If you've got your heart set on dancing for, say, San Francisco Ballet, you should attend a school that specializes in Balanchine, right? Not necessarily: It's actually a misconception that you have to train in a particular style or technique in order to pursue a career in that style. Ellison Ballet in New York City—which specializes in Vaganova technique—is living proof: Graduates of Ellison's year-round program and summer intensives go on to ballet companies that perform in a wide range of styles, and use what they've learned from Vaganova to land jobs.
Here are five reasons why studying Vaganova technique can actually make you a sought-after dancer for any number of ballet companies:
Summer intensives are wonderful opportunities to focus on your technique and artistry, study with new teachers and take classes you may not regularly get. But in addition to traditional multi-week, all-encompassing programs, many schools are now adding shorter "specialty" intensives that address specific areas or skills. These supplemental weeks (which usually follow the longer programs) offer short, deep dives into the choreographic process, variations, partnering or life as a professional dancer. While regular summer programs are fairly predictable, these hyper-focused intensives vary widely in their environments, intentions and requirements. And while it's a good opportunity to add weeks to your summer or train at more than one school, some may restrict admission to or prioritize those attending their full summer program. Before jumping in, look closely at what's involved and think about what you need.
Last summer, Lizzo put out a call on Twitter asking her fans to make a ballet to her song "Truth Hurts," and dancers everywhere responded (our favorites still might be Harper Watters and Erica Lall). But now, Lizzo has fully proven herself to be a bunhead at heart: Last night, she put out a plea on Instagram looking for ballet dancers on pointe to perform with her. "I would like ballet dancers that look like me" she said in the video selfie. "I know you all exist. We've been looking, and it's hard to find."
Most professional ballet dancers' stories start the same way. They begin training at a local studio between the ages of 3 and 10, move to a pre-professional school and eventually enter a company. Lara Paraschiv did not follow this script. She began her serious ballet training at age 16, and went from beginner to professional in just five years. Having overcome naysayers along the way, she is now in her first season at Russia's Astrakhan State Ballet, and plans to keep on climbing.
When I was 14 years old, I placed in Youth America Grand Prix's final round and was offered a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School's summer intensive. As overjoyed as I was, I couldn't help but realize just how hard I'd had to fight to get to this point. Despite the years of tears, bullies and constant exclusion that I'd faced, I hadn't given up—and it was paying off.
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In 1983, at New York City Ballet, Jerome Robbins decided to create a tribute to the great Fred Astaire, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Astaire dazzled audiences on the silver screen, making an unmistakable impact on dance in film. Robbins decided to set his ballet against the backdrop of film projections of Astaire dancing with Rita Hayworth in a scene from the 1942 film You Were Never Lovelier. According to NYCB's website, when Robbins wrote to Astaire letting him know of his intentions, Astaire replied, "I'm honored that you want to do what you suggest." The result was I'm Old Fashioned, a ballet that's full of Astaire's signature elegance, and the glamour and romance of his films. The work transports the audience back to a time of long ball gowns and men in white ties and tails, when love stories were told through dance.
For the ballet world, Lausanne, Switzerland means one thing: the home of the prestigious Prix de Lausanne. But dancers aren't the only ones to think of the French-speaking city as synonymous with competition. Lausanne is the base for the International Olympic Committee headquarters, and this year it is also hosting the Youth Olympic Games.
Bolshoi fans, listen up: On Sunday, January 26, the company will broadcast Alexei Ratmansky's new production of Giselle—captured from a live performance in Moscow earlier that day—to over 450 North American movie theaters as part of its Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema season. Olga Smirnova and Artemy Belyakov will star as Giselle and Albrecht, along with Angelina Vlashinets as Myrtha and Denis Savin as Hans, the Gatekeeper.
In everything she tackles, Natalia Osipova, a current principal with The Royal Ballet, seems to jump higher and turn faster than other any ballerina. It's almost impossible to watch her dance without letting out a gasp. Her performance as Medora in Le Corsaire's Grand Pas des Éventails from early in her career at the Bolshoi Ballet is no exception. In this clip of the variation and coda, Osipova soars with boundless virtuosity.
