Stage Make-Up Essentials

With Nutcracker season quickly approaching, it’s time to make sure you have everything you need for your stage make-up kit! While you are dancing on the stage under harsh lights and with your audience sitting several feet away from you, your facial features and expressions can look washed out and difficult to distinguish. Because of this, the types of products and the method of applying them has to be a bit different than your everyday “street” make-up.

Throughout my years of dancing professionally, I’ve tried out many different products, so here are the ones that I have found work the best for me! (I have fair skin and dark blonde hair)

Foundation essentials:

  • Primer
  • Concealer
  • Foundation
  • Powder
  • Brushes

Foundation essentials

Products I use (pictured left to right) : MAC Pro Longwear Concealer in NC15 (I use this as primer for my eye area, too), MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation in NC15, MAC Studio Tech in NC15, MAC Prep and Prime Fix+
Brushes (left to right): MAC 194SE Concealer Brush, MAC 190SE Foundation Brush , MAC 182 Buffer Brush

Cheek/Contour Essentials:

  • Blush
  • Something to use as contour (I just use a blush that is more brown in color, but there are many products out there to choose from!)
  • Blush brush

IMG_6309

Products I use (pictured left to right) : MAC Blush in Harmony (for contouring… or Act II of Giselle), MAC Blush in Pinch Me (when I need a lighter pink blush), MAC Blush in Loverush (when I need a darker pink blush)
Brush: MAC 129SH Blush Brush

Eye Essentials:

  • Eye shadow – colors you use will depend on your role, costume, skin tone
  • Eye liner
  • False lashes
  • Mascara
  • Eyebrow Pencil
  • Brushes
  • Eyelash curler (forgot to include in the photo!)

IMG_6310

Products I use (pictured top to bottom) : MAC Eyeshadow*, Maybelline Expert Eyes Eyebrow Pencil in Light Brown, Mary Kay Lash Love Mascara in I Heart Black, False Lashes (purchased at CVS), MAC Eye Kohl Pencil in Smolder
Brushes (top to bottom): Sonia Kashuk Eyebrow Brush (from Target), Sigma E65 Small Angle Brush, Sigma E30 Pencil Brush, Sigma E40 Tapered Blending Brush, Sigma E60 Large Shader Brush
*Eyeshadow: I’ve bought several individual MAC shadows to create my own palettes and use them accordingly depending on what role I’m dancing. For a generic stage look, I would recommend neutral colors such as Shroom (for a highlighter), Naked Lunch, Soft Brown, Brun, and Carbon (I use for liner on my bottom lash line).
**Sigma brushes are a great alternative to MAC brushes if you are looking to save some $$!

Lip Essentials:

  • Lipstick
  • Lip liner

IMG_6312

Products pictured : MAC Lipstick in Craving, MAC Lip Liner in Whirl (although this liner doesn’t particularly match this lipstick… couldn’t find my other one!)
*Choosing a lip color will depend a good bit on your complexion, what role you are dancing, and what costume you will be wearing. You don’t want your bright red lipstick to clash with your costume!

I feel that I should note that although I do use mostly MAC products, there are LOTS of other/cheaper products out there that are also just as good for stage! I got hooked on MAC several years ago and never looked back… 🙂

Ok, so now that you have all of your supplies, what do you do with them!? I hope to make my own stage make-up video tutorial at some point, but in the mean time, here are two great ones that I recommend!

Advertisements

How to Tie Your Pointe Shoes

Knowing how to properly tie the ribbons on your pointe shoes is one of the most important things that ballet students need to know how to do. There are a few slight variations on “tying technique” that I’ve seen over the years, but the version I’ll show here is what I have always used myself and has served me very well.

(Note: All of the pictures I’ve included are of my left foot, so to tie your right shoe on your right foot you’ll just need to reverse everything. Just remember the knots should ALWAYS be on the inner side of your ankle and never on the outside.)

