Ballet in Film: The Garden

Only a few minutes left to support The Garden: A Fierce Ballerina in the Future. I love how this project links dance and science, encouraging young women and dancers to think beyond pink tutus and candy . This intriguing project has been successfully funded already, and they just need help getting to their stretch goal, which will allow them to pay off their Kickstarter fees. They are so close! Help them out and support the arts!

2015 Dance Summer Intensives!

Update 1/18/15: I have added Ballet Royale Minnesota.

Update 1/13/15: Correction to Ellison Ballet dates as well as a few new courses added (though some sites are still out of date like Anaheim and City Ballet School in San Diego). Check it out!

Update 1/6/15: I overlooked two intensives, now added: Oklahoma City and Indianapolis. Sorry guys, you’re on there now. Also, I was too lazy and didn’t verify the hyperlinks before, but now they should all be working!

Dancers, thank you for your patience and encouragement on this year’s list. I’ve received many messages asking for me to post it this year, and it meant so much to me that’s it’s become something you all look forward to. I considered not posting, only because there have been a few other websites that have begun providing the same data in more manageable formats. However since I remain the only free of charge solution, and because providing free access to this information is the reason I started BalletScoop, I re-committed myself to making it happen once more this year.

The reason for delay is due to some exciting personal news. I am very happy to be moving to New York City at the end of this month for family reasons as well as professional ones. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be moving to a city where dance and ballet of the highest quality are simply everywhere. It is a pleasure I never enjoyed as a young dancer in a small town. So I’ve been pretty busy packing and spending as much of my time as possible with local friends and family before I leave.

So that’s the news, now let’s get down to business. I have to admit I was very rushed making this happen despite it’s lateness so a few notes:

1. Everything is updated as of this blog post publication date and time, but schools can change dates and requirements at any moment, so please verify the details for any programs of interest by clicking the web url.

2. About half of the intensives have tweaked their age requirements since last year, so be prepared to forget everything you thought you knew about who takes what age ranges.

3. Lots of programs have either shut down or STILL haven’t updated for 2015, so I made the decision to cut those programs entirely this year, except for those who have such longevity that I can be 95% sure they are just running behind.

4. In addition to the usual Excel spreadsheet, I have made a Google Doc spreadsheet as well since that is easier to use for some of you. In the future I hope to eventually create a very user-friendly database, but I simply don’t have that technical capability right now.

I’ll add updates as they are available directly to the sheet with occasional notes here at the top of this post. As always, let me know if I have any mistakes that need correcting or if I miss any important updates so we can all help to have the most accurate information. Merde to all of you this audition season!! Click below and have a great summer!

2015 Summer Intensives (Microsoft Excel version)

2015 Summer Intensives (Google Doc version)

Dancewear en l’air: Rehearsal Wrap Skirts

il_570xN.631336454_h4xjI’m not even going to ask if you watched the amazing live coverage of the World Ballet Day, I know you did! And you know you were looking at those gorgeous pros wondering how you could one day look like them. It certainly doesn’t hurt to dress the part, and what did we see more of than ever on the ladies of WBD than the gorgeous flowing pastel rehearsal skirts and wrap skirts that can be so hard to find!

Short skirts are so popular for their leg lengthening, that it’s tough to find long ones below or at the knee, but don’t worry, I’ve done the legwork for you. There are a few ready to wear styles that will do the job, but for my money they often have too much fabric or some other issue. Obviously, your teacher may not allow you to wear them in class (most dancers only wear them in center by the way), but they are perfect for rehearsal, particularly when you will be wearing long tutu on stage. For rehearsal skirts to match the pros, handmade is usually the way to go. Here are your options:

Ready To Wear

M. Stevens 123G
This is a decent solution, but the excessive volume of fabric is only favorable for the most slim hipped dancer who is balancing out wider shoulders, or the older dancer looking for more modest coverage.

Capezio N276
This is an ok basic, but it only comes in black and the rolled hem is too tight, causing unattractive ripples at the hem in front and restricting movement of the fabric.

Sansha Misti 1
This is a favorite of mine, but it runs small. Also it is pull-on skirt, not a wrap style. It’s also very sheer and has a bit more fabric than necessary.

Repetto Rehearsal Skirt
Yep, this company is still around.

Cloud & Victory Rehearsal Skirts
These rehearsal skirts are pull on with layers of tulle, but managed to keep a slim look. Divine.

Handmade

Trienawear TR200L
This is a pretty gorgeous version. Still a little too much fabric, but that can be slimmed if you call them and ask for the “chiffon cut”. They offer a variety of other lengths as well.

Tulips by Tracey Skirts
These custom skirts are great. They offer a flowing knee length wrap skirt and a delicate pull on rehearsal skirt item – but be aware the latter has a wavy hemline. It looks good in the photos, but I’m not sure it looks good in person. Also, these skirts are cut to sit on the hips though you can pay extra to have it cut for your waist.

FlicFlac Dance Skirts
Etsy seller FlicFlac a long version of her skirts at about 22″ in a variety of colors. This UK seller ships worldwide.

Bakkendrup Custom Skirts
This Copenhagen company will make a skirt for you based on your measurements, or choose from their standard sizes.

Designs by Alice Skirts
This company is currently running low on skirts due to popular demand, but you can get on their mailing list to keep track of new styles.

Other Stuff

The Skirt
Ok so, this maker doesn’t have a long style, but I though it would be good to include them because they make SAB-style pull-on skirts, and I know you are all very fond of those. Also, they may be able to custom make a pull-on rehearsal length skirt if you ask.

So many options, so little time. If you know of any other resources, please let me know in the comments! Happy ballet shopping!

