In the spirit of the holidays - Part 2 (12 of my favorite moments)

Smedley St in south Philly
For the second installation of my In the spirit of the holidays blog series, I will be sharing a collection inspired by the 12 Day of Christmas. In the spirit of this holiday, I am offering up 12 of my favorite moments while freelancing this year. I'm not really sure why there are 12 days of Christmas in the song (they never taught that in Hebrew school), but what the hell! Here we go!

Rehearsing Othello with PNB soloist Lindsi Dec
1. Dancing Cassio's solo/duet with Iago in Alaska Dance Theatre's Othello. Beyond the fact that Gillmer Duran created this piece on former OBT principal Artur Sultanov and me, he asked for a lot of personal input, making this creation a meaningful collaboration. I've been known to dive into a character, but I have rarely been given the opportunity to portray a character dealing with great internal struggle. Everytime I left the stage at the end of this solo/duet, I felt like I had walked offstage not as an image of Shakespeare's character, but as Cassio himself.

2. Having the opportunity to dance as a principal guest artist with Rochester City Ballet in Leverett's The Nutcracker. I have danced the grand pas de deux in The Nutcracker multiple times with schools as a guest artist, but never with a professional company. Throughout my career, I sat in the wings in my Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Marzipan costumes watching other dancers who had the opportunity to perform along with live orchestra to this iconic piece of music with balconies of theatre-goers falling into the holiday spirit. This was my first time performing the grand pas while leading a company of professionals. On top of that, I got to reconnect with an old friend, Jessie Tretter, whom I had met nearly ten years ago when I was an apprentice with Houston Ballet and she was in the academy. All-around an incredible experience!

3. Being accepted into people's homes as if I was a part of their family. Two of my favorite experiences this year happened far away from home. Anchorage first, then Providence. I had many great host family experiences this year, but these two topped the cake. I was nervous to spend 5 weeks in Anchorage, let alone in a strangers house. This was my first time spending more than a week or so in somebody's space. My Alaska host's were kind, generous, and, most importantly, spatially aware. They gave me a warm home, great conversation, and plenty of space to feel like I had my privacy. My Providence host family didn't know it, but they came into my life just when I needed them. I had recently experienced a great loss and was desperately in need of support and a nurturing environment. We spent so many hours sitting around the kitchen sharing stories, debating topics, and just being familial. My host mother was an amazing chef, my host father was such a gentle spirit, and my host sister was too witty to pass up on a conversation. Her adopted big brother is proud of her progress at the Joffrey Ballet's trainee program since her graduation weeks after I left.

Driving down the streets of Anchorage
4. Moose, glaciers, and 140 inches of snow (all-time record breaking snow). Freelancing brought me many places this past year. I left PNB in part because I wanted to see more of the world while performing. I haven't made it anywhere international quite yet, but getting to dance in Alaska was like visiting another country. I think I took nearly 1,000 photos during my 5 weeks in the last great frontier. When I tell people I went to Alaska in January, most people cringe. My words…Don't knock it til you try it! I had such an amazing experience in Alaska. Yes, the sun was out for about 5 hours, but by the time I left, it was out for nearly 8 hours. Yes, it was -15 degrees the first day I arrived, but other days it was nearly 40. Beyond the dancing, Alaska was just an all-around warm experience!

5. Getting to visit NYC dozens of times. I was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. By the time I was 15, I was taking the train to NYC regularly to take classes. By the time I was 18, I was living and training at the School of American Ballet. Once I moved to Houston, then even further to Seattle, my love affair with New York was put on hold. After a year or two in Seattle, I started to miss NYC more than you could imagine. Not only did I miss the city and it's energy, but I missed the connections and the feeling of community in the dance scene. Now that I am living in Philly again (in the city this time), I can easily decide on Friday that I want to go into the city on Saturday, buy a cheap bus ticket, and make a spontaneous trip to my second home.

