by Risa Gary Kaplowitz
Maggie Black, one of the foremost ballet teachers of a generation of dancers, died on May 11, 2015. Her death initiated a flood of Facebook posts and even a Remembering Maggie Black Facebook page, where former students can write their memories about Maggie and her infamous quotes. I was happy to relive those years, as even now, three decades after having danced in Maggie’s class, it is often that I dream of dancing in her studio–or have nightmares of not being able to find it.
I first went to Maggie’s classes in 1981 at age 20 during what became the first of many summer lay-off periods. I was just starting to get principal roles at Dayton Ballet, and Christine O’Neal, formerly of American Ballet Theatre, Broadway’s A Chorus Line, and Dayton Ballet’s reigning principal dancer at the time, had recommended that I spend the summer taking Maggie’s classes. They were held in a loft in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, which was at that time a rather decrepit part of the city filled with warehouses and, from my vantage point at the barre peering into the neighboring building, sweatshops. I found a sublet nearby in the Chelsea Hotel and took Maggie’s 2.5-hour class every day for close to a month before she must have realized that I was committed to her and so finally descended on me with my first personal correction.
by Jan Dunn, MS
We recently posted an article showing you the first part of a terrific foot warm-up, from the Franklin Method, using small balls—and if you’ve been trying it, you may have learned that it warms up more than just the feet!
I promised you the 2nd half, for both feet, and here it is. I suggest you read this full article first, as opposed to following along as I describe it. This is very much a balance / core stability challenge, and I want to give you some cues along the way. So read first / do afterwards, incorporating the cues…
First do right foot / left foot individually, as shown in Part 1. Then –
Up And Over
Put both balls together, a couple inches apart. Brace your heels on the ground, and put your forefoot on the balls, with knees straight. You’ll notice a nice Achilles stretch as you take that position.
Roll up and over the balls, so that your toes are now braced on the floor, with your heels on the balls. Keep your knees straight as you do this.
Practice rolling back and forth, with knees still straight, from toes to heels, keeping your body centered and aligned. Your feet are basically going from plantar flexion (pointing) to dorsi-flexion (ankle flexion), in anatomical terms.
Tips and cues:
Aloha to all!
This is a very special post regarding the Dance Wellness segment of 4dancers.org:
In the fall of 2011, Catherine Tully (whom I had never met) contacted me and asked me if I would like to write an article about Dance Medicine and Science – aka Dance Wellness – for her online site, just to introduce readers to that aspect of information in the dance world. I was pleased to do so, and so in January of 2012, we posted that first article. Your response, as readers, was so overwhelmingly positive that Catherine asked me to start a new on-going segment of 4dancers, entitled “Dance Wellness”. I did, and the rest is history. Over the last 3+ years we have posted, 36 articles, written not only by myself but by guest contributors whom I have brought in.
Your eagerness to learn more about this important field has prompted us to take the next step, to continue “spreading the word” online about the many aspects of Dance Wellness, and how all of this information can help dancers to “dance longer, dance stronger”. We are so pleased to announce the 4dancers.org Dance Wellness Panel–a distinguished group of people from the Dance Medicine and Science field, who have agreed to join us in this new endeavor.
Below you will find each of our panel members, along with information about their backgrounds, associations and areas of specialty. We are thrilled to have them on board, and we look forward to sharing more dance wellness information with you in the coming months!
My best to everyone-
Jan Dunn, MS
Dance Wellness Editor – 4dancers.org
James Garrick, MD., is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder and Medical Director of the Center for Sports Medicine, at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, California. When founded 35 years ago, the Center had the first Dance Medicine department on the West Coast, and had one of only two West Coast Pilates facilities. For forty years he has been one of the leading figures in the dance medicine field, with particular research interests in the epidemiology of dance and sports injuries. His research includes a cost analysis of dancers’ workman’s comp injuries, insurance coverage of independent dance companies in San Francisco Bay area, and injury patterns in young dancers.
