Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Winging and sickling - the good, the bad and the ugly

We've all heard a teacher shout, "Stop sickling your foot!" But do we ever hear one say, "Stop winging your foot"? Rarely. This is usually because a "winged" foot looks very pretty on-stage. It extends the arabesque line and gives more height to the leg than is actually there.

Here is the difference between the two and you will see what I mean:

Drawing courtesy Bluebird/Photobucket
The drawing above is a perfect example (although sickled is spelled incorrectly!).

Sickling the foot usually arises from a dancer attempting to point her foot so hard that she curves the ankle inward toward her knee. Remember, the pointed foot comes from the stretch of the muscles over the top of the arch and on the sole of the foot, not the muscles on the sides of the foot. It may also occur when a dancer is pulling her foot to retire and attempting to keep the foot very close to the shin as she lifts it. The side of the ankle ends up touching the leg, rather than the toes.

When you sickle your foot, you are not only destroying the line of the straight leg and foot, but also training your ankle muscles to supinate which places too much weight on the outside of the ankle and can lead to sprained ankles.

Conversely, as we see above, winging is going in the opposite direction: pointing the foot toward the outside of the knee. This only looks good on stage! A winged foot when you do fouette turns, for example, will actually shorten the line when you fondu. In this case as well, you are training the muscles in an unstable position, placing too much weight on the big toe when you releve and again, this will lead to turned ankles.

So to sum up:

The good: a winged foot in arabesque on stage.

The bad: a winged foot en releve.

The ugly: a sickled foot at any time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A classic book! A classic zombie film!

On this Friday, I wanted to share with you a couple of things:

A book review I wrote of Edward Stewart's "Ballerina." It is a classic tale of two young dancers pursuing stardom in the world of ballet. It was written decades ago but is timeless. Seriously, not much has changed in the dance world. We still have the same kinds of politics, the same kinds of people who enter the business, the same kinds of people who love the people who are in the business. And we have the same problems: injuries, jealousy, love and loss. If you're looking for something to put on your Kindle, check it out.

Here is my review from Dance Advantage. (DA is one of my very favorite websites for all things dance-related!) Thanks for posting, Nichelle! And the link for the Amazon purchase.

From one classic to another...Zombie Ballet! So you're thinking, what could Leigh do with zombie ballet now? She's done ArtNight Pasadena several times, each year slightly different from the last so what could this year bring?

How about a short film? Last spring, when I was shooting the dance for my own purposes (I wanted a nice copy of it with great lighting and photography), I decided to write a short story around it and make it a little more interesting than merely a dance. So I wrote"The Dead Shoes," a short film about a young dancer who goes to a ballet class on Halloween in an empty studio - or is it empty?

It was a lot of fun to shoot and it combined all the things I'd studied in my life: filmmaking, writing and dance. We premiered it on October 10 at ArtNight Pasadena at ARC Pasadena and the crowd loved it! Twice!

Here it is, for your Halloween enjoyment:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Important information for my students about my move

Hello beautiful dancers!

As many of you know, I am moving my Monday and Wednesday evening and Saturday morning classes from Le Studio in Pasadena to Vonder Haar Center for Performing Arts in La Canada. As of Monday, October 13, I will be renting space there as I do at Dance Arts Academy. My schedule at both locations will remain the same with two minor exceptions. See my calendar at the bottom of this page for specific class times.

I'm very excited Leigh Purtill Ballet (that's me!) will be at both of these amazing studios and I'm thrilled it will open up more opportunities for performances for my students. More on that to come!

A few important changes to note:

1. Class cards - Leigh Purtill Ballet class cards can be used at both locations. You can buy them online here through PayPal or at class. Cards are payable by credit card, cash or check no matter where you buy them. A single class is $15. 5 classes are $70. 10 classes are $130. A 30 minute pointe class is $10. Class cards are nonrefundable but they do not expire.

2. Please do your very best to arrive a few minutes early to sign in with me, pay for class, etc. at both locations. The studio owners have requested that all renters be diligent about starting and finishing on time, which means allowing time for switching classes and for wrapping up. I will be starting as on time as I can and finishing a few minutes before the class period is up in order to be considerate of other renters.

3. If you arrive late, please sign in between barre and center so that I may finish on time and get to the next class I have to teach. I will be a PIA reminding you all of this (sorry in advance!) but it will mean you all get the most class time possible.

4. Two simple but important rules at Vonder Haar:
 - no street shoes in the studio
 - no food or drink other than water in the studio

Please help me by following these rules (or don't be surprised if I ask you to leave your shoes and coffee outside!). The floors are beautiful hardwood and anything other than water will damage them.

Thank you in advance!

The locations for both Dance Arts Academy and Vonder Haar Center are listed on the left side of this page. The phone numbers are the front desks of the studios. They can give you information about their studios, parking, etc. but for questions about my classes specifically, you can email me at LeighBalletLA at gmail dot com. Or you can call me directly at 323-640-6804. That's Leigh Purtill Ballet (that's me!).

If you have any questions at all, please ask!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Technique Talk: Arabesque

Recently, a dancer asked me about improving her arabesque. Because it was via an online discussion, I didn't have the ability to actually demonstrate or to make personal corrections. I did the best I could but thought it might be helpful to have some photos.

So let's start with the very basic elements of arabesque. The ideal line for a classical ballet dancer is the L shape, where the back is very straight and the leg extends from the lower back/buttocks. Unless your back is extremely flexible, you will likely have to make an adjustment or two to get the preferred line.

Some things to avoid:

DO NOT pinch your lower back.

DO NOT hike your hip.

DO NOT pitch forward with your shoulders just to get your leg higher.  (see below)

Corey shows us what NOT to do.

DO NOT sink back in your knee and throw the weight to the back of your heel.

DO NOT crunch your hip flexors (iliopsoas). (see below)

Corey shows us a collapsed, crunched hip.

Some things to embrace:

DO lengthen the front of your hip.

DO engage the quads and hamstrings and pull up the knee of your standing leg. (see below)

Corey shows us a cleaner line.
DO stretch the working leg away from your fifth position as if drawing a J in the air.

DO aim your toe toward the back of your head.

DO keep your spine straight.

To help you, here are a couple of little videos of me working with my student, Corey McCullough. The first shows you her starting and stopping a couple of times as I make corrections, and the second is her doing it on her own. Note how the muscles of her right leg (standing leg) are pulled up and her working leg lengthens and stretches away from her fifth position. (Thank you, Corey!)


 The above video is me giving direction to Corey.


The above video is Corey doing the arabesque on her own.

Happy dancing~

Monday, September 1, 2014

Contest! Win a CD from Rachael Sage!

My first ever contest! Whoo-hoo! And what a great prize I have:

If you came by the blog last month, I posted an awesome interview with Rachael herself. She is a former dancer whose music has been featured on the reality television show, "Dance Moms." In fact, she was recently on the show in episode 25. If you want to see the episode, go here. Rachael's song, "Happiness," was used by dance star Maddie Ziegler in the episode.

Want to win a signed CD? Just comment below with your name (or any name, just don't be anonymous!) with a "hey, put my name in the mix, please!" and I'll draw a random winner in 2 weeks. US residents, please.

Enter by September 15!