ballet

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)

Everywhere We Go

More video love.

Check out this trailer for Everywhere We Go, Justin Peck’s new ballet, premiering during New York City Ballet‘s spring season, on May 8. This piece will be Peck’s second collaboration with musician Sufjan Stevens. (Their first was 2012’s Year of the Rabbit.)

I’ve been trying to figure out which of City Ballet’s spring performances to attend, and those withВ Everywhere We Go have shot to the top of my list. You’ll be able to see why, after watching.

The trailer was directed by Jody Lee Lipes, who also shot the film Ballet 422, about Peck’s process of choreographing the ballet Paz de la Jolla. That’s at the Tribeca Film Festival now, and I’m hoping to see it, if I can still get a ticket!

In the meantime, enjoy Everywhere We Go. My favorite part is around 1:15—the close-up of dancer Tiler Peck’s gorgeous feet.

(Found via Pointe)

Dancing Through It

The Four Seasons

Jenifer Ringer was a longtime principal dancer with New York City Ballet. She retired just this winter, andВ her memoir, Dancing Through It, came out a few weeks later.

I downloaded and finished it within a couple days. It’s a quick, engaging and fascinating read. ThoughВ Dancing Through It often feels like a long, personal essay—or a series of interconnected personal essays—I appreciated Ringer’s clear voice and honesty.В She comes off as very likable, humble and down-to-earth. At times, she’s also self-deprecating and very funny.

Dancing Through It traces Ringer’s journey from a talented kid in her local, South Carolina dance school, to the Washington School of Ballet, to the School of American Ballet and her acceptance into City Ballet. As she rose through the ranks there, she struggled with an eating disorder that took her out of the company for a year. Eventually, she worked her way back in, and became a principal a few years later.

As someone who’s only danced for the pure joy ofВ it, I’ve never experienced the struggles elite professional dancers go through. They may have what seems like the best job in the world (at least, in my book), but it takes an insane amount of hard work. Ringer describes long, grueling days in the studio taking class, learning ballets and performing others pieces that same night. And doing this day after day.

Plus, anyone who’s ever danced ballet—at any level—knows how difficult it is, and how it never gets easier, in our pursuit for perfection. Ringer captures that perfectly, here:

If something about our dancing is good, we ignore it because it will take care of itself. We fixate on the parts that are wrong. Ask a dancer what her weaknesses are, and she will be able to give you an immediate and very detailed list. Ask a dancer about her strengths, and she has to pause and think about it.

So true. (As I typed that, my own list of weaknesses started to run through my head: Tombe coupe jete turns, especially to the left. Fouette turns, especially to the left. Actually, all turns to the left…)В This pressure to appear perfect on so many levels was what led toВ Ringer’s eating disorder.

While I enjoyed Ringer’s personal story, I especially lovedВ herВ tales of dancing in NYCB’s ballets, especially since I’ve seen someВ of them, myself. Ringer tells of dancing until nearly passing out during Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3, slipping and falling on another dancer’s vomit as a snowflake in Nutcracker, and inhabiting the various female characters in Dances at a Gathering.

My very favorite description is actually the opening line of the book, in which Ringer describes Balanchine’s Serenade, the ballet that inspired her to become a ballerina. That piece carries particular meaning for me, as well, because it’s the one that motivated me to return to ballet, after several years off.

Here’s how Ringer describes it:

There is a ballet that is like an ocean; it seems to stretch beyond the horizons of the stage. No matter how many times I see or dance this ballet, George Balanchine’s Serenade, I always find something new to discover, something so beautiful that I wonder if the audience should laugh or cry.

I couldn’t have put it better, myself.

serenade

(Images by Paul Kolnik via New York City Ballet)

Holiday Highlight: The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker

As you may have noticed, from my lack of posts, this holiday season has been nutty! But as hectic as it’s been, I’ve enjoyed every minute: spending a whirlwind long weekend in London with my best friend. (Highlights coming soon!) Seeing Ailey during their annual City Center run (Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma” was the highlight of the program I saw) and ABT’s Nutcracker. And celebrating Christmas with all my loved ones, yesterday. (Mal and Peter are the best hosts, ever! They plan the menus, do all the cooking and somehow manage to mix and mingle with everyone.)

In a month filled with great times, one experience especially stood out as a highlight: Seeing the Royal Ballet,В in London.

Like I’d mentioned, my best friend, Reen, and I both tried to get Royal BalletВ Nutcracker tickets weeks ago, but they were sold out. My parents (who I already knew were the world’s most awesome parents), however, surprised me with tickets before my trip.

nutcracker envelope

They’d purchased them via Stubhub. And in an additional surprise, the seller included this beautiful note when she mailed the tickets. (I’ve also transcribed it, below, since it’s a little hard to read.)

nutcracker ticket note

Dear ‘Kevin,’ [my stepdad]

I see that you have my tickets and I just hoped that if they are for you that you have a wonderful time and if not then someone else enjoys them.

Just so you know, I am not a [illegible] and this is a special show for me and it is years since I have managed to get tickets to the Opera House—where I saw the Nutcracker with my divine late husband—also called Kevin!

This year, I had a later opportunity to visit a goddaughter in Jersey, one thing the past, one the future. Decisions, decisions, rather than do my usual toss a coin, I costed the Jersey trip and put the tickets up for sale. If they sold, Jersey, if not the Opera.

You know the rest.

Merry Christmas.

Anison (really quite sane!)

…I nearly cried after reading that! (And, to be honest, got a little teary while typing it up, just now!)

