Tag Archives: YDF goes to NYC

A Melancholy Goodbye to You, New York

30 Jun

Since I already reviewed one Swan Lake, I won’t rehash it all here, but I would like to write about some of the interesting points about the performances of Polina Semionova and David Hallberg, as well as combine that with some closing thoughts about everything that has happened for me in New York.

First of all, Semionova is just incredible. Her lyricism is astounding and the tempo was so slow for her Odette it seemed to take an eternity in the best possible way. It’s so challenging to have the patience to fill the music for adagio and Semionova is one of the best that I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. Her Odette is one hundred percent beauty, a flawless creature sculpted of silk and diamonds, and I love her detailing, like how she crossed her wrists in the partnered pirouettes to create beautiful shapes and frame her face. The purity of her Odette is so believable that the idea that she becomes heartbroken over Siegfried’s infidelity makes a lot of sense. I think that’s also a large part of what makes her partnership with Hallberg work for this ballet because he too is so divine. What I found fascinating was how they played this out in the black swan pas de deux, where he seemed almost aloof in his transfixion of her, as if in a hypnotic state. Odile can be danced as a very seductive character, which essentially puts the blame on Siegfried for falling for the doppelganger scam, but when she’s danced as more of an enchantress who bewitches him, in a sense, he remains a paragon of virtue. It really works for this pairing because Semionova’s Odile is a very powerful character. The chemistry between them is subtle and yet dazzling for what has to be one of the most elegant couples performing in ballet today.

Meanwhile, there really isn’t anything I can say about Hallberg that hasn’t already been said but he is magnificent. The lightness, the ease of movement, and the sheer perfection of line—he is a classic classical classicist, and an absolute joy to watch. His Siegfried was reserved, almost quiet, and I loved how he showed us this in facial expression but also his body. The way he moves is consistent with how he portrays the character, and I’ll never tire of the way he presents his foot in a croisé devant, with his legendary feet so beautifully turned out you can hardly believe it’s real! What I also really love about Hallberg is that he doesn’t always do an extra beat in a cabriole or turn like a tornado (though he really went for it in this performance!), but he makes the simple things, like a grand jeté look so easy that your heart practically explodes. The magic of his stage presence is told in subtleties and though I’ve learned a great deal about his versatility, delighting in his mighty Oberon and maniacal Kaschei, Siegfried definitely highlights this quality the most. When he leapt off the cliff at the very end, in a perfectly prone position with one arm raised to the sky, not only are you heartbroken over the tragedy between him and Odette, but you grieve for beauty that was just lost to the world.

Though I would say that I enjoyed Wednesday night’s cast more, I did find Semionova/Hallberg eye opening and am so glad I was able to see them. As satisfied as I am with the whole experience, I’m also devastated to be leaving after what felt like not nearly enough time. I don’t like to base my happiness purely on a location, but the more I see and learn about ballet the harder it is to be out of proximity from a large company that regularly performs the classical repertory. This is not to say that I want to see Sleeping Beauty seven times every season, but I’ve realized how important it is for me to have more exposure to ballet in order to feel alive. I can almost feel the possibilities swarming around me in New York, and while they remain invisible to me their presence remains comforting. Still, it’s going to hurt to be torn away from this feeling, and even though I’ve known this all along, I really have to admit out loud (or rather, in writing) that a life without ballet at the forefront of it is no life for me.

It’s funny that a vacation is meant to relax and rejuvenate, but it’s not often one can say that they were a better person because of it, and in my final moments here in New York, I can say that I truly am. I never dreamt that I would learn so much about myself, along with my fears, my goals, and my readers, some of which I’ve had the great pleasure and fortune to have now met in person. I honestly haven’t been this happy in years—not since I was dancing like crazy at Ohio State University and it’s amazing how inspired and so damn happy I feel because the last time I can recall this kind of bliss was so long ago. I hesitate to claim to know what this all means because ever since I discovered ballet for myself I’ve felt like I’ve been in a perpetual state of trying to discern my purpose in life, and at some point, New York is going to have to be a bigger part of it. However, until I can figure out how I can even have a chance to be successful doing whatever it is I’m supposed to do, it’s back to reality, and although I hate to return to the chilling zephyrs of Cascadia, I do have unfinished business in Seattle. While it pains me that my head is one place and my heart another, the truth is that I don’t know the dance community in New York, and Seattle offers me the best chance at finishing my first choreographic work as well. The even sadder truth is that I really don’t have the credibility (or money) to accomplish anything in the city of my dreams, so until I’m apt to, I have to fight for it.

However, I promise that I will be back. Things have changed within me and though I don’t know how I’m going to make things happen, I’m ready and might even have enough confidence to figure it all out. Thank you all for reading and I hope this special New York series was illuminating and enjoyable for you. It’s back to the Emerald City with me!

Step by Step

29 Jun

Though New York has been filled with great fun, not every experience has been easy. I briefly wrote about taking my first class at Steps on Broadway, and feeling like my legs were stuck in a tar pi pretty much sums it up. The last time I had to change studios and teachers was when I moved from Columbus, Ohio to Seattle, Washington and in retrospect, that transition wasn’t pretty either. I went from not having danced in a year, to taking an open class at PNB taught by Peter Boal! Though nobody was the wiser, my Seattle debut isn’t exactly the fondest dancing memory I have, and neither is my memory of my first class in New York. Clearly, this is just my burden to bear in life, to royally freak out the first time around and have things become easier at a gradual pace. I’m now at a comfort level where taking class at Steps isn’t so frightening, and I can actually absorb the information and corrections the various faculty members give in class.

My encounters with the teachers at Steps have been nothing short of awesome, and exactly what I needed. Sometimes when you take class from the same teachers you don’t realize how accustomed you are to their teaching styles and preferred combinations. Part of informing our bodies as students of dance means that muscle memory plays an increasingly important role, and I’m willing to bet that subconsciously, your body can already piece together any combination of exercises as the teacher is giving it because it can recognize something familiar. Taking from different instructors presents the necessary challenge of almost re-teaching your body to move. I took class with four different teachers and it seemed as though each time I had to “reset” myself, the next time I had to do it wasn’t as hard. That’s like a real learning skill right there, and for those of us who struggle with fast-paced adaptability, the way to work on it is to put yourself in that situation and do it.