  1. Put the shoe on your foot and separate the ribbons so that there is one ribbon on each side of your foot/ankle. Make sure the ribbons are not twisted. While you are tying, I recommend keeping your foot flexed so that you prevent tying the ribbons too loose or too tight.
  2. Take the inside ribbon and cross it over towards the outer side of your foot. Wrap this ribbon one full time around your leg/upper ankle and end with the leftover ribbon on the inner side of your ankle.
  3. Now take the outside ribbon and cross it over towards the inner side of your foot. Wrap this ribbon one full time around your leg/upper ankle and end with the leftover ribbon on the inner side of your ankle.
  4. Double knot the two ribbons together. As you can see from the photos, you want to have some leftover ribbon after you knot them so that it won’t be too difficult to untie them when you need to take your shoes off. About 2 inches of “extra” ribbon length should be enough. When you first sew your shoes with brand new ribbons, you will likely need to trim off some excess after you tie them for the very first time — just make sure you don’t cut off TOO much. You will also want to either paint the ends of the ribbons with clear nail polish or use a lighter to singe the ends. This will keep them from fraying/unraveling.
  5. After you make your double knot, fold up the extra ribbon sticking out and tuck it underneath the ribbons that are tied around your leg/ankle. As you fold it, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to try to make it more of a flat shape than just balling it up. (*Some people tuck the extra ribbon “from the top” as opposed to “from the bottom” like I show in the pictures. Both are correct, but I just personally think they stay tucked in better when you tuck them from the bottom.)

A few additional things to point out…

  • I see a lot of my students try to tie their pointe shoe ribbons way too low on their ankles. As you can see from the photos above, you don’t tie them at the very bottom of your Achilles area.
  • It will take some trial and error to figure out how tight you need to tie your ribbons so that they aren’t hanging too loosely or cutting off the circulation in your feet. After you practice enough times, you will reach a point where you naturally know to tightly to pull on the ribbon while tying to achieve the right tightness.
  • As you wrap the second ribbon around your ankle, try to wrap it as much on top of the first one as possible. This will give it a cleaner look.

Here is a short video tutorial to help with any uncertainties! (Please note that the video shows my right foot)

Words of Advice for Summer Intensives

It’s that *magical* time of year for ballet students — SUMMER INTENSIVE TIME! Whether you are going away for the summer or staying at home at your regular ballet school, the summer is a great time to really make improvements in your dancing. Even though when I was a teenager and went away for the summers to train I thought I knew what I was doing, looking back I was pretty clueless about a lot of things. So, for all you students out there who have begun your summer training or are about to, here are a few thoughts that you will likely find to be useful!

  1. You need to look “put together” every single day for every single class. This means a nice neat bun that is slicked back, no holes in your tights, clean leotard, shoes that don’t have huge holes in them, not wearing any “junk,” etc. As a teacher, I always greatly appreciate the students who come to class looking like they took some time (even if just 10-15 minutes) that morning to look nice for class. When you are in a studio with 20-30 other students in it, the students who have that “put together” look will stand out in a good way and look more professional. This applies to non-ballet classes, too.
  2. As far as leotards go, yes you want to try and wear leotards that will make you stand out in class, but not in an obnoxious way. I know that leotards with printed fabrics have become quite popular especially now that you can order customized ones, but you have to be really careful when wearing something with a print on it in class because sometimes they can look a little tacky. If just a very small portion of the leotard is printed, it’s probably ok, but solid colors are much safer!
  3. If at your summer intensive the dress code is just a black leotard everyday, there are other ways to stand out besides wearing colored leotards. Hair accessories are a great way to do this, but again, you have to be careful that what you put in your hair doesn’t look obnoxious or tacky. Sparkly hair clips/combs/barrettes, small to medium-sized flowers, small to medium-sized bows, and flower wreaths are all great things to wear next to or around your bun.
  4. Get plenty of sleep. I know it’s exciting being away from home in a dorm with a bunch of new friends, but if you don’t get sleep, it will absolutely affect your performance in class in a negative way. And trust me, a teacher can tell when a student didn’t get enough sleep the night before and is not likely to have much sympathy for you!
  5. You are going to have to be assertive in class if you want to get seen. This was one thing I learned very quickly the first time I went away for the summer because let me tell you there are some pushy girls out there who will make sure they stand front and center in every single class in hopes of getting the most attention and corrections from the teacher. You don’t want to be “that girl,” but you do want to make sure you get seen, so if the teacher asks more people to come forward to the first line or go in the first group across the floor, you should volunteer. Just make sure you know the combination!
  6. Make eye contact with your teachers, smile, and generally just look and be engaged during class. Very often if a teacher senses that a student is not paying attention or engaged with what is going on, they will just start ignoring them. This is one of the worst things that can happen to you as as student.
  7. When you put lots of teenagers together, there will be some sort of drama that goes on at some point and you need to try your very best to steer clear of it. It will only be a distraction, so be selective with the other students that you choose to hang out with.
  8. Try your very best to make healthy choices with what you eat while you are away. I know very often students just eat at a dining hall or food court type place everyday at summer intensives, so it is going to be up to you to be conscious of what and how much you are eating. You will be burning a lot of calories everyday with all your dancing, so you need to make sure you eat enough and drink LOTS of water. At the same time, though, don’t just eat pancakes and pizza everyday. Your body needs a variety of nutritious foods.
  9. You probably won’t be the best dancer in your class (even if you are at your studio back home). And you need to be ok with that. With that being said, you need to focus on YOURSELF and YOUR improvement during the summer and not what others are doing, who is the “best,” who is the “favorite,” etc. The sooner you learn this the better.
  10. If there is some kind of performance or demonstration at the end of the intensive, don’t get hung up on the casting or who “has a solo” or whatever. You as a student have no control over who the teachers choose to dance certain parts, so its not worth obsessing over. All you have control over is how you do each day in class, so that is where your focus should be.
  11. Most intensives range from 3-6 weeks long and have you dancing 6-8 hours a day depending on your age. This is a lot, so you need to really be aware of how your body is doing throughout the session and make sure you don’t injure yourself. That being said, you will almost certainly get pulled muscles, inflamed tendons, bruised toenails, blisters, etc. and you need to know how to take care of these things yourself so that you can keep dancing through them. You should not have to sit out of a pointe class because you have a blister.
  12. Know how to do your own laundry. I was always shocked by how many girls had no clue had to wash their own tights and leotards while away from home.
  13. Take some time to research who your teachers are and what kind of careers they have/had. It will make you appreciate their classes more.

