With Nutcracker in full swing here at Maine State Ballet, things are crazy. We've loaded into Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine and I've made myself quite at home... As you can see!
Yesterday was my first dress rehearsal as Sugar Plum and before the run I received a very special gift from the artistic director. Needless to say, it made my day.
Other photographs throughout the day:
Sewing shoes for that evening
Hair + makeup time
The (sweaty) finished product (accompanied with my stunning sister, Adrienne, as Clara)
Everything's going well thus far! Yesterday was great. Eager to start this weekend, but for now it's time to give thanks and to eat until our costumes won't fit anymore!... (Just kidding, I've already had enough fittings for that Sugar Plum tutu to last a life time!)
With this performance season we will all be devoting a lot of time to our hair and makeup. I've put together a little video of myself doing a rehearsal bun. Please note: this is not a performance bun and I do not do that swoop with my bangs for a real show. Usually, I plaster them back flat for a more classical look. But when you're in class or rehearsal it's always fun to add a little personality to the very uniform look of a ballet dancer.
Let me know what you thought in a comment below or if you have any questions you can e-mail me at: Rhiannon@maine.rr.com. For a further look into the Maine State Ballet's Nutcracker you can find us on Facebook right here!
Thanks for reading, my lovelies and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Sunday is probably my favorite day. You finally get a break after the grind of the week that seems to go on, and on, and on, and on. It's important to utilize this day off and let your body rest. Allowing your body this time off can enhance your performance and you'll feel better all around.
When we work our muscles, we make tiny little tears in the tissue. When the tissue heals it becomes stronger. But if we don't allow our muscles the time to heal, it can be hard to re-cooperate. I find that, more often than not, I feel amazing and dance better after a day off.
So what are some things that we can do to better take care of ourselves on this day of rest that leaves our bodies feeling rejuvenated and refueled?
Well, sometimes I like to take a bath. Warm up and loosen your muscles without straining them and sigh away that accumulating stress. If you're looking for prime relaxation, sprinkle a couple bath salts or drop some aromatherapy oils in the water. Bath and Body Works has some great products that all smell simply divine.
Give yourself or get a massage. Grab the body butter or lotion and knead your thumbs through your calves and feet. These are areas that, when neglected, can be prone to injury. I personally have had several lower-body injuries due to my calves being too tight. Give them a little preventative TLC.
Yoga can be a great way to relax, stay active, and work muscles that we dancers don't usually target. I don't personally do a lot of yoga but I have a couple of dancer friends that swear by it.
Drink a lot of water. This is essential for a variety of reasons but I find that when I make myself drink more, my muscles nearly always feel better. Give it a try and let me know how you feel afterwards!
SLEEP. Sleep in, it's okay. I know our internal alarm clocks sometimes go off in our heads at 7:00 but hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. Let yourself get 8+ hours of rest.
What do you do to treat yourself on your day off? Leave a comment below to tell us!
I don't know about you guys but I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving break! I just have school Monday and Tuesday and... Drum roll please... Tuesday afternoon we will be loading our stuff into the auditorium for Nutcracker! It's always a thrill. The beginning of the holiday season, for my family and friends, officially starts with that. There will be plenty of Nutcracker updates to come, lovelies.
Thanks for reading and keep your head up until that long-awaited break!
As I've gotten older I've found cross training to be extremely beneficial to my dancing. It keeps you even more in shape and amplifies your stamina. Check out this article by Pointe Magazineabout Boston Ballet's Whitney Jensen and her cross-training schedule.
See the article at the official website here!
The Workout: Whitney Jensen
The Boston Ballet soloist shares her secret for sculpted inner thighs.
Jensen in Jorma Elo's "Plan to B." Photo by Gene Schiavone.
When she was a student prodigy scooping up medals at top competitions, Whitney Jensen didn’t have to do much to keep her body in shape. Now, the 21-year-old hits the gym most days—sometimes even after six hours of rehearsal—to build stamina and keep her metabolism in balance.
