2 3 Ballet Webb: November 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

Marvelous Monday Identity Crisis


Marvelous Monday Identity Crisis

Most of the time in ballet technique, the pelvis operates as part of the torso, not part of the legs. This may or may not be intuitive.

For example, in steps like tendues, dégagés, and particularly in rond de jambe à terre, the pelvis never moves with the legs. Never. It is lifted above the action, which allows the legs the freedom of movement necessary for all those steps.

This is true for almost everything, until the working leg goes above about 45 degrees (mostly in the back). I’ve blogged before about how there is a slight, permissible tilt in the pelvis which allows for high extension. Watch any video of an accomplished ballet dancer and pay special attention to the placement of the pelvis.

For the most part, the pelvis must maintain its own identity and not try to become part of the legs.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #1tt:  
Most of the time, the pelvis operates as part of the torso, not part of the legs.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”
William Shakespeare

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Expectation


Sunday Expectation

On this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, think about extending thankfulness throughout the year. It isn’t always easy to do, but the attempt produces good things. It is often our expectations that cause unhappiness, so replace some of those expectations with appreciation.

This is a shift of perception, and an important one. Dancers in particular are such perfectionists, and we have high expectations of ourselves and others. That’s okay in moderation. But when these expectations grow too big and get in the way, shift them around. Focus on appreciation.

It is the same idea I’ve blogged about before. Don’t forget to look around with appreciative eyes. See everything in a new light – you might be surprised by how much has been ignored or overlooked.
Exchange some of those expectations for appreciation.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #93:  
“Replace expectation with appreciation.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.”
-Tony Robbins

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Super Saturday Saying


Super Saturday Saying

When dance combinations move across the floor, dancers are expected to move until the floor runs out. In other words, there is no stopping in the middle and walking away. That’s because a floor is a terrible thing to waste.

It is easy for dancers to become frustrated (perfectionists that they are), and when this happens halfway across the floor, the first impulse is to stop and walk away. This is not allowed. The dancer must perform the combination across the full length of the floor until the floor runs out. Unless they have suddenly incurred an injury, of course.

Always remember that a floor is a terrible thing to waste.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #53:  
“A floor is a terrible thing to waste.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.”
Peter Golkin

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Fun Friday Leftovers


Fun Friday Leftovers

Well, here we are, on the day after Thanksgiving. A day that is likely filled with delicious leftovers. Yummmm.This made me think about places in ballet technique where you don’t want leftovers.

The major culprit for “ballet leftovers” is in grand battement, especially after arabesque. Because a grand battement here requires a tilt in the pelvis, often the dancer forgets to bring the pelvis back to its proper, neutral position when closing in fifth position. The “leftover” seat sticking up does not present a pretty picture!

Any time there is a necessary shift of the pelvis, it must be returned to its neutral position as soon as possible. Prevent ballet leftovers!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #12e:  
Beware of ballet “leftovers” in grand battement.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wild Wednesday Come Forward


Wild Wednesday Come Forward
In the Wizard of Oz, a famous quote from the Wizard is: “Come forward, Tin Man.” This is what should happen to the body (torso) in a développé to arabesque. As the leg moves from passé to arabesque, the body moves gradually forward and upward - and the arms move forward too. Don’t forget and leave the arms behind!
So often dancers try to keep the body in the same place and wonder why it is such a struggle to get their arabesque higher. Also, even when the body moves forward correctly, sometimes the arms do not and the dancer essentially moves the body into the arms – squashing them. And, we all know there is no squashing in ballet.
Come forward, Tin Man! 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #11i 
When performing a développé to arabesque, the body (torso) moves forward.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:

“There was nothing to do but keep moving forward and make the moments count.”
Suzanne Collins 

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Technical Tuesday Glissade


Technical Tuesday Glissade
One of the first steps a dancer learns is glissade. It is a step that is everywhere, and can be performed in different ways. It is one of the most difficult “easy” steps to master due to its chameleon-like nature.
The word itself means “glide” or “slide” and that is essentially what it does – most of the time. Of course, there is also the glissade précipitée, which is a smaller, jumping glissade that usually precedes (and provides the impetus for) another jump.
A glissade begins and ends in fifth position, and can be performed in any direction. From fifth the dancer extends one foot into a dégagé, then shifts their weight onto this foot and performs a dégagé with the other. It is this following foot that is often a problem. It must stretch fully – that’s the tricky part – before closing in fifth. The movement also involves an under-circle sensation (I’ve blogged about this before).
Effective glissades require lots of practice (no surprise here) since they have many elements that must be perfected. There are lots of videos online showing different approaches to teaching this important step, so google “glissade” and find a method that works for you. 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Ballet Secret #31p 
“Glissade means “glide” or “slide”.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“In life as in dance: Grace glides on blistered feet.”
-          Alice Abram


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Monday, November 23, 2015

Mad Monday Feet Reach


Mad Monday Feet Reach

All dancers know that they are supposed to reach,(i.e. send energy) out through the tips of their toes when the feet are pointed. But there is an equally important way for energy to flow from the feet: from the bottom.

