2 3 Ballet Webb: 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Throwback Thursday and The Ballet Russe of the 1920s


Throwback Thursday and The Ballet Russe of the 1920s

The above photograph shows dancers of the Ballet Russe celebrating New Year’s Eve sometime during the 1920s. It made me wonder what things lay ahead of them after this photo was taken. Here’s a list:

In 1920 the ballets Le Chant du Rossignol was presented and two new works choreographed: Pulcinella and Le Astuzie Femminili.
In 1921 a full length version of The Sleeping Princess premiered. It was based on the well-known ballet The Sleeping Beauty.
In 1922 Aurora’s Wedding, a one-act version of The Sleeping Princess was presented.
In 1923, Les Noces  is presented in Paris.
In 1924 George Balanchine joins Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes as a dancer.
1925: Three new ballets debut, including Lac des Cygnes, a suite of dances from Swan Lake.
1926: Romeo and Juliet, La Pastorale, Jack in the Box and The Triumph of Neptune premiere.
1927: La Chatte, Mercure and Le Pas d'Acier, and  Igor Stravinsky's opera Oedipus Rex
1928: Ode and Apollon Musagète, and The Gods Go A-Begging premiere.

1929: Le Bal and Les Fils Prodigue (Prodigal Son) premiere. Diaghilev dies on August 19th in Venice, marking the end of an era.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve everyone!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #97:  
“ The Ballet Russe premiered  many ballets in the 1920s.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“We shall always treasure the wonderful times shared with amazing people.”
Lailah Gifty Akita

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wild Wednesday Penchée


Wild Wednesday Penchée

Those lovely penchées! They seem to defy the laws of human ability, especially when beautifully executed into a perfect “6 o’clock” position.

There are several secrets to a successful penchée, and I have mentioned a couple of them before, such as Ballet Secret #21b:  “The body is only allowed to go down as much as the leg goes up.”’ And Ballet Secret # 21c: “To help maintain stability in a penchée, think of sending energy outward through the working leg.”

Here is a new one. In an arabesque penchée the force of the working leg gradually rising and extending pulls against the standing leg. If the energy in the standing leg is not maintained, the dancer’s weight moves over the heel, causing a loss of balance. To prevent this remember today’s secret: “In an arabesque penchée, keep the weight over the ball of the supporting foot.”

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #18q:  
“ In an arabesque penchée, keep the weight over the ball of the supporting foot.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“There is nothing wrong with loving your work and wanting to apply yourself to it. But there is so much more to life. Balance is what is important, maintaining balance.”
Bronnie Ware

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Technical Tuesday Reversé



Technical Tuesday Reversé

A renversé is a beautiful step: it is essentially a turning grand rond de jambe with a back and side bend. Sound difficult? Not any more difficult than other steps in ballet. I have blogged about it before with Ballet Secret #11g: A renversé creates the image of a circle involving the leg and back when viewed from above.” The term itself means “turned back” or “reversed”.

Because of the turning action, this step is sometimes called pirouette renversé. Here is the explanation from ballethub (http://ballethub.com/ballet-term/renverse/ ):

“A ballet dancer performing a renversé will bend their body from the waist, both sideways and backwards, with the head following the movement of the body. A renversé takes place during a turn and only applies to three steps: a pirouette, a pas de bourrée en tournant and a détourné.”

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #11i:  
Reversé means “turned back”.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Don't look back, girl,” Gravier yells as we ride off. “You're not going that way!”
Celia Mcmahon, Skye

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Marvelous Monday Home Plate


Marvelous Monday Home Plate

Ahhhh the joys of fifth position. It is the starting point for great things, and the ending point for those great things. But although most dancers do well with fifth position during barre, in the center this position is often less than optimal.

I don’t mean that dancers should ever – ever – force their fifth position past “their best” fifth. But they must be aware of it during all the combinations in the center. Fifth position is, after all, home plate. Without it, nothing works well. Without it, a dancer’s turn-out is compromised or (gasp!) non-existent. And fifth position, as I have blogged about before, is a tool. It was created and developed over centuries to be the amazing thing that it is: a position that delivers strength, stability and finesse to everything else.

We could sell it with an 800 number!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #3t:  
“Fifth position is like home plate.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”
Elbert Hubbard

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Super Sunday Possibilities


Super Sunday Possibilities

Christmas is past and we now look ahead to New Year’s celebrations and the new year that is right around the corner. A new year with no mistakes in it yet (to paraphrase Anne of Green Gables).

What would you like to put into this brand new year? What goals do you have? It is helpful to think about such positive things. What are you looking forward to in 2016?

Most people make New Year’s resolutions, and so often they involve big "bad" things like losing weight or quitting smoking. Both are admirable goals, but don’t forget to add smaller, more fun resolutions, like taking time to notice a beautiful sunset, or tune in to the sound of a child laughing, etc.

Resolve to look for the good, even while attempting to change the “bad”.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #97:  
“A new year is fresh and full of possibilities.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”
Brad Paisley

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Super Saturday Mountain Goats


Super Saturday Mountain Goats

There is an old joke that says all mountain goats have two short legs so they can walk on a steep slope and not tumble off. Well, this reminds me of a problem dancers have when they run.

