So Kathryn Morgan just opened up, and just put Miami City Ballet on Blast.
Her story was super publicized, and in fact, maybe Miami City Ballet used her for just that: Her public forum. Did Miami City Ballet use her as a stunt to help save their company’s reputation, and do it for the look of “diversity and acceptance” … In her video, she talks about the pressures that the company put on her about her body: she is a size 2. Her video talks about the bullying that happens by the artistic staff, and the pressures that they put on you. Is it even worse because the Artistic Director is female, and a woman requiring the body type? For someone who has worked hard for years to get back in shape, and get to a point where she can dance in a company again… to be told she wasn’t an inspiration? Sounds fishy to me. The crazy part about this video is she doesn’t make any excuses for herself and presents both sides of the executive/artistic staff and her own personal endeavors. So, what did we learn from this video? Miami City Ballet’s reputation of being progressive, and equal, and diverse is basically a facade.
The knee joint is the most unstable joint in the body. Put at constant torque by ballet dancers, no wonder we are worried about their health and safety. Or maybe you would love a greater range of motion, a more square split, and cleaner penché line.
This exercise helps to create length in the joint capsule of the knee, stretching not only its hinging action but also its unique rotational aspect.
Often in ballet, we only stretch turned out and for far too long for our tissue to actually lengthen. After just two seconds, the stretch reflex fires from our body to our mind telling it “we may be in danger, tense up now to avoid injury!” Physiologically, after two seconds of stretching any joint past, the range of motion, our stretch becomes an isometric contraction, similar to holding our plank or developpé a la seconde. The pain we feel from stretching after two seconds is our defense mechanism which in ballet we are taught to ignore.
By actively engaging the quads, abs, and hip flexors to perform this exercise we are able to effectively stretch the hamstrings and calves without sending a negative message to our tissue. We’re respecting our reflexes, using Sherrington’s Law of Reciprocal Inhibition.
To begin the stretch, lay on your back with your legs outstretched in front of you. Place a non stretch strap, rope, or lead around the sole of the exercising leg’s foot to begin. You may use your hands on the back of the thigh and calf as well. The starting position begins with the knee flexed toward the rib cage and same side shoulder. Contract the quads to fully extend the knee. At the end of the knee movement keep contracted the quadriceps and assist with a rope or your hands. The lower leg should finish over the upper leg without the upper leg moving forward away from the chest. After maintaining a fully stretched knee for two seconds, release back to the starting position.
In order to assure maximum stretch, a proper angle must be obtained between the thigh and chest and full extension of the knee is attained in each repetition. Release to the starting position of complete knee flexion and gently repeat the exercise moving the legs slightly closer to the chest.
2 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions recommended, alternating legs after each set.
Repeat the same exercise but wrap the strap around the bottom of the foot and back around from the inside to the outside of the lower leg to create an inward rotation of the shin. Make sure the femur stays neutral and parallel, it is not a complete turn-in of the entire leg.
2 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions recommended, alternating legs after each set.
Repeat the same exercise but wrap the strap around the bottom of the foot and out around from outside to inside of the lower leg to create an outward rotation of the shin. Make sure the femur stays neutral and parallel, it is not a complete turn out of the entire leg.
2 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions recommended, alternating legs after each set.
Do not arch your back, or hike the hip off of the ground surface to compensate for greater stretch. This exercise is about keeping the quadriceps contracted during the entire knee extension as it is creating length in the back of the joint. Relax the ankle, do not strive to point the foot. You do not want to add greater tension to the stretch, but isolate the focus just to the back of the knee. Every time you contract the top thigh muscles, exhale and inhale on the return back to the starting position. Lastly, do not use the strap or your hands to pull your foot closer to your face. That strap is there to add a gentle assisted stretch after your muscles have fully done the action of straightening the knee from a flexed hip.
