Boys Who Do Ballet

“They think it’s cool”; “They don’t really tease me about it”; “A lot of my teachers support me & come to see me in it”; It’s like a dream come true, it’s amazing”.  These are the words from the young boys who star in The Nutcracker performed by The New York City Ballet this holiday season.  It’s more than wonderful to see that the stigma attached to boys taking on dance and in particular, ballet has fallen and that as a result more boys are embracing the stage as ballet dancers.

The Wall Street Journal’s piece is a heartwarming audio directly from these young dancers who sound not only confident in their dance, but extremely proud of their art.  Kudos Guys, let’s hope some of your friends are motivated to join you on the ballet stage!  Click below to listen.

The “Nutcracker Boys Bring Change to Holiday Classic”

People in Your Neighborhood — Ballet Dancer

I’m from Sesame Street.  Say what?!  OK, I’m from the Sesame Street era.  I grew up learning things from Bert, Grover, Ernie, Cookie, and Oscar The Grouch.  Even when I was supposedly too old for “The Street”, I still watched.  When my daughter was born in 1997, Barney, Arthur, and the Teletubbies were “in”. I still made her watch Sesame Street. I remember telling her that technically, you weren’t really famous until you’ve been on Sesame Street.  She grew up watching as well.  one of my favorites segments was “People in Your Neighborhood”….go ahead and sing the song….“who are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet, when you’re walking down the street, the people that you meet each dayyyyyy’  (I always get carried away with the song).  SoI can’t even begin to tell you how awesome I felt when I found the following video. It’s a must watch for everyone.  Those ballet dancers that you think are untouchable/…yeah them…they are people in your neighborhood!

A must watch for everyone…

Sesame Street: People in Your Neighborhood — Ballet Dancer

World Ballet Day

How exciting is this? First we had National Dance Day and now on Wednesday October 1st, Five World-class companies will join in a live 24 hour stream (on youtube).  The companies are; The Australian Ballet; The Bolshoi Ballet; The Royal Ballet; The National Ballet of Canada, and The San Francisco Ballet.

October 1st is a Wednesday, I think I feel a sick day coming on………..

SAVE THE DATE!  October 1 2014.  Click on this link for more information:  World Ballet Day

Bringing Dance to the Mainstream

In the past few years, mainstream television seems to have made a concerted effort to bring all genres of dance to television. Both So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) and Dancing with the Stars premiered to US audiences in 2005.  While both shows present in the same format (dancers performing before judges, and relying on the votes of the television audience), their mainstream audience tends to be different.  Dancing with the Stars relies on the draw of the celebrities featured and started out with choreography that was mostly ballroom; while SYTYCD has always featured everything from Modern to Broadway jazz to hip hop to Crunk to Bollywood.  In this season of SYTYCD there are 2 ballerinas and a couple of tap dancers competing for the top spot.  No matter what your genre of dance, SYTYCD dancers are challenged with choreography outside of their comfort zone.  In 2008, America’s Best Dance Crew came on the scene featuring mostly Hip Hop dance crews competing for a title.

Along came Dance Moms in 2011.  With the popularity of these competition type shows, it’s no wonder that other derivatives such as Abby Ultimate Dance Competition  has gained such popularity, dancers are eager to see themselves in media, and Dance Moms claims to show another side of the dance world, the younger dancer and their stage moms.  I personally stopped watching Dance Moms after the first season, while I certainly felt the girls had talent, all the “reality” that went on with that show was enough to make me never want to be referred to as a Dance Mom again.

Most recently, the trend has been to see dancers in other roles on TV. The short lived TV shows Breaking Pointe which went behind the scenes of Ballet West and Bunheads about a Vegas Show Girl turned ballet teacher, shows that Hollywood has recognized that there is definitely an audience for dance outside of the theaters and dance schools.  Major brands have also recognized the power of the dance community and as such have chosen Misty Copeland’s to be one of the faces for Under Armor, a brand that is most closely associated with the Sports world, and Jasmine Harper from Season 10 of SYTYCD is one of the faces for Degree deodorant.  Dance has surely arrived.

