Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Who would've thought?

Remember that post where I said "Metamorphosis" should be a ballet?


It's kind of late and my first day of work is tomorrow (I'm interning at Pointe Magazine in New York! Ahhhhh!) but I stumbled upon this while I was browsing the interwebs and like. Woah. So I HAD to tell you guys about it, of course.

Here is the article by the New York Times. The photo above is taken from that article. I actually came across it because Pointe interviewed the dancer who plays Gregor, Edward Watson, in their latest issue.  And I was reading that article really carefully because I recognized Watson from this video, a documentary of the Royal Ballet's class, and he stands out. Because he's a principle dancer. And also because his butt is awesome.

But I digress. I've been looking into ballets that aren't as "classic" as say, Giselle or the Nutcracker, because I've been given the opportunity to be a little more involved in the behind-the-scenes for my studio's student recital next year. (Not going to go into detail because I know some of the dancers from my studio read me.) It's a ways away but I want to get some ideas rolling right now. The first of my ballet binge watching is this:

I really loved this production of Peter Pan. It was as magical as it needed to be, and comical with just a hint of sadness. From a technical standpoint, I think they did rely a lot on the set and on hooking people up to ropes so they could "fly," but the stylistic choices were perfect; the way Peter's dancing is purposefully a little off balance, and how he sort of jumps from one step to the next without sustaining. It's well integrated into his dances with Wendy, even though there wasn't reeeeally a distinct grande pas. I thought the acting in the show was hilarious, too.

I'll keep you updated as I watch more full ballets! NYC is a blast so far. (The metro kills me though.) Wish me luck tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Guess the dancer?

Hi everyone! Today I was lucky enough to have a very famous dancer guest-write for me. See if you can guess who they are by the end of their post!

Hello. I have been asked to take a moment of my valuable time to write a guest post on some of today's ballets and ballet dancers. Very expected, as I am a ballet legend, if you will pardon my saying so. That said, I will be talking only about American ballet dancers, as I think that Russian dancers are not very interesting, they are just irrelevant in my view, except for Ratmansky, who is one of the greatest choreographers of this generation of ballet dancers, and I am glad that he got out of Russia.
Ratmansky with dancers. Photo from nytimes.com

I am not interested really in talking about classical ballet anymore. As I became older I did other types of expression, acting, modern dancing, theater, being on television. Still, I will talk a little about it, because I know there will be some people who will benefit from my talking.

Obviously, the young dancers lack a certain air of maturity, but I think that Megan Fairchild is quite good. She is a principal with the New York City Ballet right now, so you know she is familiar with Balanchine style of work, which I am very much a fan of, you know.

Gillian Murphy has a lot of strength and command in her dancing. She is a principal with both the American Ballet Theater and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and she is well known for her performance in Swan Lake. She is a bit tall for a ballerina, but I think in her case it does not matter. Her fiancĂ© Ethan Stiefel is tall as well, so they appear regular on stage together. Ethan is leaving New Zealand, it has only been a few years, so that was quick, but sometimes you just need to leave the country, I know.
Murphy and Stiefel in Don Quixote. Photo from robertaonthearts.com

I already said that the Russian dancers are boring, but I also believe you can tell if someone is going to be a good dancer, is going to be famous, by looking at their face, and Daniil Simkin has the look of a passionate dancer. When I say boring, I am referring to mostly the women. American dancers are sometimes more difficult to dance with because they are heavier; with the Russian women you do not have to worry about that because they will push their bodies more; but the American dancers have more feeling in their bodies, there are things you can do to lose the weight, although I would not recommend any longer some of the things I recommended in my younger days. It is good to preserve your body.

I hear people say that Simkin is the next me, but I do not think so. There is no one that is the best, there is just being better than yourself, so he can not be me. He is young and has long to go. But he is not bad.
Daniil Simkin in Le Corsaire. Photo from cloudandvictory.com
The last thing I will talk about is upcoming performances in the D.C. Metropolitan area, because this is where the peasant person writing on this website lives. The only place worth my talking about is the Kennedy Center. The Bolshoi Ballet's Giselle is almost over, but I do not recommend it anyway. It was reviewed well by the New York Times, but I do not recommend it for obvious reasons.

