Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Sugar Plum Fairy Fell in Love...

...with the Nutcracker this year, oh my!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. It is again that wonderful time of year where decorations line store windows, houses, gardens, parks, and our...er.. undergarments! A spirit of joy fills the streets and a hustle and bustle happens while we all prepare with holiday shopping and gatherings. If you're a ballerina...you're also watching or performing in the Nutcracker!

I miss the gold 'old days at Eastern Connecticut Ballet where I performed almost every part in the Nutcracker throughout the years. I began as the rat and grew to snow queen, waltz of the flowers, arabian solo, spanish, merlaton, gingerbread, snow queen, and Clara's doll. What amazing memories of performing at the Garde Arts Center in New London, CT! Tech week was my favorite. Doing homework backstage in between dress rehearsals and tech rehearsals, but filled with the excitement and anticipation of the show to come.

This year I was fortunate enough to come home to Connecticut the weekend of the 3rd through the 5th of December to dress up as snow queen and the sugar plum fairy and dance in the window of North Cove Outfitters in Old Saybrook and in the Captain Stannard Inn in Westbrook, respectively. At the latter event I took photos with kids (photos above) and spoke to visitors about why our Nutcracker is unique. We have a nautical Nutcracker set in the historic whaling port or New London, Connecticut. Instead of Clara falling asleep on her bed and being carried to her dreams in Act II she travels there by boat, with the rats being pirates! There are beautiful costumes and set decoration that will make any kid's mouth hang open.

I'm looking forward to watching this year's Eastern Connecticut Ballet Nutcracker this coming weekend of the 10th and 11th of December for a little nostalgia and to get into the holiday spirit. There are two shows on Saturday (1:30 and 4:30pm) and a 1:30pm show on Sunday. Merde ECB dancers! I will be watching proudly.

Hope to see you all there!

lots of love,
Carolina the Traveling Ballerina

PS Here is an article in the Shoreline Times newspaper reporting on the Saybrook stroll and myself and other ballerinas making Nutcracker appearances in stores and store windows, plus a video of me dancing in the window! http://www.shorelinetimes.com/articles/2010/12/09/news/doc4cfe3bbcceddb046978203.txt

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Back to life in New York....

...but embarking on another circus adventure!!!

Yes, as Giffords Circus co-director David Hibling put it: "Carolina, you'll never get the sawdust out of your heart." I just finished watching the PBS special "Circus" a beautiful documentary on the 2009 Big Apple Circus show, and during the last episode I found myself crying-well-sobbing tears of sadness and joy. I am truly blessed to have been part of such a special circus adventure with England's Giffords Circus this year, and it's an experience I'll take with me for the rest of my life. Even though I wasn't born into the circus like some of the performers in the documentary, I feel very much a part of it now that I have experienced one run in a circus.

We left off in the last post with me being back in London. It's hard to believe that was only two months ago, as so much has happened since! The vacation was a well-deserved and lovely break where I was able to visit friends and family in Paris and Amsterdam. We even had a mini Giffords reunion in Paris with a few of us performers who were either home in Paris or visiting, which helped to ease the pain of being pulled away from the circus so quickly. I practiced my French, shopped, went sightseeing, saw shows, explored on bike, and ate local cuisine and at the end of it I was ready to head home as it had been about six months since I began circus rehearsal. I'm now back in New York modeling, doing extra work for tv and film, auditioning and taking dance class, and temping a bit too. Above you'll see some of my recent modeling work, and there's more on my website. Things are back to the way they were before I left for the circus, but I wouldn't say I'm the same person. I've grown so much as a person and a performer that I believe I can tackle things with more integrity and curiosity but above all without fear.

