It has been a long journey, but four years later I am here…
Four years ago, I never thought that I would be a blogger. I thought I was going to have my career in fashion and teach ballet on the side for fun. In fact, I didn’t want this life at all. After my ballet career ended, I wanted nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, I lost my father, and my world didn’t make sense. But, ballet restores the order of the universe. It is one of the only thing reliable things in the world. You start with left hand at the barre, and do pliés, tendus, and so on.
Now four years later, I am about to finish issue 12 of the magazine, and start the third year. My book, that has taken me two years to write is done, and I am teaching all over the world and have started taking photos of beautiful dancers. So this is my thank you to all of you. Without you, my readers, and my supporters none of this would be possible, so thank you. Truly.
Yes, they are preventable… So with the new stunning issue of a Ballet Magazine out, tons of emails and DM’s on Instagram are pouring in… Since, I left to YAGP, a Ballet Education has 1,295 unread emails that I am ferociously trying to get through… plus publish a new issue, plus making the book does well, plus the May planner… plus my own teaching and coaching….
I should be insulted since no one is just clicking my consult fee, but instead I take to blogging… Seriously, you all want the help or advice with your child, but no one wants to pay for my time? Then when I don’t answer within 24 hours and you get mad? Moms, please… goodbye. *Bloop*
YOU SHOULD NOT PUT EVERYTHING YOU HAVE INTO THE YAGP & FINALS… and I quote, “My husband and I took out a credit card to afford to go to finals and my daughter got nothing. I am so mad at the YAGP. No one offered her a scholarship and barely was talked to.” —- seriously? NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, should be taking out a credit card to attend the YAGP. Credit scores are forever…Ballet careers are not. That is the reality. If you are putting everything you have into the YAGP, think twice. You just spent about 5k to attend the finals, when that would have easily covered a summer intensive. All you would have had to do is just pay the $35 audition fee…
DON’T COME WITHOUT A COACH… “I didn’t want to pay for my coaches expenses. I already paid her enough in private lessons.” Good for you, thinking you paid your coach enough in private lessons. But trust me, they are probably still way under charging you. The average coaching fees right now for private lessons for variations run about $150/hr+Studio Rental. Also, having a coach at the YAGP makes a huge difference in terms of networking. The first night of YAGP FINALS the YAGP hosted a teachers/coaches/judges meet and greet… Here, people asked coaches about their students and about their school and their ideas on ballet. Also, coaches are easily able to navigate backstage, get updates, and make life a little easier for you… rehearsal spaces are booked through them, arranging extra classes outside of finals, the list goes on. The coaching fees are high because the coach is going to be out missing 10 days of teaching, plus hotel, plus airfare plus a million other things… this has to be something YOU consider when deciding if you are going to do the YAGP.
“I spent fifteen hundred dollars on a custom tutu that she wore three times.” NO ONE, and I mean NO one should be paying that much money for a tutu. Especially if it is for competition… If your studio doesn’t have costume rentals, then just go in a leotard and rehearsal platter. The YAGP actually doesn’t require a costume to compete, so you could just compete in a leotard if you really wanted to. Technique speaks louder than sparkles. And yes, you were only going to wear your tutu maybe twice… if you are lucky enough to be invited to finals. I am assuming they did two semi-finals, and a final.
“My daughter did five pirouettes and didn’t make final round.” … DON’T FEEL ENTITLED TO WIN…you are only letting yourself down and your kid. Don’t feed them information like more pirouettes equals better ballet. That is wrong, just wrong. Like super wrong. You are only setting your kid up to fail miserably in ballet. Technique, finesse and fundamentals will always outweigh the tricks. End of story. Regardless of tricks, or technique, remember that ballet is subjective when it comes to artistry, it is why the YAGP assembles a larger pannel for finals, so that more eyes and more opinions are given.
“I am at a loss for words. My daughter feels like she wasn’t even looked at in the classes and wants to give up on ballet.” Note, her daughter is 10, and was not even in the pre-competitive solo division, she was in an ensemble and the grand de filet. Well, logicially, your daughter is in the ensemble classes, which were way overcrowded to begin with. Second off, the scholarships are given out to those competing in the classical and contemporary solo categories. Thirdly, she is 10 so there is no where for her to go anyways. Fourth… even if she was not corrected individually, she needs to be trained to take everyone’s corrections as her own to help her grow as a dancer. Fifth… if that is a thing when listing, you are not realizing, that the YAGP finals had over 1,000 kids between soloists and ensembles. Sixth… if your daughter is going ot give up after one week of “tough” classes, then maybe she isn’t cut out for ballet. Even at the age of 10, the competition is stiff at the YAGP.
Here is what REALLY irritates me…
Parents are constantly emailing me complaining about the YAGP and the politics of the YAGP. So, I sit back and have to ask, “Then why go? No one is forcing you to go… Companies are still holding auditions on the regular calendar… Summer intensives are audition from January to March and people are getting scholarships…”
If the answer is “experience”, then the results shouldn’t even matter to you.
If the answer is “to win”, then you have realize that the YAGP has their own agenda to further ballet and what they are looking for, so you have to accept just that.
If the answer is “to get a scholarship”, then why not just do the auditions like everyone else? They are cheaper.
If the answer is “to proove your kid has what it takes”, well you won’t know till your kid is sixteen or seventeen and being asked to join a company or second company.
