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There are so many tips out there to make pointe shoes last longer, to make your feet look better, and to reduce noise. Sometimes, we forget to pass these secrets down to the younger generation, simply because it doesn’t cross one’s mind. It just becomes second nature, or you have just been doing it so long it doesn’t even seem like you are doing anything different.
One of these secrets is to darn your pointe shoes. There are numerous reasons to darn:
- Create a slightly wider platform to balance
- Creating friction while turning
- To quite the box
- To find your box
- To lengthen the line of your foot.
The list goes on.
So darning can be extremely time consuming for one pair of pointe shoes. It seems crazy that you would darn a pair of shoes, break it in and bang em out for one show; especially if you are on a budget.
So, why darn the box? Really it is a matter of preference. Some people use darning as a way to save the shoe, make the box reinforced and create a sturdier platform to balance. Anyways, there are multiple ways to darn a pointe shoe.
The first way is to take embroidery floss or crochet thread and loop it around the box multiple times. Like 8 or 10 times, sometimes even more depending on what you are dancing. Then easily whip stitch them together around the box holding the wrapped threads together. Easier said than done. When darning, you actually have to push into the first layer of the box, not just the stain so make sure you have a pretty heavy duty thimble. In this method you can leave slightly wider gaps to allow for give.
The second way is to take a chord of elastic so there is give in the darning and take the embroidery floss and blanket stitch tightly around tightening the stitches after each stitch. The blanket stitch edge should be in towards the box. If you don’t know what a blanket stitch is, it is basically a whip stitch but right before going back through the stitch you guide the needle through the stitch and creating a version of a cow hitch for those of you knot enthusiasts out there.
TIPS TO DARN:
-The biggest and strongest needle
-A Very strong thimble
-Elastic Chord, if going the second way
-Embroidery floss or crochet thread
-if you are struggling pushing the needle through the box… use pliers.
-If you make a mistake, don’t take it out, just go over the stitch again, as long as it is comfortable for you to stand in.
-To check if the stitches are even, the shoe should balance on it’s own.
-If you want a video of how to darn… like the post!!
Poitnte Shoes/Products Featured: Grishko Nova Flex
Collectively, teachers and doctors can agree on one thing: pointe work is NOT healthy for the human body. With that being true, neither is being tackled by a 200-pound man on astroturf, regardless people do it. Dancers do it for the love the art, the strides towards perfection, and the ability to conquer physics. Ballet would not be ballet without pointe work; it is the ultimate goal of a female dancer and some male dancers. So, how does a 6-year-old girl go from dancing in her living room with winged butterfly costumes to defying gravity on the largest stages around the world? Hard work, determination and sacrifice. To dance on en pointe or on pointe, you have to be ready both physically and mentally. The road to pointe work is the first step in the long journey it takes to become a ballerina.The demand of pointe is not only physically straining, but it is also financially straining. They are probably one of the most expensive pair of shoes you will every buy, that will last at most two weeks. And for those blessed with strong feet and beautiful arches, maybe two days… And for those of you who dance en pointe constantly… Maybe a class or two? The pointe shoe is an oxymoron, as it doesn’t last long due to sweat and the breaking down of the raw materials. (Unless you wear Gaynors… These shoes last longer, but there is a huge debate about that… I have posted before on them… Just search Gaynor in the blog search.) As delicate as they are, and as delicate it creates the aesthetic for ballet… well, they are also extremely strong.
So, these delicate beauties that hide their strength also house a vital part of ballet… A ballerina’s feet. They protect and shape the look, aesthetic and power of ballet… I mean it really isn’t ballet if it isn’t en pointe…. right? The whole point of training ballet is to get pointe shoes. So, before you even attempt pointe, you probably should know what a pointe shoe is… This isn’t the history of pointe… This is the anatomy of a pointe shoe 🙂
Anatomy of a Pointe Shoe
A pointe shoe has to be designed for the masses, and, as a result, the pointe shoe industry has expanded greatly. Despite the maker or manufacturer of the shoe, the concepts behind the “parts” of the shoe remain the same. Pointe shoes get their structure from two main structural parts:
The Box: the front of the shoe that encases and supports the dancer’s toes.
The Shank: a hard material the stiffens or reinforces the sole of the shoe to support the arch of the foot while en pointe.
