You’re Not Splotchy

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Since finishing my career as a professional ballet dancer over two years ago I have battled endlessly with the art form’s position in my life.  I have relegated my passion to the back burner for much of this transitional period—being the all or nothing person that I am—choosing instead to focus what energy I’ve had on the task at hand, be it writing, photography or concocting a Twitter update.

This is not a popular choice.  I am reminded so every time I am met with the question for which I have no conclusive answer: do you think you’ll ever dance again? It comes out of my parents’ mouths, my blog readers’ fingers as they type emails, and even strangers on the street who notice my face from all of the Ranting Details billboards currently populating the Times Square of my dreams.  By now I’ve become so accustomed to encountering this elephant of a question that I find myself reciting a stock answer with the same rote delivery as a telemarketer.  I don’t know, I say, cocking my head to the side and smiling through what has become an increasingly more comfortable conversation topic.

Though I’ve had moments recently where I’ve decided to take class on a whim or choreographed a solo for myself, I have never treated dance as something in which I can plainly dabble.  For when you immerse yourself so completely in something from the age of eleven it’s nearly impossible to take a step backwards and look at it differently.  Sometimes I feel dance is a family member I recently discovered isn’t a blood relative and I have to adjust to my altered perception. I just don’t know how to interact with it anymore.

Last week, this began to change.  I set foot in a classroom to teach a corral of young students at a workshop in Missoula, Montana—the first time I’d taught in nearly three years.  I’d known for months I would be standing at the front of a room wearing jazz sneakers and doing my best to keep my voice from rattling like the change in my pocket, but I was nervous nonetheless.

For the week leading up to the workshop I spent an hour each day concocting a lesson plan and, more often than not, laughing at my reflection in the mirror.  Where has my arabesque gone? I wondered.  And what about my ability to balance on one leg? Even the names of steps I’d executed daily since my twelfth birthday seemed as difficult to remember as foreign dignitaries.

But I trudged along.  I listened to the piano plodding a three-four time signature and moved my legs accordingly.  Within a matter of hours, collectively through the week, I had carried my body through a classical ballet technique class all the way from beginning to end.  True, I didn’t execute every move with full force.  But I was proud nonetheless.

Then the soreness hit.  Anyone who has ever danced understands the sick masochism that displays itself on such occasions; muscle soreness means you’ve been active, which can only be good, right?  Anyone who has ever not danced for two years and then danced again understands the intense amount of pain that displays itself on such occasions; it’s like jumping out of a plane without a parachute, hitting the ground and not only living to tell about it, but having to teach the next day.

Since I figured feigning a skydiving accident was out of the question I was left with no logical excuse for calling in sick to my first day of class.  So I lifted myself out of bed and made my way to the studio.  It felt strange having removed my ego from the situation.  I walked into the building and instead of lamenting the fact that the classroom was about a tenth of the size I was used to working in I felt as eager to tackle the task at hand as I had my first day as a professional dancer.  I began to realize there was a small chance I’d actually be able to invigorate these students in a different way than their daily teacher.  I also realized I might actually be able to teach myself a thing or two in the process.

We made our way through plies and tendues.  I clapped my hands to emphasize where the accents should hit in the music.  We made our way through turns and jumps.  And I began to smile.  With each combination I grew more confident barking out corrections and demanding something more from the dancers; and I slowly realized I could give myself permission to see this whole experience as something more for myself.

Too often I hear professional dancers discuss the parameters of their careers as being limited to the company in which they dance.  Once one achieves the level of excellence present at somewhere like American Ballet Theatre can there be anything else?  I always used to chide people with this mentality, but as I looked around my class the other day I realized I had limited myself in similar ways.  The reality is that my body still is not ready to journey back to the level of intensity at which I was operating before dealing with Epstein Barr Virus.   Even if I get to a healthy enough place for that to be a possibility I may not want it in the same way anymore.  But that doesn’t mean dance has to die for me.  Maybe it just needed to flatline for a moment before I was aware enough to bring it back to life.


Trey Is So (serious)

During my first year in ABT I was lucky enough to be plucked out of the corps for a featured part in a World Premiere ballet: Trey McIntyre’s Pretty Good Year. Over six grueling weeks of rehearsal I not only had the chance to get to know a completely different vocabulary–one where legs and arms jutted out on unexpected counts and men lifted each other as much as they lifted the women–but I also had the chance to work with a choreographer I’d looked up to for quite some time.  As a fellow graduate of NCSA, Trey McIntyre was always someone I admired.  His patience and dedication to bringing out the best in the cast’s young dancers–whom all had very little experience– made my respect grow.

Over the years I’ve encountered Trey on various occasions and I’ve had the chance to watch several of his pieces performed by companies all over the country.  One thing I hadn’t done was photographed his work.  That all changed yesterday when I shot (serious), a piece on the program this week at the Joyce Theater, where the Trey McIntyre Project is making its New York debut.

I was extremely impressed with the athleticism of the nine dancers that make up this fledgling company.  Fortunately, they all get a chance to shine, none more so than Jason Hartley (another NCSA grad), who devours the stage.  Watching the show last night, after photographing during the day, I was surprised at some key moments I missed in the piece…and others I wouldn’t have expected to capture, yet somehow did.  ‘Tis the reality when shooting choreography you’ve never seen before, I guess.  Do yourself a favor and don’t let the week pass by without seeing the work for yourself.  Just head to Chelsea and grab a ticket!

