The first week of Swan Lake has been splendidly exhausting.  A mix of joy and extreme fatigue seems the most appropriate way to describe my current state.  Swan Lake is one of my favorite ballets and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be doing some pretty cool roles.  (including understudying Odette/Odile!!!!!)

Just a small group of principles were called back to work last week, and the 7 of us learned the entire ballet in those five days.  SO despite all of the foot pain (and lately, there’s a lot), my Tchaikovsky-filled work days have me feeling down right ducky.  Swanny?  Not the same.  Anyway, since timing is everything and work/life harmony is always worth noting, a few other ‘swanny’ things popping up in my life lately:

these little cardsDSC07755…because April is handwritten letter month (no, really) and a few of the dancers and I are going old school with performance invitations.

this complimentary Catbird tote…DSC07745…which arrived last week, showing off a lovely new take on their signature swan design.

these ceramic swannies…DSC07749…because my mom brought them back from a trip to Savannah months ago, and they’ve been silently amping me up for April ever since.

this book sans jacket…DSC07737…because it’s pretty enough to serve as decor. (plus it’s illustrated by my dear friend’s father)

all shadows whisper of the sun

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“The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.” -William Shakespeare

Between bruised knees and sore ankles, the pink satin dream of a young girl in pigtails tends to slip away, masked by the shadows of a calloused reality.  But sitting in the small pool of sunshine by the window in studio 2 yesterday, draped in the tulle fairytale my younger self once subconsciously designed, I couldn’t help but bask in the dreaminess of it all.  Of course I promptly tweaked my hip upon standing, and felt compelled to reflect on the relationship between light and shadows; Polar opposites upon first inspection, in reality one could not exist without the other.


Interdependent and eternally connected, light and darkness tempt and rescind each other, distort and define each other.  The very existence of one both creates and negates the other, making it impossible for them to separate or marry, and the incoherent dance endures, a perpetual representation of the incidental union of two contradicting entities.   Ballet often manifests itself in this paradoxical friction, simultaneously embodying beauty and disfigurement, intense pain and a lack of fear.  On stage we exhaust ourselves to present the audience with artificial ease; We submit to hours of physical malady in the production of an unmatched elegance.  But if we listen to Shakespeare, we come to understand that most dreams take the form of a shadow while being pursued by those who truly aspire.  That is, it is in this work and toil that dreams eventually come to fruition.  One relies on the other, no matter how antithetical they may seem.

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In these moments, where the dream and reality intersect, I wonder if a bit of borrowed spirit from a younger, poufy-tutu-clad me isn’t the missing link between my light and my shadows.

PS- Do you like my special new leotard?  Stay tuned for a very exciting announcement, coming soon!

photos by Jenay Evans

downtown dancing

View More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalexView More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalex View More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalex View More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalex View More: http://andrewmariner.pass.us/kirstenalex

“Okay, go now!  Wait, no no no, run!  Car!”  Not your typical photoshoot soundtrack, but then again, this was by no means your typical photoshoot…

I was introduced to the work of Andrew Mariner through social media (#2014), where I was drawn to his avant guard approach to ballet photography and immediately started picturing Providence’s highly photogenic cityscape reflecting in his lens.  I decided to reach out to Andy about getting together for a shoot as part of his ballet series, and several weeks later, I was darting into the center of the financial district, dodging cars in my pointe shoes, Alex tossing me around in all different positions (sheesh, that boy is strong!).  Yes, people were staring at us as we “fished” through traffic or pushed up into a press over the Providence River.  But, you know, I felt oddly comfortable rocking a tutu on Westminster Street…sort of just blended in with the, let’s just say eclectic, wardrobes splashing around RISD’s campus.

Andy’s sharp eye and undeniable ability to capture that perfectly imperfect moment is what I admire most about his photography.  He came prepared, with a selection of locations and ideas ripe for collaboration.  Of course Alex and I were all too pleased to indulge!  We have become quite good at working together on spontaneous experiences of this nature, as you may recall.  Always a pleasure working with old friends, and making new ones as well.

PS- No, we did not plan our coordinating Christmas-colored outfits, but we were quite excited by the adorable, thematic serendipity :)

PPS- all photos by Andrew Mariner.

aurora for a day

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Aside from the fact that my eyes are extremely heavy, right now I look absolutely nothing like I do in these photos.  I am bruised over most of my body from the hips down, my hair is still in a towel from a shower I took 2 hours ago, and I have pillows supporting my neck, back, and knees…if only I could look as effortlessly sleepy as Princess Aurora every day.  Le sigh.

I wanted to share a few photos from the Collaborations project with you, but it felt wrong to make you believe I look anywhere near this serene as I sprawl on the couch creating this post for you now.  In a way the juxtaposition between these images and my appearance tonight is sort of what this blog is all about: bringing awareness to all of the ugliness that goes into making ballet look beautiful, like the calluses stuffed behind those pink satin pointe shoes we ballet dancers all love to hate.

To see my photo on the June page of our gorgeous Ballet Off Stage calendar, or to purchase one for your favorite dancer, head on over here.

photos by Cemal Ekin, styling by Vilia Putrius

lights, camera

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“What time is it?”

“You know what, I have absolutely no idea.  We’ve been in this black hole for so many hours…is it still Wednesday?”

