lights & lucky things

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This is it- here we go!  My morning begins with a cup of tea, a warm up onstage, a live Rhode Show interview, and my first performance of Sugar Plum Fairy at PPAC for over 1400 people…

This year’s Nutcracker seems to have snuck right up on me.  It feels like a minute ago I was in Minnesota wrapped up in a heated blanket, and now here I am getting ready to perform in the exact show which first shook awake my ballerina soul.  In case you’re wondering, no, this does not feel real.  But, I’ve got months of preparation in my bones, a lucky number 2 in my dressing room, and Essie’s Ballet Slippers on my hands…let’s do this thing!

If you’re in RI, tune into The Rhode Show at 9 am to see FBP’s full Nutcracker spot, my interview will happen around 9:40 :)

For tickets.

dreaming without sleeping

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Last night visions of sugar plums were quite literally dancing in my head…all. night. long.  A romantic theory, yes, when wedged into the poetic syntax of a classic Christmas rhyme, but stuck between my ears, ringing bells from dusk to dawn?  A little less waiting-up-for-Santa, a little more pacing-my-kitchen-at-3am-annoyed-and-humming-Tchaikovsky.  Yeah.  No thanks.

Despite my complaints and last night’s lack of sleep, I am fully willing to take on all of the stress Nutcracker season throws my way this year, because for the first time ever, I am learning the role of Sugar Plum Fairy(!!!) and realizing that dream is totally worth 2 months of insomnia.*

The first time I saw FBP’s Nutcracker (I think I was 2?), I immediately knew I wanted to be up on that stage.  Dream role at the time: Angel, of course.  When my shuffling feet finally hit the PPAC marley beneath that floating blue hoop skirt at age 8, I was irrevocably hooked.  As the years passed, I set my sights higher and higher, devouring each role that came my way, from Mouse, to Clara, to the unforgettable year I joined the corps in the Waltz of the Flowers and my favorite scene, Snow.  Sugar Plum has always been a lofty goal, but never something I expected to actually have the opportunity to  do.  It is such an iconic role, being able to rehearse it so early on in my career feels like a fantasy.  Shocked, ecstatic, grateful, intimidated…it’s hard to put my current emotions into words.  If all of that wasn’t enough, I get to dance it with my favorite partner, who also happens to be one of my best friends!  Incredible!

So bring it on, sleepless nights and dancing sugar plums.  I’m ready for you.

*If this really is just a dream, please nobody pinch me.

Untitled

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I wanted to call this post “Nutcracker Selfies and Feet Pics” but it seemed a bit crude lengthy for a Tuesday evening montage of slightly immaterial photos.  So instead I called it “Untitled”, added the aforementioned random assortment of iPhone-captured shots and called it a day.

I was told that (and I quote) some of you will never tire of seeing backstage ballet pictures, so here you go!  Enjoy the reflections and feet of Nutcracker before they disappear for a whole year.

And if you’re wondering, yes those are ice baths my feet are “relaxing” in, yes, I struggled through one every night during the weekend of the show, and yes, they hurt like hell.

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!