Apologies…

Apparently, I have upset some parents because I was harsh on students when I said, “Fell Flat.” Or that I don’t have control over casting nor do I know how SFBS chooses their leads and trainees. Apparently, we are no longer critiquing children, nor should we judge them at a competition, or saying whether things are right or wrong. These are probably the same parents who are slamming Misty Copeland for her recent post about a student in Russia. I apologize to those four dancers who I singled out, and I am sorry to their parents if I offended our insulted you. I really am, I don’t want you to think your dancers are bad. And in fact, I never said anyone was bad. In fact, I commended almost everyone’s technique and even said SFB is one, if not the best school in the country. So good for you having your student there.

Here is what I will say though… Push harder, work smarter, and know that ballet at the end of the day is completely subjective. While the fundamentals of ballet, like feet, turnout, lines, extensions, are black and white, the view on artistry is completely subjective and I am one opinion. Seriously, I am not offering you a job, nor can I, so my opinion about how you dance or interpret the dancing isn’t really consequential. There are a lot of principal dancers I am not a fan of, and there are a lot of dancers I love, and a lot of people hate. At the end of the day, kids or professionals, competition or performance… how you are ranked, and how you place, or who likes you and dislikes you doesn’t really matter. What matters is you inspire a director to take you on and for someone to give you a job. It is like finding the right coach for you, or the right teacher, or the right school. As long as you catch that one person’s attention, you are set.

And yes, I do know that this was a student showcase, and it was a showcase that could outdance a lot of regional companies. The caliber of students at the school is so exceptionally high, that I even came back to my school and was told the kids, “Wow. You have so far to go compared to SFBS.” The standard that SFBS represents is so high and so strong that most of these kids will end up in a professional company, which is why their graduation rate is 100%.

So, I took the post down, and for those who were beyond exemplary, and who moved me and my partner (non-ballet person): amazing for inspiring two people in the audience. And we are now fans. For those of you who I offended, I am formally apologizing and I hope you all land exquisite jobs and can look back and say, “I’m on top. Proved him wrong.”

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Notes on Saut de Chat…

Notes on Saut de Chat

For most people in ballet, you might already know the difference between a grand jeté and a saut de chat, but if you don’t know it. Here it is: A saut de chat leads with a développé where a grand jeté is usually done with a grand battement. The next point of difference to talk about is whether to call it a saut de chat or a grand pas de chat. Many Russians will refer to the step as a grand pas de chat, well most of Europe refers to it as that. Saut de Chat is more commonly used in America for this step. 

To break it down by translation, Saut de Chat means jump of the cat, where Grand Pas de Chat is translated as big step of the cat. Either way, the step is the same and the mechanics are the same. The idea is to push off into the air from one leg, hitting a full split or a 180° degree or more line, transferring the weight in the air, and landing on the opposite leg you pushed off of.

So, let’s get into it and start breaking down this iconic grand allegro step.

a. I think the most important part of a saut de chat is to make sure that the preparation is aligned and placed properly. Make sure that the support leg (leg pushing off), is aligned hip, knees, toes, pelvis in neutral core forward. You want the energy to be pushing down into the ball of the foot, as that is the energy building up that will set the height and distance of the jump.

b. The next step the energy starts to uncoil from the ballet of the foot, up the leg. Still focusing on pushing down through the leg and the beginning of shaping the back leg. Making sure as we push the ankle and toes really rotate and the femur starts to rotate up and back. Here our working leg will start to move away from our center and start to extend, making sure the knee is being thrust forward and up. 

c. In the next part of the jump, things start to usually go wonky. You want to make sure as the leg disengages from the floor that is lengthens right away and pulls away from the body in a clean line. You want to make sure it is fully rotated and positioned properly. Here is where a lot of young dancers will start to pitch backwards, rather than keep the core scooped and moving the shoulders and head in front of the hip line. By now you should be gaged so that you are almost at a full take off. 

d. Right before you are at the height of the jump, meaning your hips are the furthest from the ground possible, you will open the développé and fully extend the back leg to arabesque at the same rate, and ascending into the full split at the height of the jump.

e. Nowadays it isn’t uncommon to be expected to hit an overspilt in the air. A lot of things usually go wrong trying to get into the oversplit. Things like, stressing out the hips, or being too arched, or the fact that the pelvis is tipped forward so much that the front leg can’t get up. For me as a ballet teacher, I like to tell the kids the start of the overspilt should be at the apex of the jump, but the extreme overspilt is on the descent of the jump. Meaning, your legs are strong enough to stay up and they keep extending, while your hips relax and start to descend. Your pelvis in neutral is key here. If they are swayed, the front leg won’t overspilt and you become more of a diagonal line, and if your hips are tucked, the front leg will go up, but the back legs strains in the socket. 

f. Making sure you aren’t arched is super crucial, so that none of the impact of the jump goes into your back, especially your lower back. You want to make sure the weight is forward, and as you descend you are bringing your front leg in quickly while the back leg maintains the integrity of an arabesque. Bringing your foot in, and relaxing the knee is important. Keep your sight or eye-line up so that the audience still feels you are in the air for longer than you are. But bring the foot in slightly so that when you land (your hips will catch up to the distance of your foot), you are aligned.

g. Make sure your hips are up, and you are lifted creates the important task of rolling through. Making sure you are aligned hips over arch is important, and make sure your knee is in the same plane is CRUCIAL. By landing this way, you are able to properly roll down, hips in neutral and placed accordingly. 

So, all of these things sound easy, but the major problem is figuring out how to accomplish all of this in a matter of a second or less. I think the most important thing to focus is on alignment and placement. A lot of young dancers have two major tendencies that can cause major injuries in the knees and back. The first one is that the alignment of the back is compromised by arching back super hard, or swaying back super hard. This creates a severe S curve, and strains the hip tendons and ligaments in the back leg. Once they are swayed and the core disengages, the arms usually end up too far back and the body is splayed like a bird. Additionally, when they land their weight is either in their heel or knee, and the descent is rough to watch. The second issue among young dancers is I find that they have a hard time jumping in a single plane. The common one I see the most is opening and twisting the back hip open so that the back leg can come up, and they look turned out, even though they are in an a la sebesque or secabesque position, or they can’t keep their working leg/throwing leg in front of their belly button/axis and they somehow open up outside of their shoulder line. This not only stresses the hips out, but it also visually shortens the line. 

