The Blog @ The Barre
Tips, Tricks, and Ballet History for Ballet, Barre, and Fitness Lovers!
Written by our professional dancer instructors.
Written by our professional dancer instructors.
Watch the 20-second video below to follow along with pro dancer and Ballet Spot instructor Jennifer, as she guides you through the basics of an échappé, a fun and challenging ballet jump that is great for leg strength.
Repeat several times in a row for a cardio and muscular endurance challenge!
And then join Jennifer for Beginner Ballet on Mondays at 6:30pm ET / 3:30pm PT or Cardio Ballet on Saturdays at 11:00am ET / 8:00am PT to put your legs to work :)
Written by Robyn Jutsum
What better way to celebrate the month of love than with the Romantic storybook ballet, Giselle!
Originally choreographed by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli with music by Adolphe Adam, the version we are most familiar with today is actually based on a revival Marius Petipa created in St. Petersburg. It is also one of the first full-length ballets to be performed en pointe.
The ballet is a two-act ballet taking place in a small village along the Rhine (Act I) followed by a graveyard in the middle of the night (Act II).
The first Giselle was Carlotta Grisi, an Italian ballerina who rose to stardom mid-19th Century as a result of her performance in the ballet. The first performance took place in Paris at Theatre de l’Academie Royale de Musique on June 28th, 1841. Lucien Petipa performed the role of Albrecht, the main love interest of Giselle, and Adele Dumilatre danced Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. Grisi would later go on to dance as Giselle again at the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in St. Petersburg.
The basic premise of the ballet follows the love story between Giselle, a young woman who is afflicted with a weak heart and a love of dance, and Albrecht, a count (or other courtier depending on interpretation) in disguise as a peasant. As with any good balletic love story, there’s of course another man vying for Giselle’s affections, Hilarion, the village huntsman/gamekeeper, to no avail.
Albrecht disguises himself as a peasant and convinces Giselle of his honest intentions, despite being betrothed to another.
A memorable scene in the first act is when Giselle picks a daisy playing the game “he loves me, he loves me not.” Her last petal lands on “He loves me not.” However, he is able to assuage her concerns and pledge his eternal love to her.
In Hilarion’s efforts to win over Giselle and in discovering Albrecht’s secret, he finds out that Albrecht is not who he says he is. This deception is revealed to the entire village with the arrival of Bathilde, Albrecht’s betrothed. She finds Giselle endearing and the two women bond, not realizing they are engaged to the same man. Hilarion, in a jealous rage, reveals Albrecht’s secret identity, causing Giselle to go into a dancing frenzy (the famous “mad scene”).
She goes mad at the betrayal and tragically collapses, having died from a broken heart.
Act II opens to reveal the grave of Giselle who is about to become a Wili. All the Wilis are the haunted spirits of women who passed on the eve of their weddings, betrayed by their loves.
Hilarion appears to mourn the loss of Giselle when Myrta, Queen of the Wilis, discovers him, calls the rest of the spirits, and they force him to dance until his death. Albrecht arrives to deliver flowers to Giselle’s grave, and a similar fate seemingly awaits him. However, Giselle, despite the betrayal, still loves him and protects him from the Wilis until Dawn. In doing so, she is also saved from becoming a Wili and is able to pass on, while Albrecht is forced to live with the consequences of his deception.
Fast Facts About Giselle
As the composer, Adolphe Adam used leitmotifs, little musical themes that coincide with different characters or moments in the plot. For example, the musical theme we hear in Act I while Giselle picks the petals of a flower returns later in the mad scene and then again in Act II. Although the music is not considered the most incredible music, it is certainly danceable, very sweet, and easy to dance to.
The original story was written by librettists, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier. Coralli took advice from Gautier, who had suggested only the most beautiful girls dance as the Wilis.
The second act is often referred to as the “White Act” because the second act is mainly straight dance rather than driven fully by the plot.
Giselle, as a Romantic ballet, changed the landscape of how ballets would be cast and who the protagonist would be. One element of Romantic ballets is that the production centers around the women.
Another element of Romantic ballets such as Giselle is that there is not always, if ever, a truly happy ending. There was a shift from logic and reason in the creation of these works instead leaving a resounding fascination with the supernatural and otherworldly (i.e. the concept of a Wili).
The first American production of Giselle ran in Boston in 1864, and the first American to dance the role of Giselle was Mary Ann Lee, who had studied under Coralli at the Paris Opera Ballet.
Follow along with Total Body Barre instructor and Pro Dancer, Colby, as she guides you through a 30-second exercise for proper articulation of your foot and ankle in ballet! You'll need a counter or a chair for balance. Remember to practice on both sides and then join Colby for Total Body Barre Express on Fridays at Noon to put your foot articulation to work :)
Music Credit: Giselle (1996 Remastered Version) Terence Kern/London Ballet Festival Orchestra
Watch the video below for a 30-second tutorial on how to properly execute a Demi Plié taught by Ballet Spot Instructor, Marketing Manager, and Pro Dancer Robyn! The Demi Plié is the foundation of everything in ballet, so learning how to do it correctly will help to improve your overall understanding of ballet technique, as well as keep your knees and ankles healthy and happy :)
Music Credit: Tasmanian Symphony orchestra, conducted by Nicolette Fraillon, 2015 recording by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of Adolphe Adam's Giselle Act 1 No. 3 Entrée de Giselle
Written by Tristan Grannum
Classical Ballet is an art form with foundational roots in Europe. Due to this, many ballet companies have lacked diversity and often only hired white dancers. On average, American ballet companies have less than 10% of its dancers being non-white dancers. As the ballet world has gradually progressed, so has the demographics of ballet companies and their dancers.
