2 3 Ballet Webb: March 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Throwback Thursday and Ann Miller


Throwback Thursday and Ann Miller

Born Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier in Chireno, Texas, Ann Miller was the daughter of John Alfred Collier, a famous criminal lawyer whose clients included Bonnie Parker and Baby Face Nelson. Her mother, Clara Birdwell was part Cherokee.

She began studying dance to build up the muscles in her legs that had been compromised by rickets, a condition caused by a Vitamin D deficiency. She was soon dancing for local civic organizations and a few years later was discovered by Benny Rubin, a talent scout. This led to her first film, "New Faces of 1937” for RKO.

Although she aspired to have roles like those given to Ginger Rogers and Eleanor Powell, she received no comparable offers. But she continued to perform in films that featured such notables as Rudy Vallee and Gene Autry. In the mid-1940s she was offered a part in “Easter Parade”, probably her most memorable film. She replaced Cyd Charisse who had broken her leg. From this came more roles in other movies.

By the 1950s and 1960s she moved to television, appearing on programs like “The Ed Sullivan Show” and even “Laugh-In”. In 1979 she made a comeback in the show “Sugar Babies”.

In later years she claimed to have been Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt in an earlier life.

Ann Miller died of lung cancer in 2004, and would go down in history as one of America’s greatest tap stars, who, it was said, could produce 500 taps a minute.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #109:  
“Ann Miller was a famous American tap dancer and actress.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”
― Voltaire

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wild Wednesday Ups and Downs


Wild Wednesday Ups and Downs

In any relevé, the dancer must think about staying “up” longer than staying down (in the plié). In other words, at the peak of the relevé there is a slight pause with a corresponding lengthening upwards before heading down into the next plié.

It is like an opera singer holding a note. Sometimes it helps to “sing” silently: “Upppppppppp, Uppppppp” at the top of each relevé.

This slightly longer period at the top is true for every relevé, whether done in a series, or just as a single relevé.

Sing it!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #22v:  
“In any series of relevés, the “ups” are longer than the “downs” (pliés).

                Link of the Day:


Quote of the Day:
“He who sings scares away his woes.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Technical Tuesday Jeté Battu


Technical Tuesday Jeté Battu

Welcome back to a daily tidbit of inspiration. I hope everyone had a wonderful  spring holiday, or is about to have one.

Today I’m talking about jeté battu. For information on a basic jeté, please refer to these previous blogs:


A jeté battu simply adds a beat as the working foot brushes from fifth. It most often beats back, that is, in the spot the foot came from. The working foot then changes position and lands in front, thus becoming the supporting foot. All the previous jeté rules apply, especially the one that says a jeté never travels side to side (imagine that log over the Grand Canyon).

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #15mm:  
 “A jeté battu is a basic jeté that beats.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world.”
Amit Ray


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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fun Friday Fast


Fun Friday Fast

I will be taking a Spring Break/Internet Fast for the next ten days. Except for checking email, I will be taking a break from all those wonderful internet distractions. I encourage you to check out some of my (hundreds) of previous blogs – my site is searchable.

I will return to daily blogging with a Technical Tuesday Blog after this period of “fasting”. See you then!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #22o:  
“Take time off.”

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Throwback Thursday and Fanny Cerrito


Throwback Thursday and Fanny Cerrito

Born Francesca Cerrito in Italy in 1817, Fanny Cerrito is probably best known today for her role in Pas de Quatre. She was a contemporary of Marie Taglioni and they performed together on more than one occasion. 

As a student, Cerrito was described as “short and plump”, and was said to show little natural talent. However, she worked diligently on her technique and by age 15 became a soloist. Cerrito studied further with Carlo Blasis, and under his tutelage her technique and performing ability improved even more.

She made her debut at the Teatro San Carlo in 1832, and by 1838 she was the prima ballerina at La Scala. In 1843 Queen Victoria requested that Cerrito and Taglioni perform a pas de deux together, and despite being rivals, their performance was described as extraordinary. The same year, in Milan, Cerrito began collaborating with Jules Perrot, and the result was the ballet Ondine.

