Emeralds…

If you don’t know what Emeralds is click here and read more.

(This post has nothing really to do with ballet education.)

Emeralds. As the story goes Balanchine was inspired by the jewelers Van Cleef and Arpels. As an avid visitor to Van Cleef, I understand why he was so inspired. I am obsessed with the Balanchine ballets, probably more obsessed than I should be. But, when it comes to Jewels, I am able to reflect upon my own life and how it relates to me, and why I am the Emeralds phase of my life.

When I was a young dancer training, I hated Emeralds. I literally fell asleep the first time I went to go see it live. When I was younger, it was all about Rubies. The sexiness, the energy, and the relentless power and flexibility of the tall girl in Rubies. Like Stravinsky, when you are younger, there is this uncontrollable force that drives you: passion. As a young dancer it was about focusing on rapid turns, whacking out your battements, and being overly flexible. It was far the better choice compared to the other two. Diamonds just looked like ballet class to me, and just was pretty, and well classical.

Later, as a working dancer, I became obsessed with Diamonds. It was about the strive towards perfection. As a working dancer it starts the process of control, constraint, and restriction. It is taking everything you had learned in ballet school, and learning how to control it, finesse it, and do it with ease. Diamonds became my version of Swan Lake. It was the test of perfection within the choreography. As a young adult, that translated into my personal life. It was about being perfect, finding the perfect man, finding perfection within my life. Still, I am kind of there, but now I am transitioning to my thoughts on Emeralds…

Now, realizing that perfection is impossible, something to strive for, I have entered into a new phase of my life: Emeralds. Subtlety and romance. There is something so luxurious about Emeralds. The walking pas de trois is like strolling through the park, the variations are almost care free and relaxed. There is no rush. That is where I am at in my life right now. I know this has nothing to do with the actual story behind the ballet, but it shows how ballet can reflect life, and how audience viewers relate. Before, when I would watch ballets, I would be watching for technique, musicality, and lets be honest: dancer making mistakes. Now as I watch ballets, it is about how they relate to my life. Watching classical storybook ballets do nothing for me now. Now when I want to escape my own life and become involved in someone else’s I go to the movies and the achievements in cinema take me there.

As I have started to embark on my own ballet company and school, I have decided to let it take me wherever it takes me. I am not thinking my company and school will be anything equated to Balanchine. Far from it. But, I have taken everything I have learned in the phases of my life and implemented it into the curriculum and structure.

www.RedlandsDanceTheatre.com

My Personal life…

I couldn’t sleep tonight. An e-mail came to me earlier today and it has been bothering me, a lot. I have been getting e-mails both good and bad, I have been getting comments galore, both good and bad. Regardless, an e-mail came to me earlier today that has gotten under my skin; which is rare. So, time to address some things:

This is my blog, my opinion. No one is forcing you to read it, no one is begging you to read it. In fact, this blog is literally just therapy for me. Yes, I offer services that include PR, consulting, and editorial work… but that is what I do in real life and am very successful at it. I am not looking for your validation, I am not looking for your acceptance. Nor, do I care. Here is what I will say… You should be ashamed that you have the nerve to write me and inform me that my sexuality and personal life appalls you and I don’t have any business writing about a children’s art…

No one asked you to stalk my personal life. My personal life is mine. I didn’t ask you to read my personal blog, find my personal IG, and so forth. If you are so appalled at my sexuality…. I hope you realize your daughter is entering into the world of arts, which is slightly more liberal than most professions. If my homosexuality is so offensive, just wait for your daughter to enter into ballet school…

So, to elaborate on my personal life:

  1. Yes, I am openly gay. In fact, I am super gay. I pride myself on being a great gay man. 
  2. My dad’s passing away did not cause me to act out on IG, or become this wild child. I have always gone out. It is a part of my job to go out and network: between fashion events and social events, I do go out a lot.
  3. My morality… I am not even going to go there.
  4. And, despite your popular belief that I am promiscuous… Whether or not my sex life even matters, all of those men in my pictures are my friends. Because my family isn’t the most accepting of my sexuality, my friends are everything to me. If I want to hang on them, and take selfies, and go out with them, so be it. It really is none of your business.
  5. Finally—- as I shouldn’t even let this bother me whatsoever, the fact that is has. The fact that you have condemned me to hell and beyond, why did you feel the need to write me? Why did you take the time out of your day to say such hateful things? I am in bed laying here, wondering what kind of person has time to write such things. Or, what kind of person takes time out of their day to inform me at 8 in the morning that I am going to hell? Seriously, who does that?