Matthew Doolin BA, NMT
Matthew Doolin is a Neuromuscular Therapist who specializes in physical rehabilitation, injury and pain management for all. He danced professionally for thirteen years as well as obtained BA from Butler University, two years study to become a medical massage therapist at the National Holistic Institute in San Francisco, and has been practicing Active Isolated Stretching for three three years. He currently lives in Jacksonville, Florida and treats patients online and in person. Please visit his website, IG account, or email him for more information. During this time of crisis Matthew is offering sliding-scale pricing for those interested in taking better care of their facilities or want to break through their physical limitations.
COVID has taken over almost every aspect of our lives. Our jobs, the way we interact with people, the news, and so on. While COVID has completely destroyed some aspects of ballet, ballet has found a way to reinvent itself: The Digital Performance. While I have a lot of problems with digital teaching, and that watching digitally broadcast performances is not the same as attending live performances… there are a lot of things I love about this new era.
I love that ballet is becoming more accessible to the masses with free performances. I love being able to fast forward, pause, and replay. I love being able to watch it in my bed, in my pajamas and eating. I love being able to talk during a performance. And most of all, I like being able to talk to colleagues and friends about the same exact performance.
But what I really love, what I love more than anything right now, are all of these new video performances that take ballet and dance to another level. Combining amazing videography, and collaborations have allowed us to see dancers we may not normally see or feature dancers that most artistic directors would not feature. If you are catching my drift…
These videos are most likely going to become a part of the future of ballet, and truthfully, I love it.
So here are some of the amazing digital performances that I am kind of obsessed with right now- Enjoy.
This is just nice to watch…
DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT ALL OF THE AMAZING ABE PRODUCTS OUT NOW!!
The Pointe Shoe Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, is hosting a used costume sale July 27-31. All donations will be tax deductible and 100% of proceeds will go to A Ballet Education’s scholarship fund for dancers of color.
All performance quality costumes are welcomed, including competition style, contemporary ballet, ballet tutus, solos, duets, trios, and groups. Please consider donating these items for a great cause. A tax receipt will be given upon donation. We ask that all costume donations be clean and in good repair. Soiled, damaged, or incomplete costumes will not be accepted. Purchasing costumes will be available online through the Pointe Shoe Clinic’s Website.
Donations may be dropped off or mailed to the following address beginning Saturday, June 27 through Sunday, July 5.
The Pointe Shoe Clinic 7835 E Evans Rd. Suite 500 Scottsdale AZ, 85255
For more information or to arrange for a special time for donation please email us.
We look forward to partnering with The Pointe Shoe Clinic to grow our scholarship fund for dancers of color.
Freed pointe shoe fittings with The Pointe Shoe Clinic are available.
People have said that I have been too silent, that I need to use my platform to stand up for the racial injustices in ballet and so on… It has been an exhausting war on social media and I am not going to defend myself. I have been a champion for dancers of color since the beginning of this blog and have provided scholarships and financial assistance to over 10 dancers of color who could not afford to dance. But in this intense, and much-needed reform in dance, there is a lot of information circulating around. There are those dancers of color speaking out about their experiences in companies, there are white women championing for race and throwing virtual bricks at every company under the sun, and there are those who are ignoring the problem.
Truth: This past month has been overwhelming for me. Emotionally the toll it took on me was devastating.
But, through this pain, anxiety and depression, A Ballet Education has been able to produce five amazing scholarships.
Our first program is for dancers of color ages 7-11 in the Arizona area. If you can not afford to dance, but would like to, this program is completely free for families who can not afford ballet. This program is offered through the Ballet Clinic. No questions asked.
Our second program is also through The Ballet Clinic, the ballet school that we own. This second scholarship program offers 3 full-tuition scholarships in each of our names. This program was introduced in August of 2019. Ashley Baker, Eric Hipolito Jr. and I were all scholarship kids in dance and want to give back. Click here.
The Third scholarship program is for dancers who are ages 12-14 and can not afford tuition. Through this program we offer a sliding scale tuition based on taxes.
The fourth program is open to anyone. We will be offering give $1,000 scholarships for dancers who are looking for financial assistance. Details will be announced at the end of July. This program is funded through the sales of A Ballet Education’s Planners.
Our final scholarship program is for dancers of color who show exceptional potential and need professional mentoring, career advice, and preparing for auditions. This fellowship program helps you curate your resume, audition videos, photos, and more. This program is completely free.
