Tag Archives: washington ballet

Juicy pliés and tornado pirouettes

24 Sep

I have added some new linkage, the first being The Ballet Bag, a blog by the two “bag ladies” who know all, see all, and are constantly updating their twitter feed with the best tidbits about what’s going on in the world of ballet (with a special affinity for everyone’s favorite Royal Ballet).  Forget being in the loop…they ARE the loop, so be sure to read up on their blog for super-informative posts and follow them on twitter or you’ll be left in the orchestra pit (they never know what’s going on).  The second link I’ve added is for Libby Costello’s blog, and she is an expert in alien language labanotation and dance educator extraordinaire among many other things.  Currently a member of the Faculty of Education at the illustrious Royal Academy of Dance, she writes reviews and reports on the London dance scene and we can be sure to expect some personal contemplations soon (she just started bloggin’).  She too, be on twitter, so follow her feeds like you do.  Say what you will about New York or maybe even Amsterdam, but I’m on board with London being the capital of dance.  So much so that should the wallet stop being such a jackass, I’d seriously consider a move (although citizenship and naturalization laws in the UK are pretty daunting).  And by the way, if the 3.5 other people who read this blog ever have suggestions for links (doesn’t even have to be a blog, about ballet, or even dance related, provided it’s your link to share) please lemme know!

Anyway, on the topic of blogs, WordPress users like yours truly have a dashboard, where there’s a little section that tells me some statistics like how many visits I’m getting, which entries are being read and how people are getting here.  It’s really good for my vanity, but on occasion there will be some interesting topics people are searching that somehow bring them to this blog (including a number of inquiries as to how tall Kristin Chenoweth is.  For the record, she’s 4’11”).  One in particular, was a curious soul wanting to know if the degree of turnout affects the speed of a pirouette.  This interests me, so I shall indulge.  I’m going to say, “no.”  For one thing, jazz pirouettes are done in parallel, but they can still be quite fast.  As far as ballet is concerned, certainly, more turnout equates to a more open retiré, and one might think that allows for more room to “throw the knee.”  But all pirouettes come from a turned out position of the feet, so even though we open the leg to the side, it doesn’t actually slingshot to that position.  Rather it starts in a turned out plié and goes up into retiré maintaining the turnout the whole time.  In my experience, speed comes from starting with a robust (and in the words of former teacher Daniela, “juicy”) plié, arriving in retiré as quickly and efficiently as possible, and is probably most dependent on the speed of the spot.  I actually used to have a problem with overcooking the plié (maybe I still do), and using enough force for like ten pirouettes when my brain was intending to do a double.  So if aforementioned inquisitor should return, I hope this is a suitable answer in your quest.  Personally speaking though, speed in a pirouette should not be thought of as a technique, but rather a tool to express musicality.  It’s the slow pirouettes that are really hard anyway.  It’s one thing to do a triple pirouette to fast music and shoot your leg back into fourth or fifth, and it’s a totally different beast to do a triple and actually have to slow down to stop, and then place your foot into fourth or fifth.  My flute teacher would probably find this hysterical because she always yelled at me for playing too fast, and that slower and cleaner is always better…but she doesn’t have to know that she was right.

Meanwhile, I went to the library today to pick up a book I had reserved, and decided to look for ballets.  A long time ago when I searched the database, all that came up was the Nutcracker, a bunch of DVD’s to teach ballet, the movie Ballet Shoes and Angelina Ballerina stuff.  Needless to say I didn’t think Columbus libraries had a decent selection, but it turns out I was the fool because all of the good stuff was located deeper in the results.  After paging through, I fond a treasure trove of goodies, reserved a ton of things and walked away with Royal Ballet’s La Fille mal gardée (1981, Leslie Collier and Michael Coleman), Paris Opera’s La Sylphide (2004, Aurélie Dupont and Mathieu Ganio) and against my better judgment, La Scala’s Romeo and Juliet (2000, Angel Corella and Alessandra Ferri).  Nothing against La Scala, Corella, or Ferri…in fact they were the reasons I borrowed it.  It’s just that Romes & Jules is not my favorite ballet.  How I decide I like a ballet is largely based on a triangular system, with score, libretto and choreography at the points.  When it comes to Romes & Jules, I hate two of the three…the score and libretto.  Like the Montagues et Capulets theme drives me crazy, and conjures images of seasickness and ancient ships with rows of slaves manning the oars, a ruthless captain with a whip to “motivate” them.   As for the libretto…some people find the story a romantic tragedy, but all I can think about is how annoying I find it when young teenagers think their puppy love is the real deal, and for Romeo and Juliet, was worth dying for.  It reeks of teen hormones and stupidity…get a grip.  It bothers me now when twelve year olds think their “dating” is legit.  Juliet was thirteen, and I suppose she at least she had the excuse of a shorter life expectancy and the culture of Shakespearian times.  Oh well…I am at least looking forward to watching Ferri and some of Corella’s freaky tornado pirouettes.  You know, how his pirouettes are lightning fast but he adjusts his torso the entire time and it creates this illusion that he’s wobbling, but somehow he manages to never fall over.

