Beyond the Bubble – Dance Advantage Solutions For All Stages Of Your Dance Life Fri, 12 Jan 2018 12:02:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Blossom This Summer at Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s Summer Intensive Sat, 06 Jan 2018 05:35:39 +0000 If you are a young dance artist, consider a summer intensive in Israel, a region rich in groundbreaking contemporary dance, and study at the International Dance Village, a place of inspiration, creation, community and peace of mind.]]>

If you are a young dancer serious about spending a summer immersed in movement with like-minded peers and stellar faculty, consider looking abroad toward Israel, a country rich in groundbreaking contemporary dance, and one of its leading companies, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.

Smiling Kibbutz intensive students


While most top dance companies are based in major urban areas, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s heart and home is located in a kibbutz (a communal village) located in Ga’aton on the rolling hills of the historic Galilee region of northern Israel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  The International Dance Village is truly a unique location unlike any other in the world.  It is the life project of world-renowned choreographer Rami Be’er, the Artistic Director of Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, widely-recognized as one of the top international contemporary dance companies. Through his vision, leadership and dedication over the years, the International Dance Village has developed into a first-class dance center, offering 10 dance studios, a performing arts center and theater, a café and restaurant, a swimming pool, a social hall and much more.  It has truly become a haven for dancers and dance students from all walks of life, from around the world. Read on and learn more about the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s  Summer Intensive program, and visit their website for more details.


DA: What makes Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s Summer Intensive special?

The Summer Intensive program hosted by Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company is one of a kind for several reasons.  But first and foremost it’s because it’s the only one taking place at an International Dance Village. This special dance place has a strong tradition of innovation in contemporary dance, as the founder, Yehudit Arnon, a Holocaust survivor, envisioned bettering the world through the creation of a strong dance community.  She founded the dance company and the International Dance Village in Kibbutz Ga’aton in Western Galilee of Israel in the early 70’s and shortly thereafter, collaborated with renowned choreographers such as Mats Ek, Ohad Naharin, Jiří Kylián, Christopher Bruce, Kei Takei, Susanne Linke, Hada Oren, and Oshra Elkayam with the purposed of keeping the contemporary dance community in Israel fresh and innovative.  Her work has been proudly sustained and continued by Rami Be’er, the Artistic Director of Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.

In this context, 10 years ago, the Summer Intensive was born to offer young and aspiring dancers, high school and university aged dance students from all over the world, the opportunity to discover a unique and innovative dance environment, where they could express themselves and evolve as professional dancers.

We can proudly attest to the fact that alumni and past participants at our Summer Intensive have repeatedly said that they’ve gained a new family here, aside from learning a lot of impressive and advanced dance techniques from renowned teachers.  They’ve also developed a deep connection with one another, which was one of the best take away from the Kibbutz Summer Intensive. Young students get to live in the beautiful and inspiring International Dance Village along with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s dancers, teachers and choreographers. They have the opportunity to learn so much from them while also seeing them perform live.  It’s like no other place you’ve seen before.


Smiling dancers at Kibbutz Dance Company's Summer Intensive

For dancers coming to study and live here; whether they’re company dancers or studying at our Summer Intensive, it’s really a dream come true and a place of inspiration, creation, community and peace of mind.


Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company - Horses in the SkyDA: Can you tell us about the audition process and what students can expect?

Coinciding with our belief and desire to offer young and aspiring dancers from around the world with a first-class dance education during their summer break, we’ve made it a point to not require dancers and dance students to audition for the Summer Intensive.  Instead, we’ve created a Summer Intensive, offering an opportunity for dancers of all levels to attend and study with us.  From beginner and intermediate level dance students to more pre-professional dance students and dancers, we offer five different group levels so that the Summer Intensive can accommodate for all students of all levels and all backgrounds from across the world.

DA: How can students best prepare themselves for an intensive summer program abroad?

There is nothing specific that students necessarily have to do in order to prepare for the Summer Intensive aside from getting themselves psyched and excited to have the time of their lives; dancing and learning from one of the world’s leading contemporary dance companies in an International Dance Village like no other in the world, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea while making lifelong friends and new connections like-minded dancers and inspirational teachers from across the world.

International Dance VillageDA: What kinds of cultural or social activities can students participate in during this Summer Intensive?

Having the opportunity to live on a kibbutz (a communal village) where the International Dance Village is situated alongside our main and second companies, is quite a special experience.  This is your chance to live in the serene, beautiful, and historic Galilee region of Israel where you’ll be able to explore the region, its historic landmarks such as the ancient city of Akko, Jerusalem, float on the water of the Dead Sea (the lowest place on earth!), and hang out with friends on the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.  Following classes each day, we offer free time to swim and relax by our pool with friends and around the kibbutz and after dinner, we have fun and engaging social activities of all kinds.

DA: What specific advice do you have for students, so they can get the most out of their experience with world renowned faculty?

Our best suggestion is to arrive to the International Dance Village and the Summer Intensive as a ‘sponge,’ willing to listen and absorb all the new information, dance techniques, and repertoire that you’ll be learning together with fellow participants from our teachers and company dancers.  This is a truly special opportunity to be able to study firsthand with professional dancers, choreographers and international teachers with vast experience and offers a tremendous chance to improve yourself exponentially from a technical standpoint but at the same time, develop yourself as an artist while developing on a personal level from such an international dance experience.

DA: What are two or three tips you can share for dance students traveling to Israel for the first time?

Israel is truly a wonderful and unique region of the world with a plethora of history, diversity, culture, great cuisine and is also widely known as global leader in innovation and technology.  With that said, the dance scene in Israel is also world-renowned and therefore there is much to offer for dancers and dance students coming from abroad for these special summer dance workshops.  Naturally, summertime in Israel offers perfect summer weather, so prepare yourself for that as well as being immersed in an extremely welcoming community that is the International Dance Village; where dancers from all backgrounds are welcomed and are given support and guidance by our staff and faculty as they continue to develop in their careers as blossoming dancers.

Go deeper inside Kibbutz Dance Company’s 2018 Summer Intensive, learning more about the faculty, classes and how to register at


Visit the website for the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s 2018 Summer Intensive.


Rami Be'er at Kibbutz Summer Intensive
Artistic Director Rami Be’er, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company



Disclosure: Dance Advantage received compensation for publishing this sponsored post.
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Eva Maze: Dance from another angle Tue, 27 Jun 2017 14:45:49 +0000 Eva Maze never quite fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a ballerina but, as a successful organizer of theatrical productions, she's spent a lifetime traveling the world for the love of dance. Learn more about her story and memoir.]]>
With Ballet in My Soul by Eva Maze
Discover “With Ballet in My Soul” on Amazon

When a little girl begins to study ballet as a child, she typically envisions herself in a tutu and tiara, skittering across the floor en pointe, being held aloft by a handsome cavalier. Traveling the world with her troupe, she imagines visiting the sights of Paris and Milan, of Tokyo and London, cheered on by adoring fans and dance aficionados.

Eva Maze was no different. As a child in Bucharest, Romania, she studied ballet at a local school and exhibited enough talent to be offered a scholarship. Unfortunately, she contracted scarlet fever at the age of seven which often meant, in 1929, a death sentence, due to a lack of antibiotics. However, Maze’s pediatrician performed an extraordinary surgery on her: breaking the bones of her inner ears in order to relieve the buildup of fluid in them. It worked! Sadly, however, her parents would forever consider her “weak” and would not allow her to resume her ballet studies, regardless of how much she, or her ballet instructor, begged them.

Maze wouldn’t return to ballet until long after her family had emigrated to the United States just before the Second World War. As Romanian Jews watching the rise of fascism in their country, they began to fear for their lives and when opportunity knocked for Maze’s father, they fled to New York City. Academics came easily to her, especially foreign languages, and after high school, she chose to attend business school to learn typing and business writing, two additional skills which would serve her well in her future.

Eva Maze studying in London (photo courtesy Eva Maze)

At twenty, she met and married the love of her life, Oscar Maze, a 24 year old Air Force pilot. Together they would travel the world! Oscar was tremendously supportive of Eva, no matter what she chose to do. While Oscar was stationed in Pittsburgh, Eva found the Pittsburgh Ballet where she would discover the second love of her life (again!) – ballet. Even taking class just once a week rekindled the fire she had for the art form and it showed. The director of the ballet invited her to dance in their show, not as a ballerina en pointe, but in character roles, which are a little easier for older dancers to perform.

NB: “Older” in most careers does not refer to someone who is barely in her twenties but in dance, particularly ballet, twenty is ancient if you haven’t been consistently studying since your childhood.

When Oscar left the military, he was offered a temporary job with Pan American Airlines, a position which would become his lifelong career.  For many people, moving around the world as he and Eva did would be difficult but Eva loved it. She embraced every new city and country they moved to, from Germany to India, and in every location she would find dance. Although moving was a challenge, Maze describes the couple’s homes, their friends and their daughters with relish and charm. She found something to adore in every place she moved.

“From the time we landed in New Delhi in 1951 to the day we left for our next assignment in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1954, not a moment went by that didn’t include either a surprise or an adventure.”

Photo courtesy of Eva Maze

Much of With Ballet in My Soul reads as a travelogue, a paean to years past when travel was far easier and more glamorous than it is today. But what elevates this to a truly intriguing memoir is the turn it takes when Eva becomes what is known as an “impresario” and one of the very first women to do it. As Maze describes it, an impresario is a manager of performing groups or a touring agent. At the time – this is the early Fifties – the biggest name in this line of work was a Russian-born man named Sol Hurok. It never occurred to Eva that she would (or could) follow in his footsteps – bringing acts to Europe and touring them around the world – but that is exactly what she did. And by accident! While she and Oscar were living in India, she was asked by a friend to help coordinate some dancers and musicians on a trip to perform there. Not only did she manage it successfully by organizing flights and facilities, she enjoyed it. This soon led to more and more opportunities until she was one of the biggest names in the business, introducing companies like Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and American Ballet Theater to the world and even producing a massive event with the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Maze’s career lasted well into her 70s and began to wind down around the time of her husband’s death in 1993. Although she felt rudderless (she describes herself as the plane’s propeller while he was its rudder, steadying them as they went), she continued to travel until she eventually settled down in Florida where she enjoys swimming and playing with her grandchildren. Although she never did become the professional ballerina she envisioned as a child, she got it all: she performed on-stage in beautiful costumes, she toured magnificent cities of the world with her “troupe”, and she was most certainly held aloft by a handsome cavalier named Oscar.

“I was born with ballet in my soul…I would, in a heartbeat, do it all over again!”

Recent portrait of the author (courtesy of Eva Maze)

Reviewer’s personal note: in my role as teacher, I frequently hear the question from my students, “Is it too late for me?” My answer is always: never. It is never too late to begin, to continue, to explore. As this memoir details, there are many paths to take with the study of dance. Who knows where it will lead you?

