Issue 16

A BALLET EDUCATION
ISSUE 16

ISSUE 16

Issue 16 features A Ballet Education’s The Ballet Clinic. It celebrates the young dancers who inspired us to open this training facility. On the cover: Cassie Van Wolde, Harrison Pickering, Lauryn Brown, Bel Pickering, Annabelle Gourley, Nikolas Alexander, Jordan Gourley, and Leonidas Adarmes.

Read It On Joo Mag

IN THIS ISSUE

David King

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Ashley Baker

Cover
photographer

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Celebrating 4 Years!

It has been a long journey, but four years later I am here…

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Four years ago, I never thought that I would be a blogger. I thought I was going to have my career in fashion and teach ballet on the side for fun. In fact, I didn’t want this life at all. After my ballet career ended, I wanted nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, I lost my father, and my world didn’t make sense. But, ballet restores the order of the universe. It is one of the only thing reliable things in the world. You start with left hand at the barre, and do pliés, tendus, and so on.

Now four years later, I am about to finish issue 12 of the magazine, and start the third year. My book, that has taken me two years to write is done, and I am teaching all over the world and have started taking photos of beautiful dancers. So this is my thank you to all of you. Without you, my readers, and my supporters none of this would be possible, so thank you. Truly.

ATLANTA BALLET

international city school of ballet

 

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.


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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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NEW @ A BALLET EDUCATION

 

A few new things are finally here at A Ballet Education!
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The first thing up is, I am putting up a bunch of videos on Youtube. I promise that the quality of filming will get better!

Also, a lot of you have asked to be fully illustrated instead of doodled… and my answer has always been no… until now. I finally feel comfortable enough to do faces. On SALE TODAY for the first 20 buyers.

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Finally, I am now available for consultations online!

 

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.

 

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!

Shaping Sound… Shaping the way for dance

While ballet has its often downfalls of lackluster performances and vague storylines, Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound Company delivers with a punch with After The Curtain. With cast of mainstreamed dancers, amazing sets by Greg Anderson, lighting design that puts most ballet shows to shame by Nathan Schemer and Terese Porterfield, costumes in a subtle and refined palette by Gabrielle Letamendi and produced by Break The Floor; Travis Wall reiterates his Emmy win, and makes way for contemporary commercial dance company and dancer.

 

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Photo by Amber Skaggs (@ambernovella)

 

Founded in 2012 by Travis Wall, who does not need to list his accomplishments, pioneered a new type of dance company. The commercial contemporary dance company. Slowly, it evolved to create full storyline productions, integrated various styles of dance, and made way for the commercial contemporary dancer. (Yes, Bad Boys and Kings of Ballet and Complexions were there, but Travis Wall made a company that accommodated the dancer coming from the jazz studio competition circuit, not just the ballet cross-trained dancer.)

So, I was supposed to go review the performance in Charleston in February, but since I found myself in Arizona this week, I was lucky enough to go see it. As I arrived, I was blown away by people begging for tickets on the street, scalpers, and the entire dance scene of Arizona attending. (If you are from Arizona or have spent some time there, you would know it is very rare to have comp studios, ballet academies, professional contemporary dancers, and post-modern dancers all in one place.) Children from Ballet Arizona, Master Ballet Academy, Club Dance and tons of other studios flocked to the theater tonight. But that wasn’t the best part, the majority of the theater was filled with dance lovers, nondancers, and spanned generations. Not to mention it was packed, if not sold out.

Now, the cast was filled with beyond exceptional movers. The dancers included Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Chantel Aguirre, Barton Cowperthwaite, Michael Dameski, Mia Dilena, Jay Jay Dixonbey, Rory Freeman, Kate Harpootlian, Michael Keefe, Lindsay Leuschner, Channing Cooke and Riley Kurilko. And, since it was a Break the Floor Production and Gil Stroming was the executive producer, the standard was set pretty high. And I won’t lie, I was a little skeptical if I would make it through the whole show. (We all know I have a tendency to fall asleep at the theater)

You walked into the arena, yes it was at the Comerica Theatre so you got to have snacks inside. So of course, I got popcorn. Now I thought, “I am here with my nugget what did I get myself into?” As we walked into the theatre, you walked into the stage completely exposed and the ghost light on center-center.

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As the story unfolded, I was intrigued, and while the first twenty minutes were hard to get into, it then became mesmerizing. Literally, an entire story unfolded examining the complex issues and relationships between humans. Something that dance often lacks, overshoots, or translates poorly. As things slowly started to unfold it almost felt disjointed and choppy, but as it progressed you start to realize that all of those nuances and slight phrases that were out of place all actually have a place. (It was quite brilliant.) The choreography (Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and tap choreography by Anthony Morigerato) was exceptional. Most notably the pas de deuxs between Travis Wall’s Character Vincent and Barton Cowperthwaite’s character Sebastien were beyond exceptional and carried such weight, that I was moved. (And we all know, that performances rarely move me.) While the crowd adored all the special effects (lights, sticks, ropes, papers… if you go see the show, and you should, you will understand) I could have done without sticks.

