CCDC News Archives - 2005


Visit the archives: 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016


12.28.2005: Dance, Dance Resolutions

Where has the year gone? It seems like just a few months ago, we were preparing for Y2K and now it's almost 2006! Time has flown by and, now, it's time to consider some new dance resolutions for the New Year.

If you're generally happy with your dancing and have modest goals, there's probably not a lot you have to change. But, if you're planning on becoming the best of the best and not just one of the rest, you have to focus.

I'm sure you're already taking as many good classes as you can from the best teachers you can find. I'm also sure you spend some extra time doing crunches and stretching every day. But, have you been writing down every correction you can remember in one specific notebook after every class? Have you been checking that notebook before every class?

If you have, take a look back over the last several weeks, check to see if there's a pattern emerging. Are you constantly getting the same corrections? Could that possibly be a clue from your teachers on what you should be concentrating on?

Speaking as a teacher, there are a certain series of key corrections that we look for in students. There are a thousand corrections most dancers can get for any combination, but, only a handful produce the greatest results in the shortest amount of time. You can't skip around, pick and choose what correction you're going to work on. It's like learning to read. If you don't know your letters, you can't move on to words or sentences.

Here's your obvious resolution: work more on the corrections you've been given. Take a few minutes before and after class to go over anything new, but, especially, the corrections you've been given over and over and over. Those corrections will not solve themselves and they're not going away, not, if you have a good teacher. But, eventually, most teachers will stop giving them to you. Not because you've suddenly mastered them without trying. But, because your teacher has concluded you CAN'T learn and you DON'T want to put in the hard work to become better. Don't ever let that happen.

Also, don't be the first to come down from your balances. Place them better. Learn one new thing every class and work on at least one old correction. Work everyday to become a little cleaner, a little longer and a lot stronger. Identify your weak points and turn them into strengths. If a combination is hard for you one day, make sure you go over it and can do it better the very next class. Practice reversing all combinations if you didn't get a chance in class. Think about beating all your small jumps if you're at that level. Learn by watching the better dancers in your class or studio. Do your foot exercises everyday. Try to get to the studio earlier than you've been getting (When I first took class in New York City, I walked into the studio an hour before it started. Almost all the barres were taken up by dancers warming up and stretching. I felt like I was coming home. I wasn't the lone weird dancer guy who spent forever getting ready for every class anymore.) Or, at least, warm-up at home before you come in. The more warmed-up and stretched you are before your first plie', the more you can concentrate on finding proper placement and improving turn-out.

Everyone talks about becoming a better dancer. Talk is cheap. Can you walk the walk? Can you stretch the tendu'? Can you glide the glisse'? Can you snap the degage'? Can you lift while lowering? Can you balance forever? Can you turn like a top? Can you end all your pirouettes on balance? Can you bounce like a basketball? Make 2006 the year! Hau'oli makahiki ho'u!

12.23.2005: Post Performance Depression

(Anywhere, USA; CCDC News Service) Medical experts are confounded by an epidemic of malaise and ennui detected in thousands of former Nutcracker participants. Legions of parents and teachers reported wringing their hands and furrowing their brows as formerly goal-driven student dancers are like "idiots" out, wandering about, losing focus, easily distracted, hating all work and into indulgence. But, dance experts nod knowingly at the annual onslaught of "PPD"---"Post Performance Depression".

"I just don't know what to do with myself," sniffed one dancer who wishes to remain anonymous. "My parents ignore me even though I'm home more often now. I find myself deliberately messing up combinations in class just to get some love from my teachers!."

"It's a common occurence," says CCDC ballet instructor Emery Uyehara. "After rehearsing for three to four months on Nutcracker, performances are over and now they're at their wits end. Too much time on their hands and no new goals."

"I agree," says CCDC Artistic Director Melissa Uyehara. "Young dancers sometimes forget to set new goals after Nutcracker to give them something else to shoot for."

Holiday activities help fill some of the void. Making up missed time with family is very important as well as keeping up the grades. But, for dancers, experts say getting back to working hard in class is key to surviving PPD.

"It's strange, but I actually MISS rehearsal and all my friends I never see except during Nutcracker season," says another charter member of PPD Anonymous. "Especially that dreamy, cute guy who did Nutcracker Prince!"

"I can't wait until next year!" agrees another unnamed CCDC dancer. "I'm hoping to get even bigger and better roles!"

"Well, it's important to get back into training hard now, if you want to graduate to bigger and better parts," said Emery. "Learn from what you did well during performance and what you want to improve on next year. You want to head back into that audition next fall and have all the judges, directors or choreographers go 'Whoa! LOOK how much better he or she got!' Not 'What happened?'"

"For most people it's harder to dance on stage than in the studio," said Missy. "The goal should be strengthening proper placement and technique so you don't fall apart in performance, but, actually get better, handle choreography more easily."

The Uyeharas went on to say setting new short-term and long-term goals will help focus dancers and defeat the onset of PPD. "Do you have Summer Program or Spring performance auditions coming up?" asked Emery. "Those are easy to use to motivate you out of that PPD funk."

"Watching good dancing, live or Memorex is another good antidote," he went on. "As you watch, ask yourself 'Why not me?' and then, head back into class and start making it happen."

Experts are now reportedly frantically prescribing good dance classes as the proper antidote to the pandemic of PPD.

###30###

12.21.2005: Pointe to Ponder

This excerpt leapt out at me as I read Arthur Golden's Memoirs Of A Geisha:

"...Dance is the most revered of the geisha's arts. Only the most promising and beautiful geisha are encouraged to specialize in it, and nothing except perhaps tea ceremony can compare to the richness of its tradition..."

Now a major motion picture.

I'm planning on catching the film, but, I already have a quibble: couldn't they find a Japanese actress to play the part? I'm a big Zhiyin Zhi (sp?) fan from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; House of Flying Daggers and Hero, but, how hard can it be to find a Japanese actress with "blue-grey eyes"?

12.21.2005: Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Listen To The Radio...

Did you miss Richard Lee's report on Iowa Dance Theatre's Nutcracker on WHO Radio the other week?

You can download an .MP3 file or get a podcast here.

Go to the Best Bet section at the very bottom of that page and look for the Nutcracker preview.

12.18.2005: Playhouse "Pageant"

A lot of kids in the audience as the Des Moines Playhouse wrapped up its annual run of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever this past weekend. It's a family friendly favorite that clocks in at under an hour, delivering a heart-warming Christmas message before younger audience members get a chance to get antsy. Take your kids next year if you missed this last run, especially if you think they might have acting aspirations.

Almost as many youngsters on stage as in the nearly three-quarter house audience. The program photo spread looks like an excerpt from a middle school yearbook. Sixty cast pictures stretch across three pages, with nearly thirty actors making their Playhouse debut, including several brother, sister, mother or father family acts.

Adult actors say you should never share the stage with "kids or kritters", because they're gonna upstage you every time. And, though the acting was sometimes on par with their age, some of the younger performers stood out. For example, their Gladys is a "pip", second-grader Jada Lynne Smith has a personality that sparkles on stage. Molly McGuire (Beth Bradley) projects well in her speaking voice, and that really serves her well when she sings, voice of an angel. And, I can't figure out from the program who the Angel/Narrator on stage-right is in real-life, but, the young girl delivered a lot of lines very well. Kudos to all the kids, as well as CCDC instructor, Kourtney A. Horner (Grace Bradley) and CCDC student Patricia Richards (Angel).

A cold Sunday afternoon was made a lot warmer in this Playhouse production that's fast becoming a welcome holiday tradition. A lot of kids got a message about the true meaning of Christmas. And a lot of adults were reminded---and entertained!---as well.

12.11.2005: Nutty Weekend, Part Two

The 25th Annual Nutcracker Ballet presented by Iowa State Center at Stephens Auditorium this weekend may not be the longest running Nutcracker in the area (Iowa Dance Theatre traces their production back to the Des Moines Civic Ballet Company presentation at the old KRNT Theater back in 1966), but, after a quarter of a century, the Ames Nutcracker has gotten a lot of the details right, even if all the tweaking isn't necessarily in the right direction.

The look of the party scene in the first act has a lot of the details right: most of the men sport beards and sideburns appropriate to the time and setting, their coats fit, ballgowns are flattering on the women, the stage is awash in color and light and overflowing with dancers. There are many boys cast in this show and Isaac Strohman brings a lot of energy, enthusiasm and pleasant stage presence, if not technique, to his role as Fritz. Here's hoping that some of the young men will stick with dance and graduate (like the ubiquitous Marc Heitzman) to larger roles. Even the maids were less annoying to me this year after a former maid explained to me they were deliberately trying to distract the audience from some of the non-dancers shuffling through their steps in the first act. And, the adults dancing in the party scene did quite well actually.

Inger Cooper's Clara is a little cutie. She's sweet and earnest and watches with wide-eyed wonder through-out. Cooper's very natural on stage and, at the same time, very well-rehearsed. That's not easy to do for actors at any age.

Jason Wang as Drosselmeyer was also well-rehearsed, but doesn't quite have the presence or dance chops to pull off the role. Catherine Wooten as a pretty-in-pink Ballerina Doll and Katelynn Askren as a stern Moor Doll bring a lot to small roles.

But, it turns out it's not just me who doesn't like the extra sound effects added to the score. One of the dancers with me said "Tchaikovsky must be spinning in his grave!" Roll over, Beethoven and leave the thunder and zings out!

The Battle Scene, however, is the best in the area. It starts off with a pack of mice with great food props. Legions of toy soldiers march out of a gigantic doll house. And, this year an oversize mouse trap's wheeled out on stage to face off against the soldiers' toy cannon. I'm just hoping that next year they'll get that mouse trap to hurl its cheese after the cannon pops. Makes me laugh whenever that basketball comes bouncing out.

I don't know how Marc Heitzman can dance at all with that huge Nutcracker mask on. But, he does it as well as he always does. He has some unexpectedly strong tours en l'air double, but needs to work on starting and finishing in a cleaner, turned out fifth position. Heitzman also does yeoman's work in several variations in the second act.

Local dance teachers and former professionals Miki Kawamura and Mike Fothergill are easy on the eyes in the return of the Snow Pas de Deux. She's got impressive technique and stage presence. He's got world-class line and did well with some unnecessarily tricky partnering. They both could and should still be in a major ballet company in a larger city somewhere performing classic or neo-classic choreography.

But, I still have a problem with the constant falling snow in the Snowflakes scene. It's too dangerous. Unless you've performed on stage with faux snow falling all around you, you really don't know the risk. (And, speaking of danger, this is where I put in my two cents worth about flash photography. We got to our seats late, so I don't know if there was any announcement against using flash photographs. But, there should always be. A temporarily blinded dancer could easily step off stage or run into a lighting fixture. The risk from uneducated audience members has got to stop. And, ushers need to move in quickly if any violations are detected. OK, end of rant!)

Sugarplum Fairy Bonnie Pickard easily delivered the best performance of the several Nutcrackers going on in the area this weekend. I'm a big fan of her breath-taking balances, strong turns and risk-taking variation. I'm the first to criticize carpet-bagging guest professionals who come in and deliver a sub-standard variation and take the money and run. There was none of that in Pickard's performance. She gave the audience its money's worth and more. I wish I could bottle her performance and save it to savor in dance-less daze ahead.

I wanted to say the same for Cavalier Momchil Mladenov. But, despite movie-star good looks (think Nicholas Cage) and long, long legs, Mladenov was just not Godunov. He whipped that endless leg around in the world's slowest grand pirouettes during his variation, but his battu in entrechat six were also the world's sloppiest, lacking crispness and attack. His resume' looks impressive, but, that's all in the past, and as Ms. Jackson said back in the eighties, "What have you done for me lately?" This weekend? Not much. Okay, he partnered well. But, take the money and run home boy.

Kudos to all the CCDC Ballet V+VI dancers who took part in Nutcrackers this weekend: Emily, Melissa, Catherine, Elizabeth, Hanna, Maggie, Sarahs, Anna, Natalie, Macey, Alexandra, Shannon, Sean, etc. And also to the many younger division CCDC dancers who got parts. Nice work! Good job!

12.10.2005: Nutty Weekend, Part 1

Have you ever had a waiter who didn't like you from the get-go?

That's what happened to us after watching Iowa Dance Theatre's Nutcracker this weekend. The guy was border-line surly, short, not-quite rude, but, made it quite obvious he didn't want to be there from the moment he showed us to our booth. I guess it was appropriate because that was me earlier that afternoon as I settled into my seat for the Civic Center show. I was at my Scrooge-like worst as I prepared to endure the latest chapter of my love-hate relationship with the perennial production. But, a strange thing happened as the too-familiar family event unfolded. Just like Ebenezer, I had a change of heart because the seductive earnestness of the kids' effort proved too powerful to resist. Nutcracker is an annual tradition because it works its Christmas magic almost every time.

Make no mistake, though. I could probably live without another Stahlbahm/Silberhaus party scene. But, no sense short-changing the half-full Civic Center house. Note to the costume crew, however: try to get the men's coats to fit better.

Emily Sandvold is a pretty and effective Clara throughout. It's obvious she's had a lot of performing experience already at her young age. She has a sweet smile and presence and shares it with the audience. Sandvold's a good little actress, stronger en pointe and more musical than you expect from someone so young. But, I had to hold my breath during the "helicopter" throw to "fish dive". That's a move that's easier than it looks for professionals, but, still too risky for kids in my opinion. (Why put it in? Just because you can? Because you can't think of anything else?)

Rat Queen Karmen Gall's quite the little diva. She's sleek and chic and nearly beat Nutcracker Prince Jonathan Brugioni mano a mano (mujer a mano?) during the Battle Scene turn section. (Brugioni still needs to point his feet more during his grande pirouettes) All the cheese flying during the fight between the rats and toy soldiers made me chuckle. Nothing like a good food fight to coax even Scrooge out of a blue holiday funk.

Snow Queen Jenny Pray is a young dancer to keep an eye on. She has tremendous potential, excellent proportions, nice line and feeling. Would really like to see her in a little more musical and dance-y Snow Pas de Deux.

Dew Drop Dora Novak should sue her pointe shoes for non-support. She turns well and shows nice lines as well, but, it's tough being partnered by two, too-little, tutu-wearing Rosebuds smaller than she.

And, always a pleasure to watch Rose Queen Theresa Berger, so calm, so confident. She carries her upper body with professional aplomb. But, once again the choreography failed to showcase her strong presence and technique. A lot of gorgeous Tchaikovsky Waltz of the Flowers music wilted under a barrage of rather pedestrian steps for the Queen and her Corps.

Strong turns and jumps from Lisa Barrick, Natasha Overturff and Lexi Robson in their neo-classic Spanish outfits. Chelsea Gauger brings jaw-dropping flexibility and strong balances to her Arabian Princess variation. But, hard to believe only four Arabian girls had to carry her out on what had to be a cumbersome and heavy portable mini-stage!

Guest principals Kristi Tancred and Rider Vierling of the Augusta Ballet return for their third appearance with Iowa Dance Theatre. And, praise from an old dancer-friend sprang to mind as I watched the two perform the Grand Pas de Deux: "That boy could partner a cow in a hurricane!" As a former Cavalier, I had to admire Vierling's considerable partnering skills. Hardly a moment went by that he let his wife and partner, Tancred, be off balance. It's impossible to keep a girl on their leg one-hundred percent of the time, but, Vierling came as close as humanly possible. His male variation was adequate, but, his partnering is world-class.

Tancred showed strong technique in her Sugar Plum Fairy variation, but, my wardrobe consultant says her tutu was too big for her slight frame and we were both disappointed she chose to leave out the tiring grand menage at the end of her variation.

As I explained last year around this time, dancers (and dance critics) usually have a love-hate relationship with the Nutcracker. Very often it's the very first and, possibly, the very last performance of an American ballet dancer's career. Every dancer worth his rosin has a horror story to tell about a Nutcracker gone horribly, horribly wrong. (Ask me about the time our Cavalier was doing barrel turns around a too small stage on tour. Hit his leg on the wire attached to the tree prop and ended up in the hospital.) But, just when you think you can't take another unstretched leg, another flexed foot or turned-in turn again, Herr Drosselmeyer waves his wand and, even a loose coalition of dance schools like Iowa Dance Theatre can cast a spell of Christmas magic and the Nutcracker triumphs over Scrooges and rude waiters alike.

12.7.2005: Surviving Nutcracker

Hundreds of local dancers will be performing in the three simultaneous (Don't get me started!) productions of Nutcracker this weekend. Here are some tips on how to put yourself in the best position to not only survive, but, thrive:
  • Take Class-Make sure your placement and technique are strengthened and honed daily. If your studio, company or performing group doesn't offer class or warm-up, make sure you give yourself a complete barre backstage someplace. Use the stage only if stagehands or tech crew aren't working on it. (See "Get Used To The Stage" below)

  • Calm down-A lot of younger dancers start running around from dressing room to dressing room trying to find their friends. Don't mistake excitement and adrenaline for a good placement warm-up. Start acting like a professional now. Save your energy and enthusiasm for performance. Especially don't pester the older dancers or guest professionals. Be polite. Wait until after performance to ask for autographs or to take pictures. If you're brave enough you might ask for and score a pair of autographed pointe shoes that otherwise would've been tossed out.

  • Warm up and try to stay warm-This is different from taking that daily class or warm-up. There's a lot of sitting around and waiting during rehearsals. This is the time for all the sweats, leg warmers, cover-ups and booties you shouldn't wear in class. I used to wear an old terry-cloth bath robe over my costume. Quick to put on or take off, but keep in mind you'll probably get make-up on it. Also, be sure to warm up before you go on if you've been sitting around for awhile. I used to lean against a wall and do inclined push-ups with my arms while running in place at an angle for a quick warm-up.

  • Get rest and sleep-Rehearsal week can be a drain. Long nights after long days. Try to get your studying or homework done at school or while you're being driven to the theater. Shoot for eight or nine hours of sleep and take what you can get.

