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.

Let’s Save Pacific Northwest Ballet School

Edit: There’s limited further information on this situation, for those of you who have asked, however the main location is safe. It is the eastside location that is in peril.

As any dance enthusiast knows, Pacific Northwest Ballet School is one of the finest ballet schools in the United States and home to one of the best ballet companies in the world. Sadly, they are about to lose their Bellevue studio location. Sign this petition to save PNBS from being torn down without getting enough funding in return to rebuild.

If you’ve never seen PNBS, it’s a dancer’s dream, maybe only rivaled in the states by the Boston Ballet facilities. Below is a picture of the main campus from my visit last fall.

This is not just a Seattle ballet school, this is a ballet school that is beloved around the country and respected around the world. Please, take time to tweet, share, and post this call to action so we can all give PNBS a fighting chance to stay alive in the neighborhood they’ve been part of for 30 years.


Ballet in Print: The Ballet Lover’s Companion

The Ballet Lover’s CompanionThe Ballet Lover's Companion by Zoe Anderson is a must-have book for any aspiring dancer. Including a brief but thoughtfully curated history to begin each chapter, it includes summaries of numerous influential ballets of each period, some still famous and some long forgotten. This may be the most valuable record of ballets ever published.

Publisher Yale University Press describes the book as having, “a wealth of facts and insights, including information familiar only to dance world insiders” (ballet geeks, get excited!) and boasts that it “considers such recent works as Alexei Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy and Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale as well as older ballets once forgotten but now returned to the repertory, such as Sylvia.”  Indeed its record of important new choreographers is just as remarkable as it’s coverage of history’s best and brightest. I was thrilled to see this breadth of coverage.

This book makes a fabulous gift for a dance teacher, colleague or as a treat for yourself! If you love ballet, this aptly named book will certainly become one of your treasures.

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.


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!

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.


2014 Dance Teacher Training Programs

Peter Martins teaching at SAB taken by Rosalie O'ConnorYEP, ANOTHER UPDATE: The Classical Dance Alliance just announced their 2014 program, added below. Juliette 4/21/14

You know this blog is really dedicated to all those hardworking students out there, but all you teachers out there like me are still students too, right? A dancer’s learning never ends! For all my fellow teachers then, here’s a new list I’ve come up with of upcoming summer training for teachers in 2014. There’s also a few longer-term programs on the list. For any professional dancers or dancers over the age of 18, technique programs for you were included in the 2014 summer intensives list article from last month. The programs I’m listing here are specifically for teaching dancers how to train others. Best wishes to all my readers for the New Year!

Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet
John White Teacher’s Vaganova Seminar
By the renowned author of Teaching Classical Ballet & Advanced Principles of Teaching Classical Ballet
2014 Dates TBA at publication

Bolshoi Ballet Academy
Teacher Certification Program NYC
Presented by the Russian American Foundation
Present-day Vaganova Method

Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet
Teacher’s Workshop
Marcia Dale Weary’s renowned methods

American Academy of Ballet
Teachers Intensive

American Ballet Theatre
National Training Curriculum & Certification
2/14/14/-2/22/14 (Session #1: Pre-Primary Level through Level 3 in NY)
2/15/14-2/20/14 (Session #2: Levels 4 and 5 in New York, NY)
3/15/14-3/23/14 (Session #1: Pre-Primary Level – Level 3 in OK)
7/14/14-7/19/14 (Session #2: Levels 4 and 5 in NY)
7/21/14-7/26/14 (Session #3: Levels 6, 7 & Partnering in NY)
7/29/14-8/6/14 (Session #1: Pre-Primary Level through Level 3 in NY)

Classical Dance Alliance
2014 BarreRaise Ballet Pedagogy Blended Learning Intensive
June 27 through July 4, 2014 First Class
July 5 through July 12, 2014 Second Class
July 14 through July 19, 2014 Third Class
July 21 through July 26, 2014 Fourth Class

Akjun Ballet Theatre
Dance Teachers & Student Teachers Program
Eligible for Certification & University credits
Term 1: Oct/Nov/Dec
Term 2: Mar/Apr/May
Term 3: July/Aug

Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida
Vaganova Method (actual VBA faculty, pretty cool)

Ballet Magnificat!
Heavily focused on Christian faith

Canada’s National Ballet School
Teacher Training Program
RAD, Cecchetti or ISTD Certification
3-year, 5-year part-time options

Broadway Dance Center/The Pulse
14th Annual Teacher Workshop

Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop
Teachers Continuing Education Certificate
2014 dates TBA

Cosmopolitan Ballet Theatre
Vaganova Syllabus Teacher Programs
2014 Dates TBA at publication

Cornish College of the Arts
Teacher Workshops
Certificate of Completion
8/7/14-8/8/14 (How Joints Work With Muscles in a Dance Class)
8/4/14-8/6/14 (Teaching the Fundamentals of Children’s Ballet)

Ecole Superieure de Danse de Cannes
Dance Teacher Certification
Fluent French required
2014 Dates TBA at publication

Finis Jhung @ The Ailey Studios
The Fundamentals Of Ballet Technique: Teacher & Adult Student Workshop

Lori Belilove’s Isadora Duncan Dance Theatre
Certification Program
2014 Dates TBA at publication

Teaching Contemporary Limón 2014
7/7/14-7/18/14 (NYC)
7/21/14-8/1/14 (Dresden)
8/4/14-8/15/14 (Montreal)

Peridance Capezio Center
GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® & Steele Pilates
Various Dates

Pacific Northwest Ballet School
Teacher’s Seminar

Open World Dance Foundation
First Annual Teachers Training & Conference
Vaganova Method  (including three students of Vaganova)

