TILER PECK’S: A NEW STAGE

As ballet evolves through this time of COVID, some institutions and individuals have evolved as innovators, while others have slipped into an even more archaic and dated state. New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck has leapt ahead of the industry. 

In addition to consistently teaching an open class on her Instagram Live feed during Quarantine, Peck teamed up with LA-based CLI Studios to produce a new digital performance. For those unfamiliar, CLI Studios is a digital dance streaming service that is popular among competitive studios and dancers for its access to competitive choreographer content.

A New Stage” was created by Peck as a front-row experience presented by world-class dancers and some of the most highly profiled collaborators. The $20 streamed performance includes names like Lil Buck, Sierra Boggess, Brooklyn Mack, and the Syncopated Ladies. 

Tiler Peck in Christopher Wheeldon’s Unusual Way. Photo Courtesy of CLI Studios

The broadcast is introduced by Peck and then moves into Unusual Way by the award-winning Christopher Wheeldon. Of course the ballet world knows who he is, but for the commercial world, it presented a tremendous introductory effort. This piece entailed a pointe solo by Peck accompanied by vocals sung by Broadway star Sierra Boggess. The slow and romantic movement showcased Peck in a softer presence than her typical portrayal with City Ballet. The piece was delicate and approachable, and definitely created a diverse audience-friendly contemporary ballet that felt welcoming to everyone.

The tap ensemble Syncopated Ladies, then presented its spectacular offering, Amplified. This piece was vibrant, clear, and a true reflection of our times. It transcended the obvious use of popular music, and truly offered something we don’t see often enough in the world of concert dance: high caliber, technical, and clean tap. It wasn’t a part of a Broadway show, it wasn’t a part of a competition showcase, and it wasn’t trying to be a ground breaking percussive performance. Instead, this performance was purely about the tapping, and the people performing. There were multiple body types, ethnicities, and individual artists amongst these delightfully talented women.  In today’s world, where ballet struggles between elitism and accessibility, the Syncopated Ladies’ performance truly was a punch of power, hope and progress for the world of dance.

Finally, the evening concluded with the big performance: Petrushka Reimagined. Petrushka originally premiered in 1911 with the Ballet Russes. It was choreographed by Fokine to Stravinsky, who had in 1910, just premiered his score to the ballet, Firebird. Originally, this ballet was supposed to be Rite of Spring for Diaghilev, but Stravinsky wasn’t feeling it at the time and composed the score around a puppet. 

As this ballet is really intended for a more sophisticated ballet audience, each version that was subsequently created was condensed, and the score cut down and simplified by Stravinsky himself.

An updated Petrushka was previously premiered in 2009 by the Scottish Ballet, and in 2012 a small company in Florida also premiered a Petrushka interpretation with hip-hop, but used a full cast instead of limiting the piece to 3 dancers. This version was definitely more audience friendly, and probably suited the wider commercial audience it was created to entertain. The dancing was great, however the choreography held this piece back from realizing its full potential. With such a capable cast, it was disappointing to find it not as complex or developed as it should have been.

This presentation was based on the later version featuring Nureyev, which only requires 3 dancers. Lil Buck was featured as Petrushka (the puppet), Tiler Peck as the ballerina, and Brooklyn Mack as the Moore. The performance drew from hip hop, pop-locking, vogueing, classical ballet, and contemporary ballet. While I appreciated the choreographer, Jennifer Weber’s, take of Petrushka, the actual sadness, darkness, and complexity of the original ballet is missing, and the focus is not on Petrushka but on Peck’s ballerina doll and a love triangle that is portrayed through elaborate commercial dance. 

Overall, the entire evening was beautifully filmed and crafted and is a great exposure opportunity for younger audiences. Older audiences could appreciate Weber’s Petrushka as one of the only ballets where the male characters are more developed and portray a wider range of emotions. As a commercial introduction to the world of concert dance, this performance checked all of the right boxes: diversity, technique, modernity, and entertainment…but, the $20 was worth it for Syncopated Ladies alone!  Check out the performance here.

CLI’s next performance will include a world premiere by William Forsythe and Tiler Peck. Stay tuned for more.

Boo! It’s Spooky Season!

Seven super cute costume ideas that you probably already have around the house.

This year, instead of illustrating the week of Spooky Season, I asked my students to recreate my illustrations. They definitely went all-in on it, and here they are, just in time for the spooky holiday.

A Ballet Education Relief Fund for Ballet Companies

Dear Friends, Colleagues, Readers and Ballet Lovers…

Ballet is facing a very scary time right now. Companies are running out of money very quickly, and we need, I need your help. There are companies out there now facing the potential of folding… I am asking for your help to donate. And yes, it’s very hard to know which company to help support since every company out there is asking for help. We have started using some of our scholarship money and donating it to companies because if these companies close, we will have nowhere to send our kids. There will be no jobs for them in 3-5 years. I am asking you to look at the bigger picture because it isn’t just the season that is affected, it is going to be a 3-5 or even longer downturn for companies. On October 1, we will announce what companies we will be able to help out and the amounts we are able to help. This is very serious, and it scares me that in 3-5 years there might not be opportunities for any student if we can not keep these companies alive.

