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What Is the Purpose of the Heels Being Lifted off of the Ground in Ballet?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thank you so much for the question, Amy Z.

This is a great question because it is a little tricky and there are many different opinions. When working at the barre your heels shouldn’t be lifting off the ground but you should be imaging that they are in order to create the feeling that your body weight is over the balls of your feet. We are training our bodies to have our weight NOT on our heels and therefore it can sometimes be seen as a exaggeration by lifting the heels off of the ground.

First position

Imagine that you have only one piece of paper that could slide underneath your heel. That is how much your heel should be off of the ground. It really shouldn’t be visible.

If you pile with your heels coming completely off of the ground then the calf and leg muscles aren’t being used or strengthened in a way that will benefit you.

When you are dancing a variation, you still want to use your full pile with your heels on the ground but sometimes you will see the heels slightly lifted as the dancer is changing or prepping positions. This is normal. Especially when you are working with speed because that is when it is even more important to have your body weight on the balls of your feet. You can’t move quickly if your weight is positioned incorrectly.

Jumps. Well… technically it should come from a pile with your heels on the ground. Honestly, it is common to see dancers jumping from a visible but slightly lifted heel. It’s again about your body weight. Getting your weight in to your heels is death to a jump.

The prep for a saute in the fast ballet, Ballo Della Regina. (the right foot heel is on the ground)
Top of the Saute.

All fifth positions, all pile’s, and all preparations for jumps, if done correctly, should have the heel down but with the weight on the balls of your feet. That way your legs are ready for any step that comes your way!

xoxo
-Hol

What Are Some Recommendations of Videos In Order to Learn More About Ballet?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Monday, April 6, 2020

Photo: China Magazine

Thank you for the question, @papagena_

Yes! Fabulous that you would like to learn more about the ballet world. In order to not over load you with ideas and suggestions, as there really is a huge supply of materials out there that can take you in all sorts of fascinating directions. I’ve compiled two videos each about the two choreographers that I find the most interesting and influential in my life, George Balanchine and August Bournonville.

Balanchine:

Balanchine History:

Fantastic Clips of many Balanchine Ballets showing the diversity and range:

Bournonville:

Bournonville History: (Documentary in Danish)

https://www.dr.dk/drtv/program/bournonville_118985

History (In English):
Part 1:

Part 2:

Entire performance of his full length ballet, Napoli

https://kglteater.dk/kgl/xtra/forestilling-napoli/

I hope you enjoy!
xoxo
-Hol

Which Role Has Fulfilled You the Most?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Saturday, April 4, 2020

Photo: Selina Meier

Thank you for the question, andersen_annette

Oooh that’s a big question! So many roles have touched me. The lead ballerina in, Etudes, is very dear to me because it was my first Principal Part as a professional dancer. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to revisit the ballet every few years. I feel that Etudes represents my growth as a dancer and artist.

In Etudes. Photo: Costin Radu

The entire Balanchine repertoire means a lot to me because of my training at the School of American Ballet.  I spent four years in NYC admiring and learning Balanchine ballets, which became my foundation and core. Most recently, I trained with Merrill Ashley, for the premiere of Ballo Della Regina. Having the opportunity to learn from a living, Balanchine legend was a memory I’ll never forget. To be able to explore and dive into every step, every day for nearly five weeks was ballerina heaven. I learned so much from that experience that I consciously try to add to every role that I do moving forward.

Performing, Ballo Della Regina

As for full-length story ballets, Giselle is certainly a character I treasure. I felt, as many ballerinas must also, that I shared and understood many of the emotions of Giselle throughout the ballet. Falling in love, betrayal, heartbreak and finally forgiveness.

Giselle First Act with Jonathan Chmelensky.

The great challenge in Giselle was transforming from the mad scene in first act to finding the complete inner peace and calm to do the penches, center stage, alone with a spotlight in the second act. I believe that this ballet helped me discover new depths of my artistry that I’d never explored before. 

Giselle Second Act with Jonathan Chmelensky.

But I’ve never had more fun, than performing as Alice in Wheeldon’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Absolutely pure joy the entire way through! I love that production to pieces. It is magical! So much dancing! So many smiles to give to the audience!

