Ballet in Print: YAGP (with Author Interview!)

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Few people outside of our insulated ballet world are aware of the intense “make or break” moments of dancers’ careers, and fewer still have documented them. So it is with great pleasure that I present to you YAGP, the debut book from photographer and photojournalist Drew Kelley, in which he chronicles some of the most beautiful and evocative backstage moments from the 2013 Youth America Grand Prix.

02.yagp.behind.the.scenesYAGP is a competition that has launched the careers of many outstanding ballet students, inspired far more, and shown the door to still others. In 2013, YAGP saw nearly 1,000 dancers in the New York City rounds, with 30 countries represented. I had the pleasure of speaking with Drew about his involvement and his approach to capturing some of the most fleeting, poignant moments experienced by the young competitors.

JD: How did you get involved in this project, since you had never been exposed to the ballet world before?

18.yagp.behind.the.scenesDK: I work primarily with newspapers, that’s my “day job” so to speak, and the topics can be really anything. So I was sort of thrown into shooting ballet, covering some girls from a local Southern California studio, and I thought, this is actually pretty cool! I was kind of blown away. I ended up attending the First Position premiere in Santa Monica and eventually approached my editor with the suggestion that it would be worth going to New York and documenting the experience.

JD: So how long were you in New York and did you get to stay until the end?

DK: I was actually embedded with the original school that got me involved, so I flew over with them and was there from start to finish. I got to watch the gala and everything.

06.yagp.behind.the.scenesJD: It must have been incredibly visually stimulating. How did you narrow your focus and choose your subject matter with so much to see, and what made you decide to focus on backstage moments versus the more often flashy onstage performance shots?

DK: It’s a little nuts, and it is hard to stay focused because there’s so much going on at once. It was definitely overload. I took a lot of pictures including onstage, but right now you can Google “YAGP” and you can find 90% of the photos are onstage performing. I found it was just as exciting to witness the moments behind the scenes. Because I was embedded and was with a woman who knew basically everyone, I actually met Franco De Vita, Larissa [Saveliev] – who founded it with her husband – and many other powerful people. I was shaking a lot of hands. Things kind of fell into perspective.

JD: I’m sure that each photo is very special to you, but do you maybe have any particular favorites?

04.yagp.behind.the.scenesDK: Actually there is one where you see the back of the girl with her arms out, and you see there’s this background of people and that’s actually the judges. The judges photo is hard to explain to people. To get access backstage is not that big a deal, but that was the scholarship classes. In reality, the point is not at all who will win, the point is to be seen. And that’s what that was. Seeing them perform [in audition class], if the Artistic Director liked them, they were approached right then and there and it was like, “Can you move to Monte Carlo?” And I’d think, but she’s only fifteen! Lives were completely changed in a moment.

11.yagp.behind.the.scenesJD: Anything else you’d like to add about your experience?

DK: It was really impressive to see all the kids from around the world that, once they were here in the same room together, it was like they all speak the same language. When I was a kid, I was into skateboarding, and when you’d see another kid with a skateboard it was like, hey, we understand each other. It was just like that. Here’s this kid from Japan and this kid from Brazil, and they can instantly bond. That was pretty great to see.

Thank you so much, Drew, for undertaking this project and sharing these beautifully captured moments.

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For more information about Drew Kelley, please visit http://drewakelley.com/

Fore more information about the YAGP competition, please visit http://www.yagp.org.

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Dancewear en l’air: Boxy Cropped Cover-Up

productcojocaru13I think this is the first time I’ve posted two similar articles in a row… but I’ve waited too long to show you Cloud & Victory! I’m so in love with their spring/summer 2014 collection I could bust – Do yourself a favor and check out all their shirts and skirts, as seen on such inimitable luminaries as Joy Womack of American at the Bolshoi fame.

I’ve chosen their Cojocaru cropped cover-up because it absolutely embodies the effortless style of dancers. It’s made of soft Tencel to slide over your skin luxuriously, and this version’s print is inspired by gorgeous Alina Cojocaru to give you your day’s inspiration.

