Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: The Year of Highest Highs and Lower Lows

2010. It's the end. The end of another year -- of a decade.

I seem to say this all the time, but it's incredible how much happens in a year -- and how much doesn't. Time fllies. I tend to live a life of extremes, and for me this year has had some of the highest high points and lowest low points of my entire life. I have SO much to be thankful for. So many people to be grateful for.

Back in July I had a full-page story about my dance career in the Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure section. That was by far the biggest, most exciting thing to happen to me (and to ever happen, probably). Though it added a bit of stress for the first half of the year, being followed by a (wonderful!) reporter and photographer all the time, the end result was incredible. I was SO lucky to have that experience, and I am so thankful for the response I got afterwards from friends and strangers finding my story inspiring.

The only comparable event in my life thus far was dancing in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and unfortunately that took a turn for the worse soon after the article. My foot, which had been getting increasingly painful, made me unable to really train for the audition in August. Between not returning to that amazing seasonal job and having to have surgery on my achilles, the rest of my year was a little downhill.

I've had rough patches in years past and every time something better comes out of them. So...that's my outlook for 2011. Things can only get better from here, right?

Last year at this time I was finishing up my 2nd season in the Christmas Show and on New Year's Eve I sat with friends who had written down their resolutions for 2010. I sat with an empty paper -- no plans whatsoever for the year. No job lined up. No performances scheduled. No clue.

This year I danced for 4 new different companies, secured a stable part-time job (related to my degree) with flexible hours (that I still work), moved out of my Lincoln Center apartment of 2 years for a more affordable place in Queens, started teaching more and began my New York City Ballet Workout certification, upped my title to Assistant Director of the Performing in NY Showcases, met an amazing person, started singing lessons, appeared in a commercial and became SAG eligible, got great coverage in The Huffington Post, and managed to go no more than 3 weeks without performing until I had surgery.

I'm entering 2011 with another blank slate. As my foot continues to hurt and heal it's hard to make concrete plans -- which is extremely frustrating for someone who needs control and stability! But I have one long-term dance residency job lined up and a few things in the works. I'm starting a work-study program to begin my pilates certification. We're in preparations to produce another Performing in NY Showcase at Ailey. I still have my job. And I've sent out 50 resumes abroad to hopefully set up an audition tour in Europe.

There are a lot of things I'm hoping for this year. Chief among them is my foot to finally stop hurting and contiue to get stronger.

2010 was a year to get grounded. 2011 will be my year to dream.

This time of year is always a little, post-Nutcracker, post-Radio City...but it's also a time to be optimistic. January is a fresh start. 2011 is new. I hope everyone makes their dreams come true this year! I know I'll be working hard for mine...

I am so thankful for all of my experiences, the good and the bad, for I am constantly learning. I have an amazing support system of family, friends, readers, and teachers and am grateful every single day to have them in my life, near or far. I can never express how much I appreciate those who have supported me, who have listened to me, who have given me opportunities, who have encouraged me.

Here's to you!
Happy New Year!

7 Reasons to Vote for My Blog: #1 - I Love It

As the voting round of Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs 2010 FINISHES, I thought I'd do a post a day for a week giving you reasons to go ahead and VOTE FOR ME :) Today's the last day!

Vote for Off Center
Reason #7: I'm Ancient
Reason #6: No Ads
Reason #5: Community
Reason #4: Writing Quality
Reason #3: Endorsements
Reason #2: Redesign
Reason #1: I Love It

I love sharing my dance experiences. I love translating dance into words. I love giving a voice to dancers. I love hearing from readers and meeting new people. I love checking my stats and seeing that people care about what I have to say. I love connecting with other blogs. I love giving insight to a relatively closed off world. I love discovering new dance companies and giving them reviews they otherwise wouldn't get. I love having a natural outlet for my writing. I love dancing. And I love blogging.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

7 Reasons to Vote for My Blog: #2 - Redesign

As the voting round of Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs 2010 approaches, I thought I'd do a post a day for a week giving you reasons to go ahead and VOTE FOR ME :)

Vote for Off Center
Reason #7: I'm Ancient
Reason #6: No Ads
Reason #5: Community
Reason #4: Writing Quality
Reason #3: Endorsements
Reason #2: Redesign

Image is everything. Since starting the blog 3 years ago I've redesigned a few times to make things more appealing and readable. Back in the day my tagline was "Off Center: the ramblings of a hopeless ballerina." Somehow the pathetic "hopeless" was dropped along the way and now I'm just "a New York dancer and writer." But besides the description, I did a major visual overhaul this summer of both the blog and my website. I *think* it's a lot better than it was.

My tweets and other websites are pretty easily accessible up top, and the archives and tags are all organized on the right. I'm using a lot more photos and videos in my post and have better formatting (though Blogger is still finicky at times...). I removed the gigantic old top banner I used to have with my photo (tacky!) and opted for bright simplicity. I hope it's easily navigable and fun to look at while reading (some other blogs I know are b-o-r-i-n-g). And it coincides with my Twitter and main site, all pink and black and white :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Natalie Portman & Benjamin Millipied Engaged?

This made me laugh hard for some reason...

Portman tells Entertainment Weekly:
“I have always kept my private life private but I will say that I am indescribably happy and feel very grateful to have this experience.” 

MTV lists "5 Things To Know About FIance Benjamin Millipied"...

