My old ballet studio has a cute tradition: A few of the school's youngest students are asked to present flowers to the principal dancers at the end of each performance. And being chosen as a flower girl is just this impossible honor. I'm talking squealing, jumping-up-and-down excitement—8-year-old me still hasn't gotten over it.
Why? Well, first, there's the amazing feeling of getting to have a real interaction with one of the "big girls" you idolize. But there's also something special about the ritual itself: the gorgeous bouquets of lilies and roses, the way the dancers somehow manage to negotiate the bulky packages in such a graceful way. And oh my gosh, to be the leading ballerina, to pull out the one rose and kiss it and present it to your partner! It's such a beautiful, elegant little pageant, so much fun to be a part of.
Flowers and ballet: Would opening night be opening night if the ballerina didn't receive a huge bouquet? It's almost hard to imagine. But how did that tradition get started? And who's sending all these flowers, anyway?
The Guardian just published a kind of amazing piece dissecting the history—and logistics—of flower-giving at the ballet. Since it's a British paper, the focus is on The Royal Ballet, where flower showers are apparently even more common than they are at U.S. ballet companies. (Did you know that The Royal has a "flower fund," to cover emergency bouquets, in case a principal dancer doesn't have flowers sent to her? That is my new favorite thing.)
But they also talk about the people on other side of the flower tradition: the florists, who have all kinds of fun customizing bouquets to dancers, or to roles. There are a lot of pink flowers happening at this time of year for the Sugar Plum Fairies, of course—but if the company is dancing Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, they like to add things like flamingo feathers and playing cards to the arrangements. It sounds like the best job ever.
The paper put together a video following the London florists who make many of The Royal's bouquets, Bloomsbury Flowers. Predictably, it's delightful. (Both of the owners used to be dancers!) Take a look—then click here to learn more about the dance world's flower and bowing traditions.
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
Almost a month out, Puerto Rico continues to suffer the devastating aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. Many of the island's residents still lack power, clean water, and safe housing. Ballet classes? For Puerto Rican dance students, they must feel like an impossible luxury.
But a dance studio in Florida is working to allow a group of young Puerto Ricans to continue their training. And it needs your help.
Yes, I am a dancer, and yes, I am fat.
There's nothing quite as soul-crushing as the reactions I've received when I've told people I dance. They can range from disbelief to confusion to shock. To many people, it's somehow incomprehensible that a plus-size person like myself could grace a stage. While the body-positive movement has been trucking along at full force over the past few years, it hasn't made much progress in the dance community yet. In fact, the words "body positivity" and "dance" are almost never used together in the same sentence.
Despite that fact, dance is what helped me learn to love my larger frame. In honor of National Body Confidence Day, I wanted to talk about my first time in a studio, and about the tremendous progress I've made since.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?
What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.