Life In Lockdown

What does a company of ballet dancers do without a studio or stage? We caught up with a few Festival Ballet dancers to find out how they have been staying active and inspired during quarantine…


“There’s no denying the circumstances we are under right now are less than ideal. However, my view on this is we can choose to wallow in the things we are not able to do or we can look for all the things we are still capable of doing, while being thankful we still have so many recourses surrounding us! Here are a few things I’ve found I enjoy doing over these past 7 weeks. Baking bread! Shocking I know, but I’m not much of a baker and never have been so I decided to change that. Being still. As a dancer, being still is very difficult for me, but there’s something to be said about being comfortable enough with yourself to just be still. I’m still working on that one. And lastly, I’ve enjoyed finding other ways to move. Such as, planting flowers and herbs and stretching in the morning. So pick up a book or listen to your favorite song, it’s all going to be alright.”

-Kailee Felix


“My dog Calvin is becoming an expert tracker of the trajectory of sunlight through my apartment, waking only when it’s absolutely necessary to reposition himself for the next solar snooze. For my part, I’m fortunate to be able to continue working with my amazing colleagues at Festival Ballet to help to remain connected with our audience. It’s been refreshing to hear so much support and enthusiasm for the Ballet, from so many in our community. My weekly bike trip for groceries is becoming less of an errand and more of an escape from isolation as beautiful weather sets in. Between Zoom meetings I’m occasionally checking in on the family of Peregrine Falcons atop Providence’s Superman Building, or just keeping an eye out for Sour and Patch, the pair of Downy Woodpeckers who are frequent visitors to my own bird feeder. Hoping eventually for Sour Patch Kids.”

-Dylan Giles


“I’ve been using this time in quarantine to complete my training to be a Crisis Text Line Counselor! CTL is a free 24/7 support line for those in crisis. It feels like a really meaningful way to give back during this time of global pandemic. I’m also on Day 4 of wearing my Frog & Toad ‘Knock It Off’ Tee.”

-Melissa Wong


“I’ve been recovering from knee surgery for the past three months, so I’ve been filling the days between physical therapy appointments with exercise, writing, and connecting with friends from a safe distance. I started a blog for my transit map design hobby ( and I take walks frequently in my neighborhood. Video chat applications have enabled me to take yoga classes and keep in touch with friends near and far. It is a trying time for all of us, and for me, this period of physical distancing has been part of a broader season of healing and renewal.”

-Joseph Van Harn


“During the lockdown, I’ve enjoyed having time to slow down and focus on doing things I enjoy, and to challenge myself creatively in new ways. I’ve had fun designing and sewing dancewear as usual, and also trying my hand at making different types of clothing (like this skirt). Having some extra time to reorganize my space has helped me be more productive and feel more creative. I’m also focusing on taking care of my body and mind, and have been enjoying finding new ways to move and exercise at home. And, I love staying in touch with my FBP family by taking company class over Zoom!”

-Emily Lovedahl


 “I think that since quarantine began, a lot has changed in my life. I understand that all people are going through a lot now. I try not to lose hope and believe that everything will be fine. I am engaged in self-development: I read, write, listen to music, draw, teach ballet, take pictures and, of course, keep myself in good physical shape. One more important thing, I am also engaged in the growth of the inner world. If I have time, I call my parents and friends to find out if they are doing well or just to have a good conversation.”

-Azamat Asangul


“I have been cooking and getting more creative with the ingredients I have in my fridge. Besides for the classes I’m teaching on Zoom, I also take morning ballet class a couple times a week, Pilates, and yoga. I started some vegetables and herbs growing in the back of my house, and I’ve been working on some crafts like cross-stitching and sewing. I’ve also been making my way through a large pile of books!”

-Eugenia Zinovieva


“During quarantine, I have been thankful for beautiful weather so I can spend most of my day out in the sun. I’ve been using the extra time at home to accomplish projects around the house, including refinishing some old dressers and building a raised bed garden with cinder blocks. In the evenings, my fiancé and I go trail running at a nearby state park and then watch the sunset on the beach. I’ve also been teaching and taking class in my kitchen, but I really miss being in the studio. I’m so excited for when we can all dance together again!”

