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About this blog

Thoughts on dancing, teaching, and watching ballet

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Moving!

I've been told that people who are not BT members have difficulty viewing this blog, so I will now be writing about ballet on my personal blog: La Vie en Citron.

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Ballet Across America II: Ballet Memphis, Ballet Arizona, Pacific Northwest Ballet - 6/17/10

A few quick impressions of the performance: Ballet Memphis: Good dancers. Appropriate music (Roy Orbison) with slick choreography, although at times overly literal. The choreography did not show off the dancers' ballet technique, but they did look strong and very well rehearsed. I'd like to see this company again in a better ballet. Ballet Arizona: Did not care for the choreography at all. Felt long, tedious, some sections appeared lifted from MacMillan and Balanchine. Ugly costumes f

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Mariinsky Ballet, "Sleeping Beauty" 2/13/10

I did not look forward to this performance with high expectations. The Mariinsky has mostly disappointed me the last few times it's visited, and while today's performance had some nice surprises, it was mostly in line with what I expected. Anastasia Kolegova (Aurora) is a perfectly lovely dancer with pretty line, strong technique, and apparently no acting ability. In Act I, she seemed nervous, and she glossed over any technical challenges (she would have been better off not attempting the bal

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ABT's Romeo & Juliet 1/28/2010

Kenneth MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet" is a ballet that relies on its two leading dancers more than other ballets do. In Petipa, if the leads are mediocre, one can still be delighted by the elaborate patterns of the corps, the brilliance of the soloists' choreography, or the grand spectacle his ballets generally present. MacMillan's choreography is weaker than Petipa's, and I spent a good deal of the ballet waiting for the principal dancers to come back on as the choreographer fumbled about wi

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The Myth of the Perfect Class

Lately I have been trying to challenge myself during class, so for the last two classes I've taken, I made a rule that I would use the barre as little as possible. That doesn't sound so difficult, but I soon found out just how much I rely on the barre, even when I think I don't. A simple battement tendu exercise in first suddenly required quite a bit more effort, and it only became more difficult from there. If I truly need the barre (for a very fast exercise, or one entirely on demi-pointe,

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I'm dancing again!

In preparation for auditions for dance pedagogy programs, I have started taking classes again, mostly at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, MD. So far I have had two classes, each taught by a dancer with Washington Ballet: Runqiao Du and Elizabeth Gaither. Both classes involved a long barre--45 minutes to an hour. Normally this is not my cup of tea, but as I am still pretty weak, it was nice to have the support. There were many combinations focusing on battements tendus and dégagés

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A New Year at Ballet School

I have taught my first class of the year, and I am afraid it is going to be an uphill battle. The first problem is that the students are only in ballet class once, or in some cases twice, a week, so building strength and coordination will be a challenge. I've decided to give them the same lesson for several weeks in a row so that they will be able to concentrate on correct technique while performing familiar exercises. They will also write down their classes so that they learn to spell and us

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More Turnout, Pirouette Preparation

I think I have finally, at long last, got my students to begin to understand turnout and how the legs move to the side. It has taken a while, but last class I used some ideas from the Teachers forum on BTfD to help them understand. A yardstick was very helpful. First, I repeated something I've done before: have the student stand in 1st position, place the yardstick on the floor in front of him/her so it forms a horizontal line just touching his/her toes, and have the student tendu side al

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The Problem with Pointe

I have been an advocate of less pointework in ballet for some time now, and here's why, in no particular order: 1. Having to dance en pointe limits possibilities for female dancers who may be very talented in every other way but simply don't have feet and ankles that are flexible enough to allow them to stand sur les pointes. 2. Pointe shoes ruin a dancer's jump, making it not just lower but also more noisy, no matter how well the feet are used during the takeoff and landing. 3. Pointewo

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The Maryinsky's "La Bayadère" at the Kennedy Center, 1/26/08

To discuss this performance, please go here. This was my first live full-length "Bayadère," although previously I have seen the Royal Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet, and Bolshoi Ballet productions on video, and I have seen the Maryinsky do the "Kingdom of the Shades" scene several times, both live and on video. This production is beautifully designed, with lush sets and beautiful costumes, and although there were too many obviously fake animals for my taste, at least it omitted some of the more r

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The New Year

This topic may be a little premature given that classes will probably not start for most of us for another two weeks, but having recently come from an extremely productive, positive faculty meeting I am very excited about the new ballet school year. I still have some conferring to do with the other teachers, but I think that we are generally on the same page and poised to have our students excel. We have all agreed on the syllabus (it helps that most of us were trained at the same school) and

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"Swan Lake" - Deanna Seay and Mikhail Ilyin

On Sunday, May 27, I returned to my hometown to watch the ballet school where I started dancing perform "Swan Lake" with guest artists Deanna Seay and Mikhail Ilyin (principal dancers with Miami City Ballet) as Odette and Prince Siegfried. Both danced beautifully. Ilyin, trained at the Vaganova Academy, has clean lines, very fast, controlled pirouettes, a weightless jump with silent landings, and a grounded presence. Seay also has lovely lines, including a graceful arabesque, but most import

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A Message to the Students

Students sometimes say: "I don't have feet like Alessandra Ferri. Can I still be a professional?" "My legs don't go as high as Sylvie Guillem's. Will any companies hire me?" The answer, dear students, is no. But not for the reasons you think. The reason you won't be a professional is because you are too concerned how you look in photographs and not concerned enough about how you look in motion. Use your feet exquisitely, and no one will notice how they're shaped. Unfold your leg

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Effortless?