Typical routine: 45 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill (walking with intervals between 5 and 5.4 miles per hour), then 25 minutes of Pilates. “Having a gym in my apartment building makes it very convenient.”
Warm-up trick: “I never do strengthening exercises before class. They make my body feel too tight before dancing.”
Problem spot: Shoulders. “My joints are really loose, and can get painful during contemporary work. I have to keep my rotator cuffs strong by working them with a Thera-Band.” Stamina secret: “To make sure I have enough energy to get through a ballet, I’ll rehearse by running it twice in a row. Then performing it just the once feels like nothing.”
Favorite stretch: Over-splits using a stack of mats.
For her inner thighs: “Lying on the floor on my side, I put one foot on top of a bench and the other underneath it, then raise my lower leg up to meet the top one 10 times. It kills your inner thighs.”
Recovery Rx: “Every night, I talk to someone from my family—it helps remind me I have a life outside of ballet.”
I recently had a request to do an article on the pointe shoes that I'm currently wearing... So reader, this is for you!
I'm currently wearing Suffolk - Stellars.
I'll admit, in the past I wasn't the biggest fan of Suffolks. But as we ballerinas know, our feet are always changing and sometimes a certain shoe works better with a certain dance you're doing. It had been a couple years since I tried a pair but when I put them on, it felt like magic. You know, that feeling when you easily step onto point and the shoe effortlessly hugs your skin and arches into a graceful curve. That feeling.
Two spunky Suffolk spokes-ladies are Sara and Leigh-Ann Esty. Sara, a soloist, and Leigh-Ann, a corps de ballet dancer, are with the Miami City Ballet with roots starting back here at the Maine State Ballet. The wonderful role-models they are, during the summer they came back to Maine for a visit to take/teach classes and give us dancers some advice. This, of course, jumpstarted the Suffolk trend.
These girls are gorgeous. And I mean gorgeous. It was a pleasure to learn from them and listen to all the incredibly stories they had to tell...
Anyway, back to the pointe shoes. Here's the official description:
Handcut to perfection...the Stellar! Suffolk’s patent pending design is used in the Stellar to offer the dancer a supportive box and arch-hugging insole. The Stellar helps with alignment and correct placement while en pointe. Dancers will feel lifted and will be less likely to sit in this pointe shoe. The medium vamp with the signature Suffolk U shape is handcut to perfection. This low profile shoe with stable platform has a flexible upper vamp for superior comfort and fit. The Stellar offers the same patent pending design found in the Spotlight and the Solo Prequel that helps the dancer get over the platform while fully articulating her feet. Available in Suffolk's light and standard shanks.
I definitely love the articulation in the shoe on demi-pointe. It bends with ease at the metatarsal and makes variations that involve a lot of rolling through the foot, like the Sugarplum variation, easier.
If you have any additional questions or comments then leave one below or e-mail me at: Rhiannon@maine.rr.com.
Jumping to the now, I'd like to give everyone a little update.
Nutcracker season is in full swing. Rehearsals almost every day on top of class, school, and work. It's CRAZY. This year at Maine State Ballet I am reprising the role of the Dew Drop Fairy and making a debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy. I couldn't believe it when the artistic director called me and my sister into her office to tell us that I would be putting on the pink tutu and my sister would step back into the role of Clara for another year.
It's truly surreal rehearsing the role that I've aspired to do since I was eight. It's something I dreamed about but never thought would happen, let alone this soon. And doing a leading role in a ballet beside my sister?! Forget about it. My mom's going to be a mess.
I'd like to chat about taking care of our bodies through this crazy performance season. I have noticed many more aches and pains as I've gotten a little older and have been doing my best to take extreme care of my body. Here are a few tips:
Ice after EVERYTHING. Especially if a certain part of your body is particularly tender, sore, or irritated.