I’m sure there are probably MANY other things that I have forgotten to include, but at least this is a start! Happy summer dancing!

How To Sew Your Pointe Shoes

So aside from how to make a proper ballet bun (which is still coming soon, I swear!), how to sew your pointe shoes is probably one of the most commonly asked questions that ballet students (and parents) have. Before we get into all of this, I have to start off by saying that it is my belief (and the belief of at least 90% of all ballet teachers out there) that if you are old enough to be put onto pointe, then you are old enough to sew your own pointe shoes. For your very first pair, it is appropriate to have your parent and/or teacher help you to sew your shoes, however, after that you need to take responsibility for your own shoes and do them yourself. If your ribbon pops off during class, then you know to sew it down with more stitches next time. If your heel keeps slipping off, you will learn to sew your elastic tighter. But I cannot stand it when my students blame their poorly sewed shoes on their parents. It is not their job to sew your shoes, so let’s learn how to do this…

You will need the following items:

  • Pointe Shoes
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread (I use a Bunhead’s Stitch Kit but any relatively thick needle and sturdy light pink/peach thread will do)
  • Ribbon (I use Bloch Elastoribbon)
  • Elastic (I use Bloch Covert Elastic)

IMG_4405

Sewing on the elastic:

I sew on the elastic first before the ribbons, but it doesn’t matter what order you do them in.

  1. Cut the elastic into 2 pieces of equal length (if you decide to “criss cross” your elastic, you will need four pieces, but I’m not going to get into that in this post…). If you use the Bloch Covert Elastic like I do, I actually cut it into four pieces and save two for another pair of shoes.
  2. Sew one end of the elastic onto the heel of the shoe. As you can see from the photo, I sew mine on the outside of my shoe because sometimes the elastic rubs and irritates my heel. This is my choice as a professional dancer, however, some teachers and/or directors prefer the elastic to be sewn on the inside of the heel for a “cleaner” look. In all honesty, from stage you can’t really tell if it is inside or outside, but if your teacher has a preference, best to do what they want you to do!
  3. When you stitch the elastic on, use a square-shaped pattern in the stitches you make. In other words, sew up and down through the shoe and elastic along the edges of the elastic in the shape of a square (see photo). Also, you should double-knot all knots so that they don’t unravel and come undone.
  4. Before sewing the other side of the elastic on, you’ll need to put the shoe on your foot and measure on the elastic where you need to sew it based on how loose/tight you want them to be. I recommend doing this with your foot flexed because that is the tightest the elastic will ever be once sewn on.
  5. Once you have trimmed the elastic to reflect how long it needs to be to fit your foot/ankle, sew on the other side just like you did the first side. Make sure the piece of elastic is not twisted and will lay flat on your ankle before making the first stitch.