And yes, there is the argument that some companies have been mismanaged, or have been racially selective, we want to donate to companies who do thrive on diversity and inclusion. These are the companies that need our help the most. So, if you have a few extra dollars to spare, please feel inclined to donate. It really does scare me what the future of ballet will look like if we don’t have companies to feed.

STICKERS. STICKERS. & Free Stuff

This weekend don’t forget that so many things are for sale in our store! Sticker packs are on sale for $5. And the August 2020 Planners are also on sale!

And for those of you who aren’t looking for anything like that. Here is a free coloring page. Have your student(s) design their own tutus and have fun coloring in and learning about The Sleeping Beauty.

To download, right click download linked file. Print on 8.5″x11″ paper. Enjoy!

And for those of you who have been asking. STICKER PACK 2 will be coming out mid July featuring the following stickers: Jodi, Sleeping Beauty Pas De Deux, Lilac Fairy, Bluebird, Flames of Paris, Kitri ACT I, Don Q Pas de deux, Kitri’s Friends and our Anniversary Sticker!!

How Corona Virus is Shaping the Next Generation of Dancers

Today hit harder than most days. A wave of devastation came across hundreds of young talented dancers as some of the most prestigious ballet schools announced they are canceling their summer intensives. Earlier in the month Houston Ballet already made some tough but responsible choices regarding their summer course, but today Royal Ballet and San Francisco also announced their program cuts. While this is devastating to hundreds, it is the socially responsible thing to do. But how does an 11-year-old or a 12-year-old cope and deal with understanding the larger picture, a picture that not only includes ballet but the entire world?

As a school director, today devastated my students as our entire school was committed either San Francisco Ballet School or Royal Ballet. While our YAGP winners were already devastated earlier this month from the canceling of finals, today was another hard, but expected blow. We had already proposed a stay at home summer course for our students, but it doesn’t compare to the opportunities that were going to lie ahead of them. Most of the winners of YAGP have already committed to international courses across the world, and now they are left with nothing. A year’s worth of hard work gone to the wayside, thousands of dollars in competitive fees, tutus and pointe shoes are now wasted. While these are only short term goals, it is still devastating.

For a lot of young dancers, who are now 17-19, they are realizing that their dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer might not ever happen as companies are announcing their budget cuts and financial strains. Professionals are now questioning their job security and what the future is going to hold for them. And while this economy has tanked, the economic and social trends of ballet and the world have been sped up tenfold.

So what does this all mean?

Ballet for the Masses: Companies are finally realizing what I have been saying for a long time… BROADCAST your performances for a fee. People will pay! So if you are in Los Angeles you now can watch New York City Ballet and so on and so forth. City Ballet will be broadcasting Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Wendy Whelan Lecturing and teaching movement classes. But this now just exponentially opened up your ticket sales. The world can now watch ballet from anywhere at any given time, and while it doesn’t replace the magic of live theatre, it does increase ticket sales by demographically… billions… So if you are an ED or AD out there, I hope you listen and take advantage of what is about it come.

Big Names & Big Talent: With everyone now on social media, and social media numbers being driven up 300% on Instagram and TikTok becoming the fastest growing platform, social media is now more important than ever. Star-studded live classes with principal dancers are selling, but now, taking alongside start-studded students is a BIG thing. Those who are on social media and these kids are becoming more and more circulated and more and more recognized, meaning these are the names that will be driving ticket sales in 3-5 years if not sooner. So, don’t miss the bandwagon. If there is anything that COVID-19 has taught us is that the “influence” you have on social media really does matter. The bigger the name, the more likely a company will be reaching out to you to “collaborate” or “virtually teach” or “virtually take class with”.

VIRTUAL BALLET: While Virtual Ballet is now becoming more and more of reality, and that people are now realizing they can train just about anywhere, or take private lessons from many principal dancers and top coaches, ballet is becoming even more elite and even conservative. Ballet Schools are now recruiting left and right as they can now virtually see thousands of dancers in a week and recruit into their schools.

The rise of the Powerhouse Schools: Ballet schools around the world have always been categorized into three categories. Whether or not we like to admit this or not, it is truth. The categories have always been:
A Professional School (A school with a pre-professional program attached to a professional company)
Competitive Commercial School (Intensive comp schools that are industry-based driven and placing commercial and contemporary dancers into broadway jobs or agencies)
And recreational, or as a lot of elite snobs like to call them: the dolly-dinkle schools.

But here is the problem that COVID has made. Professional schools are now going to be falling to the waste side as the quality is going to go down. Trainee and pre-pro programs are going to be flooded with kids to make up for the financial shortcomings of social distancing. It already happened in 2008, and a lot of these schools are still trying to “recover” their training reputations. But, because of this pandemic, we are now looking at an even bigger flood of trainee programs. It is already hard enough to see a once prestigious ballet school with a company that has a historical name in Chicago had over 30 Trainees this season, with maybe 4 job openings. 30+ kids paying 17-30k a year is a lot of dollars… and so this model of flooding trainee programs will now be the standard to make up for the financial losses in ballet.

This means that schools like Ellison, Elite Classical Coaching, Southland Academy, ICSB, Cary, Sarasota Cuban Ballet, Master Ballet Academy, The Ballet Clinic, Central New Jersey, Golden State, Skyra, and others are going to rise to the top as the most sought after training grounds. Programs with exclusivity and pristine training are going to take even more prominence than before, as they continuously produce strong dancers. While these schools are already powerhouse players at the YAGP, and powerhouses on social media, these schools are just continually going to rise to the top.