Help! Voting Round of Top Dance Blogs 2010 Has Begun!

In case you missed it, I'm in the final running for Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs 2010 in the Dancer Musings category AND the Top 20 category.

Many thanks to all who commented to help me get through the first round - but now's when I really need your support!

If you can, please take a sec to head over to Dance Advantage here and vote! You can only vote once for one blog in each be sure to click "Off Center" for Dancer Musings and Top 20! I was in 3rd place for both categories at the end of the commenting let's make this a winner :)

I've been posting 7 reasons why you should vote for my blog here, so take a peak at those. More to come this week.

Reason #7: I'm Ancient
Reason #6: No Ads
Reason #5: Community
Reason #4: Writing Quality
Reason #3: Endorsements
Reason #2: Redesign
Reason #1: I Love It

Happy Snow Day Voting!

7 Reasons to Vote for My Blog: #3 - Endorsements

As the voting round of Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs 2010 approaches, I thought I'd do a post a day for a week giving you reasons to go ahead and VOTE FOR ME :)

Vote for Off Center
Reason #7: I'm Ancient
Reason #6: No Ads
Reason #5: Community
Reason #4: Writing Quality
Reason #3: Endorsements

A little self-serving bragging just for one sec (to convince you to vote! A good reason :)...

Vanity Fair has twice given a shoutout to the blog, calling it "one of the precious sources of inspiration" and "sprightly."

Career Transition for Dancers had me as a guest speaker for a seminar called, "The Art of Blogging" last year.

Media Bistro quotes me in an article about arts criticism, and The Huffington Post mentions my "prominent blog."

And even though the NY Times didn't mention the blog, I have to include that link here just because :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry (belated) Christmas!

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

I sure did - one of my presents was an autographed copy of Margot Fonteyn's autobiography! Wow!

Can't wait to read it...

7 Reasons to Vote for My Blog: #4 - Writing Quality

As the voting round of Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs 2010 approaches, I thought I'd do a post a day for a week giving you reasons to go ahead and VOTE FOR ME :)

Vote for Off Center
Reason #7: I'm Ancient
Reason #6: No Ads
Reason #5: Community
Reason #4: Writing Quality

So, maybe this is subjective but...outside of dance, my second career and passion is writing. I have a BA degree in Communication Arts (focus in journalism) and a Masters degree in Publishing. I've written about dance for Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Movmnt Magazine,, and numerous other dance websites. I took a writing class with a NY Times dance critic, was the Features/Arts editor of my college paper, and interned at 4 magazines (including The New Yorker).

Even though blogging is meant to be casual and quick, quality should not be sacrificed. I am by no means perfect - most of the time I'm blogging in a hurry and forget to go back to edit - but I think I've got a little credible edge there...?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

7 Reasons to Vote for My Blog: #5 - Community

As the voting round of Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs 2010 approaches, I thought I'd do a post a day for a week giving you reasons to go ahead and VOTE FOR ME :)

Vote for Off Center
Reason #7: I'm Ancient
Reason #6: No Ads
Reason #5: Community

There's no doubt that the dance world is small, as is the tight-knit online dance network. As a blogger, dancer, writer, teacher, assistant director, and fan, I really try to be active in our community. I link to fellow dance bloggers frequently and list them to the right. I tweet like crazy and follow/am followed by dance tweeps around the world (Daniil Simkin has me "listed" as a colleague :o ). I edit and put out a monthly e-newsletter with my ballet teacher for 3,000+ subscribers.

In real life, I know and am friends with many fellow NYC dance bloggers in person. I attend many major dance events in the city and do my best to report back on them here or review them for people out of town. I've worked and trained with amazing dancers and friends who are now all over the world, and I try to use those connections to bring interesting outside stories to the blog (like these interviews). And I really work towards spreading the word about our beautiful art form and dance communitity.
(I thought this would be a good one to talk about today since it's Christmas! Merry Christmas to all my friends, fellow bloggers, and readers out there :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

7 Reasons to Vote for My Blog: #6 - No Ads

As the voting round of Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs 2010 approaches, I thought I'd do a post a day for a week giving you reasons to go ahead and VOTE FOR ME :)

Vote for Off Center
Reason #7: I'm Ancient
Reason #6: No Ads

Guess what? Ballet is not a moneymaker. Journalism is not a moneymaker. writing/journalism/blogging is NOT a moneymaker. Yes, it's hard to spend so much time on the blog without getting paid. Outside of my psycho-busy ballet life I have a 30-hour per week job to pay the rent. But advertising is annoying. I don't want to sell anything, and I don't want your money. I want your vote ;)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

7 Reasons To Vote for My Blog: #7 - I'm Ancient

As the voting round of Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs 2010 approaches, I thought I'd do a post a day for a week giving you reasons to go ahead and VOTE FOR ME :)

Vote for Off Center
Reason #7: I'm Ancient

As my overview post earlier today explains, this blog has been around. I started blogging back in July 2007. And with the exception of dance critic Eva Yaa Asantewa's blog InfiniteBody (started in April 2007), I'm the oldest blog on the Top 20 List. I've been mostly consistent through those years, with a brief haitus during my NY Times era (someone else was chronicling my life, so I thought I'd take a break...). Doesn't sticking through the prehistoric ages of dance blogging mean anything ;) ?

