Notes On: Getting Extension… to the side…

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…

Developpe Poster 1

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.

what is a la seconde a ballet eduation

 

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.

square extension what is a la seconde

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.

Diagram of hip for ballet


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5 Questions you all have been asking…

side eye

You might not like me, you might not like what I have to say, in fact, you just might not care for what I say or how I say it… But the reality is… My blog is kind of a guilty pleasure for a lot of you. And that’s okay, no tea, no shade… Okay, who are we kidding there is a lot of tea and shade on this blog…. So, I will now nicely answer the five most asked questions to me:

1. Why do I hate Royal Ballet and RAD and take jabs at them whenever I have a chance?
Well, it has nothing to do with the dancers. It has to do with the politics of the Royal Ballet and Opera House. First off, Royal Ballet is home to technical powerhouses, their company is filled with the top winners of ballet competitions all over the world, they probably have more funds than most international companies, they have one of the best places to dance in the world…. Admiration all the way around… but the politics portrayed by the Royal Ballet’s actions irk me. Well, the politics of most ballet companies irk me.
To answer my RAD fans out there, RAD is not associated with the Royal Ballet School… I don’t know how it is in Europe, but in the US, RAD is used as a money maker. It is a way for studios/teachers to be certified in a teaching technique (it is the only methodology that lets you get a certificate). It basically makes you sound better than you really are, and a lot of teachers who hold the RAD credential shouldn’t be teaching ballet to begin with…. *side eye* Like what professional school associated with a company says: RAD METHOD….  I am sure there are….

2. Why am I such a fan of Balanchine and NYCB?
Who isn’t? Just kidding. Balanchine ballet isn’t classical ballet, at all. The vocabulary is the same but it is not classical ballet. I am pretty sure I have said that many times. It isn’t a technique either, it is an aesthetic. A look, a feel and a style… I admire the way NYCB uses the Balanchine technique to attack music, to attack the ballet steps and translate them onto their bodies. I also admire, that NYCB is made up of very different body types despite popular belief. I also believe that NYCB, like Balanchine was, is the innovators of ballet; not dance as a whole, just ballet. I think that what City Ballet is doing and how they are creating a new space, new vocabulary, new approach to music is the future of ballet… Finally, I do believe that Balanchine is the hand of God. Ask my students. Haha, I believe that the Balanchine works created an opportunity for dancers to move to music, to be something other than a princess, fairy or sylph. They got to be themselves.

3. Why are you so scatterbrained? (And other words that are not appropriate for blogging…)
Well, I work at a fashion magazine, and then own an aesthetic firm, PR company, freelance fashion design and consulting, volunteer at a pet hospital, have started my own ballet company and school, have this blog and another successful gay blog, have a pretty demanding social life, and trying to date all at the same time. Oh and now I have the demand for doodles. And I have to run my household… Then again who has to grocery shop now that there are apps for that.

4. How come your blog is more ranting than educational?
Well, I started the blog with educational posts, and they don’t do well…. And, as therapeutic as this blog is, it has to be successful…. And my rants and snarky commentary do well…. Posts that are snarky and witty, you all share…. Whether it is bashing me, correcting me, laughing with me, or just because I might be right…. You share them.
I am currently working on a video series of proper ballet techniques… But that takes time and money and I am slowly working on it…. And I have been trying to be more educational … my biscuity feet post was pretty educational if you ask me.

5. I should be more censored, politically correct, and unbiased….
Ummm no…. That is the purpose of a blog versus a newspaper. The problem with ballet, the construct of ballet is that people aren’t more honest… The ballet world should just be frank because in the classroom teachers are quite frank. You have people at CPYB calling you “oriental”
and “ethnic”. You have dance teachers around the world calling their students “fat, untalented, turned in, and mediocre”…. The list goes on and on… If ballet directors were honest about casting and just flat out told why, or school directors just said why you didn’t get in…. It would be a lot easier… Like if SAB just told you- you don’t have turnout instead of writing you this polite letter… You could spend the next year of your life busting your butt to turn out… literally. Haha.

And finally, if you have a question just email me: aballeteducation@gmail.com
Don’t be shady and post my blog on facebook with some random rant…. The power of having a PR firm and Social Media company is that I get to monitor my blog…
If you have some ballet shade, or tips, or something to say, just email it to me, and I will repost it… Seriously. I will. It is like gossip girl, but for ballet… Hahaha xoxo,
David

BIG THINGS FOR A BALLET EDUCATION

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

Here is what I was thinking…

book cover mock up

yes, I would like to publish a book…

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

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

And I would like to redesign the site.

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

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

Thanks.

The Return: A Ballet Education

… I thought I was going to be giving this up, and I thought I would leave my nightly rants to Facebook… BUT THEN a ballet company finally replied to my e-mail, and they did not have anything nice to say… So, with that being said, a Ballet Education is coming back full force… Don’t piss off a gaysian who works in PR. This is going to be fun. A lot of fun. And as it might black list me from ever going to see a performance, and I might lose a bunch of friends in the ballet world… I decided… It is worth it.

