The creation of a ballet usually happens in one of three ways. The first way of creating a ballet is the relationship of choreographer and composer working together to birth a new work, The Four Temperaments. The second way is the ability to create steps or a vocabulary first and then the composer is inspired, this gave us ballets like The Sleeping Beauty. The final way is probably the most common way, the Symphonic Ballet. Taking music we already know, that is already done and creating a ballet to it. This is probably the most common way we see dance now. The term the Symphonic Ballet was originally used to describe the Massine Ballets during the 1930s but would later go on as a concept of using the symphony to create ballets. In the same decade, Balanchine would premiere Serenade to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. This would later filter into modern, jazz, and today’s competitive world of dance. Hear a song, create a dance.
While Massine was considered a rebel for using the symphony, and how some of the ballets might have defiled the music, it was at this moment, where ballet started to adapt to popular culture; Something that Massine, Balanchine, Lichine and Ashton were very good at. Granted, these choreographers were lucky to be in periods that needed change and needed adaptations, but now in the year of 2021…. We need change now more than ever for the art we love so much. The reality is, that ballet is dying. It is the only fine art (performing and visual) that can not stand alone.
But that is what makes ballet special. The combination and collaboration of music, costume, dancers, choreographer, director, lighting designer, and more that creates something larger than life. While a lot of balletomanes and directors in ballet hold their noses up at people like me, and they say that I am too radical, that they don’t want ballet to change, that they want to keep the current ballet donors happy, they don’t want to alienate an economic class that has supported ballet through the decades… these are the same people that also worship those who brought change when ballet needed to change the most.
So, we should take note of the symphonic ballet about breaking the rules of the classical arts, and look at the world of pop culture.
If you have been following us on social media, you know we have been talking about Paquita. Tonight, well technically tomorrow, around 12:01 AM, Paquita will be available to stream on A Ballet Network. If you are new to this whole Paquita Project, here is the rundown.
I think the only way to become a dancer is to dance. And I don’t mean competition variations, but be a part of an actual ballet. It’s important for kids to understand that ballet, the art of ballet, isn’t about being a soloist or principal dancer, it’s about being a cog (dancer) in a huge machine (company) and you are all working together to produce something beautiful. It’s so important to understand that ballet is not about the individual, it’s about being a part of something larger, and constructing a picture. I think it’s easy for kids to get caught up in the chase for “stardom” or a principal title, when the reality is, it’s a long road from student to principal dancer, but it is a very short road from student to trainee. And once you are in that position a very exhausting process to prove you are ready for a job.
Because Covid took away so many of their opportunities we thought, “Well why not just make a digital season through A Ballet Education? I mean it can’t be that hard right?” I was definitely wrong. So, we are very lucky at A Ballet Education that Ashley, Eric, and I all do photography and videography as well as teach, so we thought we would give it a go. But, we wanted to do it fast, and treat the kids like they were in a company. (I know, kind of hardcore.)
You might be thinking, why Paquita? Paquita is my second favorite ballet in the classical repertoire. It is this wonderful third/second act of a ballet, depending on the version, that bonds the women of a company. It is this humbling experience where the principals, soloists, and corps all have to dance together. It is rich in history, and the fact that each ballerina got their own variation, a lot of times their own composer, it really opens this world up to changing steps to fit the dancer. It gives dancers the artistic freedom to use their own agency and make artistic choices without having to worry about carrying a full ballet, or the demands of a story, or the exhaustion of a full length. It is this ballet that is really empowering to women, as the female is not the victim and the male is the after thought. I think it is this moment in classical ballet, where we get to understand that ballet isn’t steps, or faeries or dryads, it is powerful women, doing cabrioles, and bravura steps. Paquita is really this jewel of ballet that we sometimes take for granted during YAGP season.
So here is how it went down. We didn’t charge the kids to participate, or random costume fees, or rehearsal fees, as you wouldn’t be charged in a company, it’s a part of the job, and at the beginning, it was just going to be in the studio in leos. But, we did put this crazy demand and expectation on the kids:
We only gave them four- 3-hour rehearsals, split over two weeks, and basically said good luck. Then on the second week, we decided we would test the kids, and hand out brand new solos, and give it go. At this point, we decided we would rent a friend’s studio that has the square footage and just do it there.
We are also lucky to have New York City Ballet Dancers in town, and let us be honest: dancers have to dance. If dancers don’t dance, their soul dies, and they spiral into this endless depression of crazy. So, it was decided that two Balanchine dancers: Ashley Hod and Andrew Veyette, would take on Paquita. Right? Good for them, stepping outside of their comfort zone.
