We all know that ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts in the 15th center, or at least we should. Famously, as ballet history and folklore goes, Catherine de’ Medici brought ballet to France when she married the second son of the King of France. A fourteen-year-old girl, not of royal blood, is responsible for the future of ballet. How exciting, right? We are now illustrating and animating fun videos on the instagram as we go through the ballet timeline and look back at how ballet progressed.
Category Archives: Technique
Ballet Vocabulary of the Day: Cabriole Fermée
Cabriole Fermée: a step that very few people use in class, but pops up in random variations like the first variation in Le Corsaire’s Odalisque Pas de Trois. Cabriole fermée is basically, well, a closed cabriole. But what makes a cabriole fermée so impressive? Simple. It is four leg movements in two counts or less, usually. While cabrioles might be reserved for moderato jumps or grand allegro, cabriole fermée is often used in petit allegros, and because of the quick closure to fifth, it makes the inner thigh work even more.
Check out this step performed inside a variation. Bolshoi’s Ana Turazashvili in Le Corsaire.
Cross – Training Deep Dive : Rhythmic Gymnastics
Elena Baltovick, Owner of President of Emerald City Rhythmics and Program Director Danceology’s Academy of Classical Ballet (DACB)
EXPERTISE: Rhythmic Gymnastics and Classical Ballet
Website: Emerald City Rhythmics and Danceology
Ballet Training: National Choreographic Ballet School of Ukraine
Professional Career: The National Theatre of Opera and Ballet
Education: Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in Connecticut, graduating with honors in the Vaganova Method and The University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music and Ballet Pedagogy, cum laude
Credentials: certified rhythmic gymnastics coach, President of Emerald City Rhythmics, founding coach of the Aesthetic Group Gymnastics (AGG) Junior National Team based in San Diego, CA, currently ranked 1st in North America and 7th worldwideSpecialties: strengthening, conditioning, flexibility, and agility, and synthesizes her knowledge of rhythmic gymnastics and classical ballet while coaching her students.
Cross-training is not new to students of classical ballet, or other physical activities with an artistic influence. Sports like gymnastics and figure skating have been known to have their athletes train in classical ballet to support the fluidity of movement. Many students of classical ballet find themselves in debt to rhythmic gymnastics for their flexibility and strength. Ballet is a line-oriented art form, and rhythmic gymnastics is known for the explosive lines that its athletes must create to achieve their skills. Therefore, there is no surprise that these two industries frequently encounter overlap.
We have seen articles in the New York Times celebrating Ballet’s contributions to gymnastics and the labeling of classical ballet as one of the bases for rhythmic gymnastics. With the rise of reels and TikTok, we are getting bite-size pieces of young dancers like Crystal Huang and Izzy Howard, who are openly cross-training in Rhythmic Gymnastics in addition to their dance work.
There are scientific reasons for dancers to consider this cross-training. In a study on Ekaterina Selezneva, an Olympic rhythmic gymnast, her level of physical fitness was tested in comparison to other elite Olympic athletes. The gymnast surprised researchers by demonstrating above-average interactions in almost all tasks. Ekaterina had great stamina both long and short term and muscular endurance, giving insight to the strength and capability of rhythmic gymnasts.
Rachel Cossar is a former dancer with Boston Ballet who trained in rhythmic gymnastics before crossing into classical ballet. She spent 10 years on the Canadian national rhythmic gymnastics team before deciding to pursue ballet. Her gorgeous long lines and extension helped her to successfully cross into the ballet world.
It is rare to find one person with extensive knowledge in both the world of ballet and rhythmic gymnastics. But we find this in Elena Baltovick. Elena Baltovick is the owner of Emerald City Rhythmics and Program Director Danceology’s Academy of Classical Ballet (DACB) where she trains students in both areas. Having studied extensively in both ballet and rhythmic gymnastics, Elena is an expert on blending these two worlds. She shares her insights on ballet and rhythmic gymnastics.
Pros of training in Rhythmic Gymnastics
- Rhythmic gives beautiful flexibility. When classical ballet dancers begin cross-training in this sport, they can gain beautiful visual lines.
- Rhythmic also gives dancers the strength to hold their legs longer and higher in the air. It strengthens the muscles in the back and legs as well.
Concerns of training in Rhythmic Gymnastics
- If the body becomes too overstretched, a dancer can begin to look like you are a rhythmic gymnast on stage and not an artist.
- Overstretching has the potential to lead to lots of injuries. When one either overstretches or does not provide conditioning in addition to the stretching that is done for rhythmic gymnastics, it leads to back injuries or hip flexor injuries.
ABM adds: like any athletes, rhythmic gymnasts risk overuse/strain injuries or traumatic/immediate injuries. Injuries may include: ankle sprain, patellofemoral pain syndrome, medial tibial stress syndrome, compromised spine, or even broken vertebrae.
Suggestions and Solutions
To train properly and prevent injury, Elena emphasizes conditioning AND strengthening. She shares that “all dance educators need to find the fine line between stretching the body to create the visual lines and protecting the body of your student.” Conditioning of the body plays a huge role in a dancer’s ability to stay in a state of artistic expression while still performing extremely difficult choreography. When done properly and safely, Elena believes “rhythmic gymnastics training exercises have a unique way of hyperextending the legs that is really beautiful.”
As ballet technique continues to evolve with requiring even more intense movements we will also continue to see the demand by our audiences to push the boundaries of what artists are capable of as athletes. In the pursuit of the next hurdle, ballet will inevitably have to stay open to the possibility of collaborating with different perspectives on movement. Rhythmic gymnastics has become a staple training in American ballet pedagogy, following in the footsteps of pilates and Gyrotonic. The important thing to take away in any cross-training for ballet students and educators is the extent to which that training safely balances and enhances the movements of classical ballet.
The Throwback that Inspires
Then and Now
Competition season is about to begin at the end of this month. So what is better than seeing some of our favorite professional dancers who went from competition to classical ballet.
Principal dancer at Ballet West
“Doing competitions helped me prepare for the professional ballet world in many ways. I learned to pick up choreography very quickly. I learned what it’s like to be on a stage a lot and to feel comfortable performing. I started doing competitions when I was 3 years old, so it felt like second nature after a while. It also helped with my competitive side which has helped and been a disadvantage at the same time.”
principal dancer at Pacific Northwest Ballet
“If someone were to tell my young self I would become a professional ballet dancer, I would have never believed them. I grew up immersed in the competition dance world in my hometown of Plymouth, Minnesota. It was not until I spent a summer at the Juilliard Summer Intensive at age 15 that I learned what life as a professional dancer even looked like. That summer, I was what felt like the most behind student in my technical abilities. This was the catalyst that pushed me to dive deeper into my ballet training when I returned home, and ultimately lead me on my path to becoming a Principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time frustrated by this notion of feeling behind in comparison to other dancers. I constantly compared myself, and remember thinking “if I only had this, or that, or danced here, or taught by that teacher, I would be better off”. Upon reflection, I wish I could have seen that my experiences shaped a path that made me unique and special, but I guess that is what retrospect is for.
The numerous performing opportunities, exposure to various dance genres, and cultivating a love of dance are things I credit to those early competitive days and furthermore have become strengths in my professional career. Every dancer is climbing their own uphill battle. The sooner I accepted the hand I was dealt and focused on my own path, the sooner I was able to start that climb. Ultimately the journey and personal triumphs have proven to be the most fulfilling moments in this beautiful, difficult, fulfilling, unfair, fleeting, and wonderful life as a dancer.
Classically trained ballerina, transitioned to Broadway
Website: http://kellyloughran.comReel : https://vimeo.com/153684061
“My transition to Broadway from the classical ballet world was a very full-circle moment for me. I dreamt of Broadway since I first saw “Sweet Charity” when I was ten years old. My mom knew my love for dance and enrolled me in every single class available at our local dance school. Thankfully my ballet teacher at the time, Tara Hench, recognized my passion and steered me in the direction of a more serious school: Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. It was there that I realized I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to be a professional dancer. I spent five years training under the direction of Marcia Dale Weary & slowly my dream of being a Broadway dancer morphed into the dream of being a professional ballet dancer. I worked at this dream tirelessly and it simply felt like I was knocking on a door that wouldn’t open. After another unsuccessful year of auditioning for ballet companies, I moved to NYC and rediscovered jazz dance! I slowly started auditioning for musical theatre shows while simultaneously auditioning for ballet companies. I found that not only did I have more success in a musical theatre audition but also that I had much more joy in this department! I felt free to really express myself and reconnect with that kid who had those starry eyes for the Broadway stage. Within a couple years of training vocally and building my musical theatre resume, my childhood dream came true and I made my Broadway debut with “The Phantom of the Opera”. I am so grateful to my ballet training for giving me the tools to achieve this dream. But I am even more grateful for the people in my life who encouraged an open-mind and an open-heart so that I could rediscover my love for Broadway.”
