visual learner

When I was 10, Festival Ballet Providence debuted a brand new Carmen.  A few Nutcracker performances with the company had brought me into full fandom by then, so I wouldn’t dream of missing a single show- even if I had no idea what it was about.  Because facts didn’t matter.  I never needed to read the story first, I preferred to see the story onstage.

From the very first scene, Carmen enraptured me.  Plotnikov’s telling begins with Micaela (the betrothed bystander) dramatically exposing the ruinous fates of key characters in a striking solo.  She eats up every bit of the stage, her motions sharp, flowing, heavy, and tragic.  One movement hypnotized me more than any other, and I remember feeling something in my stomach flutter when Micaela repeated the strange movement again in the ballet’s epilogue.  It appeared almost as a magic trick, her hands seeming to attach and shoot straight through her body.  It took obsessive 10-year-old me several hours in front of the mirror in my bedroom post-show to figure it out.

The dancer stands facing the wings in profile to the audience.  One hand is placed on the abdomen at the base of the wrist, fingers shooting outward away from the body.  The other hand mirrors this one, attaching at the back.  As the dancer begins to scuttle backwards, her hands flop up and down in time, as if shaking the hands of invisible strangers directly in front of and behind her.  It’s simple and bizarre and completely marvelous.

Yes, I have been idly “practicing” this odd step for 15 years now.  I’ve waited and watched for it every time the company has performed Carmen since, including 7 years ago when I entered the cast as a Factory Girl.  I’ve learned that the fingers must remain splayed, yet unstrained, the hands should rise and fall as if void of muscle and bone; It really works best when the hands are relaxed entirely.  All these years I have been workshopping and playing and alas, my turn has finally come!

for tickets.

a contemporary classic

We’ve traded Tchaikovsky for a delicious mix of Prokofiev and Bizet, and oh, what a welcome trade.  There’s nothing like a new soundtrack to wash away the worn and sing kinetic life.

This month and next are filling quickly with material- both the newly created and the boldly revisited.  Between R&J rehearsals, videos of Viktor Plotnikov’s first full-length rewind and play, rewind and play.  Fourteen years ago, our beloved Viktor reimagined this classic drama in that way only he can.  Then a fairly new choreographer, Carmen was one of his first collaborations with the company whose roster he now graces.  A decade and a half later we wake Viktor’s steps to discover them somehow still innovative; his is an ever revolutionary form of dance.

During my first year as a trainee with FBP, I performed as a (rather intimidated) “factory girl” in Viktor’s Carmen.  I remember reveling in the genius of his unforced mime and celebrating- though timidly- my body’s ability to use his powerful and strange dance vocabulary.  This season I am honored to be learning the role of Michaela, Don José’s betrothed who, in this version, also has the privilege of acting as a bit of a narrator.  Finding herself in quite the assortment of situations, Michaela’s choreography is both sweet and mature, and I am all sorts of excited to dance it.

 

for tickets.

{m}articulation

IMG_9251

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.

welcome to the house

12697303_10104686585945999_870890731238790483_o12719110_10104686585970949_8537069198149932655_o12694829_10104686585950989_97661948065813897_o

Running forward towards him, I push my sad body desperately through the air that separates us.  He is the only man I’ve ever seen up close, the love of my life.  I thrust my arms around his shoulders but my forearms continue to cross, until my elbows have passed and not the thinnest thread could snake into my grasp.  There’s no one there.  I am startled, alone, and heartbroken.  Martirio’s love is not only unrequited, but fulfilled by the arms of her younger sister, Adella, whose noose awaits her. A sadder fate than that of the Alba sisters is hard to fathom.

This week we’re on set with the brilliant Shaun Clarke and choreographer Viktor Plotnikov filming for his newest creation, The House of Bernarda Alba.  Sections of the ballet occurring outside the infamous house (or those inside our heads, like many of mine) will loom stage right as literal projections of our subconscious exposed on a hanging screen.  It’s all very new, to us and to Viktor, and the creation process has been peppered with discovery.  Things I have learned this week:

Acting is really fun.  The immediate feedback you get after an acting scene feels so different-and more satisfying, I think- than the kind you receive after running a classical variation.  Maybe because you are being asked to pull upon something deeper than your lower abdominals?

Holding one arm straight out in front of you, hands in fists, legs in a squat, is an excellent work out.

It’s hard to appear as if frightened by invisible ghosts around you without ever casting your eyes downward.  Who knew opening your eyes could be so difficult?