Eva Maze is one of the most successful female theatrical impresarios in Europe with a career that lasted more than 40 years. She lives in Sarasota, Florida. Her memoir is published through Moonstone Press and is available here at Amazon.

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Costume Design for Dance, Ballet Fashion and the Tutu Fri, 23 Dec 2016 15:34:50 +0000 Love dance and fashion? Explore where these two worlds come together. Here's a start.]]>


The dance and fashion worlds often intersect. That’s because dancers like to look good on and off stage. We’ve provided costume measuring and alteration advice in the past but below our friends help you explore ballet fashion and designing for dance.

“Tutu Shimmer” by Chris Hays is licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

5 Links on Ballet Fashion and Designing for Dance

  1. 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Tutus
  2. Ballet Fashion or Fashion Ballet?
  3. Swan Lake Fashion Boards – If Odette and Odile Walked the Runway
  4. Designing for Dance: Hogan McLaughlin
  5. Dancer Turned Designer: Taylor Morgan’s Story


The first book to explore the synergy between dance and fashion, featuring a wide range of dance-fashion collaborations and inspirations. Get it on Amazon. A must for anyone interested in the performing arts, the intersection of art and design, and costume and fashion. Get it on Amazon.


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7 Sweet New Versions of The Nutcracker Ballet Fri, 16 Dec 2016 22:40:29 +0000 Out with the old, in with the new… a wave of new Nutcracker ballets hit holiday stages this season.]]>

Out with the old, in with the new…

There’s been a wave of new Nutcrackers in recent seasons as dance companies near and far remake and re-imagine their versions of this beloved holiday classic.

Last Nutcracker season, Pacific Northwest Ballet retired its famous Stowell-Sendak production and ushered in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker with new costumes and sets designed by Ian Falconer, author and illustrator of the Olivia children’s book series.

Head over to @yelpseattle to find out how to win 2 tickets to our Nutcracker ❄ #pnbnutcracker #snow #balletpost #worldwideballet

A photo posted by Pacific Northwest Ballet (@pacificnorthwestballet) on


Kansas City Ballet and Boulder Ballet also debuted new Nutcrackers during 2015 and Richmond Ballet and Urban Nutcracker revitalized their productions with new sets and costumes.

Here’s a sampling of new Nutcrackers of 2016…

Houston Ballet

Do many Nutcrackers leave you feeling like Clara ought to play a larger role in the ballet? Never fear, Stanton Welch’s lavish new production expands her part in the story. With new sets, costumes and projections, this Nutcracker begins during the Victorian era in Act I and transports Clara and her Nutcracker prince to the realm of a bygone French court by Act II. It’s also humorous, filled with roles for young performers, and even features minions of the rat king running down the aisle of the theater…

Joffrey Ballet

Meet me at the fair? No, not in St. Louis, in Chicago… Renowned British choreography Christopher Wheeldon re-imagines The Nutcracker taking place in the months leading up to the Chicago World’s Fair (World’s Columbian Exposition) of 1893. In this version, Marie is a Polish immigrant being raised by a single mother who works as a sculptor for the upcoming fair. Act II is Marie’s dream of the fair…

Ballet Hawaii

Snowflakes dancing on Mauna Kea…Hibiscus, Plumeria and Crown blossoms in the Waltz of the Flowers… Like Joffrey Ballet, this production draws upon local history for inspiration–in this case, the Kingdom of Hawaii circa 1858. Ballet Hawaii’s new Nutcracker features choreography by Septime Weber who just retired from the position of artistic director with The Washington Ballet after 17 years with the company.

Charlotte Ballet

What would you do if your ballet company received a million dollars? When patron Hugh McColl made such a generous donation to Charlotte Ballet in honor of his wife (who first introduced him to ballet), artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux decided to give the company’s Nutcracker a makeover with new sets and costumes…

Staatsballet Berlin

Choreographer Nacho Duato’s new Nutcracker for the German company is set in 1913, and, among other things, features faster tempos for the score and more demanding choreography for the mice—Duato’s favorite characters in this production after Clara and the Nutcracker prince.

Festival Ballet Providence

The Rhode Island company’s Nutcracker features many new costumes this year—but for an unfortunate reason: a mysterious thief, whom company members refer to as Mr. Grinch, stole over 50 of the production’s costumes from the warehouse where they were stored. Mr. Grinch has yet to be caught, but ballet companies and schools from across the country came to the rescue and lent replacement costumes from their collections.

Will Tuckett’s Nutcracker

Sadly, due to financial issues, this immersive theater version of The Nutcracker closed in November after just one performance in London. The production allowed audiences to converse and dance with party guests in Act I and wander through Act II, re-imagined as a winter fair. But here’s to hoping it that it will soon return to a future Nutcracker season…


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5 Ballets That Will (Happily) Break Your Heart Sat, 01 Oct 2016 02:07:03 +0000 Ballet enthusiasts love a good tragedy. Here we describe five of our favorite heartbreaking love stories and why we love them.]]>

Humans love a good tragedy.

We fall for heartrending tales because watching unhappy stories actually promotes happy feelings. Negative emotions make us think and empathize, and reading or watching fictional tragedies makes our brains release oxytocin (that feel-good hormone). It’s even thought that watching sad or emotional scenes with others can cause viewers’ brains to “sync up,” prompting feelings of harmony.

All the more reason to head out to the ballet for a tug at the heart strings. Of ballet’s tragic love stories these are our favorites.


Sara Webb as Cio-Cio San in Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly, photo by Amitav Sardar courtesy of Houston Ballet.
Sara Webb as Cio-Cio San in Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly, photo by Amitav Sardar courtesy of Houston Ballet.


Madame Butterfly

Here in my city, Houston Ballet is currently performing Madame Butterfly for its 2016/17 season. Artistic director, Stanton Welch originally adapted Puccini’s opera for The Australian Ballet in 1995 and the two-act production entered Houston Ballet’s repertory in 2002, not long before he assumed leadership of the company.

Cio-Cio San, a geisha known as Madame Butterfly, was forced into her role as a female escort/entertainer following the suicide of her father which plunged her family into poverty. In the ballet, after a prologue during which Butterly dreams of her future and foreshadows her death, Act I begins with wedding preparations. Butterfly is about to marry Lieutenant Pinkerton, an American naval officer with whom she has fallen in love. She has become a Christian in order to marry this man, a decision that causes her uncle to publicly disavow her during the wedding, disturbing the family and guests and upsetting Butterfly. Pinkerton consoles her and his love is convincing but unknown to Butterly, he has a fiancé waiting for him back home in America.

Act II begins several years later. Butterly and her child, Pinkerton’s son, have become destitute as she waits for the return of her husband. Despite urging from others to annul her vows to Pinkerton and marry another, Butterfly’s hope is steadfast. She believes that Pinkerton will come back and her son, who is considered an outcast in Japan, will have a bright future in America. Pinkerton does return but he arrives with his American wife, Kate, who intends to adopt the boy. Pinkerton cannot even face Butterfly. He departs, abandoning the task of convincing Butterfly to Kate and Butterfly’s friend, Suzuki and leaving Butterfly with a broken heart. She gives up her child to Kate and, when they have gone, lifts up her father’s sword to die upon it as he did.



La Sylphide

By Fanny Schertzer (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Fanny Schertzer (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
La Sylphide is a ballet that premiered in 1832 at the Paris Opera. The tragic story is set in Scotland, considered a wild and exotic land at that time. Choreographer, Filippo Taglioni created the the ballet and the role of the sylph for his daughter, the famous ballerina Marie Taglioni. The version we most often see today, however, is not the original but a version created by Danish Ballet master, August Bournonville.

The story of La Sylphide is one of revenge and tragedy. James has managed to make an enemy of a witch named Madge. He’s about to get married to Effie but on the dawn of the day they are to wed, a sylphide, or winged spirit, comes into his room, kisses and wakes him, and then flits away. Later, Madge tells everyone that James doesn’t really love Effie and prophesies that she’ll instead marry Gurn (a guy who has a thing for Effie, anyway). Next time James is alone, the sylph is back at it, professing her love for him and enticing him to come with her to the forest. She dances among the guests at a party and eventually swipes the ring intended for Effie and runs off into the forest with it. James pursues, upsetting Effie.

In Act II, Madge casts a mysterious spell on a scarf. Meanwhile, the sylph, with whom James has by now fallen in love (naturally), is playing hard to get in the forest. Gurn, who has been leading the search party for James, gives up and heads home. Then, Madge turns up to tell James he can catch his sylph with her bewitched scarf. Clearly a few pleats shy of a kilt, he believes her and eventually manages to wrap up the winged spirit, only to have his heart broken when her wings fall off and she dies as a result. He falls to the forest floor as sounds of the wedding feast of Effie and Gurn reach his ears and Madge, the old witch, gloats.


IMAGE Photo by Michael Seamans - Dancers: Larissa Ponomarenko and Nelson Madrigal (Boston Ballet) - Romeo and Juliet embrace on a bed before a red backdrop. IMAGE
© Michael Seamans – Dancers: Larissa Ponomarenko and Nelson Madrigal (Boston Ballet)



Romeo and Juliet

The original ballet adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, was marked by its own tragedy and drama. Prokofiev’s score was originally commissioned and completed in 1935 for a Kirov Ballet (now called Mariinsky) production. Communist regime change that led to the executions of some of the ballet’s supporters and an unwillingness to accept the non-traditional “happy ending” Prokofiev’s version introduced, halted the production. The score was then passed on to the Bolshoi Theatre and was rejected. Finally, the Kirov did produce the ballet for its 1940 season but only after bullying Prokofiev into changes that, among other things, included reinstating the tragic ending. It was deemed a success though Prokofiev was very disappointed with the production, and was later produced by The Bolshoi Theatre as well. Many versions of the ballet exist including those choreographed by John Cranko, Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, Yuri Grigorovich, Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, Stanton Welch and more. The score we know and love is the “Stalin-approved” version, however, Mark Morris created a ballet using Prokofiev’s original work in 2008.

The plot of this tragic love story likely needs little explanation but here’s a refresher in case you need it.




Carlotta Grisi as Giselle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Originally performed in Paris in 1841, with choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, this ballet featured Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi as Giselle. Wildly successful, Giselle was inspired by Victor Hugo’s Fantômes, with verse about a young Spanish girl who loves to dance and catches a chill at a ball and dies, and Heinrich Heine’s De l’Allemagne, which tells of the Wilis, young women who have died before their wedding day and rise from their graves at night to dance and force any young man who crosses their paths to dance to his death. The productions we see today are generally derived from Marius Petipas’ restaging of Giselle for the Imperial Ballet.

In the ballet, Giselle is a beautiful peasant girl who wants badly to dance but has a weak heart. A young noble, Albrecht pretends to be a farmer and woos Giselle who agrees to marry him. Hilarion, a local gamekeeper, is also in love with Giselle and is suspicious of the farmer, “Loys.”  Surprise surprise, there’s reason not to trust Albrecht for he is already engaged to Bathilde, a woman of noble birth.  When a party of nobleman (and Bathilde) come to the village, Albrecht fears he’ll be recognized but eventually the truth about him and his betrothal come out. Giselle goes mad and dies due to her weak and broken heart.

