What You Missed This Weekend

If you were staying off social media this weekend to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers, you might have missed some awesome ballet news. This weekend a seemed to be the weekend that ballet became even more awesome. ABT’s principal dancer, and longtime music fanatic James Whiteside (JBDUBS) released a new video that is all inclusive and gender neutral.

Septime Webre is on a streak this month. From his Benois nominations, to his newest video campaign for Hong Kong Ballet’s 40th Season.

Hong Kong Ballet 40th Anniversary Season Brand Video from Design Army on Vimeo.

NYCB soloist Unity Phelan made it onto the big screen in Keanu Reeves’ new movie: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. She dances choreo by Tiler Peck, putting another A-List project on her CV.

And to top it off… Mikhail Baryshnikov gave the keynote speech for the inaugural class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of dance. Four years later, USC has produced a graduating class that rivals any tier one contemporary school.

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Benois de la Danse Awards (2019)

Benois de la Danse Awards (2019)

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It is that time of year again, where the best of the best in the ballet industry gather to celebrate the 2018-2019 season and honor those who made an impact on audiences, critics and the jury.

On May 21, the best of the best will be honored in a showstopping performance in Russia. This night is the prestigious Benois de la Danse Awards. The jury who will decide the results include: Juri Grigorovich, Dirk Badenhorst, Ted Brandsen, Svetlana Zakharova, Ana Laguna, Angès Letestu, Vladimir Malakhov, and Rachel Moore. This year could be a big year for Septime Webre and Kansas City Ballet, as the production of The Wizard of Oz has been nominated numerous times.

(photo courtesy of Kansas City Ballet’s press release of their new Production)

The Lifetime Achievement Award will honor Jiri Kylian. The Russian-Italian Prize Benois-Massine Award will go to Anna Laudere.

Nominees for the best choreographer are:

Juanjo Arques, for Ignite, Kate Whitley. Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Septime Webre, for The Wizard of Oz, Matthew Pierce, Kansas City Ballet.
Manuel Legris, for Sylvia, Leo Delibers, for Vienna State Ballet.
Justin Peck for Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, music by M83 for the San Francisco Ballet.
Fredrik Benke Rydman for Duet with an Industrial Robot, muisic by Johan Lilje Dal, Karl Johan Rasmusson, for Stockholm City Theatre.
Christian Spuck, for Winterreise, music by Hans Zender and Franz Schubert for the Zurich Ballet.

Best Female Dance Performance Nominees Include:

Amandine Albisson, as Marguerite Gautier in La Dame Aux Camelias, music by Chopin and Choreography by Neumeier for the Paris Opera Ballet.
Ashley Bouder, as Swanhilda, in Coppelia, music by Delibes, Choreography by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet.
Elisa Carrillo Cabrera, as Juliet, in Romeo and Juliet, music by Prokofiev, and choreography by Duato for the State Ballet of Berlin.
Maia Makhateli, for Marguerite Gautier, in La Dame aux Camelias, music by Chopin, Choreographed by Neumeier, for the Dutch National Ballet.
Yuan Yuan Tan, for duet Take a Deep Breath, Bound to, music by Henson, choreographed by Wheeldon for the San Francisco Ballet.
Kaho Yanagisawa, Solo Part in Artifact Suite, music by Crossman-Hecht and Bach, choreographed by Forsythe at the Royal Swedish Ballet.

Best Male Dance Performance Nominees are:

Audric Bezard, as Armand Duval in La Dame Aux Camelias, music by Chopin, choreography by Neumeier for the Paris Opera Ballet.
Daniel Camargo is nominated for both his performace as Armand Duval in Lady of the Camelias and as Basilio in Don Quixotte, music by Minkus, Choreography by A Ratmansky afer Petipa at the Dutch National Ballet.
Viacheslav Lopatin, in the Faun, music by Debussy, and Sawhney, choreography by Cherkaoui for Bolshoi Ballet.
Vadim Muntagirov for Prince Siegfried in the Swan Lake. Music by Tchaikovsky, choreography by Liam Scarlett for the Royal Ballet.
Andile Ndlovu for his role as Mercrutio in Romeo and Juliet at the Washington Ballet. Music by Prokofiev, choreography by John Cranko.
Abel Rojo for Carying with My Own Floor, music by E Satie. Choreography by A. Rojo for the Malpaso Company.
Daniil Simkin for his role as the Harlequin, in ABT’s new version of Harlequinade. Music by Drigo, choreography by Ratmansky after Petipa.

Composers Nominated for this year’s award are:
Matthew Pierce for the Wizard of Oz, choreography by Septime Weber (also nominated).
Kate Whitley for Ignite. Choreography by Juanjo Aques (also nominated) for the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Designers Nominated for Costumes are:

Jerome Kaplan for Staats Berlin’s La Bayadere.
John Macfarlane for Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake.
Robert Perdziola for ABT’s Harlequinade.
Michael Raiford and Liz Vandal for the Wizard of Oz.

Below is the star studded performance schedule.

21 MAY 2019. P R O G R A M M E

PART I

M. Pierce – Benois-2019 nominee
Excerpt from THE WIZARD OF OZ
Choreography by S.WEBRE – Benois-2019 nominee
soloists of theKansas City Ballet
LILIANA HAGERMAN
JEREMY HANSON
LAMIN DOS SANTOS
soloist of Colorado Ballet
CHRISTOPHOR MOULTON
soloist of Royal Winnipeg Ballet
STEPHAN AZULAY
Russian premiere

K.Whitley – Benois-2019 nominee.
Excerpt from IGNITE
Choreography by J.ARQUÉS–Benois-2019 nominee
soloists of Dutch National Ballet
ANNA TSYGANKOVA
YOUNG GUY CHOI
Piano – KATE WHITLEY
Russian premiere

THE MASSAGE
to the music by P.Tchaikovsky
Choreography by F.BENKE RYDMAN –Benois 2019 nominee
soloists of House of Shapes
ELLEN LINDBLAD
DANIEL KOIVUNEN
World premiere

Excerpt from WINTERREISE
to the music by F.Schubert/H.Zender
Choreography by CH.SPUCK – Benois-2019 nominee
soloists of the Zurich Ballet
ELENA VOSTROTINA
COHEN AITCHISON-DUGAS
DOMINIK SLAVKOVSKY
Moscow premiere

L.Delibes. Excerpts from SYLVIA
Choreography by M.LEGRIS – laureate of Benois de la Danse, nominee of 2019, after LUIS MÉRANTE
soloists of the Vienna State Ballet
NIKISHA FOGO
DENIS CHEREVICHKO – nominee of Benois de la Danse

CARRING MY OWN STAGE
To the music by E.Satie
Choreography by A. ROJO
soloist of Malpaso Company
ABEL ROJO – Benois-2019 nominee
Piano – VALERIA KACHUROVSKAYA
Russian premiere

Duet from the second act of LADY WITH THE CAMELLIAS
To the music by F.Chopin
Choreography by J.NEUMEIER– Benois de la Danse laureate
soloists of Dutch National Ballet 
MAIA MAKHATELI– Benois-2019 nominee
JAMES STOUT

L.Delibes. Pas de deux from COPPÉLIA 
Choreography by G.BALANCHINE and A.DANILOVA after M.PETIPA
©The George Balanchine Trust
soloist of the New York City Ballet
ASHLEY BOUDER
soloist of the Passific North-West Ballet
SETH ORZA 

PART II

S.Prokofiev.Duet from ROMEO AND JULIET
Choreography by N. DUATO – laureate of Benois de la Danse, 
soloist of State Ballet Berlin
ELISA CARRILLO CABRERA -Benois – 2019 nominee
soloist of Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet
IVAN ZAYTSEV

Excerpt from ARTIFACT-SUITE
To the music by I.S.Bach
Choreography, costumes and light concept by W. FORSYTHE– laureate of Benois de la Danse, 
soloists of the Royal Swedish Ballet
KAHO YANAGISAWA – Benois-2019 nominee
JONATAN DAVIDSSON

I.Demutsky– laureate of Benois de la Danse
THE LETTRE from NUREYEV
Choreography by Y.POSSOKHOV – laureate of Benois de la Danse
soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia
VIATCHESLAV LOPATIN – Benois-2019 nominee

H. Løvenskiold. Pas de deuxfrom LA SYLPHIDE
Choreography by A.BOURNONVILLE
soloists of The Washington Ballet
MAKI ONUKI
ANDILE NDLOVU – Benois-2019 nominee

Duet from the third act of LADY WITH THE CAMELLIAS
To the music by F.Chopin
Choreography by J.NEUMEIER – laureate of Benois de la Danse
soloists of the Paris Opera Ballet
AMANDINE ALBISSON – Benois-2019 nominee 
AUDRIC BEZARD – Benois-2019 nominee

THE OTHER YOU
To the music by L.van Beethoven 
Choreography by C.PITE – laureate of Benois de ls Danse
soloists of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
MICHAEL GROSS
ANDREW MURDOCK
Russian premiere

ADAGIETTO, 4TH MOVEMENT from FIFTH SYMPHONYOF GUSTAV MAHLER
Choreography, costumes, light concept by J.NEUMEIER – laureate of Benois de la Danse
soloists of the Hamburg Ballet
ANNA LAUDERE– laureate of Benois–Massine Prize
EDVIN REVAZOV

K.Henson. TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Choreography by CH.WHEELDON
soloists of San Francisco Ballet
YUAN YUAN TAN – Benois-2019 nominee
CARLO DI LANNO 
Moscow premiere

L.Minkus. Pas de deux from DON QUIXOTE
Choreography by A.GORSKY
soloist of the Stuttgart State Ball
ELISA BADENES
DANIEL CAMARGO – Benois -2019 nominee

Masters of the ceremony
KSENIA RAPPOPORT
ANDREY ANDREEV

Direction of the concert
ANDREY MELANYIN

Author of the text
ALEXANDER KOLESNIKOV

Stage-designer
SERGEY TIMONIN 

Light Designer
SERGEY SHEVCHENKO
Light designer assistant – ALEXANDER ROMANOV

Sound
ANDREY VOLKOV

Stage operator
ROMAN SMIRNOV

Stage managers
ANDREY MELANIN, VLADIMIR SCHERBAKOV, IRINA ZIBROVA, MIKHAIL MINEEV

Director of the technical staff 
IGOR SUVOROV

Chairman of the BENOIS DE LA DANSE Program
YURI GRIGOROVICH

President of the Board 
REGINA NIKIFOROVA

Artistic Director
NINA KUDRIAVTSEVA-LOORY

Official photographer 
MIKHAIL LOGVINOV

Video-projections
SERGEY BORISOV

Project coordinator
OLGA GORCHAKOVA

Financial service OOO Auditor Firm “KEMENOV”
ALEXEY NIKITIN

Administrator
VALENTINA DMITRENKO

Press Office
OLGA KULIKOVA

Internet-projects’ manager
NATALIA PUTICHEVA

Group of interpreters’ coordinator
MARIA PODGORNOVA

Printing Products
PUBLISHING HOUSE TEATRALIS

Executive Producer
TATIANA SIDOROVA

David King

David King

The author of a Ballet Education www.DavidJWKing.com

Leave a Replay

The Great Men of Ballet: Part 1

Some men in ballet will be immortalized for their achievements and the genius that they created. In this first set of illustrations, I decided to capture some of the great men who have contributed to the New York City Ballet. As I illustrated these, I listened to the music that inspired them, and thought, Peter Martins should have been the third in this series, but I am just not fond of him, what he has done in his personal life and not a fan of his choreography. So, I focused on the men of New York City Ballet who I do admire: George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Justin Peck.