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So, without giving a lot away, because you should just go see the show for yourself, I will tell you what was so moving about this production. The story examines everything from sexuality (if you are conservative Christian family with kids, this show might not be your cup of tea), alcoholism, adultery, promiscuity, murder, life, after-life, relationships, and family dynamics, and Shaping Sound delivers it in two hours. While some characters are more fleshed out than others, all of the characters evolve, change, and bring a sense of human conflict into their dancing. Nick Lazzarini‘s character evolves so beautifully that just a huge changes how you perceive the character. Lazzarini takes such care and exception of his character that his endless turns, and gravity-defying jumps don’t overshadow the character. Barton Cowperthwaite‘s character not only evolves after death, but Cowperthwaite is able to fuse the standard balletic emotions, but makes them sincere and thought out. The young Michael Dameski, 21, played Wall’s alter ego. The Audience Favorite from 2014 SYTYCD Australia kept up with Travis in quality, technique, and emotion giving him a great promising start in the American dance scene.

While the men delivered extremely strong performances, I think the women are still growing into their roles. Their characters are beautiful and all of the women moved beautifully with qualities most dancers lack. But, when the men are delivering beyond exceptional performances and beautiful technique it almost distracts when the women are not keeping up. Chantel Aguirre‘s role of the women was the most technical and versatile but since she lacked the 180 penché, the line and effect were lost.

Overall, as the show came to an end, I think the audience was stunned. Not just because it was a great produced show, but it also demanded the audience to think about social issues today. With the New York Times just publishing the dynamic of man on man duets and applauding NYCB’s Justin Peck… Travis Wall just blew him out of the water tenfold and created a work that not only explored all depths of sexuality, but was accepted by the general mainstream public (especially in Arizona…).

It was given a standing applause almost immediately after the lights went out and this was only the second time this production was performed. 

Additionally, each dancer as they came out to bow individually, were so sincere and humble that they each only bowed for maybe three seconds before running off, even Travis. Their bows were not the long overdone ballet bows, and that made it even more effective in humanizing dance stars.

While many have mainstreamed ballet with these contemporary pop/ballet shows, and contemporary ballet companies offer triple-bill programs, no one has really pulled off an entire story evening of contemporary dance. While, new ballets like Wheeldon’s Alice for Royal Ballet, Scarlett’s Frankenstein for Royal and San Francisco’s collaboration, and Possokhov’s Hero of Our Time, the art of storytelling in ballet sometimes falls short. And while other productions have popularized dance and pop culture like Joffrey’s Billboards to the music of Prince, Kings of Ballet, Bad Boys of Ballet and numerous collaborative productions (including Broadway and film); Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound really has created a space for competitive contemporary dancers to have a chance at a full-time job in a company, and has proven you can tell a two hour story with no speaking parts, move beautifully, produce an elaborate production, and sell tickets in a single stroke. This is a performance that is a must see. I urge you all. Even if you are uncomfortable talking to your kids about homosexuality, alcoholism, and other social problems- it does make you remember that good, quality, exceptional dancing and technique can be human and doesn’t always have to be about a princess who needs saving.

GET YOUR TICKETS HERE!

Happy World Ballet Day!

If you haven’t been watching, watch the replays. Go inside some of the world’s top companies and watch company class, rehearsals and great interviews with some of the most recognized faces in ballet! Officially caught back up with the magazine and we are excited for ISSUE 7!! It should be out tomorrow!! A whole new year filled with new articles, new people, and new ideas. A Magazine for the Modern Day Ballerina and Ballet Lovers!!

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Issue 7 On the cover is Noe Leilani (@noeleilani) wearing Lucky Leo (photographed by Lisbet Photography. I’m wearing Ballet Freak’s Merde. Shirt.
It’s my standard shirt I live in now. (Click here to buy)

Inside this Issue:
Inside the World of Ballet Competitions by Wesleigh Dichter
The Next Generation #teamnugget featuring Isobel Rose (@isobelroselehman and @noeleilani) photographed by Lisbet Photography
A New Look
Finding the Right School for You
Moving Ballet Forward

This Issue was Brought to you by all of the wonderful companies who have helped A Ballet Education grow!

PARTNERED WITH:

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Balanchine is in the Air…

A Ballet Education’s Covergirl, Mimi Tompkins will be taking on Ballet Arizona’s All Balanchine program this month. The program runs May 11-14 at Symphony Hall. I will definitely be going. I will let you all know what show I will be going to! I am just waiting for casting to be announced. The program will consist of three of my top ten Balanchine Ballets: Photo courtesy of Arizona Dances, photographed by Ashley Baker.

