GOOD MORNING from the YAGP!!

There is something familiar, but something new and exciting here at the Youth America Grand Prix this year. Unlike the prior year, this year the first part of the competition is starting in NY at SUNY Purchase before moving into Lincoln Center. Like the Olympic Village, the Dorral Arrowwood Resort is completely filled with ballet dancers, coaches, parents, and YAGP judges. This morning at breakfast you could casually catch the directors of multiple schools and companies enjoying their coffees. It is like being at a museum, seeing but not touching. In just a few hours, the Youth America Grand Prix will start as hundreds of hopefuls will be competing. Today will start the junior competition. Hair slicked back tight, eyelashes on, and the noise of multiple languages sets the tone in the hotel lobby. Kids are being shuffled into Uber’s and town cars, all gearing up for the competition.

The energy is fresh and exciting as we are about to begin an eight day journey of excellence in ballet. Remember to follow me on Instagram for behind the scenes LIVE footage as I hunt down and find the next cover of a A Ballet Education.

DON’T FORGET… there are a few pre orders left on the illustrated book!

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Notes on working from the backs of your legs

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I would hate, and I mean hate it, when a teacher would yell at me or give me the correction: you are gripping your quads, work from the back of your legs. The correction itself is an insult because they are basically saying you are about to get thick thunder thighs, but they wouldn’t tell you how to work or engage the back of your legs… It was crazy, it was mind boggling, and it wasn’t until I was like, hmmm maybe 16 that I figured it out… And no teacher helped me… I figured it out on my own because I was sick and tired of it. I started teaching young students and I started watching their bodies break down, and I started developing my method of teaching. So, like all my all technical notes, here we go… Notes on the back of your legs… via enveloppé.

So, I get a lot of dancers who are already trained but have bad habits. I rarely get to start and finish a dancer as they all go away to year-round programs. With that being said, this post is really geared towards dancers who are already trained and are having a hard time feeling the backs of their legs. To feel the backs of the legs, I use enveloppé from a working back fifth position.

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The whole concept of using the back of your legs is pretty difficult… When you are dancing, you usually aren’t thinking of the backs of your legs, mostly because you have been told to tendu and then get your leg up. So, you are standing in fifth position with the working leg back, and you really have to focus about the spiraling of your legs. As you tendu side, you are only going to move the heel by rotating forward. as you rotate “up and forward” your weight will start to shift, and you start to work through your metatarsals. While all this happening, you really have to focus on your hamstrings rotating forward, your sartorius and abductors rotating back… You will keep rotating until your heel is forward and you can slightly see the sole of your shoe… This means you might not have your leg directly side at all, and for this exercise that is totally ok. (You can modify this exercise to go to passé instead of sur le coup de pied) Now, you wait to keep rotating from the backs of your legs so hard that your leg lifts off the ground to degage height… and keep working the muscles in your legs spiraling into your hip joint. You then want to lift your leg higher using your psoas and obliques till your leg is fully rotated. Now the hard part…. With keeping the spiral, rotation, and tension in your leg that you have created (specifically your hamstring and calf rotating forward) you want to lift your knee slightly higher (to make space) for your leg to move, and rotate the heel of the working leg into the standing leg. (Basically, you are going for the passé) You want to keep the tension in your hamstring till you connect (wherever your teacher tells you passé is. For me, I tell my kids that the “indent” on above the inner knee has no technical anatomical name, and I tell them that God made it for passé). You never want to rest or be stagnate in passé, and you won’t be if you are constantly spiraling. Now that you are connected in passé, focus on the standing leg rotating forward, and using the spiral back towards the spine… From that spiral, rotate your heel forward to press into relevé and lift the working leg knee higher, from the hamstring. Everything moving upwards while the muscles are spiraling downwards towards the ground.

While some teachers encourage cross training first to develop the muscle, so you can feel the muscle in class… I find that unless you already know how to engage the muscle, in applicable ballet exercises, that cross training the muscles doesn’t help as quickly.

Enveloppé I think really utilizes the backs of the legs quicker than developpé, and through the range of steps that make up the enveloppé you really get a sense of the backs of your legs.

side note: The weight in the standing leg is shifting as well, as your hips are the counter balance to the working leg… If you don’t know how to stabilize your hips, check out my turnout blog… I hope this helps all of you who have asked about working from the backs of your legs.

Doodle Cover Page Doodle Book

The first doodle book of doodles (not technical drawings) is now available 🙂

140+ pages of doodles, fat pandas, and other random doodles.

Ballet & the Passable White Standard…

edit: Post number 200! Apparently it is a big deal on wordpress and you get a little sticker! Thanks for all of the love and support.

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Is passable white alright? The media has been covering ethnicity in ballet a lot lately, and as much as that is appreciated… and as beneficial as I think it is… the reality is, I don’t think they are covering the right thing…. They are covering the fluff of race. So, because I have nothing to lose, or a lot to lose, who knows, I thought I would once again touch again on ethnicity in ballet… Whether we like to or not, and as uncomfortable as it makes us, that’s okay because we aren’t talking about it in the open… we are blogging about it. 🙂 So if you are reading this and feeling squirmish and are ready to click away, that’s okay too, but shame on you… And if you are ready to start the conversation that really matters… Let’s go!

While Eric Underwood brought up the need for manufacturers to create an ethnic look to ballet aesthetics… The bigger problem I think solely boils down to two positions… positions that made me start this blog, positions that have me so frustrated, so irritated, that it makes me wonder why I haven’t applied to be one somewhere bigger to start making a change… Artistic Directors and School Directors. DUN DUN DUN! *if I could add dramatic music I would*

While I sketch dancers around the world, I have noticed the lack of color in my digital palette… Which wasn’t very surprising… but what was more surprising was the unfortunate ignorance of people writing into my blog criticizing “me and my apparent lack of knowledge about ballet, Misty Copeland, and Under Armour… ” So, I took a moment to rant to myself before blogging, and now that I have taken more cold medicine and had chicken noodle soup, I can cohesively put some thoughts together.

