Ballet & the Passable White Standard…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

Really… the odds are never in your favor… Prix de Laussane pt 2

So, after a few people adding their “insight” into the post about the Prix… lets be real here…the prix was founded in 1973, which means that ballet was still developing in South America and Asia. With that being said, we have to take that into account on the overall demographics of the prix… Ironically, Japan holds 57 winners, with their first win in 1978. Now, if we want to take into consideration population of this country, 127 million, the odds of a Japanese winner at the prix is roughly 4.4%. This is not taking into consideration the time span of their first win, and the changes of population. Not good odds… While say, someone from Australia’s chances of winning are 7.7% (holding 17 prizewinners since 1976, with a population of 23 million). The reality is now that the chances of a person from a country winning are less than .01% (The world’s population is 7 billion) which means to be selected into the finals 2.8 people out of a billion people will be selected… which is why it is a heralding compliment to be selected. Pretty insane right?

Now, the US, has a population standing at 316 million, and has had roughly 22 prize winners since 1979… that means the chances of a prize winner from the US is at 6%. Which means, out of the world population, the odds of a US Candidate winning is slightly larger than say someone from Australia or Belgium. Yet, Belgium has had 19 wins, from a population of 11 million. Korea has had 16 wins.

Now, if we want to look at the data of possible outcomes, the odds are still not in favor… From the prix’s conception there has been roughly 391 awards given out… Which means the odds of a Japanese winner is 15%. This means that if you are a part of the 4.4% of Japan’s population, that are exceptional in ballet, you have a 15% chance of winning at the prix. Pretty intense.

If you are from the USA, you literally only have .5% chance of winning if you make it to the finals. Intense.

Now, say like South Africa… the odds of someone from South Africa winning at the prix is less than .001%, which means once you are the prix the odds of you winning are .003%, that is super intense.

Now it might not be fair to count the entire prix’s history, as the world’s history of ballet is tainted with racism, communism and exposure… So, if we were to look at last year’s results, for the sake of saying that 2014 is the most diverse ballet has been, and 2014 brought world wide exposure to ballet, then the wins by country would stand at 3 Japan, 1 USA, 1 SPAIN, 1 FRANCE. (which ironically still reflects the overall numbers at the prix. ) If we look at this year’s numbers it is more diverse 1 Australia, 1 Korea, 2 Japan, 1 Portugal, 1 USA. So, what does this mean?

As the prix celebrates the excellence in ballet’s youth, and the opportunity to be fast tracked on the international stage, it means that unfortunately, ballet competitions will still always be skewed. There is a lack of funding, a lack of exposure, and an unfair advantage for those who don’t have the resources and exposure to ballet. This again also is a reflection of a country’s ability or idea that ballet should be supported by the state… This is also a reflection of the training in a country… Or, where the student trains…. for example most Koreans train at Universal Ballet in Washington DC. And, a lot of Euro candidates don’t train in their home countries… so is it fair? Who knows…

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Numbers were taken from the Prix de laussane archives from conception to 2014. Demographics were taken from the world’s 2013 census. (www.prixdelaussanne.org)

Picture is from: http://www.prixdelausanne.org/gallery/2015-2/selection-day/

Ballet Commercials that make you gag

Parodies from the Free People Campaign make me giggle. Their original campaign was the most epic of failures.

whoops that was the real thing.. haha this is the parody. (seriously it was that bad)

While their have been the epic failures of ballet commercials… there have been some bangin ones. Like Misty Copeland’s UnderArmour.

Tamara Rojo for Lexus. Beyond Fierce

Korean Ballet Dancer collaborating with Levi’s

Funny one’s like this older Spanish ad.

And this Holiday’s recent ad featuring VISA, GAP and Maria Kotchekova and SFB

Intro to Summer Programs

The Guide to Summer Programs:

While Christmas is finally here, and Nutcracker is finally over… We now look at the bigger picture, and the next part of the season: SUMMER PROGRAMS!! With auditions literally starting next week, the stress is on. SO, here are some of the truths about summer programs:

