Ballerina Profile: Elizabeth Bell-Perkins

me en pointe NohoWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?

8 years old?

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes, but I drifted off to other things as many teenagers do, going back to classes for a few months at a time,

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

As a way to feel at-home returning to college as a young adult, I always took class, first at a 2 year SUNY school in NY state taking dance composition, ballet and modern, and then at 4 years colleges, always minored, so to speak in dance.

When I first moved to Massachusetts to attend a 4 year college, I attended a very nontraditional 4 year college and my majors were Political Science and Dance!  Only in the Pioneer Valley of western MA could you do that! It is called the 5-Colleges area- Mt. Holyoke, Smith, (all female), Umass Amherst, Amherst College and Hampshire. Once you are registered at one, you can take pretty much all your other classes at any one of the other 5 colleges.

This allowed me to experience many different dance forms including African (to age myself, we danced to “Free Nelson Mandela”), modern including Labanotation and a smattering of kinesiology, at Hampshire, ballet at Mt. Holyoke, Improvisational at Smith.

Where do you take classes?

After turning 40, I attended a really great local studio called Ballet Soleil in Williamsburg, MA owned by Kelly Torza who studied at Northern Connecticut Ballet, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Greater Hartford Academy for Performing Arts and Hartford Ballet.  After high school she attended the Hartford Camerata Conservatory receiving certification in dance pedagogy and instruction.

I currently attend Massachusetts Academy of Ballet in Holyoke, Northeastern School of dance under Antony De Vecchi, Artistic Director and Ballet Master who danced with the ABT.  He also appeared in 12 Broadway shows and in the national tour of “Man of La Mancha” which he  directed and choreographed. Nominated for Emmy Award for his work with A Winter’s Tale for WNDT (New York) as well as recipient of the Dance Critics Circle Award for the best Broadway musical on tour.  He has partnered such names as Alicia Markova, Juliet Prowse and Chita Rivera.

When I can deal with the traffic across the CT River, I attend Amherst Ballet, under  Executive Director and Teacher Sueann Townsend who has performed in many places across the U.S. and Europe.

The Massachusetts Academy of Ballet in Holyoke is a wonderful school, founders and directors, Rose and Charles Flachs are active with and committed to, the community and have expanded adult classes in the last few years.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

The traditional continuity, challenge and feeling like you are part of a world-wide group.

While I never attained professional status, it is an artistic, grounding and physically satisfying activity.

What is your least favorite part?

At my age it is very hard for me to look at myself in the mirrors- I never wear leotards- just supportive tanks, briefs, cut-off tights and a top. Getting to class can be difficult- the closest studio still takes a 35-minute drive then a walk up to 4th floor. I have work, kids, an elderly mom and other commitments that I constantly have to juggle.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Dame Margot Fonteyn, Misty Copeland, Martha Graham, Fred Astaire (his talent and skill will never be matched), Gene Kelly and of course, Mikhail. Like many female ballet dancers, the characters in the Red Shoes, Turning Point and now the Black Swan, although I view that as more of a physiological thriller.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Fills creative need, fitness, and social connections with like-aged fellow dancers.  We are also dedicated to supporting each other in dance and life.

(get’s me out of the house!)

Do you take any other dance classes?

Infrequent master classes that come up in Pioneer Valley and sometimes NYC such as Finis Jung.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Medical research and public health/writing, reading (everything!) baking, designing and selling decorated cookies and going to Maine to our land on a lake for physical and emotional healing.

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

Find a studio that is dedicated to nurturing the adult dancer.  There are more and more adult-only studios opening.  It is important that the teacher can design the class to meet all levels. You will find much support there!

Do you have a blog?

No, but I have new biz making decorated cookies- including ballet themes!

Hilltowncookies.com

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Ballerina Profile: Melissa Kolbeck

melissaWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started back about 2 months ago (early September 2015) after a 2 1/2 year hiatus.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I did! From age 4 and up through college and beyond.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I thought I was done with ballet because of the emotional toll and having gotten married an started a family. But I simply cannot live without it. It’s who I am, and I knew I needed to get back.

Where do you take classes?

Lois Ellyn Ballet Studio in Fullerton, CA. I’ve also studied at UC Irvine (while in college) and at Maple Conservatory in Irvine, CA

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I love the challenge. I love that you will never attain perfection yet you always work for it. I love the grace of ballet and freedom that comes with movement. I also love the work ethic that ballet taught me growing up.

What is your least favorite part?

The pressure to be skinny and the intense competition. Those are what caused me to take a break for a few years. I needed to grow and mature and realize that I dance for me and no one else.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

There have been many over the years, but my current favorite is Misty Copeland. The fact that she is local to Southern California, broke a racial barrier, and does not have the “typical” body yet is a principal dancer with ABT just makes me HAPPY. As a girl who can put on muscle very easily and struggled with not having the “perfect body,” I love seeing dancers with similar bodies to me make it big.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

I took a break already, and I don’t want to do that again and have to come back again. I’ve been lucky this time in that my technique still seems pretty solid and most things have come back to me. But that may not be the case if I ever were to take a break again. I also want to keep dancing and share my love of it with my daughter. She may not end up loving it as much as I do, but if she does she needs the encouragement to stick with it even when it’s hard.

Do you take any other dance classes?

