Summer Intensive Guide 2023

It is that time of the year again; the time where everyone is overwhelmed, overworked, exhausted, and juggling a million different things. Yes, the 2023 audition season is upon us, and it is more stressful than ever. It could be that this is the first year back of full in-person auditions since the pandemic restrictions. It could be that there are more dancers trying to find placement. Or, it could be that this year is your first year out. Who knows? Every year during the middle of Nutcracker rehearsals and premieres, ballet schools around the world announce their national summer audition tours. This tour is a series of dates that audition thousands of dancers around the world to fill spots at their summer course.

Every year since I started A Ballet Education, I have included a list of placed to audition for the summer. Sometimes it causes controversy, sometimes it causes fear and panic, and sometimes, I am bias. Then again, what review isn’t a little bias? As the audition tours have come out, I have been helping my students plan their auditions, travel schedules, trying to avoid conflicts with competitions, how to navigate everything, and where they might end up.

Here is the problem. Ballet is on a good one, and everyone is so desperate for money, the reality is: Ballet Schools have already started auditioning for their 2023-2024 season. Stressful I know. Most people who are serious about moving to a professional school next September have already started locking in their matches through auditioning. Whether you passed the San Francisco Ballet School pre-screening, or were invited to the Paris Opera Auditions, or National Ballet School’s first round, the reality is, major schools are recruiting a year in advance.

This has now caused schools to start pre-registration for summer intensive auditions as early as the end of October, but now the majority of schools have released their dates. If they haven’t– they are following the “old” way; and they haven’t kept up with social media, or the current trend of ballet.

If you don’t know what a summer intensive is, click here for all of the many posts regarding summer intensives.

Here is A Ballet Education’s 2023 Summer Intensive Guide

(None of these schools have paid for placement or review. These programs are not listed any particular order, sort of.)

  • San Francisco Ballet School
    Patrick Armond, Director (San Francisco, CA)
    As one of the most respected ballet companies in the world, The San Francisco Ballet School has become one of the most recognized schools in the world.
  • School of American Ballet
    Darla Hoover, Chair of Faculty (NYC, NY)
    SAB, the famed school to New York City Ballet and the official school Balanchine founded, this school is the direct line to join the ranks of city ballet. The School of American Ballet is now under a new director, so who knows what the new look of the school will be? However, you should audition, because if you get in, it looks nice on the resume.
  • Paris Opera Ballet School
    Elisabeth Platel, Director (Nanterre, France)
    The Paris Opera Ballet School, literally the OG of ballet schools. This famed institution can be quite difficult to get into, but getting into the summer course can be just as hard. This short program allows you to attend multiple summer courses, and lets you work with some of the most respected teachers in ballet. And let’s be honest… it is the Paris Opera.
  • American Ballet Theatre, New York
    Stella Abrera, Artistic Director (NYC, NY)
    While ABT offers numerous programs and a variety of different levels, you really want to get into New York, and if you get in, you might want to consider it. Another school with a new director, ABT JKO and ABT Studio company might be the future of American Classical Ballet.
  • Elite Classical Coaching
    Catherine Lewellen, AD (Frisco, TX)
    Arguably, Elite classical coaching might be the school to beat in America. This pre-professional school has established itself on the competitive circuit, the collegiate circuit, and has launched professional dancers.
  • Miami City Ballet School & The Choreographic Workshop
    Arantxa Ochoa, School Director (Miami, FL)
    Miami City Ballet School is literally on the beach. So, who wouldn’t want to go summer in Miami? However, it’s not just the location. MCBS has slowly gained momentum and worked their way up to the top, offering a top level Balanchine experience, but offering the technical rigor of Cuban or Russian pedagogy.
  • Master Classes in Prague
    Daria Klimentova, Director (Prague)
    What was once reserved for professionals, or budding professionals, this year, the master classes in Prague will host young dancers under huge names likes Patrick Armond (San Francisco Ballet) and Simona Ferrazza (Dutch National).
  • Princess Grace Academie
    Luca Masala , Artistic Director (Monaco)
    Two weeks in Monaco, who wouldn’t want that? Spending two weeks at the famed Princess Grace is not only a delight because it’s on the French Riviera, but it also allows you to do other summer courses. This two week program looks great on the resue, as the princess grace academy has established itself amongst the world of competitive ballet but consistently winning the PDL.
  • John Cranko Schule
    Tadeusz Matacz, Director (Stuttgart, Germany)
    This beast of a school is housed in their new facilities courtesy of Porsche. This school has always been well respected, but has really become a part of the international ballet scene as they have recruited some of the biggest names and winners. Keeping up with the ballet scene on the global scale is difficult for state run programs, but JCS really is keeping up if not leading the way.
  • National Ballet School
    Mavis Staines, Artistic Director (Toronto, Canada)
    Probably Canada’s most recognized school, this school has always been amazing. However, like others who have followed suit, is finally keeping up with the global recruiting scene, and with the competitive world of ballet. This summer course is also marketing as a four week long audition for their coveted year round program.
  • YAGP NERVI FESTIVAL
    Larissa Savliev, Artistic Director (Nervi, Italy)
    Even the YAGP is keeping up. For the last three years, YAGP Europe has hosted a six day festival in Nervi, hosting some of the biggest directors and choreographers. This week long program offers students the ability to work with multiple directors in a short timespan and sets you up for the competitive season the following year.

Other programs you might want to consider:

Houston Ballet School (Houston, TX)

The Royal Ballet School Summer Intensive, Christopher Powney, AD (UK)

European School of Ballet, Jean Yves Esquerre, Director (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Cary Ballet Conservatory, Mariaelena Ruiz, AD (Cary, NC)

Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy, Dmitri Kulev, AD (Orange County, CA)

International Ballet Academy, Nadia Pavlenko, AD (Cary, NC)

Ellison Ballet, Edward Ellison, AD (NYC, NY)

Sarasota Ballet School (Sarasota, FL)

A&A Ballet (Chicago, IL)

Southland Ballet International Intensive (Fountain Hills, CA)

https://www.theballetclinic.com

More programs you might want to consider:

Harid Conservatory

Master Ballet Academy

Ballet West

Philadelphia Ballet School

The Washington Ballet School

Oklahoma City Ballet School

Tulsa Ballet School

Ballet Met

Juilliard

Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet

Don’t Miss Out This Summer!

Are you feeling left out? Everyone is announcing their summer intensive commitments and you don’t have somewhere to go? Did you miss audition season due to injury, travel restrictions, or just didn’t know? Don’t worry! We got you covered.

Every year from January to early March, ballet world becomes a little harder to navigate. This is also known as audition season. And yes, it also overlaps with the competitive ballet season, which makes it that much harder to navigate. But hopefully this will help you navigate your next steps.

