ballet

“After the Rain” in NYC

Christopher Wheeldon’s “After the Rain” is a piece I really want to see live.

I’ve watched several excerpts of the pas de deux via YouTube, and love the stripped-down quality of the movements and the tender interplay between the dancers. Simplicity is what makes the piece so stunning. It’s the kind of choreography I want to dance, myself.

This morning, at sunrise,В Maria Kowroski andВ Ask la Cour from New York City Ballet performed “After the Rain” on the 57th floor of 4 World Trade Center. This performance, billed as “New Beginnings” was in remembrance of 9/11, and a “testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and a tribute to the future of the city that New York City Ballet calls home.”

It’s just gorgeous, especially against the backdrop of the city waking up.

Watch it (a couple of times!) below:

(Video via New York City Ballet)В 

A Weekend of Summer Faves: Performing and Tubing

This weekend, I got to partake in two of my most anticipated summer activities: performing and tubing!

Despite battling a horrible cold, I still made it onstage for this edition of Kat Wildish’s “Performing in NY Experience” showcase. I felt pretty terrible for the Friday show. But—luckily!—was almost 100% recovered for the two Saturday shows.

My group performed the “Peasant Pas” from Giselle…

peasant pas

…as well as the “Pas de Premiers Wilis” scene from the same ballet.

giselle

I loved having the opportunity to dance such different pieces. The peasant number was lively and upbeat, while the Wilis scene was somber. The latter was probably one of my favorite pieces, of all the ones I’ve performed. Even though there’s a lot of standing around, I was lucky to have a small, featured role. Plus, I feel comfortable in Romantic ballets, and appreciate the intricate shapes we created with our movements. (Check out the Paris Opera Ballet looking just a tad more polished than we did. ;))

MyВ annual tubing tripВ in Frenchtown, NJ, was the following day. The weather wasn’t ideal—it was cloudy and drizzly, at times, and not particularly warm. But my friends and I went anyway, since it was the last summer weekend that worked for everyone’s schedules!

I was just glad to be out of the city, floating down the Delaware River—as evidenced by this year’s requisite Toms shot.

toms

pennsylvania

I didn’t even mind that I had to wear a wool hat and scarf the whole time…

tubing

…and drink a few cans of beer to stay warm. Have to take full advantage of the few summer days we have left!

modelo

(Performing in NY Showcase photos by Arthur S. Coopchik)

Sara Mearns on Ballet

sara mearns

I’ve been lucky to see three New York City Ballet performances this year (so far!), and in each, I’ve had the pleasure of watching Sara Mearns. The City Ballet principal is one of my favorites. Of course, she has the flawless technique that’s expected at her level. But Mearns has such a commanding presence that it’s hard to watch anyone else when she’s onstage. You can feel the passion and intensity she brings to each role.

That’s why I couldn’t help but smile when I read how she candidly described her relationship with ballet, in this NY Times article:

Not many people know what it feels like to be so in love with something—more than yourself, or more than anybody else. It’s very scary at times, but it’s just what it is. Sometimes I don’t even know why I’m so passionate about what I do…I really don’t. It’s kind of scary.

As a dancer (though obviously nowhere near her level!), I find her words so relatable. But I think they hold true, whether or not ballet is your passion. It is frightening to see what passion motivates us to do. But it’s also astounding to see what it can drive you to accomplish.

(Photo via undefined magazine)

Ballet-versary

On Saturday, I received a very nice, unexpected email: The Ailey Extension, where I take ballet, wished me a happy anniversary. It’s been exactly four years since I started taking ballet again, after a five year hiatus.

At the time, I had no idea I was making one of the best decisions of my life. I just knew I needed a change. It was the height of the recession, and I’d recently been laid off from my job. I was scraping by with whatever freelance writing and editing projects I could get. I was in a dead-end relationship. And I was bored with the workout routine I’d had for years: going to the gym, jogging 3 miles, lifting weights.

I figured ballet might be the best way to get me out of the rut I was stuck in. I’d danced for 10 years as a kid, took a break during high school, danced through college, then stopped. Ballet had always been my favorite style. It felt natural, in a way that jazz, hip hop and tap never did. After college, I’d taken a few ballet classes, but felt so out of shape and discouraged after each, that I couldn’t bring myself to return. This time, four years ago, I felt ready to get back into it. For real.

I looked up classes at a number of NYC studios and decided to take Kat Wildish‘s advanced beginner class at Ailey. Kat’s name sounded familiar, and I thought I might have taken her, back in the day, when I was in college.В The class was at a good time and location. Plus, I’d never been to Ailey before. It seemed like the right place to start fresh.

At my first class, there were lots of people who were way better than I was. But the students represented a wide range of abilities, ages and backgrounds, which made me feel comfortable. Many seemed familiar with the class’s rhythms and routines, which indicated they came often—a good sign. And, as I was teetering during one of the first balances at the barre, Kat strolled over and told me I was balancing all wrong—and that she could push me over. Which she did. It felt like a challenge to do better, and I wanted to prove I could. (In case you’re wondering, I was balancing with my weight over my heels instead of my toes.)

When I left that class, I felt energized and inspired, instead of defeated. I started returning regularly, first once a week, then twice a week. Then three or four times a week. I started pointe, for the first time. (That’s a whole other story!) After a year, I worked up the nerve to try the Intermediate class. Over time, I began opting for that over the Advanced Beginning level. Last year, I finally felt confident enough to get onstage again (after eight years!) and perform in a few student showcases.

I was lucky to find a teacher who inspires and challenges me every class. But even so, getting back into ballet shape was a slow process! It was like relearning a language. Each class, I’d hear words and phrases I hadn’t thought of in years, and then have to remember what they were and how to do them. After flubbing combinations in the center (and feeling like an idiot), I’d go over them in my head, on subway rides home, and type them in my iPhone, so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. I’d also note down all the corrections I’d been given, and commit them to memory. (Two practices that I still do.) And I’ve worked for every iota of flexibility and extension I have!

I always loved ballet, but I appreciate it so much more as an adult. It’s wonderfully challenging, because you can study forever and never be perfect. At the same time, it’s gratifying to see how my hard work pays off, in the ways I’ve been able to improve. After a long day of sitting at a computer, it feels amazing to stretch and move to live music. Plus, it’s given me part of my identity that’s not tied to what I do for a living.

Ballet has also afforded me a consistency that’s been lacking in other areas of my life. During the past four years, I’ve changed jobs and careers, apartments and relationships. Friends have left NYC and I’ve made new ones. Mal and Peter moved away and came back. Throughout all that, I’ve been able to rely on ballet as one thing that always makes me happy and allows me to be in the moment and escape everything else.

…and it’s a hell of a lot more fun than loping along on a treadmill, day after day!

I’m looking forward to celebrating many more ballet-versaries in the years to come.

heather eng

Happy Mother’s Day!

meme and e at the met

My mom is awesome, as I’ve mentionedВ multipleВ times!В And though the list of reasons why could fill many blog posts, this Mother’s Day, I’m thanking my mom for one thing in particular: instilling in me my love of ballet. Besides Mallory, of course, I think that’s one of the best.gif"jp-post-flair" class="sharedaddy sd-like-enabled sd-sharing-enabled">