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The Importance of Cross-Training for Dancers ~ by, Gillian Lastinger

Cross-training is very common among professional athletes such as hockey, baseball, football, and basketball players. As dancers we spend so much time working on our ballet technique, pointe shoes, rehearsals, and classes when do we have time for another activity?

However more and more we are finding that to get the most out of those rehearsals and classes is to cross-train.

What is cross training?

Cross training is training in two or more sports in order to improve fitness and performance, especially in a main sport.

What is cross training for dancers?

Cross-training is a very broad term used to explain diversifying your training. However with dancers there are many levels for cross-training depending on how broad you want to go. For our ballet dancers I’m just going to break it down into 3 levels.

 Level 1: Diversification in Ballet – Cross-training in styles of ballet

This level of cross-training is the most common in ballet dancers. It is good to get experiences with different styles of ballet whether it is classical, contemporary, neo-classical, Balachine technique, Vagnova technique, etc.

There are lots of different ballets and lots of different styles. It is good to cross-train in different styles to become a stronger dancer. A classical ballet can teach you artistry, while a contemporary ballet might work on your technique more.

This level of cross-training is pretty simple, now let’s explore more.

Level 2: Diversification in Dance – Cross-training in styles of dance

Going a little bit further out of our comfort zones, it is good for dancers to explore other styles of dance. Ballet is the basis of all dance. Every other style of dance is rewarded by learning and studying ballet. However artistry and movement for ballerinas is improved by learning and studying other [...]

Netflix for Ballet Dancers ~ by Gillian Lastinger

Five Dances (2013)

83 Minutes

Netflix description: Real dance Phenom show their acting chops in this tale about a prodigy from Kansas hoping to make it big in New York City.

My Notes: This is a fictional story about a young dancer traveling to NYC. This movie does not have much of a plot and is about a young dancer growing and learning to open himself up. Mostly, I watched this for the beautiful dancing and that is why you should watch it too.

 

Ballet 422 (2014)

75 Minutes

Netflix description: Go backstage at the New York City Ballet, from first rehearsal to world premiere, as choreographer Justin Peck readies a new piece

My Notes: Ballet 422 is a documentary with no narration. It is a unique look at all the work that goes into a new ballet. I loved watching the story

of this ballet come together and think you will too.

First Position (2011)

94 Minutes

Netflix description: Follow dancers training for the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions, where the stakes are high.

My Notes: For someone like me who has never gone to the Youth America Grand Prix, this is a great look into the world of competitive ballet competitions. I loved seeing the story of these dancers as they compete and grow. What is also interesting about this documentary is how much these dancers have grown since it was filmed. Take a minute and search each of their names and you can see how far they have come since this movie (hint: check the balancing pointe podcast archives)

Ballerina (2009)

76 Minutes

Netflix Description: This 2009 documentary profiles five Russian ballerinas from the Mariinsky Theatre, following them from rehearsals to performances around the globe.

My Notes: It is no [...]

The Balancing Act

The Balancing Act

When I was in undergrad, I attended Florida State University.  While there, I participated in the FSU Flying High Circus where I performed in the Double Trapeze, the Mexican Cloud Swing, the Teeterboard and the High Wire.

One of the reasons I chose to try out for the High Wire was because the act terrified me.  Not because of the height – I loved being up high while swinging or spinning, but because I had to move SO slowly.  To stay correctly balanced while crossing the wire on top of my partner’s shoulders, while he rode a bicycle or walked on stilts required slow and purposeful movement; which was completely nerve wrecking.

Part of what scared me was that keeping in proper balance was critical to staying ON the wire and not falling INTO the net 20 or more feet below.  (Not to mention falling into the net from the high wire included falling with all of the other equipment that we used such as, the poles, bike, chair, stilts etc.)

Moving slowly, carefully and thoughtfully went against my natural state of being and therefore was a enormous challenge each and every time I climbed up the supporting poles to the small platform to practice or perform the High Wire.
Keeping in a calm and focused balance always seemed somewhat impossible.
Keeping in balance is still my greatest challenge.  In my day-to-day life, I find that focusing on balance is almost as difficult as walking on the high wire.

