Thursday, November 20, 2008

Many Nutcracker Versions Are Loved By Ballet Fans Around The World

Professional ballet dancers typically work through the holidays performing one of the Nutcracker versions, up to ten ballet performances a week. If you are a ballet student rehearsing for your local Nutcracker, get those pointe shoes ready! Always have an extras pair broken in and ready to go. If you are a ballet fan, get your Nutcracker tickets now. Check for group and student rates at your theaters, and consider giving Nutcracker tickets for holiday gifts.

The Nutcracker ballet versions that we can see now have developed from a rich history. The Nutcracker began as a somewhat dark story of magic, a fairy tale that we might not choose for our young children. Originally, Clara was a doll of the central character Maria. She came alive and helped the wounded Nutcracker doll who had engaged in heavy combat wit the Mouse King.

Tchaikovsky used some contemporary music, a popular children's song, as well as a contemporary song people played or sang as party guests departed for home. The full Nutcracker score that we know now developed in stages.

Anna Pavlova's Company performed a version of Nutcracker in 1915, choreographed by Ivan Clustine, called "Snowflakes". The Bolshoi Ballet presented a version of the ballet in 1919, choreographed by
Alexander Gorsky.

The Kirov Ballet's first Nutcracker version was presented 1929, and outside of Russia, the Vic-Wells Ballet produced the first English version in 1934, choreographed by Nicholas Sergueyev.

Lew Christensen is responsible for the first full-length American version of the Nutcracker, opened by the San Francisco Ballet, in 1954.

There are approximately 30 more professional full length versions of the Nutcracker that have endured through ballet history.

The magical character of Uncle Drosselmeyer has been portrayed in many imaginative ways. In some versions he is a character part with little dancing. In one version he is a tap dancer!

Many versions of the Nutcracker on DVD, are available to children everywhere.

The Nutcracker music, the lush costumes and sets, and the magic, has kept audiences entertained for generations. And, naturally, the Nutcracker has contributed to developing ballet audiences, as it is often the first ballet children see, and many are hooked for life. is a link taking you to the finer details of Nutcracker history.

Scampering mice, Snowflakes in pointe shoes, lights, music and magic - there are many Nutcracker versions for ballet dancers and ballet fans. Enjoy!

To browse ballet DVDs look here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Prevent Ballet and Dance Injuries in Your Nutcracker Season

Learning how to minimize the chance of dance injuries is an acquired skill. Warming up, having healthy snacks in your dance bag, and perhaps having an extra pair of pointe shoes ready to wear, will help you avoid ballet injuries.

Rehearsal schedules intensify as the Nutcracker season approaches. Everyone wants to do their best.

Muscle aches and pains after classes and rehearsals should not be ignored. Soaking sore and exhausted muscles in epsom salt baths, ( a form of magnesium) elevating your legs while sitting, and using a pinkie ball to rid your muscles of tension is exactly what your muscles deserve.

Knee injuries, sprained ankles and shin splints all result from inaccurate technique, that do not necessarily show up until dance schedules intensify. A little fatigue, emotional distractions, anxiety, poor sleep or poor diet all contribute to that moment of error or mis-timing when an accident happens.

Fresh foods are necessary to keep your strength up. Sugar weakens muscles and also contributes to inflammation. Do your best to eat well. Magnesium is a nutrient that helps relax muscles and can lead to better sleep. Green vegetables and salad foods are full of trace minerals that help carry lactic acids and other cellular wastes out of tired muscles. Lean proteins, and whole grain carbohydrates will put more nutritional support in your diet.

Dance medicine specialist and author Deborah Vogel writes:

"Four Warning Signs of an Injury

* Pain that gets progressively worse during class, rehearsal, work out, etc.
* Pain that comes after your class, rehearsal, or work out, and comes back the next day after less movement is done.
* Pain that appears when executing certain movements (e.g. during arabesque or landing a jump).
* No real sense of "pain" but a definite restriction of movement."

Pay attention to your body's signals. Ice tired and tense muscles even if they don't hurt. Take some deep breaths when you sit down to relax, or when you go to bed. Use a pinky ball to ease out tension, then do some very gentle stretching afterwards. Have a real day of rest, and catch up with non-dance activities.

Even when you are a recreational dance student, you get the most out of it if you act like pro. Ask your family graciously for extra help or rest time that you need, and let them know how much you appreciate their support.

This way you will really get to enjoy your experience of performing in ballet shoes and pointe shoes.

Read more about injury prevention, strength for pointe work, and muscle care at The Ballet Store.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ballet Positions, Ballet Techniques and Ballet Movements

There are many many books and ebooks published on ballet positions, ballet movements and ballet techniques. If you are a new ballet student, how do know what you are looking at? Which ones might you choose to learn from? There are different ballet techniques. Which one is right for you? Will you get dance injuries if you practice ballet positions that are wrong?

There is an enormous amount of information in print, on DVD and via ebooks, about ballet positions, ballet movements and ballet techniques. Much of it is beautifully presented.