George Balanchine
1904-1983
Co-Founder of the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet

Jerome “Jerry” Robbins
1918-1998
American Dance Master

Justin Peck
1987- 
American Dance Master
Resident Choreographer

Prints Available on Redbubble. You can order the prints, posters, metallic prints, or fine art frames. You can click here to purchase

For the George Balanchine prints and more >> Click Here.
For the Jerome Robbins prints and more >> Click Here.
For the Justin Peck prints and more >> Click Here.

25 Asian American & Pacfic Islander Dancers To Follow

25 ASIAN AMERICAN & PACIFIC ISLANDER
DANCERS TO FOLLOW

It's May! This month is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. So, lets take some time and hit up the Insta and follow these 25 Talented Dancers reshaping the conversation about Asian Dancers in Ballet.

So, here is the problem. I was going to make this great post about 25 Asian American and Pacific Islander Dancers to follow… The problem? When it comes to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Ballet… there aren’t very many. While we have many amazing Asian ballet dancers from their respective countries, I realized that there aren’t very many Asian American Ballet Dancers who have risen through the ranks. This once again serves the purpose of talking about the representation of Asian Dancers in Ballet.

By definition, an Asian American is an individual who is American of Asian descent.

There is a lot to be said about Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islanders in Ballet. There are both the positive and negative arguments regarding being of Asian descent in pop culture, in medicine and in the arts. Last year, New York City Ballet’s Georgina Pazcoguin (soloist at NYCB,  Broadway Artist,  TV star, and activist) and Phil Chan really started the change by advocating the end of Yellowface in ballet productions, specifically, the Nutcracker. While this has started arguments on both sides of ballet, many directors have stepped up and pledged to end yellowface. You can read more about their new initiative here. A former grad school professor from the University of Minnesota recently was quoted for the organization and I thought to myself, “Why I haven’t I signed?” I thought, ” I am already a huge advocate of Asians in the Arts, so that is good enough. I don’t think we should have special treatment for being Asian. I definitely believe that talent matters and that this whole affirmative action in ballet is diluting the talent pool.” I then thought, “But, I don’t want ballets that portray Asian stories to go away. I don’t mind watching the Ballet version of Madame Butterfly danced by a white woman. Is it that offensive that she drew her eyeliner on heavy and powdered her face?”

My personal experience with being Asian in Ballet mirrors the story of most Asians in ballet: The Nutcracker. My first soloist role was Chinese in the Nutcracker, no surprise. I was young, but I thought, who cares? I am dancing alongside Darci Kistler. I was excited. I was then put in Chinese in every production of Nutcracker I have ever done, with the exception of CPYB, where I asked not to be cast. My time in ballet as an Asian man was jaded. I remember my time at CPYB where I was called oriental and living in Carlisle and not seeing anyone like me. It bothered me so much that I enrolled at 16 at Dickinson College just to be around diversity. There I started to question my racial identity. As someone who grew up in Southern California, and specifically the Inland Emprie, race was never a pressing issue. My neighbors to the right were a biracial family (Black and Japanese) and my neighbors on the left were Latino. The schools I grew up in were filled with every ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status. I went to summer programs in major cities so I never really had this experience before. After I ended my career at Minnesota Dance Theatre, where I was the only Asian, and one of two people of color I decided to go get MFA. It has always been a struggle being a Korean Adoptee. Even though I am Asian, I didn’t grow up in Asian Culture. I grew up with white parents, have a white name, but white pirvelage and white racial identity doesn’t apply to me. I wanted answers so I thought I would focus on cultural studies in the arts. It started off as a great experience, but when I had to take dance classes I was bored and irritated at the lack of talent. It wasn’t helpful when the University of Minnesota’s Dance Department went through an intense racial divide. My issue then became  that those who were complaining about casting were blaming it on race and not realizing that it was about talent.

Anyways, my mind is wondering.

I then had to stop myself and remember that regardless of my own personal thoughts, I am coaching an entire generation of Asian American Ballet Dancers. No really… I am. 60% of the kids that I coach are Asian American. And what kind of mentor am I if I am just chillin behind my blog. So, I signed it. As we are faced with changes in ballet, we look to the brilliant artists who are leading the way. Click the Photo to follow the dancer and celebrate their stories and achievements as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in ballet.

Georgina Pazcoguin, NYCB

New York City Ballet’s first Asian American, let alone Filipina American woman, ever to be promoted to an upper tier. The only other Asians who have been promoted at New York City Ballet was the 19080  Prix De Lausanne Winner Gen Horiuchi from Japan. He also danced Tea in the 1993 mainstream movie of the Nutcracker. The other was Edwaard Liang who was promoted to soloist in 1998. Georgina Pazcoguin has also been on Broadway in On The Town and Cats where she played Victoria the White Cat. She is also now on FX’s Fosse/Verdon.

Lia Cirio, Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet is known for their Asian dancers, but when it comes to Asian American ones, Lia Cirio Cirio is queen. Technically ferocious, Lia Cirio and her brother started the Cirio Collective in 2015. They are celebrating their fifth season. Additionally Lia is now choreographing throughout the US, making her one of the only Asian American Female Choreographers out there.

Candy Tong, Complexions

Candy Tong (ballerina and model) was born in San Francisco, California and graduated from the school at English National Ballet. After dancing professionally in Europe she went back to school to get her BFA from UC Irvine. She is one of Instagram’s trending dancers and currently dances for Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

Stella Abrera, American Ballet Theatre

ABT’s Stella Abrera is from Pasadena, California and is of Filipino descent. Abrera joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in 1996 and was appointed a Soloist in 2001. Abrera was appointed a Principal Dancer in August 2015.

Jeffrey Cirio, English National Ballet

Jeffrey Cirio is one bad ass ballet boy. He became a principal at Boston Ballet, then a principal at ABT, and now is at English National. He is only man of Asian descent to become a principal at American Ballet Theatre.

William Lin Yee, Pacific Northwest Ballet

William Lin Yee of PNB is from San Francisco, California. He trained at the Contra Costa Ballet Centre, San Francisco Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet. In 2004, he joined New York City Ballet as an apprentice and also was a Mae. L. Wien Award recipient. Mr. Lin-Yee joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2008 and was promoted to soloist in 2014 and principal in 2016.

Noelani Pantastico, PNB

Noelani Pantastico is from Oahu, Hawaii. She trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and attended summer courses at Pacific Northwest Ballet School from 1994 to 1996. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 1997. She was promoted to corps de ballet in 1998, soloist in 2001, and principal in 2004. In 2008, she left PNB to join Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo as a soloist and was promoted to first soloist in 2009. In 2015, Ms. Pantastico returned to PNB as a principal dancer.

John Lam, Boston Ballet

John Lam is from Marin County, CA. He joined the Boston Ballet 2003 and was promoted to Principal in 2014.

Jim Nowakowski, Ballet Met

Noted for his time on So You Think You Can Dance, Jim is now at Ballet Met after previously being with Houston Ballet. Ballet Met has an Asian American Director, Edwaard Liang.

Jeraldine Mendoza, Joffrey Ballet

Ms. Mendoza was born in San Francisco, California and trained at the City Ballet School of San Francisco since the age of five, mainly under the artistic direction of Galina Alexandrova. At age 17, Ms. Mendoza was invited to train in the Russian course at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, and she graduated with honors. She later won first place at the YAGP San Francisco Regional Semi-Finals in 2011.

Shimon Ito, Miami City Ballet

Shimon Ito is from New York City. Ito joined Miami City Ballet in 2011 as a corps de ballet member and was promoted to soloist in 2016.

Lily Saito, Nashville Ballet

Lily Saito, NYC, began her training at School of American Ballet where she had the privilege of performing at Lincoln Center for three years as a child in George Balanchine’s Nutcracker. She then trained at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and Ellison Ballet before joining Washington Ballet as a full scholarship trainee.

Chisako Oga

Chisako Oga became an Apprentice at SFB in 2015, and then joined Cincinnati Ballet. Oga was promoted to Soloist in September 2016 and Principal for the 2017-2018 Season. Chisako Oga trained at San Francisco Ballet School on a full scholarship received at Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition.She is from Carlsbad, CA. This season was her last season at Cincinnati Ballet

Margaret Severin-Hansen, Carolina Ballet

A founding member of Carolina Ballet in 1998, she was promoted to principal in 2002. Hansen is from Long Island.

Mimi Tompkins, Ballet Arizona

ABE Education Cover Girl Mimi Tompkins has ferociously taken on almost every leading role in the Ballet Arizona Repertory. Mimi was born in Washington D.C and joined the company in 2014.

Regina Montgomery, Tulsa Ballet

From Los Angeles, Regina began studying ballet under former Mariinsky Principal, Marat Daukayev. She attended the Rock School for Dance in Philadelphia and received 1st Place at the Youth America Grand Prix. Regina joined TBII in 2013, the main company in 2014, and was promoted to Demi-Soloist in 2018.

