Fall in Love with Adi and Taras

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Issue 9

For some, dancing in a company isn’t enough. A new and growing trend in professional ballet careers is the Freelance Ballet Dancer. This isn’t an easy feat, either. You can’t just wake up one day and decide, “Hey, I am going to be a Freelance Ballerina.” It definitely doesn’t work that way. Most freelance dancers are coming from major companies, or have become Instagram-famous enough to book work for themselves. But, being a freelance dancer isn’t enough. There is the Freelance Power Couple, and Adiarys Almeida and Taras Domitro just might have figured it out. Both left major companies. Most notably, Domitro just recently left his principal contract at San Francisco Ballet. If you don’t follow them on Instagram, you probably have seen Adiarys turn like a top and Taras jump to new heights effortlessly.

The two have now partnered up and have been making their gala appearances all over the world, performing demanding repertoire but still exuding artistry. But it’t not as easy as they make it look. These two have dedicated their lives to the world of ballet, and by all accounts, they aren’t slowing down anytime soon. A Ballet Education was lucky enough to have this dynamic power couple grace the cover of our ninth issue. We think you’ll enjoy reading about what it’s like for them to be freelance artists. (To read more click here.)

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See them perform at the Golden Swan Gala hosted by A Ballet Education and the Phoenix Ballet

Shop Adi Dancewear Today!

 

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You Know It’s Nutcracker Season When…

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Robbie Downey as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Phoenix Ballet’s The Nutcracker

It is that time of the year again…. Nutcracker. Support your local ballet school or company by attending this wonderful holiday tradition. We are days away to close our Nutcracker Kickstarter campaign, and unforutnately, it doesn’t look like it will come to fruition. But, I will relaunch the campaign in the New Year, focusing on next year.

(Click Here to help our kickstarter campaign)

This season I was lucky enough to coach for beautiful Sugar Plums for Phoenix Ballet’s Nutcracker. They included social media star Robbie Downey, YAGP winner Mya Kresniak, YAGP winner Madison Penney, and the elegant Kenzie Thomas. All four young women are so different and took on the role so differently. It reminded me about how wonderful an oppertunitiy to dance a principal role is. These four girls are about to make their debut in Arizona and headline a show.

Now, I am on the opposite side of the country coaching talented young women for the YAGP. These roles are so difficult but it is so amazing to see the attack and dedication these young women have. While Baltimore is cold, the experience here has been amazing.

Finally, don’t forget Issue 8 is out!

(Repost)

Between the holiday parties  and preparing for Black Friday sales, the ballet world is faced with our dreaded, but magical annual tradition of The Nutcracker. Every year around this time, whether it be at Starbucks, the bank or even at some retail store, I am standing around minding my own business… and then it comes on the speakers. That dreadful tune that ushers in the Holiday Season.

While the majority of the world associates it with that one song from that one commercial, ballet dancers around the world hear it and immediately identify the composer, the act, the choreography and the costumes. Yes, it is the Nutcracker.

Recently, I was standing in line with my pas de deux partner, and the music for Snow Pas came on. While it is one of the most beautiful pieces composes for the Nutcracker, we immediately looked at each other with fear in our eyes. Yes, fear. We had just started rehearsals with new choreography knowing that the show goes up in three weeks. We both haven’t been on stage for more than four years, and we immediately decided to order skinny lattes knowing we are about to be in white tights. So, in the tradition of Nutcracker, and in a Ballet Education’s five things…

You Know It’s Nutcracker When…
1. You hear Nutcracker music outside of ballet and want to kill yourself.
2. 1/3 of your company is injured, or battling tendonitis, but still powering through ridiculously long rehearsals that you don’t want to be in.
3. You know every part of Nutcracker, but still are forced to rehearse, clean and tech it all. In fact, you have probably danced every part of Nutcracker at some point of your life and could probably stage it all, with your eyes closed.
4. This time of the year everyone is all about the holiday cheer and festivities, but you are the most tired you have ever been. You want to crawl into a ball and die. You still have to rehearse everything else outside of Nutcracker for the upcoming season’s bills, so your mind is on overload. It is just yucky.
5. You are a boy, and its Nut season and all you want to do is be Kyra Nichols as Dewdrop. Yes, you want to be Balanchine’s infamous Dewdrop and dance the most beautiful entrances, have the most swayed back ever, and dance to the loveliest of music.

