Dance Training

7 Technique Resolutions Your Teacher Wishes You'd Make

Pascal Molat. PC Erik Tomasson

A new year calls for a new approach to your training. As you make your resolutions for 2018, think about the corrections you hear most often. Now is the perfect time to address these issues and set realistic goals to fix them. Not sure what to tackle first? These seven resolutions master teachers wish you'd make will help you start the year off on the right foot.

1. Use your eyes.

It's easy to get stuck in the mirror and constantly analyze yourself. But keeping your gaze glued to the front means you're not using épaulement efficiently or focusing your eyes. "It can be a bad habit," says Pascal Molat, trainee program assistant at San Francisco Ballet School. "The head is the heaviest part of the body, so if you direct the energy with the eyes, the position will be correct." Your head should coordinate with port de bras from the beginning of barre, says Molat. "What you do there relates to what happens in center."

2. Engage your core.

Core stability helps you move stronger, faster and in one piece. "Many dancers start to move before they've engaged their core," says Winifred Haun, modern teacher at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. To build a better connection to your core, supplement your training with Pilates, or simply hold a plank position for 30 seconds before class or a performance.

Winifred Haun, PC Matthew Gregory Hollis

3. Don't cheat turn preparations.

To achieve a good preparation for pirouettes, avoid these three common mistakes: losing turnout on the supporting leg, doing a double plié and swinging the side arm back behind the body. "The body weight should be more on the front leg than the back leg," says Molat. "Take a nice plié that pushes down to go up." He suggests practicing slow quarter and half turns from fourth and fifth to make sure the mechanics are correct. "This exercise, done very slowly and many times, will help you build good muscle memory."

4. Be positive.

Incorporate positive thinking, not just physical training, into your daily practice. "Don't judge yourself," says Sekou McMiller, a New York–based choreographer and teacher who specializes in Afro-Latin dance. "It doesn't allow you to retain notes. Be okay with what you don't know, and be willing to receive information." If you're having a problem with a particular jump, for example, don't let it affect the entire combination. Allow yourself the space and time to make mistakes—and learn from them.

Sekou McMiller. PC Kyle Froman

5. Lift your arches.

"Don't pronate," says Haun. "When you keep your arches slightly lifted away from the floor, you engage your turnout muscles around the backs of the legs." Think of having all 10 toes connected to the floor so that you don't roll forward and put stress on the knees. "In fourth position plié before a turn, for example, make sure your feet are fully engaged," she says. "This helps your turnout, which helps your balance, which helps your turn!"

6. Clean up your grand jeté.

Keep your heels forward as you take off for grand jeté. "If you're going to the right, make sure the left shoulder is over the left hip, and don't anticipate the jump," says Molat. Instead of turning your whole body to face the corner, keep the left shoulder open as long as possible. This opposition in the upper body will create better propulsion, making your jump higher, instead of pushing you forward in one lateral direction.

Pascal Molat. PC Erik Tomasson

7. Approach plié as a movement.

Plié should be an action with resistance, says McMiller. "Sometimes a dancer will hold a bent knee position, but no work is happening. Plié should support what you're doing, both rhythmically and technically." Find your relationship with gravity (resist going down, and push the floor away to go up) and then start exploring how you can interact with it.

Sekou McMiller. PC Kyle Froman

Show Comments ()
Cover Story
Jayme Thornton

Camille A. Brown is on an impressive streak: In October, the Ford Foundation named her an Art of Change fellow. In November, she won an AUDELCO ("Viv") Award for her choreography in the musical Bella: An American Tall Tale. On December 1, her Camille A. Brown & Dancers made its debut at the Kennedy Center, and two days later she was back in New York City to see her choreography in the opening of Broadway's Once on This Island. Weeks later, it was announced that she was choreographing NBC's live television musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, to air on April 1.

An extraordinarily private person, few knew that during this time Brown was in the midst of a health crisis. It started with an upset stomach while performing with her company on tour last summer.

"I was drinking ginger ale, thinking that I would feel better," she says. Finally, the pain became so acute that she went to the emergency room in Mississippi. Her appendix had burst. "Until then, I didn't know it was serious," she says. "I'm a dancer—aches and pains don't keep you from work."

Keep reading... Show less
Take your self-massage to the next level. Photo of TheraGun G2PRO via Amazon

The latest fitness fad has us literally buzzing. Vibrating tools—and exercise classes—promise added benefits to your typical workout and recovery routine, and they're only growing more popular.

Warning: These good vibrations don't come cheap.