If the answer is “to be famous”, you are in this all for the wrong reason and you should re-direct. I would say there are only a handful, if not just two ballerinas out there right now with worldwide fame outside of ballet: Misty Copeland and maybe Tiler Peck…
The YAGP finals are there for the creme de la creme of ballet to recruit the creme de la creme of talent out there. We are talking about beautiful bodies, good facility, gorgeous feet, wonderful musicality, interesting artistry, and full of potential. It isn’t about the pirouettes, or how high the jumps are… it is about the ability to turnout, lengthen the line, cleanliness and control. They are looking at where is this dancer going to be in a year with a scholarship, in four years with a scholarship to Princess Grace or Royal, and what is the longevitiy of their body inside ballet. BUT THIS ISN’T THE ONLY WAY TO HAVE A CAREER… AND REMEMBER… the YAGP isn’t the end all, say all… they aren’t the only ones who are deciding careers…
And finally…. bigger isn’t always better… and I am talking about hairstyles. The hairstyles were out of control at YAGP this year. Remember french twists and french rolls for ballet should be tight and enhance the head and neck… not take it over. Sock buns at the YAGP should be automatically disqualified. At this point in ballet, we should all just be able to do a good old fashioned bun. Finally, if the tiara is as big as forehead… its too big. Seriously… a lot of questionable hairstyles at the YAGP this year. Remember… in ballet the ideal is a small head…
Always a controversy when it come to “lost” ballets, or ballets that are not performed every season and easily handed down from one generation to the next. One of those ballets is the full length Fairy Doll. Originally, premiered at the Vienna Court on October 4th 1888 as Die Puppenfee, this ballet is also based on E.T.A Hoffman’s 1815 story of the Sandman. He is the author of the Nutcracker, if your forgot, with music by Josef Bayer choreographed by Joseph Hassreiter, and then the pas de trois by Legat.
Eventually, in somewhere in the 1920’s Anna Pavlova danced her version (the variation we now know at competition as the “big bow on the head”) by adding the music from Drigo’s “Halrequinade” and “serenade pas de trois”. When this happened Diaghilev commissioned Leonide Massine to create “La Boutique Fantasque” to an arranged score of Rossini, which obviously hasn’t survived…but in turn was the inspiration for Balanchine’s Harlequinade.
So, the story line is simple in this two act ballet. In a toy shop a farmer and a noble come in with their families. The puppeteer shows the mechanical dancing dolls: Chinese, Japanese, Harelquin, Austrian, Baby Doll, Moor, Drumming Bunny Doll (which is given a nod in Balanchine’s Nutcracker), Spanish, Hungarian, Poet and the lovely Fairy Doll. Obviously the rich family wants the fairy doll and pays. The farmer buys the Harelquin and Austrian. The shop then closes, but when the clock strikes midnight, like in all fairy tales, the toys come to life. Not only do all the dolls come to life but the chess pieces, a cello, a hammer, bowling pin, bunny doll. They all dance, where the queen of the toys… the fairy doll and her two harlequins dance the very technical pas de trois.
Then as the night ends, all the dolls incircle the fairy doll just as the shopkeeper comes in and is mesmerized at the magic of the dolls. Easy enough. It is actually the perfect ballet if you are at one of those schools where EVERYONE insists on having a solo. Also, the variations are great to take to the YAGP as well… Not just the lead variation… but the other variations as well. It is actually why I am posting this… a lot of the competitors from Korea and Europe brought the variations of Chinese Doll, Austrian Doll, Spanish Doll and Japanese Doll… which actually sparked this post…
Below is the student performance from Vaganova Ballet Academy. I would love to give credit to whoever posted this but no name, just the same person who posts the exams… and I can’t translate the names to give credit to the dancers, but they are superb.
Don’t forget to sign up for my MAY 5 & 6 workshop in Atlanta!!
Inside the world’s largest ballet competition. This year over 10,000 kids auditioned and competed at the Youth America Grand Prix and tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships were given out to promising young talent across the world. This issue is packed with the enormous talents emerging from the Youth America Grand Prix.
The Cover Features: Brady Farrar, Misha Broderick, Joel Dichter, Madyson Grobe, Remie Madeline Goins, Jolie Rose Lombardo, Tia Wenkman, Kaeli Ware, Bel Pickering, Kali Kleiman, Lily Turner and Ava Arbuckle.
Reviews of Atlanta Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem & much more in the issue.
A Ballet Education has committed/pledged to raise $27,000 dollars in scholarship funds for various organizations including the YAGP Korea, Burbank Dance Academy, the Cirio Collective & helping support kids with the financial aid to attend Summer Intensives and the YAGP. This crowdfunding initiative is to help support the art form that I love with all my heart. This year has been a devastating year for many, as ballet companies and schools are losing money and not giving out as many scholarships as usual. The costs of ballet are skyrocketing and the need to support the ballet is more important, now more than ever.
For the 2018-2019 Season YAGP KOREA through the Hee Seo Foundation $3,000
Burbank Dance Academy $1,000
YAGP FINALS FUNDS $10,000
SUMMER INTENSIVE FUNDS $13,000
How am I going to fundraise $27,000 for all these kids/dancers? Simple. All of the proceeds from my books, artwork, and magazine will now be going towards helping dancers across the world. I have been watching, listening, and hearing kids across the world struggle financially at their home studios and then when they are offered the chance to be seen, or have a career, or attend a summer intensive that could actually make their career… they can’t even afford the chance to go.It was hard to watch kids struggling this year at YAGP finals with the costs of everything. Numerous times, I had let kids hop into my UBER or LYFT because I knew it was going to cost them $15 dollars when we were all going to the same place…
Why am I always helping YAGP KOREA? Because, for these young men, it is important to place at a ballet competition. If they don’t place, they will have to serve two years to the army at the age of 19. Their training willstop completely, and the odds of them ever returning to ballet are slim.Read more here.
