Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Another class change - no foolin'!

Hello again, dance friends in LA and Pasadena! If you are on my email list, you have already seen this announcement.

 I am changing my Thursday evening 6:30-8PM class level from Advanced Beginner to Beginner/Intermediate. This is a very slight level increase but one that I think will be more inclusive of a greater range of dancers.

Why the change? A year ago, I added the Thursday class at Dance Arts Academy with the intention of it being a complement to Tuesday. I had hoped students would come to both of the classes or perhaps find that one or the other suited them better. What I discovered was that the more consistent students tended to be slightly more advanced than Advanced Beginner and could handle a bit more challenging combinations, particularly in the center.

This change comes on the heels of the name changes of my classes in Pasadena (by the way, there is no change to my Tuesday evening class). It's very true that my classes tend to skew more difficult than other teachers'. So a Beginner class with one teacher might be what I do with my Basic students. When you call a class by a particular name, that - to me - is the highest level it can be. It can certainly be lower but not higher.

Example: my Beginner class will never be more difficult than Beginner, regardless of who attends. But if everyone who shows up is brand new, than I will lower it for that day to Basic.  By expanding the name of the class, I expand the range of technical difficulty I can give to my students.

Which brings me to Thursday. By calling it Beginner/Intermediate, I welcome students who are both or anywhere in between. For my current students, it is really not much more difficult than it has been but it will give me (and you!) more freedom to try different things. I will still structure the class in the same way, still answer questions in the same way, still provide you with fun exercises that make you work hard and hopefully grow as dancers.

If you have any questions about it or are wondering if you are technically skilled enough to take it (trust me, you are!), just send me an email. Hope to see you in class soon! Happy dancing~

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Class title changes at Le Studio

Hello dancer friends from LA and Pasadena!

As of this week, I am making the following changes to the names of my classes in Pasadena at Le Studio:

My Beg/Int Ballet is now called Intermediate.

My Basic Ballet is now called Beginner.

Will this affect the content of the classes? No.

Will this affect the student makeup of the classes? Probably not.

Will it open up the class to more students and to more vocabulary being taught? Absolutely.

The truth about drop-in classes is that the students change. In the case of the Beg/Int class, that was a designation I had inherited years ago when I started teaching at the studio. But it slowly evolved into being Intermediate. I want my students who take that class to know they can go to an Intermediate level class elsewhere and be perfectly fine in it.

As far as the Basic class, which is now Beginner, I want the flexibility of doing different things with that group. I have a core group which is consistent and has advanced and I want to respect them by calling this what it is, Beginner. It doesn't mean Basic students can't take the class but it gives me more of a range to accommodate them as well as my more experienced students.

For my current students, these designation changes mean nothing really, but for new students, I want them to be clear about what they are taking so they are not disappointed.

If you have any questions, shoot me an email. Otherwise, happy dancing~

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Fun: Where's your bun?

You're a ballerina so naturally, you wear your hair in a bun, oui?


Okay, so...where do you wear it? High, mid, or low?  Well, not to get too personal but how old are you? Unless you're performing on-stage and there is a specific design to your hair for a role, the general rule of thumb is:

The older you are, the lower the bun.

Young kids, from toddlers through young teens, maybe 12 or 13, can wear their buns very high.  Like this:

Photo from The Best Fashion Blog
Partially, this high bun stems from a parent's viewpoint. He or she is standing over the child to do the bun and inevitably it's easier to pin it high atop her head. It also emphasizes the fullness of the face, which on a young girl, is very sweet.

But once a dancer matures and has the ability to pin her hair herself, from the age of 12 or so, the mid-level bun is a preferable style. Like this:

Photo from The Huffington Post
The centered bun helps for multiple pirouettes (which little kids are usually not performing anyway!) and is a flattering style for most faces.  It pulls the hair back and away and emphasizes cheekbones and chin. For dancers through, perhaps, the age of 30-35, this is a good choice.

