COVID-19: Training in Captivity

I didn’t think I’d write on this blog again, certainly not under these circumstances. First and foremost I want to wish all of you safety, security, and hope. Secondly I’m going to offer a little advice for the aspiring dancers out there trying to make sense of training at home at this difficult time.

A lot of free-to-watch and pay-to-watch classes have popped up during this time, particularly in the past week. Everyone from your local dance studio to the most acclaimed professional dancer seems to be offering something right now, while they also try to maintain their own technique and connection to the dance community. The options have become nearly overwhelming and that’s an amazing thing. But I’d like to offer a little note of caution to all of you trying your best to take advantage of this training time: Choose wisely.

Maybe that’s obvious to some of you, but even if you are thinking right now, “I found access to a professional dancer! This is everything I’ve dreamed of,” you might be surprised to hear me say that it’s really, really not that simple. The reason is this: professional dancers work their barre in very unique ways for their bodies and what they need – which is often dramatically different than what a student needs. A perfect example is that unbelievable talent Tamara Rojo.

I’m a huge a fan of Ms. Rojo – her work is a credit to the industry and no one should deny her talent, artistry, and technical ability. But if you watch any of her classes, you will see a myriad of significant technical problems that are easy to start mimicking if you are following along. These are not actually errors – only for Ms. Rojo! They reflect her professional level of working through her body and her style of work specifically. This barre can be great for a professional who does not need someone to observe and learn from. But if you are a student, I guarantee that if you return to class sporting some of her affectations and special movement style, you are going to have a heck of a time unlearning that stuff and it is going to set you back.

In addition, I’ve seen a lot of local dance teachers and less qualified supposedly professional dancers putting on classes as well. I’m sure their intention is good, but – Actually, let me appeal to you all directly: Why not use this time to encourage your dancers to learn from those better than you? Don’t record a half-baked barre in your living room with cats in the way and your poorly demonstrated port de bras and feel that you are doing the world a favor. Be honest with yourself about your limitations and the opportunity here. Use this time to provide your dancers exposure to the kind of training that you should be hoping they can one day have in person. Some of the best dance coaches, artistic directors, and trainers in the world now have classes posted online. You can even do them together with your class. Don’t hold your students back in this way, I’m begging you. If you’re a professional dancer, tell the students out there to make sure they follow good training habits, and talk openly about what you are altering which they should not necessarily copy.

If you’re a student or teacher looking for the best of what’s out there, and trying to avoid the clutter, here are a few recommendations:

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Dancewear en l’air: So Tight

nudebarreTechnology and diversity are not the first things you think of when you think of ballet, but fortunately times they are a’changing. First up we have Nude Barre.

Many years after failed attempts by companies such as Capezio to get traction on a product line with a full-range of skintones, Nude Barre is one of the new hopes of dancewear for all. Nude Barre tights come in an extended range of sizes and the company markets them as eco-friendly and anti-cellulite.

In contrast, Zarely markets themselves as a brand selling “fashion-infused” activewear and dancewear, with an elitist message to their marketing strategy – They toss off on the front page that their tights and leggings are “created by dancers and fashion designers, worn by the young and cultured.”  It sort of brings to mind the name-dropping that K.D.Dance Knitwear does at every opportunity.

The company also makes some sciency-hand-wavey claims. First, that by using reflective and anti-reflective materials in key places, their tights emphasize your lines, visually lengthen the legs, and reduce the appearance of flaws. Given that their models are already flawless, they don’t give themselves the opportunity to show this at work. They also use the old standby of compression construction to supposedly reduce swelling and support the joints. You can find plenty of research both for and against such claims.

What do you think dancers? Have Zarely tights give you an extra spring in your sauté? Has Nude Barre solved your complexion quandary? If you’ve tried either brand, let us all know in the comments what you think so far.

Dancewear en l’air: 4 Can’t-Miss 4th Sales

EleveI couldn’t be more excited about Elevé’s ready-to-wear line – until today when they announced a rare sale for 4th of July. Use code JULY4SAVE10 to get 10% off the perfect look for your next audition.

