On an uplifting note, SFB has hired six of their apprentices into the corps, with an additional corps contract from a graduate from Princess Grace. They have promoted two soloists to principals; Four corps dancers to soloists; an extra principal contract to the stunning NIkisha Fogo from Vienna State Ballet, and have taken on six apprentices, including Olivia Brothers, a former student I was lucky enough to coach.
SAN FRANCISCO, April 22, 2020—San Francisco Ballet (SF Ballet) announces 11 promotions, two new Company members, and six apprentices for the 2021 Season. Effective July 1, soloists Wona Park and Max Cauthorn are promoted to principal dancer, and corps de ballet members Ellen Rose Hummel, Diego Cruz, Lucas Erni, and Myles Thatcher are promoted to soloist. SF Ballet apprentices SunMin Lee, Tyla Steinbach, Rubén Cítores, Lleyton Ho, and Adrian Zeisel are promoted to the corps de ballet. Each of the 11 promoted dancers received training at SF Ballet School, from which previous students make up over 65 percent of SFBallet’s Company. In addition, Nikisha Fogo, first soloist with the Vienna State Ballet, joins the Company as a principal dancer in the 2021 Season. Also joining the Company’s corps de ballet is Luca Ferrò from the Princess Grace Academy. Alexis Aiudi, Olivia Brothers, Pemberley Ann Olson, Andris Kundzins, Gregory Myles, and Alexis Valdes of San Francisco Ballet School are appointed as apprentices starting in the 2021 Season.
Summer is ending, which means it is time to take a look at the BIG TEN issue. This issue features American Ballet Theatre’s Hee Seo and her foundation’s work of the YAGP KOREA. In this issue we will take a look at Ballet Ivy Leagues, the Top Ten Ballet Schools, and some of the best ballet schools you should consider for the 2018-2019 season.
Subscriptions to the magazine are run through the publisher JooMag, if there are issues with subscribing, please contact Joo Mag.
Joseph Gatti, Marcelo Gomes, Rasta Thomas, Elias Baseman, Matthew Golding and a few others are teaming up and taking on Orlando. Artistic Director and Founder of United Ballet Theatre, Joseph Gatti has brought in a slew of men and a blonde bombshell, Chloe Sherman for a new work by Marcelo Gomes. This “equation” looks familiar, right? Yes, and it could be because Executive Director James L. Boyd III, is at the head? He is also the former producer for Rasta Thomas‘ Rock the Ballet. Rasta Thomas will serve as a guest artist.
Excited to see the work they will be premiering. Marcelo Gomes recently left ABT after a sexual misconduct allegation. He then had his documentary premiered, and set a new work with less exciting reviews for Julie Kent‘s Washington Ballet. This would be his first full year venturing out as a choreographer and transitioning out of the “dancer” title.
So what will this mean for dancing state of Florida? Adding another company to Florida’s long list of companies including Joseph Gatti’s former employer, Robert Hill’s Orlando Ballet. (Orlando Ballet is currently searching for a new Executive Director, the third one in like five years…) As their website is still new, you can see the list of artists joining up with Mr. Gatti.
Regardless, any company that is creating jobs should be applauded.
Best of Luck United Ballet Theatre!! We are watching!
A Ballet Education has committed/pledged to raise $27,000 dollars in scholarship funds for various organizations including the YAGP Korea, Burbank Dance Academy, the Cirio Collective & helping support kids with the financial aid to attend Summer Intensives and the YAGP. This crowdfunding initiative is to help support the art form that I love with all my heart. This year has been a devastating year for many, as ballet companies and schools are losing money and not giving out as many scholarships as usual. The costs of ballet are skyrocketing and the need to support the ballet is more important, now more than ever.
For the 2018-2019 Season YAGP KOREA through the Hee Seo Foundation $3,000
Burbank Dance Academy $1,000
YAGP FINALS FUNDS $10,000
SUMMER INTENSIVE FUNDS $13,000
How am I going to fundraise $27,000 for all these kids/dancers? Simple. All of the proceeds from my books, artwork, and magazine will now be going towards helping dancers across the world. I have been watching, listening, and hearing kids across the world struggle financially at their home studios and then when they are offered the chance to be seen, or have a career, or attend a summer intensive that could actually make their career… they can’t even afford the chance to go.It was hard to watch kids struggling this year at YAGP finals with the costs of everything. Numerous times, I had let kids hop into my UBER or LYFT because I knew it was going to cost them $15 dollars when we were all going to the same place…
Why am I always helping YAGP KOREA? Because, for these young men, it is important to place at a ballet competition. If they don’t place, they will have to serve two years to the army at the age of 19. Their training willstop completely, and the odds of them ever returning to ballet are slim.Read more here.
Why am I helping Burbank Dance Academy? Because I have seen, worked in, and observed the intensities of the Los Angeles Ballet Community, and I believe this school under Jason Coosner is creating a healthy and positive presence in the Los Angeles Ballet Community that is desperately needed.
Think about it this way…
If you buy 1 grande Starbucks espresso drink a day, that is $1,825 dollars a year- if you just cut back to 5 coffees a week, and donate the rest you would be donating $520 dollars a year. That is a plane ticket for a kid to attend finals, or attend a summer intensive on scholarship. It might be the last amount needed to attend for a student to attend a year round school. That’s 6 pairs of pointe shoes you could be helping a student receive. If you were to not go out and eat once a month, you would be able to donate $1,200. That is almost a full summer intensive fee. It is 12 pairs of pointe shoes. It is the cost of the hotel for YAGP finals.
How big is too big? How much would you do for your son or daughter? Recently something came up that isn’t necessarily rare in ballet, but it is definitely something unspoken. Your child did everything right. Started ballet at three, became serious at eight, and at twelve, she was accepted to School of American Ballet on scholarship. She spent her next three summers at PNB, Houston and Boston. Again, you did everything right. You spent the money on a great year round studio; you drove a 40-minute commute to make sure she got the best training in your area. You rarely see your other kids because of long hours at the studio. Then at fifteen your daughter’s body changed, and she grew breasts. She grew a “c cup” but the remainder of her body was thin… This year she auditioned and didn’t get into a big ten school, but waitlisted to Boston. What do you do?
Is it okay when your fifteen-year-old daughter asks for a breast reduction to have a fighting chance in ballet?
I know plenty of girls who have gotten nose jobs, boob jobs, their ears pinned back and more to obtain a better line, a better physique, a prettier face. Most of these girls have contracts with major companies. So is it wrong? Living in Los Angeles it is normal for a girl to get a new nose for her sixteenth birthday. And it is normal for a girl to get implants at twenty-one. But, for some reason, when a fifteen-year-old girl asks for a breast reduction just to have a fighting chance in ballet… The world becomes completely unfair and my anger at ballet builds and explodes… So here is my post for the night:
Ballet Companies and ballet schools are two peas in a pod, but can be extremely different. The pod is ballet. Unfortunately, schools seem to be even more demanding than a company. This is true from the get go. In ballet school, you learn the most ridiculous combinations, and do the most ridiculous things, and over work your body till exhaustion. In a ballet company, the combinations are to warm your body up and to stay sharp. You don’t take more than one class in a day, and you spend most of your days in rehearsals. Sure, school builds stamina and teaches you worth ethic, but the demands on a ballet student are completely different than in a company. Both are extremely stressful but different. But it seems ballet schools are even more demanding than ballet companies.
The body type factor was extremely apparent this year. This year, I went to watch my students audition, and it seems that the push towards “perfect” bodies is more apparent now more than ever. Schools won’t even give you a chance is your body type is remotely different or differently proportioned. It seems schools are seeking taller dancers with extreme European proportions. And, with the influx of ballet students worldwide, they get to choose these body types, even now more than ever. Because of this, I now have a student who has to find a way to have a breast reduction because her chest is too developed.She is Latina, and her genetic body type is predetermined, she now has to find a way to raise money, secretly, to even have a fighting chance in ballet.
Yes, every body type is predetermined, but race and genetics continue to be a wall in ballet. The older generations of ballet teachers might not even understand ethnic body types, how they work, how different individuals and body types translate ballet technique. It is so frustrating, and while I do understand these racial body types, if other teachers and school directors are not familiarizing themselves with this process, then ballet will never change. That means the 2 percent of ethnic body types that fit the “ideal body type” will make it, the rest won’t.
