Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Death Becomes Her

I love to find inspiration from outside the ballet world to use in the studio--I'm not the kind of ballerina child who can survive and be inspired by ballet alone, since outside interests help keep me (semi)sane. And more often than not, I find that I am drawn to weird, ugly-beautiful sorts of things. So when my friend Louise introduced me to the work of British artist/taxidermist Polly Morgan, I was immediately fascinated and completely infatuated.

Polly Morgan began her career as an artist after taking a course with a professional taxidermist named George Jamieson. Her first four pieces caught the attention of graffiti artist Banksy; they depicted a lovebird looking in a mirror; a squirrel holding a belljar with a fly perched inside atop a sugar cube; a magpie holding a jewel in its beak; and a couple of chicks standing on a miniature coffin. Banksy commissioned Morgan to produce work for Santa’s Ghetto (an annual exhibition he organised in London). From there, her career as a unique taxidermist-as-artist took off rapidly, and the rest is history. Morgan is a member of the guild of taxidermists, and for those concerned parties: the animals she uses are donated by vets or pet owners, and they have died naturally or accidentally (i.e., roadkill, for lack of a gentler term).

I know the subject matter and materials Polly Morgan uses in her artwork are slightly twisted and definitely macabre in nature. But there is something incredibly fragile, honest, and beautiful about her pieces. I feel mildly, inexplicably intrusive when I look at her pieces...like I am peeking in on something I shouldn't be seeing. I can't put my finger on what it is about her work that I love so much (and yes, for the record, I am a dog-owner; it's not the "dead animal" part that I like most). Perhaps it is the fact that to me, she gives her subjects a new, unexpected life through her work. Whatever it is, I do know this: Death becomes Polly Morgan.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sommerferie er SLUT, or: Tusind Tak, CCBC

Cross Connection Ballet Company's run of performances for Sommerballet at Bellevue Teatret ended this weekend, thus officially marking the end of summer (in my mind, at least). I want to use this post to send the company--dancers, designers, musicians, everyone involved--a big fat sack of "TAK" for including me in the wonderful wackiness that is SOMA, their first full-length creation, and giving me one of the most enjoyable summers I can remember.

From the beginning rehearsals right up until the fantastic last show on Saturday night, I was able to be a (loud, snort-laughing) fly on the wall for the process of putting this incredibly creative ballet together. I got to play around on the life-size Soma cube, cut out the patterns for Maja Brix's "eye hats," snap photos of the dancers in rehearsals, listen in on Afenginn's rehearsals, and make epic coffee runs. (Anna Wintour, if you're reading: I can remember up to 14 individual drink orders sans notated help. Move over, Anne Hathaway.) I got to play cheerleader for wonderful new friends and pimp them out on Facebook and Twitter; I learned that there are so many different ways to move, to think about movement, to hear and count music. Plus, I maintained ab shape because I laughed so much on a daily basis, surrounded by awesome, hilarious, warm, intelligent people. So tillykke, CCBC & Afenginn, on a wildly successful trip down the rabbit hole (in cubic form). And tusind, tusind tak for en dejlig sommerferie.

The poster for Sommerballet.

A moment from "Clocks n' Clouds." (photo by Costin Radu)

Louise Midjord's "War Scene," in SOMA.

Esther Lee Wilkinson's pas de deux. (photo by Costin Radu)

The "Nymphs," choreography by Esther

The lovely "Balloons," choreography by Louise Midjord.

Constantine Baecher's "Musical Chairs" choreography.

Esther's box pas de deux choreography, danced by Louise and Peter (with his head in the box).


Jernbane Cafeen: the site of SOMA Saturday night celebrations. Also, the third-best bodega in town (they couldn't find the first two)!

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Danish Marc Jacobs: An Ode to Henrik Vibskov

Since moving to Copenhagen, I have been exposed to all kinds of new things--language; people; ways of life; food; music; nightlife; shades of grey...you get the idea. Moving to a new continent = being flooded with newness. Including the beautiful world of Danish fashion.

While I am by no means a fashionista (I mean, hello, I have worn men's boxers paired with knee-high rainboots in public), there is a part of me that absolutely wishes I was one of those people who always looks awesome. Superficial? Perhaps. But I know that few things give me so much simple pleasure as sitting down with a bunch of glossy, overpriced, international fashion magazines and a direktør snegl from Lagkagehuset and devouring both; from the magazines, I pick out my dream looks, lusting after things that would cause my wallet to literally explode. Instead of risking an accessory blowing up, I find other ways to satisfy my clothing cravings. Example: Once a week, I make a trip to my personal Tiffany's--the Marc by Marc Jacobs store on Christian IX Gade. I don't buy anything; the lovely employees have stopped asking whether I need any help, probably because when they do ask, I reply (with a heavy girly sigh), "No...no. I'm just looking."