Saut de chats can be done with every port de bras (arms) possible. The most common is to hit the third elongated position or third arabesque line. The issue again is that most dancers don’t know that their wrists should be slightly crossed visually from the top. 

So what are some things we do at The Ballet Clinic to help improve the jump? There is a lot of one footed jumps to strengthen and practice pushing down into the floor to push off. We also work an quicker and stronger développés combined with grand battements to help hold the turnout and work on the line. We also focus a lot of descending through the legs properly. 

Hope that all helped!

Too Young to Be Taken Seriously?

Are you tired of hearing that your student is too young for a summer intensive? Tired of not being taken seriously? A new summer course has been designed for your child hosted by A Ballet Education’s The Ballet Clinic.

Clinic Students: Tegan Chou (13), Zoe Cartier (13), Annabelle Gourley (15) photographed by Jolee Photography

This program was designed by A Ballet Education’s The Ballet Clinic’s David King and Ashley Baker for young dancers who want to be taken seriously. With over 60 hours of training, this comprehensive program is designed for young dancers who want to excel in classical ballet. This includes being prepared for pointe, strengthening pointe work, refining technique, and to have a deeper understanding of classical ballet. Young dancers will be prepared into two groups.

An EXCLUSIVE rigorous, innovative program designed for serious dancers ages 8-13 from JULY 6-24, 2020

Group A: designed for young dancers who do not have pointe shoes but are ready for pointe work. Only 12 Students will be admitted into Group A
Group B: designed for young dancers who are on pointe. Only 16 Students will be admitted into Group B

2019 Prix Candidate and Royal Ballet Scholarship Recipient Bel Pickering

To audition you will need to submit the following on our website by clicking here. Deadline to audition: January 31, 2020

Acceptances: February 17, 2020
Headshot, Arabesque Shot,
Youtube/Vimeo Link including:

One side only
– Demi and Grand Pliés in 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th
-Tendus from first and fifth
-Rond de jamb a terre
-Adage of choice

Center Work:
-Waltz with Pirouette
-Adage
-Warm up Jumps in 1st, 2nd, 5th
-Grand Jeté

Audition Fee: $30

Madeleine Smith at our scoopy leg workshop, photo by Ashley Baker

JULY 6-24, 2020 at the Ballet Clinic, Located in Scottsdale, AZ
Students are expected to dance from Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM – 1:30 PM* (includes 30-minute break for lunch) Private coaching for variations and solos are available from 2:00-5:00 PM* with Ashley Baker and David King. Price for the Young Dancer Program $1,300, housing not available, if you would like to be considered for year-round please note in the application.

*Subject to change based on enrollment 

APPLY HERE

Winter Intensives You Don’t Want to Miss Out On

Ballet definitely is expanding and growing and part of that growth is the elusive Winter Intensive. Schools around the world are capitalizing on the need and urgency for dancers to get into shape before audition season and the competition season. Winter Intensives are like mini boot camps to get kids into shape. Pros- more training and a chance to experience different teachers and styles. Cons- Expensive.

Here are some great Winter Intensives happening across the United States. Apply now before it is too late or too expensive to book travel.

Audition Intensive/ Artistry Intensive (Scottsdale, AZ)
We still have a few spaces available at the A Ballet Education’s The Ballet Clinic Winter Intensives. This elite, exclusive program is available to 12 girls in each intensive. (click the photo to learn more)

Grand Premier Invitational (Palm Beach, FL)
The Grand Premier Invitational is expanding this holiday season to Palm Beach. Hosted by Natalia Bashakatova, this new program is offering a cornucopia of master teachers from the YAGP. (click the photo to learn more)

WINTER INTENSIVE, A&A (Chicago, IL)
Chicago’s Russian coaches Alexei and Anna are bringing in YAGP Rehearsal Director Misha Tchoupakov. (click the photo to learn more)

Complexions Winter Intensive (NYC & Dallas)
Famed contemporary company Complexions will be offering two intensives this Winter. One in NYC and one in Dallas. (click here for more info)

Nashville Ballet Winter Intensive: click here for more info

Ballet Chicago Winter Intensive: click here for more info

Golden State Ballet and Pilates Winter Intensive: click here for more info

Boys Dance

Everyone on social media is in a tizzy over “Good Morning America” hostess Lara Spencer on berating the third in line to the British throne for his love of ballet. There are now all of these social media campaigns about male dancers being gay, being straight, how ballet is a positive influence, and so on.

First off, Lara Spencer’s ignorance is ridiculous. Not to mention she equates poetry, and computer programing to college. This ridiculousness is just another ploy to define gender roles, education status, and socioeconomic differences.

“Spencer’s remarks also reflect the unfortunately common attitude that dance (ballet in particular) is not something that anyone could or should take seriously, that it’s something to be grown out of. It’s not like public and governmental support of dance, and the arts in general, is in crisis, right?” – Pointe Magazine

Because of her actions it has started a great social media movement among male ballet dancers, and hearing stories from all these men, mom and boys makes us remember that there is still good in ballet.

#boysdance

There is now a petition on Change.com to help GMA correct this. Feel free to sign: https://www.change.org/p/good-morning-america-good-morning-america-should-amplify-the-benefits-of-dance-for-young-men/psf/promote_or_share

FREE DANCE WORKSHOPS THIS MONTH!

FREE DANCE ALERT!! Here some free workshops happening this month! Love that these schools are giving back to the community! And yes, I know they are using it as a tool to get more students in the door, but still- who doesn’t love a free class!

AUGUST 13, 2019: HOUSTON, TEXAS – The Houston community is invited to learn more about Vitacca School for Dance Montorse at a FREE Community Dance Open House on Tuesday, August 13th from 4:30-8 PM featuring complimentary classes for ages 5-18, director meet and greet, and giveaways for the first 50 guests. All classes are open for parent/dancer observation. Vitacca offers creative movement, ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, theater, modern and contemporary. Find the right class for your student!

The facility is located in the Montrose section of Houston at 2311 Dunlavy. Free parking on site and street parking available.  Registration is now open for the 2019/20 season or if you have questions about the Open House contact us today: 713.205.0355 or MontroseAdmin@VitaccaDance.com. Find out more at www.VitaccaDance.com.

