Friday, January 14, 2011

Can Turnout Be Improved? Advice from an Orthopedic Surgeon

Dancers are forever trying to improve their turnout, but according to this orthopedic surgeon, who was interviewed by Dance Magazine in "The Dancer's Hip", degree of turnout is determined by the architecture of your hip and there isn't much you can do to improve it. The surgeon warns against forcing turnout, especially for dancers with hypermobile joints who are very flexible. These dancers are very prone to tears, damage within the hip joint and can even slip the hip out of joint if turnout is forced.

So, what if your turnout is not naturally "good?" Not to worry - there are famous ballerinas who were known for bad turnout and still had great success. Ballerinas like Anna Pavlova, who is considered one of the greatest dancers of all time as a principal dancer for the Imperial Russian Ballet. There are plenty of other qualities besides turnout that make a dancer great - artistry, grace, strength, passion, flexibility, perseverance and ambition. Focus on the qualities that naturally set you apart and strengthen those rather than worrying about the qualities you can't change.

Click here to read the article in its entirety:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Focus on Your Head

So often I see dancers who neglect to use their heads and shoulders when dancing, or use them improperly. It is the difference between a beginner and advanced dancer - advanced dancers really dance with their whole bodies, making it look easy and natural. When just one part of the body is not used correctly, it can throw off the aesthetic and quality of the dancing. I have been working very hard in my classes lately to focus on the head and eyes, starting at the barre, and have seen great results. My dancers are finally dancing more in unison and their dancing has taken on a beautiful, new quality.

Here's an article to help teachers teach proper head and shoulder placement in class - "How to Use Correct Placement in the Head and Neck for Dancers". Another reference is a previous post, here on Dance Nerds Unite - "Improving Port De Bras"

The four main bad habits the author says dancers make with their heads are:

  1. Holding tension in or straining the neck
  2. Focusing the eyes in a different direction than the head
  3. Jutting the chin, or lifting it too far
  4. Throwing the head, rather than controlling movement
Check out the article at the link above for more info!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More on Summer Study - Company School or Conservatory?

Once you've decided to do a summer dance program, it can be a daunting task to decide which one is right for you with the plethora of choices. One way to divide and conquer is to split the choices into two categories - company school versus conservatory. Here are some videos to help you, and an article from Dance Magazine that breaks it down - Dance Magazine: Summer Study Guide 2011: Conservatory vs. Company School.

The main difference? Company schools offer you exposure to join the company, while conservatories offer small class sizes with individualized attention and a chance to join their year-round school. Company schools include San Francisco Ballet School, Miami City Ballet School, School of American Ballet, and any other school at a professional dance company. Conservatories include The Rock School for Dance Education, The Nutmeg Conservatory, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and Harid Conservatory.

Here, some San Francisco Ballet students share their summer intensive experiences at SFB.

Here is a video from The Rock School for Dance Education on their summer intensive.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How to Teach a Pirouette

I loved finding this article and video at Dance Teacher magazine on how to teach pirouettes because it is definitely one of the most important skills a dancer needs to master. Here, former New York City Ballet soloist, Katrina Killian, shows just how to teach a Balanchine pirouette, which includes a straight back leg and all weight on the supporting front leg. For more details than the video provides, read the accompanying article: "Technique: Katrina Killian: How I Teach a Pirouette".


Monday, January 3, 2011

Fresh Choreography Ideas for Recitals

I think one of the hardest things to do year after year as a teacher is to come up with fresh and innovative choreography for recitals and competitions. It is key to that the choreography appeals to audiences who might not be dancers (like parents), appeals to dancers, challenges your students, pleases judges, and is different from last year! I just have to share this choreographer's work with you, as she has some very entertaining and creative pieces, that could give you the inspiration you need to tackle the 15 dances you have to choreograph for this year's recital!

I recently discovered her on YouTube as I was desperately searching for inspiration of my own, and found tons of her work there. Introducing...Kate Jablonski! She has her own dance company, Beyond Words, located in Westmont, Illinois. Here's her website with a video gallery of her best work. May you also be inspired!

Jazz/Contemporary Warm-Up

I've been looking for new elements to include in my contemporary and jazz class warm-ups and came across this video that Dance Teacher Magazine featured back in September 2010 Technique: Shelia Barket: How I teach a warm-up. It's Shelia Barker's, a Broadway Dance Center teacher, jazz dance warm-up and includes some yoga-like poses (downward dog, squat) and is very relaxing. I know my students will love how it warms up the torso and back and helps all those muscles relax and prepare for technique.