Once a dancer reaches the age of 35-40, she should start lowering the bun toward the nape of her neck. This is not to say she isn't performing or working any less hard than younger dancers but a lower bun is a softer look, not quite so severe. Like this:

Gelsey Kirkland photo from Daily Dose of Lies
Mind you, this is my opinion only, based on years of experience and observation. There are no hard and fast rules for anything in ballet and that includes hair!

Happy dancing~

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Photos from the Sunday Zombie shoot!

It was a long day but fortunately all my dancers were playing zombies so when they got tired, they were still in character. Those of you who are on Facebook may have seen the photos I posted there so I am using different ones here.  All are courtesy of Karina Jones, who graciously shot and shared them with us!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The why of a Zombie Ballet film

This Sunday, I will be shooting a short film that incorporates a five minute long dance we affectionately call "zombie ballet." It began five years ago as an experiment in one of my classes: it was close to Halloween and I wanted to "zombify" an adagio I had choreographed for my intermediate level ballet class. I found the very intense piece of music, Dance of the Knights, from Prokofiev's score for "Romeo & Juliet." Lo and behold, it was a magical match!

And it kind of grew from there. The following year I did it for a ballet intensive for young people and it just clicked: this could be a really cool, fun piece to perform and to watch. I had an opportunity to perform it - with costumes and makeup - for ArtNight Pasadena and it was a major crowd-pleaser. So we did it again the following year, but much longer -a full five minutes and with a dozen dancers on stage.  Again, big applause!  And then we did it again this past year, each time refining the movement and the steps. Each year, I used different dancers, but with the same result: passion and energy and commitment.

(You can see the evolution of the dance in these short clips under the title "Sweet Sorrow.")

I have since tried to get the piece into dance festivals, to no avail. No matter how many times I tried to convince directors of festivals that my "zombie ballet" would be a crowd-pleaser, that it was easy to relate to and family-friendly, no one bit (excuse the zombie pun!). A friend of mine suggested that the video I was submitting, which had been shot by members of the audience at performances, did not show off the piece to its best advantage. The videos did not capture the energy and theatricality of the piece and the excitement of the audience watching. She suggested I rent a studio, get a nice camera, light it well and shoot it without an audience.

I thought that was a great idea. Not only would it preserve my choreography but it would showcase my dancers who truly loved doing the piece. Each one of them had created her own character and costume and makeup, and each really enjoyed performing the dance. After all these performances, I had/have six wonderfully talented and passionate dancers who are super committed to the project and to each other. It is an exceptional group of young women. So it was just a matter of picking a date, booking the studio, and shooting it. Right? Right?

Except the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do more with it. I wanted to get the choreography, on film, yes, but why not build a story around it?

Here's the background part you might not know about: I'm not only a dancer and teacher, but also a filmmaker and novelist. My master's degree is in Film Production and I spent a dozen years in film and television in NYC and LA. So there's that. I also have published two novels for young adults with Penguin's Razorbill imprint. So there's that too.

Why not put them all together? So I did...I wrote a short script that makes the zombie ballet an integral part of the story, kind of my homage to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" but with a much smaller budget and no singing. The rest sort of fell into place serendipitously: my husband is a former grip/electric who now edits my ballet videos; I have a student who is also an actress and whose boyfriend is a cameraman; I have another student who is a professional photographer and superb editor (and who I somehow convinced to act in this too!); I'm renting the studio where we performed the piece several times and which is exactly what I wanted for the story (thanks, John P.!); and just about every dancer has some connection to film or movies or effects in some capacity.

What do all these people get from this? Nothing.

What do I get from this? Besides what I mentioned above? Nothing.

Why do it then? Well, why not? True, there is no logical reason to do this. But logic isn't the justification for everything. Sometimes you have to recognize that certain combinations of people and places and events may not ever happen again and you have to grab onto them when you can.

Happy (zombie) dancing~