A fabulous weekend with Mykhailo Shcherbakov!

On October 6th, 2019, Mykahilo Scherbakov, Soloist with Moscow Ballet, held a master class at Ballet Academy of Charleston for intermediate to advanced adults and teenagers.

Mr. Shcherbakov was in Charleston to direct an audition for Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” to be performed at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center on December 21st, 2019 (at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.).

Mykhailo was born in Pugachov, Russia and moved to Kiev at just ten years old to start studying ballet at the Kiev Choreographic College. While in school, he participated in many ballet competitions, including the famous Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition and the International Ballet Competition and Contest of Choreographers in Moscow. In 2008, Mykhailo was invited to join the Kiev Municipal Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet for Children and Youth. A year later he became a Principal Dancer at the theater and has participated in every performance since he started working there.

He began studying at National Pedagogical Dragomanov University in 2010 and graduated in just two years with a degree in teaching. Mykhailo has traveled all over the world performing with a few ballet companies. He has performed in multiple countries including Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and France. Mykhailo joined Moscow Ballet in 2016 and performs in the Great Russian Nutcracker as Brother Fritz, the French Variation, and the Nutcracker Doll.

We greatly appreciate Mr. Shcerbakov’s contribution to our school and traveling all this way to set the student’s choreography for “The Great Russian Nutcracker”!

How to Prepare for an Audition

It’s audition time! How can you be sure you are prepared, both mentally and physically to meet the challenge?

Consider a few tips outlined below:

  1. Get adequate rest.  If possible, in the weeks leading up the audition, but most especially the night before, be sure you’re getting a full night’s rest.  For some suggestions on how to acheive this, read this list from healthline.com.
  2. Eat well. You want to be sure you have enough energy to perform your best but that you haven’t eaten to such a point that you become lethargic. Be sure to eat a breakfast chock full of good fats, proteins and carbohydrates. If the audition is later in the day, make time for a healthful lunch as well. You want to give your muscles plenty of fuel!. Also, allow time to digest the meal fully, perhaps eating about an hour before your audition. For a snack, bring something light such as trail mix or a protein bar. Preferably those that mostly contain only natural sugars and are high in protein. Pointe Magazine has some helpful suggestions for a good audition day diet.
  3. Stay hydrated.Be sure that you remain well hydrated in the days and weeks leading up to the audition since dehydration can lead to fatigue and malaise. It will also prevent you from overdrinking just before the audition because nervousness can make your mouth dry, especially when you are dehydrated. Of course, you should drink sufficient water the day of the audition. Just be sure that you taper it off during the hour or so leading up to the audition. 
  4. Be informed. Knowing your audition company, their preferred technique and performance style, can go a long way in getting you noticed. If you can find the choreography you know they might use in the audition (especially if there is a particular role you are interested in), learn it and practice it beforehand. Then, if and when it comes up in the audition, you will be prepared to perform it well. At the very least you will feel prepared, which will increase your confidence when you walk in the door.
  5. Be neat and neutrally dressed.  While your attire doesn’t have to be new, you want to ensure it’s in good condition (e.g. no holes or stains). Wear neutral, solid colors such as black or navy blue. Typical attire for girls in a ballet audition is pink shoes, tights and a simple, black leotard, with hair in a tidy bun. And for boys, black tights, shoes and a white t-shirt, with hair neatly quaffed. It’s your dancing and demeanor that should stand out in an audition; not your outfit. I once went to an SAB (School of American Ballet) audition wearing a red ribbon in my hair (at the suggestion of my teacher) and a white, skirted leotard. I still cringe when I think of it. Oh, boy did I stand out! But for all the wrong reasons. Learn from my mistake.
  6. Get there early and be prepared. Pack your dance bag with all the necessary things you’ll need as well as a few extra (e.g. bobby bins, sewing kit or tights). Lay out the clothes you intend to wear the night before and make a list of everything you need if necessary. Be sure to arrive at the studio early. Even if you have to wait outside the studio before the doors open, it is better to arrive too early than to be rushing to get there and be stressed by the time you arrive. As soon as you can, begin warming up and stretching before the audition begins, even if the audition includes a warm-up. Remember, you want to be ready for anything!
  • Think positively. Dwelling on potential mishaps and the disappointment you might feel if you don’t get the part you want is counterproductive and a waste of mental energy. Yes, an audition is a lot like a test in that you will be evaluated by how you perform on that day. However, it is also like a test in this way: Once you have walked into an audition, you have done all the preparing you could. There’s nothing more to do but focus, be in the moment, and ENJOY it. Why do you dance? Because it makes you happy, right? So, just think of the audition as yet another opportunity to do what you love, enjoy the experience and let go of pointless anxiety. Easier said than done of course. If simply willing the worries of your mind away isn’t working for you, try this…
  • 7. Think “negatively”.You may be wondering how on earth that could be productive so let me explain:  Some of the auditions where I performed my best were those where I stopped worrying and just let myself enjoy the process. I would tell myself, “What happens now doesn’t matter. I don’t care if I get the part. In fact, I’m NOT going to get the part.” What it did was relieve the pressure. Because I had told myself that what I did didn’t matter, I was actually able to focus better and shut off the negative voice inside my head which might have prevented me from dancing well. Every time I did this in an audition, I not only performed well and got the attention of the audition holders, but I ended up with a part better than what I expected. So, give it a try! Tell yourself, “It doesn’t matter” (because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t) and dance your heart out! 