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(Jason Hartley)
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(Brett Perry)
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(Chanel DaSilva and Jason Hartley)
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(Brett Perry)
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(Jason Hartley)
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(Jason Hartley and Chanel DaSilva)
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(Jason Hartley)
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(Chanel DaSilva and Jason Hartley)
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(Brett Perry and Jason Hartley)
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(Chanel DaSilva, Brett Perry and Jason Hartley)
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(Chanel DaSilva and Jason Hartley)


Triptych: Terry, Terry, Quite Contrary

I journeyed to Brooklyn last week to shoot my friend Terry Bartlett. Hard to believe we’ve known each other for over 15 years (since he was a college student/friend of my babysitter’s when my sister and I were kids in Montana)!  Fortunately his energy is still as boundless as ever, so I used the opportunity to get him to do some of his famous Streb (the company with which he used to dance) acrobatics on his rooftop.  Here are the results!

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In the Studio: Cedar Lake

Last week I had the pleasure of photographing one of my absolute favorite companies: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.  At the moment, the company is preparing for an upcoming full-length work titled Orbo Novo, which is being choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.  The piece, from what I’ve seen, is a spectacular mix of spoken word and incredibly challenging movement, which the company is tackling with their usual thrilling abandon.  I had such a great time photographing these dancers, and I thought I’d share a few of the images with The Winger readers!  You can check out more of my photography here.

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(Jubal Battisti)

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(Jon Bond, Ebony Williams, and Jaime Rodney)

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(Sabra Johnson)

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(Oscar Ramos and Manuel Vignoulle)

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(Jon Bond)

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(Harumi Terayama)

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(Jason Kittelberger)

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(Jason Kittelberger)

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(Soojin Choi)

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(Ana-Maria Lucaciu and Jason Kittelberger)

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(Christopher Adams, Golan Yosef, and Soojn Choi)

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(Golan Yosef)

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(Acacia Schachte)

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(Ana-Maria Lucaciu and Acacia Schachte)

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(Jason Kittelberger)


Millepied @ Mischa (Part Two)


Here are some more shots from the afternoon I spent at rehearsal for Benjamin Millepied’s upcoming season at the Joyce! Be sure to buy your tickets today!

(Alex Hammoudi and Maria Ricetto)


(Alex Hammoudi and Maria Ricetto)

(Cory Stearns and Isabella Boylston, foreground)

(Gemma Bond)

(Amanda McKerrow and Blaine Hoven)

(Cory Stearns and Isabella Boylston)

(Sarah Lane and Blaine Hoven)

(Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns)

(Sarah Lane and Blaine Hoven)

(Nicole Graniero and Eric Tamm)

(Cory Stearns and Isabella Boylston)

(Eric Tamm and Nicole Graniero)

(Isabella Boylston)


Millepied @ Mischa (Part One)


Yesterday I had the privilege of attending rehearsals at Baryshnikov’s 37 Arts Studios for Benjamin Millepied’s upcoming season at the Joyce. I’ve known Benjamin for a while now, and am constantly amazed at his ability to not only maintain a career as a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, but to choreograph for world renowned companies like Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and, most recently, Paris Opera Ballet as well. I had a great time photographing the rehearsal yesterday (which was filled with old co-workers of mine from ABT), and I insist that you pick up your tickets to see the show! It’s not often that you get to watch world-caliber classical ballet dancers up close and personal in a theater like the Joyce. Add in the fact that they will be performing Benjamin’s choreography and it’s bound to be a memorable evening!

(Isabella Boylston)

(Celine Cassone and Blaine Hoven)

(Celine Cassone and Blaine Hoven)

(Isabella Boylston and Maria Ricetto)

(Alex Hammoudi and Maria Ricetto)

(Alex Hammoudi and Maria Ricetto)

(Amanda McKerrow)

(Benjamin Millepied and Celine Cassone)

(Blaine Hoven and Celine Cassone)

(Benjamin Millepied and Alex Hammoudi)

(Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns)

(Blaine Hoven)


Triptych: Man in the Mirror


Here are a few photos I took of David Hallberg preparing for a dress rehearsal at City Center last week! For more of my photography, check out this link!



Christopher Wheeldon Interview



(Photo by Bruce Weber for Vanity Fair.)

Hello, Wingers! Just wanted to alert everyone to a recent interview I did with fellow Winger contributor Christopher Wheeldon on Ranting Details. We had the chance to talk about the past year, his goals for his company, Morphoses, and much more! Check out the interview here!


Triptych


Here are three of my favorite shots I took during Katherine Kramer’sStop, Look & Listen,” last month. I was quite fascinated with this dancer, Jo, and I crept up to the front of the stage during dress rehearsal so I could get some close ups. You can check out more of my photos here.



Filming in the Clouds


Of the things in my life that I am thankful for, my family outranks all else. From the time I was a child they have acted as a constant source of support for my artistic endeavors, but also a huge source of inspiration because of the work that they all create. There is a thoughtfulness to each of their contributions to their respective fields (Mom-tap dance; Sister-modern and tap dance; Dad-filmmaking/directing/acting) that pushes me to expand beyond my comfort zone and not be afraid of a challenge.

There can be a downside to being part of a family full of artists. But for every instance I become exasperated dissecting the relevance of a certain shot in a movie, there is another moment where I find the winding road our conversations take to be thrilling; and at all times I realize how fortunate I am to have them, and acknowledge the fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for their own artistic curiosity. Plus there’s the bonus of covering a variety of artistic fields over the course of our four-person unit; always an interesting viewpoint on each others’ work.

My dad and I had a chance to combine projects last week when I went to visit him at work. But this wasn’t another day at the office — unless you consider a huge open field down the Bitterroot valley (Montana) an office. By the time I arrived the sun was high and the summer heat was setting in, but that didn’t stop him, my friends Anya and Jes, and a small crew from beginning work on a new experimental dance film.

The morning light proved difficult to photograph in, but with such lovely subjects as my friends and the scenery, it was hard to get a bad shot.


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