Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Your developpe could be better...3 tips!

Just as with pirouettes, there are so many things we can be thinking about when we do développé.

And just as with pirouettes, we can't possibly think about all of them at the same time!

So here are 3 things to focus on when you work on your développé, one for each direction. If you can make them part of your muscle memory, you can free your mind to think about other things, like choreography or performance quality:


Gamzatti Variation Classical Ballet Solo by Harclade

This means "to the front."

Think about: lower belly (that triangle-shaped area underneath your belly button).

When we talk about "lifting" the lower belly, we mean trying to keep your pelvis upright, not tilted (don't spill your cup of water!). Often when we stretch the leg to the front, we collapse our centers and the lower belly tilts backward. To compensate for this, we grab onto the barre tightly. Instead, when you are working to the front, try to imagine your lower belly flat and the cup of water you are keeping there upright. As you stretch the foot away from your center, picture the heel rotating outward to spiral out and up, not down.

A là seconde

Aurora Ballet 20120504019 by Greg Gamble

This means "to the second position" which we commonly interpret as "side."

Think about: the side of your rib cage from under the armpit to the top of the waist.

You can apply this correction when you work to the side, thinking about the "barre" side of your body. As you stretch the leg out, try to think about the opposite side of your waist lengthening and providing a strong stable complementary base to the working leg. While you do want to extend the leg as high as it can go, you also don't want to allow it to pull you off your standing leg. If you can picture yourself growing taller on both sides of your body, you can evenly extend the leg to the side without collapsing toward the barre (or in the center, you will remain upright and not fall over).


IMG 0224 by Dubna Fantazia

This means "to the back."

Think about: working through back attitude.

I don't have eyes in the back of my head and I'm pretty sure you don't either. That's why it can be hard to stretch your leg to the back without crossing it over the heel of the standing leg or leaving it open (what we call "secabesque" when we are being silly). It's also quite easy to lose your rotation and wind up with a turned-in leg. As you develop the leg from passe, try to go through your back attitude before you completely stretch it out. This will keep your rotation and also ensure that you are not crossing it too much. It's a very 3-dimensional feeling to move through the space like this, rather than simply a straight line from the knee out.

~Happy dancing!~

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Zoomed out? 8 pointers to having a better class!

My current barre
My current barre
Beautiful dancers, we have gotten so Zoomed out, haven't we? After 7 months of being in our home studios, it's beginning to feel more like a prison and less like a holiday. We probably thought it wouldn't last long and we could keep our family and roommates and pets out of our way for a little while - or maybe we didn't invest in materials or we thought we could just give up dance for a month or two. And now...eesh! Seven months and counting!

I know that it's been challenging to stay focused and be on top of our technique. For those of you who have had a hard time, I get it. I feel the same way sometimes. When I think about being in front of the camera, I feel so sad and a bit dispirited but then I start class, get into the groove, and pretty soon, I forget that it's Zoom (kind of!). 

Even though I've been in front of thousands of classes and I know just about every one of my students, I feel more pressure to "perform" when it's the Zoom camera. If you feel that way too, you're not alone!

So how can you make your Zoom class feel less like a work or school meeting and more like "your time"? Here are a few things I've learned or come to appreciate:

1. Put the camera where you want it. Oh sure, if you're a young pre-professional dancer, you want your teacher to see all the alignment issues for corrections but my adult dancers? Please do what you want. If you want me to see your face or your ear or your feet, that's fine with me.

2. A caveat to #1 - sometimes being a non-video participant or having multiple cameras attached will affect the reception for other students in class. You may need to turn off audio as well. Check with your teacher.

3. Always mute yourself unless you have a question. 

4. Download speed is important for a smooth class. Use whichever device has the fastest speed for downloading.

5. Hardwired internet is always stronger than wi-fi.

6. Consider marking your floor or marley with colored tape to remind you where your downstage, upstage and corners are.

7. Give yourself permission to have an off day or a bad pirouette.

8. Celebrate the wins! Maybe that's just showing up.

I too thought Zoom would be temporary which is why I only started teaching in July. I assumed it would be a transitional period and we would be hybrid classes in mid-July. Now it appears as if Zoom will not be going away. I understand if classes online are not for you and you're waiting for the studio to open. I do hope that will be very soon but even if I can do that for a couple of classes, most likely we will continue to be virtual for many reasons, but mostly safety. Your health is paramount!

There is always another day, another class. But if you have been waiting it out, hoping for things to turn around quickly (I'm with you!), I don't see that happening in the Los Angeles area. Ballet is here for you and I am here for you. Hope to Zoom with you soon!

Happy dancing~

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Halloween in August with LPBC!

 In the summer doldrums and looking for something to do this month?

 Celebrate Halloween with us! 

Saturday, August 29th, at 4PM 

  • Watch my short film, The Dead Shoes, a spooky hybrid of ballet and scares!
  • Show off your Halloween costume in our contest! 
  • Enjoy a super fun, very easy, Halloween-themed ballet class with me!


Best of's all online so you can do it in the safety of your home (or office or backyard or porch...)

Just make a small donation to the company which is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) so your support is tax-deductible.

Click HERE to be taken to the Eventbrite listing where you can sign up and get your Zoom link.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Tips from the pirouette mini-workshop!

Hello beautiful dancers!

I'm so impressed with the group of dancers who attended the mini-workshop I held on Zoom this past weekend. Practicing pirouettes at home is not easy and these students were all-in. If you missed it, here are a few takeaways that you can try to apply on your own.

1. In every workshop I teach, I always try to give students a new way of approaching pirouettes en dehors. The fact is, every dancer responds to different images, concepts, and techniques. If the one I give you in a class doesn't click for you, maybe a different one will. That's why I tell students to never give up on turns. Saying, "I can't turn!" is not real. It's something you tell yourself or in some cases, something someone else might have told you.