Dr. Garrick was physician for San Francisco Ballet Company, founded the clinic for dancers at San Francisco School for the Arts, and is currently on the physician panel for the San Francisco Ballet School. He also founded the Sports Medicine Division at the University of Washington, and is a founding and former board member of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. He is a clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, and serves on the editorial board of several journals. He has authored / co-authored five books, including Ski Conditioning (1978), Peak Condition (1986), and Sports Injuries – Diagnosis and Management (1990), as well as numerous articles for medical journals and book chapters.
Dr. Garrick is a member of American College of Sport Medicine, American Orthopedic Surgeons, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA), and International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS).
Gigi Berardi, PhD has an academic background and performing experience that allow her to combine her interests in the natural and social sciences with her passion for dance, as both critic and writer. Over 300 articles and reviews by Dr. Berardi have appeared in broadcast and print media, including Dance Magazine, Dance International, the Los Angeles Times, the Anchorage Daily News, The Olympian, The Bellingham Herald, LA Style, IDEA Today, LA Reader, LA Weekly, and scientific journals such as Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, Kinesiology and Medicine for Dance, Dance Research Journal, Your Patient and Fitness, and Impulse: The International Journal of Dance Science, Education, and Medicine. She has written as a national advocacy columnist for the Dance Critics Association Newsletter and has served on performing arts panels for the Alaska State Council on the Arts. She currently serves as a contributing editor and writer for and a correspondent for Dance Magazine. She is a founding co-editor of Kinesiology and Medicine for Dance and currently serves as Book Review Editor for Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. Her public radio features (for KSKA, Anchorage) have been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Dance Critics Association, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
A professor at Western Washington University, she received the university’s Diversity Achievement Award in 2004. Finding Balance: Fitness and Training for a Lifetime in Dance is her fifth book. The completely revised edition appeared in 2005, a seminar on the earlier edition was noted in The New Yorker; both editions had second printings. Her technical training, residencies, and seminars are listed in her resume. In winter, 2000, she was a Fairhaven College Distinguished Teaching Colleague for dance.
Robin Kish, MS, MFA, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Dance at Chapman University. Robin blends her background in dance and science to creative innovative educational programs supporting the development of safe and effective dance training programs.
She has presented research and developed education lectures for the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) and the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS). In 2013 she developed the first online dance kinesiology class for the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO). As a product of the private studio / competition environment she is passionate about bringing dancer wellness and safe teaching practices to the industry.
Moira McCormack, MS, is Head of Physiotherapy at The Royal Ballet Company in London, UK.
After a professional dance career in classical ballet she trained as a dance teacher and then as a Physical Therapist and has worked with dancers for the last 20 years. She teaches anatomy, dance technique and injury prevention internationally, with a main interest in the management of the hypermobile dancer.
Janice G. Plastino, PhD is Emerita Professor from the University of California Irvine (USA) in the Department of Dance. Her book with James Penrod, The Dancer Prepares: Modern Dance for Beginners has been in continual print with revisions since 1970. She has published extensively with papers, journal articles, and several book chapters. She has danced professionally on television, stage, and in dance companies for national and international venues.
Dr. Plastino’s choreography of over 50 works includes 15 years as co-director of Penrod Plastino Movement Theatre, directing opera at Lincoln Center, New York, and creating works at NBC and the BBC television. She is regarded as the founder of the field of Dance Science, and established the first dancer screening / wellness program in an educational setting at UCI in 1982. She introduced the Pilates Method in the UCI Dept. Of Dance in 1983, the first such program in higher education.
She was instrumental in the formation of the National Dance Education Association (NDEO), and a leader during the organization’s early years. She has been a member of Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) since 1989, served on the BOD for four years, and in 2013 was awarded the Dawson Service Award. In 2015, she became the first recipient of the International Association for Dance Medicine’s (IADMS) Dance Educator Award.
Dr. Plastino has reported her findings in dance science to scientific societies and medical associations throughout the United States and abroad. She was an invited guest of the USSR government in 1988 (before détente), observing the Bolshoi and Kirov ballet companies while consulting and lecturing about dance injuries. The Olympic Committee invited her to lecture on dance injuries at the 1984 Olympic Scientific Congress held in Eugene, Oregon and in Seoul, South Korea in 1988. Her pioneering and continuing work in the pre-participation screening of dancers has been lauded by the medical, research and dance communities. Many of her students have established wellness programs at their colleges, universities, private studios, and private practices.
Dr. Plastino is currently adapting her movement theories for use in for the private dance studio. She is most passionate about the private studios having easy access to new research in training methods of the young dancer. Currently she consults on dancer wellness, evaluation of public and private dance programs, gives dancer wellness workshops, and continues to present papers at conferences.
Emma Redding, PhD is Head of Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Emma originally trained as a dancer and performed with the company Tranz Danz, Hungary and for Rosalind Newman, Hong Kong. She teaches contemporary dance technique at Trinity Laban and lectures in physiology alongside her management and research work. She has been Principal Investigator for several large-scale research projects including a 3-year government funded study into dance talent identification and development as well as studies into the physical and mental demands of music playing and the role of mental imagery within creative practice.
She has published her work in academic journals and is a member of the Board of Directors and a Past President of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS). She is also founding Partner of the UK National Institute for Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS).
Erin Sanchez, MS is the Healthier Dancer Programme Manager (job share) at Dance UK in London, administrates the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation’s Medical Website for healthcare professionals and dancers and manages the Dance Psychology Network.
Erin pursued vocational dance training with American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet School and the Alvin Ailey School. She also holds a BA (Hons) in Dance and Sociology from the University of New Mexico and an MSc in Dance Science from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.
Erin is a registered provider for Safe in Dance International, a member of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science and holds the qualification in Safe and Effective Dance Practice. She has lectured in dance science and taught dance technique in the United States, UK, Egypt and Malta.
Selina Shah, MD, FACP is a board certified sports medicine and internal medicine physician and the Director of Dance Medicine at the Center for Sports Medicine in San Francisco, CA and Walnut Creek, CA. She has lectured nationally and internationally on various dance medicine topics and has published papers in medical journals and books including her original research on dance injuries in contemporary professional dancers. She is the dance company physician for the San Francisco Ballet School, Liss Fain Dance Company and Diablo Ballet. She is a physician for Berkeley Repertory Theater, Mill’s College, St. Mary’s College, and Northgate High School. She takes care of the performers for Cirque du Soleil and various Broadway productions when they come to the San Francisco Bay Area. She has taken care of several Broadway performers (i.e. American Idiot, South Pacific, Lion King, Book of Mormon, MoTown, and Billy Elliot). She is a team physician for USA Synchronized Swimming, USA Weightlifting, USA Figure Skating and travels with the athletes internationally and nationally. She is also a member of the USA Gymnastics Referral Network. As a former professional Bollywood and salsa dancer, Dr. Shah is passionate about caring for dancers. She continues taking ballet classes weekly and also enjoys running, yoga, Pilates, weightlifting, and plyometric exercise.
Nancy Wozny is editor in chief of Arts + Culture Texas, reviews editor at Dance Source Houston and a contributor to Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher and Dance Magazine, where she is also a contributing editor. She has taught and written about Feldenkrais and somatics in dance for two decades.
At Wolverhampton he is the course leader for the MSc in Dance Science and Director of Studies for a number of dance science and medicine doctoral candidates. He is a founding partner of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, UK.
Prof. Wyon is Vice President of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science and a past chair of the Research Committee. He has worked with numerous dancers and companies within the UK and Europe as an applied physiologist and strength and conditioning coach.0
by Rachel Hellwig
“Dance is only taught in a fraction of schools nationally. But here in New York City, a growing number of schools are offering dance as a distinct course of study,” says Paula Zahn, host of PS DANCE!, a new film that explores and celebrates dance education in New York City public schools.
