Sunday, August 17, 2014

Boston Contemporary Dance Festival 2014

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the noon show of the Boston Contemporary Dance Festival.  This is my second year going, and this is the second year that my sister has had pieces in it.

What a show!  There was a diverse range of contemporary styles, from the simple and aesthetically pleasing, to the athletic and complicated.

The show started with the piece "Again, Together."  It was a collaborative work of different dancers and companies.  I understand that with collaborations, you have to make it so that the piece fits everyone.  What I wasn't thrilled with was that this piece started the show.  It made me nervous, because most of the movements I watched are movements that I've seen since college (and I attended from 2002-2006).  It was a pretty piece full of meaning, which I've now learned to not even TRY to interpret these dances, but get the feeling for what they are. The movements fit everyone because of the fact that they were so simple.  I did like the way in which they created patterns in the space.

The next piece was "Closing At the End," choreographed by Angie Conte (Angie Moone Dance).  There were 3 dancers involved in this piece (2 of which were wearing denim- good for you, but it couldn't have been comfortable!).  This piece actually sparked a small conversation between me and my mom, and me and my boyfriend.  Both my mother and my boyfriend thought it went on for too long.  In the beginning of the piece, I was thinking about how I wasn't getting it and I wasn't feeling it, but as it progressed, I found myself really liking it.  I feel as though if it hadn't progressed in the manner that it did, in the length that it did, I wouldn't have felt like the story had truly unfolded.  Again, I won't even try to interpret the story, but the way in which this dance developed, it needed to in order for it feel complete.  I liked the way in which the three dancers at the end were connected and entwined in each other's dancing.  It was different, and some of the gesture work had me captivated.

The next piece was "Goes On and On" choreographed by Jennifer Gamache-Dubilo (Eclipse Dance Company).  It was a group of girls dressed in plain colored dresses and one gentleman dressed in all black.  It was a piece that incorporated a lot of ballet technique, which to me leans more towards the commercial contemporary versus the more post-modern contemporary (which I liked!). I enjoyed the simplicity of it, but what had me going a little crazy was the intent of the piece.  I saw some girls smiling, while some didn't have any expression, while at the same time some had a look of angst on their face.  Was this piece meant to be happy?  Was it meant to be sad?  To me, the different expressions distracted from the dancing itself.

The next piece was "Hyperactivity" which was choreographed by my sister Chantal Doucett for the Urbanity Dance Summer Intensive.  I know my sister's choreography and I could immediately tell that this was her style.  It had lots of quirky gestures mixed in with some exciting music and movement on stage.  It was the first piece of the afternoon which incited excitement.  By that time, it was welcome (so many angsty pieces in contemporary dance.  Can we not find a place to be happy in the contemporary world?  Angst does not equal maturity!).  The movement was fun, and I often caught myself saying things under my breath ("werk!"  "Get it!"  "Yaaaas!").  It was great to see this constantly moving, constantly changing, always evolving piece with great music. The dancers got into the movement, and I loved the turn sequence in which one of the boys performed by himself.  The exits and entrances even had great movement to it. Perhaps I'm biased, but really Chantal did an amazing job.

Next was "Momento" choreographed by Ali Smith.  Wow.  This dancer was a talent.  I'm assuming she was young- she looked it.  
 The maturity in her dancing, though, was outstanding.  What got me about this piece was that it was a beautiful mix of something that you might see at a competition mixed with a post-college commercial company, and yet the dancer held this embodiment of innocence.  She danced very honestly, and to have that at what I'm assuming is a young age, is a gift.  The choreography moved and kept me watching and focused on the dancer, which isn't always the case in solos.  It was a great number.

"Everything Happens In Threes" came next, choreographed by Erica Ligeski-Schroder (Company Four).  Sadly, I was bored.  It didn't capture my attention.  There were no "moments" in the piece.  Personally, I need a piece to capture my eye at least once.  I need to be able to see a place where the music crescendos and the dancers go for it, or I need a moment of silence with a look to the audience that leaves you cold.  SOMETHING.  Looking back on my notes, I could barely remember the piece.  Not that it was a bad piece by any means.  I'm sure the dancers worked hard and that the choreographer had intention behind it.  But I didn't see intention. I just saw three dancers on a stage doing movements. I didn't even see purpose in the faces.  Perhaps that was the intention, but as an audience member, it just didn't hold me.  I'd be interested to see if there were other works for the company that would be more exciting. 

