Every Fifth Has A Story

fifth position a ballet education

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

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

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Ballet & Relationships

Alina Cojocaru + Roberto Bolle in, Romeo &  Juliet  (Wearing her Gayners....) I don't know who the photo cred goes to but it was on tumblr via ballet-is-our-way-out.

Alina Cojocaru + Roberto Bolle in, Romeo & Juliet
(Wearing her Gayners….) I don’t know who the photo cred goes to but it was on tumblr via ballet-is-our-way-out.

In the never ending epic journey of dating, I have decided that people are like ballet techniques.  This post obviously has nothing to do with actual ballet, but I can’t sleep, and it is on my mind. So, we are now going to go through a history of my dating life, explained through ballet vocabulary. Excuse the lack of accents, I don’t want to open up my French keyboard for this post! THIS IS NOT A VOCAB lesson.

My first love was barre. We will call him Rogelio. Relationships that are like barre, well they are home.  Cliche? Maybe. But barre is home, and it is safe. It is where we learn the basics, get stronger, learn the most, and are able to focus on minute details on life.  Barre starts with plies, super relaxing, comfortable, and you open up.  Tendus become exciting, spicy accent ins, dinners (degages) out, romantic fondus, luxurious vacations in ron de jambs, and so on.  Derek was definitely barre, so supportive, so understanding, so loving, and always there. Why did Derek and I not work out? I wanted to explore outside of ballet, and he didn’t want to be barre anymore.  So, we went our separate ways and are still friends.

My second serious relationship… we will call him… Sebastien, he was like pirouettes. When their on, it feels so good, but it’s so easy to be off, and if you exhaust yourself trying they don’t happen.  The idea of twenty pirouettes seems awesome, or 32 fouettes, but… reality… they are just build for stamina. It was difficult with him, so that didn’t last, but you know the type of relationships or guy I am talking about.

After those two relationships, I then had a brief moment with… let’s call him Ernie, and he was totally adagio. Adagio relationships are slow, they build, basic but complex, you find your way through it with solid technique. That foundation gives you the freedom to let go and explore the music and the emotion. He was definitely super artsy. It was dreamy, it was lovely, it was romantic, and intense. The best moment was after a long promenade in attitude, and right when you are about to plie into elonge, you take a big breath and let go into a pure line. It was good stuff. Just not my cup of tea. I lacked the patience to figure out his complexities.

And then there was that moment of Fernando… He was definitely the mirror. The mirror that haunts you.  The idea of perfection from afar, but the reminder of how far from perfection you are. The negative remarks, the low blows, the passive aggressive behaviors. It was like the phantom relationship. The idea was good, but it is only a reflection, nothing real, nothing solid. It ovio didn’t last long.

Then there was Jonathan, definitely a waltz. It was pleasant, fun and frilly. Mostly going in circles, but nice to do. I think maybe I went around like 3 times, and then was like no thanks. I need something a tad bit more serious.

Then there was Edgar, and that relationship was like petite allegro– quick, sharp, short, direct, and to the point.

Oh, and I had a first date with a grand allegro, Francisco, and that was only a first date. I learned very fast that relationships that are large, expansive, travel fast, and fly at you aren’t my cup of tea either. Like on the first date calling you babe. -___-

I’ve tried dating younger guys, but they are like chaines, like going in circles, kind of makes you dizzy, and don’t travel very far… Then you find a younger one who seems more mature, and they are like piques and you think you are going some where but it really just moving in a circle. Then you find a younger guy who seems like he is put together but that is like a soutanou and is misleading and you land directly where you started just with the other foot in front.

Ughz, definitely avoid the men who are double tours… those flashy guys who want to buy you. No one care that you took me to Standard for dinner… Like no one. I would have been happy at in and out. Definitely, avoid men who are like pointe work, expecting to you to be on your game, on your box, foot winged and all that… They have too high of expectations—I’ve dated perfectionists like arabesques, but since I am a balanchine fan… we obviously went our separate ways.

And alas I am single. Haha. And yes, I really only date latinos. And yes this 800 word post happened… I’m slightly shamed.

Fantastic Five: 5 Really Great Male Variations

In the world of ballet, variations define a dancer’s career. As artists a variation is the one moment where technique, artistry and years of daunting rehearsals finally meet. A 2-3 Act ballet is carried by the principals, and the defining moment for them are their variations. For a female in the role(s) Odette/Odile, she is first pushed emotionally, and technically as Odette. Then in a ferocious breath she seductively attacks with stamina, the role of Odile. Then, she has to turn back int Odette, and die. Exhausting. I mean not only does the prima have to act, change roles, act some more, she also has to do two full on PDDs and do an epic 4th act finale. Pretty impressive.