Pointe shoes get their pretty factor from the light pink satin covering, hiding the internal structure of the shoe.
With modern day engineering, the box of a pointe shoe has been reshaped to meet dancers’ foot shape. A box is traditionally made from the process of papier-mâché while innovators in pointe shoes are making the box from more durable substances like plastic. The box consists of 3 parts: the platform, the vamp, and the throat. Each one of these parts comes with different specs per the model and manufacturer of the shoe. The platform of the shoe allows the dancer to stand flat on the floor for balancing, turning, and giving the illusion of being weightless. The width and shape of the platform vary. A Gaynor Minden’s platform is the flattest, versus a Freed, has a slightly more round shape to let the dancer break in the platform to fit their needs. The vamp supports the dancers toes, but most importantly their metatarsals; the vamp can be shaped differently, allowing for higher sides, or a higher throat in the front, ensuring that all of the flexible joints are supported and encased within the box. Russian Pointes have higher vamps and give the illusion of a longer, narrower foot. The throat is the opening of the box, and can be V-shaped, or rounded. The overall shape of the box varies by the maker as well. These are all important as the box is going to give the dancer’s foot 360 support. Because the materials a box is made of degrades, the box of a pointe is crucial for a dancer. If the box “dies” meaning it becomes mushy, there is no support for the toes. A dancer can dance on a really dead shank, but a really dead box is almost impossible to dance on. The shank of a pointe shoe is supple but the sturdy support the arch needs to hold a dancer’s body weight. Usually, the shank the sole of the shoe correspond in shape with hardened pieces of leather, cardstock, or hardened burlap. The sole is traditionally scored leather to prevent slipping and falling on stage.
The pointe shoe is famous for the ribbons that wrap across the arch of the foot and tie above the ankle. The ribbons aren’t there for show, ribbons do offer some security to keep the pointe shoe on, but nowadays nude/pink elastic is sewn to the heel of the pointe shoe to keep the shoe in place. Additionally, there is a drawstring placed around the shoe encased in canvas that lines the throat of the shoe.
The Guide to Pointe Work (2015) | $2.99 USD – click to download
You were the best one at your local school, and then you went to a professional school, and you basically kicked ass. Teachers fawned over you. You excelled in the curriculum, and you knew. You knew that one day you would get your company contract. You land your apprenticeship and then get your corps contract. Ten years later, you are standing on stage in B plus, on the side of the stage in a beautiful white tutu. Yup. All of that hard work, all of those hours, killing yourself over and over again. Learning every part, understudying every principal role, and finally… You wonder, “What was the point?” The greatest role you ever did was some random pas de trois in a matinee showing. You might have done Spanish or Chinese in the Nutcracker. If you are lucky you did Marzipan and Dew Drop for a matinee… So, what was the point?
Working in the corps makes life difficult. Every time a season is about to close you are questioning if you will have your contract renewed. Then you are questioning yourself at the beginning of the season, wondering who they have hired? Who is the next hot shot of talent coming up? You start to question yourself as an artist, and you feel completely unchallenged. You have danced the repertory twice and then some. You know every girl part in Nutcracker and have probably danced in every role. Yup, this is the life of a corps de ballet member. You start to think about your sixteen-year-old self, the person who wanted it so badly. Who anticipated the moment you got to step onto a stage. The person who excelled and wanted every moment of ballet… Where did that person go?
Life in the Corps de Ballet is hard, and they are probably the most under appreciated position in a ballet company…. So now… I am honoring the amazing talent in the corps de ballet of ballet companies. Without the corps there isn’t a flock of swans behind Odette, and there aren’t any Shades in Bayadere… It would just be Solar smoking some opium for giggles. lol. So, what is it like to have the job a million girls would kill for? Get ready for our #corpsdeballetconfessional series. A series of posts dedicated to the corps de ballet, mostly interviews with working ballet dancers.
If you are interested in being interviewed for these installments write me email@example.com
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Check out this video from AOL originals narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker!
It has been a really long journey, and it took a lot out of me but, we did it. After a long four months, Redlands Dance Theatre premiered their first show The Beauty of Ballet. And it actually went pretty well. With the support of Dancing Images Dance Center and their amazing tech, and costume team we did it. First we pulled off Paquita, then Carlos Renteria premiered Self-Help, followed by our version of Nutcracker: A Midnight Fantasy.