So at the end of all of this, who is going to have a job in ballet? Over the next 3-5 years the ones who will be getting jobs are going to be grouped into three categories:

  1. Good bodies for the corps de ballet.
  2. Social Media stars who will sell seats, who are technically gifted and that will have the chance to continue to build a name for themselves and become household names. We originally saw this trend 2011/2012 with the documentary “First Position” and the start of the rise of YAGP and Social Media. Now they are soloists and doctors. Now that we don’t need documentaries because we can follow social media stories, it is going to push this trend even faster.

So, while we try to comfort our dancers and tell them everything is going to be okay, we also need to be honest with them, and constantly remind them that this can not crush them into an oblivion and that you must continue to work harder, push harder, and be even more dedicated so that when all of this is over, and the dust starts to settle they will be one of the ones who will be considered for a job. It is now more than ever, that the focus and rigor of ballet can not fade out, it can not take a backseat, and it can not go to the waste. It is time to realize that you either want this 100 percent and you are going to kill yourself to even have the slightest chance at a job, or you are just going to go to college, or that maybe you don’t want this professionally. Regardless, it is only going to get harder to find a job, so you all need to work 10 times harder, and 20 times smarter.

Daily Ballet Vocab: Temps de Poisson

Our daily ballet vocabulary lesson with A Ballet Education: April 3, 2020

Temps de Poisson or Pas De Poisson or Sissone Soubresaut, or Temps Collé are all names for this difficult step. While back in the day it was a step of reserved for men, we are now progressive feminists and don’t discriminate steps via gender. Temps de poisson means time of the fish, whlie pas de poisson means step of the fish. While we can debate what school of thought (pedagogy) names what steps, it is more important to talk about the technique behind the step.

This step commonly shares a lot of the ideas and facings with sissone faille. For example, the step starts in croisé, but the position in the air would be effacé, while landing in a fourth croisé. The difference is going to be what the legs actually do in the air. While sissone faille (a very common step in ballet class), focuses on the legs splitting apart, temps de poisson focuses on to keep the legs glued together (like a soubresaut, hence the name) in a tight fifth position in effacé. Now stylistically, people get fancy and focus on the lean back or really shaping the arch of the position, or even the shape of the arms.

THINGS TO FOCUS ON:
DO NOT BEND YOUR KNEES IN THE POSITION! If you bend your knees or a single knee, it is a different step.

I like to encourage staying in the plié before take off for as long as possible so you can really push into the position.

Like an airplane take off, make sure you are on taking off moving forwards, and never backwards or arching too soon.

Keep the arms relaxed so you don’t look snazzy.

Grab a temps de poisson fat panda sticker for $5 – Click the image below.

COVID-19 QUARANTINE (Week 3 for Arizona)

How has the Corona Virus affected Ballet?

These days we can’t scroll on any form of social media or even have a conversation without somehow involving the novel Corona Virus (COVID-19). The fear and panic of this new outbreak are causing the ballet world to shift slightly. This week, some of you probably got off the waitlist to summer courses, others might have withdrawn from summer intensive, and it seems that all plans are halting.

While major competitions like YAGP FINALS and ADC IBC sent emails out saying they plan on continuing with the competition, the news is saying otherwise. The fear has taken over countries, and is crippling economies, but what does this mean for ballet?

Friday night, the city of San Francisco closed the San Francisco Ballet’s run of Midsummers. This is just on the heels of SFB having to pull their Liam Scarlett program. This means the ballet company is going to be losing out on a ton of money and will make it harder to employ more dancers for the upcoming season.
https://www.sfballet.org/a-message-regarding-the-covid-19-virus/

A lot of major schools are now facing students from abroad withdrawing from a summer course, and it isn’t just foreigners. A lot of dance families across the US are now questioning whether or not they should be attending a summer course. So, students are pulling out, this will create more of a financial toll on these schools, especially those affiliated with companies.

Right now, the big question on everyone’s mind is whether or not YAGP will be canceling their finals after New Rochelle was just quarantined and is now a containment area. YAGP’s latest statement (https://yagp.org) is that plan to continue to monitor the virus and listen to public officials about travel and large gatherings. NY and NJ just declared a State of emergency.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/containment-area-planned-for-new-york-suburb-to-stem-coronavirus-spread-11583858117

ADC IBC plans to continue their competition in March, as they sent out a release saying that the facilities are constantly going to be cleaned, and they are providing larger warm-up spaces so that the dancers won’t be around each other. The competition now has a live updates page: https://www.adcibc.com/get-updated

While Costco and Amazon and all of these other companies are under fire, and people are going into full-blown panic mode, we have to wonder what is going to be happening with Ballet?

It seems that this outbreak is now a part of our lives, and as it continues to progress throughout the world, we now have to think about our priorities. While I think it is important to continue on with our daily lives, we do need to be more cautious when it comes to physically correcting students; making sure we enforce if your child seems sick (Corona or not) you will want to stay home; making sure we wipe down the barres constantly with Clorox wipes, etc etc etc. Now we need to weigh in on the pros and cons of travel. Right now, with all of these containment zones being sanctioned, we ask ourselves, “If we were to travel, will we get stuck?”

