Featured Article

The Judges Roundtable

Peter Stark leading class (photo by Igor Burlak, courtesy Boston Ballet)

We asked five frequent judges for their advice, their pet peeves and their approach to the scoring process.


Peter Stark, head of the men's program at Boston Ballet School, associate director of Boston Ballet II

Valentina Kozlova IBC, Youth America Grand Prix

I am an advocate for competitions. I know there are people who are against them, but dancers can learn a lot when they're working one-to-one versus in a classroom setting. My mentor Bruce Marks, who was chair of the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson for many years, said, “the process is the prize." It's true. As a coach, I've had dancers win and lose, but I certainly feel like the process of setting a goal and working on something is valuable.

One technical aspect that really has bothered me is that dancers are so hyper-focused on getting a leg up that they're losing their hip alignment. That's something I'd really like to see stop. I don't find it attractive, and I don't find it anatomically sound.

If a dancer is new or nervous about competing, I'd tell them this: You do the technical work in the studio, but when you walk onstage, you need to trust that it's there and dance from your heart. At that point, you're good at turning or not. There is nothing that is going to happen two minutes before the curtain goes up that will make your pirouettes better. You can have fun and connect on a human level, and that can make the difference.


Nina Ananiashvili, artistic director, State Ballet of Georgia

Beijing International Classical Ballet and Choreography Competition, Helsinki IBC, Prix de Lausanne, USA IBC, Valentina Kozlova IBC, Youth America Grand Prix

I was a competitor myself many times. I know how hard it is, so I try to give credit to the students. Of course I'm looking at talent, but everybody can make mistakes. I fell down during a competition, and I won. I tell dancers: Don't be worried. You have the opportunity to come onstage and dance in front of these fantastic judges. Enjoy it.

Students today have very good technique. The flexibility? Incredible, and just yesterday, I saw 15, 13 pirouettes on pointe. But that doesn't show how they are dancing. If they do 15 pirouettes and they are dancing? Fantastic. And everybody's splitting, not jumping. Ballet isn't gymnastics. We need to show off the art. If I ever have my own competition, I will write in the rules: No à la seconde kicks. Everybody can do that, but to show a nice position is very rare.

I see a lot of competitors who don't know their character. They just do steps. And another problem around the world: Everybody's dancing every variation the same way, especially the boys. There's no difference now between Don Q, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Giselle. Everybody does the same arms, same steps. In Don Q, why are the arms like this? Because it's a Spanish dance. You cannot do Sleeping Beauty's arms in a Spanish dance.


Shelly Power, artistic director and CEO, Prix de Lausanne

Prix de Lausanne, Youth America Grand Prix, Valentina Kozlova IBC

The length of time I have to see competitors guides how I score them. My first impression of a dancer is extremely important. A weeklong competition like Prix de Lausanne is easier on the jury and allows for more time to suss out whether my intuition was correct. However, when the competition consists only of a two-minute variation, then that first moment is crucial. I leave room for error on account of the time allowance and that is when I look at potential: what could change, what can improve, what does this student need to get to the next level and do they have enough to get there.

I often see students dancing variations that are outside their technical ability, and this only hurts their scores overall. Age is important, and an appropriate variation is one that the student understands and can give proper attention to artistry. Artistry comes from the heart, however. I am looking for honesty and purity, for that spark in the eye that tells me they love what they are doing and respect the art form.

As for tricks, students and coaches need to ask one question: Does the step add value to the solo or take away from it? Solos need dynamics, stage skill, steps that link the music and story being told, and an artistic connection to the movement and music.


Deborah Hess, faculty, Canada's National Ballet School

Beijing IBC, Japan Grand Prix, Youth America Grand Prix

My mantra is “potential, potential, potential," because I am looking through the glass ball to see a bud that could blossom. What comes across most is that deep love of dancing, and how that can grow with training and encouragement. And I am always looking for students who enjoy the rigor. You can really see those who have the self-motivation to enjoy the work that's required to be a dancer.

