Returning to Providence

Sleeping Beauty rehearsal - Shura Baryshnikov as Carabosse & Emily Loscocco as the Lilac Fairy (Photo: A. Cemal Ekin)
Almost one year ago to the day, I was sitting on an Amtrak train writing a blog about my wonderful host family that I had spent a month living with in Providence, Rhode Island while guesting with Festival Ballet Providence. Although, I had some experience freelancing before that gig, it was my first as a full-time freelance artist. I am experiencing a bit of de ja vu since I am currently on a train heading home to Philly after saying goodbye to the same host family. Three weeks ago, I was brought back to the Ocean State to dance with FBP in their season closing production of Sleeping Beauty. It was due to the relationship that we had cultivated last year that I was asked to come back and dance with the company again.

A few weeks before I left Alaska, I contacted the director of Festival to see if he needed any guest artists for his production of Sleeping Beauty. Since the company is comprised of about 25 artists, it is not uncommon for them to hire guest artists to supplement their productions of these large scale classical ballets. At the time of contact, the company was in the theatre working on a different production and they weren't able to let me know if they needed me. I only found out that I was hired a little less than a week prior to my leaving. I had just arrived home from Anchorage when they let me know they needed me. After spending 3 months in Alaska, I only had 5 days at home before I hopped aboard a train to begin rehearsing. Sometimes, that is how work happens. I have learned to be prepared to travel at a moment's notice.
Providence is beautiful in the springtime

Although I do prefer a bit more warning, I was happy to return to Providence for many reasons. The moment that I was hired, I jokingly told the director that I wouldn't take the job if I couldn't stay with the host family I was with last year. He already knew that I would make this request and within an hour I had received a text from my host mother letting me know, "Of course you'll stay with us. I'll start cooking!" I was very happy to reconnect with the fam and to catch up on happenings of the past year.

I was also excited, surprisingly, to take class with the company again. Last year, I dreaded returning to the achingly slow classes that were founded by Agrippina Vaganova. Strict Russian-style classes are hard as can be. After training at the Kirov Academy of Ballet for a year, I was reluctant to return to that training, especially after cultivating myself into a Balanchine dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet. What I wasn't expecting was how much strength I would gain from the technique during my time with FBP last season. This time around, I was excited to benefit from these classes. At times, I just couldn't make it through the painstakingly slow adagios that are often given. But I definitely felt that my technique got stronger over the last few weeks. I even had a mind-blowing revelation during one of the classes. Well, I didn't quite have this revelation, but the teacher explained one thing that had always irked me about Russian training. After giving a particularly hard combination, the ballet master, Cosmin Marculetiu, let the dancers in on a little secret about Vaganova training. He stated, "This combination wasn't created to make you feel good. It was made to make you fail." This statement validated all of my feelings about this style of training since I left KAB. I always felt like I was a horrible dancer in Russian classes. I didn't realize that this was exactly the point. Although, I don't prefer to feel like I am failing each day, I can now better appreciate this technique. It was developed to challenge you beyond your threshold, so that one can handle difficult choreography with ease.

One thing that I really appreciated upon my return to the company was how welcomed I felt by the dancers and staff. There has been a lot of turnover in the company since last season, so there were many new faces. Although there were new dancers, from the moment I walked into the studio I felt that people were genuinely happy to see me. There was only a rumor that I might be returning, so most of the dancers weren't expecting to see me when I arrived. I was embraced with warm smiles, hugs, and chatty catching up. Those that didn't know me quickly warmed up to me and, within a day or two, I felt almost as if I had met them the season prior. Being a freelancer, I am constantly faced with the discomfort of breaking into each company's unique bubble, which is commonly tight knit and competitive. It was nice to walk into the studio knowing that I didn't have to prove myself or awkwardly engage people until someone befriended me. I appreciate this more than one would probably think due to the fact that my work forces me to exist in a constant state outside of my comfort zone.

Taking this job was not a career boosting opportunity for me. I didn't return to Festival to be a star. The director didn't hire me to dance in place of his dancers. He already has beautiful, quality dancers who are more than qualified to dance their repertoire's leading roles. When I take work, I usually prefer to be the Prince or some other leading character. But if I am going to take a job where I am only needed to supplement corps roles, especially roles I most often performed during my apprenticeship/1st year in the corps, I would prefer for it to be in an environment that I enjoy. During the past three weeks, I was so happy to reconnect with old friends, make new friends, take quality classes, and perform with little stress in my roles. Last year, I felt like I was returning to my roots in Providence. This year, I felt like I was returning to see an old friend.

Carabosse & her crew of gargoyles

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