How to sew on ribbons:

There are a few different theories on where to place the ribbons on the shoe, but this one has served me well for over 15 years…

  1. To measure where on the shoe you stitch on the ribbons, fold the heel of the shoe up into the middle as far as it will go. This will create two creases/folds on either side and is where you will insert the ribbon to sew it on.
  2. You will need to cut the ribbons you get into 4 equal length pieces. (If you are using Bloch Elastoribbons like I do, you will also need to measure how long each end should be due to the Achilles elastic insert, but again, not getting into this in this entry…)
  3. Fold the ribbon over 1-2 times and then begin stitching it onto the inside of the shoe where you measured via the crease/fold method. Folding the ribbon will prevent it from fraying/unraveling as you wear it. You will once again use a square/rectangle stitch pattern like you did for the elastic. Also, you should double-knot all knots so that they don’t unravel and come undone.
  4. Repeat this for all other ribbons. There will be two ribbons and one elastic per shoe by the end.

Annnnnnnnd you’re done! You will still need to try on the shoes, make sure elastics aren’t too loose or too tight, make adjustments, and trim your ribbons before wearing them to class (I will need to make another entry about tying shoes to include this info…), but it is as easy as that!

IMG_4411

How to “Three-Quarter” Your Pointe Shoes

“Three-Quartering” your pointe shoes is when you remove part of the inner shank of the shoe (typically leaving 3/4 of the shank remaining) in order to help the shoe bend more with the shape of your foot. Before I get into the process of how to do this, if you are a ballet student (aka not a professional), I would highly recommend consulting with your ballet/pointe teacher before doing this to your shoes. While three-quartering yours shoes will likely make your feet look better (more arched) and help you get on top of your shoe platform (the tip) more easily, beginning pointe students typically need the resistance of the whole shank to help them develop the strength needed in the feet.

IMG_4391

Ok, so to “three-quarter” your shoes, you will need the following items:

  • Pointe Shoes
  • Pliers
  • Strong scissors or a box cutter/razor
  • Ink pen or pencil

The first thing you need to do before you start cutting up your shoe is figure out where exactly you should cut the shank to best hug your foot and show off your arch. Fold the top half of the shoe back and put the shoe on your foot. With a pen or pencil, mark where in the shoe the shank hits the part of your arch/instep where it connects to your heel (see photo below). The idea is that when the shoes are “three-quartered,” the shank will sit up into your heel allowing the shoe to bend more easily with your foot. Next, before you start cutting, peel back the top layer/cover of the shank (only as far as you plan to cut). This is the fabric part that usually says the brand name of the shoe (in the case of my shoes, it has the Freed logo). It should come up pretty easily, but there are some brands of shoes where it is glued down more securely, so it might take some more effort to peel it back.

Now before you start cutting, you need to “pop” the nail that connects the inner shank to the rest of the shoe (see photo below). To pop the nail, you need to try to separate the shank from the shoe by pulling them apart with your hands (Freeds separate relatively easily, but some shoes are glued more securely). Then you will take your box cutter/razor (or strong scissors also can work) and cut along the shank where you marked it with a pen.

In some shoes (such as my Freeds) there is an additional part of the shank that is skinnier and underneath the main larger shank that you can cut out, too (again, see photos).

Now when you put your shoe back on your foot, you should see that the shank sits nicely in your instep up against the heel.

And ta-da! That’s it. After I “three-quarter” my shoes, I always take needle and thread and sew the fabric layer of the shank back down so that it doesn’t get all rolled up under my foot while I dance.

Sew the fabric layer back down for comfort.

Sew the fabric layer back down for comfort.

