2 3 Ballet Webb: 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wacky Wednesday Side Seam


Wacky Wednesday Side Seam

When performing a port de bras side during stretches (for example, when one leg is on the barre in à la seconde) a common problem is a slight twisting of the torso. This is incorrect, because the movement should go directly sideways – no passing “Go”, no collecting $200 J.

The solution is simple.  Imagine stretching the side seam of whatever you are wearing – usually a leotard or tee shirt. Since side seams are straight (presumably), and run down the side of the body, this image will instantly produce a correct, accurately aligned side stretch without twisting.

If your garment doesn’t have a side seam then you must imagine that too.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #6x:  
During a side stretch, imagine stretching the side seam of your leotard or shirt.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Every step towards your dream today is a step away from your regret tomorrow.”
Steve Maraboli,

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Terrific Tuesday Breathe


Terrific Tuesday Breathe

It seems simple enough. Dancers shouldn't hold their breath, they should breathe normally. Unfortunately,” forgetting to breathe” is a common problem. It usually occurs during stressful moments in class, or during a difficult section of a ballet. And, as I tell my students, oxygen is essential!

During class I frequently remind my students to breathe so it will become a habit. Not breathing can become a habit too, in class and outside of the studio. There are many videos and articles online that describe various ways to use breathing patterns as a way to relax and relieve stress, and I recommend finding one that works for you. The dance world can be a stressful place.

During class, remind yourself to breathe, especially if you are working on a difficult step or section of choreography. Outside of class, explore ideas and breathing exercises until you find one that works for you. It will make you feel better, and when you feel better you usually dance better.

Breathe! It provides lots of benefits.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #7hh:  
“Remember to breathe.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
Thích Nht Hnh,

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Marvelous Monday Relevé on Pointe


Marvelous Monday Relevé on Pointe

There are two ways to relevé on pointe, and a dancer must know how to do both. Simply put, the foot is either placed under the center of the body, or the body is placed over the foot.

When a dancer first learns to work in pointe shoes, it is usually in first position and the student learns to roll up to elevé,(not relevé), passing through a good demi-pointe position. Remember that relevé is preceded by a plié and elevé is not. When the dancer first learns how to relevé, they move cleanly and swiftly from the plié, through the demi-pointe and up to full pointe.  When on one foot, the body shifts slightly so the dancer’s body is centered over the pointe shoe on the supporting foot.

The other method, often called “snatching” the foot, involves a quick sliding of the foot under the center of the torso as the relevé occurs. In this method the foot does the shifting of position, not the body.

Both methods are correct, although some teachers emphasize one method more than the other.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #8h:  
“There are two ways to relevé on pointe: the body goes over the foot, or the foot goes under the body.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Goals are motivations with wind in their sails—they carry me forward despite the storms.”
Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Heart


Sunday Heart

The holiday season is wonderful for many reasons. Of course there is the anticipation of gifts to open, savory foods to eat, and friends and family to visit. But it also seems that during this time of year everyone is just a little bit kinder, there are more smiles all around, and a warm atmosphere surrounds everything.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were this way all year long? I think so. A good resolution for New Year’s would be to remember to put a little holiday attitude in each day. It doesn’t have to be much, and would involve things I have blogged about before: a ready smile, a kind word, or a good deed.
All these little things will add up and make for a wonderful year.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #49:  

“Keep the holidays in your heart.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
-          Harlan Miller

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Super Saturday Statute


Super Saturday Statute

For some reason, many fledgling dancers resist putting their hair up. This is understandable, since it takes a little extra time to do, but wearing the hair loose, or even in a ponytail is not an option in a classical ballet class.

Why? There are several reasons. First of all, it keeps the hair out of the dancer’s face, especially during turns. Second, it allows the teacher to have an unencumbered view of the muscles in the student’s neck (a common place for too much tension); and third, it simply looks better and presents a cleaner line.

Some dance academies require a bun, some allow a French twist or other variations. When in doubt, the hair should be neatly arranged in a bun. Bangs are also not allowed for some of the same reasons listed above.

The only exception to this statute is if the dancer has a very short haircut that doesn't allow for any type of bun, or twist, etc.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #26:  
“In a ballet class, females always wear their hair up.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”
Maya Angelou

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Fun Friday to the Floor



Fun Friday to the Floor

A tendu derrière is preparation for all the higher derrière positions from dégagé to arabesque. That’s why it is so important that the tendu is placed and rotated correctly. If the position is wrong on the floor it will be wrong in the air.

