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


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!

valentine’s day at the ballet


Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers!

This year FBP is celebrating with a final performance of steamy Scheherazade & Soledad at Up Close On Hope.  There’s (yet another) snow storm in the forecast, but we’re nearly sold out tonight, so the show must go on!  Here we go FBP, let’s melt away all that Juno, Marcus, and whatever they’re calling this next precipitory* white-out.  Motivational speech, concluded.

*not a word, just go with it.

scheherazade & soledad


There’s nothing quite like watching all of your coworkers writhe around together in a dance-orgy set to the score of Rimsky-Korsakov’s iconic Scheherazade on a Tuesday morning.  The ladies are twisting around, displaying themselves to their king with all the discretion of a pack of cats in heat.  The men play a perfect counter, transitioning between “slaves” and “soldiers” with an unabashed masculinity and lusty, wandering hands.  It’s mornings like these, when I’m sitting 5 feet away as my best friend is rhythmically humped by a “eunuch”- with pointed toes- that I realize how very strange and awesome my job is.

Tonight our very Valentine’s Day themed show opens, and it is unapologetically romantic, with, as you may have already guessed, a heaping side of steamy sensuality.  I will be dancing in our director, Misha Djuric’s, ballet Soledad, a tango-esque drama originally choreographed in 1995.  The piece sort of captures every corner of a bar scene, zooming in at times to reveal the young couple, the glowing lovers, the lonely soloist…it’s moody yet energetic, soulful and playful all at once.  There’s been a huge focus on the intention behind our movements throughout the rehearsal process, emphasizing the importance of our conviction rather than technical perfection.  It’s always a pleasure to work with Misha, especially on a ballet of his own design, because he is so very connected with the meaning behind each step.  It’s not enough to lower yourself down onto the chair; Your entire body must sink and crumble until seated.  The men should not just lift the women above their heads, but catch them breathless so the entire room freezes for that moment.  I’ve taken the liberty of naming each of the 6 movements, and with “Bar Scene”, “Party Scene”, and “Dramatic Reprise” among them, I’m sure you can imagine how much fun we have dancing this ballet.

Here’s a fun preview of Gianni Di Marco‘s Scheherazade.

If you are in the RI area, click for tickets– although we are almost sold out for this weekend, so hurry!

hitting a wall, and bouncing back

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Nothing seemed to go my way yesterday.  I spent the entire work day in a bad mood for no reason, aside from the fact that I was off in class, I couldn’t get on my leg, I was bloated, and ballet seemed to fight me every step of the way.  This frustration, of course, led to the dramatic why-do-I-even-care-so-much negativity spiral, in which I question my intense love for an art form that half of the world has never given the time of day.  Why does ballet have such a power over me?  Why can it destroy my emotions with the simple wobble of a pirouette?  And though it maintains this ability, why does it feel the need to exercise it over me on such a random Thursday?  Ballet can be so cruel sometimes.

And then I read this review from last weekend’s Up Close On Hope performance (Alex and I finally premiered Moonlight!), and my trust in ballet was completely restored.  It’s one of the best reviews I’ve received in a long time, and reading it gave me that tickly toes feeling, like when you finish a whole crossword puzzle (nerd alert).  I put so much of myself into that performance, sitting cross-legged with my forehead pressed into the marley for 15 minutes just before dancing, mentally returning myself to this dark place I told you about, so having that vulnerability validated felt like a huge triumph.

And with the quick skim of that article, I was back in ballet’s warm embrace.  She’s a fickle beast, that one.

for tickets.

performance weekends, a photo diary

What I look like the morning before a show:photoBedhead and derp face.

What I look like during a show:afterlightFeigned confidence in aforementioned unnecessary 2 piece.

And what I look like currently, the morning after a show:afterlightSunday morning in bed brought to you by men’s socks, bruised knees, lemony tea, and Lena Dunham.


Happy No-Pants Sunday, all.



all photos via my instagram.



The familiar blend of cigarettes and toe pads swirls in the air, thick around my face and I avoid breathing too deeply.  My sweating hands give a sticky rub down the back of my tights and a smear of barre rust trails like warpaint.  Careful to use the back of my hand in hopes that less germs have accumulated there, I nudge the baby hairs from my face, allying them with the rainbow of blondes whose ends twist back into a pin-empaled donut at the nape of my neck.  I notice my feet climbing up onto pointe and back down, left, right, left, right, my hips shifting more dramatically than I’d like.  But it doesn’t matter.  No one is looking my way, and even if they were, no one would care.  In the studio we have complete physical freedom to explore and abuse as we please, no questions asked.  Here we are not at home, we are somewhere far more comfortable.

There’s a show tonight so the lights are switched off, save the bright booms hugging the edge of all but that illustrious fourth wall, and I’m playing with my shadows now, watching them follow me left, right, left, right, left.  It’s a game my mind doesn’t need to play; My bones have a body to themselves this time.  I vaguely muse to myself, sometimes it’s nice to turn that brain off, isn’t it? and my rhythm slows down.  It’s time to start the run, and I need to move.  Like a dog who tipped the trashcan, I slink one huge step into the temporary wings and plop down without warning my legs of my decision.  It takes a conscious effort to reconnect that neural/physical volley, I am reminded by the spawn of a new bruise on the outside of my knee.  I watch in the darkness as blue plumes flood toward the surface, like a drop of ink spiraling into a glass of milky water.  Another for my collection, I think to myself.

Before I have the required attention to realize it, we are running Viktor Plotnikov’s Surrogate, and in fact we are more than halfway through.  I’m leaning on my right hip, legs bent in towards my chest, my upper body reaching out into the audience.  My head is suspended, right cheek in Alex’s broad palm from above, and he’s sweeping it back and forth, weightlessly.  My eyes have been closed for twelve slow counts, and I can feel the ground dropping away from me as I float in this moment.  For the remainder of the piece, my eyes are at half-mast, and I roll with the gliding motions my feet seem to prefer today.  It was a strangely sleepy-but-not-tired run, but it doesn’t matter.  Because I am in my more-comfortable-than-home.




photo from Viktor Plotnikov’s Surrender, shot by Cemal Ekin.