Welcome New Readers :)

The photo that inspired my blog title.
Getting ready for Balanchine's
Divertimento No. 15 at BAE 2007.
Photo by the wonderful
Rosalie O'Connor.
Between the Huffington Post, The New York Times, and the Dance Advantage blog comptetition, I've gotten a lot of new blog readers lately :) Welcome! I thought (since it's been a while...) I'd just do a quick overview post about the blog and such...

I started Off Center back in the summer of 2007. I was 18, had just completed "ballet school" at BAE here in NYC and was starting my professional dance career, my final semester of college, and my first semester of grad school. And wow, a lot has happened since then...

Back then, there were very few dance blogs that existed. I was trying to start a freelance writing career after interning at Pointe Magazine, a dance PR agency, and a few other magazines - and I thought blogging might be a good way to keep myself churning out content. Basically the only other dance blogs (in New York, at least) were The Winger, Swan Lake Samba Girl, Oberon's Grove, Dancing Perfectly Free, and Great Dance. We all met in person for the first time in January of 2008 when Cedar Lake Dance became really the first company to invite bloggers and take notice that this was where the media world was headed.
(Ok I'm searching everywhere to find the picture we took that night but...this one was a few weeks later at a gathering hosted by Movmnt Magazine...)

That fall I wrote my senior thesis on dance journalism in print and online, and it's so amusing to read it now and see just how much has evolved in technology in just 3 short years!

Personally, a lot has come from starting the blog. I've gotten writing gigs from it and the opportunity to see more dance in NYC than I ever could've imagined. I've met some wonderful people (in real life and online) and have had the chance to interview inspiring dancers. I've been able to share some life highlights...

-Insights from rehearsals with numerous companies
-Internships at major magazines
-Graduation from college and grad school
-My first professional ballet job (and many thereafter)
-The joys of performing 2 years at Radio City
...and many many more.

If you want to take a look back, the archives to the right are pretty mangeable. I'm in the process of trying to go through and label old posts that I never categorized...but that may take a while. There's also a feature on the left bottom side of the page called "Life at a Glance" that has some big topics already broken down (and also needs to be updated...).

I also am super active on Twitter, if you want to follow me there :)
And here's my full website with my bio, etc.

A huge thanks for reading! I so appreciate anyone who sticks with me to read more than one of my ramblings...

Good News & Bad News

First the good news...
Off Center has made it to the final voting round of Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs 2010! I'm entered in the Dancer Musings category, competing now against Miami City Ballet dancer Rebecca King's blog, Tendus Under a Palm Tree (we're both Rock School alumni!), and Norweigen ballet dancer Henrik's blog, Tights and Tiaras. And then I'm also in the Top 20 category, currently at #3! Exciting!

A HUGE thank you to friends, family, and loyal blog readers who commented on my initial competition post and helped me make it through the comment round! I truly appreciate everyone's effors and support for the means a lot! But now I'll need more help :) Starting Monday December 27 at 10am EST the final voting round begins. You'll be able to vote only once, for one blog in each category. So...consider Off Center! I'll post voting details and links as soon as they're available, but just a heads up :) You can see the list of competitors in other categories here (it's fun to explore new blogs!)

The bad news...
After taking a week and a half of from dancing per PT's orders, the stupid foot is still hurting. Last night my physical therapist decided it may now be peroneal tendinitis, and so he's going to try to treat it as if that's what the continued pain is until I see the doctor again in January. But...ugh! I'm teninitis = inflammation. But I don't know what I'm doing to keep it inflamed if I'm not dancing?! The solution for this is rest and ice, which I've been doing for way too long now. So frustrating to not have this nearly 4 year old problem solved even post-surgery :/ Whatever - my Christmas present to myself is taking ballet class on Christmas night!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12 Pains of Christmas

(This was supposed to be funny but it actually turned out kind of self-pitying, haha oops. Sorry to be a downer.)

Candy canes are more fun than walking canes.
1. My achilles, 3 1/2 months post-surgery
2. My scar, rubbing against my boots
3. My calf, from the physical therapist digging in
4. My knees, from sitting at this desk all day
5. My hip, jacked up from compensating for the injury
6. My lower back, from holding that long yoga backbend
7. My neck, from sleeping strangely on the bus yesterday
8. My wrists, from stretching on the reformer this morning
9. My biceps, from today's "holiday" pilates session
10. My lip, from biting it after a cookie from the office party
11. My head, from not enough coffee today
12. My heart, from not being able to really dance this Christmas :/

Last Day to Vote for 1st Round!

Hi friends (and new readers via HuffPo!),

Today is the last day of the voting round for Dance Advantage's Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs of 2010! If you want to help out, please post a comment on THIS POST! This round is judged by number of comments so...let's go!

Hopefully after today I'll enter the final voting round...details to come, and that's where I'll really need your help...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


This morning people from American Ballet Theater presided over the opening bell to celebrate the new Nutcracker opening this week! I'm SO excited for opening night on Thursday...

More Musings on Black Swan, Eating Disorders, Etc.

Let me preface this by saying that I think it's time we move on from all this jibber jabber and actually do something about ballet's issues. Too much talk...

Anyway, here are few more interesting news items I've come across over the past few days about "Black Swan," the whole Alastair/Jeni Ringer deal, and eating disorders in ballet...

First off, in response to the HuffPost article I was in yesterday, one of my ballet teachers who danced as a soloist in NYCB under Balanchine for many years said, " generation, I think, just worked to be better dancers and better artists and hoped the audience would be moved by what we were doing. I never thought of trying to be perfect, that would be asking for WAY too much. We had a good time and apparently it worked. Then again...I remember dancing mostly for the audience not for other dancers."

