Genée International Ballet Competition App Free app gives users exclusive insider view

2013 Genée Ballet Competition Winners

I was recently made aware of a free app for dancers! The Genée International Ballet Competition 2013 app (Genée app) is for iPhone, Android, and tablet users and is free to download. The app was designed to give users a unique view inside the flagship event of the Royal Academy of Dance since 1931: the Genée International Ballet Competition. Last September the event was held in Scotland where 58 dancers from 14 different countries trained for nine day to compete on stage at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow.

Contenders performed a solo of their choosing as well as a traditional variation from a Petipa, Ashton, or MacMillan ballet. Those who moved into the Finals also performed a female or male variation choreographed by Canadian Robert Binet.

2013 Genée Ballet Competition Winners

2013 Genée International Ballet Competition Winners and Judges

The app was produced by Dance Gazette, the magazine of the Royal Academy of Dance. It is very intuitive, with instructions on how to navigate to follow the week long journey of dancers in the competition. You can watch videos, look at pictures, read information, and bookmark sections you might want to return to again. If you ever get stuck on a screen with no indication of how to close it or how to move to another screen, just tap the center of the screen and you’ll be returned to where you were.

The Genée is an extraordinary experience. Competing internationally and being seen by artistic directors is a great opportunity. Past winners have gone on to have fulfilling careers in the best companies around the world.” – RAD President and prima ballerina Darcey Bussell CBE

2013 Judges Christopher Hampson, Darcey Bussell, and Kevin O’Hare.

2013 Judges Christopher Hampson, Darcey Bussell, and Kevin O’Hare.

The videos allow you to see each day of the event through short narrations by Artistic Director Lynn Wallis, with dancers active in the studio and on stage in the background. She tells what it means to be a part of the competition and what the experience provides to all the dancers, not just those who win. Each video is best viewed landscape, but you must then turn your phone back around to get back to the app.

Ballet App Screen ShotThere are pictures and quotes throughout of previous winners, judges, accompanists, and other involved in making the Genée successful. You can click on the + to see the caption for a picture and click on the “ (quotation mark) for quotes. It doesn’t take long to get a feel for the competition’s atmosphere and the app is fun as well as educational. This was a fantastic way for the Royal Academy of Dance to share this annual event with the public!

For more information, to buy tickets to the 2014 Genée competition in Antwerp, and to download the app, go to:  https://www.rad.org.uk/achieve/the-genee/genee-2013-1/videos-and-photos

 

 

Super Stars Interview Helping Kids with Special Needs

At the Fair

At the Fair

Today we share an interview with Colby Nielson, a dance teacher in Palmer, Alaska. His family has started a wonderful project using dance as a means to touch the hearts of people with special needs.

Q. How did the Super Stars Begin?

A. The Super Stars came from an idea when my mom, Michelle Deemer, and my sister, Shanelle Gangstad, went down to speak at a national special needs convention. While there they saw a singing group that was made up of people with special needs. They liked the idea so much that when they returned home they wanted to start a dance team with special needs, dance being big in our background. They rented a small 12×12 space and Shanelle began teaching a few of her friends from the special needs program at the high school, which she was heavily involved in. From those original 5 we have grown to 25.

Q. Other than building and space limitations, what are some other
challenges you have faced?

A. Some other challenges include not being able to increase price above $5
a class due to low budgets of our students, not being able to change the
time/day of the class due to our special needs students being very
strict on their schedules and not doing well with change. We have to
deal with providers being the ones who take them to class so getting to
talk to their gardians or parents is almost always through third party.
Trying to schedule performances is tough because they often have special
olympics activities on the weekends and again with the having to stick
to a same schedule all the time.

1. What is your favorite memory or experience with the Super Stars?

2. My favorite memory was at a dance and cheer competition when we were asked
to do an exhibition. My dancers got on the mat and as soon as the music
came on every single person in the gym started clapping for them. To say
their faces lit up was an understatement. To see the support in the room
for my group was almost overwhelming (but in a good way!)

Q. What is your vision for MVD Dance?

A. To grow to where we can be a day-hab facility for people with special
needs and continue to service individuals with special needs as well as
other children in need. Such as foster children or low income families.

Q. What would you like your students to get out of your studio?

A. For our special needs program, we would like to continue to promote
inclusion & continue to help the special needs people to feel included.
Not only that but to show everyone in our community and anywhere we can
that dance is for everyone. That special needs people are just that,
people like you and me. We also would like the kids to continue to feel
like the are part of something positive. I feel when kids can enjoy
positive activities in a positive social environment it helps them grow
as people and can help keep them on a straighter path to a brighter future.

