It’s here! The Guide to Pas De Deux!! The first book in the Ballet Education Standardized Ballet Training Curriculum. 24 pages of information including 15 illustrations, vocabulary and mapped out curriculum! Click the book below to purchase.
6 Issues 1 crazy year. When I started the magazine I was living in California, then Phoenix, and now issue six is published from Charleston. What a crazy whirlwind! But how wonderful! With so many subscribers and followers, we were able to lower the cost of the subscription to the magazine! Which is exciting!
Still too expensive? Don’t worry, this entire month JOOmag Publishers are giving us 50% off, which means you get 50% off. Just use the coupon code: K0LBKWTVBUL4 Sorry, it is so long! But it is worth it.
This year a Ballet Education has five really big things coming up…
1. A Ballet Education’s YouTube Channel & Tutorials
2. A Ballet Education’s Teacher Workshops
3. A Ballet Education’s Master Class Series
4. A Ballet Education’s A Ballet Magazine getting even bigger
5. A Ballet Network’s great list of clients to work with.
I see London, I see France, where is the best education for dance?
It is that time of year again as young hopeful ballet students decide where to go train for the year. This year was a promising year for ballet, as the talent pool keeps growing and growing. What does this mean for most dancers looking to find the top training? It means that the top schools in the world are becoming more and more exclusive. Why is it so important to go an elite school? It offers some of the best training, but it also creates an environment pushing students to perform at their best constantly. Being surrounded by their peers, you can see what the job market will be like within your graduating class. Additionally, being seen at your year-end showcase or show matters, so that you can get a job. That is the goal in the long run, right? So, you have to plan ahead and be prepared.
This year the Ballet Education team was privileged enough to see the top ballet schools around the world work. And after a long day of meetings, debating, arguing, and seeking second and third opinions by the ballet world’s best we have come up with the top ten list of 2017. This year we talked about what happened this year in the ballet world, and how the schools reflect the progression of ballet technique. We also considered employability, size, opportunities, networking, visibility and graduation rates. So, as this is the much-anticipated list from a Ballet Education, we should go straight in.
Royal Ballet School, United Kingdom | Divided into two schools, the lower school being White Lodge, and the upper school, Royal Ballet boasted an extremely strong class once again. As this exclusive school might be the Princeton of ballet schools, Royal Ballet School’s exclusivity reflects the amount of natural talent housed at this institution. Known for their constraint and control, dancers at the upper school continuously prove to be some of the best in the world by landing ferocious jobs and rising quickly to the top. (https://www.royalballetschool.org.uk)
Vaganova School, St. Petersburg | The Harvard of Ballet. This historic institution remains as one of the top producing schools in the world. Not only do they produce large, wonderful graduating classes but also boasts some of, history’s greatest ballet dancers. (http://vaganovaacademy.com)
Watch their graduation performance here:
Paris Opera Ballet School, France | As the Yale of Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet School was one of the most exclusive schools to go to, but in recent years, POBS has expanded on their international acceptance rate making the French technique and pedagogy a little more relevant to today’s young ballerinas. (https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/artists/ballet-school/admission)
Master Ballet Academy, USA | The USC of Ballet Schools. While there are the Ivies and their historical prestige, young schools are emerging to the top offering elite training and cultivating a newer generation of dancers progressing the ballet technique. While exclusivity runs high to become a Master’s student, Master Ballet Academy is known to take various body types and turn them out to be ballet dancers. Master Ballet Academy is the newest school on the list, but don’t be afraid, they focus on young students, as this year, it was quite obvious on the ballet competition circuit they are a force to be reckoned with. At the YAGP this year, it felt like half of the finalists were from Master Ballet Academy. (http://masterballetacademy.com) It isn’t too late to enroll in their Grand Prix Intensive. Contact the school as soon as possible to get a spot. (http://grandprixintensive.com)
John Cranko School, Stuttgart, Germany | The John Cranko School not only feeds Stuttgart, but this fully comprehensive school offers higher education, vocational degrees, and university entrance diplomas. And, if you are German, to board at the school and train, you are paying less than 900 USD a month… Which still beats most small competition studios in the United States. The John Cranko school also boasts one of the best men’s programs in the world, creating strong, versatile and refined male dancers…. everything that a classical male ballet dancer is. (http://en.john-cranko-schule.de)
School of American Ballet, USA | As the feeder school to the New York City Ballet, the historic School of American Ballet offers one thing other companies can’t. The historic legacy and the last significant contribution to ballet pedagogy, the Balanchine Aesthetic. This aesthetic is obviously not for everyone, nor is it a widely recognized form of classical pedagogy (because it’s not), the School of American Ballet picks up where American dance ended. It is the only elite school in America that does not run on the Vaganova, Paris Opera, Royal, RAD, Cuban pedagogies. Making this school one of a kind, and remaining one of the elite schools in the world solely because it feeds the New York City Ballet. (http://sab.org)
San Francisco Ballet School, USA | San Francisco Ballet School boasted a 100% graduation rate this year, and continually proves that they offer some of the best training in the world. Their men’s/boy’s program is one of the best in the country and rivals the John Cranko School’s program. SFB also offers diverse training from Russian to Balanchine, to contemporary and modern, SFB’s curriculum only improves with time. (https://www.sfballet.org/school)
Moscow State Academy (Bolshoi), Moscow | While history will never forget the Bolshoi School, it seems that the Vaganova school has eclipsed the Bolshoi in fame. While the company should never reflect the school, Bolshoi’s press has been up and down, and all over the place over the past few years. With books like Bolshoi Confidential, and movies like Bolshoi Babylon, we sometimes forget about the school to it’s famous sister. It’s like being Solange Knowles to Beyonce. You put out good work and are artistically impressive, but you are overshadowed by your sister’s fame.
Princess Grace Academy, Monaco | This elite school not only claims a prestigious name in history but holds the relevance of being the school to Ballets de Monte-Carlo. In recent years they have been recruiting herd at ballet competitions offering four-year scholarships to young potential students. Because of this, the Academie de Danse Princesse Grace (official name), has cultivated strong talent and nurturing them into companies. (http://www.balletsdemontecarlo.com/en/academy)
National Ballet School, Toronto, Canada | The NBS at National Ballet of Canada always produces clean dancers and is internationally recognized as a leading school. The NBS is also one of the few schools that is partnering with other schools around the world that offers exchange programs based within their international network in hopes students are able to find jobs as well as, be exposed to as many options as possible. The price tag is quite high for the NBS school as nationals pay about 23K, and international students pay 33K for 9 months of training. (http://www.nbs-enb.ca/Home)
Honorable Mentions & Other Schools that a Ballet Education Considered, in no particular order: Sunhwa Arts Academy
The School at National Ballet Cuba
Houston Ballet Academy
Australian Ballet School
The School at Teatro La Scala
The Rock School
Miami City Ballet
All the schools in Japan
Boston Ballet School
All the other schools in Germany
There is nothing in the world… and I mean nothing… better than a really good, really clean, really technical petit allegro. Yup, it can turn any bad day into a great day… or it can turn a great day into a crappy day depending on what side of the glass window you are standing on…. The problem is, most people are pretty awful at petit allegro, and a lot of the times at smaller studios, most teachers don’t really emphasize petit allegro causing there to be a lot of dancers to have pretty awful petit allegro skills…
I don’t even know where to begin about awful petit allegros… but I think I will start with petit jeté… Or in America, we just use jeté… but I love it…. I love them in petit allegro, in grand allegro, in random combinations… I love them in ecarté, turning, and with beats… I just in general love them… The problem… so many jetés out there are soooo sucky.