Summer intensives are programs hosted over the summer for dancers to rev their training up. Because school is out, summer is the perfect time to accelerate training. Summer is also the time where young dancers will fly around the world to “test out” professional ballet companies through attending a summer intensive attached to a professional school. Here, dancers will see if they are ready to go away, build connections, and make impressions on future employers. But, summer intensive isn’t for everyone.

Sometimes, you just aren’t ready to go away to one of these major programs (check out the 2022 Summer Intensive Guide). You might be behind in technique, you might not want to be a ballet dancer, and sometimes, the cost is overwhelming. If you are interested in heading out to a summer course, check out these programs that are “affordable”, they offer amazing training, and are still accepting students!

TOP BALLET PROGRAMS FOR SUMMER TRAINING!!

Adeline Dunlap, Elite Classical Coaching

Elite Classical Coaching (Frisco, TX)

Elite Classical Coaching is offering 9 full weeks of summer training. Their flexible schedule allows dancers to either pick a week, or attend for all nine weeks. Founded and directed by award-winning Catherine Lewellen, Elite Classical Coaching has established itself as one of the premiere schools in the United States.

For more information you can visit their website:
https://www.eliteclassicalcoaching.com/intensives

Cary Ballet Conservatory (Cary, North Carolina)

Directed by YAGP finals Outstanding Teacher Award, Mariaelena Ruiz, Cary Ballet Conservatory will be hosting their summer intensive June 29 – July 30, 2022.

For more information you can visit their website:
https://www.caryballet.com/intensive.html

Classical Training Program at The Dallas Conservatory (Dallas, Texas)

A newly established program at the Dallas Conservatory, this new program is directed by George Birkadze and Ashley Ellis (founder of Rubia Wear) will be June 27-July 1, 2022.

For more information you can visit their website:
https://thedallasconservatory.org/professional-division/

Claire Wirrick, The Ballet Clinic

A Ballet Education’s The Ballet Clinic (Scottsdale, Arizona)

Headed by award-winning David King and Ashley Lorraine Baker, the Ballet Clinic offers two programs. No audition needed as we are interested in all dancers, levels, and body types. This boutique training course caters directly to the individual to achieve the fastest results for dancers ages 8-18.

Dates: July 10-23, 2022.

For more information you can visit their website:
https://www.theballetclinic.com/intensives.html

Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet (Laguna Hills, California)

From July 5-August 12, 2022, this many times over award-winning school and faculty will be hosting their summer course. Headed by Dmitri and Jennifer Kulev, this Orange County school is highly decorated in both classical and contemporary with numerous winners and finalists in almost every major ballet competition. This long standing school has established itself as one of the top schools in the United States, and the school of Southern California.

For more information visit their instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/p/CbKlcx2LtQI/?utm_medium=copy_link

A and A Ballet (Chicago, Illinois)

This award winning studio company will be hosting 3 different summer courses this year. Headed by Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik, A and A has established itself as a studio company force. Featured in Vogue for their costuming, A and A is a program you don’t want to miss out on. For more information visit their website:

https://www.aacenterfordance.org

Don’t worry, there are tons more programs out there!

West Met (Minnesota)

http://westmetclassicaltraining.com

Morning Star Dance (Georgia)

https://www.morningstardance.com

Denver Academy of Ballet (Colorado)

https://www.denveracademyofballet.com

Draper Center for Dance (New York)

https://drapercenter.com

Sarasota Cuban Ballet School (Florida)

http://srqcubanballet.org

Ballet Central New Jersey (New Jersey)

http://balletcnj.org

The Art of Classical Ballet (Florida)

http://www.theartofclassicalballet.org

Master Ballet Academy (Arizona)

http://masterballetacademy.com

International City School of Ballet (Georgia)

https://www.icsballet.org

The Chess Game of Ballet Strategy…

When it comes to ballet, parents can get a little a crazy, and truthfully, I don’t blame them. Between the hours of dedication, the thousands in tuition, pointe shoes, private lessons and costumes, you should have some sort of strategic plan, right? Parents start to strategize what YAGP they will go to, what the odds of finals invitations are, what weekend to audition, and what summer course is going to look best on the resumé. All of these things matter to some extent, but at the end of the day, unfortunately ballet is still only based on three things:

  1. Your body type, look, and facility. Lame, I know. Trust me, I know.
  2. Your level of technique. Manageable, always upsetting, and kind of a daunting task, but doable.
  3. How you move, or the quality of the dancing. This is what should matter, but is always overlooked and trumped by body type.

Unfortunately, there is no principal contract for effort, handwork, or perfect attendance, but then again, major league sports are the same way.

Parents will do anything for their kids, and will do anything to see the success of dreams. I have seen parents donate thousands of dollars to companies, hoping that they will offer child something. And unfortunately, sometimes it works. Regardless, parents go above and beyond to make ballet happen, and because of that, it makes them go a little crazy.

You know crazy ballet parents, the kind of parents that are super secretive about where their child is auditioning or attending, pretending they don’t know anything, plotting years in advance their child’s future, and chasing instagram followers. You know, the kind of parent that will spend hundreds of dollars for a workshop so that their child can get a photo with a famous ballet dancer. 

Recently, social media and “fast art” have come head to head with the very fundamentals of ballet. Producing content at a super high rate for the sake of staying on top of a trend, but at what cost? Most young dancers are barely training anymore, and they are focused on winning competitions and being photographed by the next insta-famous photographer. Older generations accuse social media of ruining ballet, while others are embracing the exposure and network social media has created. 

But, I will be honest with you. If you want to be successful in ballet that strategy is plain and simple: focus on the work, the art, and the technique and be patient. You can’t rush turnout, feet, or legs. It is a process. It is a painstaking process that most schools see as an eight to ten year process to even be considered a possibility as a professional ballet dancer. Because of this, instant gratification and instant results are usually not how it works. Just because you go to a school that is known for turns, doesn’t mean after a week of training there you will be able to turn.

When it comes to the competitive strategy, I think it is overthought way too much. Dance cleanly and lovely, and try your best. At the end of the day, ballet is still subjective, and preference, whatever preference it is based on, will win.

When it comes to technique, yes, you should have a plan. You should be at a school that believes in your child, and wants to help your child grow.

When it comes to your body type, I would embrace what the baby Jesus gave you. Because you can not change it, no matter how hard you pray or want longer legs or “better proportions.” If your technique is strong and clean, you will be noticed and given the recognition of technique. If you move beautifully, your artistry will be recognized. But, if you have a “difficult” body type, be the best and be undeniable in talent.

As we continue to pursue ballet at the ridiculous level that it has become, the crazy becomes that much more intense. And while I do believe social media has become an amazing tool for the arts, we have to remember that the foundations of ballet are rooted in constraint, composure, and the work ethic behind the art form. 

Sunday Self Care: For the Dry Skin Dancer

The fall season is here and as we all start heading into the studio the weather is un predictable and some may be spotted maskless. Now is the time to get your skin hydrated and taken care of before the winter season creeps in on you!

