Tuesday, November 9, 2010

a case of the mixed up mondays

today was one of those days when everything was just off.  the train i take to get to ballet class was 20 minutes late, causing me to miss morning technique class.  although annoying, this was fine, because there is also an evening class i can take.  so i tried to get stuff accomplished during the day and planned on taking the later class.  come time for ballet, i left with more than enough time to get there, but yet again the train was delayed.  so today, i missed not one but two ballet classes.

i feel very out of whack.  hopefully its just a monday thing.  and with that, i leave you an image of the most amazing feet ever, miss tamara rojo.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

perfecting pirouettes

pirouette...for me this seemed like the easiest step in the entire world.  some people are jumpers, some love adagio, but me, i love pirouettes.  although turning seems somewhat simple, pirouettes are not just a bunch of spins with velocity behind it, they're actually quite tricky, so heres some tips to help make your pirouette fantastic every time!

1.  proper preparation is key:  make sure your fourth isn't too big or too small, and that your weight is equally distributed between your legs, keeping you well centered.  i know so many girls who think they need to be over their front leg at all times, but i promise you that if you take off from two feet equally, you'll have a much more stable, successful turn.

2.  what goes up, must come down:  one of the mistakes i used to always make was thinking that to pirouette correctly, the focus had to be on the rise.  i would jump onto my foot, completely forgetting the most important part of the turn, the plie.  plie is so essential to getting the force you need to do amazing triple pirouettes (it is possible, i promise), but if you go straight from a rigid fourth to your releve, you're never going to make it.  if i could only give you one tip for pirouettes it would be to deepen your plie right as your about to take off.  not only that, but as you're turning, focus on sending energy down through your leg, as well as up through the top of the head.  focusing on the standing leg once again helps with your stability and strength in the turn, while lengthening through the top of the head helps you concentrate on your posture, keeping everything perfectly balanced throughout the rotations.

3.  abs, abs abs:  for me, every dance move in some way or another originates from the center of the torso.  focusing on contracting your abs, keeping your core strong throughout the motion, is key in a flawless turn.  it also helps you gather up all the energy of the turn quickly and efficiently, creating a compact turning machine!
***when you're practicing passe at the barre, be sure to think about your abs as well.  one of my teachers once told me to try to focus on the opposing rotation of the abs and the passe knee, pushing the knee away from the abs and vice versa.  this has really helped me understand the relationship between my passe and my core to help keep me on balance.

4.  no man left behind:  the moment you come out of your plie preparation, make sure everything assembles in the air simultaneously.  if something like your head or arms are left behind, it will slow your turn down and will keep you from turning at your best.

5.  relax:  keep your head and neck as loose as possible, while still maintaining good ballet posture.  its important that they be able to move and spot freely in the turn.  also, make sure your shoulders are relaxed and tense or raised.  

6.  back to basics:  when all else fails and you just can't seem to get that turn down, slow down and take your pirouette back to basics.  try doing a single turn; make mental notes of what direction you're falling in, what feels weird or weak, see what is right and what is wrong.  remember that proper technique builds strength and that is what is going to give you the type of turns that make everyone envious.  do ankle strengthening exercises, like multiple releves at the barre or ankle rolls.  practice doing single consecutive turns from fifth position; focus on a clean take-off and landing, and take notice of what your core is doing during the turn.

and all in all, remember that quality really does out rank quantity.  i think its important to remember that one perfect turn (with that gorgeous moment of suspense at the end before you come down to a perfect fifth, yeah you know what i'm talking about!) is so much more beautiful that five okay turns with a sloppy ending.  i guarantee you that at an audition, the girl with the perfect double will get picked over the girl with the mediocre quadruple any day!

practice these tips and you'll be a pirouette master in no time!  