Capezio is joining in with 20% off the entire site when you use promo code JULY4. Great time to stock up on those Ultra Soft tights.

The Dancewear Project wins the award for deepest discount, offering 30% off, plus free standard shipping for orders of $25. If you’ve never tried a Dancewear Project leo, now’s the perfect time. No code required – all prices marked down as shown.

We can’t talk discount dancewear without Discount Dance Supply. The long-standing favorite for best-priced must-haves is offering 15% off, plus free shipping for orders over $45 with code FSJULY17. Time to stock up on pointe shoes!

Happy Shopping, Dancers & Happy Birthday USA!

Ballet in Film: Breaking Legs

BreakingLegsFor each dancer who trains at a major dance academies, there are hundreds at humble local schools or living in towns where even basic dance classes are actually not available. Released April 25th on VOD and DVDBreaking Legs is a story for all the young dancers out there who are just trying to keep their dream alive, in the face of lacking culture, education, understanding of many around them.

Liv Southard stars as Bloom, and dancer/choreographer Mark Marchillo wrote, directed, and stars as her uncle. Southard’s natural facility leaves you wanting to see what more she can do, as her choreography seems limited to reflect the lack of training available according to the story. A dance highlight of the Breaking Legs is a completely iconic and incredibly difficult Kelly-esque classic dance sequence performed by Marchillo himself.

Both starring and supporting characters have complicated issues to address, and each have their own motivations, demons, and insecurities. Breaking Legs is a comedy, but actually addresses some dark human issues as well like addiction, child abuse, and infidelity. It offers no reassurances or solutions to those complexities, but somehow manages to walk a fine line to keep its comedic lightness throughout.

Presented with a vintage feel and nods to many of the decades of dance and film that have built to present day, this is a special cast and a quirky story with a ton of heart. Breaking Legs is a must-see for dance fans and students.

YAGP is Upon Us!

It’s that time of year again when young dance talent from around the globe converge on New York City to compete in the largest international student dance competition in the world, the Youth America Grand Prix.

With hundreds of thousands of scholarship dollars on the line, these more than 1,000 dancers and their coaches have been working all year, often multiple years, to showcase their best work. Chosen from among many thousands who auditioned in the United States, Belgium, France, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Japan, and China, these remaining dancers hope to earn their place in one of the many top schools and companies that will be scouting throughout the event.

Featuring Gala events at Lincoln Center and 30 countries represented in the 2017 Finals, the schedule for this week’s culmination includes:

  • April 12 – YAGP Final Round
  • April 13 – ‘Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow’ Gala
  • April 14 – ‘Julie Bocca: Tribute to a Dance Legend’ Birthday Celebration with International Stars

To call the series star-studded is a vast understatement, as dozens upon dozens of legendary ballerinas and danseurs will be in attendance with many performing in the Galas. And you can be sure to truly see the stars of tomorrow, considering that over 300 YAGP alumni are now dancing with companies around the world like ABT, NYCB, Ailey, Paris Opera, Royal, Stuttgart, Dutch National, and the list goes on. It’s not hard to see why:

A few tickets to these events remain available to the YAGP festivities and can be purchased at https://davidhkochtheater.com. Can’t make it to NY? Subscribe and watch events unfold on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/user/vamproductions.

 

*WIN TICKETS!* Ballet in Film: A Hero of Our Time

Fathom Events is hosting special screenings of the Bolshoi Ballet Series! In A Hero of Our Time, Pechorin, a young officer, embarks on a journey across the majestic mountains of the Caucasus, on a path set by his passionate encounters. Disillusioned and careless, he inflicts pain upon himself and the women around him. Drama!

If that’s not enough to entice you to click that link, I promise you the gorgeous photography on the Bolshoi Ballet Series site is thoroughly worth clicking through.

Tickets are available to purchase here – and for a limited time you can WIN tickets to this Fathom Event!