Alice.

xoxo
-Hol

PS- You can currently stream Alice in your own living room, https://kglteater.dk/kgl/xtra/forestilling-alice-i-eventyrland?fbclid=IwAR2nAivcMEKzzwdCVdRrh3BZmrqgWT8h_SQVhfXO0JNFegsGKAKAIFDArzA

How Do You Customize Your Pointe Shoes?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Friday, March 13, 2020

Photo: Hummel

Thank you for the question, Misslilydoesballet

As many ballerinas have said before me and will say after me… “It has taken me years to customize my shoes.” And it’s true! It has taken me years! Luckily, I am currently very happy with them.

My Shoes are Freeds. (Always and Forever)

I wear maker, V. I have worn this maker ever since I became a professional. Nearly thirteen years!! I love my maker V. I hear, he has become quite popular and now it’s extremely difficult to become a new customer of his! Go maker V! He is magic.

I currently wear size 5 and a heel pin, XX. (for a long time I wore 5 1/2 X… but my bunions grew.) :/

FREED. 5. XX. V

I use a leather insole. I loooove my leather insole. I have Freed cut the sole so it is only 10cm long. DO NOT DO THIS UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN IN POINTE SHOES FOR YEARS! This is extremely dangerous to do if you are young or new to pointe. By cutting the insole, it takes out all of the support in the shoe that protects the feet and ankles. It’s a little crazy. I admit it. I dance with very little actual shoe. You can only do this if you have trained your ankles to be strong. Very strong. *Don’t try at home.*

My leather insole.

I have cut down the sides of my shoes so the arch of the foot is shown more. This was one of the first things I did when I started to customize my shoes so I don’t even remember how much it is that I cut down.

Lastly, I use an elastic draw string!

These shoes have given me some of my absolute BEST memories. I am so grateful for them. Truly love what I do.

Photo: Hummel

xoxo,
-Hol

What Was It Like Working With Merrill Ashley?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Monday, January 27, 2020

Thank you for the question @andreeaunicorn

Working with the legend, Merrill Ashley, was everything and more a dancer can wish for during a rehearsal period! She is AMAZING!

Studio Time with Merrill Ashley. Working with Jonathan Chmelensky and myself on the Pas De Deux

When I saw Merrill in the hallway of the Royal Danish Ballet for the first time, I ran up to her, gave her a big hug and I started crying. I was THAT excited! Absolutely, a complete, 100% fan girl moment. I knew ever since my boss, Nikolaj Hubbe, announced that she was coming to set Ballo Della Regina on us that she would be the highlight of the season!

Merrill Ashley working with George Balanchine in the New York City Ballet.

I trained in NYC at the School of American Ballet which is the ballet school that feeds in to the New York City Ballet, aka Balanchine’s company. So of course, I’ve grown up knowing exactly who Merrill Ashley is. She is someone I’ve admired greatly for a long time. Living Balanchine royalty. I also read her book when I was a teenager, Dancing For Balanchine, (I recommend it if you have not read it, to take a look) and as I read it, I kept nodding my head in agreement to the words on the page. Her opinions and views on things struck home when I could recognize the same thoughts from within myself.

Merrill and I working on a bit of the Sugar Plum Variation.
Merrill was so kind to come and watch my stage call and share her thoughts with me, even though she had just arrived from the USA and was most likely very jet lagged!

You could feel from day one in the studio with Merrill, that her goal for every dancer in the room, was bigger than just getting the ballet on and up to par. Merrill wanted to help you improve to be a better all around dancer. That is an exciting energy to feel from your coach. When you are already working hard, and then feel that energy coming from her, it just makes you want to work ten times harder. To soak up every second, every word of wisdom she has.

Studio Time with Merrill Ashley.

Under her eye, we explored every step in Ballo Della Regina. We spent six weeks, for five days a week with extended rehearsals everyday, to work on Ballo. This process came at our busiest time of the year which is of course, The Nutcracker season. So yes, some days were long. Some days we were more tired than others. Some days we wouldn’t even leave the theater until after the evening’s performance. We’d go straight from Ballo rehearsals to getting ready for the Sugar Plum Fairy or Cavalier. We were working very intensely but it was without a doubt, the best rehearsal process I’ve ever had. (Powerade did become a must have) 😉

Merrill doing the pas de deux with me, when my partner was busy in a different rehearsal.