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Scheherazade like you've never seen it before

if you're like me and live in san francisco, you've recently been bombarded with images of alonzo king's lines ballet's production of "Scheherazade", making its west coast debut october 14-24 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

while i was dying to go, i unfortunately couldn't get the weekend off to see the amazing work alonzo had created for us this season.  i did however find this amazing video, giving us a peak into lines rehearsals.  if the ballet is anywhere near as fantastic as this video suggests, i hope that all international ballet fans can go see the show when it goes on tour in november!

LINES Ballet from LINES Ballet on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

behind the velvet curtain

i'm obsessed with photos of dancers backstage.  i love the glamour of the theatre and the peak into the dancer's lives, its all so beautiful.  i found these imagines on the winger and i'm absolutely in love with them so i thought i'd share!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

turnout troubles

every dancer has that one thing that is a constant pain in the butt; sometimes its flexibility, sometimes its straight legs...but for me, its turnout.

i've never had perfect turnout, despite sitting in the "frog" stretch for hours on end, and while i can fake it very well at barre, when it comes to center floor work, it really hinders my dancing.  i'm off balance, i can't properly develope, my hips are never quite where they need to be, etc.  i always think about those scenes in "Center Stage" when all the teachers are yelling at Jody for not having perfect turnout...so in my attempt to discover the secret to perfect turnout, i've decided to investigate it further.

turnout actually originates from the hips rotating outwards all the way down through the knees and toes.  its the rotation of the hip that forces the knees and feet to turn away from the center of the body; if the knees and feet initiate the movement, its incorrect (a la me during class...) and is one of the most common ways dancers injure their knees.

a lot of different factors come into play when assessing turnout, including the flexibility of the hip, leg, and certain ligaments in the leg, along with the ability to rotate within your hip sockets.

stretches to help turnout include the ever popular "frog" as previously mentioned, where you lay face down, pelvis flat on the ground, knees bent, with the bottoms of your feet touching.  the goal is to completely be flat on the floor, so that even your stomach, pelvis, thighs, knees, calves, and feet are all on the ground.  this can also be done laying with your back on the ground, feet together and knees bent; this time however the challenge is to get your knees and thighs to lay flat on the ground.      

another great stretch to help turnout is the center split.  i know, i know, no one likes the center split, but it really does help...or so they say!  holding a center split is a great way to help achieve maximum turnout.  there are two effective ways to stretch the center split.  one way is up against the wall: with your back flat on the ground and your butt as close to the wall as possible, extend your legs upwards and open them into second.  i like this way because gravity helps push your stretch even more.  some people do these stretches with ankle weights to help even further pull your legs downwards.  i've never tried it, but as long as the weights aren't too heavy, it sounds helpful!

another way to stretch your center is to sit on the ground in your best center split, leaning forwards with a straight back, attempting to get your stomach to lay flat on the ground.  kinda old school, but i think its super effective (i'm currently in that position as i type!).

its recommended that dancers do these stretches daily for at least half an hour in order to improve their turnout.  its important to also remember to never force the stretch; slowly easing into it is kinder to your muscles and will help you gain the most from the activity.

a friend also recommended the book "tune up your turnout" by deborah vogel, but i've yet to purchase it.  if you have read it, let me know if it is worthwhile!

and when all else fails, don't forget the importance of your mind and imagination.  sometimes imagining my body on a center line, with everything rotating outwards and away from that center, helps me remember to turnout from head to toe.  hey, whatever works right?!

fun find

i'm very excited because i just purchased the book "Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet".  my old ballet teacher used to read excerpts from it for fun, so i was elated to find it at my local borders.  its only five dollars and its actually really enjoyable to read.  i highly recommend it!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

classical ballet vs. contemporary ballet

all my life, ballet has been a constant.

when i was little, i dreamt of wearing tutus and dancing swan lake all day, every day.  i read Angelina Ballerina and toted my infamous Ballet Box everywhere.  but when i was 16, i was introduced to Alonzo King's Lines Ballet, and suddenly my focus shifted.  i started taking contemporary classes and shifting my focus towards the less technical world of ballet and dance.  i don't really know why i felt it was where i belonged, or who enforced that belief, but it happened.  even though i stayed with a classical studio all throughout high school, i still considered myself to prefer contemporary.

