All the Way to the Edge

This week, Boston Ballet hosts its first-ever Choreographic Intensive in Marblehead, MA. Student Leah Hirsch has been blogging daily from the Intensive for Pointe. Read Leah's first entries here, here, here and here, and stay tuned for more!

Helen Pickett recently told us, "You must go to the edges of your physicality"--to a place where ridiculousness is commendable and falling is applauded.
And my ballet teacher often said that to be truly beautiful, you must first feel ugly. To reach into the unknown pushes you to an unrecognizable, quite often uncomfortable physical place. Yes, we must all have structure within our dancing, but that structure must be flexible. It is our minds, not our bodies, that limit us. 

 

Coming into this choreographic program, I was anxious about performing steps that seemed obscure or silly. But over these past few days, I have found that I'm only truly satisfied after pushing my body to its fullest. No step is awkward unless a dancer makes it so. Losing sight of your surroundings provides a release. Yes, as my teacher stated, you might first feel ugly, but that will quickly subside. That "alien" place will soon become a safe haven. 

 

As Friday is right around the corner, I'm beginning to reflect on my time here in Marblehead. Each contemporary phrase we have learned with Thaddeus Davis or Ms. Pickett stresses constant movement. There is never enough. They've taught us to reach beyond what our bodies perceive as correct or appropriate. What characteristics exemplify a professional dancer? Not just her ability to be as willowy as Giselle or as sweet as the Sugar Plum Fairy, but also her skill in articulating the movement of a sneaker-clad stomper in Twyla Tharp's In The Upper Room. As contemporary choreography continues to seep into the ballet community, dancers can't be single-minded. They must learn to be multi-faceted.

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During one of Charlotte Nash's first few weeks with Houston Ballet II, she was thrown into a run-through of Balanchine's Theme and Variations. "I had never really understudied before and I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "I fell right away and was quickly replaced." For Nash, now a dancer with Festival Ballet Providence, the episode was a tough lesson. "I was mortified, but then I said to myself, 'Okay, I need to figure out how to learn things more quickly.'"

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Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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The Joffrey Ballet's Amanda Assucena and Greig Matthews in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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Herman Cornejo in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre's fall season at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater offers a chance to see the company in shorter works and mixed-repertoire programs. This year's October 16–27 run honors principal Herman Cornejo, who's celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. Cornejo will be featured in a special celebratory program as well as a new work by Twyla Tharp (her 17th for the company), set to Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. The October 26 program will include Cornejo in a pas de deux with his sister, former ABT dancer Erica Cornejo.

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