A lot of you wrote in why I was selling and stopping… Here is the truth:

I decided to stop a ballet education because despite all of my efforts in posting happy, feel good posts about classical ballets, dance companies and schools… Actual education posts… people really didn’t care to read them. The more honest I was, the more popular the posts became… And I felt that I was giving ballet kind of a bad reputation, despite the truth behind it—

Then, because of this blog major ballet companies wouldn’t consider hiring me for PR & Marketing, despite my proven success track in the world fashion and luxury. (Which I consider going to the ballet to be a luxury (ballet go-ers support the art, so I thought why not?) Even though they sent nice emails saying I wasn’t qualified, a friend had casually mentioned my blog had come up in an east coast conference room. I was like Mother F’rs did I just screw myself over?

Finally, I realized that i was spending way too much time talking about ballet and not enough time in the world of fashion, which pays my bills…

So here is why I am coming back… I’m cutting the BS out of ballet. It is time people starting talking truthfully and not politely… People keep wondering why ballet is dying? Because no one is afraid to say the truth, and well, since I am not going to be in the dance world any time soon… I have nothing to lose. GET READY… because it is coming!! 

Ballet… What’s the skinny? 5 Misconceptions about women in ballet.

Photo by RJ LUNA. LINES.
Photo by RJ LUNA. LINES.

(So, after going a month without publishing a blog post, and watching how the month of November would shape up in terms of readers, a lot of people asked me to talk about body types… In specific the female body type.)

Here we go, another fun five facts about ballet: 5 misconceptions about the women in ballet.

With iconic movies like Center Stage and Black Swan, it seems that when it comes to ballet dancers, the world associates it eating disorders. Sure, as flattering as that may be, associating ballet with skinny… Well, lets just look at the reality of ballet…

1. Anorexia and Bulimia… the eating disorders. Myth. Whoever just eats a salad all day and has to dance a three act ballet must have magical muscles or some sh!t because, a salad would barely get me through rehearsal, yet alone a performance. Most professional ballet dancers are far from anorexic, they can’t be. With the amount of energy burned while dancing, if they didn’t eat… they would end up dead in the middle of a ballet performance. Now, if we are talking about students… that is a different story. It is hard for any child, male or female to be in ballet. And somewhere around age 11, everything start to build up. From ages 11-14 you are told that this is your moment to make it into a professional school. With the pressure and anxiety of parents, and teachers pushing girls into the workforce so young, bulimia becomes a way to control something… I mean their careers aren’t in their hands. In addition, their bodies are changing and when they were constantly told that is just baby fat, and it doesn’t go away… and then chests develop… well, young impressionable girls take it to the extreme… and boys for that matter. Eventually, as puberty ends, and adult bodies begin to take shape, more dancers get a control of their body and understand what foods work and don’t work for them. What makes them feel bloated and what makes them feel good and energetic. Also the reality is, dancers have to be in top condition, which means they have to have extreme muscle toning. Asking your leg to go up super high and hold it in a la second is hard, but doing that while hungry and while your muscles are deprived from the proper nutrients… good luck…

2. Ballet dancers are tall. kind of a myth. Most female ballet dancers are between 5’3″ and 5’5″, and if you dance for NYCB or older PNB… then you might be 5″7-5’9″… the majority of ballet dancers both male and female are on the shorter side. It is why tall men are celebrated, because that means tall women can be employed. What makes ballet dancers look so tall is he ability to isometrically move, and moving on the diagonal. It is like that optical illusion with a diagonal line and a horizontal line the exact same length, but asking which one is longer. It is why balanchine over crossed for the sake of aesthetic, and why efface is so flattering in arabesque. Probably why students aren’t allowed to have pictures on the diagonal.

3. Ballet girls are stuck up prudes… maybe a myth. I don’t know about you, but this idea that all ballet dancers are these wholesome ethereal creatures… I don’t know what summer programs you went to, or what year round schools you went to… buuuuut give a ballet girl the chance to get turnt… she’ll take it. Which is why I endorse not sending your kid to a professional school till sixteen, kids definitely need more supervision these days. (I work at the school district… I know.) As far as the stuck up part goes, I don’t know if it is because ballet is privileged extra curricular, I mean the costs are obscene… So, it could be that upper middle class attitude? Then again what teenager doesn’t get turnt up these days?

4. Ballerinas are black swan crazy. This might just be a little true. Everyone in ballet has to be a little OCD… I mean they are killing themselves doing the same thing over and over and over… trying to be perfect, knowing that it is impossible. That is just self punishment. Will they go kill themselves in the middle of a performance via Natalie Portman status… probably not. Will they go all Maureen on us and disappear minutes before the curtain goes up… doubtful, especially if you are the lead.

5. Ballerinas are fragile, delicate princesses. Not true. Women in ballet are just as ferocious as the men in ballet. In fact, they are probably more ferocious. Women in ballet attack performances, fearlessly and push through injury, women in ballet are fierce. If you look at their muscle tone, they are crazy ripped, and probably could fall of their bike, and still dance swan lake.

Raymonda… wtf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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