3 Perceived "Weaknesses" That Dancers Can Turn Into Strengths

Unless you hit the genetic jackpot and came out the womb looking like Svetlana Zakharova, most of us have to train very hard to recreate the form and grace that ballet requires.  Some dancers have beautiful arches, but they don’t fit the rail-thin image of the Soviet ballerina; others may have a very thin frame, but less-than-stellar feet. Despite these seeming imperfections, physical attributes alone do not make a memorable artist. With a little confidence and strategy, these dancers can turn perceived “weaknesses” into strengths.

Perceived "Weakness" #1: You don't have great feet. 

The solution: Focus on your upper body.

Don’t misunderstand—you do need to work on improving your feet. Floppy feet and flexed toes are unacceptable. However, not all dancers possess the gorgeous arches you see on the cover of Pointe Magazine; some of us (myself included) have “straight” feet, meaning we have strong pointed toes and ankles, but lack the signature banana-like curve that’s characteristic of “perfect” ballet feet. Some dancers are downright flat-footed. Don’t despair. It doesn’t exactly make pointe work a breeze, but dancers with average feet can still be proficient, talented artists.   The key to drawing attention away from your feet? Develop exceptional grace and fluidity in your upper body. These dancers need to learn how to successfully distract the audience from mediocre arches and shift the spotlight to their head, neck, torso, arms, and hands. Yes, this perceived “weakness” is actually a wonderful opportunity for a dancer to hone their port de bras and develop appropriate facial expressions.


How Our Muscles Contract

Perfect développés. Explosive grand jetés. We all have ballet dreams and goals that we're working toward. So then we must understand muscle contraction (tension). 

With muscles, dancers have to under the Law of Approximation {ahem, clearing throat and speaking deeper}: The Law of Approximation means that muscles can only pull the ends of muscles toward each other (shortening / contraction) and not push them away. 

Now that we understand that, let's dive in! 

Evgenia Obraztsova and Alexei Timofeyev in Don Quixote.



Summer Intensives: Should You Audition?

Written By: Sarah Beacham

Many aspiring dancers consider attending summer intensive programs to further their artistry during the months when their studios or schools are not in session.  These programs range in location, length, cost, and difficulty.  While some programs require an audition to attend, others are more lenient and have open enrollment.  Additionally, many of the elite programs provide housing and meals for those attending their sleep-away intensive.  

Though summer intensives can be costly, there are many benefits to attending an intensive. 

5 reasons why you should consider attending a summer intensive:

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Dancers: Don't Underestimate the Power of...

The dance world gets busy. We are either in class, rehearsals, teching for a show, being sized for costumes or working other jobs to pay the bills. The dance life can become hectic fast, which means things get cut out.

We have to examine what corners we're cutting in order to save time. What we are cutting out or short may be harming our lives or dancing. 

Sarah Lamb in rehearsal by Johan Persson for The Royal Ballet. {Photo by Johan Persson}

So let us take a pause and look at things that may be getting cut from our: 1) Health 2) Personal Lives 3) Dancing. 


"Deafness doesn't keep me from my passion" | Young Dancer Breaks Through Barriers

Sarah Firus-Parlby is a young dancer from New Westminster, BC, Canada. She dances 13 hours a week at K & S Dance Productions studying Acrobatics, Jazz and Contemporary. When Sarah was born, her family thought that she was a "normal baby" until  she was 6 months old. Sarah's mom started to notice that she wasn’t responding to the dog barking from the house next to us and that she didn’t turn her head when her mother called her name. At first, nobody believed Sarah's mom: "People would bang pots and pans behind me; I felt the vibrations and I turned my head," Sarah said. Doctors told Sarah's mom she was hearing just fine. But Sarah's mom knew something wasn't right. 

Photo courtesy of: Sarah Firus-Parlby [Follow Sarah on Instagram: @sarahfirusparlby]

At the age of 2, Sarah's family received confirmation: Sarah was profoundly deaf with no hearing in both ears. Hearing aids didn't work. 


Things Dancers Worry About [And Why You Should or Shouldn't]

The dance world is fast paced, focused but all over the place, driven, difficult, emotionally and physically draining and awesome. But in an environment where so many things are coming and over and twirling and rolling, it can cause anxiety within our dancing bodies. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, "Anxiety helps us get out of harm's way and prepare for important events, and it warns us when we need to take action." Sound familiar, dancers? 

Constantly needing to be alert both physically, mentally and emotionally can create an anxious energy within us which will actually harm our dancing. 

Photo Source: MWMart. Support this Ballerina Etsy Shop here!


Joints: How We Create Shapes and Lines

We are better dancers when we are armed with knowledge. We need to understand our 206 bones (alignment), our muscles (strength v. flexiblity), our joints, our ligaments and our weaknesses. If we know our bodies, then we are better prepared to head into class to control all of those moving parts. Today, we examine our joints.

First, ask yourself:

1. What is always sore after you're finished dancing?

2. What feels tight?

3. What do you feel you need to pop or bang on?

4. Where do you feel like you get stuck?

Now, let us dive into dancer anatomy to try to uncover some of your mysterious aches, pains or challenges.

Photo by: Matthew Fang


Breaking Pointe's Katie Martin on Taking the Plunge Into Ballerina World

You may know her as the spunky ballerina from Breaking Pointe whose season contract was not renewed. But Katie Martin's energy, resilience and firery passion is exactly what pushes her forward in the ballet world. Katie spoke with dance writer, Rachel Hellwig, for Ballet Shoes & Bobby Pins to talk life, dance, barre and more!

Photo by: Mike Reid


For the Love of Ballet

Ballet Shoes & Bobby Pins' team member, Elizabeth Katherman, recently saw Boston Ballet perform in New York City. She walked away that evening in awe of the power of contemporary ballets and in love with the history of classical ballet. It's an intriguing intersection to see classical ballet, influenced by modern dance, and presented in beautiful contemporary ballets. Read more:

Photo: Boston Ballet’s Symphony in Three Movements ©The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Gene Schiavone


Sarah Wroth of Boston Ballet: Living Her Art with Passion and Skill

To celebrate 50 years of dancing seasons Boston Ballet heads to New York City to perform challenging and visually intriguing ballets.

For their 2014 celebration at Lincoln Center, Boston Ballet will be performing The Second Detail by William Forsythe, Resonance by José Martinez, Cacti by Alexander Ekman, Symphony in Three Movements by George Balanchine, Afternoon of a Faun by Vaslav Nijinsky, Plan to B by Jorma Elo and Bella Figura by Jirí Kylián.

We spoke with Sarah Wroth, a dancer finishing up her eleventh season with Boston Ballet. Sarah began her training at the Frederick School of Classical Ballet in Frederick, Maryland, studying under Joyce Morrison. In 2003, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ballet and Education from Indiana University and joined Boston Ballet where she also served as a teacher for Boston Ballet's School and adaptive program.

Sarah spoke with us about the preparations and performance excitement for the New York City 50th celebration of Boston Ballet.

Photo: Altan Dugaraa, Sarah Wroth, and Yury Yanowsky in Kylián’s Bella Figura; Photo by Gene Schiavone



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