Also, the funny thing is it seems as if David's prophecy came true: within a few weeks of being back to the City I found myself being called back for the dance company Pilobolus' 2010 circus tour through Europe. Had I landed that I would have been touring Europe for over a year with rehearsals beginning immediately in Austria. It would have been too soon for me to head back out, but it was a huge boost of confidence to have made it that far! Then the PBS "Circus" ads were floating around New York including smacking me in the face on my daily subway commutes around the city. Last but not least came the confirmation that I begin rehearsing for "Barnum" the musical in Connecticut right after Thanksgiving...which reminds me that I need to get my upper body into shape! Despite my nerves on working on the silks next week, I'm newly inspired by the beautiful four-part documentary I just finished, and I have a silk foundation thanks to my experimenting with them in the evenings at Giffords Circus. I know what to expect and I welcome the challenge of becoming an aerial dancer.

It's a new Carolina Ballerina, perhaps a Carolina the Circus Ballerina! Either way, I have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving and I continue to be humbled by the opportunities I've been presented with. I will do everything I can to keep working hard in my craft as I know now that a life without performance is a life I don't want to be in (at this stage in my life). I am so excited for the possibilities that lie ahead! Thank you Giffords, PBS, and God for these blessings. Thank you to my friends, family, and boyfriend for their love and support! Happy Thanksgiving everyone, may you all have a fantastic holiday filled with warmth and joy.

With love,
Carolina the Traveling Ballerina

Monday, 13 September 2010

All Good Things Come to an End

...but then there's always a vacation!!!

I can't believe it's already the 13th of September. The circus just ended and I'm back in London once again (at my Godfather's) ready for a ten day vacation around Europe. The end came so quickly and I don't think it has fully hit me yet that this magical experience is really over. What an adventure I was embarking on last April....little did I know how far I would come with my assistant choreographer/director role as well as performing in the show as one of the two dancers. I really loved touring around the United Kingdom these last five months and I'm going to miss my circus family dreadfully. I'll think of them when I bring some of their phrases back to the UK: "That's well nice!" or "You knob" or "That's knaff" or "Nice one!" There are also some ruder ones...

Our last few sites went really well (we were all sold out!) and we had another visit from Helena Bonham-Carter and family as well as designer Vivienne Westwood. Our last weekend of shows in Cirencester brought a comedy show by some of the performers on Friday night and a visit from Molly Molloy the director, on Saturday night we put on a spoof show of the main circus acts and the Martinez family visited me from London, and Sunday my photographer friend Lia Chavez and her husband David visited and after the last show we had a big party. The comedy show was put on by Will Buchanan our drummer, Gabor Vosteen our musical clown, and Olivier Taquin our mime act. Olivier and his partner Boris were two men watching a scary/romantic/funny/trajic movie and was such a wonderful use of facial expressions over a well chosen soundtrack. Gabor then did a theatrical rendition of Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands" and Will closed the show with some stand up comedy. Saturday night's spoof show was so funny and so creative I absolutely loved watching it (and performing as He Yuan and Yang Rui's Chinese globe act wannabes). Finally, last night was incredible with London band "The Trojans" (Gaz of Gaz's nightclub's band) performing in the ring and everyone dancing. There was a hog roast and cocktails served as well, and everyone was in great spirits. However, today was another matter as everyone was so sad this morning taking down the tent, finishing up their packing, and making their way to the next chapter of their lives. I left on a tearful goodbye but taking so much with me from the experience.

I am so incredibly grateful for everyone who visited me on the tour. Thanks to Kurt, Mom and Dad, the Hartwell family, Tia Helena and Helo with Caaarlo, the Magoris family, the Martinez family, and Lia Chavez and her husband David. Finally, thanks to Molly Molloy my mentor and the most wonderful director I could have worked for in my first assistant choreographer and director position.

I'm really looking forward to heading off to Paris and then Amsterdam for a 10 day holiday to visit my godmother and friends! On the way back from Amsterdam I'll make another stopover in London to take some dance classes and do some more photography work with Lia. Then it's back to the Big Apple where I will finally be reunited with boyfriend Kurt, family, and friends.

PS I've just received word that the Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut (where I performed in the musical "Evita" in the summer of 2008) is putting on the circus musical "Barnum" in December! Jackie Hubbard has already invited me to take part so it looks as if I might be working on another circus musical to come!