Diversity in ballet is clearly in the lack… but at the same time, not all ethnicities, or individuals are created equal. Unfortunately, in ballet, the paper bag and ruler principle applies, silently. Then again this principle was never just written out for the world, well it was…. but you get the idea…  If you don’t know what this is, it is a principle that was used/ still used to justify ethnicity, human rights, education and entitlement stemming from colonialism and slavery. It is basically, not to sound cruel, if your skin is as light or lighter than a paper bag, and your hair is as straight as a ruler, you are favored and thus “passable white”… If you look at most professional ethnic dancers at major ballet companies… on stage… with makeup and pink tights… they are passable white.

Ballet companies defend themselves when asked about race with three arguments… well they aren’t really arguments but sad, hide behind a truth statement with a shitty truthful statement. Mostly US companies, because I have yet to see a European company actually put out a statement to defend their position…
1. We employ diverse dancers from around the world… That is truthful, but the reality is all of these dancers are passable white: Korea, Japan, China, Cuba, Spain, Europe, etc…
2. We employ the most talented dancers, and the competition for contracts is extremely stiff. Again, a sad truth…. The problem can’t be fixed at the moment… (will go into this below)
3. Ballet is a visually aesthetic art form, so we have to create a cohesive look for our company. Again a horrible truth. You must ask yourself, how can we love, obsess over, devote our lives to an art form that silently reflects racism? and yes it is racism, preference is still considered a cause of microaggressions.

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So dear readers, the answer isn’t to boycott the ballet because if we stop going to ballet performances there would be no companies for us to watch… And the answer is definitely not writing in angry hate mail… that gets you nowhere… You could start a blog like myself as an option… Companies can’t just go randomly find ethnic dancers on the street and pull them into the company and say, “You are a principal dancer”.. They actually have to blend with the company’s style of dancing and technique… That is true… So, here is what has to happen to see diversity in ballet…. And truthfully… sorry to those who have written in… you have to have good technique… period. Regardless of ethnicity….

Option 1: Replace the current heads of major companies…. Like no offense to Australian Ballet but David needs to go…. And as much as I love Peter Martins… his time is probably up as well…. Royal Ballet has been bouncing around directors… so he’s probably on the way out anyways…. Paris Opera made a smart move with Benjamin but is now replacing him with goddess Aurelie Dupont sooo maybe that is good… I think even Bolshoi and Mariinsky’s directors are ready for a change… Here is the reason why:
These directors were brought up in the age of conservative ballet, and as they learned to be in a company, perform and create they learned in an environment that was safe, reserved and untouched… They are part of the generation of classical ballet…. Classical ballet is dying… Or is dead. Companies just don’t perform the classics anymore… Which ironically, companies use the classics as their defense for a black corps member to stand out in…. Well…. if you look at what is performing next weekend…. EVERYTHING seems to be contemporary… Like no joke: Boston, Tulsa, Atlanta, Richmond, Stuttgart, and the list goes on and on. Soooooo, again… bad artistic directors… sorry if I offend any of you reading this, but it is true…. :/

Most of these AD’s grew up dancing, when dancing was still, or is still a privilege… which is a great mindset to instill in students, but elitism is never a good thing. It is a privilege to dance, yes… but it isn’t something that is given, it is earned…

Option 2: Replace the school directors… and when I saw directors I mean even the teachers and the board….
A ballet school is where everything needs to start… There are so few dance jobs to begin with, that we have to be fair from the beginning, and this would start at the ballet school level. In order for it to be a “fair” playing field for jobs, you would have to have the world’s ethnic representation ratio in ballet dancers… Which is like quite impossible… but fun to think about. But if African American dancers make up less than 2% of the world’s professional ballet dancers (Not modern, not contemporary) that isn’t very hopeful… But if we were to look at the percentages from the world’s population database, as of 2014 people of
African or of African Origin decent are 13.5% of the world’s population…. While whites of European decent make up 12.9% of the worlds population…. Asian/Pacific islanders make up 57% of the worlds population… and Latin/Latin Decent make up 8.7%….

So if you took a worldwide company like say…. American Ballet Theatre… That isn’t very hopeful… and if you look at Paris Opera or Bolshoi… well… it doesn’t get any better… BUT, in Europe’s defense… most of their companies are state companies, so it make sense to hire dancers from their own countries… Kind of… because they don’t always follow those rules… *cough cough* royal ballet *cough cough*
I really don’t know why Royal Ballet irks me the most when it comes to ethnicity… Oh yeah, I remember why… Thier school has a huge influx of Asians and other ethnicities in their upper school… but they don’t hire them into the company… duh. Oh and Paris Opera just hired their first African descent dancers Awa Joannais… (note that it was under Benjamin Millpied…) And not to mention Asians make up half the world’s population so you would think that there would be more Asian principal dancers… Like ummm hello, did we not watch the Prix de Lausanne… Asians galore.

So, I am not saying give everyone a free ballet education, because that would ruin American dance studios and ballet schools hahaha. But, what I am saying is that studios/ ballet schools should be recruiting ethnic dancers who have the potential to dance: natural turnout, good feet, hypermobility, etc at a young age (age 8-10) and recruit them, and prepare them to push the distance… I would include body weight/ skeletal frame but in America these days there is little difference in the obesity category when it comes to race, and obesity isn’t genetic. Talking mostly about girls… (NYU) http://journalism.nyu.edu/publishing/archives/race_class/othergirlsstuff.html
So- by replacing school directors, with new directors and innovative dance teachers, like myself… lol, you have to find dancers with potential and carve them a path into the ballet world… If elite ballet schools only get to pick dancers who are already trained, who are already polished for their SI programs, and scholarship spots etc…. then it isn’t right… Potential and diversity should factor in as well…

Now, as the press covers people have paved their way into the limelight of ballet, I applaud them all as well… But the reality is… it really doesn’t make a difference. I point out that Desmond Richardson became the first African American male dancer in 1997… And it wasn’t till 2015 that another African American reached principal…. The point here isn’t to criticize ABT, but it is to point out the lack of students available to pull from… And it didn’t help that JKO school wasn’t founded till 2004. Hee Seo was the first Korean, and I believe the first Asian Woman as a principal dancer, (I could be wrong about being the first Asian woman as principal but looking back as the rosters… (I am like 80 percent confident in that statement) and last year Stella Abrera being the first Pacific Islander, specifically Filipina to become principal… So since Desmond Richardson, ABT in the past 20 years next season has yet to “ever see a talented potential African American Male Dancer who deserves a principal spot or has the potential to be a principal dancer?”… *side eye*