The first day’s process looks pretty cool in a time-lapse.

It’s also quite beautiful in this peaceful compilation of Day 2’s filming.

 

For tickets.

 

photos by Shaun Clarke.

an update

IMG_7501.jpg

You may have noticed a lack of rehearsal-related posts lately.  Have you?

Maybe you’ve been feeling the absence of studio snapshots and soreness complaints and new warm-up excitement over on this little blog of mine.  Maybe you haven’t.  But just in case you’re curious, here’s a little update on ballet life lately…

That soreness you may or may not have been missing from this electronic journal?  Oh, it’s there.  Hansel & Gretel is well underway, and if you’ve never scurried across an entire stage on your knees, butt-scooted away from unidentified creatures for an entire scene or scrambled around like a terrified turkey to the sound of thunder crashing multiple times in one show, let me tell you- it hurts.  Dancing a playful, young, scared, brave, timid, triumphant little girl will do quite a number on your body (and mind), especially when you get to do it in the remarkably difficult style of Ilya Kozadayev.  His is such a musical, smooth, and balanced style of movement that feels so satisfying to perform- but not without a week or two of bruised armpits and skinned knees (sexy, isn’t it?).

Making my back ache and my brain work is Viktor Plotnikov’s new multimedia piece, a retelling of the Spanish play, The House of Bernarda Alba.  It’s a dark story, and though all of the “sisters” are supposed to be rather unattractive, I am known as the ugliest of them all.  There’s a hump on my back and a jealous fire in my heart, but dancing this familiar style with the added intrigue of a filming element (some portions of the ballet will feature acting scenes filmed in black and white and played on a moving screen over the stage) is a nice mix of comfort and change.  Not to say that Viktor’s work itself is in any way comfortable; Though the style feels more at home than most in my body after so many years, the break-dancing and shoulder-stands I’m doing feel no less arduous than they sound.

In stark contrast, Gino DiMarco’s Lady of the Camellias is bright and balletic and complete with parties for dancing and gossiping and all of those fun things you do in a french ballet.  I suppose it’s also riddled with illness and adultery and death…but let’s ignore that a moment, shall we?

Also making its way to and from the studio on the daily is my enormous informational history book!  Pictured above in all of its 800-page glory, this thing is pretty darn serious.  It’s chock-full of (extremely detailed) anecdotes about the founding of America, and after this course I’m expecting to be an expert on the subject.  My father will be proud.

And there you have it!  These days I’m doing lots of class en pointe, rehearsal on flat, homework and Whole Dancer worksheets.  So in case you were starting to think my life consisted entirely of hot chocolate, baby’s breath and snowday strolls…just an update.

building the house

FullSizeRender 16

I crank open the back door at the 4th Street entrance and creep into FBP into a day for which, it turns out, I am emotionally underprepared.  I’m standing in the green room, but black seems a more fitting color to describe the building on this particular Sunday.  The fluorescents have been cut, dark curtains hang over the windows and a single glowing boom reflects in the glassy marly floor like the moon on a midnight river.

IMG_1538

Jaime kneels, blonde hair and ruffled black dress leeching her soaked face and body.  In the frame, silk trills of water weep down her mascara-inked cheeks as she stares blankly ahead.  What I see that the camera does not: the plastic pool in which Jaime has knelt to keep the floor from flooding, Viktor Plotnikov– watering can in hand- playing special effects manager, and Shaun Clark working his directional magic behind the lens.

IMG_1539

Moments later I find myself in a living oil painting, a canvas of white linen dresses wrapping up a family portrait in the wake of tragedy.  The fifth sister missing, four girls and a grandmother’s audible tears stain the page and screen, while an oppressive mother’s mourning fumes in the foreground.  Behind her, we do not weep; we wail.

IMG_1237IMG_1558

Undoubtedly one of the darkest days of my career, the preliminary filming for a new Plotnikov project has me anxious for the start of Season 38.  In the meantime, I will do my homework.

IMG_1550 2

Fifth photo by Alex Lantz, the rest by me.

press play

What an incredible, transformative experience it was to dance Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma.  I ranted so much about the ballet when we were rehearsing, staging and performing it, I thought some of you may be interested in seeing the small compilation of excerpts released by FBP shortly after the show.  It truly does not do the ballet justice the way seeing it in person would, but it does offer a nice peek at the strange beauty of Viktor’s style as well as the intense darkness of this particular work.  I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed dancing it!