So they were gracious enough to also participate, which led to Empire Tiaras rushing and creating the semi-costumes in 1 week and overnight shipping them. I know it sounds crazy. Even typing this, I feel like, “Wow, we are crazy.” But, it gets crazier.
We realized that because of the costuming, we needed better lighting, so we ended up asking our families for help financially. We are very lucky enough, that during the pandemic our non-profit: A Ballet Foundation, got approved. So, parents and friends of ours pitched in. So, we basically had to relight and entire studio to make it seem or feel like a performance.
And then, it gets even crazier. We decide that we are going to take on Swan Lake. What the heck, right? But this time around, we decided we are going to open it up for professionals and students who want to dance. Right? Crazy. So if you want to be a part of our Swan Lake Project, it will be assembled from start to finish in 1 week.
So, here we area day away from Paquita: three weeks from rehearsal to performance, edited and ready to go. I couldn’t be more thankful for my amazing team: Ashley Lorraine Baker and Eric Hipolito Jr, the talented and humble Andrew Veyette and Ashley Hod and the generous support from all of you. We hope you enjoy.
Here is how to watch it: Subscribe on A Ballet Network and enjoy. Once you purchase your yearly subscription, you will be able to access it.
Disclaimer: It’s our first time making a full film, and they are students and produced against a negative dollar budget…. Also reminding that companies that dancers need to dance, even if it is just in-studio projects….
“78 out of the 82 initially selected candidates have participated in the Video Edition and 20 of them reached the Finals that took place today, via video.
At the end of the Finals, the Jury, presided this year by the Director and Choreographer of the Basel Ballet Richard Wherlock, selected 6 Prize Winners. Thanks to their scholarships, these 6 promising dancers will have the opportunity to enter one of the prestigious partner schools and companies of the Prix de Lausanne.
The 6 Prix de Lausanne 2021 Scholarship Prize Winners are:
OAK FOUNDATION 218 – António CASALINHO – Portugal
BOURSE JEUNE ESPOIR 226 – Luca ABDEL-NOUR – Egypt
FONDATION ALBERT AMON 118 – Andrey Jesus MACIANO – Brazil
FONDATION CARIS – JEUNE ESPOIR 210 – Seojeong YUN – South Korea
FONDATION COROMANDEL 236 – FUCHIYAMA Shunhei – Japan
FONDATION EN FAVEUR DE L’ART CHORÉGRAPHIQUE 231 – Ashley COUPAL – Canada
NUREYEV FOUNDATION Best Young Talent Award: 118 – Andrey Jesus MACIANO – Brazil
MINERVA KUNSTSTIFTUNG Contemporary Dance Award: 218 – António CASALINHO – Portugal & 241 – CRUZ Rui Cesar –Brazil
FONDATION EN FAVEUR DE L’ART CHORÉGRAPHIQUE Best Swiss Candidate Award: 226 – Luca ABDEL-NOUR – Egypt
Finalists Award: the Finalists who have not been awarded any scholarship will each receive CHF 1,000.-, offered by Bobst SA.”
This year has been beyond an exceptional year of talent at the Prix. And this year, the boys did not hold back in the Prix’s digital edition. A lot of people complained about the format this year, but I rather enjoyed it. It was nice to see each candidate individually, to see how impressive, how technically gifted, and how unique each candidate was. And while most of the world knew that Antonio was going to win, this year I was extremely impressed by the candidates from South Korea. Literally, mind-blowing.
Right now, in 2021, audition season seems almost impossible. Ballet Companies and Schools are flooding their programs for the sake of recovering dollars lost during COVID, and parents are questioning whether or not sending their student away is even an option. I get it. 2021 is a mess. So, I am blogging today to help you find some clarity. Most students have already completed their summer course auditions, and are now juggling what program to attend. Normally, we would be asking ourselves questions like, “Where do I really want to train? Is joining the school year-round even a possibility?” This year we ask ourselves, “Is this program really going to happen? Do they actually like my kid, or is this about money?”
These are all the subtle realities of ballet right now, and everyone is going through it.
Here is how we recommend our summer courses to my students: 1. Could you see yourself dancing in the company? Do they move like you? Do they look like you? Do you want to move like that?