When it comes to the men in ballet, their variations are always kind of bland. It is usually two jumping passes, followed by two pirouette combinations, executed by flawless double tours or entrechat sixs, and then some have a quality menage added in. Either way, these variations have turned into like… the most redundant yet insanely tricked out performances. Like Roberto Bolle cranking out 40 Entrechat six in Giselle… Or Daniil Simkin’s insane turning combos for Corsaire… Or Osiel Gounod in … like every variation. (If you don’t know who he is… youtube that $h!t… it’s like insane.)

Now, there are a lot of male variations that are actually super musical, and super beautiful that are overlooked. Granted… Most of them are either Balanchine, or specific to a company’s repertory. BUUUUT… Regardless… We should take a look at these fantastic five variations for men.

1. “Name of Prince” Variation in ACT II… Paris Opera’s – Nureyev version gives the male two super beautiful variations in the second act. The first uses the music that Balanchine’s Nutcracker uses to bridge party and battle scene. It is a very long variation (7 minutes), but super gorgeous, and demonstrates that boys have arabesques too. It could be that Nureyev really reinvented the male, and as a male ballet dancer he was able to create roles for other men within the confinements of classical ballet. The second variation is from the music sometimes used in ACT III of sleeping beauty for one of the jewels. It is very classical as well but has really gorgeous enveloppe moments. Then, Royal Ballet also gives a super luscious, kind of sensual variation in the second act as well. As sensual as fairytale princes get.

2. Balanchine’s Apollo. Besides the fact that this is probably one of the only ballets with a male name as the title and has the title/leading role… With music by Stravinsky, Apollo never leaves the stage but has two brilliant variations. One is really raw, and the other is really refined. Balanchine cut the first variation and birthing, but people since have put both back in. Both variations are incredibly musical, one of the things that I adore about Balanchine. I think for a lot of male dancers who were trained in the Balanchine aesthetic, and for men in Balanchine companies, this ballet is used to really define their presence in the company. I think NYCB currently has Chase Finlay as the face of Apollo, and prior to him was Nilas Martins (both blonde… kind of suspicious) but, both made names for themselves in the role. David’s Dream Casting: Alexandre Hammoudi (aka Baby Daddy) in Apollo.

Edward Villella, retired artistic director of The Miami City Ballet, as Apollo in the 1950s at New York City Ballet. Photo by Martha Swope.
Edward Villella, retired artistic director of The Miami City Ballet, as Apollo in the 1950s at New York City Ballet. Photo by Martha Swope.

3. The Male Variation(s) from Sylvia. Besides the fact that the Delibes’ score is super danceable and kind of cute… (FUN FACT: the original production of Sylvia was created to open the Palais Garnier for Paris Opera, and the costumes were designed by Lacoste) In the Balanchine PDD, the male is variation is structured like a classical variation, but has really beautiful nuances added in. And like a lot of the classical-like Balanchine male variations (Tchai Pas, Theme and Variations), each one was modified so the steps vary by who dances/staged it. In the Ashton version of Sylvia, Aminta has numerous gorgeous variations. I actually think that the Ashton Version is only danced at American Ballet Theatre, and Royal Ballet. Paris Opera has a version of Sylvia, but it is more contemporary or modern, so it doesn’t count for this list. If we counted that… Then we would have to count numerous other new ballets like Chroma, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, every ballet created by Complexions, Cedar Lake and LINES, and the Cranko Ballets… Though… I really should count the Cranko Ballets… )

Roberto Bolle in Ashton's Sylvia. Royal Ballet. Screen shot off youtube. #boom
Roberto Bolle in Ashton’s Sylvia. Royal Ballet. Screen shot of youtube. #boom leg up.

4. The male variations in John Cranko’s Onegin are like beyond roles and somehow have combined real life and ballet. The music used for the male variations aren’t awfully heavy, and scary sounding. The variations also create this beautiful emotional prism for a male ballet dancer. All of the Cranko characters are always so dynamic. I’ve never seen it live, but have watched the full length on Youtube on five different companies. It is incredible. When I was a student, I never really wanted to dance Onegin, but now in retrospect it is so beautiful to me and I am like -_____-  (that is my Snorlax face)… Not that I was ever good enough, or would ever have been cast in Onegin… but still… a boy can dream.

5. The Liza Variation, from Balanchine’s Who Cares? Music by Gershwin. Probably one of the younger variations as it was choreographed in 1937, but it is super fun. Kind of jazzy, okay, super jazzy but really fun dancing. Seriously. If you ever have the chance to preform it, it is one of the must enjoyable variations to get through. It isn’t like trying to get through the male variation in Theme and Variations or random crazy turns from Corsaire. Did I mention, it really is just plain fun? And Baryshnikov in a Balanchine ballet = love. (Click Here = https://youtu.be/GnWxmELOcBI)

The Male Variation in the Satanella Pas De Deux from the Carnival of Venice tied with the male variation for Harlequinade for variations in classical ballet that aren’t dance enough. Both are obviously classical variations, but I feel like these two ballets are underused. Plus… I think the music is kind of cute. I also think these two male variations are more age appropriate for boys (11-16) competing at competitions. I mean what 11 year old boy should be doing Swan Lake? Then, because I love Balanchine, there are the roles that don’t really have variations but are gorgeous: the male lead in Rubies or Diamonds, the male in the walking pas de trois from Emeralds. I think all the male leads in Symphony in C or Palais Cristal, the male leads in Western Symphony, the pas de deux from Agon.)