The tendency in tendu derrière is to let the rotation in the hip socket relax, which causes the heel of the working foot to point upward, and the knee downward.  Not good.  I’ve blogged about how the knee should never look at the floor, and if the knee is facing correctly outward, the heel should follow and be rotated downward toward the floor.

A little extra thought on rotating the heel toward the floor in addition to rotating the whole leg in the hip socket makes certain that this important position is correct.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #4i:  
“In a tendu derrière, think of rotating the heel down toward the floor.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."
-          Nelson Mandela


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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day 2014



Christmas Day 2014

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!
Enjoy every moment.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”
-          Roy L. Smith

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve and the First Nutcracker


Christmas Eve and the First Nutcracker

Today is that magical day – Christmas Eve. I know everyone remembers the excitement we all felt (and perhaps still feel) as we anticipated the arrival of Santa, and repeatedly checked the chimney to make sure his route was clear.

The beloved Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, is a big part of the holiday season. It is based on a tale written by E.T.A Hoffman in 1816. This is a much darker story than most of today’s versions of the ballet, and it is interesting to read and compare it to the current ballet’s story.

 The music was composed by Tchaikovsky and was presented to audiences before the ballet premiered.  The score was a success, and the audience loved it. But Tchaikovsky always said it wasn't his favorite.  He preferred his score for The Sleeping Beauty. For The Nutcracker ballet he used a newly invented instrument, the celesta, for the variation of the Sugar Plum Fairy. He even arranged to have a celesta secretly sent to Russia because he was “afraid Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov may get hold of it and use the unusual effect before me.”

The original choreographer was Marius Petipa, but he fell ill and his assistant, Lev Ivanov took over. Ivanov is still credited with most of the choreography today.

The ballet was first performed in 1892 at the Maryinsky Theatre in Russia, but it was not successful and received poor reviews. Tchaikovsky died less than a year later and never knew how successful The Nutcracker eventually became.

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #21d:  
The score for The Nutcracker was not Tchaikovsky’s favorite work, and the first performance of the ballet was not a success.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
- Norman Vincent Peale

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Technical Tuesday Circular Port de Bras


Technical Tuesday Circular Port de Bras

When a dancer first learns circular port de bras, it can be confusing. Where does the movement start and where does it stop? A circle is continuous, after all, so a definite beginning and ending point must be established.

Imagine the face of a giant clock, and the dancer is standing in the middle.  Twelve o’clock is directly in front of the student, and six o’clock is directly behind. The circular port de bras begins with the dancer standing upright and the first movement involves rotating the torso outward (away from the barre) then descending at about the 2 o’clock position.  The movement continues like this: the next point is straight down (looking at the knees, or 12 o’clock), then angling upward toward the barre (10 o’clock), then directly side (9 o’clock), then angled back (8 o’clock), then straight back (6 o’clock), side back (4 o’clock) and finally returning to the exact point of beginning into a straight, well aligned posture.

So for any circular port de bras, imagine standing in the middle of a huge clock face.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #6x:  
In a circular port de bras, imagine the face of a giant clock.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Everything has a way of coming full circle. It takes patience and perseverance to see a dream through...to close that circle. Because some dreams, like some circles, can be much bigger than others.”
Karen Dale Trask

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Mad Monday Technical Tool


Mad Monday Technical Tool

Turn-out is often viewed of as how “flat” one’s fifth position is. This flatness becomes the goal, instead of the position being the side effect of correctly rotating the leg (femur) in the hip socket. Correct rotation, practiced over time, will produce the coveted flat fifth.

Unfortunately, all too often dancers force their feet into a flat position before the muscles above have developed the strength to hold the position – and more importantly – use the position. I have talked about this before:  safe and effective turn-out comes from above, not below.

This is because turn-out is a tool, and an important one. Correct turn-out (rotation) produces strength and stability.  For example, rotating the working leg a bit extra right before stepping onto it creates a wonderfully strong, suspended position on one leg. In addition, using the rotational muscles also allows for solid balances, particularly in positions like retiré and cou de pied. Ballet technique is based on the functionality of one’s turn-out. Having an aesthetically pleasing fifth position is simply a side benefit.

