a premiere in which i did not touch the ground

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This weekend A and I danced our first Christopher Wheeldon ballet. Well, part of it anyway…

We (rather unexpectedly) performed the pas de deux section of Wheeldon’s The American, a lovely ballet set to Dvorak’s triumphant score of the same name. The Company will perform the full ballet as part of our February mainstage, but this weekend PVD got a taste of what’s to come in the Black Box Theater. I’ve been describing this little ditty as 6.5 minutes of being either off your leg or in the air. Poor A never gets to let go of me. But somehow we made it through! Relatively smoothly! A triumph. And now for my own enjoyment, but if you care to see, a rehearsal code run down of one of the hardest, sweetest, most frustratingly beautiful pas de deuxs we’ve done to date:

that hard promenade, the first backwards lift, the lift that kills your arms, the nervous arabesque, the backpack press, the cartwheel, the tricky promenade, the split and scoot, the getting up, the run around, the impossible lift, the weirdly difficult fouetté + fall, the traveling baby lift, the birdy, the slow roll, the floor, the spiritual moment, the walk-walk, the run around, the flip lift, the swizzle, A’s least favorite lift, the drop, the rock, the running, the big lift, the craddle lifts, the backwards cartwheel, the second tricky promenade, the hip killers, the second swizzle, the drapey lift, the last backwards lift, the slow floaty pirouette, the bourrées, the end.

some strange magic

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Tchaikovsky’s most famous holiday score has swiftly replaced the vivacious one which filled my fall.  We’ve plunged so steadfast into Nutcracker preparations, it’s almost as if Up Close On Hope didn’t happen!

But it did.  I stood in the wings as the lights lost their lume and the theater went black.  I felt the corps step silently into their wheel as those two impish notes carried Elyse’s playful chant back to us all, uh oh…

I attempted to raise my heart rate in preparation of the cardio to come.  I hopped from one foot to the other, letting my achilles feel their way around satin shoes.  I released all the air from my lungs, filled them again, and counted four eights.  I thought about all of the things that needed thinking, and then I forgot them all.

My face smiled without cheek wiggles, my arabesque sailed around under me.  I felt comfortable, and confident, challenged and true.  I let my port de bras fly and my feet sing along.  Post-perfornabce, by way of some strange magic, I managed to remember all of the good things I’d done, and forgot all the bad.  But I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised- there is “some strange magic” in all of Mr. B’s ballets.

{m}articulation

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She’s misunderstood, ignored, abused, and unrequited.  Her back is curved, her heart is bruised, her face furrowed, and her mind confused.  Martirio is a twenty-four-year-old creature, rather lost amongst adolescent urges, adult responsibilities and childlike tantrums.  Jealousy, anger, loneliness, longing.  She’s deep, but inexperienced.  She’s cruel, but beaten down.

Okay, I must admit it.  Articulating Martirio has been draining.  In the studio, her sad theme begins in perfect synchroneity each and every time I start dancing, like a little black rain cloud musing the inner turmoil of a sad cartoon character.  At home, this cloud follows me still me, lending its shadow for my prolonged discomfort so willingly, I almost want to thank it for the integrity.

That is, until I realize it was actually my characterization affecting me so deeply, at which point I thank my own sincerity, my mother for teaching me to act at a young age (thanks, Mom!), and finally, this final week of Up Close on Hope performances for being nearly complete.

If you’re in the Rhode Island area, there are just a few tickets left…I’d love to have you in the audience to witness the storm.

honored

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Apollo Mikhail Baryshnikov with, from left, Heather Watts, Elise Bourne, and Bonnie Bourne Credit Photo ©Paul Kolnik New York City Ballet Choreography by George Balanchine

IMG_4822Perhaps it speaks to my slightly dramatic nature, but I can’t help but reflect profoundly on what will occur just 12 hours from now.*  Tonight I will make my debut performance in one of Balanchine’s greatest (and first) ballets, the iconic Apollo, and I am feeling allllll the feels.

There’s something so special about dancing a Balanchine ballet- working with the illustrious Trust, perfecting each stylized step and unusual count- that changes you.  There’s some stirring sensation in knowing that exactly those movements your body transmits now were carried through time and passed from dancer to dancer, finding their way from emulation by some of ballet’s most legendary to your very own splayed fingers.  It invigorates in such a different way than work choreographed on your body can.  Highlighting the deeply historical nature of our art form, Balanchine ballets not only challenge a dancer’s ability to adapt in technique, but also to punctuate with a pinch of her own spice.

It has been a bit of a turbulent ride, but we had our first dress rehearsal yesterday, and this evening I will join the ranks of some truly incredible artists who have danced this ballet before me.  Mindaugas, our Apollo, is one of the best this role has ever seen (Sandy’s words!), and I can hardly believe I will be dancing with him in his final few Apollo‘s.  To say I feel honored would be an understatement.

If you are in the RI area, do not miss this bit of history.  For tickets.

*Can you reflect on something that has not yet happened?  Is this a new level of overthinking for me?  Uh oh.

Apollo across generations: Jacques d’Amboise, Jean-Pierre Frolich, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and FBP’s own Mindagaus Bauzys.  Thank you to Brenna DiFrancesco for snapping the photo of us in yesterday’s dress rehearsal.