Since "The Red Shoes" (and probably before) popular culture has displayed the message that Ballet Is Difficult. Sweaty, panting dancers remove tight, uncomfortable shoes to reveal bloody, blistering toes, and tyrannical teachers and artistic directors treat students as if they're soldiers and company members as if they're children. The ballet world has, apparently, come to believe in this mutilated vision of itself. As with so many things, one can lay neither all of the credit nor all of t

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Dream

Unlike my first post, this is not a daydream. I actually had a dream about teaching a ballet class, and I'm still not sure what that implies in terms of my sanity! I was giving an adagio, and the really crazy part is that I remembered it when I woke up! It's not the most interesting or creative combination ever, but I might use it for my class on Saturday. It goes like this: Adagio, 4/4 time. 5th position croisé, R foot front. Measure 1: Beats 1-2: Developpé devant. Beats 3-4: Pas

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Boys' Training

I'm growing (or perhaps just realizing that I always have been) disenchanted with the quality of boys' training. I feel that in mixed-gender classes, they do not receive the same quality of instruction the girls do, and I don't think there's any reason for this. Contributing to the problem, in my opinion, is the lax standard in terms of attire. Letting the boys wear soccer shorts is fine when they're 8, but even when they are 10 and in proper attire, they wear saggy tights and oversized shirt

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Changes in Ballet's Focus Regarding Petit Allegro

We have all heard, read, and seen in performance that petit allegro has started to fall by the wayside as dancers and choreographers focus on ever-higher extensions, larger jumps, and more pirouettes. This is to an extent natural and necessary as costumes become more revealing and we learn more about the way the body works (movement emanating from the torso instead of the extremities). However, it is possible to train dancers (who become choreographers) to be more attuned to the use of the low

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Good Feet

One hears a lot of talk about "good feet" in ballet, but what does that actually mean? What makes the shape of one foot "better" than another? What about those whose feet aren't particularly beautiful in themselves but who use them well? Following is a short, general guide for those without classroom experience regarding what goes into creating a beautiful foot and using it well. It is not intended to be exhaustive. The Well-shaped Foot Several physical factors are involved in the a

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Class 7/26/06

Class on Wednesday was a little less successful as far as applying corrections went--the students were in a giggly mood. I can't blame them, as they've been dancing quite a bit for the past few weeks, so I didn't make things too difficult and just let them dance. Not sure when I'll be teaching them again (hopefully soon). I gave the following pirouette and grand allegro combinations: Pirouettes. 16 measures 3/4 time. Begin at pt. 6, R leg pointe tendue devant croisé. Measure 1: Piqué

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Good Class

Class on Wednesday night was a success! Alexandra Danilova wrote that in her opinion, a good class is one the student does not want to end, and judging by the eager response when I asked the students if they would mind doing the grand allegro combination again, I think it was a good class in the Danilova sense. I've noticed lately that I seem to be improving as a teacher in two ways: 1. Building a class around 1-3 basic, important ideas. 2. Creating combinations that meet the students

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Turnout

I am about to start teaching at a local summer program, and one aspect of technique that students often struggle with is using their turnout correctly. Usually, they either try to turn out too far and end up rolling (allowing their arches to collapse, the result of turning out the foot but not the entire leg) or they place the foot correctly on the floor but do not engage the most important turnout muscles and only rotate their legs in a vague, passive manner. It usually only gets worse when t

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Studio

In Baltimore last weekend, I drove by the new arts district, Station North, and saw an ad for artist lofts in a converted warehouse called the Copycat Building. Ironic name aside, I thought it might be an interesting place for a ballet school--lots of space, high ceilings, right in the middle of an arts community with constant art exhibitions all around. Baltimore doesn't have much in the way of serious ballet schools, and even one good teacher working alone could make a difference. There are

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The Upper Body in Performance

As we have had several discussions on the board lately regarding port de bras and épaulement, I'd like to offer a mini online lesson about the upper body geared toward audience members. I'll include technical information, but this will be by no means exhaustive, especially considering that there are plenty of textbooks that do a fine job of describing the various methods' stances as far as the upper body is concerned. What I'd like to do is give balletomanes who do not have classroom experienc

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