Dancers: On Preparing for Nationals

"Apologize" by BdwayDiva1. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.

“Apologize” by BdwayDiva1. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.

by Karen Musey

It is amazing how fast the end of the dance season has arrived! Just when the challenges of the year are met, suddenly Nationals season arrives. For many studios it is just the beginning of a fast paced, intense week that will live on in studios’ and families’ memories for years to come.

A few tips on getting the most out of your week(s):

Rest. Make sure dancers/teachers/parents take some time out to recuperate from the year, before rehearsals and preparation for Nationals begin. After the intensity of the dance and school year and other personal challenges everyone faces, a little time off beforehand recharges students, faculty and families for the thrilling and energetic week that is Nationals. This is especially important if your studio registers for more than one Nationals. A little rest will recharge everyone’s body and spirit to be able to refocus on goals for the end of the season.

Update your goal. At the end of the season, sometimes dancers find themselves having already achieved their goals, and sometimes challenges come up that force dancers to rethink their goals. Maybe the achieved goal was to complete a clean triple pirouette. The new goal could be to make sure the movement before, during and after the triple stays emotionally connected to the piece. Make sure every team player knows what the overall team goal is, and recommit energy and focus to it. Share with each other specific, measurable goals that will feel like great achievements regardless of marks or placement.

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For Dancers: An Easy Guide To Portion Sizes


by Catherine L. Tully

What you eat matters, but so does how much you eat. Unfortunately, portion sizes can be hard to estimate. Let’s face it, nobody wants to carry around a stack of measuring cups!

Luckily, there’s a fairly simple way you can ballpark portions without too much trouble, and it involves something you always have with you—your hand! Use the following to keep an eye on how much you are eating—it works quite well. (Sizes are approximate.)

  • 1 serving of meat = the palm of your hand
  • 1 tablespoon = your thumb, from the second knuckle to the tip
  • 1 teaspoon = the tip of your index finger, second knuckle to the tip
  • 1 cup = the size of your fist
  • 1 ounce = your thumb, from the first knuckle to the tip
  • 1⁄2 cup = loosely cupped hand

These simple measurements can help you estimate how much you are eating and keep you from overdoing it. Keep them in mind when you head out to a restaurant, or when you are preparing meals or snacks.

Dance Advantage and 4dancers have written a guide for healthy eating, studying smart, navigating dance coursework, roommate relations and more–designed specifically for college freshmen going off to a dance program. This post is an excerpt from that e-book.

Learn more about this resource and get it for yourself or someone you know here:

College Dance Programs




Dancer Profile: Daniil Simkin

Daniil Simkin. Photograph by Rosalie O'Connor. Used with Permission from American Ballet Theatre and Rosalie O'Connor.

Daniil Simkin. Photograph by Rosalie O’Connor. Used with Permission from American Ballet Theatre and Rosalie O’Connor.

“What scares me, actually, is being too calm and not having enough nervousness to be on stage” – Daniil Simkin

Born in Russia, raised in Germany, Daniil Simkin comes from a ballet family. His mother and father were professional dancers and his older brother, Anton Alexandrov, is a member of The Hamburg Ballet.

Simkin fell in love with performing at a young age when he joined his father onstage in small parts. His dance serious training, however, did not begin until age 10 when mother started teaching him ballet in private lessons. Her regime featured two hour classes per day, six days a week. Her syllabus drew upon Russian, French, and Cuban training techniques.

Simkin continued his academic studies at a regular school and never attended a formal ballet school. He told the New York Times, “I didn’t grow up with the clichés about ballet school, the competitiveness or aggressiveness, because I was the only one. I never saw it as a mission to be a ballet dancer or make it my life.”

Simkin started competing at age 12 and went on to win prizes at on the international circuit. A tech enthusiast ahead of his time, he began sharing videos of his competition solos online before it was common for dancers to do so. As a result, he became an internet sensation in the dance world. Despite his success, he wasn’t certain he wanted to become a dancer until he won grand prix at the International Ballet Competition in 2005 at age 16.

In 2006, he joined the Vienna State Opera Ballet as a demi-soloist. In 2008, he left to become a soloist at American Ballet Theatre, one of his dream companies. Company life presented certain challenges for Simkin. Since he was privately-trained, he initially lacked partnering experience. In addition, learning many different roles at once was a stark change from his mother’s more singularly-focused lessons. Yet, Simkin adapted to the new work environment and has no regrets about his upbringing. In 2012, he was promoted to principal dancer at ABT.