I think that obsession for perfection that we see so strongly in Natalie Portman's character is inherent in the art form -- we're asking our bodies to do things physically unnatural -- but the emphasis on that has grown over the years for dancers themselves. Now it's so much about tricks and turns and competition. 

Here's an interesting radio interview with two prominent ballet people in Boston: one of my former teachers, Margaret Tracey, who now directs Boston Ballet School, and Jose Mateo of Jose Mateo Ballet Theater. It's fascinating to me to hear the director side of things sometimes. In the midst of all this ballet press I feel like many spokespeople are giving cookie cutter, "nice" answers to questions about ballet. "Oh yes, our ballerinas are healthy." We seem to be protecting our art form - myself included - which makes sense. But the truth is (and it's pointed out around 15:00 in the interview) that there's a huge gap between what we say and what we do. We say we love ballerinas of all healthy shapes and sizes. Then we hire or cast the "perfect" ones. Hmm...something's not right. I'm really curious to read Elizabeth Sullivan's Columbia thesis that's referenced in the interview, titled "The Introduction of Wellness Programs in Pre-Professional Ballet Schools in the United States. 

Moving's a health expert's opinion about the psychological aspects of Natalie Portman's character. "But could Natalie Portman's character have carried off the demanding ballet performance in a psychotic state? Doctors say it would have been 'unlikely.'" It's pretty clear from the start of the film that this is fiction, fantasy, not real. That's why I think this works as a decent film for our art -- it's not claiming to be a true representation of ballet dancers, and it's not duplicating the cheesy stereotypes of "Center Stage."


Monday, December 20, 2010

HuffPost: Black Swan & The Real Ballet World

I'm interviewed today on the Huffington Post in an article by Jordan Zakarin about "Black Swan" and the real ballet world. READ IT HERE.

I love this line: "But when they're not performing, dance is less an art than extreme sport, with often times unrealistic expectations, driving dancers to their physical and mental limits -- and beyond. The result, far too often, is a loss of an inner self that so few outsiders can see."

Jordan has a great article (and a fun archive of other pop culture posts...) and I'm so glad I could be a part of it. Thanks to Evan, also!

Nutcracker Memories

My roommate and I, my 1st year at Rock, with our "tree."
Sigh. As so many friends finish up Nutcracker seasons this week, I'm thinking back to all my (millions of) Nutcracker memories. Because of my stupid foot, this is the first winter in 15 years that I have danced in some version of the holiday classic. I grew up on it. It's what Christmas means to me. And it's really hard to have the season come without putting on a pair of pointe shoes...

I was very fortunate this season to still be involved in a production, even if I wasn't onstage. Since September I've been rehearsal assistant for Exit 12 Dance Company's brand new Nutcracker, which had its run this past weekend in West Hartford, CT. While it was frustrating to not get up and dance in rehearsals, I really enjoyed helping shape the choreography and clean up details. I was so thankful to still be part of the creative process in the studio, and for me it was a different but equally beneficial kind of learning process on the outside.

I went to see the finished product on Friday and was so proud to see my friends onstage :) Everyone looked beautiful and came a long way.

But at the same time, as I sat in the front row my heart was breaking. I want to dance. I want to be onstage. I want to be in Nutcracker. I miss it terribly...

While my foot still rests and gets stronger (and the pain hopefully goes away soon?) I'm trying as hard as I can to stay connected to ballet. But it's not the same when you just can't do it all day everyday, with performances this festive time of year. Here's a look back at some fun Nutcracker memories...
My first Nutcracker - as a Chinese Doll with Boston Ballet, age 7

Our cast of dolls

As a lamb in Boston's Nut. During Marzipan they had 4 of us hopping around stage.

As a pollichinelle in Boston. I was so proud: I got to be "Kissy Boy" at the end, staying onstage for an extra few seconds blowing kisses to the audience by myself :)
I was a party girl twice in Boston. This was the older year. Check out how long those curls are!

An angel in Boston. So...the audition people lost my # and didn't cast me, so last minute they made me the only thing they could: an angel with people twice my age (and height). Not a great year for a shorty under the smog.

My last year in Boston I was Tea. The parasols were fun.

After Boston I spent 2 years as a Hoop in Balanchine's Nutcracker at Pennsylvania Ballet. Nice pants.

After that came NYC: 2 years in Dances Patrelle's Nutcracker. This was snow.

A not-so-Spanish Spanish cast, Dances Patrelle.
After that? My first Nutcracker as a PROFESSIONAL. Albano Ballet in CT.
Albano Ballet bows.
And then: 2 years of my favorite. Ballerina bears at Radio City Music Hall. Ah.
And can see me all too seriously watching Roman Baca's Nutcracker rehearsal, here.

Happy Nutcrackering! Happy Radio City-ing! Happy Holidays :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

You Have to Watch White Christmas

Ok. I admit. I'm in love with old musicals. I'm not ashamed.

Last night I happened to catch the last hour of "White Christmas," which I hadn't seen since I was really little. I saw the stage revival before it was on Broadway a few years ago but somehow nobody compares to the old cast...

