English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer 2016

A social commentary on ENB’s Emerging dance program… So I am watching ENB’s Emerging Dance LIVE… and I am not trying to say I told you so again, but I am totally saying I told you so again… Rina and Cesar killed that sh!t…

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Okay, so the live streaming worked great for me, no problems, but I know whenever I am going to live stream I plug in my ethernet able and don’t rely on wifi… Mmmm so six talented dancers selected by their colleagues competed this year: Isabelle Brouwers, Cesar Corrales, Rina Kanehara, Jeanette Kakareka, Daniele Silingardi, and Erik Woolhouse.
Three grand pas de deuxs were selected: Talisman, Black Swan and Diane and Acteon. Then it began…

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Isabelle Brouwers and Erik Whoolhouse took on Talisman…
It is hard going first in a competition, no one wants to but someone has to do it. Unfortunately for these young two dancers, nerves got the best of them in the pas, and caused the variations to be safe and complacent. And by the end of the coda, he was tired and couldn’t do the full press lift… Which I totally get… It is exhausting, and you probably didn’t sleep well the night before… Nerves. Pacing yourself… it all plays into a factor.

Then Jeanette Kakareka and Daniele Silingardi took on Black Swan…
The pas de deux was gorgeous. Jeanette’s body makes some of the most beautiful lines I have ever seen. Her body makes lines that rival Svetlana Zakarhova’s. No joke. The pas de deux was enticing, and sensual. Then I think nerves got to Mr. Silingardi in his variation causing his turns to be off, and a lot of falling out. Her variation was gorgeous, and luscious but lacked a lot of audience connection. The coda, he became more unstable, but she rocked it out. I don’t know how she turns with those feet, that hyperextension and hypermobility… she must do some serious pilates or something.

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Finally, Rina Kanehara and Cesar Corrales performed Diane and Acteon…
And they freakin slayed. From her opening emboîtés… to his extremely sound partnering skills… She was 10 times better than at the prix (2015), and 1000 times more than at the YAGP… Like no joke, stunning. She is also the youngest member at ENB. HE freaking nailed the variation to a point that was insane. His turns are super powerful, and clean… It was insane. His performance quality, and bravura really did outshow the other to male competitors…
She became a little off in the turns but covered it so well, and was so precise with EVERYTHING! Like she no joke had the best audience connection and playfulness, her dynamic is just so incredible. LIKE everything….. Her fouettés on the diagonal… with that crazy arm change… fierce. His turns and jumps… baby daddy status… okay he is also extremely handsome. His variation was insane with the series of jumps he did, but his coda was EVERYTHING.

Then the contemporary solos started for the night:
Mr. Whoolhouse performed Eros Redux by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa- danced so much better… soooooo nice and relaxed, his body is really interesting when moving contemporary… his arms and legs are so long and fluid. I’ve noticed a lot of the men of ENB have these extremely elongated bodies that are really interesting to watch.
Isabelle Brouwers took on a new work by Charlotte Edmonds- did not like this piece what so ever… and the unitard was … yucky
Daniele Silingardi took on Spring and Fall by John Neumeier, he danced so lovely… so pleasant and carefree it was nice. A really nice redeeming moment.
Jeanette Kakareka took on Requiem for a Rose by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.This is a very hard variation/solo for anyone, so I don’t know how smart it was for a young dancer to take it on… She did a great job though… really interesting take on it.
Cesar Corrales took on Congrabajo para Hombre by Julio Lopez with music by Astor Piazzolla (one of my favorite composers) danced gorgeously, manly, body for days, and I think he connected to it well.
Rina Kanehara took on Les Ballet’s de Monte-Carlo’s Black Swan by Jean-Christophe Maillot. It is to the black swan music but contemporary… it was definitely cute and dynamic buuuuut she could have taken on something with more depth like the others…

It is now intermission while the judges decide… and now I am going to talk about what happened in the chat room, that corresponded with it… SanFranBallet made a comment about it being a sporting event and that we shouldn’t critique dancers blow by blow and enjoy them… Which is totally fair…. but this is a competition streamed worldwide, and everyone is looking at these dancers for principal potential, dynamic dancing and a source of inspiration… So, when it comes to competitions, if there are technical flaws…. yes, they are easy to point out and spectators, myself included, come down hard on the dancer… Ironically, being inconsistent as a performer causes a company to not renew a contract… so… I dunno…  Other power players showed up to online chat, USC’s new Kaufman dance program showed up. — Daria Klimentova, former principal at ENB showed up, which she retired to the same Romeo and Juliet PDD performed below. Sara Murawski from Slovak National Ballet showed up online among others.

