The Germans are coming… well leaping. (The German Companies)

Germany isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think ballet, or dance in general. But since the 60’s German companies have risen, and have produced some of the most amazing works, or choreography today. Particularly, there are two companies in Germany that have risen to the occasion establishing them among the best: the Hamburg Ballet, and Stuttgart Ballet. In edition a baby ballet company in their 8th season has risen and made quite the splash in the ballet world: the Dreseden Semperoper Ballet.

Stuttgart Ballet (Company): Housed at the Opera House in Stuttgart, and founded by John Cranko, and now headed by Reid Anderson, the Stuttgart Ballet employs 65 dancers. Why is this so relevant? John Cranko has made numerous contributions to the world of ballet by extending the classical ballet repertory and mentoring: Jiri Kylian and John Neumeier. His two biggest contributions to the “classical” repertory have been the Prince of Pagodas (Royal Ballet) and Eugene Onegin.

Hamburg Ballet (Company):Reinvented by John Neumeier in 1973, the Hamburg Ballet has flourished. Their website boasts that under his direction of 40 years, over a 180 new ballets have been presented, 421 dancers have been employed, and their list of accomplishments goes on. The Hamburg Ballet has made huge contemporary contributions to the world of dance, one of the most noted is John Neumeier’s Little Mermaid.

hamburg ballet dancers

Then there is the new comer to German Ballet, the Semperoper Ballet. Starting their ninth season, Semperoper Ballet is making their splash in the dance world. Most of their dancers are extremely flexible, and very technical, and have gathered dancers from numerous international schools. For a company in their 9th season, they have recruited some of the best talent out there. In addition their exposure on social media has been growing, especially from their men. With dancers from across the globe Semperoper is definitely starting to make a name for themselves, and their creation of Nutcracker video Via Youtube is pretty cool as well.

In addition another young company is slowly making it’s way into the limelight: The Forsythe Project.. After the close of Ballett Frankfurt, the Forsythe Project was created to lead a group of individuals with innovative choreography. The project has paid off well, and for those of you who are in America who would be dying to work with William Forsythe, he joins the faculty at USC for the 2015-2016 school year in their new dance department. (Good time to be going to college.) In addition, it seems that the Germans are all about premiers, pushing the boundaries of innovation, choreography, music and lighting. With a strong number of choreographers, it seems that we will now be looking to Germany for the next standard repertory. (This being that eventually we will replace the Balanchine Repertory with the German Repertory, which will either be replaced by Ramatsky, Wheeldon, Millpied, Justin Peck, Myles Thatcher.)

More German companies are making appearances in the US, as Hamburg Ballet and San Francisco have created a strong bond between Europe and the States. As Southern California this season is bringing in companies from all over, it will be nice to see how everyone compares. especially to our home companies.

Raymonda… wtf

Seriously, wtf. In the world of ballet, there are tons of ballets that have been forgotten: the Pharaoh’s Daughter, Harlequinade, Les Saisons, and Le Daible Amoureux/Satanella (most noted for the Carnival de Venice Pas de deux). Regarldess, ballets become irrelevant, and forgotten about, maybe snippets and excerpts survive. Then there is Raymonda… Raymonda is the gigantic beast of a ballet. Longer than the full length Sleeping Beauty, the full length Raymonda consists of 3 acts and 4 scenes, and apotheosis. No wonder why it died, who could sit through all of that? Not to mention, that it kills the ballerina… She has four/five variations, depending on the production. No only does she have an absurd task of carrying an entire ballet, but her plethora of variations are some of the most difficult variations ever.

In Act 1, she has two variations. The first is the pizzicato variation which is light, charming but still rather difficult with all of the hops on pointe. Then in the same act she is challenged with the vision variation involving a long piece of fabric.

Then in Act 2 she has the pas d’action variation she has to conquer the “big” variation. This is the adagio variation that many girls use for competition because of the control a ballerina has to have. Seriously… if you don’t know what I am talking about go watch it via youtube. She then has another variation in the later scene of the act that has a bunch of dazzling turns, and a punch of entrechatquatres on pointe… Yeah, if that wasn’t enough…

Then in Act 3 she has her clapping variation, which kind of requires the ballerina to have good feet. The variation mainly consists of bourres and some feisty passes, but I mean after all of that dancing what else can you do on pointe…  Yeah it is kind of insane.

The variations are difficult enough, but there is quite a bit of dancing for the other leads as well. Raymonda is like this huge hodge podge of everything in classical ballet. Most people really only the pas de dix, or the Balanchine version that uses the same music for a corps and one couple. And thank god, there is are so many character dances. I have never seen it full length but own two different DVD versions, and every time I try to sit down and watch it all the way through… I fall asleep.

So, what is so special about Raymonda, and why do young girls still do the variations on the international competition stage? Well, I am glad you asked… Well, you didn’t… But I think what makes these variations special is that they are a part of a bigger picture.  As Swan Lake challenges the ballerina to be dynamic in two ways, Raymonda challenges the ballerina in five ways. Additionally, each variation is quite challenging, not because there are 5, but because each variation is exceptionally long compared to most variations. In the 3rd act variation, Raymonda now has a sense of maturity, authority and because the majority of the variation is bourres the ballerina has to be enchanting. In the big variation of act 2, the ballerina has to posses a weightless quality that is effortless and charming. Not to mention we all want to see leg up!

Also, in the supporting role of Henriette, 3 masterful variations are presented as well. In act one a long difficult and delicate variation is presented. In act 2, a sultry and provocative variation is delivered. And finally, in the third a playful spritely variation is executed.

A List of Farewells…

Many of the principals we have come to love and adore, or have forgotten about have announced their retirements this year. This morning, Carla Korbes announced her retirement from PNB. Her stunning career has been plagued with injuries, but her collaborations with Peter Boal have definitely paid off, and have have been celebrated.

Other principals to retire are NYCB’s beloved Wendy Whelan, and ABT’s Paloma Herrera both set to retire in October. Julie Kent is going to be retiring in the Spring Season. There are plenty of others who should retire, haha, but that is neither here nor there. The point is that these three women have made huge contributions to the world of ballet, and as they leave, they are making room for a stunning new set of leading ladies to take center stage.

Redlands Dance Theatre

Hello Readers, Fans, Haters and General Public…

I appreciate all of the support I have gotten from you all. And now, I am here to ask a small favor of you. I am in the process of opening up a ballet company and school in the Inland Empire, where I live… And I need your help… We all know ballet is expensive, and that ballet companies have a huge turn over, but I believe I truly do know ballet, and understand the world of ballet today. I think a lot of you would agree with me since you are following my blog… Regardless, if you could please share the information below on your social media, e-mail blasting your contacts, and so forth, I would greatly and humbly appreciate it.