But back to the point of this post, which was supposed to be Danish fashion. In a nutshell, I love it. The volume, the quirkiness, the love of mismatching-to-match, the outrageous accessorizing, the androgynous feel...I really truly love it, with every girly bone in my battered body. And one of my favorite designers is the magical Henrik Vibskov. With collections titled things like ”The Land of the Black Carrots," ”The Fantabulous Bicycle Music Factory," and his latest "The Slippery Spiral Situation," the fact that I love this designer's fantastical garments was fate. And besides his weird, beyond-wonderful fashion, Vibskov has also worked in visual arts. The man is, in my humble opinion, a whimsical genius. And now joins the aforementioned Marc Jacobs on my list-of-designers-whose-entire-collections-I-would-love-to-magically-find-hanging-in-my-closet-one-fine-morning. Here, then, a peek into the stunning world of Henrik Vibskov. (And if you're reading, HV: Your women's A/W10 collection made me drool a little. TAK.)

And the man himself:

Monday, August 23, 2010


Our 2010/2011 season began a couple of weeks ago, and we are kicking things off with Peter Martins' Svanesøen (for English speakers, that's Swan Lake). It's a tough first program, akin to being shot out of a cannon (into a lake, natch), but I love it. Correction: I love love looove Swan Lake.

The story is your classic, improbable-but-dramatic-and-stunning, ballerina fairy tale. It begins--as any good story does!--with a party: in the palace garden, people are celebrating Prince Siegfried's 21st birthday. Young people, old people, Siegfried's partner-in-bromance Benno, and a mischievous court jester are all having a fabulous time. (I mean, goblets are involved. It's a legitimate party.) Then Mama Queen herself arrives and she gives Siegfried a crossbow (probably the best gift he's received since being given the name "Siegfried"). Being a responsible mother, the Queen reminds Siegfried that he is now an adult and will soon be married. Siegfried gets the hint--thanks a heap, Mom!--and is understandably upset. I mean, what 21-year-old wants to be told, "Here's some arrows and a crossbow. Go get hitched. Oh, and happy birthday"?! Anyway, that night, Siegfried invites Benno out for some moonlit hunting to get his mind off of things. (Personally, I think if Benno was a real best friend, he would have maybe said, "Siggy, let's just get a pint. Lot easier than hunting in the dark." But then of course we wouldn't have this great love story.)

So the boys go out to kill things. They end up by a lake(!) and it is here that the birthday boy meets the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Quickly forgetting that mere moments before this, he was all about mourning the death of his bachelorhood, Siegfried is immediately totally in love with this nocturnal lake-babe. Siegfried has strange taste in women: turns out this wondergirl is the swan princess Odette. She's got a whole lotta baggage, too. A sorcerer, Von Rothbart (think the Voldemort of ballet), has turned Odette into a swan, but for a few hours each evening she gets back her human form. Because Rothbart is a nice guy like that. But at sunrise each morning, Odette swaps legs for wings again. Here's the catch: the spell can only be broken by a man who will love her forever, and not be a total jerk and cheat on her, ever. This curse-breaking stuff will not permit any wild nights in Vegas or slip-ups. Siegfried promises to marry her (a little fast for my taste, but to each his own) and he swears to Odette eternal fidelity. ETERNAL FIDELITY! This isn't just a pinky promise. Then Rothbart comes and sees his prized victim flirting with the prince, and they're all ready to have a manly showdown, but Odette is a lady (when she's not a swan, of course) and stops the testosterone explosion. This whole time, Odette's also-cursed, swan-lady girlfriends, have been watching their friend, and ballerina dancing. Then sunrise comes, and Rothbart leads his ladies up, up, and away, with Odette waving to her new squeeze.

After intermission, we go back to the ballroom at the palace to keep celebrating Siegfried's birthday. The Queen, looking out for her son/her own legacy, has taken the liberty of inviting six pretty young things as potential brides for Siegfried. He's a little bit, "Thanks, Mom, but I met a total babe at the lake." Then, a mysterious knight arrives at the party (sort of like the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride) with his daughter Odile, who is seriously working a little black number. Siegfried thinks it's Odette, rocking a smoky eye and a hot evening ensemble. I can cut Siegfried some slack for the confusion: he just swore eternal fidelity like 12 hours ago; he met his true love in darkness, so it's not like he's going to know every freckle on her skin; and he's probably a little buzzed from "birthday spirits," if you know what I'm saying. Of course, the Dread Pirate Roberts guy is actually Rothbart, who has lovingly transformed his daughter Odile to sort of resemble Odette. Who, this whole time, is running around like a crazy person outside, trying to catch Siegfried's attention to warn him that he is about to totally screw her over by falling for Rothbart's trick and pledging his love to a big sack of crazy. The guests, meanwhile, are entertained with a series of national dances. Odile dances with Siegfried, and he digs her hot moves (and thinks she is Odette) and then swears her eternal fidelity. Rothbart and Odile are classically maniacal in their evil victory--I'm pretty sure they would cackle if ballet had sound--and the prince discovers that he has been deceived.

