Tag Archives: Miami City Ballet

Ballet’s Most Loaded Question

When I was a professional ballet dancer I often felt penned in by a strange irony: although I’d been one out of crowds of thousands of dancers chosen to dance with Miami City Ballet, I found myself often questioning whether or not I was any good. I was also one of a handful of students chosen to study full-time at the School of American Ballet, arguably one of the top ballet schools in the world. But none of it mattered–at the end of the day I never could tell myself I was an exceptional dancer because I never quite knew–not with the kind of certainty that lives in your bones.

The business of ballet is not about handing out compliments, praise, or even the occasional pat on the back. It’s more about repetition and the constant quest for perfection, with the end result (a successful performance) being the reward. When teachers and directors give feedback they don’t use the “sandwich technique” of giving praise, criticism, and then more praise. Ballet directives are straight meaty criticism, no bread (which is bad for the figure, anyway). Dancers learn to crave attention–even if it’s critical–because it’s often the only indication of a dancer’s worth.

Good

Even after I stopped dancing professionally I still wondered if I had been any good. That good old irony just wouldn’t get lost. There never were any answers, really. Only questions. Thinking about it was a fruitless exercise. The past was over.

I found a whole range of new ways to keep dance alive in my life: college dance companies, alternative nightclub performances, Sunday night World Beat Night with friends, African dance class in a church with jewel-box stained-glass windows. After a while I stopped worrying about whether I was “good” and just enjoyed these experiences.

Until last weekend.

I was headed into a Saturday morning dance class when I realized I had a shadow–a pig-tailed little girl in a polka dot dress. I smiled at her. “I like your pants,”she said. (Admittedly they are one of the groovier pairs I own). I thanked her and she continued escorting me down the hall. “Are you good?” she said, out of nowhere.

Ooo, kid, loaded question was my first thought. How to explain all of this stuff to her? But then I had to laugh because it didn’t matter anymore. So here’s what I said:

maybe.

Now that dance is no longer my job I dance because I love it–for no other reason–and that is a huge relief.

5 Dancers–Turned–Authors to Love

Continuing with the theme of love in the month of February, I’m pleased to present more new things to love this week!. These 5 dancers–turned–authors to went from rocking it on the stage to rocking it on the page– Hope you enjoy learning about them and find new books to love in the process.

AuthorLove

Zippora Karz. former soloist ballerina with the New York City Ballet (1983–1999), Zippora Karz performed numerous roles choreographed by George Balanchine and Peter Martins, among others. In her memoir, The Sugarless Plum, Zippora shares how she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes just as she was being featured in solo roles, yet found a way to continue to live her dream despite her illness. Her children’s picture book Ballerina Dreams shows kids how to live with diabetes. She is now a diabetes spokesperson and educator who regularly addresses major diabetes conferences and organizations worldwide. She also serves as a teacher and repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust, rehearsing and staging Balanchine’s choreography for a host of national and international dance companies. More about Zippora here from a recent interview.

sugarlessBallerinaDreams

 

C. Leigh Purtill. In her own words, Leigh choreographs books and writes dance. A dancer since she was a little girl, she’s the author of Jennifer Aniston is My Best Friend, and the Fat Girls in L.A. series. Dance is still a big part of her life–she’s a ballet instructor in the Los Angeles area and regularly blogs about ballet at FitBallet. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on a zombie ballet.

JAIMBFFatGirls

Misty Copeland. While most people may know her from her recent viral video for Under Armor, Misty Copeland has been making headlines while changing the course of ballet history. Copeland recently debuted as American Ballet Theater’s first black Swan Queen, performing Odette/Odile, Swan Lake’s quintessential role. She is the third African-American soloist and first in two decades with ABT and author of Firebird, a picture book for young girls promoting self-confidence, and Life in Motion, her memoir, a story of her rise from incredible poverty to stardom despite all odds.

motion

Miriam Landis. By eighteen, Miriam Landis was dancing soloist roles with Miami City Ballet; by twenty-two she was ready for a change of direction. While traveling abroad for multiple study programs, Landis turned to writing. She’s since become the author of Girl in Motion, Breaking Pointe and Behind Barres (a collection from Landis and fellow authors Amanda Brice and Leslie DuBois).