At P.S. 89 Liberty School in Manhattan, dance teacher Catherine Gallant guides her elementary students through an exercise set to Saint-Saens’ music “Aquarium”. They improvise aquatic life forms in swimming, swishing, watery gestures as she calls out ideas to inspire them. Gallant says that “all children have a large appetite for movement”. She also employs dance to help students remember history. When her class studies Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, they use motion to imitate the experiences of escaping slaves–running through fields, crossing bridges, and hiding behind trees.0
by Karen Musey
Each competition experience brings new highlights and challenges! How time is utilized in-between events is a big factor in determining how each dance studio and dancer excels at each event, and how they grow over the year.
Keeping choreography fresh and spirits high after drilling and performing the same material week after week for months at a time can be a challenge! As dancers find their groove within the choreography, sometimes they start to sit back when they feel that they’ve accomplished the task. Also, often the choreographer is no longer on hand to continue the development of the work. It is important to maintain the structure of the piece, as well as encouraging each dancer to continue to evolve their own interpretation and ideas of it.
The more dancers move out of a neutral approach to performing their piece, the more the piece will evolve and affect the audience. And PS – continually finding ways to improve, define and deepen the work is great preparation for understanding how to develop work as a professional dancer; it is also a great skill to develop for any job…
Deepening The Work
Play! – Once the piece is memorized and the muscle memory has set in, then the artist is free to explore! If you can experience your piece through different kinds of filters (just like Instagram!), you will discover new layers and depth within the choreography. For example – changing up how we work with resistance helps us to discover different kinds of qualities in a movement. Moving through peanut butter vs feeling like you are made of bubbles vs oozing like green slime all change the dancer’s interpretation of the same movement, which opens up new possibilities of expression.
If a piece has a light, carefree expression to it, try approaching the choreography from an opposite angle – tension, gravity, labored. After experiencing the opposite, turn the filter back in the reverse direction, to extreme lightness and fluidity – more than was experienced originally. You will find that the piece will naturally want to lean in a certain direction. Changing the intention will open up new ideas in how the choreographer was interpreting the music. Maybe adding more lightness creates more freedom. Maybe adding weight and stillness creates a stronger emotional impact in the choreography. Maybe the intention stays the same, but now the original movement has expanded in feeling and has more nuance and variation. Playing with an opposite intention against the original goals of the choreography can open up huge, new emotional spectrums in the piece. Finding unexpected pockets in movement for hope, sadness, sweetness, longing, and connection is wonderful to discover.
“Trust yourself, you can do so much more than you think you can.” –Maria Kochetkova
Maria Kochetkova did not want to be a dancer. She wanted to be a gymnast. But her parents encouraged her to try ballet, arguing that dancers had longer career prospects than gymnasts. Kochetkova hated the idea at first, but came to appreciate dance and proved talented enough to be accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet’s school. Still, she found ballet hard and training at the school intense and often intimidating. She also came to learn that her height of five feet would limit professional opportunities in her home country.
Against the wishes of her teachers, she entered the Prix de Lausanne competition at age 18. The plan paid off–she won an apprenticeship to the Royal Ballet. She took it, as the Bolshoi did not offer her a job. But life in London wasn’t easy. She felt restrained in the company and her contract was not renewed. She left to join the English National Ballet where she rose to the rank of soloist. Eventually, though, she felt restrained there as well and desired to explore a more contemporary and diverse repertoire. She had her eye on San Francisco Ballet and sent them an audition tape. She did not hear back. In the meantime, she serendipitously crossed paths with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon who happened to be searching for a short female dancer for San Francisco Ballet. He was impressed by her work and recommended her to the artistic director, Helgi Tomasson. She was soon offered the position of principal. She has been with the company ever since.0
by Ashley Ellis
Boston Ballet’s upcoming program is titled Thrill of Contact, and it’s an amazing collection of ballets. Costumes range from Classical tutus to goofy hats—to dancers wearing socks. It’s an ideal program to display Boston Ballet at its best; showcasing the incredible power and range of styles that its dancers can achieve. It features works by Robbins and Forsythe, and a world premiere by Principal Dancer, Jeffrey Cirio.
