Dear Katie

(photo by Jayme Thornton)

Dear Katie,

My studio is incredibly competitive. I try to keep out of the drama, but everyone’s so catty. Things have been especially bad since last summer, when I was the only one who got into a top-level summer program. What should I do?

Natalie

Dear Natalie,

I dealt with a lot of competitive drama as a student, too, and I know just how awful it can be. But resist the temptation to participate in your classmates’ cattiness. Take the high road. Be friendly and polite in the studio and dressing room.

You’re probably really proud of the fact that you got into that elite summer course—as you should be! But the root cause of other students’ nastiness is probably jealousy. Diffuse it by staying humble. Celebrate your accomplishments with your family at home, but do your best to keep your excitement to yourself at the studio. And make a conscious effort to congratulate others on their good parts and summer course acceptances.

I know it’s hard, but don’t let the negative energy derail you. When you’re in class, stay focused on the task at hand. You’re there to work on your technique, not to get caught up in petty drama. Stay true to that mission every day.

Dear Katie,

I have to choreograph a solo for my college dance department audition, but I’m having trouble finding a piece of music. I want something that really feels like “me,” but I don’t know where to look! How do you find inspiring music?

Sophie

Dear Sophie,

It can be difficult to find music that a) isn’t totally overused and b) speaks to you as a choreographer. While it might seem counterintuitive, a good place to start is with composers you already know. There are pieces by even the most famous composers—Bach, Beethoven, Mozart—that many people haven’t heard before. Look through these artists’ catalogues on iTunes. You might come across an unfamiliar work and fall in love.

YouTube is another excellent music resource, because you can hear complete pieces without having to pay for them. If you’re looking for classical stuff, I’d suggest searching for symphonies and concertos. They tend to have at least three movements, giving you plenty of options to choose from.

Take advantage of streaming services like Pandora, too. Start a channel for a song you admire, and see what other related music the program’s search engine suggests. It requires time and patience, but I’ve found some incredible music that way.

Dear Katie,

What’s the secret to bourrées? I know it’s supposed to seem like I’m floating across the floor, but instead I look bouncy and jerky. Help!

Andrea

Dear Andrea,

You’re definitely not alone in this struggle—bourrées are deceptively tricky! Start by thinking about lifting up from your waist. If you sink into your hips, you’ll have a hard time achieving that feeling of skimming the floor. Actively pulling up will take the weight out of your legs, allowing them to move more freely.

Make sure you’re picking up your feet as you go, too. You don’t have to lift them too high off the floor, but remember that that floating look is created by a series of tiny steps. Many people get “stuck” during bourrées because they’re focusing on bending their knees, when the movement is actually propelled by the feet and ankles. If your feet never leave the floor, you can’t go anywhere!

Think about the back foot leading the way, especially when traveling to the side. If you “pull” with the front foot rather than “pushing” with the back, you’ll lose your tight fifth position and have a hard time getting anywhere. Leading with that back foot will let you cover more distance and maintain a beautiful position. You’ll be skimming across the room in no time!

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