2 3 Ballet Webb: July 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Fun Friday Beats and More Beats


Fun Friday Beats and More Beats

Ahhhhhh those challenging beats! When dancers first learn to add a beat to a jump it can be frustrating. That’s because beats take practice. No surprise here.

All beats involve both legs, and dancers first learn beats by perfecting the two basic types: the beat of an entrechat quatre (if the right foot begins in fifth front, the beats occur and the right foot returns (lands) in fifth front where it started); the beat of a royale (the right foot begins in front, the beats occur and the right foot lands in back). In dancer lingo: Royales change feet and enrechat quatres don’t. Notice that I said “beats” plural. That’s because both legs beat, therefore the entrechat quatre is called “quatre” (four), because two legs, each one doing two beats (one front and one back), equals four. (Early dance marketing!)

To break it down to its most basic essence, in order to perform a beat, the dancer must jump high enough to allow the legs to come apart slightly in the air before the beat. This is important! That’s because you can’t beat your legs if they are stuck together any more than you can clap your hands if they are stuck together. So the basic pattern for beats is this: up, open, beat, open (that’s the rebound part), close (land). Also, it is the legs that beat, not just the feet. During beats, think of crossing the thighs. This ensures that the feet will cross correctly – if the thighs cross, the feet will cross.

I usually introduce beats by having students jump from fifth to second position, then jump and beat in fifth and return to a landing in second. Beating in fifth and then opening to second for the landing provides a great feeling of rebound! Gradually reducing the width of the second position helps the students feel (and practice) the two-legged, sideways action (that’s important, too) with a rebound, of a correctly executed beat, and to achieve success sooner.

Historically, beats probably evolved from early folk dances and can be seen in dances like the sailor’s hornpipe (see today’s link featuring the amazing Wayne Sleep).

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #15dd:  
All beats involve both legs and have a rebound.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“A bird is safe in its nest - but that is not what its wings are made for.”
Amit Ray, World Peace: The Voice of a Mountain Bird


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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Sonia Arova


Throwback Thursday and Sonia Arova

Sonia Arova’s talent became apparent early in her life. At age eight, she was selected to study dance in Paris with the famous ballerina of the Maryinsky, Olga Preobrajenska. She also studied with Serge Lifar. At age twelve, she won first place in international competition.

During the German invasion of France, she escaped to England disguised as a boy. In 1946 she joined Ballet Rambert, performing principal roles in ballets such as Les Sylphide and Swan Lake. She came to America in 1947 and danced with the new Metropolitan Ballet.

As a dancer she was known for her technical strength and bravura attack. She was also know for her artistry and ability to perform dramatic roles. She often worked as a freelance dancer, and toured throughout America and Europe. She was the first ballerina from the west to perform in Japan since Anna Pavlova.

She danced with the Ballet de Champs Elysées, London Festival Ballet and the Chicago Opera Ballet. In the 1960s she performed with Rudolf Nureyev, Erik Bruhn and Rosella Hightower in a touring concert group under Anton Dolin.

As a teacher and director, she worked with the Norwegian National Ballet and the San Diego Ballet. In 1976 she and husband Thor Sutowski moved to Birmingham, Alabama to develop the dance program at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. They went on to direct the State of Alabama Ballet/Ballet South from 1981 until 1996.

Dame Sonia Arova died in California on February 4, 2001.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #15p:  
Ballerina Sonia Arova won first place in international competition when she was twelve years old.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The greatest thing about dreams is they don’t expire. They can lay dormant for years and when you pull them out and dust them off, they shine like new.”
Casi McLean


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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wacky Wednesday Quarter Song


Wacky Wednesday Quarter Song

In the large collection of fun-to-say ballet terms, I present emboîté. It is also a fun step to do, particularly because it is a jump and a turn. Double fun. It is a great way to practice spotting, and also a great way to perfect jumps and turns simultaneously.  The term emboîté means “fitted together” or “boxed”.

The interesting thing about emboîtés is that despite the way the step looks (there’s that illusion thing again), an emboîté isn’t truly a half-turn, half-turn. That’s right. It is actually a one-quarter turn followed by a three-quarter turn. Try it. It works much better this way.