AUGUST 24, 2019: SAN DIEGO, CA – FREE BOYS MASTER WORKSHOP!

August 11-17, 2019, New York, New York – Battery Dance Festival 2019
Battery Dance performs on the world’s stages, teaches, presents, and advocates for the field of dance. Battery Dance is dedicated to the pursuit of artistic excellence and the availability of the Arts to everyone. An integral part of the fabric of New York City for 40 years, Battery supports the creative process; educates children in the New York City schools; enriches the general public through local programs and performances, national and international tours, and international arts exchange programs. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/battery-dance-festival-2019-free-dance-workshops-tickets-64983638813

OPEN LEVEL
August 11 • Laboration Art Company | France – 10:30am-12pm
August 12 • Battery Dance | USA – 10:30am-12pm 
August 13 • Mezopotamya Dans | Turkey – 10:30am-12pm
August 14 • Emma Evelein Dance | Netherlands – 10:30am-12pm
August 15 • SEAD Bodhi Project | Austria – 10:30am-12pm 
August 16• Manipuri Dance | India – 10:30am-12pm 
August 17• B~E | Lithuania – 10:30am – 12pm
August 17• Reuel Rogers I Curacao – 1:30 – 3pm 

August 26, 2019, Los Angeles, CA – LA Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) Performing Arts Program
In conjunction with WAA’s conference theme of “Black Arts @ WAA”, the City of LA – Performing Arts Program is producing three Presenter Showcases and Networking Receptions.Black Dance in LA @ WAA – Presenter Showcase
Curated by Gayle Hooks (Dance @ The Holden and Ebony Repertory Theatre) and Pat Taylor (JazzAntiqua Dance and Music Ensemble)

Monday August 26, 8pm
(Pre Networking reception at 6:30pm at Nate Holden Cabaret Room)*
Nate Holden Performing Arts Center
4708 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016

For more information contact Yvonne Farrow, yvonne.farrow@lacity.org or 213-202-5551

The legacy and contributions of Black choreographers and dancers in Los Angeles is historic and significant, and it is now a hotbed of some of the most creative and urgent works being created in the US and that celebrate the African diaspora.  Curated by two esteemed voices in the LA dance community, the Black Dance in LA @ WAA showcase will showcase established and emerging choreographic voices that showcase the breadth of the LA dance scene. Free and open to LA’s dance community and WAA attendees. This event is a 15/20 minute Uber/Lyft ride from the conference hotel.

Have a free workshop to offer for the month of September? Please send press releases here.

21 Year-Round Programs

21 Programs You Don't Want To Miss Out On!

By now, summer intensives have rounded out their invitations to their year round programs. Now, dozens of hopeful ballet dancers are joining the most elite schools around the world. For those who weren’t asked to stay for the year, the stress sets in about what to do next season. You start to wonder, “Are you are ready to year round, if you are good enough, or if you were prepared?” Yup, all these questions are rambling through our heads causing stress. Parents are thinking or starting to doubt choices from last year, and now the new season is upon us. It also doesn’t help YAGP registration just opened and it seems that half of the venues filled up in three days. Yes, the stress of ballet sets in again. What we thought was a summer break now seems to have disappeared and year-round contracts are due again, Nutcracker auditions are around the corner, and you still don’t have a clear plan. Don’t fret. If you are looking to join a school, here are 20 places to train at this year. Each school offers exceptional training, guidance, and is structured towards a professional career in ballet. These schools are NOT affiliated to a company, but offer amazing training.

(These are listed in no particular order, with the exception of the first)

The Ballet Clinic, Phoenix, AZ

If you are looking for a place to train at in Arizona, I still have spots open at the clinic. I am looking for students ages 8-11, and 11-13, and 14+. Each group is focused and designed around a specific look, body type, and career path. At Clinic we arrange everything for you, from competition, auditions, audition photos, videos, etc. Additionally, we are focused on finding dancers jobs, and preparing them to go into pre-professional schools. We focus each class in Balanchine, Russian, English and French technique. Each week has a different focus, and the fourth week of each month emphasizes contemporary with a guest residency. There are very few spots left in each grouping, but if you are interested in training with me, you can apply here:

Golden State Ballet and Pilates, San Diego, CA
GSBP might be young, but the directors are no strangers to the dance world. Once a Miami City Ballet Ballerina and Boston Ballet dancer, they hosted their first summer intensive bringing in Jaime Diaz (SFB) and Andre Silva (TBT). Their program is a full range from creative movement to professional (ages 3-20). Their pre-professional program includes pilates apparatus, rigorous pointe work, pas de deux and performing. The style is a healthy blend of Balanchine musicality and precision with a strong classical Cuban/Russian base. http://gsballetpilates.com

Burbank Dance Academy, Burbank, CA
Headed by Jason Coosner, Burbank Dance Academy is a rising force in the LA Dance scene. This selective program includes everything from jazz and contemporary to pre-professional ballet. The program is designed around versatility and possibilities. The rigor of this program includes multiple hours. Jason just won outstanding choreographer at YAGP Los Angeles. Check out his program at www.burbankdanceacademy.com

Elite Classical Coaching, Frisco, TX
Texas is big, and while company schools dominate Texas, Elite Classical Coaching under Catherine Lewellen is a force to be reckoned with. Elite Classical Coaching’s program is extremely elite, as she hand selects students to be grouped together. This program is rigorous and effective, and has produced a stunning set of dancers including YAGP Finals medalist Ava Arbuckle.
https://eliteclassicalcoaching.com/

Maryland Youth Ballet, Silversprings, MD
Under a new director, Maryland Youth Ballet has ramped up even more under Olivier Munoz, formerly at Orlando Ballet School. The school focuses on clean and technique and performs several times a year.
http://marylandyouthballet.org

Ellison Ballet, New York, NY
This coveted award winning school just held their year round audition but is still accepting video auditions until August 1. This elite program requires applicants to be ages 12-19 to join this coveted Russian-based school.
https://www.ellisonballet.com

International City School of Ballet, Atlanta, GA
Another award winning school with amazing training. and over 10 years of winning and working dancers, headed by Georné Aucoin and Musashi Alvarez. This award winning duo has been turning out strong consistent dancers in a program that is individualized an intense. The one on one training is some of the best out there. Their dancers are easily recognizable by their strong technique, finessed legs, and musical nuances.
https://www.icsballet.org 