The next piece, however, grabbed me and held me the whoooooooole time!  "Wrong Way" choreographed by Brian Washburn was another piece that was exciting.  It was full of athleticism and control.  It was almost a mix of dance and martial arts.  I will admit, for the first part of the piece, I was fascinated with the hairstyle of one of the gentlemen.  He had this really cool mohawk-esque style that I just kept taking glances at!  The dancing was phenomenal though.  There was evident struggle in the intention of the movement.  The only thing that drove me a little up the wall was the back flip.  To me, where does one cross the line from dance to acro?  I understand that if it works for the piece and the dancers can do it, then maybe it seems right to the choreographer.  I just felt as though the back flip was so jarring in this piece that it almost ruined it for me.  Almost.  I really loved the strength that was shown by both men, as well as the fact that each of them truly brought their own style to the piece.  It was definitely one of the most memorable of the afternoon.

After the intermission, the show started back up with "Suffocated Pulses" choreographed by SkooJ CorE-O (Boston Community Dance Project). This piece had its moments.  Some of the dancers to me at times were too angsty and too over the top.  There is a way to do angst and a way to subtely progress it so that the dancers show it.  I thought some seemed frantic at times and it seemd jarring.  I'm all for making dancers look almost "ugly" in their dancing when there is a reason behind it, but either I don't know the reason, or the reason behind the dancing was over interpreted.  Seeing the line up of music they chose, I was wary, but it honestly worked for the piece.  I did notice that a lot of the time my eyes drifted from the different soloists to the corps dancers in the back.  Sometimes the movement in the back was more captivating than the frantic dancing in the front.

The next piece was "Torrent" choreographed by Meghan Anderson for Urbanity Dance Summer Intensive. A very cool and exciting piece.  You can tell that. Meghan was a competition dancer, just as you can tell my sister was, too.  The piece is exciting filled with entrances and exits and fun movements that incite excitement.  It helps, too, when there is that bright pop of color onstage (again, more color in the contemporary world please!  Gray, black, and white does not equal maturity!).  The music was definitely a driving force behind the dancing and the dancers really threw themselves into the movement.  It was definitely a fun piece.

The piece that followed was probably the most intriguing of the whole show.  "But first, let me take a..."  choreographed by Jessica Muise (Intimations Dance) was captivating.  It started with a man controlling the music onstage with the dancers.  The dancing started and all of a sudden, you hear a dancer call "STOP!" After I caught on to what was happening, I realized that dancers were controlling the dance.  Commands like "stop" "continue" "faster" "jump higher" "lower" etc were prevalent throughout.  There was a clear message to the piece, and the dancing was great.  I usually tend to be very uncomfortable watching experimental styles like this onstage, but this really worked for me, and I really really enjoyed the way in which they controlled who was dancing what and how, and how partners switched and stopped and continued.  It was flawlessly executed.

Next was "Dust" choreographed by Danielle Pastuszak and Ryan Valente.  What a beautiful female dancer.  Strong, pretty feet, and held my attention.  The lighting in the beginning was different from what a lot of the other dances had incorporated, and the way that it came down from the back corner was almost haunting.  The choreography wasn't overly complicated, but I enjoyed the partner work and the beauty of its simplicity resonated with me.  Some of the lifts were strongly done and the gentleman was great base for her. 

The piece to follow was called "Noire" choreographed by Cayley Christoforou (Extensions Dance Company).  As I watched the piece I kept thinking "oh this is so angsty.  Oh we've all seen the wipe-the-makeup-off-our-face-and-show-how-much-turmoil-this-causes-us.  Oh this choreography is so predictable."  Honestly, though, the dancers were FIERCE.  I loved the costuming choice of black lace top, purple skirt on the bottom, and the buns.  I wanted to judge this piece, but the dancing was great, and the ferocity of the dancers was captivating.  How could I not respect that?