For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of taking a Steps class, but dream of doing it as I did, you might be interested in hearing some specifics about the teachers I took with (especially because the levels at Steps are loosely defined and it can be daunting to categorize oneself). I found Nancy Bielski’s “Adv Int Pro” class to be the hardest for me. Her barre is thorough, comprehensive, and fabulous for giving your body a great workout. Her center combinations were also quite challenging, with the allegros including fast footwork and many tricky changes of direction. Obviously, I had a lot of trouble with this because those quick changes require a great deal of strength to resist letting your momentum take over. For example, consider a series of brisés that travel forward, but then on the third and fourth, go into brisé volé—that’s hard! You have the force of the two preceding brisés behind you and then you have to somehow put the breaks on so you can volé, but with no pause in between. I even like brisé volé but in this series it’s a more of a beast than usual. She’s also not afraid to give a fair amount of entrechat sixes either, which I find to be miserable because my left leg hates them. So if you want to be seriously challenged, rise up!

ABT soloist Craig Salstein teaches “Adv Pro” one day a week, and I absolutely loved his class. Now that I know on occasion I can be an emotionally volatile dancer, it’s a relief to take from someone who teaches well and has a massive sense of humor. Though he has what I call the “Alina Cojocaru eyebrows” that tend to make one look worried all the time, he is a funny guy, who will sing nonsense at barre, and make off kilter comments that had me laughing on the inside. At first I almost wasn’t sure if he was being serious or just had really subtle comedic timing, but as the class went on he definitely got more daring with the jokes. There really is something to be said for dancing better when you’re having a great time, and Salstein’s class can also be the perfect remedy for a Monday morning, when you’re spiteful that the weekend is over or you simply feel like crap because it’s Monday. At any rate, class was going fairly well until horror of all horrors, he asked for the men to do double tours. Like the entrechat six, double tours are an arch nemesis for me because they require so much core strength and a tightly balanced fifth position of the legs. So I opted for singles (even though those freak me out too), and wobbled like a school project made out of toothpicks and marshmallows. I survived though, and I wish every Monday morning could be that much fun!

I did take the infamous Willie Burmann class, and the first time around was like landing on alien planet. He’s very brief with his instructions at barre, and it’s almost like a secret language he uses to give instructions but people do learn, and after a few rounds even I found that things were beginning to make more sense and be familiar. I love his barre—it’s unusual, uses movements that you’re familiar with but in unique sequences and ways that you’d never think of. I think he has a great knowledge of anatomy as well and a lot of what he corrects seems to be based on placement. Simply put, he has a fantastic eye, and even with a shirt tied around my waist he could tell that there was some monkey business going on with my left side, so he pulled on it to get me to feel length on the left side of my back and feel my tendu to the back coming from underneath me. What I also love about Burmann’s class is his musicality—he’s very picky that center combinations are executed to the rhythms that he gives them too, and not even the pianist is allowed to get away with deviating! In short, everything they say about Burmann is true and I have learned an astonishing amount from him in just a few classes.

Victoria Simon (a Balanchine repetiteur) subbed for Burmann a couple of days and she gives a great class as well. She’s quite good at describing what she wants to see, in a way that makes so much sense you can’t help but do it. Her class is relaxing and almost spiritual in a way that puts you in a good place to dance with your mind and body (coincidentally, she wears all white when she teaches!). She too has the eye for details, and especially when they relate to articulation of the feet. I didn’t think the allegros were the hardest—though I messed them up anyway by moving on the wrong beat, and it’s really good for anyone’s training to experience a new way of feeling a particular rhythm. Overall I found her class quite enjoyable, and she’s very good at scanning the studio, zeroing in on things that could use work, and addressing them. For a drop in class you don’t always expect that a teacher will pay attention to you, but she fixed my port de bras the first day within minutes of pliés at barre! As a complete stranger that she may never see again she really had no obligation to do anything for me, but I’m so grateful that she imparted several bits of wisdom.

The quality of instruction and vibe at Steps are simply wonderful. I can’t tell you how great it felt to be surrounded by people dedicated to the art of ballet, even though I was too shy to really speak to anyone. I so wish I had more time, but I’m looking forward to my last class before catching my plane tomorrow evening. From scared out of my mind to excited to come back, it’s been one hell of a week at Steps!

My first ‘Swan Lake’

27 Jun

Now that my pulse has returned to normal, I think I can write a competent review of American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake. The Wednesday evening cast had Gillian Murphy in the dual role of Odette/Odile and Marcelo Gomes as Siegfried. Though I had some idea of what to expect having watched the dress rehearsal, I didn’t expect myself to get so caught up in the whole spectacle! By the end of their white swan pas de deux there may have been a tear in my eye, by the end of the third act I had already forgotten about some of the things I don’t like about Kevin McKenzie’s particular production, and by the fourth I was a few blips away from a heart attack. In short, I had a blast and Gillian and Marcelo absolutely killed it. I sort of hate the crudeness of that phrase, but I can’t think of a better way to describe the magic that happened on stage in the Metropolitan Opera House.

Since I prefer to talk about good things, I’m going to keep all the complaints to this one paragraph and be done with it so I can rave like a lunatic. I still don’t like the blatancy of McKenzie’s staging, and feel the prologue where you see von Rothbart transform Odette ruins a few things like her entrance in Act II, where you don’t see her change from a swan into a human but it’s symbolized by a single leap in flight. It’s a much more poetic entrance, and even von Rothbart’s entrance as a human sorcerer in the third act has more excitement and drama than what we see in the prologue (seriously, ask the music). There’s also a lot of choreography during the overtures which I didn’t like because the overtures are in fact a part of the experience of going to the ballet—they offer a reprieve from the action, a moment to absorb the music and even process what you’ve seen or are about to see. It almost felt like McKenzie was trying to add to the story, but the result was a ballet super-saturated with superfluous dance. I appreciate that he wanted to develop the plot, but I wish he picked elements that would actually contribute, and choreographed in a way that was more than just haphazardly stringing steps together because some of the corps patterns and pas de trois work had me constantly wondering what I was supposed to be directing my attention to. And choreography has to be more than just a sequence of steps that hits the obvious accents, because the art of phrasing necessitates more thoughtfulness. Also, I like a tragic end so the apotheosis where Odette and Siegfried are reunited in heaven is questionable for me, not to mention the fact that we see that after an excruciatingly long death scene for von Rothbart. I would be happy to see the suicide leaps simply be the end!

Meanwhile, I’m ambivalent about the maypole in Act I. I wasn’t bothered by it, but I would like to point out that Frederick Ashton’s use of a maypole in La Fille mal Gardée is far superior in every respect. I helps that ribbons are a motif in La Fille, but Ashton’s use of it has more charm and creativity in weaving it together. So, I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that ABT should do La Fille. Last week I had a chance to speak with Ashtonians Karen Eliot and David Vaughan (author of Frederick Ashton and his Ballets and the companion website, the Ashton Archive), who both agree the company would be lovely in La Fille.