Speaking of things we don’t like in ballet, I shall close with a laugh worthy moment that happened on twitter when friend Hilary with one L, who likes full length classical ballets and especially the Russian tradition, but is not a fan of enchanted forests (or gardens) and ghosts, told me she’s going to see the Washington Ballet’s production of Don Q in a couple of weeks.  So she asked me what the “enchanted forest forecast” was and I had to break it to her that Act III would be when Don Q has his dream of Dulcinea in an enchanted forest surrounded by nymphs.  Maybe next time.

I Lost Me a Ballet Shoe

24 Jun

Today I concluded my journey with Washington Ballet.  I actually intended to go yesterday as well, but as you may know, there was a terrible and fatal accident on the red line of the Washington Metro, and Washington Ballet is located on the red line (Albeit, in the opposite direction of the accident).  I was completely unaware of the accident, which unbeknownst to me, had occurred about half an hour earlier to my arrival in Metro Center.  Announcers only told us that the trains were experiencing “mechanical difficulties” (um, understatement of the century!) and as the crowds of people waiting started to increase logarithmically, so did my desire to just go home.

I did go to class today, after a tour of the botanical gardens and a little window shopping in Georgetown.  However, even before all of that, I apparently decided to NOT close the bottle of water in my bag, and my dance clothes got wet.  Fantastic.  Despite today’s high temperatures, there was too much humidity in the air for my clothes to try out, plus they were all bunched up in a bag, and I wasn’t about to tie them to a flag pole and let them flap in the breeze.  I couldn’t find a flag pole within reach anyway.  Furthermore, as if that wasn’t enough, apparently I only brought one ballet shoe to class.  Double fantastic.  Finally, at the time I thought I must’ve left the shoe where I’m staying, but upon further investigation it is nowhere to be found, so Billy Elliot only knows where in DC it is now.  TRIPLE fantastic.

Regardless, I was already there (and more importantly had already paid) and just went on through class with one shoe and a sock.  I wore the sock for barre, but then it started coming off and I just gave up and went halfsies barefoot for the rest of class.  Fortunately, my foot actually turned on the floor ok and jumping was fine.  It did feel weird to have even just a few millimeters of leather sole on one foot and not the other though, so I think my alignment was all “YEEK!” but my alignment is always “YEEK!” so really, it’s all in a day’s work.  I don’t think anybody cared that I was wearing only one shoe so it probably wasn’t actually embarrassing but it sure felt that way.

Anywhozle, the weirdest thing also happened when someone I’ve taken class with at OSU was in the class as well!  Actually, I knew her sister was going to be here for the summer and would drop in for classes so I thought I might see her, but I didn’t know the younger one was here too, so that was so much funny.  The older sister showed up after class to go home together (and she actually look class with Marden before too and we laughed about doing attitude pirouettes to passé and doing a body wave out of it to “move your body!”) so we chatted for a moment.  Turns out we’re all going to go see the Royal Ballet perform Manon later this week as well (Although they go on Sunday, and I on Thursday).

Back to the topic at hand, I briefly mentioned taking classes at Washington Ballet but never really discussed class itself.  Structurally, ballet classes are almost always the same but it’s always fun to see different habits different teachers have.  I first had Linda Baranovics, who is a very nice lady and according to her bio started dancing in college as well (like me!) and to see that she’s accomplished much and is teaching now is rather inspirational.  We did get stuck in class on this pique combination she was trying to work out at barre, and every time she tried to demonstrate it was different.  After a good 5 minutes, she finally decided on pique-pique-pique-brush-brush-brush-brush-close, pique-pique-pique-brush-brush-brush-brush-close, pique-pique-pique-brush-pique-brush-pique-close, pique-pique-pique-brush-brush-brush-pique-close, and a major kuditos do you if that makes sense to you!  At some point thunder rumbled outside too and she said that the heavens were angry with her combination (or something to that effect).  Perfect timing, madre nature!  There was a funny moment in class where she was giving us a petite allegro and should have given us a royale but had already said “entrechat” and rather than correct herself, paused and finished with “six.” (to which I can only say, BAH!) She also gave us a really fun grande allegro…try it! (sissonne fermeé en avant, en avant, en arriere, en arriere, tombé-pas de bourée-glissade-assemblé, tombé (left) coupe-sauté arabesque, run run tour jeté, tombé-pas de bourée-glissade-saut de chat)

As for the other classes, they were taught by Stephen Baranovics, who was a little aloof but a charming old fellow.  Whereas Linda’s class felt mostly familiar, his had some slight, but manageable differences.  Mostly, in petite allegro.  The first time I had him he did like 4 different petite allegros and kept saying he was in a very “Giselle” mood.  The second time, class was 15 minutes shorter so we only got to 2, but again he told us (er, the ladies rather) to think “Giselle.”  It was kind of funny at first, but I decided if I can get in moods for chocolate, people could totally have cravings for a certain style of dance too.  He didn’t get to grande allegro which was kind of a shame, but I need to petite like you wouldn’t believe.  I literally can’t do entrechat quatre or jeté battu to the left anymore, my body is so messed up.