Free Show 3/24 & 3/25 by HarttWorks

2017-harttworksBalletScoop readers have been offered free tickets to HarttWorks

On Friday March 24 and Saturday March 25 at 7:30pm at the Millard Auditorium at the University of Hartford, HarttWorks will present a special collaboration between the HCD dance and music departments. Scroll down for a special code good for free tickets.

Honors music composition student Xavier Blackwell-Lipkind, a sophomore at Conard High School in West Hartford, has composed original music that will be performed live during the modern segment at both performances. Hartt School alumna Rebecca DeNies (BFA, ‘14) choreographed the piece. Dancers will be accompanied by an advanced chamber music trio, Fibonacci Trio, comprised of Northwest Catholic High School senior Kate Jessen on clarinet, South Windsor High School sophomore Gabe Galley on viola, and Glastonbury High School senior Karlee Cummings on piano. The evening will also include a classical ballet staged by HCD Dance Chair Carol Roderick, a ballet premiere choreographed by Ballet Master Susannah Marchese, a musical theatre jazz and tap piece choreographed by Dance Faculty/Assistant Director of Dance Administration Melissa Chasse, and a modern piece choreographed by Hartt Professor of Dance Stephen Pier.

Passcode: HSHarttWorks17

ONLINE: www.hartford.edu/tickets and click on the Arts and Events Box Office link. Enter the above passcode where is asks if you have a code.

OVER THE PHONE: 860-768-4228 University of Hartford Box Office Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 am – 5 pm. Mention the above passcode when you are asked for payment information.

IN PERSON: Lincoln Theater, 200 Bloomfield Ave, West Hartford, CT 06117University of Hartford Box Office Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 am – 5 pm. Bring this pass with you.

This passcode does not guarantee tickets. Tickets are subject to availability. There are no refunds or exchanges once you redeem for tickets, all sales are final. This is not valid on previously purchased tickets. Everyone, regardless of age, entering the theater must have a ticket.

Ballet in Film: Prix de Lausanne Finals

Prix de Lausanne finals were posted on Youtube yesterday, complete with beautiful classical and contemporary classwork, performance montages, and coaching excerpts. Former prize recipient, former Royal Opera House creative director and current board member Deborah Bull is host and the faculty is equally world-class.

The footage quality is better every year and this is some of the best yet, with about 2.5 hours. See some of today’s best-trained and naturally promising young dance talent in the world at the Prix finals, and find out who rose to the top to receive prizes this year.

Ballet in Print: With Ballet in My Soul

with-ballet-in-my-soul-768x838Eva Maze has lived a more exotic and unrelentingly exciting life than most dream of. With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetropping Impresario is a stunning adventure into a ardent young person’s pursuit of art and passion for sharing it. Her memoir is as much a gift to the world as was her contribution in bringing Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to Germany, braving international conflict in producing a folklore festival for the Munich Olympics, or touring stars of London Festival Ballet to India, where ballet had not been seen since Pavolva’s tour 30 years earlier.

Eva Maze became a bold and astute art and business professional in a time when most married ladies did not work, in one of the most difficult industries in which to attempt success. She gives due credit to her late husband’s steadfast support, both emotionally and financially, without sugarcoating the realities of living often apart. Its clear, however, that it was her intellectual gifts and commitment to education and knowledge that formed the foundation of her success and helped her take advantage of the opportunities that came her way through social connections.

A lovely dancer herself, Ms. Maze began her path in classical ballet, studying and eventually performing professionally in small roles. Gorgeous personal photos of her dancing days and performances are throughout the book, along with old family photos of her family going back to the early 1920s. There are also plenty of illustrations of the dance and theatre companies she presented during her her lengthy impresario career.

As the subtitle suggests, she traveled the globe from Bucharest to America, then back to Europe and across Asia. Each chapter is dedicated to a different city of residence and includes fascinating contexts of the political atmosphere of each country during that time, without overwhelming the reader with history lessons. They are a reminder of how complicated politics worldwide are, and how they continue to evolve in response to their interlaced histories. Ms. Maze ran in the circles of some of the highest societal classes during her travels – including royalty in India and Greece – and their stories were often as dramatic and tragic as any in history. Yet they have been folded into history, forgotten if ever even known by the average American.

