GOOD MORNING from the YAGP!!

There is something familiar, but something new and exciting here at the Youth America Grand Prix this year. Unlike the prior year, this year the first part of the competition is starting in NY at SUNY Purchase before moving into Lincoln Center. Like the Olympic Village, the Dorral Arrowwood Resort is completely filled with ballet dancers, coaches, parents, and YAGP judges. This morning at breakfast you could casually catch the directors of multiple schools and companies enjoying their coffees. It is like being at a museum, seeing but not touching. In just a few hours, the Youth America Grand Prix will start as hundreds of hopefuls will be competing. Today will start the junior competition. Hair slicked back tight, eyelashes on, and the noise of multiple languages sets the tone in the hotel lobby. Kids are being shuffled into Uber’s and town cars, all gearing up for the competition.

The energy is fresh and exciting as we are about to begin an eight day journey of excellence in ballet. Remember to follow me on Instagram for behind the scenes LIVE footage as I hunt down and find the next cover of a A Ballet Education.

DON’T FORGET… there are a few pre orders left on the illustrated book!

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So, you got those hamburger hands…

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

hamburger hands ballet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SHOP A BALLET EDUCATION

real men do ballet group.png

The Guide to Pas De Deux

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

Or click here to buy!

AND THE CROWD GOES CRAZY…

The Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow:
Thursday, April 13, 2017 @ the David H. Koch Theater @ Lincoln Center

curtain
Any evening at Lincoln Center always promises to be a success and enjoyable for the mature ballet goer. But, tonight was different as hundreds of young ballet dancers flocked to the fountain with the anticipation of what was to come. Tonight, the Youth America Grand Prix hosted a beautiful gala honoring their lifetime achievement honoree Bruce Marks, the pure talent of top performers from the Prix, and professionals from all around the world. Dozens of professional dance icons glided across the marble floors at Lincoln Center to support their colleagues, young dancers, and the talented and forever a part of ballet history Bruce Marks. By the time the audience sat and the house lights dimmed, the sold-out house was ready for ballet.The energy was different from other nights at theater. It was young, it was hopeful, it was exciting. As the lights dimmed, dozens of screams from the third and fourth ring poured into Lincoln Center, the anticipation was bursting, and it led to a spectacular evening of ballet.

 

Brady Farrar_YAGP2017STMST_GALA_VAM Photo 1.jpg
Photo by VAM PRODUCTIONS, courtesy of the YAGP

It opened with a male pre-competitor, Brady Farrar doing the variation from Talisman that was pretty awesome. Followed by the pas de deux from Coppellia from Master’s Juniors featuring Avery Gay. Classical Dance Academy performed a competitive ensemble piece titled Existence that involved a glowing pink parachute. Junior division’s Takumi Miyaki performed the male variation from Swan Lake. This was followed by a contemporary solo from Jan Spunda titled “Swan” which was a male take on Dying Swan. A senior from Korea redid her variation from Raymonda. Tara from Portugal performed a contemporary solo in a skirt. Maddison Penny blew the audience away with her variation of Esmeralda and Taro Kurachi blew everyone over again with his Don Q variation. This was followed by the Grand Défilé with choreography by YAGP resident choreographer Carlos do Santos, Jr that included 300 YAGP participants from 30 countries. It rivaled many corps de ballets from major companies. It was just legs for days and clean technique. Arms that are too short for their bodies because of their ages, but beautifully proportioned bodies.
YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

Photo by VAM PRODUCTIONS, courtesy of the YAGP

The night then honored Bruce Marks. The talented and beautiful Nina Ananiashvili presented the award. His acceptance speech was funny, heartfelt and inspiring. Then it just got long a political, but he is Bruce Marks and 80, so let the man do his thing.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

Photo by VAM PRODUCTIONS, courtesy of the YAGP

ACT II brought the roaring applause. The second half of the program opened with Tiler Peck and Zachary Catazaro performing Wheeldon’s Pas De Deux from Carousel. It was a very cute pas de deux but completely out of text from the Carousel Suite… Without the entire ballet the pas de deux is kind of boring. They were not boring, as I adore Tiler Peck. He was nice, but

James Whiteside then performed in place of Xander Parish in a solo by Marcelo Gomes. James Whiteside is beyond beautiful, the problem with this solo was that it was not thought out well. It seemed very disjointed and lacked the interesting factor.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of TomorrowBrittany O’Connor and Paul Barris performed a very sexy ballroom number involving one pointe shoe and a backless sequin dress with a live music ensemble. She had legs and body for days… Like for days. So between ballroom steps and ballet steps, the sexy duo performed with intricate lifts and spiraling whip arounds. Photo courtesy of the YAGP by VAM.

 

Skyler Brandt and Gabe Stone Sayer performed the always crowd pleasing pas de deux from Spring Waters. Both are now at ABT and both former YAGP finalists. He was charismatic, and she as full of energy like always. Skyler Brandt is truly turning into ballet’s sweat heart, and there is a clear reason: she is adorable. Her big eyes, all American body type, a smile that’s worth a million dollars and she’s clean.

Svetlana Lukina and Evan McKie performed David Dawson’s new Swan Lake Pas De Deux. In this minimal costuming, and contemporary take, the White Swan has total control and is almost enticing. She is mesmerizing and this was probably the most interesting piece of the night. For the mature balletomane, this probably was the jewel of the evening, but for the kids and this young audience, it wasn’t enough… But what came at the end truly was what the audience craved…

Ian Spring performed the always popular David Parson’s Caught. If you haven’t seen it, it involves a very cool strobe hiding the in-between steps and only what Mr. Parson’s wants you to see. Like a series of photographs. I have now seen Angel Corella do it and it was awful but the audience liked him and Glen Simmons from Ailey which was spectacular. Ian Spring brought a very fun and very lively take to it which I enjoyed a lot. Plus, the kids were going crazy over it.

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Photo by VAM, courtesy of the YAGP

 

 

 

Goddess Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino performed Light Rain by Gerald Arpino. The choreography was dated, but it showcased Ms. Lacarra’s impeccable legs and feet and the fact that she has no hips. It was purely all about flexibility.