What good petit allegro looks like… and no I am not going to shame someone and post a bad petit allegro video… but trust me there are lots of them…
There are multiple approaches to jeté… again they vary by pedagogy. The first conversation to have how to approach a jeté.
a. This is the way most schools around the US teach jeté. The idea is from fifth to throw the first leg, pass through a semi-second, and connect the coupé when landing in plié… There is nothing wrong with this, personally, I find it yucky… but then again I find a lot of things yucky in classical ballet. The idea is to brush to degagé height and bring the coupé to the first leg, and transition accordingly… If you are a ballet dancer, you will understand… if you aren’t a ballet dancer you throw your working leg into the air, but after the midway point and as you descend, your working leg becomes the supporting/landing leg.
b. The second way of looking at jeté is the way I was taught, the Balanchine way… To throw the first left to whatever height the music allows, and to connect the coupé as quickly as possible and maintain that shape while landing… Then as you grew up, the jeté may or may not become more stylized.
3:19 is the finale of Symphony in C by PNB
c. Finally, when I was older I learned the idea that every petit allegro step had to have two butts up… This concept is hit the height of the jump quickly and hit a clean second in the air, and cut to coupé while maintaining the height, then land underneath yourself… avoiding injury…
Then we run into the issue of coupé… and where to put the coupé… when to connect it, and where to place it. Ideally, coupé back is coupé back, the problem is that we travel and move in time and space… This causes the coupé to move around and get sloppy… Then there is the idea of over crossing the coupé in the air that way when you land you are in a solid position when landing. I am not one to say one way or the other… Another issue people talk about is how high the working leg hits, which varies because different schools teach different degagé heights… Soo, again that varies but… usually I go through for a 45 degrees. When in doubt… keep a clean line either 45 or 90 degrees as a general rule of thumb for all of ballet.
Then you have the issue of leaning… really only choreography calls for leaning… and bending… and usually the choreography is Balanchine or contemporary pieces…
Finally, here are definite things to avoid when doing petit jeté:
do not travel forward more than one-fifth foot position front… Don’t get into the bad habit of traveling obnoxiously forward. If a jeté is a degage and fifth, you would only travel forward that one degagé closing from front to back forward.
do not travel randomly side… I hate when people do jetés obnoxiously traveling far… it looks weird and not precise. Petit allegro should look like a hibachi chef jabbing a knife into the bamboo between his fingers.
do not torque your hips, a lot of young dancers torque or shift their hips like doing the wave at a baseball game… They do it to gain height, which is actually counter productive to everything… and it is awful looking and spazzy…
do not grip your quads… use your abductors and the backs of your legs to make that sh!t happen in the air. To get a two butts up jeté you have to pop, but you pop from the pressure in your ankle pressing off the ground, and the backs of your legs snapping forward.
DON’T SICKLE or have biscuity feet…
don’t tuck your pelvis under or release it back to have duck butt
do not over compensate in the knees, that is how injury happens. When taking off and landing make sure your knee is moving over your second toe, and the weight is centered over the ball of your foot and the energy connects from the back of your leg, through your heel, into the ball of your foot… cleaner and safer take off and landing… the landing is the reverse.
Here are some things to work on to improve your jetés:
a lot of degagés…
jumping at the barre, practicing hitting a clean second in the air…
those awful things when you lay on your back and have your legs at 90, in a clean pointed fifth and you beat front back a million times… but this time hi 45 degrees open every time
line the barres like a gymnast’s parallel bars and press down on them to lift yourself off the ground and go over the motions military style… like by the number… that way you know exactly the where the clean positions feel on your body.
practice using a pilates reformer springboard
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Everything is beautiful at the ballet… Edward Kleban said it all in his lyrics for A Chorus Line… When we were younger something resonated with us and sparked the passion for dancing. I remember when I was younger I was obsessed with the Nutcracker. I would watch the VHS versions of Nutcracker (PNB & the Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland version then I added the Balanchine Version) back to back, every day. It was magical… As I am doodling on Instagram, this week’s theme is “My first Ballet Class” so it has brought back a lot of childhood memories… And so, I haven’t done one of these in a while, so tonight, as I neglect to clean my house, I give you 5 reasons why we fell in love with ballet…
1. The Spectacle that is the Nutcracker… For a lot of us, Nutcracker was our first live ballet… Usually, it was a result of being in class and it was finally time for your first real ballet. It was the music and the costumes: Tutus bouncing up and down, skirts twirling, men’s jackets twinkling in the light, ribbons flowing in the air… and pointe shoes. It was the lights and the glamor: getting dressed up, the opera house lights dimming, the velvet curtain rising… It was everything that ballet is… enchanting.
2. The Music. For some, it was the music. It is this epic music, full symphonic sounds and more than that… inspiring. Music for some dancers becomes the driving force of their careers, the ability to interpret music on the body— it’s inspiring.
3. The stories… for others it is the epic love stories, the tragedies that can’t be unwritten… the ability to become a princess, a swan and an enchantress, all in the same the night. It is the ability to forget who you are in reality, and be someone different. Who doesn’t want to escape and be a fabled princess, and get to live out your childhood heroines?
4. The Movement… it is the elegance, the posturing, the bravura of turns and jumps. The power of choreography says a lot. It is what makes a repertory live forever. The steps are just steps, but the movement itself can be inspired and brought to another level through artistry. I mean we have all seen really bad bourrés…. like really bad ones…
5. And then there is the reason why I fell in love with ballet… a good ballet, meaning when the steps, the choreography, the dancers, the costumes the lighting all come together perfectly… it builds this adrenaline and once it is over it leaves you wanting more; much more. When a dancer is so generous with their soul, their artistry, their passion you become addicted to that dancer… It makes you want everything and then some… For me, it was Gelsey Kirkland in the first pas de deux (the music for snow PDD), it was Maia Rosal as the peacock, Lucinda Hughey as Dew Drop, Darci Kistler and Damian Woetzel as Sugar Plum & Cavailer, and Kyra Nichols as Dew Drop. These women to me were goddesses. They were gorgeous… They were everything that I admired in ballet… and probably the reason I am so obsessed with ballet…
No matter what it was that made us start ballet… we started… and here we are as adults… either professional dancers, ballet go-ers, ballet lovers, and just in general ballet fans. When you start a love affair with ballet, it doesn’t really ever end. Even if your career ends because of injury, and you end up hating ballet… it is only for a while… But you always find a way back to ballet… you see a youtube video, or a performance, or something… no matter what it is… everytime you hear the music for Nutcracker, or you see a great performance on social media… you fall in love all over again…
I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day! This week has been a crazy amazing week for ballet… and this next week is going to be a great week as well. This week’s insta theme is International Ballet… So, if you missed anything this week in ballet, here are some of the highlights:
Royal Ballet premiered “Frankenstein” which will be on stage till May 27. Choreography by Liam Scarlett. Set design by John Macfarlane. Music by Lowell Liebermann
Boston Ballet announced their new 5-year partnership with William Forsythe. What does this mean? Over the next five years, this world-renowned choreographer will present a new ballet each year, and presenting already existing Forsythe repertory to the company. It is already reflected in the 2016-2017 season announcement… But, this will also mean that Boston Ballet will shift from a more classical repertory to a more contemporary repertory, which will make them stand out among other top companies here in the US. This will also mean a lot of their more contemporary dancers will be utilized… Boston Ballet this month is presenting their full-length “Swan Lake“.
