For most dancers, rhythmic gymnasts are revered as sort-of superheroes. Think Elastigirl, from The Incredibles: Rhythmic gymnasts are the kind of flexible you usually only see in the movies. So even for us dancers, they're #FlexibilityGoals.
But what if you could train like a rhythmic gymnast? Or, better yet, with a rhythmic gymnast? Well, that's why Iryna Yemengulova founded Farfalla Fitness, a stretching method specially designed for dancers, created by Yemengulova herself, a former rhythmic gymnast. For all the deets on how you can achieve your #FlexibilityGoals with the help of Farfalla, read on.
The Farfalla Story<p>Yemengulova is originally from Eastern Europe, Ukraine to be exact. Growing up, she wasn't one of those girls #Blessed with natural flexibility. In fact, she was the opposite. "My mother originally signed me up for rhythmic gymnastics because I wasn't flexible," she says. But it just so happened that she loved the class—and over time, became incredibly passionate about rhythmic gymnastics.</p><p>She trained and competed in rhythmic gymnastics competitions across Europe and around the world. But by the age of 17, Yemengulova's rhythmic gymnastics career was over, as is typical for the sport. So, she came to the U.S.</p><p>"When I first moved to the United States, dance had nothing to do with rhythmic gymnastics. There was nothing similar," Yemengulova says. But over time, she started to see the art form shift. "Today, dance is moving towards more elements of rhythmic gymnastics. They're starting to look much more similar."</p><p>Yemengulova was inspired: She saw dancers mimicking elements of rhythmic gymnastics, but she also saw that something was just <em>missing</em>. "They lacked the elegant posture, and their extensions just weren't there," she says. "That's why I decided to create a program similar to rhythmic gymnastics stretching and strengthening, to give students the strong base that they need to look amazing onstage."</p>
(Olia Luis, Courtesy Farfalla)
How Farfalla Works<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ohAQAWJgggA" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>Now before you get ahead of yourself daydreaming of needle turns and oversplits, you need to understand one thing: <a href="https://www.farfallafitness.com/kids/" target="_blank">Farfalla Fitness</a> isn't just a stretching program. It's a stretching and <em>strengthening</em> program.</p><p>"The program is built on flexibility and strength. We don't do just one or the other," Yemengulova says. "Stretching and strengthening are like coffee and cream: They need to go together."</p><p>This focus on both stretching and strengthening comes from Yemengulova's rhythmic gymnastics background. When she was in training, back in Ukraine, they did two hours of total body flexibility and strength training, every single day. This experience helped her understand that flexibility is nothing—if you don't have the strength to back it up.</p><p>Which isn't to say that <a href="https://www.farfallafitness.com/kids/" target="_blank">Farfalla Fitness</a> won't help you achieve the needle turns and oversplits of your dreams—all it takes is one glance at the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/farfallakids/" target="_blank">Farfalla Insta</a> to see that those goals are well within reach. But it means that you're going to be achieving those goals safely, over time. And, you'll be developing valuable knowledge of your own body's anatomy and alignment in the process.</p><p>"So many dancers try to achieve elements of rhythmic gymnastics, but they don't have the proper strength and flexibility," Yemengulova says. "So they end up performing it incorrectly, or injuring themselves. The purpose of our program is to give dancers a better way of understanding their bodies." Through Farfalla, Yemengulova not only helps dancers with their competition scores, but also gives them the tools to succeed throughout their entire dance careers and beyond.</p>
(Olia Luis, Courtesy Farfalla)
Try Farfalla at Home<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CHLUJfWAGEe/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="13" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:540px; min-width:326px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:16px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CHLUJfWAGEe/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" style=" background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;" target="_blank"> <div style=" display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; 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font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;"> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"><div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"></div></div><div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)"></div></div><div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style=" width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"></div></div></div></a> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CHLUJfWAGEe/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">💗💗💗 