  • Take supplies-Bottled water or juice boxes, bars or fruit for snacks. (Just remember snacks should never take the place of real meals! You need good fuel for performances. Candy don't cut it.) You should already have a sewing kit and safety pins in your dance bag. Foot roller, aspirin, I-Pod or paperback book, cell. Whatever you think you might need and don't mind carrying back and forth. (Don't leave anything in the theater between performances if you can help it. Even if they say they lock the dressing rooms.)

  • Get used to the stage-Performing on stage is A LOT different from taking class. Try to take class on stage. Practice the poses, turns and balances you do during your part, preferably with the house lights out. The tendency is to pull back from the big empty space that is the audience. Make sure you make the adjustment from looking at your reflection in studio mirrors to smiling into darkness with bright lights in your face.

  • Performance tips-Enjoy yourself! You dance because you love to dance. Share your love with the audience! Also, remember, that's not "you" out there. It's the role you're portraying. Whether it's Arabian, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Mirliton, Party Child or guest, Flower, Ginger or Clara/Marie, you get to pretend to be somebody else! I used to develop and repeat a mantra for every character I would portray. When I was the Cavalier it was "I am the ruler of the Kingdom of Candy. And, the Sugar Plum is my love". When I was Snow King, it was something like "I am the Winter Wind. Strong and clean and cold." It's part of developing the character. Find your mantra and let it bring you onto stage. That's not you out there. It's the part of you that's the character. Oh, and smile! Enjoy yourself.

  • Customs-Don't whistle in the theater. Don't say the name of that Scottish Play. Don't block the lights or stand in the wings when someone has to get on or off quickly. When you exit the stage, keep going off. Don't stop in the wings especially if a "blizzard" of snowflakes is following you off. Don't say "good luck" or "break a leg" to a dancer. Say "merde" instead. (Most Americans pronounce it like it rhymes with "aired") Give your partner a small gift. (called a merde gift) You can also give them to your friends in the cast. Give flowers, cards or merde gifts before the first performance. Or, if you can't make that, before or after the last performance.

  • Enjoy the experience-Don't worry. If you've done all the work, taken all your classes, worked hard at all the rehearsals, you'll do well. Even if you haven't, you'll probably do as well as you normally do. Don't let all the extra adrenaline throw you off. Take a deep breath, remember to smile. Everything you do in front of an audience is important, but, it'll be over before you know it. So stretch, turn-out, hold your seat and stomach in and point those feet!

Merde!

11.28.2005: Interview with CCDC's Emery U

Got these questions in e-mail recently. Thought it might be mildly interesting for readers:

1 - Please tell me how you chose to be a dancer. As in, did you have a different dream when you were younger, or did you all of a sudden have inspiration telling you that you should become a dancer?

When I was growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut, an inventor/engineer, ichthyologist, writer and/or NBA basketball player. Professional dancer was nowhere on the radar screen. But, despite my best efforts, I didn't grow to 6'7" and I couldn't jump "twice my height" as I told my Dad I would do when he suggested that the NBA might not be the most realistic career goal.

I ended up straddling two unlikely career paths: radio reporter and dancer/teacher/choreographer. I didn't set out to be a professional dancer. I was talked into signing up for a dance class while at college (Another long story altogether). Despite my initial reluctance, the discipline of ballet immediately appealed to me and my athletic and martial arts background. (And, all the cute girls in leotards didn't hurt either!) I ended up taking more and more dance classes and, eventually, performing. I set little goals for my dancing: getting cast in a University production, dancing in a professional production, getting paid to perform, getting in a local company...finally, the only thing left was moving to pursue a professional dance career. Which I did after a great deal of hesitation.

2 - I noticed that you have a radio show . . . Was this your original dream when you were younger? If so, why did you change you mind into being a ballet dancer? If not, why did you not go with radio shows?
I often tell people: on the radio, you only hear my voice...while on stage, you never hear my voice. What's the connection? They're both about communication. In ballet, my body is my "voice". In radio, my voice is my "body".

I pursued a radio career because people told me I had a "perfect voice" for radio. I also pursued my dance dreams not just because most people discouraged me, but, because I had a passion for it. Dancing makes me happy. I was called to it. I am still called to it. I like reporting, too.

3 - If you could change one moment in your dancing career, what would it be, and why?

I have no real regrets about my career. I believe everything happens for a reason after all. But, sometimes I wish I hadn't given into fear or trepidation. Alvin Ailey, himself, once offered me a scholarship for his school. Ronn Guidi suggested I could take class and train with his Oakland Ballet. No pay, no guarantees, no job, no place to stay. I'd have to move to a strange city and take a gigantic leap of faith. I never took them up on it. I took other leaps instead. Sometimes, though, I wonder...

4 - Please tell me what the most memorable moment of your dancing career was.

There were a precious few times in my career when it seemed God, Himself, danced through me and I was just an observer. Everything was perfect. I danced without effort. I anticipated my partner's every move, every bobble, every misstep...and I corrected them before it happened. I was on a different plane, in a zone, it was magic! Steps that were difficult for me, went well. It was amazing!

5 - Please tell me what you enjoy most about dancing, and why.

See previous.

11.23.2005: Overheard in CCDC Ballet Classes:

"Be the arrow. Don't just take aim and let it fly. Be the arrow as well as the archer...and make the mid-course corrections in your dance technique."

"Find the tendu in everything you do. Stretch your opposite hip away from your retirre'."

"Find the tendu in everything you do. Use the "six-pointed star" balance concept in all of your pose's. Equal energy in six different directions."

"Find the tendu in everything you do. Your ribs should ache from stretching and lifting in your plie's."

"Find the tendu in everything you do. The longest line of the human body stretches from fingertips to toes. Find the line. Now, make it longer."

"Balanchine said "Ballet is tendu." Tendu means to stretch. But, Balanchine also said "Ballet is woman", too, so what does he know?"

"Be the bowling ball. Don't just charge down that lane and let it fly. Be the ball as well as the bowler...and make mid-course corrections as you dance. Cute bowling shoes, by the way."

11.23.2005: In Ur Dreams!

It happened again last night...

Do you dream about dancing? I don't mean daydreams or goals. Do you actually have dreams where you're dancing? I used to have them a lot when I was training or even while I was performing in the company.

And, it happened again last night.

I dreamt I was auditioning for some prestigious company. The line wound around the block. I saw a friend I hadn't seen in forever near the front and was hoping to cut in, but, he waved and pointed to the back of the line. (What would Freud say about that?) That line wound around the block, through buildings, up and down staircases. It looked like an audition episode for American Idol or Making the Band. I was thinking to myself I'd never make it in to audition in time.

Apparently, I knew one of the instructors for the company. I saw him as I was standing in line. I asked him if they were going to cut off the audition before everyone had a chance. He shrugged and walked off. I wasn't happy and started thinking I was going to have to do something to get noticed.

That's when (in my dream) the Artistic Director walked by. I called his name and, then, took off running into a grand jete' en tournant. I soared up and, as I turned in the air, my back leg hit the ceiling. As I floated down to the concrete, the AD shrugged and walked off. It didn't bother me too much because I was intrigued by my new ability. For the rest of the dream, as the rest of the line watched, I kept on doing those fantastic grand jetes en tournant and, during each one, my back leg went so high it hit the ceiling.

Do you ever dream you're dancing?

I remember other dreams as well. Seriously, thirty tours en l'air from a single preparation. Turning so many pirouettes like an ice skater on steroids. What a feeling! Always hate to wake up from those kind of dreams. Am I the only one? I remember one of the first was similar to this last one: I was training in a converted warehouse with a ceiling at least two stories up. I jumped so high in my dream that my back foot hit the roof. As I floated down, my teacher, Nolan Dingman, said "Good. That's what I meant."

And, there are a few times in a dancer's career, when dreams intersect with reality. Some time I'll write about the two or three times when I was perfect on stage, when God, Himself, danced through me, the time I did so many turns I lost count, the time I jumped the highest I'd ever jumped, the time we danced so well, my partner shed tears of joy.

At least, I hope they were "tears of joy".

Meanwhile, I'll keep dancing every day and, sometimes at night, in my dreams.

11.22.2005: 'Tis the season!

Dear CCDancedoC: What does Mirliton mean? ---Puzzled Nut Cracker

I've never really thought about that other than in a dance context. Mirlitons or "flutes", of course, is a variation from the second act of the Nutcracker ballet. Generally regarded as the most prestigious female roles following the Sugar Plum Fairy and, possibly, the Dew Drop Fairy.

But, here's the definition for Mirlitons from "Dictionary.Reference.Com" on the web:

"from French, toy reed flute, tube-shaped pastry"

And, if you are ever cast as a Mirliton, please hold your prop as a real flautist would...not like a harmonica player.

11.10.2005:E-Mail Tip From Alissa:

"Here's a page at the NYU School of Medicine website I thought may interest you.

Check out the bottom section--for professionals on the nutrition fact sheet!"

11.10.2005: Chasing The Dance Dream

Dear CCDancedoC: "What does it take to become a professional dancer?"---Aspiring Ballerina

Get lots of sleep! Just kidding, Rip Van Winkle!

Seriously, whenever anyone asks me how to become a professional dancer, I tell them what one teacher told me before I began my career: "Forget it. Do something else. There are much easier ways to make a living."

So, that's my advice: Forget it. Go to college. Fall in love. Get a degree. Find a job. Get married. Have kids. Make a home or make a living.

That's it. Dance for love for now, don't try to dance for money later.

Stop reading. That's it. Dance through high school, maybe, and, then, GO AWAY. Kiss dance good-bye when you graduate...and have a good life!

And, this is the most important part, don't wake up one morning when you're thirty-forty something thinking you coulda, woulda, shoulda gone for it. Don't cry in your pillow because in your heart you will always want to be a dancer and now your body's too cold and too old. Don't go to dance performances or watch something on TV or at the movies and suffer a deep ache of regret in your soul. Do the sane, sensible, safe thing. Do what it takes to draw a regular paycheck and provide for your family. Take pride in your kids. Forget it. Forget it. FORGET IT!

STOP reading! FUGGEDABOUDIT!

...Why are you still reading? What part of "forget it" don't you understand? This is NOT some reverse psychology ploy!

OK, maybe a little reverse psychology, because I obviously didn't take my mentor's first advice and he eventually gave me some real guidance. But, if you're still reading, understand this, get used to rejection. If you're not already in a top-flight preprofessional dance program affiliated with a company that hires its graduates, be prepared to fight a steep, uphill battle. Learn how to wait tables or take temp work. I went through ten auditions the summer after I left my first real company (while working as a waiter at a now defunct River North sushi bar outside the Merchandise Mart in Chicago). And, I had already been a principal dancer. As well as a swing dancer/choreographer for two cabaret shows on the strip.

So, that's the first step, figure out how deeply that fire in your ballet belly burns. If you still want to go for it, stay tuned.

11.7.2005: "Perchance to dream...ZZZ"

Dear CCDancedoC: "How many hours of sleep should a ballet dancer get?"---Anonymous

Dear Anonymous, I suspect if you even ask this question, you're probably trying to figure out how little sleep you can get by on. Not the right approach. Experts say Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. I was just at a conference this morning and the speaker said the average adult should get 7-to-10 hours of sleep a night, but the average American only gets 5-to-6. And, needless to say, a professional or pre-professional ballet dancer probably needs MORE time sawing logs than the average American. (Not to mention new research that suggests teens need even more sleep than most people.)

My rule of thumb is to get as much sleep as you can. Eight hours or more. When I was dancing with the company, I found I had to hit the hay at 9:00pm. The radio went off at 6:00am. (If you do the math, that's nine hours!) And, I got into the studio about 8:00am (I had my own key) and warmed up for an hour until company class at 9am. Depending on the rehearsal schedule, I often took more classes in the evening with the junior company (or taught). Then, in the bed again by 9. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If dancing well is important to you, you do the things that help you dance better. And/Or you CUT OUT the things that make you dance worse. (If you feel deprived, you might want to reconsider your calling. As my teacher told me, he never "missed out" on parties and dates...he *got* to take class and rehearse!) Don't get enough sleep and the problem will eventually solve itself. You're increasing your chances of injury and decreasing your chances of (continued) employment.

If you're not convinced, do an experiment. Go to bed an hour earlier for at least a week or two. See if it makes a difference in your dancing. Every body has individual needs, figure out what works best for you. Merde!

The CCDancedoC is NOT a medical professional. Just a dancer/choreographer/teacher/writer. Check with a real doctor before adopting any significant changes to your routine. E-mail any questions to Info@GoCCDC.Com.

11.4.2005: Nacho Diddy's Dance Class!

So, what dance am I watching on the video-idiot box nowadays? Now that SYTYCD is over for now? Well, Making the Band III on MTV is must-CTV for me recently. (Thursdays at 9:00pm CST) In case you don't already follow along at home, it's producer Sean "Diddy" Combs latest effort to put together a "dream" girl group of dancer-singers. It's grueling to watch at times. Diddy declares he's "gonna make some girls and he's gonna break some girls". His choreographer says no more "Ms Nice Guy" this year, she doesn't want a repeat of last season when Puffy decided at the end of the year that no one was good enough to put in a super-group (But, invited the three finalists to compete this year). The steps come fast and furious, and some girls let the pressure get to them. (Spoiler alert from last episode) At the end of the last show, Diddy declares he's about to make some cuts. He sits everyone down and as he calls names out, the girls move to the other side of the room. One by one, he calls out name after name. Finally, only Aundrea, finalist from last year who's suffering from a sudden attack of lack of confidence is left alone by herself in the reject side of the room...and, finally, Diddy calls her name! He was playing mind games with her all along! But, the message is clear: Get your game on...or "don't let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha!"...I get the same tense feeling in my stomach that I used to feel at auditions. When the choreographer screams out "This ain't no dance class your Mommy or Daddy's paying for!" part of me wants to jump up and start learning the combination. How hard is it to "have fun" and "enjoy yourself" when someone's screaming in your face to "HAVE FUN!" and "ENJOY YOURSELF!"? Let this be a lesson for anyone who wants to become a professional dancer. Life outside the studio's not the nurturing self-absorbed world found inside most dance classes. It's harsh, cold, in-your-face...and only the strong will survive. Remember the five things you need to become a professional dancer: good body, good mind, good training, good spirit...and good luck! A lot of students work on the body because that's what they can see. Don't forget to work on that mind while you're at it! ...And, does anybody know if Shannon on MTBIII is the first runner-up to Harlemm Lee on NBC's Fame competition a few summers ago? She was good, then, and as Diddy declares this year, "who knew that white girl can dance?!"...Don't worry too much if you missed the last episode, MTV famous for non-stop repeats. (Keep an eye out for that episode of Made as well...where that high school geek trains at The Rock School of Ballet and ends up performing in the Nutcracker!)...And, here's an add-on suggestion for that Gifts for Dancers entry a few days ago: Booties! I got a down-filled pair at Eddie Bauer's a few years ago that go right over my dance shoes. Most pros have a pair or two. And, it's great for rehearsals and backstage at theaters!...Maluhia out!

11.3.2005:More Three-Dot Journalism:

Another former student dropping by CCDC the other day: Erin A, older sister of current students Allie and Shannon. Erin's finishing up her degree at the University of Iowa and says she "loves" Iowa City. She's not dancing currently, but, Erin admits she misses it "a lot". And she could be coaxed back into a CCDC class sometime soon...But, don't expect to see former CCDC student Julia S back in a CCDC studio even when she returns from Canada's National Ballet School over winter break. Don't take it personally! As a condition of her enrollment, Julia's Mom tells me she's not "allowed" to take classes outside of the school. But, she's promising to bring Julia to the studio to visit, if not dance. Her mom also tells me Iowa academics were "tougher" than what Julia's now encountering in Canada, but that the "Artistic Enrichment" courses are "college level". She says Julia was very happy to get the card of encouragement sent and signed by CCDC dancers and teachers recently. (Julia's dad, Paul in the news lately as the driving force and architect for the new Cultural Center planned for downtown)...Maluhia out!

11.2.2005: Gift Giving Guide For Dancers

The holiday gift-giving season will be here before you know it. And, parents and relatives will be soon be racking their brains wondering what to get their little (and no-longer-so-little) dancers. You know your kids best, of course, but, here are some general guidelines to get you thinking:

Be very careful when you buy ballet-themed knick-knacks for older dancers. Most every older student I know has a shelf-or-closet full of dancing stuffed animals, pointe shoe pens, posters or paper weights cluttering up the place. Most younger kids seem to still like dancing doo-dads and glissading gew-gaws, but, think twice before getting them for older dancers. (But, that's very individual. One dancer I know regresses to childhood and defiantly declares "Never 'nuff bears!" when the subject of stuffed animals comes up!)

On the other hand, most older dancers appreciate more dance clothing. (Keep any program dress codes in mind.) Or a gift certificate to a dance store or the Discount Dance website almost always welcome. New leotards, shrugs, cover-ups, T-shirts and sweats. (Serious dancers go through A LOT of clothing in a week.) Lots of girls still wearing shorts or sweats with "Dancer!" across the seat. The Degas inspired dance bags big at our studio. You might be able to order logo-stuff on line from prestigious dance-companies from far-off places. Think ABT, NYCB, SFB, Houston, PNB, Lines or Steps on Broadway.

Older ballet students can also go through a lot of Pointe shoes and they are NOT cheap. A gift certificate for a pair or two will be welcomed. (But, NEVER buy a pair for a dancer who is not already training seriously en pointe or about to begin supervised training. These are NOT toys or fashion items. Serious injury can result from misuse. And DON'T ever refer to them as "toe" shoes if you want to be taken seriously.) Jazz or hip hop dancers would probaby appreciate a "spiffy" new pair of dance "sneaks".

How about some massage aids? Most professional dancers I know have a foot roller and some even have a "Ma"-roller for relieving tension in the back and neck. (Get the small Ma roller, not the big one, if you're lucky enough to find a choice) If your student doesn't have one, they don't know what they're missing. I'd start by looking at a bath and body shop. But, I'm a little leery of those wet massage devices for the feet though. Little too complicated. And, did I mention "wet"?

But, keep in mind dancers are people, too! I-pods just as hot with kids that dance as kids that don't this season. And, they like that folding green stuff, too!

Got other suggestions?

