Spring Recital 2018 Participation Fee

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Two Tips for Tuesday!

Good morning, beautiful dancers! On this stunning 75 degree day, I'm feeling energized and ready to tackle technique!

Let's talk about 5th position and pirouettes, but not together. Ha!

First of all, you're bouncing out of your 5th. I can't even see you but I know you are doing this, especially at the barre. Your fifth is a position of strength: it's where we start and end so many steps and it's where we form the base for jumps and turns. If you don't have a strong 5th position, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Sounds harsh, I know, but I want you to be aware of 5th as a home base and one you can rely on.

From the very first tendu exercises, take a split second to hold the fifth when you return the gesture leg to the start position and feel the legs squeeze together at the top of the thighs. This will help build strength and speed for petit allegro work later in the center and it will also build stability for developpe, etc. during adagio in the center.

Try to avoid "bouncing" out of the position, that is, swishing through it without actually finding 5th.

Second tip: imagine yourself pirouetting with an invisible partner. For ladies en pointe who have partnered before, you can imagine when a gentleman is standing behind you, you don't want to fall backward into him. You want to keep your hips and back and knees completely straight but your arms and rib cage slightly forward so he has room to assist you on a turn.

Now, even if you have never been partnered before and regardless of your gender, you can picture yourself being partnered by an invisible partner. That person is behind you so you don't want to collapse underneath yourself and fall into them. You want to stay completely held and strong in your core but also lift and lean slightly forward so your arms are balancing out your backside.

Courtesy Charles Askegard

Trust me, 99% of the time, we fall backward out of a turn, not forward. We are very rarely ever too far forward on our leg. It's in fact the opposite - we can't get OVER our legs enough or our knees buckle or soften and we collapse or our heels drop, etc.

And here's a favorite video of mine, from the inimitable Lisa Howell who is based in Australia, unfortunately, so I can't get to get to her workshops but I try to learn as much from her as I can through her online presence. She and I share the same philosophy about ballet and she approaches the biomechanics in the same way I do, although she focuses on kids and teens and I focus on adults.

This video is Lisa discussing how to perform a perfect tendu. I teach this and emphasize the same 3 things she does (core, standing leg turnout and foot articulation) in the same ways but she breaks it down very clearly and has a lovely young demonstrator. Enjoy (and thank you, Lisa!):

Monday, February 5, 2018

Technique talk! Three tips...plus one more!

Hello beautiful dancers!

I say a LOT of things in class, especially when I'm searching for just the right image to help a student grasp a concept that is elusive or otherwise challenging. Sometimes they're helpful, sometimes not. One visual image might help one student while it does nothing for another.

Here are a few that I think could be helpful to students but each didn't warrant an entire blog post.

1. Grab the floor with the pads of your toes
The image here is to help you with balance en releve. We think so much about pulling up in our quads and hamstrings, engaging our core muscles, and lifting our backs when we go up on demi-pointe, but we often neglect the toes themselves. You should be aiming to touch all ten of them on the floor (even if the baby toes don't make it all the way) and gripping the floor with the little pads under them. This will help keep you connected to the floor all the way through your feet in one long line.

2. Think of your 5th position like a pair of scissors
We sometimes forget the fifth position (or any position) begins not in our feet but at the tops of our legs. If you think of your legs like scissors, the sharpest point is not at the ends but where the blades connect near the handle, right? Right! That's what you're cutting with: the tops of your legs. Each time you recover from a demi-plie or perform a step like glissade, imagine that the inner thighs - the sharpest blades- are slicing the air.

3. Point your foot beyond your toes
How many times have you heard your teacher say, "Point your toes!" I can't believe how many times I have yelled it out, at no one in particular, "Point!" But really, what happens when someone screams that at you? Your toes probably curl up in your shoes or you sickle your foot. Instead, if you think about pointing beyond your foot, into the space past your foot, you will actually be stretching the entire leg/calf/ankle/arch/foot/toes, not just pointing your toes.

4.  Spot with your fingertips on pirouettes
This applies to pirouettes en dehors or en dedans that are performed with arms held in first position, either crossed or rounded. So many times we start a turn with our arms held properly but as we begin to move, we leave them behind or they crumple into a weak position at our waist or open up, etc. While I instruct students to "bring your arms with you" as they turn, I think another helpful approach is to imagine your fingertips are spotting as well. This will naturally bring the closed first position around as you turn.

Hope these tips help you! Try them and let me know! Happy dancing~

Friday, January 26, 2018

Get your fit on!