Most ballet companies around the world have announced their 2016-2017 season, roster, promotions and new hires… except NYCB who will announce theirs after the SAB workshop and then in Sarasota. (Tradition) This month, like every end of season NYCB closes with “midsummers“.
ABT goes up at the Met tomorrow debuting with the powerhouse ballet “Sylvia“, which means… you can buy my leading ladies of ABT on a set of stationary cards, women’s and junior’s shirts, and a mug… I haven’t seen them or know how they will be selling the, I just know they are… The image isn’t the leading ladies of ABT I did, I revised it per their request and so it becomes available tomorrow. Don’t know if it will be offered in Los Angeles when they come to Dorothy Chandler in July.
Stella in Giselle, Isabella in their new Sleeping Beauty, Misty in Corsaire, Maria in Don Q, Gillian in Sylvia, Veronika in Swan Lake, Polina in Raymonda, Hee in Bayadere, Diana in Romeo and Juliet… FYI Polina pulled out of her performances at ABT because of an “injury” or actual injury but this is the second season in a row she has pulled out of the Met Season….
Houston Ballet is getting ready to present a mixed repertory on May 26, that is kind of to die for… Serenade, Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria, and HB’s premier of Alexander Akeman’s Cacti. Their rehearsal videos are all over instagram.
I have been avoiding talking about anything at center as I am trying to focus on my book, BUT a lot of you have asked… a lot… So, when it comes to pirouettes, I probably could write a good 10 pages about them… With that being said, I was never a turner… In fact, I was mediocre back then and by today’s standards, I would be pathetic. I was consistently at a triple, and if I was really on my leg I could get in a fourth rotation, and the most I have ever done was six… And the last rotation was really turned in. I never really had a good turning coach, and probably could have really used one. So, I actually first learned how to turn in jazz class, which helped me when I focused on ballet because I was trained to turn the Balanchine way… But then, at CPYB… they kind of beat it out of me and I lost my ability to turn… Totally NOT blaming, I am saying that because I wasn’t a turner to begin with, it didn’t help that I never really had a super solid foundation… But once I went pro, all I turned was from a Balanchine fourth, and an overexaggerated fourth at that… Like super overexaggerated, I used to be in company class with my friend’s and I would turn from basically a runner’s lunge and try to end in an even deeper fourth… I enjoyed it, but it isn’t for everyone… So here: Part One of my notes on pirouettes.
What is a pirouette?
A pirouette (whirl or spin, which is the translation… but a horrible definition…) is an axial rotation on one leg that can be done either en dehors (to the outside) or en dedans (to the inside) in a variety of positions but the standard position is in passé. Which is kind of right and kind of wrong, because while turning… the passé has to change at different points in the turn. (If you have no clue what I’m talking about, I’m sorry… but I don’t want to break down the basics any more than that because it is all going in the book…)
The Prep (preparation): I am about to generalize a bunch of stuff right now, but I am trying to keep this post under 2,000 words, and saving the elaborate, non-generalized stuff for the book…
There are a variety of ways to approaching pirouettes, and most of them start with how you prepare… Yes, you can prep in fifth, which is actually how I teach pirouettes to young kids, but the standard is prepping in fourth. You can prep in either open fourth in plié, closed forth in plié, or what is called the Balanchine fourth… No matter what position you turn from you have to be properly aligned in the prep and the passé position.
Closed fourth (straight back leg into plié): This preparation is probably the correct preparation to teach pirouettes from, especially for younger kids… like under 14. This preparation starts in a fourth position with the front leg bent, and the back leg straight, you can actually sit in this position without losing energy because the energy comes from the bending of the back leg at the moment you are about to turn.
Open Fourth (double plié): The preparation actually happens rather quickly, as the focus is usually on the transition to get into the fourth position to build momentum. This style of turning is usually done by super male technicians. The use these larger open positions to gather energy, and then control the aerodynamics and physics of the rotations by closing the aerodynamic space and speeding up the rotations… a lot like ice skaters… The arms in the preparation usually go from opposite fourth arms and the right arm opens to hit a la seconde as the “widest” moment… From the preparation, the fourth position rotates into a second position facing side and then pulls up into the pirouette… your weight, center, and the axis is always centered. You have to have a ton of control for this kind of turn…
Balanchine Fourth (straight back leg): This preparation can’t really be static because the weight is forced into only the front leg. The arms are also elongated/reaching and not rounded. from this position… The energy goes up and forwards before turning… You actually don’t transfer your weight in this pirouette, or at least not as much because the weight is always in the front leg. The (working side) arm never opens to second… it pulls straight in. This method should be used for the more advanced student because it requires all of the strength to turn off of the standing leg. This method is really efficient as it doesn’t have a ton of weight shifting.
The take off:
It is obvious that the force comes from the plié… but what happens a lot of the time is that students kill the plié… This means they lose the elasticity in the prep, or they forget to bend a little more right before the taking off… Another mistake is putting too much power in the plié and forcing the turn… Another boo boo students make is flailing their arms or throwing their working arm behind them before taking off… Taking off:
The biggest problem while taking off, besides unpointed feet, or sickled feet… is overshooting or underestimating the line of balance… You have to move your body while rotating and hit your axis… It’s quite difficult and takes a while to know exactly where your center of gravity is in relevé passé and how much force you need to get there…
Rotating the passé adds more torque to a pirouette…
Controlling the rate your foot gets into passé increases g-force, just like bringing in your arms slower…
Raising your passé right before you end your turn adds an extra lift and controls the landing… usually you want to press down in the standing leg while lifting up in the passé to avoid hopping or swaying back.
Two ways of thinking about spotting… the body turning first, and the spot follows, or the spot happens first and the body follows. Both concepts are correct and depends on the dancer’s needs… Personally, I don’t spot while turning, mostly because I can’t, or it actually slows me down… But then again, I’m not a natural turner, so I know what works for my body, and some of my students. Another think you want to avoid is locking the neck either forward and having “turtle-neck”, or backwards and have “double chin”… locking up the neck doesn’t allow for spotting… and who wants a double chin?