Dressing up and going to the Royal Opera House was so exciting. For such a renowned theater, it’s surprisingly nondescript from the outside.

royal opera house exterior

I was also shocked at how small it was, in the inside! I suppose I’ve become accustomed to the massive proportions of the Koch Theatre and the Met Opera at Lincoln Center.

royal opera house

Our seats were in the center of the balcony, but it felt super-close to the stage. Since the theater is so intimate, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

The performance, itself, was great—I really enjoyed watching a production that was new to me.

Elizabeth Harrod as Clara in The Nutcracker В© Johan Persson/ROH 2009

Unlike in Balanchine’sВ Nutcracker, the version I’ve seen the most, Clara is a company member, rather than a child. She dances en pointe through most of the performance, and is featured in most numbers.

Francesca Hayward as Clara with Artists of The Royal Ballet in The Nutcracker В© ROH / Tristram Kenton 2013

Plus, it was interesting to see how the company still keeps the tradition of putting most dancers in wigs. I can’t recall a U.S. company that does the same!

Laura Morera as The Sugar Plum Fairy and Federico Bonelli as The Prince in The Nutcracker В© ROH / Tristram Kenton 2013

One particularly special moment, for me, came at the end of Act I, during the “Waltz of the Snowflakes”—my favorite part of the ballet. I’d forgotten that the version of “Snow” that I’d performed last year was partially based on the Royal Ballet’s choreography. So when the snowflakes came out and started dancing, I remembered that I had done many of those steps, myself. I felt truly lucky to see the Royal Ballet perform it live. I’d watched this low-quality YouTube versionВ many times in the past. It majorly pales in comparison to seeing it in person!

During intermission and after the performance, Reen and I went to the Opera House’sВ Paul Hamlyn Hall Champagne Bar, which is in a gorgeous glass atrium.

opera house bar

At the bar, you can pre-order food that would be set out for you during intermission. So Reen treated us to champagne and plates of smoked salmon andВ charcuterie, which we ate between acts. (Thanks Reen!)

I can’t thank my parents (and Reen!) enough for such an awesome night. You can just tell, from this photo here, how thrilled/thankful/happy I was. And still am.

heg and reen at opera house

(Royal Ballet photos via the Royal Opera House)

Ballet Classes in Buenos Aires

As you might have guessed from my previous entry about tango, I didn’t seek it out in Buenos Aires. But I did take ballet.

Before my trip, I researched open ballet classes in BA and found Ballet Estudio. They offer many levels of classes a day, and had trained a number of renowned dancers, including ABT’s Paloma Herrera. Plus, I learned that in September, Alvin Ailey held a master class there. Via Facebook photos, it was cool to see a bit of my NYC in BA—the faces of company dancers whose photos are all over my NYC studio, and whom I occasionally see. Plus, it confirmed that I’d chosen a legit place!

I went to the studio on the Monday afternoon of my trip, for an advanced class. (I figured if I usually take intermediate classes in NYC, then I’d survive an advanced class in BA.)

The studio was on the second story of a Recoleta building.

ballet estudio 1

The doormats read “Welcome Home,” which made me smile, as did the weathered ballet photos in the reception area. Especially this one of Paloma Herrera.

paloma herrera

I paid for my class (100 pesos), went into the changing room…and noticed something odd. All the other dancers looked about 12 years old—niГ±as!

Ballet Estudio’s site advertises classes for all styles, levels and ages. I hadn’t realized that all the ages would be together. Here in NYC—and most places in the US—adults and kids are in separate classes. Still, I went with it.

The class ended up being me, five niГ±as and, thankfully, one other adult—I nearly fell over with relief when she came in. But being with mostly kids threw me. I felt off and out of place—which isn’t ideal, considering how much of ballet is mental!

Besides internally wrestling with that, I thought the class was an interesting experience. I’m glad I didn’t cop out because of the kids. The teacher, Mimi, couldn’t have been lovelier. She was warm, welcoming and kind, and had beautiful technique and extension.

She was also very patient with my lack of Spanish. As soon as class started, I realized that though I had no problem understanding the steps and combinations, I could barely understand anything else—my past studies didn’t cover the nuances of alignment, turnout or focus. There had not been a Coffee Break Spanish lesson that included terms like “Don’t tense up your shoulders” or “Pull up over your legs.”

Despite that, I was still able to understand many of Mimi’s corrections through her gestures and the words I did know. Her critiques and tips were all spot on. (Like telling me to straighten my legs and travel more in assembles, and not let my turnout drop when going into left pirouettes.)

As for the niГ±as—they were good! One had especially beautiful control and technique. I rarely see kids dance, and I realized it was gratifying to see Argentina’s next generation of ballet dancers in action.

And at the end of class, I felt a tad less awkward being in the same lesson as them. But just a tad.

ballet estudio

Ballet Estudio’s second floor studio

Ballet Monsters

I have to thank New York City Ballet’s Facebook page for introducing me to “Ballet Monsters,” an incredible illustrations series by Taipei artist Keith Lin.

His line drawings are simple, yet they capture ballet so well. Lin’s lithe figures not only have perfect technique; they also convey grace, passion and elegance—despite being virtually faceless.

As Lin told Pointe magazine:

I rely on ballet positions to express feeling. Dancers speak with their bodies onstage, and to me the closed eyes show how they are enjoying the moment. Sometimes I feel like I’m choreographing on paper.

I love how Lin’s figures also cheekily—and accurately!—illustrate the mindset of us ballet addicts. Lin’s closest friends are dancers and he draws his inspiration from them.

A few drawings that I particularly loved (and related to):

ballet monsters 4

ballet monsters 2

ballet monsters 3

В 

ballet monsters 1

Check them all out on the two “Ballet Monsters” pages here and here!

(“Ballet Monsters” illustrations by Keith Lin, found via New York City Ballet)