My first time at the Boston Opera House
6. Getting to see Boston Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada for the first time. I am not the kind of person to arrive in a new place and sit on my ass. If you bring me to Paris, Im gonna go see London, too. I have always wanted to see both of these companies perform live. I have seen the dancers of Boston Ballet, as I took company class there and was offered a contract to dance with Boston Ballet 2 (I took a corps contract with PNB instead). Surprisingly, I never got to see the company dance. My friend, James Whiteside (former BB principal, current ABT soloist, and JBdubs by night) was able to get me tickets to see the company perform in Don Quixote. Since I was only an hour train ride away in Providence, I was able to see the company dance. It was a very special performance for me, as Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio danced the leads. Misa was my partner in our workshop performance at the School of American Ballet (I hadn't seen her dance live since) and Jeffrey is the brother of my friend, BB principal, and LOFD guest blogger, Lia Cirio (he was also promoted backstage to principal at the conclusion of this performance). I also got to see many friends that I have trained and danced with over the years perform. As for NBOC, the company has always had an air of mystery to me. You always hear about how amazing the company is, but most people I know have never seen these foreigners dancers. While dancing with Rochester City Ballet, Jessie was able to get free passes for us to see a dress rehearsal of Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Not only have I been dying to see the company, but I have also been dying to see this production. We barely made it to the show in time, but after a 4-hour jaunt across the border we got to see this luxurious production. The company definitely lived up to its' expectations and the production was amazing. I also got to reconnect with another old friend from my time in Houston Ballet, Mcgee Maddox (currently a first soloist with the company).

7. Throwing my networking event for freelancers, Contact. I am relatively new to freelancing, only having entered this world full-time back in April. I have learned a lot quickly and grown my network just as quick. One thing I realized as I started getting in the flow of this blog was that people were starting to look up to me for my knowledge, experience, and clout. After I recognized this, I decided that I wanted to do something about it. Along with my good friend, Bennyroyce Royon, we were able to put together an extremely successful event, in two weeks no less.

Dan at Niagara Falls on our day trip from Rochester
8. Getting to bring my partner along with me to share in my new experiences. My partner, Dan, and I have been together for quite some time (it will be 7 years come January). He has been so amazingly supportive of my career since we got together. So much that he quit his job, picked up our life, and moved across the country for it. Little did we expect that moving across the country would eventually mean that I wouldn't always be working in one place. But still he has been beyond supportive the entire time. One of the best parts about me traveling so much is that I often take him along with me for some time. He came for a handful of days to Anchorage, Providence, and Rochester. So, not only do I get to see the world, but I get to bring him along for the ride, as well.

9. Dancing the La Esmeralda and Le Corsaire pas de deux in a gala. I hadn't performed a classical pas de deux onstage since 2006 when Mara Vinson (former PNB principal) and I danced the Don Quixote pas de deux in First State Ballet Theatre's Arabesque Festival gala. While dancing at PNB, my rep of leading roles mostly consisted of contemporary works. By the time I had left, I truly believed that I couldn't perform a classical pas de deux well (variations included). Well, I proved myself wrong with these performances. Now, when approached with classical work, I gladly say sure, instead of doubting myself with a demure yes.

10. Connecting with, sharing, and collaborating with amazing artists. One of the reasons I left PNB was because I felt greatly isolated from the dance world. There were great artists in the company and a few in the dance scene, but there was also a level of social climbing and social class in the small network of dancers. Beyond my event, moving to Philly and being in NYC a lot have given me great opportunities to network. The dancers are more open to wildly intriguing (sometimes bordering on nuts) possibilities. But beyond the dancers of the mid-atlantic/northeastern dance scene, those that I met at my gigs really inspired me to think in the box, out of the box, and wherever that next step is outside of that out of the box.

My very first partner, Katie Moorhead & I reconnecting at Contact
11. On the flip side from #10, reconnecting with so many old friends. Not only did I get to dance with an old friend from Houston in my travels, but I reconnected with so many more along the way. From people that I trained with to my first dance partner to teachers and people that I lived with in a dormitory, I can't even count the number of people with whom I have had the chance to reconnect. This right here has been more valuable than most of the experiences I have had in my career.

12. Creating this blog. I used to blog when I was a member of Myspace. I was in my early 20's and experiencing a lot of new things in life. I guess you could say I was a little dramatic. Well, I blogged openly about whatever I was feeling. I got a lot of criticism for it, but over a year or so I wrote over 400 blogs and had about 20,000 views. I have been meaning to start a blog again ever since Myspace exploded with spam and I quit the network, but I couldn't find the inspiration. Finally, I found something that inspires me enough to write about regularly. Since I started this blog in my Providence host family's window seat in April, it has received nearly 7,500 views, been shared by another publication, gotten me work, and inspired me to move this resource from the internet to a public place where freelancers can connect with one another.

With that said, I would like to wish each and every one of you a wonderful holiday season. And thank you to all of you who regularly read my blog! This blog is my pride and joy and I can't wait to continue writing for you in the coming year! Cheers! L'chaim!

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