Most people throw away the landing, and it is a shame. It conditions the body to end a combination poorly. Before you land, you should always lift, and as a general rule of thumb both heels should touch down at the same time… I’ve seen a lot of dancers get the bad habit of dropping their supporting heel first and then swiveling to land, letting the working leg follow… It isn’t technically wrong but is a sign of lack of control and sloppiness.
Tips & Tricks from the teacher … me… well, I guess this whole post is tips & tricks from me… soooo… here are some tips and tricks for pirouettes when having a bad turning day… or you are just bad at turning.
-make sure your core is really warmed up… even before going across the floor, I hop down to the ground and do some extra crunches…
-keep your neck relaxed and told hold tension in your neck or traps… hold it in your core…
-It is okay to just do a passé instead of turning… despite popular demands of teachers around the world… the more your turn poorly the more bad habits, and bad equilibrium compensation your body retains…
-pressing down into the standing leg relevé to center yourself is always helpful
-visualizing the turn can help as well… especially for those clean singles that end in relevé
-make sure your supporting leg is strong enough to turn on and that the back of your leg is the part supporting the turn while keeping the knee locked.
and the most important: NEVER EVER KILL YOUR PLIÉ!! the more you sit and wait… you lose the power to develop your turn.
Extensions in ballet are everything… Well extensions are also everything on social media, but social media is a whole different post. But extensions in ballet… truly are everything… It is the difference between getting a contract and not getting a contract, it is the difference between being cast as Odette … or not. You get the idea, or at least I hope you do. My original post about tilting your hips has kind of come under a lot of fire, which is totally cool… Everyone is entitled to their own pedagogy and ballet ideals. But a lot of you have asked some questions, so I am here to answer some of them. In ballet… a la seconde or side or perfect side or whatever your natural turnout decides what side is… well it is really confusing and quite difficult. And truth be told, I had no clue what any of it really meant until I became a teacher…
Side Action… first we have to determine what is side. For some schools- it is about the natural turnout and you draw a line from the second toe outwards (i)… Other schools teach that side is in line or slightly in front of your shoulder (ii) and some schools teach that side is behind your hip line (which only works if you are freakishly hypermobile or flexible, iii). This is all determined by turnout.
Okay, okay… Now onto the good stuff… Getting your leg up. You can just hoist your leg up, you have to use the back of your legs. If your teacher is one of those sticklers for being square, which I totally don’t disagree with, you only have to follow a and b.
a-b. From passé, you rotate slight forward to an attitude position and lift your knee as high as it can go while your hips stay square. You have to seperate your femoral head while rotating it to get to this position. then you just have to extend the heel forward till your leg is fully extended. Yes, you use your heel as the guide of your extension, not your knee. If you are focusing on your knee… you get massive quads and can grip. You have to really use opposition to achieve the back of your legs. The oposition comes from really pressing your psoas and core downwards.
c-e. I teach my students to start shifting their weight into their standing leg, and aligning the opposing hip. I tell them to use the full power of the backs of their leg to rotate forward, bring the leg even more slightly infront of their body allow the look of maximum turnout. Then bring the knee into the front of your armpit using your psoas, and pressing down through the student’s core to get the maximum stability and correct tension saving the hips. Then guiding through the heel, like the later part of a ron de jambe en l’iar. So instead of thinking of extension as a line, you have to think of it as a circular motion… like turnout… like everything in ballet. Use your hamstring to supply the support needed. But the higher your leg gets, the easier it should feel. It is simply physics, as the weight is now all shifted into your standing leg, freeing up your working leg.
f. Then, for those students who are hypermobile, and have mastered the ability to rotate the extension upwards, I let my students shift their weight even more into their standing leg, and then like a teetertotter shift their hips even more to get those last six inches of extension. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of pressure on the lower back, so you have to be strong and pretty advanced to achieve it.
more notes: Tilting your hips on the plane of turnout is not the same as lifting your hip. Lifting your hip usually reffers to your booty and pelvis tipping forward. You have to understand your hip anatomy in order to really understand turnout and a la seconde. You never want to lift from your quads. Again work from the back of your legs! If you don’t know how, read my notes on how to work from the backs of your legs. Your hips have to be really warmed up and stretched out before your attempt this… Don’t be one of those kids sitting in their room reading this and then just go try it… It is why barre is structured.
The waiting game… From January until May, sometimes even longer, dancers ages 17ish-22ish wait anxiously for the ultimate business goal: A CONTRACT. For some dancers, there is an additional layer of stress; they are waiting for their college acceptances as their backup plans. It is a scary moment. Usually, these dancers are at professional schools attached to companies like San Francisco Ballet School or Miami City Ballet School, and they are waiting to hear from that company. In addition to waiting for that company to possibly give them a contract, most dancers also auditioned for a million other companies and summer programs, just in case…. It is a scary thing, but it is a part of this career, here in the US in particular.
For dancers who are waiting for a contract there are three common contracts that dancers are waiting for:
1. Corps de ballet: Basically to be invited into the main company is a dream come true, and this is probably the most coveted contract because it is the best paid of the three. If you haven’t danced with a company or completed an apprenticeship year somewhere, this contract is hard to land. Most dancers who are going after corps contracts have completed a rigorous ballet education, finished a traineeship program, and completed an apprentice year at a company. Most dancers who move into corps positions have all this, but there are always the exceptions…. On occasion, and mostly during Nutcracker top students from the school are pulled as fillers to step in for injured or overworked dancers, and on occasion if a dancer performs well under the stress, the schedule, and the stamina factor… A dancer can be given a contract to the corps the following spring… This usually happens in larger companies.
2. Apprenticeship: A coveted spot to spend a year with the company, and basically, you are part of the company except you are the access… You have to work ten times harder to prove you can “fit in” to the company life. The apprentice year for a ballet dancer is hard because you don’t’ know exactly where you fit in. You are kind of in the company, but not really. You have to learn the entire repertory without actually being sat down with, or guided through. Half the time it is via video, by yourself in a studio, trying to see what girl is girl number 10 in snow, and that’s that.
3. Studio Company/ 2nd Company: A lot of companies have now implemented the studio company/second company which is kind of a joke… it is basically 10-20 dancers who double up in the corps de ballet without having to be paid as much. The only place that really has a studio company is ABT. Their second company performs a lot, and is used to try new choreographers out, and for dancers to build performance qualities across different styles of movement.
Numbers…. There are tons of dancers out there… Maybe too many dancers… The industry right now is so oversaturated with talent, that there aren’t enough jobs to accommodate them. This is mostly because the audience and general public for ballet aren’t buying tickets. So, if you think about it there are tons of places where dancers start out…. Quoting my old post “Too Many Claras”
FACT: A dance studio is not the same as a dance school and is not the same as a performing arts school and is not the same as a ballet school.
