Monday, March 21, 2016

YAGP Boston 2016 with Ellison Ballet

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Exciting update from YAGP Boston! 

This past weekend Ellison Ballet traveled to Boston to compete in Youth America Grand Prix. This is a very popular world wide ballet competition. You can be seen by directors of schools and companies from all over the world. It is also a great learning experience to help you further your training and career. In the final round in New York City you are seen by even more teachers and directors from schools and companies world wide. Some can receive company offers through finals week. This happens in April. Stay tuned for my blog about what to expect for the NYC YAGP Finals.

We left from Manhattan and drove to Boston in two vans. The girls went in one van and the boys went in another. Mr. Ellison drove the boys van. It took about 5 hours to drive there. We stopped in Connecticut to grab some food  and use the restroom. There was a beautiful sunset when we stopped. We also live streamed Sophie, a 16 year old dancer from Ellison Ballet, during the pit stop.

Ari, Claire, Gloria, me, and Ashlyn.

EB girls heading to Boston. 

For the past few months we have been rehearsing an ensemble piece. We performed Seguidilla from the ballet Don Quixote. In this piece we are in lines of three and dance with a boy and with fans. I will include the link to the youtube video we studied while learning. I absolutely LOVE this piece! I have so much fun when I rehearse and perform this piece. There is so much fire and energy that needs to be put into it. Also we have been working on really bending our upper body and creating a beautiful Spanish port de bra and upper body movement.

Ashlyn and Taylor

When we first started rehearsing this piece, I felt very stiff and not very much of us were bending as much as we could. Also, when we first started rehearsing, I was just coming back from my foot injury. I didn't wear character shoes yet and I was only doing upper body. This was, in a way, good for me because I really wanted to have a beautiful upper body. We also really focused on our lines, which honestly, were not too great in the beginning. We would do it line by line and watch each other to make sure we were in line. 
EB girls in Seguidilla.
We had our open stage at around 8:30 pm on Saturday. They let each piece have 60 seconds onstage to mark their piece. This flew by and felt like no time to do anything. We just tried to work on some spacing. We only did about 4 counts of each section. 
When we competed this piece we were one of the last groups to go.

We performed close to 10 pm at night!! We all thought the music was quiet on stage and wish it was louder. We also felt we started off with good energy but could have brought more in certain sections.  My friend and my mom filmed the piece on the computer. We all watched the video and it actually looked better than we thought. Are lines were not perfect, so we have to work on that! We talked with Mr. Ellison afterwards and he said that we performed well and danced beautifully. He said that the lines need to be perfect and in some parts we were a bit stiff. He also said the music wasn't that quiet in the audience but could definitely be louder.  

In the Junior category we had Elizabeth and Penelope compete. They were both amazing! Nailed their performances. Penelope placed second for classical and Elizabeth won the Youth America Grand Prix award!!! So happy for both of them!! 
Elizabeth(Left) and Penelope(Right) backstage at YAGP. See Elizabeth's performance video link below. 
In the senior category we had Brianna, Sophie, Marie, August, and Andrii competing. They all performed beautifully! Everyone had really solid performances. Brianna got top twelve, Sophie got first place, August got second place and Andrii got first.  
The younger girls working on Scarf Dance from La Bayadere during open stage.  

All of our ensemble pieces placed first!! The younger level at Ellison competed Scarf Dance from La Bayadere. The boys performed a contemporary piece and Gloria and Andrii performed Giselle Act II Pas De Deux.
Seguidilla cast after competing.

The theatre we competed at in Boston. The audience section was huge!

(L-R)Kyono, Claire, Ashlyn, me, Gloria, Taylor.
Ellison Ballet also won the Outstanding School award. I am SO HAPPY to be apart of such an amazing school. We are so lucky to have such dedicated and hard working teachers and students. I absolutely love training here and I am really looking forward to the NYC YAGP finals in April.

Gloria, Nicolas, and Juan with the plaques for our ensemble pieces! <3

Some EB students after competing.

During my time in Boston I happened to meet some girls who follow me on my social media accounts!!! This was so cool to me! They were all so sweet and I loved meeting and talking with them all.

Some girls I met at the hotel.

On Sunday my friend Taylor and I had to miss the awards ceremony and head to the airport to go home for spring break. We watched the live stream on my computer to see how it went. Some friends kept us updated with texts ad snapchats. I am so proud of everyone!!!! Love my Ellison Ballet Family.