But I digress—the dancing throughout Swan Lake tonight was superb by the entire cast. Gillian was especially bewildering and I was quite moved by her Odette. I know many like their Odette’s fragile, but Gillian’s has a bit of diva in her and sometimes it’s nice to see an Odette that gives some meaning to her title as Queen of the Swans. She still gave us delicacy, but I enjoyed seeing that melt away as her pas de deux with Siegfried continued, as if her trust in him were blooming in front of our eyes. She of course delivered the fireworks in style as Odile, capitalized by one of the most inconceivable series of fouettés I’ve ever seen. I can’t even begin to describe how difficult it is to coordinate moving your arms WHILE pirouetting, but to give some idea, dancers center pirouettes by supporting themselves with their backs, which is also where arm movements must originate. Many people instinctively move their arms from their shoulders, but in ballet this looks superficial and can also make the torso appear very stiff. However, somehow Gillian has figured this all out and can do a moving port de bras a la seconde while turning, and the effect is breathtaking. I remember seeing her try this in a video from the Vail Festival, and thought she was just sort of fooling around, but she’s obviously perfected it and bravely did it tonight in her only Swan Lake this season (alternating them with triple pirouettes of course). While I’ve aligned myself in the school of thought that believes things that already have a name need not be named again (I’m looking at you “B-plus,” aka, “attitude a terre”), these should be called “Murphy turns.” (seen at 0:21 below)

I have to say that after seeing her voluptuous, Renaissance Titania, and now her exciting Odette/Odile, I have fallen in love with Gillian Murphy. She has a wild side and I can’t get enough of it! When Odile has the audience in the palm of her hand, tricking Siegfried is almost an afterthought.

As for Siegfried—what can I say about Marcelo? Oh, that he’s a gracious partner, has fabulous technique (the way he rolls through his feet when coming down from relevé in his Act I solos is DIVINE and highly underappreciated), the finest of acting skills, and a million dollar smile. I’m pretty sure even all that isn’t enough praise, but it’s impossible to not love it when someone dances their heart out. It’s such an appropriate quality to have as Siegfried because with just the right amount of naïveté it makes the idea of love at first sight believable, which is crucial for his first encounter with Odette. The same characteristic can be magnified to become tempestuous and foolhardy, making the scam Odile and von Rothbart pull off on him also authentic. Sure, Siegfried is a chump, but you do empathize with him because we’ve all had a taste of deception in our lives and know how horrid and bitter it is. Thus, Marcelo’s Siegfried is one we can easily forgive in Act IV, which succeeds in only intensifying Odette’s amnesty. It’s dangerously close to being more drama than the soul can handle, but despite my aversion for vulnerability, precariousness, and the pearly gates of Heaven, it’s an adventure worth dying for.

With only one more Swan Lake that I’ll be attending on Friday, the end of my time in New York looms on the horizon. Still, milestones have been achieved and I am happy to report that yes, I waited by the stage door to meet Marcelo and present him with a small gift, in person this time. This also proved to be a near-death experience when at one point while waiting, Catherine and I turned around to screams of young girls, finding ourselves practically swimming upstream in a stampeding horde of budding ballerinas. Still, what a treat for them to see their idols! Though Gillian was mobbed for what seemed like ages, she took her time for pictures and autographs. I patiently waited my turn to see Marcelo, because A. I’m not a teenage girl and B. I don’t need pictures or autographs (the stage door is in the parking garage and who even wants to be photographed in a subterranean dungeon with fluorescent lighting?). For me, the memories are enough and a great performance from a dancer is like a gift—they literally give themselves to us on the stage, which is why I felt the need to give back. Obviously, I avoided doing it in person the first couple of times, but I was almost mad at myself for being such a scaredy-cat. I’m almost thirty for crying out loud, I can’t have the same fear equivalent of a baby bunny! Wounding my own pride may have done the trick though because I was determined (and stubborn enough) to get over it, and so I did. I gave him his gift, had a lovely conversation, and he was incredibly gracious. Best of all, I didn’t feel crazy or stupid, and with Catherine as my witness, I got a hug!

It’s hard to believe that almost a year ago I had written “An Open Letter to Famous Dancers” and it’s even harder to believe I might’ve just achieved freedom from my fears. It appears as though many gifts went around tonight!

Live from Lincoln Center…

27 Jun

…it’s me.

I thought it might be fun to write a post from the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts, so here I am next to the Metropolitan Opera House (where ABT’s Wednesday matinee of Swan Lake just so happens to be going on), writing this here blog. I had a little bit of time to check out the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, and one of my missions for this trip was to watch some archival footage. Nowhere else would I be able to see a full recording of Violette Verdy in Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux and see it I did! The entire collections here are much too vast, and any dance researcher could spend a lifetime here trying to see it all. As annoyed as I am that I can’t take materials home, it is pretty amazing that these materials are available to the public. Going to the library isn’t just for students/teachers/researchers people–one can easily come here to just watch some amazing ballets for fun!

First, I selected two Tchai Pas with Verdy, partnered in one by Edward Villella and the other by Helgi Tomasson. It’s almost unfair that anyone has to go without seeing a performance of Verdy, who radiates more joy than any dancer I’ve ever seen. Even in blurry old films you can see her charisma, the purity of her technique, and her incredible musicality. There were so many moments of subtle playfulness, as if she were teasing the music with her hands and feet. Now Verdy didn’t have super high legs in various extensions, but it hardly mattered because when the leg is just above the waist in a la seconde for example, you actually get to see the whole torso and face! Imagine that! And when it comes to Verdy, trust me when I say you want to see her upper body in entirety! Of course you want to see her feet and legs as well (not many dancers will do a flying leap into each of their piqué turns), but really it’s the whole picture that made her performances so special, and makes the idea of bemoaning the lack of artistry today a legitimate thing.

Both Villella and Tomasson were quite good, energetic, and wonderful partners. I believe it was the Villella video though where I saw some steps in his variation and coda that I had never seen before. There was an entrechat six de volé en tournant (which, if you don’t know ballet steps very well is as beastly as it sounds), and when he did a series of grand jetés in a circle, rather than insert one turn in between, there were two, which seemed to add excitement and speed. I’m fascinated by the idea that Balanchine had so many ideas for seldomly seen steps and also how his tastes evolved over time to incorporate them more into his vocabulary or never used them again. Having the opportunity to see these performances on film though, was everything and more than what I wanted, and I’m still basking in the glow of Verdy’s charm and wit, sparkling through decades to move and inspire me today.