10.31.2005: The American Olympics of Ballet:

From the WWW.USAIBC.Com website:
For two exciting weeks every four years, dancers from around the world, along with students and teachers, company directors and ballet patrons converge on Jackson, Mississippi to compete for prizes, study with master teachers, offer company contracts and enjoy some of the world’s best dance performances. The USA International Ballet Competition has become known as a Festival of Dance.

Founded in 1978 by Thalia Mara, the first USA International Ballet Competition took place in 1979 and joined the ranks of Varna, Bulgaria (1964); Moscow, Russia (1969); and Tokyo, Japan (1976). These first competitions were given sanction by the International Dance Committee of UNESCO’s International Theater Institute. Today, international ballet competitions flourish worldwide, and the USA IBC in Jackson remains one of the oldest and most respected competitions in the world. In 1982, the United States Congress passed a Joint Resolution designating Jackson as the official home of the USA International Ballet Competition. Jackson held subsequent competitions in 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002.

The USA IBC is a two-week “olympic style” competition where tomorrow’s ballet stars vie for gold, silver and bronze medals, cash awards, scholarships and jobs. It can be a stepping stone to a dancer’s career. The audience is filled with company directors interested in hiring dancers, and for this reason, many dancers leave with contracts. This is possibly the grandest prize of all."

The USA IBC returns the summer of 2006. For your planning purposes only.

10.24.2005: Supplementing Your Dance Training:

When wrestler Dan Gable was training for the Olympics, he managed to keep up an intense, focused training schedule. He says everytime he felt like slacking, he imagined one of his opponents working harder than he was to beat him out for the gold medal. His training technique worked. He won the gold for the U-S without a point scored on him by the best athletes in the world.

I also used to work with a former world-class wrestler from Canada. He was one match away from representing our neighbor to the north in the World Games, but, injury kept him off the team. He told me whenever he watched television, he would do push-ups during every commercial break. He said he learned how to leverage his time to keep him in the best shape for competition.

Maybe it's because I was a wrestler and a coach before I became a dancer (Why not? I was used to wearing tights after all!), but, I trained like an athlete to become the best dancer I could be. And, that's my suggestion for young aspiring dancers.

First of all, take as many good classes as you can afford from the best, most demanding teachers you can find. The optimum is two classes a day, six days a week, rest one day, lather, rinse, repeat. Don't tell me that's too much. When I got serious, I was taking 17 ballet classes every six days. The second class of the day is when you make your most gains. Ideally, it should be one fast class a day to challenge your mind. One slow class a day to reinforce your basics.

But, most people don't have the time to be able to take that many classes. What can you do to supplement your training? (Remember, you will probably be auditioning opposite dancers who do get the best training possible in bigger cities.)

  • Stretch everyday. Stretch while you're studying, watching TV, while you're lying in bed. Make "the frog" stretch your friend. Get a good Yoga tape. There are many different types. I like Rodney Yee's Yoga for Athletes. Available from Gaiam.Com.

  • While you're at it, get a good Pilates Matwork tape. Alternate the two tape/DVD's. If you can't do the Pilates' "hundred", do crunches everyday. But, don't stick your stomach out when you do them. Press your lower back into the floor. Pull in your "ballet button" to do your crunches.

  • Floor barre. Learn how to do a ballet barre on a hotel room or a bedroom floor. Do the first couple of exercises on your back and then on your stomach. Do the larger movements just on your back. I think there are some Floor Barre tapes available. I prefer my own actually. But, until you learn how to give yourself class, floor barre will do.

  • Eat well, eat healthy, drink water or tea. When I was training, the only guys who were more flexible than me were "vegan" vegetarians who had undergone the "master cleanser" and purification diets. The guys who were always tight and inflexible, smoked, drank, ate lots of sweets and consumed copious amounts of caffeine. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but, why swim upstream? While you're at it, get lots of sleep. Don't abuse your body. It's your instrument. You can't drag a fine violin along the ground and then expect it to perform up to its potential. Same goes with your "instrument".

  • Ice your injuries. If something hurts or is starting to give you pain, "ice, ice, baby!" Ice is the dancer's friend.

That's it for now! I'll post more as I think of them. Any questions?

10.21.2005: Pointe to Ponder:

“The domain of the ballet dancer is not earth, but, air.”

---Lincoln Kirstein, NYCB Patron Emeritus

10.19.2005: A Wave From Brooke!

CCDC alum Brooke M dropping an e-note to update her friends and fans at the studio. She says she's living in Florida with her fiance' in their new house. Brooke's teaching at a studio there after last season with Omaha Theater Ballet. The studio has a thousand students! (Almost as much as CCDC!) She's been put in charge of the Ballet division of the school. She sends her best wishes! Watch out for Wilma, Brookie!

10.17.2005: E-Mail Call and Response:

Excerpts from on-going correspondence with former CCDC student:

"...I looked at your website a while ago and read a comment you had about 'you only get one chance to do your plies' and that is such a great comment! I have started looking at class that way, and it is definitely improving how I feel in class. I’m not sure yet if it's improving my dancing, since I haven’t tried it for more than a couple classes. But it has definitely helped me. Plus, once you look at plie's like that, you start looking at tendus, rond de jambes, etc the same way."
GoCCDC.Com's Dance Doc writes back:

"Stick with that idea of "you only have one chance to do your first plie's of the day". Working better at the barre will eventually produce results in the center...and then on stage.

And, here's some basic concepts I'm working on in CCDC classes currently:

90-percent of class corrections are some variation of "turn out more" and "stretch/lift more". If you have any problems with a step or combination, analyze where you can possibly stretch more and turn out more. (Italian fouette's for example. Don't let that swinging leg turn you in first. Instead begin the swing by turning out first on the supporting leg)

Remember turn out begins with proper pelvic placement.

Turn-out to turn. This applies to promenades, pirouettes, turning jumps and jumps that turn. En de dans turns should begin with the supporting heel, upper thigh and seat muscle. En d'or turns should push the working leg back, but also counter-balance with supporting seat muscle and shoulder blade forward.

Promenades should end taller, bigger, higher and more turned out than when you started. (Also applies to turns) Keep your weight off your heel and "skim" the supporting heel lightly around. All the corrections that apply to turns and pirouettes (see above) also apply here.

Work hard on technique and placement during class...so you can transcend them on stage!

Focus up to look light and tall (especially in balances)...focus down to look heavy, melancholy and sad. Keep weight off heels to look light and tall. Keep weight on heels to look heavy, stolid and earth-bound. (May actually be appropriate in some roles at times. Think Juliet mourning Romeo. Giselle in mad scene mime) But, always train to look light and long.

Breathe like a dancer. Don't breathe with your stomach---that's for singers. (And, that's why it's so hard to sing and dance at the same time, Britney/Ashlee!) Breathe with your upper back...intercostal breathing it's called. Not Yoga breathing, but, Dancer breath! (Most dance costumes are built to be tight around the stomach to remind you on stage.)"

10.16.2005: Final SYTYCD Thoughts:

Finally, got hold of a tape of the "So You Think You Can Dance" finale'. And, it was a weak show, mostly stuffed with filler. First off, I really didn't need to see host Lauren Sanchez "dance" the salsa. I would've preferred to see choreographer/dancer Alex De Silva perform with the partner he started off with. The first girl did all the hard work in a difficult series of lifts. Then, Sanchez sashays out trying to be all "sexy" and everything. The question is "Why?" Whose bright idea was this? And, where was the rest of her costume? Sanchez isn't big by any means, but, she looked mismatched with the diminuitive De Silva. If I wanted to see mediocre amateur dancing, I'd be watching reruns of the early rounds of "Dancing With the Stars".

And, why didn't judge Nigel, the show producer, stick with his original plan to keep that ribbon dancer/gymnast off the show? He wasn't bad, he could tumble, nice line, but, there are so many better ways and better dancers that could've filled that time.

On the plus side, I liked the break dancing group. Saw a few things I'd never seen before. Really think that contestant Ryan and, maybe, Jamile should be performing with them. Nice energy. Really got the crowd rocking.

What about the overall results? I think America got it right this time. First, Ashle', then Jamile got eliminated. And, I would've voted for Nick over Melody as well.

I really hope Fox TV takes a page out of the "American Idol" playbook once again and sends the top 16 dancers out on a national tour. (At least one magazine is reporting the finalists are still on contract with the Fox network) And, I WOULD pay to see some of these dancers up close and personal. Maybe, even cancel class for it! (By the way, one CCDC dancer says she met Nick assisting at a master class recently. Says he's as nice in person as he seems on TV. Don't think he'll be "assisting" much in the future!) Can't wait for next season.

Maybe, then, we'll get to see Artem dance with Snow for more than a few seconds! Maluhia out!

10.13.2005: More Pointes to Ponder

A day without dance is like a day without sunshine. Any day without ballet is a wasted day.

Ballet is the passionate pursuit of perfection. But, there's no shame in not achieving perfection...the only shame should be in not trying. Value is found during the journey.

If your dancing is not perfect everytime, it's because you're only human. If you danced perfectly everytime, you'd be a machine. But, only humans can exceed their limitations.

Dancing well is its own reward. Dancing poorly is its own punishment. But, any dance at all is infinitely better than not.

Take what your body gives you everyday. Celebrate by dancing.

Dance is your birthright. It pulses in your heartbeat, with your breath, in your soul and soles.

If I am not a dancer, then, who am I? If I do not dance, then, why bother?

I AM a dancer. And a dancer dances.

10.9.2005: E-Mail from Jess!

Capital City Dance Center alum Jessie G reacts to recent mail from CCDC students:

"I wanted to thank you all for the card. Not only was I excited because college students are always excited when they get real mail, but when I saw where the return address was from, I automatically got really excited. That was so sweet of you all to be thinking of me, it was definitely a highlight of my week. I have the card hanging on my bulletin board right behind my labtop, so I'm always looking at it and thinking of all of you. I miss you all so much and I'm looking forward to visiting you all in a week when I'm home for my fall break. You guys are the greatest, dance hard!!

Love,
Jessie"

10.2.2005: ?????

Spoiler Alert---Read no further if you haven't had a chance to watch the SYTYCD finale' from last week---So you think you can...outguess the American TV viewing public? Think again, Nielsen-breath! One of my personal favorites was ousted in the last "So You Think You Can Dance" episode: professional dancer Blake's history, leaving Jamile and Nick to battle it out with Ashle' and Melody. I thought Kamilah's exotic beauty would win her enough votes, but was proven wrong again. My personal theory is that the two well-trained male dancers actually split their vote. Every hip hopper, popper, crunker, street dancer and their mama voted for Jamile while Nick and Blake split what little trained dancer vote there is out there. Does that make sense at all? Now, nothing against Jamile. He's proven his versatility and can pop and lock with the best. But, his barrel turn in the last episode (and his grand jete' earlier) demonstrated his technical weaknesses. I think Nick may have beaten Blake mano a mano anyway, but, it's disappointing not to see the much-anticipated showdown at the SYTYCD corral. Having said that, I'll definitely be doing the poor man's TIVO on next week's results show. And, the good news is: the show returns next year! Along with "Dancing With The Stars"! Viva la dance on the boob tube! Must see TV for dancers!...Speaking of "Must See Movies" for dancers...hearing good reviews for Rise, the in-your-face, gritty documentary of today's street dancing from the heart of the LA 'hood. Saw a eye-popping trailer for it on a rental recently. Hoping it makes to the 515 (Also keeping an eye out for "Mad Hot Ballroom" to show up at locally owned Iowa Video. Missed it in the theaters. As well as the Patrick Swayze produced direct-to-DVD dance movie. Hear that, Scott Casber?)...And, also recently returning to the area code for a brief visit, Sara M back for a few days from her pro gig in New Hampshire. Company rehearsals actually haven't started yet and she says she's anxious to get going. And, how about a road trip to actually be there to see our Ms. Sara make her professional debut? How many hours by car (and cups of caffeine) to New Hampshire?

9.26.2005: Must See Dance TV!

Lotta dance on the tube last week! Both Dancing With The Stars---the Rematch on ABC and So You Think You Can Dance on Fox. We'll take the latter first...So, it's down to the nitty-gritty: Blake, Nick and Jamile for the guys and Ashle', Melody and Kamilah for the women. There were some amazing solos from the men! Blake seems like he can do it all! Turn, jump, back handsprings into full layouts, aerials into arabian splits...even take off his shirt while turning! He left it all on the dance floor...but, Nick is managing to match him turn for turn, jump for jump. His solo was less gymnastic, but, even more artistic. I suggest you say goodbye to Jamile. He's an excellent performer and he can hip-hop with anyone. He's shown he's a versatile dancer by surviving all the ballroom routines thrown his way. But, he's outta his league with the other extraordinary gentlemen...I'm a little disappointed with the women, I know there are better girls out there, but they're probably busy getting paid to dance. The women of SYTYCD suffer by comparison, upstaged by some very strong guys. But, I think Melody may end up dancing the swan song...As for DWTS, the part I enjoyed the most was when the pros danced with the pros...and not the celebrities! Or, when the kids were out there! The dances with the stars were a little anti-climactic. I figured the voting public would vindicate John O'Hurley over Kelly Monaco anyway so that wasn't a surprise. He should've won in the first place IMHO...But, "if you don't phone, don't moan!"...And, I still want Artem and Snow to resurface somewhere to show their strength in ballroom. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the SYTYCD finale'. Maluhia out!

9.22.2005: Overheard in CCDC Classes

"You only have one chance to do your first plie's of the day. If you do them well, you get a chance to build on your technique. If you do them poorly, you'll end up chasing your placement all day long. So, pay attention to your first plie's."

"Doing one exercise well won't automatically make you a better dancer. But, doing one exercise poorly will definitely make you worse right away."

"Take a slower class to really concentrate on your basics. Take a more advanced class to challenge your technique."

"Ordinary people move their legs by shortening them. Dancers move their legs by stretching them. Lengthen your legs! Point your feet!"

"If you're not the best dancer in class, take it as a challenge! Think about how much you can improve. If you're not the best dancer in class, ask yourself why not?"

"If you ARE the best dancer in class, don't dumb your dancing down. Don't act bored. Be an inspiration to younger dancers."

9.19.2005-So You Think You Can Review Reality TV!

Used the "poor man's TIVO" to time-shift Fox's version of "Must-See TV" into this weekend, and once again, the public refusing to play along with my predictions for So You Think You Can Dance. Ryan and Destini's fates sealed by the dialing audience and are off the show. (Gotta hand it to a class act, tho', Ryan giving props to his "best friend" on the show, Jamile, in his final comments.) I think Destini came across as too angry after her killer Hip-Hop routine failed to keep her out of the bottom two couples. But, I think that judge/choreographer Brian "B Free" Friedman's claim that he would hire her is a good sign for her future dance career. (Just hope the new, straight hair is a "permanent" thing, get it?)

So, who's on the chopping block this week? Ashle' and Artem and Melissa and Jamile. My bold predix? Doesn't matter...Doesn't matter which of the guys make it through this week's elimination round (and my guess is Jamile survives---his hip hop routine continues to surprise and delight) because there are two male dancers who've never had to face elimination: Nick and Blake. And just like one of the judges predicted, it's going to be Nick versus Blake as the last two guys standing.

I don't think Artem should have been in the bottom two couples this week. His ballroom is incredibly strong and he had the fortune to pick two routines that were right up his alley. I thought Blake revealed a chink in his armor when his partnering failed to measure up to his high standards. (He struggled for just a brief second to get the tiny, tiny dancer, Melody, up in that overhead lift---first time I've had to worry about his dancing ever.)

My prediction for the distaff is: Kamilah, Melody and Ashle' will live to dance again next week. Then, I think it'll be Kamilah and Melody as the two women remaining. But, I could be convinced otherwise.

I'm still hoping they'll bring Snow back for a chance to do some salsa or cha-cha with Artem. I think Ryan, Jamile and Destini should team up to do some serious b-boy trip hop free-stylin'. I think it'll make Dancing with the Stars---the Showdown look sickly by comparison! Maluhia out!

9.13.2005: We Get SYTYCD E-Feedback:

"Yeah I think Ryan and Melody will be gone too. But wasn't the dancing great! Blake and Nick (whatsisname) are just outstanding. And I think all of the women left are top notch.

Ryan was fun to watch and Melody's just so beautiful -but I just think they don't translate to other styles as well as the others. Actually Melody's probably pretty versatile but her solo dances always look the same to me. I wish she'd mix it up. Oh well - can't wait for this week's show."

9.12.2005: So You Think You Can Dance!

So, finally watched the tape of SYTYCD on Fox this weekend...And, I think we can say goodbye to Ryan and Melody. That other couple were just too good in their BLAZIN’ HOT hip-hop number. If Ryan manages to last into next week…he’ll go bye-bye, then...or the other hip-hopper will go then. They just can’t keep up with the likes of Blake and that other trained dancer guy. The judges appreciate well-trained and versatile dancers---and that Blake looked like he’d been doing ballroom all his life in that last piece. I think Artem will hang on a little longer…but, it’s just like Snow, he’s very good at what he does…and it translates well into some other dance forms, but the numbers will catch up to him sooner or later. (I still wish Artem and Snow had a chance to be paired up and had a chance to show us some killer tango!) But, I think that one judge will get his wish…it’s going to come down to well-trained dancer vs. well-trained dancer…Blake mano a mano with whatsisname. That’s sad, ‘cuz Ryan is a very likable dancer, he does some hip-hop contortionism that boggles the imagination. How do you flip onto your head like that? How do you spin on your elbow or knee? And then HOP onto the other elbow? He looks and dances like a human anime’ character. Watch the cartoon channel sometime when Japanese manga is featured and you’ll find the source code for his hair!...and I've started to see some promos of the rematch of Dancing With The Stars. Here's hoping Kelly Monaco doesn't have to resort to another "wardrobe malfunction" to pull this one out...Have you heard about the Ice Skating With The Stars show that's being filmed now? Bruce Jenner apparently one of the participants along with was it Nancy Kerrigan? Wonder what Tonya Harding thinks about that? Jeff Gillooly? Maluhia out!

9.11.2005: Windy City Winner!

