Friday, May 28, 2010

Dancer Tip: The Pros' Secrets to Fierce Pirouettes

Wanna know how some of the greatest ballet teachers like Finis Jhung, Wilhelm Burmann, and Claudio Munoz, break down and teach a pirouette? Well here it is - the pros' secrets that might have you doing a few extra revolutions!

On-Point Pirouettes
Dance Spirit Magazine By: Lauren Kay July 1, 2009

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Contemporary Lifts Video

Yesterday, I wrote about Katy Spreadbury, the JUMP Alternative Convention ballet teacher and her teaching philosophy. Here is a excellent video of her and Jeff Amsden, in a clip from their Lifts DVD, which can be purchased on They teach and demonstrate some beautiful lifts that fit perfectly into contemporary choreography, for a boy and girl, and for girls-only.

Here's another video, demonstrating more contemporary lifts, with several more for girl partnering!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Teacher Tip - How do you teach technique and a love for dance?

Katy Spreadbury, JUMP Alternative Convention Ballet teacher, posing with Jeff Amsden

Because dance is both art and sport combined, teaching technique and a love for it are equally necessary. Students won't put forth the effort and discipline it takes to dance if they have no passion for it. The difficulty comes in balancing the two, and being careful to encourage dance students while holding them to high standards and demanding excellence. I am constantly struggling with this, especially teaching teenagers who love to push the boundaries and do less work, but at the same time crave discipline, a teacher who will stand her ground, and lots of encouragement. I remember being a teenage dance student, and how one little comment from a dance teacher could either lift me up and give me confidence, or break my heart and make me want to quit.

Dance Teacher Magazine often highlights excellent teachers who are kind and caring, but also strict and have high standards. Watch this interview with Katy Spreadbury, the ballet teacher for the 2010 JUMP Alternative Convention who is known as the convention sweetheart, to hear dance teaching philosophy that combines love and discipline.

Here is Katy's bio, from the JUMP Website
As a dancer, Katy grew up and trained in Worcester, Massachusetts. In her youth, her talent was recognized by competitions and magazines alike. She’s been named Miss Dance of America, America’s Choreographer of the Year, and Capezio’s Future Star, as well as having appeared as a featured artist in both Dance and Dance Spirit Magazine. As a professional, Katy’s dancing has taken her all over the country. She is continually sought after as a guest artist, has performed alongside legends such as Ben Vereen and Karen Ziemba, and has most recently danced as a featured performer for the Astaire Awards in New York City. An amazing performer who teaches with a kind heart and a strong will. Her undeniable technique and passion for dance is evident every time she teaches. As an instructor, Katy is recognized to be an incredible motivator, a positive spirit, and a fountain of knowledge. She has quickly become the sweetheart of the convention circuit, and continues to remain in high demand throughout the country as teacher who wants to make a difference.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

American Ballet Theater Turns 70

 Julie Kent and Jose Manuel Carreño in Apollo. Photo courtesy of Marty Sohl

American Ballet Theater is celebrating it's 70th birthday this month, and held a gala at the Metropolitan Opera House to showcase it's spring repertoire (see pictures from the gala here). (Read the NY Times article about the gala, from a rather sarcastic and entertaining perspective.) ABT is one of the world's leading ballet companies, along with New York City Ballet and San Fransisco Ballet, according to the London Observer. So, what makes it so special? Here is a brief history of the company, facts every Dance Nerd should know!

ABT Trivia
  • Founded in 1937 and named Mordkin Ballet
  • Reorganized and renamed in 1940, Ballet Theater, with the aim "to develop a repertoire of the best ballets from the past and to encourage the creation of new works by gifted young choreographers."(from
  • It's current name wasn't given until 1956
  • They have brought all the finest full-length ballets from the 19th and 20th centuries to the stage; ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle, and Sleeping Beauty, Apollo, Les Sylphides, Airs, and Push Comes to Shove
  • In 1960, they became the first American ballet company to perform in the Soviet Union
  • They perform at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City and are also based in New York City

Famous ABT Dancers

Artistic Directors

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ballet Magnificat in the Washington Post

Ballet Magnificat performing "The Hiding Place," a ballet about Corrie ten Boom during WWII

Ballet Magnificat, America's first professional ballet company, appeared in the Washington Post this weekend. I grew up going to Ballet Magnificat performances and my old dance studio, Impact Dance of Atlanta, has a close partnership with Ballet Mag. The founder and owner's daughter, Tara Drew, was one of our best teachers at Impact. I danced with two of Ballet Mag's dancers, Bethany Hurstell and Jonathan Chapman, who are in the top performing company, Alpha. Both are very talented and such a joy to watch!

In my opinion, this article gives an accurate and objective picture as to what they are all about. The writer mentions that major ballet companies could learn a few things from Ballet Mag, such as their passion and dedication to their art and faith, and their creativity in creating original, full-length story ballets, which no major ballet company does anymore. However, according to the article, because they are not performing ballets such as "Swan Lake" and "La Sylphide," their technique is not as strong and powerful as that of major ballet companies. However, that is not what the company is about - no divas or stars - just real people who have a passion for dance and God. But make no mistake - they work and train just as hard as other ballet companies. In fact, the article doesn't mention that many of their dancers gave up lucrative performing careers to dance for Ballet Mag. Just like Kathy Thibodeaux (founder and owner) did, as the International Ballet Competition silver medalist in 1982.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Learn More About Winging and Sickling

Here is a beautiful example of a winged foot - not too much prolongation.

I found this article in Dance Teacher Magazine, Theory and Practice: Winging (and Sickling) It, to be very helpful for not only spotting sickled feet and how to fix them, but also being wary of winged feet. Both can be signs of weak ankles. This article outlines exercises dancers can do to strengthen the ankles to prevent injuries. Check it out!

Some Highlights:

  • Dancers with weak or untrained ankles are more likely to sickle their feet
  • Winging can become dangerous if that foot is supporting weight, so use caution when teaching students to wing their feet.
  • "Those teachers who approve of winging should explain how a winged foot fits into the classical line as a whole, to prevent winging from becoming an empty affectation."

Recital Survivor Guide for New Dance Parents

Recital time and preparations can be stressful and hectic, especially for parents of new dancers. They need extra coaching and tips so that every detail is accounted for, which makes for a smooth, fun recital. Here are some tips from that us teachers can give new parents who are new to the dance scene. (I added a few things that I've always found necessary to recital preparations. My additions are italicized.)

