What is Contemporary Ballet?

contemporary ballet history

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.


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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…

training aballeteducation

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

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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.
dance-theatre-of-harlem-ua-presents

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.

Goodbye Ballet

When Your Body Decides to be Done with Ballet
Susie Boyland, contributing writer

Swan Lake 2012 ROH, Swan Lake 2012 ROH
original artwork by Susie Boyland- Swan Lake

If you are heavily dedicated to ballet, it becomes your life and a major part of your identity.  Whether you dance purely for fun or as your career, ballet consumes your every thought and many hours of your day, every day for years on end.  It keeps you in great physical shape and there’s no need to go to “the gym” like most “normal” people.  However, at some point, whether it be at age 15 or 90, everyone’s body decides that it will no longer put up with the physical demands that ballet places on it and somehow we have to figure out how to deal with that.

At the beginning of last year I was devastated to hear that I either needed to have hip surgery or stop dancing.  Dance was never my career, but nevertheless it was (and is) a big part of my identity.  A few months later I was told that actually I needed to have hip surgery AND stop dancing; it was no longer an either-or, it was both.  It’s been 8 months since my surgery and I have yet to figure out how to process this.  I’m still recovering physically and I’m also in denial that I will never again do another grande jeté – my favorite step.  The surgery went well, but my body still seems to be complaining and my surgeon advised against returning to ballet unless I want to be sure of having a hip replacement in my future.  I haven’t taken a dance class in months, but in my mind it feels like it’s just an extended “break” until I can go back, like it has been in the past.  I have taken long breaks due to injury before – in fact I think my longest break from ballet before now was 9 months – but I always knew that at some point I would be able to return and eventually get back to full strength.  This time, that isn’t the case.  I can’t go back, at least not fully.  How are you supposed to deal when you’ve taken your last class and at the time you didn’t even know it?

Former PNB principal dancer Carla Körbes stated before her retirement that perhaps she could have kept dancing at 80% but it wasn’t worth it to her because she needed to dance at 100% in order for it to be fulfilling.  I fully understand that.  In ballet, holding back is not really an option.  Either you go all out or you don’t do it at all. Modifying steps in class due to an injury is not fun and I can’t imagine having to do that for the rest of my life.  I don’t want to go through every class having to think things like, “If I do this step, will I be in pain for days after?  Will I need surgery again if I do this combination full-out?”  Ballet is about pushing limits and going to the extreme so if you can’t allow your body to do that anymore, it just doesn’t feel right.  Pushing the limits of the human body’s capacity is part of what makes ballet so intriguing.  Unfortunately, this aspect of ballet is also what over time erodes our bodies to the point that we can no longer do what we used to be able to do.

I don’t think there is really any one way in particular to deal with the difficulty of not being able to do ballet anymore.  The one thing you can be sure of though is that you know you are able to feel a strong passion for something.  Just like after a breakup or a death of a loved one, you will recover and you will find your passion again, though this time it will be for something else.  Perhaps it will be ballet-related, or perhaps it’ll be something else entirely.  Regardless, you can take comfort in the thought that you have the ability to feel so strongly about something.   Some people don’t have this ability.

Along with the ability to feel passion, ballet dancers have certain other qualities instilled in them that will allow them to excel in any field: determination, persistence, commitment, and an extremely strong work ethic, just to name a few.  Dancers know how to push through pain, conquer the seemingly impossible, and make something incredibly difficult look polished and effortless.

So, when you’re faced with the reality of having to stop dancing, first take some time to grieve – it is, after all, essentially a death.  But this death is different than most in that it presents along with it a chance for a new beginning.  Once you get through the fog and confusion of figuring out how to move on, you’ll find that the world is full of wonderful new opportunities to explore.  I’m still working on finding a new form of physical activity that I both enjoy and my body lets me do, but in the meantime I am pouring my heart and soul into my new passion: photography.  I especially love photographing gymnastics competitions and someday hope to have the opportunity to photograph dancers.  The same passion and energy that I felt for ballet is starting to present itself to me in photography.  Also, I’ve found that after ballet, almost everything else seems relatively easy!

I can’t bring myself to say “I used to be a dancer” rather than “I am dancer” and I don’t know if I ever will.  Using the past tense makes it more real and I’m not ready for that, despite the fact that I’m discovering new interests.  Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney recently did an interview where she talked about how hard it was to have to stop doing the activity that used to be her entire life.  She stated that she didn’t want to use the word “retire,” as so many gymnasts and dancers often do when they hang-up their leotards and pointe shoes.  This is the same way I feel about using the past tense, i.e. “I used to dance.”  In my opinion, once a dancer, always a dancer.  McKayla Maroney will always be a gymnast and I will always be a dancer, even if the only dancing I do is in my head.

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You can see some of Susie’s photography work here and follow her on Twitter at @Gymtertainment.  She also has gone a bit crazy in her post-ballet life and makes videos in a T-Rex costume.

