WATCH: Yannick Boquin on adding dynamics and musicality to your classes

Yannick’s back! He’s been on the blog countless times, so I’ll dispense with the long intro. Basically, he and our small team at the Staatsballett Berlin have made another video. And this time we’ve bumped up the quality.

This is a video that’s mainly directed towards teachers constructing a class, but in it are plenty of tips for dancers looking to spice up their combinations as well.

Just one thing, dancers: DO try this at home and make sure to ask your teacher before making changes, because your teacher may not appreciate you changing their combinations just because you feel like “adding dynamic” to the class they prepared.

 

 

Big shout-out to:

– Elisa Carrillo Cabrera for dancing

– Yannick Boquin for creating the choreography, organizing the project

– Vladislav Marinov for his countless hours of editing and re-editing

 

Ten amazing small contemporary dance companies

We’ve all heard of the most famous dance companies out there: New York City Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Paris Opera. They’re the companies with prestige and plenty of renown. And they deserve it. But what about those smaller, equally impressive, yet unorthodox dance companies? Those full of unusual talent, those harder to pin down – have we heard of them?

If we’re immersed in dance culture, then maybe. But more often than not, no. These companies are by definition more esoteric, because no longer can you have a huge group of dancers fill the stage. Instead of focusing on corps work, where the individual disappears into the mass, these smaller dance companies tend to focus more on the specific, on each dancer as an individual. And that’s what I like about them.

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There are plenty of small dance groups out there, but the best of them tend to be light on their feet, innovative, and full of talented dancers that continually surprise us.

Think of them like small start-ups in the tech world. While national companies have more funding, local grounding, and a regular season, smaller dance projects fit in the cracks in theater programming, have smaller touring costs, and can be more experimental by nature.

This structure can lead to breakthroughs in style and exciting mixtures of form, and if popular and appreciated enough, these new styles eventually become incorporated into the mainstream dance world. Just like in the tech world.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll be defining small contemporary dance companies as having no more than 20 dancers. While some of them stay mostly in their hometown and perform there, many tour the world with one or two productions at a time.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, simply the companies that have most caught my attention. Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “Ten amazing small contemporary dance companies”

WATCH: Yannick Boquin on connecting barre with center, and using the arms to your advantage

We’ve shared Yannick Boquin’s insights about dancing and teaching a few times on this blog, but it always feels like something’s missing when we talk about ballet in pure text form. So Yannick and thought maybe we’d put together a video where you can actually see what he’s talking about!

One of the things we wanted to share was how the exercises at barre can and should relate to center. Why do we work the way we do at barre, if center seems completely different? This is to help explain.

In this particular video we’ll focus on Yannick’s thoughts on coordinating the arms with the rest of the body to make sure we’re that our whole body is moving in harmony. The port de bras may sometimes look different at barre than it does in the center, yet the principles remain the same. But enough of my commentary – I’ll let Yannick do the real talking…

Many thanks to Vladislav Marinov, another dancer at the Staatsballett Berlin for filming and editing the video, and to Aurora Dickie, for being a great example of what Yannick teaches. And of course a big shout out to Yannick, for developing the exercises and organizing a very large part of this project!

If you have other ideas for videos you’d like to see, let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe 🙂

 

 

Letter to a young dancer

I recently received a comment on my Ask Me Anything post that caught my attention.

IMAG0310Michaela, an insightful dance student, recently decided not to pursue dance as a career path, and she was curious to explore the subject of competition, passion, and value in the dance studio.

Because of the rarity of dance contracts and the demands of the craft, most young dancers will not pursue a professional career in ballet. So, in a way, Michaela’s story is that of many students of dance, and I wanted to speak to her and any others that might be in her position. Her story may not be uncommon, but I have rarely heard such ideas articulated so well, so I wanted to share her comment in full before moving any further.

Here’s what she had to say: Continue reading “Letter to a young dancer”

Monks and ballet: an unlikely (but fruitful) combination

Have you ever wondered what monks look like while dancing ballet? Well search no further, because the answer lies just below.

What a surprise it was to have this opportunity to choreograph a ballet on the monks of Plum Village.

I won’t say too much, because the video speaks for itself, but suffice it to say that I had an incredibly pleasant experience rehearsing with the monks during the meditation retreat. It helped me see a lot of what we do from a different perspective from the way we often approach work in the studio. These are things I want to take with me in the future, dancing or not.