The second to last piece was "Reckless Secrets" choreographed by Heather Budinscak (FreeFall Contemporary Dance Company).  There was a clear hint of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."  I liked the beginning and the end with the gestures that incorporated that hint.  It was different and intertwined the dancers in an interesting way.  The red costumes popped, and the dancers strong.  

The final piece of the show was another of my sister's- "Visceral Affairs."   It was a dance to Ave Maria and it was my favorite costume of the night for sure.  Beautiful maroon crop tops with lace on the shoulders and white lace high-low skirts.  Gorgeous.  The choreography for the 3 dancers was exquisite.  It was soft to go with the music, yet at the same time held a strength and almost underlying force to the dance.  Chantal has a talent for making dancers do something but in a way that you wouldn't necessarily have thought to make them do.  It was a very pretty piece to end the show.

Overall, I loved the show.  I'm hoping in the next few years to make a day of it and go to all three shows.  I would have loved to see what other companies outside of Boston have to offer.  I will say, though, Boston holds its own in the dance community.  A few years ago, you never would have been able to see the kind of talent that I saw yesterday.  You wouldn't have even known it existed.  Boston is finally starting to find its dance voice, and I'm glad that Betsi Graves, who is the director of this event, is driving it.  

Well done Boston!

Dancing Honestly

The past couple of weeks have been super busy.  I have immersed myself in the dance life.  From solo rehearsals to ballet boot camp to summer intensive to actually taking classes myself, I have been one busy bee.  This means a lot of inspiration to write about!

I got to take from one of my favorite teachers of all time the past couple of weeks.  The guy has a dream career from being on Broadway to being in movies to being in a hugely popular Christmas commercial that when I saw it a couple years ago, I almost died knowing who it was.  He is an inspiration, a motivation, and just taking his class is an honor for me.  I also got the chance to observe a class.  I had planned on staying for the class that day anyway, but had unfortunately popped my hip in a way that was causing me some concern, so I asked him if he would mind me observing the students.  He was very kind and let me.

The class went over a lyrical combination that they had worked on the day before.  It was a beautiful combo, with beautiful free-flowing movement combined with technique.  When the students started doing it in groups, it prompted the teacher to talk about dancing honestly and it got me really thinking about what dancing honestly really means.

In the competition world, it's difficult for kids to dance honestly.  Often times they are given songs about partying or being in love, and at the age of twelve, how many of them really know what that feels like?  It's very difficult at times to have to pull the emotion and movement style out of kids in that manner.  The teacher put it in a way that resonated with me- "if you're twelve, dance like you're twelve.  If you're 17, dance like you're 17."  

When you are twelve, you are dealing with just starting to explore the world of coming into your own.  You're in middle school dealing with the idea what the opposite sex really means to you, or doing a lot of school work because you know high school is starting soon where all that scariness will begin, or you're trying to figure out if dance really is what you want to do because if it isn't, what other options do you have?

When you are 17, you have had a boyfriend or two at this point.  You're thinking about college, which means you're half excited to get out of high school, but also half sad to leave it.  You're finding out what it truly means to have friends, and school work is stressful thinking about how all your grades will be looked at by colleges.  

The two ages have two very different experiences.  At the age of twelve, you might dance a little happier.  You won't understand  a lot of complications that come with maturity, so you will dance in a slightly more innocent manner.  At the age of 17, you might dance happy as well, but with just a touch of angst.  Maybe you see a couple moments of underlying turmoil.  

It was fascinating being able to watch these kids embody these feelings.  The younger kids definitely had a feeling of innocence to them.  They're at an age when "love" is still an idea of all rainbows and sunshine.  The older dancers had a more evident embodiment that showed that sometimes, with love comes heartache.  

The facial expressions of these dancers matched their styles.  Sometimes you get kids onstage and their expressions are off the wall.  Recently, on the show So You Think You Can Dance, one of Jessica's comments has consistently been "don't pull your face.  Your dancing speaks for itself."  I know personally I find it tough to be in a jazz number and NOT pull my face to make it more exciting because that's what I'm feeling.  In certain areas of dance, they want you to feel it but not make it so incredibly evident on your face.  