Read Susie’s other article about careers after ballet by clicking here

Saturday Morning Warm Ups

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Every Saturday morning dancers around the world hear their alarm clocks go off and they want to die. The physical demand for a dancer is extremely high, but the emotional and mental demand on a dancer is just as high if not higher… Saturday mornings we are cursed with having to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to go to class. For professionals, they just had a performance the night before and they now have to get up, go to class, rehearse and perform 1-2 times on Saturdays. It is awful… And for students, for some unholy reason, ballet teachers take Saturdays as a day to dance early so you can get out early…. The concept is awful. Most dancers are at the studio all night on Fridays, and have to return to ballet class by 10:00 AM, which means you have to be at the studios warming up at 9:30ish, which probably means you are up at 7:00 to get ready, eat, let the food digest, and commute to the studios.. This concept has plagued the ballet world for who knows how long… I blame some soviet teacher back in the day wanting to capitalize on off time… #justsayin

russian teacher stories

So, with that being said, a lot of students have written in asking what a proper warm is… Truthfully… it varies by body type, and what injuries you have or are prone to. Usually, a good warm up consists of core muscles, finding your center, articulation through the back, a quick warm up through the feet and knees, and stretching out anywhere that is tight or sore.

Everyone’s warm up is different… mine takes about 45 minutes because I have to warm up a lot because of hip surgeries and a lack of natural ballet needs… I also don’t dance regularly anymore, so I have to start prior to even getting to the studios. If I know I am going to be taking company class or any open ballet class that morning I need to take a really hot shower and crack my ankles, and open the tops of my arches. I then have to eat a steel cut oatmeal and two bananas or I will cramp and die somewhere between degagés and ron de jambes. I also eat hard boiled eggs, toast with peanut butter and avocado… and coffee cake (#fatpandaproblems).

Before I leave I make sure I have everything packed in my herschel dance bag. Gatorade for barre, water bottle for center, coffee to go because I live off it. Trigger point Foam roller, foot roller, theraband, trash bags, sweatpants, variety of legwarmers, dancewear, sewing kit, ballet shoes like 3 different pairs, headphones, headband because my bangs are super fierce right now and my cell phone….

Once I get to the studio and pay for open class, and I change, headphones go in my ears and I find a spot to start warming up.

I start with pilates 100’s…. core hold, and pushups… I write the alphabet with my feet and ankles making sure I articulate all the way through my feet. Then I lay on the floor and start warming up my hips and back…. Tight hips and flexible back is a fun combo to try warming up…. I then stretch out my hip flexors, and hamstrings, and quite my rib cage because after all of the rolling on the floor my rips tend to open… plus I am a big splayer in real life. I sit in my lower back and let my ribs pop open all the time… I could cut someone’s eye with how bad the lower portion of my ribs splay. I then roll through my feet  to relevé in first and second. I cheat in fifth and just check the line. I do some tendus to feel the backs of my legs and then stretch it all out. Splits. Then ready to take class.

Usually, when I take class I have a goal… like petit allegro or pirouettes. So I warm up and take class accordingly. Now that I am a fat panda… I am not really an overall dancer… And because of my body, depending on what is hurting… I avoid certain exercises… or my body tires out really fast so I have to pace myself. If I am focusing on pirouettes, I won’t do a lot of combinations on relevé because I would die, twist my ankle and fall during across the floors.

So… what is a proper warm up for ballet class? Whatever works for your body. A girlfriend of mine has really tight hamstrings so she spends her entire warm up stretching out her legs. Another friend, he has a really tight back, like so tight some days arabesque does not happen for him… So spends his time doing all these modern exercises and yoga positions to get his back going. Another friend of mine is a quad gripper so he spends a lot of time stretching out his quads and warming up hamstrings. Everyone is different…

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SHOP FAT PANDA AND OTHER DOODLES BY CLICKING HERE

What is Ballet?

You could be reading this as a professional dancer looking to retire into teaching, be a teacher already, an aspiring student, a parent of a ballet dancer, or even an adult coming to ballet for the first time. As scary as ballet is, ballet is beautiful and benefits everyone through discipline, repetition, hearing and understanding music, the human anatomy and evoking the one quality that defines the ballet aesthetic: elegance.

Working on my Intro/Preface for the book… 

The technical book

Not the final cover, but using it as a mock up.

Ballet. Classical ballet as an art form can not stand alone, it is the collaboration of movement, music, costuming, lighting and design. When they say it takes a village to raise a child, it takes all of humanities achievements, accomplishments and history to make ballet happen. Ballet as a whole is a reflection of our times, it portrays the context of what was popular at the time, what was happening in the modern world, and how it is unforgiving. Yet, somehow, this art form has survived hundreds of years, because of tradition. The tradition of ballet has been verbally passed down from one generation of dancers to the next, and like traditions and folklore, it has been expanded on, distorted, and refined. Today, ballet is the reflection of that oral tradition presented on the human anatomy to music.

