ballet

A Future Ballet Dancer

This Humans of New York photo—and accompanying caption—made me smile:

Humans of New York

“I want to be a ballerina.”
“What’s the best part about being a ballerina?”
“Dancing.”
“What’s the hardest part about being a ballerina?”
“Dancing in front of people.”

I’d have to agree with her! Few things in life rival the joy I get from ballet. But working on a piece until it’s audience-ready takes lots of time and effort—both mental and physical, as you work out every tiny detail. And then you have to deal with the inevitable nerves that come once you’re onstage. It’s fun and rewarding, but really freaking hard!

Happy Friday!

(Photo via Humans of New York)

Nutcracker Memories

When it comes to Nutcracker, I feel like dancers, critics and dancegoers fall into one of two camps: You either love or loathe it.

I fall into the first category. I’m a sucker for most things holiday-related: twinkly lights draped all over the city, old-school Christmas carols playing at home, a pine tree in the corner of my living room—even freakin’ gingerbread lattes!

Given that, it’s probably no surprise that I love the Nutcracker, too. I’ll admit that I usually wish I could fast-forward through the party scene and skip to “Snow” and the pas de deux. And the embarrassingly outdated, stereotypical Land of Sweets characters make me cringe. But over the years, the Nutcracker has remained one of my most enduring holiday traditions. Over the past 31 years, no matter where I’ve been, or what was happening in my life, I’ve always been able to count on the familiarity and nostalgia of the Nutcracker, every Christmas season.

Like many kids, one of my earliest ballet memories was seeing City Ballet’s Nutcracker. I remember being amazed watching the tree grow, and seeing the Mouse King with his manyВ heads.

In years following, my mom also took me to New York Theatre Ballet‘s one-hour production for kids, and the Harlem Nutcracker.

As a college student, a group of friends and I saw Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker. A couple years later, while working at the Boston Herald and doing some dance writing, I had the opportunity to review Jose Mateo‘s Nutcracker. That same season, I watched Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker again—and thought their “Snow” choreography was the best I’d ever seen. (One reason I’d love to revisit that production.)

Boston Ballet's Nutcracker

When I moved back to NYC in fall 2006, one of my “welcome home”.gif"abt's nutcracker" href="http://www.abt.org/performances/nutcracker.asp" target="_blank">ABT’s Nutcracker on two different years—and really enjoyed Ratmansky’s fresh take on the ballet. (Like how Clara and her Nutcracker prince mirror Sugarplum and her cavalier, as they dance together in the snowy end of Act 1.)

ABT's Nutcracker

And with my own return to ballet, I’ve had the chance to perform “Snow” and “Flowers” during the last two Novembers. (We did both pieces in soft shoes, though I’d still love to dance them en pointe…)

waltz of the flowers

Last December, when I was in London, my parents surprised my best friend and me with tickets to see the Royal Ballet‘s Nutcracker. That evening at the Opera House was a big highlight of my quick trip.

royal opera house

Tonight, Evan and I are seeing City Ballet’s production. As a New Yorker, I’m a bit biased—Balanchine’s version has always remained my favorite.

NYCB Nutcracker

I was also surprised to learn that Evan has his own Nutcracker memories, about the same production. When he was a kid, his mom used to take him suit shopping, then to Houlihan’s for lunch, and then to City Ballet’s Nutcracker.

I’m excited to keep my—our—tradition going.

…now if only someone would please update the Land of Sweets! 😉

How Three Australian Ballet Dancers Prep Their Pointe Shoes

Pointe shoe prep

The other day I watched this video that’s been making its way around social: how dancers from the Australian Ballet prepare their pointe shoes.

Maybe it’s because I’m one myself, but I’m always curious about other dancers’ pointe shoes. I wonder what brands they use, how they break them in, and any other rituals they have to make the shoes feel natural on their feet. It’s such a personal thing.

So I appreciated seeing what these three pros do. Take a look:

(As someone learning pointe as an adult, trying to make up for lost time,В I don’t have too much of my own pointe shoe prep process, yet. I sew my ribbons and elastics a specific way—from the base of the shoe—stomp on the box, and water the sides the first wearing or two, for flexibility.)

Other dancers: How do you prep your pointe shoes? Or if you do another sport or activity, what’s your ritual?

So Ready for a Summer Weekend!

marcelo gomes

Happy Friday!

Even though I mark the start of summer on Memorial Day, the season officially starts tomorrow—and I’m thrilled to be in the midst of my favorite time of year. I have a few very NYC summer plans for the weekend: seeing ABT’s Giselle, going to a friend’s birthday at this rooftop bar. I may also hit the beach and catch some of the World Cup.

Speaking of ABT and the World Cup, how awesome is the photo above? It’s of ABT principal Marcelo Gomes—he’s originally from Brazil, and had a chance to have some fun at one of the new World Cup stadiums.

Until next week, some links from around the web:

Seven (non-beach) swimming spots near NYC.

I’ve made a few trips to South America, but those little countries in the north still eludeВ me—so I enjoyed reading the Frugal Traveler’s foray into Suriname and Guyana en route to the World Cup.