On another note— I will be away for a while, and won’t be blogging for a while— i am kind of over all of the negativity in the world.

Today at Barre

dancers-at-george-balanchine-s-school-of-american-ballet-lined-up-at-barre-during-training.jpg.gif

Life happens. It throws you into a whirlwind of chaos, and it is hard to find something to grab onto. Well, it is a good thing we have a barre. Or, if you are really intense you could go just go to a bar. Regardless, ballet does not change. No matter what is going on in my life I can always count on a ballet class. I know the order of the combinations, I know that it will never change. After a very crazy week, barre today saved me.

You can always use more turn out.

You can always point your feet a little harder.

You can always stretch your body a little further.

You can always push your jump a little higher.

You can always dance a little more musical.

Yup, ballet class literally never changes. No matter what school, company or studio you go to, ballet class is always the same. First, I stood in first position, and wiggled around to feel my legs, and placed my left hand at barre. The music started and I prepared, rotating my out, pressing my knees back, and releasing into the first demi plié, I felt my troubles melting away. By the end of the first side, the rest of the world didn’t matter. I was so focused on opening my hips, and the coordination of my arms that nothing else really mattered. By tendus I was completely into the ankles, and the articulation of my feet. By frappés I completely forgot what was happening in my own life, and it was more important for me to stay out in the dégagé for a hair longer than the count. That is the funny thing about being inside the studio, nothing else matters and it is always reliable. Even if your body isn’t working, or you are not on your leg, or your muscles are tight, ballet class has a way of quietly making the world make sense.

Saving Ballet

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

Ballet & Fashion

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

Ballet, Photography and Social Media 

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

In Ballet, Feet are Everything…

feet are everything

In ballet, feet are everything. You either have good feet (banana feet), or bad feet… biscuits. Yeah, there are average feet, but the reality is, a ballet dancer with a good foot seems to get noticed more. The better the arch, the higher the relevé. The better the wing, the prettier the line. When you are younger your teachers tell you, that you have to have a strong arch and beautiful feet to do pointe…. What they don’t tell you is the price that you will have to pay in the long run. I recently came across a photo of a ballet dancer’s feet, and I thought the image was so beautiful. The damage that pointe does to a dancer’s feet is permanent, causing more problems in old age. It is insane that women spend anywhere between 6-10 hours in toe shoes.

With all of the Misty Copeland hype about dancers are athletes, I decided that I would approach dance as something completely different… The price for beauty.

So, if all of you ballerinas out there could, take a photo of your feet and post it on twitter or IG and hashtag #aballeteducation or #thepriceforbeauty that would be fantastic. 

a ballet education feet

The Death of Classical Ballet… kind of

Het Nationale Ballet's the Sleeping Beauty
Het Nationale Ballet’s the Sleeping Beauty

Pliés, tendus, degagés… there is a specific order in which we do barre. It is predictable, it is the same, and probably won’t change for another ten years. The progression of ballet has always been slow, but over the past thirty years we have really made a ridiculous amount of progress refining the technique. The past thirty years gapped the Baryshnikov era and Ballerina era. As we have finessed the biomechanics of the classical technique, we have come to the realization of how limited the classical framework is. This has caused dancers to get bored, and has caused dancers to focus on more turns, and more complex jumps. This isn’t something new… 

Ballet was dying, then came Balanchine and new era was ushered in… Ballet was boring, then came Baryshnikov and the age of male extravagance came… Then ballet was drawn out and not as exciting, we got tired of men doing the same double tours, and tricks. Then came the super ballerinas… With super high extensions, jumps that were just as good as the men and with more flexibility… And now ballet once again has started to decline, as the age of movement exploration has come… New ballets are being introduced, everyone seems to be a choreographer these days, but companies are trying to save classical ballets by remounting them. ABT has now staged 3 different Cinderellas in a ten year time span. Het Nationale Ballet redid their Sleeping Beauty, and Royal Ballet redid all of their classics plus added the full length Alice in Wonderland.

