Nothing compares to that magical moment when your teacher says you're ready for your first pair of pointe shoes. We asked four A-list pros to recall the moment they learned they could start pointe.
Angelica Generosa, Pacific Northwest Ballet
"I was 9 years old when I got my first pair of pointe shoes and I couldn't stop smiling. My teacher told me I was the exception to the rule—strong enough to start at that age. It definitely hurt at first, and dancing felt strange. But after a few private sessions with my teacher I got the hang of it and wanted to learn more."
Megan Fairchild, New York City Ballet
"I remember taking such care sewing my first pair of shoes that I needed a whole hour to do it. My school's pointe classes started slowly, with us doing exercises facing the barre for a couple minutes at the end of class. My 'tailor's bunions' (the ones by the pinky toe) popped out in the first week. But I don't remember it being painful, and my body just kind of reshaped to deal with the new stress."
Jeraldine Mendoza, Joffrey Ballet
"I was 11 when my teacher told me to buy my first pair of pointe shoes. I'm an overachiever, so when I was allowed to take pointe class, I was excited to be at the level of the older dancers whom I admired."
Heather Ogden, The National Ballet of Canada
"Pointe shoes are such a beautiful part of the ballet aesthetic, and when I got my first pair, it felt like a true breakthrough on my path to becoming a ballerina. I remember it wasn't the most comfortable feeling, but I think I was on such a high that I was willing to withstand the pain. It didn't take long to realize that there was a whole new vocabulary of dance that became available once I had my pointe shoes on. I think my first pair lasted me a year. Now I wear through a pair per day!"
A version of this post appeared in the March 2013 issue of Dance Spirit.
Are you super-duper tired of beauty publications telling you how to make "beautiful ballet buns" that are not even remotely close to what an actual ballet dancer would do to her hair? Yup. Us too.
So we're grateful to you, Self magazine, for asking a real ballerina to break down the ballet bun. And not just any ballerina—THE ballerina, Misty Copeland.
True, the little video Copeland made for Self doesn't include tips that'll be revolutionary for those of us familiar with the basic bun-for-dance concept. But she does give some handy advice about where to place your bun so that it enhances the lines of your head and neck. And she can also whip out a picture-perfect bun in less than a minute, which, snaps! Want more bun tips? Oh, have we ever got 'em. Find out how to make a bun that'll stay put through even the craziest manège, or check out intricate variations on the classic ballet bun, or get Kathryn Morgan's tips on easy bun alternatives. Have fun bunning!
Back in May, we told you about the forthcoming movie Ballerina, an animated film about a young girl who dreams of joining the Paris Opéra Ballet. Elle Fanning voices the main character, Félicie, and we've heard that none other than Maddie Ziegler will voice another character named Camille.
POB artistic director Aurelie Dupont has been overseeing the film's choreography, and we can totally tell that a professional ballet eye has been watching the animation process. Aside from a few questionable moments (dancing on pointe in street shoes is the main one), Ballerina looks like it accurately portrays ballet.
Of course, it's still an animated movie so that means there's plenty of room for fun. Check out two trailers below!
The movie will be in theaters this Christmas, just in time to treat yourself during Nutcracker season and root for an underdog chasing her ballet dreams!
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We all need a little #inspo now and then. And these days, when you can follow your favorite dancer's Instagram account and re-watch videos on YouTube until you have them memorized, there's something special about an actual, physical book full of stunning photos and uplifting quotations.
That's where the The Ballerina's Little Black Book comes in. It's a compilation of images and quotes from famous black ballerinas, all talking about what it takes to make it in the dance world. It's aimed at aspiring dancers of color, who have probably noticed there aren't many primas who look like them.
And if you can't wait another second, here's a roundup of some of our favorite black ballerinas from around the world. These ladies haven't had the same media impact as Misty Copeland, but they're breaking barriers nonetheless.
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In July, we told you about animator Glen Keane's masterpiece, Duet, which brought 10,555 drawings of two dancers to life in a mesmerizing pas de deux. Needless to say, we're still in a bit of a trance.
Today, we'd like to introduce you to the work of another dance animator in-the-making. Christina Yee's Galatea tells the story of a ballerina sketch that quite literally climbs off the page to dance. At first, the paper ballerina is delighted to discover she can move, but after a series of fouetté turns goes awry (been there!), she realizes that dancing may be more fun with a partner. Cue paper ballerino—and assisted pirouettes for days.
Galatea was posted by Press Pass TV, an organization that educates youth about media arts as a form of empowerment (yay arts!). It may not be quite as complex as Duet, but its simplicity is part of what makes it so charming. And who knows, maybe if this young animator keeps at it, she'll be following in the footsteps of Mr. Keane one day.
Without further a do, Galatea:
Whelan in Mozartiana (photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet)
The New York City Ballet principal gives her final performance with the company this month, but her career is far from over! Next year, she’ll be touring her contemporary production, Restless Creature, and premiering an all-new program in London. Here’s why Wendy Whelan will never give up dance—and you shouldn’t, either.
10. Dancing keeps you flexible and agile. “Move it or lose it!” Yes, there are some days when you’re hurting and you don’t want to dance—but it’s when you stop dancing that the pain really starts.
9. A moving body is a healthy body. Exercise generally, and dance especially, is good for you. Understanding your physicality will help you become a stronger adult.
8. Dance friendships are special. You build a unique bond with the people you dance with—a deeper, different kind of closeness. I value those people in my life, and I don’t know how I’d ever live without them.
7. Dancing keeps you challenged. Working through combinations, learning choreography, hearing new music—mastering those types of challenges will make you a better problem-solver in other areas of your life, too.
6. You should always be trying new moves. Dance pushes you. It forces you to keep testing yourself, to keep working on your weaknesses and to keep thinking about the next step. Dancers can’t just do what they’re good at all the time.
5. Dancing keeps your imagination going. It’s creative work, and it spurs creativity.
4. Dancing energizes you. One of my favorite quotes is, “Energy produces energy.” I’m always more energized after a performance!
3. There’s a way to dance at every age. Some people might say, “Oh, I’m too old for that,” or, “Oh, I’m not old enough for that.” But if you’re inventive, there are always opportunities to dance.
2. It feels good. When you first begin dancing, it might be painful. But once you start working at it regularly, it opens up your body, and you feel wonderful. Nothing compares to that feeling.
1. It’s fun! The energy, the social aspect, the challenges—they create a kind of enjoyment you can only get from dance, because dance is the only thing that mixes all of those elements. Dance charges your spirit.
If you're anything like me, you dread the thirty-two fouetté turns (or worse, the turns from fifth) that ballet teachers just love to throw in after grande allegro. I’m just not a turner...never have been, probably never will be. But last Friday, researchers at Imperial College London made an announcement that made me want to thank my ballet teachers.
According to their study, ballerinas’ brains are wired a little differently (like we didn’t already know that!). But more specifically, they found that three years of ballet training helps the brain suppress the sensation of dizziness.
You know, I may not be a good turner, but now that I think about it, I don’t really get dizzy that often. I can go on a tilt-a-whirl five times in a row without feeling a thing (although, I wouldn’t really recommend that...).
Check out this video from BBC to get a quick rundown on how they conducted the study. It’s pretty cool to hear scientists talk about “the spotting method”—dancers are so smart! Also about a third of the video is devoted to showing a ballerina at the Royal Opera House performing perfect fouetté turns en pointe. Bonus!
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