Emboîtés have a song that is repeated silently in the dancer’s mind as the step is performed: “Quarter, three-quarter, Quarter, three-quarter, Quarter, three-quarter… You get the idea.

From now on, this song will be stuck in your head whenever you do emboîtés.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #15cc:  
An emboîté is involves a quarter turn followed by a three-quarter turn.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.”
Woody Allen


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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Technical Tuesday Cabriole

Technical Tuesday Cabriole

A cabriole is a fun step. The word “cabriole” in French comes from cabrioler meaning “to caper”. ( A caper is “a playful, skipping movement”; or “an activity or escapade”.)

A cabriole is basically a beat with an extended leg, and it is often introduced as a beat in a sauté arabesque. A cabriole can be done in any direction, however. The trick with cabriole is this: following the beat of the legs in the air, the upper leg (the arabesque leg in the example of sauté), must rebound, or bounce slightly higher in the air immediately following the beat. It is like the rebounding of a basketball off the floor.  There are also double and even triple (see today’s link) cabrioles.

It may sound simple, but the difficulty usually arises when the dancer takes the initiating leg (the arabesque leg in the sauté example) too high, making it almost impossible for the “bottom” leg to “catch up”. (A similar problem exists in assemblé, when the “bottom” leg is unable reach the “top” leg.)

To prevent this, make sure the first leg doesn’t fly too high. This way, with practice, the beat will happen, and the lovely rebound will occur.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #15bb:  
In a cabriole, the “bottom” leg causes the “top” leg to rebound (bounce upward).”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Success is how high you bounce after you hit bottom.”
-George S. Patton

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Mad Monday Momentum


Mad Monday Momentum

One of the most difficult things in sequential turns like fouettés isn’t doing them, but stopping, or controlling them. Once a dancer has learned the basics of a fouetté (or other repeating turns), the problem becomes reining in the momentum.

Since each turn in a series tends to build speed, keeping each individual turn moving at the exact same pace is important. It is like driving a car – a new driver has to learn how much or how little pressure to put on the accelerator to maintain a constant speed.

To control the pace in a series of fouettés, the plié is the key. The plié controls the acceleration of each individual turn, acting like the brake on a car. Therefore, the plié is just as important – if not more important – than all the other elements of a fouetté.

Never underestimate the power of a plié.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #14s:  
Controlling the momentum is important in sequential turns.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:

“When you're following your inner voice, doors tend to eventually open for you, even if they mostly slam at first.”
Kelly Cutrone, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You



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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Super Sunday Strawberry Jam


Super Sunday Strawberry Jam

The next time you are contemplating your piece of breakfast toast covered with strawberry jam (or blueberry, or blackberry), hold that image in your mind. File it away: The picture of that sweet, fresh summer redness slathered all over that piece of bread. Close your eyes and savor how good it smells and tastes. Yummmm…

Now imagine that you are going to go out in the world and spread good things like jam on toast. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, or even a huge number of things, but put that thought in the back of your mind so you’ll be ready to spread the jam when the opportunity arises.

Everything is better with a little bit of jam.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #75:  
“Spread good things.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“I said "Somebody should do something about that." Then I realized I am somebody.”
Lily Tomlin


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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Super Saturday Space Statute


Super Saturday Space Statute

I have blogged several times about how important the hands and fingers are in classical technique. Dancers tend to focus mostly on their legs and feet, and the hands become secondary. Not good.

One common problem is this: fingers that appear to be glued or sewn together. This makes the hands appear more like mittens than human hands, and it ruins the beautiful, fluid line that must be created.

If this is a problem for you, remember today’s Ballet Statute: “A tiny space between the fingers is always maintained.”  This is always true. At no time should the fingers be stuck together. Instead, allow a tiny space (like holding a flower stem) between each and every finger. This lets the fingers breathe and not suffocate.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Ballet Statute #39:  
“A tiny space between the fingers is always maintained.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
Confucius, Confucius: The Analects


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Friday, July 24, 2015

Fun Friday Formula


Fun Friday Formula

Here we go again with another fun formula for excellent ballet technique. This one is for attitude derriere.

