AND THE OSCAR GOES TO… the top 10 ballet companies in the world

With the Oscars around the corner, it means it is time for a Ballet Education’s award season. With that about to happen, after two years of hesitantly writing a list of actual top ten companies… I have given in.

top ten ballet companies
A lot of you have asked if I could rank the top ten ballet companies in the world… And so, because I am so obliging to your requests, sure, why the hell not. I have postponed this post because a lot of things get factored in when looking at a company:

The Caliber of Dancer: where they have trained, artistic merit, technical achievements.
The Size of the Company, good things come in small packages sometimes, a lot of the times. Larger companies though employ more dancers, so from a financial or economic standpoint, that is a factor.
The Repertory, both current and old. Repertory feeds the dancer’s soul and sells tickets. Is the company innovating?
Going on tour: Is it a home company or touring company? That is a significant factor too. Touring companies have a lot of worldwide recognition, and home companies have a stable audience.
Does the company have a school that feeds the company creating a lasting relationship between the young community and the current ballet audience?
What is good ballet? That is probably the most subjective… but that can always be defined by the real question of, “What is Ballet… Today.”

So… if we look at what ballet is today, it is isn’t this rigid fairytale designed by composers and directors. It has evolved so much more than that. Nowadays, ballet is encompassed by what can be defined as neo-classic, and a lot of contemporary (as in works being done today) works. The current ballet vocabulary is expanding, and because ballet vocabulary has always set the standard for dance… Thanks to the codification of ballet in France… It has always been that way… But now, the language of dance is melding with cultural references and different genres, it is exploring new depths of music or the lack thereof, and the ability to transpire a new quality of dancing.

If by definition of the art form, classical ballet is the art of constraint.
Then neoclassical ballet would be that of the 20th century, so Balanchine, DeMille, Graham, Robbins
And if current or contemporary ballet is that of Tharp, Forsythe, Kylian, Neumeier, Wheeldon, Ramatansky, Elmo, etc
And if the future of ballet is being defined by Peck, Thatcher, Simkin and Cirio then we can classify these companies quicker.

But unfortunately, there are really only five ballet companies that set the tone of the ballet world and here is the reason why:

The Paris Opera Ballet: they set the tone for turnout and the foundations of technique. Paris Opera employs 150 dancers and takes residency between Palais Garnier and the Bastille Opera House.

The Bolshoi Ballet (or interchange it with any random Russian company that hires from Vaganova School): they set the tone for Adagio and body type. The breeding ground for Russian superstars, the feeder school to Bolshoi is BBA but the rivaled Russian companies are fed by Vaganova Academy.

The Royal Ballet: they set the tone for technical powerhouses, turns/jumps. Prix winners go there to build a name for themselves. Takes residency at the gorgeous Covent Garden.

The New York City Ballet: they set the tone for musicality, speed and new works. Residing at Lincoln Center, the only American Company that resembles and performs as much as a European home company.

Nederlands Dans Theatre: they set the tone for innovation and new ways to move. Between the first and second companies, the two employ 46 of the most fundamentally interesting dancers in the world. Originally founded by Jiri Kylian and now under the Artistic Directorship of Paul Lightfoot, this company is always pushing the edge of innovation. (A lot of you might think to switch out Nederlands Dans Theatre with Stuttgart, and you could be right. I just believe that Nederlands pushes innovation more while Stuttgart offers a more diverse repertory.)

These five companies are also ridiculously accessible these days. With Social Media being the new innovator and the new audience, ballet companies like these five are creating the trends for ballet. With repertory to die for, these companies set the look and feel of ballet, but without a doubt– these companies border between classical and neo-classical companies. I don’t see Nederlands of City Ballet attempting to take on say: The Little Humpback Horse or the full length Raymonda… There are companies who truly are classical, and their schools reflect that as well. I think that these companies have had to expand their repertory because of the demand for new works by both the dancers and the audience.

So the top 10 Classical Ballet Companies in the world would be, in no particular order… Again NO PARTICULAR ORDER, before you all go crazy:

1. Paris Opera Ballet – COMPANY WEBSITE
2. National Ballet of Cuba – COMPANY WEBSITE
3. Bolshoi Ballet/ Kirov/ Mariinsky –BOLSHOI WEBSITE
4. Royal Danish- Bournonville technique- WEBSITE
5. The Australian Ballet – Website
6. Het National Ballet/Dutch National Ballet-WEBSITE
7. American Ballet Theatre- WEBSITE
8. Teatro La Scala – COMPANY WEBSITE
9. National Ballet of Canada –WEBSITE
10. The Royal Ballet – COMPANY WEBSITE

The top 5 Neo-Classical Ballet Companies would be:
1. New York City Ballet
2. Nederlands Dans Theatre
3. Stuttgart Ballet
4. San Francisco Ballet
5. Eifman Ballet
Now my personal list of top 10 companies in the world, the list that really matters:
1. New York City Ballet
2. Paris Opera Ballet
3. Bolshoi Ballet
4. Alonzo King’s LINES
5. San Francisco Ballet
6. Pacific Northwest Ballet
7. American Ballet Theatre
8. Australian Ballet
9. Dance Theatre of Harlem
10. Ballet Black

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The American Ballerina: the 21st century prima

The American Ballerina in the 21st century

What truly does it mean to be an American Ballerina? 
The idea of an American Ballerina isn’t far fetched at all, and actually since the cold war, America has become one of greatest manufacturers of ballet dancers.  While up until the Cold War, ballet was dominated by the Russians.  The history of ballet is funny, because as each generation of prima ballerinas comes to the forefront, they are influenced by culture, society, and what is “popular” in ballet. Today, we are blessed with the wonders of youtube and ballet in cinema, so we can see a variety of ballet dancers instantaneously. So, as a reflection of culture, we now have a true generation of American Ballerinas.