2. Is the training on par/the same level with what you are currently getting?
3. Can you see yourself living there? Location matters.
4. Did you receive a scholarship?
5. Will this provide more opportunities for you in the future?
Parents right now are really facing a financial burden, as the economic toll of COVID is bulldozing through. Spending $6-10K on a summer course that may or may not happen in person is stressful. Beyond stressful. No one wants a repeat of last year.
While most students in ballet right now are figuring out which program they will be attending, many are just starting auditions because of the lack of information provided to them. Many schools do not help their kids audition and try to find summer placement because of the financial factor. Keeping kids guarantees dollars. If you are just getting to auditions, make sure you hit the live, record a good video, and take beautiful photos!
Generation Lost There is a whole generation right now, searching for work, searching for answers, and most of all, searching for hope. Dancers ages 17-22 are in an endless spiral, trying to piece together any shred of hope for a job. Here are some helpful tips: -Don’t e-mail the school registrar, find the audition email or the company manager’s email. -Edit the video to be the exact requirements a company is looking for. Don’t make 1 generic one and just send that, different companies are looking for different things. -Have good audition photos, remember when auditioning for jobs, second companies, and trainees, you don’t have to do standard audition photos, you can change it up a bit. -Clean up your social media, and anything else that will allow them to see you dance.
Don’t give up hope! There is nothing wrong with repeating a graduate year, or simply taking a year of training, or going to a smaller company for a couple of years and moving on to a bigger company. With companies really unclear what the future holds, there is nothing wrong with just staying in shape and working on your artistry. But, if patience, money, and time are not on your side, making peace with ballet and moving on isn’t bad either. Just make sure you give it your all before you decide.
If you have questions about auditioning, please email us, or book a consultation.
After nearly 40 years of leading the San Francisco Ballet, Helgi Tomasson is retiring. Helgi Tomasson has made the San Francisco Ballet a world-class company, and arguably the best school in the country. For more about his career and his interview check out the Sf Chronicle Here.
Photo: Helgi Tomasson has served as artistic director and principal choreographer for the San Francisco Ballet since 1985.Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle
In America, we often forget about the last three arabesques. It is also probably why people in Europe think we don’t teach real ballet. (I imagine every teacher in America right now being like, “I’m a great teacher and I teach real ballet because I teach the fourth arabesque.” The fourth Arabesque in the Italian pedagogy Cecchetti, is often referred to as croisé arabesque in America. While in this drawing she is wrist and that left arm is rather high, this arabesque requires a good amount of flexibility in the upper back and shoulders to create the opposition needed. While this arabesque is more turnout friendly than the position’s counterpart (second arabesque), this arabesque is equally unforgiving because of the supporting leg.
Then we have the Russian fourth arabesque, while some Americans might refer to it as epaulé, and others will call it other things. Regardless, of what you call this position, it is one of the hardest positions of the arabesque because you can hide nothing. The back is fully exposed, meaning the spinal and scapula alignment must be properly aligned or it is a dead giveaway. Whether it is done de coté or effacé this position should be trained religiously because this position reinforces the ideas of opposition, and the hips being square while the upper body spirals. The demand for turnout on the supporting leg is also a lot, so if you do not have the strength yet, stick to the first arabesque, and then when you are ready, flip it.
Lastly, the Italian fifth arabesque. It might also be the crowning glory of arabesque. While third arabesque is nice and all, fifth arabesque is probably the most stunning line one’s body can make it, It is this radial pinwheel of perfection when aligned properly. It is the combination of the limbs crossing, the working leg crossing the axis, the supporting leg twisting en decors, while the supporting shoulder is rotating the opposite direction. This position is killer if one can achieve the line. Keep the energy pushing away from your axis and core, reaching to all points of the kinesphere.
People ask us all the time how arabesque works, or why do all of the Clinic girls have such clean and high arabesque lines. The answer isn’t as easy as saying, “We just work the line.” To understand arabesque is to understand body mechanics, shape/line, and body potential. Ballet, classical ballet, as much as it is defined by the body’s turnout, is really defined by arabesque. It is the position most equated with ballet, and the position that all dancers are judged on. With auditions season upon us, and the 2021 audition season roaring in like a tsunami with no relief, I thought I would write some of the thoughts down regards to arabesuqe.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions or verbal corrections passed down through the generations is, “Lean forward.” It is really, really, really misleading, especially for a child’s brain, and spatial awareness. We obviously don’t want to create pinching in the back or pressure in the spine, but leaning forwards is probably not the best way to describe the sensation that happens in the core.
