Sunday, August 14, 2016

Wear Demi Poine Shoes?

  "Should I Wear Demi Pointe Shoes?"


Lisa Howell, author of The Perfect Pointe Book, weighs in on the benefits of demi pointe shoes.

"My personal preference is actually to use broken down pointe shoes of the same style as they use en pointe, rather than specifically designed "demi-pointe" shoes. For instance, one a student has broken down the shank of their first pair, the shank may be removed, and this shoe used for parts of their normal class. This helps them gain more proprioceptive feedback about what it is like to stand in those particular shoes".

source.


I was trained to use worn out pointe shoes as soft shoes. It was very economical, but also good for the foot muscles.

I mean, when are your feet strong enough, if ever?

I remember pulling the shank out of many pointe shoes, and sometimes having to pull out a nail or file down the grainy glue with an emory board. I could also press the fabric cover of the shank back in.

The Benefits Of Not Using Demi Pointe Shoes

 Ultimately, the shank can be left in if you want to really challenge those foot muscles.If you value progress over the immediate ease of "pointing your shoe", you will.

Why throw away a piece of your shoe that's going to make you strong?

Lisa Howell  brings up a good point about 'claw toes' or toe curling in the ballet shoes. Wearing satin, slightly stiffened quasi-pointe shoes can hide from your teacher exactly what your toes are doing in the shoe.

Curling, instead of lengthening the toes and following the line of your arch, prevents the development of good forefoot muscles.

I wrote in detail about the forefoot muscles HERE.

I would discourage students from wearing split sole shoes. Why? Again, you've removed a piece of the shoe that requires extra effort from your foot muscles.

I honestly think that demi pointe shoes are a marketing issue. Dance is so huge now. When I was performing it was still a subculture.

I don't disparage the glut of dancewear and choices in pointe shoes for all foot types, no not at all. But I'll repeat myself - (click HERE for the full article) you must get your feet in charge of the shoes, and not the other way around.

And don't forget that extra sole-of-the-foot strength and forefoot strength will improve your allegro too!

Here's a video showing how to use the correct muscles when you point your feet!




Thursday, August 11, 2016

Creating Your Brand As A Dancer

Creating Your Brand As A Dancer

Or as a teacher, a studio, a company, a free lance group, a choreographer, a dance writer...I'm about half way through the book The Artist's Compass:
The Complete Guide to Building a Life and a Living in the Performing Arts by Rachel S. Moore.

Released May 3, 2016, it has three reviews on amazon.com, all five stars. I will add mine when I've finished the book, but I want to write about it here first so I can say Get It Now!

Did I ever need this book thirty years ago! And you young dancers, even if still in High School, you need it now!

Your parents need to read it too!

http://amzn.to/2biQZhG

Chock full of great advice from years of experience! From early dance training to joining a company, dealing with unions, agents and...sadly, injury, Ms. Moore went on to study and work in arts management. To quote her -

"While performing artists have many educational opportunities to perfect their craft, they are often on their own when it comes to learning the business skills necessary to launch their careers. At the end of the day, show business is, well, a business."

Click on the book to read the rest of the description and about Ms. Moore's fascinating bio!

As a retired dancer and now writer (working on a series of novels about a surfer girl in pointe shoes, more here) with a writing partner, I need this book now, too.

Learning all about Social Media and how to work it and apply it properly and generously every day is gruelling! When will there be time to write?

If I were still teaching I would feel the same way - when will I do those class plans? Choreograph? Take the girls to a pointe shoe fitting?

Not that I haven't been using social media for years, but no plotting and planning has been involved. 

This book is suitable for anyone who needs branding for any reason - peeps in the Fine Arts, film, writers...anything! 

I'll add more to this when I've finished it. Get yours!!

Oh - I almost forgot! Please use the Share buttons below!






Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pictures - Ballet Pointe Shoes

Recently my sister Jayne North sent me some pictures - ballet pointe shoes!
She had seen them in a thrift store in the southern Ontario countryside.

She emailed me to ask me if I could read the writing on them.