Dancer with Bayerisches Staatsballett Muchen
Former dancer with English National Ballet
Winner of Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Prize at Prix de Lausanne 2018
“I learned how to dance thanks to competitive dance. It is a blessing to be able to throw yourself into movement and expression so freely at a young age without the fear and limitation of being “correct” so to speak. It is so important to feel your inner dialogue and artistry as a young dancer because you are building your truth from those early years which will give you so much understanding for classical ballet later on. I’m so grateful to have started on this path. To all of the young dancers who might feel frustrated about starting in an unconventional way and feeling like they have to relearn dance when starting ballet, just remember that you have gained so much from your path and that will ultimately aid you in becoming the dancer that you have always dreamt to be.”
A Ballet Education Teacher Workshop July 10-11, 2023Product on sale
Social Media CampaignsProduct on sale
Online Digital Marketing WorkshopProduct on sale
Building Your Brand (marketing part 1)Product on sale
THE PAQUITA FILES: Notes on Variation 2-ish
The Paquita Files: Notes on Variation 2ish
The Paquita Files are dedicated to the variations in, around and associated with Paquita. This wonderful ballet is full of information and discovery and we wanted to start helping coach you through these variations.
Balletomanes and ballet historians will argue the ballet Paquita, from now until the end of eternity. The ballet as whole has a long history of revivals, revisions, surrounded by the legends and stories of prima donnas of the times. Paquita today is probably most affiliated with competition and European companies, because the ballet contains tons of principal female variations that show off very different elements of the ballet vocabulary and the range of dynamics within the ballet technique.
One of my favorite variations to coach is the the Paquita Variation from Ondine. This waltz variation is often overlooked because it is short and dancers often think that it doesn’t show off enough at ballet competition. WRONG. Totally wrong. All Wrong.
If you are going off of the Spassov CD via iTunes and Spotify, you might refer to this as variation 2 by Pouni, and argued spelling and actual credit to the variation and choreography aside, this variation is one of my favorite variations to coach, watch, and stage.
Originally this variation is from The Naiad and the Fisherman also known as Ondine. Ondine is a romantic ballet in three acts and five scenes with music by Cesare Pugni and Libretto by Jules Perrot. It premiered June 22, 1843 with Fanny Cerrito as the lead. Only part of the choreography comes from this original ballet, the rest has been modified to accommodate the style of Paquita.
The opening can include a daringly long balance in the a la seconde, followed by these beautiful sauté pas de bourrés the other direction. If you have the ability to edit the track, lengthen the silence for as long as you can hold the balance. If you are not good at balancing the a la seconde, but you have leg up…. Speed it up!
In the next section, no matter how many beats you do, make sure you extend the leg fully from the coup-de-pied derriere position. It always bothers me when the leg doesn’t fully straighten when stepping behind yourself. Another tip is to over cross the attitude front so that your legs look the longest possible, and your waist look synched up.
Then, the variation’s show stopper is the ending as dancers will decide between sissone penche to passé on pointe, Italian fouettés, or fouetté turns. Whichever one you decide, BE CLEAN!!!!
Here are some of the world’s most talented ballerinas dancing this variation!
Do you need help with this variation? Schedule a virtual private coaching session with us! Click here to schedule.
BIG NEWS! A Ballet Education is coming to Los Angeles FULL-TIME!
Wow. We are beyond thrilled to announce that The Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) will be launching a new full-time day program for pre-professional ballet that will be directed and ran by A Ballet Education and The Ballet Clinic! Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought this would be a thing, but here it is! DADA on Pointe brought to you by A Ballet Education! Working for the legend, Kennedy Center Award winning, dance icon Debbie Allen is mind-blowing.
ATTENTION LOS ANGELES!
DADA ON POINTE! A new full-time ballet day program brought to you by Debbie Allen and A Ballet Education‘s David King and Ashley Baker at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. We are looking for 24 dancers to join this new elite program in Los Angeles starting this fall!
AUDITION LIVE IN PERSON via DADA & A BALLET EDUCATION MASTER CLASS!
NO PRESSURE! COME AND LEARN!
SATURDAY August 28, 2021 @ 1:00 pm
All ages, ladies and gentlemen welcome.
Audition fee $25. For dancers advanced on pointe, please take the entire audition on pointe.
For dancers with intermediate skills, please take barre on pointe.
Beginners, don’t worry about pointe shoes!
To sign up or if you have questions please contact David King at firstname.lastname@example.org Payments will be collected by DADA on the day of.
SIGN UP FOR THE AUDITION & MASTER CLASS!
What does the DADA ON POINTE program do?
This new program at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy is an all inclusive program to help young dancers of color excel in a career in classical ballet. This program covers everything from dance history, variations, pointe work, boys/mens class, stretch and conditioning, competition preparation, collegiate preparation, career counseling and includes 5 professional photoshoots (European audition photos, American audition photos, beginning of the year photos, exam photos, and graduation photos).
Friday Feels: Misa Kuranaga This One’s for you: A Ballet Playlist Inspired by the Pop Ballets We Love
The newest Prince album also drops today. So, we had to do more than just go crazy for Misa’s instagram. We officially have a Spotify for all your ballet inspired playlist needs starting with this one. Get your Friday morning off to a great start with A Ballet Education’s playlist inspired by everyone’s favorite Pop Ballets.
Enjoy all the ballets that inspired the playlist. Happy Friday!
Playlist (Ep) – Boston Ballet – William Forsthye – 2019
Billboards – Joffrey Ballet – Choreography Laura Dean – 1993
Rasta Thomas’ Rock the Ballet – Bad Boys of Dance – Choreography Rast Thomas and Adrienne Canterna 2008
BIG – Atlanta ballet – Choreography by Lauri Stallings – 2008
Blake Works 1 – Paris Opera Ballet – Choreography by William Forsythe – 2016
I Felt it Too – Dutch National Ballet – Choreography by Sedrig Verwoert – 2021
Cover photo English National Ballet dancing William Forsythe’s Playlist, photo courtesy of English National Ballet
English National Ballet in Forsythe’s Playlist (Track 1, 2). © Dave Morgan.
In 2018, choreographer William Forsythe created Playlist (Track 1, 2) for English National Ballet. Juxtaposing ballet classicism and athleticism with the beats of neo-soul and house music, it left the crowd whooping and wanting to join in. The ballet was later expanded in 2019 for Boston Ballet and was titled Playlist (EP). Playlist (EP) returns to English National Ballet for the 2022 Season.
#ThrowbackThursday: Katlyn Addison, Ballet West’s Newest Principal Dancer
As Ballet West dancers are in preparation for this coming season, the 2021 – 2022 season has already left its mark in Ballet West’s history. September 2020 cover model, Katlyn Addison will enter the Ballet West stage as the first non – Asian principal women in the companies history. Get to know Katlyn from our 2020 profile! This profile was photographed by Joshua Whitehead, current demi-soloist for Ballet West.
Joined Ballet West 2011
Katlyn is poised and reflective, with a focused determination and commitment to her career. I still remember one of my first conversations with Katlyn sitting around the rosin box in the middle of a performance. She had just joined Ballet West from Houston Ballet, and already expressed her goal of rising through the ranks at Ballet West. I have always been impressed by Katlyn’s confidence. This confidence and determination, as well as hard work and perseverance has served her well during her time at Ballet West.
Katlyn has made history as the third black ballerina in history to play the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, and was named one of “26 Black Female Choreographers and Dancers You Should Know” by Huffington Post. In fall 2019, Katlyn performed numerous leading roles with The Scottish National Ballet as a guest artist and received a multitude of positive reviews. Recently, she was one of many local artists to create a Black Lives Matter mural in Salt Lake City.