It was really great to see such amazing people push to their limits and pull off a beautiful show.
Students from the School of dancing Images took on Paquita Polonaise and numerous supporting roles in Nutcracker. They really have come so far!
Now, we are pushing forward into the audition intensive. We only have a few spots left, so if you are interested you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now it is time to push forward to start raising money for THE SWAN LAKE, and the process of building our company’s 2016 season.
Thank you again everyone for your support of this blog and of Redlands Dance Theatre.
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…
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
ROH takes on the the evolution of pointe work.
The journey to opening a ballet company has definitely been interesting. Sometimes, I think that I bit off more than I can chew. My nights used to be filled with extravagant dinners, and glamorous red carpet social events. Now, my nights are filled with insane rehearsal planning, figuring out staging details, fundraising events, schedules, choreography, venue negotiating and more. It is kind of insane how my life has flipped drastically. There are so many issues with being an AD (artistic director)… For example… When I first started hiring, I wanted super tall women, because I love their lines, their ability to take up space and more. The majority of the company women push 5’9” and taller… The problem… finding men who are 6’1” and not incredibly awkward…
Then, in my hiring, I hired women with the most beautifully arched feet… I wasn’t think that they kill dozens of pairs of pointe shoes… Aesthetically, I made the right choice. Financially now, I am like woah… this sucks…
I generally hate Nutcracker, so I devised a plan to ex out party and battle scene, and have created a new smaller version of Nutcracker that doesn’t involve crazy rat kings, or awkward fight scenes and is slightly twisted… Downside? There is no intermission as it only fills one act. Which means the corps has to rush from snow to marzipan to flowers. That sucks for them… but what sucks even more is first act of our first show is Paquita… Haha. Really sucks to be them, but I am like -___-
So now, I am faced with a billion choices, and blah blah blah. The plus side is that I have a date to have our official party to open the season, and small fundraiser. September 19. If you are in SoCal and want to check it out, visit our facebook page, the details are listed there. Also, Saturday, August 29 is our trainee program audition. If you are in SoCal and looking for a place to train that is focused on pure technique, with a hint of Balanchine ideology- like timing, phrasing, traveling, and turnout- come check it out. The audition is free. Oh, and I still have a contract for a tall male principal dancer, and soloist.
Seriously… I love it. But it is quite stressful.
I’ve talked about ethnicity before, but now I am going to talk about it even more. Most of you probably won’t like what I have to say, so here is my apology ahead of time.
Everyone is talking about ballet, and I mean everyone. But, are we talking about the right thing?
Seriously, congrats to Stella and Misty. I’m sure the majority of the world agrees that you should be principals. Personally I’m not a fan of Misty Copeland, I fell asleep in her world premier in the Firebird in Orange County. I was not impressed when I saw her in Sleeping Beauty either. Just not a fan of her dancing. Stella…, not a fan of her dancing either, but I don’t dislike her dancing. So, did they get promoted because they deserved it? Or were they promoted because the world pressured Kevin to? No clue. But here is what I do know…
I started my very first blog because of ethnicity, well lack of ethnicity in college. It was titled: YELLOW LIKE ASIAN. In my frustrations after finishing school, I started teaching dance at a Title One Middle School in middle of nowhere, ghetto California. There was so much potential, but the problem is the school systems don’t support the arts and there was no where for them to go after middle school and most of them couldn’t afford studio time. So, in my frustrations, I left. Now, I have a company and I am all like ethnic pride, ethnic pride, ethnic pride, and after watching dancers audition– the majority of the company is white or latino. This then lead me to think, wow, I am such a hypocrite. Then I realized that it wasn’t because I was being racist, it was because the lack of training the other dancers had. Then I remembered, “No shit. They don’t have the money to train.”
