Monday, September 17, 2012

"Fire Dances"

I'm on our poster!
Still getting used to that.

Nevertheless, I'm loving the design and the feel! If you are interested in coming to see me dance the role of Pele the Hawaian volcano goddess, check out the info below that I've been using for marketing the show. I'd LOVE to see you there! I'm super excited about playing these particular roles because they are so multi-faceted and interesting!

Ballet Ariel presents ‘Fire Dances’ on Saturday, October 13th at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm at the PACE Center in Parker! Tickets start at $16.00 and are available at (direct link for tickets here: or by calling the box office a

t 303-805-6800.

‘Fire Dances’ is the premiere of this electrifying ballet choreographed by Director Ilena Norton inspired by fire myths and legends, featuring a Native American legend about the first fire setter, the myth of the Phoenix who is reborn in fire every 500 years, and the story of Pele the Hawaiian volcano goddess.

Also on the program-- a suite of dances from ‘La Bayadere’ staged by Giana Jigarhan, a beautiful classical ballet about a temple dancer who is betrayed by her lover. This classical ballet choreographed by the great Marius Petipa was first performed in 1877. The company will also present ‘The Chase’, a hilarious romp recreating the silent movie era and the genius of Charlie Chaplin, and 'figs. of my im.' a contemporary ballet choreographed by Gregory Gonzales of Colorado Ballet.

“The variety of this performance will delight both the classical ballet audience as well as fans of contemporary dance," said Ilena Norton (Ballet Ariel Artistic Director), “This exciting program is meant to be enjoyed by everyone."

(poster design and photography by Peter Strand)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I love this.

So many times we don't realize that we can make someone's day better when they really need it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What Dance Did For Me (and Why I'm Having Trouble Walking Today)

Halfway through second week of ballet season... And I'm popping Ibuprofin like it's going out of style, rolling carefully out of bed so as not to disturb the fragile state of my body, and randomly moaning without notice.

I had a thought a couple minutes ago: "If I didn't dance, I wouldn't have to feel this pain." Today, the left half of my back is whistling a  happy tune while the right side feels like someone repeatedly bashed it with a baseball bat while I slept. Not in a minor "oh, that kind of aches" way, but a "I probably should ice this immediately" kind of way. How did THAT happen? I'm reviewing the new choreography I learned yesterday, and realizing it includes (but is not limited to): a) being held in the splits upside down, b) going up and down (releve in ballet terms) on my toes probably about a million times, and c) getting thrown around in general by three different men.

If something in there doesn't constitute a half terribly sore back among many other things (like not being sure I will be able to get up after writing this post and walk to the kitchen to make breakfast), I don't know what. Sometimes I wonder if all the pain is worth it.

And then I remember Italy. I was privileged to live in Italy on and off for a period of about two years. Florence was the city I resided in (about ten years ago now) and I am still fiercely loyal to the belief it is the best place in Italy. Not to be cliche, but it truly changed my life. I grew up in all the ways that are important-- mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And yes, physically (you can't eat pasta twice a day without gaining a little bit of weight). In many ways, my heart still resides in Florence.

Florence (Firenze), Italy, where I lived for two years

But I didn't get to dance while I was there. It was the only thing missing from the most formative time of my life. The only dance class I knew of took about an hour to get to by bus, and the language difference scared me off right off the bat. I know I probably would have really improved in my Italian if I'd stuck with it, but it was also expensive and I just didn't have the funds.

What did I learn from my hiatus from dance? That the body and spirit are completely connected. Later I would learn that I probably was suffering at times from a minor depression while I was there. I don't believe it was the lack of dance's fault. But I am convinced it probably played a role in keeping me down.

About a year after I moved back to the states, I began swing dancing and went back to ballet class to help distract myself from a bad breakup. And guess what? My spirits lifted almost as if someone had switched on a "sunshine" light in my heart. I can't tell you how wonderful I felt after dancing even for an hour. Call it endorphins or call it reconnecting with my passion and purpose in life, but God used it, among other things, to pull me out of a dark place. I'm forever grateful for the ability to express and love through ballet and other forms of dance in my life. It is at the core of my heart and to get me away from it, you're going to have to have drag me kicking and screaming.

Me as Pele in "Fire Dances" for Ballet Ariel's fall concert this October (photo by Peter Strand)

And so, as I get up to soak my sore muscles and then ice them (and repeat), I have already forgotten this silly idea of not dancing to avoid the (temporary) physical pain. Not worth it.

What turns on the "sunshine" in your heart?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Becoming Baby

As an actress and dancer,  my question when preparing for a role has always been, "How do I realistically portray the character I'm supposed to be?" Having studied a few different acting techniques over the years and trying many of them out in different roles, I have created a kind of mish-mash way of attempting to accurately portray another person onstage. Among other things, I pay attention to small details like the characters' mannerisms (how they hold themselves or move their eyes and face), figure out what their goal in the scene is, come up with "action" words to back up my movements, and then try to portray them as truthfully as I am able.

Not easy, but definitely worth the work.

When these techniques, along with the lights, music, and coworkers all come together it is like jumping through the screen/pages of a book or play and telling someone else's story. This weekend I was privileged to tell two very different characters' stories: Baby from "Dirty Dancing" ("Time of My Life" dance sequence):

Peter ("Johnny") and I ("Baby") backstage rehearsing before performing "Time of My Life"

And Cyd Charisse's character from "The Band Wagon" (the iconic Dancing in the Dark dance sequence):

Peter and I backstage rehearsing before our closing show (as Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire)

The moments I truly feel my acting technique and movement come together onstage to create a genuine character are the most exciting and transcendent as a professional performer. Working with a dance partner who also is skilled in creating characters (which Peter is) makes it all the better, because the audience can see an actual story happen in front of their eyes instead of just two dancers/actors moving around to music. This weekend (performing "Night at the Movies" with Backstage Theater in Breckenridge, Colorado) it was exciting to experience moments onstage that I actually felt my mannerisms and actions genuinely portrayed Cyd and Baby. It felt like a grown-up "recess" (and a great privilege) to perform these stories for the audience to enjoy and escape their everyday lives, if just for a few minutes. Also, to have Casey in the audience for two shows (who is a simply amazing support to me in my performing career and has always been there to cheer me on) was an extra special treat.

"Time of My Life" tech rehearsal shot

Practicing a dip backstage for "Time of My Life"

Pose from "Dancing in the Dark"

Peter and I trying to capture Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire's facial expressions and mannerisms-- harder than it looks!!!