This lovely position is often compromised by a lack of rotation in the working hip. This gives the appearance of reminiscent of the “Walk like an Egyptian” song, which isn’t good for classical ballet. But approaching it from the idea of rotating the leg in the hip socket sometimes isn’t very effective, and a simpler prescription is necessary.

The easiest fix for this problem is the formula: Knee up, heel down. Imagine a string tied to the working  knee that is tied to the ceiling, pulling the knee gently upward, and at the same time feel the heel pressing gently downward. There’s that equal and opposite thing again!

Experiment with this idea the next time you are working on attitude derriere.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #18h:  
“The formula for attitude derriere: “Knee up, heel down”.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can, there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”
Sarah Caldwell


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Carlotta Zambelli


Throwback Thursday and Carlotta Zambelli

Italian ballerina Carlotta Zambelli was born in 1875 and trained at in La Scala under Cesare Coppini and Adelaide Vigano. When she was nineteen, she was discovered by Pedro Gaihard, the director of the Paris Opera who took her to Paris. She made her debut at the Paris Opera the same year, performing in Faust.  She impressed Parisian audiences with her technique and her fouettés. In 1898 she earned the title of Prima Ballerina.

In 1901 she traveled to St. Petersburg in Russia where she performed leading roles in Coppelia, Paquita and Giselle. She became the last non-Russian dancer to be designated prima ballerina at the Maryinsky.

After a year in Russia, she returned to Paris where she remained for the rest of her career. She was the leading ballerina at the Paris Opera until she retired from performing in 1930. She then began teaching full time at the Opera, and later founded the Académie Chaptal. In 1955 she retired from teaching.

Carlotta Zambelli, the prima ballerina most people never heard of, died in 1968.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #78:  
Carlotta Zambelli is sometimes called a forgotten ballerina.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”
Ayn Rand

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wacky Wednesday Frowning Arches


Wacky Wednesday Frowning Arches

Although it may seem so, I am not going to do a blog parody of McDonald’s. Instead, the arches I’m talking about are not golden, but tense. That’s right.

When a dancer (or anyone else, for that matter), tenses the muscles of the foot when standing, the arch “frowns”, creating an extreme half-circle shape. The toes grip the floor, and the ankles tense as well. Not good.

As I have said before, the feet on the floor should be relaxed, not tense. If they are not relaxed, the poor feet grimace and frown. Poor, poor feet. Ouch!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #7xx:  
“Avoid frowning arches.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.”
Lou Holtz


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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Technical Tuesday Tenet


Technical Tuesday Tenet

One of the most awe-inspiring things about dancers is their flexibility. It is something every audience member notices and yet it is one of the simplest things to achieve, given enough time and effort. It isn’t rocket science.

The fact of the matter is, if you stretch, you will get stretched. Unless there is some physical abnormality, this tenet is true. Some dancers take longer than others to achieve the same degree of flexibility, but if they stretch, they will get stretched.

So make stretching every day a priority and you will soon begin to see your extension improve. The key is to stretch a teeny bit further every day. I’ve talked about this before.

If you stretch, you will get stretched.
Not many things in life are that absolute.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #16o:  
“If you stretch, you will get stretched.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
Walt Disney Company


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Monday, July 20, 2015

Mad Monday Mosquito


Mad Monday Mosquito

In any turning movement, there is a tendency for the body to twist. This means that the following arm lags behind and causes “drag” on the movement – as well as making it look less than attractive. As you will remember, the torso (cereal box) must remain square and aligned and the arms must maintain their position. But so often the following arm hangs back.

To prevent this, imagine slapping a mosquito that has landed on the leading shoulder. This is done with the following arm. Although the shoulder is really too high for the arm to maintain its correct position in front of the lower rib cage, this image is a good therapy exercise for those who have the lagging arm problem.

