What is Ballet?

You could be reading this as a professional dancer looking to retire into teaching, be a teacher already, an aspiring student, a parent of a ballet dancer, or even an adult coming to ballet for the first time. As scary as ballet is, ballet is beautiful and benefits everyone through discipline, repetition, hearing and understanding music, the human anatomy and evoking the one quality that defines the ballet aesthetic: elegance.

Working on my Intro/Preface for the book… 

The technical book

Not the final cover, but using it as a mock up.

Ballet. Classical ballet as an art form can not stand alone, it is the collaboration of movement, music, costuming, lighting and design. When they say it takes a village to raise a child, it takes all of humanities achievements, accomplishments and history to make ballet happen. Ballet as a whole is a reflection of our times, it portrays the context of what was popular at the time, what was happening in the modern world, and how it is unforgiving. Yet, somehow, this art form has survived hundreds of years, because of tradition. The tradition of ballet has been verbally passed down from one generation of dancers to the next, and like traditions and folklore, it has been expanded on, distorted, and refined. Today, ballet is the reflection of that oral tradition presented on the human anatomy to music.

Watching a ballet performance is magical. There is something to be said about getting dressed up for the theatre and watch humans transform into fairies, sylphs, heroes and heroines, star-crossed lovers and swans. It is truly the ethereal escape that for years ballet critics have fawned over. But in today’s ballet world, in the age of technology, ballet has changed. In the 60’s the audiences were balletomanes, knowing dancers by name and rank. They roared in applause for superstars and cried over well-danced performances. Nowadays, ballet companies have the audience of ballet isn’t just captivated in beautiful theaters across the world. Ballet companies are now performing to the masses via social media. The demand for ballet is instantaneous, ballet superstars aren’t created by artistic directors, they are created by their followers on social media.

This means, ballet dancers once again have to find a way to reinvent themselves. While the older generation of dancers moved on to become entrepreneurs with the young millennials, young ballet dancers now are creating such a huge following for themselves by being exceptionally gifted, have the best training the world has to offer and be fundamentally interesting as both a human and a ballet dancer. And now, companies are head hunting again, and having to follow social media trends in dance.

As a result, the demand for excellent teacher has grown. Teachers used to rely on their reputations as dancers, and studios relied on the fact that every girl wants to be a ballerina. Nowadays, studios and ballet schools have to have a combination of excellent coaches, extremely educated teachers, and phenomenal instructors. The three are very different. Additionally, they have to be well connected to the ballet world or the competition circuit of ballet. If a parent or student doesn’t feel that the student is growing or not being pushed to their full potential they will leave and find a school that fits their needs.

Because of the increase of ballet companies in the world, the number of ballet schools has increased, and the number of dance studios has increased. This means, for the potential dancer, there are hundreds of options and many options locally.

When I started the blog, a Ballet Education was just a place for me to rant about my frustrations within the professional world of ballet, but now over the past two years, it has grown to become a resource for parents, students, teachers, and more. So for that, I am thankful that it has grown and has become a source to help others pursue their dreams or help understand what goes on in the world of ballet.

So, as I am preparing to start writing my ballet book… I have encountered a larger problem… The funding for my book… While I have been contacting by smaller publishers, they can’t offer what I need to complete my book, and how I think the book should be published. My book is estimated to be close to 400 color pages, and preferably hardcover because let’s face it… If you have a ballet dictionary it is falling apart after years of carrying it around in sweaty dance bags. Ballet books have to be structurally made to last. As teachers, they are even in worse condition as you write notes in them, and use them constantly, or at least you should.

Finally my notes on technique aren’t just on technique, but how to approach them as the adult dancer, the young dancer, dancers with “difficult body types”, and how my methods of how to teach these. As I am putting the work out slowly to get a feel from publishers and literary agents, and I hope that it happens soon, I hope my future book will help generations of ballet dancers like the ballet manuals prior to mine.

Also, once it is published via the IBSN, I hope you all go out and buy it right away so I can land a spot on a bestseller list. I would be nice to have a “ballet book” (not a biography) make the best sellers list, just sayin. Thank you again.

My blog won’t be updated as I am leaving for two weeks, but when I return: order will be shipped and blogging will resume. I’ve been working on quite a few blog posts. And since I won’t be posting via Instagram or blog, I am just going to publish the rest of my doodles of the day. Remember, this week’s theme was fashion illustrations of what ballet dancers wear, not doodles. (Follow me on Instagram: @aballeteducation)

LOOK OF THE DAYS

Advertisements

Ballet & the Passable White Standard…

edit: Post number 200! Apparently it is a big deal on wordpress and you get a little sticker! Thanks for all of the love and support.

IMG_9897

Is passable white alright? The media has been covering ethnicity in ballet a lot lately, and as much as that is appreciated… and as beneficial as I think it is… the reality is, I don’t think they are covering the right thing…. They are covering the fluff of race. So, because I have nothing to lose, or a lot to lose, who knows, I thought I would once again touch again on ethnicity in ballet… Whether we like to or not, and as uncomfortable as it makes us, that’s okay because we aren’t talking about it in the open… we are blogging about it. 🙂 So if you are reading this and feeling squirmish and are ready to click away, that’s okay too, but shame on you… And if you are ready to start the conversation that really matters… Let’s go!

While Eric Underwood brought up the need for manufacturers to create an ethnic look to ballet aesthetics… The bigger problem I think solely boils down to two positions… positions that made me start this blog, positions that have me so frustrated, so irritated, that it makes me wonder why I haven’t applied to be one somewhere bigger to start making a change… Artistic Directors and School Directors. DUN DUN DUN! *if I could add dramatic music I would*

While I sketch dancers around the world, I have noticed the lack of color in my digital palette… Which wasn’t very surprising… but what was more surprising was the unfortunate ignorance of people writing into my blog criticizing “me and my apparent lack of knowledge about ballet, Misty Copeland, and Under Armour… ” So, I took a moment to rant to myself before blogging, and now that I have taken more cold medicine and had chicken noodle soup, I can cohesively put some thoughts together.

Diversity in ballet is clearly in the lack… but at the same time, not all ethnicities, or individuals are created equal. Unfortunately, in ballet, the paper bag and ruler principle applies, silently. Then again this principle was never just written out for the world, well it was…. but you get the idea…  If you don’t know what this is, it is a principle that was used/ still used to justify ethnicity, human rights, education and entitlement stemming from colonialism and slavery. It is basically, not to sound cruel, if your skin is as light or lighter than a paper bag, and your hair is as straight as a ruler, you are favored and thus “passable white”… If you look at most professional ethnic dancers at major ballet companies… on stage… with makeup and pink tights… they are passable white.

Ballet companies defend themselves when asked about race with three arguments… well they aren’t really arguments but sad, hide behind a truth statement with a shitty truthful statement. Mostly US companies, because I have yet to see a European company actually put out a statement to defend their position…
1. We employ diverse dancers from around the world… That is truthful, but the reality is all of these dancers are passable white: Korea, Japan, China, Cuba, Spain, Europe, etc…
2. We employ the most talented dancers, and the competition for contracts is extremely stiff. Again, a sad truth…. The problem can’t be fixed at the moment… (will go into this below)
3. Ballet is a visually aesthetic art form, so we have to create a cohesive look for our company. Again a horrible truth. You must ask yourself, how can we love, obsess over, devote our lives to an art form that silently reflects racism? and yes it is racism, preference is still considered a cause of microaggressions.

12513723_1049028428506023_6077314229955633015_o

So dear readers, the answer isn’t to boycott the ballet because if we stop going to ballet performances there would be no companies for us to watch… And the answer is definitely not writing in angry hate mail… that gets you nowhere… You could start a blog like myself as an option… Companies can’t just go randomly find ethnic dancers on the street and pull them into the company and say, “You are a principal dancer”.. They actually have to blend with the company’s style of dancing and technique… That is true… So, here is what has to happen to see diversity in ballet…. And truthfully… sorry to those who have written in… you have to have good technique… period. Regardless of ethnicity….

Option 1: Replace the current heads of major companies…. Like no offense to Australian Ballet but David needs to go…. And as much as I love Peter Martins… his time is probably up as well…. Royal Ballet has been bouncing around directors… so he’s probably on the way out anyways…. Paris Opera made a smart move with Benjamin but is now replacing him with goddess Aurelie Dupont sooo maybe that is good… I think even Bolshoi and Mariinsky’s directors are ready for a change… Here is the reason why:
These directors were brought up in the age of conservative ballet, and as they learned to be in a company, perform and create they learned in an environment that was safe, reserved and untouched… They are part of the generation of classical ballet…. Classical ballet is dying… Or is dead. Companies just don’t perform the classics anymore… Which ironically, companies use the classics as their defense for a black corps member to stand out in…. Well…. if you look at what is performing next weekend…. EVERYTHING seems to be contemporary… Like no joke: Boston, Tulsa, Atlanta, Richmond, Stuttgart, and the list goes on and on. Soooooo, again… bad artistic directors… sorry if I offend any of you reading this, but it is true…. :/

Most of these AD’s grew up dancing, when dancing was still, or is still a privilege… which is a great mindset to instill in students, but elitism is never a good thing. It is a privilege to dance, yes… but it isn’t something that is given, it is earned…

Option 2: Replace the school directors… and when I saw directors I mean even the teachers and the board….
A ballet school is where everything needs to start… There are so few dance jobs to begin with, that we have to be fair from the beginning, and this would start at the ballet school level. In order for it to be a “fair” playing field for jobs, you would have to have the world’s ethnic representation ratio in ballet dancers… Which is like quite impossible… but fun to think about. But if African American dancers make up less than 2% of the world’s professional ballet dancers (Not modern, not contemporary) that isn’t very hopeful… But if we were to look at the percentages from the world’s population database, as of 2014 people of
African or of African Origin decent are 13.5% of the world’s population…. While whites of European decent make up 12.9% of the worlds population…. Asian/Pacific islanders make up 57% of the worlds population… and Latin/Latin Decent make up 8.7%….