Jessica He, Atlanta Ballet

From Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. She received her early ballet training at Inland Pacific Ballet Academy. Jessica moved to Philadelphia in 2012, at age 14, to enter the pre-professional training program at The Rock School for Dance Education on full scholarship. While there, she received multiple awards and merit scholarships at competitions such as the Youth America Grand Prix and World Ballet Competition. She joined Atlanta Ballet in the 2017-2018 Season.

Angelica Generosa, PNB

Angelica Generosa is from South River, New Jersey. She studied on scholarship at the School of American Ballet. Ms. Generosa joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice. She was promoted to corps de ballet in 2012 and soloist in 2016. She also was the recipient of the School of American Ballet Mae Wien Award for Outstanding Promise.

Courtney Schenberger, Carolina Ballet

Courtney Schenberger is from Hawaii. She competed at Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) San Francisco and won 3rd  place bronze in the Junior Women Classical category. She also competed at the World Ballet Competition where she achieved the 3rd highest score in the Pre-Professional category as well as receiving the Jury’s Award. She joined Carolina Ballet in 2015, and was promoted in 2017.

Steven Morse, San Francisco Ballet

Steven Morse was born in Harbor City, California. He joined SFB in 2009 and was promoted to soloist in 2017.

UP & COMING ASIAN AMERICAN DANCERS

It is a pleasure and honor to say I coach some of the best dancers in the us. it is a bigger honor to say that the majority of dancers that i do coach are asian american. so here are some of the amazing asian american ballet students i get to train and have worked with throughout the years.

Tegan Chou

Petra Johnson

Devin Mar

Chloe Han

Marcus Ian Taylor

Amandine Isidro

Leonidas Adarmes

Margaret Mothersbaugh

Esmé Chou

The Sleeping Beauty Fairy Variations

The Sleeping Beauty Fairy Variations

Have you ever noticed that the first variations you usually learn are all from 1890 Petipa classic: The Sleeping Beauty? You might think they are lame or boring, but these six variations are the key to classical ballet. Sleeping Beauty is by definition the epitome and pinnacle of Classical Ballet. The ballet itself has no affectations and minimal stylistic points from the Romantic Ballet Era. These six variations showcase everything Classical Ballet represents: constraint, placement, beauty, proportion, turnout, legs, feet, musicality and artistry that evokes the essence of ballet.

As promised, I am going to help you find the right variation for you, but first…

Before you even start thinking about picking a variation to work on you should ask yourself, “Have I mastered these variations?” If the answer is no, don’t worry. These variations are going to get your technique stronger, your footwork cleaner, they allow you to find your musicality and phrasing, and have a better understanding of Classical Ballet. For the History of these variations, check out the digital: A Ballet Education’s Guide To Variations.

The first variation is all about the presentation of the foot and the control of turnout. Honestly, this shouldn’t be called candide or the Fairy of the Crystal Fountain. It should be called present your heel from your inner thigh. What is nice about this variation is that it teaches pique arabesque and attitude with both a pas de cheval and a brush, and it also teaches fouetté en dedans from arabesque to effacé and plié relevé arabesque.

Heloise Bourdon of the Paris Opera Ballet in Rudolph Nureyev’s Production of the Sleeping Beauty.

NOTES ON FAIRY VARIATION 1

In the first diagonal moving downstage right, make sure you keep all of your croisé lines crossed and turned out. Sometimes we are so focused on the height of the leg, that the actual body line and position become a little sloppy. Keep the heel presented at all times. e.Remember: In croisé devant, you want to see that heel coming over the top of the line. Keep the port de bras moving and relaxed, let the arms float with the music, but make sure the end in a position on the count. Showing a clean line on the count is essential. End the pass with a juicy plié that resists the floor. Don’t just plop down.

In the second pass of the variation moving across the stage, make sure you get the heel as far forward as possible when presenting the foot from the inner thigh. Make sure to keep the thighs tightly crossed in bourrés with BOTH heels forward. Hold that rotation!

In the next phrase of variation, the focus is going en dedans but maintaining the turnout. As each staging is different, I am just going to reference the video above. Notice that from arabesque the heel has to come forward as the knee stays behind, the inner thigh rotates forward through passé into the next step. The port de bras are lovely, but the hand should not be stroking or brushing the arm. It should be extremely delicate with beautifully shaped fingers like you are petting a baby, or wearing expensive jewelry.

In the final pass of the variation, death comes at you with full force. Moving from effacé to effacé while rolling up and down on pointe and as the leg/hip rotation fouettés en dedans… girl bye. The hardest part about that step isn’t even the pointe work, well the pointe work is extremely hard but can be made easier by making sure the entire weight of the upper body is in front of the hips and leg so that the fouetté can come easily, and the femur head can relax into the hip socket. Note how forward the inner thigh has to wrap, and then wrap back even more as you tombé.

Finally, when ending, make sure the heels are completely forward showing the understanding of the footwork, understanding of the turnout, and understanding of the delicate musicality.

If the first variation taught us the quality of delicate, the second variation, the Carelessness Fairy, or the Fairy of Flowing Wheat. teaches us how to move with precision and vigor. It teach us us pique passé, a very large and powerful jeté, attitude front, how to move backwards and forwards, and the start of turns.

Yulia Kasenkova in Sergei Vikharev’s production of the Sleeping Beauty for Mariinsky.

NOTES ON FAIRY VARIATION 2

Sometimes this variation has two women dancing (Paris Opera), but most of the time it is done as a solo variation. I think one of the hardest things in this variation is to maintain the turnout and rib placement while move this fast. I think because of the transitions and because of the bending of the upper body, most young dancers have a tendency to splay the ribs to get a better attitude devant line.

The opening jeté, the heels must stay forward. The supporting leg, or the leg that pushes off, has to be fully turned out. Make sure as you brush the working leg, the leg is slightly in front of your hips. Finally, you have to hold the second position in the air for a brief second. Travel big!

In the next pass of the variation make sure you accent the rond de jambe en l’air out, and keep the supporting leg as straight and scooped as possible. Next are the chassés back. Make sure the foot is still slightly shaped to be aesthetically more pleasing. Keep the weight forward and on more on the front foot so that the back foot can shape better.

In the final pass, you have to quickly do step-overs, or lame ducks. Luckily they are only half turns! The hard part is getting the turnout on both legs to fire quickly simultaneously. Remember, to keep pressing the turnout from the hips as your turn and step. Make sure each step the heel is beautifully presented.

Oh, the Fairy of Scattered Breadcrumbs or the Fairy of the Woodland Glades.. the list goes on and on for this one. This is a good one. This variation teaches us how to pas de couru and travel, how to softly move through the steps, how to developpé arabesque and how to be generous with our artistry.

Royal Ballet’s Fumi Kaneko

NOTES ON FAIRY VARIATION 3

Like walking delicately on glass through attitude devant, the first pass in this variation gives us a since of strength in the legs. Doing a plié en pointe without rolling or sickling is crucial. The musicality is so precise, and the legwork reflects the music while the port de bras reflects the calm smooth melody. Turnout! Turnout! Turnout! Don’t sit in your hips as you plié. Don’t be afraid to bend a little further than you actually think you should.

The next pass involves hopping backwards onto pointe. Again, the legs are very reflective of the individual notes while the arms really are generous and light.

This sets us up for the next section or pass involving two hops on pointe in attitude front, followed by a third sustaining the balance on pointe while doing a developpé arabesque. It isn’t easy at all. The pointe work has to be very obvious in the difference of slightly ginched foot and a fully pointed foot on pointe when balanced. This is a mature and subtle difference in a dancer’s ability to articulate the foot on pointe in different positions.

After this painstakingly long process the most quick and fluttering pas de couru happen. Again the genius of Tchiakovsky and Petipa shine: as the feet move rapidly with the notes and the upper body stays calm and the articulation of the port de bras is effortless.Then guess what happens. You repeat the previous section to the other side! Again, turnout is everything, and as the variation comes to an end, you don’t want to show you are tired, or that your feet are cramping. There are different ways to end this variation, in the video above she ends in a very nicely crossed attitude front en face. Personally, I don’t think that is flattering for most dancers so I would go croisé slightly. Actually, when I stage this variation I have the dancer end in arabesque and try to balance for a good two counts after the music has ended.

Sometimes I feel like we overlook this variation. I actually think it is rather difficult as one must run and travel on pointe. Not to mention that the hand work is incredibly difficult. It is really easy to look like a crazy spazz of a mess while performing this variation. Angelica Generosa ferociously performed this variation this season for Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s production. And truthfully it is probably the best I have ever seen it done.

NOTES ON FAIRY VARIATION 4

The fairy of song or voice, or whatever you want to call it. Mostly it is nicknamed Canary Fairy. I think this variation really tests your turnout and whether or not you have mastered it. First off running on pointe is never easy, yet alone to be turned out and to travel the entire stage. The posture of the run is really important, as you have to be extremely pulled up and slightly inclined. The hands and fingers move ridiculously fast as if you were playing an instrument and all of the notes are flooding from your hands.

When running on pointe in the first diagonal, a lot of young dancers forget to hold the turnout. Remember each run is either in effacé or croisé so the full presentation of the heel must happen. At the end of the running diagonal you have double rond de jambe, in which the accent is out. So if you are ferocious, you would stop and hold the accent out for a split count.

In the bourrées back make sure the foot is fully pointed and shaped in each coupé.The next step varies by staging, but in the version below her couru en avant travel turned out opposed to towards the end when going moving en arriere it is executed in sixth position on pointe.

 

If this first of the Fairy Variations taught us poise and speed, then Fairy 5, most commonly known as the Finger Fairy, teaches us style and power. This variation, because of the length and musicality has a very wide range of stagings. While some end the variation sauté basque, others will end the variation with step over turns, and others will add multiple pique turns. Some have a difficult jeté from a chaîné, while other variations have very fast pas de bourrée. Whatever staging you use, there are some signature style points to note below.

Sabrina Mellum of the Paris Opera in the very classical staging version of the variation.

Milena Sidorova from Dutch National (Het) in a more stylized version of the variation.