Back at the lake, Odette's girlfriends comfort her, albeit sans Ben & Jerry. And of course Siegfried is a mess. He goes to find Odette to ask for forgiveness. He is again ready to battle Rothbart, but again Odette is not having it. She forgives Siegfried for the big mix-up, and Rothbart preys on her emotional state to put her through some serious unpleasantness. But Siegfried has sworn eternal fidelity twice now, once to a different swan-babe, and so he has broken his promise to Odette. As a result, she must remain a swan forever, and the ballet ends with Odette and the girls going away into the forest. Siegfried stands alone, depressed and (I'm just guessing this one) feeling like a class-A fool.

So. Svanesøen isn't exactly a feel-good, laugh-out-loud evening at the theatre. But it doesn't matter: it has some of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful music I have ever heard, by Tchaikovsky; the story is full of drama and love and passion; and it is stunning to watch onstage. If you're in Copenhagen from September 15-November 6, then, I highly suggest you come check us out at Operaen. You won't be disappointed. You might cry, but disappointment will not be the reason for your tears.

Amy Watson as Odette. Photo by David Amzallag.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reasons to Smile

Sometimes, as a ballerina dancer, you have difficult days. Maybe your feet are bleeding/peeling/developing weird bumps resembling small mountains. Maybe your calves have suddenly shot up into your knees, and maybe your butt feels like someone with very big arm muscles has been using it as a punching bag for the last week. Maybe you wore a crappy leotard today, and your pointe shoes felt even more alien than usual, and your body is completely ignoring your brain's orders for it to perform unnatural feats with the greatest of ease and grace. Maybe your brain needs a clean-up crew to come in and sort things out. Doesn't matter. Because if you look really hard, or even just take a quick peek, things aren't that bad. Observe:

1. You have all of your limbs...and they function. Seeing terribly wounded soldiers, home from Afghanistan missing a leg (or both), doing Pilates rehab in the gym at the theatre--and with a wonderful sense of humor and incredible determination--reminds you of how lucky you are.

2. You have a beautiful flat, in a quiet, central Copenhagen neighborhood. If you open your windows you can literally hear amusement park sounds. You might live in a postcard.

3. You get paid to do what you love, and you have loved doing it since you were six. How many people not only hold on to their childhood ballerina dream, but then get to live it out, to a pretty sweet extent? (Hint: The answer is, "Not many; you're lucky.")

4. You have an iPhone. This is just sort of nice to have.

5. Your friends are true, and wonderful. It's rare to find people in whom you can honestly and fully confide, and who get your left-of-center sense of humor, and who will let you sit on their couch and cry about stupid things for hours. Keep these people in your life. They're healthy. Healthy things are often good for your skin, too.

6. You have a legitimately large bathroom, which has a showerhead quite far from the sink, and with good water pressure. This is a huge blessing. Also, at the theatre, you have the Magical Sauna.

7. You have daily, nearly-instant communication with your family (especially your best friend aka Dad), thanks to the advances of modern technology. Specifically, Steve Jobs. So even though you're far away, in the land of Vikings and Carlsberg, you can still sort of cry on Dad or Mom's shoulder. And by "cry on Dad or Mom's shoulder," I mean "cry into their ears via your cell phone," but it does the trick.

8. You have P.G Wodehouse, David Sedaris, Milan Kundera, David Lodge, Edward Gorey, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Neil Gaiman...the authors you turn to when things are looking a bit cloudy. They will make you feel instantly snuggly.

9. Related to #8, you have music too: The Strokes, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Prince Billy, the Amelie soundtrack, Arcade Fire, and (when you need to be extremely melodramatic and completely self-indulgent, once every six months or so) Fiona Apple. Blast this music very loud in your ears when you need to.

10. You have pillows! These are excellent to lay on, cry/scream into, throw, hug, and--if they are of the decorative variety--pleasant to look at.

11. You can always have Matilde chocolate milk. Preferably with a slice of toast, perfectly golden and topped with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. The invention of these foods and choice beverage are reasons to smile.

12. You have clothes that you like, and a large collection of fuzzy socks. These are good things to remember when you feel a little bit less than perky. Also good for less than perky is coffee, but that's different.

13. Your current haircut is the easiest "do" you've ever had. Maybe it's not always Vogue-approved, but more often than not, it looks pretty okay and bonus: it takes ten minutes to style. Because ten minutes is about how long it takes you to get out of bed in the morning.

14. You have glitter pens. It doesn't really matter what you write, but filling a blank sheet of paper with sparkly doodles is stunningly gratifying. Just keep this in mind.