  1. Summer programs are not a vacation.  While it might be fun to travel all over the US, the reality is that summer programs are designed for three purposes.
    1. The first is to get the maximum amount of training in while you aren’t in school. So, if you are looking at summer programs as a chance to catch up on technique, then audition away. Dancers drastically change at summer programs for the good and the bad.
    2. The second reason ballet companies host summer programs is to look at the work ethic of potential year round students. For those who are killing themselves dreaming of San Francisco Ballet, your best bet is to go there for the summer. Hopefully, you are around 14-16 with awesome technique. This way you can get asked to stay for the year, and hopefully make it into their trainee program.
    3. Finally, the third reasons companies host summer programs is because it is a huge money maker. If you don’t know the costs of a summer program, check out this post. Summer programs are a way to overflow a school, and make money. It isn’t a hidden fact that ballet companies aren’t doing well, so Summer Programs are a way to generate income to the school/company during the off season (January) and then again in the Summer months.
  1. Names don’t mean anything. While many prestigious schools boast awesome summer programs, it doesn’t mean it is the best training for you. You have to find the school that is right for you, and where you are at in your training. For example, you should not audition for SAB until you are completely sure you are as strong as you can be, technically. SAB is a finishing school, not a training school. If you are behind on your technique, CPYB is the best place to go and get your butt whooped for a month. If you are looking to broaden your horizons in ballet, LINES would be a great add to your resume. And for those of you who are looking for individual attention, go to a smaller program like Ballet West or Atlanta Ballet’s Summer Programs. If you are looking to work on turns, go to the Rock School for Education, and if you are looking to jump go to PNB.
  2. Have back up plans. Like any child applying for colleges, you have to have a plan. Everyone has their dream programs, but then pick others that you know you are going to get into, schools you might get a scholarship to, and schools that are affordable. Have options, because a lot of kids will hit two summer programs in a summer.
  3. How do you know you are ready for a summer program? You have to be mentally prepared because at a summer program the competition in the classroom is stiff. Everyone there is pushing for a year round spot and scholarship for the year. You will be hundreds or thousands of miles away from home, living in dorms, with a hundred other ballet dancers. While you make lifelong friendships, the reality is, they are also your competition. It is easy to become friends, but it is easier to become jealous and get inside your own head, sabotaging your chances of staying for the year. If you are at a smaller school, and you are the best one at your studio, this would be a great growing opportunity.
  4. Finally, use summer programs to see if this is what you really want to do with your life. Summer programs are a great stepping stone to see whether or not you want to pursue ballet professionally. While it is rare for a dancer not to go to a summer program, a summer program is usually required as a bridge between professional schooling and a home studio. Another small step towards dancing Odette in Swan Lake.

You can go to any company’s website or school website to see if they are doing a national tour. The dates are already published. Audition fees will apply. If you don’t have the money, you can call the school registrar and possibly have the fee waived.

Manly Ballet… 5 misconceptions about male ballet dancers

Male ballet dancers get the worst reputation… And there is a reason why…

Honestly, it comes down to tights and a dance belt and for some reason that equates to effeminate, which equates to gay. But, if you look at the spectrum of dance, ballet is probably the most manly when it comes to repertory, with the exception of Dresden SemperOpera’s version of bluebird… That one is just… well… flashy… (click here to watch the youtube video)

The roles for men in classical ballet are the following: prince, cavalier, slave, pirate, prince, cavalier, lover, prince… you get the gist. Because of these roles, the vocabulary is limited, say compared to a jazz dancer. Now, because the way the music was written, and male variations are these extremely heavy, weighted variations, the steps a male ballet dancer usually performs are… well limiting. While women are known for their pointe shoes and flexibility, male ballet dancers really only do the following (via my doodles):

male ballet drawing

So, because I have only posted twice this month (it is LA FASHION WEEK, and fashion month so my real job has been taking up a ridiculous amount of time… okay, and also it happens to be my best friends’ birthdays… so I have been traveling and such)..

Here is my 5 misconceptions about male ballet dancers:

1. Male ballet dancers are weak and frail like girls…

mmmm... Alexandre Hammoudi photographed by NYC DANCE PROJECT... he is my baby daddy....
mmmm… Alexandre Hammoudi photographed by NYC DANCE PROJECT… he is my baby daddy…. (okay that was gay.) Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for NYC Dance Project.

 

2. Male ballet dancers prance around all day… actually bro, we lift too.

Actually bro, they lift too. They usually are lifting all day.
Actually bro, they lift too. They usually are lifting all day.

3. All male ballet dancers are gay…

nyt wedding ballet dancer tiler peck
Actually, we marry hot ballet girls. Tiler Peck and Robbie Fairchild, via the NYT VOWS sections. Both are principals at NYCB

4. Boys in ballet just want to be girls…

Actually, quite the opposite. No male in ballet aspires to be a girl. In fact, unless you are going to join Trock… you will never dance a girl role. Again, you really aspire to be a prince. I mean that is really the only role you can aspire too… I don’t think any boy saw Drosselmeyer and was like when I grow up I want to be that crazy loon. Do I think that boys see professional men jumping and turning, and lifting girls… yes. Do they become intoxicated by the beauty, maybe.

5. Men in ballet are not athletic.

While skateboarders do 720s using momentum v-force… men in ballet do it from a static position.

While track athletes jump hurdles that stand at 42″, ballet dancers are clearing more air while looking relaxed. (Granted track athletes are on a time constraint.)

While football boasts the manliest sport, they are still basically wearing tights…

While wrestlers are wearing less than ballet dancers and touching each other, very rarely do two men ever even touch in ballet.

While soccer players are drilling for foot speed, ballet dancers are are drilling for foot speed at a faster pace, and in exact positions.

While regular guys are at the gym lifting and taking selfies, male ballet dancers are lifting women for 8 hours without straining their necks, and making ugly faces and grunting.

While hockey players are gliding down the ice, well… that is just a hard one to find a comparison.

While baseball players are coordinating catches, male ballet dancers are coordinating catching women.

And finally, while joe schmo is sitting eating a pizza and drinking a beer… well,

male ballet dancers are probably doing the same thing… unless they are about to do a ballet in white tights.

mens ballet guide

Arabesque.

 

The Position That Makes Ballet, well ballet…

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Sara Michelle Murawski’s, a soloist at Slovak National Ballet, super famous arabesque picture that probably one of the first pictures that made dancers addicted to instagram.

Contemporary Dancers have the tilt, jazz dancers have the layout, but ballet dancers have arabesque.

