The Ballet Shake Up of 2017

This year has been a whirlwind. Four years ago we had a shake up in changes in the Artistic world of Ballet as dancers and directors shuffled among the companies. But, this year, dancers and directors are being removed from the picture. Between the hustle and bustles and crazy sh!t storm that is the Nutcracker… This morning American Ballet Theatre put out their press release regarding international superstar Marcelo Gomes. He is no longer with ABT. This is just on the tailcoat of Peter Martins at NYCB. If you haven’t been following ballet news, allegations have been put out there, left and right… Most of them surfacing from the past. But, no one in ballet is really that surprised, and they aren’t being quiet about it on social media. Everyone has something to say, or a story involving one of the accused… and dragging un-accused people into the light.

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This isn’t that big of a surprise for those of in ballet. We have heard the rumors, we have seen how directors act, and we see how egos get inflated… very quickly. A Ballet Education has been demanding change for the past three years, and unfortunately it is taking the press, and victims of abuse to come forward to start a radical change in ballet. Directors at a ballet company, are literally, one step away from God himself. The power a director has, and if the board supports this director, gives them unlimited power within a ballet company. There are all of these unspoken things that dancers fear: contracts being renewed, insurance, injury, their personal life, etc. Ironically, most of these directors have been in the other position… So most of them, don’t even see anything wrong with their behaviors. For a lot of the European directors their justification is that they are treating the dancers nicer than they were treated… Thus, it isn’t that bad, and we all should be thankful we have a job….

(Marcelo Gomes is currently choreographing on his friend Julie Kent‘s Washington Ballet and has a movie set to preimiere.)

It is this mentality that proliferates and continues the cycle of abuse, ego, and demand in the ballet world. But this starts at the student level, when students are expected to put in 8-10 hour a days, without pay, and be happy about it. There is no child ballet union to protect children from the wrath of a director, nor are there child psychiatrists monitoring the children growing up at tier one ballet schools helping them cope with injury, reality, and mental capacity it takes to be a ballet dancer. They grow up in this mindset of abuse is normal, and you are lucky to be a part of this industry, so you should be silent. Again, not something new. And the obsession over women in ballet has always been there. They are goddesses and at the same time directors and choreographers view them as clay; to be shaped and to be formed into something of their own desires.

The allegations surrounding Peter Martins might be called karma by some… And for others, they are completely shocked. It is just like this HW, Meryl Streep scenario where some people truly didn’t know or witness anything but a demanding director. All of this is just days away before companies go on break, which could be a good thing… The demand for change is here… and for someone like myself, who is a qualified AD or ED, it makes me wonder if ballet is really worth it?

 

From left: Justin Peck, Rebecca Krohn, Jonathan Stafford and Craig Hall. Photo by Erin Baiano, via The New York Times. (City Ballet’s “temporary fix” to the Peter Martin’s Scandal…)

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It is making me think, that kids shouldn’t leave home alone until they are 18. That the structure of ballet is breaking because no one will listen to a younger generation like myself. I have had numerous conversations with some of the most respected people in ballet, and I am laughed at. I am told that what I am asking is impossible, and that I should find my place in ballet… Which I have… Ballet doesn’t have to be this art form of beauty surrounded by suffering, abuse and ridiculously expensive.

It is sad to see my colleagues suffering… Even dancers at Boston Ballet, not being able to settle their contracts. They signed mid December. It isn’t a secret that Boston proper is expensive to live in, so as a company it is your job to adequately pay the dancers. Unfortunately, this either means the executive staff needs a pay cut, or dancers need to be let go so that others can be paid. There has to be a time where we draw a line in the sand and say, “This is it.”

Change has to happen in ballet. And it has to happen rather soon. Questions comments or concerns: email me.


 

You Know It’s Nutcracker Season When…

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Robbie Downey as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Phoenix Ballet’s The Nutcracker

It is that time of the year again…. Nutcracker. Support your local ballet school or company by attending this wonderful holiday tradition. We are days away to close our Nutcracker Kickstarter campaign, and unforutnately, it doesn’t look like it will come to fruition. But, I will relaunch the campaign in the New Year, focusing on next year.

(Click Here to help our kickstarter campaign)

This season I was lucky enough to coach for beautiful Sugar Plums for Phoenix Ballet’s Nutcracker. They included social media star Robbie Downey, YAGP winner Mya Kresniak, YAGP winner Madison Penney, and the elegant Kenzie Thomas. All four young women are so different and took on the role so differently. It reminded me about how wonderful an oppertunitiy to dance a principal role is. These four girls are about to make their debut in Arizona and headline a show.

Now, I am on the opposite side of the country coaching talented young women for the YAGP. These roles are so difficult but it is so amazing to see the attack and dedication these young women have. While Baltimore is cold, the experience here has been amazing.

Finally, don’t forget Issue 8 is out!

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Between the holiday parties  and preparing for Black Friday sales, the ballet world is faced with our dreaded, but magical annual tradition of The Nutcracker. Every year around this time, whether it be at Starbucks, the bank or even at some retail store, I am standing around minding my own business… and then it comes on the speakers. That dreadful tune that ushers in the Holiday Season.

While the majority of the world associates it with that one song from that one commercial, ballet dancers around the world hear it and immediately identify the composer, the act, the choreography and the costumes. Yes, it is the Nutcracker.

Recently, I was standing in line with my pas de deux partner, and the music for Snow Pas came on. While it is one of the most beautiful pieces composes for the Nutcracker, we immediately looked at each other with fear in our eyes. Yes, fear. We had just started rehearsals with new choreography knowing that the show goes up in three weeks. We both haven’t been on stage for more than four years, and we immediately decided to order skinny lattes knowing we are about to be in white tights. So, in the tradition of Nutcracker, and in a Ballet Education’s five things…

You Know It’s Nutcracker When…
1. You hear Nutcracker music outside of ballet and want to kill yourself.
2. 1/3 of your company is injured, or battling tendonitis, but still powering through ridiculously long rehearsals that you don’t want to be in.
3. You know every part of Nutcracker, but still are forced to rehearse, clean and tech it all. In fact, you have probably danced every part of Nutcracker at some point of your life and could probably stage it all, with your eyes closed.
4. This time of the year everyone is all about the holiday cheer and festivities, but you are the most tired you have ever been. You want to crawl into a ball and die. You still have to rehearse everything else outside of Nutcracker for the upcoming season’s bills, so your mind is on overload. It is just yucky.
5. You are a boy, and its Nut season and all you want to do is be Kyra Nichols as Dewdrop. Yes, you want to be Balanchine’s infamous Dewdrop and dance the most beautiful entrances, have the most swayed back ever, and dance to the loveliest of music.