During the Audition:

  1. Be focused
  2. Be quiet
  3. Be polite
  4. Enjoy the process!
  5. Smile!

After the audition..

  1. Be Happy! Whew! You made it! However you may feel about how the audition went, remember that you were brave enough to do it! Auditioning is a very nerve-wracking process, so you should feel good about what you have accomplished. Bear in mind, that whatever you perceive as not having gone well, whether true or not, there is nothing more that you can do at this point. 
  2. When you don’t get the part…True, it is disheartening not to get the part you wanted, but what’s done is done and it has no bearing on your overall worth. And whatever part you get, no matter how “insignificant” it seems, put your ALL into it and have fun! I have many times danced parts or choreography that I didn’t particularly love. When I put my heart and soul into it and said, “Ok well this is what I got. I will make the best of it,” I ended up enjoying myself and experiencing a sense of accomplishment I never would have had I griped about the part or quit altogether. And if you wish to pursue dance as a profession, understand that you will rarely, if ever, have a say in which part you receive and will often face disappointments and setbacks. Look at this as practice for the future. Accept roles with maturity and a sense of professionalism. Learn from “failure” and improve. This sort of tenacity will serve you well, whatever you pursue. 
  3. There’s always next time. Remember that in the majority of cases, there is always a next time! You now have experience over which you can reflect during the intervening time which you can use to improve in an area of weakness that may have become apparent. 
  4. Relax and do something fun. Plan to have a meal with family and friends or plan an activity to which you can look forward and take your mind off of the audition. Think of it as a celebration, no matter what happened at the audition. Remember: You have just done something most people find very stressful and some wouldn’t dare try! So, be proud of your accomplishment and treat it with the celebration it deserves.
    5. It will get easier. Remember, that the more often you participate in an audition, the easier it will become.  Even if your goal is not to become a professional dancer, this type of experience will help you in life, whether it be a job interview or a presentation at work. 
    6. Be a Happy Dancer! Whatever happens, enjoy yourself, apply the lessons you learn, whether from a good or bad experience, and move on and be happy!

“From Passion to Career”

A professional dancer’s perspective on pursuing a career in dance.

Last month, at The Turning Pointe, (a local dance supply store), Ballet Academy teamed up with Mary Ann Claud to promote her novel, “Alex Dances”, about a young girl who follows her dream of becoming a professional dancer.  In harmony with the book, a discussion entitled “From Passion to Career” was lead by Ms. Sarah Bowdoin, dancer with Palmetto City Ballet (formerly Ballet Evolution) and Ballet Academy instructor, on the topic of how to successfully pursue a career in dance. With some two decades as a student, pre-professional and professional dancer, Ms. Bowdoin used her own experience as a reference as she expounded the options available to aspiring, young dancers. 