Then the program concluded with Laurretta Summerscales* and Max Westwell , people’s favorite* from last year who is now a Principal… They danced Romeo and Juliet PDD which was gorgeous, and refreshing because they don’t do the MacMillan version they do Nureyev’s… And I am just gunna say, that she didn’t win the competition but is now a Principal dancer… It isn’t always about winning, but experience and consistency and it showed here tonight… how much a dancer grows… changes… and can accomplish in a year. Her performance tonight was stunning and breathtaking and her dancing has changed drastically. A good Juliet dances as if she is in love, reckless and all consumed at the same time…
Then Jinhao Zhang** performed Corsaire’s Pas D’esclave who won last year’s emerging artist** with Shiori Kase. The partnering was gorgeous, and he has grown a lot as a dancer and a partner as well…. and he’s a freakin tall Asian…. 🙂 Ummm the costuming was kind of ugly but the choreo was great, and they danced so beautifully together… it was just distracting to see that ugliness… but the dancing is sooo stunning, I guess it doesn’t matter.

The Corps de Ballet Award went to: Jennie Harrington
People’s Choice Award: Cesar Corrales
And the Emerging Dancer Award 2016 went to Cesar Corrales
So, the super fierce Cesar won, which means he will be either promoted very soon, or he will change companies… Who knows… Just another star to follow in the universe of ballet… We shall see…

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5 Variations To Stay Away From…

The Academy Awards have the craziest rules… It judges an entire acting performance for excellence, achievement and the craft. Unfortunately, in ballet we don’t really have that… We have the Prix Benois de la Danse and the Princess Grace awards for achievements within the art form, but nothing on the scale that judges a single performance. Ironically, as a student, we have the YAGP, Prix de Lausanne, and IBC. Granted, every competition has the disclaimer of judging for potential and excellence, but it isn’t really the same. And as we are all scrolling through Facebook watching the results for the YAGP come in… I thought I would take the time out of my drive to talk about variations… Variations are real stuff. 

What is a variation you may ask? It is actually pretty funny. Originally in music, a variation was part of a score where the the score was altered in harmony, melody, rhythm, or counterpoints… Hence why Balanchine’s Theme and Variations is so brilliant, I think. So, when composers create a score for a ballet, they leave room for Primas, Soloists and such. A prime example is the Sleeping Beauty… SOOOO MANY MANY VARIATIONS. The scores are broken down like:

Pas De Sixs: Entrance
Adagio
1. Variation 1
2. Variation 2

Or for Grand Pas De Deuxs (the super classics):

1. Entrance
2. Adage
3. Male Variation
4. Female Variation
5. Coda

Within the score, the variation of music is usually reserved as a solo. For some ballets, the entire ballet revolves around that one solo. Example: NUTCRACKER’s Sugar Plum Fairy Variation.

Now, at ballet competitions you are asked to prepare two classical variations. There are tons of ballet variations out there, and at each competition the rules may vary in what can be performed, what choreography can slightly change, or what can be altered to fit the dancer’s strengths (tempo, turns, jumps etc). So, as everyone at the YAGP is stressing over their 1 minute chance of becoming a ballet somebody, the rest of the ballet world is like…. UMMMM no. This is because a variation doesn’t grade an artist, even if you are Ashley Boulder… A ballet dancer, a real ballet dancer must be able to carry an entire ballet. A principal, must be able to carry an entire ballet in a single performance. For some, this is quite impossible… For others, it is extremely easy: Yuan Yuan Tan from SFB… she knows how to carry a ballet, is extremely musical, and every step, breath and movement is carefully thought out with intention, emotion, and musicality…

You see, ballet competitions have created this subculture of ballet tricks and ridiculous turns. Which has now translated into “star quality”… *side eye* At these competitions kids are expected to turn, jump and have leg up, as markers to grade potential. Because of this… young dancers have defaulted to specific variations… Here are 5 variations to stay away from… and the reasons why…

5 FEMALE VARIATIONS TO STAY AWAY FROM:

1. Kitri, ACT I: In the ballet DON Q, Kitri has a three variations, and each variation is spectacular for different reasons. ACT 1 though is known for two things: The sissones en attitude, which if you aren’t Natalia Osipova, you shouldn’t do to begin with… and the pirouettes in fifth traveling on the diagonal. Dancers now who are overly flexible with no ballon can make the sissones look crazy cool without getting height… And for those girls who are on their legs or wear Gaynors can add doubles, triples a crazy lame duck at the end… It’s old. Even if you add the castanets to be more musical… It doesn’t make up for the tricks… Also, it is the easier character to pull off in Don Q as you are just a playful Spanish girl running a muck, against her father’s wishes… and teenagers can relate.
1 and a half. Kitri, ACT 3: Again, from DON Q, the third act variation is usually performed by girls with banging turn out and beautiful feet… aka Paloma Herrera in ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity. The hops on pointe, and echeppes in the variation allow for everyone to see how great your feet are. The fun part? You get to dance with a fan, be flirty and coy, and have a HAH I outsmarted my parents and got to marry the poor guitar player!
2. Esmeralda: From La Esmerlada/ The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a ballet that I think only Paris Opera might perform, is a variation in which is laid out for the girls who are extremely whacked out. Plus side? Tamborine… Downside… Natalia Osipova at 17 did it, Yuan Yuan Tan did it, and now Mikko Fogarty won the IBC with it. All three women, around the same age nailed the variation to perfection. Most females who take this on are really in it for the tambourine or they are whacked out.


