News: Ballet Without Borders

When Davis Robertson of the Joffrey Ballet School traveled to Moscow in June 2010, he had no idea what to expect. As program director of the contemporary ballet division, his goal was to broach the idea of a summer student exchange with Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Much to his surprise, he received an enthusiastic response from director Marina Leonova. Bolshoi representatives outlined several other possibilities, including student exchanges during the year, teacher exchanges and an invitation for Robertson to choreograph a new work and run workshops in contemporary ballet.

 

This summer, Robertson will accompany 15 to 25 specially selected Joffrey Ballet School students to Moscow. They will spend several weeks taking classes and living at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy while he guest-teaches. “There will be two types of education going on,” Robertson says. “One in the studio technically, and one just permeating the air of the Joffrey students’ lives while they are there.”

 

Plans to continue the exchange include a visit from Bolshoi students and teachers to the Joffrey School in NYC. Info: www.joffreyballetschool.com

 

Photo: Joffrey Ballet School students in The Nutcracker (by James Culp, courtesy of the Joffrey Ballet School)

Neuromuscular expert Deborah Vogel with Jordan Lazan, right. Photo by Jim Lafferty

By strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle, a dancer can help prevent or correct existing pronation. Having strong intrinsic foot muscles keeps the arches aligned, preventing them from dropping inward.

Here, Vogel shares three strengthening exercises to help correct and prevent pronation. She advises dancers to include these in their cross-training regimen.

Mobilize your ankles. (Step 1)

For this ankle mobilization exercise, having a TheraBand wrapped around your ankles puts pressure on your feet to pronate. By resisting that action and keeping your feet centered through the relevé, you're essentially training the ankle where center is.

  • Sitting up straight in a chair, with your feet planted on the floor a few inches apart, tie a TheraBand in a loop around your ankles. You can place a yoga block vertically in between your knees to maintain space between your legs.

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Ellen Robbins' modern dance classes for kids and teens are legendary in New York City. Robbins, who has been teaching kids how to dance since the 1970s (and whose pupils included the actresses Claire Danes and Julia Stiles), takes the standard recital model and turns it on its head. Her students—ranging in age from 8 to 18—are the choreographers for the annual concert she produces at esteemed NYC venue New York Live Arts.

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"I was so overwhelmed seeing all the dancers do Afro-Cuban dance with live music. It was the moment my soul reconnected to Cuba and to my roots," says Ruiz of his first trip back. "I started weeping." He saw that, while Cuban companies and schools have amazing knowledge and passion for dance, they needed access to train with teachers in a variety of techniques, and choreographers outside of Cuba. "Cuba is still struggling economically, so the dancers also don't have good ballet shoes or costumes, and The Windows Project was my way to begin to help," he says.

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