Thursday, December 1, 2016

PSA: Never run backwards!

Very few things in ballet are absolute. There are a million ways to approach pirouettes en dehors. Different schools teach arabesques with conflicting arms. One dancer's pas de chat is another's saut de chat.


Never EVER EVER run backwards in a class.

Unless you are performing choreography, you should always move in the direction of the combination. Typically this means exiting downstage and to the right or left.

But why, I hear you asking...

Because the group coming behind you isn't expecting you to run at them. You might get in their way or worse, injured if they can't avoid you. You will probably also get cursed at.

But what if the combination doesn't travel much, I hear you add...

Because the group coming behind you isn't expecting you to run at them. You might get in their way or worse, injured if they can't avoid you. You will probably also get cursed at.

But I messed up the first few steps and I'm soooo close to the back, I hear you insist...

Because the group coming behind you isn't expecting you to run at them. You might get in their way or worse, injured if they can't avoid you. You will probably also get cursed at.


No. Just don't. It's very poor classroom etiquette. People won't like you. They'll complain about you to their friends. They might actually kick you if you're in their way. So don't do it.

I wish I could say this is something I see only in beginner classes but it's in advanced classes too. When I am teaching, you better believe I stop the class and say, "No! Don't do that!" In a nice way, of course. 

When I am not teaching, however, all I can do is telepathically send a message to the dancer who is running back through the group coming up next. No!!!! 

Happy dancing~

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Upcoming holiday class schedule & The Nutcracker

Local students -  
I'll be teaching ALL of my classes as usual at Dance Arts Academy and Inspire from now until the end of the year with the exception of Thanksgiving night. 
This *includes* the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 11/26, as well as my classes on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve mornings. If you have any questions, just ask or check the calendar on my blog and website.
Also, if you're interested in seeing some of your fellow dancers perform in the Nutcracker, we'll be doing 2 shows with Classical Ballet Theater on Sunday Dec 4th at the Norris Theater in Palos Verdes. More info is below.
Happy holidays and happy dancing~

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Technique Tip: Stack your pirouette with boxes of kittens!

When we talk about alignment for pirouettes, we often use the visual image of a long pole representing the spine. We don't want the spine to bend in the middle - that's our strong core that we need to maintain the proper shape that allows us to turn smoothly and quickly.

(A food analogy: don't be the cooked linguine noodle; be the dried one fresh out of the box. Hmm, am I hungry this morning?)

Don't be mushy!

Do be firm!

But there is another way to visualize our bodies for pirouettes: stacked boxes.

Imagine your body as 3 boxes on top of each other (head, torso and hips). You want to keep the boxes balanced evenly. If one is off the edge (e.g. your chin is pulled back or jutted far forward, your rib cage is sticking out, your pelvis is behind your heels, and so on), it will threaten to collapse when you take it en releve.

Remember: releve is a precarious place for your body to be. To be stable and steady, everything needs to be aligned properly.

Next time you work on pirouette, try to visualize your body as 3 boxes filled with kittens (why kittens? because they love boxes and because they move around a lot which makes them hard to control, much like your body!).

Kittens! In a box!

If you can keep the boxes steady - and the kittens inside them quiet and still - you will have an easier time balancing them. This visual image will help remind you to push UP to releve rather than forward because you sure don't want to toss those kittens from side to side!

During the turn, hold your arms steady (maybe you even think about wrapping your arms around your kittens!), and maintain the shape of the 3 boxes.

On the finish, roll down smoothly and evenly, and don't disrupt the kittens in the boxes. You don't want to finish abruptly and throw one of the boxes off the center. Kittens everywhere!

Happy dancing~

Friday, November 4, 2016

Week's end roundup: Halloween pics, Nutcracker shirts and a Technique Tip!

'Tis the holiday season! First up, Halloween! 

If you didn't make it to class, I hope you spent it trick-or-treating with the kids or being a good neighbor and handing out treats. Here are a few photos of what you might have missed on Monday night:

First of all, chocolate cookies shaped like cats!
Thanks, Martha Stewart!
Students in both classes dressed in costume!