That’s right. The bottoms of the feet are always sending energy down through the floor, whenever a dancer is standing on them. Although the majority of weight is placed over the ball of the foot, there is still a constant energy downward from the whole foot. This is especially important in steps like rond de jambe a terre, because often the weight is too far over the balls of the feet, causing the heels to lift far off the floor in first position. Instead, there is a sensation of an under-circle path, with the deepest part of the rond de jambe being in first position.

So think about the places where a “reach from the feet” can help.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #7aa:  
“Remember to reach from the bottoms of the feet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Never let the words of discouragement from others sway you away from reaching far with your dreams.”
Israelmore Ayivor

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Super Sunday Thanksgiving


Super Sunday Thanksgiving

Here it is, the week we have all been waiting for! Thanksgiving week, filled with the anticipation of all that wonderful food: turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie… and those are just a few of the blessings.
This week, as we approach the great feast, take some time to consider your own personal blessings. 

In just a few minutes – or seconds – per day, I’m sure you can think of several. Do this every day this week, not just on Thanksgiving. This can start a habit of doing this all year. And as all dancers, know, practice makes permanent.

Then, after considering all those blessings, think about how to make those blessings count. What skills have you been blessed with that you could share with others (besides dancing)? I’m sure you can think of several.

After all, like the Thanksgiving feast, things are even better they are when shared.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #92:  
“Count your blessings and make your blessings count.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Marcel Proust

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sensational Saturday Statute


Sensational Saturday Statute
Dancers are always on a quest for perfection. That’s okay, but they must always keep in mind that perfection is, by definition, unobtainable. No human being is perfect, and no dancer has perfect technique.
Therefore, consider Ballet Statute #52: “Progress doesn’t involve doing it perfectly, but doing it differently.” That’s right, doing a step perfectly is unreasonable to expect. However, doing a step differently is another thing altogether.
In other words, in each class strive to feel something different, or perform a step with a slight variation. All this is driven by the feedback received in class. Whenever a dancer tries to change something, it can feel “wrong”, especially if they have done it a certain way for a long period of time. So they must strive to find a new feeling in order to improve the step.
That’s what the Statute means. Doing things differently helps a dancer get a step closer to perfection. 

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #52 
“Progress doesn’t involve doing it perfectly, but doing it differently.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:

If you look for perfection, you'll never be content.”
Leo Tolstoy


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Friday, November 20, 2015

Fun Friday Hot Wheels


Fun Friday Hot Wheels

The shape of the arms is the same in most positions: only slightly bent, forming the shape of an elongated curve. When the arms are in à la seconde, the elbow is higher than the wrist, but slightly lower than the shoulder. The elbow "point" faces the back wall.

The easiest way to imagine this position is like this: as a sloped roadway for toy vehicles, like Matchbox cars or Hot Wheels. When the arm is correctly positioned, the car can roll from shoulder to fingertips. If the arm is drooping, the car will fall off at the elbow.

So race away!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #6dd:  
Imagine a Hot Wheels toy car rolling down the arm from the shoulder to the fingers.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Always focus on the front windshield and not the rearview mirror.”
Colin Powell

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Vera-Ellen


Throwback Thursday and Vera-Ellen
Vera-Ellen Westmeyer Rohe was born on February 16, 1921 in Norwood, Ohio. She began her dance training at age 9, but within only a few years she became one of the youngest Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. She also performed on Broadway.
In 1945 she was discovered by film producer Samuel Goldwyn and went to Hollywood to play opposite Danny Kaye in the film Wonder Man. She quickly established herself as a highly motivated, hard worker and she went on to dance with Gene Kelly (On the Town), and Fred Astaire (Three Little Words). But her most famous role was in the movie White Christmas with Bing Crosby.
She was married twice: first to actor and dancer Robert Hightower, then to Victor Rothschild, but both marriages ended in divorce. She lost her only daughter in 1963 to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Vera-Ellen is believed to have suffered from anorexia, and this may be why in White Christmas her neck is always covered – since anorexia ages the body, and the effects are readily seen in the neck.
Her last film was Let’s Be Happy in 1957, after which she retired from public life, but continued to take dance classes, partly as a treatment for her arthritis. Vera-Ellen died of cancer on August 30, 1981 in Los Angeles.
A biography called Vera-Ellen: the Magic and the Mystery was written by David Soren.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Dance History Factoid #92:  
Vera-Ellen is best remember for her role in the movie White Christmas.”
                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Dancing is like breathing-missing a day doing either is very bad.
-          Vera-Ellen
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wild Wednesday Pizza


Wednesday Pizza

Rond de jambes a terre (on the ground), inscribe a lovely half circle on the floor. This half circle must be a full, geometrically perfect half circle shape, without any squashing (there is no squashing in ballet), and no cut corners. I have blogged before about the shape of a correct rond de jambe in Ballet Secret #22a: A rond de jambe inscribes a giant letter “D” on the floor.