A Dance Studio is a recreational place to dance, which means you are there for exercise, exposure to music and the idea of technique.
A Dance School is a recreational place to dance with higher performance expectancy. A dance school usually can also be called a competition studio, or a performance studio. This is where technique matters, but not to the extent of creating a career that feeds into a company. This is more for commercial dance route, the Hollywood route, and the scholarships to a UDA college career.
A Performing Arts School is a place for children to develop the fine/performing arts to a greater extent on the artistic side. Most kids in these schools aren’t just out to be ballet dancers, but instead they are also on their way to become a triple threat: BROADWAY BOUND. Performing arts schools usually offer more than just ballet, but modern, contemporary, voice lessons, acting lessons, and so forth.
A Ballet School is a place for children to study pure ballet. Regardless of the pedagogy, it is completely ballet based, and the emphasis is only on ballet technique with supplemented curriculum of modern, contemporary and occasionally jazz.
With that being said, no matter what school you are at… you are at a school. In the top level, there are maybe 8-16 girls… Of those 8-16 girls, they will usually all get into summer programs… Or at least, half. From there, in the upper level of a summer course, or even the top two levels there will range anywhere between 40-100 girls. Of those girls, 20 might be asked to stay year round. Once you are year-round at a pre-professional school in the top level there might be twelve girls… of those twelve, 4-8 will be asked to join the trainee program… In the trainee program there will be about 12 girls, of those twelve, generously, 3 girls will be asked to join as apprentices… Of those three girls, maybe 1 will join the company… Yes, the odds are that slim, but luckily in America there are hundreds of companies. This is why teachers say it is a privilege to be a ballerina because company contracts are so scarce.
There are hundreds of companies that fuel America’s ballet needs. Unfortunately, that also hinders companies. It means donors are dividing the money in the community, and that is how favorite companies and styles are developed.
There is no guarantee that a ballet dancer will go pro or not… The only insurance you can really get for your child is a good ballet education, at a good school… And in America, there are tons of those… But for those who are serious about ballet, the seriousness of getting a contract is a big deal… And you have to be prepared times ten. It isn’t like college where you put your dream school, backup schools, and safety schools… In fact, it isn’t even like summer programs… When it comes to contracts you go where they want you, and where they can pay you.
When it comes to contracts there are two types contracts… there are union contracts and non-union contracts… Ideally, you want a union contract as it protects the interests of the dancer… It also keeps you from being one of those dancers who are underpaid, overworked, and dancing on injuries. Your contract is so important because it outlines time off, rehearsals standards, how much you can actually dance in a day, and so forth… A good contract will be 10+ pages… A bad contract is two-three pages, and is vague….
So for those of you in the waiting game… Good luck! And for those of you who are embarking on your journey to get a contract…. Keep your heads high, and keep pushing to be the best.
You were the best one at your local school, and then you went to a professional school, and you basically kicked ass. Teachers fawned over you. You excelled in the curriculum, and you knew. You knew that one day you would get your company contract. You land your apprenticeship and then get your corps contract. Ten years later, you are standing on stage in B plus, on the side of the stage in a beautiful white tutu. Yup. All of that hard work, all of those hours, killing yourself over and over again. Learning every part, understudying every principal role, and finally… You wonder, “What was the point?” The greatest role you ever did was some random pas de trois in a matinee showing. You might have done Spanish or Chinese in the Nutcracker. If you are lucky you did Marzipan and Dew Drop for a matinee… So, what was the point?
Working in the corps makes life difficult. Every time a season is about to close you are questioning if you will have your contract renewed. Then you are questioning yourself at the beginning of the season, wondering who they have hired? Who is the next hot shot of talent coming up? You start to question yourself as an artist, and you feel completely unchallenged. You have danced the repertory twice and then some. You know every girl part in Nutcracker and have probably danced in every role. Yup, this is the life of a corps de ballet member. You start to think about your sixteen-year-old self, the person who wanted it so badly. Who anticipated the moment you got to step onto a stage. The person who excelled and wanted every moment of ballet… Where did that person go?
Life in the Corps de Ballet is hard, and they are probably the most under appreciated position in a ballet company…. So now… I am honoring the amazing talent in the corps de ballet of ballet companies. Without the corps there isn’t a flock of swans behind Odette, and there aren’t any Shades in Bayadere… It would just be Solar smoking some opium for giggles. lol. So, what is it like to have the job a million girls would kill for? Get ready for our #corpsdeballetconfessional series. A series of posts dedicated to the corps de ballet, mostly interviews with working ballet dancers.
Saturday, February 20th at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles Ballet world premiered Coleen Neary’s and Thordal Christensen’s Don Quixote. While the entire world seems to be doing Don Q this month, Los Angeles Ballet tackled this three-act ballet for their 10th season. The audience was filled, and there were very few seats left open in the house. Not that it was important but wearing Dolce never hurt anyone either. Which makes up for the 91 freeway being closed and because of traffic it took almost 3 hours to get there… But anyways…. Let us talk about a night at the ballet.
Don Quixote is no easy ballet to take on; especially for a smaller company like Los Angeles Ballet. Usually, Don Q require a ridiculously large cast…. Which brings me to my first comment of the evening… Some of the corps de ballet dancers looked overworked, but with that being said the corps de ballet held the ballet together. The amount of dancing they had to do was insane. Of the corps de ballet members, Jasmine Perry looked spectacular. She definitely has grown up a lot since graduating from SAB two years ago. Other than that corps member who did show a lot of promise last season is no longer with Los Angeles Ballet… (i.e.,: Chloe Sherman left for Silicon Valley Ballet, who premiered tonight in Diane and Acteon PDD. ) The corps felt very young, mature, but young.
Of the soloists, I was disappointed not to see Alexander Castillo…. more to come on this… Bianca Bulle was paired with Kate Highstrete as Kitri’s friends in ACT 1. The two were a stellar couple and seasoned LA BALLET members. Bianca then took on Queen of the Dryads in ACT 2. Gorgeous technique and musicality with flares of Balanchine port de bras here and there. Kate Highstrete took on the bridesmaid variation in ACT 3 with gorgeous jumps. Her ferociously long legs ate up the stage. Even with a small slip, she kept her cool and took all of her roles on ferociously. She also danced a principal dryad in ACT 2.
Principal Allyssa Bross was cast as Mercedes…. ehh nothing too exciting to report here or there. Did not dig her side ponytail…. I get they were trying to make her vampy… but it did not work. It just looked like some little girl hair style for ballet class. Her technique was flawless though, and she moved through the steps with ease. Definitely could up the sexy factor.