It's easy to see onstage when dancers don't feel what they are doing.  Sometimes you just don't see the spark of feeling.  Instead, you're thinking about the movement and I can see your eyes rolling a little back to get into that brain of yours.  This is when the dancer stops being a dancer.  Sometimes teachers try to help by choreographing facial expressions.  What good does that do?  To me, that's not learning what dance means.  Yes, dance has the technique of the pointed toes and the turned out legs or the clear taps and placed arms, but essentially when we dance we tell a story.  Even if the dancer is merely becoming the music and telling the audience "I am the notes on the scale" you are telling that in your dancing.  So why would someone give you their interpretation when you can make it your own? Feel the beats and listen to the story and what it tells you, and let your facial expressions go from there.

Dancing honestly is just so important.  When you don't, it's almost a betrayal of who you are as a dancer, and a betrayal of the dance itself.  Perhaps my words seem harsh, but would you enjoy seeing a dancer at the age of 17 trying to dance a piece about love in a juvenile, innocent manner?  I would rather see maturity on an older dancer.  

Next time you or your dancer enter into the studio to work on a dance, think of who you are.  Think of your age and your experiences in relation to what the song is saying.  Show it in your movements and your style and your facial expressions.  Be true to yourself and your dancing.

Dance honestly.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I'm Gonna Take on the World

This past week i got the lovely opportunity to work a ballet boot camp for the youngest 2 levels at the studio I teach for.  We spend 2 hours on ballet technique, and then for an hour we stretch and work on upbeat jazz so that the students can learn to apply their ballet technique to other forms of dance.  Having these kids be able to correlate ballet with other forms of dance at such an early age is a huge asset for them.  I truly enjoy working it every year, but this year I had a unrelated "moment."

I have the same playlist every day for the jazzy section.  All I do to find music is go into the children's section of iTunes, pick anything from movies, Disney, or Nickelodeon (do they even call it Nickelodeon anymore, or is it just Nick?) and make sure it's uptempo.  I didn't expect the kids to know all the lyrics to all the songs... 

One of the songs I chose was actually a song that I was familiar with.  Recently, the show Girl Meets World made its debut on Disney channel.  It's a show that is supposed to be a continuation of the show Boy Meets World where the 2 main characters have kids, and it highlights the adventures of these kids.  Now, I have been watching the show out of pure nostalgia.  Of course I got hooked because, well, it's me.  I'm the girl that got hooked on Hannah Montana for a while when it came out.  I also like the wholesomeness of it.  It's an opportunity to watch a show that has morals to it, focuses on family values, and has a healthy view on friendships and young relationships.  

Well, the fourth day of camp, the song came on during class.  As I'm leading the students in a stretch I start to hear a chorus of young voices.  The lyrics go like this:

"I've been waitin' 
For a day like this to come
Struck like lightnin'
My heart's beating like a drum
On the edge of something wonderful

Face to face with changes 
What's it all about?
Life is crazy
But I know I can work it out
Cause I got you to live it with me

I feel alright, I'm gonna take on the world
Light up the stars, I've got some pages to turn
I'm singing oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh
I've got a ticket to the top of the sky
I'm comin' up, I'm on the ride of my life
I'm singing oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh"

There are more lyrics but these are the important ones that hit me.  It was a moment of hopefulness as I listened to these young girls sing this song.  These kids were singing about taking on the world at a young age, and it hit me that these girls really are the future.  In my class, I could have a future president, a future peacemaker, a future Travis Wall or Mia Michaels, future CEOs, future news reporters, etc.  At that moment, it was a beautiful moment of being able to realize that I am witness to something amazing.  I am witness to the growth and development of some of the most wonderous children.  

I'm sure that many teachers feel this way about their students.  If you've been a teacher long enough in the same area, you get to see the same students grow year after year and see who they start out as and who they become.  My assistant for that class is the prime example.  I remember her being a young dancer new to the competition scene.  She was a young, quiet, and shy hard worker.  A couple years into it, she found her voice, and she has become one of the most popular dancers at the studio.  Because of her work as an assistant with the younger students, they all ADORE her.  The love, light, and support that she has given the students reflects her caring nature and responsible personality.  To be able to watch her take that journey from unknown dancer in the corner, to front woman in the studio is incredible.  It was almost odd to be able to hear all my little ballerinas singing a song about growing and seeing that this was where my assistant had started, and having her there to see them be where she was.

