Saving Ballet

Ballet is dying. There is no other way to say it nicely, but it is an art form that reached its peak in 2000 or so. A part of tradition, perfected with time and science, mastered by the souls that evoked the deepest emotions, ballet represents the best of culture. It is no wonder why photographers, and prior to photography, fine artists (painters, illustrators etc) love to capture dancers. Nowadays, it seems everyone is capturing dancers via social media, and it just might save ballet.

Ballet & Fashion

It isn’t a surprise that the two go hand in hand. What designer doesn’t love a women with long limbs, elegance that comes naturally, and a sophistication in the simplicity of tights and a leotard. In edition, what designer isn’t inspired going to the ballet? The theaters, the lighting, the music, the costumes, the collaboration of it all to capture a mood, it is quite grandiose. It is why Vogue always leaves space for dancers, it is why ballet comes up in multiple collections a season, and it is why stylists always pay tribute to the Ballets Russes. (Okay, I was kind of obligated to somehow relate dance & fashion since I work in fashion, but now moving on to my main point…)

Ballet, Photography and Social Media 

There are the big names of dance photography: Gene Schiavone, Marty Sohl, Lois Greenfield, and Rosalie O’connor.  Now, I have always questioned whether or not they are good photographers, no offense, but here is why. As a fashion editor, it is my job to look through a photographer’s film and decide what photos are good, what photos are bad, what sells product, what is relatable and so on…. As I look at the older generation of dance photographers, who have carved their own path in the world, i wonder if the photos are genuinely good because they know ballet and can capture the height of a jump? Or are they good because of the subject matter, and the name that is associated with the image… Regardless, the photos are breathtaking and show off the best of the best in ballet… But there are new comers to the world of dance photography who I believe might just save ballet…

Why?

Ballet has always been for those who have…. It has always been a hoity-toity, white as a lilly, satin glove kind of affair. These photographers who have graciously created stunning images, and have shared it across social media might just be making ballet more accessible. What does that mean? It means, people are really starting to talk ballet again, and seats might just be filling up again. These photographers have started projects under work under the names of:

Ballet Zaida (Oliver Endahl), The Ballerina Project (Dane Shitagi), NYC Dance Project (Ken Browar), Travis Magee, RJ Muna

Other dance photographers who have taken a more classic approach, either studio or stage: Erin Baiano, Rachel NevilleChris Peddecord,  Brian Mengini 

These amazing photographers have collaborated with some of the most amazing ballet dancers to create art. 

In edition, dancers have decided to take the public behind the scenes and showcase the intimate moments of their lives both on stage and off stage: Daniil Simkin (IG: daniil), and Maria Kochetkova (IG: balletrusse).

Now both Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and other various magazines have published their list of the most stunning photos on IG of ballet… The reality is, they probably just hashtagged and searched… Ironically most of the pictures were of Misty Copeland (nothing against her, #justsayin)… As these photos were not fully credited, just credited to the accounts who published them, despite whether or not having the rights to the photos…. I guess publicity is good no matter what for ballet. 

As some of the most beautiful ballet photos were not on that list… either way here are some of my favorites via the IG. (Our IG is @aBalletEducation)

Victor Mateos Arellano in Resin, photo by RJ Muna
Victor Mateos Arellano in Resin, photo by RJ Muna
Ballet Zaida photographing Madison Keesler
Ballet Zaida photographing Madison Keesler
Australian Ballet Jubilee | Will Davidson | Vogue Australia November 2012
Australian Ballet Jubilee | Will Davidson | Vogue Australia November 2012
Ramon Gaitan, photographed by Alexandra Rose for Social Culture
Ramon Gaitan, photographed by Alexandra Rose for Social Culture
David Hallberg in Once upon a dance for Fashion Muse
David Hallberg in Once upon a dance for Fashion Muse
Photographer Erwin Olaf, Dutch National Ballet
Photographer Erwin Olaf, Dutch National Ballet
Photo by: Ian Gavan of Ellie Sharpe of the English National Ballet prepare in the wings during a dress rehearsal of Swan Lake at the Coliseum on August 3, 2012 in London, England.
Photo by: Ian Gavan of Ellie Sharpe of the English National Ballet prepare in the wings during a dress rehearsal of Swan Lake at the Coliseum on August 3, 2012 in London, England.
Unknown.
Unknown.