Cerrito married Arthur Saint-Leon and they formed a professional partnership as well, touring Europe for six years. Unfortunately, their union was a volatile one, and they parted ways in 1851. Cerrito and the Marqués de Bedmar (a Spanish nobleman), had a daughter, Mathilde.

In 1857, after a less-than-successful tour in St. Petersburg, Cerrito returned to England and gave her farewell performance. She then retired to live her life and raise her daughter out of the limelight.

Cerrito died on May 6, 1909 at the age of 92.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #108:  
“Fanny Cerrito is best known for her role in Pas de Quatre.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
― Maya Angelou

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wondrous Wednesday Tree Branches


Wondrous Wednesday Tree Branches

Dancers know how important it is to take class every day, in order to develop the high level of physical technique needed to achieve their goals. But hidden inside every class is something most dancers never think about.

I’m talking about the mental challenges. Memorizing constantly changing combinations of steps, while simultaneously concentrating on how to perform those steps. Or, better yet, reversing those combinations, sometimes “on the fly”  while performing the steps in the first direction.

Science has shown that mental challenges produce more neural pathways in the brain. Think of this as a tree with lots of branches extending in all directions. The more branches, the better. And, as we dance, concentrate, and take class, more and more branches are developed.

That’s why there’s no such thing as a stupid dancer.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #22r:  
The mental challenges of classical ballet improve the brain.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”
Rumi

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Technical Tuesday Achilles Tendon


Technical Tuesday Achilles Tendon

The Achilles tendon is also called the calcaneal tendon. The gastrocnemius and soleus of the calf come together as one band of tissue which becomes the Achilles tendon. It is the strongest and largest tendon in the body, and an important one for dancers to understand.

The Achilles tendon is subjected to the highest loads in the body, especially during the rigors of classical ballet. It is highly susceptible to injury especially in dancers who habitually fail to “put their heels down”. Correct use of a good plie allows this tendon to relax in between jumps, etc.

The term “Achilles tendon” is said to have been coined by Lorenz Heister, a German surgeon. He based it on the Greek myth of Achilles, whose mother held him by the heel when she dipped him in the River Styx. The water made Achilles invincible – except for his heel.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Anatomical Secret #24b:  
“The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.”
― Ian McEwan

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Mad Monday Scallops


Mad Monday Scallops

Chassé means “to chase” and especially when performed in a series across the floor, the reason for the name is apparent – one foot chases the other. The difficulty most students have when performing this step is landing in a good fifth position in between each jump to produce a good push for the next chassé, and hitting a beautiful fifth position in the air.

It helps to visualize the movement across the floor as drawing a series of scallops in the air. This keeps the fifth position from becoming lost or intermittent (gasp!). It also keeps the dancer moving and prevents any hesitation in between each chassé.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #15ss:  
“Chasses make a series of scallop shapes in the air.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
Shannon L. Alder

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Practice


Sunday Practice

Working hard toward your dancing goal, obviously involves practice. Make your practice count.

How?  Repetition. Muscle memory. Finding the correct sensation and repeating it over and over. We are familiar with all these things, but because they are so familiar, we forget not only how important they are, but also how much repetition it takes to get it right.

As it says above, getting it right is only part of the puzzle. There must be enough repetition so that you can’t get it wrong. Think about when you first learned to ride a two-wheeler. At first it was difficult, but with practice, you got it right. Then, because you rode your bike a lot, now you couldn’t forget how, even if you wanted to. And you’ll always remember  - no matter how old you might get to be – 40? 50? Or beyond.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #107:  
Practice until you can’t get it wrong.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Practice makes the master.”
Patrick Rothfuss

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Super Saturday Titanic


Super Saturday Titanic

There are many things in ballet that don’t (or shouldn’t) exist. As per Ballet Statute, there is no drooping, dropping, whining, wobbling, turtlenecks, complaining, Pop-Tart tendues, and today: No Titanic (sinking) moments.