I was sitting at my desk a few weeks ago when a city came a'callin' and opportunity came a' knockin'. Actually, it was the staff at the Des Moines Playhouse looking for more men to cast in their fall production of Chicago. I have to admit it was tempting because I'd actually performed in the Kander and Ebb musical in college. And, a chance to reprise a role like that doesn't come around too often. But, who has the time? Even if they offered me a chance to choreograph (which would have been much harder to turn down), teaching seven days a week doesn't leave a lot of time to take on such a task. So, I said "no" by referring them to every other man or boy I could think of who had ever seen the inside of a dance studio. (Heard back from a lot of surprised guys over the next few days, too!)

With that desperate plea as a backdrop, I wasn't expecting too much when I caught the 552nd production of the Playhouse's 87th season this weekend. But, I was blown away by the show set in the Windy City of the '20s. Chicago has strong leads, strong actors, strong singers, strong live music and production values. And, yes, even good male dancers. This show is much, much better than the version I was in. (Even though there were some very promising dancers in that cast, including ones that would go on to dance professionally with North Carolina Dance Theater, in music videos and TV shows.)

The musical itself is cynical and dark and not for kids. A jaded, jaundiced satire of America's obsession with crime and celebrity. Gina Gedler plays a "long in the tooth"Velma Kelly as big, bold and brassy with a voice to match. Amy Burgmaier is a tiny powerhouse as "foxy" Roxie Hart. Steve Berry follows in his father's footsteps by becoming the second generation in his family to inhabit the role of barrister Billy Flynn---the boastful shyster who claims he could've gotten "Jesus Christ" Himself off if He could only come up with $5000! The ten-piece orchestra was excellent under the baton of Brenton Brown.

Compliments as well to some of the actor/singer/dancers who complement the leads. Jerry Jacobson returns to the Playhouse stage after a 15-year absence by nearly upstaging everyone else in the minor role of Amos Hart. His Mister Cellophane number is noteworthy for its melancholy pathos. Joe Parrish as Fred Casely drew big laughs as he mugged for all he's worth in the comic courtroom scene. Iowa's answer to the Pussycat Dolls show up in a powerful Cell Block Tango featuring the "Merry Murderesses of Death Row".

There were some weaknesses: B.D.Church's (Mary Sunshine) singing was so deliberately bad, it was painful at times. I swear I heard glasses breaking in local restaurants and even dogs howling in Beaverdale were wondering to themselves, "What's that arf-arf-ul sound?" whenever Sunshine sang. Also, Melissa M. Kellar as the prison matron failed to deliver any depth to the role's potential. And, my fashion consultant sitting beside me criticized the costumes by Angela Lampe. She claimed they could've still been true to the "roaring twenties", been sexy and more flattering than they were.

And, because this is a dance website, the so-called "tap dance" number was more of a soft-shoe. Doesn't anybody do a single, double, triple time-step anymore? And, Alison Shafer's "Fosse-lite" choreography got the job done. She and the Playhouse were so concerned that there weren't enough actors who could dance in Des Moines, they offered a series of free dance workshops in the month before auditions. I think the experiment was a limited success. Let this be a lesson to aspiring performers out there: Actors should take dance lessons, dancers should take voice lessons, singers should learn to act and vice versa.

(At least try. In the months after my college version of Chicago closed, I was so inspired I started voice lessons with the musical director. My dream was to become a "triple-threat": singer/dancer/actor. After a few painful months of glasses breaking in restaurant row, poochies in Manoa whimpering "What's that arf-arf-ul sound?", she finally told me in the kindest possible way to "stick to dance". When your own voice teacher tells you to give up singing...well, hey, at least I tried!)

Chicago runs at the Playhouse until October 2. For tickets and more information, check out the Playhouse website.

9.7.2005: Bring a Friend to Dance Month!

Everyone is a dancer...some people just get better training than others!

Spread the word and help others get in touch with their "inner dancer" this month!

It's "Bring a Friend to Dance Month" once again here at CCDC. Bring a neighbor, a relative, a child...bring a relatively neighborly child! No charge for your friend to try out a class at CCDC this month! Choose from ballet (including Adult Ballet), hip-hop, jazz, tap, modern, highland, Yoga/Pilates Work-out, pre-ballet or creative movement.

If your friend signs up for classes at CCDC, you qualify for a break on your next month's tuition. But, that's not why you should bring everyone you know and their brother and sister to Capital City Dance Center! You know the value of arts training combined with physical discipline. Not to mention the growing concern about an entire generation of couch potatoes.

Be part of the solution! Bring a friend to Dance all this month at CCDC!

9.2.2005: 3rd 3Dot Installment:

Sad, sad scene at CCDC Monday night. Her many friends were saying their final farewells to Sara M. before she left to begin her professional career with New Hampshire's Northern Ballet Theater. Have to admit I couldn't look her in the eyes or I would've lost it. My final advice to her? "Have fun. You've trained all your life for this. Remember to have fun!"...But, sure not gonna be "fun" for us who'll miss ol' "Miss Millup". Who wrote there's nothing "good" in "goodbye"? Sara's new mailing address on the CCDC lobby bulletin board...Another face from out of the past at CCDC this week: Erin C who left three years ago to train at Pacific Northwest Ballet School. She gave me the scoop on changes at PNB now that former NYCB dancer Peter Boal's taking over as new artistic director and head of the school. More hard-core Balanchine technique popping up in the syllabus now apparently...Cheerful e-note from CCDC alum writing from college: "...I definitely have appreciation for everything you've taught me, I feel like I know a lot more technique than most of the girls. The ballet class is very rushed, she tries to get through everything, but doesn't really work on strengthening or correcting."...From the Discrete Secret Department: Disturbing information from one of the two Nutcracker auditions this past weekend. One CCDC mom says she met a man outside one of the audition sites and he discouraged her from going in to take part. She ended up hurriedly taking her daughter to the other audition instead. But, is this another example of "dirty tricks" going on behind the dance scenes in Des Moines? All I can say is "what goes around, comes around!"...Maluhia out!

9.2.2005: E-Mail from Dima!

"I thought I'd share this brilliant dance routine by Brittany Hine, age 9, (All That Jazz) She is amazing, outstanding dancer! No words to describe, you better see it and judge yourself."

Find it here.

Dmitriy

(Editor's Note: The words I would use are: "Hmm, flexible. Oh, WOW! She can turn!")

9.1.2005: More from the E-Mail Bag!

From the "Everybody's A Critic" Department:

Comments:

"Dear Ma-hula-whatta-huh?

Whats this three-dot journalism stuff? And why is there more of it?

from, hopelessly lost in the 80's ballerina-wanna-be ol'fogey"

Editor's Note: Dear 80-year old Ballerina Fogey, the definition for "maluhia" and any other Hawai'ian words can be found at the Ulukau Website. And your thinly-disguised reverse psychology ploy is working...even more three-dot journalism coming up!

8.27.2005: More Three-Dot Journalism:

Forgot to mention the resurgence of dance on the telly this summer...First it was "Dancing With the Stars". Enjoyed watching the "fish-out-of-water" element of actors trying to dance at a professional level. Hear there's supposed to be a rematch between Kelly Monaco and the J. Peterman actor. It's a mix of reality television meets "American Idol" meets "Strictly Ballroom". Good ratings, so I guess more than bitter, cranky, old former professional dancers were tuning in in droves...Whatever happened to the "Fame" winner from a few summers ago? Did anyone else watch Harlem Lee win the apartment and the recording contract? I was hoping some of the contestants would show up in the road company of "Fame" that came through Des Moines later that year. But, they weren't. And, I guess I'll have to Google Harlem to find out his whereabouts. That should be a cautionary tale for whomever wins "So You Think You Can Dance" on Fox this summer...Speaking of, it's an interesting format for SYTYCD. And, even professionals can compete. So, watch out for that Blake!...But, what I thought was so interesting was the first installment of that series. There were some awful dancers trying to make that first cut...and, is it just me? Or, does it seem the worse the dancer, the more inflated their opinion of themselves? Loudly proclaiming "I dance from my heart!" doesn't cut it for me...not when there are dancers right next to them that dance with just as much emotion and feeling...and prodigious technique as well! Plunging cleavage and sultry glances don't a good dancer make, Snow!...OK, I googled Harlem Lee...and it's not pretty. Check out his personal webpage...Maluhia out!

8.26.2005: Say 'So Long', Sizzlin' Summer of '05!:

In my younger clubbin' daze, I actually wrote a "three-dot" column for my hometown's version of After Dark. (I like to think that tens of readers actually sought out the magazine for the mildly awaited, overly-hyped Discrete Secret Department where I breathlessly divulged the latest rumors floating around the entertainment district!) I thought I'd return to that format now as we wrap up the "Sizzlin' Summer of Dance at CCDC"!...First off, it was great to see a lot of new faces in the place. Marisa L., an engineering summer intern at a big local company wandered in one night after being disappointed at classes at another studio, and promptly endeared herself to everyone at CCDC with her easy smile, great personality and prodigious work ethic. She's back at the University of Michigan for fall classes, but, may be back in Des Moines at Christmas because she has family in town...Austin, Callie B. and family were back in town for the summer from New York City Ballet's School of American Ballet. Callie had just finished the summer session at the School of San Francisco Ballet as well. (I did some auditions at the SFB studios. Amazing spaces, is all I can say. I was warming up in a spare studio before the Pacific Northwest Ballet audition, when some of the SFB company men snuck out of rehearsal to go over a step. Let's just say that company is world-class and the men did not disappoint.) So, Callie only took a few classes to stay in shape. Her brother took more and, at just-turned-12, is right on track to become world-class. Austin is the best, hardest-working young male I've ever seen at that age...and, remember, I got to train with and teach Washington Ballet Principal Jason Hartley when he was young and before he went to North Carolina School of the Arts. Merde to them and their new dog, Winston...And, speaking of potentially "world-class", kudos once again to CCDC's Julia S. for her acceptance to Canada's National Ballet School. (The NBS staff scolded me for calling it a "tuition scholarship", it's a "bursary" I was told. "Bursary"???) I fully expect Julia to show fabulous progress when she comes back home and takes class at CCDC. The kids are already teasing her about coming back with a Canadian accent, eh! And, I say, cut it "oot", I say, eh!...And, CCDC's Sara M. leaving earlier than expected to her brand new job as the brand new ballerina at New Hampshire's Northern Ballet Theater. She leaves bright and early this Tuesday morning leaving a trail of tears and broken hearts behind her. All the single men in Iowa are requested to wear black that day. All the single men in New England already preparing to flock to baggage claim to help her move in!...And, CCDC alumnus Brooke M. is engaged! She's moved to Florida where her fiance' is working. She's busy dodging hurricanes and teaching classes while weighing her professional dance options...Great to see Joe H. pop his head in CCDC one day this summer. He couldn't take class because he was recovering from an injury. Joe has one year left in a two-year program at a prestigious L-A area dance studio...Kudos to John A.! He's the only guy of four or five that started the Absolute Beginner's Men's Ballet Class to finish the entire course. John will go into Level III or IV this fall...So, here's a possible hint from the Discrete Secret Department about what ballet CCDC MAY be doing next Spring: What does a Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model have to do with anything?...It was an interesting summer that flew by this year. The only thing higher than the temperatures were the gas prices! What happened to the two-buck-a-gallon barrier? Just heard that Hurricane Katrina could damage oil refineries and those prices could head even higher! Where's my old moped when I need it? (Hurricane Katrina? I think I dated her once! Ba-dah-bump-bump! It was a stormy relationship! Ba-dah-bump-bump! She thought I was "all wet", I told her it was her fault! Ba-dah-bump-bump! Thanks, folks! Drive home carefully! Tip your waiters and waitresses! I'm hear, all weak! Bah-dah-bump-bump!) Maluhia Out!

8.25.2005: Beginning Ballet Glossary Guide:

More Absolute Beginner Men's Ballet Class Study Guide:

Petit Jete' (PUH-tee zhe-TAY)
small jump or throw.

Pique' (pee-KAY')
To poke or to prick. Stepping onto or tapping motion with a fully stretched leg. Typically begins with demi' plie' and degage'

Tombe' (tawm-BAY')
To fall. Falling from one leg to the other. Typically begins with releve'

Changement or Changement de pieds (Shawnzh-MAW day pee-AY)
To Change the feet. A jump that changes from one foot front in fifth position to the other foot front fifth position

En tournant (Ahn TOOR-nant)
Turning. Adding a turn to a step, ex. pas de bourre' en tournant

Echappe' (aye-shaw-PAY')
To escape. Jumping from a closed position to an open position and back, ex. echappe' from fifth position to second and back to fifth

Glissade (glee-SAWD')
To glide. Usually a preparatory small jump that could lead to a larger jump. demi plie', degage', jump from one leg to the other stretching both landing in fondu with degage' ending in fifth.

Saute' (so-TAY')
To jump. Jump from one position or pose back to the same position or pose, ex. saute' in arabesque

8.20.2005: Another Article About Ms. Sara...

This came out earlier this month and only recently came to our attention. Find it here.

8.17.2005: From the CCDC E-Mailbag:

Critical comment regarding CCDC article:

I would refer you to the mention of Saint Petersburg Ballet Theatre Romeo & Juliet

Then follows a review from London for La Bayadere

Please get your companies right ......

Konstantin Tatchkin's St Petersburg Ballet Theatre as reviewed by I Browne for La Bayadere is NOT the company touring the USA with Romeo & Juliet

Editor's Note: Who knew there were two Saint Petersburg Ballet Theaters? Someone notify Google!

8.16.2005: Beginning Ballet Glossary Guide:

More Absolute Beginner Men's Ballet Class Study Guide:

Chasse' (shaw-SAY')
To chase. Starting with demi plie', slide foot through fourth or second position, "chase" with second foot back to fifth position.

Pas de bourre' (PAW day boo-RAY')
Step of little steps. Three little steps traveling through fourth or second position to front, side or back

8.13.2005: Pointe to Ponder:

"The practice of art isn't to make a living. It's to make your soul grow."

---Writer Kurt Vonnegut

8.7.2005: Power of Performance:

Dance is not aerobics. Though both usually involve movement and music.

Ballet is not just exercise. Though repetition, exertion and, yes, sweat are a common denominator.

Dance is different from most other physical activities or sport. At its best, it allows full expression of the mind, spirit and emotions and combines it with music or silence that resonates within the soul. We're not just "pumpin' iron" here. The greatest dancers are great actors, skilled at creating a character or communicating an emotion or idea through a gesture, by sailing through space or by sudden stillness.

Here at Capital City Dance Center, we believe dance should be full expression of the "passionate pursuit of perfection", emotion in motion.

So, if ballet is an art form that should transcend sport, then, as a performing art, it demands performance. And, that's why we offer the annual CCDC Recital as an expanded performance opportunity.

As a recital, we offer friends and family a chance to observe the growth in ability of their dancers in addition to the CCDC Parent Observation week.

For the Ballet Division, however, it's also an opportunity to learn about and present excerpts from the rich tradition of classical dance. This past year, for example, CCDC performed portions of The Sleeping Beauty. And, early on, a lot of the kids were very surprised to learn that Walt Disney Productions did not originate the plot nor the music.

Dancing in a Corps de Ballet is very different from dancing in a ballet class. And, dancing on stage is a quantum leap from dancing in a studio. Both demand commitment of time and energy in rehearsals outside regular classtimes. Dancers have to learn at an early age that nothing really worthwhile in life comes easy. At CCDC, regular classes are time to focus on the technique and tools to becoming a dancer. We refuse to sacrifice all that time just to prepare for recital. So, the upper division Ballet students rehearse outside of regular class time to practice and perfect performance skills.

Also learned are lessons in ballet make-up, stage directions, care of costumes, theater customs and traditions. Nothing will make you prouder as a parent or a teacher than when your students put on that golden tutu or princely tunic and respond to the pressure of the spotlight and the adulation of an audience.

But, CCDC is also committed to keeping the costs of participating in the ballet and recital affordable. We've purchased imported professional tutus and will rent them to dancers in future productions. We're building a wardrobe of classical costumes through generous donations that will help us keep future participation costs to a minimum. CCDC doesn't want our families to end up with closets or attics stuffed with years and years worth of expensive old recital costumes just gathering dust.

The Annual CCDC Ballet and Recital. Just another reason "From Preballet...to Pre-professional...consider Capital City Dance Center"!

8.6.2005: From the CCDC E-Mail Bag:

From a dancer who tried another studio before coming to CCDC:

"Capital City Dance Center is a great studio to attend! As a college student living in Des Moines for the summer while I focus on an Engineering Internship, I know that my goals are not to become a professional dancer. I take ballet class year round at home, and came here looking for nothing more than a studio where I could spend at least a little time dancing. However, taking classes at CCDC has been one of the best dance experiences of my life. While they are great at giving dancers the training they need to be professional dancers, they also are great at training those of us who just love to dance! I am so thrilled that I came here, because as a result, not only do I have a great opportunity to dance and take class from people who love the art, but they are also getting me to kick a few bad habits! Capital City Dance Center is a great place to learn the fine art of dance whatever your future goals. I just wish that I could stay here longer than the summer!"

8.6.2005: More CCDC Glossary!:

From Absolute Beginner Men's Ballet Classes: (Great work, guys!)

Temps Lie'
(Tahn lee-AYE) Connected step. Connecting a tendu to a tendu with a plie'

8.3.2005: The Official CCDC Press Release:

For Immediate Release:

Iowa Girl Jetés at "Chance of a Lifetime"

Urbandale, Iowa, August 2, 2005…A young Iowa dance student is leaving her home and family this fall and heading north of the border to follow her dreams of becoming a professional ballerina. Julia S____, 14, is accepting an offer of a full-tuition bursary to attend Canada’s National Ballet School located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Capital City Dance Center (CCDC) Ballet Instructor Emery Uyehara says he's happy for Julia, but hates to see her go.

"As a teacher, you naturally want to keep teaching your best students," said Uyehara. "But, as a teacher, you also always have to keep in mind what's best for your students."

Julia is a student of CCDC in Urbandale, but was attending Summer School, the second- stage assessment of the National Ballet School’s audition process, in Toronto when she was invited to join the full-time Ballet Academic Program of the School’s Professional Ballet Program.