She is currently a first soloist at Ballet West, and has been asked to serve on the board of a new local non-profit organization here in Salt Lake City. She continues to tackle challenges head on whether they be on stage, teaching the next generation of dancers, or choreographing new works.
Adam Sklute, Ballet West’s Artistic Director, on Katlyn Addison
I actually worked for years to get Katlyn to Ballet West. I first saw her over a decade ago when she was just a young teenager competing at YAGP in order to get a work visa to work in the US. It was in Dallas, Texas and I offered her BWII on the spot. She was already going to be an apprentice at Houston Ballet. I followed her career and stayed in touch for years and when she was ready to come to Ballet West I welcomed her into the company with open arms. Katlyn is a beautiful, elegant, statuesque woman. She has a strong technique, clear line, and a huge jump. She projects a natural glamour and strength, combined with a regal femininity that made it clear to me that she was perfect for Ballet West.
Kat, as she becomes more confident, has emerged more and more as a clear leader in the organization. She was always a beautiful dancer with all the qualities I mentioned before but just this past year she blossomed and is not afraid to bare her soul on stage. She also has begun to own her mantle as a leading dancer with a sense of calm authority which I look for in my leading dancers. I was sorry that we had to cut this season short as she is on the verge of a huge leap. I can’t wait to get back to work with her and see her stage again.
Favorite Roles Katlyn has performed with Ballet West
Adam: “Russian” in Serenade, “The Woman” in The Green Table, “Myrthe” in Giselle.
Did you know from a young age you wanted to pursue ballet professionally?
When I was younger, my mother used to take my sister and I to annual Christmas performances of the Nutcracker at the National Ballet of Canada. During the Nutcracker performance apparently, I leaned over towards my mom and said, “I want to be that ballerina one day,” pointing to the Sugar Plum Fairy on stage. As cheesy as this story sounds, that’s what triggered me wanting to pursue ballet. Being a ballerina is hard work, and continuous training can provide you with the growth you need to be successful. I am driven by the daily challenges. Daily in classical ballet, I am constantly thinking about what I can improve. If it’s not my technique, it’s my artistry; if it’s not my artistry or technique, it’s the partnership of working with other dancers. There must be constant growth, it is not only external for us, but also the mental balance and positive motivation that has driven me this far into pursuing classical ballet as a profession.
Who were some of the ballerinas you idolized growing up?
I never idolized a ballerina. I did really love watching Karen Kain growing up, and Jaquel Andrews in my first few years dancing with Houston Ballet. What inspired me to join Houston Ballet was being able to finally see someone who looked like me, Lauren Andersonn, the first African American Principal ballerina who I was able to see perform. She has coached me, and still to this day, mentors me along this classical ballet journey of a career. She wasn’t an idol personally to me, but she definitely has inspired me in indescribable ways to continue to believe in my worth as a classical ballerina, and has helped me focus to keep pushing to become my best despite the odds as a woman of color in a classical ballet world.
How long have you been at Ballet West and where else have you danced? How has your professional experience been at the different companies?
I danced at Houston Ballet in the Corps de Ballet. Stanton Welch, the Artistic Director at Houston Ballet, hired me as a younger inexperienced dancer. Opportunities were limited to grow and build or develop my skill set. I was able to learn through viewing other dancers and built confidence for later opportunities. I would say I’ve had two different types of professional experiences: one was survival, and other artistry development. This is my 9th year working with Adam Sluke, Artistic Director of Ballet West. I am presently a First Soloist who believes actions speak louder than words, casting is what is needed for a ballerina to grow and develop. The opportunities I have had in my varied roles challenged my talent and developed my artistry. I have been selected for many roles to advance my career and develop my skills as a classical ballerina. But I am not just given these roles, I have to be disciplined, work hard, practice with individuals, groups and by myself to ensure I take advantage of all opportunities given. Every year or two since my arrival at Ballet West I have been promoted throughout the rankings in the company. I continue to focus on my goal of becoming a Principal ballerina and aim to display the artistry of every role and ballet I dance. My experiences with Houston Ballet and Ballet West have impacted and influenced my career and advancement in the ballet world.
How has Adam supported you in your career?
Adam has been very supportive in my career over the years. Since joining the company in 2011, Adam has promoted me in Ballet West artistic ranking every other year since 2013. Adam has cast me in roles that influence the community’s perceptions of Black Ballerinas. He supports, encourages, and provides the training I have needed to advance my career. His actions speak louder than words by promoting a woman of color in the classical ballet world, as it is not the norm. He has shown that the artistry of ballet can be performed by individuals regardless of their color.
Can you tell us about your experiences as a choreographer and what your choreographic process is like?
My experience as a choreographer has been tough at times, but it has been extremely rewarding to watch my peers perform something that has been manifesting within me over years and then become a full creation. At Ballet West I’ve been able to create two premiering ballets, The Hunt in 2017 and Hidden Voices in 2019. In 2019, I choreographed for the Utah Artist Festival. Two new pieces in 2015 and 2017 were done for ArtEmotion. In 2017, I created a piece for Ava Ballet Theater in Nevada. I hope to keep creating and allowing my choreographic voice to be heard through other opportunities. At this time, I do have something in the works but, unable to make it public. I am excited for the future to create a premiere on a beautiful group of local artists.
As I strive for uniqueness, my choreographic vision is constantly developing. I usually come into a creation with little to no expectations, allowing the music and dancers to lead each movement naturally from step to step. The spiritual part of dancing plays a huge role in my creative works. If I don’t feel something internally, I don’t create!
How would you like to see the ballet world change in terms of diversity, inclusion, and equity?
To change the ballet world would involve individuals with power and privilege to have anti-black racism training and address their bias so that young dancers are viewed with an anti-racist lens. Simply speaking, equity just means fair. The “look” of a ballerina in the ballet world can change if we allow different ethnicities to flourish. Classic Ballet is a very special, unique, privileged, specific style of dance. I love this art form because it’s so challenging and demanding. I think the people in power and authority in ballet schools, academies, and classical ballet companies need to examine why they’re primarily comprised of one race and ethnicity!
What forms of racism have you faced on your journey?
I have encountered many examples of systemic racism, individual racism, microaggressions, and racist comments on my journey. I would also ask everyone to look at the companies in the US. How many classical ballet companies have black Principal dancers, Artistic Directors, or even more than two black ballerinas in their company? It’s definitely something to look at and is not often addressed.
What’s your favorite movie?
My favourite movie is Love & Basketball.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I enjoy spending my free time sharing meals with friends, picnicking, and hanging out with my family and friends. I love cooking, hiking, horseback riding, trying new restaurants, and traveling the world! As cheesy as this sounds, being out in nature is truly my happy place and a place where my spirit feels free, restful, and rejuvenated.
What is the most courageous thing you have done in your life?
Hmmm, the most courageous thing I’ve ever done was cliff diving in Saint Lucia with some local individuals hours after meeting them…I can’t even tell you where they took my sister and I, but I do know it was gorgeous and we jumped off a crazy cliff into the Ocean!
Can you tell us about your time guesting with Scottish National Ballet? What did you get to perform and what was it like dancing for a company overseas?
Dancing overseas was such a unique experience, and created a hunger to continue sharing my artistry and movement all over the world! While with the Scottish National Ballet, in Glasgow, Scotland, I was able to perform two different world premier ballets. I danced the role of Titubia, in The Crucible, choreographed by Helen Pickett, and in Snow Queen choreographed by Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, I danced the leading role of the Snow Queen. Both were two totally different ballets. The Crucible, is based on Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, written in 1953. The role I danced technically wasn’t challenging, but the character of Tituba was very heavy, with many layers of artistry. The classical storybook ballet the Snow Queen, is a full length ballet, and the lead role is very layered and challenging to dance throughout two different acts. I have always heard that Europeans have a great appreciation for the arts and especially ballet. The audience certainly showed delight in my performances. It was a wonderful life experience sharing my artistry in another part of the world and receiving a lot of positive responses to my dancing.
What is your dream role or ballet to dance?
Honestly, I don’t have a particular dream role I’d like to do. I would just love to perform the leading role of a story book ballet, for example, Odette (white swan) in Swan Lake or Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, etc. That would be a dream come true.
What are some of your most memorable roles or performances?