As ballet companies are trying to survive, their audiences are getting bored and leaving empty seats. Artistic Directors have failed to see the bigger picture (read more about my anger at artistic directors here), and the boards of directors are static, demanding, and stuck in tradition. Ballet as an institution seems to be falling apart. Ironically, dancers are becoming savvy, and multifaceted: becoming choreographers, starting their own projects, and using social media to change the fate of their careers. (Example: Misty Copeland and her campaigns for Blackberry, Prince, Under Armor, and Diet Dr. Pepper. She isn’t the only one.) 

Solution: Progress. As ballet is in a flux, and we are in a heightened state of choreographers… companies should take more risks in hiring unknown names. City Ballet’s Justin Peck was the perfect example. I admire Peter Martins for his faith in his company and the potential of his dancers. PNB has slowly started making the progression by allowing their company members to choreograph on students. Regardless, progress has to be made in the repertory category. Even if the works don’t survive, and are only for one season, at least it is something new. Yes choreographer’s fees are expensive, but so is the restaging of the classics. SPEND YOUR MONEY BETTER!

Dancers used to have the state of mind of staying at one company their whole life, slowly working their way to principal. But, because artistic directors have messed that progression up, dancers now look at companies for their repertory. Who do they want to dance with, what choreographers can they work with, how can they expand their vocabulary. They didn’t do a million tendus to stand in the back as a corps member, or to be in boots prancing around in mazurkas… Dancers train ridiculously hard, doing the most impossible of things for what?? To be placed in the back as a courtier in the Sleeping Beauty? To maybe dance waltz in Nutcracker? What was the point of it all then?

There is only room for one Juliet… when your company has 30 or more extremely talented, artistic women… #justsayin

New works give a chance for the entire company to dance. Trust me, in every company there are many corps dancers who are under utilized. I think this is why dancers are not having long careers with companies, they are bored. They didn’t see the point of it all. Why practice doing pirouettes if you are never going to turn on stage? It is sad to say, but if artistic directors don’t start making better choices for their companies, I am afraid that Ballet Companies are going to be on their way out, and Dance Projects, Guest Galas (like Vail), and such will be taking over. Dancers will at least have the chance to do it all, and with different people, and at least they are excited…

The Reach…

impossible

 

There is this thing in ballet that inspires us all, there is a quality that everyone is inspired by, and there is a moment in everyone’s career that defines us as an artist, not a dancer. It is the reach. When we are younger the reach is towards technique, reaching towards perfection, the impossible. We idolize primas, and youtube videos, and we strive for that idea of perfection. Somewhere down the line, either at a professional school or early years in a company we see a quality that is possessed by mature dancers and the reach towards artistry stands outs, the idea of being promoted, and the reach seems a lot shorter. Finally, when performing and you realize you have to reach inside yourself as a human being and bring it to the surface.  

It is always about this reach… In school, I remember being in a very large fourth position, and my ballet coach telling me to reach in the position, making it longer, more exciting, more elegant. 

Then in a company, I remember rehearsing in the corps, and I would watch principals, and mimic their quality. 

Finally, once I had my first lead role, I remember my coach telling me I had to reach inside. It wasn’t just about being musical, or having superb musicality, it was about making ballet human: relatable. 

So, how does one inspire the next generation to reach?

The Ballet Feuds…

ballet wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuttgart vs. Hamburg, the German showdown 

Bolshoi vs Mariinsky (old rivalry but a goodie)