So if you took a worldwide company like say…. American Ballet Theatre… That isn’t very hopeful… and if you look at Paris Opera or Bolshoi… well… it doesn’t get any better… BUT, in Europe’s defense… most of their companies are state companies, so it make sense to hire dancers from their own countries… Kind of… because they don’t always follow those rules… *cough cough* royal ballet *cough cough*
I really don’t know why Royal Ballet irks me the most when it comes to ethnicity… Oh yeah, I remember why… Thier school has a huge influx of Asians and other ethnicities in their upper school… but they don’t hire them into the company… duh. Oh and Paris Opera just hired their first African descent dancers Awa Joannais… (note that it was under Benjamin Millpied…) And not to mention Asians make up half the world’s population so you would think that there would be more Asian principal dancers… Like ummm hello, did we not watch the Prix de Lausanne… Asians galore.

So, I am not saying give everyone a free ballet education, because that would ruin American dance studios and ballet schools hahaha. But, what I am saying is that studios/ ballet schools should be recruiting ethnic dancers who have the potential to dance: natural turnout, good feet, hypermobility, etc at a young age (age 8-10) and recruit them, and prepare them to push the distance… I would include body weight/ skeletal frame but in America these days there is little difference in the obesity category when it comes to race, and obesity isn’t genetic. Talking mostly about girls… (NYU) http://journalism.nyu.edu/publishing/archives/race_class/othergirlsstuff.html
So- by replacing school directors, with new directors and innovative dance teachers, like myself… lol, you have to find dancers with potential and carve them a path into the ballet world… If elite ballet schools only get to pick dancers who are already trained, who are already polished for their SI programs, and scholarship spots etc…. then it isn’t right… Potential and diversity should factor in as well…

Now, as the press covers people have paved their way into the limelight of ballet, I applaud them all as well… But the reality is… it really doesn’t make a difference. I point out that Desmond Richardson became the first African American male dancer in 1997… And it wasn’t till 2015 that another African American reached principal…. The point here isn’t to criticize ABT, but it is to point out the lack of students available to pull from… And it didn’t help that JKO school wasn’t founded till 2004. Hee Seo was the first Korean, and I believe the first Asian Woman as a principal dancer, (I could be wrong about being the first Asian woman as principal but looking back as the rosters… (I am like 80 percent confident in that statement) and last year Stella Abrera being the first Pacific Islander, specifically Filipina to become principal… So since Desmond Richardson, ABT in the past 20 years next season has yet to “ever see a talented potential African American Male Dancer who deserves a principal spot or has the potential to be a principal dancer?”… *side eye*

Another thing people use in the ballet of ballet and ethnicity is the lack of ethnicity in storybook ballets… like where are the black swans, where are the Asian swans, blah blah blah… Honestly, these stories were curated in Europe… and even though Goldilocks has golden hair… and snow white has hair as dark ebony wood… or Cinderella’s skin so fair… I doubt that actually matters to directors… I think they are looking for women who evoke the idea of being a princess, evoke beauty, and evoke the passion that is ballet… But if there aren’t ethnic girls in the corps, in the school, or even given a chance … Well… we won’t be seeing them on stage… I mean hello… if a blonde woman can dance in La Bayadere, Don Q or Corsaire… I am just sayin… I think they are truly looking at who is technically and artistically ready to headline a ballet… You also have to be emotionally stable, and have a level head as you are about to go under an extreme amount of pressure.

A lot of young ethnic dancers have written in and even asked me to doodle them, which I eventually will do for free… but the big issue I see… is the lack of technique and lack of turnout, a lot of them have pretty feet… and most of them are young enough to still change the shape of their legs and feet. The problem? Bad teachers, bad training, or can’t afford elite training… Like dear teachers around the US, it isn’t that hard to give the correction… STRAIGHTEN YOUR KNEES… like dear baby Jesus, sooo many bent knees… >____< If they don’t do it on their own, do it for them… You can’t be “on your box” and have bent knee…. *side eye* what is America teaching *end of side eye*

So, where does this leave us in this ginormous post? That if you want to see a change in the ballet world… You need to support scholarship funds, you need to support company endowments, etc… Don’t just donate money to a ballet company- but you actually have to go in, and talk to someone about programs designed for ethnic dancers… You can’t just donate tons of money to a company… They will spend it how they see fit, and 9 times out of 10 it will be to pay off debt… You have to do a little work.

Now that we have a lot of the crazy out of our systems… Let’s talk…. Besides being angry and sharing inspirational stories on facebook what have you done to change ballet?
—-
Don’t forget to follow my Insta @aballeteducation or go to my doodle store by clicking here!

Ballet Books… and fat pandas

After much anticipation and deal making, and doodling… I have finally decided on a publisher! I know have I have published digital books in the past for a Ballet Education, but this is exciting because I love hardcopy books! So I have finally figured out some stuff about the publishing of THREE new books for a Ballet Education.

So the first book is the FAT PANDA book. It is a 5.5″x5.5″ softcover book printed on recycled materials! This book is ready for production and shipping! Click here to view This book is on the pricey side… But, unfortunately, I couldn’t get the publisher to come down the the cost.

The second book is the doodle book featuring over one hundred of my doodles. This book is a fundraiser for the blog, and all the proceeds go to the blog and to the scholarships I have been giving out from the doodles. Unfortunately, this book is only on pre-order at the moment, but as soon as the first set of hard copies come in… I will be shipping! It is kind of exciting. 140 pages of doodles.  Click here to view

Finally, I want to take on my magnum opus of publishing for the blog… haven’t figured out a title yet, or a cover image… but you can learn more about this project by clicking here! I am very excited about it!

The idea behind the book is not to create your typical, some what boring ballet dictionary… and I definitely don’t want to create something that no one will want to read… I want it to be helpful and interesting… I definitely want to have the doodles, the technical drawings and other things in the book. I don’t want it to just be vocabulary terms… I want it to actually be useful… If you have any other ideas or what you want to see out of the book let me know by emailing me.

SHOUT OUT TO ALL OF THE FOLLOWERS ON INSTA: @aballeteducation

 

Anatomy of a Pointe Shoe

anatomy of a pointe shoe

Collectively, teachers and doctors can agree on one thing: pointe work is NOT healthy for the human body. With that being true, neither is being tackled by a 200-pound man on astroturf, regardless people do it. Dancers do it for the love the art, the strides towards perfection, and the ability to conquer physics. Ballet would not be ballet without pointe work; it is the ultimate goal of a female dancer and some male dancers. So, how does a 6-year-old girl go from dancing in her living room with winged butterfly costumes to defying gravity on the largest stages around the world? Hard work, determination and sacrifice. To dance on en pointe or on pointe, you have to be ready both physically and mentally. The road to pointe work is the first step in the long journey it takes to become a ballerina.The demand of pointe is not only physically straining, but it is also financially straining. They are probably one of the most expensive pair of shoes you will every buy, that will last at most two weeks. And for those blessed with strong feet and beautiful arches, maybe two days… And for those of you who dance en pointe constantly… Maybe a class or two? The pointe shoe is an oxymoron, as it doesn’t last long due to sweat and the breaking down of the raw materials. (Unless you wear Gaynors… These shoes last longer, but there is a huge debate about that… I have posted before on them… Just search Gaynor in the blog search.) As delicate as they are, and as delicate it creates the aesthetic for ballet… well, they are also extremely strong.

 

So, these delicate beauties that hide their strength also house a vital part of ballet… A ballerina’s feet. They protect and shape the look, aesthetic and power of ballet… I mean it really isn’t ballet if it isn’t en pointe…. right? The whole point of training ballet is to get pointe shoes. So, before you even attempt pointe, you probably should know what a pointe shoe is… This isn’t the history of pointe… This is the anatomy of a pointe shoe 🙂

Anatomy of a Pointe Shoe

A pointe shoe has to be designed for the masses, and, as a result, the pointe shoe industry has expanded greatly. Despite the maker or manufacturer of the shoe, the concepts behind the “parts” of the shoe remain the same. Pointe shoes get their structure from two main structural parts:
The Box: the front of the shoe that encases and supports the dancer’s toes.
The Shank: a hard material the stiffens or reinforces the sole of the shoe to support the arch of the foot while en pointe.
Pointe shoes get their pretty factor from the light pink satin covering, hiding the internal structure of the shoe.
With modern day engineering, the box of a pointe shoe has been reshaped to meet dancers’ foot shape. A box is traditionally made from the process of papier-mâché while innovators in pointe shoes are making the box from more durable substances like plastic. The box consists of 3 parts: the platform, the vamp, and the throat. Each one of these parts comes with different specs per the model and manufacturer of the shoe. The platform of the shoe allows the dancer to stand flat on the floor for balancing, turning, and giving the illusion of being weightless. The width and shape of the platform vary. A Gaynor Minden’s platform is the flattest, versus a Freed, has a slightly more round shape to let the dancer break in the platform to fit their needs. The vamp supports the dancers toes, but most importantly their metatarsals; the vamp can be shaped differently, allowing for higher sides, or a higher throat in the front, ensuring that all of the flexible joints are supported and encased within the box. Russian Pointes have higher vamps and give the illusion of a longer, narrower foot. The throat is the opening of the box, and can be V-shaped, or rounded. The overall shape of the box varies by the maker as well. These are all important as the box is going to give the dancer’s foot 360 support. Because the materials a box is made of degrades, the box of a pointe is crucial for a dancer. If the box “dies” meaning it becomes mushy, there is no support for the toes. A dancer can dance on a really dead shank, but a really dead box is almost impossible to dance on. The shank of a pointe shoe is supple but the sturdy support the arch needs to hold a dancer’s body weight. Usually, the shank the sole of the shoe correspond in shape with hardened pieces of leather, cardstock, or hardened burlap. The sole is traditionally scored leather to prevent slipping and falling on stage.