Another thing people use in the ballet of ballet and ethnicity is the lack of ethnicity in storybook ballets… like where are the black swans, where are the Asian swans, blah blah blah… Honestly, these stories were curated in Europe… and even though Goldilocks has golden hair… and snow white has hair as dark ebony wood… or Cinderella’s skin so fair… I doubt that actually matters to directors… I think they are looking for women who evoke the idea of being a princess, evoke beauty, and evoke the passion that is ballet… But if there aren’t ethnic girls in the corps, in the school, or even given a chance … Well… we won’t be seeing them on stage… I mean hello… if a blonde woman can dance in La Bayadere, Don Q or Corsaire… I am just sayin… I think they are truly looking at who is technically and artistically ready to headline a ballet… You also have to be emotionally stable, and have a level head as you are about to go under an extreme amount of pressure.

A lot of young ethnic dancers have written in and even asked me to doodle them, which I eventually will do for free… but the big issue I see… is the lack of technique and lack of turnout, a lot of them have pretty feet… and most of them are young enough to still change the shape of their legs and feet. The problem? Bad teachers, bad training, or can’t afford elite training… Like dear teachers around the US, it isn’t that hard to give the correction… STRAIGHTEN YOUR KNEES… like dear baby Jesus, sooo many bent knees… >____< If they don’t do it on their own, do it for them… You can’t be “on your box” and have bent knee…. *side eye* what is America teaching *end of side eye*

So, where does this leave us in this ginormous post? That if you want to see a change in the ballet world… You need to support scholarship funds, you need to support company endowments, etc… Don’t just donate money to a ballet company- but you actually have to go in, and talk to someone about programs designed for ethnic dancers… You can’t just donate tons of money to a company… They will spend it how they see fit, and 9 times out of 10 it will be to pay off debt… You have to do a little work.

Now that we have a lot of the crazy out of our systems… Let’s talk…. Besides being angry and sharing inspirational stories on facebook what have you done to change ballet?
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CORPS DE BALLET CONFESSIONAL: Alaia Rogers-Maman

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If you follow ballet competitions and the budding young talent in the ballet world, you have heard of her. Her photos are all over Instagram, and her videos have been watched thousands of times. After starting late compared to most ballerinas, she secured a spot in the variation selections at the Prix de Lausanne at the age of 15, and then a spot at the Royal Ballet Upper School… Alaia Rogers Maman is proving herself to be a force of nature in ballet. She is now a corps de ballet member at the prestigious Vienna State Opera Ballet Company. She may be young, but she already has a very defined sense of musicality and intensity. Alaia was super great to chat with over Instagram and Facebook to secure our next Corps de Ballet Confessional.

So, let’s begin: 

Name: Alaia Rogers, although my full name is Alaia Rogers-Maman and that is what is listed in Prix de Lausanne blogs and the company’s site
Website: No website yet although I think it’s a project I would really enjoy , updating it with content and blog posts , I just haven’t gotten around to it and I’m not sure anyone would actually read it   🙂
(I’m sure we would all follow it)
Insta: alaiarogers
Company: Wiener Staatsballett -translated Vienna state opera ballet-click here for website
Company Position: Corps de ballet , 2nd season , first company (click here for her company profile)

Ballet Education: I trained with many different teachers and schools , but I would credit my most influential training to Magaly Suarez her school is “The Art of Classical Ballet” in Pompano Beach, Florida. She really changed me as a dancer and made the idea of me becoming a professional dancer into a realistic possibility. Going to the Prix de Lausanne and getting the scholarship to Royal Ballet School was something I never thought I could achieve before her training . So my education in dance I would attribute to her and the royal ballet upper school .

Age: 19
Height: 5’7.5” or 165.7 CM

How do you drink your coffee?
Coffee – latte no sugar … I love my Nespresso machine

What is your favorite dessert?
Dessert – that is a tough one, I love dark chocolate especially with sea salt or pistachio filling

You went to Royal Ballet upper school, what was that like?
RBS was a trying and wonderful experience. I think that you can find great ballet teachers all over the world but at RBS it is more than the teachers it’s level of talent from the students and the comprehensive education provided. Ms. Stock traveled the world searching for the dancers with the greatest potential and then put them all in the same class. I think that might be what made me improve the most there was being inspired and challenged by my classmates . The pas de deux education there is phenomenal , the boys are of such a high standard and our teacher Mr.Pakri made us understand all of the technical aspects and taught us to trust our partners and be there for each other. The education on ballet history , physiotherapy , character dance, arts funding, and all stages and roles within the choreographic process were taught in great depth. It was also a trying time lots of changes were taking place as Ms.stock made her departure from the school. It was very sad to see her go and later hear I of her illness.

What was it like trying to find a job?
Finding a job was a bit scary at first especially when you see how many candidates show up to an open audition. You really think how are they even going to see me in this sea of girls. Also, there are only a few spaces available to dancers each season, I felt like all the odds were against me. I think doing your research is important,  to look for a company where you can see yourself fitting into the repertory

What was your dream company when you are 15?
I think I had a few dream companies at 15 , Paris Opera and ABT were definitely at the top though

What is it like dancing at the Vienna State Opera?
It’s incredible to work here in Vienna . The opera house is beautiful and I love curtain calls when you can just look out into the beautiful theater and take it all in. The Viennese people are huge fans of the opera and ballet and we are always performing for packed audiences. My director is Manuel Legris (former etoile at Paris Opera) and he has a never-ending wealth of knowledge to share with us. We have such a diverse group of super talented dancers which I feel lucky to be a part of. I really believe this is one of the best places to work in ballet. Few companies have our diverse and exciting rep paired with great dancers and a world-class director.

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How often do you perform?
Our performance schedule varies month to month, but I would say on average about 85 shows per year here in Vienna .

What are you currently rehearsing?
Onegin, Le Corsaire by Manuel Legris, Marie Antoinette by Patrick de Bana, snow queen by Micheal Corder , and soon we start with Mayerling.