Likewise, I see this same challenge for my daughter and her peers; or any aspiring dancer for that matter.  Staying in balance is an enormous challenge ~ and this has nothing to do with balancing on her toes “en [...]

Audition Anxiety

Auditioning for Ballet Intensives is grueling, stressful, emotional and more than anything completeley draining.
Worst of all is waiting for the results.  The email comes…..the email is opened.
Tears of joy, tears of elation, tears of disappointment.

A LOT of tears.
And then hours and hours of self doubt.
What could I have done differently?  What could I have done better?  What should I do next time ~ for the next audition?
Should I have signed her up for a different city?  Should we have flown to a different audition?  Should I have bought her a new leotard?  How should I change my pre-audition pep-talk.? Or my post audition advice?  Should I talk more? Should I shut up?

HOW can I help?
As a Mom, I am supposed to be strong and have the “perfect” advice.  Guess what?
I failed!
For all of you aspiring dancers, please understand that auditions affect us too.  As a parent of an aspiring dancer ~ counting on the summer intensives to help create her ballet “resume” and pave her way into the world of professional ballet; auditions are wrought with anxiety.

OUR anxiety
Sure, we understand that you are feeling stress ~ BIG TIME.~ much more than we will ever understand.  Please know we are feeling stress too.
Please understand that we too cry ourselves to sleep when we see your dreams dashed.  Please know that just like you, we  scream into our pillows when we read the “polite” but cold -hearted rejection saying ~ “best of luck in your future endeavors”.

No one puts MY baby in a corner.
Isn’t there someone I can call?  Isn’t there a way to have a do-over?  Certainly there must be a mistake….could the audition numbers be mixed up? [...]

Ballet’s Social Media Generation ~ Rainsford Alexandra

Ballet’s Social Media Generation
Rainesford Alexandra

When I was twelve or so, I would write letters to my favorite dancers—the ones who inspired me, who made me see ballet in a different light. At the time, it just seemed cool—who wouldn’t want to reach out to people they idolized?—but now, given the intersection between the arts and technology, I see that as my way of connecting with the ballet world beyond my local studio.

Now, at twenty-one, I follow some of my favorite dancers on Instagram and Twitter. It’s the ultimate backstage-pass, no longer just a glimpse behind the curtain, but access that allows us to see not only clips and pictures of rehearsals, but what someone snacked on at breakfast or the outfit they sported on their day off.

It’s no secret that ballet is breaking open, pulling us through the metaphorical stage door and into a world that isn’t just about tulle and fairy princesses after all: Features in publications like Teen Vogue and Elle Magazine, ballerinas popping up in commercials and ads, like Misty Copeland for Under Armor and Maria Kochetkova multitasking Nutcracker-style for VISA Checkout, and collaborations like the one between Cole Haan and a group of New York City Ballet dancers.

And you can see all this without ever looking up from your smartphone.

There’s a lot of newness emerging in ballet, probably the most monumental being the fact that, for arguably the first time in the history of this art form, ballet is accessible. Dancers want to be followed, and we want to follow dancers. Why wouldn’t we? It’s edgy. It’s chic. Ballet isn’t just classic—it’s cool, and it is the performers themselves who are responsible for keeping ballet’s integrity thriving while allowing [...]

Living in Neverland

 

My daughter began taking classes at her pre-professional program when she was 8 years old. At the end of her first year, there was a small group of top level 14 and 15 year old dancers who moved away to attend year round programs all over the country.  Some of the dancers moved away on their own to live in a dorm or with a host family.  There were also a few dancers whose entire family moved to provide their child the best opportunity to pursue their dream as a professional ballerina.

At the time, I was both shocked and intrigued.  Mostly though, I thought these parents were certifiably crazy!

I chanted loud and proud,  “I will NEVER allow my daughter to move away at such a young age…no matter how much she loves ballet or how talented she may be.  And for certain, our family will NEVER move away because of ballet!”
Guess where my family is currently living?
NEVER-land
(AKA Florida)

If you had told me that exactly one year from the start date of my Podcast  I would be sitting in a coffee shop in Florida….having moved cross country because of ballet, I would have proclaimed loud and proud that would NEVER happen!
I should have known that these words would come back to bite me.  Many who know me well, know that my favorite mantra is, “NEVER say never”.  This is because it seems that each and every time I proclaim that I would NEVER do something ~ it has come back to bite me.
Some of my previous life’s proclamations include:

“I will NEVER live in a city/state where winter is the longest season of the year”; (These words bit me for almost 18 years);
“I will NEVER live the suburbs”;  (this bite was not [...]

