2 3 Ballet Webb: April 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Super Saturday Crunching Statute


Super Saturday Crunching Statute

There is no crunching in ballet. Crunching is reserved for breakfast cereals and potato chips, not ballet technique. This is an absolute Statute, meaning there is never any circumstance where crunching is allowed. Never.

At no time should a dancer crunch their toes, crunch their spine, or crunch their lower back in an attitude or arabesque. Crunching means gravity wins. It is also uncomfortable and unattractive. A dancer should  always be resisting gravity and sending energy outward in all directions, and thus resisting the dreaded crunch.

Enjoy your crunchy cereal in the morning, but leave the crunchies on the table and keep them out of class.
From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #68:  
“There is no crunching in ballet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Gravity is a habit that is hard to shake off.”
Terry Pratchett

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Fun Friday Frappé Snapping


Fun Friday Frappé Snapping

I have blogged before about the quick action of the leg and foot in frappe:  Ballet Secret #10a: A frappé should move like a snake striking”  http://balletwebb.blogspot.com/2013/11/frappes-and-snakes.html and Ballet Secret #10c: http://balletwebb.blogspot.com/2014/06/fun-friday-fabulous-frappes.html“A frappe should get to its extended position quickly and the movement should stop – but the energy continues.” 

This quick action is essential, but it comes with its own problem. The problem is “snapping the knee”. It’s when the energy in the leg doesn’t continue after the movement stops (see Ballet Secret #10c above), and the knee “snaps” backward instead of lengthening outward. Ouch.

This knee snapping movement is easy to do when the tempo of the music is fast and/or the dancer is tense. It seems counter-intuitive, but the faster the music, the more relaxed and extended the legs must be.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #10e:  
“A frappé extends quickly, but the knee shouldn’t snap.”    
      
      Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“It is a mistake to think that moving fast is the same as actually going somewhere.”
Steve Goodier

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday and Enrico Cecchetti


Throwback Thursday and Enrico Cecchetti

Born in Rome on the 21st of June in 1850, Enrico Cecchetti was the founder of the Cecchetti method of ballet training. He was the son of two dancers and was born in a dressing room of the Teatro Tordinona Theatre. He made his stage debut early: as an infant in his father’s arms.

Not surprisingly, his parents didn’t want him to become a dancer. Instead they favored a career in business or law. But Cecchetti wanted to be a dancer, and eventually his parents relented. He was sent to study with Giovanni Lepri. He also trained under Cesare Coppini, and Filippo Taglioni. All of his teachers learned their craft from Carlo Blasis, and his theories of ballet education formed the basis of the now well-known Cecchetti method. The dance historian Cyril Beaumont, said this about Cecchetti’s system: “What impressed me most about the Cecchetti method of teaching was the way in which each exercise played a definite and planned part in the student’s technical development. There is nothing haphazard about the system, nothing which depended on the teacher’s mood of the moment. There is a definite plan to daily classes.” 

As a dancer, Cecchetti received rave reviews and was considered one of the finest male dancers of his day. He had extraordinary jumps, and could execute multiple pirouettes. He was soon hired by the Maryinski Ballet and appeared in the role of the Bluebird in Petipa’s Sleeping Beauty in 1890.
He was also the Maitre de Ballet for the Maryinski, teaching at the Imperial School from 1887-1902. From there he went to the Warsaw State School in Poland from 1902-1905. Back in Russia from 1907-1909 he taught and coached Anna Pavlova exclusively until dancers from the Maryinski begged him to open classes to them again.

But it was his collaboration with Diaghilev that changed everything. He was hired to teach and to perform mime roles for the Ballet Russes, and in this role he helped bridge the gap between traditional ballet and the new, emerging modern ballet.

When Cecchetti tired of life on the road he moved to London where he opened a school. In 1923 he returned to Italy to retire, but was coaxed by Arturo Toscanini to teach at La Scala. While teaching a class Cecchetti collapsed. He was taken to his home where he died the next day, November 13, 1928.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #111:  
“Enrico Cecchetti was a famous Italian dancer and dance master whose system is still used today.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.” 
 
Libba Bray

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wacky Wednesday Spring


Wacky Wednesday Spring

Another accoutrement from The Cruel School of Ballet is the spring-loaded trap door. This door opens upward, as opposed to dropping downward like most traditional trap doors. It is on a strong spring and if the dancer standing on it doesn’t send enough energy downward to keep the trap door closed, it will spring open violently and throw the dancer out into space. Scary.

