Dance Blog Spotlight

Dance Blog Spotlight: Inside Ballet Technique

Tammy in The Nutcracker

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!

Tammy Rhodes

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.

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Dance Blog Spotlight: The Ballet Bag

This month’s Dance Blog Spotlight is one not to be missed! Hip, fun and full of great content, The Ballet Bag is one of the top sites out there on the web when it comes to dance. If you don’t already know them, meet Emilia & Linda.

We asked the ladies to answer a few questions about what it’s like to serve the online dance community…and they were kind enough to oblige!

Can you tell readers a bit about each of you and what your backgrounds are in dance?

Our backgrounds in dance are mainly through years and years of watching: I attended my first ballet (Giselle) when I was only 7, but Linda also took ballet classes (RAD) for several years.

When did you begin the blog-and why did you start it?

We started The Ballet Bag in 2009. Both of us had more general personal blogs but soon found that we were spending a lot of time writing about ballet, mostly about the performances we were watching at the Royal Ballet at the time (around 2007). We wanted to spread the word about ballet as a fresh, original art form and show, from an audience perspective, that there were young people who went to the ballet and who were inspired by it. We also felt that the more traditional ballet websites and forums had a more restrictive format. We wanted to show cross references between dance and pop culture, to share our favorite ballet sites and reviews. We also wanted to leverage off the new trend for social media.

What does the blog cover?

We try to focus on well-researched content, but without losing sight of the visual elements (photography, graphics) packaging all this together, and throwing into the mix a diverse range of personal interests. Also, we try to keep a dialogue going with everyone: from dance critics to other bloggers, from dancers to audiences. We have also been featuring a whole range of different contributors: from Kris Kosaka and Germaine Cheng in Asia to Harper Watters, a young dancer with Houston Ballet as well as Alice Pennefather’s amazing ballet photos. It’s great to have all sides of the debate and to give link candy. As the saying goes: give and you shall receive.

What has been the best part about participating in the dance community online?

The online dance community has made it possible for us to connect with the art form in every part of the globe. Twitter has become a space where critics, dance writers, bloggers, dance fans, performers and choreographers come together to share stories and discuss the past, present and future of dance. It has broken down geographical barriers and made it possible for dance audiences to be “virtually there”. It’s great to be connected to all of that!

What other dance blogs do you ladies read?

We have always enjoyed reading about dance and even more so now: we do subscribe to most newspapers feeds and also read zines like Dance Tabs, Dance View Times and too many blogs to list!

ballet bag

Emilia & Linda. Photo: Elena Murchikova / The Ballet Bag ©

Emilia:

Ballet: likes ballets that taste like 85% cocoa: pure, extra bitter, dark or intense. Her favorites are La Sylphide, Manon, Mayerling, Dances at a Gathering, Ondine, Symphonic Variations, plenty by Balanchine, quite a few by Alexei Ratmansky and some of Wayne McGregor’s pieces for the Royal Ballet.

Non ballet: literature, theatre, opera, rock, art, food, travel, fashion

Linda:

Ballet: her favorite ballets feel like good books – one can see them 1,000 times and they always feel fresh. Linda loves Giselle, all full-length MacMillan plus Song of the Earth, Robbins’s Dances at a Gathering, Balanchine’s Serenade and Agon, Ashton’s Scènes de Ballet and Symphonic Variations.

Non ballet: books, music and podcasts, science and maths, travel and photography.

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Dance Blog Spotlight: 2PointeSocial

Today I’m excited to introduce Amanda McAlpine, author of ballet and social media blog, 2PointeSocial..

pointe shoes

Amanda McAlpine

1.      Can you tell readers a bit about your background in dance?  

I am originally from New Hampshire, and received the majority of my training from my mentor and artistic director, Doreen Cafarella at Northern Ballet Theatre Dance Centre (formerly Granite State Ballet School). I really credit Ms. Cafarella for pushing me to the next level and encouraging me to participate in Youth America Grand Prix and the ABT summer intensive. While I was training with the school, I also had the honor of dancing Apprentice roles with the professional company in the early 2000s. Upon graduation from high school, I continued to dance at Emerson College in Boston. I came from a ballet-focused background, so I was able to gain more experience in other styles of dance including modern and musical theater (and I even got to sing!) One of the most fun performances in college was performing the Lonely Town pas de deux in the spring musical, “On the Town.”

