Interviewing a dancer

Eminent is in three or so days, I’m a mix of emotions currently! Need to put them all aside temporarily and tell you all about my interview.

For my interview, I contacted my ballet teacher Laurel Cabrita. Ms. Laurel has taught me ballet for the past eight years and it is because of her that my studio has some of the strongest ballet technique from a non-ballet exclusive studio.

Ms. Laurel danced at the Pacific Ballet Theatre for six years. The company stemmed from the studio where she was taught.  Upon joining the company, there were about 12 dancers. Over her six years there, the company never grew bigger than 20 dancers.

This company was very small in comparison to national ballet companies. To add some perspective, the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) where Misty Copeland dances currently has 16 principal dancers, 7 soloists and 59 corps de ballet members.  Because of its size, the Pacific Ballet Theatre’s selection of dancers may be affected less by shape than a national company.

Many companies, especially national companies, tried to aim for a Balanchine body. A Balanchine body has long legs, long arms, a long neck and a short, thin torso. This was mainly to create a look of unison within the dancers, causing no one to stand out in a good, or bad, way.

After talking to Ms. Laurel, I found out that body shape did affect and limit dancers, but not in the way I was expecting. Many of the root reasons for any body limitations were logistical and not aesthetic. Most common body limitations were height, weight, flexibility and ability.

For height, it affected partnering mainly. Going en pointe adds a lot of height to a dancer. Ms. Laurel, who was 5′ 6″, had to partner with males who were at least 5′ 11″ or else she was too tall for them, both aesthetically (with the partnering looking awkward) and logistically (not being able to spin properly because the male can’t keep her upright).

For weight, the two main reasons it limited was the strength of the males and how it affected health. If a dancer has heavy bones and muscles but doesn’t look heavy, she may not be able to be lifted by a male and therefore not able to do a pas de deux. If a dancer is overweight, and the extra weight affects their stamina and cardio vascular ability, then it is going to affect where they are in the company. When Ms. Laurel was in the company she was asked at least two times to lose weight. The directors never enforced it, but she was asked. There was only one girl in the company over the six years that was outright bulimic and anorexic. Some dancers took depositories, to make them go to the washroom, in attempts to lose weight, but it didn’t often last long. Many dancers smoked, sometimes even instead of eating but smoking was more common at the time. Teachers smoked in their classes. Of course, this was almost 35 years ago. Even over Ms. Laurel’s six years, the influence of weight got much better and has continued to get better after that.

Ability is the most limiting of the three, however some ability limitations could be altered slightly. If you aren’t the best turner, you probably won’t do Gamzatti’s variation from La Bayadere, which has saut de chats, double attitude turns and pique turns. Same goes for jumping. If you can’t jump, a jump section will be very difficult. Of course, you can train yourself to improve your jumps or turns. Some limitations you can’t really control is turn-out, flexibility and ankle strength.  Being someone with very little turn-out, I can say steps like en boîtés are very difficult. Variations with high kicks or ponchés would be difficult for people who have limited flexibility. Pointe work isn’t possible for dancers with weak, inflexible ankles or tight or weak Achilles tendons.

Even though all of this is true, ability comes over look. Maybe in a national company, if two dancers have the same technique and quality and only one has a Balanchine body, look will come into play. But if a dancer is amazing at portraying a character, it won’t matter if they don’t fit the image. Quality and technique can allow body image to become less important. Stage presence can help a dancer to go far.

In the end, what the dancer can do is all that really counts.

Document of Learning

Eminent night is a week away as of tomorrow and I couldn’t be more scared excited. Just today, we figured out our speech order. I think I’m 5th,? I can’t really remember. In all honestly though, I can’t wait. One of my IEP goals is to become more confident with my stage presence and public speaking. I feel that this will really help me take a step in the right direction. (Unless I bomb my speech and develop terrible stage fright as a result, but I like to not think that way.)