Q. What is the next step in helping your students succeed in your studio?

A. To service them as we would like, we need to get a larger space that we
can renovate. We currently only have one studio and it is on the smaller
side. The renovation would allow for at least two studios and both would
be larger than the one we currently have. We would also renovate to be
more handicap friendly. Most importantly we need to be on the bottom
floor so those in wheel chairs and with other disabilities that can not
make it due stairs would be able to participate.

Q. What do you need to overcome to take the next step in growth with your
studio?

A. In order to continue to service as we would like to we need to raise
enough money to get into a larger space and hopefully our own building
that we can renovate. Our Kickstarter is our aim at bringing in funds to
be able to take that next step that we wouldn’t be able to with out it.
Unfortunately the goal we put on there is the bare minimum in order to
get into the next biggest space. Ideally we need about five times that
to really complete the next step we want to take. We understand that we
would rather reach our goal and take two or three steps towards that
then spend the time and have received nothing out of it.

To take a look at our kickstarter campaign (video, pictures, rewards, and the project in further detail) please go to http://shorten.candesign.us/ibss.

some-in-the-studio

Rond de Jambe a terre 3/4

Begin 5th position R foot front

1               Tendu R to side
2-3           Temp lié onto R (stay in fondu) and tendu L, port de bras away from barre
4               Temp lié to point tendu R, arms 2nd
5-8           Rond de Jambe en dehors 4 times finishing point tendu front on count 8
1               Close 5th position plié
2-3           Releve passé to developpé derrière
4               Close sous-sus back
5               Plie 5th position
6-7           Relevé passé inside leg to developpé derrière
8               Close sous-sus back
1               Tendu front in fondu on supporting leg
2-4           Straighten and rond de jambe en dehors 3 times
5               Finish lifting leg to 90° front (arm to 5th en haut)
6-7           Grand rond de jambe en dehors to arabesque
8               Close 5th position back
1-4            Grand port de bras forward with inside leg front in 5th position
5-8           Grand port de bras back with inverted arm
1-24         Repeat all en dedans
25-32      Grand circular port de bras in sous-sus and balance arms 5th en haut

The “Triad”: Are You at Risk?

Ballet dancers

Whenever you think about nutrition in the United States, chances are you wonder why Americans consume so much food.  When you read the government’s 2010 statistics, which show that one in every three Americans is obese, the seriousness of the problem is quite obvious.1  Dancers are generally not affected by this problem because of the frequency and intensity of the mere act of dancing.  From a young age, you have studied and learned the details of form and technique – you’ve slowly developed a unique, personal style that helps you express your deepest feelings and emotions.  A dancer’s body curls, lengthens and spins creating an illusion, becoming art.

That artistic instrument that is your body requires certain amounts of fuel, in the form of food that will be burned while taking classes, rehearsing and performing. There is a syndrome that alters the body’s functions when the amount of calories burned is more than the ones that you eat – this syndrome is called the Female Athlete Triad and it affects dancers and other athletes who are required to maintain a slim figure.2  This syndrome is referred to as a “triad” because it has three components:  1. decreased energy, 2. abnormal menstruation and 3. weak bones. The syndrome typically starts when your body burns more calories than the ones you consume. Some dancers aren’t aware of the fact that they’re not eating an adequate amount yet others do it consciously because they are afraid of weight gain. You can tell this is happening to you if you are losing weight, feel constantly tired or there is a constant sensation of coldness in your hands and feet.3  If this happens for a long period of time, your menstrual cycle will be irregular or it could stop for a few months. An irregular or absent menstrual cycle will subsequently affect your bone health and this can eventually lead to osteoporosis (weak bones) and fractures.

“Some dancers aren’t aware of the fact that they’re not eating an adequate amount yet others do it consciously because of fear of gaining weight.”

The Female Athlete Triad affects adolescents and young adults who participate in sports like long distance running, diving, gymnastics and dance.  The components of the Triad can happen independently.  You could be eating well and still have absence of your menstrual cycle for several months.  This occurs to many athletes who participate in intense training and the cause is usually that their percent body fat is below 22%. 4  If your menstruation is abnormal, contact your health care professional because you could be at risk of developing osteoporosis and other health problems. [Read more...]

Bilateral Cheilectomy Facing the fallout from years of dancing en pointe

Xray showing closed space at base of big toe joint

One thing I never imagined when I was dancing were the effects it would have on my body later in life. At the peak of my dancing career, my chiropractor said he hoped I could walk when I was forty. I laughed. But it stuck in my head. And here I am on the other side of 40 and I know if he could see me now he’d be singing, “I told you so!”