It also includes George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.
It is extremely gratifying to push myself to try and achieve the control and precision demanded by Balanchine’s choreography. In addition to the demands of the steps and musicality, there are stylistic details that are important to apply when dancing these ballets. They say that some of these stylistic changes surfaced when Mr. B would ask his dancers to do steps quicker than they were typically executed. Part of the fun of dancing Balanchine ballets is applying these details and “flares” that are particular to his choreography and are part of what makes it unique from that of any other choreographer.
At the moment I am preparing for the iconic Theme and Variations. My first experience with Theme was when I was 15 years old; I was chosen to dance an excerpt from the role for the final show at the ABT Summer Intensive. Although it was just a tidbit of the ballet, the experience really stuck with me. A couple of years passed and I got to be a part of the ballet as a whole, dancing one of the corps spots in ABT’s productions. This time around, I have the honor of dancing the principal role alongside my wonderful partner Paulo Arrais.
In Theme, the female variations are very short, but what it lacks in length is made up for in speed. I feel that my heart already needs to be beating overtime just to make my muscles react with the urgency and briskness needed. At first I found the variations to be intimidating; almost like little packages of anxiety when the music played; your legs and feet required to move so fast—all the while making it look like it’s easy. But as with other parts, you work on it and the steps start to feel more natural—and then you are able to apply the quality—like putting icing on a cake.
The second female variation goes directly into the pas de deux. This is difficult because you are so tired, but it almost doesn’t matter because the music is just so beautiful. I even remember the first time I heard the music during a show with ABT; when it began, my attention was immediately drawn to what was happening on the stage. There is something very unique about it.
I am not an expert on the Balanchine style, or his ballets. What I do know comes from what I have experienced while preparing for and dancing a selection of his wonderful works. His choreography demands a high level of technique and a strong sense of musicality. Both of these details are things that entice me. It is so much about the music, and in turn about the quality of how your execution of the steps embodies that music.
George Balanchine was one of the most influential choreographers of his time. He may even have been the most influential. I always find that I feel something special when dancing his ballets, and because of my long history with Theme, I know that performing this particular treasure will be very dear to me.
Boston Ballet presents Thrill of Contact, a striking program of precision and impressive athleticism featuring works by Balanchine, Robbins, Forsythe, and a world premiere by Principal Dancer, Jeffrey Cirio. It runs from May 14th – May 24th.
Contributing writer Ashley Ellis is a principal dancer at Boston Ballet. Ellis hails from Torrance, California and she received her dance training at the South Bay Ballet under the direction of Diane Lauridsen. Other instruction included Alicia Head, Mario Nugara, Charles Maple, and Kimberly Olmos.
She began her professional career with American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company and later joined American Ballet Theatre as a company dancer. In 1999, Ellis won the first prize at the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award, and went on to become the recipient of the Coca Cola scholarship award in 2000 and 2001. She has performed in Spain with Angel Corella’s touring group and joined Corella Ballet in 2008 as a soloist. In 2011, Ellis joined Boston Ballet as a second soloist. She was promoted to soloist in 2012 and principal dancer in 2013.
Her repertoire includes Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker; Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadère; Marius Petipa’s Swan Lake; Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse, VIII and Polyphonia; Harald Lander’s Études; Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides; Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote; Christopher Bruce’s Rooster; George Balanchine’s Serenade, Coppélia, Symphony in Three Movements, Symphony in C, and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux; Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto; Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room; Stanton Welch’s Clear; Angel Corella’s String Sextet; Wayne McGregor’s Chroma; Jorma Elo’s Awake Only; Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free; Jiří Kylián’s Wings of Wax, Symphony of Psalms, and Petite Mort.1