How Ballet and Football Are Alike…and Different

How Ballet and Football Are Alike…and Different
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© 2014 Grier Cooper

With all the talk about football players diving into ballet it seemed fitting to look at ways in which they are similar and ways they are different. This past weekend I went to see my first football game – ever– the Oakland Raiders (Raider Nation!) and noticed it’s a very different vibe going to a football game, although (just like at the ballet) you still get dressed up and you need a ticket to get in. Unlike the ballet, you also need to submit to a thorough bag check and metal detectors, plus you can’t bring your purse in if it’s larger than 4 ½ X 6 and not transparent. Still, watching athletes in action is always inspiring, whether they are swanlike waifs or built like tanks. Let’s look a little more closely at ballet and football, beginning with the similarities:

 

  1. Inhuman strength. Both dancers and football players spend most of their waking hours training, cross-training and sweating their butts off. This automatically elevates them to superhero status.
  2. Great butts. Hey, it’s true, whether or not you’re willing to admit you noticed. Because you did. Totally.
  3. Respect. Mostly because of items 1 and 2. How can you not respect a person with inhuman strength and a great butt? Plus they put on a good show.
  4. Injuries. Even though both types of athletes are capable of superhuman feats they are still human underneath it all.
  5. Career Length. Both dancers and football players usually retire in their thirties, meaning both careers are hella short.

The differences are a little more apparent:

1. Audience participation. You will never hear anyone yelling in the middle of at a ballet performance “Man, that was terrible! What are you doing!”(*obscenities edited out*). If you do, the person will be swiftly removed, I assure you.

2. Pay Scale. The top average salary for an NFL player is $17,600,000. Let’s not forget the celebrity endorsements and other perks. The average ballet dancer’s salary is a tiny $15,080 – $26,419. Midlevel dancers, often soloists, could earn as much as $50,000-$58,000 a year and celebrated principal dancers can earn a couple of thousand dollars per performance. Which is just sad.

3. Audience size. Michigan Stadium, home of the Michigan Wolverines, has a seating capacity of 109, 901, while Old City Stadium (home of the Green Bay Packers) holds a mere 25,000. The David Koch Theater (home of New York City Ballet) holds 2,586, San Francisco Ballet’s War Memorial Opera House holds 3,200 and Devos Performance Hall (home of Grand Rapids Ballet) holds 2,400.

4. Arrests. The fans of the Oakland Raiders have long been associated with rowdy, and sometimes violent, behavior, but a review of recent police records reveals that 49ers fans currently hold the Bay Area title for breaking the law on game day.

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© 2014 Grier Cooper

49ers Data:
Aug. 17 = 18 arrests
Aug. 24 = 38 arrests
Sept: 14 = 31 arrests

Sept. 18 = 17 arrests

Oct. 5 = 22 arrests

Raiders Data:


Aug. 15 = 10 arrests


Aug. 28 = 6 arrests


Sept. 14 = 21 arrests

Average arrests at the ballet: um, none.

Whether you are a diehard football fan or ballet fan or both, that concludes our exercise in comparisons.To quote Colin Quinn as he wrapped up the SNL Weekend Update: “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

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© 2014 My Lovely Husband

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Ballet on the Big (or Little) Screen

Ballet on the Big (or Little) Screen

Anyone who’s ever wanted a behind-the-scenes look at the world of ballet pretty much has their pick these days. After the recent success of World Ballet Day where millions of viewers tuned into live streams from five top companies the interest in ballet is at an all-time high. Here is an additional handful of series and films to help you get your fill. Happy viewing!


 

Breaking Pointe: A reality show about Ballet West, a ballet company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The show is described as “A series that goes behind the stage curtain for an intense, unfiltered look at one of the most competitive ballet companies in the country. Beneath the beauty and glamour of the dance and costumes is a gritty dog-eat-dog world of extreme athleticism, focus, dedication, passion, pressure and, of course, the hunt for the unattainable perfection.” The show ran for two seasons before calling it quits but you can still catch the episodes for free. Even better news: you can binge watch the series.

city.ballet: Enter the graceful but competitive world of ballet through the eyes of executive producer, Sarah Jessica Parker (Parker currently sits on the board of NYCB). This behind-the-scenes docudrama reveals what it takes to perform on the ultimate stage, the New York City Ballet. 12 episodes plus a number of extras.

Big Ballet:  A three-part series that chronicles the highs and lows of a plus-size amateur troupe mounting a production of Swan Lake. Led by ballet legend Wayne Sleep, who worked through his own size issues as the shortest dancer ever to debut on the Royal Ballet stage, and Prima Ballerina Monica Loughman, Big Ballet shows the world that it’s not about the size of the dancer, but the size of the dancer’s heart.

First Position: Every year, thousands of aspiring dancers enter one of the world’s largest ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix. FIRST POSITION follows six extraordinary dancers as they prepare for the chance to enter the world of professional ballet, struggling through bloodied feet, near exhaustion and debilitating injuries, all while navigating the drama of adolescence.

Afternoon of a Faun: The Tanaquil Le Clercq story. Of the great ballerinas, Tanaquil Le Clercq may have been the most transcendent. She mesmerized viewers and choreographers alike – her elongated, race-horse physique became the new prototype for the great George Balanchine. The muse to both Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, they loved her as a dancer and a woman. Balanchine married her and Robbins created his famous Afternoon of a Faun for Tanny. She was the foremost dancer of her day until it suddenly all stopped. At age 27, Tanny was struck down by polio and paralyzed. She never danced again.