"I've always suspected it's just a matter of time before Julia moved on to a national or international program,” continued Uyehara. “She just has too much raw talent and potential to be ignored."

Auditions for the School’s full-time Professional Ballet Program including the Professional Ballet Academic (grades 6 – 12), Post-Secondary and Teacher Training programs take the form of a specially designed ballet class where dancers are assessed for quality of movement, co-ordination and overall suitability for the demands of classical ballet. The minimum age to audition is 10, and no prior ballet training is required for students aged 12 and under.

Of the more than 1,000 young dancers who audition each year from across Canada and abroad, approximately 150 are chosen to participate in the four-week Summer School held at NBS in July.

Now celebrating its 45th year, Canada’s National Ballet School is internationally heralded as "one of the world’s foremost ballet schools" (Dance Magazine, New York). A world leader in the training of professional dancers and teachers, NBS is constantly evolving its programs to fuse the great traditions of ballet with the latest advancements in the science of movement, sports medicine and care of the child.

- 30 -

For more information on Capital Center Dance Center or to speak with Julia or her family, contact Emery Uyehara at 515.276.1646 or Emery@GoCCDC.Com. For more information on Canada’s National Ballet School, visit www.nbs-enb.on.ca or contact Pamela Rice, Communications Officer, at 416.964.3780 ext. 2017 or price@nbs-enb.on.ca.

8.2.2005: Welcome Back Letter!:

Dear CCDC Parents and Students:

Believe it or not…the school year is fast approaching us! I hope you have all had a good summer full of quality family time. I personally cannot believe how fast the summer’s been going!

Here at Capital City Dance Center, we’ve had a busy summer which included our first Summer Intensive. It was an exciting two weeks of dance; from 9:00-5:00 for the older ones and 12:00-5:00 for the younger ones. Response has been excellent and we look forward to bringing it back next year with even more guest teachers. Right now, we are at the end of our 6 week Summer Workshops. We’ve seen great strides in students who have decided to take over the summer. It has also given many a chance to try out dance for the fall. It is amazing the difference that 3 months of taking class can make versus taking nothing at all!

If you haven’t been keeping tabs on us through the website, I suggest you take a look. There’s plenty of exciting news. Several students have been away at national or international summer programs and one has been offered a full tuition scholarship for fall. And, we now have our 2nd CCDC student turning professional. Sara Mills has signed a contract to dance with Northern Ballet Theatre of New Hampshire. We will all miss her very much, but we are very proud of her and wish her much success.

If you didn’t pick up your new CCDC brochure at the recital or receive it in the mail, the new school year schedule is now at GoCCDC.Com. Please let us know if you haven’t received your copy. You’re welcome to register on-line now or at our 2nd Open House on August 21st, from 1-4pm. If you have any questions, please e-mail or call. We always try to keep GoCCDC.Com up to date and full of any information you may need. If you have any questions, this is the best place to check first and if you don’t find what you need, be sure to go to the contact page and ask us.

Special note to those of you in Level 3: If you have trouble fitting Open A Tap in your schedule, please let me know if you’d like to take at an alternate class time. Possibly Monday??

7.28.2005: Dear Dance Doc:

Dear Dance Doc: My child does Irish Dancing (Editor's note: Not at CCDC!, not even in Iowa!) and the workshop instructor started class without stretching the other day.  My daughter woke up crying this morning because her body was so sore.  I called the instructor to ask her to let the kids stretch before learning the routines.  She said she'd do it "if she had the time".  Doc, we carpool 45-minutes each way and the kids can't always get there early.  What do you think?---California Mom

Stretching before dancing or any physical activity is always recommended, as well as after.

But, you need to also warm-up to maximize elasticity in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints before you stretch. We recommend a series of crunches to raise the body temperature before holding static stretches. (Gentle ballistic or stretching while moving should be done only under close personal supervision of a trained professional.) Personally, before my first class of the day, I do 15 minutes of crunches and push-ups followed by 15 minutes of specific stretches for ballet. If I have extra time, I do 15 minutes of Yoga stretches before the crunches.

Crunches done properly are always good to do. You need to strengthen the core before you can control the extremities. Cross training in Pilates is good for that. You can buy or check-out a cheap tape or used DVD that illustrates proper Pilates matwork.

When I'm in a car and running late for class, I actually do semi-crunches by contracting my core and isometrics against the steering wheel as I'm driving...I know, Doc's a geek! (Safety first, though! Keep your attention on the road if you're driving!) The last thing you want to do is start class cold. The younger you are, the more you can get away with it. The older I get, the longer warm-up I need.

And, as I wrote before, a cool or ice bath or ice packs are good therapy for after class. Minimum 20-minutes helps a lot in most cases. Do the post-class stretching before you ice. Judicious use of ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories can also help.

The Dance Doc is not a medical professional, just a former professional dancer and, now, choreographer/instructor. Consult your own physician if problems persists. E-mail dance-related questions to The Dance Doc.

7.25.2005: CCDC Student Invited to Join International Program:

Congratulations to CCDC's Julia S.! She's been attending the National Ballet School of Canada's Summer Program...and has now accepted an invitation to join the year-round program at the school on a full tuition scholarship. The director of the program says Julia has "exceptional potential" as a professional dancer.

Congratulations once again from CCDC to Julia S. and family!

8.2.2005: More Beginning Ballet Terms!

Note: these are just working definitions as explained in class. For formal definitions, we recommend Gail Grant's seminal Ballet Dictionary or the glossary at ABT.org. Not alphabetized, usually in order of introduction in Men's Absolute Beginner Ballet Class:

en bas:
(ahn baw) low. Arms down, framing body
en haut:
(ahn oh) high, Arms high, framing head
port de bras:
(pohr deh brah) carriage of the arms. Movement of arms and/or upper body
demi pointe:
(deh-mee' poynt) balancing or stretch up to metatarsal arch, pointing everything except toes in legs
en pointe:
(ahn poynt) balancing or stretching legs by pointing everything, including toes. Usually with Pointe shoes. Never call them "toe shoes" or say "on toe"
developpe':
(dee-veh-loh-PAY) to develop. Unfolding extension of leg to front, side or back.
enveloppe':
(ahn-veh-loh-PAY) to envelope. Reversal of developpe'
:

7.29.2005: Beginning Ballet Terms Glossary:

Kudos to the guys taking part in the Men's Ballet for Absolute Beginners Class! As a study guide and for those of you following along at home, a glossary of beginning Ballet terms we've covered so far:
Plie':
(plee-AY') To bend the knees. From the same root word for "pliable". Think elastic, slow, continuous movement. Proper pelvic placement is essential. Turn out from the hips. Back and ribs as flat and straight as if you were lying on the floor. Don't allow your shoulders to go forward at the bottom of the movement.
Demi Plie':
(de-MEE plee-AY') Half bend of the knees
Grand Plie':
(GRAWN plee-AY') Full or big bend of the knees
Tendu:
(tahn'-DEW') To stretch.  Absolute stretch of the legs. Not just straight. STRETCHED! Full: battement tendu
Degage':
(de-gah-JAY) To disengage. To stretch so far, the toes "Disengage" from the floor. Full: battement degage'
Cou de Pied:
(KOO day PEE-ay) the "neck" of the foot. The ankle.
Sur la Cou de Pied:
(Suhr lah KOO day PEE-ay) Wrapped around the neck of the foot. Heel forward of ankle, toes behind. In back, heel in front, toes in back of an imaginary foot behind yours.
Pas de Cheval:
(PAH day sheh-VAHL) Step of the horse. Similar to the "pawing" motion of a horse, only turned out. Sou de cou de pied, a little lift extends to degage', to tendu, back to fifth.
Pas de Deux:
(PAH day DEW) Steps for two. Partnering work for two dancers.
Rond de Jambe:
(RON day ZHAMB) Circle of the leg. Half-circle of the leg (For Jambe, think "ham" or upper thigh)
En de 'or:
(on day ORE) Outside. Moving the outside leg away from the supporting leg. Think "out the door". Think it has an "o" in it for "outside"
En de dans:
(ON day DAWN) Movement inside. Moving the outside leg towards the supporting leg. Think the "n-s" in "dans" stands for "inside"
A terre:
(AH TEHR) To the earth. A movement that stays connected to the ground
En l'aire:
(ON LAIR) In the air. A movement that takes place stretched into the air
Frappe':
(frah-PAY')To strike. Brushing or striking the floor from sur la cou de pied out to a degage' position
Releve':
(ruh-lah-VAY) To rise to demi pointe or en pointe. Starts from demi plie'
Eleve':
(el-lah-VAY')To elevate to demi pointe or en pointe. Goes up without demiplie'
Sous Sus:
(SIOUX SUH)Over-Under. A spring up to demipointe or en pointe that brings the front foot in and the back foot under.
A la Seconde:
(AH la seh-KOHN') To the side. Direction derived from "Second position" of the feet.
En Avant:
(ON ah-VAHN') Forward or frontwards. Also devant
En Arriere:
(ON ah-REE'-air, deh-REE'-air) To the back or rear. Also Derriere, "Da Rear", get it?
Fondu:
(fawn-DOO') To melt. A plie' on one leg.
En Croix:
(Ahn Kwah) In the shape of a cross. Front, side, back, side at the barre. (To complete en croix properly, with an odd number of movements to a la seconde, change feet immediately. Even number, don't change the first closing.
Good job, guys! We've covered a lot in just two weeks! Merde! (Umm...see bottom of 5.12.2005 Tips for Auditions below for explanation.) Coming soon definitions for: en bas, en haut, port de bras, demi pointe, en pointe, developpe', enveloppe', port de bras and whatever else we cover this week!

7.16.2005: Tale As Old As Time...:

Better know what you're doing when you try to follow in the footsteps of an icon. For example, last weekend we watched the Richard Gere/Jennifer Lopez/Susan Sarandon version of "Shall We Dance?", a remake of the Japanese movie---"iconic" in my mind at least---I concluded my capsule review then by saying "It confirmed my opinion going in: Rent the original instead."

Now, anything done by Disney is an even harder act to follow...and credit the Des Moines Playhouse for even trying. (Disney-fication of the classics is an on-going battle. Try fighting public perception by putting on excerpts from, oh, The Sleeping Beauty, for example!) But, while their version of Beauty and the Beast suffered from a mixed bag of talent and technical audio problems Friday night, it still possesses a lot of heart and spunk---just like its main character, Belle!---and deserves strong support.

The scenery and costumes for the opening village scene are spare, sparse and more than a little disappointing, but, the rented sets and scenery for the Beast's enchanted castle from Michigan's Kalamazoo Civic Theatre are excellent. Money well spent in this case. Chip's (Amanda Bartlett) optical illusion box, for example, is fascinating. We know how it works---but, do our eyes deceive us?---it doesn't look like what we know should be there. Lumiere's candelabra costume (complete with shiny, metallic boots Elton John or the members of the Kiss army would envy!), Madame de la Grande Bouche's armoir outfit, Belle's ballroom gown, Gaston's Elvis impersonator costume and the Beast's outfits are all spot on. (The bunraku-style Wolf puppets are an interesting choice.)

And, Alison Beaird, a Waukee School District vocal music instructor, has the look, if not quite the vocal chops, of a first-rate Belle. She battled acoustic amplification problems and seemed strong on some songs, but, tentative on others. Like I said before, Disney sets an almost impossible standard to aspire to.

Jeremy S. Jorgenson offers an effective, conflicted and brooding Beast. The costume helps make the role here, Jorgenson is almost unrecognizable underneath all the fur, horns and hair. He has a strong voice that will only get better.

Gaston (Story City's Robby Pederson) is hairy, scary and over-the-top. "Hairy" because his enormous "young Elvis" pompadour hairpiece is only eclipsed by his "chest toupee'". "Scary and over-the-top" because I know many muy macho guys like that! (May even have been one at some point!) His "tights" fail to live up to their name and those magenta "droopy drawers" are the only real criticism of his character or costume. His proposal apache dance with Belle is much harder than it looks...dragging, lifting and throwing around Beaird while singing and dancing isn't easy. But, Pederson does it well.

But, it is Brett Spahr's Lumiere that really steals the show. It's not politically correct, but his over-the-top French caricature is true to its Disney origins, but, probably a faux pas with anyone from France. And, it can't be easy holding those big candles up throughout most of the show...even while dancing the tango with feather duster, Babette (ingenue coquette Sarah Weinberg making the most out of small role). Erin McNally as the fading operatic diva devolving into a set of drawers, Madame de la Grande Bouche, gives Spahr a run for his money. Frances Paterik as Mrs. Potts is also noteworthy, especially during the signature song as Belle and the Beast end the battling and "begin the beguine", so to speak.

"...A tale as old as time,
Song as old as rhyme,
Beauty and the Beast."
Anything Disney *is* "a tough act to follow"...but, the Playhouse version remains true to the animated version and still manages to remind us that there's a little Beauty and Beast in every relationship.

And, because this is a dance website, the choreography for Beauty and the Beast is adequate.  You can only do so much without fully-trained dancers. The grand ballroom waltz between Belle and the Beast is more awkward than it should be. Be Our Guest is the best number, filling the stage with a (flat-footed) homage to Busby Berkley/MGM musicals. And, no, that wasn't Salt and Pepa' from the '90's in the ensemble---those were Salt and Pepper...shakers!  (The Playhouse is attempting to remedy the lack-of-dance-skills situation in their upcoming production of Chicago, offering a free series of Fosse-style jazz dance workshops even before this weekend's audition. We'll see how successful that experiment is.)

Beauty and the Beast is scheduled to run at the Playhouse Theater from July 14-August 7. My bet's on an extension...despite higher ticket prices than usual. (If you go, bring some money to buy a souvenier rose that lights up. And, they are *not* cheap! Or, maybe, I am! Oh, and, be prepared for strong air-conditioning!)

6.29.2005: Favorite Dance WebSites:

(Editor's note: These links were operational at time of posting. Not responsible for content outside of CCDC website. Always keep your anti-viral, anti-spyware and anti-malware software up to date.)

The on-line ballet dictionary at the American Ballet Theater website is an invaluable resource. Check out the video clip under pirouettes if you have a high-speed connection or are willing to wait for download.

This site from Bolo Productions has a bunch of danseur video clips. "Flames of Paris Boada" is one of my favorite jaw droppers. His coda isn't bad either.

Check out the dance discussion bulletin boards at DanceArt.Com. Use the "Guest" entry if you don't want to subscribe to the website.

And PureDirectory.Com has almost every weblink possible to every professional ballet company in the country.

And, whenever I want to read the latest news about ballet, I just go to Google News and enter a search for "ballet".

Got a favorite dance website? Sharing is caring!

6.26.2005: CCDC Summer Intensive Notes:

Congratulations to all the dancers who took part in the 2005 CCDC Summer Intensive! But, there's NO truth to the rumor that we're printing CCDC T-Shirts that say: "I Survived the 2005 CCDC Summer Intensive...and, boy, am I pooped!"

And an extra pat on the back to the CCDC dancers who auditioned and were admitted to several prestigious national and international summer programs: Julia S. accepted to School of American Ballet's waiting list and attending Canada's National Ballet School Summer Session (Julia attended SAB's Summer Program on full scholarship last year), Joanna S. on full scholarship at Joffrey Ballet's Summer program in New York City, Brooke M. to the Austin Ballet Summer Session, Catherine W. and Sarah K. to the Boston Ballet Summer Program. (Catherine on a partial scholarship provided by the Des Moines Public Schools. Sarah under the Early Acceptance Program) And, in addition, to her first contract as a professional dancer for Northern Ballet Theater, Sara M. was awarded a full scholarship to their Summer program. Kudos to all!

6.24.2005: More E-Mailbag:

Thoughts from CCDC's Dmitriy K. after starring as Prince Desiree' in The Sleeping Beauty:
"...The priority for many schools is for students just to have fun. They don't necessarily pay much attention to the technique. At Capital City Dance Center I realized that it is possible to have both: the correct technique and to have fun at the same time. I experienced it on stage. The fun part comes from the right technique where I am satisfied and the audience is appreciative (of) what I am doing on stage."
Feedback from CCDC Summer Intensive:
"...Thanks for the great two weeks"!
"(My child) really enjoyed the intensive summer session!"
Websurfer on GoCCDC.Com website:
"It is totally sweet"!

6.21.2005: ABT Impressions:

We recorded American Ballet Theater's Swan Lake on Public Television's "Great Performances" last night...and, if there's enough interest, I'll actually sit down and watch it again sometime to do a proper review with proper attribution. But, right now, just some quick first impressions:

You have to like the sets and costumes and special effects. ABT continues to live up to its name and legacy as America's great ballet company.

The Peasant Pas de trois (literally "steps for three") put me in a nostalgic mood. I performed that role early in my career under the artistic direction of James McKuen. I doubt, however, I performed it half as well. The danseur noble (and I will get his name when I review the tape) displayed remarkable elevation and gigantic cabrioles double. His center for his turns were straight up and down, strong, but not tense. His partnering was attentive and playful. His partners showed similar ballon and elevation. Entrechat six when I started dancing was not generally considered a woman's step. But, nowadays, the best female dancers toss them off with abandon.

I respect good corps de ballet work much more now that I've seen how much rehearsal goes into producing such pure unity of movement. You know ABT is a world-class company when it can put 26(?) such strong, well-schooled dancers in the Swan corps and as soloists.

I just coached the mime in The Sleeping Beauty and I kept slowing our Prince Desire' down. Is it just me? Or did all the mime in last night's version of Swan Lake seem rushed?

The pas de quatre known as Les Cygnets is typically judged on how four dancers move as one where there is only really room for two. This group performed possibly the best I've ever seen...live or Memorex. Anyone who thinks it's easy to get four of anybody to jump the same height, turn the head the same angle at the same time has never been asked to be a cygnet.

The two men in the regional variations in what is typically Act III of Swan Lake could turn like tops! The camera would switch back and forth from one starting to turn to the other...and the turns were not stopping! I like to think I could at one time, at my best, turn like that...maybe I respect it so much because I miss it so much!

