21 Year-Round Programs

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

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

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

The Ballet Clinic, Phoenix, AZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indiana Ballet Conservatory, Indianapolis, IN

http://indianaballetconservatory.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Variations To Stay Away from (2019)

5 Variations To Stay Away from (2019)

Thank the Baby Jesus that the ballet competition season is over. If the 2017-2018 season was the year of “Satanella,” then the 2018-2019 was the year of “Dulcinea.” While I have appreciated that people have listened to the first article, published back in 2015, about
5 Variations to Stay Away From, people have searched high and low for the replacements to these five- and they have found them.

While the original list consisted of:
Kitri ACT I
Esmeralda
Sugar Plum Fairy
Grand Pas Classique
and White/Black Swan

People have found their counterparts… While there will always be the crowd favorites like Esmeralda, how many Esmeralda variations can we watch? Especially, since Madison Penney demolished that variation and turned it into a show-stopping, trick-filled, pirouette perfection. We also have the standards that will never go away: like Aurora Act III (which is probably the textbook perfect definition of classical of ballet), Coppélia, Paquita Etoile Variation, and Giselle ACT I. But somehow we have replaced Kitri ACT I with the Variation from Laurencia.

Don’t get me wrong; I staged this for ABE COVER GIRL from Master Ballet Academy Tegan Chou last season for her ADC IBC performance. But now it seems that every jazz comp dancer is taking this variation on. And I can see their reasoning, they get to wear a long skirt like Kitri ACT 1, and has the same jeté in attitude. Jazz comp girls think they can get away with their bent knees because of the long skirt, and they can whack everything. In reality, you just look crazy. This is one of the problems with competition and the mindset of, “Well she won with it, so I should do it.” A Ballet Variation is much harder than just the tricks within the variation, and it takes a lot of coaching.

Tegan Chou, age 11, of Master Ballet Academy, ADC IBC.

The very talented Regina Montgomery at her 2012 YAGP Semi-Final from the Rock School for Dance Education. Miss Montgomery is now a demi-soloist at Tulsa Ballet.

We still revisit Esmeralda because we think the tambourine is cool. And now that Masters has modified the variation, we all are modifying the variation and adding as many pirouettes as possible and as many crazy tricks as we can. At this pointe, the variation shouldn’t even have the diagonal of fondu developpés, and we should just do tilt turns on pointe. YAAAAAAAS!

We should take a moment relive Madison Penney’s Amazing win at the Youth American Grand Pri at age 12.

We should also look at Sumina Sasaki’s 2019 Prix win where the commentator rudely says, “Just get on with it.”

Sugar Plum Fairy has somehow been replaced with Dulcinea. While these two variations have the same delicate features, they are both built to be extremely delicate with a coda built into the variation. Mostly it is another ridiculously long variation, and somehow we have slowed down the music even more and made it more painstaking to watch. While I understand we are kids trying to do this variation, so the slower tempo is needed, dear god, it is so painful to sit through… Especially if you are too weak, or too athletic to do this variation. Now that Ava Arbuckle has placed with this variation… let it be.

Elite Classical Coaching’s Ava Arbuckle at her 2019 Semi-Final in Dallas.

San Francisco Ballet’s Natasha Sheehan, age 14, at YAGP Finals in 2014.

Grand Pas Classique has been replaced with Satanella. While we have seen less and less of Grand Pas, thank you. It has been replaced with the two-minute variation from Carnival of Venice- Satanella. While the variation is cute and flirty, it is long; like really, really long. Just like Grand Pas, and people do these variations because they think that the longer it is, the better. Fortunately, that is not true. By the midpoint of Satanella, everyone is ready to jab their eyes out. You would think that it should end before the menage of ballonés, but no, it keeps going… and going… and then just when you think it is done, it still isn’t done. And truth, after Elisabeth Beyer’s performance and Lincoln Center… Can you really follow that up?

We should tall take a moment to relive this magical moment. Elisabeth Beyer of Ellison Ballet at NYC Finals 2018.

Satanella Variation to tempo by Evgenia Obraztsova.

And White/Black Swan has been replaced with Raymonda Dream Variation/Harlequinade. While  White Swan is about style, Raymonda’s Dream Variation is about control and constraint. The quality is similar in both variations, but white swan has more stylistic features like exaggerated port de bras. But, they both have painstaking developpés, and truthfully, the extensions in Raymonda are harder as they are done en dedans and in the middle of the variation instead of the beginning. While the drama of the variation is nice, I am always confused when people do this variation as she is dreaming to “escape” a rape. Not the best variation to be teaching young girls, but then again, what ballet variation sets up a strong good role model for young girls? Anyways, this brings me to the painstakingly long variation of Harlequinade. Originally,  Whitney Jensen, former Principal of Boston Ballet and now Norwegian National Ballet, brought this variation back to popularity at Varna in 2008 where she brilliantly won the highest honor, the Special Distinction. If you don’t know what that is, it is an award that has been rarely given out. In the entire competition it has been given out a total of  6 times (2018 Antonio Casalinho, 2014 Soo Bin Lee, 2012 He Taiyu, 2002 Lu Meng, 1998 Rolando Sarabia and technically in 1964 Vladimir Vasiliev won the Grand Prix, the top prize the first year Varna was established). But, it seems that Remi Goins set the trend a few years ago by pulling off some ridiculously hard turns at a very young age and now, everyone is going for it: juniors, seniors, pre-comp, Everyone. Here is the problem is the variation from Harlequinade. While it is cute, and it seems relatable for young kids, if you want to show off turns why not do the Medora Variation or Odalisque Variation from Le Corsaire?

