DANCE for $20.17

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Lil Buck, Tiler Peck, Johnny Gandelsman, and Ron “Prime Tyme” Myles in Vail Dance Jame 2.0, photo by Erin Baiano.

Vail Dance Festival‘s mixed bill “evening of dance for everyone” is nothing if not inclusive, and despite the rain, crowds flock to feel that inclusion. The evening begins with an extended version of the Vail Dance Jam presented on the first International Evening. This revamped edition shines even brighter than the first, featuring emotive vocals from Kate Davis and an ambitious blend of dance styles. Resident Jookin expert, Lil Buck, is especially enjoyable to watch, gliding through a sentimental solo with more vulnerability than we’ve seen from him so far in the festival.

Up next, an old piece with fresh faces: Unity Phelan and Cameron Dieck take on White Swan Pas de Deux with notable success. Phelan is so well-suited to Odette’s fickle, floating style, and Dieck makes a worthy prince. With her luscious epaulement, easy extensions, and apt emotion, Phelan is a true ballerina in the making. It’s exciting to see this star on the rise so featured here in Vail.

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Unity Phelan and Cameron Dieck in White Swan Pas de Deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

A revival of the 2015 Tiler Peck/Bill Irwin collaboration, Time It Was/116 follows, offering comedic relief and paired down interaction that seems to really please the couple sitting beside me. They are new to dance, and their audible reaction to this upbeat piece is an intangible certificate of success for the festival. I’m just sitting here wondering how Tiler Peck is able to chaine traveling upstage while spotting front. Sorcery. Bill Irwin is so talented and endearing as ever in this cheeky bit.

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Bill Irwin and Tiler Peck in Time it Was/116, photo by Erin Baiano.

George Balanchine’s Chaconne Pas de Deux, danced by Carla Körbes and Jared Angle, paints the stage next. The two inhabit the bodies of ancient Greek divinity in simple, fluttering white costumes. The rain has picked up significantly by this point, and the amphitheater’s funneled roof spouts water like a fountain behind the stage. Backdropped lights illuminate the water ad vivid flowers- the effect is ethereal. For a moment we are in a peaceful garden, watching young lovers swirl.

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Jared Angle and Carla Körbes in George Balanchine’s Chaconne Pas de Deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

The first act closes with two repeat performances, the first is my favorite fierce Agon Pas de Deux danced by Unity Phelan and Calvin Royal III. The two balance each other so well, it makes me wish they were in the same company so they could be paired together more regularly. Perhaps this is a good excuse to return to the festival next year! Another Balanchine piece, Tarantella, returns to the stage next. Lauren Lovette and Roman Mejia take full advantage of the opportunity to really let go this time, amping up the “friendly competition vibes”, sassy banter, and risk-taking. I enjoy it more and more every time.

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Calvin Royal III and Unity Phelan in George Balanchine’s Agon Pas de Deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

Act II presents Denver-based dance company, Wonderbound in Excerpts from Divisions, a collaborative piece featuring live music by Flobots. The performance reminds me of an extended dance sequence from an energetic musical, integrating a full band, quite a few vocalists, and theatrical choreography. The dancing style is sort of a jazz-contemporary fusion, with attention to big lifts and lyric-specific miming. It’s a bit of a flashmob-esque performance, and at the end of a long day, when the sun has gone down and the amphitheater has chilled down, it’s all a bit much for me. It does, however, delight the new dance fans to my left so, Vail Dance Festival Dance for $20.17- mission accomplished.

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Wonderbound Artists in Garrett Ammon’s Excerpts from Divisions, photo by Erin Baiano.

to infinite and beyond

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Remember when we talked about Apolla Shocks, way back in the day? Well, I’ve been wearing them for about a month now and I am completely hooked. I mean hooked as in, they are with me in Vail and I’m not even dancing here, hooked. So let’s get you better acquainted, shall we?

Apolla offers three different fits, and while the Performance (medium support) seems to be the frontrunner for me at the moment, the Infinite (maximum support) is pulling a close second. I got to try these out these guys in the black, non-traction style…

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A bit taller in the ankle, the Infinte Shocks offer slightly more stability and compression than the Performance style to relieve sore muscles and fight inflammation up through the calf. These socks will be in heavy rotation throughout the season as my feet swell and my joints take on more pressure.

All Apolla Shocks are anatomically correct, meaning there is a right and left side, making their structured arch support even more effective.

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Since receiving my Shocks, I’ve washed them an embarrassingly few number of times (less than I’d care to admit), but you guys, they don’t get stinky! I meant it. My flat shoes and toe pads are disgusting, but the antimicrobial magic in these things keeps them fresh for(almost)ever.

The Infinite style also features a bit more padding (or as the scientists call it, “knit-in energy absorption”) in the metatarsal and heel to cushion your base and protect your feetsies from the damage dancing can (let’s be real, will) cause.