I could not stop laughing at this. (Try it—it really works!)

An ice cream truck for cats.

Here’s to the start of summer!

(Photo via ABT)

So Ready for a Ballet Weekend!

everywhere we go

It’s ballet season in NYC, and I’m lucky to be seeing two shows this weekend. Tonight, I’ll be watching Misty Copeland make her NYC debut as Swanilda in ABT’s Coppelia. I’m especially excited, because it’s the first time I’ll be seeing a black female dancer in a principal role. (For more of my thoughts on diversity and ballet, please see yesterday’s post.)

Tomorrow, I’ll be seeing NYCB. The program includes Balanchine’sВ Walpurgisnacht Ballet and The Four Temperaments, as well as Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go. Very exciting!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, as well. Until next week, some links I’ve enjoyed from around the web:

More from Misty Copeland:В Please don’t call ballet “cute.”

A glimpse inside the School of American Ballet. (Those teens work incredibly hard—and are really, really talented!)

There is a Maryland crab shack in Brooklyn! You know how much I love blue crabs. рџ™‚

Useful and cool: An absurdly comprehensive map of every passenger rail service in the Northeast U.S.В Helpful for non-drivers, like me, who are always looking for quick getaways!

An awesome city-living solution: This unit really maximizes 200 square feet!

Great read: China is building their middle- and long-distance running program by training their runners in Kenya with a renowned Italian coach.

(Image of Everywhere We Go, byВ Karl Jensen, via NYCB)

Diversity and Ballet

pointe

I was very happy when I saw the cover of Pointe magazine’s June/July issue. It’s about time that talented ballerinas of color—ABT’s Misty Copeland, Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Ashley Murphy and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s Ebony Williams—get some time in the spotlight!

Pointe‘s current issue tackles the lack of diversity in ballet. For this, I applaud them. I have a hard time being critical of the art that brings me so much joy, both as a dancer and a spectator. But I do think ballet’s lack of diversity is a real problem, and one that needs to be addressed.

I touched upon this issue before, in my post about Dance Theatre of Harlem. I still find it hard to believe that now, in 2014, there are no black principal female dancers at any of the country’s major ballet companies—and very few Asians, Hispanics, Indians or other minorities in the upper ranks. Though I’m way past the age of pursuing ballet as a career, I feel a bit disheartened when I sit through entire ballet programs without seeing a single dancer who looks like me. So I can only imagine how talented, young, minority dancers must feel when they try to decide if they could ever succeed in the ballet world.

In addition, the lack of diversity makes ballet seem like it’s stuck in a bygone era.

Pointe‘s three cover ladies discuss the difficulties they faced, as up-and-coming ballet dancers of color. Murphy noted that one of the reasons she never considered ballet, as a career, is that while growing up, she never saw ballerinas who looked like her. Williams recounts an incident when she was a scholarship student at Boston Ballet: A dance mom pulled her aside, told her she was paying for her to be there and was undeserving of the roles she received. And Copeland describes the isolation she felt being one of the few black ballet dancers at ABT. (It should be noted that Alicia Graf Mack wrote the cover story. She, herself, is a classically trained ballet dancer who was turned down by both ABT and NYCB. She dances with Ailey, and continues to be a standout among a company of fantastic dancers.)

The magazine also has a timeline of diversity in ballet. (There are very few milestones.) A longer piece addresses what companies are doing to become more diverse. ABT’s new Project PliГ©, for example, grants scholarships to talented dancers, teachers and arts administrators of color; works with other ballet companies on outreach; and has a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to identify minority children with ballet potential.

It’s a start. Hopefully we’ll see some changes soon.

(Image via Pointe)

So Ready for a Spring NYC Weekend!

NEW YORK CITY BALLET FOR VANITY FAIR IN PROGRESS

Happy Friday! I am so ready for a relaxing weekend, but also for someВ very-NYC plans I have.

It’s spring ballet season, here, which is always exciting for us dancegoers. Both City Ballet and ABT are at Lincoln Center—and during the next few weeks, I’ll be attending several performances from both companies. Tomorrow evening, I’m seeing City Ballet’s “All Robbins” program, featuring Glass Pieces, Opus 19/The Dreamer and The Concert. They’re all well-known Jerome Robbins pieces from the NYCB rep, but I’ll be viewing them for the first time.

On Sunday, Evan and I are headed to Smorgasburg (nom nom!) and then possibly to the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, as well! Until next week, here areВ some of my favorite finds from around the web:

The photo above, to begin with! Henry Leutwyler takes the most awesome NYCB pis. (Remember this one?) This image is from a recent Vanity Fair shoot.

And while we’re back on NYCB—love this essay about a dad and his daughter learning to love ballet together, from seeing the company.

The NYC Dance Parade is tomorrow!

I’m (once again) thinking of Chile for my fall trip, so I really enjoyed this piece: One Santiago-based chef is shaking up the country’s cuisine by focusing on locally foraged ingredients.

Upside down houses!

This too-funny sign outside a cheese shop.

A 1920s NYC street photo—featuring cats!

(Image via Henry Leutwyler)