CCDC News Archives - 2006

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12.21.2006: Whee! Get EMail

Here's another gift suggestion from Sandy V:
" about ddr. (dance dance revolution) it is so much FUN!!!!!!!!!! it's a video game if you didn't know. i love it and i know a lot of other girls do too!!"
...and, I saw that enthusiasm for the DDR Video game firsthand. I was at a news event at a local middle school recently. Some bigwig coming in to complain about the obesity epidemic in America. We followed him through the lifetime health and fitness program. The DDR station was the most popular. Even had kids arguing over who could go on next...and there were even students stomping around following the instructions who weren't on the touch pad dance surface. It's not really "dancing"...but, any excuse to get kids moving their bodies as opposed to just their thumbs has got to be "revolutionary"! (Contrary to it's name, it's not really a "revolution" in "dance", it's more just clumping about, but, it could lead to better cardio fitness and, maybe, eventually, hopefully lead to better dancing somewhere down the line.) And, the new Nintendo Wii moveable wand-controller seems to have intriguing possibilities. You physically manipulate the wand and your avatar on screen mimics your movement. So, you could actually have to sword fight, play tennis, golf or bowl to win your game. I applaud this trend in using virtual experiences to stimulate real exertion.

And, this note from a CCDC parent:

"...At observation week I was stunned (by) how much progress the kids have made since even the beginning of this year..."
...that's a nice pat on the back to all the teachers and administrators at CCDC.

12.19.2006: Gift Ideas For Young Dancers

Instead of me guessing what young dancers want for Holiday gifts, this year I decided to ask one instead. This is what Sandy V wrote to me:
"...age 10-14 Dance related

  • dance ornaments for the christmas tree, nutcrackers could also work to. i know that i just love to collect dancers for my christmas tree.

  • a little bag with a water and a little pack of gold fish and tell them to always keep it in their bag in case of an emergency.

  • how about a jokers hat and on a tag write "NO JOKE YOU'RE A GREAT DANCER"

  • oo how about buy some big chocolate hersheys bar and on the computer tight DANCE BAR and put a little ballet shoes on it then print it out and tape it on the top of the hersheys bar then get back on the computer and type up the ingredients: DETERMINATION, DISCIPLINE, FRIENDS, HARD WORK, STAGE PRESENCE, DEDICATION, EMOTION, FLEXIBILITY, TECHNIQUE, FUN...AND A LITTLE BIT OF SUGAR!

  • dance posters or dance figures

  • leg warmers. oh you can also tell them that there are a lot of free leg warmers at The Dance Boutique.

age9-20 non dance

  • lotions and body sprays

  • lip gloss

  • jewelry

    ages 9-12 non dance

  • hair scrungies for buns

  • ribbons saying best buds or number 1 friend..."
  • ...then, I wrote back and asked about IPods, danceware and "bling-bling". She says those are always good, but her list was mostly friend-to-friend. So, how about you? What are you hoping for this Christmas? E-mail me, I'll put it up and and you can tell your family to check out this website for suggestions.

    And, btw, just wrote to a father who asked for some help. I suggested DiscountDance.Com. He was thinking about getting a poster or painting of a dancer. I told him to be careful, because there are some pictures and posters taken by non-dancers that are pretty hilarious to real dancers. I also suggested some Swan Lake DVDs or CDs since a lot of the CCDC dancers will be taking part in that this spring. (Getting familiar with the music and some versions of the choreography will help the dancer be better prepared and get off "on the right foot"!) And, always, sweats or clothing with premiere dance company logos are always universally appreciated. Got any other ideas or suggestions? E-mail me!

    12.12.2006: Crack Seed Reprise

    It can be instructive to watch so many Nutcrackers back to back. Just as it was instructive to watch two dancers side-by-side in Sunday's performance. During a Second Act variation in Ames this weekend, one girl had been coached to be stern to the point of anger. The girl right next to her was just as serious, but there was a more flirtatious edge and a performer's passion that made her much more watchable. This was on top of more stretched knees, better turn-out, technique and, occasionally, pointed feet. A better presentation altogether. And, you can say the same thing about the Civic Center production of the hoary old ballet classic compared to State Center's show. Which is better? Well, one stays truer to the Tchaikovsky score which appeals to the purist in me. But, the other has better production values, a more consistent vision and a guest artist who is still at the top of her game and world-class. So, you picks your poison with your own preferences.

    So, I'll insert my annual rants here---and you can skip this paragraph if you remember it from last year: First of all, NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY! It can temporarily blind a dancer and compromise everyone's safety. There should be an announcement before the show. And, speaking of safety, that constantly falling dirty white stuff in the Snow Scene in Ames is also a safety hazard. Someone should call OSHA. Almost every other version in the world saves the snowfall FX for the climax of Act 1. Is it going to take another injury before enough parents complain? And, as I've mentioned, all the "extras" in the State Center version bothers the ballet purist in me. It's insulting to the audience to have the musical sound effects underscore the magic tricks. If it's not as Piotr Ilyich composed it, leave it out. And, that includes all the second act variations that are added in there to get more kids on stage, more tickets sold and more pay in the hands of local choreographers. I don't go to a ballet classic to watch RiverDance break out all of a sudden! What's more disturbing is that the Civic Center version has now added a Hongrois variation this year. Oh, what the heck! Why not throw the Black Swan variation from Swan Lake and the pas de deux from La Corsaire as well? It'll be a four-hour Nutcracker! Give the public its money's worth! Forget the mission statement of educating the public properly about ballet classics anyway! ...Okay. Sorry. End of rant. On with the review.

    There's some question as to whether that was really Kennet Oberley underneath all that make-up as Drosselmeyer. That's what it said in the program, but the old Oberley I know wouldn't have sleep-walked so under-rehearsed through that role. When Kennet was Ballet Iowa's artistic director, he admitted he didn't like Nutcracker (I've written before about the love-hate that many dancers have with the annual production.) But, since I criticized the Civic Center Dross (At least, he enjoyed the role!), it's only fair that double that criticism go to the Ames character. (Editor's note: We're now being told that was NOT Oberley as Drosselmeyer.  And, if that's case, the casting change should have been announced to the audience like is done in every other theater in the world.  If I were Kennet, I'd be upset that people thought that was me out there.)

    Casey B as Fritz deserves some praise! Double tours en l'air, triple pirouette and echappe' battu in his party scene variation! Very promising in one so young. Hopefully, that technique and turn out will continue to improve as he gets older. And, Sunday's Clara, Sammie E is pretty and vivacious on stage, a strong performer with personality in the tradition of expressive Ankeny dancers. Her smile nearly always comes from someplace inside, not put on by someone from the outside. If you enjoy what you're doing, you should let it show...especially on stage! Erin B and Katya W did well as the Moor and Ballerina Dolls. Good turns, Ekaterina!

    I still love the food props the pudgy mice haul on to the stage: a slice of apple the size of a watermelon, a piece of Swiss cheese as big as a small TV, an olive inflated to the size of a small beach ball, a Ritz cracker bigger than an extra humongous pizza! But, I think that big mousetrap should be used to catapult chunks of cheese at the soldiers. That way the mice force can answer the big cannon with their own heavy artillery! And (skipping around with these suggestions), Mother Ginger's wig should come rolling back onto stage after he/she goes reeling off stage left. You could have one of the youngest dancers run out to pick it up. And, shouldn't her dress at least be all one color?

    And, Marc H almost single-handedly dances just about every male role in the Second Act! What happens if he ever oversleeps? Let's see what he did: Nutcracker Prince, Arabian, Neopolitan, Hungarian and the Partridge in a Pear Tree! Okay, just kidding about that last one! But, any guys out there with a little dance training? Marc needs a breather! He just needs to get back in a good class and strengthen his technique a bit more. Then, those pirouettes and tours could be truly spectacular.

    I'm not a big Momchil Mladenov fan. If the Civic Center's Cavalier looked a little like Keanu Reeves in tights, Mladenov looks like a taller Nicholas Cage in white. So, they both pass the eye test just standing there. But, I have to give the edge to IDT's Mikhail Ronnikov in the battle of male variations. Give credit to Momchil for attempting more than last year, but his consecutive double tours en l'air separated by a single pirouette preparation were sloppy and lost front. I'm not saying they're easy, but, show us what you can do, not what you can't do well. Both Cavaliers are good partners, but, experience shows. And, Mladenov's Grand Pas de Deux with Bonnie Pickard was seamless and adroit.

    And, I'm usually a big fan of Sugar Plum Fairy Pickard. But, I was not blown away this year. She only has herself to blame because she set such a high standard last December. But, make no mistake about it, there were no mistakes in the variation. But, she did not take my breath away this year. Last year, I was positively asthmatic. This year, just slightly wheezy.

    Kudos to all the Capital City Dance Center students in the Ames production! I watched you all, in parts big and small. You make me proud: David, Anna, Catherine, KK, Sarah, Sarah, Sally, Shannon, Katie, Maddie, Elizabeth, Hanna, Maggie, Natasha, Macey, Sean, Sophie and too many more younger dancers to mention.

    But, after all those mixed Nuts, what was PBS playing as part of their fund drive on statewide educational TV Sunday night? That's right, Mikhail Baryshnikov's American Ballet Theater in the Nutcracker with Gelsey Kirkland, Warren Conover, Steven Hook and the other artists of ABT. So, what did I do? I turned it off and watched a recording of Heroes instead. Save the cheerleader. Save the world.

    12.9.2006: 'Nut-racker' Weekend

    Three down, one more to go.

    It's Nutcracker weekend, folks. For most people that means catching one show and embarking on a magical journey to the Land of Sweets, Marzipans and Sugar Plums. For dance educators like us, it can mean an endless array of assorted Nuts and, possibly, a depressing journey through the dreaded Swamp of Soggy Saute's, past the Bramble of Bumbled Balances and, finally, into the Forest of Flexed Feet. But, even as we check into the Castle of Clumpy Choreography, we catch glimpses, here and there, of a pose that grows, a line that lingers and a genuine smile of enchanted enjoyment. And, that, for us, is the true magic of Nutcracker. The opportunity for dancers to grow from small, wide-eyed children venturing for the first time onto that enormous stage...into radiant role models for a new generation of aspiring dancers. Now, most will not complete that journey, but, the rare handful that do are the true reward for dance teachers and balletomanes.

    And, speaking of that legacy, it was a welcome surprise to see the return of Ron Olsen to the Civic Center stage in Iowa Dance Theatre's production this weekend. Ron and I danced together for two seasons for the Des Moines Ballet/Ballet Iowa company years and years ago. We need more like Ron on stage in the party scene. If there were, the choreography could be more interesting and challenging than it is with just volunteer non-dancer dads. (And, I'm told that apparently prosthetic rear he strapped on as Herr Waddlechin...was no prosthetic!)

    The two Claras this year are real performers: Hattie M and Madelin R. Whenever they skip or prance onto stage, they make me smile. Hattie has effortless extensions that make Gumby look like he has rigor mortis! And, Maddy's million-watt smile illuminates the Civic Center stage like no other! They're both stronger en pointe than you expect at that age. And, both have unlimited potential as they move up the casting list in seasons to come.

    The half-to-two-thirds full houses on Friday and Saturday saw some new wrinkles in the party scene. But, I think that Drosselmeyer's appearance from that box needs more than extra lighting help. How hard could it be to add a puff of smoke to embellish his transmogrification? And, Mark Gruber could possibly benefit from more challenge and input into his role. When I last coached a Drosselmeyer, we worked on character, deep backstory, the meaning of magic in the life of a young girl about to become a woman and a complicated and complex series of motivations. Drosselemeyer can be a pivotal catalyst in the Nut mix, I think he should be symbolic of all things mysterious, joyous and wondrous in Clara's life. It shouldn't be just a throwaway.

    Omaha Theater Ballet's Wade Schaaf guested as Snow King with local dancer Dora N as his Snow Queen. Schaaf needs to gel his hair back to keep it out of his eyes.  He'd look much more like a King that way and less like a retro-hippy dancer dude. And, there's three main reasons why partnering work can be a chore to watch: lack of rehearsal, lack of skill and lack of experience. Or some combination of the three. Schaaf and Dora were better on Saturday than they were on Friday. (That jump to shoulder sit was a half-inch away from flying out of his grasp!) But, the choreography didn't match the music. There should be lifts or jumps when the music soars. Movement should amplify and exemplify the music...not belabor or belittle. Whatever it was, it was pedestrian.

    The same can be said for the Waltz of the Flowers choreography. I don't buy the excuse that poorly trained or young dancers limits what can be done. It can, but, a good choreographer should be able to show off what his dancers can do, and, at the same time, make it interesting for the audience. Rose Queen Jenny P showed some rock-solid balances, but, her talent wasn't best displayed by the steps. And, why, oh, why have her flash her bottom to the audience all the time? Sure, Jenny has no bad side, but, there is such a thing as good taste after all.

    And, as I've written earlier, the guest principals pass the eye test. But, Sugar Plum Jeanette Medina's youth and lack of experience in principal roles showed up early and often Friday (She was better Saturday). The 19-year old lost her middle more than once and pivoted on her heel at least twice. She's not a turner, even with an experienced partner behind her. The world's slowest "whip turns" in the world were on parade Friday. In a few years, she'll probably earn her money guesting in Nutcrackers. But, this was not that year.

    And, I was ready to write off Cavalier (Misspelled in the program) Mikhail Ronnikov after a lackluster variation on Friday. But, I was pleasantly surprised to see Misha pull off some difficult consecutive tours en l'air double with a feather-soft landing twice on Saturday. His fouette' saute' arabesques and grand jete' en tournants were a shade too leisurely for me. But, it's nice to see a big man jump well. And, I think he needs a bigger stage. His grand menage in the coda ran out of room both days.

    Other dancers who deserve kudos: Lexi R in Hungarian and along with her evil twin, Averi H in Spanish, Ginger Soloist Kali Mikelson, Merlitons Courtney C, Monica M and Sarah S for some strong balances, Party scene dolls Emily S, Sydney M for the great smiles and Rachel H for strong jumps, and Snow Crystal Katherine E.

    Three down, one to go.

    And, did you hear that IDT got some national publicity on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno? Apparently someone sent him the IDT poster with a big misspelled Nutracker on it! Talk about missing Must C TV! Just what the midwest needs...more proof of culture!

    12.8.2006: Let The Nutty Weekend Begin!

    Here's something I wrote to a young dancer after catching an early IDT Nutcracker performance yesterday:
    "...The only suggestions I have are to concentrate on all the corrections about placement that I give you in class when you're doing your warm-up. Remember to look UP a little more. Think about the people in the very back row! They want to see ya 2! Try to stretch your legs a little bit longer, point your feet a little bit harder, hold your middle a little bit stronger, stay on balance a little bit more...these aren't criticisms, just something that every dancer has to be thinking about when they go on stage.

    Whenever I got off stage, I knew if my feet weren't sore from pointing and my knees weren't exhausted from stretching and jumping, then I didn't leave it all on stage! That I could have done a little bit more. But, what the heck was I saving it for???"

    ...Yes, the long, "nutty" weekend has begun. One promising note: the IDT guest artists looked good. Someone said from South Carolina? And, Wade Schaaf from Omaha Theater Ballet as Snow King. He's mentioned in some reviews in the "Archives". Saw a little bit of finale rehearsal after the school show. That Sugar Plum and Cavalier pass the eye-test at least. They look good just standing there. Now to see if they look good dancing as well. (The Ames show features the return of last year's CCODY winner: Bonnie Pickard and her partner, Momchil Mladenov. He passed the eye-test last year---Think Nicholas Cage with longer legs in tights!---but, not, unfortunately, the performance testing. I think I wrote "...Mladenov is just not Godunov...")

    Other things dancers can think about as they head on stage: Do a good warm-up class. Work on placement and technique before you get before the audience. Practice your balances and turns. Turn-out to turn. Pull that stomach in and up! Shoulders back! Don't let your bottom get away from you! Remember to breathe! All that and...have fun! Merde!

