Fall Flat On Your Face—Then Get Back Up

Maddy Graupmann checks in with Pointe from the end of Houston Ballet's summer intensive.

 

Well, here we are in the last week of Houston Ballet’s summer intensive. Man, did that fly by! I still can’t believe I’ll be flying back to Minnesota on Saturday. I am taking so many lessons away from this summer. And I’ll be back in Houston for the 2011-2012 year-round program, so I can put my new knowledge to work!

It’s hard to pin-point exactly which summer—this one or the last—I learned more. Last summer was my introduction to Houston Ballet, so it was mainly changing my technique to their style of training, then improving from there. This summer, I already knew the technique from training at the Houston Ballet Academy for a year, so I could really concentrate on improving other aspects of my dancing. Overall, I’ve noticed that I’m more eager to jump into difficult combinations, when before, I would be a little timid. That, alone, improved my dancing 100 percent.

I think I matured this summer, too. My artistry has always been pretty good, but it improved when I realized that I couldn’t live if I couldn’t dance. Whenever I get into a ballet slump where I just don’t feel like working, I remember all the times I’ve had to sit out of class and immediately become grateful for a healthy, able body and the gift for dance.

Now, the shows are right around the corner, and I’ve never been more honored to perform. Balanchine’s work is amazing, and we really pulled Serenade together well, in my opinion. “Friends” from Coppélia is a treat to watch and perform as well, because it’s so cute and fun.

 

I’m so excited for next year here, for it will be the first full season at the new Center for Dance. On the top of my goals list is still working on my turnout. My teacher, Ms. Rojas, still believes I ‘have more turnout in me’, and I’m going to show to her I can make full use of it this year.

If I were to give anyone advice, I would say give it all you’ve got! If you try really hard, then fall flat on your face, you hopefully learn from that and the next time you try, you see if something else works. In my experience, this is what gets you noticed by teachers. It’s not all about your legs and feet, or your turnout or how many turns you can do. If a teacher sees you do 3 pirouettes, fall, get back up, then work on getting a perfect single pirouette, that is what is going to grab their attention.

This summer helped me in so many ways, but even for those people who feel as though they did not get as much out of their program, or do not have “it” (whatever that may be) for dance, just read this quote from Ms. Rojas: “You can have all the ‘less-than-lovelies’ and still have the entire world.” Best wishes to all of you dancers out there for this upcoming season of dance!

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

Keep reading... Show less