That's all for now, with very much love
Carolina the Traveling Circus Ballerina

Friday, 23 July 2010

I Performed for the Prime Minister in Hotpants...

...no, really I did. And I met the pet sheep named Colin- he is fantastic.

Since I last wrote we've been to many places after Cheltenham including Broadway, Tackley, Stadhampton, Lechlade, and we are now in Barrington on a two-week stay. The shows are continuing to go extremely well, and as you can see from the photos above, I have had a chance to meet some celebs once we reached Tackley. First I met British tennis player Tim Henman, then Johny Greenwood from Radiohead, and in Lechlade Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Burton came to the shows with their kids. They were both fantastic people and their kids so cute! I was giving them a tour of the back tent and the ring at one point and both of their kids started to try on the pig head, goose head, and others from the show and then Tim and Helena did as well and took some photos on their iPhones. It was hilarious! I was thrilled to have a chance to talk to Tim about his work and how much I enjoyed his MoMa exhibit (it is currently touring in Melbourne, Australia) and Helena was telling Nell Gifford and nanny Phillipa and I about her current filming of the movie "Toast." What a day that was!

After Lechlade we arrived in Barrington where we are currently, and Kate Winslet's director ex husband and kids came to the show (she no longer lives in Barrington) as well as Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron with his wife and kids. I didn't want to bother the Prime Minister for a photo but I did have a chance to greet him after the show, and he said he loved it! I was slightly embarrassed by the hotpants I have to wear in the second act, but no matter...I work for the circus!

Besides the shows we've had some great fun as a circus family going out to pubs and clubs in Oxford and Cheltenham as well as people's birthday parties. Lance the chef had his famous birthday party on a river boat in Lechlade (where the mouth of the Thames is) and we all drank, danced, and even went for a swim in the river! The next day was our day off so everyone relaxed at Rob's house and had a barbeque and played some tennis and drank some Pimms and lemonade, which I must say is quickly becoming my favorite summer drink. Now that we're in Barrington we are at a wonderful pub called "The Fox Inn" next to our site, and everyone comes down for drinks after the shows and we have a fantastic time.

I was hit with a spout of homesickness recently as we're at the halfway point in our tour and everything, but that's only natural. I am loving every minute but also missing my family, friends, and boyfriend back in New York and Connecticut. Two of my best friends got engaged recently (and I'm going to be able to make it to Katrina's engagement party hooray!) and my family is going through some changes but I will be there soon enough to join them. I have had my boyfriend and parents visit so far, and I just found out my best friend Veronica and her husband will be coming to visit in Minchinhampton, so that is really exciting to hear! She is an amazing makeup artist and we met on modeling shoots back in New York and became instant best friends. A lot of London friends have come to the shows, and another New York friend Kayleigh who I went to Fordham University with might be making an appearance in August and then traveling to Paris with me after the tour. Yupee!

What else to tell? Oh! I booked a modeling gig for a yogawear company coming up in the next few weeks, so that's very exciting to have a little bit of my old work to look forward to, and we've also appeared in a few magazines such as "The Lady" "Country Life" and "Cotswolds Life" among others. The Lady featured some photos of Roxane and I in our tutus with Yasmine and the horse Zigfield. It is the July 17th issue with Nell Gifford and nanny Philippa and the two twins Cecil and Red on the cover with the headline "Nell Gifford: Mum in a Big Top."

Here is a funny story: we had the craziest day last Tuesday when we found out that our tent was too close to the electric lines so tent master Ian told us all we would have to take down the tent and pull it back up again all in the same day (mind you this is usually split up between two days and we don't have shows) AND do two shows! You can imagine how tired we all were after the shows, but it was a hilarious process and I've never seen us all work so fast and so together on tent duties before. Poor Ian was so upset that Rob wasn't in fact "taking the piss" when he told him what Toti had ordered but that he was, in fact, serious. Yet another perfect example of my favorite line: "Yep, I work for the circus."

