Tag Archives: Australian Ballet

The Top 10 Gifts From the World of Ballet in 2014

It’s been said that the best gifts can’t be bought– and this was never more true than this past year. 2014 was a huge year of gifts from ballet, with some high-tech breakthroughs and historical firsts. Here’s my list of the Top Ten Gifts from the ballet world.


1. World Ballet Day. This unprecedented, uber-exciting event gave us twenty-four hours straight of livestream ballet from the Australian Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, The Bolshoi Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and the Royal Ballet. More about this event here.

2. Pointe shoes went high tech. Technology brought us a pointe shoe that traces a dancer’s movements and turns them into a new form of art.

3. Ballet West moved into their new home. Sparkly, and brand–spanking new, the company celebrated this new era with an opulent gala.

4. Christopher Stowell returned to San Francisco Ballet. Stowell, a former principal dancer with with San Francisco Ballet,  has already received critical acclaim for his work as ballet master.

5. A new edition of Smuin Ballet’s the Christmas Ballet. A Bay Area favorite, the Christmas Ballet truly is the gift that keeps on giving–an ever-evolving Nutcracker alternative–new kinds of fun every year.

6. The Nutcracker turned 122 this year. Perhaps the best-loved ballet of all time. Read more about it here in this lovely post from Tutus & Tea.

Nutcracker27. 7.Misty Copeland made ballet history. Copeland debuted as American Ballet Theater’s first black Swan Queen, performing Odette/Odile, Swan Lake’s quintessential role.

8. Outstanding dance reads by Misty Copeland, Michael dePrince and Brandy Colbert. Copeland’s Life in Motion and dePrince’s Tking Flight:From War Orphan to Star Ballerina are both memoirs, striking stories of women who go for their dreams despite all odds. Colbert’s Pointe is a dark page-turner set in the ballet world.

9. Australian Ballet wowed the West Coast during their US tour. The company presented Graeme Murphy’s innovative version of Swan Lake–make sure you check out the gorgeous shots in this link.

10. The Bolshoi Ballet’s Nutcracker came to a theater near you. Seeing the Bolshoi was never easier than Solstice Even at cinemas across the globe.

As you open your gifts this holiday season I hope you take a moment to reflect upon the gifts that come without a price tag…the best gifts of all.




Visiting Bethlehem with Miami City Ballet

A few of my favorite dance things

Dance film favorites





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.



Dance Blogs: My Top 5 Favorites

If you are a dancer or dance fan looking for information about dance, a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a dancer, the internet is your friend. So much information! There’s a veritable plethora of dance blogs. Here I share with you my top five favorites dance blogs that are elegant, well-written and visually compelling… in other words, delicious on many different levels.



The Ballet Bag breaks down the myth that classical dance is for traditionalists, and covers it under a younger light. This blog aims to be one of the most stylish dance webzines on the blogosphere, to feature dancers, companies, performances, and dance media crossed over with other art forms and cultural references: pop culture, cinema, rock music, etc. In short, here’s where dance meets remix culture.

Emilia & Linda. Photo: Elena Murchikova / The Ballet Bag ©

The Ballet Bag was born in April 2009 with the mission to prove that ballet is not stuffy, old fashioned and inaccessible and to Give Ballet a New Spin and show it under a different light. When writing capsule biographies, ballet fact cards, review roundups and commentary on social media, the blog crosses it with other art forms and cultural references (pop culture, cinema, rock music). The “Bag Ladies”, Emilia and Linda, also use web 2.0 to network with dance fans, companies, dancers, writers, bloggers, etc. sharing what’s good, fun and interesting in the balletsphere.




Tutus & Tea is produced by Shelby Elsbree, a dancer with Boston Ballet. She is also an inspired and accomplished photographer and ‘Petite Épicurienne’ (her own words). Here you will find chronicles of her daily culture and culinary curiosities as a ballerina. Elsbree loves to dance, eat, cook, bake, chop, prepare, rehearse, perform and present, and is excited and honored to share these passions with you in a ‘behind the scenes’ perspective of dancing, cooking, baking and exploring. She has a great eye and all of her images present things in a beautiful light.

photo by Shelby Elsbree


photo by Shelby Elsbree

Elsbree the dancer has been featured in DANCE Magazine and Pointe Magazine and her recipes and photos have also been published in Pointe magazine. There is a lot to enjoy here, from delicious treats to exquisite photographs and an inside look at the life of a dancer.






Ballet Shoes and Bobby Pins tracks the dance experience; from the friendships dancers form during their years of education, to the stress they endure, and the passion that keeps driving them forward. A statement on this blog reads, “Through the good days and the bad days, we dance because we feel a pulse within us to move. It is this lifestyle that we want to capture and share. We strive to create a community of dancers, dance educators and dance enthusiasts who are there to discuss, share and support each other, as we all journey on in dance.”

