It isn’t a surprise that ABT has been campaigning hard for their 75th anniversary… but for Pointe magazine to have back to back ABT covers…. kind of fishy… I love Skyler Brandt… I LOOOOVE HEE SEO and Isabella Boylston… but to put Sarah Lane on the cover? #joke I swear to baby jesus that if Sarah Lane is promoted before Misty Copeland… actually if she is promoted at all… There will be some words. Now, I am not the only person in the ballet world who doesn’t believe in being politically correct…
Tsiskaridze has opened his mouth too… click here to read the article … I also actually agree with him… I don’t believe that “Balanchine” dancers are ballet dancers. They are neo classical ballet dancers with amazing technique. If we want to talk about REALLY CLASSICAL BALLET.. Russians and the French win. Duh. Royal Ballet dancers aren’t my cup of tea either, but I will say they are ferocious in their own way… But hands down the Russians and French… No argument. #justsayin
This week we said goodbye to Paloma Herrera and Xiomara Reyes at ABT… which means there will be a lot of new hires and promotions at ABT… #justsayin #goodstuff #teamasian
I wouldn’t be surprised if Misty is promoted after her Swan Lake performance at the Met. #campaigninghard Especially since they are hiring guest artists for the season… #fail. These disappointing things were the reason I started this blog… I read my first blog post today, and it has almost been a year since I created this blog, time flies. Nothing has changed, how frustrating.
After all the years of training you put in, becoming a professional dancer didn’t work out, and now you have no idea what to do. Living in a cardboard box doesn’t sound like an attractive option…nor does living with your parents for 10 more years…Perhaps injury ended your career prematurely, you just couldn’t find a job, or you realized that as much as you love ballet, you really can’t stand repeating the same 10 seconds of a ballet over and over throughout hours of rehearsal every day. However, if you had your sights set on becoming a ballet dancer, coming to the realizing that your dream career isn’t going to work out can be devastating. So what now? There are many career paths that will allow you to remain in the dance world and use your dance experience without being a dancer in a professional company.
Dancers are disciplined, intelligent, driven, and know how to make a commitment. Plus, being able to smile and look happy while dancing in pointe shoes with toes covered in blisters has its benefits in the outside world: your boss will never know how much you really hate writing those TPS reports (though after you’ve smiled through your fair share of grunt work, be sure to fight for that promotion you deserve!). You also know how to work on a team: after all the hours of going into excruciating detail during corps work in Swan Lake while your teacher screams at you, working on a team project is a piece of cake! And speaking of cake, you now can also have that extra slice without worrying so much about how you’d look in that hideous unitard you might otherwise be wearing in your next performance.
Nevertheless, ballet is a big part of your life and you’re not ready to let it go completely. Good news is you don’t have to! Most of these alternate career options will require a degree (or two…or three) or perhaps some specialized training, but fear not; the time and dedication you put into your ballet training is proof that you have what it takes to succeed in just about any career. Here are five (and a bonus list) of the multitudes of other career options you might consider:
1. Physical Therapist Let’s be real – all dancers end up in physical therapy at some point or another. Having a physical therapist who does not know a plié from a tendu is about as fun as trying to explain to your non-dancer friends that no, you really cannot miss rehearsal “just this one time” to go to the beach. Dancers will flock to a physical therapist with a dance background as they are hard to come by. Helping other dancers to recover from their injuries could be very satisfying, and the training you will receive in physical therapy school will also help you to deal with your own injuries whenever they arise. Plus, you will ace your anatomy classes, even if you’ve never taken one before. How many other types of people can tell you where the psoas is before hearing about it in an anatomy class? From my experience, not a whole lot.
For those who aren’t opposed to completing many more years of schooling, perhaps a career as an orthopedic surgeon is an option. Every dancer’s worst fear when it comes to surgery is that he or she won’t be able to dance again. Naturally this field is highly specialized and probably isn’t for most, but former dancers who do become surgeons could become highly regarded in this field.