NOTES ON FAIRY VARIATION 5

While the other variations enter with an ease and elegance, this variation opens with power and style. Whether you do the opening with runs or the most turned out emboîtés of your life, this variation must be executive with a ridiculous amount of energy. From the tension in the arms to the directness and literal energy to the end of the fingertips. The musicality is n the opening steps is very direct, there is not a lot of room for interpretation. It is what it is. It is precise, cutting and most of all exact. Crossing the attitude front is super important as it creates a better line on most dancers.

The next section you either run on pointe or pas de chat en pointe, either way, you need to get your butt into the air and travel like a crazy person. The sous-sus traveling back should equally scoop, and equally hold the turnout.The next section varies on staging, I personally like the turns into the grand jeté, most because I don’t like doing the turning hops en pointe. I personally think it looks clumsy, and less grand. This is the part in the variation most people start to die. The next section is a small developpé at 45°. Make sure that both heels are spiraling forward and presenting the most beautiful turnout.

Finally, in the last section each dancer or choreographer will choose between jumps or turns. Depending on what suits you best, I am indifferent to what a dancer might choose. Personally, I think the sauté basque is always stunning, as I think the step gets a reputation to be a masculine step. I also just think it is more impressive than a stepover, and I think the quick piqués look wild and crazy.

With the exception of Nureyev’s version, most every other version refers to this illustrious musical composition as the music for the Lilac Fairy. She is queen of the fairies and probably the most sought after role after Aurora. Usually assigned to a principal dancer, this variation sets up every ballerina to become a principal dancer.

Maria Iliushkina premiered as the LIlac Fairy this past season for Mariinsky. She is another up and coming star at the former Kirov.

Sanguen Leea principal at Dresden SemperOper in Aaron S. Watkin’s version of the sleeping beauty.

NOTES ON FAIRY VARIATION 6

Here is why Lilac Fairy sets you up to become a dancer. The music is so dance able that the interpretation of the music and the steps is unique to each dancer. Additionally, this role demands a lot of acting is is seen in all three acts. From the way the dancer must walk onto the stage and even bow, you have to command a certain sense of presence and authority, while maintaining the ethereal qualities of a fairy.

In the opening of the variation, be generous with the head and preparation.  It is the only fairy that has that principal start. Most of the previous variations do not have preparation music, and if they do, they prepare towards and facing baby Aurora and not the audience. The first pass of the variation includes some crazy developpé and en dedan ronds. By now you should have mastered the turnout from back to front, especially if you drilled that first fairy variation. In the contretemps make sure your heels are forward and you are turned out from your thighs. Present the foot  with fully stretched leg and reach into a massively placed arabesque, don’t whack it.

In the second pass you have piques traveling back in attitude, arabesque and turning. The control of the turnout is crucial, the placement of the hips over the foot is crucial, and the upper body placed in an place that anticipates the actual position you are wanting is crucial. The fluidity comes from the strength behind a dancer’s technique. The grace comes from the musicality, and the comfort and control comes from the port de bras.

The next pass is quite short that involves musicality and port de bras traveling to stage left.

The next pass teaches us how to do sissone fermé with arms in first arabesque and allongé and pirouettes from fifth position. Don’t double prep your jump, keep the heels firmly pressed into the floor. This way as you come off the floor the heel is present fully in the air. Catch the landing and control the heels slowly to the floor. Don’t just plop down. Some dancers will make the jump massive, while others will make it small and quick depending on the tempo. Again, the phrasing of the music is really up to the director, or the dancer. Personally, as much as I care about the jump and the turn, I most care about the port de bras. The pirouette…. For all of you comp dancers out there: STOP WINDING UP YOUR PIROUETTE FROM FIFTH!!! I can not stress this enough. It drives me crazy in general. If you are doing pirouettes from fifth you don’t need to wind up, and frankly if you aren’t doing more than three pirouettes you don’t need to open the working side’s arm. Pirouettes shouldn’t look like effort. They should float on top of the supporting leg, and be so lifted that your upper body looks detached from your hips. They should be full of air and whimsy. They shouldn’t look like you are are winding up a pitch for the world series. Don’t turn in the supporting leg either. Actually… just look at my notes on pirouettes here.

 Finally the variation ends with the presentation of attitude front, usually an assemblé or jump of choice, and an arabesque.

Thanks again for reading! I hope this helps you!

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5 Variations To Stay Away from (2019)

5 Variations To Stay Away from (2019)

Thank the Baby Jesus that the ballet competition season is over. If the 2017-2018 season was the year of “Satanella,” then the 2018-2019 was the year of “Dulcinea.” While I have appreciated that people have listened to the first article, published back in 2015, about
5 Variations to Stay Away From, people have searched high and low for the replacements to these five- and they have found them.

While the original list consisted of:
Kitri ACT I
Esmeralda
Sugar Plum Fairy
Grand Pas Classique
and White/Black Swan

People have found their counterparts… While there will always be the crowd favorites like Esmeralda, how many Esmeralda variations can we watch? Especially, since Madison Penney demolished that variation and turned it into a show-stopping, trick-filled, pirouette perfection. We also have the standards that will never go away: like Aurora Act III (which is probably the textbook perfect definition of classical of ballet), Coppélia, Paquita Etoile Variation, and Giselle ACT I. But somehow we have replaced Kitri ACT I with the Variation from Laurencia.

Don’t get me wrong; I staged this for ABE COVER GIRL from Master Ballet Academy Tegan Chou last season for her ADC IBC performance. But now it seems that every jazz comp dancer is taking this variation on. And I can see their reasoning, they get to wear a long skirt like Kitri ACT 1, and has the same jeté in attitude. Jazz comp girls think they can get away with their bent knees because of the long skirt, and they can whack everything. In reality, you just look crazy. This is one of the problems with competition and the mindset of, “Well she won with it, so I should do it.” A Ballet Variation is much harder than just the tricks within the variation, and it takes a lot of coaching.

Tegan Chou, age 11, of Master Ballet Academy, ADC IBC.

The very talented Regina Montgomery at her 2012 YAGP Semi-Final from the Rock School for Dance Education. Miss Montgomery is now a demi-soloist at Tulsa Ballet.

We still revisit Esmeralda because we think the tambourine is cool. And now that Masters has modified the variation, we all are modifying the variation and adding as many pirouettes as possible and as many crazy tricks as we can. At this pointe, the variation shouldn’t even have the diagonal of fondu developpés, and we should just do tilt turns on pointe. YAAAAAAAS!

We should take a moment relive Madison Penney’s Amazing win at the Youth American Grand Pri at age 12.

We should also look at Sumina Sasaki’s 2019 Prix win where the commentator rudely says, “Just get on with it.”

Sugar Plum Fairy has somehow been replaced with Dulcinea. While these two variations have the same delicate features, they are both built to be extremely delicate with a coda built into the variation. Mostly it is another ridiculously long variation, and somehow we have slowed down the music even more and made it more painstaking to watch. While I understand we are kids trying to do this variation, so the slower tempo is needed, dear god, it is so painful to sit through… Especially if you are too weak, or too athletic to do this variation. Now that Ava Arbuckle has placed with this variation… let it be.

Elite Classical Coaching’s Ava Arbuckle at her 2019 Semi-Final in Dallas.

San Francisco Ballet’s Natasha Sheehan, age 14, at YAGP Finals in 2014.

Grand Pas Classique has been replaced with Satanella. While we have seen less and less of Grand Pas, thank you. It has been replaced with the two-minute variation from Carnival of Venice- Satanella. While the variation is cute and flirty, it is long; like really, really long. Just like Grand Pas, and people do these variations because they think that the longer it is, the better. Fortunately, that is not true. By the midpoint of Satanella, everyone is ready to jab their eyes out. You would think that it should end before the menage of ballonés, but no, it keeps going… and going… and then just when you think it is done, it still isn’t done. And truth, after Elisabeth Beyer’s performance and Lincoln Center… Can you really follow that up?

We should tall take a moment to relive this magical moment. Elisabeth Beyer of Ellison Ballet at NYC Finals 2018.

Satanella Variation to tempo by Evgenia Obraztsova.

And White/Black Swan has been replaced with Raymonda Dream Variation/Harlequinade. While  White Swan is about style, Raymonda’s Dream Variation is about control and constraint. The quality is similar in both variations, but white swan has more stylistic features like exaggerated port de bras. But, they both have painstaking developpés, and truthfully, the extensions in Raymonda are harder as they are done en dedans and in the middle of the variation instead of the beginning. While the drama of the variation is nice, I am always confused when people do this variation as she is dreaming to “escape” a rape. Not the best variation to be teaching young girls, but then again, what ballet variation sets up a strong good role model for young girls? Anyways, this brings me to the painstakingly long variation of Harlequinade. Originally,  Whitney Jensen, former Principal of Boston Ballet and now Norwegian National Ballet, brought this variation back to popularity at Varna in 2008 where she brilliantly won the highest honor, the Special Distinction. If you don’t know what that is, it is an award that has been rarely given out. In the entire competition it has been given out a total of  6 times (2018 Antonio Casalinho, 2014 Soo Bin Lee, 2012 He Taiyu, 2002 Lu Meng, 1998 Rolando Sarabia and technically in 1964 Vladimir Vasiliev won the Grand Prix, the top prize the first year Varna was established). But, it seems that Remi Goins set the trend a few years ago by pulling off some ridiculously hard turns at a very young age and now, everyone is going for it: juniors, seniors, pre-comp, Everyone. Here is the problem is the variation from Harlequinade. While it is cute, and it seems relatable for young kids, if you want to show off turns why not do the Medora Variation or Odalisque Variation from Le Corsaire?

Remi Goins at YAGP 2017 at age 12 winning the Shelley King Award for Excellence.

Whitney Jensen doing it big at Varna in 2008.

Here are some other mistakes I have seen this season at the YAGP. I get that the YAGP has expanded and more and more kids are coming into the semi-finals… but if you are a jazz comp school… and you are entering your kids into the ballet category, do them a solid… Find them a better ballet teacher. And secondly, don’t buy a costume from Revolution for 15 dollars, attempt to alter it and add rhinestones and glitter. It doesn’t work. Go and find a seamstress and put the work in or optionally buy a blank performance tutu from Grishko for 400 dollars and spiff it up yourself. Or even better, there is a new costume company that is making blank tutus for reasonable pricing. Also, stop going to more than two semi-finals.

