Pas de Trois
Today I’ll be answering the question posed on our collaborative effort, Pas de Trois…
“What’s your dream role?”
This really was a hard question to answer. I’m past the point where I’ll be dancing any of them! Still, if I had an opportunity to go back and dance something, I think it might be the lead in Swan Lake or perhaps, as many times as it has been done, I’d still like to do a lead in The Nutcracker. Sugar Plum would be fun, but I think the Snow Queen would be even better.
I guess I still have a little bit of the fairy princess inside me from when I was a girl–what can I say?
If I were to do something more edgy, it would probably be one of Balanchine’s storyless ballets. The choreography is amazing.
What role would you want if you could choose anything? Post your answer on Pas de Trois and join in the discussion!
Today I’m posting my answer for the latest question on Pas de Trois at dancing3.com.
The question? What was your greatest experience on stage?
This is an easy question for me to answer, although it’s hard to recall exactly how old I was at the time. I’d say around 17 or 18.
I was studying at Chicago City Ballet School and the company was staging Balanchine’s 4 Temperaments. I was selected to perform in the ballet along with the company members. Not only that, but the performance was to take place at the Auditorium Theatre - one of the most impressive venues in the city.
I rehearsed with the company and will never forget that first show. The curtain opened and I knew how large the audience was out there, even though I couldn’t see them. I’d been to many ballets there as a spectator over the years. I can’t describe adequately how amazing it felt to be there, but I’ll never forget it. I know that not everyone gets this kind of opportunity. I’m very grateful for it – even now.
There were many good performances after that, but none would match up to that first big day.
What was your greatest experience on stage? We’d love to hear about it….
It’s time for our next question on Pas de Trois (at dancing3.com)–answered first here by me…
Today’s question is “How important is barre practice?”
To me, working at the barre is one of the most important things a ballet dancer does–especially if you study under a good teacher. Instructors who are knowledgeable know how to use the exercises at the barre to help you strengthen your muscles properly and ready your body for movement in the center. I have been lucky enough to study under teachers who really knew how to craft a class.
For me as a dancer, barre practice is also fun. In the center there is more going on, so it is harder to concentrate on technique. At the barre you can almost get into a “Zen-like” state as you focus in on working your muscles and doing things properly. It’s actually quite relaxing for me!
As a teacher, I spend a lot of time planning my barre. It sets the tone for the entire class. If I am going to have students work on something in the center, I incorporate bits and pieces of it in barre practice so that they can work on their placement and technique before doing it without support.
I guess you can see from my answer that I am a huge fan of barre practice! We’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this–join us and share your opinion…1
Today I’d just like to take a moment to point out a few of the dance blogs I read on a regular basis. There are a lot of good ones out there, so this list is by no means comprehensive–but I thought I’d highlight a few in case you haven’t had the chance to check them out.
As always, if you have any suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments section!
Ballet for Men - Written by David Hunter, this blog is a great resource for guys who are interested in ballet. Not only is there a ton of “how to” information there, but you can listen to podcasts as well.
Tights and Tiaras - This blog is authored by Henrik Lamark, a Norweigan ballet dancer with a flair for the written word. Read up on the stories of the great ballets, get behind the scenes and learn some ballet terminology or learn about life as a dancer from his point of view.
Demicontretemps - Eric Taub’s writing is a joy to read, and he recently started posting video on his site as well. Drop by and check out his musings on dance for a treat.
Art Intercepts - Meet Lauren Warnecke, a Chicago-based dancer and educator and enjoy her posts on topics such as anatomy for dancers, dance injuries and other scientific information.
Dance Advantage - Nichelle’s mega-resource for dancers, teachers and parents. You could spend hours looking through all the great information here.
Dave Tries Ballet - A new site by – you guessed it – Dave, who is just starting out in ballet. A very interesting read.
Dance.com Blog - Another dance blog you could spend an afternoon browsing. Here you’ll find dance news as well as posts on all types of dance styles.
KinerEnterprisesInc. Blog - This recently re-vamped site offers tips on social media, business advice and more.
The Ballet Bag - Expect the unexpected on this delightful ballet blog. Always entertaining, well-written and informative.
Pas de Trois at dancing3.com - Not to toot my own horn here, but our new site (David Hunter, Henrik Lamark and I) is something I’d love for you to check out if you have the time. We’re hoping that people will really join in the conversation so we can all learn more about one another.
Tendus Under A Palm Tree - A lovely blog by Rebecca King, a Corps De Ballet dancer with Miami City Ballet.5
Pas de Trois at dancing3.com is a collaboration between David Hunter from Ballet for Men, Henrik Lamark from Tights and Tiaras and myself–as well as all of the readers out there. We are coming together to discuss various issues and ideas about dance. We are actively exploring ways to work together so that there can be a better sense of community on the web for those interested in exploring dance in depth with one another.
Each week we’ll pose a question and answer it one by one on our blogs. This week’s question is “What is the most important quality in a dance teacher?”
I have been both a student and a teacher, so I really had to stop and think this through from both perspectives. I find that the answer is similar–I think that the most crucial skill is the ability to communicate.
As a student, I was striving to understand how to improve my technique. As anyone who has taken dance knows–this does not come naturally. The teacher must be able to tell the student exactly what they need to do to adjust what they are doing to make it right. Those teachers that could do that for me made me dance better. And what’s more–I found I really gravitated toward their classes. I didn’t necessarily like them more, but I learned from them.
As a teacher, I know that finding the right way to communicate with a student can take a while! When I make corrections or comments I try to say things in a variety of different ways, because I know that what impacts one person and gives them that “eureka!” moment may not do anything at all for another one. It is also important to use visual repitition so that students who don’t do well with verbal direction can see what you are saying.
There are many important qualities that dance teachers should have. It’s hard too choose just one, but after a bit of thinking, I’d say I’m pretty comfortable with the one that I picked. What do you think? Join us here and share your answer!1
This post is part of a larger project–
David Hunter from Ballet for Men and Henrik Lamark from Tights and Tiaras are joining me in a venture called Pas de Trois. On that site we will be posting a question each week, which we will then each answer on our blogs–a few days apart. We’d like to encourage members of the dance community (as well as those just interested in dance) to join us in these discussions by leaving a comment with their ideas either on the blog or on Pas de Trois.
This week, for our first question we decided to share our favorite dancer…
When I think of the word “ballerina” there is one image that immediately comes to mind: Suzanne Farrell. Growing up when I did, she was the most inspiring figure in classical ballet to me. Never had I seen someone so fragile looking that was so strong and beautiful.
It can be difficult to say who your favorite dancer is. There are many people who influenced me, or impacted me in one way or another. Gelsey Kirkland was a little whirlwind with boundless energy and a sprightly presence. Mikhail Baryshnikov blew me away with his sheer power and Fred Astaire had a simple grace that is unmatched, even today. Yet you do tend to gravitate toward someone in particular, and for me, it was Suzanne.
I can recall feeling mesmerized when I watched her dance. She seemed as though she were in a trance–that the music just took her and posessed her, making her move at its will. All arms and legs, she was tall, willowy and to me–the perfect vision of a ballerina.
Interested in learning more about Suzanne Farrell? Read this wonderful interview on Academy of Achievement.1