How to Prepare for a Child's Dance Recital
By Lisa Mooney, eHow Contributing Writer
Preparing your child for this important endeavor involves plenty of preparation for a smooth and successful event. The key is knowing what materials you will need as well as having them organized so you are able to help your daughter and family enjoy the big day.

Things You'll Need:

  • Suitcase
  • Dance costumes in a plastic garment bag
  • Dance shoes
  • Makeup
  • Costume accessories (hair pieces, ribbons, flowers, props, etc.)
  • Change of clothes
  • Change of shoes
  • Hair brush
  • Bobby pins
  • Safety pins
  • Cover-up
  • Baby wipes
  • Stain removing pen
  • Needle and thread (for costume rips)
  • Healthy snacks (full of protein for energy)
  • Water
  • Band aids (especially for Pointe dancers)  
Preparations Months Before the Recital
Step 1 Mark your calendar in advance. As soon as your child's dance teacher gives you the recital information, write it down in your appointment book and calendar. Also, create a reminder in your computer set a few days ahead so the date does not creep up on you.

Step 2 Pick up your child's costumes as soon as they come in. Try them on her or him and arrange for any necessary alterations. If an outfit comes with a hair piece such as a feature, be sure to find out from the teacher how it should be worn. Store the costumes in garment bags and do not allow your child to play with them.

Preparations The Week of the Recital
Step 3 Prepare a suitcase with recital essentials. These include makeup, costume accessories, all dance shoes, any props, a cover-up, comfortable clothes and shoes to change into, hair brush, bobby pins, safety pins, baby wipes and a stain removing pen (one safe for colored items). Arrange them neatly and accessibly as you will likely be going into the case multiple times.

Step 4 Plan your route to the venue if it is different from your child's regular venue. Look up the driving directions online and print them out. Make a trial run to ensure you can find it and to view the parking lot layout.

Step 5 Have your child to practice her routines in her costumes a day or so before the recital so she will be used to moving in it. Make any last minute adjustments as needed. (Most dance studios have a dress rehearsal to practice in your costumes and do not allow the dancers to wear the costumes at home. Check with your dance studio first before doing this. If the costume gets ripped or stained, the studio is not responsible and cannot fix or replace the costume, so take VERY good care of it!)

Step 6 Learn the order of the dances your child will perform. With this knowledge you will be able to have the costumes and dance shoes organized. For example, the first dance might require a tutu and ballet slippers while the next may call for a top hat and tails and tap shoes.

Step 7 Arrange for someone to take care of your other children if they are too young--toddler or infant--to enjoy the show. Dance recitals often run long and are a lousy environment for wee ones. You'll be happier and so will they if they can stay home with sitter.

Step 8 Elicit help from family members attending the recital. There is so much going before and during the recital that you are likely to feel overwhelmed if you do not have assistance. Take something off your plate, like asking someone else to be in charge of taking pictures and videotaping. (Videotaping and flash photography are strictly prohibited at most recitals.)

Step 9 Stay relaxed and calm and have a helpful attitude. The atmosphere backstage can be very hectic, but staying calm will help your child stay relaxed and ease stage fright. Leave the stress to those in charge, but help out whenever needed, if you are able to. It may seem like chaos and that the show won't happen, but it always comes together in the end. Remember to have fun and enjoy it!  

Step 10 Get to the venue early for the best seats. Latecomers will find themselves regulated to the nosebleed sections and make have to stretch to see other the heads of taller audience members in front of them.

Step 11 Take your child backstage when you arrive at the auditorium and leave her there as soon as she is settled. Make sure you attend to any restroom needs before departing but do not "hang around" unless she is upset and needs you. Most likely, there will be assigned volunteers as well as dance teachers to help with costume changes. Find out beforehand if you will need to return backstage between dances.

Step 12 Cheer for your child and all the dancers. Hearty applause is appreciated by performers. If your child cries on stage or forgets parts of her routines, it is not a disaster. Many children experience stage fright, especially during their first recital. Reassure her that you are still proud of her and encourage her to keep dancing. Remember that this is not a competition and is just a chance for your child to showcase their new skills. The more encouragement the child has, the better!

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Captivating Dance Photography

    I just love looking at gorgeous dance photos - especially ones where the dancers look like sculptures and works of art. Here are some I found that are especially unique. Enjoy!

    Weiford Watts Photography:
    Click on the link to see this series of dancers posing in hardscapes.

    Lois Greenfield:
    Lois has photographed for hundreds of well-known dance companies across the globe, from American Ballet Theater, to Alvin Ailey, to Australian Ballet, to Pilobolus Dance Theater. Click through her gallery to see some amazingly creative shots.

    Inspiring Words from a Ballet Dancer

    "I dance for those rare moments when everything comes together, when my body and mind cease to conflict and when I am absolutely present, when the steps just happen and I inhabit the music, when I don’t have to think because the dance has taken over." - Julie Diana, Pennsylvania Ballet Principal

    Ever really thought about why you dance? Maybe reading the passions of another dancer will help to put your own into perspective. Here, Pennsylvania Ballet Principal, Julie Diana, shared with Dance Magazine about why she dances, and it might be just the words you need to read to get through a tough ballet class and keep pushing onwards and forwards! Why I Dance: Julie Diana

    Julie Diana, Photographed by Alexander Iziliaev

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Glee Actress Heather Morris

    I don't know about you, but I'm nuts about Glee! There's something about musicals where everyone breaks out into random song and dance all at the same time that gets in your bones. And I can't get enough of Sue Sylvester's sarcasm and hilarious lines. Even though it's much more about music than dancing, Glee actress Heather Morris, who plays the ditzy blonde Cheerio cheerleader Brittany, was on the cover of Dance Spirit this month because she is also a dancer. In fact, she toured with Beyonce from 2007-08 and got her start on Glee by teaching the cast the choreography to "Single Ladies"!

    Here's a video of Heather performing "Single Ladies" with Beyonce!

    Check out this fun video where you can watch her photo shoot, hear her advice on getting into show business and what it's like to be on Glee.

    Here's the article than ran in the magazine about her.