2. Pilates Teacher Now that we’re done discussing the scary stuff (surgery = yikes!), let’s get back to something we’re more familiar with. Love it or hate it, cross training is essential for injury prevention. Ballet dancers already have an acute sense of awareness when it comes to their bodies, and a pilates teacher who already has this awareness will be able to better meet the needs of his or her students. Chances are you’ve already taken 203942038 pilates classes or thereabouts in your lifetime, so getting your certification shouldn’t be too frightening of a prospect. Yoga is another option too.
While you may now be allowed to have that extra piece of cake, most professional dancers have to be much more wary of what they eat. As you no doubt know, in order to keep your body healthy and functioning at peak physical condition, nutrition is key. For those who already like to eat as healthily as they can, this may seem like an attractive career option. For those who wanted to hide in the back during nutrition class at summer programs, perhaps this idea sounds about as fun as repeating a long adage in the center. In that case, let’s just move on to the next idea…
4. Lighting, Costume, or Set Designer Jobs that help dancers lead injury-free and healthy lives are great and all, but what you really may be looking for is a way to still be involved in the performance aspect of ballet. Lighting, costumes, and sets are what help to bring a ballet to life. Creating a magical stage environment would simply not be possible without the work of these creative individuals. You already know what does and doesn’t look good on the stage, so you’d be a natural at this!
5. Choreographer or Dance Teacher These are the most obvious choices for a dancer who has to leave the stage but is not ready to leave the studio. As dancers we have a vast amount of experience with choreographers and teachers, and likely know what we do and don’t like from each. Many dancers choose one or both of these options after retiring from performing, but there’s no reason why these jobs should be reserved only for retired professional dancers. These jobs may not be able to provide full-time work though, so perhaps these options could be a part-time supplement to another full-time job.
Lastly, a bonus list (which by no means includes the rest of your options):
Dancewear or shoe designer
Business management or marketing work for your favorite company
If none of these sound good to you, then another option is to choose a career which is unrelated to the dance world but will provide you with the financial means and free time to enjoy as much dance as you want! In my case, I got an engineering degree (undergrad only) and was able to get a job at a large aerospace corporation in a city with ample dance opportunities. Engineering sounds terrifying, but I’ll let you in on a secret: Ballet is WAY more difficult! My engineering job allows me to have the financial stability and time to take as many classes as I want (whenever injuries don’t prevent me from doing so) and attend professional ballet performances on a regular basis. I know several other pre-professionally trained dancers who did the same thing and are also happy with their decision. Not everyone is math and science oriented, but if you are then perhaps engineering could be a good option for you too. Most engineers are left-brained and logical, but as a dancer you also have an artistic and creative element which can make you stand out. Plus, who knows – maybe you could be the one to come up with a new and revolutionary long-lasting pointe shoe! (One that doesn’t look like a Gaynor…#justsayin)
Each person is different and has his or her own skills and interests, but there is still a bright future for everyone whose dancing dreams didn’t come true in the way they’d hoped. It will take time and effort, but when you think about all the hard work you’ve put in while training as a ballet dancer, it’s tough to think of something that could be more difficult than what you’ve already accomplished. The end of your professional dancing days, even if they never begun, is not really an end, but rather the start of a new dream.
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)
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
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):
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):
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.
1. A dancer who is overly intense about ballet, to the point where it might be unhealthy. Maureen is a bunhead, Eva is not.
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. Ovenmitt 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.
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.
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.
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…
yes, I would like to publish a book…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
So, what is the secret to getting through a summer program audition?
easy answer: be good.
If you are thinking, “WTF?” Then you probably aren’t ready for a summer program. Sorry not sorry? Just kidding. But, on a more serious note, you do have to be technically sound for your age. As directors leading auditions, they do take in to consideration: body type, technical ability, work ethic, musicality which unfortunately out weighs potential and love of ballet.
So, if you are ready to audition for a summer program here are some tips:
1. Make sure you do exactly what they ask with port de bras. This includes the preparation. Just because at your school they do a different one, and it is probably engrained into your body, it doesn’t matter. You have to do exactly what they ask. Listen to key words while the teacher is giving the combination; like accent, slice, long, expand. These are qualities, subtle nuances and tips they are basically feeding you. This is what they are looking for.