Dance Classroom Etiquette – Part 2

So, it occurred to me that my previous post about dance classroom etiquette focused a lot on how to make sure as a student you are respectful to the teacher and overlooked a whole other area of etiquette on how to be respectful to your fellow classmates. Here are a few thoughts…

  • Talking in Class
    • During class, don’t try to talk to your friends/classmates unless you have been given a break. Your friend/classmate might not want to risk talking to you and getting in trouble, and often the teacher will assume you are both guilty even if one of you was trying to do the right thing and not talk.
    • I always tell my students that if you simply must say something to a fellow student during class, the teacher should not even notice it (and it should be done quickly in a very quiet voice). In fact, I have even kicked out groups of students from class because I glanced over and saw them all (at least appearing to be) talking during class. Looking back, I know that some of the students were more guilty than others, but to keep the class on track, had to punish all that were associated “with the crime.”
    • If another student in class will not stop trying to talk to you, I recommend to just walk away from them so that you don’t get in trouble. This can be difficult to make yourself do sometimes if the talking student is a friend of yours, but you are in class to dance not to socialize.
  • Switching Lines
    • In the center, the correct protocol is that you switch your lines every combination (meaning those who were in the front line go to the back line, and vice versa — if there are more than two lines, they gradually rotate forward with the front line becoming the last line, 2nd line becoming the 1st line, and so on).
    • As a teacher, I try to remind my students to do this, but I’m often thinking about other things, correcting students, etc. and I’ll be totally honest, I forget to tell my students to switch lines sometimes. Once students reach about age 11-12, though, (or perhaps even earlier) they should know to do this on their own so that they all get a chance to stand in the front. If your teacher forgets to tell you to switch, it would be totally all right to raise your hand and ask  the teacher if they would like for you to switch lines.
  • Barre spots
    • If you are new to a class, are moved up to a higher level, or something along those lines, you should be respectful of the more “senior” dancers in the class. The main issue that usually comes up is where everyone stands at the barre because many students (and definitely professionals!) can be very territorial and have strong preferences for their “barre spot.”
    • If you are a newer dancer to the class, I would recommend asking one of your classmates what spots are open or where they think would be a good place to stand. As you attend the class on a regular basis, you will start to get a feel for where people like to stand and can find your own “spot” to claim.
    • If you are a more senior dancer in class, don’t freak out and start giving dirty looks if a new girl or guy takes your spot at the barre one day or stands in the center where you usually like to stand. Dancers needs to be adaptable, plus you shouldn’t be spending too much of your time and energy freaking out over things like this when you need to be focusing on your dancing.
    • If it truly becomes an issue, I would speak privately to your teacher about it.

I’m sure there are other issues that I could include in this post, so I will add them as I think of them!

Top 10 Basic Stretches for Ballet Students

Ok, let’s talk about stretching and flexibility. There are TONS of different stretches that ballet students should be doing several times a week to achieve the level of flexibility that is needed to be a dancer. It has been my observation as a teacher over the past several years that for most students, the only time they ever stretch is when you make them do so during class. Yes of course there are lots of very dedicated students out there who DO stretch on their own, but for the most part I’ve found that most don’t. When I ask my students why they don’t stretch on their own, 99% of the time they tell me that “I don’t have time.”

So, before we get into the stretches that you should be doing on a regular basis, the first thing you need to know is that before you stretch, you need to be warmed up. The PERFECT time to stretch is after you have finished a ballet class, but if you are going to be doing these stretches at home, you will need to spend at least 5 minutes getting your body warmed up. Even just walking around the house, going up and down stairs, and/or doing a few plies and tendus should be enough to prepare your body for stretching.

Ok… here are 10 stretches that you can do in 15 minutes or less — many of these can even be done while you are doing homework, reading a text book, watching TV, etc. So no more excuses people!!!

