Saturday Morning Warm Ups

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Every Saturday morning dancers around the world hear their alarm clocks go off and they want to die. The physical demand for a dancer is extremely high, but the emotional and mental demand on a dancer is just as high if not higher… Saturday mornings we are cursed with having to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to go to class. For professionals, they just had a performance the night before and they now have to get up, go to class, rehearse and perform 1-2 times on Saturdays. It is awful… And for students, for some unholy reason, ballet teachers take Saturdays as a day to dance early so you can get out early…. The concept is awful. Most dancers are at the studio all night on Fridays, and have to return to ballet class by 10:00 AM, which means you have to be at the studios warming up at 9:30ish, which probably means you are up at 7:00 to get ready, eat, let the food digest, and commute to the studios.. This concept has plagued the ballet world for who knows how long… I blame some soviet teacher back in the day wanting to capitalize on off time… #justsayin

russian teacher stories

So, with that being said, a lot of students have written in asking what a proper warm is… Truthfully… it varies by body type, and what injuries you have or are prone to. Usually, a good warm up consists of core muscles, finding your center, articulation through the back, a quick warm up through the feet and knees, and stretching out anywhere that is tight or sore.

Everyone’s warm up is different… mine takes about 45 minutes because I have to warm up a lot because of hip surgeries and a lack of natural ballet needs… I also don’t dance regularly anymore, so I have to start prior to even getting to the studios. If I know I am going to be taking company class or any open ballet class that morning I need to take a really hot shower and crack my ankles, and open the tops of my arches. I then have to eat a steel cut oatmeal and two bananas or I will cramp and die somewhere between degagés and ron de jambes. I also eat hard boiled eggs, toast with peanut butter and avocado… and coffee cake (#fatpandaproblems).

Before I leave I make sure I have everything packed in my herschel dance bag. Gatorade for barre, water bottle for center, coffee to go because I live off it. Trigger point Foam roller, foot roller, theraband, trash bags, sweatpants, variety of legwarmers, dancewear, sewing kit, ballet shoes like 3 different pairs, headphones, headband because my bangs are super fierce right now and my cell phone….

Once I get to the studio and pay for open class, and I change, headphones go in my ears and I find a spot to start warming up.

I start with pilates 100’s…. core hold, and pushups… I write the alphabet with my feet and ankles making sure I articulate all the way through my feet. Then I lay on the floor and start warming up my hips and back…. Tight hips and flexible back is a fun combo to try warming up…. I then stretch out my hip flexors, and hamstrings, and quite my rib cage because after all of the rolling on the floor my rips tend to open… plus I am a big splayer in real life. I sit in my lower back and let my ribs pop open all the time… I could cut someone’s eye with how bad the lower portion of my ribs splay. I then roll through my feet  to relevé in first and second. I cheat in fifth and just check the line. I do some tendus to feel the backs of my legs and then stretch it all out. Splits. Then ready to take class.

Usually, when I take class I have a goal… like petit allegro or pirouettes. So I warm up and take class accordingly. Now that I am a fat panda… I am not really an overall dancer… And because of my body, depending on what is hurting… I avoid certain exercises… or my body tires out really fast so I have to pace myself. If I am focusing on pirouettes, I won’t do a lot of combinations on relevé because I would die, twist my ankle and fall during across the floors.

So… what is a proper warm up for ballet class? Whatever works for your body. A girlfriend of mine has really tight hamstrings so she spends her entire warm up stretching out her legs. Another friend, he has a really tight back, like so tight some days arabesque does not happen for him… So spends his time doing all these modern exercises and yoga positions to get his back going. Another friend of mine is a quad gripper so he spends a lot of time stretching out his quads and warming up hamstrings. Everyone is different…

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CORPS DE BALLET CONFESSIONAL: Alaia Rogers-Maman

alaia rogers maman

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.
royal ballet school 2012

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
INSTA: aballeteducation