Tragic, right? Well, in Act II Hilarion weeps at Giselle’s grave but is scared away by the ghostly Wilis, a band of spirits betrayed in life by their lovers. Giselle is accepted into the clan of Wilis by their queen, Myrtha. When Albrecht comes to visit her grave, Giselle appears to him and he begs and is granted her forgiveness. Meanwhile the Wilis catch up with Hilarion and force him to dance to his death. The Wilis then go after Albrecht but, in the end, Giselle saves him. She returns to her grave to rest in peace, leaving Albrecht to mourn her.


Swan Lake

Composed by Tchaikovsky, the ever-popular Swan Lake ballet has many alternate endings and not all of them are tragic. The original ballet premiered in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. The production was a flop, though a few critics did recognize the virtues of its score. Swan Lake was later revived by Petipa and Ivanov in 1895 for the Kirov Ballet. Their version is the inspiration for most modern interpretations and restagings of the classical ballet.

By Library of Congress - (neg. no. LC-USZ62-115331), Public Domain,
By Library of Congress – (neg. no. LC-USZ62-115331), Public Domain, via Wikimedia

The basic plot begins as Prince Siegfried is about to come of age. His mother insists that he should be wed soon but he’d prefer to marry for love (and hang out with his friends). He sets off with a group of buddies to go hunting in the woods. As day turns to dusk he reaches a beautiful lake and pursues a group of swans he finds there. Taking aim, he is shocked when, before his eyes, one of the swans turns into a beautiful woman named Odette. Enchanted by her, he discovers a curse has been cast upon Odette by the sorcerer von Rothbart. By day she’s a swan and by night she returns to human form. Just as Siegfried is about to break the curse by vowing to love Odette forever, Rothbart shows up and interferes. Later, at his birthday bash, Siegfried is introduced to a handful of princesses, each a potential bride. Rothbart in disguise shows up with Odile, a woman dressed in black who looks exactly like Odette. After the Prince dances with her, he asks for her hand, realizing too late that he’s mistaken Odile for Odette (dressed in white). The heartbroken Odette flees to the forest and Siegfried goes after her.

Siegfried’s pledge to Odile has made breaking Odette’s curse impossible. And, here’s where plot lines frequently diverge. In most versions the lovers’ mutual solution is to go jump in the lake, whereby their drownings destroy Rothbart’s powers and unite them in death. In some versions, Odette commits suicide and Siegfried quickly follows. Sometimes the lovers die and are shown ascending into an afterlife. In the original, the couple actually defeat Rothbart and live happily ever after. In Stanton Welch’s 2006 adaptation for Houston Ballet, Odette is accidentally shot by Siegfried who then drowns himself with her lifeless body in his arms. In yet another version, Siegfried and Rothbart die, leaving Odette to live on as a swan and in Rudolf Nureyev’s 1986 version, the bad guy wins!


What are your favorite ballet heartbreakers?


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How One Dance Studio Is Promoting Healthy Body Image Mon, 25 Apr 2016 14:30:06 +0000 All That Dance studio tells us about Love Your Body Week at their studio and how they are helping students develop a greater appreciation for their bodies while encouraging teen leadership.]]>


When it comes to the relationship we have with our bodies, a dancer’s status is often “It’s complicated.”

It is the paradox between both celebrating and fighting our bodies during the training years and beyond that motivated Seattle dance studio, All That Dance, to develop Love Your Body Week at their school.

“Managing and facilitating Love Your Body Week is by far one of the most rewarding parts of my job, and having it as a part of our studio calendar each year makes me proud to be a faculty member at All That Dance.” – All That Dance, ballet department leader, Mary Gorder.

Love Your Body Week at All That Dance


What Is Love Your Body Week?

Love Your Body Week is an annual event on the All That Dance calendar filled with class-time activities focused on fostering healthy body image in the school’s dancers.

Love Your Body Week at All That Dance was started in 2005 by Rachel Stewart after she witnessed some of her 5-year-old students comparing the sizes of their thighs. Rachel wanted to counteract the negative messages about our bodies delivered from outside sources and acknowledge the additional internal pressures that young dancers face. Rachel’s idea was received with great enthusiasm from All That Dance studio founder and director, Maygan Wurzer who has nurtured a supportive and accepting environment at her school.

Rachel and fellow instructor, Emily German, turned immediately to the studio’s student leadership to help with the event. The high school dancers in their chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA) are in the studio’s top technique levels, maintain high GPAs at school, participate in dance-focused service work, and are very involved in the studio community. Love Your Body Week has become a big part of their mission. NHSDA members spend a Sunday afternoon preparing and decorating the studio to kick off the week and visit classes to lead activities with younger dancers as well as with their peers throughout the week.

Mary Gorder is the NHSDA Chapter Sponsor and oversees the facilitation of the event. She works to develop the Love Your Body Week curriculum each year. We were so inspired by Love Your Body Week, its mission and implementation, that we asked Mary some questions with hope that it will inspire you, too!


Dance Advantage: For over 10 years this program has been a part of the culture at All That Dance. When does the positive impact of LYBW became crystal clear for you?

Mary Gorder: I think what shows Love Your Body Week’s impact the most is how much of a normal part of our school year the event has become. The dancers who are now in charge of facilitating LYBW activities first experienced it when they were six or seven years old, and they do not remember a time before LYBW. When I announce in class that LYBW is coming up, the response is just as enthusiastic as when I tell dancers that we are starting choreography for a performance.

One of my favorite things to overhear in the hallways or lobby between classes are the moments in which dancers remind each other of LYBW’s message throughout the year. Numerous times I have heard a dancer start to speak poorly about him/herself, only to be met with a chorus of peers shouting “LOVE YOUR BODY!”. This is not to say that we can prevent our students from ever experiencing feelings of self doubt or of a negative body image. But it is our hope that by creating an environment that encourages self acceptance, we can help them to have the strength to overcome such negativity. As a studio community we value support over competition, and Love Your Body Week is one facet of that mission.

LYBW allows for impactful movement experiences as well. For example, every year I use the same improvisation exercise in all of the teen lyrical levels I teach. I ask dancers to start with some journaling about a body part they love, then about one they don’t. Next, they watch each other improvise first using their favorite part as an initiation point, then their least favorite, then both. I am struck every year by how much power this seemingly simple exercise holds, especially for our most advanced teens who have danced the same exercise a number of times over the years. In each dancer I see such courage, intention, and passion. The fact that these students are brave enough to dance so fearlessly and with so much heart is overwhelming to me each and every time. I am so proud to teach at a studio that has created a safe space for these young artists to move, explore, and express, and this exercise always exemplifies and reinforces that for me.



DA: Tell us a bit more about NHSDA, which is a program of the National Dance Education Organization, and what that’s brought to your studio culture.

MG: Our NHSDA chapter is made up of our higher-level teen students, mostly Juniors and Seniors in high school. Our goal is to use NHSDA to promote community, leadership, scholarship, and service among our students. Aside from LYBW, NHSDA hosts events for younger dancers (a sleepover and “parents’ night out”), and teach classes to children staying at our local Ronald McDonald house while in treatment for serious illnesses. They also attend performances as a group, and read and write about dance. They produce a concert of student choreography each winter, and create collaborative group choreography for our studio-wide shows in the spring.

NDEO’s support has been integral in the development of our teen programming this these past few years. Having an NHSDA chapter has allowed us to create exciting opportunities for our most advanced dancers, who are looking to commit time and energy to dance outside of their classes and rehearsals. We love that it gives these dancers a chance to build closer relationships with their peers, which in turn helps to strengthen our community as a whole. It creates greater investment from our oldest dancers, as well as great modeling for the younger ones. Teens serve as such powerful role models within the context of our studio, and the opportunity to connect them directly with little ones is incredibly influential across our whole community. We hear from young dancers not only that they want to someday dance with our company, but also that they want to be NHSDA members to help carry on the LYBW tradition.



DA: What does a typical Love Your Body Week at the studio usually looks like? 

MG: Most of these activities happen during class time, with the exception of the prep work that NHSDA members do before the week begins. We offer a variety of different jumping-off points for conversation in classes based on age and dance genre (picture books for our pre-school dancers, photos, videos, and readings for pre-teens and teens). For our older dancers who experience a number of conversations over the course of the week, we also incorporate movement exercises, both choreographic and improvisational, to create a well-rounded experience. Our goal is for dancers who take multiple weekly classes to examine the concept of body image through a variety of different lenses.

NHSDA members visit classes over the course of the week to lead LYBW activities. There are generally about 20 members in a given year, and they facilitate conversations in pairs or trios. NHSDA members visited over 100 classes over the course of the week this year, so it is certainly a substantial time commitment for those dancers. We are intentional about taking time to fully prepare NHSDA dancers l to help them feel confident and prepared, as well as offering them resources and support throughout the week.

Here is an example track of LYBW class activities for an advanced dancer:

  • Jazz – Video and discussion of dancers as athletes.
  • Modern – Choreographic task inspired by a word each dancer chooses to describe his/her body.
  • Ballet – Photo timeline of the evolution of the “ideal ballet body”, discussion of how these ideals (for both male and female dancers) have changed over the course of history.
  • Tap – Discussion of body positivity from the perspective of thankfulness. Dancers write thank you notes to their bodies to post on the mirror.
  • Lyrical – Dancers choose a favorite body part and a least favorite body part, then improvise movement initiating with each of those parts.



DA: Do you incorporate wellness/nutritional education?

MG: In general, we do not incorporate much from a nutrition standpoint, as we are not experts in the field and do not want to inadvertently offer potentially damaging advice. In general the conversations will touch on the importance of eating well to keep active bodies fueled, but nothing more specific than that. We are lucky enough to have Rachel Stewart, who also works with children and teens as a counselor, as a part of our LYBW program.  She offers an info session at the end of each LYBW so that parents and teens can access clinical resources.


DA: Has the event grown beyond All That Dance?

MG: A number of other studios across the country have contacted me for more information, and many have instituted similar programs at their studios. I am happy to share our curriculum with anyone who is interested! I love having the opportunity to share our materials, and to discuss ways of implementing similar programming in the context of other studios. The best way to contact me is via email:


DA: What resources or sources you can suggest to studios interested in helping students love their bodies?

MG: The National Eating Disorder Association has a website with tons of fantastic links and resources. We have also had great success searching for inspiring quotes and articles on Pinterest. Dance Magazine and Dance Teacher Magazine have published wonderful articles about body image, building confidence, and using studio mirrors as helpful tools that can be found on their respective websites. There are of course several fantastic articles on Dance Advantage, too!

