make way for the delicate, sparkly headpieces of the snow scene.  The quick change from Clara’s Mom to Lead Snow (one that I had to complete 5 times throughout the weekend), was a tad hectic, which is why my face looked like this after the last one was completed:photo 2

PURE JOY RIGHT THERE.

Okay, I really am done now.  Probably.

all that glitters is gold

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Hey all!  Just wanted to share the last of my Nutcracker pictures before I blink and it’s 2014 and anything Christmas-related becomes completely irrelevant.

This year I made sure to step across the big velvet curtain, climb up all those glorious gold stairs and snap some photos of the stage from PPAC’s stunning mezzanine.  It really is a beautiful theater, even though sometimes the lack of proper heating backstage freezes our brains into forgetting that fact (that’s for you, PPAC Management People, if you’re reading…we’re cold back there!).  Anyway, I’m going to quit my complaining (first resolution of the new year?) and let you check out a few shots from last week’s show.  Enjoy!

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in the wings

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As I sat on the edge of Stage Left’s half of the aging party scene set trying not to splinter my snowflake-thin mesh performance tights, I noticed how familiar Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers sounds when underscored with a motley collection of stray coughs and mucus coated percussions erupting from tired dancers in the wings.  For the first time, I considered just how different everything must look and sound from those red velvet rows across the orchestra pit.  Without any instruction, my neck stretched to its full extent and did its best to crane around the obtrusive lighting boom so to sneak a glimpse of…I don’t know…maybe just the first row of theater goers.  Unsuccessful in peeking but too tired to expend any additional energy, my head returned to its position between my slouched shoulders and I was back in my own mind, realizing I had a far better view of the bedraggled dancers backstage than the gussied up civilians under gilded skies in the house of the theater.

My eyes scanned the clumps of vibrantly-costumed dancers surrounding me.  We’d spread ourselves over the set like a thick layer of melting butter, consuming every surface with our tangled legs and piles of dirty warmups.  One group of Trepak girls in red dresses whispered and giggled, stacked on the rickety stairs down which Clara descends before Battle Scene.  photo 4

A collection of diverts donning elaborate headpieces pooled together on the dusty floor, stretching and staying just alert enough not to miss their cues for coda.  A little circle of exuberant party girls in springy ringlets line one wing, eagerly studying the dancers onstage, anxious for their turn to deliver flowers to one of the ballerinas during curtain call.photo 5

Their excitement is tangible and it thickens the air in that light way that whipping up meringue lightens eggs.  The 6-counted bars of Waltz begin to swell and I know this section is nearing its end.  Trumpets rein supreme over all else, and my fellow dancers and friends of the corps de ballet smile and float through their bruised toenails, finishing the dance with an impressive level of collective ebullience.  They exit the stage and join me on the already crowded set backstage to watch the Grand Pas close the ballet.  Their presence beside me shakes my internal monologue and suddenly it’s all just second nature.  I don’t even consider the somewhat strange fact that I’m sitting next to what I can only describe as a giant collapsed Christmas tree (which up close just resembles a pack of light bulbs caught in a faux forest), wearing huge knit socks over my dead pointe shoes and a pipe cleaner, wire, rhinestone tiara above my hairnet-hugged bun.  This all just seems normal…inexplicably soothing.  In way it really feels like home here, backstage at PPAC.

nutcracker truths

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(me as an angel, my first role in The Nutcracker 14 years ago)

In honor of Friday’s opening night, I present to you, 10 truths that only those dancing in The Nutcracker can truly appreciate:

1.) By December 10th, hearing any segment of Tchaikovsky’s iconic score outside the ballet studio (i.e. tv commercials and shopping malls), will send you into immediate body convulsions and/or cause spontaneous choreography marking.

2.) There is nothing scarier than inhaling a piece of fake snow while attempting to gracefully circle the stage like a waltzing life-size snowflake.  Don’t breathe through your mouth…you’ve been warned.

3.) “As visions of Sugarplums danced in their heads” is not just a line in a poem.  It’s called Nutcracker Seasonal Sleep Disorder (NSSD), and the dance dreams of Nutcracker performances gone wrong will haunt you if you don’t take the proper precautions.  Chamomile and melatonin for all!

4.) Trying to keep your dressing room area clean is almost always an unsuccessful venture.  There will be eyelash glue stuck to your hairspray and blush dust all over your makeup case.  I promise.

5). Yes, getting into the shower to soften up that hair-helmet after the show is extremely satisfying, and yes, you will find at least 2 hairpins somewhere in your mane before that shower is over, no matter how many times your fingers scanned your scalp beforehand.

6). Has anyone ever considered just how creepy it looks when a clan of little clown children emerge from underneath Mother Ginger’s giant skirt?  Thanking the gods of Nutcracker that our version doesn’t include that strange divertissement.