-Sara Clark


3 Reasons You Need To See Game Changers

Need a reason to get out of the cold and into the theater this winter? How about an evening of groundbreaking dance and live music? Here are 3 reasons you don’t want to miss Festival Ballet Providence’s Game Changers this February 7-9 at The Vets.

  1. Listen to live music. FBP’s Game Changers will feature the debut of Boston-based singer/songwriter and violinist Josh Knowles’ forthcoming album How Deep the Dark. The evocative musician presents his work in collaboration with Yury Yanowsky, an innovative choreographer and former Boston Ballet principal dancer. Together these two daring artists will create an exciting World Premiere ballet entitled Same, incorporating the emotional power of live music performed by its composer and striking movement created on the dancers of Festival Ballet. josh2
  2. Tony Award-winning talent. FBP remains one of only two ballet companies in New England awarded the honor of performing the work of Tony Award winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. In Game Changers, the Company will present Wheeldon’s Morphoses, an intriguing ensemble for four dancers originally created for former New York City Ballet Principal ballerina Wendy Whelan. The commanding work requires impeccable technique and physical strength, as well as teamwork from the dancers involved. aza
  3. Powerful perspective from diverse voices. Former Alvin Ailey Dance Theater member Christopher Huggins makes his New England premiere with a World Premiere work created on the dancers of FBP. Huggins athletic piece features the entire FBP company in an energetic display of dynamic and exciting movement, commenting on society’s ills and the structures that restrict and oppress. FBP is putting an important conversation into motion on stage, highlighting the compelling nature of community and teamwork. josh

For tickets and more information about Game Changers, click here.

5 Reasons You Need To See “Carmen”

Jennifer Ricci in “Carmen” photo by Dylan Giles

Need a good reason to come see Viktor Plotnikov’s fiery “Carmen” at FBP November 1-10? We’ll give you 5!

  1. The music. “Carmen” boasts one of the most iconic and powerful scores in the history of music. If you think that sounds dramatic, try listening to the classic “Habanera” without swaying your shoulders and humming along!

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    Eugenia Zinovieva and Alex Lantz in “Carmen” photo by Dylan Giles
  2. The passion. From the scorned love of Micaela and Don Jose to Carmen’s fiery seduction, this ballet is not lacking in sensuality. Love, lust, and desire converge- and we’ve saved you front row seats!

    Eugenia Zinovieva and Alex Lantz in “Carmen” photo by Dylan Giles
  3. The choreography. FBP’s “Carmen” was the first full-length ballet choreographed by Viktor Plotnikov, now the Company’s Resident Choreographer. “Carmen” gave rise to the distinct and captivating vision of this prophetic dance maker, with a breathtaking style you’ll want to get lost in.

    Jennifer Ricci and David Dubois in “Carmen” photo by Dylan Giles
  4.  The drama. We won’t give too much away here- but with epic fight scenes and frisky factory girls, this ballet will have you on the edge of your seat the whole way through.

    Mamuka Kikalishvili and Jennifer Ricci in “Carmen” photo by Dylan Giles
  5. The intimate setting. FBP’s “Carmen” was originally created for the main stage, but this adaptation for the Black Box Theater at Up Close On Hope brings the action even closer, immersing the audience in every emotional step.

    Eugenia Zinovieva and Alex Lantz in “Carmen” photo by Dylan Giles

There you have it! Five fantastic reasons not to miss FBP’s “Carmen” in the Black Box Theater this November. But hurry! Get your tickets here.

Coffee Break with the Stars of Carmen and Seven Stars Bakery

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Eugenia Zinovieva and Alex Lantz in Viktor Plotnikov’s “Carmen” photo by Dylan Giles

FBP’s “Carmen” opens this weekend at Up Close On Hope, so we sat down with dancers Eugenia Zinovieva and Alex Lantz (who will be dancing the roles of Carmen and Don Jose), for a coffee and a snack at Seven Stars Bakery to hear all the tea…

Drink order: Eugenia & Alex both- small hot coffee half-caff

Treat of choice: Eugenia- Vegetarian sandwich, Alex- Yogurt Parfait

You two premiered together in this ballet three years ago. How does it feel to revisit these characters and this ballet? What has changed?