2. Your audition class is not a warm up. Make sure you get there early enough to stretch, warm up, and basically do a little barre work prior to the audition. Yes, as barre during training is used to warm up and get on your leg… Audition classes are far from that. And as much as people say to just try your best, and relax, the pressure is immense. When auditions say this is just another class, they are basically lying to you because this class will determine whether or not you get in, and get a scholarship…
3. Presentation is everything. I am not talking about port de bras. I’m not talking about musicality, I am talking about what you are wearing. Find a leotard that is super flattering, make sure your tights don’t have holes, and clean up your ballet shoes. Make sure your hair is performance quality, and a little make up wouldn’t hurt either.
4. Don’t over do it. Don’t be one of this kids in the audition who “feels” the music, and is giving us swan lake realness, or Giselle drama in class… This is dancing, not acting. There is nothing worse than an affected dancer. Directors want to see clean technique so they can mold you into what they want. You have to be pliable both physically, mentally and musically.
5. Don’t starve yourself before an audition. It doesn’t help you. Make sure the night before, or the morning before you get enough protein, and prior to the class make sure you have taken enough carbs in to get you through the class at 110%.
6. Try not to compare yourself. I mean, everyone sizes up the competition in the room, but just because she has leg up during warm up, doesn’t mean she has clean technique. Or if you see a girl obsessively stretching her feet, when she has beautiful feet, she might just only have… Beautiful feet. And definitely ignore the girl wearing the white leotard when the audition clearly asked for black leotard.
7. The most important thing in an audition is to become unforgettable. In a good way. You want to make a great impression on whoever is judging the class. For example, if they give you a correction, don’t just stand there and nod, actually do the correction a few times to show you are getting it into your body. My thing was always in plies, to look supper effortless, and that moment right before you grand plie, looking the director right in the eyes slightly smiling. Tendus, well I don’t have Alessandra Ferri feet, so I would just try to do exactly what they asked. Whether it be over articulation of the foot, precise accents, over crossed, lifting to come in, the list goes on, but basically trying to do exactly what they were looking for. Then I would try to make an impression during frappes but being super precise and trying to leave the “strike” out there as long as possible. Tendus at center was another chance to make an impression because you can be super musical and elongated. Adagio was always a plus for me as a boy since leg up was easier than turning. Pirouettes I would stick to a clean triple. Definitely was not one of the boys cranking out a million turns. Then petit allegro would be another chance for me to make an impression by being super exact, hitting tight fifths every time, and then beating absurdly. Grand allegro was not my thing either, so I tried my best, and double tours, well, needless to say I would try to make them as clean as possible.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(So, after going a month without publishing a blog post, and watching how the month of November would shape up in terms of readers, a lot of people asked me to talk about body types… In specific the female body type.)
Here we go, another fun five facts about ballet: 5 misconceptions about the women in ballet.
