Sunday, June 28, 2015

ABT NYC Summer Intensive 2015- Week 1 by Robbie Downey

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For my 5th summer in a row I have arrived in New York City, my home away from home, to attend a ballet summer intensive. This year I was accepted to American Ballet Theatre NYC , San Francisco Ballet, Ellison Ballet and wait listed for Royal Ballet (UK). I chose ABT because I felt like I needed to mix things up and start looking at programs attached to a company. I will be 17 in December and I have already finished high school. It is a tough decision because I have grown up with Ellison Ballet and Mr. Ellison and Miss Forrest provide some of the best instruction in the country! They are like family to me and so are my friends that also attend. I will do my best to still work with them this summer.

Throwback to 2012 with Mr. Ellison and Miss Forrest 


I chose ABT because of their history and their repertoire has a strong classical focus and I absolutely love New York City. Also, they have some of the strongest and most incredible dancers in the world performing with them. They also have great teachers and you should always look for that in a program when deciding. ABT frequently performs in Southern California and their Nutcracker is headed there so that was another big factor for me. Another thing that is a plus is my good friend, Scout Forsythe, dances there and I know she really loves it. Sometimes you just don't know what it's like until you go. It can be really hard to decide. Plus you have to go with a program that likes you and shows interest in you. I am hoping this summer will give the directors a chance to know me better and see how I work. My last time at ABT summer was at age 12 . My first summer intensive ever! I look forward to the next  5 weeks!

The river after the rain. I love this city! 

My journey started with a non-stop flight that arrived around 10pm. I learned my lesson taking connecting flights. Always fly nonstop when possible! I am subletting a room in an apartment occupied by 3 of my friends from Ellison. One of them is gone for the summer. It is a great place with a door man and grocery store next door. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to stay there. Sometimes things just work out. Housing can be a big, expensive, issue if you attend ABT. There are no dorms so you have to get creative. There are places to stay but you will likely need a chaperone. It is doable it just takes some coordinating. ABT does send out a list to anyone wishing to coordinate with others. Plus a list of accommodations.

Union Square

I had trouble getting in with my key but it ended up fine. But you never know what is going to happen and when you are 16 it can be a little nerve racking. Make sure your cell phone is always charged and you have a portable charger! My phone itself was having issues. I had to head straight to Apple on Saturday to get a new phone. I'm sure my mom was super happy about that added expense right now. :-/ But these days you can't go with out it and also how would I vlog and blog!!?!

Sunday it was straight to Steps for class with Karin Averty. She was a former dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet and a guest principal artist with San Francisco Ballet. She is now a freelance ballet instructor for companies and schools worldwide. I really enjoyed taking her class. After class I went to grab a few things from Trader Joe's.

Karin Averty - Photo © 

On Monday I had placement class at 1pm.  Registration started at 12 so I got to the studio around then and there was a line formed outside. My friend Jordan Kesler, who went to Ellison last year, is also at ABT this summer so I met her in line. I also met her friend Arne who I messaged a bit before the intensive started. Once we were in the building we checked in and they gave us a number and had us take a picture with it. Sort of like a mugshot but most of us were smiling. (Haha) 

Me and Jordan Kesler snapping selfies in the ABT studios.

The class was taught by Leslie Brown and it was a pretty fast class but I liked it. Harriet Clark, C. Yeagar, Franco DeVita, and Melissa Bowman watched our class. I believe Mrs. Bowman is the Director for Summer Intensives and the children's division of the JKO School (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis). It is the associate school of ABT. After the placement class we headed upstairs for nutrition class. I found this class extremely helpful. I took quite a bit of notes during the class to help me while shopping for groceries. After nutrition class we had injury prevention which was also very helpful. As dancers we obviously do not want to be injured, so it is great to learn some tips to help prevent injuries, or to prevent injuries from getting worse.  It is very nice because they offer free PT appointments during the summer intensive. Remember that is is better to see a PT sooner than later.

Scout Forsythe (ABT Corps de Ballet) and Franco De Vita (Artistic Director, ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School) Photo ©

We wouldn't find out our level placement until the next day at 8:30 am at ABT. On Tuesday I got there at 8:30 and had to wait in a line outside for a little bit. The level assignments were posted in a studio upstairs. Levels at ABT go by colors and I was placed in Violet. I am really happy with my level! My friend Jordan is also in my level along with a couple of other girls I know. Typically colors are as follows... red, yellow, blue, green, indigo, violet, aqua. Placement seems to be age based and the last 3 levels are usually 15-18 year olds. 

