Thursday, 8 June 2017

15 Truths about being a Professional Dancer


Dance is hard. No dancer ever became successful riding on their natural born talents only. Dancers are artists and athletes. The world of dance today is akin to an extreme sport. Natural ability and talent will only get us so far. Dancers must work hard and persevere. Dancers give years of their lives plus their sweat, tears and sometimes blood to have the honor and pleasure of performing on stage.
 
You won’t always get what you want.We don’t always get the role we wanted, go on pointe when we want, get the job we want, hear the compliments we want, make the money we want, see companies run the way we want, etc, etc.  This teaches us humility and respect for the process, the art form and the masters we have chosen to teach us. The faster we accept this, the faster we can get on with being brilliant.  We’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but we can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work.
 
There’s a lot you don’t know.There is always more a dancer can learn. Even our least favorite teachers, choreographers and directors can teach us something. The minute we think we know it all, we stop being a valuable asset.
 
There may not be a tomorrow. A dancer never knows when their dance career will suddenly vanish: a company folds, career ending injury, car accident, death…Dance every day as if it is the final performance. Don’t save the joy of dance for the stage. Infuse even your routine classroom exercises with passion!
 
There’s a lot you can’t control. You can’t control who hires you, who fires you, who likes your work, who doesn’t, the politics of being in a company. Don’t waste your talent and energy worrying about things you can’t control. Focus on honing your craft, being the best dancer you can be. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude.
 
Information is not true knowledge. Knowledge comes from experience.  You can discuss a task a hundred times, go to 1000 classes, but unless we get out there and perform we will only have a philosophical understanding of dance. Find opportunities to get on stage.  You must experience performance first hand to call yourself a professional dancer.
 
If you want to be successful, prove you are valuable. The fastest way out of a job is to prove to your employer they don’t need you. Instead, be indispensable. Show up early, know your material, be prepared, keep your opinions to yourself unless they are solicited and above all be willing to work hard.
 
Someone else will always have more than you/be better than you. Whether it’s jobs or money or roles or trophies, it does not matter. Rather than get caught up in the drama about what others are doing around you, focus on the things you are good at, the things you need to work on and the things that make you happiest as a dancer.

You can’t change the past. Everyone has a past. Everyone has made mistakes, and everyone has glorious moments they want to savor. “Would you keep a chive in your tooth just because you enjoyed last night’s potato?” Boston Common TV Series. Dance is an art form that forces us to concentrate on the present. To be a master at dance we have be in the moment; the minute the mind wanders, injuries happen. If they do, see #12.

The only person who can make you happy is you. Dancing in and of itself cannot make us happy.  The root of our happiness comes from our relationship with ourselves, not from how much money we make, what part we were given, what company we dance for, or  how many competitions we won.  Sure these things can have effects on our mood, but in the long run it’s who we are on the inside that makes us happy.

There will always be people who don’t like you. Dancers are on public display when they perform and especially in this internet world, critics abound. You can’t be everything to everyone.  No matter what you do, there will always be someone who thinks differently.  So concentrate on doing what you know in your heart is right.  What others think and say about you isn’t all that important.  What is important is how you feel about yourself.

Sometimes you will fail. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, following the best advice, being in the right place at the right time, we still fail. Failure is a part of life. Failure can be the catalyst to some of our greatest growth and learning experiences. If we never failed, we would never value our successes. Be willing to fail. When it happens to you (because it will happen to you), embrace the lesson that comes with the failure.

Sometimes you will have to work for free. Every professional dancer has at one time or another had to work without pay. If you are asked to work for free, be sure that you are really ok with it. There are many good reasons to work for free, and there are just as many reasons not to work for free. Ask yourself if the cause is worthy, if the experience is worth it, if it will bring you joy. Go into the situation fully aware of the financial agreement and don’t expect a hand out later.

Repetition is good. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is insane. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.  If you keep doing the bare minimum of required classes, don’t complain to your teacher when you don’t move up to the next level. If you only give the bare minimum in your company, be happy staying in the corps. If you want to grow beyond your comfort zone, you must push yourself beyond your self-imposed limitations.

You will never feel 100% ready. Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Dancers have to be willing to take risks. From letting go of the ballet barre to balance, to moving around the world to dance with a new company, from trusting a new partner to trying a new form of dance, dancers must have a flexible mind and attitude as well as body. The greatest opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means you won’t feel totally comfortable or ready for it.
Written by Melanie Doskocil on her blog, Ballet Pages.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Dancing Chicken Soup!


