The Corps Hoedown

People say that the real star of Balanchine’s ballets is the corps, and I think that’s right—they’re always dancing, and they never get a break, like in so many classical ballets. Last night, Western Symphony definitely proved that point for me, as I found myself watching the corps more than the soloists. The patterns they formed were so fun and intricate, and their energy was unflagging as they smiled and pranced from one shape to another. I hate to say it, but in some ways they were more interesting than the soloists, even my fellow tall girl Teresa Reichlen, who I always love to watch.

 

It’s in the corps, too, that you see the real (and not at all cheesy) purpose of the ballet, which is to showcase the American frontier spirit of the late 1800s, and celebrate American folk music and dancing. Many of the patterns and movements of the corps recall traditional square dancing, as they line up opposite each other doing heel-toe steps, do-si-do, and weave in and out while holding hands.

 

 

I was also delighted by all the detail in the ballet. For example, when the Rondo girl in the last movement is doing releves alternating in arabesque and developpe devant while traveling down a diagonal, the corps of men and women is lined up on the same diagonal on one knee, with arms linked. As the soloist travels, they are leaning alternatingly to the left and the right while she switches from front to back, looking up at her, and the effect is so dynamic.  All that energy was infectious, and left me smiling all the way home.

 

Ballet Stars

For many a bunhead, "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is not just a holiday tradition, but a rite of passage. The variation, with its tinkling celesta, bourrées and petit battus, is one that all ballet dancers are familiar with, and getting the opportunity to perform it often represents moving into new realms in your training or career. Such was the case for Soviet ballerina Ekaterina Maximova. In this 1957 clip, the 18-year-old aspirant performed the Sugar Plum variation at a ballet competition, where she represented the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

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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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For any young dancer performing in The Nutcracker, Marie (aka Clara, depending on the production) is a dream role. But Charlotte Nebres, who will be playing Marie in New York City Ballet's Nutcracker this year isn't just bringing her own dream to life—she's also making history.

Charlotte is the first black dancer to ever perform the role of Marie in NYCB's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, which dates all the way back to 1954. Charlotte was, of course, hugely excited to perform the role of Marie, but, according to the New York Times, when her mother told her that she was the first black dancer cast in the role, she said "Wow. That seems a little late."

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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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