Basic Training

When Kansas City Ballet came to New York City last September for a one-night-only performance (see review on page 48), dancer Aisling Hill-Connor also made time to demonstrate for us how she applies basic stage makeup. Hill-Connor learned her method while still a student at North Carolina School of the Arts and has been perfecting it during her seven years at KCB. She takes the size of the theater into consideration, because “our stage is a little bit closer [to the audience], so we don’t necessarily need something so thick [as pancake].” (Hill-Connor uses commercial makeup instead.) For another option, we asked American Ballet Theatre makeup master Riva Pizhadze to provide expert advice for dramatic makeup that will also work in the biggest of houses, including how she applies professional products. “Nothing should be too heavy,” says Pizhadze. “Everything has to be matching. It should look like you have makeup on, but [natural].”


BASE

 

Cover the entire face. This will provide the canvas and hold for all the other makeup you apply. Touch up with concealer to cover spots and circles under the eyes. Blend powder last.

 

Master tip: You can mix shades to make the perfect match for your skin. Be sure to blend it so that the neck is not obviously a different color from the face.

EYES

 

Though many dancers apply shadow first, Hill-Connor starts with eyeliner. “[With eyeliner,] I usually follow the line of my eye until it starts to dip down, and then I start to go a little further out to make my eyes look a little bigger,” says Hill-Connor. “The bottom doesn’t go out as far.” Then white eyeshadow, which is a base for the rest of the eye makeup and creates a good contrast. Brown shadow accentuates the eyelid crease and the area slightly above. (For a basic face, always use neutral shades rather than greens or blues.) White pencil also extends the look of the eye, when filling in between the eye and eyeliner. Finish with false eyelashes.

 

Master tip: Use your finger to apply a small amount of glue to the base of the false eyelashes. Then press on close to your eyelashes, starting with the middle, inside corner and, finally, the outside edge of the lid. Add mascara when you are finished.


EYEBROWS

 

Use white eyeliner on the bottom of the eyebrows to make them smaller and raise them. The top part of the eyebrow will then act as a guide for drawing them even higher with brown pencil.

 

Master tip: To make a more dramatic look, cover your eyebrows with base and redraw them. Pay special attention to the arch—make it at the highest point of the natural brow.


CHEEKS

 

Hill-Connor uses her brown eyeshadow to contour the cheeks. Start at the top of the cheekbone and follow the line of the bone down to create definition in the face. Blend with powder and then add a pink blush to the cheeks.

 

Master tip: “Don’t forget the cheeks,” says Pizhadze. “Everything has to be balanced.” Add more contour by adding some darker color to the temples, jaw and cheeks; then put more pink on the brow bone, so the audience can see that your entire face has dimension.


LIPS

 

Line the lips with a red pencil, and fill in with lip color. Dark colors can look black from the audience, so bright colors tend to work best. Balance with the rest of the makeup. Finish with powder if extra hold is required, but it is not usually necessary.

 

Master tip: You can finish with gloss, but that is not recommended for the stage, because too much shine catches the light and causes glare.

 

 

Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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