Heat before warming up. It really does help and minimizes pain.
Take Aleve or Advil before dancing. It makes your body feel brand new and it reduces swelling. They're miracle drugs, trust me.
Have a thorough warm up before dancing. Injuries are ten times as likely when you're cold.
I've been using a product called Arnica Gel on my bunions and ankles. It's a pain reliever and has really been helping.
A good night's sleep is your friend. It keeps you physically revived and prevents you from getting sick
If any of you have tips or tricks that you use/do to take care of yourself then post a comment below! Gotta run to class (Human Nature and Ethics... Ugh). I'll be in touch, lovelies!
The last time I wrote about a personal occurrence, it was January of 2012 and I reviewed Boston Ballet's Nutcracker (see the post here). Rewinding from now to March of 2012 I will describe to you my experience as well as talk to you a little bit about characterization in ballet...
I was cast as a Village Dancer in the first act, the Lead Spanish Princess in the third act that comes to the prince's party hoping to win his hand, and a Swan. These are three COMPLETELY different roles and each require a different air, different mannerisms, and a different style.
It's nerve-wracking enough to be dancing Swan Lake period. It's a timeless classic and has been performed by thousands for over a hundred years. Obviously, you want to do the ballet some justice. The amount of stamina the swan corps requires is truly remarkable. Beginning with that famous trailing line of white tutus that soute and emboite back and forth across the stage (if you've ever seen the American Ballet Theater's production of Swan Lake then you know exactly what I mean). I was the second swan to enter so within about a minute of our stage time my legs were burning.
Watch American Ballet Theater's performance of the entire ballet here:
There's a certain respect that comes along with the role of a swan. It's your job to stand there like a figure in a painting and keep your head down in somber benevolence as you wait for the Swan Queen to finish her variation... Then you finally get to switch legs and stand some more. Your feet go numb, your calves tingle like a thousand needles pricking into your muscles. I can recall hearing the dancer standing next to me sniff during our first dress rehearsal at the auditorium, and the next opportunity I had to look up I caught a glimpse of a tear dripping down her nose. THAT is how badly it hurts.
But somehow we keep going. Just honored to be onstage and have the opportunity to be a part of debatably the most famous ballet of all time.
And let's not forget that soon after coming offstage I had to run back to my dressing room and put on the sultry, long, and heavy Spanish Princess dress and dance a three-and-a-half minute variation. Probably the longest I've done to date!
Dancing wise, what are some physical differences between the three roles?
A swan's movements are obviously going to be slower, longer, and more liquefied than what a normal ballet dancer in class would do. The arms lead with the elbows as they cascade up and down to create a rippling quality that is much smoother than say the sharp, precise, and feisty movements of a Spanish dancer.
A Spanish dancer is stereotypically powerful and playful. I'm often type casted as this dancer and, in all honesty, it's usually what I prefer doing. The jumps are higher, the balances are hit harder, and the turns are faster. However, that doesn't make it more or less difficult than dancing slower and lyrically.
The village dancer of the first act is slightly more classical, but this makes the role difficult in its own right. The character isn't cut and dry. You have to be happy and cheerful, but while the main characters execute their pantomime, it's our job to react with vivid expressions to show the audience how they should be reacting. It's a role with slightly less pressure which makes it all the more fun.
What are some characteristic differences between the three roles? i.e. facial expressions, mannerisms, etc.
A swan is melancholy, almost mournful. There are different variations on the story but here the swans represent all of the other girls that Von Rothbart has transformed into the elegant birds. They have lost their former identities and are forever doomed to live their lives in this new form. To portray this kind of sadness, you leave your head tilted downwards, knit your eyebrows together, and, in a way, let the rest of your facial muscles go limp and wilt. This depicts a "downward" quality to your facial features and gives your body a gloomy nature.