For those of you who are auditioning for the first time, the reason why everyone asks for an arabesque picture is for the following reasons: arabesque is one of the hardest positions to make in ballet, and it shows your turn out, flexibility, hyperextension and feet in on photo without hating yourself. If ballet auditions asked for, say…ecarte derrière… no one would audition… ever.

Now, there is a great debate of what arabesque technique is correct, or where it actually comes from, but should we really get into all of that mess? Maybe, just little bit. Just generalizing some things about companies that have a very specific type of arabesque.

Royal Ballet, the Ashton Arabesque is this super classical, dreamy position that requires the following: a hypermobile back, beautifully arched feet, and rarely is placed above 90 degrees. In addition, I think the artists of the Royal Ballet are the only ones that don’t let the supporting leg turn in. Their turn out is bangin. The arms are always super relaxed, and rarely go above their faces. Ultimate restraint. (Royal Ballet’s arabesque line isn’t the RAD line. I don’t believe in the RAD method, so I am not going to talk about it.)

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Plus, who doesn’t love some Sarah Lamb on any given day? Ironically, she is an American, with Russian training, dancing a Jerome Robbin’s piece set on NYCB, but staged on Royal Ballet.

The Russians have their own arabesque line as well. They are known for their incredible height and stretch. Besides the majority of women coming out of Vaganova school are beasts, their primas have create this unique fragile but stretched arm position. Standing leg is turned in.

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For the sake of irony, the super stunning Uliana Lopatkina, a Russian Dancing a Balanchine piece set on Bolshoi.

Then we have the super “classical” arabesque which is the mish mosh of cecchetti, vaganova and french… which is now lumped into the category of classical:

ballet pose

Perfect turn out, not so hyper mobile, lifted up and forward, relaxed elbow, and spatula hands… just kidding, just a soft middle finger down…

Then we have the Balanchine Arabesque, which isn’t really a change in the principals of arabesque, but more of the arm and hand positions.

ashley boulder

Ashley Bouder and Jonathan Stafford in Tchai Pas. Ironically, everyone calls their hands the claw… or that they are really wristy, but Russians are more…  aka the super stunning and talented force Evgenia Obraztsova

evgenia obraztsova

And then finally, there is the Paris Opera Arabesque… which is basically like the impossible arabesque. Which is only possible if you are well… given everything and trained at Paris Opera.

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Another Irony, Paris Opera is the home of ballet, and here we have the Sylvie Guillem in a contemporary work. I have never really understood the Paris Opera arabesque besides it looking beyond perfect. David Hallberg who trained at POB has one of those arabesque that are beyond pulled up. A lot of the etoiles of paris opera have these super raised hips.

Another note… we gag on arabesque pictures on IG and tumblr, but the reality is… do we ever see these massive arabesques on stage… unless you are russian… Or Dark Angel in Serenade? I think the “style” of arabesque also comes from the role you are doing, the tempo of music, etc.

Now, here are some things that are really difficult for young dancers when it comes to arabesque…

Higher isn’t always better.

Being Square is in reference that both pelvic bones are on the same level of space.

Tilting your hip is really just for side extension.

Things regardless of what “style” of arabesque you are doing…

Your spinal chord can’t be compromised…

You either have a hyper mobile back and hips or you don’t.

Regardless of the arm placement, the torso doesn’t twist…

My favorite motto when teaching: when in doubt, turn out.

Finding what arabesque works on your body is really important as well. If you look at the women of NYCB, none of them have the same arabesque line. You have to find what looks best on your body… for anything in ballet, but especially for arabesque. As you develop into an artist you find your stride in arabesque, and what looks best on your body type. Arm placement, stretch, reach, quality… Those are the things that really distinguish an arabesque. No two professional arabesques are the same. When training, it might be a different story, but because no body is alike, the technique looks different on everyone.

 

Raymonda… wtf

Seriously, wtf. In the world of ballet, there are tons of ballets that have been forgotten: the Pharaoh’s Daughter, Harlequinade, Les Saisons, and Le Daible Amoureux/Satanella (most noted for the Carnival de Venice Pas de deux). Regarldess, ballets become irrelevant, and forgotten about, maybe snippets and excerpts survive. Then there is Raymonda… Raymonda is the gigantic beast of a ballet. Longer than the full length Sleeping Beauty, the full length Raymonda consists of 3 acts and 4 scenes, and apotheosis. No wonder why it died, who could sit through all of that? Not to mention, that it kills the ballerina… She has four/five variations, depending on the production. No only does she have an absurd task of carrying an entire ballet, but her plethora of variations are some of the most difficult variations ever.

In Act 1, she has two variations. The first is the pizzicato variation which is light, charming but still rather difficult with all of the hops on pointe. Then in the same act she is challenged with the vision variation involving a long piece of fabric.

Then in Act 2 she has the pas d’action variation she has to conquer the “big” variation. This is the adagio variation that many girls use for competition because of the control a ballerina has to have. Seriously… if you don’t know what I am talking about go watch it via youtube. She then has another variation in the later scene of the act that has a bunch of dazzling turns, and a punch of entrechatquatres on pointe… Yeah, if that wasn’t enough…

Then in Act 3 she has her clapping variation, which kind of requires the ballerina to have good feet. The variation mainly consists of bourres and some feisty passes, but I mean after all of that dancing what else can you do on pointe…  Yeah it is kind of insane.