happy Wednesday loves . . . #dance#stretch#stretching #split#splits#dancer#contemporarydance #flexibilitytraining #goals #ballerina #oversplits #танцы #шпагат #художественнаягимнастика #растяжка #farfallakids</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/farfallakids/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;" target="_blank"> Flexibility Strength Technique</a> (@farfallakids) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2020-11-04T17:12:56+00:00">Nov 4, 2020 at 9:12am PST</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async src="//www.instagram.com/embed.js"></script><p>In the age of COVID-19, no dance program is complete without a virtual component that we can try out at home. For Farfalla Fitness, that's where <a href="https://subscribe.farfallago.com/p/stretching-2" target="_blank">Farfalla Go</a> comes in—a completely digital version of the stretching and strengthening program that has made Farfalla so popular.</p><p>"We have a lot of dancers from around the world, and even across the United States, who can't come to our studio, but they want to train with us," says Yemengulova. "That's why we decided to create Farfalla Go, so everyone has a chance to try it at home."</p><p>To break it down: <a href="https://subscribe.farfallago.com/p/stretching-2" target="_blank">Farfalla Go</a> is a subscription-based program that grants you access to virtual stretching and strengthening programs created by Yemengulova herself. Every program is a combination of cardio, total body flexibility, and total body strength.</p><p>There are <a href="https://subscribe.farfallago.com/p/stretching-2" target="_blank">Farfalla Go videos </a>that help improve your turn out, videos to help you improve your leg extensions, jumps, turns—you name it, there's probably a video for it. Yemengulova even does weekly live lessons for all subscribers, so she can help her students with their form, and talk more about their progress.</p><p>"This program is made for dancers who want to stand out from the crowd—who want to have not just an OK leg extension, but a 'wow' result," Yemengulova says. "With <a href="https://subscribe.farfallago.com/p/stretching-2" target="_blank">Farfalla Go,</a> when you're onstage, the judge is going to notice."</p>
We're finally in the last act of 2020—just a couple more numbers left before we can bow and breathe a hopeful sigh of relief that 2021 will be better. This year has been challenging in ways that we could never have imagined, but it has also shown how flexible (pun intended) the dance community can be. Here are four reasons we can all feel thankful this Thanksgiving.
This year we're thankful for our teachers, who made the difficult pivot from in-person to online dance classes as graceful as possible. We've kicked furniture, slipped on less-than-ideal floors, and been interrupted by pets, parents, siblings, and roommates. But with the help of our amazing teachers, we were able to keep dancing, even in the middle of a global crisis.
Our online classes
We're also thankful for the opportunity to take classes from studios and teachers that aren't in our usual schedule. How else could you enjoy Al Blackstone's Broadway Dance Center class over Zoom right before a Graham modern class on YouTube, and then head over to Instagram to learn some choreo from the Rockettes? And let's face it, you can't beat the commute.
Our newfound creativity
Necessity is the mother of invention, right? With studios closed and theaters empty, dancers found other avenues to explore and share their creativity. We've seen dancing in places like apartments, parks, and parking structures, and the unique scenery gives such a different vibe to all the wiggly improv vids on our feed. Keep them coming even once the pandemic is over, please!
Yes, you! We have been living through this pandemic since March, so if you are still dancing, you deserve a round of applause. It takes real discipline to keep logging into virtual classes day after day, or to catch your breath every single time you dance in a mask. It's been difficult emotionally and physically, but you continue to show up and work hard. Brava!
And if you've taken a break from dancing, you get a pat on the back for taking care of yourself. Dance will be there to welcome you back whenever you're ready.
The college application process can be, well—let's be honest here—downright maddening (#IYKYK). But for dancers, there's an added layer of stress: College dance applicants not only have to get into a school academically, they must also be accepted into its dance program. There's twice as much to prepare for and, on top of that, 2020 has, to say the least, been trying it—are we right?
Fortunately, you can alleviate some of that compounding stress by staying organized. Here are some tips to keep your college-application life in order in an especially hectic season of senior year.