Seeing as how I had to prioritize with what precious time I have, my other selection was Sir Frederick Ashton’s Symphonic Variations, in a Granada film featuring Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell, Ann Jenner, Gary Sherwood, Jennifer Penney, and Michael Coleman. I had seen an all-too-brief clip of it from a documentary fragment posted on YouTube, and am so fortunate to have found it at the library because the performance is simply breathtaking. What was immediately noticable to me was the slower tempo at the beginning, with softer lines and patience. Contemporary performances seem to accent the music a bit sharper, but what I loved about this one was that the softness allowed for a gradual build towards more succinct lines by the end. You almost don’t notice how it almost carves itself out of its own form, and polishes to an even more lustrous shine before your eyes. If only this were commercially available, it would be such a definitive performance of this work (though, I’m still bitter enough to remind you that NO staging of Symphonic Variations is commercially available, so to label this one of the finest isn’t really valid I suppose).

For anyone who gets a chance to see this film, what was also made so clear was the often discussed partnership between Sibley and Dowell. When the two dancers themselves have discussed it in documentaries they often mention how the proportions between them were perfect–how she, in reaching for his arm would always meet it at just the right distance, etc. Perfection being the key word, you see it many times throughout the film. There’s a pose where Dowell perches Sibley in an arabesque, and when she tilts her head backwards it rests perfectly on his shoulder, and when she frames his face with her arm the picture is flawless. Even the length of their limbs are just in perfect harmony throughout, and against Sophie Fedorovitch’s winding backdrop of wavy patterned lines the effect is stunning. Though Symphonic is indeed abstract and often praised for its luminous sanctity, I saw more story in it today than I had in previous viewings of film as well as live with San Francisco Ballet.

The best I can do is relay the original clip I saw, so enjoy this for now, and remember to make a trip to the NYPL at least once in your lifetime!

Behind the scenes at ABT’s ‘Swan Lake’

26 Jun

(Well, not literally behind the scenes as in backstage.)

There’s nothing like having the opportunity to observe the process that produces the final product and attending the dress rehearsal for American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake was pretty damn sweet. I purchased the incredibly inexpensive ticket through an exclusive deal for Mastercard holders, and first of all, the seats ended up being in the parterre section, which at the Metropolitan Opera House are the prime seats that cost way more than I could ever afford! So in addition to seeing how a high caliber ballet company rehearses, I also got to feel what it would be like to have buckets of money and splurge on the best that money can buy. Well, maybe quasi-best because I could have done without the tall lady in front of me (or the crabby one to her left), but I was too excited to be really bothered by it. Second, I got to share the experience with friends and readers, which—like Mastercard so often tells us—is something priceless. Lastly, as an added bonus, while Denise took a picture of Robin and I standing in front of the Swan Lake poster in front of the MET, David Hallberg was taking a picture of the Corsaire poster right behind us! David Hallberg! In street clothes!

Anyway, the average person may not know what a dress rehearsal looks like so I’ll try to paint a picture. The sets are of course up, though there is no full orchestra—only the conductor and pianist. Some of the dancers are in regular warm up clothes, some are half in costume, others in full costume. Lighting is more or less there, though the technicians fiddle with it from time to time to make sure everything is in working order. The artistic director and ballet mistress sit smack dab in the middle of the orchestra section, speaking into microphones to fine tune several details. Sometimes the action stops to correct an error, sometimes the show goes on. For ABT, pausing meant that on a few occasions they would switch the principal cast members briefly to give them an opportunity to find their bearings on the stage. For the most part, the audience saw the young pairing of Isabella Boylston and Daniil Simkin, set to make their debuts as Odette/Odile and Siegfried respectively on Wednesday, while Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes were listed to perform the fourth act.

Though the fabulousness overload was indeed a treat, what I found incredibly fascinating was the difference between the veterans and the newcomers. For Murphy/Gomes, they’ve done this rodeo a great many times and the experience shows. For Boylston/Simkin, the talent is all there but the maturity isn’t, though I don’t mean that to be interpreted negatively. It’s generally touted to be one of the ballet dancer’s greatest achievements to dance the lead in Swan Lake, and with it comes tremendous pressure from outside and within. There’s nothing heavier than bearing the weight of a historical tradition, because of the numerous responsibilities to uphold it. Rehearsal was really just business as usual with a couple of bumps along the road, so there’s nothing dramatic to report. I think it’s fair to expect that their debut may not be Earth-shattering, but these things take time and I’d venture to say that for the majority of dancers, their first Swan Lake is never the one they’re happiest with. Youth seems to be on their side too, because it definitely brings something fresh to a warhorse classic. After all, the easiest way to give Swan Lake a quick makeover is to simply put new dancers in it.

Inevitably, one of my favorite things about rehearsals is when things go wrong—though not “bad” wrong—like when they started to rehearse Act IV and Marcelo came out to find that Isabella was perched on the lakeside cliff as his Odette. Hilarity ensued when Marcelo went to get Daniil, who, already half out of costume was sure it was a mistake. Eventually Gillian showed up, and the image of two Odettes posing on the cliff, with two Siegfrieds laughing is one that will remain permanently etched in my memories. Now, about that cliff though…in many Swan Lakes any combination of Odette or Siegfried and both of the above will make a suicide jump into the lake, and it appeared as though it was in fact, Isabella and Daniil’s first time actually getting to do the fateful vault. Isabella seemed tentative—after all, dancers are used to landing on their feet so landing prone on a mat isn’t exactly a comfortable idea. Both she and Daniil made attempt after attempt, and while he played around with it, unafraid of a little silliness, it’s definitely harder for her because if his jump isn’t perfect, he can get away with it, but you know the swan’s dive is expected to look graceful. I suppose one need not look further than Marcelo’s dive, which has all the drama and passion a Swan Lake could handle.

Exhibit A:

(Photo ©Rosalie O’Connor)

However, where there’s a wrong, there’s always a right, and as an added bonus we were treated to Gillian and Marcelo’s white swan pas de deux, and a black swan pas de deux from Polina and David. Both couples were marvelous (the more I see of Gillian Murphy the more I like her), and I was in awe of Polina—the command she has over her technique is astonishing and I can’t wait to see her take on the full story for her Friday evening performance. Though there are still production elements and choreographic motifs that I disagree with throughout Kevin McKenzie’s staging, I do think his Act III is wonderful, and will provide a perfect atmosphere for any exceptional Odile like Polina. I’m also interested to see how Gillian has changed over the years since Swan Lake was filmed, as I think she was a bit rawer (yes, that’s a word, and yes, you totally said “rawr” in your head just now) at the time. Though I love her fearlessness, the preview she gave as Odette in the rehearsals were very promising that she has found more refinement.

