2 3 Ballet Webb: 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

Fun Friday Fence


Fun Friday Fence

A common problem for dancers at all levels is looking down at the floor. This often happens during a relevé or jump when the eye focus simply doesn’t go up with the dancer.

It helps to think of looking over a fence. The fence is taller for jumps or relevés, but it never goes away. Explain to students that they aren’t straining to look over the fence, but can easily see over it when their eye focus is in the right place.

Young children especially enjoy this image and they learn, from their very first class, to keep their eye focus off the floor and out into the distance.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Secret #22bbb:
“Imagine looking over a fence.”

Link of the Day:

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

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Throwback Thursday and Lottie Collins


Throwback Thursday and Lottie Collins

Charlotte Louis Collins was born in England in 1866 and began her career performing in an act where she skipped rope. She was ten years old. Her two sisters, Marie and Lizzie soon joined her and they formed an act called The Three Sisters Collins where they performed an act called Skiptomania.

By 1887 Lottie Collins had made a name for herself as a step dancer according to the publication, The Era: “As a step-dancer Miss Lottie Collins occupies a prominent position on the music hall stage. Mr. Sam Adams has wisely secured her services here, and she is already a great favourite.”  Also in the article is the following: “…when Miss Collins remarked that a dancer’s limb should hang loosely from the hip, or words to that effect, she allowed her limb to travel towards the chandelier in an absent-minded sort of way that seemed to surprise her very much when she suddenly remembered where she was.”

She went on to perform as a regular in many theaters in Britain and in the United States. She was in the U.S. when she heard the song Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay, (lyrics by Richard Morton), and brought it with her when she returned to England. She performed it at the Tivoli Theater in 1891 to such acclaim that the song is now forever associated with her.

Lottie Collins continued to perform in music halls and theaters in Britain throughout the 1890s. She was married three times, her third husband being a fellow music hall artist, James W. Tate.

She died on May 3, 1910 when she was only 44 years old. She is buried in London at the Saint Pancras and Islington Cemetery.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Secret #197:
“Lottie Collins introduced the song Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“An original idea. That can't be too hard. The library must be full of them.”
Stephen Fry

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wacky Wednesday Honey


Wacky Wednesday Honey

A common problem for dancers is using too much tension, especially in the neck and shoulders. This causes the shoulders to lift, warming the earlobes. Not good. It also prevents the wonderful two-way energy, since all the energy is going up and nothing is going down.

Ballet Secret #1mmm can help. Mmmmmm…warm honey running down from the base of the earlobes, down the neck and across the shoulders. Imagine this and the resulting feeling will immediately relax all those muscles allowing the shoulders to drop into their proper position.

Mmmm. Warm honey is a good image to use for any muscles that feel tense and tight. Not to mention how good it tastes in tea or on bread. Mmmmmmm….

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Secret #1mmm:
“ Imagine honey running down from your neck to your shoulders.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Technical Tuesday Walking Protein


Technical Tuesday Walking Protein

In our remarkably complex body there are more than a few mysterious things. Today I present the kinesin protein. It’s often called a “motor protein” because its job is to deliver essential molecules to their (cellular) destinations. One might say it is the UPS of the body.

But what’s really interesting about this kinesin protein is how it moves. It “walks”. It has two structures at its base that are often referred to as “feet”, and these structures allow the kinesin protein to walk. To see how this works see today’s Link of the Day below.

Scientists aren’t sure how this all came about, but there is no denying that the kinesin protein moves by “walking”.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Secret #:
“The kinesin protein moves by walking.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“It’s the unknown that draws people.”
E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Mad Monday Cliff Notes


Mad Monday Cliff Notes

I’ve talked about the eight positions before (there are more, depending on the school of training). But these positions are so important I thought I’d add the following: They are the Cliff (or Spark) Notes of ballet. A simply, handy reference that makes balance and beautiful line possible.

These positions train the dancer to use their entire body, and especially the head and upper body. The èpaulement is so often relegated to being an afterthought and it is critically important, not only for beautiful line, but for acting as a counterweight to the legs, thus making balance and flow of movement easier.

Learn the eight positions and keep them close. Your line and your balance will thank you.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Secret #22i:
 “The eight positions of the body are the Cliff Notes of ballet.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Happiness


Sunday Happiness

What does the above quote mean? The key to happiness, hmmm.