One of Simkin’s goals is to use the internet and social media to try to remove the mystique surrounding ballet dancers. He says, “I am not a “special breed” of a human or some super-natural, royal person. I am a simple person, who is a dancer.”

Fun Facts:

    • He keeps cookies in the dance bag for a sugar-high.
    • His favorite choreographers are Jiri Kylian, Alexei Ratmansky. and Mats Ek.
    • If he could be a superhero, he said he would be “HappyMan”, a character possessing the ability to make people instantly happy.

Follow Simkin On:

His Website:

Simkin Dancing in 2001 at Age 13 Alongside his Father:

Simkin dancing at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition in 2005:

Montage of Simkin Dancing as a Child and Today:

Simkin in the City (Humor, 2013):


Daniil Simkin, Standing Out, Reaching Out

New York Times Article on Simkin

Guest Artist Spotlight: Daniil Simkin

Simkin’s Interview With Rogue Ballerina
MEN IN TIGHTS: Daniil Simkin!

Simkin’s Interview with Madame B NYC Blog

An Interview with Daniil Simkin

Simkin’s Interview with The Ballet Bag, Plus a List of What’s in His Ballet Bag

An interview with Daniil Simkin

Simkin’s Interview with Gramilano


Fresh Choreography Every Time

Untitled photo by "snickclunk". Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Untitled photo by “snickclunk“. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.

by Janet Rothwell

As a high school dance educator I am responsible for choreographing four or five dances each year for various performances. Although choreography is my favorite aspect of dance, it can be challenging to come up with new ideas, movement, spatial designs, beginnings, endings, and themes each year. As someone who values originality and the creative process, I have realized there are certain things I do to help me stay organized and creative in my work.

Over the years I have adjusted my process to include some staple methods so as to not get burnt out with repeating the same movement or spatial pattern every time I choreograph a piece. I thought I would share these specific parts of my choreographic process that seem to aid me each year as I strive to maintain newness in my artistry.

1. Maintain a choreography journal

My choreography journal is my best friend in my creative process. Not only do I use it daily while choreographing works, but I use it year round to write down ideas that pop up at random times for future works too. I write down music I like or ideas I have for themes so that when I have to create a new dance and I feel uninspired or stuck trying to think of something, I can go to my journal and look at the running list of things I have written.

I find that my choreography journal is extremely helpful for me to remember what is happening in the dances I create with my students. When I’m juggling three or more pieces at once it’s difficult to remember what choreographic elements I have already used with other dances, and since I value being original and unique with my choreography I write everything down in my journal. I make drawings of spatial designs, describe movement ideas, brainstorm titles, take notes on my music, and write down costume ideas. I also make notes on what I want to do for the next day so that when I return to my students I can take a look at my journal and know where we are in the work and in the music.

A choreography journal does not have to be pen and paper either, although I find that’s what works for me. You could use a tablet, your phone, or whatever tool you like to work best in your process. However, I would say that staying consistent is best to keep organized. There is nothing worse than having written down great notes only to have misplaced loose papers or random receipts you wrote them on. I keep an actual journal so that all of my ideas are in one place and easy to find.

2. Pick clear themes and diverse music for each dance

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Expect The Unexpected: Hubbard Street’s Evening Of Cerrudo

Alejandro Cerrudo's Still in Motion

Hubbard Street Dancers Jacqueline Burnett, foreground, Jonathan Fredrickson and Ana Lopez in Still in Motion by Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

by Catherine L. Tully

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Season 37 Summer Series takes place at the Harris Theater, featuring three works from resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. This is only the second time the company has presented a program that focuses on a single artist, and taking in an entire evening of this gifted choreographer’s work is truly a luxury to experience.

White feathers cascade slowly to the stage floor in preparation for the beginning program piece, Extremely Close. One of Cerrudo’s earliest works for the company, it’s perfectly bookended with his more recent Little mortal jump, showing the evolution of his choreography from one piece to the other. Both make ample use of large sliding panels, which add intrigue and energy throughout. The cinematic quality that is so often a hallmark of Cerrudo’s work is present here, along with the poignant moments he creates using unusual imagery. Hubbard Street dancers were meant for this choreography and they execute it confidently with both vigor and ease.

