Surviving Sugar Plum…

Robbie Downey and Oscar Lagana of Phoenix Ballet take on the classic Sugar Plum Grand Pas. This young talented couple makes their debut together at the Orpheum Theatre. It isn’t too late to get tickets. Click here to buy. Photos by me.

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Just Another Snowflake… surviving Nutcracker (2017 Edition)

Most professionals are in the midst of the exhaustion of the Nutcracker. For others, Nutcracker has just started… It is hard to survive the holiday season as a ballet dancer… Between rehearsals, performances, Christmas Shopping, Holiday festivities and family obligations, it seems to balance out Nutcracker is close to impossible…

nutcracker snow a ballet educationYes, it is a rough life… For some girls, this holiday season brings the tour de force of roles. In a single show you might dance Party Mom, Snow, Flowers and a divertissement.

During the holiday season you will go through the most pointe shoes and costume changes of season. You will dance the most consecutive shows and you want to die. You will dance five different spots in snow, and at least four different spots in flowers. Yup, it is the wonderful holiday season of the Nutcracker.

Okay, so how do you survive Nutcracker 2017?

  1. If you are old enough… looking forward to a good glass of wine on your day off.
  2. ibuprofen, Biofreeze, or Tigerbalm…
  3. Compression wear… Shop Zarely here.
  4. A really good playlist to listen to, so Nutcracker music doesn’t consume your life.
  5. Meal Prepping for lack of time.
  6. Having a ridiculously organized schedule.
  7. Eating enough to sustain you and staying hydrated.
  8. Vitamin C, B12 and other Vitamins…
  9. Laughing a lot with friends… and then posting memories on social media.
  10. Sleeping enough.

Still haven’t gotten your Nutcracker Gifts? Shop here.

 

Bringing The Nutcracker To Life…

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So much support is pouring in from all of you readers. Watching people respond has been more than beautiful. Hearing stories from around the world has been really encouraging. After some encouragement and much needed “talking it out” I was advised to ask A Ballet Education’s readers to help me create My Version of the Nutcracker.

I didn’t think it was going to be super easy but come to find out, I was already halfway there. After some talking to different publishers, I found out I could print 50 Hardcover with Dust Jacket copies of the Nutcracker for $4,000, basically costing $80/unit + shipping to produce. Obviously… no one wants to pay $80 for a book… yet, alone a children’s book. Or… it would be $10,000 to print 250 copies and list in on Amazon, roughly totalling up to ($40/unit + shipping)

To have it printed by a  December 1 deadline, I would have to commit 10 days of purely working on the book with an editor and drawing like a madman… Is this something we even want? Losing out on a week’s worth of work will set me behind in the short term- but the pay off could be greater in the long run.

I was going to Kickstarter it, but it takes like 3 days to approve- so there is really no way to see if this is going to be possible. But, if you are interested in helping out… Here is what I can offer….

If you are interested in bringing this book to life… you can pledge at four levels:

Pledge $50 or more

I WANT THIS BOOK

Helping get a Ballet Education to print by pre-ordering the book.

INCLUDES:
  • A Ballet Education’s Nutcracker Book

Pledge $200 or more

I REALLY REALLY WANT THIS BOOK

I really want to get this book out there by pre-ordering 4 copies of the book

INCLUDES:
  • A Ballet Education’s Nutcracker Book (x4)

Pledge $1,000 or more

SUPPORT THIS BOOK

I want to help further this book to print.

INCLUDES:
  • Signed Copy
  • Your Name Printed in the Book in the Thank You Section

 

Pledge $2,000 or more

I want to be a part of this book!

I really want to help further this book by helping cover the costs of manufacturing.

INCLUDES:
  • Signed Copy (x4)
  • Your Name Printed in the Book in the Thank You Section
  • Illustration within the book, send me a face photo in side profile and straight on, and I will illustrate you into the book in either party scene, battle scene or another section. You will also receive a signed print of your illustration with your books.

If you want to commit please let me know, click here to email // If there are enough commitments- I will go ahead with it. If not, then I will just keep doodling on for my nieces’ Christmas gift. Again, this is just a thought and an idea.

Christmas Comes Early…

It is that time of year again… as cliché as that line is, in ballet, we cycle through each season and either love or dread this time of year. The day after Halloween usually means Christmas is already up in stores and there is a high probability of hearing this music outside the studios at least once a day at either a Starbucks, Department Store or on the Radio… Yup… It is Nutcracker time.