Additionally, we have been offering talks on ZOOM and Instagram Live. Our next talk is tomorrow, Monday, June 22 @ 4:00 PM PST. You can join us on Zoom or Instagram Live here.
Our Summer Issue is here! 120 beautiful pages! During this pandemic, A Ballet Education was lucky enough to not only survive, but thrive and come together and create art. This amazing issue includes numerous dancers from around the world, and is a reminder of what ballet was, is and going to be.
This issue is full of amazing articles including:
–The New Normal, our coverstory by Elizabeth Weldon, photographed by Ashley Baker featuring ABT Studio Company’s Elisabeth Beyer.
-How Small Businesses are Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis
-College & COVID by Bethanne Black
Preview the magazine below, and subscribe to view the full issue.
A Ballet Education’s A Ballet Magazine is published through JooMag.
ADVERTISE IN THE NEXT ISSUE
If you are interested in advertising in the next issue please click here.
American Ballet Theatre just made ballet history and made ballet even more accessible to everyone.
While in the past few years, ABT has struggled with staying ahead of the curve of ballet innovation, ABT just blew everyone out of the water and jumped into the future of the art. Their fresh creativity via archived footage, rehearsal footage, and professionally recorded performances took us through the ranks of JKO to Principal Dancer in an all star-studded cast.
Supporters spanning Hollywood’s elite to the New York Yankees, and profiles of principal dancers past and present, created a way to make ballet feel right for everyone.
It is no secret that film and ballet haven’t always gone hand in hand, however, tonight demonstrated what happens when ballet is approached lovingly and broadly. By explaining ballet in-depth, conducting intimate interviews, and profiling new and thought-provoking choreography projects, the broadcast just put ABT ahead of any ballet company in the world by an entire generation.
This single broadcast might be the most influential and most meaningful dance work created in the last, well ever. It wasn’t a documentary or an individual performance; it was the reality of everyday people doing extraordinary things in the arts. It had the most beautiful campaigns and cinematography combined with real-life facetime and zoom footage, making it even more real and relatable. Most impressively it combined both Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie and the usual behind the scenes Executive Director Kara Medoff Barnett to the front of ABT.
Our Common Fate, a new collaborative work by Jessica Lang and Tony Bennet, was inspired by quarantine and led the continued parade of beauty and exceptional moments. Danced by Aran Bell and Catherine Hurlin (the next Gillian and Ethan) around Central Park, the ending with the dancers waving up at Bennet left us with some kind of feeling.
The other features ranging from the budding talent of Studio Company, to the love of ballet in the students of JKO, highlighted the bright future of ballet. The inclusion of the ABT orchestra playing the finale of the Brahams Haydn Variations together from home was mesmerizing and moving.
Of Love and Rage showcased the crew of ABT building the sets from start to finish on stage in Orange County to the rehearsing of Aran and Catherine (Caty). It highlighted the sheer manpower needed to put on one of ABT’s productions.
Members of the company, both male and female, performed the entrance of the swans from the second act of Swan Lake from their respective shelter at home locations.
Cynthia Erivo sang America the Beautiful with dancers dancing around the Kennedy Center, the emptiness of Lincoln Center and New York, and people dancing at home across the US filmed from the outside.
Instagram favorite, James Whiteside, one of the fundraising campaign’s curators, announced that ABT would be starting an online series over the next eight weeks and bring you inside the studios of ABT. This entire film and broadcast were to help raise funds for ABT’s Crisis Relief Fund. You can donate or bid on silent auction items here.
While this was a fundraising campaign, it was probably the most glamorous, well thought out, put together, edited, campaign the ballet world has seen in a while. And while ABT’s JKO school is still trying to figure out their digital summer program, we shall see if the school is able to create something as innovative as the company.