How does time off work at an Opera House?
Our company is different than most we don’t have scheduled Christmas or mid season breaks. They try to give everyone their free days when possible based on the programs you are cast in. At times, it can a bit annoying because it’s hard to make plans for vacation or family with little notice but when we all get two months of holidays in summer it makes up for it .

What are some of the pressures of being in a ballet school compared to being in a company?
Ballet school, although at the time, I felt was stressful really isn’t  in comparison to being in a company. In school you and your classmates are all practically on the same level it’s like a mini company where you are all the same rank. In school, your teachers are so invested in you and are constantly giving you feedback and you have hours of rehearsal time and you know exactly what you are going to dance and when. In a company you get very little feedback about your personal progress and have to motivate and assess yourself. You also are preparing multiple pieces at one time with limited rehearsals and have to be prepared to jump into other roles, with maybe only 30 minutes notice and hopefully ONE rehearsal. School years were golden years with lots of nurturing and friendships combined with hard work. In the company it is different, but once you adjust you really enjoy the diversity of the things you dance, the mentorship of more experienced dancers, and the feeling that with each role you really can explore your artistry and grow.
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What are some of the relationships you develop in the corps de ballet?
Well, you develop great relationships. Dancing with a new partners you forge friendships with people you wouldn’t have become friends with otherwise. Also, when you work on a piece that has been in the rep for years and it’s your first time dancing it the more experienced dancers can really help you along the way. I think you can learn a lot from dancers in the corps de ballet there are  really young dancers, dancers starting to get their first big opportunities , dancers who have been in the company for more than a decade , and super moms who somehow manage this crazy time and energy consuming profession with motherhood. So you make all sorts of friends in corps.

What is the biggest difference between European dancers and American Dancers?
I think to compare European dancers and American dancers it is not really possible because British, French and Danish dancers are completely different already. I can only comment on the things I felt I had to change myself once I started dancing in Europe . My wrists, they often dropped and didn’t always elongate my line, finding more light and shade in my dancing playing more with the musicality.

When you were a student, what was the hardest thing for you?
Being a student, I think the hardest thing for me was mental. I started ballet quite late and I was always the underdog or the one who had potential but was behind the other students. Mentally, it was often hard to believe I had progressed enough to do well in a competition or be able to stand out in a group of my talented peers, my confidence wasn’t always on the same level as my capability.

Technically? Mentally? Injury Prone to?
Technically I had struggles too but every student and professional does.

I really believe that if you eat, sleep , and work properly you can avoid most injuries . I have been very lucky I have had only very minor injuries. It’s shocking how many dancers as they get older and start a professional career do so little to warm up.

What is in your dance bag?
My dance bag is huge – lots of Bloch point shoes , theraband, box cutters, sports wrap, chapstick, sewing kit , jet glue , icy hot , leg warmers, rehearsal skirt, shorts , ballet flats, foot spray , sisscors, scotch tape , lambs wool toe pads, my keys and phone

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What is your dream role?
I have many roles I aspire to. I would love to dance a dramatic role like Tatiana in Onegin , Marguerite in Lady of the Camillas , or Esmeralda in Notre Dame.

 What do you want out of your ballet career?
I think I am a very ambitious person , and I want out of ballet what I would want out of any other career I could choose . To continue to improve, to be challenged, not to plateau, to always be working toward something. Ballet is wonderful because you can always grow more. Even the best of the best can continue to work, explore, and create. I love feeling that each class or performance was an improvement on the last.

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Love the Corps De Ballet Confessional? Check out our first one with San Fran Ballet’s Julia Rowe. Are you a corps member and interested in being interviewed? Email me aballeteducation@gmail.com

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LET ME BE A SWAN… any swan… company contracts

 

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I have been illustrating corps pictures on Insta to prove ethnic dancers aren’t going to distract from the corps…. #justsayin

 

 

The waiting game… From January until May, sometimes even longer, dancers ages 17ish-22ish wait anxiously for the ultimate business goal: A CONTRACT. For some dancers, there is an additional layer of stress; they are waiting for their college acceptances as their backup plans. It is a scary moment. Usually, these dancers are at professional schools attached to companies like San Francisco Ballet School or Miami City Ballet School, and they are waiting to hear from that company. In addition to waiting for that company to possibly give them a contract, most dancers also auditioned for a million other companies and summer programs, just in case…. It is a scary thing, but it is a part of this career, here in the US in particular.

For dancers who are waiting for a contract there are three common contracts that dancers are waiting for:
1. Corps de ballet: Basically to be invited into the main company is a dream come true, and this is probably the most coveted contract because it is the best paid of the three. If you haven’t danced with a company or completed an apprenticeship year somewhere, this contract is hard to land. Most dancers who are going after corps contracts have completed a rigorous ballet education, finished a traineeship program, and completed an apprentice year at a company. Most dancers who move into corps positions have all this, but there are always the exceptions…. On occasion, and mostly during Nutcracker top students from the school are pulled as fillers to step in for injured or overworked dancers, and on occasion if a dancer performs well under the stress, the schedule, and the stamina factor… A dancer can be given a contract to the corps the following spring… This usually happens in larger companies.
2. Apprenticeship: A coveted spot to spend a year with the company, and basically, you are part of the company except you are the access… You have to work ten times harder to prove you can “fit in” to the company life. The apprentice year for a ballet dancer is hard because you don’t’ know exactly where you fit in. You are kind of in the company, but not really. You have to learn the entire repertory without actually being sat down with, or guided through. Half the time it is via video, by yourself in a studio, trying to see what girl is girl number 10 in snow, and that’s that.
3. Studio Company/ 2nd Company: A lot of companies have now implemented the studio company/second company which is kind of a joke… it is basically 10-20 dancers who double up in the corps de ballet without having to be paid as much. The only place that really has a studio company is ABT. Their second company performs a lot, and is used to try new choreographers out, and for dancers to build performance qualities across different styles of movement.

Numbers…. There are tons of dancers out there… Maybe too many dancers… The industry right now is so oversaturated with talent, that there aren’t enough jobs to accommodate them. This is mostly because the audience and general public for ballet aren’t buying tickets. So, if you think about it there are tons of places where dancers start out…. Quoting my old post “Too Many Claras”

FACT: A dance studio is not the same as a dance school and is not the same as a performing arts school and is not the same as a ballet school.

