It has been a whirlwind… A very chaotic whirlwind to get to American National Ballet, but I am here. Things are moving so fast for being a new company. SOOO fast. I arrived at the airport and because my flight was delayed I was immediately picked up, I had to leave my luggage behind and whisked away to work. Sooo, that was Saturday… I worked into the night Saturday, all day Sunday. Sunday consisted of photographing American National Ballet Principal Kara Zimmerman. Day 3, today consisted of a 13-hour workday and running around like a crazy person. Seriously there is so much work, but it is so exciting. As I am planning the trainee school year I am super stoked. Amazing and beautiful talented students are coming to train with me and I am truly humbled and excited to work with them. I only have 1 girl spot left and 2 boy spots left. So if you want to come train with me and the American National Ballet, don’t forget to email firstname.lastname@example.org
By reputation, ballerinas are these willowy, elongated creatures that are unobtainable… That could pretty much sums up Elizabeth Weldon, a corps de ballet member at TV’s most popular ballet company, Ballet West. With feet to die for, ideal body proportions and musicality that rivals most, she tops it off by being humble in her achievements, gracious in performances, intelligent in her choices and wise through experience. Not to mention she is a poster girl for Bloch.
I first met Liz as a dancer through CPYB and worked together at Panera Bread. I just remember seeing these long legs hidden behind an apron and this great smile under this ugly khaki/olive colored hat. She had joined the school year later on, or maybe she was there since the beginning but I didn’t really know her or know of her until the later part. LOL. Not sure, but regardless, our time was brief, but if there was one thing I remember, was how smart she was with the choices she made. So, for those who want to go to college, but people tell you, “You might not have a dance career”… Liz did it all…
So, what is it like to be Elizabeth Weldon? Here we go!
Name: Elizabeth Weldon
Company: Ballet West
Company Position: Corps (official company position)
Years in the Company: 6
Previous Companies: Orlando Ballet Second Company
Ballet Education: Boston Ballet, CPYB
What is your favorite type of sandwich?
Probably a breakfast sandwich. Eggs, cheese, and sausage on an asiago or everything bagel.
You are sponsored by Bloch? Or a Bloch model? How does that happen? Especially as a corps de ballet member? (Don’t get me wrong, you are tall and gorgeous, but just so others know what modeling brings about) What pointe shoe do you wear?
This is an interesting story. A couple years ago I started having a lot of pain in my feet and discovered that my shoes no longer fit, my feet had grown. I was trying to find a shoe that fit my foot and contacted Bloch about being fitted for pointe shoes. They had me send pictures of my feet and after seeing the pictures I sent, they asked me if I would be available to come to NYC to do a photoshoot for their spring Mirella line 2015. It was such an incredible experience! I loved working with the Bloch team. I never would have imagined having the chance to do something like that. Everyone at Bloch was so nice and fun to work with. It’s an experience I will never forget.
I’m not sure what to include about my current shoe situation …. I currently wear Capezios. I am very lucky to have the feet I do, however sometimes it feels like a blessing and a curse. The shoes I currently wear don’t fit my feet and it’s been very frustrating because I feel like it’s the greatest obstacle in my career. I’ve been dancing on shoes that don’t fit for three seasons now. It’s very discouraging. …. (Finding the right shoe is extremely difficult!)
What is in your dance bag?
Many, many, pointe shoes! Flat shoes, scissors, duct tape, a nail file, foot powder, and foam roller. I also carry a separate bag with snacks 🙂
What is your warm up routine, or process to get ready for class or show?
It changes depending on what we are working on or performing. Before class my warm up is very minimal, just simple stretching to loosen up, or exercises to activate certain muscles. I try to pay attention to my body and give it whatever it seems to need.
You went the nontraditional route… You went to college first. What was that like? Help or hinder?
The answer to this question is a little complex. I think in the big picture of life going to college first helped, but perhaps not for my dance career. However, I loved my experience at college. I made wonderful friends who are still in my life today. I loved learning, and having the chance to figure out who I was as an individual. It also helped me realize how much I love ballet and how much I missed having it in my life. After graduation was when I began to really pursue ballet as a career.
What do you want out of your dancing?
I recently saw a video of David Bowie and he said something that really resonated with me. “Always remember that the reason you initially started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself and how you coexist with the rest of society.’
I want to do it all! Haha just kidding 🙂 I would love to dance the pas de deux from Wheeldon’s After the Rain. Kylian’s Petite mort is another dream ballet.
What is it like being categorized as a tall dancer?