Finally, I would like to take the time to talk about Lady of the Camellias, music by Chopin, and choreographed by John Neumeier is another “newer” classic work. It premiered in 1978 with Marcia Haydee, and is a super beautiful full length with male variations… The downside is that even though the story is the same, Val Caniparoli used the same music and redid it, maybe even better … But in this version, the male variations are great but they really  aren’t as dynamic as the females. Lucia Lacarra slayed this for the ballet gods.

To see the 5 variations, watch them on our YOUTUBE channel’s playlist:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdVNSG-GEpYve4cBxruz2mXPT0MV0vPVa

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Ballet Vocabulary: Lesson 1

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

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

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

What would Mr. B do?

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

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

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

Buiscut (noun or adj):

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

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

A La Sebesque, secabesque (noun):

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

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

Bunhead (noun):

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

Snatched (adj):

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

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

AD (noun) aka Artistic Director:

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

Leo (noun) aka Leotard:

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

________ Hands (_____ (adj) + noun): 

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

Claws (noun):

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

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

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

Floor Barre (noun):

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

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

BIG THINGS FOR A BALLET EDUCATION

ballet1

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

Here is what I was thinking…

book cover mock up

yes, I would like to publish a book…

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

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

And I would like to redesign the site.

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

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

Thanks.

You know you trained Balanchine… pt Deux… You know you have danced Balanchine if…

We have all heard famous stories, infamous quotes, or my personal favorite, “Balanchine Said…” or “Balanchine told me…” For some ballet dancers, they are lucky enough to dance at the School of American Ballet, and have first hand experience with the New York City Ballet Legends… Or, now across the US, numerous schools have added Balanchine Legends to their staff… Yes, legends… There are legends still among us, which walk this earth, turned out, and elegantly. So, after the original post (here) a lot of people had feedback, and well, there is always feedback with this blog… I was originally going to make some snide remark about it all…. but then I asked myself, “What Would Balanchine Do?”

This post is dedicated to the mature Balanchine dancer…  You Know You Have Danced Balanchine If…

George Balanchine

1. After you have danced a difficult Balanchine role, and your coach, or Balanchine Repetiteur smiles and you know you are on the right track. (Inside you are thinking… Balanchine would be like, “YAAAAS!!! You Better Get It!”)

Stravisnky is Life

2.  Stravinsky is life. You can’t wait till a Stravinsky Ballet is in the season. Who doesn’t love counting 9’s, 7’s, 13’s and other ridiculously well thought out math equations?

Thats Balanchine of You

3. You are in open class, and the teacher touches your hand and is like, “Oooh, that’s Balanchine of you….” You know they are trying to insult you, but you are smiling thinking… “Suki Schorer taught me well… Boom.”

serenade life

4. You know every part of Serenade… Even if you are a man… and we all know that everyone, male or female wants to dance one of the leading ladies… Don’t lie.

like a boss

5. You learn a new Balanchine ballet, and you are like, “Balanchine is Boss.” (You might thinking the song big pimpin’ was inspired by Balanchine… Just Kidding.)

What Would Balanchine Do?

6. That moment you are asked to improv, or make something your own and you ask yourself, “What would Balanchine do?”

No sweetie Ballet Fail

7. You are working on a Balanchine ballet, and you try your own thing (after a very long restless night of it haunting you) and whoever is setting the ballet is like, “No.” And then you start beating yourself up.

Evil Genius

8. You have to get through a ridiculously hard ballet, that requires a ridiculous amount of stamina, in a ridiculous short time… And you think, “What was he thinking?” You know that he is brilliant, and that he is genius, but you stop and think, “I wonder if he did this just to mess with his dancers’ psyche, and then they pulled it off, so he kept it?” or “WHYYYY BALANCHINE…WHY?!”

Dear Mr B

9. That night before casting goes up, you have been busting your butt off in rehearsals and learning the ballet… and right before you go to bed you are like, “Dear Mr. B…”

side eye

10. That moment after the casting goes up for a Balanchine Ballet…

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/

May the odds be ever in your favor… Prix de Lausanne

Well, it seems like human nature that we watch kids rise to glory, or fail miserably. In fact, over the past week, I have been glued to my computer watching the live streaming of the Prix de Lausanne. If you don’t know what that is, it is the yearly competition in which kids travel to Switzerland for a week and go through grueling classes, and interviews in hopes to be 1/20 finalists selected. All these students are competing for scholarships at one of the partnered/sponsor schools of the prix. Literally, if you win the prix you are kind of on the fast track to principal.