Ballet is conservative. It does not like progress, and it does not like people who are different from the people in power. It purposefully makes sure that people who are different feel like they are out of place, or that ballet is unobtainable. It prefers money, classism, and a body type that typically categorizes as a certain ethnicity. Because of this, it usually attracts an audience – both as students and as ballet fans – who share similar values. The typical ballet ticket runs on average around 50 dollars across the United States, and can go up to 1,800 dollars for a “good seat.” All of the above is ballet—a world of beautiful theaters, beautiful people, beautiful places, and beautiful music. But all of this beauty stands on an undercurrent of certain religious beliefs and gender roles that continue to dictate certain values in ballet.
I recently decided to take a poll about my August Planner Cover, and that poll has turned out to be a more considerable discussion on gender roles and sexuality. What was supposed to be a light conversation about a personal preference of what people would want to see on the cover has turned into a weighted debate about religion, sexuality, and gender in ballet.
When I started the August Planner, I thought it would be nice to have men on the cover. Like the May, June, and July cover, there are always two dancers. So, I thought it would be a good change to have two male ballet dancers on the cover, just hanging out before class. Apparently, two male dancers depicted on the cover would equate to homosexuality. Forty percent of those voting chose “no” to the cover. Of those who voted against it, 85% include a Bible verse in their Instagram bio. I have no problem with religion; in fact, I was raised in a very religious home, keep a Bible next to my bed, attend mass when I can, and say my nightly prayers.
I then told my followers that if they thought the art implies homosexuality, to unfollow me. And, in a matter of two hours, a little under 200 people unfollowed me: no big deal, just a part of social media life.
But to me, the point about this artwork is not about homosexuality. The point is about men in ballet and how they are perceived within our culture and in the context of the wealthy conservative families who support ballet, the politics that come along with those wealthy families. What is the idea of a male dancer, and what are the widely held assumptions about male ballet dancers? Who gets to define what a male dancer represents and who gets to decide what their sexuality and value is in society?
By our dominant culture’s definition, masculinity is: having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men, especially strength and aggressiveness. (Webster)
This definition and idea of what is “male” can be seen in almost every classical ballet. Prince Desire kisses a sixteen-year-old princess without her consent in the Sleeping Beauty. In Le Corsaire, men sell and buy women. In Raymonda, there is rape. In the ballet Swan Lake, a male falls in love with an animal. In La Sylphide, there is a male that cheats on his female partner. In Giselle, another male that cheats on his female partner. In La Bayadere, there is a male doing drugs. And the list goes on and on. As a parent, you might read this paragraph and think, “Why am I letting my child do ballet?” Yeah, trust me. I ask myself the same thing.
Men in ballet are consistently depicted and celebrated for being strong and powerful, and these figures of what modern society says is considered toxic masculinity. On the other hand, we argue that these ballet stories are part of tradition, history, and literature and should continue celebrated and unchanged. This then makes me wonder — why are we surprised when we hear about men in ballet taking advantage of women in ballet, or male or female students for that matter, or any of that? Aren’t these male dancers just “acting” or “emulating” what they are rehearsing every day, and practicing to portray? Again, you might be thinking, “Okay, this is not cool. Let’s reconsider this.”
We also have to look at who controls ballet. Most of the directors are men, most of the boards of directors are made of men, most of the donors in ballet are men (who donate on behalf of their family), and most of these men across this conversation are above 60. Point being, they grew up in a different era. If we learned anything from Madmen and men from that age group, it was that men in the office cheat. Haha, that was a joke. I am currently binge-watching Madmen during this crazy time.
But, getting back to the point. On the one hand, families of young female dancers often complain that there aren’t enough boys in ballet. Well, imagine the social pressure on a young boy who want to dance ballet, if when we see two boys in ballet attire, everyone automatically assumes homosexuality? On then other hand, some of those same families will admit that they won’t let their sons dance because they don’t want people to “think they are gay” or worry that allowing them to spend time around male dancers will somehow “turn them gay.” And then often, those same families will complain that their daughter doesn’t have a pas de deux partner….