Redlands Dance Theatre is a ballet school and company that is going to be opened by David King. If you are interested in supporting this ballet company and school please check out our campaign and website!

Currently, we hold our non profit EIN, and in the process/waiting for our 501(c)(3)

http://www.gofundme.com/e69zbk

http://www.RedlandsDanceTheatre.org

Thank you again for all of the love,

David King

The Best of the Best… Ballet Company Awards 2014 (2013-2014 Season)

If Ballet Companies had an awards ceremony to go to, it would be the Golden Globes. It wouldn’t be the Oscars, even if it is the most glamorous event. This is because the Oscars are voted on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, we basically have that from the Princess Grace Awards and the Prixs for that.  If dancers were to vote on other dancers and companies, then it would be the SAGs.  The Golden Globes are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press, and I feel like that in itself says it all. The power of press and publicity goes a long way, not to mention that the opinions of editors dictate the content featured. But, that isn’t what makes the Golden Globes so special, it is the fact that the mission of the Hollywood Foreign Press is to make films accessible to the general public by unbiased information and reviews. So, as I compiled a list of companies worth noting this year, the list grew rather large, so I decided to make categories, just like any awards ceremony. Because ballet is constantly changing, I needed to create categories that would allow flexibility, change and innovation. So, here are the categories that I felt represented the art form as a whole, and as a reflection of a company:

So without further ado… The Envelopes Please…

Best Premiere of a new work

The New York City Ballet, in PAZ de LA JOLLA, by choreographer Justin Peck. 

(Nominees: Daphnis and Chloe, Paris Opera, Choreographed by Millpied. Lest We Forget Program from English National Ballet)

 

Best Repertory for the season.

Headed by Benjamin Millpied and Bridgette Lefevre, Paris Opera Ballet once again had a ridiculous season including: La Dame Aux Camelias/Neumeier, Dances at a Gathering/Robins, Psyche/Ramatsky, Le Park/Prelojac, Notre-Dame De Paris/Petit, the Sleeping Beauty/Nureyev, Doux Mensonges/ Kylian, Daphnis and Chloe/Millpied,Orpheus and Eurydice/ Bausch just to name a few. During the season during Onegin, Amandine Albisson received her place as an etoiles for her role in Tatiana.

(Nominees: San Francisco Ballet, the New York City Ballet, National Ballet of Canada)

 

Best reprisal of a classic work.

This award goes to the Bolshoi Ballet in their rendition of Balanchine’s Jewels. With sets designed by Alyona Pikalova, Costumes by Elena Zaitseva and lighting by Maxim Fomchenkov, this production hands down belongs to them. Their rendition of Jewels is probably the best I have ever seen. This also won Olga Smirnova Prix Benois de la danse.

(Nominees: Houston Ballet’s Modern Masters, Queensland Ballet’s MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Teatro La Scala for Serata Petit)

 

Technical Excellence from a company.

Amidst the craziness of the circus, Hamburg Ballet featuring Alina Cojocaru, the Hamburg Ballet’s strength shown through. Lilliom was performed in Orange County this February making their North American premiere, the world premiere was in 2011. John Neumeier’s choreography was not only innovating but showcased a ballet revolving around a man without having a million show off pirouettes. Not only was the work modern and innovative, but the entire companies’ classical background showed through and through, all seven scenes and a prologue.

(Nominees: National Ballet of Cuba, Vienna State Ballet, Dresdon Semproper Ballet)

 

Best Costuming for a performance 

This award goes to The Australian Ballet’s new production of Cinderella. The costumes and sets were designed by Jérôme Kaplan. The new production was choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky to the original Prokofiev Score.

 

Best Collaboration

Dutch National Ballet stole fashion week during the SS2014 Paris shows with their collaboration with Viktor & Rolf in Haute Couture. In addition, Dutch National Ballet has comprised numerous collaborations through out the 2013-2014 season like their premiere of the Tempest that included amazing collaborators, and their new moves program, and Dutch Doubles. Four choreographers were paired with four world-famous Dutch artists: fashion designers, photographers and musicians.

(Damian Woetzel, Artistic Director of the Vail International Dance Festival, Julia Adam’s for the Boathouse Project, )

 

Most Innovative Company.

San Francisco Ballet’s season took it home. While contemporary companies create new works constantly, innovation has to be supported with stability and diversity. San Francisco Ballet definitely hit it out of the park with Giselle, Wheeldon’s Cinderella, Ratmansky’s Trilogy, Borderlands by McGregor, Wheeldon’s Ghosts, and the premiere of a Liam Scarlett ballet, and a premiere from and Possokhov. Not to mention they threw in Balanchine, Robins for giggles. San Francisco Ballet also has continued their relationship Hamburg Ballet by hosting them as a part of their season.

(Tu Dance, Hamburg Ballet, Complexions, Eifman Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Prelojac)

 

Most Inspiring Company.

English National Ballet, headed by Tamara Rojo might just be the most inspiring ballet company in the world right now. With their previous innovations, despite their financial downfalls, the English National Ballet had an amazing season. Most noted I think was their performance at Glastonbury, which was breathtaking. It was a piece from their Lest We Forget program. You can actually watch the video online. Then they stunned audiences again at their Emerging Artists Competition with contemporary solos to die for. Raging reviews for not only the winners, but all of the competitors this past season.

(Miami City Ballet under Lourdes Lopez, Royal Ballet of Flanders )

 

Company Contribution to the World of Arts.

In the province of Dresdon it seems a lot is happening in dance, but this award goes to the Forsythe Company. Founded in 2005, after Ballett Frankfurt closed, this company has create new works that hope to survive for the next generation of artists. In addition, William Forsythe will be joining the faculty at University of Southern California in the fall of 2015. He is not the artistic director of the Forsythe Company. But, this international group of dancers has created and performed tremendously. As in the middle, somewhat elevated has survived hopefully this next crop of choreographers will be nurtured accordingly to contribute to ballet’s repertory.

(Ballet Black, the New York City Ballet because of Justin Peck)

 

New or Returning Presence to the International Ballet Community, 

The Korean National Ballet might just be joining the rest of the newer asian companies on the rise. Like National Ballet of China, Ballet Philippines and Hong Kong Ballet, Asian companies are on the rise. The Korean National Ballet is headed by former Stuttgart Principal Kang Sue Jin, and she is leading them artistic merits. With the way education is structured in Korea, it is surprising to find out that everyone in their company is a college graduate and didn’t join the company until their early 20’s, versus say other companies that hire 16-18 year olds. Their rosters are filled with tons of international dance winners, in fact 9-10 company members have medaled at an international dance competition.