The night was then stolen by Tamara Rojo and Cesar Corrales (baby daddy status) from English National Ballet. They performed the pas de deux from Le Corsaire which ENB just did. It was so impressive. He was so impressive. From his ENB’s emerging artist performance to skyrocketing through the company, Cesar Corrales might just be ballet next Roberto Bolle. With the exception that he turns with his shoulders up. Tamara Rojo was beyond marvelous. Her technique was spotless and her triple fouettes were quite impressive as they came with ease. The audience adored them. Ovations galore, as they deserved it.

It was a great and exciting night as the young ballet bunheads of tomorrow screamed with admiration. It was a great, beautiful and crazy night. A night where young ballet hopefuls became even more inspired by ballet legends and royalty.

 


Thank you to all of my sponsors who helped me go cover the YAGP FINALS in NYC.

And the winner is… YAGP 2017

Thank you to my list of donors who have helped make this trip possible. This afternoon, at Lincoln Center at the David H. Koch Theater hundreds of young potential ballet dancers, flooded the audience. These young hopeful students sat around in anticipation as the winners of the 2017 YAGP were announced.

From the pre-competitive division, the Hope award went to Brady Farrar from Stars Dance Studio.

The winner of the Junior Grand Prix was Madison Penney from Master Ballet Academy, AZ for her variation from Esmeralda.

From the senior category, no one won the grand prix.

The Shelley King Award for Excellence went to Remie Madeleine Goins. The Outstanding Artistry Award went to Jan Spunda from English National Ballet School. The Natalia Makarova Award went to my favorite, Elisabeth Beyer.

Senior Women Top 3:
1.Gloria Benaglia, Ellison USA
2.Chloe Misseldine, Orlando Ballet School USA
3.Lauren Hunter, Marat Daukayev School USA
Senior Men Top 3:
1.Taro Kurachi, Don Q, Ellison, USA
2.Jun Young Yang, Paquita, National University of Arts, Korea
3. Jan Spunda, English National Ballet School, Czech Republic
3. Yuedong Sun, Secondary School of Bejing Dance Academy, P.R. of China.

The most important part of this afternoon was the endless amounts scholarships given out. Hundreds of scholarships were given out to all age groups, most receiving multiple offers to the best schools in the world. Now, these young potential dancers will have their choice of going to a school who wants them. Register now for the 2018 YAGP.

Notes on Pas De Cheval: My Favorite Step at Barre

Notes on Pas De Cheval

Notes on Pas De Cheval: My Favorite Step at Barre (From Issue 2)

Pas de Cheval is one of the most important steps in ballet to refine, especially at barre. It is actually my favorite step at barre. The step itself is versatile, and used frequently in ballet. It is subtle and glorious if done right, and you can really feel your turn out. There are a ton of ways to approach pas de cheval. There is the idea of showing all of the positions sharply, moving through the step seamlessly, or the idea of up and over. There are a lot of ways to go about doing it, and no one way is better than the other. But here are some important things to remember while doing pas de cheval:
How to do a pas de cheval

  1. Really try to slip the heel forward before even attempting to get into sur le coup de pied, and really utilize your turn out.
  2. Really try to press through to the dégagé position. Create resistance from your sartorius and calf.
  3. If you are going to focus on the up and over aspect of pas de cheval, make sure the knee is completely rotated and really lift. In my opinion you can never have too much lift.
  4. Don’t forget to grow in your standing/supporting leg. You don’t want to sink back or shorten the supporting leg.
  5. Don’t forget the tendu. Even if you are just moving through the action, you really want the longest tendu possible. See my notes on tendu.
  6. Really lift to close into fifth. Don’t slam. Don’t half do it. Don’t sit in fifth. Be active in fifth.

Another thing to try to do in pas de cheval is to keep the movement long. If you shorten the pas de cheval, you just look like a lame horse.

When I teach this step, I really try to focus on the lift in and out of fifth. Engaging the back of the legs before you even start the step is so important. It gives pas de cheval a crisper/clean look. So, if you are starting in fifth, slightly shift the weight into the balls of both feet, slightly put pressure into them so that you can really move the working leg heel forward. Pull the knee up and back to get into sur le coup de pied, and articulate the working foot. Show the position and resist out by lengthening through the back of the working leg. Find the dégagé position, but then lengthen an extra inch to find tendu. Leave the heel, and start pulling the toes back. Put pressure in the metatarsals when closing and feel the lift back in as you close to fifth. Obviously, the faster you go, the less time you have to focus on all these details, but hopefully you are strong enough or have the muscle memory to do all these things while moving at a quicker tempo.

Pet Peeve: When students don’t use their cores and they do this weird body roll during the step or they don’t stop in fifth when doing consecutive pas de chevals.

One thing I also encourage in pas de cheval is to be generous with the lift and presentation of the foot and turn out. This will help students develop a sense of generosity at center and in performances in the in between steps. Like the pas de cheval prior to the pique arabesque — or into bourrés. Being generous with your turnout, feet, and articulation makes for great performance quality. I love watching Darci Kistler’s performance as Sugar Plum in Nutcracker because of her generosity with the simplest of steps.

If your students can’t find the back of your legs, reverse the pas de cheval to the side and really focus on squeezing the glutes together, then focus on squeezing the hamstring to the calf as you lift off the floor. If they can’t achieve an active fifth from a standing position, do barre on the slightest relevé, with the correct weight placement.

Best of luck horsing around in this step.