Myself included, I was supposed to see Boston Ballet perform their Carmen and Serenade program, but now I find myself questioning whether or not I will make it home. Airlines are already canceling and refunding trips to Europe (personal experience), and when booking flights, they now have warnings that these flights aren’t guaranteed to happen.

For me, my biggest concern is how this is going to affect the economy and the luxury that is ballet. With now having to avoid crowds, ticket sales will probably start to tank, and the luxury of watching live ballet is now a risk. With people withdrawing from summer course and companies having to shut down programs, the financial strains are going to grow, which means there might not be jobs over the next year or so for young dancers coming up. This means as a teacher, trying to find work for my kids, or whether or not there is even money out there for them, is concerning, especially since they pay a lot to train.

So, for now, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, avoid large crowds, and if you are feeling sick with even the cold, stay home so that you don’t compromise your immune system even more. And for those of you extra cautious, make sure you are keeping up with your supplements and probiotics. If you are wondering whether or not you should compete, or that you have already paid and you want to withdraw, these are all huge concerns are ballet is a financial strain. Most likely, in the event of cancellation they will credit your money to next year, just because most major institutions in the arts right now can’t afford a financial loss.

Ballet News

If you are just waking up this Sunday morning, and just catching up with social media, here are some things you missed. I hate to be the one to keep talking about the Corona Virus (COVID-19), but this virus is now taking on the ballet world.

Joseph Walsh, top, and Esteban Hernandez dazzled in San Francisco Ballet’s production of Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (Courtesy Erik Tomasson)

The City of San Francisco has shut down the Opera House till March 20. This meant that opening night was also the closing night of San Francisco Ballet’s Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. What does this mean? Besides losing out on ticket sales, San Francisco Ballet already had to redo a program because of the Liam Scarlett scandal, so it probably means the SFB will need a major financial restructuring for the upcoming season. SFB’s Press Release: https://www.sfballet.org/a-message-regarding-the-covid-19-virus/

Hallberg rehearsing Sleeping Beauty with Amber Scott at The Australian Ballet in 2017 | Kate Longley, Courtesy The Australian Ballet

Ballet Superstar David Hallberg is going to be replacing David McAllister as Artistic Director at the Australian Ballet. Read his interview with Dance Magazine here: https://www.dancemagazine.com/david-hallberg-the-australian-ballet-2645407627.html

We lost a ballet superstar, Danny Tidwell. A lot of people know him from SYTYCD, season 3 or Travis Wall’s older brother. But, Danny was a ballet star in his own right. Danny finished second at the Shanghai IBC, as well as the Silver Medal at the USA IBC Jackson Competition. After his win, he joined ABT Studio Company, and then signed his corps de ballet contract in 2003. In 2010 he signed as a soloist for Norwegian National Ballet. Danny passed away from a car accident and survived by his husband, his mom and family; he was only 35. Read his tribute here: https://www.eonline.com/news/1129135/danny-tidwell-s-husband-shares-a-touching-tribute-after-dancer-s-tragic-death

Issue 18
Issue 18 of A Ballet Magazine focuses on common injuries that plague dancershttp://www.aballetmagazine.com
ALEXANDER IZILIAEV

Pennsylvania Ballet’s Artistic Director, Angel Corella’s La Bayadere was highly publicized for his new rendition, taking out stereotypes and orientalism, but it premiered and the critics have spoken in. Unfortunately, it failed to do what it had promised to live up to, but it was a step in the right direction. Read the review here: https://www.inquirer.com/arts/pennsylvania-ballet-la-bayadere-dancers-stereotypes-angel-corella-20200306.html

Pointe magazine caught up with National Ballet of Canada’s Greta Hodgkinson before she retired last night. She has been dancing with the company for 30 years. You can read her full interview here: https://www.pointemagazine.com/greta-hodgkinson-ballet-retirement-2645384613.html?rebelltitem=5#rebelltitem5

Photo courtesy of Gene Schiavone/ABT
Chaereas (Aran Bell) and Callirhoe (Catherine Hurlin) celebrate their wedding in American Ballet Theatre’s world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Of Love and Rage.”

ABT’s “Of Love and Rage” premiered at Segerstrom Center this week. Like most of their ballets, they premiere on the West Coast before it opens at the Met. Here they usually test upcoming dancers, like when Misty Copeland debuted in the Firebird. This premiere included the young stars Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell. The ballet is based on a 2000 year old story, from an early novel called “Callirhoe.”

I started doing photography again, here is Tegan Chou for The Ballet Clinic.

10 Great Ballet Christmas Gifts

Holidays always bring the panic and stress of what to get a dancer or dance teacher. This year, we scoped out some great gifts for you! Whether it is for a young dancer or your favorite dance teacher here are 10 great things for everyone in ballet!

  1. Petit Pas NYC is a super cute brand that takes pointe shoes and recycles them into jewelry and other gifts. These gifts range between $30-$60, and are super adorable.

2. For all of those stressed-out teachers, and parents, and for the students that enjoy tea, TEALEAVES has created an entire Nutcracker Tea Collection including a black tea called the Nutcracker, Organic Sugar Plum Fairy (Rooibos), and it comes in so many cute gift sets. The prices range from $6-$68.