And not to be left out of the trend, performers are embracing dance genres into their videos. Take a look that this very fun video for Taylor Swift’s newest song “Shake It Off”.  There is all kinds of dancing  going on here, and oh Taylor might just need a few more a ballet lessons….I’m just sayin… Shake It Off Video

 

 

Dance Documentaries

It’s a rainy Sunday in my world, so that means lots of Netflix movies anda blog update.  I decided to combine the two today and write about 2 great dance documentaries; the first one, I think I’ve watched at least 5 times and will watch again today. The second one I’m looking forward to watch when it premiers this week:

FIRST POSITION: Award winning documentary directed by Bess Kargman features Aran Bell, Michaela DePrince, Miko & Jules Fogarty, Rebecca Houseknecht, Gaya Yemini and Joan Sebastian Zamora.  Each dancer is followed as they prepare to enter the world of professional ballet while navigating being far away from home and adolescence. Truly a gem of a movie, between the personal stories and fabulous dancing, it’s a joy to watch.

Here’s the official trailer: http://www.balletdocumentary.com/official-trailer/

And here’s where you can watch it (includes movie theaters and stream sites): http://http://www.balletdocumentary.com/in-movie-theaters/

If Ballroom is more your speed.  PBS has an upcoming documentary as part of it’s POV series. DANCE FOR ME will air on August 20, 2014. It follows 15 year old Egor who is from Russia but now living in Denmark to train in Latin Dance.  The trailer looks really good:

Enjoy your Sunday viewing. Let me know if you watch either documentary and what you think of them!

Marie

 

 

Feeding The Mind Of A Dancer with the Arts

When my daughter was 5, right before she started formal dance classes, I took her to see the Pennsylvania Ballet perform The Nutcracker. As I ordered tickets, I could feel myself getting excited, I LOVED the ballet and couldn’t wait to share the live experience with my daughter. Oh, we had watched countless episodes of Angelina Ballerina, and done the twirls and plies at home, but now we were going to see the real live experts!  As the days got closer to the show, I started to get nervous, “she’s only 5″ I told myself, she probably won’t be able to sit still through this show. ‘What if we are not in good seats”? “Ugh, I’ll be devastated if I have to take her out early”!

When that curtain lifted, she was totally mesmerized. I distinctly remember her moving to the edge of her seat so that she could better see when Clara wakes up to see the Christmas tree growing before her very eyes. I remember the awe in her face as the Mouse King gets hit in the head by the heroine Clara’s slipper! When Clara arrives at the Land of the Sweets and sees the Hot Coco dancers, my little girl clapped and clapped and clapped! Afterwards, as we waited to get Clara’s autograph, I remember her telling me that she “wanted to see this again”. I was so proud.

love_the_arts_thumbThe next year, I decided to go ahead and subscribe to the PA Ballet.  It was a luxury that I couldn’t really afford but the return on investment from just that one show the year prior was worth it.  Our first show in the series was La fille mal gardée.  While the premise of the ballet totally escaped her 6 year old brain, the awe in her face was still there. By the time we got to her second viewing of The Nutcracker, she had announced to anyone who would listen that she wanted to dance with the PA Ballet.

Thanks for letting me walk down memory lane, but there is a point to my rambling.  You see kids need to be exposed to the Arts. It’s important for them to use their visual senses to see/hear/feel the beauty that is music, that is dance, that is acting.  Not just what they see on television, but the medium of live performance. The interaction with other live bodies who are watching together,and breathing the performance on the stage.

I’m going to reiterate that it can be pricey. But the ROI is so worth it.  We went on to do free performances in parks and schools; Broadway matinees;The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Shows; traveling Broadway shows in our city. and even the SYTYCD live performance shows.  I saw it as an opportunity to learn outside of the traditional classroom,to see the potential of dance.  She was at this point, totally entrenched in formal dance classes, but I needed her to see it’s potential outside of those dance studio walls.