NOTES ON ATTITUDE DEVANT: THE TURNOUT POSITION

attitude front attitude devant

NOTES ON ATTITUDE DEVANT: THE TURNOUT POSITION

In ballet, there are a million rules, but within these rules, there is flexibility based on pedagogy or approach. There are ways to “cheat” a position or “fix” or “make it look better than it really is”… All of these ideas are technically not the best thing, but the reality is, that not every body type can achieve certain positions based on the Russian or French Aesthetics/Technique. Now there are two positions in ballet that can’t be cheated, they are two of the hardest positions: Ecarté Derrière and Attitude Devant. The later being used quite often. The hard thing about these two positions is the ability to identify turnout, flexibility and strength without using the spine. In my opinion, attitude derrière is the hardest position in ballet. (you can disagree…)
attitude-devant

So, as a student growing up, I would hear “Shape the foot!” and “Turnout more!” and my favorite one, “You should be able to balance a hot cup of tea on your front foot.” Yes, that is the ideal, but not every bodytype can find that position. Additionally, when I was growing up, teacher would push and prod at my hips, which is probably why I have had to have two hip surgeries. They probably assumed because I had a hypermobile back, that I had flexible hips as well… Which was not true…

Now as a teacher, attitude front has become the bane of my existence. That is a lie, ecarté is. But attitude devant seems to be a position every student struggles with. Here is why:

  1. You have to flexibility in your hamstring, glutes, and hips. In order to have that gorgeous line, your flute has to be flexible enough to release so the hip can rotate the femur head back. With that being said your hamstring can’t get in the way. Your hips also have to have the flexibility to let this process happen without any shift in hips (lateral shifting or tipping) or in core.
  2. A student has to have a strong understanding and grasp on their turnout. If a student doesn’t know how to rotate the hip outwards or laterally, they will struggle with the concept of rotating the leg up, and instead, they grip in the quad and lift. Then with the quad gripped, the leg can only rotate so much, and only gain a certain amount of height.
  3. Students need a very strong and connected core. Because ballet is so core intensive, if you don’t have a connected core, your hips and back can easily become displaced and the dancer will develop poor alignment habits.

best-ballet-blog-attitude-front

The ideal line of attitude front should be that the heel and the knee should be in a line. If your body can’t achieve the ideal, then it should be higher knee than heel with the most rotation possible. Then for those who are extremely hypermobile or hyperflexible, the rules get bent and the heel becomes the highest point of the line with the knee dropping down towards the floor and so on. This is becoming the standard for attitude front, but the reality is, not everybody can achieve this line. The line of attitude front is hard because of the turnout factor.

So, how do you even get into attitude front? 

attitude-front-ballet

There are a couple of schools of thought. The first being the more common… A lot of schools teach the attitude front from the Sur le coup de pied position. Which is the ideal position of attitude but the leg rotated to 90 degrees. The idea is the rotate the heel forward so much, that the leg has to lift. Without changing the length of the leg or degree of the bend in the knee, you rotate upwards and achieve the line. This creates a very long, and the line goes slightly down from the knee.

The next school of thought is to achieve the attitude through passé. The concept of turnout is the same, but the goal is to keep the 90-degree line of the passé and rotate the hip back into the socket and achieve a tighter attitude. This creates of pressure on the hips, and if you don’t have ideal rotation and flexibility, it will mess your hips up. This creates a very hard line extending from the hips.

Things to avoid when getting to attitude devant? My big concern is the gripping of the quad. When the quad grips instead of lengthening or rotating causes a lot of tension at the hip flexor and the hip joint which unfortunately doesn’t allow the position to grow. Additionally, I dislike when people turn in as they bring the leg up, and then you see the heel or you lose sight the knee at side profile. Hip shifting is also a pet peeve. A lot of people sink into their supporting hip to get the leg up, or their hips aren’t strong enough to hold the position and their hips become wonky. If you are turning out from the hip, it should create a ton of tension to work within to keep the hips stabilized at all times. Avoiding turning in the standing leg, but if you are going to compromise anything in this position, I think slightly turning in the standing leg is the lesser of the evils.

But, I feel the most ideal “cheat” to maintain the technique and the shape of the position is to lift out of the hips and slightly stick your bootie out. NOT SPLAY our sit in your lower back but let the hips slightly tip forward. You have to have a very strong core to do this without looking ridiculous.

BONUS: Add the developpé front by rotating the heel long, and lengthening the back of the knee.

How to get a better attitude front? Get the Attitude Front Technique Tracker here.

And the envelope please… a Ballet Education’s Ballet Awards 2016

ballet awards

Each year as the season ends a history disappears. As a dancer, it means that the applause is over, that all of your hard work, hours of rehearsals, performances and stage time is gone… There is nothing left, there is no reliving the moment… Ballet is a performance art, so every performance is different, every moment is special. So, it is our job was ballet goers and ballet fans to celebrate a year of hard work. So before we go on about our favorites and all that jazz… Here is a huge round of applause to every dancer, artistic director, board member, stage hand, dresser, costume designer, lighting designer, usher, ticket person and more… everyone who was involved in making the ballet season around the world happen…. You are incredible and important in the giant cogwheel that moves ballet forward, innovates the art form, and allows dancers to share their art.

These blog awards were started as a result of having a very hard time ranking companies.I think it is easier to rank schools. But companies we are looking at artistry, and for that, we have to evaluate innovation, musicality, acting abilities and the ability to become something else… The ability to inspire and move audiences… performances to remember and so on…. Thus, I decided to create awards based on categories I think are relevant… I also just like the Oscars and the idea of pretty awards.

If you don’t know how it works… Each season I read tons of reviews and I see tons of ballet performances… Obviously, I am not flying around the world to see everything but I do read a lot and respect the opinions of other bloggers, publications, and reviewers. I also have the help of thousands of followers and ballet go-ers nominating and sending in reviews, comments, and nominations… From these, I kind of narrow it down and ask opinions of friends, colleagues and more… This allows me to decide who gets the award. Next year, it will be even better because if you subscribe to the magazine, you will actually get to vote on the top nominees in each category to select the winner alongside our editors.

This year has been another turning point for ballet… For race it has been a big deal, as Misty Copeland is truly becoming the face of Ballet in America making her rightfully the next American Ballerina, a long-standing position, usually by an ABT or NYCB darling. Other American Ballerinas in this history include Susan Jaffe, Darci Kistler, and Julie Kent and now we have Misty Copeland. This year was also a great year for choreography and innovation as premiers were happening left and right and almost impossible to keep up with. While the world of choreographers, artistic directors, and school directors are still dominated by men we look forward to a larger female presence in these jobs in this upcoming season. This year was spectacular and dancers around the world enhanced the art form, pushed the technique, and mastered the human body.