There are so many great reasons to visit your local dancewear shop:

~ They are usually independently owned so you can be sure you're supporting people who live in your neighborhood and town.

~ They are often owned by people who are or were dancers themselves or who have a real passion for dance.

~They are frequently owned and managed by women - and I am a HUGE supporter of women-owned businesses (like my own!).

But the very best reason to patronize your local shop is...

...you can be fitted for dance shoes properly!

Let's be honest...from footwear to leotards and costumes to classes and performances and workshops, dance isn't cheap. You can find bargains on some items (buy a class card instead of individual classes, look for discount tickets to shows, reuse costumes, etc.) but the one area you really shouldn't skimp on is shoes.

A ballet slipper should not bag or be too tight. A pointe shoe should not be too hard or soft (or short or long and so on...). Character shoes should not squish your toes. A good shoe fitter will know how the shoe is supposed to fit - on YOU. An online store? Not so much.

The price of a pair of shoes at a local store might be a little higher than the price at an online discounter (although not always - many stores offer discounts or will price match after you've paid for a fitting) but you're missing out on a lot by not visiting someone in person. You don't get to feel the shoes or to try multiple styles or sizes. Remember that if you mess up your size with an online order and need to try again, the shipping costs add up. You also get to walk out of your local store with a brand new pair while an online store might be backed up for weeks or months!

Another reason for in-store fitting: pointe shoes are handmade so there are slight variations with every single pair. You could try on a Bloch Sonata 3B and it's not quite right but then a second pair of 3B's are perfect.

You will be wearing these shoes often - several times a week for some dancers - so you need to get the right fit. It's no fun to wear a pair of shoes that were cheap but too hard or you can't get over the box fully or you can't turn easily or your arch looks lousy. No matter how much money you've saved, you won't be happy.

I recently learned that some pointe shoe makers are not allowing some newer styles to be sold online because they want them to be properly fitted. Some of these shoes are way more high tech than the typical shoe (Capezio Kylee and Bloch Grace are examples) and need an expert opinion. P.S. I saw these 2 pairs in a store this week and was blown away!!

My rules:

~If you're a newbie, you must be fitted properly and in person.

~If you're on your second pair of pointe shoes, you need to be fitted again because your foot likely has changed, as has your strength and so on.

~If you're an experienced dancer, you should be fitted again because styles change or are discontinued or something new has come out that could benefit you.

Okay, local students...time to take a look at the stores on MY FIT LIST! We are lucky to have some wonderful shops in the Pasadena/La Canada area with skilled and caring fitters. Starting west and moving east:

Karabel Dancewear, Burbank CA
Karabel Dancewear, 3901 West Magnolia Blvd, Burbank CA

Lori Binkly owns this venerable (and spacious!) shop in the heart of the entertainment industry. She has a wide selection of Bloch pointe shoes, and some Capezio, as well as So Danca, Bloch, Capezio and other brands of slippers. Her store is filled with leotards, warm-ups, accessories, and undergarments (possibly the largest selection and diversity of colors I have ever seen in person!).

Inside Karabel
She has everything for performances, classes, competitions and auditions - kids and adults. Lori has been in the business for almost 30 years and she can probably fit you in one try but definitely see her, or her associates, to get the best shoe for you. Lori will not sell you a shoe that isn't right for you and she will not upsell you things you don't need.  The store is on Facebook and Instagram.

Priscilla's Dance & Theatre Shoppe, 3528 1/2 Ocean View Avenue, Montrose CA

Priscilla's in Montrose CA
Jennifer Ward owns this charming 3-year old shop in the cutest area of Montrose. As the mother of a dancer, Jennifer has always been around dance and is a big fan of zombie ballet, so naturally we are a fan of hers! She carries Russian Pointes and Bloch pointe shoes, plus Capezio, Bloch and Sansha slippers for men, women and kids, as well as tap and ballroom shoes. If you want something that she doesn't have, like Gaynor Mindens, she will find them for you.

Inside Priscilla's
Her leotards for girls and women are gorgeous! She also thinks outside the (pointe shoe)box with events like book signings, group outings and other fun things planned for kids, parents and adults. The store is on Facebook and Instagram.

