Friday, July 13, 2018

My beach blog!

Okay, I'm not on a beach but I do wish I was! This post is beach-themed. I had a few thoughts I wanted to send out to everyone and they all seemed to fall into a beachy sort of thing so...

Courtesy Kathryn Greenhill, creative commons lic
My beachy thoughts on this Friday afternoon?

1. A pirouette tip: Grab your beach ball with your inner thighs! When you're in your fourth position, preparing for an en dehors turn, imagine your upper thighs are wrapping and squeezing a giant plastic beach ball. When you releve for the turn, don't let go! Keep the inner thigh muscles activated to hold onto the ball and give you a spiraling action as you go upward. Release the ball as you lower down to your finish, gradually letting the ball go.

Courtesy Valentina powers, creative commons lic
 2. A pet peeve tip: Stick your toes in the sand! One of my biggest pet peeves are toes that leave the floor during battements tendus or temps lie. You lose the opportunity to lengthen your legs and feet when you allow the toes to lift off the floor, even briefly. Instead imagine your toes are stuck in the sand on the beach and the waves are lapping at your ankles and when the waves recede, your toes are sucked into the wet sand.

Courtesy Hilton Resort
 3. A port de bras tip: Do the backstroke to get your shoulders moving! When we do cambre back or a grand circular port de bras, we are trying to articulate all parts of our back: the upper back, the middle and the lower. The upper back is the hardest because we are usually pretty tight in the muscles at the front of our chest and in our shoulders (we do a lot of work at our computers and phones and we sit in our cars for hours). But an articulate upper back is one of the most beautiful parts of our ballet lines. As you bend backwards, imagine yourself doing the backstroke in the water. You don't twist your whole upper body as you do this but rather, you keep the back steady and sweep the arm up and behind you.

Natalie Coughlin courtesy Kinney Turtle, creative commons lic
Happy summer dancing, everyone! Stay cool~

Monday, July 9, 2018

SAVE the date for Coffee with the Company!

On August 18th, from 6-9PM, the Leigh Purtill Ballet Company will be hosting a FREE event to benefit the company - and you as well! There will be yummy food, special coffee drinks, performances by company members, and a SUPER COOL silent auction!


Thursday, June 28, 2018


It sounds like a new snack, doesn't it?

Have some Stackables with your Lunchables!

Actually, I'm talking about creating a stackable alignment in your body as a way to "get over your leg."

When I talk to my beginner students, especially, about pique and releve, I often tell them they need to get over their legs. In other words, they need to get their torso over their hips and pull up so they can fully point their legs and feet and arrive at the highest releve possible. We never want to sink back into our knees or try to turn or balance on a low releve.

But for many dancers, it's hard to imagine how they get to that place. They end up leaving their hips and derrieres behind them and they never get the highest peak possible.

So add one more "stacking" item as you push yourself to arrive on your leg: your knee.

Think about getting your knee over the center part of your foot and your hips over your knee, stacking one on top of the other.
Courtesy Dance.Net
The above is en pointe, but the same holds true for working in demi-pointe. You will add one more item to the stack: your heel.

So in flat slippers, the stack is: HIPS over KNEE over HEEL over MIDDLE TOES.

When you feel the moment of arrival on the high releve, it feels like you're floating! You can balance forever (or at least it feels that way).

Hope this helps! Happy dancing~

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Relax...your demi-plie!

Lately, I've been on a rant about two things with my students in all class levels:

Relax more in your demi-plie

Hold your turnout during jumps

They go hand-in-hand, actually!

Rant #1: Let's first tackle the relaxation of the demi-plie.

From the very first exercises at the barre, we are working our rotation but some of us, particularly during the plie combination, grip our glutes or tighten our calves.

Remember: you only want to engage your glutes and your calves on the recovery from a plie. On the descent, you are engaging your quads and stretching your Achilles tendons.

If your calves are activated during everything, they won't be there for you when you need them to jump. That is when we get tears in our muscles. The calves simply can't activate any further than they are activated but you're asking them to do more, and like a loving friend, they really really try to do what you want. But alas, they can't do anything extra so they break.

Friends don't let friends tear their calf muscles.

If you are a dancer with short Achilles tendons which don't allow you to get a deep demi-plie, then try to relax the muscles at the top of your thighs on the descent. Also try exploring a deeper plie by focusing on sending your kneecaps over the center part of your feet and feel the expanse of the bend there. In other words, don't just think your plie has to be in your Achilles.

And don't forget to exhale on the descent so your muscles are truly relaxed.

Courtesy Danza Ballet blog

Now when you take that plie to center for jumps, you will only be activating the calf muscles on the push off rather than on the preparation.

Rant #2: Holding your turnout during jumps.

When we leave the ground, either one leg or both, we inevitably lose the connection between the tops of our legs. What we don't want to lose is the rotation.

Do you do this? Try this exercise:
--stand facing the mirror in first position
--demi-plie and press up to releve with knees engaged
--check the tops of your thighs for turnout.
--repeat the plie-releve but this time take the toes off the floor for a jump
--check the tops of your thighs for turnout when you are in the air and when you land

More than likely, you are losing your turnout. Again, RELAX your muscles so you can engage them on the jump, hold the backs of your thighs and think about landing toe-ball-heel into your demi-plie. Your plie before a jump or turn should be as ooey and gooey as possible, like you're melting into a pile of marshmallow.

Mmmm, marshmallow

Remember: Relax!!! Happy dancing~

Sunday, June 17, 2018

What's new on the blog?

My company, Leigh Purtill Ballet Company, recently started rehearsals for our upcoming show, SWEET SORROW, A ZOMBIE BALLET, which will be performed on October 20 and 21 this year, at the Lanterman Auditorium in La Canada.

So far we've gotten a great head start on the Funeral entrance and opening dance, the Witches, Romeo & Juliet's pas de deux, and a brand new piece, the Spiders! They are elegant and frightening. I'm so excited to be doing new material for this show!

Here are a couple of shots of Holly (Juliet) and Bill (Romeo) working on the pas yesterday. I'll post more pics/stills from rehearsals as I get them.

I've posted a separate calendar below my teaching schedule at the bottom of this page which will include all the rehearsals for the company. (If I could figure it out, I would integrate all of my calendars but I am not that tech-savvy!) As rehearsals are added or changed, this calendar will also be updated so if you are a member of the company or someone who is excited about the show, you can check the calendar for updates.

What else is new? 

I'll be subbing for Carol Guidry on a couple of upcoming Thursdays, June 21st and July 5th, at Studio A on Hyperion Avenue in Silverlake, at 10:15AM. The class level is comparable to my Advanced Beginner class, maybe a little more Intermediate than usual. Cost is $15, cash only, please, no class cards, since I have to do my bookkeeping with the studio directly. Hope you can make it if you have those mornings available!

Happy dancing~