3. Lolita Nutcracker Faced handpainted wine glasses from Hallmark. These cute wine glasses make a great gift for teachers. $60

4. This Nutcracker China Mug is part of a super beautiful Christmas Dinner set. I mean if you really like your teacher you could get an entire table setting for $500. This set was made by Prouna and can be purchased here.

5. A Rhinestone Ballerina Keychain from Z Gallerie $14.00 or a ballerina snow globe for $17. These are great little additions to any gift.

6. Another great gift is this Nutcracker Ballet Tote Back by Andrea Lauren Design. Available on Society 6 for $25.00

7. Any set of Legwarmers from Rubiawear! This brand has become the standard leg warmer for almost everyone in ballet. Shop it in soft cobble to match A Ballet Education’s the Ballet Clinic or get it in super cute colors and prints.

8. Any gift from Cloud and Victory would be welcomed. This super punny- trendy brand is known for their memes and hilarious content.

9. For those of you who want to spend a little more, “Clara and the Nutcracker” Musical Egg is 22 K gold scroll-work and has 100 gems in a Faberge style musical box. Created by the Bradford Exchange, this gift runs about $70.

10. And finally, there are tons of cute gifts from Ballet Papier. But you might have to pay for rush shipping for this brand.

Notes on Saut de Chat…

Notes on Saut de Chat

For most people in ballet, you might already know the difference between a grand jeté and a saut de chat, but if you don’t know it. Here it is: A saut de chat leads with a développé where a grand jeté is usually done with a grand battement. The next point of difference to talk about is whether to call it a saut de chat or a grand pas de chat. Many Russians will refer to the step as a grand pas de chat, well most of Europe refers to it as that. Saut de Chat is more commonly used in America for this step. 

To break it down by translation, Saut de Chat means jump of the cat, where Grand Pas de Chat is translated as big step of the cat. Either way, the step is the same and the mechanics are the same. The idea is to push off into the air from one leg, hitting a full split or a 180° degree or more line, transferring the weight in the air, and landing on the opposite leg you pushed off of.

So, let’s get into it and start breaking down this iconic grand allegro step.

a. I think the most important part of a saut de chat is to make sure that the preparation is aligned and placed properly. Make sure that the support leg (leg pushing off), is aligned hip, knees, toes, pelvis in neutral core forward. You want the energy to be pushing down into the ball of the foot, as that is the energy building up that will set the height and distance of the jump.

b. The next step the energy starts to uncoil from the ballet of the foot, up the leg. Still focusing on pushing down through the leg and the beginning of shaping the back leg. Making sure as we push the ankle and toes really rotate and the femur starts to rotate up and back. Here our working leg will start to move away from our center and start to extend, making sure the knee is being thrust forward and up. 

c. In the next part of the jump, things start to usually go wonky. You want to make sure as the leg disengages from the floor that is lengthens right away and pulls away from the body in a clean line. You want to make sure it is fully rotated and positioned properly. Here is where a lot of young dancers will start to pitch backwards, rather than keep the core scooped and moving the shoulders and head in front of the hip line. By now you should be gaged so that you are almost at a full take off. 

d. Right before you are at the height of the jump, meaning your hips are the furthest from the ground possible, you will open the développé and fully extend the back leg to arabesque at the same rate, and ascending into the full split at the height of the jump.

e. Nowadays it isn’t uncommon to be expected to hit an overspilt in the air. A lot of things usually go wrong trying to get into the oversplit. Things like, stressing out the hips, or being too arched, or the fact that the pelvis is tipped forward so much that the front leg can’t get up. For me as a ballet teacher, I like to tell the kids the start of the overspilt should be at the apex of the jump, but the extreme overspilt is on the descent of the jump. Meaning, your legs are strong enough to stay up and they keep extending, while your hips relax and start to descend. Your pelvis in neutral is key here. If they are swayed, the front leg won’t overspilt and you become more of a diagonal line, and if your hips are tucked, the front leg will go up, but the back legs strains in the socket. 

f. Making sure you aren’t arched is super crucial, so that none of the impact of the jump goes into your back, especially your lower back. You want to make sure the weight is forward, and as you descend you are bringing your front leg in quickly while the back leg maintains the integrity of an arabesque. Bringing your foot in, and relaxing the knee is important. Keep your sight or eye-line up so that the audience still feels you are in the air for longer than you are. But bring the foot in slightly so that when you land (your hips will catch up to the distance of your foot), you are aligned.

g. Make sure your hips are up, and you are lifted creates the important task of rolling through. Making sure you are aligned hips over arch is important, and make sure your knee is in the same plane is CRUCIAL. By landing this way, you are able to properly roll down, hips in neutral and placed accordingly. 

So, all of these things sound easy, but the major problem is figuring out how to accomplish all of this in a matter of a second or less. I think the most important thing to focus is on alignment and placement. A lot of young dancers have two major tendencies that can cause major injuries in the knees and back. The first one is that the alignment of the back is compromised by arching back super hard, or swaying back super hard. This creates a severe S curve, and strains the hip tendons and ligaments in the back leg. Once they are swayed and the core disengages, the arms usually end up too far back and the body is splayed like a bird. Additionally, when they land their weight is either in their heel or knee, and the descent is rough to watch. The second issue among young dancers is I find that they have a hard time jumping in a single plane. The common one I see the most is opening and twisting the back hip open so that the back leg can come up, and they look turned out, even though they are in an a la sebesque or secabesque position, or they can’t keep their working leg/throwing leg in front of their belly button/axis and they somehow open up outside of their shoulder line. This not only stresses the hips out, but it also visually shortens the line. 

