ASDP 2015 – Week One

Blogapathy is still reigning here, I suppose.

Either that or I’ve become too cool for school now that I’m an ASDP veteran.

Not sure whether my readers (are you still here?) will be rejoicing or lamenting my lack of minute-to-minute chronicles of the ASDP experience, but I do want to keep some sort of record here. And now that week one has wrapped up, this is the perfect time…

This year I’ve got peeps with me, which is pretty cool. Although I really enjoyed my anonymity last year (I didn’t know any of the teachers or students in the program and it was kind of nice to dance on a clean slate), it’s also nice to share the experience with people you have an established relationship with. I’d mentioned that one of the kids (well, technically an adult now) was joining me for the core program this year. Well, a few weeks ago I brought up the ASDP in conversation with someone at work and was surprised a few days later when she started asking me questions about it. I was all… “Wait a minute, do you… dance?!” It turns out she had danced as a kid and was thinking of getting into it again. I mentioned that they had beginner and elementary levels and between the two she should find a good space to dip her toe back in the water. So she bit the bullet and signed up, too.

The program is set up pretty much the same as last year. The core program generally includes an hour and a half technique class followed by an hour of something else. Most often the “something else” is repertoire, but can also be a technique workshop, variations class, or a lecture of some sort. Then there is an optional enrichment session that takes place for an hour before the core program. Last year it alternated between modern and Pilates. This year students got to choose which of the two to take (though we could pick between the two and alternate if we wanted to).

So let’s start with the enrichment session. I got there the first day and the girl behind the desk asked which I was taking and I told her I wanted to do both. “So which days are you going to do which?” she asked me. Um… I thought YOU were supposed to give ME that information, not vice versa. I dunno! Isn’t there a plan?

Well, I ended up doing modern on day one, dragging coworker with me. Helena Froelich is teaching this class again this year and I enjoy her technique… as I mentioned last year, it’s very similar to the technique one of my modern professors in college taught, so it gives me a sense of happy nostalgia. The following day, I did Pilates (coworker in tow, once again). Same teacher as last year there, too. I hadn’t done Pilates since then, so it took some remembering, but it came back to me. Coworker decided that she was going to stick with Pilates from here on out since she was worried that modern might be a bit much based on the length of her dance hiatus and she figured something more fitness-based was a bit less intimidating. I returned to modern on Wednesday, but this was when I realized that the whole “choose-your-own-adventure/enrichment” method was not really as well thought-out as I expected. The people who were in modern on Tuesday had started learning a combination and Wednesday they were adding on to that combination… and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. So at that point I decided that it would be Pilates from here on out. I’m bummed to miss out on modern, but I just find it too frustrating to spend that much of a class lost and confused. And yes, I could ask for more of a breakdown of the combination, but it doesn’t seem fair to those who are doing modern every day to have to slow down to accommodate those who are switchers, so… rawr.

On to technique classes… first up, the levels: first day we had an abbreviated class since we had a welcome meeting that cut into class time. During the meeting they mentioned that the first technique class should be thought of as a placement class and that if the teacher felt we would fit better in another level that they would sort things out there. Which is good. It’s kind of hard sometimes to tell from a description which class will fit you best. I had told my coworker to sign up for elementary initially since she did have pretty extensive ballet background as a kid, so she might be fine there and, if not, she could always go to beginner, but better to try the more advanced level and see how it went. She reported back after class that she had, in fact, been demoted. She felt like the teacher worried she might be offended by this news, to which she was all, “Um, no, that’s fine!” She knew that elementary was a bit ambitious and I think was kind of relieved to be given the go-ahead to drop down to something more manageable. My collegiate friend and I, though… well, our experience was a bit different. After day one we were feeling a bit frustrated for the opposite reason… we were bored. But no one said boo to us. And we were left wondering whether we should say anything to anyone or hope that it would get more challenging or… something? After day two my friend ended up switching to the advanced level. And I… well, I just stayed in intermediate.