National Ballet of Canada vs Royal Winnipeg… Canadian Syrup Fight

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

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

The Race for Balanchine’s Spot in History… replacing Mr. B

replacing balanchine

The 20th Century had George Balanchine, among other great choreographers (You may start reaming me now for using Balanchine as my choreographer of the 20th Century…) But since Balanchine, Massine, and the Diaghilev/ Ballets Russes eras… Who has filled their shoes? Who will be the next choreographer to go down in history and have a repertory that will survive generations. In retrospect, as NYCB has no dancer currently dancing who ever danced for Balanchine, officially closing an era, and hoping that the repertory lives on… I move on to my point… Who, in 50 years will we be able to see their ballets/works that were created for this generation of dancers. John Cranko has Onegin, which will probably live forever. Sir Kenneth Macmillan has his set of ballets, all stemming from restaged versions… which still prove to be box office hits, as Queensland Ballet banked 1.1 Million in box office sales this week off of his dreamy version of Romeo and Juliet. (Literally, this week) Antony Tudor has his ballets… but more specifically La Dame aux camélias The Jerome Robins ballets will live forever, I hope. Jiří Kylián has a works, but his legacy of Petite Mort seems to be the survivor. The Forsythe ballets, in the Middle, Somewhat Elevated is a ballet that a million dancers dream about performing… A more recent choreographer John Neumeier has a plethora of works, but I think his stand out is the Little Mermaid. (honorable mention to Robert Joffrey, and Peter Martins’ ballets will live on through NYCB, though I really haven’t found one I am lovin… especially after that Romeo+Juliet disaster…) There are probably a few more that fit into that category of choreographers… But, what I am more excited about is the slew of choreographers right now who are building a very extensive repertory around the world. 🙂

There are the front runners…

Former director of the Bolshoi (good starting point if you ask me), Alexei Ratmansky.

14RATMANKSY2_SPAN-articleLarge

 

Benjamin Millepied, mentored by Jerome Robbins, former principal at NYCB, and now director of dance for Paris Opera Ballet… not bad…. (Natalie Portman’s baby daddy…okay, husband)

Then there is the ever popular Christopher Wheeldon, who won a gold medal at the Prix de Lausanne, was a soloist for NYCB. His ever popular works are growing and growing, his full length ballets are always so beautiful and so thoughtful.

The Movement Explorers

lines ballet repertory

Power duo Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson have made a cozy little spot for themselves in the contemporary world, but I also think have very strong ballets. Alonzo King would fit into this category too… but I don’t really see any other companies performing his repertory, granted most of them can only be performed with asian warriors, african tribal drummers, and beautifully mastered props/sets. (By the way, most of my favorite works are contemporary works.)

And two very unexpected, very young talents….

Justin Peck has created gorgeous ballets for NYCB, and he is definitely on the rise for becoming a stand out choreographer, and he is still a soloist at NYCB, so young and just named resident choreographer… The only other person who has held that title at NYCB is Christopher Wheeldon.

On the west coast, Myles Thatcher at San Francisco Ballet, a corps member seems to be making a splash in the ballet world as well with his choreography for SFB’s student showcases. Again another very young, very talented man. Liam Scott for ABT is about to do another world premier for their new season.

There is also the rise of the choreographers coming from PNB.

I am sure I left off a million other names both current and past, and future…. but these are who I am excited for. It is exciting and scary at the same time to think that the direction of ballet is changing so fast, and so rapidly. What category of a ballet once was the Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, joined by Rodeo, Serenade and Afternoon of the Faun, has now been joined by in the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Petit Mort, and Bolero. See I added De Mille and Roland Petit, Nureyev and others… Now the question is, whose repertory will be so vast and diverse, as well as survive generations?

1362686736654

Mauro Bigonzetti’s Reflections Project for Bolshoi

Collegiate Program Rankings…. (US LIST)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So you think you are a dancer?

Dancer

to move your body in a way that goes with the rhythm and style of music that is being played… Webster dictionary.

Unfortunately, that now groups the following into the same professional category: gogo boys, strippers, ballet dancers, and any schmo who prances around tells people he is a danseur. This unfortunately makes for the awkward conversation when out and about, or possibly dating and you are asked the question, “What do you do for a living?”

If you respond with dancer you might get the awkward face as a response, or a creepy face which is usually followed up with, “So you are flexible?”

Alas, we are all resulted with the term ballet dancer. Some might say your ranking, being a principal ballet dancer is kind of the equivalent of the title Dr. 