Remi Goins at YAGP 2017 at age 12 winning the Shelley King Award for Excellence.

Whitney Jensen doing it big at Varna in 2008.

Here are some other mistakes I have seen this season at the YAGP. I get that the YAGP has expanded and more and more kids are coming into the semi-finals… but if you are a jazz comp school… and you are entering your kids into the ballet category, do them a solid… Find them a better ballet teacher. And secondly, don’t buy a costume from Revolution for 15 dollars, attempt to alter it and add rhinestones and glitter. It doesn’t work. Go and find a seamstress and put the work in or optionally buy a blank performance tutu from Grishko for 400 dollars and spiff it up yourself. Or even better, there is a new costume company that is making blank tutus for reasonable pricing. Also, stop going to more than two semi-finals.

I know that a lot of you are going to as many as you can so the talented kids are weeded out, and you finally place and get an invite to NYC. After the second attempt at a semi-final… if you don’t place… you don’t place. There is no reason to go to a third, and fourth, and this year I saw it… a fifth… Just don’t go… This isn’t Nuvo or Break the Floor, and you are trying to prove you have improved, etc, etc, etc… this isn’t that, it isn’t a circuit, this is a ballet competition that is looking for the best of the best. The whole rule of not being able to place twice was put into place to discourage people from doing more than one. So, please… just stop.

Also, you don’t need to enter FOUR contemporary solos. We get it… you can do contemporary. On average most kids bring two classical variations and one contemporary. If you are an overachiever and your parents want to see you on stage more since they are paying the participation fee, then you might have two and two. But really? Do you need more than that… absolutely not.

This year, I am not going to preparing anyone for the YAGP or Lausanne (or at least not to my knowledge), so I am going to do all of you searching a solid and walk you through the variation-selection process. Subscribe and Stay Tuned to get all the competition info you need.

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David King

David King

David King is the founder of A Ballet Education

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San Francisco Ballet’s The Little Mermaid

San Francisco Ballet’s

The Little Mermaid

APRIL 19, 2019
Tamara Sparkles

Watching Yuan Yuan Tan perform “The Little Mermaid” is something that I will remember for a long time. She exudes the vibrant mystique that you want to believe in when it comes to the dark sorted tale of unrequited love that is Hans Christian Andersen’s original fable.

Ms. Tan’s port de bras simply surpass any visual expectation. They are surreal. She is lifted and tossed by her men of the ocean, and you honestly believe that she IS the ethereal underwater creature that she is portraying. With a flawless, undulating wave and a supple back, she truly transforms into the naive, beautiful mermaid we are all sympathizing with as she visits the Sea Witch to exchange her tail, and her voice for a love that can never exist. There are moments where Ms. Tan makes the romantic tragedy so real you can feel it in your bones; this is both through the beautiful choreography of John Neumeier and her stellar exploration of this character. Yuan Yuan Tan is unmatched in this ballet. It truly belongs to her.

Aaron Robinson was perfectly playful to the beautiful Mermaid with his gorgeous romantic movement and festive innocent flirtations. His lines and communications of the love of both the Princess (the stunning Sasha DeSola) and The Little Mermaid were clear and thoughtful. Also, his jumps are solidly clean and delicious.

Sasha DeSola is the consummate Princess. She is effortless. Her technique is clear and precise, and her sense of royalty seems inherent. When she appears on deck in her hot pink jumpsuit, so flirtatious, so young and in love…She is everything. You are watching only her. It is easy to feel sympathy for the Little Mermaid up against such a formidable romantic rival.

My favorite moments of John Neumeier’s beautifully epic ballet lie with the Poet (Ulrik Birkkjaer) and the Sea Witch (Wei Wang). The Poet, Ulrik Birkkjaer leads us through this story with beauty and grace dancing seamlessly under the water, on the ship, and in the heavens. He knows what is happening, what is about to happen and our heart breaks with his as the story unfolds. Ulrik is strong and filled with depth. He blends in as the Poet and yet cannot be ignored when on stage. He is a storyteller.
Wei Wang, as the Sea Witch is incredible. You want to see him as the villain, but it’s nearly impossible because his dancing is so extraordinary. He embodies the regal eel-like creature that strikes a deal with The Little Mermaid that eventually turns so dark.

There is a moment at the end, where the Little Mermaid and The Poet are lifted into the night sky on a platform of stars, it is worthy of all of our tears for all of our loves that were never returned. Congratulations to everyone at San Francisco Ballet on a beautiful run of this majestic ballet.