Have a dress code that requires coverups between classes? This is the perfect solution to stay breezy cool after a long sweaty class. This top would look completely fabulous over a tank or camisole leotard for the wide neck to show off your beautiful shoulders. Add one of their lovely lace skirts and voilà, you have an ensemble fit for a dancer of the Paris Opera. I would even throw this on for coffee or shopping. So chic!

 

Dancewear en l’air: Edgy Racerback Cut-Out Leotard

JulieDancewear1Jule Dancewear, made by Los Angeles Ballet dancer Julia Cinquemani, is most well-known for it’s wrap skirts but has also created two sporty leotards including this stylish racerback. I love this athletic take on dancewear. This leo pairs really well with the company’s famous wrap skirt color options as shown here, but also looks smashing alone.

Wear this stand-out style to your contemporary ballet class or modern dance rehearsal. If you’re not a skirt-wearer but still want additional coverage, a pair of short shorts or capri leggings goes equally well. Choose from a variety of color options, including innovative holographic trim.

Jule Dancewear is a perfect example of alternative income potential for aspiring dancers. Julia Cinquemani began selling her wrap skirts at an early age and was able to start her own company at 19 years old. In the competitive world of dance, Cinquemani aims to create dancewear that will set you apart and impart the confidence you need to be your best.

Keep up with Jule Dancewear by liking their FB page.

Building a Dance Studio

2009.0142A number of students and colleagues of mine have recently decided to open their own studios. This was never my goal – I love the freedom of teaching without worrying about the hassle of owning a building or harassing parents for their tuition payments – but if your goal is to own your own studio one day, one of the biggest concerns will be how to build it properly.

Rory Foster’s excellent book, Ballet Pedagogy: The Art of Teaching (highly recommended for any aspiring ballet teacher!) has some wonderful tips on this as well as John White’s Vaganova-focused Teaching Classical Ballet. White has some useful comments on studio structure, making sure you have ample space for students to do homework, parents to observe, etc. If you are considering opening a dance studio, do yourself a favor and take a look at what these two books have to say about it.

For the dancing space itself, there are many demands: tap shoes, ballet shoes, pointe shoes, rosin lovers, bare feet… We all know what a great dance studio looks like – big windows, wonderful lighting, high ceilings, sprung floors covered in marley and preferably pretty and stylish! If you haven’t danced in one, go find one and do it. It’s like nothing else. One of my favorite studios that I’ve seen (only in photographs sadly, since it no longer exists) is the studio of famed New Orleans teacher Harvey Hysell, pictured above.

Fortunately there are guidelines available that go beyond the guesswork and which provide specifics for measurements, structure, and fabrication. If you are hoping to build your own dance studio one day, visit the website of the British National Dance Teachers Association, or NDTA, and take a look at their Studio Specifications. After years of experience, they have thought of virtually everything! Ventilation and HVAC, piano space, acoustics, lighting, accessibility, barres and tons of details in between. Lucky enough to have an architect? Harlequin Floors has a whole resource section just for them.

If you have dreams of owning your own school one day, make it the best it can be! Having and safe, beautiful, spacious dance space is incredibly inspiring for dancers and will make a big difference in their experience in your studio.

 

New UK College Dancer Competition by Dance Direct

dancedirectUK dance retailer Dance Direct is launching a competition to help one talented dancer with dancewear gifts and media exposure. To enter, students must be enrolled in a certified dance course at a UK college or university and are required to send in a video of themselves performing classical ballet.

The winner will receive £250 worth of Dance Direct vouchers to stock up on dancewear as well as a featured blog about themselves on the Dance Direct website. This will be shared to 86,000 Facebook fans of Dance Direct, and over 4000 Twitter followers.

The winner of this competition will also be named the ‘UK’s best ballet dancer’ by Dance Direct. More details on this opportunity are available here: http://blog.dancedirect.com/2014/04/11/student-ballet-dancer/