3. Sugar Plum Fairy: from ACT 2 of the Nutcracker… Just don’t. (I shouldn’t even have to list it… but here it is) It is bad enough we have to hear it from August to January… Do yourself the favor, and the rest of the world and just don’t do it. Professional dancers cringe at the music, despite it being one of the most unique scores of music for a ballet variation.
4. Grand Pas Classique… So, I recently was watching a bazillion variations, and I think that Grand Pas Classique is probably one of the hardest female variations… ever. Reason number one why you shouldn’t do it? Sylvie Guilliem. Done. Okay just kidding, so grand pas classic is a variation in which you can’t hide anything because of the moving on the angles the variation requires. There are no big jumps, but instead it requires perfect technique, perfect turnout and it helps if you have beautifully arched feet. Below is Patricia Zhou at YAGP Paris in 2010 (First Place in Classical Category in Senior Division). Coached by Mr. Anton Korsakov, Mme. Ludmila Morkovina, and Mr. Viktor Kabaniaev

5. Black Swan/ White Swan… From Swan Lake. So many dancers, or their parents take on Swan Lake for one reason… It’s Swan Lake. The problem? White swan you have to be ridiculously mature, and can take a really long time to develop the emotion behind the extension, and even just the face expression. Black swan you have to have really experienced life. It requires a since of maturity that comes from flirting at a bar, deceiving someone, and a sensuality no 14 year old should possess…

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

Swan Lake Realness

If Nutcracker was your first exposure to ballet, then Swan Lake is the ballet that determines if you really want to be a ballerina. Every school stages some abridged version, even if it is just act II. Every company uses the full length Swan Lake to boast the company’s size, artistic merit, and strength. Swan Lake is just one of those ballets that everyone knows. Now, this upcoming season every company seems to be staging their full length Swan Lake, so may the battle of the swans begin.

And for those who are dancing swan lake, or have danced it, there are a few things that happen when getting ready for swan lake.

1. Swan Lake Realness: You know you are about to do Swan Lake when all of the port de bras at barre and centre combinations look very swan-like. You know the kind: the over dramatic, wrist-y, back-using, exhausting port de bras. Adagios at centre seem a little longer, and people are yelling at you to get your legs higher. No one wants to be the swan that stands out because their arabesque is low. 

2. You know you are getting ready to do Swan Lake when you start dieting two weeks before and start eating clean. This is because Swan Lake is a white ballet, which means everything shows, and the neurosis of ballet dancers are a little intense. Kale becomes your best friend.

3. You are rehearsing a million different roles, in a million different places/spots because you have to double up in all acts, and in all casts. Which means, your body is hurting more than usual. Rehearsals seem to be a lot longer, and the ballet masters/mistresses seem to be way more picky than usual. Swan Lake isn’t like Nutcracker, so you don’t dance it every year, so you don’t already know all the parts unless you have been with the company for ten seasons. (You might be thinking, why aren’t we doing Balanchine’s version…)

4. Swan Lake is totally happening in your school or company if the artistic staff is a little crazier than usual. Swan Lake is really expensive to stage and perform which means ticket sales need to be sold out. Which means PR photos must be perfect, and reflect the choices in casting. It is quite daunting, which puts more pressure on the dancers. No one wants to get let go over Swan Lake or not perform Swan Lake.

5. You know you are a swan if you are going through pointe shoes a quicker than normal. Swan Lake is very pointe intensive, so it seems that you are killing more shoes during rehearsals. 

Here are some funny things about casting:

You know you are Odette if you have everything. (You know you are not going to get a chance to even learn Odette if you don’t have everything… I mean come on… You don’t have 32 double fouettés for black swan, and your leg isn’t to your ear in extensions… You aren’t getting cast, despite your beautiful artistry.)

You know you are a baby swan if you are one of the shortest girls in the company.

You know that in act III you are going to be doing some awful character dance. 

If you are a male, and you aren’t cast as the prince, the jester, or Rothbart, you won’t be dancing real ballet. You will be standing around most rehearsals while the female dancers around you are dying. You might learn a new hobby during Swan Lake time.

When casting goes up you pray that you aren’t dancing in all four acts.

You are emotionally drained by the end of a run through because in the first act you are dancing the pas de trois being sweet and lovely. In act 2 you are a tormented swan. In act 3 you are being cheerful in the mazurka, and in act 4 you are back to being a swan.

Your back attitude and arabesque are everything, and one side might become ridiculously stronger than the other.

You know you are dancing Swan Lake if you are thinking: Why? 

It may have been every little girl’s dream to be Odette, but unless you are Odette, the ballet has nothing to do with you. Now you are now going to endure 3 hours of pain, test your stamina, and mental capacity which makes you wonder why you wanted to do Swan Lake so badly in the first place.