however now that i dance with a contemporary school, i find myself desperately missing my classical home base.  this longing for a strict technique class has led me to take a deeper look into the many ranges of ballet.

its so interesting the way very classical companies and very contemporary companies differ in opinions and perspectives.  the right way to hold your arms/legs/torso in one ballet class may not be right for another variation.  even the way you're encouraged to move changes.

in some cases, the opposing sides put each other down in the most childish way, which really bothers me.  for example, today one of my teachers was poking fun at most classical ballerina's desire to dance cleanly and technically perfect, saying it lacked interest which to me simply isn't true.  and many of my classical friends are quite close minded towards other disciplines; when they see anything contemporary they just automatically write it off as weird, silly, or dumb.

i guess theres no real point to this blog, just some frustration with people's lack of appreciation for other disciplines, coupled with my confusion as to where i fall on the ballet scale.

i think every type of dance, even if it seems foreign, odd, or difficult to wrap your head around, is a beautiful art form worth being appreciated.  while i don't believe its necessary that we all fully master every type and discipline of dance out there, i think we should appreciate every artist's craft, not just the one we personally deem most valuable.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

finding my place in the puzzle

so i've been in san francisco for a little less than a month and i think i'm finally discovering who i am as a dancer and how i fit into this crazy little world up here, which is very exciting.  i think its so interesting how every city has a different type of dance culture and i'm having so much fun learning about them.  its also interesting to note how every teacher sees dance in a different way and sees the way you personally dance in a different way.  no two teachers i've ever had focus on the same things, i love it!

in other news...i discovered a really cute blog called Little Ballerina which introduced me to this amazing video about New York City Ballet Principal Megan Fairchild and her much loved Freed Pointe shoes.  I can't stop watching it, check it out!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Black Swan

to say that i'm excited for this movie would be a HUGE understatement.  i had the honor of meeting people involved with the choreography and i can assure you its going to be amazing!

ballet étiquette (beware: i'm about to vent)

so i recently had the wonderful opportunity to begin dancing with a new company in a completely new dance environment.  even though its only been a few weeks, i already feel that the experience itself has been amazing in terms of growth and learning about who i am as a dancer and what i want out of my career.

while i love the program and the opportunities it has already exposed me to, there is one glaring thing i cannot stand.

as a classically trained ballet dancer, i grew up with strict rules in terms of how to behave in class.  no excess talking (especially when the teacher is giving corrections or advice), always turn towards the barre, no sitting between barre and center, some silly yet some very necessary.  the most necessary of all however was to always respect your fellow dancers.

i think the dance environment is one that can so quickly become hostile and competitive.  that being said it's important that we respect each other as artists and give each other the proper space to dance and move and explore.  at my new company, there are a few dancers who have obviously been there for quite some time and choose to completely disregard this notion.
when we split into groups for combinations, they are constantly joining in with the second group.  this isn't necessarily awful,  however they insist on dancing full out, taking up space out of that group and prohibiting other dancers from getting to dance the movements in their full extent.  to me it's just plain selfish.
and when we do combinations in groups, with four counts to change groups in between, instead of running forward and out the way we are instructed, they insist on slowly walking directly to the sides, often times running into dancers of the next group and making them start two counts off beat.

when you dance in large groups, its important to always remember to respect those around you and to remember that everyone is entitled to their time to dance.  to me it's so incredibly rude to completely disregard others.  i understand the necessity of dancing for yourself and having those selfish moments where you turn the focus inward, but its important to remember to respect those around you.  if i'm trying to do the combination and you're marking it in the back but moving into my space, its going to throw me off and keep me from getting the most out of the combination.

so i guess the point of this post is just to remind everyone out there to pay a little extra attention to what is going on around you.  because no matter how amazing of a dancer you are, respect should always be given to everyone.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

the great gaynor debate

i am the first to admit that i used to look down on girls who wore gaynor mindens.  i thought of them as the "easy" pointe shoe that only the less dedicated would wear (harsh, i know!).  i was also one of those silly girls who believed you weren't a real ballerina unless you went bare in your pointe shoes; no pads, no lambs wool, no nothing.