Then I was like, lets start a go fund me campaign to have scholarships for ethnic kids who have good grades so we can offer them amazing training, who have potential. I even posted it on here for the School of Redlands Dance Theatre and didn’t raise 1 dollar. Then I was like, fantastic, the rest of the world is just as bad as I am. They are like misty copeland, ethnic dancer ethnic dancers! and I am sitting here like, “You won’t even support a non profit who is willing to train dancers.” The problem is that a 10 year old ethnic student or 13 year old ethnic student with no training is going to get a full ride to SFB with no training. The problem isn’t the institution of ballet… the problem is our communities and the communities that support the arts… To fix the ethnic dancer ratio in ballet, isn’t to just demand companies to hire ethnic dancers… the answer is to even the ratio of potential dancers… So, as I am going about planning my company class tomorrow, I was like hmmm we need to find a way to get the arts more money. No, we need to get schools that support the arts more money. No, we need educate the communities we live in about the arts.
For example. Little Jessy, who we raised money for to go to LA Ballet , thank you again by the way, is latina. She is first generation. Her parents don’t believe dancing is a career and don’t have the money to support her dancing. Carlos, a former student of mine who went on scholarship to the Rock School and North Carolina School of the Arts, same issue, parents didn’t understand careers within the arts, and didn’t have the means to support their child in that field. Now he dances for my company. Then I look at all the kids I teach at the school district- so many potential dancers, but don’t have the money to train at a real school or studio… So they dance in after school programs, which is great, but they don’t have the refinement of a ballet dancer, the tenacity instilled into jazz dancers, and their work ethic and dedication is attacked by culture and family values.
So, while the issue of race is still a hot topic in ballet… We need to ask ourselves, “Really, am I helping the cause?”
Then, I saw that DTH (Dance Theatre of Harlem) was searching for a soloist or principal dancer. This raised my eyebrow… I was like seriously? WTF. Number one… DTH does not have rankings… And number two… if their “superstar” is going to Washington Ballet for the upcoming season… why not endorse one of your own dancers. Again… the real reason why i started my blog comes out… I am seriously thinking… I know four dancers in DTH who are beyond spectacular… so instead of spending some extra effort in PR, and Marketing… you would rather bring an outside person in? WTF. Shame on you.
Tulsa Ballet announced they are going on tour in Italy this upcoming season, which is beyond fantastic… Which then lead me to be like, oh yeah the AD is Italian. Then I was like WTF… why are we bringing in all these foreign ADs… No offense to Tulsa Ballet, since he has been there 20 years… but like WTF. We have Angel at PA Ballet f’ing up that… No offense to latin dancers… but all of his new hires were latino. Which is great to diversify PA Ballet, but your comments about cleaning out balanchine affected dancers was a little crude. Go back to spain where your company really didn’t do well… Then I am scrolling through social media and see like all these random videos of semi ethnic dancers… Claiming how hard their struggle was… You can’t hop on the band wagon in hopes to get a job or promoted… Misty Copeland already put the pressure on… And I am sure when ABT announces their fiscal reports… donations will have soared.
this lead me to be like… ethnic or passable white?
As American History is horribly tainted in racism… And in the education system we had light as a paper back, and hair straight as a ruler, as a guideline for collegiate acceptances. Now, has that same rule come to ballet? I am not questioning if someone is ethnic or not ethnic… If you have see Misty Copeland on stage… You wouldn’t know she was black. This lead to me to believe why she was able to move into ABT in the first place… Then I was like Latins and Asians… And after looking at who has made it into abt… I was like ummm passable white. Versus say Mariinsky who has a Korean Principal Male… Obviously the only ethnic dancer. He guested for ABT alongside Hee Seo… Talk about Racial Profiling… Unless she requested him… then that is odd too because like she is gorgeous next to Roberto Bolle and David Hallberg. Don’t be greedy Hee Seo. Haha.
Then I was like NYCB probably has had the biggest criticism for ethic dancers. Period. I mean like… talk about flies in milk. While Albert Evans, Arthur Mitchell, and Jock Soto made City Ballet Principals and paved their way into ballet history, and Amar Ramasar making his mark in ballet history… I’m like… 0 ethnic female principals. 1 asian in the corps. SMH. Then I was like oh yeah… The only way to get into NYCB is to go to SAB… and I think only Peter Boal is the only person ever to start at SAB and finish as a principal. Which lead me back to why we should be supporting schools.