Try focusing on the feeling of rotation in the hip socket for the duration of your next class. You might be surprised how powerful this turn-out tool is!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #3m:  
“Turn-out is a practical tool for technique.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Do not wait; the time will never be 'just right.' Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”
-          George Herbert


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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Seesaw


Sunday Seesaw

Here in the midst of the holiday season, it is unfortunately true that many people find this to be the un-happiest time of the year. This is due largely to expectations. It is the jolly holiday - we are supposed to be, and expected to be - really happy, exceptionally so, at this time of the year. But for many, this adds just another pressure to an already stress filled month, and happiness becomes more elusive than ever.

So take a step back.  Take a deep breath. Happiness is never constant and is more like the high side of a seesaw ride.  It doesn’t last and shouldn’t be an expectation. High seesaw points usually come when they are least expected.

What we need to focus on is not whether we are happy, but whether we are content. The majority of time on a seesaw is spent enjoying the movement of the ride in between the highs and the lows.  And being launched into the high point or slammed into the low point is not where we will be most of the time.

So are you content this holiday season?  Take another deep breath.  Enjoy the ride.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #48:  
“Contentment is a seesaw.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.”
Pearl S. Buck

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Super Saturday Sickle Statute


Super Saturday Sickle Statute

There are no sickles in classical ballet.  None.  This is a statute with no exceptions.  The dreaded sickle usually involves the feet, but can, rarely, happen with an inward twisting of the hands.
 
A sickle, as the name implies, is when the foot assumes the shape of a sickle (an implement used to cut grass or harvest grain).  Feet sickle when the outside of the foot (pinky toe side) stretches harder and further than the inside (big toe side).  This results in a foot that is shaped like a sickle.

This position is not attractive, to say the least, but more importantly, it isn't functional or safe.  Standing on a sickled foot is a common way for a dancer to sprain or even break their ankle.  A straight, correctly shaped foot provides a strong support, especially when the dancer is balancing on one leg, and it looks pretty, too.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #28:  
“There are no sickles in ballet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”
-          Tony Robbins


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Friday, December 19, 2014

Fun Friday Sandwich Filling



 

Fun Friday Sandwich Filling

Correct use of the rotational ability of the legs in the hip socket allows for lovely, turned-out positions. In poses such as retiré, or sous-sus, this turn-out makes the dancer’s body as flat as a paper doll. So flat that they could be inserted in a sandwich and not have anything sticking out that would poke holes in the bread.

This is a good image for correct line. If a dancer can fit in between two pieces of bread like a slice of salami, the position is the right one – and the turn-out is also correct. This “flat” position is especially important for pirouettes since any deviation in alignment will interrupt the rotation of the turn itself. Watch videos of dancers that turn beautifully and you will notice the paper doll or sandwich filling posture.

Some teachers have their students stand between the barre and the wall (if space allows) so the young dancers can feel the sensation of being flat enough to fit inside a sandwich.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #3l:  
“In positions such as retiré or sous sus, the dancer’s body is “flat” enough to be in the middle of a sandwich without poking holes the bread.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we've established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”
-          Earl Nightingale




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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday and Adolph Bolm


Throwback Thursday and Adolph Bolm

Adolph Rudolphovich Bolm was accepted into the Imperial Ballet School (The Vaganova Academy), but after his first year he was told not to return.  But return he did, and the dance world is fortunate he did. From then on he worked hard and graduated. One of his classmates was Anna Pavlova, and he was responsible for organizing her first tour outside Russia.

From 1909-1917 he was one of the leading male dancers in Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe, and was particularly known for his character roles. While on tour in Belgium, Adolph Bolm met a lady named Beatrice, and they soon married. They moved to the United States where they lived out their lives. Their son, Olaf, was born on July 4, 1920 in Chicago.

Adolph Bolm was a man of many talents.  He was a dancer, choreographer, and teacher to many famous names such as Cyd Charisse, Ruth Page, Maria Tallchief and many others.  As a choreographer he was prolific, creating works such as Le Coq d'Or, Danse Macabre, and a ballet based on a popular comic strip of the day: Krazy Kat. In the 1940s, he was one of the first choreographers hired for the fledgling American Ballet Theatre.

Despite sharing the stage with many legends of classical ballet including Nijinsky, Balanchine and Massine, Adolph Bolm never achieved the same status or recognition. But his influence was nevertheless far reaching. He was a catalyst for the continued preservation and development of ballet, and for the training and inspiration of many dancers who had the privilege of working with him.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #59:  
Adolph Bolm was a talented dancer and choreographer who influenced the preservation and development of ballet.” 

