Tag Archives: Misty Copeland

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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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Ballet Fiction must-haves

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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.

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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.

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

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Visiting Bethlehem with Miami City Ballet

A few of my favorite dance things

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Debunking Ballet Myths

 

While many people admire ballet as art form, it’s also often criticized. Unhealthy body image is one of the most common complaints. But are these criticisms based on reality or myth? Let’s examine some of the most common ballet myths and see what’s real:

1. All ballet dancers are anorexic.

The average professional ballet dancer spends anywhere from five to eight hours each day dancing their butts off; imagine how slim you would be if you exercised that much! Ballet also naturally creates longer, leaner lines in the body, unlike other athletic pursuits such as running, which create bulkier muscles. Although they are slender, most dancers are health-conscious—they have to be in order to have enough energy to get through their long, active days…although their busy schedules mean they snack throughout the day as opposed to eating huge meals (it’s hard to be light on your feet with a full belly!).

2. If you want to be a professional ballet dancer you have to start taking ballet classes early, like when you are still in the womb.

Just look at ballet superstar Misty Copeland; her story will burn that myth right out of your head. Copeland didn’t begin taking ballet classes until she was thirteen, yet in 2007 she made dance history when she became the third African American female soloist (and the first in two decades) at American Ballet Theater. Another classmate of mine at the School of American Ballet didn’t begin ballet until she was twelve but later went on to dance with New York City Ballet.

3. All male ballet dancers are gay. There are certainly a lot of good-looking men in ballet but just because they put on tights doesn’t mean there aren’t some hot-blooded heterosexuals in the mix. The real-life partnership between New York City Ballet principal dancers Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck is not just one of the most romantic love stories in ballet history (teen sweethearts, drama, breakup(s) and a happy ending when Fairchild proposed in Paris), it is one of the most prominent ballet marriages today. Other well-known ballet couples include San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancers Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan, Boston Ballet principals Carlos Molina and Erica Cornejo and Nelson Madrigal and Lorna Feijoo, Ballet West soloists Easton Smith and Haley Henderson. Still not convinced? Rent “The Turning Point” (a classic ballet film) and watch Baryshnikov make his moves.

4. You have to be a twig if you want to be a ballet dancer. While this was true during the Balanchine era, perspectives on dancers’ bodies is changing dramatically and today’s dancers are more muscular and feminine. Take a look at the lineup of dancers from companies like LINES Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Ballet Black. English National Ballet Artistic Director Tamara Rojo recently made it known that she’s not interested in employing underweight ballerinas. Ballet dancers such as Kathryn Morgan, a former New York City Ballet soloist, St. Paul Ballet dancer Brittany Adams and New York City Ballet veteran Jennifer Ringer are becoming more vocal about promoting a healthy body image. If you want to delve deeper on the issue, check outStrength and Beauty,” a documentary about ballerinas’ personal accounts of dealing with issues like weight.

 

5. Ballet dancers are weak, timid girlie girls who love anything pink. 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”. Ballet dancers are not delicate little flowers, nor is ballet easy. It’s actually enormously difficult both physically AND mentally. A dancer has to remember several ballets’ worth of choreography at any given time PLUS be strong enough to leap, turn, grande battement, and relevé for (sometimes) HOURS on end.

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6. Pointe hurts. Stretching hurts.

It doesn’t hurt if you’re doing it right! Well, okay, pointe shoes sometimes hurt when you wear them day after day for hours at a time. But dancers build up their flexibility and foot strength over time. It’s a process where things progress slowly. Beginning pointe classes, for instance, are very brief. If things hurt, it’s time to slow down or back off and if you experience pain when you’re stretching it’s actually a clear indication that you’re pushing things too far.

7. Ballet dancers naturally dance well at parties and nightclubs. Just because someone is a ballet dancer does not mean they’ll be a hit on the dance floor at your next party. Trust me; these are two very different types of dancing. In fact, ballet is so regimented and precise that it’s difficult for ballet dancers to cut loose. It’s much more likely they’ll resemble a spastic electrocuted chicken on the dance floor.