Here are the books that we have used successfully in our classes for young children:


Through Love Your Body Week, All That Dance students are learning to be kind to one another and kind to themselves, as well as developing an appreciation for their bodies. They will take these lessons into college and adulthood, making time spent in the dance studio about even more than technical proficiency, discipline, and work ethic. What an amazing gift!


How do you promote healthy body image at your studio?



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Combining Barre & Burlesque: An Interview With CABARRET’s Creatrix Sun, 17 Apr 2016 14:30:04 +0000 CABARRET combines ballet barre with a fitness twist and burlesque dance in one workout. Learn about the program's creatrix, Nicole LaBonde and the online teacher training program.]]>

One of the coolest things (for me) about writing about dance online has been making connections with other people within the dance community. The long-standing online kinships developed in the early years of site ownership move in and out of radius like in-person friendships and have been just as “real life,” or real in my life.

NicoleLaBondeNicole LaBonde was an early reader and commenter on Dance Advantage. We connected on a few levels – we were both from the state of Pennsylvania, we had experiences in and a love for theatre and musicals, and of course, dance.  I’m visiting with Nicole publicly on the site to introduce you to her and to a program she’s developed called CABARRET, a fitness workout that fuses ballet barre and burlesque dance.

When and where did you start your dance training, Nicole?

I actually started late. I was 12. I attended small studios outside of Pittsburgh and studied ballet and jazz. Later, I attended Eastern University (in Philadelphia), initially as a music major and dance minor. While I was there, they added the major. I auditioned and was accepted. Eastern was a heavily modern and ballet school.

Since we have a shared theatre background, tell me what is the most compelling part for you about working in or on a production?

I love a couple of things about production. One, working as part of a creative team– I love being surrounded by creative, inspiring people, working on the same goal. It feeds my own creativity and motivation. Two, I love being on stage– That moment is something that will never happen again. The people onstage, the people in the audience are sharing a special, intimate moment, that can’t be recreate. The power of live art!

Why did you relocate from Philadelphia to Miami?

I moved to Miami to become the Director of Dance for the Miami Childrens’ Theater. Unfortunately, soon after moving there, they went bankrupt.

For so many reasons, dancers learn to rebound and land on their feet. So, how did burlesque enter the picture?

I became interested in burlesque initially while I was still living in Philly, but never really explored it. When I moved to Miami, I was choreographing “Gypsy”. I did a lot of research about Gypsy Rose Lee, burlesque and vaudeville. I became fascinated again, and this time actually pursued it.

CABARRET FitnessYou share the story of CABARRET on your site but when did you begin to think about merging your passions for dance, burlesque, and fitness?

At the time I was pursuing burlesque, barre classes were becoming popular but, when I went to one, I found it had really nothing to do with the ballet barre. This made no sense to me, because ballerinas have been doing these exercises for hundreds of years because they work! So I decided to create my own class. I added the element of burlesque for a few reasons. The barre is not an end in and off itself, it prepares the body to dance. And, I found burlesque to be very empowering for myself. I felt good doing it, exploring new movements in my body, and allowing my body to be seen. Burlesque classes are a safe space for women to explore their relationships with their bodies.


What are the principles of CABARRET and who benefits from classes?

The principles of CABARRET are based in the principles of ballet and Pilates – posture, alignment, core strength as the foundation of movement. Strength and stretch are two sides of the same coin  –  our muscles need them both. A workout done with the full engagement of the mind AND body is the most effective workout.  I also want participants to celebrate their bodies as they work to make changes. I have mainly female students, age 30-50. [Learn more about CABARRET.]

Of what does a typical CABARRET class consist?

Approximately 25 minutes of barre, based on the ballet barre, but with a fitness twist. Approximately 25 minutes of a burlesque inspired cardio dance. Approximately 10 minutes of stretching and gratitude.



You are offering CABARRET teacher training. Explain who is the right fit for this training and how does one participate?

Anyone who teaches dance or a group fitness class would be a good fit! Dance teachers in particular have a good start, as the barre section is based on the traditional ballet barre.

I’ll be holding a live training in Miami in June (dates TBA) and likely in Cleveland in August (dates TBA). But, the training is also available online. It’s about 12 lessons long, including a full class experience and lectures of me. To get their certification, trainees must complete a written and a video test.

In October you were diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma (recently rescinded to Stage 3B). This news, of course, would be a major setback for anyone but tell me how it has affected, in particular, your relationship with your body and your work.

I was really angry with my body. I felt like it betrayed me. I was eating well, getting exercise, doing all the things you are “supposed to do”, and still got cancer. I’m still working through those feelings, as well as accepting that I wasn’t really doing all I could for myself. I definitely pushed way too hard, and did not get enough rest. This is something I’m struggling with even still, as I feel committed to see my classes through to the end of the semester or recital, etc. But it has given me a different vision for my future. One that depends less upon teaching physical classes, and more work online, on short-term productions and in an academic setting.

Yes, you are currently pursuing your masters as well. Tell us a little about that decision.

I found that I need some less physical career options in my life. With the cancer diagnosis, it is difficult to maintain a full teaching schedule so I decided to get my masters to open up academic opportunities.

Where are you in your treatment right now and how has starting the The Dancer With Cancer community on Facebook been helpful in these months since your diagnosis?

If everything goes on schedule, I should be finished with chemo treatments on May 3rd. The Dancer with Cancer has helped me in several ways. It makes my life easier, because I can put up a status, and not have to repeat myself and my story 100 times to all the people who want an update.

But I’ve also seen how very few resources there are for adults with cancer, and for dancers in particular. So, I’m currently working on creating a 501c3 that will support dancers with chronic illness and/or large medical expenses. The foundation will make small grants, that the dancer can use in anyway s/he sees fit. I’ve learned that every little bit helps!

One of your recent blog posts about the concept of giving 100% and particularly how it affects women resonated with me because, like you, I ran head-first into a time in my life that rendered that whole notion of giving 100% to everything glaringly impossible. I think all women have or will experience this awakening at one time or another and its often a harsh one. Now that, I assume, you simply must choose where/how to spend your energy, what have you learned or what advice can you give others about prioritizing?

So true, and earth-shattering when you meet that moment. I’ve gotten really real about what gives energy back to me. If I’m expending energy on it, it needs to give back. Also, what I need to be doing is bringing the future into the present. If what I’m doing isn’t helping my vision of my future get closer, I shouldn’t be doing it.

If there’s one thing you’d like to say/share with women, perhaps creative women in particular, about their body or wellness what would it be?

Listen to yourself. And then speak up for yourself. You have to be your own advocate in this world. Our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for. It took me 8 months to get to the right doctor. I just kept going back to my PCP and saying “something’s not right”, until we figured it out.


Because every little bit does help, please donate to help Nicole with medical expenses. This fundraiser ends very soon!



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Alla Osipenko: The life of a Kirov ballerina Tue, 19 Jan 2016 15:45:21 +0000 Alla Osipenko was one of the great Russian ballerinas. Her name calls to mind Soviet dancer defections, the KGB and the Cold War. Learn more about her in this review of Joel Lobentnal's enthralling biography on this unique figure in dance.]]>


Who is Alla Osipenko?

For many dance students and balletomanes, her name and the name of the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky) calls to mind Soviet dancer defections, the KGB and the Cold War. Osipenko was one of the great Russian ballerinas, a student of the famous Agrippina Vaganova, a partner to Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov – and a Kirov star who refused to join the Communist Party, an action which severely limited her travel and exposure to the world. After reading this biography by Joel Lobenthal, a dance historian who conducted over 40 interviews with Osipenko when she was living and working in Hartford, Connecticut in the late 1990s, the reader is left wondering how far her star might have risen had she either defected like her counterparts or acquiesced to the wishes of the Party.

“Alla Osipenko: Beauty and Resistance in Soviet Ballet” meanders at times, often jumping from one event in Osipenko’s life to another with little prelude or seeming connection, yet the ballerina’s life is so mesmerizing that the reader forgives the jumbled mess, which is a testament to Osipenko herself. She sounds like she was a fascinating subject to interview.

Born in Leningrad in 1932, Osipenko lived with her mother, Nina, a woman who pushed her only child into the dance world and insisted that her career come before everything else, including marriage and children, and her grandmother Maria and great-aunt Anna, two women whose lives were devoted to her. Osipenko’s father was imprisoned in Soviet work camps for much of her life, although he was later released and eventually remarried.

Life in the Soviet Union was harsh and often challenging, with resources like food and shelter severely rationed. The dance world, like all of the arts there, was supported – more accurately, controlled – by the government. While dancers were employed like any other workers, they were also expected to represent the Soviet Union in whatever they did.  Dancers who did not adhere to a code of conduct and whose morality was questioned, were often punished. For Osipenko, a rebel who bristled at being told what to do, her impulsive nature would lead her into several rash marriages, having a child with a man who was not her husband, and consequently admonitions from the Party.

Mount Holyoke College files, photo credit Igor Stupnikov
Alla Osipenko as the Lilac Fairy, Kirov Ballet, Mount Holyoke College files, photo credit Igor Stupnikov

In 1948, Osipenko began her studies with Vaganova, a teacher who studied with Enrico Cecchetti and brought back his Italian style of dance, fusing it with elements of the French school to come up with her own method of teaching which is called the Vaganova Method and is taught all over the world today. Vaganova was the first “real” teacher in Osipenko’s life, a ballet mistress who was exacting in her technique, expecting only the best from her students. At competitions and auditions, she could be a very strong source of support but privately, she was known to be quite demanding and not given to compliments.

At one such competition in 1949, Osipenko had an experience which would be repeated several times in her career and affect it greatly. After winning a medal (dance awards in Russia and elsewhere are to this day of greater consequence than they are in the United States), the Soviet Ministry of Culture made a pass at her, promising her a career in the Bolshoi Ballet, which was considered a superior company to the Kirov. Her reaction was to slap him. According to Osipenko, he vowed that she would never leave Leningrad “as long as I’m alive.” True to his word, she wasn’t allowed to leave the city for six years. Such was the power of the Party.


One tough dancer: after a devastating performance injury, Osipenko quipped to a friend, “You see I have no Achilles tendon. Sit down with us and let’s…drink champagne.”


In 1950, she joined the Kirov Ballet where she would dance for the next twenty years, have numerous roles created for her, fall in and out of love, and make great friendships, among them Alla Shelest, the second-ranked star in the Kirov at the time. Osipenko and Shelest were unfortunate enough to be dancing at the same time as Natalia Dudinskaya who directed the Kirov and its school with her husband and partner, Konstantin Sergeyev. Dudinskaya was an exceptional dancer but Osipenko and her biographer note that she commanded attention and important roles long past an age when it would have been gracious to allow herself to be replaced, thus keeping both Shelest and Osipenko on a lower rung than they might have had she retired.


After refusing to join the Communist Party, Osipenko told a friend, “When I left that meeting, I realized that my career was just down the drain.”