I defiantly didn’t want to disappoint Merrill or let her down in any way but she made the atmosphere so nice and supportive that I was able to forget that I was dancing in front of one of the ballerina’s I admire and idolize the most in the world. The fear and intimidation vanished. There was room for jokes and stories! Oh the stories! To hear about Balanchine and that epic period of time she danced in was 100% ballet heaven. Everyday, I looked so much forward to going to work. I was completely inspired by her.

On stage rehearsal in the Raymonda Sets.

There is truly nothing more rewarding than to feel that you are improving as a dancer with your coach. My time with Merrill was a gift. I know in 5-10-20 years, I’ll still be talking about how lucky I was to get to work with Merrill Ashley!

xoxo
-Hol

Back stage after the premiere with Merrill Ashley and Stacy Caddell.
Bows at the premiere on January 12th, 2020 at the Royal Danish Ballet.

Are There Any Differences from A Brunch and Ballet class to Everyday class?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Friday, November 29, 2019

Photo: KGL Teater

Thank you for the question, @andreeaunicorn

There are a few differences but truly not as many as you might think. In Denmark, about once every few months, the public is invited in to the Royal Theater to watch the ballet company take morning class on the stage for free, while they can enjoy a croissant and some coffee.

The teacher varies but more often then not, for a Brunch and Ballet class we have our boss, Nikolaj Hubbe. He is quite charismatic and he always keeps the audience completely entertained with his jokes and Dan-glish way of speaking. For everyday class, we don’t actually have Nikolaj that often. Maybe twice a month… maybe. Some months less, some months more. Former Principal Dancer with RDB, Jean-Lucien Massot, former dancer and character dancer with RDB, Mogens Boesen, and former Principal dancer with NYCB, Adam Luders are our more typical teachers for everyday class. The past year or so, management has been bringing in more guest teachers from all around the world which is also super fun. Teachers such as, Taina Morales, Johnny Eliasen and Eva Draw.

For our everyday classes we never take it on stage. We always start the day in one of our studios backstage. The teacher also isn’t miked up but Nik, or whoever is teaching doesn’t change their steps, or behavior just because there is an audience for Brunch and Ballet. Who they are without an audience is the same as who they are when there is one.

The last fifteen minutes of a Brunch and Ballet, there is always a little demonstration of what we are currently working on, in hopes that we inspire a few audience members to come and see our next show.

A typical class is a full one hour and a half with no demonstration. Usually class ends with people trying out all sorts of steps they are working on, fouette turns, or boys jumping around.

Photo: KGl Teater

The outfits that we come in, the weird stretches you see us do, the leg warmers, the rolling out, the hair down, the messy buns, the side talking, the laughing, the jokes, the focus…. that is everyday. What you see is, what you get with RDB. 😉

Next Brunch and Ballet is April 25th & May 9th!

xoxo
-Hol

When Is The Best Moment Of Performing?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Friday, November 1, 2019

Photo: What Dance Can Do Project

Thank you for the question, tut4thewin!

Awww… performing. Without a doubt, my most favorite thing to do. I love stepping out in to the lights and sharing an evening with an audience. Magic happens. I swear, there is magic in the air at a theater. It is just waiting for you to ignite it.

My favorite moment when performing is when you are so “in” to the show that you can just play. The mind no longer has to focus on everything it has been instructed to do from the previous weeks. Everything clicks. All emotions become pure and your own physical boundaries get pushed! It’s just you up there without your coaches helping hand. Time to own the stage. It’s exhilarating.

Photo: Tejs ‘Olm

For weeks before a performance your head is filled with a lot of input from your coaches. Corrections, portrayal, emotions, counts, stage left, stage right, downstage, upstage… It can become numbing when you have so many things to remember in the same second.

But, this part of the process cannot be skipped. You need to know all of these things in order to present your best self and in order to reach the best overall production. Some days are frustrating. Some days are tiring. But in the end you are always very grateful for having a team working with you and helping you along the way. You couldn’t do it without them.

When you finally get to the performing step of the process, the mind starts to calm. That’s when you can start to lose yourself in the moment. It is the most amazing moment when performing. It may not happen on your first performance. Usually, you need at least one run under your belt. But then, an extra boost of confidence comes. Your body is automatically doing the steps, you know all your cues like the back of your hand and the opportunity to play has arrived. Play with holding a balance here, stretch the musicality there, add an extra turn where you can, when you can, steal another glance at your partner… There is nothing more joyous then getting to the level of playing on stage. It brings you on a high that you don’t ever want to come down from.