Saut de chats can be done with every port de bras (arms) possible. The most common is to hit the third elongated position or third arabesque line. The issue again is that most dancers don’t know that their wrists should be slightly crossed visually from the top. 

So what are some things we do at The Ballet Clinic to help improve the jump? There is a lot of one footed jumps to strengthen and practice pushing down into the floor to push off. We also work an quicker and stronger développés combined with grand battements to help hold the turnout and work on the line. We also focus a lot of descending through the legs properly. 

Hope that all helped!

Top 10 Toxic Ballet Schools

Haha, did you click to read this because you were wondering if your ballet school was on the list? This post isn’t the Top 10 Toxic Ballet Schools, but it is going to talk about whether or not you are in a toxic environment and what contributes to it. This is conversation is already happening behind closed doors and amongst moms, but it is time to talk about it out in the open. 

Closeup of Young Ballet Dancers in a Ballet School / Adobe Stock

All schools are not created equally. There are different schools for different purposes, different schools have different resources. Resources can include everything from financial aid to connections to community programs to performing opportunities. These schools around the world are sometimes overwhelming to navigate or there is a very large amount of pressure to make it into one of these schools. But not everything about these schools are great and glamourous. Sure, the allure of the opera house, the excitement of going away, the inspiration of being around other dancers and seeing company members, even the possibility of potentially joining the company makes it worth while. But behind the beautiful Marley, the floor to ceiling mirrors, the historic halls and the tradition and passion that stood at the very same barres, behind all of that there is the ugly side of ballet schools.

From manipulation, to pressure, to sex scandals — ballet schools are infamously known for their toxic environments. Movies have portrayed these hidden truths, and probably exaggerated them to extremes, but regardless there is some truth to the toxicity of ballet schools. From over involved stage moms, to gossiping, to favors, bribing teachers for roles and solos, the list goes on and on. So let’s take a look at some of these things. How do you know if you are in a toxic environment? What can you do about it?

Adobe Stock

I think one of the biggest issues in a lot of ballet schools is the influence of a director or head teacher on a child’s life. Obviously, they know a lot about ballet, but they are not the parent. I think one of the biggest things is making sure the parent is making decisions in a child’s life, and not the director dictating the life of the child/family. These choices can range from encouraging or discouraging a summer intensive, or pushing/holding back a child for financial gain. To be honest, no director wants their student to leave their school, that is money walking out of the door. So there is that factor. I think that there has to be a healthy balance, and healthy trust with a director. But, one of the biggest things that is needed is transparency.

Another thing that is toxic are the students. Don’t get me wrong, every environment can be toxic, but in ballet schools and dance studios, a lot of the times just one bad apple spoils the bunch. One student gossiping out of jealousy or insecurities can quickly turn a school’s environment into a negative spiral, especially if the director continues to show a lot of support of the toxic student and rewards his or her behavior, or doesn’t believe it, or wants to ignore it and doesn’t want to get involved at all.

Finally, another big thing that contributes to an environment going bad is parents. A lot of schools have banned parents from sitting in the lobby anymore because of the gossip. Parents tend to get over involved, over calculated, and overly ambitious. Parents gossiping about other kids is the worst, because they are grown adults attacking small children. One of these problems is parents not having a realistic sense of whether their own child is strong or weak. I am not saying all kids out there are terrible, but you do have to have a sense of reality when it comes to dance, and specifically ballet. 

As you can see, there is no right or wrong answer to fix the problem. But, I think one of the biggest things is not realizing if you are in a toxic environment or being unaware if you are contributing to a bad environment.

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you are probably in a toxic environment or contributing to it:

Is your child miserable either before or after dance class?
Does you director or teacher ignore your kid in class, meaning no corrections?
Do you talk about other kids, and follow their career trajectories?
Do you start sentences with, “Don’t repeat this, but…”
Does the director punish or reward students with parts?
Do families who donate money or volunteer more get better parts?
Is your child unhappy with their current dancing abilities?
Does your coach constantly yell?
Has a director ever yelled at a parent?
Have you expressed concern for your child, and you were brushed off?

These are just some of the questions that we have to ask ourselves, because the problems are real. Toxic environments are real, and unfortunately, very few things are done to correct the behavior. I remember working at one school and the director opened the beginning of the year talk with, “You shouldn’t question me, because I know what I am doing. I care about your kids.” 

This was followed by a long talk about trust, loyalty and commitment — all things that I agree are needed in ballet. The amount of work that it takes to be a dancer truly is quite a burden. These opening lines were delivered in sincerity and conviction, but the problem is that the director didn’t live up to those things. Ignoring kids, encouraging kids to not go away, telling kids that they weren’t talented when in reality they are very talented, punishing kids with their level placement, judging kids by height and weight and the list went on and on. These things are all just examples of issues in toxic environments. And these problems aren’t just at elite schools or small schools. It is everywhere.