So, without further adieu, the envelope, please…


The first award of the night acknowledges our blog awards. It goes to any dancer, any company, any choreographer that our readers email about, have reviewed or have requested to see more of the blog. And this year there is a clean sweep. So I have combined categories into one award and this year’s a Ballet Education’s Blog Award goes to… BALLET WEST. With readers nominating Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell for their pas de deux in Romeo and Juliet back in February… For requests to feature/opinion the company and school at Ballet West, and our readers favorite for the most follow-ups, shares, and comments on a blog post: CORPS DE BALLET CONFESSIONAL: Elizabeth Weldon. With much pleasure, they will be featured soon on our blog! Click here for more information on Ballet West. I promise I will go visit Ballet West this season and answer all of your questions…

A BALLET EDUCATION AWARD


COSTUME, SET, or LIGHTING DESIGN… and the award goes to:
Ian Falconer for the scenic and costume Designer for PNB’s New Production of George Balanchine’s the Nutcracker.


OTHER NOMINEES:
Lighting Design for Mammatus, Joffrey Ballet by Alexander V Nichols
Lighting design by David Finn for PNB’s Signature- editor’s pick Colette Posse
Set Designer John Macfarlane for Royal Ballet’s Frankenstein.
Design team behind  A Hero of our Time, Elana Zaitseva, Krill Serebrennikov, Simon Donger
Design team behind Teatro La Scala’s Cinderella: Carlo Cerri, Maurizio Millenotti, Carlo Cerri, Alessandro Grisendi, Marco Noviello


Best Reprisal of a Classic Work
American Ballet Theatre for La Fille Mal Gardée
(choreography by Fredrick Ashton,music by Ferdinand Herold, design by Osbert Lancaster, lighting by Brad Fields)
Click here for Synopsis

Other Nominees worth noting: English National Ballet’s Le Corsaire and  PNB’ take on George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.


Student of the Year
Joohyuk Jun, Royal Ballet School* winner of YAGP

Robbie Downey, BalletFreak/ Ballet Babble, Ellison
Hang Yu, China *winner of prix de lausanne*
Madison Young, Houston Ballet
Vincenzo di Primo, Italy
BallerinaAnna, SAB, owner of BunFlowerz
Kim, Hee Sun, South Korea *winner of the Helsinki IBC*
Kennedy Kallas, Ballet West *winner of the Natalia Makarova Award for Excellence*


Best Pas De Deux Couple
Iana Selenko (guest) & Steven McRae (Royal Ballet)

Video not from this year, but you kind of get to see the amazingness of the them…

Other Nominees in this huge category:
Missa Kuranaga (Boston Ballet) and Gonzalo Garcia (guest), Swan Lake
Beckanne Sisk (Ballet West) and Chase O’Connell (Ballet West), Romeo and Juliet*
Alessandra Ferri (guest) and Herman Cornejo (ABT), Giselle
Gillian Murphy (ABT) and Marcello Gomes (ABT), Swan Lake
Isabella Boylston (ABT) and Jeffrey Cirio (ABT), La Fille Mal Gardee
Polina Semoinova (guest) and Roberto Bolle (La Scala) , Cinderella
*winner of our blog favorite, picked by the readers of a Ballet Education*


Dancer of the Year
Kimin Kim, Mariinsky *won the prix de benois de la danse for the current year*

Honorable mentions from the huge list of dancers nominated
Anthony Huxley, NYCB
Hannah O’Niell, Paris Opera *also won the prix de benois de la danse for the current year*
Sara Mearns, NYCB
Alicia Amatriain, Stuttgart *also won the prix de benois de la danse for the current year*
Isabella Boylston, ABT
Iana Salenko, Berlin State Ballet
Olga Smirnova, Bolshoi Ballet
Misty Copeland, ABT
Steven McRae, Royal Ballet
Fredrico Bonelli, editor’s pick- David King


Company Contribution to the World
no nominations… sad face.



New or Returning Presence to the International Ballet Scene
Kathryn Morgan.
Presented by Ballet in the City and Bloch at the Kennedy Center
If you don’t follow her, she is a former soloist at NYCB, who was on the high rise to becoming a principal dancer when illness struck and took her away from ballet. Her blog and video blog exploded and now she is a ballet guru.
Click here for her massive empire

hon. mention: Alessandra Ferri returning to ABT’s Met Season in Romeo and Juliet. It is happening right now, and is coming in with killr reviews.


Choreographer of the Year
Yuri Possokhov, A Hero Of Our Time for Bolshoi *won the prix de benois de la danse*

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Mammatus for Joffrey
Justin Peck, multiple works
Travis Wall, multiple solo works
Alexi Ratmansky, Golden Cockerel, multiple works
Christopher Wheeldon, multiple works
Andrew Bartee
Myles Thatcher, Passengers
Mauro Bigonzetti, Cinderella for La Scala
Johan Inger, Carmen
Benjamin Millepied, Clear Loud Bright Forward for Paris Opera
Maxim Petrov, Divertissement of King for Mariinsky
Zhang Yunfeng, Emperor Yu Li
Garrett Smith
Guilherme Maciel


Most Innovative/Collaboration Company
New York City Ballet for their designer collaborations for their fall Gala, and for their collaboration with resident Dior Illustrator Jamie Lee Reardin.

Other Nominees:
Het/Dutch National Ballet
National Ballet of Canada for Le Petit Prince
Royal Sweedish Ballet
Stuttgart Ballet
Miami City Ballet
Australian Ballet
Bolshoi Ballet


Best Repertory for the 2015-2016 season
Het Nationale Ballet, Artistic Director Ted Brandsen

Thier next season looks pretty amazing as well…

For tickets…

Other Nominees:
Australian Ballet
Paris Opera Ballet
Royal Ballet
New York City Ballet
American Ballet Theatre
Stuttgart Ballet
Wiener Staatsoper
Semper Oper


Most Inspiring Company
Australian Ballet, editor’s pick Jacquelyn Bernard

Other Nominees:
Boston Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet
San Francisco Ballet
Bolshoi Ballet
Het National Ballet
New York City Ballet


And now for the final category, which I think is the strongest to represent a company as a reflection of the season. The Best Premiere of a New Work in the 2015-2016 season. To really produce a new work, these dancers are the first, they originate the roles, the emotions, the technique and the approach. It is a sign of innovation in a company, and the willingness to find new ways of moving, approaching the classics, and innovating the art form. It is also a huge collaboration between everyone involved in ballet, from the marketing and press to the dancers, choreographers, designers and audience… A new work is the true test of a company’s ability to innovate and be successful. It is always a risk to premiere a new work, as audiences might not be so keen on attending without a big name attached… But, this season we had amazing contributions to the ballet repertory and here are the nominees…