Problems gets run into because the word dancer has such a vast volume that encompasses profession. So, what makes a dancer a dancer? Is it being fierce? Because right off the back, that term is used waaaaaaay to loosely, and usually refers to tricksters. Is it based on having a job? Being a stripper is a job. Artistic Merit? That is subjective, like this blog. Technical Achievement? By what standard since Sophia Luccia can do a billion pirouettes turned in and in tap shoes. Frankly, she can do almost anything barefoot as well. How would you define the profession of a dancer besides holding a contract? What makes once dancer better than another cross genre, profession, and style?

Tu-two or three-three… size does matter?

It is about the quality of movement… It is about what you can bring to the company and how you fit in as an artist…

That is just some of the bull shit that you might hear an artistic director spew while he makes a speech before giving an audition class. Reality check, it is about the body, as ballet is art with your body. I wish more directors would just own up to it and say, “This is exactly what I am looking for… (insert requirements).”

Now, if you think this post is going to be about being fat or thin, your quite wrong. In fact this is just a comparison of male body types in ballet and how they have changed through out the decades… kind of.

nijinsky_faun

Nijinsky. 5’5″

0302_damboise-dancer-e1299075921341

Jacques d’Amboise, 5’9″

baryshnikov

Baryshnikov, 5’6″

Peter Martins 6’2″

Roberto Bolle 6’1″

What did all of these men have in common? Besides that they are all leading men? Charisma and solid technique. I could have listed any such length of men, but unfortunately time is against me today. I have a date this evening. Now, with this being said, you have to have a leading man for a leading lady. It is a common misconception about the height requirement in ballet because companies varies. ABT is known for the extremely short corps, the average being around 5’4″, while NYCB corps varies because of the repertory being so vast. The same for the women of Paris Opera, and the Bolshoi. (It’s funny because I work in fashion now and the body type requirement is a lot stricter than ballet…) I think the most important thing when it comes to body types this is what is looked at… male or female:

Body Proportion… and no I am not talking about the ridiculous proportions of Bolshoi, or the craziness that is talked about the Balanchine body type… I am just saying, tight waist, long legs, pretty neckline. More important than height and proportion though are hyper extended legs, feet that beautifully arched, hyper mobile backs, turned out hips, and charisma.

I recently saw a video of a male dancer from National Ballet of Cuba, and not only does he have beautiful legs, and is ridiculously flexible, or the fact that he can do amazing tricks…. He was so charismatic… His version of the Don Q variation was so playful, so youthful, and slightly cocky… A very good Basilio…

With that being said, I do think that male body type in ballet has drastically changed. What was once the classic strong V, with thick thighs look has now thinned out and has made way for the thinner men now. Roberto Bolle’s body is like… yummy times ten, but Daniil Simkin, Taras Dimitro, now older Ethan Stiefal, and looking back at Jose Martinez and Mannuel Legris from POB. You might all murder me, and send me more hateful messages, but at this pointe (haha pun intended) I could careless.

Clearly I have offended some people… #sorrynotsorry

Like I said, this blog isn’t for everyone, it is a point of view and perspective… Fact… most ballet companies are made up of people who have come from their school. Fact… Houston is a great company for Texas… Fact: Orlando is a great school for Orlando, and Fact: Smaller schools are great for their associated companies… Fact: My comparison was based on how many dancers are successfully placed, in terms of volumes. Feeding your company with a school is great, but the reality is a company can’t hire every graduate… So where else do they go…. Yes, I totally think Houston is an amazing company, and no I am not misinformed but compared to Boston Ballet and San Francisco, IN MY OPINION, there is a huge difference in training and results… 

If you are upset, or find my list horrible and awful… Make your own blog. No one forced you to read mine. Thanks.

Also, for those of you who decided to send e-mails cursing… Super Mature…. I am sure there are hundreds of lists out there that vary, go curse someone else out. If you are associated with a company and school….  that is even worse.

Thanks for reading 🙂

And the prize goes to…. Not you.

And the winner of this year’s (enter competition) goes to… (a name that is not yours)

Singapore Genee International Ballet Competition

The Competition in ballet is stiff.

