For some, dancing in a company isn’t enough. A new and growing trend in professional ballet careers is the Freelance Ballet Dancer. This isn’t an easy feat, either. You can’t just wake up one day and decide, “Hey, I am going to be a Freelance Ballerina.” It definitely doesn’t work that way. Most freelance dancers are coming from major companies, or have become Instagram-famous enough to book work for themselves. But, being a freelance dancer isn’t enough. There is the Freelance Power Couple, and Adiarys Almeida and Taras Domitro just might have figured it out. Both left major companies. Most notably, Domitro just recently left his principal contract at San Francisco Ballet. If you don’t follow them on Instagram, you probably have seen Adiarys turn like a top and Taras jump to new heights effortlessly.
The two have now partnered up and have been making their gala appearances all over the world, performing demanding repertoire but still exuding artistry. But it’t not as easy as they make it look. These two have dedicated their lives to the world of ballet, and by all accounts, they aren’t slowing down anytime soon. A Ballet Education was lucky enough to have this dynamic power couple grace the cover of our ninth issue. We think you’ll enjoy reading about what it’s like for them to be freelance artists. (To read more click here.)
See them perform at the Golden Swan Gala hosted by A Ballet Education and the Phoenix Ballet
Happy New Year! Sorry I haven’t posted, after Nutcracker I needed a long vacation and removal from the world of ballet. So, I am back, and as requested and promised here is a guide on boy ballet shoes. It is kind of long, so I apologize. I still haven’t figured out how to do all of this video work, and truthfully, I haven’t had time since I am focusing on a stellar issue 8.
Okay… so rundown for those of you who don’t want to watch this ridiculously long video of me talking about ballet shoes, and how to sew them. (key: brand >> style >> cost) Click to shop… most of them are all split sole. Just a preference for myself.
Capezio >> Romeo >> $
Pretty standard, not my favorite but the easiest to get. You will need to sew your own elastics. Comes in canvas and leather. Split sole.
Sansha >> Pro 1 >> $$
Another standard, probably everyone’s first pair of ballet of shoes. If you are going to go Sansha… and it is your first pair… this is probably the best to start in. Sansha offers many other ballet shoes in leather, but this is probably the most accessible for everyone.
SoDanca >> Canvas Men’s Ballet Shoe >> $ Newer product on the market, high vamp if you want to call it that… and narrower heel than most. Too thin for my taste, but a lot of dancers like really thin ballet flats to feel the floor. I don’t like feeling the seam where the sole and the shoe meet, so they were a no go for me.
Grishko >> Ultimate Model 1 or Model 6 >> $$$ This is a great shoe if you want to start customizing your ballet shoe. You will pick a size and width which is nice. The split sole on the bottom usually covers the entire ball of the foot which is nice. The performance shoe is better because it has an elastic arch and it is cut at a lower profile (model 6).
Sansha >> K.H. MARTIN >> $$$
Call: (310) 271-3664, tell them David from a Ballet Education sent you and they will help you. These shoes come in a low heel and a full heel, the inner arch is cut much lower than most shoes and is 10 times more flattering than most. There is a right and left, so you don’t need to label. The elastics are pre sewn, but too far down for my taste but not a big deal. My new favorite pair of ballet shoes.
Wear Moi >> Split Sole >> $$$ Comes in gray and white. Beautifully fit, makes the foot look amazing. One of my favorite products on the market. Split sole. Wear Moi also makes a full sole that is pretty decent. Just not a thing for my taste.
Body Wrappers >> Angelo Luzio >> $$
The total stretch is cool, there is a left and right shoe. They are pre sewn which is nice, just they aren’t flattering on my feet, and the feel cheap.
Russian Pointe >> Vivante >> $$
Super stretchy, fully elastic shoe with wide sole on the bottom of the foot. Great shoe and makes the foot look good, doesn’t last a long time in my experience.
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
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.