Now finally, as I am the bottom of the bottle of malbec- When the world of ballet decides to obsess over someone new, or find a new topic to be controversial about… What side of the line will you be on? Those who bitched and moaned on social media, which does nothing. Or did you actually contribute to a school, fundraise, talk to your studio’s owner and ask to set up a fund, or parent’s association to help ethnic dancer… Did you applaud misty and stella because they had finally made it, or were you there writing letters to ABT encouraging their promotion and donations to the school for under privileged kids? Did you donate to project plié or buy your starbucks everyday before you take your child to class and sit in the hallways knitting with the other moms? My friends have decided they would support RDT’s school by instead of going out to dinner every night, that they would cut back and use that money to support a student. I mean we do go out every night, and spend way too much money on bottle service, dinners, and more anyways. We have decided that Tuesdays will be our fancy dinner night, and we will only go out Fridays and Saturdays. We will then cut checks to RDT. We couldn’t give up coffee. haha. So, what will you do?
I can’t believe this blog has survived a year.
Ballet at a glance in a year:
Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera became the first of their respective ethnicities to ever become principals at American Ballet.
The Cirio Collective was born.
Shin-Yong Kim won the YAGP at 14.
NYCB made the front page of the NYT, above the crease.
HUFF Post published a beautiful retrospect of ballet.
We said goodbye to numerous influential ballet dancers as they retired from their respective companies: Wendy Whelan, Carla Korbes, Julie Kent, Sylvie Guillem, Paloma Herrera, Xiomara Reyes, Carlos Acosta, Auralie Dupont.
Patricia McBride — Kennedy Center Honoree
Misty Coepland, a ballet dancer made the cover of TIME magazine.
Royal Ballet still continues to annoy me, though Marcelino Sambé has been promoted to soloist.
Ballet San Jose changed their name.
Of the companies to look out for, only one really did well this season… Which is sad.
My company, Redlands Dance Theatre started rehearsals.
Dance still continues to expand through Social Media.
A Ballet Education financed Jessy Gonazalez to attend LA Ballet’s Summer Program.
A Ballet Education provided 32 pairs of pointe shoes to students around the US.
A Ballet Education has received over 13,000 hate e-mails, 1 Million Impressions, 800,000 unique visitors, and is read in 172 countries.
As I spend my 4th of July at the Beach, I wanted to say thank you for everything.
It has been a crazy year. Now, onto Fashion Week. I will try to keep updating, but my focus is going to be on gearing up for premiering at Fashion Week. Stay Tuned and get quick updates via our mailing list and Facebook.
It isn’t a surprise that ABT has been campaigning hard for their 75th anniversary… but for Pointe magazine to have back to back ABT covers…. kind of fishy… I love Skyler Brandt… I LOOOOVE HEE SEO and Isabella Boylston… but to put Sarah Lane on the cover? #joke I swear to baby jesus that if Sarah Lane is promoted before Misty Copeland… actually if she is promoted at all… There will be some words. Now, I am not the only person in the ballet world who doesn’t believe in being politically correct…
Tsiskaridze has opened his mouth too… click here to read the article … I also actually agree with him… I don’t believe that “Balanchine” dancers are ballet dancers. They are neo classical ballet dancers with amazing technique. If we want to talk about REALLY CLASSICAL BALLET.. Russians and the French win. Duh. Royal Ballet dancers aren’t my cup of tea either, but I will say they are ferocious in their own way… But hands down the Russians and French… No argument. #justsayin
This week we said goodbye to Paloma Herrera and Xiomara Reyes at ABT… which means there will be a lot of new hires and promotions at ABT… #justsayin #goodstuff #teamasian
I wouldn’t be surprised if Misty is promoted after her Swan Lake performance at the Met. #campaigninghard Especially since they are hiring guest artists for the season… #fail. These disappointing things were the reason I started this blog… I read my first blog post today, and it has almost been a year since I created this blog, time flies. Nothing has changed, how frustrating.
Tonight, I was cleaning out a bunch of stuff at work, and then stumbled across a memory card that was never uploaded. If you don’t know about shooting medium format, here is a little info. Medium formats create huge files, and so it is always best to shoot tethered. Because I work in fashion, we only shoot tethered to see the film instantly, find flaws, and correct things… Unless, we are shooting on a highly produced editorial, and outdoors. But, whenever you shoot medium format, you always want to have a huge SD card in the body of the camera, just in case. Once the camera clicks the image is usually captured right away to the computer, and on rare instances nothing shows up… Usually the camera will catch it on the SD card. So, I put this SD card into my reader and the photo above was on it. I instantly smiled. This photo was taken by Alexandra Rose of Vogue Images (click the link to visit her work). The photo is of a former student of mine, Jacquelyn Bernard.