Watching a ballet performance is magical. There is something to be said about getting dressed up for the theatre and watch humans transform into fairies, sylphs, heroes and heroines, star-crossed lovers and swans. It is truly the ethereal escape that for years ballet critics have fawned over. But in today’s ballet world, in the age of technology, ballet has changed. In the 60’s the audiences were balletomanes, knowing dancers by name and rank. They roared in applause for superstars and cried over well-danced performances. Nowadays, ballet companies have the audience of ballet isn’t just captivated in beautiful theaters across the world. Ballet companies are now performing to the masses via social media. The demand for ballet is instantaneous, ballet superstars aren’t created by artistic directors, they are created by their followers on social media.

This means, ballet dancers once again have to find a way to reinvent themselves. While the older generation of dancers moved on to become entrepreneurs with the young millennials, young ballet dancers now are creating such a huge following for themselves by being exceptionally gifted, have the best training the world has to offer and be fundamentally interesting as both a human and a ballet dancer. And now, companies are head hunting again, and having to follow social media trends in dance.

As a result, the demand for excellent teacher has grown. Teachers used to rely on their reputations as dancers, and studios relied on the fact that every girl wants to be a ballerina. Nowadays, studios and ballet schools have to have a combination of excellent coaches, extremely educated teachers, and phenomenal instructors. The three are very different. Additionally, they have to be well connected to the ballet world or the competition circuit of ballet. If a parent or student doesn’t feel that the student is growing or not being pushed to their full potential they will leave and find a school that fits their needs.

Because of the increase of ballet companies in the world, the number of ballet schools has increased, and the number of dance studios has increased. This means, for the potential dancer, there are hundreds of options and many options locally.

When I started the blog, a Ballet Education was just a place for me to rant about my frustrations within the professional world of ballet, but now over the past two years, it has grown to become a resource for parents, students, teachers, and more. So for that, I am thankful that it has grown and has become a source to help others pursue their dreams or help understand what goes on in the world of ballet.

So, as I am preparing to start writing my ballet book… I have encountered a larger problem… The funding for my book… While I have been contacting by smaller publishers, they can’t offer what I need to complete my book, and how I think the book should be published. My book is estimated to be close to 400 color pages, and preferably hardcover because let’s face it… If you have a ballet dictionary it is falling apart after years of carrying it around in sweaty dance bags. Ballet books have to be structurally made to last. As teachers, they are even in worse condition as you write notes in them, and use them constantly, or at least you should.

Finally my notes on technique aren’t just on technique, but how to approach them as the adult dancer, the young dancer, dancers with “difficult body types”, and how my methods of how to teach these. As I am putting the work out slowly to get a feel from publishers and literary agents, and I hope that it happens soon, I hope my future book will help generations of ballet dancers like the ballet manuals prior to mine.

Also, once it is published via the IBSN, I hope you all go out and buy it right away so I can land a spot on a bestseller list. I would be nice to have a “ballet book” (not a biography) make the best sellers list, just sayin. Thank you again.

My blog won’t be updated as I am leaving for two weeks, but when I return: order will be shipped and blogging will resume. I’ve been working on quite a few blog posts. And since I won’t be posting via Instagram or blog, I am just going to publish the rest of my doodles of the day. Remember, this week’s theme was fashion illustrations of what ballet dancers wear, not doodles. (Follow me on Instagram: @aballeteducation)

LOOK OF THE DAYS

Ballet Books… and fat pandas

After much anticipation and deal making, and doodling… I have finally decided on a publisher! I know have I have published digital books in the past for a Ballet Education, but this is exciting because I love hardcopy books! So I have finally figured out some stuff about the publishing of THREE new books for a Ballet Education.

So the first book is the FAT PANDA book. It is a 5.5″x5.5″ softcover book printed on recycled materials! This book is ready for production and shipping! Click here to view This book is on the pricey side… But, unfortunately, I couldn’t get the publisher to come down the the cost.

The second book is the doodle book featuring over one hundred of my doodles. This book is a fundraiser for the blog, and all the proceeds go to the blog and to the scholarships I have been giving out from the doodles. Unfortunately, this book is only on pre-order at the moment, but as soon as the first set of hard copies come in… I will be shipping! It is kind of exciting. 140 pages of doodles.  Click here to view

Finally, I want to take on my magnum opus of publishing for the blog… haven’t figured out a title yet, or a cover image… but you can learn more about this project by clicking here! I am very excited about it!

The idea behind the book is not to create your typical, some what boring ballet dictionary… and I definitely don’t want to create something that no one will want to read… I want it to be helpful and interesting… I definitely want to have the doodles, the technical drawings and other things in the book. I don’t want it to just be vocabulary terms… I want it to actually be useful… If you have any other ideas or what you want to see out of the book let me know by emailing me.