Dancing was a most glorious part of my life, although it was short-lived. I was healthy and took care of myself, and mostly dealt with sore muscles and fatigue. But while practicing a lift with my partner I somehow came down and landed on his shoulder. The lift was a hard one, because my sense of where I was in space was totally off. He threw me up so I was horizontal to the floor and then I was supposed to twist 2 or 3 times coming down. This was right before my graduate concert in which I was dancing three different roles, including a modern solo that involved a lot of jumping and crouching and rolling on the floor (I was a “sprite” or “elfish creature”). Another piece was choreography by my partner and had some corps dancers, and the last was the bedroom scene in Romeo and Juliet. This choreography was pretty contemporary and also involved some unusual lifts that made my ribs hurt on a good day!

We patched up my ribs with bandages that matched my skin and wrapped it around a few times. It was tight but I could still breathe. No one could see it under my costumes. Still, it was probably foolhardy to go on with the show, but as dancers do, we went on with the show! It was the last step before I graduated and left Arizona, and it had to be done. The show went fine but my ribs were sore for a long time after that. [Read more...]

Center Adagio 3/4 or 4/4

Ballet Combination

Center Adagio Combination

5th position R foot front croisé
1-4          Developpé to ecarté devant R leg
5-8          Carry R leg to croisé  devant in fondu supporting leg and change arms
1              Step forward onto R leg croisé
2              Lift to attitude croisé  derrière
3-6          Promenade in attitude to straighten to 1st arabesque in fondu
7-8          Pas de bourrée to 5th position croisé  L foot front
1-3          Developpé front foot (L) to 1st arabesque on R
4              Fondu on supporting leg
5-6          Pas de bourrée to 4th position croisé  in plié
7-8          Pirouette en dehors to finish in attitude croisé  derrière
1-4          Promenade en dehors in attitude with both arms 5th en haut
5              Developpé back leg thru to relevé croisé  devant
6              Tombé onto R leg croisé  devant
7&8        Contretemps, chassé pas de bourrée to the right finishing L foot front 5th croisé
1-32       Repeat all from other side

Center Pirouette Waltz

Ballet dancer posing on pointe

Begin 5th position R foot front, en face

1-2          Tombé R, pas de bourrée to 4th position (en face) preparation plié
3-4          Pirouette en dehors to cou de pied devant in fondu
5              Relevé and extend R leg 45° side (arms 2nd)
&             Fondu on supporting leg and cou de pied R foot back
6&a        Pas de bourrée en tournant to 4th position croisé  - lunge prep for pirouette en dedans
7-8          Pirouette en dedans on R to finish L foot front 5th en face
1              Balancé to R
2              Balancé to L
3-4          Soutenu turn to R finish 5th position croisé R foot front
5              Tendu R croisé devant
6              Lower to 4th lunge prep for pirouette en dedans
7-8          Pirouette en dedans to finish L foot front en face
1-16         Repeat all to L

Turns across the floor 2/4 or 4/4

Tendu croisé  devant in upper L corner of room

1-2    Piqué turn en dedans
3-4    Soutenu turn to 5th plié
5-6    Pirouette en dehors from 5th to fondu on supporting leg, extending working leg 90° front
7-8    Fouetté turn

Patience, Perseverance, and Punctuality What Dance Can Teach Us About Life

What-Dance-Can-Teach-Us PPP

I’d love to take a poll to learn why parents enroll their children in dance. My parents did it because my friend who lived next door took tap and ballet and taught me everything she knew. She adored her teacher, and since I simply couldn’t get enough out of my friend (and because I knew I wouldn’t get real tap shoes unless I took a real class—I used patent leather shoes as a substitute), my parents were subjected to my begging until they relented.

For those parents who aren’t sure their money couldn’t be better spent elsewhere, I’m writing this series of posts about what dance can teach about life. The first in the series was awareness and poise. Today I’m going to tackle what I call the P trio: patience, perseverance, and punctuality. They intermingle a lot, so it seems appropriate to put them together.

Patience-is-a-virtue

Patience comes first. Anyone who takes ballet can attest to the fact that double pirouettes and going en pointe do not happen overnight. So, first of all, as a student you learn that you must be patient with the process. This means that you take classes that your teacher recommends and you know that when you’re ready to move to the next level he/she will move you up. Within the process, you must also be patient with your own development, with your ability to pick up combinations quickly, and with any physical barriers that might not play in your favor. Being patient with the process as a whole and with yourself as you struggle through the personal process of becoming a dancer are vital to steady progress.

And so it is in life, no? We all know patience is a virtue, and most of us are fairly capable of being patient with others, but how many of us are patient with ourselves? From dance I learned that it’s okay to be confused the first time you’re introduced to something. It’s a good idea to watch others who do it better and figure out what they’re doing differently too. The best thing dance has taught me about patience is that I don’t expect to be a whiz the first time I try anything new. I know I just have to keep applying myself and that over time I may (or may not) become a whiz at it.