I believe it means that happiness is found inside yourself – and that’s where to look for it. Happiness – the long-term kind -  doesn’t live in success in dance, in a person, or in a situation. Happiness is something I’ve talked about before: living in the moment and remembering to appreciate everything you have. And I never said it was easy!

Fleeting happiness is found in an award, a promotion, a wedding, a birth, etc. All of those pinnacle moments in life make you feel gloriously happy. But happiness as a more consistent state is difficult to achieve. “The pursuit of happiness” is a true phrase. To pursue it well means realizing the state of being happy is transitory and is not found in someone else’s pocket.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Motivational Secret #120:
“ Don’t put your key to happiness in someone else’s pocket.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday Peacock Superstition


Saturday Peacock Superstition

Peacock feathers are beautiful, so why shouldn’t they be placed onstage? This superstition goes back many years – as far back as the ancient Greeks. But why would this be true?

A peacock feather has a pattern that resembles an eye, and some say an evil eye.
Therefore, it brings bad luck. Another tie to history comes from the early Europeans. They feared peacock feathers because the Mongols, who invaded parts of Europe, used to wear peacock feathers. So, there again, bad luck is associated with any peacock feathers being used onstage.

Finally there are those who believe it is bad luck to have any extra “eyes” on a performer, especially “eyes” that might bring misfortune.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Superstition #107:
“Never place a peacock feather onstage.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”
Abraham Lincoln

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Fun Friday Transitions Transitions


Fun Friday Transitions Transitions

When is a transition not a transition? When it is done with a “non-transition” step(s). By that I mean a step that isn’t a glissade, or a chassé, or a pas de bourrée, etc. That is, any step that isn’t usually thought about or used as a link, or transition between other steps.

I knew a choreographer who hated overuse of preparational or transitional steps. He used them sparingly and this gave his dances a unique, flowing quality. But it is difficult to design combinations without any linking steps – not impossible, however.

Try creating a combination without the usual linking steps. It will be interesting. It can also help more advanced students flow through their movements better, since they are not using the familiarity of a glissade or a chassé. Think about the standard combination of increasingly higher grand jetés across the floor. Here is a combination without any linking steps that requires the dancer to use each jeté itself for impetus. I’m sure you can think of many more.

Have fun this Friday!

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Secret #33s:
            “Sometimes transitions are done with non-transition steps.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“The best part of your story is when it changes.”
Bella Bloom

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Throwback Thursday and Sammy Berk


Throwback Thursday and Sammy Berk

Born in Russia in 1894, Sammy Berk was a vaudeville performer. He is best known as part of the dancing team of Berk and Suan (Juanita Suan was his wife).

He was born into a performing family, and became part of his family’s acrobatic dance act early in life. His family moved to New York where he performed as a member of the Sokoloff Troupe, a group directed by his uncle. His participation in a talent contest led to a role in the Broadway show “Lilac Domino”.

In World War I he enlisted in the Navy, and after the war he teamed up with a ballet dancer named Valda. But Berk injured his knee and that ended the partnership. Later, after his knee healed, he met Juanita Suan and they developed an act that combined acrobatics, tap and ballroom. They married in 1920, and toured Europe in 1926.

Later, as vaudeville declined, Berk became a talent agent and Juanita retired.

Sammy Berk died on August 5, 1983


From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Dance History Factoid #196:
“Sammy Berk and his wife Juanita combined ballroom, tap, and acrobatics.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“History isn't about dates and places and wars. It's about the people who fill the spaces between them.”
Jodi Picoult, The Storyteller

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wacky Wednesday Backward Circles


Wacky Wednesday Backward Circles

Today’s Link (at about 2:18) talks about the backward circle image that helps dancers during chassés (gallops) that precede big jumps. Young children are taught to literally do just the backward circles with their arms and body before they actually gallop across the floor.

For more advanced dancers, it helps to imagine these backward circles during any chassés that are used as jump preparations. It’s difficult to explain, but pretty easy to feel. It is this sensation that helps achieve the “air time” needed for a spectacular grand jeté.

These circles remind me of the circles we used to draw in penmanship and/or calligraphy classes to improve our handwriting. Doing circles over and over developed the muscle memory necessary for success. No surprise here.

Try imagining these backward circles the next time you do chassés before a big jump.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Secret #15ggg:
“Imagine backward circles during chassé preparations.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”
Martha Graham

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