2 3 Ballet Webb: June 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Technical Tuesday Balloné and Ballotté


Technical Tuesday Balloné and Ballotté

There are many confusing terms in ballet. Today I’m going to talk about the difference between balloné and ballotté.

In a balloné, the working leg usually extends to 45 degrees, and is then brought back to the standing leg through a low enveloppé. From there it usually extends outward again. It is basically an in and out movement. It can be done as a jump, or not. The word means “bouncing”.

A ballotté is a jump. The dancer begins by bringing both feet up to a double cou de pied position in the air before extending one leg, and landing on the other. The word “ballotté” means “tossed”, and that is a good description of the step – the feet are brought upward and then one leg is “tossed” out in a 45 degree developpé.

There you have it. The basic difference is that balloné involves one leg, but ballotté is a jump with more involvement of both legs.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #15z:  
Balloné involves one leg, ballotté two.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Those who don't jump will never fly.”
Leena Ahmad Almashat, Harmony Letters

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Magnificent Monday Double


Magnificent Monday Double

A rond de jambe is an interesting step. It does many things, all at the same time. It is particularly useful because of its double rotation. That’s right. There is the rotation  of the legs in each hip socket (which is always engaged when the dancer is working), and then there is the circular movement of the leg in the rond de jambe itself.

The trick is to maintain the rotation of both legs in the hip sockets, while rotating the working leg around the half-circle pathway of the rond de jambe. It is especially easy to lose the rotation in the working hip when the leg is in the back.

So think of it this way: a rond de jambe rotates a rotated leg. Double rotation!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #23b:  
A rond de jambe is a double rotation: The leg in the hip socket and the path of the leg in the rond de jambe.

                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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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sensational Sunday Imagine


Sensational Sunday Imagine

Dancers do lots of imagining. Imagery is so important in what we do, from improving technique to creating believable characterizations in performance. But there is another area where imagination can be very helpful – for motivation.

We’ve all had those days when we come to stand at the barre and feel tired and thoroughly unmotivated. What to do? Imagine.

Imagine that something wonderful, new, inspirational, or simply interesting will happen. It might be in the immediate future (within the next hour), or it might be later in the day. But imagining that something wonderful is about to happen pumps up attention and motivation.

This something wonderful may be a small thing: a casual correction that allows you to achieve that extra pirouette, or a random compliment you didn’t expect. Other small things are often invisible. Like the choreographer or director deciding that you are perfect for the new role they are casting – but you won’t know it until days later when the cast list is posted.

Wonderful things happen every day. Even if you don’t see them.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #71:  
“Imagine something wonderful is about to happen.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”
 ~Arnold H. Glasow

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Super Saturday Saying


Super Saturday Saying

The dance world is full of advice, secrets, statutes, and sayings. I haven’t featured sayings before, but from now on you will occasionally find these on Saturday blogs.

Today’s saying is a classic. It is true not only in ballet, but in all endeavors and art forms that require regular, devoted practice.  Here it is:

“If you miss one class you notice, if you miss two the teacher notices, if you miss three the audience notices.”

The audience noticing is particularly scary, but the first two are sobering as well. We all know the feeling of missing a class and feeling  just a little bit off during the next class. It is the curse of all physical training. You can’t take off the “red shoes” (movie and fairy tale reference) and maintain a decent technical level.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Ballet Saying #37:  
“If you miss one class you notice, if you miss two the teacher notices, if you miss three the audience notices.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Practice doesn't make perfect.
Practice reduces the imperfection.”
Toba Beta, Master of Stupidity

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Fun Friday Enveloppés


Fun Friday Enveloppés

You will recall that every step in ballet has a name and can be reversed. Today’s secret involves the reverse of developpé – enveloppé. The word means “enveloped”, but when I learned this step as a student I thought it sounded like “envelope” (which comes from the same French root) and that seems to be exactly what the step does.

Unlike a developpé that unfolds (usually from a passé), an enveloppé folds back into, or through a passé, and moves on down into fifth or whatever closing position is required. It is just like placing a letter (the working foot) into an envelope.

So on your next enveloppé, imagine tucking a letter into an envelope.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #11f:  

Imagine tucking a letter into an envelope in an enveloppé.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”
Nicolas Chamfort

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Moira Shearer


Throwback Thursday and Moira Shearer

Moira Shearer King was born on January 17, 1926 in Scotland. She trained with Nicolas Legat at the Sadler’s Wells School, and performed with Mona Ingleby’s Ballet International company in 1941.  She then joined Sadler’s Wells Ballet, which became The Royal Ballet. She performed in many works choreographed by Frederick Ashton, and often danced alongside Margot Fonteyn and Pamela May.

