After making sure I deeply immersed myself in the artistic culture every city had to offer, I also made sure to drown in each city’s way of life and customs. During my free time abroad, I had the opportunity to visit many of Europe’s most famous museums and monumental sites: the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijkmuseum, the Rijksmuseum, the Duomo di Milano, the Roman Colosseo, l’Arc de Triomphe, the museum of Jacquemart André, the Rodin Museum, and the Eiffel Tower, to name a few. It was truly moving to see the growth of artistic interest influence people’s way of living.
After several weeks of constant questioning and intrigue about my European travels from my family and friends, it was finally time to return to work. I immediately applied what I had learned abroad not only in the studio, but also in my everyday life, which came in handy when working on dance shots with up-and-coming professional photographer, Quinn Wharton and collaborating with world-famous choreographer, Yuri Possokhov. I hired Yuri to create a new ballet on me, one that I solely own in perpetuity. Never in my two year career has any choreographer created a piece on me, and to have Yuri, someone who’s known me since I was seven and knows the ins and outs of my technical ability, craft a ballet on me was an amazing experience. He wasn’t reluctant to challenge me and push for something outside my comfort zone. Although there were a few rough days during the creation and rehearsal process of the new piece, the outcome was more than what I could have asked for.
To be young and cultured. What does that exactly mean? It describes someone who chooses to live a lifestyle, exploring new avenues and whose intrigue fuels his/her desire to learn beyond the obvious. I’d say that’s me. I never want to feel satisfied or content with what I’m doing because then I will have reached a point of boredom. Life, to me, is about staying excited. I always like to be challenged and try to surpass my handed struggles, for that makes my successes that much more tasty. This Leonore Annenberg Fellowship has pushed me to experience beyond the expected and stay relative to the happenings of the now. Words cannot describe how much I’ve learned and the amount of gratitude I have in my heart for being given this award and all the opportunities that came along this past year. All I can say is thank you, from the deepest sincerity of my heart.
My final stop on my European journey was Paris, France. What better way to end the most amazing adventure than in a country where ballet originated? Visiting the Opéra Bastille and Palais Garnier, the two stunning home theaters of the world-class Paris Opera Ballet was an amazing experience that I will keep with me forever. To have been in the theatre that shaped and nested countless étoiles of the dance world was truly a special moment for me.
The Bolshoi Ballet has always been hailed one of the best ballet companies in the world. Therefore, one could imagine my excitement when visiting Moscow, Russia, where the passion and seriousness of ballet equalled that of any sport valued in America. Also, I could barely contain my eagerness on flight to Moscow, for I knew that in a matter of hours, I’d be reunited with the dear friends of my graduating class from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Upon my arrival, I was thrilled to hear that during my two-week stay, a handful of my ex-classmates would compete in the Moscow International Ballet Competition. It was truly inspiring to see all the international talent on one of the world’s most beautiful stages. I also reunited with one of my mentors, Marina Alexandrova, and we worked privately everyday to retouch my technique. I learned so much from her, and just to see her and have her teach again brought me so much joy. Furthermore, I attended many performances, all different, all equally stunning. I had the privilege of watching the Bolshoi Ballet perform George Balanchine’s beloved ballet, Jewels, and another exceptional company, the Stanislavsky Theatre perform Jorma Elo’s 1st Flash, Jirí Kylián’s Seche Tanze. Petit Mort and Sleepless, and Marius Petipa’s Giselle. My passion for the art form multiplied during every minute of each performance. To be back in the city where I studied for a year and practically breathed ballet, and back in the country where my art form is not only valued but proudly admired was inexplicably inspiring. The Russians’ hunger for dance and perseverance for excellence sparked that much more motivation and drive that I knew needed to be reignited.
From there, I trained it through the alluring villages of Zurich, Switzerland and made my way to Dresden, Germany, where I visited the prominent Semperoper Ballett, that dominates the Theaterplatz on the river Elbe. The theater’s artistic director, Aaron S. Watkin visually sees his company as breaking boundaries between the classical and contemporary worlds of dance. From what I saw, he fully strives to accomplish his goal with constant nurturing and attention of his beautiful dancers, which is what every dancer hopes for in an artistic mentor.
I then journeyed to the lovely city of Hamburg, Germany where I visited John Neumeier’s company, the prestigious Hamburg Ballett. It so happened that I arrived in time for Neumeier’s 4- week gala, celebrating his 40th anniversary as artistic director and chief choreographer. The month-long gala, known as Hamburg Ballet-Days, is a series of myriad performances by the company, each program presenting a different work from their seasonal repertoire. It seemed almost impossible to think a ballet be revived with such a scarce amount of rehearsals, but nevertheless, Hamburg Ballett executed with aesthetic movement and clarity. Aside from taking company class with Hamburg Ballett’s exceptionally talented dancers, I was lucky enough to attend opening night of the gala, when they so brilliantly performed John Neumeier’s Shakespeare Dances: All the world’s a stage. The ballet consisted of numerous duets, each depicting William Shakespeare’s most prominent playwrights. The next night, Bayerische Staatsballett performed as a guest company in two very famous ballets, Jerome Robbin’s, Goldberg Variations, and world-class choreographer Jirí Kylián’s, Gods and Dogs. Both performances offered a unique perspective on today’s dance world, and how artists have evolved from the classics in search of something inexplicably daring and untraditional.
I then travelled by train to Milan, Italy, home to another critically-acclaimed company, Teatro alla Scala. The theater itself possessed so much history, in which I had the opportunity to learn about in person. While in Italy, I also decided to take a day trip to Rome, where I visited another historic theatre, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. When in Rome!