Dustin True was a great Gypsy solo man in the windmill scene. He brought flamboyancy and vigor to the role. Usually, this is the time I fall asleep in Don Q, but he was quite entertaining. Unfortunately principal dancer Zheng Hua Li was cast as the character role of Gamache so he didn’t dance the entire ballet…
Basilio was played by Kenta Shimizu who is now in his seventh season… He literally can do no wrong. All the bravura that is needed to do Basilio backed with strong technique and a calm approach to the role. But hands down the evening goes to Miss Julia Cinquemani… First I just want to say, normally I haven’t been a fan of her dancing, but it seems that Kitri/Dulcinea is the role she was born for and has created a new artistic maturity that is impossible to take your eyes off of. Her entrances in the first act were great, and the castanet variation was firey… The ACT 3 variation was clean and easy… But what was most impressive was her variation as Dulcinea was flawless…. It was so breathtaking. Every roll down was dream-like and suspended. It is everything that this variation should be. Her lines are still ridiculously high, but more refined now. Her attack is there, but now it is controlled. Her acting skills have improved and in ACT 3, her acting skills stole the show. It was funny and charming, sincere and realistic. Something that ballet should be.
Now time for the bad….. There were a lot of casting choices that I have no freaking clue why they were made…. Okay yes, I do. The artistic directors’ son, corps member Erik Thordal-Christensen was cast in Espada… It was sloppy, unrefined, immature and did I mention sloppy. The rest of the corps technique was flawless, turned out, stretched… and then there was him. This tall, elongated, uncontrolled blonde mess is running around the stage… I don’t know if because he is the son of the directors extra choreography was made around him but he danced probably just as much as Basilio…. And it wasn’t good. His costuming was better than Basilio’s as well…. But regardless… He was a mess. I’m sorry, but he has no business doing this role on the world premier night…Literally… they didn’t use Zheng Hua Li (a principal) or Alexander Castillo (soloist)…. seriously…. ballet faux pas…. don’t hire your kid…. #balletpolitics
Then in Amour/Cupid… 2nd-year corps member SarahAnne Perel was cast…. Which should not have happened… I get that Cupid always given to a short girl, but she is like tiny status. She looked like a little girl next to everyone else in the dream scene….. She was cute enough, but looked straight out of SAB….
The casting should have looked like:
Kitri: Julia Cinquemani
Basilio: Kenta Shimizu
Espada: Alexander Castillo (umm he’s Latin/Spanish boohoo Ummm hello….)
Mercedes: Allyssa Bross
Queen of the Dryads: Bianca Bulle
Amor/Cupid: Jasmine Perry
Bridesmaid: Kate Highstrete
Another issue with the ballet is that in the 3rd act tavern scene… they didn’t have the right size drops for the stage so you could see the hangers and the set behind the “tavern.” In the prologue where Don Q starts his dream… the set looked like some awful high school play. And the windmill looked like it came from a regional production of the Wizard of Oz.
Overall the performance was amazing, entertaining and shortened from the full version. Despite lacking live orchestra, the sound quality was great, and the dancing from the majority of the company was killer. The female corps de ballet at LA Ballet is by nature young and fresh (mostly out of SAB) but clean, controlled, turned out, and concise. The men in the corps de ballet have a lot of personality, but their body lines could be cleaned up. Which is probably hard to do this season as Los Angeles Ballet has hired all Balanchine dancers, but currently taking on the romantic classics this season. As Don Q is a technical showstopper, especially for Basilio, Mr. Shimizu put on a fantastic show. For this particular performance, hands down it goes to Julia Cinquemani for an almost near perfect rendition of Kitri. I just wish in the first act she wasn’t so refined and was more free spirited in her acting like in her ACT 3 version of the role. Act 1 could have been more playful in character, but she was absolutely a principal ballerina. Kate Highstrete, Bianca Bulle, and Allyssa Bross all were stunning and captivating in each of their roles. Chelsea Paige Johnston could definitely up her game as soloist in the company. She took on the Fandango role in Act 3 and as charming as it was… It came off as bad jazz/flamenco. Her partner Zachary Guthier was handsome and very regal in his approach. The acting roles of Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache all could have been cast as actual actors… Because they all needed to up their game as well…The ballet was overall amazing… Except the sour taste of the ADs’ son being cast in a principal/soloist role… It really did turn me off. You can catch Don Q over the next two weekends. Click here to buy tickets. And get ready for Romeo and Juliet. Hopefully, the casting will be better…. haha.
How big is too big? How much would you do for your son or daughter? Recently something came up that isn’t necessarily rare in ballet, but it is definitely something unspoken. Your child did everything right. Started ballet at three, became serious at eight, and at twelve, she was accepted to School of American Ballet on scholarship. She spent her next three summers at PNB, Houston and Boston. Again, you did everything right. You spent the money on a great year round studio; you drove a 40-minute commute to make sure she got the best training in your area. You rarely see your other kids because of long hours at the studio. Then at fifteen your daughter’s body changed, and she grew breasts. She grew a “c cup” but the remainder of her body was thin… This year she auditioned and didn’t get into a big ten school, but waitlisted to Boston. What do you do?
Is it okay when your fifteen-year-old daughter asks for a breast reduction to have a fighting chance in ballet?
I know plenty of girls who have gotten nose jobs, boob jobs, their ears pinned back and more to obtain a better line, a better physique, a prettier face. Most of these girls have contracts with major companies. So is it wrong? Living in Los Angeles it is normal for a girl to get a new nose for her sixteenth birthday. And it is normal for a girl to get implants at twenty-one. But, for some reason, when a fifteen-year-old girl asks for a breast reduction just to have a fighting chance in ballet… The world becomes completely unfair and my anger at ballet builds and explodes… So here is my post for the night:
Ballet Companies and ballet schools are two peas in a pod, but can be extremely different. The pod is ballet. Unfortunately, schools seem to be even more demanding than a company. This is true from the get go. In ballet school, you learn the most ridiculous combinations, and do the most ridiculous things, and over work your body till exhaustion. In a ballet company, the combinations are to warm your body up and to stay sharp. You don’t take more than one class in a day, and you spend most of your days in rehearsals. Sure, school builds stamina and teaches you worth ethic, but the demands on a ballet student are completely different than in a company. Both are extremely stressful but different. But it seems ballet schools are even more demanding than ballet companies.
The body type factor was extremely apparent this year. This year, I went to watch my students audition, and it seems that the push towards “perfect” bodies is more apparent now more than ever. Schools won’t even give you a chance is your body type is remotely different or differently proportioned. It seems schools are seeking taller dancers with extreme European proportions. And, with the influx of ballet students worldwide, they get to choose these body types, even now more than ever. Because of this, I now have a student who has to find a way to have a breast reduction because her chest is too developed.She is Latina, and her genetic body type is predetermined, she now has to find a way to raise money, secretly, to even have a fighting chance in ballet.
Yes, every body type is predetermined, but race and genetics continue to be a wall in ballet. The older generations of ballet teachers might not even understand ethnic body types, how they work, how different individuals and body types translate ballet technique. It is so frustrating, and while I do understand these racial body types, if other teachers and school directors are not familiarizing themselves with this process, then ballet will never change. That means the 2 percent of ethnic body types that fit the “ideal body type” will make it, the rest won’t.