I love being part of these students lives.  I want my students to fully take on the world.  I want them to know that with hard work, and a love for dance, they can do anything they want.  They are little humans that are learning and growing, and I am helping in giving them the tools to do so.  It's incredible what an influence you can have.  The second to last day, I was reminding them that Friday would be their last day, and they actually all in chorus went "awwwwwwwwwwww!"  I was shocked.  There are few places you will ever hear students be upset that ballet class or camp is over.  If all I have done is instilled a love for ballet in these kids, then I have truly done my job.

I cannot wait for the pages to turn in these kids lives and watch how their individual stories develop! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I'm baaaaaaaaaack!

Recently there has been so much going on in my life.  I just turned 30 a month ago (scary!  I don't feel it!).  I gave my 2 weeks notice at the restaurant I've been working at.  My schedule has been all over the place, my personal life has been in upheaval, and then something really sad happened- I lost my grandfather last week.

I tend to not get super personal on this page when I write.  It's typically just not needed on a dance blog.  I share anecdotes about my teaching experience or give my opinion on the way I think things should be.  Other than that, I tend to keep my soul out of this.  Today though, I'm going to share a little more than usual.

I'm coming back to writing for a reason.  I have never had a ton of confidence in my writing.  I love to write.  Man, I LOVE to write.  There is nothing better than just letting your heart pour onto a piece of paper, or letting it flow from your fingertips to a keyboard.  It's satisfying.  And it's a piece of you that is physically put out into the universe for people to witness.  I would have become a writer of sorts had I not chosen dance as a career path.  I have just never fully thought that I would be able to have enough to say to the world, or enough of anything of significance to put myself out there.  It's scary to put your thoughts and ideas out there for the public.  Everyone has an opinion, and when I'm not entirely sure of my own self worth as a writer, negative opinion can be damaging, discouraging, and all around unenjoyable. 

Part of the reason that I've only sporadically been blogging is because I feel as though people don't read this.  That's okay, but what is a blog if no one is there to read it?  If a tree falls in the woods...  Well, you know the saying.  Upon losing my grandfather this week, I got the opportunity to go see some family members that I sadly have not seen in a while.  They all love that my sister and I dance.  They love to ask us about how our teaching is going and what we are doing for choreography.  My grandmother in particular loves to ask me about Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.  My second cousin's daughters even dance at a prestigious school down on the south shore so I had the chance to talk to his wife about them and see pictures.

What I didn't realize was that they love my blog.

My grandfather was that connection to the digital world for some of my family.  I have family members that hate computers and the internet.  I totally get that.  I fully intend someday to wipe myself from all social media, but not until I'm much older (she says as she puts her blog on the internet...).  My grandfather however, had an email, and a Facebook.  Through Facebook, I believe that's how he found my blog.  He would print out my blog articles and give them to family members who in turn would have other people read them.

To me, this is all the motivation I need.

If this blog only makes it to my family, then it's serving a purpose.  Obviously I would love for this blog to be famous world wide, and get accolades and I would get paid to write, but hey I'd love to win the lottery, too, but that won't happen anytime soon!  If this page only gets to my family, and then in turn they only hand it out to a few people, then it's got a reason.

I've always been a family girl.  People and relationships are the most important things in my life.  I'm not always the best at picking up the phone or setting up Skype dates with friends, but I think about the important people in my life constantly.  Particularly my mom and dad. Not only have those two put up with more crap from me (the middle school years were a particularly trying time that I'm surprised I made it out alive) but they have supported me throughout my life in all that I've wanted to do.  Both of them are huge advocates of my writing, and i should listen to them when they say I need to write more.  My boyfriend as well is a major support for my writing.  He sees how much I love it and how happy I am when I get blog entry out.  That little extra push from my family members on my dad's side is going to be such a big help.

So this blog is about dance, and it will continue to be about dance, but it's for my family, my boyfriend, my friends, myself, and YOU!