When I think back on some memorable performances or dance roles I’ve dreamt of performing, I will never forget dancing, “Woman #4” in William Forsythe’s, In The Middle Somewhat Elevated. For this role I danced two solos and a pas de deux. It is a very meaty woman’s role to be featured in and so fun to dance! It was our last performance of the season and Ballet West was on tour in Dallas. It was 2015, and I was dancing the pas with my partner, Adrian Fry. It was my first principal role to perform on tour. If I was to describe the internal feeling I had while performing, I would say we just connected. Everything from the body movement, to the connection with my partner, every touch, glance, our steps just felt right. I remember feeling stretched to the limits and dancing so hard that both of our costumes were soaking wet with sweat. It just felt so exciting! When I think about these memories in my career, I think how lucky we are as dancers to have space on stage to be able to freely express ourselves in movement. It’s a very physical inner body experience. These memories remind me how much I love to dance and how grateful I am.
Another amazing memory was dancing Snow Queen in The Nutcracker for Ballet West in 2018. Rex Tilton was my partner, and four days before the performances Rex became a new father to his handsome son, Ajax. It’s crazy to think he got on stage to perform as an exhausted new father! I was so excited he wanted to come back and perform with me and was so excited to perform this dream role. This whole performance felt like an out of body experience. I just remember the fog, lights, and music then Rex lifting me out onto the stage at the beginning of the snow queen pas music. My heart felt like it skipped a beat, and it was as if I went into an imaginary land. As silly as this sounds, I can’t remember what I danced and even thought I blanked out once or twice while dancing, but I had so much joy in my heart during this particular performance. I felt like a queen and with the help of Rex, I felt like a queen the entire show! There are so many special moments so far in my career. I get a little emotional thinking about it. I can’t wait until I dance again!
What advice would you give to young dancers?
Be kind to yourself and believe in you. We all have bad performances, but there’s always another opportunity to improve. Most of all, be true to your moral compass and to be present in each moment in life, not just ballet. Learn to love yourself. There will always be challenges worth exploring for the rest of your life.
What haven’t I asked you that I should have? Or what else would you like to share with our readers?
What else I would love to share with the readers is that being different and unique is a blessing and gift. No one is like you, or can ever be like you. Once you find that inner love for yourself, life will become easier!
On Trend: The Awakening of Flora
It’s trendy, it’s girly, it is everything everyone in ballet is trying to capture: The Awakening of Flora. Ballet variations during the competition season come in cycles, four years ago it was the year of Satanella, two years ago, it was the year of Harlequinade, during the 2021 covid competition season, it looks like the Awakening of Flora is on the up trend. For most, the first exposure to The Awakening of Flora happened by Ava Arbuckle during her time at Elite Classical Coaching under Catherine Lewellen, as she took this variation to the Prix de Lausanne. This year, the Awakening of Flora was done by numerous competitors around the world, which means, next year, we will be probably be seeing even more of this ballet.
The Awakening of Flora, a ballet rarely seen outside of Russia is taking the competitive world of ballet by storm.
The Awakening of Flora (Le Réveil de Flore) was choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1894, with the libretto by Petipa and Lev Ivanov (who was originally given partial credit for choreography, but that’s wrong), and music by Riccardo Drigo. The ballet eventually died out after a short run with Anna Pavlova, but was revived in 2007 by Sergei Vikharev for the Mariinsky. Evgenia Obraztsova premiered as the lead during the reconstruction. This amazing one act ballet focuses on the relationships between the Roman Gods and Goddesses with killer costuming and beautiful music.
Originally, this ballet was supposed to have Greek names, but somehow the names got mixed up. We get it. mistakes happen, the problem was that the title of the ballet included ballet anacréontique which basically means the subject is of Ancient Greece, but the names got mixed up. But that wasn’t the only mix up around this ballet. Originally, Petipa and Drigo were working on a new ballet for the summer season which would be titled La Bal Champêtre, but the newspapers announced that The Awakening of Flora would be premiering for the wedding of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandraovna.
After the premiere, two more variations were added for Eos/Aurora (goddess of the dawn) and Hebe (goddess of youth).
ABOUT THE BALLET
So , the basic sum up of the libretto is based on the how Flora and gains eternal youth and immortality. If you don’t know your Greco-Roman folklore, here it is. Well first, backstory: Chloris is a nymph who is raped by Zephyrus, but then falls in love with him with no complaints, and he makes good on the rape by marrying her. Sketchy, we know and not my words… the translated words by Oxford. But, we did not write this, it is found in Fasti book 5 by Ovid (he wrote Metamorphoses). Okay, anyways, when she marries Zephyrus, he is so in love with her that he gives her power over flowers. And sooooo, that is where the ballet begins, she is now Flora.
Flora is sleeping under the watch Diana (Moon Goddess) and Aquilon (God of the North Wind) wakes her up because of a cold breeze and threatens her and her flowers, because who doesn’t like sleeping outside in the cold or be abruptly woken up by a man?
Aurora/Eos (the dawn) comes on over about to summon Helios (Sun God, in Greek mythology he is known as Apollo), where Flora asks for Aurora’s help. Because women should help women, and frankly no one wants to deal with all of that. But, this is ballet… so of course Aurora can’t actually help her, she needs a man’s help… So, Aurora promises that Helios will help, which he does. Helios Gives her a kiss.
PLOT TWIST: Zephyrus appears (God of the West Wind, in Greek mythology Zephyr) and they are in love and reunited (queue in the pas de deux). Then we call up Mercury (Hermes), Hebe, and Ganymede who grant the Flora and Zephrus eternal youth and immortality. Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate with all the friends in mythology… like satyrs and nymphs and other mythical beasts. Party. Then all of the Gods and Goddesses appear revealing Mount Olympus. Finished.
Here is Russian superstar Maria Khoreva performing this variation.
Hop skip and a jump to 2020, Elite Classical Coaching‘s Catherine Lewellen staged Awakening of Flora for Ava Arbuckle, and went on to win second prize the prestigious Prix de Lausanne. Ava Arbuckle is no stranger to A Ballet Education, she was the cover of Issue 15 which was shot during the ADC IBC Competition where Ava took the top prize.
Catherine Lewellen on coaching Ava Arbuckle: “We were thrilled when Awakening (of Flora) popped up on the Prix de Lausanne list and immediately knew that was the right choice for her. It’s a nice tempo and has a variety of qualities that worked well for Ava. She has lovely long limbs and the movement and choreography is luscious and lingering and really highlighted her strengths. We spent time working on some of the skills within the variation that are more demanding such as the arabesque turn into attitude turn combination as well as focused on timing and musicality. We wanted to make it her own even though many would be doing the same variation; we looked for ways and moments for her to stand out and really embody the variation rather then just robotically repeating the standard steps and I feel she was able to do that remarkably well. After that it was just a matter of polishing it all, cleaner quicker emboites, balancing at the end of turns and within a position, turning out and lengthening the releves, lifting and controlling the pique turns and doing all of this consistently. But she’s a work horse and a technician so it was all very satisfying!”
This year at YAGP finals there were multiple women who took Flora to finals, but most notably, we fell in love with Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy‘s Fiona Poth. So much so, Ashley Baker photographed her during their cover shoot with A Ballet Education. Outside of her technique and artistry, her costume was reinterpreted, and a little more age appropriate as she competed as a Junior. Her costume was created by Heather Lerma. Gaynor girl Fiona took the top spot at YAGP San Diego and was a Spotlight Awards finalist. Follow her instagram here.
Move onto the World Ballet Competition where McKenzie Thomas took Awakening of Flora. McKenzie Thomas will be joining the Orlando Ballet in the fall, and was in town, so we decided to shoot her. She is the inspiration behind this post, as even she recognizes the trend around this variation. McKenzie Thomas made her first cover with A Ballet Education on Issue 4 of the magazine during her time at Master Ballet Academy, and has gone on to be the bronze medalist at the world ballet competition, danced with Colorado Ballet’s Studio company before joining Orlando Ballet. Photos by David King. Sunglasses from Bloc Eyewear.
Also this summer, ballet star, and the latest winner of the Youth America Grand Prix finals, Brady Farrar and his award winning partner Brianna Guagliardo took the Awakening of Flora Pas de Deux to Italy to perform. Brady is also an A Ballet Education cover model.