Joburg Ballet (South Arica), Dance Theatre of Harlem, Pacific Northwest Ballet



 

Creating ten categories that reflect the nature of ballet companies, not individuals, was rather difficult.  The size of the company, the theatre residency, and location would not effect the final outcomes. Here is information on how I graded companies: I only looked at the 2013-2014 performance season, individual dancers within the company, and artistic achievement based on reviews and press releases. Social media did not influence the choices. It seriously has taken a month to compile information, read reviews, and watch as much as I could. So, without categories my list would be: The New York City Ballet, Paris Opera, Bolshoi, Hamburg, the Australian Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, English National Ballet, the Forsythe Company, Korean National Ballet.

I was not going to single out dancers, because there are other numerous prestigious dance awards out there that grade artistic merit. As European Ballerina’s pray for Prima Assoluta, Paris Opera dancers pray for Etoiles, people hope for the Princess Grace Awards or the Benois… The list goes on. But notably last season: Ogla Smirnova, James Whiteside, Evgenia Obrazsova, Hee Seo, Tiler Peck, and Sara Mearns all had pretty amazing seasons on the international stages. As Olga Smirnova isn’t even a principal yet, and Hee Seo just got her promotion last season they are two women to definitely watch. Evgenia Obraztsova makes her way next to other Russian powerhouses: Svetlana Zakharova, and Natalia Osipiva, Polina Semionova, and Diana Vishneva. Balanchine ballerinas Tiler Peck and Sara Mearns are both competing I think to be the star at NYCB. Both are crazy different in approach, body type and musicality, but watching them dance is addicting. Both have literally grown up on stage. James Whiteside definitely gets to be next to Roberto Bolle and Daniil Simkin at ABT, but rightfully so, he is stud on stage…  This year, I haven’t really seen any men that steal my heart… Well actually, the men of English National Ballet’s Emerging Artists were pretty amazing.

Also, as I just finished writing this I realized Royal Ballet didn’t really make anything… Truth me told I wasn’t impressed with their season, and because my anger at the Royal Ballet this blog was originally started… So…. Haha.

Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

Sugar Plums: 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

(The list of 5 Reasons why the Nutcracker won’t ever go away can be found by clicking here.)

Sugared plums are probably one of the nastiest tasting confections known to mankind, but the reality is they are beautiful. They possess a kind of quality fit for a ballet. And just like the ballet, Nutcracker is probably one of the nastiest, politically incorrect ballets. But, we still take our kids year after year anyways… I don’t know if Balanchine purposefully tried to avoid the racism by renaming the variations, but somehow racism it still made made its way into the choreography of the ballet. As a strong believer that dance/ballet is a reflection of humanity, it scares me that we have not evolved passed racial stereotypes. So, in honor of all of the Nutcracker stuff that is going around… 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker.

  1. Behold the glory of second act… Or the racism that is the second act. As progressive as dancers are, we still allow racist movements within the ballets. Chinese is ridiculous, and Arabian is hyper sexualized when in modern day reality, women are oppressed. Does anyone even know why Spanish is called hot chocolate? Hot chocolate was “invented” by the Aztecs and Mayans. Yup, there is a lot of racism. Not to mention the male glory of Russian, and the exuding of machismo testosterone.
  2. The entirety of Nutcracker is basically based on a psychological complex: projecting fantasies on to doll, Drosselmeier is just creepy in general and her parents don’t play a role in her life.
  3. Am I the only one who is concerned that flowers is not a confection? In the second act, a lot of versions have tried avoiding the race card by renaming the variations after confections, except waltz…
  4. Nutcracker really does not make sense. Yeah, I said it. The two act ballet really could be summed up into one act, but the fantasy of act 2 gets the best of us. Sometimes I feel like we should actually just cut the entire first act except snow, and turn act 1 into a shorter abridged prologue… Dads would be happier if act 1 was shorter.
  5. Finally, it always astounds me that the casting of Nutcracker. Nutcracker has to be the most politically incorrect ballet when it comes to casting. I guess for all white companies, it really doesn’t matter, but for those who are asian will probably always get cast as chinese, and for those who are ethnic, spanish… It is sad. I remember one time we were doing Balanchine’s version of Nutcracker and one of my best friends and I were in the same cast… (he is black) and the two of us were pointed out that we dance spanish corps the best and I quote, “They aren’t even European. He is oriental.” As she pointed at me. That day was the day I decided that I truly would have to dance ten times harder to even be noticed for my dancing.

As Nutcracker rehearsals are around the corner, I wonder what other racist things will be said to impressionable children?

Stay tuned for the 5 best Nutcracker productions.

Leading Ladies of ABT… 2014-2015

American Ballet Theatre is celebrating their 75th Season, and as they are preparing to come to come take residency in NYC, their rosters are set and the casting has been published. As ballet has made a shift towards women again, American Ballet Theatre seems to be a little late on the train. ABT has always been known for their men, but as the trend has transitioned now to fundamentally interesting ballerinas… ABT is just now slowly shifting… Their principal women can be grouped into their classics, their randoms, their guest stars, and new blood, while waiting in the wings are stars in the makings. Their soloist rankings and corps is full of star women waiting to take the limelight… So Kevin needs to start changing things up, or he needs to be replaced. #justsayin

THE CLASSICS:

Paloma Herrera Bloch

Paloma Herrera, At the age of 20, she graced the world as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Her double fouettes where rare, and her tenacity was charming. Her Kitri was so young, naive and flirty. Remember how everyone used to oogle and gawk over her feet? No one cared if she had some crazy velociraptor arms. Then the reviews piled in, and the world fell in love with her. But then, she was almost forgotten. If you didn’t know, this is going to be her last season with American Ballet Theatre, literally 20 seasons later. So, what happened to her? Some say, that as you get older you transition from technician to artist. But for her, I think she just never left that mark. For a while, she had left an impression as Kitri (from the ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity video with Angel, that foot, and those fouettes), but now it has been replaced with Natalia Osipova’s take.

Julie Kent in Apollo ABT

Julie Kent, The legend of Julie Kent goes something along the lines like this: You change your name to sound better. You win the Prix de Lausanne, and other competitions, you rise to fame, star in a series of bad acting movies, and marry ABT’s Associate Director. 29 years later, you still have it. If any of the women at American Ballet Theatre can claim artistry, you are the one. Of her roles I have seen live, by far Terpsichore has been your most charming. There is something to appreciate about Julie Kent, and I feel no one gives her enough credit. She isn’t like others who has a bazillion turns, or extension behind her ear. Her feet aren’t crazy amazing, and she isn’t hyper mobile. Instead she is stunning, artistic and musical. There is something very charming about everything she does, and with a solid technical base, she is the representation of what I think most dancers are. Yes, she has won numerous competitions, but not because she had crazy fouettes, but because she was clean, precise and clever with her musicality.

