Dance Blog Spotlight: Inside Ballet Technique
Can you tell readers about your background in dance?
Yes, I began dancing at a local dance school in my hometown of Greenfield, Indiana when I was ten years old. Prior to that I had been in gymnastics for a few years. Shortly after I started ballet and tap, my teacher recommended that my parents take me to the Jordan Academy of Dance in Indianapolis. They had an affiliation with the Butler Ballet, which at the time had a very reputable ballet program.
My sophomore year of high school I auditioned for the early enrollment program at Butler University and was accepted. My father was a teacher at my high school (English, Speech, and Drama) and worked with the principal to include me in the vocational program that allowed students to leave school mid-day to study a vocation. For two years I studied with the late Peggy Dorsey, Bud Kerwin, Therese Ragucci, William Glenn, and Karl Kaufman.
I then studied ballet at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana with Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux (now director of the North Carolina Ballet Theater with wife Patricia McBride), Jurgen Pagels, Madame Svetlova, Jory Hancock and Melissa Lowe. After receiving a BS in Ballet from IU I decided to follow Jory Hancock and Melissa Lowe to the University of Arizona where they had moved to teach. Jory is now the Dean of Fine Arts at the U of A and the dance department is one of the very best in the country.
Those were some of the best years of my dance life! While there I also performed frequently with Ballet Ensemble, now called the Tucson Ballet. After three years I received an MFA in Dance. I then danced as a guest artist with the Lexington Ballet in Kentucky until Achilles tendinitis forced me to stop dancing en pointe. Fortunately, I loved to teach and was able to teach at several private schools in the Lexington area as well as at the magnet middle school for the arts. After dancing, I was also able to start and run a dancewear store called Dance Essentials which was in business from 1993-2003 when we sold it.
When did you begin the blog–and why did you start it?
I began Inside Ballet Technique the summer of 2009. My family had moved to North Carolina in 2000 and circumstances required that I get a job that would help to support the family better financially. At this point I had been working for a bank doing computer support for nine years. I was feeling out of the loop with dance, almost to the point that it seemed like a whole different life that was becoming a distant memory.
When I started dancing at Butler University I had begun writing down combinations from the classes I took. I continued this practice during my years at Indiana University and the University of Arizona as well as keeping notebooks full of my own combinations from classes I taught in Kentucky. Somehow it occurred to me that this wealth of information might be useful to other teachers, and after searching the web I realized that no one had offered anything similar yet. The few books I’d acquired that had ballet class combinations were difficult to follow, so I thought I’d put a few of my combos out there and see if others could read my style of recording them. The response was favorable!
What does the blog cover?
In addition to offering combinations for barre, center, and pointe work, the blog covers topics for teachers and dancers. I’ve written about methods I used teaching creative movement, beginning ballet, and up. Topics also include how to improve your technique, how to manage pain, nutrition, caring for pointe shoes, issues on weight, and inspirational posts.
I haven’t expanded on it yet, but I want to do more interviews with dancers who are or have performed with companies that my readers would be interested in hearing about. The one I have out there now is from one of my roommates in Tucson during graduate school, Carolyn Ockert-Haythe, who has danced on Broadway now for several years! She gives some great advice to dancers hoping to break into New York City’s dance scene.
What has been the best part about participating in the dance community online?
The best part are the friends I’ve made. Catherine Tully from 4dancers and Nichelle Strzepek from Dance Advantage have become personal friends that I really admire. I’ve also learned a lot from the LinkedIn group Teachers of Classical Ballet, where discussions on technique are held with extreme detail among teachers all over the world.
What other dance blogs do you read?
In addition to 4dancers.org and danceadvantage.net, I enjoy reading 2pointesocial, tendusunderapalmtree.com, and I like following Daniil Simkin from ABT. For a ballet dancer he’s very techie too, and is able to share a lot of his experiences of dancing with the online community.
BIO: Tamara Rhoades has an MFA in dance from the University of Arizona, 1992 and a BS in ballet from Indiana University, 1988. She also studied dance at Butler University for two years as a high school student. She danced professionally in Arizona and Kentucky, and taught ballet at Indiana University, University of Arizona, University of Kentucky, and Eastern Kentucky University, as well as the School of Lexington Ballet, School for Creative and Performing Arts in Lexington, KY, and Town and Village School of Dance in Paris, KY. She has also performed with the Indiana University Opera Theater in numerous productions and with the IU Musical Theater as Laura (Larry) in A Chorus Line. Tap was Tamara’s favorite class growing up. She has published a book, “Classical Ballet: Combinations for Ten Complete Advanced Classes”, and writes at www.insideballet.com.