7.) The debate over whether it’s Clara or Marie (I’ve even seen “Tess”), is one for which there will never be an answer that appeases everyone.*

8.) Whenever you see an actual nutcracker, you immediately picture what the costume would look like if that particular nutcracker were to grow 5 feet taller, come to life and battle a Mouse Queen.  Or maybe that’s just me…?

9.) There is nothing Christmasier (just go with it) than dancing amongst rows of Marzipan, Chocolate, Tea, Coffee, Sugar Plums, Trepak, and Flowers as the energetic music of the coda builds and rushes to an explosive halt.  It also sounds delicious.

10.) The holiday season is not complete without a visit from the party guest of honor, Uncle Drosselmyer, and his strange behaviors, questionable relation to the family and the absolutely terrifying giant mouse attack nightmare turned wonderful sweet dream he seems to orchestrate (also questionable).

*Ps, it’s Clara.

See FBP’s The Nutcracker this weekend only at Providence Performing Arts Center!

going nuts

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Nutcracker is officially in full swing here at FBP.  The snowflakes are flying, the flowers are waltzing, and Drosselmyer’s cape is swirling around the studio leaving little magic tricks and heaps of dust glitter in its winding path.  I got a jump on my annual pre-Nutcracker CVS splurge, replenishing my dwindling stock of false eyelashes and blonde tinted bobby pins for the big weekend.  Just a few more pointe shoes to break in and I’m ready to hit the stage…

But all I want to do is sleep.  And ice my feet.  Under a giant blanket with hot chocolate and ibuprofen.  Forever.

I can always feel the week before Nutcracker’s opening in my sore body and raw toes.  To avoid the disastrous pre-Nut blues, the whole company is dreaming of family style breakfasts and naptimes and gingerbread-house-making schedules instead of run-throughs and corps cleaning.  Just one more week until opening night.  Counting.  Down.

swan lake wrap up

{documenting my stage makeup overload}
{dress rehearsal of Act III}
{me and Brenna as swans}
{plunged my feet into a bucket of icewater before the last show}
{roommie picture :)}
{post-performance gala}

That’s it!  The last chords have been struck, final bows have been taken, the curtain has come down and Swan Lake, along with FBP’s season, has finally come to a close.  Several injuries, countless podiatrist appointments, several pounds of hairspray, 4 pairs of pointe shoes, and a big bucket of ice later, I feel that I have gained more from this performance that I’d ever even imagined.  Not only have I grown immensely as a dancer (who knew I would have the physical capacity to make it through two shows of pas de trois and cygnets?!  *patting my own back right now*), but I’ve learned that it’s important to listen to your body.  This sounds obvious for a dancer, right?  But the life of a professional dancer means constantly striving for perfection, aiming to impress your peers, teachers, audience and director.  More often than not, this takes the courage to move out of your comfort zone and the strength to work through extreme pain…something I’ve had acute experience with these past few weeks.  With the idea that ballet dancers must have the body of a bird but the endurance of a camel in mind, my initial response would be to “keep calm and carry on”.  But while performing this past weekend, I’ve discovered that it’s okay to take a break every so often, rest my toes, heal my injuries and relax my mind.  With that said, I’m looking forward to a week free of commitments, followed by 9 days in Florida to visit the roommie’s hometown!  Can’t wait, hope everyone is making it through Monday! xo

diary of a swan

{a shot from one of the final studio rehearsals, a funny swan lake photo found on pinterest, and a holga photo of me taken by a friend a few weeks ago}

Here we are.  It’s Thursday, one day until the first show (a morning show for schools followed by the opening night performance) and the jitters excitement is setting in.  We had the first dress rehearsal last night, and while it’s true that the costumes, headpieces, hair and makeup, scenery and lights instantly make any movement about 1000x harder, Tchaikovsky’s iconic score really helps pull us all through.  The exquisite music so perfectly expresses the anguish of a flock of princesses imprisoned in swan’s bodies, the fragility of a forbidden love, and the sly trickery of an evil seduction.  So it follows suit that when you’re in the IV Act of a high-energy ballet wondering how you’re going to pull off that final flight circle around the 100×45-foot stage flapping your swan “wings” and pointing your aching toes out in front of you, the tragically dramatic final chords in the ballet come up behind you like a huge gush of wind, sending you back in line with the rest of the corps.

 Never seen Swan Lake?  You are missing out.  Ballet fan or not this show has something for everyone…

Call 401-421-ARTS for ticket information or visit www.festivalballetprovidence.org

theater week- tech day

{vintage dressing room photo & theater week ‘merde’ flowers from my mom}

Theater week for Swan Lake begins today!  You know what that means!

…but in case you don’t, here’s a cheat sheet in list form:

costume fittings (check)

lighting cues

flying sets

spacing- the stage is quite a bit bigger than the studio

hauling the contents of my locker (stinky shoes, leg warmers and various types of tape) to the theater

layers and layers of warms ups! it’s always freezing

marking (read: no need for pointe shoes :)

In a few hours I’ll be traipsing bourrée-ing across the PPAC stage, and I must say I’m pretty darn excited about it!  Let the swan transformation begin.