This leads to me to say, shame on all of you school directors. As Artistic Directors only can pick from what you give them, get off your high horse and give them some diversity. But if you are presenting artistic directors with one body type, one ethnicity, shame on you. If you can’t grasp the idea of an ethnic body type in your school, or make allowances for ethnic predispositions, super shame on you. Actually, shame on all of you… So to PNB, SAB, HOUSTON, and BOSTON BALLET SCHOOLS… You missed out on a great dancer, with a great work ethic, who is exceptionally gifted. And while you go on your summer audition tour and make all of the money you make, just know, that either because of racism, body type, or lack of experience with ethnic body types… You are now making children want to alter their bodies to please you.
You might think that I am ridiculous. That I am just mad that my student gets into a school of their choice. But seriously, she is technically gifted at every standard: perfect turn out, hypermobile, beautiful feet, hyperextended; triple pirouettes left and right en pointe, 180 penche, oversplit saute chats, beautiful musicality, and a hard work ethic. If you are asking for more than that, then good luck with your schools…
This isn’t the first time this has come up, and I know a couple moms here have written in and I avoided responding… Well, I’m tired of waiting for ballet to change…
Between the holiday Starbucks cup fiasco and preparing for Black Friday sales, the ballet world is faced with our dreaded but magical annual tradition of The Nutcracker. Every year around this time, whether it be at Starbucks, the bank or even at some retail store, I am standing around and then it comes on the speakers. That dreadful tune that ushers in the holiday season. While the majority of the world associates it with that one song from that one commercial, ballet dancers around the world hear it and immediately identify the composer, the act, the choreography and the costumes. Yes, it is the Nutcracker. Recently, I was standing in line with my pas de deux partner, and the music for Snow Pas came on. While it is one of the most beautiful pieces composes for the Nutcracker, we immediately looked at each other with fear in our eyes. Yes, fear. We had just started rehearsals with new choreography knowing that the show goes up in three weeks. We both haven’t been on stage for more than four years, and we immediately decided to order skinny lattes knowing we are about to be in white tights. So, in the tradition of Nutcracker, and in a Ballet Education’s five things…
You Know It’s Nutcracker When… 1. You hear Nutcracker music outside of ballet and want to kill yourself. 2. 1/3 of your company is injured, or battling tendonitis but still powering through ridiculously long rehearsals that you don’t want to be in. 3. You know every part of Nutcracker, but still are forced to rehearse, clean and tech it all. In fact, you have probably danced every part of Nutcracker at some point of your life. 4. This time of the year everyone is all about the holiday cheer and festivities, but you are the most tired you have ever been. You want to crawl into a ball and die. You still have to rehearse everything else outside of Nutcracker for the upcoming season’s bills, so your mind is on overload. It is just yucky. 5. You are a boy, and its Nut season and all you want to do is be Kyra Nichols as Dewdrop. Yes, you want to be Balanchine’s infamous Dewdrop and dance the most beautiful entrances, have the most swayed back ever, and dance to the loveliest of music.
His face was pressed against in the glass,
Fingers spread wide, tapping to the muffled sound of the music.
His mind was racing back and forth between reality, and fantasy.
Finally, the door opened and the teacher asked, “Do you want to come in?”
Looking for his mom’s approval, she nodded.
He rushed in.
And that was that.
I always wondered why my mom didn’t put me into dance earlier? From age 3-7 I would religiously watch the Baryshnikov/Kirkland Nutcracker every day, a copy that my grandma gave me. When PBS aired PNB’s Nutcracker, my Grandma recorded it, via VHS and gave it to me as well. I was addicted. I hadn’t even started dance classes yet. There are pictures of me religiously watching it. After preschool, lunch and reading, my mom would try to make me take a nap with her as I would normally get into trouble somewhere in the early afternoon. When these naps came about I would purposefully would toss and turn, and this would lead my mom to let me go to the living room and watch the Nutcracker. Somewhere between Snow and Prologue she would come out, and insist I turn it off and do something educational. I would beg, because the real dancing hadn’t started yet and the clowns hadn’t even danced. Little did I know, that one of those clowns would become a coach later on. Then in PNB’s Nutcracker, I would become obsessed with flowers and snow. Then my life happened, the Nutcracker was going to be in theaters, the NYCB version with Darci Kistler. And that is when I knew that is how I wanted to dance… The problem was, I hadn’t even started dancing yet… My sister and cousins were all in dance… But I wasn’t. Despite the fact that I had to go watch my sisters take class all the time… I hadn’t been enrolled.
Finally, when it came to be… I wasn’t allowed to do ballet. I did boys class which included jazz and tap.
Then, finally, I knew I wanted to do ballet and I finally got my wish. It was so late. So late. After an excellent elementary school, I went to a performing arts middle school with the condition that I keep a GPA over 3.5, stayed in the GATE program, and did other extra curricular activities. Needless to say, I wasn’t getting the training I needed. Then Center Stage came out, and I knew that I wanted that life. With the condition that I kept up all my responsibilities, I was able to quite the dance program at the middle school and go to a pre professional school. Then high school came about, and I knew I had to dance more. So, I doubled up on classes, by my freshman year of high school, I enrolled at a junior college so I could accumulate more credits. By the age of fifteen I had finished high school, differed from colleges to make my parents happy, but I did this so I could focus on ballet.
Then while at this pre professional school, a former principal from National Ballet of Canada told me I would never be a dancer. So, it shattered my world, and I was like, “Fuck. I gave up Uni for this…”
While at the junior college, I found out they offered ballet classes late at night. And I thought, this is perfect! I can double up on my ballet training. I juggled the two back and forth and by January, I had auditions. As rejection letters and acceptance letters came, I was really confused. I had done everything right… I did everything my parents asked me, and everything my teachers asked me but I didn’t get in anywhere that I really wanted. This being SAB.
Then, while under the advisement of the junior college professor, she told me to consider going to a university and majoring in dance. I knew this isn’t want I wanted, but what if the world didn’t have a ballet plan for me? I was taking class at a college here in soCal and as I finished adagio at center I was walking to the side when a man tapped his finger on the glass and told me to come over. I kind of shook my head, but then the music in class stopped and the professor told me I should go out there and talk to him. I didn’t know who he was. He basically asked me a couple questions and asked if I wanted to come to his school for the summer. I had no clue who he was… It was Alonzo King of LINES Ballet. This was before LINES was everywhere. Deadlines were coming up and my parents told me I had to make decisions… So, while eating my favorite chinese food reading about all these programs, I opened my fortune cookie and it said: You will dance to a different beat.
Being the crazy that I am, I was like THIS IS A SIGN. So, I went to LINES. And as beautiful as it was, and as glorious as it was… I knew that this isn’t how I wanted to dance. I didn’t care about what muscles moved what, I didn’t care about finesse and I didn’t care about how a plié made me feel. I knew I wanted to have long lines, and deep fourths. I wanted over crossed everything and I wanted to move fast… Every modern teacher said I was too Balanchine. Every ballet teacher said I didn’t have the body for ballet. It was really discouraging. Despite all of my kicking and dragging on at LINES I had met beautiful dancers who I still catch up with to this day. I came home discouraged, but my Grandma showed me this article about SoCal girls doing it up big. It was referring to Ashley Ellis and Misty Copeland, just coming off their spotlight awards, coca cola scholars and acceptances to ABT Studio company… So, I moved in with my grandma to train at their studio… The caliber of training was amazeballs… It was intense training… But, it was SOOOOOOO classical. Anything remotely unclassical was frowned upon, and the Balanchine was driven out. Then I went to CPYB, thinking okay, if all of the principals of NYCB have gone here… I must go, and they had a University in the same city, so I could keep going on with my education. The training was beyond exceptional, but this time… life handed me a different set of cards… I never thought I would experience racism in a ballet classroom, I never thought I would be the only asian male for miles, I never thought a lot of things would ever happen to me… and they did. I grew up in Southern California, my parents are white, and my brothers and sisters are all from different countries. Growing up my best friend was half french half black, and my other best friend was half German half mexican. Racism was the furthest thing from my mind… So, when comments by teachers were made about me being oriental, or that I had to open my eyes bigger… I was like wtf. This was the first time race became utterly important, but it also crushed me. So, despite CPYB’s advice, I decided to go audition for companies and got in. I begged the school the company was associated with to let me come early and just be in the school so I could get out of CPYB. Dance ended but brought teaching… Teaching brought back hope for ballet for me. Watching students leave this summer to join companies, go to SAB, and other summer programs, go off to university to dance on scholarship… Makes me feel like I can really do this… which basically caused this retrospective…
Ten years later, here I am sitting down filling out company contracts, school curriculum and emailing theaters. Crazy. Right? Starting a ballet company where poverty is seen in 30 miles every direction, the average high school drop out rate is over 30%, and the only major theatre is for comedians. Insane right? No, because now I know how important it is to let someone dance. And as I start this crazy journey of starting a company I am loving it. Mostly because the dancers I have hired are beautiful people with beautiful stories and that makes them beautiful to watch.