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Leave a legacy every hour every day in some way with something or someone.”
Robert J Braathe        

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wonderful Wednesday Stillness


Wonderful Wednesday Stillness

A dancer’s torso should be an area of stillness. Except during cambres or port de bras, the torso doesn’t twist, bend, angle, crunch, etc. Keeping the torso still and square and in one piece is essential for stability.

Watch any videos of accomplished dancers and notice what the torso does or doesn’t do.  Weird, isn’t it? Almost no movement at all.  Most of the time the torso (see my blog on cereal boxes) is completely still and solid.

However, this stillness is really only an outward appearance.  A quiet torso hides the effort required by the dancer to keep it still.  In other words, torso stillness requires a solid core strength and a conscious effort by the dancer to keep the muscles (particularly the abdominal ones) engaged at all times to prevent the aforementioned twisting, crunching or bending.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #1jj:  
“The torso is an area of stillness, except in port de bras or cambres.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen - that stillness becomes a radiance.”
-          Morgan Freeman


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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Technical Tuesday Turned or Inclined


Technical Tuesday Turned or Inclined

In classical ballet the positions of the head are important. They not only make the dancer look beautiful, they also provide a critical counterweight for the leg and arm positions. 

There are four basic positions for the head: 1. level and facing straight ahead (that’s the easy one); 2. Inclined (seldom used alone); 3. Turned directly to the side; and 4. Turned and inclined (most common).

Turning the head means keeping it level and putting the chin over the shoulder, or as close to it as possible. Inclining the head is an ear-to-the-shoulder position. But most of the time the head is turned and inclined. This involves a one quarter turn plus an incline. I've blogged about this before as the position used when offering the cheek to Aunt Matilda for a kiss.

Understanding the difference between a turn and an incline is critical!  Especially since these two positions are most often used together.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #5f:  
Understand the difference between turned and inclined.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”
Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Marvelous Monday Three


Marvelous Monday Three

There are three places a tendu targets. When performed from fifth position, in devant the tendu is in front of the belly button, in the back it is behind the heel of the supporting foot, and to the side it is in the dancer’s individual “control zone” determined by their amount of turn-out.  Therefore the target spot for tendu side will vary slightly with each individual, but generally it is a bit in front of the side seam of the dancer’s leotard.

This is important for everything that comes later!  A développé devant, for example, must be directly in front of the torso and not be allowed to deviate off to one side.  It is the repetition of tendus and degagés that creates the muscle memory necessary for the correct placement of hundreds of other positions and movements.

That’s why tendu is the second most important step after plié.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #4i:  
“Remember the three specific places for a tendu.”


                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
 “Time is the coin of life. Only you can determine how it will be spent.”
 – Carl Sandburg

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Gifts All Year Long


Sunday Gifts All Year Long

In this holiday season, most of us will be giving and receiving gifts. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this happened all year long? I don’t mean brightly wrapped boxes being exchanged, but the idea of giving things that can’t be easily wrapped or put in a box.  Of course, boxed items would be nice to have all year long too, but I’m thinking about the things in life that aren't so tangible.

For instance, a kind word can be a gift. Offering to help an elderly person with their groceries, or reading a story to a child, or just picking up a dropped item for someone – all of these are gifts and the list is infinite.  Think of these things as gifts and it changes your perspective.  And the opportunities for giving gifts like these pop up all the time in our daily lives.

How much better would the world be if everyone walked through their day with the idea of constantly giving gifts?

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #51:  
“Gifts all year long.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Winston S. Churchill

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Super Saturday Statute


Super Saturday Statute

I have blogged before about how the knee can be imagined as having a smiley face.  The curve below the patella (knee cap) forms a perfect smile, and it is easy to imagine two eyes above it . 

This is helpful for turn-out.  Today’s statute says it all:  In classical ballet, the knee (smiley face) never faces the floor.  The only exception is when the dancer is descending to the floor and planning to pose with the weight on one knee.

The problem is often having half of the knee facing the floor.  This occurs when the dancer’s leg isn't rotated (turned-out) enough, and it appears as though one eye of the smiley face is staring at the floor.  For correct rotation to be achieved, both “eyes” must be “looking” outward and not at the floor.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #27:  
“The knee never faces the floor.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I'm like, 'My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don't have it. I just want to chill.' We all have self-doubt. You don't deny it, but you also don't capitulate to it. You embrace it.”
-          Kobe Bryant


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