Here are some of last year’s Nutcracker Posts:
THE BEAST THAT IS THE NUTCRACKER

5 AWFUL REALITIES OF NUTCRACKER

THE NUTTINESS OF NUTCRACKER

Notes on Effacé

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Effacé, effacée [eh-fa-SAY/]. Shaded. One of the directions of épaulement (body directions to classify the arms, head, shoulders, legs in relation to the audience) in which the dancer stands at an slight angle to the audience so that a part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from the audience’s view. This direction is classically termed “ouvert” in the French Method. Effacé, most popularly is used to qualify a pose in which the legs are open (not crossed to the audience). This pose may be done devant (front) or derrière (back), either à terre (on the ground) or en l’air (in the air). Origin of the word is French, like all of the ballet vocabulary. The etymology behind the word takes “e-“ and “face” to create “effacer”, in the 15th century the “r” was dropped.

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Effacé is one of the most beautiful positions in ballet. Between the simplicity of the placement and the control of the body, this position is often overlooked. While the first body position at center we learn is en face, efface usually follows once the dancer understands stage direction, body alignment, and understanding. Effacé is one of the body positions we learn on the angle as a part of epaulment. This positioning makes up half of the lateral positions. The other being croisé.

In ballet, this position is used all the time. Effacé is the easiest and probably most used position, and this position revolves around steps moving down the diagonal of the room, “from the corner”, or “across the floor” exercises. Usually starting in B plus, this position is often used to transfer weight and travel. Which is why we often overlook this position. It is so important to always control your turnout, foot articulation and weight change through this position/step (tombé)…

We often forget that positions in ballet, are never really just a position. The movement or energy needed causes the position to grow, change, and expand. Based on artistic freedom you play with the timing, breath, and coordination of the position.

What makes effacé so great and so versatile is the stylized versions of effacé. Usually is actually changing the epaulment but holding the position of the legs, this position becomes so beautiful. Different ballets cause for different stylized versions. For example, in Giselle, the effacé position in Act I will be more peasant stylized, and the body is forward and the head is slightly cocked. Then in Act II, the position is extremely forward, and the eye line is very low.

Regardless of the style, effacé must be turned out at all times to show the cleanest line of the body. If your body doesn’t have a ton of rotation you can cheat the line but winging your working foot. If you still can’t get that clean position, you can cheat the hips in effacé devant. I don’t recommend this at all, but it is important to have a clean line in this position. To cheat it, slightly shift your weight into your standing leg. Slightly release your piriformis and shift your hips to allow the line to shift. This will allow you to change the line of your leg so you can really get the supporting hip heel up towards the ceiling. Don’t forget to pull your toes back to create/finish the line!


Don’t forget to check out our KICKSTARTER campaign!  

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Bringing The Nutcracker To Life…

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So much support is pouring in from all of you readers. Watching people respond has been more than beautiful. Hearing stories from around the world has been really encouraging. After some encouragement and much needed “talking it out” I was advised to ask A Ballet Education’s readers to help me create My Version of the Nutcracker.

I didn’t think it was going to be super easy but come to find out, I was already halfway there. After some talking to different publishers, I found out I could print 50 Hardcover with Dust Jacket copies of the Nutcracker for $4,000, basically costing $80/unit + shipping to produce. Obviously… no one wants to pay $80 for a book… yet, alone a children’s book. Or… it would be $10,000 to print 250 copies and list in on Amazon, roughly totalling up to ($40/unit + shipping)

To have it printed by a  December 1 deadline, I would have to commit 10 days of purely working on the book with an editor and drawing like a madman… Is this something we even want? Losing out on a week’s worth of work will set me behind in the short term- but the pay off could be greater in the long run.

I was going to Kickstarter it, but it takes like 3 days to approve- so there is really no way to see if this is going to be possible. But, if you are interested in helping out… Here is what I can offer….

If you are interested in bringing this book to life… you can pledge at four levels:

Pledge $50 or more

I WANT THIS BOOK

Helping get a Ballet Education to print by pre-ordering the book.

INCLUDES:
  • A Ballet Education’s Nutcracker Book

Pledge $200 or more

I REALLY REALLY WANT THIS BOOK

I really want to get this book out there by pre-ordering 4 copies of the book

INCLUDES:
  • A Ballet Education’s Nutcracker Book (x4)

Pledge $1,000 or more

SUPPORT THIS BOOK

I want to help further this book to print.

INCLUDES:
  • Signed Copy
  • Your Name Printed in the Book in the Thank You Section

 

Pledge $2,000 or more

I want to be a part of this book!

I really want to help further this book by helping cover the costs of manufacturing.

INCLUDES:
  • Signed Copy (x4)
  • Your Name Printed in the Book in the Thank You Section
  • Illustration within the book, send me a face photo in side profile and straight on, and I will illustrate you into the book in either party scene, battle scene or another section. You will also receive a signed print of your illustration with your books.

If you want to commit please let me know, click here to email // If there are enough commitments- I will go ahead with it. If not, then I will just keep doodling on for my nieces’ Christmas gift. Again, this is just a thought and an idea.

Should You Homeschool?

There comes a point for a lot of dancers who have to make the choice of homeschooling. Ballet is so time-consuming, so there has to be a “give and take”. I myself, did high school online and finished in two years, third in my class and with my AA. So, if you are self-motivated it’s a great opportunity to balance dancing and education. The video below was made by a ballet student about her experiences with online school. (@chloechka_art) Props to her for animating at the age of 15, because I am like dying just doing 2D drawings.

 

So, how do you know when it is right to homeschool? There comes a point where the hours in the day are running short, and it seems that there aren’t enough hours in the day to balance school, homework, dance and rehearsals. For some, the answer is easy and it is to homeschool. While homeschool isn’t for everyone, for those who do want to pursue that option, it isn’t as hard as it seems. Nowadays, you just need to fill out an affidavit and set up your curriculum. If you can financially afford to purchase curriculum that’s probably the easiest way. If you can’t afford to buy a set curriculum, you can piece it yourself. But, one of the best things you can do is find an online charter school in your state.

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If you are ready to homeschool and don’t know how to talk to your parents about it, ask your dance teacher, and they should be able to help explain the reasons why, and provide you with proper guidance. If they can’t, you can show them this article.

Parents, if you are student shows you this article, or you yourself are considering homeschooling here are some reasons why homeschooling might be a better option for your child:

  • To be a part of a pre-pro program most start at 10:00 AM or 1:00 PM.
  • Most ballet dancers are self-sufficient and can work at a faster pace so they don’t waste time.
  • Homeschooling allows for more hours of dancing and rehearsals, not to mention if you are asked into a year-round school, it’s an easier transition.
  • Travel time. It also saves on travel time and chauffering around.
  • It allows dancers to excel at their own pace. Sometimes it is frustrating not being able to control the progress in the ballet studio, so having control of progress in education is a good feeling.