    12.6.2006: This and That About This and That

    Check the "Archives" from last year about this time for tips for preparing for performance. Basically, it's be sure to warm-up and place yourself, practice your technique, take your barre, classes or warm-ups seriously. Get as much rest and sleep as you can. Take your vitamins and eat good meals. Try to avoid getting sick or stressed out. When you get on stage, show what you can do...NOT what you forget to do. Stretch your knees and point your feet. Hold your middle, look up and SMILE! Most of the people in the audience wouldn't know good technique if it bit them on the derriere, but, they do know if you look nervous, serious or grim or fall out of a pose or turn. Don't bother getting stage fright...everybody there wants to see you do well after all. Take a deep breath, have a good time! Remember, you've trained too hard to get to where you're at not to enjoy your time in the spotlight! Remember, it's bad luck to say "Good luck!" Say Merde instead! And, don't whistle in the theater! They're just superstitions, but, when in Rome, do as the Romulans do!) Merde!

    More Must CTV apparently coming to the vast wasteland. Rumors of a new reality show about aspiring dancers trying to make it in LA coming on MTV in January. Word is dancer Blake McGrath of the first season of SYTYCD 1 will be in that group. And, the countdown is on to the return of SYTYCD III!

    At least four thumbs up from CCDC dancers who saw Happy Feet, the movie about the renegade penguin born into a clan of singers who just wants to dance. What they didn't know is that the tap dance steps were really from Savion Glover in motion capture. I tried to explain it to one of the "evil twins" between classes and she asked "who's that?" Savion if you don't know yet is the best tap dancer of his generation...perhaps the best EVER!

    And, as many CCDC students prepare for their Nutcracker performances this weekend (Why ALL 3 at the same time, I wonder?), I stumbled over a blog of a Boston Ballet Corps dancer and her preparations for their holiday classic. I've said it before and I'll say it again, for most American dancers, the very first and last dance they'll do on a part in the Nutcracker.

    11.27.2006: Gotta Watch Dance TV

    Well, Secret Slumber Party aside, not much "Must See TV" for dancers now that DWTS has crowned Emmitt Smith in the finale' of Season Two. (Having watched the last show, I still have to vote for Mario as the better dancer technically. No knock on ES. He's a deserving winner. A lot of easy, masculine charisma and charm. But, Mario just a bit sharper to me. You can argue or agree, it's all a judgement call after all.) And, if you're jonesing for a dance fix, I stumbled across a place to get updates on the winner of SYTYCD II. Be sure to check out some of the early, early videos at Benji Schwimmer's website. You can post on their bulletin board, but, you can't post under "BenjisFutureWife". That's already taken. There's talk there about a Schwimmer movie now that he's apparently turned down the Grand Prize of a year dancing in Celine Dion's show in Vegas. Call me a pessimist, but, I don't have a good feeling about a Schwimmer movie. He's got a lot of geeky charm and he can dance. But, can he act? And, can he carry a movie? Or will it be Kelly Meets Justin with dancing? Be afraid, dance fans. Be very afraid.

    Okay, now I'm being told there are competing Benji Schwimmer sites. Here's what appears to be the Official one. Schwimmer's involved in charitable work. Good for him! And it looks like "BenjisFutureWife" is up for grabs on this site! Don't all rush at once!

    11.20.2006: Echoes from the Celestial Spheres

    Here is an excerpt from a recent horoscope:
    "...You will be struck by visions of what could be today: When you look at a child, you'll see a glimpse of the talented adult he or she might grow up to be... "
    ...The only thing is that applies to me everyday. Every day I teach and catch glimpses of the talented dancers our students can become. It's my goal to challenge and push and prod them out of their comfort zone. Most of them don't know how much better they can become. As their teacher, my task is to make sure they don't settle for less than their potential. That happens every class, every exercise. Very few will ever become professional dancers, but, every student can learn to do their best and learn it takes discipline to achieve their dreams. It's a valuable life lesson. And, it's our privilege to impart that everyday.

    11.15.2006: Two Stars Remaining

    We were driving home in the aftermath of last week's snowstorm last Friday. Had business south of the Twin Cities. It'd been a rough trip. On the way up, just around Albert Lea, a snow and ice-storm struck and traffic on the interstate ground to a halt. We were questioning whether to turn-back or not, but, once I get rolling I hate to stop. I just figured if we went slow enough, we'd be safe. Turned out I was right. So, we were motoring home in our brand-new-to-us vehicle looking forward to watching DWTS, when the talk show host announced the results! This was on Sports Radio! Who woulda thunk? (Darn you, Andrew Siciliano!)

    Well, I'm under no illusions that I'll be able to keep from learning the results of the season finale' this week. Only two heavyweights remain: Mario Lopez and Emmitt Smith. Joey faded after a strong start and valiant finish. But, that Emmitt just kept getting better and better after a mediocre beginning.

    And, I'm beginning to think there would be advantages if Emmitt wins the entire enchilada. There was an article today in the local rag about how sports bars and dance studios in Texas are both tuning in to the show...just because of the former NFL Superstar. There's a quote that Smith is making dancing "manly" again. But, I actually think that both Mario and Emmitt are "manly men". Guys want to dance like them, girls wanna dance with them. But, Emmitt's NFL pedigree makes it even more okay for guys to get out on the dance floor again.

    I actually think Mario is the better dancer, but, I won't quibble if Emmitt pulls the upset this week. They're both good and worthy of winning. But, if the hand that raises the mirror-ball trophy at the end just happens to be wearing three Super Bowl rings, that wouldn't be a bad thing!

    And, what do dancers watch now that DWTS is ending? Must See TV for me could end up being...Secret Slumber Party! Okay, I am a little bit embarassed to admit I kept watching when I tuned in early looking for some football this weekend. I know this show is aimed at pre-teen girls, and what am I, a manly man's man, doing watching? I just didn't click the remote after I caught a hip-hop choreographer breaking down some moves for two teams of dance contestants. I'm just starved for dance on the tube is my explanation. That's my story! ...and I'm sticking to it! Maluhia out!

    11.8.2006: Fast Dance Time Shifting

    Have I mentioned I hate trying to "time-shift" a program...and learning the result before I get a chance to watch? It happened again this past week. I guess I should've learned my lesson, but, the news that Monique Coleman was eliminated from Dancing With The Stars was part of the internet headlines downloaded into my PDA early in the week. But, as I mentioned, I thought that was a strong possibility...and when Mario was one of the last two couples left standing, everyone knew (even Monique) that she'd danced her last dance on DWTS. And, how touching to have her mother just charge onto the dance floor on a live national television show to console her daughter. How strong a mother's love!...And, I have a renewed respect for ballroom professional Cheryl Burke! She's the defending professional champion, having guided last season's winner (Drew Lachey) to the mirror-ball trophy. This time she's helping shape Emmitt Smith into a real contender for the title. A good choreographer showcases a dancer's strengths. Shows what they can do...not what they can't. (Unlike Monique's partner, Louie. I think he made a tactical error by overestimating what his rising "star" could do well. No disrespect to Monique! She challenged herself to keep up. But, as the judges pointed out: "Sometimes...less is more!") Cheryl Burke is versatile enough to show what her star can do without making it boring. Plus, she's obviously an excellent teacher to take two different "stars" from two different backgrounds to the later rounds. I forget. Was she in the first season? Some of it's the luck of the draw. How successful could she have been if she were matched with Master P, Jerry Springer or Harry Hamlin?...If they return for next season, watch for Cheryl and her star to be a "dark horse"...and, I think that Kym Johnson could do well given half a chance. Imagine her paired with a Mario or a Joey! Don't bet against her...and keep watching for the semi-and-finals! Should be fun! Maluhia out!

    11.7.2006: Hamer-O-Gram

    Whee! Get e-mail:

    Here is another article related to dance medicine from the same doctor as the previous article (Dr. Nick DiNubile, M.D.). This one discusses special considerations in dance medicine and why dancers are so hard to treat. It also mentions that out of a study of 60 sports (rated on over 20 different components) that the toughest "sport" is ballet. I think we already knew dancers were more tough than football players though!

    Alissa :)

    11.1.2006: Must See TV

    It's starting to look like Mario Lopez will be the last star left dancing on DWTS. Emotional moment last week when the aging, affable and still charming, Jerry Springer fought back tears when he tried to describe what the experience had meant to him. There must be a lot of new-found respect from a lot of new-found fans for the man the media describes as the "schlockmeister" of talk TV. An immensely likeable guy who at the end was begging the public to vote him off, Jerry lasted longer than he had a right to expect...but, not what he didn't deserve. The high point was his waltz a few weeks ago, a tribute to his soon to be married only daughter. The dance technique may have been mediocre, but, the emotional content brought tears to the eyes of many. So, a fond farewell to this season's answer to George Hamilton...And, I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but, it looks like Monique will be the next to go. The three remaining men (Mario, Joey and Emmit) are so strong...with the former NFL superstar perhaps improving the most. Joey faltered for a few weeks there, but, has returned to form...I didn't post any DWTS observations last week because my recording set-up failed to deliver. I kept checking the website for video of the show...but, they post almost everything except the entire latest DWTS dance segments. They should at least post the full dance sequences with judges' comments and scores. (But, separately, so those of us who only have broadband at work can check out the segments during spare breaks while the rats rate a rare racing rest!). I like the blogs and extended confessionals, but, what about when the public (never mind the public, WHAT ABOUT ME!) misses a live telecast? I wonder if it's a choreography or musical copyright thing?...Also, we now learn that DWTS professionals and amateurs will have a performance tour like SYTYCD did. Drew Lachey, Lisa Rena and others from past seasons will be on the program. But, I'm not sure if that'll be as successful as the Fox concert tour (Harry Hamlin? Seriously?)...But, you know who I'd pay to see? Max's Rising Stars! Did you see their segment last week? Nice to see such well-trained young dancers! Especially, guys! Was it my imagination or were they all of Russian or Eastern European origin? Those cultures appreciate the arts much more than the US does. Something to think about...And, while I'm rambling, former CCDC dancer Leah S, now living in California, dropping in over the weekend for a visit.  She's promising to be back to take some classes over the winter break! Gonna hold you to that, sunshine!...And, kudos to former CCDC dancer, Sara M, engaged and set to wed next month! Maluhia out!

    10.18.2006: Dancing With The Results

    Sometimes I feel like I'm living an episode of Seinfeld. You know the one where Jerry tapes a baseball game...and he gets paranoid that someone will tell him the score before he gets a chance to watch his tape? He picks up the phone and immediately yells, "Don't tell me the score! I'm taping the game!" But, despite his best efforts someone always spills the beans and he learns the results? That's what it's like for me every week after taping DWTS. For example, the news broke near the end of last week that Sara Evans was quitting the show. Ergo, that means she must have survived that week's elimination. Someone else told me "Jerry Springer should've gone!" So, what does that mean? Yup! You guessed it, Springer survives. Not much mystery left when Springer and Willa Ford are left twisting in the red spotlight on the results show...So, now, the big promo by ABC is trying to tease what's going to happen with Sara. No biggie here. She's going to tape a segment that explains her motivation. (And, anybody who follows the news knows that some mean-spirited, sordid details are erupting in that divorce case. She seems like such a sweet, talented lady...I hope she and her kids survive with their spirits intact.) I feel sorry for Tony, her professional partner. He took Sara from a rank beginner and coached her into a passable contestant and, now, he's left dancing solo through no fault of his own. Actually, though, I think it was just a matter of time before Evans was voted off anyway...despite the apparently huge Country and Western fan voting bloc. And, if there's any justice, Jerry Springer will be voted off the ballroom island soon. He's survived on pure likeability for too long, much like George Hamilton in season 2. On the other hand, Emmitt Smith delivering a warning shot across the bow of the front-runners with his strong, superb samba. After last week, Joey looks vulnerable, Mario is solidly ensconced in the lead and Monica has to learn to translate her considerable thespian skills into terpsichorean capabilities. They're all strong, strong contestants with winning, engaging personalities and solid mentorships with their professional partners...But, do you think the voting public "punished" Willa for dallying with her dancer? In that case, it's good that Mario is being discrete about Edyta. Of course, I'm sure that "nothing's" happening!o) But, it seems the hostess seems determined to make a scandal out of that molehill...Maluhia out!

    10.16.2006: Dance---Less Hazardous To Your Health!

    Courtesy Newswise — Amateur soccer is responsible for a surprisingly high number of fractures and other significant injuries to the mouth, jaw, and face, reports a study in the September issue of The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery.

    Increased use of mouthguards and faceguards could help to prevent many soccer-related oral and craniofacial injuries, but efforts are needed to increase the use of this protective equipment, concludes the study by Drs. Sinan and Ummuhan Tozoglu of Ataturk University.

    The researchers reviewed all patients with injuries to the mouth, jaw, and face area seen at their oral surgery department over a one-year period. Eleven of the 53 injuries were related to amateur soccer—a rate of over 20 percent.

    Dental fractures were the most common type of soccer-related injury, followed closely by fractures of the lower jaw (mandible) and problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ—the joint that moves the jaws). One soccer player had a broken nose. About two-thirds of the injuries occurred when one player ran into another. The rest were caused by impact with equipment or the ground.

    Head injuries are common in sports—up to ten percent of all head injuries may be sports-related. Certain sports have been identified as carrying a high risk of severe head injuries, such as football, gymnastics, ice hockey, and wrestling. In contrast, soccer has not generally been regarded as a high-risk sport for head and facial injuries.

    10.11.2006: VOD Special Delivery

    Okay, with all this stuff about YouTube being sold to Google in the news, I decided to check out the website. Now my favorite timewaster at work is searching for "ballet" video clips at YouTube.Com. Check out the Super Pirouettes and Angel Corella and Paloma Herrera in the pas de deux from Don Q! Sure beats surfing to the Classic Arts Channel hoping for some ballet! Video on demand! Welcome me to the 21st Century finally!

    10.9.2006: Media Mentions

    Did anyone else see this sophomoric dance movie on MTV this weekend? I was channel-surfing during a break from the depressing beat down the Cyclones took at the hands of the resurgent Big Red Machine Saturday night. (Yes, I have to get a life!) Stumbled across a made-for-MTV movie about a blond ballerina-wanna-be and her hip-hopping black beau-friend. And, stumble was the operative word for this yawner...from cliche' to cliche' written, no doubt, by non-dancers. (Much like ISU crumbling on disputed calls to Cornhusker nation.) Imperious and moody director of ballet program. Injury befalls lead in Giselle giving our plucky ingenue her shining moment in the spotlight. Can't tell you all because I tuned out as quickly as the Cyclone defense gives up touchdowns. But, all that could've been forgiven if the dancing itself had been watchable. The black female lead could pop and lock with attitude. But, the dance-off with our blonde ballerina in the night club was anti-climactic. The ballet rehearsal was sub-par. In real life, it must have been very difficult to cast a good actress who could dance en pointe and, then, do a passable pop-lock routine. But, I refuse to believe there aren't any out there. In one scene, our blonde bombshell tossed her cookies during a face-to-face with the autocratic ballet mistress. I felt the same way watching...Meanwhile, elsewhere in the vast wasteland, say goodbye to Vivica Fox on DWTS. I think Sara Evans was lucky not to be the one to go, but, the singer's fans must've rescued her for another week. And, I don't think Monique belonged in the bottom two. Her performance was superior technically and dramatically. Now, you can argue Jerry Springer still dances at a mediocre level...but, his waltz performance dedicated to his daughter was an emotional tour de force and he deserves to survive just on that basis. Joey and Mario look like the front-runners to me. And, Monique deserves to be in that group. But, then again, the wild card is who the heck is doing that voting out there?

    10.3.2006: Suggest-Shin

    Lexi R just asked me about stretches for "shin splints"...and I showed her Missy's stretch. But, here's another that just arrived in my e-mail from Men's Health.

    10.3.2006: Whee-mail!

    Excerpt from recent e-mails:
    "...Also when you get time you'll have to let me know your thoughts on The Company..."
    Well, I looked for my review of The Company, but couldn't find it. So this is just off of a hazy recollection.

    I usually like Richard Altman (sp? Name?) films. Gosford Park, for example, was a slice of life. But, there was an actual plot and beginning, middle and end to the murder mystery.

    But, no such encumbrances for The Company as I recall. Which is why I wrote it was "off in the ozone", "on its own planet" someplace when I mentioned dance films. I still like the fact that Neve Campbell did her own dancing ...and that's because of her extensive training at the National Ballet School of Canada, one of the world's best, before she became an actress. That doesn't always work: witness Mary Tyler Moore flailing around en pointe in that film with Dudley Moore about the terminally ill child who ends up dancing with the New York City Ballet. I seem to vaguely recall a horribly edited soundtrack of Nutcracker music.

