How has the Corona Virus affected Ballet?

These days we can’t scroll on any form of social media or even have a conversation without somehow involving the novel Corona Virus (COVID-19). The fear and panic of this new outbreak are causing the ballet world to shift slightly. This week, some of you probably got off the waitlist to summer courses, others might have withdrawn from summer intensive, and it seems that all plans are halting.

While major competitions like YAGP FINALS and ADC IBC sent emails out saying they plan on continuing with the competition, the news is saying otherwise. The fear has taken over countries, and is crippling economies, but what does this mean for ballet?

Friday night, the city of San Francisco closed the San Francisco Ballet’s run of Midsummers. This is just on the heels of SFB having to pull their Liam Scarlett program. This means the ballet company is going to be losing out on a ton of money and will make it harder to employ more dancers for the upcoming season.
https://www.sfballet.org/a-message-regarding-the-covid-19-virus/

A lot of major schools are now facing students from abroad withdrawing from a summer course, and it isn’t just foreigners. A lot of dance families across the US are now questioning whether or not they should be attending a summer course. So, students are pulling out, this will create more of a financial toll on these schools, especially those affiliated with companies.

Right now, the big question on everyone’s mind is whether or not YAGP will be canceling their finals after New Rochelle was just quarantined and is now a containment area. YAGP’s latest statement (https://yagp.org) is that plan to continue to monitor the virus and listen to public officials about travel and large gatherings. NY and NJ just declared a State of emergency.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/containment-area-planned-for-new-york-suburb-to-stem-coronavirus-spread-11583858117

ADC IBC plans to continue their competition in March, as they sent out a release saying that the facilities are constantly going to be cleaned, and they are providing larger warm-up spaces so that the dancers won’t be around each other. The competition now has a live updates page: https://www.adcibc.com/get-updated

While Costco and Amazon and all of these other companies are under fire, and people are going into full-blown panic mode, we have to wonder what is going to be happening with Ballet?

It seems that this outbreak is now a part of our lives, and as it continues to progress throughout the world, we now have to think about our priorities. While I think it is important to continue on with our daily lives, we do need to be more cautious when it comes to physically correcting students; making sure we enforce if your child seems sick (Corona or not) you will want to stay home; making sure we wipe down the barres constantly with Clorox wipes, etc etc etc. Now we need to weigh in on the pros and cons of travel. Right now, with all of these containment zones being sanctioned, we ask ourselves, “If we were to travel, will we get stuck?”

Myself included, I was supposed to see Boston Ballet perform their Carmen and Serenade program, but now I find myself questioning whether or not I will make it home. Airlines are already canceling and refunding trips to Europe (personal experience), and when booking flights, they now have warnings that these flights aren’t guaranteed to happen.

For me, my biggest concern is how this is going to affect the economy and the luxury that is ballet. With now having to avoid crowds, ticket sales will probably start to tank, and the luxury of watching live ballet is now a risk. With people withdrawing from summer course and companies having to shut down programs, the financial strains are going to grow, which means there might not be jobs over the next year or so for young dancers coming up. This means as a teacher, trying to find work for my kids, or whether or not there is even money out there for them, is concerning, especially since they pay a lot to train.

So, for now, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, avoid large crowds, and if you are feeling sick with even the cold, stay home so that you don’t compromise your immune system even more. And for those of you extra cautious, make sure you are keeping up with your supplements and probiotics. If you are wondering whether or not you should compete, or that you have already paid and you want to withdraw, these are all huge concerns are ballet is a financial strain. Most likely, in the event of cancellation they will credit your money to next year, just because most major institutions in the arts right now can’t afford a financial loss.

The Guide to Variations…

a ballet education cover

You can now purchase the guide to variations in digital form for $14.99
The print edition is available as well through the publisher’s cost.
52 pages on everything you need to know about variations… Click the image above to purchase.

5 Variations To Stay Away From…

The Academy Awards have the craziest rules… It judges an entire acting performance for excellence, achievement and the craft. Unfortunately, in ballet we don’t really have that… We have the Prix Benois de la Danse and the Princess Grace awards for achievements within the art form, but nothing on the scale that judges a single performance. Ironically, as a student, we have the YAGP, Prix de Lausanne, and IBC. Granted, every competition has the disclaimer of judging for potential and excellence, but it isn’t really the same. And as we are all scrolling through Facebook watching the results for the YAGP come in… I thought I would take the time out of my drive to talk about variations… Variations are real stuff. 