A Dance Studio is a recreational place to dance, which means you are there for exercise, exposure to music and the idea of technique.

A Dance School is a recreational place to dance with higher performance expectancy. A dance school usually can also be called a competition studio, or a performance studio. This is where technique matters, but not to the extent of creating a career that feeds into a company. This is more for commercial dance route, the Hollywood route, and the scholarships to a UDA college career.

A Performing Arts School is a place for children to develop the fine/performing arts to a greater extent on the artistic side. Most kids in these schools aren’t just out to be ballet dancers, but instead they are also on their way to become a triple threat: BROADWAY BOUND. Performing arts schools usually offer more than just ballet, but modern, contemporary, voice lessons, acting lessons, and so forth.

A Ballet School is a place for children to study pure ballet. Regardless of the pedagogy, it is completely ballet based, and the emphasis is only on ballet technique with supplemented curriculum of modern, contemporary and occasionally jazz.

With that being said, no matter what school you are at… you are at a school. In the top level, there are maybe 8-16 girls… Of those 8-16 girls, they will usually all get into summer programs… Or at least, half. From there, in the upper level of a summer course, or even the top two levels there will range anywhere between 40-100 girls. Of those girls, 20 might be asked to stay year round. Once you are year-round at a pre-professional school in the top level there might be twelve girls… of those twelve, 4-8 will be asked to join the trainee program… In the trainee program there will be about 12 girls, of those twelve, generously, 3 girls will be asked to join as apprentices… Of those three girls, maybe 1 will join the company… Yes, the odds are that slim, but luckily in America there are hundreds of companies. This is why teachers say it is a privilege to be a ballerina because company contracts are so scarce.

There are hundreds of companies that fuel America’s ballet needs. Unfortunately, that also hinders companies. It means donors are dividing the money in the community, and that is how favorite companies and styles are developed.

There is no guarantee that a ballet dancer will go pro or not… The only insurance you can really get for your child is a good ballet education, at a good school… And in America, there are tons of those… But for those who are serious about ballet, the seriousness of getting a contract is a big deal… And you have to be prepared times ten. It isn’t like college where you put your dream school, backup schools, and safety schools… In fact, it isn’t even like summer programs… When it comes to contracts you go where they want you, and where they can pay you.

When it comes to contracts there are two types contracts… there are union contracts and non-union contracts… Ideally, you want a union contract as it protects the interests of the dancer… It also keeps you from being one of those dancers who are underpaid, overworked, and dancing on injuries. Your contract is so important because it outlines time off, rehearsals standards, how much you can actually dance in a day, and so forth… A good contract will be 10+ pages… A bad contract is two-three pages, and is vague….

So for those of you in the waiting game… Good luck! And for those of you who are embarking on your journey to get a contract…. Keep your heads high, and keep pushing to be the best.

xoxo,
a Ballet Education
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5 Things to Be Thankful For…

Thanksgiving is a time for Americans to sit back, relax, surround themselves with family and friends and reflect on the past year. Over pumpkin pie and spiked apple cider, we express our thankfulness with as much sincerity as possible. (Unless you are icing and sleeping in because you are about to open a 30 show run of Nutcracker.)And for some, they take to Facebook and write such a long, in-depth, heart warming post that we must all comment with cute little emoji. There are many things to be thankful for this year, especially in the world of ballet. So, here we go: 5 Things to be Thankful for…

1. Christopher Wheeldon won the Tony for an American in Paris for best choreography.

2. Justin Peck. I don’t need to say more. (I could include the whole list of emerging choreographers, but he is the one who started this new growing movement of young choreographers. Plus, I called it.)

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3. Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera becoming the first African-American and Philippino principal dancers at American Ballet Theatre.

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4. Dancers are becoming self-motivated and active entrepreneurs. This year we saw a lot of small up and coming brands started by dancers for dancers boom this year. Rubia Wear,Elevé Dancewear, Lulli, etc.

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5. Finally, last but not least: SOCIAL MEDIA. Without you we would be extremely bored, our businesses would fail, we wouldn’t have a billion followers, and ballet wouldn’t have as much exposure as it does currently.

 

 

SHE DID IT

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MISTY COPELAND IS A PRINCIPAL!!!

So is Stella Abrera… and Maria Kochetkova left SFB to join ABT.

Jeffrey Cirio has left Boston to join to ABT as well.

Boom

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner: the TOP TEN BALLET SCHOOLS of 2015

top ten ballet schools
Winner, winner chicken dinner. The list is in. The TOP TEN Ballet Schools of 2015.

There is always a great debate when it comes to rankings. Rankings for anything really are always surrounded by controversy, but we love them. While the list last year reflected the number of graduates from a school in principal jobs in 30 major international companies, this year’s list reflects the power, innovation, and the teacher’s that make these schools. This year we have seen the power of the ballet student. At the ballet competition circuit this year we saw super powerhouse and future stars premier to the world, and we were blown away.

BIG NAMES & BIG SCHOOLS

Harrison Lee took top prize at the Prix , he is from Australia. Gisele Bethea made another strong international competition circuit this year. She is a student in Arizona.  And while these individuals took home top prizes, home schools like School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, the Vaganova School, and POB made surprising debuts for their students.

One of the plus sides of big ballet  competitions, are big ballet schools. Scholarships to the most prestigious schools that have made their place in ballet history.  Unfortunately though, these dancers don’t make a school.  Very rarely does a student start and finish their training at one school, in the US.  Sure, in Europe it is more common because there are state schools that feed into the state supported ballet companies, and opera houses.  So super stars don’t make schools, and shouldn’t be a factor when deciding the best of the best. Now, when looking at a school, you have to ask yourself, if you are in the US, is it a technical school or a finishing school. For example, School of American Ballet is a finishing school… Yes, it is technical, but the majority of their upper level students are from other schools.  Most small studios in the US should be focusing on technique, like learning the basics of turn out, feet, and learning how the body works… This is like CPYB.  CPYB you learn all the basics, but you leave to a bigger school, or professional school to finish out your training, and coaching.  So this was also taken into consideration, which eliminated off a lot of the US schools from last year.