Deborah Hess teaching at Canada's National Ballet School (Photo by Johan Persson, courtesy NBS)

When judging contemporary, I look for how much they can change their temperament, musical diversity and nuance. Some students can really capture our imagination in a piece that's very different from their classical variation. I am not so much looking at the choreography, but how they are doing it.

Some dancers may not excel in competitions, but that doesn't mean they won't be valuable company members—I know several who went on to become principal dancers. Someone can be excellent at a variation, but if they struggle to pick up different movement styles or can't work well in a group, they will not do well in a professional environment. Use competitions to improve your skills and learn from everything around you.


John Meehan, international jury chair, USA International Ballet Competition

Genée IBC, Prix de Lausanne, USA IBC, Youth America Grand Prix

The first things I notice are confidence, presence, posture. I can tell so much about what I am about to see from the way dancers use their feet as they walk onstage. Bravura technique is exciting, and when combined with control and artistry it makes for a winning combination. But detail and neatness in technique counts for more than some young dancers would think.

As for artistic aspects, I look for musicality, focus, épaulement and port de bras, physicality, and expression appropriate to the piece that they are performing. Whether it's a classical performance versus a contemporary one, we are still looking for quality in whichever style is being presented. Contemporary work is a chance for a dancer to show another aspect of their dancing through freedom of movement and dynamics, which we don't see in their classical variations. I have seen riveting performances of contemporary work where there are no tricks or steps derived from the ballet vocabulary.

Dancing a variation, whether in a competition or in the context of a ballet performance, is essentially the same thing. The key is to focus on the intention of the choreography. Finally, managing the stress of a competition can teach you a lot about yourself—a valuable lesson as your career progresses.

The Conversation
popular
Photo by Lucas Chilczuk, courtesy of Brooklyn Ballet.

With so many productions of the Nutcracker taking place this month, it's no surprise that companies are looking to put their own spin on the holiday classic. At Brooklyn Ballet, that switch-up comes courtesy of fiber optic tutus that literally light up the stage during the "Waltz of the Flowers" scene (and a production that fuses ballet with hip-hop and world dance genres). Partnering up with Brooklyn-based tech company Interwoven, BB's hi-tech tutus can be seen in action in the (soundless) clip below.

Keep reading... Show less
The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

Keep reading... Show less
Everything Nutcracker
Atlanta Ballet in Nutcracker. Photo by C. McCullers, Courtesy AB.

Battling sore muscles during a lengthy Nutcracker run? Add these three items to your grocery list for easier recovery between shows.

Eggs

Danielle MacInnes via Unsplash

These protein superstars contain all the essential amino acids, making them helpful for building and repairing muscle.

News
Julia Roberts in "The Commuter," choreographed and directed by Justin Peck. Screenshot via The New York Times.

We already knew that Justin Peck is a crossover superstar. His accolades from this past year alone include a Tony Award for best choreography for Carousel, a performance on The Tonight Show with The National, and plans to choreograph Steven Spielberg's upcoming West Side Story remake. Today, he proves himself all over again with a series of short films for The New York Times titled "Let's Dance," featuring some of 2018's most lauded movie stars. You can see these videos here, including an augmented-reality experience available to those with newer iPhones or iPads.

Keep reading... Show less
Everything Nutcracker
San Francisco Ballet principal Joseph Walsh at age 3 as the tiny green elf in his local Nutcracker. Courtesy Walsh.

Oh, Nutcracker... It's the ballet experience that unites us all, from young student to seasoned pro. Whether you made your entrance in a mouse costume or under Mother Ginger's skirt, do you remember the choreography and costume of your very first role?

Today, six professionals share their favorite childhood Nutcracker photos and memories.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Haley Schwan. Photo by Brooke Trisolini, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

Haley Schwan's artistic journey toward becoming a Boston Ballet company artist has been anything but ordinary. From the Vaganova Ballet Academy and Staatsballett Berlin to immersive theater in New York City and choreographing for the MTV Video Music Awards, Schwan has had some unusual detours. But the 26-year-old with a warm demeanor and quick smile seems to be enjoying the ride.