THE RANDOMS:

Gillian Murphy, Veronika Part, and Xiomara Reyes… So, I didn’t know how else to label these three because they are all quite random in their stories, and their styles. Gillian Murphy caught our eye in her diagonal of triple pirouettes in Corsaire. She came to fame for her campaigns for Gaynor Minden, giving hope to all of the girls with bad feet. She became something to talk about in the TV broadcast of Swan Lake with her triple fouettes. When it premiered I was literally at the dorms of San Francisco Ballet’s Summer Program watching it. Her coda was crazy, and that was about it… Her furrowed eyebrows in white swan didn’t do it. In fact, most everything I have seen her do didn’t do it. That is a lie, I liked her A LOT in Fall River Legend… Questionable as well, her husband is former principal dancer Ethan Stiefel… #justsayin

Then we have Veronika Part, during her Aurora… I fell asleep. Good feet and wears gaynors. Russian trained and gorgeous in the face, accent to die for, and appeared on TV with Letterman, her body is actually extremely beautiful on stage. Truthfully, I have only seen her dance in Swan Lake and the Sleeping Beauty and both times, I was not very entertained. But she is pretty to look at.

Then we have Xiomara Reyes, who I have no clue why she is a principal.  Like, I know this entire post seems like I am the Perez Hilton of ballet, but I have no clue why she became a principal…. Everyone else I understand why they were promoted… but then there is her… and I am dumbfounded. I can not even begin to understand Kevin’s choices sometimes…. Unless, she has a huge sponsor.

THE GUEST ARTISTS:

Polina Semionova and Diana Vishneva… Goddesses in their own rights, I feel like these two women can do no wrong in ballet. Even if both women aren’t full time principals with ABT, they are both stunning. Since ABT has been having a revolving roster of principal women, it is great to see that these two are making more frequent appearances… Even if there are plenty of women who would be great principals within the company…

THE NEW BLOOD: 

Thank the Lord for the newest principals of American Ballet Theatre: Isabella Boylston and Hee Seo. The two couldn’t be more different, but both equally poised to be principals. Isabella Boylston is dark, mysterious and sensual. Hee Seo is romantic, charming and airy. While I think Hee Seo is being groomed to replace Julie Kent, Boylston has set her own path at ABT. Both women I think are on the road to become great and lasting ballerinas.

Now the reality… ABT has two types of women… The women who get stuck, and the women who are on the fast track. Kevin McKenzie has obviously shown a track record of promoting women fast through the ranks, and promoting people and then the women get stuck. Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera have been stuck as soloists for a while, where their newly arrived counter parts Christine Schevchenko and Devon Teuscher are fast tracking it…I think Christine and Devon are being groomed to replace Gillian and Paloma. Oh and Sarah Lane, but I don’t really think of her as anything one way or the other. To be honest, I think she was only promoted because of her height and potential, but after the black swan fiasco, I haven’t really heard or seen anything great about her. While Misty Copeland is being pushed publicly to become a principal, new young blood in the corps has already been made a priority for the company. April Giangeruso, Gemma Bond, Luciana Paris, are being used quite a bit in leading roles. And very new to the company Catherine Hurlin and Hannah Marshall are both potential soloists in the makings… In the corps though, there are plenty of women who deserve promotions but I don’t think will ever get their chance Zhong-Jin Fang, a prix winner, Melanie Hamrick, Leann Underwood are three extremely beautiful dancers who should dance more. I honestly thought Underwood was on the fast track when she joined the company, but nothing has come to fruition… It is sad that ABT has tons of potential women to use but has yet to utilize them. (At least NYCB uses tons of their new talents, and has the repertory to showcase their corps.) So, as the season unfolds here’s to hoping for promoting Misty Copeland…

The Craziness that is Giselle

Most ballets can be summed up in one word.

Swan Lake: Dramatic

Corsaire: Pirates

La Bayadere: Sexy

Nutcracker: Whimsical

and then there is Giselle: Tragedy.

Giselle is the ultimate tragedy. It is the ballet of a love scorn woman and the fiery that comes to haunt cheating men. The story of Giselle is summed up in two short sweet acts that showcase a ballerina in all her glory. In Act 1 Giselle comes out as a wide eyed, beautiful and naive girl. By the end of Act 1 she is going crazy, which in this scene, it will make or break the performance. Yes, we all care about the ballerina’s hops on pointe in her first act variation, and we live for her extensions in the second act, but we really just care about her mad scene. Then in second act, she is revealed as a willie, and is now just an afterthought. As second act progresses, it is more womanly, and in control. The ballerina dancing must now be spirit like, floating across the stage, mournful in the beginning, angered by Alberecht’s visit, and then sorrowful to his downfall. Yup, a whole lot going on for such a short performance. It is crazy to think of how we have compacted it, but if Giselle was any longer it would be boring.

So, here are 5 things that make a good Giselle:

  1. Don’t over do it. That painful face is painful to watch.
  2. Please have good feet, and high extensions, because if you don’t… second act isn’t really that great.
  3. When going mad, make sure your hair looks good down. Sometimes, it looks like it is still wet from hair spray, or it doesn’t come undone well. Please practice. If your hair is thin, use extensions. Hair should not be dead.
  4. Make sure your bourres are seamless in the second act entrance. There is nothing more exhausting to watch than bad bourres.
  5. Don’t look constipated in second act.

In retrospect, Giselle is really easy to mess up.

Alessandra Ferri, this ballet just might truly belong to you….

Company Profile: Ballet Austin

Ballet Austin,  http://www.balletaustin.org

Location: Downtown Austin Texas, The Butler Dance Education Center

501 West 3rd Street Austin, TX  78701

Artistic Director: Stephen Mills

Current Season: 5 playbills including the Fire Bird, The Nutcracker, Belle Redux/ A Tale of Beauty and the Beast, Director’s Choice, Swan Lake

Theatre Residence: None, but performs at the Long Center

Dancers Hired: 21, Ballet Austin also has a second company for apprentices. A lot of ballet companies use second companies as fillers for their main company’s season and, to test dancers as the transition from student to teacher. Ballet Austin employs 10 dancers.

Budget: Unknown. But Ballet Austin does boast a numerous amount of corporate sponsors and underwriters. Financially, Ballet Austin just might be one of the more fiscally responsible companies around.

Affiliated School: Ballet Austin Academy

Annual Tuition: $3,600

Summer Program: yes.

Ballet Austin has been charming audiences for 57 years. Most people don’t really know Ballet Austin as the classical type, as their strong suit comes in contemporary and new works. I think their biggest break through was their Light Project, in fact it was so inspiring, I auditioned for them. I auditioned in January at the company auditions and was offered a traineeship, and a full ride to the summer program.

Unfortunately, after arriving in Texas, within the first week of being there, I realized that Ballet Austin was not for me. It wasn’t because the program was bad, in fact that program had amazing faculty. I was actually quite fond of taking class with Michelle Martin, I was not fond of the guest faculty but that was my opinion. I think I was just not a fan of Texas. I actually think of the group of trainees that I was with, no one actually joined Ballet Austin. I know Ashley Jackson went to join LINES after the summer, and Scott went to Statestreet. I want to say that Brian went to Ballet Met, or some other midwest company. And so on… But that doesn’t mean Ballet Austin isn’t good.