Persevere-and-get-it-done

Perseverance is an important trait in a dancer. Remember the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”? Well, it’s undeniably true! Not only is perseverance important, in a dancer it is pretty much imperative. I remember feeling such satisfaction when I could finally watch and learn a combination well enough to stand in front at the barre. For years I had to stand between people so that I had someone to follow when I forgot what came next! Okay, so then I eventually felt confident to stand in front or go in the first group in the center as well. But THEN came pas de deux (or partnering) class… Now we can really talk about patience and perseverance! When you begin working with someone else these two qualities are essential.

What’s exciting about learning perseverance from dance training is that the whole process, as with patience, relies on diligence. For example, a dancer takes class daily. It doesn’t matter how good you become; you still have to take class every day if you’re to maintain the strength and technique you’ve achieved (and you can always improve). It continues after class and into rehearsal as well. How many times do we repeat pieces of choreography before we’re ready to perform it onstage? You really don’t have a choice in the matter—“do it again” is a common refrain in rehearsals. Even if you did everything right, you have to work with everyone else in the piece which means exactly where you’re standing at any given moment has to line up with where everyone else is standing. Keeping lines straight, staying equidistant, synchronizing your arms and where to focus your eyes…getting all of these things right means doing it over and over again. And then when you move from the studio to the stage you must block everything again to make it work on stage.

For me, dancing gave me the gift of perseverance that I’ve applied to my life in numerous ways. I don’t expect things to be perfect without a lot of fine tuning. I don’t give up halfway through a project I’ve begun. Sticking with something to completion is huge, and I owe my ability to finish what I start to the training I received in ballet.

I-never-could-have-done

Punctuality is last, but not least. Knowing you should be punctual and actually being punctual are two separate beasts. Punctuality isn’t about your good intentions. You are either on time, or you’re late. When I had to rely on a parent to drive me to ballet classes in another city I was often late. It wasn’t my fault! But it didn’t matter, because late is late. I dreaded walking into class after it had started because many teachers wouldn’t allow you to just pick up where everyone else was. If you missed plies then you had to do them on your own and catch up as quickly as you could, and that is if your teacher allowed you to do this. Sometimes you can be so late to class that catching up isn’t even possible, so you have to sit out and watch.

You can bet that whenever I have to be somewhere now, I am very VERY rarely late. Early is best, but on time will do. When you go to ballet class on a daily basis you quickly learn that being late has consequences you’d rather not deal with, and so you get into the habit of giving yourself more than enough time to get there. Personally, I think punctuality should be a virtue. When we’re late for appointments we are stealing the time of whoever is there waiting on us. Tardiness (to me, at least) is inconsiderate. So as someone once said, “Better late than never, but better never late!”

And so it is that patience, perseverance, and punctuality are wonderful characteristics bestowed upon those who dance. Each one is a necessity, and each one can easily be applied to any area of life as well. What I’m trying to say here is that so many life lessons are learned in dance training that it doesn’t matter if you end up dancing for a livelihood. Those hours spent in the studio are not for naught if you end up in law school, nursing, banking, or home-making. So many valuable lessons have been learned and so many respectable character traits have been developed during that time, making whatever you set out to do in life more easily attained.

An Interview with Pianist Massimiliano Greco

Greco at the piano

Many dancers don’t realize how fortunate they are to have live piano music during their ballet classes. Now that I’m writing about dance, I’ve decided to search around the world for some of these pianists who make their living playing for ballet.

I was astounded when I first heard Massimiliano’s music for ballet class. His music is not only played with the technical expertise of a concert pianist, it is soulful, unique, soaring. And now I have the great honor of introducing my readers to Massimiliano Greco, composer and pianist. He works for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo and is currently the Main Pianist and Music Director for the Académie de Danse Princesse Grace. Here is some of his music for adagio at the barre.

“What most impressed me, and I have to say, even surprised about Massimiliano Greco is his total adjustement, because of being an exquisite pianist and musician, not only to the demands of the dance, of which he is humble and devoted accompanist, but the sensible and intelligent introspection in the ballet world. He follows, underscores the rhythms, the cadences and the fascination of dance, so with him, masterfully, you can listen to dance and see the music.” –Alberto Testa, Dance Journalist, writer of dance books

Massimiliano Greco

Massimiliano Greco

Inside Ballet: At what age did you begin your piano training?

Massimiliano Greco: I started to study piano at seven years old and it was very casual. I remember I was with my parents at a friend’s house and there was a piano. My mother asked me to try to play it. It took not so much time to understand how it worked and I began to improvise with one finger. Since then I can say that I have always played piano.