Julie Kent (Principal Dancer ABT) teaching the violet level last year (2014) . Julie Kent just had her final performance . I wonder if she will do more teaching now. I have a pair of pointe shoes signed by her and she was very nice and elegant when I met her. I think if you look up Ballerina in the dictionary there should be a picture of Julie Kent. <3

 After finding out our levels we started with Pilates class for 50 minutes and then we had technique and pointe class with Ms. Seranno. After lunch we had another ballet technique with Mr. De Vita. The class was challenging and he wanted everything very specific and detailed. You have to watch him very carefully while he demonstrated the combination. You should do the same with every teacher. After this class we went straight into rep with Mrs. Bowman. We are learning La Sylphide. We learned the principal and one of the soloist variations on flat. We then began to learn the beginning of the corps. I really love working with Melissa Bowman! My first class with her ever was a winter summer intensive prep workshop when she was still teaching in California. I also was taught by her my first summer at ABT NY at age 12.  

On Wednesday we had technique and pointe class with Mr. De Vita.  Before class Scout stopped to say "hi". It was really nice to see her! Apparently her mom took a picture of me walking into the ABT building! Sometimes the city is not as big as you think!

Lori Forsythe's photo of me walking to ABT. Even funnier is that I was actually texting with Scout. 

On Thursday we had Pilates at 9am before technique class. For technique we had Harriot Clark. I really enjoyed her class. Her class moved by pretty fast, all though she pointed out that she usually moves a lot slower, or talks/explains a lot more. During center she had me show how I did one of the petite allegro combinations because she said I was using my turnout nicely. She also had another girl show another combination as well.  She gave some very helpful corrections. After class we had pas de deux!  Partnering is one of my favorite things of summer intensives. We lined up by height and were assigned partners. For once, there were a few more boys than girls.  Before one combination, one of the boys from JKO year round didn't have a partner so he grabbed me. He is a very good partner and is also super funny as well.  (He is a twin). Pas de deux class was taught by Charles Askegard, who I like a lot.  I remember that he was a judge and Master Class teacher at YAGP San Diego two years ago.  After lunch we had music class and then modern.

On Friday, my day started off with the Subway being delayed so I had to take a different line and route from my usual station.  I figured out that taking this line was better because it wasn't as crowded, which is a plus! There's a good app you can use to navigate the subway just check the app store.  We were originally supposed to have Mr. De Vita for technique class, but they changed it to Kate Lydon (Director of ABT Studio Company) instead. I really like her as a teacher and she gave some great corrections.

We then had pointe class with Ethan Brown. During lunch some of my friends and I went upstairs to buy a student discount ticket to see Cinderella next week. We are going to see Hee Seo and Cory Sterns! Once we got our ticket Jordan and I headed upstairs to where our rep class was supposed to be. A lower level came in and said that their class was moved to our studio.  Jordan and I checked the schedule for any changes but it was the same. Our counselor checked and at first it wasn't changed, but then she checked in the office again and it was changed! After walking up and down the stairs, to find our studio and to fill up our water, we finally were in the correct studio! After rep we had Pilates. 

My friend Audrey flew into the city on Thursday night, so I went to meet up with her after class. We grabbed some food from Whole Foods and ate in Central Park.  We did a mini photo shoot in Central Park and then headed back to her dorms. We then changed into some leotards and headed down to the park/river to take some more pictures with Audrey's camera. 

With Audrey. It's nice to have friends from home join you in the city! You can get a merde shirt at 

Finding places for ballet in the park =)

On Saturday morning we all tried to sleep in but couldn't! Audrey was up around 5am, my friend Rosemarie was up around 4am, and I was up around 6am! We eventually fell back asleep. Later in the afternoon I met Audrey and our friend Spencer and his mom to go get my double piercing in my ear. I have always liked them and have been wanting a second piercing for a decent amount of time. Probably since last summer. So I have had time to think it through. I finally decided to get it done. To be honest I was a little nervous, I couldn't remember what it felt like at first. It was super fast and only felt like a quick pinch. 

Tomorrow I am going to take a class at Steps and am going to try and get a student rush ticket to see the Royal Ballet perform! 

Audrey is becoming quite the photographer! 

Have I mentioned that I love this city!

Charcoal of me by an artist in Pakistan, Tabish Shafi. Amazing and thank you ! 

You can visit the artist's facebook page here

Thanks for following the journey! 

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Swan Lake Student Show - Ballet Arte

   Swan Lake - Ballet Arte 

Hi everyone!  If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you most likely know that I had been preparing for Swan Lake.  We did this ballet for our end of the year performance which was last week! Ahhh!  On Saturday June 13th we had two performances, one at 2pm and one at 6pm.  The performances took place at JCC in La Jolla, CA.  I performed Odile and Swan Corps de Ballet in the 2pm show and Odette variation and Spanish in the 6pm show.  

P.S.  I was listening to Swan Lake music while writing this.  I guess you could say I was very excited and slightly obsessed.  