With Ballet in My Soul portrays a life more fully lived than most of us can ever imagine. I hope it will give, especially young female dancers, a sense of the many possibilities for an artist that extend beyond traditional professional company ballet – that is possible to create for yourself a unique path of your own creation that honors your special gifts and passions in a way no other life could.

 

Ask BalletScoop: Visiting a U.S. Summer Program

Bolshoi SI students

Bolshoi US Summer Program students / Photo courtesy of Bolshoi Ballet Academy

Dear BalletScoop,

As we live in Europe, it is very difficult to ascertain the SI programs from others with similar experience – I am relying primarily on google reviews.

As we consider the different programs, apart from the list that you indicated of what one should look for in an SI, for me number one is safety for my young daughter – given that she will be so far away from home.

Is it possible to give a general advice on the schools we are considering?

  • Miami City
  • Bolshoi CT
  • CPBYP
  • SAB-NY

At all schools, safety is certainly a priority. The schools you are considering, particularly the last three, have an enormous amount of experience hosting students from other countries and an excellent track record of doing so safely.

My best advice to you is to arrange a call with each school and have a conversation with someone who is ultimately responsible for the care of the students and can speak with authority on their precautions and safety. I also advise creating an account and logging into Ballet Talk (http://dancers.invisionzone.com/) for more clear reviews on these schools. Best of luck!

 

 

2017 Summer Intensives – Top US Ballet Programs

Credit: Rosalie O'Connor

Credit: Rosalie O’Connor

Happy Turkey Month! And what a busy month it is – Nutcracker rehearsals, finals and the start of audition season.

Last year BalletScoop discontinued the big list of all summer intensives. This was a tough decision, and I know how many of you enjoyed it and relied on it year to year. In the future I hope to collaborate with a colleague of mine to develop a truly interactive and more easily maintainable database of programs (stay tuned for more on that next year)!

In the meantime I’ll continue share with you links to the finest programs that every dancer should know. As far as these schools go, if you are within driving distance of an audition location, don’t think twice about – go!

 

American Ballet Theatre (NY, AL, TX, CA)

School of American Ballet (NY/CA)

Bolshoi Ballet (NY/CT) – Click here to learn about the BBS SI approach.

Pacific Northwest Ballet (WA)

San Francisco Ballet (CA) – This year’s site has had a beautiful overhaul!

Ellison Ballet (NY)

Boston Ballet (MA) – Also featuring a new updated website!

Houston Ballet (TX)

French Academie (NY)

Gelsey Kirkland Academy (NY)

Kirov Academy (DC)

The Rock School (PA)

Need to find a regional program? It’s worth looking at the Pointe Magazine list.  Keep in mind that it’s based purely on opt-in paid placement (so Pointe won’t list programs that don’t pay them money), but it’s still a solid starting point. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, feel free to drop me a line in the comments below and I’ll help you out if I can!

Top 5 Best Ballet YouTubers

joywomackThanks to YouTube, ballet is more accessible than ever. What was once a niche art has become increasingly available for fans and for dancers themselves who are looking to improve and gain a competitive edge by studying other accomplished dancers. So what are some of the best YouTube channels to help you achieve your goals?

#5 BallerinaBadass – The name says it all. Long-time dancer Georgia is your host for this frank and ‘tells it like it is’ channel. The featured video as of this writing is about bunions, which kind of tells you all you need to know. Georgia’s danced with multiple companies so she has plenty of stories to tell, and lots of worthwhile tips along the way, from alignment and stretching to pointe shoe prep. Plus, there’s cats.