    The Company is much better than Save The Last Dance...but, hard to compare to Turning Point or Strictly Ballroom. They're all such different films...with the dance element the only common denominator. The Company is like a reality TV/documentary...except the unrealistic reaction to dancer injuries. Whenever that happened when I was dancing, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, jumped up and took care of the injured dancer.

    For example, back when I was IN a company, there was one time I had a girl in an overhead press and was running around in rehearsal...and didn't notice Frankie A resting on the floor with his back to me. I tripped over him and, apparently, and still managed to save Karina S from injury. But, we were all scared and for a brief moment I thought I had seriously injured my partner. But, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE (even people in other rooms in other rehearsals) immediately rushed in and took care of Karina, me and, even, Frankie. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Needless to say, we cleared the floor whenever we rehearsed that piece again.

    Every dancer knows he or she's just one false step or faux pas away from a career-ending injury. That's why when it happens to someone else, we instantly leap into action. (Even when it happens to someone we don't get along with or a rival for a part.) That's reality in the dance world.

    10.1.2006: Dancin' in Passin'

    Just got an e-mail from someone else who went to see the just-finished Playhouse production of Swing. He says they walked out before the end. And, his date is a dancer/choreographer. She kept punching him in the arm and, at one point, gasped "Oh. My. God." And, NOT because she was so impressed. Quite the opposite, in fact. So, all the favorable reviews in the local rag, internet and weeklies and the standing ovation the night I went aside, I feel a little vindicated...and a little saddened. It's just the latest indication of the tremendous vacuum of knowledge and dance appreciation that's descended on the area since the local professional ballet company folded more than ten years ago. Another friend mentioned she decided against going to see Swing after she read my review. And, that's a sad thing, but, no sense in spending that money and getting insufficient value in return. So, I didn't try talking her into "supporting the arts" like I normally would have. What's the antidote? Perhaps more collaborations like this summer's Dancing for My Mom arranged as a benefit by Washington Ballet's Jason Hartley. That was a mixed bag, but, the cross-pollination and competition between dance schools, students and professionals could possibly produce a long-lasting benefit. Especially if Jason returns to restage the benefit next summer as he's promised. That combined with the Joffrey Ballet statewide tour next year, could make 2007 the "year of dance" in the state. Let's make it happen! ...Another possible trend that could help is the resurgence of Dance on TV! I prefer SYTYCD, but, Dancing With The Stars helps pass the time. And, say a'loha o'e to actor Harry Hamlin, spouse of one of last year's contestants, Lisa Rena. I just feel bad for his professional partner who had to put up with that walking piece of wood, Master P, last season. I think the next to (should) go will be talk-show host Jerry Springer. (Am I the only one who thinks his professional partner, Aussie Kym Johnson, looks like a smaller version of WWE superstar Stacy Kiebler from last year's DWTS? And, does anyone else think that Kristen on MTV's Two-A-Daze looks like CCDC's Brooke M? And, since we're babbling of Brookes, CCDC Alum Brooke M (the other one) dropping into the studio briefly this weekend. She was back in town for the birthday of her niece, taking a few days off from her teaching duties in Florida.) And, just a reminder, be sure to TIVcrO the DWTS results show as well as the performance show. Once again the professional piece turned out to be "Must See TV" for dancers! Maluhia out!

    9.29.2006: Words That Dance

    "...I didn't dance to get ahead or make money or become famous. I danced because I couldn't live without it. Dance mattered more to me than anything in the world. It was my life. And, as much as I considered it an honor to bear the title 'ballerina', I was excited because it took me a step closer to performing more fulfilling roles..."
    ---Yvonne Chouteau, as quoted by Lili Cockerille Livingston in American Indian Ballerinas.

    "...There are no shortcuts to being good."
    ---UConn Coach Jim Calhoun

    "The greatest barrier to being great is being good."

    9.26.2006: Dancing With the REAL Stars!

    So, the first week, we forgot to record the DWTS results show. (But, this year a lot of video's available off ABC.Com. Get your DWTS fix from the dancers, stars and Judge Bruno's blogs!) And, finally, got a chance to watch the second week results show...and, admittedly, a lot of it is filler. (Enrique' Iglesias? Seriously? Only as an excuse for another dance number.) But, some of it is REAL dancing. Not this professionals dancing with celebrity dancer wanna-bees! But, REAL dancers with other trained professionals! That number to Billy Idol's Dancin' With Myself kicked serious derriere! And, sometimes when the actual "stars" are on I have to remind myself to watch them instead of their professional partners. I'm trying to second-guess what the judges comments will be before they deliver them and their scores. (Okay, I'm not doing too well! I'm not a trained ballroom dancer!) But, one thing I noticed is the upper body carriage of the non-dancers. Unless you train to keep those shoulders back (and reshape the muscles) over a long period of time, they ain't gonna stay by themselves...six weeks of lessons or not! The other fact that gets reinforced is that the personalities of the non-dancers really reveal themselves as they perform. That Sara Evans dances really sweetly and smoothly. Emmit Smith dances with utter self-confidence (But, I don't think he'll ever get his wish: to be anointed as "the couple to beat") Mario and Joey dance with their hearts on their sleeves, full-out, brash and bold. Why is this important? A fully-trained dancer adopts a different persona depending on the role. When I did stand-up (Yes, this blog is all about ME!), the other aspiring comics and I worked on developing our "voice". It's the performer's persona projected through the "pipes". You have to become larger than life when you step across those stagelights. The distance between the audience and the performer is far larger than the few feet that seperates us. And, how do you get there? Develop that "voice"? Put on that performer's persona? Same answer to that old saw about "how do you get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice, my son(/daughter). Practice!"

    So, don't pass on the results show!

    9.21.2006: The Return of 'Overheard During CCDC Classes'

    "With great power comes great responsibility. Remember, even Peter Parker didn't want to become Spiderman."

    "If you turn-out and bring your knee back from the front, your foot will follow. If you replace your pelvic placement from the back, your foot will follow. But, the reverse is NOT necessarily true. So, why do two things when all you have to do is one?"

    "You're starting to show some really nice poses in your adagio...but, now, you have to working on connecting them. Make the magic continuous."

    "You have to find the lift to come out of that pose. Don't just drop the leg!"

    "Pull that heel up into your calf during your turn! Let it trigger more lift throughout your entire body! Second, third and fourth turn should be higher, leg longer, more turned out than the first."

    "How do you do 32 perfect fouette's? One perfect turn at a time! You can't do them all at once! Just do one at a time!"

    "Have you ever pressed your finger down on a wet watermelon seed? Eventually it spurts out. That's what your brise' should feel like."

    "Find the line. Find the length. Feel the love. Love the length and the line!"

    "Look at your passe'/retirre'! If your toe is below the knee, that's corps de ballet level. If your toe is at your knee, that's soloist level. Above the knee is principal level. How hard do you want to train today?"

    "Aim bottom leg higher than top leg! Pop at the top! It's called GRAND allegro for a reason!"

    "NOT the world's smallest, cutest pique's or battu. BIG, BOLD, BRASSY!"

    "Vole' means 'to fly'. Try it sometime! Assemble' vole'! Brise' vole'!"

    9.18.2006: DWTS.3

    Quick-Stepping in just in time for Dance aficionados suffering from SYTYCD withdrawal! The kick-off of season 3 of Dancing With The Stars! Unfortunately, as I mentioned last year, I thought it would be difficult to match the level of the top competitors of Season 2: ex-boy-bander Drew Lachey and The Girl With The Golden Gams, pro-wrestler Stacey Kiebler. And, after watching the first installment on my poor man's TIVcrO, I think I've been proven right. Oh, there are some contestants who had a fast start last week, namely Mario Lopez, Monique Coleman and Joey Lawrence, but, I can't be the only one nostalgic for the best of last year's dancers. Also, keep in mind that this year's "stars" had six weeks to train for the, there's no excuse for a weak showing. One contestant who obviously took advantage of that time is former NFL running back Emmit Smith. Smith is this year's Jerry Rice. The advantage for both former pro-athletes is they're both used to being criticized and taking coaching. Keep an eye on Smith to keep improving...and, especially, those "yards after contact"! And, I can't argue with the first week's results: Tucker Carlson is this year's Kenny Mane (sp?). Carlson has a fabulous sense of humor and took a huge step out of his comfort zone...but, despite 6-weeks training (and sitting down for most of his first---and last!---number!), he just wasn't competitive. He's no Master P. But, even if we don't have better than last season, at least we don't have worse than last season! Check out ABC.Com for a lot of behind-the-scenes videos and dancer and judge's blogs to keep you going between episodes! Maluhia out!

    9.18.2006: Dear CCDancedoC

    "...I have a question. I am interested in taking pointe. *never taken before* do i have to take the ballet that comes with it? What if we are able to do ballet higher than that level but need the beginning/pre-pointe?"---Aspiring Broadway Star

    Dear ABS, I'm assuming you're training at a studio that offers "ballet" classes, but not pointe. That's a big red flag right there. First, it's *good* that unqualified instructors aren't pretending to be able to teach proper pointe technique, because that IS what's going on at many, many studios. But, if your faculty isn't qualified to teach pointe, it's a good bet that it isn't qualified to teach anything but the most basic ballet either. I'd take a look at your teachers' backgrounds. Have they danced professionally en pointe? If they haven't had to rehearse and perform in pointe shoes for 40-hours a week for several seasons, how can they prepare you to do the same safely and properly?

    Secondly, pointe shoes are NOT toys nor fashion accessories. You have to be old enough (with sufficient and proper calcification of the bones in your pedal extremities) and strong enough (taking a minimum of three ballet classes a week after training in ballet for a minimum of two years). Some schools won't even put you on pointe until you're 12 (Even though, the old Soviet system reportedly put girls in pointe shoes much young as 8. But, these are hand-picked students who are monitored closely). Here at CCDC, every student is individually evaluated (And, may have to take prepointe for up to a year or more) before being accompanied by the head instructor to purchase her first pair of pointe shoes. (Every maker, every style and every shoe fits differently. These are individually hand-made.) Even then, the young dancer may not be allowed to leave the barre with those shoes for a full year or more. If we err, we err on the side of caution and safety.

    And, also for reasons of safety, CCDC usually does not allow students to come in and "cherry pick" classes in the preprofessional division. For example, you can't come in from outside the school and just take the pointe classes without express permission of the division director. (Even then, you need to take the ballet class before to get a proper warm-up) And, you can't just pas de valse in and take the pas de deux or ballet repertory classes, just because they're not offered at your own school. Preference goes to current students enrolled in the PreProfessional or Post Secondary Program. If there's room, students from outside the system may be allowed to take those classes at the discretion of the instructor.

    9.12.2006: Whee! Get E-mail!

    Excerpts from message sent by guest Modern instructor Kathleen Hurley:
    "...Please check out our new site. It's still new and under construction, but please check it out and become a "friend" of Hurley & Dancers on myspace! ...ALSO, click on the "VIDEO" choice to see clips from our last year's fall concert!..."

    Another message in an e-bottle from little, long-lost Leah S!
    " i've been taking class at studio number one in santa monica. i really like it! it's a lot like what we did at home. The teachers there are really focused on technique just like you are. I'm taking class there on Monday-Thursday and on Saturdays. if you want to see the website its

    anyways, everything else here is reallly good. i started school on monday and it was sooo different! the school is made of a bunch of different buildings for all the different classes. I GOT SO LOST! but by friday i got everything pretty down and i made a lot of new friends. i even spent the night at a friends house last night! so things are getting better out here.


    and i look forward to hearing back from you.


    Feedback after weekend auditions:
    "...Just wanted to send you a quick note to let you know how beautifully your girls danced (this weekend). Their form was excellent and we decided we feel sorry for the girls that don't have any form. Sean did especially well, he seems to have gained a tremendous amount of strength.

    Thanks for all the late nights, the hard work and loving these kids..."

    9.10.2006: Don't Mean A Thing...

    George Balanchine is reported to have said if the audience didn't like his choreography, they could always just close their eyes and listen to the music. Unfortunately, that remark resurfaced as I forced myself to keep watching some of the dancing in the latest Des Moines Playhouse production this weekend. Their Swing misses the mark for the most part. There is no plot, it's a musical dance revue. But, of the three elements that make up Swing: singing, music and dancing, it's the dancers and choreographers that fail to deliver.

    I know it's community theater made up of volunteers. But, the program itself states:

    " will see people who dance professionally, who teach dance for a living, or practice their craft as a hobby. You will see some dancers who are acknowledged as the best in their field in the state or region..."

    ...if that's the case, if these are "the best" in this "state or region" than this must be the "Death Valley of dance". The ballet pas de deux was painful to watch. (Note to dancers: just because it goes around, doesn't make it a clean fouette' turn!) The Jazz dance solo was awkward. The "sexy dance" with the bass player was embarrassing. The costume not-flattering. The tap dancer was energetic, but, the sounds not clean, lacking crispness. The technique was beginning-intermediate.

    I know at least one of the cast and I was disappointed. Looking good on a nightclub dance floor doesn't necessarily mean you'll automatically look good on stage. Just because you teach beginners doesn't mean you should be in a show. The choreography also left a lot to be desired. Social Dance doesn't automatically translate well to the stage. But, maybe as a former professional dancer and current choreographer/teacher my standards are too high. Saturday night's nearly full-house gave the show a standing ovation.

    On the plus side, the musicians and singers were often very good. Timothy Tate and Elisia Pride stand out, especially Pride's Stompin' at the Savoy. And, when I danced in Dick Feeney's Lullabye of Swing in a Waikiki showroom, I gained a lot of respect for good brass players. They often told us dancers that what they did every night was "man against steel". So, kudos to trumpeter Audrey Husted and the rest of the 42nd Street Swing Band under the able baton of Brenton Brown. That brass section was a triumph of men over metal.

    Which leads me back to my main question: if the singers can be so good and the musicians can be so good, why can't the dancers hold up their end of the bargain? I'm sure there are more and better-trained dancers out there in the community. Why they're not showing up and auditioning for local productions, I can't say. But, they do say "it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing". To which I have to add: "Swing don't have a chance, if you can't make it dance!"

    9.5.2006: Taking a Look at Take the Lead

    Antonio Banderas is aging well and can still fill out a tuxedo as well as he did when he first appeared in The Mambo Kings back when he was a relative unknown in the US. Unfortunately, while his back and, more importantly, his heart are in the right place in Take The Lead, his shoulders and his supporting cast fail to follow his lead in the New Line Home Entertainment DVD. It's the Hollywood version of the vision of ballroom champion Pierre Dulaine. He's the ballroom dancer who began teaching mambo, tango, salsa and swing steps to inner-city New York City students. As you might expect, everyone thought he was crazy: the kids, the teachers, the principals, the PTA. But, his "dance is life" philosophy and old-world etiquette and charm eventually win everyone over. And, that was the real McCoy (or I should say the real Dulaine) emceeing in the documentary Mad, Hot Ballroom earlier this year and the "climactic" competition to TTL. And, much as I wanted Take The Lead to succeed, it suffers in comparison to MHB. In fact, the most interesting segments of the DVD are the extras: the Dungeon Kids documentary with the young dancers, the real life story of Dulaine, the multi-angled tango dance sequence with a real champion dancer partnered by the serviceable Banderas. (At least he comes from a culture that appreciates men dancing. Latin men can bring a lot of sophisticated machismo and bull-fighter swagger to the ball-room floor. He's no stiff, but, Banderas is also no Dulaine on the dance floor.) Even dancers may find Take The Lead a little too much of a Hollywood-ized fairy tale to swallow. I know it's based on a real story, but, the acting (especially of the young extras, including the star of Step Up) seems straight out of Beverly Hills High School...and, not 'da inner city Bronx. Rent TTL if you're a dancer, but, don't forget to watch the extras for the real story behind the story. Maluhia out!

    8.29.2006: Gone, But, Not Forgotten

    Just got an e-mail from former CCDC student Leah S now relocated to the Golden State. She says she starts classes this week at a dance studio similar to Capital City Dance Center, but, that teaches the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus. Minimum four classes a week required at her level. Their annual recital features excerpts from classical ballets like Coppelia and Giselle. And, many of their students spend the summer training in New York City. When Leah visited her new dance school, she says she spotted a sign on a studio door saying "No Bun. Enter at your own risk" and immediately thought of Missy!