This year has been quite surprising, as the usual country contenders are the US, Japan, China, Korea, and of course if a Russian is competing they usually win… It is rare to ever see a French candidate compete. But this year has a surprising line up for the finalists… Australia has quite a few finalists… which is nice since the last Australian we really saw was Steven McCrae (principal at Royal now). There are quite a bit of US competitors this year, which is a good follow up since Precious Adams from the US won a scholarship and the contemporary prize last year (currently at English National Ballet). There is always a swiss candidate in the finals, as a prize always goes to the best swiss candidate. In the mix there is also Portugal this year… Now the prix has gone through a variety of phases, to announce winners, they used to hand out gold-bronze medals, cash prizes, different levels of competition… it goes on and on.. now the prix hands out six massive scholarships, along with the prizes for audience favorite, contemporary, and best swiss candidate. If you are 17+ you may also win an apprentice spot…

Why is the prix so important? Besides the fact that winners include Darcy Bussell, Marcelo Gomes, Maria Kotchekova, Laetitia Pujol etc… The prix is one of the major competitions that kids compete at in hopes to make a name for themselves as a part of ballet history.

Among the 67 candidates who took part to the Prix de Lausanne’s selections, the jury has selected 20 finalists:

GIRLS

102, Scudamore Bianca, Australia
105, Armstrong Sierra, USA
106, Park SeonMee, South Korea
107, Ray Amber, USA
108, Blenkinsop Rebecca, Australia
301, Kanehara Rina, Japan
302, Park Jisoo, South Korea
306, Spichtig Lou, Switzerland
320, Lee GaYeong, South Korea

BOYS

202, Coppa Bret, USA
203, Acevedo Austen, USA
204, Lee Harrison, Australia
205, Turnbull Navrin, Australia
210, Curley Jarod, USA
401, Pinheiro Miguel, Portugal
402, MacKay Julian, USA
406, Thomas Jack, USA
409, Ito Mitsuru, Japan
416, Hayami Shogo, Japan
419, Garcia Syvert Lorenz, Norway
Prix de Lausanne Website
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Prix de Lausanne on YouKu
Prix de Lausanne on Twitter
Prix de Lausanne on You Tube
Prix de Lausanne on Facebook
Prix de Lausanne on Instagram

The Masters…

Ballet San Jose (click the image)
Ballet San Jose (click the image)

So yesterday was Balanchine’s Birthday, and as the internet was flooded with beautiful images of everyone dancing their favorite work it made me realize how connected ballet is. In addition, the NYT featured the give girls from Serenade on the front cover, above the fold. BIG DEAL. Now, from reading these most intimate stories, and tweets, haha, I was inspired by the idea of mastering ballet. As we celebrate the women of ballet, and the men of ballet, we forget that none of this would be possible without great choreographers. Balanchine reshaped the way ballet was perceived, and since then there hasn’t been anyone else really. Though, celebrating the fusion of jazz and ballet: Robbins. And celebrating the combination of modern and ballet: Tharp. Between the three, they have shaped the world of contemporary dance in general, and how audiences perceive music.

While Robbins reinvented the story ballet, and Tharp created a space that equalized Graham, Horton, and ballet, the world fell in love with the three. Now speaking of love, and the idea of these masterpieces, it is hard to find a program that would feature all three in one night. BUUUUT for those of us in California don’t fret!!!

Ballet San Jose is about to do all three…. Conveniently next month after Valentine’s Day… BOOM. So if you are in the LA area, drive up or fly up, a round trip ticket is only 160. In one night you will be able to see three of the greatest ballets ever…. First there is the incredibly technical difficult piece from Balanchine: THEME AND VARIATIONS. Theme is just flat out hard… For the principal girl… between the numerous entrances, those crazy gargouillades, and just a really difficult pas. The male variation is exhausting as well… So basically, it is going to make or break a company’s reputation for technique.

Then they are doing Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, which is basically inspired by a gay painter, Paul Cadmus, who conveniently also was sleeping with/ sponsored by Lincoln Kirstein. But because of that twisted connection we are given one of the greatest works. Set in a bar, with sailors on leave, and two feisty women, and beautiful music by Bernstein.

They will also be doing in the Upper Room by Tharp. The Upper Room is this crazy beautiful music, enhanced with ridiculously strong choreography showcasing a company’s diversity. It isn’t everyday you get to see a Tharp piece, especially one for a ballet company. So this is a treat.

So basically, if you are a young dancer, or a mom, or just an admirer of ballet… IT IS TIME TO TREK TO SAN JOSE… do you know the way to San Jose?

SAN JOSE 1

after i see the show, I will review the company… and I will watch the school to give you all a full update.

Sugar Plums Fairies: The Women of NYCB

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…)

Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar
Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar

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.