HERE WE GO… the moment you have all been waiting for…

If this was college football, well it isn’t. Haha. This is bigger than college football, this is ballet. Like football there are TEN SCHOOLS that everyone wants to get into. The only thing bigger than the school you get into, is the company you might dance for as an end result. In comparison, these are the Ivies of the ballet world, and you do have to have top marks to get in. Who are we kidding, you have to have everything to get in…

Like the Ivy League list… there are three schools that will always compete for number one in the world. International, and probably the most historical, they are the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet School, the Vaganova School, and the Royal Ballet School. It is hard to say which one of these schools is actually the best, because they are completely different styles, and create very different dancers. Last year these schools took the top.  This year, we have lumped the three into one category, as the SUPER STAR STATE SUPPORTED SCHOOLS.  It really is only fair that the three of them share number one and make room for other schools offering great training, and are more realistic to get into.

  1. Paris Opera Ballet School, Vaganova School, the Royal Ballet School (Upper School).  Historically, the three of them have always ruled ballet, and unfortunately I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But, not everyone is meant to dance there.  Not everyone is a super turned out French girl, or a leggy skinny Russian girl, and very few boys are going to become the power houses that the Royal Ballet School produces. (Remember, huge headliner  names at the Royal Opera are mostly imports from winning huge competitions.) You can’t argue that each of these schools have a very specific style, and produce a very specific look… Regardless if I like the company or school or not…

    The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Anastasia Soboleva & Victor Lebedev Asaf Messerer’s “Class Concert.” Photo: Stas Levshin
    Honorable Mention 1.5: Every other hardcore Russian school.The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Anastasia Soboleva & Victor Lebedev Asaf Messerer’s “Class Concert.” Photo: Stas Levshin
  2. THE SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET, founded by George Balanchine, SAB is probably the only school in the US that can even resemble a portion of what a state school has to offer. Sure, the Balanchine aesthetic is super specific, and the dancers are very… well American, but that is what is celebrated. The school produces great artists and the faculty nurtures dancers to become artists at a young age. Something the dance world loves. School of American Ballet is the feeder school to NYCB, which is oddly unique in the US.

    Her voice is a bit much, she is the corps now… So holla for a dolla…. and how did she not know who the faculty of SAB were… did she just wake up one day and was like I am going to audition for this random school in NYC? You can also watch the first season of strictly ballet about SAB life.
  3. THE JOHN CRANKO SCHOOL, is one of the leading ballet schools, associated with one of the most innovated companies in the world. The Cranko school is known for international power house students. A lot of students after a big win, will decide to attend the Cranko School to hone their technique but most importantly developing the artistry needed to work as a dancer. Then they either join the company or move on.  Oh the Cranko school is associated with Stuttgart.
  4. LA ESCUELA NATIONAL DE DANZA, in Havana, Cuba. Controversy.  While we left this school off the list last year, a huge heat came onto us.  So, let us take a look at the school at National Ballet of Cuba… Just because it is an important moment in dance diaspora, doesn’t mean that it is a good school… Ironically, if we are talking about dance diaspora, we should really look at Russian Immigration changing the world’s perception of ballet through the various wars, and conflicts. But, that is neither here nor there, we are here to talk about schools. While major dance companies have Cubans in their companies, the Cuban school is basically intense Russian training, with a focus on turns… and men.  If you look at these high ranked, high profiled ballet Cuban super stars… they are all men.  After seeing National Ballet of Cuba in Los Angeles, I wasn’t impressed by their women… Creating strong technical powerhouses, the school produces more men than women. (Many of you wrote in saying I left them off the list last year because of socialism, pff. And those who said it is the most important diaspora in dance, maybe not so much, but maybe over the past 50 years… )
  5. THE AUSTRALIAN BALLET SCHOOL, our friends down under are definitely pushing their way to the international front.  With some of the best PR campaigns I have ever seen, the Australian Ballet is a reflection of their school. With a new campaign called project assemblé, the Australian Ballet school will soon have a residence for their students. Despite popular belief the Australian Ballet School is not supported by the state, well it is partially supported by the state. You can audition for the school for placement, but beware, it the application alone is $83 USD.
  6. SAN FRANCISCO BALLET SCHOOL, has truly stepped up their game.  With their ranks at the company being filled with some of the most promising ballet dancers of our time, all of these students at least spent two years in the school. San Francisco has always been the West Coast’s center for ballet, but even more so as this season ended. SFB is becoming much more than just a school, but it is becoming a breeding ground for exceptional talent. Rightfully so, since San Francisco Ballet School claims the nation’s oldest professional ballet school. SFB has now rightfully produced a future superstar choreographer, Myles Thatcher who makes his NYCB premier at the Fall2015 Gala. It is more likely for a dancer to go start to finish at SFB than any other school. SFB has turned into a breeding ground for ballet superstars over the past ten years and is causing many students, and competition winners to go there.
  7. NBS, National Ballet of Canada’s School.   NBS is a healthy structured school in which students really are prepared for the real world of ballet.  Additionally last year, we talked about their program that bridges the last year of school and the first few years of professional ballet life.  The school itself has lost some recognition on the international circuit, as they haven’t had a huge international draw lately…. Also in Canada other schools have risen to the occasion allowing more options for Canadians to train at.  Mainly speaking about GOH Academy that produced international power house Alex Wong. (They were on the list last year, but so many of you wanted to know why Royal Winnepeg, and GOH Academy were left off… Frankly put, when it comes to NBS, you just can’t compete with them.)
  8. THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL OF DANCE, for those students who are 18, and haven’t found a company contract, there aren’t very many places to go.  The Juilliard School of Dance is one of a few exceptionally ranked programs. Another is NBS, number 7 on our list.This University offers dancers a B.F.A for 24 exceptional students. Their program is rigorous but their alumni have joined numerous companies both within the US and abroad. I really, really, really want to encourage dancers after 18, to not give up.  There are places to dance, or continue your dance education without feeling like the oldest one in the room. There are various universities and programs that help continue your training and transition into professional life.
  9. THE SUNHWA ARTS HIGH SCHOOL, South Korea is becoming a powerhouse in producing international ballet super stars. So, is it the rice? No. The Sun Hwa Arts High School is the premier school for young people in Korea to attend. Most of these kids are trained to compete on the international level, and then they transfer schools. As mentioned in a previous post, Korean males are required to serve two years to the army, unless they finish first or second at an international competition. Their training is basically Russian training mixed with extreme stretching technique. Much like the Cubans, an integrated Russian technique refined for a specific body type. A lot of the Sun Hwa girls end up at Kirov DC, which is associated with Universal Ballet of Korea. Why are they on the list? Because it is important to recognize that a lot of Russian based schools have created a technique based off of a specific, ethnic body type.  In this case it is a longer but narrow torso. So many girls at the prix finals were from SunHwa.
  10. Royal Danish School of Ballet This school reminds me a lot of School of American Ballet… Obviously not the same technique, they couldn’t be more different… This school though has a very specific technique, and very specific style. They produce crazy jumpers.  Ironically, the company director is from NYCB.  The school is small, according to their website it has roughly 60-70 students ages 6-16 and paid for the by the state.