Kelly is tall. Like really tall. And after having a pre pro scholarship at PNB, and dancing at numerous companies around the US- she was never really pushed into roles because she was so tall. Now, inspired to dance again after having kids, she is beyond gorgeous and has this ferocious tenacity, ridiculous dedication and now that she is pushing for herself she taking on roles with fire and having experienced everything she has gone through as a mom, as a tall dancer, and as a teacher she brings something extra to her dancing. Then there is Carlos, who was a student of mine, coming from the same area. Training him to get scholarship at the Rock School then continuing his education at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, he is back. After fighting his family to let him dance, he comes back gorgeous, strong and long. Jaquie was told she was never going to dance. The studio owner would tell her to her face that she would never dance. Then I came to her studio as a teacher. After pushing and stretching, and challenging her, she got into summer programs and attended. She then got a scholarship to go to University. She is going to commute back and forth to dance. Amanda did everything right in ballet. Went year round at the Rock School, spent every summer at SAB, but ballet life got to her, and she decided to become an RN. Now at a top ranked hospital in the US, she decided she missed dancing, and wanted to start again. These are just short abbreviated versions of their stories, but their stories are also just beginning. It is really that spectacular. www.redlandsdancetheatre.org
facebook: REDLANDS DANCE THEATRE
In the world of ballet, there are three languages. There is the language in which ballet was codified, French. Then there is the language in which interprets ballet, body language backed by emotion. And then there is a language that ballet dancers actually speak, a language of their own, and I’m not talking about French. So, here is the modern vocabulary list every ballet dancer/student should know (part one). These terms you will come across in class, gossiping among your fellow peers in ballet school, blogs like this one, or social media.
Mr. B (noun): AKA, George Balanchine, aka God (just kidding, not really)
The founder of New York City Ballet, and probably the most influential choreographer of the 20th century.
What would Mr. B do?
4 T’s (noun): AKA The Four Temperaments
Choreographed by George Balanchine in 1946 to music by Paul Hindemith.
Dancing 4T’s is really difficult if you aren’t trained Balanchine.
Buiscut (noun or adj):
Dancers with “bad” feet or feet that don’t point.
She has biscuit feet, she’ll never go en pointe.
A La Sebesque, secabesque (noun):
A non existent position in ballet that people with bad technique use. It is a combination of a la seconde, and arabesque.
You are doing a la sebesque dear, you aren’t in jazz class.
1. A dancer who is overly intense about ballet, to the point where it might be unhealthy. Maureen is a bunhead, Eva is not.
1. A dancer’s body in peak shape. Her body is snatched, hence why she is rockin’ a unitard.
Whacked out (adj):
1. Ridiculously flexible He is so whacked out… but only to the right.
AD (noun) aka Artistic Director:
1. The head of a ballet company. She only got the part because she is sleeping with the AD.
Leo (noun) aka Leotard:
1. Appropriate ballet attire, made from mesh, nylon, spandex, lycra or another synthetic blend of fabric. Who wears a white leo to an audition?
________Hands(_____ (adj) + noun):
1. Spatula Hands: hands that look like spatulas.
2. Ovenmitt hands: hands that are shaped like an oven mitt.
3. Hamburger Hands: hands that are shaped like one is holding a hamburger. She is definitely not getting into SAB because of her spatula hands.
1. Hands that have gone through rigorous Balanchine training and are the anti Russian hand. He has claws, you think he is from SAB?
Nut Season (noun):
1. The part of the season in which one must dance in the annual production of the Nutcracker in which they will be overworked, and over rehearsed. Dancers may cringe, or cry if they are at the mall shopping and the Tchaikovsky score is being played during the holidays. The time of the season in which every dancer wants to quit. It is Nut Season, I want to die.
1. The application of a mattifier to match ones skin tone and remove the shine or pink color.
2. When a ballet dancer goes to iHop and dreams of ordering pancakes but orders a salad instead. Gaynor Mindens should always be pancaked, that way it isn’t obvious you are wearing them.
Floor Barre (noun):
1. An awful, but healthy alternative to taking class. It is the combination of ballet, yoga and pilates. I would rather do character than floor barre.
This is just part one, and as I compile list two, please feel free to email me for suggestions.
If you are ages 11+ and you are training in ballet, like seriously training… Not like the, I dance ballet twice a week, supplemented with 4 jazz classes, leaps and turns and competition rehearsals… Like REAL TRAINING… Meaning you are taking at least 3 hours of ballet a day, and you are pushing yourself constantly. You parents are breaking the bank and paying for privates and coaching… You might be aspiring to go the YAGP, (the finals start tomorrow BTW in NYC), you might have your hopes on next years summer programs, or you are going to a summer program this year… This post is dedicated to you… and your parents.
1. “This is not the right place for you.” There are a million different schools out there, and each have their own approach, way of thinking and pedagogy. The reality is that not every body type is meant to dance, every technique. If you are at an ACTUAL super Russian school… Your body has to be gifted with turnout, feet that overly point, and a back that is hyper mobile… If you don’t have all those things… Russian technique is extremely difficult, and your muscles build the wrong way… You get bulky, instead of having that long, rangy Russian look. The reasoning behind this, is that dance studios are businesses and need you to pay the bills. They don’t want to lose students.
2. “You are too good to be here.” Studios again are a business, and so they like to keep dancers around as an “investment”… If your child shows potential, and is the best one at the studio or school, then it is time to move on. Sure, you can still learn things, and become stronger, but the reality is that a student has to challenge themselves. If there isn’t competition in the room, how are they striving to be better? Yes, ballet comes from within oneself, but the reality is, when you are around better dancers, you mentally try harder… Also, you need to be around peers that are at the same level as you, and are experiencing the same things, and struggling with the same things.
3. “You need to diet.” No, I’m not talking about starving yourself. I am talking about what a dancer should actually be eating to ensure a healthy body. The word diet in ballet is so taboo, but the reality is, dancers are burning X amount of calories, and shredding their muscles on a daily basis… So higher proteins, less carbs is a good thing. The amount of fruit and veggies are just generally good, I mean who doesn’t love a detox… Also, eating clean means healthier looking skin, so that is a plus.
4. “Ballet isn’t your thing.” So many times, I have seen girls prepped and primed for the world of ballet, but really they should have pursued jazz or modern. It takes a lot to be a ballet dancer: the right body proportions, the right turn out, the right feet, the right everything… Granted there are variances by company, by AD’s preference, but the reality is…. Turnout, hyper extended knees, a hyper mobile back, and feet that shape well are pretty much required. With the caliber of ballet dancers that schools are cranking out, there really is no room for anything else. If you don’t have all those things, there are other genres that are more relaxed… and if your child LOVES ballet, and dreams to become a professional, than find every possible thing to help make that come true… Private lessons, stretching coaches, pilates, foot stretchers and strengtheners (besides a theraband, but that too!)…
5. “Most of you will not become a prima ballerina. In fact, most of you will not go pro.” Hard reality to accept, but it is the truth. I have gone to some pretty amazing schools, and seen some pretty amazing, technically sound, musical and artistic dancers… but the reality is that most of them did not get a job… Those who do get jobs are BEYOND exceptional… And even those who did get a job in a second company, and then promoted into the first company, most of them were only there four a couple of seasons, if that, and then their contracts weren’t renewed…
From one school I went to in SoCal, which had a very high enrollment, and has produced really great dancers… I think, that 4 eventually went pro out of the senior division, and I think only two are still dancing in major companies. Both are still in the corps…
From another school I went to in SoCal that was a very small school, but offered great training… I think of the 12 students in the highest level, I think 4 of us went professional, but currently only still dances in a major company… still in the corps… I think the rest have gone into teaching… Now CPYB on the other hand… I think like everyone who stuck it out, and pursued dance seriously went pro…
The odds are really slim.
and… to throw in a extra one…
6. “I don’t know.” Very rarely will a teacher admit to something they don’t know. Which is a shame, because no one knows everything about everything. Most teachers very rarely go out and find new ways of teaching, or they don’t bother to go take anatomy courses (unless they go to college) to really explain muscle, ligaments, and tendons… They don’t go out and research how to teach towards ethnic body types, or late starters who’s muscles and bones have already set, or they don’t go out and stay current on how things are done in ballet. Most of them teach the way they were taught, which was passed down from some crazy soviet russian era teacher with a cane… I mean obviously not relevant but whatever. A good teacher goes out constantly in search for new ideas, new ways of approaching technique, and finding the understandings of different body types, ages, etc… (This last post was geared at ballet teachers at random schools, not teachers at professional or pre professional schools.)
