Wondering how ballerinas learn to balance on their toes? It's all about practicing the fundamentals with correct placement and technique!
Watch the quick video below for tips to balance better in ballet taught by professional dancer and Ballet Spot instructor Liz. Learn to access your strongest and best natural turnout and stand with your best posture to maintain your center when on relevé. Practice this daily, and practice in different ballet positions to feel more confident in ballet class and in life!
Remember to have something nearby to hold onto to assist, and remember that balance becomes more challenging with age, which means that it becomes even more important to practice over time. Be patient with yourself and always remember progress is more important that perfection. Ballerinas practice balancing on their toes up to 8 hours a day - learning to balance takes time, and with patience, everyone's balance can improve.
Join Liz for Stretch Tuesdays at 6:30pm ET / 3:30pm PT, as well as Ballet Breathe & Flow Saturdays at 2:00pm ET / 11:00am PT all on Zoom!
Follow along with pro dancer and Ballet Spot instructor Quincie, as she guides you through a series of bridging exercises to target all 3 glute muscle groups. These are great exercises to increase strength for dancing and maintain healthy knees and hips.
It's important to remember, dancers work hard for their strong and toned legs! In addition to dancing, most dancers do exercises to prevent injury.
One of the most important muscle groups that dancers focus on are glutes. You may have heard of the "glutes" - well you have 3 gluteal muscles located on your behind. Strong glute muscles not only look better than weak ones, but strong glutes are SUPER important for injury prevention. Strong glutes are important for proper hip, knee, and lower spine function, and also propel your body forward and up when jumping or running.
For more similar exercises, join Quincie for Ballet Sculpt Express Saturdays at Noon ET / 9:00am PT on Zoom.
Written by Robyn Jutsum
June is here which means we are one step closer to Summer! As the weather warms up, life starts to open up, and we look ahead to sunnier days, we look forward to continuing to dance with all of you virtually, outdoors, and On Demand!
This month, we are shaking things up! Instead of focusing on one specific ballet in our Cardio Ballet classes, June’s theme is Center Stage, the 2000 cult classic ballet movie featuring former dancers with ABT, Dutch National Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet! Join us for Sips & Clips *Free* Virtual Happy Hour and Viewing Party on Sunday 6/13 on Zoom to watch highlights of the film!
Center Stage was directed by Nicholas Hytner and written by Carol Heikkenen. Set in New York City at the fictional American Ballet Academy (“ABA”), fashioned after the real training school, the School of American Ballet, this bunhead movie follows the life of Jody (played by actress and former member of San Francisco Ballet, Amanda Schull) and her fellow classmates as they embark in a year training at ABA.
Watch the official trailer below:
Throughout the movie, Jody and her peers face the trials and tribulations of growing up pursuing their professional aspirations in the dance industry, while also being teenagers in the Big Apple. A major plot point in the film is the love triangle Jody finds herself in. She is torn between her peer, Charlie (played by Sascha Radetsky, formerly of ABT and Dutch National Ballet), and pro dancer and choreographer, Cooper (played by Ethan Stiefel, formerly of ABT and former Artistic Director of Royal New Zealand Ballet). Other obstacles the dancers face include eating disorders, sexuality, injuries, casting, and the overarching pressure to be the best.
The all star cast is rounded out with Julie Kent (Artistic Director of Washington Ballet and former dancer with ABT), who plays a professional dancer; Zoe Saldana as Eva, one of Jody’s classmates, and Peter Gallagher as Jonathan, the artistic director of the academy. Dancers from New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre were used as extras, including Gillian Murphy, Stella Abrera, Jonathan Stafford, Jared Angle, Janie Taylor, and Rebecca Krohn. Aesha Ash, a former dancer at New York City Ballet, was used as Zoe Saldana’s body double for most of the dance scenes. This was also the film debut for both Zoe Saldana and Amanda Schull!
Excerpts from ballets such as Romeo & Juliet, Stars and Stripes, Le Corsaire, and Swan Lake are found throughout the movie. That being said, while the movie is a ballet-centric movie, there are many styles of dance and different types of ballet represented including jazz, salsa, musical theatre, and contemporary ballet. Susan Stroman choreographed for the film, winning an American Choreography Award for her contributions. Christopher Wheeldon choreographed the ballet Jonathan creates in the film.
