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Everything You Need to Do to Become a Faster Mover
As a teacher, Ashley Tuttle is known for her lightning-fast petit allégro combinations. But her students might be surprised to learn that speed did not come naturally to her. "When I joined American Ballet Theatre at 16, I was an adagio dancer," says Tuttle. "I had to learn to be fast."
Many dancers immediately become tense when they think about moving faster, causing their bodies to stiffen and their shoulders to creep up. As counterintuitive as it may feel, you will find more success in doing the opposite. "To go faster, we have to go deeper and breathe more expansively," says contemporary teacher and choreographer Kristin Sudeikis. Even if speed doesn't come naturally, you can become a faster mover by working on your physical and mental agility.
Speed Up Your Technique
Traveling Phrases: Use weight shifts to your advantage. "I think of pushing off from where I came from," says Sudeikis. "If I'm traveling quickly downstage, I think of the backbody propelling me. If I'm moving quickly to my right, I'm going to think of pushing off from my left."
Kristin Sudeikis' class at Broadway Dance Center, via Giphy
Turns: "If you have to do a fast sequence of turns, make sure your hips are getting all the way over your standing foot with no back arch," says Tuttle. If this is something you struggle with, try practicing just the push-off for quick traveling turns, like piqués and chaînés, making sure your hips arrive over your standing foot each time.
Tiler Peck in Balanchine's Who Cares? via Giphy
Jumps: For fast jumps, Tuttle recommends keeping your weight toward the front of the foot, but cautions that heels should still be on the floor when you land. Also identify whether the accent of each jump is up or down. Tuttle points out that those distinctions begin at barre, with dégagés and tendus. "When you emphasize bringing your leg into fifth, that's a different exercise than tendu with the accent out," she says.
Ashley Bouder in Balanchine's Serenade, via Giphy
Condition With Quickness in Mind
Core: "The stronger your core is, the more quickly your body will move through space as a whole," says Michelle Rodriguez, a physical therapist who works with dancers. She suggests strengthening the bottom half of your relevé to build speed and control. With the knee straight or in a slight plié, lift the heel halfway up from the floor. Try 10 repetitions on each side, barely holding on to a barre or the wall. "You'll be surprised how strong of a core that requires," she says.
Footwork: Precise, powerful footwork is a must, especially for tall dancers, whose feet are likely to be longer. Rodriguez recommends breaking a step down into parts and repeating each element slowly, to improve precision, and gradually increasing the speed. Or, take exercises you already know—like relevés—and incrementally speed them up. She also suggests small, fast single-leg hops. Hop forward and sideways, in sets of 10 repetitions, to improve balance and ankle stability.
Endurance: Moving quickly requires extra stamina, so cardio training outside of rehearsal is a must.
Recovery: Fast movement is taxing on the body. "After doing any of these exercises or after rehearsals with quick choreography," says Rodriguez, "massage your calves with a ball and take time to stretch out."
Visualize Successful Speedwork
Pacific Northwest Ballet in Justin Peck's Year of the Rabbit, via Giphy
Sometimes, it's a mental block that gets in the way of moving faster. During her time at American Ballet Theatre, Ashley Tuttle realized that the way she had been visualizing her movement wasn't helping her performance. "I was seeing myself from the point of view of the audience, from a place of judgment," she says. "Instead, I started to visualize how I wanted to feel, focusing on my musicality." Rather than imagining all the mistakes you might make while executing fast choreography, build confidence by picturing a successful performance.
New York City Ballet is celebrating the Jerome Robbins Centennial with twenty (20!) ballets. The great American choreographer died in 1998, so very few of today's dancers have actually worked with him. There are plenty of stories about how demanding (at times brutally so) he could be in rehearsal. But Peter Boal has written about Robbins in a more balanced, loving way. In this post he writes about how Robbins' crystal clear imagery helped him approach a role with clarity and purpose.
Who says you need fancy equipment to make a festival-worthy dance film? Right now, two New York City–based dance film festivals are calling for aspiring filmmakers to show their stuff—and you don't need anything more cumbersome than a smartphone to get in on the action.
Here's everything you need to know about how to submit:
On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.
We all know that the general population's knowledge of ballet is sometimes...a bit skewed. (See: people touching their fingertips to the top of their head, and Kendall Jenner hopping around at the barre.)
Would your average Joe know how to do ballet's most basic step: a plié? Or, more to the point, even know what it is?
SELF decided to find out.
When Lisset Santander bourréed onstage as Myrtha in BalletMet's Giselle this past February, her consummate portrayal of the Queen of the Wilis was marked by steely grace and litheness. The former Cuban National Ballet dancer had defected to the U.S. at 21, and after two years with the Ohio company, she's now closer to the dance career she says she always wanted: one of limitless possibilities.
For 17 years, James Samson has been the model Paul Taylor dancer. There is something fundamentally decent about his stage persona. He's a tall dancer—six feet—but never imposes himself. He's muscular, but gentle. And when he moves, it is his humanity that shines through, even more than his technique.
But all dancing careers come to an end, and James Samson's is no exception; now 43, he'll be retiring in August, after a final performance at the Teatro Romano in Verona, where he'll be dancing in Cloven Kingdom, Piazzolla Caldera and Promethean Fire.
The wait for Alexei Ratmansky's restaging of Petipa's Harlequinade is almost over! But if you can't wait until American Ballet Theatre officially debuts the ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House on June 6, we've got you covered. ABT brought the Harlequinade characters to life (and to the Alder Mansion in Yonkers, NY) in a short film by Ezra Hurwitz, and it's a guaranteed to make you laugh.
When an anonymous letter accused former New York City Ballet leader Peter Martins of sexual harassment last year, it felt like what had long been an open secret—the prevalence of harassment in the dance world—was finally coming to the surface. But the momentum of the #MeToo movement, at least in dance, has since died down.
Martins has retired, though an investigation did not corroborate any of the claims against him. He and former American Ballet Theatre star Marcelo Gomes, who suddenly resigned in December, were the only cases to make national headlines in the U.S. We've barely scratched the surface of the dance world's harassment problem.
Many choreographers have been defeated by Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. However, one dancemaker whose stridency, rhythmic daring and sheer inventiveness could possibly match Stravinsky's is Wayne McGregor. For his first commission from American Ballet Theatre, McGregor has taken on this earth-cracking music in AFTERITE, to premiere at ABT's Spring Gala. Also on the May 21 gala program are excerpts from Alexei Ratmansky's restaging of the comic ballet Harlequinade, the full version of which will premiere next month, and a pièce d'occasion by tapper Michelle Dorrance. May 21–26. abt.org.
If diamonds are a girl's best friend, it's safe to say that faux-diamond earrings are a dancer's best friend. A fixture onstage at just about every competition weekend, these blinged-out baubles are also the surest sign that recital season is upon us again. And what better way to get into the sparkly spirit than by drooling over these 5 diamonds in the rough? (Sorry not sorry!)