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.
I know you’re all waiting with bated breath for the annual list of summer intensives. While unfortunately the vast majority of programs that I typically include have not yet updated their 2016 information, the major top programs in the US have. So I thought I’d get those up here for your reference now.
Once most of the other programs have their houses in order, I’ll post the usual mega-spreadsheet with details like ages and dates. For now, in no particular order (and please don’t try reading into who I’ve included and excluded, though I know you guys love to do that!), here are the top US programs who have posted their 2016 main summer program details:
American Ballet Theatre (NY+)
Bolshoi Ballet (NY/CT)
San Francisco Ballet (CA)
Ellison Ballet (NY)
Boston Ballet (MA)
Houston Ballet (TX)
French Academie (NY)
Kirov Academy (DC)
The Rock School (PA)
Let me know if this is helpful either in direct message or down below in the comments. Remember there are plenty of resources here on BalletScoop (starting here) to help you decide where to spend your time auditioning and how to find the best training for your needs. Merde to all!
Hi everyone. I’ve received a number of requests lately that go something like this:
I/my child got into the SI programs at X, Y, and Z schools. Are they good or bad? What do you think we should do? X school has a different technique than I/he/she studied in the past. Is that good or bad? What do you think we should do?
With messages like this, what I really hear is, “Please tell me where to spend my money and also which school has the magical touch to create professional dancers!”
Well unfortunately the answer to those questions are ‘I don’t know’ and ‘There isn’t one.’ But fortunately, I have created many resources to help, from first summer audition plans to decision time. Especially for newer readers I thought it would be nice for me to list it all together as a guide for you. Take a look below.
In order to expand the usability of this site, I have also added a menu sub-item for Summer Intensives on the left hand menu. Just hover over Pre-Professional Training to access it. That category has nearly every article related to summer training. Let me know what you guys think in the comments if you like.
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.
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.
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.
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!
A 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.
The Gelsey Kirkland Ballet, studio company for the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, is holding auditions this weekend for paid positions. Attendees will also be considered for the year-round professional and pre-professional training school. This is a must-go audition!
Gelsey Kirkland Ballet Studio Company is under the artistic leadership of Gelsey Kirkland and Michael Chernov, whose vision is to maintain an ensemble company capable of realizing diverse and compelling theatrical ideas through specialized, comprehensive training and direction. Contracts are typically 32 weeks.
The Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet is proud to announce that we will be holding an audition for our PAID Male & Female Studio Company positions and our year round professional and pre-professional academy programs.
Saturday, August 17th at 12:00pm
Gelsey Kirkland Academy
355 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10013
What To Bring:
Please bring proper audition attire, pointe shoes, and an 8×10 headshot along with an action shot in arabesque. $35.00 Audition Fee. DVD auditions are accepted.
If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet at (212) 600-0047 or by email: misha AT gelseykirklandballet DOT org