Northwest Dance Intensive
Teacher’s Workshop
With Beamish BodyMind Balancing® creator

Royal Academy of Dance
2014 Courses for Teachers
Various Dates

The Royal Ballet School
Various Dates (Teacher Training Program)
Various Dates (Dance Teacher Observation Programme)
3/9/14 (Dance Teacher’s Workshop)
4/14/14-4/16/14 (Seminar for Ballet Teachers at Richmond Ballet)

Royal Winnipeg Ballet
2-year Teacher Training Program
7/7/14-7/11/14 Teachers’ Summer Workshop

Dance Masters of America
Teachers Training School
Multi-Year Program

Cecchetti Council of America
Diploma Course

2014 Summer Intensive Auditions


Well. Such as it is, here is your 2014 Summer Intensives Auditions List (last updated 2/10/14) including 390 high quality programs complete with direct links, dates and age restrictions! It’s actually not as complete as I would like with some of the dates, but more schools than usual are behind in updating their site so I’ll be updating this list as I receive more information. Audition season is already well underway, so merde to all!

And as usual here’s my list of a few SIs, in no particular order, with strong reputations that you may want to put at the top of your list.

School of American Ballet

American Ballet Theatre

Ellison Ballet Academy

Bolshoi Ballet Academy

San Francisco Ballet School

Boston Ballet School

Pacific Northwest Ballet School

Chautauqua Institution


Harid Conservatory

Miami City Ballet School

French Academie of Ballet

The Rock School 

Please send me a message if you encounter any broken links. As always, if you have any questions about particular SIs, please refer to Ballet Talk for Dancers, where you can create a free account and peruse first-hand reviews by dancers and parents.

P.S. I will be posting a separate list of Teacher Training programs in the next couple weeks, so teachers who have requested that: I hope to publish that before year end.


BalletScoop Visits Dance Advantage for a Guest Article!

If you aren’t familiar with Dance Advantage, you are in for a treat today. I just contributed a teacher’s article to DA about my favorite ballet movies – I hope you’ll check it out!

Nichelle Strzepek makes sure to keep great dance articles coming at Dance Advantage. There’s something for everyone – teachers, choreographers, students and professionals. Click around while you’re there and you’ll find technique tips, dance history, dance news, dance games and way more for students. I always keep a link to this great site on my blogroll for you guys. Enjoy!

Love Your Dance Teacher? Nominate Her! (Or Him!)

Dance Teacher Magazine is seeking student submissions for their 2011 Dance Teacher Awards. Exceptional teachers may be honored by a Dance Teacher Award at the 2011 Dance Teacher Summit! Click here for submission requirements and nomination categories.

Show your favorite dance teacher how much he or she means to you with a nomination for a Dance Teacher Award!

Update: Dance Studio Life and Dance Life TV are also sponsoring a teacher award program, the Dance Life Teacher Conference Scholarship Program. The DLTC program is held in three rounds of essay, video and finally an editors’ vote. Your teacher could win a scholarship to attend the Dance Studio Life Conference and formal recognition by DSL. Nominate your favorite dance teacher today!

Teacher Summer Intensives & Workshops

Student dancers, this post is not for you, but I will be completing my tips on DVD auditioning very soon!

I was recently asked if I know of any good teacher workshops. I compiled a list this past summer for my own use, and I am happy to share that, though I can’t guarantee that it’s exhaustive.

Some of these require auditions, some require a paper application process and others will accept anyone who registers and pays. Gelsey Kirkland’s school and Royal Winnepeg are linked to year-round programs. ABT and perhaps one or two others offer a certification after completion of their program. I went ahead and left my old notes on estimated costs on this list, though I don’t know if they are still accurate. The last three I have heard of by word of mouth, but could not find information on them at the time.

I am personally most interested in John White’s (author of the great teachers’ books “Teaching Classical Ballet” and “Advanced Principles in Teaching Classical Ballet”) program, and Ruth Petrinovic’s (teacher of master teacher David Howard) program. Ruth was trained to teach by JoAnna Kneeland, who is famous for popularizing the therapeutic barre. (JoAnna, Ruth and David are all Harkness people, I believe.) John recently completed a few years of running his elementary to intermediate program and is now running his intermediate to advanced program. I am told that the program really does build, so that you need to take the former before the latter. I’m not sure how long it will be before he goes back to running lower level program.

In addition to my list here, Dance Teacher magazine keeps a long list of schools that supposedly run teacher programs, but somehow a lot of them don’t really seem to do so. I think many schools consider teachers eligible to attend their student SI, but that doesn’t qualify at all as continuing education if you ask me. So here’s my list of programs:

Gelsey Kirkland Academy Teacher Training

Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Teacher Program (course/room/board $1450)

Ballet Magnificat Teacher’s Workshop (course/room/board $943)

Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet with John White (course/room/board $925)

American Ballet Theater Teacher Certification Programs
Primary-Level 3 Training (course only $1650)
Level 4-5 (course only $1350)
Level 6-Partnering (course only $1325)

Tampa Ballet Center Ruth – Petrinovic’s Teacher Training (course only $900)

CPYB Teacher Workshop (course only $675)

Dance Teacher Summit (course only $550)

Dance Masters of America (course/room/board $850)

Dance Educators of America
Level 1 (course only $1000)
Level 2 (course only $1000)
Level 3 (course only $1000)

National Dance Education Organization

Vaganova Summer School with Mansur Kalametnidov

Pacific Northwest Ballet Teacher Seminar (no info found)

Vail International Dance Festival Ballet Teacher’s Seminar (no info found)

National Ballet of Canada (no info found)

So that’s it. Hope this helps! If you know of any others, just put them in the comments, and I’ll add them to this list.