Web Exclusive - Ask Amy

My dance teacher always tells me to connect my arms to my back. What does this mean, and how can I do it? —Sherry

 

It took me a long time to figure this out, too. The key is to not think of the arm as a separate appendage starting at the top of the shoulder—otherwise your port de bras will look flimsy and two-dimensional. Instead, imagine that your arms originate at the bra line, right under your scapulas. To get a better feel for what muscles need to be engaged, roll your shoulders back, stopping at the bottom of the roll. You should feel your shoulder blades pressing down and your upper back and core muscles working. From there, place your fingers on your shoulders (keeping the ribs together) and feel the elbows reaching out long. Make sure there’s space between your shoulder blades—you don’t want to pinch them together. Now, lower the hands to second position. You should feel support running all through the upper back and arm.

To give you a visual of how port de bras connects to the back during movement, click here to see the great Russian ballerina Natalia Makarova in “The Dying Swan." Notice that she’s not merely flapping her arms up and down, but that her movement originates organically from her core.

Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

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Everything Nutcracker
Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz as the Sugar Plum Fairy during a stage rehearsal for George Balanchine's Nutcracker. All photography by Arian Molina Soca.

For many professional ballet dancers, Nutcracker means weeks of performances. That usually translates to multiple casts—and important breakout opportunities for those in the junior ranks. On the afternoon of December 13, Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz made her debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy along with her Cavalier, corps member Austin Eylar. For the Brazilian-born dancer, who joined PAB in 2018 after two seasons at Houston Ballet, Sugar Plum marks one of her first principal roles.

"I'm really excited," says Golz. PAB artistic director Angel Corella appointed 12 casts of Sugar Plum Fairies over the run's 29 performances. "When I first found out, I was like, 'Pinch me!' I still can't believe it."

We caught up with Golz just before her debut to see how she prepared for her big break.

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Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy US Prix de Ballet

The US Prix de Ballet is taking an unconventional approach to the ballet competition—by putting the competitors' health first. After a successful first year in 2018, the Prix is returning to San Diego, CA this February with an even more comprehensive lineup of wellness workshops and master classes, in addition, of course, to the high-level competition.

Though the talent is top-notch, the environment is friendly, says HARID Conservatory faculty member Victoria Schneider, who serves on US Prix de Ballet's elite panel of judges. "The wellbeing of the dancer is the main focus," says Schneider, who awarded three scholarships to HARID at last year's competition.

US Prix de Ballet was born after its founders traveled to the Japan Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in 2016. "The company ran every aspect of the competition with professionalism, dignity, honor and precision," says founder Neisha Hernandez. "We knew we wanted this level of experience for America."

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