To really understand the classical arabesque line, you have to really understand your own body it’s turnout capability. Lifting the leg isn’t the right set of words to achieve the line either. I always like to say, “rotate the leg off the floor,” The leg spirals ups and into the hip socket to create stability and height, without gripping the glutes. If the glutes (specifically the major) grip the leg won’t go up. If the abs are gripped and clenched it will also prohibit the leg from going up. The core has to be engaged, but engaged properly, “Belly button to the spine.” As the leg rotates up, the pubic bone releases, and the psoas and hip flexor push away, the ribs disengage and the back presses forward (specifically the same side as the working leg) to create opposition.
Placement of the arms always depends on the line and the body. While classical ballet calls for the arm to be more forward, a more open shoulder line creates a less severe look and more natural ease. Too open shortens the leg and causes the scapula to pinch, but a too forward arm creates the visual illusion of your hand being larger than your head.
Another issue when attempting an arabesque is understanding the pelvis. The pelvis can only tilt as much as the core is strong enough to sustain stability. I think kids get too excited and let the hips tip from the neutral position too fast, or optionally opening the hip to get the leg up. This creates a lot of problems, but most importantly, trying to tip the hips to get that hypermobile arabesque line can be dangerous. If you are hypermobile and your body (specifically back) does allow you to achieve a hypermobile backline, you will need to cross-train extra hard and strengthen the core and back times 10.
Here is a young student on pointe. While her body shows a tremendous amount of potential, we can see that her back is still not strong enough to stay as lifted as it should be. Being able to use the back to hold the spine (including the neck) in a straight line takes time. But the turnout and the pelvis placement is correct. The feet need to get stronger, and the so do the back of the legs, but it is age (young 12) appropriate. In another case, using Leonidas as an example, of a 13 year old boy’s arabesuqe line.
Here, you can see that on his flat arabesque he is maintaining the rotation of his supporting leg, staying lifted, and his arm is more forward. His arm is higher because of the height of his leg to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing line for his body type. In his relevé photo, his supporting leg is less turned out due to his inner thigh being weak. But, he is working on it. Ideally, his arm line is now more open s o he can have a more lifted look on relevé and a cleaner backline. But his pelvis placement is still forward, and his torso is forward while the spine is almost straight.
Hope this all helps.
Oh audition photo trick. When taking your audition photos, rotate the shoulder closest to the camera down slightly so that it creates a longer neckline, and visually places the shoulder down. Another audition photo trick: have the camera at the same level as the hips, not the face, it creates a more accurate representation of your body proportions. If you are going to have the camera any lower, it will distort the face and neck.
It is that time of year, the end of the year, but what is usually a time of reflection and growth seems to be overshadowed by the gloom, hatred, and uncertainty of 2021. Most everyone right now can’t wait for 2021, the new year bringing a sense of hope for the future, that all of the negativity is going to stay in 2020, and I hope that too… While the world of Instagram and social media is having everyone repost their highlights of the year and their top 9 (don’t get me wrong, I did it too), I actually had to take a step back and be thankful for this year. First, let me thank all of you for your continuous support, readership, and following. This year we have donated over $30,000 in scholarships/company donations/causes and have given away over $5,000 in products and gift cards to amazing brands.
This year I had a lot to be thankful for… In January I was as happy as a clam, minding my own business, teaching, hanging out, and trying to start settling down in Scottsdale. We had our Winter Intensives, and we started the choreography for our June Show. In February we did our Valentine’s Day shoot and I took kids to compete at the YAGP Semi-Final New York. In March, I went to Kansas City’s YAGP Semi-Final. By March 16th, we were at home on quarantine orders, and everything completely shifted into chaos and the new normal…
But during quarantine, I was able to focus a lot on A Ballet Education, I had so much free time since I was not in the studio or guest teaching. When things started to go sideways, I decided to make a planner that would help all of my students keep track of Zoom Codes and staying in shape. Little did I know that it was going to explode and that by May 2020, we would have shipped over 1,000 planners worldwide.
Additionally, Ashley and I were able to refocus our efforts on the Magazine and bring on Elizabeth Weldon to help create a stunning issue that would continue to grow throughout the rest of the year.
By June 2020, we were back in the studios, without masks. We were told it was safe, and things were slowing down. Little did we know that would only last two weeks before we were back to stay-at-home orders. By August, we were back in studios but were only allowed to have six kids at a time, and so we were putting in 10 hour days trying to see all of our students at least once a day. Then, by September, we were told we would be allowed to open again with masks… And so, Season two of the Ballet Clinic Resumed, our faculty had expanded from three to six, and our student population had grown from 12 to 32, and we published the beautiful September Issue.