The variations are difficult enough, but there is quite a bit of dancing for the other leads as well. Raymonda is like this huge hodge podge of everything in classical ballet. Most people really only the pas de dix, or the Balanchine version that uses the same music for a corps and one couple. And thank god, there is are so many character dances. I have never seen it full length but own two different DVD versions, and every time I try to sit down and watch it all the way through… I fall asleep.

So, what is so special about Raymonda, and why do young girls still do the variations on the international competition stage? Well, I am glad you asked… Well, you didn’t… But I think what makes these variations special is that they are a part of a bigger picture.  As Swan Lake challenges the ballerina to be dynamic in two ways, Raymonda challenges the ballerina in five ways. Additionally, each variation is quite challenging, not because there are 5, but because each variation is exceptionally long compared to most variations. In the 3rd act variation, Raymonda now has a sense of maturity, authority and because the majority of the variation is bourres the ballerina has to be enchanting. In the big variation of act 2, the ballerina has to posses a weightless quality that is effortless and charming. Not to mention we all want to see leg up!

Also, in the supporting role of Henriette, 3 masterful variations are presented as well. In act one a long difficult and delicate variation is presented. In act 2, a sultry and provocative variation is delivered. And finally, in the third a playful spritely variation is executed.

Redlands Dance Theatre

Hello Readers, Fans, Haters and General Public…

I appreciate all of the support I have gotten from you all. And now, I am here to ask a small favor of you. I am in the process of opening up a ballet company and school in the Inland Empire, where I live… And I need your help… We all know ballet is expensive, and that ballet companies have a huge turn over, but I believe I truly do know ballet, and understand the world of ballet today. I think a lot of you would agree with me since you are following my blog… Regardless, if you could please share the information below on your social media, e-mail blasting your contacts, and so forth, I would greatly and humbly appreciate it.

Redlands Dance Theatre is a ballet school and company that is going to be opened by David King. If you are interested in supporting this ballet company and school please check out our campaign and website!

Currently, we hold our non profit EIN, and in the process/waiting for our 501(c)(3)

http://www.gofundme.com/e69zbk

www.RedlandsDanceTheatre.org

Thank you again for all of the love,

David King

The Ballet that Inspired Innovation… Serenade

There is a ballet, a ballet that replaced the dramatic downfalls of the heroines of Petipa. A ballet that stole Swan Lake’s lighting, and the romantic tutus from Giselle, set to the most perfect score,and  created by the genius of Balanchine, he named it: SERENADE. The house lights fade into blackness, and the grandiose score of strings play. If the music wasn’t inspiring enough, the curtain fades away and reveals the iconic classic Balanchine women. As each generation has added to their own take like any good ballet leaves room for speed, extension, turns, musicality, one thing has not changed. Innovation.

I recognize that Serenade has now been replaced by Jewels and Symphony in C. Those ballets showcase the entire company, including the men. Serenade showcases the women, dazzling women. Seventeen women that are not restricted by corsets, that aren’t dictated by story lines and dramatic downfalls. As Serenade is enriched with stories of success, and myths behind the movements and is standard of the romantic Balanchine Ballets, no one ever discusses the power of innovation behind it that has inspired millions of dancers. As the famous quote goes: Ballet is woman; Serenade truly exudes the power and identity of women working together to achieve something.

Serenade is basically the feminist of ballet. As men don’t play a major role, and there is no need for saving, Serenade embraces the power of women who can move to music. As Serenade has uplifted women since the NYCB revival, it is ironic that there aren’t that many Artistic Directors who are women… #justsaying

Anytime Serenade is on a playbill near me, I have to go see it. Every time I discover something new. Recently, I saw Los Angeles Ballet do it, and even though there wasn’t a live symphony, the power in the first note took me back through a million memories, and a dozen performances, and a handful of personal performances. Watching the women of Los Angeles Ballet was captivating, and truthfully… It made me fall back in love with ballet. Shortly after that performance, I started this blog.

Finally, I believe it is ballets job, well the job of any art form to reflect society, humanity, and rise above life itself… claiming an immortality that will last forever… Serenade has done that over the past 10 years. Serenade has truly has made a place next to Giselle, the Nutcracker, and the Sleeping Beauty.

Company Profile: Oregon Ballet Theatre

Company Profile: Oregon Ballet Theatre

Oregon Ballet Theatre (OBT) http://www.obt.org/

Location: Portland, Oregon

Artistic Director: Kevin Irving

Current Season: 4 bills

Theatre Residence: None, but performs at Keller Auditorium

Dancers Hired: 21

Budget: 5,203,151* based of the 2013 tax audit.

Affiliated School: School of OBT

Annual Tuition: $5,015, pre-professionals get half scholarships, apprentices get full scholarships.

Summer Program: Yes, not a lot of info on their site, check the summer program page: http://www.obt.org/school/summer_intensive.html

Celebrating their 25th season, OBT was originally founded by James Canfield. Who was actually known for his choreography, and was a former dancer with Joffrey. In 2003, it was handed to Christopher Stowell. (If you didn’t know who he was, he is the son of PNB’s founders: Kent Stowell and Francia Russell.) Then in the season 2013-2014 season it is taken over by Kevin Irving, who is now in is sophomore year there.