The pointe shoe is famous for the ribbons that wrap across the arch of the foot and tie above the ankle. The ribbons aren’t there for show, ribbons do offer some security to keep the pointe shoe on, but nowadays nude/pink elastic is sewn to the heel of the pointe shoe to keep the shoe in place. Additionally, there is a drawstring placed around the shoe encased in canvas that lines the throat of the shoe.

For more about pointe work…
The Guide to Pointe Work

The Guide to Pointe Work (2015) | $2.99 USD – click to download

 

Notes on the Styles of Attitude Derrière

types of attitudes STYLES OF ATTITUDE

There are two MAJOR positions/shapes for ballet dancers. Positions that are based on the negative space the body creates and the idea of intersecting lines and shapes. They are: Developpés en croix: two straight perpendicular lines dissecting at an axis point (like arabesque…. developpé a la seconde, etc etc etc. And then there is Attitude en croix: a curved line. Of the two… attitude is a harder position. It is harder to cheat, harder to clean up, and definitely harder on the body if done correctly…. Unfortunately or fortunately, different pedagogies teach different approaches and lines. It is like the difference between at a Matisse and a Rembrandt. Same tools, same technique different outcome. These are some of my notes on the different styles of Attitude Derriere aka attitude back. I am going to be using attitude back because I don’t like having to switch keyboards back and forth. And sorry for skipping around on techniques. (I am skipping around on techniques based on how well I can draw the positions lol.)

So, for me in my opinion, and from experiencing the wonderfully painful world of ballet, there are five different approaches to attitude back. The five styles are: Cecchetti/French, Balanchine, Russian, Royal Ballet, and for those who are lucky enough to be hypermobile. Each of these are technically correct, but based on two things- how the lines curve and intersect, how your center is placed and weighted, and the tipping of your pelvic cradle.

Cecchetti copy

a. Cecchetti (Italian) and French styles: the two are closely related, as Catherine Medici of Florence brought ballet to the French court. So of course, the two are related and similar. I actually think this probably the most classical position relating to the origins of ballet existing in today’s world… Because attitude back even 80 years ago was kind of a joke…. Ideally, both the standing and working leg are turned out, but the working leg (the leg going into attitude) will shift within the hip joint. The femur head basically roles forward towards the front flipping the passé horizontally and back. Ideally, there is no tipping in the pelvis, and tension is created by the working knee pressing up, while the lower leg’s turnout rotates downward.  The lower portion of the leg is slightly opened to give a curved spiraling line. The height of the attitude comes from how far you can rotate the femur head forward to achieve the line. As the femural head rocks forward the passé then flips and shifts directed by the knee and supported by the sartorius and moves behind the spinal cord. The foot gradually opens from the passé position into the coupé position and length. Ironically, no one teaches attitude from sur le coup de pied when that is basically the shape and length. The only attitude that is truly a flipped passe is the Balanchine line. which brings us to the Balanchine line.

b. Balanchine – when in doubt… turn it out. The Balanchine attitude is basically, “How much turn out do I have, and how strong are the backs of my legs. I have had numerous different Balanchine teachers and they all have their own take on the attitude back… Like how crossed is too crossed… But one teacher made it pretty clear: You take your passé, flip it and push your knee behind your spine. Don’t every open the lower portion of your leg, and support from the hamstring, not the sartorius. If you basically take your passé, flip it, and shove it over. Your foot no matter what will be over crossed to the other side… Unless you have a short tibia or a wider torso. The position is extremely hard on the back because ideally the same concept of letting the femoral head roll forward and outwardly rotating the femur behind you. This creates a perfect perpendicular shape from the side but creates the elongated spiral through your back. If you are hypermobile you can separate the hips easily from your spinal chord, but for most, this position has to be cheated with the tipping of the pelvic cradle.

Balanchine_attitude

c. Now the Russian/Hypermobile line is modified because the center line is now based on your back in correlation to the front of your standing leg. The Russian line is extremely open, unlike the Balanchine line closing it from passe. Russian attitudes, the height is measured by the working foot. This allows the pelvis to tilt forward, the knee to slightly turn in and the attitude leg to go much higher. Unfortunately, you have to have a very flexible lower back, or else the line and center of gravity get distorted.There is this saying in ballet saying that when you do extensions to the back you move up and forward… and then you end up in these random superman positions, or crunchy necklines… It is just ugly. The idea of up and forward is based that your upper back remains completely straight up without compromising the ribcage or neck and shoulder line. You move your back line to be slightly in front of the standing leg line to counterbalance within the pelvis. Once the pelvis is centered, your body weight is now half and a half… And depending how flexible your back is, you can tilt as far as you want to get into a hypermobile attitude back… In Russia…. it seems every girl and boy at Vaganova Academy has a hypermobile back which gives us the elusive hypermobile attitude back…. The further your hips tilt or pour over, you have to create more space in between the pelvis and ribcage to allow your center of gravity to be balanced without straining your knee or ankle. Additionally these lines have the knee crossing behind the working sides shoulder blades.

d. Royal Ballet, not RAD, uses the hip tilting to the full advantage. Royal ballet students tip their hips completely forward to the back. This allows for two major things, the first is that when you hip your hips you aren’t concentrated on the femur head rotating forward… and for a lot of people that is a hard sensation to feel. Once your hips are tilted forward, your working legs has a ton of freedom. The problem is… that if you aren’t hypermobile and are given perfect turn out… this line causes the upper body to be wonky. Even at 90 degrees it’s pretty hard. The second pro to this line, is it makes your legs look incredibly long. As the pelvis tipping forward adds a good 6-10 inches to your leg line. It basically creates the leg line from the natural waist to the end of the foot versus other attitudes going from the hip joint to the toe. Sarah Lamb is probably the master of this line… Additionally, once the hips are tilted forward at 90 degrees, the leg is free to hit or maximize the penche line in arabesque. Again though, you have to have a gifted body to achieve this line or you get superman flying through the sky, or your get wrinkly neck rolls, or lumpy shoulders.. Royal ballet also places the knee behind the shoulder creating less tension within the lower back and creating a more open curve natural curve from the standing sides shoulder spiraling through to the working foot.

I have said it before, but you really do have to find the right line for you. This is really important for every dance to experience because finding the right line on your body could be the difference between a company contract… and ending up working at a Taco Shop. #justsayin

doodle store banner

 

 

 

Notes on the Basics… my basics

Apparently, once again I have to go in depth to defend my blog… and truthfully… At this point I don’t really care, with the exception of  recent negative comments and emails from other ballet bloggers and ballet teachers… Let’s talk about the basics of ballet and not the fact that other blogs rarely quote their sources, link the photos to the actual photographers so their readers can, at the least, have access to the photographer, and be bland… *shade* Blogs aren’t newspapers or literary journals… They are opinions… and if you don’t have anything nice to say… Just don’t say anything at all… Or post it on your blog… Seriously… *side eye* Another plus side… is my ability to doodle… so now I can just doodle everything I am talking about.

HOW I TEACH THE BASICS

The basic principal of ballet technique is turnout. (click here to read post on turnout)
Turnout as a concept is easy to understand, but to actually turn out… That is like the lifetime commitment you are making to ballet.

Then as we progress through the ballet vocabulary, I break down ballet technique based on four basics:

Plié (build): the literal translation of plié is to bend.
Tendu (stretch): the translation is to stretch.
Relevé (press): to raise/ to rise
Coupé (rotation): to cut

Side note… the translations of the vocabulary aren’t the definitions or even a guide on how to properly execute the techniques. These words are translated as verbs, so they portray an action or movement, but they aren’t just as simple as bending… I think a lot of times teachers get caught up in the idea of ballet vocabulary versus the actual use of the vocabulary.

Okay, so if you take a glissade… and really break it down it goes from a plié, to a tendu, to a relevé, and then in the reverse. If you look at a jump, it starts in a plié and moves through relevé, and into a tendu in the air… If you look at a pirouette, it goes from a plié, to a relevé, and moves through coupé and rotates higher to passé. These are why I only use the four instead of the classic French 7 by Raoul Auger Feuillet and Jean-Goerges Noverre. (plier, étendre, glisser, relever, sauter, tourner and élancer)


To talk about elancer, glisser, sauter, and tourner; these ideas still have to be broken down… sooo I use the four I said above. These four terms, or the idea of turning and the idea of jumping are directional concepts. Even then a turn, for me and how I teach, can be broken down to axial turns or spatial turns. A pique turn and a pirouette… both would be categorized as tourné, but let’s be real… The approach to the two are completely different. Even jumps… an entrechat and grand jete would be both categorized as sautés…. buuuuuut ummm completely different in aesthetic and technique… Which is why, I refer to and defend my four principals.

PliéWhy do I say build instead of bend? Well if all you do in a plié is bend… you probably have thunder thighs, wobbly knees and have a jerky jump and fugly pirouettes. (No offense…) But, even starting with 5 and 6-year-olds… We talk about how pliés build kinetic energy, how a plié never ends, and is constantly growing. Even before “bending” there is a slight lift in our hips and cores… I call it our high hips, or the breath before you jump in the pool. Either way… at barre we start talking about how our plié fuels our bodies (rocketships) and you have to have a full tank of gas if you want to get to Mars…

Tendu, again a verb… doesn’t have an end point, unless…. we are preparing for the SAB and other Balanchine schools and work on placing/stopping our tendus.You can click here to read my notes on tendu. But, basically, I use Tendu as stretch, to get the most length and extension through the legs and toes.
TENDU BANNER

Tendu

releveTo press versus to rise… Relevé as much as it is your heels rising off the floor… there is a huge downward action, so we press our energy into the floor through the balls of our feet causing us to rise.

Coupé…ROTATION I use coupé and the variations of coupé a lot… I use this position for students to feel the rotation of the working leg. If you were to take the coupe position and raise it straight up you end up in passé. If you open the coupé to the front… you are in attitude front… And so on… Coupés definition: to cut, is basically about cutting the line of the leg.

So… these are the reasons I use these four basics to teach ballet opposed to the classical 7.