Finally, homeschool isn’t for everyone. Some schools will allow dancers to leave early and skip out on elective and PE classes in exchange for their dance school to sign off on hours. This allows for more hours of dance. And, you should never compromise the quality of education for your dancing because an education is something that no one can take away. You also will need it as a backup plan if you get injured or if you don’t get a contract.


The Guide to Pas De Deux Cover

Christmas Comes Early…

It is that time of year again… as cliché as that line is, in ballet, we cycle through each season and either love or dread this time of year. The day after Halloween usually means Christmas is already up in stores and there is a high probability of hearing this music outside the studios at least once a day at either a Starbucks, Department Store or on the Radio… Yup… It is Nutcracker time.

Tonight was a great night for me. Christmas definitely came early for me. You see, my day started off pretty lame, because of a meeting running over, I was missed Ballet Arizona‘s Performance of Swan Lake featuring ABE CoverGirl Mimi Tompkins. This also meant I missed out on hanging out with ABE’s Ashley Baker. Then I was bogged down by drama from my previous job, that I am staying out of. Needless to say, it basically has been the subject of my life for the past week. But then, while trying to figure out logistical things in my life, a random friend request came to me on the Facebook. At first, I was like who is this? Then I realized who it was and got excited. We started talking over Facebook and basically, it resulted in a dream come true for me. (If you are a ballet teacher, you will LOVE this, like die over it, drool over it, use it to death etc). Literally, it is a dream come true, for me… and for like thousands of ballet teachers out there… So excited.

If you aren’t following on Instagram- this week/month I am releasing all of the roles in the Nutcracker. (@aballeteducation)

Remember, during Nutcracker Season, with all of the rehearsals, just try not get injured. Stay warm in between rehearsals and runs. Arleo Backwarmers and Rubia Wear Legwarmers is the way to go… Also a Uniqlo Vest… and moon boots / booties. And while we are at it… a scarf, sweatpants, trash bags and you might as well get your stretchers out as well. With Nutcracker around the corner, it means the countdown to YAGP has started and auditions for Summer Courses…

Issue 8 for a Ballet Magazine is coming together nicely.

The Guide to Pas De Deux was Released Today/ On Sale for $9.99 / Click the Pic to Buy /
The Guide to Pas De Deux Cover

The Guide to Pas De Deux

It’s here! The Guide to Pas De Deux!! The first book in the Ballet Education Standardized Ballet Training Curriculum. 24 pages of information including 15 illustrations, vocabulary and mapped out curriculum! Click the book below to purchase.
The Guide to Pas De Deux Cover

Or click here to buy!

Top 5 Ballet Boys/Mens Programs (US)

As featured in Issue 6: It is funny that people still think there is a lack of male dancers in the US industry right now. In my opinion, there is a huge surplus of them, but they are flocking to five schools for sure. Sure, back in the day there were a few boys here and there, but now there are budding programs all over the US for these young men. They even have their own summer intensive. Now in Europe, that is a different story because male dancers are coming out left and right. Instagram proves that time and time again.

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So… where are all the boys heading to and why? 

  1. San Francisco Ballet School, Patrick Armand (San Francisco) / THE SFB school has always attracted some of the best boys in the world to come train. Not only are the creating insane technicians, but they also are able to help the young men find their inner artistry. The young men that graduate SFB are usually all very noble looking (that bravura dancer), clean, and strong. (Click here to learn more)
  2. Boston Ballet School Men’s Division, Peter Stark (Boston) /  While the School at Boston has flourished over the years, and with their new studio opening this year, Boston Ballet School has attracted numerous boys into their summer course, where they are recruited for the year. Their boys are usually on the leaner side and known for their pretty lines, good feet, and ease. (Click here to learn more)
  3. School of American Ballet, Kay Mazzo (NYC) The School of American Ballet turns out one type of boy, and that is the long-limbed Balanchine boy. This program is not for everyone, in fact, unless it is your dream to dance at NYCB, this is not the school for you. Again, it really only creates one type of boy, and that is a Balanchine boy. So, unless you are going to a strictly Balanchine/Contemporary Company… this isn’t the school for you. (Click here to learn more)
  4. Houston Ballet Academy, Claudio Muñoz, James Gotesky, boys Program (Houston) HBA has always been a school that a lot of young men head out to. But recently, with the help of social media, HBA has been showcasing their insane technicians and ferocious turners. The HBA creates some of the strongest men out there. (Click Here to Learn More)
  5. The Rock School, Bo and Stephanie Spassoff (Philadelphia) The Rock School is not shy when it comes to showcasing their boys and young men. A school that has been long affiliated with the YAGP, the Rock School turns out some of the best turners and jumpers out there. (Click here to learn more)

So, what does this even mean? It means that the caliber of male dancers right now is incredible. You have to jump and turn, have perfect turnout, be a great actor, and partner. The list goes on and on. But, the silver lining here, is that the quality of male dancers out there right now is beyond exceptional. Don’t get it wrong either, there are tons of schools out there offering great male programs. These programs are A Ballet Education’s top picks here in the US. If you aren’t at one of these schools, don’t freak out you can still have a career from another school.  If you want a chance to go to one of these schools, don’t forget to audition for their summer courses/intensives and then ask/apply to stay for the year.

Keep up the good training!
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These schools are my picks based on several factors included ratio of students to teachers, ratio of male to female students, scholarships awarded, size of the school, graduate placement, perceived value, cost of education, and company contracts. And before everyone gets crazy, I made it clear that 1. It was only US and 2. It is my opinion.

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COME TRAIN WITH ME!

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Inspired…

They say when one door closes, another one opens. The problem with that saying is that sometimes you can’t just wait around for a door magically open. Sometimes you have to find the door yourself and push it open. So, that is what I am doing. After a bunch of job offers and numerous opportunities around the US, I’ve decided to really just work for myself. I didn’t really think of it before, don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for this blog, but why was I teaching, coaching, and working for other companies, when I could be investing in my own?

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So, I was looking for a sign, and then I started reading a bunch of different perspectives and stories from ballet. This inspired me, inspired me to really push forward with a Ballet Education. I decided to start drawing those who have inspired me, and they aren’t just ballet dancers. There is a mighty long list, so hopefully, maybe there will be numerous additions to the Inspired Collection.

ABE logo 1So, where does this lead me? The rebranding of A Ballet Education. Thank you to Lisbet Photography and Misfit Design. For helping me recreate and reinvent A Ballet Education.

Yup! It is happening and going full force! So, what does this mean? I am hitting the road again. I will be in Los Angeles again from October 12-18. Come take 10 hours of intense A Ballet Education classes, or come watch and take notes on the Ballet Education Curriculum at the Downtown Dance & Movement Studios.

Untitled 2Register today by clicking here!