As a child, Schwan studied gymnastics, jazz, tap and contemporary dance in her native Michigan, before turning her focus to ballet. After a summer intensive at the Kirov Academy of Ballet at age 12, Schwan began studying there full-time until age 16, when she was invited to the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Keep reading... Show less
Trending
Christine Shevchenko and Devon Teuscher, photographed for Pointe by Jayme Thornton

This is Pointe's December/January 2018 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Christine Shevchenko and Devon Teuscher have spent practically half their lives with each other. Both dancers joined American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company in 2006. The following year, they graduated into the main troupe as apprentices, again together. They've sat next to each other in every dressing room they've ever occupied, and shared hotel rooms on the road. And in September 2017, at the age of 28, they became the company's two youngest female principal dancers—on the same day. If they weren't such good friends, they would probably be sick of each other.

Keep reading... Show less
Everything Nutcracker
Isabelle Lapierre in a still from Finding Clara. Courtesy Justice Studios.

Last winter, we told you all about "Finding Clara," a YouTube series produced by tween clothing brand Justice. It followed four BalletMet Academy students cast in BalletMet's The Nutcracker. This year, it gets even better: The heart-melting show has been turned into a full-length documentary. Finding Clara was released today for rental and purchase on Amazon, Google Play and iTunes.

Finding Clara Trailer youtu.be

Keep reading... Show less
Everything Nutcracker
Courtesy Justice Studios

Finding Clara is a full-length documentary produced by Justice Studios that follows four young dancers from the BalletMet Academy as they prepare for The Nutcracker's leading role. Read all about it here. We're giving away five copies of the DVD including some extra gifts from tween clothing retailer Justice. Enter now to win!

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
Elisabeth Beyer and Daniel Sarabia rehearse "Grand Pas Classique" in New York City before heading to Havana. Photo by Kevin Hesse, courtesy Ellison Ballet.

Elisabeth Beyer may only be 16, but she is already cultivating an international following. A Professional Training Program student at Ellison Ballet in New York City, this year she won first place in the senior women's finals at the Youth America Grand Prix in New York and the junior gold medal at the USA International Ballet Competition. In late October, she had the opportunity to perform Grand Pas Classique at the 26th Havana International Ballet Festival in a gala alongside stars from The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, La Scala and, of course, Cuban National Ballet. Her partner was Cuban-born international guest artist Daniel Sarabia, and the two only had a short time to prepare. We caught up with her to talk about what the whirlwind experience was like.

Keep reading... Show less
Everything Nutcracker
Atlanta Ballet dancers in rehearsal with Yuri Possokhov. Photo by Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.

When Gennadi Nedvigin took over as artistic director of Atlanta Ballet in 2016, one of his first goals was to produce a new Nutcracker; it's been over 20 years since the company's last revamp by former director John McFall. Nedvigin immediately turned to choreographer Yuri Possokhov. "You need to be a really mature choreographer to visualize the whole story," says Nedvigin. Now, two years later, Atlanta Ballet's new Nutcracker will come to life December 8–24.

Yuri Possokhov's "The Nutcracker" www.youtube.com

Keep reading... Show less
Trending
Sixteen-year-old Sofia Castán Vargas on the steps of the Cuban National Ballet School. Photo by Leysis Quesada, courtesy Vargas.

If you've had an opportunity to see the Cuban National Ballet Company perform, or taken class with a Cuban-trained teacher, or observed a Cuban-trained dancer in classical, contemporary or character roles, you've probably wondered what it might be like to study or dance professionally in the island nation. The U.S. trade and travel embargo can seem like an obstacle, but under its provisions, travel to Cuba is permissible for pursuing an education or professional interests. Shortly after the 26th Havana International Ballet Festival, I spoke with two dancers—a student and a professional—whose experience studying and dancing in Cuba sheds some light on what it's like.

