A Day At Houston Ballet's Summer Intensive

This summer, a handful of students attending summer intensives around the country are sharing their experiences with Pointe. Here, Maddy Graupmann recounts a typical day iat Houston Ballet.

 

So maybe some of y’all are wondering, “What exactly do the students at Houston Ballet do on a typical day?” Well, let’s see…

           

It’s Monday morning, and I’m ready for class after having Sunday off. I walk downstairs at 8 a.m. to the 5th floor (just one floor down from where I live!) and check the schedule. “Okay,” I think, “I’m in Studio 540 for technique 9:00-10:45 a.m. with Ms. Sally.” Class starts out fine—I’m a little sore from the break—but then things kick into place and Ms. Sally gives us a long, meaningful lecture on why we need to get our weight up and forward (shoulder blades in line with our hip bones) and also why it is so important to have a strong core. When we finish barre, we do the famous “Ms. Sally crunches” to work on our “less-than-lovely” centers. I love doing the first adagio out in center and listening to the beautiful accompaniment of a live pianist. They always play so passionately, it’s hard to not bring that passion into my dancing as well. Towards the end of class, I feel on fire, and I burst out into an exhilarating grand allegro. It feels so good to travel, and it is so much easier with the impressive amount of space in each studio. After class, we thank both the teacher and the pianist then we throw our pointe shoes on during a 15-minute break. Pointe class with Ms. Sally is generally quite fun. We do a few exercises on the barre to warm up our feet, then we go to the center and immediately do our “8 and 8,” as she calls them: Eight releves on the right leg with the left in coupe and vice versa. It is one of my favorite combinations because regardless of how well I do it, it never fails to show me where my weight is and where it needs to be. We also do “sous-sous echappe,” a combination to work our plie, balance, releves and turns—just about everything! Then, we receive another lecture, this time about how we need to turn out from the top of the legs and shape our feet on pointe. At the end of class we do her slow fouette turns, which are so miserably slow, but teach me a lot about my placement.

 

 Next we have lunch for an hour, where I go upstairs, grab a quick sandwich and then go right back down for pas de deux class with Mr. Munoz. We always have a blast in this class because Mr. Munoz thinks it is very important to connect with your partner, so we get to try out interesting combinations! He also helps us a lot with hip placement in extension.

 

After that, we run down to the 3rd floor for repertoire. We jump into two full hours of Serenade and the friends dance from Coppelia, where we’ve made it past the learning stage into the cleaning stage. We've run them so many times that I know everybody’s parts! After rep, we go down to the 2nd floor where we find Genie in the shoe room for—you guessed it—shoe class! She tells us all about our pointe shoes and how we can take better care of them, make them last longer and how to tell if we have the perfect shoe, etc. We also get to try on a bunch of surplus shoes, where I find a pair I will definitely try, although I love my current Freeds. After that I go up to the 4th floor to the Pilates room and work on many different Pilates exercises, with and without the machines. I also do Yamuna ball rolling to lengthen and relieve my stressed and tight muscles. Then I mosey my way up to the 6th floor, make dinner and crash! It’s a long day, after all. I need to get my sleep so I have plenty of energy left for the rest of the week. I can’t wait for jazz and modern tomorrow!

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

The Anatomy of Arabesque: Why Placement and Turnout Are Key to Achieving This Crucial Position

Audition for any school or company, and they'll likely ask for a photo in arabesque. The position not only reveals a great deal about a dancer's ability, but it is also a fundamental building block for more advanced movements, like penché or arabesque turn. Beyond technique, it can be the epitome of grace and elegance onstage, creating unforgettable images—just try to imagine Swan Lake or Balanchine's Serenade without an arabesque.

Yet many dancers are unsatisfied with their arabesque lines, and students frequently ask how to improve their extensions. (Social media posts of dancers with extreme flexibility don't help!) In an attempt to lift the back leg higher, dancers may sacrifice placement and unknowingly distort their position in the process. How can you improve the height of your back leg while maintaining proper placement and turnout? We talked to a few experts to better understand the science behind this step.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Coppélia" (1976)

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov share the unique experience of having danced at both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet during their careers. The two overlapped at ABT in the mid-'70s, where they developed one of the best-known partnerships in ballet. They were both celebrated for their dynamism onstage; however, in this 1976 clip of the pas de deux from Coppélia, Kirkland and Baryshnikov prove they are also masters of control.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks