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More Dance Videos! Non-Ballet Edition

A couple weeks ago I shared some mostly Balanchine video links to watch, which I hope you all enjoyed or have bookmarked to enjoy later! Today I'm talking non-ballet dance videos because there are a bunch I've been loving (obsessing over?) lately. As much as I could watch ballet all day every day, I do love some good jazzy-hip-hoppy-britney-spears-music-video type of dancing. And though we are all ballet dancers here, we are lovers of all forms of dance!

1. Kyle Hanagami's choreography to Ed Sheeran's "Shape Of You"

Guys. I cannot stop watching this video. It's super fun and the choreography could not be more perfect for the song. I was actually getting sick of hearing this song on the radio, but now I visualize this dance and turn it up every time it comes on!

2. Brian Friedman's choreography to Ariana Grande's "Into You"

This is what began the rabbit hole of dance video binging!! I wanted to make music videos when I was younger - if the internet and access to digital was a thing when I was younger I probably would have pursued that - so to see essentially a music video dedicated to the dancing was so overwhelmingly cool to me. The way Brian works the camera at 5:19 is #goals. And bonus! Maddie Ziegler is in the second group :)

3. Galen Hooks choreography to Rihanna's "Love On The Brain"

I think what I love most about this video is that every single dancer has a very different take on the choreography and how they tell the story. I am particularly drawn to the girl in the yellow shirt!

4. Kyle Hanagami's choreography to Beyoncé's "YONCE"

This is so sexy. That is all.

5. Kate Jablonski's choreography to Laura Marling's "I Was Just A Card"

In terms of the internet, this is an older video that has been a favorite of mine for years. It inspired me to think outside the box when it comes to my own photo & video work of documenting dance. The use of lighting and the editing to piece together this brilliant choreography never gets old to me!

6. Andrew Winghart's choreography to Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River"

This concept and execution is so freaking fantastic. I love the build up to the moment at 3:31. I don't think you can watch this just once!

That's all for now, friends! Start with any one of these and the recommendations that will pop up in your YouTube feed will keep you occupied for hours and hours and hours :)

- Jana

New Vlog! Pilates Exercise with Brittany Cavaco

This past week I hosted professional ballet dancer Brittany Cavaco while she was in town. I met Brittany last summer in Washington, D.C. when we got together to do a photo shoot! Her visit was a short two nights, but it was great to have some dancer slumber parties! :) I vlogged one of the days and she shared a really great pilates exercise to help with my knees. She also went to class with me and Kristin that night and I got TWO fouetté turns in a row, guys! Small progress, but progress! Watch it all in the vlog on our YouTube channel:

To the Adult Dancer Who is Leaving Performing…

It’s been two years since I’ve been on stage. I have taken breaks in the past, but I knew at that point, the performing side of my dancing was really over. Although I have been teaching and watching dance for the past two years, I haven’t been in an audience watching a ballet during that time. I finally went to one this past weekend, and it brought on many thoughts.

Yes, I still grieve not performing. As a performer, I knew exactly where to park, and what entrance to the theater to use. It was fine for me to go all over backstage or wherever I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about being cold because I had a bag full of warm ups and was jumping around all over the place to keep warm. But as an audience member? It’s, “Oh, maybe I can’t park here.” “Will call? Where is that?” “How do I find my seat because I don’t know where this number is.” “Oh yeah, it’s really cold in the audience! And I didn’t bring a jacket.”

Then there’s the going back stage to see friends and getting barked at by a well-meaning employee who is trying to protect the backstage from being flooded by the audience, and to keep the dancers’ spaces safe. But for me, those spaces still feel like my spaces. They are still familiar. It doesn’t feel like it’s been years. Not being recognized felt like the moment in The Last Unicorn when the unicorn is mistaken for a horse. Except that in this case, they were right – I was just another person.

It’s strange. And sad. The dancers are riding their post-show high, huge smiles on their faces. They are so excited. And it gave me a post-show high right along with them. It was good to see people and get hugs…to feel a part of it again, even though I’m not. Because I didn’t go home dripping with sweat and every muscle hurting, but I did go home with the radio blasting and singing along with it, because it still felt good.

I realized how much I missed it. Which is why it can be easier to stay away. I see it in former professional ballet dancers. Some stay with teaching or directing, but some go in a completely different direction. At least for some number of years, until it doesn’t hurt so much, and they can go back to it on different terms. I feel like there is so little discussion about how much it hurts to not be a dancer anymore.