Now with all the hype with bad commercials like Free People and good commercials like Under Armor and Lexus… Here is one of the first ballet commercials featuring dancers from National Ballet of Korea for Levis:

 

 

You know you trained Russian if…

Vaganova School A Ballet Education

 

I always use to say, “When I grow up, I want to be a Russian girl.” Or, “In my next life, I hope I am a Vaganova girl.” There is a reason why, and we all know it. Ballerinas from Russia seem to have it all. The French codified ballet, but the Russians have mastered it. Dancing Russian ballet or the Vaganova style might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we all are mind blown we watch their graduation videos on youtube. So, in this edition of signs that distinguish your training, we are dedicating to those crazy little girls at the Vaganova School, and those who are trying to replicate that training.

Ahh yes, you know trained Russian if…

1. Your port de bras is always curved, and at barre it always looks like you are dancing Swan Lake. 

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2. Your extension is everything.

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3. Your turn out is beyond 180…

4. In class your teacher made some reference back to the Soviet Era, these stories usually involved snow, a cane, or some other teacher smoking in class.

5. You have an unbelievably high passé, like literally heel to your crotch.

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That was a fun five… but here are some others that are just kind of funny.

You know you trained Russian if your fouettés are a little spazzy because you only open a la seconde.

You know you trained Russian because you were over stretched as a child.

You know you trained Russian if your developpé side goes behind your ear.

You know you trained Russian if your combre back is lower than the barre.

You know you trained Russian if in variations class you always add an extra arch forward in B+

You know you are pretending to be Russian when you are in the studio pretending to be wacked out (flexible), with little bird arms. 

The Great Debate: Gaynor Mindens…

gaynor mindens yucky

 

The Great Debate: Gaynor Mindens…

If I had it my way, everyone would dance in Freeds. Period. Because we are a free enterprise country, there are hundreds of different pointe shoes now available. Each brand has their own series of pointe shoes, and each pointe shoe has a “different personality” to accommodate a dancer’s needs. One of those needs is money… Pointe shoes don’t come cheap, and as a result, the Gaynor Minden was born… 

Some call it the cheater shoe, some call it flat out ugly, and some are for it because their feet are so good. Professionals around the world of adapted to Gaynors and the company didn’t waste anytime by capitalizing on that. Premiering with Gillian Murphy of ABT, and the release of the Ballet Companion, snagging dancer.com and using well known principal dancers as their ads… Gaynor Minden INC knew what they were doing. As a business, they are successful. The bigger question, is how do we look at Gaynors? Should students be allowed to wear Gaynors? Should more pointe shoe companies offer indestructible shoes regardless of compromising the look of the shoe?

(Please Comment Below)

an interview with Eliza Gaynor Minden. (click here)

a funny commentary via the youtube:

Nike Arc Angel, a dummy design by a graphic artist, but interesting concept…

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Ballet Competitions

With movies like First Position, and with youtube broadcasts, ballet competitions seem to be popping up all over the place. More kids want to compete, and the stress level is on… (Read this post about that.) Ballet competitions are great exposure, they are great for scholarships, and they are great performance opportunities… but that is not the ONLY route to become a ballet dancer. The majority of dancers who make it into companies don’t compete, and those who do compete, on the international competition circuit are probably on the fast track to become principal dancers, most of them being prodigies. (Diana Vishneva, Maria Kochetkova, Marcelo Gomes, Julie Kent, actually half of the ABT roster has won a competition, like Royal Ballet vs NYCB dancers, none of them really did the competition circuit.) 

There are numerous ballet competitions: YAGP, Prix de Lausanne, IBC USA, VARNA, Helsinki IBC, Moscow Ballet Competition Capetown IBC, the list goes on and on. Regardless, these competitions are way to see kids in and out of the classroom. Most auditions only allow directors to see you in class, your work ethic, your facility, the competitions allow directors to see what you can do with that, and how artistic you are.

