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 🙂

 

 

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”

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”

5 perspectives on the life of a professional ballet dancer

What is it like to be a dancer? What do we strive for? What do we fear?

In my previous article, I wrote about my perspective of the pursuit of perfection in a ballet dancer’s life, and about what that might entail. I got a great response from all of you, but it made me wonder: “How would others describe their motivation for what they do? What do they see as their ultimate goal in being a dancer, and what might be some of their personal obstacles in the way of progressing towards that goal?”

So I decided to reach out to several friends of mine – each in different places in their life, different stages of their dancing career, and different kinds of ballet companies – to get an idea of just how our goals and obstacles in this dancing life might differ, and to see how they might compare.

Turns out there’s plenty of common ground in their answers. Let’s meet my contributors: Continue reading “5 perspectives on the life of a professional ballet dancer”

Corporal questions: Ask me anything

Hi everyone!

The past few months have been an enjoyable exploration of putting down into writing the thoughts and the thought process that I go through during my days in the studio. I hope you all have enjoyed it as much as I have.

But I realized, there’s just one thing missing: a two-way conversation. Continue reading “Corporal questions: Ask me anything”

VIDEO: Souffle Provisoire

Last year I had the honor of working with a close friend and dance maker, Johanna Henritius, and several other good friends, to make a dance film. The concept of this 10-minute video came to her in a dream, and in it she manages to focus on the human elements of dance. This is dance, but with much less of a focus on technicality or acrobatics. This is about capturing true emotions, and not the artifice or bravura we often see.

Three of us in the film dance full-time with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, so it was tough to fit in the time to film (much less rehearse!), but we made the time we could and attempted to produce something honest and touching.

As a first film project, I’m extremely proud of Johanna and what she achieved through this project, and I wanted to share it with any and all of you that haven’t experienced it yet.

Here’s the teaser:

 

If this intrigues you and you have 1o minutes to spare, check out the whole video at her website. I highly recommend it: http://henritius.com/film.html

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”

Five differences between American and European ballet

Are you a ballet dancer in America interested in hopping over the Atlantic and getting a job dancing in Europe? Or vice-versa? Do your homework first, and have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. The professional dance world in Europe, while similar to America, is of a different breed, and it does’t always favor the same skills that are accentuated in the states.

Although Petipa originated much of classical ballet, things split off at a certain point  between US and European classical dance. While it may not be fair to lump all of European dance into one group, there are some commonalities that most European ballet companies do not share with America. This is evident in company repertoire, but also in the way they work internally, and each ballet company reflects the cultural environment that shaped them. I’m going to try to shed some light on the most obvious of differences between these two continental dance cultures.

Continue reading “Five differences between American and European ballet”