I know that a lot of you are going to as many as you can so the talented kids are weeded out, and you finally place and get an invite to NYC. After the second attempt at a semi-final… if you don’t place… you don’t place. There is no reason to go to a third, and fourth, and this year I saw it… a fifth… Just don’t go… This isn’t Nuvo or Break the Floor, and you are trying to prove you have improved, etc, etc, etc… this isn’t that, it isn’t a circuit, this is a ballet competition that is looking for the best of the best. The whole rule of not being able to place twice was put into place to discourage people from doing more than one. So, please… just stop.

Also, you don’t need to enter FOUR contemporary solos. We get it… you can do contemporary. On average most kids bring two classical variations and one contemporary. If you are an overachiever and your parents want to see you on stage more since they are paying the participation fee, then you might have two and two. But really? Do you need more than that… absolutely not.

This year, I am not going to preparing anyone for the YAGP or Lausanne (or at least not to my knowledge), so I am going to do all of you searching a solid and walk you through the variation-selection process. Subscribe and Stay Tuned to get all the competition info you need.

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David King

David King

David King is the founder of A Ballet Education

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San Francisco Ballet’s The Little Mermaid

San Francisco Ballet’s

The Little Mermaid

APRIL 19, 2019
Tamara Sparkles

Watching Yuan Yuan Tan perform “The Little Mermaid” is something that I will remember for a long time. She exudes the vibrant mystique that you want to believe in when it comes to the dark sorted tale of unrequited love that is Hans Christian Andersen’s original fable.

Ms. Tan’s port de bras simply surpass any visual expectation. They are surreal. She is lifted and tossed by her men of the ocean, and you honestly believe that she IS the ethereal underwater creature that she is portraying. With a flawless, undulating wave and a supple back, she truly transforms into the naive, beautiful mermaid we are all sympathizing with as she visits the Sea Witch to exchange her tail, and her voice for a love that can never exist. There are moments where Ms. Tan makes the romantic tragedy so real you can feel it in your bones; this is both through the beautiful choreography of John Neumeier and her stellar exploration of this character. Yuan Yuan Tan is unmatched in this ballet. It truly belongs to her.

Aaron Robinson was perfectly playful to the beautiful Mermaid with his gorgeous romantic movement and festive innocent flirtations. His lines and communications of the love of both the Princess (the stunning Sasha DeSola) and The Little Mermaid were clear and thoughtful. Also, his jumps are solidly clean and delicious.

Sasha DeSola is the consummate Princess. She is effortless. Her technique is clear and precise, and her sense of royalty seems inherent. When she appears on deck in her hot pink jumpsuit, so flirtatious, so young and in love…She is everything. You are watching only her. It is easy to feel sympathy for the Little Mermaid up against such a formidable romantic rival.

My favorite moments of John Neumeier’s beautifully epic ballet lie with the Poet (Ulrik Birkkjaer) and the Sea Witch (Wei Wang). The Poet, Ulrik Birkkjaer leads us through this story with beauty and grace dancing seamlessly under the water, on the ship, and in the heavens. He knows what is happening, what is about to happen and our heart breaks with his as the story unfolds. Ulrik is strong and filled with depth. He blends in as the Poet and yet cannot be ignored when on stage. He is a storyteller.
Wei Wang, as the Sea Witch is incredible. You want to see him as the villain, but it’s nearly impossible because his dancing is so extraordinary. He embodies the regal eel-like creature that strikes a deal with The Little Mermaid that eventually turns so dark.

There is a moment at the end, where the Little Mermaid and The Poet are lifted into the night sky on a platform of stars, it is worthy of all of our tears for all of our loves that were never returned. Congratulations to everyone at San Francisco Ballet on a beautiful run of this majestic ballet.

The Little Mermaid: Yuan Yuan Tan
Prince / Edvard: Aaron Robison
Poet / Hans Christian Andersen: Ulrik Birkkjaer
Princess / Henriette: Sasha De Sola
Sea Witch: Wei Wang

http://www.sfballet.org
Photos courtesy of San Francisco Ballet, ©Erik Tomasson

Tamara Sparkles

Contributor | San Francisco

Tamara is a California native with a passion and understanding for dance education that stems from 30 years of teaching experience. She is available for private coaching in the Bay the area.

ISSUE 15

A BALLET EDUCATION
ISSUE 15

ISSUE 15

Issue 15 features Catherine Lewellen, the director of Elite Classical Coaching. The cover and editorial spread of this issue was photographed by JoLee Photography. This amazing issue showcases the amazing talent of Elite Classical Coaching and a look at social media in ballet.

Read It On Joo Mag

IN THIS ISSUE

David King

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

JoLee Photography

Cover Photographer

Ashley Baker

Contributing Editor & photographer

Winners of the YAGP 2019

Congratulations to the winners of the male-dominated year at the Youth America Grand Prix. While the past three years of the Youth America Grand Prix have been intense, this year seemed to be even more exhausting with the new rule changes. If you don’t know about the rules change that had everyone upset, it basically stated that regardless of the score, the invitation to New York Finals would be based on the discretion of the judges. While we shouldn’t downplay this year’s winners, there was a lot of criticism over YAGP’s 20th season. The Big Winners of the Youth America Grand Prix are:

The Grand Prix was awarded to Gabriel Figueredo (18) from the John Cranko School in Germany. If you don’t follow him, he just won a prize at the Prix De Lausanne. He also won the Dance Europe Award. The senior category seemed to be dominated by Spanish speaking countries and dancers. The winners in the senior category included dancers from Portugal, Argentina, Cuba, Peru, Switzerland, and Australia. No one from the United States placed in seniors including seniors who placed last year. The competition has become extremely stiff as the influx of European Dancers has come through.

The Youth Grand Prix was given to Darrion Sellman (14) from Southern California. He is also a finalist for the California Spotlight Awards. His win places him over Rebecca Alexandria Hadibroto (12) who won first in pre-comp last year from Indonesia, Ava Arbuckle (14) from Elite Classical Coaching and who just had a win at ADC IBC, Madison Brown (13), Misha Broderick (13), Andrew Jesus (13) of Brazil, and Seungmin (14) Lee of South Korea.

The Hope Award went to Corbin Holloway of City Dance. The Pre-Competitive Division this year was filled with talent but the following three places were all dancers from Europe. Martha Savin of Romania, Kseniya Kosava of Belarus, and Natasha Furman who is from the US, but is of European descent. It once again reinforces the “ideals” of ballet body types and how genetics plays the most significant role in whether or not one might become a dancer.

The Pas De Deux went to Youth Grand Prix Winners Madison Penney (2017) and Antonio Casalinho (2018). This win makes Madison’s second big win at the YAGP and Antonio’s third. They won with Grand Pas Classique.

The other big wins at the YAGP this year included:
The Shelley King Award for Excellence: Sumer Duvyestyn (12) from Classical Coaching, Australia
The Grishko Model Search Award: Elite Classical Coaching’s Ava Arbuckle (14)
The Natalia Makanrova Award for Artistry: Anastasia Poltnikova (17), Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Russia
The Mary Day Award for Artistry: Joao Vitor da Silva (15), Brazil’s Ballet Vortice

The Outstanding Choreographer Award went to Make Miyauchi and Christina Bucci of Yarita You Ballet Studio of Japan.

The Outstanding Teacher Award went to Mariaelena Ruiz of Cary Ballet Conservatory.

Whether or not you like the YAGP, or agree with it, the YAGP is an excellent opportunity for young dancers who are aspiring to make it in the world of dance. But again, winning isn’t everything, and you shouldn’t be discouraged if you didn’t place at New York Finals. While Ballet in popularity is growing, this once again means that the pool of talent to pull from is even more significant than ever, and makes it even harder to separate yourself from the politics of body type and prestigious schools. This is just another need and emphasis to find GOOD TRAINING and GOOD COACHING.

Personally, I didn’t go to YAGP Finals this year; Mostly because my students have already been accepted into their year round schools on scholarship at Royal Ballet Upper School, San Francisco Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet so they didn’t really need to go and take away a scholarship spot from another potential dancer. But, everyone asked why I didn’t attend the YAGP as press. This year, I have been beyond exhausted and have been battling depression so I needed time to clear my head and be away from ballet. And there is no better time than YAGP Finals as everyone in Ballet is in NYC, so I can be alone in California and not have to be around it. People are asking if I am going to be focused on YAGP next year, and the answer in truth is I don’t know.

Photos courtesy of VAM PRODUCTIONS

Promotions

Congratulations!

Ballet is always changing, and companies are these living, breathing, organisms made up of individuals with unique personalities and their own stories. And then, every once in a while, one of those individuals stands out just a little more than the rest, and then like a dream come true: you are promoted.

So, let’s take some time and acknowledge some of the amazing promotions that have happened for the upcoming 2019-2020 season. Starting with the San Francisco Ballet under Helgi Tomasson: three amazing promotions happened. Esteban Hernandez has been promoted to principal dancer; and Madison Keesler Cavan Conley were promoted to soloist.

Miami City Ballet under Lourdes Lopez announced their largest roster with the addition of ten dancers bringing their company number to 53. Promotions include Alexander Peters being promoted to Principal; and Emily Bromberg, Shimon Ito, and Chase Swatosh were promoted to principal soloists. But that might not be Miami’s BIG NEWS. Their big news announced that Carlos Quenedit returning to Miami City Ballet, YouTuber, Kathryn Morgan will be joining as a soloist, and Principal Dancer from Los Angeles Ballet, Bianca Bulle is taking a step down to join the corps de ballet at Miami. (It seems to be a trend to move from Los Angeles Ballet to Miami City) 

Photo: Alexander Peters

Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen announces sevendancer promotions for the 2019–2020 season. Second Soloists Chyrstyn Fentroy, Lawrence Rines,  and Addie Tapp have been promoted to the rank of s oloist.  Artists María Álvarez, DawnAtkins, Emily Entingh, and Matthew Slattery have been promoted to second soloists.

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has promoted two corps de ballet dancers to the rank of soloist for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 50th Anniversary Season, which runs from October 2019 to May 2020.

Dancers Marisa Grywalski of Columbus, Ohio and Corey Bourbonniere of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, will begin their first mainstage season as soloists this fall with PBT’s 50th Anniversary Season opener Giselle, on stage Oct. 25-27 at the Benedum Center.