When I met this student, she was at a small ballet studio in SoCal. Here, at this studio, the owner told me this girl had no talent, no feet, no turn out, no flexibility and not worth my time. After watching her dance the first time, I thought to myself… no there is something there… just this studio teaches horrible technique, and why on earth would you put a girl like that in Gaynors…. So, after long talks with her and her mom, I decided I would turn her into a dancer. Firs thing was to stretch her out. No, the first thing was to take her out of the gaynors and put her into Freed Classics, then stretch her out. At the time I met her she didn’t even have her splits… So, after working with her on Monday nights… Her feet finally gave into me… And from biscuits these came. Then turn out came. Her legs became hyper extended and next thing you know it she is at a summer program. Now, she is a college student studying dance and about to have her first essay published about dance. So proud of her.
This really goes to show how important it is to find good teachers. Because a good teacher can take you the distance. For a girl who had nothing, she turned it around and now has everything.
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The Academy Awards have the craziest rules… It judges an entire acting performance for excellence, achievement and the craft. Unfortunately, in ballet we don’t really have that… We have the Prix Benois de la Danse and the Princess Grace awards for achievements within the art form, but nothing on the scale that judges a single performance. Ironically, as a student, we have the YAGP, Prix de Lausanne, and IBC. Granted, every competition has the disclaimer of judging for potential and excellence, but it isn’t really the same. And as we are all scrolling through Facebook watching the results for the YAGP come in… I thought I would take the time out of my drive to talk about variations… Variations are real stuff.
What is a variation you may ask? It is actually pretty funny. Originally in music, a variation was part of a score where the the score was altered in harmony, melody, rhythm, or counterpoints… Hence why Balanchine’s Theme and Variations is so brilliant, I think. So, when composers create a score for a ballet, they leave room for Primas, Soloists and such. A prime example is the Sleeping Beauty… SOOOO MANY MANY VARIATIONS. The scores are broken down like:
Pas De Sixs: Entrance
1. Variation 1
2. Variation 2
Or for Grand Pas De Deuxs (the super classics):
3. Male Variation
4. Female Variation
Within the score, the variation of music is usually reserved as a solo. For some ballets, the entire ballet revolves around that one solo. Example: NUTCRACKER’s Sugar Plum Fairy Variation.
Now, at ballet competitions you are asked to prepare two classical variations. There are tons of ballet variations out there, and at each competition the rules may vary in what can be performed, what choreography can slightly change, or what can be altered to fit the dancer’s strengths (tempo, turns, jumps etc). So, as everyone at the YAGP is stressing over their 1 minute chance of becoming a ballet somebody, the rest of the ballet world is like…. UMMMM no. This is because a variation doesn’t grade an artist, even if you are Ashley Boulder… A ballet dancer, a real ballet dancer must be able to carry an entire ballet. A principal, must be able to carry an entire ballet in a single performance. For some, this is quite impossible… For others, it is extremely easy: Yuan Yuan Tan from SFB… she knows how to carry a ballet, is extremely musical, and every step, breath and movement is carefully thought out with intention, emotion, and musicality…
You see, ballet competitions have created this subculture of ballet tricks and ridiculous turns. Which has now translated into “star quality”… *side eye* At these competitions kids are expected to turn, jump and have leg up, as markers to grade potential. Because of this… young dancers have defaulted to specific variations… Here are 5 variations to stay away from… and the reasons why…
5 FEMALE VARIATIONS TO STAY AWAY FROM:
1. Kitri, ACT I: In the ballet DON Q, Kitri has a three variations, and each variation is spectacular for different reasons. ACT 1 though is known for two things: The sissones en attitude, which if you aren’t Natalia Osipova, you shouldn’t do to begin with… and the pirouettes in fifth traveling on the diagonal. Dancers now who are overly flexible with no ballon can make the sissones look crazy cool without getting height… And for those girls who are on their legs or wear Gaynors can add doubles, triples a crazy lame duck at the end… It’s old. Even if you add the castanets to be more musical… It doesn’t make up for the tricks… Also, it is the easier character to pull off in Don Q as you are just a playful Spanish girl running a muck, against her father’s wishes… and teenagers can relate.