The Rock School, Philadelphia, PA
This school has stood the test of time. Each generation brings a new look, a new style and a new passion under Bo and Stephanie Spassoff. This institution has been a long part, if not the original competitive ballet school. With their ferocious training, and wonderful studios, the Rock School for Dance Education still is a thriving and contributing school in the ballet landscape.
https://www.therockschool.org/

Sultanov Russian Ballet Academy, Beaverton, OR
This power house of a school has made their way onto the scene through persistence and clean technique. Headed by Artur Sultanov, a Vaganova Ballet Academy graduate and Eifman Soloist, this director has curated one of the strongest schools on the west coast.
http://www.russianballetacademy.net/faculty/

The Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, Sarasota, FL
This Cuban Ballet school made big splashes this year with Harold Mendez. But they have been known for strong cuban training, especially for boys. Headed by award winning Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez, this school is a fully enriched program for Cuban technique.
http://srqcubanballet.com

Cary Ballet Conservatory, Cary, North Carolina
Cary Ballet is headed by Suzanne Laliberté Thomas and was founded over 18 years ago. But, Cary Conservatory’s real powerhouse is Mariaelena Ruiz, 2019’s YAGP outstanding Teacher. The former Rock coach has coached some of the most talented winner of the YAGP and many other competitions. She herself is a Varna winner, USA IBC Jackson winner, and Prix Volinine. Their professional division includes numerous classes, cross training and more.
https://www.caryballet.com/professional-training-program.html

Master Ballet Academy, Scottsdale, AZ
This power house school has made it’s name on beautiful bodies and the ability to turn. Headed by Slawomir and Irena Wozniak, Master Ballet Academy recruits students from ages 11+ to train in Russian technique. With numerous winners of the YAGP, Master Ballet Academy continues to dominate on social media.
http://masterballetacademy.com

Indiana Ballet Conservatory, Indianapolis, IN

http://indianaballetconservatory.org

International Ballet School, Littleton, CO
http://internationalballetschool.net

A & A Ballet, Chicago, IL
https://www.aacenterfordance.org

V & T Classical Ballet, OC, CA
Headed by Victor and Tatiana Kasatsky, V and T is a force to be reckoned with. A long time staple in the Southern California dance scene, V and T has produced winners to the YAGP, Prix de Lausanne, and Varna. Coined as Orange County’s Premier Ballet program V and T is a classical force of nature.
http://vandtdance.com

Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Carlisle, PA
The legendary CPYB is always a great place to train, especially if you are on that Balanchine route.
www.cpyb.org

Feijoo Ballet School, Dickinson, TX
Another Cuban school has popped up, but this one is in Texas headed by the renowned sister ballerinas Lorna and Lorena Feijoo. This ballet school is curating something new in Texas. While Texas has been dominated by Russian/Classical Training or Balanchine technique this new school is offering a new take and appealing to the latin communities in Texas.
https://www.feijooballetschool.com/school

Ballet Academy East, NYC, NY
http://balletacademyeast.com

Kirov Academy DC, Washington DC
https://kirovacademydc.org

The Rock Center for Dance, Las Vegas, NV
Power houses in contemporary and standout at the dance awards, and World of Dance, this new school is dominating the contemporary and commercial scene. What people often forget is that their ballet program is also nice and quite rigorous.
https://www.therockcenterfordance.com

ISSUE 15

A BALLET EDUCATION
ISSUE 15

ISSUE 15

Issue 15 features Catherine Lewellen, the director of Elite Classical Coaching. The cover and editorial spread of this issue was photographed by JoLee Photography. This amazing issue showcases the amazing talent of Elite Classical Coaching and a look at social media in ballet.

Read It On Joo Mag

IN THIS ISSUE

David King

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

JoLee Photography

Cover Photographer

Ashley Baker

Contributing Editor & photographer

Winners of the YAGP 2019

Congratulations to the winners of the male-dominated year at the Youth America Grand Prix. While the past three years of the Youth America Grand Prix have been intense, this year seemed to be even more exhausting with the new rule changes. If you don’t know about the rules change that had everyone upset, it basically stated that regardless of the score, the invitation to New York Finals would be based on the discretion of the judges. While we shouldn’t downplay this year’s winners, there was a lot of criticism over YAGP’s 20th season. The Big Winners of the Youth America Grand Prix are:

The Grand Prix was awarded to Gabriel Figueredo (18) from the John Cranko School in Germany. If you don’t follow him, he just won a prize at the Prix De Lausanne. He also won the Dance Europe Award. The senior category seemed to be dominated by Spanish speaking countries and dancers. The winners in the senior category included dancers from Portugal, Argentina, Cuba, Peru, Switzerland, and Australia. No one from the United States placed in seniors including seniors who placed last year. The competition has become extremely stiff as the influx of European Dancers has come through.

The Youth Grand Prix was given to Darrion Sellman (14) from Southern California. He is also a finalist for the California Spotlight Awards. His win places him over Rebecca Alexandria Hadibroto (12) who won first in pre-comp last year from Indonesia, Ava Arbuckle (14) from Elite Classical Coaching and who just had a win at ADC IBC, Madison Brown (13), Misha Broderick (13), Andrew Jesus (13) of Brazil, and Seungmin (14) Lee of South Korea.

The Hope Award went to Corbin Holloway of City Dance. The Pre-Competitive Division this year was filled with talent but the following three places were all dancers from Europe. Martha Savin of Romania, Kseniya Kosava of Belarus, and Natasha Furman who is from the US, but is of European descent. It once again reinforces the “ideals” of ballet body types and how genetics plays the most significant role in whether or not one might become a dancer.

The Pas De Deux went to Youth Grand Prix Winners Madison Penney (2017) and Antonio Casalinho (2018). This win makes Madison’s second big win at the YAGP and Antonio’s third. They won with Grand Pas Classique.

The other big wins at the YAGP this year included:
The Shelley King Award for Excellence: Sumer Duvyestyn (12) from Classical Coaching, Australia
The Grishko Model Search Award: Elite Classical Coaching’s Ava Arbuckle (14)
The Natalia Makanrova Award for Artistry: Anastasia Poltnikova (17), Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Russia
The Mary Day Award for Artistry: Joao Vitor da Silva (15), Brazil’s Ballet Vortice

The Outstanding Choreographer Award went to Make Miyauchi and Christina Bucci of Yarita You Ballet Studio of Japan.

