Sunday, December 14, 2014

Elementary Ballet Workshop Signup is live!

For 3 Fridays in January, I will be teaching an Elementary Ballet workshop at Dance Arts Academy. It is designed for students who have no experience in ballet and would like a short "crash course." We will learn the basics of barre and center.

What: Elementary Ballet workshop
Where: Dance Arts Academy, 731 South La Brea, Los Angeles, CA 90036
When: January 9, 16 & 23, 2015, 6-7PM
Attire: Ballet slippers (thin socks if you don't have them) and leotard and tights (or leggings/shorts and tank top if you are more comfortable)
Cost: $60 for the entire workshop

The class will be limited to 12 students. You can reserve your spot in advance by paying via PayPal below, or through my website (, or in person with me. The class will be held with a minimum of 6 students: if the minimum is not met and you have paid for the class, you will receive a refund.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Upcoming events!

Hello beautiful dancers and happy holidays to you all! A few things of interest for those of you who are local and those who are not.

Coming up in 1 week! I'll be hosting a LIVE online discussion of Misty Copeland's new memoir, "Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina" on Friday, December 19th at 12:30PM PST/3:30PM Eastern. It will happen at Dance Advantage where my review of the memoir will be posted along with some possible topics for discussion.  Here are a few to think about:

Racial diversity in ballet
Economic discrimination in ballet
Teachers: external challenges we face with students

Students: dealing with and overcoming family obstacles
Parents: How far should parents go to encourage their children?
Curves and growth; how do we handle body changes in young dancers?

If you've got more, let me know so we can be sure to include them. I loved Misty's story and can't wait to talk about it with other readers. Book Troupe: put it in your calendar!

Next up: 2 Holiday classes with me!

On Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve mornings, I will be teaching at Vonder Haar Center for the Performing Arts in La Canada, from 10-11:30AM. It will be suitable for beginners through intermediate level dancers and you know I'll have fun music to celebrate the holidays!

So come all ye ballet faithful and dance with me! And for more class schedule info, be sure to check the calendar below or email me about specific classes, if you want to know more.

Coming in January: Elementary Ballet Workshop

For all of you (or 12 of you actually, since this is a limited number workshop) who have wanted to take class with me but have no experience at all, this workshop is for you. For 3 Fridays in January, I will offer a workshop that covers just the basics of ballet barre and center. 

What: Elementary Ballet workshop
Where: Dance Arts Academy, 731 South La Brea, Los Angeles, CA 90036
When: January 9, 16 & 23, 2015, 6-7PM

Attire: Ballet slippers (thin socks if you don't have them) and leotard and tights (or leggings/shorts and tank top if you are more comfortable)
Cost: $60 for the entire workshop
You will need to sign up in advance through PayPal. I will post the link this weekend when signup officially opens. I am limiting the class to 12, with a minimum of 6.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Do's and Don'ts for the Ballet Newbie

This time of year, people attend Nutcracker performances and start to think about taking classes themselves. I love that! I too find myself wanting to dance when I see it - or even hear the music.  With that in mind, I'd like to welcome new students to my classes (or anyone's classes!), whether you give yourself the gift of dance at Christmas or Hanukkah or make a New Year's resolution for 2015.

If you're new to ballet or you have been away for a while, here are a few things to keep in mind when you take a class:

DO come with an open mind. You likely won't get every single thing right your first (or second) time in class so give yourself permission to flail a bit. It's okay: everyone else in your class has been there too.

DO wear comfortable clothing. If a leotard and tights are too formal or expose too much, then choose leggings and a long t-shirt or shorts and a tank top. As long as the teacher can see your hips and alignment, the point is to be comfortable with yourself, mentally and physically.

DON'T talk or ask questions during the barre. If I give you a personal correction during a barre exercise, that is not the time to engage in conversation or respond verbally. Also, it's important to be able to follow along so watch someone else at the barre if you don't get it immediately. Questions slow everything down; a barre needs to flow to get people warmed up.

However, DO ask questions in the center when given an opportunity to do so. Often, someone else is wondering the same thing.

DO watch other students, particularly students the teacher has called upon to demonstrate or has praised. Even if a student is not perfect, I may use him or her as an example to show you something specific I like that he or she is doing. Pay attention and ask yourself if you are doing the same thing.

DON'T stand and do nothing. If we are marking a combination (i.e. going through it step by step with or without music) that is your opportunity to walk through it and "test the waters." Following along as we mark will get the combination into your body. Even if you are confused, try to make your body do what I am doing.

DO stand behind someone who seems to know what he or she is doing, whether that means at the barre or in the center or across the floor. DON'T stand in front of them and try to look behind yourself. That is needlessly difficult.

DO have fun and DON'T take yourself too seriously! No matter what class you try, whether it's with me or someone else, a basic class or something more challenging, remember that you are there to enjoy yourself. Class should not be an additional stressor in your already-stressed life. Let dance help lighten the load on your shoulders. The hour or hour-and-half you spend in class is YOUR time. Turn your phone off. Turn your problems off. Relax and let ballet flow over you and through you. Too philosophical for you? Then remember this: ballet is great for your brain. The challenge of learning choreography, of learning new ways of moving and expressing yourself, is not merely physical but also mental. It allows you to be creative as well as physical. There is more to take from dance than simply exercising your body. Enjoy it for friendship and support too.

Happy dancing and happy holidays~

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: