What does it take to be a Ballerina?

Ballet is hard, like really hard. The overwhelming stories and information out there is daunting. As parents you only want what is best for your kid, as student your heart is full of passion and desire, as a teacher you just want to be the best mentor possible. Questions like, “What school to go to?” or “Where am I going to dance?” or “Should I compete at the YAGP?” are all questions that are out there. There are arguments on both sides to every question, and important questions like, “How many hours should my student be dancing?” or “What school is best suited for my child?” or “How much should I be posting on social media?”

What does it take to be a ballerina
Behind the Scenes of Issue 11 // Photographed by Me.

So what does it take to be a ballerina in today’s world?

If you asked me five years ago my answer would have sounded something like this, “You need all the right circumstances, but most importantly you need to work hard every day.” It would have been full of hope and inspiration. I would have said, “If you want to be a ballet dancer, and you are willing to put in the hard work, you will find a place to dance.”

But, this isn’t five years ago. This is now, and now more than ever, jobs in ballet are even more scarce and the world is now smaller than ever. And now, my answer might be jaded. But it is time to be honest and truthful. Watching dancers get placed into companies over the past few years, and watching dancers struggle to find work is even more heartbreaking.

To be a dancer in this day in age, the most important thing is you need to have the RIGHT training. Meaning, you have to find a school that is capable of placing you into a company. Before, schools would feed you into schools attached to companies. Now, it is more important to find strong training at a young age, and work hard inside of these schools. Schools that care not just about your technique, but who you become as a person. I don’t think that kids should be going away so young, unless their families are 100% positive their kid is prepared to be a good person. You have to be technically efficient at such a young age now. At thirteen a double pirouette on pointe isn’t good enough anymore. A good school will be able to call up a company or school and be able to get you placed. A good school will teach you proper modified Russian Technique. Unfortunately, Balanchine schools just are not cutting it anymore in the global market. Finally, your coaches need to be able to teach all pedagogies and different approaches. Every student is different and every student will turn differently, jump differently and have a different needs in the studio. (Click here for what makes a good teacher)

You need to have the right body type and proportions. With the influx of dancers out there, you need to have the right body proportions and body type. Proportions in the 9-head range, toned muscle building, and more importantly: long lean muscle building. You need to be naturally thin, and naturally elongated. Your body has to be primed for ballet. There are so many dancers out there, that body type and body proportions are becoming a priority. This isn’t just tall or short- it is about everything. Making sure that your body is the whole package. Bodies that are primed in ballet just naturally progress faster. (read more about body types) More importantly, these body types are becoming more and more common.

You need to have the right kind of facility; hips that are open, feet that point, knees that stretch, backs that are hypermobile.

Your family has to have the right financial circumstances. Ballet is expensive. And until you are ready to go to a tier one school on a full scholarship, you will be paying a very pretty penny. You will be paying for private lessons, Gyro, PT, Cryo, Pilates, Acupuncture, Dietary Restrictions. This also just doesn’t mean throw money at people. As parents you have to do your homework as well, and you have to understand what you are getting yourself into and what is required of your child.

Now, to add to all of that, you have to be musical and an artist. You have to be able to hear the music, feel the ballet, and develop a character. You also have to be able to perform. Perform in the studio and on stage.

Finally, you have to be smart, hardworking and dedicated. Loving ballet isn’t enough.You have to be hardworking, and put 100% into every class, and no matter how hard you work, you can never give up. Tenacity is key. Focus is crucial. Attention to details, the ability to blend into the corps de ballet when needed, and stand out as soloist when asked. You have to have a thick skin, because what people are going to tell you is going to be severe. Other dancers might try to knock you down because they are jealous. Teachers will push you to the breaking point, and not every director is going to like you, or think that you will fit into their school or company.

ballet is hard

But what is the payoff? For some, ballet teaches discipline and structure. Most who study ballet go onto great things because of what you learn in ballet. For some, ballet facilitates them into college. Ballet can open many scholarships and your education can be paid for. For me, it paid for Grad School.  College can lead to producing, executive positions in a ballet company, PR and Marketing and many other things. For some, ballet will become a tool for choreography. And for those who are lucky enough, ballet will lead to a job that actually pays the bills. And for an even luckier few, they will become principal dancers at companies and become a face that inspires the next generation. But it just doesn’t end there. Ballet leads to amazing things- the appreciation for music, for classical arts, and more. It exposes you to different ethnicities, different cultures, different ideas. It gives you discipline, dedication and the ability to find inspiration in monotony.

