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Helping our DKS by educating ourselves


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I get the strong impression from a couple recent topics that, as parents, we haven’t done enough to learn about ballet because it’s our kids that are interested in it, not us. We’re mostly concerned about helping them by getting them good training, paying the bills, supporting them through emotional and physical crises, etc. But I do think that if we’re concerned about helping our kids make good decisions while they attempt to achieve their dreams, it’s probably a good idea to spend a bit more time learning about what they're doing.


Whenever I’m faced with something I know little about, or feel I don’t understand, I study it...A LOT. I don’t intend to become an “expert amateur” when I do this, but it seems to happen quite frequently. I’ve done it with art (went back to school for three years), with mid-century design and collecting, with perennial gardening, and many, many other things. (I have an edge over some of you in that I'm old!) I’d guess most people have done this in one area or another.


It seems pretty clear to me that few parents really know what nudity in ballet entails. Honestly, in this country, it’s not much...especially in the “hinterlands,” so to speak. It’s a lot less than in most of the movies we all see, for example. In fact, I’ve rarely have seen a live performance in this country that had more nudity than at the local swimming pool (and I live in Idaho, I’ll remind you.) I.e., we’re not talking a lot of topless dancers. I heard one long-time Martha Graham dancer recently say that the jiggling she saw in Europe, where there was a brief rage for full nudity a couple years ago, was pretty distracting. At the time, she commented that it probably wouldn’t last long for that reason alone; they couldn’t do much movement without a lot of extra movement going on (we all laughed, I remember, and could picture how distracting it must have been), and she felt it really detracted from the choreographer’s intentions.


I think that a lot of concerns about “nudity” could be answered with a just little bit of research. (This is besides going to every performance you can that’s done by a respected company, and not balking by having to drive a few hours (less costly by far than paying for an SI) and sitting in the nose-bleeds if that’s all you can afford.) Even our teeny-weeny ultra-conservative little rural town library has dance videos, not more than a handful, but not just classical story ballets either; there are a few with more contemporary work too. So that’s a place to start. That and checking out a few ballet histories and bios at the library, and reading how and why and what people were thinking as dance evolved, and watching as many examples of the dances they’re referring to as possible.


As a result of most libraries’ limitations, I would also suggest purchasing videos and dvds on a regular basis, as many as you can afford, watching them multiple times and then reading as much about that particular choreographer and period to understand a little more about what you’re seeing. You can sell them on ebay when you’re finished for close to what you paid, or you can keep them to watch again and again later when you’ve learned more. Even videos don’t seem to lose their value hardly at all, except if they’re also out on dvd. Even then, some dvds have awful picture quality, and people will buy the videos instead.


I would venture to say that watching ballet (modern too!) and understanding it is quite similar to studying art history, or studying classical music, or studying dogs or horses (if you show them), or collecting antiques (if you’re really serious and have the money to spend), etc. etc. I believe that the more you know, the more you can appreciate it and understand it, the more comfortable you’ll be about what you’re seeing, and the more you’ll want to see. Actually, I think I can guarantee it.


I really and truly do not mean to offend or talk down to anyone with this post and I can see how some people might think I am. It’s just that I’m fairly sure that most people don’t realize how much there is to learn about this. The task is really quite similar to that of being able to go to a museum and be moved to tears, or fall in love with, or appreciate all the paintings, not just the pretty landscapes. Most people might find that effort just totally overwhelming, but it’s not, really. It's exciting.

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Another thing. Ballet Alert has another board—Ballet Talk—that has a lot of ongoing discussion and information and companies, dancers, current productions. I don’t participate on it because most of the people know a heck of a lot more than I ever will, and have the opportunity to see a lot more than I ever will. But I can learn a lot, so I read it pretty regularly.


Also on that board-- though it’s not contemporary ballet and that seems to be where the most confusion lies--an in-depth discussion (similar to an online book discussion group) is starting today, I think, about Ashton's Cinderella (w/Royal Ballet). I plan to follow along and watch my dvd a few more times and hope to learn something about what distinguishes that particular performance from others. I believe each director and performer approaches their work from a point of view based on their experience, and make choices based on their current understanding. Of course, people and points of view change as time goes by, so the Cinderella’s we see today are going to be different from the ones done 20-30 years ago. However, I expect that the next time I see Cinderella, any version, I’ll watch it with a greater understanding and appreciation. (Hopefully. Maybe. A lot of times I just do things with little forethought.) :dry::