The Little Mermaid: Yuan Yuan Tan
Prince / Edvard: Aaron Robison
Poet / Hans Christian Andersen: Ulrik Birkkjaer
Princess / Henriette: Sasha De Sola
Sea Witch: Wei Wang

http://www.sfballet.org
Photos courtesy of San Francisco Ballet, ©Erik Tomasson

Tamara Sparkles

Contributor | San Francisco

Tamara is a California native with a passion and understanding for dance education that stems from 30 years of teaching experience. She is available for private coaching in the Bay the area.

ISSUE 15

A BALLET EDUCATION
ISSUE 15

ISSUE 15

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

Read It On Joo Mag

IN THIS ISSUE

David King

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

JoLee Photography

Cover Photographer

Ashley Baker

Contributing Editor & photographer

Turning in to find your TURNOUT

Turning In to Find Your Turnout 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t let the supporting knee give .

Don’t roll on the supporting foot.

Don’t put weight into the working leg.

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

 

Check Out Lauryn’s Tutorial on Audition Make Up

Notes on Fifth Position

Fifth position: home base. This position can be the best feeling in the world, or it can be your worst enemy. It is painfully beautiful, gives you the longest leg line, and most of all it is the ultimate measure of turnout, placement and technique. The ideal fifth position is taking the feet in first position and overlapping them to create two parallel lines giving your legs two diagonal lines. As most teachers would say, “toe to heel, heel to toe.” This position creates a narrow hip line, and brings your body into the longest standing position of the body. But, it isn’t easy achieving this position.

Not only do you have to understand how the upper body works, and how the core lifts, but most importantly you have to understand how to use the backs of your legs (click to learn more) or you will get a distorted– heavy position; opposed to a long and light position.

You should never grip your quads in fifth. Truthfully, you should just never grip your quads. The inside of your thighs should lay extremely flat, and your knees should be facing opposite walls and pulled back. A good fifth position will have the knees crossing but not touching. This would be perfect 180 degree turnout and then some.

Fifth Position

5 THINGS YOU SHOULD JUST NEVER DO IN FIFTH…

1.One of the biggest mistakes most students make in fifth position… is when crossing into fifth they relax their core and causes the pelvis to tip forward. Students think it is a way you relieve pressure or cheat your turnout… You actually want to do the complete opposite. You should be so pulled up in the front of your hips that your fifth closes seamlessly. Additionally, you should be rotating from the backs of your legs to keep your pelvis supported, and lifting through your core to keep the pelvis stable.
2.Another pet peeve in fifth position is a relaxed front knee. It is this pseudo Miss America position that grosses me out. Not to mention, if you are relaxing your knee, you are probably using your quad in everything else and you are just going to get big thighs.
3.You should also never pronate forward or back. You should never force a fifth position, you are asking for knee problems. There is nothing wrong with having 150 degrees of turn out. The ideal is always going to be 180, but if you can’t achieve 180 with your hips rotation, knee rotation, ankle rotation without compromising alignment; then just stay where you are at. But keep cross training and stretching to eventually be strong enough to get to 180.
4.Don’t ever do open fifth. Always cross your fifth. This whole open fifth is awkward… Not to mention open fifth in pointe shoes is ridiculously ugly. Ideally, you shouldn’t see your back foot, but if your hips aren’t flexible enough to hold the position, keep working hard.
5.Fifth position should never ever be forced. Turnout can be stretched, but you work on turnout in pilates, gyro and yoga… You use barre and fifth to strengthen and lengthen the position. Forcing turnout causes numerous problems on the hips, ankles, knees, pelvis and lower back. So, again, just do it.


how-to-do-ballet-positions1

Notes on First Position 


Shop A Ballet Education Day Planners and Technique Trackers. Great for Students to keep track of their progress and set their ballet goals.

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How is your week?

a Ballet Edcuation Planner 2

Ballet is busy! Most professional dancers are the middle of the busiest time of year for a company. Most students are in the middle of auditions and preparing for the YAGP. It can get a little chaotic… okay a lot chaotic. The first round of planners is now available, and I want your feed back, so feel free to message me with suggestions, ideas, and comments. Don’t forget to tag me in your photos or use #aballeteducation on Instagram so I can see your pages!!

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 Don’t worry guys, I’ve got you covered. Week four!! Manly Ballet.

male ballet

 

A Ballet Talk: Summer Intensives

Hey ABE Readers,

I have been getting a huge influx of emails regarding summer intensives and asking for advice about auditions, where to go, and concerns that are growing in the Ballet Community/Industry. If we talk about summer intensives from when I grew up, or anyone who went to a summer program ten years ago, the game is SOOOO different now. And be careful, a lot of summer intensives are only built for money.

It isn’t a secret that the ballet industry itself is hurting, big time. This is why more and more schools are opening lower age divisions, offering multiple locations, and trying to reach as many students as possible… it just simply means money.

It makes me wonder if we are losing the prestige of ballet because we are trying to accommodate everyone. The problem? We are accepting thousands of girls into summer courses with very few jobs out there. It has always been this way, but it seems that jobs are becoming fewer and fewer, but summer courses and programs becoming larger and larger.

IF your purpose of attending a summer program is to just enjoy the experience and have the ability to learn from different teachers, than by all means… Go for it. But, if your purpose of a summer course is to further your training, be seen by schools, get a scholarship and be asked to go year round… different story.