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Has anyone else tried Apolla Shocks? If you are interested in trying these bad boys out for yourself (ppppsssst, they are releasing a new color soon!), enter code STB-ApollaDiscount-2 at checkout for 10% off, valid through 8/31 (wink).

 

all photo by Jenay Evans for setting the barre.

INTERNATIONAL EVENINGS I

Sparing a few adventurous photoshoots and early morning hours spent writing papers (oh right, I am still in school huh?), my days at the Vail Dance Festival have been spent watching/fangirling rehearsals at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Seeing these artists pushing and playing and piecing things together makes me all the more excited to return the amphitheater (showered and trading Keds for heels) to see International Evenings of Dance I. 

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Carla Körbes and Jared Angle in Christopher Wheeldon’s After The Rain pas de deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

I have to begin with some serious praise for Damian Woetzel: Every piece was cast just perfectly. Perhaps this is the beauty of the Vail Dance Festival, Woetzel’s personal relationship with each dancer allows expert curation yielding a well-rounded show. Woetzel also highlights the celebratory nature of this festival at every turn, this evening’s adaptation in the form of an energetic opening performance by Celebrate The Beat. The colorful local organization features over 100 children, expressing themselves in boisterous movement.

The festivities continue with one of my favorite pairings, Isabella Boylston and Jeffrey Cirio. The two dance an adorably playful pas de deux from The Flower Festival in Genzano, emulating the August Bournonville style with clean technique and genuine chemistry. Boylston and Cirio begin by greeting Quartet-in-Residence, Brooklyn Rider, whose onstage accompaniment adds to the communal feeling here in Vail. There is a genuine, never saccharine, chemistry between these two dancers that makes me excited for what’s to come.

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Jeffrey Cirio and Isabella Boylston in August Bournonville’s Flower Festival, photo by Erin Baiano.

The professional performances progress with an elegant White Swan Pas de Deux from James Whiteside and recently-promoted American Ballet Theater Principal Devon Teuscher. Devon’s long lines just float on forever with Whiteside’s skillful partnering melting her over the stage.

Balanchine’s Tarentella quickly changes the pace, with its lively tambourine-driven rhythm and friendly competition from Lauren Lovette and recent School of American Ballet graduate, Roman Mejia. I’ve asked it before and I know I will again, but: is there anything cuter than Lauren Lovette? Tarentella appears to be designed for her, with its energetic footwork, cheeky head inclinations, and collection of chirpy pas de chats. Seventeen-year-old Mejia gives Lovette a run for her money, though, with a myriad of cheeky expressions of his own. The pair seemed to be having a particularly good time as Lovette took off on a series of pirouettes from fifth traveling downstage, Mejia egging her on from his knees below. The soon-to-be New York City Ballet Apprentice enlisted any and all forms of tambourine playing he could think of, striking the small head against a shoulder, a thigh, a hip, a hand, whirling up a clattering merriment that broadcast over the entire audience. These two just make you smile. Simple as that.

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Roman Mejia in George Balanchine’s Tarentella, photo by Erin Baiano.

Next up, a showstopping Agon pas de deux from Unity Phelan and Calvin Royal III. Once again, casting proves paramount; Phelan and Royal are a perfect set. With matching long lines and unforced austere expressions, they weaved their way through Balanchine’s best sculptural pas de deux like a pair of gorgeous cobras. I was enraptured all the way until the final chord.

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Calvin Royal III and Unity Phelan in George Balanchine’s Agon pas de deux, photo by Erin Baiano.

Celebrating the 37th anniversary of its premiere last night, Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody is danced with indulgent ease by The Royal Ballet artists Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambe. Equally satisfying to the diehard balletomanes is the impeccable Tiler Peck partnered by Joseph Gordon in Balanchine’s Divertimento Brilliante. Peck is the perfect music-box-ballerina- the delicate yet crisp dancing that childhood dreams are made of.

Act II leads in with a 6-count wake up call; Artist-in-Residence, Michelle Dorrance‘s 1-2-3-4-5-6 intricately weaves tap, Jookin, ballet, and contemporary into precise phrases of 6. The acapela piece returns the party vibes to the stage, complete with fast feet, gorgeous fluidity from Lil Buck and some face-swirling chaines by James Whiteside.  The fun continues with a fast-paced lesson in the art of “the jam” with Doggerel, featuring Jookin dancers Lil Buck and Ron “Prime Tyme” Miles, vaudvile-style performer Bill Irwin, Michelle Dorrance, and the talented musicians of the Vail Dance Festival. Princess Grace Award winner, Elena Heiss presents a striking Flamenco solo, bringing some variety to the program.  Daniel Ulbricht‘s sharing the stage with singer Kate David and guitarist Gabe Schnider in an acoustic version of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine further diversify the evening’s offerings. Misty Copeland and Marcelo Gomes command the stage in one of my favorite pieces of choreography, Twyla Tharp‘s Sinatra Suites. Christopher Wheeldon’s After The Rain Pas de Deux followed, featuring Carla KörbesJared Angle, and some of the most beautiful music ever written, Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im spiegel played live by violenist Johnny Gandelsman and pianist Cameron Grant. An impressive execution of the wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote, danced with bold artistry and altheticism by Misa Kuranaga and Herman Cornejo, finishes the evening with roaring applause, but not before Jerome Robbins’ Three Chopin Dances steals my heart.