A lot of you concerned parents and students have written in about summer programs… While some of you have already gotten your acceptance letters, and have made your choices; others have gotten numerous rejection letters and are now distraught. First, we need to talk about the big five, which are the five summer program courses that everyone auditions for… Usually… maybe… most likely… The big five in terms of summer programs here in the US are, and in no particular order: San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, School of American Ballet, Boston Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. (For some, the big five will swap out PNB for Houston, or swap out San Francisco for Joffrey.)
Now, as you probably have experienced, that at the big five auditions, there are hundreds of kids… But this is why I encouraged all of you to make sure you come up with a plan ahead of time. When we (my friend and I) were training we would do the big five auditions, followed by 3 summer programs that are smaller, and then programs we thought we would be scholarship to (safety net)… For me the big five were ideal, but I wasn’t stupid… I didn’t have the ideal body type or natural facility. So, even though I went to those auditions, I would make sure to get to: Miami City Ballet, Orlando Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Chautauqua, and Suzanne Farrell. In addition I would do all of the smaller companies like Ballet Met, Cincinnati, Carolina Ballet… And I would randomly throw in regional companies like Sacramento Ballet, and Colorado.Obviously I didn’t do this when I was 13, but come sixteen… It started to really count.
You see, when you are sixteen and a school offers you a scholarship, they see a lot of potential… And at sixteen you probably should be training at a school affiliated with a company.. or have kick a$$ reputation (CPYB, Ellision, Yuri Gregoriev, Cuban Classical of Miami etc). The ideal situation for someone who is sixteen and going away for the summer varies, but this is the reality:
You want to get asked to stay for the year, and if they offer you a scholarship to stay for the year even better.
Summer programs are no longer a chance to get stronger, but the platform in which school directors watch your work ethic.
At sixteen, your primary focus should be landing a job, so you have to be realistic. Not everyone is meant to be in New York City Ballet, so there is nothing wrong with going and looking elsewhere…
In ballet, you have to be smart, and there is nothing wrong with going to a school that adores you and wants to work with you, but most importantly see your potential as an artist.
So, while the big five of summer programs flourish, you can be smart about this summer. Go to a program that is going to make you better, stronger, and most importantly, give you the attention you need. I remember when I went to a summer program that shall remain nameless… I went on a full scholarship and was told I had a trainee spot… we were placed in level 8. After getting there… and entering the first class… There were probably 40 others who were all promised the same thing. The studios couldn’t accommodate so many dancers, and we even had to do barre in groups. 3 days in, I said F it, and packed my bags and left for CPYB. Don’t get me wrong, CPYB was packed, but from the very first class I was singled out, given corrections, kind of humiliated, but pushed to my limits.
Lastly, there are hundreds of programs out there… You have to find the right fit. I remember one summer a girl I knew went away to Kansas City, who wasn’t all that great, but when she came back from summer course she was ridiculously flexible and had leg up. In terms of newer summer programs like Gen Next, Ellision, and so on… I am not really sure, just because when I was training they didn’t exist… haha. Now, I always say, look at the alumni… If their alumni are all uberly talented, and all getting jobs… that’s great and all, but anyone with natural facility, or have a hint of prodigy… they will always find work. period. If their alumni come in all shapes and sizes, then it s a different story. I am currently working on saving/ raising money to go travel the US and watch all of these programs… Soon enough, I will be able to help give you guys more in depth profiles into each school and program.
So yesterday was Balanchine’s Birthday, and as the internet was flooded with beautiful images of everyone dancing their favorite work it made me realize how connected ballet is. In addition, the NYT featured the give girls from Serenade on the front cover, above the fold. BIG DEAL. Now, from reading these most intimate stories, and tweets, haha, I was inspired by the idea of mastering ballet. As we celebrate the women of ballet, and the men of ballet, we forget that none of this would be possible without great choreographers. Balanchine reshaped the way ballet was perceived, and since then there hasn’t been anyone else really. Though, celebrating the fusion of jazz and ballet: Robbins. And celebrating the combination of modern and ballet: Tharp. Between the three, they have shaped the world of contemporary dance in general, and how audiences perceive music.
While Robbins reinvented the story ballet, and Tharp created a space that equalized Graham, Horton, and ballet, the world fell in love with the three. Now speaking of love, and the idea of these masterpieces, it is hard to find a program that would feature all three in one night. BUUUUT for those of us in California don’t fret!!!
Ballet San Jose is about to do all three…. Conveniently next month after Valentine’s Day… BOOM. So if you are in the LA area, drive up or fly up, a round trip ticket is only 160. In one night you will be able to see three of the greatest ballets ever…. First there is the incredibly technical difficult piece from Balanchine: THEME AND VARIATIONS. Theme is just flat out hard… For the principal girl… between the numerous entrances, those crazy gargouillades, and just a really difficult pas. The male variation is exhausting as well… So basically, it is going to make or break a company’s reputation for technique.
Then they are doing Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, which is basically inspired by a gay painter, Paul Cadmus, who conveniently also was sleeping with/ sponsored by Lincoln Kirstein. But because of that twisted connection we are given one of the greatest works. Set in a bar, with sailors on leave, and two feisty women, and beautiful music by Bernstein.
They will also be doing in the Upper Room by Tharp. The Upper Room is this crazy beautiful music, enhanced with ridiculously strong choreography showcasing a company’s diversity. It isn’t everyday you get to see a Tharp piece, especially one for a ballet company. So this is a treat.
So basically, if you are a young dancer, or a mom, or just an admirer of ballet… IT IS TIME TO TREK TO SAN JOSE… do you know the way to San Jose?
after i see the show, I will review the company… and I will watch the school to give you all a full update.
Germany isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think ballet, or dance in general. But since the 60’s German companies have risen, and have produced some of the most amazing works, or choreography today. Particularly, there are two companies in Germany that have risen to the occasion establishing them among the best: the Hamburg Ballet, and Stuttgart Ballet. In edition a baby ballet company in their 8th season has risen and made quite the splash in the ballet world: the Dreseden Semperoper Ballet.
Stuttgart Ballet (Company): Housed at the Opera House in Stuttgart, and founded by John Cranko, and now headed by Reid Anderson, the Stuttgart Ballet employs 65 dancers. Why is this so relevant? John Cranko has made numerous contributions to the world of ballet by extending the classical ballet repertory and mentoring: Jiri Kylian and John Neumeier. His two biggest contributions to the “classical” repertory have been the Prince of Pagodas (Royal Ballet) and Eugene Onegin.
Hamburg Ballet (Company):Reinvented by John Neumeier in 1973, the Hamburg Ballet has flourished. Their website boasts that under his direction of 40 years, over a 180 new ballets have been presented, 421 dancers have been employed, and their list of accomplishments goes on. The Hamburg Ballet has made huge contemporary contributions to the world of dance, one of the most noted is John Neumeier’s Little Mermaid.
Then there is the new comer to German Ballet, the Semperoper Ballet. Starting their ninth season, Semperoper Ballet is making their splash in the dance world. Most of their dancers are extremely flexible, and very technical, and have gathered dancers from numerous international schools. For a company in their 9th season, they have recruited some of the best talent out there. In addition their exposure on social media has been growing, especially from their men. With dancers from across the globe Semperoper is definitely starting to make a name for themselves, and their creation of Nutcracker video Via Youtube is pretty cool as well.
In addition another young company is slowly making it’s way into the limelight: The Forsythe Project.. After the close of Ballett Frankfurt, the Forsythe Project was created to lead a group of individuals with innovative choreography. The project has paid off well, and for those of you who are in America who would be dying to work with William Forsythe, he joins the faculty at USC for the 2015-2016 school year in their new dance department. (Good time to be going to college.) In addition, it seems that the Germans are all about premiers, pushing the boundaries of innovation, choreography, music and lighting. With a strong number of choreographers, it seems that we will now be looking to Germany for the next standard repertory. (This being that eventually we will replace the Balanchine Repertory with the German Repertory, which will either be replaced by Ramatsky, Wheeldon, Millpied, Justin Peck, Myles Thatcher.)
More German companies are making appearances in the US, as Hamburg Ballet and San Francisco have created a strong bond between Europe and the States. As Southern California this season is bringing in companies from all over, it will be nice to see how everyone compares. especially to our home companies.