  • Royal Ballet in collaboration with San Francisco Ballet, Frankenstein, choreographed by Liam Scarlett, Music by Lowell Liebermann, Designer John Macfarlane, Lighting designer David Finn, and Projection designer Finn Ross. (May 17, 2016)

http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/frankenstein-by-liam-scarlett

  • National Ballet of Canada’s Le Petit Prince, based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, choreographed by Guillaume Côté, Composed by Kevin Lau, Sets and Costumes by Michael Levine, Lighting by David Finn, and Video design by Finn Ross. Creatively developed by Guillaume Cote and Michael Levine. (June 4, 2016)

http://national.ballet.ca/Productions/2015-2016-Season/Le-Petit-Prince

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Signature, choreographed by Price Suddarth, Lighting design by Randall G Chiarelli, Costumes by Mark Zappone. (November 6, 2015)
  • Joffrey Ballet’s Mammatus choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Music by Michael Gordon, design work by DieuwekeVanReu, lighting design by Alexander V. Nichols
  • American Ballet Theatre’s The Golden Cockerel, original choreo by Michel Fokine and new choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, sets and costumes by Richard Hudson. Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and arranged by Yannis Samprovalakis
  • Bolshoi Ballet’s a Hero Of Our Time choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, music by Ilya Demutsky, costume design by Elana Zaitseva and Kirill Serebrennikov, lighting and video design by Simon Donger.

http://www.bolshoi.ru/en/performances/813

And the winner is…
TEATRO LA SCALA



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Notes on Jetés… petit jetés… and awful petit allegro

Jetė

JETE a ballet educationThere is nothing in the world… and I mean nothing… better than a really good, really clean, really technical petit allegro. Yup, it can turn any bad day into a great day… or it can turn a great day into a crappy day depending on what side of the glass window you are standing on…. The problem is, most people are pretty awful at petit allegro, and a lot of the times at smaller studios, most teachers don’t really emphasize petit allegro causing there to be a lot of dancers to have pretty awful petit allegro skills…

I don’t even know where to begin about awful petit allegros… but I think I will start with petit jeté… Or in America, we just use jeté… but I love it…. I love them in petit allegro, in grand allegro, in random combinations… I love them in ecarté, turning, and with beats… I just in general love them… The problem… so many jetés out there are soooo sucky.

What good petit allegro looks like… and no I am not going to shame someone and post a bad petit allegro video… but trust me there are lots of them…

There are multiple approaches to jeté… again they vary by pedagogy. The first conversation to have how to approach a jeté.

jeté ballet

a. This is the way most schools around the US teach jeté. The idea is from fifth to throw the first leg, pass through a semi-second, and connect the coupé when landing in plié… There is nothing wrong with this, personally, I find it yucky… but then again I find a lot of things yucky in classical ballet. The idea is to brush to degagé height and bring the coupé to the first leg, and transition accordingly… If you are a ballet dancer, you will understand… if you aren’t a ballet dancer you throw your working leg into the air, but after the midway point and as you descend, your working leg becomes the supporting/landing leg.

b. The second way of looking at jeté is the way I was taught, the Balanchine way… To throw the first left to whatever height the music allows, and to connect the coupé as quickly as possible and maintain that shape while landing… Then as you grew up, the jeté may or may not become more stylized.
3:19 is the finale of Symphony in C by PNB

c. Finally, when I was older I learned the idea that every petit allegro step had to have two butts up… This concept is hit the height of the jump quickly and hit a clean second in the air, and cut to coupé while maintaining the height, then land underneath yourself… avoiding injury…

Where to put the coupe

Then we run into the issue of coupé… and where to put the coupé… when to connect it, and where to place it. Ideally, coupé back is coupé back, the problem is that we travel and move in time and space… This causes the coupé to move around and get sloppy… Then there is the idea of over crossing the coupé in the air that way when you land you are in a solid position when landing. I am not one to say one way or the other… Another issue people talk about is how high the working leg hits, which varies because different schools teach different degagé heights… Soo, again that varies but… usually I go through for a 45 degrees. When in doubt… keep a clean line either 45 or 90 degrees as a general rule of thumb for all of ballet.

Then you have the issue of leaning… really only choreography calls for leaning… and bending… and usually the choreography is Balanchine or contemporary pieces…

Finally, here are definite things to avoid when doing petit jeté:

  • do not travel forward more than one-fifth foot position front… Don’t get into the bad habit of traveling obnoxiously forward. If a jeté is a degage and fifth, you would only travel forward that one degagé closing from front to back forward.
  • do not travel randomly side… I hate when people do jetés obnoxiously traveling far… it looks weird and not precise. Petit allegro should look like a hibachi chef jabbing a knife into the bamboo between his fingers.
  • do not torque your hips, a lot of young dancers torque or shift their hips like doing the wave at a baseball game… They do it to gain height, which is actually counter productive to everything… and it is awful looking and spazzy…
  • do not grip your quads… use your abductors and the backs of your legs to make that sh!t happen in the air. To get a two butts up jeté you have to pop, but you pop from the pressure in your ankle pressing off the ground, and the backs of your legs snapping forward.
  • DON’T SICKLE or have biscuity feet…
  • don’t tuck your pelvis under or release it back to have duck butt
  • do not over compensate in the knees, that is how injury happens. When taking off and landing make sure your knee is moving over your second toe, and the weight is centered over the ball of your foot and the energy connects from the back of your leg, through your heel, into the ball of your foot… cleaner and safer take off and landing… the landing is the reverse.

