Beginner Ballerina Profile: Nikki from Mercietchatons: 100th Post!

photo 2This week’s ballerina profile is Nikki from Mercitchatons. She seems like a great fit for Adult Ballerina Project’s 100th post because she was one of the first adult ballet blogs I came across and inspired me to do a 30 day split challenge (and we’ll both be doing another one in April!

Adult Ballerina Project: When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Nikki: I started at 26.

ABP: Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

 Nikki: Yes, between the ages of 3-8 I was doing ballet. I remember it very fondly and never let the idea of it go when I left. I only left because of family financial difficulties.

ABP: Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?
Nikki: I wanted to go back to ballet when I was 16/17 but school got in the way and a lot of other things to. I finally got around to it in my mid 20s. I can’t explain the full reason of wanting to go back to ballet other than doing what you do at the barre. It’s so engrained in you and you either love it or hate it and become a ballet robot and need to do you tendus and dégagés like it’s nobody’s business.

 ABP: Where do you take classes?

Nikki: I go to Alderwood Dance Spectrum. It’s a city north of Seattle. The school’s been there for many years and the Director/Owner is a great woman and dancer. I love the children and fellow students I dance with and I couldn’t ask for a better place to dance. I don’t ever feel judged or competitive.

ABP: What is your favorite part about ballet?

Nikki: There are so many parts of ballet I love. I love expression through slight movement. I love doing barre work, monotonous brain exercises that you eventually learn as second nature. It’s physical building aspect. The music. The history.

ABP: What is your least favorite part?

Nikki: Mostly my personal limitations and becoming extremely frustrated with it. Which isn’t ballet’s fault. Just my adult brain and body. Memorization is hard to. One month you’ll have all the positions down and proper when requested, and then you don’t do it for a month and focus on something else and then you completely forget and they ask you out of the blue and you’re like “durrrr… croise … what direction arms- where?”

ABP:Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Nikki: Zenaida Yanowsky, she’s tall which is very unusual for a principal dancer to be. She shows great character and excellent execution in her technique. Yulia Stepanova, a very little known corphyee in the Mariinsky theater. She’s absolutely gorgeo . Phenomenal. She’s strong, beautiful technique, and her epaulment is gorgeous. Evengnia Obratzsova, she’s so cute, so small, so fragile, yet a beautiful emote-r ballerina. In my growing theme you can see strong technique and emotional elegance are my favors and the students of my school, they’re beautiful sweet girls and boys who are very interested in what they do and how to do it better.

ABP: What motivates you to keep dancing?photo 1

Nikki: The idea that I will feel bad if I do not go. That I will lose progress I had gained two folds. That I always need to get better and work harder. That by coming to class, the girls and boys who look to me for answers, will have them and be inspired too to keep being beautiful as they are.

ABP: Do you take any other dance classes?

Nikki: Not currently, no. I may take hip hop depending how my schedule opens up. Usually though if it does open up, it would just be more ballet classes. Maybe a contemporary class too- HAH! Ideally my Teacher would want me to take tap- yea no thanks.

ABP: What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Nikki: I’m literally an art school drop out. I spent most of my HS career collecting college AP credits for fine art. So I dabble in illustration, painting, drawing, etc. I also sew, as I spent time at the Art Institute of Seattle. I learned how to draft patterns and sew by industrial standards. I like to bake and make obscene sugar cookies.  I also collect all things Mickey- well, almost. I limit myself so my house isn’t swamped in the stuff. Lets just say I’m a Disney fan.

ABP: What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

Nikki: Warm up and care for your body. I know you want to get better and stronger but as adults our body is not adjusted to strenuous repetitive activities. Use leg warmers and clothes to keep you warm, and warm up 15-30 min before you even start barre. Stretch any free moment you get, and do it frequently. Love and care for yourself and my favorite things to keeping me happy after a hard class is hot both, epsom salt, and a glass of wine. Cheesecake too for good measure 🙂

ABP: Anything else you’d like to add?

Nikki: Know it’s okay to mess up. To be slower or to work out what they’re doing slower. Your body has not been doing ballet for 12 years of your life(and if you have, well you’ve been on break maybe so…). You will work your way there and always remember you are magnificent and someone is always watching!