I could! They were autographed by Veronica Tennant! Former prima ballerina of The National Ballet of Canada.

There have been many occasions when a ballet fan might have received those shoes. A school tour?

A "Meet The Dancers" after a matinee show?

Just two days ago the Boston Ballet tweeted that autographed shoes were available in their shop and you can see those here.

When you're a young aspiring ballerina a pair of torn, stained, worn out pointe shoes with the autograph of a prima ballerina is a wonderful talisman.

The details - look how she darns the platform of her pointe shoes! Where she sews her ribbons and elastic...a spot of rosin stuck, danced into that leather sole. And is there a shoemaker's mark or initials (as there is on Freeds)? 

I remember when Betty Oliphant and Lucy Potts returned from their first visit to Russia in the USSR days. They brought autographed pointe shoes from Bolshoi dancers and Mrs. Potts translated the names for us.

What on earth did I do with the pair I had? Those pointe shoes were so different from ours (we only had Freeds and Gambas then). A pale almost lilac pink - very low vamps, tapered boxes and a V shaped point in the material over the forefoot.

They were all the same - there was no variation in the widths or shapes. I took note after that, while pouring over photos , of the extra supports sewn in by dancers like Ulanova and Maximova who had high domed insteps and flexible ankles.

Yet they didn't always have elastic sewn into their vamps so they must have had very strong feet!

Now the choices in pointe shoes are mind boggling. It is worth a trip to a major center to try many on, if you don't have a well stocked pointe shoe shop locally.

If you're longing to get into pointe shoes - here are some foot exercises to help you out!

Here is Ulanova in 1956 - she would have been 46  years old.






Friday, June 10, 2016

Can Teachers Be Wrong?

What a great question! A dancer asked me this at allexperts.com recently. And this was my answer:

"Having trained with Royal Academy, Cecchetti, French and Russian teachers I experienced contradictions in training. Yet I never felt any of my teachers were wrong.

When I started to teach, I chose whatever worked for each student, according to their physique. Unless, of course I was teaching Cecchetti for an exam."



I went on to remind her that classical technique defies anatomical norms. It is important that ballet instructors understand (whatever style) basic technique well enough to show students, individually, how to prevent injury on their physique.

Student can lose trust in a teacher because of the incorrect perception that a teacher doesn't know how to teach properly.

Some teachers are happy to state that their competitors teach technique incorrectly.

A kinesiologist will say most of ballet is downright harmful!

Another factor is that teachers may not express what they really mean very well.

Any student (of professional or recreational dance)can study the different ballet styles, and decide how they would apply the instruction to their physical type.

I advised her to get:

  The Perfect Pointe Book - which demonstrates basic ballet movements

Tune Up Your Turnout - from a kinesiology perspective

Inside Ballet Technique -Separating Anatomical Fact from Fiction in the Ballet Class


Written by therapists and kinesiologists these are excellent guides as to what is "right", sans any style.

Every body is different, even the ones that are "creme de la creme" models chosen from among the "rest of us" at professional school auditions.

You need to know, and can find out, what is best for you.  You want to achieve strength and grace which I wrote about in my article "Ballet - Ocean Waves - Fluidity".(It has a great video of fluid movement).

Enjoy your dancing!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Arabesque Means A Line


Arabesque the line in classical ballet.

ar·a·besque
ˌerəˈbesk/
noun
noun: arabesque; plural noun: arabesques
  1. 1.
    an ornamental design consisting of intertwined flowing lines, originally found in Arabic or Moorish decoration.
    "arabesque scrolls"
    • Music
      a passage or composition with fanciful ornamentation of the melody.
  2. 2.
    Ballet
    a posture in which the body is supported on one leg, with the other leg extended horizontally backward.

How did 1. get to 2.?

Many years ago I read in a dance dictionary that arabesque was so called because it was "a line". In art, arabesque - from the Arabic - was a style of lines, because in the practice of Islam artists could not draw images of the human form.

In ballet the leg is behind - and arms have a variety of placements. Yet, they should continue the line of the leg and the back and the neck.

ballerina arabesque


Ballet has the best of both worlds - the lines, and the human form. 