How do you know if a ballet competition is right for you? you really don’t know. If you don’t like the pressure of competition, then it is probably not right for you. If you thrive off of competition and perfecting a variation, then it might be a great environment for you. If you want to go for the experience then it might be great, but just know that it is costly.

Ballet competitions are expensive. Here is the problem, when training for a competition, a lot of young dancers cut back on technique classes so their parents can afford the privates, the choreographers, the studio rentals, the travel expenses, the costumes, etc. Unfortunately, that isn’t really how it should be done. If you are thinking about competing, you should wait a year and get as strong as you can, and allow your parents to save money. Maybe you can do extra chores around the house.

What to expect at a ballet competition. If you have ever done the audition circuit for summer programs, companies etc, take that environment and multiply it by 10. A ballet competition is that much more stressful, because you have to prove yourself in less than a minute. In edition, you are facing elimination rounds. Like that Prix de Laussane, just because you fly to Switzerland, that doesn’t mean you are going to perform. You have to make it through all of the classes. You are also not just competing within a region, most every ballet competition is international, which means you are competing against the entire world, and usually with top students from very prestigious schools who are wanting jobs, apprenticeships, and the chance to transfer to a different international school. 

Misconceptions: You don’t have to do a million pirouettes to go and win. You don’t have to have an extension to your ear, few dancers do. All you have to do is be clean, strong. Know your body’s turnout and limitations and how to work with them. You have to know how to be solid, strong and confident. Most importantly you have to know how to use what you have. In the video above, she does not have AMAZING Alessandra Ferri feet, her turn out is okay, the most she does is a double pirouette, and her arabesque line is clean, refined and placed. Nothing is forced, there is no doubt behind her technique, no hesitation in her attack, and her musicality is on. Her artistry is pretty, and in Shades it is more about the technique than the artistry, as there is no story to develop behind the pas de trois, but she is young… Artistry comes, it is a process. How is a 15 year old supposed to know how to portray emotions she has never even experienced? Again, this goes back to being clean, strong, confident, and fearless.

Suggestions… The amount of pressure a dancer in training is already immense, so I always think, why add more stress by doing a competition. Now, if your dream is to go to JKO school, or Royal Ballet, and you are technically ready, and a clean dancer, then it might be a great chance to get a scholarship. Just remember winning isn’t everything. I did a whole post in it and linked it above. The reality is, ballet competitions allow for ONE winner and ONE winner only. Yes, people will be given scholarships, but I always encourage students to go the normal company route: train at your school, go to a summer program, train at your school to get better, go to a summer program on scholarship, get asked to stay year round, work your butt off, get asked to stay on as a trainee, land an apprenticeship, and get promoted into the company (or audition elsewhere). You don’t always have to jump the gun and hope to compete and land a job. You don’t have to compete and spend thousands of dollars for a scholarship, when you can get one just by doing the summer course audition (max $35 dollars and gas), and proving yourself during that time to get asked to stay year round. 

You know you trained Balanchine if…

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Have you ever gone to an audition, and you are sizing up the competition before the class begins? It doesn’t even have to be an audition, it can just be an open class. As you look around, you start to size dancers up by “look”. Instantly, you can spot those dancers. Balanchine trained dancers. Even before barre starts, even before the first piano chord is played and you take your first plié, you can tell… You can spot Balanchine boys pretty easily: the white socks and white ballet shoes on black tights with a white shirt. You can usually spot Balanchine girls by their high buns, or the Balanchine bun (it is like a hybrid bun/ french twist). Once the music starts, then you can really tell who trained Balanchine, here are some of the “giveaways”…  and if you trained Balanchine, you might get a giggle…

So, you know you trained Balanchine if… 

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1. Your hands are remotely “claw” shaped. This could be the modified CPYB hand, or the hands that come from Ballet Austin (kind of a more contemporary relaxed version). You know you came from SAB if you are really all about the “claw” and broken wrist. Yup, just by the hands you can tell.