Invest in live productions, it’s an investment in your child’s education.  It opens up a whole new world of appreciation, and it’s a class all in itself.  Watching professional dancers get those steps just right gives your child the incentive to go back and nail it in the classroom.

It’s worth it.

My Son Wants to Take Dance Classes

My daughter has never had the pleasure of having a male dancer in any of her classes in the 13 years she has taken lessons. Not one.  We’ve seen a boy here, one there, come through the school, last about 1 or 2 years, then poof…gone.  It saddens me.  At one of the parent observation classes, a younger brother was in the audience.  At the very end of the class, the teacher taught a quick routine and asked the observers to participate.  This kid was GOOD! He caught the entire routine and executed it first try, no errors.  I asked his mom why he wasn’t taking dance classes. Her response “His dad won’t let him”.

A large part of why more boys aren’t dancing is because of societal views on men in tights, or heck men in dance classes in general.  It’s ok to learn the latest hip hop moves at home and display them on the dance floor at any party but formal classes? No way!

But some of the same reasons why girls should be encouraged to dance also hold true for boys:

  1. Discipline: Dance requires practice and repetition. Try and try until you get that combination right.  This try and try mentality transcends outside of the studio and into life skills
  2. Confidence: When that combination is finally excelled? The level of confidence surpasses all the negative energy (teasing etc) that may have been hurled at them for taking dance classes
  3. Great balance, posture & agility. In a previous post about ballet, I shared a link of football players who use ballet as a form of cross training during the off season. If you haven’t had a chance to look at it and see the reasons why, here’s another chance: http://www.dancespirit.com/2013/09/are-you-ready-for-some-football-players-in-ballet-class/
  4. Have you ever seen a male dancer who wasn’t toned built? Probably not. Dance develops muscles and gives tone like no other aerobic exercise there is.

With the popularity of shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Best Dance Crew”, the idea of male dancers is hopefully become more mainstream.  Male dancers looking for professional jobs have less competition than their female counterparts for the simple fact that there are less of them to compete.  Broadway Shows like “Newsies” and “KinkyBoots” display the diverse male dance talent that exists and showcases it well.

Don’t discourage your young men from formal dance classes, root them on and show them that dance is just as powerful as any sport they could play.

The First Day

I can totally remember my daughter’s first dance class.  I remember walking into the dance studio thinking there would be a seat waiting for me to watch welcome refreshments for all of us Moms….ok, ok, I did know there would be no refreshments but I didn’t know I’d be sitting outside with a 10 other moms all vying to peek through one small window to see how our toddler was doing. I also didn’t know that Disney ballerina skirts were not proper dress code. We survived, and so did our dancers.

How do you get ready for your child’s first dance class? TALK to your studio.  Check their WEBSITE. Read those pesky signs posted all outside the dance studio’s walls.  Studios will provide you with their dress codes for each class (some studios are stricter than others), remember there are different shoes for each dance style.  The studio Director can also make recommendations as to where you can purchase these items.  Many studios carry items in their own in-studio stores.  ASK.

For the first time dancer, ask if the studio allows them to watch a class before diving in. Some kids (young and older) may need to see what they are getting into.  Make an appointment to see the studio before your dancer gets started. On that first day, get there a little early so your dancer has a chance to see her classmates; a few connections can be made even before the start of class.

first dance class

Dancers will need to have a dance bag.  It’s not recommended to wear any type of dance shoes outside of the studio, so your dance will have to travel with their shoes in something. Older dancers who are taking more than one class will find it convenient to carry their dance shoes and any change of dancewear they may have. Younger dancers may consider carrying a change of tights, underwear or even a leotard just in case of an emergency (sometimes the little just can’t make it to the bathroom in time…or they may have not wanted to miss the dancing with the wand and didn’t ask). There is such a variety of dance bags available that finding one should not be a problem.

Snacks can be packed if there is time for snacks within the class schedule.  A water bottle is recommended as dancers do work up a thirst.  Make sure to check with your studio before you pack a snack. These days, most studios have policies about snacks due to the many allergies.

Most importantly, don’t let the first day jitters scare you! Enjoy the dance!