Apollo choreography by George Balanchine©

black and white and gold all over

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November’s golden trees are lighting up the East Side in their vivid dying dance and studio life counters, shifting its fiery red to a cool, autumnal black and white.  At last the final flames of summer have simmered to smoldering coals, reminding us that soon they will be just the ashes of their former selves, prepared to wrap up in a blanket of winter white.  Our fall series of Up Close On Hope is coming right up, and MAN, it’s going to be a good one.

As I’ve mentioned before, the first half of this month’s program features George Balanchine’s Apollo.  It’s a simple ballet with a powerful score, a nod to Greek mythology, and an impressive history.  I feel so honored to be dancing Calliope, the muse of poetry.  She’s a dramatic, wounded artiste with far more weighty words than her little heart can hold.  Funny when ballet life parallels the real world, isn’t it?  (Just kidding….kind of.)

The second half of UPOH comprises the Bach Suites: 3 world premieres and 2 pas de deuxs set to the timeless music of Mr. Johann Sebastian Bach.  To create the movement, FBP has called upon two new (to us) choreographers, husband-and-wife pair Andrea Shelley and Spencer Hering, as well company member Ty Parmenter, resident choreographer Viktor Plotnikov, and artistic director Misha Djuric.  Perhaps the most exciting element of this program points to the talented local musicians who will play Bach’s brilliant Suites live(!) in our black box theatre.  There’s something so special about live dance and music together- visible comments being made by the choreography and its dancers, reciprocated by the score in such a distinctive way.  This intimate conversation between artists both visual and auditory is at its most pure when remarks are made in real time, responses emerging spontaneously.  The product is altered ever so slightly from the last run, the dress rehearsal, the walk through the night before.  Such reliance on impulse, acute awareness, physical innervation.  Here I go with my excessive words again…better cut myself off here…

for tickets.

Apollo Choreography by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust, Apollo photos by Eric Hovermale

up close on festival

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Back in May, as we prepared for the final set of Up Close On Hope performances, the halls of Festival Ballet acquired a new inhabitant.  Although temporary and exceedingly subtle (I imagine this is the mark of a truly cunning journalist), the presence of Ms. Gates and her quiet observation were of a curious and absorbent energy.  For her final dissertation in the study of journalism at Brown University, Zoe was to consider a career both foreign and appealing to her, immerse herself in it completely, and, of course, write about it.  Intrigued by the mysterious, dramatic art form, she chose ballet.

I was fortunate enough to spend one sunny afternoon following the commencement of our season getting to know Zoe over tea at Seven Stars, where I talked her ear off about what it means to be addicted to dancing and the struggles of working in an underfunded and often under appreciated performance art.  Recently her story was published in the East Side Monthly (big Congrats to you, Ms. Zoe!), and I thought a few of you may enjoy reading an outsider’s perspective on the ballet world from behind the curtain.  If you are curious, read on…

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up close on chameleon

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There’s less than one week left in the season, and my body is begging for a break.  Bruises splatter my knees and my eyes wander out the window towards the sunshine too many times throughout the rehearsal day.  Spring is calling.

We’ve made it through our second of three weekends of Up Close On Hope, and I’ve had the pleasure of dancing five very different pieces so far.  With drastically different styles from one ballet to the next, I’m feeling like a bit of a pointe-shoe-clad chameleon.  First there was Mein Weg, Joseph Morrissey‘s linear and at times anxiety-inducing show opener, which, with Morrissey currently residing in Hong Kong, we learned and set using 4 video recordings of the piece.  This may sound like an easy, every day ballet task, but the intricate arm motions, partnering, entrances and exits comprising this dynamic and challenging contemporary ballet transformed it into a truly ambitious exercise for the body and the mind!  I also had the pleasure of dancing in FBP principal Vilia Putrius‘ deeply moving All Birds Become Silent With the Moon’s Complaint, a highly narrative work depicting a troubled girl’s life from joyful childhood to arduous adolescence, culminating in the stirring final breakdown.  The part I danced last night, which I’ve loosely interpreted to represent a negative relationship from which one cannot seem to escape, required I be strapped to another dancer through an elastic between our waists.  We maneuvered in and out of lifts, turns (I even do a brief menege-like sequence involving cartwheels!), all the while tethered to one another.  Another new experience provided by the ever creatively fresh mind of Ms. Putrius.  I was also lucky enough to be tossed into resident choreographer, Viktor Plotnikov‘s, newest piece Urban Shadows, after only four rehearsals.  It’s really a beautiful piece of art, showcasing difficult weight-sharing partnering and fluid movements which have lead me to affectionately bestow the nickname “Aquatic” Shadows.  Performing in Plotnikov’s piece last night taught me a lesson in dancing before the muscle memory has had its chance to set in, and the particular importance of exhibiting a relaxed awareness on stage.

In one evening alone, Alex and I experienced an entire romantic relationship from start to finish…ballet style.  We met, “nuzzled”, and fell in love in Misha’s floaty and romantic pas de deux, For Susan.  Post intermission, an intimate male pas de deux (originally choreographed for a man and a woman by the incredibly cool Sydney Skybetter), projects my dear partner’s true feelings (hehe), foreshadowing our emotionally charged breakup, where he leaves me in Jorge Rullan’s powerful 3.23.  Of course, none of these pieces were actually related, and the “relationship” was entirely of our own creation, but that’s what’s so great about partnering with one of your best friends; You get to share strangely wonderful experiences together that no one else will ever quite understand.  We’ve performed so many widely variant things together now, and each time I seem to appreciate our bond as partners and friends more and more.

If you’re in the RI area, come check out our final weekend of Up Close On Hope and then celebrate the next day with the company at Fiestival!