These trap doors exist all over the dance classroom, at the barre and in the center. They are unavoidable. To keep these trap doors closed, the dancer’s downward flow of energy must be constant and strong. One glitch and whoosh! Into space!


From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #22w:  
“Send energy downward to prevent the spring-loaded trap door from opening.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”
Aristotle, The Philosophy of Aristotle

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Technical Tuesday Balls and Hinges



Technical Tuesday Balls and Hinges

Dancers learn (or should learn) that turn-out comes from the hip because the hip is a ball-and-socket joint (the shoulder is, too). This type of joint is also called a “spheroidal joint”, and it allows for rotational movement and provides greater freedom of movement than any other joint. This is in contrast to a hinge joint that allows only a back and forth movement (like a door hinge).

These two joints and their capabilities are important for dancers to understand. When turn-out is forced from the bottom up (from the feet) instead of from the top down (from the hips), the hinge joint of the knee is forced to rotate or twist. Forcing the knee joint to do this is a common cause of injury in ballet dancers.

Hinge joints include the ankle and elbow as well as the knee. One definition of a hinge joint is: “Hinge joints are formed between two or more bones where the bones can only move along one axis to flex or extend.http://www.innerbody.com/image_skel07/skel31.html

Study the pictures above and it will be clear why dancers must concentrate their turn-out efforts on the ball-and-socket joint of the hip – and not force the knee to do something it isn’t designed to do.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Anatomical Secret #24e:  
“Hinge joints move differently than ball-and-socket joints.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Don't let your luggage define your travels, each life unravels differently.”
― Shane Koyczan

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Marvelous Monday Sewing


Marvelous Monday Sewing

Learning all those steps in ballet can be challenging. But the most vexing thing is what to do with them as they are being learned. Notice the word “as”. This is important. Simply learning each step individually isn’t enough – the steps must be learned at the same time the dancer learns how to sew them together.

This is what creates the all-important flow of movement. When this flow is achieved, the audience can’t tell where one step stops and another begins. It all moves seamlessly, and beautifully.

To do this, a dancer can’t wait until they know all the steps, they must learn to integrate them as they learn them. This involves thinking one step ahead. While performing one step, a dancer’s mind is already on the one coming up, even if they are not completely comfortable with it yet.

That’s just one reason why there is no such thing as a “stupid dancer”!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #22v:  
Sewing steps together seamlessly is important.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Fabrics don't make exquisite dresses, it is the stitches.”
Treasure Stitches
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Imagination Motivation


Sunday Imagination Motivation

Dance technique is a game of the imagination. Most dancers know this, if only subconsciously. But imagination can be used for motivation and inspiration, too.

On those days when taking class seems to be more of a burden than a joy, try applying the power of imagination. Pretend someone special is watching class. Maybe this person is a famous one, like Prince Charles, the President, a movie star - or a closer-to-home person that you like, admire – or even have a crush on.

If this doesn’t work for you,  imagine dancing in a place you find inspirational, like a mountaintop, or the beach. The vision for each person will be different. 

Imagine something that motivates you. That’s the important thing.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #111:  
Use imagination for motivation and inspiration.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Albert Einstein

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday Excuse Statute


Saturday Excuse Statute

That’s right. There are no excuses in ballet. The word excuse means to remove blame or release from obligation or duty. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines excuse as: “to say that (someone) is not required to do something”.

Dancers learn Ballet Statute #67 early in their training: There are no excuses in ballet. Just because a dancer feels tired, or sore, or unhappy or whatever – they know these are not excuses for cutting class. That brings up an important distinction. There are no excuses, but there may – rarely - be reasons. A reason for missing class is something unavoidable, unpredictable, etc., like illness, a car accident, or other similarly horrible scenario that one doesn’t even want to think about.

Another old adage is “Excuses don’t get the job done”. And this is so true in ballet!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Statute #67:  
“There are no excuses in ballet.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
Benjamin Franklin

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Fun Friday Superpower


Fun Friday Superpower

Imagine a ballet comic book hero or heroine. This person would have to possess at least one superpower. Think of Superman: x-ray vision, speed, the ability to “leap tall buildings in a single bound”…

A ballet superhero’s first and best power is plié. While it may not enable a dancer to leap a tall building, it has similar potential. As I have blogged about before, pliés push and cushion. Pliés also allow dancers to look beautiful and effortless by preventing crashing. And, as we all know, there is no crashing in ballet.