Anyway, I had a really great time at Washington Ballet, and would totally recommend their classes to anyone, even you.

Royal Ballet in TWO DAYS!! VENGA!!

Emeralds and Rubies and Diamonds! Oh, my!

21 Jun

Prepare yourself for a scattered entry with miscellaneous thoughts:

I forgot to mention that in Le Corsaire, Volchkov did these INSANE assemblé to grand plié, and effortlessly exploded upwards into a huge sissone.  That was crazy impossible, although someday if I’m bored and there are no people around as witnesses, I might try it for funsies.  If no one’s watching, what’s the worst that could happen?

Also, I didn’t mention anything about my last day at the Columbus Summer dance festival, since I was in a hurried and flurried rush to pack and get to the airport to fly to DC, but as for class that morning, nothing really out of the ordinary happened.  I’m sure you get the picture…attitude turns and “venga!” as usual.  Although Marden did finally tell us that “venga” means “come on” in Spanish.  Did I ever mention that he calls the accompanist “maestra” and asks for things in increments of “teeny-weeny-bombini?” Like, “Maestra! A teeny-weeny-bombini bit slower?” or “Maestra! How about a teeny-weeny-bombini reverence?”  And this coming from the same man who will tell you every other minute to “Move your body! Bam-bam-bam-bam!” (The “bams” referring to every time you spot while turning.  Although I’ve never done a quad.  Intentionally.).

Next, as it was Hilary’s birthday the day after we went to see Le Corsaire, I decided to give her a ballet DVD since her love for the art only became known to me somewhat recently.  I ended up picking Balanchine’s Jewels, and I even found the last copy in all of Columbus, Ohio.  I quickly called the specific Barnes and Noble that had it, in order to stake my claim and ensure that it would be mine to buy but they told me they didn’t have it.  Their website said they had it in stock so undaunted and determined, I called again the following day and lo and behold the bookseller found it after some searching and voila!  After this epic retail journey I thought to myself I deserve to say that I had found the perfect gift.  And then at dinner before the ballet she told me she was not a fan of Balanchine and felt his style is overrated. OH. BILLY. ELLIOT.

Panicked, I realized my options were to give the DVD as is and claim that because I had no knowledge of her lack on enthusiasm for Balanchine, it was an honest mistake.  Although, after looking at one of the gift shops at the Kennedy Center, I found that they had a lot of DVD’s for sale and was very close to purchasing a the Kirov production of Don Quixote (no ghosts, if I recall correctly although there is a dryad scene).  But this was just a few minutes before the show so I thought I’d give myself a minute to think about it.  I even thought of coming back the Kennedy Center in secret the next day if the gift shops were closed by the time Le Corsaire was over, but they were indeed open anyway.  However, the gift shop on the lower level had a more varied selection whereas the gift shop on the main floor did not.  They had Swan Lake (ghosts, enchanted forests, a definite no-go) and one copy of Baryshnikov’s Don Q, which for whatever reason I wasn’t as enthusiastic about buying.  Running out of ideas, I ended up telling Hilary I bought her Jewels, which spoiled the surprise but perhaps dampened the blow of the thought of having to own Balanchine choreography.  So I just told her if she didn’t like Balanchine’s style to just ignore Rubies, and only watch Emeralds and Diamonds.  So 2 out of 3 isn’t bad, and hey, no ghosts or enchanted forests right?  (What are they officially? Wilis?)  In the end, I’m glad to say she was happy with the gift because she doesn’t own any dance DVDs, and something, even Balanchine is better than nothing!

And last, but not least, in the interim of being here in DC I of course investigated some adult drop in classes, this time at the Washington Ballet.  Now, I have NEVER danced anywhere besides Ohio State, so I was prepared for a traumatic and terrifying experience.  Not because of anything Washington Ballet would do, just because I can’t ignore my natural tendency to freak out in new situations.  And of course there were a bunch of girls who were amazing, with gorgeous lines (although one had some severely winged scapulae…yikes!) but there were adults at various levels too so I really had nothing to worry about.  It’s a good experience to dance at different studios and learn different exercises and combinations, and I suppose meet new people.  Although, this morning there was a guy I had a brief conversation with who actually went to school at Oberlin in Ohio (and it really isn’t everyday you meet someone who knows Ohio outside of Ohio) and seemed to be a perfectly nice person, but again, I freak in new situations and rather than see that as an opportunity to meet a new person I ended up leaving without even introducing myself.  I have some serious issues and a curious, but skittish mentality like a baby bunny.

What I’m trying to say is, in dance, allow yourself to meet new people.  You obviously have something in common and it’s a great opportunity to just connect with kindred wilis.  Trust me when I say you don’t want to end up fickle like me, and then 5 minutes later when you’re walking down the sidewalk realize you should have at least said “My name is Steve(n).”  It’s almost embarrassing to think that I need one of those name tag stickers, as a fully grown (in age, but not in stature) adult.