Our season kicked off to a great start.
In October, we launched the ABE Merch Line along with our Spooky Season Stuff!
By December, we were back in the full swing of things. The magazine has grown, the ABE Merch was taking off, the planners are still going like hotcakes, and our December Issue had come out.
Another new challenge that December brought was live broadcasting our exams at The Ballet Clinic. It was a very fun new challenge, but we were able to produce amazing live streams and broadcast the exams so parents could see.
So as you can see, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. And while this year brought chaos, destroyed the world of arts, and financially broke the system, it also brought me passion, it brought creativity, it brought me the willingness to fight and keep going for everything I love so much. This year has been hell, this year has been a shit storm, but this year has also made me work even harder, and reminded me that nothing is guaranteed. This year has given me amazing collaborations with Tea Leaves and Co, NG Generation and Grishko World, Cary Conservatory, Elite Classical Coaching, winning outstanding teacher at YAGP, being listed as one of the top ballet schools in the country, being nominated for Influential Contributor and Influencer, and so much more.
As I move on to 2021, I am excited for the next year. I am excited for The Ballet Clinic Season 3. I am excited to see what the future holds for my students, and I am excited that A Ballet Education, A Ballet Magazine, A Ballet Network, The Ballet Clinic, and The Pointe Shoe Clinic are thriving.
We are excited to announce Season 3 of The Ballet Clinic!! This last season has been insane, and while COVID-19 has created numerous issues, we are lucky enough to have survived and thrived. This 2020-2021 Season has been crazy, but we have already been awarded numerous awards and recognized for our outstanding and dedicated faculty. We are extremely excited to announce next season as we start our search for the next 36 dancers who will be a part of The Ballet Clinic. Here are some of the photos from this Fall Season! We are so excited to be moving on to our Winter 2021 Season!! To learn more about Season 3 or The Ballet Clinic visit our Website: www.TheBalletClinic.com
While A Ballet Magazine’s Winter Issue features a plethora of holiday performances this season, we would be remiss not to also highlight Municipal Ballet Company’s upcoming film of River of Rosewater, their version of The Nutcracker. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and under the Directorship of Sarah Longoria (a contributor to our Summer Issue), Municipal Ballet Company has brought entertaining and affordable, if not free, performances to the city for the past nine years. This year’s filmed performance of River of Rosewater features the lovely Kathryn Morgan as Clara, and Christopher Sellars, her current boyfriend and former first soloist with Ballet West, as her prince.
The performance is set in Salt Lake City’s historic McCune Mansion and accompanied by Pixie and the Party Grass Boys, a local band, who arranged Tchaikovsky’s score. The music, setting, and elegant costumes reflect the air of the 1920s. This version is a charming rendition of the classic Nutcracker and one where Morgan and Sellars are sure to shine. There couldn’t be a more perfect pairing for this unique holiday tale.
Morgan, who has charmed followers the internet over with her resiliency and candor, continues to impress fans with her reinventions. I am delighted at the thought of seeing her timeless beauty and grace in this performance as she partners with her real life love. Sellars is not only a refined genuine gentleman but also a gifted partner. Together, they and the delightful dancers of Municipal Ballet are sure to sweep the audience off their feet!
Municipal Ballet Company is a collection of classically trained dancers who wish to continue sharing their love of dance. Sarah Longoria has created a beautiful and supportive community for adult dancers to keep dancing and have the opportunity to collaborate with local creatives.
The filming of River of Rosewater is made possible by Social Antidote, a local nonprofit organization intent on featuring local creatives. Free streaming will premiere Wednesday, (TODAY!!!) December 23rd at 7pm on Social Antidote’s Youtube Channel and will continue to be available to watch.
Only 5 more days till the deadline to become an NG Generation Girl!! These amazing products, by the original Nikolay Grishko, can be found around the world being used by top professionals and dedicated students. So excited about this partnership. I will be designing a set of stickers exclusively for Nikolay Grishko. Apply today if you use these shoes! Above is the ad featured in our Holiday Magazine featuring Sarah Savage.
Dance and Media featuring New York City Ballet’s Emily Kitka and her business KW CREATIVE.
The Perfect Black Leotard, finding the right leotard for you.
Menswear featuring amazing these amazing brands: Boys Dance Too, Barreto Dancewear, Lucky Leo Elevé Dancewear, and Tightans featuring Ballet Arizona’s Serafin Castro.