Houston Ballet announces Artistic Director Stanton Welch AM has promoted Nozomi Iijima to the rank of Principal. Formerly a First Soloist, Iijima has been promoted after she ferociously danced the title role in Sylvia. This well-deserved promotion adds to the continued excitement of Houston Ballet’s whirlwind of spring productions during its 2018/19 season. 

Happy Siblings Day!!

If you didn’t know, today is National Siblings Day! Today is a day to celebrate your brothers and sisters. Because ballet is genetically inclined, it won’t surprise you that there numerous amazing ballet siblings out there.

There are the amazing Cirios, the founders of the Cirio Collective. Lia Cirio is a Principal Dancer at Boston Ballet and her brother, Jeffrey Cirio was a Principal at Boston, then ABT, and now English National Ballet.

 

Of course New York City Ballet has a history of having siblings in the company.

There are the Fairchilds. Robbie Fairchild left City Ballet for Broadway but his sister Megan, a new mom, is still there!

Then there were the Staffords, both principals as well. Abi is sitll dancing while her brother is now Associate Director of New York City Ballet. And then there is also the Angle brothers Jared and Tyler.

 

jewels-superJumbo.jpg

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/27/arts/dance/jonathan-stafford-bids-farewell-to-city-ballet.html / New York City Ballet Jonathan Stafford partnering his sister Abi Stafford in a pas de deux from “Emeralds,” one of Balanchine’s “Jewels” ballets, at the Koch Theater on Sunday.CreditJulieta Cervantes for The New York Times

 

There are the super famous brothers of Daniel and Roland Sarabia who defected from Cuba to become international superstars.

Patricia and Jeanette Delgado both are superstars at Miami City Ballet.

Then we also had Lorna and Lorena Feijoo who took the ballet world by storm when they arrived.

So much talent out there! So celebrate your siblings today!

 

Turning in to find your TURNOUT

Turning In to Find Your Turnout 

I think there is a big misunderstanding among ballet teachers and other teachers when it comes to turn in and turnout. The two cannot be separated because anything that is not turned out completely is turned in. I also believe that when it comes to working on the floor or barre work, sometimes it is better to work turned in. In fact, as we know from previous videos, I think it is important to work turned in to find a dancer’s turnout. 

So, while I believe dancer’s should cross train in modern, jazz and hip hop, because of the different muscles groups each one focuses on, I definitely don’t believe in overtraining muscle groups that are going to hinder ballet technique. This means that anything that is going to lock up your quads and hip flexors, I am against. One of the best ways I think that any dancer can become stronger and be more in tune with their body is to discover how the hip socket works. (Click here for some other hip stuff from earlier posts.)

Taking a look at dancing turned in, into find your turnout.

Standing in sixth position properly aligned means that foot is perfectly turned in with proper knee and hip alignment.  (proper alignment being shoulders over hips, over knees, over toes.) When standing in sixth position facing the barre one leg will automatically be in perfect turn out, if you rotate your hips towards left hand at the barre… When doing this you want to make sure you are really focusing on the SUPPORTING LEG. Remember the point of barre is to get you on your supporting leg and build strength in that leg, okay and to make your feet stronger… but the main focus is to get you on your leg and to do so, one must really build the back of the legs, rotators, and core.

Okay, so now you just have to discover the rotation in your hips. So here is Lauryn Brown (Insta: @laurynlanee) demonstrating some of the turned in to turnout combinations we work on at the Ballet Clinic. By all means it is not perfect, but she is working very hard on building the strength on her supporting leg. 

Remember most of these combinations are designed to work the supporting leg’s turnout. 

If you do these exercises properly, you will reshape your legs and increase your turnout drastically. 

Things to keep in mind, holding the spiral of your supporting leg.

Finding your crease/ booty indent every time. Where the leotard cuts around the leg should be completely folded into the hip socket, the back/side of your quad & IT band should be completely flat.
Find squareness to the supporting leg, not the working leg. This is not a normal ballet combination, so if you can’t completely open to the side yet, DON’T. It is okay to be in a semi-ecarté position.

Don’t let the supporting knee give .

Don’t roll on the supporting foot.

Don’t put weight into the working leg.

When finding Arabesque- let the hips do the work, NOT YOUR BACK.

 

Check Out Lauryn’s Tutorial on Audition Make Up

Ballet Review: Ballet West’s Swan Lake

By Melanie Durham

Usually seeing a superb rendition of Swan Lake to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score is hard to find and ridiculously long, but Ballet West in Utah did it in three hours with grace and beauty. Overall it was a grand performance and celebrated this monumental classic.

Ballet West Swan Lake Beckanne

Included in this memorable piece was the Prologue in the chamber of Princess Odette, Acts I & II, Act III and Act IV. And thank goodness because the two intermissions definitely added time that made for a long evening. Fortunately, we still got that gorgeous, melodic music from the amazing orchestra (Ballet West Orchestra) that carried us into a land far away. The backgrounds were setting the scenes with daring detail, the costumes were delicate and the dancers performed like they were genuinely happy to be onstage.

Ballet West Melanie Durham

The choreography was reflective of each Act it was portraying, although the walkways that our dear Prince Siegfried (Chase O’Connell) was given seemed rather repetitive and less textured compared to the other characters. For example, the choreographic patterns of many duos and trios made a difference in how the characters were received by the audience. When the Prince would walk to a place then gesture, the purpose in his walk wasn’t as commanding as one would think it should be coming from royalty. The comic relief that The Queen provided was welcome and needed, but the energy from Baron von Rothbart was lacking to portray actual evil or coldness.

The divine roles of Odette/Odile (Beckanne Sisk) in this evening performance were spot on. My eyes were immediately drawn to her feet as they presented themselves with dignity and lightness. My heart sank for her as her balance wasn’t quite there for a penche while trying to hold the Prince’s crossbow, however, once she found her moment, it was beautiful; a true mark of a professional. The character change from white swan to black swan was thrilling to wait for. The eye connection to the audience and smirk as Odile was exactly what we needed.

Applause to all of the younger performers in the cast. What professional faces and acting they portrayed in each moment they had. The technical ability and energy from them brought a rekindling of childhood performances, but to perform on such a beautiful stage such as the Capital Theatre, is quite a sight. The details were not forgotten with them in costuming or in timing of steps. It’s always a treat to watch these budding performers and wonder who the next demi-soloist or principle artist could be in the years to come.

I appreciated the true athleticism of the males in this rendition of Swan Lake, but was disappointed in the lack of precision when it came to epaulement and head angles. The crispness of the down beat compared to the motion during Act I left more to be desired when the men took the stage. Height was achieved and space was commanded fantastically, yet the sharpness of the upper body, including arm lines, could’ve been cleaner. This doesn’t mean the women were supreme in the same, but the softness they portrayed was more of unified focus in comparison. To be frank, the arms need to be so swan-like and so relaxed in Act II and oh so uniformed. The angles and break in some wrists were perfectly elegant in shape, while some forgot to keep their upper arm away from their head ever so slightly more to mimic the shape of the person ahead of them. The beautiful white costumes made it pleasant to watch, but my eye couldn’t help but squint at those lost wrists.

Above all, this Swan Lake satisfied my need to watch Ballet West in action as my local ballet company. It’s a recognized score and costuming, which is sure to appeal to all ages. It’s always an honor to watch a cast of fine dancers, from tiny through veteran, who graciously welcome us into this world of ballet, to ultimately leave us to exit with happiness in our hearts.

www.balletwest.org

Off With Their Heads…

The internet has fueled the fire, and it seems now, that with City Ballet about to open tonight, we are demanding for their heads. Anyone who has ever danced for the historic New York City Ballet is putting out their opinions, opinions like, bring back the original Balanchine dancers. One of my favorite things about all of these former Balanchine dancers complaining, is they are a part of the generation that believes they are better than most because they come from a “golden age”. And so, like a lot of problems we have today, they are also blinded by  history and a ballet culture that is on it’s way out.

new york city ballet sex scandal.jpg

While others in the ballet world are demanding for a new female artistic director who is both artistic and business savvy for today’s audiences to be brought in (someone like… Lourdes Lopez, Miami City Ballet’s AD who just won the Dance Magazine award, or Jennifer Ringer who has successfully turned the Colburn School in Los Angeles into a thriving hub for Balanchine and Contemporary training). The internet has demanded that we strip New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet of their prestige and honor. 

Others have described that the leadership of City Ballet all should be replaced and that their new marketing campaign is just simply to sell sex. The new ad for City Ballet is genius… Not only is it sexy, but it is also beautiful and it is making ballet more modern and making it more understandable and relatable to the massive crowds of New York City. Ballet shouldn’t just be for those on the Upper East and Upper West. The former generation of Balanchine Dancers is also getting old, quite old. And from the 400 some ballets that were left from Balanchine, how many are truly worth saving? It isn’t like we saved very may ballets from the golden age of the Ballet Russes, or the Massine ballets….

People are demanding a lot from New York City Ballet. Moms want their daughters to be protected by an institution whose mission statement is about ballet, not raising kids. Dancers are wanting compensation for their lack of talent or rise to fame. Audiences and donors are withdrawing in fear of being shamed for supporting City Ballet. All of this because people made poor choices, bad decisions, and now somehow we have ruined the Balanchine Legacy and tarnished New York City Ballet’s name.

(And I am not saying or not saying that these men did or didn’t deserve things, and I am definitely not saying that horrific things didn’t take place, are taking place, and have taken place at the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet… I’m just saying)

The opinion piece in the New York Times was rather harsh, and simply to say, I think it just added fire and made the Balanchine Legacy look even worse. While I do applaud those who were once a part of the Balanchine Generation, I wonder if it is time for the Balanchine era to end regardless. Is it time to close this chapter on the Balanchine Aesthetic and move on? Ballet is becoming more and more demanding and the need for pure technical training is becoming more apparent. The School of American Ballet isn’t producing the dancers that it once was, and their students are getting jobs like they once were. Is it time for City Ballet to become a new kind of company that emphasizes technique, musicality, and modernism and not create a one note dancer?

Is it time to fundamentally change the company’s aesthetic that it became famous for? It seems like it because with everyone demanding that this is the end of City of Ballet… something has to change. What is going to change? How is it going to change? Will it ever change? Who knows?