Running is a practiced skill in ballet, like everything else. Dancers usually learn to run in a straight line, sending their feet out in front (somewhat counterintuitive), and of course, keeping the feet pointed. However, many times the path dancers follow isn’t straight, but curved (as in running around the stage moving from downstage to upstage). What often happens is a hippity-hoppity rhythm, as though one leg is shorter than the other – like the mountain goat joke.

To prevent this, dancers must practice running in a circle, keeping an even rhythm with both feet.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #15p:  
“When running in a circular pattern avoid looking like a mountain goat.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.”
Vince Lombardi Jr.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Tchaikovsky’s Secret


Throwback Thursday and Tchaikovsky’s Secret

I have always loved the music for the adagio section of grand pas de deux in The Nutcracker. It isn’t something that is played during the holiday season at the mall, or even on the radio. Most people are very familiar with the music for the Sugar Plum Fairy’s variation, but few have heard the adagio unless they have attended the ballet.

Only recently did I run across the reason this piece of music may be so hauntingly beautiful. During the time Tchaikovsky was composing the music for The Nutcracker, his sister Alexandra (Sasha) passed away. According to author Jennifer Fisher: “Musicologist John Roland Wiley has suggested that Tchaikovsky actually left a coded message in the rhythm of the adagio’s principal piece of music, a descending scale of notes that is repeated “with prayer-like insistence.” Some believe that Tchaikovsky intended to honor his sister with this exquisite piece of music.

You can read the entire fascinating article here: http://www.danceadvantage.net/?s=Sugar+Plum .

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Ballet Secret #15p:  
The music in the adagio in the last act of Nutcracker may hold a secret.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
Aldous Huxley

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wacky Wednesday Point


Wacky Wednesday Point

The arms in ballet should always look fluid and beautiful. This means that any angular shapes must be avoided. This is more difficult than it sounds because the arms are, by their very nature, angular. Bones are straight, not curved. Joints are angular too. So what to do?

The arm must be fully elongated. The shapes created in ballet are seldom circular, but instead form ovals. In positions like arabesque the arm is almost, but not quite, straight; and in other positions the arms are stretched into an elongated curve (think fifth en avant or fifth en haut). At no time should there be any pointy elbows.

This is part of the illusion of ballet. When non-dancers imitate ballet, they form their arms into droopy, squashed positions. The reality is quite different!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #6ee:  
Avoid pointy elbows.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“I am always doing things I can’t do. That is how I get to do them.”
-Pablo Picasso

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Technical Tuesday Body Positions


Technical Tuesday Body Positions

I’ve talked before about how ballet technique is based on illusion. A large part of this involves the set positions of the body, and these positions vary only slightly from school to school.

I usually teach the basic 8 positions of the Cecchetti school:  Croisé Devant, à la Quatrième Devant, Effacé Devant,  à la Seconde,  Croisé Derrière,  Ecarté,  Epaulé, and à la Quatrième Derrière.  Other schools of training add Ecarté Derrière and Epaulé Derrière. (See today's video link for a complete description of these positions.)

I begin by teaching students the French terms:  Devant: To the front; Derrière: To the back; and Croisé: Crossed. These are important concepts since all of balletic line is based on these positions. But it goes beyond that. The correct execution of these body positions not only makes the dancer look beautiful, but also allows the proper counterweight between the upper body and a high, extended working leg.

The body positions are therefore both beautiful and practical.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #18p:  
“The set positions of the body allow dancers to create beautiful lines.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”
Louisa May Alcott


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Monday, December 21, 2015

Mad Monday Side to Side


Mad Monday Side to Side

When dancers practice balancing – usually at the barre – they quickly develop the ability to stay “up” for long periods. But most of the time, their eye focus is straight ahead. That’s okay unless the neck (or body) is stiff and there is too much tension being used in order to maintain the balance.

To prevent this, occasionally move the head from side to side while balancing. It will quickly become apparent if the neck (or body) too tense, because this change in focus will throw everything off if it is.

It is good idea to practice this focus change from time to time because dancing in the center seldom has a straight front, rigid focus.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #8h:  
“When balancing on relevé, you should be able to turn your head.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't.”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Dreams and Fears


Sunday Dreams and Fears

Fear is the biggest obstacle to progress, for dancers and everyone else. You know what I mean. Fear of pushing for that extra pirouette, fear of failing an audition, or fear of not getting the role you want in the next big production.

Fear is a barrier. It halts progress in its tracks. So instead of focusing on fears, focus on dreams. Give all your energy to your dreams, and it will begin to cancel out the fear. Imagine success, imagine a great performance, imagine doing that extra pirouette. Visualize everything. Studies have shown how powerful visualization is, and you use it all the time in dance class, right?

