Monthly Archives: December 2012

What’s your favorite ballet?

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I have to admit, when I first returned to ballet, my love was purely on what went on in class.

I had no interest in performing. And while I loved watching ballets, it wasn’t really on my “to do list” a whole lot.

Being talked into doing The Nutcracker a couple of years after my return to class led to me getting bit by the performance bug. Being cast as Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet (the picture is from one of our rehearsals) led to me becoming a huge fan of ballet watching, period.

I have to credit Mr. O, our artistic director, for opening my eyes to what’s out there in the ballet world. Our company has done a variety of ballets since he arrived. And I’ve been thrilled to be part of some of them.

Nutcracker will always have a special place in my heart. It’s a classic, it’s magical. I love to perform in it. Performance week is my favorite week of the year.

But, believe it our not, it’s not my favorite ballet.

Romeo and Juliet is much more of a compelling, emotional ballet. It also has a special place in my heart because my first non-Nutcracker role was Friar Lawrence. And to be quite honest, it’s still probably the biggest role I’ve performed, even though it was a character, non-dancing role.

As a story ballet, it still ranks No. 1 in my book.

Dracula is probably the most intense ballet I’ve ever been in and love it, to. And the Firebird has a bit of a creepy, but fun monsters scene. And Stravinsky gives it an interesting feel with his music.

Although Romeo and Juliet is my No. 1 story ballet, I like the dancing better in Swan Lake. The cygnets, Black Swan CODA, Dying Swan, I don’t know if any other story ballet beats it for dancing intensity. And depending on your seating, the patters on stage will blow you away.

I’ve found that I like varied tastes when it comes to watching ballet. I like the classics. Paquita ranks up there with Romeo and Juliet. But I love contemporary pieces like Dracula and the pieces I saw Dance Theater of Harlem perform a couple of years ago.

And as much as I love the story ballets, my favorite ballets are the ones where dancing takes center stage. My favorite would have to be “Who Cares,” a George Balanchine piece to Gershwin. Pure, fun dancing. And love the “Man I Love” pas de deux.

One of the things I love about it? It’s not all tutus, tiaras and white tights.

It’s real, it’s cool. And I think it’s a piece that appeals to people who might be chased away by the stereotype of what they think ballet is really like.

 

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Polina Semionova in rehearsal

I’m a huge Polina fan.


Should boys be taught ballet differently than girls? Um, yeah …

I posted this a while back on my site on tumbler, but I also thought I’d post it here.

I have to admit it, I had a love-hate relationship DDN (dance.net).

It is one of the most active dance sites for an old dance geek like me.

One of its charms is that it attracts an eclectic mix to the ballet board. You’ve got those who danced professionally. You’ve got recreational dancers. You’ve got those who’ve danced maybe a couple of years and suddenly they’re an expert. You’ve got people who over-exaggerate their experience and knowledge and lambast everyone else. You have fetish people, too. 

A woman who is a teacher (at least it was implied she taught) asked about the differences of teaching boys and girls on the site, or more exact what steps should one be taught.

Maybe she used a poor choice of words. She was criticized for asking if there were different steps boys should be taught.

It amazed me. It floored me.

The vast majority of steps in ballet are done by both genders. But there are steps boys should be taught, such as tours en’ lair. I don’t think it’s a tragedy that a boy isn’t encouraged to go en pointe or do bourees (I’m not opposed to a boy doing that if he wants to, don’t get me wrong).

But I do think there are times when boys should be taught to dance differently than girls. I’ll be honest, I think there is a reason why ballet doesn’t retain a whole lot of boys who try classes then they are young, and why you can’t get some in the door who might otherwise be interested.

The perception is sometimes reality in a lot of cases.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being the only boy in a class with girls and a woman teacher. That was my reality the first few years I took ballet and strongly took a position that a boy didn’t really need a man teacher or be in a class with other boys to flourish.

And don’t get me wrong. I am forever grateful for what my women teachers have taught me. My base, my technique owe a lot to what I learned under them. And my female peers forever encouraged me, and the love I have for dance comes to a degree from their enthusiasm.

But my perspective changed when I started taking class from a male teacher and found myself in a class with other male dancers.

Part of what you learn in ballet comes from the steps you learn from the teacher. Part of what you learn comes from what you see from your classmates.

I remember being the only guy in class with a female teacher one day when we were being taught to run. I hated it. I thought, “I’m a guy, am I supposed to move like that?”