Princeton Ballet School: Champion for Diversity

Former Princeton Ballet School students Ellen Lou and Jacopo Janelli. Lou is now with Princeton Ballet School’s Trainee Program. Janelli, a former Trainee, is now a full company member. Credit: Caroline Pallat

Last month I was honored to speak with Mary Pat Robertson, the Director of the Princeton Ballet School, the school of American Repertory Ballet. A distinguished choreographer, Ms. Robertson has endeavored to create a learning environment that presents unique opportunities for dancers and which is helping to produce dancers who are better prepared to improve our landscape of ballet.

JD: What really sets you apart?

MR: For one thing, we are still interested in dancers who are college age. Many summer intensives don’t want to work with kids after high school. Many of those young people are about to become trainees, or are coming to the program in the hopes they might be invited to be a trainee. We strongly encourage our trainees to attend the summer program instead of going straight to the trainee program so they can become accustomed to the environment.

Also we’ve had a long-standing commitment to try to develop an early interest in choreography in the students. Many schools don’t do that until young dancers are much older. We all know how many young women dance, but so few become choreographers. The current model is that we have an optional choreography workshop. So the students who are interested meet with the teacher Janell Byrne, who talks about improv and choreography. And it’s entirely in addition to their other classes, so they don’t have to miss anything. 

Students in class at Princeton Ballet School's Summer Intensive program 2014. Credit: Leighton Chen

Students in class at Princeton Ballet School’s Summer Intensive program 2014. Credit: Leighton Chen

For many years, we did that as a way you could be in the performance at the end. In the last few years, fewer people were willing to take the risk of not being in a faculty led piece however, so now we do [choreography] on Saturday afternoons one evening a week. Then in addition to the sessions, we also have done interviews with the resident choreographers and on picking music. One of the most outstanding results of our choreography program is Amy Seiwert. We ran into each other at DanceUSA and she said, “If it hadn’t been for you all, I would never have started choreographing.” We’ve been introducing the dancers to choreography in this workshop for almost 25 years now.  The Summer Intensive itself is 32 years old – it’s one of the longest-running programs in the US.

In a lot of other organizations when you prep for a show, you are put in a dance with all other people in your level, but we don’t do that because we want [the students] to feel like each dance is a mini ballet. Each choreographer gets a group of dancers from each level so they can have a soloists, demi-soloists, corps, and so on. That gives everybody a different view. We vary them from high classical such as the vision scene from Don Quixote to pieces newly commissioned.

JD: What is the technique teaching philosophy?

MR: We have a very safety and anatomically based approach. We really want the dancers to think about how their bones align, and how their muscles are working. We ask them to use all the turn-out they have, but only the turn-out they have. We’re going to be making a lot of progress, but let’s keep it real. We have a lot of kids tell us, “You really made me feel like I had to pay attention to this and that helped me fix this or that.” I give a class once to each level weekly called body mechanics. How do we pointe the feet without crunching the toes? How do we turnout without pulling the pelvis out of alignment? I show them exercises that would help with that, and they can write it down. Each week we work on a different area. We also have a consulting physical therapist. 

American Repertory Ballet Resident Choreographer Mary Barton teaching class at Princeton Ballet School's Summer Intensive program 2014. Credit: Leighton Chen

American Repertory Ballet Resident Choreographer Mary Barton teaching class at Princeton Ballet School’s Summer Intensive program 2014. Credit: Leighton Chen

It’s really about making a personal relationship so that they want to do what you want them to do because they know that it matters. Even the least advanced students get a week with the Artistic Director and with the resident choreographer – each of the teachers moves around. So all the guests work with all the levels. We also have partnering in all the levels, and it’s real partnering technique. I know from the young men we have taught that in a lot of other programs they are learning a whole pas de deux, but not necessarily the skills. We focus on partnering itself and that’s how we teach the skills. For the young ones its kept simple: Is she on her leg or not and how can we help you do that? 

We don’t have a lot of guests, because we want to make sure the students understand what each teacher is doing for them. Our guests are master teachers such as Kirk Peterson and Trinette Singleton, who are close friends of the organization and whose choreography ARB presents, or seasoned alums of our school. This year we had Unity Phelan, who left three years ago to train with [School of American Ballet]. This was her first corp year [with New York City Ballet], and Dance Magazine recently named her as one of NYCB’s five Up-and-Coming Women.

JD:  Any other details about the program you’d like to mention?

MR: Students choose us for a wide variety of reasons. Our students live on campus at Princeton University, so some students come here because they have heard about Princeton’s dance programs and are interested in finding out more about the University. We do turn out a lot of [professional] performers, but there are many kids who have a more intellectual interest who can get a lot out of the environment here. 

American Repertory Ballet Artistic Director Douglas Martin teaching class at Princeton Ballet School's Summer Intensive program 2014. Credit: Leighton Chen

American Repertory Ballet Artistic Director Douglas Martin teaching class at Princeton Ballet School’s Summer Intensive program 2014. Credit: Leighton Chen

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Diversity issues in dance are real and they are profound. Ballet has a long running culture of women being directed by men, and we must do more to prepare all underrepresented groups to achieve director and choreographer level roles if that will ever change. For years PBS has been offering opportunities for students to gain experience choreographing without sacrificing their own performance training, making it possible for students to receive all too rare preparation to achieve leadership opportunities and, in turn as they choose their casts and hire, to change the landscape of dance as we know it.

Princeton Ballet School classes being the Friday after Labor Day. Students interested in registering for advanced classes should arrange for a Placement Class, or an audition if they are interested in being a Trainee.  There are also Open Enrollment Advanced classes available. For more information, visit Princeton Ballet School. Thank you so much Mary Pat, for sharing your program with BalletScoop!

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.