So, we have to kind of set up some conditions that define an American Ballerina:

1. Born in the United States.
2. Trained in the United States.
3. Dances with an American Company.
4. Has achieved the rank of principal dancer.
5. Has contributed to the next generation of dancers.

As we are at a time in ballet that celebrates the most innovate choreography, the most brilliant music, and the most technical phase of ballet, there are two extraordinary women that come to mind:

Tiler Peck and Lia Cirio
Ironically, neither dancer has the typical ballet body type. When we say typical we mean Russian girl body type, or Paris Opera Body type.  Additionally, the two women are completely different.  These two women though have created a new space and new ideal for dance.  Tiler Peck has created a generation of a more jazz meets Balanchine dancer making it possible for competitive studio trained dancers transition into ballet companies and schools. While, Lia Cirio has created an athletic provocative archetype of a prima ballerina. The only two things these women really have in common is really good teeth and a really great smile

The Run Down on these women:

Tiler Peck: sporadic training in the greater Los Angeles area, transitioning to School of American Ballet, joined NYCB in 2004, became a principal in 2009. Gorgeous turns, and fills the stage. First was really seen in the welcome to SAB DVD. Balanchine trained. Subtle sensitivity and sweetness in her approach to roles.
lia cirio american ballerina

Lia Cirio: random school, transitioning to CPYB, joined Boston Ballet in 2004, became a soloist in 2007, joined the Trey McIntyre project, came back to BB in 2010 to become promoted to principal. Banging hyperextension, ferocious arabesque. First major appearance in ballet: YAGP 2003. Classically trained. A body articulate conscious approach to a role.

So what makes these two women stand out compared to say… Hee Seo or Maria Kotchekova? Well, besides the fact that both of these women aren’t born and raised in the US, they are both ridiculously Russian trained, which is gorgeous, I’m not saying that they are awful. I am saying that they fit previous archetype of what a prima ballerina is. While Hee Seo was groomed to take Julie Kent’s place, Maria Kotchekova became the standard of SFB’s short girl. While Misty Copeland has made the compelling presence and awareness of race in ballet, I don’t think her actual dancing is ground breaking. (sorry, I know I am going to hear shit for that) Then we have other leading women in the US: Carrie Imler at PNB creating the athletic look at PNB, Isabella Boylston at ABT has reinvented the Paloma Herrera, but with better arms. Maria Kowroski is like the Balanchine version of Sylvie. Wendy Whelan created the skinny fit athletic body archetype.

As these two women expand their repertory, who knows what they will create for the ballet world? It’s exciting.

In other ballet news: ABT: Paloma Herrera is getting a weird farewell with a matinee performance of Giselle, followed by Xiomara Reyes’s farewell at 7:30.  Totally getting gipped, but maybe her name just doesn’t sell seats? ABT’s PBS special AMERICAN MASTER Series was beyond gorgeous.
NYCB & SFB: have a ridiculously amount of talented people in the ranks of soloists and corps but won’t be promoted until others retire. *cough cough* hang up the pointe shoes *cough cough*
Paris Opera: Natalie Portman’s Baby Daddy is making amazing moves and changes at POB.
PNB: Please promote Leta already.
Atlanta Ballet: Had the most beautiful end to their season.
Milwaukee Ballet: Their version of Cinderella was an okay finish for the season.

Little Jessy is prepping for LA BALLET. Her go fund me is still up, any donations will go towards pointe shoes, leotards etc. http://www.gofundme.com/jessylaballet

Don’t forget to use the code SCIE15 for 15% off Eros Sportswear for Men.

The Guide to FiercenessMy guide to fierceness is almost done. Holla for a dolla!

For the Moms…

ballet moms thank you

Dear Dance Moms (and dads),

I would just like to take the time today and say thank you. Thank you for forcing us to go to class when we didn’t want to, when we needed the shoulder to cry on because we don’t have perfect turnout, for driving us to and from class everyday, driving us to auditions, paying for summer programs, countless pairs of tights and shoes…. Thank you you for massaging out the knots, for all of the chiropractor appointments, for the sacrificing of the thousands of dollars it takes to study ballet, for rhinestoning all the tutus, for dying all of the random things, for buying me that leotard I needed to stand out at an audition in… Thank you for teaching me how to do a bun, for coming to every show, for paying me to fly all over the world to audition, and buying me those special protein bars that are low carb…

Without you & dad I would have never made it. Even though growing up I would accuse you of being a ballet mom, hovering at the window…

And so on… It is your day and I love and appreciate you.

NYT feature on SAB boys for Nutcracker.
NYT feature on SAB boys for Nutcracker.

Now, I would like to take the time and thank my mom who had no clue about ballet for letting me pursue it.  Then I would like to thank all of the moms who have helped me on my way. Thank you for all the rides, thank you for all the custom knit leg warmers and warm ups, thank you for all the advice you gave me and thank you for always helping me. I really did have a lot of ballet moms in my life, that I am very grateful for.

I hope all of you mom’s out there have a fantastic MOTHER’S DAY!!!

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