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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
Tiler Peck

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
Teresa Reichlen

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
Sara Mearns

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 and Andrew Veyette
Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette

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.

Rebecca Krohn
Rebecca Krohn

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 and Joaquin De Luz
Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz

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.

tumblr craze.
tumblr craze.

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.

Ana Sophia Scheller and Tyler Angle
Ana Sophia Scheller and Tyler Angle

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.

Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard
Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard

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.

Lexi at CPYB
Lexi at CPYB
And now.
And now.

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.

6_Sylvie_Guillem_sgd010

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.

 

The Germans are coming… well leaping. (The German Companies)

Germany isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think ballet, or dance in general. But since the 60’s German companies have risen, and have produced some of the most amazing works, or choreography today. Particularly, there are two companies in Germany that have risen to the occasion establishing them among the best: the Hamburg Ballet, and Stuttgart Ballet. In edition a baby ballet company in their 8th season has risen and made quite the splash in the ballet world: the Dreseden Semperoper Ballet.

Stuttgart Ballet (Company): Housed at the Opera House in Stuttgart, and founded by John Cranko, and now headed by Reid Anderson, the Stuttgart Ballet employs 65 dancers. Why is this so relevant? John Cranko has made numerous contributions to the world of ballet by extending the classical ballet repertory and mentoring: Jiri Kylian and John Neumeier. His two biggest contributions to the “classical” repertory have been the Prince of Pagodas (Royal Ballet) and Eugene Onegin.

Hamburg Ballet (Company):Reinvented by John Neumeier in 1973, the Hamburg Ballet has flourished. Their website boasts that under his direction of 40 years, over a 180 new ballets have been presented, 421 dancers have been employed, and their list of accomplishments goes on. The Hamburg Ballet has made huge contemporary contributions to the world of dance, one of the most noted is John Neumeier’s Little Mermaid.

hamburg ballet dancers

Then there is the new comer to German Ballet, the Semperoper Ballet. Starting their ninth season, Semperoper Ballet is making their splash in the dance world. Most of their dancers are extremely flexible, and very technical, and have gathered dancers from numerous international schools. For a company in their 9th season, they have recruited some of the best talent out there. In addition their exposure on social media has been growing, especially from their men. With dancers from across the globe Semperoper is definitely starting to make a name for themselves, and their creation of Nutcracker video Via Youtube is pretty cool as well.

In addition another young company is slowly making it’s way into the limelight: The Forsythe Project.. After the close of Ballett Frankfurt, the Forsythe Project was created to lead a group of individuals with innovative choreography. The project has paid off well, and for those of you who are in America who would be dying to work with William Forsythe, he joins the faculty at USC for the 2015-2016 school year in their new dance department. (Good time to be going to college.) In addition, it seems that the Germans are all about premiers, pushing the boundaries of innovation, choreography, music and lighting. With a strong number of choreographers, it seems that we will now be looking to Germany for the next standard repertory. (This being that eventually we will replace the Balanchine Repertory with the German Repertory, which will either be replaced by Ramatsky, Wheeldon, Millpied, Justin Peck, Myles Thatcher.)

More German companies are making appearances in the US, as Hamburg Ballet and San Francisco have created a strong bond between Europe and the States. As Southern California this season is bringing in companies from all over, it will be nice to see how everyone compares. especially to our home companies.

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

http://www.RedlandsDanceTheatre.org

Thank you again for all of the love,

David King

The Best of the Best… Ballet Company Awards 2014 (2013-2014 Season)

If Ballet Companies had an awards ceremony to go to, it would be the Golden Globes. It wouldn’t be the Oscars, even if it is the most glamorous event. This is because the Oscars are voted on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, we basically have that from the Princess Grace Awards and the Prixs for that.  If dancers were to vote on other dancers and companies, then it would be the SAGs.  The Golden Globes are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press, and I feel like that in itself says it all. The power of press and publicity goes a long way, not to mention that the opinions of editors dictate the content featured. But, that isn’t what makes the Golden Globes so special, it is the fact that the mission of the Hollywood Foreign Press is to make films accessible to the general public by unbiased information and reviews. So, as I compiled a list of companies worth noting this year, the list grew rather large, so I decided to make categories, just like any awards ceremony. Because ballet is constantly changing, I needed to create categories that would allow flexibility, change and innovation. So, here are the categories that I felt represented the art form as a whole, and as a reflection of a company:

So without further ado… The Envelopes Please…

Best Premiere of a new work

The New York City Ballet, in PAZ de LA JOLLA, by choreographer Justin Peck. 

(Nominees: Daphnis and Chloe, Paris Opera, Choreographed by Millpied. Lest We Forget Program from English National Ballet)

 

Best Repertory for the season.

