Dancewear en l’air: The Flashdance Top

An 80’s retro top is perfect for dance inspiration, and K.D. Dance FAL1143034 captures the era perfectly with its drapey style. This Flashdance-inspired top is cut oversized (but is also available in a more close-cut fit) and comes complete with the original’s signature off-the-shoulder neckline that casually shows off your collarbone.

Created from K.D. Dance’s beautiful shadow stripe acrylic blend fabric, this sweater is available in some basic shades as well as an assortment of rich purples and wines. Lovely for a ballet warm-up or just to and from class, this is also a great piece for modern, contemporary and jazz classes. What a feeling!

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We All Start Somewhere

Hello dancers! The Fall/Winter semester is already about half over. Now is a great time to check in on yourself and your training. What’s working for you? Are you making progress in the areas that you need to?

When this season started, I challenged you to be strategic about your new training year. That entailed setting specific goals and putting together a plan of attack for each. Mid-semester is the perfect time to review your progress and re-assess your plan.

What were your goals when the semester began? Have you been able to focus on them while you train, or did you forget about them and just “get through” your classes? Have you been consistent with any special exercises or stretches you needed to do outside of class? Be honest. And remember, New Year’s isn’t the only time to make resolutions! If you’ve been slackin’, resolve now to get refocus your efforts and rededicate yourself to your goals for this year.

Don’t forget that your teachers are there to help you, too. If you aren’t sure how you’re doing, talk to your teacher about your progress. Above all, stay focused and keep your eye on the ball. Watch dance movies that inspire or motivate you to enjoy your training. If you’re lucky enough to have good performances taking place in your city, try to make it to a live professional show. While you’re watching the pros, remember that they were once students too, trying to apply corrections and become the real artists that they now are. Just like you one day could be.

Dancewear en l’air: The Vibrant Wrap Skirt

Let’s beat those Monday blues with some fashion today. If you’re in the mood for a stylistic pick-me-up, Capezio’s 1290, a printed chiffon wrap skirt, is just the thing for your next class.

I really like the length of this skirt for pointe classes in particular – the gently tapered hem gives a nice length to the leg without looking – ahem – “hoochie” short.  And the floral pattern of teal, burgundy, pink and black will pair nicely with a basic black or with your bolder leos in similar hues.  I think it would look great over a unitard, too. All in all, an elegant but very fun pick.

I’m just a dancer, not a miracle worker!

First position, arm in second. Core engaged, neutral pelvis. Long neck, shoulders down. Elbow below shoulder, inside of elbow faces front. Wrist below elbow, inside of hand faces front. Fingers slightly curved, thumb tucked in. Chest open, rib cage closed. Rotate the legs from the hip socket. No rolling in. Energy through your limbs, but don’t grip. Now breathe, smile, look effortless and … grand plié!

Does it feel sometimes like there are too many things to think about in ballet at one time, even in the simplest of steps? That’s because there are! The corrections I just listed would be impossible for a beginner to keep in mind all at the same time. So how can you master a step when there are so many corrections to deal with?

The answer is: Don’t think about them! More specifically, your mission is to get corrections so ingrained in your muscle memory that you can “forget” about them and focus on other, new corrections. What’s the secret to that? Like the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race.

Your teacher is responsible for providing only as many corrections at a time as you can properly process and apply. Then, like a careful gardener, she must patiently remind you and even reteach the info in different ways. You must keep focused and stay dedicated. Finally, it “clicks” and muscle memory has made it a habit. Tada!

You are certainly capable of handling a multiple new corrections at one time, but there is also a limit. Your teacher might focus particularly on one part of the body for a few weeks or on a certain movement quality. As you become familiar with a correction, she may only need to say one or two words before you instantly know what adjustment to make. This means the brain is learning! She might then introduce you to a brand new correction or two, though it could take some months before the prior step or correction is really solidly learned. Even after a correction is solidly learned, occasional reminders may be necessary. Be patient with yourself if you notice this, particularly if you are having to “retrain” aspects of your technique.

Your teacher is responsible for providing you with corrections that are challenging but also achievable – A good teacher won’t ask you to do anything you are not capable of but won’t push you beyond your limit either. Keep focused, don’t be afraid of new information, and be patient if you are hearing the same corrections for a while.

You’ll be surprised what you can achieve with diligence and patience. Don’t forget that a dancer’s education is never truly complete – we are all always striving for improvement.

Ballet in Print: Cuban Ballet

In order to reach their full potential as artists, many Cuban ballet dancers leave their country to escape the complicated politics of Cuba. And that nation’s loss has become the world’s gain as pointed out by noted dance critic and this book’s author, Octavio Roca. Cuban Ballet explores this evolution and is gorgeously illustrated with both vibrant full-color and dramatic black and white photographs of current and former Cuban ballet dancers.

Cuban Ballet provides an exceptional portrait of Cuban ballet’s history, including stories of select Cuban ballet stars. This book also features a forward by Mikhail Baryshnikov and by Alicia Alonzo, who you might have guessed is one of the dancers featured most prominently. Released only last month, this exciting and beautiful new book is available at a significant discount through Amazon.

Dancewear en l’air: The Tiger Leotard

This leo is so outrageous I just had to feature it for fun today! The Tiger Leotard (scroll down on their long-sleeve leos page to find it) by London-based Wear Moi International – not to be confused with French dancewear company Wear Moi – makes this arresting tiger stripe ballet leotard, which seems reminiscent to me of Oleg Vinogradov’s Knight in a Tiger’s Skin ballet from the Kirov!

Like many of Wear Moi’s leos, this item is created in two different fabrics, in this case a black lycra bottom and the striking tiger print on top. An asymetrical seam connecting the two and extra-long sleeves set off the tiger print with a haphazard and exotic vibe. This style is not for the faint of heart!

Dear CBT: Tendu Translation

Dear ClassicalBalletTeacher,

What does battement tendu mean?

– Anonymous Dance Student

Dear Dancer:

The literal translation is “beat stretch”. This describes the outstretched extension of the leg from the body with the toes á terre (on the ground) and in time with music. Battement tendu is an superb exercise for the body when done correctly.

Battement, or beat/beaten, is the word that precedes most ballet steps involving an extension of one leg while standing (as opposed to jumping). Examples are battement jeté, battement enveloppé and battement fondu. If you are interested in the translations and definitions of ballet technique terminology, you will really enjoy grabbing a copy of Gail Grant’s Dictionary of Classical Ballet. Happy Dancing!