Why am I helping Burbank Dance Academy? Because I have seen, worked in, and observed the intensities of the Los Angeles Ballet Community, and I believe this school under Jason Coosner is creating a healthy and positive presence in the Los Angeles Ballet Community that is desperately needed.
Think about it this way…
If you buy 1 grande Starbucks espresso drink a day, that is $1,825 dollars a year- if you just cut back to 5 coffees a week, and donate the rest you would be donating $520 dollars a year. That is a plane ticket for a kid to attend finals, or attend a summer intensive on scholarship. It might be the last amount needed to attend for a student to attend a year round school. That’s 6 pairs of pointe shoes you could be helping a student receive. If you were to not go out and eat once a month, you would be able to donate $1,200. That is almost a full summer intensive fee. It is 12 pairs of pointe shoes. It is the cost of the hotel for YAGP finals.
As the YAGP moves on, the list gets smaller and smaller as tonight is the last night of competition. These 55 females, and 40 males will compete for the two top prizes Youth Grand Prix and Senior Grand Prix awards. Additionally there are other awards, and many of these young men and women will walk away with a scholarship or offer to a major school or company. This list doesn’t include the hundreds of pre competitive dancers that competed this week as well.
JUNIOR WOMEN: 31 Contestants
1-Ella Kolpakov (12), USA
4-Poppy Trettel (12), USA
9-Emma Topalova (12), USA
14-Nina Gagnin (12), AUSTRIA
21-Margarita Fernandes (12), PORTUGAL
22-Nana Oda (12), JAPAN
26-Ava Arbuckle (13), USA
30-Kate Thomas (13), USA
31-Remie Madeleine Goins (13), USA
48-Yo Nakajima (13), JAPAN
52-Gia Polson (13), SOUTH AFRICA
54-Petra Johnson (13), USA
58-Sierra Glasheen (13), USA
61-Dominika Afanasenkov (13), USA
66-Mahalaya Tintiangco-Cubales (13), USA
67-Alexandra Manuel (13), USA
68-Keaton Gillespie (13), USA
76-Emma Spillane (14), USA
77-Aoi Sawano (14), JAPAN
78-Ruth Schultz (14), USA
80-Jessica Phan (14), USA
88-Rebecca Rudolf (14), PORTUGAL
89-Alexandra Hoffmann (14), USA
91-Olivia Tweedy (14), USA
96-Jolie Rose Lombardo (14), USA
101-Tia Wenman (14), USA
114-Lily Turner (14), USA
117-Alice Balboni (14), BRAZIL
118-Suyeon An (14), S KOREA
131-Estrella Birkinshaw (14), USA
JUNIOR MEN: 20 Contestants
151-Toya Hayashi (12), JAPAN
152-Filippo Mambelli (12), ITALY
153-Misha Broderick (12), USA
158-Brady Farrar (12), USA
160-Giuseppe Ventura (13), ITALY
161-Vitor Vaz (13), BRAZIL
164-Jackson Smith-Leishman (13), AUSTRALIA
167-Darrion Sellman (13), USA
170-Dorian Plasse (13), FRANCE
172-Arata Yamamoto (14), JAPAN
174-Soshi Suzuki (14) JAPAN
175-Parker Garrison (14), USA
176-Antonio Casalinho (14), PORTUGAL
177-Masaki Suetsugo (14), JAPAN
178-Francisco Gomes (14), PORTUGAL
179-Joao Vitor Da Silva (14), BRAZIL
180-Aydin Eyikan (14), USA
181-Joel Dichter (14), USA
182-Antonio Ferreira (14), PORTUGAL
186-Enrique Emmanuel Bejarano Vidal (14), Mexico
SENIOR WOMEN: 24 Contestants
205-Florence Joffre (15), FRANCE
213-Basia Rhoden (15), USA
214-Non Tachibana (15), JAPAN
223-Elisabeth Beyer (15), USA
225-Teresa D’Ortone (15), USA
232-Marlena Umland (15), USA
235-Quinn Starner (15), USA
237-Alina Taratorin (15), USA
238-Christiana De Blank (15), USA
241-Nicole Denney (15), USA
250-Bel Pickering (16), USA
251-Lee Mleton (16), USA
265-Guo Wen Jin (16), CHINA
267-Victoria Wardell (16), CANADA
277-Carolyne Freitas Galvao (17), BRAZIL
279-YoonJi Lee (17), S KOREA
282-Kaeli Ware (17), USA
283-Anaelle Mariat (17), FRANCE
290-Heidi Cecilie Christensen (18), NORWAY
293-Emma Guertin (18), USA
294-Seon Mee Park (18), S KOREA
296-Paloma Berjano (18), SPAIN
297-Miu Tanaka (19), JAPAN
301-Nadyne Bispo (19), BRAZIL
SENIOR MEN: 20 Contestants
357-Clark Eselgroth (15), USA
358-Jonas Malinka-Thompson (15), USA
363-Yuma Matsurra (15), JAPAN
366-Takayuki Moriwaki (15), JAPAN
375-Keita Youssef Bellali (15), CANADA
383-Joseph Markey (16), USA
386-Robert Evin Hyland (17), AUSTRIA
388-Marcio Mota (17), PORTUGAL
390-Joshua Green (17), AUSTRALIA
398-Francesco Fasano (17), SWITZERLAND
399-Lorenzo Collatuzzo (17), ITALY
402-Thomas Rousse-Blatiere (17), FRANCE
403-Stephen Myers (17), USA
405-Edvinas Jakonis (17), LITHUANIA
406-SuNu Lim (18), S KOREA
408-Masanori Takiguchi (18), USA
409-Pau Pujol (18), SPAIN
412-Bela Erlandson (18), USA
421-Vsevolod Maievskyi (19), UKRAINE
422-SangMin Lee (19), S Korea
There is something familiar, but something new and exciting here at the Youth America Grand Prix this year. Unlike the prior year, this year the first part of the competition is starting in NY at SUNY Purchase before moving into Lincoln Center. Like the Olympic Village, the Dorral Arrowwood Resort is completely filled with ballet dancers, coaches, parents, and YAGP judges. This morning at breakfast you could casually catch the directors of multiple schools and companies enjoying their coffees. It is like being at a museum, seeing but not touching. In just a few hours, the Youth America Grand Prix will start as hundreds of hopefuls will be competing. Today will start the junior competition. Hair slicked back tight, eyelashes on, and the noise of multiple languages sets the tone in the hotel lobby. Kids are being shuffled into Uber’s and town cars, all gearing up for the competition.