Coupé

 

doodle store banner

First Position: it is so hard

ballet first position

Ballet is hard, like really hard but teachers expect young children to get into classical positions by the age of 5. And you know, at some dolly dinkle studio they are teaching their students ridiculously hard techniques to students who are like 9…. If people really understood the body and complexities of ballet technique and pedagogy, well we would have better dance studios across America… lol. The reality is, that teachers teach a certain way because someone back in the day told them this is how it is done… Well because of physics, physio, and the perfection of anatomy- ballet technique has become redefined and developed. For example… who pliés in third anymore? So, where is this leading to?

A fun fact about little kids… the plus side about a 5-year-old in dance is that their bones and ligaments aren’t set… Soooo, they are able to reshape their legs, feet, and overstretch in moderation…. So, until a child is actually able to think about their own bodies and their own interworkings… They probably shouldn’t be put into ballet positions… I mean, unless you like forcing kids to turn out without using the proper muscles just so that their bodies learn it… I guess that works too…
*side eye*

As much as first position teaches you to turn out… Whether that is forced from the ankles, knees or properly from the hips… First position really isn’t about the turn out factor… It is really just how to align your body evenly before your legs start crossing the lateral axis of the body and weight shifts. First position teaches you how to stand and properly align your body. Little kids like to booty tooch, and splay their ribs all over the place, and do the weirdest things with their hips. It is why we start plies in first or second position… No one should start their day with doing plies in fourth…. (God, just thinking about it is awful)
Here are the complexities of just standing in first position…. The hardest part isn’t even turning out. Turn out can be faked, forced or non-existent. The hardest thing is engaging your core to your center/pelvic shelf and stabilizing that.

If you ever have gotten corrections like, “Are you training to be a hula girl?” Or my favorite, “This is ballet not clubbing.” Or the standard, “Don’t move your hips!” The issue is that most teachers don’t tell you how you stop your hips from moving, besides the old school, “Squeeze your cheeks together.” (I hate that correction because gripping your butt is so gross) Anyways, in order for your hips to not move, while you simultaneously move your legs, spinal cord and arms independently are to: create tension in your hips to stabilize them. And no this isn’t by gripping your cheeks together to squeeze a dollar and make change.

So to create tension properly, you can’t be splayed like a dead chicken. And you definitely can’t be Quasimodo. You definitely can’t have slouchy shoulders and well upper body that’s a whole different subject… But here are some of the basic principals of first position:
ballet position
1. Create horizontal tension between your hips by rotating your hip joint outwards. The principle of turnout. The ball part of your hip joint, also known as the femur heads, should be like french doors opening outwards and wrapping into the backs of your legs… Which actually starts at your crease. Turnout is usually limited to 180 degrees unless you are gifted with hypermobility and overstretching. So the tension can’t be released because the femur head/ femoral neck has to stop, and usually stops against the cartilage of your pelvis; specifically the acetabulum.
2. Create vertical tension. Vertical tension is created via hip flexor… By drawing your iliopsoas up and into your core, and using your sartorius and pectineus to press down and out it creates a tension that gives the lifted out of your hips aspect of ballet.
3. Another way to create tension is to use your lower glutes and upper hamstrings to create the support for your pelvis.
This is all really hard stuff. Honestly, I didn’t really feel all of this till I was about 14. Then I could really feel and control all of these things. But ask a 9-year-old to use their psoas and they will probably look at you funny.

Now, standing in first position is usually defined as heels together and toes out. But, most books and teachers forget to tell you that positions are always active. If you are building tension in your pelvis, engaging your core, and properly using your neck and back… It is all good, but your feet are super important in first. In first position don’t pronate or supinate. One it messes up your Achilles, and two that is a sprain and fracture waiting to happen.
notes on ballet positions
1. In first position make sure all five toes are spread out, fanned out.
2. Don’t grip the tops of your arches. Some teachers ask you to lift your arches in first, and to do that all of the tendons in your feet have to be super developed. This can also be done by shifting the majority of the weight of your legs into the balls of your feet, and then counterbalancing that with pressure in your heel. This creates a triangle to balance the weight and tension in the legs on top of your feet.
3. Shift your pelvis to be in the center of your ankles. I know that sounds weird, but it is to align your hips on top of your ankles.

Port de bras for first is simple and relaxed. But should be engaged through your back. In theory… the tension/engaging of muscles isometrically through your body looks something like this…But port de bras… that should get it’s own post because… a lot of you have crazy ugly arms… Just kidding… No arms are just as complicated as legs, kind of.
how to do ballet positions

(in retrospect, I should have made all of the first positions that light purple/blue color but for some reason I made this one green. Lol)

doodle store banner

CORPS DE BALLET CONFESSIONAL: have you ever wondered what it was like to be in the corps de ballet of the world’s most elite companies? Click the photos to read the interviews!
alaia rogers maman     
julia rowe

Follow the doodles on Instagram by clicking below:

fat panda

 

 

CORPS DE BALLET CONFESSIONAL: Alaia Rogers-Maman

alaia rogers maman

If you follow ballet competitions and the budding young talent in the ballet world, you have heard of her. Her photos are all over Instagram, and her videos have been watched thousands of times. After starting late compared to most ballerinas, she secured a spot in the variation selections at the Prix de Lausanne at the age of 15, and then a spot at the Royal Ballet Upper School… Alaia Rogers Maman is proving herself to be a force of nature in ballet. She is now a corps de ballet member at the prestigious Vienna State Opera Ballet Company. She may be young, but she already has a very defined sense of musicality and intensity. Alaia was super great to chat with over Instagram and Facebook to secure our next Corps de Ballet Confessional.

So, let’s begin: 

Name: Alaia Rogers, although my full name is Alaia Rogers-Maman and that is what is listed in Prix de Lausanne blogs and the company’s site
Website: No website yet although I think it’s a project I would really enjoy , updating it with content and blog posts , I just haven’t gotten around to it and I’m not sure anyone would actually read it   🙂
(I’m sure we would all follow it)
Insta: alaiarogers
Company: Wiener Staatsballett -translated Vienna state opera ballet-click here for website
Company Position: Corps de ballet , 2nd season , first company (click here for her company profile)

Ballet Education: I trained with many different teachers and schools , but I would credit my most influential training to Magaly Suarez her school is “The Art of Classical Ballet” in Pompano Beach, Florida. She really changed me as a dancer and made the idea of me becoming a professional dancer into a realistic possibility. Going to the Prix de Lausanne and getting the scholarship to Royal Ballet School was something I never thought I could achieve before her training . So my education in dance I would attribute to her and the royal ballet upper school .

Age: 19
Height: 5’7.5” or 165.7 CM

How do you drink your coffee?
Coffee – latte no sugar … I love my Nespresso machine

What is your favorite dessert?
Dessert – that is a tough one, I love dark chocolate especially with sea salt or pistachio filling

You went to Royal Ballet upper school, what was that like?
RBS was a trying and wonderful experience. I think that you can find great ballet teachers all over the world but at RBS it is more than the teachers it’s level of talent from the students and the comprehensive education provided. Ms. Stock traveled the world searching for the dancers with the greatest potential and then put them all in the same class. I think that might be what made me improve the most there was being inspired and challenged by my classmates . The pas de deux education there is phenomenal , the boys are of such a high standard and our teacher Mr.Pakri made us understand all of the technical aspects and taught us to trust our partners and be there for each other. The education on ballet history , physiotherapy , character dance, arts funding, and all stages and roles within the choreographic process were taught in great depth. It was also a trying time lots of changes were taking place as Ms.stock made her departure from the school. It was very sad to see her go and later hear I of her illness.

What was it like trying to find a job?
Finding a job was a bit scary at first especially when you see how many candidates show up to an open audition. You really think how are they even going to see me in this sea of girls. Also, there are only a few spaces available to dancers each season, I felt like all the odds were against me. I think doing your research is important,  to look for a company where you can see yourself fitting into the repertory

What was your dream company when you are 15?
I think I had a few dream companies at 15 , Paris Opera and ABT were definitely at the top though

What is it like dancing at the Vienna State Opera?
It’s incredible to work here in Vienna . The opera house is beautiful and I love curtain calls when you can just look out into the beautiful theater and take it all in. The Viennese people are huge fans of the opera and ballet and we are always performing for packed audiences. My director is Manuel Legris (former etoile at Paris Opera) and he has a never-ending wealth of knowledge to share with us. We have such a diverse group of super talented dancers which I feel lucky to be a part of. I really believe this is one of the best places to work in ballet. Few companies have our diverse and exciting rep paired with great dancers and a world-class director.

IMG_0422.PNG

How often do you perform?
Our performance schedule varies month to month, but I would say on average about 85 shows per year here in Vienna .

What are you currently rehearsing?
Onegin, Le Corsaire by Manuel Legris, Marie Antoinette by Patrick de Bana, snow queen by Micheal Corder , and soon we start with Mayerling.

How does time off work at an Opera House?
Our company is different than most we don’t have scheduled Christmas or mid season breaks. They try to give everyone their free days when possible based on the programs you are cast in. At times, it can a bit annoying because it’s hard to make plans for vacation or family with little notice but when we all get two months of holidays in summer it makes up for it .

What are some of the pressures of being in a ballet school compared to being in a company?
Ballet school, although at the time, I felt was stressful really isn’t  in comparison to being in a company. In school you and your classmates are all practically on the same level it’s like a mini company where you are all the same rank. In school, your teachers are so invested in you and are constantly giving you feedback and you have hours of rehearsal time and you know exactly what you are going to dance and when. In a company you get very little feedback about your personal progress and have to motivate and assess yourself. You also are preparing multiple pieces at one time with limited rehearsals and have to be prepared to jump into other roles, with maybe only 30 minutes notice and hopefully ONE rehearsal. School years were golden years with lots of nurturing and friendships combined with hard work. In the company it is different, but once you adjust you really enjoy the diversity of the things you dance, the mentorship of more experienced dancers, and the feeling that with each role you really can explore your artistry and grow.
royal ballet school 2012

What are some of the relationships you develop in the corps de ballet?
Well, you develop great relationships. Dancing with a new partners you forge friendships with people you wouldn’t have become friends with otherwise. Also, when you work on a piece that has been in the rep for years and it’s your first time dancing it the more experienced dancers can really help you along the way. I think you can learn a lot from dancers in the corps de ballet there are  really young dancers, dancers starting to get their first big opportunities , dancers who have been in the company for more than a decade , and super moms who somehow manage this crazy time and energy consuming profession with motherhood. So you make all sorts of friends in corps.