In Cardio Ballet this month, you may learn combos inspired by the many dance scenes from Center Stage such as…
If the tagline isn’t any indicator of the dramatics of this movie, we don’t know what is!
For more fun facts about the movie, check out these articles in celebration of its 20th anniversary last year!
Dance Spirit Magazine Article:
From Entertainment Weekly:
A fun interview between Megan Fairchild and Amanda Schull:
Sources (in addition to the links above)
Watch the video below to follow along with pro dancer and Ballet Spot instructor, Deepa, as she guides you through her Pilates Mat abdominal series. These exercises are great to do everyday to strengthen your core!
Join Deepa for Pilates Mat Wednesdays at 6:30pm ET / 3:30pm PT on Zoom.
You can also join Deepa for Cardio Ballet Wednesdays at 10:30am ET / 7:30am PT and Cardio Ballet Pop Hits Sundays at Noon ET / 9:00am PT on Zoom.
Try this exercise to improve your spotting for pirouettes in ballet taught by The Ballet Spot's founder and owner Eliza. Remember to practice on both sides! Spotting is tricky, so be patient and practice often.
Pirouettes are endlessly challenging, but one easy way to improve is to practice your spot! There are lots of elements that go into a proper ballet turn - proper preparation, strong position during the turn, controlled turnout, square hips, strong standing leg....... - but without a strong spot, none of it matters!
Spend some time refining your spot without worrying about the position - try slow, then get faster, try a single, try a double, and even a triple! Be patient with yourself and get used to the feeling of turning once or multiple times in a row.
Spotting prevents dizziness and is important for pirouette rhythm. When trying multiple turns keep the spotting rhythm completely even - the tendency is to slow down after the first spot, but you need a fast second (or third) spot to keep your momentum.
Once your spot feels stronger, try adding in a passé position.
Remember to practice both sides!
Join Eliza for Cardio Ballet Mondays and Fridays at 10:30am ET / 7:30am PT on Zoom! If you're in LA, you can dance with Eliza on the Beach in Santa Monica on Fridays at 7:30am!
Join Eliza for Total Body Barre on Tuesdays at 10:30am ET / 7:30am PT, Thursdays at 11:30am ET / 8:30am PT, and Saturdays at 1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT on Zoom!
The most fun way to get your cardio in - DANCING! Follow along in the short video below with pro dancer and Total Body Barre instructor Colby, as she teaches you a few simple and effective moves to get challenge your heart. Then turn on some music and start grooving!
Join Colby for Total Body Barre Express (45min) Fridays at Noon ET / 9:00am PT on Zoom.
Written by Robyn Jutsum
Happy May! This month, The Ballet Spot is headed to the Wild Wild West with our new theme, Rodeo, choreographed by Agnes De Mille! This cowboy ballet premiered in 1942 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and music by Aaron Copland.
To give you an introduction to Agnes De Mille, the mastermind behind this cowgirl ballet, watch her describe the choreography in this video commissioned by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.
Set at a ranch (ballet’s subtitled “The Courting at Burnt Ranch”), De Mille’s ballet portrays a Southwestern love story centered around the protagonist, the Cowgirl (originally played by De Mille herself) and her love for the Head Wrangler. Over the course of the ballet, the Cowgirl attempts to make him notice her and tries to keep up with the other cowboys. However, in the end, she finds true love with another gentleman, the Lead Roper, so the Head Wrangler remains with his love, the Rancher’s Daughter, and all is well at Burnt Ranch! The Kennedy Center has an excellent feature on Agnes De Mille and her work, including Rodeo, and they share a full synopsis which I encourage everyone to read.
ABT 1973 Scene 1 featuring Christine Sarry as the Cowgirl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9uzwiKNhCk&t=302s
The ballet is divided into 5 sections:
“Ranch House Party,”
“Saturday Night Waltz,”
And “Hoe Down”
Colorado Ballet in Rodeo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqbxVjF1jwM
The set, costumes, and lighting help create the Old Western vibe of the ballet. Designed by Oliver Smith, it’s important to pay attention to how both the set and lighting define not only the ranch but also the time of day throughout the 5 sections. The costumes are, predictably, indicative of the Wild West, with cowboy attire for the men and traditional Western dresses for the women. The exception to this is the Cowgirl, who is also dressed in cowboy attire as she tries to fit in with the men. In the second half of the ballet, she dons a red dress and has an “ugly duck moment,” suddenly becoming noticeable and desirable, even to the Head Wrangler (and the Lead Roper, her true love), which is in deep contrast to her character during the earlier sections of the ballet.