Overall, the experience was well worth it and has set me up to enjoy some really exciting Swan Lake performances this week. I won’t get to see Boylston/Simkin, but I’ll be on the edge of my seat waiting to read the reviews. Apparently tickets for all performances are selling like mad (the box office employee said that even employees aren’t able to get discount tickets for themselves now) so I expect nearly full houses and a wild audience. It’s now really starting to hit me that Wednesday will be my first live Swan Lake ever, and with the excitement and anxiety starting to build, I’m beginning to worry it might be my last! I hope the paramedics will be at the ready…

Oh Raymonda…

24 Jun

For some reason it completely escaped me that the Bolshoi Ballet’s production of Raymonda streamed live today and luckily, I was able to attend with fellow balletomanes Catherine and Ryan. Though I’ve seen some ballet in cinema it was never live so this was something of a new experience for me. To be honest I’ve become somewhat disillusioned to Russian ballet over the past couple of years as my preference for the English style has grown, but deep down I knew I had to give it another chance. After falling in love with true story ballets my problem with the imperial Russian full-lengths was that the narratives were simply too weak to hold my attention—which hasn’t changed. However, even I must admit that I haven’t always been open minded in my assessments and resigned myself to at least enjoying the beauty and sheer opulence of a Bolshoi production. Dancing in the Bolshoi theatre has got to make a dancer feel like a million bucks! Such confidence may even inspire one to don a Pikachu costume backstage…

Now having seen it, I can’t say Raymonda is a masterpiece, and being his last ballet it almost felt like a formulaic retrospective of some of his successes rather than a ballet that stands on its own. With a wedding like Sleeping Beauty, national dances like Swan Lake, exoticism like La Bayadère, and possibly more that I’m obviously not aware of, Raymonda is a Petipa pot pie, with a filling derivative of his own work. This current Bolshoi production has choreography that follows a lineage from Petipa through Alexander Gorsky, and now Yuri Grigorovich who staged this production in 2003. Alexander Glazunov composed the score with specifications from Petipa himself, and the result is everything you can expect from classical Russian ballet—ceremonious and LONG. There is a great deal of beautiful dancing, and if there’s one thing I definitely give the Russians credit for is how they can mechanize a flawlessly synchronized corps de ballet. However, conventional issues with classical ballet aside, I cannot in good conscience, overlook the excessive racism in this production of Raymonda.

The story goes (and this won’t make any sense) is that Raymonda is betrothed to the knight Jean de Brienne, who sets off on a quest. In his absence, Raymonda has a dream about him, but also a mysterious figure that later appears at her birthday party. That would be Abherakhman, a Saracen knight (Saracen being another term for Arab), who oddly enough was invited by the Countess Sybil de Daurice who is throwing the party for her niece, Raymonda. Abherakhman falls in love with Raymonda upon first sight, tries to win her over, she rejects him, and he tries to abduct her. At that precise moment, Jean de Brienne returns, duels with Abherakhman and kills him, thus saving her. Then there’s a wedding, the end. As if that wasn’t bad enough Abherakhman has the most horrendous makeup, painted with exaggerated features and ghoulishly ashen skin that make him look certifiably insane. He also has an entourage with him, all dressed in fairly stereotypical Middle Eastern garb, including a pair in…purpleface? The other dancers were clearly bronzed beyond recognition as well, but there was in fact a couple painted in purple. The “lively character dances” they did were just as superficial and the overall effect is as horrifying as it sounds. Yes, we are far more politically correct now than when Raymonda debuted in 1898, which is precisely why care should be taken to revise a ballet to fit a more appropriate cultural context. Perhaps certain liberties would be too drastic a deviation from the libretto, but “purpleface”?! Really?! And why must Abherakhman be portrayed like he’s maniacal? The character dances are horrendous, and make no attempt to hide the contrast between that and the classical steps as performed by the French royalty (and the fact that during that scene both Jean de Brienne and Raymonda are dressed in pure white doesn’t exactly help the cause). Though plot is already irrelevant anyway, the idea that as soon as Jean de Brienne arrives, the first thing he and his unit of knights do is attack Abherakhman and his people also disturbed me. It’s difficult to imagine that even almost ten years ago, anyone thought this was a good idea, and that nobody has had the good sense to suggest some editing!

However, it’s not just the blatant racism that incites the “facepalm”—many of the costumes are quite awful throughout, with some lowlights being the helmets of the French knights (oddly reminiscent of the tinfoil variety donned by characters from M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Signs’), the shattered glass patterns on the costumes of the Hungarian dancers, and the decrepit blue tutu Raymonda wears to her own wedding (yes, a blue tutu). Now we’ve moved from “facepalm” to “facepalmheaddesk” territory. Could it get worse? A bit. Though most of the choreography is stock, Abherakhman does a number of aerial somersaults during many of his dances in Act II. The complaints that ballet has become too acrobatic and gymnastic are obviously valid!

Though there was much to my dismay, I did in fact enjoy a few things. Number one: Maria Alexandrova is marvelous. I love her strength and energy, which give her a certain vitality you don’t always see in Russian dancers who are often so lyrical. Her regality radiates throughout, and I enjoyed her well-rounded performance. Ruslan Skvortsov was alright as Jean de Brienne I suppose, though I fear the knight is a character that just won’t resonate with me. Pavel Dmitrichenko danced Abderakhman and…did what he was supposed to do? Then there’s the rest of the huge cast, which has a number of variations that highlight the depth of the Bolshoi, though it was difficult to keep up with the names of who’s who unless you already had some familiarity with the company. It almost doesn’t matter a great deal anyway because there’s no character that you can relate to or empathize with—not even Raymonda, who in many ways doesn’t seem to realize that she’s a woman who can do more than…well, absolutely nothing, except for run in front of Jean de Brienne and Abderakhman as they swordfight, which distracts the latter.