Alex: I can tell that I’ve improved as a dancer. There were things last time that really scared me, and those things don’t make me so nervous anymore.

Eugenia: The steps that needed a lot of work last time feel much easier this time, which opens up space to work on more detailed things. It just kind of flew back together and felt very smooth and easy.

Alex: Because we work together so much, there’s a natural rhythm to it.


What do you find challenging about dancing these roles?

Eugenia: Character-wise for Carmen, she is so different from me as a person. Portraying her personality takes a lot of digging in and finding a part of me that I would never enact in real life. I want to react to things on stage the way I would, but I have to hold that back and react how Carmen would instead.

Alex: Don Jose’s character progresses so much throughout the ballet, I have to try and stay with him on that journey. Maintaining the character arch as he becomes more emotionally vulnerable is challenging.


What do you enjoy the most about this ballet?

Eugenia: The music! It’s iconic.

Alex: Viktor’s specific language with this ballet has such a good style to it, you can get really engrossed in it.

What makes this version of Carmen special?

Eugenia:  In a lot of the versions of Carmen that I’ve seen, Carmen is just a one-dimensional sexual being, but in this version she has some really tender moments. There are more sides to her. She’s gritty and bold, she’s an animal. I like that Viktor really differentiated her character that way.

Alex: I think it’s also interesting how Micaela really drives the plot in this version. Don Jose’s story is really effected by his relationship with Micaela and how he ruins that. This begins his decline, and it’s great how FBP’s version of this story really highlights that.


For more information and tickets to see Viktor Plotnikov’s “Carmen” November 1-10, click here.

Bringing “The Seasons” To Life


By Ruth Davis

On Saturday, June 1, 2019, students from the Festival Ballet Providence School will showcase their talents in Culmination 2019 at Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College.  This year’s production features an original one-act ballet, The Seasons, conceived and choreographed by FBP’s school director, Vilia Putrius and set to music by Alexander Glazunov.  This monumental work features children in vibrant costumes portraying characters from frigid Winter Frost and icy Snow Crystals to fluttering Butterflies and Birds. The production also includes multimedia art and projection, and even a few surprises.

For eleven years, Vilia was a leading dancer in FBP’s company until her retirement from the company in 2017. In the fall of 2018, Vilia returned as Director of the FBP School, leading the teachers and classes of more than 150 students from pre-ballet to adult.  Asked about the end of her first year as director and about this culminating event, Vilia said, “Working on Seasons has awakened so many memories for me, of being a student myself in Lithuania and the excitement of dancing with the other students in front of all of our parents and friends.  It will be wonderful seeing all of these young dancers in costume, proud of their achievements and sharing their gifts, just as I remember.”

We thought you might like to hear some of the thoughts of two FBP school students who each offer their own perspectives:

First up is William Kinloch, a 10 year-old who at this young age, is already a veteran of the FBP school (he began taking classes when he was only three years old).  He looks ahead at opportunities and the inspiration he finds in ballet and in his own studies.

William Kinloch


I was inspired to come to ballet class after I saw The Nutcracker at the San Francisco Opera House in December of 2011. The show sparked my passion for dance, which gets stronger every passing day.

Overall, I enjoy how expressive and meaningful ballet is.  In terms of technique, I love the movement of ballet – how you can make it flowy or rigid or any other form that suits the moment of expression. One of my favorite moves to practice is the grand battement. I love this move because the action of it is to throw your leg as high as you can into the air. It feels reaching as high as I can to the heavens.

Culmination is most definitely my favorite show of the year because the show is based on kids and we all have a role that is alike, something in common to share with each other. It’s really fun putting it all together and taking the stage together. This year we have something special to offer called The Seasons. It is a ballet that collects all four seasons of the year, and every kid dances a role in one of the seasons. For example, my ballet level, BB3, is dancing in spring; I am a bird, and the girls are playing greenery. It has been so fun to collaborate to with other ballet levels. I love dancing with Maddie, the spring fairy.