Ballet Across America by the Boston Ballet will be running for a brief time. There will probably be some good pieces in there. After that, the Pennsylvania Ballet will be doing A Midsummer Night's Dream. Normally this is nothing special, but it is in the style of Balanchine, so perhaps I would check it out. However, if you do not have the luxury as I do, of going to performances whenever whatever because of the money, here is what I will say, do not go to any of these, and save for next year. The ABT has something good in March, and they are a good company, they are good people, even though I left them to work with Balanchine. 

If you have not guessed who I am by now, you should learn to be an intelligent and cultured human being. Anyone under thirty should watch me here so you remember me as a dance great and not just as Aleksandr Petrovsky from Sex and the City.
Me. And Sarah Jessica Parker. Photo from HBO.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ballet Fashion

Technically I should be writing a paper on Medieval and Renaissance Literature right now, but this just came up on my facebook feed:
Yes, just, yes.

Which obviously necessitated listening and dancing to "It's Gonna be Me" fourteen times.

And now the literary juices just aren't flowing (Thanks Obama.) so I might as well go on my favorite time-wasting, online store ever, Discount Dance Supply, and pine over beautiful dance wear that I put on my wishlist but never buy.

My favorite items to look at are the leotards and the warm up clothes, because if I stare at them long enough I can imagine myself wearing them. Dance clothes are freaking expensive, but discount dance usually has decent prices. Right now I'm obsessed with 3/4 sleeved leos and warm up sweaters.

Like this:
Find it here.

My friend has that one, I really like it. I also think I saw someone wearing it on TV but I can't remember who or what show...
Or this, which I actually bought (yaaaaaaaaay) and LOVE:

It is beautiful.

Even though it sort of forces my shoulders back, which my teacher doesn't like. On the plus side, it makes me remember that she doesn't like shoulders back and I actively think about keeping them forward.
And this:
Overall warmup!

which I would like but is going on the wishlist because I don't really need it right now because I just bought this:
Except in black.
Actually... a lot of the stuff I've been buying recently is black. I think that's the direction my studio is trending right now. Like when I was still in middle school/early high school and my friends and I were obsessed with wearing spandex shorts like this:

Get'em here.
That was an unfortunate phase. Those are cute, don't get me wrong, but they just did not look good on everyone. I have one very petite, small-framed friend who looked bomb in them, but the rest of us not so much. Eventually I realized this and ashamedly switched back to skirts.

A lot of studios require their students to wear black leotards, light pink tights, and no skirts, (some studios have a preferred leotard) but my teacher said whatever is fine as long as the skirts aren't too distracting and all the warmups are off by ronde de jambes so she can see up properly. So "normal" clothing at the studio ranges from a sweatshirt and sweatpants to skirts and leg warmers. My personal preferences for a regular day are:

A pair of full body tights.
That's kind of risque for this blog. Get it here.

They're very comfortable and I like not having to worry about the weird line that regular tights give you when they end and gives you a muffin top even if you don't have one.

A leotard like the one I bought (above). A sweater like the one I bought (above) or like this:

Which I also own in black
Black leggings, over the leotard and under a pretty skirt:
I really like the longer in back ones, but lately I've been wearing this dark blue floral one that I couldn't find a picture of.
And a pair of leg warmers:
These are nice and warm, and I like that they have the stirrup.
All those pictures were from the discount dance website, and you can find those specific products in the links in the captions. Sometimes I'll go skirt-less, if I need to focus on my hip alignment.