Why? I’m still questioning myself about that. Part of it, I guess, is knowing that my friend is, in fact, a more advanced dancer than me. She was always one of the best dancers at our studio and, weird as it may be, I’ve looked up to her since I started there, despite being nearly old enough to be her… uh, big sister… because she is talented and has such focus and meticulous attention to detail. So I can see that she should be in the advanced class. But… I’m not sure that the same applies to me. I’ve joked that she is my sister from another mister, but I don’t really want people to think I’m comparing myself to her when she is clearly far more talented than I am. So… that’s thing one. Thing two is that, while intermediate class can be a bit slow at times the upside is that I feel competent in there! Not perfect, mind you. I screw up plenty. As one of our instructors reminded us, #thestruggleisreal and boy, is it ever, but at the same time that feeling of competence gives me more confidence and I feel like I can get out there and actually dance full out. I worry that I would completely lose that in the advanced class, that I would retreat back to the shadows and hope that no one will see me. Then there’s thing three: mysterious injury to inner thigh (don’t want to aggravate it further) and thing four: I mapped out all the teachers for both intermediate and advanced and there are a bunch of teachers that I wouldn’t get to experience if I was in the advanced level and that would make me sad.

Speaking of teachers, so far we’ve had Hird, Jeffries, Beckwith, Leeth, and Kelley (any BBS regulars will probably recognize at least a few of those names). Jeffries was the only one I’d never had class with before, but this year we have worked with him nearly every day. First day he did our workshop (pirouettes & allegro) and he’s also working with the intermediates on our repertoire piece (see below). Both he and C. Hird are very technically-focused with clean combinations and clear corrections. Beckwith teaches a very beautiful, flowy class, emphasizing the “dance” part of it. Her classes freaked me out last year because I never felt like I quite got what she was looking for, but this year I enjoyed her class very much. And Kelley is like the best of all worlds: very technical, but also very focused on port de bras and épaulment and where the eyes should be focused… he’s great at explaining the coordination of all those elements, which a lot of teachers gloss over or just expect you to figure it out yourself.

We had three nights of repertoire last week. We’re all learning pieces from Sleeping Beauty this year and the intermediates are doing the nymph dance from… is it Act II? I’m not sure. I heard it’s on YouTube, but I could find nothing resembling the dance we’re doing, so don’t quote me on that. I guess it’s where Aurora meets the Lilac Fairy and all her friends. It’s rather aerobic, that’s for sure. Lots of ballotés which occasionally makes us look more like a band of deranged leprechauns than adorable nymphs flitting around, but it’s getting there. Mr. Jeffries set it and worked with us the first two days, but then Gene Murray (who I talked about here) worked with us on the third day to “clean” it. I thought we were going to give the poor man a stroke… it was pretty abominable. But it got… better? (Still time to work on it this week, thank goodness!)

One night was variations with C. Hird. The men from elementary and advanced were pulled in to worked on the Bluebird variation while the intermediate ladies learned the Aurora variation from Act III. I was able to find the choreo for this one on YouTube. Not only that, but it’s Boston Ballet’s version with Misa Kuranaga!

After the variations class we also had a physical therapy lecture with one of the PTs who works with BB company dancers. Most of the time was spent with people asking questions about their own injuries and the info was pretty much the same as what she gave to last year’s group, but I liked having this as part of the intensive. She also gave us the name of a dance medicine doc that I am planning to call about this nagging hip issue I’ve been dealing with for the past two months. Bonus is that they’re located at Boston Children’s Hospital which is just a couple blocks from the hospital where I work.

Overall, a great week. It’s tiring (especially after putting in a full day at the office), but I’m getting different things out of it the second time around and it’s nice to see some of my own growth from last year.

The adventure continues this week… stay tuned!

Whatever helps…

Was in a cute gourmet grocery chain this weekend (the kind with classical music and dim lighting that makes you want to linger and lull you into buying overpriced goodies) and spied this among the teas:


Hmmm… as I recall from last year’s ASDP the first couple days did render me a bit stiff. Decided I should add this to my office tea stash (I have a huge stash of tea despite hardly ever drinking the stuff… I think I like the ritual of making tea more than the actual drinking of it).

