Forget Black Friday. This Atlanta Ballet Dancer Makes Holiday Gifts in Her Kitchen
For Ashley Wegmann, food is about fuel, but it is also about community. A few times a month, she joins a group of Atlanta Ballet dancers for a rotating party they call "Family Dinner."
"Someone hosts, and we all help prep and cook while snacking and drinking wine," says Wegmann. The group also hosts a big Thanksgiving dinner each year since the dancers are always busy rehearsing The Nutcracker, and most don't live close enough to family to travel home.
"It's a huge potluck with all the traditional dishes and some international ones from our foreign dancers." The home-cooking culture is so strong at Atlanta Ballet that the dancers have created a cookbook called Bravo, which supports the Dancers' Resource Fund for career transitions.
Wegmann in Don Quixote. Photo by Charlie McCullers, courtesy Atlanta Ballet
Wegmann's specialty? Homemade chocolate chip cookies, adapted from a recipe in The New York Times. "I make them for most of our big get-togethers and special occasions," she says. "People are always requesting them."
She first started baking back in high school while growing up in New Jersey. The hobby gave her a love for creating homemade gifts. Today, one of her favorite foods to gift is infused honey. "It is so versatile," says Wegmann, who adorns her petite and festive mason jars with personal tags and string. "And it lasts a lot longer than, say, a loaf or a poppyseed cake."
How to Make Ashley Wegmann's Infused Honey:
Photo via Getty Images
- 8 oz. of raw honey (preferably locally sourced)
- 1–2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
- 5–7 cardamom pods, cracked open so seeds are exposed
Add cinnamon and cardamom to a half-pint mason jar, then fill with honey. Cover and let sit, in a sunny spot if possible, for two to four weeks.
The longer the honey steeps, the stronger the flavor. "I try to let the honey infuse for about a month before I gift it," says Wegmann. "I've also made other varieties with lavender and rosemary."
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For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.
Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"
At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.
Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.