It can be jarring to go from rehearsing in your own clothes to rehearsing in costumes though. When I was new to dancing the Marzipan Mirlitons, I got a very pretty purple tutu that the previous owner had for some damned reason cut in the crotch so that instead of a regular leotard, it was more like a thong leotard. (I don't know if that's an actual thing but I'd guess assume not.) It was literally the most uncomfortable performance of my life. Actually, there was the time I had to wear a child's size small, mustard yellow unitard. Usually I can work with my costumes, though.

Anyway, now that you have all fallen neatly into the trap of procrastination I have set, and wasted hours of your time making you wish, as I have, that you could buy everything on DiscountDance,  probably listening to 90's pop as well, I should probably let you all go do productive things in life. Have a lovely week!

I wish I could wear a leo and tights all the time.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stories that are not ballets that should be


So it's nearing the end of the semester, which means my friend and I who are in charge of my ballet club have to sit down and suffer through trying to figure out how to put on the performance we promised all our bright new recruits at the beginning of the year. This has proven to be not easy, but while I was brainstorming I realized that there are a ton of fantastic stories that some people consider un-balletable, that can't be put into ballet format. Let me just tell you now: they're wrong. I shall now present to you my findings, a number of tales that should be made into ballets.

Harrry Potter
Now think of how great they would all look in tutus. Photocred to hellogiggles.com.
So what if it's seven books long and would probably need two thousand acts? All that stuff after chapter one and before the end of Deathly Hallows isn't that important anyway. You want three acts? Act One: Harry goes to Hogwarts and meets Dumbledore and learns magic. Act Two: Snape kills Dumbledore and runs away to live happily ever after with Voldemort and Harry cries. Act Three: Harry beats Voldemort in a charged dance that involves other people dressed in spandex unitards and sparkly capes romping around being the magic. If we're feeling ambitious, we can even stick in a prologue where Voldemort scars baby Harry. Bam. Done. No problem.

The Hunger Games
They're already in costume and makeup! Photo from lisathatcher.wordpress.com.
Ballet is all about tragic death and love triangles, so Hunger Games fits right in, easy. There are so many moments that would translate fabulously to ballet, like when Katniss kills people, or when she kills people, or like, when she kills people. The only possible flaw in this is getting all the dead people off stage after they die, since we can't exactly hover them up in space crafts. But if you just stick in some pas de deux make out scenes with Peeta or Gale, I'm sure no one will notice.

Hilarious comic by zombiebackrub on deviant art.
This has the potential to be an awesome ballet because it would explore dance as a form of expression for insects! Plus, it's a tragedy. It's probably every ballerina's dream to perform as a giant cockroach anyway. It might not fill seats, since people generally don't like looking at roaches even when they aren't human-sized. On the plus side, the set would be super easy because all of it happens in one room.

Men in Black
Photo taken from perezhilton.com
Just imagine Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones rushing about the city with their cool, shiny guns and zapping aliens, except instead of just running like amateurs, they'd be doing all sorts of leaps and pirouettes! I don't know how easy it'd be to dance in black suits, BUT if we're doing the first movie, we can reuse the cockroach costume from Metamorphosis! Thrifty, hey.

Life is But a Dream: The Beyonce Documentary
Those ballet heels look like the most uncomfortable shoes ever. And I wear pointe shoes on a daily basis. Photo from analoguechic.com.
I don't think this needs to be said, but, Beyonce. So yes. Never mind that Beyonce is a singer and ballet lacks any verbal communication. People would go to a Beyonce ballet just to see her point to the left. And think of all the cool things we could do with a ballet version of Single Ladies! Beyonce's life is such an amazing story that it is necessary to be documented in any form of media or expression possible. While we're at it, we should ballet-ize Justin Bieber's documentary too! Wait, no.

Photo from DeviantArt user Evil-Ai.
Guy ballet dancers are super fit, and Bruce Wayne is super fit, therefore, Batman should be a ballet. The climax could be a pas de deux between Batman and the Joker. We could get one of those holster/rope/pulley thingys that send people flying through the air. For an added touch, catch some real bats and put them onstage.
A few other ballet-able stories worth mentioning are Star Trek, Dragonball Z, Finding Nemo, The Terminator, Pokemon, and the Bible. Anyone else think of any?