Keep reading... Show less
Rant & Rave
Is this the turning point when we'll finally see an end to dancer mistreatment? Photo by Gez Xavier Mansfield/Unsplash

Last week in a piece I wrote about the drama at English National Ballet, I pointed out that many of the accusations against artistic director Tamara Rojo—screaming at dancers, giving them the silent treatment, taking away roles without explanation—were, unfortunately, pretty standard practice in the ballet world:

If it's a conversation we're going to have, we can't only point the finger at ENB.

The line provoked a pretty strong response. Professional dancers, students and administrators reached out to me, making it clear that it's a conversation they want to have. Several shared their personal stories of experiencing abusive behavior.

Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, wrote his thoughts about the issue on his company's website on Monday:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Voices
Emily Ramirez as "Meg Giry" in The Phantom of the Opera. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

I always knew my ballet career would eventually end. It was implied from the very start that at some point I would be too old and decrepit to take morning ballet class, followed by six hours of intense rehearsals.

What I never imagined was that I would experience a time when I couldn't walk at all.

In rehearsal for Nutcracker in 2013, I slipped while pushing off for a fouetté sauté, instantly rupturing the ACL in my right knee. In that moment my dance life flashed before my eyes.

Keep reading... Show less
Advice for Dancers
Losing a dance company can be like losing part of your family. Photo by Thinkstock.

My life is in complete chaos since my dance company disbanded. I have a day job, so money isn't the issue. It's the loss of my world that stings the most. What can I do?

—Lost Career, Washington, DC

Keep reading... Show less
In The Studio
Dance Theatre of Harlem performing Dougla. Photo by Matha Swope, courtesy DTH.

Dance Theatre of Harlem is busy preparing for the company's Vision Gala on April 4. The works on the program, which takes place on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and his impact on company founder Arthur Mitchell. Among them is the much-anticipated revival of legendary choreographer Geoffrey Holder's Dougla, which will include live music and dancers from Collage Dance Collective.

We stepped into the studio with Holder's wife Carmen de Lavallade and son Leo Holder to hear what it feels like to keep Holder's legacy alive and what de Lavallade thinks of the recent rise in kids standing up against the government—as she did not too long ago.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance As Activism
Nathalia Arja as the Novice in Jerome Robbins' The Cage. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Miami City Ballet

The encounter with man-eating female creatures in Jerome Robbins' The Cage never fails to shock audiences. As this tribe of insects initiates the newly-born Novice into their community and prepares her for the attack of the male Intruders, the ballet draws us into a world of survival and instinct.

This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins' birth, and a number of Robbins programs are celebrating his timeless repertoire. But it especially feels like a prime moment to experience The Cage again. Several companies are performing it: San Francisco Ballet begins performances on March 20, followed by the English National Ballet in April and New York City Ballet in May.

Why it matters: In this time of female empowerment—as women are supporting one another in vocalizing injustices, demanding fair treatment and pay, and advocating for future generations—The Cage's nest of dominant women have new significance.

Keep reading... Show less
What Wendy's Watching
Jaqlin Medlock rehearsing Signals, with, seated, Rashaun Mitchell, Melissa Toogood and Petronio, PC Paula Court

Stephen Petronio brings a bracing season to New York City's Joyce Theater, where he has performed almost every year for 24 years . His work is exciting to the subscription audience as well as to many dance artists. He delves into movement invention at the same time as creating complex postmodern forms. The new work, Hardness 10, is his third collaboration with composer Nico Muhly. The costumes are by Patricia Field ARTFASHION, hand-painted by Iris Bonner/These Pink Lips. Petronio's work still practically defines the word contemporary.

Stephen Petronio Company also continues with its Bloodlines series. That's where he pays homage to landmark works of the past that have influenced his own edgy aesthetics. This season he's chosen Merce Cunningham's playful trio Signals (1970), which will be performed with live music from Composers Inside Electronics.

Completing the program is an excerpt from Petronio's Underland (2003), with music by Nick Cave. Video footage courtesy of Stephen Petronio Company, filmed by Blake Martin.

Career Advice
Photo via Unsplash

Never did I think I'd see the day when I'd outgrow dance. Sure, I knew my life would have to evolve. In fact, my dance career had already taken me through seasons of being a performer, a choreographer, a business owner and even a dance professor. Evolution was a given. Evolving past dancing for a living, however, was not.

Transitioning from a dance career involved just as much of a process as building one did. But after I overcame the initial identity crisis, I realized that my dance career had helped me develop strengths that could be put to use in other careers. For instance, my work as a dance professor allowed me to discover my knack for connecting with students and helping them with their careers, skills that ultimately opened the door for a pivot into college career services.

Here's how five dance skills can land you a new job—and help you thrive in it:

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Via Instagram

When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.

"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."

Keep reading... Show less


Viral Videos



Get Dance Magazine in your inbox