I liked Angel Corella as Prince Siegfried...but, I was not blown away. And, the same for Gillian Murphy(?) as Odette/Odile. My standards are so high because, early in my career, I shared the stage with Japan's prima ballerina assoluta Yoko Morishita and her husband, Tetsutaro Shimizu in another version of Les Lac du Cygnets or Swan Lake. Our choreographer, Yasuki Sasa, said Morishita would deliberately almost lose her arabesque balance in Act III. He said she could always balance there without moving anytime...but, the audience didn't appreciate it because it looked too easy. So, she would pique' en pointe to an arabesque balance...and *deliberately* falter just a bit and regain her balance without ever coming completely off pointe...just to let the audience know how much effort was involved! And, it was true, it happened every performance!

And, here's another reason it takes a lot to impress me, Morishita was a tiny slip of a thing. Barely breaking five feet, if that. But, I remember being on stage as she made her entrance as the Black Swan. And, at the time, I distinctly remember thinking, "How come I'm looking up at her?" She was able to pull herself up so much, with so much regal presence...that I was forced to look up to her. All of us in the corps discussed it later, but we all experienced it. A disquieting optical illusion (or magic!) I'd never encountered before or since. And, I won't even mention the scintillating tours de force...the single, double, triple fouette' sequence as the Sorcerer's daughter, Odile.

That's the double-edged sword of experience. Almost everything else suffers by comparison. But, when you see the best, you appreciate it more.

6.19.2005: Samples From CCDC E-Mail Bag!

CCDC Recital reaction:
"Just wanted to let you know that we all enjoyed the recital very much! (Our child) had a wonderful time and keeps asking when she gets to do it again! She absolutely loved having (Cindy Chambers) as a teacher this year and is looking forward to next year."
E-Mail to CCDC Faculty after a parent attended another studio's recital:
"I can't begin to tell you how happy we are that (our child) dances for you & Emery and not a "recital" dance school. (Our child) is gaining a lifetime of knowledge from both of you and it is not all about dance either- discipline, commitment, passion, hard work. Those are life lessons. Thanks for every minute you spend with the dancers!"
From CCDC Summer Intensive participant:
"I'm so grateful for the training you and Emery provide and the patience with which you provide it. I feel such a difference and am eager to keep learning and getting better...I am very confident that your training will help me to become the best I can. Thank you so much!!!

6.16.2005: Congrats, Sara!

CCDC's Sara M. capping off quite a week!

Not only did the recent High School graduate celebrate her 18th birthday during the first few days of the CCDC Summer Intensive, she was also offered her first professional contract with the Northern Ballet Theater of New Hampshire today. After her morning ballet and pointe classes, Sara called the company director as arranged earlier to discuss the results of her recent audition in the Granite State. That's when she was offered the position as a full company member. As soon as she heard the news, Sara was so excited she ran out into the commons barefoot to tell all her friends!

Sara last performed as Princess Aurora in CCDC's The Sleeping Beauty. She was also featured as the lead Mirliton and as a Snow soloist in the C.Y.Stephen's Auditorium annual production of The Nutcracker this past winter.

Best wishes to Sara M. from all the faculty, staff and students at Capital City Dance Center! Iowa's loss is New England's gain!

6.8.2005: The "Dreaded" Interview:

Congratulations! You've survived the audition process. You've made all the cuts and you're invited in for an interview with the Artistic Director and/or Ballet Mistress or Master. But, be careful! Now's the time to "stay on your toes"...perhaps even more so than during the audition! Because you're so close to a contract, don't blow it now! Be ready for questions like these: (Think about them...and I'll put some suggestions on how to answer them later!):
  1. Tell me more about yourself. The strong points and weak points of your dancing? Your personal strengths and weaknesses?
  2. What style of ballet have you been trained in? What forms of Modern? What other forms of dance or performing arts can you do?
  3. What's been your favorite role and why?
  4. Tell me about your approach to a role. How do you prepare yourself, technically and to get in character?
  5. What are your plans if you don't get a dance job?
  6. What interests do you have besides dancing?
  7. Why do you want to dance for our company in particular? Or, are you just looking for any dance job?
  8. Tell me about any injuries you've had recently.

6.6.05-Overheard during CCDC's The Sleeping Beauty...and MORE! performance and final rehearsals:

One audience member to another: "Those four girls and the lead couple are paid professionals aren't they?" "No, they're CCDC students."

Young CCDC Student to Parent backstage during performance: "I LOVE this SOOO much!"

Advanced CCDC dancer explaining her diet choices to another: "Listen, there's a reason God made me AFTER He made cheesecake!"

CCDC Instructor after previous comment: "...just think of it as Devil's Food Cake!"

CCDC Instructor during warm-ups: "There are two types of dancers in the world. Those who get better on stage...and those who get worse. Be one who gets better!"

CCDC Dancer whispering to another after previous comment: "Wasn't that already on the website?"

Audience member to another after a young CCDC dancer wandered too close to the edge of the stage: "I SWEAR I was ready to jump up and catch her! I was SOO ready!"

CCDC Instructor to performer before matinee: "Last night, you started off a little tentative...and then you just kept getting better and better. Today, I want you to start off strong...and finish even stronger!"

CCDC Creative Movement Student to Lilac Fairy: "Are you and Sleeping Beauty twins?"

6.2.2005: Overheard at CCDC Dress Rehearsal:

"Most people get worse on stage. A few dancers get better...be one of those that gets better!"

"The tendency on stage is to pull back from that new, big empty space in front of you. Don't do that! Embrace the space!"

"Guys! The girls will have a harder time getting and keeping their balance. Anticipate that and be a better partner!"

"The new costumes will throw you off. The new space will throw you off. The audience will throw you off. Be prepared to work harder at keeping and maintaining your placement."

"There's always a lot of adrenaline flowing and nervous energy whenever young dancers move into the theater. Don't mistake that for being properly warmed up and placed. Calm yourself down. Preserve the routine that made you a good dancer. Stick to turn-out and placement."

"Don't change your technique just because you change where you're dancing!"

5.29.2005: Article on CCDC Dancer Sara M.:

Find it here*! See Sara M. perform as Princess Aurora in CCDC's The Sleeping Beauty...and More! this weekend! (The imported Moldovian tutus and tiaras are breathtaking!)

* Editor's note: Sara wants to set the record straight. She's trained exclusively at Capital City Dance Center ever since it opened...besides the Joffrey Midwest Summer Workshop last year.

5.26.2005: Overheard at CCDC Classes+Rehearsals:

"Don't fight the music! Let the music move you! Music should be your impetus, your motivation, your reason for moving at all!"

"If dance is about movement...then let us ALL move more! Travel!"

"Ordinary people just go up and come down. A dancer goes up and STAYS UP!"

"If you're not ending your turns on balance, you always have something more to work towards."

"More LIFT! LESS turn! More LIFT! LESS turn!"

"Push down to go up! Stretch DOWN to go UP!"

"Align your upper body with your lower body...and connect one to the other with a strong, held midsection! It's not THAT hard!"

"Higher retirre's! Higher passe's! This is the 21st Century! Don't dance like you're in the 19th!"

"Girls get to go on pointe. But, MEN rule the air! So, JUMP HIGHER! AND, LOOK UP!"

"Look up...and people will look up to you. Look down...and people will look down on you!"

"(Dance with) All your heart! All your breath! All your soul!"

5.25.2005: Advice from Annette:

Annette Maynard is a former principal dancer with the Des Moines Ballet. She lives in North Carolina now with her husband (former North Carolina Dance Theater and Des Moines Ballet principal Robin "the bird" Franklin) and their three sons. She's a Physical Therapist now specializing in end-of-life care.

(Editor's note: Annette was one of those rare dancers who always got better on stage. She looked fine in class, but, when she performed, you couldn't take your eyes off her. Annette also overcame scoliosis to become a principal dancer.)

  1. What's your best advice for students who want to become professionals?

    Good things come to those who wait, provided you work like heck while you're waiting! Surround yourself with good teachers and good dancers. Watch as much dance and theater as possible. Listen to as much music as possible. Travel and learn about the world. Art is an interpretation of life. How can you interpret life if you do not live it?

  2. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were a student?

    That nothing is static. You change, people change, goals change, the world changes...just know that things will not always be the same, good and bad, and live in the moment while preparing for the future.

  3. As a teacher, what are the most important things you try to pass on to your students?

    Music leads a dancer. If you really listen to the music, your body will know what to do. My first ballet teacher told us, "He who hesitates gets behind the music." That's a good ballet lesson as well as life lesson.

  4. Talk about your best moment on stage. The worst? Funniest? Strangest? Most moving?

    Best moment on stage: Filming Cinderella for Iowa Public Television. I was floating on air with adrenaline. I was really in the moment. I realized this was an opportunity to capture my work for my own children to see one day. I knew I would not always have this body and not always be able to dance this well. But to have the opportunity to record it in this way was a real gift.

    Funniest: I was performing at the Tivoli Pantomime Theater in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 200+ year old theater had curtains that literally dropped from the rafters - very fast curtain down, and raised just as quickly. I had to cross from upstage right to downstage left for the curtain call. Half way across, I tripped on someone's foot, and did a belly flop into the wings downstage left - but not before the curtain rose again, to show me in mid-air, parallel to the ground. I was wearing a white, romantic tutu, and apparently it looked like a big ball of fluff was sailing thru the air and landed in the wings with a thud. It took my wind, but I managed to make it onstage for a bow, trying to hide my hysterical laughter and pain. I got a standing ovation that night!

    Strangest: Cinderella again, I was the Spring Fairy, and a reviewer from Dance Magazine was in the audience. Right before my entrance, a piece of scenery fell from the rafters and landed onstage (I think it was Arabia). It sounded like a bomb went off, and the whole theater hushed in silence. I knew the show must go on, so I leapt right over it and began my solo. It got me a favorable mention in the review, too!

    Most moving: Doing Romeo and Juliet balcony pas de deux with my best friend and partner of seven years, knowing we were both leaving the company and would never dance together again.

  5. What are you proudest of in your career? The one thing you could change if you could?

    I'm proud that I had parents who supported my dreams of becoming a dancer. I lived many little girls' dreams of being a 'ballerina' and am now completely content being a Mom and career person outside the arts.

    No regrets. I followed my dreams. How can I regret that?

  6. How did your approach to performing change over your career? How do you create a character in dramatic ballets...and still hold on to the technique?

    Initially I was focused on the technique, the balance, the turns. Later I focused on the flow of movement, not just the in between 'tricks.' Before you can do character roles justice, your technique must be second nature. You rehearse until the role is second nature. Always be open to criticism. My dad once told me, 'There's no such thing as uninvited constructive criticism.'

  7. Final bit of advice?

    My parents supported my dance career, knowing you must dance when your body is young. But they always said that when I was ready for college, it would be there. I stopped dancing at age 25, wanting to change careers and gain financial stability so I could have and support a family. I went to college and was more successful at that age than I ever was in High School. The drive I had applied to my dance career carried into my college studies. And it continues today in my profession as a Physical Therapist and mother of three. Know that your goals will change as you change. Just apply the drive and discipline you learn in dance, and you'll be able to do anything you want to.

(See the answers from former Des Moines Ballet/Ballet Iowa dancer Christopher Flory here.)

5.20.2005: Overheard in CCDC Classes:

"You have to rediscover your placement every day. Your body forgets, it's up to your mind to remember."

"Training to become a dancer is like building sand castles by the sea. Everyday the tide comes in and washes it all away. Everyday you get to start over and build a better castle."

"Ballet is the endless pursuit of perfection."

"Imagine your head's a balloon...And, I mean that in the nicest possible way."

"It's not enough to pay tuition...you also have to pay attention."

"Pay attention to everyone's corrections. You never know when that one bit of advice will click and propel you to becoming a better dancer. You have to be ready. Be greedy for corrections."

"Everything's beautiful at the ballet. If you turn out well...it will all turn out well!"

"You're doing really, really well. But, I will always ask you for more."

"Remember what the great philosopher Ashton Kutcher once said: Be happy with where you're at...but, don't be satisfied."

5.12.2005: Tips for Auditions

Learning how to do auditions well is a skill that dancers need to develop. They're rarely easy, but, the more you audition, the better you become at auditioning. And, in order to get a professional contract, it's a necessary next step to transitioning beyond student status.

Most dancers start auditioning at a young age: for Nutcracker and other productions, summer programs, etc. But, auditioning for a paying job is a fact of life for most professional dancers and pro wanna-beez.

But, it's not like we're living in New York, Chicago or L-A, there aren't four-or-five auditions every weekend. So, in order to get the necessary experience in professional auditions, it requires an investment of time and money. Remember, what you gain and save by living in Iowa, you're going to need to spend and expend just to get to where people are hiring dancers.

First tip is: do as many auditions as you can. Even for places you may not really want to go. That way you'll get your feet wet...and not be so obviously "wet behind the ears" when there's an audition for your "dream job".

CCDC ballet and pas de deux instructor Emery Uyehara went to ten seperate auditions the summer after leaving Duluth Ballet and before getting a contract with Des Moines Ballet. Each one he kept getting better and better and surviving more and more cuts. And, he had ALREADY been a principal dancer or soloist with Duluth, Svalander Dance Theater, Ballet Hawaii and several cabaret shows on the strip in Waikiki. Ideally, every dancer looking for a new contract should do at least ten professional auditions when they're looking for a job, if not more. Think of it like applying for regular employment. How many resumes would you send out? Hundreds, most likely. Sometimes it's just a numbers game. You have to cast a wide net to be in the right place at the right time. It IS a numbers game...but, all it takes is one offer.

You might consider driving to Omaha, KC, Minneapolis, Springfield, Quad Cities, etc. Other metro areas with professional companies within reasonable driving distance and getting valuable auditioning experience in a more economical way. ("Economical"? Have you SEEN gas prices lately?) That way you may be able to afford to fly to a few other target cities/companies.

Also, don't look for reasons NOT to go to auditions. One of Emery's biggest regrets was that fear kept him from accepting a scholarship offer from Alvin Ailey himself. It would've meant moving to New York City with no job and no place to stay. Only a guarantee of free classes, but, with a slim chance to eventually work his way into the world-famous Ailey Dancers. Instead he ended his professional dance career with the Des Moines Ballet. Emery says it's not a big regret, everything happens for a reason after all. But, for the rest of his life, he'll wonder "What if...?"

Second tip: Know where you're going and give yourself plenty of time to get there. Especially in a new city, especially if you're using public transportation for the first time. Visit the audition site the day before if you can. Take class there before you audition if possible. But, remember, first impressions count. Be friendly and courteous to everyone, but not too "pushy". A lot of auditioners are looking not just for good dancers, but, for people they'll enjoy working with over a year's time...especially in a smaller company.

Aim to get there at least an hour before the audition starts if you can. You should be completely warmed up and placed before barre begins. But, try not to be the first one to sign up. (You can always say you're not sure if you're going to audition or not.) Most auditioners place you in numerical order. So, if you're first, you probably won't have someone in front of you to follow. And, if you're in the first group, you won't have the chance to review combinations before you're asked to perform. And, have no doubt, an audition is a performance. Don't put on that blank "ballet face", but, don't go "over the top" with too cheesy a smile either. Just let your personality show. (When in doubt, a subtle confident smile is almost always appropriate.)

Third tip: Wear whatever makes you look the best. Look the part of a professional dancer. Don't wear distracting colors or styles. Ask your friends or teachers if you're having a hard time deciding...especially if you're a guy and don't give it much thought. If you're female, be mentally prepared to dance in just leotard and pink tights. Eat something small and easily digestable the day of the audition. Have some fruit, juice boxes or bars in your bag in case you're asked to stay for an immediate callback. Use the bathroom before the audition. Have all your photos and resume's neatly packed and ready to go. A few extra safety pins to help keep that audition number in place can be good for peace of mind. A small hand towel, a bottle of water, a ball-point pen, extra hair stuff are always good to have in your dance bag. Appearance counts!

I'll add more tips as I think of them. But, here's the last and most important for now: Just be your self...your best self...and have fun! Remember to breathe...deep calming breaths. Think of it as a master class. Don't take it personally if you don't get the job. Everything happens for a reason after all. Merde*!

* Never say "good luck" to an actor, singer or dancer. It's an old theater tradition. To confuse evil spirits say "Break a leg" to an actor. (An aspiring opera singer once told me they tell each other "Sprain a vocal cord" before performance.) But, never say "break a leg" to a dancer. Too many dancers have suffered too many injuries for that to be appropriate. Use the french custom by wishing dancers "merde" (pronounced "maird") before performance. Merde translates to a vulgar term for "excrement". The old fashioned custom was to actually spit over the shoulder afterwards, but, that's fallen by the wayside, thankfully. But, some dancers today will still lick their thumb and place it on your neck while wishing you merde. (Not very sanitary! Don't do that when you're sick!) Also, don't whistle in the theater and don't say the name of that "Scottish play". (I'll explain later) It's all superstition, but, you should respect the custom. That's enough for now, knock on wood!---Editor

05.05.05: Open Letter to Students and Parents:

Summer can be an exciting time for you and your family: vacations, road trips, overnighters, camping…and, even, just lazing around on those golden days with nowhere to go and nothing to do but making memories. But, the faculty at Capital City Dance Center wants to remind you to make sure to make time for dance this summer!

The Russians have a saying: for every day a dancer doesn’t dance, that’s another day that has to be made up. So, for example, if you miss a week’s worth of classes, it’ll take a week to get back to where you left off. Now, imagine not dancing for THREE months! If you apply the Russian rule of thumb, it takes three months (if not longer!) to get back to the same level of dancing. Meanwhile, the students who kept training never stopped getting better. The faculty sees it every year: dancers who take classes over the summer often can grand jete’ past students who take all that time off.

There are two opportunities to keep training this summer at CCDC…and you can mix and match to fit your schedule. The CCDC Summer Intensive offers three levels of Ballet, Pointe and contemporary dance for half-days or all day for two weeks in June. The rest of the CCDC Summer Workshop Series picks up after the Intensive and continues through August. Remember: Nutcracker Auditions can take place as early as late August.

Don’t get us wrong! CCDC encourages family time and family vacations. It’s a great time for kids to be kids and for families to rediscover each other without academic pressures. Just don’t forget: Make sure to make time to dance at CCDC this summer!