There are several reasons why many ballet companies have had a shortage of black dancers. One common misconception by ballet directors and ballet enthusiasts is that the black female body does not meet the classical look of a female ballet dancer. In the past, female dancers were often seen as tall, skinny, and lithe individuals. Black women were often scrutinized for their muscular legs and arms which did not resemble the standard look of a ballerina. Darker complexions were also frowned upon. To certain directors and choreographers, a dancer’s darker complexion amongst a corps of white dancers would ultimately stick out. To them this would affect the aesthetic of a corps de ballet (the members of a ballet company who dance together in an ensemble/group).
Lauren Anderson, a former principal dancer with the Houston Ballet and international star, is an individual who has reconstructed the stereotypes often placed on black female ballet dancers. Lauren Anderson was hired into Houston Ballet in 1983. Though this occurred post-civil rights movement, many people could not envision a black woman being a dancer with a major ballet company. While at Houston Ballet, she performed many iconic roles such as Firebird, Sugar Plum, and Kitri which were all roles initially choreographed/suited for white dancers. Her performances gathered a new audience who sought to experience her incredible talent. In 1990, she was promoted to the principal dancer rank (highest position) at Houston Ballet. She created history being the first black dancer to achieve such a rank with a major ballet company. Her promotion prompted Houston Ballet to hire more dancers of various backgrounds to directly reflect the diversity of the Houston community. The racial change in Houston Ballet ultimately propelled other company directors to follow suit in hiring black dancers.
Lack of representation and access to classical art forms have been the major causes for the absence of black male dancers in classical ballet. Eric Underwood is black male ballet dancer who prevailed despite these adversities. Eric Underwood grew up in Baltimore, Maryland initially being involved in sports. It wasn’t until the age of 14, that he started taking ballet classes. Fast forward to 2003 he joined American Ballet Theater, then in 2006 he joined the Royal Ballet of London. Many world-renowned choreographers sought to work and choreograph ballets on him because of his unique artistry, incredible physique and proficient partnering skills. In an article Eric Underwood, (former soloist with the Royal Ballet) doesn’t blame directors for the lack of diversity in ballet companies but blames the social economic status and lack of exposure to young black kids as the primary reason. Eric Underwood is a leader in Royal Ballet’s Chance to dance initiative, which brings classical ballet to impoverished communities in England. Eric Underwood’s presence on stage is the representation needed to inspire a new generation of male dancers.
Misty Copeland’s career has pushed diversity in ballet exponentially due to her mainstream appeal. Misty Copeland is a black ballerina who rose to principal rank in 2015 at American Ballet Theatre. She is the first black female to receive this promotion. Her historic promotion garnished a new widely diverse audience into the seats of Lincoln center. Due to her achievements, many news organizations, magazines, and media outlets covered her inspirational story and followed her journey as a leading ballerina at ABT. In her interviews, she discussed the struggles and obstacles she often faced as a black ballet dancer. She presented a message of hope to young black dancers who wanted to pursue a career in ballet. Misty Copeland is widely considered as a celebrity. Her career has tied classical ballet and mainstream entertainment. She has danced for Prince and Mariah Carey, has several fashionwear partnerships, and has been featured in numerous advertisements, commercials and movies. Her fame has brought attention to classical ballet from unlikely supporters and her message has altered the navigation of the classical ballet world.
The careers of Lauren Anderson, Eric Underwood, and Misty Copeland are monumental to the progression of classical ballet. Lauren Anderson reconstructed the stereotypes often associated with black female dancers. Eric Underwood is shortening the gap between students of color who are economically challenged and the classical ballet world. Misty Copeland is shedding light on the retrogression of classical ballet culture and ultimately assisting in creating new norms in the art form. The ballet world still has to make great strides in regards to diversity and inclusion, however, currently it is on the correct path toward a new era of dance.
Eric Underwood: 'i Want To Be a Great Dancer Regardless Of My Colour'
Stephanie Rafanelli - https://www.standard.co.uk/es-magazine/royal-opera-house-ballet-star-eric-underwood-i-want-to-be-a-great-dancer-regardless-of-my-colour-a3091036.html
Naomi Blumberg - https://www.britannica.com/biography/Misty-Copeland
Meet Lauren Anderson: The First African-american Principal For the Houston Ballet
Symone Daniels - https://thesource.com/2019/02/26/meet-lauren-anderson-the-first-african-american-principal-for-the-houston-ballet/
Follow along with Strength & Stretch and Ballet for Toddlers instructor and pro dancer Ali, as she leads you through the Toe Hook Twister - an exercise for balance, stability and flexibility. She will offer modifications so everyone can benefit from this exercise, no matter your level!