Looking forward to a week off, but will be excited to get back to work next week and preparing for finals and Ellison Ballet Exams. I will blog about that soon!

I hope you enjoyed this update from YAGP 2016!

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Keep dancing,

xoxo Robbie

Elizabeth Beyer - Variation from Harlequinade
We couldn't help sharing this performance from Boston - Elizabeth Beyer is lovely in Harlequinade variation. #YAGP2016
Posted by Youth America Grand Prix on Saturday, March 19, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ballet West Academy Behind the Scenes

My First Semester at the Ballet West Academy

Hello again! My name is Timmorie Freeman and I am back to do a guest blog about my first semester at the Ballet West Academy. Since my first month at Ballet West, a lot has happened. I have been able to perform, be a part of some amazing projects and have continued to train intensively. 

In reference to the amazing projects, I was able to take part in a car commercial in October. The commercial was for a new car by Lexus and it was quite the experience. We were driven out to the Salt Flats and while on the bus, had shoes to sew and pancake. Once we got to there, we were put into hair and makeup. The hair was a slicked-back bun and makeup included lots and lots of sparkles!!!!! We were soon called to put on costumes. Next, we learned choreography and waited. There were delays because of rain, but eventually, we were driven about 3 miles towards the mountains, on salt! Once we started shooting, everything was fast paced. We would shoot the same thing anywhere from 3-12 times. In certain sections, the car would drive within a few inches of us, so we had to be very aware. Sometimes as we danced, there was a drone flying over to film us, or colored smoke bombs going off. It was a lot of moving parts that had to be coordinated and work in harmony. The commercial just aired in Japan and if you would like to see it, here is the link:      

Me in costume at the Salt Flats

Getting lots of sparkles put on
My friends and I after arriving at the Salt Flats

The next week was the Opening Night for Ballet West’s Iconic Classics. Iconic Classics included Fancy Free, by Jerome Robbins, Overgrown Path, by Jiří Kylián and Symphony in C, by George Balanchine. The first two performances included the Grand de File from the Ballet West Academy. It was a really cool experience to be a part of a company’s opening night. You could feel the excitement backstage.

The rest of October and most of November was preparation for Nutcracker. I was a Page in A cast, which meant that I performed in Ogden, Utah and in Salt Lake City! Going to Ogden was so much fun! We would get on a bus and watch movies, rehearse, perform, get back on the bus and watch movies again. Ogden performances were actually the week of Thanksgiving, but we didn’t perform on Thursday. My parents, brother, grandma and puppy came out to see me too! We spent Thanksgiving together and they also saw me perform. It was so nice to see them. 

Between the shows in Ogden and the shows in Salt Lake City, we had the Ballet West Academy Invitational. In this, academy students were able to perform a variation, either as practice for YAGP or just for performing. We all got coaching on the stage and some students were selected to have a coaching session with Adam Sklute. I was able to have one of the coaching sessions and it was VERY beneficial. He gave corrections that you may not get normally and phrased the corrections in a way that made it easy to fix things. I performed Pharaoh’s Daughter and thought that it went well. 

Backstage during coaching sessions

Once I was done with the Nutcracker shows for my cast, I was a cover for B cast and C cast. This meant that I was at all of the shows, backstage, in case someone got sick or injured. I ended up going on twice. One time as a Page, in a different spot, and one time as a Servant. I had to learn the choreography and practice with the other Servants so that I could blend in.

Finally, we had made it to winter break!! I was with my family in Palm Springs for Christmas and we drove out to San Diego before my birthday. While I was in San Diego, I got to catch up with Robbie and Kyla! It was so great to see them and hear that things are going well <3 I was also promoted to Trainee, which was very exciting!!  

My Birthday Dinner

A picture I took in Palm Springs

My new schedule is very different and often changes from day to day, depending on what the company and second company are doing.
10:00-11:30 Technique en Pointe
11:45-12:45 Women’s Repertoire
2:00-3:30    Repertoire
9:45-11:30   Technique
11:45-12:45 Pointe
1:00-2:00    Jazz
2:00-2:30    Stretch
2:30-3:30    Conditioning
9:45-10:45   Somatics
11:00-12:45 Technique
1:00-2:00     Pointe
9:45-11:30   Technique en Pointe
11:45-12:45 Variations
10:00-11:30 Technique en Pointe
11:30-1:00   Pas de Deux
1:00-2:30    Modern
9:00-9:45     Movement Mentor
10:30-12:00 Technique
Company rehearsals or Ballet West II rehearsals fit into this anywhere from 11:45 to 6:45. Recently, rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet have been from 11:45 to 2:45 and 3:45-6:45, but this is because the show opens so soon!