The Red Shoes, 1018 Mission Street #1, South Pasadena CA

The Red Shoes, South Pasadena CA
Alice McIntosh opened her shop 40 years ago because the male owner of a dancewear store where she was shopping with her daughter was so incredibly patronizing that she decided she would open her own place (yay, Alice!). She has been a successful businesswoman, a "legend" in Pasadena as many people call her, ever since. Her shop on Mission Street is charming in an old-school way; it reminds me of the types of stores I would go to when I was a kid.

I spoke to Hilary, one of the fitters at the store, about their shoes and the time and commitment they take with each customer. Alice stocks Bloch primarily but a few Capezio and Mirella too. Slippers from So Danca, Bloch, Sansha, and lots of pretty warmups. Styles of everything for men, women and children. The store is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Gigi's Dance Closet , 468 S. Sierra Madre Boulevard, Pasadena CA

Ruth Veerman opened this unassuming yet well-stocked shop on the San Marino/Pasadena border when her children were dancing. She loves to talk about pointe shoes! I learned so much from her and got to see some of the latest styles from Capezio and Bloch (the aforementioned Kylee and Grace) as well as Grishko. She's got a LOT of slippers, including loads of sizes and styles from Bloch, Capezio, and So Danca, among others. Leotards and warm-ups, she's got those too. Plus she mentioned she would give discounts for pointe shoes (whatever the manufacturer allows, she will match online prices) after fitting or if you're picking up.

Enchanted Dancewear, 403 South Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia CA

Enchanted Dancewear in Monrovia CA
Sarah Gallegos recently took over this lovely shop in Old Town Monrovia. She's got a large selection of leotards and tights for both adults and kids. A former ballet dancer herself, Sarah now teaches a Mexico folklorico group that was inspired by her daughter. Her shop often hosts monthly "Mom Nights" in the small studio she and her husband built in the back half of the store: a night for "moms" to come in and learn things like line dancing.

Inside Enchanted Dancewear
Sarah fits Russian, Grishkos, and Bloch and has a selection of slippers for kids and adult as well as bags and gift items. See me for a 10% discount card! The store is Facebook and Instagram.

Hope this helps you all when you're looking for shoes and clothes for your classes. If there are questions you have about any of these shops that I haven't addressed, just shoot me an email or catch me in class. Happy dancing~

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Starry starry lines: Don't be a star(fish)

No, you're not a mermaid or a character from SpongeBob SquarePants, but you might be a starfish.

You should NOT be a starfish, no matter how cute they are.

Why? Because, unlike the crab (see previous post), a starfish does NOT have a firm center nor does it have any "lines" we would like to see in ballet.

Source: Wikipedia
 As an instructor, I see what I call The Starfish in 2 specific places:

1. Pique arabesque. This usually happens with new students who don't get all the way over their support leg and don't keep their back leg turned out and directly behind them. They throw themselves over their pique leg and fling both arms out to the sides in an attempt to balance. But what they forget is that the pique arabesque is not a pose but a movement. Balance is not static: you must continue to stretch your arms in opposition (or in whatever position the arms have been choreographed by the teacher) to your leg, which is constantly lifting and extending behind you.
Source: Ballet North, dancer - Kristin Smith

2. Grand jete developpe (or saut de chat). This often occurs when the hips are not facing en diagonale. Many new students throw themselves into a jete with the lead leg en avant (in front of) but the back leg in sort of a "seco-baseque"- not quite a la seconde, not quite arabesque. The hips end up sort of front too. The arms are tossed wildly in the air as if the dancer were throwing confetti at a parade as a means of lifting herself off the ground. Again, going back to the basics of the arabesque: extend the front and back legs directly from the center of the body with the back leg turned out. The arms should be reaching forward (typically) and not just up. The hips should be square to the corner of the room in the direction you're traveling.

Source: WikiHow

Ballet is all about lines and shapes. Be very clear and cognizant of the shapes you're creating, especially as you're traveling across the floor. Happy dancing~

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Gettin' crabby

Are you ready to start the new year with some "crab-itude"?

As an instructor, I'm always looking for a new way for my students to approach their technique. Students are so individualistic that an image that works for one might not work for another so it's a constant search to find unusual ways to express a technical correction or mental image.

I've noticed recently that many of my students lose their cores when they move without the barre. I call it having an "ooey gooey center." It's hard to control your torso, especially when you shift your weight from two feet to one.

A good visual image is that of a crab:

By © Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=518367

Picture yourself like this crab with a strong and inflexible center while your arms and legs move independently. Each time you shift your weight, hold fast to your center and extend the arms and legs as far away from you as you can.

Be the crab.

Happy new year and happy dancing~