My project is turning out really well. Something I said I wanted to learn more about is why society cares so much about our look and build. While I didn’t really figure out why society feels that way, I figured out why it matters for dance companies. Your build affects the way you move therefore limiting your options. Examples include weight and height limiting partnering and physical ability limiting steps. I’ll expand on that in my interview post. Your look really only matters if you are trying to get into a really prestigious company, because they have enough dancers that they can aim for unity in look as well as technique.

One thing I am going to have at my learning center is my pointe shoes. One thing I find truly amazing about Misty Copeland is that she was only dancing for three months before going on pointe. I was dancing for 7 years before I went on pointe (of course, I had to also wait to be old enough). I’m going to bring my pointe shoes because it helps to show strength of feet and ankles.

Something I hope to show is how Misty Copeland got so far even though she came from very little money and was African-American. I want to show that with the support of her teachers and the connections they provided, she could succeed. This will probably be most prominent in my speech.

I also want to comment on Nazlie’s project. I recently heard her speech on the woman who runs Rookie. It blew me away. During her speech, she didn’t ever really move, using no body language to aid her, however it worked in her favour. I believe this is because her speech was formed as a letter to her eminent person and letters are not often associated with body movement. She caught my eye because she spoke with such passion in a way that was relatable, and because she was talking about body images and the affects society have on us. This is something, as I mentioned earlier, that I wanted to know more about.

So now I’m going to go read Nazlie’s blog and go discover what Rookie is all about.  If you’ll excuse me…..

Speech Draft

Hi so this is a draft of my eminent speech. It’s at about a minute timed so I want to add more but I don’t know what…. If someone wants to edit and help that would be great!

[Runs on stage, excited]

They want me for Clara in The Chocolate Nutcracker!? I don’t even go to their studio! My teachers must be talking about me more than I thought… Oh I can’t wait! But, I’m not good enough am I? I only started pointe 2 months ago. Heck, I only started dancing 5 months ago. I mean, I know my teachers called me a prodigy when I started but I was taking a free class at the boys and girls club near the motel where I lived! You can’t blame me for not believing them. Plus I’m growing out of the typical ballet body. I guess I kind of need to be African-American to be in the Chocolate Nutcracker but I’m getting too tall, too developed, too muscular looking. Maybe it doesn’t matter as much as I thought. Maybe my teachers are right. Maybe I will go far. I will make it. Maybe a prestigious company will stray from looking for that long legged, long armed, short and thin torso, Caucasian soloist. I mean, I’m good. Plus being African-American won’t keep me out of the corps de ballet, will it?


SFU Exploration

Hey everyone! So on October 30th, we, as a class, went to SFU for the day. We started with a solo spot, super cool, followed with us exploring the Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology. The museum was really interesting and I loved looking at all the aboriginal designs in the things like bentwood boxes. For lunch we went to an Indian


buffet place. The food was really good. Afterwards, we split in to two groups for tours. They were lead by Katie and Zoe Fajber, Jamie’s sisters. The tour was really interesting and it was neat to hear about different parts of the school. We ended the day at the library, where


I got a book called “Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women and Children.” The library it’s self was super interesting in how it was laid out and organized, as well as a little overwhelming with the sheer amount of books there.

I started the day with a plan to get a book and to bond with classmates. I also wanted to see the campus, especially because I am considering going there. I planned on taking loads of photos for both me and my blog.

Looking back, I learned a lot about universities and the opportunities they provide from both Katie and posters around the


school. I learned a little about university life from a student’s perspective as well. Overall the day was very inspiring in that it opened my eyes to a new world in a way, or at least a different perspective of the world. It gave me a look into the paradigm that is a post-secondary student as well as showed me amazing sights in the architecture and feel of the building itself. In relation to my word from the beginning of grade 9, open, it opened my eyes and mind to a new way of thinking and gave me another mindset to consider when I meet people.

For more photos, check them out in my flickr album.