With iconic movies like Center Stage and Black Swan, it seems that when it comes to ballet dancers, the world associates it eating disorders. Sure, as flattering as that may be, associating ballet with skinny… Well, lets just look at the reality of ballet…
1. Anorexia and Bulimia… the eating disorders. Myth. Whoever just eats a salad all day and has to dance a three act ballet must have magical muscles or some sh!t because, a salad would barely get me through rehearsal, yet alone a performance. Most professional ballet dancers are far from anorexic, they can’t be. With the amount of energy burned while dancing, if they didn’t eat… they would end up dead in the middle of a ballet performance. Now, if we are talking about students… that is a different story. It is hard for any child, male or female to be in ballet. And somewhere around age 11, everything start to build up. From ages 11-14 you are told that this is your moment to make it into a professional school. With the pressure and anxiety of parents, and teachers pushing girls into the workforce so young, bulimia becomes a way to control something… I mean their careers aren’t in their hands. In addition, their bodies are changing and when they were constantly told that is just baby fat, and it doesn’t go away… and then chests develop… well, young impressionable girls take it to the extreme… and boys for that matter. Eventually, as puberty ends, and adult bodies begin to take shape, more dancers get a control of their body and understand what foods work and don’t work for them. What makes them feel bloated and what makes them feel good and energetic. Also the reality is, dancers have to be in top condition, which means they have to have extreme muscle toning. Asking your leg to go up super high and hold it in a la second is hard, but doing that while hungry and while your muscles are deprived from the proper nutrients… good luck…
2. Ballet dancers are tall. kind of a myth. Most female ballet dancers are between 5’3″ and 5’5″, and if you dance for NYCB or older PNB… then you might be 5″7-5’9″… the majority of ballet dancers both male and female are on the shorter side. It is why tall men are celebrated, because that means tall women can be employed. What makes ballet dancers look so tall is he ability to isometrically move, and moving on the diagonal. It is like that optical illusion with a diagonal line and a horizontal line the exact same length, but asking which one is longer. It is why balanchine over crossed for the sake of aesthetic, and why efface is so flattering in arabesque. Probably why students aren’t allowed to have pictures on the diagonal.
3. Ballet girls are stuck up prudes… maybe a myth. I don’t know about you, but this idea that all ballet dancers are these wholesome ethereal creatures… I don’t know what summer programs you went to, or what year round schools you went to… buuuuut give a ballet girl the chance to get turnt… she’ll take it. Which is why I endorse not sending your kid to a professional school till sixteen, kids definitely need more supervision these days. (I work at the school district… I know.) As far as the stuck up part goes, I don’t know if it is because ballet is privileged extra curricular, I mean the costs are obscene… So, it could be that upper middle class attitude? Then again what teenager doesn’t get turnt up these days?
4. Ballerinas are black swan crazy. This might just be a little true. Everyone in ballet has to be a little OCD… I mean they are killing themselves doing the same thing over and over and over… trying to be perfect, knowing that it is impossible. That is just self punishment. Will they go kill themselves in the middle of a performance via Natalie Portman status… probably not. Will they go all Maureen on us and disappear minutes before the curtain goes up… doubtful, especially if you are the lead.
5. Ballerinas are fragile, delicate princesses. Not true. Women in ballet are just as ferocious as the men in ballet. In fact, they are probably more ferocious. Women in ballet attack performances, fearlessly and push through injury, women in ballet are fierce. If you look at their muscle tone, they are crazy ripped, and probably could fall of their bike, and still dance swan lake.
With Nutcracker in a frenzy and taking up my Facebook feed, I am always surprised by the wondrous NYCB, headed by Peter Martins. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with everything Artistic Directors do, but Peter, if I can call him that, or Petie would be better, does a pretty good job at making dancers mature. While other people are against putting such young dancers on the stage, NYCB has a record of it. And because of that, we are able to watch dances mature and watch the entire span of a career. As we recently said goodbye to Wendy Whelan, we are left with a roster of principal women who are beyond stunning. So, as they are dying in a million shows of Nutcracker here is my ode to the current women of NYCB, and then some. (All of them in the same role…)
While Ashley Bouder hails as a CPYB alumna and has had praise for a bazillion different things, I think the thing I admire most, is she doesn’t fit the typical NYCB body type. In fact, if you look at the principal women of NYCB, they couldn’t be more different. But Ashley Bouder is like an American muscle car. Shiny, fast, flashy, and sleek. While she is short, and muscular and has usually been cast in power house roles, as she has matured she has developed into this soft leaf floating in the wind… Her in Emeralds was like … well, amazeballs.
Then there is another CPYB alumna, Abi Stafford, who is like the epitome of technical perfection. With her extended lines, her perfect positions, I think she is like the textbook for turnout and lines.
Tiler Peck, has become like America’s Ballerina. She is jazzy, fun, free spirited, but most of all relentless when tackling a role. While she sometimes irritates me with her facial expressions, she is the most fun to watch of the women of NYCB. She brings this light hearted energy that is quite charming. And I think as her career has progressed, she is the most changed dancer. From when she started, at SAB and we all got the welcome to SAB dvd with her on it… I mean come on… what a change!