Finally, one of the biggest concerns I have about toxic environments, is that the right environment for a ballet student can make all the difference. A student in the right environment will soar and progress quickly, while a student who isn’t at the right school might be ignored or get injured. Someone who doesn’t have a pliable body obviously needs extra attention so they don’t get injured, and someone with an overly flexible body will need attention in strengthening and supplementing with pilates. All of these things, including a supportive, mentally healthy environment are contributing factors to finding the right environment for your student. 

“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander Den Heijer

What does that mean? It means that if your school’s environment is not for you, leave. I know there is the financial obligation or even the friendships, or even the convenience factor. But the reality is, if the environment isn’t right for the student, remove the student. Even at the Ballet Clinic, we do not accept everyone because we also care about the environment. Someone who has anxiety might not be the best fit at my school as the pressure is quite high. Someone who doesn’t want to pursue ballet as a career wouldn’t be the right fit either. Sure, I could flood the classes with 20+ kids in the room, but I believe that 8-12 kids in a class is enough, as each kid needs individual corrections so they can excel. I am not saying this is the right model, or the only model, I am saying what works for me. We also eliminated the jealousy factor as we do not emphasis competition. If the student/family wants to compete that’s on them. We will coach and prepare you, but we could care less about competing or winning. What matters for us is that you get into a top professional school on a scholarship. Remember, I don’t accept kids over the age of 16. 

Toxicity in dance and the arts is really a big thing, and we do not put enough emphasis on correcting the behavior and eliminating bad apples. 

The Ballet Clinic

Come Train with Me!!! If you didn’t know, I bought a building in Arizona and opening my own school! The school itself can only accommodate 36 dancers. The building is great, completely remodeled with two beautiful full size studios. If you haven’t comitted to a year-round program yet, and you are looking for a place to train, feel free to apply here: CLICK HERE

The Ballet Clinic is a place for serious dancers to come in, get their work done, and get out. Our schedule for advanced dancers is Tuesday-Friday, and optional classes on Saturday. Classes on weekdays start at 5:00 PM. For those who are homeschooled and want extra classes, we offer morning class twice a week.

We are still looking to fill 2 advanced/pre-pro boy spots and 2 girl spots (preferably ages 14+ who are looking to go away to a full-time professional school next fall). In our beginning group, we still have 6 spots left. Our faculty includes: Ashley Baker (ballet), Eric Hipolito Jr (mens, boys,pas de deux), Terin Christopher (contemporary) and myself.

Fall Semester Starts September 9!

21 Year-Round Programs

21 Programs You Don't Want To Miss Out On!

By now, summer intensives have rounded out their invitations to their year round programs. Now, dozens of hopeful ballet dancers are joining the most elite schools around the world. For those who weren’t asked to stay for the year, the stress sets in about what to do next season. You start to wonder, “Are you are ready to year round, if you are good enough, or if you were prepared?” Yup, all these questions are rambling through our heads causing stress. Parents are thinking or starting to doubt choices from last year, and now the new season is upon us. It also doesn’t help YAGP registration just opened and it seems that half of the venues filled up in three days. Yes, the stress of ballet sets in again. What we thought was a summer break now seems to have disappeared and year-round contracts are due again, Nutcracker auditions are around the corner, and you still don’t have a clear plan. Don’t fret. If you are looking to join a school, here are 20 places to train at this year. Each school offers exceptional training, guidance, and is structured towards a professional career in ballet. These schools are NOT affiliated to a company, but offer amazing training.

(These are listed in no particular order, with the exception of the first)

The Ballet Clinic, Phoenix, AZ

If you are looking for a place to train at in Arizona, I still have spots open at the clinic. I am looking for students ages 8-11, and 11-13, and 14+. Each group is focused and designed around a specific look, body type, and career path. At Clinic we arrange everything for you, from competition, auditions, audition photos, videos, etc. Additionally, we are focused on finding dancers jobs, and preparing them to go into pre-professional schools. We focus each class in Balanchine, Russian, English and French technique. Each week has a different focus, and the fourth week of each month emphasizes contemporary with a guest residency. There are very few spots left in each grouping, but if you are interested in training with me, you can apply here:

Golden State Ballet and Pilates, San Diego, CA
GSBP might be young, but the directors are no strangers to the dance world. Once a Miami City Ballet Ballerina and Boston Ballet dancer, they hosted their first summer intensive bringing in Jaime Diaz (SFB) and Andre Silva (TBT). Their program is a full range from creative movement to professional (ages 3-20). Their pre-professional program includes pilates apparatus, rigorous pointe work, pas de deux and performing. The style is a healthy blend of Balanchine musicality and precision with a strong classical Cuban/Russian base. http://gsballetpilates.com

Burbank Dance Academy, Burbank, CA
Headed by Jason Coosner, Burbank Dance Academy is a rising force in the LA Dance scene. This selective program includes everything from jazz and contemporary to pre-professional ballet. The program is designed around versatility and possibilities. The rigor of this program includes multiple hours. Jason just won outstanding choreographer at YAGP Los Angeles. Check out his program at www.burbankdanceacademy.com

Elite Classical Coaching, Frisco, TX
Texas is big, and while company schools dominate Texas, Elite Classical Coaching under Catherine Lewellen is a force to be reckoned with. Elite Classical Coaching’s program is extremely elite, as she hand selects students to be grouped together. This program is rigorous and effective, and has produced a stunning set of dancers including YAGP Finals medalist Ava Arbuckle.
https://eliteclassicalcoaching.com/