Here are some things to work on to improve your jetés:

  • a lot of degagés…
  • jumping at the barre, practicing hitting a clean second in the air…
  • those awful things when you lay on your back and have your legs at 90, in a clean pointed fifth and you beat front back a million times… but this time hi 45 degrees open every time
  • line the barres like a gymnast’s parallel bars and press down on them to lift yourself off the ground and go over the motions military style… like by the number… that way you know exactly the where the clean positions feel on your body.
  • practice using a pilates reformer springboard

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5 reasons we fell in love with ballet

5 Reasons why we fell in love with ballet

Everything is beautiful at the ballet… Edward Kleban said it all in his lyrics for A Chorus Line… When we were younger something resonated with us and sparked the passion for dancing. I remember when I was younger I was obsessed with the Nutcracker. I would watch the VHS versions of Nutcracker (PNB & the Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland version then I added the Balanchine Version) back to back, every day. It was magical… As I am doodling on Instagram, this week’s theme is “My first Ballet Class” so it has brought back a lot of childhood memories… And so, I haven’t done one of these in a while, so tonight, as I neglect to clean my house, I give you 5 reasons why we fell in love with ballet…

Tuesday

1. The Spectacle that is the Nutcracker… For a lot of us, Nutcracker was our first live ballet… Usually, it was a result of being in class and it was finally time for your first real ballet. It was the music and the costumes: Tutus bouncing up and down, skirts twirling, men’s jackets twinkling in the light, ribbons flowing in the air… and pointe shoes. It was the lights and the glamor: getting dressed up, the opera house lights dimming, the velvet curtain rising… It was everything that ballet is… enchanting.

Darci_kistler
2. The Music. For some, it was the music. It is this epic music, full symphonic sounds and more than that… inspiring. Music for some dancers becomes the driving force of their careers, the ability to interpret music on the body— it’s inspiring.
3. The stories… for others it is the epic love stories, the tragedies that can’t be unwritten… the ability to become a princess, a swan and an enchantress, all in the same the night. It is the ability to forget who you are in reality, and be someone different. Who doesn’t want to escape and be a fabled princess, and get to live out your childhood heroines?
4. The Movement… it is the elegance, the posturing, the bravura of turns and jumps. The power of choreography says a lot. It is what makes a repertory live forever. The steps are just steps, but the movement itself can be inspired and brought to another level through artistry. I mean we have all seen really bad bourrés…. like really bad ones…

Serenade_ballet.jpg
5. And then there is the reason why I fell in love with ballet… a good ballet, meaning when the steps, the choreography, the dancers, the costumes the lighting all come together perfectly… it builds this adrenaline and once it is over it leaves you wanting more; much more. When a dancer is so generous with their soul, their artistry, their passion you become addicted to that dancer… It makes you want everything and then some… For me, it was Gelsey Kirkland in the first pas de deux (the music for snow PDD), it was Maia Rosal as the peacock, Lucinda Hughey as Dew Drop, Darci Kistler and Damian Woetzel as Sugar Plum & Cavailer, and Kyra Nichols as Dew Drop. These women to me were goddesses. They were gorgeous… They were everything that I admired in ballet… and probably the reason I am so obsessed with ballet…

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No matter what it was that made us start ballet… we started… and here we are as adults… either professional dancers, ballet go-ers, ballet lovers, and just in general ballet fans. When you start a love affair with ballet, it doesn’t really ever end. Even if your career ends because of injury, and you end up hating ballet… it is only for a while… But you always find a way back to ballet… you see a youtube video, or a performance, or something… no matter what it is… everytime you hear the music for Nutcracker, or you see a great performance on social media… you fall in love all over again…

Don’t forget … English National Ballet streams their emerging dancer performance live today!!! All six are super stunning but I am in love Rina Kanehara and Cesar Corrales… (11:25AM PDT)  http://emerging-dancer.ballet.org.uk

IHOP… International House of Primas

IHOP

I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day! This week has been a crazy amazing week for ballet… and this next week is going to be a great week as well. This week’s insta theme is International Ballet… So, if you missed anything this week in ballet, here are some of the highlights:

Royal Ballet premiered “Frankenstein” which will be on stage till May 27. Choreography by Liam Scarlett. Set design by John Macfarlane. Music by  Lowell Liebermann

Boston Ballet announced their new 5-year partnership with William Forsythe. What does this mean? Over the next five years, this world-renowned choreographer will present a new ballet each year, and presenting already existing Forsythe repertory to the company. It is already reflected in the 2016-2017 season announcement… But, this will also mean that Boston Ballet will shift from a more classical repertory to a more contemporary repertory, which will make them stand out among other top companies here in the US. This will also mean a lot of their more contemporary dancers will be utilized… Boston Ballet this month is presenting their full-length “Swan Lake“.

Most ballet companies around the world have announced their 2016-2017 season, roster, promotions and new hires… except NYCB who will announce theirs after the SAB workshop and then in Sarasota. (Tradition) This month, like every end of season NYCB closes with “midsummers“.

ABT goes up at the Met tomorrow debuting with the powerhouse ballet “Sylvia“, which means… you can buy my leading ladies of ABT on a set of stationary cards, women’s and junior’s shirts, and a mug… I haven’t seen them or know how they will be selling the, I just know they are… The image isn’t the leading ladies of ABT I did, I revised it per their request and so it becomes available tomorrow. Don’t know if it will be offered in Los Angeles when they come to Dorothy Chandler in July.

abt at the met

Stella in Giselle, Isabella in their new Sleeping Beauty, Misty in Corsaire, Maria in Don Q, Gillian in Sylvia, Veronika in Swan Lake, Polina in Raymonda, Hee in Bayadere, Diana in Romeo and Juliet… FYI Polina pulled out of her performances at ABT because of an “injury” or actual injury but this is the second season in a row she has pulled out of the Met Season….

Houston Ballet is getting ready to present a mixed repertory on May 26, that is kind of to die for… Serenade, Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria, and HB’s premier of Alexander Akeman’s Cacti. Their rehearsal videos are all over instagram.

Nederlands Dance Theatre is performing “Separate Ways” May 11-14


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I will be posting more #corpsdeballetconfessional this week as well… I have gotten really behind on all that… I also have some super cool interviews coming together…

More technical posts on the way….

Nutcracker illustrations for my children’s book are underway…

Summer Program posts are coming… and I think that covers basically everything…

Oh don’t forget to vote and write in for my ballet company awards!! And stay tuned for JUNE… When I announce 2016’s BIG TEN!!!