Photo: Brian Larsen

As I was writing this, the ballet that kept creeping in to my mind was, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Christopher Wheeldon. This ballet was a huge challenge to take on. The role of Alice has many specific instructions and steps. Have to look at the clock on count 2, of the fifth 8…. etc. And Alice is always moving. Always!
It took a long time to learn all of it and then to remember all of it, and then again to become comfortable with all of it. But I’ve never felt more rewarded by a role then Alice. Especially the second time the Royal Danish Ballet put up Alice, I found that I was really able to start to play on stage. I still crave that feeling after performances. I had some of my best performances to date. Out doing my own expectations of myself, which I’d never experienced before. I can be a pretty tough cookie on myself. 😉
And I was having so much fun! Every night after I played Alice, I couldn’t sleep. I was still so much in Alice’s world… replaying the night’s highlights over and over again in my head. Those shows felt like magic. Igniting that magic that exists in a theater so one can play, live on stage, is the best moment of performing.

xoxo
-Hol

What Is Your Favorite Thing About Spar Dame?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Monday, October 28, 2019

Thank you for the question, andreeaunicorn

Spar Dame, is the current ballet that The Royal Danish Ballet is performing! The choreographer is no other then the one and only, Liam Scarlett. The simplistic, yet chic sets and amazing costume designs are by Jon Morrell. Together they have created quite a show!

Spar Dame, or Queen of Spades in English, tackles a dark story about an interest that becomes obsession, that turns in to madness. It is based on Russian Alexander Pushkin’s short story about a officer named Hermann, who meets an elderly countess, aka. Queen of Spades, who holds the secret, three winning cards at gambling. Hermann seduces her young chambermaid, Liza, in order to get closer to the countess in hopes of discovering her secret cards. Every time he thinks he has taken a strong step forward in his scheme, it ends up being that the countess was really one step in front of him all along. Eventually, he loses his mind over the cards in a epic solo that closes the ballet.

Tobias Prætorius as Hermann. Final Scene of the ballet. Photo: Henrik Stenberg

That last scene, Hermann’s mad scene, is my favorite thing about Spar Dame. The set closes in on him with three huge walls blocking his exit. To me, representing his own mind closing in on himself. You see him dark eyed, frustrated and crossing the line in to insanity as the solo builds and builds and builds.

Alexander Bozinoff in Spar Dame. Photo: Henrik Stenberg

It must be an absolutely exhilarating scene to dance and play. The reason why it is my favorite thing about Spar Dame is because it is the first mad scene, as far as I am aware of, that uses the male character going mad instead of the more typical, female character.

The most famous mad scene will forever be Giselle’s. Rightfully so. It’s heartbreaking. The completely innocent girl experiencing a dramatic, heartbreak of devastation. Many amazing ballerina’s have performed this scene. Many more in the future will as well.

Giselle’s Mad Scene.

In Spar Dame, it is the mans turn to be completely vulnerable, to show an “ugly” emotion with the challenge of still being honest on stage. The closing scene in Spar Dame is choreographically phenomenal. Hermann dances for at least five minutes with big jumps, runs, and turns until he eventually jumps to his knees on the floor. Physically exhausted. Emotionally drained.

This scene stays with you. You believe that he has really lost it. Goosebumps. His obsession with the story and the countess destroys him in the end. Haunting.

Alexander Bozinoff & Kizzy Matiakis in Spar Dame. Photo: Henrik Stenberg

Bravo, to both our current men, Alexander Bozinoff and Tobias Prætorius playing Hermann. It is an absolute privilege to watch them perform. They knock it out of the park every time! You can catch Spar Dame through November 23rd. Not to be missed!

xoxo
-Hol

How Do You Tie Pointe Shoe Ribbons?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Friday, October 25, 2019

Thank you for your question, andreeaunicorn.

Here is a photo series taking you through, step by step, on how to tie your pointe shoe ribbons. It’s a little tricky at first, but in no time you will be tying your shoes in a matter of seconds. I hope this is easy to follow! Let me know if you have any questions by commenting below!

Step 1. I’m putting on my left shoe.

Start by putting on your pointe shoe while sitting on the floor. Bend your knee and slightly flex your foot so it lifts off the ground. Make sure each ribbon is free on either side of your shoe.

Step 2.