Headed by Benjamin Millpied and Bridgette Lefevre, Paris Opera Ballet once again had a ridiculous season including: La Dame Aux Camelias/Neumeier, Dances at a Gathering/Robins, Psyche/Ramatsky, Le Park/Prelojac, Notre-Dame De Paris/Petit, the Sleeping Beauty/Nureyev, Doux Mensonges/ Kylian, Daphnis and Chloe/Millpied,Orpheus and Eurydice/ Bausch just to name a few. During the season during Onegin, Amandine Albisson received her place as an etoiles for her role in Tatiana.

(Nominees: San Francisco Ballet, the New York City Ballet, National Ballet of Canada)

 

Best reprisal of a classic work.

This award goes to the Bolshoi Ballet in their rendition of Balanchine’s Jewels. With sets designed by Alyona Pikalova, Costumes by Elena Zaitseva and lighting by Maxim Fomchenkov, this production hands down belongs to them. Their rendition of Jewels is probably the best I have ever seen. This also won Olga Smirnova Prix Benois de la danse.

(Nominees: Houston Ballet’s Modern Masters, Queensland Ballet’s MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Teatro La Scala for Serata Petit)

 

Technical Excellence from a company.

Amidst the craziness of the circus, Hamburg Ballet featuring Alina Cojocaru, the Hamburg Ballet’s strength shown through. Lilliom was performed in Orange County this February making their North American premiere, the world premiere was in 2011. John Neumeier’s choreography was not only innovating but showcased a ballet revolving around a man without having a million show off pirouettes. Not only was the work modern and innovative, but the entire companies’ classical background showed through and through, all seven scenes and a prologue.

(Nominees: National Ballet of Cuba, Vienna State Ballet, Dresdon Semproper Ballet)

 

Best Costuming for a performance 

This award goes to The Australian Ballet’s new production of Cinderella. The costumes and sets were designed by Jérôme Kaplan. The new production was choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky to the original Prokofiev Score.

 

Best Collaboration

Dutch National Ballet stole fashion week during the SS2014 Paris shows with their collaboration with Viktor & Rolf in Haute Couture. In addition, Dutch National Ballet has comprised numerous collaborations through out the 2013-2014 season like their premiere of the Tempest that included amazing collaborators, and their new moves program, and Dutch Doubles. Four choreographers were paired with four world-famous Dutch artists: fashion designers, photographers and musicians.

(Damian Woetzel, Artistic Director of the Vail International Dance Festival, Julia Adam’s for the Boathouse Project, )

 

Most Innovative Company.

San Francisco Ballet’s season took it home. While contemporary companies create new works constantly, innovation has to be supported with stability and diversity. San Francisco Ballet definitely hit it out of the park with Giselle, Wheeldon’s Cinderella, Ratmansky’s Trilogy, Borderlands by McGregor, Wheeldon’s Ghosts, and the premiere of a Liam Scarlett ballet, and a premiere from and Possokhov. Not to mention they threw in Balanchine, Robins for giggles. San Francisco Ballet also has continued their relationship Hamburg Ballet by hosting them as a part of their season.

(Tu Dance, Hamburg Ballet, Complexions, Eifman Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Prelojac)

 

Most Inspiring Company.

English National Ballet, headed by Tamara Rojo might just be the most inspiring ballet company in the world right now. With their previous innovations, despite their financial downfalls, the English National Ballet had an amazing season. Most noted I think was their performance at Glastonbury, which was breathtaking. It was a piece from their Lest We Forget program. You can actually watch the video online. Then they stunned audiences again at their Emerging Artists Competition with contemporary solos to die for. Raging reviews for not only the winners, but all of the competitors this past season.

(Miami City Ballet under Lourdes Lopez, Royal Ballet of Flanders )

 

Company Contribution to the World of Arts.

In the province of Dresdon it seems a lot is happening in dance, but this award goes to the Forsythe Company. Founded in 2005, after Ballett Frankfurt closed, this company has create new works that hope to survive for the next generation of artists. In addition, William Forsythe will be joining the faculty at University of Southern California in the fall of 2015. He is not the artistic director of the Forsythe Company. But, this international group of dancers has created and performed tremendously. As in the middle, somewhat elevated has survived hopefully this next crop of choreographers will be nurtured accordingly to contribute to ballet’s repertory.

(Ballet Black, the New York City Ballet because of Justin Peck)

 

New or Returning Presence to the International Ballet Community, 

The Korean National Ballet might just be joining the rest of the newer asian companies on the rise. Like National Ballet of China, Ballet Philippines and Hong Kong Ballet, Asian companies are on the rise. The Korean National Ballet is headed by former Stuttgart Principal Kang Sue Jin, and she is leading them artistic merits. With the way education is structured in Korea, it is surprising to find out that everyone in their company is a college graduate and didn’t join the company until their early 20’s, versus say other companies that hire 16-18 year olds. Their rosters are filled with tons of international dance winners, in fact 9-10 company members have medaled at an international dance competition.