I decided to look at everyone’s feed who voted “no” to the two men in ballet attire as cover art. Many of these girls are also posting photos in crop tops, booty shorts, posing in crotch shots, and after looking through their followers, it appears that for the most part are not bothering to review their followers closely and allowing plenty of what appear to be perv accounts follow them. Ironically, girls are attracted to ballet for the frills and “pretty factors” of ballet. Loop this back around to my confusion, I reconsidered my June and July covers, in which the girls are in swimsuits and pointe shoes. I thought, “Well, at least these voters are aspiring to appear like what I draw?” These same girls are also trained by prominent gay male ballet teachers, so I am a little confused about why they are willing to accept homosexual male dancers in that aspect of their lives…. But, to each their own.
Think about the men in ballet that we adore. The men that we say shaped ballet — many are homosexuals, but as long as we don’t see them being homosexual — as long as they don’t publically “act too gay”, then it’s acceptable. This logic is what sometimes dictates ballet donors, parents, and others that are otherwise conservative in their ballet support. T here is a teacher I know, a very well respected Eastern European teacher who would always tell the boys, “I don’t care how effeminate you are, or if you are gay. All I care about is that you portray the role you are supposed to portray, you focus on the technique, and you are a good kid.” This man comes from one of the most conservative countries but seems to have this very relaxed outlook on sexuality.
Meanwhile, in the world of competitive jazz, broadway, and modern dance, the idea of homosexuality has become much more widely accepted. So then, my focus on why we assume that two men in ballet equate to gay.
If two men were at a cigar bar or a frat party and one put their arm around the other for a photo, would it be considered gay? If the context of assuming my drawing was gay, is it because they were wearing tights, and the body language and shape of hyperextension is gay? Is it because people think that two men should never dance together or hang out as close friends off stage? Is it because we are conditioned to only see ballet as one male dancing, partnering and lifting one female? Is it because we are saying that we are OK with gay men as long as they keep their distance, but we don’t want them printed on our child’s day planner?
This conservatism that fuels and funds ballet is the same conservatism that is holding ballet back from making progress towards a more modern, artistic and accepting view of different body types, ethnicities, or even more modern story lines, etc. You might also be wondering why I am posting this?
This post isn’t about what is right or wrong because everyone is entitled to their belief system…. and, I am wondering if I am shooting myself in the foot because I am a gay man, and I could be cutting off or offending thousands of followers, subscribers, and customers. However, I think the questions that I am pondering with my artwork, my poll and this post are ultimately about protecting, inspiring, and accepting young boys who want to dance and explore the various aspects of the art of ballet, and how the world is going to perceive them – regardless of their sexual identity. If these dancers aren’t allowed to have male friends who support them and hang out with them on and off stage, without being automatically assumed as gay (and having to deal with all of the social stigmas and life challenges still facing gay men) — or even if they are gay — if there is no place for these different ideas and definitions of masculinity and the male identity on or off stage, then how will we be able to continue to recruit, finance and support the next generation of male dancers to be a necessary part of this incredible art form? How will we be able to fuel and inspire a new generation of ballet dancers, ballet story lines that portray less toxic male stereotypes, men and women to fund, direct, market and buy tickets to watch these talented men dancers?
So recently, a well-known illustrator recently asked me to illustrate a picture of myself during the quarantine. This picture was supposed to be a self-portrait, but with one condition. The idea was to be looking through the outside and onto you quarantined on the inside. Well, I initially said, “Yeah, sure, no problem.” And so I started, but then I realized that while his portrait was from a small window with telephone lines and trash cans outside his window, and how poetic he must look, mine, on the other hand, would just come off as pretentious and privileged. And while I have worked hard for my success, as I illustrated where I lived and how I lived, I realized that this is just not among artists but also among the dancers of the world.
For those who have home studios or rooms dedicated to dancing in their homes, this transition to virtual ballet has been a lot easier. This is an apparent show of privilege, and regardless of the hard work and success your family has amounted, it still is the reality that ballet is an elite art form. Then, if you look at a lot of these professional dancers broadcasting from home, we are getting an intimate look inside their life. Their kitchen counters are granite; their floors are hardwood; there are sweeping cityscape views and works of art that were not mass-produced.
But the majority of dancers are struggling. Most people can’t afford to buy Marley and a barre on a whim and set up a studio. Most people don’t have a home gym inside their home, and for a lot of young dancers, they can’t afford to continue training because of the lack of income coming in from their parents. I am not attacking those who can afford it, I am just stating a fact.
