In Chicago? Want to see Serenade? Save 40% on Tickets!

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Serenade, is my favorite ballet. Performed at any level, this ballet can not fail because of the genius that Balanchine is and created. On Saturday, May 6, 2017 Ballet Chicago’s Studio Company will be performing Serenade and various other works and a Ballet Education readers get 40% OFF TICKETS!

A special offer for friends of A Ballet Education

Save 40% on Platinum Anniversary at the Harris Theater

“a quiet miracle…impeccably clean technical execution…organic sense of breath…a rare treat for Chicago audiences.” — Lynn Colburn Shapiro, SeeChicagoDance

The acclaimed Ballet Chicago Studio Company celebrates its 20th anniversary with a concert program featuring a world premiere by choreographer Frank Chaves set to a commissioned score written by Josephine Lee, President and Artistic Director of Chicago Children’s Choir, and performed live by Lee and cellist Meena Cho. Platinum Anniversary also features spectacular masterworks by George Balanchine, Ballet Chicago Founder and Artistic Director Dan Duell, and Resident Choreographer Ted Seymour, including Balanchine’s magnificent Serenade.

“This milestone year brings to culmination two decades of tomorrow’s young artists performing an extraordinary repertoire on Chicago stages,” reflected Duell. “In addition to presenting masterworks of George Balanchine every year, we have built a diverse inventory of works observing a forward-looking vision of beauty and innovation. Our anniversary program is a shining example of that vision. There could hardly be a more fitting tribute to the many dancers who have grown into professional artists worldwide, the many performers who will grace the Harris Theater stage this season, and the many supporters who have made it all possible.”

Friends of A Ballet Education enjoy access to 40% off tickets with the code BC40.

Click Here to Buy Your Tickets

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You know you trained Balanchine Part 3…

In today’s world of ballet, you have to be living under a rock not to know who Balanchine is. The opposite of that would be living in 1930 and thinking ballet has not changed. These days, the technique has been refined with the help of physics and anatomy. We have mastered our bodies through kinesiology. But musically, we owe Balanchine our understanding of music, and how a dancer approaches music. While classical ballet focuses on the movement first, or the role- the Balanchine aesthetic makes the music first. Everyone has their cup of tea; mine just happens to be vintage Mr. B, with a splash of milk and agave. Every time I take class somewhere else, or somewhere new the first thing that is usually said is, “Oh, your Balanchine trained.” I don’t know if it is supposed to be condescending, but I take it as a compliment. Then I realized every time I take a class that isn’t Balanchine based, my quads die, and I have never danced so slow in my life…

 

 

Serenade_Mear

 

So, while this Thanksgiving Morning I started off with a nice ballet class, I had time to reflect and think, “Thank God for the Balanchine Aesthetic.” In my thankfulness for Balanchine and the Balanchine Trust here are FIVE more You Know You Trained Balanchine if you are taking a technique class other than a Balanchine class and…

1. You are in a class other than a Balanchine class, and you are thinking, “Dear God, could you move any slower.”
2. You are surrounded by non-Balanchine dancers that don’t travel, so you are stuck falling over yourself because the girl in the sloppy bun won’t travel.
3. You are the only male in white ballet shoes.
4. When the teacher gives the frappé or petit allegro combo, and you are like… yes. Then you year the tempo and you are like… no.
5. When you are traveling and killing it in those long fourth positions for pirouettes, and the person you are going with across the floor gives you side eye.

And one more because it is Thanksgiving: You know you trained Balanchine when you are in a non Balanchine class and you think, “These combinations don’t even make sense with the music, and who makes up a combo like that? -____- Only a Russian teacher would give arms like that.”

a ballet education balanchine

George Balanchine

ONE YEAR: a Ballet Education

celebrating 1 year

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 worldwide

A Ballet Education has received over 13,000 hate e-mails, 1 Million Impressions, 800,000 unique visitors, and is read in 172 countries.
gay asian male ballet dancer sex
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.