What is the biggest difference between European dancers and American Dancers?
I think to compare European dancers and American dancers it is not really possible because British, French and Danish dancers are completely different already. I can only comment on the things I felt I had to change myself once I started dancing in Europe . My wrists, they often dropped and didn’t always elongate my line, finding more light and shade in my dancing playing more with the musicality.

When you were a student, what was the hardest thing for you?
Being a student, I think the hardest thing for me was mental. I started ballet quite late and I was always the underdog or the one who had potential but was behind the other students. Mentally, it was often hard to believe I had progressed enough to do well in a competition or be able to stand out in a group of my talented peers, my confidence wasn’t always on the same level as my capability.

Technically? Mentally? Injury Prone to?
Technically I had struggles too but every student and professional does.

I really believe that if you eat, sleep , and work properly you can avoid most injuries . I have been very lucky I have had only very minor injuries. It’s shocking how many dancers as they get older and start a professional career do so little to warm up.

What is in your dance bag?
My dance bag is huge – lots of Bloch point shoes , theraband, box cutters, sports wrap, chapstick, sewing kit , jet glue , icy hot , leg warmers, rehearsal skirt, shorts , ballet flats, foot spray , sisscors, scotch tape , lambs wool toe pads, my keys and phone

photo by ashley taylor.PNG
What is your dream role?
I have many roles I aspire to. I would love to dance a dramatic role like Tatiana in Onegin , Marguerite in Lady of the Camillas , or Esmeralda in Notre Dame.

 What do you want out of your ballet career?
I think I am a very ambitious person , and I want out of ballet what I would want out of any other career I could choose . To continue to improve, to be challenged, not to plateau, to always be working toward something. Ballet is wonderful because you can always grow more. Even the best of the best can continue to work, explore, and create. I love feeling that each class or performance was an improvement on the last.

Attachment-1-11

Click here for my doodle store!

Don’t forget tickets to the FINALS for the YAGP are on sale! If you are in NYC- get them now! Click here!


Love the Corps De Ballet Confessional? Check out our first one with San Fran Ballet’s Julia Rowe. Are you a corps member and interested in being interviewed? Email me aballeteducation@gmail.com

Follow me and my doodles on Insta: aballeteducation
Or on facebook by clicking here.

Wednesday Thoughts…

wednesday blues.jpgHello there ballet lovers, ballet dancers & balletomanes …
Sorry, I haven’t posted in a while… But between my birthday and my personal life, I have been quite busy. Today has gotten me down… So as I sit here in my office listening to Rhapsody in Blue, quick sketched this little doodle.  I have been teaching a lot lately, mostly coaching for the YAGP finals next month and getting a young batch of girls ready to go away for the summer. I am actually pretty proud of my students this year: this year I am sending students to SAB, Houston Ballet, Ballet Chicago, the Rock School, Joffrey NY and Arizona Ballet. Pretty happy with these results as this is our first year, and for most of them, it is their first year auditioning.

Tickets to the YAGP finals went on sale today, but since I haven’t raised that much money that has been slightly down. There is something major happening in my life, that has affecting me greatly and deeply. A friend of mine is 25, and losing his battle to AIDS via various infections and PCP… I can’t help but think how fragile life is… and as much as it pains me to say: how insignificant ballet is in the larger picture. Don’t get me wrong, I love ballet, and I love the art… I love art in general, and I definitely think art brings the passionate side of humanity out… But… There are a lot of things happening in the world… a lot of things we could be doing to affect change… Don’t get me wrong… I am all about the changes in ballet… race, ethnicity, gender… but human kind’s problems seem a little more important at the moment.

A good friend of mine once told me that to affect change in the world is almost impossible, but to affect people’s lives you just have to be yourself.

And that is all we can do… be the best version of ourselves and hope that we make a difference.

Our next corps de ballet confessional comes out tomorrow!

And if you would like to a doodle- I am having a flash sale today! CLICK HERE!

xoxo,

a ballet education

 

LET ME BE A SWAN… any swan… company contracts

 

Untitled_Artwork 14
I have been illustrating corps pictures on Insta to prove ethnic dancers aren’t going to distract from the corps…. #justsayin

 

 

The waiting game… From January until May, sometimes even longer, dancers ages 17ish-22ish wait anxiously for the ultimate business goal: A CONTRACT. For some dancers, there is an additional layer of stress; they are waiting for their college acceptances as their backup plans. It is a scary moment. Usually, these dancers are at professional schools attached to companies like San Francisco Ballet School or Miami City Ballet School, and they are waiting to hear from that company. In addition to waiting for that company to possibly give them a contract, most dancers also auditioned for a million other companies and summer programs, just in case…. It is a scary thing, but it is a part of this career, here in the US in particular.

For dancers who are waiting for a contract there are three common contracts that dancers are waiting for:
1. Corps de ballet: Basically to be invited into the main company is a dream come true, and this is probably the most coveted contract because it is the best paid of the three. If you haven’t danced with a company or completed an apprenticeship year somewhere, this contract is hard to land. Most dancers who are going after corps contracts have completed a rigorous ballet education, finished a traineeship program, and completed an apprentice year at a company. Most dancers who move into corps positions have all this, but there are always the exceptions…. On occasion, and mostly during Nutcracker top students from the school are pulled as fillers to step in for injured or overworked dancers, and on occasion if a dancer performs well under the stress, the schedule, and the stamina factor… A dancer can be given a contract to the corps the following spring… This usually happens in larger companies.
2. Apprenticeship: A coveted spot to spend a year with the company, and basically, you are part of the company except you are the access… You have to work ten times harder to prove you can “fit in” to the company life. The apprentice year for a ballet dancer is hard because you don’t’ know exactly where you fit in. You are kind of in the company, but not really. You have to learn the entire repertory without actually being sat down with, or guided through. Half the time it is via video, by yourself in a studio, trying to see what girl is girl number 10 in snow, and that’s that.
3. Studio Company/ 2nd Company: A lot of companies have now implemented the studio company/second company which is kind of a joke… it is basically 10-20 dancers who double up in the corps de ballet without having to be paid as much. The only place that really has a studio company is ABT. Their second company performs a lot, and is used to try new choreographers out, and for dancers to build performance qualities across different styles of movement.

Numbers…. There are tons of dancers out there… Maybe too many dancers… The industry right now is so oversaturated with talent, that there aren’t enough jobs to accommodate them. This is mostly because the audience and general public for ballet aren’t buying tickets. So, if you think about it there are tons of places where dancers start out…. Quoting my old post “Too Many Claras”

FACT: A dance studio is not the same as a dance school and is not the same as a performing arts school and is not the same as a ballet school.

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

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

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

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

With that being said, no matter what school you are at… you are at a school. In the top level, there are maybe 8-16 girls… Of those 8-16 girls, they will usually all get into summer programs… Or at least, half. From there, in the upper level of a summer course, or even the top two levels there will range anywhere between 40-100 girls. Of those girls, 20 might be asked to stay year round. Once you are year-round at a pre-professional school in the top level there might be twelve girls… of those twelve, 4-8 will be asked to join the trainee program… In the trainee program there will be about 12 girls, of those twelve, generously, 3 girls will be asked to join as apprentices… Of those three girls, maybe 1 will join the company… Yes, the odds are that slim, but luckily in America there are hundreds of companies. This is why teachers say it is a privilege to be a ballerina because company contracts are so scarce.

There are hundreds of companies that fuel America’s ballet needs. Unfortunately, that also hinders companies. It means donors are dividing the money in the community, and that is how favorite companies and styles are developed.

There is no guarantee that a ballet dancer will go pro or not… The only insurance you can really get for your child is a good ballet education, at a good school… And in America, there are tons of those… But for those who are serious about ballet, the seriousness of getting a contract is a big deal… And you have to be prepared times ten. It isn’t like college where you put your dream school, backup schools, and safety schools… In fact, it isn’t even like summer programs… When it comes to contracts you go where they want you, and where they can pay you.

When it comes to contracts there are two types contracts… there are union contracts and non-union contracts… Ideally, you want a union contract as it protects the interests of the dancer… It also keeps you from being one of those dancers who are underpaid, overworked, and dancing on injuries. Your contract is so important because it outlines time off, rehearsals standards, how much you can actually dance in a day, and so forth… A good contract will be 10+ pages… A bad contract is two-three pages, and is vague….

So for those of you in the waiting game… Good luck! And for those of you who are embarking on your journey to get a contract…. Keep your heads high, and keep pushing to be the best.

xoxo,
a Ballet Education
INSTA: aballeteducation

The Leading Ladies of Pacific Northwest Ballet

leading ladies of pnb FINAL

The ferocious women of PNB are basically legends… There is this perception of the women of PNB that they are legends… Tall, leggy, extremely turned out, and incredible jumpers with ferocious musicality… The rumours are true… If you have ever seen the women of PNB perform they are fearless, leggy, amazon women. So, of course I would doodle them because as we all know… Tall female dancers are my chocolate truffle…

To be completely honest though, I have only seen three of them perform live. Carrie Imler is ferocious, Noelani Pantastico is delightfully exciting, and Lesley Rausch is a master in generosity on stage. These are the celebrated women of PNB, the toast of the town in Seattle, and this is my tribute to these women.

you can click the image above to purchase the print.