For some reason my friend didn't consider my brilliant ideas very useful, but eventually I'll get around to putting them together and then I'll get full credit. In the meantime, Bolshoi, ABT, Mariinsky; get on it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Hey everyone. I hope you’re all having fantastical adventures in your respective lives. Me? Yeah, I’m doing pretty well. But right now I just have to take a moment from my life to stop and vocally (typing-ly?) puzzle over something that I’ve been confused by for a long time. 

Three year olds. 

Photo courtesy of luvimages.com

Over the brief span of time I have been teaching pre-ballet, there have been times when I literally have to just stand there and wrack my brain attempting to comprehend these… creatures. This is a short compilation exemplifying what I have witnessed:
  1. Children who are completely at peace at one moment, then wildly bawling the next. 
  2. Children violently throwing themselves into the mirror. Then laughing hysterically. Repeat.
  3. Children asking me, “Do you know about taxes?” Then saying, and I quote, “Taxes are like woh woh, woh woh!” 
  4. Children who get a turn at “ballet duck-duck-goose” and then never. say. goose. 
  5. Children getting down on all fours and sniffing the floor repeatedly. 
  6. Children who, when I inquire if they are pretending to be a dog by crawling around and sniffing the floor, look up, stared at me wordlessly, and then proceed to crawl and sniff some more. 
  7. Children demanding “doughnuts on our rainbows!” What does this mean? I have no doughnuts. 
  8. Children spanking my butt. 
  9. Children laughing when I say, “butt.” 
  10. Children who for some inexplicable reason, do not want to be Cinderella, but really, really, REALLY want to be the birds that bring Cinderella her ribbon...?
  11. Children who, instead of doing skips across the floor, decide to climb onto an imaginary witch’s broom and fly across the floor, cackling evilly. 
I mean, what? Just… what? I do not… I feel like my brain has lost the ability to comprehend. I guess I can understand wanting to be a bird, but what am I supposed to say when a small child says, “My mommy and daddy fight all the time”? Stepping into that room is always a movement into the unknown, except the unknown generally involves sparkles and gallops and endless repetitions of “don’t touch that!” Fortunately, I can almost always appreciate this.

Anyways, just had to get that all out. See you soon!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ballet on Campus

This week my university class had a challenge to write a blog post related to the school, so I’ve decided to talk about being a college ballerina, something that hasn’t been extremely easy. I know a lot of girls stop dancing after they go to college, either because there aren’t opportunities or because they get busy with college life, but I honestly think that if I had stopped dancing I would have… well, I just couldn’t, probably. I would have gained fifty pounds, been unable to get out of my room without rolling, and died.

To start with, my school is about an hour from where I live and dance, and graduating high school, I was (and still am) very dedicated to the company I dance with. On the plus side, I’m able to keep up with what I love to do, and after coming to college and meeting a lot of different types of people, I know how important it is to be able to do that. On the not so plus side, I have to commute at least twice a week, usually more, to my hometown by bus at times that are pretty much the least convenient times ever. But I firmly believe that if you love something, you will almost always make time for it. And anyway I know people with worse schedules!

Photo from Google. While I'm posting cat photos...
The other thing is dance opportunities on campus. My school has a decent dance program and they offer ballet classes for credit, and of course, there are clubs. Generally, most ballet clubs are audition required, but at my school there’s an awesome ballet club that requires no experience, has drop in classes and is taught by two of the best people ever!

(Ahem. I’m one of them. :D)

A friend and I thought that some students who maybe don’t have the most experience, or maybe none at all, would like to have a space to practice technique or just try out ballet! We weren’t expecting much, but at the beginning of the school year she quit the other ballet club, we did all the paperwork, and got our organization approved. And it has been waaaaay more popular than we thought!

