Thursday, July 30, 2015

Telluride Round 2

BalletCollective in Telluride
Being in Telluride has been a breath of fresh air especially for me following my tick ordeal. From the mountainous view seen from my peaceful terrace, the lush green landscapes, wildlife sightings and welcoming community, BalletCollective feels at home.

This week, BalletCollective has been hard at work and hard at play! Each day the dancers take ballet class, taught by Troy, and then begin the day's rehearsals inhaling bottled oxygen every step of the way. The altitude here in Telluride is over 8,700 ft, and takes time to get used to. Last year I tried to be tough and refrain from using the oxygen, but this year I have no shame. It is helping me with the Lyme diseases and with the stamina needed for the intense ballets.

This year's workshop performance at Telluride's The Palm Theater will include last year's Dear and Blackbirds, the new Mark Dancigers male duet featuring David and Taylor, and the new group ballet composed by Ellis Ludwig-Leone. Both new works, though they were started in our Millbrook residency this past June, have been refined and polished here in Telluride. Troy's goal is to get the works in great shape for the workshop performance this Saturday which will then function as finished templates for our upcoming New York season at the Skirball Center November 4th and 5th.

David and Taylor in Bunker, Photo: Troy Schumacher
In the midst of rehearsing five hours a day, we make time for hot tubs to soak our muscles, walks along the river, nighttime gondola rides, fun family dinners, ice cream runs, and social events to raise awareness for our upcoming show.

Additionally, Troy has begun filming at some of Telluride's most remote and beautiful landscapes to capture moments from each new work soon to become short films. Last year Harrison, Troy and I filmed the last movement of Dear and Blackbirds on Willson Messa (where Harrison's childhood home stands). The film captures the emotion of our dance and the magical picturesque backdrop of Telluride.

Just yesterday, Troy, David and Taylor ventured to a brick bunker-like location with painted rustic doors, rough ground, and shot moments from the male duet. Today, Troy and Harrison are ATVing to a remote quarry near a waterfall in the mountains to shoot Harrison's solo from the new group ballet. I can't wait for you to see the footage.
Harrison in Quarry, Photo: Lauren King

Tonight we have an open rehearsal for the community to come experience the residency and its creative process. Then the dancers, Brandon, Troy and I will head to a cocktail party celebrating BalletCollective followed by a pig roast in the park with the Telluridians!

Sunday, July 26, 2015


In Nantcket Photo by: Troy
Two weeks ago yesterday, I awoke with intense head, hip, and back pain, covered in sweat, with a fever, and swollen lymph nodes. By noon, after dropping Troy off at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, SPAC, for ballet class (which I had planned on taking in preparation for that evening’s NYCB Gala), I sat in a cold, sterile hospital room, alone. For the next five hours I was poked and prodded. I was stabbed three times as they tried to take blood (supposedly my veins are tricky), given a crystal light flavored solution to drink for a procedure, and pumped with radioactive fluids during the CT scan, all while an IV of fluids ran through my body. I sat alone in the freezing, bright, uncomfortable 8 X 6 room. Troy came rushing to the hospital after he was finished performing in the matinee and kept me company as we awaited the test results. Hours of wondering passed, with scared thoughts running through my head as I sat staring, waiting for life to come into the ice box to provide answers.

And then I was told that there was no infection or irregular levels in my blood and that the CT scan showed signs that possibly a cyst burst as there were some fluids in the pelvic area. The doctor could not explain the fever, night sweats, or lymph node swelling but concluded that I probably had a cyst that burst.

It was now five o’clock. I was not allowed to perform that night so Troy took me home. As we drove I had a sandwich and felt a sense of relief as supposedly we had answers.

That evening I was in bed by 6:30pm and slept till 10:30am the next morning, hoping to wake feeling like new.

The pelvic pain was gone but new pains now existed. I began to feel my lower back ache that eventually traveled up spine and into my neck and jaw. I lay low that weekend, attaching a smile to my face as our Saratoga house hosted a pig roast. That night the pain grew, and the night sweats continued.