YAGP COVER 11copy copy
ISSUE 11 >> Read more by clicking above.

Finally, as hard as ballet is, it is the most wonderful thing. It is the combination of music, movement, human emotions, storytelling, fashion design and art coming together to create something that will only exist in that moment. So, as hard as it is to digest, the idea that you might not have what it takes to make it into a ballet company, don’t give up on the art. It is okay to do ballet recreationally, or train seriously, but not have a career. It really does bring the best of art together. It is something that we all should strive for. The essence of the ballet… not the politics of it.


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Getting in Shape as an Older Dancer…Day 2…

Hell hath no fury like a ballet dancer scorned….
Today, I woke up with a vengeance. Super motivated about life and getting back in shape, I hoped in the shower, ate a healthy breakfast and moved on my way to ballet class. I had to do some extra searching to find a small studio where I wouldn’t run into CPYB friends, former colleagues, professionals I write about, or students who follow the blog… I get to ballet class and everything seems quite normal, until midway through barre the teacher asks if I run a Ballet Education. #fail.

Ballet class wasn’t going so great. Trying to balance somatic approaches, mentally pushing my body to be where I once was, paying attention to my body… the list goes on. It was a pretty miserable class, mostly because the teacher really had no clue what she was doing…  No joke. One of the worst structured ballet classes I have ever taken. (Sorry if you are reading this…) So, depressed as I was, I decided to blog. Did that. Was eventful.

Tried staying on my diet for lunch, but by dinner, I had given in and eaten three bowls of brown buttered pasta and pesto. It was delicious. I don’t regret it. BUT, then I felt super guilty and it was off to the gym…

golden girls sketch
FEELING GOLDEN…

So, I am ridiculously out of shape. It took me 14 minutes to complete a mile, but I kept pushing. Core work, free weights, stretching, turn out exercises and more… I felt really good about myself. My ankles are still really crunchy and using the foot stretcher for help, but they are still pretty biscuity at the moment. They are still supple and work the floor well, but they are not as elastic as they once were, and somehow my wing is now really painful. Not like tendonitis painful, like just irritated and weak.

I attempted the splits for the first time in like months… that was pretty awful… but not as bad as it could have been.

My hypermobile back that was once my favorite feature of my body is now my worst enemy as it just sways and does its own thing. It is quite irritating, but I know my core is ridiculously weak… soooo that’s fun… While runing I noticed my right foot peeling off the treadmill slightly sickled, I’m assuming it is from my ankle injury two years ago,  as it pushing from the top. My left foot has a hard time rolling down when stepping during the run, but I think it is because I am gripping my arch, or it is super tight… one or the other.

When doing free weights, I went through the standard port de bras, and my left side is quite stronger and more supported from my back as my right side started to grip in my trap… What was nice is that my shoulder blades are still layin’ rather flat. My neck has shortened but that’s because I am constantly hunched over a drawing pad or at the computer… So, I need to be mindful of that (I just corrected my awful posture)…

My calves are over working but my shins are fine. I had to stretch the crap out of them after running…. jogging…. power walking… yeah that is probably more accurate.

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3 days till I turn 30… I refuse to use the scale or measure body fat for getting back in shape… but I do know… that I don’t fit into my 32″ skinnies at the moment… Not cute. Nor do I fit into last summer’s 30″ short shorts.

 

Rubia Wear

stay warm feel beatufiul by ashley ellis

shop now. (click the image above)

Hello All!  My name is Ashley Ellis and I am thrilled to welcome you to my new site for RubiaWear.  The Rubia line came about after making my own legwarmers to wear at work; in rehearsal, class, and in the theatre.  Right away my colleagues began to show interest.  Now I have taken the step to create for all of you, with the same intention as when I was making them for myself- to stay warm while adding splashes of fun to my daily workout ensemble.

As a dancer or active person you and I both know how important it is to keep your body warm to avoid injury.  Here you will find fun and unique warm ups that will do just that AND compliment the dance wear already in your wardrobe.

My objective is to offer a wide variety of colors, fabrics, and prints to choose from.  As each runs out I will continuously introduce new ones. This will keep each item very unique in addition to maintaining an exciting shopping and wearing experience.

Select an item that fits your own personal style.   Choose as many as you like to enhance your wardrobe and give each outfit that special RubiaWear touch.  And, don’t forget to check in regularly!

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*Ashley Ellis is a principal with Boston Ballet, more about Ashley at:   www.ellisashley.com

(borrowed from the “about me” on Rubia’s Site)

Why you shouldn’t put your kid into ballet…

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

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

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

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

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

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
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COMING SOON:
THE GUIDE TO VARIATIONS

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

The American Ballerina: the 21st century prima

The American Ballerina in the 21st century

What truly does it mean to be an American Ballerina? 
The idea of an American Ballerina isn’t far fetched at all, and actually since the cold war, America has become one of greatest manufacturers of ballet dancers.  While up until the Cold War, ballet was dominated by the Russians.  The history of ballet is funny, because as each generation of prima ballerinas comes to the forefront, they are influenced by culture, society, and what is “popular” in ballet. Today, we are blessed with the wonders of youtube and ballet in cinema, so we can see a variety of ballet dancers instantaneously. So, as a reflection of culture, we now have a true generation of American Ballerinas.

So, we have to kind of set up some conditions that define an American Ballerina:

1. Born in the United States.
2. Trained in the United States.
3. Dances with an American Company.
4. Has achieved the rank of principal dancer.
5. Has contributed to the next generation of dancers.

As we are at a time in ballet that celebrates the most innovate choreography, the most brilliant music, and the most technical phase of ballet, there are two extraordinary women that come to mind:

Tiler Peck and Lia Cirio
Ironically, neither dancer has the typical ballet body type. When we say typical we mean Russian girl body type, or Paris Opera Body type.  Additionally, the two women are completely different.  These two women though have created a new space and new ideal for dance.  Tiler Peck has created a generation of a more jazz meets Balanchine dancer making it possible for competitive studio trained dancers transition into ballet companies and schools. While, Lia Cirio has created an athletic provocative archetype of a prima ballerina. The only two things these women really have in common is really good teeth and a really great smile

The Run Down on these women:

Tiler Peck: sporadic training in the greater Los Angeles area, transitioning to School of American Ballet, joined NYCB in 2004, became a principal in 2009. Gorgeous turns, and fills the stage. First was really seen in the welcome to SAB DVD. Balanchine trained. Subtle sensitivity and sweetness in her approach to roles.
lia cirio american ballerina

Lia Cirio: random school, transitioning to CPYB, joined Boston Ballet in 2004, became a soloist in 2007, joined the Trey McIntyre project, came back to BB in 2010 to become promoted to principal. Banging hyperextension, ferocious arabesque. First major appearance in ballet: YAGP 2003. Classically trained. A body articulate conscious approach to a role.

So what makes these two women stand out compared to say… Hee Seo or Maria Kotchekova? Well, besides the fact that both of these women aren’t born and raised in the US, they are both ridiculously Russian trained, which is gorgeous, I’m not saying that they are awful. I am saying that they fit previous archetype of what a prima ballerina is. While Hee Seo was groomed to take Julie Kent’s place, Maria Kotchekova became the standard of SFB’s short girl. While Misty Copeland has made the compelling presence and awareness of race in ballet, I don’t think her actual dancing is ground breaking. (sorry, I know I am going to hear shit for that) Then we have other leading women in the US: Carrie Imler at PNB creating the athletic look at PNB, Isabella Boylston at ABT has reinvented the Paloma Herrera, but with better arms. Maria Kowroski is like the Balanchine version of Sylvie. Wendy Whelan created the skinny fit athletic body archetype.