What age is it appropriate to go away for the summer?
When should you go away?
Where should you go away to?
What are you going to be getting at a summer course?
What should each age group be focused on in terms of training?
What are some of the goals long term for a summer student?
Why are we all in a rush?
Diversity? Cross Training? Moving the art for forward?
Picking the right program? Finances, distance, training, hours, cost?
Things to Remember at a Summer Course?

These are all questions, that are up for discussion…. so, Rasta Thomas and I decided to have a little (kind of long, but funny) talk.

Big DRUM ROLL PLEASE…

WELCOME A BALLET TALK!! Watch the Video Below, subscribe to the new channel and get ready for A Ballet Talk!

How Much Should You Cross-Train for Ballet?

It seems, as of late, the majority of emails coming in, at the moment, revolve around cross-training… and it isn’t just parents writing in. It is studio owners, colleagues, and other dancer teachers out there. In a recent video on Instagram, it shows super talented dancers cross-training at the gym; not to mention ABT’s obsession with workout videos lately… Mostly, I think, to promote their friend’s business… Regardless… cross-training seems to be what is on everyone’s mind, especially gearing up for competition season.

how much should you cross train for ballet

Ballet Dancers seem to use a million different ways to augment their trainining… from nutrition to physical excercise, cross-training takes just as much time and money as ballet. And no… that doesn’t mean to buy a $7,000 dollar reformer for the house… I mean if you are going to have a pilates instructor come to your house, or you have put in thousands of hours… and have the liquid income… then go for it… otherwise… don’t

So, the first question you have to look at is how many hours a week are you training? This includes private lessons, private coaching sessions and rehearsal hours. Time management is crucial. Different schools have different approaches when it comes to the hours a dancer puts in. Lets say to be conservative for every 5 hours of classes you probably should be cross training at least an hour a week. This could be stretch and conditioning or something as simple as cardio. The reason behind cross training is so that muscles don’t over develop, so that the body is getting an even workout, and to focus on smaller details. This is opposed to regular ballet class to enhance and learn ballet vocabulary technique, rehearsals to learn choreography, private lessons to focus on individual needs… etc.

I know it is a lot… so we are basically saying if your kid is dancing 30 hours a week, they should be cross training 6 hours a week, and still getting 55 hours of sleep in… plus school and homework… and we only get 168 hours in a week. It seems impossible. Ballet schools should be implementing a lot of these practices in the curriculum. But if they aren’t.. then you will have to do it on your own. Make sure you are on the right and safe equipment… and you have a good pair of shoes that support your arches.

Things you should have at home or in your dance bag for cross-training on your own…
Bosu Ball... it is $100 bucks but one of the best investments for your dancer. Not only can you strength train on it but you can also work on balancing and core.

Resistance Bands

Foam Roller/Muscle Roller
You can not only maintain muscle, but  you can also use it to stretch and increase your stretch…

Flexi Stretcher

Ways to Cross-Train…

Pilates Life:
“Dancers spend most of their time in the studio, dedicating themselves to their art. Ballet/dance is their real job and like any job it is a daily struggle and it takes it’s toll on the body. Pilates helps them to rectify the imbalances they tend to create in the studio (from my experience, ballet dancers are particularly asymmetrical). With choreographers and teachers demanding daily perfection, Pilates allows dancers the space they need outside of the studio and outside of class to re-balance, release and re-connect. I started Pilates in my first year of the Australian Ballet School, which is around 23 years ago. Initially I found it hard to understand. Pilates is full of subtlety and nuance and it takes a long time to become familiar with it. When I was dancing my best, Pilates was for the most part a daily routine. A couple of hours of Pilates before ballet class became a necessity for me to feel good on stage. It balanced me out, helped me to rehabilitate injuries and be stronger than the challenge I faced. Simply put, it made my dancing better and more enjoyable.” -Marc Cassidy, former Senior Artist with The Australian Ballet and now owns and operates TrueFormPilates in Melbourne. Quote from Dance Informa

Cardio Life:
According to Harvard’s SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, the average child 11-18 should be engaged in moderate or vigorous activity for an hour a day… we got that covered. However, cardio does build stamina and helps burn calories… Not that a kid should have to worry about that… But, this is on top of elite athletics. I mean, I for sure don’t have an hour a day to just briskly walk but it’s something to strive for. I would avoid the treadmill and other weight on the joints activities and focus on like swimming or yoga… though swimming can also restructure the body’s lung capacity and cause broadening of the chest and back… not ideal for girls.  Jumping rope on clay is always fun. I avoid biking because it makes your quads larger and tighter.

Weight Training:
Children under the age of 15 are not encouraged to weight train whatsoever. According to Harvard and Yale’s studies… it can actually cause bone density and growth issues. (It kind of borders on the same idea that you shouldn’t start pointe to early) Kids should rather do unstructured activities like playing on playground equipment, climbing trees, and so forth.

(Physical Activity guidelines for Americans. U/S/D.o.H.a.H. Services, Editor, 2008)

Gyrotonics:
If you can afford it, and have a place close to you… Gyrotonics is wonderful and magical.