Inside Ballet: How did you come to begin accompanying ballet classes?

Massimiliano Greco: When I was younger, I never thought of playing for the ballet. I was trained to become a concert pianist. In fact, towards 1992 I had already done a lot of concerts.

Then unfortunately I had a car accident that stopped me for one month. In that period of sadness I tried other jobs as a pianist. There was a small dance school near my home and someone told me that I could play the piano for ballet classes. I asked the school and they let me try it. And even if I was a little “shocked” from the different working situation, it went really well!

Inside Ballet: What is it that you enjoy most about playing for ballet; what is it that makes you want to continue doing it?

Massimiliano Greco: At the beginning I was interested as a composer. I liked the possibilities of creating a communication between the phrases that drew the dancers in with their arms and legs and phrases of musical melodies. Still now, each time I find dancers capable of connecting their movements with the phrasing of my music something special happens in the air…that’s Art! In that moment I think miracles are possible. In my life I’ve met many passionate dancers and I’m sure I’ll meet many others with whom I’ll create an artistic atmosphere, an artistic communication. Music and dance together can change the world and make it better.

Many dancers and ballet masters asked me to record CDs for their classes, so I made a collection of 12 CDs for ballet classes and choreography. Now I can say that my music is known in many parts of the world.

Inside Ballet: How does someone learn to play for ballet classes? Are there piano books for ballet accompanists, or do you have to find music and put the musical selections together yourself?

Massimiliano Greco: When I started I didn’t know anything about playing for ballet…for me it was very far from my knowledge as a musician. My luck was in starting with RAD syllabus. They have fixed music scores and so I immediately started to understand what kind of music is good for pliés or for a frappe etc. In any case there’s not much, talking about books, about playing for ballet. And about the scores there’s more, but the pianist has to do personal research creating his own repertoire for the exercises in the class.

Usually pianists get their experience playing day by day but many of them give up because at the beginning the work can be very hard and difficult to understand from the normal training of a pianist.

That’s why I decided to teach other pianists to play for ballet. In my academy I’m responsible for a complete “Ballet Pianist Course” to train pianists for this job.

Inside Ballet: Do dance accompanists connect to discuss new ideas with each other (online or otherwise)?

Massimiliano Greco: At the moment there’s not a special connection between ballet pianists. Personally, I know some colleagues all around the world, but they’re casual contacts created from specific occasions. In fact, I want to create an official database of all the ballet pianists in the world—pianists who work in ballet companies, professional academies and freelance ballet pianists—a sort of official professional ballet pianists’ register. Then my idea is to organize an international meeting in which we can meet each other and we can play for classes with the support of ballet masters and dancers. I hope to start the organization of this project in the next season.

Musical Selections and Contact Information

To listen to more of Massimiliano Greco’s music for ballet class or for choreography check out his website Musicaedanze – Music for Ballet Class. He also has a blog at massimilianogreco.blogspot.it.

For more information on ballet class CDs, you may email him at [email protected]

Greco accomplished his musical studies and graduated with the highest marks at the Conservatory of Music “N.Piccinni” of Bari, studying with Maestro Hector Pell. He also studied musical composition with Maestro Ottavio De Lillo, in Bari, and won 1st prize in several piano competitions.

Awareness and Poise

What-Dance-Can-Teach-Us

Artists must be familiar with the mediums they use to do their work. Musicians playing wind instruments learn which keys to press to create a C and what they must do with their breath to produce variations in sounds. Painters usually work in many mediums and choose suitable ones for the piece, such as oil or acrylics or watercolors, pencil or charcoal, or use them in combinations. This is true for dancers as well. Dancers learn not only about anatomy, which is important if they are to understand proper alignment, but also about cause and effect. As they reach the age where they’re dancing en point or rehearsing choreography, dancers will quickly discover what will happen if they don’t take care of themselves.

  • If I don’t build up calluses on my toes then they will rub raw and bleed.
  • When I haven’t eaten all day I usually don’t have much strength or energy to jump in class.
  • Forcing turnout weakens my knees and ankles.
  • Rehearsing without properly warming up the muscles can lead to soreness and possible injury.
  • I have a hard time remembering the steps when I stay up too late the night before.

The list goes on and on of course, but this cause and effect gives us greater awareness about our own bodies and minds. I believe that knowing our limits (and that we do have them), being sensible about warming up, and eating a healthy diet among other things teaches us that this one body—the only one we will ever have—must be cared for if we want it to last.