If you get a chance to see it this Christmas season, do it! Check out Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye in this sweet's true...the best things do happen while you're dancing...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Injury Update

Somehow I just realized that I haven't posted about my stupid foot since just after I got out of the giant boot!

When it was first decided that I was going to go ahead with the surgery for my achilles bursitis/Haglund's Deformity back in August, my doctor assured me that it would only be a short 3-month recovery til I'd be "back to full dancing." I had my heart set on that Tuesday November 30th date, exactly 12 weeks after my September 7th surgery. In my head I thought I'd be back in pointe shoes and ready to jump into a Nutcracker last minute since I'd still have a month to get stronger.

Not. You see, doctors lie.

The truth is I probably wouldn't have gone ahead with the very necessary surgery if he told me that it would really take much longer to fully heal - but mentally I would've been much healthier if he had exaggerated in the other direction (telling me it would take longer than it really would) so I'd be pleasantly surprised at my progress.

That didn't happen.

Basically, after getting out of the boot I slowly started getting back into class. It was a weird feeling to have such limited mobility at first (I couldn't even cross to fifth position) but it felt SO good to be dancing again, even if it was just 20 minutes of sort-of-barre. With physical therapy I slowly built up my strength, progressing to releves after what felt like forever.

In early November I pushed through one little performance - but it was hip hop and therefore not to stressful on the foot. Then I approached my 3-month recovery mark knowing that I still wasn't really jumping and hadn't even considered trying on a pointe shoe. Hmm. I went ahead and within 3 days of that 3-month mark I danced in 3 different sets of performances. Can you say impatient?

First we had our semi-annual Performing in NY Showcase at Ailey, which I'm assistant director of. These shows keep growing into more and more work, and I was so focused on all the administrative aspects that I barely got to enjoy the fact that I was onstage once again. It also didn't help that I was scared for the foot the whole time, even though my choreography was minimal. Sigh.

Later that week I danced an improvised solo at an AIDS event at Judson Memorial Church. It was a truly touching event to be a part of, but I think the hard floor was a mistake. My already bad pain level went up the next day and PT was not happy with my crazy tight calves!

Embodied Stories at Judson
The following weekend I got to rejoin Exit 12 Dance Company for parts of "Homecoming," which I danced twice over the summer. It was another bad floor but that meant the piece would not be on pointe, so I was able to take part. What a joy to be a part of that group!

Since that one gung ho week the recovery progress has kind of halted. I had been so positive since the surgery - things could only get better. The worst had passed. But the point came where things started to reverse. I'd wake up and be in pain just walking even though I hadn't danced the day before. In class I'd have to stop mid-barre instead of getting through to center pirouettes as I had been. That excruciating tearing feeling at the bottom of my plie was back just like before the surgery.

It's scary.

When I went back to the doctor at the 3-month mark he said, "Oh yeah, we didn't expect you to be better just yet." Gee, thanks. He and PT thought the pain was normal.'s still going on. This week PT decided maybe it's inflamed again (how can it be, when I've literally only take 2-3 classes per week? I used to do 2-3 classes a DAY!) so I'm taking the week off from dancing.

Talk about discouraging. Part of me is so willing to rest if it's going to put me back on track. Part of me is so tired of not dancing, and half-dancing, as I have been doing since about June. Part of me is terrified that after all this, the problem is not solved...

I'm really trying to have patience, and through this whole process I've been forcing myself not to push to much (a true challenge for an overachiever...). But...I'm ready to be better. I feel so grateful for all who've been by my side through this. And when I'm finally better I owe my physical therapist a huge's been 8 months.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Help! Reader’s Choice Top Dance Blogs of 2010

So...I've been blogging here on Off Center since the summer of 2007. Yes, I've taken time off. Yes, I've had some slow times (ahem, lately...). But I really feel like the blog has been a big part of my dancing life over the years.

You've been with me through beginnings, Nutcrackers, graduations, summer intensives, performance reviews, rats and realities, bear heads and Santa beardsthe best time of my life, and the worst. Even people from The New York Times and Vanity Fair have been supportive. I am forever grateful for the amazing people I've met through the blog, the opportunities that have come up, and the kind words I've heard in response to my experiences.

But now I need YOUR help...

Dance Advantage is hosting the Reader's Choice Top Dance Blogs of 2010 and I'm entering in the Dancer Musings Category.

Here's the deal: the more comments on this post, the better. If you comment here showing your support and I'm one of the top 10 most supported, I enter the voting round after December 22. Voting takes place December 27-30. So...comment away :)

For your (or mostly my) enjoyment - a photo timeline of the blog coming soon...

Black Swan, Eating Disorders, and So On

So recently I was asked to respond to some of the hoopla going on lately about ballet dancers and eating disorders and Black Swan and so on. I wrote this as a guest blog for a bigger site but time restraints made them unable to post it it is now, haha. This was somewhat ins response to this post.

There’s some kind of artistic hunger ingrained in us as young ballerinas-in-training. I’d sit in the wings of the second act of Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker entranced by the lights, the beauty, the precision onstage. Behind me was the blackness of backstage, the scent of Tiger balm, the whining dancers, the clunk of props. I was so lucky to see both sides of this elite world.

I ached to be a part of it.

That hunger for opportunity is the true meaning of a starving artist. We can be deprived of so much as ballet dancers – a childhood, a prom, a stable career. But our appetite for art supersedes all that.