Oddly enough at Ballet West I’m in the middle height range for the girls. I’ve become accustomed to dancing among so many tall people at BW that I don’t think of myself as tall. We have girls who are over 6’ on pointe and men up to 6’7 tall so comparatively speaking, I’m not very tall.
Was Ballet West your dream company? How did you get your contract?
It’s a little strange to say, but when I started auditioning for companies I just had a feeling I was meant to be at Ballet West. I did the open audition in NYC and eventually ended up at Ballet West on an 11-week supplemental contract. They needed extra girls for Swan Lake and a Balanchine program. I was so happy to be dancing with such an amazing company and thankfully at the end of my supplemental contract they asked me to come back for a full season. This is now my sixth full season with Ballet West.
Who are some professional dancers you admire?
I honestly have admiration for anyone in this career. It’s very difficult and we all have our own unique stories. No dancer has it easy. We do what we love, but there are definitely sacrifices we have to make. Like anyone in the arts, we aren’t compensated nearly enough for all the hard work. We move to whatever part of world we can find a job, and give up holidays with our families. It’s a very difficult career physically and psychologically. However I think we all realize how unique our careers are, and how special it is to be a part of the ballet world. It’s an honor to be part of a traditional art form that’s so much bigger than yourself.
Favorite place to go relax and decompress from ballet world?
I spend most of my free time at home in my apartment on my couch with my pug, Mogli. He’s my best bud.
Moon Palace by Paul Auster. He’s my favorite author. I love all his books.
If you could go back to you 16-year-old self, what would you tell her? What would you do differently?
I don’t think I would do anything differently because then I wouldn’t be who I am today. Though I wish some things had perhaps been different, I value the experiences and life lessons I had to face along the way. There are things I have learned in my 30s that I don’t think my 16-year-old self would understand. Sometimes we need to learn through experience and all those lessons happen in the right timing in our life. At least that’s what I believe.
What were some of the “negative” things you were told as a student? How did it affect you?
I think as a dancer it is inevitable you will hear negative things and it’s up to you to determine how you let it affect you. I remember being told I was too uncoordinated to be a dancer. I was told by a very well-respected physical therapist that my body wouldn’t be able to handle a career in dance – that I would always be injured. I was told that if I didn’t train for a career when I was young that I would never make it as a professional. I believe that you are the only person who can determine your limits. It’s your choice whether you’re a victim of circumstances or if you chose to make your own rules and live life on your own terms.
What is the biggest advice you can give aspiring dancers?
Follow your passion and do what feels right for you. Your life is your greatest gift and you can write whatever story you want. Always treat yourself with love and respect. Take care of your body and your mental health. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want, but very often our biggest challenges are also our greatest opportunities for growth.
We are very excited to announce that we will be launching our first interactive online issue in JUNE!
For our readers, it is completely FREE!!
What is an interactive digital magazine?
The world of publishing was drastically changed when the e-book arrived, but it didn’t do well for magazines. As the world of print publishing is dying, a new hybrid magazine has emerged! The interactive digital magazine. We are happy to be sponsored by JooMag, Mail Chimp, and Social Culture to bring you the next phase of a Ballet Education.
If you are a ballet company, business owner, or have a product, now is the time to have your brand featured with us. Cross visibility is the way of the future for marketing. Unlike print advertising and campaigns, the great thing about an interactive digital campaign are the ways to track your return, new clientele and more. You can view everything in our media kit, and see a sample advertisement as well: http://joom.ag/Q1rb
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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. 1. Paris Opera Ballet School or to be accurate, Ecole de l’Opera National de Paris, is actually the oldest. The school itself is impossible to get into, and because they are state subsidized like most companies, they can be extremely picky on who they take. Not only is the training ridiculous, but it is based on a points system, and only top marks move on. Now, the bigger question… Why don’t we see a lot of French dancers in the US? The answer is simple, they were made to dance for Paris Opera, and if they don’t get in, they usually don’t want to dance for another company…. Or if they do, it is usually a cutting edge ballet company with a contemporary flare. Paris Opera Dancers can be spotted a mile away for their impeccable control of turn out, their specific style of arms (very relaxed), and their calm attack to ballet.
2. The Vaganova School… The fact that a style is named after them, or pedagogy, it should say something. Like Paris Opera everything is based on the rigorous challenge of first getting in. At the entrance exams not only is the child looked at, but radiographs of their bones, and their parents’ bodies are taken into consideration. This is to guess height, hip width, etc. The school itself is notarious via youtube for broadcasting their graduating class exams, in which students perform the most ridiculous barre and center combinations you will ever see. Regardless, go Russia. This can be seen because it seems that in Russia, everyone has beyond 180 turn out, ridiculous extensions, the soft arabesque arm and most importantly they have the most glorious necklines.