Don’t know how much longer it will be up, but here is the full ballet:
- Petipa, Marius, The Diaries of Marius Petipa. Translated ed. and introduction by Lynn Garafola. Published in Studies in Dance History 3.1. (Spring 1992)
- Kschessinskaya, Matilda, H.S.H. The Princess Romanovsky-Krassinsky (1960) Dancing in Petersburg: The Memoirs of Mathilde Kschessinskaya. Alton, Hampshire: Dance Books Ltd
- Naughtin, Matthew (2014) Ballet Music: A Handbook. Lanham, Maryland, US: Rowman & Littefield
- Wiley, Roland John (1997) The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press
#FlashbackFriday: May Nagahisa
May Nagahisa‘s journey from Japan to Monte Carlo to her rise to fame at the Mariinsky. At the age of 12, this talent left her home country for the prestigious Princess Grace Academy through the Youth America Grand Prix. Upon her graduation in 2017 she joined the Mariinsky Ballet and was named one of Dance Magazine’s 25 to watch. In 2018, she jumped from “trainee” at Mariinsky to second soloist at the young age of 18. She then became a first soloist in 2021 at the age 21, and landed herself a spot on the Forbes Japan’s 30 Under 30. She is one of the many young and foreign talents rising in Russia.
Enjoy some of these incredible videos from Youtube. Happy Friday.
Her beautiful editorial from La Personne.
Notes on La Vivandière
A lot of people asked me why I chose La Vivandière for my student this year. The ballet has practically died in America and frankly, it is almost impossible to do well with at a ballet competition. Part of me wanted to be like Cary Ballet’s Mariaelana Ruiz who brought Laurencia back to popularity in the United States Ballet competition scene in 2012 with Regina Montgomery who is now a demi-soloist at Tulsa Ballet. You know, bring something back, make it known again, be a part of something, all of that good stuff, but the reality, La Vivandière is one of my favorite variations for a female. I first saw the variation in 2003, when I saw The Company, you know, the variation in which the dancer snaps her Achilles. But even then it was mesmerizing. Seeing a variation for a female that commands so much airtime, and must have the most ferocious jump ever makes me love ballet even more.
Enter Evelyn Lyman. Evelyn has always been a good jumper. In fact, she is one of the best jumpers I have seen in a long time. I knew from the moment she joined my school that this was going to be her variation, and my chance to have someone compete with a variation from La Vivandière. I knew I had to be extra careful, so we never really did the variation full out while learning it, always in parts, and always made sure she was extra warm and had leg warmers on.
As I started working on the variation with her, I knew that everything had to be perfect, but like a lot of coaches out there, I also wanted to make sure I put my take or my staging together. I actually needed a lot of help from Ashley Baker, making sure I was true to the choreography and keeping the steps intact.
For Evelyn, it paid off. She made it YAGP final round, and even though she didn’t win, she walked away with numerous scholarships and most importantly, she walked away with job at 17 years old.
So now, La Vivandière or Markitenka as it is called in Russia is a 1 Act ballet by Arthur Saint-Léon and Fanny Cerrito with music by Cesare Pugni and Jean-Baptiste Nadaud. The ballet was first presented on May 23, 1844, by the Ballet of Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. The principal Dancers were Fanny Cerrito (as Kathi or the Vivandière, and Arthur Saint-Léon as Hans. If you didn’t know, at one time Saint-Léon and Cerritos were married for a time and we owe A LOT of ballet this glorious pair.
Petipa revived the ballet in 1881 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre.
La Vivandière Pas De Six has survived because of Saint-Léon’s La Stenographie notation. So, basically, the ballet as a whole was not so hot. But what did survive was the original pas de quatre that was very popular and often used in galas. But, when the production went to Paris, Saint-Leon expanded the foursome into a six and made it into a two-act ballet. Because of the success from the pas de six, Sain-Léon fully noted it and published it in his book La Stenographie.
It then made its way into more current times through the reconstruction by dance notation expert Ann Hutchinson-Guest and Pierre Lacotte, ballet genius, and master of all, for the Joffrey Ballet in 1975. In 1978 Lacotte staged the piece for Mariinsky. Now the Pas De Six has been staged all over the world because of how danceable it is, and the fact you only need one male dancer. Even then, lack of men. Maybe not so much anymore, but you get the idea. You can read more about the ballet in Ann Hutchinson-Guest’s book available on Amazon.
Okay, onto the notes about this variation.
This variation is ferocious. It isn’t your typical 5 part variation female principal variation. In fact, this variation is 50 seconds of pure jumping. It is a mix of petit allegro, moderato, and grand allegro all finished with extremely fast pointe work.
What is a Vivandière? She is a woman attached to military regiments as canteen keepers or selling wine. Not your typical ballet fairy-princess-sylph-waify role.
I think the most important part of this variation is making sure that the dancer can jump, travel, and can move well. One of the biggest mistakes I think dancers or coaches make when it comes to this variation is to make it look Bournonville, and I get it. The dress, the jump, and all of that. But, does that always make for good dancing? Probably not.
Ok. So the first part of this variation, traveling the opening Bournonville jeté is crucial as it sets up the rest of the variation. The assemblés should assemble quickly in the air to make for a clean fifth position. Something that my dear Evelyn had to be reminded of constantly. If she is reading this, she knows… And her defense, who likes doing things in écarté derriere. You know, it’s just not flattering…. ever.
Then comes the super long diagonal of sissone failles and assemblés. We chose to make the assemblés in effacé because I think it is more flattering for any dancer, but again preference. We also chose to cut the last sissone so she could have more character and artistry. Also, it’s a good chance to breathe before the feared part.
Okay, so the next part is the section of gargouillades, which is arguably one of the hardest steps in ballet. Arguably, Margaret Tracey has the best gargouillade ever. Watch it in Balanchine’s Nutcracker in Marzipan. Normally, you are supposed to do the gargouillade to attitude back and then emboîte, but that is one difficult, two ugly, and three it is ugly. For me, it was all about the accent of the second leg in the gargouillade and then a super clean transition with leg up, show off your flexibility.
The ending diagonal is hard because it is all about turnout! Making sure you travel appropriately (meaning super far) and getting over your box quickly. When doing the precipités, make sure the second leg is turned out to the audience. Then it ends with super fast beats, make sure you don’t over cross, just a super clean position so it shows the control of the footwork and that you aren’t just flinging the foot around. Most people end the variation with a temps de flesh, buuuuut, it’s competition and I wanted to show that she could also turn, not just jump. Also, whatever you do…. DO NOT SLOW DOWN THE MUSIC.
I think one of the biggest things with this variation is bringing personality to the steps because the steps alone are just not good enough. Even if the steps are super difficult, it doesn’t make for good dancing. Good dancing has to come from the dancer, the connection to the role, the music, and the interpretation of the steps.
-When performing use extremely soft pointe shoes, break them, cut the shanks, do whatever you need to do to make the foot look as pointed as possible in the air.
-We opted not for the Frau low bun, nor the French twist but the milk braids.
-We opted to rhinestone, because we rhinestone everything, and who doesn’t love a little bling.
Here are some videos to watch:
For more information on La Vivandiere:
The Guide to Tying Pointe Shoes
Oof. Whether it’s inside first or outside first, over or under, or wrap the ribbon twice- there really isn’t one way to tie a pointe shoe. I think for a lot of women it is about comfort, and what holds the foot in. As a male teacher, I always think it is odd that when a student goes on pointe, I am the one who helps the young student. We all have our own opinions when it comes to tying, breaking in, sewing, and even the fit of the pointe shoe. So it can get kind of tricky.
Nowadays, a lot of girls are using stretch ribbon, or sewing Infiniti ribbons so that they don’t have to tie knots anymore. So there are a lot of factors when it comes to how you approach tying your shoes.
According eHow, she starts with the outside ribbon and does the “over and under”. This video has over 100k views on Youtube.
Discount Dance made a “how-to” video, but in this video there is a lot of crazy. In fact, it’s probably just bad, but not wrong.
Dance Channel TV also made a video, where the dancer, Ruth Fentroy, starts with the inside ribbon.
We also have the Infiniti loop.
I think the most important thing when tying your ribbons, is understanding two things:
- Where the knot goes. It should go in the space between the achilles and the ankle bone, where it slightly indents, so that the knot does not rub.
- When tying a knot, tie a flat knot/square knot so it is less likely to come undone.