SHOUT OUT TO ALL OF THE FOLLOWERS ON INSTA: @aballeteducation

 

CORPS DE BALLET CONFESSIONAL: Alaia Rogers-Maman

alaia rogers maman

If you follow ballet competitions and the budding young talent in the ballet world, you have heard of her. Her photos are all over Instagram, and her videos have been watched thousands of times. After starting late compared to most ballerinas, she secured a spot in the variation selections at the Prix de Lausanne at the age of 15, and then a spot at the Royal Ballet Upper School… Alaia Rogers Maman is proving herself to be a force of nature in ballet. She is now a corps de ballet member at the prestigious Vienna State Opera Ballet Company. She may be young, but she already has a very defined sense of musicality and intensity. Alaia was super great to chat with over Instagram and Facebook to secure our next Corps de Ballet Confessional.

So, let’s begin: 

Name: Alaia Rogers, although my full name is Alaia Rogers-Maman and that is what is listed in Prix de Lausanne blogs and the company’s site
Website: No website yet although I think it’s a project I would really enjoy , updating it with content and blog posts , I just haven’t gotten around to it and I’m not sure anyone would actually read it   🙂
(I’m sure we would all follow it)
Insta: alaiarogers
Company: Wiener Staatsballett -translated Vienna state opera ballet-click here for website
Company Position: Corps de ballet , 2nd season , first company (click here for her company profile)

Ballet Education: I trained with many different teachers and schools , but I would credit my most influential training to Magaly Suarez her school is “The Art of Classical Ballet” in Pompano Beach, Florida. She really changed me as a dancer and made the idea of me becoming a professional dancer into a realistic possibility. Going to the Prix de Lausanne and getting the scholarship to Royal Ballet School was something I never thought I could achieve before her training . So my education in dance I would attribute to her and the royal ballet upper school .

Age: 19
Height: 5’7.5” or 165.7 CM

How do you drink your coffee?
Coffee – latte no sugar … I love my Nespresso machine

What is your favorite dessert?
Dessert – that is a tough one, I love dark chocolate especially with sea salt or pistachio filling

You went to Royal Ballet upper school, what was that like?
RBS was a trying and wonderful experience. I think that you can find great ballet teachers all over the world but at RBS it is more than the teachers it’s level of talent from the students and the comprehensive education provided. Ms. Stock traveled the world searching for the dancers with the greatest potential and then put them all in the same class. I think that might be what made me improve the most there was being inspired and challenged by my classmates . The pas de deux education there is phenomenal , the boys are of such a high standard and our teacher Mr.Pakri made us understand all of the technical aspects and taught us to trust our partners and be there for each other. The education on ballet history , physiotherapy , character dance, arts funding, and all stages and roles within the choreographic process were taught in great depth. It was also a trying time lots of changes were taking place as Ms.stock made her departure from the school. It was very sad to see her go and later hear I of her illness.

What was it like trying to find a job?
Finding a job was a bit scary at first especially when you see how many candidates show up to an open audition. You really think how are they even going to see me in this sea of girls. Also, there are only a few spaces available to dancers each season, I felt like all the odds were against me. I think doing your research is important,  to look for a company where you can see yourself fitting into the repertory

What was your dream company when you are 15?
I think I had a few dream companies at 15 , Paris Opera and ABT were definitely at the top though

What is it like dancing at the Vienna State Opera?
It’s incredible to work here in Vienna . The opera house is beautiful and I love curtain calls when you can just look out into the beautiful theater and take it all in. The Viennese people are huge fans of the opera and ballet and we are always performing for packed audiences. My director is Manuel Legris (former etoile at Paris Opera) and he has a never-ending wealth of knowledge to share with us. We have such a diverse group of super talented dancers which I feel lucky to be a part of. I really believe this is one of the best places to work in ballet. Few companies have our diverse and exciting rep paired with great dancers and a world-class director.

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How often do you perform?
Our performance schedule varies month to month, but I would say on average about 85 shows per year here in Vienna .

What are you currently rehearsing?
Onegin, Le Corsaire by Manuel Legris, Marie Antoinette by Patrick de Bana, snow queen by Micheal Corder , and soon we start with Mayerling.

How does time off work at an Opera House?
Our company is different than most we don’t have scheduled Christmas or mid season breaks. They try to give everyone their free days when possible based on the programs you are cast in. At times, it can a bit annoying because it’s hard to make plans for vacation or family with little notice but when we all get two months of holidays in summer it makes up for it .