That’s right. It didn’t work out well for the Titanic, and sinking never works for dancers. Sinking in the hip, sinking in the spine, or just generally sinking all over.

This means that gravity wins. Scary.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #63:  
“There are no “Titanic” (sinking) moments in ballet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the 'Titanic' who waved off the dessert cart.”
Erma Bombeck

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Fun Friday Brisé


Fun Friday Brisé

Ballet Secret #15n states:  “The secret to a brisé is in the plié.” Here is another way to think about that important concept, today’s Ballet Secret #15rr: “A brisé must begin with a push from both feet.”

This is not as intuitive as it sounds. The tendency is for dancers to shift their weight onto the leg that will be the following leg, allowing the all-important leading leg to lose its critical contact against the floor.., and thus lose the impetus for the jump. Scary. Sometimes it helps to go one step further (no pun intended) and think about pushing with the leading foot.

If you don’t think this pushing from both feet is important, try doing a reverse brisé without it!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Secret #15rr:  
“A brisé must begin with a push from both feet.”

                Link of the Day:


Quote of the Day:
“Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.”
― Philip José Farmer

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Throwback Thursday and Marie Sallé


Throwback Thursday and Marie Sallé

Born in 1707 in Paris, France, Marie Sallé was an expressive, dramatic dancer during a period in history when technical virtuosity was more prominent. She trained under Francoise Prevost, and he sponsored her Paris Opera debut in 1721 – when she was fourteen years old.

Her rivalry with Marie Camargo, who also danced at the Paris Opera, was well-known, although they were opposites in many ways. It was in London, not Paris, in 1734 where Sallé achieved her greatest success. She created the solo Les Caractères de l’amour and a ballet, Bacchus and Ariadne, which revealed her talent as a tragic actress.

She was admired by Voltaire, David Garrick, and Noverre, and her innovations in choreography involving integration of music, costumes and story, seemed to foretell the changes made by Noverre that happened later in the development of classical ballet. She was the first woman to dance in a ballet she choreographed, and she also seemed to foreshadow the much-later dancer Isadora Duncan when she abandoned the elaborate, heavy costumes of the day for loose-fitting Grecian style dresses and flowing hair.

She retired from the Paris Opera in 1740, but occasionally appeared at French court performances until 1752. She died on July 27, 1756 at age 49.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Dance History Factoid #107:  
“Marie Sallé was the first woman to perform in a ballet that she choreographed.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”
― Steve Maraboli
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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wacky Wednesday Air


Wacky Wednesday Air

I’ve blogged often about the equal and opposite directions of energy that are so critical in ballet technique.

One way to help students understand this concept is to place your hand barely over their head when they are simply standing. Tell them to lift and send energy upward until their head touches your hand. Then move your hand and tell them to imagine constantly pushing air away -  just like they did when your hand was there.

You can then go on and explain that the directions of energy should also be downward and outward, using the same sensation.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #1xx:  
“Imagine pushing air away with the top of your head.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
― Mark Twain

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Technical Tuesday Temps de Poisson


Technical Tuesday Temps de Poisson

Temps de poisson means “fish movement”, because the dancer’s body curves into a fish-like shape at the top of the jump. It is sometimes called sissone soubresaut. If, in the air, the dancer’s legs, instead of being straight are bent into attitude, the step is called temps de l’ange.

Like a regular sissone, the dancer takes off from fifth position, pushing from both feet. From an initial staright position in the air, she then arcs the body into the fish-like curve before landing – like a standard sissone – on one foot.

Then there is the “fish dive”, a partnering step, which we will discuss on another day.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #15qq:  
“Temps de poisson means “fish movement”.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
-          Unknown
-           
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Monday, March 7, 2016

Mad Monday Wired


Mad Monday Wired

In an attitude devant, there is a tendency to allow the working leg to drop and the shoulders and upper back to travel backwards, resulting in … well, a crash. This often happens when the dancer is trying to push their extension, causing the supporting leg to bend and compromising the entire operation.