“The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® Method is a unique, holistic approach to movement. Some of the benefits of a regular Gyrotonic practice include a healthier, more supple spine, increased range of motion, greater joint stability, improved agility and athletic performance, and a deep internal strength. Experienced Gyrotonic trainers offer personalized sessions that are adapted to fit the needs of all ages, and abilities, from elderly patients recovering from injury, to highly skilled professional athletes.” – Gyrotonic Website

Physical Therapists:
Injury Rehab and Prevention are extremely important. More and more former dancers have continued their career by attending med school like Alexis Sams. Alexis has not only studied other methods but she has gone on to develop numerous ways for dancers to cross train. Everything from coordination, to strengthening, stretching and pointe… Dr. Sams is another great resource out there. And she isn’t the only one.

Supplements
From avoiding gluten, avoiding dairy, avoiding meat… and anything else pumped with hormones, it seems supplements are becoming a big part of dance training. I mean, so are essential oils.

This Week In Ballet…

ballet news topIt is the first week of 2018, and it already has me thinking… a lot. Between Peter Martins retiring, YAGP Philadelphia being postponed, YAGP Seattle underway, new job offers, new job titles and the pressure of ballet building… it has really made me start to think about a life outside of ballet.  Don’t forget you can watch live streams of the YAGP… you have to pay… but it’s enjoyable.

Let us recap A Ballet Education’s Ups and Downs of 2017…
January: I left a job that was basically a lie and the board was stealing. Found out my blog was ranked number 2 as a dance resource and ballet blog in the world, over the Gaurdian, NYT, and Pointe.
February: Depressed.
yagp finals
March: YAGP FINALS, developped a tremor in my hand and body, quit drinking
April: Blogging and Writing, went Gluten Free
May: Master Teaching Everywhere, became a Red Bubble Top Seller
June: Offered the Job at American National Ballet, met some really great people.
July: Master Teaching at Masters,
August: Moved to Charleston… mid August- left ANB, went Vegetarian
September: Blogging and Writing and Teaching Everywhere, made it one year of the magazine.
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October: Given the Chance to work at Phoenix Ballet, got screwed over by close friends, went Vegan
November: Guest taught more, wrote more, traveled to a million places… Worked on my getting my children’s book out there again… fail.
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December: Survived 16 shows of Nutcracker as Executive Director, photographer, Guild Coordinator, celebrated Christmas with my family… barely wrote. Lost a ton of weight.

Don’t get me wrong, I saw a lot of great ballet and had amazing opportunities. I am just glad I can look back at 2017 and be done with it.

… now onto January 2018 

So far, I have found out that my blog is now Ranked Number 1.
I was given the chance to freelance work in fashion again, and enjoyed it. I have only had two flights delayed, one in which I canceled. Given the chance to buyout of my place in Charleston, which I haven’t been to 3 months. I miss my bed, my clothes, my books. Now I have to figure out those logistics. Mmmm, signed two cool deals that will launch in March.
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Decided to cut back on teaching this year and focus on the things that I want in life… And it is only day 5, so I can’t really say it is that great of an accomplishment, but I quit smoking. Have turned into a raging b*tch… But decided since my tremor hasn’t come back to attempt the gym and ballet classes again…

 

 

 

Just Another Snowflake… surviving Nutcracker (2017 Edition)

Most professionals are in the midst of the exhaustion of the Nutcracker. For others, Nutcracker has just started… It is hard to survive the holiday season as a ballet dancer… Between rehearsals, performances, Christmas Shopping, Holiday festivities and family obligations, it seems to balance out Nutcracker is close to impossible…

nutcracker snow a ballet educationYes, it is a rough life… For some girls, this holiday season brings the tour de force of roles. In a single show you might dance Party Mom, Snow, Flowers and a divertissement.

During the holiday season you will go through the most pointe shoes and costume changes of season. You will dance the most consecutive shows and you want to die. You will dance five different spots in snow, and at least four different spots in flowers. Yup, it is the wonderful holiday season of the Nutcracker.

Okay, so how do you survive Nutcracker 2017?

  1. If you are old enough… looking forward to a good glass of wine on your day off.
  2. ibuprofen, Biofreeze, or Tigerbalm…
  3. Compression wear… Shop Zarely here.
  4. A really good playlist to listen to, so Nutcracker music doesn’t consume your life.
  5. Meal Prepping for lack of time.
  6. Having a ridiculously organized schedule.
  7. Eating enough to sustain you and staying hydrated.
  8. Vitamin C, B12 and other Vitamins…
  9. Laughing a lot with friends… and then posting memories on social media.
  10. Sleeping enough.

Still haven’t gotten your Nutcracker Gifts? Shop here.

 

Camille A. Brown & Dancers @ the Kennedy Center

camille a brown

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I had the wonderful opportunity of spending the weekend at the Kennedy Center. This weekend marked a great feat in discourse and dance history as Camille A. Brown & Dancers made their debut at the Kennedy Center. I saw the second night of the performance where this four time Princess Grace Award Winner presented Ink. The following night included in the 40th Kennedy Center Honors that airs December 26 on CBS. (Honorees include: Carmen De Lavallade, Gloria Estefan, LL COOL J, Norman Lear and Lionel Richie.) This weekend at the Kennedy Center also celebrated Fred Astaire, another Kennedy Center Honoree.

