Larissa Saveliev's Solo Suggestions for Your Ballet Students

“Choosing the right ballet variation is like choosing a dress. Sometimes a beautiful dress may look very good on one person, and not on another.” —Larissa Saveliev, founder/artistic director of Youth America Grand Prix

 

Ages 9–11: Princess Florine from The Sleeping Beauty (Act III) (or any of The Sleeping Beauty fairies), the Peasant pas de deux from Giselle (Act I) or Cupid from Paquita

 

Ages 12–14: Friends of Kitri from Don Quixote (Act I), Fairy Doll, Harlequinade, Odalisques from Le Corsaire (Act I), Flames of Paris or the pas de trois from Swan Lake (Act I)

 

Ages 15–17: Kitri’s variations from Don Quixote (Act I), Diana and Acteon or Medora’s variation from Le Corsaire (Act II)

 

* Be very careful about deciding that dancers are ready to perform on pointe. And pay attention to how mature the piece’s content is, both technically and emotionally. The Black Swan variation from Swan Lake (Act III) or Gamzatti from La Bayadère (Act III) is not a good idea for someone too young.

 

* Decide what you want to feature, but also what might be best to hide. If a student has a nice jump, find something that showcases her allegro. If she has a problem with straightening her knees, choose a variation with a longer costume instead of a pancake tutu. Often, there are versions of the same variation that highlight different skills. If a student has a nice à la seconde extension, choose the Princess Florine variation that showcases développés, instead of the version that features more arabesques.

 

* No matter how good a dancer is at fouettés, it is never a good idea to change a variation’s choreography to seem more impressive. It’s understandable that students like to show off, but in the end, the first thing they have to master is the style of a ballet. When the variation is not as it was originally choreographed, they can’t learn this lesson. 

 

* It’s better to choose a simple variation and execute it very well than to choose something very technically advanced and do it with more mistakes. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with repeating the same variations that the younger girls are doing. Teachers and students often forget that this choreography was designed for professional dancers in major companies, so teenagers are never too old to dance them.

 

Photo: The Swanhilda variation from Coppélia can be danced in a tutu (Martina Prefontaine, 9) or a dress depending on age. (photo by Siggul/Visual Arts Masters, courtesy of YAGP)

Teachers Trending
Cynthia Oliver in her office. Photo by Natalie Fiol

When it comes to Cynthia Oliver's classes, you always bring your A game. (As her student for the last two and a half years in the MFA program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I feel uniquely equipped to make this statement.) You never skip the reading she assigns; you turn in not your first draft but your third or fourth for her end-of-semester research paper; and you always do the final combination of her technique class full-out, even if you're exhausted.

Oliver's arrival at UIUC 20 years ago jolted new life into the dance department. "It may seem odd to think of this now, but the whole concept of an artist-scholar was new when she first arrived," says Sara Hook, who also joined the UIUC dance faculty in 2000. "You were either a technique teacher or a theory/history teacher. Cynthia's had to very patiently educate all of us about the nature of her work, and I think that has increased our passion for the kind of excavation she brings to her research."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Clockwise from top left: Courtesy Ford Foundation; Christian Peacock; Nathan James, Courtesy Gibson; David Gonsier, courtesy Marshall; Bill Zemanek, courtesy King; Josefina Santos, courtesy Brown; Jayme Thornton; Ian Douglas, courtesy American Realness

Since 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards have celebrated the living legends of our field—from Martha Graham to Misty Copeland to Alvin Ailey to Gene Kelly.

This year is no different. But for the first time ever, the Dance Magazine Awards will be presented virtually—which is good news for aspiring dancers (and their teachers!) everywhere. (Plus, there's a special student rate of $25.)

The Dance Magazine Awards aren't just a celebration of the people who shape the dance field—they're a unique educational opportunity and a chance for dancers to see their idols up close.

Keep reading... Show less
Leap! Executive Director Drew Vamosi (Courtesy Leap!)

Since its inaugural season in 2012, Leap! National Dance Competition has been all about the little things.

"I wanted to have a 'boutique' competition. One where we went out to only one city every weekend, so I could be there myself, and we could really get to know the teachers and watch their kids progress from year to year," says Leap! executive director Drew Vamosi. According to Vamosi, thoughtful details make all the difference, especially during a global pandemic that's thrown many dancers' typical comp-season schedules for a loop. That's why Leap! prides itself on features like its professional-quality set design, as well as its one-of-a-kind leaping competition, where dancers can show off their best tricks for special cash and merchandise prizes.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.