3. The Royal Ballet School, conveniently and beautifully located at Covent Garden. (Well truth be told all of the schools mentioned above are housed at the most glamorous places in the city.) Royal Ballet also has their particular style and thought process behind ballet, don’t confuse this with RAD (Royal Academy of Dance). The Royal Ballet school is known to recruit students from the YAGP, VARNA, IBC, the Prix de Lusanne and so forth. Usually, if a dancer enters the school from a big competition win, they end up in the company. One of the prizes at the Prix de Lusanne happens to be a company spot at Royal Ballet. Royal ballet is known for softer and subtle arms, romantic like arabesque placement, and meatier legs compared to the the two prior.
Now… are has an American School taken place number 4? Nope, I think not.
4. The Rest of the Russian Schools, take place number 4. This includes Bolshoi State Academy and St. Petersberg academy. Russia has definitely turned out powerhouses and they are proud of it. We should be thankful to them, and be more grateful that they don’t all come over to the US and audition for jobs, because then everyone would be unemployed. Hahah.
5. CPYB, if you don’t know what that stands for it is because they aren’t attached to a company. It stands for the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Headed and founded by Marcia Del Weary, CPYB seems to have the most active principals from a school in the US. The training is impeccable, and anyone can go. If you have a young son or daughter, send them there for a summer. They don’t audition. They accept everyone and turn everyone into a powerhouse dancer. Look at a lot of current American Ballerina’s bios… They are probably from CPYB…
6. School of American Ballet, or the notorious SAB. Founded by Balanchine, and the school of New York City Ballet, this might be argued as one of the hardest schools to get into. And they are known for one thing, the Balanchine Aesthetic. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the school, like Vaganova, Royal and Paris Opera, there is a very specific style. How can you spot an Balanchine or SAB dancer? Their hands (the claw), their crazy turn out, the way they take their bow (they break to 3/4 pointe and turn in), and their aggressive attack on musicality. Most of the dancers from School of American Ballet will find a job in another Balanchine like company.
7. NBS, Canada’s National Ballet School, the feeder school to National Ballet of Canada. Housed at the newly remodeled Celia Franca Center, NBS is known for creating extremely artistic and articulate dancers. What is really nice about this school is their Post-Secondary education program. This program is for dancers who have already graduated from school but need that one or two years of refinement, strengthening, and preparation for company life. In the US we call it second companies, but in reality a second company is a free corps. This is an actual program for dancers to utilize.
8. The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, also known as JKO. It is a newer school compared to the rest. In fact it was founded in 2004. It is the school to American Ballet Theatre and headed by Franco De Vita. This school is ridiculously known for their bravura dancers. Like most American schools now, the emphasis on turns and jumps are stressed here. The JKO school partnered with ABT’s Misty Copeland have started Project Plie, a program to help young minorities get the training they need to succeed in the dance world.
9. San Francisco Ballet School, so it was a toss up between the following schools because each are incredible: San Francisco Ballet School, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and Boston Ballet School. Each one is extremely unique and satisfying for any young dancer. It is also convenient that they are spread across the US. You might be thinking, well if you are going to group those schools you should also at Houston Ballet Academy, Miami City Ballet School, and maybe even Orlando Ballet School…. Wrong. You probably are thinking they are on the same level because their companies are on that same middle field. You are quite wrong. Their schools are incredibly different, and San Francisco, Boston and PNB are known for creating extraordinary dancers. Their dancers all are usually very classically based, with a touch of Balanchine in moderation. These schools push their kids extremely hard, and if they don’t join the company the actively seek work for them at other companies.
10. Again, I have to lump these schools into a group because I like to call them the flashy schools. The Rock School for Dance Education and the Joffrey Ballet School. Both of these schools are very public and active in seeking students through the media. In addition, they strive for competitive edges in the ballet world. The Rock School probably has the most competitors at the YAGP, and usually they finish well. Joffrey actively seeks multi-faceted, and genre-versatile dancers into their school. So, there it is…. my Top Ten (ish) ballet schools in the world. I was going to include Denmark’s because of the Bournonville style, but realistically, the school doesn’t produce as many dancers as the others. I judge a school by the dancers they produce, the technique that they teach, and how many of their students go on to get jobs. That is the important thing here…