    The Road to "Glee": Heather Morris Makes Her Mark in Hollywood
    Kate Lydon | May 1, 2010

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival

    “I believe that dance communicates man’s deepest, highest and most truly spiritual thoughts and emotions far better than words, spoken or written.” – Ted Shawn, Jacob's Pillow founder

    Ever heard of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival? This festival, commonly known as the Pillow, is internationally-acclaimed and the longest-running dance festival in the United States. It is held in Becket, MA at a national historic landmark which is the only landmark of its kind for dance. This year, it will be held from June 19 to August 29 and includes both free and ticketed events with dancers and companies such as Nina Ananiashvilli and the State Ballet of Georgia, Dance Theater of Harlem, Armitage Gone! Dance, Jacoby and Pronk, and many others. On, the festival:
    is lauded worldwide as a "hub and mecca of dancing" (TIME Magazine) and "one of America's most precious cultural assets" (Mikhail Baryshnikov)...Each year thousands of people from across the U.S. and around the globe visit to experience the Festival with more than 50 dance companies and 200 free performances, talks, and events; train at The School at Jacob's Pillow, one of the most prestigious professional dance training centers in the U.S.; explore the Pillow's rare and extensive dance archives; and take part in numerous community Programs designed to educate and engage dance audiences of all ages. 
    Companies such as Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Parsons Dance Company, and Trey McIntyre Project made their debuts at the Pillow, and international groups such as The Royal Danish Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theatre, Black Grace and Hofesh Shechter Company have made their U.S. debuts here.

    Its founder and creator, Ted Shawn, was a modern dance pioneer. He and his wife, Ruth St. Denis, ran the highly regarded modern dance company, Denishawn Company, which included other modern dance pioneers such as Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, and Doris Humphrey. Shawn bought the farm, on which the festival is held, as a retreat in 1931. The festival began in the summer of 1933, when Shawn began having "Tea Lecture Demonstrations" where he and his men dancers showcased their choreography and work to pay the bills. The first week of these demonstrations attracted 45 guests, and each week it grew so that by the end of the summer, they were turning visitors away!

    The Festival now attracts more than 80,000 visitors each summer to its performances, lectures, tours, films, exhibits, and talks with artists from all over the world. If you really are a true dance nerd, this an event you don't want to miss!

    For a more in-depth history, see

    Saturday, May 15, 2010

    More on Dance Careers - What can you do with a dance degree?

    James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, has a list of careers that a student graduating with a degree in dance can expect to obtain.  There are so many options, including ones in the healthcare industry that you might not have thought of!

    1. Professional Modern and Jazz Dance Companies
    2. Small Regional Ballet Companies
    3. Independent Choreographers/Individual Performers
    4. Young Audience/Artist in Education Companies
    5. Entertainment Companies (Amusement Parks/Cruise Ships/Reviews)
    1. University positions
    2. Community Colleges
    3. Magnet/Performing Arts High Schools
    4. Private and Public High Schools
    5. Community Recreation Programs
    6. Inner-city Programs
    7. Studios (As owner or employee)
    8.  Fitness Centers (Dance and Exercise Trainers)
    9. Senior Citizen Centers
    10. Professional Company Studios
    11. Special Workshop and Arts in Education
    1. Dance Therapy
    2. Physical Therapy
    3. Massage Therapy
    4. Dance for Special Populations (Seniors, Handicap, Emotional/Physically challenged, Children, Teens at Risk, etc.)
    5. Specialized Areas (Alexander Tech., Feldenkrais, Bartenieff, Yoga, etc.)
    1. Company Business Manager
    2. Publicist/Fund-raiser
    3. Special Project Coordinator (Arts in Education, City and County programs)
    4. Community Theatre or Arts Center Manager
    5. Booking Manager for Organizations
    6. Arts Festival Director/Arts Funding Advisor for a corporation
    1. Stage Manager for Dance and Theatre
    2. Production Assistant
    3. Designer (Lighting, Costume, Scenery, Sound)
    4. House Manager
    5. Festival Technical Coordinator
    1. Own and operate a Dance Studio
    2. Professional Performing Artist, Teacher and Choreographer
    3. Free Lance Designer
    4. Dance Critic/Reviewer
    5. Dance Historian/Author
    6. Dance Photographer
    7. Dance Videographer

    Alternative Careers in Dance

    I have been surprised lately to discover that many parents still view a dance career and education negatively, like it's not a "real" career, like a starving artist. I see this in the studio where I teach - I have some very talented, promising students with a passion and desire to dance, but no support from their parents to make it into a career. The parents want them to take a more traditional route, feeling that it is much more stable and better-paying. Having gone through that myself and knowing how incredibly difficult it is to not be able to follow your heart and dreams, I feel for these dancers. But, I know at the same time the parents feel they are helping their children and doing what is best for them. I think if they just had a little more education as to all the different paths a career in dance can take, they might feel differently.

    The traditional paths that we think of most include being a ballerina, owning a dance studio, and teaching. But what most dance-outsiders don't know is there is an array of options for someone with some dance education and talent. Getting a degree in dance is a great start as it will give you the connections and tools to start a solid career.

    In this article from Dance Magazine, Beyond Performance: Alternative Careers in Dance, writer Karen Hildebrand shares what some professional dancers did after their dance performance careers ended. These are careers that you could also enter to start your career in the dance field. One career this article doesn't mention is teaching dance in public schools including dance education programs, coordinating the dance teams, and teaching at performing arts high schools. Other careers include dance therapy, yoga instructor, gym instructor, physical therapist, and college dance professor.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Choreographer: Behind the scenes with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

    I love to get a behind-the-scenes look of dancers and choreographers. You get into the heart, creativity, and genius that goes into creating a work of art. In this video we see Belgian choreographer, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, working on"Orbo Novo" for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. He explains his style of "undulation" and how the movement never stops to keep the energy flowing. "Orbo Novo" premiered in July 2009 for the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. Polish composer Szymon Brzóska created the score for strings and piano.

    Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui - Orbo Novo process from Caleb Custer on Vimeo.

    Dancer Tips: Girl-Only Partnering

    Let's face it, girls, most guys run from dance studios. They still haven't gotten the hint that it could be their best opportunity yet to meet some cute chicks! Many of you will never get to do a pas de deux with a guy in your regular dance studio, but there is good news! Choreographers have gotten creative with girl-only partnering, making girl-only dances much more dynamic and exciting. And it's not just about traditional lifts that guys do so well, it's also about just physically interacting with your partner - interlocking limbs, counterbalances, and supporting each other.

    Dancer Jen Peters gave some girl-only partnering tips in Dance Spirit magazine. Check it out!

    Who Needs Him Anyway?
    A close look at all-girl partnering.
    When you think of “partnering” do you imagine the romantic Romeo and Juliet or elegant Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier Prince? While you are definitely right in some instances, partnering can come in many forms. In essence, partnering is any moment when two or more dancers are supporting, lifting or tossing each other, whether they are two girls, two guys, one girl and two guys, one girl and one guy—you get the picture!