OBT has constantly gone through a lot of different phases. At it’s origins it was more on the contemporary side. The second phase under Christopher Stowell, was probably the peak of OBT. Staging of full length ballets, and acquiring numerous Balanchine rights, OBT flourished. Now, under their new director the question remains: What will happen to OBT? With the new director’s background in modern, will OBT now transition into a newer, more modern phase? OBT had a huge financial set back between 2012 and 2013, losing almost a million dollars in funding. Hoping to regain momentum, OBT’s building is quite new and quite gorgeous. (I have taken open class there numerous times, as my family spent part of their summer in Oregon. My brother, who now attends uni there, has caused me to think I will be seeing more of OBT.)

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So many ballet companies miss the mark when it comes to PR and marketing but OBT has some of the best PR campaigns I have ever seen for a ballet company. Also, their website is gorgeously put together, minus their header image with a pierced ear… of all the photos to use as the first image we see… it is of a dancer’s upper back glistening in sweat and pierced ear.

Truthfully, I have never seen OBT dance. Even when they performed 20 minutes away from my house, and having three friends in the company, I decided not go. Hopefully, this will change. And I hope more people consider them to be a formidable company, and not just the smaller version of PNB. 

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The Beast that is the Nutcracker…

In the repertory of classical ballets, there is one ballet that trumps them all. It isn’t number one because of the physical demands, and it is definitely not number one because of artistic merit. In fact, this ballet probably is the most unartistic for any artist. It is probably the most recognized of score of any ballet music, from variations, to even the prologue, everyone knows it. It is the beast: THE NUTCRACKER.

It is no secret that most ballet companies make money twice a year. The first is by offering summer programs from June-August. The second comes in December and seats are sold out for their annual productions of the Nutcracker. For the majority of companies, the Nutcracker runs seamless. Everyone already knows all the parts, they are just waiting for the casting. Lighting, and costuming is already done for the most part, and just rely on tweaking things here and there. For marketing and PR, it is the best time to host fundraisers since everyone is in that holiday spirit of donating money. And for the audiences, it is that timeless, almost boring tradition, that doesn’t go away.

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PNB’s infamous Peacock. I probably prefer this variation more than the Balanchine one.

 

For most young aspiring dancers, the Nutcracker was the first ballet parents ever took us to.  Whether it was on VHS, directly talking about the Baryshnikov and Kirkland version, or PNB’s collaboration with Maurice Sendak. Or, the NYCB version featuring Macauly Culkin and Darci Kistler. So, for the majority of our young lives we prayed that one day we would get to dance in the Nutcracker. And then it happens… You get cast in your school’s version of the Nutcracker. You start as a child in Mother Ginger and party scene. You pray that you get picked to be Clara/Marie, and maybe you do. Then, you start to get smaller supporting roles, and finally you are in the corps of flowers and snow. By 13, you are dancing Marzipan/Mirlitons, and by 15 you are maybe Dew Drop. Next thing you know you are at a professional ballet school, and you never get to dance in Nutcracker again. Until, one day you are lucky enough to land yourself a company contract.

Five years later, after dancing professionally, you hear the music at department stores and cringe. Now you dread Nutcracker. It is the most boring of the ballets, and you dance it time and time again. If you are still a corps member you already know that you will be a party parent and in the same show you will have to dance in both snow and flowers. You hear the same corrections in flowers, “Bend more!” or “Watch your spacing.” In snow you already know that you need to move a little quicker than the music, and you watch the new apprentices and corps members struggle to keep up. Yup, it is that holiday tradition of being in a ballet company that brings dancers together. 

So, what is it about this ballet that is so charismatic and is performed every season?

hong kong ballet waltz of the flowers

5 reasons why the Nutcracker will never go away…

  1. Curse you Tchaikovsky! The score of Nutcracker is close to flawless in terms of musical genius. All of the music is relatable, catchy, and keeps the audience entertained. 
  2. It is magical, and is every little girl’s dream. Because it is the first ballet we ever see, it becomes engrained in us. It sparks the hope of millions of little girls to become ballet dancers.
  3. It is short and sweet. The shortest of the classical ballets, where the story is compressed into the first act and the second act is purely about the dancing. It is probably the only ballet your dad can sit through. Most little girls can’t sit through all of Swan Lake, or even get through act I without having to use the bathroom, get bored, or fall asleep.
  4. The test of a dancer. Dancers I think are tested a lot in the Nutcracker. Because you have so many performances, there are a lot more casting opportunities. If in a run of a regular program there may be only two or three casts. During Nutcracker, there are at least five casts, if not more. This gives the Artistic Director a chance to play around with their dancers. For an artistic director who wants to see something more dark and mysterious from a dancer, he will cast her in Arabian/Coffee. If they want to test a dancer’s stamina they put her Dew Drop. And if they want to see maturity, and ability they cast in her Sugar Plum. 
  5. It makes money! If it wasn’t for the Nutcracker, dancers wouldn’t have jobs for an entire season. So, we suck it up so we can dance all year round. 