Slap that mosquito!
From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #14r:  
Imagine a slapping a mosquito off the leading shoulder with the following arm in a turn.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bands on your front door forever.”
-Unknown

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Savory Sunday


Savory Sunday

Most dancers are familiar with the phrase “tunnel vision’ and it is something we become very good at – especially when it involves dance technique.

But today let’s turn that laser focus on some other things. Little things. Here’s how: Notice how one particular food or drink tastes and focus intently on savoring it, blocking out everything else. Or notice the petunia growing in a window box and study its beautiful colors, blocking out everything else. It is almost as though the world goes into slow motion for a few brief moments as you focus intently on one single thing.  You get the idea.

Do this every day. Select one thing to savor and put all your efforts and focus into it. You will come away renewed and with a heightened knowledge and appreciation of that object or sensation. It is a simple, effective way to enrich your life.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #74:  
“Pick one thing each day to focus on and savor.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Our way of thinking creates good or bad outcomes.”
Stephen Richards


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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Silly Saturday Saying


Silly Saturday Saying

Dancers are a creative bunch. There are many silly sayings that float around the dance world, and some might even have some basis in fact. Others, not so much.

A male dancer friend of mine always said that every dance studio and every theater stage has a quota of pirouettes that can be performed in any 24 hour period. If one dancer does a phenomenal number of turns it means that the quota has been used up and no one else will be able to pirouette well for the rest of the day. Scary.

This saying was undoubtedly created as a way to rationalize poor pirouette performance, but nevertheless, this silly saying is fun. And that is something every dance studio, stage- and dancer - can use a bit more of.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #38:  
“Silly Saying: Every dance studio and stage has a quota.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“If you've got nothing to dance about, find a reason to sing.”
Melody Carstairs


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Friday, July 17, 2015

Fun Friday Full and Far

Fun Friday Full and Far

When dancers feel insecure their steps and movements become small and they tend to dance in a tiny space underneath themselves. This prevents effective movement. All extremities must stretch to their fullest to engage the muscles and allow them to do their best work.

Think about how it feels when you “pull back” or “pull in” because of doubt and insecurity. Yup. That’s right. That’s when that jump or turn doesn’t work out the way you expected – or, gasp! It causes a fall.

So whenever you dance, remember Full and Far. The movements must swell to fill the space and the steps must extend far – beyond the fingers and toes.

Try it. It works!
From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #7ww:  
“Effective movement patterns are full and far.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Life is not so short but that there is always enough time for courtesy.”
-          Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Pierina Legnani


Throwback Thursday and Pierina Legnani

Pierina Legnani was born in Italy in 1863. She was known for her technical brilliance and more than one account says she is responsible for inspiring Russian dancers to develop the bravura technique they are known for today.

But her fame is forever tied to fouettés. It was in 1893 in the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg that Pierina Legnani wowed audiences with thirty-two of them. She originated this now famous series of whipped turns, and first performed the feat in London. In 1895 Legnani created the double role of Odette-Odile in the Petipa  and Ivanov version of Swan Lake.

She stayed in Russia until 1901, and was given the title of Prima Ballerina Assoluta, an honor that had been bestowed only once before, to ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska. After leaving the country, Legnani continued to perform in France, London and Italy until 1910.

Pierina Legnani died in Italy in 1923. She was 60 years old.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #15p:  
Pierina Legnani was the first to perform thirty-two fouettés.

                Link of the Day:
Quote of the Day:
“You never miss the water until the well runs dry.”
-          Unknown old saying

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wondrous Wednesday Dragonfly


Wondrous Wednesday Dragonfly

In a low jeté that is traveling forward, there is a specific quality of movement that is necessary. Often these types of jetés are preceded by a balloné or a ballotté (see Ballet Secret # 15z), and are usually part of a medium petit allegro combination.

It is easy to bog down during these combinations, and as we all know, there is no drooping or dropping in ballet. To prevent a sluggish jeté, picture how a dragonfly darts across a stream to avoid any predator frogs that might be lurking. That’s the way the jeté should move: quickly forward, and horizontally across the floor.