Although considered a ballet, you will find Rodeo has several types of dance in it. De Mille felt that Russian ballet technique and aesthetic was outdated, restricting, and limiting choreographically and unimaginative in emotional expression on stage. The Kennedy Center explains that the ballet is relevant today because of its ability to convey human emotion, “And even though Rodeo was choreographed some 70 years ago, we still enjoy it today because it portrays universal human emotions: the desire to find love and the hurt of rejection.” Gestures and affectations are incorporated to reflect the motion of roping, horseback riding, the gait of the cowboy, etc. You will find tap, square dance, various social dances, and elements of ballet and Modern Dance throughout the story. As a result, Rodeo is considered one of, if not the first, truly American ballets. It has been the source of inspiration for many alternate interpretations of Copland’s score, most notably Justin Peck’s Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes (Premiered 2015 with the New York City Ballet at the David H. Koch Theater). Watch this feature with Daniel Ulbricht (who will be part of our Stars of Ballet Series in July!!) discussing Peck’s ballet
Sign up for Rodeo-themed Cardio Ballet here. And participate in our monthly virtual performance! Learn more about your “performance” opportunity and how to be a part of it here.
Want to learn more about Rodeo and Agnes De Mille, and watch excerpts from the ballet? Join us for our virtual happy hour and viewing party, Sips and Clips, on Sunday, May 15th at 6 pm ET / 3 pm PT! Sign up for free here.
Watch the quick video below for some simple and effective ways to stretch and strengthen your upper back taught by pro dancer, and Ballet Spot instructor and Marketing Manager Robyn! These exercises will help improve posture as well as port de bras for ballet class.
Join Robyn for Total Body Barre on Mondays at 5:30pm ET / 2:30pm PT and Sundays at 1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT, as well as Cardio Ballet on Thursdays at 8:00am ET / 5:00am PT (for all you earl birds).
This week's move is a series of active stretches to lengthen the front and back of your thighs! This series is taught by Daniel, a professional dancer, certified trainer, and former American Ballet Theatre Corps de Ballet member. Active stretching is a fabulous way to keep your muscles long and strong for dancing!
Join Daniel for Active Dynamic Stretch on Saturdays at 10:00am ET / 7:00am PT on Zoom!
Written by Robyn Jutsum
As we make our way into May, we are thrilled to introduce new events and features here at The Ballet Spot. One of our many exciting announcements this Spring is the start of our Stars of Ballet Series which kicked off in April with a Le Corsaire-inspired class led by ABT Soloist, Luciana Paris. Over the next few weeks, Larissa Gerszke of Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Adji Cissoko of Lines Ballet, and formerly of National Ballet of Canada, will each be teaching their own class for the series, lending their perspectives as members of contemporary ballet companies.
Join Larissa on Friday, May 14th at 5:30 pm ET / 2:30 pm PT on Zoom and then mark your calendars for Adji’s class on Sunday, June 6th at 4:30 pm ET / 1:30 pm PT on Zoom. All levels are welcome to join!
But what is Contemporary Ballet? And how does it differ from Classical Ballet? From Neoclassical Ballet? What sets each of these styles of ballet technique and performance apart?
As defined by Ballet Arizona, Contemporary Ballet “is a genre of dance that incorporates elements of both classical ballet and modern dance. Often confused with modern dance (which is a separate style of dance all its own), contemporary ballet represents a departure from the restraints of traditional classical ballet technique and traditional rules of composition. Contemporary ballet has roots in the classical technique and vocabulary, but uses those roots as a place to explore, experiment, and challenge tradition.”
Contemporary ballet maintains the roots of the traditional formula of ballet but in production, contemporary ballet works do not follow the same structure as Classical ballets such as The Nutcracker or Swan Lake.
Classical ballets have a set of rules that define them:
Act II Pas de Deux from The Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake featuring Francesca Hayward, Cesar Corrales (Example of Classical Era): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=077BgT3h6As
Act II Pas de Deux from English National Ballet’s La Sylphide featuring Tamara Rojo, Steven McRae (Example of Romantic Era): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Mz7G4TNg6g
***For the sake of this blog post, our reference to “Classical” is synonymous with traditional ballet technique and vocabulary, what you first think of when you hear the term “ballet.”