Wendy Whelan ~ An Iconic Final Bow

This past weekend Wendy Whelan, one of the most iconic dancers in recent Ballet history took her final bow.

Wendy Whelan will forever be considered an icon in Ballet history.  This is partly due to the fact that Ms. Whelan’s career spanned three decades; nearly unheard of in an art form that takes such an athletic toll on the body.  Her status is also due to Wendy’s iconic presence as a Principal dancer with the New York City Ballet – one of the world’s most prestigious companies.
As The New York Times art critic Alastair Macaulay wrote in his recent review of Ms. Whelan’s final performance:

“I’ve noted before that the finest ballets since 2000 have been created for City Ballet. It’s no accident that Ms. Whelan originated roles in most of them: notably Mr. Wheeldon’s “Polyphonia” and Mr. Ratmansky’s “Russian Seasons” and “Concerto DSCH.” Has any dancer in history been involved in more world premieres? It’s easy to imagine the stimulus of collaborating with her. (From the only time I’ve met her, I recall that big smile and how quickly she made me laugh.) And though she has certainly brought refined technique to the process, you can’t help thinking that what must most inspire choreographers has been her spirit, her mind and her sheer will.”
Alastair Macaulay’s review in The New York Times, 10/20/14
For me, however, Wendy Whelan’s iconic status lies more than in her monumental career as a Principal dancer.  For me, Ms. Whelan is an ideal role model for aspiring dancers everywhere. Though she may be leaving the stage, her legacy of humble kindness will remain.  And in today’s culture, it is critically important for aspiring dancers to have a role model with character traits they [...]

An Interview with Maria Tallchief

We have officially started taping interviews for the launch of our Podcast!
Over the course of the last few days, we’ve been busily taping multiple interviews for our soon-to-be-launched Podcast.

My VERY FIRST interview was with a renowned Principal Dancer, Tiit Helimets who dances with the San Fransisco Ballet. Going into the interview,  I felt nervous, a bit giddy and ultimately so excited that my dream was actually coming to fruition. I have been planning an interview style Ballet Podcast for quite some time.  My goal was to interview professionals or those associated with the professional world of Ballet ~ sharing their journey in dance, their remarkable stories and their words of inspiration.

In preparation for the interview, I watched countless videos of this remarkable dancer –  which left me feeling star-struck and even more nervous, afraid that my mediocrity and non-danceness would shine through, making me sound like a bumbling idiot.

After all, I had never done a Skype video call before, had zero “radio personality” and was completely unsure what to expect.

What I experienced was an extremely warm, friendly and engaging “real” person.  The famous dancer faded away. Instead, a man with a compelling story wound up sitting before me.  He told me of his hard work, of his struggles and of his successes.  He spoke of what makes him proud (attending college), and what makes his day happy (having dinner with his wife and daughter).  He was a relatable person….a friend…so much more than just a dance icon.

Since that first interview, everyone I have had the honor to speak with is equally inspiring, equally engaging and has equal the history, sage advice and truth to their journey.   There have been no egos, just [...]

Crazed is My New Normal….

I recently watched and became completely HOOKED on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”.

For those of you who have not seen this series – I highly recommend!   Orange Is the New Black is based upon the real life of Piper Chapman, an Ivy League graduate from Connecticut living in New York City. Piper is sentenced to 15 months in a women’s federal prison for transporting drug money for an international drug smuggler who is Piper’s ex-lover.  This all occurred during a post-college experimental phase in Piper’s life.  The offense occurred ten years prior to the start of the first episode.  In those years, Piper moved on to a quiet law-abiding life, complete with a great apartment and fiancée ~ living among New York’s upper middle class.  The episodes track her experiences in prison and at some point in time; Piper realizes that this “new life” has become her “new normal”.