Tonight we have another house party from one of the locals in Barrington following our last show of the day, so that should be fun! Tomorrow night is our last night in Barrington before our move on Monday after the last show, so I'm sure we will all be at the pub to celebrate. The Fox Inn has by far been my favorite pub on this tour as the landlord Paul is so funny and he never closes for the circus.

More soon,
with love
Carolina the traveling circus gypsy

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

You Know You Work for the Circus When...

You Know You Work For The Circus When......

Brian the Goose wakes you up sqwawking outside your window

The horses poop in the ring and there’s no time to scoop it so you dance on horse poo in the ball scene

You practice walking the wire in your spare time

On your day off you decide to learn aerial dancing on the silks

The cook’s electric scooter is called Henry William George

Your fellow performer has a pet sheep named Colin

You go clubbing and the Russians start dancing like Borat

The showers get turned off on move day so post-show the cast is taking down the tent in full clown makeup and high visibility jackets

You wear wellies with your tutu when not in the ring

You are admitted to see Buena Vista Social Club for free at the Hay on Wye festival because you’re “with the circus"

It has really been the most incredible journey so far. We've rehearsed for three weeks in the Cotswolds (Bourton on the Water where the circus is based), then had ten days of previews in Gloucester followed by two weeks in Hay on Wye, Wales during Hay Festival, and now we're in Cheltenham on the racecourse. As you can see above...there's really never a dull moment when you work for the circus, and I couldn't be happier to be a part of this experience.

The Hay on Wye shows were jam-packed and we had some amazing reviews (just Google Giffords Circus) such as the one done by "The Stage" here in the UK. On our day off we had a chance to record the official Giffords Circus "Yasmine! A Musical" CD so that will be out soon ready for purchase. We had a lot of fun recording it. We've also had some celebrity writers, cooks, and comedians come to the shows so far, but apparently once we reach Tackley or Stadhampton (the closest shows to London) we should have some of the celebrities from last season showing up such as Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter as well as Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, and Vivienne Westwood. I would die if I get to meet any of them, how exciting. I'm such a fan of Tim Burton (see previous post regarding his exhibit at the MoMa when I was back in NY). I don't even need to say anything about Kate Moss or Vivienne Westwood as I model in NY and I am the biggest fan of anything fashion but especially those with the talent of Kate and Vivienne. As for other goings-on in Hay, there were interesting lectures, movie showings (such as the "Dharma Brothers" regarding introducing Vastassna meditation in prisons: great film), and concerts. Buena Vista Social Club was just one of them. I had a great moment listening and dancing to Buena Vista where they played the song "Chan Chan" that Ballet Hispanico danced to in their "Noche Latina." Seeing them live and having danced for Ballet Hispanico made me immensely happy.

Anyway, lots to tell and my mind is so scattered. We are about to pull up the tent here in Cheltenham and my little caravan is all unpacked after the pack-down process we all go through before moving towns. I don't know how I'll ever get used to living in my one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan anymore! I rather like this little caravan of mine. I've also worried less about the unimportant things while out here in the countryside. I'm still a New Yorker at heart, but living in my homeland of England with the carefree-ness of a Brazilian.

Speaking of Brazil: THE WORLD CUP STARTS IN JUST TWO DAYS!!! I have to root for Brazil first as allllllll my family lives there except my parents and brother, then I will root for England next as I was born here, then Spain and USA because I lived in each country for a long time. I can't wait to watch the matches. I've got a World Cup poster hanging on my wall tracking all the games with spots left for filling in the results and who makes it to the next round from each grouping.

More soon, with love

Carolina the Circus Gypsy

Sunday, 2 May 2010

I Ran Away With the Circus...

....and it's everything I imagined and more!

