Lady Gaga with a ballet twist

I caught Ellen yesterday ’cause I knew Lady Gaga was going to be a guest, but little did I know her performance of “Marry the Night” would be so ballet-themed! Broken mirrors, crooked barres, torn tights: it’s ballet Lady Gaga-style. There isn’t a ton of bona fide classical ballet steps in this routine, but there are hints of some sprinkled in here and there.

Check it out. And if you’re looking for the danseurs — including my favorite, the quirky SYTYCD contestant turned smoldering backup dancer Mark Kanemura — they come on around 1:40 during Gaga’s shoe change. (And some pointe shoes they are!)

By the way did anyone catch her Thanksgiving TV special? It was pretty good; I have to say I enjoyed it more than I had expected.

All set for Ballet 101

Every year San Francisco Ballet offers a short course on ballet appreciation, called Ballet 101, which I’ve thought of taking someday. Well, now that I’m pretty much obsessed, the time is now. I’ve had the web page open in a browser window for the past several days, and yesterday they sent out an e-mail publicizing it, so I figured I better jump on it. I went ahead and registered!

From the e-mail:

Ballet 101 is a five-week course for adults who are curious about the inner workings of San Francisco Ballet and would like to deepen their knowledge of ballet. The course includes a combination of lectures, discussions with Ballet Masters and Company Dancers, and facility tours, as well as one ballet technique class for beginners with Pascal Leroy, Former Soloist Dancer and current San Francisco Ballet School faculty member.

Ballet 101 begins January 2012 and will meet five evenings (Jan 9, 23, 30 and Feb 6, 13) from 6 to 8pm at the San Francisco Ballet Building, 455 Franklin Street (between Grove and Fulton). Cost of the course is $225 and is non-refundable.

The course sells out every year, so register online today to reserve your space!

I’m especially excited about the technique class. Since San Francisco Ballet doesn’t offer open adult classes, this is a rare chance to take class in their studios. Watch for my full blog coverage of Ballet 101 in a couple of months!

Trey McIntyre Project

Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley — November 18, 2011

Last night I went to see Trey McIntyre Project at Cal Performances in Berkeley. This was my first time seeing them, and I’m so glad I roused myself out from under the weather to see them. What an exciting, energetic dance company!

They performed three pieces:

  • In Dreams (music by Roy Orbison)
  • Gravity Heroes (music by Antony and the Johnsons, The Sex Pistols, Benjamin Britten, Tommy James and the Shondells, and Ray LaMontagne)
  • The Sweeter End (music by Preservation Hall Jazz Band)

As you can see, the music was eclectic (and in the case of Gravity Heroes, the set was kind of surreal: piƱatas!) but everything and everyone worked well together and you could really see the strong ballet underpinnings in the choreography, which melded ballet, modern, and jazz. The pieces were so different it’s hard to pick a favorite; each moved me in a different way, but all stretched my ballet mind a bit more.

I would love to see more of Trey McIntyre Project — and indeed my partner Thom, who went with me last night, said they may be his “new favorite dance company” — I’ll definitely try to catch them if they tour through here again. Also, I’ve never been to Idaho, but hey, when I do visit, I’ll be sure to check in on them.

See also: Program notes (PDF) and PBS NewsHour story from December 2010:

Addendum: See also San Francisco Chronicle review, “Jazzy Number” (November 21, 2011): “smart, vibrant dancing,” “robust muscularity of McIntyre’s freewheeling choreography.”

‘The Ballet Companion’

So not only did I start taking ballet lessons earlier this year, but I am also reading a lot about ballet too. Yes, this has become my new geekdom. I recently finished Eliza Gaynor Minden‘s book, The Ballet Companion: A Dancer’s Guide to the Technique, Traditions, and Joys of Ballet (2005). As the title suggests, this is an all-around introduction, geared to the beginning dancer. It covers a whole range of topics from schools to positions and basic steps to health and nutrition and so forth. There’s also a chapter on ballet literacy with a helpful bibliography and list of other resources. These in any book are great jumping-off points for further reading and watching.