A few insights from this experience: Continue reading “Monks and ballet: an unlikely (but fruitful) combination”

Return from Plum Village

Hi everyone!

Many of you may not be aware, but I’ve been off at a meditation retreat for the past three months.

I realize this is pretty unusual for us in the western world (though not in Asia), but I’m very happy to have done it. A meditation retreat at Plum Village was one of those things that fit in neatly with all of the reasons I detailed in my previous posts about leaving the world of professional dance.

This is going to be a kind of mid-year analysis with myself to see how things are going. Sorry, this post might be a bit self-indulgent… but I thought it might be an interesting exercise to revisit the four reasons I highlighted for leaving the dance world and to see where my life fits into those ideas five months later. Think of it as a reality check.

Continue reading “Return from Plum Village”

Yannick Boquin: ballet tips and a dance class philosophy

This article is going to be quite directed towards ballet dancers, so if you have no knowledge of ballet terminology or coordination, this may not be the post for you. But if you do, you’re in the right place! This is a special post, with a personal contribution from master teacher Yannick Boquin – he wrote the following section himself, and it contains some of the most important underpinnings of his teachings. Look at these as the skeleton, muscle, and joints behind the body of his work: teaching ballet technique to the best in the world. (And whether you know ballet or not, don’t miss the great photo of him as a kid near the end!)

Before sharing his written notes, though, I wanted those of you that don’t yet know Yannick to get an idea of the kind of combinations he gives and his teaching style. Below is an example of Yannick’s class (skip to 1:20 to get to the actual class). Think of it as a sampler of the kind of class Yannick gives every day.

Continue reading “Yannick Boquin: ballet tips and a dance class philosophy”

Another perspective on leaving the ballet world: Chloe Shelby

So, I just the left the world of dance. And you’ve heard my story. But there are lots of other stories out there, often untold to the dance world. Or worse, misunderstood. When we are involved in an endeavor that has required such dedication to reach our level, it can be hard to understand why someone would give all that up.

This is Chloe Shelby’s story. She came up through the school of Oregon Ballet Theatre when I was in the company. She was one of the top students in her class, technically skilled, and smart to boot. I remember watching her in class and onstage and thinking “Man, will I ever have that kind of control?”

However, once she joined the professional world, it turned out that Chloe’s talent wasn’t enough to keep her going. This is not to say that she didn’t have the skills! Even with pure talent, the ballet world is tough – and without an inner fire and devotion to the work, it can be incredibly draining. As she explains, the professional dance world was entirely different from the one where she had been formed as a dancer, and her drive to continue hit a dead end.

But her future is no less bright because of it. Leaving the dance world can lead to so many different opportunities, and Chloe was able to find that inner fire elsewhere.

Continue reading “Another perspective on leaving the ballet world: Chloe Shelby”

Julia Rowe on being promoted to soloist at San Francisco Ballet

I’m a little slow on the uptake here, since Julia was named soloist several months ago, but I wanted to dig into what it means to be promoted – especially at such a revered company as San Francisco Ballet.

Promotions are some of the most sought after things in our world. After years of toiling in the corps, a promotion can act as recognition for all the hard work one has done. Yet, because of the nature of ranked companies and of their relatively flat structure, most in the ballet world never receive a single one. Julia has been promoted twice.

So what does it even mean to be promoted in the ballet world? How might receiving a promotion affect one’s relationship to the work?

Continue reading “Julia Rowe on being promoted to soloist at San Francisco Ballet”

Why I quit my job as a professional ballet dancer (part 2)

This is the continuation of a previous blog post. If you’d like to navigate your way there, click here.


Number 3: I wanted to learn how to build good habits, and I wanted to create.

Now, this may seem like a cop-out to say that I needed to quit ballet to learn how to build good habits. I know many ballet dancers who are intensely devoted to the work and focused on their craft. They do hours of extra exercise during the day, watch ballet videos during their downtime, come to class an hour early to stretch and prepare.

But I wasn’t ever like that. I was good at being efficient. I did the work that I needed to, and avoided doing anything extra on my personal time. I made sure to fulfill others’ expectations at work: I was professional, knew the choreography, and I stayed focused during class and rehearsal. And with that I not only got by, but I did relatively well. Yet there was a resistance in me to any work that went over and above my work in the studio.

Continue reading “Why I quit my job as a professional ballet dancer (part 2)”