What are some of the pressures of being in a ballet school compared to being in a company?
Ballet school, although at the time, I felt was stressful really isn’t  in comparison to being in a company. In school you and your classmates are all practically on the same level it’s like a mini company where you are all the same rank. In school, your teachers are so invested in you and are constantly giving you feedback and you have hours of rehearsal time and you know exactly what you are going to dance and when. In a company you get very little feedback about your personal progress and have to motivate and assess yourself. You also are preparing multiple pieces at one time with limited rehearsals and have to be prepared to jump into other roles, with maybe only 30 minutes notice and hopefully ONE rehearsal. School years were golden years with lots of nurturing and friendships combined with hard work. In the company it is different, but once you adjust you really enjoy the diversity of the things you dance, the mentorship of more experienced dancers, and the feeling that with each role you really can explore your artistry and grow.
royal ballet school 2012

What are some of the relationships you develop in the corps de ballet?
Well, you develop great relationships. Dancing with a new partners you forge friendships with people you wouldn’t have become friends with otherwise. Also, when you work on a piece that has been in the rep for years and it’s your first time dancing it the more experienced dancers can really help you along the way. I think you can learn a lot from dancers in the corps de ballet there are  really young dancers, dancers starting to get their first big opportunities , dancers who have been in the company for more than a decade , and super moms who somehow manage this crazy time and energy consuming profession with motherhood. So you make all sorts of friends in corps.

What is the biggest difference between European dancers and American Dancers?
I think to compare European dancers and American dancers it is not really possible because British, French and Danish dancers are completely different already. I can only comment on the things I felt I had to change myself once I started dancing in Europe . My wrists, they often dropped and didn’t always elongate my line, finding more light and shade in my dancing playing more with the musicality.

When you were a student, what was the hardest thing for you?
Being a student, I think the hardest thing for me was mental. I started ballet quite late and I was always the underdog or the one who had potential but was behind the other students. Mentally, it was often hard to believe I had progressed enough to do well in a competition or be able to stand out in a group of my talented peers, my confidence wasn’t always on the same level as my capability.

Technically? Mentally? Injury Prone to?
Technically I had struggles too but every student and professional does.

I really believe that if you eat, sleep , and work properly you can avoid most injuries . I have been very lucky I have had only very minor injuries. It’s shocking how many dancers as they get older and start a professional career do so little to warm up.

What is in your dance bag?
My dance bag is huge – lots of Bloch point shoes , theraband, box cutters, sports wrap, chapstick, sewing kit , jet glue , icy hot , leg warmers, rehearsal skirt, shorts , ballet flats, foot spray , sisscors, scotch tape , lambs wool toe pads, my keys and phone

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What is your dream role?
I have many roles I aspire to. I would love to dance a dramatic role like Tatiana in Onegin , Marguerite in Lady of the Camillas , or Esmeralda in Notre Dame.

 What do you want out of your ballet career?
I think I am a very ambitious person , and I want out of ballet what I would want out of any other career I could choose . To continue to improve, to be challenged, not to plateau, to always be working toward something. Ballet is wonderful because you can always grow more. Even the best of the best can continue to work, explore, and create. I love feeling that each class or performance was an improvement on the last.

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Don’t forget tickets to the FINALS for the YAGP are on sale! If you are in NYC- get them now! Click here!


Love the Corps De Ballet Confessional? Check out our first one with San Fran Ballet’s Julia Rowe. Are you a corps member and interested in being interviewed? Email me aballeteducation@gmail.com

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Wednesday Thoughts…

wednesday blues.jpgHello there ballet lovers, ballet dancers & balletomanes …
Sorry, I haven’t posted in a while… But between my birthday and my personal life, I have been quite busy. Today has gotten me down… So as I sit here in my office listening to Rhapsody in Blue, quick sketched this little doodle.  I have been teaching a lot lately, mostly coaching for the YAGP finals next month and getting a young batch of girls ready to go away for the summer. I am actually pretty proud of my students this year: this year I am sending students to SAB, Houston Ballet, Ballet Chicago, the Rock School, Joffrey NY and Arizona Ballet. Pretty happy with these results as this is our first year, and for most of them, it is their first year auditioning.

Tickets to the YAGP finals went on sale today, but since I haven’t raised that much money that has been slightly down. There is something major happening in my life, that has affecting me greatly and deeply. A friend of mine is 25, and losing his battle to AIDS via various infections and PCP… I can’t help but think how fragile life is… and as much as it pains me to say: how insignificant ballet is in the larger picture. Don’t get me wrong, I love ballet, and I love the art… I love art in general, and I definitely think art brings the passionate side of humanity out… But… There are a lot of things happening in the world… a lot of things we could be doing to affect change… Don’t get me wrong… I am all about the changes in ballet… race, ethnicity, gender… but human kind’s problems seem a little more important at the moment.

A good friend of mine once told me that to affect change in the world is almost impossible, but to affect people’s lives you just have to be yourself.

And that is all we can do… be the best version of ourselves and hope that we make a difference.

Our next corps de ballet confessional comes out tomorrow!