The energy is fresh and exciting as we are about to begin an eight day journey of excellence in ballet. Remember to follow me on Instagram for behind the scenes LIVE footage as I hunt down and find the next cover of a A Ballet Education.
DON’T FORGET… there are a few pre orders left on the illustrated book!
Mark your calendars… JUNE 1, 2018 What you have all been wanting… what you all have been asking for… what I have been endlessly working on… The final collection of my notes on ballet technique. 6″x9″, hardcover linen with book jacket and 164 pages of illustrations and notes, one year of hard work, over 300 drawings… it is finally… FINALLY… here.
All proceeds will be going towards the A Ballet Education Scholarship/Foundation for the 2018-2019 Season.
Working on pirouettes en dedans (pirouettes to the inside) can be hard. While it seems like they are easier than en dehors turns, the problem with en dedans is the turnout factor. Whether is a pirouette or attitude turn to the inside, these can be rather difficult to master because of the mechanics. The like all turns, the focus should always be on the supporting leg, and even more so with turns to the inside. Sooooo, let’s begin. Remember if you like this post, share it.
The Preparation Position
Pirouettes to the inside… the first thing you are going to want to focus on is the prepping position. Normally, when learning this turn you start in fourth position in croisé, with the back leg straight. You want to make sure that the supporting arm is in a very placed first position, don’t over cross it. For the working arm, the big mistake is opening up too far. Makes sure it is in front of your body… meaning look over your shoulder and make sure your elbow and hand are in front of your shoulder. A lot of times, young dancers will over compensate in this position and that supporting arm will be so far back… This also has to do with your hips and making sure they are in a true croisé. Make sure you can see both hips in the mirror. Remember, you are only crossing to you “box” not the shape of the room.
The action of getting into the retiré devant can happen two ways. The first way is when the dancer shifts/ fouettés to a dégagé en face position with arms in seconde. The second way is to directly bring the leg into the turning position. While a lot of the torque for the pirouette happens from the working leg, the tension and the inertia that drives the pirouette is still in the supporting leg.
During this time the arms are either moving from third to fifth, or second to first, or second to fifth. Or really any port de bras. The reality is they can be in any position, but there has to be a hair amount of tension built up. Weak arms in a turn is a death sentence. You wouldn’t want to fly in a plane with weak wings, so don’t turn with weak arms. Don’t over twist, and don’t wind up. It is one of the worst things you can do. While most of the energy comes from the arm, it isn’t about swinging into the position, but the amount of control and tension you can build to instantly get into the position and maintaining an inside axial spiral rotation in the upper body while the lower body resists and tries to press en dehors.
The problem with an inside pirouette is that as the supporting side and arms are rotating the axis inwards on the body, the working leg is working in the opposite direction. The common mistake is for the working leg to slightly turn in to help carry the rotations of the pirouette. This is most commonly seen in younger dancers. The more advance dancer knows the keep the knee behind the shoulder, thus causing the turn to “lose” another rotation. But the position itself is quite complicated. I would say it is more complicated than an en dehors pirouette, but maybe it is just a more difficult turn for myself. Unlike an en dehors pirouette, where you place into one position and create your own g-forge from the turnout and push back of the working leg and you can increase the g-force during the turn… an en dedans pirouette is based on the energy prior to the turn (in the prep and the actions leading into the position).
Ice skaters probably have it the easiest when it comes to rotating to the inside on the axis. While most of their jumps are to the outside, most of their spins start to the inside. The basic idea of their spins is their scratch spin. But here is what we can learn from this concept. The turn to the inside has to do with building momentum and increasing their g force by using their working leg to build the g-force. The biggest factor is the tension they build in their arms, back, and core. The coordination between their arms and working leg is crucial. We can take this same concept and apply it when folding into our pirouette. By building tension in the preparation, we are able to close the momentum on top of our axis, like figure skaters. Now to increase the rotations, the supporting side of our body has to turnout/rotate faster than our working side. Our working side is there just along for the ride, placed in a turned out position.
Increasing the rotations
When turning to the inside the quickest way to build rotations is by getting in to the position as quickly as possible but maintaining the tension. The best way I find to get into the position is letting the working arm shift into seconde, and then immediately pull into the reitré position.Don’t over rotate the second position. Then let the working side’s upper body press forward and spiraling up to the position
Option 2: Personally, I like to think of a barbershop pole, spiraling up into as many rotations as possible. Spiral up over the arch, and constantly keep growing up and out of your hips, through your chest and out through your arms.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when preparing, having your hips tilted. I don’t like the idea of “up and forward” in preparation for the en dedans. A lot of people engage this lunging position where the hips are behind the upper body because you are leaning forward. Personally, I prefer that the hips and spine are all in a neutral position right on top of the arch of the supporting side.