As these two women expand their repertory, who knows what they will create for the ballet world? It’s exciting.

In other ballet news: ABT: Paloma Herrera is getting a weird farewell with a matinee performance of Giselle, followed by Xiomara Reyes’s farewell at 7:30.  Totally getting gipped, but maybe her name just doesn’t sell seats? ABT’s PBS special AMERICAN MASTER Series was beyond gorgeous.
NYCB & SFB: have a ridiculously amount of talented people in the ranks of soloists and corps but won’t be promoted until others retire. *cough cough* hang up the pointe shoes *cough cough*
Paris Opera: Natalie Portman’s Baby Daddy is making amazing moves and changes at POB.
PNB: Please promote Leta already.
Atlanta Ballet: Had the most beautiful end to their season.
Milwaukee Ballet: Their version of Cinderella was an okay finish for the season.

Little Jessy is prepping for LA BALLET. Her go fund me is still up, any donations will go towards pointe shoes, leotards etc. http://www.gofundme.com/jessylaballet

Don’t forget to use the code SCIE15 for 15% off Eros Sportswear for Men.

The Guide to FiercenessMy guide to fierceness is almost done. Holla for a dolla!

Getting Ready For Summer: UPDATE

first issue copy

Totally getting excited as we are getting ready to launch our first issue…
It is a lot of hard work, and truth be told, I don’t know if it is going to come out JUNE 1, but I am hoping.
We have partnered up with some really great advertisers, offering your guys some really great deals!!!

Also, we are on the hunt for good ballet stories, and also, with the success of our GoFundMe Campaign for Jessy, we really would like to help out others.  So, any donations made to http://www.gofundme.com/balletblog will now help aspiring ballet students.

If you are an aspiring dancer, or established dancer you can now submit your photos to aballeteducation@gmail.com for your chance to land on the cover of our magazine! That is pretty cool.
When submitting your photo, whether you are dancer, photographer or parent, you need to make sure you have all of the proper legal forms: model release, photographer’s release, and permission for distribution.

Finally, our first mini e-book will be coming out this summer!
The Guide to FiercenessTHE GUIDE TO FIERCENESS: 10 STEPS TO BECOME A BETTER BALLET DANCER

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Cross Train: Yoga & Save.

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As a Ballet Education expands, we are proud to partnering up with amazing advertisers and products. Welcome EROS SPORT! This is a men’s line, for all those male dancers out there! Yes, the product is designed for bikram yoga, but because the fabric absorbs and dries sweat fast… It is great for ballet class. (I’ve tried them, they work great) So, as a Ballet Education turns from blog to magazine, we will be able to offer you great deals! #SCORE

Shop: http://www.erossport.com and use SCIE15 for 15% off.

Don’t forget… no one will hire a dancer who isn’t flexible. Bikram yoga is a great cross training aspect for ballet dancers. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is basically heat yoga. Get gumby real quick.

For the Moms…

ballet moms thank you

Dear Dance Moms (and dads),

I would just like to take the time today and say thank you. Thank you for forcing us to go to class when we didn’t want to, when we needed the shoulder to cry on because we don’t have perfect turnout, for driving us to and from class everyday, driving us to auditions, paying for summer programs, countless pairs of tights and shoes…. Thank you you for massaging out the knots, for all of the chiropractor appointments, for the sacrificing of the thousands of dollars it takes to study ballet, for rhinestoning all the tutus, for dying all of the random things, for buying me that leotard I needed to stand out at an audition in… Thank you for teaching me how to do a bun, for coming to every show, for paying me to fly all over the world to audition, and buying me those special protein bars that are low carb…

Without you & dad I would have never made it. Even though growing up I would accuse you of being a ballet mom, hovering at the window…

And so on… It is your day and I love and appreciate you.

NYT feature on SAB boys for Nutcracker.
NYT feature on SAB boys for Nutcracker.

Now, I would like to take the time and thank my mom who had no clue about ballet for letting me pursue it.  Then I would like to thank all of the moms who have helped me on my way. Thank you for all the rides, thank you for all the custom knit leg warmers and warm ups, thank you for all the advice you gave me and thank you for always helping me. I really did have a lot of ballet moms in my life, that I am very grateful for.

