Monthly Archives: February 2013

A week as a Rockette at the Rockettes Summer Intensive in New York City

Radio City

Radio City Music Hall
Photo by Kim Roberts

Hundreds of young dancers dream of becoming Radio City Rockettes. From the opening number in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, it’s clear that something is different about the Rockettes. With poise and class, they embody passion for dance and the precise technique that’s needed to be a dancer.

I haven’t had the opportunity to see the Christmas Spectacular in New York City, but I did see the touring Rockettes cast in Pittsburgh, Pa., at the Benedum Center about five years ago. From dance number one, I was hooked. I fell in love with everything from the gorgeous, sparkling costumes to their precise, totally synchronized movements. Since then, I have dreamed about being a Rockette and dancing in Radio City Music Hall, and in an amazing way, I was able to make those dreams come true for a week this past summer.

I auditioned for the Rockettes Summer Intensive in Pittsburgh in January 2012. A few months later, I got an e-mail congratulating me on my acceptance into the program. I was beside myself — a week of essentially being a Rockette in New York City! The end of July couldn’t come fast enough.

Hotel reservations were made (for the Waldorf-Astoria, of all places!), train tickets purchased, and character shoes fitted. And on a hot day in late July, I walked out of Penn Station in New York City and just embraced that feeling that you can only get in the fast-paced, exciting world of New York.

Dressing room

Rockettes Dressing Room
Photo by Kim Roberts

Rockettes camp was an incredible experience. For that week, I was a Rockette. Every morning I grabbed breakfast at a little deli on West 49th and walked to Radio City Music Hall, hair in a bun and dance bag on my shoulder. Each day included technique classes in tap and jazz and rehearsal time, during which we learned the three numbers to be performed at the end of the week.

During some special sessions throughout the week, we got to take a tour of Radio City Music Hall, visit the Rockettes’ dressing rooms (normally off-limits to the public), and hear from our Rockette teachers about their stories and audition tips.

Studio

Large studio in Radio City
Photo by Kim Roberts

I’m not going to lie: my feet have never hurt as much as they did that week. I enviously watched the girls wearing La Ducas, who looked like they weren’t in nearly as much pain as I was… but I powered through! After all, no pain, no gain — right?

The week was incredible, and I was definitely challenged and pushed each day. I experienced the rigor of the life of a Rockette, but I also got to experience the amazing end result through the performance at the end of the week. Onstage at New York University downtown, I got to perform as a Rockette — a dream come true.

Final performance

Final performance
Photo by Carol Roberts

What that week instilled in me, most importantly, was an even higher level of respect for the Radio City Rockettes. They pick up choreography incredibly quickly and pay attention to the tiniest details to make those dance numbers as clean and sharp as they can be. They dance in those heels for hours every single day to prepare. But the coolest thing is that they are so incredibly passionate about what they do. They know that generations of little girls look up to them with stars in their eyes, and the Rockettes take that role model position seriously.

I can’t say enough good things about the teachers and students I met at the summer intensive program. The teachers took great care to call each dancer by her name and give her honest and helpful critiques to help her improve. The genuine care and love from everyone involved in the intensive was evident, and they will only help dancers like me become the best that we can be.

The Rockettes Summer Intensive taught me so much in just a week. It allowed me to be a Rockette in New York City and to dance in Radio City Music Hall every day…it doesn’t get any cooler than that.

Check out this video below of “Twelve Days of Christmas,” which is one of the numbers I learned (partly) for the intensive!

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Top 5 gift ideas for dancers

Looking for a gift for the dancer in your life? No need to worry! Here is The Ballet Barre’s list of the top 5 gifts that will make any dancer leap for joy.

Pointe Shoe Socks

Discount Dance Supply

 

#5: For Bare Feet Pointe Shoe Socks

Even when her pointe shoes are tucked away in a dance bag, any ballerina can be found practicing her tendues and jetes around the house. So why not keep pointe shoes on your feet all the time? These pointe shoe socks from Discount Dance Supply are the perfect gift for the 24/7 ballerina. Or, for double duty, she can wear them over her real pointe shoes to keep her toes pretty in pink!

Online price: $6.95

 

 

Bloch Booties

Discount Dance Supply

 

#4: Bloch Booties

Another great gift idea from Discount Dance Supply, these booties from Bloch are perfect for a busy dancer. She can pull them on in between classes and wear them during warm-ups at the barre. In purple or red, these booties will keep dancers’ feet warm, toasty, and ready to dance!

Online price: $31.50

 

 

 

Real Food Barre

Real Food Barre

#3: Real Food Barre

This nutritional snack was developed specifically for dancers by professional ballet dancers and husband-and-wife team Julia Erickson and Aaron Ingley. The barres come in three flavors: black swan chocolate berry, pirouette cinnamon pecan, and ballerina spirulina.