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Joseph Gordon and Lauren Lovette in Jerome Robbins’ Three Chopin Dances, photo by Erin Baiano.

Danced last night by Lauren Lovette and Joseph Gordon, this piece was new to me. The first of the “three dances” comes in the form of a romantic pas de deux, the dancers like saturated watercolors, both ethereal and grounded. Lovette and Gordon are like wet roses, dripping with softness, weight, and a delicate strength. For the second movement, Robbins’ defies tradition by giving the woman the first solo. This flirty piece hints at Hungarian character influences, with a casually traditional, undone undertone. The final movement begins with the male solo. Tender in nature, the softness of Robbins’ choreography further gender-bends here, a refreshingly non contrived take on role reversal in ballet. Three Chopin Dances finishes off with an even grander romanticism than its opening, sweeping me out of my seat, off my feet, and back around again.

Tonight’s installment of the International Evenings series is entirely different- and sold out. To catch these artists later in the Festival, head here.

shocking

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As you may recall, if you’ve been following along here for some time, at the end of last season I incurred a host of local injuries around my left bunion area. There was bursitis, sesamoiditis, tendonitis, a real -itis fest, if you will. ANYway, when that all happened, wearing flat technique shoes first thing in the morning became rather unbearable, so my physical therapist suggested I try warming up in socks. I began wearing socks for pliés and tendus, then expanded that to include dégagés, then rond de jambes, then fondus, until one day I was working through the entire barre “en sock”. And let me tell you, it was a magical discovery.

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I found I was able to warm up my feet more thoroughly, connecting down through the floor from the very start of the day. My bones were free to spread and contract as they took their morning breaths, inhaling marley up through their joints and exhaling sweet, strong energy. I was able to dance my entire season sans-itis. A miracle, friends! The only problem? In an attempt to give myself some form of padding, the socks I had on rotation were baggy, bulky, relatively uncomfortable and wholly unflattering.

Then I heard about Apolla Shocks.

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Let me first disclaim: This is not a sponsored post. Although I did receive the Apolla Shocks pictured here complimentary, I approached the brand myself to inquire about their products after being tipped off by the lovely Cirio Collective dancers. Socks specially designed for dancers! Look how pretty! How supportive! How strange! I had to learn more.

And boy am I ever glad I did. As seems to be the trend this days (thank goodness!), sports science, design, and dance have come together in the creation of these beauties. The pair I’m wearing here are the mid-level support and the ones that will likely become my go-to, The Performance Shocks. They feature a compressed weave for extra arch support and ankle stabilization, and a slim yet free toe fit to allow for articulation without suffocating your piggies.

In my shocks I am finally I am able to properly employ my feet at the barre again, shaping them with all of the grounded metatarsals, lifted arches, and lengthened toes I can muster! IMG_5223IMG_5221

All Apolla Shocks come in 3 different shades so you can (at least attempt) to find your shade and ergo, your perfect line, because it’s just that easy, right? These science socks are moisture-wicking (happy dancing- any fellow sweaty feet friends?!) and antimicrobial, meaning every day washing is not necessary (double happy dance).

One of the coolest things about these dance socks is the option for their revolutionary customizable traction. The thin rubber traction starts out rather sticky, but is meant to be worn in to your desired level of grip. Once my shocks start too feel a bit too slippery (I actually like how their feeling after just a few uses), I plan on rubbing some rosin into the soles (as suggested by Apolla) to keep them right where I want ’em.IMG_5222

What do you think? Do you dance in socks? Would you try Apolla? If you are interested, Apolla is offering Setting The Barre readers 10% their first purchase with the code STB-ApollaDiscount-1 at checkout. Valid through June 19th.

 

photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

a collaborative dancing diary

Why do we dance?  Why are we drawn to watch?  What is it that elevates flesh and bone into displays of heartstopping beauty?IMG_9510

Two days ago, when it was May but the weather wailed JULY!, I sat under the wisteria-covered trellis on the airy patio of my beloved Seven Stars Bakery with a cold drink (iced green tea, splash of lemonade) and The Emma Press Anthology of Dance.  Much like its internal observations of the waltzing world around us, the book itself seems to rattle and shake, pages exploding with figures (by the book’s editor herself, Ms. Emma Wright) whose loosely sketched limbs flutter from one line to the next.