4.25.2005: Overheard in CCDC Rehearsal:

"Someday these corrections are going to be important to you...that's when you're really going to start becoming a better dancer. You let me know when you want that to start happening, okay? You let me know when you're ready to become better."

"...And...you're much better now than just a few months ago...but, you can be SO much better. You have NO idea just how good you can become!"

"Everybody says they want to become a better dancer. Talking with just your mouth isn't good enough...you have to answer 'yes' with your actions, with your body...every day, every class, every combination. YES! I want to become a better dancer!"

"Only a precious few students ever become professional dancers. It's not easy. If it were easy EVERYONE would be a professional dancer! Your grandmother would be a professional dancer. But, she's not...and you know why? Because it's NOT easy!"

"Just like it says on the website: It's not hard work if you love to dance. Why do you think I wrote that? It's still not easy...but, because you love to do it...you will. And, gladly."

"My teacher said the best students will succeed no matter how bad the teacher. I'm not so sure about that...because he was a very good teacher. He also said the worst students will quit no matter how good the teacher. But, our job is to make the best, better...challenge the worst to be the best they can be. And, to help that vast middle ground to move beyond mediocrity...to turn them into the best students and, possibly, professionals...that's the sign of a very good teacher."

"You'll find one in 'soloist'. You'll find two in 'principal'. But, there is no 'I' in corps de ballet!"

"Your life isn't a movie...yet. There's not going to be some quick montage of shots of you at the barre, you doing a grand jete' or a developpe' or unfolding a gorgeous arabesque. And, then, BAM, you starring as the lead in Swan Lake. That's not the way real life works. Later, when the film version comes out, it's just going to skip right over the blood, sweat and tears YOU put in everyday to become a better dancer. Understand, my 'Million Dollar Ballerina'?"

"The Japanese have a saying: the greatest thanks a student can give his or her teacher...is to become better than they were. You can thank me now or you can thank me later."

4.22.2005: Jivin' with Joe: (Complete!)

2004 Dowling High School Graduate Joe H. has been living and training in LA since the summer. GoCCDC.Com caught up with Joe on a recent trip home:

GoCCDC.Com: So, Joe, what exactly is it you're doing nowadays?

Joe: Well, I'm living in Van Nuys, California and dancing at the Performing Arts Center. And, I'm considered an apprentice, right now, in their scholarship program.

GoCCDC.Com: How many people in that program? How many dance classes do you take each week?

Joe: Well, there are 12 people in it right now. It varies each year. People drop out or start depending on how they're thinking at the time. And, we take anywhere from 30-to-35 classes a week. Monday through Saturday.

GoCCDC.Com: ...and you rest the seventh day? I think you have to rest, don't you?

Joe:(laughs) Yes, we do!

GoCCDC.Com: And, what kind of classes are you taking?

Joe: Ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, acting and voice.

(Editor's note: Joe says he takes at least two ballet classes a day, six days a week! And, he's not even training to be a ballet dancer.)

GoCCDC.Com: So, what are your goals? It sounds like you're training to become a "triple-or-quadruple threat" on the audition scene.

Joe: Yeah, right now, I'm not quite sure. Hopefully, I'll have many options in the future. Just not real sure right now.

GoCCDC.Com: ...and because you're in this apprentice program, you're not really doing any other auditions or checking out any other teachers or studios...

Joe: No, we're not allowed to right now. But, we take from about 15-different teachers through this studio, so we're exposed to a lot of different styles and information. But, no, under the apprentice program we're not allowed to go to any other studios right now.

GoCCDC.Com: What do you know now that you wish you knew back when you started?

Joe: Well, I was going to a mostly competition-style school back in Iowa. (Editor's note: not CCDC!) I wasn't really "training". I wish I would've concentrated a little more on dance training instead of competition so much.

GoCCDC.Com: Harder classes?

Joe: Yeah! Yeah, more learning than trying to perform at the time. So, my advice to other people is: take as many classes as you can from as many people as you can. Develop your training at an earlier age rather than waiting. Train earlier and perform later.

GoCCDC.Com: Did the classes you have when you were younger prepare you for what you're being asked to do now?

Joe: Not really. But, I also think you go through a lot of physical and mental changes when you're growing up. Your dancing is always changing as you get older. So, you always have to adapt...but, it's a lot different from when I was younger.

GoCCDC.Com: So, do you realize now how hard professional dancers have to work to get to where they are now?

Joe: Oh, yeah, definitely! And, they're *still* training! It's a lifelong thing. They never stop.

GoCCDC.Com: Have you been able to meet or train with some really good dancers?

Joe: Yeah! There are a lot of good dancers in this program right now. Some of them are on their second year, so they know a little bit more about what's going on. I'm in my fifth month now, so I'm learning more everyday.

GoCCDC.Com:So, what do you think you've improved on the most and what are you working on right now?

Joe: Right now, at this place, the jazz program is probably the strongest for the apprentice program, so...the type of jazz that we're doing is mostly "stylistic" instead of technical jazz dancing. So, a lot of things I'm learning are about style rather than hard technique. But...just mostly style.

GoCCDC.Com: Talk about the ballet classes you're taking nowadays. Are you getting a lot of corrections you've never heard before? Or is it mostly stuff you should've known?

Joe: A lot of it's the same stuff, but in a different way. I have two lady teachers. One's younger, the other's in her late 70's...And, I also have one male instructor. I hear different things from all of them...but, they're all about the same things. Classical stuff mainly...and some other stuff I haven't been introduced to. A lot of different things from a lot of different people.

GoCCDC.Com: You were telling me about how hard the men's class you're taking makes you work. Talk about some of that training.

Joe: I think that the hardest has got to be one-legged plie's! I still can't really do them! But, it's something to keep working towards.

GoCCDC.Com: Are there pretty good guys in your men's class?

Joe: There are a lotta guys who come and take those classes. Some pretty good, some not so good. So, a lotta different levels taking together. But, it's a good thing because...I can learn from both.

GoCCDC.Com: Talk about some of your short-term and long-term goals.

Joe: Well, I hope to be done with the program in two years. And, then I hope to perform...not exactly sure where right now. I still think going the ballet route could be fun and a good time, but...in the long run, I do want to teach at some point. But, I don't know how that would work. Whether I'd open up my own studio...or somewhere else, I don't know. And, I don't know (what city) I would want to do it yet either! (laffs)

GoCCDC.Com: What do you know now that you wish you knew before you moved to LA?

Joe: Well, on a dance level, learning to be able to teach yourself...learn from what the teachers tell you so you can be able to be in a room by yourself and be able to apply those corrections to yourself. And, this is the first time that I've actually lived on my own, so...Learn how to do your own laundry because if you dance, you're gonna have dirty clothes! (laffs)

GoCCDC.Com: How are the kids treating you up there? Is everybody cool? Do they make fun of you because you're from Iowa?

Joe: Everyone's cool up there. There's 12 of us in the program and three of them are from Michigan and they're from a competition school, too. They kinda know what Iowa's about. The ones from California are pretty understanding of what we're going through. They realize we came from a competition school and aren't always into training. We all get along really well and help each other out.

GoCCDC.Com:Was it hard going from big fish in Iowa to little guppy in California? What about the culture shock?

Joe: It is a lot different, but... I do see a lot more different races, religions and everything. I DO see a lot of differences, but, I don't even think about it now.

GoCCDC.Com: What's your final bit of advice for young dancers in Iowa?

Joe: Always work extra...on top of your regular classes. Just train as much as you can from different people all the time. And...stick with it!

GoCCDC.Com: Thanks a lot, Joe! We're all proud of ya!

Joe: Thanks! (laffs)

Our thanks to Joe Hall for sharing his answers with GoCCDC.Com!

4.19.2005: Update on the University of Iowa Dance program:

Find it on the Daily Iowan Website.

4.14.2005: Iowa State Daily Article on CCDC's Hanna C.:

Find the article here*!

Don't forget to click on the photo gallery by ISU Daily photojournalist Alison Sickelka at the end of the article.

*And, Emery says: "I didn't mean to give Dmitriy the impression that professional dancers need to take two classes a day...I meant to say the fastest way to *become* a professional-level dancer is to take two ballet classes a day, six days a week."

4.4.2005: Q+A With CCDC Ballet Instructor: Emery Uyehara:

1) Were you a professional ballet dancer? Where?

Began dancing professionally by guesting with Ballet Hawaii. Eventually, became member there and guested with Hawaii Ballet Theater, Hawaii State Ballet and Windward Youth Ballet. Moved to the mainland and danced professionally with Svalander Dance Theater, Duluth Ballet and Ballet Iowa/Des Moines Ballet. Also, guested with Lincoln's Ballet Midwest.

Also, danced with two cabaret shows on the strip at Waikiki: Lullabye of Swing and Lavender Follies. Also, member semi-professional Third Wave Dance Theater of Hawaii---a contemporary-jazz dance ensemble.

Choreographed for Milwaukee's City Ballet Theater, DsM's Chamber Dancers, Iowa Dance Theater and Neumann Project.

2) What do you think takes to become a professional ballet dancer both physically and mentally?

Five things: Good mind, good body, good spirit, good training...and good luck! "Good luck" I define as preparation meeting opportunity. How do you become a professional dancer? Pick the best teachers and best parents you can...and listen to both.

3) How does the dancing world differ from the everyday world people live in?

Dancers as performing artists experience higher highs...and lower lows than most people. But, even the worst day as a dancer is better than most people's absolute best days. And, the very best day as a dancer...is beyond words to describe.

4) How does a ballet dancer train to become the best dancer possible? What are some of the factors?

Two classes a day, six days a week...rest on the seventh day. One slow class, one fast class. One challenges the mind, the other challenges the body. To become a professional level dancer, movement must become innate. Good habits come from proper repetition. It takes time to become a professional dancer...but, you cannot waste time.

5) If there is anything else you think would be important for students to read about ballet and what it takes to become a professional dancer, feel free to include.

Whenever anyone asks me what it takes to become a professional dancer...I tell them to forget it...to do something else. Which, of course, is not what they want to hear. But, if you can be happy doing something else...go do that thing instead. Rejection as a dancer is bitterly personal. You do not have what it takes unless you can pick yourself up and beat your head against the wall again and again...and be happy doing so. Only other dancers will understand---or other artists. So, if you cannot be happy unless you try to dance professionally...then, I will help you. Or someone will help you...Asians say...when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear. Westerners say, where there's a will, there's a way. Find the way.

3.31.2005: Register Article on Capital City Dance Center:

Story by Joanne Boeckman in Thursday's Urbandale and Johnston edition of Community paper in the Des Moines Register. Find it here!

3.29.2005: Contributor Quote:

"You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but the fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls."---Merce Cunningham

3.21.2005: Dance Festival kicks off in Ames

By Dmitriy K.
Special to GoCCDC.Com

For the first time in 16 years Iowa State students have a chance to grasp more dance experience in many styles of dance. They won’t have to travel to other states across the nation; in fact, the American College Dance Festival will be hosted on campus.

Many classes will be offered throughout four days including traditionally studied dance forms of ballet, modern, jazz and tap, choreography, improvisation, yoga, conditioning, hip hop, classical Indian Dance and seminars on injury prevention, nutrition, and practical info for dancers how to write a resume, where to look for info on summer programs and grad school, how to balance making a living, making a career and having a social life.

“We also have five performances over the four days, offering students a chance to see a lot of choreography, give and receive feedback on it. Overall it is a huge educational experience for everyone involved. We fit as much as we possibly could in four days,” Amy Martin says, Festival Coordinator.

More than 360 dancers are expected to participate in this event. The festival is closed to the general public because of the number of people involved and the rules established by the American College Dance Festival Association.

“I think that all dance students should attend the festival because it is a wonderful experience in more than one way. You have the chance to bond with other schools and not to mention get to know those more from your own school, take lots of class, watch great performances, perform yourself, and hear informational lectures,” Holly DeWitt says, junior from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

For one night, Iowa State University is allowing the public a sneak peek at this spectacular event.

On March 12 at 7 p.m. the faculty of six participating universities along with nationally acclaimed professionals and North Central Region ACDF adjudicators Bill Evans, of Bill Evans Dance Company, Daystar (Rosalie Jones) of Daystar Dance Company and Rachel Murray, formerly a dancer with the Mark Morris Dance Group will be performing at the Ames City Auditorium, 515 Clark Street. The Opening Night Concert will consist of works performed in the styles of modern, ballroom, Native American Dance Theatre and traditional Bharata Natyam. See http://www.educ.iastate.edu/dance/acdfa.htm for details.

“This is a really big opportunity for university dancers to expand upon their knowledge, to take classes, meet new people, network in the field. It's a really exciting event. Another thing might be the planning of it - plans have been in the works since last spring. There have been a small core of faculty and students working really hard to put this thing together, and on the days of the festival we have 31 ISU volunteers to help out. It's really amazing - the generosity of the faculty and students involved has been incredible,” Martin says.

The American College Dance Festival is an event that happens annually at ten regions throughout the country. Different institutions in each region host each year, and this year ISU is hosting the North Central region. The North Central region consists of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, more schools are coming from Missouri, Illinois, Nevada and California.

“The festival is designed to promote dance in higher education, as well as be a mechanism for students to study with different people, show their choreography and get feedback from professional choreographers working in the field, and meet dancers from around the country,” Martin says.

Who: Faculty of six participating universities
Bill Evans, of Bill Evans Dance Company, Daystar (Rosalie Jones) of Daystar Dance Company, Rachel Murray, formerly dancer with the Mark Morris Dance Group
When: March 12 at 7 p.m.
Where: Ames City Auditorium, 515 Clark Street

3.17.2005: Movin' Out Movin' on UP!

Somewhere on my nightstand (or maybe lost under my bed) is a book on creativity by Twyla Tharp. I bought it to try and become more creative in my choreography and in my writing. But, Tharp demands an active reader...with assignments and exercises at the end of each chapter. So, I put it on the back-burner because, really, who has the time? And, also, because I disagree with one of her early guiding principles: in order to be truly creative one has to concentrate all their efforts into one discipline. That means I'd have to give up writing in order to become more creative at choreography or vice versa. And, I disagree because I believe there is a creative force in the universe...and the better you are at tapping into it, the more creative you become at whatever discipline you apply the process. "Renaissance man" is my mantra. (My best choreography and my best writing always seems to flow as if it's being "revealed" to me...not as if I'm making it up on the spot.)

But, it's hard to argue with Twyla Tharp's track record...and she's obviously tapping into whatever creative force is out there. And, the musical Moving Out at the Des Moines Civic Center this past weekend makes a "moving" case for her "pointe" of view. The show blends the music of Billy Joel with Tharp's classic, modern, post-modern and jazz choreography to create a high-energy, high-octane, practically non-stop retrospective to the soundtrack for a generation.

Challenging highly trained dancers to go beyond the classical vocabulary is Tharp's strength. She's the one who pushed Mikhail Baryshnikov in the critically acclaimed When Push Comes to Shove. Here little gems of ballet moves glisten like diamonds next to the rubies and emeralds of modern and contemporary movement. An arabesque turn suddenly transmutes into a turned in swivel. High, suspended balletic jumps end with a roll on the ground. The movement challenges tradition the way the baby boomer generation thumbed its collective noses at the status quo.

I'd heard rumors about Rasta Thomas on Internet websites long before he catapulted onto the ballet scene with gold medal performances at the prestigious Varna and Jackson competitions. (And, you don't win those by default. Unlike the Olympics, if there's no one good enough, gold medals aren't given out at all.) And, I'm happy to report the "hype" about Thomas is true. He not only stands and delivers as Eddie...he jumps, turns, floats, gyrates, tumbles, acts AND delivers. (The only thing this gymnast/dancer/actor doesn't do well, apparently, is the "moonwalk". How does that happen?) I can't remember the last time I saw at least six turns end on balance like that. (Thomas is a Kirov Ballet Academy of Washington DC classmate of Ashley Canturna reviewed earlier on this website.)

And the ZZ Top song "Legs" must've been written about Laurie Kanyok (Brenda). She's got LEGS and she knows how to use 'em! I tell my ballet students that dancer legs are the best looking appendages in the world...and Kanyok's "gams" must be la creme de la creme! Classical training produces long, strong muscles and this Uptown Girl uses them to supersonic, streamlined advantage in all her numbers. (And...have I mentioned her legs?)

Julieta Gros (Judy) has a purebred balletic pedigree as well. Her bio says she got her start as a professional at age 14 with fellow Argentinian Julio Bocca's traveling company. She dons black pointe shoes (DON'T ever call them "toe shoes"!) for complex, contemporary choreography. But, she really shines when she unleashes her penchant for passion in a proposal pas de deux with Mathew Dibble (James) to the classic Just the Way You Are. More than going through the motions, she exults and exudes, sings and scintillates while shaping shiny steps. The other principal lead is noteworthy as well, Corbin Popp as Tony.

Watching Movin' Out is a lot of dance to digest in one setting. I want to see it again, there's so much going on on stage constantly...it's like a three-ring choreographic circus...or a seven-course Chinese dinner. In the meantime, I guess I can't argue with that kind of success...so, if you want me, I'll be rooting around on my nightstand (or under my bed) trying to find out how to be half as creative as Twyla Tharp in Movin' Out!

3.4.2005: Overheard in CCDC Pas de Deux Class:

"You girls are no longer responsible for your own balance...the guys are. Your job is to make beautiful pictures."

"Together you can do things that are impossible by yourself. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Work together, not apart"

"(Mikhail) Baryshnikov says a good partner is like the setting for a jewel. You only notice when it's not good."

"Guys, these are your priorities when you partner: the girl's health and safety...then your health and safety...then making the girl look good...and, last, and, most definitely least, making yourself look good."

"Three rules to follow in pas de deux: First, never let your partner fall. Second, never let your partner fall. Third, if your partner falls...she falls on you."

"Guys, if you're standing over here...and she's standing over there...and she trips...it's your fault."

"Men! Lift with your legs! Protect your back!"

"Ladies! Ladies! Slow down your jumps!"