The teacher, to her credit, did her best to teach me “male steps” and demonstrate male movements, and in hindsight, I thought she did well.

But you glean so much more if you are a guy from a good male teacher and from peers in class. You learn a lot more about movement, how a male dancer is supposed to move.

And I’m not talking Nureyev, stately prince type of movement. I’m talking every day, move as you’re supposed to move, movement.

As much as I love my female peers and try to emulate some of the things they do, men don’t move quite the same as women.

And even in steps we both do, we do them differently at times. Men are supposed to jump higher. We’re supposed to do more pirouettes. We don’t flitter. There is a gracefulness a male dancer should have, but it’s much different than that of a woman.

I don’t think you get a full picture of that when you’re the only boy in a class full of girls and a woman teacher.

I’m not saying every boy should all of the sudden seek out a male teacher and join a class with there are other boys. I do think that’s a good idea if the option is available without abandoning the classes they already take. I still feel one great woman teacher is better than a mediocre male teacher.

But I do think boys who are in the all-girl environment should be encouraged to take master classes with male teachers and participate in intensives where they’re not the only boy. It’s in those environments when steps and variations male dancers perform are truly worked on and not somewhat ignored.

And it’s in those environments where you see just how male dancers are supposed to move.

But that’s just my opinion.

What’s yours?


Hi, I’m Scott and I’m addicted to ballet

No, I don’t need a sponsor like those at an AA meeting.

I just need 90 minutes in a studio. I need about half of that time for barre work. I need the plies, the degages, the frappes, the fondues, the developpes and grande battements. I need the stretching.

I need the rest of that time for centre work: adagio, petite allegro and grande allegro. I need to work on cleaning up and multiplying my pirouettes. I need to work on spotting for all turns, including pique turns, chaines, arabesque and attitude turns. My jetes, glissades and sissones need cleaning up.

I need to leap across the room doing tour jetes.

My body needs to dance because I am so out of shape. My mind needs it to release the stress. My soul needs it for so many reasons, emotional and spiritual

It is not exercise for me, even though I so need to get into shape. Ballet, to me, is my art. It is, as I am an addict, a lifestyle.

Unlike other addictions, it is not something I want to put away. Unlike smoking, drinking and overeating, it actually builds up both the body and soul when done within reasonable moderation.

On Jan. 7th, when I return to class, I expect to be humbled and sore from such a long layoff. I expect to be out of breath long before we’re done, paying the price for not being able to dance for so long.

And I will love every minute of it.


Reminds me of how much I miss partnering class


The dreaded holiday break from ballet

A few minutes past 11:30 this morning, the holiday break away from ballet (and dance in general) began. I was hoping there would be classes during the break. There are, but they are afternoon classes on days I have to work after New Year’s.

Some how, I’ve got to figure out a way to stay in dance shape. Today’s class was the fifth ballet class this week (the most I’ve had in a while, thank you college break!). A little sluggish, but I still enjoyed it. It was the same way in hip-hop. I know I can to better,

I’ll return to ballet on Jan. 7, and even if I find ways to work out, I’m sure I’ll pay the price, especially considering its company class.

I do want to return to class with a renewed sense of purpose. It’s sometimes harder for me to be focused the last part of the year. The first half, well there is gearing up for Nutcracker.

The second half? A little tougher. I want to be in the spring production, but that’s iffy. We’ve got our school sketch dance in hip-hop, which will start working on when we get back. There is usually a student showcase, and that is what my main target is.

I’m kicking around three ideas. The No. 1 would be another pas de deaux with a fellow adult student who is also a teacher. Did a pas with her two years ago, my first! It was fun, but I felt I could do a lot better.

The second and third ideas go hand-in-hand. I’d like to do a solo, a male variation, if the pas does not work out. I’m leaning, and really want it to be ballet. But I am tossing around the idea of a hip-hop combination.

Those are my targets. But there are a few other goals. I want breakthroughs with my pirouettes. I want to continue to improve with petite allegro. My glissades, jetes, sissonnes, inside turns, arabesque, attitude turns, all need to be better. I want crisper technique.

I also need to work on my confidence (hence the solo goals for the student choreography showcase). I depend a little too much on my neighbors.

I’ve also vowed to be a little less fat, old, slow, white guy in hip-hop, which is hard to do when you’re in a class with teenage company girls and one other much younger, talented guy.


http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/12/huntsville_ballet_company_cont.html

http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/12/huntsville_ballet_company_cont.html

Photo gallery from our Friday, Dec. 7, evening performance of The Nutcracker.