Company Profile: THe Joffrey Ballet

Company Profile: The Joffrey Ballet

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Joffrey Ballet (click here)

Location: Chicago, IL and to be exact, the Joffrey Tower
10 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601

Artistic Director: Ashley C. Wheater

Style: Classical with a contemporary twist 

Affiliated School: The Joffrey Academy of Dance

Annual Tuition for a trainee: When e-mailed I didn’t get a response but I am guessing it is somewhere between $8-10,000 a year for the pre-professional division. The link is the PDF of requirements for the pre professional division for the 2014-2015 school year. (http://www.joffrey.org/sites/default/files/filefield/field_file/program/119/pre-professionaldivision2014-15schedule81914.pdf) 

Summer Program: They offer over six different programs across the US. (Money making programs, in my opinion.)

Theatre Residence: Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL

Current Season: 5 programs, and additional performances. Tour dates are unannounced.

Dancers Hired: 37

Founded in New York by masters Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey in 1965, the Joffrey Ballet was born. The company relocated to their now permanent home in Chicago in 1995. As Joffrey makes more appearances, and is referenced to in pop culture quite frequently, the ballet company has struggled tremendously. Despite the struggles of any ballet company the Joffrey ballet has made major contributions to the ballet world. The biggest is probably the 1995 reconstruction of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Another unique quality is that the company really doesn’t have assigned ranks which allows the Artistic Director to be free about casting. Yes, senior company members have built names for themselves, but the dancers at Joffrey are truly unique. 

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First Joffrey has the stunning Fabrice Calmels, if you don’t know him, he is a giant standing at 6’6”. Trained are Paris Opera, and a unique resume on top of his training, he definitely stood out when I saw him in Apollo. GORGEOUS. His height and body proportions are beyond gorgeous, and his movement quality lives up to his height. With a unique contemporary take on ballet, he is definitely a jewel of the Joffrey Ballet.

Joffrey also employs Australian Aaron Smyth who made his appearances on the competition circuit in 2012-2013. This landed him a spot at JKO, then ABT II, and then joined the Royal Ballet. Since he is a younger dancer, we have a lot to look forward too.

Kara Zimmerman, formerly with PNB and Cincinnati, Joffrey really does use her well, and has helped develop her to her full potential.

Finally, basically one of their Prima’s Victoria Jaiani, she graced the cover of Dance Magazine back in 2010. With an arabesque for days, and artistry that moves the audience time and time again. She has definitely matured with the company and has truly made herself a name in Chicago, and in the dance world.

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Dancers I think that would do well at Joffrey? Auditioning for companies, or summer programs with the hopes to go year round and work your way up? I believe that dancers who would do well at the Joffrey must already have a strong background in technique. It isn’t like a school like Boston Ballet or San Francisco that gives you technique. Joffrey is more about strengthening your technique and emphasizing a certain approach to your dancing. Dancers that I think do well there are tall, athletic, and most of all flexible. With the diverse repertory Joffrey offers, potential future hires have to have versatile bodies. This allows more forgiveness in body type, meaning there isn’t a preconceived notion to the perfect ballet body type. Their company has a variety of heights, and a variety of body types. Because there really isn’t clear rankings it also allows for a more fair shot in casting. I’m not saying it is completely fair, it never is. 

And just because he is so attractive, and he is beyond talented… and is 6’6″ of muscle… 

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Baby Ballerinas, and the costs of being one.

This one is for all of the parents who has a child starting out in ballet. (I have gotten a lot of e-mails asking a lot of really good questions, and I have been trying to individually reply but it has gotten to be too much. I am going to try lumping it all into one post, kind of.) So, your child is in ballet, and you don’t want to go all dance moms on your kid, or be that stage mom at the studio. Here is some advice, so you don’t overwhelm school owners, teachers, and your child. This is all my opinion once again, so here we go.

For children under the age of 5, there really is no reason to have your child in ballet class everyday. There is also no reason to have your child in private lessons unless your child has scoliosis or flat feet. Then private attention is needed, and you might want to consult with doctors for orthotics to help correct, and prevent long term problems. In addition, you should let your child do jazz, tap and hip hop for fun. Jazz teaches a young dancer tenacity, aka Tiler Peck is a good example. Hip hop teaches a dancer to be daring and good at free styling. Tap teaches a kid how to understand music, and the process of building and deconstructing music. This is also good because they will stretch a lot more, and flexibility in the back, hips and legs matters in the long run. There isn’t really a reason to have your kid in competition at that young of an age, unless you are in it for the fun of it all. With that being said, competition is expensive and you have be prepared to pay for all of that. More importantly, if your child wants to be a ballet dancer, it might just be more expensive than college… Well it is, and this is why.

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Children between 6-9 should be in ballet class at least once a day. This isn’t because we are crazy, it is about discipline, and the start of muscle memory and the shaping of the muscles. Children are growing like crazy and need sleep, so it isn’t smart to have to them in hour and half classes. One hour a day three-five days a week is a great start. They have to build an entire ballet vocabulary, know the etiquette of a ballet class, and most importantly they have to thrive in the environment. Discipline is built, and this is when you see kids really starting to excel. (Wait for it, the money hasn’t really started yet. So before you go out and buy your child a million cute leotards, and a pay for expensive dance bags… Wait.)

First Position's Aran Bell, now with ABT Studio Company at CPYB.
First Position’s Aran Bell, now with ABT Studio Company at CPYB with Ashley Miller.