While Raymonda wasn’t my favorite use of three hours, I’m glad I went and I think simply accepting that the Russian tradition is what it is will help me enjoy future performances. However, something I did realize is that if the Bolshoi, for example, were to tour to a city near enough to me, I’d make the effort to see them for sure—but not multiple casts. After chatting about the issue for a bit with Catherine, I postulate that the diversity in companies such as ABT or the Royal Ballet is what makes seeing multiple casts so exciting, while some of the Russian companies and even the Paris Opera are less so, because physical standards are so much stricter for young dancers who enter their schools. Of course people still do it, and principals and soloists will always offer their own interpretations of featured roles, but perhaps the price of that clockwork corps de ballet is room for greater individuality. I shall think about that and report back, but for now, you can enjoy the entire broadcast of Raymonda here:

Reviewing Ratmansky’s ‘Firebird’

24 Jun

It’s bittersweet that ABT has now finished its all too brief run of The Dream, though repeated viewings with different casts were well worth it. Obviously this trip to New York has been filled with firsts, so seeing Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg live was of course a new experience. Coincidentally, when I took class this morning, Gillian did barre to warm up and left, so it was actually a neat experience to see her at work as a person, and then transform into a fairy queen. And not just any fairy queen—Gillian’s Titania has a wild side that deserves a new title I’d like to call “Divatania.” She has an energy and an aura in that role that made me love her the most of all three ballerinas I saw dance it. On that note, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Xiomara Reyes in the evening performance, who is softer in temperament, but had a little firepower too—when she shot an indignant glare towards Oberon after he tried to purloin her changeling, I only wished that Cory Stearns had given a more emphatic reaction. Stearns certainly has a majestic carriage, fine technique, and I think he can act too but I also felt that he may be unsure of where he wants to go with his interpretation of Oberon, perhaps beyond what he’s told to do with it. Watching Gomes last night was a lesson in attack and full out dancing at eighty-five million miles an hour, while David showed more contrast and really played with pushing and pulling the music in today’s matinee.

Some of the same dancers reprised roles from last night, though I was very pleased that I got to see Maria Riccetto, Stella Abrera, Sascha Radetsky, and Jared Matthews perform as the Lovers because they’ve clearly done it before and have polished the comedic timing to perfection. Also right on the funny money were both Craig Salstein and of course Herman Cornejo as Puck, the former showing a more raw interpretation with dynamism and speed, the latter the epitome of carefree and clever. Though Puck has sort of become the token substantial consolation role for the short dancer ever since Wayne Sleep originated it, to be honest I wouldn’t mind seeing Cornejo as Oberon. There’s something to be said for developing a conscious ability to present oneself in a way that is contrary to what people tend to think, and many times those who can tap into that are more successful. Tall dancers like Gomes, Hallberg, and Stearns may not even be aware of how their stature affects people’s perceptions of their dancing. I could go on, but I really do need to explain myself in regards to Alexei Ratmansky’s Firebird.

I tried to like it, in fact, I tried to like it three times. Unfortunately it never happened and I couldn’t bring myself to back the concept Ratmansky and the designers of the production had in mind. First off, the sets invoked images of deep sea tubeworms that proliferate around hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor (watch ‘Blue Planet’ on the Discovery Channel if you just failed to follow my geekery), and second the costumes made me think this Firebird was like some kind of collaborative production between the Muppets and Cirque du Soleil to perform Jewels—under the sea, teeming with ruby sea urchins, emerald jellyfish, and diamond…Elvises. I always say that those who try to be edgy or avant-garde inevitably fail because those are things you can’t try to be. Cirque du Soleil for example is known for similar costumes to the firebirds, but with much more innovative choreography and amazing acrobatics so it’s a concept that works, and the same look didn’t seem to highlight Ratmansky’s use of classical steps. Even the more modern stylized movements lacked purpose and the use of some repeated motifs didn’t really contribute to the story.

Oh the story…it hardly made any sense, and leaves you with so many unanswered questions I can’t even begin to ask them all.  The plot elements that are somewhat logical are either drawn out to fill the music, or are told in probably the last five minutes of the ballet. Essentially, Ivan wakes up alone in a room (we’re never told how or why), enters the tubeworm forest where he find firebirds, captures one who gives him a feather to summon her in a time of need. He then happens upon a group of maidens in green, recognizes one as his long lost love and tries to get her to remember. Enter the maniacal sorcerer Kaschei, controller of the maidens, and the conflict presents itself. Ivan summons the Firebird, there’s dancing, and then she reveals an egg that Ivan smashes to defeat Kaschei. The maidens reveal themselves in white gowns and blonde wigs, their long lost loves are freed from within the tubeworm trees and the starry people are jubilant. I actually found the ending quite beautiful, but most of the significant action literally takes place in the last few minutes when the meat of the story is revealed, but that’s after almost an hour of choreography that is stretched very thin. I’m rather shocked that this is in fact Ratmansky because it seems so unlike him and when I passed him in the theatre I almost wanted to ask: “what happened?”

The initial pas de deux where Ivan captures the Firebird didn’t convince me that she couldn’t get away from him, and even duets between Ivan and his lost Maiden didn’t illuminate any sort of romantic possibilities. Later there’s a quartet between Ivan, Firebird, Maiden, and Kaschei that moves through molasses and like much of the other sections in the ballet is too long and nonsensical. Still, the production isn’t entirely without merit but I fear that Ratmansky’s ballet relies entirely on casting. Isabella Boylston and Natalia Osipova were the two Firebirds I saw in three casts, and Boylston was lovely (the crowd was going wild for her), though Osipova had a certain kookiness that I found convincing. The role of the Firebird itself is oddly insignificant, and the Maiden isn’t really one I found relatable either. When Simone Messmer performed it, there was a moment at the end where she stripes off the green dress and hair net after Kaschei’s spell over her is broken, and she really tore off those clothes with shock and disgust, which was the first time I truly felt anything for the character. All three Ivans (Alexandre Hammoudi, Gomes, Cornejo) were fantastic, however, I did feel Herman was the most believable. I know some of you may be shocked because you think Marcelo gets the trump card but I’m not entirely without objective thought! While Gomes dances full out, Cornejo’s interpretation has such innocence and honesty that it really fits the image of a prince in white. Hallberg as Kaschei was deliciously maniacal and sinister, and it’s very gratifying to see him in a role that breaks the convention of him as such a regal, classical dancer. Again, though, Firebird can’t simply rely on the opportunity to see Hallberg go crazy…there has to be more substance than that and when the gimmick of the strange designs wears off, I didn’t feel the choreography really offered much substance.