The Outstanding Teacher Award went to Mariaelena Ruiz of Cary Ballet Conservatory.

Whether or not you like the YAGP, or agree with it, the YAGP is an excellent opportunity for young dancers who are aspiring to make it in the world of dance. But again, winning isn’t everything, and you shouldn’t be discouraged if you didn’t place at New York Finals. While Ballet in popularity is growing, this once again means that the pool of talent to pull from is even more significant than ever, and makes it even harder to separate yourself from the politics of body type and prestigious schools. This is just another need and emphasis to find GOOD TRAINING and GOOD COACHING.

Personally, I didn’t go to YAGP Finals this year; Mostly because my students have already been accepted into their year round schools on scholarship at Royal Ballet Upper School, San Francisco Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet so they didn’t really need to go and take away a scholarship spot from another potential dancer. But, everyone asked why I didn’t attend the YAGP as press. This year, I have been beyond exhausted and have been battling depression so I needed time to clear my head and be away from ballet. And there is no better time than YAGP Finals as everyone in Ballet is in NYC, so I can be alone in California and not have to be around it. People are asking if I am going to be focused on YAGP next year, and the answer in truth is I don’t know.

Photos courtesy of VAM PRODUCTIONS

Promotions

Congratulations!

Ballet is always changing, and companies are these living, breathing, organisms made up of individuals with unique personalities and their own stories. And then, every once in a while, one of those individuals stands out just a little more than the rest, and then like a dream come true: you are promoted.

So, let’s take some time and acknowledge some of the amazing promotions that have happened for the upcoming 2019-2020 season. Starting with the San Francisco Ballet under Helgi Tomasson: three amazing promotions happened. Esteban Hernandez has been promoted to principal dancer; and Madison Keesler Cavan Conley were promoted to soloist.

Miami City Ballet under Lourdes Lopez announced their largest roster with the addition of ten dancers bringing their company number to 53. Promotions include Alexander Peters being promoted to Principal; and Emily Bromberg, Shimon Ito, and Chase Swatosh were promoted to principal soloists. But that might not be Miami’s BIG NEWS. Their big news announced that Carlos Quenedit returning to Miami City Ballet, YouTuber, Kathryn Morgan will be joining as a soloist, and Principal Dancer from Los Angeles Ballet, Bianca Bulle is taking a step down to join the corps de ballet at Miami. (It seems to be a trend to move from Los Angeles Ballet to Miami City) 

Photo: Alexander Peters

Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen announces sevendancer promotions for the 2019–2020 season. Second Soloists Chyrstyn Fentroy, Lawrence Rines,  and Addie Tapp have been promoted to the rank of s oloist.  Artists María Álvarez, DawnAtkins, Emily Entingh, and Matthew Slattery have been promoted to second soloists.

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has promoted two corps de ballet dancers to the rank of soloist for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 50th Anniversary Season, which runs from October 2019 to May 2020.

Dancers Marisa Grywalski of Columbus, Ohio and Corey Bourbonniere of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, will begin their first mainstage season as soloists this fall with PBT’s 50th Anniversary Season opener Giselle, on stage Oct. 25-27 at the Benedum Center.

Houston Ballet announces Artistic Director Stanton Welch AM has promoted Nozomi Iijima to the rank of Principal. Formerly a First Soloist, Iijima has been promoted after she ferociously danced the title role in Sylvia. This well-deserved promotion adds to the continued excitement of Houston Ballet’s whirlwind of spring productions during its 2018/19 season. 

Happy Siblings Day!!

If you didn’t know, today is National Siblings Day! Today is a day to celebrate your brothers and sisters. Because ballet is genetically inclined, it won’t surprise you that there numerous amazing ballet siblings out there.

There are the amazing Cirios, the founders of the Cirio Collective. Lia Cirio is a Principal Dancer at Boston Ballet and her brother, Jeffrey Cirio was a Principal at Boston, then ABT, and now English National Ballet.

 

Of course New York City Ballet has a history of having siblings in the company.

There are the Fairchilds. Robbie Fairchild left City Ballet for Broadway but his sister Megan, a new mom, is still there!

Then there were the Staffords, both principals as well. Abi is sitll dancing while her brother is now Associate Director of New York City Ballet. And then there is also the Angle brothers Jared and Tyler.

 

jewels-superJumbo.jpg

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/27/arts/dance/jonathan-stafford-bids-farewell-to-city-ballet.html / New York City Ballet Jonathan Stafford partnering his sister Abi Stafford in a pas de deux from “Emeralds,” one of Balanchine’s “Jewels” ballets, at the Koch Theater on Sunday.CreditJulieta Cervantes for The New York Times

 

There are the super famous brothers of Daniel and Roland Sarabia who defected from Cuba to become international superstars.

Patricia and Jeanette Delgado both are superstars at Miami City Ballet.

Then we also had Lorna and Lorena Feijoo who took the ballet world by storm when they arrived.

So much talent out there! So celebrate your siblings today!

 

Turning in to find your TURNOUT

Turning In to Find Your Turnout 

I think there is a big misunderstanding among ballet teachers and other teachers when it comes to turn in and turnout. The two cannot be separated because anything that is not turned out completely is turned in. I also believe that when it comes to working on the floor or barre work, sometimes it is better to work turned in. In fact, as we know from previous videos, I think it is important to work turned in to find a dancer’s turnout. 

So, while I believe dancer’s should cross train in modern, jazz and hip hop, because of the different muscles groups each one focuses on, I definitely don’t believe in overtraining muscle groups that are going to hinder ballet technique. This means that anything that is going to lock up your quads and hip flexors, I am against. One of the best ways I think that any dancer can become stronger and be more in tune with their body is to discover how the hip socket works. (Click here for some other hip stuff from earlier posts.)

Taking a look at dancing turned in, into find your turnout.

Standing in sixth position properly aligned means that foot is perfectly turned in with proper knee and hip alignment.  (proper alignment being shoulders over hips, over knees, over toes.) When standing in sixth position facing the barre one leg will automatically be in perfect turn out, if you rotate your hips towards left hand at the barre… When doing this you want to make sure you are really focusing on the SUPPORTING LEG. Remember the point of barre is to get you on your supporting leg and build strength in that leg, okay and to make your feet stronger… but the main focus is to get you on your leg and to do so, one must really build the back of the legs, rotators, and core.