2. Your tendus are over crossed and you automatically assume the accent is in or down.

3. You don’t use elaborate port de bras during barre combinations.  During port de bras and cambré you roll through your spine instead of a straight back.

4. Your developpés happen in one count, or less, but this idea can be applied to grand pliés, or anything for that matter.

5. When coming out of a relevé you emphasize the pressing of  the heels down.

So, that was just barre… Center (Centre)

You know you trained Balanchine if…

STILLS-04

1. The obvious… Pirouette off of a straight back leg, and for fun you try to turn from a ridiculously large, deep, exaggerated fourth.

2. You are awesome at petite allegro.

3. In assemblé you bring the supporting leg to the working leg, and in jetés your coupe happens instantly- and you might bend a little for show…

4. In your saut de chat.. your back leg is probably higher than your front. During grand allegro you probably travel the furthest…

5. You over cross everything… including port de bras.

6. You know you came from SAB if you have Suki Schorer’s voice in your head saying, “no, AND one.”

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(And as a side comment: Balanchine dancers are my favorite to watch, and I think the Balanchine Aesthetic… since that is what it is now being called instead of technique… is gorgeous. Insert European remarks here…)

 

 

On the Rise… 5 Ballet Companies to look out for… (US 2014-2015 season)

ballet companies on the rise

Ballet is super fickle, and so is the audience. Audiences nowadays get bored quicker, because we are offering exposure to ballet at an instantaneous rate. We now can watch full length ballets being broadcast in theaters across America, and can easily youtube performances. While ABT has revamped versions of their classics like Corsaire and Sleeping Beauty, NYCB has truly invested in new choreographers, specifically now Justin Peck. It isn’t just these huge names we look out for now, we are always looking for something new and fresh. Ten years ago we had the emergence of Ballet Austin taking it’s place as a major American ballet company, along with Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and Los Angeles Ballet. I think for years the companies below have always been great regional companies, or in their territories of the US, but recently I feel like they have gained a lot of national exposures offering a great new look and contributing to the evolution of ballet.

ballet arizona

Ballet Arizona is headed by Ib Anderson, Ballet Arizona hires 31 dancers according to their new 2014-2015 edition of their site and operates on a budget of $6,690,217. The funding is the most important part of a ballet company, yes the dancers are super important, and the choreography has to be exciting, but without the funding there are no jobs. Two years ago I had the opportunity of seeing their Balanchine bill, and was quite impressed. Everything seemed to work, come natural and they had that attack Balanchine dancers have. This upcoming season they are doing seven programs and their school is doing quite well, especially since they have the David Hallberg scholarship. (http://balletaz.org)

atlanta ballet 2014

Atlanta Ballet. Artistic Director: John McFall employs 22 dancers, which is quite small, but makes sense with the economy. Ballet companies have to survive, and one of the ways of surviving is maintaining a small quality number of dancers, and saving up in bank accounts, so when there comes government cuts, or a slow sponsorship year, dancers still will be able to survive, get a small pay increase etc. Atlanta Ballet additionally offers a choreographer in residence. Atlanta ballet operates on a $9,118,753 yearly budget. (http://www.atlantaballet.com)

milwaukeeballet

Milwaukee Ballet. Michael Pink sits as Artistic Director for this midwest company and employs 22 dancers, but additionally has Milwaukee Ballet II. They also hold a very cool choreography competition and the prize runs $3,000 and a commission to set another work for the following season. Operating on a budget that runs around $6,294,842 their 5 program season (2014-2015) is dominated by the classics offering Don Q, Cinderella, Giselle, the Nutcracker, and the choreographic competition. (http://www.milwaukeeballet.org)

carolina ballet

Carolina Ballet. Offering seven programs this season, they too are closing the season off with Cinderella, like Milwaukee, Carolina Ballet is headed by Robert Weiss. With a budget of $5,676,255 they employ 34 dancers. (https://www.carolinaballet.com)

nevada ballet theatre

Nevada Ballet Theatre. With a budget of only $2,815,005, artistic director James Canfield should be given way more funding. How can you have all those casinos, and all of those shows, and not support the classical arts? Employing 19 dancers on a very tight budget, I hope Nevada Ballet Theatre keeps thriving and makes an appearance on the international stage soon. (http://nevadaballet.com)

New York City Ballet operates on a budget of $66,244,814 while Los Angeles Ballet operates on a budget of $2,210,304

Honorable mention: Colorado Ballet.

