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How Ballet Helped Me Learn How To SUP Surf

Ballet on a Surfboard - Miami Beach

Ballet on a Surfboard – Miami Beach

by Todd Fox

I’m a Bunhead Surfaholic!!! That’s right, my career focus and lifelong passion has always been ballet and there’s not many things in this world I love as much as ballet, but surfing is definitely one of them. I surf every chance I get and am probably one of the only surfers in Florida who strikes ballet poses while riding a wave. Over the years I’ve surfed on all sorts of boards including long boards, short boards, foam boards, plank boards with no fins, kayaks, canoes, boogie boards, etc.– if it floats I’ve surfed it and probably tried to do some ballet on it as well.

Ballet on a SUP - Miami Beach

Ballet on a SUP – Miami Beach

A few years ago I began noticing more and more stand up paddleboard (SUP) surfers catching waves at the local surf breaks here where I live in Miami. I had previously paddled a SUP on our calm south Florida inter-coastal waters and it was super fun but surfing on a stand up paddleboard looked intense. I couldn’t believe surfers were dropping in on waist to chest high waves while using a paddle to maneuver these giant heavy SUP boards. It looked like an incredible workout as well as a ton of fun so I decided to give it a try and bought a used 10’6″ Surfseries SUP off Craigslist to start learning with.

Ballet on a SUP - Miami Beach

Ballet on a SUP – Miami Beach

I had been a traditional board surfer for many years and figured the transition to surfing on a SUP would be relatively easy, plus I’m a professional ballet dancer and have good strength/balance/coordination, right? WRONG!!! I couldn’t believe how incredibly difficult it was to balance on a SUP in choppy water and the workout was much more intense than I imagined, it gave a whole new meaning to the word exhaustion. Paddling a SUP on nice glassy calm water is an amazing full-body workout but when you add waves, rip currents, and rough surf to the equation, the physical demands become much more extreme. Complicating matters was the fact that where I surf most often, Miami Beach, rarely has “clean” easy-to-paddle surf, most of our good surf is accompanied by rough, choppy ocean conditions. Without going into too much detail, this is due to Miami’s geographic proximity to the island chain of the Bahamas located directly to our east. On my first attempts I could only manage to stand on the SUP briefly, once the board started to wobble or bob up and down as a result of the choppy surface water, I would immediately lose balance and fall off every time.

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CD Review: Modern Ballet Studio Melodies, The Classical Class

The Classical Class Photo

Modern Ballet Studio Melodies, The Classical Class
Christopher Hobson

by Rachel Hellwig

Christopher Hobson’s Modern Ballet Studio Melodies, The Classical Class features arrangements of classical music from Schuman to Strauss to Shostakovich.

Among familiar ballet tunes you’ll find the buoyant “First Shade Variation” from La Bayadere, the whirling finale from Paquita, Prokofiev’s charged “Dance of the Knights” from Romeo and Juliet, the “Grand Waltz” from Les Sylphides, and “Siegfried’s Variation” from Swan Lake.

Other works include the luxuriant “Flower Duet from ‘Lakmé’” by Delibes for adage at barre, Malcom Arnold’s serene, skimming “Allegretto from ‘Scottish Dances ‘” for adage in center, Schubert’s quirky “Moments Musicaux” by for petit allegro, the lilting “Skater’s Waltz” for grand allegro, and Faure’s delicate, haunting “Pavane” for port de bras.

If you’re looking to incorporate more classical music in your ballet classes or seeking to supplement popular music, this collection is a good choice.

Preview tracks here and purchase on iTunes.

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CD Review: Modern Ballet Studio Melodies Volume 6

MBSM 6

Modern Ballet Studio Melodies Volume 6
Christopher Hobson

by Rachel Hellwig

Christopher Hobson’s Modern Ballet Studio Melodies Volume 6 is an eclectic mix that combines “melodies from classical, contemporary, pop, jazz and musical theatre”. The album is intended for all levels of ballet and features 30 tracks. Some of my favorite selections include:

Stranger in Paradise

This song from the 1950s musical “Kismet” borrows the melody of Alexander Borodin’s “Dance of the Maidens” from the ballet scene in the opera Prince Igor. Naturally, it’s good fit for fondu.

I Giorni

Ludovico Einaudi’s cinematic music often brings to mind images of dancing, so I was delighted to see that Hobson included one of the composer’s best-known works in an arrangement for port de bras.

Livin’ on Prayer

Bon Jovi meets ballet? Yes, it actually works quite well. Without obscuring the melody, Hobson adapts this signature song into a piece for petit allegro.

The CD also offers arrangements of tunes like “Someone Like You” and “Happy”, as well as works like “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”,  “Autumn Leaves”, “Seventy Six Trombones”, and the World War II-era hit “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree”.

Preview full-length tracks here and purchase on iTunes.

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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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Saving Grace: A Perspective on the Legacy of Maggie Black

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.

dancer

Photo taken by Ken Duncan in 1982 during my second summer with Maggie.

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.

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Teaching Students to Teach Dance

By Janet Rothwell

"IMG_8440" by Jo. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.

IMG_8440” by Jo. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.

We all know the saying “if you can teach it then you know you know it.” I often have my students teach or help each other with movement they are learning in class to empower them and allow them time to know they know the material without constantly watching me demonstrate. One of my favorite assignments is when I have my students create and teach and full lesson plan to the whole class.

I put my students into pairs and they pick a theme for their lesson. Some theme examples are: movement initiated from certain body parts, extremes in timing or playing with rhythms, and moving into and out of the floor with smooth transitions. Once my students pick their theme they start to create a movement phrase that demonstrates their theme. They also have to create movement that travels across the floor and a warm up, all of which must be centered on their chosen theme.

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CD Review: David Plumpton’s “West End to Broadway” Vol. 3

West End to Broadway Vol. 3
David Plumpton

by Rachel Hellwig

West End to Broadway Cover

Jetés and all that jazz.

The energy and drama of musical theater songs makes them ideal for ballet class.

David Plumpton’s “West End to Broadway” Vol. 3 fills 36 tracks with piano arrangements from popular shows like Wicked, Jekyll and Hyde, and various Disney musicals. It also contains many pieces that you might not recognize unless you closely follow theater. But that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy these selections or find them wonderful for barre and center.

The spunky accents of “When I Grow Up” from Matilda are perfect for almost any tendu combination. The delicate (yet not-too-sugary) version of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin is dreamy for développés. “Welcome to the 60s” from Hairspray is a fun way to begin center tendus. “Popular” and “Dancing Through Life” from Wicked will add spark to petit and medium allegro combinations.

This CD is a great way to bring the magic of one performing art to another.

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