But her fame is forever tied to the movie, The Red Shoes. Often called the most popular movie about ballet ever produced, it almost overshadowed Moira Shearer’s gifts as a classical dancer. When she was first offered the role, she hesitated, but at the urging of Ninette de Valois, she accepted.

Later, she appeared in other films, such as The Tales of Hoffman, The Man Who Loved Redheads, and Black Tights. She also wrote two books, including "Balletmaster: A Dancer's View of George Balanchine" (1986), and a column for The Daily Telegraph.

Moira Shearer died in 2006. She is survived by her husband, Ludovic Kennedy, and four children.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #74:  
Moira Shearer is a ballerina best known for playing the leading role in The Red Shoes.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
What people cannot realize is that a ballet dancer just cannot afford to give up ballet for a moment. After a month without practicing you are thrown back years."
-          Moira Shearer

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wild Wednesday Fondues


Wild Wednesday Fondues

You will remember that there is no dropping in ballet. You will also remember that there is no drooping in ballet. Also, since a fondue is a plié on one leg, all the rules that apply to pliés also apply to fondues.

Unfortunately, things that work well in a standard plié are often forgotten in a fondue. Dancers who would never “sit” in their plié, do just that in a fondue, particularly if it precedes a difficult step. Scary.

Plié secrets are just as important on one leg (maybe more so) as on two, so apply plié rules to fondue. Go back and review all the plié secrets:  Imagine being in a (skinny) elevator and go up and down smoothly. Imagine having a helium balloon tied to your head so you can’t stop at the bottom. Imagine a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in between each vertebrae to keep the body lifted, etc, etc, etc.

There are many others. Try them all during fondues.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #17c:  
All plié rules apply to fondues.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Technical Tuesday Temps de Cuisse


Technical Tuesday Temps de Cuisse

Temps de cuisse (tahn duh kweess) is a fun step. It is fun to do, and I think it is fun to say. Temps de cuisse, temps de cuisse, temps de cuisse … you get the idea.

According to the website Andros on Ballet (http://michaelminn.net/andros/technique/), a temps de cuisse is: “Thigh movement. A compound step consisting of a battement degagé and a sissone fermée.” This definition is also in Gail Grant’s book, Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet. For an interesting discussion on the many variations and ideas about this step, check out today’s link. The word origin of “cuisse” is:  a piece of armor or padding for the thigh.

I usually teach temps de cuisse in petit allegro combinations using a small, ankle-height passé into a sissone that can travel in any direction. This step is very useful in helping student remember and practice the concept that any time the foot leaves the floor it must “peel off”, like a stamp from an envelope.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #15y:  
The word “cuisse: in temps de cuisse comes from a word meaning: “a piece of armor or padding for the thigh”.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Marvelous Monday Seamless


Marvelous Monday Seamless

When beginners learn to read, or play an instrument there are always stops or pauses in between each word or note. This is part of the normal learning process, and it is the same when learning dance steps.

However, as the student advances, the pauses need to be eliminated and a smooth, seamless transition between words, notes or steps must evolve. To do this, a dancer must be secure enough in each individual step to be able to think at least one step ahead. When performing one step, the mind is already thinking about the next one – and beyond. It is the same in music and reading. A student who is thinking only about the step he /she is doing is already one step behind.

I tell my students that the audience should never be able to tell where one step ends and the next one begins. It is like giving away a secret. Instead, the movement should appear effortless, continuous and seamless.

This is achieved in two ways: first, by thinking ahead; and second, the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #7vv:  
“Movement patterns must appear seamless.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
Confucius

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father’s Day


Happy Father’s Day

Today’s quote is about how it is the “scraps of wisdom” given to us by our fathers at random moments that shape and color our lives - the teachable moments when they aren’t consciously trying to teach us. I know this is true.  It is not the big lectures or special birthday presents or even the walk down the aisle that become the most meaningful moments we receive from our dads.

Instead, it is the odd moment, the chance remark, or the flashback memory of a walk in the woods that continues to influence us. The power of these little “scraps” surface throughout our lives, whether our father is still with us on earth or not.

Cherish these bits and pieces, even though they may not seem like anything at the time. They will come back to you, many times throughout your life.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy - and thank you.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Father’s Day Secret #1:  
“Cherish your father’s scraps of wisdom.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Super Saturday Statute


Super Saturday Statute

Yes, it is time once again for a classic Ballet Statute. Yesterday I blogged about how the leg in a fouetté isn’t allowed to drop when moving from one position (like à la seconde) to another (like arabesque). That’s because of Ballet Statute #36: “There is no dropping in ballet.”

This is related to Ballet Statute #18: “There is no drooping in ballet”; but dropping is an altogether different thing. Dropping is totally and suddenly succumbing to gravity. Dropping is more abrupt and severe as one would expect when gravity wins. Scary.

Dropping most often involves the legs (as in yesterday’s blog), but can, to a lesser degree involve the arms, or even the head (really scary). But the worst thing is dropping a partner (beyond scary). I once heard a teacher say this very important thing: “A ballerina should never hit the floor – her partner can always fall under her.”

Of course, all of these scary scenarios can be avoided by remembering Ballet Statute # 36.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #36:  
“There is no dropping in ballet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Fun Friday Fouettés and Keys


Fun Friday Fouettés and Keys

It’s Fun Friday again and time to talk about fouettés. Not the turning fouettés, but the standard ones where the body turns away (or sometimes toward) an extended leg.

The problem with these fouettés is maintaining the height of the working leg. Since the first part of the movement is usually a developpé or a grand battement, this is where the height of the leg is established. For example, often the position goes from a developpé a la seconde, and fouettés into an arabesque. Since most dancers have a higher extension to the side than they do to the back, the leg drops into the arabesque. Not good.

To prevent this drop, imagine placing the working foot in a keyhole, and the fouetté turns the key. This keeps the leg at the same height, or close to it.

This keyhole image works, regardless of the direction and position of the fouetté.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #11e:  
“During a standard fouetté, imagine putting the working foot in a keyhole, then turning the key.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““They key of persistence opens all door closed by resistance.”
John Di Lemme

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Sol Hurok


Throwback Thursday and Sol Hurok

In 1906, an almost destitute Sol Hurok came to the United States from Russia. He worked at whatever odd jobs he could find and soon began organizing concerts for labor organizations. In 1911, he convinced violinist Efrem Zimbalist to play a concert, and before long Sol Hurok was staging performances that featured many accomplished artists, most of them from his native Russia. In 1914, he became an American citizen.

Because of Sol Hurok, Americans began to develop an interest in and appreciation for companies such as the Bolshoi Ballet, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the Sadler’s Wells Ballet; and artists like Pavlova, Isadora Duncan and Arthur Rubinstein to name just a few.

For more than fifty years, over 4,000 performers were reputedly featured and/or discovered by Sol Hurok. He was also known for his own showmanship and lavish treatment of his performers. He wrote his autobiography: Imresario in 1946 and it was made into the movie Tonight We Sing in 1953.

Sol Hurok did on March 5, 1974 in New York City.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #73:  
“Sol Hurok was an impresario who did much to bring virtuoso performances to America.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“"If I would be in this business for business, I wouldn't be in this business."
-          Sol Hurok

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wild Wednesday Pointer


Wild Wednesday Pointer

Here we go again with another image for better posture and alignment! Can there ever be too many? No.  I think not. Today’s  image involves a prop – a telescoping pointer. Not something the average person usually has on them, but something most people are familiar with.

Sometimes it is disguised as a normal pen, but when pulled, it extends longer and longer and longer. Usually a foot and a half or more. I have one of these and it is handy for illustrating the length and lift necessary when a dancer “pulls up”.

I usually pull it out only part way and ask the students  if that looks like enough. Most of them will say it “yes”, and then I pull it further. You get the idea. It is useful to actually see something that extends and extends…

So find a telescoping pointer or pen, or at least a photo of one. It is a great image for how the body lengthens in ballet.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #1pp:  
Imagine a telescoping pointer.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.”
Andy Rooney

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Technical Tuesday Double Duty


Technical Tuesday Double Duty

I love ballet. It is so logical. Learning one skill is useful because it often applies in other steps later. For example, in an en dedans pirouette, there are two ways to prepare: 1.the working leg moves directly from fourth position to retiré; or 2. the working leg extends to à la seconde before moving to retiré.

I like to teach students the second way because this is the same preparation that is used for à la seconde turns en dedans. I love skills that do double duty.

I also teach the first way, but I find that students achieve that with relative ease. The preparation to à la seconde is a bit more difficult, but once perfected, a la seconde turns are easily mastered – often to the student’s surprise.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #14q:  
An en dedans pirouette preparation that involves an extension to the side is the same as the preparation for an à la seconde turn.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Mad Monday Murphy’s Law


Mad Monday Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law states “If anything can go wrong, it will”. No one knows who Murphy was – or if he was a real person. Some attribute this saying to Edward Aloysius Murphy, Jr. who was an American aerospace engineer. The expression is also believed to have been created during WWI or WWII in some branch of the military. But no one really knows for certain. And to think this expression went viral in the days before the internet!

This famous law is often quoted by both pessimists and humorists. The dance world has its own version, and it goes something like this: “The best things you do will never be witnessed by the director or an audience. Your best dance moves will occur in your kitchen. At midnight. When no one is around except the dog.”

