Friday, December 17, 2010

Step Up

Yes, I'm an idiot and decided to watch this campy film a while ago. I will not give the film the satisfaction of eliciting more than one word out of me, so here goes:


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tamara Rojo

My heart soars and breaks all at once while reading this article about Royal Ballet prima Tamara Rojo.

'The Company' and Ballet Dancers in Pop Culture

I watched the film 'The Company' yesterday evening. The film has a quiet, "day in the life of" tone that is free of the usual, pop-culture-friendly, ballet stereotypes (we all know the awful, numbing stereotypes in which all the men are gay and all the women are anorexic). It also features some magnificent dancing by the incredible Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

I'd seen the film a couple of times before, but there was one part that made me laugh out loud yesterday, and it wasn't Malcolm McDowell announcing, "practise safe sex, babies!" I have nothing negative to say about Neve Campbell, who stars in the film, because she is an actul ballet dancer who is incredibly gifted (she graduated from Canada's prestigious National Ballet School). She by far outshines other horrid portrayals of dancers such as Julia Stiles' performance in the film, 'Save the Last Dance' (that film makes me so angry). So the low point of the film was clearly due to a poor directorial choice.

The hilarity occurs when Neve Campbell's character returns home from a performance. She peels off a small plaster to reveal (gasp!) a blister on her big toe joint! She then proceeds to massage her obviously terribly sore, aching feet. THE PERFORMANCE WAS IN SOFT SHOES. IT WASN'T EVEN ON POINTE. Her feet look perfectly fine except for that one blister which we, the audience, are clearly supposed to cry in sympathetic shock over. God, I laughed so hard. My mother's feet look worse than that after walking in high heels for an hour.

How insulting that a film otherwise so realistic and unpretentious should expect me to fawn over the dancer who, after performing a dance in soft shoes, has one bloody blister (pun intended) on her foot. Please, my feet are missing toenails! If my little sister, who's a rower, had been with me, she would have laughed at least equally as hard. Her palms are as rubbed raw as my toes. I would have had to fight to retain her respect for ballet dancers. To all artists who wish to portray the difficult lives of ballerinas: we do not show you our feet because you do not want to see them. Please save us from disgust at your wimpy attempts at portraying the hardship of our toes.

In other news, 'The Black Swan' starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis is being released in cinemas soon. I suppose I shall have to see it, because it's a ballet movie, but also because I love Natalie Portman. I have heard, however, that the film is rich with those dreaded ballet stereotypes and that, while her attempt is commendable, Natalie Portman's dancing makes it very hard to really believe that her character is a prima with NYCB. Oh, disappointment...

Oh Land

Nanna Øland Fabricius, a native of Denmark, was forced to leave the Royal Swedish Ballet School after a back injury ended a promising start to her career. The daughter of an opera singer and a composer, she channeled her intense understanding of music and the pain of giving up ballet into singing, and produced her own debut album, entitled 'Fauna', under the name 'Oh Land'. 

The album has a beautiful, light, ecletic, electro-pop sound, and Nanna has a stunning, delicate voice. She now lives in Williamsburg, New York, and her second self-titled album is scheduled to be released in early 2011. As any dancer who has struggled with a serious injury knows, stopping because your body is telling you to is so difficult and emotionally painful when your heart tells you you can't give up yet. Oh Land, then, has lots to write about. 

I remember struggling through my first slew of knee dislocations when I was younger.
One day, sitting in the emergency waiting room at the hospital, I wrote in a notebook:

Once striving for perfection,
I am faulty.
Once yearning to be beautiful,
I am ugly.

I am broken.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Alvin Ailey's New Season Opens

Read the New York Times review here.

I have two comments:
1) The dancers in the photograph atop the article look so perfect and statuesque. The dancer in the foreground looks like a figure my grandad has sculpted (he's an amazing, talented sculptor and I'm so lucky and humbled to be related to him). The lighting covers him in subtle colouring, so he almost looks as though his chest has been spray-painted.
2) The article mentions the Ailey Midtown Manhattan headquarters. Ever been there? The facility is STUNNING.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I am always cold. Especially as winter approaches, I inevitably end up starting every class wearing tights, leg warmers and shorts underneath sweat pants. My hips have also been incredibly stiff these days, so I try to keep them as warm as possible.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Svetlana Zhakarova's Amazingness

"What's up, Svetlana Zakharova?"
"Oh, not much, balletomane. Just throwing out a couple of rond de jambe sautés from The Sleeping Beauty...
actually I'm just marking it because I have a migraine from kicking myself in the head in dress rehearsal yesterday."
"We will never be friends."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why is Alistair Macaulay so eloquent?

I just read another review in the New York Times by him, and he expresses so well a quality that I so admire and try to embody every day in my dancing.

" and elsewhere," he writes, "the Farrell dancers are unsurpassed at arriving with (actually, a hair’s breadth ahead of) the beat, so that they reveal the music by embodying it rather than following it." 

This sort of explains a point I tried to make in a previous post: Ballet and the Whole Self. I said that a dancer must have such an intense understanding and relationship with their music that it must seem that they themselves are creating the music as an illustration to their dancing. Macaulay puts it so much better by saying that the dancers of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet reveal rather than follow the music.