Ms. Bowdoin commenced the discussion with a brief history of her own training and career. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Sarah attended Rowland’s School of Ballet with the pre-professional dance company, Kingwood Dance Theatre that brought in teachers from places such as Houston Ballet and Regional Dance America. After graduating high school, she attended Oklahoma University where she received a double major in Ballet Performance and Nonprofit Organizational Studies. Ms. Bowdoin then began her professional career with the Charlotte Ballet, dancing with them for one season, eventually making her way to Ballet Evolution in Charleston (now Palmetto City Ballet) and is now going on her 3rdseason with the company. In addition to this experience,Ms. Bowdoin has participated in hundreds of auditions, inlcuding over 50 professional auditions.

Ms. Bowdoin is also an accomplished teacher, having just begun her third year with Ballet Academy of Charleston where she instructs both the young children and teenagers as well as the adults. She also teaches yoga and is certified in Progressing Ballet Technique U.S.®. (See the article, “What is PBT?” )

“Do I want to audition for ballet companies without the security of a college degree or gamble on my dream by putting off a career to go to school?”

Ms. Bowdoin then advised her listeners on what steps to take in their pursuit of a professional career as she enumerated the choices before these budding protétés. Below is a summary of the course Ms. Bowdoin recommended:

Phase 1- What To Do Now:

1. Find a local school that has teachers with professional experience.

2. Take summer intensives. Explore local intensives but also be willing to travel to other areas where more opportunities may exist. 

3. Embrace versatility. Learn different styles and techniques, and develop the ability to pick up choreography quickly.

Phase 2- Planning Your Future:

4. Work hard outside of the studio. Practice what you have learned in the studio and stay active during time off. Consider supplementing your dance training with similar activities such as yoga, Pilates®and PBT®. 

When you graduate from High School, decide which path you want to take:

Option 1:  Audition for trainee programs in professional dance companies to begin your dance career immediately. 

Option 2:  Attend a college or university and obtain BFA, BA, or both, then pursue a career afterward. 

In order to determine which path is best for you, ask yourself the following: 

Do I want to audition for ballet companies without the security of a college degree or gamble on my dream by putting off a career to go to school?

If you are still unsure, ask yourself if you are really ready to audition.

Not every 17 or 18 year old is emotionally or technically ready to handle the competitive environment of professional auditions and company life.

To help you determine whether you are ready, you can apply to college then take a few pre-pro auditions to see where you stand. Additionally, when auditioning for jobs, decide if you want to go for either the top tier or regional companies, knowing that top tier companies will most likely want you to go through their trainee program, school or 2ndcompany programs (occasionally regional, too), and that the competition in these companies will be greater.

You should carefully weigh the benefits versus the risks of each decision, perhaps making a pros & cons list. For instance, if you determine to enter a trainee program, you can attend college part-time or online to earn a degree while gaining experience with a professional company. Additionally, after some time, your experience as a trainee can act as a bridge to a second company that might pay. Such a course may be particularly demanding, however, since you will likely have to obtain additional work to support yourself. This may be the case regardless of whether you attend a college or university as it likely be the reality you face as a professional dancer since this career rarely pays well. 

Conversely, if you decide instead to first attend college or university, understand that you will be putting your career on hold for the time it takes you to complete school; Time, thought by some to correspond to important and formative years as a dancer. However, there are still opportunities to gain experience, especially if you choose a school that offers a dance program. And more and more, company directors are expecting to receive their trainees at a somewhat older age, as many are opting to attend school first. 

If you choose to attend college and want to obtain a double major, do your research. For example, a BFA program can offer a conservatory style without much room for other interests. However, it does provide a  “company feel” with lots of performance opportunities to help you gain the needed experience as a professional.

When considering ballet and dance majors, ask the following questions:

  1. Where do the graduates end up?
  2. How accessible are second majors and minors?
  3. What are their performance opportunities?
  4. Who are included in their faculty and guests?

