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These Married, Former Professional Ballet Dancers Fell in Love at a Summer Intensive

Simon Ball and Frances Perez-Ball while at Boston Ballet (photo by Lisa Spinella, courtesy of the photographer)

To celebrate Valentine's Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!


ove over, high school sweethearts. We've found something far more darling—summer intensive sweethearts! Simon Ball and Frances Perez-Ball have been together since they were 15, when they met at the Point Park University summer dance program in Pittsburgh. For their first date, they watched fireworks together. Little did they know that it was the beginning of the rest of their lives.

After the summer intensive, Frances moved back home to Puerto Rico. The two dated long-distance for four years until they both landed jobs with Boston Ballet. They danced together with the company for the next eight years and got married. Then in 2003, they joined Houston Ballet. In 2005, Frances retired and had the couple's first baby. After Simon retired in 2015, they moved with their two daughters to Pennsylvania to teach at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.

Photo by Joel Thomas (courtesy of CPYB)

Frances: I was lucky enough to see Simon at all of the different seasons of his career. Each time he performed, he would bring an element of honesty to his performance that was captivating. He becomes the character he is portraying every time he dances. The older he got, the more depth and maturity filled his movement. I was able to separate myself from our personal connection when I watched him dance, and let me tell you, he really was amazing.

Simon: As a man in ballet, I always looked to my male teachers as role models. From 14 years old and on, it was tough for me to feel accepted as a ballet dancer. It was confusing to know whether or not what I was pursuing was an appropriate thing for a young man to do. My teachers are what got me through that time, and I've always wanted to give back because of it. I know that I, too, can teach young men to follow their passion, no matter what the stereotypes are. We have an opportunity to make a difference in their lives.

Frances: We follow a syllabus set up by Marcia Dale Weary. It is very physical and involves the teacher working hard to help the child create the proper shapes. Then, once we have the syllabus in place, we focus on the words we use to accompany various techniques. For example, Marcia has taught us that saying "stiff knee," rather than "straight knee," will change the way a student takes a correction. We have also found that saying "knees back" is much more useful in plié than saying "knees over the toes." When we use the correct language, and follow the syllabus, our students grow in amazing ways.

Simon: I think my philosophy would be to create an atmosphere that is challenging yet allows the students to make mistakes. It's hard to find a balance, but I'm always striving for it. I just remember that I am working with human beings and not robots, and that their emotional well-being is just as important as their technique.

Meet the four other couples including Kirven and Antonio Bouthit-Boyd, Allison DeBona and Rex Tilton, Randi Kemper and Hefa Tuita and Allison Holker and Stephen "tWitch" Boss.

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Photos by Amy Kelkenberg

Whether a dancer has too much or too little, turnout can be one of the most frustrating aspects of technique. Students often feel they must achieve 180-degree rotation to become successful in the field. In reality, the average person only has 45 degrees of external rotation in each leg, meaning their first position should be no greater than 90 degrees.

Because range of motion in the hip is ultimately determined by the joint's structure, it is impossible for dancers to increase their structural turnout. Often, though, students do not use what they have to the greatest potential. By maximizing their mobility they will find greater ease within movement, improve lines and, most important, prevent injuries caused by forcing the joints.

Deborah Vogel, co-founder of the Center for Dance Medicine in New York City, says the best way to unlock external rotation is to balance out muscle strength and flexibility. “Dancers are working the turnout all the time. They're always engaged and focused so much on using it. The minute they learn how to release those muscles they bring everything into balance," she says. “That middle is where dancers last the longest."

Here, Vogel suggests exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles that activate turnout:

Sitting Stretch: For Stretching Turnout Muscles at the Back of the Pelvis

Sit on the edge of a chair with knees at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Cross the right ankle onto the left knee. Lace your hands together and nestle them under the right knee, lightly pressing energy into your hands and toward the floor (though the knee should not actually move). Sit up straight—some may already feel tension here.

With a flat back, bring the belly button toward your legs. Continue gently pressing the right knee into your clasped hands.

Experiment with turning the upper body toward the knee or the foot to stretch different muscles.

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Photo by Jim Lafferty

Have you ever attended an audition and wished that you knew what the director was looking for? We've rounded up some of our favorite quotes from our Director's Notes column over the past few years to give you a deeper glimpse into the minds of 10 artistic directors.

Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet

"I want to develop and nurture artists," says Wheater, seeking "people who are not afraid to be expressive, and understand all the layers that go into making a work above and beyond the steps."

Ingrid Lorentzen, Norwegian National Ballet

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Via Kenedy Kalls Instagram

Dancers have a language all their own. From French technical terms to scatting out choreography dynamics, it's a wonder any nondancers understand a word we say! Perhaps some of the most confusing dancer terms are the various foods we use to describe our feet. To help dance outsiders out, DT broke down the foods that are commonplace in dancer lingo. Share them with your loved ones, so they can better understand the weird and wonderful breed of dancer that you are.

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Injuries can be devastating to a dance career, but you can reduce their occurrence or avoid them—if you know what to look for. To learn why certain injuries happen and what can be done to prevent them, we consulted a group of experts: Jacqui Greene Hass, director of Pilates and Dance Medicine at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Therapy Services; Marijeanne Liederbach, director of research and education at Harkness Center for Dance Injuries; Jennifer Deckert, assistant professor at University of Wyoming (holds an MFA in ballet pedagogy and has presented at the International Association for Medicine and Science); and Michael Kelly Bruce, associate professor at The Ohio State University (certified in Pilates and specializes in conditioning).

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Image via Michaels' Instagram

We all know and love Mia Michaels. She's a fearless choreographer and teacher, who's inspired a generation of dancers with her unique style, grace and brilliance. What's not to love? And now we can't help but gush over a personal confession she recently shared on Instagram.

Bottom line: No matter your age, size or shape, don't wait to love your body or yourself.

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I recently started back in modern dance after a long hiatus—I stopped dancing at age 11 and went back two years ago at age 24. I've found that when I'm on the floor, I can't open to a very wide second. Also, if I'm sitting in butterfly on the floor with my feet together, my knees are some distance from the ground. What can I do to loosen my hips?

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Standing on stage is as important as moving. Photo by Arthur Coopchik

When your students are onstage, every dance step matters, of course. But so does every non-dance step. The simple act of being onstage—whether standing still, walking to a position or running from one place to another—requires a constant presence. And as Kitty Carter, of Kitty Carter's Dance Factory in Dallas, Texas, points out, "walking and running are actually part of the dance. They act as transitions from step to step." So teaching your students to understand the importance of active stillness and pedestrian choreography is essential, and it will help them see the "big picture" of a performance. But it's not easy.

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