After gaining a couple of years of professional marketing experience, I moved out to Chicago to explore the dance scene here. There’s a ton of performances to see all the time and it’s a wonderfully supportive dance community. I also began working at The Joffrey Ballet last September shortly after I moved here, so I still take classes at the Joffrey Academy from time to time and try to keep dance in my life as much as possible…which is part of the reason I began my blog. :)

2.      When did you begin your blog—and why did you start it? 

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Dance Blog Spotlight: Swan Lake Samba Girl

Today I’m excited to introduce Tonya Plank, author of one of the early dance blogs on the web (Swan Lake Samba Girl). I can remember reading it years ago, and it’s every bit as good today as it was then. Say hello to one of the early adopters, and see where her journey has taken her…

Tonya Plank

1.    Can you tell readers a bit about your background in dance?

As a child, I took ballet, tap dance, jazz, and acrobatics, concentrating the longest on ballet. But I gave that up once I went to college. I was just too busy. As an adult, I took up ballroom dancing – mainly to alleviate stress from my day job, as a lawyer. I ended up loving it so much, I started competing at the amateur level. That rekindled my childhood passion for ballet, and I started going to a lot of ballet performances in New York, where I lived for many years, before moving to L.A.

2.    When did you begin your blog-and why did you start it?

I started my dance blog in mid-2006. I was competing in ballroom dance competitions and I’d just gone to Blackpool – the mother of all ballroom dancing comps. I started my blog to document my journey as a dancer – really, to capture the trials and tribulations of learning to dance and compete in dance as an adult. Later, I got very busy and ballroom dancing became expensive and I stopped competing so much. But then I started going to the ballet, and to other kinds of concert dance performances in NYC and my blog kind of grew into a blog about watching dance. Soon, I had a loyal following of other dance-goers, other ballet lovers.

3.    What does your blog cover?

My blog now covers mainly ballet and modern dance performances.

I’ve moved to Los Angeles, so I write mainly about what’s going on in dance in Southern California. I also try to write about the TV dance shows as often as I can. I especially like to cover the new ones – like “Breaking Pointe” on CW, and now “A Chance to Dance,” which will premiere on Ovation TV in August. I also try to keep up with the ballroom dancing competitions as much as I can.

4.    What has been the best part about participating in the dance community online?

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Dance Blog Spotlight: Adria Ballet Beat

This month we have chosen Adria Ballet Beat for our “Dance Blog Spotlight”...keep reading to learn more about Adria and what you can see on her site…

1. Can you tell readers a bit about your background in dance?

It’s safe to say I’ve been dancing for more than 45 years. On my blog I describe myself as “a passionate unprofessional.” I was indeed on a professional track as a child, training at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School in NYC under the legendary Margaret Craske. But I left the Met at 13 years old, pulled out by my parents who “didn’t want a dance career for their daughter.” Years later, while studying journalism at New York University, I returned to ballet by taking class with The Joffrey Ballet, whose studios were located in New York’s Greenwich Village.

I had the opportunity to reconnect with the ballet world on a professional level as event coordinator of the 2007 American Ballet Theatre Dancer Reunion at the Metropolitan Opera House, and again as event coordinator for The Antony Tudor Centennial Celebration at The Juilliard School in 2008. I am currently Web Coordinator and Archivist for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust.

I still take class, currently at New Jersey Ballet. Some things are just “in you” and become a lifelong passion. Dance, for me, is a mandate.

2. When did you begin your blog-and why did you start it? What does your blog cover?

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Dance Blog Spotlight: NYC Dance Stuff

This month on Dance Blog Spotlight we are featuring Darrell Wood’s blog, NYC Dance Stuff

Darrell Wood

1 – Can you tell readers a bit about your background in dance?