I think about being a professional dancer every day. I always dream about myself as a dancer at professional companies. My biggest dream is to be a professional dancer. I am moonstruck by João Sampiao at Festival Ballet, and I hope some day to be like him. I love how clean his movements are and how intentional everything he does looks. I love how pointed his feet are and I love how kind he is.

Amanda Emby

Next is Amanda Emby, age 17, who started classes in 2011 and looks back on this past year and on the many rewards dancing at FBP has provided.

Amanda Emby

This past year at Festival Ballet Providence School has truly been such a challenging, yet amazing experience for me. I feel very lucky to be coached and mentored by the outstanding faculty here at the School. They encourage and inspire me to grow as an artist every day.

I have had the privilege of performing this year alongside the company in productions such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

Being able to not only perform with the company, but to see firsthand the hard work and dedication they pour into their productions is a unique experience for myself and all of Festival’s students. They show us that our aspirations are attainable with dedication, determination, persistence, and a lot of sweat!

Observing them, pushes us to work hard despite any obstacles that may occur.

There will be many little ones taking the stage this year for the very first time… even a furry friend! Yes, Petipaw will be making his debut on stage this Culmination. He’s going to be the star of the show, if I don’t say so myself!

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Petipaw and FBP Ballet Master Mindaugas Bauzys

In The Seasons I will be featured as Summer Fairy. She embodies elegance, grace, and radiates as if she’s the sun. Not only is it amazing to dance a principal role, but to dance alongside my best fiends and venture into this journey together… teamwork makes the dream work!  Having a second family at FBP School provides a great sense of community and camaraderie! 

You can see Amanda and William and all of the FBP School students performing in Culmination 2019 at Sapinsley Hall (Rhode Island College), June 1, 2019 at 1:30pm and 6:00pm. Click here for more information and tickets.

Ruth Davis manages Public Relations and Communications for Festival Ballet Providence. Photos by Jim Turner and Dylan Giles.

Coffee and Cookies With The Four Little Wolf Pups


A brand new adaptation of the classic tale of “The Three Little Pigs” hits the ChatterBOX Theatre TOMORROW! Choreographer Louisa Mejeur has reimagined this story with a few fun twists- including a Mother Wolf and two Wolf Pups in place of the traditional “Big Bad” villain. Today, we sat down with the Wolf Pups- Melissa, Kailee, Brenna, and Olivia- to get the inside scoop on these playful puppies! And to have some delicious Seven Stars Bakery snacks, of course…


Treat of choice…
Melissa: iced coffee & a ginger star cookie
Kailee: hot coffee and an oatmeal raisin cookie
Brenna: hot coffee and a coconut macaroon
Olivia: London Fog and a cheese scone

So ladies, how do you get into character when you’re playing a baby animal instead of a human child?

Brenna: I try think about some of the puppies that I’ve been around lately, and channel them.
Melissa: It’s really fun because there’s a good balance between showing that you’re a mischievous little kid and also a puppy.
Kailee: There’s that nice balance and it’s also a challenge, because you have to still let the character read to the audience and tell the story.
Olivia: It actually feels like a cartoon character. These pups have a lot of energy.


What is the relationship between the pups and the Mother Wolf?

Kailee: Louisa set everything up with a good relationship between the wolf family. There’s a good connection there that we’ve been able to build off of in rehearsals.
Brenna: This version tells the story of a bond between a mother and her children and her providing for them. It really gives the audience a way to connect with the wolves, who are usually seen only as the “bad guys.”

Do any of you have a favorite part of the ballet?

Olivia: I love the handshake.
Brenna: Louisa asked us to create our own special handshake for one section of the ballet. We found inspiration from all over- movies, ballets, sports.
Olivia: it’s one of the most genuine moments because we are actually having so much fun.
Melissa: Everyone is really focused and present with their partners, because there are so many parts to the handshake.
Kailee: Each of the wolves personalities come out in the handshake a lot.


What makes this version of “The Three Little Pigs” different from the story everyone knows?

