Monday, May 18, 2015

From Page to Stage!

It feels like it's been a million years since I wrote the opening lines to my novel, Sweet Sorrow:
The whisper blew a chill across her cheek. It tickled her eyelashes and curled around the delicate pink shell of her ear. The voice of her beloved echoed in her head, calling her name, and despite her best efforts to reach out to him, her body remained stubbornly rigid.

And now it's a ballet and Nancy Evans Dance Theatre will be putting on the first half of it in less than two weeks! I can hardly believe how far it's come and how beautiful it's shaping up to be, even in its more grotesque moments (remember, there are zombies!).

When you write a novel, you have no idea where it will end up: in a bookstore or online, most likely, or just stuck on your hard drive. It's unlikely you think it will be a ballet! Except that's how it all began, with a phrase I used in my ballet class about six years ago. Costumes, lighting, bottles of potions and even a crypt! Who could have guessed when I tossed a short but intense adagio into a Halloween ballet class that it would evolve the way it has?

The most exciting part for me has been to see how excited other people get when they talk about it or hear about it. Dancers have been overwhelmingly positive; friends and family have been extraordinarily supportive; and I've had the luxury of collaborating with Nancy and her dancers, who have shared their gifts with me as I develop the story.

For the next week and a half, I'm not going to plug the show relentlessly nor will I bombard people with emails entreating them to SEE THE SHOW! And DONATE IF YOU CAN! lol...beyond today, of course. 

Here's the link to the crowdfunding campaign. This is the last week of it, just a few more days. If you can donate, that's awesome. If you can share the link, that's awesome too. As you can see we've raised 1/3 of the funds, which is still amazing - and we thank every single person who has donated or shared. You are all fantastic people and I wish/hope that you can also see the show come to fruition!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Searching for Solutions: Parking!

As a teacher I see problems all the time and my natural inclination is to solve them! Whether it's a sickled foot or a lifted hip, I want to help make dancing easier for my students. I want them to do their best.

But I can't help them do their best if they can't get to class!

Ballerina Olga Lepeshinskaya
 Dancers in LA are constantly fighting traffic. If they have to drive a long distance, inevitably they will be sitting in traffic, their hip flexors working constantly and putting extra stress on their backs and Achilles tendons. And don't get me started on anxiety: am I going to be late for plies? Will there be room for me at the barre? Will I get a chance to put on my leotard before I run in?

And this one: Where will I park? Yup. In LA it's all about parking. Where, how long, and how much. Just recently a parking lot that was right next to Dance Arts Academy on La Brea and Wilshire closed so a lot of my students who were used to parking there no longer can. I wish I could magically make all the meters free and the lots open but since I can't, I have the next best thing: options!

If you're a student of mine at Dance Arts Academy and you were used to parking at the bank, here are a few options for you:

*Free street parking after 6PM:
--8th Street and 9th Street west of Cochran
--Cochran between 8th Street & Wilshire
*Metered parking until 8PM, most free after 8PM:
--south and north of Wilshire on Detroit, Cloverdale, and Cochran (as well as other streets farther west)
**Pay lots/structures:
--South Cloverdale between Wilshire and 8th ($1/hr)
--apartment/retail bldg across the street from DAA at La Brea & Wilshire (enter on 8th Street where it says Retail, first 15 mins free, $2.50/30 mins, credit/debit only)

You can park on both La Brea and Wilshire after 7PM (which is handy for a night when we have a workshop at 8PM).
And finally, when in doubt, look online! Here is a link to a website that lists free, metered, and lot parking in the immediate area (scroll down through the bottom list because they range in price):
Another one from LADOT is very handy and easy to use. Also, at the top of the page are links to 3 mobile apps that you can download:

I hope this helps get you to class and maybe lessens the parking anxiety. We are dancers; we are flexible!
Happy dancing~

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Collaboration part 2, Electric Boogalo: Working with an Artistic Director

NB: Anyone catch that dance movie-related reference in the title? No? Okay, it's this:

So, let's talk about collaboration again. You are the choreographer and you're working with a company that isn't yours. For whatever awesome reason, you are setting a work on some fantastic dancers. If you're smart - and you are because you're a choreographer and dancer - you will be working with them, not just setting steps on them, especially if this is a dance you are creating. Dancers are smart too and skilled and they have brains that are constantly thinking and wondering and challenging. They want to do their best and they want to do your work justice.