This  blog has a lovely design and is packed with tons of valuable information for dancers, would-be dancers and those who enjoy dance. It’s a blog that my Teen Me would have adored.Topics include: interviews with professional dancers, how to make a dance life work, history of key playersin dance, nutrition, and ways to teach dance.

Sheena Jeffers
photo by Chelsie Darling Photography

Creator Sheena Jeffers has been dancing since she was 5. She is a dance educator who believes dance makes people stronger. She says, “Dance makes us think; it makes us imagine possibilities. I have seen dance change lives and I believe dance instills confidence, character and self-worth. Humans are made to move, and made to feel. I believe whether you choose to dance recreationally or professionally, dance can show you how to do all of that, and more.” This philosophy led her to create a line of T-shirts. Sales go to help provide ballet shoes and leotards for children in need.

photo by Colleen Banman













Tendus Under a Palm Tree Rebecca King, a Corps De Ballet dancer with Miami City Ballet. In this blog, readers can follow the everyday life of a professional ballet dancer living and working in one of the most glamorous and trendy places in the world, Miami Beach. King’s mission is to provide insight into the life of a professional ballet dancer and to create an entertaining blog that will appeal to people who know ballet and those who don’t. She says, “Ballet is a glamorous art form and I want to reach out to people to educate them and excite them about what I do for a living.”

Rebecca King in Concerto Barocco
Photo by Leigh-Ann Esty





Behind Ballet The Australian Ballet‘s blog looks at dance through the prism of fashion, music, art and literature as it unravels the stories behind the company’s productions and mine ballet’s juicy past to find the new in the old and the old in the new. From The Studio, Ballet Vs. Fashion, Imperial Suite, Ask Colin (ballet advice from Colin Peasley, The Australian Ballet’s longest serving member and a founding dancer of the company, who performed a record 6,406 shows over fifty years.)

Here you will find well-written articles with stunning photographs, and an overall feel of elegance woven with humor.  Contributors include past and present dancers Juliet Burnett, Laura Tong, and Annie Carroll, the Ballet’s head of Millinery Vicki Car, editor Rose Mulready, and other writers and journalists. The Australian Ballet is headquartered in Melbourne, a city much like my own beloved San Francisco. Current ballets include Imperial Suite, Bodytorque.DNA (a series of new ballets from up and coming choreographers), and Cinderella.

Natasha Kusen rehearses Richard House’s Control (part of the Bodytorque.DNA season)
photo by Lynette Wills

Dance Film Favorites, Part II








For those times when you just can’t make it to St. Petersburg for opening night at the Marinsky Theater or you’re double booked for top-notch Canadian choreography and your budget doesn’t allow for cloning yourself there is an option: dance on film. While some might call it second best it beats missing out entirely, plus you can watch it in the comfort of your own home.

FIlms are always better with snacks. Make sure to break out the popcorn. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, garlic powder and spices. Dig in.

1. Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. Disregard the somewhat odd title of this movie because I promise this film will be well worth your while. The story follows a widowed man whose life turns upside down when he embarks on a journey to find a dying man’s long lost love… hint: dance is the catalyst of change.The stellar cast includes John Goodman, Robert Carlysle and Marisa Tomei.

2. Mao’s Last Dancer. Based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet.

3. BallerinaFrench filmmaker Bertrand Norman follows the careers of five Russian ballerinas in their career path from the acclaimed Vaganova Academy to the stage of the famed Kirov Ballet. Using magnificent perormance footage, as well as behind the scenes shots and candid interviews, Bertrand gives audiences am insider glimpse of the extreme discipline and dedication demanded of ballerinas.

4. Bringing Balanchine Back. Under the guidance of Ballet Master-in-Chief Peter Martins, the New York City Ballet travels from its home base in Manhattan to St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater, to perform at the legendary Mariinsky Theater, where George Balanchine, a founder of the acclaimed NYCB had begun his own career. This documentary captures some spectacular sequences of the New York City Ballet’s performances of choreography by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins.

5. LaLaLa Human Steps’ “Amelia”. Quicksilver footwork. Chic elegance. Spidery sets and black net costumes cool enough to belong on the cover of Vogue. La La La Human Steps is where ballet and high fashion collide; where traditional movements are redefined into present-day relevance. The choreography is an interplay of speed and extremes, physical challenge blended with lyricism that has brought the Canadian ballet company to international renown. But it is their unique blend of innovative dance vocabulary, contemporary music and cinematic effects that differentiates them from other ballet companies of their caliber.

Happy viewing! I leave you with a quote from Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School:

Dance is a very powerful drug Mr. Keane. If embraced judiciously, it can exorcise demons, access deep seated emotions and color your life in joyous shades of brilliant magenta that you never knew existed. But, one must shoulder its challenges with intrepid countenance if one is ever to reap its rewards.