It was slightly stressful coming back to Salt Lake City because I had about a week to rehearse, practice and prepare for the Vienna International Ballet Experience in Missoula, Montana. It was an amazing thing to be a part of, especially because it was their first time in America. After our classes on Monday, we drove up to Missoula. It was about 7 and a half hours, but it was absolutely gorgeous!! We got checked in and were given our information packets. I was competing as a soloist in the classical and neoclassical category. My classical variations were Flames of Paris and Pharaoh’s Daughter. My neoclassical was a piece called Power. Ballet West also sent a pas de deux to compete. Jackson and Ashleigh did the Satanella Pas de Deux and Variations.   

My Welcome Packet

I competed my neoclassical on Wednesday, and my two variations on Thursday. The pas de deux also competed on Thursday. I thought that my neoclassical went well and that Flames of Paris did too. Pharaoh’s Daughter however, was a little more rocky. Thursday night, the results were posted and all of us made it to the Finals! On Friday, I performed Pharaoh’s Daughter again because I wanted some redemption. The pas de deux was performed beautifully!

Ashleigh, Jackson, Peter Merz and I on stage after I performed my Neoclassical Piece

On Friday evening, we patiently waited for results to be posted. By patiently waiting, I mean sitting on my bed with my computer hitting refresh over and over and over again. On Saturday, I was awarded the Bronze Medal in the Junior 3 Category for Flames of Paris. I can’t thank my teachers and parents enough for all of their support, coaching and guidance.The three of us were also invited the compete in the same competition in Vienna and a competition in Korea. 

The Hotel Lobby

For the next semester, there is a lot coming up. We have Romeo and Juliet, Youth America Grand Prix, Beauty and the Beast, a trip to Berlin and our Spring performance of Cinderella. I’m excited to keep you guys updated with these blogs. Again, thank you to Robbie and Gina for having me back! -Timmorie

From the drive back to Salt Lake City

Monday, March 7, 2016

The World's Only Ballet School for the Blind - Interview With Filmmaker And How You Can Help Finalize the Documentary

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If you want to know more about the project, check out their inspiring kickstarter campaign here:

Alexandre Peralta - Documentary Filmmaker "Looking at the Stars"

Alexandre Peralta is a Brazilian documentary filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He moved to the US to study cinema in the University of Southern California. His thesis project, Looking at the Stars, is a documentary about the world’s only ballet school for the blind, located in São Paulo, Brazil. In 2015, the short version of the documentary received the gold medal in the 42nd Student Academy Awards, also known as the Student Oscars. Peralta is in the cusp of completing the feature-length version of Looking at the Stars

If you want to know more about the project, check out their inspiring kickstarter campaign here: They are almost out of time to reach their goal and not lose the funding they have been pledged so far. Scroll down for my interview with the filmmaker, Alexandre Peralta.

Q: What is the film about?

A: "Looking at the Stars" is a documentary about what it means, in equal parts, to be a woman, a blind person, and a ballet dancer. Shot in Sao Paulo, Brazil over a period of three years, the film focuses on Geyza, one of the school's first ballerinas and one of its instructors; and Thalia, one of Geyza’s students, a teenager who dreams of an independent future. 

Q: How did you learn about them & what inspired you to make  a film about these women? 

A: Everything started with curiosity.  I discovered the school by accident because I would walk by it on my way home from college. I became interested in knowing how they were able to teach something so technical and “visual” like ballet to visually impaired people. When I visited the ballet school for the first time, I was even more fascinated. It was a lively and inspiring place, I learned that ballet played an even bigger role in these girl’s lives. And I felt then and there that I needed to tell some of those stories.

Q: How do they teach ballet?

A: They use a very interesting method, developed by the founder of the school, Fernanda Bianchini, based on touch and sound. Since they don’t have the visual reference, and they cannot look at themselves or the instructors on the mirror, the students need to feel the teacher’s body in order to learn a new ballet ster. The dancers in the company learned everything that way, and they have danced in the last 20 years complex ballets like Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsaire, and the Nutcracker. It’s very beautiful. 

