ABT corps de ballet member Patrick Frenette, Courtesy ABT

ABT & Other Companies Ship Their Dancers Pieces of Harlequin Floors

After canceling its spring tours due to COVID-19, American Ballet Theatre recently announced that it's also calling off its eight-week season at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House.

It's going to be a huge hit to the company's bottom line. Nevertheless, ABT decided to send its dancers a gift last week: a piece of vinyl flooring from Harlequin Floors. Although company members might be confined to dancing at home for the foreseeable future, at least they'll have the proper surface.


ABT corps member Patrick Frenette

Courtesy ABT

Other major ballet companies have started similar initiatives, and Harlequin is busy fulfilling the influx of orders with a skeleton crew that's keeping social distance inside its New Jersey warehouse.

ABT director of production James Whitehill says the idea to send its dancers flooring came from corps de ballet member Luigi Crispino, who found out that Harlequin was selling small sections for home studios. Crispino asked if company management could help the dancers navigate that process.

ABT polled the dancers to find out how many would be interested. Then they placed a single order for 68 pieces, paid for it all and shipped them out to company members isolating everywhere from Australia to Hawaii. They've also since offered a free code for ballet masters and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School faculty members to order floors from Harlequin directly.

The floor ABT sent is Harlequin's Cascade surface—the same one the company uses in its studios and onstage. The total cost, including shipping, averaged out to about $100 per floor.

"The dancers will be able to keep them for good," says Whitehill, "and use them hopefully not during another pandemic, but during happier times when they're just looking for something to do on the weekends."

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

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December 2020