My musical playlist!

And me, as Rosie the Riveter!

And in one month, we'll be performing Nutcracker!

Here is Bill Reiss's awesome design for the shirt to commemorate our Dec 4th shows at the Norris Theater in Palos Verdes, with Classical Ballet Theatre:

Want one for yourself? You can order in black or white, men's, women's and youth sizes here.

And finally, a technique tip to end your week: Get dirty!

That's right - don't be afraid to get your tights dirty (or your socks or your legs) when you:

--hold your leg in retire. Be sure to press the toe right into the knee and lock it in there. If you keep your toe separate from your knee, and it sort of hovers next to the leg instead, you end up hiking the hip instead of maintaining the natural turnout.
--perform pique turns in passe. Again, press the toe into the back of the knee and hold it there for a split second longer than you think. Don't be in a rush to get the foot back down to the ground.
--practice battu at the barre. You want to return the foot to the ankle each and every time you do frappe, rather than let it hover an inch or two above it. And in petit battements, keep the working foot that is in coup de pied very close to the support leg. Try not to circle front to back but instead, form a V-shaped action in the air.
--do rond de jambe en l'air in center or at barre. Your toe will quickly dab at the inner knee when you do this correctly. If you don't actually touch the support knee, that means you are circling the knee improperly, more like a can-can dancer, and that is physically bad for your knee joint.

When you do all of the above, you might end up with pink tights spotted with dirt from your shoes and that's okay. You might even end up with some light bruising if you're wearing pointe shoes or dance sneakers. That's less okay but not unusual! Just be sure to actually make contact when you're performing the above exercises or else you will be hiking your hip and engaging your quadriceps too much.

Happy dancing~

Friday, September 23, 2016

Technique Tip: Lengthening the Waist

I always know when a blog topic is brewing when I've been talking about a thing for a couple of weeks, especially when it's a correction I've used in several different levels of my classes.

The first time I told my beginner students to think about lengthening their waists was during a fast battement degage combination. I noticed that they had a tendency to lift the side of the hip when they performed fast degages in first position. When they did this, it resulted in a shortening of the waist on one side, sort of a side crunch. I asked them to look in the mirror and do the exercise so they could see for themselves if they were lifting the leg instead of brushing it against the floor.

"Ohhh!" they all said when they saw they were indeed shortening their waists. But when they concentrated on brushing the foot against the floor and visualizing l-e-n-g-t-h-e-n-i-n-g their waists, they began performing the degages properly.

I do love those moments of revelation.

Then I realized there were many other applications for the visualization of lengthening the waist. Here are a few of them with some handy tips!

For a helpful look, I include this photo. I have no idea where it originated but I found it on a blog called Bobby Pins and Lip Gloss:

(Cropped image from website)

1. Releve - whether you are rising en pointe or in flat slippers, on two feet or one, if you think about separating the ribs when you press down into the floor, you will find your balance easier to maintain.

2. Pirouettes - with the possible exception of turns in attitude, if you focus on keeping the shoulders down but lengthening and widening your waist, you will feel more lift in turn, as well as a more "floaty" feel.

3. Grand battements - each time you execute a big kick, especially devant and a la seconde, think about that strong core and how your sides are centered and long.

4. Adagio developpes - it's hard to hold yourself steady when you are moving slowly or when you don't have a barre to hold onto. Try to visualize your waist lengthening as you shift from two feet to one and bring the leg through passe and away from you to a full developpe. This will aid in balance.

5. Pas de chat - when we bring our legs up to meet in this jump, we often do the opposite: we bring the body down to the legs instead. If we concentrate on keeping the waist long and the ribs spaced evenly, it will be easier to stay aloft and allow for room under our hips to bring the legs up to passe.

Generally speaking, for jumps and turns, engaging your torso on the front, sides, and back will aid in ballon and suspension so if we keep the shoulders down but lengthen our waists and keep space between the ribs (no, of course you're not changing the position of the ribs in relation to each other because they are bones, but you are using this as a visualization), it will a lot easier to execute them.

Now get back to class and visualize! Maybe it will make you taller too! Happy dancing~