Neoclassical Ballet, like Contemporary Ballet, is rooted in the classical. It takes on the role of the abstract with music to match. For instance, Igor Stravinsky’s compositions have been used in many Neoclassical works. The first noted Neoclassical Ballet is George Balanchine’s Apollo (1928) with music by Stravinsky. Neoclassical movement is abstract, athletic, and angular, sort of like, say, one of Pablo Picasso’s paintings. It does not have any strict rules when it comes to plot, costumes, etc., but it still holds an aesthetic that resembles Classical Ballet. Balanchine is attributed with establishing the Neoclassical style, and this style can arguably be seen as the bridge between Classical and Contemporary ballet.
George Balanchine’s Who Cares? is another example of Neoclassical elements in play.
Compared to a Contemporary Ballet like Dwight Rhoden’s Love Rocks, for Complexions Contemporary Ballet (featuring Larissa Gerszke)
Contemporary Ballet, though it shares many qualities with Neoclassical, involves more floorwork, more inversions (turning in of the legs, contractions), and the inclusion of acting, of moving, in the context of a plot. The plots, unlike a fairytale, are reimagined or entirely deconstructed.
The lines of a dancer’s body are stretched to its limits, with more extreme arabesques, dynamics of the port de bras, and further contortions of the body as a whole.
Keep in mind, just as defined by Ballet Arizona, Contemporary Ballet is different from Modern Dance. It’s a type of movement that has been evolving since it emerged. While Neoclassical was a product of the early 20th-Century, Contemporary Ballet is still being developed and explored in the 21st Century. William Forsythe’s 1987 In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated is an early example of a Contemporary Ballet. Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room would be another one and was our theme for March’s Cardio Ballet Classes! More recent examples, in the 21st Century, would be Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing or Lines Ballet’s Shostakovich shown here (featuring Adji Cissoko who will be teaching her Stars of Ballet Class on June 6th!).
Choreographers and companies have emerged through the exploration of what Contemporary Ballet means for ballet and for the field of dance as a whole. Complexions Contemporary Ballet, which was founded in 1994, for instance, shares “The company’s foremost innovation is that dance should be about removing boundaries, not reinforcing them. Whether it be the limiting traditions of a single style, period, venue, or culture, Complexions transcends them all, creating an open, continually evolving form of dance that reflects the movement of our world—and all its constituent cultures—as an interrelated whole.”
Because it is an evolving concept, it’s difficult to nail down a one-size-fits-all definition for Contemporary Ballet. Dance Magazine has a fantastic article that includes interviews with several choreographers who offer their insight. I highly recommend reading the full article here, but I wanted to share a couple tidbits:
“There’s a quandary about the definition of contemporary ballet that hovers over the ballet world. The term at times seems deliberately ambiguous, almost as though we don’t want to define this era, to stay loose about it so it doesn’t get fixed...Here’s a definition: Work where the dancer has an incredible sense of complex coordination, where the full body is contributing to the movement and not the pose. It’s that overt sense of épaulement. In Forsythe’s company, where I danced for 12 years, it was about the fully investigated body, absolute physical prowess, going to the end of a movement and asking, How does that take you to the next place?” (from Helen Pickett)
“Classical ballet was very much directed toward the audience. Neoclassical started to change the shapes but was still toward the audience. With contemporary ballet, you turn the room. The audience is asked to look at what is happening between the dancers. But it still uses the classical vocabulary and the aesthetic of a beautiful line.” (from Annabelle Lopez Ochoa)
To better understand the overarching evolution of Ballet from its roots in the Italian courts of the Renaissance to the choreography emerging today, it is sometimes easiest to look at specific elements including pointe shoes, tutus, and the line of the dancer’s body. We could dive into each of these elements but for now, I wanted to include this short list of links to direct you to the many rabbit holes of ballet.
Needless to say, the journey of dance, ballet technique, and the ballerina has shifted greatly! And the world of Contemporary Ballet is expansive, continuing to grow in real time. Experience fun Contemporary Ballet movement in our upcoming Stars of Ballet classes with Larissa and Adji!
Sign up for Larissa and Adji’s upcoming Contemporary Ballet Workshops here.
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