It’s an addiction really, that obsession for perfection. During one summer at Boston Ballet I was living at home, an hour away from the city. While all my fellow students returned to the dorms for their dinner break between rehearsals, I stayed to take an extra class. We already had two technique classes a day, plus rehearsal and maybe Pilates. It wasn’t enough for me – I’d take men’s class during our lunch break and more technique at dinner. I loved it.

While training in New York City (and taking an overload college course schedule and holding an internship) I used to get to the studio early on Fridays for an extra semi-private class with my favorite teacher. I’d dance 6 hours without a break. That last push at the end of the day felt amazing.

Years later as a professional, I would do three shows a day at Radio City Music Hall and then run across town to take a class or two at The Ailey Extension. It just made sense to me to do more. Ballet was my life.

Is my life.

Because I’m mostly freelance, there’s this constant fight to find a job. A fight with myself, with my body, with my competition. Every day in class we’re told what’s wrong with us. We stare hours on end at our bodies just in a leotard in tights. It’s frightening honestly, but we often blame the mirrors.

Oh I can’t stand at that barre – that’s a fat mirror.

Aronofsky’s film Black Swan really captures that mental struggle we face daily. Though Nina’s (Natalie Portman) actions are obviously taken to extreme, her intentions and motivations are completely realistic. She wants to be perfect. She wants to be thin. She wants her role. NYCB principal Wendy Whelan has it right when she says, “Dancers learn to take on these subtle head-trips every day.”

Though there has been much discussion about the film’s depiction of eating disorders, I actually think it did well in not making that a huge focus (as other silly ballet movies like Center Stage did). The truth of the matter is that ballet dancers can’t maintain these kinds of training schedules without eating anything. And those who don’t eat don’t last very long. Where would the stamina and strength come from?

During my season of 17-show weeks at Radio City I’d eat at least three big meals a day (I’m talking bacon and eggs, big plates of pasta, chicken parm…) and I still lost weight unintentionally. Though ballet is anaerobic exercise, it still burns calories fast as muscles tone. I don’t think Portman and Kunis lost 20 pounds each just to look like ballerinas – their training to dance like ballerinas naturally thinned them out. With a professional schedule you’re going to lost weight whether you’re eating nothing or everything.

Our bodies are our tools. Unlike a painter whose brush is not physically a part of them, our art and our selves are one in the same. Our entire self-perception falls prey to that – healthy or not. We’re not hungry for carbs. We’re hungry to dance.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jennifer Ringer on the Today Show

She's wonderful. And beautiful.

And by the way she says exactly what I've been saying about dancers and weight loss and Black that hard naturally makes you thin - and if you're too thin/don't eat you just can't do it anymore.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sneak Peek at ABT's New Nutcracker

Check this out from Works & Process...I can't wait to see the whole thing!
Nice to see little Catherine (my Radio City Clara one year) as ABT's Clara now!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Wow - as expected, the second I'm able to physically dance again and take class regularly is the second the blog goes kaput. Hrmmm...

It's been an insane two weeks...things are so busy! That's a good thing except for the fact that my foot can barely keep up, haha.

Two weeks ago I actually got to perform for the first time on the new foot. It was super exciting but very amusing: it was a huge hip hop event! SO not me. It was fun was a promotion for the new Microsoft XBOX Kinect game Dance Central. Tons of dancers performanced in Times Square with these famous rapper people and such. It was a cool experience and SO fabulous to finally dance again.

Of course I hobbled more than usual the next few days after that.

But really, the foot is improving. Today marks 10 weeks since surgery - and 2 more until I'm supposedly "fully recovered." I've discovered that that really means "recovered for a normal human being," as in, able to walk pain-free. Ballet's a different story. I'm definitely making progress but there's no way I'm going to be fully back and in pointe shoes the way I used to be by 2 weeks from now. Sigh.

I AM, however, performing in just a week and a half :)

We have our semi-annual showcase at The Ailey Extension and I'm in hyper-performance-prep mode for that. Not just dance-wise but organizationally. I'm assistant director so basically...I'm doing everything, haha. So many details to take care of. So many emails. But we're getting there. It's gonna be a great show and I'm really looking forward to being onstage.

More blogging to come...I still have reviews to catch up on and other things in the works...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

From Halloweens Past

My brother and I. I'm guessing 1993?
Halloween has always been a favorite holiday, mostly because ballet class on that day was just slightly less serious when you're all dressed up :)

Here are some of my favorites from years past...

Halloween 2009. The theme was "Food and Drink," so Alice and I went as cookies and milk. Yes, we did barre like that!
Halloween 2009 at Radio City Music Hall. We all wore shirts with our Dance Captain's headshot on them. Good times!

Halloween 2007. One of my favorites. Yes, I did class on my "yellow brick road."

Halloween 2006.

Halloween 2004. I still remember the look on my ballet teacher's face at this one...

Halloween 2003 at Rock. Check out my hair standing tall. What a baby I was!
Halloween 1991? Really a baby!

Yes, I'm missing photos from a big span of years in there but...I'm sure that's a good thing! Those costumes included Miss America, a butterfly, an Indian...and that's the extent of my memory. Haha!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Behind on Blogging

I'm super behind on blogging...the minute I'm allowed to somewhat dance again is of course the minute I have no more time to blog...hopefully tomorrow or so I can catch up on a few reviews, previews, and recovery progress reports...sorry for the delay :)

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

 A very special Happy Birthday to my amazing mom today!