To put a stop to all of this destruction, imagine a wire that connects the working heel to the upper chest. This wire is taut and solid, and it prevents  the migration of the shoulders  and (attitude) heel away from each other.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #18t:  
“ In an attitude devant, imagine a wire connecting the working heel to the upper chest.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.”
Santosh Kalwar

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday Exits and Entrances


Sunday Exits and Entrances 

Dancers know all about exits and entrances when it comes to stage performances. But what about life? There are exits and entrances in life, too.

Sometimes they are good things, sometimes not. Entrances are almost always good things – a promotion allows you to enter a new world and encounter new challenges as well as making you feel pretty good.  But exits are a different matter. Failing to “make the cut” for a cast list, or failing to “move up” a class level is, in effect, an exit. You are exiting, or not being allowed to enter, another territory, often one that was greatly desired. You are exiting a dream.

Let’s turn that around. Every exit is an entrance. It just may be an entrance into something you had not anticipated, or have yet to experience. Not getting a part may free you to accept something even better down the road. Or, it may cause you to step back and re-evaluate what you need to do to improve your chances next time. Either way, exits can be good things too. It’s all a matter of how you perceive them.

Remember, every exit is an entrance.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #106:  
Every exit is an entrance.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:

“We learn from failure, not from success!”
Bram Stoker

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday Statute Re-Plié


Saturday Statute Re-Plié

There is no such step in classical ballet as a “re- plié”. You know, those extra pliés dancers do right before a relevé or a turn. Sometimes they are referred to as the dreaded double plié. They appear so frequently that a casual observer might assume there actually is such a step. Scary.

There is no such thing. One plié to a customer, please. Those extra little ones rob the power of a good single plié, as well as making the dancer appear hesitant. Often the posture is compromised as well, with the seat going backwards and the dancer leaning forward.

Avoid re- pliés! Always use a good single plié complete with the necessary two-way energy (up and down).

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #63:  
“There is no such thing as a “re- plié”.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Don't tell me about your effort. Show me your results.”
― Tim Fargo

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Friday, March 4, 2016

Fun Friday Inflatable Balls


Fun Friday Inflatable Balls

Today’s video shows a class using large inflatable balls to help with fouetté movements. In a standard fouetté, the working leg must extend (as the body turns away) and establish the correct final position – without losing turn-out at the end. This can be particularly troublesome when going from second position to arabesque, because the working leg so often goes beyond the proper arabesque line and rolls under to a turned-in (gasp!) position.

The large inflatable balls allow the student to feel the correct position of the leg against the ball, or, to feel the incorrect position and be able to immediately understand how to fix it.

Plus, working with the balls is fun.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #22q:  
Use large inflatable balls to practice standard (non-turning) fouettés.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.”
Thomas Jefferson, Letters of Thomas Jefferson

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Throwback Thursday and Moonwalk


Throwback Thursday and Moonwalk

Bill Bailey was the first person known to have recorded the step that Michael Jackson made famous more recently: the “Moonwalk”. Bailey called it the “Backslide”. He was born on December 8, 1912, the son of James and Ella Mae Bailey. Later his younger sister Pearl Bailey, was born. He began dancing in the church his father pastored. 

Bill Bailey is believed to have studied with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and King Rastus Brown, and he soon began performing professionally, sometimes with Cab Calloway’s sister, Blanche Calloway. His fame increased in the 1940s when he appeared in the movie “Cabin in the Sky”, dancing in the kitchen scene. He went on to appear in many other movies from the 1930s to the 1950s.

He performed in nightclubs, on Broadway, and was featured more than once on The Ed Sullivan Show.  He was a headliner at The Apollo, where he was wildly popular. Later, when “An Evening at the Apollo” became a television series, he appeared eight times – in the first season.

In 1965 he retired and became pastor of a Harlem church, and he continued to preach until his death on December 12, 1978.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #106:  
“Bill Bailey was a famous tap dancer who is said to have performed the first “moonwalk”.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.

 
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

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