Alla Osipenko, 1968, Wikimedia Commons
Alla Osipenko, 1968, Wikimedia Commons


Two of Osipenko’s partners were Nureyev and Baryshnikov, both of whom defected from the Soviet Union. Nureyev’s defection occurred on the night of her 29th birthday, celebrated in Paris, the night before the company was to travel to London. Instead, Nureyev was nabbed by the KGB who told him he wasn’t going on to London with the company. On the way back, he managed to escape in the Paris airport. Not knowing that he was going to defect, Osipenko offered to go back to Moscow with Nureyev but was told there was nothing that could be done for him. Again, such was the power of the Party.

Other dancers would defect, most notably Natalia Makarova in the 60s and Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1974, but Osipenko remained in Russia. She tried to resign from the company on her own terms but they refused to accept her resignation until it suited them and until they could be sure she wouldn’t defect. Eventually, she was allowed to leave; her final performance for the Kirov was filmed for television, but in front of an empty audience, save for her fellow ballerinas. It was an anti-climactic finale for a fruitful and astonishing decades-long career.

In 1971, she and her husband/partner John Markovsky left Russia to work for Leonid Jacobson’s Choreographic Miniatures Company as well as Boris Eifman’s Theatre of Contemporary Ballet, with Osipenko eventually, in the late 1990s, landing in Hartford, Connecticut to teach for the now-defunct Hartford Ballet. Following the death of her son, Ivan, however, she found herself yearning to return to Russia, which she did in 2000.

Lobenthal’s biography is an enthralling account of a unique personality in dance, a ballerina who was ahead of her time.


“An enthralling account of a unique personality in dance, a ballerina who was ahead of her time.”
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Tap Dance Legend: Eleanor Powell Mon, 11 Jan 2016 15:30:25 +0000 With a style unlike any other female dancer of her time, Eleanor Powell left a legendary mark as an actress, a charity advocate, and of course, as the Queen of Tap Dancing. Learn about the life and legacy of one of the world's greatest tap dancers.]]>

“The dance routines I created are like children to me. I don’t want to forget them.” – Eleanor Powell


On November 21, 1912, a little girl named Eleanor was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Little did the world know that day that dance royalty had been born. For with an athletic and assertive style and plenty of raw talent to boot, Eleanor would grow up to be a star unlike any other dancer of her time – and ultimately become known as the Queen of Tap Dancing and earned the title “World’s Greatest Tap Dancer” (Dance Masters of America 1965).



Beginnings, Ballet and Broadway

Profile of Eleanor Powell
By Harris & Ewing (Based on File:Eleanor_powell.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Powell began training in ballet when she was six years old. It was when she was 11, however, that she was discovered by Vaudeville kiddie revue head Gus Edwards while playfully doing acrobatics on the beach during a vacation. This life-changing moment set her on the track to a professional dance career, and soon enough she was regularly performing in Atlantic City nightclubs.

While a talented dancer, Powell failed to nab Broadway roles and determined she needed tap dance training if she was going to continue to pursue such parts. Having previously focused solely on ballet and acrobatics, Powell had an aeriel quality to her dancing and even had a distaste for tap earlier in career. She proceeded to take tap classes with vaudeville instructors Jack Donahue and Johnny Doyle to gain the skills she needed. Soon she had a knack for the style – but not before her teachers gave her a rehearsal belt weighted with sand to keep her grounded during lessons.

Around the same time, in 1928, Powell was cast in the musical revue “The Optimists” at the Casino de Paris theater in New York. The following year she made her Broadway debut in “Follow Thru.” But it was when she signed a Hollywood contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that her career was officially set for takeoff.



Hollywood Bound

Powell first made the move to Hollywood in 1935. She performed a tap number for her first major movie, “George White’s Scandals” (1935). That role caught the attention of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, who made the wise decision to get her a contract with the studio.

With her uniquely dominant dancing style, she not only rose to to be one of MGM’s top female dancers, but even had roles created particularly for her outstanding talent. Unlike most female dance stars of the time who usually appeared opposite Hollywood’s most iconic male dancers, Powell forged a solo path that embraced her “independent woman” image.

Although few men could match her dance talent (Fred Astaire, who starred with her in their famous “Begin “Beguine” duet, being the only possible exception), Powell did star alongside celebrated actors such as Jack Benny, Red Skelton, James Stewart, Robert Taylor and Robert Young. From “Born to Dance” (1936), to “Broadway Melody of 1938” (1937) to “Lady Be Good” (1941), Powell graced screens and captured audiences to great acclaim in a total of 14 movies during her career.



Later Years

Powell left MGM following “Thousands Cheer” in 1943 and largely retired from dancing when she married actor Glenn Ford that same year. They had one son, actor Peter Ford. She put her tap shoes back on for “Sensations of 1945” (1944), in which she performed in a giant pinball machine, as well as for a dance number in “Duchess of Idaho” (1950). Powell then went on to host an Emmy-winning religious TV series, “The Faith of Our Children” (1953 – 1955).





After her divorce from Ford in 1959, she also found success touring with her own nightclub act. Powell’s last public appearance was in 1981 at the American Film Institute’s televised tribute to Fred Astaire. Unsurprisingly, Powell received a prolonged standing ovation when she stepped up to the podium.

Powell died from cancer on February 11, 1982. But she had become someone whose legacy would live on – not just her legacy as a great dancer, but as the woman who wrote her own agenda for what it meant to be a female dancer in American musicals.

As Fayard Nicholas of the infamous Nicholas Brothers dance team put it:

“Eleanor Powell was one of the greatest, period, bar none. Not one of the greatest women – one of the greatest, period.”


“#EleanorPowell was not one of the greatest women – one of the greatest period.” #tapdance
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Fun Facts

  • The Dance Masters of America gave Powell the title of “World’s Greatest Tap Dancer” in 1965.
  • Powell only took 10 formal tap lessons.
  • In “Ship Ahoy,” Powell tapped out a morse code message to a secret agent in the middle of a dance number.
  • Powell choreographed her dances herself – an extremely rare occurrence for dancers at the time
  • Powell and Astaire’s “Begin the Beguine” duet is known by some as the greatest moment in film history.
  • Just as she was a standout for her incomparable dance talent, Powell also stood out in Hollywood for her dedication to her Christian faith. Powell became a minister in her later years and is remembered for her volunteer work with at-risk children, with children with disabilities, and for racial equality.





For More on Eleanor Powell:

Sources: Britannica, (“The Dancing Minister,” Part 1 and Part 2),, IMDB,, Wikipedia

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Dance Bloggers Share Their Best Of 2015 Tue, 05 Jan 2016 15:30:09 +0000 Dance writers and bloggers share their best posts of last year.]]>


Kicking off a new year at Dance Advantage isn’t always easy.

“Where to begin?”   “What’s that first post of the new year going to be about?”

In the past I’ve hosted a Top Dance Blog contest between one year’s end a new year’s beginning and enjoyed its success. The contest itself got a little too big for my time budget but my favorite part was simply being able to share and support the work of other dance writers and bloggers.

So, in that spirit, our January Dance Circle roundup (we’ll do these monthly with different topics) features the posts or articles that these writers consider their best of 2015. Go ahead and click away. I hope you find something new. We’ll be here when you get back.


10 Essentials For The Adult Beginner’s Dance Bag — The Classical Girl

Dancers love “what’s in your dance bag?” posts – we can’t help but take a peek. The Classical Girl, Terez (who is an author and a favorite guest at Dance Advantage), shares the essentials. They work for any ballet dancer, really, but adult beginners will love this and the other posts at The Classical Girl website.


What Not To Do In Ballet! End Game. — The Accidental Artist

Inspired by a video from Wayne Byar, The Accidental Artist‘s post is a pitch to dancers to be more mindful of their approach to how they work. She encourages you to put intention into the process, rather than work to the “end game” of getting the highest leg, the highest jump, the most turns, the best turnout. Getting noticed by cheating your technique is not the end game… so what is the end game?


The Dancer with Cancer — CABARRET

Nicole is a dancer, a creator, an inspiration and in this post she reveals her diagnosis and some of the things she’s learned so far in her journey and fight against cancer. She writes, “Being diagnosed with cancer has not made me suddenly wise. If anything, it has shown me how much I don’t know. Not just about the world, but about myself and my body, subjects with which I thought myself to be intimately acquainted.”


An Interview With Monica Wellington (Creator of My Ballet Journal) — Picture Books & Pirouettes

As a teacher and parent, when I’m looking for insight and recommendations for children’s literature about dance and movement, I visit Kerry’s site, Picture Books & Pirouettes. Read her interview with author/illustrator Monica Wellington to find out more about MY BALLET JOURNAL, a journal and coloring book for young dancers she created with her daughter, Lydia (a professional ballerina with NYCB). The book is a perfect keepsake for school-age dancers who want to record their dance memories throughout the year!


Bowling Dance — Maria’s Movers

As usual, the year’s best at Maria’s Movers is a great idea for your dance classes for little danccers. Turn the dance studio into a bowling alley and do a bowling dance!


Joffrey’s ‘Sylvia’ breaks from tradition, just like it used to (Review) — Art Intercepts

What do YOU know about Sylvia? Chicago dance writer, Lauren Warnecke of Art Intercepts writes, “Throughout its history, critics have felt that Sylvia‘s one redeeming value is its magnificent score, and indeed, it’s hard not to love Leo Delibes’ splendid music. John Neumeier’s version, performed last fall by the Joffrey Ballet, has so much more than that going for it. Honestly, Sylvia‘s only problem is that nobody has ever heard of it.”


All Shadows Whisper of the Sun — Setting The Barre

On a chilly February morning, Kirsten of Setting The Barre explores the connection between light and darkness and its prevalence in the ballet world.  From sweat, toil, and callus comes one of the world’s most ethereal art forms.  Featuring photos by Jenay Evans and the custom Setting The Barre leotard, designed especially for the blog by Miss Jones Dance.


{artist} challenge — Tutus&Tea

Throwing back to 2015’s ‘Artist Challenge’ that decorated Facebook, Instagram and various realms of social media, Shelby of Tutus&Tea reflects on ballet’s relevancy beyond the stage, the luxury of savoring our favorite moments performing as live artists, and the joy of shedding light on the fellow dancers that inspire us to keep aspiring for more.


Super Ballet Ads — Clara’s Coffee Break

What makes a memorable video promo for a ballet? Rachel shares her thoughts on ballet trailers at Clara’s Coffee Break



Dancers: Let’s Talk Core Control — 4dancers

4Dancers Dance Wellness Editor, Jann Dunn has written a thorough and thoroughly awesome piece on core control, otherwise known as back stabilization, that breaks it down so that students and teachers might really understand the concepts. Seriously, if you read no other article on core control in 2016, make it this one.


Improving the Dancer’s Arch: Do Foot Stretchers Really Work? — The Healthy Dancer

Dancers spend a lot of time trying to improve the arches of their feet. Using a foot stretcher seems like it would be a great idea – but do they really work and is using one a healthy way to improve a dancer’s foot? Find out at The Healthy Dancer.