We are introduced first, and again throughout, to the universality of dance through the eyes of animals, the flailing bodies of the uncoordinated, the intoxicated, the lush from love who swagger in kitchens and on side streets.  Clare Dyer’s On The Sand describes the dancing of a buzzing beach, and suddenly I am noticing the gentle whirling of the wisteria above me and the erratic foxtrot of the tiny finches underfoot.

The tone shifts now from chirpy humor to one I know a bit more intimately.  With Hilary Gilmore’s Ballerina of The Night Pool, we meet the mysteriously elegant “statue drowned mid-pirouette”, constantly evading the authors shy advances to “dance pas de deux with her reflections”, as minxy stone ballerinas often do.  Rachel Piercey’s The corps is a musing even more familiar, singing the secret successes of the corps de ballet, “parabola arms exactly / chalked onto the air”, “half known and half felt: / the precise, unfurling / geometry of cells.”  The flawless harmony of a well-oiled corps, despite each dancer’s yearning for spotlight, our final stanza puts it perfectly: “the acute longing / to be set apart, / the charm of belonging.”  A double-edged sword that every ballet dancer will wield in the onset of their careers.

As the anthology progresses, so too does the strangely relatable introspectivity of each poem.  From finding your own footing in Rosie Sandler’s Breathing Underwater, to escaping by means of dancing down the page of a notebook in Catherine Smith’s My Dancers, to the impossible stashing of a step like “the stapling of motion on a sheet” (what a great line!) found in Richard O’Brien’s Dansmuseet, the apex of this anthology is an explorative one.  We discover the fleeting nature of dance, the joy in hearing dance when it is not able to be seen, and perhaps the most poignant point of all:

“We dance to learn about a part of ourselves books can’t teach.”

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The Emma Press Anthology of Dance C/O The Emma Press.

uncharted territory

IMG_8848fremd (adj): 1. foreign or unfamiliar; 2. alien or strange.

A stark white square of light carves stage left into a startlingly austere canvas, inhabited by a single dancer.  Bare, heavy beats sober the audience from it’s Balanchine-induced Theme commendation, while somehow indulging our senses with the strange pleasure of a new, uncomfortable, addicting drunk.  Our lone dancer cuts through his fluorescent enclosure, sharply slicing space, seeking some meaning, perhaps chasing time…

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big screen ballet

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The past two Sundays have ironically both involved a cinematic ballet experience of some kind, with a trek up to Cambridge to see Ballet 422 last weekend and a drive to East Greenwich yesterday for a screening of The Bolshoi’s Romeo & Juliet.  The two shows were vastly different, save their only similarities seated in the audience: a combination of bunheads and bald heads…my kinda crowd.

Following New York City Ballet corps member and resident choreographer, Justin Peck, Jody Lee Lipes’ Ballet 422 offers up an impressive array of balletic athleticism and choreographic innovation, wrought with a generous supply of stylish #BTS shots.  Mr. Peck, at the tender age of 25, exudes professionalism and creative depth beyond his years, and the entire company (especially featured principal, Tiler Peck) demonstrates a skill level and quickness of movement that only the NYCB can deliver.  Of course it suits that these inspired minds belong to NYCB, a company founded on choreographic liberation and the freedom to create entirely new movement.  An artistic peek into the modern world of ballet, the film provides a backstage guide to the choreographic, rehearsal, staging and performance process of a world premiere at the historic Koch theatre.  I truly enjoyed seeing the magnificent costume department and the care that goes into each garment, as well as the showcase of talented orchestral musicians and powerful NYCB dancers, but without any real narration or interviews to speak of, Magnolia Pictures may want to consider renaming the film Justin Peck Relaxes Face While Thinking.*

The Bolshoi’s R&J on the big screen could not have been more opposite; One of the world’s oldest companies performing one of literature’s oldest tragedies in ballet’s most traditionally classic choreographic style.  In three words, it. was. dramatic.  Of course, drama is to be expected from a famously grim love story in which so many crucial characters suffer an untimely death**, but there’s something about this particular rendition that seemed just a bit over the top to me.  Maybe it was Tybalt’s refusal to die without a lingering (re: dragging) “death dance” for the books, but that’s probably just my impatient millennial mind at work there.  Gorgeous in its classicism, but predictable by nature, this show separates the diehard traditionalists from those of us who chuckled when Lady Capulet practically dislocated her shoulder tossing herself onto her nephew’s dead body about fifteen times (Mom, I’m looking at you!).

So, have any of you seen either production?  What did you think?

*Spoiler Alert: Justin Peck’s “deep in thought” face comprises 90% of the film.

**Yet another spoiler, everyone dies.  Sorry for giving away the ending, guys.

photo via