Some top ballet programs (in not particular order):

  1. Indiana University
  2. University of Oklahoma
  3. University of Utah
  4. Butler University
  5. University of Arizona
  6. University of South Carolina

In conclusion, Ms. Bowdoin reminded her listeners that pursuing a career in dance won’t’ be easy, either emotionally, physically, financially.  Whichever avenue you choose to take will require a thick skin, persistence and great heart. However, if you are passionate and cannot imagine life without dance, all the struggles will be worth it because you will be “living your dream”.

Audiences Were Dazzled

This past Sunday, some 70 local students from various schools including Ballet Academy, were privileged to perform with The Moscow Ballet in “The Great Russian Nutcracker”. 

Audiences were dazzled by this spectacular showpiece performed twice on Sunday at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center.

 This singular take on the classic tale includes unique characters and aspects such as “The Dove of Peace” (a striking, feather-winged acrobatic duo gliding across the stage with angelic-like poise)  and a large matryoshka (Russian nesting doll) gracing the stage.  These cultural and visionary additions, however, did not overshadow the traditional aspects and feel-good nature of this beloved ballet classic. This tasteful combination of new and old left audiences awestruck and full of all the “warm fuzzies” that accompany watching a performance of the “Nutcracker”.

A big “Thank You” and congratulations to all of our students and parents who participated in this rare and memorable event!  And great thanks goes to the Moscow Ballet for providing this unique opportunity to local students.  We are eagerly anticipating next years’ performance!

How Many Classes Should I Take?


Parents often ask, “How many classes a week should my child take?” The answer to this question depends largely on the age and interest of the child. Someone as young as three will not necessarily have the desire or the physical conditioning necessary for more than one class a week, while a more mature five or six-year-old might enjoy taking classes twice weekly.  A more dedicated pre-teen or teen may choose to do a minimum of 3-4 classes per week.  All of this, of course, is dependent on the child’s level of interest, dedication, and maturity.

Particularly as a child gets older and becomes more serious about dance, multiple classes a week really begin to make sense.  This is not an unusual concept. If someone joins a sports team, they can expect to be practicing several hours a week, even daily. To illustrate, imagine if a person only did math in school an hour a week. How much would they retain? How long do you think it would take them to improve? Dance is no different. If a person wants to become skillful in any field or area of study, they have to practice regularly and often!

The real question for the student is: What are your goals?  Are you looking for an occasional diversion or a true hobby in which you can see a marked improvement? Or perhaps are you on the path to becoming a professional?  How a person answers will very well determine the amount of time they should spend in the studio. It would be prudent to have a frank discussion with the teacher about their goals and to ask what steps they recommend be taken in order to reach them.

In the meantime, consider three reasons why more than one class a week is beneficial:

 

  1. Exposure to different teachers/methods. Every teacher has a unique style, methodology, and viewpoint. One teacher may notice a weakness or a problem another does not, or may explain something in a way that you understand better. The point is: We can all benefit from a variety of teachers and teaching styles.
  2. Learning other dance genres. If you take at a studio which offers a variety of genres, taking more than one class can give you the opportunity to try out different styles and benefit from the unique movements and skills offed in each. In short, it can make you a well-rounded dancer and strengthen your overall technique. *
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice! Again, the more often you dance, the better you will become as you build muscle memory and gain new skills.

In the end, a student and their parents must decide which course is best. But certainly, if a child loves to dance, and has the ability to take several classes a week, there is no reason why they shouldn’t explore the added benefits of multiple classes per week. Ballet Academy offers discounts for multiple classes taken per month. For more information visit the tuition page here.


*  Ballet Academy’s sister studio, Dance Academy of Charleston, located in Mt. Pleasant, offers multiple genres of dance for ages 3-17, including tap, hip-hop, and acrobatics.  For more information on this studio please visit our website here or at www.dancecharleston.com

Combating the Holiday Food Craze (Part 1)

It’s that time of year again! Candy, baked goods and sugary drinks are plentiful, and comfort food is a hallmark of the season.


It seems from the months of October to December, we are bombarded with appetizing temptations everywhere we go. For the health conscious dancer, this can be especially frustrating, since we associate these delights with family, friends and memorable activities.