                                                                                Online price: $2.50 (single), $27.48 (box of 12)

 

Portabarre

En Pointe Enterprises

 

#2: Portabarre

This gift is a 4.5-foot ballet barre to-go from En Pointe Enterprises. It disassembles easily and fits into a handy carrying case, so you can practice your plies anywhere. This is a great gift for serious ballet dancers who want to be able to stay in good ballet shape over breaks from class, or just to be able to warm up before a day of rehearsals. This gift would be a worthwhile investment for any dedicated ballerina.

Online price: $295

 

 

Tickets

Photo from minicorndogs.deviantart.com

#1: Tickets

The best gift for the dancer in your life? Tickets to a performance of any kind! A professional ballet, touring musical, Broadway show, high school production, dance company performance — the options are endless! Dance lovers everywhere love to watch the arts and seize the opportunity to support it any time they can…But be careful, or your dancer may jump onto the stage herself!

Top 10 Dance Costumes of 2013

Dancers across the nation are gearing up for recitals and competitions. But with the hundreds upon hundreds of costumes out there, how is a dancer to choose? Luckily, there’s no need to worry!

The Ballet Barre has put together a Top 10 list of costumes for 2013, with costumes for tap, ballet, jazz, hip hop, and contemporary. Take a look at our list, and maybe you’ll find the costume you’ve been searching for!

#1: This one-shouldered ballet costume from Revolution Dancewear has soft shades of green and a layered, sparkly tutu. The elegant leaves on the bodice and tutu make it perfect for a production of Snow White, or any nature-related dance.

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest
Revolution Dancewear

#2: This rose-colored contemporary costume from Curtain Call Costumes drips with elegance. Flowers line the overlaying skirt with matching flowers on the shoulder and hairpiece, making it a great choice for a slow, beautiful contemporary dance.

Eyes Open

Eyes Open
Curtain Call Costumes

#3: Nothing says classic tap like this one-piece black and white costume from Revolution Dancewear. Suspenders, a bow tie, and a ruffled bodice make it perfect for a Gene Kelly- or Fred Astaire-inspired tap routine with a touch of femininity.

Tight Rope

Tight Rope
Revolution Dancewear

#4: This hip hop costume from Curtain Call Costumes is just plain cool. The mix of a bright blue camisole, black jacket, and feathered skirt is perfect for your next hip hop dance. Plus, you can add a hat and some fishnet tights for an even cooler look.

Download

Download
Curtain Call Costumes

#5: Every dancer needs a little red dress. This jazz costume from Curtain Call Costumes is a dress that will match any big Broadway song. An added headpiece and leg warmers with high heels will give it an even sassier style.

It's Showtime

It’s Showtime
Curtain Call Costumes

#6: This jazz costume from Curtain Call Costumes will take any dance back a few decades with a modern twist. The belted pink and black polka-dotted dress with black gloves to match is perfect for a “Welcome to the 60s” or Grease-like dance.

Jukebox Saturday Night

Jukebox Saturday Night
Curtain Call Costumes

#7: This icy blue, Cinderella-inspired ballet costume from Revolution Dancewear will bring grace and elegance to any ballerina. The rhinestone-detailed bodice and arm bands make it a stand-out against all other ballet costumes.

Forgotten Overture

Forgotten Overture
Revolution Dancewear

#8: This angelic contemporary costume from Creations by Cicci will make any dancer look like she came straight from the heavens to the stage. The delicate, lacy wings and sparkly bodice bring this costume to a higher level.

Wing and a Prayer

Wing and a Prayer
Creations by Cicci

#9: Revolution Dancewear brings us this fun tap costume that’s perfect for a classic, 42nd Street-inspired tap number. The black and purple bodice, fringe skirt, and matching gloves and choker will make any tapper ready to get up and dance.

Because We Can

Because We Can
Revolution Dancewear

#10: This fun and flirty costume from Curtain Call Costumes would be a great fit for a jazz or hip hop routine. The sparkly crop top over a bright pink tank, plus a colorful matching belt and legwarmers, make it a fun outfit for dancers of any age.

Showoff

Showoff
Curtain Call Costumes

Hopefully these dance costumes have given you some ideas and inspiration for what you want to wear for your next performance!

“Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn.”