Teresa Reichlen, is long, and leggy. Compared to Maria Kowroski, she uniquely stands out on her own. Watching her on stage is timeless. I feel like when people refer to our generation of American Ballet dancers she will be one to remember. Though it is sad because I think Kaitlyn Gilliland could have been a lot like her at NYCB.
Sara Mearns is a beast. I’m like is there anything she can’t do? As she has changed over the past three years, I wonder if her dancing will evolve, or plateau. It is a scary thing watching careers like hers… They boom so fast, and then kind of plateau. I mean I think Ashley Bouder went through the same thing, and then reinvented her dancing. Since her injury, she is more cautious on stage, and definitely more careful, versus when we first saw her premier as this fearless beast.
Sterling Hyltin has had to grow on me… At first, I wasn’t a really big fan. And then I saw her in Romeo and Juliet, and if you took away the awful costuming, you realized that she is a superb actress, which sometimes Balanchine ballerinas lack. Then I saw her as Sugar Plum in middle of no where Michigan while visiting a friend and that was pretty much off the chain. She is charming and dazzling, and I really like the way she uses her knees. Not just her plie, but the way she uses her knees to punctuate extensions is really nice.
Krohn, is basically the ballet dancer fashion loves. She is everything a model is, uniquely beautiful, and everything a ballerina is: legs, feet, musicality. I have only seen her dance once in person and she wasn’t a principal… so I don’t have that much to say.
Megan Fairchild is like this ball of yarn that is kind of wound a little tight, but once she lets go and unravels it is like she becomes someone completely different. While a lot of the time I am not her biggest fan, she is definitely gorgeous on stage. Vulnerability is a good thing for primas an I think she is more of a, I have to take control kind of a dancer.
Jennie Somogyi is the darker side of ballet. There is something super mysterious about her dancing, fluid and deep. I do think as beautiful as she is a ballet dancer, contemporary definitely suits her better.
The girl can turn, the girl can balance, the girl has everything. I think though it is time for her to move into a classical company because she was kind of born to do full length ballets, like she is amazing in Kitri and in Esmerelda.
And then there was Maria Kowroski. As the longest leading lady at NYCB, she is everything. The feet, the flexibility, the musicality, the legs, the flexibility, the face, the dancing, the flexibility, the back, the knees that bend and are soft, those long fingers, the flexibility… haha, yes, I am obsessed with her flexibility, and growing up she was one of the women of NYCB I looked up to. Now, most have retired, and most of the principals at NYCB are my age. She will forever live on as Barbie, and she will be immortalized for her dark angel in Serenade, and because of Chaccone she will always be this little slice of heaven that was given to us.
Now… beware ladies as a new crop of women in the ranks of soloist are bound to become principals very soon: Lauren Lovette, Savannah, Lowery, Lauren King, and Ashley Laracey are all probably bound for stardom, but I do think CPYB alumna Alexa Maxwell is going to be one as well.
While some of you readers who stumble upon my blog call me sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, racist and other words … Let us set the record straight about ballet, and the art that we so love and adore…
1: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially: discrimination against women
2: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex
Discrimination based on sex… while, I don’t know about you but ballet is very sexist… The roles in ballet that are very set; the mannerisms are very set, and the story lines are all heterosexual. While one commenter did point out that if someone had any misconceptions or preconceived notions about ballet they should go see one (which I agree with)… the reality is to see a ballet in middle america is kind of difficult, quite expensive, and what would they be seeing on stage. Oh that’s right, all story ballets are sexist. Men are doing bravura jumps and turns, while women are being delicate and soft.
If ballet is woman, according to Balanchine, well I don’t even know where this sentence is going because I can’t begin to fathom how that one applies to me. But, as a fashion editor, and as a gay man, not sure how that works out. In the world of ballet, I wouldn’t call it misogyny, but the reality is that all of the women in the classical works are helpless, or die, or need saving of some sort. Maybe Raymonda is more along the lines of of heroic role in ballet for women.
