by Rachel Malehorn
Dancers who join classical ballet companies will be a part of the centuries-old tradition of the full-length ballet. These evening-long works not only showcase the brilliance of classical ballet technique, but also set this dancing in a dramatic context with the goal of telling a story. Even an audience member who has no background or understanding of dance can get lost in these stories, and can leave the theater transformed. Dancers spend years of their lives endeavoring to perfect their technique, but sometimes their power as actors and actresses can be overlooked or de-emphasized. The stories our ballets tell are magical, fantastic, romantic, tragic, and sometimes difficult. Throughout my career as a dancer, I have come to love and look forward to the dual opportunity to dance with accuracy—and also to convey the drama of these stories.
As Milwaukee Ballet prepares for its upcoming performances, I have been meditating on two important themes: the process wherein dancers and choreographers communicate the story of a full-length ballet, and the importance of telling these stories—even if they don’t always have happy endings. Romeo & Juliet, Manon, Onegin, Madame Butterfly, and even La Bayadere are classic tales of thwarted love, in which the tragic heroines suffer death or disaster as the price of their love.
But perhaps the epitome of the tragic ballet is Giselle, created in Paris at the peak of Romanticism. In this story, Giselle, a peasant girl, is wooed by Albrecht, an aristocrat in peasant disguise, but is driven to madness and death by the discovery that Albrecht is already engaged to be married to Bathilde, also an aristocrat. When Albrecht visits Giselle’s grave to beg for forgiveness, the Wilis – ghosts of other girls who have died of broken hearts – compel Albrecht to dance himself to death, but Giselle (seemingly inexplicably, and most definitely tragically) saves Albrecht from death and forgives him for his betrayal. At its core, Giselle is chilling, heartbreaking, and achingly beautiful.
Michael Pink’s Giselle
by Andrea Thompson
After a whirlwind tour of three central European countries in late February and early March, regular 4dancers contributor and Hubbard Street 2 Dancer Andrea Thompson found a quiet spot and answered some questions about the experience.
Where did you go?
We flew into Frankfurt and drove around Germany to perform in Rüsselsheim, Landau, Aschaffenburg, Idar-Oberstein and Essen. After that we drove across the border to Heerlen in the Netherlands, and then flew to our last stop in Treviso, Italy.
How long did you stay in each city?
Just long enough to arrive and sometimes have a workshop that day, then tech and perform the following day. We stayed longer in Rüsselsheim because we had an acclimation day there when we landed, and we had a day off in Landau as well.
What was a typical day on tour like?
by Karen Musey
What matters more in a competitive piece – difficulty or execution?
I feel this quandary plagues a lot of competitive teams and dancers. A competing studio’s dancer executes a new “trick” successfully onstage and suddenly the bar of what is considering ranking in an age category jumps up. The pressure to stay current with the bar of excellence is then set, so obviously you need to start pushing yourself to do stuff you can’t do yet.
There’s nothing quite like watching a performance of Swan Lake, especially when it is danced beautifully. Tonight, The Royal Ballet will perform this historic ballet on cinema screens across the nation. We are delighted to be able to share some of the beautiful imagery with you here as a “sneak preview” of what is to come…
If you are interested in seeing this production, you can find tickets here.
Disclosure: 4dancers accepts compensation to promote this series.0
by Catherine L. Tully
I typically don’t write too many personalized posts on this site, but today will be an exception–because today I’d like to share an inspiring story that has to do with dance. Today I’d like to talk about the upcoming season of Dancing With The Stars, but more specifically, about Noah Galloway.
Noah first came to my attention in November of 2014 when he won the Men’s Health magazine contest for the “Ultimate Men’s Health Guy” and graced the cover. This marked the first time an amputee had ever done so. You see, Noah is a US Army veteran that lost part of his left arm and left leg in a Humvee accident in Iraq.
And now he’s going to dance.
I think that his story is remarkable, not just because he rose above his injuries, but because he battled through a dark time first. He somehow dug deep and found the strength to go on after it seemed he had given up. He had been discouraged and depressed, and yet here he is…on television…dancing.