I hope all of you mom’s out there have a fantastic MOTHER’S DAY!!!

Manly Ballet 1

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Every Fifth Has A Story

fifth position a ballet education

Tonight, I was cleaning out a bunch of stuff at work, and then stumbled across a memory card that was never uploaded.  If you don’t know about shooting medium format, here is a little info.  Medium formats create huge files, and so it is always best to shoot tethered.  Because I work in fashion, we only shoot tethered to see the film instantly, find flaws, and correct things… Unless, we are shooting on a highly produced editorial, and outdoors. But, whenever you shoot medium format, you always want to have a huge SD card in the body of the camera, just in case.  Once the camera clicks the image is usually captured right away to the computer, and on rare instances nothing shows up… Usually the camera will catch it on the SD card. So, I put this SD card into my reader and the photo above was on it. I instantly smiled.  This photo was taken by Alexandra Rose of Vogue Images (click the link to visit her work). The photo is of a former student of mine, Jacquelyn Bernard.

When I met this student, she was at a small ballet studio in SoCal. Here, at this studio, the owner told me this girl had no talent, no feet, no turn out, no flexibility and not worth my time.  After watching her dance the first time, I thought to myself… no there is something there… just this studio teaches horrible technique, and why on earth would you put a girl like that in Gaynors…. So, after long talks with her and her mom, I decided I would turn her into a dancer. Firs thing was to stretch her out. No, the first thing was to take her out of the gaynors and put her into Freed Classics, then stretch her out. At the time I met her she didn’t even have her splits… So, after working with her on Monday nights… Her feet finally gave into me… And from biscuits these came. Then turn out came. Her legs became hyper extended and next thing you know it she is at a summer program. Now, she is a college student studying dance and about to have her first essay published about dance.  So proud of her.
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This really goes to show how important it is to find good teachers. Because a good teacher can take you the distance.  For a girl who had nothing, she turned it around and now has everything.

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SUMMER PROGRAMS

Hello there world….

I have a student, her name is Jessy. She just received recognition from Los Angeles Ballet and was invited to their summer course.  Unfortunately her family doesn’t have the money to send her. She has never been to a summer program, or trained at a studio.  But, despite these odds… she has made it this far. (Not to toot my own horn but I am a pretty good ballet teacher) She maintains a 4.0 GPA, and really does love ballet.

She has a ton of potential, hyper extended legs, BEAUTIFUL feet, a hyper mobile back, really great musicality. She needs full-time training if she wants any chance in the dance world, and time is running out.  So anything will help, I have till Monday… So, here we go. http://www.gofundme.com/tye5w6c

Dance Life 6 Dance Life 7 Jessy 2 Jessy Jump 1 Jump Face 1

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…

*if you would like to help a ballet education grow please donate to: www.gofundme.com/balletblog

Ballet Vocabulary: Lesson 1

A Ballet Education the best ballet schools

In the world of ballet, there are three languages. There is the language in which ballet was codified, French. Then there is the language in which interprets ballet, body language backed by emotion. And then there is a language that ballet dancers actually speak, a language of their own, and I’m not talking about French. So, here is the modern vocabulary list every ballet dancer/student should know (part one). These terms you will come across in class, gossiping among your fellow peers in ballet school, blogs like this one, or social media.

Mr. B (noun): AKA, George Balanchine, aka God (just kidding, not really)

  1. The founder of New York City Ballet, and probably the most influential choreographer of the 20th century.

What would Mr. B do?

4 T’s (noun): AKA The Four Temperaments

  1. Choreographed by George Balanchine in 1946 to music by Paul Hindemith.

Dancing 4T’s is really difficult if you aren’t trained Balanchine.

Buiscut (noun or adj):

  1. Dancers with “bad” feet or feet that don’t point.

She has biscuit feet, she’ll never go en pointe.

A La Sebesque, secabesque (noun):

  1. A non existent position in ballet that people with bad technique use. It is a combination of a la seconde, and arabesque.

You are doing a la sebesque dear, you aren’t in jazz class.