Western Symphony– a ballet that is all-American, funny, light-hearted and exciting. It is broken into movements. Notably, the second movement or the Adagio Waltz is known for the playfulness of pas de deux. The final movement (fourth movement, Rondo) is the most famous as it ends with the entire cast doing consecutive pirouettes from fifth as the curtain closes. The below video is the first video I had ever seen of Wester Symphony, well I think it was most everyone’s in my generation… I remember watching Susan Jaffe, now the dean at NCSA and being in awe. It wasn’t because of the high legs but just how charismatic she was, how musical she was, how fun she was. Watching Nikolaj Hübbe, artistic director of the Royal Danish Ballet, was insane. So energetic, so fun. Then, I had the privilege of sharing the stage with him for our run of Nutcracker and I felt like I was in a dream. But, I can watch this video on VHS over and over again and it doesn’t get old. It will probably rip soon, but thankfully someone has illegally uploaded it to youtube and we can all watch it before the trust takes it down.

Square Dance, the fast, country, do-si-do, juxtaposed ballet … but really the ballet is centered around ridiculously hard footwork, and extremely fast, fun steps… when the orchestra isn’t slowed down… this ballet is invigorating. The ballet also has a really great solo for male dancers that isn’t just jumping and turning… Taylor Stanley of NYCB on Square Dance.

Lastly,  Agon; the epitome of Balanchine’s black and white collaborations. With music by Stravinsky, Agon is the provocative tale of music and choreography. Every dancer who dances the pas de deux brings something different, every dancer in the corps is tested to find their story, and every night is different. Definitely excited just to see how the dancers at BAZ take on this ballet.

Tickets are available here: http://balletaz.org/performance/all-balanchine-2017/

 

NOTES ON ROND DE JAMBE…

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Notes on Rond De Jambes (a terre)

“Round of the leg on the ground”
poster available here in 3 sizes. (click here)

Eeesh. This is one of the hardest steps at barre in ballet. The exercise requires a ton of control and focus. In theory, this step should be really easy and a lot of people overlook how complicated rond de jambe is. Somewhere in between adagio qualities and stretching, rond de jambes are one of those things that you either have or you don’t.

Rond de jambes are versatile, you can do them en l’air, in a jump, on relevé, done en dehors or en dedans or even in fondu/plié. The list goes on. It can be done at varied heights, at varied speeds, or varied accents. Like most steps in ballet, you can do them any way you want.

So, let’s get to breaking down rond de jambe.

ron de jambe a terre
en dehors:
It is easier to learn rond de jambes from first. Standing very tall, you press through to tendu devant. Both legs are extremely straight without gripping the quad, and you need to focus on the inner hip socket. From this position, you hold the turnout and push to the side without changing the shape of the leg. Without gripping the quad you rotate the hip socket rotates even more and you continue the semi-circle to get to tendu devant. Nothing moves. I MEAN NOTHING! You keep the shape of the leg the entire time, the turn out, the shape, everything. Closing through the tendu and relaxing the toes, the heel gradually pushes forward and closes back to first. The important thing in rond de jambe is to keep the turn out active at all times. (Reality… you are supposed to keep your turn out active at all times but sometimes you just need to relax. Relax in first position if you need to relax.)

a. Standing in first position. If you need to get some tips on improving your first position. Click here >> (https://aballeteducation.com/2016/03/25/first-position-it-is-so-hard/)

b. Just like a tendu start pressing the heel forward and pushing through the floor. Because barre is built one step on top of the other, don’t miss out the notes on tendu. Click here >>(https://aballeteducation.com/2016/03/26/notes-on-tendu-well-tendu-devant/)

c. Reaching the maximum length of tendu devant, you have to extend even more in rond de jambe. You want to create enough length in the working leg to free up the hip socket. To do this, you have to push through your standing leg, or channel energy down into the floor on your supporting side.

ron de jambe balletd. This is the hardest part of rond de jambe… You have to start rotating the heel even more, and channel energy up into the hip sock and start to rotate the femur head in the socket outward. Don’t change the shape of the foot or leg, don’t relax the knee. Grow taller and start to carry to the side. You should feel a ton of tension pressing outwards in the supporting hip.

e. Keep carrying till you hit tendu a la seconde. A very long a la seconde. Keep lifting in the supporting side.

f. The next hardest part of rond de jambe is ridiculously hard. This is where a lot of people go a muck. Stabilize the hips by rotating outwards and channeling energy into the floor and start to rotate towards the back. Do not flip the hips or let the pelvis rock. Don’t sway in your back, don’t sit in your hips, don’t let your weight shift. You have to be even more mindful of your supporting leg. All while making the circle even larger.

ron de jambe ballet copy

g. Reach to tendu derriere

h. Relax your toes and press the heel forward leaving the toes behind.

i. Pull up harder into your standing leg and hip flexor. Lift even higher. The energy should never die in rond de jambe. You have to constantly grow and channel energy through each extremity of the body. As your relax your full foot on the floor your turn out should feel the deepest in the hip socket.

j. Reach back into a taller first.

