ballet

Summer Snapshots

How is it the last week of August?!

Hard to believe summer is already coming to an end. As always, it feels way too soon.

But what a summer it’s been! While I wouldn’t say it was relaxing and stress-free, it was definitely eventful and, overall, pretty amazing. Despite some major bumps.

Here’s a look:

I spent every possible minute outdoors, from a double header weekend Mets game in early June (they won both games!)…

CitiField | nycexpeditionist.com

CitiField | nycexpeditionist.com

…to many weekends at Mal and Peter’s.

Ping | nycexpeditionist.com

We were helping them pack up to move to a new apartment. I didn’t mind lending a hand to do that, because it meant grilling…

Grilling | nycexpeditionist.com

Grilling | nycexpeditionist.com

…and relaxing on their deck afterwards.

Hudson River | nycexpeditionist.com

And then, the beach!

Rockaway Beach | nycexpeditionist.com

Despite the two-hour ride each way to the Rockaways, I managed to go and meet up with friends every single weekend, for more than a month.

Rockaway Beach | nycexpeditionist.com

Sure, Rockaway isn’t the prettiest or cleanest of NYC-area beaches. But the people-watching is incredible, as is just escaping the city! And seriously, nothing beats Tacoway Beach and Rippers after hours of laying out.

Rockaway Taco | nycexpeditionist.com

I’m so glad I got in tons of beach time. Because a few weeks ago, this happened.

Foot in boot | nycexpeditionist.com

It started in July, during a routine ballet class. I was wearing a pair of pointe shoes that was almost dead, but I could barely get my right foot up and over the shoe. It felt like I was wearing an ill-fitting new shoe with an extra-hard shank, and not a very well broken-in pair from my favorite maker! I kept the shoes on for barre and noticed that I was having a hard time supporting myself on my right foot. I thought all that was weird, but chalked it up to dead shoes and a bad ballet day. (The lies we tell ourselves!!)

The next few classes were the same. I realized, that in addition to not being able to support myself en pointe on my right foot, I was also having trouble just pointing it. Plus, my whole ankle just felt off—weak and unable to move the way it usually did.

I stopped wearing pointe shoes and went down to two classes a week, hoping that more time off would help whatever was going on with my ankle. I increasingly believed I had Achilles tendinitis. But the weird thing was that when I wasn’t dancing, my foot and ankle felt 100% normal.

Finally, in early August, I was in yet another class, struggling to point my right foot and feeling like I could barely land my jumps. (I actually continued doing all the jump combinations in every class. Probably not the smartest move.) When I got home, I noticed that my foot and ankle were swollen.

That led me to go to urgent care the following day, and then to a podiatrist they referred me to, the next day. His diagnosis was not at all what I expected. It turns out that I have an extra bone in my ankle that I either broke or impinged from all the pointe work. That’s led the tendons around it to become inflamed from the constant rubbing against it.

The official name for this is os trigonum syndrome. Apparently, it’s fairly common among ballet dancers. By some miracle, the podiatrist I was referred to has worked with a lot of dancers and has been a primary podiatrist to several dance companies in the city. He knew almost immediately what the problem was.

So I’m in boot for several weeks!

Luckily, it didn’t get in the way of one of my biggest and most elaborate plans: An all-out party for Mal and Peter, who are expecting their first child next month! (I’m going to be an aunt!!!!!)

I decided that I wanted to throw a celebration that all their/our loved ones could attend—not just women. We booked the clubhouse at their new apartment complex and I spent several weeks planning and prepping. Thank god for my parents, who wholeheartedly went along for the ride and never once questioned if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

I never thought of myself as craftsy, but this was the most DIY thing I’ve ever done.

My mom and I made all the props and background for a photo booth. (If you’re every interested in setting up your own, I highly recommend this tutorial and purchasing this lighting kit.)

We cooked and prepped almost all the food for the baby buffet—an array of bite-sized finger food for 40 people, spanning three tables.

On the menu: mini empanadas, mini mac and cheese cups, chicken sandwich sliders, spinach balls, guac and mango salsa chip cups, meatballs, deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket, shrimp cocktail, cucumber salad, caprese salad, mini cupcakes (two types: chocolate and lemon), mini chocolate dipped macaroons, chocolate dipped strawberries. Whew! (Thank you to my mom, E, Marianna, Olga, Mal and Peter for their help and contributions!)

macaroons | nycexpeditionist.com

My one regret was not getting a photo of the full baby buffet table. That’s what happens when you’re having too much fun while mingling and trying to be a good host. (And, um, quaffing lots of white wine.)

Luckily, we got tons of great photo booth shots!

Photo booth | nyexpeditionist.com

Photo booth | nyexpeditionist.com

And I was thrilled that so many loved ones showed up to celebrate my two favorite people.

HMP | nycexpeditionist.com

Somewhere during the summer, I also found out that my landlord was selling my beloved apartment and that I needed to move. After months of searching for something affordable, I finally found the perfect place…the apartment right upstairs from me. I will hopefully be moving into a carbon copy of my existing apartment in early October.

Another miracle. Somehow, things are working out.

And I have one more exciting summer plan.

Tomorrow, I’m flying to London (boot and all) to spend a few days with Shirin. And then, we’re off to Morocco!

So much craziness, but so much good stuff. Hope your summer was every bit as wild and wonderful, as well!

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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 many 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” gifts to myself was City Ballet Nutcracker tickets.

Since then, I’ve switched it up by seeing 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, 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 elude 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’s 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: 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. 🙂

Useful and cool: An absurdly comprehensive map of every passenger rail service in the Northeast U.S. 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, by 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 Plié, 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)