Joburg Ballet (South Arica), Dance Theatre of Harlem, Pacific Northwest Ballet



 

Creating ten categories that reflect the nature of ballet companies, not individuals, was rather difficult.  The size of the company, the theatre residency, and location would not effect the final outcomes. Here is information on how I graded companies: I only looked at the 2013-2014 performance season, individual dancers within the company, and artistic achievement based on reviews and press releases. Social media did not influence the choices. It seriously has taken a month to compile information, read reviews, and watch as much as I could. So, without categories my list would be: The New York City Ballet, Paris Opera, Bolshoi, Hamburg, the Australian Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, English National Ballet, the Forsythe Company, Korean National Ballet.

I was not going to single out dancers, because there are other numerous prestigious dance awards out there that grade artistic merit. As European Ballerina’s pray for Prima Assoluta, Paris Opera dancers pray for Etoiles, people hope for the Princess Grace Awards or the Benois… The list goes on. But notably last season: Ogla Smirnova, James Whiteside, Evgenia Obrazsova, Hee Seo, Tiler Peck, and Sara Mearns all had pretty amazing seasons on the international stages. As Olga Smirnova isn’t even a principal yet, and Hee Seo just got her promotion last season they are two women to definitely watch. Evgenia Obraztsova makes her way next to other Russian powerhouses: Svetlana Zakharova, and Natalia Osipiva, Polina Semionova, and Diana Vishneva. Balanchine ballerinas Tiler Peck and Sara Mearns are both competing I think to be the star at NYCB. Both are crazy different in approach, body type and musicality, but watching them dance is addicting. Both have literally grown up on stage. James Whiteside definitely gets to be next to Roberto Bolle and Daniil Simkin at ABT, but rightfully so, he is stud on stage…  This year, I haven’t really seen any men that steal my heart… Well actually, the men of English National Ballet’s Emerging Artists were pretty amazing.

Also, as I just finished writing this I realized Royal Ballet didn’t really make anything… Truth me told I wasn’t impressed with their season, and because my anger at the Royal Ballet this blog was originally started… So…. Haha.

Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

Sugar Plums: 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

(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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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…
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

Stay tuned for the 5 best Nutcracker productions.

Leading Ladies of ABT… 2014-2015

American Ballet Theatre is celebrating their 75th Season, and as they are preparing to come to come take residency in NYC, their rosters are set and the casting has been published. As ballet has made a shift towards women again, American Ballet Theatre seems to be a little late on the train. ABT has always been known for their men, but as the trend has transitioned now to fundamentally interesting ballerinas… ABT is just now slowly shifting… Their principal women can be grouped into their classics, their randoms, their guest stars, and new blood, while waiting in the wings are stars in the makings. Their soloist rankings and corps is full of star women waiting to take the limelight… So Kevin needs to start changing things up, or he needs to be replaced. #justsayin

THE CLASSICS:

Paloma Herrera Bloch

Paloma Herrera, At the age of 20, she graced the world as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Her double fouettes where rare, and her tenacity was charming. Her Kitri was so young, naive and flirty. Remember how everyone used to oogle and gawk over her feet? No one cared if she had some crazy velociraptor arms. Then the reviews piled in, and the world fell in love with her. But then, she was almost forgotten. If you didn’t know, this is going to be her last season with American Ballet Theatre, literally 20 seasons later. So, what happened to her? Some say, that as you get older you transition from technician to artist. But for her, I think she just never left that mark. For a while, she had left an impression as Kitri (from the ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity video with Angel, that foot, and those fouettes), but now it has been replaced with Natalia Osipova’s take.

Julie Kent in Apollo ABT

Julie Kent, The legend of Julie Kent goes something along the lines like this: You change your name to sound better. You win the Prix de Lausanne, and other competitions, you rise to fame, star in a series of bad acting movies, and marry ABT’s Associate Director. 29 years later, you still have it. If any of the women at American Ballet Theatre can claim artistry, you are the one. Of her roles I have seen live, by far Terpsichore has been your most charming. There is something to appreciate about Julie Kent, and I feel no one gives her enough credit. She isn’t like others who has a bazillion turns, or extension behind her ear. Her feet aren’t crazy amazing, and she isn’t hyper mobile. Instead she is stunning, artistic and musical. There is something very charming about everything she does, and with a solid technical base, she is the representation of what I think most dancers are. Yes, she has won numerous competitions, but not because she had crazy fouettes, but because she was clean, precise and clever with her musicality.

