Monday, April 29, 2013

Pointe Shoe FAQs and National Dance Week

Happy National Dane Week! It's actually National Dance Day, as well, I believe, although I didn't really plan for my post  to be on the same day. How are you all celebrating? My studio has a choreography competition, performance, and dance movie night, as well as  picture and essay contests going on for a while now. Where I come from, we just call it National Dance Month.
Dance has become sort of the infatuation of my generation. Whether it's break-dancing and "America's Best Dance Crew", "So You Think You Can Dance" (which has taken the commercial dance world by storm) or "Dancing with the Stars", people usually thinks it's pretty cool. Take Gangnam Style for instance. Sure it's an interesting song, but it would not have gotten nearly as much attention as it did, if not for the crazy dance moves featured in the official music video.
But one style of dance in particular that I feel has gotten more attention in the last century than almost any other time period in history, is ballet.
The picture speaks the truth, just ask Aria Alekzander. "It is really cool that we get to be part of something, manifested by man, that's like magic, like fairytale stuff." One of the things that adds to that ethereal aesthetic is the Pointe shoe.
 People are always asking me about my Pointe shoes.  I get younger girls at the studio who want to try them on, parents who want to know how expensive they are, and friends at school who are just amazed that it's possible for a human being to stand on their "tippy-toes." I though I would take some time to answer a few of your Pointe shoe questions. If you see anything that I forgot to mention, please leave me a comment, and I would be happy to address it.
So let's get started.

Q) How old do you have to be to go en Pointe?
A) This is not really something that has a definite answer. 11 seems to be a pretty common age, but it honestly depends on several things. How long you've been training, how strong you are, whether or no you have a medical condition that could prevent you from moving safely or correctly, even your height can be a factor. If you're unsure about your ability to safely and correctly execute steps en Pointe, talk to your dance instructor, or doctor. They will be able to give you much more personalized information.

Q) Does it hurt?
A) Sometimes. Blisters, corns, bunions, bruised toenails, and tendonitis can cause some pretty rough rehearsals. Luckily, most of these can be prevented by simply finding the right shoe and fit for your feet. This can be tricky, so ask your studio if they know of a reputable dancewear store that can help you.

Q) Is Pointe expensive?
A) Yes. My mom hates it. Every few weeks, we're back in the dance store to buy more shoes or tights, and it runs up quite the bill. Each pair of shoes is handmade, and you definitely pay for quality. I wear Suffolks, which tend to be on the more expensive side. They're also pretty soft, so they break-in and die faster. Most shoes are somewhere between $75-125.

Q) How long do Pointe shoes last? How do you know when they're dead?
A) This depends a lot on the strength of the shoe, the strength of your foot, and the number of hours you spend in your shoes. Most shoes will last for about 9-12 hours. Depending on how much you dance, this can be anywhere from 5 days to a month or more. When a shoe is dead, the shank will usually snap, making it harden to stay over the box, and then the box will go. Again, this depends a lot on what type of foot you have and how strong it is.Most of the time, though, you will be able to feel the floor through the platform of your shoe, which is extremely uncomfortable, and usually a sign that it's time to get new shoes.

I am completely out of time to write anything else today, but I will have more on Pointe shoes next weekend. If you have any questions that I haven't answered yet, please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer them next week!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blog changes and upcoming posts

Hi there! It's me again.
By now you've probably noticed that my blog's title has changed. My friend and realized that our old title was also the title of a book, which could pose some problems later on, so we changed it. Our web address is the same, so all of our links should still work. If you're having any difficulties please let me know, and I will see what I can do. 
This has been a crazy weekend for me, so I don't really have a big post for today. My studio is gearing up for our spring performances and they've tacked on a ton of extra rehearsals, leaving me even less time to work on this blog.     :(
Fortunately though, one of my good friends recommended that I use the chaos of performance season to start a series of tips and tutorials on my blog. We've already come up with posts on stretching, dance hair and makeup tutorials, parent tips, stage presence advice, competition tips, and costume ideas.
Since I really don't have any pictures or substantial advice this week, I'll share a video with you. If you have never seen Brianna Haire dance, you need to check this out. This is a solo from a few years ago, so she's a bit older now, but even at this age the stage presence and performance quality is amazing. There won't be a test, but I highly recommend that you take notes.
Talk to you next week!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

George Mason Dance Company 2013 Spring Gala (unofficial review)

A few weeks ago, I went with my mom and one of my friends to the George Mason Spring Gala. The associate director of our studio works there, and invited us to go and watch a performance. Up til then, I had  heard a lot about the school and its dance program, but I had never seen them perform, so I wasn't really sure what to expect, but they blew me out of the water!
I was absolutely shocked. Again, I am a total bunhead, and this was all modern dance, but I loved almost every minute of it. Almost.

The first piece they performed was Consumed. It was supposed to be about today's working class and their struggle to understand a global economy, or something like that. Well, I'm 16. The friend I took was 13. The topic of this dance went totally over our heads, and to be honest, I think it went over most of the dancers' heads, too. Maybe it's just because I didn't really understand the concept, but while I saw struggle and working class, I never fully got the whole global-economy thing. 
The first minute and 30 seconds or so was a solo, with acapella, screamy music(maybe with a drumbeat or two). She did great, and I could the technicality of the movements and the emotion behind them, but her costume was very distracting. She was wearing a suit with a sport-coat type thing over it, and it kept flapping all over the place when she would roll or turn. The second part was a group of maybe 10 people, in the same costume. I have to admit that it looked great on the group, because when they turned you could see the white shirts and the coat would open up, but when they had their backs to the audience, it was just a black coat. The dancing in this whole piece was great, but at the very end they left the entire audience confused when the first girl came on again wearing only a bra and booty shorts(?).
There was a duet called Berceuse that came afterwards, and to be honest it didn't really give me much of a lasting impression. It was good, but I think it lacked passion or something a little bit stronger. I don't know, it just didn't really stand out.
 The picture above shows my favorite piece, Topos. It was amazing. It was just balletic enough to satisfy me, but it was still decidedly modern. It was happy and it looked exhausting, but none of the dancers showed it. all of the movement seemed perfectly fitting to the music, and it was almost like they were accidentally dancing. I don't know why that struck me, but it did, and I loved how it looked. This piece was choreographed by William Smith III, a George mason alumnus, and he was actually sitting in the audience about 5 seats down from where we were. I would have loved to talk to him during the intermission, but unfortunately, several other people had the same idea.
The first piece after the intermission was Lareigne, a weird 90s-techno music piece with strange costumes and impossible looking choreography. For the first 2 minutes it was really neat. But it went on for about 5 more minutes after that, and I got kind of bored. So did my mom. As a dancer/choreographer, your job is to entertain the audience, which in this case happened to be mostly non-dancers. If they're falling asleep, you're not doing you job correctly.
The very last piece was about the rebuilding of the New Orleans community after hurricane Katrina. New Second Line was choreographed and first performed in 2006, so it was a pretty old piece. The music was very loud and Cajun, but very appealing to the ear. There were picture on the backdrop of New Orleans and damage that the hurricane caused. I couldn't find footage of any of the other pieces, but I managed to find this one. The video is from 2006, I believe, and it is slightly different from the one I saw performed. There were no props in the one I watched, and I think the staging was slightly different, because there were definitely more people in it. But the movement style and choreography are the same, and you can still see the images on the backdrop.
Thanks for reading, please come back next week!