At Ballet to the People the post that seemed to rile readers the most this year, to blogger, Carla Escoda’s surprise, was not her assessment of Milwaukee Ballet’s Giselle set in a Nazi concentration camp, nor her intensely personal reaction to Ai Weiwei’s political art installation on Alcatraz. It was her proposal to ditch the 32 fouettés! Read her post to find out why she wants to kiss them goodbye…


Sara Esty – A True American in Paris — A Dancer’s Days

Blogger Rhiannon Pelletier of A Dancer’s Days takes the opportunity to talk to Sara Esty, “Lise” alternate in the new Broadway hit An American in Paris, about her experience with the show, what made her transition from the world of classical ballet to the big world of Broadway, and how her training aided that change (along with a few other juicy details!).


OffDayThe Off Day Ballet Dictionary — Adult Ballerina Project

Messy classes are unavoidable, despite our best efforts. So, perhaps we should make lemonade and think of “off days” as a unique subset of ballet with its own rules and definitions. Rachel Hellwig explains further in her contribution at Adult Ballerina Project.


3 Mindset Changes You Must Adopt to Succeed in Dance — The Dance Training Project

To train the body without taking the mind into consideration will not allow a dancer to succeed. Physically, we encounter the challenges of technical plateaus, becoming over-trained, and injured, but mentally we start to doubt ourselves, our chosen path, and our ability to be great dancers, which can be even more detrimental, as before we can do something, we must first believe we can do it. These three mindsets are crucial to tapping into your true potential as a dancer. Read more at The Dance Training Project.


How to Cope with Loss – Part 1: Mourning the Untimely Death of My Future Self — The Girl With The Tree Tattoo

The Girl with the Tree Tattoo‘s best post of 2015?  The complete upheaval of her ballroom dance journey.


25. Crystallized : Contemporary — Jessica Maria MacFarlane

“Contemporary dance hitches a ride on the fame and fortune of classical ballet, while classical ballet tugs at contemporary dance for an awakening,” writes Jessica Maria MacFarlane (J.M.M.). “I’m swayed between the two, and this image of pointe-wearing improv pieces haunt me. They don’t really work together in the very strict sense. I’ll continue to eat it up nonetheless and welcome contemporary dance choreographers to classical ballet companies, but I know we must try to not just crystallize or blur the lines of both dance forms for the sake of blending. We must keep dance at the forefront with separate education and awareness on all genres of dance that interact and collaborate together…” Read more of Jessica’s musings as she writes about the past, present, and future of dance at her self-titled site.


Rules Of The Game — Enforced Arch

Enforced Arch founder, James Koroni shares the exciting news that he has been invited by Jonah Bokaer, media artist and choreographer to participate in Rules Of The Game, a multidisciplinary work featuring visuals by Daniel Arsham and music by Pharrell Williams. Learn more about the work in this recent post.


SoundsOfATaplifeSounds of a #TapLife

Whether we are willing to accept it or not, the universe works in mysterious ways. Seen or unseen, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of life. Over time, Anthony Lo Cascio has discovered the universe will try to teach the same lesson over and over again until one is willing to respect it, recognize it, or learn it. Sounds of a #Taplife premiered in early December in NYC and is a reflection of some of the greatest lessons Anthony has learned and a connecting of those dots. See the performance in this recently released video.



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Christmas Tree Ideas For Your Dance Studio Wed, 23 Dec 2015 15:30:12 +0000 Inspired by the variety of festive ways we've seen dance studio owners and management decorating trees for their lobbies at Christmastime, here's a collection of ideas we think you'll love.]]>

Is there anything more fun than decorating for the holidays?

Twinkling lights, snow-dusted windowsills, and evergreen branches are staples of the season. Tutus and nutcrackers make decorating dance studios almost tutu easy! But, there are also ways to stay true to your school and your branding if you get a little creative.

Inspired by the variety of festive ways we’ve seen dance studio owners and management decorating trees for their lobbies at Christmastime, here’s a collection of ideas we think you’ll love.


A Tree With Heart

Dance Du Coeur in Sugar Land, Texas (near Houston) strives to inspire students to “Dance From the Heart” and to connect to their audience through the emotion of their art. So, even though it might be a little non-traditional, their studio tree is decorated with heart ornaments.


Dance from the heart - Christmas Tree


This Tree Won’t Expire

You may have seen an image of the English National Ballet’s pointe shoe tree floating around on Facebook. It’s being displayed at the London Coliseum and it even has its own hashtag, #ENBTree!

Well, Misty‘s Dance Unlimited in Onalaska, WI, doesn’t feature quite that many pointe shoes on their studio tree but we think it’s equally dazzling. The studio’s ballet director got the idea because their store had 18 pairs of shoes that had expired and couldn’t be sold (yes, pointe shoes expire — the glue and other construction materials break down over time). So, armed with matching tulle and poinsettias, a bit of glue, and fishing wire, she created a pointe shoe tree for the studio that everyone loves. “I think I may keep it up all year,” says Misty Lown, who is the owner of Misty’s Dance Unlimited, More Than Just Great Dancing Affiliated Studios, and More Than Dancers, an online lifestyle magazine for dancers.

Pointe shoe christmas tree


Say Yes To The Dress

Dress form trees are a terrific twist on the classic Christmas tree. Typically a dress bodice is created with fabrics and branches of greenery are added to the dress form or mannequin to form a skirt. Here’s a video if you need some guidance:

Of course a tutu of pine needles is even better for a dance studio. Our favorite is this romantic silver and pink dress form creation from My Thrift Store Addiction – perfectly dreamy.



If you’re not feeling crafty, you might take this rotating ballerina tree for a spin. She’d look great in a window display, don’t you think?



Hands Down

Your studio is filled with lots of little hands (and feet). You could have each dance student in your studio lend their hands to make your studio’s hand print tree something really special.


Tutu Much

Tulle Christmas trees in a dance studio just make sense. If you need some help, here’s a tututorial:


Space-Saving Holiday Trees

No room for a giant Christmas tree in your studio lobby? Not a problem. These tree ideas will make your season bright without taking over your dance space.

Photographs (framed or unframed) can be placed in the shape of a tree on your wall. You might even try taking one photograph (a photo of students in action, or your school logo perhaps), splitting it into multiple posters, and hanging them in a triangular tree design. Use the free web app at to split your image and then print the individual panels yourself, or take it to a local print shop for help.



How about using old dance recital programs or posters to create a tree collage? Photos of your students would work too.



Strings of lights are a surefire solution. Place a strand of lights in a zig-zag pattern and you’ve got yourself a minimalist tree. A tree outlined with lights requires a little more precision but looks great on a wall.


And if you want something a little more intricate (but still super easy), try this version:


Chalkboard wall paint is a popular canvas for all kinds of creations, including Christmas trees. Though your studio may not be equipped with a chalkboard wall, mirrors are usually a given. Use dry erase markers instead of chalk to sketch a holiday scene or Christmas tree.


Speaking of mirrors… wouldn’t a Post-it note tree make a statement?



Does your dance studio have  a Christmas tree that spreads the joy of the season within your studio family?

Tell us what makes your tree special in the comments!


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Sugar Plum Fairy Exposé: Dissolving The Sugar Coating Mon, 21 Dec 2015 09:30:36 +0000 The Nutcracker's Sugar Plum Fairy wasn't in the original story so where does she come from? Does the Sugar Plum pas de deux contain a hidden homage to Tchaikovsky’s sister? What was the original name of Plum's prince? Why did the first Sugar Plum Fairy add an extra solo for herself? We have the answers!]]>

Sparkling tulle and satin pointe shoes, a music-box melody, and the status of ballet royalty–the Sugar Plum Fairy is the ultimate tutu and tiara role.

But let’s take a look at the REAL story behind The Nutcracker’s most famous and enchanting character…

Sugarplum fairy

Photo by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. [Changes to photo: filters added]

An Inspired Infiltration of Sweets

Ironically, the Sugar Plum Fairy is not found in the original E.T.A. Hoffman story Nutcracker and Mouse King or in Alexandre’s Dumas’s The Tale of the Nutcracker, the retelling on which the ballet’s first libretto was based.

However, the lush descriptions of the realm of sweets in both versions could inspire many different balletic personifications of candy. Here’s a snippet from Dumas:

“All the surrounding houses were sugar candy, with galleries upon galleries. And at the center of the square, in the in the shape of an obelisk, there was a gigantic brioche, in the midst of which four fountains bubbled away: lemonade, orangeade, orgeat, and currant syrup. As for the basins, they were filled with whipped cream […]” (1)

Additionally, during the era in which The Nutcracker ballet was developed, the term “sugar plum” referred not only to a specific sweet, but, as author Samira Kawash points out, was also “the universal signifier everything sweet and delectable and lovely.” She further explains that the actual “sugar plums” of those days were, in fact, mostly sugar and no plum. They were treats in the category of “comfit”– candy created by layering sugar coating over a seed or nut center. She cites Jordan Almonds as a modern-day parallel.

Although the original Nutcracker production cast students in the lead roles of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince (a sticking point for many critics at the time), the ballet nonetheless required a way to showcase the talents of a leading ballerina.

And so, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the embodiment of a sugary sweet and all that is delectable in general, was born.

Sugar and spice and everything nice? Find out the real story behind the Sugar Plum Fairy…
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The First Sugar Plum Fairy Schemes For More Stage-Time

Antonietta Dell’Era, an Italian dancer guesting from a company in Berlin, debuted as the first Sugar Plum Fairy at the Marinsky Theater in St. Petersburg in December of 1892. Strange though it may seem now, The Nutcracker initially received very mixed reviews. Dell’Era’s technique and pointework were lauded by many critics (2), but she received an infamously harsh review from one writer who described her as “ponderous”, “unbeautiful”, and “ungraceful” (3). However, according to author Jennifer Fisher, his opinion may well have reflected his distaste for non-Russian dancers more than anything (4). Apparently, the audience gave Dell’Era five curtain calls (5).

Dell’Era, however, seemed to have wished that the Sugar Plum Fairy had more stage time. So, in a later performance of The Nutcracker, she added an extra dance for herself– a gavotte by Hungarian composer Alphonse Czibulka (6). Though a cringe-worthy move from a modern perspective, supplementing a ballet’s score was certainly not unheard at the time. It’s also worth remembering that Tchaikovsky’s score for The Nutcracker was not yet considered a masterwork and initially received mixed reviews as well. Still, as dance critic Jack Anderson aptly wrote, “Surely Czibulka’s gavotte did not harmonize with Tchaikovsky, however effective it may have been as a showpiece for dell’era” (7). Again though, in Dell’Era’s defense, the Sugar Plum Fairy does indeed have significantly less stage time than leading ladies in other story ballets, though this would eventually prove a negligible issue.

Photo by Rachel Hellwig.

Photo by Rachel Hellwig.