Keep reading... Show less
Joel Prouty (far right) trains professional dancers such as James Whiteside, Katherine Williams, Lloyd Knight and Lauren Post. Photo courtesy Prouty

A good personal trainer can coach you through a challenging, safe workout. A great one understands the unique demands dance places on your body and helps you correct specific weaknesses to make you an even stronger performer. Enter Joel Prouty.

Before his passion for fitness took over, he was a member of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Houston Ballet and Boston Ballet, toured with Twyla Tharp and performed in Broadway's Come Fly Away. When he retired from the stage in 2010, he dove into exercise physiology courses at New York University, captivated by the idea of dancers as athletes. "My main focus and obsession was how to train like an athlete—strong, powerful, quick and resilient—while still maintaining the long, lean aesthetic required to be a dancer, and perhaps more specifically a classical ballet dancer."

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
"With the recent passing of Mr. Mitchell, I feel an even greater responsibility to share and grow the vision he began," says longtime company member Lindsey Croop. "Art is both transformative and transcendent, and because of DTH, there is a place for everyone." Photo by Kyle Froman for Pointe.ne."

"Keep the rhythm going," calls Robert Garland, Dance Theatre of Harlem's resident choreographer, from the front of the studio. Five company women pulse through a series of syncopated pony steps, upright arabesque sissonnes and funky, Motown-inspired dance moves. It's an open rehearsal in early September, and the company is giving curious audience members a sneak peek at Garland's upcoming world premiere—one of several new works this season as DTH celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Founded in 1969 by former New York City Ballet principal Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, DTH was groundbreaking in its makeup of mostly African-American dancers, and its insistence that they could excel in ballet. "We were a bunch of dancers who had been told no, we couldn't do this, and Mr. Mitchell was giving us a chance to show that we could," says artistic director Virginia Johnson, a founding company member and former principal. "He was a very demanding taskmaster—he knew there was something very important to prove and that it was on us to prove it."

Keep reading... Show less
Everything Nutcracker
New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin. Photo by Nick Nakahara, Courtesy Pazcoguin.

As conversations in the ballet world about race and representation have opened up in the past few years, its most beloved holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, has come under scrutiny as well. Last year New York City Ballet made changes to its second act Chinese Tea variation, removing elements of racial caricature from both the costume and makeup and the choreography.

NYCB soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, who is part Filipino, was one of the voices fighting for that change. This year, as companies and schools worldwide are gearing up for Nutcracker season, Pazcoguin, along with former dancer and arts administrator Phil Chan, is back with a new campaign. Final Bow For Yellowface is an online platform dedicated to educating companies and schools on how to veer away from offensive Asian stereotypes (yellowface) and providing resources on how to make those changes. The site also lets readers join dance world luminaries including Virginia Johnson, Julie Kent, Adam Sklute, Troy Schumacher and Christopher Wheeldon in signing a pledge to end the practice of yellowface onstage. We touched base with Pazcoguin to hear about how this initiative came to be, and what she and Chan have in the works for the future.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Screenshot of Bolshoi Ballet's Olga Smirnova as The Queen of the Dryads. Courtesy of Fathom Events.

The Bolshoi is back in U.S. movie theaters on December 2, and judging from this clip, you don't want to miss it. As part of its 5th annual Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series with Fathom Events, Pathé Live and BY Experience, the world-famous company's performance of Don Quixote will be streamed in theaters across the U.S.

Staged by Alexei Fadeyechev, Sunday's performance of Don Quixote will star principal dancers Ekaterina Krysanova as Kitri and Semyon Chudin as Basilio. You can visit Fathom Events here to find your nearest theater. But in the meantime, watch this exclusive clip of principal dancer Olga Smirnova as The Queen of the Dryads before you see her on the big screen.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Diana Vishneva explores Aurora's 100-year sleep. Photo by Inna Nebeluk, Courtesy Sleeping Beauty Dreams.