If Ballet Companies had an awards ceremony to go to, it would be the Golden Globes. It wouldn’t be the Oscars, even if it is the most glamorous event. This is because the Oscars are voted on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, we basically have that from the Princess Grace Awards and the Prixs for that. If dancers were to vote on other dancers and companies, then it would be the SAGs. The Golden Globes are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press, and I feel like that in itself says it all. The power of press and publicity goes a long way, not to mention that the opinions of editors dictate the content featured. But, that isn’t what makes the Golden Globes so special, it is the fact that the mission of the Hollywood Foreign Press is to make films accessible to the general public by unbiased information and reviews. So, as I compiled a list of companies worth noting this year, the list grew rather large, so I decided to make categories, just like any awards ceremony. Because ballet is constantly changing, I needed to create categories that would allow flexibility, change and innovation. So, here are the categories that I felt represented the art form as a whole, and as a reflection of a company:
So without further ado… The Envelopes Please…
Best Premiere of a new work
The New York City Ballet, in PAZ de LA JOLLA,by choreographer Justin Peck.
(Nominees: Daphnis and Chloe, Paris Opera, Choreographed by Millpied. Lest We Forget Program from English National Ballet)
Best Repertory for the season.
Headed by Benjamin Millpied and Bridgette Lefevre, Paris Opera Ballet once again had a ridiculous season including: La Dame Aux Camelias/Neumeier, Dances at a Gathering/Robins, Psyche/Ramatsky, Le Park/Prelojac, Notre-Dame De Paris/Petit, the Sleeping Beauty/Nureyev, Doux Mensonges/ Kylian, Daphnis and Chloe/Millpied,Orpheus and Eurydice/ Bausch just to name a few. During the season during Onegin, Amandine Albisson received her place as an etoiles for her role in Tatiana.
(Nominees: San Francisco Ballet, the New York City Ballet, National Ballet of Canada)
Best reprisal of a classic work.
This award goes to the Bolshoi Ballet in their rendition of Balanchine’s Jewels. With sets designed by Alyona Pikalova, Costumes by Elena Zaitseva and lighting by Maxim Fomchenkov, this production hands down belongs to them. Their rendition of Jewels is probably the best I have ever seen. This also won Olga Smirnova Prix Benois de la danse.
(Nominees: Houston Ballet’s Modern Masters, Queensland Ballet’s MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Teatro La Scala for Serata Petit)
Technical Excellence from a company.
Amidst the craziness of the circus, Hamburg Ballet featuring Alina Cojocaru, the Hamburg Ballet’s strength shown through. Lilliom was performed in Orange County this February making their North American premiere, the world premiere was in 2011. John Neumeier’s choreography was not only innovating but showcased a ballet revolving around a man without having a million show off pirouettes. Not only was the work modern and innovative, but the entire companies’ classical background showed through and through, all seven scenes and a prologue.
(Nominees: National Ballet of Cuba, Vienna State Ballet, Dresdon Semproper Ballet)
Best Costuming for a performance
This award goes to The Australian Ballet’s new production of Cinderella. The costumes and sets were designed by Jérôme Kaplan. The new production was choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky to the original Prokofiev Score.
Dutch National Ballet stole fashion week during the SS2014 Paris shows with their collaboration with Viktor & Rolf in Haute Couture. In addition, Dutch National Ballet has comprised numerous collaborations through out the 2013-2014 season like their premiere of the Tempest that included amazing collaborators, and their new moves program, and Dutch Doubles. Four choreographers were paired with four world-famous Dutch artists: fashion designers, photographers and musicians.
(Damian Woetzel, Artistic Director of the Vail International Dance Festival, Julia Adam’s for the Boathouse Project, )
Most Innovative Company.
San Francisco Ballet’s season took it home. While contemporary companies create new works constantly, innovation has to be supported with stability and diversity. San Francisco Ballet definitely hit it out of the park with Giselle, Wheeldon’s Cinderella, Ratmansky’s Trilogy, Borderlands by McGregor, Wheeldon’s Ghosts, and the premiere of a Liam Scarlett ballet, and a premiere from and Possokhov. Not to mention they threw in Balanchine, Robins for giggles. San Francisco Ballet also has continued their relationship Hamburg Ballet by hosting them as a part of their season.
English National Ballet, headed by Tamara Rojo might just be the most inspiring ballet company in the world right now. With their previous innovations, despite their financial downfalls, the English National Ballet had an amazing season. Most noted I think was their performance at Glastonbury, which was breathtaking. It was a piece from their Lest We Forget program. You can actually watch the video online. Then they stunned audiences again at their Emerging Artists Competition with contemporary solos to die for. Raging reviews for not only the winners, but all of the competitors this past season.
(Miami City Ballet under Lourdes Lopez, Royal Ballet of Flanders )
Company Contribution to the World of Arts.
In the province of Dresdon it seems a lot is happening in dance, but this award goes to the Forsythe Company. Founded in 2005, after Ballett Frankfurt closed, this company has create new works that hope to survive for the next generation of artists. In addition, William Forsythe will be joining the faculty at University of Southern California in the fall of 2015. He is not the artistic director of the Forsythe Company. But, this international group of dancers has created and performed tremendously. As in the middle, somewhat elevated has survived hopefully this next crop of choreographers will be nurtured accordingly to contribute to ballet’s repertory.
(Ballet Black, the New York City Ballet because of Justin Peck)
New or Returning Presence to the International Ballet Community,
The Korean National Ballet might just be joining the rest of the newer asian companies on the rise. Like National Ballet of China, Ballet Philippines and Hong Kong Ballet, Asian companies are on the rise. The Korean National Ballet is headed by former Stuttgart Principal Kang Sue Jin, and she is leading them artistic merits. With the way education is structured in Korea, it is surprising to find out that everyone in their company is a college graduate and didn’t join the company until their early 20’s, versus say other companies that hire 16-18 year olds. Their rosters are filled with tons of international dance winners, in fact 9-10 company members have medaled at an international dance competition.
Joburg Ballet (South Arica), Dance Theatre of Harlem, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Creating ten categories that reflect the nature of ballet companies, not individuals, was rather difficult. The size of the company, the theatre residency, and location would not effect the final outcomes. Here is information on how I graded companies: I only looked at the 2013-2014 performance season, individual dancers within the company, and artistic achievement based on reviews and press releases. Social media did not influence the choices. It seriously has taken a month to compile information, read reviews, and watch as much as I could. So, without categories my list would be: The New York City Ballet, Paris Opera, Bolshoi, Hamburg, the Australian Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, English National Ballet, the Forsythe Company, Korean National Ballet.
I was not going to single out dancers, because there are other numerous prestigious dance awards out there that grade artistic merit. As European Ballerina’s pray for Prima Assoluta, Paris Opera dancers pray for Etoiles, people hope for the Princess Grace Awards or the Benois… The list goes on. But notably last season: Ogla Smirnova, James Whiteside, Evgenia Obrazsova, Hee Seo, Tiler Peck, and Sara Mearns all had pretty amazing seasons on the international stages. As Olga Smirnova isn’t even a principal yet, and Hee Seo just got her promotion last season they are two women to definitely watch. Evgenia Obraztsova makes her way next to other Russian powerhouses: Svetlana Zakharova, and Natalia Osipiva, Polina Semionova, and Diana Vishneva. Balanchine ballerinas Tiler Peck and Sara Mearns are both competing I think to be the star at NYCB. Both are crazy different in approach, body type and musicality, but watching them dance is addicting. Both have literally grown up on stage. James Whiteside definitely gets to be next to Roberto Bolle and Daniil Simkin at ABT, but rightfully so, he is stud on stage… This year, I haven’t really seen any men that steal my heart… Well actually, the men of English National Ballet’s Emerging Artists were pretty amazing.
Also, as I just finished writing this I realized Royal Ballet didn’t really make anything… Truth me told I wasn’t impressed with their season, and because my anger at the Royal Ballet this blog was originally started… So…. Haha.