For the Face

Honey, Oats, Epsom Salt Mask

1 tbsp of epsom salt

2 tbsp of oats

1 tbsp of honey

2 tbsps luke warm water 

Grape, Yogurt  mask

12 grapes ( frozen for cooling effect) mashed

1 tbsp greek yogurt

Yeast, strawberry, honey mask

Brewers yeast 1 tbsp

5 strawberries mashed 

1 tbsp honey

For the Hair

Strawberries, Egg Yolk, Olive Oil.

5 smashed strawberries

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp olive oil 

Double the recipe for c4 hair 

Banana, Avocado, Coconut Oil

1 smashed ripe banana

1 half smashed avocado

1 tbsp coconut oil

Yogurt ,Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon

2 tbsp greek yogurt

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Self made Super Star

This is not an advertisement for every influencer pack out there. But, if you’re making content, we want to make it easier on you. Start by setting aside time to create content which is commonly referred to as a content creation session. Content includes writing, images, and video. Content can be used for long format such as igtv, youtube, or vimeo; or short format like reels, tik tok, or stories. Here you will find suggestions for the optimal content creation session. We also bring suggestions on how to “live your best life on the gram” by making sure to keep you in frame, well lit, and interesting!  Momager, this one’s for you. 

via GIPHY

Planning is Everything

Journals 

Plan for what you are trying to accomplish in a content creation session. The journal is your best friend before you go into creating something. It helps you stay on track and keeps your brain from wandering too far from your goals. That is not to say that at any moment you might not modify, or adapt to something new, but journaling will give you a good base to start from. 

Planners 

A Ballet Education’s planners are also a great tool for dancers to track their technique, goals, and corrections AND they can also serve as a great place to hold your content ideas and be a place to plan when you have time to create. For parents, this is a great tool for you to put to use so that you do not have to do multiple content creation sessions every week. My suggestion to getting through a session with as much content as possible, is to have 3 leos, or ‘looks’ that you are going to use and to make sure to get photo and video. By having various different looks in one session, you will have plenty to post without having to try to create everyday. 

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Photoshoots 

Try not to have too many photos in the same leotard, the same pose, or the same location. Diversity in the shots will make your profile look amazing and will also save you so much time.

Video

Video should be taken at every session, even if it is just behind the scenes footage. Video is the new trend for making your account pop. Even on the days where you have not yet managed a step, or where you may not feel your most comfortable, take some video anyway. You have now started a video journal of your progress that everyone will love! 

Its free, It’s easy, It’s fun

Natural light 

Natural light is free and it’s your best friend! If you’re just starting out with content creation, you might be worried: Will I be over lit or not lit enough? Will they really see what I am doing? I find that natural light is actually a lot less scary than we think. If you are someone with a phone that allows you to tap the screen to adjust the light, then going outside is a great option. If you have this ability with your phone, try to face your body away from the sun instead of toward it. This will make it so that in all of your photos or videos your body does not have any crazy shadows. Also, if you go into Instagram and add a filter, or brighten your body, then it is not too affected. If you are someone whose phone does not have that option, try using the light from a window, as it is filtered or less harsh. Using a shaded space outdoors is also another great option for great lighting. 

Public parks and Hiking Ranges

A public park or any nature spot is a great place to shoot. They’re free and stunning! No background is more beautiful than what planet earth has to offer and all you have to do is step outside! Once you are there, just take the tip from above on light to help you find your perfect spot. 

Bring a Friend 

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Bring a best friend to dance with! Find a friend who will hype you up, hold the camera for you, encourage you, and make you laugh! Try getting your own Cindy game on and have a partner in crime while creating content! (#TheCindies) Dancers can often isolate themselves which can make life feel more overwhelming. Social media can be a fun, creative space where you can bring a friend to dance and record with. Parents who are managing your young dancer, this tip also applies to you. Capturing your child enjoying what they love, with people they love, is both entertaining and endearing as well as an opportunity for your child to simply go have fun!

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Make the Most of Your Time in Studio

If you are at a school that allows you to use their studios after class, or if you can rent space for private lessons, this is a great place to create content and show your progress as a dancer. For ballet dancers, the studio is where you spend most of your time. If you’re a parent, it is the space that’s probably most familiar for your child to move in. Taking the time, even if it’s just five minutes after class, to snap some shots or video to allow people to get a feeling of who you are inside of the studio, i.e. the space you will be in for the majority of your career! You can also capture difficult movement safely in this familiar space. The studio is a great place to consistently create content!

We hope these tips help you feel more confident creating content for all your social media platforms! Content creation can be another fun avenue to cultivate your own unique artist voice. Remember to be yourself and most of all, have fun! 

The Dancers Content Creation Starter Pack 

ABE planner/ bullet journal 

To plan out everything and feel confident in your content 

Chargers – Extra long charger

In case you forgot to charge your phone, but you already look amazing 

and you’re ready to get through all your content goals. This is always a good item to have around.  

  • Back up – Archive, the cloud

As we learned from last issue hard drives or physical memory holders are not always the best. Consider using the cloud, google drive, or any other internet based storage in case something were to happen to your phone,

Phone Tripod

This is such a helpful tool so you do not break your phone or you hand while 

holding it. 

Beauty ring 

If you are feeling fancy and also have no light in your house, I feel you, this is definitely a good choice for you. This item is a tad more expensive, but so worth it.

The Guide to Tying Pointe Shoes

Oof. Whether it’s inside first or outside first, over or under, or wrap the ribbon twice- there really isn’t one way to tie a pointe shoe. I think for a lot of women it is about comfort, and what holds the foot in. As a male teacher, I always think it is odd that when a student goes on pointe, I am the one who helps the young student. We all have our own opinions when it comes to tying, breaking in, sewing, and even the fit of the pointe shoe. So it can get kind of tricky.

Nowadays, a lot of girls are using stretch ribbon, or sewing Infiniti ribbons so that they don’t have to tie knots anymore. So there are a lot of factors when it comes to how you approach tying your shoes.

According eHow, she starts with the outside ribbon and does the “over and under”. This video has over 100k views on Youtube.

Discount Dance made a “how-to” video, but in this video there is a lot of crazy. In fact, it’s probably just bad, but not wrong.

Dance Channel TV also made a video, where the dancer, Ruth Fentroy, starts with the inside ribbon.

We also have the Infiniti loop.

I think the most important thing when tying your ribbons, is understanding two things:

  1. Where the knot goes. It should go in the space between the achilles and the ankle bone, where it slightly indents, so that the knot does not rub.
  2. When tying a knot, tie a flat knot/square knot so it is less likely to come undone.

If you are using satin ribbons, you are going to encounter the occasional untie or knot slip, so when going on stage, definitely sew the knot in with a couple of stitches. I think this is why a lot of dancers have switched to the elastic ribbons because of comfort, and the knots are a tad steardier.