While I appreciated the invested performances of the dancers in Firebird, and in some ways the fact that Ratmansky decided to take a risk and step outside of his comfort zone, but his Firebird simply isn’t for me. Maybe it was an error in programming to put something flawless like The Dream before it, because Firebird doesn’t tell the story with the same sort of wit and charm. What’s interesting though is I don’t know that it’s particularly controversial, though it does divide opinions rather easily. It’s hard for me to imagine this particular ballet as a masterpiece that will stand the test of time, though it will be fascinating to see how the audience reacts differently since it’s a joint commission for the Dutch National Ballet. For those who get that opportunity, I do encourage you to take my words with a grain of salt and see it for yourself before you join the club or discern for me what it is I’m missing!

Face Your Fear

22 Jun

I don’t know how one normally faces the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, but for me there was an astonishing amount of fear involved. By no means did I think ABT would disappoint—and they didn’t—just that even in reward there is still an element of fear. I liken it to graduating or winning a Nobel prize…on the day of the award ceremony all the work has already been done, but that doesn’t mean your stomach isn’t in knots leading up to the moment when you get that diploma or medal in your hands. Looking back on how difficult things have been in my personal life, from giving up on graduate school, forsaking what I spent years on studying as an undergraduate, to moving across the country with the hopes that I could learn more about dance completely on my own, to working myself to the bone so that I could eke out a living…it has all brought me to this day and I’ve decided that I had every right to fear it, out of sheer amazement that it did in fact happen. I can’t help but feel overwhelmed.

The day started out with a class at Steps on Broadway, yet another bulb on the string of lights that comprises the dancer’s rites of passage, and that was a somewhat rough experience. My expectations were that the class would be crowded and I’d fumble but manage to get through it, but I had no idea I’d freeze like a deer in the headlights! Sure, there were ABT principals who took barre standing right behind me, but I don’t think I was star-struck (having PNB dancers drop in on open classes in Seattle may have helped to desensitize me to it—over time). I think it came down to dancing in a new city, with a new teacher, with no friends in the class, which stripped me of a confidence that I wasn’t fully aware of, and despite what I told myself internally, my body responded to my emotions. It wasn’t pretty…dancing like a nervous wreck looks a lot like just that—a wreck, and it was so weird to feel like I was telling my legs to do one thing and not be able to feel them doing it! There are people who can will themselves to get through such things without a problem (we tend to call them professionals), but it certainly was a humbling reminder of the courage dancers summon every time they put themselves on stage for everyone to see. Interestingly enough, sometimes we may never know the extent to which a dancer rises to the occasion because they so often deliver what is demanded of them.

With that in mind, I can relay the wonderful news that ABT’s production of The Dream was perfection! And this comes from an Ashton enthusiast who watched the film of Anthony Dowell many, many, MANY times before today. Of course there are certain things that I would have preferred, but they were just that—a matter of preference. Overall, The Dream wove a spell that simply couldn’t be broken and I think Ashton smiled upon us tonight. I do enjoy that the Royal Ballet uses a children’s chorus for the vocal parts, which adds a certain charm to the fairy divertissement that contains Titania’s big solo—but I can easily live without it too. Also still missing is the kiss between Lysander and Demetrius during the lover’s confusion scene, reduced to just an emphatic hug, but again, something I can live without (I just think the kiss is funnier). The sets are beautiful and evocative, the costumes wonderful…everything was gorgeous. I couldn’t have asked for more, and I felt so transported into this fantasy that it didn’t even seem like I was watching a ballet anymore. There is something of a consensus among the Twitterfolk that Giselle is a ballet that ABT does incredibly well, and I’d like to submit that their staging of The Dream should be right up there too.

Casting was of course superb, and Marcelo Gomes’s Oberon is so brilliant and so devilishly cunning. Not that you need me to tell you, but everything they say about his acting skills is true, and his technique is also faultless. The make-or-break moment is of course the scherzo, and a few steps were altered from what Dowell originally did, though the choreography is so virtuosic it’s almost like a variation anyway. If I had to nitpick—and I really mean absolutely forced to do it—I did miss one little detail where at the end of Oberon’s first entrance, he does a pirouette and finishes it by diving forward into an immediate penché, a precarious move that could easily end in a faceplant. I had a teacher (she knows who she is) give us this death-defying stunt in class once and I remember my hands became well acquainted with the floor that day. Marcelo ended in an arabesque—something he happens to be very good at I might add, for those of you who have seen his Von Rothbart—but when all is said and done, I do prefer clean dancing and though the penché enhances a dramatic hit in the music and perhaps inflates Oberon’s ego, the effect isn’t entirely lost. In fact what I was most impressed with by Marcelo’s scherzo was how he wove in and out of the music, at times bending it to his will, highlighting his power as the king of the forest. During the manège of tour jetés en tournant, that tricky guy inserted an extra turn coming out of one of the jumps and somehow managed to find the time for an extra step in an already brisk dance.

Having watched The Dream every other day of my life you’d think I wouldn’t be surprised by anything, but seeing it live added such wonderful dimensions to my understanding of it. I used to think Oberon was just a selfish brat, but the way in which Marcelo simply spied on the lovers made me sympathetic towards him, because despite his power and regality, Oberon desires the love that Lysander and Hermia have for each other in effect, wanting to be human. One of the keys to great story ballets is characters we can relate to and although Oberon is mythical, we respond quite easily to the idea of quarreling with a lover, but beneath the surface we also respond to the jealousy and longing he feels. After all, despite his cruel prank on Titania, he does have a sense of justice in righting the wrongs between the four lovers. He could’ve easily left them to their own devices once he got what he wanted, but does in fact absolve their issues before his own. Watching it live also seemed to paint more hues into this watercolor of love, making it messy, wounded, repaired, confusing, imperfect, selfish, unreciprocated, manipulative, beautiful, and a slew of other adjectives that we all have used to describe love at one time or another. We see so much of ourselves in The Dream that it’s virtually impossible not to follow the story with incredible ease.

Meanwhile, Julie Kent was stunning as Titania, a picture of elegance with a hint of sass. Though I never doubted her talents, I feel lucky to now know why she is so beloved by the New York audience. Daniil Simkin was also a fun Puck to watch, with a wonderfully airy, playful quality. Simkin is so light on his feet I couldn’t hear a sound when he landed from a jump, and he is entirely believable as a slippery, wily elfin creature. Kenneth Easter was great as Bottom, and I enjoyed all four lovers immensely (Adrienne Schulte as Helena, Kristi Boone as Hermia, Gennadi Saveliev as Demetrius, and Roman Zhurbin as Lysander). Between the above roles and the four fairies Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Moth, and Mustardseed, I have to say that Ashton really did well to create such fine dancing roles, and incorporate them seamlessly into a one-act ballet, while giving so many the chance to shine. I think any accomplished dancer can be proud to dance any role in The Dream, and though the following generalization may come back to bite me in the ass someday, I also kind of think that it’s a ballet that would be difficult to look awful in. And just so we’re clear, I’m not looking to be proven wrong about this! With an obvious bias for the genius of Ashton, it’s how I felt leaving the opera house today.