Tonight was a great night for me. Christmas definitely came early for me. You see, my day started off pretty lame, because of a meeting running over, I was missed Ballet Arizona‘s Performance of Swan Lake featuring ABE CoverGirl Mimi Tompkins. This also meant I missed out on hanging out with ABE’s Ashley Baker. Then I was bogged down by drama from my previous job, that I am staying out of. Needless to say, it basically has been the subject of my life for the past week. But then, while trying to figure out logistical things in my life, a random friend request came to me on the Facebook. At first, I was like who is this? Then I realized who it was and got excited. We started talking over Facebook and basically, it resulted in a dream come true for me. (If you are a ballet teacher, you will LOVE this, like die over it, drool over it, use it to death etc). Literally, it is a dream come true, for me… and for like thousands of ballet teachers out there… So excited.

If you aren’t following on Instagram- this week/month I am releasing all of the roles in the Nutcracker. (@aballeteducation)

Remember, during Nutcracker Season, with all of the rehearsals, just try not get injured. Stay warm in between rehearsals and runs. Arleo Backwarmers and Rubia Wear Legwarmers is the way to go… Also a Uniqlo Vest… and moon boots / booties. And while we are at it… a scarf, sweatpants, trash bags and you might as well get your stretchers out as well. With Nutcracker around the corner, it means the countdown to YAGP has started and auditions for Summer Courses…

Issue 8 for a Ballet Magazine is coming together nicely.

The Guide to Pas De Deux was Released Today/ On Sale for $9.99 / Click the Pic to Buy /
The Guide to Pas De Deux Cover

5 reasons we fell in love with ballet

5 Reasons why we fell in love with ballet

Everything is beautiful at the ballet… Edward Kleban said it all in his lyrics for A Chorus Line… When we were younger something resonated with us and sparked the passion for dancing. I remember when I was younger I was obsessed with the Nutcracker. I would watch the VHS versions of Nutcracker (PNB & the Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland version then I added the Balanchine Version) back to back, every day. It was magical… As I am doodling on Instagram, this week’s theme is “My first Ballet Class” so it has brought back a lot of childhood memories… And so, I haven’t done one of these in a while, so tonight, as I neglect to clean my house, I give you 5 reasons why we fell in love with ballet…

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1. The Spectacle that is the Nutcracker… For a lot of us, Nutcracker was our first live ballet… Usually, it was a result of being in class and it was finally time for your first real ballet. It was the music and the costumes: Tutus bouncing up and down, skirts twirling, men’s jackets twinkling in the light, ribbons flowing in the air… and pointe shoes. It was the lights and the glamor: getting dressed up, the opera house lights dimming, the velvet curtain rising… It was everything that ballet is… enchanting.

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2. The Music. For some, it was the music. It is this epic music, full symphonic sounds and more than that… inspiring. Music for some dancers becomes the driving force of their careers, the ability to interpret music on the body— it’s inspiring.
3. The stories… for others it is the epic love stories, the tragedies that can’t be unwritten… the ability to become a princess, a swan and an enchantress, all in the same the night. It is the ability to forget who you are in reality, and be someone different. Who doesn’t want to escape and be a fabled princess, and get to live out your childhood heroines?
4. The Movement… it is the elegance, the posturing, the bravura of turns and jumps. The power of choreography says a lot. It is what makes a repertory live forever. The steps are just steps, but the movement itself can be inspired and brought to another level through artistry. I mean we have all seen really bad bourrés…. like really bad ones…

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5. And then there is the reason why I fell in love with ballet… a good ballet, meaning when the steps, the choreography, the dancers, the costumes the lighting all come together perfectly… it builds this adrenaline and once it is over it leaves you wanting more; much more. When a dancer is so generous with their soul, their artistry, their passion you become addicted to that dancer… It makes you want everything and then some… For me, it was Gelsey Kirkland in the first pas de deux (the music for snow PDD), it was Maia Rosal as the peacock, Lucinda Hughey as Dew Drop, Darci Kistler and Damian Woetzel as Sugar Plum & Cavailer, and Kyra Nichols as Dew Drop. These women to me were goddesses. They were gorgeous… They were everything that I admired in ballet… and probably the reason I am so obsessed with ballet…