Balancing College and Priouettes by Eric Hipolito Jr. Here he talks to dancers Kiara Felder of Les Grand Ballet de Canadian, Montreal, Andy Garcia of Boston Ballet, and PNB’s Genevieve Waldorf.
Jillian Verzwyvelt talks about Transferable Skills You Can Take Beyond the Studio. Jillian talks to four amazing women who have transitioned from ballet: Miko Fogarty, Jessica Columbus, Melody Lynch, and Cristina Milanes.
And So Much More!!!
THE HOLIDAY ISSUE ON JOOMAG
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With the world being full of chaos, and social media constantly perpetuating so many different feelings… we decided to focus our energies on being thankful.
Each day leading up to Thanksgiving we have made a prompt. You can either make a post of your own or comment on our post. Either way, you will be entered into our Christmas Giveaways. This is already on top of our Friday Giveaways!!! If you didn’t know, on Friday’s we like to give stuff away on Instagram live.
Feel to join in at anytime!! #abe26daysofthanks
Just some of the awesome things we are giving away!!!
Every time I am about to start a blog post, the world we live in drastically changes, thus causing me to reevaluate what I post. In the latest post, I was going to be writing about Ballet West returning to the stage but this morning Utah put a limit to no more than 10 on social gatherings. So, I am assuming this is going to affect Ballet West’s return to the stage.
Meanwhile, across the world YAGP has successfully hosted the international heats, while the American heats are up in the air and this overwhelming case of uncertainty gives me anxiety.
Like most schools and companies across the US, this pandemic has ravaged business, destroyed dreams, and plagued students.
The efforts of mask wearing is exhausting, but in my experience works extremely well. But, not everyone in the dance world wants to follow suit, which is totally fine. Everyone is entitled to run their business how they see fit, this isn’t a political post.
But for me personally, the pandemic has taken its toll on my soul. The art and world that I love so dearly is crumbling. The uncertainty of ballet companies being able to hire over the next three years is grim. The possibility that every pre-professional school will be flooding their programs for dollars, when it’s time to re-open is very high. And ballet companies seem to not want to reinvent themselves during this time, leaving them institutions of the past.
Dancers have this way of living in the past, reminiscing about “the good days,” and have this inherent love for nostalgia. Remembering the Balanchine Era or the Ballet Russes era, the power houses of that brought down the house of the 80’s, the technicians and tricksters of the 90’s, and the primas of the early 00’s. Each of these times seem to be revisited, talked about, and glorified. But it’s time to move on and look forward if we want to save the art and world we live in.
So, what is next?
Ballet and being relatable. There are dancers of this generation making ballet accessible and relatable- but it seems their employers don’t want to recognize or finance their efforts. In today’s world of Instagram and Social Media influencers, there is an affiliates program. Programs that you make money off of when you are responsible for a lead or sale. While I see these dancers attempting to help their organizations, most aren’t being compensated for it. And yes, it is a team effort to save these organizations that we all love so much, but dancers should be compensated for the work that they are doing.
Crowdfunding and sourcing is a big part of today’s world, and it would be more effective for ballet companies if companies were more accessible but the reality is that these companies aren’t accessible, the dancers are.
Then you have influencers who are not affiliated with companies that are doing exceptional things, and they should be compensated as well. There are individual artist platforms like Patreon that help individual artists thrive to create digital media content. But, collectively, being conscious that the world we love so much isn’t progressing because of executive directors, but because individual people, dancers, and influencers keep creating content that is relevant.
These individuals on Instagram are literally the mouthpiece and physical representation of these organizations. What would ABT or PNB be without their star-studded rosters? And these social media superstars are the driving force behind asking for donations. I see all these dancers advertising their digital seasons, asking for donations, and even seeing the links in their profiles. They should have affiliate links, so companies can track who is bringing in what. It’s not that hard to create individually tracked links. But, if their world is out of touch with how social media works… well they can call me 🙂
Lastly, in this ever-changing world, a thought that has been constantly on my mind is…. Are unions like AGMA and the theatre union helping or hindering ballet?
As ballet evolves through this time of COVID, some institutions and individuals have evolved as innovators, while others have slipped into an even more archaic and dated state. New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck has leapt ahead of the industry.
In addition to consistently teaching an open class on her Instagram Live feed during Quarantine, Peck teamed up with LA-based CLI Studios to produce a new digital performance. For those unfamiliar, CLI Studios is a digital dance streaming service that is popular among competitive studios and dancers for its access to competitive choreographer content.