It’s now Tuesday and I was hoping to be able to dance, yet something wasn’t right. I hadn’t danced since Friday and yet I had intense joint, back, spine, neck, and jaw pain and a migraine like pressure that never seemed to go away. I became sensitive to light and my forehead seemed to appear different. As we drove in to SPAC I began to think something was really wrong. I abruptly turned to Troy and said, “I want to go home, back to the city.” He was confused and thought that I was feeling better. I explained to him that I had been trying to put on a happy face so that I wasn't a drag in the house. I knew something was wrong. Even if I was cleared to dance by the gynecologist, I knew, physically, I just couldn’t. I no longer could bend over and touch my toes, I couldn't touch my chin to my chest, I couldn’t move. I saw Marika Molnar for physical therapy hoping she could get my back to release, though at that point I had already made up my mind…I was going home. And Troy was coming with me. I was not about to go through more poking and probing alone again.

Within two hours, we were driving back to the city. I had an appointment with an internal medicine doctor the next day.

Wednesday morning was like the past five mornings, I woke up covered in sweat. Though just as we were about to sit down and have a morning cup of joe for Troy and for me tea, I noticed a light pink circle with a darker purple center-like rash, the largest one behind my left knee. I had four on my right leg, a few on my rear end, and two on my back.

Rash Photo by: Troy
Troy began to help me write a time line of events, symptoms, and travel locations to later help serve me while retelling this ordeal to the doctor. He also did some Google research and had an inkling that I had Lyme disease. Before the rash showed up, we thought I had meningitis. Even though I was not feeling well, with intense pain throughout my body and in my joints and spine, my migraine head pressure, sensitivity to light, and this new gross looking rash, I was happy to be in my own apartment. We were hopeful that this doctor and Weill Cornell Medical Center would figure this out, but I was also done being in the hospital/urgent care and dreaded this fourth visit to a medical facility.

As we jumped in a cab headed to West 84th street I was beyond scared. Thankfully Troy was there to be with me.

We entered the elevator and soon were checked in awaiting my name to be announced through the open doorway. A few minutes after my scheduled appointment time the nurse called “Mrs. Laracey.” Soon my vitals were recorded and the doctor was in the room. I retrieved my timeline and notes and explained each detail as she took notes herself. After a short examination, she began by saying that she was pretty sure that this was a “textbook” case of Lyme disease and that she was going to take blood and send it to the lab for extensive testing. In the meantime, I was to start on a 21 day dose of Doxycycline, the protocol for Lyme. She explained that she was going to do a full tick panel to make sure that in addition to the Lyme I didn't have one of the other three tick-borne illness parasites. But those test results would take up to five days to get back.

Troy and I walked the four blocks to Duane Reade to collect my new prescription, talking as we walked and thankful that we had answers. As I stood on the corner of 88th and Broadway, I took a swig of water and downed my first dose, hoping to feel more like myself soon.

A few days later, my aches and pain symptoms started to slowly ease and fade, yet the migraine head pressure remained. After day six of no activity and no dance (day three of antibiotics) I felt up to attempting a ballet barre. So I got myself to the theater and lightly gave myself a ballet class. I could barely stand up and had no strength but it felt good to be able to move a little. Each day got better and better, and I was able to do more and more of ballet class.

This past Monday, Troy and I traveled to Nantucket for the Nantucket Dance Festival where Troy had a ballet being performed. The piece is a bit unconventional in that its original performance was at the Players Club in New York City in 2012. The piece was a duet for NYCB principal dancer Jared Angle and countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. I was heading to Nantucket to support Troy and his piece, also able to take ballet class every day with the festival and rehearse myself in Concerto Barocco for my upcoming debut in Vail on August 9th.