In fact Ballet Austin is amazing. Especially for those dancers who prefer the look and feel of contemporary ballet. Anne Marie Melendez and Paul Michael Bloodgood definitely are Ballet Austin’s charming couple. They are married, but they both possess numerous talents and bring them all to their dancing and the dance community. Orland Julius Canova possess a Balanchine flare, and brings a genuine quality to the stage. The company has definitely aged together, most of the company seems to be around the same age, and actually balancing family and personal life. Like all ballet companies do,  I am excited to see the turnover at Ballet Austin and what the next crop of Ballet Austin dancers will bring. I think Stephen Mills definitely has a way of creating his dancers, which possess a very unique look. In comparison to the other Texas companies, I definitely prefer Ballet Austin the most.

2014Image

Aurora in the Sleeping Boring… I mean beauty.

Tchaikovsky has the big three: the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and the Sleeping Beauty. Three epic ballets that tell the tale of fantasy, tragedy and happily ever afters. Every little girl and some little boys, dream of dancing one, if not all of these roles: the Sugar Plum Fairy, Odette/Odile, and Aurora. The Sugar Plum fairy, isn’t a hard role, it is more the test of performance quality. Odette/Odile requires the mastery of emotions, having multiple personalities and the stamina of a horse. And then there is the princess role, the helpless, effervescent and charming Aurora.

In the prologue Aurora doesn’t dance, but skillful fairies do. Masterfully gliding through each variation with delicacy and poise. In the first act, Aurora is sixteen and full of life entering after the epic Sleeping Beauty waltz. It is probably why so many girls relate to this role. With charm and sass a sixteen year old, she then hesitantly gives her hand to four suitors in the leg tiring Rose Adagio. She then pricks her finger, and dies. JK. In the second act Aurora is faced with the challenge of being dreamy as the pas de deux and variations set the tone for the prince. Finally, when she awakens, she is still that sixteen year old girl who fell asleep at her birthday. So with an element of surprise, and awakening with a kiss…. Please hold as I rant:

Am I the only one who is quite disturbed that no one has bothered looking at the psyche. We are all trying to develop the character, but the reality is that she was asleep for 100 years, and so when she awakens, she is still sixteen. What sixteen year old would wake up gracefully from a stranger kissing them? So, as everyone who talks about how in the third act they are more womanly, mature, etc…. The reality is, that clashes with the story line.

In addition, may I point out… Why is every fairytale invited? Don’t they have anything better to do? If you look at the original score there is extra music for Cinderella and her Prince, etc. I am just sayin… Third act really has nothing to do with Aurora. It is basically like the third act of Paquita; a chance to show off the company. Enough ranting…
5 Things Aurora Didn’t Know…

  1. Aurora is secondary to the dancing. Prologue sets the story up and demonstrates the skill of the soloists in the company. In the first act, all she has is her variation, which most audience viewers don’t know the music to. So, they relate more to Garland Waltz… Yes, she has Rose Adagio, and that is probably one of the hardest things any ballerina will face. But, the reality is, it has nothing to do with Aurora but the actual skill of the ballerina. In the second act, it is really more about the prince, and setting up his quest to find the love of his life. In the Paris Opera Nureyev version this is an adagio variation for the male, which is ridiculously technical, dreamy but technical. Finally, in act three, you really only have a pas de deux to get through, which is basically the lesser version of Sugar Plum Pas De Duex. The music itself is kind of anticlimactic and the only thing exciting in the Pas is the en dedan turns into a one handed fish.
  2. Aurora didn’t know she was going to prick her finger… So, instead of telling the poor girl about the curse, her parents tried to hide the truth from her. This ignorance is her downfall. Ignorance and innocence should not be taken as the same thing.
  3. Aurora’s character is the anti feminist. As a helpless woman, who is set up or failure from the get go. The idea and concept of the fairytale is cute for the time being, but translated to modern day times, the story relates to young girls more than young adults. This I think causes the gap between the ballet and the audience goer.
  4. Aurora’s variations are boring. I feel like compared to the variations of Odette/Odile, and Sugar Plum, and while we are at it… Every other classical ballet, her variations are kind of lackluster. If you are dancing with a live orchestra, then I guess you can arrange the music in first act to do more pirouettes to make it exciting, but other than that… Your one moment to shine is basically dull. (Ironically, Aurora 3rd Act Wedding Variation performed by Precious Adams won the Prixde Lausanne.)
  5. Aurora didn’t know that this entire ballet really has nothing to do with her in the title role. Instead it is about the company’s strength. The amount of soloists you have to use is insane. Don’t get me wrong, it gives the company a chance to really dance, but no one really understands the entire ballet, unless you know ballet. I think when most people hear the Sleeping Beauty, they connect it to the Disney version and don’t realize they have signed up for a 3 hour ballet. I am not saying we should replicate Disney… But in a recent production, that I took a date to… He fell asleep. He fell asleep after Rose Adagio… So an hour into the ballet of drawn out miming and endless fairy variations, he was gone. But, when we went to see Serenade, and Les Sylphide he thoroughly enjoyed it…

Again… as ballet is dying and companies insist on doing the same ballets over and over again… They are killing their audiences. If you look at the Diaghilev and Ballets Russes era… even the Balanchine era, new ballets were being produced by the month. Again, just my opinion of why companies are dying…

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 Beast that is the Nutcracker…

In the repertory of classical ballets, there is one ballet that trumps them all. It isn’t number one because of the physical demands, and it is definitely not number one because of artistic merit. In fact, this ballet probably is the most unartistic for any artist. It is probably the most recognized of score of any ballet music, from variations, to even the prologue, everyone knows it. It is the beast: THE NUTCRACKER.

It is no secret that most ballet companies make money twice a year. The first is by offering summer programs from June-August. The second comes in December and seats are sold out for their annual productions of the Nutcracker. For the majority of companies, the Nutcracker runs seamless. Everyone already knows all the parts, they are just waiting for the casting. Lighting, and costuming is already done for the most part, and just rely on tweaking things here and there. For marketing and PR, it is the best time to host fundraisers since everyone is in that holiday spirit of donating money. And for the audiences, it is that timeless, almost boring tradition, that doesn’t go away.

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PNB’s infamous Peacock. I probably prefer this variation more than the Balanchine one.