Another thing dance gave me that has been applicable in other parts of my life is poise. Poise, to me, is much more than carrying oneself with assurance and grace. For me, it’s what happens before that outward manifestation. It involves calming the mind, putting away the worries of what could go wrong and bringing forth the positive thoughts about how you want to appear onstage. Once you quiet the mind and trust your body to remember the choreography, you step onstage and put faith in yourself. And believe it or not, you maintain faith in yourself until you’ve completed what you went out there to do. If you make a mistake, you must learn to train the mind to immediately forgive and forget, so as not to make a complete mess of what follows. Completing the dance to the end and not giving up somewhere in the middle is a good metaphor for whatever we undertake in our lives.

Learning the power of the mind, trusting in yourself, caring for and nourishing your body, and understanding that as humans we have physical limits and aren’t invincible—all of these are essential elements on the path to success and happiness, no matter what career you ultimately choose or what direction life takes you. And when life takes you down a path you weren’t expecting, these attributes will prove invaluable in dealing with whatever comes your way.

Grand Battement 4/4

cd-2

If you haven’t yet discovered the piano music of Gill Civil, then you’re in for a treat! Here you can find two musical selections for grand battement in 4/4 to go along with the combination below. One is called Cavalcade, the other is Jubilee Stride. These are from her album called Dancing Keys 2.

5th position at the barre

1       Tendu devant (front)
2       Lift to grand battement devant
3       Lower to point tendu devant
4       Close 5th position
5-6    Grand battement front, close 5th
&7     Passé close 5th back
&8     Degagé side and close 5th front
1-7     Repeat side
&8     Degagé back, close 5th back
1-16   Repeat all from back

Repeat a second time with pirouette from 5th instead of passé

Music available from http://pianomusicforballet.com

Do You Have a Backup Plan? Ballet Dancers Need a Backup Plan

Close up of one way signs on street

The professional life of a dancer is relatively short. You spend about ten years training, and then hope to dance into your 30’s (and if you’re lucky, until you reach 40). There are many dance career alternatives. However, what if for some reason you want to venture away from dance and go into something completely new? How do you know what you’d be good at, how you’d learn something new, and how to get your foot in the door?

I found this thorough list when searching for careers that would be good for “creative types”. Another article on that site gives some great advice for planning a career path. I agree that you should be careful not to become intimidated or overwhelmed by what your new endeavor will entail, and then never even take the first step forward in your new pursuit. Once you start finding out more information, getting whatever training you may need, and eventually looking for jobs in that field, you might be surprised at how quickly the momentum picks up. I can give a recommendation that I now wish someone had given me when I was studying ballet at the university, and that is to minor in something else. If I’d minored in business, it would have made it infinitely easier to start and run my dancewear store, or to run a ballet school.

I’ll tell you a little about my personal story, because I changed career paths a couple of times for different reasons. My intention during all my years of training in dance was to dance professionally and teach ballet. Since I hoped to teach at the university level, my education included getting a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance. During this time, as well as after, I was able to dance professionally, but unexpected life events came into play as well as injuries I’d never anticipated that caused me to cut my professional career short. I found love, married, and discovered my Achilles tendinitis was so severe that I could no longer dance en pointe without excruciating pain – all in the space of about two years. And then I became pregnant with my first child and that changed my priorities around completely.

While I was dancing in Lexington, Kentucky I visited the local dancewear store several times. I found that they were not very willing to get me what I needed (something as simple as canvas ballet shoes) if it wasn’t something they currently carried. Their store was very small and the leotards were Lycra with vivid colors and strange designs. It was difficult to find things for a ballet dancer there. This is where my first career change began to take shape. It all started with this thought, “I wish there were another store in this town”. If I were to have a store, I imagined, I’d staff it with dancers to add credibility and to give expert advice on fittings to customers. I’d carry several brands of pointe shoes and offer leather and canvas ballet shoes, as well as leotards in more subdued colors and with more traditional styles (such as cotton or supplex camisoles, tanks, three quarter, or long sleeves).

From this one thought came the realization of my own dancewear store in Lexington! I knew little about running a business, but took it one step at a time until one day we turned the sign to ‘Open’ and began to sell items that were quite different from the other store. There was a market for both (they catered to cheerleaders, gymnasts, and the like, and we catered to the serious student and professional), so we quickly became well known and successful. After nearly ten years in business, we sold the store to move to North Carolina. Dance Essentials, Inc. in Lexington has now closed completely, but I’d learned so much about business software (QuickBooks, etc.) and about using Microsoft Office applications like Excel.

Once we arrived in North Carolina, my husband still hadn’t found a job and it was imperative that I submit applications immediately. As Charlotte is a huge financial center, I landed an entry level position at the headquarters of a large bank. Fast forward twelve years and I am an Information Technology professional, honing my skills in software development and support, and turning my attention to the business analysis side of things. Who’d have thunk it possible? Definitely not me.