How do we tie shoes at A Ballet Education? We use elastic ribbon, then Inside first, double the outside, square knot, roll the ends, and tuck under. We do tie our ribbons higher up than most schools, as it is an aesthetic preference.

Have a pointe shoe question? Email us!!!

The Summer Intensive Packing List

Right now, ballet kids are all getting ready to head out to their respective summer courses, unless you are attending Ballet West, then you start today. But, if you forgot anything, thank goodness for Amazon Prime. Here are some things to bring that you will most likely need.

Dance Shoes (Make sure you have character shoes if you are participating in character classes)
Extra Ballet Shoes (In case they rip, get lost, get wet, or who knows)
Extra Tights (Because they are bound to rip)
Leotards (Follow the respective uniform, but then fun leotards so you can take cool pictures around the city)
Warm-Ups (Because you can’t just walk around in the real world in tights)
Rehearsal skirt or tutu (Check to see if you will need one for performances or pas de deux, or for photos)
Real People Clothes (Because you can’t live in Dancewear)
-Dance Bag Stuff: Yoga Mat, Water Bottle, Theraband, Foot Roller (Make sure you write your name on them)
Personal Items: Brush, hairpins, comb, towel, pool towel, deodorant, toothpaste, and toothbrush, mouthwash, floss, antiseptic wipes, bandaids, ibuprofen, perfume/cologne, hair grooming products, and don’t forget a bathroom basket… and if you share bathrooms, shower shoes!)
Make Up: for photos, for classes, and in case you have a showcase, pull out them falsies.
Snacks (if you are allowed to have them in your dorm room)
Entertainment & Technology (A book, journal, computer and don’t forget the charger, an extra phone charger, because you will lose one. Don’t forget a portable phone charger just in case you have outings, no one wants to be without their phone.)
Thank You Cards (it’s polite at the end of the summer course to give your teachers a thank you card, plus it helps them remember you)

Here are some things to bring, or Prime for your perfect summer away. You will probably not think of all of these.

Ziplock Bags…. store your leftover food, store your bobby pins… whatever it may be, ziplock bags are always somehow needed.

Arnica Gel, IcyHot, Bengay, or Bio Freeze… just in case. Ease up the soreness.

VITAMINS!!! You will be around new people, new places, and new cooties. Covid aside, no one wants to get a cold while at a summer course!

Laundry Pods and a Laundry Hamper. No one wants a mess in a tiny dorm.

And finally, for some reason, and it could just be me... I constantly am losing socks.

The Tutu Dilemma: costs versus practicality

It is that time of the year where high-end tutu makers and costume makers are taking deposits for the next competitive season. If you are new to the ballet competitive circuit, brace yourself, because it’s about to get very tricky, sort of expensive, and somewhat intense. Looking at photos on Instagram will show you that when it comes to finals or a major international competition, the cost is the last thing people think of. But, how much is too much for a tutu? What are you paying for? And, is it even necessary?

As someone who formerly worked in fashion, I can tell you that a good tutu is definitely worth the price. But what makes a good tutu, and how does it change the price of a tutu? And, are you getting ripped off?

Construction – It isn’t a secret that the more intricate the pattern, or the number of pieces, whether the costume is a stretch bodice or a boned bodice, makes a huge difference when cutting and sewing these beautiful works of art. A stretch bodice might have 6 or 8 pieces to construct and finished with surging, where a boned bodice might have 12 pieces, plus the boning, lining, piping, and finishing. The tutu/skirt itself might have 8 layers of tulle or more and whether or not it is being tacked, and whether or not you need a hoop. All of this is time-consuming. You really need to know what you are looking for, especially when looking at the grain and quality of the materials.

Fit – One of the biggest things you are paying for is fit. When ordering a tutu that is mass-produced, adjustments usually have to be made. When you are ordering a custom tutu, a good tutu maker will send you the toile (prototype made in muslin) for fitting. This will make all the difference. If your tutu maker is local, you should have two fittings.

Materials – Materials can get tricky, especially if you really don’t know what you are looking at or what certain materials feel like. The difference between cheap synthetic materials or actual silks. It is the difference between cutting a skirt in georgette or chiffon. These things add to the cost because the quality fabric is not cheap, especially when so little fabric is actually used in bodices and skirts. It would be very different if you were mass-producing 30 skirts or 1,000 bodices, but when the average bodice is about 1/2 a yard of fabric, the lower the quantity of fabric, the more expensive it is. Not to mention the grade of tulle/netting you use, or if there will be a hoop or no hoop. The list goes on. Not to mention the embellishments of a tutu really make a difference.

Design– One of the biggest things when it comes to purchasing a costume from a professional costume maker and/or ordering a custom-made tutu is that you are really paying for the design. Each tutu is basically couture, and the average couture dress costs about 10k-20k, not to mention we aren’t even going into haute couture. Design is the element of dance we often forget. Costume designers literally go to school for this and are paid to create works of art that move. They understand or should understand how the body moves, what is needed from the costume, and how the costume tells the story.

Okay, so now that we understand factors that change the costs, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of different companies and tutu makers!

If you are new to ballet and are trying to save money, the first place everyone looks is Aliexpress, where you can find tutus that range from $20-$300. This isn’t actually a bad idea, especially if you are on a budget. On the downside, you will need to know how to sew or take it to a sewist or tailor if you need any alterations. And you should definitely bling it up. The downside, well, sort of downside, running into someone in the same costume as you. Awkward.

If you have some intermediate to the advanced skill level of sewing, I actually think Conservatory by Prima Donna is a good way to go. Order blank bodices and tutus, plates, and such, sew them yourself, and design and decorate your tutu how you see fit. This way, you have the most control of your tutu. At The Ballet Clinic, we use this a lot. Annabelle Gourley used this company for both her tutus, Italian lace, and then her mom went to rhinestone town.

Semi-custom stretch tutus from Empire Tiaras will run between $600-$1,000. They are all stretch tutus sewn onto white tutu blanks. We used Empire Tiaras for Paquita but used our own embellishments as I like the bling, and I “need” control of how it looks. The only downside was the platter was too small based on the blank platter.

Ashley Hod, New York City Ballet, in A Ballet Network’s Paquitaww

A custom tutu from a high-end designer and costume maker will cost you between $900-$2,500. High-end designers around the world are extremely sought after and require deposits now, with the hopes of getting your tutu by December. These designers usually have stand-out tutus and are usually more stunning than a lot of professional tutus. These designers will talk with you, design and sketch, send you the toile, and then create the final. Many of these tutu makers will also fly with the tutu for the final fitting and adjustments of the hooks and eyes.

In my opinion, a lot of the costumes you see at YAGP or Lausanne are actually better than most ballet companies. Best costumes, though usually go to the Australian Ballet, Paris Opera, and New York City Ballet.

