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>
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.
Johnny Weir and Britt Stewart: Jazz<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="de7034a79fcbf9dd429a4cf8a31d7537"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jTLtCj-Hcj4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There's something about Johnny Weir's partnership with Britt Stewart that makes our hearts happy. This is a dancing duo that just seems perfectly matched—in energy, in creativity, in fashion sense, in <em>everything</em>. Johnny and Britt's jazz showed off that perfect partnership to the fullest, complete with dreamy lifts, flawlessly coordinated choreo, and legs for days. (Side bar: We are deeply jealous of Johnny's arabesque, but it's like, not a thing.) The judges gave Johnny and Britt three 10s, for a total 30. </p>
Nev Schulman and Jenna Johnson: Contemporary<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1443973c69f0182b59246e6567b4d59b"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mkhrRmszRQQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>We'll say it: Jenna Johnson is the reigning queen of contemporary on "DWTS." And Jenna's contemporary choreography was performed perfectly by Nev Schulman, with all of the drama and emotion we ever could have dreamed of. Nev had us #InOurFeels, y'all! Nev and Jenna also pulled out all the stops with some seriously jaw-dropping lifts (did he just flip her over his head?) and a healthy dose of technique. Snaps, forreal. The judges gave Nev and Jenna a perfect 30, bringing their total score to a perfect 60 (!) for the night. </p>
Nelly and Daniella Karagach: Jive<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5da81d5c5af954f62cd56b4c2b8e8bcc"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dTivh4LcyTY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>We'd like to formally name Nelly this season's "Most Improved," because talk about a #TransformationTuesday! Nelly's jive with partner Daniella Karagach made us want to "Jump, Jive" out of our seats—it was jam-packed with classic jive choreo, and seriously fun, to boot. We're calling it now, "DWTS" fans: Nelly could win this whole thing. There's nothing "Dancing with the Stars" fans love more than an underdog, and Nelly and Daniella have proved that they're serious contenders. The judges gave #TeamDaNelly three 10s, for their first perfect score of the season. </p>
In many ways, the planet we live on is like a dance partner. It provides for us, inspires us, and supports us. And like in any good duet, both partners benefit when support and respect go both ways.
Did you know that there are choices you can make as a dancer to lessen your impact on the environment? Here are some of the best ways that you can dance towards a more eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle.
Carpool to class, competition, and convention
Fact: Car rides (like most things) are more fun with friends. Organize a carpool with your #DanceSquad to your next competition or convention, or even just to the studio. Fewer cars on the road means less gasoline used, and you can use the time spent in the car to catch up with your besties—instead of getting busted for whispering at the barre or during warmup.
Invest in reusable accessories
If you're not on the #SaveTheTurtles bandwagon yet, consider this your formal invitation. Single-use plastics like sandwich bags, plastic straws, and yes, even your precious Starbucks cups, account for around 10% of all waste we produce. Half a million plastic straws are used in the world every day.
Invest in reusable containers for your snacks and lunches and keep your water in a refillable bottle. Customize them with stickers for an accessory that's as cute as it is eco-friendly. Trust us: Your PSL will taste just as good from a reusable coffee mug.
Reuse dance costumes
Did you just love your large group contemporary costume from last season, or were you super jealous of the fierce small group jazz costume that the older girls wore? Instead of cracking open that costume catalog to select a look for your new solo, try shopping in your own closet (or someone else's). If you can reuse a costume from a previous season, or buy one secondhand from a teammate, you'll be saving all the resources it takes to manufacture and ship a new dance costume (and you'll save some money, too).
Look into sustainable dancewear
Who said recycling can't be stylish? More and more uses are being found for recycled single-use plastics, including Repreve, a new form of polyester made from recycled water bottles. Rezonance Athletics, founded by ABT dancer Betsy McBride, uses Repreve as well as recycled nylon to make leotards, bike shorts, and hair accessories. Consider investing in an ethically and sustainably-made piece the next time you shop for dancewear.
Follow the golden rule
It might be tempting to dump all your single-use plastics and old leos in favor of your new sticker-covered thermos, or your trendy new dancewear made from recycled materials, but remember the number-one rule of sustainability: The most sustainable and eco-friendly products you can use are the ones that you already have. Instead, focus on replacing finished or worn-out products with ethically made and eco-friendly choices.
Podiatrists and physiatrists and pulmonologists, oh, my! There are a lot of medical subspecialists out there—and many of these professionals can make a real difference to a dancer's health and career. With the help of Virginia Wilmerding, PhD (dance science researcher and research professor for the exercise science and dance programs at the University of New Mexico), and Elizabeth Yutzey, MFA in dance science (and chair of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science's Student Committee), Dance Spirit has compiled a handy list of specialist physicians that growing dancers should be aware of.
A dietician can help you put together a plan to feed yourself right. (Getty Images)
Orthopedists can help diagnose and prevent problems in your joints—like your ankles. (Getty Images)