I have finally arrived at Giffords Circus and completed my first official week of rehearsals at circus headquarters in Bourton on the Water (Gloucestershire), England in the Cotswolds. It has been a busy and fun-filled week of dancing and band rehearsals as well as watching the other acts rehearse in the ring. This year's show is called "Yasmine A Musical" and it revolves around the life of horse-trainer Yasmine Smart (playing herself in the show) in three stages of her life. Sophia from Russia will be playing little Yasmine, Emily from England will be Yasmine as a teenager and in her twenties, and Yasmine will be playing herself. The musical is set in a glamorous 1940s setting for our costumes and set design as well as the musical score written by Sarah Llewellyn. The costumes are to die for! I won't give too much away but I had such fun with my fittings this week.

Most of the band members are from France and a few from England, the other dancer Roxane (I have been practicing my French with her) is from Paris, we have a Chinese ball and tricycle act, Olivier from Belgium's "Freres Taquins" act where he plays a puppet with a performing partner, Sarah Schwartz from Germany is our high-wire act, Gabor from Germany is a comedian, and Bibi and Bichu are Ethiopian jugglers. In addition to running the warm-ups and rehearsals with Molly Molloy (our American director who I am assisting) I've been notating all of the choreography and helping direct some of the comedic interludes with Barry Grantham. When I learned that Barry had been in the film "The Red Shoes" (which inspired me to dance) as well as "Tales of Hoffman" I was flabbergasted. What an amazing man! His comedic timing and dance and theatrical training are so vast yet he is so humble and fun to work with. He directed Roxanne and the band and I in "Run Rabbit Run" and the "Classical Music" interlude. In two other interludes expect some hilarious surprises in the form of role reversals. I won't say more!

At night when rehearsals are over for the day and the meetings I attend with Molly are over, the cast has a chance to relax by a campfire and the band members play the guitar and drums while others sing and I sometimes get up and dance. A night last week a flamenco tune began to play on the Spanish guitar as Emily began to sing a song about her sombrero and the rest of us chimed in and improvised. The song took a dramatic turn as I got up and began my overly dramatic flamenco dance around the fire with flamenco arms, footwork, and intense facial expressions. It was priceless. On another occasion Gabor tasted his first toasted marshmallow and his reaction was "amaaaaaiiiiiizzzzzziiiiinnnnggggg!" We all, of course, broke out into song following Gabor's hilarious response.

This weekend we've had a bit of time off but unfortunately it rained last night and today, though it didn't stop a few of us from going into nearby Cheltenham to do a bit of shopping, and today we went in two cars to downtown Bourton on the Water to do a bit of sightseeing and go out for British teatime. What a gorgeous and historic little village Bourton on the Water is! All the old stone buildings and little river with bridge running through the downtown are picturesque. I will be sure to post some of my own photos in my next post as soon as I upload them. Disclaimer: the photos won't be of a sunny day as we are in England after all, but the village is just lovely!

Finally, I must share a bit about caravan life. How amazing the caravans and wagons are! I'm in a shared wagon but everyone in the circus has their own bedroom. There is a little cooker, sink, shelves, and bed in each bedroom and room to hang and store things. It is just what one needs, with a heater inside for cold nights, and two windows per room. Some of the trailers are larger and are for the veteran performers and staff. I am so exited to have gourmet meals prepared for us by cook extraordinaire Lance and his assistant cook Evie. The dinner car will travel with all the wagons and trailers as we begin touring in two weeks time, and every night after the shows audience members can join the cast for dinner on a large country table set outdoors in a covered tent. Tickets for this can be purchased online when show tickets are purchased.

I am so thrilled to be a part of this adventure that is Giffords Circus, a theatrical and vintage circus that is well-known across England and the UK. Apparently some celebrities have come to the shows such as designer Vivienne Westwood (Nell Giffords's good friend), model Kate Moss, actress Kate Winslet, and Prince Harry to name a few. We've already had quite a bit of press anticipating the 2010 tour, and I look forward to reading more press once our shows begin! For tour dates and tickets please visit http://www.GiffordsCircus.com.

More to come and thanks for your support!
with love,
Lina the now traveling Ballerina

Thursday, 25 March 2010

You May Say I'm a Dreamer...

photo by Younghoon Kim

...But I'm not the only one.