While I think that NYCB has done a terrible job at reacting and handling all of these accusations, actual events, I do think that even more terrible things are going to come out. Working for Balanchine wasn’t easy either, and I think that all of these “Balanchine Era” dancers are also forgetting that scandals were happening back then as well… Because of Balanchine, body type become the most important thing and do we really want people who are so focused on skinny, skinny, skinny to be at the helm? Who knows? They also were a part of the culture of don’t talk about it and be silent to whatever was happening around them because “greatness” was happening in the roo.

Regardless, you all wanted my thoughts on the NYCB scandals, and I don’t have any besides the following:

Ballet isn’t bad… people are bad, and make poor decisions… sometimes forgivable, sometimes unforgivable…. Separate the two please… it doesn’t help we let men with misogynistic, racial, and particular body views be in full control without a checks and balance system. But no one person should ever have total control or say at any institution that is called communism.  It is sad to see such institutions fall to the pressures of time, the demand of the art form, and the unfailing disappointment of human actions and preferences. My greatest love in life is ballet, and I will continue to do whatever I can do to keep helping ballet progress for the better.

Where our ballet culture is now and where we want ballet culture to be… this is the conversation all ballet instititions should be having.

NYCB scandal


https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/in-wake-of-suit-against-new-york-city-balletaudiences-and-funders-should-demand-answers/2018/09/16/88f184a4-b5da-11e8-b79f-f6e31e555258_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.608144240bb5

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/09/16/nyc-fires-2-dancers-over-accusations-nude-photo-sharing-ring.html


 

The Top Ten Ballet Schools (2018)

Summer is ending, which means it is time to take a look at the BIG TEN issue. This issue features American Ballet Theatre’s Hee Seo and her foundation’s work of the YAGP KOREA. In this issue we will take a look at Ballet Ivy Leagues, the Top Ten Ballet Schools, and some of the best ballet schools you should consider for the 2018-2019 season. Hee Seo

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So, you really want to know who made the BIG TEN list…
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Ivy League of Ballet

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신청접수 하셨나요? ✅링크를 클릭 하시면 신청접수 페이지로 바로 연결 됩니다!! #Repost @heeseoabt with @get_repost ・・・ Some of you may know that I Founded a Foundation @hee_seo_foundation to help nurture young talent back in my hometown Seoul, Korea. Establishing and running this non-profit foundation was not easy as a full time dancer but was indeed one of the most fulfilling and meaningful indulgence one could hope to experience. And I’m proud to open our 3rd season 👍🏻🔥Masterclass + member’s program + scholarships + YAGP Korea and more.. Thank you those who support small foundations big dreams!! @yagp @hee_seo_foundation

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DEAR ABE READERS

Hello there…

First off, I want to apologize for numerous things…

  1. First the reason why I haven’t updated anything, is that someone got into my ABE site, and locked me out. Additionally, some of you received a spam message that was not from me, and apologize if by clicking the link that was sent it caused you any problems.
  2. The books… The books have been a mess as half of the ones I sent while in Charleston were returned to my address in Charleston because of a mistake a made with media mail… while I am traveling, and am teaching at Summer Intensives. Additionally, whoever went into my site, deleted out most of the orders. I am working hard on sorting it out, but teaching 6 hours a day at summer intensive is rather intense. On the pay-pal side, I have started refunding orders as off yesterday when WordPress finally gave me my sales. For those of you who have the books, I hope you are enjoying them. For those of you who haven’t recieved a book, please email me again, as my email is linked through wordpress and let me know if you would like me to refund your money or wait till September?
  3. For those of you who have been trying to get a hold of me via email, the same issue. WordPress controls the e-mail.
  4. And finally, the big Ten Issue will be out later this evening as I can finally upload the issue.

 

Beware of the Monsters…

The show Dance Moms portrayed some of the craziest, over the top, and outrageous personalities in competitive commercial dance, but that show has nothing on the real-life world of ballet schools.

ballet moms

Recently, my heart has been heavy as Kate Spade, a long time fashion icon committed suicide, leaving a lot of my colleagues at a loss for words. Over the past decade, three major fashion icons have taken their own lives. Then just days later, food legend and TV host Anthony Bourdain took his own life. Brilliant humans, experts in their fields, and role models for millions, all happened to be pushed to a point where they felt that it wasn’t worth it anymore.

I started doing some googling about the rates of suicides in ballet dancers, and even though there was not a lot of hard hitting solid statistical data, the number of articles was very upsetting. The most noted dancer who committed suicide was a 29-year-old lead dancer with the New York City Ballet, Joseph Duell in 1986 after performing in Symphony in C, and rehearsing Who Cares? But, he wasn’t the only one, Juan Carlos Amy-Cordero a principal with Eugene Ballet took his life in 2013, Tallulah Wilson was 15 when she took her life in 2014, in 2012 it was Rosie Whitaker, and the articles went on and on.

When it comes to suicide and the arts… Suicide among gifted individuals is at a higher rate. This might be because those who are gifted have an increased rate of depression, mania and mental illness. We do know, that history has repeated itself over in over again with some of the most gifted individuals contributing to the arts over time. But as I was pouring over the research and articles about these dancers, I started noticing that everyone was talking about the same thing from different points of view.

In articles that I read about why dancers make better employees, or they are going to be more successful in competitive industries… these same characteristics that are praised in these viral posts are the same characteristics that described those who committed suicide: dedication, perfectionism, creativity, representation, thinking outside of the box, OCD. At the same time in 2008, ABC reported ten jobs that create so much pain, that the addiction to painkillers was becoming more prevalent, ballet was number 10.

So, how does this all come together? I was scrolling through social media, well more like trolling, and looking at today’s bright young stars as they are competing at the World Ballet Competition and the prestigious USA IBC’s Jackson Competition. I was watching videos of these elite young dancers prepare for this monumental occasion, and liking all of their photos. But then, I started scrolling through the comments. I started looking through everyone’s insta, as if I was obsessed. I was obsessed, I spent a good five hours. More importantly, I was shocked. I was looking at people’s followers, who bought followers as it is obvious to see blank accounts following from foreign countries like Turkey and Albania… I was looking at how parents were letting anyone follow their kid, despite their followers only posting pictures of women in bikinis and underwear… I was looking at the comments and hashtags used… And I was watching the cyberbullying happen in LIVE time. Don’t get me wrong, I have always known that ballerinas in pretty tutus and pretty lip gloss are some of the most vicious kids on the face of the planet. They do it in the backstabbing, underhanded, sneaky, with a smile on their face kind of a way. I have known that ballet moms are ten times worse, because they do things to sabotage other kids. Like what parent picks a fight or tries to mess with a 13-16 year olds’ life/career? A monster.

I was noticing how a lot of these accounts said “parent owned” or “parent monitored”… I was noticing that a lot these accounts were full of fake inspirational quotes and light-hearted things. While their “friendsta” accounts were full of self-degrading “ballet fails” and random tags about how horrible they are, and how much training they need to do. I started to notice that the big trend was this miserable feeling if they can’t turn or jump, or that their bodies were far from perfect. I noticed that these young “superstar” dancers didn’t even run their primary accounts and that these moms were photoshopping their kids. I noticed that they were paying photographers who cost in the hundreds and thousands to take photos of their kids and have them retouched… Their faces to be more symmetrical, their bodies to be leaned out… some people had no shame in the matter and were photoshopping their kids so horrifically that the background happened to be warped. Trust me… I know… as a former professional editor/retoucher for fashion magazines, you can tell when something is retouched.

I was noticing that the pressure of having Instagram followers for young aspiring dancers was killing the spirit of ballet. That kids were trying so hard to desperately gain ambassadorships and sponsorship from major brands like Russian Pointe, Grishko and Gaynor Minden. I was seeing how hard these kids were working to get something as dumb as a box of merchandise and the ability to put “RP Ambassador” on their profile.

I started to notice people were lying about their YAGP wins… Like putting YAGP 2012 winner, but not putting their semi-final, and letting people assume they were winning at the finals. I noticed that people were making up things like YAGP, #7… This, I am guessing is from the TOP 12, which is called alphabetically by either first or last name depending on who organized it. I noticed that people were posting their YAGP semi-final scores to prove they scored above a 95%, and the responses that were being displayed was kind of intense. All of these things were happening, are happening on social media… It is hard enough that I find parents telling their kids it is okay to lie, cheat and break the rules. If your studio says, don’t train anywhere else, but you are training with a private coach behind your school’s back… what example are you setting for your kid? If you are at a studio that says that you can only compete if you are ready, and you are throwing a fit and at the last minute hopping over to a different school and coach… what example does that set? What does it tell your kid about commitment, about trust, about working hard?

All of these things… watching young girls tear other girls down based on body type or ability… Watching their comments, or even overhearing them in these dance schools makes me wonder if ballet is really worth saving. And it isn’t just students… I have seen it over and over again with professional dancers commenting on others performances, teachers, coaches and more. Even myself… Trust me… There are a lot of times where I have to put the lion back in the cage… especially when writing this blog, there are about thirty posts I would like to post but can’t because of how awful they are, or how it could affect someone out there…

So, beware the monsters of ballet. Make sure you aren’t becoming one, make sure you aren’t creating one, make sure you aren’t contributing to this problem in the arts. And remember, if you are ever feeling unsafe, feeling uneasy, or just need someone to talk to about the pressures of ballet, about what is happening around you or anything- contact an adult or a professional as soon as possible. Remember, your feelings are valid, your stress is valid, and life is essential. Ballet is secondary. Ballet is far from necessary in the grander scale of humanity, so ask yourself, is whatever you are feeling or thinking worth it for ballet?

Ask yourself… what are we doing, what examples are we setting, and how is this going to affect your kid, other kids, families, and the future? Because if you ask me, ballet is not worth becoming a terrible human for, nor is it worth watching me kid become defeated or destroyed at the hands of other parents, students, and teachers. I would also say that ballet social media, the YAGP, and ballet competitions are not worth the time, energy, money, stress or anxiety it is creating on social media.