Anyways, back to Camille A. Brown… This performance attracted everyone: young and old, different ethnicities and different socioeconomic statuses. I was lucky enough to have a box seat at this performance where I was sat next to presitigious memebers of today’s arts and culture. Other attendees included the Editor of Essence, Vanessa K. De Luca and Virgina Johnson, Artistic Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem (who just finished the European Tour).

The night presented Ms. Brown’s Original work Ink that infused cultural movement, post modern gesturalism, a blend of live and recorded movement completely stripped. The stage was completely stripped, and the only set was a broken painting hung on either side and the live music set up in between the two. What was extraordinary about this performance was it was a relevant mark at Kennedy Center and Dance History because it placed Post Modern movement at the center of the dance world. Creating a large conversation about the culture and evolution of the opposite side of technical classical dance.

As the performance was interesting, the thing that I admired most about the piece was Ms. Brown’s ability to create a conversation between two dancers based on movement. It is something that classical ballet, and even contemporary ballet lacks. It wasn’t just telling a story, but it was her ability to almost portray a dailogue of movement between two people on stage with music. While we all know post-modern dance isn’t really my thing, nor does the trends of post-modern dance play a huge influencial factor in Classical Ballet- It was interesting to see different bodytypes,  lack of technique, and almost a since of the abondonment from anything remotely classical on stage at the Kennedy Center; especially on the evening prior to the Kennedy Center Awards.

I would have included more of the names and quotes from the program but I lost my program book following the performance. But bravo to all of the dancers.

So, you got those hamburger hands…

In the great debate of hands and hand placement, I realized, hands might most be the most intimate part of ballet. The hands finish the line, the hands direct the audience, the hands create the most intricate negative space on the body. The hands glide into a woman’s waistline, a man offer his hand and a female delicately places her hand into his and a story is created. They might be one of the most beautiful parts of ballet.

hamburger hands ballet

The problem? Not everyone has the most graceful or refined hands… Some of you might have hamburger hands, some of you might have claws, some have oven mitts, extreme pointing up fingers, wiggly fingers or just really awkward stiff hands… A large problem with this is how we approach fine motor skills in ballet. A lot of teachers focus on the larger movements of ballet and forget the subtle refinement of breath in different parts of the lung, eye line, fingers, wrist articulation and scapula rotation; all things that can distinguish a dancer from being a technician and an artist.

So, how do you refine these skills? Just like ballet skill sets, you cross train them. Since my tremor has developed, my hands have become something I have been extremely focused on, and the PT to restrengthen them. Which is what brought along this post.

-If you hold tension in your hands or wrist, refocus the tension into your core.

-Make sure you stretch out your fingers and wrists, and warm them up before class. They are just as important.

-Do exercises like touching each finger to the thumb at different speeds and at different orders.

-Reshape the hand by feeling the energy and shape just in the hand while standing in line waiting for things.

-Shake out your hands constantly and keep the blood moving through the hand.

Flamenco really helps figure out the articulation of the wrist and fingers, if your studio doesn’t offer flamenco, try to take a class outside of your studio. Look at ballroom studios if they offer it as a supplemental class.

Another issue is whether or not to break, relax, flex or elongate the wrist.

The standard is to always keep the line as long as possible, but nowadays we are seeing much more stylize port de bras and hands. If you even look at videos from the top ballet companies in the world, the wrists are becoming more and more broken (i would post pics but don’t own the rights, so just google on your own) and the lines are becoming more and more extreme. I always say the hands and wrist articulation will vary on the role, and I actually don’t believe there is a right way or wrong way to find what looks best on your body. For example, my wrists have extremely ulna ends, making it look like my wrist is always broken. So trying to do the “classical” hand and line looks funky on me. But, when I relax my wrist and I let it break slightly, it is more natural looking and I have more articulation and range. But the shape of my hand can vary depending on the role and choreography.


SHOP A BALLET EDUCATION

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You Know It’s Nutcracker Season When…

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Robbie Downey as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Phoenix Ballet’s The Nutcracker

It is that time of the year again…. Nutcracker. Support your local ballet school or company by attending this wonderful holiday tradition. We are days away to close our Nutcracker Kickstarter campaign, and unforutnately, it doesn’t look like it will come to fruition. But, I will relaunch the campaign in the New Year, focusing on next year.

(Click Here to help our kickstarter campaign)

This season I was lucky enough to coach for beautiful Sugar Plums for Phoenix Ballet’s Nutcracker. They included social media star Robbie Downey, YAGP winner Mya Kresniak, YAGP winner Madison Penney, and the elegant Kenzie Thomas. All four young women are so different and took on the role so differently. It reminded me about how wonderful an oppertunitiy to dance a principal role is. These four girls are about to make their debut in Arizona and headline a show.

Now, I am on the opposite side of the country coaching talented young women for the YAGP. These roles are so difficult but it is so amazing to see the attack and dedication these young women have. While Baltimore is cold, the experience here has been amazing.

Finally, don’t forget Issue 8 is out!