So thanks for reading this blog.  With more time coming up, and actually having blogger on my iPad now, I'll be more inclined to write.  Stick with me friends, and I'll stick with you!

Friday, January 3, 2014

RIP Peter

 I am so sad to hear of the passing of one of my teachers from college- Peter O’Brien.

While I know many people in my college alone that had much closer relationships with him, Peter has always been one of my most revered teachers in my mind.  Peter and I didn’t always get along.  In fact, within the first few weeks of taking class from him, he screamed at me so badly that he threatened to kick me out of class- because my hair fell out.  I joked that the next week I was going to put a million brightly colored bobby pins and barrettes in my hair, then top it off with an inch of gel and hairspray. Although we started out rocky, one of my proudest moments of that year was getting that man to respect me. 

That year, I had him off and on for ballet, I had him for one semester as a pas de deux teacher, and he worked with me for certain parts of the production of Romeo & Juliet that our department was putting on.  I’m pretty sure that was the semester that I had worked my hardest.  I remember one specific moment where I completed this fantastic grande ronde de jamb during center work.  It wasn’t up to my ears or anything, but my leg was lengthened and extended and my turn out was at its capacity.  My beautiful foot was pointed, and I was strong.  It was the first time Peter had ever pointed me out and excitedly told me “good!”  Though very simple, one of my biggest compliments of my life.

I didn’t have a close relationship with the man, and I haven’t spoken to him since college.  He will never know what a huge impact he had on me.  I had other teachers that made me work, and I had other teachers that yelled at me, and I had other teachers who I even liked a lot better.  Earning that man’s respect, however, was one of my proudest achievements in college.  Not only was he a strict teacher, but he is a highly respected performer and educator.  I really wish I had had the opportunity to tell him.  I’m almost positive he never knew what it meant. 

It really just goes to show that we all must tell those we appreciate just how MUCH we appreciate them in life.  We may never get the opportunity. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker

Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  From the initial meaning of peace on earth and goodwill towards men, to the superficial sparkle of the lights and decorations, it gives me a warm feeling that lasts me through the cold.  It’s no wonder that one of my favorite ballets is the Nutcracker.  After seeing Boston Ballet’s this past weekend, I love it even more.

My boyfriend and I braved the slushy and icy roads to get to the Boston Opera House on Sunday morning.  The gray weather had no effect on my sparkling excitement.  When the overture began my heart raced, and I was quickly sucked into the world of the Nutcracker.

I have to take a moment to say a brief word about Clara’s (Emily Hoff’s) feet.  I was in the mezzanine section, so I wasn’t super close to the stage, and I was looking down from above, yet I could see this girl’s feet extended and pointed from there.  The girl just walked, and they were perfectly placed.  Not only that, but her port de bras throughout was truly wonderful.  Such maturity for a dancer playing Clara.  Thank you for becoming the best Clara I’ve ever seen.

In the first scene, I quickly fell in love with Sabi Varga’s interpretation of Drosselmeier.  I’ve seen in so many versions this character portrayed as an older gentleman who has been at times creepy.  Drosselmeier has become this kooky old guy who’s intention is to scare Clara with the Nutcracker in many versions.  This interpretation was playful and meaningful.  He enchanted the street people in the beginning scene with his toys, and enchanted myself throughout the whole ballet.

My second favorite scene (the first will be revealed shortly) has always been the party.  From the gowns of the women, to the ballet-ified ballroom dance style of the adults, I’ve always imagined myself as being at one of these parties in a past life.  The choreography for this scene was amazing, and one of the things I remember telling my boyfriend is that I am always so amazed at the dancers in the background.  There are times where there is choreography that is displayed as the main focus, but there are still people off to the sides.  Most people don’t notice, but these dancers are staying in character, and really acting with their bodies for the entirety of the time that they are on stage.  I was highly impressed with the amount that Boston Ballet had going on in the background.

One of my least favorite things came from this section, however.  The doll that comes to life was really not very well done.  I hate to say it, but Diana Albrecht’s interpretation was not pleasant.  In my opinion, her dancing was choppy- not robotic.  Instead of dancing like a doll, she danced as though she was being shocked by an electric buzzer offstage somewhere.  It’s the only time I had a sour expression on my face throughout the ballet.  A bit more subtle movements would do the section well.