I was told by a teacher I would never do more than a double turn. That stuck in my head for years!

The concept I introduced on Saturday was using the knee to guide the turn: an image of drawing a circle in the air with your knee, kind of like a compass (does anyone use compasses to draw perfect circles anymore?). This will prevent you from losing your rotation as you turn and also keeps you level. Once you are up in your releve, you let the head snap you around and let the knee guide you.

Compass drawing

2. The second thing I try to do in each workshop is to emphasize the rhythm of a turn, from preparation to landing. Every turn, inside or outside, attitude or arabesque, etc. has a rhythm to it. You need to keep that rhythm in your head - in your muscle memory - so you always do the same thing. But what is in your head is not necessarily in someone else's head.

On Saturday, I gave my dancers the rhythm of --

Reach the arms out
Look at something
Land the turn

If you can keep in your head a rhythm of Reach/Look/Land, you will have a rhythm for every single turn. My dancers reached their arms in front of them, saw what they were going to spot, and then landed the turn. Reach/Look/Land. Reach/Look/Land.

Honestly, it doesn't even matter what those three words are. They could be --


or Bend/Stretch/Bend  

or Start/Rise/End 

or Arms/Head/Knees

I prefer single syllable words because they pack a punch and are easy to recall. You just want to have a word in your brain that means - for you - what the start of the turn is, what word reminds you to focus on during the turn itself and a word that reminds you about finishing the turn.

Hope these 2 tips help you the next time you take a class or spend some time working on pirouettes. Especially now while you are home without a mirror, it's important to develop proper muscle memory. When you do get back to the studio, you will find turning even easier!

Happy dancing~

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Ready to Zoom your ballet class with me? A helpful guide

The state and city have their phases, so why shouldn't we?

The 4 Phases of Ballet with Leigh During the Pandemic

Phase 1 - Daily Livestream classes via YouTube (March-June) COMPLETED

Phase 2 - Daily Zoom classes & 1 YouTube livestream (July-?) <-----WE ARE HERE

Phase 3 - Mix of Zoom classes and a few in-studio classes

Phase 4 - All in-studio classes

Let's talk about Phase 2....

I'm going to be perfectly honest with you about Zoom: I wasn't a big fan. After teaching company classes and pointe classes and doing some private lessons, I have come to appreciate certain things about teaching on Zoom which I hope will be of benefit to my students and perhaps other instructors.

General Do's for Students:
  • mute your audio except when requested
  • place the camera at a high angle to capture most of the body
  • give yourself plenty of room
  • "pin" one of the boxes so you won't be distracted by others

Extra Do's for My Students:
  • feel free to be a non-video participant if you're not comfortable with video on you
  • use Speaker View when I'm demonstrating so you only see the close-ups of my feet
  • use Gallery View during the combination if you want the "classroom" feel
  • arrive a few minutes early if you want to mingle with me and other students
  • wave your hand at the camera when you have a question and then unmute yourself
  • if you would like to record a class you are taking so you can review later, contact me to arrange

General Do's for Teachers:
  • limit class size so the boxes are big enough to see everyone to give them feedback
  • keep music separate so you can continue to give instruction during an exercise
  • sign in on 2 devices and keep one static and wide; use the other for close-ups of feet or arms
  • use as much light as possible in front of you; close blinds behind you
  • shut off audio wherever possible to limit interference and echo
  • turn off all devices in the area which could steal bandwith

Some final thoughts on ballet and the pandemic...

I've learned a lot about my students and myself during the past four months while we've been out of the studio. Not gonna lie, there are a lot of sad and bad days for me and for all of us. It's hard to keep going especially when you're not feeling inspired. I draw a lot of my inspiration from my students, whether it's writing a blog post or creating a class exercise or new choreography. Not having them around me has been a tremendous challenge and it can be depressing. On the other side of things, I know some students don't want to take class at home because it's nothing like class in the studio and it depresses them in that way; or maybe they simply don't have adequate space which is also disheartening.

We are living in uncertain times. We don't know what the future holds. We don't know what ballet will look like, what our lives will look like - a week from now, a month from now, a year from now. So we must live in the moment. If we are healthy and can move our bodies: take joy in that moment. If we have a roof over our heads, food to eat, and we can manage a plie at our kitchen counter: take joy in that moment. If we can Zoom a class with our dance friends and vent about the difficulties in dancing with animals in our homes: take joy in that moment.

When things get really bad for me and I just want to weep 24/7, it helps me to remember these positive things:

About me...

I'm very grateful I've been able to push all my furniture to the corner of my apartment so I can carve out a small studio area to teach in.

I'm grateful to have a proper barre and a decent floor.

I'm glad my wi-fi isn't terrible and I have been able to pick up the technology quickly.

I'm excited to have learned some new things, like how to livestream, how to teach remotely, and how to design and maintain my website.

I'm thrilled to have moved all of my business online which we will continue when we're back in the studio, with e-cards, advance sign-ups and limited classes.

About my students...

They are resilient and dedicated. They still love ballet and are eager to find ways to continue it in their homes. They are supportive of each other and me. They want to go back to the studio and see their friends but they are smart and rightfully cautious. They are willing to try new things.

Remember: dance is forever. It supports your immune system, floods your body with endorphins, builds strength and stamina, and increases your flexibility.

Remember: the pandemic is temporary. We will get through this if we take care of ourselves, wear our masks, maintain social distance, and consider everyone around us as important as our own family members.

Happy dancing~

Vivian Garcia, LPBC Company member, doing some rooftop ballet