Still need more?

Marie Claire’s 5 Best Ballet Films of All Time

MUBI’s 15 Best Ballet Films

 

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World Ballet Day: A Recap

World Ballet Day: A Recap

October 1st, 2014 marked a pivotal day in ballet history: the first ever “World Ballet Day”. In an unprecedented bout of internationalism, five of the world’s major ballet companies participated in a 20-hour-long live streaming event that gave ballet fans worldwide a behind-the-scenes look at company classes, rehearsals and coaching.

© Grier Cooper

The event featured the Australian Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet in successive four-hour slots, beginning at 12 p.m. local time in Melbourne, and moving across continents and time zones to Moscow, London, Toronto and San Francisco. The live stream was available on YouTube and on each ballet company’s website. Good news for those who weren’t able to tune in (or to catch anything you may have missed because they happened in the middle of the night while you were sleeping): the day’s streaming will be repeated on YouTube in full so that viewers around the world can catch up on any parts of the day they missed. Edited highlights will then be made available for further viewing.

It was interesting to note the different styles between the companies, although they follow a very similar routine – starting with morning class to warm up the body, moving on to rehearsals for their upcoming performances. What makes each company unique is their approach to choreography and performance.

Some of my favorite moments included:

The National Ballet of Canada’s rehearsal of Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, lead by Anthony Dowell (former director of The Royal Ballet who had the role of Des Grieux created on him 40 years ago).

Watching morning classes (I caught pieces of National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet)…I felt like I was there at the barre again.

Pirouettes from around the world. So fun to see so many different takes on the pirouette, filmed everywhere (from the Golden Gate Bridge to suburban living rooms). 

•Listening to SF Ballet commentary from Christopher Stowell (Ballet Master & Assistant to the Artistic Director), a fellow ballet student many years ago at the School of American Ballet.

Throughout the day, viewers were able to engage and interact with the Artistic Directors, dancers, choreographers and coaches, asking questions via Twitter as well as having the opportunity to contribute by submitting a film of themselves doing a pirouette wherever they are in the world. These will be edited into a film celebrating the worldwide appeal of dance.

Here are some other moments I’m still dying to watch:

The Australian Ballet rehearsing Graeme Murphy’s celebrated Swan Lake

The Bolshoi Ballet rehearsing Jean-Christophe Maillot’s The Taming of the Shrew and Yuri Grigorovich’s Legend of Love

The Royal Ballet rehearsing Christopher Wheeldon’s Aeternum

International ballet star Carlos Acosta coaching Royal Ballet Principal Vadim Muntagirov in the role of Basilio in Don Quixote.

A peek into The National Ballet of Canada’s extensive wardrobe department, plus their take on athletic therapy and the importance of dancer conditioning and cross training.

World Ballet Day developed from Royal Ballet Live which was a nine-hour live streaming via YouTube and The Guardian website in March 2012. This unique event achieved 200,000 views of the live stream and repeat broadcast and a total of 2.5 million views of YouTube Royal Ballet Live material to date.

 

SEE WORLD BALLET DAY NOW:

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Men In Ballet: The Real Story

Men In Ballet: The Real Story

One of the first questions people ask in a discussion about ballet is: what’s up with the men? After all, male dancers spend fair amount of time in the shadows making their female partners look good. There are those who assume that if a man puts on tights he must be gay. If that were true, why are droves of football players signing up for ballet? Headliner Steve McLendon of the Pittsburgh Steelers says, “ballet is harder than anything else I do”. Regardless of the choices they make for their private lives, ballet men are some of the strongest, most athletic and graceful beings on the planet. To quote a recent tweet (a Jane Austen spoof) from the Ballet Boyz: It’s a truth universally acknowledged that real men wear tights.’

 

There are certainly enough off-stage ballet romances out there to prove this point. The real-life romance between New York City Ballet principal dancers Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck rivals most popular big-screen love stories. San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancers Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan made ballet history when he proposed onstage after the couple finished performing Romeo and Juliet. Other prominent ballet couples include Boston Ballet principals Carlos Molina and Erica Cornejo and Nelson Madrigal and Lorna Feijoo, Ballet West soloists Easton Smith and Haley Henderson.

As an aside, male ballet dancers are extremely pleasing to look at. Here for your viewing pleasure is some serious eye candy: 37 Dreamy Ballet Boys You’ll Want To Dance With.

However, looks are beside the point. It’s all about artistry (right?). The role of men in ballet is changing dramatically, and today’s male dancers are artists in their own right, enjoying equal footing and equal time center stage with their female counterparts. Who doesn’t love watching those gravity-defying leaps and insanely difficult turns? Male soloists such as David Hallberg, Carlos Acosta and Benjamin Millepied are now household names and companies like Ballet Boyz, the company formed by former Royal Ballet lead dancers, are shaping the re-branding of ballet from a male perspective.


Call them what you will. Artists. Dancers. Athletes. Underneath it all, they are guys. Still not convinced? Rent “The Turning Point” (a classic ballet film) and watch Baryshnikov make his moves.

How Amy Elkins’ “Danseur” series portraits of male dancers challenges ideas of masculinity. 

Dancers and choreographers talk about how gender influences their lives and their work.

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