(Repost)

Between the holiday parties  and preparing for Black Friday sales, the ballet world is faced with our dreaded, but magical annual tradition of The Nutcracker. Every year around this time, whether it be at Starbucks, the bank or even at some retail store, I am standing around minding my own business… and then it comes on the speakers. That dreadful tune that ushers in the Holiday Season.

While the majority of the world associates it with that one song from that one commercial, ballet dancers around the world hear it and immediately identify the composer, the act, the choreography and the costumes. Yes, it is the Nutcracker.

Recently, I was standing in line with my pas de deux partner, and the music for Snow Pas came on. While it is one of the most beautiful pieces composes for the Nutcracker, we immediately looked at each other with fear in our eyes. Yes, fear. We had just started rehearsals with new choreography knowing that the show goes up in three weeks. We both haven’t been on stage for more than four years, and we immediately decided to order skinny lattes knowing we are about to be in white tights. So, in the tradition of Nutcracker, and in a Ballet Education’s five things…

You Know It’s Nutcracker When…
1. You hear Nutcracker music outside of ballet and want to kill yourself.
2. 1/3 of your company is injured, or battling tendonitis, but still powering through ridiculously long rehearsals that you don’t want to be in.
3. You know every part of Nutcracker, but still are forced to rehearse, clean and tech it all. In fact, you have probably danced every part of Nutcracker at some point of your life and could probably stage it all, with your eyes closed.
4. This time of the year everyone is all about the holiday cheer and festivities, but you are the most tired you have ever been. You want to crawl into a ball and die. You still have to rehearse everything else outside of Nutcracker for the upcoming season’s bills, so your mind is on overload. It is just yucky.
5. You are a boy, and its Nut season and all you want to do is be Kyra Nichols as Dewdrop. Yes, you want to be Balanchine’s infamous Dewdrop and dance the most beautiful entrances, have the most swayed back ever, and dance to the loveliest of music.

Here are some of last year’s Nutcracker Posts:
THE BEAST THAT IS THE NUTCRACKER

5 AWFUL REALITIES OF NUTCRACKER

THE NUTTINESS OF NUTCRACKER

Notes on Effacé

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notes

Effacé, effacée [eh-fa-SAY/]. Shaded. One of the directions of épaulement (body directions to classify the arms, head, shoulders, legs in relation to the audience) in which the dancer stands at an slight angle to the audience so that a part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from the audience’s view. This direction is classically termed “ouvert” in the French Method. Effacé, most popularly is used to qualify a pose in which the legs are open (not crossed to the audience). This pose may be done devant (front) or derrière (back), either à terre (on the ground) or en l’air (in the air). Origin of the word is French, like all of the ballet vocabulary. The etymology behind the word takes “e-“ and “face” to create “effacer”, in the 15th century the “r” was dropped.

efface ballet education
Effacé is one of the most beautiful positions in ballet. Between the simplicity of the placement and the control of the body, this position is often overlooked. While the first body position at center we learn is en face, efface usually follows once the dancer understands stage direction, body alignment, and understanding. Effacé is one of the body positions we learn on the angle as a part of epaulment. This positioning makes up half of the lateral positions. The other being croisé.

In ballet, this position is used all the time. Effacé is the easiest and probably most used position, and this position revolves around steps moving down the diagonal of the room, “from the corner”, or “across the floor” exercises. Usually starting in B plus, this position is often used to transfer weight and travel. Which is why we often overlook this position. It is so important to always control your turnout, foot articulation and weight change through this position/step (tombé)…

We often forget that positions in ballet, are never really just a position. The movement or energy needed causes the position to grow, change, and expand. Based on artistic freedom you play with the timing, breath, and coordination of the position.

What makes effacé so great and so versatile is the stylized versions of effacé. Usually is actually changing the epaulment but holding the position of the legs, this position becomes so beautiful. Different ballets cause for different stylized versions. For example, in Giselle, the effacé position in Act I will be more peasant stylized, and the body is forward and the head is slightly cocked. Then in Act II, the position is extremely forward, and the eye line is very low.

Regardless of the style, effacé must be turned out at all times to show the cleanest line of the body. If your body doesn’t have a ton of rotation you can cheat the line but winging your working foot. If you still can’t get that clean position, you can cheat the hips in effacé devant. I don’t recommend this at all, but it is important to have a clean line in this position. To cheat it, slightly shift your weight into your standing leg. Slightly release your piriformis and shift your hips to allow the line to shift. This will allow you to change the line of your leg so you can really get the supporting hip heel up towards the ceiling. Don’t forget to pull your toes back to create/finish the line!


Don’t forget to check out our KICKSTARTER campaign!  

nutcracker magic my first nutcracker

Should You Homeschool?

There comes a point for a lot of dancers who have to make the choice of homeschooling. Ballet is so time-consuming, so there has to be a “give and take”. I myself, did high school online and finished in two years, third in my class and with my AA. So, if you are self-motivated it’s a great opportunity to balance dancing and education. The video below was made by a ballet student about her experiences with online school. (@chloechka_art) Props to her for animating at the age of 15, because I am like dying just doing 2D drawings.