So you got the claw… and other bad habits…

Untitled_Artwork 12

So you have the claw… It’s not the worst thing in the world. Actually, maybe it is… If you don’t know what I am talking about…. a lot of Balanchine dancers are accused of having the claw… It is basically a distorted version of the Balanchine’s hand…. I don’t know if it is because of the way SAB teaches young students how to hold their hands from a young age, or it is because somewhere down the line someone made an impromptu decision to change the shape…. I don’t know. But, this really has nothing to do with the criticism of the “Balanchine” hand… Actually… I am talking about tension…

So, usually, the claw is a result of a Balanchine dancer holding a lot of tension in the hand. Some dancers get the pointer finger, some get cheeseburger hands, some get spatula hand… Regardless, a lot of dancers hold tension in their hands… As a result, the tension distorts the line… Whether it is the breaking of the wrist or the tension in the fingers our hands play an important role in the ballet. Hands complete the line and largely create or direct the negative space the line creates. How to get rid of hand tension? Shake your hands out and get hand massages… Also, put the tension somewhere important… Like your core.

Holding tension in the wrong places creates for the most awkward things:
1. double chin- for dancers who hold their tension by locking back in their neck.
2. Ginchy foot- usually a dancer with good feet pulls their arch back while doing a hard jump, which makes no sense because they have good feet…
3. Splayed ribs- dancers who don’t hold any tension in their core like they should, have a tendency to splay… (I had a really hard time with that… plus having a hypermobile back didn’t help the cause)
4. Drowning face- dancers who don’t breathe usually result in drowning face, or they finish dancing and are hyperventilating and need their inhalers… Oh and some of these people hold tension in their teeth by biting down really hard or clenching their jaw shut… No shade or anything… but I would hate when a particular dancer would come off stage and be like, “I can’t breathe, I need my inhaler” and make this big scene, and cause all the dressers and crew backstage… even though this happened every performance…. like seriously…. I get asthma is a real thing… Totally understand it… but this particular dancer (and you probably know someone like this) would create the most drama out of this… dancers who dance at a higher elevation you totally get to be dramatic because that is like death….
5. Man shoulders… some dancers hold tension in their traps and shoulders which cause a really distorted neckline and unusual muscle build… I think dancers with this issue have an easier time turning, but I could me wrong…
6. Quad Grippers- this is actually really bad for you… gripping of the quads is, well just wrong…. and prohibits technique… and causes thick thighs…. so never a good thing… You probably will need to stretch out 100 times more than most, get massages, and have to start ballet 1 again and work properly… This is the hardest habit to break.
7. Tongue Sticker Outer- Yup… there are those dancers who stick their tongues out to improve concentration…

So- if you are holding tension in places besides your hamstrings, core or back… You need to go get a massage. You probably should also get into lower level classes and focus on where you are holding tension and correct it. It sounds crazy, but tension in the wrong places causes you to work ten times harder than someone who is properly working… Tension in the wrong places is never a good thing… So, get into lower classes and correct your bad habits.

In other news… my Leading Ladies of American Ballet Theatre will be auctioned off by ABT. There are only 6 prints left to purchase… So if you live in the US and would like one, just click the image… Sorry international… these shipping rates are kind of killing me… I will look into it more, when I am not sick.

Leading Ladies of American Ballet Theatre
Leading Ladies of ABT

I am sick with what my best friend is calling bird flu- mostly because I have this weird sounding cough.

Also don’t forget to follow me on instagram to see more of my doodle! @aballeteducation

xoxo,

a ballet education

 

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
\

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!

 

Vlogging about Boston Ballet… and other things

IMG_9245
Ballet Baby Daddy Alexandre Hamoundi (american ballet theater)
IMG_9240
Ashley Ellis being Boss and on her Hustle (Boston Ballet)
IMG_9234
Dreaming of being Maria Kowroski (New York City Ballet)
IMG_9226 2
Lia Cirio being fierce and apparently MIA from Boston’s Program of Onegin… (Boston Ballet)

 

22 minute vlog…. I really tired… And I promise I will make them shorter and better quality…

20 days till my day of birth celebration! which means I gotta get on my hustle to make my YAGP goal happen. You can donate via paypal to aballeteducation@gmail.com or click here.

 🙂 Thanks. 

If you are a professional dancer and want me to doodle you, email me some photos at aballeteducation@gmail.com.
If you are a corps de ballet dancer and are interested in being interviewed for the #corpsdeballetconfessional let me know via email as well!

Don’t forget to subscribe!! Interviews with dancers at Boston Ballet, English National Ballet, Ballet West and Royal Ballet are coming!!! 

David wants to go Blog the YAGP… via VLOG

Haha…. soooo this is random but kind of true!

GOAL: To go to the YAGP for the week leading up to it and blog… via video, photo, snapchat, insta and of course the blog….

Cost:
Hotel and Airfare: $4,200 April 20th-30th
Food: $400
Misc Expenses: camera, cab rides, metro card and all that good stuff $500

PLEASE…. and thank you.
you can donate via PayPal to aballeteducation@gmail.com

The Corps de Ballet Confessional…

corps de ballet

You were the best one at your local school, and then you went to a professional school, and you basically kicked ass. Teachers fawned over you. You excelled in the curriculum, and you knew. You knew that one day you would get your company contract. You land your apprenticeship and then get your corps contract. Ten years later, you are standing on stage in B plus, on the side of the stage in a beautiful white tutu. Yup. All of that hard work, all of those hours, killing yourself over and over again. Learning every part, understudying every principal role, and finally… You wonder, “What was the point?” The greatest role you ever did was some random pas de trois in a matinee showing. You might have done Spanish or Chinese in the Nutcracker. If you are lucky you did Marzipan and Dew Drop for a matinee… So, what was the point?

Working in the corps makes life difficult. Every time a season is about to close you are questioning if you will have your contract renewed. Then you are questioning yourself at the beginning of the season, wondering who they have hired? Who is the next hot shot of talent coming up? You start to question yourself as an artist, and you feel completely unchallenged. You have danced the repertory twice and then some. You know every girl part in Nutcracker and have probably danced in every role. Yup, this is the life of a corps de ballet member. You start to think about your sixteen-year-old self, the person who wanted it so badly. Who anticipated the moment you got to step onto a stage. The person who excelled and wanted every moment of ballet… Where did that person go?

Life in the Corps de Ballet is hard, and they are probably the most under appreciated position in a ballet company…. So now… I am honoring the amazing talent in the corps de ballet of ballet companies. Without the corps there isn’t a flock of swans behind Odette, and there aren’t any Shades in Bayadere… It would just be Solar smoking some opium for giggles. lol. So, what is it like to have the job a million girls would kill for? Get ready for our #corpsdeballetconfessional series. A series of posts dedicated to the corps de ballet, mostly interviews with working ballet dancers.

If you are interested in being interviewed for these installments write me aballeteducation@gmail.com

Subscribe to stay in the loop!

Check out this video from AOL originals narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker!

A Night at the Ballet….

Untitled_Artwork

Saturday, February 20th at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles Ballet world premiered Coleen Neary’s and Thordal Christensen’s Don Quixote. While the entire world seems to be doing Don Q this month, Los Angeles Ballet tackled this three-act ballet for their 10th season. The audience was filled, and there were very few seats left open in the house. Not that it was important but wearing Dolce never hurt anyone either. Which makes up for the 91 freeway being closed and because of traffic it took almost 3 hours to get there… But anyways…. Let us talk about a night at the ballet.

don q

Don Quixote is no easy ballet to take on; especially for a smaller company like Los Angeles Ballet. Usually, Don Q require a ridiculously large cast…. Which brings me to my first comment of the evening… Some of the corps de ballet dancers looked overworked, but with that being said the corps de ballet held the ballet together. The amount of dancing they had to do was insane. Of the corps de ballet members, Jasmine Perry looked spectacular. She definitely has grown up a lot since graduating from SAB two years ago. Other than that corps member who did show a lot of promise last season is no longer with Los Angeles Ballet… (i.e.,: Chloe Sherman left for Silicon Valley Ballet, who premiered tonight in Diane and Acteon PDD. ) The corps felt very young, mature, but young.

Of the soloists, I was disappointed not to see Alexander Castillo…. more to come on this… Bianca Bulle was paired with Kate Highstrete as Kitri’s friends in ACT 1. The two were a stellar couple and seasoned LA BALLET members. Bianca then took on Queen of the Dryads in ACT 2. Gorgeous technique and musicality with flares of Balanchine port de bras here and there. Kate Highstrete took on the bridesmaid variation in ACT 3 with gorgeous jumps. Her ferociously long legs ate up the stage. Even with a small slip, she kept her cool and took all of her roles on ferociously. She also danced a principal dryad in ACT 2.

Principal Allyssa Bross was cast as Mercedes…. ehh nothing too exciting to report here or there. Did not dig her side ponytail…. I get they were trying to make her vampy… but it did not work. It just looked like some little girl hair style for ballet class. Her technique was flawless though, and she moved through the steps with ease. Definitely could up the sexy factor.

Dustin True was a great Gypsy solo man in the windmill scene. He brought flamboyancy and vigor to the role. Usually, this is the time I fall asleep in Don Q, but he was quite entertaining. Unfortunately principal dancer Zheng Hua Li was cast as the character role of Gamache so he didn’t dance the entire ballet…

Basilio was played by Kenta Shimizu who is now in his seventh season… He literally can do no wrong. All the bravura that is needed to do Basilio backed with strong technique and a calm approach to the role. But hands down the evening goes to Miss Julia Cinquemani… First I just want to say, normally I haven’t been a fan of her dancing, but it seems that Kitri/Dulcinea is the role she was born for and has created a new artistic maturity that is impossible to take your eyes off of. Her entrances in the first act were great, and the castanet variation was firey… The ACT 3 variation was clean and easy… But what was most impressive was her variation as Dulcinea was flawless…. It was so breathtaking. Every roll down was dream-like and suspended. It is everything that this variation should be. Her lines are still ridiculously high, but more refined now. Her attack is there, but now it is controlled. Her acting skills have improved and in ACT 3, her acting skills stole the show. It was funny and charming, sincere and realistic. Something that ballet should be.

