Tag Archives: ballet

A Rant about Dance Books

PointeIn the interest of full disclosure, I meant to write about Pointe, the first novel of Brandy Colbert.

However, I quickly realized that everything I was writing became a dance book rant, so I gave up and decided to (officially) write about the challenges of finding a good dance book for someone over the age of 10.

See, generally they fall into one of the several categories below:

1) The Children’s Book.  There is nothing wrong with this form, per se, but there are two ways this book can go: the instruction manual (which is always oversimplified and often inaccurate); and the dance story in which everything is hunky-dory. The characters are always full of promise, dance all the time, and never get injured (I’m looking at you, Ballet Shoes). I understand that no one wants to scare children, or kill their dreams, but this just isn’t reality.

2) The Book Where the Author Has No Clue What They Are Writing About.  We’ve all heard the saying “write what you know.”  Unfortunately, many authors completely forget about this when it comes to writing dance novels. I recently read Withering Tights by Louise Rennison, which I started because the main character was an Irish dancer.  However, I soon realized that Rennison had not done her research: she called one of the moves “twisty ankle things.”  Not only would no self-respecting Irish dancer describe a move like that, but it is not descriptive.  There are so many moves Rennison could mean:

As you can tell, all these moves are very different and all could be described as “twisty ankle things.”

3) The Author Has Actually Done Research And Still Doesn’t Get It.  Even if the author has learned about dance, and really has done their best, it doesn’t mean they can describe dance.  I do understand this: I’ve been dancing for years, and I often cannot describe the sensation of dancing—partly because it may change on a day-to-day basis, but mostly because I can’t really explain to non-dancers how it feels.  Even so, why would one try to write about something they can’t describe?

However, there are a few beacons of hope for people looking for good dance books.  The first is On Pointe, by Lorie Ann Grover.  This is the story of a young dancer forced into early retirement when she grows too tall to dance, and is written in verse.  The second is I Was A Dancer by Jacques D’Amboise, a lovely (if not always perfectly written) memoir.  Finally, try Bunheads by Sophie Flack.  Each of these explains what if feels like to dance, and I’ve re-read these several times.  Happy dancing!

–Emma, Greenwood Teen Adviser

GWD

Dylan’s Dance Floor: Inspiration and a Crash Course, Ballet-Style

kathrynmorgandanceIf you are in any size shape or form involved in ballet, I most highly recommend that you chasé right on over to Kathryn Morgan’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/Tutugirlkem). Morgan followed the path of a prodigy during her youth. She moved to New York when she was 15 to train at the School of American Ballet, and joined New York City Ballet just two years later at the age of 17. After being cast in several leading roles to critical acclaim, she was promoted to soloist, again just two short years after she joined the company. But this prodigious path diverged when she was diagnosed with a very complex and devastating thyroid condition. This forced her to leave New York City Ballet.

However, this diagnosis does not make her a pitiful character. In fact, it is what makes her so inspiring. After she received the right medication for her condition, she started intensive training to get back on the stage, even though many told her that that would never happen. It is when she talks about how she threw caution to the wind and did whatever it took to get back dancing that I am inspired. You can hear the resilience in her voice, and you just know that she will be back very soon. Continue reading

Ballet in Brief

nutcracker

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”

Winter and the ballet are a few of my favorite things. It might be PNB’s classic rendition of “The Nutcracker,” a small production of “Steadfast Tin Soldier,” or the wonderland that is “Swan Lake”–’tis the season. Ballet originated in Europe during the 15th century Italian Renaissance, where the merchants and nobles acted as patrons of the arts, stimulating a new culture in which artists became respected members of society. Le Ballet Comique de la Reine is accepted as the first ballet; it was performed in Paris, lasted over five hours, and centered around a Greek goddess. After this, dance schools were established in France and the five classic ballet positions were developed. In the 19th century, pointe shoes and tutus lead to the concept of floating, heavenly beings and the “prima ballerina.”

I never made it past my weekly dance classes as a six-year-old, but I have friends who spend every day after school dancing for hours. It takes years before they can go “on pointe,” and after that it takes weeks to master each difficult pirouette and jeté. It is an art of perfection and that is no easy feat. What are the dancers in Degas’s paintings really thinking?

As I attend the ballet this winter and settle into my plush seat, out of the cold, I’ll remember the dancers in the 15th century, creating the art. I’ll think of the aspiring ballerinas of today, putting in four hours daily to perfect the moves. There’s so much more than what we see on the stage.

Black SwanA dark portrayal of the ballet world: Black Swan

Documentary following young dancers looking to enter the professional ballet world: First Position 

A graphic novel memoir of a dancer (a children’s book but incredibly sweet): To Dance

– Greta, 16, Teen Center Adviser

Greta-CROP

 

The Black Swan(s)

There are now two pieces of media that I know of called The Black Swan. And they are a book and a movie. The latter came out in the fall of 2010, and the lead actress is Natalie Portman. It is a psychological thriller, and although I know a few teens that saw it, the movie well deserved its R-rating. The images were terrifying at times, and Nina’s descent into madness provides a sharp contrast to the apparent beauty of ballet.

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Ballet Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream: Dreamy, Indeed

Pacific Norwest Ballet’s current production of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is undeniably a dream. Having had no experience watching ballet in the past, it served as both a lovely introduction and an excellent way to spend last Saturday evening.

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Ballet with Miss Chloe

Are you interested in doing ballet but don’t want to go to a really serious school for it? You just want to do it for fun? Well I take ballet at Ravenna Eckstein Community Center. My teacher there, Miss Chloe, teaches kids from ages 3 to 15. Right now I am her oldest student and I am 14. She has different levels and each level has an age group. I am in the highest level, Ballet 4. My level also has the least number of people; this year I have 3 people in my class.

At the end of the fall session there is a small winter concert. In that concert everybody in her classes does a short 2-minute dance. Then at the end of the spring session there is a much bigger spring concert. Still each class does a short dance. Both shows are optional.

In class Miss Chloe is pretty easy-going. We start class with flex and point. After that we stand at the bar and do plies. How complicated the plies are depends on your level. Next we do tondues, piques and jutes. And, same as with the plies, the number of moves incorporated depends on your level. The younger classes get to do free dance at the end of class sometimes. The older kids do not but we do take turns and jumps across the floor and the stage.

If Miss Chloe has known you for a long time she may ask you to demonstrate for one of her younger classes. If you have a younger sibling you can imagine how hard it is for her to manage her younger students. Miss Chloe doesn’t try to prevent you from moving to a ballet school if you want to. Actually she kind of encourages it. She is also really easy to talk to. So if you are interested in starting ballet come join me and the rest of Miss Chloe’s students at Ravenna Eckstein Community Center on Wednesdays or Fridays or both!

Here are links to some books and dvd’s on ballet, to help you make up your mind.