*earnings based on the 2011-2012 season 2012 fiscal year.  Non profit or not for profit companies must publish their fiscal year budgets. Information gathered from company websites, requesting fiscal earnings, and the Dance/USA initiative.

The Measure of a Ballet Company…

No one really knows how to measure one ballet company against another, and there really isn’t a science to it. I can tell you that if you are going to measure a ballet company by funding, well be prepared for a crazy awakening. If you are going to measure a company based on principals, then that is just biased. Measuring a ballet company based on performances, repertory and touring… Maybe that is a more legit claim, but even then how can you compare an international ballet company that is supported by the state, versus American companies that have to fundraise a lot of their budg? My list of international ballet schools has created quite the controversy, and my blog itself has turned into a whirlwind of expectations, rivalries, and debates. So, as many of you have written to me and for me to rank the top ballet companies… I am sadly going to have to inform you that I can’t, simply on the basis that every company is different and has an extremely different repertory.

Swan Lake used to be the measure of a ballet company, but with everyone re staging their own versions it is hard to compare, and Swan Lake allows insane tricks and music alterations to accommodate turns.

So how do I measure a ballet company the playing field has to be fair, so if we are ranking large ballet companies here is how I compare them: The Balanchine Trust. Yup. Balanchine wins again. Specifically, I use Jewels. If you aren’t familiar with the ballet, you will be. Jewels is popping up in company repertories all over, and here is why:

Paris Opera Ballet in Diamonds
Paris Opera Ballet in Diamonds
  • Jewels is a full-length ballet in 3 Acts demonstrating company stamina. The difference between a full-length ballet and a smaller 1 act ballet is the ability to fill an evening with one mood, one presentation, and once chance to be evaluated as whole. (Jewels runs 81 minutes without intermissions.) Unlike presenting numerous works in an evening, the mood changes from piece to piece, and the reviewer and audience will have separate opinions of each. Jewels allows for both. (Yes, Swan Lake is 4 acts, but no one really pays attention to Act 1, the only thing good in the first act is pas de trois and even that is hard to get through.)
  • There are no tricks. One of the nice things about the Balanchine Trust is that the choreography is preserved. While dancers take artistic freedom, the steps and music does not change. The music is never altered, and the choreography doesn’t allow tricks. For those who are daring to speed up the turns in Rubies, good luck. The music is already fast enough. (We all know that the black swan coda is the test of tricks, and we all know white swan pas de deux is how high can you get your leg these days.)
  • In order to dance the full-length Jewels, you will need 66 dancers. For most companies, that is basically the entire company, give or take. Not only is this going to show the grandiose size of a company, but the Balanchine ballets let the corps really dance. Like REALLY dance.  Now, there are numerous leads, pas de deuxs, demi-soloists, and so on in Jewels. Never have I seen a dancer double up in an act. (Swan Lake tests 1 dancer, Odette/Odile, Jewels tests an entire company.) In addition not only does each variation, pas and act portray something completely different, they all cohesively collect to make the full evening pristine, exciting and glamorous. (The ballet itself was inspired by the jewels at Van Cleef and Arpels.)
NYCB in Rubies
NYCB in Rubies
  • When a company presents Jewels, they don’t just present one ballet, but they present three very different styles of ballet. In one evening you will get your sylphide, giselle, romantic ballet fix in Emeralds (music by Gabriel Faure). You will get your sassy but avant garde, seductive yet charming ballet fix in Rubies (music by Igor Stravinsky). You will get your platter tutu- Swan Lake, and corps intensive La Bayadere fix in Diamonds (music by Tchaikovsky).
bolshoi ballet in emeralds
Bolshoi Ballet in Emeralds
  • You get to see the company. In Emeralds you will see a corps of 10 that rigorously dances, two pas de deuxs, and a pas de trois. In Rubies you will see a fun pas de deux, and a leggy sassy soloist and corps of 8 women and 4 men who deliver a scintillating performance woven between the leads. Finally in Diamonds you will see one of most breath taking pas de deuxs, 4 demi-soloist couples, and an additional 12 couples. If that doesn’t test a company, I don’t know what does.