after years of going through a pair of freeds in two weeks tops, one of my friends suggested that i invest in a pair of gaynors because they are more durable and last quite a long time.  at first, i completely disregarded them, but after a while i thought i might as well try them out.

well, i'm eating my words; i absolutely love them.

i don't understand what it is about them that makes them so comfortable, so quiet, or so effortless...the website explains it but honestly i don't have the patience to try and understand!  needless to say, i bought a pair to alternate with my freeds and i couldn't be happier with them.

while i understand why it was so easy to look down on them, it is really nice to have a comfortable shoe that lasts long.  and most companies have become more open to using them; dancers from the Bolshoi, ABT, English National Ballet, New York City Ballet, and many others all wear them.  

even my favorite dancer Yekaterina Kondaurova wears them

i do think that they aren't the best shoe for new dancers because i think it is easier to develop strength in a normal shoe.  but if you're like me and you are constantly going through shoes, or if you just want a little more comfort every once in a while, then i say go for it.

so what do you guys think: gaynors yay or nay?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

new apartment means new room!

in exactly one week i'll be living in a whole new city, in a new apartment, with new roommates, new everything.  and even though i should be obsessing about my new dance schedule, i can't seem to stop obsessing about how i'm going to decorate my bedroom!

i've been frequenting blogs like:
apartment 34
habitually chic
dress, design, decor
haute design
desire to inspire

i go to bed dreaming of headboards and i wake up debating the pros and cons to vintage vs. modern styles. i'd be lying if i didn't say i was totally enjoying all the research!

Monday, August 30, 2010

totally un-ballet related but...

i'm obsessed with the new alexander wang campaign video.

Friday, August 20, 2010

ballerina project

if you love black and white ballet photos as much as i do, be sure to check out the ballet project on facebook.  

every body

so thanks to the glorious world of twitter, i was introduced to "my body image", the body image focused blog by Theresa Ruth Howard.  after about two minutes scanning through her posts i realized it was going to be my new must read.  her mix of cleverly crafted sentences and harsh truths about modern day society make you just want to stand up and yell "SO TRUE" (which i'm currently keeping myself from doing for the sake of becoming the crazy in starbucks).

dancers tend to get so focused on the notion that we are not good enough without the perfect body/measurements/size/shape.  i know personally that the constant drive to be as thin and toned as the girl standing next to me at the barre almost killed my love for dance.  i had to remove myself from any comparison to remember that i do this for joy, for myself, not so someone can judge me or my size.

because in reality what makes humans so interesting and so beautiful is our variation; the unique aspects of our personalities, bodies, minds, these should all be celebrated.  this seems so obvious, yet the notion of "skinny" and "fat" seems to have overwhelmed modern society to the point where its important to have a blog like Ms. Howard's to remind us.  please check it out, you won't be disappointed!

and remember, no matter what size you are, dancing from the heart is what matters!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

degas: master impressionist

travel essentials

i've been traveling a lot lately, moving around, looking for apartments up north, and visiting my friends before we all start working/dancing. in my travels i've learned there are a few things i cannot live without!

any sort of travel is pretty detrimental to your skin so i always bring moisturizer when i travel, specifically korres yogurt moisturizer.  i love it because its all natural and not tested on animals, plus feels very luxurious and keeps my skin clear and hydrated. 

i love drinking tea; some would say im addicted.  i always keep with me Zen green tea and Calm herbal tea.  they're both delicious and they keep you hydrated no matter where you are! 
i don't know why airplanes are always so cold, but they definitely are!  but i'm okay with it because i adore wearing scarves; i'm that ridiculous girl who wears scarves in june in southern california.  i always bring scarves when traveling, not only because they keep you warm, but they're so comfortable they just remind you home.