8.All female ballet dancers are ballerinas. Typical cocktail party conversation: “Oh, I didn’t know that you were a ballerina!” Um, I’m not. I’m a ballet dancer. Only the highest-ranking female dancers in a ballet company are ranked as ballerinas. The corps and soloist dancers in the company are not ranked as ballerinas yet.

9. Since ballet terms are French all ballet dancers speak fluent French. Sadly, no ( je suis desolée). Just because ballet terms are in French does not mean that we speak French fluently, nor is there any guarantee that our pronunciation incredible…or even correct.

10. Ballet dancers are not the brightest bulbs in the pack. Refer to item number 5 above, for how much dancers have to remember (A LOT). This skill also serves dancers well in school, since more dancers are choosing take college courses in the midst of their dance careers, with the blessings of top ballet companies including American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet (who offer scholarship money to their dancers). Boston Ballet recently teamed up with Northeastern University to offer a program to help dancers earn their degrees while they are dancing. The university’s flexible schedule accommodates dancers’ routines and the company’s scholarship fund covers up to 80% of tuition…which means there are a lot of brainiacs on pointe out there.

As you can see, most myths don’t stand up to investigation. Whether your attitude towards ballet is “love it” or “leave it”, you can now make an educated choice.

Dance in May: What to Watch, Read and See

May is a month of celebrations… think May Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mothers’ Day… it’s also my birthday month, so I feel extra celebratory. With that attitude in mind I put together a few of my favorite dance things for you to watch, read and enjoy for May.

WATCH: Photographer Jordan Matter has put dancers in the public eye by, well, putting them in public. As often as possible. Maybe you have already seen his book, Dancers Among Us, a photographic masterpiece that weaves dance into everyday life, where professional dancers are photographed on the beach, at a construction site, in a library, a restaurant, a park. Matter started his Dancers Among Us project by asking a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company to dance for him in a place where dance is unexpected. So, dressed in a commuter’s suit and tie, the dancer flew across a Times Square subway platform.

One of the first questions anyone has about these incredible dance images is how does he do it? Followed by what kind of equipment does he use? (Nikon D3S with a 14 to 24 2.8 lens, 85 millimeter and 28 millimeter 1.4 lenses and the 70 to 200 2.8 lens for you shutterbugs).

Here Dancers Among Us goes around the US in 90 seconds:

Here’s a fun video of Matter’s trip to Paris with Houston Ballet, including the first glimpse of many new photos. French photographer Gin Pineau (ginibee.fr) saw is post on Facebook last fall and asked if she could bring her camera and observe the shoot, and then she put together this awesome video.

FYI, Matter is hard at work on a cool, new project, Circus Among Us. Check out his new site for more info

 

READ: Life in Motion by Misty Copeland. As the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Copeland has made history in the dance world and beyond. When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, sleeping on the floor with her five siblings. Her entry into the world of ballet was miraculous: she danced en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performed professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life (culmi­nating in a highly publicized custody battle), she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

With an insider’s unique point of view, Misty opens a window into the life of a professional bal­lerina who lives life center stage: from behind the scenes at her first auditions to her triumphant roles in some of the most iconic ballets. But in this beautifully written memoir, she also delves deeper to reveal the desire and drive that made her dreams reality.

In this interview, Misty speaks about her past and her present star status:

SEE LIVE: Alonzo King LINES Ballet Spring Home Season, MAY 21-25, 2014

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS THEATER

Breaking the mold of what ballet can be, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet is like no other ballet company I’ve ever seen. I am not a dance critic (and don’t pretend to be) so let’s leave it this way: If you have never seen them you are doing yourself a disservice. This season, King presents a world premiere, combining sophisticated modernist choreography with the physical elegance of the LINES Ballet dancers to stunning effect. The Spring Season also features a trilogy of iconic sections from King’s body of work.

This season’s events include an Opening night performance and after party and post performance talks with Alonzo King.


May your month of May be filled with many good things.

 More Incredible Dance Photography books

Further reading on San Francisco ballet companies