perform and protect

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Every year around the first week of November, my calendar fills up with acupuncture appointments and ice baths. My heating pad fires up multiple times a day, I sit down whenever possible, and when standing is a necessity, I consciously shift weight back and forth between my two legs to avoid (or let’s be honest, delay) the eminent burn out of my left calf muscle. That’s right, Nutcracker Season is upon us and my left leg is feeeeeeling it.

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If you have danced any variation of the “traditional” Petipa version of Grand Pas (affectionately referred to as Grandpa), you know what I mean. Each and every section of the 15 minute pas de deux- from adagio to coda- seems to depend heavily on the strength of the left leg. It’s the supporting leg in every pirouette, promenade, and balance and by the last cymbal crash, that baby is screaming.

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Swooping in to give my left calf any chance of survival this season, my favorite compression-tech dancewear brand, Apolla, sent over one of their newest products to save the day. The K-warmer (short for Kinesio) is made with a tight-knit to provide targeted compression to sore leg muscles. The special weave encourages circulation, which reduces inflammation and lowers the risk of injury. It’s sort of like having a personal physical therapist following your sore legs around, wrapping tape where you need support and applying pressure where you need blood flow.

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I love that the K-warmer provides support while still allowing my body to perform at its full range of motion. The warmers (which come in a set) can be extended for full leg coverage, but I like to double up on the squeeze-factor by folding one down around my calf for an extra warm hug. On particularly long days, I keep my K-warmers on when I leave the studio, so they can keep working their magic while my body transitions into rest mode. Performance and protection, double whammy! They are also antimicrobial (aka not stinky), sleek fitting (hello tutu time), and dancer approved.

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I really do swear by all of Apolla’s products and wear them daily. You guys know, I only work with brands that I genuinely love and think you will, too! If you want to get your hands on/legs in a pair of K-warmers, use code STB-ApollaDiscount-4 for 10% off at checkout.

PS- this is not an affiliate code- I don’t make any money from this, just want to spread the love and help you survive Nutcracker Season! Code is valid through November 22, 2018. xx

saturday morning realizations

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It’s been exactly 2 weeks since our Nutcracker, and I began my morning watching a video of the ever-charming Jeff Cirio and sparky little Misa Kuranaga of Boston Ballet dancing Grand Pas, also known as 10 minutes of movement and music I swore I would not be able to stomach again until November 2015.  But there I sat, on my comfy couch tea in hand, pointer finger poised in the form of a digital Mickey Mouse foam hand hovering above the play button, like an arsonist gently gliding a match against phosphorus- not heavy enough to ignite, but just to feel the coarse kinetics vibrate through their extremities. My willpower is wanting, so I click.

Nine minutes and fifty-six seconds later, the tracking line has gone red and the dancers freeze frame. For a moment I am in sync with their immobility, equal parts satisfied from such beauty and shocked at the fact that I have relived this particular pas in such close cadence with our closing. You can take the girl out of the Nutcracker…

After a moment of self-chastisement, I can’t help but acknowledge the glaringly evident fact that, despite my aching body’s attempt to tell me otherwise, I love my job.  I love hearing the same classical composition day in and day out for months, I love my stinging toes and cracking hips.  I love my internal rhythm running on a count of 8.  I love finding false eyelashes in the car and peeling the weekend’s worth of dried glue off of them with equal parts pleasure and disgust.  I love the runs in my tights, the marley burn on my ankles and the hairpins in my laundry basket.  I love being a creator, a soldier, a perfectionist, an artist, a dancer.  I love this crazy life in a way that I never saw coming, and am fairly certain I will never see go.

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photoStepping into the shower this evening, I glanced down and noticed some foreign lines marring my bareness.  Invisible leotard straps and criss-crossing pointe shoe ribbons wrapped their ghostly paths around my shoulders and ankles, in their wake a trail of redness and a transparent echo of my daily uniform.  Three hours had passed since the last rehearsal of the day, but there the lines of my dancewear remained, stamped on my skin like a calling card.  Ignoring the steam that now poured from my overripe shower, I traced the lines in my ankle, wondering how a ribbon so soft could cause such a dent.  Like a ringing in the depths of my eardrums, the longer I focused on the interloping lines, the harder it became to distinguish their origin; Were they really the product of some external force, or were they manufactured within, existing all along and just bracing for the most perfectly random moment to surface?  Right on cue, a bottle of shampoo fell from its shelf, splashing its way into the hollow tub, disrupting my existentilism and urging me not to abandon it there.  Appeasing that impatient shampoo, I pushed past the shower curtain and tested the scalding stream with my toes, finally considering the imminent eradication of the ghost lines, soon to meet their watery demise.   It was then that I realized, these lines were more than just grooves in my skin;  They’re a literal representation of how closely my work follows me home each night.

Some people think that a dancer’s job pauses when they leave the studio, but they couldn’t be more wrong.  It exists in every health-consious meal, every exhausted shower, every early Saturday morning, and every excruciating ice bath.  It circles our ankles, scales our tired backs, and spills from our every  pour at the end of each day, sticking to the air around us and resonating like that catchy song you just can’t quit humming.  “Dancer” isn’t just a job…it’s an identity.

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!

city.ballet.

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Ask anyone in a professional ballet company their opinion on the gimmicks surrounding ballet in the media (read: overdramatic reality shows and thrillers based on every cliché in the book), and they will all share with you some version of this fact: Dancing ballet professionally is dramatic, scary, and full of passion enough on its own.  It doesn’t need a script.

That seems to be the thinking behind the newest mini-series on aol.com, city.ballet.  Featuring 12 short documentary-style segments, the show gives viewers a behind-the-scenes peek at the life of a New York City Ballet dancer.  Each clip focuses on a different aspect of professional ballet, from the shoes to the makeup to deciphering the ranks, all seasoned with honest, straight to the point commentary from the dancers and even ballet master in chief, Peter Martins, himself.    The series takes us into the enormous shoe closet (fully stocked with Freed’s customized to each dancers exact bunion size and callus width), into the rehearsals of principle power couple (and real life couple) Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck, and into the physical therapy room where injured dancers seek treatment daily.  Finally, a true representation of the professional ballet world has been documented for the world to see.  And with long-time balletomane Sarah Jessica Parker as our host/narrator, I don’t think it could get any better!

Although I’ve yet to watch them all (can’t wait to finish them up later tonight), one of my favorite segments features a part of the ballet world that every female dancer knows all too well…the corps de ballet.  The video addresses the importance of the often under appreciated corps and its role as the base of the company and the “glue that keeps everything together”.  Preach!

Check it out here, and let me know what you think!

guess who’s back

afterlight

This morning I took my first ballet class in 4 months, surrounded by 3 of my very best friends.  It wasn’t exactly “planned” to be just the 3 of us, but fate couldn’t have dealt me better company than this.  We did our own little class (in which my legs never made it past 90 degrees), throwing jokes around between combinations and taking ample time to stretch after rond de jambes- which is like a cool stream of water on freshly burnt skin (ballet people, you know what I’m saying).

Although it was just a gentle baby step towards dancing full time again, standing at the barre this morning really made me feel whole again.  Somewhere between pliés and grand battements, my hand wandered up to the bun on top of my head and I released an audible sigh.  Finally, after so many days without dance, I exhaled the stress of this injured summer and let the determination of a new healing season fill my nostrils.  And you know what?  It smelled a lot like sweaty feet.