    Today, even ballet companies have same-sex partnering in contemporary pieces, and some modern companies—like Urban Bush Women, Gina Gibney Dance, Lori Belilove and Company—don’t even have men. Knowing how to partner and be partnered by another girl is an important skill to develop, no matter what type of dancer you want to be. Read on for tips and advice about girl-only partnering from three NYC professionals: Samar Haddad King, artistic director of and dancer in Yaa Samar! Dance Theater; Maresa D’Amore Morrison, member of Urban Bush Women’s second company; and Helen Pickett, former Ballett Frankfurt (Forsythe) principal dancer, choreographer and modern partnering teacher at The Ailey School.

    Emotional Differences
    Before approaching the physical logistics of partnering another girl, it’s important to realize that you might feel strange about it due to your ingrained ideas about partnering—and that’s okay! Traditional male/female partnering fits into stereotyped gender roles, where the woman is light and delicate, and the man is strong and powerful. Fortunately, this is the 21st century, where girls can play soccer or cheerlead, be a science wiz or a homecoming queen. Same sex partnering melts the traditional mold into something cool and current, where girls can be strong and beautiful at once.

    While the physical differences from all-girl to co-ed partnering are obvious, the emotional aspects are more hidden. If you are used to being lifted and twirled by a guy, partnering a girl may be an ego blow at first. There is a sense of equality: You have to be willing to let go of the spotlight and just dance. “If a dancer cannot let go of her ideas and listen to someone else, then partnering will not work,” says Pickett. Say one girl is doing a slow hinge to the floor while the other counterbalances her weight by holding her hand and leaning away. If the support person is overly concerned with how she looks in her moment, she can’t tune into her partner. The “hinger” may crash to floor if her partner isn’t 100 percent focused on her movements.

    During the past year with Urban Bush Women, D’Amore-Morrison learned the importance of vulnerability and openness with her female partners. Communication is the key to problem solving, and blaming your partner for mistakes is not productive. “We are mature and intelligent as dancers, so we can talk to come up with solutions,” she explains. From King’s experience, sometimes an outside eye can find the answer to challenging partnering phrases. Just say, “I’m not understanding this part,” and you can work together to smooth out the moves.

    Back to Basics
     Now that you’ve decided to go with the flow in terms of female/female partnering, you can tackle the physical aspects. Fortunately, most of the technique correlates with what you already know! Remember when you first learned to plié? It was the base of ballet class, and no surprise here, it is the base for partnering. “Use your legs, get into the floor and anchor yourself,” explains Pickett. If someone is jumping into your arms or leaning onto your body, you need to be even more grounded and secure. Imagine yourself as a tree: The deeper your roots go underground, the less likely you are to fall over. “Even among men, the common misunderstanding is to lift and support from the arms,” says King. “The strongest part of the body on anyone is the legs.

    This is apparent even in a classic shoulder/sit lift: If the man pliés as the woman jumps up, he only has to use his arms to guide her safely onto his shoulder, rather than hoisting her up like a weight at the gym. The same lift with two women requires exactly the same technique, but more power and a higher jump from the girl being lifted. The lifter should keep her stance strong and her core engaged to create a safe base for her partner.

    Girl Power
    Of course, partnering is not quite as simple as a deep plié. Building and maintaining strength is also essential. “You can’t just wish a lift is going to happen!” exclaims D’Amore-Morrison. “We do daily push-ups, theraband exercises and a lot of core work to keep our bodies safe and strong.” When being lifted, your core and arm strength play a key role in making you as light as possible.

    Balancing Act
    In class, we get used to dancing solo. So in the beginning, learning to partner another girl can be scary, awkward and uncomfortable. An easy way to start is holding hands while each person leans back, without falling. This is called sharing weight or counterbalancing. Play around with varying levels, add rotation and really see how far you can go off your center of gravity. During Yaa Samar! rehearsals, King asks her dancers to connect with different body parts—hooking elbows, locking legs—to see how the weight shifts between partners. “We disconnect from our partners, add in a turn and then reach for the other person to find a balance point again,” explains King.

    Obviously, partnering requires dancers to get closer. You cannot be afraid to touch your partner, no matter how silly you may feel. In the early phases, partnering may be easier with a friend or familiar face, just to get past the uncomfortable stage. But even professionals laugh about partnering mishaps. Instead of letting it overwhelm the process, they get the giggles out and then get back to business! “When I dance by myself, I’m the driver of my own ship,” reveals D’Amore-Morrison. “With a partner, I have less control, which was hard to learn and requires more patience.”

    Step Together
    Open communication in rehearsal leads to an awesome partner-to-partner connection. Timing and breath are the final pieces in the partnering puzzle. If you breathe and feel each other’s rhythm, lifts and balances will meld seamlessly together and the two bodies can carve space together instead of alone. “Partnering is a conversation,” says Pickett, “not a monologue.”

    As with any skill, the road to improvement requires practice. But this is the fun type of practice. Partnering with girls makes you a more versatile dancer and increases your strength. So grab a partner, and start your own dance conversation!

    Jen Peters is a dancer with Jennifer Muller/The Works and is a frequent contributor to many dance publications.

    Kristen Weiser and Harumi Terayama of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet performing French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj's "L'Annonciation," recounting the Christian tale of the angel who visits Mary.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    New York City Ballet Workout

    The New York City Ballet workout used to only be a book, then it was a DVD, and now it's available on YouTube for FREE! I always wanted to buy the book, but was too cheap, so I held off. Now that it's on YouTube, I've been doing the workout at home and was surprised by how much it got my heart rate up and felt like a great workout. I also taught it to my dancers in their ballet class - they liked it and were sweating, red-faced, and out of breath. For a teacher, that's success!

    Here it starts with Part 1. There are 9 parts in all, and seems to be over an hour. Quite long, but I do the first couple of parts to get some cardio, stretch, and do abs. The voice-over is rather strange, but it makes it feel like you're in a ballet master class. See what you think!

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Bun Heads - Tips for a Gorgeous Bun!

    Do you sometimes get stuck in bun rut? Or would like tips from the pros on how they do a bun? Well, Annaheim Ballet in California has a great video on how to do a bun for long hair, short hair, and even African American hair. Check it out!

    Dancer Tip: Focus on the Rib Cage

    Paloma Herrera - notice how she looks very lifted and long, but her ribs are not splayed, or sticking out. The length is coming from her spine and back.

    Last week we focused on the arms and explained how they are connected to the back and shoulders. But did you know the placement of your rib cage also affects your arms? Not only that, it affects your head, neck and even lower back, so paying close attention to your ribs and keeping them from sticking out is very important to your overall body placement. Check out this article from Dance Magazine to get tips to improve your rib placement!