If you are using satin ribbons, you are going to encounter the occasional untie or knot slip, so when going on stage, definitely sew the knot in with a couple of stitches. I think this is why a lot of dancers have switched to the elastic ribbons because of comfort, and the knots are a tad steardier.
How do we tie shoes at A Ballet Education? We use elastic ribbon, then Inside first, double the outside, square knot, roll the ends, and tuck under. We do tie our ribbons higher up than most schools, as it is an aesthetic preference.
Have a pointe shoe question? Email us!!!
Chassé You Don’t Stay: The Connecting Steps of Ballet
They say, when it comes to a professional dancer, that you can tell how talented a dancer is based on their connecting steps. Some say the petit allegro is the tell-all of a dancer, but when it comes to ballet these days, we often get caught up in pirouettes, hypermobility and flexibility, and what is “on-trend.” We often forget that the base of ballet is built on walking patterns, the tempos and phrasing around these walking patterns, and how the walking patterns are executed.
When it comes to the connecting steps of ballet, one of the first major things to accomplish is chassé (Cecchetti method). Not to be confused with chassé en avant (French school).
Translation: chased. A step in which one foot literally chases the other foot out of its position; done in a series, and in all of the directions making a total of seven actions.
Chassé is the first time a dancer really starts to “use the floor” and travel at barre and center. It also doesn’t come off the floor, so we don’t have to worry about the foot being fully stretched, or all of the other things that can go wrong. Chassé lets us focus on presenting the heel while still on the floor, transfer our weight, and elongate the legs.
Here is one of my students, Annabelle Gourley, demonstrating the step in efface en avant wearing her Xiao Xiao Designs Leotard.
NOTES ON CHASSÉ
- Start in a super clean and a lifted fifth position.
- For me, I like to place the head over the shoulder as the dance pliés, knees over the toes, and arms slightly lifted. The weight is still equally placed over the balls of the feet.
- Pressing the right heel forward, the weight is even between two feet, but the motion is set by the back foot putting pressure into the floor and pushing the front foot out. The more pressure you can put into the feet, the stronger and cleaner the position will be and there will be less chance of rolling, supination.
- Transferring the weight by the back foot’s pad or the ballet of the foot, and the arch stretching. This shifts all the weight into the front leg, and the dancer’s head starts to present. I think the important thing in this position is to make sure that the knees still remain over the toes and that the legs are evenly rotated and working.
- Finally, with no weight on the back leg, the front leg fully stretches in a turned out position.
Daily Ballet Vocab: Tendu Pour le Pied
Daily Ballet Vocabulary: Tendu Pour Le Pied
Battement Tendu Relevé (battement stretched and raised) or Battement Tendu Pour le Pied (Battement stretch for the foot) or Tendu Pour le Pied (tendu for the foot):
This is one of my favorite steps to give as a teacher, it really helps develop the foot in every capacity. It works the instep, it works the actual shape of the pointed foot, it works the articulation it works just about everything, and it is a killer for the inner thighs. Don’t confuse this with double tendu because it is not the same. Well, unless you are Soviet-Vaganova trained, then it is the same thing. This step can be done to the front or back, but most commonly it is done to the side or in a la seconde, and it can also be done with dégagé. Okay, let’s just get to it and break down this step:
- Starting in fifth position, the working leg will brush to second with a strong tendu position.
- Then, using the instep and the inner thigh, you will lower the heel forward as far as you can by rotating from the inner thigh. The minute the heel touches you will spring the instep and the toes back to a super strong pointed foot.
- You can double it up, which means you will drop the heel twice before closing fifth. Usually when closing, you will close opposite of where you started. So if you did the tendu starting with the right leg in front, it will usually finish back.
When I teach I use this step a lot because it teaches the kids to lower with their heel fully forward, and that I can see how much natural rotation a student has right away. I also like to give this step a lot in “pre-pointe” class so that students are able to work the foot and toes quite a bit. Finally, I love to give this step because it is such a nice way to really feel the inner thighs connect as you lower; maintaining the rotation on both the working and supporting leg at all times.
Things to look out for:
Don’t force the ankle forward by pushing weight into it. You are going to want to make sure that the weight stays on the supporting leg.
To the side the working hip will slightly drop while the supporting leg works double time.
If you do this step to the front and back, there might be loss of a neutral pelvis for those dancers who aren’t strong enough to rotate on two legs, so avoid giving this to young dancers.
Maintain that the weight stays over the supporting foot to make the working leg the longest and the most beautiful shape possible.
Notes on Second Position / Perfect Symmetry
Second Position is usually noted as the easiest position of the five as it has the least amount of pressure on the hips and knees, but lately I have been finding that second position might be even more difficult than first if done properly. Let’s break it down…
The idea of Second position takes Davinci’s Vitruvian man and then shortens the arms to elongate the legs. This is done by the curving of the port de bras. Then if you wanted to elongate the legs even more you would go on relevé, and even further go en pointe.
When standing in second position, not only are you making sure that your hips are equally between to feet, you are also lining up the hips to make sure they are not behind or in front of your feet. A common mistake in grand plié, is to allow your hips to shift back… but that is wrong, it also increases the amount of stress on the inside of your knee.
Second position allows you to really feel the turnout from the backs of your legs because your legs aren’t touching, so you have to really visualize the spiral coming from the back and opening your hips. If done properly, it will allow you to plié with exact alignment of the knees over the second toe and not putting pressure anywhere else.
Don’t forget… last day to buy technique trackers! Buy the digital downloads today and print as many are you need!
In second position it is easy to let your arches drop or let your feet pronate or supinate because there is not checks and balances. Where in first your heels and knees are touching, and fifth you are toe to heel, heel to toe. So, in second it is important to remember to keep your arches lifted, five toes spread on the floor, and the feeling of all five metatarsals evenly touching the floor. You should also feel your weight in the pads of your feet and support by the lower arch.
Remember, and this is pretty standard… don’t lift your heels in second position… which is truly the test of second position which makes it extremely difficult. Because the pelvis is free, it allows the Achilles to be free. Meaning, you can fully stretch your achilles out.
This is when people like to agree to disagree on how wide a second position should be.
Classical Ballet really calls for a refined second position. Meaning 1 or 1 and a half times your foot length in the gap. This is included for pointe work. Where, updated technique allows for a wider or “healthier” second position.
Classical Second Position:
Pros: It is cleaner and forces the dancer to focus on turnout and alignment more, stretches the Achilles more.
Cons: It can create a shallower demi-plié, it is harder to achieve a nice grand plié and it is harder to master.
Updated Second Position:
Pros: easier on the body, allows for a bigger hamstring stretch
Cons: More can go wrong in grand plié and can put more pressure on the knees.
When doing an updated second position, I think the aesthetic is nicer when the arm is higher and less curved and more about length. Whichever one you choose, make sure it looks right on your body. For example, I have really long arms, so when I do the more classical second position, I have ot curve and place my arm a little more than I would usually to keep my body in a nice proportion.
Things to remember in Second Position:
Go long. Reach each scapula away from eachother to create the widest back.
Longest neck line
Really open those hips, thing of opening French doors to allow you to turn out more
Keep the weight even, don’t sit back or push forward, don’t favor one leg over the other.
Notes on the Ideal Arabesque & Getting it Higher… part 1
In ballet, there is one position above all others. It is the dreaded, gorgeous and controversial placement known as arabesque. There are a million ways to approach and improve arabesque, but the most important thing about it is to maintain control and show constraint. Below is how I teach arabesque and how to achieve an ideal position.
Arabesque, by definition, is in an Arabic fashion. In design, it refers to ornate patterns used quite frequently in textiles, interior design, and architecture. Okay, in ballet, it is when the dancer is standing (supporting) on one leg, while the second (working) leg is directly behind the body. Arabesque can be done in a variety of different positions based on where the arms are placed, and the facings of the bodies. It can be done at various different heights based on the working leg: a terre, en l’air at any varied of degrees, 45 degrees, 90 degrees and ridiculously high. The supporting leg can be in plié, but the back leg must remain straight and behind the body.
Okay… getting into arabesque… Some teachers like to teach arabesque from developpé while some teachers teach it from fondu. I prefer to teach it from tendu. I also use cambré back so I can combine basics and start teaching arabesque at a younger age. Secondly, I don’t teach arabesque until students can do the splits. Okidokie. Start off with plank for a bit, do some crutches, and the splits. Then the class is ready to move onto arabesque. Usually, my students are able to start and achieve arabesque quickly around the age of six. In the rare occasions, I have seen about eight five-year-olds able to achieve, understand and comprehend the ideal arabesque.