Noah has served as an inspiration to many people, including me. I have an autographed copy of Men’s Health in my office with the words “No Excuses!” scrawled across the cover in silver–a message that reminds me to steel my reserve and keep going when things get tough.
After all, if he can do it–I certainly can.
We reached out to Noah and asked him a few questions about his upcoming dancing debut. He was kind enough to share a few thoughts with us here…
When you were contacted by Dancing With The Stars, how did you feel about signing on?
My first thought was why not? I like challenging myself. This is nothing I would have considered if it wasn’t brought to my attention. It’s definitely going to be a challenge worth accepting.
Did you have any prior dance experience?
None. At all.
Tell us about your partner and what she brings to the partnership…
An open mind. In the short time I’ve known her, I see in her the same mentality I have. Here’s an obstacle, how are we going to get around it – instead of being intimidated by it.
What has it been like to rehearse for this show?
Interesting, new and fun.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced during this process?
Everything I’ve done in the past has been physical challenges. I’ve never had to perform and that has been the greatest struggle.
Do you view dancers any differently now because of your experience with DWTS?
No, I’ve always had respect for dancers and how hard they work and how dedicated they are. I’ve always been impressed with what dancers have always been able to do, but never saw myself as being able to do the same.
What has been the most rewarding part about this process?
I’m actually learning how to dance. I’m also hoping to make my kids proud.
You can see Noah Galloway and his partner Sharna compete on ABC Monday nights at 8/7 C. Follow them online or tweet about the performance using the hashtag #TeamShway.
You can also follow Noah on Facebook.0
by Jan Dunn, MS
Aloha to All!
In this article, the first of a two-parter, I’d like to share a foot warm-up that comes from the Franklin Method. I learned this many years ago, from Eric Franklin, and it has been a part of my daily warm-up ever since. I have taught it to dancers (and non-dancers!) in many workshops / classes, such as for the national touring company of “A Chorus Line” – and the response has always been….”wow, I love this – thank you for teaching it to us!” I thought that since 4dancers has been highlighting feet this month, I would do an article for you describing this sequence.
This is most beneficial done before you do a class / rehearsal / performance, or even first thing in the morning when you get up. It does a lot more than just warm-up the feet, as I hope you will see as you do it along with me…
Before starting, take a quiet moment to “tune in” to how your body feels, especially your feet. Just stand comfortably, weight on both feet, and notice. There is no right / wrong, good / bad — it’s just a moment to see how your body is feeling overall, and your feet as well. (Think of it as a “pre-test”!)
1 – Massage: take just one Franklin Ball (I will discuss the balls at the end of this article), and put one foot on it. Gently roll your foot back and forth on the ball, giving the sole of your foot a nice massage. How much pressure you put on the ball is up to you, and how long you do it is also individual — your body will tell you “OK, that’s enough”. It should feel good — no pain or discomfort, please!
2 – Forefoot Rotation – Put your forefoot on the ball, heel braced on the ground (heel stays on the ground throughout) – inwardly then outwardly rotate your foot, reaching first the little toe / then the big toe down towards the ground. Your knee / hip will move with the foot — only go as far as comfortable in each direction. I usually do about 5-6 on each side. With this movement, you are getting lots of movement going in the various joints in the foot (all 33 of them!), as well as the ankle / knee / hip.
3 – Vary the inward / outward foot rolling so that now the toes are coming up and away from the floor – I like to imagine that the floor is hot, and I have to reach my big toe / little toe up to the ceiling to get away from it. So it’s still an inward / outward rotation, but is different from the toes down version.2
by Ashley Werhun
Securing a job with a dance company is an intimidating task. I found the journey to be filled with uncertainty and more work than I ever imagined possible. Job openings are rare and available for very brief periods. Some opportunities you need to jump at the moment they open up and others you simply must create for yourself. Similar to the process of making art, there is no finite way to go about bridging the gap between student and professional.
Companies won’t pay for travel expenses to audition, and even once you’re there it’s hard to really be seen. Dancers must be bold and forge their own path. It’s a self motivated, often draining process, in which you must be self-assured.
Here are a few lessons that I’ve learned so far:0