And if you would like to a doodle- I am having a flash sale today! CLICK HERE!

xoxo,

a ballet education

 

LET ME BE A SWAN… any swan… company contracts

 

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I have been illustrating corps pictures on Insta to prove ethnic dancers aren’t going to distract from the corps…. #justsayin

 

 

The waiting game… From January until May, sometimes even longer, dancers ages 17ish-22ish wait anxiously for the ultimate business goal: A CONTRACT. For some dancers, there is an additional layer of stress; they are waiting for their college acceptances as their backup plans. It is a scary moment. Usually, these dancers are at professional schools attached to companies like San Francisco Ballet School or Miami City Ballet School, and they are waiting to hear from that company. In addition to waiting for that company to possibly give them a contract, most dancers also auditioned for a million other companies and summer programs, just in case…. It is a scary thing, but it is a part of this career, here in the US in particular.

For dancers who are waiting for a contract there are three common contracts that dancers are waiting for:
1. Corps de ballet: Basically to be invited into the main company is a dream come true, and this is probably the most coveted contract because it is the best paid of the three. If you haven’t danced with a company or completed an apprenticeship year somewhere, this contract is hard to land. Most dancers who are going after corps contracts have completed a rigorous ballet education, finished a traineeship program, and completed an apprentice year at a company. Most dancers who move into corps positions have all this, but there are always the exceptions…. On occasion, and mostly during Nutcracker top students from the school are pulled as fillers to step in for injured or overworked dancers, and on occasion if a dancer performs well under the stress, the schedule, and the stamina factor… A dancer can be given a contract to the corps the following spring… This usually happens in larger companies.
2. Apprenticeship: A coveted spot to spend a year with the company, and basically, you are part of the company except you are the access… You have to work ten times harder to prove you can “fit in” to the company life. The apprentice year for a ballet dancer is hard because you don’t’ know exactly where you fit in. You are kind of in the company, but not really. You have to learn the entire repertory without actually being sat down with, or guided through. Half the time it is via video, by yourself in a studio, trying to see what girl is girl number 10 in snow, and that’s that.
3. Studio Company/ 2nd Company: A lot of companies have now implemented the studio company/second company which is kind of a joke… it is basically 10-20 dancers who double up in the corps de ballet without having to be paid as much. The only place that really has a studio company is ABT. Their second company performs a lot, and is used to try new choreographers out, and for dancers to build performance qualities across different styles of movement.

Numbers…. There are tons of dancers out there… Maybe too many dancers… The industry right now is so oversaturated with talent, that there aren’t enough jobs to accommodate them. This is mostly because the audience and general public for ballet aren’t buying tickets. So, if you think about it there are tons of places where dancers start out…. Quoting my old post “Too Many Claras”

FACT: A dance studio is not the same as a dance school and is not the same as a performing arts school and is not the same as a ballet school.

A Dance Studio is a recreational place to dance, which means you are there for exercise, exposure to music and the idea of technique.

A Dance School is a recreational place to dance with higher performance expectancy. A dance school usually can also be called a competition studio, or a performance studio. This is where technique matters, but not to the extent of creating a career that feeds into a company. This is more for commercial dance route, the Hollywood route, and the scholarships to a UDA college career.

A Performing Arts School is a place for children to develop the fine/performing arts to a greater extent on the artistic side. Most kids in these schools aren’t just out to be ballet dancers, but instead they are also on their way to become a triple threat: BROADWAY BOUND. Performing arts schools usually offer more than just ballet, but modern, contemporary, voice lessons, acting lessons, and so forth.

A Ballet School is a place for children to study pure ballet. Regardless of the pedagogy, it is completely ballet based, and the emphasis is only on ballet technique with supplemented curriculum of modern, contemporary and occasionally jazz.

With that being said, no matter what school you are at… you are at a school. In the top level, there are maybe 8-16 girls… Of those 8-16 girls, they will usually all get into summer programs… Or at least, half. From there, in the upper level of a summer course, or even the top two levels there will range anywhere between 40-100 girls. Of those girls, 20 might be asked to stay year round. Once you are year-round at a pre-professional school in the top level there might be twelve girls… of those twelve, 4-8 will be asked to join the trainee program… In the trainee program there will be about 12 girls, of those twelve, generously, 3 girls will be asked to join as apprentices… Of those three girls, maybe 1 will join the company… Yes, the odds are that slim, but luckily in America there are hundreds of companies. This is why teachers say it is a privilege to be a ballerina because company contracts are so scarce.

There are hundreds of companies that fuel America’s ballet needs. Unfortunately, that also hinders companies. It means donors are dividing the money in the community, and that is how favorite companies and styles are developed.

There is no guarantee that a ballet dancer will go pro or not… The only insurance you can really get for your child is a good ballet education, at a good school… And in America, there are tons of those… But for those who are serious about ballet, the seriousness of getting a contract is a big deal… And you have to be prepared times ten. It isn’t like college where you put your dream school, backup schools, and safety schools… In fact, it isn’t even like summer programs… When it comes to contracts you go where they want you, and where they can pay you.