Because this is not your company, there is probably an Artistic Director, most likely the person who founded the company, or a former member of the company if the founder of the company has passed on or retired. It is through this person that all dance is filtered. She (or he) wants to make sure the work you're doing with the company dancers is reflective of her philosophy and fits into the repertory - or doesn't, if it's a departure from their typical material.

The AD is the guiding vision of the company, a very knowledgeable second set of eyes for the choreographer. You need to think of this person as your ally, not your foe. The AD is not there to tell you you're wrong or your movement is dumb (if this person does that, you might want to rethink your relationship with the company).

The AD is like an editor of a book. You are the writer and you have a fantastic story to tell but sometimes something works in your head but the reader doesn't get it. The editor is there to help streamline your story, to make sure one scene flows to the next, that characters make sense and don't change in mid-stream. Is the boyfriend blond in one scene and red-haired in another? That's a small thing but you weren't paying attention and it slipped by you.

In the same way, the Artistic Director notices that there are back-to-back pas de deux. She sees that a character exits one scene frightened of her lover but enters angry in the next. She asks how one scene flows into another and might suggest you move things around a bit to make things make more sense for the audience. She is asking questions the audience might ask before they ask them.

Very recently, Nancy Evans Doede, who is the Artistic Director of her eponymous company, and I met to discuss the arcs of the characters in Sweet Sorrow. We discussed scene transitions, from the practical (i.e. there will be lights in the way so you can't put Juliet there) to the philosophical (e.g. what does Romeo want from the Zombie Queen?).

The timing of a discussion like this is crucial. Too soon and the choreographer won't feel comfortable to create freely but too late and the dancers could flounder if given new material so close to performance. Nancy and I talked directly after the majority of the choreography was set so she could view it as a whole - again, she is looking at the big picture, at the work as a whole, and it's very easy to get swept up in the details just as a writer falls in love with images or dialogue she has written.

Murder your darlings.
-Arthur Quiller-Couch, "On Style" (1914)

The AD isn't as close to your work as you are so she can be honest and objective. Use her eyes. They are fresher than yours. And remember: she wants your work to look good because it will make her dancers and her - her company! - look good.

So what were Nancy and I talking about? Story. Characters. Motivation. Here is a video Jenn Logan created to give more information about the first act of the ballet. Check it out and please donate if you can:

Sweet Sorrow Story from Jenn Logan on Vimeo.

Friday, April 24, 2015

2 more technique videos - Pique and Saute!

A few years ago I shot a number of technique videos, many of which you have probably seen since they were on the blog a while ago. But I still had two more that my ninja webmaster didn't edit: pique and saute.

In the first, I demonstrate a degage pique so students can see how the toes hit the floor and the knee stays very straight. This is something you can practice at home.

In the second, I break down a saute in first position, from demi-plie through releve and saute. You can also do this at home; it's a very good strengthening exercise for dancers working flat and en pointe.

These are the final videos in this series called Fit Ballet with Leigh. From now on, any videos I do will be under the name, Leigh Purtill Ballet. (Same Leigh Purtill, just a bit older I suppose!)

NB: For those of you interested in the pirouette workshops, the Beginner on 4/30 has sold out. If you missed this one, you have 2 options:
1. If you are very new to turns, you can contact me to be placed on a list for a possible second Beginner workshop in late May or June.
2. If you have some experience and know the basics of turning, you can take the Advanced workshop on 5/14 and work on single turns.

Happy dancing~

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pirouette workshops!!

My life is not ALL about zombies! In fact, I very much enjoy teaching and hanging around the living, especially those who love to learn.

Upcoming Pirouette Workshops!

It's been 3 years since I've done a workshop for pirouettes but I love them. This time I will be doing 2 workshops, one for Beginners and one for Advanced.

Beginner Pirouette Workshop: Thursday, April 30th, 8-9PM
In this workshop, students will learn how to start, maintain and complete a single en dehors turn. We will focus on spotting, holding arms and retire, momentum, and balance.

Advanced Pirouette Workshop: Thursday, May 14th, 8-9PM
In this workshop, students will work on multiple en dehors turns. This will be more of a diagnostic class where I get to look at individual students and address their problems.

Each class is $16 and each is limited to 10 students, with a minimum of 5 students. If you are interested, please go to my website and sign-up: The link is at the top of the page, in the center. Click the level you want and then go to the PayPal link directly below that. If the minimum is not met, your money will be refunded.

The workshops will be held in Studio D at
Dance Arts Academy
731 South La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles 90036