 

The Humble Beginnings…

Haha… me at the studio where I started… Hard to believe I started at a barre so low. Two hip surgeries… and twenty-one years later… still trying to balance…

dance life boy ballet

In the world of ballet, we are forced to see the daily reminder of white privilege visually. It is something we feel strongly about, or it doesn’t phase us. I recently went back home to California, southern California. And, if you have ever been to a small place called Riverside County, you will be given a sliver of hope for the future of dance. Here back at home, I went to visit my very first studio. A studio that has always been gracious to me gave me a sense of purpose and belonging and gave me a friendship with the studio owner that still exists. I come back home, and I am watching kids who are 5-8 learn ballet, but this isn’t the regular class I see or even teach. This class is full of joy and passion and had every ethnicity represented. Yeah, in this little city, dance thrives as something that is accessible for all kids, all colors, and all socioeconomic statuses. Riverside, is this unique small pocket of the world, that for a long time was embarrassing to say you are from. Now, I am proud to say I come from here. I came from a city where ethnicity really doesn’t matter, and where the arts are continually growing and evolving.

On a recent trip to Atlanta, I met up with one of the first students I ever taught. He is now graduating with his master’s degree from Emory. We were talking about race in general, and how even in Atlanta race is a huge factor in everyday life, and when he talks about this little corner of the world we both call home, people are so dumbfounded.

Usually, I don’t like posting personal things on this blog, but this time around… it is essential to talk about where I come from and what A Ballet Education is doing. I didn’t grow up poor, far from it, but I didn’t come from a wealthy family either. I am one of twelve kids, most of us are adopted, and half of my siblings have severe special needs. Please don’t go googling them or adding them on Facebook… Why is this important?

Recently, A Ballet Education started their scholarship selection, and this year we were able to help six individuals around the US to continue their education in ballet at some of the most elite schools. I have to ask myself… Why does “elite” or “good” training cost so much? Even myself… charging for private lessons, my rate is on the higher side of ballet coaches. Sometimes, I justify it was self-worth. Sometimes, I feel guilty and am continually trying to help kids find scholarships. This year was a good year for me in ballet, and I am thankful, and humbled… I joke around with my friends back home saying, this Gay Asian Boy from the poor side is sitting around the world’s most magnificent theaters, coaching some of the most exceptional kids in the world. And I have to laugh.

Soooooo… Why is this so important?

I recently was watching a TED Talks video, and an Oprah video on ethnicity and the idea of ethnic tax and guilt. These videos were super inspiring, but they made a valid point, You are not responsible for your family, your culture or social injustices. By being just you, by making it, is already an accomplishment that matters. It isn’t about taking care of your family, or by helping your brothers and sisters. The list goes on. The more and more I critically thought about this concept, I realized… the same goes for this current generation of “white.” You are not responsible for all of the social injustices in this world, and you shouldn’t have to pay higher taxes because someone in your family did the wrong thing. And as dancers, you shouldn’t feel guilty that you got a job. You worked just as hard. We all did the same pliés, tendus, and god awful, painstakingly long Russian adagios to get where you are.

But here is what you can do… You can give back. You can hit the streets like Aisha Ash and just walk around in a tutu. You can volunteer to teach at the local YMCA; you can donate money smaller school in a less fortunate area. You can buy tickets to a ballet performance for someone at your studio who might not be able to afford to go. There are tons of ways to give back, but if time and money is something you don’t have… which I totally get…

You can be a person who understands that ballet is not the problem; tradition blinds the people running the institution of ballet. We can be aware, that not everyone’s journey to get to the barre is the same and isn’t equal. We can be mindful that the costs of ballet are inflating, so families around you might be struggling to keep their kid dancing. We can chip in and get a new pair of pointe shoes for the girl who can’t afford it. We can be inclusive of all bodies who want to learn the discipline and rigor of ballet. We can be accepting for those who have physical disabilities who just want to feel like a princess. We can be all these things. Things I learned in a little part of the world that isn’t known for dance and is probably known for crime more than anything.

And, if you come from a family that can afford ballet, there is nothing wrong with that either. Your family has had to work hard to get where they are. Humility, though, that is the key factor. You read all these dancers’ biographies, and autobiographies and they all have one thing in common: Humility.

Stay humble friends.

 

What does it take to be a Ballerina?

Ballet is hard, like really hard. The overwhelming stories and information out there is daunting. As parents you only want what is best for your kid, as student your heart is full of passion and desire, as a teacher you just want to be the best mentor possible. Questions like, “What school to go to?” or “Where am I going to dance?” or “Should I compete at the YAGP?” are all questions that are out there. There are arguments on both sides to every question, and important questions like, “How many hours should my student be dancing?” or “What school is best suited for my child?” or “How much should I be posting on social media?”

What does it take to be a ballerina
Behind the Scenes of Issue 11 // Photographed by Me.

So what does it take to be a ballerina in today’s world?

If you asked me five years ago my answer would have sounded something like this, “You need all the right circumstances, but most importantly you need to work hard every day.” It would have been full of hope and inspiration. I would have said, “If you want to be a ballet dancer, and you are willing to put in the hard work, you will find a place to dance.”

But, this isn’t five years ago. This is now, and now more than ever, jobs in ballet are even more scarce and the world is now smaller than ever. And now, my answer might be jaded. But it is time to be honest and truthful. Watching dancers get placed into companies over the past few years, and watching dancers struggle to find work is even more heartbreaking.

To be a dancer in this day in age, the most important thing is you need to have the RIGHT training. Meaning, you have to find a school that is capable of placing you into a company. Before, schools would feed you into schools attached to companies. Now, it is more important to find strong training at a young age, and work hard inside of these schools. Schools that care not just about your technique, but who you become as a person. I don’t think that kids should be going away so young, unless their families are 100% positive their kid is prepared to be a good person. You have to be technically efficient at such a young age now. At thirteen a double pirouette on pointe isn’t good enough anymore. A good school will be able to call up a company or school and be able to get you placed. A good school will teach you proper modified Russian Technique. Unfortunately, Balanchine schools just are not cutting it anymore in the global market. Finally, your coaches need to be able to teach all pedagogies and different approaches. Every student is different and every student will turn differently, jump differently and have a different needs in the studio. (Click here for what makes a good teacher)

You need to have the right body type and proportions. With the influx of dancers out there, you need to have the right body proportions and body type. Proportions in the 9-head range, toned muscle building, and more importantly: long lean muscle building. You need to be naturally thin, and naturally elongated. Your body has to be primed for ballet. There are so many dancers out there, that body type and body proportions are becoming a priority. This isn’t just tall or short- it is about everything. Making sure that your body is the whole package. Bodies that are primed in ballet just naturally progress faster. (read more about body types) More importantly, these body types are becoming more and more common.

You need to have the right kind of facility; hips that are open, feet that point, knees that stretch, backs that are hypermobile.

Your family has to have the right financial circumstances. Ballet is expensive. And until you are ready to go to a tier one school on a full scholarship, you will be paying a very pretty penny. You will be paying for private lessons, Gyro, PT, Cryo, Pilates, Acupuncture, Dietary Restrictions. This also just doesn’t mean throw money at people. As parents you have to do your homework as well, and you have to understand what you are getting yourself into and what is required of your child.

Now, to add to all of that, you have to be musical and an artist. You have to be able to hear the music, feel the ballet, and develop a character. You also have to be able to perform. Perform in the studio and on stage.

Finally, you have to be smart, hardworking and dedicated. Loving ballet isn’t enough.You have to be hardworking, and put 100% into every class, and no matter how hard you work, you can never give up. Tenacity is key. Focus is crucial. Attention to details, the ability to blend into the corps de ballet when needed, and stand out as soloist when asked. You have to have a thick skin, because what people are going to tell you is going to be severe. Other dancers might try to knock you down because they are jealous. Teachers will push you to the breaking point, and not every director is going to like you, or think that you will fit into their school or company.

ballet is hard

But what is the payoff? For some, ballet teaches discipline and structure. Most who study ballet go onto great things because of what you learn in ballet. For some, ballet facilitates them into college. Ballet can open many scholarships and your education can be paid for. For me, it paid for Grad School.  College can lead to producing, executive positions in a ballet company, PR and Marketing and many other things. For some, ballet will become a tool for choreography. And for those who are lucky enough, ballet will lead to a job that actually pays the bills. And for an even luckier few, they will become principal dancers at companies and become a face that inspires the next generation. But it just doesn’t end there. Ballet leads to amazing things- the appreciation for music, for classical arts, and more. It exposes you to different ethnicities, different cultures, different ideas. It gives you discipline, dedication and the ability to find inspiration in monotony.

YAGP COVER 11copy copy
ISSUE 11 >> Read more by clicking above.

Finally, as hard as ballet is, it is the most wonderful thing. It is the combination of music, movement, human emotions, storytelling, fashion design and art coming together to create something that will only exist in that moment. So, as hard as it is to digest, the idea that you might not have what it takes to make it into a ballet company, don’t give up on the art. It is okay to do ballet recreationally, or train seriously, but not have a career. It really does bring the best of art together. It is something that we all should strive for. The essence of the ballet… not the politics of it.


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Another New Ballet Company comes to Florida

Joseph Gatti, Marcelo Gomes, Rasta Thomas, Elias Baseman, Matthew Golding and a few others  are teaming up and taking on Orlando. Artistic Director and Founder of United Ballet Theatre, Joseph Gatti has brought in a slew of men and a blonde bombshell, Chloe Sherman for a new work by Marcelo Gomes. This “equation” looks familiar, right? Yes, and it could be because Executive Director James L. Boyd III, is at the head? He is also the former producer for Rasta ThomasRock the Ballet. Rasta Thomas will serve as a guest artist.

united ballet theatre

Excited to see the work they will be premiering. Marcelo Gomes recently left ABT after a sexual misconduct allegation. He then had his documentary premiered, and set a new work with less exciting reviews for Julie Kent‘s Washington Ballet. This would be his first full year venturing out as a choreographer and transitioning out of the “dancer” title.

So what will this mean for dancing state of Florida? Adding another company to Florida’s long list of companies including Joseph Gatti’s former employer, Robert Hill’s  Orlando Ballet. (Orlando Ballet is currently searching for a new Executive Director, the third one in like five years…) As their website is still new, you can see the list of artists joining up with Mr. Gatti.

Regardless, any company that is creating jobs should be applauded. 

Best of Luck United Ballet Theatre!! We are watching!