GIMBehindBarresBP

Terez Rose. Terez is a former ballet dancer who returned to the studio as a student. Her debut novel, Off Balance will be coming out in May 2015…more on that closer to the actual date! In her own words, she’s a lover of all things classical, including ballet and classical music. She’s also an adult beginner on the violin. You can read her musings on all things classical on her blog, The Classical Girl. Her essays have appeared in Literary MamaEspresso Fiction, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Hope you find some new books to love by these great authors!

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5 New Ballets to Love

February is the month we traditionally associate with love, the month when many people run out to buy cards, flowers and chocolate to give to their significant others. But not everyone has a partner and love comes in many other forms besides romantic love. I propose we reclaim February as a month celebrate love in its many forms–from friendships to family–and most importantly as a time to reflect on the things that we most love about life and discover new things to love. In that spirit I’m devoting this month’s blog pieces to discovering new things to love about dance. Here are 5 New Ballets to Love:

LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana, photo by Hu Totya

LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana, photo by Hu Totya

Cares You Know Not. This new piece choreographed by Robert Dekkers for Diablo Ballet premiered February 6th, 2015. Although the name of the piece comes from a children’s lullaby, Cares You Know Not explores a bit of the darker side of life, those things we don’t necessarily see (or want to see) lurking at the edges of our awareness. Dekkers worked with composer Samuel Adams (not to be confused with a beer brewer) to create the original score, which perfectly captures the edgier undertones Dekkers was aiming for. But there’s also science involved–watching the three dancers playing off one another, organically weaving in and out of shapes it’s easy to see how Dekkers drew inspiration from quantum physics for the piece. Says Dekkers, “Although scientists can predict the behavior of two particles, when a third is added three’s no telling what will happen.” This search for deeper philosophical meaning and a desire to create a more contemporary ballet language is what sets Dekkers apart from his peers and made him one of DANCE Magazine’s “25 To Watch.”

Heatscape. Justin Peck hit the streets to find new inspiration when he choreographed this new work for Miami City Ballet, premiering in March. He found what he was looking for in Miami’s vibrant Wynwood Walls. Heatscape is a celebration of colors: the dancers wear their own bright basics, the dance patterns mirror the mandalas woven into the murals (by Shepard Fairey and others). The murals have a deeper meaning of community-mindedness for Peck, who seeks to break down walls when it comes to ballet’s reputation as elitist and inaccessible.

Pixel. A piece with 11 dancers in a virtual and living visual environment, combining energy and poetry, technical achievement, hip hop and circus. Created by Adrien M / Claire B’s ( Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne) and Mourad Merzouki, Pixel premiered at Maison des Arts de Créteil on November 15th, 2014. This video is a cut of extracts from the actual show shot during the last day of creation on November 14th, 2014. The Adrien M / Claire B Company, is a research and creativity workshop based out of Presqu’île in Lyon, working with digital arts and performing arts since 2004.

Something Sampled. Beginning February 10th, the contemporary ballet troupe BalletNext welcomes flex dancer Jay Donn as a choreographer and featured dancer for its weeklong season at New York Live Arts. Flex is a form of extreme animation; dancers habitually describe trying to recreate special effects from movies like “The Matrix” with their bodies.The connection between the two is Chris Lancaster, an electroacoustic cellist who helped compose the score for 2013 documentary film “Flex Is Kings”. Lancaster wanted to give flex dancers opportunities to experiment outside the battle format, bringing them into projects in a realm he knows well– the world of concert dance. It was a challenge to marry the two forms, mostly due to communication issues. On his first day there, as Jay Donn put it, “I was trapped in a room with three girls and a cello.” He began choreographing, using mouthed sound effects to direct the dancers because he knew almost no ballet terms. Donn says he has tried to break the ballet dancers out of being stiff, to “help them be themselves and be free,” but their art has affected him, too. “It flows through me,” he said. “I wake up in the morning thinking about ballet.” The piece ends with a face off in a duel between Donn and Michele Wiles (a former principal dancer for American Ballet Theater and founder of BalletNext) where flex comes up against ballet. Who will be the victor?