When it comes to contracts there are two types contracts… there are union contracts and non-union contracts… Ideally, you want a union contract as it protects the interests of the dancer… It also keeps you from being one of those dancers who are underpaid, overworked, and dancing on injuries. Your contract is so important because it outlines time off, rehearsals standards, how much you can actually dance in a day, and so forth… A good contract will be 10+ pages… A bad contract is two-three pages, and is vague….

So for those of you in the waiting game… Good luck! And for those of you who are embarking on your journey to get a contract…. Keep your heads high, and keep pushing to be the best.

xoxo,
a Ballet Education
INSTA: aballeteducation

So you got the claw… and other bad habits…

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So you have the claw… It’s not the worst thing in the world. Actually, maybe it is… If you don’t know what I am talking about…. a lot of Balanchine dancers are accused of having the claw… It is basically a distorted version of the Balanchine’s hand…. I don’t know if it is because of the way SAB teaches young students how to hold their hands from a young age, or it is because somewhere down the line someone made an impromptu decision to change the shape…. I don’t know. But, this really has nothing to do with the criticism of the “Balanchine” hand… Actually… I am talking about tension…

So, usually, the claw is a result of a Balanchine dancer holding a lot of tension in the hand. Some dancers get the pointer finger, some get cheeseburger hands, some get spatula hand… Regardless, a lot of dancers hold tension in their hands… As a result, the tension distorts the line… Whether it is the breaking of the wrist or the tension in the fingers our hands play an important role in the ballet. Hands complete the line and largely create or direct the negative space the line creates. How to get rid of hand tension? Shake your hands out and get hand massages… Also, put the tension somewhere important… Like your core.

Holding tension in the wrong places creates for the most awkward things:
1. double chin- for dancers who hold their tension by locking back in their neck.
2. Ginchy foot- usually a dancer with good feet pulls their arch back while doing a hard jump, which makes no sense because they have good feet…
3. Splayed ribs- dancers who don’t hold any tension in their core like they should, have a tendency to splay… (I had a really hard time with that… plus having a hypermobile back didn’t help the cause)
4. Drowning face- dancers who don’t breathe usually result in drowning face, or they finish dancing and are hyperventilating and need their inhalers… Oh and some of these people hold tension in their teeth by biting down really hard or clenching their jaw shut… No shade or anything… but I would hate when a particular dancer would come off stage and be like, “I can’t breathe, I need my inhaler” and make this big scene, and cause all the dressers and crew backstage… even though this happened every performance…. like seriously…. I get asthma is a real thing… Totally understand it… but this particular dancer (and you probably know someone like this) would create the most drama out of this… dancers who dance at a higher elevation you totally get to be dramatic because that is like death….
5. Man shoulders… some dancers hold tension in their traps and shoulders which cause a really distorted neckline and unusual muscle build… I think dancers with this issue have an easier time turning, but I could me wrong…
6. Quad Grippers- this is actually really bad for you… gripping of the quads is, well just wrong…. and prohibits technique… and causes thick thighs…. so never a good thing… You probably will need to stretch out 100 times more than most, get massages, and have to start ballet 1 again and work properly… This is the hardest habit to break.
7. Tongue Sticker Outer- Yup… there are those dancers who stick their tongues out to improve concentration…

So- if you are holding tension in places besides your hamstrings, core or back… You need to go get a massage. You probably should also get into lower level classes and focus on where you are holding tension and correct it. It sounds crazy, but tension in the wrong places causes you to work ten times harder than someone who is properly working… Tension in the wrong places is never a good thing… So, get into lower classes and correct your bad habits.

In other news… my Leading Ladies of American Ballet Theatre will be auctioned off by ABT. There are only 6 prints left to purchase… So if you live in the US and would like one, just click the image… Sorry international… these shipping rates are kind of killing me… I will look into it more, when I am not sick.

Leading Ladies of American Ballet Theatre
Leading Ladies of ABT

I am sick with what my best friend is calling bird flu- mostly because I have this weird sounding cough.

Also don’t forget to follow me on instagram to see more of my doodle! @aballeteducation

xoxo,

a ballet education

 

Dancing without Limbs… Disabilities in Dance

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You can never win them all, and in fact, most of the time my blog seems to center around controversy. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it. Most of the time. Recently on Instagram, I have been doodling exceptional young talent because I want to go to the YAGP to cover it. I have also been doodling the women of ballet who inspire me. But lately, I have been getting some posts that at first upset me because of the direction they were going in, but then it affected me because of my family life…

Is there room in ballet for dancers with disabilities?