the idiot by fyodor dostoevsky is one of my absolute favorite books.  i never travel without it because every time i re-read it, i discover something new.  regardless of what book it is, traveling is a great time to catch up on all those novels you have collecting dust on your bookshelf (if you're like me that is!).


so i know this sounds silly, but i never travel without bunheads exercise bands.  when i'm sitting all day i get so anxious and antsy that its nice to be able to stretch out my feet or do tricep extensions.  people may give you weird looks when you bust out an exercise band, but to each their own right?!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

sorry for the disappearance! fun pointe magazine article!

so just as i got super into this blog, my life got a little too busy!

i finally graduated college in June which was amazing. i know i used to complain about my parents pressuring me to pursue higher education, but it really was worth it. such a fantastic feeling.

i am also in the process of moving and changing companies, which is nerve wracking and terrifying, yet insanely exciting. i cannot wait!

so while i was off trying to juggle my crazy summer, pointe magazine came out with a fantastic new issue with Miami ballet's beautiful Patricia Delgado. one of the coolest articles they published was "A Day In Her Pointe Shoes: Wendy Whelan". i had the amazing honor of meeting Ms. Whelan briefly last year and she is one of the sweetest, most amazing dancers i've ever had the pleasure to take class with. i love this article because it gives us a peak into her exciting ballerina life, you should definitely check it out!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

the worst position ever.

some days fifth position feels like its going to be the death of me!  

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cedar Lake Ballet

i had the fantastic opportunity to see Cedar Lake Ballet last night i'm still completely floored by how fantastic they were.  it was by far the best performance i've seen in years.  

i need to preface this by saying it was definitely not a classical, technical ballet, as they are a contemporary company.  but if you love contemporary ballet, you must see Cedar Lake.  
the program i saw was called Orbo Novo, choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherakoui.  

the show began with the dancers reciting a passage written by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, describing a stroke and the psychological turmoil she experienced during it. while i'm not always a fan of talking in ballets (it for some reason makes me nervous!) it was interesting to get such a clear idea of what the piece was about.  they continued to dance in the most fluid manner, illustrating themes like the notion of being trapped within the mind and the dualities of the natural world.  and all of these twisted themes were emphasized by the large red lattice walls on stage, which the dancers climbed and contorted through, around, and over.  

while some of my friends felt the choreography was lack luster at times, i found it to be mesmerizing.  maybe it was just the talent of the dancers that i was so captivated with, but regardless i thought it was amazing.  the combination of the fantastic music, the strange wilder-our-town-esque costumes, the odd steps, and the use of the lattices, left me completely spellbound.  it really demonstrated what fantastic athletes dancers are.  
if you have the opportunity to see Cedar Lake, i definitely recommend you do!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Walking Around: Mother's Day Gift Guide...

just stumbled on blogger sarah jane from walking around's great mother's day gift ideas, some really good stuff!

Walking Around: Mother's Day Gift Guide...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

mother's day

this week has been so busy, no matter how fun vacations are, returning to the real world and your regular schedule are difficult!  to add to my difficulties, my pirouettes are a mess.  achieving that perfect degree of balance and force seems impossible.

i'm excited to take a short trip home this weekend to see my mom, shes really one of the most remarkable people i've ever met.  the only problem is i have no idea what to get her, nothing seems worthy.  i can't figure out if should make her something or if i should buy her something.  on one hand, making things is "from the heart" but on the other hand, im not a good cook nor am i creative.  and buying stuff can seem insensitive, yet at the same time it could be something they really need.  ah the conundrum!

so here are some ideas....

baked goods, my mom's particularly fond of scones

comfy robe from anthropologie

herb garden, my mom's obsessed with basil

moleskin recipe journal, i have one of these and they're so fun!