With that all being said, when we used to compare swan lakes, we now are starting to compare Jewels. With Bolshoi constantly broadcasting their take on Jewels with a more modern backdrop, to Boston Ballet‘s 2014 staging with necklace-like back drops, to Paris Opera’s costume designs by the fabulous Christian Lacroix… it seems that companies are now using Jewels as the ballet to compare companies. It is hard to compare swan lakes, but easy to compare Odettes… It is easy to compare Jewels since it doesn’t change, but hard to judge the leads. Because there is no story, each lead develops their own artistic take to create the mood of the night. Jewels has become so prominent among international companies like Royal Ballet who in 2008 won two Laurence Olivier awards.

 

The Ballet Feuds…

ballet wars

There will always be ballet feuds… Going back to the Original Ballets Russes and The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Here are some of the current match ups….

ironically none of these principals are british...
ironically none of these principals are british…

Royal Ballet vs. English National Ballet The Tea and Crumpets War

Ummm I love Kathryn Morgan period. I loved her as Juliet, but hated the Peter Martins version... how that happens I have no clue... Hee Seo is one of my favorite dancers, I wish she could join city ballet and I could see her in serenade, emeralds and tchai pas.
Ummm I love Kathryn Morgan period. I loved her as Juliet, but hated the Peter Martins version… how that happens I have no clue… Hee Seo is one of my favorite dancers, I wish she could join city ballet and I could see her in serenade, emeralds and tchai pas.

New York City Ballet vs. American Ballet Theatre (old rivalry but a goodie)

The Australian Ballet vs. Queensland Ballet… the fight down under

Houston Ballet vs. Ballet Austin vs. Texas Ballet TheatreThe Texas Threesome 

Miami City Ballet vs. Orlando Ballet, younger ballet companies hashing it out. 

Stuttgart vs. Hamburg, the German showdown 

Bolshoi vs Mariinsky (old rivalry but a goodie)

National Ballet of Canada vs Royal Winnipeg… Canadian Syrup Fight

In bold I have decided who I like more… haha (insert your comments below)

There are many more but these are some that I enjoy watching as they promote people, change up their repertory, and start the social media wars. What is great is that we have all these options, that each company brings something new, and has created numerous jobs for their areas. 

Collegiate Program Rankings…. (US LIST)

So, a lot of you have asked about ranking colleges, and my opinions on collegiate programs. In addition, you have all left some pretty nasty comments and e-mails regarding my collection of ballet schools. With that being said, this list is in no particular order, and are just some of my observations about dance programs and colleges. 

My first question to everyone out there, why are you going to college for dance? Did you not get into a company? Do you want to go into teaching? Are you looking to build an education? Do you want to explore other genres of dance? What is the real motivation for you to go a college? Unfortunately, I believe that most colleges are not cut out with the sufficient ability to help dancers gain a ballet career. Most ballet dancers have already landed contracts by 17-19, and have dedicated their entire life to that career. Some dancers who started late, or need to tweak some things consider and do go on to college but come audition season, they are auditioning and if they do get a company contract, they probably will be leaving their school…. I am not saying it is impossible for a college to equip you with a career in ballet, but it is more difficult. Equipping you with the tools for modern, post-modern, contemporary and performance art… different story. But we are going to focus on ballet. 