TEACHERS: if you are intersted in sending your students and you are interested in coming to observe, if you have 3 students come to the intensive, you can watch for free.

 

Is ballet getting too good too fast?

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It is no secret that between physics, anatomy, and kinesiology, that ballet technique has literally been perfected to a science. Now, dancers are pushing their bodies even harder, pushing it to the limits to achieve something new, something unseen and something exciting. Dancers are training as hard as ever, and training smarter than any other previous generation. The access and exposure to resources young dancers have now is insane. Ten-year-olds are now becoming insane technicians all before their bodies change. Thirteen-year-olds are now pushing technique and artistry. Sixteen-year-olds are looking like prime dancers, and eighteen-year-olds are killing themselves in the corps de ballet.


Elisabeth Beyer, Satanella Variation, YAGP 2017 FINAL ROUND, winner of the Natalia Makarova Award, and winner of the Moscow Ballet Competition.

As the years have unfolded, dance has progressed at such a fast rate, a rate that I don’t think anyone saw coming. The finesse, the artistry, the acting, and the tricks are all combined to create these mega-monster dancers. These dancers right now are all between the ages of ten and sixteen and are kicking butt. They are dominating the competition circuit, they are dancing every genre of dance, and they are already making appearances at international galas. They are showing the finesse of technique, budding artistry, and emotion depth that has been in the lack for a long time now.

Are students peaking too early? In recent conversations with colleagues across America, there are two problems that are facing young dancers today. The first question asked is, “Are students peaking too early?” and the second question, “Is the job market able to accommodate these dancers?” As dance has always been for the young, it seems that we are now facing the dilemma of bringing back the infamous baby ballerina or watching some of the world’s best talent sit in the corps.

So, if a student like this doesn’t burn out, if they don’t get injured (and they shouldn’t unless a horrible accident), what do they do? Do they audition at fifteen, get into a trainee program, join the second company at sixteen for two years, and then join as an apprentice at eighteen, and they get their corps contract. They sit in the corps for three to five years until a soloist spot opens up, and become a principal in a few years after that? If that is the case and a dancer peaks at sixteen, that usually means, that their prime years will be done before they are even a principal. A dancer’s body usually has somewhere between ten to twelve years of prime dancing from the time they peak. Back in the day, dancers would peak somewhere around twenty-one. When their bodies curate technique as second nature, artistry and freedom of expression click, and their dancing intensifies. So from the time they peak, if they get ten years… This new generation of dancers will have their prime years between sixteen and twenty-eight.

Comments have been made, that there are some young dancers in top companies in the corps de ballet who are technically better than most soloists out there. The problem is that no company director right now is going to risk giving such a young dancer a principal title. Beckanne Sisk pulled it off at Ballet West with careful guidance by Adam Sklute. She managed to become a principal dancer within four years of joining the Utah company. Notably, Lauren Lovette, New York City Ballet, also pulled off a pretty quick rise to the top. She joined City Ballet in 2009 and was a principal by the 2015/2016 season. Jeffrey Cirio rose quickly to the top of Boston Ballet by joining in 2009 and becoming a principal by 2012. He jumped to American Ballet Theatre as a soloist in 2015 and became a principal the following year after his nomination for a Prix de Benois. He then added English National Ballet as a guest principal artist.

This begs the question, what do we do with all of these young superstars? Professional children’s company? Start replacing soloists and corps members with these dancers, and hiring a special teacher/psychologist to help these dancers have healthy lives? It is funny, because Hollywood embraces young talent, and between labor laws and unions exceptional young talent in Hollywood is protected. Should the same apply to dancers? Look at say, Dakota Fanning, Abigail Breslin, Arianna Grande, and Selena Gomez. All of these young women took their art and passion to another level, fueled by desire and hope. In film and music, there was a space for these young dancers to grow. Is ballet ever going to make that change? Could a sixteen-year-old girl pull off the full-length Sleeping Beauty, in the title role as a sixteen-year-old princess? I believe so, I just saw a handful of dancers who are ready to take on this full-length ballet. I don’t think a sixteen-year-old could pull off, say, Swan Lake, but I think they could pull off ballets like Coppelia, La Fille, Grad Ball, Sugar Plum and many others at a major company and pack the house.


Gold medal and Special Award winner at Senior devision Evelina Godunova

So, as ballet constantly evolves day to day, we have to ask ourselves, “What is going to be next? Is the job market ever going to allow for young exceptional talent? Will the older generation of ballet finally give into the progress of ballet?” We all know that most of the problems in ballet, problems like diversity, sexuality, mental health, body type are all being supported and being created by the older generation of directors, ballet masters, and school directors… Soo, when is it all going to change?

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What is Contemporary Ballet?

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In the world of ballet, well the world of dance, everyone is throwing around the genre of contemporary ballet. But, what is contemporary ballet? If we look at the dance spectrum as a whole, contemporary would fall somewhere between classical ballet and post-modern. If we looked at a progressive timeline, contemporary ballet would fall somewhere in the 1920’s-1940’s between the Ballets Russes (active 1909-1929) and the birth of New York City Ballet (f. 1948).

Ballet Timeline
Partial timeline from my new book… The Illustrated Guide to Ballet

 

 

So, by definition, contemporary is defined by living or occurring at the same time, or belonging to or occurring in the present. So, by definition, contemporary ballet really can only be defined as ballets that are currently being created. That really doesn’t work for us, since dance historians are classifying the emergence of contemporary ballet somewhere in the 1960’s. This being different from neoclassical ballet. Neoclassical ballet referring to the Balanchine/Massine ballets. All the meanwhile jazz and modern dance emerged.

From the 60’s choreographers, directors and dancers started new innovative collaborations; taking the best in music, costume design, vocabulary and more. From here, a new vocabulary emerged and the idea of cross-training in all genres emerged.

In the 80’s a strong group of choreographers created a vocabulary of movement that manipulated the classical technique in such a way it became part of the standard repertoire of today. Some of these men include John Cranko, William Forsythe and Jiri Kylian.

From this group of innovators, a new group of individuals emerged: Alonzo King, Dwight Rhoden, Desmond Richardson, John Neumeier, and Matthew Bourne, just to name a few.

This created the current group of individuals leading contemporary ballet: Alexei Ratmansky, Yuri Possokhov, Christopher Wheeldon, Benjamin Millpied, Justin Peck, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Crystal Pite, Liam Scarlett, Wayne McGregor and more.


How do you classify what is a contemporary ballet?

If we classified contemporary ballet as dances done on pointe to different music, or incorporating other dance vocabularies… then Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain wouldn’t be considered a contemporary ballet. But, if we look at contemporary ballet as a dance that uses the ballet vocabulary, then it would be a contemporary ballet.

If we said that a contemporary ballet is based on the vocabulary of classical ballet, then every genre of classical dance would be considered contemporary ballet.