Create a hub for account info
While you'll be able to apply to many schools through the Common Application, know that some schools still use school-specific application software, so chances are, you'll be creating and signing into a bunch of different online accounts. To keep this information organized and easily accessible, create a note on your phone or a password-protected document on your laptop. As you start each new college application, jot down usernames, passwords and pin numbers. By keeping all this information in one spot, you'll spare yourself the anxiety of having to memorize it. (And don't go full mom by using the same password for every. single. account.)
Be clear on the application materials you need for each school
Each of the programs you're auditioning for will likely have different methods for assessing your dancing. Some will prescreen, which means you'll have to submit a photo, usually standing in a ballet position that is specified by the school, or a video—before you're offered the opportunity to actually audition for the dance program. Others may ask for a specific or additional essay that relates to dance. And some—because 2020 has spared no aspect of our lives—have implemented completely new COVID-era protocols.
For the same reasons you should create a hub for all your log-in info, consider making one to establish which application materials you'll need to produce for each school. You can make one spreadsheet for all the schools you're applying to or, in a more tedious but ever-effective move, create a separate checklist for each school. That way, you know you're not forgetting to submit important parts of your application package.
Just imagine how good it will feel to get that coveted acceptance letter. (Getty Images/eyecrave)
Keep photography and filming simple
If a school requires you to submit photos or videos, take the directives about filming seriously. And be sure to respect any creative parameters a school might put on your submissions. The best rule of thumb: Keep it simple. Put on basic dancewear, pull your hair back (no whispies!), photograph head-on, and film without making any edits or adding special effects.
As a bonus, if you keep your videos relatively simple, you may be able to reuse some footage for different applications. Double-check the filming parameters, and see if there's anything you can repurpose for multiple schools.
Know your deadlines
Once you've established a list of schools that you're going to apply to, create a separate spreadsheet for the deadlines of each. (Yes, another spreadsheet!) But remember: As dancers, you don't just have a deadline for the application; you might also have a deadline to register for your audition and even one for submitting photos and videos for prescreening, so be sure to allocate space in your spreadsheet for those important deadlines, too.
Don't wait to ask for recommendations
Your teachers, both dance and academic, are overloaded with work in these crazy times, and on top of that, have students upon students requesting recommendation letters. Try not to be among the students who wait dangerously close to a deadline (you know who you are!) to ask for a rec letter. Instead, consider asking for yours early in the school year (that's right, now). By reaching out early, before mobs of other graduating seniors start asking too, you reduce the likelihood that the person writing your letter might rush through it or write something generic.
Ask someone you trust to read your essays
You've written tons of essays throughout your high school career. But writing a college essay—in which your every word feels like the difference between getting into a school or not—is a whole separate beast, so don't be afraid to have someone you trust (a parent, dance teacher or academic teacher, or maybe even a close friend who's an avid reader) look over your essay(s). In addition to finding grammatical or punctuation errors that you may have missed, they'll, hopefully—and more importantly—be able to tell you if they think your essay genuinely speaks to who you are, because they, more than most people, really know you.
Most full-length classical ballets feature several character dances—troupes of dancing peasants, parades of visiting princesses. Today, those dances are often seen as "filler," interludes to give the principals a breather between classical variations. But back in the 19th century, when many of these ballets premiered, character dances had deep cultural significance. Ballerinas, equally versed in character and classical techniques, would perform character dances in stand-alone programs. (Picture a Paris opera house full of cheering crowds, demanding multiple encores after their favorite star performs a knockout mazurka.) How did something that used to be so popular, and once provided critical context, fade from prominence?