Bunhead (noun):

1. A dancer who is overly intense about ballet, to the point where it might be unhealthy.
Maureen is a bunhead, Eva is not.

Snatched (adj):

1. A dancer’s body in peak shape.
Her body is snatched, hence why she is rockin’ a unitard.

Whacked out (adj):
1. Ridiculously flexible
He is so whacked out… but only to the right.

AD (noun) aka Artistic Director:

1. The head of a ballet company.
She only got the part because she is sleeping with the AD.

Leo (noun) aka Leotard:

1. Appropriate ballet attire, made from mesh, nylon, spandex, lycra or another synthetic blend of fabric.
Who wears a white leo to an audition?

________ Hands (_____ (adj) + noun): 

1. Spatula Hands: hands that look like spatulas.
2. Oven mitt hands: hands that are shaped like an oven mitt.
3. Hamburger Hands: hands that are shaped like one is holding a hamburger.
She is definitely not getting into SAB because of her spatula hands.

Claws (noun):

1. Hands that have gone through rigorous Balanchine training and are the anti Russian hand.
He has claws, you think he is from SAB?

Nut Season (noun):
1. The part of the season in which one must dance in the annual production of the Nutcracker in which they will be overworked, and over rehearsed. Dancers may cringe, or cry if they are at the mall shopping and the Tchaikovsky score is being played during the holidays. The time of the season in which every dancer wants to quit.
It is Nut Season, I want to die.

Pancaking (verb):
1. The application of a mattifier to match ones skin tone and remove the shine or pink color.
2. When a ballet dancer goes to iHop and dreams of ordering pancakes but orders a salad instead.
Gaynor Mindens should always be pancaked, that way it isn’t obvious you are wearing them.

Floor Barre (noun):

1. An awful, but healthy alternative to taking class. It is the combination of ballet, yoga and pilates.
I would rather do character than floor barre.

This is just part one, and as I compile list two, please feel free to email me for suggestions.

BIG THINGS FOR A BALLET EDUCATION

ballet1

So, I have decided to launch a few big things for a Ballet Education, and I hope they are helpful… But, unfortunately it will take a little bit of capitol. If you have enjoyed reading my blog, minus the grammar mistakes, you can now donate so I can pay an editor to go back through and edit everything. I just don’t have the time. Even now, I am using SIRI to update this blog while driving to an event in Los Angeles.

Here is what I was thinking…

book cover mock up

yes, I would like to publish a book…

COMING SOON... available via iPhone, iPad, Android, Desktop, Digital Download
COMING SOON…
available via iPhone, iPad, Android, Desktop, Digital Download

and yes… I want to release digital books of things that are important…

And I would like to redesign the site.

And I would like to be able to start a youtube channel with how to do real ballet techniques…

Sooooo, if you are interested please donate or email me aballeteducation@gmail.com

Thanks.

The Return: A Ballet Education

… I thought I was going to be giving this up, and I thought I would leave my nightly rants to Facebook… BUT THEN a ballet company finally replied to my e-mail, and they did not have anything nice to say… So, with that being said, a Ballet Education is coming back full force… Don’t piss off a gaysian who works in PR. This is going to be fun. A lot of fun. And as it might black list me from ever going to see a performance, and I might lose a bunch of friends in the ballet world… I decided… It is worth it.

A lot of you wrote in why I was selling and stopping… Here is the truth:

I decided to stop a ballet education because despite all of my efforts in posting happy, feel good posts about classical ballets, dance companies and schools… Actual education posts… people really didn’t care to read them. The more honest I was, the more popular the posts became… And I felt that I was giving ballet kind of a bad reputation, despite the truth behind it—

Then, because of this blog major ballet companies wouldn’t consider hiring me for PR & Marketing, despite my proven success track in the world fashion and luxury. (Which I consider going to the ballet to be a luxury (ballet go-ers support the art, so I thought why not?) Even though they sent nice emails saying I wasn’t qualified, a friend had casually mentioned my blog had come up in an east coast conference room. I was like Mother F’rs did I just screw myself over?