“A New Stage” was created by Peck as a front-row experience presented by world-class dancers and some of the most highly profiled collaborators. The $20 streamed performance includes names like Lil Buck, Sierra Boggess, Brooklyn Mack, and the Syncopated Ladies.
The broadcast is introduced by Peck and then moves into Unusual Way by the award-winning Christopher Wheeldon. Of course the ballet world knows who he is, but for the commercial world, it presented a tremendous introductory effort. This piece entailed a pointe solo by Peck accompanied by vocals sung by Broadway star Sierra Boggess. The slow and romantic movement showcased Peck in a softer presence than her typical portrayal with City Ballet. The piece was delicate and approachable, and definitely created a diverse audience-friendly contemporary ballet that felt welcoming to everyone.
The tap ensemble Syncopated Ladies, then presented its spectacular offering, Amplified. This piece was vibrant, clear, and a true reflection of our times. It transcended the obvious use of popular music, and truly offered something we don’t see often enough in the world of concert dance: high caliber, technical, and clean tap. It wasn’t a part of a Broadway show, it wasn’t a part of a competition showcase, and it wasn’t trying to be a ground breaking percussive performance. Instead, this performance was purely about the tapping, and the people performing. There were multiple body types, ethnicities, and individual artists amongst these delightfully talented women. In today’s world, where ballet struggles between elitism and accessibility, the Syncopated Ladies’ performance truly was a punch of power, hope and progress for the world of dance.
Finally, the evening concluded with the big performance: Petrushka Reimagined. Petrushka originally premiered in 1911 with the Ballet Russes. It was choreographed by Fokine to Stravinsky, who had in 1910, just premiered his score to the ballet, Firebird. Originally, this ballet was supposed to be Rite of Spring for Diaghilev, but Stravinsky wasn’t feeling it at the time and composed the score around a puppet.
As this ballet is really intended for a more sophisticated ballet audience, each version that was subsequently created was condensed, and the score cut down and simplified by Stravinsky himself.
An updated Petrushka was previously premiered in 2009 by the Scottish Ballet, and in 2012 a small company in Florida also premiered a Petrushka interpretation with hip-hop, but used a full cast instead of limiting the piece to 3 dancers. This version was definitely more audience friendly, and probably suited the wider commercial audience it was created to entertain. The dancing was great, however the choreography held this piece back from realizing its full potential. With such a capable cast, it was disappointing to find it not as complex or developed as it should have been.
This presentation was based on the later version featuring Nureyev, which only requires 3 dancers. Lil Buck was featured as Petrushka (the puppet), Tiler Peck as the ballerina, and Brooklyn Mack as the Moore. The performance drew from hip hop, pop-locking, vogueing, classical ballet, and contemporary ballet. While I appreciated the choreographer, Jennifer Weber’s, take of Petrushka, the actual sadness, darkness, and complexity of the original ballet is missing, and the focus is not on Petrushka but on Peck’s ballerina doll and a love triangle that is portrayed through elaborate commercial dance.
Overall, the entire evening was beautifully filmed and crafted and is a great exposure opportunity for younger audiences. Older audiences could appreciate Weber’s Petrushka as one of the only ballets where the male characters are more developed and portray a wider range of emotions. As a commercial introduction to the world of concert dance, this performance checked all of the right boxes: diversity, technique, modernity, and entertainment…but, the $20 was worth it for Syncopated Ladies alone! Check out the performance here.
CLI’s next performance will include a world premiere by William Forsythe and Tiler Peck. Stay tuned for more.
Seven super cute costume ideas that you probably already have around the house.
This year, instead of illustrating the week of Spooky Season, I asked my students to recreate my illustrations. They definitely went all-in on it, and here they are, just in time for the spooky holiday.
So Kathryn Morgan just opened up, and just put Miami City Ballet on Blast.
Her story was super publicized, and in fact, maybe Miami City Ballet used her for just that: Her public forum. Did Miami City Ballet use her as a stunt to help save their company’s reputation, and do it for the look of “diversity and acceptance” … In her video, she talks about the pressures that the company put on her about her body: she is a size 2. Her video talks about the bullying that happens by the artistic staff, and the pressures that they put on you. Is it even worse because the Artistic Director is female, and a woman requiring the body type? For someone who has worked hard for years to get back in shape, and get to a point where she can dance in a company again… to be told she wasn’t an inspiration? Sounds fishy to me. The crazy part about this video is she doesn’t make any excuses for herself and presents both sides of the executive/artistic staff and her own personal endeavors. So, what did we learn from this video? Miami City Ballet’s reputation of being progressive, and equal, and diverse is basically a facade.
