Tag Archives: ballerina

How To Make a Ballerina


Marilyn Miller

Marilyn Miller

Note: This recipe will yield 1 premium quality ballerina.


Take one part raw, unfiltered talent


• 3 cups technical skill

• 3 cups artistic flair

• 2 pinches dedication and tenacity


Combine ingredients and beat at high speed for 10-15 years. Spoon into proper container, cover loosely,  and store in a warm, dry place until volume of talent has doubled. Cook under hot lights until rock hard to the touch and beautiful to behold.

Deposit center stage. Garnish liberally with glitter, satin, and tulle. Serve as often as possible.

photo from The Great Ziegfield. The extravagant "Wedding Cake" sequence featured a towering rotating volute of 70 ft diameter with 175 spiral steps, weighing 100 tons.

photo from The Great Ziegfield.
The extravagant “Wedding Cake” sequence featured a towering rotating volute of 70 ft diameter with 175 spiral steps, weighing 100 tons.


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.

What It’s Like to Wear Pointe Shoes











Most people think that pointe shoes are all pink satin perfection but never give a thought to what it actually feels like to put them on your feet. I’ve been thinking about it more lately as I’m working on my novel–many scenes take place during ballet classes. I’ve had a bit of a love/hate thing with them since my first pair. Honestly, I’ve some to the conclusion that pointe shoes are like cement ball gowns; luxuriously beautiful and clunky as hell.

Also… they are very awkward to walk in since the toes are solid blocks. It’s kind of like walking in ski boots. Keeping that in mind now try to imagine jumping in them. Every time the dancer jumps the landing is supposed to be silent. Like a cat… but not a cat in ski boots. Not an easy thing to do.












Pirouettes are another story. Let’s talk about turns for a second. The tip of a pointe shoe has what…. maybe three square inches of area in total? It’s like spinning on your toes on an area the size of a postage stamp. Nothing short of miraculous when you think about it.

It’s been many years since I had to wear pointe shoes every day. I’m thankful for that. These days I prefer dancing barefoot and feeling my feet against the smooth wood of a dance floor. However I recently purchased a pair of pointe shoes to use in photographs. From time to time I put them on and play around. Man, do those suckers hurt. I mean, they really, really hurt (more about that here). I’ve had to ask myself how I ever managed to wear them all the time for as long as I did.

But hey, they look good, don’t they?

If you dance en pointe, you are hardcore. Just how hardcore? Read more about that here.

red pointe shoes are hot

10 Reasons to Study Ballet at Any Age

© Grier Cooper













Every holiday season, after seeing the Nutcracker, millions of little girls go to sleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads… Sugarplum fairies, that is. But five-year-olds haven’t cornered the market on the desire to learn ballet; the truth is that there are just as many businesswomen and mothers with the same dream. It’s never too late (or too early) to follow your heart, slither into a leotard and tights and join in a ballet class, and the benefits are huge. For instance:

1. Discipline. There is something to be said for the fine art of mental control. While the lack of it is usually glaringly apparent in five-year-olds, it lurks in the deep recesses of the minds of most adults, too. We’ve just gotten better about camouflaging it. Mind over matter is a huge skill that can be applied in every facet of life for the remainder of one’s lifetime.

2. Grace, strength and control. It’s easy to identify a ballerina in a crowd, and this trio of benefits is a good part of the reason why. Dancers move differently than the rest of their human counterparts, because they have spent a great deal of time and energy cultivating grace, strength and control. Precision of movement is one of the most fundamental requirements of ballet, and the good news is that it’s transferable to other athletic endeavors. That is why many football players, gymnasts and other athletes also spend time at the ballet barre.

3. Flexibility. More flexibility means greater range of movement and less potential for injury. Who wouldn’t want those two things? Ready to sign up yet?

4. Great exercise. Let’s face it, bodies were made to move, as often as possible, every day. Why else would we have all these moving parts? Since exercise is absolutely necessary for health and longevity, we may as well pick an activity we enjoy. This will probably sound like a biased statement, but dance is a whole lot more fun than the gym. Or consider this simple equation: Joy of movement= laying the groundwork for a life time of good exercise habits.

5. Better posture. One of the first things you will learn in ballet class is how to stand up straight. Where else will you learn this if not in ballet class? And to reiterate an earlier point, this is another one of the reasons why it is so easy to identify ballerinas in a crowd.

6. Outlet for personal expression. For some of us, it’s hitting a pillow. For others, it’s yelling from a mountaintop or scribbling away in a journal. But it can’t hurt to add another option to your list.

7. Listening and memory skills. There’s an awful lot of stuff to learn during the course of a ballet class, not to mention the fact that the terminology is all in French. The only way to stay ahead of the game is to pay very close attention to what is being said and demonstrated, and then do your earthly best to remember when to do what. This is fantastic for keeping your brain lively.

8. Body awareness. You’re probably aware enough of some parts you would like to change, erase or give away. That’s not the type of body awareness that’s being addressed. Instead, you will grow awareness of how to move all the different parts of the body, and what is attached to what. And hey, your balance will improve. Dramatically.

9. Spatial awareness. Ballet classes begin at the barre but end in the center of the room, with lots of jumping and twirling. Not only will you learn to move in desired ways in the desired direction, you will also learn how to do all this without crashing into anyone else. Works really well in crowds.

10. Fun. This one pretty much goes without saying, but is one of the very best possible reason to sign up for ballet, which is why it was saved it for last. Who couldn’t use a little more fun in their life?

Whether you are five or fifty-five, you can enjoy the benefits of ballet class. How many other hobbies can boast fitness, posture, balance and fun? It’s never too late (or too early) to pursue the dream of dance.