The biggest problem? Spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on something you will wear for one season and on something that a dancer will perform in maybe twice and then have for photos. The reality is ballet costumes are a huge investment, for what may be little to no payout. Do costumes help on stage? They really only help the dancer feel more professional and feel more performance-ready. Most judges really only care about the technique, the body, the facility, and the potential of a dancer. Keeping reading!

So, how do you save money?
Borrow or rent costumes. (Tutu.com offers rentals here)
Buy a used costume. (Costume groups on Facebook)

Or, you do what I do. At the YAGP semi-finals, very few of our students competed in costumes. In fact, most of them did not. Ava Maskin placed third in San Diego wearing a Grishko Leotard and rehearsal skirt I made. Leonidas and Nikolas Adarmes placed in Phoenix just wearing their ballet uniforms. Evelyn Lyman competed in a freed rehearsal skirt and leotard, and the list goes on. Now, did that start a tizzy for everyone when it came to finals, absolutely?

But, I am also going to tell you that another student wore a standard $70 leotard from So Danca and used a $99 rehearsal platter, sewed some embellishments on it, banged out about 6 gross in Swarowskis, ordered a $10 tiara from Amazon (other ballet websites will charge you about $80 for the same things, and if you are in LA, you can go to Downtown LA and get even more premium tiaras for like $15) and called it day. Yes, you heard that right. Not to mention, she also made the final round at YAGP.

Laina Mae Kirkeide, YAGP Final Round, photo by Star Action Shots

Finally, if you are skilled at sewing, and I recommend having a decent surging machine, I definitely say, go to Tutu School. Tegan Chou’s mom has made all of her costumes over the years, and they are killer.

Here is a list of tutu makers that can be trusted and worth the price:

DQ Tutus
Diane Quimby Schaubach is the owner and designer of DQ Designs & Boutique. Her mother, Adele, an art teacher, gave Diane her very first sewing lessons — sparking a love for art and design from a young age. When her own daughters started dancing, Diane volunteered to help out backstage with the other moms. She took an interest in the construction of professional ballet tutus and started designing from her home studio in Cary, North Carolina starting in 2011. (See her lookbook here)

Matryoshka Tutus by Pamela Martin
Custom classical ballet tutus. Handcrafted on the Westcoast of Canada. You can shop her patterns via etsy or order from her website. (See her work here)

Atelier Risa
Based in Japan

Tutu.com
Tutu.Com was founded in 1994 in Charlotte, NC and is home to several divisions specializing in professional-quality tutus and ballet costume service and supplies.

Bella Dolce Tutus

Empire Tiaras

Encena Costumes –
Made in Brazil.

Should I keep Dancing?

Recently, a young woman wrote in asked if she should keep dancing. Her e-mail was nothing new, we get these emails all the time. But, as she went on and explained her proposed trajectory, I was reminded why I started A Ballet Education. I asked if I could share her e-mail, and she politely declined but said I could blog about the email and what was discussed later.

So, her email was pretty straightforward. It was polite, and she introduced herself, and her background within ballet. But her big issue was that she did not get accepted into a summer intensive this year, and while she could go to a summer course where you don’t have to audition, she felt like it was a sign. A sign to hang up the pointe shoes and focus on getting into college next year. Again, this distraught email isn’t anything new for A Ballet Education, we get them a lot. I was even stopped several times at YAGP Finals asking for advice and so on. The, “Where did I go wrong?” or the, “How did I get this far and not make it…” and so on…

Photo by A Ballet Education.

My normal response would be sympathetic and probably, well 9 times out of 10, I would encourage college and just enjoy ballet as a hobby. There is definitely nothing wrong with this, and it makes ballet way less stressful…. BUT, her letter went on about how her school promises a career in dance, and that they are a “professional school”, and that she had been doing 2-3 private lessons a week, but couldn’t get into a big summer intensive. She included an “evaluation” from her teacher which gave her all very high marks and very highly regarded compliments. Then, I asked to see photos and videos, and there it was. A very nice body, good legs, good facility, and decent quality. The problem? Missing the actual technique, and at 17, you kind of need to have your life together. Two years ago before the pandemic, she did go to a very big, very prestigious summer course, but age 15 in ballet is very different than age 17 ballet.

I told her she needed to get out of her current situation and find a very hard-core school to whip herself into shape and do it in less than a year since audition season is in January. (Don’t know the Ballet Calendar? Check out our article here.) I told her it’s very doable, as one of my students just did it, made the final round, and got a job. So it isn’t impossible if there is the willingness and dedication to making ballet happen. I told her it wouldn’t be easy, but because of her natural facility, she could probably do this if she really wanted to. Heck, I even offered her a spot at my school.

But, then her response came back.

She wasn’t sad, she wasn’t even mad. She talked about how ballet taught her an appreciation for classical music, that it gave her structure, and gave her confidence. And while this was a devastating blow, she realized, that if she cared more about ballet, she would have found a different place to train faster. Her parents were devastated, as most parents who aren’t familiar with ballet don’t really know what they are looking at, came around. And she decided that she was going to go to college and just take dance on the side. For a seventeen-year-old, this is a huge realization, and while I really wanted her to give it her all, and really give it the go, make it happen… but I realized, that this is just the cycle of ballet.

Hundreds of thousands of girls set off in dance, some will focus on ballet, and very few will make it. Others will go off to college, and others will completely move on from dance, but at least they had the experience of it all. Not every boy who sets out playing a sport will make it into the respective professional major league, or even become an international superstar inside of that sport, most division 1 players won’t make it professionally. It’s a sad realization, and it is probably that time of year, graduation, that makes it sentimental, sad, and sort of nostalgic, but this is our industry and we have to accept that not everyone wants to purse ballet as a professional.

Which brings me to my actual point: Should I keep Dancing? The answer is yes. Just because you aren’t going to pursue the world of professional ballet doesn’t mean you should cold turkey quit. In fact, keep dancing and just enjoy it. Still, go see performances (when they happen again), and still take a class for the music, for the exercise, and for the friendships. Don’t give up something you love. I love cooking, but will never be a professional chef, that doesn’t mean I am going to stop cooking and taking on more elaborate dinners and desserts.

….

Cover photo by PressMaster.

Ballet Body Proportions

A question we get asked all the time, “Do I have a good body to pursue ballet?” This is usually followed by, “What makes the body good?” We have talked about this in the magazine and on the blog, but today I wanted to take the time and focus on different types of bodies in ballet, how they work inside of this crazy world, and some of the challenges that a body type will face.

Ballet does have tons of different body types that work because no two bodies are identical. And while the “ideal” body is often described as elongated, thin, and waif-like, the reality is, most ballet dancers don’t look like that. And while a lot of principal dancers do look like that, there are other principal dancers who don’t look like that. This is where casting comes into play.