"The world we live in is full of changes. We are inspired to explore the relativity between the presence of the artist within the reality of life. We hope you will join us on the creative voyage into our world where dance and its importance will be investigated." And what an incredible adventure it’s been. How surprisingly ironic it was for me to read this perfectly fitting excerpt on the first of many programs I watched abroad. Paul Lightfoot, Nederlands Dans Theater’s resident choreographer and reciter of this insightful quote, erased all worries and fears my mind concocted during the months leading up to my trip. He and his beautifully danced choreography simply spelled out my reasons for needing to explore the world of dance and reassured me that, in that moment, I was just where I needed to be.
Alongside tackling The Joffrey Ballet’s hectic schedule and its 22-city tour, I spent most of my work year planning a two-month summer trip to cities I felt were the most influential in the dance field. My first stop, the Netherlands, home to two of Europe’s most prominent companies, Het Nationale Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, became an excellent introductory choice, both artistically and culturally. I had the privilege of attending two superb performances and taking company class with both theaters. My first night in Europe, I took a train from Amsterdam to Den Haag to watch Paul Lightfoot and Sol León’s School of Thought, so brilliantly performed by the stunning dancers of NDT. The very intimate piece included a series of solos and duets that depicted the situations and struggles of every relationship, whether it being with someone else or with one’s self. The extremely innovated and powerfully moving performance ended with the company singing John Lennon’s Imagine. Despite my jet lag, I not once during the performance became fatigued, for I felt so involved and found myself dreaming my reality. I also watched Het Nationale in Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo and Juliet, a technically strong and seemingly effortless performance. Both theaters so graciously welcomed me when taking company class. It was somewhat intimidating, however more so inspiring.
"These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you…" and that’s exactly happened.
What better way to top off my summer than by visiting “the” city so enriched by different types of art… yes, the amazingness that is New York.
A handful of my cousins live in New York, so I visit often and am very familiar with the city… although, I never fail to fall back in love with NY every time I revisit. I absolutely love it here.
Besides playing tourist with my cousin, Jamila Malunay, whom so graciously accommodated me, and re-exploring the amazing places that make New York - New York, I of course took class at Steps on Broadway. I can always count on Steps to provide a nicely structured class given by teachers like Mr. David Howard, Alexander Tressor, and Paul Boos… just what I needed to stay in shape as the start of the season sneaks up. And a little retail therapy at Yumiko, Sansha, Capezio, and Freed is always a plus.
All in all, it was a solid ending to a fabulous summer, NYC! :)
After about a week and a half in the sunny city of Angels, I headed to London, England, where I continued my summer travels of 2012. So happy and comforting to see one of my really good friends, Jack Thorpe-Baker, when I arrived, for he picked me up at the airport, and we headed to his lovely home where I stayed for the next week and a half. A little intimidated, was feeling like a little fish in a busy sea of fast-paced people when I bought my first Oyster card for the metro. But like tackling any other city, it takes a day or two of getting adjusted until you start getting the flow of things.
Jack wasted no time in getting me acquainted with his beloved city. What better way to do so then to get the ultimate panoramic, overlooking view of London by climbing the O2 Millennium Dome. The climb became quite difficult as it began to pour, but as we paved our way to the top, the sun peeking out through the clouds made the picture that much more magical. Symbolism? I think, yeah! Why not think that?! It’s a hustle to get to the top. But when you arrive, the view’s beautiful.
Other activities included exploring Piccadilly and Oxford Circus, window shopping on Carnaby Street, peeking into the Royal Academy of Art, and visiting the bullet points in the legend of a tourist map of London… places like Green Park, Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Park, Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, The Big Ben, Elizabeth Tower, South Bank, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, and getting #youngandcultured at Tate Modern.
Snooty to say my first outdoor musical experience was in London, indeed. Jack and a few of his friends took me out to see Ragtime: The Musical at the Open Air Theatre. However, that wasn’t my only outdoor experience. I also attended the big screening of Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 at Trafalgar Square. I also got the privilege of watching it in the Royal Opera House on another day, both performances fantastic and equally enjoyable. The National Gallery collaborated with Royal and exhibited art pieces explaining the ballet, which I then realized was Madame Monica Mason’s farewell mark on the company as she stepped down as their beloved artistic director.
It was a big pleasure to take class with both Royal and English National Ballet, teachers being Maina Gielgud and Betty Anderton, two such sweet ladies. It’s important to constantly be inspired. That is the key to our profession, in trying to come closest to perfecting our craft individually - staying inspired, driven, ambitious. Otherwise, we may keep the job, but we lose the art.
On days with not too big of an agenda, I took open class at Pineapple and Dance Works to keep in shape. It was also nice to reunite with old friends like Antoine Vereecken, who helped Wayne McGregor set Infra on Joffrey, and Henry Perkins, an old friend of mine from when we studied together at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. Reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones made my experience that much more rewarding. I got the privilege of arranging a pointe shoe fitting with the knowledgeable Michele Attfield, ex-director of Freed of London and professional pointe shoe fitter to world-renowned ballet companies. She basically saved my life. (Girls with pointe shoe problems feel my pain, so I don’t exaggerate too much with that statement.)
In the simplest words. London was amazing. Can’t wait to return when I have the chance. It truly was a trip of a lifetime, I had the best time. Couldn’t have gone better! Special thanks to the lovely Jack, Harriet, and Flossie for accommodating me and showing me London in best light possible! Loved it! xoxo