    She promises to write again. But, if you want Leah's e-mail address, drop us a note on the CCDC "Contact" page. Remember, "gone, but, not forgotten" works both ways!

    8.28.2006: Fall Classes Resume Today!

    ...and here's my horoscope for the first day of fall classes at CCDC:
    "...You should be able to sense something new starting today -- the efforts you have made over the past several months are finally starting to create exciting changes. Get ready for more responsibilities and a greater sense of security in your life...."

    ...hmmm. Still waiting for that "greater sense of security" to kick in!

    8.25.2006: Pointes of Interest

    Photos of Jason Hartley's Ballet Master Classes at Capital City Dance Center posted at Des Moines Register Website.

    8.22.2006: Recent Reviews

    A couple of performances to mention in passing: First, we caught a show in Branson, MO on a recent trip out of town. It was the first time I'd been to the little Vegas of the midwest. And, it was a real eye opener. After driving through miles and miles of Missouri hills and groves, you come upon a little Reno sprouting up in the middle of nowhere. There's no gambling, though. Just shows and shopping. Imagine! Las Vegas without the "lost wages"! People come to be entertained and we were no exception. I wanted to see some good dancing, but, the poor man's Riverdance, Beijing Acrobats and Cirque de Soleil shows were dark the day we went. We saw the Broadway Revue (FREE parking!) and it was better than I expected even though all the music was recorded. (At least, we never saw any musicians).

    The tap number from 42nd Street started it off and it was the weakest number. Because the tap sounds were also prerecorded and the dancers weren't actually "hoofing it". (What do you call "tap lip-synching"? Tap Synching?) Either way it was a disappointing beginning, but, the show improved from there. The dancers were good for the most part. There were excerpts from all the big and not-so-big Broadway hits: Phantom of the Opera, Chorus Line, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Cats, Mama Mia etcetera. I really enjoyed the Hey, Big Spender number. There was one girl and two guys who really caught my eye. And, that caused me to ask myself again, what is it that seperates one dancer out of a chorus line? It was attack and technique and personality that pops! An irresistible combination! That's what I want to train my students to show!

    There were two decent singers and an Osmond brother featured as well. And, Merrill Osmond is quite the performer. He doesn't have the best vocal chops, but, he can sell a song with the best of them. He's comfortable and relaxed on stage. For such a short guy, Merrill projects larger-than-life!

    And, speaking of personality, kudos to Benji for winning the title "America's Favorite Dancer" in the finale of the second season of SYTYCD last week. Travis was the better technician, but, Benji was no slouch. And, he just seemed more genuine and looked like he was having the time of his life! He's like the quintessential All-American boy! A Tom or Colin Hanks that can dance! I really enjoyed when he and his cousin Heidi were able to show off their ballroom technique. Their Salsa and Mambo sizzled!

    Finally, one last word about Jason Hartley's brilliant performances at his benefit concert this past weekend. (And, by the way, he's talking about doing another benefit next summer!) He's got technique and personality plus as well! How do you teach or coach that kind of confidence? Well, a lot of it is life-experience. But, if you're a young student and aspiring performer, make it a point to accept challenges, put yourself out there, get out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. Test yourself a little...then, a lot. Do it often. The more you succeed, the more confidence you'll breed. Demand your best. Take a risk. Jason left his home and family at a young age to attend one of the best, most competitive dance programs in the country. It was sink or swim, small fish in biggest pond. Remember that old adage: That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger. But, you don't have to leave friends and family to hold yourself to the highest standards. And, when I say 'take a risk', of course, don't do anything stupid, illegal or immoral. Maluhia out!

    8.21.2006: Scenes From A Weekend

    It'd been years since I'd seen Washington Ballet Principal Dancer Jason Hartley. The last time was when I gave him class at CCDC Guest Instructor Lynn Andlauer's old studio. I did what I like to call my "program" class, a set barre and center to an old Lynn Stanford cassette. Afterwards, he looked at me and said "...that was pretty grueling. Not much fun. And, it was probably real good for me!"...Jason took class from me again on Saturday morning along with a studio full of star-struck CCDC dancers. Afterwards, he said pretty much the same thing, "Wow! That was way harder than I thought it was going to be! I thought I gave a lot of balances at barre. You give way more than I do!" But, we both agreed that most teachers don't give enough. And, daily class for most professionals is usually far easier than what students are given. Company class is to warm up and place and get ready for a day of rehearsals and/or performances. Student classes are to train, build strength and learn. Don't confuse one with the other...The last time I saw Jase perform was the School of Ballet Iowa's Chipolino. It was a Konstantin Uralsky ballet based on an old Russian fable about an onion who leads the rest of the vegetables in a revolt against an abusive tyrant. At least that's the best I can recollect of it...Watching him this weekend was a real eye-opener. He left Iowa for North Carolina School of the Arts when he was just about 14 or so. Hartley left a man-child, he came back a "man's man" this weekend. His three solos were alternately majestic, slyly humorous, athletic and irreverent. His stillness and attack and commitment to movement demonstrated why he's at the highest level with a major national company and is working with Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Project during his layoff...Too bad, he's such a "poor starving artist", he couldn't even afford a shirt in his first two solos! And, then, when he finally managed to scrounge a shirt for his last appearance, he couldn't afford any buttons and barely kept it on! Fortunately, he looks like he's chiseled out of marble, so the women in the audience probably weren't complaining!...When I first saw him, he told everyone, "This is the guy who taught me how to do double tours!" I said, "No, no! You could already do double tours when I met you! I just challenged you to do them better." But, then, he told me he remembers the corrections and preparation I showed him way back when...and that he still teaches them the same way. And, so it goes. From my teacher to me, from me to Jason. From Jason to his students. We're all part of that grand tradition of imparting the art and technique of ballet from generation to generation...Real touching moment when Jason presented his mother with flowers at the end of the show to a standing ovation. And, overall, it was a magical evening...Unofficially, I hear a significant amount was raised from the performance and the workshops held at CCDC. It should put a decent dent in Glady Hartley's medical bills...It looked like about 600 showed up for the performance...Along with the dancers at Sunday's concert were three vocalists. They all had different strengths, but, my favorite was Larry Berenguel, Jr. His voice sounded like stale cigarettes and watered down whisky on a Sunday afternoon at the old watering hole...and I mean that as a compliment! Homey as honey, intimate and evocative...Despite some nerves, the Capital City Dance Center students did well on Sunday. Kudos to Sean Laughead, Catherine Wootten, Sarah Zuber, Hannah Cooper and Maggie Hall. They performed excerpts from Giselle and were the only dancers en pointe and performing classical ballet there. Heard a lot of nice comments afterwards from audience members and organizers...There was a brief question-and-answer session after the first dance workshop at CCDC on Friday. Jason was asked what his favorite role was. He said "This." And, he did a forward roll on the floor, popped up and said, "That was my favorite roll!" And, he laughed, proving you can take the boy out of the small town, but, you can't take the boy out of the man!...Seriously, when we repeated the question he said he just finished Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and he really enjoyed "dying on stage". Then he was asked if he recommended leaving to train at North Carolina School of the Arts. He seemed a little ambivalent, saying you leave a lot of friends and family behind. Finally, I asked him what advice he gives to dancers who say they want to become a professional dancer. He leaned back, crossed his arms and said, "I say do it ONLY if you love it. You're not going to make a lot of money. You're not going to be recognized on the street. Do it only if you love it. I get to do what I love everyday. Otherwise, it's not worth it."...and, it's all true. I never danced at the level Jason is dancing at now, but, I'll finish off by telling a little story about the one time I was recognized on the street. (Yes, this ballet blog is all about me! Unless you submit something! Especially reviews wanted!) I was a principal dancer at a small northern company and had just finished a weekend of performances. I dragged myself out of bed early on a Monday or Tuesday morning and rushed to catch the bus to company class. (Still couldn't afford a car, think "poor starving artist") I was unshaven, bleary-eyed and was stuffing myself with a breakfast bagel while wrestling with my gigantic dance bag. That's when a young, neatly dressed gentleman in a suit, an obvious rising young junior executive type, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Really enjoyed you in the ballet this weekend. Thank you very much!" I forget what I mumbled around a mouthful of whole-wheat bagel, but, I was a little embarassed at actually being recognized out in public. So, be careful what you wish for!

    8.21.2006: Media Mentions

    Did you miss the TV news story on Iowa dancer Jason Hartley?

    I'm not sure how long it's going to be on the KCCI website, but, you should be able to find it here for at least the next few days. Best on broadband or DSL connection, of course. Just click and drag the video file and press play on the screen above it.

    8.16.2006: Message From Melissa

    Dear Parents and Students of CCDC:

    Can you believe the summer is almost over? I hope your last few months have been filled with fun, rest, family time and dance!

    Here at Capital City Dance Center, Fall semester classes begin on August 28th. Have you registered yet? There are many families I have yet to hear from. Now, for those of you that have registered, I've indicated for which classes, monthly tuition and if I have received your registration fee at the bottom of this letter. I hope to be hearing from the rest of you soon!

    During the spring recital, I had fall brochures out for each one of you with the classes that were recommended for each student. If they were not picked up, they were sent in the mail the following week. If you have lost your brochure, please let us know or you can get all the information you need by going to our website at "GoCCDC.Com". You are welcome to register on line or pick-up a registration form at the studio. We'll be open 6:00pm-8:00pm, Monday-Thursday. We have completed our summer session, but, we are still having "Stay in Shape" classes for Ballet 4,5+6 during this time.

    For those of you interested in auditioning for Nutcracker, there are two I recommend: Iowa State Center in Ames which auditions September 10th and Iowa Dance Theatre (DsM Civic Center) which auditions August 26th and August 27th.

    Some good news for next year's recital! I have found a location in Des Moines (Drake University Performing Arts Hall) and I have a contract coming to me in the mail. We will have recital on the dates I had already planned (June 8th and June 9th). Our new location is not a high school and it will not be going under construction, so we should be set this year. Valley High School is still under construction for another year.

    Hope to hear from you all soon! If you have any questions, please call 276-1646 or email from our contact page or to "Missy@GoCCDC.Com". (For quickest response, please email if possible.) More information can be found on our website at "GoCCDC.Com".


    Melissa Uyehara
    Artistic Director
    Capital City Dance Center

    PS. Many of you still have recital photos waiting to be picked up at the studio.

    8.14.2006: Step Up Steppin' Out!

    Okay, I confess. I'm a sucker for a dance movie. Keep that in mind as I review the Triton Films latest offering Step Up. It's hard for me to be objective enough to figure out if a non-dance fan adult would enjoy this film. It has some attractive leads who do their own authentic dancing, but, it telegraphs its few plot developments like a beginning dancer before a big move. But, kids of all ages, dancers and non-dancers, should enjoy this doesn't require a lot of gray matter.

    I'm not going to break down what little plot there is. Suffice to say there's a street-dancin' boy from the wrong side of the tracks who meets a contemporary/ballet girl dancer who needs a big performance...or, she'll be forced (collective gasp!) to go to college! Girl recruits boy after potentially disastrous injury to old partner...for rehersals only, mind you! And, there's a plethora of typical misunderstandings, late arrivals, storming out of rehearsals, long soulful gazes, misses on oh-so-near kisses while dancing during long sunsets...until the fateful day and the fateful "big performance". The only thing missing is the "big audition" scene. Sure, it's cliche'. But, cliche's are founded on fact and every dancer should be able to relate in some fashion.

    The best dance scene comes in the club. It's modified line dancing, but, with street interludes. Lotta energy. Looks great. It's authentic. Music rocks. What more could you ask for?

    I guess you could ask for a fresh plot and more character development and depth. But, you have to support the dance movies that come out so Hollywood gets the message. And, if there's more dance movies, maybe there'll be something that measures up. Turning Point is still my favorite. Followed closely by Strictly Ballroom. With the other Baryshnikov films somewhere under there. Center Stage is adrift in the middle. Save The Last Dance is somewhere near the bottom. Poor Julia Stiles is no dancer! And, Altman's The Company is wandering somewhere in a seperate universe of its own. But, at least Neve Campbell actually trained as a serious classical dancer when she was younger.

    I was hoping by going to see Step Up this weekend, it would help make it number one at the box office. Unfortunately, Will Ferrell's Talladega Nights held onto the top slot. You know what that means. More NASCAR movies speeding your way.

    8.6.2006: So You Think You Can Influence The Voting

    ***SPOILER ALERT*** Read no further if you haven't watched the latest installment of SYTYCD!!***SPOILER ALERT*** Well, I don't have a big problem with the latest cuts in the Fox Television competition. But, I do have a bone to pick with the judges' comments. Just stop the blatant negative campaigning! This isn't the race for Governor! Did it seem patently obvious to anyone else the judges had their marching orders on Wednesday night's show? Whenever you watch or evaluate a performance, most people have negative and positive reactions. But, why did the panel uniformly focus on disparaging Natalie and Ivan and praising the others? Normally, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but, having worked in the medium, I know ratings and the bottom-line drive every television production. And, the American voting public apparently fell into line and, so, we say goodbye to Tasha and Ivanski.

    Also, offa da toppa my head, the biggest compliment for a dancer in the show was Mia Michael's ode to Travis. When she said she looked forward to working with him in the future, in effect, letting him know she would hire him. That was similar to what happened last year...I forget the judge or the contestant. But, that's music to a dancer's ears, "You've gotta job with me. I would hire you to dance for me." That's what it's all about! Finding someone who believes in you that will challenge you to grow as a dancer...and getting paid to do it!

    I also always get a kick out of Mia's other comments: telling Benji she was disappointed in his "shortcomings" when she worked with him, but, also, praising his rare "star" quality. Telling Heidi she was so well "grounded" now in her dancing, she was "Mother Earth". Her warning at the end of one show to the dancers saying this is TV, enjoy it while it lasts. The world of a working dancer is a far cry from reality television. That's why I'm so disappointed Ms. Michaels played along with the rest of the judges' cabal, and piled on the criticism of Nat and that "baby-faced killer".

    Speaking of, Ivan lasted far longer than I expected or wanted him to...but, even as the president of the "Anti-Baby-Faced Killer" club, I have to admit he had gotten better. I hope he does watch that Step Up movie and get himself some real dance training. Then, he has a chance of becoming a real "Seabiscuit". And, Heidi was not one of my favorites when the competition began, but, she has just worked and worked and worked. I'm calling for her and her cousin, Benji to be the last ones standing. And, here's hoping we get to see them perform their strength together, west coast swing. Wouldn't that just BURN the house down?

    And, how about being classy in defeat? Natalie shrugging and yelling "Opa!" after Cat Deeley broke the bad news. We can't all win everything, but, that graciousness tells me she's got what it takes to outlast rejection and carve out a career for herself. Sometimes success is about just not giving up.

    8.3.2006: More Feedback On SYTYCD

    Apparently, I'm not the only one "time-shifting" SYTYCD:
    "...I was stunned Allison was voted off. I really thought Natalie would go, even though she's my favorite. Allison is the most versatile dancer -although Benji has nailed everything he's tried too..."
    ...I'm still in mourning for the elimination of Allison. I may have to actually rent High School Musical to get my Allie "fix".

    7.28.2006: So You Think You Can Out Guess the American Public

    SPOILER ALERT---In case you haven't watched the latest installment of SYTYCD and you don't want to know the results, read no further---SPOILER ALERT...I still can't believe it! What is America thinking? WHO is doing all that voting out there? Allison has been cast off the island? She is such a strong, strong performer with a genuine, infectious love for dancing. Fabulous technique, attack and a smile to die for. She grew into one of my favorite females on the show this season. Her smooth hip-hop number with that baby-faced killer Ivan was one of the highlights of the performance show. I'd said she'd survived the "kiss of death" having been anointed a favorite early in the season, but, I guess I spoke too soon.

    And, her final solo performance broke my heart. It seemed she was saying her goodbyes to Travis, an intimate and private farewell on all too public stage. You could tell by the tear stained faces of Natalie and Ivan that Allison was well-liked by the other competitors.