Is Plum’s Cavalier A Flirt?

Though the title is rarely used today, in earlier productions of The Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance partner bore the name of Prince Koklush or Coqueluche, which, oddly enough, translates to “whooping cough”. Yes, you read that correctly! But, it most likely was not referring to an illness. George Balanchine suggested that it might “represent a lozenge or cough drop” (8). Jack Anderson says that the term can also have the connotation of a flirt or a dandy (9). At any rate, perhaps it’s best that the character just goes by Cavalier or Prince now!

The original Prince Coqueluche was performed by Russian dancer Pavel Gerdt. Though in his late forties and no doubt past his technical prime, he was an acclaimed star with a long history on stage. Interestingly, for the history of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, Gerdt was also the original Prince Désiré in The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and Prince Siegfried in the successful 1895 revival of Swan Lake.

Sugarplum and Cavalier

Photo by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. [Changes to photo: filters added]

A Hidden Homage

The Sugar Plum Fairy’s solo or variation is perhaps the most recognizable selection from The Nutcracker’s score. The use of the celesta, a new instrument in Tchaikovsky’s time, plays a significant role in the music’s otherworldly sound. John Snelson, in an article for the Royal Opera House’s website, writes,

“Petipa asked here for music that sounded ‘as if drops of water were shooting out of fountains’, and Tchaikovsky matched this description superbly to the sounds of the celesta […]”

In contrast, the pas de deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier has a distinct solemnity, if not somberness or ache, underneath its soaring grandness. This music may also be intended to be otherworldly, but perhaps in a different sense than the Sugar Plum Fairy’s variation.

Tragedy struck Tchaikovsky while he was composing The Nutcracker. His sister Sasha died. The event impacted both his work and his perspective of it. A 2011 article from The Guardian by Gavin Plumley explains, “After Sasha’s death, the composer embraced the ballet. In Clara, he found a parallel for his sister. Memories of their childhood and the last Christmas they spent together, in 1890, fueled the music. The whole ballet was transformed by his change in attitude, with Tchaikovsky imagining himself as the magician Drosselmeyer.” How does this color the pas de deux? Jennifer Fisher writes, “Musicologist John Roland Wiley has suggested that Tchaikovsky actually left a coded message in the rhythm of the adagio’s principal melody, a descending scale of notes that is repeated “with prayer-like insistence.” Because the phrase bears a close rhythmical resemblance to a line in the Russian Orthodox funeral service (which translates as “As with the saints give rest”), Wiley believes it might have been Tchaikovsky’s hidden homage to his sister” (10).

"Kansas City Ballet, KCB Company Dancer Tempe Ostergren Photography by Rosalie O'Connor" by KCBalletMedia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. [Changes to photo: cropped, filters, and background added]

Kansas City Ballet, KCB Company Dancer Tempe Ostergren Photography by Rosalie O’Connor” by KCBalletMedia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. [Changes to photo: cropped, filters, and background added]

Sugar Plum’s Enduring Appeal

The widespread success of The Nutcracker in North America during the twentieth century, propelled in large part by the triumph of George Balanchine’s version, afforded the Sugar Plum Fairy an unprecedented rise to power, especially after ballet companies coupled The Nutcracker to the holiday season. Dance critic Judith Mackrell attributes this acquired aura of the “promise of Christmas”, along with Tchaikovsky’s marvelous music, to the enduring appeal of the character, despite her lack of stage time and technical demands when compared to principal female roles in other ballets.

Furthermore, because of The Nutcracker’s family-friendly, holiday tradition status, it’s often the first ballet that children see and perform in. Naturally, the Sugar Plum Fairy is the first role that many young ballerinas-to-be aspire to. She is not only a symbol of seasonal splendor and hope, but the symbol of childhood dreams, and, for some dancers, the first childhood dream-come-true in their ballet lives.

Photo by Rachel Hellwig

Photo by Rachel Hellwig

The #SugarPlumFairy is not only a symbol of seasonal splendor and hope, but childhood dreams
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(1) E. T. A. Hoffmann, Alexandre Dumas, Nutcracker and Mouse King and the Tale of the Nutcracker, Translated by Joachim Neugroschel, Introduction by Jack Zipes, (United States of America: Penguin Classics, 2007), p. 145

(2) Jennifer Fisher, “Nutcracker” Nation, (New Haven and London: Yale University, 2003), p. 15

(3) Roland John Wiley, Tchaikovsky’s ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, (Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 144

(4) Jennifer Fisher, “Nutcracker” Nation, (New Haven and London: Yale University, 2003), p. 15

(5) Ibid

(6) Jack Anderson, The Nutcracker Ballet, (Hong Kong: Mayflower Books, 1979), p. 53

(7) Ibid

(8) Solomon Volkov, Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky: Interviews with George Balanchine, Translated by Antonina W. Bouis, (Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1992 Anchor Books Edition, originally published in hardcover by Simon and Schuster, 1985) p. 153

(9) Jack Anderson, The Nutcracker Ballet, (Hong Kong: Mayflower Books, 1979), p. 50-51

(10) Jennifer Fisher, “Nutcracker” Nation, (New Haven and London: Yale University, 2003), p. 10

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What The Nutcracker Is A Mirliton, Anyway? Thu, 17 Dec 2015 19:03:55 +0000 Some of the character's in Act II of The Nutcracker seem out of place and the dual personalities that come out in different versions of the ballet don't make it any less confusing. If you look back into the ballet's history, though, things do start to come together in the Kingdom of Sweets.]]>

In The Nutcracker’s second-act calorie bomb, The Kingdom of Sweets, we’re introduced to a parade of characters. Not all of whom seem to make much sense when you think about it – an assortment of hot drinks, Russian dancers (they’re only sometimes listed as candy canes), and a bouquet of flowers? And right in the middle, Tchaikovsky throws in a tune about… mirlitons?

What in the world is a mirliton?

Google the word mirlitons and your first hits are all about a squash native to Mexico and popular in New Orleans cuisine. Hmm, somehow I don’t think our beloved Russian composer spent much time in The Big Easy.
Mirliton instrument
Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that a mirliton is also a simple tube-shaped instrument, sometimes known as a eunuch flute or onion flute. Humming through the tube causes a thin membrane (of animal skin or onion or paper) to vibrate. These little “flutes” have been popular children’s toys for centuries. In America we call them kazoos. Take one listen to the flute-based melody of Danse de Mirlitons (which is of course sometimes called Dance of the Reed or Pipe Flutes) and, eureka, things are coming together in The Land of Sweets. Except what does a toy instrument have to do with candy?


A child playing a mirliton
By Anonymous (Carte-postale ancienne) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | (Sketch by F. Marin Mersenne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

cigaretterussesIt turns out that Tchaikovsky (or Petipa and Ivanov) may have been employing a double-meaning within Dance of the Mirlitons. Mirliton du Pont-Audemer is a French pastry that is rolled into a tube, filled with chocolate praline mousse, and dipped in chocolate, not unlike Cigarettes Russes cookies (see recipe), or the mirliton flute. Clever.

Interestingly, there are other kinds of mirlitons, too. Mirlitons de Rouen are almond-topped puff pastries, tarts, or cakes. Maybe all this almond and praline business is how we’ve made the gargouiallade leap to marzipan, which is an almond paste that can be formed into just about anything and is also a popular Christmastime treat.

Now, why are the Mirlitons/Marzipan dancers sometimes costumed as shepherds or shepherdesses? Well, maybe it’s because shepherds are often depicted in folklore playing a flute to herd their flock!

Paulus Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Paulus Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How The Other Comfiture Fit In The Kingdom of Sweets

In this day and age, hot chocolate, coffee and tea may not qualify as exotic confections but in 19th century these imports were increasingly in demand in Europe. Sugarplums, which are simply candy-coated nuts or seeds, probably filled the sweetmeat dishes at gatherings. And the story on Mother Ginger is that a Russian confection company sold a metal tin shaped like a woman with a large skirt. Lift her “skirt” (the lid) and there were bonbons inside!



The Trepak dance was titled Danse des Bouffons in the Imperial Ballet’s 1892 Nutcracker program. That’s Dance of the Buffoons… jesters, clowns. It was common for court jesters to perform Russian folk dances for czars but in regards to the choreography, in Nutcracker Nation: How an Old World Ballet Became a Christmas Tradition in the New World, author Jennifer Fisher writes,

“Petipa’s written instructions called for: ‘”Trepak, for the end of the dance, turning on the floor,’ referring to the athletic feats of Russian character dance. But evidently Ivanov didn’t like the variation he came up with in rehearsal, and when someone suggested a hoop dance instead, the dancer Alexandre Shiryaev choreographed his own solo.”

Balanchine carried on the tradition of the hoop dance for his New York City production but “sweetened” the deal by calling his jesters Candy Canes. (See Ballet 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving the Ballet)

Then, we get to… Waltz of the Flowers? Flowers and dew drops seem more at home in an enchanted wood than in Candyland.

In The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov: Choreographer of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, a review of the first performance of The Nutcracker reveals that “The grand ballabile of the gilded sweetmeats is not bad as regards groupings, but the excellent soloists are completely lost in the mass.” (Yeah, the first reviews weren’t so great). Interestingly, the book notes that this line about gilded sweetmeats refers to The Waltz of the Flowers, in which the dancers were costumed in gold, not the pinks, purples, oranges, or blues that we often see onstage today.

Sweetmeats is just a word for any sweet delicacy of the confectionery or candy kind – candied fruit, sugar-covered nuts, sugarplums, bonsbons, etc. Gilded sweetmeats is a term used occasionally in literature and prose but never fully explained. It may be a particular type of sweet or it could describe any decadent candy.

Maybe the original waltzing dancers represent sugared flowers, which are edible flowers dusted in sugar. Perhaps they mimicked the gold floral designs that delicately intertwine along the edges of ornate candy dishes. Or maybe they’ve nothing to do with flowers at all and just depicted gold-wrapped candy.

Whatever the original intent, perhaps the mirlitons, flowers, and other inhabitants aren’t so out of place in The Nutcracker’s Kingdom of Sweets after all.


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Jazz Dance Legend: Bob Fosse Mon, 07 Dec 2015 16:00:39 +0000 Legendary choreographer, Bob Fosse was a man who worked hard, danced hard, lived hard and who's signature dance style and choreography made an impact in film, music videos, and on Broadway that can be seen even today.]]>

“Don’t dance for the audience. Dance for yourself.” – Bob Fosse
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Once you know how to spot Bob Fosse’s choreography, you’ll never look at a simple shoulder roll, finger snap or a black bowler hat the same way again.

Elements like these have become staples of much choreography, from classic Broadway to music videos. It can all be traced back to a man who worked hard, danced hard, lived hard and ultimately made an everlasting impact on the jazz dance we see today.