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I can't add much to werlkj's post other than to point out that sometimes we also need to make sure that the DKs themselves have lots of opportunities to watch and learn about ballet, not just we parents. I know that by the time Kait was in the last years of HS, she still hadn't seen very many ballets, either on video or live. Live ballet we had, but because of the level she was in at the time, she was usually IN them, not in the audience! She realized, when she was about 17, how woefully ignorant she was, as far as seeing ballet. She has tried to rectify this herself; she watches lots of videos with her company friends (they have, collectively, quite a large collection), and when she was in Manhattan, she was able to go to two ABT performances. But it was an important part of her dance education that, because she was so busy dancing, we just let slide.

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K8smom, you're so right. I forgot that, and that's one of the most important things of all. It's so important for kids to see as much as possible. I can't tell you how often my DK has said that a teacher has appreciated that he knew what they were talking about. That's one very significant way we can help our kids prepare. Teachers have time to train, but it leaves almost no time to teach the kids much else. I bet anything we can do to help them educate these kids in other ways is probably much appreciated.

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Thank you for this -- you're exactly right, I think. And everyone here is most welcome to the Ballet Talk forum -- you can all rent or buy or borrow that video of Cinderella and join in. We have some people who've been going to the ballet forever, and some just for a short time, and everyone is welcome, no matter how much you think you know or don't know! We all learn from each other. I see lots of parents and young dancers browing that board, so I kow people are reading it, but please jump in!!


If any of you have access to the current Ballet Review, there's a lovely interview in it with Amanda McKerrow, and she mentions all of the help that her parents were to her. There's quite a bit about her training, not only early schooling, and then real professional schooling at the Washington School of Ballet, but how Mary Day (the founder of that school) helped her, and encouraged her, and how her participation in a competition (where she won a Gold Medal) was handled -- if I were a parent, I'd want to read it.

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Here is a website for Ballet Review - now don't get too excited. It has a very modest website - however, the key here is there is both a telephone number and an email address so you can find out how to subscribe or where the magazine might be for sale. In NYC, it can be found for sale at the gift shop area within The New York State Theatre. It may also be for sale in the Lincoln Center Gift Shop or, even, The Metropolitan Opera House gift shop. If you don't live nearby you can give them a call. This is one of the premier ballet reviews around with a long history. :pinch:

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Does anyone know where I can buy a copy of Ballet Review? Amazon offers subscriptions, but with the 12-16 week delay I'm afraid I wouldn't get this issue. My local mega newsstand doesn't carry it.


Oops, BW and I posted at the same time. Thanks for reading my mind.

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I really agree with you, werlkj. I've begun to teach myself about ballet, because I can see it's limiting my daughter that I know so little about it and wasn't exposing her to more of it. Frankly, I've never been interested in ballet, but I'm coming to appreciate it more and more. This year, for the first time, I took her to see most of the programs in the company reperatory. And next year I'm buying lots of tickets to visiting performances, as well as our own company (standing room only is $10 and student tickets - for better seats - are $20). We don't watch too many ballet videos, but we probably should - her school has a lending library with lots of videos.


Her favorite teacher moved away and sent her a card last spring. One of the questions she asked my daughter was what ballets she'd seen. That really helped give me a kick in the pants, because we just weren't watching them before.


I've also been reading about Balanchine (her school is a balanchine school - believe it or not, I've only recently learned that tidbit and she's been going there for 4 years) and Suzanne Farrell and other books. I subscribed to Pointe magazine last Feb - she's not that interested in it yet, but I'm reading it. I've been looking at other magazines as well. I hadn't heard of Ballet Review, and when I clicked on that link, it brought up garbage.


I'm reading the online ballet boards - I've learned so much that way! I'll probably never be any kind of ballet sophisticate, but I feel like I'm in my own version of an SI. :thumbsup:


A friend of mine subscribes to the British ballet magazine (great, but pricey). What other periodicals are worth it? I will look into Ballet Review. In Suzanne Farrell's autobiography, she mentions a magazine called Dance - I don't know that one either.



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Can't imagine why you "brought up garbage" when you hit that hyperlink for Ballet Review. Here's the information if you want to subscribe, etc., apart from what I've alread posted:


For information please call (212) 924-5183


E-mail: info@balletreview.com



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I tried several times - all with the same result. It's probably because I use Mozilla as my browser and I'm behind a firewall. (My home computer tunnels into my work computer so I'm not allowed to use IE because it's so horribly prone to viruses.)