Another image that works is that of a hummingbird. If you’ve ever watched a hummingbird you know they move in a similar fashion –especially if one is being chased away from a feeder by another, rival hummingbird.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #15aa:  
A low jeté involving an extended leg devant should dart forward like a dragonfly.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”


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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Technical Tuesday Cloche


Technical Tuesday Cloche

A cloche is a fun step. It permits such freedom of movement, especially when it is done with a grand battement. It allows the legs to fly!

Cloche is usually introduced to a student dancer in a dégagé. This trains the leg to follow a perfectly straight path, front and back, with no deviation at all to the side. This is more difficult than you might think. If the hips move slightly out of alignment, it will cause the leg to leave the perfect path.

The best way to think about a cloche is that it is like mowing a lawn. You’d never mow a lawn efficiently by curving around and around – you’d want to carve straight lines in the grass, and then make the next pass cut cleaning along each straight line. It is the same with a cloche.

That way, when it is time to do grand battement cloche, the legs will automatically kick through the straight path. This is also an important preparation for grand jeté en tournant because of the way the legs must scissor past each other in the air. Think about it.

I love ballet! It is so logical.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #4n:  
A cloche should follow a straight path – like mowing the lawn.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Without music and dance, life would be a desert.”
-          Pat Conroy

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Marvelous Monday Melt


Marvelous Monday Melt

Yes, today’s title sounds like it should be some decadent dessert. But it isn’t. It involves those pesky shoulders that like to ride up and cuddle next to the ears. Dancers (and other people) often hold tension here, and this is usually what makes the shoulders go up.

This isn’t attractive, to say the least, but more importantly, it isn’t productive. It’s difficult to dance and move if the shoulders and neck are tight. It is also almost impossible to move the head (think spotting), if the shoulders are welding everything above into place.

To prevent this shoulder-snuggling- next-to- the-ears problem, imagine that the shoulders are melting downward – straight down and dripping off and around the upper arm. This also helps release any tension being held in the shoulders, allowing it to be dissipated away with the melting of the shoulders.

Now everything can move freely!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #1qq:  
“Imagine the shoulders melting downward.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Encourage anyone who is trying to improve mentally, physically, or spiritually.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Recharge


Sunday Recharge

Dancers, like so many others, work indoors and work long hours. This takes a toll on health – particularly mental health – and happiness. Especially for those who work in windowless offices or studios, taking time to be outdoors in natural light is important.

This is all a part of a human being’s need to recharge. Each individual will do this differently. Some people recharge by being socially engaged and spending time with people. Others need time alone to reflect and relax. Whatever it is that works for you, plan time in your schedule to do it.

I also recommend spending time outdoors. There is something restorative about walking in the woods and listening to wind in the trees, or strolling along the beach and smelling the salt air. Make this a priority and put it on your daily calendar. You’ll feel better and come back to work with renewed inspiration.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #73:  
“Take time to recharge.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Relax and refuse to let worry and stress rule your life. There is always a solution to every problem. Things will work out for you when you take time to relax, refresh, restore and recharge your soul.”
Lailah Gifty Akita

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday Seat Statute


Saturday Seat Statute

Here we go again with another Saturday Statute. This one, however, has an exception – it is not an absolutely, all-the-time, no exceptions, rule. Here it is: The seat (derrière) is (almost) never allowed to stick out in ballet. This is related to the fact that there is no tipping, tucking or tilting of the pelvis (most of the time) in ballet. Think about what it looks like if a dancer wearing a classical tutu tips her pelvis back and sticks her seat out – duck feathers!

Most dancers know better than to “stick their seat out”, but there is one time when this is permitted - during partnering. In a shoulder sit, the female dancer must stick her seat out slightly as she is placed on her partner’s shoulder. This allows her to sit there securely without sliding off.

Sound crazy? Stand in the wings, or off to the side and watch a shoulder sit being performed. You’ll see what happens.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #38:  
The seat (derrière) is (almost) never allowed to stick out in ballet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
““Be the safe harbor you seek in the world. Follow your dreams, not your fear.”

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http://balletconnections.com/DebraWebbRogers