YAGP KOREA NEEDS OUR HELP

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Photos Courtesy of YAGP KOREA

When American Ballet Theatre Principal, Hee Seo calls, you answer…

It is that time of year again, dancers from around the world are getting ready for the internationally acclaimed Youth America Grand Prix. But, the YAGP Korea is funded by the Hee Seo Foundation. The Hee Seo foundation was established in 2015 to discover and trained talented dancers to increase exposure and participants of ballet through international exchanges, and to implement various culture and arts related projects. YAGP Korea is the first project by the Hee Seo Foundation, providing various opportunities to students. As we all know the YAGP brings prominent teachers from the best ballet schools together for a chance for young students to win scholarships to study abroad and deepen their dance education. Additionally, the Hee Seo Foundation also introduced the Hee Seo Foundation Ballet, a master class series for all age groups interested in ballet.  If you don’t remember, ballet in Korea is not easy, especially for young men. If they don’t finish first or second at an international competition, they are required to serve time to the army, basically derailing their ballet career. So, with a month or so to go, the foundation is short $8,000. If you are in a position to financially help the Hee Seo Foundation please do. You can donate via paypal by clicking here.

A Note From Hee Seo:

“Greetings. I am ballerina Seo Hee, President of the Hee Seo foundation. Establishing an incorporated association was an uneasy yet slow task for me as a professional dancer. However, the opportunity of a contribution was a noble privilege for me which enriched my life and made me even happier than before. I ask for your kind support in achieving the grand dream of one major foundation. Thank you very much.”

Follow their story on Instagram @YAGP_KOREA

 

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5 Inspiring Women in Ballet

In Ballet right now there are many women fighting their rightful way into leading positions in the ballet world. It isn’t enough now for these women to retire and become teachers. They are pushing forward for jobs like Artistic Director, Creative Director, Executive Director, Resident Choreographer and more. As ballet is slowly progressing, women in ballet are taking things into their own hands. Here are just five women who are extremely different, extremely talented and have something to say in the world of ballet.
five inspiring women in ballet

>> Tamara Rojo, Two Jobs One Passion

The Spanish sensation, Tamara Rojo has had a stellar career and still at the age of 42 is wowing audiences as lead principal at English National Ballet. But it doesn’t just end there, she is also the Artistic Director of English National Ballet and has now nurtured ENB to be one of the best companies in the world with a repertory to die for. She is also making way for more female choreographers and repetiteurs with Anna-Marie Holmes re-staging of Le Corsaire.

>> Larissa Saveliev, founder of the YAGP

Russian-born Larissa Saveliev established the YAGP in 2000, and since then has awarded over 3 Million dollars in scholarships. The YAGP reaches over 7,000 dancers a year and helps mold their technique and career paths through their master classes. She has also established the bi-annual Job Fair, the Emerging Choreographer Series, and Legends in Dance Galas.

>> Ashley Ellis, RubiaWear 

Boston Ballet Principal, Ashley Ellis took a hobby of knitting and turned it into a mega brand, all while dancing. Her leg warmers and warm ups are everywhere, all while balancing dancing full time. One for the female entrepreneurs. You can catch Ms. Ellis in Boston Ballet’s production of the Sleeping Beauty opening this weekend.

>> Michaela DePrince, Author & Role model 

First Position superstar, Michaela DePrince not only became a role model for young girls everywhere but now has authored multiple books and one that was just optioned by MGM for a movie. The Dutch National Ballet Soloist is carving her way into the world of ballet, and carving hard so that others that will follow won’t have to.

>> Hee Seo, Hee Seo Foundation, YAGP KOREA

She isn’t just the first Korean principal at American Ballet Theatre, she is also changing the landscape of ballet in Korea. Hee Seo started her foundation last year in hopes to start connecting Korean dancers to more opportunities, and it is working. Additionally, her foundation is helping boys in ballet compete at the international level, in hopes of avoiding/being excused to their mandatory two years to the Korean army.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: MAY 15

Hee Seo in A Month in the Country, Photo: Marty Sohl  via WordPress.
Hee Seo in A Month in the Country, Photo: Marty Sohl
via WordPress.

ABT’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY! CLICK THE LINK BELOW… GORGEOUS VIDEO!!! YOU MIGHT DIE!!!

http://www.wsj.com/video/exclusive-clip-american-ballet-theatre-a-history/52FAA9EA-5642-4E18-AECF-B7E52B56D45A.html

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.

Leading Ladies of ABT… 2014-2015

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

THE CLASSICS:

Paloma Herrera Bloch

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

Julie Kent in Apollo ABT

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

THE RANDOMS:

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

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

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

THE GUEST ARTISTS:

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

THE NEW BLOOD: 

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

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

The Ballet Feuds…

ballet wars

There will always be ballet feuds… Going back to the Original Ballets Russes and The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Here are some of the current match ups….

ironically none of these principals are british...
ironically none of these principals are british…

Royal Ballet vs. English National Ballet The Tea and Crumpets War

Ummm I love Kathryn Morgan period. I loved her as Juliet, but hated the Peter Martins version... how that happens I have no clue... Hee Seo is one of my favorite dancers, I wish she could join city ballet and I could see her in serenade, emeralds and tchai pas.
Ummm I love Kathryn Morgan period. I loved her as Juliet, but hated the Peter Martins version… how that happens I have no clue… Hee Seo is one of my favorite dancers, I wish she could join city ballet and I could see her in serenade, emeralds and tchai pas.

