Boys Vs. Girls

I was filming a photo shoot for Pointe the other day, featuring ABT dancers Blaine Hoven, Eric Tamm, Alexandre Hammoudi and Daniil Simkin.  Lucky me!  They're all so cute.  But that's not all I took away from that day.  While I watched the guys figure out their poses and do them, I was struck by how different their attitudes (not the leg kind) were from those of the ladies we shoot.  The women are usually much more intense, trying very hard to show off their best assets, be it extension, line, or even contemporary edginess.  They tend to gravitate toward the poses like arabesques, developpes a la seconde, or attitudes, which are great for showing how high you can get your legs, how flexible your back is, how perfect your arms are.  When the ladies pose, you can almost see them thinking hard about hitting everything exactly right, making everything perfect. 

 

The four guys, on the other hand, approached the shoot very differently.  I expected to see a lot of impressive jumps or high legs (especially from ABT men, who are so virtuosic), but those didn't really make an appearance.  What I did see a lot of were quite casual, standing shapes and simple balances, often facing straight into the camera.  For example, at one point Daniil took a plain en face b-plus position, placed is hands behind his back, and simply smiled into the camera.  There was nothing special about this pose, but to me it communicated a confidence that was quite interesting.  He didn't really feel the need to blow us away with tricks, he knew that he could look great just standing there.  The other men pretty much followed suit, and we ended up with a lot of really beautiful photos to choose from.

 

Now, I know that there's a big difference between the kinds of steps that men and women do, and I know that different things are demanded of them.  But when it comes to photo shoots, I hardly ever see a ballerina who is so comfortable with herself that she can just stand there and smile into the camera head-on, without even rising onto pointe.  I think the reason for this is that the ladies have to fight a lot harder to get ahead in ballet, and have to keep fighting even when they get to companies like NYCB or ABT.  There's always so much competition with all the other ballerinas who may threaten your position, and you can never be 100% sure that you will even have a job next season.  It's no wonder, then, that they feel like they have to show off.  For men, though, the situation is not quite so perilous.  I  think this is because there are far fewer guys to compete against, especially if you're as talented as the ones at our photo shoot, and therefore, you can afford to be more relaxed.  Great male dancers are always in demand, and can feel safer in their jobs, and more assured of advancing through the ranks, than the women can.

 

If you think about it, this is kind of a sad truth, especially since I believe that the things ballerinas have to do are much harder.  Even in the corps, during the big classical and romantic ballets, the ladies have to stand motionless in the background or on the side of  the stage for ages, while their feet cramp and swell painfully.  Meanwhile, their male counterparts are relaxing in the wings.  But I don't see this changing anytime soon, unless we radically revamp the classics.  And we wouldn't want to do that, would we?

popular
Angela Sterling, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

Clear your schedule now for Monday, January 29th, 2:45PM (EST)/ 11:45AM (PST). Pacific Northwest Ballet will be live-streaming rehearsal from Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, straight from their Seattle, WA-based studios. To psych us up for their on stage performances February 2nd - 11th, PNB is letting us in on their Act II rehearsal.

From the corps of swans to Odette and Prince Siegfried's pas de deux, and the infamous four swans, this rehearsal is not to be missed. You can sign up now for a live-stream reminder on their site. In the meantime, we'll be brushing up on our Cygnets with this PNB sneak peek.

popular

Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

Keep reading... Show less
Summer Study Advice
Thinkstock.

Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn't possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.

1. Follow directions. Before filming, research what each school you're interested in requires. "It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that," says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. "If the guidelines haven't been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through." You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.

2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes. "Keep it short, simple and direct," advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. "You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it." Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don't ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.

Keep reading... Show less
Career
Thinkstock

I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

Keep reading... Show less
Videos

They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

Keep reading... Show less
Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!