Since I last wrote from Las Palmas so much has happened!
In Las Palmas, I danced "Rubies" in our Ultimate Balanchine program. There were a few casting changes and I ended up with James as my partner (James to the rescue again!). The change came right before the performance, and James and I had only a little time to rehearse together that day. It was a little scary but also a lot of fun for us.
"Rubies" is so playful and a perfect ballet to dance on tour. There is one moment in the third movement where James and I have a little competition. We keep looking back and forth at one another and the energy between us is so fun.
The second day I had the night off, so I went out to dinner with Altan [Dugaraa] and Rie [Ichikawa]. We had a Spanish fish called Dorado. It was actually St. John’s Day as well, and there were fireworks at night. We were sitting right under them – and it felt like it was raining fireworks. It was so loud and almost scary, but very exciting – a nice way to end our stay in Las Palmas.
We flew from Las Palmas to Madrid and Madrid to Granada on our travel day. The second flight was so bumpy! We all kept looking at each other hoping it would smooth out. It finally did. It was a long, long day for everyone and we were so happy to arrive to Granada.
Our theater in Granada is beautiful! It’s an outdoor amphitheater located in the Generalife Gardens at the Alhambra. My favorite spot is the wall covered in jasmine, stage right, that smells so good. It’s an incredibly inspiring place to dance. Being on stage in an open air theater feels so freeing. This was the biggest stage on our tour so far and the freedom of movement I wrote about before came right back to me.
It was a completely sold-out house for our Ultimate Balanchine program. To perform in front of a huge audience of new people was a great feeling. I danced Ballo with Jeffrey Cirio as my partner. It was my last Ballo for the 2009-2010 season so I gave everything I had to give. All of the corrections from our artistic staff and all of the energy I could muster, I put into the performance and I hope it showed.
After performing in Barcelona, San Sebastían and Santander, the performances in Granada were our last stop on the Spain tour. Our performances in Madrid were cancelled because of the economy and some challenging logistics in that city. I can’t believe it’s the end of the season, but it’s a great ending in Granada--a beautiful place--with two performances and theater full of new people.
Up next for me is a gala in Japan on August 1 with New National Ballet Theatre. James and I are performing Tchaikovsky pas de deux. I’m very excited for that--it’s James’ first time to Japan--and hopefully we’ll get some time to enjoy Tokyo. Then, I’m going to Vail Dance Festival where I’ll dance with Daniil Simkin and Herman Conejo--and I’m very excited to see Damien Woetzel and Heather Watts and other dancers that are coming to Vail.
Then, back to Boston Ballet for our 2010-2011 season. Thank you all for reading! Love from Spain!
Since I last wrote from Las Palmas so much has happened!
Stretch or non-stretch ribbons? Mesh or traditional elastics? Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop explains the differences between four different types of ribbons and two different types of elastics to make sure that you're getting the most comfort and support possible out of your pointe shoe.
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.
Early in Carrie Imler's 22-year career with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was excited to be cast in Balanchine's The Four Temperaments. But immediately following dress rehearsal, she was removed from her role in "Melancholic." "My artistic director at the time pulled me aside and said, 'We can't put you out there,' " she remembers. "My weight fluctuated my entire career. Just when I felt like I had figured it out, I would gain it back and have to start all over again." Despite becoming one of PNB's most celebrated principal dancers, Imler never shook the fear of what might happen when a leotard ballet was in the repertoire.
Ballet prides itself on high standards, and the classical ballet physique is not the least of those expectations. Fear of the "fat talk" still lurks in studios, but, as Imler points out, weight is a challenge that many dancers face, while others may struggle with the arches of their feet or turnout. If you are confronted about your weight, know that many talented dancers have been there. Having "the talk" doesn't mean you can't become a professional, but if you take a mindful approach to the conversation, it will show your maturity and ultimately your ability to navigate a career.
Has Something Changed?
If your teacher or director has approached you about your weight, you're likely left feeling emotional, vulnerable and overwhelmed. Once you have a chance to think clearly, ask yourself what factors, like puberty, may be contributing to changes in your body. Nadine Kaslow, resident psychologist at Atlanta Ballet, says, "There is this huge focus on weight and body at a time when even non-dancers are struggling with body issues and everything else that is happening as an adolescent."
External factors often play a role as well. PNB's consulting nutritionist, Peggy Swistak, says that she often sees dancers struggle with weight early in the season as they adjust to living on their own and sharing a kitchen with a roommate. "One may have really bad eating habits and doesn't have to watch her weight at all, and the other is gaining weight. There is a conflict in managing their food together," she says. Ballet Memphis ballet master Brian McSween adds that financial stress can create barriers for eating nutritiously. "The one-dollar piece of pizza costs a lot less than eating organic," he says. "You have to make the best choices possible with what you have." Other changes, like a new schedule, layoffs or even emotional setbacks, will present the need to reevaluate your food habits and exercise routines throughout your career.
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.
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.
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!