Guest Post: 32 Fouettes for my 32nd Birthday

This guest post is written by my sister, Emily Earle. A graduate student at Lesley University, my graceful sibling has been dancing since the age of three. Read her review of the final dress rehearsal for Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake … 

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Guest Post Author, Emily Earle

Everything is indeed beautiful at the ballet this spring!

Mikko Nissinen’s resplendent Swan Lake returned to the Boston Opera House this past Friday, April 29, offering awe-inspiring movement, music, sets, costumes and technical accomplishments that transport the audience out of time and into an emotional fantasy.

Fortuitously, I was brought along as a guest of the Trendy Trainer (full disclosure: she’s my sister and it was my birthday on Friday. Thanks, TTT!) to view the final dress rehearsal.

I’ve actually had a unique connection to Swan Lake since before I was born. My mother had Boston Ballet season tickets and attended a performance while she was pregnant with me so I possibly absorbed Tchaikovsky through that and when I was growing up, I couldn’t sleep unless the music was playing on a cassette tape next to my bed. I was also a ballerina for many years myself, from age four to eighteen, spending hours after school and on weekends at the barre and en pointe, even dancing the Baby Swan variation in class.

Needless to say, ballet, specifically Swan Lake, holds a special place in my heart.

The final dress rehearsal provided an inside look at how ballet is made, long tables lined with computer screens, towers of technical equipment, at least three video cameras and endless numbers of artistic staff with legal pads, scribbling furiously.

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As soon as the mournful oboe signaled the beginning of the prologue, we were witnessing something special. One last chance to work out kinks before an opening night audience, but, from where we sat, there were no kinks at all. Perfection radiated from the movement onstage in their precise, calculated yet deeply emotional steps.

Briefly, the story of Swan Lake is one of magic, deception and tragic romance. An evil sorcerer transforms a princess into a swan by day and tricks a Prince into betraying her with his own daughter, the infamous Black Swan. Nissinen deftly stages each piece of the story, rolling fog spilling over into the orchestra pit while the corps de ballet rises from the mist in a spectacular stage picture, highlighting each tortured swan arm undulation until your heart is breaking for the cursed princess.

Though I was never close to dancing professionally, I am reasonably aware of the athleticism it takes. The training and conditioning along with the intense artistry demanded of one of the top ballet companies in the world is unparalleled. It’s a unique combination of an extreme sport and high classical art.

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One of the most well-known sequences, the “Odile coda” near the beginning of Act 2, requires the dancer playing the dual role of Odette the Swan Queen and her evil counterpart, Odile the Black Swan, to perform 32 fouette, or “whipped” turns at a rapid clip and Misa Kuranaga, Boston’s Swan Queen, stunned in this variation. Her fierce flicks and flashes of movement communicated her power over the doomed Prince and her endless series of turns elicited the thunderous applause it deserved.

I felt so fortunate to watch a rehearsal of this scale play out.

The dancers walked through a brief curtain call, but there were no bouquets of roses to present, only the directors and designers hustling to the stage with pages of notes before the orchestra even finished playing.

As I stood from my seat to leave, the orchestra began reviewing certain pieces of the score and the lights started scrolling through cues, flashing colors against the flock of white tulle congregated center stage, putting the minute, final touches on a gem of a piece that was clearly ready for and deserving of an audience.
Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake plays April 29-May 26 at the Boston Opera House: www.bostonballet.org

Six-Pack Spotlight: Healthy Living Blogger & Nutrition Counselor, Allison Nichols

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Allison and I go way back. I’m talking my Burlington, Vermont days when I was just a little bitty elementary school kiddo.

My sister, Emily, and Allison danced together in VT and reconnected when they were both ended up in Boston years ago. I met Allison through my sister and quickly realized we had a ton in common.

From our passion for fitness to writing a healthy living blog (Allison’s is Frisky Lemon) and living in the same city, Allison and I have made it a point to grab coffee and catch up or carpool to fun fitness events.

I’ve even been asked to join Allison and her co-host Jessi Haggerty on their weekly podcast, At the Table with Allison & Jessi later this month!!

So without further ado, meet my girl Allison …

Caroline Earle: Frisky Lemon! Where did that incredible name come from?

Allison Nichols: It kind of just came to me randomly when I was starting my blog almost six years ago. BUT it does actually mean something. My passion as a nutrition counselor is supporting women who are looking to heal their body and their relationship with food. When working to stop dieting and heal, there are a LOT ups and downs. Those “downs” are the most important part of the healing process– they are what give us insight into imbalances you your diet and you life.