From Romantic Nationalism to Romantic Ballets<p>Most of the full-length ballet "classics" premiered in Europe during a time when people couldn't travel very easily. The character dances that can feel extraneous today were originally intended to give a clear sense of a different country's culture.</p><p>"Character dance came about during the Romantic ballet period, roughly 1830–1850. This was when Romantic nationalism occurred," says Anthony Shay, professor of theater and dance at Pomona College. Romantic nationalism was a European philosophy that looked to peasants for "pure" examples of dance, music, language, and folklore. Romantic nationalists thought that rural people enjoyed a close relationship to the land, and thus their cultures reflected an authentic sense of place, untouched by outside influence—a point of pride during a period of rapid political change. The philosophy was also a way for European nations to assert their superiority as they fought over fluctuating boundaries and overseas empires. "Folk dance came to be considered part of the essence of a nation," Shay says. </p><p>Choreographers worked character dance into ballets, where it made crowd-pleasing appearances alongside burgeoning classical technique. Susan Leigh Foster, distinguished professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at University of California, Los Angeles, says that many Romantic ballets featured a plot with an inherently dancey main character—a sylph, or a doll—and then add character dance to establish a sense of place. That's how we ended up with <em>La Sylphide</em>'s Scottish reel and plaid kilts, and <em>Coppélia</em>'s showstopping mazurka scene, which screamed "Polish" to 19th-century audiences. </p><p>In reality, character dance was so stylized by the time it hit an opera house stage it could hardly be considered authentic. "Choreographers would take a few steps that looked very characteristic and use them to signal to the audience that they were seeing something exotic," Shay says. Ballet patrons were wild about character dances, but not about the people who originated them. They didn't want to see dancing peasants; they wanted to see their favorite ballerinas interpret peasant dances. "There was no actual folk material transported into any of the ballets," Shay says. For all the supposed national pride in folk culture, there was still a clear hierarchy separating folk dances from their stylized counterparts.</p>
PNB dancers in Coppélia (Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB)
From Abstraction to Character Companies<p><span style="background-color: initial;">It's hard to determine exactly when or why ballet training, which once celebrated virtuosity in character and classical techniques, began to prioritize the classical. We do know that by the end of the 19th century, ballet had consolidated as a universal training regimen. "Ballet was seen as broad, abstract and 'untainted' </span><span style="background-color: initial;">by localized folk dances," Foster says. "The basic shapes and movements of ballet</span> started to become mathematical shapes." By the late 20th century, "character dance" referred to dances in ballets and to ballet classes that referenced specific locales and <span style="background-color: initial;">contrasted with the more elevated technique</span> of classical ballet.</p><p>A century after character dance was first used to signify national pride, totalitarian rulers in Europe, including the USSR's Joseph Stalin, began to stage character dance performances for similar purposes. "You couldn't have actual folk dances, because those weren't appealing to powerful people. They were a sign of backwardness," Shay says. Instead, character dance was used to assert national superiority, even as its contextualizing role in the ballet repertoire faded away. </p><p>At Stalin's request, a dancer named Igor Alexandrovich Moiseyev created the first folk dance company, giving it a professional identity separate from classical ballet. The "folk dance" he created and staged, however, was an invented tradition. "Moiseyev took the character dancing he had learned, and altered into a new genre of dance to represent multiple groups," Shay says. The Moiseyev Dance Company still performs today. </p>
Connecting to the Source<p>We know very little about how character dance factored into 19th-century ballets. But we can still educate ourselves about historical references and contemporary, authentic folk dance, which will make ballet richer for audiences and performers alike. "You can't leave out character dance," Shay says. "It has been much reduced in popularity and in what it signifies, but you can go deeper." To help students feel closer to a ballet's original context, Shay encourages them to take classes in folk dance styles—and to remember that all dances are created in a particular time and place, by a particular people.</p>
We'd like to take a brief moment of silence for the fact that we made it to the semi-finals of this season of "Dancing with the Stars" without a single coronavirus case. The producers of a television dance competition really do have a better handle on this whole "pandemic" thing than some world leaders do, huh? (Though, "Strictly Come Dancing" didn't fare quite as well...)
And boy are we glad that this season didn't get shut down, because last night's semi-finals were chock full of some of the best dancing in "DWTS" history. But in case you missed the episode (or you were too busy counting down the hours until Ariana Grande's music video release), we rounded up all the best dancing—and the results of last night's shocking *double* elimination.