: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals
As a gay man, I must hate everyone like me, and myself. I don’t know of a ballet that endorses homosexuality besides the Matthew Bourne ballets, but those are standards. (To clarify, the blog post about male ballet dancers was titled: 5 Misconceptions. So, while all of you gay men were offended… the reality is NOT ALL MALE BALLET DANCERS ARE GAY.) Not to mention the entire Tony winning musical, and movie Billy Elliot is basically all about homophobia in ballet… So to say and I quote from a comment that I didn’t publish, “To say that men (male) ballet dancers have a reputation of being gay is absurd.” Well… I don’t know what utopian society you live in, but the majority of people don’t.
: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
Ballet, is probably one of the most discriminatory of all the art forms. Hence why Misty Copeland is getting so much publicity. The reality is there is a lack of ethnic dancers, and type casting happens. Not to mention the roles in Nutcracker which I explained in another blog. Or why Russians still use blackface… It doesn’t get any more racist than that… Not to mention that racism that happens within the art form itself, like casting… You can count on your hands the number of Black Principal dancers in Major Ballet Companies. If there wasn’t racism within ballet, we wouldn’t need Ballet Black, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, or Dance Theatre of Harlem. So, before you go pointing the finger saying I am racist, take a step back, and look at you, look at the company you dance in and count the ratio of whites/passable white to ethnic.
There is one thing I won’t tolerate being called and that is racist. Every year when Nutcracker came I was cast in Chinese… When I was at CPYB I was called Oriental, and that isn’t one of my most fond memories. And being in huge ballet school like CPYB where there were 4 asian students, and one black student was not fun either. Especially because I grew up in a very low income, very ethnically diverse, amazing community neighborhood. Not to mention I am adopted from Korea, by white parents and I have brothers and sisters from India, Bangledesh, Korea, Africa, and so on… I do not like being called a racist when the university I went to had a racist demonstration and every mirror had a sign that said you can’t wash the race off your skin, which the protest was started by dancers… So, before going around writing on someone’s blog that they are racist… get your facts straight.
So, while everyone is judging my blog, I would like everyone to take a moment and think what you are doing to change ballet…. What are you doing besides dancing to contribute to the greater good and image of ballet. While Misty Copeland is taking one for the team, while Hee Seo continually has to prove herself among the principals at ABT, while I drive around and dictate to Siri about misconceptions about male ballet dancers… What are you doing?
If you aren’t doing anything to change the way the world views ballet, or how casting and promotions happen, you aren’t helping. While you are in the theatre, or in the studio working, when is the last time you decided to volunteer at a boys and girls club and teach free ballet classes to equalize racial equality in ballet? When is the last time, you as a male ballet dancer, went to go teach a free class so kids can see a male ballet dancer? I follow a lot of people on IG, and stalk people when I can’t sleep, so while you are on breaks and vacationing through Europe and Australia…. I am teaching free summer camps at title one schools in Southern California. And when I have free time, I am teaching at numerous title one schools, and giving workshops on how to go about in the world of dance and using education as a vessel to a part of the art form.
Now that I have defended myself, I am going to shed some light on some more taboo things about ballet…
Frail and weak… As I said that it is a common misconception about ballet that men are viewed as frail and weak like girls… I was slammed for that… But, ironically in Giselle Act II, the whole purpose is to look ghostly, ethereal and frail… In addition, second act Swan Lake calls for vulnerability, not to mention she is incapable of saving herself… Sleeping Beauty act II calls for the dream scene when she is basically begging the prince to come find her and save her. Cinderella is basically a servant needing a man to save her from poverty… So… the ballets in which we are portraying aren’t saying a lot either. Isn’t that the problem with most fairytales today and modern day feminists. I wonder what Mayim Bialik would say about the story lines of ballet? LOL.