The day for me to finally run away with the circus and leave New York City for a little over five months is drawing nearer, and as much as I want to be excited and envision how this vintage circus and caravan lifestyle will play out (lets be honest I'm peeing my pants and having daydreams of running through the fields of England's countryside wearing flowy flowery dresses and my new brown lace-up mens dress shoes)... I must be careful. Expectation takes the joy out of everything, right? So says Sandra Bullock anyway. She's right!

My life lately has been a tornado of extra work for tv (a new day job.. like I needed more) and the usual modeling gigs/temp work as well as the go-sees my agency sends me out on. Only one thing isn't there and I'm happy to not have it in the mix for a while: the auditions for musicals. It's nice to not have to sit at the cattle calls a few times a week, and I don't need to be there as the auditions now are for the summertime. I've also taken on a new so-much-more-than-a-day-job: I've been asked to join the Jennifer Muller scholarship program. I get to take company class as many times as I want during the week in exchange for a few hours work every week. This has been such a blessing not only because I love the company but I have friends in the company and the style of dance is so freeing. I describe Jennifer's class as a mixture of ballet and release technique. It takes a while to click but once it's in your body it frees and lifts you up out of your normal constraints. I will keep working to perfect this technique up until I leave and hopefully after I return too.

Amidst the chaos there have been those moments of clarity and dreaming that I described in my last post...only this time I'm not just absently wishing for something to come true anymore. I'm working towards something special. Next week the flamenco show I've been working on since last summer will premiere in New Haven, CT and all that hard work of weekend rehearsals in Connecticut (and week rehearsals in Manhattan) will pay off. It has been an amazing collaboration with choreographer Melinda Marquez and 12 other amazing women performers. The piece is a tribute to women freedom fighters and we are all dressed in non-traditional flamenco attire and dancing to percussion instruments and a recitation of a Pablo Neruda Poem. Last weekend I had the pleasure of going to see Angel Corella "Castilla Y Leon" perform at the NY City Center. It was their first run in NY after being established in Spain as Madrid's first ballet company in 2008. Angel (a Madrid native who became famous dancing with American Ballet Theater in New York City) took a tremendous leap and landed on solid ground with his company. The repertoire was classical ballet with a flamenco edge. In the duet with his sister Carmen where they combined flamenco and classical ballet I couldn't help but get emotional as it was just so beautiful and combines my two favorite dance genres. It gave me such inspiration for my own flamenco performance coming up! The grace of ballet coupled with the fire and precision of flamenco make for an unstoppable match: dance, in my opinion, at its best.

Today after work I took some time for myself and on a whim stopped into the MoMa to see the Tim Burton exhibit. I love Tim's work even if I don't necessarily share his gruesome imagination. The point is that he has such a tremendous imagination I can't help but giggle at some of his earlier drawings such as the "[Susan] and [Jim] like to hold hands" sketch where the couple are shown with half-dead facades and mischievous grimaces holding pairs of severed hands in their own. The one of another couple "...Enjoying Each Other's Company" had the couple biting each others' legs and arms. His polaroid photograph series and glow-in-the-dark sculptures were incredibly imaginative too. There were, of course, sketches, models, and costumes on display from his films such as Big Fish, Edward Scissor Hands, and The NightMare Before Christmas. Another favorite of mine was reading his handwritten notes of Tim's character descriptions of Edward or Jack. The hero is always a gentle "monster." There's a definite nostalgia to Tim's work that comes from being free to create whatever you please and developing that impulse as a style of your own.

So here I am, looking forward to the near future but nostalgic of the things I will leave behind and how much I'll miss New York, my family, and friends. Once again humble, grateful, and embracing the world in my usual optimistic way (unless someone sets off the Brazilian fire and then...ut oh!) with an excited hope for what's to come. In the meantime, I've got a 24th birthday to celebrate in less than two weeks!!

Carolina The soon-to-be-Traveling Ballerina