 

Dream Casting…

Some have fantasy football… I have fantasy ballet nights. If I were going to die, I would cash out everything I own and have one super star studded night of good ballet. And, I probably would invite all of my friends and family as well. (That has yet to be decided) Now, with all of these international super star gala events… My lineup doesn’t seem that absurd, or impossible… But, if I had the chance to curate one night of magical goodness…. It would be:

Balanchine’s Serenade

Russian Girl: Tiler Peck, NYCB

Russian Girls: Whitney Jensen, Lia Cirio, Dusty Button, Misa Kuranaga – Boston Ballet

Waltz Girl: Hee Seo, ABT

Waltz Boy: Roberto Bolle

Dark Angel: Olga Smirnova, Bolshoi

Elegie Boy: Pete Leo Walker, Charlotte Ballet

Corps provided by Paris Opera

Balanchine’s Apollo

Apollo: Alexandre Hammoudi, American Ballet Theatre

Terpsichore: Me… for the sake of dancing with my Baby Daddy… Just kidding.  Julia Rowe San Francisco Ballet

Polyhymnia: Natalia Osipova, Royal Ballet

Calliope: Dorothee Gilbert, Paris Opera

Break

Matthew Bourne’s White Swan Pas De Deux

David Hallberg, Bolshoi/ABT

Fabrice Calmels, Jofferey

Esmeralda Female Variation

Svetlana Zakharova, Bolshoi

Giselle Second Act PDD

Giselle – Lucia Lacarra, Staatsballett

Albrecht – Kevin Jackson, Australian Ballet

Liza Variation from Who Cares?

Jeffery Cirio, Boston Ballet —— but instead of random tap steps can we do cool hip hop, or contemporary steps. Thanks.

A New Contemporary Solo choreographed by Benjamin Millepied 
Tiler Peck, NYCB

Onegin PDD

Steven Morse, San Francisco Ballet

Madison Keesler, English National Ballet

BREAK

PDD from Romeo and Juliet

Beckanne Sisk, Ballet West

James Whiteside, ABT

That would be some nimble biscuit dancing…

Le Palais de Cristal 

First Movement

Tiler Peck (NYCB) & Mathieu Ganio (Paris Opera)

PNB

Second Movement

Maria Kotchekova (SFB) & Amar Ramasar (NYCB)… i know height difference buuuut i think it would be like butter.

Bolshoi Ballet

Third Movement

Michaela Deprince (Het National Ballet) & Derek Dunn (Houston Ballet)

New York City Ballet

Fourth Movement

Patricia Zhou, Staatsballett and Jim Nowakowski  (Houston Ballet)

Paris Opera

The Ballet that Inspired Innovation… Serenade

There is a ballet, a ballet that replaced the dramatic downfalls of the heroines of Petipa. A ballet that stole Swan Lake’s lighting, and the romantic tutus from Giselle, set to the most perfect score,and  created by the genius of Balanchine, he named it: SERENADE. The house lights fade into blackness, and the grandiose score of strings play. If the music wasn’t inspiring enough, the curtain fades away and reveals the iconic classic Balanchine women. As each generation has added to their own take like any good ballet leaves room for speed, extension, turns, musicality, one thing has not changed. Innovation.

I recognize that Serenade has now been replaced by Jewels and Symphony in C. Those ballets showcase the entire company, including the men. Serenade showcases the women, dazzling women. Seventeen women that are not restricted by corsets, that aren’t dictated by story lines and dramatic downfalls. As Serenade is enriched with stories of success, and myths behind the movements and is standard of the romantic Balanchine Ballets, no one ever discusses the power of innovation behind it that has inspired millions of dancers. As the famous quote goes: Ballet is woman; Serenade truly exudes the power and identity of women working together to achieve something.

Serenade is basically the feminist of ballet. As men don’t play a major role, and there is no need for saving, Serenade embraces the power of women who can move to music. As Serenade has uplifted women since the NYCB revival, it is ironic that there aren’t that many Artistic Directors who are women… #justsaying

Anytime Serenade is on a playbill near me, I have to go see it. Every time I discover something new. Recently, I saw Los Angeles Ballet do it, and even though there wasn’t a live symphony, the power in the first note took me back through a million memories, and a dozen performances, and a handful of personal performances. Watching the women of Los Angeles Ballet was captivating, and truthfully… It made me fall back in love with ballet. Shortly after that performance, I started this blog.

Finally, I believe it is ballets job, well the job of any art form to reflect society, humanity, and rise above life itself… claiming an immortality that will last forever… Serenade has done that over the past 10 years. Serenade has truly has made a place next to Giselle, the Nutcracker, and the Sleeping Beauty.

Type Casting … pt 1

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

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

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

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

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

In Bayadere we really only have two… Gamzatti and Nikiya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olga Smirnova in Bayadere
Olga Smirnova in Bayadere

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

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

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