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No matter what it was that made us start ballet… we started… and here we are as adults… either professional dancers, ballet go-ers, ballet lovers, and just in general ballet fans. When you start a love affair with ballet, it doesn’t really ever end. Even if your career ends because of injury, and you end up hating ballet… it is only for a while… But you always find a way back to ballet… you see a youtube video, or a performance, or something… no matter what it is… everytime you hear the music for Nutcracker, or you see a great performance on social media… you fall in love all over again…

Don’t forget … English National Ballet streams their emerging dancer performance live today!!! All six are super stunning but I am in love Rina Kanehara and Cesar Corrales… (11:25AM PDT)  http://emerging-dancer.ballet.org.uk

RDT’s FINAL PUSH TO NUTCRACKER

Redlands Dance Theatre goes nuts

Nutcracker is just around the corner, and we are in desperate need of everyone’s help! We are three weeks away from Nutcracker and Redlands Dance Theatre has run into a financial bind. RDT needs to raise roughly $5,000 by December 5, 2015 to finish out the Winter Season. This $5,000 covers:
-Pointe Shoes for Dancers
-Small Stipends for Professional Dancers
-Theatre Costs
-Costumes for Waltz and Snow
-Head Pieces
-Programs/Playbills

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You can donate on our website at www.RedlandsDanceTheatre.org

You Know it’s Nutcracker Season when…

Between the holiday Starbucks cup fiasco 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 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…

Nutcracker Season

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.
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

Nutcracker Tee 1: SNOW SCENE SELFIE

It always amused me watching the girls come back downstairs to the dressing room after snow scene in Nutcracker… Their lip gloss would catch all of the nasty paper/plastic/glitter snow… Some girls would have it all over their false lashes… It was amusing. Then they had 15 minutes to take it all off and look semi attractive for Flowers. 
snow scene COMING SOON

1 of 12 Limited Edition 2015 Nutcracker Tees

SNOW SCENE SELFIE
​Will Ship by November 15, 2015

A Ballet Education’s: SNOW SCENE SELFIE
Machine Washable, 50/50 Blend, Unisex Screen Tee.

30% of all sales go towards a Ballet Education’s Scholarship Fund.

(click the image above to purchase)

I danced dew drop and survived….

i danced drew drop and survived

1 design for one of the 12 new NUTCRACKER  shirts… The entire Nutcracker Shirt collection is sketched, designed, made and all that jazz by your truly. The entire Nutcracker Shirt Collection will be available November 15.

Yup… sooooo …

we are gearing up for Nutcracker and students are gearing up for summer program auditions… with that being said:

After teaching, coaching and running a company… One of the biggest things that interferes with an education in ballet is the lack of financial resources for students. This isn’t like college, so there is no FASFA to fill out.  After the success of sending one of my students to a summer program off of fundraising, I decided that I would use my real job to help create a scholarship fund.  When you shop a ballet education, 30% of the sale will go into a scholarship fund. The big goal is provide scholarship money to students for summer programs, pointe shoes etc; choreographers, and professional dancers pursuing other endeavors to further ballet.  Right now, I would just like to start raising money, so that when your student gets an acceptance letter, but no financial aid, aBalletEducation can help out. To shop and support A Ballet Education’s Scholarship Fund click here.

To apply for a scholarship please see our scholarship link in the menu above. and Merde to your nutcracker performances and summer auditions…

Sugar Plums Fairies: The Women of NYCB

With Nutcracker in a frenzy and taking up my Facebook feed, I am always surprised by the wondrous NYCB, headed by Peter Martins. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with everything Artistic Directors do, but Peter, if I can call him that, or Petie would be better, does a pretty good job at making dancers mature. While other people are against putting such young dancers on the stage, NYCB has a record of it. And because of that, we are able to watch dances mature and watch the entire span of a career. As we recently said goodbye to Wendy Whelan, we are left with a roster of principal women who are beyond stunning. So, as they are dying in a million shows of Nutcracker here is my ode to the current women of NYCB, and then some. (All of them in the same role…)

Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar
Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar

While Ashley Bouder hails as a CPYB alumna and has had praise for a bazillion different things, I think the thing I admire most, is she doesn’t fit the typical NYCB body type. In fact, if you look at the principal women of NYCB, they couldn’t be more different. But Ashley Bouder is like an American muscle car. Shiny, fast, flashy, and sleek. While she is short, and muscular and has usually been cast in power house roles, as she has matured she has developed into this soft leaf floating in the wind… Her in Emeralds was like … well, amazeballs.