Okay, so now you just have to discover the rotation in your hips. So here is Lauryn Brown (Insta: @laurynlanee) demonstrating some of the turned in to turnout combinations we work on at the Ballet Clinic. By all means it is not perfect, but she is working very hard on building the strength on her supporting leg. 

Remember most of these combinations are designed to work the supporting leg’s turnout. 

If you do these exercises properly, you will reshape your legs and increase your turnout drastically. 

Things to keep in mind, holding the spiral of your supporting leg.

Finding your crease/ booty indent every time. Where the leotard cuts around the leg should be completely folded into the hip socket, the back/side of your quad & IT band should be completely flat.
Find squareness to the supporting leg, not the working leg. This is not a normal ballet combination, so if you can’t completely open to the side yet, DON’T. It is okay to be in a semi-ecarté position.

Don’t let the supporting knee give .

Don’t roll on the supporting foot.

Don’t put weight into the working leg.

When finding Arabesque- let the hips do the work, NOT YOUR BACK.

 

Check Out Lauryn’s Tutorial on Audition Make Up

Off With Their Heads…

The internet has fueled the fire, and it seems now, that with City Ballet about to open tonight, we are demanding for their heads. Anyone who has ever danced for the historic New York City Ballet is putting out their opinions, opinions like, bring back the original Balanchine dancers. One of my favorite things about all of these former Balanchine dancers complaining, is they are a part of the generation that believes they are better than most because they come from a “golden age”. And so, like a lot of problems we have today, they are also blinded by  history and a ballet culture that is on it’s way out.

new york city ballet sex scandal.jpg

While others in the ballet world are demanding for a new female artistic director who is both artistic and business savvy for today’s audiences to be brought in (someone like… Lourdes Lopez, Miami City Ballet’s AD who just won the Dance Magazine award, or Jennifer Ringer who has successfully turned the Colburn School in Los Angeles into a thriving hub for Balanchine and Contemporary training). The internet has demanded that we strip New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet of their prestige and honor. 

Others have described that the leadership of City Ballet all should be replaced and that their new marketing campaign is just simply to sell sex. The new ad for City Ballet is genius… Not only is it sexy, but it is also beautiful and it is making ballet more modern and making it more understandable and relatable to the massive crowds of New York City. Ballet shouldn’t just be for those on the Upper East and Upper West. The former generation of Balanchine Dancers is also getting old, quite old. And from the 400 some ballets that were left from Balanchine, how many are truly worth saving? It isn’t like we saved very may ballets from the golden age of the Ballet Russes, or the Massine ballets….

People are demanding a lot from New York City Ballet. Moms want their daughters to be protected by an institution whose mission statement is about ballet, not raising kids. Dancers are wanting compensation for their lack of talent or rise to fame. Audiences and donors are withdrawing in fear of being shamed for supporting City Ballet. All of this because people made poor choices, bad decisions, and now somehow we have ruined the Balanchine Legacy and tarnished New York City Ballet’s name.

(And I am not saying or not saying that these men did or didn’t deserve things, and I am definitely not saying that horrific things didn’t take place, are taking place, and have taken place at the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet… I’m just saying)

The opinion piece in the New York Times was rather harsh, and simply to say, I think it just added fire and made the Balanchine Legacy look even worse. While I do applaud those who were once a part of the Balanchine Generation, I wonder if it is time for the Balanchine era to end regardless. Is it time to close this chapter on the Balanchine Aesthetic and move on? Ballet is becoming more and more demanding and the need for pure technical training is becoming more apparent. The School of American Ballet isn’t producing the dancers that it once was, and their students are getting jobs like they once were. Is it time for City Ballet to become a new kind of company that emphasizes technique, musicality, and modernism and not create a one note dancer?

Is it time to fundamentally change the company’s aesthetic that it became famous for? It seems like it because with everyone demanding that this is the end of City of Ballet… something has to change. What is going to change? How is it going to change? Will it ever change? Who knows?

While I think that NYCB has done a terrible job at reacting and handling all of these accusations, actual events, I do think that even more terrible things are going to come out. Working for Balanchine wasn’t easy either, and I think that all of these “Balanchine Era” dancers are also forgetting that scandals were happening back then as well… Because of Balanchine, body type become the most important thing and do we really want people who are so focused on skinny, skinny, skinny to be at the helm? Who knows? They also were a part of the culture of don’t talk about it and be silent to whatever was happening around them because “greatness” was happening in the roo.

Regardless, you all wanted my thoughts on the NYCB scandals, and I don’t have any besides the following:

Ballet isn’t bad… people are bad, and make poor decisions… sometimes forgivable, sometimes unforgivable…. Separate the two please… it doesn’t help we let men with misogynistic, racial, and particular body views be in full control without a checks and balance system. But no one person should ever have total control or say at any institution that is called communism.  It is sad to see such institutions fall to the pressures of time, the demand of the art form, and the unfailing disappointment of human actions and preferences. My greatest love in life is ballet, and I will continue to do whatever I can do to keep helping ballet progress for the better.

Where our ballet culture is now and where we want ballet culture to be… this is the conversation all ballet instititions should be having.

NYCB scandal


https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/in-wake-of-suit-against-new-york-city-balletaudiences-and-funders-should-demand-answers/2018/09/16/88f184a4-b5da-11e8-b79f-f6e31e555258_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.608144240bb5

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/09/16/nyc-fires-2-dancers-over-accusations-nude-photo-sharing-ring.html


 

The Top Ten Ballet Schools (2018)

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. Hee Seo

Subscriptions to the magazine are run through the publisher JooMag, if there are issues with subscribing, please contact Joo Mag.