Then, from the ages of 10-13 the real journey begins. Pointe shoes are introduced. And your child should be dancing at least four days a week in an hour and half class a day. On top of that, they should be training either in pre pointe or pointe at least twice a week. They should be cross training in yoga, pilates, and constantly stretching. If you don’t know a lot about pointe here it goes. Pointe shoes (Freed Classics) run about $70.00 a pair. Your child will probably go through a pair every month, maybe not at first, but it will start. This is when teachers will start to find and nit pick at your child and this is when private lessons are a good thing. Because starting now your child should be going away for summers. Yup, you should be sending your kid off to a summer program every summer, this means they will be gone between 4-7 weeks. What does this mean? Money. First auditions run between $25-35 dollars class.

Rachel Neville Photography, click the image to read her guide to audition photos. She is one of the best audition photographers based in NYC and beautifully elaborates on photos.
Rachel Neville Photography, click the image to read her guide to audition photos. She is one of the best audition photographers based in NYC and beautifully elaborates on photos.

Most kids audition between 4-8 places a season. Just like college, you have your first picks, back ups, and safety nets, of course hoping for scholarships. Audition photos will run you anywhere between 3-6 hundred dollars depending on where you are at, and who is taking the photo. Don’t be cheap, because a photo can make or break an acceptance, and can help get a scholarship. Teachers who are holding the auditions will see thousands of kids a season, and it isn’t till they are back at their office looking at audition pictures, waiting for that picture to remind them and think, “Oh that is the girl with the pretty feet from Atlanta.” Yup, so now your child has gotten into a summer program and it will cost you anywhere between 5-10k depending on the program, traveling expenses etc. 

So, lets do some math… Lowballing it, it will take you about $8,000 a summer to send your kid away. (That is including leotards, pointe shoes, tights, traveling expenses etc.) If your kid goes to a summer program at 12 or 13 and you are expected to go away every summer till 18, you are no looking at about $56,000 in just summer expenses. This isn’t including year round tuition, leotards, and pointe shoes for during the year. We aren’t done…

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Students and San Francisco Ballet School, photo by Erik Tomasson. Click the image above to visit SFB’s site.

From the ages of 15-18, your child should be at a pre-professional school attached or school associated with company. So, your home studio’s tuition was low, now multiply that by 4, and add room and board. Oh no, we are so not done. Now that your child is a pre-professional school, she will probably be going through pointe shoes a pair a week. Then, you now have to start saving for company auditions. Company auditions vary in price, most are free. But, the problem is getting to these companies. You can do the normal cattle calls in NYC, which you need pictures for, but the big expense will be traveling expenses (flights, hotel rooms, etc). Most companies only hold auditions in two or three cities outside of their own, unlike summer programs. This means your child will get to see the US and the World just by auditioning. 

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Daniela Aldrich, CPYB and SAB Alumna in George Balanchine’s the Nutcracker. Click the image above to go hear Daniela’s Story with Balancing Pointe or download the podcast.

This is also in the best case scenario that your child doesn’t need extra privates, your child gets injured and has to see a specialist, or they are having chronic pains and have to see a PT. 

Now, your kid is 18, but we still are done…

Most 18-20 year olds don’t even land full company contracts. Maybe paid apprenticeships, or small stipend second company jobs. For the next two years their income money will fluctuate and might still need help with bills. Since they aren’t in a school, dorms are usually not an option so you are looking at rent, utilities etc. And, well, we still aren’t done. This scenario, which was the normal scenario for a long time is changing, because more and more kids are making appearances at the YAGP and other international competitions. (See my guide to ballet competitions here.)

National Ballet of Canada's YOU Dance Apprentices . Miyoko Koyasu. Trygve Cumpston. Photos by Sian Richards.
National Ballet of Canada’s YOU Dance Apprentices . Miyoko Koyasu. Trygve Cumpston. Photos by Sian Richards. (Click Image above to got NBS)

So, before you go out and buy your child the most expensive dance bag, and tons of crazy leotards, thing of the long run, just in case. The plus side is, if your child is talented, and doesn’t get a job, he or she will easily get a scholarship to go to a dance college. Downside, ballet is extremely expensive in the US since it is not state supported, but this gives every dancer a fair shot at becoming a dancer, if money permits it. The opposing argument is that in most countries you only become a dancer if you are selected based off of body type.

These are the financial costs of ballet, this isn’t just the emotional, physical or mental costs of ballet. The stakes are high there too. And none of this guarantees your son or daughter a job in ballet. Unfortunately, no one is ever guaranteed anything in life, but there are ways to give your child a fighting chance in ballet.

Create a safe and healthy environment at home. This means finding the balance between ballet and “real life.” Dance isn’t everything and for most it will be a short lived career, so making friends, going to prom and seeing a movie is important. Additionally, the balance between rest, dance, and school is just as important.

Give your child the best education possible. This means finding the best schools in your area, even if that means you have to commute a little longer. Start saving in advance, just in case, and if your child doesn’t go to a summer program, you now have vacation money. 

Be educated, don’t be overbearing. It is more important for you to understand ballet than watch your child’s every move in class. Ballet technique is based on a slow process, that happens everyday, little by little. It isn’t like one private later they will have 32 double fouettés. Education will also help you have conversations with your child about ballet. For example companies, body types, natural facility, and possible careers. Just because VOGUE pushes SAB doesn’t mean everyone is meant to go to SAB. 