After watching the series ~ it struck me that my life is in a strange way a little bit like Piper’s journey.  As the parent of a passion-driven ballerina ~ Crazed IS my New Normal.

For starters – we live in a sweet little town on the St. Croix River; the birthplace of Minnesota with its Main Street filled with “old timey” shops and restaurants.  Our quaint neighborhood has a quiet “village” feel ~ porches on the front of every house, sidewalks, green spaces ~ not to mention an elementary school, pub, yoga studio, bank and other shops and resources within a few blocks of each house.   We chose this town and this neighborhood for the reasons just stated.  In fact, we moved 30 miles AWAY from the “big city” to provide this experience for our kids.

Guess [...]

The Blurred Lines of Ballet….

And so it goes.
I am guilty of the “shiny object syndrome”.  I am very attracted to that next best thing….especially when it comes to anything that involves my children’s education or my children’s activities.

I have decided that my new mantra regarding these things….. (right now regarding my daughter’s path in Ballet) is this:

“keep in mind, you are training for a marathon not a race”.

In other words, “Big Picture” thinking….don’t get distracted by the many shiny objects immediately before us.   (My problem, not hers)

The biggest problem with this mantra is that the “Big Picture” has become quite blurry.  It is hard to keep the “Big Picture” in focus when I don’t really know what it is supposed to look like.  

All along I have assumed that my daughter’s passion for ballet would provide her with a positive and healthy “after school activity”.  I hoped that combined with her strong academics, Ballet would help to get  her into colleges she may not have been able to get into otherwise….even Ivy League colleges…..helping her move out of the Midwest. (My hope and dream….not necessarily hers)

Since this summer, however, it has become clear that the “Big Picture” needs to include the possiblilty of making Ballet her career first…..college second.  I really don’t have any idea if this is the path; but for the first time ever, I am left with this as one of the many paths she very likely may try.  

Back to my marathon mantra…..I do know that I would love to keep an attitude of “pacing” her training, so she is not pushed too hard, too quickly and become injured or burnt out.  On the other hand, I do not want to incorrectly [...]

The Journey in all things Ballet ~

The journey of a Ballerina is long and filled with years of sweat, perseverance and an unbelievable razor-like focus each and every day.
The journey of the Ballerina’s mother is even longer…..filled with years of driving, waiting, hoping, praying and yes paying, with an unbelievable patience of Job each and every day.

I am on this journey…..my name is Kimberly and I am the mother of a aspiring Ballerina.

This Blog charts my journey.

My personal journey in the world of Ballet started long before I was a mother.  As a little girl, like so many little girls, I dreamed of becoming a professional Ballerina, dancing on the stage for all the world to see.  I loved all things Ballet; the tights, the leotards, the silk ribbons, the leg warmers, the smell of the studio, the rosin…all of it.

I truly believed I would always be a part of that world……until the day my strict Spanish Ballet teacher Ms D. dashed my dreams forever.  On this day she called my mother into the studio and explained to her, as I stood innocently at the barre, that ~ “while Kimberly shows promise and a love for Ballet, she will never make it as a Ballerina….she is just too petite and little”.

Those words changed my dream forever.

In high school I decided that although I would never “be” a Ballerina, I still loved all things Ballet and took classes after school for many years…..just for fun.  Even though I would never become a Ballerina, I still loved all things Ballet.

Fast forward to today – I am ironically encompassed in the world of Ballet again.  I am now the mother of a 14 year old budding Ballerina.  And while I am still enchanted [...]

Pirouettes from the Past – History of Dance Recitals

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This episode looks at the history of dance recitals, which have been part of ballet class in America for a long time.

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Pirouettes from the Past – Relationships – Ballet vs. Modern Dance

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On this episode Dr. Klapper explores the contentious history of the early relationship between ballet and modern dance.

Dr. Melissa R. Klapper is Professor of History and former Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. She teaches American and women’s history, with a focus on the late 19th and early 20th century and additional research interests in the history of childhood, the history of education, and American Jewish history. Dr. Klapper is the author ofJewish Girls Coming of Age in America, 1860-1920 (NYU Press, 2005); Small Strangers: The Experiences of Immigrant Children in the United States, 1880-1925 (Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2007); and Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940 (NYU Press,2013). Her scholarship has been awarded grants and fellowships from an array of sources, including the American Jewish Archives, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women at Harvard University, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

If you have questions for Melissa you can reach her at BalancingPointe@gmail.com.