Okay, here are some of the ridiculously hard things about rond de jambe… One, your body has to create tons of infinite circles that move through your space at barre. It is rather difficult, each time trying to make the circle bigger and bigger. Keeping the pelvis neutral and legs long. The best way is to keep your hamstrings constantly engaged without gripping into your quads and locking up your hip flexors. Another really difficult thing to do in rond de jambe is to keep the foot relaxed and not gripping.
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Rond de Jambes for the young child…
It is a common imagery tool to teach kids to draw a half circle on the floor. The problem with this, is that kids will usually push most of the work and effort into the quad. I find it better to tell kids to make an egg-like shape with the foot. This keeps from adding too much pressure in the knee, and not letting the student grip in the quad.
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Rond de Jambe for the adult dancer…
Nowadays, rond de jambe kills my hip. Like to the point of exhaustion. It is easier to work from a more turned in first than perfect first, and definitely in fifth position, it puts too much pressure to the knee… For me. I also find when being in a more turned in fifth position, I use my quad too much, so I rond de jambe from first. Less pressure all over, and my legs don’t die and I don’t grip in my quad.

Where in the world do you put your weight in rond de jambe… Classically speaking, rond de jambe should always be centered… meaning the weight is centered in your pelvis and the weight is placed over the arch. Some teachers allow weight to shift into the standing leg even more so that the hamstrings are longer. The weight then shifts so the center of the pelvis is above the arch and there is slight pressure in the ball of the foot. This frees up the working hip. The standing hip and leg then channels more energy.

a ballet education ballet techniqueThe stylistic rond de jambe… Some teachers teach to over cross the rond de jambe in tendu devant and derriere (over crossing meaning that the toe of the working foot lines up to the heel or arch. Some teachers, teach a more open rond de jambe that pushes the focus on the in between positions. Like half tendu front and half tendu back. Some teachers teach an exaggerated over crossing where the working toe lines up with the supporting toe. This definitely causes a weight shift.

Some final thoughts on rond de jambe…
Rond de jambe is hard, but don’t give up! The most important thing in rond de jambe is to open the hips and really create a connection through the space and floor. I always enjoy rond de jambe, and try to find really great musicality. Some teachers prefer accent front and back, some prefer accent side, and some prefer no accent and to keep the motion evenly. Depending on the song and the musicality and tempo, I accent in various places including first. Best of luck rond de jamming out… hahah

RON DE JAMBE POSTER AVAILABLE HERE…

Notes On: Getting Extension… to the side…

Extensions in ballet are everything… Well extensions are also everything on social media, but social media is a whole different post. But extensions in ballet… truly are everything… It is the difference between getting a contract and not getting a contract, it is the difference between being cast as Odette … or not. You get the idea, or at least I hope you do. My original post about tilting your hips has kind of come under a lot of fire, which is totally cool… Everyone is entitled to their own pedagogy and ballet ideals. But a lot of you have asked some questions, so I am here to answer some of them. In ballet… a la seconde or side or perfect side or whatever your natural turnout decides what side is… well it is really confusing and quite difficult. And truth be told, I had no clue what any of it really meant until I became a teacher…

Developpe Poster 1

Side Action… first we have to determine what is side. For some schools- it is about the natural turnout and you draw a line from the second toe outwards (i)… Other schools teach that side is in line or slightly in front of your shoulder (ii) and some schools teach that side is behind your hip line (which only works if you are freakishly hypermobile or flexible, iii). This is all determined by turnout.

what is a la seconde a ballet eduation

 

Okay, okay… Now onto the good stuff… Getting your leg up. You can just hoist your leg up, you have to use the back of your legs. If your teacher is one of those sticklers for being square, which I totally don’t disagree with, you only have to follow a and b.

a-b. From passé, you rotate slight forward to an attitude position and lift your knee as high as it can go while your hips stay square. You have to seperate your femoral head while rotating it to get to this position. then you just have to extend the heel forward till your leg is fully extended. Yes, you use your heel as the guide of your extension, not your knee. If you are focusing on your knee… you get massive quads and can grip. You have to really use opposition to achieve the back of your legs. The oposition comes from really pressing your psoas and core downwards.

square extension what is a la seconde

c-e. I teach my students to start shifting their weight into their standing leg, and aligning the opposing hip. I tell them to use the full power of the backs of their leg to rotate forward, bring the leg even more slightly infront of their body allow the look of maximum turnout. Then bring the knee into the front of your armpit using your psoas, and pressing down through the student’s core to get the maximum stability and correct tension saving the hips. Then guiding through the heel, like the later part of a ron de jambe en l’iar. So instead of thinking of extension as a line, you have to think of it as a circular motion… like turnout… like everything in ballet. Use your hamstring to supply the support needed. But the higher your leg gets, the easier it should feel. It is simply physics, as the weight is now all shifted into your standing leg, freeing up your working leg.

f. Then, for those students who are hypermobile, and have mastered the ability to rotate the extension upwards, I let my students shift their weight even more into their standing leg, and then like a teetertotter shift their hips even more to get those last six inches of extension. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of pressure on the lower back, so you have to be strong and pretty advanced to achieve it.

more notes: Tilting your hips on the plane of turnout is not the same as lifting your hip. Lifting your hip usually reffers to your booty and pelvis tipping forward. You have to understand your hip anatomy in order to really understand turnout and a la seconde. You never want to lift from your quads. Again work from the back of your legs! If you don’t know how, read my notes on how to work from the backs of your legs. Your hips have to be really warmed up and stretched out before your attempt this… Don’t be one of those kids sitting in their room reading this and then just go try it… It is why barre is structured.