Students at Walnut Hill, click the image above to visit their school's site.
Students at Walnut Hill, click the image above to visit their school’s site.

Exposure. Making sure your child sees good ballet is important. Yes, youtube is great, but going to a ballet performance is even better. Videos highlight principals not the entire cast. Kids should see an entire company, so they understand all of the different parts of a company. Not everyone is going to be a prima… (article here)

Loving it. What makes or breaks a dancer in the adolescent years, if that phase isn’t awkward enough, imagine living through it in tights and leotard… Bodies change, mentalities change, and they will either fall deeply in love with ballet, or they will do it for the sake of doing it. It is most important to remind your child that if they don’t love it, they shouldn’t do it. Also, if they just love ballet but don’t want to become ballet dancers, then maybe it isn’t necessary to push your child to go to PNB or Royal Ballet School.

Finally, my last advice to all parents: GIVE YOUR KIDS A FIGHTING A CHANCE! So many dancers don’t end up becoming professionals because the lack of training, and the lack of support at home. Ballet takes 130% commitment, and if your child is willing to do all that, plus their chores, homework and family duties, then let your child have a chance in ballet. Find the best schools, the best teachers, and find a way to make it happen for your child. Drive the extra 30 minutes to the better school, talk to your child’s regular school to see if they can get out of PE since they are dancing 20+ hours a day, and if they can’t, get a doctor to sign a note saying they aren’t allowed to run… Fight for your child. They only get one body, so you have to do everything you can to protect it. Also yes, costs are high, but if your child is talented, there is always someway to work something out with a school to find a way for your child to dance.  

The Rise of the Asians…

Jeong Hansol

The Rise of Asians… well specifically South Korea… As the 2014 USA IBC medalists were announced, it seemed that Korea, again… made a strong appearance. Taking the senior men’s gold, silver, women’s bronze, and senior couple award, you may wonder where are they all coming from? Last year at VARNA, South Korea swept the top prizes as well… And you are like… what are they feeding them in Korea, besides rice?

So, ballet is relatively new in South Korea, and it seems they are always at major international ballet competitions with multiple entries. Here is why, particularly for men… In South Korea, like other countries, but I am not aware of other countries standards… Every male has to serve two years in the army upon completion of their lower education, somewhere between 17-20. So, if you are a ballet dancer, those are some prime years… The only way for a Korean male to not serve is to win a gold or silver medal at an international ballet competition, which means they have to be super talented, super dedicated, and super diligent. I am not sure if other countries like Israel, I know they require EVERYONE to serve, has exceptions… If anyone knows… that would be cool.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about Korean Pride, and that whole sha-bang, but the reality is they are literally competing for their careers, their lives, etc. A boy dedicating his whole life to ballet will be forced to stop, wear boots and stomp around for two years if he doesn’t win a competition. (I am not saying let them win every competition, but I am saying it is nice to see that these men will have futures in ballet.)

somewhere around 6:30 she talks about it, but the whole video is interesting.

Tu-two or three-three… size does matter?

It is about the quality of movement… It is about what you can bring to the company and how you fit in as an artist…

That is just some of the bull shit that you might hear an artistic director spew while he makes a speech before giving an audition class. Reality check, it is about the body, as ballet is art with your body. I wish more directors would just own up to it and say, “This is exactly what I am looking for… (insert requirements).”

Now, if you think this post is going to be about being fat or thin, your quite wrong. In fact this is just a comparison of male body types in ballet and how they have changed through out the decades… kind of.

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Nijinsky. 5’5″

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Jacques d’Amboise, 5’9″

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Baryshnikov, 5’6″

Peter Martins 6’2″

Roberto Bolle 6’1″

What did all of these men have in common? Besides that they are all leading men? Charisma and solid technique. I could have listed any such length of men, but unfortunately time is against me today. I have a date this evening. Now, with this being said, you have to have a leading man for a leading lady. It is a common misconception about the height requirement in ballet because companies varies. ABT is known for the extremely short corps, the average being around 5’4″, while NYCB corps varies because of the repertory being so vast. The same for the women of Paris Opera, and the Bolshoi. (It’s funny because I work in fashion now and the body type requirement is a lot stricter than ballet…) I think the most important thing when it comes to body types this is what is looked at… male or female:

Body Proportion… and no I am not talking about the ridiculous proportions of Bolshoi, or the craziness that is talked about the Balanchine body type… I am just saying, tight waist, long legs, pretty neckline. More important than height and proportion though are hyper extended legs, feet that beautifully arched, hyper mobile backs, turned out hips, and charisma.

I recently saw a video of a male dancer from National Ballet of Cuba, and not only does he have beautiful legs, and is ridiculously flexible, or the fact that he can do amazing tricks…. He was so charismatic… His version of the Don Q variation was so playful, so youthful, and slightly cocky… A very good Basilio…

With that being said, I do think that male body type in ballet has drastically changed. What was once the classic strong V, with thick thighs look has now thinned out and has made way for the thinner men now. Roberto Bolle’s body is like… yummy times ten, but Daniil Simkin, Taras Dimitro, now older Ethan Stiefal, and looking back at Jose Martinez and Mannuel Legris from POB. You might all murder me, and send me more hateful messages, but at this pointe (haha pun intended) I could careless.