World’s Largest Treadmill Dance Video. While it’s definitely a stretch to call this a ballet, I share this one for pure comic relief. Anyone who’s spent time on the treadmill will appreciate the transformation from hamster-wheel-like torture device to genius choreographic prop. Who knew that a treadmill could take dance to another level? In honor of all the workout-related resolutions we tend to make in January, NordicTrack released this video. They claim it’s the “world’s largest”—and with 40 treadmills involved, they’re probably right. –

Ballet Career Highlights: The WISH official Countdown

The piece of Indigo’s ballet journey that readers witness in WISH is just a small part of a dance career. Many (although not all) dancers begin taking ballet classes when they are quite young and study for years before auditioning for a summer intensive with a professional ballet school. While this is a big step, it’s still just the beginning of the professional path. If all goes well, a dancer is accepted in a summer intensive and later becomes a permanent student. Even then a real career is still years away.

After all the years of literal blood, sweat and tears, it finally happens: a real job with a real ballet company. Then the true adventure begins. Here are a few favorite moments from my career:

World tour: Israel
I’ll be honest: Israel was not a country I would have chosen to visit on my own. My mind conjured up vague images of giant dust storms whenever I thought about it. But once we arrived the sights (unique! exotic!) and smells (fragrant! decadent!) were so different from what we found at home. And oh, yes. Let’s not forget the uniformed men with guns. Correction. Not just any guns. AK-47s. Not a sight I’d ever seen a farmers’ market before. Unnerved, we walked in the opposite direction. Moments later we were walking along Via Dolorosa, The Way of Sorrows. Here we were, in Jerusalem, walking the same path where Jesus carried the cross, our feet retracing this ancient, Biblical event. Maybe we breathed in a few stray atoms that were remnants from that time.

The next day we ate breakfast while bombs shook the windows then visited Bethlehem, rode camels and went swimming in the Dead Sea. The high saline content made it possible to float in any weird position we could dream up.

It doesn’t get more adventurous than that.

dome

First professional performance in New York
They say there’s nothing like your first time. That was never more true than my first professional appearance with a world-class ballet company. Pacific Northwest Ballet needed a few dancers to fill in the corps for Balanchine’s Chaconne during their New York City tour. Not only did I land a solo, this was a “hair down” ballet, which was something I’d never experienced before.

We performed with PNB a handful of times at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I was sixteen at the time, and I have never felt more beautiful than during those few moments in the spotlight, dancing that ethereal ballet with my hair flowing down my back.

Having a tutu built from scratch to my specifications
Most ballet companies keep a list of ballets in their repertoire that they repeat year after year. While the roster of dancers may change over time, the costumes do not, which means you might have to squeeze yourself into a costume that was made for someone with a much shorter torso or a larger chest. The costume basically fits, but not exactly because it wasn’t made for you…it was made for someone else (plus who knows how many other people before you have sweated profusely in it).

There is nothing like having a costume made specifically for your body. It fits in all the right places, no bunching, pinching or sagging. Being measured for a costume fitting is magical: for a split-second you feel like a v.i.p. The very first night I performed with Miami CIty Ballet I danced in the world premiere of a ballet and was lucky enough to have a costume made for me, a stunning tutu that was a swath of luscious purples and fuchsia. Yummy.

These are just a few of my favorite moments…but there are enough for another book. Maybe one of these days…after I finish writing the rest of the Indigo Dreams Trilogy.

MORE READING:

Debunking Ballet Myths

BUNHEADS 101

A Day in the Life of a Professional Ballet Student