The world is scary, and the world has a lot of uncertainties right now, but one of the big things COVID-19 is doing, is creating art for all and opportunities for young dancers to keep dancing. All of these free Instagram live streams are inspiring and needed, but then it also raises the point: How are you able to train without getting corrections? It makes people think, “Why pay my student’s online class tuition when I can take from all of these amazing teachers and professional dancers for free?” This logic is flawed too. Since live streams you don’t get corrections, you won’t progress as fast. If you stop going to your school, there is a chance that your school will close because of the financial strain. There are a lot of factors and variables just continually changing out there, and for most, everyone is winging it.
But, the truth of the matter is: What we see during this quarantine is the haves and the have nots of the dance world.
We see those teachers who are setting up home setups with three iPads and two computers, students who have built-in studios at home, the intimate insides of one’s home, and so forth. And while ballet is coming together to provide free resources to help, it still does not close the gap for what is going to come next…
Who is going to be able to afford to come back to dancing after months of no income? Who is able to keep training and staying in shape during this time, and who is not? Who is going to keep progressing, or who is going to fall behind? It will divide those who really want this, and those who were doing it for social aspects, or fun aspects. It is going to divide companies with strong endowments and funding and those who were already struggling to stay afloat. It is going to divide ballet by a lot. It is going to define a generation of dancers who might not get employed. It is going to keep changing the way we move forward drastically. And while I don’t have all the answers, and I wish I did, it just makes me wonder what is going to happen next?
In a single week, the world of Ballet turned upside down. While there were some programs ahead of the virtual curve (like CLI studios and Veyette Virtual Ballet School), most studios right now are struggling to keep up with the virtual demand. And while I don’t believe that virtual training can compare to time inside a studio, there is a lot of misguided assumptions happening around Ballet and virtual training. Because Virtual training has become the only source of training, dancers, and parents now thinking that they can virtually train with anyone around the US and that it is a cheaper, more affordable, more productive use of time… This is all sadly wrong. Nothing can compare to that one on one time and attention to detail inside a studio, but I’m not here to say that we should all stop training virtually, that would be impossible. What I am here to tell you, is how you can maximize your time and efforts while virtually training Ballet.
Be Prepared. Before you log in to take a virtual class, make sure you are well prepared before the course starts. Have water nearby, stretch bands, or any other needed items nearby, so you don’t waste time running to your room, searching through your dance bag when a teacher wants you to use an object to enhance the digital learning experience.
Be Equipped. Please make sure you have the appropriate tech and WiFi before you start a virtual class. For most students out there, you have had to makeshift a dance space and are doing well, but make sure your WiFi is on a 5G network and can stream. If you are not on a strong network, move the quality to a lower Frame Per Second rate.
For those of you who have had to make do with a dance space, just because you have wood floors in your house doesn’t mean you should be jumping on them. In fact, this is the time not to be jumping. You need to be smart and make sure that when all of this is over, your body is primed and ready to go and jump back into hardcore training. If your floors are not sprung or floating (which most floors in residential homes are not), then avoid jumping. I have seen a lot of kids jumping on tile, and that is just going to ruin your career in the long run, so don’t.
Be Aware. With digital classes consuming social media right now, it is hard to decide what is a good or bad digital class. That is something that you are going to have to decide on your own. While different teachers have different methods, if more than ten students are taking a Zoom class, the odds of the teacher actually seeing individual corrections is a lot lower than if you only had six screens going at a time. I have seen up to 60 kids in a zoom class, and literally, at that point, you might as well do a Livestream follow along.
Be Generous. Make sure you are paying your teacher, or if it is a free class, see if they are taking donations. A lot of dancers right now are being forced into teaching ballet because that is all they can do to make money from home. For most of these high profiled dancers, dancing is all they know, and they are struggling financially, as most ballet companies have been forced to close their entire season. Make sure you are doing your part, regardless of it being a free service or a free live stream, a lot of these artists are doing it in hopes to book private lessons or get donations to survive.
