Ballet dancers train long and hard to excel at what they do. It is imperative that they be confident in their technique when they step onto a stage, as doubt can have a crippling effect on a dancer's ability to perform a movement that they've practised and rehearsed scores of times. I've often had the opportunity of seeing elite dancers in class and rehearsal, and their relaxed manner and the ease with which they correctly execute all the steps shows that they know they can do this. However, ballet dancers are also famously superstitious and wedded to rituals that
Last Sunday and Monday, I had the opportunity to perform in Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum. It was so much fun! Before the performance, there was a company class with ABT that I got to take--and wow, the company dancers are soooo good. It was amazing to be in the same class with them.
I have an odd confession to make: I enjoy watching dancers who have bad feet. And I don't just mean that I can appreciate good dancers in spite of their stereotypically "bad" ballet feet. I actually like their lack of instep and/or little arch.
What an exciting trip this was! Overall, I was extremely impressed with the kindness and enthusiasm of the Cuban ballet fans. Dance is a huge deal in Havana--there are pictures of Alicia Alonso everywhere. Many people saw our first performance and insisted on coming back for the second one. They waited for us outside the stage door and took pictures and asked for autographs. They tried hard to communicate to us in broken English how much they enjoyed the program. I met some people in the hotel who had traveled from Argentina specifically to see the dance festival.
Sometimes ballet can feel a bit like arithmetic: Turnout should stay at exactly 180 degrees, arabesque should rise to at least 90 degrees, fifth position should have zero space in between your toes and heels. But although there are certain marks we all aim to hit, the artistry in ballet comes from the limitless ways there are to get there.
Wendy Whelan, NYCB principal, on teaching a recent master class at Manhattan Movement & Arts:
I don’t teach often, so I’m learning about myself as a teacher. You have to articulate both with your body and with your words. A certain word might make all the difference to someone in the class. As I teach, I think a lot about Willy Burmann—I’ve been taking his class for more than 20 years. I love the ideas he brings to his students. He does a lot with opposition—being down in the ground and up into the air.
The title of this blog may be a tad misleading, but I do have an important question to ask. After watching a video of the (divinely talented and gift to the ballet world from heaven) Svetlana Zakharova on YouTube, I wonder: What is the best and most correct way to do fouettes? Is it by winding up with a rond de jambe from front to side each time you complete the revolution, or, as Svetlana does it, to just open the leg to the side?
This is the first guest blog post by student Catherine Hurlin, who's rehearsing the role of Clara for ABT's new Nutcracker. Stay tuned for more posts from Catherine!
Hey! My name is Catherine Hurlin and I am learning the part of Clara for American Ballet Theatre’s new production of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. I’m 14 years old and go the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT. I just moved up to level 6, and I'm ready for anything!