1 and a half. Kitri, ACT 3: Again, from DON Q, the third act variation is usually performed by girls with banging turn out and beautiful feet… aka Paloma Herrera in ABT’s Variety and Virtuosity. The hops on pointe, and echeppes in the variation allow for everyone to see how great your feet are. The fun part? You get to dance with a fan, be flirty and coy, and have a HAH I outsmarted my parents and got to marry the poor guitar player!
2. Esmeralda: From La Esmerlada/ The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a ballet that I think only Paris Opera might perform, is a variation in which is laid out for the girls who are extremely whacked out. Plus side? Tamborine… Downside… Natalia Osipova at 17 did it, Yuan Yuan Tan did it, and now Mikko Fogarty won the IBC with it. All three women, around the same age nailed the variation to perfection. Most females who take this on are really in it for the tambourine or they are whacked out.
3. Sugar Plum Fairy: from ACT 2 of the Nutcracker… Just don’t. (I shouldn’t even have to list it… but here it is) It is bad enough we have to hear it from August to January… Do yourself the favor, and the rest of the world and just don’t do it. Professional dancers cringe at the music, despite it being one of the most unique scores of music for a ballet variation.
4. Grand Pas Classique… So, I recently was watching a bazillion variations, and I think that Grand Pas Classique is probably one of the hardest female variations… ever. Reason number one why you shouldn’t do it? Sylvie Guilliem. Done. Okay just kidding, so grand pas classic is a variation in which you can’t hide anything because of the moving on the angles the variation requires. There are no big jumps, but instead it requires perfect technique, perfect turnout and it helps if you have beautifully arched feet. Below is Patricia Zhou at YAGP Paris in 2010 (First Place in Classical Category in Senior Division). Coached by Mr. Anton Korsakov, Mme. Ludmila Morkovina, and Mr. Viktor Kabaniaev
5. Black Swan/ White Swan… From Swan Lake. So many dancers, or their parents take on Swan Lake for one reason… It’s Swan Lake. The problem? White swan you have to be ridiculously mature, and can take a really long time to develop the emotion behind the extension, and even just the face expression. Black swan you have to have really experienced life. It requires a since of maturity that comes from flirting at a bar, deceiving someone, and a sensuality no 14 year old should possess…
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If you are ages 11+ and you are training in ballet, like seriously training… Not like the, I dance ballet twice a week, supplemented with 4 jazz classes, leaps and turns and competition rehearsals… Like REAL TRAINING… Meaning you are taking at least 3 hours of ballet a day, and you are pushing yourself constantly. You parents are breaking the bank and paying for privates and coaching… You might be aspiring to go the YAGP, (the finals start tomorrow BTW in NYC), you might have your hopes on next years summer programs, or you are going to a summer program this year… This post is dedicated to you… and your parents.
1. “This is not the right place for you.” There are a million different schools out there, and each have their own approach, way of thinking and pedagogy. The reality is that not every body type is meant to dance, every technique. If you are at an ACTUAL super Russian school… Your body has to be gifted with turnout, feet that overly point, and a back that is hyper mobile… If you don’t have all those things… Russian technique is extremely difficult, and your muscles build the wrong way… You get bulky, instead of having that long, rangy Russian look. The reasoning behind this, is that dance studios are businesses and need you to pay the bills. They don’t want to lose students.
2. “You are too good to be here.” Studios again are a business, and so they like to keep dancers around as an “investment”… If your child shows potential, and is the best one at the studio or school, then it is time to move on. Sure, you can still learn things, and become stronger, but the reality is that a student has to challenge themselves. If there isn’t competition in the room, how are they striving to be better? Yes, ballet comes from within oneself, but the reality is, when you are around better dancers, you mentally try harder… Also, you need to be around peers that are at the same level as you, and are experiencing the same things, and struggling with the same things.