"Partnering a good girl is like driving a luxury car with power steering. Partnering a weak girl is like trying to hoist a half-filled waterbed overhead! Girls! Don't gurgle!"

3.3.2005: OTB Romeo and Juliet---'Tis 'nough...'Twill do

Romeo and Juliet is my favorite ballet. But, aye, there's the rub. Whenever I watch the tale of the two star-crossed lovers, memories of many ballets past rise like the ghost of Hamlet's father. ('Tis nough! A pox on both thy Shakespearean references!) Almost every Mercutio or Benvolio suffers in comparison to the space-eating, sky-soaring presentation of Russia's Bolshoi Ballet. Every Juliet pales next to the eye-opening nuanced metamorphosis of San Francisco's ethereal Evelyn Cisneros from girl-child in wonderous first love rapture into a woman's black despair at the suicide of her husband. Every Lady Capulet compared to Ballet Hawaii's Pamela Taylor-Tong and heart-rending mourning at the death of her Tybalt. The entire audience gasping when Maniya Barredo drives a dagger deep into her belly in Tom Pazik's crypt scene. And it's hard for a regional company to match the multi-level grandeur and majesty of Michael Smuin's fight scenes in a crowded marketplace with giant broadswords clanging and rapiers clashing and flashing. And, dappled moonlight through leaves makes a supernatural setting for Smuin's rapturous and soaring balcony scene.

But, while Omaha Theater Ballet and Robin Welch's Romeo and Juliet may suffer by comparison, the music and movement and familiar plot line still tugs on the heart strings and delivers an emotional impact. Who can resist Prokofiev's lush, throbbing and passionate score? At times, delicate and delirious...at others, majestic and martial? And, the little ballet company that could provides more than enough dance and character highlights to keep pace with the music.

The Rose Blumkin Theater by any other name is an appropriate setting for Romeo and Juliet. It's like a Mediterranean marketplace overflowed off the stage and into the theater with statues and rococo roses intertwined into the decor. It's built like a little courtyard with a few stars twinkling overhead in a midnight sky. And, get there early next time, the festival seating (no assigned seats except for two reserved rows) was three-quarters full for the final Sunday matinee of a two-weekend run. Wise choice to choose the smaller theater as venue, two-hundred people would've been lost in Omaha's larger Orpheum (or Des Moines' 2000-plus seat Civic Center, for example).

Casting a large ballet like Romeo and Juliet is always problematic for smaller regional companies. You know there's a suspension-of-disbelief dissonance when your Paris (promising apprentice Adrian Fey---Watch for him to end up in a larger company soon) looks younger than your Juliet (Rachel Vickrey). Casting actors and former dancers helps fill out the stage, but watching them can be painful at times. Better to just concentrate on the better dancers. I've sung Avram Gold's praises before and he lives up to his billing technically as Romeo. His arabesque turns and double saut de basques are light, airy and a joy to watch. But, even as dancers are critical of actors who try to dance...actors must raise an eyebrow at dancers who struggle with acting. Gold needs to be coached to create a multi-dimensional character, an impetuous, head-strong Romeo who leads with his heart in more ways than one. Then, he, too, no doubt, will exit stage left for a bigger company in a bigger city.

And, I used to complain privately about a female principal dancer I once worked with: saying she has just two notes on stage---the wide-eyed, innocent child or the sultry, seductive vixen---and nothing in between. (It's a common problem with western dancers who train so much at one thing, they have no time to learn about acting, theater, music, history, lighting, fencing or stage combat---unlike the state-supported schools in Europe and Asia) Vickrey has a similar two notes in portraying the female lead, but, perhaps, her most poignant moment is when she's crawling on stage...once to her bed after taking the sleeping potion and, the other, to her dead lover's arms after stabbing herself.

Welch's choreography is serviceable. The balcony scene partnering for the pas de deux is inventive. Mathew Carter (Mercutio) and Adam Schnell (Benvolio) both show clean lines and strong jumps and turns in their roles. But, Wade Schaaf as Tybalt lacks the weight and brooding menace the role demands. You can't walk like a dancer when you're Tybalt...you have to stalk the stage like a caged lion, a predator without pity. In fact, the entire cast needs to be coached not to stroll like Americans when portraying Veronese townfolk from another century. And ladies and the landed gentry should walk differently from peasants and merchants. When Konstantin Uralsky set his Romeo and Juliet on Ballet Iowa he spent hours and hours coaching his young company on the customs and mannerisms of the time. Of course, he comes from the grand Bolshoi tradition and had a wealth of details to draw upon.

Omaha Theater Ballet does an excellent job with what it has...but, alas, poor Yorick! Both the dancers and artistic directors should be challenged to do even more. It'll be interesting to watch if the company starts to display greater and greater depth and resonance as the seasons progress. But, as one CCDC dancer said when asked to compare OTB's R+J to the contemporary Saint Petersburg Ballet version, "Oh, I like this one much better!".

2.18.2005: CCDC Partnering Class Update

Thanks to the seven guys who've been showing up to learn the basics of pas de deux on Tuesday nights. It's supposed to be eight guys next week! We hear more than one guy had to be "threatened" to get them to come! But, the girls don't bite...very hard! :o) And, so far, it's been challenging, it's been fun...and we couldn't do it without you! Big thanks from the female preprofessional students and faculty at CCDC!

2.18.2005: Overheard in CCDC classes:

"Don't be afraid to fail! Be afraid of NOT trying!"

"It's not a mistake IF you learn from it!"

"For a true dancer, the day you stop dancing...is the day you start dying."

"I'm not here to be popular. I'm here to make you the best dancer possible."

"I will push you and push you...and you will bend, but, you will not break. And, in the end, you will be a far, far better dancer than you ever dreamed possible."

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him pas de cheval."
"You can lead a cat to cream, but you can't make her pas de chat."
"A chaine' is only as strong as its weakest link."

2.11.2005: CCDContributor Quote

"Ballet is a universe of the imagination, a place of magic and enchantment, beauty and romance. Its many worlds vibrate with graceful dancers, glorious music, and sumptuous costumes. There are ballets that can make you cry, make you laugh, or send shivers up and down your spine. There are others that celebrate the pure joy of movement and the streamlined energy and excitement of contemporary life. Ballet is sight, sound, and motion, the theatrical form that can tell a story without words or convey moods and emotions through music and movement."
From On Wings of Joy by Trudy Garfunkel

02.10.2005: Babbling with Brooke: Updated+Completed

CCDC'S Brooke M. of West Des Moines is in the middle of her first season as an apprentice with Omaha Theater Ballet. She's danced in both of the Fall 2004 OTB productions: Kennet Oberley's Dracula and Artistic Director Robin Welch's Nutcracker. CCDC sat down to talk with Brooke during a visit back to the Capital City recently:

CCDC: So, what's it like going from part-time dance student to becoming part of a full-time professional dance company?

Brooke: Well, I understand that every company's different, but I was expecting company class would be very difficult with tricky combinations...super-hard, you know? But, everything just moves a lot faster and you just don't have a lot of time to get placed and stuff. And, that's something that's been like my biggest battle, going from the slower atmosphere of a student to a super-fast company class. 'Cuz they're just trying to get warmed up, really. I mean I'm sure everyone's trying to get better, but they're not trying to do all these tricks...because they're supposed to have learned them already.

CCDC: What's your advice for any students that want to follow in your footsteps and become a professional dancer?

Brooke: I guess a big thing for me would be 'always work hard'. I mean, I always worked hard the last couple years...or thought I did...ever since I decided to try to become a professional. But, you can't take a few days off...or a class off...or even a combination off. You just don't have time for that.

CCDC: So, what's your first year in a professional company been like?

Brooke: When I first got there, I had troubles because a lot of them are a lot older than me. There's just one girl that's like younger than me. They're like 25-and-up or so...most of 'em. So, most of them just didn't pay any attention to me. So, I was kinda lonely and stuff. But, as the season went on and we did more shows and classes and rehearsals together, we got a lot closer. They've been getting nicer and more sisterly. And, that's been nice. Now, I can crack jokes and not get funny looks all the time. (Laughs)

CCDC: What's it like having so many guys around all day?

Brooke: Well, it's mostly good. But, I swear! Sometimes they can get so competitive, it's annoying! They'll do a lotta turns and then look at the next guy. Or they'll all go in a big jump...and I swear they're trying to hit each other! So, sometimes it's annoying. But, mostly it's good to have a lotta guys around.

CCDC: What about the technical level of the company? Could you keep up?

Brooke:Well, in that way, I thought I fit in pretty well...

CCDC: So, your training prepared you for the demands of a professional career?

Brooke: Yeah. The technical demands weren't a problem for me. I thought I was trained pretty well. What was hard was getting used to a different teacher. Because, y'know, every teacher teaches in a different way. And, so, after so many years with Emery and Missy I could kinda see a combination once...and I'd have it most times. But, I couldn't do that with company class. I swear I'd be paying close, CLOSE attention...and sometimes it'd go right over my head. What'd she say? It's a gotten a lot better as the season goes along...but, it's still my biggest challenge.

CCDC: What's it like working with different professional level choreographers?

Brooke: It was fun, but, really, REALLY stressful at the same time. The first ballet I did was with (former Ballet Iowa artistic director and current Ballet Met school director) Kennet Oberly and that was really, REALLY stressful for me. Now that I've been in the company for awhile and now that I can look back at Dracula, I can see what was so stressful. Part of it was I was still trying to make the adjustment to this new ballet company that dances similarly to what I was used to...but, still different. And, then, this new guy comes in and, WOW, it was SO different from what I was used to. And, together it was hard to handle.

CCDC: What's the best and worst thing about dancing with this company and being a professional dancer?

Brooke:There's a lotta good things up there...like, I also teach in the school and I've learned a lot about teaching from a lot of people up there. So, I've gained a lot more respect for what you guys do. But, the best thing about dancing professionally is...and, this is a little embarassing! But, I've always wanted to be able to tell my grandkids "Your gramma used to be a ballerina!" And, now, I can! Um...Are you gonna put that in?

CCDC: Maybe.

Brooke: Um...

CCDC: So, what's the worst thing?

Brooke: No comment. Missy always says it's a small dance world...so, you don't want things coming back to haunt you.

CCDC: Looking back on your training, what do you think helped you the most in becoming a professional dancer?

Brooke:Well, for me that's probably a completely different answer than most people would have. I really had to work on mental strength. Sometimes I would bring too much emotional baggage into class...which sometimes is a good thing, but, most times not such a good thing for training and classwork. But, now, I feel not only mentally strong in class...but, in my whole life!

CCDC: What's your final advice for any students who want to be able to tell their grandkids they were professional dancers? Tell us more about what you said earlier about working hard.

Brooke: Well...when you're younger, you think you're working hard. But, when you get older THAT'S when you realize what hard work really means. So...I think everyone should get little notebooks...and write down all their corrections. I still do that once in awhile. And, I know if I got back into it, it'd help me a lot. So, get those little notebooks and go over them EVERYDAY before rehearsal or class and think about how to get better.

CCDC: Congratulations, Brooke! We're all proud of ya!

Brooke:Thank you!

Editor's note: Brooke performs in Omaha Theater Ballet's Romeo and Juliet this month. A CCDC field trip is being organized. Call, e-mail or leave a note with the office if you're interested. Also, watch for the interview with Joe Hall, currently pursuing a career as a professional Jazz dancer in Southern California. Coming soon!

1.27.2005:Russian ballet makes the leap to America

By Dmitriy K.
Courtesy Iowa State Daily

In Russia, the performances and celebrations that take place on a typical weekend are similar to those in American sports culture -- but there, it's all about ballet.

"From what I understand about the cultural difference in Russia, going to a ballet is the same as going to a football game in America," says Emery Uyehara, a Des Moines dance instructor. "In Russia everybody goes -- fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, everybody enjoys ballet." A taste of Russian entertainment is coming to Stephens Auditorium on Thursday evening, when the St. Petersburg Ballet performs their rendition of Romeo and Juliet.

America's interest in ballet in may change in the near future, partly because of the large number of dance schools already in place. "I believe that ballet is growing in America," says Yuri Petukhov, the artistic director of the St. Petersburg Ballet. "There were many dance schools established in the past several decades; however, it takes a lot of effort to ask people to come."

Different cultures find different meaning in ballet performances, says Amy Martin, lecturer of health and human performance at Iowa State. Some people spend their lives on stage to share their love of dance.

"Many Americans are not exposed to ballet, especially not as a serious performing art, and, therefore, seem to have little understanding of it," Martin. says. "Many Americans have more understanding and appreciation for competitive sports than they do performing arts."

Perhaps one reason that Americans haven't fully accepted ballet into the mainstream is because they don't understand the years of physical and mental pressure required to become a dancer, says Janice Baker, assistant professor of health and human performance. "Russian men are as powerful in dancing as men on the football field in America, but in their own style," Baker says. "Men are neither fostered nor encouraged to dance in America."

Sarah Cunniff, sophomore in performing arts, says Americans do not recognize the physical requirements of ballet and categorize it with art instead of sports.

"I know that in Russian ballet, their form is more open, with generally a lot of emphasis on high leaps and lots of turns," says Cunniff. "Americans do not put ballet in the sports category, but still appreciate the way the dancers can move their bodies. It is considered a true art, not a sport."

Even though ballet may not be as complicated as rocket science, Martin says, it still requires some intellect for audiences to understand, which she says is a contrast to most of the entertainment Americans enjoy.

"American audiences seem to have short attention spans and seem to gravitate towards pure entertainment where one does not have to engage their mind while viewing. In ballet, and dance in general, though it may be entertaining, it is also thought-provoking and does take some intellect to watch," she says. Cunniff, who attended a performance of Romeo and Juliet in Chicago, says the ballet company keeps their show lively, which helps maintain an audience's attention.

"The dancing is so good, and plus there is never a dull moment, just solid in your face action at all times," she says.

1.18.2005: 2C or Knot 2c...Part Le Deux;

More input from Google on the impending visit by the Saint Petersburg Ballet. Apparently, this is not your father's Romeo and Juliet. As Hedy Weiss writes in the Chicago Sun-Times website:
"...For purists expecting a more or less traditional rendering of the full-length ballet inspired by Shakespeare and set to the music of Prokofiev, the company's production, choreographed by Serge Vikulov, must have come as something of a shock. ("And what's with that Spider-Man sort of costume?" wondered one skeptical fellow during the intermission.)

But the more you watched this often painfully self-conscious take on the classic, the more difficult it was to completely write it off as an unnecessarily pretentious and at times even kitschy retelling of a story that never seems to lose its potency. There was much to be annoyed by (including a quite youthful company with strong soloists but a rather less than impressive corps, and ultra-modern sets that more often than not seemed intrusive and distracting rather than enhancing). Yet there also was much to admire.

Vikulov knows his Shakespeare, and he has introduced the mythic Celtic figure of Queen Mab (mentioned briefly in the play by Romeo's pal, Mercutio) to oversee and intervene in the story as mistress of death and destruction. Rather than opening in Renaissance Verona, where the Capulet and Montague families are at war, the choreographer starts us off in the underworld, with a dominatrix-like Mab (brilliantly acted and danced by the dark, skeletal yet very powerful Elena Grineva in a cutaway black leather costume) overseeing the cemetery where the corpses of Romeo (Vyacheslav Sunegin) and Juliet (Maria Yakshanova) now lie..."

It seems to be a choreographic trend to rethink the classics nowadays. The Bolshoi Ballet's recent American tour also featured a more contemporary R+J. Go to the show with no preconceived notions and caveat emptor!

1.14.05: To See...or Not To See...

To see or not to see...that is the question for fans of the Bard when the Saint Petersburg Ballet dances the classic Romeo and Juliet at Stephen's Auditorium later this month. Ballet fans like me should automatically "turn out" in force to support their art form of choice...except for the skeptic gnawing at my innards. I have to admit that the ballet based on Prokofiev's music is one of my favorites, (I'd seen the San Francisco Ballet and Michael Smuin's version four times---with a heart-rending, eye-opening performance by prima ballerina Evelyn Cisneros---as well as the Bolshoi, Cleveland and Hartford Ballet versions. I've also performed in the Ballet Hawaii version with stellar Atlanta Ballet guest artists Maniya "Honey Girl" Barredo and Nicholas "Nicky" Pacana.) but, I'm not convinced the Saint Petersburg Ballet will be any better than the disappointing Moscow Festival Ballet's production of Cinderella last year. Should I cancel dance class that night and encourage the students to go? Or will it be a waste of time and money?

Just a few years ago, I would've had to flip a coin and take my chances. But, this being 2005 and all, I decided to turn to the internet for answers.

"Googling" Petersburg Ballet in the search engine's "News" section ("Search and browse 4,500 news sources updated continuously") produces 18 hits. I assume these are the latest reviews of the ballet company's tour.

The top article is disappointing...a short preview piece based on how the publicity photo appears in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Skipping a few hits down, I hit paydirt! Ismene Brown writes about the company's performance of La Bayadere last month from the United Kingdom Telegraph site:

"...the performance standard left a lot to be desired. The company's chief ballerina, Irina Kolesnikova, is a glamorous, bony blonde with athletically extruded limbs and a fastidious Russian stylistic flourish, whom I've seen quite effective in Swan Lake, but here, as the humble, low-born Nikiya, she was wrongly grand and chilly.

She could have eaten her rival, Princess Gamzatti, for breakfast, since this fiendish role, usually played by a sharp technician, was given to a gently graceful but technically inexperienced 18-year-old, Diana Madysheva, who came unstuck in the furious spins and fouettés demanded.

The Solor, Dmitry Akulinin, is inadequate, and apart from Dymchik Saykeev's sterling Brahmin and a pretty soloist, Lilia Akhmetshina, the company looks slightly uncomprehending as they dance, not responding to the rich sultriness of music and story."

This is the kind of information I wished I'd had before the Moscow Festival Ballet last year. If you decide to go to the Saint Petersburg Ballet...go with diminished expectations. This is not the Kirov nor the Bolshoi. You should go. You will learn as much...if not more about the art from watching well-trained, if not exceptional, dancers on stage.

But, I'm not cancelling class for it.

All content copyright Capital City Dance Center