 

So, how do you know when it is right to homeschool? There comes a point where the hours in the day are running short, and it seems that there aren’t enough hours in the day to balance school, homework, dance and rehearsals. For some, the answer is easy and it is to homeschool. While homeschool isn’t for everyone, for those who do want to pursue that option, it isn’t as hard as it seems. Nowadays, you just need to fill out an affidavit and set up your curriculum. If you can financially afford to purchase curriculum that’s probably the easiest way. If you can’t afford to buy a set curriculum, you can piece it yourself. But, one of the best things you can do is find an online charter school in your state.

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If you are ready to homeschool and don’t know how to talk to your parents about it, ask your dance teacher, and they should be able to help explain the reasons why, and provide you with proper guidance. If they can’t, you can show them this article.

Parents, if you are student shows you this article, or you yourself are considering homeschooling here are some reasons why homeschooling might be a better option for your child:

  • To be a part of a pre-pro program most start at 10:00 AM or 1:00 PM.
  • Most ballet dancers are self-sufficient and can work at a faster pace so they don’t waste time.
  • Homeschooling allows for more hours of dancing and rehearsals, not to mention if you are asked into a year-round school, it’s an easier transition.
  • Travel time. It also saves on travel time and chauffering around.
  • It allows dancers to excel at their own pace. Sometimes it is frustrating not being able to control the progress in the ballet studio, so having control of progress in education is a good feeling.

Finally, homeschool isn’t for everyone. Some schools will allow dancers to leave early and skip out on elective and PE classes in exchange for their dance school to sign off on hours. This allows for more hours of dance. And, you should never compromise the quality of education for your dancing because an education is something that no one can take away. You also will need it as a backup plan if you get injured or if you don’t get a contract.


The Guide to Pas De Deux Cover

The Guide to Pas De Deux

It’s here! The Guide to Pas De Deux!! The first book in the Ballet Education Standardized Ballet Training Curriculum. 24 pages of information including 15 illustrations, vocabulary and mapped out curriculum! Click the book below to purchase.
The Guide to Pas De Deux Cover

Or click here to buy!

Inspired…

They say when one door closes, another one opens. The problem with that saying is that sometimes you can’t just wait around for a door magically open. Sometimes you have to find the door yourself and push it open. So, that is what I am doing. After a bunch of job offers and numerous opportunities around the US, I’ve decided to really just work for myself. I didn’t really think of it before, don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for this blog, but why was I teaching, coaching, and working for other companies, when I could be investing in my own?

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So, I was looking for a sign, and then I started reading a bunch of different perspectives and stories from ballet. This inspired me, inspired me to really push forward with a Ballet Education. I decided to start drawing those who have inspired me, and they aren’t just ballet dancers. There is a mighty long list, so hopefully, maybe there will be numerous additions to the Inspired Collection.

ABE logo 1So, where does this lead me? The rebranding of A Ballet Education. Thank you to Lisbet Photography and Misfit Design. For helping me recreate and reinvent A Ballet Education.

Yup! It is happening and going full force! So, what does this mean? I am hitting the road again. I will be in Los Angeles again from October 12-18. Come take 10 hours of intense A Ballet Education classes, or come watch and take notes on the Ballet Education Curriculum at the Downtown Dance & Movement Studios.

Untitled 2Register today by clicking here!

TEACHERS: if you are intersted in sending your students and you are interested in coming to observe, if you have 3 students come to the intensive, you can watch for free.

 

YEAR 1 … Done.

FALL 2017

Issue 6 Featuring Tegan Chou

6 Issues 1 crazy year. When I started the magazine I was living in California, then Phoenix, and now issue six is published from Charleston. What a crazy whirlwind! But how wonderful! With so many subscribers and followers, we were able to lower the cost of the subscription to the magazine! Which is exciting!

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Still too expensive? Don’t worry, this entire month JOOmag Publishers are giving us 50% off, which means you get 50% off. Just use the coupon code: K0LBKWTVBUL4
Sorry, it is so long! But it is worth it.

This year a Ballet Education has five really big things coming up…
1. A Ballet Education’s YouTube Channel & Tutorials
2. A Ballet Education’s Teacher Workshops
3. A Ballet Education’s Master Class Series
4. A Ballet Education’s A Ballet Magazine getting even bigger
5. A Ballet Network’s great list of clients to work with.


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thug life

 

Days 1, 2 & 3 at ANB

It has been a whirlwind… A very chaotic whirlwind to get to American National Ballet, but I am here. Things are moving so fast for being a new company. SOOO fast. I arrived at the airport and because my flight was delayed I was immediately picked up, I had to leave my luggage behind and whisked away to work. Sooo, that was Saturday… I worked into the night Saturday, all day Sunday. Sunday consisted of photographing American National Ballet Principal Kara Zimmerman. Day 3, today consisted of a 13-hour workday and running around like a crazy person. Seriously there is so much work, but it is so exciting. As I am planning the trainee school year I am super stoked. Amazing and beautiful talented students are coming to train with me and I am truly humbled and excited to work with them. I only have 1 girl spot left and 2 boy spots left. So if you want to come train with me and the American National Ballet, don’t forget to email dking@americannationalballet.org kara 16