 

For most young aspiring dancers, the Nutcracker was the first ballet parents ever took us to.  Whether it was on VHS, directly talking about the Baryshnikov and Kirkland version, or PNB’s collaboration with Maurice Sendak. Or, the NYCB version featuring Macauly Culkin and Darci Kistler. So, for the majority of our young lives we prayed that one day we would get to dance in the Nutcracker. And then it happens… You get cast in your school’s version of the Nutcracker. You start as a child in Mother Ginger and party scene. You pray that you get picked to be Clara/Marie, and maybe you do. Then, you start to get smaller supporting roles, and finally you are in the corps of flowers and snow. By 13, you are dancing Marzipan/Mirlitons, and by 15 you are maybe Dew Drop. Next thing you know you are at a professional ballet school, and you never get to dance in Nutcracker again. Until, one day you are lucky enough to land yourself a company contract.

Five years later, after dancing professionally, you hear the music at department stores and cringe. Now you dread Nutcracker. It is the most boring of the ballets, and you dance it time and time again. If you are still a corps member you already know that you will be a party parent and in the same show you will have to dance in both snow and flowers. You hear the same corrections in flowers, “Bend more!” or “Watch your spacing.” In snow you already know that you need to move a little quicker than the music, and you watch the new apprentices and corps members struggle to keep up. Yup, it is that holiday tradition of being in a ballet company that brings dancers together. 

So, what is it about this ballet that is so charismatic and is performed every season?

hong kong ballet waltz of the flowers

5 reasons why the Nutcracker will never go away…

  1. Curse you Tchaikovsky! The score of Nutcracker is close to flawless in terms of musical genius. All of the music is relatable, catchy, and keeps the audience entertained. 
  2. It is magical, and is every little girl’s dream. Because it is the first ballet we ever see, it becomes engrained in us. It sparks the hope of millions of little girls to become ballet dancers.
  3. It is short and sweet. The shortest of the classical ballets, where the story is compressed into the first act and the second act is purely about the dancing. It is probably the only ballet your dad can sit through. Most little girls can’t sit through all of Swan Lake, or even get through act I without having to use the bathroom, get bored, or fall asleep.
  4. The test of a dancer. Dancers I think are tested a lot in the Nutcracker. Because you have so many performances, there are a lot more casting opportunities. If in a run of a regular program there may be only two or three casts. During Nutcracker, there are at least five casts, if not more. This gives the Artistic Director a chance to play around with their dancers. For an artistic director who wants to see something more dark and mysterious from a dancer, he will cast her in Arabian/Coffee. If they want to test a dancer’s stamina they put her Dew Drop. And if they want to see maturity, and ability they cast in her Sugar Plum. 
  5. It makes money! If it wasn’t for the Nutcracker, dancers wouldn’t have jobs for an entire season. So, we suck it up so we can dance all year round. 

Company Profile: THe Joffrey Ballet

Company Profile: The Joffrey Ballet

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Joffrey Ballet (click here)

Location: Chicago, IL and to be exact, the Joffrey Tower
10 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601

Artistic Director: Ashley C. Wheater

Style: Classical with a contemporary twist 

Affiliated School: The Joffrey Academy of Dance

Annual Tuition for a trainee: When e-mailed I didn’t get a response but I am guessing it is somewhere between $8-10,000 a year for the pre-professional division. The link is the PDF of requirements for the pre professional division for the 2014-2015 school year. (http://www.joffrey.org/sites/default/files/filefield/field_file/program/119/pre-professionaldivision2014-15schedule81914.pdf

Summer Program: They offer over six different programs across the US. (Money making programs, in my opinion.)

Theatre Residence: Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL

Current Season: 5 programs, and additional performances. Tour dates are unannounced.

Dancers Hired: 37

Founded in New York by masters Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey in 1965, the Joffrey Ballet was born. The company relocated to their now permanent home in Chicago in 1995. As Joffrey makes more appearances, and is referenced to in pop culture quite frequently, the ballet company has struggled tremendously. Despite the struggles of any ballet company the Joffrey ballet has made major contributions to the ballet world. The biggest is probably the 1995 reconstruction of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Another unique quality is that the company really doesn’t have assigned ranks which allows the Artistic Director to be free about casting. Yes, senior company members have built names for themselves, but the dancers at Joffrey are truly unique. 

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First Joffrey has the stunning Fabrice Calmels, if you don’t know him, he is a giant standing at 6’6”. Trained are Paris Opera, and a unique resume on top of his training, he definitely stood out when I saw him in Apollo. GORGEOUS. His height and body proportions are beyond gorgeous, and his movement quality lives up to his height. With a unique contemporary take on ballet, he is definitely a jewel of the Joffrey Ballet.

Joffrey also employs Australian Aaron Smyth who made his appearances on the competition circuit in 2012-2013. This landed him a spot at JKO, then ABT II, and then joined the Royal Ballet. Since he is a younger dancer, we have a lot to look forward too.

Kara Zimmerman, formerly with PNB and Cincinnati, Joffrey really does use her well, and has helped develop her to her full potential.

Finally, basically one of their Prima’s Victoria Jaiani, she graced the cover of Dance Magazine back in 2010. With an arabesque for days, and artistry that moves the audience time and time again. She has definitely matured with the company and has truly made herself a name in Chicago, and in the dance world.

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Dancers I think that would do well at Joffrey? Auditioning for companies, or summer programs with the hopes to go year round and work your way up? I believe that dancers who would do well at the Joffrey must already have a strong background in technique. It isn’t like a school like Boston Ballet or San Francisco that gives you technique. Joffrey is more about strengthening your technique and emphasizing a certain approach to your dancing. Dancers that I think do well there are tall, athletic, and most of all flexible. With the diverse repertory Joffrey offers, potential future hires have to have versatile bodies. This allows more forgiveness in body type, meaning there isn’t a preconceived notion to the perfect ballet body type. Their company has a variety of heights, and a variety of body types. Because there really isn’t clear rankings it also allows for a more fair shot in casting. I’m not saying it is completely fair, it never is. 

And just because he is so attractive, and he is beyond talented… and is 6’6″ of muscle… 

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Company Profile: the Los Angeles Ballet

So, within the internal ballet dialogue in my head, as I am driving and dictating to SIRI, I was thinking that I am such a hypocrite. Here I am trying to save ballet, yet not supporting the company that is growing in my backyard. (I just purchased tickets to the full length Flames of Paris in November.) Then I started to think, how can I help Los Angeles Ballet, duh, your blog….

Los Angeles Ballet (Click Here)

Location: Los Angeles, CA to be exact 11755 Exposition Boulevard Los Angeles, California 90064

Artistic Directors: Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary

Style: Balanchine meets Bournonville? 

Affiliated School: Los Angeles Ballet

Annual Tuition for a trainee: $5,500-$5,900, boarding is unavailable.

Summer Program: Yes, not a lot of info on their site, check back in September.

Theatre Residence: None.