Here is how I like to classify what is contemporary ballet and what is contemporary dance (by no means is this the standard rubric of classifying dance, just mine):

  • If the dance is on pointe, it is contemporary ballet.
  • If the majority of the dance is based on technique and the principals of ballet, it is contemporary ballet.
  • If the majority of the dance vocabulary derives on a feeling, gestures, or sets it is contemporary dance.
  • If the dance movement is primarily based on the principals of turnout, it is contemporary ballet.
  • If the dance is about lack of control of the body, contemporary dance while the constraint of articulation enforces it is a contemporary ballet.

One of the major differences I think between contemporary ballet and contemporary dance is the purpose why the dance is created. I think contemporary ballets are made with the intent of surviving the test of time and becoming a part of the standard ballet company repertory, where contemporary dance is made for the moment, and truly embraces the word contemporary.

So, as you are preparing for the YAGP and shows, you should ask yourself a few things.

  • What is the purpose of this work?
  • What is the intent behind each of the movements? Is it technique? It is placement? Articulation? Flexibility? Emotion?
  • Is this work going to be relevant in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
  • What is the story behind the work?
  • Where is the vocabulary coming from? Jazz? Ballet? Hip Hop? Modern?
  • Who is this work intended for? Judges? Audience? Social Media? Yourself?
  • Why are you dancing this?

The wonderful part of the world of contemporary ballet and dance today is the ability to juxtapose anything together. Whether it is a classical costume to hip-hop music, classical music and postmodern gestures, pointe work and gender, the lack of music and classical ballet technique. The combinations are endless. Just like the world of contemporary ballet, the possibilities of combining gestures and technique, fusing articulation and constraint, breath and technique… It is quite amazing.

A problem that a lot of work is running into is that the possible combinations and dance vocabulary is running out. As dance is moving forward we are exploring the articulation in and out of the technique, timing and pushing the limits of our body, and as this is becoming the standard, classical ballets will no longer be created. We are already seeing it with the Balanchine repertory becoming more common, and the acquisition of the Forsythe, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Peck ballets becoming a part of standard repertory around the world. While the classics will always be performed, I don’t think very many more classical ballets will ever be created. Tudor, MacMillan, and Neumeier might have been the last ones to create a “classical” ballet.


What makes good contemporary ballet?

This is a double edge sword to answer. But a good contemporary ballet, for me, is something moving. Whether or not it tells a story gives no weight into if it is good or bad. I think the manipulation of the body, control of the articulation is extremely important, but that is half the dancer half the choreographer. The use or the lack of use of the space on all levels. Musicality. Pathways. The manipulation of technique. The idea behind the piece…

Here are some of my favorite works… the list is too long to list them all… Hope you enjoy.

Wayne McGregor’s Chroma

Alonzo King’s Meyer… almost all of his works I love though…

William Forsythe’s … well most things of his as well haha. But, I think right now in the ballet world the two most accessible ballets are In the Middle Somewhat Elevated and The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude.

Justin Peck’s… well almost anything as well… but here is his Rodeo.


What Makes a Good Ballet Teacher?

There are so many types of teachers out there, it is important that parents and students know what they are getting. After working across the United States and talking to parents and students, I’ve realized that when it comes to ballet, a lot of people are getting ripped off, majorly ripped off. It is almost depressing. So, what makes a good teacher? What makes a great teacher? What are the differences in teachers? And how, as a dance teacher, do you make yourself better?

What makes a good ballet teacher

What is a Ballet Teacher? This is such a vague term… like such a vague term. Some teachers use certificates to justify their credentials… like the ABT National Training Certification or the RAD levels… Unfortunately, this doesn’t make them good teachers. Also, just because they were a principal dancer… that doesn’t make them a good teacher either. And, just because you have a Russian affiliation doesn’t make you a good teacher. And just because you graduated from a top ballet school doesn’t make you a good teacher either. Additionally, just because you have a college degree in dance or dance pedagogy or something random like a BFA from a random school; doesn’t mean you are going to be a good teacher.

Being a ballet teacher is hard because ballet itself is diverse. The pedagogy, ideology, and science differs accordingly based on each person. Sometimes this a good thing, sometimes it is a horrible thing and waste of money for parents. Not all pedagogies are created equally. and not all bodies can do any pedagogy.

What makes a good ballet teacher?
Multi-tasking: A good ballet teacher usually is someone who can inspire an entire class, while concentrating on the individual needs of each student, all while maintaining a precise curriculum.
Good Eyes: A good ballet teacher has a keen eye for body placement, alignment and can find minuscule errors when a child dances.
Good Ears: A good ballet teacher understands music and can hear multiple melodies and rhythms within a song.
Educated: A good ballet teacher understands anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. Teachers should be able to prevent injuries with healthy technique and should guarantee well-shaped bodies.
Experience: Has experience within the professional world of ballet. It is important to have these experiences so you can help guide students into the professional world.
Connected: A good ballet teacher is still plugged into the ballet world, so they understand what is happening and what the industry is needing, wanting and demanding.
ballet-teacher-problems-3

What makes a great ballet teacher?
A good sculptor
: An exceptional ballet teacher can see beyond what is directly in front of them and can reshape the body and pull out the ballet technique from their students. This quality is actually very hard to find.

Don’t get me wrong, we need regular ballet teachers out there… but the problem is, that in today’s market of dancers, teachers have to be exceptional and create exceptional dancers. It isn’t good enough to just teach a plié by saying it means “to bend” and then demonstrate the bending of the knees. You physically have to get on your hands and knees, and explain that it is a constant action because it is a verb. It never stops, and it isn’t initiated from the knees, a plié comes from the pressure in the hips rotating outwards and the muscles rotating back, without strain, so much that it causes the knees to bend. The fact that the femur head has to be inside the pelvis, the weight placement has to be so precise. And the depth of the plié has to be controlled from the achilles without pronating or “rolling” of the feet.

  • If your ballet teacher just walks around the room and gives general corrections… bad teacher.
  • If your teacher sits in a chair and just directs and yells… bad teacher… maybe better off to be a director.
  • If your teacher can’t explain the physics and science behind ballet… bad teacher.
  • If you are noticing your muscles shaping to be large or bulky… super bad ballet teacher.. and if they tell you it’s genetics… just walk out.
  • If your teacher tells you that it’s normal to be injured and you have to work through it… HORRIBLE TEACHER!! GET OUT BEFORE YOU BREAK YOUR BODY.
  • If your teacher tells you that you will never be a dancer… definitely get the hell out there.