From a young age we develop a natural since of competition, call it… survival of the fittest. We naturally compare things, and ask why. The development is natural…. Now, apply it to ballet or any sport, and that “instinct” becomes crazy, psychotic, self-defeating, and neurotic trait…

So, you might be thinking this post is about ballet competitions, but it really isn’t. It is about rejection. Unfortunately, there are thousands of dancers each year competing for very few jobs. First off, if you didn’t get the job, didn’t make it through a round of auditions and got cut, or if you lost… If the first thing you think is, “She didn’t deserve it.” Or, “Why did she get it? She isn’t even that good.” You probably have no business being a ballet dancer, and you are probably an awful person. 

So, where does this all begin… Oh yeah, the classroom. Remember when you were the best at your small school, and your teacher would say, “Little (insert your name) please demonstrate the combination.” Back then everyone would watch you, and you would still hang out. Little did you know they hated you, and probably called you teacher’s pet behind your back. Then, you end up a professional or pre professional school and you are the new kid, and probably one of the worst ones there. At this phase you are constantly comparing yourself to others. “Is my leg as high as hers? Am I turned out as much as she is.” And then you see that someone has ridiculous feet and you are like FML… Yup… Then you are constantly looking at yourself and others. You make lifelong friends at these prestigious schools, and then sometime during Junior/Senior year… You realize… We are all competing for the same jobs, and those lifelong friends are now in the same room auditioning as you. All of those comparisons you had in class became a reality and you are fighting… 

Sometime later in life, you realize that it wasn’t about the competition with others, and you should have spent more time competing with yourself. Perfecting your craft, your body, and exploring your artistry. I look at the little prodigy Daniil Simkin who was trained privately his whole life, and it did him good. I wonder if more dancers were trained privately if they would be more successful? (insert comments below)

Now, you didn’t get the job, or you didn’t win the gold medal… now what? It is time re-evaluate what just happened. At a ballet competition, they are truly looking for the most potential a student has to offer. Potential being categorized as technique, facility, musicality. As an adult, and someone seeking a ballet job… No one really cares about how much potential you have… They care about where you are at in your artistic career and what you have to offer. This is all based on strength, consistency, artistry, and a solid technique. Now, if you have all those things, and you didn’t get the job… You need to look at what the director was looking for.

Unfortunately, a repertory season is planned prior, and so the director already knows how many dancers he needs and can afford for his company. (Give or take second company members, apprentices and top level trainees.) Most people forget during an audition that there are very few limited spaces, and if a director has one spot open, he/she probably knows exactly who they are looking for. 

So, what can you do? Keep training until next season, throw in the towel and go to college, or you can restructure yourself as a dancer. I think the third is always the best option. It isn’t that I doubt your training, but if you consistently keep doing the same thing over and over, you aren’t going to grow as an artist, or change as a person, or refine much of anything. Restructuring yourself as a dancer means approaching your technique differently, changing your thought process at barre and center, figuring out new ways to hear music, and changing the quality of your dancing. These types of things makes a dancer better, versatile and adaptable. Teachers always ask for very specific things, and sometimes we don’t follow them, not on purpose, just because we have been doing it a different way our whole lives, and we miss that special nuance that might make or break your audition.

Also, I believe that if you want to dance, there is a place for you. Your dream might have been New York City Ballet, but maybe you didn’t have the right body type that Peter Martins was looking for that year. Then, maybe PNB, Miami and San Fran only were looking for boys. But most people don’t think of looking at regional companies, even if it is just for a season… like Cincinnati, Sacramento, and Nevada Ballet Theatre. Which, you just might be perfect for. You really never know. After a year at a smaller company, and restructure your dancing… you might just end up at San Fran or Houston. Or, you might end up loving the smaller company, and dance lead roles in two years, which at a bigger company you might never get to dance. Regardless, rejection is going to happen, but it is how you deal with it that makes you a stronger dancer. Whether you are a student and didn’t get into a school or summer program, if you are trying to get a job in a company, you competed and lost, or you are in a company and didn’t get cast for a role, the point is… it happens… Embrace it.

Too many Claras… and every little girl’s dream

The Dream of Becoming a Prima Ballerina…

It is sad to say that this is my first substantial post, a reality check for those who are starting to enter the world of dance. Unfortunately, or fortunately the world of dance has become over-saturated with dancers. This means there are too many dancers and not enough jobs. It seems that when a young girl goes to see the Nutcracker, they instantly want to be Clara or the Sugar Plum Fairy, and so the first seed of ballet is planted into their hearts. This is a great desire and passion, and I think it is very important to expose all children, male or female, to music, dance and art. So then, parents enroll their students at a dance studio, and by age thirteen when the child realizes they really want to be a dancer, it is most likely too late.