When I was younger, kids in my ballet class were awarded stickers for coming to class in the proper uniform with their hair in a neat ballet bun. My mom arranged my thick natural hair into individual braids that were nicely pulled back for class, however, I was the only girl who did not get a sticker for being in the proper uniform. I was always told my hair was not right for the class. Eventually, I told my mother about the issue. We met with the director who apologized, and I finally got my stickers. This experience was traumatizing for me. It could have deterred my interest in this art form. Ballet schools must be more accepting of the cultural and racial differences of their students. The ballet community should accommodate hairstyles for Black dancers who have beautiful, naturally coarse hair. Training to be a professional ballerina is challenging and takes a lot of discipline, regardless of who you are. Read more in our September Issue.
The knee joint is the most unstable joint in the body. Put at constant torque by ballet dancers, no wonder we are worried about their health and safety. Or maybe you would love a greater range of motion, a more square split, and cleaner penché line.
This exercise helps to create length in the joint capsule of the knee, stretching not only its hinging action but also its unique rotational aspect.
Often in ballet, we only stretch turned out and for far too long for our tissue to actually lengthen. After just two seconds, the stretch reflex fires from our body to our mind telling it “we may be in danger, tense up now to avoid injury!” Physiologically, after two seconds of stretching any joint past, the range of motion, our stretch becomes an isometric contraction, similar to holding our plank or developpé a la seconde. The pain we feel from stretching after two seconds is our defense mechanism which in ballet we are taught to ignore.
By actively engaging the quads, abs, and hip flexors to perform this exercise we are able to effectively stretch the hamstrings and calves without sending a negative message to our tissue. We’re respecting our reflexes, using Sherrington’s Law of Reciprocal Inhibition.
To begin the stretch, lay on your back with your legs outstretched in front of you. Place a non stretch strap, rope, or lead around the sole of the exercising leg’s foot to begin. You may use your hands on the back of the thigh and calf as well. The starting position begins with the knee flexed toward the rib cage and same side shoulder. Contract the quads to fully extend the knee. At the end of the knee movement keep contracted the quadriceps and assist with a rope or your hands. The lower leg should finish over the upper leg without the upper leg moving forward away from the chest. After maintaining a fully stretched knee for two seconds, release back to the starting position.
In order to assure maximum stretch, a proper angle must be obtained between the thigh and chest and full extension of the knee is attained in each repetition. Release to the starting position of complete knee flexion and gently repeat the exercise moving the legs slightly closer to the chest.
2 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions recommended, alternating legs after each set.
Repeat the same exercise but wrap the strap around the bottom of the foot and back around from the inside to the outside of the lower leg to create an inward rotation of the shin. Make sure the femur stays neutral and parallel, it is not a complete turn-in of the entire leg.
2 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions recommended, alternating legs after each set.
Repeat the same exercise but wrap the strap around the bottom of the foot and out around from outside to inside of the lower leg to create an outward rotation of the shin. Make sure the femur stays neutral and parallel, it is not a complete turn out of the entire leg.
2 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions recommended, alternating legs after each set.
Do not arch your back, or hike the hip off of the ground surface to compensate for greater stretch. This exercise is about keeping the quadriceps contracted during the entire knee extension as it is creating length in the back of the joint. Relax the ankle, do not strive to point the foot. You do not want to add greater tension to the stretch, but isolate the focus just to the back of the knee. Every time you contract the top thigh muscles, exhale and inhale on the return back to the starting position. Lastly, do not use the strap or your hands to pull your foot closer to your face. That strap is there to add a gentle assisted stretch after your muscles have fully done the action of straightening the knee from a flexed hip.
Matthew Doolin BA, NMT
Matthew Doolin is a Neuromuscular Therapist who specializes in physical rehabilitation, injury and pain management for all. He danced professionally for thirteen years as well as obtained BA from Butler University, two years study to become a medical massage therapist at the National Holistic Institute in San Francisco, and has been practicing Active Isolated Stretching for three three years. He currently lives in Jacksonville, Florida and treats patients online and in person. Please visit his website, IG account, or email him for more information. During this time of crisis Matthew is offering sliding-scale pricing for those interested in taking better care of their facilities or want to break through their physical limitations.