15. Your life, at the end of the day, is absofruitly unbelievably fantastic, especially compared to most of the planet. Your family loves you, and they're actually cool; your friends are indescribably fun; your job kicks butt, even when it kicks your butt; you try to live life fully; and just a cherry on top of the cupcake, you get to end most weekdays with Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. So. Things aren't so bad. Soak your feet, have a cry (or a cookie), get some sleep, and do it again--but better--in the morning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Posting from my iPhone--tak, Steve Jobs!

A very quick post from my iPhone this fine Wednesday evening...my lovely
composer friend has my Internet stick thingymabob, and so I am forced to use this magical device to connect to the informaion superhighway until further notice :-)

Swan Lake is currently consuming my existence, and I love it. Walking down the street doing my shoulders-down! exercises; developing my personal wingspan; feeling the drama of Tchaikovsky's incomparable score; fearing the hunters and developing one's own swan personality...it may sound ridiculous. But know this: I am well aware my job is not going to find a cure for cancer. However if I can convincingly portray a cursed swan-woman and make people forget about this troubled existence in which we live, if I can be a part of offering an audience a sort of escape, then I have done my job well; and this , then, is what I strive for.

Tomorrow marks the premiere of Cross Connection Ballet Company's Sommerballet performances at Bellevue Teatret, and with several "old" pieces plus a fantastic new full-length creation (SOMA), it is sure to be quite an event. I am proud and ecstatic to have been allowed to be a part of it, and if you're in Copenhagen, visit Bellevue.dk or billetnet.dk
for tickets!

And Saturday is the debut of Royal Danish Ballet's 2010-2011 season, as we take part
in the "Open Air" performances this weekend. The ladies and I will be performing sections from Serenade, the boys
will present (shirtless, kilted) Jord, and both men and women will do Tarantella from Napoli...all for free! And put with performances
from the Opera and Playhouse and Orchestra, this will be a fun one...so
lots of cultural entertainment in and around Copenhagen this weekend, all highly
recommended :-) Happy Wednesday to all! I am resting a spasming back with The Royal Tenenbaums and 5kr
cookies, and can only hope
everyone else's evenings are as relaxing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lacing up the Ballerina Shoes Again...

Our first week of work for the new season is over, and it was quite a week! I discovered new muscles thanks to their soreness. I got to see friends I had missed very much over the holiday. The ladies of Royal Danish rocked rehearsals: we ran through Serenade and learned all of the two swan acts in Swan Lake in three days. (Thank you, fabulous Petrusjka Broholm...and Tchaikovsky ;-D). Everyone is back fresh and tan; some people got puppies; some people had babies; some people got haircuts or new hair colors...returning to work after holiday is like a grown-up version of starting school after summer vacation, and I love it.

This next week will be even busier. With a seven-day work week ahead, we are continuing Swan Lake rehearsals; beginning to work on Christopher Wheeldon's new Sleeping Beauty creation; and will be preparing for two "open air" performances, one in Rosenborg on Saturday, and one in Skamling on Sunday. And on top of that (for me), Cross Connection has their Sommerballet premiere of SOMA on Thursday, which begins a nine-performance run at Bellevue Teatret. And while I am sorry summer is ending, I really happy to get back to work and to have a schedule again (and will be even gladder when I feel truly back in shape, if only because it will involve less sore muscles!). Plus, we are starting with two pieces set to some of the most heart-breakingly fantastic, incredibly beautiful Tchaikovsky music ever, in the forms of Serenade and Swan Lake. So it's not really difficult for me, someone who is big on music, to want to go rehearse these things every day.

All in all, it's been a wonderful first week back. Seeing everybody again, working on wonderful pieces of ballerina dancing, and ending the week with a Saturday night out in Tivoli/Kødbyen = en dejlig velkommen tilbage! To end this post, a view from my new apartment's roof terrace, and Tivoli fireworks...Happy Sunday :o)

Sunrise, and sunset, from my roof. I love the view from up there; it's wonderful to bring my coffee and a book up every morning and start the day in a lovely sort of way.

And on our way to Kødbyen: Tivoli fireworks. Our timing coincided perfectly with the grand finale, so it was especially wonderful. I love fireworks almost as much as I love unicorns.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sommerferie er færdig...

It is back to ballerina work tomorrow, ringing in a brand new season with four hours of Swan Lake rehearsals. After a summer of sunshine, blissfully free days, long nights, and wonderful memories, it is time--for all good things must come to an end--to lace up the pointe shoes, face the music (and the mirror!), and really work my reluctant muscles once again. I'm glad to return to a schedule, and ready to get back into shape, and I love (times infinity) the music for Swan Lake.

And so, a lovely back-to-school sort of ballad by the eternally cool White Stripes...and here's to another dejlig season :o)