I always tell my clients that there really are no mistakes, only learning experiences. So Frisky Lemon really comes from “when life hands you lemons, get frisky!” I want my clients to turn those lemons around and have fun with them — to use them to find balance in their diets so that they can heal and reach their health goals.

CE: As a former dancer, what led you to pursue CrossFit?

AN: Well, along with being a dancer, I was also a shot putter. Track and field was my real gateway into Crossfit (we did a lot of weight lifting to train for track), but I wouldn’t have been so into shot-put if I didn’t have the body awareness I gained from ballet. They seem like very opposite forms of movement, but they’re both really all about technique — and so is olympic lifting.

One of the things I love most about ballet was connecting how my dance looked to how it felt. You really learn how what things feel like when they look good technique-wise (if that makes any sense). That’s one of the things I love about Crossfit and weightlifting. A complex movement like the snatch takes a certain amount of strength, but it almost takes a lot of technique. Part of excelling at the sport is knowing what something feels like and being able to make adjustments — just like in ballet.

The other thing that keeps me Crossfitting is how empowered it made me feel and how it changed how I viewed my body. I never quite fit in with other ballerinas body-wise and weight-wise, and that really bothered me for a long time. When I started Crossfit it was like I found what my body was meant to do and that was an incredible experience that allowed me to embrace my body and see myself as strong and capable.

CE: Let’s talk Paleo. What motivated you to start eating this way?unnamed-1

AN: I first started following a Paleo diet around 2009 — a little bit before it hit the mainstream. Honestly, I started following a paleo diet to lose weight. At the time I was stuck in some really disordered eating patterns (restricting and binging), and all of my dietary changes with made with weight loss in mind.

In addition to wanting to lose weight, I was also going through some really bad digestion stuff at that time. When I started following a paleo diet, I gradually noticed that my digestion started to heal, that I was feeling better and that weight loss became less important to me. Following a paleo diet not only helped me heal my body, it helped me heal my relationship with food. It made eating less stressful and more enjoyable. Paleo helped me find balance in my food routine so that I can eat the foods that I know make me feel good and a balance of foods that may not be the healthiest, but that I love.

Now, as a Nutrition Counselor, I’ve taken the process I went through to heal my body and my relationship with food and streamlined it for my clients. Finding a diet that truly works for you take time and experimentation, but I like to provide some guidance and support to help you start off in the right direction.

CE: When you splurge — off Paleo, of course — what do you typically reach for?

AN: Oh man. Pizza and donuts. Yep. Those are the two main “non-paleo” foods that I enjoy from time to time. I know they’re not considered the healthiest foods, but I’ve done enough experimentation to know how they make me feel physically and emotionally, so I can make the conscious decision to indulge from time to time.

I always practice listening to my body and my inner body cues — my hunger, satisfaction and cravings — and eating what I want to eat when I want to eat it. Most of the time I actually want to eat Paleo foods, but sometimes I’m in the mood for pizza and donuts.

My favorite pizza is Italian style pizza with sausage, peppers, onions and ricotta cheese … and my favorite donuts are apple cider donuts!

CE: How do you keep yourself accountable when it comes to staying fit and healthy?

AN: By listening to my body and being flexible. I try really hard to listen to my body and to give it what it wants in terms of both food and exercise. Like I mentioned before, most of the time, I want to eat healthy paleo foods, but when I do truly want something that I wouldn’t usually eat, I allow myself to eat it as a part of my balanced diet (in the past I would have never allowed myself to eat pizza and donuts and if I did eat them, I would have felt guilty for days).

I take the same approach with exercise. I follow a training plan, but on the days when I’m not inspired, or I don’t feel like doing it, I let myself take a day off. I LOVE exercising, and I don’t want to force myself to do it, because then I know I’ll start to resent it. I call it intuitive exercising — I workout how I want to, when I want to. Allowing this kind of flexibility with my diet and exercise helps me stay accountable — because when I don’t force myself to do certain things, I am authentically motivated to eat healthy and stay fit.

CE: What is your healthy living mantra?

AN: “When life hands you lemons, get frisky!” There are no such things as mistakes when it comes to eating well and making lifestyle changes. The “mistakes” and hard times are the times that teach you about yourself and allow you to continue to move forward. I’ve learned how to take the hard times and turn them into positive experiences and I love supporting others to do the same!

Be sure to follow Allison on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and of course her site, Frisky Lemon!

-TTT