Now, if we are going to talk about other taboo things… We can talk about weight, and body type and the severe ideal that artistic director’s promote. Which I have talked about numerous times through out this blog… Artistic Directors… they hold the power to change ballet, but they don’t. They aren’t changing the body type of ballet, and in fact they are just making it worse. They aren’t changing the racial demographics because they are lazy and don’t want to give out scholarships to a smaller children and nurture their students. They would rather scholarship prix winners to make their school look better and hope that they will eventually feed into the company. Currently, of the standing major ballet companies’ artistic directors I can really only applaud Peter Boal, and Tamara Rojo for changing the image of a company. I can not sing enough praises to those two. I raved about the two of them in other posts.
Not to mention that the majority of ADs are men… So, before you go around throwing the finger at me… shouldn’t you be looking at the source? Everyone blames or calls the modern day body type in ballet the “balanchine” body type… but everyone else endorsed it. If ADs were truly concerned about the image of ballet, then wouldn’t they change it?
With all this being said, I truly do hope that before you comment on my blog, or on facebook or other social media… I hope you are coming from the right place and making an education accusation. You can’t win over everyone, on another note- I would like to thank the 70,000+ viewers of my Manly Ballet… 5 misconceptions about male ballet dancers. And I would like to thank hitting over 1 million readers in 4 months. I appreciate it all.
ummm seriously… no one forced you to read my blog, or to follow it. So, take your comments somewhere else… thanks. Calling me names is quite funny. Now, I am just going to come up with offensive ballet blog posts.
And for those of you who continue to read my blog thanks.
On another note… I feel like I have seen 10 different versions of Swan Lake this month … 3 in Los Angeles alone, two of which I fell asleep in… hence no review.
I’m so over it… LIKE SOOOOOOO OVER IT. #killtheswans #justkidding #notreally
(The list of 5 Reasons why the Nutcracker won’t ever go away can be found by clicking here.)
Sugared plums are probably one of the nastiest tasting confections known to mankind, but the reality is they are beautiful. They possess a kind of quality fit for a ballet. And just like the ballet, Nutcracker is probably one of the nastiest, politically incorrect ballets. But, we still take our kids year after year anyways… I don’t know if Balanchine purposefully tried to avoid the racism by renaming the variations, but somehow racism it still made made its way into the choreography of the ballet. As a strong believer that dance/ballet is a reflection of humanity, it scares me that we have not evolved passed racial stereotypes. So, in honor of all of the Nutcracker stuff that is going around… 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker.
Behold the glory of second act… Or the racism that is the second act. As progressive as dancers are, we still allow racist movements within the ballets. Chinese is ridiculous, and Arabian is hyper sexualized when in modern day reality, women are oppressed. Does anyone even know why Spanish is called hot chocolate? Hot chocolate was “invented” by the Aztecs and Mayans. Yup, there is a lot of racism. Not to mention the male glory of Russian, and the exuding of machismo testosterone.
The entirety of Nutcracker is basically based on a psychological complex: projecting fantasies on to doll, Drosselmeier is just creepy in general and her parents don’t play a role in her life.
Am I the only one who is concerned that flowers is not a confection? In the second act, a lot of versions have tried avoiding the race card by renaming the variations after confections, except waltz…
Nutcracker really does not make sense. Yeah, I said it. The two act ballet really could be summed up into one act, but the fantasy of act 2 gets the best of us. Sometimes I feel like we should actually just cut the entire first act except snow, and turn act 1 into a shorter abridged prologue… Dads would be happier if act 1 was shorter.
Finally, it always astounds me that the casting of Nutcracker. Nutcracker has to be the most politically incorrect ballet when it comes to casting. I guess for all white companies, it really doesn’t matter, but for those who are asian will probably always get cast as chinese, and for those who are ethnic, spanish… It is sad. I remember one time we were doing Balanchine’s version of Nutcracker and one of my best friends and I were in the same cast… (he is black) and the two of us were pointed out that we dance spanish corps the best and I quote, “They aren’t even European. He is oriental.” As she pointed at me. That day was the day I decided that I truly would have to dance ten times harder to even be noticed for my dancing.
As Nutcracker rehearsals are around the corner, I wonder what other racist things will be said to impressionable children?
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.
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?
5 reasons why the Nutcracker will never go away…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.