Doctor's Orders Photo by: Me
Tuesday I found myself sitting outside enjoying lunch and some quiet brief moments before heading into the theater to watch Troy’s piece when my cell phone rings. It is my doctor from New York. She explains that in addition to the Lyme I tested positive for Babesiosis and need to see an infectious disease doctor right away. I immediately run inside the theater and explain to the stage manager that I need to find a doctor ASAP. A very quiet-spoken woman interrupts me and says “Grab your things; I will walk you to the hospital across the street to see the Lyme specialist on the island.” Dr. Timothy Lepore is a leading man in tick illnesses and squeezed me in right away. He concluded from my lab results that I was one of those rare souls that got bitten by a nasty tick carrying both Lyme and Babesiosis. “Lucky me”, I thought. He listened to my long story of events and said I was a text book case of Lyme and Babesiosis and that the migraine and head pressure plus fever are signature symptoms of Babesiosis. He called in two additional antibiotics, one a pill, the other a thick golden liquid. Dr. Lepore said “ Take the gold liquid with fatty foods. We recommend French fries.” I thought to myself… “When in Rome! He said eat French fries, by golly French fries it is!”

After seeing Dr. Lepore, the fifth doctor in ten days, my ordeal seemed to finally have full answers and proper diagnoses. I walked back to the theater, hopped in my car and drove to pick up my prescriptions. By the time I finished, Troy was through with his rehearsal and we were off to Fifty Six Union for French fries and a pop. Doctor’s orders.
 I am fortunate to have been in Nantucket, supporting Troy in his choreographic endeavors, to be only steps away from the leading man in tick disease. Check yourself for ticks!

Now that I’m on the road to recovery, stay tuned for more BalletCollective news! Next stop …Telluride!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A First Look at New Works in Progress

Photo Credit: Claire Kretzschmar
BalletCollective has set out to create two new works this year. Unlike years past where a librettist and painter were involved, this year’s new works are collaborations with a choreographer, composer, and photographer. This combination lends itself to an interesting and rather different process than previous collaborations. With each photographer, the choreographer and composer would discuss their own individual processes and ideas that inspire them. From there, the photographer would venture out to capture images that then become the driving force for the music and dance.

New Work Maffi, (let’s call it until it is titled) is a group ballet with choreography by Troy Schumacher, musical composition by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, and photography by Paul Maffi. Maffi a fashion art photographer, whom Troy and I have worked with closely in the past on shoots such as CR Fashion Book Series 2 and video shoots. Maffi offered images that spurred BalletCollective's resident choreographer and composer on to a new direction. The outcome of this uncharted territory is a series of seven songs and three interludes which take you on a journey of introspection. BalletCollective’s Lauren King, Meagan Mann, Claire Kretzschmar, myself, David Prottas, Taylor Stanley, and Harrison Coll are all featured throughout this 25 minute ballet. The work is packed with group dance, female pas de deux, male trios, and an introspective male solo. Each dancer has moments of his or her own and moments that explore new levels of emotion and connectedness through movement.

Photo Credit: Troy Schumacher
New Work Dafy Hagai, until titled, is an eight minute male pas de deux for Taylor and David. The work introduces two new collaborators to BalletCollective: Dafy Hagai and Mark Dancigers. Israeli photographer Dafy Hagai and Now Ensemble director Mark Dancigers have created quite a thrilling piece for their first go at BalletCollective’s process. The source photography, a series of four images, provided a canvas for Dancigers to create a well rounded score. The score explores tenderness, angst, difference, indifference, joy and humor. Troy took this music intended as a male duet and created a conversation.

Creating a male duet is a “first" for Troy but a dream come true. For as long as I’ve known him he has always been interested in exploring the ideas of a male duet and its rarity. The intensity, the roads uncrossed have intrigued him. Troy’s understanding of both David and Taylor, their friendship, their individual movement, temperament and qualities, were invaluable to this new work. Throughout the process, Troy took moments to check in with David and Taylor, hear their thoughts as he took the duet into uncharted territory. As his assistant I found that watching this develop gave me a new sense of dance. I hope to interview Troy to learn about his experience collaborating with the two new artists, Dancigers and Hagai, with whom he has never worked.

Photo Credit: Troy Schumacher

Both ballets will be premiered on November 4-5 at NYU Skirball Center along with last years Dear and Blackbirds and All That We See! Visit for Tickets!