Throughout the book are sprinkled vignettes on dance history, which I’m especially interested in; my only quibble is that they’re so interspersed that much of my reading of the book involved skipping pages and coming back to read the history blurbs. I might’ve preferred they be given their own chapter. (Then again right now I’m reading a book solely about ballet history, so I’m getting my fill.)

While The Ballet Companion isn’t meant to replace a comprehensive ballet dictionary or manual since its chapter on class covers just several basic steps, I commend it for its clear and large color photos (and with one of the models being Benjamin Millepied, I can’t complain) and its breadth of information. I had borrowed this book from the public library, and after I return it I may end up buying a copy for my own ballet reference shelf.

Ballet weekend

I’m still here! I was on vacation in Florida a couple of weeks ago, and while that doesn’t completely explain the lack of blog posts, I am still getting back into a writing routine.

However I did want to check in and say that I will be traveling again this weekend, this time to Southern California for ballet! Yay, my first ballet getaway. When I started planning this, I figured I would just fly down and back the same day to see Kings of the Dance only, but — you know me, I love travel planning — it has ballooned into a full-blown ballet weekend, as I’ll also be seeing New York City Ballet Moves, and taking ballet classes at a couple of places in L.A.

I will report back next week, but in the meantime you can follow my tweets for these and other general ramblings. Have a great weekend!


A new beginning

My current class load is advanced beginning ballet on Monday and Wednesday nights at ODC. When last I wrote about class, several weeks ago, I was at a bit of a crossroads since Level 2 of my absolute beginner ballet workshop at LINES had ended, and my teacher Liezl wasn’t going to be teaching Level 3 until she looped back through 1 and 2 again.

We had a good talk about my options, including other LINES classes, and when I asked her about ODC (where she also sometimes teaches), she was like, “Oh yeah, take Mondays and Wednesdays.” I’d looked at their schedule before and knew which one she meant. I thought, “Hold up, that’s Advanced Beginning! Am I ready?” Well, it was a nice boost to my confidence that she thought I could hack it, and she said she’s worked with the teacher, Marisa, before, so I could mention the connection.

So I started there last month, and that first class was refreshingly challenging but still fun. Later I found out that I had dropped in at the end of a term (i.e., more difficult), so I was proud of myself for keeping up. The class started a new term recently, so curriculum-wise it’s back to the beginning (of advanced beginning) and not as intimidating. The youth/teen program also started up, so we’ve since been joined by several teens for the fall and spring. Thankfully they are at more or less the same level as the adults and not like pirouetting wunderkinds, yet.

Vacation edition

I did want to briefly mention that while on vacation last month in Anaheim (to go to the Disney D23 Expo and Disneyland), I took some time to go take a class at Anaheim Ballet. The only adult class that worked with my schedule was Beginning 2, and it was definitely above my skill level: do-able but still difficult. It was nice that it was a small class (about eight students) and the barre work was all right, but at center and across the floor, suddenly it was pirouettes, fouettés, jetés, etc. Yeah, mine were a bit wonky.

Still I’m psyched now about trying to take ballet class wherever I am. Travel and ballet make a neat combination!

A blog is born

Welcome! I finally decided to consolidate my occasional dance ramblings here in a new blog. Recently I kept waffling over whether to keep posting my dance diary entries in my general blog at, but I figured — hopefully — that I’d be more likely to post more often about dance if I gave it its own dedicated space. And then it was like, do I self-host it with my other site, or put it on, and what do I call it, and… then I thought, you know what, just pick a place to write, and write! I can always change the location or name later.

So here we are. My goal is to post at least a couple times a week, covering how ballet classes are going, what I’m reading or watching, and so forth, basically from the point of view of an adult ballet beginner. (Shout out to my tweeps!) I’ve already imported my previous dance diary entries, so the site already looks a little homey.

Enjoy, and here we go!