THE RANDOMS:

Gillian Murphy, Veronika Part, and Xiomara Reyes… So, I didn’t know how else to label these three because they are all quite random in their stories, and their styles. Gillian Murphy caught our eye in her diagonal of triple pirouettes in Corsaire. She came to fame for her campaigns for Gaynor Minden, giving hope to all of the girls with bad feet. She became something to talk about in the TV broadcast of Swan Lake with her triple fouettes. When it premiered I was literally at the dorms of San Francisco Ballet’s Summer Program watching it. Her coda was crazy, and that was about it… Her furrowed eyebrows in white swan didn’t do it. In fact, most everything I have seen her do didn’t do it. That is a lie, I liked her A LOT in Fall River Legend… Questionable as well, her husband is former principal dancer Ethan Stiefel… #justsayin

Then we have Veronika Part, during her Aurora… I fell asleep. Good feet and wears gaynors. Russian trained and gorgeous in the face, accent to die for, and appeared on TV with Letterman, her body is actually extremely beautiful on stage. Truthfully, I have only seen her dance in Swan Lake and the Sleeping Beauty and both times, I was not very entertained. But she is pretty to look at.

Then we have Xiomara Reyes, who I have no clue why she is a principal.  Like, I know this entire post seems like I am the Perez Hilton of ballet, but I have no clue why she became a principal…. Everyone else I understand why they were promoted… but then there is her… and I am dumbfounded. I can not even begin to understand Kevin’s choices sometimes…. Unless, she has a huge sponsor.

THE GUEST ARTISTS:

Polina Semionova and Diana Vishneva… Goddesses in their own rights, I feel like these two women can do no wrong in ballet. Even if both women aren’t full time principals with ABT, they are both stunning. Since ABT has been having a revolving roster of principal women, it is great to see that these two are making more frequent appearances… Even if there are plenty of women who would be great principals within the company…

THE NEW BLOOD: 

Thank the Lord for the newest principals of American Ballet Theatre: Isabella Boylston and Hee Seo. The two couldn’t be more different, but both equally poised to be principals. Isabella Boylston is dark, mysterious and sensual. Hee Seo is romantic, charming and airy. While I think Hee Seo is being groomed to replace Julie Kent, Boylston has set her own path at ABT. Both women I think are on the road to become great and lasting ballerinas.

Now the reality… ABT has two types of women… The women who get stuck, and the women who are on the fast track. Kevin McKenzie has obviously shown a track record of promoting women fast through the ranks, and promoting people and then the women get stuck. Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera have been stuck as soloists for a while, where their newly arrived counter parts Christine Schevchenko and Devon Teuscher are fast tracking it…I think Christine and Devon are being groomed to replace Gillian and Paloma. Oh and Sarah Lane, but I don’t really think of her as anything one way or the other. To be honest, I think she was only promoted because of her height and potential, but after the black swan fiasco, I haven’t really heard or seen anything great about her. While Misty Copeland is being pushed publicly to become a principal, new young blood in the corps has already been made a priority for the company. April Giangeruso, Gemma Bond, Luciana Paris, are being used quite a bit in leading roles. And very new to the company Catherine Hurlin and Hannah Marshall are both potential soloists in the makings… In the corps though, there are plenty of women who deserve promotions but I don’t think will ever get their chance Zhong-Jin Fang, a prix winner, Melanie Hamrick, Leann Underwood are three extremely beautiful dancers who should dance more. I honestly thought Underwood was on the fast track when she joined the company, but nothing has come to fruition… It is sad that ABT has tons of potential women to use but has yet to utilize them. (At least NYCB uses tons of their new talents, and has the repertory to showcase their corps.) So, as the season unfolds here’s to hoping for promoting Misty Copeland…

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.

Your petit allegro is awful…

Petit Allegro is neglected at most smaller schools in the US. It seems to be tossed aside, or never really done right. Either the tempo is too slow, or they just don’t teach their students the importance of petit allegro. The above picture is why. There are so many “ballet dictionaries” out there that teachers use to reference… and that is what they give. I honestly don’t know how this even got into a book, or how it even looks like a glissade…. but someone published it and put their name to it. *smh*

5 things to help you improve your petit allegro.

1. Close fifth every time. There aren’t very many steps in petit allegro that don’t close 5th, and without closing into a tight clean fifth, you aren’t really doing ballet. #justsayin

2. Stop putting the weight in the back of your foot, in petit allegro you have to be the most forward. By putting your weight forward, that is how you counter balance with your heels… the idea of pressing down and getting the most stretch in your achilles.

3. Carefully plan where you are going to accent in the music. You are able to play with the music a lot in petit allegro if you decide to move faster. Most students don’t realize that petit allegro is fun, flirty, and sassy. It is the one time you can really add some personality without looking over the top dramatic, or jazzarina whack a leg…

4. Your teacher probably doesn’t give good petit allegros, and is hurting you in the long run. Petit allegro makes or break an audition a lot of the times. Everyone focuses on adagio and grand allegro, and pirouettes… Everyone seems to forget, you have to move fast as well… So find a new studio. Okay, or not. But, you might want to ask your teachers why there isn’t an emphasis on it… Challenge how they think, an teach. Most teachers get lazy when it comes to petit allegro. I love petit allegro, so I focus a lot on it.

5. Eat more oatmeal, it makes you smarter so you can think faster… lol. It is what I tell my kids all the time…