Diagram of hip for ballet


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Notes on Dégagés…

how to degage

In the beginning there was pliés, followed by tendus, and then came dégagés. It is the way the universe designed it… or the French. Because of this, there are two types of techniques out there… Good technique and bad technique. Unfortunately, there is a lot more bad technique out there than good technique. (Seriously… I’ve seen the instas… and the youtubes.) Now, in the world of good technique there are two types of dégagés – long dégagés and short ones. Both are technically correct and both show refinement, but they are two different approaches in building technique.

Things dégagés are used for:
1. To warm up the feet and establish the workings of how the foot leaves and contacts the floor. (both short and long)
2. To establish the range of motion of turnout while leaving the floor and establishing length and connection. (long)
3. To have the control to stop kinetic energy of the working leg in time with music. (short)

Now, the two concepts can always be combined… But sometimes teachers forget the most important thing about this step… That if a tendu is based on the spiral rotation (turnout), and that is what causes the foot to point and reach… Then the dégagé is really just the continuation of that. Which means… The only way for a dégagé to actually leave floor is if it is rotated off the floor… you can’t just lift it. That would be quad gripping.

Sooo, here we go…
tendu degage

a. Standing in fifth is hard, and you have to to be fully rotated… The most important thing is making sure the weight is pressing down through the heels. It is really hard… But here we go…

b. Like in tendu, the heel presses forward and rotates forward- but now we have to really focus on the standing leg. Some schools teach the weight to be even through the heels an down the center of the body, some pedagogies teach you to start shifting the weight into towards front of your foot. I personally prefer the second. So everything is rotating just like in tendu…

c. Same as tendu, and pressing through the floor, keeping your toes spread…

d. The arch presses up, the heel rotates forward… just like tendu, the foot is rotating and spiraling… This time you are pushing harder than before, because you know your working leg has to “pop” off the ground versus and tendu you are only working on the floor.As you hop the arch- you shouldn’t be popping up, you should be popping forward…

e. Everything is happening… just like tendu… except now the point becomes a reality for the leg… The rotation extends and causes the leg to create even more tension and you start to rotate even more…

degage stuff

e. part 2… so there are two thoughts of how to rotate off the floor. This is tricky because different bodies respond in different ways. Some teachers say lift the foot off the floor 2 inches off the floor and rotate hard. Sometimes this causes quad gripping. The second is to rotate slightly forward in front of the shoulder and just rotate more…

f. Short Tendu- is that as soon as the energy disconnects from the floor, you stop it- freeze it- and slight the turnout back into fifth… or whatever position you are working in.

g. Long Tendu- The leg keeps reaching out and spirals pushing the circumference of an imaginary circle. You have to resist the force and not just let it fly up to 90 degrees by pressing down and outwards against the working hamstring… without gripping your quads. (Probably why I don’t teach long tendus till kids are like 15ish)

The most important part is rotating constantly and that all movement is started and finished by turnout. You have to turnout… turnout some more and when you think you have turned out as much as you could… You turnout even more. So, the leg has to spiral so hard that it pulls out of the socket and your abductors spiral the opposing way holding the leg in the socket… If you achieve this correct tension… You won’t have wonky hips.

Since my book isn’t due to come out for a while… and I still have to keep up the blog… I have started releasing posters… and the plus side is that since I have found a cheaper printer, the posters are cheaper. The attitude poster is now available by clicking here.For the month of April it is only $24.99 (May it will be $49.99)

Some of you have written to me asking what it costs for me to come teach at your studio, or work with your teachers. I am pretty flexible with time at the moment- and all I do is ask that you cover all travel expenses and my regular teaching fees. If you are interested please don’t hesitate to reach out and email me.

This week’s insta theme is Modern Classic’s starting with SUNDAY: PETITE MORT (@aballeteducation)

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Saturday Morning Warm Ups

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Every Saturday morning dancers around the world hear their alarm clocks go off and they want to die. The physical demand for a dancer is extremely high, but the emotional and mental demand on a dancer is just as high if not higher… Saturday mornings we are cursed with having to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to go to class. For professionals, they just had a performance the night before and they now have to get up, go to class, rehearse and perform 1-2 times on Saturdays. It is awful… And for students, for some unholy reason, ballet teachers take Saturdays as a day to dance early so you can get out early…. The concept is awful. Most dancers are at the studio all night on Fridays, and have to return to ballet class by 10:00 AM, which means you have to be at the studios warming up at 9:30ish, which probably means you are up at 7:00 to get ready, eat, let the food digest, and commute to the studios.. This concept has plagued the ballet world for who knows how long… I blame some soviet teacher back in the day wanting to capitalize on off time… #justsayin

russian teacher stories

So, with that being said, a lot of students have written in asking what a proper warm is… Truthfully… it varies by body type, and what injuries you have or are prone to. Usually, a good warm up consists of core muscles, finding your center, articulation through the back, a quick warm up through the feet and knees, and stretching out anywhere that is tight or sore.