Current Season: 4 bills, touring the greater Los Angeles Area

Dancers Hired: 37

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Kate Highstrete & Christopher Revels in George Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments“. Photo: Reed Hutchinson

Founded in 2004, my first experience with Los Angeles Ballet was watching a girlfriend of mine perform in their 2009 season. She was dancing George Balanchine’s ‘Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2’ and Serenade. For being a young company I was impressed. I then got season tickets for the following season in which Chehon Wespi-Tschopp stole the majority of the season, then stole the show on SYTYCD. Which was sad becaus when I saw Giselle, and he was better than the title character…. Then I boycotted LA Ballet until I saw they were doing Concerto Barocco, 4 T’s, and Tchai Pas, La Valse, and Agon, their 2012-2013 season was amazing, just the exposure of Balanchine in Los Angeles in much needed. I didn’t see anything this past season until they brought back Serenade and premiered La Slyphide in one bill. So, of course I had t go. Unfortunately, the men stole the show, especially in La Slyphide, with the exception of Colleen Neary who was quite brilliant. If ballet is supposed to be woman, (which LA Ballet excels in the Balanchine Ballets), they fail at the classics, which is why I avoiding their new season. They are doing Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Director’s Choice… A Tchaikovsky Season for sure…In the Director’s Choice the full Theme and Variations will be performed. (It is always a toss up when buying tickets in Southern California because we have amazing venues that book touring companies, in October the Australian Ballet is coming with Swan Lake, the same time Los Angeles Ballet is doing Swan Lake… Which one would you pick? Then again in March Los Angeles Ballet will be doing sleeping beauty while American Ballet Theatre presents the Sleeping Beauty in Orange County.)

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Chloe Sherman & Robert Mulvey in Christopher Stowell’s Cipher; Photo: Reed Hutchinson

Questionable timing from the artistic director duo if you ask me. But the two are thriving, mirroring co-directorship success like PNB’s Kent Stowell and Francia Russell. Colleen Neary in particular I think brings a very keen eye to the company, which I think more women should assume roles as ADs. Women are detailed oriented, planners, and I think just as visionary as male ADs. (Sexism is a completely different post… but regardless of the politics, I am fond of the pairing like a good cheese and wine combo.)

So, the company itself. The company has six unique principals, which I have all seen dance, but of the principals two are beyond exceptional: Allynne Noelle and Zheng Hua Li. I probably could watch them dance post modern and be entertained, if you knew me you would understand the humor. Allynne brings this vivacious charisma to the stage while Zheng Hua Li has the most subtle, amazing, deep plié. Of the soloists Alexander Castillo shows a lot of promise, his physique is gorgeous on stage as well.

Allynne Noelle & Ulrik Birkkjær in “Agon”. Photo: Reed Hutchinson
Allynne Noelle & Ulrik Birkkjær in “Agon”. Photo: Reed Hutchinson

But what I love the most are their women in the corps: Britta Lazenga was stunning in Serenade and couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Katherine Cowgill has a stoic, aristocratic way of dancing which reminds me of old school ballet. Kate Highstrete has legs for days with subtlety. (I love me a good subtle dancer.) Katherine Revels and Chloe Sherman also were stunning with a young unique charm in Serenade. In the corps excitement comes with their new hires. They brought on Jasmine Perry, who was made popular from TEEN VOGUE’s STRICTLY BALLET, and is also the only African American female in the company. They also hired freshly out of SAB Samuel Akins, who is another young African American. As a side commentary, I applaud LA Ballet’s racial diversity, since other companies, with ridiculous budgets still will not hire black dancers. (I won’t name them, even though I should.) It is always exciting when young companies hire straight from school dancers because it is a make it break it moment for these dancers. Both are exceptionally talented, and because full length classical ballets offer numerous roles, I hope they get cast in a lot. (Then again, it could also be disastrous as they are straight from SAB and will be dancing classical ballet.) Young dancers keep ballet alive, as they are the new talent that will eventually replace older talent. Their careers are new and fresh, which might bring some excitement, naivety, and that tenacity you develop in school. 

Katherine Cowgill & Zheng Hua Li in 'Swan Lake'. Photo: Reed Hutchinson
Katherine Cowgill & Zheng Hua Li in ‘Swan Lake’. Photo: Reed Hutchinson

Five reasons why you should see Los Angeles Ballet this season if you are in the area:

  1. As ballet dancers, as artists, as humans, we need to support the arts in any capacity. So, why not save the money and not go to Starbucks or out drinking and go to the ballet? You get to still dress up, and if you are single you might meet someone great. Since most of us gays drop hundreds if not thousands of dollars in liquor in West Hollywood, why not spend the money on something that is actually helping our community?
  2. Because Los Angeles Ballet is a new company, you never know what is going to happen. There are no preconceived notions and you can make an opinion for yourself.
  3. Sleeping Beauty this year is going to be a world premiere for Colleen Neary and Thordal Christiensen which means their version of Sleeping Beauty might be more entertaining than most. I mean the reality is, we have sat through a lot of boring versions… This one is going to be new, so I have high hopes.
  4. Theme and Variations! If you are fan of NYCB and can’t get to NYC, LA Ballet will be doing Theme and Variations, a Balanchine Ballet. If you aren’t familiar with Theme and Variations, it is a beautiful ballet that really tests the entire company. Also it opens with the most beautiful walking tendus…. Talk about needing good feet.
  5. Finally, you might run into me. That is a pretty darn good reason if you ask me.

Swan Lake Realness

If Nutcracker was your first exposure to ballet, then Swan Lake is the ballet that determines if you really want to be a ballerina. Every school stages some abridged version, even if it is just act II. Every company uses the full length Swan Lake to boast the company’s size, artistic merit, and strength. Swan Lake is just one of those ballets that everyone knows. Now, this upcoming season every company seems to be staging their full length Swan Lake, so may the battle of the swans begin.

And for those who are dancing swan lake, or have danced it, there are a few things that happen when getting ready for swan lake.

1. Swan Lake Realness: You know you are about to do Swan Lake when all of the port de bras at barre and centre combinations look very swan-like. You know the kind: the over dramatic, wrist-y, back-using, exhausting port de bras. Adagios at centre seem a little longer, and people are yelling at you to get your legs higher. No one wants to be the swan that stands out because their arabesque is low. 

2. You know you are getting ready to do Swan Lake when you start dieting two weeks before and start eating clean. This is because Swan Lake is a white ballet, which means everything shows, and the neurosis of ballet dancers are a little intense. Kale becomes your best friend.

3. You are rehearsing a million different roles, in a million different places/spots because you have to double up in all acts, and in all casts. Which means, your body is hurting more than usual. Rehearsals seem to be a lot longer, and the ballet masters/mistresses seem to be way more picky than usual. Swan Lake isn’t like Nutcracker, so you don’t dance it every year, so you don’t already know all the parts unless you have been with the company for ten seasons. (You might be thinking, why aren’t we doing Balanchine’s version…)

4. Swan Lake is totally happening in your school or company if the artistic staff is a little crazier than usual. Swan Lake is really expensive to stage and perform which means ticket sales need to be sold out. Which means PR photos must be perfect, and reflect the choices in casting. It is quite daunting, which puts more pressure on the dancers. No one wants to get let go over Swan Lake or not perform Swan Lake.