Another pet peeve is when turning, not using your lats. Instead of widening the back, people pinch it tight. Remember your back should be completely flat, no chicken wings, not tectonic plates pinching… just keep it completely flat.
Finally, my last pet peeve when turning to the inside is winding up. I hate it. If anything build the moment with the supporting arm, and the second it hits seconde position, pull into fifth (whether that is through first, or cutting en dedans to the fifth). Its one of the biggest mistakes people make and causes them to look extremely turned in. I see it all the time at these competitions, especially in the Paquita etoile variation. The turn in is real… like super real.
In less than a week I will be off to the YOUTH AMERICA GRAND PRIX! What does that mean? It’s time to tune into my INSTAGRAM (@aballeteducation) and follow me around. This is an exciting year for the YAGP because it leads up to the Jackson Competition. So, what can we expect on my insta story and live casts? Probably me just being goofy like always. Just kidding… not really. I will be going around interviewing young kids and taking photos of the promising young talent of the Youth America Grand Prix.
What does this all mean… well actually, I will have a lot of down time at the YAGP because I don’t coach at finals. I will be getting everything ready and hopefully taking very epic photos of some of the most talented kids in the world. One will be the next cover of A Ballet Magazine.
follow the hashtag: #ABEdoesYAGP
please don’t forget to help kids get to the YAGP finals by donating … It is so expensive to go each year, and TRUST me… I had to super budget for this year.
Ballet is hard. Really hard. No matter how ballet has progressed, the fundamentals of ballet have always stayed the same: turnout, pointed feet, and becoming something unattainable and unimaginable. Yes, these are the fundamentals, but the principals that ballet is based on have constantly changed throughout the decades to progress the technique. The first of these principles is plié. It is one of the first things you learn as a dancer. In the beginning, it is as simple as bending your knees and making a diamond.Then you learn to open your turnout, and finally it is the connection to the floor, the connection to tradition and the connection to a legacy that has been passed down from one generation to the next. So, the plié is not only the building block of ballet, but it also is the mental foundation of ballet.
No matter where you are in the world, no matter what time of day, no matter your socioeconomic status, if you take a ballet class, you will start pliés, unless a teacher gives you a random combination to warm-up your feet.
So, what are pliés used for?
Pliés are used to begin and end a jump, a turn, and basically every step in ballet. They are used to open the hips and facilitate turnout and to strengthen and lengthen the abductors. Pliés can be used to build strength in the hamstring, to stretch the Achilles, open the energy throughout the metatarsals, and open the body.
But more importantly, and the key to pliés,is the mindset that pliés set up for you. The plié clears your head, the outside world fades away, and ballet history starts to flow through your body. You see, pliés are a part of ballet history, and not just on the technical side of things. For generations, it has been a part of the tradition we enjoy so much. Plus, if you think about starting at barre, and the slight gesture of placing your hand at the barre, your hand is likely touching the imprint or sweat of generations before you. Think about it like this. Let’s say you go to SAB for the summer, and you are in one of the larger studios. Consider everyone who has touched that barre before you, stood where you stand, and now they are a part of ballet history. Think about the legends who grew up at Lincoln Center, or the standouts at your own studio who have moved on to accomplish great things. Sometimes, even inanimate objects have a history so inspiring that you are taken aback with awe.
Pliés for the Young Student When you are younger, you think that the plié is the easiest of the technical vocabulary to master, but in reality it is quite difficult. Young students should really focus on alignment of the body, and really master the mechanic of slight movements (port de bras, plié, cambré, etc.), while maintaining their core.
Pliés for the Pre-Pro/Professional Student For students who are in a higher program, the focus of a plié is to open your hips and start moving your joints. You should have warmed up prior to class, but if you aren’t there yet, then you really do use pliés as a warm-up. But, what you should focus on is the ability to gather and sustain energy from the body.
Pliés for the Professional Once you are at a certain point in your career, pliés become the habit of life and just feel good. It is probably the only combination at barre that is easy and becomes second nature to you. But for you kids reading this, every professional uses pliés to warm-up the body and set the tone for their dance day. They will also pace themselves at barre, and work on the quality of their plié.
Pliés for the Mature Dancer If you are on the mature side of dance, remember to thoroughly warm-up the body prior to taking class. The older we get, the more we have to preserve the body to prevent injury and to sustain dancing. Proper alignment really does become crucial for older dancers, especially where the knee is going in the plié. I always use my second toe as the guide of where my knee should be extending. With my demi plié, I also really try to make sure my knee goes slightly further than the length of my feet to get a really good stretch out of my Achilles.
Teaching Pliés: The David Way Teaching how to properly plié is actually quite difficult. You can’t just say, “Bend Your Knees!” because some kid is going to bend their knees and out goes their rear, their ribs splay, and it becomes a hot mess. Truthfully, I actually don’t teach kids to plié in first position until age 8 or 9, when they can actually comprehend the fundamentals of the technique. With young students, I really try to maintain the integrity of the plié without messing up alignment by having them go under the barre and against the wall.