What is a variation you may ask? It is actually pretty funny. Originally in music, a variation was part of a score where the the score was altered in harmony, melody, rhythm, or counterpoints… Hence why Balanchine’s Theme and Variations is so brilliant, I think. So, when composers create a score for a ballet, they leave room for Primas, Soloists and such. A prime example is the Sleeping Beauty… SOOOO MANY MANY VARIATIONS. The scores are broken down like:

Pas De Sixs: Entrance
Adagio
1. Variation 1
2. Variation 2

Or for Grand Pas De Deuxs (the super classics):

1. Entrance
2. Adage
3. Male Variation
4. Female Variation
5. Coda

Within the score, the variation of music is usually reserved as a solo. For some ballets, the entire ballet revolves around that one solo. Example: NUTCRACKER’s Sugar Plum Fairy Variation.

Now, at ballet competitions you are asked to prepare two classical variations. There are tons of ballet variations out there, and at each competition the rules may vary in what can be performed, what choreography can slightly change, or what can be altered to fit the dancer’s strengths (tempo, turns, jumps etc). So, as everyone at the YAGP is stressing over their 1 minute chance of becoming a ballet somebody, the rest of the ballet world is like…. UMMMM no. This is because a variation doesn’t grade an artist, even if you are Ashley Boulder… A ballet dancer, a real ballet dancer must be able to carry an entire ballet. A principal, must be able to carry an entire ballet in a single performance. For some, this is quite impossible… For others, it is extremely easy: Yuan Yuan Tan from SFB… she knows how to carry a ballet, is extremely musical, and every step, breath and movement is carefully thought out with intention, emotion, and musicality…

You see, ballet competitions have created this subculture of ballet tricks and ridiculous turns. Which has now translated into “star quality”… *side eye* At these competitions kids are expected to turn, jump and have leg up, as markers to grade potential. Because of this… young dancers have defaulted to specific variations… Here are 5 variations to stay away from… and the reasons why…

5 FEMALE VARIATIONS TO STAY AWAY FROM:

1. Kitri, ACT I: In the ballet DON Q, Kitri has a three variations, and each variation is spectacular for different reasons. ACT 1 though is known for two things: The sissones en attitude, which if you aren’t Natalia Osipova, you shouldn’t do to begin with… and the pirouettes in fifth traveling on the diagonal. Dancers now who are overly flexible with no ballon can make the sissones look crazy cool without getting height… And for those girls who are on their legs or wear Gaynors can add doubles, triples a crazy lame duck at the end… It’s old. Even if you add the castanets to be more musical… It doesn’t make up for the tricks… Also, it is the easier character to pull off in Don Q as you are just a playful Spanish girl running a muck, against her father’s wishes… and teenagers can relate.
1 and a half. Kitri, ACT 3: Again, from DON Q, the third act variation is usually performed by girls with banging turn out and beautiful feet… aka Paloma Herrera in ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity. The hops on pointe, and echeppes in the variation allow for everyone to see how great your feet are. The fun part? You get to dance with a fan, be flirty and coy, and have a HAH I outsmarted my parents and got to marry the poor guitar player!
2. Esmeralda: From La Esmerlada/ The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a ballet that I think only Paris Opera might perform, is a variation in which is laid out for the girls who are extremely whacked out. Plus side? Tamborine… Downside… Natalia Osipova at 17 did it, Yuan Yuan Tan did it, and now Mikko Fogarty won the IBC with it. All three women, around the same age nailed the variation to perfection. Most females who take this on are really in it for the tambourine or they are whacked out.


3. Sugar Plum Fairy: from ACT 2 of the Nutcracker… Just don’t. (I shouldn’t even have to list it… but here it is) It is bad enough we have to hear it from August to January… Do yourself the favor, and the rest of the world and just don’t do it. Professional dancers cringe at the music, despite it being one of the most unique scores of music for a ballet variation.
4. Grand Pas Classique… So, I recently was watching a bazillion variations, and I think that Grand Pas Classique is probably one of the hardest female variations… ever. Reason number one why you shouldn’t do it? Sylvie Guilliem. Done. Okay just kidding, so grand pas classic is a variation in which you can’t hide anything because of the moving on the angles the variation requires. There are no big jumps, but instead it requires perfect technique, perfect turnout and it helps if you have beautifully arched feet. Below is Patricia Zhou at YAGP Paris in 2010 (First Place in Classical Category in Senior Division). Coached by Mr. Anton Korsakov, Mme. Ludmila Morkovina, and Mr. Viktor Kabaniaev

5. Black Swan/ White Swan… From Swan Lake. So many dancers, or their parents take on Swan Lake for one reason… It’s Swan Lake. The problem? White swan you have to be ridiculously mature, and can take a really long time to develop the emotion behind the extension, and even just the face expression. Black swan you have to have really experienced life. It requires a since of maturity that comes from flirting at a bar, deceiving someone, and a sensuality no 14 year old should possess…

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