ABT is campaigning hard… too hard…

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 
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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.

100 POSTS

a Ballet Education Celebrates 100 Posts

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE!!

We have officially done 100 Blog Posts.

As we approach our 1 year anniversary…

We have a lot in store and we are  so excited.
Thank you all for your support.

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Dear Mr B

Every Fifth Has A Story

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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.
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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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5 Variations To Stay Away From…

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
Adagio
1. Variation 1
2. Variation 2

Or for Grand Pas De Deuxs (the super classics):

1. Entrance
2. Adage
3. Male Variation
4. Female Variation
5. Coda

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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5 things your teachers will never tell you… and they should

how to do ballet real ballet

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.)

What is Good Ballet?

What is “good” ballet?

I have been asked this a lot… and frankly I was avoiding this conversation as it is super subjective. It is like asking, “What is good art?” There isn’t a definitive answer, which is why I try to explain my opinion. First, we have to go over the context in which good ballet is used.

“I just saw Paris Opera Ballet, and that was good ballet.”

This is referring to a company’s caliber. A good ballet company, doesn’t have to be a big ballet company. A good ballet company has to have numerous artists who are all striving for a vision, in a specific performance. I will say, in order to be a good company, you have to have a strong technical backbone, dancers that can actually move well, and all generally have the same sense or approach to musicality. Some would say they all have the same body type, or body proportion but that is a bold face lie. It really is.

“She is a good ballet dancer.”

This is referring to a professional dancer’s achievement within the art. Just because you are technically sound, that doesn’t make you a good ballet dancer. A good ballet dancer isn’t even defined by turns, or leg up, or ridiculous air time (ballon). A good ballet dancer is an artist, someone who shapes their body to the music, and give the technical steps an emotion, a purpose, and place. A good technical ballet dancer just doesn’t fling their body anywhere in a jump, they have a very specific placement, within a time frame, moving in space, with an intent or emotion.

“This is a good ballet program.”

Referring to the education a dancer is receiving. I think this is the big question that everyone wants an answer to. What is good ballet training. So what, your school didn’t make the Big Ten List … There are plenty of great schools out there… like these ones I wrote about earlier… Well, anyways there are actually two types of good ballet schools. There are ballet schools, and then there are finishing schools. A good ballet school is a where you learn your body, turn out, foot articulation, placement, and clean basic technique. If your school doesn’t emphasize turn out in every combination, it probably isn’t a good school, and probably below mediocre… Turn out is the most important thing in ballet… Unfortunately. A good ballet school teaches you how to use the floor, learn a full ballet vocabulary, teach you how to warm up properly on your own, overly stretch you out, condition you ridiculously, teach you about nutrition, cross train you in pilates, yoga and a secondary form of dance, and educate your parents about summer programs, scholarships, colleges, and careers.

Now, a good finishing school is a school that teaches advanced technique and those ridiculous jumps and turns that no one did give years ago.. Haha just kidding, not really. But a finishing school is where a student really becomes a dancer. They learn how to use their technique to really dance. Some finishing schools focus on a specific style, breeding you for their company… like School of American Ballet. Some finishing schools focus on the strength of technique aka Houston Ballet.

It is really hard to actually say what is a good ballet school, because the reality is, a good ballet school will start and finish you in their company. If your school doesn’t have a company attached, what was the point of being at that school? To train their way and leave? It really doesn’t make sense, and at the same time it really isn’t fair. Paris Opera, National Ballet of Cuba, Vaganova School, are prime examples of start to finish schools… At the same time they are all state funded, which is cause for a whole different post in which I am too tired to get into right now. Plus, I am having a conversation via Facebook with a friend about it. Haha.

Buenos Noches everyone— and cheers to “good” ballet.

A Ballet Education…

A Ballet Education

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 aballeteducation@gmail.com for inquiries. (Asking price min: $11,000)

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May the odds be ever in your favor… Prix de Lausanne

Well, it seems like human nature that we watch kids rise to glory, or fail miserably. In fact, over the past week, I have been glued to my computer watching the live streaming of the Prix de Lausanne. If you don’t know what that is, it is the yearly competition in which kids travel to Switzerland for a week and go through grueling classes, and interviews in hopes to be 1/20 finalists selected. All these students are competing for scholarships at one of the partnered/sponsor schools of the prix. Literally, if you win the prix you are kind of on the fast track to principal.

This year has been quite surprising, as the usual country contenders are the US, Japan, China, Korea, and of course if a Russian is competing they usually win… It is rare to ever see a French candidate compete. But this year has a surprising line up for the finalists… Australia has quite a few finalists… which is nice since the last Australian we really saw was Steven McCrae (principal at Royal now). There are quite a bit of US competitors this year, which is a good follow up since Precious Adams from the US won a scholarship and the contemporary prize last year (currently at English National Ballet). There is always a swiss candidate in the finals, as a prize always goes to the best swiss candidate. In the mix there is also Portugal this year… Now the prix has gone through a variety of phases, to announce winners, they used to hand out gold-bronze medals, cash prizes, different levels of competition… it goes on and on.. now the prix hands out six massive scholarships, along with the prizes for audience favorite, contemporary, and best swiss candidate. If you are 17+ you may also win an apprentice spot…

Why is the prix so important? Besides the fact that winners include Darcy Bussell, Marcelo Gomes, Maria Kotchekova, Laetitia Pujol etc… The prix is one of the major competitions that kids compete at in hopes to make a name for themselves as a part of ballet history.