    And, just what is that baby-faced killer still doing on the show? And, worse, getting the second most-male votes? Ivan's been getting a little better, but, he's still a one-trick pony who should be trotting off into the sunset soon. And, I've referred to Ryan as "charismatically challenged" before. As much as Allison shared herself with the audience from the stage, Ryan distanced himself from us with his dancing. Prodigious technique, line and "hops" for days, but, emotionally self contained and reserved. I still admire his technical ability, but, because he danced more for himself instead of for the audience, I'm not surprised to see him go.

    (Did anybody else notice last year's SYTYCD winner Nick Lazarini screaming for Travis during one cutaway?)

    On another note, I complained earlier that we wouldn't get the chance to see cousins Heidi and Benji do what they do best and do it together: ballroom. But, fortunately, a mid-season change in the competition format provided the opportunity. And, they seized it and made the most of it! Their quick mambo by choreographer Ryan de Silva lived up to my hope and hype. I liked their broadway, but, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll get a chance to see them share their best at ballroom a few more times this season.

    If not, I guess we'll have to wait until the top ten SYTYCD Concert tour. And, speaking of, apparently details of that tour finally being announced. Excuse me while I figure out the closest stop. Maluhia out!

    7.27.2006: Curiouser and Curiouser

    So, this is my horoscope today:

    "...Like a famous ballet dancer, you're full of breathtaking grace and beauty today. Your physical and emotional moves will amaze and entertain everyone -- who knew you could move so well in such precarious situations? You have a unique talent for balancing on the thinnest edge today, so take advantage of it and start pushing the envelope on a particular project. Balance is never terribly easy, but right now you can handle it with ease..."

    ...Does this mean I'm not " a famous ballet dancer" ordinarily? Or does it mean I'll have an especially good class today? Or...just that I should quit focusing on what others say my day will be like?

    7.26.2006: Whee-mail!

    This e-mail from CCDC Modern/Yoga/Pilates/Jazz Instructor Alissa H proves we're not the only ones who think dance makes a "hot ticket":
    "...I was just checking out the Hancher Auditorium website and they have a lot of good dance performances scheduled. Here is what I found:

    • Martha Graham Dance Company
      Tuesday, October 3rd 7:30 p.m.

    • Batsheva Dance Company
      Thursday, October 19th 7:30 p.m.

    • University of Iowa Dance Gala
      Friday and Saturday, November 3rd and 4th

    • Miami City Ballet, Don Quixote
      Friday, November 10th 7:30 p.m.

    • Classic Savion
      Wednesday, November 15th 7:30 p.m.

    All performances are at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City. Tickets are available through the Hancher website..."

    7.24.2006: Whee! Get E-mail!

    Even more on SYTYCD:

    "...I expected Martha to be voted off -and was very relieved that Natalie stayed because she is one of my favorites. In fact the remaining four girls are all so wonderful.

    Like you I expected Ryan to get voted off. Apparently that idiot Ivan is sucking off enough female votes that left Dimitry vulnerable..."

    ...But, what do you really think about Ivan?

    7.21.2006: So You Think You Can Discuss The TV Show

    Comments from other SYTYCD fans. (Just a note: because I TIVcrO the show, warn me if you're going to reveal any results!) Like this InnerDanzer did:
    "...I know you haven't watched the show yet but just to whet your appetite-here's a few thoughts:

    Mia Micheals choreography was amazing. She choreographs two dances and they are both unbelievable. I think she's kind of weird -but last night she was the ****.

    Also Shane Sparks is one of M and I's favorites. And, Tyce Diorio provided a really nice jazz routine for last night's show. He's pretty cool.

    Sadly after last week I have to say my favorite judge, Dan Karaty is not the world's greatest choreographer. I thought both of his routines lacked anything innovative to help the dancers shine. So I don't think it was a coincidence that both the couples he choreographed were in the bottom two.

    Anyhoo -just my thoughts - wanted to get them down before I forget..."

    Well, I've already written about my admiration for MM. And, I admire SS's stuff, but, it's a hard, difficult genre...especially for contestants who train in more lifted, lengthened and less-funky styles. It's very, very complicated, dense and complex steps. Ever since Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation CD and videos exploded on the scene, a new vital and vigorous, but, demanding dance form has dominated the contemporary commercial dance scene. This ain't your Liza Minelli Jazz dance anymore! I have a lot of admiration for dancers who work in this style.

    I like DK's judging comments and his choreography. Brian Friedman is also someone whose stuff is always interesting. You have to keep in mind they tailor their choreography to make their dancers look as good as possible. Sometimes (Like when BF worked with Dmitry and Ashlee) they deliberately work to hide deficient technique and weak points. That could affect the final product.

    Here's another comment:

    "...So I'm sitting here watching SYTYCD and I just have one question--since when is an aerial cartwheel a dance move? And why does every soloist think they have to throw one in? If this is what it takes to be a dancer, I'm in trouble--I broke my gymnastics coach's nose when I was 10!

    I don't have an opinion on who should win yet, but I can already tell that none of these dancers are choreographers. All of the solos are terrible! Many of them look great in the partnering work, and a lot of them are talented, but on a show like this you can really tell that the choreographer has a lot to do with that--even the best dancer looks rotten doing a cheesy dance or just prancing around to Gwen Stefani like what's-her-name (who's surely going home this week!)..."

    Good call. Martha is indeed one of the victims of the vote this week. But, as we learned, she just turned 19! And, with the publicity of the show and a coming year-long series of performances, her future is solid!

    As for the aerials, a lot of competition dancers have long incorporated gymnastics into their routines. I think it's just another sign of the need for aspiring professionals to cross-train and become more and more versatile. The more you can do, the more a choreographer can do with you. For example, I made the "mistake" of showing off my press to handstand from splits (my one gymnastic C Level move left since I landed on my head during my last back handspring) during two separate rehearsals. And, the move's been incorporated into two pieces by two different choreographers. And, I showed a front handspring during rehearsals for one of my first Trepaks. That move was eventually taken out. I don't think any of the other guys could do it. (Yes, most of this ballet blog is all about me!  And, my experiences!  It's the nature of blogs.) But, the more you can do...the more you can separate yourself from other dancers.

    7.21.2006: So You Think You Can...OMG! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

    SPOILER ALERT!!!---Read no further if you haven't watched the latest episode of SYTYCD---SPOILER ALERT!!!---Oh. My. God! WHAT just happened? I just shut off my poor man's TIVcrO and I'm still scraping my jaw off the floor! Dmitry has been eliminated? Along with my early-season favorite, Martha? Did the sun just rise in the west this morning?

    Well, okay...I could see Martha's ouster coming. She blew me away in the opening rounds, but, as the weeks went on, other competitors kept improving and stepping up their game. She didn't keep up and couldn't play to the TV-watching public enough to get their votes. And, all the women are so, SO much stronger this season! There's not a weak dancer technically or charismatically in the remaining final four: Heidi, Allison, Natalie and Donyelle. That's a warning for Ryan, the charismatically-challenged male version of Martha. Technique and extension aren't enough. They're just tools to be used for artistic expression. Having the most colors or the finest paintbrushes doesn't guarantee a La Gioconda painting everytime. In that vein, watch out for Allison! She survived the "kiss of death" by being anointed as a contender by the judges early. Usually, the American public then starts voting for their other favorites. Allison has both the experts and the general public in her corner. I said, this is a strong, strong crop of dancers this season. And, I wouldn't be surprised to see any of the girls emerge as the winner. Having said that, I'd like to see Allison and Heidi battling it out at the end.

    As for the guys, I was already saying goodbye to Ryan when host Cat Deeley announced Dmitry would be going! Say what you will about D---and, believe me I've said them!---He's got charisma and presence oozing out of those Russian pores. He was always at a disadvantage during solos because he's trained to dance ballroom with partners...and you could always sense the absence of an other while he was fighting for survival. (But, as Nigel pointed out, crowd favorite Benji has enough firepower in his dance arsenal to raise the barre for every other ballroom or swing dancers' solo.) And, I think it's only a matter of time before Ryan and Ivan say "Aloha" to the audience. (And, I love Ryan's technique!) But, I'll be very shocked if Benji and Travis aren't squaring off to go one-on-one near the end. Of course, I've been shocked before!

    Choreographer Mia Michaels did an absolutely amazing job with Travis and Heidi's piece. That choreography transcended the medium of televison, the tedium of TV...heck, it transcended time and space! It lives somewhere where hearts, emotions, feelings and art live! Watching the little snippets of Mia coaching Heidi not to "DANCE" but, to be a human being doing human movements was amazing and instructive. (Teachers note to students: You can only do that well if you have considerable technique to begin with! Don't make the mistake of thinking there wasn't constant technical demand in that piece!) I'd love to be a fly on the wall in one of her classes or rehearsals!

    And, very pleased to hear Nigel say they're taking up one of my suggestions from last season: Arranging a national tour for the top ten dancers. I think they should try to bring in some of the crowd favorites from season one. The original Ryan's crew, for example. Either way, that should be a hot, HOT ticket in any town!

    7.16.2006: So You Think You Can Pick The Winner!

    Say goodbye to street dancer Musa and pop-locker Ashlee after SYTYCD's latest episode! After five weeks of cuts to get the top twenty down to the final ten, it's getting harder and harder to figure out who's going to go. Who do I think should go? Well, speaking as a dancer, teacher and choreographer, Ivan and Dmitry are the weakest of the guys. I admit Ivan made tremendous strides in his last contemporary performance...even moving judge Mary Murphy to tears. But, Benji and Travis should be the last guys left to battle it out. Fit this year's Ryan someplace in there even though he seems charismatically challenged. And as Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe should have said to Dmitry "Hey, this show isn't called So You Think You Can Show Your Abs...And Win. Yes, he exudes a certain boyish, roguish charms that makes at least one female friend of mine (and the female judges) weak in the knees. But, his act is wearing out awfully quick for me.

    What about the distaff dancers? Natalie, Allison, Heidi, Martha and Donyelle? I've been on Martha's bandwagon since day one. But, it's an extremely strong group of women. I wouldn't be surprised to see any one of them left standing at the end. If Natalie didn't stretch her legs every single centimeter at every opportunity, her body type would be a weak would Donyelle's. And, from the judge's comments, it  appears Donyelle is suffering from a back injury that could limit her in the end. And, Allison is such a charismatic performer with such strong technique that I can't count her out. And, Heidi is a much better dancer than she thinks she is...she needs to relax more and trust her technique. She belongs to be in the conversation.  I just hope she and Benji get to show their Latin Dance technique before the show ends.

    I finally succumbed and checked out the Fox TV SYTYCD website. There's a lot of background material on the dancers. Check it out if you think you can't live without SYTYCD between broadcasts. It should be very interesting this week as the show switches formats. Dancers will now have new partners and also perform solos? Good choice, Nigel! Can't wait for Wednesday! And, as always, the wild card is the American voting public!

    7.17.2006: Whee! Get "Di-Mail"!

    Have you been wondering what's been happening with CCDC alumnus Dmitriy K? Just got an e-mail from him saying to say "hello" to everyone. He congratulated everyone on the recital and, especially, the dancers attending summer programs. He says he graduated from the University and is applying for the graduate MBA program. Dima left for Israel this past weekend. He admits the situation there is heating up, but, the opportunity to visit the Holy Land was too much to pass up. He also says it's a chance to get together with other expatriates from Russia. He closes by saying he misses everyone at CCDC and to keep working hard!

    Want Dima's e-mail address?  Leave us a note in the Contact page.

    Bon voyage, mi ami! And God Speed! ...And they should have e-mail even in a war zone!

    7.16.2006: Footloose and Fancy Free

    Okay, I confess. I had never seen the movie before I caught the Des Moines Playhouse production of Footloose this weekend. Dancer friends had warned me the dancing was mediocre. So, I never bothered to rent the Kevin Bacon movie...nor sit through any of the endless reruns on cable. (But, I have to admit I'd caught enough snippets over the years to think Bacon's appearance playing himself on an episode of NBC's Will and Grace was "sizzlin'"!) Still, the Playhouse production is making me rethink my reluctance.

    The musical Footloose is the Grease of a new generation. Most of this young cast were just a gleam in the eye of their parents when the original film came out back in the early eighties. And, the youngsters (And oldsters!) bring an energy and earnest exuberance that overcame some technical issues, spotty singing and dancing that thoroughly entertained an almost full house Saturday night.

    Anybody who remembers that decade will probably get a rush of nostalgic guilty embarrassment at the self-indulgent dance moves, the big, big hair and the distinctive clothing from nearly a quarter century ago. Were we ever that young and that ridiculous? Will we look back at what we do now and shake our heads again? More importantly, were Nike shoes ever so plain, monochromatic and just about running?

    Newcomer Grant C. Hansen has the all-American look as Ren McCormack. But, sometimes his singing voice didn't match the projection of his spoken lines. And, since this is a ballet blog that focuses on dance, Hansen has only one series of dance moves that he performs over and over again. One could argue that it's appropriate to his role and the age, but, such a realistic take can get monotonous. Especially in a character that should be driven to express himself through dancing. Hansen does bring a lot of energy and boyish charm to his acting, but, to rise above the level of community theater, we're waiting for our hero to get his behind in dance class.

    The other lead, Christie Burgess is an interesting choice as Ariel Moore. She acts and sings well, but doesn't have the look or the dancing chops. Her traveling pirouette and lay-out in the final dance scene nearly wiped out some of the background dancers. I'd really like to see what some of the supporting cast of Ariel's friends would have done with the part: Dani Cisna, Alexis Van Vleet or Stephanie Fravel. I enjoyed their ensemble singing and individual acting, especially in the Somebody's Eyes and Holding Out For A Hero numbers.

    Ed McAtee is a hoot as Willard Hewitt. It's easy to believe he was really just reliving his high school daze on stage. His learning how to dance at the Bar-B-Que is an exuberant number that drew some of the loudest applause of the night. Carol Palmer (Ethel McCormack) and Susan M. Grozier (Vi Moore) are strong singer/actors and their duet to Learning to be Silent was a high point that overcame a plethora of lighting miscues. Melody Nelson makes the comedic most of a small role as Betty Blast in shiny silver unitard and roller skates. Jonathan Brugioni is worth an extra mention in the ensemble. His jazz dance training and experience in competition performance shows, and the Nutcracker veteran may have found a future niche on stage worth pursuing.

    I enjoyed the Playhouse production of Footloose. And, when we got home after a late dinner, I saw that Footloose, the movie was showing that night on the Superstation WGN cable channel. So, I sat down and I watched it from beginning to end. And, I enjoyed that, too. Thanks, Playhouse!

    7.12.2006: Washington Ballet Founder Dies

    This just in from the Washington Post:
    "...Mary Day, co-founder of the Washington School of Ballet, one of the nation's finest training grounds for classical dancers, and the grande dame of Washington ballet for six decades, died of complications from heart disease yesterday at her home in Washington. She was 96...."
    Read the entire article here. (Editor's Note: CCDC dancer Catherine W is currently training at the Washington School of Ballet Summer Session.

    7.12.2006: More From Summer Programs

    Add another CCDC dancer attending national summer programs. Here are excerpts from an update from Katie H's Mom:
    "...Katie is having a fabulous time in Milwaukee! She did have a chance to meet Sean on Sunday before we left....he was very nice :) Elizabeth has been more elusive -- she has met several dancers who know her, but has yet to meet her face-to-face.

    She is really enjoying the classes...She tells me that the modern is very similar to the modern at Capital City. She loves the choreography that they are rehearsing for their performance...

    They are also preparing for a talent show on their last Wednesday night. They are all encouraged to participate and can be in one number -- and it cannot be ballet! ...She says that is loads of fun :)

    The older dancers really take care of the younger girls. They have guided them around the city to find the essentials -- the beach, Starbucks, Coldstone Creamery :) I think that has been one of her favorite things -- the independence!..."

    Editor's note: We can always use MORE e-mails (subtle hint, hint) And, look for some of the CCDC dancers to start returning this week.

    7.12.2006: Notable Quotables

    From American Indian Ballerinas by Lili Cockerille Livingston, University of Oklahoma Press:
    "...Maria (Tallchief) says, 'When you walked into (Bronislava Nijinska's) class it was like going to church. You didn't go into class prepared to do anything less than your maximum effort. There was no 'I don't feel like doing anything today.' You did everything full out, or you were out. And you stayed out.'..."