American Ballet Theatre is celebrating their 75th Season, and as they are preparing to come to come take residency in NYC, their rosters are set and the casting has been published. As ballet has made a shift towards women again, American Ballet Theatre seems to be a little late on the train. ABT has always been known for their men, but as the trend has transitioned now to fundamentally interesting ballerinas… ABT is just now slowly shifting… Their principal women can be grouped into their classics, their randoms, their guest stars, and new blood, while waiting in the wings are stars in the makings. Their soloist rankings and corps is full of star women waiting to take the limelight… So Kevin needs to start changing things up, or he needs to be replaced. #justsayin
Paloma Herrera, At the age of 20, she graced the world as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Her double fouettes where rare, and her tenacity was charming. Her Kitri was so young, naive and flirty. Remember how everyone used to oogle and gawk over her feet? No one cared if she had some crazy velociraptor arms. Then the reviews piled in, and the world fell in love with her. But then, she was almost forgotten. If you didn’t know, this is going to be her last season with American Ballet Theatre, literally 20 seasons later. So, what happened to her? Some say, that as you get older you transition from technician to artist. But for her, I think she just never left that mark. For a while, she had left an impression as Kitri (from the ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity video with Angel, that foot, and those fouettes), but now it has been replaced with Natalia Osipova’s take.
Julie Kent, The legend of Julie Kent goes something along the lines like this: You change your name to sound better. You win the Prix de Lausanne, and other competitions, you rise to fame, star in a series of bad acting movies, and marry ABT’s Associate Director. 29 years later, you still have it. If any of the women at American Ballet Theatre can claim artistry, you are the one. Of her roles I have seen live, by far Terpsichore has been your most charming. There is something to appreciate about Julie Kent, and I feel no one gives her enough credit. She isn’t like others who has a bazillion turns, or extension behind her ear. Her feet aren’t crazy amazing, and she isn’t hyper mobile. Instead she is stunning, artistic and musical. There is something very charming about everything she does, and with a solid technical base, she is the representation of what I think most dancers are. Yes, she has won numerous competitions, but not because she had crazy fouettes, but because she was clean, precise and clever with her musicality.
Gillian Murphy, Veronika Part, and Xiomara Reyes… So, I didn’t know how else to label these three because they are all quite random in their stories, and their styles. Gillian Murphy caught our eye in her diagonal of triple pirouettes in Corsaire. She came to fame for her campaigns for Gaynor Minden, giving hope to all of the girls with bad feet. She became something to talk about in the TV broadcast of Swan Lake with her triple fouettes. When it premiered I was literally at the dorms of San Francisco Ballet’s Summer Program watching it. Her coda was crazy, and that was about it… Her furrowed eyebrows in white swan didn’t do it. In fact, most everything I have seen her do didn’t do it. That is a lie, I liked her A LOT in Fall River Legend… Questionable as well, her husband is former principal dancer Ethan Stiefel… #justsayin
Then we have Veronika Part, during her Aurora… I fell asleep. Good feet and wears gaynors. Russian trained and gorgeous in the face, accent to die for, and appeared on TV with Letterman, her body is actually extremely beautiful on stage. Truthfully, I have only seen her dance in Swan Lake and the Sleeping Beauty and both times, I was not very entertained. But she is pretty to look at.
Then we have Xiomara Reyes, who I have no clue why she is a principal. Like, I know this entire post seems like I am the Perez Hilton of ballet, but I have no clue why she became a principal…. Everyone else I understand why they were promoted… but then there is her… and I am dumbfounded. I can not even begin to understand Kevin’s choices sometimes…. Unless, she has a huge sponsor.
THE GUEST ARTISTS:
Polina Semionova and Diana Vishneva… Goddesses in their own rights, I feel like these two women can do no wrong in ballet. Even if both women aren’t full time principals with ABT, they are both stunning. Since ABT has been having a revolving roster of principal women, it is great to see that these two are making more frequent appearances… Even if there are plenty of women who would be great principals within the company…
THE NEW BLOOD:
Thank the Lord for the newest principals of American Ballet Theatre: Isabella Boylston and Hee Seo. The two couldn’t be more different, but both equally poised to be principals. Isabella Boylston is dark, mysterious and sensual. Hee Seo is romantic, charming and airy. While I think Hee Seo is being groomed to replace Julie Kent, Boylston has set her own path at ABT. Both women I think are on the road to become great and lasting ballerinas.
Now the reality… ABT has two types of women… The women who get stuck, and the women who are on the fast track. Kevin McKenzie has obviously shown a track record of promoting women fast through the ranks, and promoting people and then the women get stuck. Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera have been stuck as soloists for a while, where their newly arrived counter parts Christine Schevchenko and Devon Teuscher are fast tracking it…I think Christine and Devon are being groomed to replace Gillian and Paloma. Oh and Sarah Lane, but I don’t really think of her as anything one way or the other. To be honest, I think she was only promoted because of her height and potential, but after the black swan fiasco, I haven’t really heard or seen anything great about her. While Misty Copeland is being pushed publicly to become a principal, new young blood in the corps has already been made a priority for the company. April Giangeruso, Gemma Bond, Luciana Paris, are being used quite a bit in leading roles. And very new to the company Catherine Hurlin and Hannah Marshall are both potential soloists in the makings… In the corps though, there are plenty of women who deserve promotions but I don’t think will ever get their chance Zhong-Jin Fang, a prix winner, Melanie Hamrick, Leann Underwood are three extremely beautiful dancers who should dance more. I honestly thought Underwood was on the fast track when she joined the company, but nothing has come to fruition… It is sad that ABT has tons of potential women to use but has yet to utilize them. (At least NYCB uses tons of their new talents, and has the repertory to showcase their corps.) So, as the season unfolds here’s to hoping for promoting Misty Copeland…
Celebrating their 25th season, OBT was originally founded by James Canfield. Who was actually known for his choreography, and was a former dancer with Joffrey. In 2003, it was handed to Christopher Stowell. (If you didn’t know who he was, he is the son of PNB’s founders: Kent Stowell and Francia Russell.) Then in the season 2013-2014 season it is taken over by Kevin Irving, who is now in is sophomore year there.
OBT has constantly gone through a lot of different phases. At it’s origins it was more on the contemporary side. The second phase under Christopher Stowell, was probably the peak of OBT. Staging of full length ballets, and acquiring numerous Balanchine rights, OBT flourished. Now, under their new director the question remains: What will happen to OBT? With the new director’s background in modern, will OBT now transition into a newer, more modern phase? OBT had a huge financial set back between 2012 and 2013, losing almost a million dollars in funding. Hoping to regain momentum, OBT’s building is quite new and quite gorgeous. (I have taken open class there numerous times, as my family spent part of their summer in Oregon. My brother, who now attends uni there, has caused me to think I will be seeing more of OBT.)
So many ballet companies miss the mark when it comes to PR and marketing but OBT has some of the best PR campaigns I have ever seen for a ballet company. Also, their website is gorgeously put together, minus their header image with a pierced ear… of all the photos to use as the first image we see… it is of a dancer’s upper back glistening in sweat and pierced ear.
Truthfully, I have never seen OBT dance. Even when they performed 20 minutes away from my house, and having three friends in the company, I decided not go. Hopefully, this will change. And I hope more people consider them to be a formidable company, and not just the smaller version of PNB.
Current Season: 5 programs, and additional performances. Tour dates are unannounced.
Dancers Hired: 37
Founded in New York by masters Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey in 1965, the Joffrey Ballet was born. The company relocated to their now permanent home in Chicago in 1995. As Joffrey makes more appearances, and is referenced to in pop culture quite frequently, the ballet company has struggled tremendously. Despite the struggles of any ballet company the Joffrey ballet has made major contributions to the ballet world. The biggest is probably the 1995 reconstruction of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Another unique quality is that the company really doesn’t have assigned ranks which allows the Artistic Director to be free about casting. Yes, senior company members have built names for themselves, but the dancers at Joffrey are truly unique.
First Joffrey has the stunning Fabrice Calmels, if you don’t know him, he is a giant standing at 6’6”. Trained are Paris Opera, and a unique resume on top of his training, he definitely stood out when I saw him in Apollo. GORGEOUS. His height and body proportions are beyond gorgeous, and his movement quality lives up to his height. With a unique contemporary take on ballet, he is definitely a jewel of the Joffrey Ballet.
Joffrey also employs Australian Aaron Smyth who made his appearances on the competition circuit in 2012-2013. This landed him a spot at JKO, then ABT II, and then joined the Royal Ballet. Since he is a younger dancer, we have a lot to look forward too.
Kara Zimmerman, formerly with PNB and Cincinnati, Joffrey really does use her well, and has helped develop her to her full potential.
Finally, basically one of their Prima’s Victoria Jaiani, she graced the cover of Dance Magazine back in 2010. With an arabesque for days, and artistry that moves the audience time and time again. She has definitely matured with the company and has truly made herself a name in Chicago, and in the dance world.