    Break Your Bad Habits: The Rib Cage by Lauren Kay

    The placement of the rib cage affects the placement of everything around it: the head and neck, the arms, the lower back. Splaying open the ribs or letting them slouch—even if it feels comfortable—can throw off your line and make your movement more effortful than it needs to be. To help you kick those habits, Dance Magazine spoke with dance medicine practitioner Deborah Vogel; master Horton teacher Milton Myers; and Lupe Serrano, ballet teacher at the JKO School at American Ballet Theatre.

    Habit: Splaying the ribs Dancers often pop the rib cage out and up to achieve extra height and presence. But this hyperextended position “appears stiff, tight, tense, haughty, and unattainable, though that’s often not the characterization the dancer wants,” Vogel says. Serrano agrees: “The problem starts with wanting to appear elegant and regal. But style should not interfere with the neutral position.” Myers adds that the lift can result from “trying to feel like you are up on top of the legs, but this distorts the rib cage—and the entire line of the body.”

    Break it: Vogel says this problem is often more mental than physical. Many students have a limited awareness of the rib cage’s full three-dimensional range and its relationship to the breath. “The rib cage is like an umbrella,” she says. “When you inhale, the sides expand and the pole of the umbrella, or the spine, stays tall and straight. When you close the umbrella, or exhale, the pole stays in its erect position and the umbrella simply folds around it.”

    She suggests a simple exercise for developing awareness of the ribs. “Wrap a Thera-Band around your rib cage,” she says. “Breathe in and notice how the Thera-Band—and your ribs—move laterally in all directions. Also notice that the height of your rib cage doesn’t change. Do this three times with an equal length of your inhale and exhale. Then try it with the exhale twice as long to make sure you aren’t holding your breath.”

    Serrano asks her students to focus on the shoulders and back. “I tell a dancer with an overextended rib cage not to carry the shoulders behind the hips. Align them with the hips, and rely on the back more than your chest for pull-up.” Also think of knitting together the space between the pubic bone and sternum and maintaining a strong connection between navel and spine.

    Habit:  Slouching In contrast to thrusting the rib cage forward, some dancers drop the rib cage back and down. This can result from overtucking the pelvis, which causes the upper body to sink backwards. Myers thinks this tendency stems from neglecting alignment during breaks. “My teacher, Joyce Trisler, explained that dancers tend to ‘prepare’ and put the body in proper alignment,” he says. “But in between exercises, we slump. Unfortunately, the body remembers the slump because you’re doing that for more time than the exercise.”

    Break it: “Joyce told us to imagine someone holding your leotard or shirt in the back and pulling it taut,” says Myers. “Your front expands to the sides and this helps to develop the back muscles. Then, that becomes what your body remembers.” Whether warming up or resting on the sidelines, this image can help you energize the upper body and bring the rib cage into a more upright alignment.

    Vogel suggests focusing on the separation of rib cage and spine. “Length is actually achieved with the spine, not the ribs,” she explains. “Articulate and elongate the spine, and the ribs should simply hang around it.” Finding this length, she adds, “requires building strength between the shoulder blades. Try twisted push-ups against the wall.” Stand with both hands against a wall, arms straight, so that your torso is facing the wall but your hips are twisted to the side. Bend your arms, keeping the elbows close to your body, and push back up. Do 10–20 reps on each side, once a day. “If you can get the back stronger,” Vogel says, “the shoulders will come back and the rib cage will move into its proper position so you can stand tall and straight.”

    Lauren Kay is a contributing editor at Dance Spirit magazine.

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    Top Ten Ballets - Swan Lake

    American Ballet Theater - Act II Scene I - when the hunter, Siegfried, finds out that the beautiful swan is actually the princess, Odette.

    Based upon Russian folk tales and an ancient German legend, Swan Lake tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse.

    [Excerpt taken from] The ballet begins while Prince Siegfried is hunting, and sees an amazing swan. As he takes aim to shoot, the swan turns into a beautiful woman. The woman, Odette, tells the prince that she is a princess who has come under the spell of an evil sorcerer. During the day she must be a swan and swim in a lake of tears. At night she is allowed to be a human again. The spell can only be broken if a a virgin prince swears eternal infidelity to her. She tells Prince Siegfried, who happens to be a virgin prince, that if he refuses her she must remain a swan forever.

    Prince Siegfried falls madly in love with Odette. However, through a spell by the evil sorcerer, he accidentally proposes to another woman at a party, believing that the woman is really Odette. Princess Odette feels doomed. She threatens to kill herself and throws herself into the lake. The Prince feels terribly sorry and throws himself into the lake with her. In an incredibly touching moment, the two are transformed into lovers in the afterlife.

    Swan Lake Trivia
    • Music composed by Tchaikovsky (his first ballet score), and originally choreographed by Julius Reisinger.2
    • It premiered in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as The Lake of the Swans 
    • Many versions were created afterward, since it was not well-received.1 Most ballet companies today base their choreography and music upon the 1895 revival (almost 20 years after the original), choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov for the Mariinsky Theater (now the Kirov Ballet). For this revival, Tchaikovsky's score was revised by the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre's chief conductor and composer Riccardo Drigo.2


    Saturday, May 8, 2010

    Partnering Tips

    Dmitri Roudnev, a former soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet, has a video on that won the Dance Teacher magazine Editor's Choice for Video of the Month in February. In this excerpt from his full-length DVD, "Partnering with Dmitri Roudnev," Roudnev focuses on the placement of the male dancer's hands and how they should shift as she changes positions. His partner in the video is former Bolshoi soloist, Irina Zibrova.

    For more videos from Roudnev, check out his website and online store at . He also has an entire collection of ballet class music, based on his own technique and class philosophy, which focuses on strong accents and tempos. 

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Top Ten Ballets - Sleeping Beauty

    The Bluebird Variation from Sleeping Beauty

    Leanne Benjamin & Errol Pickford in the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty

    [Excerpt taken from] As the ballet begins, baby Princess Aurora is being christened. A wicked fairy, Carabosse, storms in and curses the baby, as her invitation to the event had been overlooked. The curse states that on her 18th birthday, the princess will prick her finger and die. However, the Lilac Fairy weakens the curse. She proclaims that instead of dying, Princess Aurora will fall into a deep sleep for 100 years. She will then be awakened by the kiss of a handsome prince.

    During Aurora's 16th birthday party, a mysterious guest (Carabosse) offers her a gift...a lovely spindle. Aurora pricks her finger and the whole court falls into a deep sleep.