    And, from the same book, Yvonne Chouteau:

    "...classical ballet in its purest form, demands spiritual focus as well as technical ability. There is much more to ballet than steps, and what makes it art comes from deep inside..."

    7.10.2006: Whee! Get E-mail!

    E-Note from CCDC faculty Alissa H.:

    "I was reading one of my dance anatomy books...and found some interesting information. (This gets a little long, but I'll do my best to sum it up). This particular section is in regards to the formation of particular neruo-muscular patterns. This is an excerpt from Dance Technique & Injury Prevention by Justin Howe:

    '...Coordination training develops pre-programmed automatic multi-muscular patterns. These are known as engrams. Constant, exact repetitions or practice will produce an engram, a condition where individual muscles or movements are not consciously considered... These automatic engrams can only be developed by voluntary repetition of the precise program...At the same time as the movements are occuring, the engram will produce inhibition of unwanted movements. This inhibition is an essential part of the regulation of coordination.

    In learning exercise patterns, and, of course, far more importantly in learning dance technique...accuracy is absolutely vital in order to develop the correct engram. If inaccuracies are allowed during the development of a technique, this will produce 'bad habits' and these very inaccuracies or bad habits will themselves become an engram. Once this has taken place, the modification of the faulty engram will be extremely difficult and may call for that portion of the technique to be learned again from scratch...'

    So, now when the dancers ask why we always correct them, they have an anatomical explanation! :) Thought you might find this interesting. I sure did! Guess what they will be learning about in modern class tonight..."

    7.8.2006: Media Mentions

    Quick notes about this and that: Watched the John Hancock Champions on Ice Tour last weekend. Some big names from the last century were there along with the current crop from Torino: Rudy Galindo, Surye Bonalee, Paschenko, Michelle Kwan, Arakawa (the Japanese female gold medal winner), Sasha Cohen and others.

    There was also an entertaining pair billed as the "fastest acrobats on ice". Two guys from the grand Russian Circus tradition that despite their billing, moved as slowly as possible. Did some stunts that I recall performing during my time with the Waikiki Acrobatic Troupe. Only I never did a shoulder stand with ice skates on!

    Another unknown skater with Russian Circus training did some tricks with metal hula hoops. And, for her finale', a metal box she spun on her hand. I bet these guys were all trained in the Soviet Circus and made the transition to skates. The Tour promoters probably hired them to fill time between the Champions!

    I was just telling some of the dancers I went with my story about how I dissed Bonalee at an earlier show ten or twelve years ago, when darned if she didn't skate back on the ice. Still without tights. Still throwing in that back summie tuck. Still the splayed arms and unstretched line. I applauded more out of amazement that she was still skating than any appreciation for artistry!

    But, the barely quarter-full arena got all the artistry it wanted when Michelle Kwan flowed out onto the ice. Also hard to believe she's only about 27! Seems like ancient history when she was chosen as the US alternate to the 1992 Olympics after the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan debacle. That's the one where Oksana Baiul bourre'ed off with the Gold. It's not easy to bourre' on ice skates, but, the Ukrainian ingenue managed to show up her elders with that win. (A few months later, I was at a news conference promoting the tour when she showed up. Never did get her autograph. And, I heard about it when I got home, too!)

    Now, on to So You Think You Can Dance! (Spoiler Alert!) Jaymez was finally let go this week. He should've been cut after a weak, weak solo last Thursday. But, it seems the judges are getting rid of the younger dancers and the two young girls and Ben paid the price in the opening weeks. I liked Jaymez Paso Doble variation this week, but, apparently the judges didn't. Interesting pointe solo from the girl who got cut. It's getting harder and harder to figure out who's going to go. But, I think Martha has got it all! And, that Ivan should fall on his knees and thank his partner for carrying him through. Heidi is endearing, she tries so hard! Some of the more interesting dance sequences are when the competitors are all free-styling during the closing credits and she starts dancing with her cousin, audience favorite, Benji. Unfortunately, the new rules this season will keep Heidi and Benji from showing what they do best with a partner that does what they're most trained in. I think Benji's Viennese Waltz was sublime and he managed to stifle his innate geekiness to channel his inner Dmitriy. As for that competitor, he's relying too much on his unbuttoned shirtless appeal to young (and old) girls to save himself for my taste.

    Also, rented Mad, Hot Ballroom and I defy you not to adore these young dancers! It's a documentary about a ballroom dance competition among fifth-graders from the boroughs of New York City. Some amazing (and not so amazing) dancing from such young competitors! You could see some of these kids on SYTYCD in future years!

    And, still waiting to hear more from CCDC dancers off to national summer programs! (hint, hint!)

    7.4.2006: Benefit Performance Planned

    A professional dancer's returning to Iowa next month to perform for his mother. And, Washington Ballet Principal Jason Hartley's organizing a benefit performance in Des Moines for the National Transplant Assistance Fund. His mother, Glady Hartley, is recovering from a lung transplant. The operation's costs aren't covered by her health insurance.

    Details are still being finalized, but the benefit concert will be held at the First Federated Chapel Auditorium at 48th and Franklin on Sunday, August 20, 2006. Hartley's planning to perform two contemporary dance solos. Other singers, dancers, musicians and actors from Iowa are being recruited to participate. A master dance class is also being planned for Capital City Dance Center in Urbandale to raise donations for the effort.

    All proceeds will be used to pay Glady Hartley's medical costs via the non-profit National Transplant Assistance Fund and are fully tax deductible as allowed by law.

    6.27.2006: Super Dancer!

    The Des Moines Register reports that "Superman" used to be a dancer.

    According to a brief mention in a recent article actor Brandon Routh took dance classes in his hometown of Norwalk, Iowa. This was before he flew off to LA to become a big-time star. Routh joins an impressive group of A-list celebrities who've trained as dancers. See! Good things happen to those who dance!

    And, just by coincidence, one of our CCDC family had a chance to get "up close and personal" with the rising star. Check out the e-mail:

    "...I decided on a whim to go see "Click" last night at Jordan Creek theatres at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night. When we got to the mall, the news crews were just packing up and there was a lim and a bunch of black SUVs around so we were trying to figure out what was going on. We went into the theatre and discovered that the Superman Returns premiere was playing so we asked one of the theatre employees if Brandon Routh (the guy who plays Superman in the movie) was in there and he said yes. So we waited until the movie got finished and people were coming out of the theatre in hopes to see him. No such luck. A little bummed but we went to our movie and had a good time. Then we came out of the movie (about 1:00 a.m. and saw that the limo and 2 of the SUVs were still at the mall. So we walked around the outside to discover that Brandon Routh was in a private party in Champps Restaurant. So I sent M___ inside and said if he didn't get kicked out I would come join him. He wandered around a few minutes and started talking to one of the security guys. Then I snuck in and joined him. We waited outside the door of the party room for about 15 minutes and then Brandon Routh came out! He talked to a few people out there and then came over to us and talked to us! We didn't have anything for him to sign, so we grabbed some Champps business cards (I know, random huh) and he signed the back of those for us!

    How awesome is that?!?!?!? :)..."

    6.26.2006: Message in an E-Bottle

    We have NOT been forgotten by at least two of the CCDC dancers away for summer programs! Here's an e-mail from two Ballet Sixers:

    "...This is Elizabeth and Sean. We miss you!! We are so sorry it took us so long to write. It took us forever to find an internet connection and we are not allowed to use dorm computers.

    I am very homesick, but Sean is not at all. He's being the stronger one!!!

    We got here last Sunday. I came up on Saturday and traveled around the city sightseeing with my family, while Sean spent the (what else would he be doing??) I love the city itself. We are living in the college town part of it. To our east is the rich part of the city with million dollar homes on beach front property. They are gorgeous!! the architecture is amazing and the beach itself is awesome. to our west there is a different part of the city...kind of ghetto-ish. that is where the studio is.

    the studio is downtown in the Latino district. there are three floors. the basement is a huge lounge with crappy couches to relax on. there are two huge studios on the first floor, and two smaller studios along with a viewing gallery on the second floor. It is a very confusing place with lots of doors and hallways and i still get lost. it is very dirty and i appreciate how clean our des moines studio is!!! sean says it is irritating that there are only mirrors on one wall. i think it is irritating that i have to do barre on barres attached to the wall. but i figure that it is fairly normal.

    i was placed in level four of six. in the morning i have 1 1/2 hours of ballet, one hour of pointe, and one hour of variations. my teacher the first week, Tatiana, is a company member and i loved her. she was so nice, but she had a accent that was sometimes difficult to understand. we learned Paquita in variations. i liked learning it. we got to spend a lot of time on it, compared to learning four variations in one week like we did with kim.

    missy, you were right--hops on pointe will never go away and they will haunt me for the rest of my life!!! :) when she gave that choreography i looked around for someone to laugh about it with haha then i realized nobody knows about any of that. by the way, i love love love having a piano player in class.

    my ballet teacher corrected my arm in second (elbow and palm) but said it was better on friday. one day she was trying to get me to spot my second pirouette and turn faster for doubles (which Joseph and Lynn both worked on). the next day she complimented my slow, floating pirouettes. i'm kind of confused on that one. she told me i look down too much (in class and during the variation). she tried to get me to use more turn out in my plies. those are just a few i can remember right now--she was actually very good about giving personal corrections and compliments.

    My Level 4 class has about 25 girls dancing in a studio smaller than our big studio. i feel very claustrophobic--i will have to get used to that.

    in the afternoon i had a two hour lunch break ( too long, but you would be proud to know that i spend about one hour stretching and doing balances--we do a total of about three balances at barre which is frustrating). i then had one hour of African class and one hour of African rehearsal. African consists of whipping your body around---my neck, arms, and shoulders were unbelievably sore the first half of the week and i went home with a headache on thursday and friday. my level is the only one performing African in the final show, so i have rehearsal in the continuing weeks while everyone else only had those classes for one week. next week i start my ballet piece, and we have pilates as well.

    (Sean speaking: Please forgive my immaculate French grammar and spelling) We start out the day with an hourn and one half long ballet class. I have Karl Von Raganeau (or something). I have had the rib correction once and a lift up one, too. They teach Vaganova... I think. I'm in Men's B, which is the lower of the two men's classes. We take with the level five girls. After ballet comes Men's Class. There are oodles of adagios with a la seconde turns. Also, we do a bit of petite allegros and lots of grande allegros. I have thus far been asked to demonstrate two things during that class, one for my assembles and one for my coupe jetes (!?). I do enjoy that class. Afterwards we have another hour of pas de deux with level six. We do a lot of pirouettes and tons of adagios. The adagios have lots of fun arms. We also do a lot of changements and entrechat six. I then have a lunch break with Elizabeth for part of it. Afterwards I have African, which is a fun cardio workout and then rehersal for two hours in ballet. We are doing "Classical Symphony" with the levels 1's and 2's. It's the thirteenth year of its performance by the summer program. Dun Dun Dun!

    (Elizabeth) There are some amazing dancers in levels 5 and 6. i love watching their class and rehearsals--many of them are or are going to be trainees in the company (it took me awhile to figure out what that meant). There are a lot of twenty somethings in the upper two levels. but they are amazing to watch.

    I did not get a roommate even though i requested one. there is only one other girl in my suite...and she paid for a single room, so i ended up getting one also. Most people have four or five in a suite---so my situation is unique. my suitemate went home this weekend so i am all alone my first weekend away. haha that can be good and bad. the dorms are nice. no air conditioning, but the nights have been cool and breezy so that is not a problem. you have to sign out to go everywhere with a buddy, which is very annoying. i like to be more independent, but i'll have to get used to that. dorm food is actually very good. many many choices---healthy and not so healthy.

    today we went to six flags. we spend six hours there, and rode six rides. needless to say lines were long. Sean rode his first roller coaster--we were very proud of him.

    Yes you did a wonderful job of preparing us to go away!! LIke i said, i was only sore from African and not from ballet class.

    We miss you very much. Tell everyone that we miss them too. We will keep you updated as we get more corrections and more classes. Sorry if this email was too long and detailed!

    Love, Elizabeth and Sean

    PS We forgot that Missy probably already knows what the studio looks like, but in case you forgot we provided a very descriptive image for you... :)"

    Anyone who wants to e-mail a reply to Elizabeth and Sean who doesn't already have their e-mail address, drop us a note in the Contact page.

    6.21.2006: Mail Call!

    GoCCDC.Com getting some interesting e-mails today. Here are some excerpts:

    "...I need dancers for a Slipknot movie:)!

    Lead Slipknot band guy Shawn Crahan called me up today and is making a music video/movie in October. Not sure I want to do this, but thought I'd get a head count of who might be interested. He said he wants about five women dancing, but that's not to say the guys can't help choreograph. Or guys in drag? Not sure I'm dark and scary enough for this one. It's about death and dying...

    "...Here's the weirdest part of all: he doesn't want to pay the dancers!! What an insult!! Might be able to get him to change on that one. What should we ask?..."

    Interested? Go to the contact page and we'll forward your info to the choreographer.

    On a lighter note, Sue K heard from daughter Sarah at the Universal Academy Summer Ballet Program in Washington DC this week:

    "...Sarah called Monday night.

    She seemed happy and good. All the girls were grouped by age, so she had class with 26 other 15 year olds...

    She felt good about the class and commented that they all had good feet!

    Monday she had 3 hours of ballet (assume pointe also), then an hour each of character, pilates and spanish dance.

    She went to the Royal Ballet mixed bill performance at the Kennedy Center last night with my brother.

    Her roommate is from Utah and sounds like they are getting along...I probably won't hear much from her til this weekend..."

    Editor's note: We have an open invitation to any CCDC students at out-of-state summer programs to e-or-snail mail us. Or, for their parents. And, that goes for kids who just take a dance class somewhere else on a vacation. We may not get much of a response, though. Not all the kids will have dependable access to the internet at their summer programs.

    6.16.2006: Beginnings and Endings

    Congratulations to all the students and faculty who just completed the "sizzlin'" CCDC Summer Intensive of 2006! We got a lot of positive comments from both groups about the other. And, this coming week kicks off the start of the CCDC Summer Workshops!

    Also, this week, the first of the CCDC students to head out to national summer programs are beginning their adventure! Work hard! Make us proud! We'll miss you! Don't forget to come back!

    And, don't forget to write! Send us an e-mail if you can and we'll post it on the website!

    Here are some questions or topics to get you started:

    • Where are you? How are the classes? How many levels are there and where are you placed?
    • What's your schedule like? How many classes are you taking a day? What kind of classes? How are your teachers?
    • How are the classes? What style are they? Any unusual corrections? Any "aha!" moments?
    • How are the other dancers? Anybody extraordinarily good? Where do they come from? How is their training?
    • How's the city? Have you been able to do any sightseeing? See any performances yet?
    • Who's your roommate? Are you getting along? How's the food?
    • Will you get to do any performances there this summer? What pieces? What music? What choreographers and what style?
    • Do you feel properly prepared for your summer program? What else should you have done to get better prepared?
    • How are the other dancers? Friendly? Kewl?
    • Do you miss us at all?:o(

    There! That should get you started! Merde!

    6.7.2006: Recital Reaction

    More excerpts from recent e-mails:

    "...I think the recital went very well! The location was perfect the show was delightful and very professional. We are a first time student. You made us feel welcome, well informed, and we enjoyed ourselves very much. Thanks for all your time, and efforts they are very much appreciated. Keep up the good work!"

    "... Your students danced beautifully, the facility was wonderful, and (my daughter) enjoyed the camaraderie with the other girls. She commented on how sweet and wonderful everyone is at your studio. As a mom, I appreciate that. Our relatives who attended commented on how enjoyable "Giselle" was. It really added to the performance having the story read ahead of time so they could understand what the dances meant. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication..."

    "...BTW, got your letter last week and find it amazing that you had to justify the decision to move everything to Ames. Seemed like a good save of a tough situation to me. Kudos for finding such a nice place so quickly..."

    "...The recital was beautiful and my daughter had a wonderful year of dance at your studio. She learned so much this year from Jill; I still can't believe it. And she LOVES it, which is (in my opinion) the most important piece of the puzzle."