I *love* Mozilla but every now and then encounter these problems.


Thanks for the info!



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Okay, here are some ideas that don't entail a purchase (though there are some nice periodicals out there, including Ballet Alert's own publication.) (Before I give you those, check out: Interviews with a number of Dancers--very entertaining and right here on Ballet Alert.)


So here's some stuff to get started:


Voice of Dance newsletter homepage...nice newsletter, huh? You can get a bi-weekly online newsletter of the latest news emailed to your address.


Critical Dance has a huge amount of info on their site, and again, you can subscribe to their monthly online magazine (on the left side of the page), which will be emailed to your address.


The great thing about these is they are comprehensive, the news comes in tiny chunks with LOTS of LINKS, and they have pictures and quite often links to video clips. Oh, and also ticket info, and sometimes discounts or advance ticket offers.


Finally, a gem (though awfully sporadic when it comes to ballet) there is Breakfast with the Arts . It’s on A&E on Sunday mornings, at 6 am where I live, but probably on at a much more reasonable hour elsewhere. I record all the dance. You can subscribe to the BWTA newsletter, which comes every Friday and tells you exactly what is going to be on their show and in what order (very useful when to sleep as long as you can and yet not miss anything. The past couple months they’ve had some Nacho Duato, Balanchine (NYCB), and old clips of Kirov performances. For many of us, this is a vital link to the outside world, and one of the few opportunities to see these things. I record all the dance and it’s added up to be quite the stack of video tapes. (To get their Friday newsletter, look on the right side of the home page, under Features. A box that says "Newsletter" is the second one down on the right side.)

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  In Suzanne Farrell's autobiography, she mentions a magazine called Dance - I don't know that one either.

I'm embarrased to admit that I haven't read Suzanne Farrell's biography yet, but maybe her reference is to "Dance Magazine" (www.dancemagazine.com). It's been around a number of years, and we subscribe to it in addition to Pointe Magazine. Each magazine has a little different perspective on dance, and I've found both to be valuable. Our local library subscribes to Dance Magazine, so you may be able to check the library in your area, too.


I also became a ballet mom without much real knowledge of this art (even though I had been a ballet-goer for years), so we're really all in this together!

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I fixed the link above to the discussion on Ballet Talk about Ashton's Cinderella (here also). You'll see a lot of threads to enable discussion of various aspects of the performance.


This is a great opportunity, everyone, and something you can do with your DKs (if they're home). My DK is bummed that he's missing out right now; he loves doing this kind of stuff with me...sitting around, analyzing, and discussing. Oh, and if you don't have this video/dvd, your library or rental store might. It's a classic.


(added Thursday a.m.)

(Oh...more more thing... Despite appearances, I'm receiving no pay to plug this. Darn it! Just call me enthusiastic. :thumbsup: )


(later - Thursday pm)

Sorry, Alexandra. I kept meaning to link to Dance View (to which I do subscribe and thoroughly enjoy) and the Danceviewtimes website also. After you posted, I realized I'd forgotten. I wanted to apologize for being such a cad as to leave it out, but I didn't want my post to be the last one on this thread; your name will draw a few more readers. So I'll add it here, and hope you see it. I just wish more people had subscribed to your other publication and it had been able to continue...very depressing, but maybe sometime in the future...

Edited by werlkj
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There are two excellent British dance magazines -- Dance Now and The Dancing Times.


This site is sponsored, for lack of a better word :thumbsup:, by my magazine, Danceview -- http://www.danceview.org -- which has been published since 1979. It focuses on long, full-season reviews of American and European ballet companies, interviews with dancers and historical articles.


We also have an online weekly reviews supplement -- http://www.danceviewtimes.com -- which publishes reviews by some of the best dance writers in America, if I do say so myself :D

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When DD was littler I bought lots of ballet story books. It has made it easier for her to focus on the technique now that she knows the story line. It's helped me to be able to follow what's going on. We've been fortunate to see some really good live perormances - Cuba, ABT Jr. Co., Moscow Nut, and Baryshnikov. Anouther source for videos is interlibrary loan. http://www.publiclibraries.com/index.htm Just find what you want in a library's online catalog, print it out and take it to your local librarian. They'll take it from there. Unfortunatly NYC public library does not inter library loan videos from it's Dance collection. Have gotten quite a few from University of Florida.

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