Everyone’s warm up is different… mine takes about 45 minutes because I have to warm up a lot because of hip surgeries and a lack of natural ballet needs… I also don’t dance regularly anymore, so I have to start prior to even getting to the studios. If I know I am going to be taking company class or any open ballet class that morning I need to take a really hot shower and crack my ankles, and open the tops of my arches. I then have to eat a steel cut oatmeal and two bananas or I will cramp and die somewhere between degagés and ron de jambes. I also eat hard boiled eggs, toast with peanut butter and avocado… and coffee cake (#fatpandaproblems).

Before I leave I make sure I have everything packed in my herschel dance bag. Gatorade for barre, water bottle for center, coffee to go because I live off it. Trigger point Foam roller, foot roller, theraband, trash bags, sweatpants, variety of legwarmers, dancewear, sewing kit, ballet shoes like 3 different pairs, headphones, headband because my bangs are super fierce right now and my cell phone….

Once I get to the studio and pay for open class, and I change, headphones go in my ears and I find a spot to start warming up.

I start with pilates 100’s…. core hold, and pushups… I write the alphabet with my feet and ankles making sure I articulate all the way through my feet. Then I lay on the floor and start warming up my hips and back…. Tight hips and flexible back is a fun combo to try warming up…. I then stretch out my hip flexors, and hamstrings, and quite my rib cage because after all of the rolling on the floor my rips tend to open… plus I am a big splayer in real life. I sit in my lower back and let my ribs pop open all the time… I could cut someone’s eye with how bad the lower portion of my ribs splay. I then roll through my feet  to relevé in first and second. I cheat in fifth and just check the line. I do some tendus to feel the backs of my legs and then stretch it all out. Splits. Then ready to take class.

Usually, when I take class I have a goal… like petit allegro or pirouettes. So I warm up and take class accordingly. Now that I am a fat panda… I am not really an overall dancer… And because of my body, depending on what is hurting… I avoid certain exercises… or my body tires out really fast so I have to pace myself. If I am focusing on pirouettes, I won’t do a lot of combinations on relevé because I would die, twist my ankle and fall during across the floors.

So… what is a proper warm up for ballet class? Whatever works for your body. A girlfriend of mine has really tight hamstrings so she spends her entire warm up stretching out her legs. Another friend, he has a really tight back, like so tight some days arabesque does not happen for him… So spends his time doing all these modern exercises and yoga positions to get his back going. Another friend of mine is a quad gripper so he spends a lot of time stretching out his quads and warming up hamstrings. Everyone is different…

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SHOP FAT PANDA AND OTHER DOODLES BY CLICKING HERE

Dancing without Limbs… Disabilities in Dance

dancing with disabilities

You can never win them all, and in fact, most of the time my blog seems to center around controversy. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it. Most of the time. Recently on Instagram, I have been doodling exceptional young talent because I want to go to the YAGP to cover it. I have also been doodling the women of ballet who inspire me. But lately, I have been getting some posts that at first upset me because of the direction they were going in, but then it affected me because of my family life…

Is there room in ballet for dancers with disabilities?

Backstory: I am one of twelve kids, of those twelve nine of us are adopted, and of those nine 6 have special needs. From missing limbs to severe cerebral palsy, my parents adopted them all. When we were younger, a beautiful woman, Jennifer Laurie, offered my sister Leena who was born with Larsen’s Syndrome, a chance to dance because she wanted to be a dancer. Classes were free, and this led to my sister Rebecca to dance and then basically me… Then later on, I got to teach a workshop at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, and that was a great experience, but…
Current Story: A few young women pointed out that my doodles were racist. That I only pick white women to doodle… Instead of ranting, I just decided to start with Misty Copeland and then doodle women of color in dance that inspire me. I also decided that as I doodle my classical ballets I would doodle color blindly. Then… a few young dancers went off on me, saying I was excluding them because they have disabilities…

Before I responded to them, I had to think really hard… Like really hard… And I had to think smartly. So…. Below are some of my thoughts via vlogging on this issue…

So, how do we change this? Do the government and local communities raise money to find a place for disabled dancers in the performing arts? Or, do world renowned ballet companies start changing the look of their dancers to be more inclusive of ethnicity, disability, etc? What are your thoughts?

A dream workshop with the NYCB — WILL MAKE YOU CRY FYI…

Hand in Hand performed by Ma Li and Zhai Xiowei

Physically Being Me – six stories from Deaf and Disabled Dancers by Foundation for Community Dance

China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe — okay, go China since you have been doing this since the 80’s

Alice Sheppard on Disability Dance and Ability at Emory University
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THE DOODLES:
Thanks again for all the love on INSTA @aballeteducation

Also, don’t forget there are three ways to get a doodle:
1. (DONATE) you can donate by clicking here. I will email you asking for pics so I have options to choose from. It will be posted to my insta when it is done.
2. (FREE) SUBSCRIBE to my blog, follow the INSTA and tag me in some photos so I have some options to choose from.
3. (PAID) You can commission a specific picture or idea by emailing me. Here we can be more specific about what you want, and how you want it done. I also won’t have any rights to post it- it’s all yours.
—-

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW ME ON FACEBOOK & YOUTUBE!