Monday, May 3, 2010

i have confidence in sunshine

so yesterday in class i was wondering why it is that i can dance so beautifully and technically there, yet in auditions no matter how well i prepare, i fall flat.  i think this may be the first time i've ever realized the extent of what confidence does for you.  it can take a seemingly lack luster dancer and make her sparkle.  and you can always tell the dancers who believe in themselves in comparison to the ones who don't.  so i guess thats really the key we all need to remember: to believe that we are amazing and to have confidence in ourselves!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

the inevitable arabesque issue...

one of the most challenging and coveted accomplishments in ballet is achieving the perfect arabesque. when executed properly, arabesque is the prettiest position. that being said, it can just as easily look awkward and wrong.  after yet another day of disappointing arabesques from barre to center, i decided to look up some tips to see what exactly it is i need to work on.

the ballet arabesque is the perfect combination of strength and flexibility, in the leg and the back.  here are some tips on improving your overall arabesque:
1.  remember your position: always keep your turn out activated and your hips in line.  positioning isn't just there to look pretty; by lining everything up properly, you increase your stability which is crucial when trying to lift that leg even higher.  
*keep in mind that a properly placed arabesque should allow you to rise up onto pointe or demi pointe effortlessly; you shouldn't have to shift your weight around...which i understand is seemingly impossible, but it will come!!!
2.  stretch your legs and your back too: a lot of pilates and yoga stretches will solve an inflexible back quickly; things like bridges and what is known in the pilates world as "swimming" or "supermans" will do wonders for helping you work your lower back effectively and carefully.  you will definitely see the benefits of working your back as time goes on.  not only will it help you in your regular arabesuqe, it will also help with your penchées
3.  keep your arms and head in check: while high arms sometimes can compliment the position, while you're learning the basics of ballet, you should keep both your arms and chin/head lifted, but not too high.  once again, concentrate on keeping everything in line with good positioning.  
4.  think of pulling up and out: this one isn't so scientific as the others, but it really helps me.  when im doing an arabesque, and definitely when im doing a penchée, pulling up and out is one of the tools i use to make my position look long and never ending.  it helps you stretch out and gives energy to the entire position, so you look alive and vibrant, and not like a wilting flower.
5.  always warm up: never attempt event the simplest movement without properly warming up.  i know it sounds rudimentary and obvious, but a lot of people jump right into class without properly preparing. 

hope these help!

Monday, April 26, 2010

healthy pesto is possible!!!

so as any of my friends can tell you, my all time favorite meal is steamed spinach with pesto.  the problem is, two tablespoons of the ooey gooey sauce can rack upwards of 230 calories, not dancer friendly at all!  so i have been on the hunt for a healthy...or healthier version of the green italian greatness.  

the recipe found here is one that amplifies the nutty, garlic taste with less than half of the calories and fat.  two tablespoons of this tasty pesto will only cost you 86 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 2 grams of carbohydrates.  not bad compared to its predecessor if you ask me!  


monday's blue

its gorgeously gloomy today.  just finished school and now i'm home sipping on some japanese cherry tea from the coffee bean and getting ready for rehearsals.  

moving to san francisco in five months, so excited for a new city and a new company!

image by joeff davis via creative loafing

Sunday, April 25, 2010

leotard perfection

okay, i'm the first person to admit that i am a very cheap girl.  and up until last summer, i would've never promoted spending more than 25 dollars on a leotard.  that was until i tried on my first Yumiko leotard.

established in 2002 by ballet dancer Yumiko Takeshima, the leotard line Yumiko was developed to accurately fit and enhance every dancer's body.  the styles are universally flattering; not only do they seem to magically shape and streamline your figure, they're insanely comfortable.  they slip on like a glove and don't inhibit your movement the way so many of the thick, cotton leotards of the past do.  they also come in fantastic colors and fabrics, from bright teals and purples, to deep reds, in nylon, velvet, or microfiber, all from which you can create a custom one of a kind look that is sure to turn heads in class.  

it sounds silly, but i feel like i dance 10 times better when i'm in a Yumiko, especially this one which i have in the perfect shade of olive green!  

to order your own, simply go to the online store or if you're in the nyc area, head to 451 W. 46th St.  

all images via yumiko