A Tasty Dance Chicken Soup Recipe!

It fells like a winters day outside today.

Why not make a soup which keeps you fit and warms you up as well!

Dance Soup Recipe:

1.  pour 3 cups of water with your elbows
2.  slice 2 bunches of carrots with arms
3. throw in 4 handfuls of noodles with your knees
4. Stir with your hips
5. Toss with your toes
6. Boil with your body
7. And simmer with your shoulders
And enjoy!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Mayerling review – Royal Ballet's superb staging

Judith Mackerell writes in the Guardian:

Royal Opera House, London

Edward Watson finds sympathy for the doomed prince while Sarah Lamb gives one of the performances of her career in MacMillan’s unsparingly brutal ballet.
 
Mayerling is surely the richest, if not the most popular of Kenneth MacMillan’s story ballets. Created in 1978, it looks and sounds like a conventionally mainstream work, with its swags of period costume and lush Liszt score. Yet as it voyages into an emotional wasteland of sex, psychosis and addiction, its choreography yields an unsparingly brutal account of human nature. There’s something in MacMillan’s portrait of the doomed Prince Rudolf, trapped within a cynical and loveless court, that makes me think of how Swan Lake might have played out had its hero been driven by a darker sexuality, and its librettist known something of Freud.

Edward Watson and Natalia Osipova as Mary Vetsera.
Edward Watson with Natalia Osipova, as Mary Vetsera. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

The opening cast of this season’s revival handle the material superbly. Edward Watson finds true sympathy for Rudolf, a lost and damaged soul seeking solace in sex, drugs and the camaraderie of revolutionary politics. It’s a beautifully physicalised performance: the extreme flexibility of Watson’s line works freakishly well to suggest Rudolf’s unhinged personality and the tremor of his hands and twitchy shakes of his head register his deteriorating mental state.
 
Zenaida Yanowsky as the Empress Elisabeth reacts with exquisite nuance to Rudolf’s breakdown. As a royal mother, she’s both offended by her son’s behaviour and guilty at her own inadequacies, and Yanowsky is brilliant at making one quelling but troubled gesture speak volumes. The other women in Rudolf’s life are no less convincingly portrayed. Francesca Hayward, his innocent bride, dances with fearless abandon to convey the full force of Princess Stephanie’s panicked, furious response to the humiliation of her wedding night. Her confusion and disdain when she is forced to accompany Rudolf to a tavern are equally visceral, averting her gaze from the roistering whores, and nervously rubbing her gloved hands to erase the taint of her surroundings.


Sarah Lamb, gives one of the performances of her career as Rudolf’s ex-mistress, Countess Larisch. Her elegant, intelligent dancing is redolent of Larisch’s political and sexual pragmatism, but it also conveys deep, tremulous reserves of emotion as, resigned to her waning power over Rudolf, Larisch hands him on to the younger, fresher body of Mary Vetsera.
 
Vetsera is danced by Natalia Osipova, who characteristically seeks out the darkest extremes of the role. Her Vetsera is as much in thrall to the rank of her new lover as to the discovery of her own sexual power, and she invests her dancing with an almost distorted avidity as she throws herself into Rudolf’s embrace. During their first bedroom duet, Osipova is too much the erotic Maenad, not the teenage girl, but she becomes riveting in the final scene where Vetsera and Rudolf plot their double suicide and where, possessed by equal parts terror, adoration and self-importance, she seems to be burrowing her way into her lover’s soul. The two lovers become hypnotised by the romance of death. But MacMillan doesn’t flinch from showing that, unlike the lovers in Swan Lake, they can’t achieve poetic transcendence – only a squalid mess.

At Royal Opera House, London, until 13 May. Box office: 020-7304 4000.

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Life of a Dancer - What to do when you take a fall.

Lauren Kay published this great article in the Pointe Magazine's July issue.  It is an insight for dancers when the unthinkable happens - you take a spill onstage.
 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Are you in a dance teaching rut ?