 

Biscuity Feet… and then some

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Either you have them, you know someone who has them, or some days you feel like you have them. Yup, you got biscuits. What is a biscuit? To be honest, it is a foot that doesn’t point, doesn’t have a shape, doesn’t wing, doesn’t bevel, well… to be honest… It’s a hopeless foot. Yes, in ballet FEET ARE EVERYTHING! A good foot lets you cheat turnout, create a cleaner line, have a more supple landing, but most importantly… It gives people something to gag on.

For most people, if you are cursed with the biscuit foot, you can correct it. So, yes there is hope for you! If you are above the age of 16, it might be harder to correct, but it has been done. I have corrected it on many of my students. Unfortunately, it usually means extreme dedication; like if ballet wasn’t enough dedication, reshaping your foot is, even more, work. It is painful, and it can be dangerous. It can cause tendonitis and make your feet more prone to injury.

Here are some things to help you get rid of your biscuit foot:
1. Work properly…. Most times, your biscuits are caused by you. Sometimes, it is better to move down a level or two to focus on working properly, like engaging your peroneus at all times, making sure you are working through your fourth metatarsal and not pronating. Another thing young dancers do is crunch/ginch/claw their toes and that causes the arch to lock.

2. Stretch! Stretch! Stretch! To get better feet you have to stretch everything. Literally, everything. All of the muscles, tendons and ligaments from the knee down have to be stretched… and now that I am thinking about it, even the legs and hips have to be stretched. They are all connected in one way or another. Don’t be so hardcore you pull a Paris opera and break your arches to get better feet…

3. Strengthen! Once you are all stretched out, and your feet are relaxed you have to properly strengthen the tendons and ligaments in your foot to work properly. Getting a resistant band, or getting onto a pilates springboard are helpful. Other exercises are moving marbles from one box to another, or crunching a towel up, and then flattening it back out using your toes.

Just a reminder: when pointing your foot… it should feel like your arches is a waterfall and flowing over your toes. Your toes should be elongated and pressing distances, not curling to make a shape. Your heel should always feel tension in rotating forward and upwards, in opposition of your pinky toe rotating backwards and downwards. Make sure in standing positions the tops of your feet/arches are relaxed. And finally, whenever the teacher is giving a combination in class, you should be stretching out your feet. Biscuity feet usually have a lot of tension in the arches (both tops and bottoms) and you need to keep them constantly stretched and relaxed. Get a foot roller or tennis/golf ballet to constantly be rolling out. Love this one! << CLICK TO BUY

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THE DOODLES:
Thanks again for all the love on INSTA @aballeteducation

Also, don’t forget there are three ways to get a doodle:
1. (DONATE) you can donate by clicking here. I will email you asking for pics so I have options to choose from. It will be posted to my insta when it is done.
2. (FREE) SUBSCRIBE to my blog, follow the INSTA and tag me in some photos so I have some options to choose from.
3. (PAID) You can commission a specific picture or idea by emailing me. Here we can be more specific about what you want, and how you want it done. I also won’t have any rights to post it- it’s all yours.
—-

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW ME ON FACEBOOK & YOUTUBE!

Falling in Love with Pas De Deuxs… Valentine’s Day

romeo and juliet

All great love stories are great because of the adversities the protagonists face. In ballet, all great love stories end in death. If we think of the great love stories of ballet… everyone always dies. Is it the worst thing in the world? No, but it sure is depressing. Of all the great love stories by far, Romeo and Juliet will always take on Valentine’s Day… Last year, I felt like everyone, and their mom did R + J for Valentine’s Day weekend. This year I feel like everyone is doing Don Q. Which is good because no one dies. Unfortunately, Don Q isn’t known for the epic love story; it is known for great technical variations…

The tragedy is always great, it sells tickets and makes for great posters and PR. But, really, the love stories within ballet are only made better by beautiful Pas de Deux, and hands down Kenneth Macmillan knows how to do romance: Romeo and Juliet and Manon. Then we have Val Caniparoli’s version of Lady of the Camellias and Onegin; the work is epic.  You can see Boston Ballet this month perform it. Click here for tickets and preview.
And finally, I actually really enjoy the pas de deux from Month in the Country by Ashton. Finally, even though it isn’t a “romance” per say… I love the Diamonds pas de deux in Balanchine’s Jewels.


and a killer look at pas de deux from NYCB

Previews

With a week away, I am almost done fundraising everything I need to… We just need to raise about $1,000 dollars by tomorrow. Everyone has worked extremely hard to put this show together. I really hope you could find it in your hearts to support the ballet company and school. Greatly appreciated.