I am a retired dancer who loves dance. I have danced with the Jackson Ballet under the leadership of Thalia Mara, with Edith Stephen, Elaine Shipman/Situ, Eleanor Coleman, Keely Garfield and Poppo and the Go-Go Boys to name a few. In the past I have assisted both Igal Perry and Elisa Monte with the productions of their New York City seasons. I am classical trained and studied with Maggie Black and David Howard; I also studied modern dance with Paul Sansardo, Merce Cunningham, Lynn Simonson, Milton Meyers and Ana Marie Forsythe. In 1993 I produced The White Wall Series, the series helped young, new choreographers to present their work. Plus, I have written for HX and Vice magazines. I have a B.A. in History and Secondary Education.

2- When did you begin your blog—and why did you start it?

I started my blog October 7th, 2011. I started my blog because I love writing about dance. I wanted a site that would not only critic performances in NYC but also to create a site that could help educate about dance past, present and future.

3 – What does your blog cover?

My blog is geared toward performance, dance videos, dance news and any aspect of dance history I can get my hands on. I’m fascinated by dance history.

4- What has been the best part about participating in the dance community online?

It’s about reconnecting with a community I love and cherish. I had been away from dance for well over 15 years and did not realize how much I missed dance as a whole. The first time I was in a studio again, I had been invited to view a rehearsal, was almost a religious experience.

Also it was very moving for me. Eleven years ago I was diagnosed with Spinal Cerebellum Degeneration. It is and has been in remission for years, for five years I was homebound, the first year and a half I was bedridden with the other three and half years I was wheelchair bound. So with acquiring first a Scooter and now a motorized wheelchair I once again have my independence and I am off to the races. I use the chair for long distances and short distances I walk with a crutch.

To view the majesty of the human form in movement is a great treasure to me. I know the work, sweat and study it takes to truly become a dancer. Plus, I am so in awe of today’s generation of dancer, their technique and capabilities far surpass those of my generation.

5 – What other dance blogs do you read?

Oberon’s Grove, I check daily. It’s what I want my blog to be when it grows up, I think it’s awesome.  http://oberon481.typepad.com/oberons_grove/

Deborah Jowitt’s Dance Beat. Just because it’s Deborah Jowitt, someone who’s writing I have read for years and greatly respect. http://www.artsjournal.com/dancebeat/

Walter Rutledge, of Walter’s World from the Harlem World magazine, I think he is a great writer and enjoy his insight. http://harlemworldmag.com/2012/05/31/walters-world-rioult-premieres-the-violet-hour/

Tobi Tobias Seeing Things, also another writer who I greatly respect and have read for years. http://www.artsjournal.com/tobias/

Critical Dance Forum. It’s a great board with great discussions on dance around the world. http://www.ballet-dance.com/

BIO: Darrell Wood has a B.A. in Secondary Education and History. He would like to share the following:

I am hoping for a job teaching Social Studies so please send me positive energies. I became disabled in 2000 and had to re-invent myself. I am in the process of gathering research for a paper about the communications between Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille.

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Dance Blog Spotlight: The Choreography Clinic

We’re back with another edition of “Dance Blog Spotlight” – and the blog this month focuses on choreography…

1.      Can you tell readers a bit about your background in dance?

I started dancing with a praise dance company, The Hush Company, under the direction of Stacy and LaQuin Meadows. I danced with them for 8 years and knew that dance was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I didn’t start studying ballet and modern until I was 18 years old. I have a BFA in Dance Performance with a K-12 Certification from Towson University in Towson, MD. I now teach full-time at a performing arts high school in downtown LA: Ramon C. Cortines School for the Visual and Performing Arts.

2.      When did you begin your blog-and why did you start it?

I began The Choreography Clinic in November 2011. I started it because I don’t have time to get my MFA right now and I missed those in-depth conversations about process that you only seem to find in college dance programs. I am sure you can find them other places as well but I wasn’t finding them where the access was free and open. I have lots of books on choreography but they didn’t give me the kind of interaction  and reflection that I was craving. I also wanted an opportunity to talk with other choreographers who were as interested in process as I was and find out how they were navigating their own artistic processes.

This idea came to me over a year ago, but I was really nervous at first that no one would be interested. No one knew who I was. I had not produced any work publicly and sometimes dance can be very clique-ish. I finally got up the nerve to go forward with the project and found myself in conversations where I was hearing that this was something others wanted as well. Geography is a huge problem for people who want that interaction, so online has provided a wonderful way to interact without the drama of having to “get to” somewhere to get it.

3.      What does your blog cover?

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