Q: How does ballet help these women?

Ballet helps the girls in very inspiring ways. I believe they learn the value of perseverance, of following their dreams and of working hard for what they want. But there also physiological advantages because it improves their posture and the way the carry themselves in the world. But to see how ballet changes the lives of Geyza and Thalia, which is honestly magical and inspiring, you have to watch our film!

Q: What has been the reception of the film?

The feature film is based on the short, which won the Student Academy Award in 2015. We are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to complete the process of post production for the feature film. We are very excited because we feel that our film has the potential to inspire a lot of people all over the world, and we want to join forces with other groups, people that are passionate about disability rights, women empowerment, and specially ballet, because they understand dance’s ability to change lives. 

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Handling My First Real Foot Injury That Took Me Out of Ballet for Weeks

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Hi everyone!!!

Here is an update on my injury. At the end of the blog is a bonus video about it. Thanks for following the journey!

Pre-injury - No warning signs =( Shoes by Gaynor Minden 

Two weeks before our Ellison Ballet winter showcase in December (2015) my foot started bothering me. I came into class on a Friday morning and had pain in my left foot while pointing. This pain came out of feet were fine the day before, I just had some achilles soreness.  Achilles pain has been a common issue in the past for me. On the day before, they were just sore/stiff, nothing major.  I told one of my teachers, Ms. Forrest, about the pain and I took it easy through class.  I kept my foot flexed for most of the time.  I pushed it through rehearsals for one of my pieces, but it was getting worse.  I wasn't able to rehearse Swan Lake pas de trios that day because I didn't want it to get worse. There are toe hops in the beginning of the Swan Lake variation and that is when the pain was worse. =(

Where the pain was.

I rested it over the weekend by icing and staying off of it. I also rolled out and massaged my calf a lot. On Monday I came in and it was still pretty painful. Basically I kept dancing but I wasn't using my left foot to the fullest. I kept it flexed most of the time and didn't do demi pointe.  I tried going on pointe but at the time that was painful. It just felt like it was jamming together.  I told Ms. Forrest about how it was doing and she said maybe I shouldn't do pointe.  I was really frustrated but I didn't want my foot to get worse.

Me and Miss Forrest a couple of summers ago. I trust everything she says!

I talked with Mr. Ellison before pas de trios rehearsal. I told him more in depth about where the pain was and he also asked if I was getting treatment.  I told him I scheduled an appointment at this acupuncture place that my friend Gillian goes to.  I told the people at acupuncture where the pain was.  They put needles around the area that had pain and some along my calf and one near my knee. It did't hurt when they put the needles in, but I felt a slight pinch.  They put a heater light above my foot and left the needles in for thirty minuets.  My foot kind of felt like it was about to fall asleep! Also don't move the area with needles in it during acupuncture because that will pinch a bit.

Acupuncture. If you look closely you can see the needles.

Later in the week I went to Physical Therapy. They come to our studio once a week. It helped me sooo much! She basically loosened up my calves and did a few other exercises. She told me I had impingement in the back of my ankle, which is when the bones pinch the tendons right! (kidding!) The next day I went to a deep tissue massage therapist. His name is Robert and he is amazing and helped me a lot! He looked at the bigger picture and thought it was more FHL related and an issue with my spiral line. Flexor Hallucis Longus (FHL) tendinitis is an overuse injury to the FHL tendon which facilitates the up and down movement of the foot. Spiral line forms distinct spirals of deep myofascial connections looping around the legs and torso. He worked on some trigger points and gave me some exercises to do my self.

Example of the Spiral Line from V Bodies Fitness

On Friday I started taking class again after taking Wednesday and Thursday off. It felt slightly better, but it was still there! Rawr!! I rested it over the weekend and it actually felt really great!!! I was excited to get back into things again on Monday. Basically, it would get better with rest and then come back the more I was dancing.

Watching rehearsals can be torture! Old pic of me in the SDB studios. 

I still wasn't able to rehearse Swan Lake pas de trios...this was so frustrating. Mr Ellison still wanted to see me dance it, but I just was not able to rehearse it. The toe hops were what hurt the most. It was just how things worked out. I would have still been able to perform it if I was able to rehearse it during tech rehearsals. Unfortunately that was not the case...the injury just held me back from this. I pushed through tech week, even thought my foot felt pretty much worse after each rehearsal. It was danceable but obviously I did not want to be in pain. I was lucky enough to be able to perform my other pieces.