When you see Olivia Book dance, you first notice her long lines, incredible control and captivating stage presence. It's obvious why the Canadian dancer received high marks at Toronto's Youth American Grand Prix competition last year—the girl has talent! It isn't until a second or third glance that you realize that one of the 16-year-old's arms is a little different than most. Born with congenital upper extremity limb deficiency, Book's right arm ends just above her elbow and is significantly smaller than her left one. "My right arm, or 'little arm,' has forced me to rely on my left arm for all of my daily life activities," says Book.
Though she's had to work twice as hard at things that might be second nature for many dancers, Book's passion for ballet trumps any of the physical challenges she faces. "I love how beautiful ballet is," she says, "and there are so many professional ballerinas that I admire and look up to. Knowing that one day I could dance that beautifully and make ballet my career makes me so excited."
Book, who trains full time at Ballet West's Professional Training Division, appears to be well on her way to making her dreams of dancing professionally a reality. Pointe talked with Book to learn more about her path to Ballet West Academy and how she manages some of her unique challenges.
Amanda Farris has never danced in a company with more than 20 dancers. "Growing up we have these notions that we're aiming for the big companies, and that's the only place success lies," says the California native, who dances with the 11-member Diablo Ballet outside San Francisco. Yet Farris' impressive rep says otherwise: Over the course of her career she's performed everything from Giselle to Balanchine's Apollo to Trey McIntyre's Blue Boy.
Small troupes tend to slip under the radar. But they offer unique benefits that are harder to find in big ballet companies, such as frequent opportunities for featured roles and forging deep connections with colleagues. The intimate working environment also provides ample opportunities for artistic growth. We spoke with dancers working at small ballet companies across the country to learn what they love about the careers they've made.
If you loved Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris on Broadway, you can now see the 1951 Oscar-winning movie it's based on in all its Technicolor glory. Fathom Events will present MGM's An American in Paris, starring Gene Kelly and French ballerina Leslie Caron, and with music by George and Ira Gershwin, in select theaters nationwide January 19 and 22.
For a limited time only, enter here to win a copy of Eat Right Dance Right.
It's that time of year when cold weather and busy performance schedules have you craving delicious comfort foods. To help make winter cooking less daunting, we're sharing three professional dancers' favorite recipes. For added confidence that these meals are great for fueling your dancing, we asked Marie Elena Scioscia, a registered dietitian and author of Eat Right Dance Right, to weigh in on what makes them healthy, and the small things you can do to make them even healthier.
Ariel McCarty's training was predominantly classical until, at 15, she auditioned for Boston Ballet's summer intensive. The audition class was in more of a Balanchine style, and the teacher corrected her right away. "She wanted me to accent the arm opening out quickly in my pliés, rather than through the whole phrase," says McCarty, now a Colorado Ballet apprentice. She could have panicked, but, instead, she met the correction with a smile. "I tried it, and it felt not quite right. But the instructor said, 'That's the idea.' " After that, McCarty was able to let go of trying to be perfect in an unfamiliar style. "It opened me to a new idea of musicality. It's exciting to try new things."
The stress of summer intensive auditions is real: You're in a strange place, taking a strange class, and pressure is high to show yourself at your best. But, as McCarty discovered, shaking off a bit of that pressure might be the best way to have a good audition. Two school directors agree, and explain why you should leave behind these common audition worries.
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Back to your routine after the holidays, but still looking for something to watch? Then this new PBS documentary titled Dancing on the Shoulders of Giants is for you. The hour-long film tracks the creation of two dance pieces: Claudia Schreier's Passage for Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Sir Richard Alston's Arrived featuring students of Norfolk's Governor's School for the Arts. Both works were co-commissioned by the American Evolution 2019 Commemoration and the Virginia Arts Festival last May, in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of Africans to English North America and the history of slavery that followed.
"They're breaking all my theories about not pushing dancers too soon," Kevin McKenzie, the usually cautious artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, said recently in his office near Union Square. He was referring to recently promoted soloists Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell, 24 and 21, respectively. And he's not kidding. Hurlin and Bell are on the fast track, with role after role coming their way.