 

Notes on Dégagés…

how to degage

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

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

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

Sooo, here we go…
tendu degage

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

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

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

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

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

degage stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday Morning Warm Ups

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

russian teacher stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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)

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5 Questions you all have been asking…

side eye

You might not like me, you might not like what I have to say, in fact, you just might not care for what I say or how I say it… But the reality is… My blog is kind of a guilty pleasure for a lot of you. And that’s okay, no tea, no shade… Okay, who are we kidding there is a lot of tea and shade on this blog…. So, I will now nicely answer the five most asked questions to me:

1. Why do I hate Royal Ballet and RAD and take jabs at them whenever I have a chance?
Well, it has nothing to do with the dancers. It has to do with the politics of the Royal Ballet and Opera House. First off, Royal Ballet is home to technical powerhouses, their company is filled with the top winners of ballet competitions all over the world, they probably have more funds than most international companies, they have one of the best places to dance in the world…. Admiration all the way around… but the politics portrayed by the Royal Ballet’s actions irk me. Well, the politics of most ballet companies irk me.
To answer my RAD fans out there, RAD is not associated with the Royal Ballet School… I don’t know how it is in Europe, but in the US, RAD is used as a money maker. It is a way for studios/teachers to be certified in a teaching technique (it is the only methodology that lets you get a certificate). It basically makes you sound better than you really are, and a lot of teachers who hold the RAD credential shouldn’t be teaching ballet to begin with…. *side eye* Like what professional school associated with a company says: RAD METHOD….  I am sure there are….

2. Why am I such a fan of Balanchine and NYCB?
Who isn’t? Just kidding. Balanchine ballet isn’t classical ballet, at all. The vocabulary is the same but it is not classical ballet. I am pretty sure I have said that many times. It isn’t a technique either, it is an aesthetic. A look, a feel and a style… I admire the way NYCB uses the Balanchine technique to attack music, to attack the ballet steps and translate them onto their bodies. I also admire, that NYCB is made up of very different body types despite popular belief. I also believe that NYCB, like Balanchine was, is the innovators of ballet; not dance as a whole, just ballet. I think that what City Ballet is doing and how they are creating a new space, new vocabulary, new approach to music is the future of ballet… Finally, I do believe that Balanchine is the hand of God. Ask my students. Haha, I believe that the Balanchine works created an opportunity for dancers to move to music, to be something other than a princess, fairy or sylph. They got to be themselves.

3. Why are you so scatterbrained? (And other words that are not appropriate for blogging…)
Well, I work at a fashion magazine, and then own an aesthetic firm, PR company, freelance fashion design and consulting, volunteer at a pet hospital, have started my own ballet company and school, have this blog and another successful gay blog, have a pretty demanding social life, and trying to date all at the same time. Oh and now I have the demand for doodles. And I have to run my household… Then again who has to grocery shop now that there are apps for that.

4. How come your blog is more ranting than educational?
Well, I started the blog with educational posts, and they don’t do well…. And, as therapeutic as this blog is, it has to be successful…. And my rants and snarky commentary do well…. Posts that are snarky and witty, you all share…. Whether it is bashing me, correcting me, laughing with me, or just because I might be right…. You share them.
I am currently working on a video series of proper ballet techniques… But that takes time and money and I am slowly working on it…. And I have been trying to be more educational … my biscuity feet post was pretty educational if you ask me.

5. I should be more censored, politically correct, and unbiased….
Ummm no…. That is the purpose of a blog versus a newspaper. The problem with ballet, the construct of ballet is that people aren’t more honest… The ballet world should just be frank because in the classroom teachers are quite frank. You have people at CPYB calling you “oriental”
and “ethnic”. You have dance teachers around the world calling their students “fat, untalented, turned in, and mediocre”…. The list goes on and on… If ballet directors were honest about casting and just flat out told why, or school directors just said why you didn’t get in…. It would be a lot easier… Like if SAB just told you- you don’t have turnout instead of writing you this polite letter… You could spend the next year of your life busting your butt to turn out… literally. Haha.

And finally, if you have a question just email me: aballeteducation@gmail.com
Don’t be shady and post my blog on facebook with some random rant…. The power of having a PR firm and Social Media company is that I get to monitor my blog…
If you have some ballet shade, or tips, or something to say, just email it to me, and I will repost it… Seriously. I will. It is like gossip girl, but for ballet… Hahaha xoxo,
David

BREAST REDUCTIONS FOR BALLET GIRLS…

breast reduction ballet dancer plastic surgery

How big is too big? How much would you do for your son or daughter? Recently something came up that isn’t necessarily rare in ballet, but it is definitely something unspoken. Your child did everything right. Started ballet at three, became serious at eight, and at twelve, she was accepted to School of American Ballet on scholarship. She spent her next three summers at PNB, Houston and Boston. Again, you did everything right. You spent the money on a great year round studio; you drove a 40-minute commute to make sure she got the best training in your area. You rarely see your other kids because of long hours at the studio. Then at fifteen your daughter’s body changed, and she grew breasts. She grew a “c cup” but the remainder of her body was thin… This year she auditioned and didn’t get into a big ten school, but waitlisted to Boston. What do you do?

Is it okay when your fifteen-year-old daughter asks for a breast reduction to have a fighting chance in ballet?

I know plenty of girls who have gotten nose jobs, boob jobs, their ears pinned back and more to obtain a better line, a better physique, a prettier face. Most of these girls have contracts with major companies. So is it wrong? Living in Los Angeles it is normal for a girl to get a new nose for her sixteenth birthday. And it is normal for a girl to get implants at twenty-one. But, for some reason, when a fifteen-year-old girl asks for a breast reduction just to have a fighting chance in ballet… The world becomes completely unfair and my anger at ballet builds and explodes… So here is my post for the night:

Ballet Companies and ballet schools are two peas in a pod, but can be extremely different. The pod is ballet. Unfortunately, schools seem to be even more demanding than a company. This is true from the get go. In ballet school, you learn the most ridiculous combinations, and do the most ridiculous things, and over work your body till exhaustion. In a ballet company, the combinations are to warm your body up and to stay sharp. You don’t take more than one class in a day, and you spend most of your days in rehearsals. Sure, school builds stamina and teaches you worth ethic, but the demands on a ballet student are completely different than in a company. Both are extremely stressful but different. But it seems ballet schools are even more demanding than ballet companies.