I wish I was as fantastic as he is, and I suppose, as musically gifted as Suzanne Farrell's dancers are.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Frederick Ashton's Cinderella

Read this review of the Royal Ballet's production of Cinderella, which begain its run on Saturday evening. I love Marianela Nuñez so much (she danced in the title role), as well as soloist Yuhui Choe, who got an honourable mention in the article too! I'm so proud of Choe- she is adorable and a magnificent dancer.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


No, not my feet. OK, those too, but I refer chiefly to this review by Alistair Macaulay for the New York Times, (whose criticism I adore, for the record).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Personal Update

I have three performances coming up, which I'm rather excited about. The first is an informal performance of the Dance of the Mirlitons from the Nutcracker ballet for a local arts showcase. The second two will be duets with Ryan, whom I've posted about earlier. One will be our own choreography, and the last has been choreographed by an extremely talented and creative modern dancer/singer/actor/director/choreographer whom Ryan met recently at an audition. The dance he's choreographed on us is about the isolation that's felt in a relationship when one of the pair is struggling with depression, and it is set to the music in the video above. 

The song is a cover of Robyn's 'Dancing on My Own' and is quite beautiful.


I have been offered a very exciting job in a city quite far from Toronto that starts in January 2011. I have already accepted the offer, since it's going to be a really fantastic opportunity for me. As excited as I am, taking this job has caused a MAJOR DILEMMA.

Obviously, I am seeing the Mariinksy's performance of Swan Lake in Toronto on opening night. There really is no other option in my books. However, opening night is on a Tuesday, and there is no way I'll be able to make it without missing work. The ticket is not refundable or exchangeable. The way I see it, I have two options: sell my ticket to someone who'd like to go and buy a weekend ticket instead, or... impress people at my new job lots so they like me and allow me to take that Tuesday off.

The thought of the first option kills me. I was super excited to go on opening night. Somehow, the other performances seem inferior to that one. I know it's stupid, but I am a balletomane to the core. Thus, the first option will be my back-up plan!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shen Yun Performing Arts

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Beatrice Hull, The Friends of Voltaire, 1906

This holds true for my stance on the spiritual group, Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa). I have read Zhuan Falun by the group's founder, Li Hongzhi, and have spoken with and befriended a few practitioners. I am not a practitioner nor will I ever be, but their continued brutal persecution by the Chinese Communist Party is a deep concern of mine.

I apologise to readers who don't want to read about politics, and I apologise to any readers from mainland China who, by virtue of my opening paragraph, will probably soon be blocked from viewing this blog. For those of you who have never heard of Falun Gong, research it, please. Read Falun Gong publications, but please also read statements about the group from the Chinese government. Falun Gong is a spiritual group that is based on three vital principles: truth, compassion and forbearance. Practitioners manifest these values in their everyday lives and also through a series of set physical exercises that empower body and mind, not unlike yoga. Most of the poses in these exercise sets have spiritual meaning.

I could write a separate essay on my views about Falun Gong and why it is such a target of hatred by the Chinese government. Suffice it to say that the group has been banned in China; practitioners are constantly imprisoned, tortured, put into labour camps, or killed. Remember truth, one of the founding principles of Falun Gong? Members adhere strictly to the virtue of truth. So when they are told in prison that the torture will stop when they denounce Falun Gong, they don't lie; they endure further abuse instead. The group is super peaceful, and my friends who are practitioners are some of the kindest, purest, hardest working and most compassionate people I know. Falun Gong benefits them on a daily basis and they love the values that they live by. Whether you agree with specific practices and beliefs or not, you should be aware of the human rights abuses against the group if you care about freedom of opinion.

Anyway, this post is related to dance, I promise!! I recently met an unbelievably amazing girl who I go to school with. She takes half of every year off to go on tour with the Shen Yun Performing Arts company- she is a Chinese classical dancer. Shen Yun has been performing all over the world at its most prestigious theatres. The troupe was created by Falun Gong practitioners who wanted to celebrate China's 5,000 year history of elaborate music and dance. Not only is their spirituality outlawed in their home country, China's ancient artistic traditions have also been suppressed since Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution.

They have three different touring groups who tour the world every winter, so if you have the chance, attend a performance! I have never seen Chinese classical dance before, but apparently it is very similar to ballet in that it is an extremely demanding and precise, yet beautiful and expressive art form. I plan to attend my very first Shen Yun show in early 2011 and I can't wait (though I'm admittedly still more excited for the Mariinsky!).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

National Ballet of Canada 2010/2011 Souvenir Book

For all NBoC fans: order the National Ballet's 2010/2011 season souvenir book here, featuring beautiful photographs of Canada's most talented ballet dancers. The book costs $15, including shipping and tax!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gaynor Mindens

I am trying out Gaynor Mindens for the first time to see if I like them. They have a higher vamp than Suffolk Solos, so they sickle with my foot nicely, but I'm not sure if I like the feel of them yet.

What I am sure of is that they are a pain in the BUTT to sew ribbons on. I now have needle stab marks on my right hand fourth finger.

Ring by Tiffany & Co. War wounds by Gaynor Minden.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Icarus by Ballet Jörgen

A quick note: I just saw Ballet Jörgen perform a contemporary ballet work called 'Icarus', choreographed by Malgorzata Nowacka. If you EVER have the chance to see them perform this, do not turn it down. The ballet is based on the well-known myth, but is a depiction of how Icarus might have responded to the forces of nature around him throughout his life. Nowacka's choreography is powerful and deeply visceral. The ballet is a show of masculine dominance asserting itself as the personification of nature (all the men represent nature while all the women represent Icarus). The female dancers, however, are also aggressive, constantly attempting to challenge the 'natural forces' around them. They physically push the men, but can never move far away from them, and often indicate the challenge of the sun's brightness by holding up a flexed hand between their faces and the stage spotlights. 

Tonight was the first time I've seen Ballet Jörgen perform in about four years, and it was a great pleasure to see their dancers again. There were a lot of new faces, one of them being Danielle Rosengren, who is a gorgeous dancer, and very beautiful in general. I look forward to seeing her dance again in the future!