Among the 67 candidates who took part to the Prix de Lausanne’s selections, the jury has selected 20 finalists:

GIRLS

102, Scudamore Bianca, Australia
105, Armstrong Sierra, USA
106, Park SeonMee, South Korea
107, Ray Amber, USA
108, Blenkinsop Rebecca, Australia
301, Kanehara Rina, Japan
302, Park Jisoo, South Korea
306, Spichtig Lou, Switzerland
320, Lee GaYeong, South Korea

BOYS

202, Coppa Bret, USA
203, Acevedo Austen, USA
204, Lee Harrison, Australia
205, Turnbull Navrin, Australia
210, Curley Jarod, USA
401, Pinheiro Miguel, Portugal
402, MacKay Julian, USA
406, Thomas Jack, USA
409, Ito Mitsuru, Japan
416, Hayami Shogo, Japan
419, Garcia Syvert Lorenz, Norway
Prix de Lausanne Website
Prix de Lausanne on Weibo
Prix de Lausanne on YouKu
Prix de Lausanne on Twitter
Prix de Lausanne on You Tube
Prix de Lausanne on Facebook
Prix de Lausanne on Instagram

THE FUTURE OF BALLET: The Cirio Collective

The Cirio Collective if the first of five start ups I am going to endorse/plug/support throughout the year. To donate click here.

While it is important to be educated in ballet, it is more important to understand that ballet/dance is a living and breathing art form constantly evolving. It is hard to be progressive in today’s industry because genres are becoming more and more blended. That is the thing about ballet, the evolution and expansion is happening at a rate no one ever could have predicted. When ballet dancers would wait for new choreography, it was one thing. Now, ballet dancers are have become impatient with artistic staff (it is super costly to have a choreographer come in and set a new work, and super risky for a payoff) they are exploring their own forms of movement.

While dancers all across the world have been starting small groups/labs/experiments, none have matched the quality and finesse needed to turn into something major. The last of which were Complexions and Cedar Lake. The Trey McIntyre Project lasted, but since evolved. Now, why am I so hopeful for a company/project/collective that hasn’t even debuted?

Jeffrey Cirio is a ballet prodigy. Awesome.

He has good taste in photography and editing. InstaAwesome.

His sister is the epitome and ideal new ballerina. Flippin Awesome.

He has access to good dancers during the off season. Bostonian Awesome + Ballet celeb awesome.

He is smart. Generally awesome. He has really, carefully thought this through… from the aesthetic of his site, to his PR campaigns, to the overall mood of it all.

So, why am I writing all of this out? Here it is…. Ballet has to have good PR. PR encompasses this field of development, fundraising, and the efforts to keep ballet alive. While the Cirio collective will bring in a younger crowd than the typical ballet audience, this crowd is the crowd we have to please. This will be the crowd that supports ballet for the next 40 years, and this new crowd of ballet/dance go-ers is not patient. Between IG, SYTYCD, and blogs like mine, everyone can be a critic, a judge, or even an editor… With that all being said, I also think it can be used for good…

Here is what I am asking… Support the Cirio Collective. Go online, like their page, share their page, share this page, exposure is always a good thing… buuuut you have to donate. I can not stress that enough… YOU MUST DONATE. For all of you moms and dads out there saving for summer programs… How will your kid dance if there is no place for them?

Bonus, they already have their 501c3 which means tax deductible and exempt… I know that this doesn’t help you this tax season… but hey… it will help you next season!

Facebook: Circio Collective

IG/Twitter @ciriocollective

http://ciriocollective.com

So, here we go… Go make this into a reality… Thanks.

The Masters…

Ballet San Jose (click the image)
Ballet San Jose (click the image)

So yesterday was Balanchine’s Birthday, and as the internet was flooded with beautiful images of everyone dancing their favorite work it made me realize how connected ballet is. In addition, the NYT featured the give girls from Serenade on the front cover, above the fold. BIG DEAL. Now, from reading these most intimate stories, and tweets, haha, I was inspired by the idea of mastering ballet. As we celebrate the women of ballet, and the men of ballet, we forget that none of this would be possible without great choreographers. Balanchine reshaped the way ballet was perceived, and since then there hasn’t been anyone else really. Though, celebrating the fusion of jazz and ballet: Robbins. And celebrating the combination of modern and ballet: Tharp. Between the three, they have shaped the world of contemporary dance in general, and how audiences perceive music.

While Robbins reinvented the story ballet, and Tharp created a space that equalized Graham, Horton, and ballet, the world fell in love with the three. Now speaking of love, and the idea of these masterpieces, it is hard to find a program that would feature all three in one night. BUUUUT for those of us in California don’t fret!!!

Ballet San Jose is about to do all three…. Conveniently next month after Valentine’s Day… BOOM. So if you are in the LA area, drive up or fly up, a round trip ticket is only 160. In one night you will be able to see three of the greatest ballets ever…. First there is the incredibly technical difficult piece from Balanchine: THEME AND VARIATIONS. Theme is just flat out hard… For the principal girl… between the numerous entrances, those crazy gargouillades, and just a really difficult pas. The male variation is exhausting as well… So basically, it is going to make or break a company’s reputation for technique.

Then they are doing Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, which is basically inspired by a gay painter, Paul Cadmus, who conveniently also was sleeping with/ sponsored by Lincoln Kirstein. But because of that twisted connection we are given one of the greatest works. Set in a bar, with sailors on leave, and two feisty women, and beautiful music by Bernstein.

They will also be doing in the Upper Room by Tharp. The Upper Room is this crazy beautiful music, enhanced with ridiculously strong choreography showcasing a company’s diversity. It isn’t everyday you get to see a Tharp piece, especially one for a ballet company. So this is a treat.

So basically, if you are a young dancer, or a mom, or just an admirer of ballet… IT IS TIME TO TREK TO SAN JOSE… do you know the way to San Jose?

SAN JOSE 1

after i see the show, I will review the company… and I will watch the school to give you all a full update.