  1. Right Split (60 seconds)  
    • Right leg in front, left leg behind. More important to keep the front leg straight as you stretch than the back one. Keep one hand on either side of your front leg to keep your balance. Pointe your front foot as you stretch.IMG_8211
  2. Left Split (60 seconds)
    • Left leg in front, right leg behind. Same instructions as right split (above). IMG_6598
  3. Middle/Center Split (60 seconds)
    • Siting on the floor with both legs out to the side. A good way to see how near or far you are to achieving a full middle split is to do this stretch pushed up against and facing a wall or using a line of tape on the studio floor (put your heels on the tape and then try to scooch up as close as you can to sitting on the tape, too).IMG_2864
  4. Reaching forward in Middle Split (60 seconds)
    • While in the  middle split mentioned above, reach your hands forward and drop your head. Ultimate goal is to be able to sit in a full middle split while laying your stomach on the floor.
    • IMG_7446
  5. Butterfly (60 seconds)
    • Sitting on the floor, knees are bent and opened to the side while bottoms of the feet are touching. Once you achieve the butterfly position, stretch forward trying to reach your nose towards your toes.
    • IMG_0016
  6. Pike (60 seconds)
    • Sitting on the floor, both legs are straight out in front of you with the backs of the knees on the floor. Reach forward with your arms toward your toes and drop your head. Ultimate goal is to have your stomach laying on your thighs with knees straight.
    •  IMG_0573
  7. Frog (60 seconds)
    • Lying on your stomach, bend your knees and put the bottoms of your feet together. Your knees will be facing away from each other. Keeping your hips on the floor, try to get your ankles as close to the floor as you can. (*Note – Some teachers would rather you have your ankles on the floor to start and then work to achieve having the hips on the floor.)
    •  IMG_1736
  8. Toes to Head (60 seconds)
    • This might have been called “mermaid stretch” or “seal stretch” when you were younger. Starting on your stomach, push up on your hands keeping your hips close to the floor, bend your knees, and try to touch your toes to your head by arching your back. It will be easier if you let your knees be apart (kind of like the frog) while you do this stretch instead of keeping them very close together.
    •  IMG_0901
  9. Bridge (60 seconds)
    • Start lying on your back, put your feet and hands flat on the floor and then push your body up off the floor by arching your back. If you are new to this stretch, you might want to have someone spot you until you get the hang of pushing up into the arch.
    •  IMG_1496
  10. Foot in Hand (60 seconds per leg)
    • Standing at the barre (or near something to hold onto if doing this at home), grab one of your feet and then extend/stretch your leg out to the side (think of it as a developpe  a la seconde where you are holding your arch/foot). Ideally, you do this on a straight standing leg, but when you first start trying this you might need to keep your standing leg in a bit of a plie until you gain the needed flexibility. You can also perform this stretch to the front (think developpe devant holding the foot) and to the back (think arabesque/penchee holding just below the knee).
    • IMG_0582

Please note that with all of these stretches, you should never “bounce” — this can be damaging to your muscles. Also make sure you breathe and try to relax as much as you can so that your muscles aren’t too tense. As for how often you should be stretching, I would recommend doing all of these stretches 5-7 days a week. Sounds like a lot, I know, but you will be shocked how quickly your flexibility will improve! And your teachers WILL notice!!!

***Special thank you to my stretching model and student Payton Dupont.***

 

 

Dance Classroom Etiquette

All right, well I PROMISE the ballet bun-making post IS coming soon. But until I get it ready, here are some tips that all dance students should know on the topic of classroom etiquette. Trust me, your teachers will be so thankful that you know these things!!!