Photo from Google.
Turns out that all the little five year olds who wanted to be ballerinas (or ballerinos!) grew up into eighteen, nineteen, and twenty year olds who still want to be ballerinas and aren’t afraid to look a little dumb before they get the hang of it! And it also turns out that I am not as horrifying at teaching as I thought.

Anyways, to sum that lengthy, self-absorbed story up, if you’re going to college and thinking of giving up dance, DON’T! There are plenty of opportunities. Even if there’s nothing on campus, there might be a few studios in the area with low drop-in rates. Don’t be the one who has to roll to class.

I will never apologize for irrelevant kitty photos.
Comment below if you have any other ideas for college dancing, or any experiences you'd like to share! See you soon.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Conquering Competitiveness

Finally, a chance to perform your dream role has arrived! Whether it’s Giselle, Kitri, or Juliet, you’ve longed for this opportunity since the day you met your first pair of pointes. You think, no, you know that you can nail the part. The only problem is… so can your best friend.

Audition time! Photo taken from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. 

So my company has several shows a year, to be specific, three: one in the spring, one in the summer, and one in the winter (ps: it’s Nutcracker). But we also have a not-so-official performance halfway between the spring and summer shows. This show is a student recital, and is exclusively for dancers high school age or younger so they can show off their fabulousness without being overshadowed by older, perhaps more experienced dancers. Usually the best parts in this recital go to the seniors, although this is not always the case. You may be wondering what this has to do with the dramatic scenario I’ve just set up above, but don’t worry, I’m gettin’ there.

This past week when I was called in to sub a class, I noticed that two of the girls whom I know to be best friends, let’s call them Drizella and Anastasia, were not being quite as chummy with each other. After the class I observed a conversation between them that went something like this:

Drizella: I’m so nervous for casting for the recital!
Anastasia: Oh my gosh I know. But I feel like you’re going to get Cinderella.
Drizella: Oh my god no, I feel like you are!

Photo from Google.
Commence incessant giggling and shallow flattery during which each girl comments on how the other is going to get the lead role but each is secretly hoping they’ll get it themselves. I know this is what was happening because my friend, I have been there. Auditioning against friends is something I feel is pretty relevant at least to my experiences, but not something I could find a lot of resources on. This blog post is aimed a little more at younger dancers, but really for anyone going through any audition process.

My friend and I. We used to rival each other for parts all the time. Photo from me!

As auditions roll around, you may find yourself up against friends you’ve danced alongside for years. I used to feel jealous of girls I thought were better than I was, or guilty towards girls I thought I was better than. Even though you know you shouldn’t, it’s hard to keep from comparing yourself to your competition—sometimes it’s pretty frickin' impossible. Do not fret, my dears, for this is completely normal and sometimes even good. An ambitious attitude is healthy in moderation. What’s important to remember is to channel that competition into, not away from, your focus, and to not let your studio relationships become strained. In the end, whichever of my adorable students gets Cinderella won’t really care if she has to dance that part without the other cheering her on.

A (sort of crappy) shot of me during the RCB's production of Macbeth a couple years ago. 

It’s tempting to distance competitors, but they can actually give you one thing that no one else can: they’re going through the exact same process as you. Coming together and exchanging ideas for character development or tips on how to extend your developpe would benefit you and your rival, and give you an edge over other competitors. Having talented friends grow alongside you actually pushes you more, whether consciously or not. In fact, some of my closest friends are ones who I’ve gotten beaten down for parts, or whom I’ve triumphed over. These are the people who know what you’re going through.

Of course, sometimes tense relationships are inevitable. If you find there’s an irreparable rift, it may be time to move on. This doesn’t mean you should cast them aside; rather, remember that a success for one dancer is a success for all, proof that it can be done. Above all, no matter who’s chosen, keep a professional and respectful attitude during and after auditions: it makes an impact on your director and it just makes the overall performance more fun. Personally, I'd rather be a stepsister!

The silly stepsisters and Cinderella from the English National Ballet. Photo taken from ENB's site.

PS- Here’s a list of audition tips that I think is awesome. Feel free to share audition stories below!