Be Patient. All of Ballet has slowed down. For a lot of you, you were training 18+ hours a week and preparing for major competitions. Now, you are lucky to clock in 5 hours, you don’t jump or turn anymore, and all of that hard work you prepared for, all of the time you spent this season, seems to be wasted and frivolous. But, just be patient. All of ballet has stopped. Everyone around the world is trying to figure out what is going to happen next, what summer courses will look like, and what the next step is going to be. You are not alone, everyone, teachers, students, professionals, costume makers, lighting designers, stagehands, everyone is wondering what is going to happen next.
Finally, virtual training, in my opinon, can not replace actual training. For those of you who are asking to now virtually train or have teachers live cast classes in, it is not a balanced way of teaching. It is not how ballet needs to be digested, to be learned, or to be experienced. But otherwise, this is a great temporary fix for the world of dance.
THE BALLET CLINIC
EXCLUSIVE & ELITE TRAINING FOR YOUNG BALLET DANCERS
Tomorrow from 4:00-6:00 PM (Arizona time) we will be broadcasting our class live on Instagram if you want to follow along. We will obviously not be able to correct you, but we can definitely remind you of super helpful tips, important things to focus on and more.
Corona Virus… our best friend. With the recent pressure in the world of academics urging institutions to close down for the next 30 days, ballet is slowly taking suit. The School of American Ballet just announced they will stay closed until April 20. PNB just canceled the rest of their repertory for March, and the school is on hiatus.
What does this mean? While most small schools can’t afford to close, neither can most major schools and professional schools (schools attached to companies). We keep waiting for YAGP to cancel the Finals. And we keep waiting for other competitions to follow.
While everyone is encouraging most major cities to self-quarantine in an attempt to stop the spread of the novel virus, it would cripple the world of ballet financially. Well, let’s be honest, with the stock market plunging into doom with little to no hope, most major private or endowment contributions to ballet will end. This means most companies won’t be hiring anytime soon. Not to mention that ticket sales would be non-existent. If we urge ballet schools to cancel their summer intensives and close down for the remainder of the season, we are explicitly saying there will be no new hires for the upcoming season.
While the virus isn’t to be taken lightly, we need to ensure we understand what we are asking of these major institutions when we ask them to cancel summer courses and refund our money. What we are asking is to bankrupt these organizations for the 2020-2021 season, and possibly all the way into the 2022-2023 season, meaning we understand that there won’t be jobs for those kids right now who are ages 17-20.
If the world demands that we close schools with over 250 students, we are asking these historic and prestigious companies to lose a large source of their financial stability with both year-round and summer intensive enrollment. Ballet schools support ballet companies, who employ dancers, executive staff, musicians, theater labor and numerous others. So if we are asking these schools to close and cancel, we are creating a substantial financial burden and deficit for these non-profit arts organizations.
The spreading of this virus isn’t to be taken lightly. I’m not saying go out and stock up for the apocalypse, but watching and hearing the stories from Italy are heartbreaking.
So if the world demands that we close summer courses and pull performances, we are going to have to shift our focus to figuring out ways on how to help ballet recover financially and supporting those kids who no longer will be candidates for jobs. This would mean that the generation ages 14 and under, would be the next group to have stable employment in ballet. We are asking to look over an entire group of kids for the sake of the spreading or further mutations of the virus.
Even watching my students who were slated to go to Royal Ballet’s Spring Intensive have their dreams crushed this morning was tough. But obviously, the ramifications of this is more important. As the news keeps reporting rising cases, creating fear and concern among parents, dancers, and the ballet community at large, I keep asking myself… why are we still hosting competitions that are encouraging travel in general?
So, if parents really want to cancel summer intensives, or they want these institutions to cancel, for the sake of health, safety, and concern of all, we do have to realize there are substantial ramifications to this.
With ballet schools in the Seattle area closing, academic institutions closing, does this translate that smaller private schools will need to do the same? With the lack of training, or the lack of incoming tuition coming in, will it ultimately bankrupt these dance studios as well?