Dancers I think that would do well at Joffrey? Auditioning for companies, or summer programs with the hopes to go year round and work your way up? I believe that dancers who would do well at the Joffrey must already have a strong background in technique. It isn’t like a school like Boston Ballet or San Francisco that gives you technique. Joffrey is more about strengthening your technique and emphasizing a certain approach to your dancing. Dancers that I think do well there are tall, athletic, and most of all flexible. With the diverse repertory Joffrey offers, potential future hires have to have versatile bodies. This allows more forgiveness in body type, meaning there isn’t a preconceived notion to the perfect ballet body type. Their company has a variety of heights, and a variety of body types. Because there really isn’t clear rankings it also allows for a more fair shot in casting. I’m not saying it is completely fair, it never is.
And just because he is so attractive, and he is beyond talented… and is 6’6″ of muscle…
So, within the internal ballet dialogue in my head, as I am driving and dictating to SIRI, I was thinking that I am such a hypocrite. Here I am trying to save ballet, yet not supporting the company that is growing in my backyard. (I just purchased tickets to the full length Flames of Paris in November.) Then I started to think, how can I help Los Angeles Ballet, duh, your blog….
Location: Los Angeles, CA to be exact 11755 Exposition Boulevard Los Angeles, California 90064
Artistic Directors: Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary
Style: Balanchine meets Bournonville?
Affiliated School: Los Angeles Ballet
Annual Tuition for a trainee: $5,500-$5,900, boarding is unavailable.
Summer Program: Yes, not a lot of info on their site, check back in September.
Theatre Residence: None.
Current Season: 4 bills, touring the greater Los Angeles Area
Dancers Hired: 37
Founded in 2004, my first experience with Los Angeles Ballet was watching a girlfriend of mine perform in their 2009 season. She was dancing George Balanchine’s ‘Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2’ and Serenade. For being a young company I was impressed. I then got season tickets for the following season in which Chehon Wespi-Tschopp stole the majority of the season, then stole the show on SYTYCD. Which was sad becaus when I saw Giselle, and he was better than the title character…. Then I boycotted LA Ballet until I saw they were doing Concerto Barocco, 4 T’s, and Tchai Pas, La Valse, and Agon, their 2012-2013 season was amazing, just the exposure of Balanchine in Los Angeles in much needed. I didn’t see anything this past season until they brought back Serenade and premiered La Slyphide in one bill. So, of course I had t go. Unfortunately, the men stole the show, especially in La Slyphide, with the exception of Colleen Neary who was quite brilliant. If ballet is supposed to be woman, (which LA Ballet excels in the Balanchine Ballets), they fail at the classics, which is why I avoiding their new season. They are doing Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Director’s Choice… A Tchaikovsky Season for sure…In the Director’s Choice the full Theme and Variations will be performed. (It is always a toss up when buying tickets in Southern California because we have amazing venues that book touring companies, in October the Australian Ballet is coming with Swan Lake, the same time Los Angeles Ballet is doing Swan Lake… Which one would you pick? Then again in March Los Angeles Ballet will be doing sleeping beauty while American Ballet Theatre presents the Sleeping Beauty in Orange County.)
Questionable timing from the artistic director duo if you ask me. But the two are thriving, mirroring co-directorship success like PNB’s Kent Stowell and Francia Russell. Colleen Neary in particular I think brings a very keen eye to the company, which I think more women should assume roles as ADs. Women are detailed oriented, planners, and I think just as visionary as male ADs. (Sexism is a completely different post… but regardless of the politics, I am fond of the pairing like a good cheese and wine combo.)
So, the company itself. The company has six unique principals, which I have all seen dance, but of the principals two are beyond exceptional: Allynne Noelle and Zheng Hua Li. I probably could watch them dance post modern and be entertained, if you knew me you would understand the humor. Allynne brings this vivacious charisma to the stage while Zheng Hua Li has the most subtle, amazing, deep plié. Of the soloists Alexander Castillo shows a lot of promise, his physique is gorgeous on stage as well.
But what I love the most are their women in the corps: Britta Lazenga was stunning in Serenade and couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Katherine Cowgill has a stoic, aristocratic way of dancing which reminds me of old school ballet. Kate Highstrete has legs for days with subtlety. (I love me a good subtle dancer.) Katherine Revels and Chloe Sherman also were stunning with a young unique charm in Serenade. In the corps excitement comes with their new hires. They brought on Jasmine Perry, who was made popular from TEEN VOGUE’s STRICTLY BALLET, and is also the only African American female in the company. They also hired freshly out of SAB Samuel Akins, who is another young African American. As a side commentary, I applaud LA Ballet’s racial diversity, since other companies, with ridiculous budgets still will not hire black dancers. (I won’t name them, even though I should.) It is always exciting when young companies hire straight from school dancers because it is a make it break it moment for these dancers. Both are exceptionally talented, and because full length classical ballets offer numerous roles, I hope they get cast in a lot. (Then again, it could also be disastrous as they are straight from SAB and will be dancing classical ballet.) Young dancers keep ballet alive, as they are the new talent that will eventually replace older talent. Their careers are new and fresh, which might bring some excitement, naivety, and that tenacity you develop in school.
Five reasons why you should see Los Angeles Ballet this season if you are in the area:
As ballet dancers, as artists, as humans, we need to support the arts in any capacity. So, why not save the money and not go to Starbucks or out drinking and go to the ballet? You get to still dress up, and if you are single you might meet someone great. Since most of us gays drop hundreds if not thousands of dollars in liquor in West Hollywood, why not spend the money on something that is actually helping our community?
Because Los Angeles Ballet is a new company, you never know what is going to happen. There are no preconceived notions and you can make an opinion for yourself.
Sleeping Beauty this year is going to be a world premiere for Colleen Neary and Thordal Christiensen which means their version of Sleeping Beauty might be more entertaining than most. I mean the reality is, we have sat through a lot of boring versions… This one is going to be new, so I have high hopes.
Theme and Variations! If you are fan of NYCB and can’t get to NYC, LA Ballet will be doing Theme and Variations, a Balanchine Ballet. If you aren’t familiar with Theme and Variations, it is a beautiful ballet that really tests the entire company. Also it opens with the most beautiful walking tendus…. Talk about needing good feet.
Finally, you might run into me. That is a pretty darn good reason if you ask me.
If Nutcracker was your first exposure to ballet, then Swan Lake is the ballet that determines if you really want to be a ballerina. Every school stages some abridged version, even if it is just act II. Every company uses the full length Swan Lake to boast the company’s size, artistic merit, and strength. Swan Lake is just one of those ballets that everyone knows. Now, this upcoming season every company seems to be staging their full length Swan Lake, so may the battle of the swans begin.
And for those who are dancing swan lake, or have danced it, there are a few things that happen when getting ready for swan lake.
1. Swan Lake Realness: You know you are about to do Swan Lake when all of the port de bras at barre and centre combinations look very swan-like. You know the kind: the over dramatic, wrist-y, back-using, exhausting port de bras. Adagios at centre seem a little longer, and people are yelling at you to get your legs higher. No one wants to be the swan that stands out because their arabesque is low.
2. You know you are getting ready to do Swan Lake when you start dieting two weeks before and start eating clean. This is because Swan Lake is a white ballet, which means everything shows, and the neurosis of ballet dancers are a little intense. Kale becomes your best friend.
3. You are rehearsing a million different roles, in a million different places/spots because you have to double up in all acts, and in all casts. Which means, your body is hurting more than usual. Rehearsals seem to be a lot longer, and the ballet masters/mistresses seem to be way more picky than usual. Swan Lake isn’t like Nutcracker, so you don’t dance it every year, so you don’t already know all the parts unless you have been with the company for ten seasons. (You might be thinking, why aren’t we doing Balanchine’s version…)
4. Swan Lake is totally happening in your school or company if the artistic staff is a little crazier than usual. Swan Lake is really expensive to stage and perform which means ticket sales need to be sold out. Which means PR photos must be perfect, and reflect the choices in casting. It is quite daunting, which puts more pressure on the dancers. No one wants to get let go over Swan Lake or not perform Swan Lake.
5. You know you are a swan if you are going through pointe shoes a quicker than normal. Swan Lake is very pointe intensive, so it seems that you are killing more shoes during rehearsals.
Here are some funny things about casting:
You know you are Odette if you have everything. (You know you are not going to get a chance to even learn Odette if you don’t have everything… I mean come on… You don’t have 32 double fouettés for black swan, and your leg isn’t to your ear in extensions… You aren’t getting cast, despite your beautiful artistry.)
You know you are a baby swan if you are one of the shortest girls in the company.
You know that in act III you are going to be doing some awful character dance.