Now time for the bad….. There were a lot of casting choices that I have no freaking clue why they were made…. Okay yes, I do. The artistic directors’ son, corps member Erik Thordal-Christensen was cast in Espada… It was sloppy, unrefined, immature and did I mention sloppy. The rest of the corps technique was flawless, turned out, stretched… and then there was him. This tall, elongated, uncontrolled blonde mess is running around the stage… I don’t know if because he is the son of the directors extra choreography was made around him but he danced probably just as much as Basilio…. And it wasn’t good. His costuming was better than Basilio’s as well…. But regardless… He was a mess. I’m sorry, but he has no business doing this role on the world premier night…Literally… they didn’t use Zheng Hua Li (a principal) or Alexander Castillo (soloist)…. seriously…. ballet faux pas…. don’t hire your kid…. #balletpolitics

Then in Amour/Cupid… 2nd-year corps member SarahAnne Perel was cast…. Which should not have happened… I get that Cupid always given to a short girl, but she is like tiny status. She looked like a little girl next to everyone else in the dream scene….. She was cute enough, but looked straight out of SAB….

The casting should have looked like:
Kitri: Julia Cinquemani
Basilio: Kenta Shimizu
Espada: Alexander Castillo (umm he’s Latin/Spanish boohoo Ummm hello….)
Mercedes: Allyssa Bross
Queen of the Dryads: Bianca Bulle
Amor/Cupid: Jasmine Perry
Bridesmaid: Kate Highstrete

Another issue with the ballet is that in the 3rd act tavern scene… they didn’t have the right size drops for the stage so you could see the hangers and the set behind the “tavern.” In the prologue where Don Q starts his dream… the set looked like some awful high school play. And the windmill looked like it came from a regional production of the Wizard of Oz.

Overall the performance was amazing, entertaining and shortened from the full version. Despite lacking live orchestra, the sound quality was great, and the dancing from the majority of the company was killer. The female corps de ballet at LA Ballet is by nature young and fresh (mostly out of SAB) but clean, controlled, turned out, and concise. The men in the corps de ballet have a lot of personality, but their body lines could be cleaned up. Which is probably hard to do this season as Los Angeles Ballet has hired all Balanchine dancers, but currently taking on the romantic classics this season. As Don Q is a technical showstopper, especially for Basilio, Mr. Shimizu put on a fantastic show. For this particular performance, hands down it goes to Julia Cinquemani for an almost near perfect rendition of Kitri. I just wish in the first act she wasn’t so refined and was more free spirited in her acting like in her ACT 3 version of the role. Act 1 could have been more playful in character, but she was absolutely a principal ballerina. Kate Highstrete, Bianca Bulle, and Allyssa Bross all were stunning and captivating in each of their roles. Chelsea Paige Johnston could definitely up her game as soloist in the company. She took on the Fandango role in Act 3 and as charming as it was… It came off as bad jazz/flamenco. Her partner Zachary Guthier was handsome and very regal in his approach. The acting roles of Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache all could have been cast as actual actors… Because they all needed to up their game as well…The ballet was overall amazing… Except the sour taste of the ADs’ son being cast in a principal/soloist role… It really did turn me off. You can catch Don Q over the next two weekends. Click here to buy tickets. And get ready for Romeo and Juliet. Hopefully, the casting will be better…. haha.

IMG_8843

The Next Superstars of Ballet

hang yu prix de lausanne

and the next superstars of ballet are…. (winners of the 2016 Prix De Lausanne)

126. Hang YU, 16 years old, China (Shanghai Dance School)
307. Madison YOUNG, 17 years old, USA (Houston Ballet Academy)
417. Vincenzo DI PRIMO, 18 years old, Italy (Vienna State Opera)
206. Leroy MOKGATLE, 16 years old, South Africa (Art of Motion South Africa)
314. Laura FERNANDEZ, 18 years old, Switzerland (TAZ Tanzakademie Zurich and Vaganova Ballet Academy St Petersburg)
205. Junnosuke NAKAMURA, 16 years old, Japan (Acri-Horimoto Ballet Academy)
211. Dingkai BAI, 16 years old, China (Shanghai Dance School)

Contemporary Dance Prize
314. Laura Fernandez and Vincenzo Di Primo

Best Swiss Candidate
Laura Fernandez

Audience Favorite
Leroy Mokgatle

Prix Jeune Espoir
Danbi Kim, 15 years old, South Korea (LeeWon-A Dance Academy)

What is the Ideal Ballet Body?

 

what is the ideal ballet body.jpgWhile I usually idolize Balanchine, I do blame him for the body dysmorphia complex ballet dancers have as the modern day ballet body type for women was curated by Balanchine. Sure, nowadays we go to the ballet, and the standard for the ideal ballet body type is high. We have this idea that ballerinas are long, willowy, and bendy. From the documentary “Ballerina” the ideal body type of a ballet dancer is “ideally a ballerina will have a small head, long neck, long arms, long legs, slender figure.” Altynay Asylmuratova, Artistic director of the Vaganova Ballet Academy- 2009. And, well as that is the ideal, it is far from the truth. Maybe in Russia and France, ballerinas all look the same since they are hand-selected at the age of ten to become ballet students. So, with that being said, that is far from the American ballet body type. In the US, the body types of ballerinas vary, which should be celebrated. While ballet doesn’t really celebrate diversity, American Ballet Companies do hire different body types. It is hard to say, what the American body type is, but there are four common things that all ballerinas have:
hypermobility- flexibility in the hips, lower back, knees, and body.
Turn Out: the outward rotation of the hip joint. The goal is 180 degrees (90 degrees on each leg).
A low percentage of body fat: while thin physiques are ideal, there are athletic ballet dance bodies with beautiful muscle tone.
Feet- Feet that point beautifully and makes a shape.

I will give it to Balanchine though because he did make exceptions by creating roles for different types of bodies.
When it comes to the “ideal ballet” body type, it seems that American companies have created categories for women.
Tall Girls: These girls are usually tall, and mostly fit in the Russian ideal. When I say tall, I mean like 5’9″. The typical height of a ballet dancer is 5’4″. Normally these girls are excellent at Adagio. Balanchine made room for even taller women with roles like The Siren in Prodigal Son, the Tall Girl in Rubies, and the Dark Angel in Serenade.
Athletic Girls: Normally on the shorter side, and maybe a little broader frame, these women are usually jumping powerhouses and technical beasts. Like Ashley Bouder. If you have ever seen her in Dew Drop… The most ferocious.
Pretty Girls: This is going to sound bad, but then some girls particularly don’t stand out. They are pretty to watch with nice body types, and they blend in well. Usually, this makes up a corps de ballet. While the standards to get a corps contract are changing, these girls will always be in the corps.

After rereading that, I realized that doesn’t sound helpful, whatsoever. Okay, so the reality is, I was in the middle of this post when I was asked to go to a winery and have a drink. The perks of living near vineyards. So now, after a few drinks, and rereading this draft, I am like woah. This post might not have been the most helpful.

So, here is what I can say: When it comes to ballet body types, there is really only one thing that matters, and that is good technique. If you have solid technique, clean technique which also means you are flexible, you can find a job. It might not be at American Ballet Theatre or the Royal Ballet, but there are tons of companies out there. And I mean tons.

The idea of being a thin ballet dancer is kind of ridiculous since you have to be extremely strong and athletic to be a ballerina. You also have to be extremely neurotic and OCD to be a ballerina, but I already touched on that post. Does it help your career to be thin? Sure, naturally, if your body frame is petite and you have a high metabolism, that is an advantage. But there are other advantages to having: like natural-perfect turn out, extremely hyperextended legs, beautiful feet, a super strong psoas, a hypermobile back, even an extremely good ear for music, oooh- or just being smart and learning combinations quickly and taking corrections.

So, for everyone who wrote in asking about their body types- don’t fret. If you want to dance, and you have good teachers and a strong technique, don’t be discouraged. Go out in the world and find a ballet company that works for you and your body type. It might crush your dream that you might never dance at Lincoln Center, but if you truly love the art, and truly want to be a ballet dancer; then you will be happy dancing anywhere. I remember one girl from my ballet school who said if she couldn’t get hired at NYCB she didn’t want to be a ballerina. She went to SAB SI on scholarship for a year, and then the next year she didn’t get a scholarship and the following year she didn’t get in, so she quit. With that being said, I don’t think she was ever in it for the art, the work or the movement. I think she was in it for the prestige or the elitism. Not that I am judging, well I kind of am.

I hope everyone has a good Monday and enjoys my doodle. I have a 10 hour work day in 6 hours, so I probably should try to sleep.

CHAPTER TWO: DISTRACTIONS

CHAPTER TWO: DISTRACTIONS

“Come on Franny we are going to be late!” Daria screamed from the bottom of the stairs.

“Coming. I’m coming. I should not have drank that much,” frantically Francis was gathering up her things, trying to get herself together. “Is Camilla awake?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see her. I thought she left early like always.”

“You didn’t check on her?!” Almost breaking down Camilla’s door, Francis pushed her way in to see Camilla still in bed, snoring. “WAKE UP CAMILLA! YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE!”

“Holy shit!” Camilla threw herself out of bed. “Oh my god. Oh, my god. Oh my GOD!”

Francis rushed back out and down the stairs, “She just woke up Daria.”

“Well, there is no point in all of us getting fired. CAMILLA! We are leaving! We will tell them you had a family emergency!” Daria shouted up the stairs.

“DON’T YOU DARE! I WILL KILL YOU!”

“See you at the studios!”

“FUCK OFF!” Camilla had never been late, in fact, she was always there an hour early before company class. She is the one who was there doing her pilates and stretching. Doing pointe work before the work day even began. Basically a bun head. Frantically she threw herself together and rushed down the stairs, nearly almost tripping. She rushed out of the apartment, slamming the door, pointe shoes falling out of her bag. Gathering her stuff quickly, a blurry figure grabbed a shoe and ran off it with it. “COME BACK! THOSE ARE CUSTOM FREEDS!” Flinging herself onto the cold, wet, gray concrete, “I just got mugged for a pointe shoe.”