However, life is to be enjoyed! And indulging a bit during the holidays is not only normal but can contribute to a balanced social and mental state.

Nevertheless, since we understand a dancer’s need to remain healthy in order to dance their best, we have compiled a list of suggestions, from alternative foods to mental exercises in order to help combat the foils of the season.


*Disclaimer* This article is intended to offer helpful suggestions for maintaining a healthy lifestyle (not a weight loss diet) based on data compiled from various nutrition-based articles and is intended for those who are old enough to control their own diet. These suggestions should be used in a balanced way and we are in no way advocating a “diet plan” for anyone. Particularly for the active young person, adequate caloric intake is a must!

Below is a chart of the recommended daily caloric intake needed to maintain a healthy weight according to age, gender, and physical activity level:

 https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/estimated-calorie-requirement


  1. Drink plenty of water. Ok, you’ve probably heard this one so many times, it’s become a  cliché. But it’s true!  The body is composed of anywhere between 50-78% water, depending on age and gender, and it is required in order for the body to function properly and efficiently and flushes out unwanted toxins from the body.
  • What if you don’t like water?  Fortunately, there are a number of naturally flavored waters, and of course, there is always fruit and herbs which can add a lovely hint of flavor to your regular water. Here’s a list of suggestions: https://deliciouslyorganic.net/flavored-water-recipes/
  • How much should you drink? For a table of the recommended amount of water to drink per day, follow this link:

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-much-water-should-I-drink#recommendations

  1. Learn to enjoy alternatives. Finding healthy alternatives to certain foods has become easier as increasingly more options are available in stores and abundant information is provided on the internet.  Many find that once they develop a taste for these alternatives, they taste just as good to them if not better than the unhealthy version.

For a list of examples, follow this link:

https://www.swansonvitamins.com/blog/lindsey/food-replacement-hacks

  1. Watch your sugar! It’s become common knowledge that sugar is a major contributor to a slew of health issues both small and large. It’s hidden in a lot of the everyday foods and condiments, (even “healthy” or “organic” versions), often under alternative names (e.g. anything ending in –OSE). Taking the time to read the ingredients on a label can open your eyes to hidden sugars, and help you to make better choices. Natural sugar substitutes (e.g. stevia, monk fruit) are now used in many products or even no sweeteners at all. Just by being aware of your sugar intake and lessening it in your regular food items, you can alleviate the “guilt” you might feel when you do decide to indulge in that dessert! Speaking of that…

For a list of healthy sugar substitutes visit this site:

 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-sugar-substitutes#section6

  1. Indulge! Yes, sometimes it’s ok to just enjoy the food you’re craving. In fact, mentally this can be healthy as it can help you to stop obsessing over a certain food, nix the craving and move on!  Not only that, you may find that the thing you were reluctant to give up wasn’t all that good to start with, making it easier to reject next time.  Also, try just having a small portion of the thing you’re craving since…

Here is a great article from the Huffington Post on why indulging occasionally is good for you (you’re welcome!):

 https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/06/23/this-is-why-treating-yourself-to-bad-foods-is-totally-okay_a_21400471/

  1. A little goes a long way. Portion control is key if you want to have a balanced and healthy diet. If you are typically a big eater, going back for seconds or thirds, try drinking a glass of water, having a salad or an apple before a meal, to help you feel full on less. Eating slowly and really enjoying your food is also important since it takes an estimated 20 minutes after eating for the brain to register that you are full. If you find after waiting this time you are still hungry, help yourself to another portion, filling at least half of the plate with vegetables or salad.

Below is a link to a government-funded website which gives suggestions on portion sizes for all the food groups as well as their respective nutritional facts:

https://www.choosemyplate.gov


These are just a few recommendations to help balance out the indulgences of the season. We hope you have enjoyed them. Stay tuned for a future article completing the list!

Why Take Adult Ballet?

In ballet, physical might and grace are harmoniously combined, employing both delicate and vigorous movement with great control. Ballet can equip you with tremendous strength, poise, flexibility, as well as contribute to improved cognitive function and physical coordination.