Going back was therapeutic. In the few days after, as I had time to reflect, a lot of things came to my mind. Things that I had missed with my family to be in those shows. The freedom I have in my life without being tied to it.

As much I love performing, there is a downside. There’s always that question of how it’s going to go. There’s always so much criticism leading up to it. It’s mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting, especially as an adult and a non-professional. When you are dancing in a company, you get to point where you are dancing so much, you feel on top of your game all the time. It comes with the 8 hours of dancing all day, every day. Your worst day is still a pretty darn good day in the grand scheme of things. But, there’s also an insane amount of pressure to go along with it. Pressure I didn’t have the maturity to handle when I was in it.

As an adult, I had the maturity, but I wasn’t dancing enough to feel as on top of it as I wanted to. I was still dancing a lot, but not enough for the expectations I had of myself. There was a different kind of pressure for my performances, because at any time, I didn’t trust my body to do what I needed it to do. The performance high usually wasn’t high, because I didn’t feel as good as I wanted or needed it to feel.

If you are a fan of Dance Academy, you may remember one of the last episodes where Saskia is talking about retiring. She has been let go from the company after it comes under new leadership, but Tara tells her that plenty of other companies would be glad to have her. Saskia, who is still coming back from an injury, replies, “I’m just sick of starting each morning with coffee and a pain killer.” I think this embodies what happens to a lot of us. We get tired of the fight.

All this to say, that yes, there is a life after performing. A beautiful life. A life where you can stand in the back of a classroom and dance, and feel like you are on stage. Where you can have your evenings and weekends to shop, or garden, or clean your house. Where you can wake up and not be in pain. Or you can be in pain, but from Pilates or Crossfit, or whatever else you decide to conquer.

I wish ballet could be more balanced, and could be something we could do without it being so demanding on both bodies and time.

Don’t stay away from the ballet. Go. Let the dancers inspire you – fill you with spirit. Breathe right along with them, and you will feel like you are dancing too.

New vlog! Jewelry & Pipe Shopping?!

 When Kristin and I decided our bodies couldn't make it to ballet class on Saturday, we opted to still hang out by grabbing lunch, doing some light shopping, and gathering the piping needed to film a tutorial on making your own ballet barre! I hadn't planned to vlog this day, so it's a little random and I have a chatty bit at the end. Hope you guys enjoy and are having a good start to your week! Click below to watch :)

Binge on Balanchine

I mentioned in my video about the Struggles of the Adult Ballet Life that when I feel like I've fallen off the ballet wagon or just need some motivation to remind me how great dancing makes me feel, I like to watch ballet videos. For me, this doesn't make me sad, it makes me crave dancing enough to pull me out of whatever rut I'm in and get my butt back to class. And it's that first class back after some time off that helps me get right back in my groove. Well, after a couple classes of being really sore ;)

I thought I would share some places I've either recently discovered or am a repeat visitor to for some dance-spiration.

New York City Ballet did a three week run in Paris last summer and PBS recorded the last performance of four Balanchine pieces. Lucky for us, it is now available FOR FREE to watch in its entirety! In New York City Ballet in Paris you will see:

  •  Walpurgisnacht. I had never seen this one, but definitely recognized the music from class and it is now a favorite ballet of mine! Sara Mearns just absolutely blows my mind with her strength and artistry in this show. 
  • La Valse. Another one I had never seen and for some reason the costuming never had me excited to see what it was all about (I know, judging a book by its cover..), but I did enjoy the movements created to interpret high society ladies.
  • Symphony in C. This one is a classic for NYCB, performed in two parts, opening with Sonatine and finishing with the ballet's title.

If you haven't had enough Balanchine yet, you can also watch Curtain Up: The School of American Ballet Workshop from May of 2014. I am a little biased about watching this one because I was actually in the audience thanks to my aunt getting us tickets! It was also the first time I saw Serenade, my favorite ballet, so it holds a special place in my heart. I did a little vlog from this trip to NYC which you can still see on our YouTube channel here :)

I also think New York City Ballet does a fantastic job on their YouTube channel by sharing short videos about the ballets being performed each season. It's usually narrated by a dancer so not only do you get a quick understanding of the ballet's origin and meaning paired with beautiful rehearsal & performance footage, you get to hear it from the perspective of the person dancing it. Some great examples are Ashley Bouder on Serenade, Sterling Hyltin on Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and Chase Finlay on Fearful Symmetries.

So there are some options if you're sitting at home and need a little ballet pick-me-up or binge! :) I've also been watching a lot of non-ballet dance videos lately and am finding so much inspiration watching the amazing talent that's out there these days. I can do another post about other dance videos to watch if you guys would like. Just let me know in the comments!