Here are some of last year’s Nutcracker Posts:
THE BEAST THAT IS THE NUTCRACKER

5 AWFUL REALITIES OF NUTCRACKER

THE NUTTINESS OF NUTCRACKER

THE BEST OF THE BEST… TOP BALLET SCHOOLS OF 2017

I see London, I see France, where is the best education for dance?
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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.

  1. 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)
  2. 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:
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. 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.
  9. 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)
  10. 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
JKO School
Australian Ballet School
The School at Teatro La Scala
RCPD
Ellison
CPYB
BAE
KIROV DC
The Rock School
PNB
Miami City Ballet
Royal Winnipeg
All the schools in Japan
Boston Ballet School
All the other schools in Germany
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ISSUE V…

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It’s that time of year again, taking a look at this years top ten ballet schools in the world. This issue features the best of the best, and takes a look inside Master Ballet Academy and the young women that ferociously train there. The cover features from L to R Kenzie Thomas, Robbie Downey, Madison Penney, Sophia Bovet, Cassie Van Wolde and Ashlyn Mae. Other girls featured in this issue include Tia Wenkman, Jaden Grimm, and Amber Skaggs.

In other ballet news… Veronika Part retired from American Ballet Theatre, while Devon Teuscher, Christine Schevchenko, and Sarah Lane were promoted to principal. Calvin Royal III was promoted to soloist.


Tremor Update: My arm is getting a lot better, the tremors are hit and miss but still can squeeze that hard on my left side without shaking. Teaching ballet has been really exhausting quite difficult trying to use that arm to the full extent. Teaching at summer course and trying to teach partnering is a joke. But I am optimistic. My move to Charleston is in less than three weeks, and it is quite stressful. August Issue has been started, and that rather intense.


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Photos by David King

TUNE IN @ 11:30AM PST >> GOING LIVE!

Tomorrow morning, I’m going LIVE from Master Ballet Academy’s Phoenix Ballet for Robbie Downey (@balletbabble / @balletfreak) on her FACEBOOK LIVEOr are you in Arizona? ALL FREE at 7625 E Redfield Rd. Suite 400 Scottsdale, AZ 85260

Who might you see perform live? The extremely talented girls at Masters…the incredibly long list of Social media sensations like Kenzie Thomas, Juliet Doherty, Ashlyn Mae & more.

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(Photo by Brad Olson)
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Catching up with Robbie Downey (BalletBabble // BalletFreak)

Robbie Downey YAGP 2017
Catching up with social media sensation, entrepreneur, and ballet dancer Robbie Downey. And, if you don’t know who she is, she is the eighteen-year-old who everyone has grown up with online. Catching the first wave of youtube channels five years back, Robbie Downey has documented her ballet journey through various social media platforms. So, this cool kid took some time in between sessions at the YAGP FINALS to meet up with a Ballet Education. Between social media accounts with a huge following, and dealing with her own personal ballet journey, Robbie Downey is the voice of positivity. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it to the final round, but she has hopes for scholarships. That is the great thing at the YAGP, you don’t have to make it to the final round to still get a scholarship spot. So, if you don’t follow her, this San Diego native has spent a year at Ellison and now is at Masters in Scottsdale, AZ. She has battled injuries and documents her journey all over social media. Agreeing that in ballet, exposure these days can make or break a career, and with her half a million followers, she has it.

