Category Archives: Dance Reviews

Our Blog Has Moved!

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We are excited to announce that with the launch of the new balletstrength.com, our Ballet Skills blog has moved! Now you can get all of our helpful free blog tips as well as our products that offer solutions to the most common ballet problems in one place!

Don’t worry, we’ll still check back with you here periodically but our most recent and up to date blog posts and products will be posted to our new blog at http://www.balletstrength.com. Thanks again for all of your support and I look forward to hearing your feedback on the new blog!

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Breaking Pointe – Human or Dancer?

As a former professional ballet dancer, I admit that it is exciting to see a ballet reality TV show such as the CW’s Breaking Pointe getting so much attention. I support the show and the dancers who are opening up their lives on camera to give the public some insight into a dancers life. The tough part is seeing dancers whom I trained with or worked with in the past getting so much criticism from the dance community – particularly from ballet moms. Here’s a quick reality check.

If everything was just sugarplums and tutus, there wouldn’t be a show. As perfect and innocent as ballet may seem, you have to realize that dancers are human and are in fact very much like you – They don’t get along with all of their co-workers, they have bad days, they have self-esteem issues, they deal with work stress, they have to compete for job promotions. Yes, occasionally they even meet up at the bar after a long day of work. Isn’t this what most of the general public has been doing their whole adult lives? These dancers are men and women working to make ends meet just like you – they don’t live in a music box.

The other thing that the public doesn’t realize is that these dancers are Adults. The public tends to associate the word “ballerina” with a little girl when in fact these ballerinas are professional adults. The truth is that while you were off at college joining fraternities and sororities, dancers were already working. Most dancers are hired into professional companies at age 17,  forcing them to grow up at a much younger age than you. Now that’s reality.

Why don’t they show more dancing? Because dancers lives encompass more than just dancing. Breaking Pointe is trying to make the public realize that dancers are human beings dealing with many of the same social issues as you – look at the African American dancer in the company, the openly gay couple, the dancer dealing with the stress of starting a family and marriage, the dancer who’s husband doesn’t have time for her. These are very big issues that people are dealing with all over the world every day. Why do you demand that a dancer’s life be any different?

The show depicts a wonderful contrast between the dancer’s personal lives and their studio lives. Have we created a false sense of reality for our teens when we don’t allow them to watch Breaking Pointe because it addresses too many real issues? If you want to see dancing and be swept away from reality buy tickets to see the ballet! In the meantime, watch Breaking Pointe for what it is – a real look into a hard working professional’s life and the hardships and glory that comes with it. Let’s applaud these dancers with a standing ovation for opening up their lives to us!

 

Joffrey Ballet in San Diego: Review

sonofchamber

It is not too often that world renowned ballet companies make their way to San Diego so I jumped on the opportunity to see the Joffrey Ballet perform at the San Diego Copley Symphony Hall on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. I was pleased to see that the repertoire would be all contemporary ballet pieces in which they performed three- Stanton Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, and William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.

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The program began abruptly with Son of Chamber Symphony choreographed by Stanton Welch, as both the music and the dancing started as the curtain was rising, on the first count of the music, written by John Adams. Four male dancers were surrounding one female dancer, Anastacia Holden, wearing an edgy, modern version of a tutu. Holden performed the choreography with precision and attack. Her sense of balance is something that most dancers would envy along with her petite yet athletic build. The true standout though came in the second movement with a pas de deux performed by April Daly and Dylan Gutierrez. Ms. Daly truly has it all feet, legs, flexibility, turns, and the ability to emote all wrapped into one long and lean package. I could have watched her dance for hours…if only this ballet was longer! Son of Chamber Symphony was my favorite piece of the evening. I could definitely see the Balanchine influence in the choreography which made me want to dance it, of course. (gotta love the “chugs” and the “hip thrusts” in the third movement)

The second piece was Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. After hearing so much about this ballet since it was choreographed in 2005, I had very high expectations. The dancers definitely delivered the feeling that is expected from this short piece. The audience moved and breathed with the female dancer either Christine Roccas or Yumelia Garcia (not clear in the program) as she effortlessly enchanted them all with real raw emotion during her pas de deux to the famously haunting music Spiegel im Spiegel in the second movement.

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The third piece, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated reminded me of the type of ballets the Joffrey is known for. As a kid, I remember Billboards and this ballet, particularly the costumes, gave me that early 90’s kind of feeling. The choreography looked fun and the dancers executed it well, however the music was in my opinion revolting. The standout of In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was Christine Roccas who fluidly moved through the piece, executing multiple turns with ease. The dancers were really able to show off their technical “tricks” and abilities in this piece whether it be flexibility or turns. The men were landing five and six pirouettes like nothing and my jaw definitely dropped a few times in regards to a particular female dancer’s a la seconde turns. While I enjoyed watching the technicality of this piece, I did feel that the costumes were a bit dated. Not to mention that with the black tights, you could not see the dancer’s legs at times.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my evening seeing the Joffrey Ballet perform these three pieces. This performance proved why Joffrey Ballet is and always was one of the top ballet companies in the country. I look forward to seeing how these talented dancers progress!