Since its dawn in the 15thcentury royal courts of Europe, ballet has been revered as a stunning art form requiring exceptional power and agility.  As it has evolved, greater emphasis has been placed on the athleticism necessary to achieve the more precise lines and immaculate turns and balances for which ballet is widely known.  The long, lean muscles developed through practicing proper technique are a hallmark of ballet and have become the inspiration for creating this coveted physique outside of the dance studio through alternative exercise programs.

But ask any dancer, and they will tell you that only by taking a ballet class can this desired aesthetic truly be achieved. It is by combining both isotonic (tension while muscle length is changed) and isometric (tension without muscle length change) movements in the proper way, that long, incredibly strong muscles are created.

What if you aren’t looking for a “dancer’s body”?  Many professional athletes have long used ballet for cross training.  Jean-Claude Van Damme, the famed martial artist, said of ballet: “Ballet is an art, but it’s also one of the most difficult sports. If you can survive a ballet workout, you can survive a workout in any other sport.”

But, is ballet just an incredible workout for the trained athlete?  Or can it provide notable health benefits for anyone?  Just what are the benefits of a traditional ballet class? Consider some compelling examples:

  • Greater core strength, spinal health, balance, and flexibility- From the toddler learning to master gross motor skills to the elderly adult, we all can appreciate the contribution of a strong center and more flexible spine and body to increased mobility and injury prevention. Balance, exercised throughout class with varying levels of difficulty, is emphasized and imperative for effective presentation. With virtually all exercises requiring the engagement of the entire core (abdominals and back) while keeping the muscles surrounding the spine limber, you can see why ballet is one of the best forms of exercise for creating a healthy core and spine. And since ballet incorporates both dynamic and static stretching, you can rest assured you’re receiving all potential benefits of stretching.

 

  • Improved cognitive function and body mechanics- With various choreographed sequences (i.e. “combinations”) in each class, requiring immediate memorization and presentation, ballet is as much a workout for the brain as it is for the body. This simultaneous exercise for mind and body can form new neural pathways in the brain resulting in greater mental sharpness, spatial awareness and can aid in the prevention and treatment of certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  Various researchers have reported significant improvements to neurobiological health in elderly patients who regularly partook in dance.  Not only was mental enhancement noted, but balance, posture and gait mobility were also improved.

 

  • Greater social connection/decreased stress- According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, 12 weeks of dance training proved effective in combating depression in all participants to a “meaningful” degree (Akandere M1Demir B.. 2011 Sep)And while dance alone is not a cure for depression, it is well documented that exercise is a huge mood lifter and stress reliever since it releases feel-good chemicals and mood-regulating hormones in the brain, such as endorphins and serotonin.  Adding music and dancing to your work-out routine can only increase these benefits since it makes exercise that much more enjoyable! Additionally, students of ballet can find friendship and bonding between themselves and their teacher as they work together in class.

These are just a few of the main noted benefits of ballet.  To learn more why not try a class? Ballet Academy is the only school in the area which offers several adult ballet classes per week ranging in levels from Beginner to Advanced. While our instructors have years of training and experience, Ballet Academy fosters an environment of warmth, encouragement, and safety.  Additionally, we do not allow our regular students to attend these classes, which creates a more comfortable atmosphere for our adult students.


For a list of our classes and fees, please visit our home page and select “Adult Classes”, or click on the link below.

Adult Classes

10 Tips for Memorizing Choreography

We have all been there:  Struggling to memorize new choreography.  This happens for a number of reasons but let’s review some helpful tips, presented in no particular order, that may aid in the learning process.

1. Take it “one step at a time”.  “Chunking”, a term coined in cognitive science, refers to combining a few items that go together naturally.  In other words, taking the choreography one piece, or “chunk” at a time.  Often, instructors will teach this way; grouping the steps into “bite-size” pieces, reviewing them until the students feel they have it down, then adding on.  But, students can develop their own internal “chunking”, or memorization process, to help them learn the steps.  Additionally, you can use verbal or visual cues, whether it’s a word or phrase the teacher uses or something you come up with which you can relate easily to the movement.