Olivia: It’s not a bad guy and a good guy. This version tells two stories, the wolves and the pigs.
Melissa: It was a very smart way to do it, I think. The kids can come away with this perspective that people may have reasons for acting out. It teaches a good lesson, which was just so smart of Louisa to weave in. Also, the way Louisa laid out the ballet, every character is important. It’s very smart.
Olivia: Each new character that gets introduced, the audience will fall in love with.
Kailee: Yes, every character counts.
Melissa: And there’s so much to see. You need to see it a few times to catch everything!


Louisa has been a dancer here in the past. How is it now, having Louisa back- and in front of the studio this time?

Olivia: Everything about this ballet is just so cute and fuzzy feeling!
Kailee: Sometimes when your colleague turns boss, it can be a struggle, but there were no feelings of animosity. Everything was so respectful and just smooth and lovely.
Brenna: Louisa thought of everything. From the choreography, to the costumes, and the sets. She had a plan.
Olivia: And a plan B!
Kailee: And the pantomime is so good, there’s no need for narration in the ballet! Children will easily be able to follow the story.

I know you all have a special place for ChatterBOX Theatre in your hearts. Why is ChatterBOX so fun for the dancers?

Brenna: Children is the most fulfilling audience.
Olivia: When the kids are right there in the Black Box, you can hear every comment from them and it’s so cute.
Kailee: They are so honest, and so excited to see us after the show. It makes me so happy.
Melissa: If you’re doing ChatterBOX, and you have to do something ridiculous to make kids laugh, it makes dancing something vulnerable in a more sophisticated show a bit easier. Like everything just becomes normal, even if it’s absurd, haha!
Kailee: Over time, nothing feels weird anymore. [all laugh]


Are you excited for the ChatterBOX Ball?

Brenna: We’re so happy to the generous support from our neighbors at Seven Stars Bakery.
Melissa: We’re celebrating 10 years of bringing people together over cookies and conversation! Everyone should come celebrate with us!

Thank you so much, dancers and Seven Stars Bakery! To meet all of your favorite characters at the ChatterBOX Ball, this Sunday March 24, at 5:30 pm, click here for tickets! 

Inside “Coma”

Deeply emotional, dark, but touching, Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma immediately captivated audiences when it premiered in Providence in 2007. A stunning work of contemporary dance created on Festival Ballet’s dancers by our resident choreographer, Coma has become a hometown favorite among Rhode Island dance fans and an anxiously anticipated event whenever it reappears in FBP’s repertoire. Likewise, our dancers relish the chance to devour Plotnikov’s rich movement and dive into the emotional depths of this ballet each time it makes a reprise.

In honor of Coma’s return to the stage in Festival’s upcoming Mirrors program we are resurfacing this interview by local arts and culture writer Johnette Rodriguez, published after FBP’s most recent run of Coma in 2014. Peek into Plotnikov’s creative process as he describes his sources of inspiration for this epic ballet.


“Initially inspired by the image of suspended bodies in the ’78 film Coma, Plotnikov gets inside the minds and hearts of those who are keeping a vigil next to someone who is comatose, those who must make a decision to let go of someone they love and those who are in the comas themselves. Thus, its three movements are “Our Dreams,” “Reality” and “Their Dreams.”


“The first movement has all the suffering and bad dreams of those outside the coma,” Plotnikov explains, in a conversation about this work. “We think they can hear us and we try to comfort them; we spend time sitting with them. Plus our work makes us so busy, gives us such overload. These are the dreams that make us unhappy.”

Accordingly, one group of dancers in this first section expresses their anguish as they twist their bodies from side to side, writhing in their sorrow. During a recent rehearsal, Plotnikov told the dancers, “It’s like Rodin’s ‘Gates of Hell.’ You want to show that you are in pain but not just with your eyebrows.”


“I give them pictures—I give them food to digest,” he notes, after the rehearsal. “This element of looking through the day sky to see the stars—-the movement won’t necessarily say that, but there is layer and meaning in every single motion that they do. I try to draw out the dancers’ passion and emotion that has to be described by limbs, torso, and heads.”