Indiana Unviersity, offers an entire ballet program which is unique for collegiate programs. Headed by Michael Vernon, their ballet program offers a unique approach to ballet with a strong emphasis in music. I know they have performed ballets from the Balanchine Trust, and they offer the pre-collegiate program for young dancers who want a higher caliber of training. Most of their alumni list have landed jobs at smaller companies, but regardless… they landed a job and that is the most important thing. (http://music.indiana.edu/departments/academic/ballet)

Butler University, does not offer a major in ballet but offers a major in dance. Their program seems well rounded and offers the following degrees BFA Performance, BA Pedagogy, BS Dance- Arts Administration. They also have a Ballet Russe collection on backdrops and are currently restoring sets, props and some costumes. (http://www.butler.edu/dance)

Southern Methodist University, offers a dance performance degree as well, and offers a well rounded repertory including Balanchine, Limon, and Graham. Southern Methodist University offers a really nice approach to dance, and puts an emphases on ballet. (https://www.smu.edu/Meadows/AreasOfStudy/Dance)

The Barnard School, associated with Columbia, who doesn’t want to go to an IVY, and be in NYC… just the inspiration alone. Just the exposure. Regardless, their faculty list is amazing, and the fact that they partner with numerous companies to help dancers transition is great too. I do believe that this is just a great school in general. According to USNEWS (which publishes all collegiate rankings, Barnard College ranked #32 for National Liberal Arts, which is the only college is a dance program that I like that ranked in the top 50. Ironically Dickinson College, located in Carlisle PA and houses summer students to CPYB is in the top 50 as well, so you could go to college and train at CPYB.)(http://dance.barnard.edu

University of North Carolina School of the Arts, headed by former American ballerina and beautiful dancer Susan Jaffe, UNCSA is affiliated with NCSA for those of you who are familiar with the NCSA year long program and summer course. Specializing in BFA programs for dance NCSA offers the concentrations of either ballet or contemporary. Their curriculum is strongly mapped out here (http://www.uncsa.edu/vcprovost/bulletin/2014/UG/2014UGdance.pdf)

Again, these are just programs I like but there are tons of great programs out there at SUNY Purchase, Fordham (which is affiliated with the Ailey School, SUPER GREAT MODERN CONTEMP program!!), for you UDA dancers there is University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and University of Louisiana. There are the Utah Schools that are constantly being mentioned, the California Schools, and so on. Regardless, you have to find the right program for you, and do they cater to your intentions of going to college?

The Big Ten (international schools)

If this was college football, well it isn’t. Haha. This is bigger than college football, this is ballet. Like football there are ten schools that everyone wants to get into. The only thing bigger than the school you get into, is the company you might dance for as an end result. In comparison, these are the Ivies of the ballet world, and you do have to have top marks to get in. Who are we kidding, you have to have everything to get in… Like the Ivy League list… there are three schools that will always compete for number one in the world. International, and probably the most historical, they are the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet School, the Vaganova School, and the Royal Ballet School. It is hard to say which one of these schools is actually the best, because they are completely different styles, and create very different dancers. 1. Paris Opera Ballet School or to be accurate, Ecole de l’Opera National de Paris, is actually the oldest. The school itself is impossible to get into, and because they are state subsidized like most companies, they can be extremely picky on who they take. Not only is the training ridiculous, but it is based on a points system, and only top marks move on. Now, the bigger question… Why don’t we see a lot of French dancers in the US? The answer is simple, they were made to dance for Paris Opera, and if they don’t get in, they usually don’t want to dance for another company…. Or if they do, it is usually a cutting edge ballet company with a contemporary flare. Paris Opera Dancers can be spotted a mile away for their impeccable control of turn out, their specific style of arms (very relaxed), and their calm attack to ballet.

paris opera ballet boys

2. The Vaganova School… The fact that a style is named after them, or pedagogy, it should say something. Like Paris Opera everything is based on the rigorous challenge of first getting in. At the entrance exams not only is the child looked at, but radiographs of their bones, and their parents’ bodies are taken into consideration. This is to guess height, hip width, etc. The school itself is notarious via youtube for broadcasting their graduating class exams, in which students perform the most ridiculous barre and center combinations you will ever see. Regardless, go Russia. This can be seen because it seems that in Russia, everyone has beyond 180 turn out, ridiculous extensions, the soft arabesque arm and most importantly they have the most glorious necklines.

vaganova school boys arabesque

3. The Royal Ballet School, conveniently and beautifully located at Covent Garden. (Well truth be told all of the schools mentioned above are housed at the most glamorous places in the city.) Royal Ballet also has their particular style and thought process behind ballet, don’t confuse this with RAD (Royal Academy of Dance). The Royal Ballet school is known to recruit students from the YAGP, VARNA, IBC, the Prix de Lusanne and so forth. Usually, if a dancer enters the school from a big competition win, they end up in the company. One of the prizes at the Prix de Lusanne happens to be a company spot at Royal Ballet. Royal ballet is known for softer and subtle arms, romantic like arabesque placement, and meatier legs compared to the the two prior. royal ballet school graduating class

Now… are has an American School taken place number 4? Nope, I think not.