So, you really want to know who made the BIG TEN list…
Please Subscribe to the Magazine by Clicking Here…

Ivy League of Ballet

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보스턴발레에서 활약 중인 한서혜 @seohyehan 채지영. @dancechae 두 무용수 모두 YAGP 출신인거 알고 계세요? 올해 보스턴 발레의 Peter Stark 선생님께서 한국에 오셔 10명 정도의 썸머스쿨 장학생을 뽑으실 예정 이라는데 ✅8/17-8/19 YAGP Korea에서 그 기회를 놓치지 마세요!! ✅ 참여방법 및 신청은 heeseofoundation.org ✅프로필 링크 클릭!! 마스터 클라스 초급반 😂 @yagp @hee_seo_foundation _ #발레 #사단법인서희 #장학재단 #발레리나 #발레콩쿨 #국제콩쿨 #무용 #무용콩쿨 #장학금 #유학 #발레리나서희 #HSF #HeeSeoFoundation #YAGP #YAGPKOREA #Ballet #Competition #HeeSeo #KoreanBallet #Scholarships #BalletSchool #BalletCompany #발레학교 #발레학교입학기회 #해외진출 #해외발레 #프로발레단 #프로발레단등용문 #발레단

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신청접수 하셨나요? ✅링크를 클릭 하시면 신청접수 페이지로 바로 연결 됩니다!! #Repost @heeseoabt with @get_repost ・・・ Some of you may know that I Founded a Foundation @hee_seo_foundation to help nurture young talent back in my hometown Seoul, Korea. Establishing and running this non-profit foundation was not easy as a full time dancer but was indeed one of the most fulfilling and meaningful indulgence one could hope to experience. And I’m proud to open our 3rd season 👍🏻🔥Masterclass + member’s program + scholarships + YAGP Korea and more.. Thank you those who support small foundations big dreams!! @yagp @hee_seo_foundation

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DEAR ABE READERS

Hello there…

First off, I want to apologize for numerous things…

  1. First the reason why I haven’t updated anything, is that someone got into my ABE site, and locked me out. Additionally, some of you received a spam message that was not from me, and apologize if by clicking the link that was sent it caused you any problems.
  2. The books… The books have been a mess as half of the ones I sent while in Charleston were returned to my address in Charleston because of a mistake a made with media mail… while I am traveling, and am teaching at Summer Intensives. Additionally, whoever went into my site, deleted out most of the orders. I am working hard on sorting it out, but teaching 6 hours a day at summer intensive is rather intense. On the pay-pal side, I have started refunding orders as off yesterday when WordPress finally gave me my sales. For those of you who have the books, I hope you are enjoying them. For those of you who haven’t recieved a book, please email me again, as my email is linked through wordpress and let me know if you would like me to refund your money or wait till September?
  3. For those of you who have been trying to get a hold of me via email, the same issue. WordPress controls the e-mail.
  4. And finally, the big Ten Issue will be out later this evening as I can finally upload the issue.

 

Beware of the Monsters…

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

ballet moms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Humble Beginnings…

Haha… me at the studio where I started… Hard to believe I started at a barre so low. Two hip surgeries… and twenty-one years later… still trying to balance…

dance life boy ballet

In the world of ballet, we are forced to see the daily reminder of white privilege visually. It is something we feel strongly about, or it doesn’t phase us. I recently went back home to California, southern California. And, if you have ever been to a small place called Riverside County, you will be given a sliver of hope for the future of dance. Here back at home, I went to visit my very first studio. A studio that has always been gracious to me gave me a sense of purpose and belonging and gave me a friendship with the studio owner that still exists. I come back home, and I am watching kids who are 5-8 learn ballet, but this isn’t the regular class I see or even teach. This class is full of joy and passion and had every ethnicity represented. Yeah, in this little city, dance thrives as something that is accessible for all kids, all colors, and all socioeconomic statuses. Riverside, is this unique small pocket of the world, that for a long time was embarrassing to say you are from. Now, I am proud to say I come from here. I came from a city where ethnicity really doesn’t matter, and where the arts are continually growing and evolving.

On a recent trip to Atlanta, I met up with one of the first students I ever taught. He is now graduating with his master’s degree from Emory. We were talking about race in general, and how even in Atlanta race is a huge factor in everyday life, and when he talks about this little corner of the world we both call home, people are so dumbfounded.

Usually, I don’t like posting personal things on this blog, but this time around… it is essential to talk about where I come from and what A Ballet Education is doing. I didn’t grow up poor, far from it, but I didn’t come from a wealthy family either. I am one of twelve kids, most of us are adopted, and half of my siblings have severe special needs. Please don’t go googling them or adding them on Facebook… Why is this important?

Recently, A Ballet Education started their scholarship selection, and this year we were able to help six individuals around the US to continue their education in ballet at some of the most elite schools. I have to ask myself… Why does “elite” or “good” training cost so much? Even myself… charging for private lessons, my rate is on the higher side of ballet coaches. Sometimes, I justify it was self-worth. Sometimes, I feel guilty and am continually trying to help kids find scholarships. This year was a good year for me in ballet, and I am thankful, and humbled… I joke around with my friends back home saying, this Gay Asian Boy from the poor side is sitting around the world’s most magnificent theaters, coaching some of the most exceptional kids in the world. And I have to laugh.

Soooooo… Why is this so important?

I recently was watching a TED Talks video, and an Oprah video on ethnicity and the idea of ethnic tax and guilt. These videos were super inspiring, but they made a valid point, You are not responsible for your family, your culture or social injustices. By being just you, by making it, is already an accomplishment that matters. It isn’t about taking care of your family, or by helping your brothers and sisters. The list goes on. The more and more I critically thought about this concept, I realized… the same goes for this current generation of “white.” You are not responsible for all of the social injustices in this world, and you shouldn’t have to pay higher taxes because someone in your family did the wrong thing. And as dancers, you shouldn’t feel guilty that you got a job. You worked just as hard. We all did the same pliés, tendus, and god awful, painstakingly long Russian adagios to get where you are.

But here is what you can do… You can give back. You can hit the streets like Aisha Ash and just walk around in a tutu. You can volunteer to teach at the local YMCA; you can donate money smaller school in a less fortunate area. You can buy tickets to a ballet performance for someone at your studio who might not be able to afford to go. There are tons of ways to give back, but if time and money is something you don’t have… which I totally get…

You can be a person who understands that ballet is not the problem; tradition blinds the people running the institution of ballet. We can be aware, that not everyone’s journey to get to the barre is the same and isn’t equal. We can be mindful that the costs of ballet are inflating, so families around you might be struggling to keep their kid dancing. We can chip in and get a new pair of pointe shoes for the girl who can’t afford it. We can be inclusive of all bodies who want to learn the discipline and rigor of ballet. We can be accepting for those who have physical disabilities who just want to feel like a princess. We can be all these things. Things I learned in a little part of the world that isn’t known for dance and is probably known for crime more than anything.