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Then there is another CPYB alumna, Abi Stafford, who is like the epitome of technical perfection. With her extended lines, her perfect positions, I think she is like the textbook for turnout and lines.

Tiler Peck
Tiler Peck

Tiler Peck, has become like America’s Ballerina. She is jazzy, fun, free spirited, but most of all relentless when tackling a role. While she sometimes irritates me with her facial expressions, she is the most fun to watch of the women of NYCB. She brings this light hearted energy that is quite charming. And I think as her career has progressed, she is the most changed dancer. From when she started, at SAB and we all got the welcome to SAB dvd with her on it… I mean come on… what a change!

Teresa Reichlen
Teresa Reichlen

Teresa Reichlen, is long, and leggy. Compared to Maria Kowroski, she uniquely stands out on her own. Watching her on stage is timeless. I feel like when people refer to our generation of American Ballet dancers she will be one to remember. Though it is sad because I think Kaitlyn Gilliland could have been a lot like her at NYCB.

Sara Mearns
Sara Mearns

Sara Mearns is a beast. I’m like is there anything she can’t do? As she has changed over the past three years, I wonder if her dancing will evolve, or plateau. It is a scary thing watching careers like hers… They boom so fast, and then kind of plateau. I mean I think Ashley Bouder went through the same thing, and then reinvented her dancing. Since her injury, she is more cautious on stage, and definitely more careful, versus when we first saw her premier as this fearless beast.

Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette
Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette

Sterling Hyltin has had to grow on me… At first, I wasn’t a really big fan. And then I saw her in Romeo and Juliet, and if you took away the awful costuming, you realized that she is a superb actress, which sometimes Balanchine ballerinas lack. Then I saw her as Sugar Plum in middle of no where Michigan while visiting a friend and that was pretty much off the chain. She is charming and dazzling, and I really like the way she uses her knees. Not just her plie, but the way she uses her knees to punctuate extensions is really nice.

Rebecca Krohn
Rebecca Krohn

Krohn, is basically the ballet dancer fashion loves. She is everything a model is, uniquely beautiful, and everything a ballerina is: legs, feet, musicality. I have only seen her dance once in person and she wasn’t a principal… so I don’t have that much to say.

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz
Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz

Megan Fairchild is like this ball of yarn that is kind of wound a little tight, but once she lets go and unravels it is like she becomes someone completely different. While a lot of the time I am not her biggest fan, she is definitely gorgeous on stage. Vulnerability is a good thing for primas an I think she is more of a, I have to take control kind of a dancer.

tumblr craze.
tumblr craze.

Jennie Somogyi is the darker side of ballet. There is something super mysterious about her dancing, fluid and deep. I do think as beautiful as she is a ballet dancer, contemporary definitely suits her better.

Ana Sophia Scheller and Tyler Angle
Ana Sophia Scheller and Tyler Angle

The girl can turn, the girl can balance, the girl has everything. I think though it is time for her to move into a classical company because she was kind of born to do full length ballets, like she is amazing in Kitri and in Esmerelda.

Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard
Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard

And then there was Maria Kowroski. As the longest leading lady at NYCB, she is everything. The feet, the flexibility, the musicality, the legs, the flexibility, the face, the dancing, the flexibility, the back, the knees that bend and are soft, those long fingers, the flexibility… haha, yes, I am obsessed with her flexibility, and growing up she was one of the women of NYCB I looked up to. Now, most have retired, and most of the principals at NYCB are my age. She will forever live on as Barbie, and she will be immortalized for her dark angel in Serenade, and because of Chaccone she will always be this little slice of heaven that was given to us.

Now… beware ladies as a new crop of women in the ranks of soloist are bound to become principals very soon: Lauren Lovette, Savannah, Lowery, Lauren King, and  Ashley Laracey are all probably bound for stardom, but I do think CPYB alumna Alexa Maxwell is going to be one as well.