4. The Rest of the Russian Schools, take place number 4. This includes Bolshoi State Academy and St. Petersberg academy. Russia has definitely turned out powerhouses and they are proud of it. We should be thankful to them, and be more grateful that they don’t all come over to the US and audition for jobs, because then everyone would be unemployed. Hahah.

5. CPYB, if you don’t know what that stands for it is because they aren’t attached to a company. It stands for the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Headed and founded by Marcia Del Weary, CPYB seems to have the most active principals from a school in the US. The training is impeccable, and anyone can go. If you have a young son or daughter, send them there for a summer. They don’t audition. They accept everyone and turn everyone into a powerhouse dancer. Look at a lot of current American Ballerina’s bios… They are probably from CPYB…

6. School of American Ballet, or the notorious SAB. Founded by Balanchine, and the school of New York City Ballet, this might be argued as one of the hardest schools to get into. And they are known for one thing, the Balanchine Aesthetic. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the school, like Vaganova, Royal and Paris Opera, there is a very specific style. How can you spot an Balanchine or SAB dancer? Their hands (the claw), their crazy turn out, the way they take their bow (they break to 3/4 pointe and turn in), and their aggressive attack on musicality. Most of the dancers from School of American Ballet will find a job in another Balanchine like company.

7. NBS, Canada’s National Ballet School, the feeder school to National Ballet of Canada. Housed at the newly remodeled Celia Franca Center, NBS is known for creating extremely artistic and articulate dancers. What is really nice about this school is their Post-Secondary education program. This program is for dancers who have already graduated from school but need that one or two years of refinement, strengthening, and preparation for company life. In the US we call it second companies, but in reality a second company is a free corps. This is an actual program for dancers to utilize.

8. The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, also known as JKO. It is a newer school compared to the rest. In fact it was founded in 2004. It is the school to American Ballet Theatre and headed by Franco De Vita. This school is ridiculously known for their bravura dancers. Like most American schools now, the emphasis on turns and jumps are stressed here. The JKO school partnered with ABT’s Misty Copeland have started Project Plie, a program to help young minorities get the training they need to succeed in the dance world.

9. San Francisco Ballet School, so it was a toss up between the following schools because each are incredible: San Francisco Ballet School, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and Boston Ballet School. Each one is extremely unique and satisfying for any young dancer. It is also convenient that they are spread across the US. You might be thinking, well if you are going to group those schools you should also at Houston Ballet Academy, Miami City Ballet School, and maybe even Orlando Ballet School…. Wrong. You probably are thinking they are on the same level because their companies are on that same middle field. You are quite wrong. Their schools are incredibly different, and San Francisco, Boston and PNB are known for creating extraordinary dancers. Their dancers all are usually very classically based, with a touch of Balanchine in moderation. These schools push their kids extremely hard, and if they don’t join the company the actively seek work for them at other companies. ????????

10. Again, I have to lump these schools into a group because I like to call them the flashy schools. The Rock School for Dance Education and the Joffrey Ballet School. Both of these schools are very public and active in seeking students through the media. In addition, they strive for competitive edges in the ballet world. The Rock School probably has the most competitors at the YAGP, and usually they finish well. Joffrey actively seeks multi-faceted, and genre-versatile dancers into their school. So, there it is…. my Top Ten (ish) ballet schools in the world. I was going to include Denmark’s because of the Bournonville style, but realistically, the school doesn’t produce as many dancers as the others. I judge a school by the dancers they produce, the technique that they teach, and how many of their students go on to get jobs. That is the important thing here…