Sound familiar? There are many other situations in dance that have similar “laws”. I’ll post one every now and then.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #21g:  
“Murphy’s Law states that the best things you do will never be witnessed by the company director or the audience.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Murphy was an optimist.”
-Unknown

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Double P’s


Sunday Double P’s

Artists are perfectionists, and that’s great. But so often the drive for perfection gets in the way and brings us to a screeching (or a silent) halt. For dancers this perfectionism backlash manifests as a lack of confidence in class or (gasp!) performance; for other artists, like writers, it rears its ugly head by causing inactivity and/or a lack of will to produce anything, because “it won’t be good enough”.  Sound familiar?

Put perfectionism in the background. It will always be there, never fear. Instead, focus on persistence. That’s what counts. As my students often quote me as saying: “Keep on keeping on.”  Do something every day, with a goal in mind, but without worrying about perfection. It doesn’t really exist, anyway
.
Take joy in the journey. Love your art. Love your process. The side effect of persistence is perfection.  As much perfection as any of us can expect.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #69:  
“The side effect of persistence is perfection.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”
James A. Michener

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Statute #35


Saturday Statute

Happy Saturday! Today’s Statute is an important one:  “There is no complaining in ballet”. Actually, this is a good statute for life: There is no complaining. Period. Complaining makes everyone miserable, especially the person doing the complaining, yet we are all guilty at one time or another.

This statute is closely related to Statute #4: “There is no groaning in ballet” (http://balletwebb.blogspot.com/2013/12/fun-friday-and-groaning.html), but complaining is different because it verbalizes specifically what the complainer is unhappy about – it is essentially detailed groaning. Not good.

So stamp out complaining, and groaning, too. See today’s quote.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #35:  
“There is no complaining in ballet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.”
Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Fun Friday Wrinkles


Fun Friday Wrinkles

It’s Fun Friday and time once again to address that favorite issue: posture. Today’s idea involves the shoulder area.

When a dancer becomes tense or worried, there is tendency for the shoulders to go up, and for the neck muscles to clench. Scary. The shoulders should always be relaxed so the arms and head are free to move. Gripping the shoulders also hinders the ability to spot turns effectively.

To prevent lifted shoulders, imagine wearing a rumbled jacket or shirt that you just pulled out of your dance bag. Now imagine that all the wrinkles in this garment are falling out. This is also a great image for general relaxation.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #1nn:  
Imagine wrinkles falling out of the shoulders of a jacket.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Wrinkles are engraved smiles.”
Jules Renard

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Yul Brynner


Throwback Thursday and Yul Brynner

Born in Russia around 1920, Yul Brynner began his career strumming guitar and singing gypsy songs for Russian immigrants in Parisian nightclubs. Later, he worked as a trapeze artist before beginning his acting career in the 1940s.

He came to the United States in 1941 and in 1946 made his Broadway debut in Lute Song opposite Mary Martin. It was she who recommended him for his most famous role of the King of Siam in The King and I. He was a complete unknown at the time, and Gertrude Lawrence’s name appeared above his in all publicity (only after she died did he receive top billing). The musical debuted in 1951, and after 1,246 performances, in 1956 Yul Brynner starred in the movie version for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor. He also won a Tony Award for the same role, and thus became one of only a few actors to win both awards.

He returned to the stage for 3,379 more performances. He also appeared in many different movies up until the early 1980s, including The Journey, The Sound and the Fury, Escape from Sahrain, Solomon and Sheba and Magnificent Seven.

Yul Brynner died on October 10, 1985 of lung cancer, on the same day as Orson Welles. After his death he left a public service announcement stating that smoking was the cause of his cancer.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #72:  
“Yul Brenner is best known for his role as the King of Siam in The King and I.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Now that I'm gone, I tell you, don't smoke.”
-          Yul Brynner


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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wacky Wednesday Tips and Edges


Wacky Wednesday Tips and Edges

Yesterday I talked about the correct position of the tendu foot in derrière. Today’s subject, not surprisingly, is the foot in devant.

The foot in devant isn’t usually as much of a problem as the foot in derrière, largely because the rotation (turn-out) is easier to achieve (and see) in the front. The problem here is that sometimes the ankle area relaxes and/or collapses, creating a sickled foot.

When this happens, the little toe touches the floor, instead of the tip of the big toe. It is the tip of the big toe that should touch the floor in a tendu devant, just like the edge of the big toe should touch the floor in a tendu derrière.

For good tendues front and back, remember: Tips and Edges.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #4m:  
In a tendu devant, the tip of the big toe is on the floor.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Follow the three R's:
- Respect for self.
- Respect for others.
- Responsibility for all your actions.”

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