The body type factor was extremely apparent this year. This year, I went to watch my students audition, and it seems that the push towards “perfect” bodies is more apparent now more than ever. Schools won’t even give you a chance is your body type is remotely different or differently proportioned. It seems schools are seeking taller dancers with extreme European proportions. And, with the influx of ballet students worldwide, they get to choose these body types, even now more than ever. Because of this, I now have a student who has to find a way to have a breast reduction because her chest is too developed.She is Latina, and her genetic body type is predetermined, she now has to find a way to raise money, secretly, to even have a fighting chance in ballet.

Yes, every body type is predetermined, but race and genetics continue to be a wall in ballet. The older generations of ballet teachers might not even understand ethnic body types, how they work, how different individuals and body types translate ballet technique. It is so frustrating, and while I do understand these racial body types, if other teachers and school directors are not familiarizing themselves with this process, then ballet will never change. That means the 2 percent of ethnic body types that fit the “ideal body type” will make it, the rest won’t.

This leads to me to say, shame on all of you school directors. As Artistic Directors only can pick from what you give them, get off your high horse and give them some diversity. But if you are presenting artistic directors with one body type, one ethnicity, shame on you. If you can’t grasp the idea of an ethnic body type in your school, or make allowances for ethnic predispositions, super shame on you. Actually, shame on all of you… So to PNB, SAB, HOUSTON, and BOSTON BALLET SCHOOLS… You missed out on a great dancer, with a great work ethic, who is exceptionally gifted. And while you go on your summer audition tour and make all of the money you make, just know, that either because of racism, body type, or lack of experience with ethnic body types… You are now making children want to alter their bodies to please you.

You might think that I am ridiculous. That I am just mad that my student gets into a school of their choice. But seriously, she is technically gifted at every standard: perfect turn out, hypermobile, beautiful feet, hyperextended; triple pirouettes left and right en pointe, 180 penche, oversplit saute chats, beautiful musicality, and a hard work ethic. If you are asking for more than that, then good luck with your schools…

This isn’t the first time this has come up, and I know a couple moms here have written in and I avoided responding… Well, I’m tired of waiting for ballet to change…


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Should You Hyperextend?

hyperextension

The obvious answer is yes. Anyone who tells you otherwise is ridiculous and silly. Everyone goes on and on about if you should hyperextend your knees or if you shouldn’t hyperextend and blah blah blah. The answer is pretty obvious at looking at any ballet photo or video. Now, to be a little more precise, there is a right way, and there is DEFINITELY a wrong way to hyperextend.

The Pros of Hyperextension:
Hyperextension makes for prettier lines
Makes the leg look higher in extensions
More precise shapes.
The Cons of Hyperextension:
Prone to injury in weaker dancers
A smaller center of gravity
Gripping.

So, for a quick look at hyperextension: usually in ballet, when talking about hyperextension it is usually talking about the knees. Hypermobility usually refers to the back. Hyperextension occurs when the knees are pushed too far back, usually from over-stretching of the ligaments. Because of this, the Posterior cruciate ligament is prone to injury. The PCL is the strongest ligament in the knee and is pretty crucial for a ballet dancer. Hyperextension also causes weak external rotator muscles, which can cause rolling and if your are rolling in your foot out of a jump, you can sprain your ankle or hurt your knee. With that being said, anything in ballet can cause an injury.

But, hyperextension is sought after in post preprofessional dancers. Companies and school directors look for potential body types, and hyperextension is one of those things.

If you are gifted with hyperextension, don’t look at it as a curse (trust me, girls would kill to be hyperextended). There are plenty of ways to maintain and control hyperextension. When over stretching, don’t overstretch by putting pressure on your knee. Like putting your leg on a chair. Lay on gymnastic mats or anything lifted 8-12 inches off the floor and stretch on your back. Yes, your arms have to do some of the work, but let gravity take you backward instead of gravity pulling your body weight onto your knees.

Get into pilates twice a week. Whether you are doing it on your own for 45 minutes or getting into mat or reformer classes, pilates will be your maintenance.

At the barre, avoid locking back and shifting into the back of your knee. Keep your weight pressed forward in the balls of your feet and maintain that throughout barre exercises.
Lengthen don’t grip. Hyperextension usually causes dancers to lock back in their legs, causing the quads to grip. If you the weight is shifted properly and the energy is spiraling down through the leg, it maintains the support the knee needs.

There is a point of too much hyperextension, and until you are Misty Copeland or Lia Cirio and have mastered the control of your legs, avoid working in an over extended first position. In fact, avoid it. When you have the hyperextension like these two ladies, you have to become extremely aware of your legs and your rotation.
I’ve also noticed girls with hyperextended legs wear their legs out quicker throughout a class. Work smartly. Be conscious of when you are working, as you must constantly be working on maintaining the tension in your legs and they aren’t just flopping around, and you use your quads to compensate.

Finally, girls with hyperextension usually have a harder time trying to turn. In these situations, don’t hyperextend, even if you feel like your knee is bent. When you hyperextend your standing leg, the bend causes your center of gravity to shift. So, you have to move your pelvis and center of gravity over the arch of your foot. By strengthening this idea, and putting it onto your body will allow for a stronger, more heightened sense of where your center of gravity.

Hope this helps & here are some videos of gorgeous hyperextension of ballet…

Meet Lia Cirio… & her body

Misty Copeland…Under Armor

Michaela Deprince

Sylvie Guillem, Queen of legs.

Svetlana Zakharova, Princess of Legs4Days

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.

Not Bad.

Finding YourselfAfter two hip surgeries, and not dancing in like 5 years, and gaining like 20 pounds…
Exploring Arabesque on the beach while storming…
On another note, I hope you had a good holiday weekend if you are in the US.
There were a ton of Stars and Stripes videos posted all over social media, and crazy red, white and blue costumes posted, so I didn’t feel the need to encourage it all.

company class plies redlands dance theatre
www.redlandsdancetheatre.org

love wins
#workflow
www.SocialCulture.com

COMING SOON:
THE GUIDE TO VARIATIONS

if you have questions about variations, or would like me to touch on things, let me know.