“Every single element has to be done with a certain energy,” Plotnikov continues. “The most important thing is how will it read from beginning to end.”


The second section of Coma deals directly with two people coming to terms with their loss, as the woman visits her male companion for the last time. The choreographer knows deeply and precisely what he wants to convey in the intricate partnering of the two dancers: the female initially inconsolable, the male trying to comfort her. At one point the male dancer holds her slumped across one knee while she circles her feet along the floor, wrung-out but resigned to what she must do.  

“This second movement is the most extremely difficult physically,” Plotnikov remarks. “The music and the accents are hard. Sometimes they swim through it and find their own punctuations.”

The third section, in contrast, is, “peaceful, happy, like little kids,” he stresses. Indeed, the dancers march doll-like, arms swinging along their sides; they surprise each other with playful swipes; they treat each other as jungle gyms, sliding over and under torsos and legs; two dancers even hang monkey-like, one from each shoulder of a third dancer. The dancers also strike poses that evoke the long coma hours that stretch into infinity: pendulum arms, rocking bodies, ticking limbs.

Coma“The presence of time passing is always there when I choreograph,” Plotnikov observes. “It helps me to stretch my mind.”

“Comatose persons are not necessarily suffering,” he adds. “They are in a beautiful place already. Everything’s a little bit more intense in their dreams, because they are basically in heaven.”

Connecting the three movements of Coma is a female figure in black, taken to be the “Death Angel/Doctor/Dark Matter/what we call God,” in Plotnikov’s words. At the end of the third section, even after the Angel switches off the light, he wants to show the perpetuity. The  movement stops, but the energy does not. Life keeps going on around and beyond the dying or the dead.


“How much can we grasp or understand of the whole universe?” Plotnikov asks. “If more humans thought about eliminating the presence of ‘you’ in the universe—if we would feel that connection all the time, much more would go our way.”

But even if the profundity of what this choreographer has put into his dance doesn’t strike audience members right away, the feelings and emotions, so startlingly beautiful and powerful in the dancers’ movements, will tug at heartstrings and move minds.”

Written by Johnette Rodriguez. Originally published March 2014 in The Providence Phoenix.
Don’t miss Coma in “Mirrors” Feb 15-17 at The Vets. For details and tickets, click here.

Performance photos by Thomas Nola-Rion. Rehearsal Photos by Dylan Giles.

Why Every Aspiring Young Dancer Should See MIRRORS

Dance is a visual art form, passed down from one generation to the next through shared experiences. We asked our favorite dance educator, FBPS Director and former FBP Company Dancer, Vilia Putrius, for her take on Festival Ballet’s upcoming program, Mirrors, at The Vets. Here she sheds some light on why seeing dance is such an integral part of a young dancer’s success…

“I have been looking forward to FBP’s Mirrors program all season. As a lover of dance and dance educator, it’s such a treat to see these three powerful works on one program.

‘I had never seen a choreographer work like this before.’

I’m especially thrilled for the return of Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma, one of the most beloved ballets in FBP’s repertory and a particularly special memory from my career as a dancer. Coma could be described as a “drama,” but it’s so much more than that. I remember working with Viktor while creating this ballet in 2007, watching his imagination pour out into the movement. I had known Viktor from our time together at Boston Ballet, but I had never seen a choreographer work like this before. The ballet is both technically challenging and emotionally powerful.




The rest of the “Mirrors” program is so diverse, with the Rhode Island premiere of George Balanchine’s Serenade, which I have danced elsewhere and just adore. I especially love the corps de ballet, which shows you how important teamwork can be and what it can produce. The word “corps” comes from the Latin for “body,” and in Serenade you can really see that the corps is a moving body of strong women working together.

I’m also excited to see Yury Yanowsky’s Smoke & Mirrors for the first time. I have known Yury for years and his work is unique and bold. It is going to be a provocative statement piece with some really cool movement and ideas.

‘[I remember] sitting in the audience wishing I could dance in the spotlight one day.’

