Monday, February 9, 2015

Imagining yourself to multiple pirouettes

How can I do more than one turn? Tips please!

Years ago I had a friend who would dream of doing triple pirouettes and then in class the next day, she would perform them flawlessly! The trouble was, she couldn't ever control her dreams so her triples felt like they were simply good luck.

But that doesn't mean you can't create successful multiple pirouettes through imagery. In fact, that is one of the best ways.

Picture yourself in the proper alignment:
--long spine and neck
--arms in a held position
--knee in a perfect retire 
--hips lifted
--back wide


Imagine that picture turning very fluidly. Your head spots rhythmically, once, twice, or more. You're not flinging yourself around using your arms or your knee, right? Nope! Not in your perfect picture!

Then create the picture in the studio. Stand in retire and see what the image of yourself looks like. Place your hips and arms and head correctly; get over your leg on a releve.

On the turn, take that one step further: actually look for that picture in the mirror each and every time you hit en face. If you see your arms to the side (you are leaving them behind in the turn) or your leg is below the knee or turned in, then you will have a harder time doing more than one turn consistently. Stop, readjust and try it again.

NB: This is simply ONE tip for multiple turns. There are hundreds more. But the number one piece of advice I give students who want to turn more fluidly and consistently? Breathe!


Happy dancing~

Monday, January 26, 2015

My first time collaborating with a professional company!

Beautiful dancers, teachers, choreographers and dance aficionados~

I'm so excited for the show with Nancy Evans Dance Theater this weekend (January 31 and February 1). A 9 minute section of my zombie ballet will be shown as part of the Friends/Family/Dance/Festival. It's a work-in-progress but I'm really thrilled at how good it looks already.

I wrote an article about collaborating with Nancy and her dancers at Dance Advantage. I interviewed Nancy herself about her work and working with outside choreographers and offered up my own list of helpful hints when you're working with other people. Here is a link to the article:


If you'd like to see the show this weekend, just go to Nancy's website to order tickets. And if you come on Sunday (which is Super Bowl Sunday, who knew?), simply say "What Bowl?" at the door and you'll get $5 off your ticket - for the Sunday matinee only.

Get show tickets here. Happy dancing!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Upcoming event: Friends/Family/Dance/Festival with NEDT

At the end of this month, Nancy Evans Dance Theatre, a modern dance company based in Pasadena, California, will be hosting its semi-annual festival which is always a lot of fun. They are an exciting, young and vibrant company, generously including top-notch talent in their programs. Before I ever had the opportunity to work with them, I loved attending their shows. They have a wonderful mix of humor and gravitas and they are master storytellers.
That, in fact, is one of the primary reasons I approached them about collaborating with me on my Sweet Sorrow zombie ballet. Nancy and her dancers are intelligent and thoughtful and they bring experience and their own ideas to a project, specifically their characters. I knew they would be ideal to work with. So as much as I say I'm setting the ballet on them, I'm actually collaborating with them. In the nearly four months I've been working with them, I have never once heard anyone say they couldn't do something. They try everything I ask and if my ideas don't work the way I thought they would, they are quick to help fix the problem. They don't impose their will on my material or me; rather, they seek ways to make my ideas come to fruition in the best way possible.

So mark your calendars for Saturday, January 31 and Sunday, February 1, Porticos Art Space in Pasadena. You can see a tremendous program - remarkable work from Nancy herself and other talented contemporary and modern dance companies. And you'll see 2 pieces from my zombie ballet: a group work titled Infection and a pas de deux titled Plague Pit. I'm so excited for people to see them! They are still works-in-progress but I'm thrilled about how they're developing.

More information can be found at Nancy's website: www.nancyevansdancetheatre.com

Friday, January 9, 2015

Binge ballet?

Perhaps these first decades of the 21st Century should be called the Binge Years.

We binge on television: watching seasons of "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" back to back (to back to back).

We binge on reading: book challenges on Goodreads ask us to set goals of reading weekends or even days, and we devour entire series like "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games" in 24 hours.

We binge on writing: thousands participate in NaNoWriMo, devoted to writing a 50,000 word novel in a single month.

We binge on food and alcohol, of course, and social media. But can we binge on ballet? And even if we can, should we?

I do see people who discover ballet and throw themselves into it, taking three classes a week or more. Or they have been away for a while and decide they want to get back into it with a vengeance - and at the level they left it. Much like people who suddenly decide to take Zumba classes or start running or lifting weights, these dance students love it immediately and want to binge.

But bingeing on ballet doesn't make you better exponentially. Look at ballet as building blocks. You start with plies and tendus and degages and you get those under your belt and you move forward. But you can't do a jete without knowing how to do a degage and a coupe. You can't do a pas de chat if you don't know retire. You can't do much adagio if you can't stand on one leg without holding onto the barre. And you certainly can't do that if you don't take your time, find your core muscles, and practice.

It takes time to learn what the building blocks are. For one thing, they are all in French. And for another, they are not steps and movements we do naturally. They must be learned and if they aren't learned properly, the next steps built upon them will be skewed, like the Tower of Pisa.

The class I will teach this month, my Elementary Ballet Workshop, is a crash course in the sense that I will give people the basic tools for a beginner class. Plies, tendu, degages, and so on. The students won't master these steps as it takes years to truly master ballet but they will have the first layer of their building, the preparation for their structure.

Be patient with ballet. Don't binge. It's a lifelong pursuit, not an end goal. Happy dancing!

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 (www.leighpurtillballet.com), 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.

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=B5S23N58ZM9JJ