What is a Master Teacher? a master teacher is someone who has dedicated quite a bit of time and energy on their craft of teaching and has become recognized as one of the greats. Usually, these wonderful people are specifically focused on technique. This title usually refers to someone who has honed their skills as a teacher, and was able to create a method to improve or change the ballet technique for the better. They are everything mentioned above and magnified. To note some of America’s best: Bruce Marks, Finis Jung, Willy Burmann, Marcia Dale Weary and the late David Howard. (I’m not claiming I’m a master teacher, but this is the category I have fallen into, not really by choice.)

…Faculty– Faculty is usually associated with a school, specifically a school with a solid curriculum. A faculty is usually pieced together based on educational credentials, and each faculty member brings something different to create an overall aesthetic or pedagogy of teaching.

…Coach– A coach usually focuses on one thing. Each coach has a specialty, like stretching or port de bras, artistry or turns.

…Ballet Master/ Ballet Mistress– by definition this person is employed by a ballet company to teach and rehearse dancers. Note, you have to employed by a ballet company… a real one. These professionals have usually danced a full repertory and they share their experiences with other dancers in terms of coaching for a role. (Such hard work, I do this too… and it’s exhausting.)

…Répétiteur– Is someone in the craft of staging and translating ballets. Being a répétiteur is one of the hardest jobs in ballet because you have to know everyone’s part, and what is going on at all times on the stage. Their focus isn’t really technique, but production and precision. (I have just started staging full ballets and translating them onto companies and schools, and I have to say, it is a lot of work. Like a lot of work.)

…Director– Someone with a vision… This doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best teacher. Directors have the ability to see an artistic vision and execute it. Usually, they are also decent teachers, decent repetiteurs and have ballet mastered at some point.

…Guest Teacher– Usually, a big name dancer/teacher coming in to share experiences, tips and more. Guest teachers usually have a different take on students as they are there for 3 hours and then they are gone. They are brought in to supplement the training and inspire students. Guest teachers help try to assess and push the kids as hard as they can in a very short amount of time.

If you are a teacher and you want to better yourself, for your school, students and your own self fulfillment.. If you are interested in the Ballet Education Curriculum or Ballet Education Teacher Training Workshop, feel free to contact me here.


Don’t forget I’m teaching in Los Angeles today!! Click the Image to Pre-Register!
downtown los angeles ballet

YEAR 1 … Done.

FALL 2017

Issue 6 Featuring Tegan Chou

6 Issues 1 crazy year. When I started the magazine I was living in California, then Phoenix, and now issue six is published from Charleston. What a crazy whirlwind! But how wonderful! With so many subscribers and followers, we were able to lower the cost of the subscription to the magazine! Which is exciting!

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Still too expensive? Don’t worry, this entire month JOOmag Publishers are giving us 50% off, which means you get 50% off. Just use the coupon code: K0LBKWTVBUL4
Sorry, it is so long! But it is worth it.

This year a Ballet Education has five really big things coming up…
1. A Ballet Education’s YouTube Channel & Tutorials
2. A Ballet Education’s Teacher Workshops
3. A Ballet Education’s Master Class Series
4. A Ballet Education’s A Ballet Magazine getting even bigger
5. A Ballet Network’s great list of clients to work with.


sucess ballet

thug life

 

Period of Adjustment…

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It is that time of year again. For some, you are already back in the studios working, and for others, tomorrow will start the first day of ballet for the 2017-2018 season. Either way, we are getting back into the routine of things. For some, you are starting a new school, a big school, a premiere school. You have left home, moved into the dorms and are ready to start the rest of your life. You think to yourself, “I am one or two steps away from becoming a professional dancer” It is hard adjusting to new environments, this year, I’m doing the same thing. There is a huge period of adjustment. You have to find your groove/routine, decipher how different teachers work, what they want, and how well you respond to them. You have to figure out your rhythm with your new roommate. Things like that.

It’s hard for anyone. Add the stress of being a ballet dancer, the intensity the ballet world brings, and a pinch of homesick and there you have it.

Some tips while adjusting…

  1. Invite your roommate to make dinner together or get dinner together outside of dorm food.
  2. Play a board game.
  3. Use your phone’s note app to write down some things the teacher liked and disliked.
  4. Use that same app to write down any and all corrections you can remember, whether it was directed towards you or not.
  5. Go on a city tour, city guides know a lot.
  6. Facetime home.
  7. Eat healthy foods, drink lots of water, and make sure you are getting enough sleep.

xoxo,
a Ballet Education

 

A Ballet Education’s National Trainee Program at American National Ballet

Hey everyone out there… I am super excited to announce that American National Ballet is letting me direct our National Trainee program for the 2017-2018 season. What does this mean? You can train with me full time! I am looking for a select few elite dancers ages 15-18 who are technically proficient and are at the point in their training to start transitioning to artists, and maybe fix a couple of things along the way. But, if you aren't there yet, American National Ballet is announcing their pre-professional program as well, meaning dancers of all ages can train under a Ballet Education curriculum.

I am now starting to accept video auditions for those of you who are interested in joining the American National Ballet Conservatory. Classes start September 18, 2017.

Hope to hear from you soon!

You can email your video audition submissions to : dking@americannationalballet.org

Have questions? Feel free to ask!!

Audition submissions are free- you will either be placed in:
PRE PRO TRAINEE
PRE PRO 2
PRE PRO 1
Levels 1-5

Decline

THE BEST OF THE BEST… TOP BALLET SCHOOLS OF 2017

I see London, I see France, where is the best education for dance?
The Top Ten Ballet Schools in the World copy

It is that time of year again as young hopeful ballet students decide where to go train for the year. This year was a promising year for ballet, as the talent pool keeps growing and growing. What does this mean for most dancers looking to find the top training? It means that the top schools in the world are becoming more and more exclusive. Why is it so important to go an elite school? It offers some of the best training, but it also creates an environment pushing students to perform at their best constantly. Being surrounded by their peers, you can see what the job market will be like within your graduating class. Additionally, being seen at your year-end showcase or show matters, so that you can get a job. That is the goal in the long run, right? So, you have to plan ahead and be prepared.

This year the Ballet Education team was privileged enough to see the top ballet schools around the world work. And after a long day of meetings, debating, arguing, and seeking second and third opinions by the ballet world’s best we have come up with the top ten list of 2017. This year we talked about what happened this year in the ballet world, and how the schools reflect the progression of ballet technique. We also considered employability, size, opportunities, networking, visibility and graduation rates. So, as this is the much-anticipated list from a Ballet Education, we should go straight in.

  1. Royal Ballet School, United Kingdom | Divided into two schools, the lower school being White Lodge, and the upper school, Royal Ballet boasted an extremely strong class once again. As this exclusive school might be the Princeton of ballet schools, Royal Ballet School’s exclusivity reflects the amount of natural talent housed at this institution. Known for their constraint and control, dancers at the upper school continuously prove to be some of the best in the world by landing ferocious jobs and rising quickly to the top. (https://www.royalballetschool.org.uk)
  2. Vaganova School, St. Petersburg | The Harvard of Ballet. This historic institution remains as one of the top producing schools in the world. Not only do they produce large, wonderful graduating classes but also boasts some of, history’s greatest ballet dancers. (http://vaganovaacademy.com)
    Watch their graduation performance here:
  3. Paris Opera Ballet School, France | As the Yale of Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet School was one of the most exclusive schools to go to, but in recent years, POBS has expanded on their international acceptance rate making the French technique and pedagogy a little more relevant to today’s young ballerinas. (https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/artists/ballet-school/admission)
  4. Master Ballet Academy, USA | The USC of Ballet Schools. While there are the Ivies and their historical prestige, young schools are emerging to the top offering elite training and cultivating a newer generation of dancers progressing the ballet technique. While exclusivity runs high to become a Master’s student, Master Ballet Academy is known to take various body types and turn them out to be ballet dancers. Master Ballet Academy is the newest school on the list, but don’t be afraid, they focus on young students, as this year, it was quite obvious on the ballet competition circuit they are a force to be reckoned with. At the YAGP this year, it felt like half of the finalists were from Master Ballet Academy.  (http://masterballetacademy.com) It isn’t too late to enroll in their Grand Prix Intensive. Contact the school as soon as possible to get a spot. (http://grandprixintensive.com)
  5. John Cranko School, Stuttgart, Germany  | The John Cranko School not only feeds Stuttgart, but this fully comprehensive school offers higher education, vocational degrees, and university entrance diplomas. And, if you are German, to board at the school and train, you are paying less than 900 USD a month… Which still beats most small competition studios in the United States. The John Cranko school also boasts one of the best men’s programs in the world, creating strong, versatile and refined male dancers…. everything that a classical male ballet dancer is. (http://en.john-cranko-schule.de)
  6. School of American Ballet, USA | As the feeder school to the New York City Ballet, the historic School of American Ballet offers one thing other companies can’t. The historic legacy and the last significant contribution to ballet pedagogy, the Balanchine Aesthetic. This aesthetic is obviously not for everyone, nor is it a widely recognized form of classical pedagogy (because it’s not), the School of American Ballet picks up where American dance ended. It is the only elite school in America that does not run on the Vaganova, Paris Opera, Royal, RAD, Cuban pedagogies. Making this school one of a kind, and remaining one of the elite schools in the world solely because it feeds the New York City Ballet. (http://sab.org)
  7. San Francisco Ballet School, USA | San Francisco Ballet School boasted a 100% graduation rate this year, and continually proves that they offer some of the best training in the world. Their men’s/boy’s program is one of the best in the country and rivals the John Cranko School’s program. SFB also offers diverse training from Russian to Balanchine, to contemporary and modern, SFB’s curriculum only improves with time. (https://www.sfballet.org/school)
  8. Moscow State Academy (Bolshoi), Moscow | While history will never forget the Bolshoi School, it seems that the Vaganova school has eclipsed the Bolshoi in fame. While the company should never reflect the school, Bolshoi’s press has been up and down, and all over the place over the past few years. With books like Bolshoi Confidential, and movies like Bolshoi Babylon, we sometimes forget about the school to it’s famous sister. It’s like being Solange Knowles to Beyonce. You put out good work and are artistically impressive, but you are overshadowed by your sister’s fame.
  9. Princess Grace Academy, Monaco | This elite school not only claims a prestigious name in history but holds the relevance of being the school to Ballets de Monte-Carlo. In recent years they have been recruiting herd at ballet competitions offering four-year scholarships to young potential students. Because of this, the Academie de Danse Princesse Grace (official name), has cultivated strong talent and nurturing them into companies. (http://www.balletsdemontecarlo.com/en/academy)
  10. National Ballet School, Toronto, Canada | The NBS at National Ballet of Canada always produces clean dancers and is internationally recognized as a leading school.  The NBS is also one of the few schools that is partnering with other schools around the world that offers exchange programs based within their international network in hopes students are able to find jobs as well as, be exposed to as many options as possible. The price tag is quite high for the NBS school as nationals pay about 23K, and international students pay 33K for 9 months of training. (http://www.nbs-enb.ca/Home)

Honorable Mentions & Other Schools that a Ballet Education Considered, in no particular order:
Sunhwa Arts Academy
The School at National Ballet Cuba
Houston Ballet Academy
JKO School
Australian Ballet School
The School at Teatro La Scala
RCPD
Ellison
CPYB
BAE
KIROV DC
The Rock School
PNB
Miami City Ballet
Royal Winnipeg
All the schools in Japan
Boston Ballet School
All the other schools in Germany
_____

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A Night to Remember: Dance Theatre of Harlem

There are three types of quality dance performances. The first type of dance performance is the typical performance, strong technique, beautiful sets, and lavish costumes. It is entertaining, strong and shows how together or in sync the corps and powerful a company is and it is everything that dance should be. The second type of dance performance is one that demonstrates the companies ability to move identically. Whether it was curated by a director’s guidance or a school’s aesthetic, this type of performance is geared towards a specific look to achieve a very specific artistic goal, thought or portray and idea. Then finally, there is the third type of performance, and of the three, it is the rarest: the performance that moves your soul.

(cover photo by Ashley Lorraine Baker)

I was privileged enough to have the later experience this Friday night in little old Tucson, Arizona at the University of Arizona’s Centennial Hall. The company, Dance Theatre of Harlem under the legendary, power player Virginia Johnson. If you don’t know who she is, she is dance royalty and probably most known for her Giselle. If you aren’t familiar with Dance Theatre of Harlem’s history, it was founded in 1969 by NYCB legend Arthur Mitchell. Dance Theatre of Harlem made a come back after hiatus in 2012, and now employs sixteen diverse, beautiful dancers of color.
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The house was sold out, the crowd was interested in ballet of color, as the majority of the audience as older and white. The conversation around me was ignorant but pleasant. A woman in front of me was commenting to her friends that this wasn’t real ballet but entertaining ballet. Whatever that meant, I wasn’t going to start something with a tiny old lady. It didn’t matter, I was there to see a part of ballet history that is near and dear to my heart. I was lucky enough to get tickets, very good tickets. The lights dimmed, and the show began.

The program included Vessels by Darrell Grand Moultrie, Chaconne by José Limón, Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven; Odes to love and Loss by Ulysses Dove, and Return by Robert Garland. As the entire program was spectacular, there was a lot to be said about each piece. The dancing was brilliant, Ingrid Silva shined in Mother Popcorn, the opening movement of Return. Her plush skin and metallic side cut out costume created quite the mood to this James Brown, Alfred Ellis, Aretha Franklin and Carolyn Franklin piece. The company showed off their feel good attitude and pulled incredible tricks. The three women who danced the Ulysses Dove piece were beyond gorgeous. Their striking white costumes, extreme hyperextension and beautiful feet created gorgeous lines. I don’t think the majority of the audience knew what was happening, but it was quite moving. Chaconne was the test of Da’Von Doane, as this Limón solo is quite long and involves solid promenades. Doane had beautiful moments, but it lacked a sense of abandonment or self-reflection. His redeeming moments were Return. Alison Stroming was captivating, intense and inspiring in Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven. 