                                                                   – Terri Guillemets

A review of “Moulin Rouge – The Ballet” by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Benedum

Photo by Kim Roberts

On Valentine’s Day, “Moulin Rouge – The Ballet” made its Pittsburgh debut in a performance by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT). The sassy production put a spin on the classical ballets of “Giselle” and “The Nutcracker” that Pittsburgh audiences have already seen so far in PBT’s 2012-2013 season. Although rooted in classical ballet movements, the show incorporated spicy tangos and fun and flirty cancans into the choreography by Jorden Morris.

The story takes place in late 19th century Paris. Nathalie, a launderette who does laundry for the wealthy, dreams of dancing at the Moulin Rouge cabaret. Her dream becomes a reality when Zidler, the cabaret’s owner, chooses her to be the newest dancer. Nathalie dances at the Moulin Rouge — despite obvious the obvious dislike from the other dancers there — and falls in love with Matthew, a visiting artist. A love triangle forms among Matthew, Nathalie and Zidler, and the ballet ultimately ends with romance, drama and tragedy. (I won’t give away the ending for those who haven’t seen it yet!)

The PBT dancers took on the challenge of this contemporary ballet with ease. The fast tempo choreography included countless kicks, showing off the dancers’ skill and stamina. The leads, performed by principal dancer Christine Schwaner (Nathalie) and soloist Luca Sbrizzi (Matthew), embraced the spotlight and danced beautifully together, particularly in their pas de deux to close the first act. In front of a background of Paris at sunset, the dancers gracefully and skillfully danced a classical ballet piece to the slow, soft piano notes of “Clair de Lune.” The performance was breathtaking and left the audience in silent awe before loud applause broke out to end the first half.

Moulin Rouge at the Benedum

Photo by Kim Roberts

Another audience favorite was corps de ballet dancer Joseph Parr‘s performance of Toulouse, the resident artist who trains Matthew at the Moulin Rouge. Parr, dressed in a suit with a pair of glasses, got laughs from the crowd and impressed with his performance in the comical paintbrush dueling dance with Matthew.

The Benedum Center’s stage transformed from the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy into Paris with grace. The set included a beautiful lighted Eiffel Tower in the background dazzled the audience, and a large, colorfully lit windmill represented the Moulin Rouge cabaret.

The costumes added plenty of flair to the ballet as well. The colorful skirts of the cabaret dancers gave life to the dances, with bright shades of red, purple, green, blue, and yellow filling the stage. In contrast, Nathalie’s costumes were simple, light shades of white and beige with plenty of sparkles to give her an elegant, classy look that set her apart from the rest of the dancers.

PBT lived up to its respected reputation with its premiere of “Moulin Rouge – The Ballet.” With a total of five shows in its one-weekend event (Feb. 14-17), Pittsburgh audiences are sure to get caught up in the love story and swept away to Paris for a few hours.

This production was covered by some other Pittsburgh media as well, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Trib Total Media, and Point Park University’s The Globe. Plus, to see some clips from the production, take a look at this WPXI story.

A typical day of tap and ballet in the dance studio

Tap Shoes

Photo by Kim Roberts

On any given day, there’s a pretty good chance that you pass a dance studio when you’re driving to work or school. If you’ve ever taken dance classes or dropped your child off at the studio, then you know what goes on during a typical day: hours of hard work, sweat, and of course, fun that go into making the show, recital or competition the best that it can be. That two-minute dance in the year-end recital is the result of months of dedication and learning. All dance teachers put their heart and soul into teaching young dancers to grow and strengthen in technique as well as in their love of dance.

To take a look at a day in the typical dance studio, I went back to the studio I grew up in…literally my second home. Although a couple years have passed since I danced there daily as student and an assistant teacher, it’s comforting to know that things are still the same. Dance shoes, costumes, and costume catalogs are spread throughout the studio, while the gong for the famous “Gong Show” tap game and photographs of former classes decorate on the walls.

Just before nine o’ clock on a cold Saturday morning in February, cars pulled into parking spaces and girls hopped out, with their hair pulled into a bun and dance bags thrown over their shoulders. Their friendly chatter and laughter fill the quiet studio as the lights turn on for the day.

The advanced class gets down to business immediately: Competition is quickly approaching — only six weeks left — and the dance is starting to come together. The taps on their shoes glint in the sunlight through the windows and fill the studio with synchronized clicking and clacking. Meanwhile, a second competition group practices with tap floors and stools for their dance…all while remembering to smile!

Younger girls file in, watching the older girls with awe and admiration through the windows from the waiting room filled with moms and siblings. Their ballet class starts, and they warm up at the barre and go to the beginning of their recital dance.

In the back room, the older girls have moved on to acrobatics class while the younger girls switch into their tap shoes. Music and lyrics from songs like “Movie were Movies” and “Bandstand Boogie” float from each room and add to the everyday sounds in the dance studio.