The comedic sections of ballet are always amusing.  The rats provide this on a constant basis during the battle scene.  They emerge to twelve strokes of the clock at midnight after Clara has fallen asleep.  The silly poses in which these rat appear were definitely laugh-worthy.  In this scene, I was also impressed with the soldier boys.  At one point they all did this parallel battements with flexed feet that came just above 90 degrees.  Every single boy had straight knees, were definitively parallel, were in unison, and managed to stay in time while on releve.  To get a group of dancers to be able to do that is a great feat.  It makes me very excited for the future of ballet!

I am now up to my ultimate favorite scene in the Nutcracker.  Even as I think about it now, I am getting “the feels” as the kids call it these days.  The snow scene with the Snow King and Snow Queen (played by Alejandro Virelles and Seo Hye Han) and the snowflakes were beautiful.  There is something so magical and powerful about the music, and Seo danced it undeniably beautifully.  She is the type of ballerina that I love- strong, powerful, but with a subtlety of softness and pristine poise.  Of course, she was only made to look so amazing by the strength and support of Alejandro.  Those lifts-  WOW!  It made me miss my days of taking pas de deux class… 

The snowflakes were gorgeous.  I got the opportunity to watch one of the poor girls fall flat on her bum, due to what I’m assuming was some slippery “snow” that had fallen to the stage.  While my boyfriend told me he lost track of her after that, I watched her dutifully as a teacher hoping that it didn’t affect her.  Boy did it not!  This ballerina came back stronger and prettier than she had started!  This is the sign of true professionalism.  After they left the stage and kept coming on at different points, I was unable to figure out which one she was, but the fact that it didn’t get her off counts, or even affected her and the dancing in the slightest was just a fantastic moment for me to be able to witness.

The Snow Scene is my favorite because it reminds me of snow days when you get to sit by your window and watch the snow fall.  Dance truly brings to life snow to me, since I always watch the snowflakes and think that they are dancing anyway.  To put them into human form is just a more organized version of what they actually are. 

Act II is now upon us.  While it is the most diverse section, I always find it hard to get through.  I space out somewhere between Pastorale and the ending.  This time was no different.  Obviously not the fault of the Boston Ballet.  While it kept me intrigued and more consciously present than any other, it was still a little hard. 

Spanish was right on point- the arm flares and passion of the dancers shone through.  Arabian was slinky and superb with the slow sultry music. Chinese…well, Chinese seemed as though they needed some more rehearsal time to get the timing together.  I was unable to really get a good sense of what they were doing because they were so off from each other.  Pastorale was pretty, but I was more pulled in by the cutest little black sheep in the background.  Mother Ginger was, as per usual, funny and humorous.  Mother Ginger herself (played by Isaac Akiba) was in fine form, and the children were well rehearsed and did a great job!  That back flip at the end by the little girl got its own applause!  Then Russian…Oh, Russian, the manliest/sexiest part of the whole ballet.  Three men showing off how athletic they are with jumps and turns is truly a feat!

The Waltz of the Flowers left me wanting for some reason.  The dancing and choreography was absolutely stunning, and I loved the idea of the costumes with the tiered skirts that were longer European length tutus.  There was just something about it that left me wanting something more.  Whether it was more lighting, a change of atmosphere, or maybe even just adding a little more to the costume, the “It” factor didn’t appear to me.  I do want to express how much I loved the dancing, though.  The music and choreography together made me want to strap on my old pointe shoes and get up there with them! 

Of course the Grand Pas de Deux was beautiful with the Nutcracker Prince (played by John Lam) and the Sugarplum Fairy (Rie Ichikawa), but the ending excites me immensely.  You get all the people dancing at the end in unison.  No crazy choreography, but everyone dancing together to the escalating music just makes you feel good. 

The ending was perfect with Clara waking up and wondering if it was all just a dream.  As she walks towards the end of the stage, she touches her head and realizes that the tiara she received in the Kingdom of Sweets was still on! 