 

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Aerialist Sarah Jean Kaye

This week’s profile (well, technically last week’s) is Sarah Jean Kaye, who began taken ballet again after a long break to help her improve for aerials.

20121002-DSC_1246-Edit-2Adult Ballerina Project: When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Sarah Jean Kaye: I recently started taking class again after a long break of five years off from the ballet barre to improve my line and hip flexors for aerials.

ABP: Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

SJK: I took ballet growing up 2x a week for a few years but by no means was a ballerina. I took jazz and acro at a dance studio that only used ballet as a supplemental training, where is should have been the main focus! I took ballet to help stretch me out but sadly with years of contortion style acrobatics training, I stayed short forever at 5’3.

ABP: Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

SJK: I missed the regimen oddly enough. I think because I always idolized ballerinas but knew I never would be one with 90 degree turnout that I wanted the challenge of going back into the classroom. When I was a child training to be a performer, ballet made me always feel negative about myself because I was short legged with a very athletic build, no turnout, and extensions only to 90 degrees. Even though I had a very bendy back, my legs and hips just never went anywhere. It was very disheartening and frustrating. Now as an adult, I am over the fact that I was never going to be a ballerina. Now I realize it makes me a better person for going after the challenge. And it finally makes me feel beautiful when doing it. As a adult ballerina, you are not competing to perform against classmates but all reveling in how it makes you feel.

ABP: Where do you take classes?

SJK: When close to home in Central Jersey I love to take at Princeton Dance & Theater, a studio opened by ABT principal Susan Jaffe & principal ballerina Risa Kaplowitz. They have a studio focused in premiere dancing and follow the American Ballet Theatre’s education and curriculum plan, yet it is so warm and nurturing there. I particularly like to go to the Ailey Extension in NYC and take from Kat Wildish or Finis Jhung. Each absolute masters at their trade, they have perfected the art of teaching adult ballet.

ABP: What is your favorite part about ballet?

SJK: Grand allegro. I am a fabulous leaper!

ABP :What is your least favorite part?

SJK: Probably a combination of left turns and my lack there of turnout. Both are my ballet arch-nemesis!

ABP: Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

SJK: : Marcelo Gomes & Sascha Radetsky have kept me coming back time and time again to see the ballet in NYC. I love the primas but there is something about male dancers that is just captivating, probably because I was such an athletic mover I actually relate more to their movement. But I do always aspire to look like the ladies on pointe! I would love to take pointe!

ABP: What motivates you to keep dancing?

SJK: The challenge to make myself better and be able to say that I didn’t let this conquer me.

ABP: Do you take any other dance classes?

SJK: I like to take a jazz or musical theater class when I can but most of my free class time now goes to aerial classes!

ABP: What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

SJK: Reading, any ridiculous adventure challenge like trampolining, flying trapeze, pole dancing, or indoor rock climbing (I like to say I tried anything once), watching modern family, traveling, seeing broadway shows, makeup, and occasional cap naps.

ABP: What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

SJK: JUST DO IT! Get over the hump, swallow your pride, allow those days when you are awful, celebrate the days you were amazing, and now there is always someone better and worse the same class as you!

ABP: Anything else you’d like to add?

SJK: NAMASTE! hehe

Ballerina Profile: B of Under the Purple Magnolia Tree

This weeks post comes from B, who co-runs Under the Purple Magnolia Tree. She restarted ballet about a year ago after dancing throughout her teenage years. Enjoy!
Adult Ballerina Project: When did you start doing ballet as an adult?photo 3

B: I restarted ballet in September 2011 with one class a week to ease back into things, then properly started again in January 2012, so I’ve had just over a year of doing ballet as an adult. I turn 25 this year so it’s actually only been about a 5 year gap between stopping and starting.

ABP: Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

B: I actually spent all of my teenage years dancing. I started at 10 with ballet and then added jazz the following year. I tried Irish for a couple of years, along with rhythmic gymnastics, but it wasn’t until I was at university that I discovered contemporary dancing and started to combine that with my ballet. I did ballet until I was 18 or 19 (my last year of uni), the only reason I stopped was in anticipation of moving to a new city and because my body wasn’t physically coping with dance on top of everything else I was doing.  I did my grades through to Intermediate Vocational Level in the British Ballet Organisation, which is equivalent to about grade 7 but with pointe.

