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:

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 Can’t make it to NY? Subscribe and watch events unfold on youtube at


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!

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.

Dancewear en l’air: K.D. Dance Gets a Reboot

IMG_2252_876701f3-08ae-4c01-bbf9-fb39800d3b1e_grandeK.D. Dance sweaters and roll-down tights were all the rage for dancers in the 90s, but over the years lost the market to bigger names like Bloch and sports brands like UnderArmour. Now they’re back for your consideration with a reboot and a new website.

K.D. remains focused on  craftsmanship, materials, and name-dropping (the first item I clicked on referenced its use in a recent Beyonce photoshoot), but returns with new photography and more of an American Apparel-y type feel. Their new product line is also much more streamlined and focused on particular colors, versus the formerly broad list of endlessly similar pieces available in countless hues that used to take forever to sift through. Is this a better strategy for the dancewear maker? Only time will tell.

K.D. Dance products are made to order, so if you buy from their site you are looking at some wait time, similar to Eleve. If you’ve never purchased a K.D. Dance product, you really can’t go wrong with the 03 sweater, a classic piece that’s an absolute compliment machine.

Misty Copeland & Lauren Anderson Reminisce

It’s always a pleasure to see to two great ballerinas of our time talking about their journey to the stage, but even more so when that journey represents a historical shift in national attitudes about race and art. Enjoy this brief look at the recent Houston interview of Misty Copeland and Lauren Anderson as they offer heartfelt insights to the struggles that diverse dancers face and how they have gracefully handled the challenges life has presented.

I was very fortunate to spend some brief time with the lovely Lauren Anderson last year, so I am particularly thrilled that her stellar career is being remembered in the process of Misty’s celebrations. But I can’t wait for the day when diversity in the performing arts world is so normal that it’s not even newsworthy.

Upcoming Ballet Events!

KMSugar2Haven’t had much time to post since moving to NYC, but I have two great ballet events to announce! First, for those of you who are fans of Kathryn Morgan’s two youtube channels, her website, and her prior career at NYCB, you’ll be delighted to hear that her long awaited return to the stage is not far off! The elegant Ms. Morgan will be performing for one night only in Cleveland at PlayhouseSquare. An Evening with Kathryn Morgan will be and intimate showing of the best excerpts from ballet history plus a newly choreographed piece created on Kathryn Morgan. Mark your calendar for Saturday, September 19, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are VIP only at $100 a person. A steal if you ask me – it includes pre- and post-show receptions plus a meet and greet with Ms. Morgan. 

Separately, those of you in Connecticut won’t want to miss the upcoming performance of Giselle by The Hartt School’s Community Division. Like hundreds of summer intensive programs across the country and globe, The Hartt School offers a performance opportunity to its students at the end of the course, but in this case it is uniquely a full-length ballet. On top of that, this staging has been directed by the talented Xiomara Reyes of American Ballet Theatre. The performances will take place on July 25th, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Millard Auditorium at Hartt, 200 Bloomfield Ave in West Hartford, CT.

If you attend either of these shows, I hope you’ll post about your experience in the comments below! If you can’t attend these events, treat yourself to a ballet in your local community and support the arts wherever you are.