She has an incredible strength to her and I am eternally grateful for her constant love, support, encouragement, generosity, and role-modeling. She is a wonderful mother not only to my brother and I but to all of her many dance students who love her so. Thank you, mom, for all you do. Have a wonderful day!


PS- These are really awful pictures...for some reason we don't have a single decent picture from the past 5 years together, haha...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Interview with Richmond Ballet's Ariel Rose

© Liza Voll Photography/
Richmond Ballet's Ariel Rose has been around the world and back. At just 20 years old, he was a soloist guest artist at Ballet Municipal de Lima in Peru after training at ABT's JKO School and Ballet Academy East (where we trained together). His budding career in both ballet and choreography is enviable.

Read my interview below with Ariel about his experiences abroad and his new position at Richmond Ballet.

What has the start of your ballet career been like thus far since BAE and JKO? Where have you been dancing, and what have been some of the highlights?

In 2008 I went to Boston Ballet to be a trainee for two years. However, as a trainee, I was luckily chosen to perform with Boston Ballet's corps in a few ballets such as Kudelka's "Cinderella,” Nissinen’s "The Nutcracker", Balanchine's "Diamonds" and "Coppelia" and the Royal Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty." During this time, my dancing changed dramatically, not only from the rep I was dancing but also because the incredible artists I was seeing everyday in class. When I took company class, I would study and try things that I observed from their different techniques. I was constantly inspired to push myself further and take myself to a new level I didn't think I'd reach.

You spent the summer dancing abroad with Ballet Municipal de Lima, right? How did that opportunity come about?

I have always had family in Peru (everyone from my mother's side that is.) Every year, we would usually fly down to visit them for a week; however, we never knew of the dancing going on within the country. During one vacation in which I couldn't afford to not dance for a week due to Boston Ballet's schedule, I found The Ballet Municipal de Lima online and asked if I could come take class for a week. In the summer of 2010, I was invited to guest with the Ballet Municipal de Lima as a First Soloist in Peru during their production of Alicia Alonzo's “Coppelia.” After being a trainee for two years, this seemed like a giant step forward but I did not hesitate in answering yes. A week after rehearsals, I was told that I would be learning Franz (the leading male role) due to an injury of one of their own principal dancers. Although a little intimidated, I went in head first, throwing all of my self-doubt out the window (I couldn't imagine doing a principle role any other way). I ended up dancing 5 performances of Franz (1/3 of the shows) and was pretty well received by the Peruvian audiences. When I look back, the jump from student to such an experience is actually frightening, but I feel that at least on an emotional level, I was ready for it and it was an experience that I needed. No, that I craved.

What was your experience like abroad?

Dancing abroad is something that I didn't think I would do at such an early age. Although I do not think it is good for every at twenty years old, I feel that it really brought me into the professional world. I went to somewhere completely new where I knew no one and in which the language was not English, and just engaged myself in ballet without anything else on the side. It was very easy to just focus and direct all of my attention to the art I was working on at the time and also find out what it takes to perform a three act ballet on and off the stage. Along with opening new doors, traveling to dance somewhere new really changes ones perspective on things in the dance world one way or another and to be perfectly honest, I think this is one thing that is necessary for a dancer to survive for a long time healthily and inspired. Along with dancing new and exciting repertoire, traveling abroad lets one meet new people, learn new languages, customs and more importantly, actually realize that ballet is done differently around the world. Yes there are different styles but people actually see and appreciate ballet in different ways depending on where you go.

(More plus video after the jump...)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fun Tights

Photo from
When I'm healthy and taking a zillion classes a day, I often get bored with my usual dancewear. Same old leotards, same old tights. I get creative sometimes with more patterned leotards I made at Class In, but the tights are always blah. But I recently came across We Love Colors, a company that offers all kinds of fun choices!

Their tights and leggings are SO comfortable. They really let you move and are fine to sweat in if you're dancing, running, or whatever your workout. And they're functional too...espescially this fall, leggings with boots are so in. You can wear these to class and then just throw a sweater over them to head outside. They're super cute in bright colors (though you may want to save those for jazz class...too bright for ballet!)
Tank Leotard
Photo from

They also make leotards, shorts, gloves, and more. Their tank leotard is not the most flattering, but it's a good basic for any dancer to have. And check out all the crazy colors they come in!

Looks like they have some fun ideas for Halloween, too.

Recovery: Day 42 - Bootless!

Today's my first day without the boot!

It feels weird, haha. My foot is hurting but not too's mostly on the outside of my ankle from being stiff and not using it for so long. Supposedly that will go away. It's nowhere near as bad as it used to be pre-surgery, though, so that's a plus.

As I walk without the boot I'm still hobbling a bit. It hurts when I flex and stretch to the extreme, so rolling through my foot in normal parallel as I walk hurts. I walk with one turned out foot exagerating the step because I'm used to stepping onto a big platform boot with added weight. Strange. I'm sure I'll get over it soon (I hope, hah).

It's amazing to be free from the boot, and it was more amazing to try barre last night. I've missed making a bun and getting warmed up and standing in my usual spot. Class itself was sort of amusing because I can barely plie. I can't releve yet. And I tried to do 5th position but it hurt, so I did all of barre from 1st. Hey, it's a start. I made it through all of barre until frappes, when I used the "stop while you're ahead" tactic. I'm really trying to make an effort to listen to my body and come back slow because I KNOW I don't want to do that and I must. I do not want to get hurt again...I can't go through this again...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Recovery: Day 41ish - Goodbye Boot, Hello Barre!