Put your efforts and thoughts on your dreams, not your fears.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #96:  
“Give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.”
Dan Brown

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saturday Homework Statute


Saturday Homework Statute
As we slide into the holiday break, it’s time to talk about Ballet Statute #55: “There is always some homework in ballet.” Now, I don’t mean written homework, or even a set exercise kind of homework. No, this is more of an awareness homework.
Bad habits that creep into ballet technique often exist elsewhere – usually in places where they would not be considered exceptionally “bad”. Students may look down when they walk, or fidget with their fingers, or purse their lips when concentrating. These are habits that are not allowed in ballet.
So pay attention to the things you do unconsciously that are “bad for ballet”. That’s the homework. When you realize that you are doing something “bad” replace that habit with a better one. Then, in the next ballet class, there won’t be as many bad habits appearing.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Ballet Statute #55 
“There is always some homework in ballet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:

“It is a very inconvenient habit of kittens (Alice had once made the remark) that whatever you say to them, they always purr.”
― Lewis Carroll
 

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Fun Friday Seat Not Feet


Fun Friday Seat Not Feet

Ballet Secret #3i states:  Correct rotation in the hips produces dimples in the “cheeks”. This is important to remember when working on improving turn-out. Turn-out is developed from the hip socket, (felt in the seat), not the feet. The feet are simply a reflection of what is happening above.

Unfortunately, since turning out from the hip socket is invisible (except for the aforementioned dimples), dancers always rivet their attention on their feet, and whether they are “flat” turned-out or not. Sadly, working from the bottom up instead of from the top down doesn’t produce the results desired. (The caveat to this is for those rare students who already possess “flat” turn-out. They must work differently and maintain their turned-out position from the hips and ultimately the feet so as to develop the strength necessary to use it. Dancers born with this ability are relatively rare.)

Thus, most students must focus on the sensation in the seat, not the feet, to develop good, effective, turn-out.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #3r:  
“ Turn-out must be felt in the seat more than the feet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Helen Tamaris



Throwback Thursday and Helen Tamaris
Helen Tamaris was born Helen Becker on April 24, 1905. She was an American dancer and choreographer, one of the first to add jazz and African American spirituals to her work.
She began her dance training with Irene Lewisohn, and later trained in ballet with Michel Fokine at the Metropolitan Opera, where she later performed. At this time she adopted the stage name of Tamaris. She studied briefly with the Isadora Duncan School, but was dissatisfied. Unhappy with both classical ballet and Isadora’s method, she set out to create her own technique and made her performance debut with it in 1927. In 1930 she founded her own school and company.
In addition, she organized the Dance Repertory Theatre in 1930 that presented concerts feather Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. Regardless of her efforts to develop a new style, she never quite succeeded, at least to the level Martha Graham or Isadora Duncan. However, her works were vigorous and exuberant, and incorporated American themes as well spotlighting social issues (How Long Brethren). She also choreographed works for musical theatre, including Annie Get Your Gun, among others.
In 1960 she formed the Tamiris-Nagrin Dance Company with her husband and dance partner Daniel Nagrin. Helen Tamiris died on August 4, 1966 in New York City.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Dance History Factoid #95:  
“Helen Tamaris was one of the early pioneers in modern dance.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”
―Jimi Hendrix


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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wild Wednesday Seam Zippers


Wild Wednesday Seam Zippers

You may have heard of the sewing implement called seam rippers. Well, today we are talking about seam zippers.

In order to keep the legs straight (visually straight if hyper-extended), it helps to imagine that the seams running up the back of some tights as long zippers. If you don’t wear this brand of tights, imagine it anyway. The seam zippers must be pulled up for straight knees to be achieved.

We are all familiar with the sensation of zipping up a pair of jeans, so any time you are working on keeping the knees straight and strong, imagine zipping them up, following the line of the seam on the back of your tights.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #1uu:  
Imagine zippers where the seams on the tights are.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“‎Though nobody can go back and make a new beginning... Anyone can start over and make a new ending.”
Chico Xavier

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Technical Tuesday Jeté


Technical Tuesday Jeté
Today I present the ever-popular jeté. Here is the explanation of a basic jeté from the Encyclopedia Britannica: “…ballet leap in which the weight of the dancer is transferred from one foot to the other. The dancer “throws” one leg to the front, side, or back and holds the other leg in any desired position upon landing.” 
The French word itself means “thrown”. Jetés have several variations, the most common being the grand jeté, which, as the name implies, is a big leap (“big throw”), usually involving a full split in the air. Then there is the grand jeté en tournant (often shortened to “tour jeté”) which is a jeté that turns in the air. Jetés can also involves beats: jeté battu.
The important thing to remember in any type of jeté is that once the feet leave the floor, they must be fully stretched (pointed).

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #15p 
 Jeté means “thrown”. 

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
Dr. Seuss
 

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Mad Monday Push Pull


Mad Monday Push Pull

As stated in Ballet Secret #18o: “A successful piqué involves a push leg and a pull leg.” This means that the impetus required by the step requires a good plié (the push leg), and a good, aggressive piqué (the pull leg).

Think about it. The plié pushes off the floor at the same time the extended leg reaches out (pulls). These two things happen right before the dancer transfers weight from the plié leg to the piqué leg. Push pull…

This thought pattern creates the proper energy for the step. If either leg fails to play their part, the step will not be successful.


From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #18o:  
“A successful piqué involves a push leg and a pull leg.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

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