scheherazade & soledad

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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.

home

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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.

exploring the darkness

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For the past few weeks, A and I have been “setting the mood” with creative lighting in the studios before our Moonlight rehearsals.  Remember when we danced under chandeliers?

Yesterday, our director suggested this artificial form of inspiration was merely a crutch, stifling the growth of our professional artistry.  So we kept the lights on.  And I fell apart.

The first run was rough.  I kept catching myself in the mirror, hating what I saw (dancer problems), and throwing off the piece.  While I should have been deepening my plié and relaxing into the floor, I was self-consciously tip-toeing around the studio robbing this gorgeous pas de deux of all emotional purpose.  So, after some encouragement to dig deep into my emotional history, we ran the piece once more.  And I fell apart.  In a good way.

Without the dim lighting helping me to feign dissolution, I was forced to crawl into one of the darkest corners of my mind.  Here, in this routinely averted fold of grey matter, I became so distracted with the weight of my despair that I forgot to notice what my body was doing until the last chord rang out and our run was over.  If that sounds dramatic, it’s because it was.

opening week

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I can’t believe our first show is this weekend!  Between the long rehearsals and emotional turmoil, I’ve been more distracted from this fast-approaching opening night than ever before.  The day after Halloween, FBP will perform a mixed bill of world premieres and classics in our black box theater, providing Providence with that diverse palette they’ve come to crave.

There has been a notable change in my mood since the beginning of our first “show week”.  Something about an imminent performance makes the mundane feel a bit more sparkly- especially after more than 5 performance-free months!  Eager for an audience is an understatement.

The first photo in this post is a screen shot sneak peek from the Gatorade commercial we shot this summer (can’t wait to share the final cut soon!), and the second is an homage to the (borderline creepy) synchroneity between my partner and I, both in the studio and at the bakery ;)

work therapy

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There’s a strangely unsettling sense of inner harmony that buds when your personal life and work life align.

Right now, every piece I’m rehearsing for Up Close is moody.  I am doing a collection of sad, detached, tenderly delusional works, and oddly enough it couldn’t be a more complete reflection of my emotions these days.  The exact subject matter is too personal to discuss here, but I thought my experience with this overlapping in emotion from home to studio may be relatable for some of you?

Last year, when we did Peter Pan, I didn’t realize it yet, but the story I spent my days evoking and my nights studying would soon begin to portray me right back.  That show was my first leading role, a right of passage that ended up changing me from girl to woman: an eerie echo of J.M. Barrie’s coming-of-age story.  After closing the final show, I headed into a  summer of extreme personal growth- unexpected, I admit, but a huge metamorphosis nonetheless.  For the first time, I began to really need, not just want, to be the best version of myself.  And just as Wendy Darling realizes, standing between her bed and the open window to Neverland, I learned that choosing to grow up is not easy.  It takes courage and strength to follow the unknown path, and no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to take everyone with you.

No matter how closely my character in Peter Pan predicted my summer, the universe could not have planned 4 more perfectly tragic pieces for me to dance this fall.  Conflicted with feelings of love and anger, I’m deliriously clinging to sentimental moments, torn between opposing requests from my head and my heart.  I’m telling you, a top shelf psychologist could not understand my inner turmoil as well as ballet seems to right now.

moonlight

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With the start of each new season comes a series of shifts.  The wind tightens, the earth adjusts to its chillier breath, and new works begin in the studios.  This week we welcomed guest choreographer, Ilya Kozadayev, to set a few pieces for the first Up Close On Hope series.

His resumé is intimidatingly impressive (re: it begins with “he was born in Russia to a family of professional ballet dancers), but his demeanor is about as down-to-earth as it gets.  Soft-spoken and cool as a cucumber, Ilya’s quick-witted humor is a stark contrast to the detached pas de deux he choreographed while struggling through the composition of his final dissertation.  On the first day of rehearsal, Mr. Kozadayev shared with us the story of his study of kinesics (gestures), his battle with writer’s block towards the end of his final evaluation on the subject, and the role that experience played in inspiring Moonlight.  The result of many nights spent sleepwalking through his empty mind, the pas is a haunting expression of the frustration and solitude that erupts from a lack of inspiration, set to the gorgeous Beethoven classic, Moonlight Sonata.