2. Notes & Diagrams.  If you still find you are having difficulty committing the steps to memory you can try this technique:  Write the steps down in order, using words or phrases which make sense to you (or those given by the instructor), or even drawing diagrams using stick figures (you don’t have to be an artist!).  Multiple studies have proven that writing something down, as opposed to just trying to memorize it or even typing it, aids in memory retention and learning.  So, pick up that old-fashioned pen and paper and get to work!

3. Mini-Marking.  Going over the steps repeatedly in your head can be helpful, but involving a certain level of muscle memory can increase the effectiveness of these mental reviews.  If you’re wondering what “mini-marking” is then just recall the last time a teacher gave a combination or a bit of choreography.  Were you just standing by idly watching or were you mimicking the movement with either your hands or feet as you watched closely?  Likely, you were doing the latter.  The beauty of mini-marking is that it can be done anywhere and at any time:  at home, in the car or even while you’re waiting in line at the store!  Additionally, there is a theory called, “the mirror neuron theory”, which states that our brain cells respond equally to performing an action ourselves as they do when we watch another perform it.  So, watching and marking at the same time could theoretically double your intake rate, right?

4. Practice makes perfect. Repeating the steps, again and again, is obviously the most effective method.  Start by doing the steps slowly until you have them down and then gradually pick up the pace, eventually practicing with the music.  Music has become very accessible and can be downloaded in seconds.  You can even ask the instructor for the precise name and version of the music they’re using.  If you practice with the intended score, you will be more likely to be practicing the timing correctly.  And once you’ve begun practicing, don’t stop when you feel you’ve gotten it right, but keep going until you can’t get it wrong.

5. Play games.  Whether you generally have issues with memory, or it’s choreography specific, memory aid games can help your overall memory to improve and teach you to think “on your toes”!

6. Be in the moment.  This is an important one.  We all have a lot on our minds and can often allow our minds to wander during class or even when the teacher is giving instruction or choreography.  Don’t do this!  It’s very important that you be mentally “present” and focus on what is happening at the moment, minimizing all distractions.

7. Ask for help!  It may seem obvious, but many of us are too embarrassed to ask for help or clarification on a step or count we find difficult or confusing.  If you are too shy to do this during a rehearsal or class, (or the timing is inappropriate), you can ask the instructor afterward or even a friend who already has the movement down.  Adding to this, you can always invite a friend to practice with you! The social connection you feel along with the immediate feedback you get from a friend (who may know a step better than you) can go a long way in improving your understanding of the steps.  A famous proverb states:   “As iron sharpens iron; so one person sharpens the face of another.”  The point being that we can help each other to improve using our unique abilities, so why not take advantage of such an opportunity?

8. Focus on the music.  Sometimes I find that I’m getting too caught up in the choreography and am missing the connection between the choreography and the music.  Most choreography is very musical; meaning it complements or harmonizes with the music.  Sometimes just taking a moment to observe the connection between the two can help clear up any confusion you may have about when to do a step-because the music tells you!

9. Don’t linger over a moment.  If you’re getting stuck on one or two particularly difficult parts, don’t allow these to become your focal point.  Imagine a driver who centers their attention on only one thing on the road:   How would their driving fair?  Would they make much progress?  Often the approach of taking the choreography in as a whole can help clear up any trouble spots you’re struggling with.  For the time, just allow that to be a “problem area” and focus on getting the rest of the choreography down.  You can return to the problem area later.  You may find that after class when you have more time to work on it in a relaxed environment, or even after a good night’s sleep (oh so important!) that something just “clicks”.  If this does not happen, however, don’t despair!  Refer to tip number 7.

10. Tackle the feet first.  Your feet being what propel you across the floor, they are generally considered the “more important” part of the dancing process.  Of course, both the upper and lower body in dance is critical, including épaulement and facial expressions.  But when we are learning something new it can be helpful to apply the “chunking” principle to our bodies:  focus on one part at a time.  Once you have one part down, you can add from there.

These are just a few suggestions you can try out.  The process of learning choreography is very individual, so just try some of these and find what works best for you.  And remember to try to relax!  The more anxious you feel, the more difficult it will be.  Merde!

