Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Special training for contemporary ballet

Midsummer and Carmina illustrate the differences between classical and contemporary ballet. Sometimes it’s as if they’re two entirely different art forms, requiring different artistic and athletic abilities.

Dancers must train very differently for both genres as to perform to the best of their abilities and to prevent injuries.

Hope Davis from Ohio State’s Sports Medicine's Program for Performing Arts Medicine is the head athletic trainer at BalletMet. She’s onsite everyday for injury checks, onsite treatments and formal physical therapy as well as launching injury prevention and educational programs.

Carmina Burana and Coming into View are very athletic, aerobic, and cardiovascular demanding,” Hope said. “The movement quality is also unusual and doesn’t follow typical ballet training, especially with lifting.”

Hope prepared dancers for these pieces by giving them special exercises to prevent injuries. The male dancers did lower back and core strengthening exercises, while the female dancers received neck and shoulder strengthening.

Men were given exercises such as transverse abdominus work outs to prevent injuries from lifting the women from their trunks and without their legs, which is uncharacteristic of typical ballet. Women were given arm and shoulder exercises should as scapula push-ups for postural stabilization to help them with their unique lifts where they take a lot of weight and pressure on their shoulders.

Company dancers were also given self-release techniques to help keep their muscles from getting too tight, especially those not used as much in traditional ballet. Hope also educated the dancers on the importance of hydration as well as muscle recovery and cross training.

What amazes me is the lengths that BalletMet’s dancers are willing to go to perform various dancing roles to the best of their abilities. Not only did BalletMet’s company dancers rehearse the pieces extensively and take a variety of dance technique classes, they also completed extra exercises on top of that. Way to go company dancers! And thank you Hope for educating and taking care of our dancers!

Friday, March 5, 2010

How to become a professional dancer

The lights go up and the curtain draws. A perfect ballerina appears on the stage and moves about effortlessly with a gleaming smile. She goes up on her toes, moves her feet quickly, runs, and then jumps high off the ground almost as if she’s a puppet attached to a string.

Little did you know that that’s actually: plié, sous-sus, bourrée, tombé, pas de bourrée, glissade, grand jeté... and that’s just the feet.

As you probably already know, dancing is a skill that takes a lot of time and hard work to develop. Many dream of being professional dancers, but few go the distance and make the cut. As a dance viewer or a dancer yourself, you might be wondering: what does it take to be the one on that stage?

One teenager's dream to become a pro...

BalletMet pre-professional student Christopher Evans has hopes to become a professional dancer in a European dance company.

The 15-year-old knew he wanted to start dancing when he saw Baryshnikov in the Nutracker.

“He was doing all these cool jumps and turns,” Chris said. “I turned to my mom and told her that I wanted to dance.”

Chris’s typical day begins at with a Cota bus ride from Delaware to downtown Columbus at 6:30 a.m. He then spends time at a local coffee shop to wait until BalletMet opens at 8:30 a.m. He fits in his home schooling between classes, which have him dancing for at least three hours a day.

All of Chris’s long days paid off when he placed at an International Ballet Competition, Prix de Lousanne this January.

Starting this August, Chris will be spending one year in The Hamburg Ballet school in Germany.

Young company dancers following their dreams…

Some of BalletMet’s newest and youngest company dancers Kerri Riccardi and Samantha Lewis tell their stories about following and living their dreams to dance.

Kerri, 20, from New York has been dancing since she was three years old and made the wish to be a dancer when she blew out the candles on her 5-year-old birthday cake. (I guess now that she’s a pro, she can share the wish secret!)

Kerri traveled into NYC to dance during high school and became a trainee at BalletMet last year and stayed on this year.

“Dancing professionally is a lot more dancing than in high school and involves constant performing,” Kerri said. “Before we’re done with one show, we’re on to the next. You must train your mind and body to learn a variety of pieces.”

Samantha, 21, has been dancing since she was four years old and trained in BalletMet’s pre-professional program for four years in high school before making it into the company.

In high school, Samantha wanted to quit dancing to do cheerleading, but didn’t because of encouragement from her parents who believed that dance was teaching her self-discipline and time management skills. Her senior year, she left school early to come to BalletMet to take classes.

The audition process…

To understand what the audition process is like, Kerri says that you should watch the movie, A Chorus Line.

“It’s very intimidating standing in a room with 200 girls and 50 or 60 guys," Kerri said. “You wonder, how am I going to stand out?”

When attending an audition, you must bring a resume, headshot, and body shot.

“You spend hours and hours looking at every detail only for them to maybe throw it away,” Samantha said.

Auditions start with a ballet class and they cut people as you progress. If you make it to the end, you’re lucky, Samantha said.

Auditions can be positive and negative experiences.

“The worst feeling is when a director isn’t looking at you,” Samantha said. “That’s really frustrating.”

Samantha once auditioned in a room where the fire code was 40, but there were 250 dancers. The director eliminated several dancers at the very beginning by having them show their tendue. (That's a very simple step where you point your foot.)

Kerri had an audition that began with a simple walk across the floor so the directors could quickly eliminate dancers.