#4  TwinTalksBallet – Hosted by fresh-faced girl next door Kirsten, this channel takes you on the journey of her first apprenticeship in Oklahoma City. Kirsten refers to herself as a big fish in a small pond now moving into the role of small fish in a big pond, the typical experience for a new professional. She has plenty of advice on how she got where she is, managing her time, maintaining the athlete’s body, and she has the ideal attitude for success that is a great example for any dancer. Plus, more cats.

#3 Mitch’s Moments – This is a pretty cute channel, hosted by a wry dancer and his friends, all with delightful accents. Expect lots of dancer in-jokes, pretty demos, and some totally non-dance content for fun as well (Legos! So awesome.) Perfect for a mental break and de-stress.

#2 Russian Ballet – World-renowned dancer Joy Womack has been super active on YouTube for quite some time now. You could spent many days indulging in her collection of behind the scenes and vlog footage of her professional ballet life at the highest level of achievement. You can learn so much just from studying the quality in her warm-up and barre routine, and there’s so much more to this channel.

#1 Kathryn Morgan – OK duh. If you don’t know Katie, you don’t know ballet on YouTube. Kathryn Morgan became an overnight success when she began opening up about her battle with thyroid complications during and after her rocket-propelled career at NYCB. She is la reine de ballet in social media. Always well-appointed, with flawless makeup and fashion, Katie is one part virtual sister, one part virtual ballet mentor, and one part style guru. Plus, there’s puppers. Can’t get enough? Check out her personal vlog, Life with Katie.

Have a favorite YouTuber you’d love to share? Are you a YouTuber yourself? List it in the comments below!

Get a Job: Marketing Yourself to Dance Companies

When you’re a dancer, sweet sixteen isn’t just a birthday milestone, it’s the age you start thinking of how to begin your career. You’re two years from high school graduation, even less if you’ve sped up your courses. At sixteen, you might even start flying out to company auditions to gain experience and get seen by artistic directors.

It can be pretty intimidating to get started though – How do you make a dance resume? How do you find ballet companies where you might be a fit and stand the best chance of getting a contract? How can you put together an awesome audition package with sophisticated videos and photographs that will really help get you a job?

Rachel Neville, author of the popular and thoughtfully made Leotard Buying Guide, is here to help with these questions. A former dancer, Rachel is now a well-known dance and movement photographer in NYC. She’s going above and beyond to create free resources for dancers crossing this point in their careers. In her latest effort, Rachel talks candidly about a each step in the process from researching companies to ensuring you are presenting yourself in the most effective way possible. Subscribe to Rachel’s blog to be notified of new videos as they are published, and check out the latest edition below.

A Dancer’s Musician: Christopher Ferris

Two years ago, I tweeted about and backed a Kickstarter project by Christopher Ferris. Ferris, an artist, composer and performer with a gift for improvisation, works with the Evergreen City Ballet school and training company as an accompanist. I absolutely adore Christopher’s story on his first experience playing for a ballet class –  it was part of the first promotion video about the project here. Ferris became in time a dancer’s musician, able to create just the right mood and perfect tempo for every step and moment.

Working with dancers eventually inspired Ferris to create his own class album, and during the funding push he made some nifty videos where he thanked his backers to his own live music. It was just delightful to hear my own name. Sadly, the project did not reach its goal – but Ferris didn’t let that stop him. Like the true artist he is, Ferris doubled down his commitment to his work.

Today, Christopher publishes this inaugural album, Music for Ballet Class: Syncopé, available utterly for free to listen to here, or for purchase on CD or MP3 files. This body of work represents an enormous effort by the artist, the team at Lake Union Recording, photographer Tim Aguero, designer Ryan Obermeier, and the artistic staff of Evergreen City Ballet, including two former principal dancers with Pacific Northwest Ballet. Plus, it’s beautifully played on a spectacular concert grand piano.

It’s beyond generous for this music to be available free of charge to listen to. Check out the album, and if you like it – for gosh sake’s support the arts and these artists by ponying up for the CD, MP3, or iTunes version!

Congratulations to Christopher and all the artists involved in the making of this beautiful ballet class album. May you inspire dancers and dance teachers around the world.