    Several years later, the Lilac Fairy produces a vision of Aurora which Prince Desire notices while hunting. The Prince is led to the castle, where he battles the wicked fairy, Carabosse. After the battle, he kisses the sleeping princess, upon which everyone wakes up. A beautiful and joyous wedding ceremony follows.

    Photo: Carlotta Brianza and Paul Gerdt in the 1890 production of the Sleeping Beauty by the Mariinsky Theatre

    Sleeping Beauty Trivia
    • Music composed by Tchaikovsky, and choreographed by Marius Petipa2
    • The premiere performance took place at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1890. The work is widely regarded as Tchaikovsky's finest ballet score, and has become one of the classical repertoire's most famous ballets.2
    • Tchaikovsky's three ballet scores include Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.2
    • Sleeping Beauty, or La Belle au Bois Dormant, is based upon the classic fairy tale from 1697 by Charles Perrault, Contes de ma Mère l'Oye ("Tales of Mother Goose")2
    • Aurora is one of the greatest and most challenging female roles, as it demands tremendous athletic ability as well as extremely clean technique.1 
    • At the wedding, many other fairytale characters appear as wedding guests - Puss in Boots,  the White Cat, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and even Cinderella.2


    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    Dancer Tip: Focus on Arms

    Here is a beautiful example of how Alina Cojocaru's arms and head are just as important as the difficult Pointe work she does with her feet and legs. Her hard work and effort is not reflected in her upper body, which is the trick to making something difficult look easy. The arms finish the movement and give it artistry.

    With so much focus on legs, extension, pointed feet, the back and core, it's easy to forget about our arms. Yet, arms are the icing on the cake, they complete the package of a dancer, and start and finish every movement. They tell the story, show the character, and can either add gracefulness and poise, or awkwardness and stiffness.

    In this article from Dance Magazine (April 2010), writer Lauren Kay offers advice from professionals on how to break bad habits with your arms to get the grace and artistry you need to take your dancing to the next level. (here's my skinny version)

    Arms can be the ultimate signature of a dancer’s artistry.  “How a dancer uses the arms has a profound influence on the quality of movement,” says Carinne Binda, co-artistic director of Sacramento Ballet. “And it’s a true sign of artistic maturity. If you haven’t made the choice of engaging the arms expressively, the dance looks static.” Dance Magazine spoke with Binda, as well as Nan Giordano, artistic director of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, and Megan Richardson, physical therapist at Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, for advice on using the arms expressively—and with strength.

    HABIT: Droopy arms A wilted port de bras is no way to captivate an audience. According to Richardson, “The tendency toward droopy arms happens when a dancer tries to hold a long, heavy arm without support from the back and scapula.” She adds that this habit also arises from trying to appear graceful or soft. Binda agrees: “There is a lot of confusion between being soft and being weak. They aren’t the same thing.”

    BREAK IT: “Instead of engaging the small arm muscles, which can’t hold the arm up themselves,” says Richardson, “use the larger back muscles—especially the lower and mid-trapezoids. Think of pulling each scapula in and down toward your opposite back pocket, forming an ‘X’ of support across the back.” Binda notes that in warm-up, the upper body deserves as much attention as the legs. “At the barre, even in pliés, do different port de bras and plenty of cambrés to get the arms ready to dance.” Giordano suggests imagining the arms moving through water to give them a strong, pliable energy.

    HABIT: Not engaging the back Without a connection to the back and core, arms can look not only droopy but also disjointed, as if stuck onto a mannequin. Balancing arm movement with core and back strength is essential for freedom of movement in the arm itself. Think of the arm as a lever: The farther it reaches from its origin (your core and trunk), the more strength and connection to that origin is required.

    BREAK IT: Richardson believes that the first step to engaging the back is understanding the physics of the body. “The arms are attached to the spine through the scapula and clavicle. They come from the back anatomically. The arms, core, and spine deeply affect each other; the relationship goes both ways.”

    Giordano suggests this exercise for sensing the arm/back connection: Stand in front of a partner. One partner tries to keep their arms in “long jazz arm” position—“a classical rounded second, with elbows facing back and palms facing the floor”—while the other presses down on the forearms. “This helps you find your back and center,” she says, “and a feeling of resistance and power in the arms.”

    Binda sees integrating the arms with the back as a matter of making firm artistic choices: “Consciously choose how you use your arms as part of the whole-body movement. Do you want your arm to finish or lead the movement? Do you want the motion to be lyrical or sharp? Considering these things will help you connect your arm to your back and core, where all movement starts.”

    HABIT: Tense, brittle arms In contrast to droopy arms, some performers battle stiff arms accented by tense hands. Binda says this tension can come from holding the breath or isolating the arm, “thinking of it as a separate, rigid fixture, instead of connected to the entire movement.”

    BREAK IT: “Think of the air and movement of the arms as you dance, instead of bones and muscle,” Binda suggests. “Tense arms are counterproductive! You aren’t launching a 747 jet, even when you jump.” Richardson adds that moderate weight-lifting can enhance stability in the shoulder, which diffuses tension in the arms. “With control from the shoulder and back, the arm can be loose, fluid and articulate,” she says. “But if you think of holding your arm up with your arm, there is tension that can’t be escaped.”

    Top Ten Ballets - Romeo and Juliet

    Here is the most famous scene from the ballet, with London's Royal Ballet greatest, Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. After this performance, their partnership became famous.

    [Excerpt from] The ballet begins with feuding between the Capulets and the Montagues. Wearing a disguise, Romeo Montague crashes a party at the Capulet house, where he meets Juliet Capulet. He falls instantly in love with her. The two secretly proclaim their eternal love for each other, on the balcony.
    Hoping to finally put an end to the family feud, Friar Laurence secretly marries the couple. But the feuding continues: Juliet's cousin Tybalt kills Romeo's friend Mercutio during a fight. A distraught Romeo kills Tybalt in a fit of revenge, and is sent into exile.

    Juliet turns to Friar Laurence for help, so he devises a plan to help her. Juliet is to drink a sleeping potion to make her appear dead. Her family will then bury her. Friar Laurence will then tell Romeo the truth; he will rescue her from her tomb and take her away, where they will live together happily ever after.

    That night, Juliet drinks the potion. When her distraught family finds her dead the next morning, they proceed to bury her. The news of Juliet's death reaches Romeo, and he returns home desperately grieving. (He never received the message from Friar Laurence.) Believing that Juliet is really dead, he drinks poison. When Juliet awakens, she sees that Romeo is dead and stabs herself.