David King, Artistic Director of Redlands Dance Theatre
www.RedlandsDanceTheatre.org

Nutcracker Tee 1: SNOW SCENE SELFIE

It always amused me watching the girls come back downstairs to the dressing room after snow scene in Nutcracker… Their lip gloss would catch all of the nasty paper/plastic/glitter snow… Some girls would have it all over their false lashes… It was amusing. Then they had 15 minutes to take it all off and look semi attractive for Flowers. 
snow scene COMING SOON

1 of 12 Limited Edition 2015 Nutcracker Tees

SNOW SCENE SELFIE
​Will Ship by November 15, 2015

A Ballet Education’s: SNOW SCENE SELFIE
Machine Washable, 50/50 Blend, Unisex Screen Tee.

30% of all sales go towards a Ballet Education’s Scholarship Fund.

(click the image above to purchase)

Why you shouldn’t put your kid into ballet…

I have seen all of these posts about why you should put your kid into ballet. With reasons like: smarter, more successful, better workers and so on, after doing some research, these articles were based on dancers who are now retired… Not students… As RDT has been attracting dancers around Souther California at all different levels of training and different age groups, I have been having a lot of meetings with parents.  This is not a formulated post, nor is it based on extreme research, but rather my experiences as a teacher, dancer, and student. It isn’t that ballet makes people better workers; sure, ballet creates a rigorous work ethic, but that is because I have noticed a lot of ballet dancers have the same personality traits. For girls, personality traits I have noticed that are common among successful ballet students are:

-Slightly introverted, as they are able to consciously have an internal monologue with themselves. Totally helps with developing their artistry.
-Slightly OCD, from the way they sew their shoes, to performance rituals, how they make their bed, or how they have their things organized in their houses. Totally gears themselves for the long haul and rigor of ballet.
-Double egos, one personality is extremely introverted, self conscious, and overly critical which is compensated by being extremely extroverted, fun, ability to goof off, and more.
-Extremely smart. You can’t be dumb and dance ballet, I mean seriously, you just can’t. I have said it a billion times.

For boys I have noticed that the thing they have in common is their extreme confidence, and ego. I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but I guess for a boy, you do have to have a thick skin to grow up dancing in tights.

Recently, a mom of a five year old came in to the studios. She wanted her daughter to dance anywhere between 15-20 hours a week. I laughed. I didn’t mean to, that was rude of me. But no five year old should be in the studio for that long. Seriously, what is a five year old going to do for that long? If the average advanced training schedule is five days a week, consisting of a typical 1.5 hour class, 1 hour pointe class and 1 hour misc. pas de deux, rep class, condition etc… that is 3 hours a day averaging out to 15 hours of training a week, and then you add rehearsals and that is 20 hours. What five year old needs that much time in class? Seriously. Then another mom, was complaining that her daughter was placed into the Advanced Intensive course, which makes her daughter dance 18 hours including rehearsals. Her daughter is 14, and the week prior, her mom told me she wanted her daughter to audition for SAB’s summer course…. WTF… Your daughter is already behind in vocabulary technique and still doesn’t have the strength to control her turn out or feet…. Come on…. Then I have moms who are clueless to ballet, but coming in basically demanding that their daughters belong in advanced, when their fifth is not closed, their feet don’t point, and they aren’t flexible. BUT because they were the best at their school previously… They should be in advanced. -_____- Then I have the mom’s complaining about casting… Which ironically, I was beyond fair, and I created 3 cast lists so their kids would learn 3 different roles… and have the chance to dance in 3 different roles. Now they are complaining they have to buy tickets to three shows blah blah blah…. I just don’t get it. If your kid is 11 years old, and all they were cast in Chinese Attendants… wouldn’t you be mad? It’s not like we have a party scene or battle scene to fill…. (in my previous post, I mentioned i cut it out from Nutcracker). Also, it isn’t like you are paying 3 costume fees, or 3 of anything. I don’t know. Maybe I was being too fair? So the typical, decently trained 11 year old is learning Chinese Attendants, Arabian Attendants, and understudying Marzipan… The typical 14 year old is cast 1st cast Arabian Attendant, 2nd cast Marzipan attendants, and understudying either flowers or snow. The typical 16 year old in our trainee program is in 1st cast Snow and Flowers, 2nd cast paquita corps, snow and flowers, and understudying one of the lead variations. I feel like this is pretty fair casting… Even at the schools I was at, I feel like this is typical casting? I could be very wrong, but I felt like this is pretty fair…

So, why shouldn’t you put your kid (any age under 7) into ballet? Because ballet dancers are nuts. No just kidding, not really. The more and more I watch kids enter into ballet, the more and more I see them set up to fail. I see parents that can’t afford the training needed, or pointe shoes needed. I see kids develop unhealthy friendships that are based on talent. If a kid has been dancing since age 3, by the age of 10 their parents are demanding their kids to go en pointe, and some random dolly dinkle school puts them up, with bad technique and so their feet become damaged, or they get biscuity and don’t point properly. It is just a mess. I feel like kids under the age 7 should only stretch, listen to music, take tap class, and do jazz/hiphop. Go compete and gain that stage awareness and self confidence. Go to jazz class so you can learn to be fearless, and have ridiculous tenacity and attack. Start ballet at age 7 or 8, when they can actually sit and focus on turn out, and begin to comprehend how you have to use your facility ballet. I don’t know. Just my opinion.