5. You know you are a swan if you are going through pointe shoes a quicker than normal. Swan Lake is very pointe intensive, so it seems that you are killing more shoes during rehearsals. 

Here are some funny things about casting:

You know you are Odette if you have everything. (You know you are not going to get a chance to even learn Odette if you don’t have everything… I mean come on… You don’t have 32 double fouettés for black swan, and your leg isn’t to your ear in extensions… You aren’t getting cast, despite your beautiful artistry.)

You know you are a baby swan if you are one of the shortest girls in the company.

You know that in act III you are going to be doing some awful character dance. 

If you are a male, and you aren’t cast as the prince, the jester, or Rothbart, you won’t be dancing real ballet. You will be standing around most rehearsals while the female dancers around you are dying. You might learn a new hobby during Swan Lake time.

When casting goes up you pray that you aren’t dancing in all four acts.

You are emotionally drained by the end of a run through because in the first act you are dancing the pas de trois being sweet and lovely. In act 2 you are a tormented swan. In act 3 you are being cheerful in the mazurka, and in act 4 you are back to being a swan.

Your back attitude and arabesque are everything, and one side might become ridiculously stronger than the other.

You know you are dancing Swan Lake if you are thinking: Why? 

It may have been every little girl’s dream to be Odette, but unless you are Odette, the ballet has nothing to do with you. Now you are now going to endure 3 hours of pain, test your stamina, and mental capacity which makes you wonder why you wanted to do Swan Lake so badly in the first place.

 

You know you are a ballet dancer if…

you know you are a ballet dancer if a ballet education

This isn’t your list of childhood dance problems, like missing prom, or missing football games to be at the studio. The fact that you stand turned out, or when picking up something from the ground you open into penche… Yes, that list I am sure is important, but the reality is, that list seems quite petty once you are a professional. Another funny list of random things we probably spend way too much time thinking about.

You know you are a ballet dancer if…

1. You have a tattoo in the most obscure place on your body. For some it may be right behind the ear, or on your ankle placed just so that your pointe ribbons hide it. Ooh, or the occasional male tattoo on your side, but low enough be hidden by a dance belt or tights. Or, you just are craving ink but for the sake of casting… you are waiting.

2. With the amount of money spent on pointe shoes, your closet could be full of Christian Louboutins… Or Monolos, or for those who are into the classic turn of shoe fashion: Jimmy Choos. Or, you equate the money you spend on regular items to the cost of pointe shoes. 

3. You don’t get a dating life. The majority of dates have to be squeezed in between rehearsals, performances, traveling and pilates. As a result, even though we say we are never going to date a dancer, you end up marrying your best friend in the company.

4. On your off time, or in between seasons you are traveling for other dancers’ weddings. And you think about putting on heels, and think that pointe shoes are more comfortable, or “why aren’t high heel arches higher to support my foot?”

5. When at the grocery store you aren’t counting calories, you are actually putting everything in your basket because everything sounds good after a long day dancing. 

6. The majority of your instagram photos are inside the studio, at the theatre, or traveling to a performance. 

7. When going on vacation you pick a place that has absolutely no ballet around, or if it does you go take a class, or see a performance.

8. Flipping through Pointe Magazine is like a Year Book, and you say, “Oh I went to school with her, or we did Boston Ballet’s Summer Program of 01′ together.”

9. Your friends are your family, and your real family stays in contact with you via facebook or skype. 

10. When people ask you if you could go back in time either say the Diaghilev Era or the Balanchine Era to work with the most brilliant artists of their time. 

And finally, you REALLY know you are a ballet dancer if.. 

It is no longer about turn out, extension and turns, but it is about contributing to history and passing down an visually oral tradition of art. Yeah, that was kind of deep. But, the reality is that you have made it, and yes you are working on the above, and hoping to be promoted, but you are now part of an art form that is passed down orally from teacher to dancer, and visually embraced by society. Regardless of how society views ballet as a whole, or what pop culture portrays ballet as, the real inner workings of ballet are yours to keep. Each step, each performance, each moment is something that can never be recreated or relived, just passed on to the next year of dancers.

There has to be something beautiful in the lack of longevity of a dance career, or else we wouldn’t do it. There is something more captivating in the studios and on the stage than the rest of the world, or else we would leave these spaces. And ballet has to be something greater than art because it is a life you live everyday. 

 

You know you trained Balanchine if…

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Have you ever gone to an audition, and you are sizing up the competition before the class begins? It doesn’t even have to be an audition, it can just be an open class. As you look around, you start to size dancers up by “look”. Instantly, you can spot those dancers. Balanchine trained dancers. Even before barre starts, even before the first piano chord is played and you take your first plié, you can tell… You can spot Balanchine boys pretty easily: the white socks and white ballet shoes on black tights with a white shirt. You can usually spot Balanchine girls by their high buns, or the Balanchine bun (it is like a hybrid bun/ french twist). Once the music starts, then you can really tell who trained Balanchine, here are some of the “giveaways”…  and if you trained Balanchine, you might get a giggle…

So, you know you trained Balanchine if… 

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1. Your hands are remotely “claw” shaped. This could be the modified CPYB hand, or the hands that come from Ballet Austin (kind of a more contemporary relaxed version). You know you came from SAB if you are really all about the “claw” and broken wrist. Yup, just by the hands you can tell.

2. Your tendus are over crossed and you automatically assume the accent is in or down.

3. You don’t use elaborate port de bras during barre combinations.  During port de bras and cambré you roll through your spine instead of a straight back.

4. Your developpés happen in one count, or less, but this idea can be applied to grand pliés, or anything for that matter.

5. When coming out of a relevé you emphasize the pressing of  the heels down.

So, that was just barre… Center (Centre)

You know you trained Balanchine if…

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1. The obvious… Pirouette off of a straight back leg, and for fun you try to turn from a ridiculously large, deep, exaggerated fourth.

2. You are awesome at petite allegro.

3. In assemblé you bring the supporting leg to the working leg, and in jetés your coupe happens instantly- and you might bend a little for show…

4. In your saut de chat.. your back leg is probably higher than your front. During grand allegro you probably travel the furthest…

5. You over cross everything… including port de bras.

6. You know you came from SAB if you have Suki Schorer’s voice in your head saying, “no, AND one.”

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(And as a side comment: Balanchine dancers are my favorite to watch, and I think the Balanchine Aesthetic… since that is what it is now being called instead of technique… is gorgeous. Insert European remarks here…)