Hubbard Street Dancers

Hubbard Street Dancers Andrew Murdock and Jessica Tong in Extremely Close by Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg. Hubbard Street Dance Technical Rehearsal of Extremely Close by Alejandro Cerrudo © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

The second item on the program is Cerrudo’s world premiere, Still in Motion, which offers a marked departure from his previous style. Even so, the highly edited and pared-down choreography still displays signature traits: a spectacular circular fluidity, moving from silence to sound, quick vignettes.

The set consists of a light-colored tarp that stretches long across the floor and up onto the back wall–with a strip of neon blue marking the top. Visually it resembles a strange sort of wave, something almost confirmed by two women stretching out on the ground undulating gently–as if floating under water. The set and lighting design by Michael Korsch offer a quiet, subtle compliment to the choreographer’s work.

Hubbard Street Dancers Alice Klock, foreground, and Garrett Patrick Anderson in Still in Motion  by Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Hubbard Street Dancers Alice Klock, foreground, and Garrett Patrick Anderson in Still in Motion
by Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

While many of Cerrudo’s previous pieces display an urgency that tends to hold or build throughout, Still in Motion feels more relaxed, more refined. Movements here are simple, even at times, almost pedestrian. Three male dancers breathing deeply in unison. An exaggerated walk. Postures that are held. Slight gestures.

Rather than a watered-down version of his own work, however, Still in Motion instead has a clarity and streamlined sophistication previously unseen in Cerrudo’s choreography. It moves in a new direction without totally reinventing his style or abandoning the beauty of it. And the Hubbard Street dancers, chameleons to the core, adapt effortlessly to whatever they are asked to do.

Little mortal jump

Hubbard Street Dancers Jesse Bechard, left, and Ana Lopez in Little mortal jump by Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Closing the program is Little mortal jump. This was Cerrudo’s tenth creation for the company, and it highlights the athletic skills of the dancers as well as the choreographer’s ability to amuse, entertain and evoke emotion. A lighthearted, fun approach at the beginning of the piece gives way to a swirling, thrilling duet–a riveting end to a triumphant program.

Hubbard Street’s Summer Series runs through June 14th at the Harris Theater. Tickets are still available.


Curtain Call With Pacific Northwest Ballet: Carla Körbes

by Rachel Hellwig

Carla Körbes shocked and saddened the ballet world last fall when she announced her early retirement at age 33. On Sunday night, she gave her final performance with Pacific Northwest Ballet and the company live streamed the program, giving fans an opportunity to be in the audience, regardless of their geographic location. I was able to watch from Birmingham, Alabama.

Körbes appeared in three of the works on the mixed bill, beginning with Jessica Lang’s The Calling, set to choral music from 12th-13th century. Wearing a long white dress whose material engulfs the floor around her, Körbes articulated though the tense and yearning energy of the upper body-focused choreography, skillfully channeling her dramatic qualities.

In Balanchine’s Diamonds pas de deux, she brought an Odette-like sensibility to her role, imbuing it with vulnerability and hesitant-but-increasingly-trusting affection for her partner–the strong, stately Karel Cruz. In the touching final moment, when he kneels and suddenly kisses her hand, her reaction mingles surprise and anticipation, as if she were hoping for it, but not entirely certain it would happen.

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Dancer Profile: Yuan Yuan Tan

Yuan Yuan Tan. Photograph by Erik Tomasson.

Yuan Yuan Tan. Photograph by Erik Tomasson.

 “To be perfect is impossible, but to be better is possible.” – Yuan Yuan Tan

The first chapter of Yuan Yuan Tan’s dance career literally hinged on a coin toss. The 11-year-old was among a small group of students selected for the prestigious Shanghai Dancing School–despite the fact that she had no dance experience at the time. Tan’s mother approved of the plan, but her father did not. He wanted her to be a doctor or engineer. Believers in fate, her parents decided to flip a coin. Dance won.

Tan was behind at the school and struggled at first, often just watching other students from the corner. But then a teacher recognized her natural talent and gave her private lessons. Soon enough, Tan excelled. She started entering and winning awards at ballet competitions, though she found the stress to be challenging. Yet, it was at competitions that San Francisco Ballet director Helgi Tomasson first spotted her. He invited her to join the company as a soloist. Two years later, she was promoted to principal- the youngest dancer to achieve this status in the history of the company.

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