I did all of the first cast run through on pointe and I did the second cast run though on flat. I could tell my foot was getting slightly worse. I still wanted to perform, so I didn't want to push it too much.
Basically I was able to perform Waltz of the Flowers (An 8 minute piece) and Napoli, also really long. Unfortunately I was unable to perform pas de trios, I was just not able to rehearse it due to the injury. I was EXTREMELY upset about this. I was so so so excited to be performing it, that piece just gave me so much excitement!!! I have been wanting to train year round at Ellison ballet since I was first invited at age 13 and my dream has been to perform in the winter showcase. Even writing about this now and thinking back to not being able to perform it makes me sad, but I need to stay positive and not dwell on what happened.

A pic I sent to my mom from tech week. =(

Even though there were some big ups and downs through showcase and it was emotional, I thought we performed our pieces very well! I am happy with how I performed!!

In a way this happened at a somewhat good time. Obviously I wish it wasn't during showcase, but at least we had a two week break right after the performances. When I went home I rested for those two weeks. I also went to the doctor to get some x-rays just to be sure. He told me I had posterior impingement in my ankle and that I should rest it for 3-4 weeks and to probably go in a boot. That's exactly what I did...I stayed off of it for 4 weeks and I eventually got a boot.

Once I went back to the city I would only have to watch class for two weeks. Even though it was only two weeks it felt like a really long time!!! Watching class gave me a different perspective on things. Ms. Forrest said this was sort of a blessing in disguise. I was able two see how Ms. Forrest would want the corrections to be applied and how people were absorbing them. Also I would write down all of the corrections in my notebook throughout class. I had a big portion of my notebook filled up with so much information just from watching classes.

When I was back in the city I went to go see Robert again. I told him what was going on and what the doctor had said. He was a little skeptical that it was true posterior impingement. He thought the FHL tendon was getting more caught since it was not at the very back of my ankle.  He honestly was not too worried about it. He said if we continue to fix the spiral line issue and releasing the quads it should really help. He also said that if it was to re occur that it wouldn't be something where I would have to stop again!!! I was really excited to hear this.

We can't help but be obsessed with our feet. Take care of them!

When I first went back to class I took everything really slow. I did a baby barre, I didn't even do relevé on one foot or any center work.  The second week I started feeling some of the strength coming back, but I still did not do relevé on one foot, I kept it mainly on two feet.  I would stay in the back for center and work on upper body. I started doing relevé on one foot at about the third week. I didn't really feel any pain where it originally was. I felt some soreness on the top of my ankle and some slight soreness/pinching on the outside back of my ankle. I think this was just getting back into things and maybe compensating a bit. I believe it was about the fourth week I started jumping! It felt amazing!!! Again, I just started out with small jumps.

Warming up a few weeks ago. I started back slow with just barre. 

By February 27th I was pretty much doing all of technique class. Some jumps off of one foot still feel a bit strange and I haven't done too much grande allegro on that foot yet.  I also just started pointe after 9 weeks of not doing any!! This seemed like forever and I was actually really upset about this. I felt like I should have maybe gotten back to it sooner...but honestly injuries are not something you want to mess with. I would rather ease back into everything and make sure its still feeling okay then to have it come back!!! You want to avoid creating a recurring injury at all costs.

Pointe felt very stiff the first day I was back. It was like I had a brick for a foot haha. I just did really slow releves in first at the barre. Each day I did pointe my foot started to get more used to it. I have been back on pointe for about two weeks now. I am now starting to feel more comfortable at pointe again. I try some things at the barre on one foot, but I mainly stick to two feet.

At barre back before life in the city. Me in front with Brittany. 

I CAN NOT WAIT to be back into everything! Some weeks I have been more down then others. I think it would just hit me from standing in the back not being able to take partnering class. It still does a little bit, but I still just try and think that I will be back soon enough!!

Everything seems to be going well so far!!! I will keep you updated on my progress!

PS... scroll down for the video of me talking about this and take care of those feet!! Ice ice ice! And massage out those calves with your foam roller and massage sticks (buy on amazon below).

Grace, Brittany, me

Elevation is good =)

Enjoy the bonus video below and subscribe to my youtube channel at MyDanceTv

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