Maryland Youth Ballet, Silversprings, MD
Under a new director, Maryland Youth Ballet has ramped up even more under Olivier Munoz, formerly at Orlando Ballet School. The school focuses on clean and technique and performs several times a year.
http://marylandyouthballet.org

Ellison Ballet, New York, NY
This coveted award winning school just held their year round audition but is still accepting video auditions until August 1. This elite program requires applicants to be ages 12-19 to join this coveted Russian-based school.
https://www.ellisonballet.com

International City School of Ballet, Atlanta, GA
Another award winning school with amazing training. and over 10 years of winning and working dancers, headed by Georné Aucoin and Musashi Alvarez. This award winning duo has been turning out strong consistent dancers in a program that is individualized an intense. The one on one training is some of the best out there. Their dancers are easily recognizable by their strong technique, finessed legs, and musical nuances.
https://www.icsballet.org 

The Rock School, Philadelphia, PA
This school has stood the test of time. Each generation brings a new look, a new style and a new passion under Bo and Stephanie Spassoff. This institution has been a long part, if not the original competitive ballet school. With their ferocious training, and wonderful studios, the Rock School for Dance Education still is a thriving and contributing school in the ballet landscape.
https://www.therockschool.org/

Sultanov Russian Ballet Academy, Beaverton, OR
This power house of a school has made their way onto the scene through persistence and clean technique. Headed by Artur Sultanov, a Vaganova Ballet Academy graduate and Eifman Soloist, this director has curated one of the strongest schools on the west coast.
http://www.russianballetacademy.net/faculty/

The Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, Sarasota, FL
This Cuban Ballet school made big splashes this year with Harold Mendez. But they have been known for strong cuban training, especially for boys. Headed by award winning Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez, this school is a fully enriched program for Cuban technique.
http://srqcubanballet.com

Cary Ballet Conservatory, Cary, North Carolina
Cary Ballet is headed by Suzanne Laliberté Thomas and was founded over 18 years ago. But, Cary Conservatory’s real powerhouse is Mariaelena Ruiz, 2019’s YAGP outstanding Teacher. The former Rock coach has coached some of the most talented winner of the YAGP and many other competitions. She herself is a Varna winner, USA IBC Jackson winner, and Prix Volinine. Their professional division includes numerous classes, cross training and more.
https://www.caryballet.com/professional-training-program.html

Master Ballet Academy, Scottsdale, AZ
This power house school has made it’s name on beautiful bodies and the ability to turn. Headed by Slawomir and Irena Wozniak, Master Ballet Academy recruits students from ages 11+ to train in Russian technique. With numerous winners of the YAGP, Master Ballet Academy continues to dominate on social media.
http://masterballetacademy.com

Indiana Ballet Conservatory, Indianapolis, IN

http://indianaballetconservatory.org

International Ballet School, Littleton, CO
http://internationalballetschool.net

A & A Ballet, Chicago, IL
https://www.aacenterfordance.org

V & T Classical Ballet, OC, CA
Headed by Victor and Tatiana Kasatsky, V and T is a force to be reckoned with. A long time staple in the Southern California dance scene, V and T has produced winners to the YAGP, Prix de Lausanne, and Varna. Coined as Orange County’s Premier Ballet program V and T is a classical force of nature.
http://vandtdance.com

Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Carlisle, PA
The legendary CPYB is always a great place to train, especially if you are on that Balanchine route.
www.cpyb.org

Feijoo Ballet School, Dickinson, TX
Another Cuban school has popped up, but this one is in Texas headed by the renowned sister ballerinas Lorna and Lorena Feijoo. This ballet school is curating something new in Texas. While Texas has been dominated by Russian/Classical Training or Balanchine technique this new school is offering a new take and appealing to the latin communities in Texas.
https://www.feijooballetschool.com/school

Ballet Academy East, NYC, NY
http://balletacademyeast.com

Kirov Academy DC, Washington DC
https://kirovacademydc.org

The Rock Center for Dance, Las Vegas, NV
Power houses in contemporary and standout at the dance awards, and World of Dance, this new school is dominating the contemporary and commercial scene. What people often forget is that their ballet program is also nice and quite rigorous.
https://www.therockcenterfordance.com

Train with A Ballet Education this Summer

Did you miss out on summer intensive auditions? Were you injured? Were you just not ready? Don’t worry, and don’t miss out. You can train with me at any of these three intensives! Get your scoopy legs and bangin’ technique this summer!

June 17-29, 2019
Golden State Ballet & Pilates, San Diego, CA
Register here: https://www.gsballetpilates.com/summer-workshops

July 29-August 2, 2019
Burbank Dance Academy, Burbank, CA
Register here: https://www.burbankdanceacademy.com/summer

August 5-17, 2019
Golden State Ballet & Pilates, San Diego, CA
Register here: https://www.gsballetpilates.com/summer-workshops

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

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. 

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

Subscriptions to the magazine are run through the publisher JooMag, if there are issues with subscribing, please contact Joo Mag.

So, you really want to know who made the BIG TEN list…
Please Subscribe to the Magazine by Clicking Here…

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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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.

 

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.

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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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Celebrating 4 Years!

It has been a long journey, but four years later I am here…

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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.

ATLANTA BALLET

international city school of ballet