  1. There should be no talking during class. If you absolutely must speak to another student about something, it should be done without the teacher hearing or noticing (in other words, VERY QUIETLY). The teacher should never have to tell you to stop talking.
  2. It is ok to talk quietly when the teacher gives you a break, but all talking should stop once the teacher returns to the studio. You should also stand back up when the teacher comes back in to show that you are ready to continue when he/she is ready.
  3. If you are late to class, the polite thing to do is wait until the music stops to enter the studio. You should also quickly apologize to the teacher for being late and cause as little disruption as possible as you join the class.
  4. You should always be facing and looking at the teacher when he/she is demonstrating. And of course, NEVER TALKING while he/she is demonstrating.
  5. After the teacher has finished demonstrating, you should stand ready at the barre (or in center) before the music starts.
  6. When a teacher is demonstrating a combination in the center, you should always remain behind him/her.
  7. When a teacher gives a correction (to ANYONE!) you are expected to listen to it and apply it to yourself. Don’t just stand there and look at the teacher while he/she corrects – TRY IT YOURSELF!
  8. When other students are dancing in the center, you should never walk across the teacher’s line of sight while he/she is watching students. The correct thing to do is walk around the back of the studio without drawing attention to yourself.
  9. Do not “make requests” for steps or combinations that you want to do in class.  Honestly, most teachers find this to be VERY annoying (but they might never tell you that)! Teachers take lots of time to plan out the combinations they give in class, so please respect this and let them do their job!
  10. Don’t ask a teacher “Am I doing this right?” or “Can you watch me do this?” in the middle of class.  Don’t worry; your teacher is watching you (as well as the other students, of course)! Most teachers also find this to be annoying, plus it slows down the pace of the class. If you are concerned that you truly are not doing a step correctly, ask the teacher for help after class or request a private lesson.
  11. If you don’t know a center combination very well, do not go in the first group. Watch the first group(s) and figure it out before you do the combination yourself. Or better yet, ask the teacher to clarify before he/she starts the music by raising your hand.
  12. If you are doing a combination and suddenly forget part of it, do not burst into laughter, make a face, run away strangely, etc. You should remain calm and try to watch other students to catch up. No matter what, finish the combination the best you can!
  13. When marking a dance or combination, you should AT LEAST do the arms/upper body full out.
  14. If you have a question about a step or combination, wait until the teacher is finished demonstrating before raising your hand to ask a question.
  15. When you finish a combination (particularly at the barre but also in center), hold the final position until the teacher signals that you can relax.
  16. Do not rehearse another teacher’s choreography during class – ESPECIALLY not while a teacher is demonstrating the combination you should be learning. Not only is it rude, but you aren’t going to learn what you should be learning at that moment. Practicing choreography is GREAT, but know the appropriate time… before class, after class, and during a break are good times.
  17. Try your very hardest not to get emotional and/or cry in class or rehearsal. Although you love to dance and it is very close to your heart, a big part of being a dancer is learning to accept critique and be professional about it. There will be times that you will get upset, but TRY VERY HARD not to do it in the studio.
  18. Also, your teachers understand that we all have good and bad days, but if you are in a bad mood, your teacher should not be able to notice it. Think of this as practice for if one day you have to perform on a day that you are in a bad mood. Still have to look pleasant and smile!
  19. While your teachers DO want to know about any major injuries you have that might prevent you from safely doing certain steps in class, you don’t need to tell them about all of your aches and pains. Ballet is a physical art form, and you WILL have sore muscles, blisters, bruised toenails, joint pain, etc. Try to only mention the more major injuries to your teachers so you don’t seem like you are complaining all the time.
  20. If the teacher gives you time to stretch, they expect you to STRETCH! Talking quietly while stretching is ok with most teachers if it truly is a stretch break (but might not be with some teachers) as long as there is productive stretching going on. Sitting for 5 minutes in the frog stretch or butterfly stretch while talking does not count as productive!
  21. Don’t ask for frequent water breaks. Ideally, bring a water bottle to class with you so you don’t have to leave the studio to get water, but if you absolutely must go to the water fountain, the best time is between barre and center (which is also the appropriate time to go to the restroom if you absolutely must during class).
  22. Do not sit down, lean on the barres, or lean on the walls during class. I also prefer that you not stretch while other groups of students are doing a combination because you can learn a lot by watching the other groups, listening to corrections the teacher calls out, and practicing the steps from the combinations on the sides of the studio.
  23. Always thank the teacher (and pianist if there is one) after class. They DO notice if you don’t!

Pancaking Pointe Shoes

I originally thought my next entry would be about making a ballet bun, however, I just had to pancake some pointe shoes for a performance I am dancing in later this week, so change of plan!

Pancaked shoe versus a regular shiny shoe

Pancaked shoe versus a regular shiny shoe

Ok, so, pancaking pointe shoes (aka changing the color of the shoes and dulling the shine to either match your skin color or tights) is done for essentially two reasons…

  1. You are performing on pointe with bare legs (no tights).
  2. You are performing on pointe in a ballet where your director, teacher, etc. does not want the shoes to be shiny.

Why should you pancake the shoes when you wear them with bare legs? Well, first of all, the shiny ribbons against your skin really cut the lines of the legs and make them look a bit chopped up and shorter. Also, it can look a little strange to have a shiny shoe at the end of bare legs, so in general it just makes your lines look better from the audience and allows your foot to look like an extension of your leg. As for why you would pancake them even if you are wearing tights, this is usually just up to your director/teacher and the look that they prefer. Keep in mind, though, that when you pancake the shoes to match your tights, the goal is to try to match the color of the tights instead of your skin tone, so you might not need to pancake them quite as heavily.

***Side note: I have also chosen to pancake my pointe shoes when I have had an ankle injury but still had to perform on pointe. On stage, the shine of the satin draws the audiences eyes to your feet, so my rationale was if my shoes were more dulled it would be less obvious that one of my ankles was injured. I made this decision as a professional dancer, though, so if you are still a student you should absolutely consult with your teacher first before just doing this on your own!