This only works if your barres are built into the wall and you have enough space for a dancer to go through. I am lucky to have the barres about 18 inches out from the wall but drilled into the floor- designed for stretching purposes and little kids. I have them do first position, backs against the wall, and as they plié I try to have them press their knees to touch the back of the wall. Honestly, I think I have only seen 4 kids do this naturally, otherwise it is like impossible — unless you have more than 180 turnout. But, by having them use this technique, and pressing the low back and full spinal cord into the wall, they are starting to learn how to build tension in the core, and feel the power of a plié coming from the hip. I also don’t really teach grand plié until they are 10 or 11 years old.
When they are older, they use one hand at the barre, (by now they have mastered grand plié facing the barre), but this time the focus isn’t just rotation and alignment, but coordination of the arm. I despise when people do grand plié and at the bottom of the grand plié their hands is in front of their crotch region; I think it’s ugly. So, I have my students delay the arm until they reach demi plié on the way back up.
Finally, when teaching pliés, there are various universal corrections to keep in mind: Lateral Alignment through the spine, ribs, and hips.
The alignment of the movement, knees over toes.
Feet should be flat on the floor, toes spread, but arches must be lifted.
When doing the second part of a plié, coming back up, the top of your thighs should touch first and then like an upside down zipper come together, one tooth at a time.
Spiral the inner back of your thigh forward.
Don’t rush the music.
Don’t sit at the bottom of grand plié.
Pliés should never stop moving.
Last year you were able to help me get to the YAGP, and as a result I was able to further A Ballet Education. This past week a few students from around the country have written in explaining their financial situation and being short for the YAGP. This year the YAGP is more expensive than ever as it now takes place at SUNY Purchase the first five days, and Lincoln Center the last three days. Being in New York City is expensive, yet along being in New York for ten days. I can not list their names on who is asking for help because I don’t want it to look like favoritism. The three students (not mine) I am trying to help are in each of the age divisions: pre-competitive (age 11), junior (age 13) and a senior (17) and are females from around the United States. They have qualified in both classical and contemporary, and the total amount to help all three go to finals is about $6,000.00. (click here to donate)
Why is it important to go to the YAGP? These students are going to be seen by the top companies and schools in the world. They are all competing for scholarships, invitations to year round schools, and possibly be looked at by other schools and coaches. As great as it is to win in NYC, the reality is, that as long as you are there and seen, you have a chance to walk away with a scholarship or job.
The world isn’t becoming cheaper, and this also is affecting ballet. The costs of training and growing exponentially, and there is little or no help out there for these young dancers. Whatever is donated, is going to be divided by three and then dispersed.
Now booking master classes and setting variations for April, May and June 2018.
Class focuses include:
Some more Ballet Technique
Pointe, Pointe, and some more pointe.
Variations, Staging Ballets, Pas de Deux… and some more ballet.
“Tiny Booty (turnout), feet, scoopy legs & more”
Ballet Careers & the Cost of Training
Understanding Ballet for Parents
Ballet for Teachers
Ballet for Competition
Consultations for business planning, studio planning, careers & college
It is time to start nominating your favorite dance companies for A Ballet Education’s Company Awards!!
Okay everyone, it is time to start compiling data and preparing for YAGP finals… Which means I will be MIA for a little bit as we compile date for the TOP TEN LISTs. But, it is time to start nominating your favorite performances, performers, companies, teachers, designers, and productions!! You can write as much or as little as you want, vote for multiple companies and people, we will count them all!
Voting Closes June 2, 2018
RESULTS WILL BE PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 12 IN THE BIG TEN ISSUE
A week in ballet… haven’t done one of these in a while, but I didn’t have much else to say, well I did, but it would probably just create more controversy and would rather not have one of those weeks. Over the past two weeks I have been experiencing crazy things in my personal life including a major car accident (I was a passenger in a Lyft), coming home to Charleston, the ups and downs of dating and the struggles of finding inspiration for A Ballet Education. I did find inspiration in moss, so I created the April Tracker, now available for purchase.
So, what has been going on in Ballet?
St. PETERSBURG– ADC IBC in St. Petersburg Florida has started. Some say, this is a good warm up for what is going to happen at the YAGP finals in New York City. But the reality, this competition garners a lot more credit than people give it. The competition itself is outline in a previous issue by Wesliegh Dichter. (Click here to read). To get the gist, you aren’t judged just on performance, but you are judged on class, compulsory classical and contemporary variations, and performance. Then all of the scores are averaged together to present the winners. Don’t forget to watch their live stream!
SAN FRANCISCO- San Francisco Ballet has announced their new promotions for the upcoming season… All three are men. Wei Wang has been promoted to Principal, and Ben Fremantle and Lonnie Weeks have both been pulled from the corps to be soloists.
SALT LAKE CITY- Ballet West has announced their 18/19 season with their strongest PR campaign ever. If you didn’t catch it in Issue 10… The season will include Jewels, Swan Lake, Onegin and Beauty and the Beast for their second company and school.
SEATTLE– Today Pacific Northwest Ballet wrapped up Director’s Choice in Seattle and the 2018-2019 Season looks like it is going to be spectacular. They open their season with Jerome Robbins Festival followed by all new works. The Sleeping Beauty, Director’s Choice, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Themes ad Variations will all be mounted… They also have branded each program pretty great.
LONDON– The Royal Ballet is to stage an all female production by Aleta Collins. This is a big deal as it wasn’t until 2017 that a female choreographer has been invited to create work for the Royal Ballet. Since 1999. This is one of many new PR stunts Royal Ballet is doing… they have partnered with Erdem for Chris Wheeldon’s Corybantic Games.
