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

 

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”

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”

On dancing and the pursuit of perfection

Not too long ago, a friend aptly noticed that I often refer to our goal as dancers as “reaching as close as we can to perfection.” He wanted me to unpack that statement. What does that even mean? Are we talking about technical attainment? Power or finesse? Maybe something else?

As Steven put it, we’re transitional beings… we’re of this world, and whether we like it or not, perfection is not an option. Such a thing is an illusion.rainbow-background-1149610__180

But having a personal idea of perfection does present a way forward. It is the needle on our compass. What are we reaching for in ballet if not an ideal?

The fact that perfection is unreachable doesn’t mean that our work is meaningless. No, we’ll never reach that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but we will see many things on our journey. Continue reading “On dancing and the pursuit of perfection”

Why the ancient greeks are the best ballet dancers: a brief look at Stoicism

A few months ago, Sports Illustrated released an article entitled: “How a book on stoicism became wildly popular at every level of the NFL.” This article detailed how The Obstacle is the Way, a book about the benefits of applying the ancient greek philosophy of Stoicism to life in the modern world, has spread throughout the NFL, including football players and coaches alike.

I read this book last year, and I found it to be full of wisdom and good advice.

This ancient approach has implications for anyone to live their lives in an optimistic, non-cynical way, but it’s especially relevant for those in a world where every little improvement makes a difference. Practice makes perfect, yes, but only with the right mindset.

If this approach can help the football world, I figure we in the dance world have something to learn from it as well. Even if the two are worlds apart in the kinds of people they attract, both worlds are part of the human enterprise of pursuing perfection, both mental and physical.

Stoicism is a philosophy that understands that while perfection may be unreachable, there are ways to reach a little bit closer. Step 1: Get out of your own way. Continue reading “Why the ancient greeks are the best ballet dancers: a brief look at Stoicism”

Yannick Boquin (part 2): lessons learned from a life dedicated to ballet

We’re back with Yannick Boquin for round two of our interview. If you missed the first part of the interview, catch it here – if not read on. Yannick has spent time in pretty much all of the corners of the ballet world. Whether as a principal dancer, guest teacher, ballet master, or choreographer, he’s done it all, and in this section we explore some of the insights he’s come away with during each of these careers.

Continue reading “Yannick Boquin (part 2): lessons learned from a life dedicated to ballet”

Yannick Boquin on ballet technique, physics, and how to teach a good class

Welcome! Today I’m trying something new. I thought it might be interesting to interview one of the most prominent guest teachers in the business (art form?) to see what knowledge he could share with us about ballet culture and his long experience as a dancer and teacher.

Yannick Boquin is a guest teacher at many of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world, including the Royal Swedish Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Dresden SemperOper Ballet, and of course, my home, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Educated at the Paris Opera Ballet School, and having danced as a principayannick-boquinl dancer with several companies, most notably the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Yannick has traveled the world and seen many of the similarities and differences between ballet company’s cultures and dance styles. Yannick has his finger on the pulse of the ballet world. He teaches a supremely well thought out class, and has identified a logically consistent view of ballet technique that he teaches in his company class. I recently had the chance to  sit down with him and ask him a bit about himself and about the wisdom he’s amassed through the years.

Continue reading “Yannick Boquin on ballet technique, physics, and how to teach a good class”

Correcting the crowd: how group feedback affects us

How do you inspire a group of dancers to live up to their full potential?

One of the most important skills to learn as an artistic director, ballet master, choreographer, or teacher is learning how to speak to and manage the group. All  bosses have to do it. Organizing a large group of people can be hard at times, and learning the skills necessary to pull the best out of that group can be a long, hard process.

One of the most important tools that can be used is group feedback.Photo on 12-21-15 at 8.07 PM Just as the coach of a football team needs to be able to call the team together to inspire them to action, so does the person at the front of the room need to be able to gather the dancers together to “course-correct.” It might be to suggest a way of approaching the choreography, it might be chiding the group for a lack of focus, or it may be an inspirational talk to boost spirits. It may even be all three at the same time. Group feedback can be used for many different outcomes, but the main idea is to focus the whole group on a particular issue or desired approach.

The principal questions here are: what makes group feedback succeed at its intended purpose? And how can it be used to inspire dancers to work better or harder? Continue reading “Correcting the crowd: how group feedback affects us”

You suck at dancing and it’s your own damn fault (part 2)

 

In the first part of this article, I tackled the false idea that many of us (whether dancers or non-dancers) often have, which is that “you suck at dancing”. If you missed it, find it here. If not, read on.

The second myth I want to take on in this article is this: it’s completely your choice to (and definitely your fault that you) dance the way you do.


This is perhaps the most prominent illusion in our world today, and all sorts of notions about self, willpower, and self-worth are wrapped up in it. Continue reading “You suck at dancing and it’s your own damn fault (part 2)”