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Pirouettes from the Past – The History of Leotards, Tights, and Tutus

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In this episode of Pirouettes form the Past, Dr. Klapper continues the theme of exploring the history of dancewear.  The episode traces the history of leotards, tights, and tutus.

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Pirouettes from the Past – The History of Pointe Shoes

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On this episode Dr. Klapper shares with us the history of pointe shoes.  Pointe shoes are taken for granted as an integral part of ballet, but they are actually a somewhat recent development within the context of many centuries of ballet history.

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Pirouettes from the Past ~ Race and Diversity Part Two

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This episode continues the discussion of the history of race, diversity, and ballet in America.  The focus in this episode is on the obstacles within the world of professional ballet that African American dancers faced throughout the twentieth century and continue to deal with today.

 

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Pirouettes from the Past – Chapter 13 – The History of Race, Diversity, and Ballet in America

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This chapter of Pirouettes from the Past features discusses the history of race, diversity, and ballet in America.  The focus in this episode is on African American children’s difficulties in gaining access to ballet class and the segregated studios where most of them had to go for training.

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Pirouettes from the Past – the transformative 1963 Ford Foundation ballet grants and the importance of arts funding

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This chapter of Pirouettes from the Past is about the transformative 1963 Ford Foundation ballet grants and the importance of arts funding.

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Pirouettes from the Past, Chapter 11 ~ The History of Dance Teacher Organizations in the United States

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In this episode of Pirouettes from the Past, Dr. Klapper discusses the history of dance teacher organizations in the United States.

Dr. Melissa R. Klapper is Professor of History and former Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. She teaches American and women’s history, with a focus on the late 19th and early 20th century and additional research interests in the history of childhood, the history of education, and American Jewish history. Dr. Klapper is the author ofJewish Girls Coming of Age in America, 1860-1920 (NYU Press, 2005); Small Strangers: The Experiences of Immigrant Children in the United States, 1880-1925 (Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2007); and Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940 (NYU Press,2013). Her scholarship has been awarded grants and fellowships from an array of sources, including the American Jewish Archives, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women at Harvard University, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

If you have questions for Melissa you can reach her at BalancingPointe@gmail.com.

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217 ~ Pirouettes from the Past, Chapter 10 ~ Ballet Techniques.

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In today’s episode, Dr. Klapper teams up with Pas de Chat’s host Barry Kerollis to trace the history of the various ballet training techniques in the United States. You can find Barry’s collaborative episode at PremierDanceNetwork.com.

Dr. Melissa R. Klapper is Professor of History and former Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. She teaches American and women’s history, with a focus on the late 19th and early 20th century and additional research interests in the history of childhood, the history of education, and American Jewish history. Dr. Klapper is the author ofJewish Girls Coming of Age in America, 1860-1920 (NYU Press, 2005); Small Strangers: The Experiences of Immigrant Children in the United States, 1880-1925 (Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2007); and Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940 (NYU Press,2013). Her scholarship has been awarded grants and fellowships from an array of sources, including the American Jewish Archives, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women at Harvard University, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

If you have questions for Melissa you can reach her at BalancingPointe@gmail.com.

Premier Dance Network website

216 ~ Pirouettes from the Past – Chapter Nine, College Dance Departments Part Two

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This episode is the second on the history of college dance departments in the United States.

Dr. Melissa R. Klapper is Professor of History and former Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. She teaches American and women’s history, with a focus on the late 19th and early 20th century and additional research interests in the history of childhood, the history of education, and American Jewish history. Dr. Klapper is the author ofJewish Girls Coming of Age in America, 1860-1920 (NYU Press, 2005); Small Strangers: The Experiences of Immigrant Children in the United States, 1880-1925 (Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2007); and Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940 (NYU Press,2013). Her scholarship has been awarded grants and fellowships from an array of sources, including the American Jewish Archives, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women at Harvard University, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

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