ABP: Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

B: I’m a middle school teacher, and in 2011 when I started teaching I started up a dance group for my students at school. Watching my students get excited about dance reminded me of how much I loved it and I decided it was high time I went back. I’m not so into the performance side, so I decided to go back and work towards my ballet teaching qualifications instead. Of course I still take regular classes to help refine and maintain my technique while I study for my exams.

ABP: Where do you take classes?

B: I currently take three advanced level ballet classes at a studio in my home city Wellington, New Zealand, one of which is advanced pointe. It’s a pretty great little place, nothing fancy but with seriously awesome teachers. In New Zealand all ballet classes are taught within an exam-based syllabus – usually British. The one I take classes in (and always have) is BBO or British Ballet Organisation. They’re not as well known as say RAD but I really love the challenging nature of the choreography and the emphasis on developing dance quality and musicality.

ABP: What is your favorite part about ballet?

B: I love everything we do at the barre. It’s absolutely my favourite part of class. I also love port de bra – it along with epaulment is probably the part of dance that comes most naturally to me. I’m a big fan of anything in ¾ time too, so waltz enchainments have always been a favourite of mine. I’m learning to really love turning en pointe too.

ABP: What is your least favorite part?

B: Batterie and petit allegro – I’m not a natural jumper and I find anything that beats requires so much concentration. Pirouettes from 5th is another thing I’m really not a fan of.

ABP: Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

B: Hmmm… that’s a tricky one. I really love the Royal New Zealand Ballet and there are a couple of dancers in particular I enjoy watching. I guess my teacher also inspires me in terms of my teaching study since she is such a fantastic teacher.

ABP: What motivates you to keep dancing?

B: The little successes and the ultimate goal of sitting my teaching exams. I had a whole term out this year on crutches and in a moonboot due to a misdiagnosis, and coming back in to dance in the last term of the year has been all about the little things. When I restarted ballet back in 2011 I launched back into advanced level classes and coped fine but also took my body for granted. When you’re coming back to dance after an injury and find you have to work hard just to releve, it changes your perspective and you appreciate the little successes even more.

ABP: Do you take any other dance classes?

B: As much as I love classical ballet, my biggest love is actually contemporary ballet – I love the fluidity of it. I also take an advanced contemporary class at the same studio – I really do think it is a great compliment to ballet as it teaches you so much about being grounded in your body. I also teach a lot of creative movement and intro jazz and contemporary classes at the middle school I teach at (though it’s not the main aspect of my job).

ABP: What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

B: I love creating things, enjoy writing and love literature. My partner and I both have a strong interest in living a simpler, more sustainable and down to earth life.

ABP: What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

B: Go for it. Yes it can be very frustrating I won’t lie, but it challenges you to think about yourself and experience  movement in such a profoundly different way.

 

Ballerina Profile: Nellie of Knit Two, Pointe Two, Bake Two Together

ABP interview 004This week’s profile is of Nellie from Knit Two, Pointe, Bake Two Together. I wrote about the awesome legwarmers she makes a couple weeks ago here.

Adult Ballerina Project: When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Nellie: Six years ago! Sometimes it feels like yesterday though…

ABP: Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Nellie: I did: I took ballet and tap from being about three and five respectively up to just short of eleven when I decided I’d had enough for a whole variety of reasons. A few years later a friend from school found dancing lessons and – needing something to do for the sport part of my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – I tagged along and did stage (which involved a lot of ballet and jazz) from fifteen to nearly eighteen.

ABP: Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

Nellie: I always regretted giving up ballet as a kid, whatever else may have gone down my childhood teacher had instilled a real love of ballet in my soul and I couldn’t really live without it. Shortly after I left university I was musing at a friend about how much I wanted to take it back up again, then I moved to London, she found a class and the rest, as they say, is history.

ABP: Where do you take classes?

Nellie: I take four classes a week divided between two studios which couldn’t be any more different if they tried!

ABP: What is your favorite part about ballet?