This piece is unlike anything I’ve ever danced; It’s loose, and heavy, but also delicate enough to resemble an insomniac’s walk on the moon. The emotional portrayal requires complete dissolution to the outside world, leaving me with nothing but the music and my own violently void thoughts.  There’s something really therapeutic in surrendering yourself to utter inanition and using movement to lend a voice to that frustration.  It is times like these when I realize what a powerful tool dancing has proven to be for my currently inconscient mind.

moments

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Sometimes a single moment onstage lasts longer than every hour of rehearsal leading up to that moment combined.  Despite the irony of its extremely fast-paced nature, Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux gave me one of those moments this past weekend, where the whole room seemed to slow down to a halt.  It’s such a strange moment of meta, when you are performing and you’re actually able to perceive your own performance as its happening.  A moment like this one presents the unusual opportunity to monitor your own dancing- in a way.  But instead of scanning the crowd, counting my steps, or wishing I’d used just one more spritz of hairspray in my french twist, this time warping moment solicited something far more simple: my own realization of the happiness it was bringing me.photo

Vaganova-trained from the relatively ripe age of 11, I’ve always considered the Balanchine style to be just a tad bit…inferior.  The splayed fingers, over crossed tendus and non-existent first position port de bras comprise a foreign technique that to me once seemed brash, hurried, and dare I say slightly unrefined.  Only now, after submerging myself in the romanticism of a Balanchine pas de deux, do I finally understand what it all means.  In Tchai Pas, there is no time to worry about your tricks.  No time to contemplate what you could be doing better, or how to convey a certain emotion.  The music plays, the dance begins, and it all sort of just happens.  Naturally.  There is a sublime joy that comes with such freedom of movement, a bliss that the great Balanchine bestowed to his dancers, and that, proven by my recent cognizance, continues to circulate throughout the dance community to this day.  There’s no worrying about making that perfect position before hitting the next, because it all sort of just bleeds together seemlessly into this paradoxic lyrical garden filled with pronounced motions.  It’s not about perfection, it’s about interpreting music into emotion.  And that, my friends, feels incredible.1554395_10201991532698430_458184464168576495_n

To give you some perspective, I think the feeling is best described by one of Mr. B’s most famous quotes, “Dancing is music made visible.”  Even if it wasn’t visible to anyone else in the room, the music was all I could see.  It was all around me, everywhere I looked.  It was in every passionate developé, every pirouette, every echappé.  Every time I left the stage it filled my ears, eyes, and nose, telling me to stay calm, focus, and slowly take in another deep breath full of the Tchaikovsky-drenched air.

an evening in neverland

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Monday night, FBP held its annual spring fundraising gala at Aspire at Hotel Providence on one of my favorite streets  downtown.  The theme of the event was An Evening in Neverland, a clever nod to the company’s upcoming production of Jorden Morris’s Peter Pan.  It was quite a lovely night, with yummy hors d’hoeuvres, free wine(!!), a performance (Alex and I danced Joseph Morrissey’s beautiful neoclassical pas de deux, Poised, on a carpeted floor, in pointe shoes, mind you) and an exciting silent auction where prizes included a week’s stay in a 30-room mansion in Poland, a precious piece of glass artwork by world renowned, locally based artist and FBP board president Toots Zynsky, and a private museum tour in NYC lead by the one and only Mikhail Baryshnikov!

This week I’m switching gears from Esmeralda pas de deux to Balanchine’s iconic Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.  It’s a romantic duet, complete with a flowy dress for me, puffy sleeves for my partner, and an adorable little “cuddle” lift at the end.  Festival favorite and Balanchine Trust Repetiteur, Sandra Jennings, makes her return to Providence tonight (eep!) to watch our rehearsal and spruce, shape, mold, and refine us before Friday night’s performance.  Considering I had to put this piece very much on the back burner to prepare for Esmeralda for the past two weeks, my Balanchine footwork is a biiiit rusty.  Here’s to hoping I can whip those toes into shape before 7 pm!