Finding inspiration in your dance classes day in, day out can be hard.  Nichelle Suzanne of danceadvantage.net, a veteran teacher of more than 17 years, gives us five ways to put that sparkle back, while upholding the foundations of a good class:
 
Set Creative Limitations
 
Setting limits for yourself can set you free, and may likely be the secret to some of your most creative ideas both in and out of the classroom. When you choreograph, it may seem the music, the number of dancers, or their abilities are the limiting structures but professional choreographers overcome creativity slumps or beat the blank slate syndrome by giving themselves a strict set of rules to follow. This can work in teaching too.
 
Try choosing one concept or one objective for each of your lessons and aim at that target as you develop each exercise.
 
The concept for Lesson One might be a basic element like tempo. Challenge yourself and your students with alternating speeds or trying things at unusual tempos throughout the class. Lesson Two may focus on the use of the head as an objective. Pay special attention to its use in all aspects of your class choreography. Creating limits or rules for your teaching can spark creativity in the classroom.
 

Involve your Students

 
Your students have great ideas, too. Find ways to involve them and you’ll find there’s a lot you can learn from your pupils. The range and scope of their involvement is up to you but here are some ideas to test drive:
  • Ask open questions that require critical thinking: “Why do you suppose it’s important to keep your knees over toes in a plié?”
  • Allow them to analyze and correct mistakes: “What’s wrong with the way I’m doing this step?”
  • Request their suggestions: “Which music would you like to use next week?” or “Each of you give me one song you’d like me to use in class and I’ll try to incorporate them all in our next lesson.”
  • Get their input on what, how, or when they’d like to learn or try a new skill: “I’ve been thinking about working with you on two kinds of turns, which would you like to learn first?”
  •  

Take Class from Someone Else

 
This one is pretty straightforward.
Getting away from your home base or working outside your comfort zone is always inspirational.
I know your location may make it difficult to find classes on your own level. But, who says you need to take an advanced or continuing education-style course to feel rejuvenated and brimming with new ideas?
 
Ask to observe or take class with other teachers at your own studio whether you teach the same subject or not. A hip-hop teacher’s particular approach may just inspire you to try something new in your ballet classes. In fact, you might make “company class” a regular part of your studio’s schedule with instructors taking turns teaching fellow teachers.
 
Heck, if dance isn’t an option try pottery, or a foreign language, or yoga, and let me know how this non-dance class enriches your own teaching – you may be surprised!
 

Try on a New Style

 
I’m not talking about a new dance style, though as mentioned, that can certainly get the juices flowing, too.
 
I’m talking about a new teaching style. Perhaps you fall neatly into one of the four categories of teachers. If so, why not explore another approach or experiment with mixing these styles within your class?
 
For instance, occasionally facilitate by splitting your students into groups to explore new concepts or work together on choreography. Or try delegating tasks, sending pupils home with a task to complete before the next class.
 

Give Class in 4D

 
A dance class is pretty 3D compared to a typical classroom environment. Your students get hands on, experiential instruction that they simply don’t when seated behind a desk. However…
 
Even dance can travel to another dimension by adding visual, tactile, and other sensory aids to the educational environment.
 
Having trouble getting students to understand turnout? Try a bandana affixed with a single eye. That’s right an eye. Strategically place the bandana around their lower thigh and train them to “look” in the right direction.
 
Want to evoke a particularly delicate and light movement quality? Bring in a feather and show them how it floats. Encourage them to move like a feather on their own before bringing that movement to set choreography.
These are just two examples. The possibilities are absolutely endless and require just a bit of imagination.
 
Now go on! Get off the hamster wheel of habit.
 
How will you bring that sparkle back to your classes, today?

Monday, 31 March 2014

Once a Dancer, Always a Dancer

That time always comes - that time to give up dance!   This is Sara Rodriguez' positive attitude to the prospect of no longer dancing professionally:
 
 
Once upon a time, I was the ultimate bunhead.
And by bunhead, I mean a serious, hardcore, no-messing-around ballet dancer. I’ve trained in classical ballet for quite some time, as most dancers do, and I’m currently finishing my final year in a preprofessional program. But to say I’ve changed over the years would be an understatement, especially when looking at this past year alone. Not surprisingly, my path has changed with me.
 
Recently, I made a decision I never imagined I’d make: I decided that once I graduate from this program, I will not continue on to dance for a professional career. Sure, it sounds simple, but in truth, this is probably the hardest decision I will ever make in my life. It carries much more weight than simply dancing or not dancing. Being a dancer is a defining trait, and with it comes a way of life that I’ve known as omnipresent, inherent and vital to everything I am. The decision to let go of the beloved art form that once fueled my every action came from a combination of personal contemplations and physical limitations. Still, I know this drastic change I’m about to make will be difficult, one that involves the stripping of an identity with which I grew up—a major contributor to how I became the person I am now.
 