Ballet photography goes way back to the late 19th century and has preserved precious images of early ballerinas and premier danseurs. Going even earlier in ballet history, there are excellent drawings of ballet stars, ballet classes, and ballet masters.

It's fantastic that now we can view productions from ballet companies all around the world on DVD. For ballet fans who are not in a major city that is visited regularly by ballet companies, this is especially handy.

There is so much to look at, and how can we pick and choose what to learn from? Of course ballet is taught by a live ballet teacher, not from an ebook or DVD. But between classes there is opportunity to understand class lessons better, or study to figure out why certain ballet positions or movements may be difficult.

The Cecchetti method of ballet, the Royal Academy of Dancing and the Vaganova method are the three best known methods of teaching ballet. Most major full time professional ballet schools combine these styles, not necessarily by using all three grading systems, but by employing staff and guest teachers who have a well rounded training themselves. The Auguste Bournonville choreographic tradition shows up a lot in the Cecchetti grades, as just one example of how classical choreography has become embedded in training.

If you are interested in starting ballet, find out what schools in your area teach a syllabus (grading) system, or if they do not, what is the background of the teachers. Retired professionals do not always teach from one of these three systems, yet can be excellent at teaching from their own training.

If you are training to dance simply for your own enjoyment, you may or may not like the pressure of ballet exams - yet, it is part of the discipline in most schools. Whatever your preference, check around and find the right school for you.

If you are taking ballet for weight loss and you are on the right diet, you won't be disappointed. Ballet classes burn a fair amount of calories, and also help build muscle. Since muscles burn calories all by themselves, even when you are sleeping, gaining muscle mass is very healthy. Ballet is also good exercise for healthy bones as well.

Dance injuries are usually the result of sloppy technique or too much muscle tension. Work as accurately as you can, and if you are having trouble with a ballet position or movement, do not be shy. Ask for help. For one thing, repeatedly practicing a ballet movement incorrectly will lead to increased muscle tension.

If you are a curious student and want to know the ins and outs of the mechanics of ballet movements, and what would be anatomically correct, get one of the ballet books written on functional anatomy. It will help you sort out how to improve ballet positions and movements. Not everything in ballet is anatomically correct, and details about that is good for you to know.

Whatever ballet technique you choose to study, always enjoy the movements that you do more easily, get help with those that you struggle with, and take good care of yourself. Go to The Ballet Store for a huge library of dance books and special training manuals on ballet and functional anatomy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Professional Attitude For Ballet and Dance Students

Teachers in any kind of child, teen, adult education or college classes need their students to have basic good manners. Listening, not disrupting the class in any way, are skills that teachers hope every child has before they come to kindergarten. If only.

In ballet and dance classes progress depends on quick understanding by the students, as the physical doing and repetition of a correct movement is what creates good technique. And good technique is the basic ability, then talent, style and other aspects of presentation follow.

So what is a professional attitude that would help ballet and dance students who do not even have professional aspirations? Should they care?

Many inherent factors in the performing arts trainings can bring out the bad attitude in many of us, naturally. Some teachers are drawn to teach and correct to the physically gifted and more charismatic students, even if they are not good workers. This can raise the resentment of other students. I understand this. However, the professional attitude of everyone is to just keep working hard. It is also alright to ask your ballet teacher, at least every few weeks, "what should I be focusing on the most right now to improve?" If you have to demand attention, you do, in a polite way.

Of course if this is a real problem in your ballet studio, go somewhere else.

Casting for performance roles is naturally an issue. Everyone hopes that she or he is ready for the lead or solo roles, or realistically knows that they are not. On the management end, it is true that those teachers doing the casting sometimes do consider students whose families support the school, or who have financial influence. Occasionally it is painfully obvious.

However you get cast, fairly or not, rehearse and dance every role like it is the most important role in the ballet. Because it is. It is YOUR role. That doesn't mean you demand any extra attention with superfluous smiling or any other kind of exaggeration. Do not distract yourself with envy (though it is a natural reaction to feel it, keep it under control), grief, or moping. You can cry on the right shoulder away from the studio, but in the studio you act with quiet pride in all that you do.

You come prepared for every class and rehearsal. You do the minimal socializing, and do not join in the complaining committee of the other unhappily cast ballet students. Just go about your business.

If your ballet studio is presenting excerpts from classical choreography rent the ballets, different companies if possible, and see how the professional dancers do the parts you are rehearsing. Different dancers have different interpretations, musicality and style. You can always learn something to adapt in your way to improve your presentation.

A professional attitude is largely about self-containment. Get advice outside of the studio from family or friends, even other teachers. Release your emotional disappointment somewhere safe. But in the studio, just work. Be helpful to others when needed, as long as it doesn't take away from your work.

Get an edge on your competition as well by studying the expert dance manuals that are available. Improve on your own, take care of aches and pains, eat well and sleep well. Everyone respects that, whether they say so or not. Become your own expert and be a pro, whatever you do.