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Some version in Indiana

Too Many Claras…. Now, it is funny as Clara in the Nutcracker is the main character, or the heroine, but in most versions she doesn’t dance at all. Reality is, Sugar Plum Fairy is the one you want to be. Problem? There are just too many Claras… Unfortunately in the world of ballet, the Sugar Plum Fairy Pas De Deux is reserved for principals and if you are in a regional company, it is usually danced by one or maybe two casts. There are usually 4-6 girls cast as Clara, as a way to sell tickets… What parent doesn’t want to say, “My daughter is Clara in the Nutcracker.” Sooo, let us do the math…. If the role of Clara goes to a girl age 9-13 who shows outstanding promise and great acting abilities, and there are six of them, when those girls become 22-28 who will get cast as Sugar Plum? The reality is harsh… But, when you do become a Sugar Plum, it is totally worth it.


What does this mean? Most parents don’t take the time to research ballet, ballet studios or how the ballet world really works. FACT: A dance studio is not the same as a dance school and is not the same as a performing arts school and is not the same as a ballet school.

A Dance Studio is a recreational place to dance, which means you are there for exercise, exposure to music and the idea of technique.

A Dance School is a recreational place to dance with higher performance expectancy. A dance school usually can also be called a competition studio, or a performance studio. This is where technique matters, but not to the extent of creating a career. This is more for commercial dance route, the Hollywood route, and the scholarships to a UDA college route.

A Performing Arts School is a place for children to develop the fine/performing arts to a greater extent. Most kids in these schools aren’t just out to be ballet dancers, but instead they are also on their way to become a triple threat. BROADWAY BOUND. Performing arts schools usually offer more than just ballet, but modern, contemporary, voice lessons, acting lessons, and so forth.

A Ballet School is a place for children to studio pure ballet. Regardless of the pedagogy, it is completely ballet based, and the emphasis is only on ballet technique with supplemented curriculum of modern, contemporary and occasionally jazz.

So, the best way to insure your child’s future in dance is to make sure you are at the right school for your child. There is nothing wrong with any of these schools, or approaches to dance, but they will basically be the deciding factor of how your child will be received in dance.


So, your daughter was Clara?

Insuring your child has the best chance he or she may need in BALLET. You want to be a good parent, but you don’t know what to do? You think oh, is it even possible? Is my child good enough? Ballet dancers don’t make that much (which is a lie, it just depends where you get a job, like any career).  This is not an endorsement to any school in particular, please just go with the scenario. There are few jobs for ballerinas these days, and it seems one of the only ways to get noticed is to go to a legit ballet competition…. True and False… The reality is that those who go to these huge international competitions and do well are on the fast track to become principal dancers AKA sugarplum fairies. BUT, that doesn’t mean that your child isn’t going to make it. There are hundreds of companies that hold tons of ranks, and so your child just might be a snowflake, or a divertissement. Now, it is more important to decide how your child is going to get there… that is when the school your child is at should be evaluated.

The 2014-2015 season… well the ballet season…

And so it begins… the 2014-2015 season of ballet is coming up, literally just a few months away which means two things: pre-ticket sales, and promotions. Okay, so if you don’t know the ballet calendar it goes something like the following, it kind of mirrors the academic school year:

2014 September – November (Fall/Winter Season)

2014 December – (Nutcracker Season)

2015 January – Mid March (Audition Season, for those who are going to summer programs or looking to join a company.)

2015 January – May (Spring Season)

2015 June – August (Summer Programs for those who are still students, and off season for those in a company, or touring season)

A large company will go through 8-20 different programs a season, a regional company may go through 4 programs. A program is basically a run of a ballet, like a mini show. For example: Nutcracker is a program which might run from November-December and have various casts.