Take only the ribbon that is on the inside of you foot and leave the other ribbon alone to begin with.

Step 3

Drape the ribbon across your ankle and bring it around the back of your ankle.

Step 4

Keep going around the ankle…

Step 5

Continue around the backside of the ankle again. (So the first ribbon goes around your ankle 1.5 times)

Step 6

Your right hand will keep holding on to the ribbon that you’ve been working with. Now, with you left hand, pick up the other ribbon.

Step 7

Drape this ribbon across your ankle, the opposite way, creating an X on the front of your ankle.

Step 8

Continue with the ribbon all the way around the back of you ankle, and across the front. When the two ribbons are parallel with each other then you are done.

Step 9

Still with a bent leg, let your leg fall into the “butterfly” position so you have easy access to the inside of your foot. You are ready to tie your first knot.

Step 10

Tie a knot. Try not to tie a knot that is too tight. But the knot does need to be tight enough that it doesn’t unravel. I tie my knots directly between my ankle bone and my Achilles tendon.

Step 11

Tie a second knot.

Step 12

Now, grab both ends of your ribbons and lay them on top of each other to create only one ribbon.

Step 13

Fold the ribbon in on itself.

Step 14

Tuck the ribbon under all the layers of ribbon on your ankle.

Step 15

TIP: Before I go onstage, I always take a small piece of tape and wrap it around my tucked in ribbons. This way, I’m sure that my ribbons will not fall out.

Step 16

A piece of tape, about this size.

Step 17

Fold the tape over the ribbons.

Voila!

Voila! Now you have a shoe that is performance ready!! Just have to put on the other shoe.

xoxo
-Hol

Do You Know Any Good Ballet Schools Outside of Denmark?

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By TurnedOutPointeOfView on Friday, October 11, 2019

Thank you for the question idataggaard!

Yes! I will highlight three schools that I believe are very interesting and worth checking out, that are outside of Denmark.

The School of American Ballet. aka SAB.

Now, I might be a bit biased because this is the school that I attended for four years, year round. I credit SAB for giving me my tool box to become a professional. They are a huge part of my foundation and I truly don’t know if I would be where I am today without them.

Photo from the SAB website. Teacher: Suki Schorer

SAB is located in the heart of New York City. Lincoln Center. 66th & Broadway. They train only in the Balanchine style. ALL the dancers that join New York City Ballet must be trained by SAB. So, if you dream of dancing for NYCB one day, then you must attend SAB.

I believe in this school 100%. Their strengths are definitely giving their students a wonderful technique. They teach how to move quickly, how to interrupt the music, and how to move big. You’ll learn a lot and be a much improved dancer by attending SAB.

Picture from SAB website. Teacher: Kay Mazzo

I am very grateful to this school and would recommend everyone to audition for their summer program! It was always so much fun! NYC is not to be missed!



The Royal Ballet School.

I am very impressed by the Royal Ballet School in London, England. They train in the English style of ballet. The system of training is based on the legacy of Ninette de Valois. It is located right in Covent Garden.

Picture from The Royal Ballet School’s Website.

What makes this school stand out, at least in my eyes, is that they have put a huge focus in to a “Healthy Dancer Program.” They have a team of 20, dedicated to the children attending the school. It includes,

Healthcare Manager
Clinical Psychologist
Counselors
Rehabilitation Ballet Instructors
Physiotherapists
Performance Nutritionists
Sports Physicians
Strength and Conditioning coaches
School Nurses
Pilates instructors

Each child is screened and profiled to create a conditioning program that will specifically help them succeed.

The team also collects information alongside the English Institute of Sport, which gives the school wonderful insights about nutritional support.

The school even has counselors as part of a school-wide mental health provision, led by a clinical psychologist Mental Health and Safeguarding Lead. This is so important. The mental side of ballet is the hardest.

Other ballet schools may have elements of what the Royal Ballet School is offering but they are defiantly leading the way.


Canada’s National Ballet School. aka. NBS

The reason why I mention this school is because many of the dancers currently in the Royal Danish Ballet have been trained by NBS. Dancers that I truly admire. For example, Ji Min Hong and Alexander Bozinoff. They all speak very highly of the school. This school is located in Toronto, Canada.

Picture from NBS Website.

The school is modeled after the Royal Ballet School in London and includes living facilities, and exchange programs for their students. This school is definitely also worth looking more in to.