For younger students, I do two hands at the barre, for advanced students I do one hand at the barre at the end of a rond de jamb combination. (click here for rond de jambs)
(a.)So, we start in fifth position and tendu back.
(b.)From there, lift through the back and cambré back. (You can see the notes to cambré in issue three, click here) Don’t push the hips forward, make sure the standing leg is supported and perpendicular to the floor. Maintain the neck and let the sternum press into the ceiling. Don’t let the hips tip and keep the pelvis in neutral.
(c.) While in this position, maintaining your core, lift the leg as high as you can. Don’t lift from the quad, rotate from the hip and spiral the leg up directly behind the spine. The more rotation from the hip, the higher the leg. Don’t pinch or sit in the back. To make more space, or if you feel like you are running out of space, channel energy through the top of the head and create more space.
(d.) Start from the bottom of your abs and pelvis, and start to contract, maintaining the height of the leg. Start coming up from the cambré, leading with the sternum and creating an arch through the top of your head moving forward. Leave the neck and head where it is.
(e.) Adjust the neck and head, ideally, you should be at a perfect 90-degree arabesque or higher. Your hips should still be in neutral. Your spine and standing leg should make a straight line, your hips shouldn’t need to tilt, spill over, at all, especially at 90 degrees.
Now, onto getting your leg higher…
Second part of the exercise…
(f.) Place the weight slightly forward as you are about to start the plié. I work the leg higher while in plié. This would be the more classical position, by adjusting the back so that the spine and the front of the standing leg are lined up. To do this, you will let your hips tilt slightly forward, adding pressure to the back. Depending on the flexibility of your back, the break in the back will vary. This position is much harder than the position above based on your back.
(g.) Okay, So leave your foot where it is, exactly at 90. Plié. Leave your foot where it is, but you are adjusting the height of your body. This makes the angle smaller on top. Maintain proper alignment with the knee.
(h.) Plié even more while leaving your foot where it is in space. Keep the alignment behind your spine… I prefer behind the spine while others say behind the shoulder… I like everything over crossed as it creates a diagonal line, and makes the leg look longer. Preference. While at the bottom of the plié start to initiate the spine up and forward and outwards. So, the energy is flowing slightly forward and then back. This is when I have the students really wing/bevel their foot, and say that the foot and the head are creating a circle and trying to connect.
(i.) Press to relevé and lengthen through the supporting leg. Press into the floor and maintain the position. Ideally, you won’t feel any pressure in the back as you are constantly creating space in the spine and rotation in the hips. Re-align the back so the spine and the front of the standing leg match to visually create a line. Once you are in this position you can slightly raise the arm and eye line.
(pas de bourré and then other side)
First arabesque is the most common. I prefer open first but it does put a strain on your spine as it causes you to disconnecting the upper back from your core and spiral open without changing your hip placement. Second Arabesque is the devil position. Third Arabesque is super pretty, especially when the leg is at 45 degrees.
Classical positions require strength and control, it adds quality and allows for musicality. Sometimes, you are allowed to whack the leg, sometimes during grand allegro, or in choreography, depends. Whacking can cause injury or misalignment so I don’t ever recommend it. I’m more of a place it one count. Classically, you want to show constraint with the height in the leg but generosity in the preparation, getting into the position and turn out. Stylistically, the arabesque will change with the placement of the hips, standing leg and back. Click here to see.
For the older dancer, arabesque can be death. For me it is. My back is completely shot, and have to do Gyrotonics and pilates to even maintain a 90-degree line. Though I have figured a way to improve my arabesque but it’s complicated to draw, so I am going to make a video of my busted self later on.
For young dancers, I know there is so much pressure to have high legs, but I am telling you this method does work! Keep up the good work. Subscribe to the magazine this month for only $9.99
And for those of you who have asked… the feeling Frieda prints ( each one is 8×10″) are now available. Both are available for $19.99 (click here to shop)
FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM:@aballeteducation
Now Available on Amazon, click below:
To have your product featured on a blog post email me.
NOTES ON ROND DE JAMBE…
Notes on Rond De Jambes (a terre)
“Round of the leg on the ground”
poster available here in 3 sizes. (click here)
Eeesh. This is one of the hardest steps at barre in ballet. The exercise requires a ton of control and focus. In theory, this step should be really easy and a lot of people overlook how complicated rond de jambe is. Somewhere in between adagio qualities and stretching, rond de jambes are one of those things that you either have or you don’t.
Rond de jambes are versatile, you can do them en l’air, in a jump, on relevé, done en dehors or en dedans or even in fondu/plié. The list goes on. It can be done at varied heights, at varied speeds, or varied accents. Like most steps in ballet, you can do them any way you want.
So, let’s get to breaking down rond de jambe.
en dehors:It is easier to learn rond de jambes from first. Standing very tall, you press through to tendu devant. Both legs are extremely straight without gripping the quad, and you need to focus on the inner hip socket. From this position, you hold the turnout and push to the side without changing the shape of the leg. Without gripping the quad you rotate the hip socket rotates even more and you continue the semi-circle to get to tendu devant. Nothing moves. I MEAN NOTHING! You keep the shape of the leg the entire time, the turn out, the shape, everything. Closing through the tendu and relaxing the toes, the heel gradually pushes forward and closes back to first. The important thing in rond de jambe is to keep the turn out active at all times. (Reality… you are supposed to keep your turn out active at all times but sometimes you just need to relax. Relax in first position if you need to relax.)
a. Standing in first position. If you need to get some tips on improving your first position. Click here >> (https://aballeteducation.com/2016/03/25/first-position-it-is-so-hard/)
b. Just like a tendu start pressing the heel forward and pushing through the floor. Because barre is built one step on top of the other, don’t miss out the notes on tendu. Click here >>(https://aballeteducation.com/2016/03/26/notes-on-tendu-well-tendu-devant/)
c. Reaching the maximum length of tendu devant, you have to extend even more in rond de jambe. You want to create enough length in the working leg to free up the hip socket. To do this, you have to push through your standing leg, or channel energy down into the floor on your supporting side.
d. This is the hardest part of rond de jambe… You have to start rotating the heel even more, and channel energy up into the hip sock and start to rotate the femur head in the socket outward. Don’t change the shape of the foot or leg, don’t relax the knee. Grow taller and start to carry to the side. You should feel a ton of tension pressing outwards in the supporting hip.
e. Keep carrying till you hit tendu a la seconde. A very long a la seconde. Keep lifting in the supporting side.
f. The next hardest part of rond de jambe is ridiculously hard. This is where a lot of people go a muck. Stabilize the hips by rotating outwards and channeling energy into the floor and start to rotate towards the back. Do not flip the hips or let the pelvis rock. Don’t sway in your back, don’t sit in your hips, don’t let your weight shift. You have to be even more mindful of your supporting leg. All while making the circle even larger.
g. Reach to tendu derriere
h. Relax your toes and press the heel forward leaving the toes behind.
i. Pull up harder into your standing leg and hip flexor. Lift even higher. The energy should never die in rond de jambe. You have to constantly grow and channel energy through each extremity of the body. As your relax your full foot on the floor your turn out should feel the deepest in the hip socket.
j. Reach back into a taller first.
Okay, here are some of the ridiculously hard things about rond de jambe… One, your body has to create tons of infinite circles that move through your space at barre. It is rather difficult, each time trying to make the circle bigger and bigger. Keeping the pelvis neutral and legs long. The best way is to keep your hamstrings constantly engaged without gripping into your quads and locking up your hip flexors. Another really difficult thing to do in rond de jambe is to keep the foot relaxed and not gripping.
Rond de Jambes for the young child…
It is a common imagery tool to teach kids to draw a half circle on the floor. The problem with this, is that kids will usually push most of the work and effort into the quad. I find it better to tell kids to make an egg-like shape with the foot. This keeps from adding too much pressure in the knee, and not letting the student grip in the quad.