*Please note that none of the photos shown on this page are mine, nor am I claiming them to be my intellectual property.

Dozens of Nutcrackers

As I was going through some old photos today, I thought about just how unique each company or school’s production of the Nutcracker is. The thing that stuck out most to me was just how different the costumes are. In some productions Marzipan is Mirliton, the Russian dance can also be Candy Cane, and some Sugar Plum fairies don’t even wear purple. Here are a few photos I found interesting just to show the fun variety of Nutcrackers!

Waltz of the Flowers costumes between shows.

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Arabian is a Peacock.

The Sugar "Peach" Fairy, her Cavalier and Clara.

The snow scene...my favorite.

Found this in a Newspaper article. What a jump!

A great idea for the perfect snow flake!

Hope your Nutcracker performances are going well!

Complexions Contemporary Dance Review

As a professional dancer in San Diego I do not get many opportunities to see truly great dance companies perform without having to travel to another city. It has been a long time since I have been excited to see a company as I was when I purchased tickets to see Complexions Contemporary Dance perform at the Birch North Park Theatre in San Diego on Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm.


The evening started off with a piece called Moon Over Jupiter choreographed by Dwight Rhoden set to classical music by Sergei Rachmaninov. From the moment the curtain opened I knew that this one was going to knock my socks off. The Women wore nothing but leotards, showing off their tight and toned legs that even the best body builders would be envious of. The Men were shirtless sculptures of art that definitely showed off the demands of the intricate leg and foot work displayed in Rhoden’s choreography. I was wowed by this piece like I haven’t been in years. The choreography embodied the technical athleticism and intelligence that the dance world has not seen since George Balanchine. The “slides” which may have looked like mishaps or slips to uneducated audience members very much reminded me of the hip thrusts in the ballet Concerto Barroco (Balanchine). This was my favorite piece of the evening because of the stunning athleticism and stamina required by the dancers who are so lucky to work for such an amazing choreographer. Notable dancer was Sabra Perry who’s fluidity of movement shocked me. At first sight, this gorgeous long limbed dancer is awkwardly tall and very Darcy Bussell like. I have never seen long limbs move so effortlessly and Rhoden’s choreography clearly suits her well.

Moon Over Jupiter

After the first intermission three pieces were presented, none of which I was particularly fond of. Moody Boot Blues started off fabulously but I wished that it was longer. Desmond Richardson’s solo, Moonlight, was amazing and emotional of course but I would have liked to have seen a more dancy solo. This was a great break from the technical pieces though and I feel that the audience received it well. My least favorite piece of the evening was On Holiday which reminded me of being at one of my Dad’s ( a Jazz Musician) Jazz clubs as a kid. Great choreography, great concept but a bit boring and slow to watch.

Moonlight

The highlight of the evening was Rise, a piece choreographed to music by U2. The feel was automatically one of a rock concert with music blaring, smiling faces, and a feeling that dared the audience to get up and start head-banging. This piece was so much fun to watch and looked like even more fun to dance. It reminded me of one of my favorite ballets Brand New Day by Kevin O’Day, which was a ballet done to the music of Sting. Notable dancers were Patricia Hachey who’s flawless training and technique truly shined as the song lyrics radiated from her being and Natalia Alonso who’s gorgeous physique continued to amaze me throughout the evening.

Rise

Overall this was an amazing evening that refreshed my opinion of dance. I feel that Rhoden’s choreography is truly the way that the dance world should be headed with the athleticism, long lines, and organic movements that aren’t tastelessly contemporary nor too safe like much ballet choreography these days. This was the perfect blend of everything that you would want from a truly great dance performance.

Black Swan – Take a Bow

Photo from perezhilton.com

I have waited quite some time to give my take as a professional ballet dancer on the movie Black Swan. Recent press regarding the controversy involving Sarah Lane (a beautiful American Ballet Theatre Dancer) as Natalie Portman’s “stunt double” has prompted me to break my silence. Having both experience on film and as a professional dancer I’m going to offer my perspective on the whole thing and how the dance world is so different from Hollywood.

After reading an Entertainment Weekly article written by Adam Markovitz, (you can read it here) it is clear that Ms. Lane is a bit upset over her role in the movie Black Swan. It seems that the producers didn’t properly define her role as a stunt double in the film. Unfortunately, being a stunt double is a very thankless job when it comes to academy awards.

Just as Lane is quoted as saying that Portman’s portrayal of a dancer is “demeaning to the profession (ballet),” I feel that Lane’s primadonna attitude in these articles doesn’t make the profession look much better. This primadonna attitude is exactly the reason why dancers have such a (excuse my language) bitchy reputation.

Could legal issues follow these accusations? Lane claims that though she was “told not to talk about her work to the press” there was no non-disclosure clause in her contract. So who advised Ms. Lane to speak up? Surely she has an agent. Surely someone went over the contract with her. I understand the work that Lane put into the few dance scenes that were in Black Swan, but I do not think it is right for her to slam Portman and the movie. This is something that should have been advised against, and if this is merely a business issue, why is it being aired out publicly?