 

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker

Last month, for the fourth consecutive year, Ballet Academy hosted an open audition for the Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker”!

Ballet Academy is privileged to be the official host studio for this prestigious ballet company and to assist in bringing to Charleston area families this extraordinary, heartwarming performance.

On August 26th 2018, Ballet Academy welcomed 82 dancers, 6- 17 years old from various local dance studios to their ballet school in West Ashley. Each had an opportunity to audition in front of Ms. Maria Morari, current audition director and professional ballerina with the Moscow Ballet. Formerly with The National Theatre for Ballet and Opera in Chisinau, Moldova, and with experience in touring worldwide, Ms. Morari joined the Moscow Ballet’s North American touring company in 2017. With an additional background in gymnastics and teaching, she counts it a privilege to share her love of movement and artistry with young, aspiring dancers.

Some of the roles for which these young dancers auditioned were Mice, Party Kids, Snow Maidens and Snow Sprites, as well as some ACT II Variations.
This unique opportunity of auditioning, rehearsing and performing with an internationally acclaimed, professional ballet company is made possible to children all over the continent thanks to the “Dance with Us” program, conceptualized and underwritten solely by The Moscow Ballet.

Not only is this a marvelous opportunity for young, local performers, but is a must-see performance for all others! To sum this up, consider the words of Ballet Academy owner and director, Corina Fimian:

“The charm and artistry, together with the athletic ability of the dancers through sound technique, is unmatched. From the dancers to the sets, the entire performance is an unending and stunning display for the aesthetic senses. It is difficult to know where to look! If you have not yet experienced it, I highly recommend it as a wholesome and memorable holiday activity for the entire family.”

To purchase tickets for this event, please visit www.nutcracker.com/buy-tickets.

What is PBT?

PBT stands for Progressing Ballet Technique.

PBT is an innovative program designed to train dancers in muscle memory to improve technique, flexibility and longevity in dance, while gaining a greater awareness of their muscles and how to use them properly to achieve their goals in ballet.

Its original creator, Marie Walton-Mahon, is formerly of the Les Ballet de Marseilles, and since ending her own career has pursued teaching in her home country of Australia with great success and celebrity.  Seeing the need for an increased understanding of body mechanics and proprioception (awareness of one’s body spatially) in students, and feeling inspired by the immediate feedback of an unstable surface as found in a stability ball, Ms. Walton-Mahon began experimenting with various exercises on her students with demonstrable success.  Finally, in 2004 PBT was born!  She has since grown this technique into a veritable empire, spreading her knowledge through workshops held worldwide and a significant online reach.

Megan Berlint-Nicko is the Owner/Director of PBT U.S.®.  A former professional ballet and jazz dancer, trained in the Ceccechetti method, Ms. Berlint-Nicko began her teaching career at age fifteen.   She has obtained several teaching certificates, shaping her focus on training strong, healthy dancers.  Fascinated by how PBT can improve not only a dancer’s technique but contributes to their safe training and increased longevity, Ms. Berlint-Nicko began studying this method on her own.  Seeing its impact on her own body and accessing muscles she had not fully utilized even during her own dance career, she recognized the need to train young dancers from an early age to prevent injury.  After months of personal study, she traveled to Australia to train directly with Marie Walton-Mahon and was then granted the rights to brand PBT in the U.S.  She currently holds teacher workshops all over the U.S. and Canada.

Ms. Berlint-Nicko visited Charleston last month and trained two of our instructors, as well as our studio owner in this revolutionary method.  The workshop was held in our BAC studio and was one and half days of intense, yet fun, work!  Everyone who participated agrees that they came out with a greater understanding how to train students to achieve their best in ballet.

Ballet Academy of Charleston is the first and only studio in Charleston to receive this certification and licensure.  In addition to offering full PBT classes, we will soon include some of the exercises in our regular ballet classes in order to expose our students to the benefits of this incredible technique.  Furthermore, we hope to share this method with all students in the area who chose to take this class with us!

For more information:

http://www.pbtus.com/about

https://pbt.dance