All right, so to pancake the shoes you need the following items:

photo 1

  1. Pancake Make-Up in a shade close to your skin tone or tights– I have always used the brand Max Factor
  2. A make-up sponge
  3. Water

All you have to do is dip the make-up sponge in a small amount of water (I usually just put a bit in the lid of the make-up container as you can see in the photo), dip the wet sponge into the pancake make-up, and then spread it on the pointe shoe. Try not to get the sponge and the shoes *too* wet, though, because you run the risk of the wetness breaking down the boxes of the shoes a bit.

photo 2

 

I usually start with the box of the shoe and work my way towards the back where the heel is, but as long as you do the whole shoe eventually it doesn’t much matter where you start and stop.

photo 3

Don’t forget you have to do the ribbons and elastics, too!

photo 4

When you are done, I suggest putting the shoes somewhere where they can dry — I also try to find a spot where I can let the ribbons hang and air dry, as well. It shouldn’t take too long for them to dry, but I wouldn’t wear them for at least an hour afterwards just to be safe. As you dance in them, you might need to touch up areas now and then as the pancake wears off. Make sure you dump out any water you didn’t use out of the lid and let the make-up dry before resealing the container.

Bun Supplies

Ok, so just like I tell my students, we can’t even start to talk about how to do a proper ballet bun until you have the correct supplies. A rubber band and one bobby pin are not going to cut it… so, to help you out I took this photo and will go through item by item.

Bun Supplies

From left to right…

1. Smoothing brush — The one pictured here is super old, but you can find these at just about any grocery store, drug store, or beauty supply store. The purpose of this brush is to smooth out bumps when making a pony tail and to get your hair really tight.

2. Brush — Whatever you use to brush your hair should be fine. This brush is used to get tangles out of your hair before putting into a pony tail. Again, this type of brush can be found at grocery stores, drug stores, beauty supply stores, etc.

3. Pins and clips — From top to bottom…

  • Hair pins — This type of pin is vital to creating a good bun once you reach around age 8 or so (or whenever your hair starts to get thicker). This pin will be used to secure your hair into a bun. Bunheads is a great brand and is the type of pin that I use and is pictured here. They come in a variety of sizes, so if you have a lot of hair use bigger ones, not as much hair use smaller ones. Typically, you will need about 8 pins to make a bun (more if you have very thick or long hair). These can be purchased in most dancewear stores or online at Discount Dance Supply.
  • Bobby pins — Most people think this is the only type of pin you need in order to make a bun. WRONG! When you are really young (we are talking like 3-5 years old) and have pretty thin hair, using only bobby pins to make a bun is probably ok. However, with older children, 9 out of 10 times that their bun falls out during ballet class, it is because they did not properly secure the hair with the right type of pin. Bobby pins are great for pinning back bangs, securing loose ends, pinning in headpieces, and things like that, but they are not designed to hold a lot of hair.
  • Clips — This is not a mandatory item to make a bun, but I frequently use them for myself, so I thought I would include it in this list. You won’t want to use these to make a bun for a performance, but these do come in handy to clip back bangs, hair that is layered in the front, etc. These are also found in the beauty section at grocery stores and drug stores. (**Hint: it looks better if you get ones that match your hair color as closely as possible!**)

4. Hairspray — For performances you will likely need to use something more “heavy duty” than hairspray to slick down your hair (such as hair gel), but for classes and studio rehearsals, any medium to firm hold hairspray will do.

5. Hair Rubber Band — Make sure you get ones that are big enough to hold all of the hair when they are wrapped around 2 or 3 times. You would not believe how many times I see parents try to use teeny tiny rubber bands on kids with thick hair! Don’t make it hard on yourself!

6. Hair Net — This is another item that lots of people don’t realize they should be using to make a ballet bun. Lucky for you they make them to match just about any hair color these days! Dancewear stores should carry them, but they can always be found online at Discount Dance Supply. Hair nets help to contain “fly aways” that may sprout out of your bun as you twist the hair. People who have layered hair will definitely need to use one, but in my opinion, all students should because it really makes the bun look nice and neat.

And…. that’s it! Coming soon… how to make the perfect ballet bun using these tools!