Ballet Techniques Uncovered

I know that this is generally a blog about freelance work as a dancer, but every once in awhile I like to include some content that I feel is extremely valuable to my readers. And this post falls right in the realm of content that is fully appropriate (and helpful) for all of you who come here for valuable information on dance.

Students at the Vaganova Ballet Academy
Over the past few weeks, I have been working my ballet-toned rear-end off to create this immense resource for anybody that is curious about the art form of ballet. On my podcast, Pas de Chát: Talking Dance, on the Premier Dance Network, I researched and interviewed experts on 7 international training methodologies in ballet technique to provide accessible information explaining the background and execution of these methods. Our contributors include the Artistic Director of New York Theatre Ballet, Principal of Ballet West Academy, Faculty at the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre's JKO School, and Houston Ballet Academy, and more! Additionally, I have crossover-collaborated with Pirouettes from the Past host, Dr. Melissa Klapper, as a part of this episode series. On Dr. Klapper's channel, she talks about the history behind a few of the techniques mentioned.

So, if you are interested in learning about Vaganova, Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), Cecchetti, French (Paris Opera Ballet), Balanchine, Bournonville, or Cuban training methods, please feel free to click the links below and give these episodes a listen! Enjoy!

Ballet Techniques Uncovered (Part 1)
Ballet Techniques Uncovered (Part 2)
History of "Ballet Techniques" - Pirouettes from the Past


Reframing Your Thinking

Overexposed and ringing in the new year with great friends
Whew! This new year has been a complete and utter whirlwind. I have had mostly major ups and a few minor downs (that include a business I will no longer support - Megabus - avoid this company at ALL costs). But I honestly can’t complain about anything at this point, other than the fact that I need a few more hours in my bed every night. Since the new year, I have taught master classes in both Ballet and Contemporary techniques for the pre-professional class at the School of Pennsylvania Ballet. There was even a sprinkling of company members who joined me for class. Additionally, I will be teaching Contemporary classes for the Second Avenue Dance Company in February. This is a performing group at New York University’s Tisch school comprised of graduating BFA and MFA students. With even more news to share, I have been selected to choreograph for Columbia University’s performing group, Columbia Ballet Collaborative, for their 10th anniversary performances in April. All of this coupled with my 7-week Advanced Beginner Ballet series at Broadway Dance Center (Fridays at 6 pm through February), choreographing student solos for Youth America Grand Prix, and teaching elsewhere has me feeling extremely grateful to be sought out in my art form.

Pre-professional division students at the School of Pennsylvania Ballet (Photo: Alexander Izaliev)
It’s funny, though, because while I am so lucky to have all of this interest in my work, there is a certain degree of anxiety that comes along with it. The concept behind this may require a bit of explanation. Just this weekend, I got news about 5 positive choreographic and teaching offers. While it seems that I should only be feeling excitement here, there is a certain type of stress that comes with positive news. I noticed today that I was experiencing a bit of my former anxiety that I used to get when I was traveling a bunch during my performance career. I would find myself attempting to focus on the work in front of my face, while feeling distracted by setting up what was next (one of the hazards of working as a freelancer). The impossibility of only focusing on the task at hand would make me feel overwhelmed and I now recognize that it contributed to my burn out that I have discussed in this blog already. As a freelance artist, your work stops when the jobs stop. In the process of working to set up continuity within my career, I never took a moment to recognize that I was actually having my career. Instead, I constantly felt like I was working on reaching a certain level of success in my career and didn’t realize that I was actually living it until it was over. There was very little in the moment for me because I was only living in the future.  And while that aspect of my career ended over 2 years ago, I only recognized this today.

So, just a little background. With all of this wonderful news that I’ve gotten in the last week, I had two horrible experiences with Megabus. If you don’t read this regularly, I commute from Philadelphia to New York City multiple times a week to teach at Steps on Broadway, Broadway Dance Center, and Greenwich Ballet Academy. Early on Friday morning, in freezing cold temperatures, our bus never showed up. And, shortly after, on Tuesday night, there were a series of fiascos that prevented our bus from arriving in Philadelphia until 4 am in the morning. I had to teach for the School of Pennsylvania Ballet at 9:30 am that same morning. I was put off by this organization both times and they refused to acknowledge their issues or compensate me for their poor practices/lack of service. This stress, coupled with exhaustion and the flood of positive news somehow threw me back into the throws of anxiety that I experienced previously. I found myself negatively fixated on my exhaustion and the challenges of having limited time in any one place. And I found that I was again telling myself that things will get better when I actually make it into a certain realm of success. Then, this afternoon, out of nowhere, I had a realization. I realized I needed to reframe my thinking because I want to take in all of the amazing experiences that I am having and be as in the moment as I possibly can.

We are very lucky as human beings that we have intellect and the ability to analyze things that are happening in our lives. I firmly believe that one of the best analytical qualities that we share is the ability to reframe life experiences in order to make a dialogue fit in better with our story. Sometimes, this works to our benefit. While, at other times, it can be very detrimental and lead a person to spiral into dark, dark places. But if we can take control of how we frame our life and career experiences in our minds, we can benefit greatly from this. Of course, this is as long as we are being honest with ourselves about where we are and how things are going.

In my current situation, it was almost a bit too natural for me to look at recent happenings and tell myself that things are difficult because I haven’t yet succeeded in reaching my end career goals. Mind you, this is ridiculous to consider at the age of 33. Additionally, I was digesting more stress from the challenges of dealing with the negligent Megabus company and the added exhaustion those issues brought on. I found myself walking to the gym before I jumped on the Bolt Bus to teach at Steps on Broadway tonight telling myself that everything will be glorious when I actually make it big someday. And then right then and there, almost as if I had been hit by a bus, I realized that I wasn’t looking at the situation from any rational perspective. I needed to reframe my thinking.

That moment at 3:34 am, when your Megabus driver gets off the bus to ask a homeless person for directions :-/
At that very moment, I reversed the natural stream of thoughts that roll through my head and chose to look at things differently. I told myself, “No. I am not in any bad situation, at all. And while there are always new dreams and achievements that I want to attain, I am actually living my dream right now. I’m not putting in the work to get to my dream. I’m putting in the work that one does while they live it and that is why I am successful. Yes, my success can get greater. Yes, I have greater goals in mind. But I am not putting in all of this work to get somewhere. I am there and, as long as I keep positively moving forward, it can only get better from here.”

So, now as I sit here on the Bolt Bus (goodbye Megabus 😂 have I made my point?) heading to Steps to teach, I realize that I should be proud of my success. And that my success sometimes puts me in situations that require me to travel a lot, to lose sleep, and to spend time away from my loved ones. This isn’t a greatly negative thing. It is an aspect of becoming successful. And if I can’t come to grips with that in this stage of my career, I may find myself in the same type of burn out situation that I was in at the end of my performance career. And, I don’t want to go through that again.

If you can use my exploration of the idea of reframing thinking to have a more positive outlook on your own life and career goals, I feel that you can benefit from this, as well. Dancers are naturally overachieving spirits. We are always looking to reach the next level of success in many areas of our lives. Whether it is casting, rank promotion, technique, health, or anything else, we tend to be extremely critical of ourselves. When you start to feel out of sorts, if you can reframe your thinking you may recognize that you have already achieved what you are seeking and that you just haven’t taken note that it is happening or already has happened.