As for Ratmansky’s Firebird…well, it ended up being essentially what I was afraid of and unfortunately I’m not one who enjoyed it, though a second viewing may (but probably won’t) change that. Still, I have reservations with writing about it in a euphoric state because I don’t want to end on a sour note. Already odd references to tube worms and a Muppets version of Balanchine’s Jewels (which, for the record, is an observation I made, in case Eric Taub steals it!) are invading my mind, so let us (well, at least me) dream of fairies tonight and I’ll talk Firebird tomorrow. Just to give a little snippet though, I did think Isabella Boylston was both impressive and enchanting.

So, good night, with lullaby.

-William Shakespeare

P.S. I did go to the stage door today, though I cheated and went after most of the dancers had left. I think I’m going to do it for real tomorrow!

Prologue

21 Jun

Well folks, you know what this post means—I’ve safely arrived in New York City! Little known fact, but I was actually born in Kingston, a small town about two hours north of Manhattan, and this is the first time I’ve set foot in New York since my parents moved us when I was a baby. It’s strange because I really have no connection to the city and yet it doesn’t feel off to me—I’d go as far to say that there’s something that feels so wonderfully right about being back in the Eastern Standard Time zone. Maybe it’s the humidity or the positioning of the blazing sun (producing an appropriately muggy, scorching summer day as I knew in Ohio. My lizard body is feeling right at home.), but when my plane touched down at JFK, it’s as if a piece of my heart fell out of my chest and buried itself into the ground. Whether it remains there forever or is nurtured into something far more majestic remains to be seen!

Though I didn’t see any dance shows today, I had a more than eventful enough first experience in traversing this most magnificent city. It’s a rite of passage every dancer or balletomane must go through to have a first day in New York, and mine was filled with some less than glamorous moments. To begin with, dragging luggage around the city wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had (especially in the ninety-something degree weather and in the jeans I wore on the plane from Seattle), and I quickly learned that not every station has escalators or elevators—that is, after I even figured out how to navigate the subway system in the first place! My friendhost Catherine got me into the city no problem with incredibly detailed directions, but I was on my own for a little while until she could escape from work. Enter friend Jennifer who showed me around, helped me find a luggage storage service via this wondrous device called an Eye-Phone (which I assume is called as such because you look into it instead of talk into it?), and we did a little shopping, a little eating, and a little Broadway lottery ticket collecting…attempting (we didn’t do so great here). I really am so lucky and so grateful to have friends/readers like Cat and Jen to help me out because without them I would’ve been eaten alive and never seen again. Even little things like crowds and people in proximity took me some time to get used to—at Starbucks I turned my head away from my computer to sneeze into my arm and ended up sneezing right onto a guy who was standing there. Not classy, not cute.

Still, I’m just loving it. I’m loving the challenge of being overwhelmed, of having so many options that it raises philosophical questions about how if New York truly has everything (and it does) than what do its residents actually need? But I digress. What my arrival to New York has taught me—or rather forced upon me—is a giant slice of humble pie. I’m not going to lie; seeing such incredible diversity and knowing what talent already exists here, I found myself having some doubts as to whether anything I do could ever stand out or contribute anything meaningful in the grand scheme of things. However, the vibrancy of New York has also filled me with hope and a belief that if one has the skill, the talent, and the luck to make great success happen, why not in New York? I’m only marginally closer to understanding what significance my obsession with ballet holds, but more and more I’m beginning to understand why New York has to be a part of developing that knowledge. Especially, the chance to connect with readers here—I’ve had some encounters in Seattle but it’s a community that largely enjoys contemporary dance, and there simply isn’t a strong (or at least strong enough for me) culture of ballet to immerse myself into. It’s interesting because while the Dance Critics Association conference also takes place in New York this weekend, I find myself relieved that I didn’t want to participate. Maybe I’m not professional enough to ever be a “legitimate” critic in the way a publication would want, but I enjoy taking pride in the decisions I make and one of them was to connect with my audience. While the DCA tackles larger issues in dance in panels with experts and serious discussions, I really would rather hang out with you…or you…or you. Even if it ends up being a handful of readers that I meet over the course of this trip, engaging my audience makes me feel like a better writer because of it. Having met a couple already, I already feel the rewards of knowing some of my readers as people.

Though my schedule will be chaotic in the upcoming days, I do plan on taking a class at Steps on Broadway tomorrow morning, meeting yet another reader for an afternoon hangout, and then finally seeing The Dream and Firebird in the evening. It may seem odd that I’d choose to take class and even blog over my vacation (both things that look a lot like work), but in addition to simply sharing a hopefully interesting set of stories, it was important for me to remind myself that humans have to live for art. It doesn’t matter if I sling pizzas for minimum wage (which I do, if you didn’t know)—I don’t feel alive without ballet in my life. This is why I dedicated some of my meager life’s savings to this trip because nothing is more human than to be moved by a work of art, and once a person finds the art that does, whether it be one genre or a myriad, it isn’t just worth pursuing, it’s necessary to. If we don’t live for the things we’re passionate about, than what are we living for? I said this on Twitter but think it pertinent to change the pronoun because I think it should be a shared mantra amongst dancers, and especially those that have to struggle in New York with inconsistent work, second (or third!) jobs, and worse: “We work to survive but we dance to live.” In a city where it seems like it’s already all been said and done, I offer that quote as a little gift to spark something positive in the world. It’s not something I expect people who don’t take the idea of being an artist as a career seriously to understand. Hell, it even took me what, twenty-eight years to really come to terms? I can only hope that it inspires any change in thinking, even if only a smidgen.

Meanwhile, Jennifer is trying to convince me to go to the stage door tomorrow to see Marcelo(!) and Julie…but the mere thought is already giving me ulcers and anxiety. If I weren’t so exhausted from a red-eye flight and getting lost in New York, I’d probably have insomnia too. But I don’t, and am ready to say “good night,” for the real adventures begin tomorrow. Thank you again, for reading as always—I know I haven’t been writing frequently but New York is already providing a lot of fuel for thought.

Here goes nothing! Or as those of us born under the sign of Aries like to say, “here goes everything!” (that and “ready, fire, aim!”)

P.S. I still can’t believe this is all happening!