I'm SOOO happy today!

I just went to my doctor for my 6 weeks post-surgery followup and it's all good news: I can stop wearing the gigantic moon boot AND I can start taking gentle barre!

It's very exciting. I've been getting more and more frustrated by the day with the boot and with not being able to move. I'm sort of scared to take barre because a) I do still feel some pain if I try to plie, and b) I'm going to be SO out of shape. But still...I'm happy. I've been taking pilates and half of yoga for two weeks now, and I'll continue with those things to supplement a few barres per week for now. This is much sooner than I was expecting to get to dance!

I see him again in another 6 weeks, by which time I should be back to full dancing he says. Right now the thought of jumping and pointe shoes seems insane, but...I'll get there slowly I guess. Of course I'll continue with PT, but now we get to add strengthening exercises. I'm headed there now to see what fun I'm in for...

Hooray for progress!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

TAKE Dance: The Distance of the Moon

Photo by Kokyat
Takehiro Ueyama knows how to put on a good show. His contemporary company Take Dance, in collaboration with Pulse, presented "The Distance of the Moon" last week at Judson Memorial Church to standing ovations. And rightfully so: the evening offered intriguing choreography, strong dancers, exceptional live original music, and cool lighting in a great performance space.

The program was broken into seven sections with varying moods choreographed by Take himself and Jill Echo, Kile Hotchkiss, and Julie Tice. Each was deliberate in establishing a theme throughout the movement - contemplation, intensity, friendship, humor...all paying ode to the versatility of this company within a set style and vocabulary.

Hotchkiss' "Penumbra" was the most forceful and memorable of the selections, especially with it's start: Light! Five dancers stood in line facing a single stream of brightness on the left. It was a jolted start from blackness that sparked curiosity. Slowly the dancers held onto each other, slithering up and down in the shadows of Jake Warren, the tall dancer at the front. As the lights came up they separated into intense duets and solos of swoopy movements. Jason Jeunette's fantastic lighting cast their shadows larger than life on the three walls.

Following this was Echo's excerpt "Evening Song" for five women. In a circle, they swung their arms and threw their heads back, rotating around like clockwork. Their huddle broke to reveal their more playful personalities. Elise Drew has a particularly compelling stage presence. Yumiko Sunami's twinkly music was the most enjoyable of the evening (though JC Sanford's music in "Long Night Moon" also stood out).
Photo by Kokyat
It's always fun to see humor in modern dance, and Take's "And Dance By the Light of the Moon" did that well. Two dancers in white start hunkering around the stage like cavemen, shifting their weight side to side as they walk with bent knees and stiff torsos. As they round the upstage corner another comes out to the audience's surprised giggle. They go on to dance powerfully with subtle touches - a confused facial expression, an awkward movement - that called for laughs. It would've been just enough had the part when a dancer strolled by crouched on a skateboard in a just black shorts and a strange silver mask been omitted.

That hokey-ness and the pseudo-acting in the bar scene of "Moonshine" could've been skipped. Like many ballet, contemporary, modern, and musical theater works seen over the years, this last piece set a table and chairs on one side and a makeshift bar at the center to create your typical bar dance scene: the flirty girls, the suave guys. The cliche story and "acting" was saved by a clever duet for Warren and Mariko Kurihara. About 2 feet different in height, their partnering was comical in the best sense. Kurihara was hilarious, standing barely to her partner's ribs.

Whatever the work, Take Dance always is a joy to watch. The dancers have wonderfully uninhibited movement and flow. And live music and creative lighting made "The Distance of the Moon" a great success.
Photo by Kokyat

Exit 12 Dance on Reuters

I've been dancing/working with Exit 12 Dance Company since February and I'm so excited to see today's Reuters interview with our director, Roman Baca! Check it out above as he discusses the piece "Homecoming," which we performed in August and also in May in Connecticut.

I'm on the left at 2:12 dancing as the mother!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

ABT's 2011 Met Season Rep Announced!

Very exciting! Details here.

Today ABT announced it's repertoire for the 2011 Met Season (aka my favorite time of the year).

Ratmansky and Wheeldon will each have a world premiere, and Millipied will have a U.S. premiere.

Then the season starts with some of my favorites: "Don Q" and "Giselle." Next comes "Lady of the Camellias," which I missed the last time they did it recently. Then comes Freddy Franklin's "Coppelia," Kudelka's "Cinerella" (I think they use supers for this one...yay...), the gorgeous "Swan Lake," and finally "Sleeping Beauty."

Plus Jose Manuel Carreno retires with Swan Lake on June 30. Osipova and Cocojaru are back.

Upcoming: NYCB Wellness Workshop

This Saturday New York City Ballet is holding a Dance Wellness Workshop that looks really interesting.

As a dancer recovering from a serious injury, and an almost-certified New York City Ballet Workout instructor, I'm really looking forward to this:

A one-day series of interactive presentations focusing on the care and healing of the dancer’s extraordinary instrument of art—the body.

Saturday, October 16, 2010
10 AM – 6 PM

New York City Ballet Rehearsal Studios
Samuel B. & David Rose Building, 8th Fl.
70 Lincoln Center Plaza

Registration open to students, professional dancers, parents, teachers, and administrators.