Finally, the littlest girls make their way in to class, hair pulled back and fluffy ballerina tutus over their leotards.

The teachers and student assistants lead classes all day, filled with energy and their love of dance. The dancers look up to them with love and excitement as they enjoy another Saturday of dance classes at the studio.

To check out a photo slideshow of my day at the dance studio, click here!

A brief history of ballet, tap and jazz dance through the ages

Dancing allows the stresses of everyday life to melt away. It is a natural reaction of joy, celebration and excitement. It is a form of praise and an outlet for creativity and emotion. While there was no specific day or time that it was invented, dance can be observed in many forms and purposes throughout history.

Ballerina

Photo by Sstevo, flickr.com

Biblical times…

As early as biblical times, dance is mentioned as a form of happiness and is often closely associated with music. It is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, including in the books of Job, Ecclesiastes and Jeremiah, as a way to express happiness and joy. The books of Psalms references dancing as an act of praise and worship, as well.

Greek mythology…

Terpsichore was the ancient Greeks’ Muse of dance and dramatic chorus, reflecting a glorified and honored place for dance in the culture of ancient Greece around 600 B.C.

16th and 17th Century Europe…

By the 1500s, the Renaissance in France and Italy had given way to the very first ballets. They were made as a form of entertainment for the royal and wealthy and included music and glamorous costumes. This led French King Louis XIV to start the first known dance company called Académie Royale de Danse in 1662, where dancers could train in the art of ballet. The next several centuries brought famous ballets that are still being performed today, including Swan Lake (1877) and Coppélia (1870).

African and European influences in the United States…

African slaves and European immigrants in the 19th century brought with them a culture of dance that took hold, eventually forming into what is now known as jazz and tap dance. The more relaxed and loose dancing focused on distinct rhythms and and beats in music. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, these dance forms had gained followers and dancers who enjoyed the freedom that they enabled. Famous jazz choreographers include Bob Fosse (1927-1987), Jack Cole (1911-1974) and Jerome Robbins (1918-1998). Check out these videos of famous tap dancers Fred Astaire (1899-1987) and Gene Kelly (1912-1996) in action!

Today…

Today is dance is everywhere, from local studios to TV shows and movies. Reality shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dance Moms follow real dancers with dreams to make it in the world of dance. Plenty of different types and styles of dance have come from the basic forms of tap, ballet and jazz, including break dancing, hip hop and ballroom, among many others.

Check out this slideshow for a brief look at the development of ballet through the years…

Dance is a form of therapy that’s popping up in TV and more

The great thing about today’s dance world is that it’s everywhere. Just look around you.

You probably pass at least one dance studio on your way to school or work, more movies, TV shows and commercials feature dancers every day, your closest city most likely has a few professional dance companies and touring musical productions, and reality TV has even embraced the world of dancers.

Pointe shoes

Photo courtesy of Toronto Distillery District, flickr.com

There are so many kinds of dance, too. The basics of ballet, jazz, and tap have been branched out into countless styles, from hip-hop to Bollywood, to break dance. Every style of dance has a place and a following.

It doesn’t matter if you dance every day of the week, you dance when you can, or you just like to watch and enjoy it. The important thing is that you recognize it and appreciate it!  Check out these video clips below from two popular TV shows: Smash and Glee. Both shows are taking the art of dance and weaving it into plot lines. This shares dance with a whole new audience: people who would ordinarily never go to see a musical or a ballet get to experience dance through TV. And as a lifelong dancer, I love that dance is being featured in more and more places.

Whether you dance or not, it’s clear that dancers – like the ones in the videos below – not only love what they do, but they also put in a ton of time and hard work to make their art the best it can be for audiences to appreciate and enjoy. How much rehearsal time do you think went into these dance numbers? I can picture them in the dance studio learning the steps for the first time, going over the choreography by themselves in a quiet corner, and seeing it in their heads before they fall to sleep at night. The result of all this effort? Well, take a look!

While dance is a performing art, it is also an extremely personal art. It can be a form of self expression, a stress-reliever, a form of therapy, and of course, a form of exercise. In fact, dance has a long and varied history, with some ancient artifacts suggesting its existence and importance in culture as long as 9,000 years ago, according to this New York Times article.

Throughout my life, the dance studio has been a place where the stresses of my day and week melt away, and all that matters is the beat of the music and the flow of the choreography. Anyone can get this feeling through a dance class at any level. Have you ever experienced this in a dance class? Try it out for yourself and begin to reap the benefits of the life of a dancer!  So that feeling is what this blog is dedicated to: dance and the people who love it in all its forms.

Check back for news, features, and ideas about all things dance-related! Until next time, remember…

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul”

~ Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer (1894-1991)