A Spanish dancer is essentially the polar opposite. You smirk, you raise your eyebrow(s) in flirtation, you flash a dazzling smile that proves your superiority. When you're not flying across the stage, sometimes there's almost a game between you and the audience. You stare them down and captivate them until you have to turn away. They challenge you with the inability to be thrilled and it's your job to take them over until you've done just that. It's very exciting.
The village dancer requires the slightly more over-dramatic reactions. Most of you know, I'm sure, how difficult and awkward stage-conversation can be. It's suppose to look real. We have to make the audience believe that this is some European village from hundreds of years ago and your fellow dancers are your friends that you see in town every day. It's difficult and takes a plethora of practice before you can get comfortable. But once you and your friends can play off of each other and do a little acting and reacting, it's great fun.
Swan Lake is the mother of all ballets... The word difficult doesn't even do it a little bit of justice but despite of the dozens of blisters, leg cramps, and even tears, there were so many laughs, smiles, hugs, and even more tears when it was over. It brought the Maine State Ballet Company that much closer together and was an honor to be able to perform.
Keep a look out for the next post! It may or may not be a jump forward in time to talk about the most beloved holiday ballet of all time... ;) If you have any requests, comments, or questions feel free to leave a comment below or e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been gone. Time has slipped away and I left this blog as remnant in my memory. From time to time I would think of the writings I used to leave on the internet like fingerprints on a window and the nostalgia was consuming. But the time to begin anew was nonexistent and the thoughts would quickly vanish...
But I am here now and I am back. We have so much to catch up on. I have missed you, dear followers and I could not be more sorry for not being able to maintain the blog and continue to produce the posts you request.
How about a little update to fill the gap since we last spoke:
First off, I'd like to officially introduce myself with my real name...
Drum roll please!
My name is Rhiannon Pelletier and I am now eighteen. I'm a sophomore at St. Joseph's College and am a soloist dancer with the Maine State Ballet Company. I attended Boston Ballet in the summer of 2012 and in order to sufficiently describe the experience I'll have to dedicate an entire post to it.
I was accepted into their Pre-Professional Program and was fully prepared to move to Boston and train with them... But my life took a turn. I did a lot of inner-reflection at that time and came to find that that life just wasn't what I wanted. It takes a hungry and hard-hearted person to make it in that field and I just wasn't prepared to be that person...
So instead I applied to a local college, was awarded a hefty scholarship and began attending in the fall of 2012. I had taken "early education" classes with them since I was fifteen so that may have had something to do with the scholarship. Just months after my joining they added the major I so wished they already had: writing and publishing. You could say I was ecstatic.
In early 2013 I released myself from an unhealthy relationship. Something that was long overdue and brought me out of a rather bad place and into a rather wonderful one. In March I met Travis. Dreamy is the first word that comes to mind when describing the twenty-three year old personal trainer/college professor. I'll also have to dedicate an individual post to this story. Don't tell him this but it's been some of the happiest eight months of my life.
In the summer of 2013 I attended my school/company's ballet program and taught the youngins' dance classes on the side. It was a sigh of a summer filled with sweaty afternoons in the dance studios, long kayaking trips down rivers and across lakes, and summer twilights laying in the hammock beside the man I was falling in love with.
Now in the fall/winter I am teaching nine dance classes a week (not including subbing), taking four college courses: Human Nature and Ethics, Creative Writing, Detective Fiction, and French, and dancing four days a week (and I wish it was more) while trying to balance being a daughter, sister, girlfriend, and friend. A companion of mine asked me the other day how I was managing to balance it all and my simple response was: "I cry a lot." They laughed and I did too because it was, after all, partially a joke.
So that's my story from the summer of 2012 to now. But don't worry, there are many stories in between all those things that I simply must tell and most are dance related. I plan to post many more informative articles and tips + tricks for you all. If you have any requests feel free to post a comment below or e-mail me at: Rhiannon@maine.rr.com
But for now I have a 6 page essay calling my name and it won't shut up. I must bid you all adieu.