Show Business Beginnings

Robert Louis Fosse was born in Chicago on June 23, 1927. One of six children, Fosse discovered early on that dancing as a way to get attention from his family. Soon enough, he was enrolled in formal dance lessons and by high school was working in various vaudeville clubs as a dancer and emcee. He enlisted in the Navy after high school, but World War II ended soon after he arrived at bootcamp. Fosse completed his two years of duty and made his way to the Big Apple to pursue his performing career.

Seven years went by and Fosse had two failed marriages (one to Mary Ann Niles and the other to Joan McCracken), stage and TV variety show performances, and a few minor Broadway ensemble roles under his belt. It wasn’t until 1953, when he appeared in MGM’s “Kiss Me Kate,” that Fosse was noticed by choreographer Jerome Robbins and director George Abbott. That discovery served as Fosse’s big break, launching him into his whirlwind of a career.

A League of His Own

“The Pajama Game” became the first show Fosse completely choreographed and also where his signature style began unfolding. Inspired by his vaudeville background and Fred Astaire, Fosse’s choreography was trademarked by hip rolls, hunched shoulders, pingeon-toed feet, articulated hands, white gloves and black bowler hats. He also established a variety of vocabulary to describe some of his unique movements, including “slow burn,” “broken doll walk,” “crescent jump” and “soft-boiled egg hand.”

Next up on Fosse’s resume was Broadway’s “Damn Yankees” (1955). Not only did his choreography meet with love from the public, but Fosse himself also found love yet again during the project. What began as a working relationship with the show’s star, Gwen Verdon, eventually became Fosse’s third marriage in 1960. The couple had a daughter, Nicole, who later became a dancer and actor as well. Although their union would not last, the two remained legally married and maintained a professional relationship lasted for the rest of Fosse’s life.

Bob Fosse in Pal Joey publicity still
By Alix Jeffry (ebay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite his successful career being in full force by 1960, Fosse still found conflict with directors and producers who insisted his choreography was too suggestive. Rather than sacrifice the integrity of his vision, Fosse decided to take on the challenge of both directing and choreographing for his works. A slew of successes followed this decision, including “Sweet Charity,” “Cabaret,” “Pippin,” the NBC variety show “Liza with a Z,” and “Chicago.” “Lenny,” although not particularly successful, was also one of his projects. While it’s fairly safe to say that show business was Fosse’s life, it was during one of these shows that Fosse had a brush with death.

Final Bows

Fosse suffered a heart attack during a rehearsal for “Chicago.” He was taken to New York Hospital and faced other heart attacks while he was there. The health scare didn’t slow him down, however. With an everlasting desire for perfection and to leave his mark, Fosse continued to pour his energy into new creations only four months later. “Dancin’,” a musical largely lacking a story line and focusing on dance, debuted on Broadway in 1978.

The next year, the semi-autobiographical movie “All that Jazz” captured the essence of Fosse’s and his life in the character of Joe Gideon – a talented director-choreographer allured by women, smoking and more sinful passions. Fosse’s last works – “Star 80” in 1983 and “Big Deal,” his last musical – were not blockbusters.

On September 23, 1987, Fosse suffered a heart attack outside the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. after a rehearsal for the revival of “Sweet Charity.” He died on the way to the hospital. The world lost a legend that day, but fortunately for us, Fosse, a “dancin’ man,” left his footprints forever on the sands of time.


Fun Facts

  • Fosse stands as the choreographer to win the most Tony Awards – eight for choreography, plus one for direction. He is also stands as the sole person to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony award in the same year.
  • The unusual shots, jump cuts, and other film and editing techniques used in many music videos are attributed to Fosse. He introduced these techniques in Sweet Charity and his later works, at a time when dance had previously only been filmed either in front-facing or overhead perspectives. You can also see hints of his choreography in music videos in work by Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, and other artists.
  • Fosse’s Pippin was the first Broadway show to advertise on television, in addition to being the highest earning Broadway show ever.
  • Hats, gloves, and turned in knees, all trademarks of a Fosse performance, stemmed from some of Fosse’s insecurities – his balding, a dislike of his hands, and his lack of turnout.



Want more of Fosse?

Watch this clip about Bob Fosse from the PBS documentary, Broadway: The American Musical.

Check out these books:


Sources:, Dance Spirit,,, People,,

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Jazz Dance Legend: Gene Kelly Thu, 29 Oct 2015 14:45:40 +0000 Gene Kelly changed the way dance was perceived on film and made his athletic style a staple of American dance. Learn about this legendary dancer, choreographer, and actor's life and legacy in this brief biography.]]>

“You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams. And I know if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or running through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man.” – Gene Kelly


Gene Kelly
Gene kelly” by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

It’s hard to imagine a man who performed on Broadway and in some of the most iconic movie musicals in history saying he never wanted to be a dancer. But defying normal expectations was just Gene Kelly’s way.

The man who is cherished to this day for his roles in movies such as “Singing in the Rain” and “An American in Paris” not only graced the big screen with his dance talent – he changed the way dance was perceived on film and made his athletic style a staple of American dance.


From Baseball to Ballet

Gene Kelly was born in the Highland Park district of Pittsburgh on August 23, 1912. The third of five children, Kelly was a sports fanatic and dreamed of playing shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His mother was determined that her children be educated in the arts, however, so Kelly began taking dance classes at a young age – and proved to be a natural.

Kelly’s mother also prioritized education, so Kelly went on to study economics at Penn State University. Only a year had gone by when the Great Depression hit and Kelly was forced to leave school to earn money. Throughout this time he worked as a bricklayer and soda jerk in addition to dancing in various Pittsburgh clubs and theaters. Kelly ultimately completed his economics degree at the University of Pittsburgh in 1933 and headed for law school, but it didn’t take long before he realized law wasn’t for him. Thankfully for the rest of us, he decided to pursue his dance career instead.

Kelly immersed himself in teaching at his family’s dance school, which became known as the Gene Kelly School of Dance. He did this all while performing, directing, and choreographing for shows throughout Pittsburgh. But by 1938, Kelly was on the move again. Feeling that he’d done all he could for his career in the teaching department, Kelly made his way to Broadway. Unsurprisingly, he was met with success soon after.


Broadway and Beyond

Starting with small roles in “Leave it to Me!” And “One for the Money,” Kelly’s Broadway career escalated after Hollywood executive Louis B. Mayer saw him in the lead role of “Pal Joey” and offered him a movie contract with MGM. Kelly made his film debut in 1942 in “Me and My Gal,” which costarred Judy Garland.

Kelly’s movie career truly took off after his groundbreaking “Alter Ego” performance in Columbia Pictures’ “Cover Girl” (1944), in which he performed with himself thanks to the double exposure of the film. It was not only the first time such a feat had ever been done, but it was also the first time a dance number actually moved the movie’s plot along instead of merely being tossed into the picture. It was also the last time MGM lent Kelly to any other studio.

MGM cast Kelly in a variety of musicals after, one of the most memorable being “Anchors Aweigh.” World War II put Kelly’s career on pause as he enlisted in the Navy from 1944 – 1946, but he was back on the dance floor soon enough upon his return.

From showing off his jazz skills in “On the Town” (1949) to choreographing a lengthy ballet in “An American in Paris” (1951) to tapping through puddles in “Singing in the Rain” (1952), Kelly displayed versatility and athleticism in all the movies he went on to make. The man of many talents contributed as much behind the camera as he did in front of it, choreographing, writing, producing and directing a number of his films. Not only did an array of awards follow his path, but he also made groundbreaking achievements in that he made dance a more popular skill, particularly for men, and forever changed the Hollywood musical with his perspective and style.


By film trailer screenshot (MGM) (An American in Paris trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By film trailer screenshot (MGM) (An American in Paris trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The Show Must Go On

Although his career slowed down in the 1960s as the popularity of movie musicals began to fade, Kelly continued performing in TV programs such as the short lived “Going My Way” (1962 – 1963, based on the 1944 Bing Crosby movie) and the variety show “The Funny Side” (1971). He also directed, produced and starred in the TV movie “Jack and the Beanstalk” (1967), which won him an Emmy Award, and hosted the 1970s documentary “That’s Entertainment!” He made his final movie appearance in 1980 in “Xanadu” with Olivia Netwon-John. Besides occasional guest appearances on shows such as “The Muppet Show” and “The Love Boat,” Kelly mostly retired from performing in the 1980s.

Kelly died at his home in Beverly Hills, California on February 2, 1996 after a series of strokes. He will forever be remembered as one of America’s most beloved dancers whose style and vision made a lasting impacting on movies, musicals and dance lovers everywhere.

Mitzi Gaynor, Taina Elg, Kay Kendall & Gene Kelly in Les Girls - publicity still (cropped)
Mitzi Gaynor, Taina Elg, Kay Kendall & Gene Kelly in Les Girls – publicity still (cropped)


Fun Facts:

  • To fix dance’s two-dimensional appearance on film, Kelly’s choreography always had dancers moving toward the camera. The dances also weren’t as long as usually done on stage and were aided by light and color to create the feeling of a third dimension.
  • Kelly always made sure his dancer’s full body was filmed and that the film was cut on a dancer’s turn so the transition would be less obvious.
  • He had a 103 degree fever when he filmed his famous “Singing in the Rain” scene. Kelly dubbed the taps later, as well as the taps of his co-star, Debbie Reynolds.
  • In “Anchors Aweigh,” Kelly danced a duet with Jerry the Mouse (from the cartoon “Tom and Jerry”), who required 24 drawings per second of the dance to come to life. It was the first time anyone danced with an animated character. Kelly’s wife said he often referred to Jerry as his favorite dance partner “because he showed up on time and worked his little tail off.”
  • Kelly took his inspiration not from other forms of dance, but from sports – particularly hockey, his favorite.
  • “On the Town” was the first musical to be shot outside a studio.
  • Both the dancing and the camera movements in “Cover Girl” and “Anchors Aweigh” were synchronized with the beat of the music.


For more fun facts about Gene Kelly, check out this article.


Gene Kelly: The Legacy (An Evening With Patricia Ward Kelly)

Biographer and film historian, Patricia Ward Kelly takes audiences behind the scenes and shares an intimate story of her late husband Gene Kelly, the man who helped create some of the most memorable scenes in film history. This unique, LIVE performance—praised as “a real treat” by Variety—combines rare and familiar film clips, never released audio recordings, memorabilia, and personal insights culled from hours of interviews with her husband. Mrs. Kelly, whose presentation has been described as “mesmerizing,” reveals a very personal side of this American legend and his perspective on the innovative work for which he wished to be remembered.

Gene Kelly: The Legacy “An Evening With Patricia Ward Kelly” is currently touring. Learn more about upcoming shows on the Facebook page or at


Gene Kelly Videos

Of course, there’s plenty of great footage of Gene Kelly to be discovered via YouTube (fleeting though it may be due to copyright infringement). Here he is talking about Singing in the Rain, directing, and movie-making:


Watch Gene in a duet with himself in Cover Girl:


Can’t get enough of Gene Kelly? Follow his fan pages on social media:


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