No man can resist those black swan fouettés!
In this week’s mind-blowing news, a study published in Cerebral Cortex shows it’s more than snappy spotting that keeps dancers spinning like tops without getting dizzy. It’s also science. Dancers’ brains, it seems, actually function differently than nondancers’, making it easier for ballerinas to whip through 32 fouettés at a time.
To test the theory, researchers at Imperial College London spun dancers and rowers around in chairs in a darkened room—no spotting help there. (Researchers chose rowers because they matched the dancers in athleticism but not in spinning tendencies. After all, those boats go straight pretty much non-negotiably.) After the chairs stopped, rowers felt like the room was spinning much faster than dancers did. Furthermore, MRIs revealed reduced activity in certain areas of dancers’ brains, specifically where dizziness is perceived. “It's not useful for a ballet dancer to feel dizzy or off balance,” said Dr. Barry Seemungal, a neurologist in the Department of Medicine at Imperial College. “Their brains adapt over years of training to suppress that input.”
So practice makes perfect in your brain structure as well as your body. This is clearly because dancers are morphing superhumans who can biologically redesign themselves for maximum performance capabilities. If that doesn’t get more boys into ballet classes, I honestly don’t know what will.
Photo: Tamara Rojo as Odile and Carlos Acosta as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, by Johan Persson, courtesy of Royal Opera House
After having spent a lifetime looking at ourselves in the mirror, constantly appraising, who of us wouldn't want to take a dance class in the dark? Two Australian dance students, Alice Glenn and Heidi Barrett, had the same thought in 2009 when they founded No Lights No Lycra, a global dance community that offers dancers and nondancers alike the chance to get their groove on in a dark space, where there's no light, no Lycra, no technique, no teacher and no steps to learn. It's just a place to lose yourself in the music and find your own dance mojo. The event became so popular that it spread past its Melbourne beginnings, first throughout Australia and now, globally.
Four incredible educators: Joanne Chapman, Claudio Muñoz, Pamela VanGilder and Kathleen Isaac foster their students' love of dance, whether instilling artistry, offering rigorous training or giving special needs students an outlet through movement.
When Jennie Somogyi retired from New York City Ballet, she found herself in high demand as a teacher. Parents called, texted and persisted. "I don't even know how some of them got my contact information," she says with a laugh. But Somogyi, who departed from NYCB in 2015 after a 22-year career, hadn't made any definitive plans for the next stage of her life. "I just like to see how things move me," she says. She discovered, though, that she enjoyed the process of giving private lessons and seeing the rapid progress students could make. Over time, she realized that teaching was something she wanted rather than needed.
Does your studio slow down when the weather warms up? If you don't offer a summer session, June through August can be a cash-flow challenge. One popular—and easy—strategy is to offer weeklong camps instead. We spoke to three professionals to learn how they make summer camp work.
This week Ballet Hispánico launched its first ChoreoLaB workshop, a summer intensive intended to better prepare aspiring professional dancers—with more than just excellent technique. Artistic director Eduardo Vilaro wanted to create a program that bridges the school and the company, to help dancers transitioning into the professional world and better hone their skills.