On to the Oscar Controversy:
Whomever did the dancing in the movie is not the reason why it won an Oscar. I understand that some in the dance community feel that Natalie Portman won the Oscar for her “upper body” portrayal of a dancer, but if you truly watch the film you will see that it is far more than that. Natalie Portman received a much deserved Oscar for her work as an actress, not as a dancer. In fact, if you watch the movie again you will see that there really isn’t much dancing in the movie at all. Has Lane seen the movie?

So why the controversy? One thing that us dancers have is pride. Our profession feeds off of acknowledgment (think bows at the end of a performance) and acceptance. I think that Lane feels the need for a bit of closure since she didn’t get to take a “bow” after her performance as Ms. Portman’s stunt double. Slamming the movie you worked on and the actress who’s “acting” awarded her an Oscar is hardly applause worthy.

I have yet to read a response to this controversy by the ever poised Natalie Portman’s who’s dancer fiance Benjamin Millepied has spoken up saying that “85 percent of that movie is Natalie.” Will we hear a reply from her? Also, please do not see this as an attack on Ms. Lane or her dancing, rather a look into the business side of things. I am looking forward to seeing how this one unfolds.

This Blog post was inspired by the Entertainment Weekly Article “Black Swan double claims Natalie Portman only did 5 percent of full body dance shots in the movie” Written by Adam Markovitz. http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/03/25/portman-black-swan-double/

Ballet Strength Pointe Magazine debut

It has taken me a while to share this article with you and I finally got a chance to scan it to my computer today. I reformatted the look of the article for you to make it a bit  easier to read. Although I was inaccurately quoted on several occasions, I still feel that it is a huge accomplishment for myself and Ballet Strength to be part of the elite few who have had the opportunity to share their wisdom in Pointe and am extremely thankful for the opportunity.

If you are interested in having your questions answered by me on my blog or by video blog, send your questions to nikol@balletaudition.com. I look forward to helping you!

Ballet Strength on Alex Wong’s Injury

A photo of Alex gives me great insight as to where his injury prone areas may be.

My heart was broken last night watching So You Think You Can Dance for Alex Wong, an extremely talented dancer who captured the dance world’s attention this season. I’m not an avid So You Think You Can Dance viewer, but I do catch the show about twice per month. Being that Alex was a ballet dancer and had left his position with Miami City Ballet to be on SYTYCD, there was quite a story and a passion behind his presence on the show. It kept me watching…

As a Ballet Strength and cross training coach for dancers, I immediately started to think of ways that this injury might have been prevented. Gorgeously arched feet and super tight calves like Alex’s usually mean short Achilles Tendons in my experience working one on one designing plans injury prevention plans for professional dancers. (I could go into more details about his anatomy, but I’ll spare you.)

In my spare time this morning I did my best to find out how Alex Wong “ruptured his Achilles Tendon” to further investigate how something like this could have been prevented. Had his spring nearly sprung? Is it the result of improper technique? Or did he merely land wrong? The articles that I found were quite vague in their description of the incident so I am hoping that there will be more to come in the next few days.

My next thought: was Alex in pain prior to the Achilles rupture? Did he have chronic Achilles Tendonitis, a nagging long-term injury that some dancers suffer with their entire careers? Many dancers push through injuries in order keep their status in companies thinking that the injury will heal itself and get better. Us stubborn dancers think that we can change the reality that rest is the only thing that will truly heal an injury.

In my ballet summer studies at Chautauqua I remember hearing stories about New York City Ballet Dancer Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux rupturing his Achilles, but I don’t know for a fact if he returned to dancing after the injury. I am confident that Alex will dance again.

I guess my message in this blog post is this: Dancers, be smart. Take risks, but don’t risk your career thinking that you can triumph over pain. You cannot mask injuries. Trust me, it will bite you in the behind. Not to say that I know 100% that this is the reason for Alex Wong’s injury, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it may be the case. Hopefully more details will be available to the public soon.

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein Professional Ballet Dancer/ Author/ Fitness Expert

Ballet Strength in Pointe Magazine

Ballet Strength is becoming a popular topic of discussion throughout the ballet community. With this being said, I was pleased to recieve a call last week from Pointe Magazine asking for my help and expertise on Ballet Strength for their advice column for dancers.

The question I was asked to answer was in regards to a young dancer looking to slim out her bulky legs. I was happy to hear someone ask this. It is good to know that dancers are finally starting to realize that there are ways for them to transform their bodies through cross training. The truth is that most ballet teachers are unequipped to offer advice on this once tabu subject.

This is where my Ballet Strength methods come in handy. With proven programs like Beginning Ballet Strength (www.balletstrength.com), dancers can now be confident that cross training works and with my expertise now being referenced by Pointe Magazine.

I am honored and flattered to work with Pointe Magazine and look forward to the future opportunities that are on the horizon.

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein Professional Ballet Dancer/ Author/ San Diego Personal Trainer