If you are a male, and you aren’t cast as the prince, the jester, or Rothbart, you won’t be dancing real ballet. You will be standing around most rehearsals while the female dancers around you are dying. You might learn a new hobby during Swan Lake time.
When casting goes up you pray that you aren’t dancing in all four acts.
You are emotionally drained by the end of a run through because in the first act you are dancing the pas de trois being sweet and lovely. In act 2 you are a tormented swan. In act 3 you are being cheerful in the mazurka, and in act 4 you are back to being a swan.
Your back attitude and arabesque are everything, and one side might become ridiculously stronger than the other.
You know you are dancing Swan Lake if you are thinking: Why?
It may have been every little girl’s dream to be Odette, but unless you are Odette, the ballet has nothing to do with you. Now you are now going to endure 3 hours of pain, test your stamina, and mental capacity which makes you wonder why you wanted to do Swan Lake so badly in the first place.
This one is for all of the parents who has a child starting out in ballet. (I have gotten a lot of e-mails asking a lot of really good questions, and I have been trying to individually reply but it has gotten to be too much. I am going to try lumping it all into one post, kind of.) So, your child is in ballet, and you don’t want to go all dance moms on your kid, or be that stage mom at the studio. Here is some advice, so you don’t overwhelm school owners, teachers, and your child. This is all my opinion once again, so here we go.
For children under the age of 5, there really is no reason to have your child in ballet class everyday. There is also no reason to have your child in private lessons unless your child has scoliosis or flat feet. Then private attention is needed, and you might want to consult with doctors for orthotics to help correct, and prevent long term problems. In addition, you should let your child do jazz, tap and hip hop for fun. Jazz teaches a young dancer tenacity, aka Tiler Peck is a good example. Hip hop teaches a dancer to be daring and good at free styling. Tap teaches a kid how to understand music, and the process of building and deconstructing music. This is also good because they will stretch a lot more, and flexibility in the back, hips and legs matters in the long run. There isn’t really a reason to have your kid in competition at that young of an age, unless you are in it for the fun of it all. With that being said, competition is expensive and you have be prepared to pay for all of that. More importantly, if your child wants to be a ballet dancer, it might just be more expensive than college… Well it is, and this is why.
Children between 6-9 should be in ballet class at least once a day. This isn’t because we are crazy, it is about discipline, and the start of muscle memory and the shaping of the muscles. Children are growing like crazy and need sleep, so it isn’t smart to have to them in hour and half classes. One hour a day three-five days a week is a great start. They have to build an entire ballet vocabulary, know the etiquette of a ballet class, and most importantly they have to thrive in the environment. Discipline is built, and this is when you see kids really starting to excel. (Wait for it, the money hasn’t really started yet. So before you go out and buy your child a million cute leotards, and a pay for expensive dance bags… Wait.)
Then, from the ages of 10-13 the real journey begins. Pointe shoes are introduced. And your child should be dancing at least four days a week in an hour and half class a day. On top of that, they should be training either in pre pointe or pointe at least twice a week. They should be cross training in yoga, pilates, and constantly stretching. If you don’t know a lot about pointe here it goes. Pointe shoes (Freed Classics) run about $70.00 a pair. Your child will probably go through a pair every month, maybe not at first, but it will start. This is when teachers will start to find and nit pick at your child and this is when private lessons are a good thing. Because starting now your child should be going away for summers. Yup, you should be sending your kid off to a summer program every summer, this means they will be gone between 4-7 weeks. What does this mean? Money. First auditions run between $25-35 dollars class.
Most kids audition between 4-8 places a season. Just like college, you have your first picks, back ups, and safety nets, of course hoping for scholarships. Audition photos will run you anywhere between 3-6 hundred dollars depending on where you are at, and who is taking the photo. Don’t be cheap, because a photo can make or break an acceptance, and can help get a scholarship. Teachers who are holding the auditions will see thousands of kids a season, and it isn’t till they are back at their office looking at audition pictures, waiting for that picture to remind them and think, “Oh that is the girl with the pretty feet from Atlanta.” Yup, so now your child has gotten into a summer program and it will cost you anywhere between 5-10k depending on the program, traveling expenses etc.
So, lets do some math… Lowballing it, it will take you about $8,000 a summer to send your kid away. (That is including leotards, pointe shoes, tights, traveling expenses etc.) If your kid goes to a summer program at 12 or 13 and you are expected to go away every summer till 18, you are no looking at about $56,000 in just summer expenses. This isn’t including year round tuition, leotards, and pointe shoes for during the year. We aren’t done…
From the ages of 15-18, your child should be at a pre-professional school attached or school associated with company. So, your home studio’s tuition was low, now multiply that by 4, and add room and board. Oh no, we are so not done. Now that your child is a pre-professional school, she will probably be going through pointe shoes a pair a week. Then, you now have to start saving for company auditions. Company auditions vary in price, most are free. But, the problem is getting to these companies. You can do the normal cattle calls in NYC, which you need pictures for, but the big expense will be traveling expenses (flights, hotel rooms, etc). Most companies only hold auditions in two or three cities outside of their own, unlike summer programs. This means your child will get to see the US and the World just by auditioning.
This is also in the best case scenario that your child doesn’t need extra privates, your child gets injured and has to see a specialist, or they are having chronic pains and have to see a PT.
Now, your kid is 18, but we still are done…
Most 18-20 year olds don’t even land full company contracts. Maybe paid apprenticeships, or small stipend second company jobs. For the next two years their income money will fluctuate and might still need help with bills. Since they aren’t in a school, dorms are usually not an option so you are looking at rent, utilities etc. And, well, we still aren’t done. This scenario, which was the normal scenario for a long time is changing, because more and more kids are making appearances at the YAGP and other international competitions. (See my guide to ballet competitions here.)
So, before you go out and buy your child the most expensive dance bag, and tons of crazy leotards, thing of the long run, just in case. The plus side is, if your child is talented, and doesn’t get a job, he or she will easily get a scholarship to go to a dance college. Downside, ballet is extremely expensive in the US since it is not state supported, but this gives every dancer a fair shot at becoming a dancer, if money permits it. The opposing argument is that in most countries you only become a dancer if you are selected based off of body type.
These are the financial costs of ballet, this isn’t just the emotional, physical or mental costs of ballet. The stakes are high there too. And none of this guarantees your son or daughter a job in ballet. Unfortunately, no one is ever guaranteed anything in life, but there are ways to give your child a fighting chance in ballet.
Create a safe and healthy environment at home. This means finding the balance between ballet and “real life.” Dance isn’t everything and for most it will be a short lived career, so making friends, going to prom and seeing a movie is important. Additionally, the balance between rest, dance, and school is just as important.
Give your child the best education possible. This means finding the best schools in your area, even if that means you have to commute a little longer. Start saving in advance, just in case, and if your child doesn’t go to a summer program, you now have vacation money.
Be educated, don’t be overbearing. It is more important for you to understand ballet than watch your child’s every move in class. Ballet technique is based on a slow process, that happens everyday, little by little. It isn’t like one private later they will have 32 double fouettés. Education will also help you have conversations with your child about ballet. For example companies, body types, natural facility, and possible careers. Just because VOGUE pushes SAB doesn’t mean everyone is meant to go to SAB.
Exposure. Making sure your child sees good ballet is important. Yes, youtube is great, but going to a ballet performance is even better. Videos highlight principals not the entire cast. Kids should see an entire company, so they understand all of the different parts of a company. Not everyone is going to be a prima… (article here)
Loving it. What makes or breaks a dancer in the adolescent years, if that phase isn’t awkward enough, imagine living through it in tights and leotard… Bodies change, mentalities change, and they will either fall deeply in love with ballet, or they will do it for the sake of doing it. It is most important to remind your child that if they don’t love it, they shouldn’t do it. Also, if they just love ballet but don’t want to become ballet dancers, then maybe it isn’t necessary to push your child to go to PNB or Royal Ballet School.
Finally, my last advice to all parents: GIVE YOUR KIDS A FIGHTING A CHANCE! So many dancers don’t end up becoming professionals because the lack of training, and the lack of support at home. Ballet takes 130% commitment, and if your child is willing to do all that, plus their chores, homework and family duties, then let your child have a chance in ballet. Find the best schools, the best teachers, and find a way to make it happen for your child. Drive the extra 30 minutes to the better school, talk to your child’s regular school to see if they can get out of PE since they are dancing 20+ hours a day, and if they can’t, get a doctor to sign a note saying they aren’t allowed to run… Fight for your child. They only get one body, so you have to do everything you can to protect it. Also yes, costs are high, but if your child is talented, there is always someway to work something out with a school to find a way for your child to dance.