New York City Ballet vs. American Ballet Theatre (old rivalry but a goodie)

The Australian Ballet vs. Queensland Ballet… the fight down under

Houston Ballet vs. Ballet Austin vs. Texas Ballet TheatreThe Texas Threesome 

Miami City Ballet vs. Orlando Ballet, younger ballet companies hashing it out. 

Stuttgart vs. Hamburg, the German showdown 

Bolshoi vs Mariinsky (old rivalry but a goodie)

National Ballet of Canada vs Royal Winnipeg… Canadian Syrup Fight

In bold I have decided who I like more… haha (insert your comments below)

There are many more but these are some that I enjoy watching as they promote people, change up their repertory, and start the social media wars. What is great is that we have all these options, that each company brings something new, and has created numerous jobs for their areas. 

Type Casting … pt 1

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George Balanchine, Suzanne Farrell, Patricia McBride, Violet Verdy, & Mimi Paul “Jewels”

So, when it comes to ballets I think there are always pre conceived notions as type casting, at the Artistic Director’s discretion (may or may not be a bad thing). For example if you look at a ballet there are always different spots for different types of ballerinas. 

In Balanchine’s Serenade we have three spots… Waltz Girl, Russian Girl, and Dark Angel

In Sleeping Beauty we have three spots… Aurora, Lilac Fairy, and Bluebird

In Don Q we have three spots… Kitri/Dulcinea, Cupid, and Queen of the Dryads

In Bayadere we really only have two… Gamzatti and Nikiya

Balanchine’s Jewels it is mapped out as three very different castings of girls… 

Nutcracker has…. well depends on the version, I will go off Balanchine’s since it is my favorite: Sugar Plum, Dew Drop, and Arabian

the list goes on… So here is how I see the types of Primas being developed.

First we have the romantic ballerinas, usually average in height, but they all possess this crazy lyricism and musicality. They are always so subtle, and quite pleasant to watch. I also feel like they have really beautiful feet, well proportioned lines, and kind of that “old school” ballet feel. These women are constantly being cast in Giselle, Dark Angel in Serenade, Onegin, and of course Juliet.  

ABT's Hee Seo and David Hallberg in Onegin.
ABT’s Hee Seo and David Hallberg in Onegin.

Then we have the ferocious primas. These women are spicy, they are super playful and kind of on the shorter side, no? I mean Russian Girl in Serenade I feel is always cast as a short girl with a lot of fire… Ashley Bouder. Technically precise and offer a lot of pazazz when on stage these women are addicting, and passionate. These girls are the Kitris, the Esmeraldas, Paquitas and the pas de deux from Rubies….  

Powerhouse and standing at 5', Maria Kochetkova in Helgi Tomasson's Trio. (San Francisco Ballet)
Powerhouse and standing at 5′, Maria Kochetkova in Helgi Tomasson’s Trio. (San Francisco Ballet)

And finally we have our swans, the women who are elegant, and overall have mastered being a ballerina… can’t figure out how to phrase it… These women seem to be cast as Odette/Odile, Waltz girl in Serenade, Grand Pas Classique or Balanchine’s Sylvia. I guess you could say that these women are what most people think of when it comes to ballet: Olga Smirnova, what a beast.  These girls have a flare for drama and do well in roles like Nikiya or Manon. 

Olga Smirnova in Bayadere
Olga Smirnova in Bayadere

I don’t think one is better than another, it just points out that a company’s ranks must be filled with diverse principals as the repertory demands it. If we all danced the same, it would be quite boring. And, what is great about full ballets versus pieces, is I think it shows off a dancer’s versatility as an entire story builds, thus the character changes. Do I think it takes 4 acts to do this? No, in fact to be honest a lot of full length ballets are very tiring to get through. Do I think that it can be done in 5 minutes? Sure, but it is less time to fall in love with a character. Can a dancer be all three, yup. Do I think directors make choices and type cast, therefore their legacy is left in a stereotype? Sure do. There are hundreds of ballerinas past and present who have already been type cast, as one of the following, I doubt we will ever see them transition into other roles. Will we see Ashley Bouder do Waltz Girl in Serenade? Or Uliana Lopatkina in Don Q?

Peter Boal of PNB, challenging Carla Korbes in different roles after she left City Ballet was genius.  I remember when VOGUE did a spread on Ashley Bouder and Carla Korbes, and how differently contrasted they were upon graduation of SAB and entering NYCB.  For example, do I think Peter Martins would have cast her in Agon, maybe not so much. Do I think she would have ever danced Don Q, nope. Regardless, her change was good and with Peter Boal casting she has made her mark as a leading lady of ballet. 

Ashley Bouder and Carla Korbes in VOGUE
Ashley Bouder and Carla Korbes in VOGUE