    Romeo and Juliet Trivia
    • Even though Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet back in the late 1500's, the ballet was not created until 1938!
    • Sergei Prokiev composed the score in 1935, after being commissioned by the Russian Kirov Ballet, but the full-length ballet was not presented until 1938 in Brno, Czechoslovakia. However, it is better known today from the significantly revised version that was first presented at the Kirov in Leningrad in 1940, with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky.
    • The ballet did not premier in America until 1969, when it was performed by the Stuttgart Ballet. The first American ballet company to do the ballet was the Joffrey Ballet in 1984.
    • Here is a brief timeline of the ballet's most famous performances:
      • 1962 - Stuttgart Ballet (Germany), choreographed by John Cranko
      • 1965 - Royal Ballet in London, choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev brought new life to the characters.
      • 1985 - Hungarian National Ballet, choreographed by László Seregi in Budapest
      • 1984-85 - Joffrey Ballet was the first American ballet company to perform the ballet
      • 2007 - New York City Ballet, restaged by Peter Martins to the Prokofiev music
     Lauren Cuthbertson as Juliet dances with Edward Watson as Romeo, of the Royal Ballet in 2006 Photograph: Dee Conway

    [All trivia taken from]

      Wednesday, May 5, 2010

      Top Ten Ballets - The Nutcracker

      Here is the Russian Bolshoi Ballet performing the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Grand Pas de Deux. This is my favorite version of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

      Based on the book, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by E.T.A. Hoffman, this ballet is the most famous and well-loved of all. It takes place in Western Europe in the 1880's, and centers around a little girl named Clara who is given a Nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She falls asleep and dreams that the Nutcracker comes to life as a prince. They travel around the world and have adventures in China, India, Russia, and in magical lands where candy abounds.

      Nutcracker Trivia
      • Composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky in the 1890's, near the end of his life2
      • There is a debate as to who choreographed the ballet - Marius Petipa began the work in 1892, but his assistant of seven years, Lev Ivanov, stepped in to take over when Petipa fell ill. The most famous version, however, was created in 1954 by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet.1
      • Mikail Baryishnikov restaged the ballet in 1976 for the American Ballet Theater and challenged Balanchine's version as the most popular one. Baryshnikov omitted the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince Koklyush, and gave their dances to Clara and the Nutcracker. They not only perform the entire pas de deux usually danced by the Fairy and Koklyush, but also take part in the Waltz of the Flowers and the Final Waltz. In addition, although the Mother Ginger and her Clowns music is heard, we never see Mother Ginger herself, only four court jesters who perform the dance.1
      • First performed at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia1
      • Hoffman's original story was modified quite a bit in order for the ballet to be suitable for children1
      • The 1892 premiere of The Nutcracker failed with both the public and critics. Unfortunately, Tchaikovsky never knew what a huge success the ballet became, as he died less than a year later.2
      • Tschaikovsky was asked to use the celesta, a new instrument, to make the music for the Sugar Plum Fairy sound like the "sprays of a fountain."2
      • Tschaikovsky based the music for the Arabian Dance on a Georgian lullaby.2
      • The Sugar Plum Fairy's dance with the Prince is probably the most famous pas de deux (dance for two) in ballet.2

      3. Photo: New York City Ballet

      Tuesday, May 4, 2010

      Choreography: If a picture is worth a thousand words, isn't a dance also worth that?

      When is a dance considered successful? I went to a student-choreographed performance at a performing arts high school this weekend and found myself wondering which pieces were the "best" and why.

      There were several pieces that really stood out - one was about how one person can make a difference, another was an entertaining piece about the circus, another about the concepts of fate and chance, and the last about the relationship between a mother and daughter. I loved the piece about making a difference - there was a dancer in black and two in white and they fought most of the dance to radio bulletin voice-overs from wars and the Civil Rights movement. It ended with quotes from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream Speech," then the dancer in black shouted "I am only one, but I can make a difference!" It was powerful, gave me chills, and I felt like I could make a difference afterwards!

      I GOT that piece - it was powerful and made sense, unlike many of the other pieces that obviously had a message, but I was lost and confused by the end of the dance. I found myself wondering if the other dances I didn't understand were somehow unsuccessful, or if the choreographer failed to communicate, touch or entertain the audience. The pieces I liked the best, so it seems the rest of the audience did, too, by the loud clapping and cheering that ensued.

      I think it goes back to the age-old idea that art is subjective. Maybe the pieces I didn't understand, someone else did. Or, if no one understood (or even liked the choreography) but the choreographer and dancers did understand and were touched or changed in some way by the choreographer's message, then it touched some.

      I think sometimes as choreographers, like artists, HAVE to create something to cleanse our minds, vent, or express something very strong within us. And if no one else understands it, but as artists we are purified and strengthened by our work, is it still unsuccessful? I compare it to the  modern art many of us look at and think a four-year-old could do, yet, it's worth thousands of dollars. Maybe dance is the same way. Some of it, we just won't understand or feel anything afterwards. As for me, though, I have a very strong desire to connect to my audience. I want them to feel something afterwards, make them think, or simply entertain. But it takes thought, skill, and planning to create a piece that clearly communicates your message.

      Because if a picture is worth a thousand words, so is a dance, as it can speak louder and more clearly than words, and people actually listen.

      Top Ten Ballets - La Sylphide

      La Sylphide danced by the Paris Opera Ballet, with Mathieu Ganio, Aurelie Dupont and the Corps de Ballet. Mathieu reminds me of Baryishnikov, with his ability to fly!

      [Excerpt taken from] On the morning of his wedding day, a Scottish farmer named James falls in love with a vision of a magical sylph, or spirit. An old witch appears before him, predicting that he will betray his fiancee. Although enchanted by the sylph, James disagrees, sending the witch away.

      All seems fine as the wedding begins. But as James begins to put the ring on his fiancee's finger, the beautiful sylph suddenly appears and snatches it away from him. James abandons his own wedding, running after her. He chases the sylph into the woods, where he again sees the old witch. She offers James a magical scarf. She tells him that the scarf will bind the sylph's wings, enabling him to catch her for himself. James is so enamored by the sylph that he wishes to catch her and keep her forever.