Finally, I realized that i was spending way too much time talking about ballet and not enough time in the world of fashion, which pays my bills…

So here is why I am coming back… I’m cutting the BS out of ballet. It is time people starting talking truthfully and not politely… People keep wondering why ballet is dying? Because no one is afraid to say the truth, and well, since I am not going to be in the dance world any time soon… I have nothing to lose. GET READY… because it is coming!! 

5 Ballet Techniques that make me melt

In today’s world of dance we applaud ridiculous extension, turns that never end, and jumps that defy gravity. Or, we celebrate mediocrity. Either way, it doesn’t do it for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some musicality, and artistic achievement but… I’m like a lover of technique. So, as much as I appreciate and glorify dancers of the past… It doesn’t really do much for me either. I recently was watching some video of Maria Tallchief in Allegro Brilliante and I was like -_____-.  Like randomly placed passes, and some questionable releves from male dancers of the past… that doesn’t really do anything for me.

So, in today’s world of ridiculousness technique… There are five techniques that if done well, make me melt… Like I get all warm inside, and if it is on youtube I rewind it and watch it again… SOOO, what are they?

1. The technically crisp soutenu.

2. A two butts up glissade.

3. A super generous, and resistant pas de cheval.

4. A Balanchine saute arabesque, jete combo.

5. When a dancer bevels or wings their supporting foot right before they come down from releve, or when they place themselves on the wing of pointe shoe for a balance.

the nuttiness of nutcracker…

I have posted many posts about Nutcracker, but I am going to do a couple more before the season is over haha:

http://aballeteducation.com/2014/07/08/too-many-claras-and-every-little-girls-dream/

http://aballeteducation.com/2014/08/24/the-beast-that-is-the-nutcracker/

http://aballeteducation.com/2014/09/16/awful-realities-of-the-nutcracker/

While the Nutcracker is a holiday tradition, for dancers it might just be the ballet that pushes them over the edge.  For dancers in smaller companies, Nutcracker season means longer rehearsals, and being over used.  On any given night, a female corps dancer might go through 3 costumes changes.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t any room to complain, because Nutcracker pays the bills. For stage managers and lighting designers, Nutcracker basically runs itself. And for those in PR and Marketing, Nutcracker sells tickets on its own… unless you are pnb whose ticket sales are down, hence why they are ditching the Stowell/Sendak version and going Balanchine.

5 Nutty Things that happen in productions of the Nutcracker:

  1. Have you ever noticed in the Balanchine Version, that music from the Sleeping Beauty is used between party and battle scene? Or the opening score of Snow is wasted on a moving bed? If you didn’t know how that happens… usually there is someone underneath crawling and spinning it around… Awkward I know. Casting sheet:

Bed:  Your name.

  1. The corps is like a well oiled machine… The corps has so many parts to dance during Nutcracker… and the fun part? They usually don’t dance the same spot twice. These girls go from party scene, to snow without being warmed up, and then dance in flowers. Usually the casting board has the act, scene, and roles, but for the corps it might go by numbers and one night you might be dancing girl one, and the next night you might be dancing girl eight. I guess it gives you some variety…
  2. Sugar Plum pas de deux might just be one of the longest pas de deuxs out there. The variation is ridiculously long, etc.
  3. Have you ever noticed that Clara and the Nutcracker in the Royal Ballet’s version must have to chug a redbull before their performance. They dance in like every variation and flowers…
  4. Finally, sometimes I watch productions of nutcracker and I am like wtf is this… random ugly costumes… non cohesive storylines… over rehearsed tired dancers… or my favorite… bringing in guest artists for the leads from major companies, because no one in your company can fill the role… or you would rather have a “name” for the sake of selling tickets.

The Life Cycle of a Ballet Dancer…

The life of a ballet dancer is frail and delicate, just like a butterfly. A butterfly’s lifespan is usually about a year, and within that year they have come and gone. It is sad, but true. The longevity of a ballet dancer is very short, and like the butterfly it happens in four phases.