For me, there are five “common” body types that are in ballet, and while anthropologists will tell you there are three body types (ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph), ballet breaks it down a little more than that. However, I would say that ectomorph body types usually will have an easier path through ballet.

Now, girls have it bad in ballet. They really don’t know what body type they will end up with. Puberty can be quite awful. Some girls will have the most beautiful body and proportions when 11, and by 15 the body type will have completely changed. This is just one of the realities. As women you are usually grouped up into random foods or shapes… strawberry body, apple, pear, hourglass, rectangle, and again, while dietitians and fashion designers use this as a way to focus on “problematic” areas, the reality is again…. ballet is much more complicated than that.

For me, and I have said this time and time again, that it is about proportions and how you use them. And while everyone has different proportions, the one thing that is hard to argue is being “thin.” Thin is thin. But, when it comes to proportions and body type, musculature, and builds, for me, there are five bodies outside of the Russian ideal that are very employable, especially in America.

  1. Long Torso– For these girls, with a long torso, meaning torso as long or slightly longer than the inseam. There are a lot of women employed in ballet that have longer torsos. A plus side to having a long torso means more back range and usually a very beautiful arabesque line. I think if you have a long torso, one of the best things to do, is don’t hide the fact you have a long torso. When you slouch or have poor placement in the core and spine, it is even more obvious. Don’t slack on the conditioning and make sure your core is strong enough to support your spine.
  2. Athletic– Girls who develop muscle extremely fast, and are usually seen that develop more muscle in the quads. Athletic girls can be tall or short, but usually, I find that they are on the shorter side. When having athletic builds in ballet, I always tell them that you better jump and turn so you can do all of the powerhouse soloist roles, and eventually become a bravura principal. If you are on the more athletic side, cross-training in yoga and pilates is a good way of keeping the musculature long and lean.
  3. Tall Girl– Girls who are above 5’6″ – While thinking ballerinas are usually tall, most are in the 5’3″-5″6″ range with good proportions. Tall girls herald in like amazons and usually are given a lot of adagio roles. The problem is that when a kid grows too fast, they become tight, so flexibility coaches might work to your advantage.
  4. Short Girl – Girls who are under 5’3″. There are tons of short girls employed in ballet, and it usually revolves around short male principals. This idea that short girls can’t work, is crazy. While it is harder to fit them into the corps de ballet, they have a good shot of skyrocketing through the ranks if there is a boy to match the talent.
  5. Womanly -I think we forget, that ballet really does flatter the female body, and so many people out there are extremely critical of girls who have curves. Truthfully, I rather enjoy seeing a woman on stage looking like a woman, especially if they have long legs. I think there is something rather “idyllic” about this body.

I think the biggest thing for me and body proportions is facility. Making sure the turnout, legs, and feet are there. Then looking if the technique, placement, and position is clean. Finally looking at musicality and artistry, because if if you can dance well, both artistically and technically, then anything is possible.

Remember, that body type and body preference is unfortunately a part of any sport or physical art. You can’t be 5’3″ and go into the NBA, or be 100 pounds and be a line backer in the NFL. And if body type, self-esteem, and anxiety are issues, please seek medical professional help. Also remember, that it is okay not become a professional ballet dancer, and that ballet can be just a very intense and focused hobby. It looks great on collegiate applications and is a way to make friends, network, and experience the art without having the insane demand of social media/and the pursuit of a professional career.

More posts on body type and proportions:

Growing Up Black by Lauryn Brown

When I was younger, kids in my ballet class were awarded stickers for coming to class in the proper uniform with their hair in a neat ballet bun. My mom arranged my thick natural hair into individual braids that were nicely pulled back for class, however, I was the only girl who did not get a sticker for being in the proper uniform. I was always told my hair was not right for the class. Eventually, I told my mother about the issue. We met with the director who apologized, and I finally got my stickers. This experience was traumatizing for me. It could have deterred my interest in this art form. Ballet schools must be more accepting of the cultural and racial differences of their students. The ballet community should accommodate hairstyles for Black dancers who have beautiful, naturally coarse hair. Training to be a professional ballerina is challenging and takes a lot of discipline, regardless of who you are. Read more in our September Issue.

Growing Up Black was written by Lauryn Brown and photographed by Ashley Lorraine Baker.

5 Variations To Stay Away from (2019)

5 Variations To Stay Away from (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satanella Variation to tempo by Evgenia Obraztsova.

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

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

Whitney Jensen doing it big at Varna in 2008.

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

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

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

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

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David King

David King

David King is the founder of A Ballet Education

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Beware of the Monsters…

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

ballet moms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Notes of Pirouettes en dedans…

Notes on Pirouettes En Dedans…
how to do an inside pirouette

Working on pirouettes en dedans (pirouettes to the inside) can be hard. While it seems like they are easier than en dehors turns, the problem with en dedans is the turnout factor. Whether is a pirouette or attitude turn to the inside, these can be rather difficult to master because of the mechanics. The like all turns, the focus should always be on the supporting leg, and even more so with turns to the inside. Sooooo, let’s begin. Remember if you like this post, share it.

The Preparation Position
tension for turns
Pirouettes to the inside… the first thing you are going to want to focus on is the prepping position. Normally, when learning this turn you start in fourth position in croisé, with the back leg straight. You want to make sure that the supporting arm is in a very placed first position, don’t over cross it. For the working arm, the big mistake is opening up too far. Makes sure it is in front of your body… meaning look over your shoulder and make sure your elbow and hand are in front of your shoulder. A lot of times, young dancers will over compensate in this position and that supporting arm will be so far back… This also has to do with your hips and making sure they are in a true croisé. Make sure you can see both hips in the mirror. Remember, you are only crossing to you “box” not the shape of the room. 

The Passé
preparation pirouette
The action of getting into the retiré devant can happen two ways. The first way is when the dancer shifts/ fouettés to a dégagé en face position with arms in seconde. The second way is to directly bring the leg into the turning position. While a lot of the torque for the pirouette happens from the working leg, the tension and the inertia that drives the pirouette is still in the supporting leg.

The Arms
arms for pirouettes

During this time the arms are either moving from third to fifth, or second to first, or second to fifth. Or really any port de bras. The reality is they can be in any position, but there has to be a hair amount of tension built up. Weak arms in a turn is a death sentence. You wouldn’t want to fly in a plane with weak wings, so don’t turn with weak arms. Don’t over twist, and don’t wind up. It is one of the worst things you can do. While most of the energy comes from the arm, it isn’t about swinging into the position, but the amount of control and tension you can build to instantly get into the position and maintaining an inside axial spiral rotation in the upper body while the lower body resists and tries to press en dehors.