Here is another way to visualize it: Imagine drawing half of a giant pizza on the floor. Of course this is a large pizza – no one wants a small one – and it must be a full half circle and shouldn’t look like someone already took a piece away.

Often these lovely half-circle paths can actually be seen. They remain on the floor after a ballet class (or a pointe class) is over. When this happens it is easy to see if all the students are executing the rond de jambes correctly.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #24c:  
“Imagine drawing half of a giant pizza on the floor in a rond de jambe a terre.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
Oprah Winfrey

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Technical Tuesday En Cloche



Technical Tuesday En Cloche
The ballet term “en cloche” means “like a bell”. Most students hear the term shortened to “cloche” during grand battements, or in other barre combinations like rond de jambe.
I have blogged before about how a cloche should follow an absolutely straight path forward and back (or the reverse), like mowing the lawn. The step is indeed very bell-like, with its pendulum action.
The path of the leg moving from either devant or derriere through first position also inscribes a perfect under-circle (see drawing above). And since under-circles are everywhere in ballet, understanding them and being able to visualize them is important.
From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #12e 
“En cloche means like a bell.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:

“Don't bother to ring a bell in the ear that doesn't listen.”


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Monday, November 16, 2015

Mad Monday Flat


Mad Monday Flat

Consider the shape of the thighs. When walking normally, the curved side (the quadriceps) face front. But when a dancer rotates the legs in the hip sockets to turn out, the flatter side of the thighs face front. This flatter side is often referred to by dancers as part of  he “inside thigh” (because it is on the inside before the dancer turns out).

This flat thigh idea is a good image for proper turn-out: remember that the flat side of the thighs face front. Also, this flat side can be imagined to have a zipper on it that it pulled up (past the "teotard" line) for correct posture.

Flat thighs and zippers! Happy Monday.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #3q:  
“Imagine the flat side of the thighs facing front.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
Malcolm X

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Love the Process


Sunday Love the Process

Every artist faces daily repetition, daily practice. This can become a burden and we begin to wonder why we are subjecting ourselves to this stuff, day in and day out. When this happens all love of the art (or whatever) fades away, and only the heavy obligation of daily practice remains. This is sad, to say the least.

Yes, it can be burdensome, but it helps to remind ourselves what got us here in the first place: love. At some point we fell in love with ballet, or art, or writing, or music, and we were compelled to go on this quest. And at the beginning we also fell in love with the process. Don’t forget this. Remember to love the process, love what you are doing, and refuse to get bogged down by a perceived lack of progress or a less than stellar day.

Remember to love what you are doing.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #91:  
”Don’t forget to love what you are doing.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”
Yvon Chouinard

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday Tense Statute


Saturday Tense Statute

The arms in ballet are physical, but never tense. This goes hand-in-hand with Ballet Statute #11: "For any movement, use the amount of tension you need, no more and no less.” The arms are not “wimpy” but they must appear to be light and fluid, masking the fact that they are actually strong. Excessive tension gives it all away.

The problem with the arms is that the energy in them often matches the energy and attack required in the legs: in grand battement for example, the arms often tense up and the elbows lock – as though the arms were doing the battements.

The three biggest symptoms of tense arms are: 1. Locked elbows, 2. Splayed fingers, and 3. Lifted shoulders. Be on the lookout!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #52:  
“The arms are never tense in ballet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
Amit Ray

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Fun Friday Frappé Fog


Fun Friday Frappé Fog
Frappés are a fun step. They must be done forcefully, and the energy must continue flowing outward even after the movement itself has stopped. I’ve blogged about this before.
Here is another image for frappés, courtesy of one of my students, Lindsay. She suggests imagining clouds of fog surrounding the feet, and the frappé must be performed with enough force to create a nice, straight path through the fog.
Done correctly, the fog will “part”, and a straight path where the foot goes will be created.
Thank you, Lindsay!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #10e 
“Imagine doing a frappé with enough force to create a path through fog.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:

“Desire is like fog on a bathroom mirror -- its presence incites you to wipe the mirror, and see yourself clearly again.”
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

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