And, if you come from a family that can afford ballet, there is nothing wrong with that either. Your family has had to work hard to get where they are. Humility, though, that is the key factor. You read all these dancers’ biographies, and autobiographies and they all have one thing in common: Humility.

Stay humble friends.

 

What does it take to be a Ballerina?

Ballet is hard, like really hard. The overwhelming stories and information out there is daunting. As parents you only want what is best for your kid, as student your heart is full of passion and desire, as a teacher you just want to be the best mentor possible. Questions like, “What school to go to?” or “Where am I going to dance?” or “Should I compete at the YAGP?” are all questions that are out there. There are arguments on both sides to every question, and important questions like, “How many hours should my student be dancing?” or “What school is best suited for my child?” or “How much should I be posting on social media?”

What does it take to be a ballerina
Behind the Scenes of Issue 11 // Photographed by Me.

So what does it take to be a ballerina in today’s world?

If you asked me five years ago my answer would have sounded something like this, “You need all the right circumstances, but most importantly you need to work hard every day.” It would have been full of hope and inspiration. I would have said, “If you want to be a ballet dancer, and you are willing to put in the hard work, you will find a place to dance.”

But, this isn’t five years ago. This is now, and now more than ever, jobs in ballet are even more scarce and the world is now smaller than ever. And now, my answer might be jaded. But it is time to be honest and truthful. Watching dancers get placed into companies over the past few years, and watching dancers struggle to find work is even more heartbreaking.

To be a dancer in this day in age, the most important thing is you need to have the RIGHT training. Meaning, you have to find a school that is capable of placing you into a company. Before, schools would feed you into schools attached to companies. Now, it is more important to find strong training at a young age, and work hard inside of these schools. Schools that care not just about your technique, but who you become as a person. I don’t think that kids should be going away so young, unless their families are 100% positive their kid is prepared to be a good person. You have to be technically efficient at such a young age now. At thirteen a double pirouette on pointe isn’t good enough anymore. A good school will be able to call up a company or school and be able to get you placed. A good school will teach you proper modified Russian Technique. Unfortunately, Balanchine schools just are not cutting it anymore in the global market. Finally, your coaches need to be able to teach all pedagogies and different approaches. Every student is different and every student will turn differently, jump differently and have a different needs in the studio. (Click here for what makes a good teacher)

You need to have the right body type and proportions. With the influx of dancers out there, you need to have the right body proportions and body type. Proportions in the 9-head range, toned muscle building, and more importantly: long lean muscle building. You need to be naturally thin, and naturally elongated. Your body has to be primed for ballet. There are so many dancers out there, that body type and body proportions are becoming a priority. This isn’t just tall or short- it is about everything. Making sure that your body is the whole package. Bodies that are primed in ballet just naturally progress faster. (read more about body types) More importantly, these body types are becoming more and more common.

You need to have the right kind of facility; hips that are open, feet that point, knees that stretch, backs that are hypermobile.

Your family has to have the right financial circumstances. Ballet is expensive. And until you are ready to go to a tier one school on a full scholarship, you will be paying a very pretty penny. You will be paying for private lessons, Gyro, PT, Cryo, Pilates, Acupuncture, Dietary Restrictions. This also just doesn’t mean throw money at people. As parents you have to do your homework as well, and you have to understand what you are getting yourself into and what is required of your child.

Now, to add to all of that, you have to be musical and an artist. You have to be able to hear the music, feel the ballet, and develop a character. You also have to be able to perform. Perform in the studio and on stage.

Finally, you have to be smart, hardworking and dedicated. Loving ballet isn’t enough.You have to be hardworking, and put 100% into every class, and no matter how hard you work, you can never give up. Tenacity is key. Focus is crucial. Attention to details, the ability to blend into the corps de ballet when needed, and stand out as soloist when asked. You have to have a thick skin, because what people are going to tell you is going to be severe. Other dancers might try to knock you down because they are jealous. Teachers will push you to the breaking point, and not every director is going to like you, or think that you will fit into their school or company.

ballet is hard

But what is the payoff? For some, ballet teaches discipline and structure. Most who study ballet go onto great things because of what you learn in ballet. For some, ballet facilitates them into college. Ballet can open many scholarships and your education can be paid for. For me, it paid for Grad School.  College can lead to producing, executive positions in a ballet company, PR and Marketing and many other things. For some, ballet will become a tool for choreography. And for those who are lucky enough, ballet will lead to a job that actually pays the bills. And for an even luckier few, they will become principal dancers at companies and become a face that inspires the next generation. But it just doesn’t end there. Ballet leads to amazing things- the appreciation for music, for classical arts, and more. It exposes you to different ethnicities, different cultures, different ideas. It gives you discipline, dedication and the ability to find inspiration in monotony.

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ISSUE 11 >> Read more by clicking above.

Finally, as hard as ballet is, it is the most wonderful thing. It is the combination of music, movement, human emotions, storytelling, fashion design and art coming together to create something that will only exist in that moment. So, as hard as it is to digest, the idea that you might not have what it takes to make it into a ballet company, don’t give up on the art. It is okay to do ballet recreationally, or train seriously, but not have a career. It really does bring the best of art together. It is something that we all should strive for. The essence of the ballet… not the politics of it.


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Another New Ballet Company comes to Florida

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 ThomasRock the Ballet. Rasta Thomas will serve as a guest artist.

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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!

 

Celebrating 4 Years!

It has been a long journey, but four years later I am here…

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Four years ago, I never thought that I would be a blogger. I thought I was going to have my career in fashion and teach ballet on the side for fun. In fact, I didn’t want this life at all. After my ballet career ended, I wanted nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, I lost my father, and my world didn’t make sense. But, ballet restores the order of the universe. It is one of the only thing reliable things in the world. You start with left hand at the barre, and do pliés, tendus, and so on.

Now four years later, I am about to finish issue 12 of the magazine, and start the third year. My book, that has taken me two years to write is done, and I am teaching all over the world and have started taking photos of beautiful dancers. So this is my thank you to all of you. Without you, my readers, and my supporters none of this would be possible, so thank you. Truly.

ATLANTA BALLET

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