The Position
the position for turns

The problem with an inside pirouette is that as the supporting side and arms are rotating the axis inwards on the body, the working leg is working in the opposite direction. The common mistake is for the working leg to slightly turn in to help carry the rotations of the pirouette. This is most commonly seen in younger dancers. The more advance dancer knows the keep the knee behind the shoulder, thus causing the turn to “lose” another rotation. But the position itself is quite complicated. I would say it is more complicated than an en dehors pirouette, but maybe it is just a more difficult turn for myself. Unlike an en dehors pirouette, where you place into one position and create your own g-forge from the turnout and push back of the working leg and you can increase the g-force during the turn… an en dedans pirouette is based on the energy prior to the turn (in the prep and the actions leading into the position).

The Rotation
the position for pirouette

Ice skaters probably have it the easiest when it comes to rotating to the inside on the axis. While most of their jumps are to the outside, most of their spins start to the inside. The basic idea of their spins is their scratch spin. But here is what we can learn from this concept. The turn to the inside has to do with building momentum and increasing their g force by using their working leg to build the g-force. The biggest factor is the tension they build in their arms, back, and core. The coordination between their arms and working leg is crucial. We can take this same concept and apply it when folding into our pirouette. By building tension in the preparation, we are able to close the momentum on top of our axis, like figure skaters. Now to increase the rotations, the supporting side of our body has to turnout/rotate faster than our working side. Our working side is there just along for the ride, placed in a turned out position.

Increasing the rotations
pirouette inside

When turning to the inside the quickest way to build rotations is by getting in to the position as quickly as possible but maintaining the tension. The best way I find to get into the position is letting the working arm shift into seconde, and then immediately pull into the reitré position.  Don’t over rotate the second position. Then let the working side’s upper body press forward and spiraling up to the position

Option 2: Personally, I like to think of a barbershop pole, spiraling up into as many rotations as possible. Spiral up over the arch, and constantly keep growing up and out of your hips, through your chest and out through your arms.

Pet Peeves
One of my biggest pet peeves is when preparing, having your hips tilted. I don’t like the idea of “up and forward” in preparation for the en dedans. A lot of people engage this lunging position where the hips are behind the upper body because you are leaning forward. Personally, I prefer that the hips and spine are all in a neutral position right on top of the arch of the supporting side.

Another pet peeve is when turning, not using your lats. Instead of widening the back, people pinch it tight. Remember your back should be completely flat, no chicken wings, not tectonic plates pinching… just keep it completely flat.

Finally, my last pet peeve when turning to the inside is winding up. I hate it. If anything build the moment with the supporting arm, and the second it hits seconde position, pull into fifth (whether that is through first, or cutting en dedans to the fifth). Its one of the biggest mistakes people make and causes them to look extremely turned in. I see it all the time at these competitions, especially in the Paquita etoile variation. The turn in is real… like super real.

To buy the poster click here.

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For pirouettes en dehors click here.

Notes on Cupid

Whether you are twelve or twenty, this variation is one of the most recognizable variations for those who have danced. For a lot, this variation was the first variation they learned in variations class (that or Florine from Sleeping Beauty). This is the variation known as Cupid from Don Quixote. This extremely fast petit allegro variation actually doesn’t have that many petit allegro steps, but the music is extremely fast. From this God awful blonde wig, to the flowy tunic, everything about this variation says, “Hello, I’m Cute.”

Notes on Cupid

Usually reserved for a short girl, this variation opens up with the a series of tombé relevés into attitude plié relevé effacé positions. You need to remember a couple things in this opening sequence:

  1. Turn out the supporting leg in the tombé.
  2. Don’t overshoot the corner, and stay square.
  3. Never whack your leg into the positions, place them nicely. If you are going to do a low effacé leg, lean over the leg to help the line. If you are going to do a high attitude back, don’t pinch your neck back to help make the line.
  4. Keep the arms exstremely soft, and keep the eyeline in all the positions.

Hold the attititude to be with the music, and change the head.

The next sequence of the variations requires a back diagonal of plié relevé pirouettes to the inside. When you are doing the chassé/tombé, TURNOUT… Hold the working knee back to give you the most turn out and longest line. Make sure you get that knee all the way straight.

The next sequence requires fast foot work, and involves you to be extremely turned out. Focus on hitting all of the positions before the music so you can hold the positions. This is important because you have to be MUSICAL.

Below is Evgenia Obraztsova doing cupid. Personally it is too slow for my taste… but the technique is spot on, and the performance is ideal. It is about being cheerful and constantly changing your facial expressions of happiness and excited. Her eyes play to the audience very well.

Mélanie Hurel of Paris Opera does another stunning version. The Nureyev version. It is more dainty, more french, faster, and done in a full tutu.

Below is Riverbank Dance Company’s young girl (2017) doing the variation on flat. While there are turn out issues, the technique is clean, and the young dancer is polished. She is probably 10? Notice in the upstage diagonal that she hits coup de pied, fifth and fourth.

How Much Should You Cross-Train for Ballet?

It seems, as of late, the majority of emails coming in, at the moment, revolve around cross-training… and it isn’t just parents writing in. It is studio owners, colleagues, and other dancer teachers out there. In a recent video on Instagram, it shows super talented dancers cross-training at the gym; not to mention ABT’s obsession with workout videos lately… Mostly, I think, to promote their friend’s business… Regardless… cross-training seems to be what is on everyone’s mind, especially gearing up for competition season.

how much should you cross train for ballet

Ballet Dancers seem to use a million different ways to augment their trainining… from nutrition to physical excercise, cross-training takes just as much time and money as ballet. And no… that doesn’t mean to buy a $7,000 dollar reformer for the house… I mean if you are going to have a pilates instructor come to your house, or you have put in thousands of hours… and have the liquid income… then go for it… otherwise… don’t

So, the first question you have to look at is how many hours a week are you training? This includes private lessons, private coaching sessions and rehearsal hours. Time management is crucial. Different schools have different approaches when it comes to the hours a dancer puts in. Lets say to be conservative for every 5 hours of classes you probably should be cross training at least an hour a week. This could be stretch and conditioning or something as simple as cardio. The reason behind cross training is so that muscles don’t over develop, so that the body is getting an even workout, and to focus on smaller details. This is opposed to regular ballet class to enhance and learn ballet vocabulary technique, rehearsals to learn choreography, private lessons to focus on individual needs… etc.

I know it is a lot… so we are basically saying if your kid is dancing 30 hours a week, they should be cross training 6 hours a week, and still getting 55 hours of sleep in… plus school and homework… and we only get 168 hours in a week. It seems impossible. Ballet schools should be implementing a lot of these practices in the curriculum. But if they aren’t.. then you will have to do it on your own. Make sure you are on the right and safe equipment… and you have a good pair of shoes that support your arches.

Things you should have at home or in your dance bag for cross-training on your own…
Bosu Ball... it is $100 bucks but one of the best investments for your dancer. Not only can you strength train on it but you can also work on balancing and core.