From here, I embark on a new path, and although it’s mostly terrifying, it’s also incredibly exciting and full of hope: I’ll have so much free time! I won’t have to worry about looking a certain way! I won’t be in pain all the time and I’ll get to try new things!
 
I feel as though I’ve come up for air and discovered that my purpose is elsewhere in this world, and coming to terms with that.
If that doesn’t illustrate the insane amount of love and devotion dancers have for their art, I don’t know what does. So, to go from dancing for countless hours every day for five or six (often seven) days a week to not dancing at all will undoubtedly require a dramatic removal of this label and everything that comes with it. However, I firmly believe that the past can and should inform what we do, wherever we find ourselves at present and wherever we plan to go in the future—even if that plan changes a few times.
For that reason, I’ve decided that completely stripping this identity isn’t the answer, nor is it even possible. Rather, instead of trying to run away from it, perhaps I can embrace it as a large part of who I’ve been for so long in order to continue growing as I am now and into the future.  Perhaps there’s a dancer in me that will never completely fade away.
And now that I’ve come to accept this piece of me, I’ve decided that although there are certainly parts of the identity I wouldn’t mind losing (like the hypercritical self-judgement and the painful tendencies toward low self-esteem), I don’t want the dancer in me to die entirely.
Because dancers are actually pretty incredible.
For starters, we’re remarkably disciplined and obedient. Tell us once what needs to be done and we’ll do it as perfectly as we can, working relentlessly until the result has exceeded expectations. We always find a way to make it happen, because what choice do we have when things don’t go exactly as planned on stage (a common occurrence in live performance) and we’re expected to deliver excellence nonetheless?
Second, we know how to use our imaginations. Training in classical ballet can easily become boring and tedious; every day, classes follow almost the same format and involve the same movement vocabulary, starting with pliés (the first exercise given at barre) and ending with grand allegro (big jumps across the floor). In order to keep things interesting, we must take it upon ourselves to infuse the potentially monotonous routine of daily classes and rehearsals with vibrant artistry, and that artistry can only come from deep within our souls—from a place of innate creativity and the desire to portray something far greater than the body itself.
Third, we understand what it means to respect authorities. We are taught from a young age to respond to everything from praise to criticism with gratitude and a humble heart. And to the teachers with whom we’ve experienced tremendous growth—the ones who cared about our triumphs and failures as though they were their own—we remain forever loyal.
And lastly, perhaps most importantly, we know how to work without the promise of success or reward. We are self-sustaining. We know how to push ourselves without so much as a word of encouragement or anything acknowledging a job well done.
We are everything we’re asked to be for others and everything we need to be for ourselves, an indescribable group of beings with unique intelligence and superhuman capabilities.
 
And even after taking our final bows, that stays with us. Forever.
 


Friday, 10 January 2014

Dance studio tranformed



How we helped transform this private dance studio in Nottinghamshire
 
Customer: Redhead Scott School of Dance, Nottinghamshire
Project : Supply and installation of ActiWood Sprung Floor, Integra System and Studio Curtains
Having equipped the School’s brand new studio in 2010 with our ActiSprung Dance Floor and Integra Mirror/Double Barre System (complete with Curtains), this highly over-subscribed dance school called upon The Ballet Barre Company once again in 2013 when they needed to equip their second studio.
To cope with the schools expansion in offering a wider variety of dance, our Actiwood Sprung Floor was installed to provide a sprung floor suitable for working with a range of dance from ballroom to ballet. Providing a level, solid hardwood surface in light Beech finish, our Actiwood Sprung Floor is ideal for coping with the rigorous demands of this active studio.
Our specialist Integra Mirror/Barre System was once again specified for the second studio to provide a seamless wall of mirror (no gaps or horizontal divisions) with the appearance of a floating ballet barre.  The wall of Integra was finished with a beautiful set of specially-sourced silk fabric curtains to provide the exact colour and specification requested by the client.
With over 800 students and over 50 years of teaching, The Redhead Scott School of Dance take great pride that they are now teaching the grandchildren of their very first students!
If you need any help with your dance, fitness or drama studio email:
Sharon@theballetbarrecompany.com