I went to see the Nutcracker a few years ago with my mother.  This was before they had redone the ballet just last year.  I have to say- I love the changes.  The costumes are unbelievable.  I loved the prima ballerina tutus sparkling and glimmering underneath the lights.  The snowflake costumes aren’t overdone, but simple and classy.  As I mentioned earlier, the idea of the flower costumes was very different, but very wonderful.  I loved the new scenery in the beginning with Drosselmeier’s workshop.  I also really liked how they changed the tree.  The bright green really pops on the stage.  I was also impressed by the level of dancing that Clara, and the other younger dancers in the ballet, were able to perform.  The children’s quality of dancing has improved since I last saw it.  All the changes that I noticed were absolutely for the better. 

So thank you Boston Ballet for redeeming yourselves in the Nutcracker area, and easily becoming my favorite version!

Friday, October 25, 2013

For Danvers

For the past couple of days, I have wanted to write about the horrific events that happened in my hometown this week.  A 14 year old student allegedly killed a 24 year old teacher.  While the passion and the fire have been there to write, I have not known how to approach the topic.  Even sitting here now with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I’m not quite sure where this will go.

Everyone knows the details by now- the young teacher had asked the student to stay after class, and sometime between then and the next morning when the boy was found, Colleen Ritzer had lost her life at his hands.  Motive is still unknown, or not being released.  I’m not sure which one it is.

I am not a parent.  I cannot even comprehend what it must be like to have a child who has to walk into a school where a teacher was murdered.  I can’t imagine how scared the parents must feel or how sad.  My mother shared with me that on the day of 9/11, when I was a senior in high school and my sister was in middle school, she drove to the school and just sat out front, making sure that nothing happened at the school while she cried.  My mother has a very protective and sensitive soul, and I know that there must have been parents that did similarly today.

I am not a student.  I have no idea what it will be like to walk into that school and know that my peer murdered a teacher of mine.  I can’t fathom how it must feel to walk by that second floor bathroom and know that it’s a crime scene forever.  To have to walk into that teacher’s classroom and know that she will never return must be utterly scarring.  To be a student at Danvers High School right now must be a nightmare.

I am not a teacher at Danvers High School.  I do not know what it is like to walk into school knowing that my students that I have only had for 2 months are struggling with grief.  I do not know what it is like to walk the halls not knowing whether or not it will be safe.  As a teacher, to be dealing with students that may lash out, or even fellow teachers that may not know how to handle it, must be a terrible feeling.

What I am is a dance teacher that has students whom I care about deeply who are going through a really rough time.  I am an alumni of Danvers High School who knows what it is like to walk those hallways, and knows what it means to be a Falcon.  I am a sensitive person who knows that my family, and my friends’ families, and my sister’s friends’ families all live within a mile of the high school where this tragic event happened.  My heart is breaking knowing how many lives have been changed forever. 

In a different light, I am a dance teacher who is here for her students.  While, I can’t do much more than provide an ear to open up to, or offer two arms to give a hug, I am here as an adult to help where I can.  I am an alumni of Danvers High School who knows that being a Falcon means community.  I have so much faith in my community that they will rise above this and become a beacon for pulling through and coming together in terrible times.  I am a sensitive person who will cry from time to time knowing the impact of this situation, but will offer support and love to the universe.  I am a Danvers girl, and I am strong.

When the Boston Marathon bombings occurred, I wrote a blog urging people to go out and do good in the world.  Today, I write in Colleen Ritzer’s memory to do the same.  There needs to be a call to arms- we must be ready and loaded to send love out into the universe.  Generally, there is good in the world, and that good can overpower the destruction that bad can do.  Our children, more than ever, need to be taught how to be kind, how to love, and how to create happiness.  When awful things happen, we need to be the pillars of support, and the teachers of all things good.  We need to lead by example to help those who are hurting, let them grieve, and be there for them when they need help.  As a whole, the adults of today need to be reminded that even though we see these bad things, there is still good out there, so that we may point it out to the youth of today.  Look at the pictures of the students, and the memorial, and even Ms. Ritzer’s twitter.  There is goodness in the world. 

“No matter what happens in life, be good to people.  Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.” -Colleen Ritzer

Well said, and RIP Ms. Ritzer.