This leads to me to say, shame on all of you school directors. As Artistic Directors only can pick from what you give them, get off your high horse and give them some diversity. But if you are presenting artistic directors with one body type, one ethnicity, shame on you. If you can’t grasp the idea of an ethnic body type in your school, or make allowances for ethnic predispositions, super shame on you. Actually, shame on all of you… So to PNB, SAB, HOUSTON, and BOSTON BALLET SCHOOLS… You missed out on a great dancer, with a great work ethic, who is exceptionally gifted. And while you go on your summer audition tour and make all of the money you make, just know, that either because of racism, body type, or lack of experience with ethnic body types… You are now making children want to alter their bodies to please you.
You might think that I am ridiculous. That I am just mad that my student gets into a school of their choice. But seriously, she is technically gifted at every standard: perfect turn out, hypermobile, beautiful feet, hyperextended; triple pirouettes left and right en pointe, 180 penche, oversplit saute chats, beautiful musicality, and a hard work ethic. If you are asking for more than that, then good luck with your schools…
This isn’t the first time this has come up, and I know a couple moms here have written in and I avoided responding… Well, I’m tired of waiting for ballet to change…
Thanksgiving is a time for Americans to sit back, relax, surround themselves with family and friends and reflect on the past year. Over pumpkin pie and spiked apple cider, we express our thankfulness with as much sincerity as possible. (Unless you are icing and sleeping in because you are about to open a 30 show run of Nutcracker.)And for some, they take to Facebook and write such a long, in-depth, heart warming post that we must all comment with cute little emoji. There are many things to be thankful for this year, especially in the world of ballet. So, here we go: 5 Things to be Thankful for…
1. Christopher Wheeldon won the Tony for an American in Paris for best choreography.
2. Justin Peck. I don’t need to say more. (I could include the whole list of emerging choreographers, but he is the one who started this new growing movement of young choreographers. Plus, I called it.)
3. Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera becoming the first African-American and Philippino principal dancers at American Ballet Theatre.
4. Dancers are becoming self-motivated and active entrepreneurs. This year we saw a lot of small up and coming brands started by dancers for dancers boom this year. Rubia Wear,Elevé Dancewear, Lulli, etc.
5. Finally, last but not least: SOCIAL MEDIA. Without you we would be extremely bored, our businesses would fail, we wouldn’t have a billion followers, and ballet wouldn’t have as much exposure as it does currently.
It always amused me watching the girls come back downstairs to the dressing room after snow scene in Nutcracker… Their lip gloss would catch all of the nasty paper/plastic/glitter snow… Some girls would have it all over their false lashes… It was amusing. Then they had 15 minutes to take it all off and look semi attractive for Flowers.
1 of 12 Limited Edition 2015 Nutcracker Tees
SNOW SCENE SELFIE
Will Ship by November 15, 2015
A Ballet Education’s: SNOW SCENE SELFIE
Machine Washable, 50/50 Blend, Unisex Screen Tee.
30% of all sales go towards a Ballet Education’s Scholarship Fund.
After two hip surgeries, and not dancing in like 5 years, and gaining like 20 pounds…
Exploring Arabesque on the beach while storming…
On another note, I hope you had a good holiday weekend if you are in the US.
There were a ton of Stars and Stripes videos posted all over social media, and crazy red, white and blue costumes posted, so I didn’t feel the need to encourage it all.
if you have questions about variations, or would like me to touch on things, let me know.
I can’t believe this blog has survived a year.
Ballet at a glance in a year:
Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera became the first of their respective ethnicities to ever become principals at American Ballet.
The Cirio Collective was born.
Shin-Yong Kim won the YAGP at 14.
NYCB made the front page of the NYT, above the crease.
HUFF Post published a beautiful retrospect of ballet.
We said goodbye to numerous influential ballet dancers as they retired from their respective companies: Wendy Whelan, Carla Korbes, Julie Kent, Sylvie Guillem, Paloma Herrera, Xiomara Reyes, Carlos Acosta, Auralie Dupont.
Patricia McBride — Kennedy Center Honoree
Misty Coepland, a ballet dancer made the cover of TIME magazine.
Royal Ballet still continues to annoy me, though Marcelino Sambé has been promoted to soloist.
Ballet San Jose changed their name.
Of the companies to look out for, only one really did well this season… Which is sad.
My company, Redlands Dance Theatre started rehearsals.
Dance still continues to expand through Social Media.
A Ballet Education financed Jessy Gonazalez to attend LA Ballet’s Summer Program.
A Ballet Education provided 32 pairs of pointe shoes to students around the US.
A Ballet Education has received over 13,000 hate e-mails, 1 Million Impressions, 800,000 unique visitors, and is read in 172 countries.
As I spend my 4th of July at the Beach, I wanted to say thank you for everything.
It has been a crazy year. Now, onto Fashion Week. I will try to keep updating, but my focus is going to be on gearing up for premiering at Fashion Week. Stay Tuned and get quick updates via our mailing list and Facebook.
Winner, winner chicken dinner. The list is in. The TOP TEN Ballet Schools of 2015.
There is always a great debate when it comes to rankings. Rankings for anything really are always surrounded by controversy, but we love them. While the list last year reflected the number of graduates from a school in principal jobs in 30 major international companies, this year’s list reflects the power, innovation, and the teacher’s that make these schools. This year we have seen the power of the ballet student. At the ballet competition circuit this year we saw super powerhouse and future stars premier to the world, and we were blown away.
BIG NAMES & BIG SCHOOLS
Harrison Lee took top prize at the Prix , he is from Australia. Gisele Bethea made another strong international competition circuit this year. She is a student in Arizona. And while these individuals took home top prizes, home schools like School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, the Vaganova School, and POB made surprising debuts for their students.
One of the plus sides of big ballet competitions, are big ballet schools. Scholarships to the most prestigious schools that have made their place in ballet history. Unfortunately though, these dancers don’t make a school. Very rarely does a student start and finish their training at one school, in the US. Sure, in Europe it is more common because there are state schools that feed into the state supported ballet companies, and opera houses. So super stars don’t make schools, and shouldn’t be a factor when deciding the best of the best. Now, when looking at a school, you have to ask yourself, if you are in the US, is it a technical school or a finishing school. For example, School of American Ballet is a finishing school… Yes, it is technical, but the majority of their upper level students are from other schools. Most small studios in the US should be focusing on technique, like learning the basics of turn out, feet, and learning how the body works… This is like CPYB. CPYB you learn all the basics, but you leave to a bigger school, or professional school to finish out your training, and coaching. So this was also taken into consideration, which eliminated off a lot of the US schools from last year.