Life throws curveballs and it’s up to us to make opportunities out of them. One thought can change your life. If it’s appealing to you and learning about the career is stimulating, then keep on trucking. Get yourself on LinkedIn and start networking with like-minded individuals and those who may be able to connect you to your next thought. Good luck!

Using a Mazurka in Ballet Class Grand Battement at barre

Mazurka sheet music

Having a pianist accompany your ballet class adds an element of liveliness that you just can’t get from a recording. I plan on interviewing some folks who accompany ballet classes for a living, but for now I wanted to share some things I learned today.

The definition of Mazurka (in Polish, mazurek) is a Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with accent on the second or third beat. (wikipedia.org)

There’s a blog post here by Jonathon Still about about using the mazurka in place of a waltz for some ballet combinations. He even points accompanists to a website with American Memory Sheet music where you can search for and find sheet music.

And here is a combination that would go well with a mazurka!

1-3    Grand battement devant, lower to tenu close 5th (arm 5th en haut)
4-6    Repeat to the side (arm 2nd)
1-6    Repeat back and side to complete en croix (arm arabesque, side)
1-2    Grand battement devant, close 5th (arm 5th en haut)
3-4    Grand battement side, close 5th back (arm 2nd)
5-6    Grand battement back, close 5th (arm to arabesque)
1-5    Cloche battement with INSIDE leg fbfbf (arm 5th en haut)
6       Close 5th position front
1-24  Repeat all from the back.

Degagé with Plié Barre exercise in 2/4 or 6/8

5th position at the barre
1-2        Brush to 45° devant, plié in 4th – arm 5th en avant
3           Straighten knees and carry working foot to 2nd at 45° á la seconde, arm to 2nd position
4           Plié in 2nd
5-6       Carry working foot to 45° devant, close 5th position front – arm 5th en haut
&7&8   Degagé devant 2x closing 5th front both times
1-2       Degagé side, plié in 2nd position – arm 5th en avant
3           Carry working foot to back 45° and straighten knee – arm 2nd
4           Demi plié in 4th position – arm en avant
5-6       Carry working foot to 45° side, close 5th back – arm 2nd
&7&8   Degagé side 2x closing 5th front, 5th back
1-16      Repeat all from back with arm in arabesque instead of 5th en haut

Once a Dancer, Always a Dancer

Tammy Rhoades and David Wood in Nutcracker, 1991

It’s interesting how dance can consume a person.  I wrote a post about how some people just have a passion for dancing that cannot be ignored, and how this passion drives us to push ourselves through trial and error and pain and suffering (sometimes, from injuries).  But at some point, our bodies age and we have to move on…if we’re lucky enough to continue working in the field we love, we become teachers or choreographers.  However, for some of us, we move into a completely different arena.  We become mothers and fathers, we work jobs with regular people…that is, people who don’t have flashbacks of Nutcracker performances when they hear Tchaikovsky’s score on the radio or in the mall.  We find dance career alternatives.

When I first stopped dancing it was because of Achilles tendinitis.  I also had a husband and a new baby that naturally changed my priorities in life.  We lived in Lexington, Kentucky where I had performed a little with the ballet company, so when we went to performances I was watching all my old dance friends on stage.  I cried every single time we sat in the audience to watch a performance.  Deep inside I was grieving the loss of dance in my life.  Sure, I was teaching.  We started a dancewear store so I was in contact with dancers all the time.  But I knew that I would never again put on my pointe shoes and dance on stage.  It was like a part of me—a huge part—had died and would never come back. [Read more...]

Teaching Creative Movement

Teaching Creative Movement

Ballet class with children ages 3-5 is often called “creative movement” rather than ballet class. Then at age 6 it is sometimes referred to as “pre-ballet”, which is when they are usually ready to stand at the barre and learn the mechanics of alignment and ballet positions. Creative movement can be taught many different ways—none better or more effective than another—so I will just share some of the things I did with this age group (and felt were effective) when I was teaching them dance.

First of all, kids this age don’t have a very long attention span! Two minutes is about as long as you can stretch one activity before moving on to something else. I always felt that a 45 minute class was the absolute longest these kids could handle, unless you are combining it with some tap, too. I’d also say that if you have more than eight children in the class then you should probably have an assistant there to help you out.

I structured my creative movement classes more or less the same way each week. Kids do like repetition and it helps them feel more comfortable if they have a good idea what to expect. We would begin sitting on the floor in a circle, wide enough that when they put their arms out to the sides they wouldn’t touch their neighbor. At the beginning you can have them sit cross legged or with the soles of their feet together or their legs stretched out straight in front of them. Sitting cross legged is easiest for them, and when you want them to focus attention on sitting up straight and using good posture through their backs, necks long, and shoulders down, this is helpful. [Read more...]