As a young aspiring dancer in Lithuania, I would frequently see shows at the National Opera & Ballet Theater, sitting in the audience wishing I could dance in the spotlight one day. I remember leaving the theater feeling just…full. Full of inspiration, full of questions and ideas about what I had seen, full of passion for this art form.

Putrius (third from left) in class at M.K. Ciurlionis Arts School in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Putrius (far left) with her classmates M.K. Ciurlionis Arts School in Vilnius, Lithuania.

I know watching dance had a profound impact on my education and where my dreams would take me. I truly hope that all of the young dancers in the audience will take away that the same sense of inspiration that I remember.”

Ms. Putrius serves as the Festival Ballet Providence School Director. Festival Ballet presents “Mirrors” at The Vets Feb. 15-17, 2019. Click here for more information.

Coma photos by Thomas Nola-Rion.

Coffee Break with João Sampaio and Azamat Asangul


Company dancers Azamat Asangul and João Sampaio work well together inside the studio and out! These two are roommates, coworkers, and friends, sharing an infectious happy energy and overflow of talent. We sat down with Aza and João to hear a bit more about their experience working on Viktor Plotnikov’s epic Coma, transitioning into Providence from their homes abroad, and what life is like at home…

Aza’s drink order: iced green with a lemon
João’s drink order: iced vanilla chai latte
Aza’s snack of choice: potato and leek quiche
João’s snack of choice: cheddar biscuit
Aza’s home country: Kyrgyzstan
João’s home country: Brazil
Both currently rehearsing: Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma


On living with another dancer…

João: “I like living with Aza because he’s so calm and we have so much fun together. Plus he cooks for me sometimes (laughs), and he cleans the house!”

Aza: “Our energy is so different, it feels complete. The best roommate I’ve ever had! We don’t talk about ballet at home. We listen to music and just have fun.”

On working with world-renowned choreographer Viktor Plotnikov on his Coma

Aza: “It’s super cool working with Viktor. He’s really smart about his movement. Everything makes sense. I like his philosophy.”

João: “Being cast as a person who is in a coma, it forces you to think of how that might feel, which is so difficult, but artistically fulfilling. It’s such a beautiful piece.”

Aza: “Rehearsing a ballet like this really makes you appreciate being healthy. It also challenges our acting skills, because we have never actually experienced anything like this before.”


On new cultures and leaving home to dance…

Aza: “I’m from Central Asia and the US is a completely different culture. In my country, people are so open and friendly. Even if you don’t know someone, you can talk to them like you’ve known them forever. Then I lived in Russia, where people are a bit more reserved. I am so happy to be in Rhode Island. I love the history of Providence. It s a beautiful city. “

João: “Moving from Brazil to the US changed my life completely. There, I lived with my parents and had help with everything. Here, I have learned to do things on my own and live independently. For Providence specifically, I don’t even have words to describe it…in a beautiful way. It’s a stunning city. But I miss Brazilian food a lot!”

On what’s to come…

João: “I’m really looking forward to dancing [George Balanchine’s] “Serenade”. I have learned it before, but never performed it, so I am very excited to revisit it.”

Aza: “I’m also excited for Yury [Yanowsky]’s piece, “Smoke and Mirrors”. I really enjoyed his previous piece, “Reverso”, so I can’t wait to start this next one.

“I love that we work with so many talented choreographers here in Providence. They are all different, which makes it an amazing opportunity.” 

João: “The diversity of the pieces in the February show, MIRRORS, is also really beautiful.”

On teaching ballet to students…

João: “I like teaching because it’s good to step out of our comfort zone. We are taught all day at work, but to transition out of that and be the teachers ourselves is really nice. Teaching adults is fun because they just want to move their bodies and be free.”

Aza: “I like the experience of teaching at a few different schools. When I’m teaching it helps my own dancing, because I am reminding myself of the correct way to do everything.”


On finding a home at FBP…

João: “I feel so blessed that my path brought me here. I couldn’t be happier to be in Providence. The dancers here are all so beautiful.”

Aza: “It’s a good environment here. Everyone is healthy and inspiring from one dancer to another.”

João: “It allows you to be free. I feel like I can put myself into the work and be happy while I’m dancing.”