This winter, the renowned Russian dancer Diana Vishneva will appear in her most high-profile project since she retired from American Ballet Theatre in 2017. The 42-year-old prima ballerina, who gave birth to her first child, Rudolf Victor, last May, is set to star in the ambitious, technologically innovative multimedia production Sleeping Beauty Dreams, choreographed by Edward Clug. The production will also star Marcelo Gomes as Prince Peter. Inspired by the provocative question "What did Princess Aurora dream during her 100-year sleep?", Sleeping Beauty Dreams premieres December 7–8 at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and continues to New York City's Beacon Theatre December 14–15, before moving on to what promotors say will be a two-part international tour.

Sleeping Beauty Dreams New Trailer youtu.be

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Sasha De Sola and Hansuke Yamamoto in George Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop touches base with San Francisco Ballet principal Sasha De Sola on all of her pointe shoe hacks, from darning to stirrup tights to customizations. Plus, we think De Sola might win the award for how quickly she kills her pointe shoes. (Hint: It's under an hour).

SFB Principal Sasha De Sola's Pointe Shoe Hacks www.youtube.com

Trending
Screenshot via YouTube

As all bunheads know, there's so much more to dancing on pointe than sewing and bourées. In this new video, The Australian Ballet lays it all out for us, from A-Z. Or rather from "Arch" to "Zzzzzz's." Using a super fast-paced style, this four-and-a-half minute long video skips back and forth between ultra-sleek minimalism and sepia-toned nostalgia. Both educational and insider-y (see "cashews" at 0:54), this video includes some gorgeous shots (Apollo-inspired arabesques at 2:00) interspersed with quirky humor (note adorable pointe shoe bed at 3:53).

So here you go, "A to Z En Pointe." Did they miss any?

A TO Z EN POINTE www.youtube.com

Site Network
Harkness Promise Awardees Raja Feather Kelly and Ephrat Asherie. Photos by Kate Shot Me and Matthew Murphy

The Dance Magazine Awards are almost here. As we look forward to the celebration on Monday night, we're sharing an excerpt from the program—a letter written by our CEO Frederic Seegal:

The 61st year of the Dance Magazine Awards represents a major step forward. It extends the reach of the awards and now marks the second year of our collaboration with the Harkness Foundation for Dance, thus uniting two iconic organizations.

Firstly, this will be the inaugural presentation of the Harkness Promise Awards, which recognizes new talent at the upswing of their careers. Nurturing emerging artists, especially choreographers, is critical to ensuring dance's role in today's cultural landscape.

Keep reading... Show less
Everything Nutcracker
Moscow Ballet's "Russian Variation." Courtesy Moscow Ballet.

Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker is not your average Nut. In 1994, the production debuted in six cities across the U.S. This winter, three simultaneously traveling companies of Russian dancers will bring the ballet to 137 cities, incorporating up to 120 local children in each location. For Mary Talmi, co-founder and producer of Talmi Entertainment, which produces the show, this is no small feat. "The role of arts education in this country is needed more than ever, and the more expansive our tour is, the more I realize that the benefits to the children are way beyond dance," she says.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
Getty Images

Do you call the pirouette position passé or retiré, or do you use both? What about the term élevé? Do you use it? Have you ever considered what these French words actually mean?

"Ballet terminology is somewhat subjective," says Raymond Lukens of ABT's JKO School. "Often there is no definitive way to say something. What's really important is to create a picture in the minds of your students so that they will do the step you're asking the best way possible. You can split hairs forever over this stuff!"

Another thing to keep in mind is this, says Lukens: "For the French, ballet terms are seen as verbs or action words, and to non-French speakers they're seen as labels for the movements."

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

Do dancers' brains react differently to music than other people's, including those of serious musicians?

In a recent study at the University of Helsinki, researchers observed the brain functions of 20 professional dancers, 20 professional musicians and 20 laymen watching a recording of a dance performance. Compared to the other groups, dancers' brains responded more quickly to sudden changes in music, even before the dancers themselves were conscious of the shifts. While watching the video performance, their brains also demonstrated functions associated with memory and emotional processes, implying that dancers might experience music in a more personal way than others. Although you already know musicality is an important part of your creative expression, this research suggests an even deeper connection between the two art forms.

Sponsored

Viral Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!