SOUTH BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND– The Queensland Ballet is going to be getting a major do-over/ make over. News of their new state supported 10 million dollar expansion plan is going underway. Their new building is going t one a state-of-the-art ballet center designed by Conrad Gargett. Queensland Ballet is in the middle of their production of La Bayadere, which is developed quite well, with better storytelling during the colonization of India. It was done by Greg Horsman. (They just need better costumes… though I do like their shades… It is done in crop tops to look more authentic.)
BOSTON– Boston Ballet has announced three exciting tours starting in June 2018 at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglwood in August, and for the first time, Boston Ballet will be going to Paris to perform at the iconic Theatre des Champs-Elysees in April 2019. They will be taking a contemporary bill including Forsythes Pas/Parts 2018, a world premiere, and Jiri Kylian’s Wings of Wax.
Known for the impressive pirouette diagonal, this variation is a favorite among young dancers at competition. This variation comes the ballet Le Corsaire, and from the Odalisque Pas de Trois. The actual pas de trois’ music comes from Adolphe Adams but the variations come Cesare Pugni. So, lets start breaking down this variation.
Some call it the “turning girl” variation, but this variation opens up with extremely hard grand assemblés in ecarté. The combination is glissade, grand assemblé ecarté, relevé to attitude front, allonge, tombé relevé attitude, roll down. This combination might even be harder than the prirouette diagonal simply because of the rotation/ turnout, timing and control factors.
Okay… so glissade for me is always done as flat as possible… relaxing into the plié is really going to help the take off of the grand assemblé. Meaning the first leg that brushes, keep directly side, as you close stay en face as much as you can, but over cross it because you are going to need it to travel.
Remember, you should always bring the supporting leg to the working leg in assemblé, and hold fifth in the air as long as you can, or the music tells you. If you choose to beat it, great, but for me… I just like seeing a nice, high, clean fifth position in the air. Did I mention you have to jump… you can’t do these weenie assemblés that don’t higher than 3 inches off the ground.
From here, YOU HAVE to land in a solid fifth position to get into the attitude front. Don’t do some random assemblé into attitude front… that’s not a thing. Be super turned out! While perfectly balanced, you need to allongé first, then cleanly roll down from pointe before transfering to the attitude back. Make sure when you tombé that heel is super far forward, or flatten it to the audience, and then over cross the attitude back. Ideally, your working foot should be seen on the other side your tutu, and ideally above the shoulder. You get three sets of this horrible, but super beautiful combination.
Some waltzes happen… then the famous diagonal… chassé to relevé arabesque, stepping through to fourth, and pirouettes… The hard part about this combination is obviously the turn… but it is really rolling down cleanly and closing into that fifth front to get into the chassé that kills everyone. (Check out notes on pirouettes) It is okay to do doubles, but really… after the age of thirteen… you really need to be doing triples. We can all thank Gillian Murphy for setting this standard. Make sure the last one closes fifth back so you can get into a beautiful sous-sus/sus-sous. Or you could be a baller like Natalisa Osipova and just do double tours.
As you open the back leg, cleanly roll down, heel forward. A big traveling chassé and a good grand jeté throws you as far over stage right as possible, followed by a jeté… turn it out, point your feet. The bourrés, keep your legs crossed.. at all times.. the back leg has to do the traveling.
Finally, the last diagonal of step-overs, lame ducks comes into the play. For me… I prefer lame ducks to come cleanly from fifth, meaning travel on the first step and cross tightly over with the second, and quickly replace the legs. Add the doubles, change the port de bras. Do whatever artstically makes you happy, as long as you are clean.
Character Notes: By defintion, an odalisque is a female slave or concubine in a harem. Which is wonderful that we are giving these roles to young girls. There is a lot of sex appeal to this variation, which at thirteen is mighy questionable if you ask me. But, I am not your parent, or your coach… But I wouldn’t be putting a thirteen year old in a crop top, and ask them to pretend sell their body out. You could take the sad approach, that you are sad you are being sold into slavery. Gillian Murphy did that, I think.
What does a young person en pointe look like in this variation? The problem with this variation, as I have seen in competition… and online is that most everyone… even primaries and pre-comp on flat still look terrible. But, there are many exceptions to that rule that I have seen in the glassroom and in real life… But this young girl looked pretty decent, and showed a lot of potential within this variation. I think in this video she is 13…
But even for prix de lausanne she took a different variation… Maybe because the stage is raked? Or maybe she was tired of that variation… who knows. But the difference and growth shows a lot.
And again, Odalisque… just not a variation you should be taking to competition unless you trunly are ready for that. Just because you can do some wonky turns doesn’t mean you should be taking a turning variation. Remember, these competitions are to showcase your potential, not messy technique. At the end of the day, classical ballet is about constraint, control and finessed technique.
Known for those insane sissones with that insane cambré back and attitude position or as contemporary dancers call them firebirds, Kitri Act I was made for the “jumping girl”. Commonly used at competition, this show-off, bravura variation gets the audience going. The reason? First, it is one of the few bravura variations for women (meaning its all turns and jumps), and secondly because the impressiveness of the technique. What most people forget, that as impressive as the jump is, or the turns, none of it matters if you aren’t turned out. Secondly, this variation has to have a lot of power, with control or else you will just look like a bull in a china shop. Thirdly, you have to embrace the spiciness of the character, which allows the port de bras to not be in classical positions… meaning style trumps classicism in the upper body.
Okay, so lets begin breaking down this variation. The opening… the castanets call for quickly turned out runs. Personally, I like it when the runs are in side profile back, so the audience sees your back and then the slightest face and smirk, and then on the jump in second, give a little spice and attack.