Lexi at CPYB
Lexi at CPYB
And now.
And now.

the nuttiness of nutcracker…

I have posted many posts about Nutcracker, but I am going to do a couple more before the season is over haha:

http://aballeteducation.com/2014/07/08/too-many-claras-and-every-little-girls-dream/

http://aballeteducation.com/2014/08/24/the-beast-that-is-the-nutcracker/

http://aballeteducation.com/2014/09/16/awful-realities-of-the-nutcracker/

While the Nutcracker is a holiday tradition, for dancers it might just be the ballet that pushes them over the edge.  For dancers in smaller companies, Nutcracker season means longer rehearsals, and being over used.  On any given night, a female corps dancer might go through 3 costumes changes.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t any room to complain, because Nutcracker pays the bills. For stage managers and lighting designers, Nutcracker basically runs itself. And for those in PR and Marketing, Nutcracker sells tickets on its own… unless you are pnb whose ticket sales are down, hence why they are ditching the Stowell/Sendak version and going Balanchine.

5 Nutty Things that happen in productions of the Nutcracker:

  1. Have you ever noticed in the Balanchine Version, that music from the Sleeping Beauty is used between party and battle scene? Or the opening score of Snow is wasted on a moving bed? If you didn’t know how that happens… usually there is someone underneath crawling and spinning it around… Awkward I know. Casting sheet:

Bed:  Your name.

  1. The corps is like a well oiled machine… The corps has so many parts to dance during Nutcracker… and the fun part? They usually don’t dance the same spot twice. These girls go from party scene, to snow without being warmed up, and then dance in flowers. Usually the casting board has the act, scene, and roles, but for the corps it might go by numbers and one night you might be dancing girl one, and the next night you might be dancing girl eight. I guess it gives you some variety…
  2. Sugar Plum pas de deux might just be one of the longest pas de deuxs out there. The variation is ridiculously long, etc.
  3. Have you ever noticed that Clara and the Nutcracker in the Royal Ballet’s version must have to chug a redbull before their performance. They dance in like every variation and flowers…
  4. Finally, sometimes I watch productions of nutcracker and I am like wtf is this… random ugly costumes… non cohesive storylines… over rehearsed tired dancers… or my favorite… bringing in guest artists for the leads from major companies, because no one in your company can fill the role… or you would rather have a “name” for the sake of selling tickets.

Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

Sugar Plums: 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

(The list of 5 Reasons why the Nutcracker won’t ever go away can be found by clicking here.)

Sugared plums are probably one of the nastiest tasting confections known to mankind, but the reality is they are beautiful. They possess a kind of quality fit for a ballet. And just like the ballet, Nutcracker is probably one of the nastiest, politically incorrect ballets. But, we still take our kids year after year anyways… I don’t know if Balanchine purposefully tried to avoid the racism by renaming the variations, but somehow racism it still made made its way into the choreography of the ballet. As a strong believer that dance/ballet is a reflection of humanity, it scares me that we have not evolved passed racial stereotypes. So, in honor of all of the Nutcracker stuff that is going around… 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker.

  1. Behold the glory of second act… Or the racism that is the second act. As progressive as dancers are, we still allow racist movements within the ballets. Chinese is ridiculous, and Arabian is hyper sexualized when in modern day reality, women are oppressed. Does anyone even know why Spanish is called hot chocolate? Hot chocolate was “invented” by the Aztecs and Mayans. Yup, there is a lot of racism. Not to mention the male glory of Russian, and the exuding of machismo testosterone.
  2. The entirety of Nutcracker is basically based on a psychological complex: projecting fantasies on to doll, Drosselmeier is just creepy in general and her parents don’t play a role in her life.
  3. Am I the only one who is concerned that flowers is not a confection? In the second act, a lot of versions have tried avoiding the race card by renaming the variations after confections, except waltz…
  4. Nutcracker really does not make sense. Yeah, I said it. The two act ballet really could be summed up into one act, but the fantasy of act 2 gets the best of us. Sometimes I feel like we should actually just cut the entire first act except snow, and turn act 1 into a shorter abridged prologue… Dads would be happier if act 1 was shorter.
  5. Finally, it always astounds me that the casting of Nutcracker. Nutcracker has to be the most politically incorrect ballet when it comes to casting. I guess for all white companies, it really doesn’t matter, but for those who are asian will probably always get cast as chinese, and for those who are ethnic, spanish… It is sad. I remember one time we were doing Balanchine’s version of Nutcracker and one of my best friends and I were in the same cast… (he is black) and the two of us were pointed out that we dance spanish corps the best and I quote, “They aren’t even European. He is oriental.” As she pointed at me. That day was the day I decided that I truly would have to dance ten times harder to even be noticed for my dancing.

As Nutcracker rehearsals are around the corner, I wonder what other racist things will be said to impressionable children?

Stay tuned for the 5 best Nutcracker productions.