“Miss do you need some help?” A hand stretched down towards Camilla’s pressed into the concrete face.

“No. I’m fine. Just having a rough start.”

“Can I get you anything? Do I need to call the cops? Did he get your wallet?”

Sighing, “No. He got a custom Freed.”

“Sounds valuable. Piece of art?”

“No, it’s a shoe. A ballet shoe.”

“Oh.” Camilla finally peeled herself off the pavement and stared up at a strikingly handsome man. Early thirties, with salt and pepper hair, a jawline that would make you clench, and green eyes that glowed. He smiled at her, a half smile, the kind of smile where only the right side of your lips curl up. Offering his hand, “Can I buy you a cup of a coffee?”
“Yes. I mean no. I am so late. I have to get to the subway.”

“Can I drive you? My car is right here. I saw what happened and pulled over.”
“What? You drive in the city?”

“That is your response?”
“No, my response is that you are a complete stranger. And regardless of your good deed, I don’t even know you. You could be a crazy killer or some New York stalker.”

“That’s true.”

“See you are a creep. You would have drugged my coffee or something like that and next thing you know my body would be found in New Jersey. Have a good day.” Camilla collected herself and ran off towards the subway. The subway car was full, Camilla gripped tightly to one of the bars, as she was jostled back and forth. Murmuring under her breath, “I am totally going to get fired. I’m not even going to be warm or prepared. I left my headphones on my desk. I don’t even know if I brought clean tights.”

The whistling of the subway car gliding on the tracks came to a screeching halt. Camilla’s head whiplashed forward slamming into the bar. “FUCK. CAN I NOT CATCH BREAK?!”

Everyone in the car looked at her. Most of them were business men heading towards the center. Most of them looked shocked. “Are you okay mam.”

“I’m not a mam.”

“Unfortunately, there is a problem up ahead with another car. We apologize for the delay.” The car sighed and moaned. After the initial shock, most of the passengers went back to their reading, texting and daily habits. One guy spilled his coffee on another and was pulling out cash to pay for the dry cleaning. Another man straightened out his newspaper and began reading again. The woman sitting in the handicap seat started knitting her fuchsia scarf again and humming in a low tone. Camilla looked around. For the first time in a long time, she had no focus. Her mind was racing. She set her dance bag down and pulled out her brush and container of pins. Camilla slowly twisted up her hair and started to pin, her eyes darting back and forth between her car companions. Making sure no one was judging her. On the defensive, she began to do her makeup, her eyes daring in the mirror of her compact. The subway started to move again, slowly. When it finally got to her stop she was already an hour late. Hurrying across the plaza towards the studios, her heart began to race even more.

She walked into the large eight-story, white building and showed her work badge. Waiting for the elevators nerves started to sink in. The elevator ride seemed extremely slow, going up to the fourth floor. “Good morning Camilla, is everything okay?” Nancy the receptionist greeted Camilla.

“Morning Nancy. Things are just great,” rolling her eyes and sarcasm dripping from every syllable, She clocked in and went to the rehearsal boards. She scanned thoroughly to see if anything drastic had changed. Nothing seemed different. No studio rehearsals. Just theatre block and tech again. She walked through the maze of hallways of New York Ballet Theatre and made her way to the bridge. The bridge connected the studios to the theatre. Taking the elevator down to the dressing rooms, she could hear the girls laughing and going about their business. Paranoia sank in. As the elevator doors opened she could see the corps de ballet girls shuffling in and out of the dressing rooms. “Hey, Camilla. Heard about your family, hope everything is ok.”

“Are you ok? Hope your family is hanging in there.”

She shrugged and walked faster. Throwing open the door to the dressing room and sitting at her station she began to unpack, “What did you tell them, Daria?”

“We said you had a death in the family. Your family dog that you loved and had since you were ten.”

“I’m allergic to dogs.”
“Well, then you won’t miss him that much. But everyone bought it.”

“Thanks for nothing. You could have woken me up.”

“You are a grown woman Camilla. It isn’t my fault you drank half the bar.”

“Never again. I’m never going out with you again.”

“Don’t say never. I take that as a challenge.”

“Shut up Daria. Where is Francis?”
“Oh, Francis… Reed asked to see her after company class,” Daria became serious. Camilla moved slower, “Did he sound mad? Or say what it was about?”

“No. He just walked into the studio somewhere between adagio and frappes and asked to speak with her right after company class.”
Camilla paused from her routine, “I didn’t see any casting change ups. So it couldn’t be that serious.”

“Sure? Not serious. Talk with the artistic director three days before we open Swan Lake. That isn’t serious at all because he has so many better things to be doing,” Amelia joined in the conversation. Her long brown hair swayed back and forth. “You were the one who even said she was getting fat, and she’s your friend and roommate.”

“Look. Don’t test my patience today,” Camilla’s mousey sharp voice clipped at Amelia. The other corps girls started to laugh, “Lighten up Camilla, you should be thankful that Francis is on the chopping block and not you.”

“Yeah be thankful he’s still focused on Francis’s weight and not your absence due to your hypothetical dog dying.”

“Sure, I guess,” Camilla mumbled.

Alone in her dressing room, Yvette looked at herself in the mirror. Her slender body, every muscle defined and her rib cage pushing from under her skin. Yvette has been a standing principal ballerina for over ten years and had been the company’s prima ballerina for the past five. Constantly having to be on top of her game she had been pushing herself day after day. Her reputation was one that she was a stuck-up, narcissistic, ice queen and that she was demanding and difficult. Some say that Yvette was born for ballet, that it was in her blood and destined to be a leading lady of ballet; some girls are lucky like that.

Her blond hair was slightly receding from all of the years being pulled back into a bun, and her skin needed a good dose of sunshine. Yvette’s stringy fingers stroked her makeup brushes that stayed lined up precisely at all times. Her eyes grazed over the palettes of makeup, bobby pins and various hair pieces.

Knock. Knock. The door swung open as a dresser from the costume department came into her dressing room. Hanging tutus on garment racks, “We finished making the adjustments on your bodice for Swan Lake. If you lose any more weight there will be nothing left of the costume or you,” jokingly Theresa laughed. Yvette smiled back through the mirror.

“You know, you shouldn’t let the pressure get to you,” Theresa’s hand lightly touched Yvette’s cold shoulder.

“It doesn’t,” her voice matched her body temperature.

“Are you sure about that? I’ve been here a long time, and I have seen five beautiful principal dancers come and go. And each and every one of them had their way to cope with the pressure. Don’t let Reed get to you.”

Yvette’s face looked directly at Theresa’s old wrinkled face.

“So, it Reed. You know, he is just another egotistical male in ballet. Claiming to further the art, but we all know his main focus is him. You shouldn’t let it bother you.” Theresa left as Alexander was walking in shirtless.

“Are you ready for another run of this shit?”

“Of course. Are you going to remember the choreography this time?”

“You would think after as many times as I danced this crappy ballet it would retain.”

“It would kill you if you didn’t smoke so much weed? You know it reeks on you in the third act. Do you have to smoke every intermission?”

“Do you have to be lazy and make me do all the work. It wouldn’t kill you to jump now and then, would it? Oh wait, you are getting older and losing that,” Alexander knocked drying pointe shoes off of the ledge of her window and walked out.

She knew he was right; everyone knew it was time for her to go. She could barely get through a three-act ballet, and her extensions were getting lower. She knew shew as going to look ridiculous as the Swan Queen, but she didn’t have another choice. Yvette wasn’t prepared to leave ballet; she just felt like she reached a new layer of emotional depth to bring to her craft. Ashley wasn’t the only one being prepared for Odette during this run through of Swan Lake. Four other women had been rehearsing as well. Two had already performed the ballet last time it was in season.

Yvette was the oldest female in the company, and her body had started betraying her. Her joints were becoming stiffer, she was becoming slower, and fatigued. Walking towards the window, she reached her shaky hands started picking up tattered shoes. Yvette softly set them neatly back into a row up against the glass. From her window, she could see women of New York going about their days, dressed in fur coats and wool stockings. One woman was holding her daughter’s hand, and hopping into a cab; a life that she wondered if she would ever have.

“LADIES TO THE STAGE. LADIES TO THE STAGE. ALL FEMALE COMPANY MEMBERS TO THE STAGE.”

Pulling her jacket over her arms, Yvette opened her dressing room door as two dozen women started filling the hallway to the stage. “I wonder where Franny is?” Daria looked concerned. Her eyes were pacing through the hallway, “Has anyone seen Francis?” Onto the stage poured the female dancers of the New York Ballet Theatre, creating a semi-circle around Reed. His tall physique, and his elongated neck. His arms crossed tightly around his torso. “Come on ladies, pick up the pace.”

The sound of pointe shoes shuffling into place, the women stared at Reed. “I have some announcements real quick before we start tonight’s run through. First I wanted to congratulate you all as tomorrow is opening night. This has been a really hard rehearsal process, and you ladies have definitely pulled it off. Unfortunately, I do have some announcements that will affect our company immediately. Francis has had a family emergency this morning, and will not be participating in the run of Swan Lake, which means her second cast alternate and understudy will be bumped up. Please make sure you know where you stand and all of your music queues. Secondly, after Swan Lake, we will be having four new ladies join the company. Two as principals, and two in the corps. Finally, the opening night cast list is going to be changing, and Ashley will be doing Odette opening night. Yvette, you will be doing closing night. Clarissa, Rachelle and YungHee, your casting is still the same. Baby swans for opening night will be changing as well; I want to see Daria, Amelia, Camilla and Leta. That’s all, see you back in an hour for the top of the run through.”


if you missed chapter one it is right here.
or download chapters 1 and 2 for your tablet or mobile device by clicking here.