How to Pick Up Combinations Quickly

Young woman in park, writing in notebook

I was reading someone’s blog the other day, and one of the comments was from a young dancer who was having trouble remembering combinations in ballet class.  I thought this would make a great blog post because I, too, was one of those dancers who stood in the back and tried to blend in. Eventually I became one of the quickest to pick up combinations and was no longer afraid to stand in the first spot at the barre or go with the first group in the center. Here are some of my ideas about how you can pick up combinations quickly. [Read more...]

10 Famous Dancers Named Ken

Ken Ard

Dancers don’t typically court fame in the same way as other celebrities. However, without dancers, you wouldn’t have musicals, street dance or choreographed extravaganzas like Michael Jackson’s landmark masterpiece Thriller. Through interpretive movements that take a huge amount of coordination, balance and control, dancers are able to express what actors can’t. These are 10 of the most famous dancers named Ken.

  • Ken Ard – After working with greats like Nina Simone as a child, Ken Ard eventually went on to perform choreography for some of the most prominent jazz artists of the 21st century. Predominantly a ballet dancer, Ken drifted towards jazz during the 90s, which culminated in the release of his first jazz album, “Ballads, Blues & Cocktails.”
  • Ken Berry – He is better known as a sitcom actor, most notably for his roles in F Troop and The Andy Griffith Show. However, Ken Berry was also an accomplished dancer and singer. On Broadway, he made appearances in The Billy Barnes Revue and in George M!. Berry was also a frequent guest on Abbott and Costello, as both a singer and dancer.
  • Ken Cosgrove – Played by Aaron Staton in the popular series Mad Men, character Ken Cosgrove tried his hand at tap dancing in one episode – replete with tweed suit and cane. Nobody quite knows what the impromptu dance added to the scene, but it went viral on the Internet, as these things often do. There were a number of parodies created of the scene, including one that uses Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” as the musical backdrop. The Internet is often a cruel puppet-master, but in this case the uncalled for publicity only served to push the show to even greater heights.
  • Kenneth Walker – This former dancer with the Ballet Pacifica launched the Kenneth Walker Dance Project in 2004. The non-profit project aims to bring dance to communities that never get to experience any form of the expressive arts. To date, the project has successfully introduced shows to a number of festivals across the country, and it grows in strength with each passing year. It is Kenneth Walker’s hope that the project will introduce dance to a generation who would have otherwise never have had the chance.
  • Ken Fury – B-Boy Kenny – as he’s known on the streets of Pueblo, Colorado – taught himself to break dance at the age of 11. He later pursued his dream with Full Circle Productions in New York, before landing dancing roles in commercials for Toshiba and Starburst. Fury remains a big name on the street dance scene, hugely famous in this relatively small circle of performers.
  • Kenny Everett – This madcap British comedian had a penchant for dance that was just as crazy as the rest of his routine. Everett’s dance style was, for lack of a better term, unconventional for the time. However, by today’s standards his moves would be hailed as the latest craze. Unfortunately, Kenny lost his battle with AIDS in 1995, a terrible loss to both his family and the British public.
  • Kenneth MacMillan – From 1970 to 1977, MacMillan served as the artistic director of the Royal Ballet in London. His work in choreography is where his true talents were, although he was an accomplished dancer in his own right, too. Some of his notable works included Valses nobles et sentimentales in 1966, and Anastasia in 1967 and again in 1971. MacMillan sadly passed away from a heart attack in 1992, at the age of 62.
  • Kenneth Branagh – Although he is commonly known for his Shakespearean roles, Kenneth Branagh has danced in West End musicals, on screen during the British Television series “Thompsons,” and in many other productions. It is no surprise, then, that Branagh has been tipped to take over the job as head of the National Theatre.
  • Kenny Ortega – Another great choreographer, Kenny Ortega worked with Madonna on “Material Girl” and in Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” live performances, winning awards for both. However, his greatest work was on the choreography for the iconic dance movie Dirty Dancing, which starred the late Patrick Swayze. Dirty Dancing is still heralded as being one of the best dance-centric movies to this day.
  • Kenny Loggins – Better known as the voice behind “Footloose,” Kenny Loggins inspired a generation to dance. The movie, starring Kevin Bacon, was one of many pivotal movies focused on the medium of dance in the 80s. Bacon’s seminal performance made Footloose an iconic movie, however, it was Loggins’ voice and catchy guitar riff that sold the title song.

Special thanks to Kenney Myers of kenneymyers.com for sharing this article!