To me Swan Lake is one of the hardest ballets to dance.  I am so excited I had the opportunity to work on this ballet and to be able to perform it.  The technical aspect of it is only a small part that you have to master.  Artistry is by far the ultimate aspect of this beautiful ballet.  Sure you need the technique, but if you can not show the emotions of the different characters, the ballet is not interesting.  

Before we started working on Swan Lake, I would have chosen Odile as my favorite.  I just love how mysterious and evil she is. The pas is more my style in a sense of the energy, but I think both the white swan and the black swan pas are beautiful.   Now that I have had a chance to work on both characters, I have learned to love them both.  They are both very different and challenging roles, but I truly love both.  Over time I started to really love and respect the Odette variation.  Keeping my shoulders down and softening my port de bras (carriage of the arms) were my biggest challenges working on this variation.  I think that is what I like most about the variation, the challenge.

There are two black swan variations.  I chose to do this one.   This variation is difficult but I have had a lot of fun working on it. I hope I can post video later to facebook ( and

On Friday prior we had our theater dress rehearsals. My friends and I were very excited and we got to the theatre a couple of hours early. My hair was already done but I still had to put on my stage makeup. Since I was at the theater I decided to re film my stage makeup tutorial. Once I had my makeup done, we warmed up and took some snap chats for my public one (theballetbabble). 

Audrey as Odette and myself as a swan. 

Swan corps was actually not too bad during rehearsal. My lower legs and feet were tired and cramping a bit by the time the pas started. Once Odette walks in we all turn onto our opposite leg. I was not able to watch Audrey perform the white swan pas because we are facing towards the wings.

My sister, Kyla, in Swan Corps.

The Odile costume. 

Me and my friends before rehearsals.

In our first theater rehearsal I was Odile. I was really happy with how the pas went! After the pas my friends mentioned my tutu came unhooked near the bottom. For the performance I was sewed in so it wouldn't come undone and possibly have my partners fingers get caught.  During dress rehearsal my variation was a little shaky, not my best. I was a little nervous and the floor was a bit slippery. Thankfully the floor was fine for the performance!

In the second rehearsal I rehearsed Odette variation. In general I was fine with how it went. I also rehearsed Spanish which I had a lot of fun doing. To be honest I wasn't too big of a fan of the costume, lots of poof, but I love the music and choreography!

For the performance the pas de deux went well! I am happy with how it went along with my variation.  I had one little bobble but for the most part it went fine. For my fouettes I started ok and tried to mix in some doubles. Near the end I started drifting to the right and ended a few counts early. I am fine with it because 32 fouett├ęs is hard to do. Swan corps did not go too well in the first show. We just did not maintain our lines as well. I think we were all a little nervous. I was at least because Swan corps is really hard! 

I am very happy with how Odette went. It was a hard variation for me to perform because I was trying to work on becoming softer and more fluid. In the end I think it was the best it ever went. My turns felt really solid. Spanish went well and I had a lot of fun performing it.

Backstage my friends and I tried to take as many pictures and snapchats as possible. We all would help each other with hooking each other in our costumes, makeup and headpieces. I would go and help the younger girls who were changing from their waltz costumes into their swan corps costumes. I would help pin their swan headpieces. Some of the feathers would be a little crazy so I would hair spray them down.

My mom bought these beautiful flowers for final bows. The black swan flower bouquet had a purplish black orchids and some tiny white flower that were super pretty. There was also a large black feather. Kyla brought out my flowers for black swan. For Odette Variation she got a white and light pink rose. They looked sort of vintage. There was also a large white feather in the bouquet. My friend Rosemarie brought them out this time.

The shows went by really fast and I was very sad once they were over. I wish we could perform it at least two more times!  I had such a great time working on these challenging roles and it was such an amazing experience! I feel like I grew as a performer and artist and I think it will definitely benefit me in the future. I had to start packing for my summer intensive the week after the show and I will start blogging from NYC this week! It felt too soon to be leaving but I guess that is the life of a dancer. I can't wait to get to class at American Ballet Theatre!

My family 

My friend Rosemarie.

My teacher Erlends Zieminch . 

My other teacher and Erlend's wife Sara Viale. I am very lucky to be able to train with them. They are great mentors and I have improved so much with them. I am lucky to have that opportunity.  

Christine and Kyla (with her new braces)

My new Merde muscle tank top! Get it at 

Me and Erlends after the first show.

Kyla (my sister)

My two friends from another ballet school...Macie and Mira plus Kyla =) Thank you for coming down to see me <3 ! 

Stay tuned for posts from ABT Summer Intensive NYC 2015 and hopefully more Swan videos. 

Oh and I have started YOGA! Stay tuned for progress updates. 

Audrey, Monique and me =)