Resistance Bands

Foam Roller/Muscle Roller
You can not only maintain muscle, but  you can also use it to stretch and increase your stretch…

Flexi Stretcher

Ways to Cross-Train…

Pilates Life:
“Dancers spend most of their time in the studio, dedicating themselves to their art. Ballet/dance is their real job and like any job it is a daily struggle and it takes it’s toll on the body. Pilates helps them to rectify the imbalances they tend to create in the studio (from my experience, ballet dancers are particularly asymmetrical). With choreographers and teachers demanding daily perfection, Pilates allows dancers the space they need outside of the studio and outside of class to re-balance, release and re-connect. I started Pilates in my first year of the Australian Ballet School, which is around 23 years ago. Initially I found it hard to understand. Pilates is full of subtlety and nuance and it takes a long time to become familiar with it. When I was dancing my best, Pilates was for the most part a daily routine. A couple of hours of Pilates before ballet class became a necessity for me to feel good on stage. It balanced me out, helped me to rehabilitate injuries and be stronger than the challenge I faced. Simply put, it made my dancing better and more enjoyable.” -Marc Cassidy, former Senior Artist with The Australian Ballet and now owns and operates TrueFormPilates in Melbourne. Quote from Dance Informa

Cardio Life:
According to Harvard’s SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, the average child 11-18 should be engaged in moderate or vigorous activity for an hour a day… we got that covered. However, cardio does build stamina and helps burn calories… Not that a kid should have to worry about that… But, this is on top of elite athletics. I mean, I for sure don’t have an hour a day to just briskly walk but it’s something to strive for. I would avoid the treadmill and other weight on the joints activities and focus on like swimming or yoga… though swimming can also restructure the body’s lung capacity and cause broadening of the chest and back… not ideal for girls.  Jumping rope on clay is always fun. I avoid biking because it makes your quads larger and tighter.

Weight Training:
Children under the age of 15 are not encouraged to weight train whatsoever. According to Harvard and Yale’s studies… it can actually cause bone density and growth issues. (It kind of borders on the same idea that you shouldn’t start pointe to early) Kids should rather do unstructured activities like playing on playground equipment, climbing trees, and so forth.

(Physical Activity guidelines for Americans. U/S/D.o.H.a.H. Services, Editor, 2008)

Gyrotonics:
If you can afford it, and have a place close to you… Gyrotonics is wonderful and magical.

“The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® Method is a unique, holistic approach to movement. Some of the benefits of a regular Gyrotonic practice include a healthier, more supple spine, increased range of motion, greater joint stability, improved agility and athletic performance, and a deep internal strength. Experienced Gyrotonic trainers offer personalized sessions that are adapted to fit the needs of all ages, and abilities, from elderly patients recovering from injury, to highly skilled professional athletes.” – Gyrotonic Website

Physical Therapists:
Injury Rehab and Prevention are extremely important. More and more former dancers have continued their career by attending med school like Alexis Sams. Alexis has not only studied other methods but she has gone on to develop numerous ways for dancers to cross train. Everything from coordination, to strengthening, stretching and pointe… Dr. Sams is another great resource out there. And she isn’t the only one.

Supplements
From avoiding gluten, avoiding dairy, avoiding meat… and anything else pumped with hormones, it seems supplements are becoming a big part of dance training. I mean, so are essential oils.

This Week In Ballet…

ballet news topIt is the first week of 2018, and it already has me thinking… a lot. Between Peter Martins retiring, YAGP Philadelphia being postponed, YAGP Seattle underway, new job offers, new job titles and the pressure of ballet building… it has really made me start to think about a life outside of ballet.  Don’t forget you can watch live streams of the YAGP… you have to pay… but it’s enjoyable.

Let us recap A Ballet Education’s Ups and Downs of 2017…
January: I left a job that was basically a lie and the board was stealing. Found out my blog was ranked number 2 as a dance resource and ballet blog in the world, over the Gaurdian, NYT, and Pointe.
February: Depressed.
yagp finals
March: YAGP FINALS, developped a tremor in my hand and body, quit drinking
April: Blogging and Writing, went Gluten Free
May: Master Teaching Everywhere, became a Red Bubble Top Seller
June: Offered the Job at American National Ballet, met some really great people.
July: Master Teaching at Masters,
August: Moved to Charleston… mid August- left ANB, went Vegetarian
September: Blogging and Writing and Teaching Everywhere, made it one year of the magazine.
cropped-noe-leilani-dance.jpg
October: Given the Chance to work at Phoenix Ballet, got screwed over by close friends, went Vegan
November: Guest taught more, wrote more, traveled to a million places… Worked on my getting my children’s book out there again… fail.
DSC00259
December: Survived 16 shows of Nutcracker as Executive Director, photographer, Guild Coordinator, celebrated Christmas with my family… barely wrote. Lost a ton of weight.

Don’t get me wrong, I saw a lot of great ballet and had amazing opportunities. I am just glad I can look back at 2017 and be done with it.

… now onto January 2018 

So far, I have found out that my blog is now Ranked Number 1.
I was given the chance to freelance work in fashion again, and enjoyed it. I have only had two flights delayed, one in which I canceled. Given the chance to buyout of my place in Charleston, which I haven’t been to 3 months. I miss my bed, my clothes, my books. Now I have to figure out those logistics. Mmmm, signed two cool deals that will launch in March.
ABE full text logo

Decided to cut back on teaching this year and focus on the things that I want in life… And it is only day 5, so I can’t really say it is that great of an accomplishment, but I quit smoking. Have turned into a raging b*tch… But decided since my tremor hasn’t come back to attempt the gym and ballet classes again…

 

 

 

A Ballet Mindset…

Hey ABE readers, guess what? Guest post. I think this book is really relevant to ballet dancers both professional and training. Sometimes we get lost in our work and sometimes we don’t know where to turn, or you just want a good read… So here is my friend Andrews new book.

andrew kendall author self help dark dictionary“Hey! My name’s Andrew Kendall, a friend of David’s, and 2017 was a life changing year in which a sixteen year old dream was realized—I published my first book. I know that ballet can be a very demanding field. And with demand can often come darkness. In The Dark Dictionary I offer advice to not only combat your inner darkness, but to alter your mindset in such a way that you bring to light the kind of awareness that has the ability to change your life. And when we think about it long enough we’re able to realize that there’s always light in the dark—always a silver lining to discover in the midst of both your creative process and dedication to the art. In a way our minds are a mirror, reflecting back to us our deepest desires or worst nightmares, but when it’s the latter it’s never too late to discover that we no longer have to be a slave it to anymore. With a new year almost upon us, most us of will be looking to start the year of right—with a mindset strong enough to conquer anything thrown our way. If this is you I hope you’ll check out my book. If you ever feel lost, which most of us do, I believe that we are always much stronger than we believe—a message I truly hope to convey within every page.” – Andrew Kendall, author of The Dark Dictionary

Follow me on Insta: AndrewwRichard

To buy his book on Amazon click below

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.

homeschool aballeteducation

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