Nellie: There’s a feeling I refer to as ‘it’ because I don’t quite know how to put it into words but it’s when everything comes together and just feels ‘right’ and remember that this is exactly why I keep taking class.

ABP: What is your least favorite part?

Nellie: Turns to the left! No matter what I do, they just do not come together ever.

ABP: Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Nellie: Oh my, there are so many – so, so many. I could watch Marianela Nunez of the Royal Ballet for hours on end for incredible technique and stage presence. Cassa Pancho, founder and director of Ballet Black, is also a real inspiration for proving that anything is possible.

ABP: What motivates you to keep dancing?

Nellie: I guess it’s that endless pursuit of perfection thing, the fact that there’s always something to learn or work on. And dance wear – there’s nothing like having a legit reason to splash out on new leotards 😉

ABP: Do you take any other dance classes?

Nellie: Not at the moment – I took tap back up for a while, and I tried street (I was hilariously bad). I’d like to give jazz and contemporary a try at some point though if someone could just squeeze a few more hours in my day!

ABP: What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Nellie: Knitting (cabled legwarmers and red and white Fair Isle are my ‘thing’ at the minute), baking (there is always a need for cake), reading (mmmmmm books) and sleeping (which I never seem to manage enough of)!

ABP: What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

Nellie: Go for it, stick with it and enjoy it!

Ballerina Profile: Joie of Some Assemblé Required

This week’s Ballerina Profile is Joie from Some Assemblé Required. She’s been dancing for an impressive 7 years now, since she was 21. Enjoy!

Adult Ballerina Project: When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Joie Brown: Age 21– I’ve been dancing just about seven years now!

ABP: Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

JB: I took tap dancing for awhile, but no ballet.

ABP: Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

JB: When I was a kid, someone told me I was “too big” to be a ballerina, and I took it to heart. I steadfastly refused to take up my mother’s offer for ballet classes, even though I desperately wanted to do it. Many years later, I decided, “Aw, what the heck! Why NOT? You only live once.” I then promptly signed up with the Atlanta Ballet Adult Division.

ABP: Where do you take classes?

JB: I currently take classes at City Dance Studios with Carla Escoda from Ballet to the People here in San Francisco. I’m about to move to Los Angeles though, and will be on the lookout for a great new studio there!

ABP: What is your favorite part about ballet?

JB: Getting to look graceful– it’s a nice change from my everyday clumsy clonking about. I also really enjoy performing even though I don’t get many chances to do it. Also, learning to dance in pointe shoes is totally a girlhood dream come true.

ABP: What is your least favorite part?

JB: The fact that adult bodies have limitations. There’s only so much flexibility and extension a 27 year old body can give. (Now, if I could just get up to 3+ classes a week, maybe it COULD change…)

ABP: Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

JB: Anyone that does it better than me. Which is just about everyone! Hehe, in all seriousness, watching any ballet performance gets me inspired to dance!

ABP: What motivates you to keep dancing?

JB: I’m a visual artist, and my brain is constantly crowded out with noise/creativity/excitement. Ballet gives me a good 1.5 hours of mental silence– if you think about anything other than what you’re doing, then you are NOT doing it correctly!

ABP: Do you take any other dance classes?

JB: I don’t at the moment, but have taken Hip Hop, Lyrical, Modern, and Musical Theater before! (Plus the aforementioned tap when I was 6…) I would like to try a jazz class!

ABP: What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

JB: I’m an illustrator by trade, but I also draw in my spare time (for fun! I must really love my job). I also like playing video games, going on walks, baking, and reading voraciously!

ABP: What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

JB: It’s gonna be tough, but remember to have FUN with it. That’s the whole point, after all! What helps me is imagining that I am dancing better than I am, and that I am wearing a giant pretty tutu with a tiara and sparkles, et al. On a stage. With lights. And people throwing roses at me! … thank goodness my other classmates can’t see inside my head!

ABP: Anything else you’d like to add?

JB: I have a ballet blog that I update occasionally at: www.blondieballet.wordpress.com. It contains my experiences in classes, random pictures and videos, and ballet-related drawings that I do. I’m also slowly adding in past entries from a journal I kept about ballet when I first started… so think of it as a blog that grows both forward and backward!

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