Pliés do more than that. They protect the dancer by providing the resiliency that prevents muscle and joint damage. That’s what superheroes do, right? They protect.

There are other Ballet Superpowers, but I’ll talk about them in future blogs.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #2u:  
“One Ballet Superpower is plié.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.”
― Fred Rogers

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday and Louis Dupré

Throwback Thursday and Louis Dupré

Louis Dupré was born in 1697 and is probably best known for being the teacher of Jean George Noverre. But Dupré was a dancer in his own right, although he never achieved the fame some of his students did. He was called “Le Grand Dupré”, and “God of the Dance”. It is said that Casanova was one of his admirers.

 Dupré was touted for his grace and style. Even in his sixties, he performed and was admired for his physique and style. He received his training from the Paris Opera Ballet and made his official debut  there. He went on to perform and teach in London, Dresden and at the Polish cour as well as in Paris. Until 1743 he was in charge of the Paris Opera Ballet school, and this is where he trained Noverre as well as Vestris and others.

Dupré died in 1774.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #106:  
Louis Dupré was a French dancer of the 1700s known for his grace and style.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wacky Wednesday Electric


Wacky Wednesday Electric

When dancers practice balancing at the barre, they often spend more time holding onto the barre and tweaking their placement than they do actually balancing. This is not productive, and only serves to fatigue the supporting leg. This habit also doesn’t allow the student to know exactly where their balance was off in the beginning – and that’s a handy little piece of information to have.

I often joke about The Cruel School of Ballet and how, in this school, the barres are electrified. If the student hangs on too long, the teacher flips a switch that sends a mild electrical pulse through the barre, forcing the pupil to let go. This fictional school also has trap doors in the floor, and lots of other crazy things. But I digress.

To perfect their balance, dancers must hit the position and let go of the barre quickly. If they cannot hold the balance, they will learn immediately what needs to be corrected. Falling right? Move more to the left, etc. You get the idea.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #22x:  
“Release the barre quickly when practicing balances.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Success works as a cycle - growth and contraction, balancing and unbalancing - all while you're encountering hurdles that get higher and higher over time.”
― Julien Smith

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Technical Tuesday Patella


Technical Tuesday Patella

That cute little bone that rides up and down in the front of the knee is the patella. It is colloquially referred to as the “kneecap”, and most students know this term. The word “patella” comes from the Latin meaning “small pan, dish, or plate”.

It is technically a “sesamoid” bone, sesamoid meaning “like a sesame seed”, although in an adult the patella is about 2 inches – quite a bit larger than a sesame seed – and the patella is the largest sesamoid bone in the body.

The patella is attached to the tendon of the quadriceps femoris muscle. This muscle contracts to allow the leg (knee) to straighten. This is particularly important for dancers, and I have blogged before about how a straight knee is a safe knee. When the leg is straightening the patella can be seen moving upward. If the patella doesn’t move, the knee isn’t fully straight.

Become familiar with the way the front of the leg (the patella) looks whether the knee is straight, bent, or during a plie.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Secret #24d:  
The patella is colloquially called the “kneecap”.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“There is no limit to how good you can get in pursuit of perfection.”
― Sachin Kumar Puli

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Madcap Monday Balance


Madcap Monday Balance

Today’s video Link of the Day made me think about balance and how important it is, not just for dancers, but for everyone. Having good balance is simply the ability to adapt to changing conditions, whether dancing or just walking.

A “static” balance – in passé at the barre for example – is never really static. There is a constant flow of energy in all directions, and the dancer’s supporting ankle often makes minor adjustments to compensate for changing conditions caused by essential things like breathing. That’s why it is so important to avoid “tensing up” while balancing.

Therefore, being able to effectively adjust to changing conditions is critical for good balance. It’s pretty critical for life, too.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #22v:  
Balancing well means adapting to changing conditions.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”
Ellen DeGeneres, Seriously... I'm Kidding

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Past


Sunday Past

Dancers are often told they should compete with themselves, which basically means they shouldn’t focus on trying to be better than the person standing in front of them at the barre. That's because competition with another person or persons can become nasty pretty quickly. Note that this doesn't mean you can't be inspired by another dancer.