So, how does she juggle it all? With the help of her mom. 
Robbie Downey Youtube

How do you take your coffee? Prefers Green Tea
Last movie you watched? Don’t Breathe
Current Song/Playlist: anything by Muse
What does she want out of her dancing? To inspire others and to balance it with dancing for herself.
Favorite thing to do when not doing ballet? Eating good vegan food.
Where to next for ballet? Possibly Spain.
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Follow this cool kid on instagram:
@balletfreak / @balletbabble @its_robbie_
Follow her on Youtube: MydanceTV
Shop her brand: Farina.
Like on Facebook: Facebook.
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Photos by me 🙂

When dancers fail to do their job…

As we all I know, that I get restless at ballet performances and that unfortunately because of this blog, it is rare to just go enjoy a ballet performance. You don’t know if you should just be enjoying it or I should be reviewing it… This year Arizona was forced into the battle of Winter Performances as Arizona not only has a professional company, but now has arguably one of the best schools in the country performing two blocks away from each other. Needless to say Masters did not disappoint. It was everything you would expect from Masters… tons of tricks and energy with the audience roaring. This was my first time watching Ballet Arizona’s Nutcracker… and it started off really well. Gorgeous sets and a ton of digital work, their set and lighting designer did a mighty good job. As party scene progressed I dozed off… Not gunna lie… The dolls borderline looked racist and looked like they had black face on… this was due to the large black lacquer masks they had on…. I fell asleep during battle scene and woke up for snow pas de deux which was super random… Like it starts with the Nutcracker and Clara getting into the sleigh… but at the end the sleigh comes back out and they are not in it but instead walking towards it… Snow was full of energy, so I had high hopes for ACT 2…

The digital effects were gorgeous… Prologue literally looked like heaven and I had such high high hopes… But then the most random things happen…. like Sugarplum has two servants that take up the scene music… and then the rats appear instead of the pantomime… Then instead of a throne or table they were sitting on a clear plastic bench and instead of being the land of sweets it was a beautifully painted starry backdrop… It was like they had died or something… who knows… But then the slew of variations happened… Spanish was entertaining… Chinese was borderline racist with super offensive choreography… Mirlitons was the battle of principal elite women… like it was awkward to watch but GORGEOUS costumes… Russian looked like 80’s couches… Mother Ginger and her bon bon was a trip… like… the costume for mother ginger was beyond fantastic and two stories high…. the poor bonbons in this version wear all green and basically look like little t-rex dinosaurs emboite-ing around.

Flowers was beyond underwhelming in white tutus which was awkward… actually none of their color palettes for the divertissements matched but oh well…  DEW DROP was FEROCIOUS in a costume to die for, she literally was the best part of the Nutcracker… But this is not what this post is about…. This post is going to center around the pas de deux which I will not name names…

BUT… the Sugar and Cav basically threw away their performance when a lift didn’t go as planned. Literally, their expressions on their face for the remainder of the pas was lack luster. His variation he lost all his energy and was underwhelming. Then sugar started her variation and it started off beautifully… (Ballet Arizona’s female aesthetic is long, super-super thin, and gorgeous feet and turnout) But then, it looked like her shank died and she kind of just fudged through her variation… But that wasn’t the worst part… in the coda of the grand pas… they just gave up and she threw away fouettes, pique turns and other steps. It was just lackluster and ended on a really sour note.

Which brings me to my post… We are taught from a young age to not throw away combinations when we mess up, to pretend it never happened if we fall on stage, or mask whatever goes wrong… And in this performance… Ballet Arizona failed in performance quality. I didn’t even hate the choreography that much… But no joke… It was the most disappointing thing I have seen in a long time… I expect at student showcases that if something goes wrong the performance gets thrown away… but at a professional performance… I just don’t think it is excusable.

I get that you were tired, that during Nutcracker you have way too many shows, with way too many parts, and are way too tired… But throwing away the magical show that will inspire thousands of girls every year to be a dancer… I don’t know… Like it was so bad… Everyone around me became so uncomfortable during the performance… Like adjusting their bodies and trying not to look at the train wreck that was happening on stage (at this performance it seemed like there were a lot of ballet dancers, former pros, current students, and more) … it was just extremely painful to watch.

It also didn’t help that for being a professional company there was no live music… so that CD life seemed to be intense.

Always- I just don’t know… it was extremely disappointing… For a company that i have loved watching grow and expand this season has been incredibly painful to watch… like I didn’t even post my review about La Bayadere because I was trying to make nice… but this I felt like was just… unacceptable… I really don’t know how a dancer can just throw away a performance. :/ It makes me question if I want to keep purchasing tickets to see Ballet Arizona. Not to mention seats were kind of ridiculously overpriced for not having an orchestra.