Aza: “Some days you come in in the morning and you’re so sore and tired, but you see other dancers working hard…it’s inspiring.”

Thank you Aza and João! To see these two in action, grab your tickets to MIRRORS here.

Special thanks to Seven Stars Bakery for sponsoring this post.

A Nutcracker Friendship

Nutcracker season is a very special time of year at the ballet. The dancers are all working hard together to bring this spectacular story to life, and there is certainly a feeling of magic in the air. For two dancers, teamwork and friendship doesn’t just follow their Nutcracker season, it fuels it.

Samantha Shorr and Gabriella Sluter backstage at PPAC for FBP’s The Nutcracker

FBPS student Samantha (Sami) Shorr and Adaptive Dance student Gabriella (Gabby) Sluter met four years ago at a party. Well, a Victorian-era holiday party set to Tchaikovsky’s famous “Nutcracker Suite” and rehearsed in the FBP studios on Hope Street, to be more specific. The two girls became fast friends in rehearsal for their roles in the Party Scene of FBP’s Nutcracker, helping each other bring joy and rhythm to their dancing. Now Gabby and Sami look forward to performing in the classic holiday production on one of Providence’s most beautiful stages every year. We sat down with them to hear a little more about how they help each other overcome backstage jitters and what it’s like to dance with one of your best friends…

Samantha Shorr and Gabriella Sluter backstage at PPAC for FBP’s The Nutcracker

So girls, I think the whole audience must be wondering: What does the energy backstage at PPAC before a performance of The Nutcracker feel like?

Sami: I get very excited but try to stay calm so I don’t mess up on stage. When I am with Gabby, I feel better because she makes me so happy and less jittery.

Gabby: It is a happy feeling backstage. I like being with Sami backstage because she is my friend. She is my special friend. We stretch together. Sami helped me with my makeup. Sami helps me on stage. We take fun pictures together in our costumes.

Do you have any special rituals or things that you like to do together before you go on stage?

Gabby: I like to eat my snack with Sami. We read books. I like to hug Sami. She helps me pay attention. We do thumbs up.

Sami: We either give each other a thumbs up or a high-five. I say to Gabby, “You got this!”

Samantha Shorr and Gabriella Sluter backstage at PPAC for FBP’s The Nutcracker

What makes performing The Nutcracker alongside your friend so special to you?

Gabby: She is my friend. I like to be silly with Sami.

Sami: It is very cool that Gabby is accepted in the dance world because she is super sweet and deserves to shine like the rest of us. Having her on stage is just so much fun.

This year, Sami, you are dancing the role of Clara! How exciting! Have the two of you done anything special to prepare for this new role?

Sami: I still cannot believe that I am Clara this year.  I’ve looked up to all of the Clara’s since my first Nutcracker over 7 years ago.  To learn more about the role and find more ways to express Clara’s emotions, I’ve enjoyed watching  Live Streams of The Royal Ballet rehearsing their Nutcracker.  I also communicated with a former Clara, Olivia Luciano, for additional insights and moral support.

Gabby: I love Sami. Clara is my favorite in the Nutcracker. I was Clara for Halloween last year.

Gabriella’s mom, Tabitha: Gabriella said “ I have good news, Sami is Clara!” This was one day after a rehearsal. She truly is so thrilled that Sami is Clara. All I have to say if Gabriella is having a tough time transitioning to rehearsal is, “Gabriella, you are going to see Sami and Gabi (Sami’s sister) today at dance!” Gabriella gets right up and is motivated and focused to go to rehearsal. She can’t wait to be with them. I love to watch Sami dance.

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How has your friendship helped shape the way you dance?

Gabby: I can’t wait to go to dance to see Sami. Sami helps me. Sami is my friend. Sami help me to do my Nutcracker moves.

Sami: When I am dancing and I need to express happiness, I think about Gabby and it instantly makes my dancing more cheery!

Students backstage at PPAC as Party Girls in FBP’s The Nutcracker, Gabriella Sluter pictured in the foreground and Samantha Shorr directly behind here.
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