    6.5.2006: Up Close and Personal

    Had an interesting conversation with 2006 CCDC Summer Intensive guest instructor Joseph Nygren-Cox when he arrived with his wife and daughter Sunday night. Joseph just completed his first chance to portray Albrecht in Louisville Ballet's Giselle. He says that allows him to "check-off" all the roles in the classical ballets he had wanted to do when he was younger. He says he still hasn't done Solor in La Bayadere, but that was never on his list of "wanna-doozies". Otherwise, he's done it all: Romeo, Albrecht, and the leads in Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Cinderella, Swan Lake. He says he'd love to do Romeo one more time before he hangs up his tights, just because the music is "so perfect". (I'm jealous. The one role I always wanted to perform, but never had the chance is Romeo in the balcony scene.)

    Joseph says he'll probably concentrate on teaching old-school Russian technique during the intensive this week. He says there are certain combinations that he was given when he was younger, that are handed down from teacher to student to new student. Combinations that span generations and he still recognizes from guest teachers. He wants to communicate that unwritten tradition and knowledge to Intensive students.

    Took him to the CCDC studios to give him a sneak peek. Joseph praised the triple-basket weave subflooring in the big studio. And, he said the small studio is almost the size of the big studio he rehearsed in when he was with the Dayton Ballet. He mentioned when he was there he learned a new way of jumping that helped him well as a reinforcement of rhythm in multiple pirouettes. Just some of the technique he plans to share with students this week.

    Cox-Nygren will also be teaching character dance during the intensive as well. Welcome to CCDC, Joseph, Kimmie and Evie!

    5.31.2006: The Reviews Are In

    Excerpts from some of the E-mails following "Giselle...And More!":

    "...First and foremost, the recital was INCREDIBLE!! The ballet was so breathtaking --and the 2nd half was so awesome. I can't believe I could see that recital twice in two days & continue to be held in the spell of those great kids!! (we will definitely be owning the DVD!!) You could really see the phenomenal work that must have gone into those performances--& how much the teachers must really really care--just very cool..."

    "...The whole recital was amazingly beautiful...thanks so much...for an incredibly inspired year..."

    "...Congratulations on another beautiful and entertaining recital! With all the roadblocks involved, it came off wonderfully!"

    "...You guys do a wonderful job!"

    5.29.2006: Must Dance TV

    Finally got a chance to watch the start of the second season of So You Think You Can Dance on Fox TV. For the uninitiated, it's the terpsichorean version of American Idol, same producer, Nygel Lithgoe, who serves as one judge.

    The formula is the same as AI, complete with clueless auditioners competing alongside undiscovered trained and true talent in the opening rounds. One of the first clueless wants to use the stage name "Sex", but, brings his mother along to the audition. Shades of Oedipus Rex, "Sex"! He's crushed when he fails to advance to Vegas and his mother lectures the TV camera and judges for failing to recognize "a real dancer" when they see one.

    But, one auditioner raised a few eyebrows when she tried out. (No, not the one that fell out of her top. Not once, not twice, but, at least three times forcing the censor to work overtime on her "wardrobe malfunctions".) Turns out the other auditioner graduated with a major in dance, choreographs and teaches and is PLANNING TO OPEN HER OWN DANCE STUDIO! But, she was so bad, the judges were horrified. That prompted judge Dan Karmody (sp?) to say that happens all the time. He says kids take classes 14 years and don't learn a thing ALL THE TIME.

    Okay, time out for editorial comment. Don't think it doesn't happen right here in your city. Not long after I got out of the professional dance game, I was taking classes to stay in shape while working a real job. In one studio, I took classes with teachers who had danced in a major American company. I met a student of theirs at barre who mentioned to me he had danced with them since he was like three, about 15-years. He told me he wanted to dance in college and was confident since he was a guy and so well trained, he'd do well. Watching him, I didn't think so, but, who was I to burst his bubble? He wasn't my student. But, I ran into him a few months later and he told me that he'd auditioned for many colleges and, at every one of them, he managed to tell them he'd been dancing since he was like three, about 15-years. But, he didn't do so well. No offers. Finally, one exasperated professor told him, "You have NOT taken dance for 15-years! You've taken one year 15-times! Now get off my stage!"

    Needless to say, my acquaintance was crushed. He told me he hated his teachers now and had never been back to their studio since. He felt cheated. He felt used. He had been robbed of time, money and youth just as surely as if they'd stuck a gun in his ribs and mugged him.

    Now, if parents or kids KNOW that all they want is a pretty costume and a recital at a big theater every year, that might, MIGHT be excusable. Not too demanding, more of a social event kind of dance class. After you graduate from high school, you can't dance well, but, have an attic full of sequined and glittery costumes and a lot of fun and fond memories to playback and photo albums to laugh at, then, that's fine. But, if you have a goal to become a professional-level dancer, then, it's a crime.

    End of rant. So You Think You Can Dance  on Fox TV.

    5.29.2006: Backstage at the Ballet

    Observations from a weekend of rehearsals and performances:

    Thank goodness for smart little girls! After the youngest ballet dancers, the Moon Beams and Starlights, came off stage during Sunday's matinee, two headpieces had fallen off and lay directly in the path of the older dancer still performing. We were debating whether to charge on stage and grab the wayward decorations, when Artistic Director Missy U had the quick thinking to ask the most mature of the little girls to run on stage and pick up the pieces. Little Anastasia D followed instructions to the "T" and ran out and solved first one problem...and, then, the other. Missy says she even did little "ballet runs" on stage and off!

    Vexing sound problems caused by the inexperienced crew plagued the performance at one point. The woman running the sound for some unknown reason paused the CD in the middle of Giselle's interaction with Albrecht. When she tried to cue it up again, she went all the way to the beginning of the song. Then, she frantically tried to find it again. An exasperated Missy called for lights out while we found the music. And, poor Giselle had to do her entrance again.

    The door to Giselle's cottage refused to close properly during rehearsals. We solved that problem by having a stagehand force it shut from behind whenever Elizabeth B entered from her house.

    Jazz C dancers entered earlier than they should have on Sunday. The three dancers were sitting on the edge of the stage a whole number before they were to perform. Meanwhile, Ballet 1B dancers were waiting in the wings to go on. Finally, teacher Alissa H sent Sean L on stage to tell the girls to get off stage. Alissa called for lights out and three red-faced dancers hot-footed it backstage.

    "No tanned Wilis!"...those were the instructions from the Artistic Director before the show. So, a few of the dancers were vowing to spend the Memorial Day Monday after basking in the sun. Expect to see a few browner ballerinas the next few days. And, don't even ask about the "No new streaks and highlights in your hair!" order either!

    John A, Prince Albrecht, came off stage Saturday night complaining he'd strained a muscle during an overhead lift. After the show, the directors spent hours agonizing whether to send in the understudy for the Sunday matinee. They decided Elizabeth's safety was the primary concern. If John couldn't assure that, he'd be pulled. But, he felt better the next day and the pas de deux went off well. He said he "twinged" the muscle again, but was able to cover for the problem.
    More "Backstage at the Ballet" and "How to Train in your Sleep!" coming soon!

    5.3.2006: The Giselle Primer

    Once upon a time, in a land far, far away---even further away than Nebraska or Michigan!---there lived a beautiful young maiden named Giselle. She was a happy girl who loved to dance, but, her mother worried about her because her heart was weak. Viral cardio myopathy comes to mind. Meanwhile, in a castle nearbye, lived a handsome prince named Albrecht. He wasn't as happy because his life was filled with boring court rituals and customs. And, to add to his unhappiness his mother had arranged for him to marry Princess Bathilde to seal a political alliance. But, all Albrecht longed to do was to escape all the demands and duties of the royal court and live the life of a carefree commoner.

    So, one day, it happens. The prince manages to slip away from a hunting party and ditch the paparazzi. Albrecht enters a small village reveling in his anonymity. Once there, he recognizes the house where he's been told a great local beauty lives. He knocks on Giselle's door. But, wait, he thinks. What if this legendary beauty fails to live up to her reputation? After all, who hasn't been burned on a blind date or fifty with a "great personality", but, woof-woof looks that would give Bigfoot pause? Albrecht decides to hide before he buys a "pig in a poke".

    But, when Giselle bursts out of her house, Albrecht is dazzled. If there is such a thing as love at first sight, the Prince is head over heels. He blows her a kiss from his hiding place, and, then, reveals himself. Giselle as well finds herself experiencing emotions she's never known. Albrecht is so overcome with his feelings, after a brief flirtation, he proposes. And, Giselle joyfully accepts and seals her fate.

    Just, then, a crowd of peasants and villagers bursts on the scene to celebrate the harvest. Much vigorous dancing ensues. And, then, the Princess Bathilde wanders into the village from the royal hunt looking for Albrecht. More joyful dancing ensues. Giselle is awe-struck by Bathilde's beauty and extreme, cutting edge 16th Century fashion sense. When Bathilde catches Giselle stroking the rich fabric of her gown, she's not angry, just amused. And, gives her a necklace as a token of her appreciation.

    But, Bathilede's not as amused when she finally finds Albrecht with Giselle. Giselle tries to get the prince to acknowledge her, but, Albrecht chooses duty over love and turns away from her. Giselle dies of a broken heart. Thus, ends the first act.

    (Editor's Note: This is a truncated version of Giselle. No Hilarion, no extended "mad scene", no role for the mother. Hopefully, you will see or perform the full-length version someday.)

    The Second Act features a corps of Wilis. These are the restless spirits of young girls who've died before their wedding day. Their queen is the merciless Myrta who was betrayed by a faithless lover. Woe to any man who is caught by the Wilis. For they will be cursed by Myrta to dance until they die of exhaustion. She hates the "playa". She hates the game.

    Albrecht comes to mourn at Giselle's grave and is caught by the Wilis and brought before their Queen. But, the spirit of Giselle returns to plead for forgiveness instead of vengeance. However, Myrta is not moved and curses him to dance to death. But, Giselle's enduring love is Albrecht's salvation. She dances with him and for him through the long, dark night. Dances until the morning church bells signal the return of the sun. The Wilis are forced to retreat. Myrta is defeated. But, Giselle must also leave Albrecht to a lifetime of regret and sorrow.

    4.27.2006: Reflecting on Rize

    Parents strongly cautioned to preview material before allowing children to view this DVD.

    I was thinking like a dancer and not a parent when I was watching Rize. I was amazed at the technical demands of "krumping" and "stripper dance" and what I would have to do to learn or teach that dance form. It was only after I wrote my review that I realized I should have also described it as often "overtly sexual, vulgar, border-line promiscuous and raw". And, even though, young inner city kids were performing some of the movements, I failed to mention that many parents might find the material questionable or objectionable for younger viewers.

    There's a big debate among teachers and on message boards about age-appropriate movements, costuming, music and make-up for younger dance students. CCDC chooses to err on the side of discretion and I failed to mention possible concerns about the DVD Rize in my earlier review.

    4.24.2006: Mojo Rizin!

    If the Mars Rover found intelligent life on the red planet (And, by intelligent, I mean lifeforms that dance!) and beamed back video of oily, other-worldly creatures frantically shaking their E.T. bootie, I think people might have a similar reaction to what I had when I watched, slack-jawed, the DVD Rize. Filmed in inner-city Los Angeles, it's a world and culture and dance-form utterly alien to most Americans. What did I know about "krumpin'", "stripper dancin" or "Klown V Krump battle zone"? I know just a little bit more now thanks to director/producer David Lachapelle (No relation to comedian Dave Chapelle) and Lion's Gate Films. (Find it at Scott Casber's Video Store in Beaverdale.)

    It's not the sanitized, commercialized hip-hop dance you might see on MTV. This ain't your father's old mobility anymore. It's an energetic, frantic, violent, in-your-face, exuberant, desperate expression of sheer physicality.

    Meet Tommy the Clown, Tight Eyez, Dragon, Miss Prissy, Li'l Mama and a host of unforgettable characters, oppressed minorities bursting with outrageous, but simple repetitive dance forms performed at an exhausting, yet exhilarating tempo. One of the most compelling scenes is when Lachapelle cuts back and forth between modern-day krumpers and their klown face paint and archival footage of African warriors dancing and applying their war paint. As one krumper says afterwards, "perhaps it's in our genes." Or, perhaps, it's falling out of their jeans.

    Rize is like a trip I took to LA once. I was too poor for a taxi and too young to be able to rent a car, so, I took the bus around once I got there. One of the buses I got on took me through the heart of the inner city. Normandy, Torrance, Inglewood, Culver City...gradually, it began to dawn on me that I was the only non-black on the bus. I was a world away from the nearly lily-white world of Stanley Holden's ballet studio on West Pico. That's when the bus driver called out, "Everyone out! End of the line!"

    Rize is about the post-hip-hop 21st Century dance form that's percolating in the inner-city ghetto that lies beyond that "end of the line"! Nothing happened to me while I sweated out what seemed like hours of twilight at that lonely Los Angeles bus stop. But, something big is brewing in the inner city, rising from the streets, the parking lots, the basketball courts and the burnt-out buildings of East LA. Catch a glimpse by renting Rize!

    Parents strongly cautioned to preview material before allowing children to view this DVD.

    I was thinking like a dancer and not a parent when I was watching Rize. I was amazed at the technical demands of "krumping" and "stripper dance" and what I would have to do to learn or teach that dance form. It was only after I wrote my review that I realized I should have also described it as often "overtly sexual, vulgar, border-line promiscuous and raw". And, even though, young inner city kids were performing some of the movements, I failed to mention that many parents might find the material questionable or objectionable for younger viewers.

    There's a big debate among teachers and on message boards about age-appropriate movements, costuming, music and make-up for younger dance students. CCDC chooses to err on the side of discretion and I failed to mention possible concerns about the DVD Rize in my earlier review.

    3.5.2006: Great Expectations

    OK, I confess...I fell for the hype, hook, line and Simba. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'd be the "lying king" if I said The Lion King wasn't worth the time and money---even if you're groggy after hours and hours of teaching and rehearsals. But, the show wasn't what I had built it up in my mind to be. I was expecting a cross between Armageddon and the second-coming, only with snazzy Rube Goldberg costumes, bird-kites and singing puppets. So, if you haven't gone yet, don't build up the sizzle and be forced to settle for steak.

    And, since when did they start charging "royal rates" for weekend parking in downtown ramps? Probably only while the "King" is in town. Three bucks for the ramps, ten for valet parking, tip extra...a big city show comes with medium city parking charges and ticket prices.

    Be sure to get to the Civic Center early and get your seat in your seat before the curtain. The opening procession of the animals in The Circle of Life flows on from off-stage and will be your first glimpse of the ingenious and cunning pairing of performer and costumes. Two rows of seats have been taken out to provide for antelopes, cheetah, giraffes and elephant (Oh, my!) to lumber, slink and jump through the audience. (I want to see that life-size pachyderm one more time!) But, if you're not there from the beginning, you'll have to wait outside for ten minutes before the ushers will usher you in.

    The show brings all sorts of puppeting traditions to the production and invents a few new ones of their own. Thai shadow puppets, Japanese Bunraku just some of the styles used to advance the story of a young lion cub growing up to reclaim the title of King of the Jungle. You can actually see the performers in the cut-away Hyena costumes and that worked for me. Derek Hasenstab who wears Zazu on his sleeve and inhabits the character of the avian major-domo and the green-skinned Phil Fiorini as Pumbaa take a little getting used to...but, are gifted comic and character actors.

    Rufus Bonds Jr (Mufasa) and Larry Yando (Scar) are majestic and malevolent respectively as the Lion King and the Lion Who Would Be King in this adaptation of Shakespearean regicide. And, Ta'rea Campbell has great pipes as the grown up Nala. But, since this is a dance website, the central pas de deux to Can You Feel The Love Tonight was underwhelming at best. Nice extensions, but the dancer I brought with me says she had to stop watching the male because of such deficient technique. Learn this guys, strength doesn't make up for lack of training.

    And, the dancing overall left a lot to be desired. Garth Fagan's mix of modern and tribal choreography fills and overflows the stage with color and movement. But, it never demands a lot of the dancers or the audience. But, kudos to strong lighting design, moving sets and props and special effects.

    So, be careful. You should go if you haven't yet, just don't build up Great Expectations in your mind. Otherwise, The Lion King will turn out to be The Mouse That Roared.

    3.28.2006: Jof-FREE Concerts

    Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa announcing a series of free, outdoor performances by the Joffrey Ballet across the state next summer. The River To River concert tour officially announced at a news conference today at the State Historical Center in Des Moines.