      James decides to take the magical scarf. He wraps it around the sylph's shoulders, but when he does, the Sylph's wings fall off and she dies. James is left all alone, heartbroken. He then watches his fiancee marry his best friend.1

      La Sylphide Trivia
      • First performed in Paris in 1832
      • Originally choreographed by Philippe (or Filippo) Taglioni, who created it for his daughter, Marie Taglioni, who went on to be one of the world's best dancers of her time. The surviving version of this ballet was choreographed by August Bournonville in 1836.1
      • Considered the first romantic and longest surviving ballet, or ballet blanc (white ballet) for the scenes where ballerina and female corps de ballet all wear white.2
      • Often confused with the ballet Les Sylphides, which is about forest spirits, but the two are completely unrelated.
       Photo: Martin Mydtskov Rønne Dancer: Gudrun Bojesen of the Royal Danish Ballet


        Monday, May 3, 2010

        Top Ten Ballets - La Bayadère

        Nikkya's death scene - Paris Opera Ballet, 1992. Dancer: Isabelle Guerin

        Watch the Paris Opera Ballet's Corps de Ballet perform the Kingdom of Shades scene (not able to embed it). You dancers out there will appreciate the extreme difficulty of executing arabesque fondues over and over again for an entire FIVE minutes! Talk about serious lower back cramps! Then, to go from that to perfect formations, gorgeous developpes, and more arabesques. Only the Paris Opera can make it look so perfect and flawless, and these aren't even the Etoiles!

        This ballet, set in 19th century India, has all the makings of a juicy soap opera - an exotic dancer, a warrior, a love triangle, murder, drugs, revenge, ghosts, and true love.

        La Bayadère (which means Temple Dancer or Temple Maiden) tells the story of the Bayadère Nikiya and the warrior Solor, who have sworn eternal fidelity to one another. The High Brahmin, or high temple priest, however, is also in love with Nikiya and learns of her relationship with Solor. Moreover, the Rajah Dugmanta of Golconda (or ruler) has selected Solor to be the fiancé of his daughter Gamzatti, and Nikiya, unaware of the arrangement, agrees to dance at the couple's betrothal celebrations.
        The jealous High Brahmin—in an effort to have Solor killed and have Nikiya for himself—tells the Rajah that the warrior has already vowed love to the Bayadère over a sacred fire. But the High Brahmin's plan backfires when, rather than becoming angry with Solor, the Rajah vows that Nikiya should be the one who must die. Gamzatti, who has been eavesdropping on this exchange, summons Nikiya to the palace in an attempt to bribe the Bayadère into giving up her beloved. As their rivalry ensues, Nikiya picks up a dagger in a fit of rage and attempts to kill Gamzatti, only to be stopped in the nick of time by Gamzatti's aya (or maid). Nikiya then flees in horror at what she had almost done. As did her father, Gamzatti vows that the Bayadère must die.

        At the betrothal celebrations Nikiya performs a somber dance while playing her veena (an Indian musical instrument). She is then given a basket of flowers which she believes are from Solor, and so begins a frenzied and joyous dance. Little does she know that the basket is from the Rajah and Gamzatti, who have concealed beneath the flowers a venomous snake. The Bayadère then holds the basket too close and the serpent charges forth and bites her on the neck. The High Brahmin offers Nikiya an antidote to the poison, but she chooses death rather than life without her beloved Solor.

        In the next scene the depressed Solor smokes opium. In his dream-like euphoria he has a vision of Nikiya's shade (or spirit) in a nirvana among the star-lit mountain peaks of the Himalayas called The Kingdom of the Shades. Here, the lovers reconcile among the supreme opulence and order of the shades of other Bayadères (in the original production of 1877 this scene took place in an illuminated enchanted palace in the sky). When Solor awakes, preparations are underway for his wedding to Gamzatti.

        In the temple where the wedding is to take place the shade of Nikiya haunts Solor during his dances with Gamzatti. When the High Brahmin joins the couple's hands in marriage, the Gods take revenge for Nikiya's murder by destroying the temple and all of its occupants.

        The spirits of both Nikiya and Solor are reunited and spirited off toward the Himalayas.1

        La Bayadère Trivia
        • Originally performed by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1877
        • Choreographed by the great Marius Petipa to the music of Ludwig Minkus
        • La Bayadère is an important connection between the romantic and classical eras of ballet, where the ballerinas wear the shorter classical tutus when doing ballet roles, but there are still many romantic movements and La Bayadère predates the major romantic classics by several years.2
        • Bayadère is French for an Indian temple dancer. In Russian it is called Bayaderka, the Russian word for an Indian Temple Dancer.2
        • The Kingdom of the Shades, the last scene from the ballet, is one of the most celebrated excerpts in all of classical ballet, and it is often extracted from the full-length work to be performed independently. It is also one of the most difficult men's variations that exist, with very large jumps including cabrioles and a beautiful manege (dancing in a circle) at the end.1
        • The Bronze Idol, (also called "Golden Idol" and "Little God"), is an incredibly demanding men's variation. Dressed only in a dance belt and headpiece, the dancer paints his entire body gold for this variation.2

         Adiarys Almeida of Corella Ballet dances in Natalia Makarova's "La Bayadere"; credit: Rosalie O'Connor/Corella Ballet

        Sunday, May 2, 2010

        Top Ten Ballets - Giselle

        Mikhail Baryishnikov performs Albrecht's variation from Act II with the Willis. Notice how he defies gravity!

        Giselle is set in the Rhineland of France in the middle ages during the grape harvest. The story begins when Giselle falls in love with a nobleman named Albrecht, who has captured the girl’s attention while masquerading as a farmer named Loys. However, Hilarion, a hunter, is also in love with Giselle and warns her against trusting this stranger. When Giselle finds out that Loys is not only a liar, but is a liar with a fiancée, the young peasant girl with a weak heart dances herself to death and becomes one of the Wilis, the virgins who have been cheated out of their marriages by death.

        Albrecht, who is still in love with Giselle, visits her grave and she appears as a ghost before him. He asks for her forgiveness, and against the will of the Willis, she grants it to him and disappears again. Hilarion enters the last scene, also to visit Giselle's grave, and then is thrown to his death in a lake by the Willis. The Willis then pursue Albrecht and sentence him to death, but Giselle protects him and her love saves him from the Willis. By not succumbing to feelings of vengeance and hatred that define the Wilis, Giselle is freed from any association with them, and returns to her grave to rest in peace.

        Giselle Trivia
        • Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot choreographed the original version of Giselle, but the most popular version includes the revisions of Marius Petipa.
        • Originally performed in 1841 in Paris, France at the Ballet du Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique
        • The ballet was conceived by the influential French poet, author, and critic Théophile Gautier.
        • Giselle was created to honor the ballerina Carlotta Grisi, an Italian ballerina, whom Gautier not only admired for her dancing, but with whom he was in love. 
        • Gautier was inspired by a passage from Heinrich Heine's 1835 poem, De l'Allemagne

        © State Ballet of Georgia