Battle of the Ballet

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Playing through March 5, the Boston Ballet’s “Artifact” portrays a startling battle between past and present for control of the collective consciousness. The first show of a five-year collaboration with star choreographer William Forsythe, “Artifact” delivers a chilling and refreshingly contemporary performance.

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The piece originally debuted in 1984 at Ballet Frankfurt, though Forsythe made significant changes for its North American debut at Boston Ballet, adding a whole new act just days before the show opened. Three characters work amid the corps de ballet during the show: The Woman in Historical Costume played by Forsythe’s wife, Dana Caspersen; The Woman in Gray played by Caralin Curcio; and The Man with a Megaphone played by Nicholas Champion. Both Caspersen and Champion performed in the original premiere of the show 33 years ago. Champion even wears the same pants worn in the original production.

Despite the well-made trousers, much has changed since then. The Woman in Historical Costume and The Man with a Megaphone walk about the dancers and interact with them, all the while speaking quick, convoluted gibberish sentences. “They stepped outside. I see. They know what you said. They see what you think. The rocks. The dust. The dust. They stepped outside,” The Woman in Historical Dress sing-speaks. Language becomes meaningless in this rhythmic drivel. The vernacular bears striking resemblance to Orwell’s doublespeak in “1984.”

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This brainwashing sentiment also appears in the corps. Apart from two couples, the corps operates by imitating The Woman in Gray. In the second act, though she is set to a musical tempo, Curcio is improvising and the corps must move with her in time without knowing what she might be doing. Not only does this show the exemplary skill of the cast, who are able to make Curcio’s movements look seamlessly choreographed, it speaks to a culture of mindlessly following a leader.

The Woman in Historical Costume and The Man with a Megaphone are at odds. Champion’s character wants to move logically and geometrically forward, while Caspersen’s seeks creative freedom. In the third act the two characters sit in chairs across from each other, having a meaningless debate with the rhythm of a rap battle. Each has a group of dancers behind them, stomping, clapping and singing, waiting for the victor to direct them.

In the fourth act the two characters face the line of dancers. “All that’s left is the how,” says Champion. “Step.” Caspersen claps. The dancers move and the lights flick off.

Ultimately, it takes both the rigidity of the establishment and the creativity of the artists to make the dancers move.

Мать Россия

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The Russian heroines of my favorite novels are elegant, seductive, and intelligent. And a little insane. I designed this look around the idea of a femme fatale with a penchant for fur and mysticism. Last weekend I was reunited with my dear friend the ultra-talented Rebecca Gatto (formerly Isenhart). In addition to creative partners, Rebecca and I have been friends since college, so when I say I want to look like a Tzarina going to Fashion Week, she gets it.

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Two Piece Set: H&M, Shoes: H&M, Hat: Primark

Photos by Rebecca Gatto.

Sunday Snapshots

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From left to right: 1) Stunning piece by Henry Taylor at the ICA. 2) Galentines present from my friend Jocelyn. 3) Fashion week goodies from Marc Jacobs. 4) Journalist on duty. Always on duty. 5) Buttermilk & Bourbon on Comm Ave opens to the public tomorrow! Delicious New Orleans style food and cocktails, and live jazz on Sundays. 6) Sassy little skeleton at the MFA Boston.

6 Year Blogiversary!

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Six years ago today I sat down and tentatively penned my first post for Trends and Tolstoy. 12 countries, hundreds of books, and countless glasses of champagne later, I’m a better person for it. Writing this blog has helped me pursue and discover my passions, and has allowed me (through lots of hard work and dedication) to experience a lifestyle I couldn’t otherwise afford.

sundayshoppingsoiree5I’m very proud of the creative professional I’ve become, and it’s in largely thanks to having an outlet that’s all my own. As Trends & Tolstoy has grown from a place to showcase my Abercrombie henleys to an exploration of art, culture, and style, I’ve grown with it.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported T&T over the last six years. Your comments, questions, and excitement have kept me motivated to keep creating. Here’s to many more years of leather pants, Goya paintings, and low key, but very cute, nihilism.

Weekend Wear

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I try to class it up during the week but on weekends I have a pretty strict sweaters-and-leggings uniform. That said, I have a few tricks to make comfortable outfits look more chic than a pair of sweats. Wearing a textured legging either leather, velvet, or patterned easily elevates a basic look. A statement necklace adds flair and these loafer flats are comfortable but classy. celina-january-0027celina-january-0022celina-january-0021

Leggings: c/o Primark, Sweater: TJ Maxx, Shoes: Macy’s, Necklace: Gifted

Photos by Stephanie Krist.

Be My Valentine

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Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope it’s filled with soft fabrics, love notes, and pounds on pounds of chocolate. I often have trouble choosing a V-day look because it’s February which means snowy and freezing in Boston. This year I’ve found a happy medium with a silk dress and thigh-high boots. Warm enough, but still flirty enough. 

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Dress: Primark, Boots: c/o Shoedazzle, Belt: Forever21

Photos by Stephanie Krist.

State of Emergency

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Last week I attended a powerful activist art installation at the Dorchester Arts Collaborative. Below is a snippet of my coverage for The Bay State Banner.

The Dorchester Arts Collaborative pulsed with laughter, energy and life last Saturday, Feb. 4. It was the second of two weekends during which the Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI), hosted their Social Emergency Response Center project. The SERC drew inspiration from Emergency Response Centers that often evolve in the wake of disasters such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and earthquakes. In this case, the goal is to provide food, shelter, and artistic and spiritual healing to people who have been victims of racial violence and social repression.img_3394

Lori Lobenstine, program design lead, said the idea has been in the works since the Michael Brown shooting in 2014. “For other emergencies we had procedures,” she said. “We started thinking about how people could organize for a social emergency. What would people be hungry for, if not food? What is the reconstruction needed to repair our democracy?” The result was a rich display of community activism.

The SERC had stations for food, healing, reading, planning and making, all backed by an impressive program agenda that was packed with activities. Genki Spark, an all-female, Asian music and cultural group, performed and taught audiences cathartic Taiko drumming. Fine arts instructor Taina Vargas taught printmaking, accompanied by empowering quotes about radical change and equality. Project South hosted a lecture and discussion on new forms of government. Lobenstine said there was so much interest, they couldn’t accommodate all the artists who wanted to be involved.img_3372The choice of location was strategic. Not only did the Dorchester Arts Collaborative have the space to accommodate the event, it’s in the heart of an area that lives these issues daily. “We wanted to be in a neighborhood that has experienced social emergency, whether that’s gentrification or violence in the black community,” said Lobenstine. Education is as important in the SERC as healing. For many people, particularly white allies, Trump’s presidency has brought these issues to light. But the underlying social conditions giving rise to them always were present. “The social emergency was already here. It was just unevenly distributed,” Lobenstine said.

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At the Saturday event, Smallie Michelle led an intensive aerobic dance workshop. It wasn’t about keeping time to specific steps or beats. It was about collective movement and release. People of all races, genders and ages swayed their hips together to Shakira’s latest hit. Those who weren’t dancing clapped along. For the first time in a long time, everyone was smiling. SERC facilitated a sense of humanity, community and connection that is all-too rare in the contemporary world. “Artists and art are tremendously important right now,” said Lobenstine. “Artists understand things that aren’t as linear as politics. They understand emotions.”

Photos are mine.