But the piece, that truly stole the night was Vessels.

Anytime a man and woman stand on stage it creates a story. Vessels created an intimate feeling of beauty that left me speechless and gave me a profound sense of pride. I was proud to be sitting, watching different dancers of color with different body types, technique, perform and move beautifully. The first section was breathtaking danced by five couples creating individual love stories. It reminded me of my life, different loves, different feelings, different relationships but all under the same concept. The second section was inspiring as four beautiful women blew across the stage. The score by Elio Bosso was beyond gorgeous, literally gorgeous. The lighting design by Clifton Taylor was so beautiful, it was art in itself. The costumes are by George Hudačko. The third section, Love, was danced by Stephanie Rae Williams and Francis Lawerence. This was probably the jewel of the entire evening. The pas de deux was so beautifully choreographed, and so beautifully executed, I teared up. The last time I cried at a dance performance was watching New York City Ballet’s Jewels a few years back. This pas de deux was so spectacular that the audience was silent and roared into applause when it ended. I attended the evening’s performance with a Ballet Education contributor Ashley Baker, and she couldn’t stop raving about Stephanie Rae Williams. Either could I. She literally stole the night.

She was engaging, captivating, technically wonderful and engaged. It was more incredible as she replaced a dancer that evening for the pas de deux. Francis Lawrence was a strong partner that I fell in love with. Watching him partner was beautiful, and more importantly creating those intimate moments with a new partner was wonderful. Williams also performed the pas Baby Baby Baby in Return with Chong Hoon Lee and got the entire audience hot and bothered. It was sexy, soulful and wonderful. It was the most beautiful evening of dance I have experienced in a long time.

dance-theatre-of-harlem-2017
Final Bows… Photo by Me. xoxo

 

Dance Theatre of Harlem truly is a magnificent work of art. The combination of ethnicity, power, strength, beauty and diversity is a testament and hope for the future of colored dancers. The only thing that would have made the night more perfect, is seeing some of the original Balanchine roots. It would have been nice to see this small company perform Balanchine’s Divert since you need five couples. And the five couples of Vessels proved that they could probably dance anything. Despite the company having diverse training, diverse bodies, and ethnicity the company embodied the spirit of movement, the technicalities of ballet, and the freedom of expression that is dance.

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Watch Dance Theatre of Harlem in NYC:
http://www.dancetheatreofharlem.org/newyorkseason

Please support this wonderful company and donate today:
https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/DTH

To Learn More about the Artist of DTH:
http://www.dancetheatreofharlem.org/company/dancers

Ballet Under The Stars: Ballet Arizona

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Ballet Arizona, a company I named to watch two years ago, performed under the stars last night in Goodyear at a lakeside park. It was gorgeous. It rained that morning, so it was pretty cool in the evening, which was a nice break from the skin burning heat. Their program was the ACT II of IB Andersen’s La Bayadere, Alejandro Cerrudo’s PACOPEPEPLUTO, an outreach performance, and Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements. It promised to be beautiful evening… Plus there were food trucks… Who doesn’t love a loaded waffle? What is better than a loaded waffle? Watching Ballet and eating a loaded waffle. So, let us just dive right in… The evening started off to numerous technical difficulties… Which didn’t bother me, with the exception of all the crazy preschoolers getting wild on the grassy hill. The MC for the night was kind of annoying, and I feel like she didn’t know a lot about the ballet performances… It just was not very good, nor exciting… It didn’t help the mic kept cutting out… Anyways… onto the good stuff and bad stuff—

Bayadere: Jillian Barrell and Nayon Iovino took on Gamzatti and Solor… They were absolutely everything… which unfortunately is the only thing nice I can say about Bayadere. Because of the moisture or something there were a couple of minor slips. During the coda there was a slip/drop of a girl, and so on… Unfortunately, during the Italian fouettés Ms. Barrell didn’t get them in all the way… But she recovered ferociously… She was actually really nice to watch… They did this Indian dance…. it was awful… Bayadere is set in India but the costuming and choreography echoed Native American/African/Showboat… It was just not very well thought out and borderline came off as offensive— but the male corps was ferocious. The female corps of Gamzatti’s friends were turned out with beautiful feet but missing that special something of classical ballet. That elegance, or that refinement of Royal Ballet, the effortless joy of ABT or something… It is just missing the polishing… Alejandro Mendez performed Golden Idol which was nice. But the real standout was Nayon Iovino’s Solor variation. It was beast while the rest of the Bayadere was just… not entertaining. Which is funny because Bayadere is one of the only full length ballets I genuinely enjoy.

PACOPEPEPLUTO: Originally done on Hubbard street this contemporary ballet showcases three men set to Music by Dean Martin and Joe Scalissi. Paco was danced by Nayon Iovino and was nice but lacked quirkiness and seduction. Helio Lima danced Pepe which was beyond fantastic, mesmerizing to be exact: Body Articulation for days…. Alejandro Mendez danced Pluto and was wonderfully quirky, technically brilliant but seemed to lack wanting more. The piece is so short and usually, short contemporary pieces feel too short and you want more dancing… It just needed something else, I just can’t put my finger on it. Though, it was nice because they didn’t look like ballet dancers trying to do contemporary… They had gorgeous articulation and ambitious attack… Just didn’t leave me wanting more.

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They ended the evening with Symphony in Three Movements… Which scared me… Because after Bayadere I was dreading seeing another company botch a Balanchine Ballet… Buuut Arianna Martin and Helio Lima blew it out of the water. Mimi Tompkins was BEYOND GORGEOUS and was everything. She was partnered by Jackson Dwyer. Lauren Flower and Roman Zavarov were pretty spectacular as well. The black leotard couples though were the real stand out. Everything about these ten dancers was spot on. It was absolutely stunning. The corps of long-legged dancers in white leotards was gorgeous as well. It was extremely well danced, technically clean, and musicality was ferocious. Downside… Their company lacks ethnicity among their women… The women and men are extremely thin… Not just ballet thin, but it seems that Ib Andersen like extremely narrow/flat torsos. The company is extremely on the narrow side, and lacked the diversity of body types that you see in other companies. Everyone was extremely hypermobile with beautiful feet, not complaining… Just lacked diversity.

Overall, the performance was nice enough. The setting helped a lot and it was nice to have a night off. Ballet Arizona will be performing the full-length La Bayadere 27-30 with the Phoenix Symphony ad Symphony hall.