Motivational  Secret #110 provides another way to think about it: Outdo your past, not people. Concentrate on doing more than you did yesterday, and progress will follow. If you concentrate on outdoing another dancer, the focus is in the wrong place – and a less productive one.

Focus on outdoing your past, not outdoing yourself, as the original competition adage admonishes. This puts the emphasis on things outside yourself, and makes it less personal and more effective.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Motivational Secret #110:  
                                                         “Outdo your past, not people."                                                                      
                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The battle you are going through is not fueled by the words or actions of others; it is fueled by the mind that gives it importance.”
Shannon L. Alder

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Saturday Silly


Saturday Silly

Today I present one of the silliest sayings I’ve run across. Silly or not, dancers use it frequently, and there is even a Pinterest Board with that title:  https://www.pinterest.com/emilyleahsugg/when-in-doubt-bourree-out/.

I don’t know where this catchy little phrase originated, but it is similar in meaning to the theatrical “exit, stage left (or right)”, which came from directions in a script telling the actor which way to exit. So I suspect there may be some relationship here.

At any rate, whenever a situation arises requiring an exit, dancers use the rhyming “When in doubt, bourrée out”, instead of the more familiar, “exit, stage left”.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Silly Saying #66:  
“When in doubt, bourrée out.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”
Tom Stoppard

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Fun Friday Gremlins


Fun Friday Gremlins

I blog a lot about equal and opposite patterns of energy. This is important largely because of those pesky beings, the Gravity Gremlins. No matter what position a dancer is in, those beings are always pulling downward.

There are times when this can be used to a dancer’s advantage, for example, in pushing against the floor for turns and jumps (for impetus). But when the working leg is in the air (particularly in à la seconde) it feels as though a regiment of Gravity Gremlins are hanging onto the leg.

To keep these beings as bay, always resist them by sending energy in the opposite direction.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #22u:  
“Work in opposition to the Gravity Gremlins.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
Tom Bodett

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Throwback Thursday and Mona Inglesby


Throwback Thursday and Mona Inglesby

Mona Inglesby isn’t exactly a name people recognize. She is a forgotten English ballerina with a fascinating history. She was born in London and studied with Marie Rambert and later with Margaret Craske and Nicolas Legat. She performed in Ashton’s Foyer de Danse in 1932, and also danced the role of Papillon in Fokine’s Le Carnaval when Rambert revived the Diaghilev ballet.

In 1940 while driving an ambulance during the Blitz, she has an epiphany. She decided that ballet was the answer to uplifting people’s spirits during wartime. So she began her own company with money borrowed from her father and launched  The International Ballet. She was 22 years old.

Her inspiration was right on target: the public loved the ballet and at a time when other companies were failing, hers succeeded despite the dark years of war in England. Unemployed dancers came to her company looking for work, including Moira Shearer and Maurice Béjart who later achieved great fame.

The International Ballet made ballet affordable for the masses, and featured the classical tradition of the Russian Imperial Ballet. Inglesby also brought ballet to areas that seldom saw ballet, since the company toured all over the world. But in 1953, after running the company for many years without government funding, Inglesby applied for a grant and didn’t receive it. That year the company folded.

Her final years were spent in a nursing home, since her memory gradually failed her. But, once in a while, she’d tell her son that she could still “hear the music, see the stage”. She died on October 6, 2006.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #105:  
Ballerina Mona Inglesby drove an ambulance during WWII and later brought ballet to the masses.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The only walls that exist are those you have placed in your mind.”
Suzy Kassem

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wild Wednesday Over Tuck


Wild Wednesday Over Tuck

I have blogged before about how the pelvis maintains a level and neutral position and it doesn’t “tuck under”. See http://balletwebb.blogspot.com/2016/02/saturday-tuck-under-statute.html  and http://balletwebb.blogspot.com/2014/03/fun-friday-no-tipping-tucking-or-tilting.html

The misconception about “tucking” comes about because when the legs are rotated correctly in the hip socket, the muscles in the seat “indent”, giving the illusion of the seat tucking under. But the pelvis doesn’t and shouldn’t.

Often students over tuck the pelvis when trying to increase their turn-out, particularly in an extension to à la seconde. They push the pelvis under to show more of the” inside” muscles and the bottom of the foot on the extended leg . This puts stress on the lower back.

The important thing is: use the rotation in the hip socket correctly, and keep the pelvis level and neutral.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #3u:  
“Beware of tucking the pelvis.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“If you look for perfection, you'll never be content.”
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

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