Now, to the actual post… the 2014-2015 season has been announced across the board and well there are some pretty awesome things planned across the world in terms of ballet. American Ballet Theatre, also known as ABT is celebrating their 75 anniversary. For those NYCB (New York City Ballet) fans, a huge season is planned with tons of new premiers, as well as the retiring of the legendary Wendy Whelan. Oregon Ballet Theatre hits their 25th anniversary. Paris Opera Ballet is staging a massive repertory, like always. This time under Natalie Portman’s baby daddy Benjamin Millepied as director of dance…. If you haven’t purchased your season tickets, now is the time to do it, as they are discounted greatly.


Now it is time for the rant…. This was all started because Royal Ballet, that is housed at Covent Garden in London, released their promotions list, and to my surprise on the new hires… Natalia Osipova. Don’t get me wrong, I love her. She is a beast. She is crazy talented and beautiful. I just saw her and Ivan at OCPAC. Super beautiful… BUUUUUT really Royal Ballet? There are so many talented individuals in your company who have been waiting to be promoted… my personal favorite Yuhui Choe, and I am just not saying this because she is Korean. And yes, I was totally rooting for Hee Seo at ABT. Regardless, Royal Ballet, that holds their nose in the air to most ballet pedagogies, who prides themselves on being a part of tradition just sold out… The hiring of ballet superstars isn’t to increase the artists creativity, the reality is, it is to increase revenue sales (which I get, I am a business man). I am not blaming anyone in particular, aka the board, the politics within the company, I am actually blaming the artistic director… It is sad that an artistic director doesn’t have faith in their company members to be brilliant enough to fill seats. Shame on you. Kevin McKenzie at ABT, I have been over you since I was like 12. Now Royal Ballet’s fresh from 2012, Kevin O’Hare… that is just so depressing. Boo on you. I am totally bashing Royal Ballet right now because their lack of faith in their company members. This in turn goes into my praise to artistic director’s at Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and I hope they make bigger Ballet Arizona. It is sad to think that in order to become a principal dancer you will have to change companies. Whether this is to step down a little and go to a smaller company, or to “trade” companies like a baseball player. How can you cultivate talent, and grow as an artist if you are never given the chance to prove yourself. And when you do get that chance, if you are torn apart by a critic, your chance will be shot to hell? (aka Sascha Redetsky, Jared Mathews, Stella Abrera, Kristi Boone, okay so maybe all of the older soloists at ABT..)

A Ballet Education… It’s just not tutus and tiaras… Seriously

So, I told myself no more blogs. You have enough already, and they are already difficult to manage.(Yellow Like Asian) Then, I reminded myself I don’t have a free blog, and I don’t have a wordpress. This was enough to convince me to go for it. This blog is to educate aspiring dancers, audience go-ers, parents and other dancers on what is, and what is happening in the ballet world… AKA it is me ranting and raving about ballet. 

As any first blog post, I should introduce myself. My name is David (personal site), and I LOVE BALLET. No, I am not some crazed fan, or gay man with some over the top extravagant lifestyle. In fact, I do have some legitimacy here. I grew up dancing ballet, and not just at a some dolly dinkle studio in podunk America. I actually went through the entire ballet process, and become a professional ballet dancer. In addition, I have taught ballet, and other genres of dance on many different levels across the United States. Finally, my entire curriculum for teaching is based off Cassa Pancho’s All Things Black and Beautiful and the Balanchine Aesthetic. Finally, I am embarking on starting my own ballet company, Redlands Dance Theatre, click here for more info.

I’m not sure where this blog is going to go, but I can tell you what it isn’t going to be:

1. It isn’t going to be me bitching and complaining companies I dislike in general. (Trust and believe there are a lot I dislike)

2. It is definitely not going to be advice to get into a company. (A Guide… maybe)

3. It probably won’t be a blog slamming eating disorders, cocaine and drinking. (Not that I condone those things.)

4. It is not going to be me sitting on a high horse and just saying things for the sake of saying things… That is why we have artistic directors, haha that was a joke. I will give explanations and so forth. 

5. I will not be associated with youtub-ing, posting on IG, or even tweeting… I already have too many to manage.

Now, I can tell you what I want the blog to be:

INFORMATIVE, an education.

INSPIRATIONAL, a future.

INSIGHTFUL, a perspective.

INTRIGUING, a personality.

(If you can’t tell, I totally do PR and Marketing.)