-A and I at 3:30 pm 3 Wednesdays ago, volleying exhausted sentiments at the end of a 6-hour dance day.  The studio that we spend our lives in had been completely blacked out for our viedo shoot.  Dark curtains covered the big windows, the fluorescent lights were extinguished- there would be nothing for the strangely live dust bunnies to cling to but the fierce lights that spotted us, most times from behind.  With the free Seven Stars lunch (possibly the highlight of an already exceptionally interesting day) still fresh in our gracious mouths, A and I pondered the allusive hour, realized what a long time we had been working for, and exchanged an unplanned nod of pride towards each other.  We had one segment left to shoot, and it was, without a conference, our favorite.

Stepping back into the center of the studio, we took our positions for the “spinny sequence”, between a backpack-sized camera and one blinding spotlight.  As we danced our last section, the two objects moved on human legs, slowly circling around us, mimicking our revolution.  Now this is a real black hole, A and I agreed with our eyes.  Just keep spinning, one more take, and we might be released from it’s spiraling suction.

“That’s a wrap!”, the director led our celebratory applause before embarking on his round of handshakes and high fives.  It was the second week of summer and already we’d filmed a music video- talk about starting off the new season with a bang.

Stay tuned for updates as the music video for Boston’s own, The Bynars, “Time vs. Money”, progresses through editing and into it’s final cut.  Can’t wait until the launch and premiere, so I can finally share the full project!

photo stills from Time vs. Money, via Shaun Clarke

work clothes


TGIS, am I right?

Yesterday whilst eating a banana and mentally preparing for my last rehearsal of the day, I looked down and realized my work clothes are pretty badass.  Pointe shoes peeking out through my practice tutu, my anti-office-attire getup reminded me how lucky I am to make a living doing something I love.

This week has been a tough one for me in all senses of the word.  But that old cliché really is true- what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  I’m determined to emerge from the tornado that has been these past 4 days even more resilient than I was before…and I’ve got one more day to do it!  Here we go.

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


Okay, I really am done now.  Probably.

on the wrong side of the curtain

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Just popping in to share some photos I took backstage before last night’s Sleeping Beauty premiere. Laden with sparkly beads, embroidered golden crests, stacked satin ribbons, and glossy sequin strips, these gorgeous costumes could not go undocumented.

I didn’t realize how disconcerting it would be to sit in the audience on opening night.  Of course it’s been strange staying home while my roommate goes off to theater week rehearsals, but it wasn’t until the lights went down and the first notes of the overture sprang from the stage-framing speakers that I felt a flutter in the pit of my stomach.  Wait, no, I haven’t got my hair up yet!  My pointe shoes are miles away!  I forgot to bring pink tights!  These thoughts all raced through my mind, only to be shooed out by the startling mental image of my fractured spine that has recently taken up residence there.  So I put the battling brain bothers aside to watch my friends perform on stage, something I rarely have the pleasure of seeing.  And what a pleasure it was!

Sitting solo in the audience for today’s matinee, I realized how lucky I am to be part of a company where everyone is so gosh darn nice.  I couldn’t keep the smile from my face as I watched my little violin girls, fairies, and nymphs balancé and emboîté across the stage.  This craaaazy bunch truly is my special kind of family, and I’m so honored to call them that.


Sometimes, being a ballet dancer is really, really hard.  Sometimes your first (and last) dress rehearsal before the show, is a colossal failure does not go well.  Sometimes you fall out of every pirouette and twist your ankle while hopping on pointe.  Sometimes the tutu that fit you perfectly 3 days ago proves impossible to arabesque in, and your artistic director is home sick in bed and you rip a hole in your favorite pink performance tights.  Sometimes your replacement tutu doesn’t come with a matching headpiece.  And your partner’s black velvet jacket sleeves make his arms look like they’ve been swallowed by two large panthers.  And this is all a very real problem, because what may seem like an extremely minut detail in the pedestrian world, is an invaluable puzzle piece in the ballet world.

But then, just sometimes (the lucky times), the replacement tutu was literally made for you, you can arabesque like a dream in it, your artistic director makes it to the show, and you find a new favorite pair of pink tights.  Sometimes you decide to smile so much the audience won’t notice the navy blue flowers and feathers in your headpiece do not match your black tutu (I know, navy blue and black…huge difference, right?!).  And sometimes the sewing machine works its reduction magic on your partner’s panther sleeves and now his arms look much more like dark chocolate covered strawberries (this is a good thing, in case you were wondering).  While I will not pretend last night’s performance was a complete success, it was a vastly better experience than the dress rehearsal, which leads me to sharing this little bit of performance art wisdom with all of you:

Sometimes, a bad dress rehearsal means a good opening night.

first day back

Today was the first official day with the entire company back in the studio.  While you might be picturing me doing a whole lot of this:

It actually looked a bit more like this:

And by the end of the day, this:

The first day back in the studio with everyone is NEVER easy.  Your body is being reintroduced to the intensity of a full day of dancing, your brain is forced to jump right into quick memorization, and your mind is caught up in the middle of it all, burdened with the stress of impending casting and the excitement of spending the whole day with people you love.  It can be frustrating, gratifying, exhausting and liberating, but in the end all that matters is that after a long summer away, we are coming home.