3. “You need to diet.” No, I’m not talking about starving yourself. I am talking about what a dancer should actually be eating to ensure a healthy body. The word diet in ballet is so taboo, but the reality is, dancers are burning X amount of calories, and shredding their muscles on a daily basis… So higher proteins, less carbs is a good thing. The amount of fruit and veggies are just generally good, I mean who doesn’t love a detox… Also, eating clean means healthier looking skin, so that is a plus.
4. “Ballet isn’t your thing.” So many times, I have seen girls prepped and primed for the world of ballet, but really they should have pursued jazz or modern. It takes a lot to be a ballet dancer: the right body proportions, the right turn out, the right feet, the right everything… Granted there are variances by company, by AD’s preference, but the reality is…. Turnout, hyper extended knees, a hyper mobile back, and feet that shape well are pretty much required. With the caliber of ballet dancers that schools are cranking out, there really is no room for anything else. If you don’t have all those things, there are other genres that are more relaxed… and if your child LOVES ballet, and dreams to become a professional, than find every possible thing to help make that come true… Private lessons, stretching coaches, pilates, foot stretchers and strengtheners (besides a theraband, but that too!)…
5. “Most of you will not become a prima ballerina. In fact, most of you will not go pro.” Hard reality to accept, but it is the truth. I have gone to some pretty amazing schools, and seen some pretty amazing, technically sound, musical and artistic dancers… but the reality is that most of them did not get a job… Those who do get jobs are BEYOND exceptional… And even those who did get a job in a second company, and then promoted into the first company, most of them were only there four a couple of seasons, if that, and then their contracts weren’t renewed…
From one school I went to in SoCal, which had a very high enrollment, and has produced really great dancers… I think, that 4 eventually went pro out of the senior division, and I think only two are still dancing in major companies. Both are still in the corps…
From another school I went to in SoCal that was a very small school, but offered great training… I think of the 12 students in the highest level, I think 4 of us went professional, but currently only still dances in a major company… still in the corps… I think the rest have gone into teaching… Now CPYB on the other hand… I think like everyone who stuck it out, and pursued dance seriously went pro…
The odds are really slim.
and… to throw in a extra one…
6. “I don’t know.” Very rarely will a teacher admit to something they don’t know. Which is a shame, because no one knows everything about everything. Most teachers very rarely go out and find new ways of teaching, or they don’t bother to go take anatomy courses (unless they go to college) to really explain muscle, ligaments, and tendons… They don’t go out and research how to teach towards ethnic body types, or late starters who’s muscles and bones have already set, or they don’t go out and stay current on how things are done in ballet. Most of them teach the way they were taught, which was passed down from some crazy soviet russian era teacher with a cane… I mean obviously not relevant but whatever. A good teacher goes out constantly in search for new ideas, new ways of approaching technique, and finding the understandings of different body types, ages, etc… (This last post was geared at ballet teachers at random schools, not teachers at professional or pre professional schools.)
In today’s world of dance we applaud ridiculous extension, turns that never end, and jumps that defy gravity. Or, we celebrate mediocrity. Either way, it doesn’t do it for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some musicality, and artistic achievement but… I’m like a lover of technique. So, as much as I appreciate and glorify dancers of the past… It doesn’t really do much for me either. I recently was watching some video of Maria Tallchief in Allegro Brilliante and I was like -_____-. Like randomly placed passes, and some questionable releves from male dancers of the past… that doesn’t really do anything for me.
So, in today’s world of ridiculousness technique… There are five techniques that if done well, make me melt… Like I get all warm inside, and if it is on youtube I rewind it and watch it again… SOOO, what are they?
1. The technically crisp soutenu.
2. A two butts up glissade.
3. A super generous, and resistant pas de cheval.
4. A Balanchine saute arabesque, jete combo.
5. When a dancer bevels or wings their supporting foot right before they come down from releve, or when they place themselves on the wing of pointe shoe for a balance.
I haven’t posted in a month because I have been extremely busy, and sooner or later you might all find out that I am actually trying to syndicate or sell this blog. I have actually had a few people approach me in purchasing it from me, and so I just wanted to put it out there for the world now… And well, it is tempting. Lately, I haven’t been able to sit down and really devote anytime to the blog, nor have I been inspired, especially since ballet companies are literally folding left and right.. So officially, A Ballet Education is on hiatus and for sale. Please contact email@example.com for inquiries. (Asking price min: $11,000)
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