In grand jete - most often a 180 degree line to the legs (a split), the upper body can be lined in first second or third arabesque, or rounded arm positions.

ballerina jete arms rounded


 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:From_the_ballet_Coppelia_cropped.jpg

The dancer can arch backwards and bend the back leg with arms arcing back toward the back foot, almost making a circle. It's a beautiful line.



Yet, the back thigh is still in a 180 degree line continuing from the front leg.

Extreme overstretching exercises.

If the front leg can raise upwards breaking that straight line, and the back leg 

does as well, there is now a shallow V shape. Or bow shape.

If the front and back arm are not parallel to the legs, it looks very odd.

In fact if they are parallel to the front and back leg, it still looks very odd!

It doesn't fit in any classical ballet!

Do I just sound like I'm complaining because I don't like it?

Yes, that's what I'm doing.I mean...take a look! 





Monday, March 7, 2016

Ballet - Ocean Waves - Fluidity

I was watching ocean waves recently and tuned into the rhythm of the flow.

I started to think about dance movement and the ebb and flow of tension.

Can A Late Starter In Ballet Achieve Fluidity?

source.

Perfect control is the control of tension.


A dancer learns how to be tense...then not tense.

There is a pas de deux between positions and movement. Ballet positions are practised for years!

Whether they are Vaganova, Cecchetti, R.A.D., or some other newer system, they are positions integrated into almost every class, exam, choreography...

The student dancer imitates, for years, the positions.

Yet ultimately all those positions are -- movement! In adagio, allegro, grand allegro -- it's all movement.

I learned the most about ballet from non-dancers.

True! I learned the most about dance from a friend whom I'd given tickets (back in the days when I could) to not only ballets but to a few progressive choreographic workshops danced by professionals and senior students.

"She moves like water." A remark about Karen Kain way back. This dance observer saw her in Swan Lake, and then in a workshop where she danced "Emily" choreographed by Anne Ditchburn.

Years later I got a good review from critic Deidre Kelly who remarked that in my choreography the dancers' arm movements never came to rest, but defied positioning in a constant flow.

When I started to write this blog, and found myself describing plies, tendus, and ronde de jambe exercises, I found myself careful to repeat that tension in barre exercises, is fluid.

Muscles must be held, as strong as a muscle can. At the top of a jump, at the height of an arabesque.

And, let go immediately! If needed, or if not, gradually, according to the need of a safe landing, or to stay in time with the music, or for a dramatic moment.

The ocean reminded me of this. Every wave is unique. The tension of the waves interact with other waves flowing in or out from different directions. Intercepted by undercurrents, blocked or augmented.

And dance is like that. Every performance is different with new energies, new tensions, new joys. Ditto for the musicians.

And isn't that great? Every show is like "you had to be there".

The audience is not aware of the dancer's incredible control. The audience is mesmerized by the ebb and flow of the tension, and release, in the technique and the artistry of its presentation.

I don't know why I'm thinking all this tonight. Maybe it was the booming crashing thunderstorm I woke up to this morning.

Here is one (in a million) example of that fluidity.


  

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Concussion And Dancers

When I think of concussions, I think of football players. Who, to non sports fans, are kind of crazy guys (some of whom earn millions a year) who slam themselves into other crazy guys to forward a ball...a few yards?

I was stopped in my digital tracks when I read the article on The Dance Current about dancers and concussion injury. 

Recently I've talked to two people who saw the movie "Concussion:" with Will Smith. One loved it and the other didn't like it. But it is an important issue.


It's football. I get it. And casting Will Smith.

But what about dance? And concussion? I've worked in a chiropractic office, and yes, concussion IS a big deal.

I can't add anything to the movie trailer or the article in Dance Current.

Whether you are a ballet dancer, break dancer, ballet teacher, adult ballet beginner -- or a high school football player, I hope you'll read this article and expand your awareness.

I searched "ballet concussions" and came up with nothing. But please don't let that discourage you from thinking about this.