HERE WE GO… the moment you have all been waiting for…
If this was college football, well it isn’t. Haha. This is bigger than college football, this is ballet. Like football there are TEN SCHOOLS that everyone wants to get into. The only thing bigger than the school you get into, is the company you might dance for as an end result. In comparison, these are the Ivies of the ballet world, and you do have to have top marks to get in. Who are we kidding, you have to have everything to get in…
Like the Ivy League list… there are three schools that will always compete for number one in the world. International, and probably the most historical, they are the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet School, the Vaganova School, and the Royal Ballet School. It is hard to say which one of these schools is actually the best, because they are completely different styles, and create very different dancers. Last year these schools took the top. This year, we have lumped the three into one category, as the SUPER STAR STATE SUPPORTED SCHOOLS. It really is only fair that the three of them share number one and make room for other schools offering great training, and are more realistic to get into.
Paris Opera Ballet School, Vaganova School, the Royal Ballet School (Upper School). Historically, the three of them have always ruled ballet, and unfortunately I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But, not everyone is meant to dance there. Not everyone is a super turned out French girl, or a leggy skinny Russian girl, and very few boys are going to become the power houses that the Royal Ballet School produces. (Remember, huge headliner names at the Royal Opera are mostly imports from winning huge competitions.) You can’t argue that each of these schools have a very specific style, and produce a very specific look… Regardless if I like the company or school or not…
THE SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET, founded by George Balanchine, SAB is probably the only school in the US that can even resemble a portion of what a state school has to offer. Sure, the Balanchine aesthetic is super specific, and the dancers are very… well American, but that is what is celebrated. The school produces great artists and the faculty nurtures dancers to become artists at a young age. Something the dance world loves. School of American Ballet is the feeder school to NYCB, which is oddly unique in the US.
Her voice is a bit much, she is the corps now… So holla for a dolla…. and how did she not know who the faculty of SAB were… did she just wake up one day and was like I am going to audition for this random school in NYC? You can also watch the first season of strictly ballet about SAB life.
THE JOHN CRANKO SCHOOL, is one of the leading ballet schools, associated with one of the most innovated companies in the world. The Cranko school is known for international power house students. A lot of students after a big win, will decide to attend the Cranko School to hone their technique but most importantly developing the artistry needed to work as a dancer. Then they either join the company or move on. Oh the Cranko school is associated with Stuttgart.
LA ESCUELA NATIONAL DE DANZA, in Havana, Cuba. Controversy. While we left this school off the list last year, a huge heat came onto us. So, let us take a look at the school at National Ballet of Cuba… Just because it is an important moment in dance diaspora, doesn’t mean that it is a good school… Ironically, if we are talking about dance diaspora, we should really look at Russian Immigration changing the world’s perception of ballet through the various wars, and conflicts. But, that is neither here nor there, we are here to talk about schools. While major dance companies have Cubans in their companies, the Cuban school is basically intense Russian training, with a focus on turns… and men. If you look at these high ranked, high profiled ballet Cuban super stars… they are all men. After seeing National Ballet of Cuba in Los Angeles, I wasn’t impressed by their women… Creating strong technical powerhouses, the school produces more men than women. (Many of you wrote in saying I left them off the list last year because of socialism, pff. And those who said it is the most important diaspora in dance, maybe not so much, but maybe over the past 50 years… )
THE AUSTRALIAN BALLET SCHOOL, our friends down under are definitely pushing their way to the international front. With some of the best PR campaigns I have ever seen, the Australian Ballet is a reflection of their school. With a new campaign called project assemblé, the Australian Ballet school will soon have a residence for their students. Despite popular belief the Australian Ballet School is not supported by the state, well it is partially supported by the state. You can audition for the school for placement, but beware, it the application alone is $83 USD.
SAN FRANCISCO BALLET SCHOOL, has truly stepped up their game. With their ranks at the company being filled with some of the most promising ballet dancers of our time, all of these students at least spent two years in the school. San Francisco has always been the West Coast’s center for ballet, but even more so as this season ended. SFB is becoming much more than just a school, but it is becoming a breeding ground for exceptional talent. Rightfully so, since San Francisco Ballet School claims the nation’s oldest professional ballet school. SFB has now rightfully produced a future superstar choreographer, Myles Thatcher who makes his NYCB premier at the Fall2015 Gala. It is more likely for a dancer to go start to finish at SFB than any other school. SFB has turned into a breeding ground for ballet superstars over the past ten years and is causing many students, and competition winners to go there.
NBS, National Ballet of Canada’s School. NBS is a healthy structured school in which students really are prepared for the real world of ballet. Additionally last year, we talked about their program that bridges the last year of school and the first few years of professional ballet life. The school itself has lost some recognition on the international circuit, as they haven’t had a huge international draw lately…. Also in Canada other schools have risen to the occasion allowing more options for Canadians to train at. Mainly speaking about GOH Academy that produced international power house Alex Wong. (They were on the list last year, but so many of you wanted to know why Royal Winnepeg, and GOH Academy were left off… Frankly put, when it comes to NBS, you just can’t compete with them.)
THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL OF DANCE, for those students who are 18, and haven’t found a company contract, there aren’t very many places to go. The Juilliard School of Dance is one of a few exceptionally ranked programs. Another is NBS, number 7 on our list.This University offers dancers a B.F.A for 24 exceptional students. Their program is rigorous but their alumni have joined numerous companies both within the US and abroad. I really, really, really want to encourage dancers after 18, to not give up. There are places to dance, or continue your dance education without feeling like the oldest one in the room. There are various universities and programs that help continue your training and transition into professional life.
THE SUNHWA ARTS HIGH SCHOOL, South Korea is becoming a powerhouse in producing international ballet super stars. So, is it the rice? No. The Sun Hwa Arts High School is the premier school for young people in Korea to attend. Most of these kids are trained to compete on the international level, and then they transfer schools. As mentioned in a previous post, Korean males are required to serve two years to the army, unless they finish first or second at an international competition. Their training is basically Russian training mixed with extreme stretching technique. Much like the Cubans, an integrated Russian technique refined for a specific body type. A lot of the Sun Hwa girls end up at Kirov DC, which is associated with Universal Ballet of Korea. Why are they on the list? Because it is important to recognize that a lot of Russian based schools have created a technique based off of a specific, ethnic body type. In this case it is a longer but narrow torso. So many girls at the prix finals were from SunHwa.
Royal Danish School of Ballet This school reminds me a lot of School of American Ballet… Obviously not the same technique, they couldn’t be more different… This school though has a very specific technique, and very specific style. They produce crazy jumpers. Ironically, the company director is from NYCB. The school is small, according to their website it has roughly 60-70 students ages 6-16 and paid for the by the state.
PBS will be adding American Ballet Theatre to their American Masters series! Take a look at 75 years of magic. In the Wall Street Journal it was revealed that footage of Robbins, Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Tharp, Baryshnikov, Alicia Alonso, and more will be a part of the documentary. Don’t forget, American Ballet Theatre’s 75th Annual Gala is May 18th at the Met.
If you are in NYC April 21 & 22, the Royal Ballet School Exchange and ABT Studio Company Performances are at the Ailey Citigroup Theatre. Tickets are only 20 bucks. Totally worth it. See rising ballet stars dance amazing choreography. Who wouldn’t want to go? Buy tickets here.
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.