“Be yourself because that’s the most comfortable and will shine through when you’re auditioning,” Kerri said. “Also try to find the right company for you.”

Kerri auditioned for 22 companies and got two offers.

“Rejection happens and is part of this career," Kerri said. "Just keep on going."

Challenges once they’ve “made it”…

Both dancers expressed that there are still many challenges once you become a professional.

“Fitting in” can be a challenge when you’re the new kid on the block and everyone else has been here for several years, Kerri said.

Seniority and hierarchy present a challenge because “there’s a way things have always been and people don’t like to break the mold,” Samantha said.

Socially it’s difficult to meet new people because of not living the typical college life, Samantha said.

Working on multiple dances at once also presents challenges for the young dancers, who sometimes feel under-rehearsed the week before a show.

“As professionals, it’s our job to pull it all together,” Kerri said.

Aspirations for the future…

Kerri is currently a student at Columbus State Community College (our neighbor) studying to become an elementary school teacher, which will involve getting her master’s degree. In the coming years, she hopes to mature as an artist as well as dabble in choreography.

Samantha believes that she’s grown tremendously as an artist and dancer in the past few years and hopes to continue to grow, while exploring different styles of dance.

The dancers expressed concerns about how long their dance careers will last.

“It can be short and it’s daunting at times,” Samantha said. “The key is to enjoy every moment.”

Career length is a concern for many dancers who want to become professionals. BalletMet’s oldest company dancers are in their mid-thirties.

Advice for youngsters who want a career in dance…

-Never give up on your dream and work hard.
-Make the most of every opportunity and stay true to who you are.
-Remember that this is what you love to do.

-Don’t get jaded. Always work your hardest.
-Know that even the best are trying to get better.
-No matter how many parts, awards, or scholarships you get, always keep trying.
-Make it a rule to never miss class.
-Try all different kinds of dance and be open-minded.

Tips from Susan Brooker, BalletMet Academy Director
-Stand back and take an honest look at yourself and your abilities.
-Go to as many dance performances of different forms as possible. As you widen your experience you widen your choices and opportunities.
-Speak with your parents about your desire to make dance your career. You will need their support through the years of training.
-Ask a trusted dance teacher's opinion and advice or that of a dance professional. An honest assessment of your potential can help you make the best choices as a student and potential professional.
-Find as much information as possible on the most appropriate training method for your chosen form of dance. Intensive Training, Pre-Professional programs, College Programs, Traineeships, or apprenticeships are examples of programs of study.
-Research dance companies, the sort of dance the company director hires, the repertoire style and quality of the company.
-Be true to yourself. You will be required to study up to six days a week, many hours a day. You have to love your art form and all the hard work involved in arriving at your goal.
-Enjoy your dancing and stay positive. There will be times when you fly forward with your work and times when you will seem to go nowhere. Intelligent hard work always pays off!

Carmina Burana As Seen In...

Tonight is opening night for Carmina Burana, which runs from March 5 to March 13. Carmina's contemporary choreography and musical stylings set it apart from more classical ballet pieces.

Fabulous, Inovative Choreography...

Choreographer Dwight Rhoden, a Dayton native, is widely known as "a dancer's choreographer." Rhoden has worked with, coached and created for some of the most diverse artists spanning the worlds of ballet and contemporary dance. He has directed and choreographed for TV, film, theater and live performances including So You Think You Can Dance, E! Entertainment's Tribute to Style and Cirque Du Soleil. He has also worked with such high-profile artists as Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Kelly Clarkson and Patrick Swayze.

Check out this video of Rhoden’s choreography on Season 6 of So You Think You Can Dance. This piece, performed to Michael Buble’s At This Moment left the judges almost speechless. Adam praised the dancers and choreography and stressed the importance of live dance performance.

This video of a rehearsal of Rhoden's Othelo that the North Carolina Dance Theatre premiered in 2009 demonstrates his unique and innovative style and his use of powerful, obscure music.

Speaking of music...

Carmina's music, composed by Carl Orff is especially famous for O’Fortuna, which is seen widely in pop culture. O’Fortuna made its movie debut in John Boorman's 1981 film Excalibur and since has been used for dramatic effect in many movies, musical works, television shows and commercials. It is considered to be an unknown-but-known work. See if you recognize it in these commercials: Carlton Draught "Its a Big Add" Commercial and Gatorade's Celebrity Sports Ad.

Make sure to purchase your tickets!

A dancer's perspective...

Zoica Tovar, first year BalletMet dancer says that the choreography is very unique and challenging. (The marketing interns would like to make it known that Zoica is totally adorable and that we love her!)

“The movements are so fast, and every piece of music is different than the other,” Zoica said.
The greatest challenge for Zoica has been remembering the sequence of the steps and the musicality.

Zoica's favorite parts of Carmina are The Tavern and the bench duets. (To understand what that means, you'll have to see the show!)

The training for Carmina has been grueling. BalletMet's dancers have been working on the piece for a month and for the last two weeks have worked on it for up to 6 hours a day.