- Jana

February & March Corrections

Alright, life got the best of me, and my window of time to get February Corrections filmed went by like *that*. Life has been crazy as we discussed a couple weeks ago, so I'm combining two month's worth in this second installment of monthly(-ish) corrections :)

G L I S S A D E  A S S E M B L E

Instead of thinking about the glissade being "up", think about it moving sideways and bring the second foot in quicker. Then when you get to the assemblé, it can be the "up" movement (don't travel the assemblé). So: sideways, then up.

D E V E L O P P E  E C A R T E

In an adagio combo we did plié fifth into développé écarté in relevé, which is such a pretty & fun step to do! It naturally makes you want to feel super tall from the second you bring your leg up, but our tip was to think about growing taller at the top of the position before you come down. You want to think tall from the beginning, but that last bit of "growth" if done at the end can elongate the line and help you hold the position longer! Two thumbs up for that :)

G R A N D E  S I S S O N N E  O U V E R T E

This is the big sissonne where you land on one leg and the other stays raised - we usually do it in arabesque. I was making this sissonne pretty much stay in place, but was told to really move forward with the movement, as it's mean to be a big jump! I still have some work to do to really use my plié beforehand, but it's a much more fun step when you make it travel!

A R M S  I N  F I F T H

My arms in general have been droopy lately, but it was pointed out when doing grand battements at the barre one day that my hand of the arm in fifth was kind of breaking at the wrist making the line look broken instead of rounded. To fix it, I need to keep the hand facing in a bit more and of course think about my elbow staying "lifted" so it doesn't droop back. Another correction regarding the arm in fifth was during tombé pas de bourrée - if bringing the downstage arm to fifth in the tombé, make sure it stays over your head instead of pulling behind as it kind of feels natural to do.

T O M B E  C O U P E  J E T E

This is a similar correction from January, where this jump prep needs to really stay low to the ground with a forward movement to create momentum. Think about the tombé stepping way out - probably to the point where it feels like overkill at first - because if you keep it underneath you it's going to be much harder to get the front leg to start the jeté and the rest of your body to get height in the jump.

C O U P E  A S S E M B L E

In petite allegro a lot of times we'll do a coupé front or back before an assemblé. I was not really bringing the coupé foot fully back into fifth and on the ground before brushing into the assemblé. So make sure your working foot is fully articulating back into fifth so you can fully push the ground away going into the assemblé.

E C H A P P E  P A S  D E  B O U R R E E

Going into a pas de bourrée from an échappé, I was turning the échappé into a tombé, essentially. Make sure the échappé is seen with the landing in plié second with the weight even between your feet before starting the pas de bourrée. Otherwise if you favor the leg in the direction of the pas de bourrée, it can look like a sloppy tombé/fourth position type of thing!

F O U E T T E  T U R N S

I was convinced I was never going to figure these out!! My progress has been SO minimal and I've just felt like there's something I'm missing to make these easier than I'm doing them. I was told to keep my weight on my supporting leg side because I was leaning too much toward the working leg. Then after watching video of me working on them, it was discovered I also wasn't whipping my leg back in second enough. And the coordination of my arms and the working leg staying together is another component I am struggling to master! I'm determined to get this!!

Here is the video version of the corrections that might be a bit more helpful! Let me know if you relate to any of these corrections or if there are any questions about any of them! - Jana

Foam Rolling For The Win!

I can no longer function as an adult ballet dancer without my foam roller!

I've had my foam roller for years, but really didn't understand how beneficial it could be until I started getting massages a few months ago. Finding out just how tight the state of my muscles had become was kind of devastating, but having discussions about the steps to take to release them back to normal gave me hope, and a mission, to get them there. Foam rolling has always been painful for me, and I wasn't sure if that pain was good or bad, so I avoided it. Now I know the difference between good and bad pain so I can work on my own in addition to my massage appointments.

I roll out after every class now because it eliminates feeling stiff the next day! I'm currently focusing on my calves (my massage therapist says they "are a mess!"), my hips, my quads, and my back. I also take time to stretch since we don't normally focus on long stretches in class. My flexibility is the lowest it has ever been in my life, so I'm trying to stay hopeful that if I can keep up with consistently stretching and rolling out that I can get back to where I "expect" and want myself to be. I have always loved stretching, so this is new territory for me to be in so much pain doing it!

All that to say, if you find yourself feeling stiff the day after class, try rolling out your muscles after class to see if that makes a difference for you! (And if you're not sure how to, here's a good starting point).