Haven’t brewed any yet, so can’t say whether it works or not. Mostly bought it as a gag gift for myself, but who knows, maybe it’ll turn me into Gumby. Worth a shot especially since I managed to tweak one of my inner hip flexors a couple months ago and it’s taking forever to recover. I’ll take any assistance I can get!

T-minus two hours until the start of ASDP 2015… woot woot!!!

It’s coming around again…

ASDP time!

(That’s the Boston Ballet School Adult Summer Dance Program for the uninitiated out there.)

While I’m a bit disappointed that my home company isn’t doing a summer ballet this year, I am extremely thrilled to be able to take advantage of this awesome opportunity for a second consecutive year!

And, even better, a fellow dancer from the home studio goes to college in the greater Boston area and stayed on campus this summer to do an internship and I just found out that she is going to be joining me! It was nice to be kind of anonymous last year, but I’m looking forward to sharing this with her since I’m sure she’ll appreciate it as much as I did!

I chronicled the ins and outs of my time there last year, but if you missed it or want a refresher here’s my (sort of) quick and dirty recap. Hoping to renew my writing inspiration by blogging along again this year, though might not be QUITE as in depth since it won’t have quite the same level of novelty. Stay tuned!

Why you gotta play me like that, Jeffrey?!

So I was blissfully going along the other day, catching up on some links I’d found on the Boston Ballet Facebook page when I landed on a local PBS program profiling the elder siblings Cirio and their side project, the Cirio Collective.

There I am, all happy to see one of my favorite dancers profiled when, towards the end of the segment they dump this little bombshell on me:

Jeffrey Cirio is LEAVING Boston Ballet for ABT!!!

I jumped up and started stamping around my office, much to the chagrin of my office-mate who had no idea why I was suddenly so distraught.

But I just…


Just no!

This guy — the highlight of every BB show I attend — is turning his back on us, defecting to the dark side! Waaaahhhh!!!

I really have no idea what I’m going to do.

One of my fellow dancers suggested we arrange a road trip to NYC to watch ABT so I can still get my fix. While I don’t want to reward such traitorous behavior on JC’s part, I may have to do exactly that since I have no idea how else I shall survive the coming season without glimpsing him flying around on stage.

Tears and woe… :(

Misa, or The Misty Redux?

You’ve probably seen this already… but if not, BB Principal dancer Misa Kuranaga has been made the face and voice of a new SK-II ad campaign:

Strikes me that SK-II is trying to ride Under Armour’s coattails after their wildly successful ad featuring Misty Copeland. The message is strikingly similar—a dancer with a “less than ideal” ballerina image can make it big with the right amount of dedication and devotion. A great message and — as one of the majority with a “less than ideal” ballet body — one I can certainly appreciate.

But I have to say… I was somewhat surprised to see Misa portrayed as anything less-than-ideal. If any of you have followed my blog, you know that she is probably my favorite BB female dancer, certainly my favorite among the principals. I can’t say that I’ve ever thought, my goodness she’s awfully short and narrow-hipped (I thought they were all narrow-hipped!?). I have, however, always noticed her gorgeous technique and the joy that she brings to her dancing. It probably helps that she’s generally partnered with Jeffrey Cirio (yes, my favorite BB guy), who is vertically-challenged himself (and by that I mean, well, he’s short… as for getting air, he’s got no vertical challenges there… that boy can FLY!!!).

But to me it’s always seemed that Misa has a perfect ballet physique, so it seemed funny to see her in an ad highlighting how she’s overcome her limitations.

I guess it just makes me wonder… does ANYONE have the ideal look? And does it even matter? To quote Kuranaga in a Huffington Post interview: “Sometimes, I see people performing on stage and even if shape-wise they are perfect, it doesn’t touch my heart.”

To which I say, YES!!! That is IT!!!

And I think there is a shift in the ballet world to recognize that technical and artistic brilliance can come in a variety of packages rather than seeking those qualities only from a subset of dancers that appear to have come off an assembly line. I witnessed this when I saw the BB Swan Lake rehearsals last fall. There are plenty of beanpoles, plenty of shorties, plenty of waifs, and plenty of athletic builds. But when they are on stage together it never seems to look odd or out of place because they are so together in their movement.