The opening step involves a pas de chat, a battement, and either a step over or fouetté, clean precisicions and a strong jeté in attitude, or not, or even an italian/grand pas de chat. This combination is not only fast, but it has to be precise and dead on with the music.
-In the pas de chat, make sure we see the full diamond at the height of the jump. Don’t turn in the second leg to compensate for the battement.
-Turn out the working leg in grand battement and make sure you are as flat to the audience as possible to give your body the longest line. Keep the shoulders down and head inclined slightly back to keep with the Spanish style.
-Control the come down of the working leg.
-If you are going to do a step-over make sure you turn out completely side profile/ de côte to show your heel. If you are going to do the fouetté, turn out the tombé completely in croisé and give yourself a port de bras that allows you to really get a good clean whip.
-For the runs en pointe, TRAVEL and pick your knees up, it makes it spicy.
The next sequence of steps involves that crazy sissone, and to achieve accuracy in the position, you want to make sure you get a good pop at the top. If you are going to do the double rond de jambe, make sure you are in effacé, and really get the accent out. If you are going to the attitudes, make sure each step in between is turned out.
-To get a good jump, relax your heels on the ground and build the energy from the bottom of the plié through the back of your leg.
-Make sure you don’t bend into attitude too soon, wait till you are the highest point to fold into the position.
-Land fully turned out…
The final section of this variations is the diagonal of traveling pirouettes from fifth. Make them spicy, and I prefer the accent up… and stay up. I also like it when you start with a double lame duck to give yourself momentum. This is where you can add doubles, port de bras and many other “tricks” to make the variation more exciting. The most important thing is that you hit a clean, relaxed and turnout position every time. PET PEEVE: don’t had fouettés….
Finally for the ending, you usually do an attitude and hold it… then run off… I like the attitude and then step through and take a knee. This is better for competition so you can bow.
For the more advance student: Besides the turnout being most important… make sure you you understand what lines look best on your body. In this variation, because of the quickness, the lines has to be so clear and so precise… if not, you look like you are flailing around. Another thing you need to pay attention to- eye contact with the audience without compromising the neckline. A lot of dancers interpret spicy as chin down and eyes up… making them have double chin…
For everyone: Because of the speed you have to have quick and strong footwork. You should never sickle, and your feet should point like daggers.
COSTUMING… okay be tasteful… Don’t order the revolution costume… If you want to save money, just do the variation in a red rehearsal skirt and black leotard. Don’t have this huge puffy twenty layer skirt… it is not flattering whatsoever. It is actually pretty tacky. Finally, remember the more layers you add to the skirt, the heavier it is and harder to control. Don’t make this into a can can either… I’m all for playing with the skirt… buuuut so many people turn it into the can can… which brings me to the under garment. YOU HAVE TO ATTACH the panty to the costume! You can just put on a pair of black spanks. When you turn… and move.. you see the line and your stomach…
Whether you are twelve or twenty, this variation is one of the most recognizable variations for those who have danced. For a lot, this variation was the first variation they learned in variations class (that or Florine from Sleeping Beauty). This is the variation known as Cupid from Don Quixote. This extremely fast petit allegro variation actually doesn’t have that many petit allegro steps, but the music is extremely fast. From this God awful blonde wig, to the flowy tunic, everything about this variation says, “Hello, I’m Cute.”
Usually reserved for a short girl, this variation opens up with the a series of tombé relevés into attitude plié relevé effacé positions. You need to remember a couple things in this opening sequence:
Turn out the supporting leg in the tombé.
Don’t overshoot the corner, and stay square.
Never whack your leg into the positions, place them nicely. If you are going to do a low effacé leg, lean over the leg to help the line. If you are going to do a high attitude back, don’t pinch your neck back to help make the line.
Keep the arms exstremely soft, and keep the eyeline in all the positions.
Hold the attititude to be with the music, and change the head.
The next sequence of the variations requires a back diagonal of plié relevé pirouettes to the inside. When you are doing the chassé/tombé, TURNOUT… Hold the working knee back to give you the most turn out and longest line. Make sure you get that knee all the way straight.
The next sequence requires fast foot work, and involves you to be extremely turned out. Focus on hitting all of the positions before the music so you can hold the positions. This is important because you have to be MUSICAL.
Below is Evgenia Obraztsova doing cupid. Personally it is too slow for my taste… but the technique is spot on, and the performance is ideal. It is about being cheerful and constantly changing your facial expressions of happiness and excited. Her eyes play to the audience very well.
Mélanie Hurel of Paris Opera does another stunning version. The Nureyev version. It is more dainty, more french, faster, and done in a full tutu.
Below is Riverbank Dance Company’s young girl (2017) doing the variation on flat. While there are turn out issues, the technique is clean, and the young dancer is polished. She is probably 10? Notice in the upstage diagonal that she hits coup de pied, fifth and fourth.
On March 3, 2018 A Ballet Education and the Phoenix Ballet are partnering up in Phoenix, Arizona to put on a show you don’t want to miss out on.
Come see our latest issues cover stars: Adiarys Almeida and Taras Domitro perform Don Q Pas de Deux!! Rasta Thomas, creator of Bad Boys of Ballet and Rock the Ballet and co-host of a Ballet Talk!! Jillian Davis and Andrew Brader of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Brooklyn Mack and Maki Onuki of the Washington Ballet. Madison Penney and Slawomir Wozniak Jr in Satanella Pas De Deux. Tia Wenkman and Zherlin Ndudi in Diane and Acteon pas de deux and many more!