1. The Egg. It is where it all begins. Somewhere in the world, you saw someone dance and something manifested inside of you to become a dancer. Or, you were forced into ballet classes and the music became a part of your life. Regardless, you were probably a turned in little girl, prancing up and down pretending to be a butterfly at some point in your dancing. They are the best videos to watch, I mean even Wendy Whelan was a bumble bee. Whatever you were, something started this transformation and after a little while you enter the next phase…

2. The Caterpillar. As a serious ballet student now, you are slowly inching your way through, class after class, year after year. We spend our time traveling across the US from one school to the next, one summer program after another. Hoping and praying that you will find the right school, attached to a company, for you to settle into. As a caterpillar, or student you feel hopeless. That the world of ballet is so big and vast, and that the hopes of you becoming this stunning butterfly seems far, far away. The hours you spend in front of the mirror being hypercritical on yourself, and taking a mental beat down makes the journey seem impossible. You see others around you getting eaten alive, and forgotten. Others are quitting and just giving up on the journey. Then there are others who get injured and they are taken out of the process, but you still keep persevering. And once you are exhausted, once you are about to collapse, a change inside you happens.

3. The Chrysalis, the cocoon. You find yourself at a professional school, and there you will spend the next few years training harder than ever, knowing that once you make it to the other side, there is a whole future out there. You realize that there are 20 other kids with the same dream, at the same school, but you know that if you work hard enough, if you push further, that you will have that much more of a chance. Once you are in a pre professional, professional division, trainee, second company or apprentice, it only seems like moments before you are going to be a butterfly… While you are hidden away, while you are so inside yourself, something mentally now happens. The stress of becoming an adult sets in, and you realize, your journey is really just beginning. You now have to break through the cocoon you cherished and worked so hard to protect. You have to break through company auditions, a year end performance, where it seems that your entire life is going to depend on. While not everyone is cut out to break through, somehow you manage to and become:

4. A Butterfly. Yup, it finally happens. You join a company, and you and your kaleidoscope (a group of butterflies) are set to take on the world. But, as butterfly’s lifespan is short, so are the career spans of ballet dancers. You have worked so hard, and now you have to work even harder. Not just for yourself, but you have to work harder because now everyone is counting on your work ethic. Your colleagues, your family are dropping out left and right due to injury, or they aren’t hired back. And you now are worried the same might happen to you. It is beyond stressful. All you want to do is focus on your dancing but the real world is constantly throwing jabs. As you are killing yourself in the corps, you hope that soon your artistic director will take notice of you and give you the chance to become a soloist. Take on the roles you have been dreaming of since a child. Yup, that sounds about right, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, the road to become a dancer seems hopeless and impossible. And once you do make it, it seems almost impossible to get promoted. With the physical strain your body has endured you think, god I hope I get promoted before my knee blows, or some other random injury creeps in. With a career so short, why are dancers so underpaid? Dancers justify their low pay by saying, “well, I get to do what I love.” Keep telling yourself that. As companies are trying to transition dancers into college, and university, or careers after… The reality is, dancers are faced with either staying in the corps, or making their way into college. Dancers get certified in pilates, or will start teaching to supplement their income. Unless you are at a huge company, the reality is dancers are horribly underpaid. Unlike Europe, dance is not supported by the state. Ballet companies are supported through small grants, and individual donations which is why it is important for ballet to get the exposure it deserves.

While you can’t buy a dancer for $100,000 and keep it hanging on your wall, you can invest in the future of ballet, so that a company can become a family heirloom. Recently, Lily Cole (one of my favorite models) posted a video on IG of her backstage watching Carlos Acosta and Natalia Opsiova take their curtain call for Manon. This made me realize that ballet just might be the center of the arts, but the most underfunded. Ballet is the combination of the geniuses behind music, choreography, lighting and set design, costume design, and the finesse of the human body. So, again, why is it so under supported? Is it because tickets are expensive? That artistic director’s might be getting more than you think? Who knows? So, if you are reading this, and wondering why your child might not have a career, it is because there is no funding. So, if you want to make sure your child will have a place to dance, make sure you are supporting your local company. This could be volunteering, donating money, or as simple as buying a ticket to a performance.

Aurora in the Sleeping Boring… I mean beauty.

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

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

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

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

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

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