Yet, of course, the racial component is still there. As the ad notes, Misa was the first Asian dancer made a principal at BB (2009). Currently four of the 14 BB principals are of Asian descent and all levels have Asian representation, so that’s progress. But dancers with darker complexions are still scarce. And interestingly, while there are a few darker-skinned men there are no women in that category. I don’t know how representative BB is of other major companies, but I’m guessing you’d find similar cross-sections. I’ll let you ponder for yourself why that is, but I will say (as a preamble to my next post about “Apollo’s Angels”) that if ballet is to survive and grow in America it needs to get better at representing the faces of people in America.

So we’ve still got hurdles to get past. We always will, I suppose, but I hope that one day we can shift our focus to technique and artistry as opposed to appearances. To me a “dancer look” should be about one’s posture, carriage, and grace, and yes, maybe a certain je ne sais quoi. In my mind, Misa Kuranaga has all of that in spades and she remains my ideal!

It’s gettin’ hot in hurrrrr!!!


It ain’t no joke, kids.

If you get cast as an understudy, this isn’t a throw-away thing. Sure, you might practice only to find that your effort will never go rewarded.

But on the other hand…

One of those dancers in the cast may find themselves injured and you’ll be all:


(That’s my “here goes nothing!” face.)

One of the Hot Chocolate dancers slipped while practicing during intermission in the second show and hurt her ankle. She powered through and went on, but was limping after the show. I told her to rest, ice, elevate, then see how it felt in the morning before making any decisions. Then I went home and spent the night going through the dance about a zillion times. I fell asleep only to dream about being thrown into a ballet we’d never rehearsed. Ugh!

She called me the next day to warn me that the call was coming. She’d told the director she was out. If it had just been her I think she would have danced through the pain, but she has a baby on board which made her understandably extra-cautious about venturing on stage at less than full-power. Cue the understudies!

I was actually feeling okay about subbing until I got to the theatre and was confronted with aghast faces. Okay, folks, this is Not Helpful. You’re making me feel like you have no faith in the subs. We can do this!

I think.


Maybe not?!?!

And… cue Rori’s meltdown.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of our system… showtime. First half went great. The Snow sub (who thankfully had done the piece last year) came through beautifully. Just need to get through second half.

BTW, why do my feet feel like someone has been bashing on them with a hammer? Anyone?!

I’d done Hot Chocolate in prior years, but the piece was totally rechoreographed this year, so it wasn’t in my muscle memory as it would have been otherwise. But I had it in my head and if nothing else I can pull on whatever Iberian peninsula heritage I have (apparently there is some buried in there) and give it some Spanish ‘tude. I took off from the gate feeling confident, though somehow under the stage lights I felt like a baby deer, not quite sure what to do with all these wobbly limbs.

Truth be told it wasn’t the best performance, but…. I ended up in the right spots at the right times with the right choreography. Some things weren’t as clean as I would have liked, but an informal poll revealed that the audience members thought nothing was awry.

The whole experience reinforced the lesson that being an understudy isn’t just some consolation prize. In some ways it’s harder than being in the regular cast because you have to know the unique aspects of each person’s spot and, though you don’t often get to practice with the cast and spend most of your time in the wings marking through, you need to be ready at a moment’s notice to go on and do it full out.

Regardless, I am glad to have that experience behind me and am pretty sure I fully earned THIS Hot Chocolate!!!

Hot Chocolate & Baileys

Put on yer apron… it’s Nutcracker time!

It’s almost here!

Nutcracker weekend!!! (Take 4… wow, can’t believe it’s been four years already!)

Trading in last year’s finery:


for a maid’s uniform.

Sad… but not! Hoop skirts are fun and all, but it’s nice to change it up a bit.

And, as the Stern Maid, I get to provide some comic relief. Which is way more fun than just dancing politely. Yay!

Stay tuned for updates! In the meantime, have yourselves a happy Winter Solstice weekend. Get out there and crack some nuts (but only the kind that grow on trees, please! ;) )!