Backstory: I am one of twelve kids, of those twelve nine of us are adopted, and of those nine 6 have special needs. From missing limbs to severe cerebral palsy, my parents adopted them all. When we were younger, a beautiful woman, Jennifer Laurie, offered my sister Leena who was born with Larsen’s Syndrome, a chance to dance because she wanted to be a dancer. Classes were free, and this led to my sister Rebecca to dance and then basically me… Then later on, I got to teach a workshop at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, and that was a great experience, but…
Current Story: A few young women pointed out that my doodles were racist. That I only pick white women to doodle… Instead of ranting, I just decided to start with Misty Copeland and then doodle women of color in dance that inspire me. I also decided that as I doodle my classical ballets I would doodle color blindly. Then… a few young dancers went off on me, saying I was excluding them because they have disabilities…

Before I responded to them, I had to think really hard… Like really hard… And I had to think smartly. So…. Below are some of my thoughts via vlogging on this issue…

So, how do we change this? Do the government and local communities raise money to find a place for disabled dancers in the performing arts? Or, do world renowned ballet companies start changing the look of their dancers to be more inclusive of ethnicity, disability, etc? What are your thoughts?

A dream workshop with the NYCB — WILL MAKE YOU CRY FYI…

Hand in Hand performed by Ma Li and Zhai Xiowei

Physically Being Me – six stories from Deaf and Disabled Dancers by Foundation for Community Dance

China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe — okay, go China since you have been doing this since the 80’s

Alice Sheppard on Disability Dance and Ability at Emory University
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THE DOODLES:
Thanks again for all the love on INSTA @aballeteducation

Also, don’t forget there are three ways to get a doodle:
1. (DONATE) you can donate by clicking here. I will email you asking for pics so I have options to choose from. It will be posted to my insta when it is done.
2. (FREE) SUBSCRIBE to my blog, follow the INSTA and tag me in some photos so I have some options to choose from.
3. (PAID) You can commission a specific picture or idea by emailing me. Here we can be more specific about what you want, and how you want it done. I also won’t have any rights to post it- it’s all yours.
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DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW ME ON FACEBOOK & YOUTUBE!

 

Biscuity Feet… and then some

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Either you have them, you know someone who has them, or some days you feel like you have them. Yup, you got biscuits. What is a biscuit? To be honest, it is a foot that doesn’t point, doesn’t have a shape, doesn’t wing, doesn’t bevel, well… to be honest… It’s a hopeless foot. Yes, in ballet FEET ARE EVERYTHING! A good foot lets you cheat turnout, create a cleaner line, have a more supple landing, but most importantly… It gives people something to gag on.

For most people, if you are cursed with the biscuit foot, you can correct it. So, yes there is hope for you! If you are above the age of 16, it might be harder to correct, but it has been done. I have corrected it on many of my students. Unfortunately, it usually means extreme dedication; like if ballet wasn’t enough dedication, reshaping your foot is, even more, work. It is painful, and it can be dangerous. It can cause tendonitis and make your feet more prone to injury.

Here are some things to help you get rid of your biscuit foot:
1. Work properly…. Most times, your biscuits are caused by you. Sometimes, it is better to move down a level or two to focus on working properly, like engaging your peroneus at all times, making sure you are working through your fourth metatarsal and not pronating. Another thing young dancers do is crunch/ginch/claw their toes and that causes the arch to lock.

2. Stretch! Stretch! Stretch! To get better feet you have to stretch everything. Literally, everything. All of the muscles, tendons and ligaments from the knee down have to be stretched… and now that I am thinking about it, even the legs and hips have to be stretched. They are all connected in one way or another. Don’t be so hardcore you pull a Paris opera and break your arches to get better feet…

3. Strengthen! Once you are all stretched out, and your feet are relaxed you have to properly strengthen the tendons and ligaments in your foot to work properly. Getting a resistant band, or getting onto a pilates springboard are helpful. Other exercises are moving marbles from one box to another, or crunching a towel up, and then flattening it back out using your toes.

Just a reminder: when pointing your foot… it should feel like your arches is a waterfall and flowing over your toes. Your toes should be elongated and pressing distances, not curling to make a shape. Your heel should always feel tension in rotating forward and upwards, in opposition of your pinky toe rotating backwards and downwards. Make sure in standing positions the tops of your feet/arches are relaxed. And finally, whenever the teacher is giving a combination in class, you should be stretching out your feet. Biscuity feet usually have a lot of tension in the arches (both tops and bottoms) and you need to keep them constantly stretched and relaxed. Get a foot roller or tennis/golf ballet to constantly be rolling out. Love this one! << CLICK TO BUY

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THE DOODLES:
Thanks again for all the love on INSTA @aballeteducation

Also, don’t forget there are three ways to get a doodle:
1. (DONATE) you can donate by clicking here. I will email you asking for pics so I have options to choose from. It will be posted to my insta when it is done.
2. (FREE) SUBSCRIBE to my blog, follow the INSTA and tag me in some photos so I have some options to choose from.
3. (PAID) You can commission a specific picture or idea by emailing me. Here we can be more specific about what you want, and how you want it done. I also won’t have any rights to post it- it’s all yours.
—-

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW ME ON FACEBOOK & YOUTUBE!