    The performances begin in June 2007 at the Des Moines Art Festival in Gateway West Park in the capital city. Other performances will follow in Council Bluffs, Muscatine, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

    More information here.

    3.21.2006: Meet The 2006 Guest Faculty

    CCDC 2006 Summer Intensive Faculty biographies now in "Faculty" page!

    3.20.2006: Bonding Time

    Cute article on equal time for moms and sons. Check it out on the Quad City Times Website.

    3.7.2006: Results Keep Trickling In...

    Whoops! Make that seven-for-seven as Sarah Z also attended that Kansas City Ballet Summer School audition recently and was accepted. And, extra applause for Maggie H! Not only accepted to Milwaukee Ballet's Summer Program, but offered a partial scholarship as well! And, a hearty thumbs-up to all the CCDC dancers who put themselves on the line and were successful more often than not. I believe Capital City Dance Center is developing a reputation with national auditioners in only our second year of existence. That should make it easier for our dancers to catch the eye of the decision-makers in the future. Keep up the good work! Maluhia out!

    3.2.2006: Scrambling For A Venue

    The Dallas-Center/Grimes school board voting recently to rescind the contract with CCDC to provide their high school auditorium space for the 2006 Spring recital. The panel deciding to limit rentals to non-profits and businesses located in the district only. And, needless to say, the last-minute notification is unwelcome news to say the least. That means the recital location and date are once again up in the air. CCDC Artistic Director Melissa Uyehara scrambling to find an alternate location and date. She says any help or input would be "greatly appreciated". It's not easy to find a theater large enough for the dancers, with enough seating for the audience that's near enough to be practical. So, prepare to be flexible, prepare to be cramped for space and prepare for no air conditioning. Theater rental, clean-up and technical costs could easily double for the school. Prompt costume, recital fee and tuition payments will be "greatly appreciated" as well...Here's some more kudos to deliver, though: Congrats to Elizabeth B for being notified of her acceptance to Milwaukee Ballet's Summer Program...Maluhia out!

    2.27.2006: More Congrats, Rug Rats!!

    CCDC students making out like Drew Lachey this weekend! Our dancers went six-for-six at Sunday's Kansas City Ballet Summer Audition! Maggie H, Sarah K, Elizabeth B, Sean L, Natalie "Natasha" N and Hanna C (did I forget anyone?) all accepted to the summer program...with Sarah K and Hanna C asked to stay for one-on-one interviews as well...Extra kudos to Sean L acting like Apollo Anton Ohno scoring a gold-medal-worthy full scholarship to Milwaukee Ballet's Summer program as well...So, what happened during the "Grand Finale" of Dancing With the B-List Celebrities? The X-factor eliminated my favorite early: WWE's Stacy Keibler. The great unknown is always how the public's gonna vote. And, despite the judges' best efforts, Keibler unable to deliver on her Bode Miller-like promise. Make no mistake about it though, Superbowl MVP Jerry Rice is a great runner-up...and Drew a fabulous, well-deserving winner. I think any more installments of DWTS will be hard pressed to find better contestants...or worse, come to think of it!...Maluhia out!

    2.21.2006: Follow Up

    Add this to the list below: Sarah K has also been placed on the "wait list" for Universal Ballet Academy in Washington D.C. They've been told "one-hundred percent" of students on the wait list have been accepted to the summer program in the past. So, they're waiting on word on that...Interesting classes in CCDC last night. Plie's were just about to start in Ballet V and Intermediate Open Ballet when the lights went out. CCDC one of over 700 customers in the metro to lose power. The emergency lights went on. And, almost all the students stayed to do a barre in the near-dark. Talk about dedication! ...Maluhia out!

    2.20.2006: Kudis and Kudos

    Congratulations to all the CCDC students who successfully auditioned for national summer programs this spring: a partial list includes Sarah Z accepted to Joffrey Midwest, Sean L accepted to Joffrey Midwest, Sarah K accepted to Joffrey Midwest and several other programs...and Catherine W accepted to Joffrey Midwest, American Ballet Theater and Washington Ballet Summer Program. Some notifications still pending. Did I forget anyone?...Well, the big Dancing With The Stars Final and Grand Finale' shows coming up this week! Is this being hyped enough? Sentimental favorite Jerry Rice appears to be in the weakest position going up against the tiny powerhouse Drew Lachey and the Girl with the Golden Gams, WWE superstar Stacey Keibler. And, no wonder Keibler is such a huge fan and judge favorite! One article reports she's trained in ballet and jazz since age three!...I used to tell students *everything's* easier after training in ballet. Until one precocious young dancer wanna-be asked if "juggling flaming chainsaws" was easier after classical training! I was forced to admit it probably wasn', now, I say "ALMOST everything's" easier after ballet!...Did you catch the young dancers from Maxim's Rising Stars on the DWTS awards show week before? The girls were good, but the guys were fabulous! They came out again as the background dancers in the re-creation of the Dirty Dancing finale'. Am I the only one who records these shows and watches them on the weekend? Can't vote for my favorites! Blame me if Ms Keibler loses!...Maluhia out!

    2.10.2006: Gold From Gable

    I had an encounter with a "master motivator" this week.

    Spoke with former University of Iowa Wrestling Coach and Olympic gold medalist Dan Gable. I've written before about his stellar career as a competitor and a coach. I'm a big Gable fan. In a previous lifetime "in a galaxy far, far away", he was a role model of mine as I competed as an athlete and, later, as an assistant coach.

    But, what can a dancer learn from a sportsman?

    Plenty, it turns out. Gable's recipe for success isn't just limited to the wrestling room. He says he was always constantly looking for ways to motivate himself and his athletes to perform at a higher level. Every day, he says you must raise the bar.

    I guess for dancers that would translate to "every day you must raise the barre". Challenge yourself to do a little bit more, a little bit better than the day before. What you did before is history, what you will do tomorrow is a promise...but, right now, can you perform a little bit better, work a little bit harder?

    Coach Gable says it's always easy to find excuses to take the day off or to not push yourself on a certain exercise. But, the athlete (or dancer) who puts in the "sweat equity" every day will be the one who succeeds.

    Use every trick in the book to motivate yourself to seperate yourself from the pack. If someone was watching class, I used to pretend they were there to secretly audition dancers for my dream company. If a new dancer showed up, I would push myself to impress them. And, I would watch to see what they did well. One of the reasons I worked as hard as I did, was I was rarely the best in class. Darn that Stanley Hamasaki! Five clean pirouettes. The first guy I'd see do triple tours en l'air. Chasing him in Nolan Dingman's classes helped both of us. He later admitted having me push him every day made him work harder. We both went on to professional careers.

    So, to put it in a fortune cookie format: "Hard work in the present, your future will be pleasant" or "Hard work in the past, makes the present a blast!" Thanks, Coach Gable!

    2.10.2006: Never Mind Waldo...Where's Dima?

    CCDC Alum Dmitriy K drops a note to say he'll be appearing in Iowa State's Barjche this weekend.

    More info at the Iowa State Daily Website

    2.5.2006: This and That

    Capital City Dance Center proud to host a visit by two of the students from the Renmin University Dancers of the People's Republic of China this past weekend. As arranged by Laura W, the young Chinese dancers dropped in to observe CCDC students in the Pre-Professional Ballet Level IV before heading to their own performance at the State Historical Museum Saturday night. Just wish there'd been more publicity about those shows beforehand...Master P is gone! Thank goodness! ABC's Dancing With The Stars better off without him. And, Hawaii's own Tia Carrere the latest to be booted off this past week. WWE's more-than-elfen Stacy Kiebler still the favorite to waltz off with the Mirror Ball at the end. Especially after the first perfect score this season! But, the guys (including ex-boy-bander Drew Lachey, bon vivant George Hamilton and Super Bowl MVP Jerry Rice) have the harder role to play. They have to actually appear to "lead" during the dances. The girls can afford to follow their professional partners. I think that's why the judges ruled out any lift sequences in the choreography. It'd be too much of a handicap for an amateur to try to lift someone, rather than be lifted...And, if you're not watching or recording the DWTS results shows on Fridays on ABC, you're missing out! Some spectacular dancing going on as part of the hour-long show. Professionals with professionals show how the steps are supposed to be performed...And, I think our boy George Hamilton should be the next to go. He's depending on charm and acting to cover up his lack of dance skills. But, that might not happen if Jerry Rice doesn't get back into ballet class. (And, is it just me? Or did that tasteless crack by the co-host about dressing him up in a tutu just perpetuate a stereotype?)...And, Beginning/Intermediate Partnering/Pas de Deux first class this weekend class! Can always use more guys, though. No dance experience necessary. Tell all the guys you know...Coming up soon in "News and Notes", a review of the Patrick Swayze DVD One Last Dance and more of your questions to "Dear CCDancedoC"...I'll try to get the answers right this time! ...Maluhia out!

    1.27.2006: eMail Call

    E-mail excerpt from The COEd:

    "...i always check on your site for new (dance) images (although my current favorite is turning out so much you have no choice but to plie, and that if something didn't go right always look where you can turn out more, lift more and stretch more...) thanks so much for all you do (or have done) i'm already looking forward to this summer when i'm back!..."

    Thanks for the e-mail, COEd! Here are some of the corrections overheard in CCDC classes recently:

    • "Just because your brain understands, doesn't mean your body will do it automatically. Understanding is just the first step. You have to teach your body again everyday."

    • "Your muscles have no brain. They learn by repitition. It's up to your brain to make them do it well everytime."

    • "You're a smart student! There's no excuse for you not getting these combinations!"

    • "The difference between a good student and good dancer can often be measured in fractions. Stay up a fraction of a second longer. Stretch your legs a fraction of an inch more. Place yourself a fraction better. All that extra effort builds up over time."

    • "Can you possibly stretch your knees a little more? Can you possibly point your feet a little harder? Can you possible start your turn out from a little higher up your leg?"

    • "Use your back to turn!"

    • "Use your turn-out to turn!"

    • "Stretch more to end your turn on balance! Use the turn-out on your supporting leg to end on balance!"

    • "Finish your turns! Finish your technique! More turn-out, more stretch right at the end!"

    • "Delay your grand battement into grand jete' But, make no mistake about it! It has to be a grand battement to get in the air! Not a degage'!"

    • "Show the battu in brise' and brise' vole'! Think of it as degage' into entrechat quatre."

    1.25.2006: One Lives, One Learns...

    The Kriskoe Kid leading a "flood" of e-mails basically calling the CCDancedoC a "dummy":

    "...Actually, DanceDoc, there are "demi-pointe" shoes...

    Sansha also makes two models, as do several other companies I can't remember off the top of my head. They have a box, but no shank, so should never be used to actually rise en pointe. They are often used to get a student used to the feel of a pointe shoe and build strength in the feet in the year or so before starting pointe. They are also required for examinations in the RAD system. Most students in the US don't use them, or if advanced students want something similar for a technique class they prefer to "deshank" their old dead pointe shoes. (Which can be dangerous--watch for flying nails!)"

    1.20.2006: The CCDancedoC is in!

    Dear CCDancedoC: At what stage does a ballerina start wearing demipointe shoes?---Puzzled

    I'm "puzzled" by your question...and have a sneaking suspicion something was "lost in translation".

    Demi in French means "half". En pointe or sur les pointe means up on the "point" of the foot or to releve' all the way up to the end of a pointe shoe. There is no such thing as a demi pointe shoe per se, but you could be referring to a "soft shoe" or regular ballet slipper as opposed to pointe shoes. (BTW never refer to these as "toe shoes" if you want to be taken seriously by professional dancers.)

    There are age and physical restrictions as to how young or old you should be to begin training sur les pointes. These are not toys or fashion items and should not be given or worn lightly. Start too early and you could deform the foot. Generally, teachers recommend waiting until more of the soft cartilage in the foot and ankle have ossified and muscles have strengthened. That usually occurs between the ages of ten-and-twelve when students are taking three or more regular ballet classes a week. But, some light Russian training at the barre reportedly begins as young as age eight .

    How old can adults be to begin dancing en pointe? Well, you'll never be any younger than you are now. But, I'd suggest you train seriously for at least a year, taking three regular ballet classes or more a week. Then, check with your teacher and your doctor.

    When you purchase your first pair, it's a good idea to have your teacher there to fit you properly. You should expect to try several different styles and brands before settling on a shoe that suits you best. Keep in mind, these are made by hand, so even the same size shoe by the same maker in the same style will fit you differently.

    And, men can train en pointe as well. I gained enormous respect for what women have to go through when I took pointe classes for several years. My feet improved slightly and I think it helped my partnering. I say go for it!

    1.19.2006: Dancing With The So-Called Stars

    OK. So, we haven't gotten all the bugs worked out of our poor man's TIVO, so this may have already happened...But, Master P has got to go!

    The man is a Frankenstein's Monster out there! Lumps of coal have more charisma! Where's L'il Romeo when you need him? This show isn't called Lumbering With The Stars! Master P did manage a minuscule improvement from the opening segment, but "P" in this case, still stands for "Pathetic"! And, what's with no ballroom shoes? Even Ryan last season on So You Think You Can Dance lost his cartoon hair and hip hop sags and put on a skin tight ballroom outfit. I'll be surprised and disappointed if the sympathy vote rescues the rapper again this week.

    On the other hand, that blonde lady wrestler is my choice to win it all. Yes, Drew Lachey is more than holding his own and Giselle Fernandez is finally tapping into her inner Rosarita. But, endless legs, smooth attack and glamorous, athletic presence are a tough combination to beat. You'd be a fool to bet against her! (Now, if I could just remember her name!)

    Dancing With The Stars is once again "Must See TV" for dancers and non-dancers alike!

    1.13.2005: E-Mail Update

    We get mail! The Kriskoe Kid writes:

    "...(modern dancer/choreographer) Liz Lerman is coming to ISU for a master class and lecture/demo in February. Thought you might want to pass it on to your modern students and other advanced dancers. She's pretty cool..."

    1.6.2006: Ballet Olympics Update

    Ticket packages for the 2006 USA International Ballet Competition this summer now on sale to the general public. Ticket information here. Or call 601.973.9249. Individual tickets go on sale in April. Opening ceremonies June 17.

    Dance students can also take classes from the 2006 IBC Dance School in Jackson, Mississippi this summer. This opportunity comes only once every four years. That information also on the website.

    It wasn't until then [the USA IBC] that I realized what it took to be a dancer.

    -AMANDA SCHULL, Star of Center Stage

    1.5.2006: Annual CCoDy Awards

    Before we can really get 2006 underway, time to take a look back at the best, worst and most random of 2005: the annual "CCoDy" awards ("Capital City Dance Center Order of Dance Achievement of the Year"): Highly subjective, of course, I didn't see EVERYTHING that came through the area. And, just to make it fair, we're keeping any CCDC production out of the running. The envelope please!

  • Best Dance Production: Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel's collaboration Movin' Out at the Civic Center was an exciting marriage of post-modern movement with baby-boomer iconic pop rock music. Excellent dancers challenged by cutting-edge choreography. What's not to like? And that leads me to...

  • Best Male Dancer: Rasta Thomas as Eddie in Movin' Out. Web insiders had been raving about Rasta since he was a teen. It was nice for local students to have a chance to get a look at a world-class dancer.

  • Best Female Dancer: Bonnie Pickard is an inspirational dancer. Watching her perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Ames Nutcracker is like watching supple silk rippling in a river. She just edges out Laurie Kanyok and Julieta Gros as Brenda and Judy in Movin' Out. Both tremendously talented and well-trained. Very organic and edgy!

  • Best Dance on TV:If we could only get the Arts Channel to consistently show more ballet, it'd get my vote hands down. As it is, we'll divide it up into several categories:

  • Best Ballet on TV: Swan Lake by American Ballet Theater on PBS. Les Cygnets was exceptional!

  • Best Non-Ballet Dance on TV: So You Think You Can Dance edging out Dancing With The Stars. Honorable mention to Making the Band III and the episode of Made where the non-dancer boy learns ballet the hard way at the Rock School, both on MTV.

  • Honorable Mention CCoDys: the Des Moines Playhouse productions of Chicago and Beauty and the Beast.

    Congratulations to all the 2005 CCoDy Winners!

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