Please be careful when you are asking these major institutions for your money back, because it means we are asking to bankrupt ballet. PNB is asking ticket holders to donate their tickets as a way to keep the ballet company running.
Just remember, that ballet is a fragile ecosystem, and if one part of it shuts down, the entire ecosystem collapses.
As the World Health Organization just announces that the COVID-19 VIRUS is officially a pandemic, the Royal Ballet School cancels its Spring Intensive, just days before international students are set to leave to self-quarantine leaving dozens of hopeful young dancers devastated. This is just a day behind many Ivy League Universities closing for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, with Italy’s mandatory shutdown, students in Italy are left without ballet until at least April 4. Teachers across the world are now posting home videos to help teach their students.
"Mariaelena Ruiz was not only one of the best teachers I ever had but also a great mentor. She helped me excel in life, not only in ballet. She made me realize my potential and did not let me rely on what I had but made me work on what I didn’t. I will forever be grateful to Mariaelena and everything she has done for me."
Principal Dancer with Ballet West
Derek Dunn, Beckanne Sisk, Michaela DePrince, Taylor Ciampi. Rachel Richardson. Gabe Stone Shayer. These are just some of the names that are associated with the Youth America Grand Prix’s Outstanding Teacher Award— Mariaelena Ruiz. This amazingly talented coach is now a part of Cary Ballet Conservatory and has built a program to rival most professional schools in a matter of five years. This amazing teacher also had an amazing career. At fourteen she joined Ballet Nacional de Caracas, the ballet company in Venezuela. She also placed 3rd in the Junior Division at the USAIBC Jackson competition where she won her scholarship to the School of American Ballet. She also won best pas de deux, and 3rd place senior division at Varna and then won at the Prix Volinine. And that is just her background in dance. In 2000 she started teaching at the Rock School for Dance Education where she coached and mentored now some of the world’s top dancers. In 2015 she left the Rock School and started her own program at Cary.
A Ballet Education had a chance to catch up with this in demand teacher and get some insight into her mind.
What makes a good ballet student? There are many aspects that create a good ballet student. The most important to me are hard work, discipline, willingness to change, and the ability to listen to the corrections and advice of teachers/coaches
What are some of the qualities you look for In potential students? I look at physical ability and talent, of course, but I always look at dancers’ eyes and see whats there; how much do they want it.
As a teacher, what inspires you? Music inspires me. Also, seeing a student have an “ah-ha” moment and finally get something that we had been working on for a long time is wonderful.
What is your favorite thing to teach? My students will laugh when they read this 🙂 I love chasse preparation into double en dedan pirouettes, also en dedan en dehors pirouettes without coming down. But, mostly I love breaking down a variation or a combination technically and coaching it, working every single step from its preparation all the way to the end.
What are your pet peeves when it comes to “classical” ballet technique Sickled feet are an issue for me because it’s usually a result of and underlying problem and it translates or comes from bad alignment as you are leaving the floor. Also, I like versatile students that can move from style to style so I am not fond of schools that teach the dancers that there’s only one way.
What are 3 variations you disapprove of seeing at Yagp? I think it is important to give the dancers challenging variations that can help them improve but also that are appropriate for their age and where they are in their development. There are exceptions to the rule but I usually disagree with Odette, Odile, and Gamzatti Red ( Makarova version). Those 3 have to be done so well and require certain maturity and experience that I am hesitant to see a student do them.
What is the future at Cary Ballet Conservatory and what do you want to see as the Professional Training Program director and co-owner of the school? Everyone keeps asking about this being such big bold move on my part.
Co-owning a school, creating and directing a Professional Program from scratch specially one of this magnitude and caliber that has placed these many dancers in professional companies and has gotten this much attention and results in record time, has not been easy. I would like to see my vision for this program continue to be fulfilled. I want every program and aspect of the Conservatory to be successful and have cohesive training, leadership and great results. I want everyone to understand that no matter if you are going to be a recreational dancer, a professional dancer or the next big exec at a fortune 500 company, the discipline and commitment taught in this art form will give you an edge over everyone else. I would like to continue to inspire people through great training in the art of classical ballet.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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)
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.