No, ballet is my favorite. Nothing else really compares for me.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I enjoy other types of workouts, especially PiYo, and have also run some half marathon and marathons. But right now it’s all ballet, writing my blog, and working with women to help them get in shape physically and emotionally.

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

Don’t give up!! When you first start, especially as an adult, there is a very steep learning curve. Give yourself some grace and just enjoy learning something that not many people in this world can say they’ve learned.
Anything else you’d like to add?

Try ballet. Seriously, just do it. It’s the best.

Do you have a blog?

www.melissakolbeck.com/blog

Misty Copeland: Bringing Ballet Back to the Limelight

From the ballet Coppelia

Photo By Gilda N. Squire (Gildasquire) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

As I pedaled through my workout on the bike at the gym, the television caught my eye when I glimpsed a tutu and pointe shoes on the nightly news. Ballet’s presence in pop culture’s spotlight is rare and fleeting. However, occasionally, the ballet world sneaks into the day’s top headlines. I was thrilled to see Misty Copeland’s smiling face lighting up the screen, and the news banner announced her most recent triumph. On June 30, shining star Misty Copeland continued her rise to mainstream fame with the announcement of her promotion to principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Not only is she now ranked as a leading performer, Copeland is the company’s first black female dancer to achieve this commendable status.

At age thirteen, Copeland began her training at San Pedro City Ballet and continued to Lauridsen Ballet Center and Francisco Ballet School. She found her home with American Ballet Theatre after attending their summer intensive and joining the junior company in 2000. The following year, she joined the professional company as a corps de ballet member. Six years later, Copeland became a soloist. After her most recent promotion last Wednesday, Copeland is now one of the leading stars of the company.

I hope to see Copeland perform live someday, but until then, I’m amazed as I watch her online videos. Her technique, enhanced by her stunning facility and musicality, is remarkably stunning. Her athletic musculature adds an unstoppable power to her grace, making her a surreal yet dynamic ballerina. Most compelling is her expressive face, which draws the audience in with undeniably pure joy.

As her stunning dancing propelled her higher through the company ranks, it also attracted the attention of those outside of the ballet world. Her television and magazine appearances have nearly made her a household name, a rarity for professional ballet dancers. Most recently, she graced the cover of Time Magazine and was featured as one the publication’s “100 most influential people.”

Her genuine, down-to-earth personality attracts a dedicated fan base, and she serves as a role model for countless young women, whether dancers or not. As she continues to grace the stages of the Met, surely her popularity will continue to soar, and her dancing will continue to make history for years to come.

Ballerina Profile: Linmayu Appavu

lin in la esmeralda 2014When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I made my final decision to return to ballet at age 35, and will never quit dancing again.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes, a lot of lessons. From age 6 to 25. I was the worst student in class and got yelled at a LOT, until I finally learned the difference between my right and left foot. I think I was 16 by then.

Because I had danced for so many years in the past, I thought it would be easy to come back and wow everyone, but no! I had to start over from square one. My mind knew what to do, but all my ballet muscles had disappeared into the ether from lack of use.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

During the years I wasn’t dancing, I couldn’t even go to a show and watch other people dance–any kind of dance–without feeling like I was being stabbed in the heart. Then I read all the magazines and all the articles that say people over age 20 who have boobs and butts shouldn’t do ballet. But you know what, I decided I don’t care about that. We each have just one life on this Earth, and I couldn’t imagine living out the rest of mine without taking myself to the absolute limits of my ability in dance. With God all things are possible. I’m just getting started.

Where do you take classes?

Currently, I take most of my classes with University Ballet of Chicago, a student group affiliated with University of Chicago. (That’s a tip for budding adult dancers: find a local college or university group that is open to non-students! You’re more likely to find performing opportunities, and it’s easier on the psyche to go to class with college kids than with high schoolers.) If I can’t get to UB, then I take class at the Joffrey Academy or Lou Conte Studio of Dance. Both have great adult classes at all levels, from basic to advanced/professional.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Where do I begin? I think first and foremost, I love the beauty of the art form and the fact that it carries hundreds of years of human history. I love to move my body. I love to challenge my body, to do something today I couldn’t do yesterday. I love to land a perfect pirouette. I love jumping (a little bit too much; I tend to get crazy and then get injured). I love character dances. I love the music. I love the costumes (most of the time). I love performing, and feel very fortunate that I actually get to do that right now!

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Adult Ballerina Profile: Erika Raelyn Covarrubias

10541807_1540483126165819_3310689491129698934_nThis week’s profile is of Erika Raelyn Covarrubias! Check out her blog at bearika-ballerina.blogspot.com!

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I was eighteen (spring, 2004).

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Sadly, no. I always wanted to though! The closest I got was show choir (5th through 12th grade). I’m sure my flexed-footed pirouettes were just beautiful. haha.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I had always dreamed of taking dance classes, and even though I had wanted to be a performer on Broadway (singing,mainly), I had always wanted to take dance classes. Especially ballet.  My first semester of college, my classes were set for me and I didn’t really have a choice in what classes I took (not complaining…it was just two general ed classes), but my second semester, I signed myself up for Ballet 1 and loved it from the start!

Where do you take classes?

The local community college. You can’t really beat two hour-and-a-half classes twice a week for, I think, $12 per unit, and it was a one unit class. I also take the occasional class at the studio I teach at.

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