Rond de Jambe for the adult dancer…
Nowadays, rond de jambe kills my hip. Like to the point of exhaustion. It is easier to work from a more turned in first than perfect first, and definitely in fifth position, it puts too much pressure to the knee… For me. I also find when being in a more turned in fifth position, I use my quad too much, so I rond de jambe from first. Less pressure all over, and my legs don’t die and I don’t grip in my quad.
Where in the world do you put your weight in rond de jambe… Classically speaking, rond de jambe should always be centered… meaning the weight is centered in your pelvis and the weight is placed over the arch. Some teachers allow weight to shift into the standing leg even more so that the hamstrings are longer. The weight then shifts so the center of the pelvis is above the arch and there is slight pressure in the ball of the foot. This frees up the working hip. The standing hip and leg then channels more energy.
The stylistic rond de jambe… Some teachers teach to over cross the rond de jambe in tendu devant and derriere (over crossing meaning that the toe of the working foot lines up to the heel or arch. Some teachers, teach a more open rond de jambe that pushes the focus on the in between positions. Like half tendu front and half tendu back. Some teachers teach an exaggerated over crossing where the working toe lines up with the supporting toe. This definitely causes a weight shift.
Some final thoughts on rond de jambe…
Rond de jambe is hard, but don’t give up! The most important thing in rond de jambe is to open the hips and really create a connection through the space and floor. I always enjoy rond de jambe, and try to find really great musicality. Some teachers prefer accent front and back, some prefer accent side, and some prefer no accent and to keep the motion evenly. Depending on the song and the musicality and tempo, I accent in various places including first. Best of luck rond de jamming out… hahah
The Position That Makes Ballet, well ballet…
Sara Michelle Murawski’s, a soloist at Slovak National Ballet, super famous arabesque picture that probably one of the first pictures that made dancers addicted to instagram.
Contemporary Dancers have the tilt, jazz dancers have the layout, but ballet dancers have arabesque.
For those of you who are auditioning for the first time, the reason why everyone asks for an arabesque picture is for the following reasons: arabesque is one of the hardest positions to make in ballet, and it shows your turn out, flexibility, hyperextension and feet in on photo without hating yourself. If ballet auditions asked for, say…ecarte derrière… no one would audition… ever.
Now, there is a great debate of what arabesque technique is correct, or where it actually comes from, but should we really get into all of that mess? Maybe, just little bit. Just generalizing some things about companies that have a very specific type of arabesque.
Royal Ballet, the Ashton Arabesque is this super classical, dreamy position that requires the following: a hypermobile back, beautifully arched feet, and rarely is placed above 90 degrees. In addition, I think the artists of the Royal Ballet are the only ones that don’t let the supporting leg turn in. Their turn out is bangin. The arms are always super relaxed, and rarely go above their faces. Ultimate restraint. (Royal Ballet’s arabesque line isn’t the RAD line. I don’t believe in the RAD method, so I am not going to talk about it.)
Plus, who doesn’t love some Sarah Lamb on any given day? Ironically, she is an American, with Russian training, dancing a Jerome Robbin’s piece set on NYCB, but staged on Royal Ballet.
The Russians have their own arabesque line as well. They are known for their incredible height and stretch. Besides the majority of women coming out of Vaganova school are beasts, their primas have create this unique fragile but stretched arm position. Standing leg is turned in.
For the sake of irony, the super stunning Uliana Lopatkina, a Russian Dancing a Balanchine piece set on Bolshoi.
Then we have the super “classical” arabesque which is the mish mosh of cecchetti, vaganova and french… which is now lumped into the category of classical:
Perfect turn out, not so hyper mobile, lifted up and forward, relaxed elbow, and spatula hands… just kidding, just a soft middle finger down…
Then we have the Balanchine Arabesque, which isn’t really a change in the principals of arabesque, but more of the arm and hand positions.
Ashley Bouder and Jonathan Stafford in Tchai Pas. Ironically, everyone calls their hands the claw… or that they are really wristy, but Russians are more… aka the super stunning and talented force Evgenia Obraztsova
And then finally, there is the Paris Opera Arabesque… which is basically like the impossible arabesque. Which is only possible if you are well… given everything and trained at Paris Opera.
Another Irony, Paris Opera is the home of ballet, and here we have the Sylvie Guillem in a contemporary work. I have never really understood the Paris Opera arabesque besides it looking beyond perfect. David Hallberg who trained at POB has one of those arabesque that are beyond pulled up. A lot of the etoiles of paris opera have these super raised hips.
Another note… we gag on arabesque pictures on IG and tumblr, but the reality is… do we ever see these massive arabesques on stage… unless you are russian… Or Dark Angel in Serenade? I think the “style” of arabesque also comes from the role you are doing, the tempo of music, etc.
Now, here are some things that are really difficult for young dancers when it comes to arabesque…
Higher isn’t always better.
Being Square is in reference that both pelvic bones are on the same level of space.
Tilting your hip is really just for side extension.
Things regardless of what “style” of arabesque you are doing…
Your spinal chord can’t be compromised…
You either have a hyper mobile back and hips or you don’t.
Regardless of the arm placement, the torso doesn’t twist…
My favorite motto when teaching: when in doubt, turn out.
Finding what arabesque works on your body is really important as well. If you look at the women of NYCB, none of them have the same arabesque line. You have to find what looks best on your body… for anything in ballet, but especially for arabesque. As you develop into an artist you find your stride in arabesque, and what looks best on your body type. Arm placement, stretch, reach, quality… Those are the things that really distinguish an arabesque. No two professional arabesques are the same. When training, it might be a different story, but because no body is alike, the technique looks different on everyone.
Your petit allegro is awful…
Petit Allegro is neglected at most smaller schools in the US. It seems to be tossed aside, or never really done right. Either the tempo is too slow, or they just don’t teach their students the importance of petit allegro. The above picture is why. There are so many “ballet dictionaries” out there that teachers use to reference… and that is what they give. I honestly don’t know how this even got into a book, or how it even looks like a glissade…. but someone published it and put their name to it. *smh*
5 things to help you improve your petit allegro.
1. Close fifth every time. There aren’t very many steps in petit allegro that don’t close 5th, and without closing into a tight clean fifth, you aren’t really doing ballet. #justsayin
2. Stop putting the weight in the back of your foot, in petit allegro you have to be the most forward. By putting your weight forward, that is how you counter balance with your heels… the idea of pressing down and getting the most stretch in your achilles.
3. Carefully plan where you are going to accent in the music. You are able to play with the music a lot in petit allegro if you decide to move faster. Most students don’t realize that petit allegro is fun, flirty, and sassy. It is the one time you can really add some personality without looking over the top dramatic, or jazzarina whack a leg…
4. Your teacher probably doesn’t give good petit allegros, and is hurting you in the long run. Petit allegro makes or break an audition a lot of the times. Everyone focuses on adagio and grand allegro, and pirouettes… Everyone seems to forget, you have to move fast as well… So find a new studio. Okay, or not. But, you might want to ask your teachers why there isn’t an emphasis on it… Challenge how they think, an teach. Most teachers get lazy when it comes to petit allegro. I love petit allegro, so I focus a lot on it.
5. Eat more oatmeal, it makes you smarter so you can think faster… lol. It is what I tell my kids all the time…
The Great Debate: Gaynor Mindens…
The Great Debate: Gaynor Mindens…
If I had it my way, everyone would dance in Freeds. Period. Because we are a free enterprise country, there are hundreds of different pointe shoes now available. Each brand has their own series of pointe shoes, and each pointe shoe has a “different personality” to accommodate a dancer’s needs. One of those needs is money… Pointe shoes don’t come cheap, and as a result, the Gaynor Minden was born…
Some call it the cheater shoe, some call it flat out ugly, and some are for it because their feet are so good. Professionals around the world of adapted to Gaynors and the company didn’t waste anytime by capitalizing on that. Premiering with Gillian Murphy of ABT, and the release of the Ballet Companion, snagging dancer.com and using well known principal dancers as their ads… Gaynor Minden INC knew what they were doing. As a business, they are successful. The bigger question, is how do we look at Gaynors? Should students be allowed to wear Gaynors? Should more pointe shoe companies offer indestructible shoes regardless of compromising the look of the shoe?
(Please Comment Below)
an interview with Eliza Gaynor Minden. (click here)
a funny commentary via the youtube:
Nike Arc Angel, a dummy design by a graphic artist, but interesting concept…
You must be logged in to post a comment.